For the last month or so I have been listening to Charles McDonald’s book on the Battle of the Bulge, A Time For Trumpets. Why has it taken me so long to get through? Because it is a 28 hour audiobook. Twenty. Eight. Hours.
I case you are wondering when you are 20 hours into an audio book and realize you still have 8 hours to go your face looks a lot like this.
It’s a good book, but man does it feel like a marathon. One of the stories I came across, however, was fantastic for what it says about leadership, and where every leader needs to be. It’s a lengthy quote, but worth the time.
Among the last to be committed was Company B’s Second Platoon, accompanied by two Sherman tanks. The platoon leader, 1st Lt. James V. Christy, had seen action before, but as was the case in all the rifle companies of the 109th Infantry, many of his men had only recently reached the front as replacements. One of those was Tech Sgt. Stanislaus Wieszcyk, one of hundreds of noncommissioned officers combed from support units, given a few days of refresher training, and put into the infantry. Over Wieszcyk’s protest (“Listen, Lieutenant, I got these stripes for running a consolidated mess hall at Camp Fannin, Texas!”), Christy had made him his platoon sergeant, second in command; either he did the job his stripes at that point called for or he would lose them.
By nightfall, the platoon and its two supporting tanks had advanced well along the road from the Sûre valley toward Fouhren. In the darkness, it was eerie moving forward with flashes of artillery fire lighting the night sky in seemingly every direction. The men were tired, hungry, and upset over the losses they had taken during the day. Lieutenant Christy “could sense the uneasiness of the soldiers.”
The lead tank suddenly came to a halt. Going forward, Christy found the tank commander determined to proceed not another inch without riflemen in front of him to guard against antitank rockets from Panzerfausts. Turning to Sergeant Wieszcyk, Christy told him to get a squad out front. “The guys have had more than enough today,” responded Wieszcyk. “They won’t go.”
The young lieutenant gulped, but he quickly turned to the commander of the tank. “How many men do you want in front of this tank to move it?” The tank commander said one good soldier would do. “You’ve got him!” said Christy. “Follow me.”
With pounding heart, Lieutenant Christy stepped out in front of the Sherman and started walking into the darkness. He had gone only a short way and the tank had scarcely begun to rumble forward behind him when Christy made out a figure on his left. It was Wieszcyk. “OK, Lieutenant,” said Wieszcyk, “you made your point.” Close behind him was the entire First Squad. (1)
Where should every leader be? At the front.
(1) MacDonald, Charles B.. A Time for Trumpets: The Untold Story of the Battle of the Bulge (Kindle Locations 3185-3203). Endeavour Press. Kindle Edition.