Stodghill Says So

An opinionated posting on a variety of subjects by a former newspaper reporter and columnist whose daily column was named best in Indiana by UPI. The Blog title is that used in his high school sports predictions for the Muncie Evening Press.

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Location: Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, United States

At the age of 18 I was a 4th Infantry Division rifleman in the invasion of Normandy, then later was called back for the Korean War. Put in a couple of years as a Pinkerton detective. Much of my life was spent as a newspaper reporter, sports writer and daily columnist. Published three books on high school sports in Ohio and Indiana. I write mystery fiction for Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and others. Three books, Normandy 1944 - A Young Rifleman's War, The Hoosier Hot Shots, and From Devout Catholic to Communist Agitator are now available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other booksellers. So are four collections of short mysteries: Jack Eddy Stories Volumes 1 and 2, Midland Murders, and The Rough Old Stuff From Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine.

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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

A Museum and a Man Named Eddie Wolfe

If I look a little younger - well, a lot younger - today it is because of a phone call from the 4th Infantry Division Museum at Fort Hood, Texas. The lady on the line asked if I had a photo taken in my World War II uniform. They wanted it to go along with a story of mine in a book entitled "War Stories." All the articles in it were written by 4th Division men who served during my war or in Vietnam. So I sent the photo that makes me look 18 again. It was taken just before I shipped overseas early in the spring of 1944.
The lady didn't say and I didn't ask which story they were using of the several I had in the book. Some were quite graphic. She says the young soldiers enjoy reading the experiences of those who served in the division long before them. It makes history come alive for them better than any lesson taught in a classroom. I can believe that.
I wonder, though, what Eddie Wolfe, my old platoon sergeant, would say if he walked into the museum and found my picture there. Probably "Of all people, why him?" I agree. Eddie's photo, or those of many others I could name, would be better suited. Eddie was the best and bravest combat soldier I knew. Long ago I wrote this about him: "Eddie was never at a loss for a few thousand words on any subject. But not once did I ever hear a word of self praise from him, or anything even approaching a boast. Had he been so inclined, Eddie had a great deal to boast about. I am sure, though, that never once did it occur to him that there was anything out of the ordinary in his willingness to place himself in danger when there was something he felt needed doing. He believed, and I am certain of this, that any of us would have done the same thing. That none of us did so never dawned on him."
I recall one night - actually an hour or two before dawn - when Eddie put his arm over my shoulder and said, "You did a good job tonight, Stodgy." Coming from him that was the ultimate praise and nothing said since then comes close to equaling it in my mind.
One of the great moments of my life came a few years ago when Jackie called me to the phone and when asked who it was replied, "Ed Wolfe." It was him all right, I would have recognized that forceful voice anywhere. Eddie was 25 in Normandy so that makes him 87 today, but he sounds just as strong as he did those long years ago. He lives in a suburb of Atlanta and that's a fair distance, almost a different world, from his native Taunton, Massacusetts.
I put together a few things I had written and sent them to him. The first paragraph of his reply read: "What a surprise. Reliving the Battle of Normandy in your publication brought into focus forgotten battles, old comrades and towns long ago forgotten. I am flattered to be among the people you wrote about, and somehow you made me out a hero when in truth I was just doing what I was taught to do in combat. I was just as scared of dying as the next guy."
Of course he was scared. Any combat infantryman who says he wasn't is either a liar or insane. It's fear that gets the adrenaline flowing and without that extra boost a man couldn't survive. But on one occasion after another Eddie went beyond merely doing his job. When danger beyond the norm was involved he never ordered one of his men to handle the job, although he could have. No, he did it himself. But Eddie always spoke his mind without regard to whether he was talking to a private or a general. There are some officers who don't like that, but those kind aren't the good officers. The time came when an officer he was compelled to work with didn't care to hear the opinions of a mere enlisted man so Eddie was shipped out of the company. So how did he spend the rest of the war? As a cook. That's the military for you. But the experience led to the only boast I ever heard from Eddie Wolfe: "I can still break an egg with one hand."

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