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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,
Twenty minutes later the corporal arrived. After further interrogation, he called the
sergeant. The sergeant came, more talk, finally he called Engineers HQ. Permission to come
on was granted.
Leesemann drove to the HQ, "a large chateau with surrounding gardens. The sentries at
the large iron gate entrance gave us the same routine with threats of being arrested; 'No
way will we be responsible for admitting you two into the Command area.'"
Another call, another wait. Eventually, but not without further adventures in the maze of
Third Army, Leesemann got the maps and returned to 26th Division HQ. It was 0500 hours,
December 20. The division had been ready to move since 0100 hours. It was waiting for the
The biggest jerk in ETO was Lt. Gen. John C. H. Lee (USMA 1909), commander of Services of
Supply (SOS). He had a most difficult job, to be sure. And of course it is in the nature
of an army that everyone resents the quartermaster, and Lee was the head quartermaster for
the whole of ETO.
Lee was a martinet who had an exalted opinion of himself. He also had a strong religious
fervor (Eisenhower compared him to Cromwell) that struck a wrong note with everyone. He
handed out the equipment as if it were a personal gift. He hated waste; once he was
walking through a mess hall, reached into the garbage barrel, pulled out a half-eaten loaf
of bread, started chomping on it, and gave the cooks hell for throwing away perfectly good
food. He had what Bradley politely called "an unfortunate pomposity" and was
cordially hated. Officers and men gave him a nickname based on his initials, J.C.H. --
Jesus Christ Himself.
Lee's best-known excess came in September, at the height of the supply crisis. Eisenhower
had frequently expressed his view that no major headquarters should be located in or near
the temptations of a large city, and had specifically reserved the hotels in Paris for the
use of combat troops on leave. Lee nevertheless, and without Eisenhower's knowledge, moved
his headquarters to Paris. His people requisitioned all the hotels previously occupied by
the Germans, and took over schools and other large buildings. More than 8,000 officers and
21,000 men in SOS descended on the city in less than a week, with tens of thousands more
to follow. Parisians began to mutter that the U.S. Army demands were in excess of those
made by the Germans.
The GIs and their generals were furious. They stated the obvious at the height of the
supply crisis, Lee had spent his precious time organizing the move, then used up precious
gasoline, all so that he and his entourage could enjoy the hotels of Paris. It got worse.
With 29,000 SOS troops in Paris, the great majority of them involved in some way in the
flow of supplies from the beaches and ports to the front, and taking into account what
Paris had to sell, from wine and girls to jewels and perfumes, a black market on a grand
scale sprang up.
Eisenhower was enraged. He sent a firm order to Lee to stop the entry into Paris of every
individual not absolutely essential and to move out of the city every man who was not. He
said essential duties "will not include provision of additional facilities, services
and recreation for SOS or its Headquarters." He told Lee that he would like to order
him out of the city altogether, but could not afford to waste more gasoline in moving SOS
again. He said Lee had made an "extremely unwise" decision and told him to
correct the situation as soon as possible.
Of course Lee and his headquarters stayed in Paris. And of course there was solid reason
for so doing. And of course the combat veterans who got three-day passes into Paris could
never get a hotel room, and had to sleep in a barracks-like Red Cross shelter, on cots.
The rear-echelon SOS got the beds and private rooms. And their numbers grew rather than
shrank. By March 1945, there were 160,000 SOS troops in the Department of the Seine.
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