The Noble and the Brave

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I think of my life as a series of minor miracles -- times when I shouldn't have survived, but by God's amazing grace, I did.


One of those experiences will always stand out in my memories -- a story I didn't share until many years later.  I didn't talk about those memories -- none of us did.  But we dreamed about them, and they are never far from our minds.


1945 in Belgium and our objective was to break Adolf Hitler's Ardennes offensive in the Battle of the Bulge.

It was the worst European winter in 50 years with temperatures around 10 degrees below zero.  We were cold, hungry and mostly scared.  But we had a job to do for our country, for the free world and for each other.  As a very young man, with so much life yet to live, I asked God for the courage to do my duty while expecting this war would not end sooner than the war would end me.



January 7th, 1945

We were being hit hard by a barrage of artillery fire from dozens of German tanks positioned above us on what rightfully became known as Dead Man's Ridge.  It was a bitterly fought battle in a driving snowstorm with heavy casualties.  We remember that day as the Bloody 7th.  Twenty-eight men survived out of our 150-man company.

We were spread out, one to a foxhole.  Gemo, a member of our squad, was about 15 meters away.  Nobody else was closer to me.  I remember the cold, the horrific noise from the German 88s and mortar shells, and the tree limbs full of snow falling all around us.


My wife, on snowy Colorado days, would look at the evergreens and think of Christmas in a winter wonderland.  I would only think of snow cascading down from crashing limbs and the terrible sound of those 88 shells.


It was in the middle of this exploding and frigid hell that I heard Gemo cry out,

"Lawton, help me!"


I wasn't sure that I heard the cry in all that racket.  I didn't want to hear.  The last thing I wanted was to know that a buddy was pleading for my help as I desperately hugged that shallow foxhole, and mostly wanted to live one more day.


A second cry from Gemo, 

"Lawton!  Help me gawdamit!"


Again, my buddy's plea of desperation but I continued to willfully question the legitimacy of my ears excusing his words over rational fear and waning courage.


A third time during a slight lull in the artillery fire was not a desperate call from a buddy, but an angry command to me,

"Lawton, dammit, get over here, I'm hit!!"


This time there was no mistake or excusing.  I grabbed sulfa and bandages from my combat pack and crawled to his foxhole.

Gemo, unwounded and laying face down in his foxhole, while trying to become as close to underground as humanly possible heard me approach.  Turning over, and looking more shocked than myself, he yelled looking up at me, 

"Lawton!  What the hell are you doing?  Get the fuck back in your foxhole!"

"You hit?  You called me for help?"

"Lawton, You stupid, crazy motherfucker!  I didn't call for help.  Get the fuck back over there you fucking moron!"


Completely mystified, I crawled back toward my foxhole and about 3 meters away, I could see smoke pouring out where it had taken a direct hit from a German 88 shell.  I can still see that hole filled with smoke and glowing shrapnel.

There has never been any doubt in my mind that God intervened to save my life . . .


. . . but I never saw Gemo again.


--Lawton Clark, Army, 17th Airborne Glider Infantry Regiment, Purple heart recipient


(and a beloved Uncle for whom I will always hold the highest regard and appreciation)




Janie Smith Added Oct 21, 2016 - 2:55pm
Wow!  Thanks for sharing that, William! 
Mike Haluska Added Oct 21, 2016 - 3:57pm
Stockton -
Thanks for sharing this with us.  I have an uncle who was an Army Ranger who landed at Normandy on D-Day and survived until he was tragically killed in early August, 1944.  
Those guys and that generation truly were America's Greatest Generation.
William Stockton Added Oct 21, 2016 - 8:46pm
I really appreciate y'all reading the words of my uncle.  As well the likes.
My uncle, many decades older, had always been a man of honor and integrity.  A quiet man, he kept these experiences close and waited till the last decade of his life to share them with his broader family.  
I am not religious and I too had been sitting on his words for years.
This article is not to sway people one way or another as to your choice of religion or spiritual beliefs.  They are what they are.
Cheers friends
EXPAT Added Oct 22, 2016 - 5:27am
Most of us are never tested as your Uncle was. As terrible as his experience, he discovered that life is not a solitary journey. Perhaps he heard the word of God, Perhaps a deceased father or grand father. It was for him to decide.
If he has passed, or is close to passing, he knows that he is not alone!
Thank you for making me think. A rare moment these days.

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