|By James C. Haught|
Of course, the story of Bernard P. Bell exceeds all stories of soldiers in World War II.
But I heard several as a kid growing up in Calhoun County. One of my favorites was about a Starcher soldier from down on the West Fork. I do not remember his first name.
He was an outstanding soldier in basic training. He had scored expert on the rifle range.
Shortly after basic training he boarded a ship in New York and went over to Europe. His first assignment was with the 101st Airborne in Bastogne, Belgium.
The company was surrounded and pinned down by a German unit. The commanding officer came down the line, encouraging the soldiers. He said. “Men, we are surrounded and the odds are 5 to one. Make every shot count.”
About a half hour later the Captain made a second trip along the line. He was visibly upset when he got to Starcher who was setting with his back to the battle - smoking a cigarette.
The Captain chewed him out properly. When the Captain finished Starcher calmly replied: “Captain, I already got my five.”
Whether the story is true, I don’t know. But it sounds like something a Calhoun boy would do.
This is a story that my father, Horace L. Haught, told me about a Stump boy from Sandridge, Calhoun County.
General George Patton's Third Army was organized into a Tank Division and an Infantry Division. The tank division was moving through France and Germany at a rapid rate. They were leaving behind many German soldiers.
Members of the infantry stayed behind and mopped up these remaining soldiers. Stump was in this mop-up group.
The typical American mopping up technique was to throw a hand grenade into a room. This would kill most of the remaining German soldiers. The American soldiers would then shoot the remaining German soldiers.
These enemy soldiers also developed their own technique. They would build a barrier of furniture, then hide behind it. After the grenade went off and the American soldier entered the room, they would shoot them.
Stump was having great success mopping up rooms. His commanding officer contacted him and ask what technique he was using. He said, "I don't have any technique. To carry enough grenades to do the job, they can get heavy. I just carry two grenades. I throw a grenade into a room without pulling the pin.
While the Germans are waiting for the grenade to go off I just go in the room and shoot them."