The online edition
©2014, Aaron Elson
The green, green grass
We captured a German ordnance truck. It had a lot of cabinets in it, and I used that as my headquarters. We moved the cabinets to the rear and cut a hole in the side of the truck and put in a mattress, and we used to sleep in it.
When we got into Hof, Germany, near the Czechoslovakian border, it was permissible for us to move the Germans, so my warrant officer, Baker, found a house in which there were some feather mattresses, and he said, "Were gonna sleep on a soft bed tonight." So we moved in, and we were shelled we didnt know with what at that time and we moved our mattress under a big oak kitchen table so the plaster wouldnt hit us, and we thought wed be comparatively safe. In the morning before we got up, a fellow comes in all excited, and he said, "Did you see where we were almost eliminated last night?"
And I said, "No, where?"
He said, "A big shell hit right in front of the front door, and theres a hole thirty feet across and fifteen feet deep, and it didnt even wake us."
And I said to him, "Wait a minute." I thought he had exaggerated a little bit. So we went outside, and so help me, this hole was at least thirty feet across and fifteen feet deep. One of the boys opened up the front door and was going out and almost fell in the hole, it was that close. And it never woke the remainder of the maintenance section. I had my whole maintenance section, which is about 30 men, in that building.
We found out later that it was a railroad shell. A railroad gun, with a 240-millimeter shell. They thought that Lucky Forward, which was the code name for Third Army headquarters, had moved into Hof and they were shelling it. We got the royal treatment, but nobody got hurt.
The only damage they did was they got my German truck, and they put a hole in front of the housing where my mechanics were sleeping, and the other four or five shells went into the cemetery and there were bones in every direction.
Ill tell you how Lieutenant Fuller got the name Snuffy. His name was Francis A. Fuller. We had a boy from Layton, Ohio, by the name of Wesley Haines in Byrl Rudds tank.
Haines would bend his elbow if it was cognac, schnapps, champagne, any alcoholic beverage, Haines would take some of it. So when hed get drunk, well, you know how drunks are, they insult anybody. Haines told Fuller, "You look like Snuffy Smith in the comics." And it stuck, from then on it was Snuffy Fuller.
One Sunday morning we were in a town, this is along toward the end of the war. Its beginning to get in spring, the weather had warmed up, it was nice. Wed taken this town and Snuffy, he had the flour and all the ingredients, and he was in this house, a real nice home there, he was baking a cake.
We were all out there soaking up that sunshine and not in a fight, that was one of the few times we werent in a fight, and they had some big Belgian horses, they were huge, in a stable back there. Well, Haines had done imbibed some, and he was getting the horses out and riding them. He tried to make them run well, them ol horses feet were so big, they were big ranch horses, and they were liable to fall down and hurt you if you made them run.
Snuffy saw him and he came and said, "Haines, put them horses up. Let em alone."
Well, he put em up. So Im settin out there and soaking up the sunshine, and resting kind of easy. But I had had nothing to drink, in fact I wasnt a drinker.
Haines put the horses away for a little while, and then he got one of the horses out again, and he was trying to make him gallop. Snuffy comes out there and tells him, "Haines, I told you to put that horse up and I mean put him up and leave him up."
Then he said, "Martin. Im giving you a direct order. If he gets that horse out again, shoot him."
You know, Im not gonna, I dont want to shoot one of my own men over a horse. Well, Haines put the horse up. Then he comes around and Im settin there, and he gets up close, and he says, "Say, ol buddy, you wouldnt have shot me, would you?"
Snuffy Fuller wouldnt wear his bars out where you could see them, and he always kept the bar on his helmet covered with mud. He didnt want anybody to know he was an officer, especially the Germans. He was of German descent, and he could speak real good German.
One night they sent us out on patrol. I was the gunner in his tank. Well, we got lost. And we rode and rode and rode. Didnt know where we were. It ended up that we were behind the German lines. And just when it got daylight, we looked back, and two German tanks had fallen in on our column.
So Snuffy, he didnt know what in the world we were gonna do. And he bailed out of the tank, went back, and talked to them in their language. He told them that they were in our territory. Well, they werent. We werent either. But he convinced them to follow us on in. And by George, we captured two tanks without firing a shot!
Toward the end of the war, they made Sergeant Gibson a lieutenant, and they made me a tank commander. I had the fifth tank.
At that time, we could see the end was in sight. And they told us, if you go into a town, any house that had a white flag out the window, dont shoot, because they didnt want to ruin peoples homes.
So were taking this town, I dont remember the name. Gibsons going down this little road, and he tells me to get on his left flank. Were going in a line formation, five tanks, into this town. And its all field leading up to the town.
Now I look way ahead of me and I can see that one place there the grass is a lot greener than anyplace else.
Im not paying attention to this. I was trying to do everything right the first time Im a tank commander. Im telling the driver, "Stay on course," and Im telling the gunner, "Keep looking to your left," theres no sense in him looking to his right because the other tanks are over there, all he had to worry about was looking to the left and behind us.
Then all of a sudden we hit this green thing, and the tank sank right down to the hull. The whole track was sunk.
It was a manure hole. And the grass had all grown green over it. So there we sat, and we had to wait for the tank retriever to come and get us out.
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