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Follies of a Navy Chaplain

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Tanks for the Memories

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They were all young kids

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Love Company

A Mile in Their Shoes

A Mile in Their Shoes

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Nine Lives

2014, Aaron Elson


Tanks for the Memories

The online edition

2014, Aaron Elson

Chapter 16

"He Liked His Tea"

Bob Rossi

    One of the real characters in the third platoon was Sergeant Jim Warren. He was a career Army man.

    Just prior to the Bulge, we were staying in this house in Kirschnaumen. There was a GI blanket covering a hole in the wall where a shell had hit, and it was pretty cold.

    We were standing around kibitzing one evening. There was a kerosene lantern hanging down from the ceiling on a cord. And Jim Warren, he always had half a load on, he’s shadowboxing the lantern. We’re laughing. He’s playing around, he’s boxing the lantern. He throws a haymaker at the lantern, misses, and hits me. I go flying across the room. I come up with the biggest lip you ever saw. This was late at night. The next morning, as we’re getting up, I could hear him saying to somebody, "I never touched the kid." And I went over and showed him the lip. He believed it then.

 Tony D’Arpino

    When we were on the Siegfried Line and we were waiting for gas, we had our tanks scattered, and the civilians used to come and ask for food. One day there was this blondish woman, and I look, and I see Sergeant Warren go into the tank in the driver’s hatch, then she went in there. All you could see was her head.

    So I went around, I got all the guys in the tanks, and we made a circle around this tank. When the blond climbed out, she was smiling from ear to ear, and when Sergeant Warren came out, he looked around, and he said, "You sonofabitch, Tony!"

    I told that story several times, and nobody remembered it. Then the first time I saw Buck Hardee at a reunion, he said to me, "Do you remember the time down at the Siegfried Line with Sergeant Warren?"

    "Yeah," I said. "I’ve been telling that story and nobody believes me."

Bob Rossi

    Sergeant Warren told us he was in the Marines first. He was getting discharged, and his records were being sent to San Diego. But in the meantime, he had knocked up a Hawaiian girl, and the sheriff of the island was gonna come to grab him. Now Warren technically was a civilian, and the only way he could beat the rap was if he joined the Army. So he stayed in the islands with a searchlight outfit.

Tony D’Arpino

    Sergeant Warren was part Indian. He’d been in the Army for years, as a first sergeant, busted, he was a buck sergeant when he came to us as a replacement. He told me he was on his third or fourth wife, she was about 18 years old.

    He had scars on his face, and he could remember when MacArthur was a major. At that time he was in the field artillery. He had charge of some field guns, and he said MacArthur was going to pull an inspection. He said they scrounged some paint, and they painted the guns all up, they had all old equipment, and they had it looking beautiful.

    He said when they pulled the inspection, MacArthur told Sergeant Warren and his crew to take off their shoes and socks. He wanted to see if they had cut their toenails square.

Bob Rossi

    Sergeant Warren said they spent weeks polishing up the equipment, painting this and painting that. Now here comes MacArthur, and he says, "Ten-hut!" Warren said he gave him the biggest highball [salute] you could ever give an officer. MacArthur says, "Sergeant, how do you cut your toenails?"

    Warren says he was mystified.

    MacArthur says, "Show me how you cut your toenails." He made him sit down on the parade ground, take his shoes and socks off, and as he’s sitting there, he made the whole battery crowd around Warren, and says, "Now, this man is going to suffer from ingrown toenails, because he doesn’t cut his toenails properly." And Warren’s sitting on the ground, everybody’s razzing him, he took some razzing for weeks. He hated MacArthur for making a fool out of him.

Tony D’Arpino

    Sergeant Warren took over the No. 2 tank, and when Lieutenant Lombardi said "Cover me," Jesus, his gun was practically touching the back of our turret. He was really there.

    Sergeant Warren had one problem. He liked his tea. Lombardi used to get his liquor rations — all the officers had liquor rations — and anything he didn’t like, he would give to Warren.

    One time we were waiting for our tanks to catch up, and Warren was drunk. He’d drunk the last of Lombardi’s beer and whatever else was around.

    So all of a sudden, there’s a counterattack, and we’ve got to move out. And Sergeant Warren says to Lombardi, "I’ve got to have a drink."

    Lombardi says, "I don’t have anything."

    Warren says, "I’ve got to have a drink."

    Lombardi says, "Mount the tank and let’s go. We’ve got to move out."

    Oh, boy, then I hear clunk-clunk. Now Lombardi never buttoned up, never. He might duck down inside the turret, but he never closed the hatch. Then I hear on the radio, "That sonofabitch is shooting at me!"

    And we all said, "Who? Who?"

    It was Sergeant Warren. He had his .45 out, of course you couldn’t hurt the tank, and he was hitting the turret because Lombardi wouldn’t give him any booze.

    Warren had a smile from ear to ear. But he was a good man in combat.

    I remember one time I was driving Warren’s tank, and the same thing, there was a little counterattack, and I can still see it: There was a little pond, with a road alongside it. We were supposed to guard that road, and Warren was standing in front of the tank, guiding me into position.

    Now he’s behind this little scrub brush tree, and he’s telling me, "Go on." I don’t want to go, though, because I’m gonna hit that tree and knock it over on him.

    So I’m motioning to him, I’m pointing at the tree."

    "You guinea sonofabitch," he says. So I said all right, and I gunned the engine. I got right to the tree. I pulled back the levers. I snapped that sonofabitch off, and it came down and knocked him out cold.

    He never said a word to me about that afterward.

    But all his tank crew liked him. He took care of his crew, and he made sure that they didn’t do anything crazy.

Bob Rossi

    In the spring of 1945, we were traveling down this road and we came upon this horse-drawn artillery blocking the road. One horse was dead and the other was just standing there.

    Warren got out of his tank and borrowed a 7.65 millimeter gun from someone and started to shoot the horse in the head. The first shot made the horse stagger a little, then he just kept on firing until the horse fell. All he had to do was cut the harnesses and let the living horse go. The gun he used was too small a caliber. With so much death and destruction around us, it was such a senseless killing. He had half a load on as usual, and I’m sure if he weren’t drunk he might not have killed the horse. He then had his driver push the two horses and the artillery piece to the side of the road.

    A few years ago I got one of the newsletters, and it said that Milford Anderson and Warren had died about the same time. I just filled up. These are the guys I was in combat with, they’re both dead. I wrote to Anderson’s wife, and I think I sent her a picture. And I wrote to Warren’s wife, and I told her what a great guy he was. In combat, he was the type of man that you wanted behind you, because he was right there. He drank a lot, but he was a good soldier.

    I wrote to his wife and I told her about the incident where he gave me a shot in the mouth.

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