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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Friday, December 15, 2006

What's Wrong with this Story?

During the first two weeks of December, 1944, the 12th Infantry Regiment moved into a quiet area of Luxembourg for a much needed rest after more than a month of brutal fighting in Germany's Hurtgen Forest. Most of its machine guns and automatic rifles were sent back to ordnance for repair and reconditioning. The 2nd Battalion's greatly understrength rifle companies were positioned in the small towns of Echternach, Berdorf and Lauterborn where the men not on outpost duty could rest in resort hotels. Their mission seemed an easy one: protect Luxembourg City and the powerful Radio Luxembourg that could be heard throughout Europe.
Hours before dawn on December 16 the regiment came under heavy attack. The outposts were overrun, each of the small resort towns quickly surrounded. Not long after daybreak orders were sent down to every unit - "Hold at all cost. Fight to the last man."
The Battle of the Bulge had begun. Units to the north were quickly overrun by the Germans but the 12th Infantry Regiment held its ground just as it had done at Gettysburg and in so many other battles long past.
The regimental Cannon Company was positioned on a ridge overlooking a small stream and a stone bridge. A column of German tanks approached but the first of them to reach the bridge was knocked out by direct fire from Cannon Company's 105mm howitzers. With the bridge blocked and the column halted, German infantrymen forded the stream and soon had a six-man gun crew surrounded. An English-speaking German called to them to surrender. Three of the men wanted to but the other three reminded them of the order - Hold at all cost.
Despite that, the three did surrender. The others held on although their position seemed hopeless. Then a rifle company from the 1st Battalion arrived and now the Germans were outnumbered. They withdrew across the stream, taking their three prisoners with them.
In the late 1980s more than forty years after that frigid morning in Luxembourg, the six men were reunited at a 4th Infantry Division mini-reunion of men from Ohio and Western Pennsylvania. I listened as they talked of that day and what followed. It went like this:
The three men that surrendered were presented medals for having been prisoners of war. The three that held on received no medals.
The three that surrendered received top priority medical care from the Veterans Administration. The three that did not were placed far down the list.
The three that surrendered lived out the war in the safety of a POW camp. The three that did not continued to endure the rigors and risks of combat.
There were other distinctions, all minor. The three that surrendered, for example, all had special license plates honoring them as former prisoners of war. The others had no such plates. Little stuff like that.
Is there something wrong with this story? Something wrong with the country's priorities?

www.dickstodghill.com

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