Guest Contributor – War Pig – Autumn Memories

My favorite time of the year is Autumn. The summer temperatures moderate, there are usually fewer storms and rains, the air gets crisp, apples are harvested and cider pressed. The light is flat and the colors of the trees are amazing. Falling leaves are a pain to rake but they are also fun to run through, making ‘whoosh’ noises as you run. They also show up little dust devils, tiny cyclones a few feet tall as they whirl and crackle in the miniature tornadoes. We’d see them and run through them to feel the whirl of wind and the leaves. The nights get longer. It’s harvest time on the farms and I helped my paternal grandparents on their farm. Corn and soybeans were picked and put in gravity bed wagons, then hauled off to the local grain mill. The proprietor was a large man, some six feet six and at least 400 pounds. Every trip we made to the mill, he gave me a candy bar and a cold soda. If we made six trips, I got six candy bars and six sodas. I was rail thin back then with growth and constant exercise so they never bothered me.

My favorite month of the year was October. Not just for Halloween, but in general it’s moderate in wind and rain. The almanac says October usually has 19 fine days and I believe it. Football season on Saturdays and Sundays. Some days you wake up to frost in October. One year there was snow in October. It melted off the next day but there was a skiff of snow on the ground.

Another thing that happened in the late summer and autumn was we would find radiosondes on the farm released by the National Weather Service. They were instrument kits sent aloft on balloons for atmospheric readings. They also had a parachute attached. When the balloon burst at altitude, they floated back down on the parachute. The instrument kit has a paper box you unfolded, put the instrument in it and sent it back, free to the Weather Service. You put on a note where it was found and when. We used to find three or four a month in autumn due to the wind patterns. We were allowed to keep the parachutes and us kids had a ball with them. We’d tie one around our waist and see how fast we could run with the chute dragging behind holding air. Or we’d tie various objects to them and go up in the hay loft of the barn and drop them to see how they floated to earth. On really blustery days we flew them like kites but you had to use strong cord as they really caught the wind.

Yes, Autumn is my favorite season, and October my favorite month. The scents of autumn. The smell of leaves, of fires in fireplaces, of smoking meats. It brings me back to my teen years. Hard work in the fields getting the harvest in then plowing and preparing for next year, or planting winter wheat.

A couple of other things happened in Autumn. Uncle Wink grew tobacco. It was harvested and put in special barns to dry. Sometimes in October or November, the weather was just perfect. The dried tobacco was too brittle to move as it would crumble. But in a certain weather, foggy, cool it was time to move the tobacco to the burly. The leaves regained their flexibility. The whole family descended on Wink’s farm and any boy strong enough was put to moving tobacco bundles (50 pounds or more apiece) from their drying poles. The smaller children and the women cooked for us all. I can still smell the tobacco from those days.

 

The other thing that happened was the hog slaughter and butchering. Again, at Uncle Wink’s farm. Every family in the larger family bought a hog or two as a feeder pig. Wink raised them and we all chipped in for feed and such. Wink and his sons, doing the labor raising the hogs, got their hog for free. On a Saturday when it was crisp and cool, we all arrived at Wink’s. The hogs were rounded up and they were slaughtered and butchered all in one weekend. They were killed, had their throats slit, bled, then were opened up and cleaned, washed then scalded and scraped. They were skinned and cut up and wrapped and put in Wink’s ice house or went into his large smokehouse. Each family’s packages marked with their symbol. In a monstrous copper pot, the cracklings were made over an open fire. Everyone got their share of cracklings. At first me and my brother could only skim the cracklings out of the pot or keep the fires in the smokehouse going with lots of smoke. Later we were set to grind sausage. Between two kegs of nails a board sat and on that board was a two-handed manual grinder. One of us would stuff fresh pork into the grinder along with the correct amount of sage for each family. Ours had a lot of sage in it as dad liked it that way. The other would grind using the handles. We converted a #5 tub of meat into sausage. When one of us had their arms give out, the other cranked and the first grinder stuffed and seasoned. We took turns grinding all day except for meals. I’d like to know how many tons of sausage we ground over the years. I can still taste those hickory smoked hams we got out of it. Can’t find anything like that now.

We both had amazingly strong arms due to the sausage grinding and we won several arm-wrestling bouts at school. A few bullies got their comeuppance when they picked on the wrong, skinny kids with the stout arms.

War Pig’s Anecdotes on General Patton the Younger – Part 3

War Pig’s Anecdotes on General Patton the Younger – Part 2

 

One of my very interesting readers, War Pig, was inspired by the General Patton quotes this week to provide a personal remembrance of General Patton the Younger in the comments.  On hearing that he had more stories I asked if he’d provide them and allow me to post them here.  He kindly agreed and here is the third and final installment.

