Today over at that excellent site, Criminalbrief.com, James Lincoln Warren wrote how one word can make all the difference in the military. This is all too true, as I learned at the age of 18 when I was a radioman in a rifle company in Europe back in 1944. I was not thrilled with the job because the radio weighed 38.8 pounds and that was on top of the 65 or more I was already carrying. With that kind of load it wasn't easy to follow my system for staying alive: move fast, keep low, stay mobile. Hit the ground and roll? Forget it with that thing strapped to your back.
A big offensive by three infantry divisions was planned so the night before our battalion's code name was changed from Apple to Queen. The battalion commander was Apple 1, his executive officer Apple 2, Easy Company Apple 3, Fox Company Apple 4 and my company, George for G, was Apple 5.
By morning I had forgotten we no longer were Apple. For weeks we had gotten four hours of sleep on a good night, none at all on some. We had eaten nothing but field rations intended for short term use. We had hiked countless miles, fought in major battles and in general lived worse than any dogs. I should be worrying about Apples and Queens?
The time for the offensive arrived and passed and we were still there on the Line of Departure. To find out what was going on I followed orders and time after time called, "Apple 1, this is Apple 5. I have a message for you. Over." Nothing. Dead silence. An hour went by and nearly another when half a dozen majors, lieutenant colonels and colonels arrived. They did not have nice things to say to me.
Why, I have often wondered, if they were so smart did it take them two hours to get to the source of the problem? The offensive was a complete failure and they probably blamed me for that too. I had two words for them, but kept them to myself.