From Jim MacClay, Web Staff
© Leslie Woolner Bardsley
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Frank Woolner
Journalist, Headquarters, 3rd Armored Division

Published in 3AD Association Newsletter - February, 1973


Sometimes a darned good soldier gets himself all psyched up in combat and then, for a little while, he is a menace to himself and his companions. Usually, some little thing triggers unreasoning fear. I've had it happen to me, and I saw a sterling example in a buddy.

This is the first time the story has been told, primarily because I can't remember the name of the town. It was somewhere up beyond the Siegfried Line when we were punching away in the mud of that first winter. (I do remember Colonel Walter Richardson with tears running down his weathered cheeks as he saw kraut gunners flame his bogged tanks.)

Anyhow, Miller and I went up for some reason or another. He was driving the Jeep (oops - the Peep!) and I was there to make notes for posterity and the civilian correspondents on their duffs back at Army Press Center. We were both buck sergeants and we'd soldiered together for a long time. In fact, we'd saved each other's lives often enough to trust one another.

Frank Miller, out of Hurley, New York, was a tank commander among other things. He had already collected one medal for valor when this happened, so he wasn't any shrinking violet. Most of the gang at Company A, 703rd TD called him "Bugs," or "Bugs Bunny" because - well, hell, because he had buck teeth! Frank made a joke of it, and he still calls himself "Bugs," and his home is labeled "The Bughouse."

Everything was fine. We bumped up over those impossible muddy roads and the gutters were piled high with teller mines. There was some incoming mail, but nothing very ferocious until we got to Richardson's CP, a former German dwelling. Then they threw in a lot of mortar and the stuff seemed to miss us by inches. There's too little chance to duck a mortar shell because the damned things crumps before it whistles.

Miller broke up and got scared. It seems that, in this house, there was a door that looked like a mahogany coffin lid and on it there was a sterling silver plate with the name "Miller" beautifully etched!

Frank never bugged out or neglected his job, but I noted that his scrubby mustache was quivering long before we concluded our business and boarded the Peep to go back.

Then, forgetting that you can drive into a shellburst, as I well as miss one by slowing down, he took that confounded vehicle out at suicidal speed. We bounded over pot-holes and slowed around corners, missing tanks and Red Ball trucks by inches. Somehow Miller had an idea that every kraut shell had his name on it. I just cussed and yelled and hung on to my helmet.

Finally, we seemed to outdistance the worst of the ranging artillery, and Frank began to slow down. After awhile we halted, because there was a traffic jam - a column of 155's moving up. It wasn't the nicest of landscapes: mud and piles of teller mines and trees splintered during the attack.

But Miller was still mesmerized by that "coffin lid" and the plaque attached. I never saw him so scared in my life, and I had been in situations with him where only luck kept us from the inevitable mattress cover and a few words of grace.

A dud mortar shell was lying at the side of the road. As in a seance, and before I could grab his arm or yell a warning, he picked that damned thing up and pitched it into a pile of teller mines at the side of the road!

Thank God, it was a true dud.

Miller got himself shot up a little before the war ended, and he earned some more gallant fruit salad, and he was a good soldier - but I often wonder if he remembers the day when he got all discombobulated by a silver plaque on a door that looked like a coffin lid.

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