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A Ghost of Patton's Army
Surviving the War on Hitler and the War on Drugs
© 2012 James LaFond

Living The Lie

You and I live The Lie. We breathe it, hear it, eat it, read it, swallow it, pay for it, and even serve as its building blocks as we toil to pay for its maintenance by our masters. The Lie has a name, more than one actually. If you are inclined toward hope its name is The Dream. If your inclination resides in a misremembered past then its name is Civilization. In either case, your belief in living a 'civilized life' or 'living the dream' in fact amounts to living a lie, because the only truth is war.

We live in a society ruled by a multitude of layered governments. Governments, states, nations, municipalities, whatever you wish to call them, can all trace their origin, the beginning of their wicked evolution, back to that first pack of marauding murderers that decided to add a third aspect to their 'rape & pillage' credo, that is 'rule' or governance. Why slaughter the cow right away when you can milk it first?

These social institutions that have grown out of the need of the conquerors to administer those that they permitted to live are known generically among historians and social critics as 'states'. States function best during a war and in its immediate aftermath. Any prolonged period of peace to a state is like a prolonged layoff for a fighter. Deterioration sets in and defeat becomes inevitable. Knowing this, there is only one course of action open to those who pull the strings of government and seek to pave a path of privilege for their children by assuring the continued growth of the state: keep the state at war against an external or internal foe in the name of peace, which is the stated goal of whichever of the above versions of The Lie that most people have bought into.

The secret to the understanding of society and/or gaining power through the apparatus of government is based on the realization that the truth beneath The Lie is the fact that you are either at war, or you are the spoils of war. There is no other choice.

Now that you are convinced that I am utterly insane it is safe to proceed with the tale of a man that was the instrument of an external war and a victim of an internal war, both waged by the same supposedly peace-loving government that was supposedly dedicated to his service.

After all, any government that changes the name of the War Department to The Department of Defense must be all about peace, right?

Welcome to The Lie, American style...

Sobo Blues

I was out and about in South Baltimore in the late summer of 1999 buying razors and gathering first-person accounts of edged-weapon use for my blade study. I had been in single-minded pursuit of the goals that would result in The Logic of Steel, when I became suddenly sick of the interviewing process. I had just realized, mere minutes after conducting an interview that the man I had just spoken to was none other than Cray, the man who had committed the most brutal violent crime of my study some twenty years past, and had not paid for his crime. See When You're Food, Chapter 4, Outmanned, Pepper. I had had it, and was retiring "The Violence Guy" business card for the day.

As I headed to the Fort Charles Pub to use the pay phone—wow, that seems so very long ago; life before cell phones, when the act of remote communication fixed your position—and have a cold one, I passed a very slight elderly man wearing a VFW hat. He was walking with the aid of a cane and appeared to be battling a wasting disease. I pretended to be reading the hours on the bar door, giving me an excuse for waiting to hold the door open for him without casting the impression of pity.

I held the door as he thanked me and offered to buy me a beer. We shared the rather large bar with three construction workers who were seated at a table and a nice barmaid who took our orders. He groaned when I ordered a Canadian brew. But at least, he noted, I didn't order a Coors. He was a union man and had fought a war against a German...

His name was Landis, and, as has been my habit since childhood, I asked him about his war experience.

"I was a buck sergeant in the Second Cavalry Division, in charge of a fifteen man team—though we were always at least a few men short—manning an M-8 armored car and two jeeps. As the sergeant I was the radio man on the armored car. When we had to dig in I became a regular infantryman. Three teams make a troop. Three troops make a squadron...

"At full strength we were supposed to have fifteen-hundred men, but we never did. They called us The Ghosts of Patton's Army. Some book writer interviewed me all about it, said he would send me a copy of the book. I never heard from him."

Landis had been wounded in the Battle of The Bulge. He showed me his veteran's cards, including a commemorative card for the battle. He loved General Patton and hated the rest of "the brass."

"People don't know how close we came to losing that battle. We lost a lot of people. Those Germans could fight! They had Tiger tanks. They were the worst; couldn't knock 'em out with anything we had on the ground.

"We were a hit-and-run outfit. We did recon. If we ran into heavy shit we'd go around and radio back. Patton told us, 'No more trench warfare. If you run out of gas get out and walk!'

