By Don R. Marsh
He came to us at Combat Command “A” as a replacement
just after we broke through the Siegfried Line of the German Border in the fall
of 1944. The Signal Company Wire Chief, Technical Sergeant Tom McFarland, who
had been awarded the Silver Star, drove the Indian up in his jeep and turned him
over to our wire crew chief, Sergeant Earlie J. Jones. Private Walter Hogan was
now a member of our Communication Section wire team as a disciplinary measure.
The last stop before transfer to the 41st Infantry Regiment. When a
soldier could not get along in the rear echelon, for whatever reason, the kind
hearted officers in the rear would send the fuck-ups to the Combat Commands for
attitude adjustment. It worked,
almost all the time.
Private Hogan was not a general run of the mill screw-up,
just that he made a major error of judgment in dealing with his former wire crew
chief, Sergeant Kyle Howell. Hogan was a hard worker and not a shirker by any
means. Followed orders to the “t” and never mouthed off, kept to himself,
didn’t complain or bitch and would speak only when spoken to. In many ways,
the ideal soldier in combat. His only known fear was that of officers – all
ranks. For whatever reason, Hogan would go out of his way to avoid speaking to
officers and never explained why. Apparently, he didn’t trust their power over
him …. and rightfully so. Look what happened to him over that damned C ration
I have to back up here; Hogan had been assigned to another
wire crew and never had a single problem until one day he discovered that his
wire crew chief had been opening the cases of C rations and throwing away the
cans of cocoa that no one cared for – except Hogan. He thought it was the best
thing we had available to drink. He and the Sarge got into a heated argument and
Hogan decked him after knocking the hell out of each other, as the Sarge was no
push over in handling men or his fists. Clearly the winner of that fight, Hogan
had to go, but rather than courts-martial Hogan for “striking” an NCO, the
Powers That Be decided to transfer him to our crew as a form of punishment.
Hell, he fit like a glove!
Hogan was in his early twenties and standing 6 feet 2
inches and weighed close to 195 pounds, rock solid, without an ounce of visible
fat on his muscled body. His upper torso development was spread on his broad
shoulders and tapered to his small waist like a light heavy weight fighter’s
build. The power of his arms was noticeable through his baggy GI wool shirt. In
spite of his exceptional physical condition, he was a peaceful man, unless
provoked – then watch out for the fireworks that followed.
I watched one day when someone other than our crew addressed him as “Chief” in a smart-ass tone of voice. I saw Hogan’s eyes become squints as he told the GI he didn’t appreciate his reference to his Okeechobee, Florida Indian heritage in that manner. The guy sensing Hogan’s anger instantly backed off with the comment, “no offense – sorry” and Hogan waved his hand to forget it. But the point was well taken by all present.
Normally, Hogan was a happy-go-lucky guy with that
perpetual Mona Lisa smile that hid whatever he was thinking. Given the toughest
assignment, he never complained. Might shrug his shoulders and cock his head to
one side as though weighing what had to be done, but then got on with it without
a word. I suspected he was not too well educated, but would go off by himself
and write a letter home now and then. When the mail was brought up to us on
occasion he would receive a letter, but never shared the contents – good, bad
or otherwise, with us as we did with each other. We shared what few packages we
received from home, but I don’t recall Hogan ever receiving a package.
In the Bulge the extreme cold took its toll on everyone,
but more so with Hogan. I don’t know if his blood was thinner than ours, but
he often had the chills and shivered if standing still very long. He was the
perpetual movement guy burning calories for inner warmth. I remember the nuns
from a roadside convent scurrying among our vehicles on the road when we
stopped, with their tea kettles of boiling water to give us. Hogan could consume
two canteen cups as fast as they could pour the scalding water. The rest of us
looked for stashed packets of instant coffee to add to the water in our cups,
but not Hogan – he couldn’t wait that long to warm the insides!
Came the spring and we waited to bridge the Rhine River and continue the attack. The area we stopped overnight was the home of several major wineries and our GIs immediately discovered the witches brew – massive barrels and barrels of the joy juice.
Our five gallon water cans were quickly emptied and
refilled with the nectar of the gods. It was happy hour all day long. The brass
looked the other way and ignored the drunks who didn’t have enough sense to
stay out of sight.
Up until then, I had never seen Hogan take a drink of
alcohol. That day he made up for lost time and became a drunken Indian without
using common sense. Late that night he pounded on the trailer door containing
the CCA Commander, Brigadier General John H. “Peewee” Collier. Fatal
mistake. Most Generals dislike piss calls being made by inebriated soldiers of
Indian heritage in the middle of the night, regardless how well intended.
Collier was no exception. He had Hogan placed under arrest and the next day
rather than have Walter Hogan dispatched to the 41st Infantry, he
told Captain Bifano to have Hogan assigned to the kitchen truck as a KP for one
week for punishment. Hogan ducked the proverbial bullet that time!
Hogan had learned his lesson and knew that he escaped from
being sent to the Infantry and behaved himself thereafter. I never again
witnessed him take a drink of any kind. Even at Wolfenbuttel at the wars end
when there was an abundance of local beer and schnapps available. We went to
Berlin together in July as a part of the Berlin Honor Guards at the Potsdam
Ceremony and then later in August when we withdrew to Bad Orb I began my journey
home. That was when we parted company. Years later I wrote to him in St.
Petersburg, Florida at his last known address. But my letter was returned
“Addressee Unknown.” I hope he is still enjoying his cup of cocoa wherever
he is today.
Publication or reproduction, in part or
whole, is prohibited without written
Permission from the author, Don R. Marsh.
All rights remain the sole property of
The Marsh Family Trust