 

I saw an example of Patton’s care for the troops. After the mock battle a brigade commander went to see Patton. A spec 4 (equivalent to a corporal, more or less), a very good tank gunner had gone home on emergency leave as his parents had died in a car crash and his minor brother was now an orphan. The young man buried his parents and sent his brother to live with their grandparents, their mother’s parents. He had to borrow money from Army Emergency Relief and used up all his accrued leave as he had to settle the estate and all.

The gunner got back and no more than two weeks later the grandparents were killed in a car wreck and now there were no more living relatives able to care for the younger brother. Patton was shocked, as anyone would be over such a horrible coincidence. He called the division Chaplain to get over to his office, pronto. He asked if the kid wanted a hardship discharge. The brigade commander said he did not, as he had no other job prospects to support his little brother, and that both of them were going to need mental health counseling, especially the brother. They held a skull session and Patton ordered the young man promoted to sergeant, wiped out his AER debt, got him a bigger loan and somehow took care of that, too, making it a grant, gave him 90 days “free” leave and said there would be housing available when he got back. Then Patton called base housing, demanded a two bedroom quarters for the pair, fully furnished down to towels and sheets, and to be full of groceries when the young man returned with his brother. From what I gathered, Patton paid for the groceries himself but I was back at DivArty before the kid got back so I never heard what happened.

But Patton did love the NCOs. When he was getting ready to leave for Germany the division NCOs threw him a party. There was barbecue and beer, lots of beer. Patton was there and we presented him with various sentimental gifts. As the party progressed, we were running low on beer. Patton sent two aides back to base (we were at a rec area away from the barracks areas) and had them return with several kegs of beer, for which he paid.

I did see him later, in (then) West Germany, at the Graffenwoehr training facility. He remembered me and shook my hand. He was the Deputy Corps Commander of VII Corps by then. He retired a little over a year after we shook hands. His old injuries were getting the best of him, and he developed Parkinson’s disease later. He retired in 1980 and died in 2004, aged 80. He was known as a soldier’s general. All I know for sure is that if the Soviets and Warsaw Pact had attacked West Germany in VII Corps’ sector, they would have been in for a hell of a surprise and one HELL of a fight.

 

War Pig’s Anecdotes on General Patton the Younger – Part 2

War Pig’s Anecdotes on General Patton the Younger – Part 1

 

One of my very interesting readers, War Pig, was inspired by the General Patton quotes this week to provide a personal remembrance of General Patton the Younger in the comments.  On hearing that he had more stories I asked if he’d provide them and allow me to post them here.  He kindly agreed and here is the second installment.

 

I drove for Patton the Younger at Ft Hood, Texas when he commanded the 2d Armored Division in the mid seventies. His regular driver was on leave and he called my brigade commander for a replacement. The colonel sent me. It was interesting, and he was as spectacularly profane as his father had been. It seemed to me he must have gone straight from West Point to a captain’s commission as he despised lieutenants. When he saw a young lieutenant doing something stupid, which young lieutenants often do, he was almost overcome with apoplexy. At such times he was wont to become obscene, profane and entirely disrespectful, to the delight of sergeants and privates in earshot.

One day he had me take him down to the division’s motor pool and as we drove around a lieutenant saw us and came running. Patton turned to me and said; “Look a that! The sonuvabitch must think he’s a f***ing unguided missile.” The Lt ran up, saluted and reported. Patton told him to go back to his business and asked where the motor sergeant was. The Lt did not know and Patton blew up like Mt Vesuvius. After the tirade we found the motor sergeant and Patton spoke to him about maintenance (Patton was big on supply and maintenance). Then he called the Lt over and made the motor sergeant sign a hand receipt for the Lt, and told him to take charge of the Lt and to train him in maintenance on all wheeled vehicles. Basically he put a Lt under the command of a Sergeant First Class. Patton then said’; “And you WILL f***ing learn, lieutenant, or I’ll have your f***ing bars, your f***ing ass and the honor of your motherf***ing family. Then I’ll nail your d**k to my trophy board!”

Maybe Patton didn’t despise all lieutenants. If they had common sense, listened to their sergeants’ advice, showed initiative and, most of all, if they took the blame when they screwed up and didn’t try and lay it off on the troops or NCOs, Patton liked them. He liked them even better if the lieutenant took the blame when the troops did screw up, then handled it himself within the platoon.

When I was driving for him it was time for the annual battle simulation between the First Cavalry and the 2nd Armored division, both stationed at Ft Hood at the time. It was supposed to be a heavily scripted battle. The First Cav was to attack from one side and represent the Warsaw Pact, while Patton and the 2nd AD defended. Patton treated this mock battle as if it were life and death for the entire nation. Ft Hood was divided by Cowhouse Creek. The First Cav was to attack across the creek into “West Germany”. The 2nd AD was to absorb the attack and slowly give ground, a fighting withdrawal as was the plan for the US Army in Europe. Patton said, simply; “F**k that”. He had his engineers dam up Cowhouse creek so that it was too deep to ford with tanks except at certain points. At those points he had his engineers lay down beautiful simulated mine fields. As the First Cav advanced they’d be slowed and concentrated into choke points where we had camouflaged tanks sitting, covering the points with interlocking fields of fire and the divisional artillery had the choke points zeroed in for a barrage and the Cobra attack helicopters were loaded and waiting, too.