We had gas tanks dropped by plane but most of them busted."

Landis asked me what kind of book I was writing and shook his head, "Yeah, I got mugged five years back, because I didn't have a weapon on me. It was in the winter, about dusk. I was walking down on Light Street, about one block east of Fort Avenue. These two young White guys approached me and beat the shit out of me [Landis weighed about 105 lbs] with a goddamn board, beat on my head, broke my glasses, busted my face up, and stole my wallet. The police made out a report and gave me a number but nothing happened.

"You have to protect yourself, but you can't if you don't have a weapon, and you're not allowed to carry a weapon. I have a Walther P-Thirty-eight. Don't tell anybody [I did change his name, and couldn't tell you what his real name is if I wanted to.] I brought it back from Europe; a nice weapon. In Forty-one the Germans started producing them in Belgian. I got it from a prisoner.

"We were in Czechoslovakia. We normally did recon. But we were supposed to be taking all of these prisoners, so we dug in. We were facing three SS divisions out of Russia: Sixth SS Mountain, Second Goring Infantry, and Fifth SS Panzer. We were supposed to be taking prisoners in the morning.

"The official end of the war was Midnight, May Eighth, Nineteen-forty-five. That's when they hit us. These were hold-out SS troops who knew they were going to be on trial. Thank God they didn't have Tigers! The Fifth SS Panzer almost wiped us out, hit us with Panthers. We had a thirty-seven millimeter gun on the M-8. There was nothing we could do. We weren't equipped for that kind of fighting. We destroyed our own vehicles and retreated into the woods.

"By morning we were taking prisoners. There were hold-outs for about another week. The SS could fight, I'll give 'em that—bastards!"

Landis indicated no feeling of ill-will toward the elite Nazi soldiers who on numerous occasions succeeded in disorganizing, wounding and killing men of his unit in battles fought half a world, and over half a century, away. In contrast, he indicated no sense of shared humanity concerning the young men of his neighborhood, some of whom had beaten and robbed him not three blocks from where we talked and drank beer together. Landis actually evoked a fantasy he had had about reconnoitering the local drug dens with his once outgunned M-8. He was afraid to carry his Walther P-38 for fear of being incarcerated. He did however, keep it next to him when he was home "for when the dope-fiends finally kick in my door. The cops are fifteen minutes away you know. I'll just have to do the time if they [the dope-fiends that have overrun his neighborhood] try to dig me out."

Every time I see a Canadian beer, I think about Landis and grab an American micro-brew.

I hope he is still polishing his P-38 somewhere.

James LaFond, Wednesday, February 2nd 2012

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Jeremy Bentham     Nov 18, 2017

James, I think perhaps you misunderstood Landis. The Second Cavalry Division was an African-American division that was deployed to North Africa in 1943 and then disbanded in 1944. There was however a 2nd Cavalry Group (Mechanized) that was assigned to Patton's Third Army in 1944-45 and finished the war in Czechoslovakia. It rescued the famous white Lipizanner horses of the Spanish Riding School from falling into Soviet hands at war's end . In WWII the two subordinate cavalry squadrons of the group each had three troops of M8 Greyhound armored scout cars, one light tank company (M5 Stuart tanks), one assault gun troop (M8 Assault Gun), a headquarters and service troop and a medical detachment. The unit was first established in 1836 (2nd Dragoons). It is now called the 2nd Cavalry Regiment (Stryker) and is stationed in Rose Barracks, Vilsek Germany. The unit's moto is 'Toujours Pret' (Always Ready). By the way, during the Battle of St. Vith in the Battle of the Bulge, on 18 December 1944, an M8 Greyhound armored car from Troop B, 87th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron was able to destroy a German Tiger I heavy tank from 1st SS Panzer Division. The M8 fired three 37 mm rounds through the relatively thin rear armor of the Tiger from only 25 yd. (23 m), setting it on fire. That particular cav unit was with Hodges' First Army far to the north of Patton's Third Army when the Battle of the Bulge started. qph.ec.quoracdn.net/main-qimg-0916b84dd1c315f0d6a2eddec2e7c352-c M8 Greyhound
James     Nov 19, 2017

Thanks, Jeremy!
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