Tribune-Herald

 

GET'EM – World War II Hero Lafayette G. Pool, right, and Lt. Col. Len Hawley, commander of the 3d Battalion, 32d Armor Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, watch a tank and crew head down range Thursday at Fort Hood. Pool noted the differences between today's M-1 tank and his WWII Sherman.

 

Reprint from Tribune-Herald – Fort Hood Area – 1987, by Debra Fowler, Herald Staff Writer)

 

WWII Legend Tells Hood Tankers 'Stay Alive'

"The most important thing for a commander to do is keep his crew alive," World War II veteran Lafayette G. Pool told the 1st Cavalry Division troopers gathered around him Thursday morning at Fort Hood.

"You have to teach (the soldiers) how to kill… that's an ugly word, but there's no other way to stay alive," Pool said.

The crusty old soldier and war hero came to his World War II unit again this week. He came to watch the troopers of the 3rd Battalion, 32nd Armor Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, fire their M-1 Abrams tanks on Crittenberger Range.

The Abrams is a bit different from the Sherman tank Pool commanded during the war, he said. The range of the M-1 is about double that of the Sherman, Pool noted, and the M-1's technology is highly superior.

"Tank crews today have the technology to do what we had to do with our eyes and ears," Pool said. "We did very little fighting at night," he added. "I only fought once at night during the war, and I never wanted to do it again. Today, you have the thermal sighting capability that we didn't have."

Despite not having such technology, Pool made a name for himself in the 1940s with his Sherman tank, nicknamed "In The Mood."

A native of Sinton, Texas, Pool fought with the 32nd Armor, 3d Armored Division, and remarkably led led his task force in 21 full-scale attacks during the First Army's drive across Europe in the summer of 1944.

Pool participated in the action that resulted in the capture of the first German town to fall to U.S. forces. At Namur, Belgium, his tank crew destroyed 15 enemy vehicles; at Dison, Belgium, they knocked out six armored infantry vehicles.

The young troopers with the 3rd Battalion, 32nd Armor, 1ts Cavalry Division, learned about Pool in May when they were researching their unit's history.

They learned that they had a bonafide hero in their background – a hero who, with his tank crew, destroyed 258 enemy vehicles and took more than 250 Germans as prisoners.

The 1st Cav soldiers found Pool at his home in Taft, Texas. In May, they brought him, now 67 years old, to Fort Hood, where he was thrilled to saddle up in an M-1 and take it for a spin.

Thursday morning, on his third visit to the post, he climbed aboard a Hummer, which has replaced the Army's jeep, and followed a tank crew down the range.

"That was beautiful! That was beautiful there!" Pool exclaimed as the gunner blasted a target.

"Colonel, if we had the equipment back then that you have now, boy, we could have cleaned up." Pool told Lt. Col. Len Hawley, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 32nd Armor.

"We trained a lot with the (war game) table and then we'd come out on the range," he said, "Your people have to hunt for their targets out on the range. That gives them a more realistic picture of battle."

Hawley said that having Pool visit Fort Hood is valuable to the young soldiers, who can learn from the veteran's experiences.

"We're lucky that he's still alive and well and still has the spirit to be an inspiration to us all." Hawley said of Pool. "I want him to talk to the soldiers. He tells them the same kinds of things that I try to teach them. But coming from him, it's special – because he's lived it."

Pool, a legend in his time, lost two tanks to enemy fire during World War II. He also lost a leg.

After being medically retired from the Army in 1946, he was called back in 1948 to serve as an instructor. In 1952, he was promoted to warrant officer and was again medically retired in 1960.

Although he received numerous awards for his military service. Pool has not yet received the Medal Of Honor, for which he was twice nominated. He did, however, recently receive the St. George Award, which he wore proudly around his neck Thursday.

St. George is the patron of the soldier in general and of the cavalry and armored forces in particular.

Pool's wife of 45 years, Evelyn, wears his Distinguished Service Cross around her neck. She also wears a Prisoner Of War bracelet which bears the name of one of her eight children, Jerry, who has been missing-in-action since 1970.

Visiting the range Thursday was especially interesting to Mrs. Pool who said that she had never been near a tank before.

"This gives me a better idea about what he went through during the war," she said. "I could only look at pictures before and try to imagine it."

As he watched the tanks firing, Pool sighed.

"I sure wish you had a spot for me Colonel, he told Hawley, "Because if you did, I'd be right back here."