Be Careful Who your Hero's Are.....
When I was a young man , a teenager in fact, I was even then a kind of a history buff , I was always reading things about the things that , I'm sure , all boys do . One of my interests was of wars. Particularly the second world war . My father served in the army infantry as a groundpounder in the European theatre of the allied war against Germany . During the sixties in America there certainly was not the widespread coverage of wars or anything for that matter, obviously no Internet , no military channels and of course nor history channels!
My father was a quiet man , generally , keeping his experiences mostly to himself. The only time in fact that we would hear much about the war was when he was talking with other adults , especially if they were veterans , and in particular if there was any "drinking " going on. In which case , the stories would sometimes go late into the night . If we were quiet and in hiding , perhaps at the top of the stairs , or over the floor vents in the bedrooms upstairs , we might hear of things that would peak our interests.
As I aged into my teens and early twenties , my father would open up fairly regularly about his war time experience. Once , about the time that the movie "Patten " came out , of course this is the movie of Gen. George S. Patten of the the famed "Patten " Armored tanks that were named for him . And the "Hero" of pop culture at the time , I remember making some comment to my Father about Patten being a hero ! And of some of the exploits of his own war strategies and experiences .
My Father actually became a bit disgusted at my referencing the word 'hero' , in desribing Patten. I had actually asked him if he ever saw Patten , and he replied yes , he had not only met him but shook hands with him. Apparently , in some town in France or Germany some of the infantry was on watch while there was a parade of tanks and troops moving down a main street in a city. And as Pattens tanks rolled through he actually got out of his officers escort car and shook hands and chatted with some of the Infantry men. My Father among them! Wow ! I thought and probably exclaimed , You shook his hand .?
It was then that my Father began describing Patten .
" Patten was a freak ! , He was a huge guy , I will never forget , his head was so large that he could not wear a helmet liner in his battle helmet. But he went along shaking a few hands and chatting it up with the infantry boys ", my father said.
In talking with my father , he went on to describe how they served in much of the same battles as Patten's men and tanks .
" Of course , he used the hell out of us Infantry boys " , On he went , in telling of how Patten woudn't go anywhere without Infantry in front of him , often riding on the tanks in between battles , or even during them . I may have made some comment about how the tanks helped to win the war.
" In the 'Battle of the Bulge ' the winter of fourty five just before I was wounded , Pattens Tanks were held down in the Rhine forest , the Germans were giving us hell , tearing everything apart with those eighty -eights , the huge German howitzers that could out shoot and out distance anything the allies had. They we mounted on railroad flatcars and they had everything and everyone pinned down" ........" Well, what could we do , we had received orders to move ahead , but Patten said ," he wasn't going anywhere without the Infantry support troops with him.".........." Well , Patten told us to take the lead and then all hell broke lose, everything was going to hell fast " . And then the tears come to my Fathers eye's ....." We were taking rounds everywhere , the trees were exploding around us , the tanks were taking hits , troops , ours and theirs were falling dead and wounded everywhere". ........" It wasn't safe anywhere , I saw guys jumping into foxholes and falling in their tracks , but Pattens tanks ? Well, they drove right over the top of us , men screaming in pain from being hit and from watching the tanks coming from behind them ........only to run right over the top of them."!
" No, patten was no God damned hero to me !" and then he went on ," there is the image of a hero and then there is the reality of hero". In so many ways even today that holds true., behind the "images " there is another and at times more personal story and reality of many things in our history. We in America tend to hold everyone today in the new images of "hero" , but more than likely rock stars and pro athletes , rap stars and politicians , none of them , however are heros.