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Taking a Town

Francis Fuller

©2014, Aaron Elson

     Lieutenant Francis "Snuffy" Fuller of the 712th Tank Battalion passed away on April 19, 1997. He was 84 years old. I interviewed him in Buffalo, N.Y., on Aug. 27, 1994.

    They gave me a platoon of C Company and told me, "You’ve got to go down here and take this town." They pointed it out on the maps, you go down here a certain distance, your infantry’s gonna meet you, and you’re gonna take the town.

    I’d never taken a town before. So we load up the tanks, get down outside this town in a field, and we’re waiting. No infantry. Finally, off to the right somebody started shooting at us, and the shells were dropping right around us in this field.

    I said, "Move the tanks around so they don’t get a target."

    It was almost dark, so I said to Sergeant [Byrl] Rudd, "Rudd, what are we gonna do?"

    "I don’t know, Lieutenant."

    I said, "Well, let’s go into town."

    So we saddle up, hit the road into town, come to the first house, and they’ve got a bunch of farm machinery across the road. I said, "Put a shell in the first house." We put one in and these farmers come tearing out. I could speak German, so I asked them if there are any Germans there. They said, "No, they went."

    I said, "Okay, then get this stuff out of the road," which they did, so we rolled into the town with no opposition.

    We got in the center of town, started outposting the tanks, and found a command post for the night. This is all without infantry yet. Just beyond the center of the town, you could see the mines right in the road, so I said, "That’s as far as we go for the night."

    Around 9 o’clock I said, "I’ll go out and check the tanks." So I went out and got to this one tank, there was a Corporal Wac [Wes Harrell], the reason we called him Wac, he used to wear these fatigues, and they were a little too big, they bagged out and looked like a skirt almost.

    I said, "How ya doin’, Wac?"

    He said, "Fine, Lieutenant, but give me a magazine for this gun."

    He had about a hundred prisoners standing in front of him and no ammunition.