Skip to comments.The FReeper Foxhole Revisits and Remembers S/Sgt. Lafayette Pool, The Tanker Legend - April 4th,2007
Posted on 04/04/2007 6:28:48 PM PDT by snippy_about_it
are acknowledged, affirmed and commemorated.
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32nd Armored Regiment,
3rd Armored Division
This story is about a tank commander who destroyed 258 enemy vehicles, but he never was awarded the Knights Cross. He was never presented to Hitler, he never wore a fancy black uniform with death heads and S.S. runes, and he never commanded a Panther or Tiger. The reason? He was an American GI and he set the above record in a Sherman tank! Contrary to popular belief other countries besides Germany were capable of producing tank aces too.
Staff Sergeant Lafayette G. Pool was typical of some of the fine tankers produced by the U.S. Army during World War II. Pool was born on July 23, 1919, on a farm in Odem, Texas. He graduated from high school in Taft, Texas in 1938. Pool tried to enlist in the Navy. He was turned down due to an eye injury, although his twin brother was accepted. he then enrolled in an all boys Catholic Academy where he graduated as class valedictorian. Afterwards, he enrolled in Texas, A and I College, as an engineering major.
He quit to enlist in the Army on June 13, 1941. He took basic training at San Antonio, Texas, and then was sent to Camp Beauregard, Louisiana, to the newly forming Third Armor Division. Pool joined the Third Battalion, 32nd Armored Regt, when the division was reorganized in January of 1942. He took time out from training to get married to Evelyn Wright in December of 1942.
Here's a shot of my M4A1(76) as crewed by Lafayette Pool in Late Summer of 1944. - Scott Dimmick
Pool had been a boxer in college and he joined the division's golden gloves team. He became regional champ in his weight class and was to go to the national meet in Chicago, Illinois in the spring of 1942. He turned down the opportunity because the division had gotten a shipment of new M-4 Sherman Tanks and Pool wanted to start training with his men on the M-4 immediately.
Pool was a tall, lanky 6'3" Texan, who drove his men and himself and trained them rigorously. He always wanted things done right and would not tolerate slipshod methods, whether in maintenance, gunnery, or driving. He demanded the best out of his men and he got it.
The 3rd Bn, 32nd Armor moved to the Desert Training Center near Victorville, California, followed by final training at Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania.
Before sailing to England in September, 1943, Pool was promoted to Staff Sergeant in Company I. He was also given the opportunity to go to OCS, but he turned it down as he was later to turn down a battlefield commission stating "I just want to have one of the best tank crews in the division."
His crew consisted of driver, Wilbert "Baby" Richards, one of the best drivers in the ETO according to Pool; Bert "Schoolboy" Close who was just seventeen years old and was his bow gunner. Given the choice of prison on a manslaughter rap or the Army, Del "Jailbird" Boggs elected to be Pool's loader. Willis "Groundhog" Oller was the gunner. Pool said of Oller "He could shoot the eyebrows off a gnat at 1500 yards." He was very quick and alert. One time near Origny in France it was getting dark when the order came down to halt and coil up for the night. Pool opened his mouth to say "Driver, Halt," but found himself looking down the barrel of a German 88mm in the gloom ahead. He said "Gunner, Fire!" and Oller, without hesitation, holed the enemy gun before its crew could recognize the Sherman Tank.
While in England Pool did some more boxing. In Liverpool in early 1944 he boxed against Joe Louis. It was ment to be an exhibition bout, but Pool got a little too enthusiastic and rapped Louis a few good ones. Louis then put his arm around Pool and said "White man, I'm going to teach you a big lesson." He then proceeded to give Pool a good going over, although there was no knockout.
Tank from the 32nd Armored Regiment. Note the "hedgerow cutter"
Pool is what we would call today a "hard charger." He was also inclined to have things his own way. He believed that the quickest way home was to smash the German Army to pieces, and he believed that he was the guy with the crew and the tank that could do it. He made friends easily and also made enemies. He had a quick temper and was not above ignoring orders when they didn't suit him.
