“Over-sexed, over-paid and over here,” the Brits proclaimed in World War II. They feared the “damn Yankees” would pinch their lovely lasses for their G.I. brides.
Balderdash! The allies had nothing to fear from their sweethearts swooning over our appearance. A far cry from “Spotty Duke,” as platoon leader, in my togs I looked more like the rag-a-bone man.
When our battalion arrived in Germany, we anticipated shell fire. Instead, the first thing that hit us was the bloody, perishing cold. One of the worst bone-chillers on record was underway: what a killer. I had prepared to sort out the enemy. Now, I had to prepare for another enemy - frostbite.
Our troops learned the hard way that many a battle has been lost by failing to adapt to the elements. I intended to dress to kill.
Setting about his dual mission, I slugged along, blue with the cold. What a relief when a tank came along and a buddy threw me a life-line - an extra insulated pair of trousers. Warm at last! That took care of my buttocks. Now, for my torso.
After solving the first problem, I stumbled into another obstacle. My Army overcoat was so long that it restricted my movement.
How I wished for a “Union Label’’ seamstress. Alas, there were no lady tailors in our trenches. Sewing never tickled my fancy: I don’t do hems. So I hacked off the excess. Oops-a-daisy!
This left the remains of the top half of my overcoat held together with a piece of rope, horse pins and a prayer. Lo and behold, in the rubble, I spotted something that looked like a ski mask: perfect frostbite protection! Just the job to prevent my chin from dropping off. I dusted off the woolly and pulled it over my head. To crown it all, I wore my helmet on top.
I pressed on, regardless of my scruffy appearance. I was enough to scare off any enemy.
Then, all of a sudden the dreaded word spread down the company line like wildfire: “Patton is coming.”
Everybody knew that General George Patton was a stickler for correct military dress code. His infamous reputation preceded him into battle, and we called him “Ol’ Blood-and-Guts.” Our blood, his guts. Now he was in our area, breathing fire and smoke. He poked his swagger stick at anything that moved.
In my mind’s eye, I pictured him taking one look at me and bellowing: “Court martial that slovenly mess of a soldier,” To that I would only plead: “Please, General, I may look like a dog’s dinner - all scraps, but would you believe we’re being fired on?”
Stroke of luck for me that Patton missed the sorry sight of my beard, hidden under my so-called ski mask. Otherwise the General might have had my guts for garters.