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© Leslie Woolner Bardsley
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Frank Woolner
Journalist, Headquarters, 3rd Armored Division

Written in 1990


Some of y'all may not remember because, after all, this happened away back in February, 1942. Shortly before my civvies were mothballed for almost four years, 3rd Armored Division was activated with cadres, a goodly number of them drawn from Old Blood & Guts' 2nd. Patton was nicknamed "The Green Hornet" since he had devised a garish tanker's uniform of that hue.

Initially, aside from some months of desert training in the Mojave, we were never commanded by that flamboyant officer. To this day otherwise intelligent students of military history seem convinced that our later-designated Spearhead was a part of Patton's over-publicized Third Army.

From beginning to end we were cogs in the bogey-wheels of First Army. In the beginning, 3rd was called "Bayou Blitz", a moniker dreamed up by Haynes Dugan. Later, I am sure in the desert, the name was changed to "Always Dependable." It wasn't until we had participated in the Normandy Breakthrough that General Collins, commanding 7th Corps of the First Army, complimented our outfit by referring to it as his spearhead division.

But back to Louisiana in those first days of service. Surely we were a motley crew, practically all draftees hailing from a variety of American states. Aside from a scattering of non-coms and budding professional officers who appeared to have chosen the Army as careers, rank and file were predominantly dewy faced rookies, understanding nothing of close order drill or necessary discipline.

Seems to me there was a single common bond, not shared by some comrades who were there under duress. I'd guess that a majority of inductees desired service and would have been terribly depressed had we been classified as 4-F. There was an apparently overpowering wish to be part of that war and to be classed as "panzer troopers", then thought to be a real blast and a magnificent adventure.

Turned out to be a "blast" all right, but hardly in the sense of our early dreams. All, then young and tough youngsters, were bemused optimists - sure that we were immortal, eager to learn how to be consummate soldiers.

Among new dogfaces there were a fair number of hillbillies from the deep south and other areas, including my Damn-Yankee natal ground. Ancient, immprinted enemies nurtured by that conflict when our grandfathers were children almost immediately discovered that we were all birds of a feather, in spite of puzzling regional accents.

General Chuck Yeager in his memoirs made a point of noting that a majority of West Virginia and other southern hillbillies wre already proficient marksmen and needed little training on Army firing lines to center rifle slugs in, to them, a remarkably easy bullseye to hole, at 100 yards.

Fact is that a healthy percentage of inductees from every section of the US. were in a sense hillibillies although categorized by different names. Prospective soldiers who had grown up in the relative outback had hunted big game and small since they were knee-high to a proverbial grasshopper. Fanatics who currently clamor for a ban on citizen ownership of sporting firearms conveniently forget that they might have been slaves of the boastful master race had not rough-hewn and honest marksmen been there when needed.

Packed into troop trains, uncertain about the entire business, we arrived at Camp Polk where billets were generally pyramidal tents. Right, most of us who hailed from frigid northern states had deluded ourselves into believing that Louisiana was "sunny south" in all seasons. Personally, I became fond of Bayou land and the citizens thereon, but swiftly learned that Cajun country can be damnably cold and raw in mid-February and much of March.

Lengthy road marches with full field pack wre almost welcome because one would at least be warmed by exertion. Under capable drill sergeants rookies slowly developed a modicum of discipline and, at first, a bumbling attempt to obey orders, to stand or march rigidly erect.

Discipline, of course, and important. But you and I well recall after our first encounter with Hitler's janssaries in Normandy, that it was pretty unhealthy to stride around like a model wooden soldier. In action, the "St. Lo Stoop" was quickly adopted.

At Polk, in those early days of basic traaining, there were Jeeps - and we were regularly chewed out if we called them anything other than "Peeps." Some staff cars and half-tracks mounting close to obsolete guns. Latrine humor held that 703rd would shortly be issued a heavy tank destroyer fitted with eight wheels. When M-10's finally arrived they were awesome machines.

At the gate, you'll recall, a WW-I vintage French tank stood guard. We all boasted snapshots of ourselves posing beside that defunct cracker barrel. High command was then worried about a Japanese invasion of the Pacific Coast, so we experienced a few pseudo alerts.

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