The First Cav commanding general complained that he could not cross the creek and start the battle because it was flooded. Patton refused to remove the log and earthen dams. “I was told to defend, and Goddammit, I’m defending.” The corps commander had to fly out, chase Patton down and order him, in person, to open the dams. They reset the beginning of the battle for two days later to let the creek drain. Patton changed his battle plan and HE attacked. A “spoiling attack”. He got yelled at again, which he found to be quite funny. Finally the First Cav crossed the creek and the battle began in earnest but by then the Cav had little chance. Patton had kept recon very busy and we knew where all the Cav’s assets were and their likely avenues of approach so it was a pretty big show, but for naught for the First Cav. Patton and the 2nd Armored Division won the Battle of Cowhouse Creek pretty convincingly. In victory he had his Cobra attack helicopters fly in the formation of a big “X” across the First Cav areas and that of the III Corps HQ.

 

War Pig’s Anecdotes on General Patton the Younger – Part 3

 

War Pig’s Anecdotes on General Patton the Younger – Part 1

One of my very interesting readers, War Pig, was inspired by the General Patton quotes this week to provide a personal remembrance of General Patton the Younger in the comments.  On hearing that he had more stories I asked if he’d provide them and allow me to post them here.  He kindly agreed and here they are.

Some personal anecdotes about Major General George S. Patton IV (son of the WWII Patton).

General Patton the Younger (as we called him) was every bit as much of a firebrand as his father, and could be as spectacularly profane as his sire.

I was a young sergeant assigned to the 2nd Armored Division at Ft Hood, Texas in the middle 1970s. Patton commanded the division back then. He spent as much time as he could riding in his specially modified jeep and out of headquarters. You never knew when or where he’d show up. His jeep had a bar on his side for him to hold onto. He disliked sitting as he had a bad hip. He also had a flasher light and a siren installed. His driver was on leave for some reason and he called my brigade for a replacement. I was a counterintelligence agent and I was attached to the division artillery. The Command Sergeant Major wasn’t too fond of intel types so he tasked me to drive Patton for almost 6 weeks.

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As I have said elsewhere, Patton despised lieutenants. He said to me, once; “A private knows nothing and we expect him to do nothing more than to follow orders. Unfortunately, lieutenants also know nothing yet they are allowed to give orders. Without a good sergeant, a lieutenant is the most dangerous thing on the battlefield – to our own cause.”

Patton had a high regard for NCOs. But had little time for officers below Lt Colonel. He also trusted the troops, the enlisted men. My time driving for him was interesting, to say the least. He had a deep respect and care for the enlisted men under his command.

One day that summer it was a Black Flag day. It was so hot and humid that training was to be kept indoors if possible. The heat index that day was, I believe, 110 degrees. Of course, I drove Patton’s jeep as it was open-topped and we were moving. We were heading to corps headquarters for some briefing or another. As we were driving along Patton yelled; “Stop this f**king jeep!” I stopped as quickly as I could without throwing him head first over the windshield. Between two barracks was a platoon of soldiers doing close order drill on the dry grass. In the heat, on a black flag day. “Pull over there!” he yelled. I drove across the concrete median, over the sidewalk and up to the platoon on the grass. Patton’s jeep went where Patton said, and screw the traffic laws. In the shade stood a platoon sergeant, looking pissed off.

The lieutenant saluted but Patton yelled; “What the f**k do you think you’re doing? Where in hell’s your platoon sergeant and why isn’t he kicking your ass right now? Who’s your company – your battalion – who’s your brigade commander lieutenant?!”

The lieutenant tried to stammer out a reply but Patton was on a roll. “What the f**k are you doing? Answer me!”

“The platoon needed discipline, sir.”

About this time Patton saw the platoon sergeant. “Why aren’t you kicking his ass, sergeant?” To which the sergeant answered that he was ordered to stand aside.

“You!” Patton said to the lieutenant, “You will have yourself and your entire chain of command in my office at sixteen hundred. You got me?!”

“Yes, sir.”

“Sergeant, you are now in command of this platoon until further notice. Dismiss the men.”

“Yes, sir.”

We went to the meeting/briefing/conference. We were back in Patton’s office before 16:00 Waiting outside were the lieutenant, his company commander, the battalion commander and the brigade commander. They were called into the office in order of seniority, the door was closed, and loud voices were heard. By the time the lieutenant was called in I was sitting by the door and could hear what was said. Patton was swearing up a storm and the young lieutenant was catching it for disobeying a training directive, putting his troops in danger of heat stroke, and refusing to listen to his platoon sergeant.

“Well, you’re f**king fired. Relieved of command of the platoon and a commanding general’s official letter of reprimand will be placed in your records.”