Read free book excerpt from Citizen Soldiers by Stephen Ambrose, plus multiple reviews, author biography & more
Citizen Soldiers The U.S. Army from the Normandy Beaches to the Bulge to the Surrender of Germany. June 7, 1944 to May 7, 1945
by Stephen Ambrose
Hardcover: Oct 1997,
Paperback: Aug 1999,
There were some at the front, not many. In most cases they were visitors who didn't belong
there. Captain Colby led an attack down a road in the hedgerow country. His company got
hit hard and dove into the ditches. A firefight ensued. After a half hour or so, Colby
looked up to see his regimental commander standing above him, "nattily attired in a
clean uniform, and his helmet was clean and sported a silver star. He was the picture of
"You can't lead your men from down there," he snapped. "Come up here and
tell me what happened. Try to set an example of how an officer should behave."
"Come down here, sir, and we can talk about it," Colby replied.
"Come up here," the general replied. "That's an order."
To Colby's relief, a mortar round went off a few meters from the general. "He joined
me in the ditch."
Most chickenshits were rear-echelon. There are innumerable stories about them. Sgt. Ed
Gianelloni remembered the time in Luneville when his division was temporarily out of the
line and the opportunity came to take the first showers in two months. For the officers,
there was a public bath, where Frenchwomen bathed them. For the enlisted, there were
portable showers in the middle of a muddy field. Everyone undressed, piled up clothes and
weapons, and stood around shivering, waiting for the hot water.
"All right, you guys," the engineering sergeant in command barked out, "you
got one minute to wet, one minute to soap, and one minute to rinse off and then you get
out of here."
A private standing near the weapons pile reached in, grabbed an M-1, pointed it at the
sergeant, and inquired politely, "Sergeant, how much time did you say we have?"
The sergeant gulped, then muttered, "I'll tell you what, I am going to take a walk
and check on my equipment. When I come back you ought to be done."
General Patton had more than a bit of the chickenshit in him. He was notorious for being a
martinet about dress and spit-and-polish in Third Army. He ordered -- and sometimes may
have gotten -- front-line infantry to wear ties and to shave every day. Bill Mauldin did a
famous cartoon about it. Willie and Joe are driving a beat-up jeep. A large road sign
informs them that "You Are Entering The Third Army!" There follows a list of
fines for anyone entering the area: no helmet, $25; no shave $10; no tie $25; and so on.
Willie tells Joe, "Radio th' ol' man we'll be late on account of a thousand-mile
But it was no joke. Patton's spit-and-polish obsession some times cost dearly. It not only
had nothing to do with winning the war, it hurt the war effort.
Twenty-year-old Lt. Bill Leesemann was in a reconnaissance section of the 101st Engineer
Combat Battalion, attached to the 26th Division. On December 18, the 26th, along with the
80th and the 4th Armored, got orders to break off the attack in Lorraine, turn from east
to north, and smash into the German southern flank of the Bulge. This required frenetic
activity. Leesemann's job was to go from division headquarters in Metz to the Third Army
Engineer headquarters in Nancy, to pick up maps -- no one in the attacking divisions had
any maps of Luxembourg. It was a sixty-kilometer drive. Leesemann and his driver took off
late on December 19, as the 26th was forming up to head toward Luxembourg. It wouldn't be
able to move out until the maps arrived.
It was raining; the road was muddy; troops moving north caused delays. It was full dark by
the time Leesemann got to Nancy. He stopped at a crossroads, where "a real
spit-and-polish MP was directing traffic." Leesemann asked directions to the
Engineers HQ. The MP took one look at the dirty, unshaven lieutenant and driver and
ordered them to the MP post. He said they could not proceed into Third Army area until
they had washed the jeep, shaved, and put on clean uniforms. Leesemann replied that such
things were out of the question and explained the urgency of the situation. The MP called
Research shows that 90% of Americans value public libraries(Dec 11 2013) According to a survey by the Pew Research Center, about 90% of Americans aged 16 and older said that the closing of their local public library would have an...