Pool landed at Normandy in June, 1944. His battalion fought its first engagement on June 29, 1944 near Villierfossard, northeast of St. Lo.
The loss of Pool's first tank "In The Mood," (all succeeding tanks were called "In The Mood!") was to a Panzerfaust at the village of Les Forges not far from the beach-head. Pool's crew survived and got a new Sherman, and pushed on undauntedly against the Panzers.
Falaise Gap on August 7, 1944, was the big battle and Pool was, as usual, right up front. As the 3d Armored Division was near to closing the ring with the British forces around the Germans, Lt. Col. Walter B. Richardson, commanding task force Y of CCA, 32nd Armored heard Pool say over the radio "Ain't got the heart to kill um," meaning the Germans. The rattle of machinegun fire came over thr radio followed by Pool's Texas drawl "Watch those bastards run, - give it to 'em Close."
Pool's one problem was that he was claustrophobic and preferred to remain, as much as possible, on the outside of his tank. Col. Richardson said that Pool rode that tank like a "bucking bronco." He was always exposed in the turret or on top of it.
Pool's luck ran out at the town of Munsterbusch, south of Aachen, Germany, on September 19, 1944, while leading the breakthrough through the Westwall. The crew was due to rotate home in a few days for a war bond tour. "In The Mood" was not leading this time but was flank guard for the task force that day. Pool spotted a heavy anti-tank gun hidden in a house. They had a substitute loader that day as Boggs was sent back for a hearing check-up prior to rotating to the states. The new guy shoved a round in the breech of the 76mm gun and jammed it.
Oller felt the blood on his leg and knew that he had been wounded. The others were unhurt and all four crawled out of the overturned tank.
The war was over for Lafayette G. Pool. He knew that he and his crew could beat the Germans. He proved it so often that his record is almost an unbelievable document of total victory. The amazing score by the Texan and his crew is fully authenticated by the 3d Armored Division.
Pool's career was far from over though, but first he had an ordeal he had to go through with his wounded right leg. After three shots of morphine he awoke nineteen days later in a hospital in Belgium. Due to rain and exposure he contracted double pneumonia. He did not get back to the states until January, 1945. When he was wounded he weighed 196 pounds and when he returned to the United States he weighed 85 pounds! The bone in his leg from the knee to the ankle was gone but his toenail would still grow so doctors hesitated to amputate. Later they amputated it eight inches above the knee at Temple, Texas Army Hospital. He was discharged in June of 1946, and went home with an artificial leg, later to farm and run a gas station. In 1948 he was called back to active duty along with seven other amputees because of their technical skills as specialists.
While at Fort Knox, he was offered the job as technical advisor for the movie "The Tanks Are Coming" (released in 1951). He refused and decided to sue Warner Brothers for one million dollars. He was under contract to Universal Studios for his life's story and he felt that Warner Brothers plagiarized his script. The judge ruled that Warner Brothers had changed the names and scenario in their version enough that it was not an infringement. Pool thought that actor Steve Cochran, in the Warner Brothers version, did a good portrayal of himself, although the name in this movie was changed to "Sgt. Sullivan."
|By the time the Siegfried Line had been reached, the young "Texas Tanker" had been awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the Legion of Merit and the French Croix de Guerre with gold star. He was also twice nominated for the Congressional Medal of Honor. By the time Pool was wounded in action near the German border, he and his crew had accounted for the destruction of 258 enemy armored vehicles, taking 250 enemy prisoners and killing over 1,000 German soldiers...quite a record for a single tank crew! Pool survived the war and lived to receive high honors from US Armor Association Awards Program. His CO later said of him, "Pool is the tanker of tankers."|
Yep. First in. Hurrah! I think this is our first ever evening ping.
Really?? I don’t remember.
How’s Sam doing, have not heard from him in a long time. ;)
He’s doing well. He was in Oregon a couple weeks ago for his daughter’s wedding. First daughter, first wedding, great son-in-law. Since he’s been home he’s been working everyday. He had today off so I also took a day off so we could enjoy it together. Having dial-up does NOT encourage one to be on the internet much! He says, “Hi feather”, in that sweet voice of his. :-)
Ah, so good to hear his voice. ;)
A wedding, WOW that is great. Congratulations FIL!!
