Veterans Day is one week from now so Balladeer’s Blog is presenting another look at World War One since November 11th marks the date that war ended.
HARRY S TRUMAN, CAPTAIN OF BATTERY D – This future Senator, future Vice President and future President is credited with one of my favorite quotes: “There’s nothing new in the world except the history you don’t know.”
That Show-Me State Seneca was in charge of Artillery Battery D, a hard-fighting unit that was often deployed well forward, in the heart of the action. During the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in 1918 Truman’s Battery D provided fire in support of the young George Patton’s tank brigade. “Captain Harry’s” boys engaged German field guns, eliminating and forcing the abandonment of enemy batteries at a noteworthy rate.
On one occasion when the U.S. Army was driven back, the overlooked Battery D was left TWO HUNDRED YARDS out in front of the rest of the American forces. Captain Truman’s survival savvy kept him and his men alive. Once, in the heat of battle, an American Recon Pilot dropped a flare from above in time to alert Truman to the presence of a German battery setting up to fire on Harry and his troops. Battery D wiped out the German unit in the resulting clash.
One of Truman’s superiors, Colonel Karl Klemm, was often exasperated by Captain Truman’s fondness for exercising his Officer’s Initiative. He even threatened to Court-Martial Harry when the Captain had disobeyed orders by helping out the beleaguered Kansas and Missouri National Guard Units being slaughtered because of ineptitude up the chain of command.
Yes, Jayhawks and Show-Me Staters were actually fighting side-by-side against a common enemy! Anyway, that was the infamous night of “the cemetery of unburied dead” as the National Guard Units suffered appalling casualties.
Luckily for Harry Truman talk of a Court Martial usually died away when he and his Battery D distinguished themselves in fight after fight. It was probably lucky for Klemm, too, since legendary U.S. General John J “Black Jack” Pershing soon angrily forbade commands not to fire out of sector – the type of command Captain Truman had exercised his initiative regarding and had disobeyed.
At Exermont the American advance faltered and was then temporarily pushed back by the rallying Germans, ending the most active period of Truman’s wartime service.
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