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Tanks For The Memories: An Oral History Of The 712th Tank Battalion In World War Ii

by Aaron C. Elson

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Armor Magazine
It is a must read for any tanker, and should be purchased by all libraries near an armored unit. ... Tanks for the Memories is mainly a story about how a unit really functions in wartime.

Book Description
The 712th Tank Battalion spent 11 months in combat, from Normandy to Czechoslovakia. This is their story, as told in the words of its veterans.

From the Publisher
Since its publication in 1994, "Tanks for the Memories" has attained cult status among veterans and current members of the armored forces. Yet these stories run the gamut of the human condition, and are appealing not only to veterans but to anyone to has a father or an uncle or a grandfather who rarely talks about his experiences during the war.

From the Author
When I first attended a reunion of the 712th Tank Battalion, hoping to find old army buddies of my father, I would stand around in the hospitality room and overhear stories that were so compelling, I thought, somebody ought to put these in a book. This, as it turns out, is that book.

Author Biography
Aaron C. Elson, whose father served with the 712th Tank Battalion, considers the 712th his Yoknapatawpha County. "They were all young kids" is the sequel to "Tanks for the Memories." He is currently working on a general history of the battalion. He has also worked as a reporter and copy editor at the New York Daily News, the New York Post and the Bergen Record.

Excerpted from Tanks for the Memories,(c)1994. Reprinted by permission, all rights reserved
The following passage is from Chapter 4, "The Frying Pan" Ed Spahr: We used to have an old frying pan hanging on the back of the tank. We never washed it in water. The exhaust fumes would blow on it. We'd stop if we saw something. One time we caught a rabbit. The rabbits were large over there, and we had chicken and rabbit at the same time. Now we're out in the field, so no one knew about us eating this wild stuff.

The pan would be so dirty, and we had a bucket hanging on the back of the tank as well, we used to brew coffee in it. That bucket was so black, you'd swear it was blacker than the coffee. Every time we'd get ready to eat, we'd make coffee in this, and we would say, "Well, if the meat is contaminated, if the chicken is contaminated and the rabbit is contaminated and the water around here is contaminated, these pans can't be contaminated because there's nothing on them but road dust and exhaust fumes," and we'd eat like kings. We'd all joke and josh about things like that, and somebody would make some remark like, "Well, overeating with poisonous food is better than dying with a bullet." [Ed Spahr was a gunner in C Company]

Ruby Goldstein: We didn't have the kitchen trucks very often, so whatever you could scrounge you scrounged. We would get these big cans, put a little hole on each side, and put a piece of wire through the holes. And we built a fire. We put dirt in the bottom, made holes in the bottom, put some gasoline on it, and put a smaller can on top of it, with a little bit of water. Then we went scrounging for vegetables. One day we hit a potato field. So if you hold your lever and you gun the engine, the tank turns, one tread's stopped and you're turning. And what are you digging up? Potatoes. We'd peel the potatoes, chunk it up, throw it in. We had cans of English style stew. And we'd throw in whatever vegetables we could find. And you know something? It was the best thing you ever tasted. [Ruby Goldstein was a tank commander in A Company]

Tony D'Arpino: I can't remember who thought of the idea first, but you get an empty five-gallon can with a handle on it, something like painters use; you put gravel on the bottom, about six inches, and then you put some potatoes. Then you put about six more inches of gravel on top. And you tie it underneath - the tank had two exhausts coming out, you tie it to that. And after running all day long, the potatoes are baked. We put the gravel on it so we can't get the smell. We used to have baked potatoes all the time. [Tony D'Arpino was a tank driver in A Company]

George Bussell: One day Eugene Crawford said we were gonna get some eggs. I said, "How the hell are we gonna get eggs? We can't speak French." He said, "I know how to ask for eggs. You go up and knock on the door, and when they come to the door, you say, 'Avez vous des erf.'
I said, "Is that right?"

He said, "Sure."
That's all he knew how to say. So he walks in there, he knocks on the door, and this woman comes out, and he says, "Avez vous des erf?" And she shook her head no, and he says, "Well, where in the hell can I get some?" [George Bussell was a tank driver in A Company]



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