We are anxiously awaiting pictures!
Thanks for reposting this thread. Its a good-un!!!!!
BTW ... your post at #3 has white text on a white background. I'm sure you didn't MEAN to to that, right? :)
Thanks for the update on Sam. I hadn’t seen him around lately and when I checked the other day, he hadn’t posted in a while, so I was getting worried. Glad to hear he was absent for good reasons.
I had a great time! Of course I have to say my daughter was the most beautiful bride ever. :-)
Now I’m an official FIL and my son in law is a great guy spent two days staying up in the wee hours of the morning getting to know each other better. (I stayed at his place before the wedding).
My little girl is no longer mine. :-(
I’m still here ;-) Thanks for the concern, never seems to be enough time anymore. :-(
Ah Sam, she will always be your little girl. So nice you could spend time with your SIL.
Well, to change the topic I woke up to the ground covered in snow. Gonna be snowy and cold all weekend. ;(
We are anxiously awaiting pictures!
Yupper we sure are. ;)
I did mean to do it! Sometimes fotki goes down in pieces temporarily, I was hoping it would come back. :-(
He’s a slacker. :-)
He has be hooked on a sub sim and between work and playing the game to relax and the fact that we have dial up and can only be on one at a time limits our time on the internet.
I was going to send you a freepmail. Thanks for reminding me.
Snow! It was 90 here Wednesday. Then a cold front moved in. Today it was only 75 and it’s going to only be 65 and 66 on Saturday and Sunday. It’s going to get down in the low 40’s at night. Brrrr. :-)
Yes, snippy as I write there is snow on the cars!
And it is downright cold. Never got to 30F today.
We are in for a snowy and cold Easter weekend. What can I do? Move?? I don’t know about that. LOL
Well, I’ll admit when it’s hot down here it not very pleasant, however, I wouldn’t trade it for the cold.
LOL. That’s a mouthful!
LOL I could not resist. ;)
I was the Ft Knox project officer for the M1 Tank Driver Trainer (TDT) in Pool Hall. I was the one who walked out into the middle of a vacant lot with the architect, the project engineer from PM TRADE (Program Manager, Training Devices) the Project Director from PM TRADE and a handful of others and decided there was sufficient room there to build a 43,000 sq ft building for the M1 TDT.
I walked the M1TDT program through the entire acquisition process from design to prototype to testing to fielding. In addition I helped to “find” funding for the building in a congressional insert.
I don’t remember the exact cost savings data, but the initial cost of the M1TDT and the building was somewhere in the neighborhood of $35,000,000.00. The savings in OPTEMPO costs allowed the M1 TDT to run in the black after about 6 years. This program was one of the largest cost savings/avoidance programs the Army has had.
When it was time to name the building a coworker who had heard of SSG Lafayette Pool mentioned his name and the fact that nothing was named after this great American hero. That ended up being another part of the job as we had to go through the Army Heraldry Office to research the name and then contact the family for permission. As a final salute to this hero the building name was approved. SSG Pool's family attended the ribbon cutting ceremony.
Kudos to you! Nicely done, honoring a great American.
Wonderful. Thanks for tooting! You should be proud of your work.
We have the funeral tomorrow. Afterward we’ll pile into the car and get a start on the trip back.
My grandma got to meet the greatgrandkids and thorughly enjoyed the visit.
Msdrby and the kids also got the chance to see the biggest living things on Earth. Also known as giant sequoia. They were appropriatley impressed.
Good to hear from you. Have a safe trip home.
“Toot” away, SLB! That building is sure a fitting tribute to a great tanker - what an inspiration for the trainees using the facility. I don’t recall hearing “Pool Hall” but I believe the Gunny filmed a segment of his recent Mail Call episode on Fort Knox there.
There's a little more to that story....
Tank Hero of World War II, Minus A Leg, Returns to Duty With 3rd Armored"
By Marion Porter
[Primary newspaper for Ft. Knox, KY, area]
September 25, 1949
Five years ago to the day he was "knocked out" of the Third Armored Division, Sgt. Lafayette G. Pool, 30, wearing his battle decorations, his battle scars, and a wooden leg, returned to the Third Armored Division.
