Sunday, December 7, 2014

And Death Was Dead Ahead

Douglas MacArthur at a French chateau in 1918
During World War I, Douglas MacArthur, then a brigadier general, was provided plenty of chances to test his courage.
“The 42nd had been trying, with little success, to advance northward from the Ourcq to the Vesle, which runs roughly parallel to it. A Boche deserter reported that the enemy was pulling back, but there was no sign of it.
“In the small hours of Friday morning, MacArthur crawled into no-man’s-land with an aide: ‘The dead were so think in spots that we tumbled over them. There must have been at least 2,000 of those sprawled bodies. I identified the insignia of six of the best German divisions. The stench was suffocating. Not a tree was standing. The moans and cries of wounded men sounded everywhere. Sniper bullets sung like the buzzing of angry bees.’”
“Abruptly a Very flare blazed overhead, and he and the aide hit the dirt. In the flickering light, MacArthur saw, dead ahead, ‘three Germans — a lieutenant pointing with outstretched arm, a sergeant crouched over a machine gun, a corporal feeding a bandolier of cartridges to the weapon. I held my breath waiting for the burst, but there was nothing. The seconds ticked by, but still nothing. We waited until we could wait no longer.’
“Watching the Germans’ position, the aide ‘shifted his poised grenade to the other hand and reached for his flashlight. They had not moved. They were never to move. They were dead, all dead — the lieutenant with shrapnel through his heart, the sergeant with his belly blown into his back, the corporal with his spine where his head should have been.’”
— William Manchester,  American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 1880-1964

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