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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Saturday, July 07, 2007

Not Remembering Can Be Easy

There wasn’t anything about the kid that stood out, that made you remember him even though he was around all the time. He wasn’t big and he wasn’t small, probably 5-8, give or take an inch, and no older than eighteen. You might say his features were generic, nothing distinguishable, nothing memorable. He had the look of the hills, of Appalachia, and he came from one of those states, but which one I can’t remember.
He had an end bunk in the barracks and he spent most of his free time sitting there or sometimes lying down. He just sort of blended in like the rifle rack or one of the footlockers. He seldom received a letter and when he did it was from his mother, never a girl back home.
When guys were cutting up he’d laugh quietly at something that was said or at the crazy antics and horseplay. He never joined in, though, and no one ever thought to make him a part of it. Nor did anyone ever make him the butt of a joke or anything like that when they were clowning around, probably because they didn’t remember.
He did everything the rest of us did while training and I suppose we just took it for granted that he would. Then one day he was given an evening job, whitewashing all the rocks lining both sides of the drive leading to the company area. It was half a mile long so that made a mile of rocks. No one thought of offering to lend a hand. He never complained or even said a word about it.
When the day’s work was done and groups would head out for town, no one ever asked him to go along. Not because no one wanted him around, they just didn’t remember. It was the same when some of the boys would go down to the PX for a beer. No one ever thought to ask if he’d like to join them.
So that’s the way it went until the time came when we were in combat. On a sunny afternoon we were slowing advancing down a city street. At one of the cross streets the first man to go out was cut down by machine gun fire. It came from an American machine gun. There was no mistaking them because ours dated back to the previous war and fired slowly with a chug-chug-chug sound. German machine guns were new and fired twice as fast with a ripping sound. Failing to tell them apart was impossible.
Before there was time to even think about our next move the kid said he’d go around the corner and tell them they were shooting at the wrong people. The platoon sergeant told him to wait a minute before he started out and sent a squad up to the top floor of the building to see if the gun and its crew were visible.
They had set up a neat nest protected by sand bags. From a back window on the top floor a man with a good throwing arm could hit it with a hand grenade. Before anyone had time to call out to the crew or do anything else the kid started around the corner. Two men raised up behind the sand bags, two men wearing German helmets. Their own gun must have been disabled so they were using an American one they had found. They were great at improvising or making use of whatever was at hand.
I heard only one comment about the incident. Someone said, “They shouldn’t have let him start out before we had time to do something up here.” Whoever said it didn’t remember to call him by name.
What was his name? I don’t remember.


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