There was sound and fury when he was knocked out of his tank by a direct hit from an enemy gun, September 19, 1944, near Stolberg, Germany. And there was pomp and circumstance recently when the 6-foot-2 Texan was welcomed home by the Third's honor guard at Fort Knox and a handclasp from Maj. Gen. Roderick R. Allen, commanding officer. (Pool's re-enlistment is part of an Army program to utilize wounded combat veterans in exceptional instances.)
"They shouldn't 'a' gone to all that trouble, but it was mighty nice," said Sergeant Pool, who was THE outstanding tank commander of World War II. Official records show that as the point of the spearhead he led 21 full-scale engagements. He is credited with 1,000 dead Germans, 250 prisoners and 250 enemy vehicles. Twelve of the vehicles destroyed were tanks.
Four tanks had been shot out from under Sergeant Pool. Asked to account for the amazing record made while spearheading attacks from Isigny, France, to Stolberg before he was wounded, he said: "Well, I prayed an awful lot and my wife at home was praying too."He recalled the amazement of the doctor who promised to discharge him "as soon as you walk down to my office on that leg." Pool did walk down to the office just four days after being issued his wooden leg. What the doctor didn't know was that Pool had been practicing on a buddy's wooden leg. The man next to him in the hospital had two artificial legs. Taking surreptitious walks. Pool used one of the borrowed legs while his buddy used the other and a crutch.
After his discharge. Pool opened a filling station and garage at his home in Sinton, Texas. He didn't like it, nor did he like several other businesses he started. He enlisted in the Army and was sent into the Transportation Corps, but finally managed, with the intervention of General Allen, to "come home" to the Third Armored Division where he will be an instructor in automotive mechanics.
"But I'd like to get back into tanks," he said wistfully. He has three sons, aged 5, 3, and 1, all destined to be tankers.
Sergeant Pool wears the Belgian and French Fourragère, the Distinguished Service Cross, Legion of Merit, Silver Star, and Purple Heart -- as well as 17 bits of shrapnel in his neck, and the artificial leg.
"It's all right," he said, giving the leg a resounding smack. "Creaks a little today. I went fishing and overturned the boat and got it wet. Just needs a little oiling."
No member of his crew was injured. He had the same crew all through, the crew he trained as recruits at Camp Polk, La.
"They prayed good, too," grinned Pool, "but they could cuss even better. I'd say, 'Boys, come on, we're leading this one.' And they'd say, 'Why, you blankety blank so-and-so of a so-and-so, you're going to get us all killed.' "
Pool always rode in his tank with the turret open and the upper part of his body out of the tank.
"I like to see where I'm going and who's shooting at me," he explained. "Kinda gave me claustrophobia to be all closed in. If I had been down in the tank like I should have, I would have been killed sure nuff."
(Incidentally, Pool's twin brother was in the Navy and in every naval battle in the Far East as well as the Pearl Harbor bombing and came through unscratched.)
Injured in the neck and leg, Pool spent 22 months in hospitals before he was discharged. A Golden Gloves champ and winner of 41 out of 41 boxing matches in the Army, he described his 42d fight, "the fight for my life - the toughest."
WOW! Wonderful “more to the story”. How cool is that. I’m glad they took him back into the 3rd.
Thanks so much this archy.
Be sure and hug a tree. :-)
Glad grandma got to meet the youngins. Have a safe trip home.
You are welcome. Be sure and see archy’s added information on Pool in post 39.
We’re in Flagstaff.
Tomorrow, if all goes well, we’ll see the big big drainage channel.
Heh heh heh
Spiderboy was completely oblivious. When we stopped, he asked “where are we”?
Go look. We were parked 30 feet from the South Rim.
I can hear him now...”Whoa”.
Bittygirl saw all of the coins from folks using it as a giant wishing well.
“Need to pick it up” she said.
Batten down the hatches. Looks like you’re either getting bad weather or already got it. Let us know.
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