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

Published in 3AD Association Newsletter - June, 1975


It is, they say, business of a war correspondent to record history without fear or favor, to present the truth and let those proverbial chips fall where they may. This, I say to you is utter nonsense. My disillusionment began in the city called Stolberg and I will let you judge for yourself.

Initially, since I am a writer by trade, Hq. 3rd Armored Division yanked me out of a line company of tank destroyers on the day we punctured the Siegfried Line. Therefore, I was designated a "Public Relations Specialist G-2", which really meant combat correspondent, writing stuff for rear echelon newsmen. For me it was a new lease on life. I had to be up front, but never on the point. I became a junior grade historian, an observer and a scribbler of things world shaking.

At that time we were engaged in a lot of house-to-house combat in Stolberg. I seem to recall that General Terry Allen's "Timberwolf" Division was in there, plus elements of the Spearhead -- and particularly the 36th Armored Infantry Regiment. Since I am an avowed coward, I never wanted to go into that cauldron of flame and destruction, but this was 1944 and an order was an order.

So I went up when things were reasonably quiet and the dogfaces told me a story that should have been clarioned all over the world. I wrote it and got my wrist slapped but good.

The dogfaces of the 36th told me the story and remember I was not there. They had been involved in a hell of a fight right in the center of industrial Stolberg. You know how it was, burp guns clattering so rapidly they sounded like sheets of canvas tearing, mortars crumping, the steady beat of light machine guns and the heavy stutter of the 50's. Casualties were considerable on both sides and the medics had their work cut out.

It was, as I mentioned, house to house fighting, the grim close quarter combat that always falls to infantrymen, those heroic warriors who die in windows and are never given their rightful due in the annals of warfare.

There was a street that served as no-mans land, rimmed by shell-pocked and bullet-spattered of a city in torment. The fire was intense and our dogfaces attempted a rush, which was defeated. Curiously, in view of the tremendous torrent of steel pouring down, over and across the horrible thoroughfare, only one American was cut down before his colleagues scurried back to the safety of stone walls.

The stricken soldier was wounded and he writhed on the pavement calling for help in full view of the embattled German and Spearhead troops. A gale of fire blistered over his head. It would have been suicide for one of our medics to go out there; indeed, the fire was so intense that all movement was stymied. The opposing forces hammered away -- while a man screamed in agony. So suddenly, that all combatants were caught by surprise, a German soldier ran out of cover. He was unarmed. He pounded out into the street, lifted the wounded American in his arms, and continued right across that bitterly contested boulevard into the rumbled position of the 36th Armored Infantry Regiment.

And, miracle in hell, the guns halted there, in feral clatter, for a blessed few minutes the Krauts stilled their weapons and we, opened mouthed, did likewise. The battlefield observed a few moments of armistice. No guns fired.

He came staggering in, bowed by the weight of a wounded American dogface, a lean, muscular German infantryman smelling, as they all did, of sweat and cologne. He dropped his burden and, without a word, scuttled back across the road while no man offered ill. For one moment in time and space, we were all human beings again, hating our business, wanting to preserve life. That Kraut deserved the Knight Cross, the Congressional Medal of Honor and the Victoria Cross all lumped together. He was, when you come to think about it, quite a man.

I wrote the story and Major Haynes Dugan, Division's Public Relations Officer, shook his head while he read it. "Hell of a good thing," he muttered, "But we can't use it."

Dugan knew and very shortly I learned, that truth is a casualty of war. You warp the facts to make a case, and you never admit a spark of humanity or chivalry in the enemy. Perhaps that's necessary.

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