Saturday, March 17, 2018

How Sergeant Warren Lost His Stripes

Hank Lochowicz and Jabos
   Two years ago, Don Knapp sent me some photos from the war, but they were in pdf form rather than jpg. As I was looking through them, now that I have the ability to convert them, I discovered this picture of Hank Lochowicz, of Milwaukee, with a dog. This was the caption on the back of the picture:

   This story, however, is not about Hank Lochowicz, and it's not about Don Knapp, who I assume took the picture. Incidentally, you might have seen Knapp interviewed in "The Color of War," a documentary that aired on the History Channel a few years back. But this story is about the dog Jabos and Sergeant Jim Warren, and illustrates the kind of discrepancies that arise when stories are told secondhand. In this case, there are two strikingly different versions of how Sergeant Warren lost his stripes, but they both lead to the same conclusion: that Jim Warren was busted from a sergeant and tank commander to a buck private.
   The two different accounts were from Bob Rossi, a Pfc. in the third platoon, and Lieutenant Jim Gifford, who was Rossi's tank commander and platoon leader until Gifford was wounded during the Battle of the Bulge.
   Rossi joined the battalion as a 19-year-old replacement in November of 1944, shortly before the battalion's first crossing of the Moselle River. Sergeant Warren was one of the many characters he told me about.
   "I started to tell you one of the many Warren stories," Rossi said, "why he hated General MacArthur. The way he told us, Warren was in the Marines in Hawaii first, but he was getting discharged and his records were being sent to San Diego. In the meantime, he told us, he got into some trouble, and the sheriff of the island,. Duke Kahanamoku, he was a famous athlete, he was gonna come to grab Warren. Now Warren technically was a civilian, so the only way he could beat the rap was if he joined the Army. So he stayed in the islands with a searchlight outfit. And as fate would have it, MacArthur was the general in charge of the islands at that particular time, and they're going to have a big inspection. So he said they spent weeks polishing up the equipment, painting this and painting that. He was like a battery sergeant. And he says here comes MacArthur, and he says 'Ten-hut!' And he said he gave MacArthur the biggest highball [salute] you could ever give an officer. MacArthur says, 'Sergeant, how do you cut your toenails?' Warren says he was mystified. MacArthur says, 'Show me how you cut your toenails.' He made Warren sit down on the parade ground, take his shoes and socks off, and as he's sitting there, he made the whole battery crowd around Warren, and he says, 'Now this man is going to suffer from ingrown toenails, because he doesn't cut his toenails properly.' And Warren's sitting on the ground, everybody's razzing him, he took some razzing for weeks. That's why he hated MacArthur, for making a fool out of him."
   Sergeant Warren's name came up in several stories told to me by veterans of C Company. The consensus was that he looked after his men, he drank heavily, and was the kind of reliable tank commander you would want backing you up in a tense situation.

From left: Ed Spahr, Jim Gifford, Tony D'Arpino, Bob Rossi
     At the 1992 reunion of the 712th in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, I sat at a table with four veterans --  Rossi, Gifford, Tony D'Arpino and Ed Spahr -- who were in the five-man crew of a tank that was knocked out on January 10, 1945, in the vicinity of Wiltz, Luxembourg, during the Battle of the Bulge. Sergeant Warren's tank was behind their tank. When the crew abandoned it, Lieutenant Gifford, who was wounded, told Sergeant Warren to fire into his tank and set it on fire, so that it wouldn't fall into the hands of the Germans.
   "Sergeant Warren was the type of guy, he was really military," D'Arpino said. "I mean, his tank crew wouldn't eat unless he said so. He was that kind of guy."
   "When I joined the third platoon," Rossi said, "I arrived with Koon Leong Moy, who we called Chop Chop because of his Oriental heritage. [Moy was a second generation Chinese American from New York City, and political correctness had not yet been invented]. "Right away, when Lieutenant Lombardi was assigning the crews, Warren says, 'I want him.' He thought Chop Chop was gonna cook for him. "Chop says, 'The hell with you, you cook for yourself.'"
   "But I'll tell you one thing about Sergeant Warren," D'Arpino said, "Sergeant Warren, and we weren't used to it, Lieutenant Lombardi even told me this himself, he wasn't used to having a guy like Warren in the Number 2 tank because if Lieutenant Lombardi had something hot in front of him, Sergeant Warren rode up on his backside. You could count on him. Very dependable. He wasn't one of these guys who would sit back 400, 500 yards."
   "He was a good tank commander," Rossi said.
   "The only trouble Sergeant Warren had was he liked his 'tea' a little much." D'Arpino looked at Gifford and said, "I think, from the time you were with us you could probably say the same thing, Sergeant Warren was one of the best Number 2 tank, when you were in trouble, he was right there."
   "He was dependable," Gifford said.
   "If you had a fast tank like I had in reverse, you'd always bump into him," D'Arpino said.
   "There are more Warren stories than you can shake a stick at," Rossi said. "He had pots and pans galore on the back of his tank. I used to say his pots and pans make more noise than the tank itself coming down the road."
   "Now this is toward the end of the war with Warren, one of the other  stories," Rossi said during my 1992 interview with him at his home in Brick Township, New Jersey. "They were giving us a pep talk on how we're going to go into Czechoslovakia, and how to conduct yourselves, these people are our friends, not our enemies. And to make it impressive, they gave us all new helmets. The war was gonna be over.
   "And as we're all sitting around laying on the grass, Colonel Kedrovsky is giving a talk, there's Warren on the ground, playing with the dog, Jabos. He was playing with the dog's penis, and he's laughing.
   "Colonel Kedrovsky sees this, and he's pissed off.
   "So they let it go. And no sooner had this happened, than the war ended.
   "Now we go into occupation. We went to Mincen, Malybor, then we went for miles, we traveled to Amberg. That was a mess. It took forever to clean those barracks up, because everybody looted it before we got there.
   "I can remember that night. We had a choice. I don't know how many miles we traveled, with the dust and everything, a column of tanks. We had a choice, either wash or make coffee. We had half a jerry can of water. So right after that, they broke Warren. It didn't go unnoticed. They let him continue as a tank commander. As soon as the war ended, they broke him from a buck sergeant to a private."

   When I interviewed Jim Gifford at his used car dealership in Yonkers, New York, in November of 1992 -- only a couple of weeks after the group interview -- he brought up the incident, which he didn't witness personally, as we were talking about Stanley Klapkowski, the gunner on the crew, who was not at the reunion.
   "Klapkowski was a nice looking kid, he almost looked German," Gifford said. "He had that wavy blond hair, and he was a handsome kid. But he had a Polish background, and he didn't like the Germans for some reason. The boys could probably tell you more stories than I could about him, because I didn't see him raising hell, just like I didn't see Warren when he threw a bottle at some general. Got himself demoted from sergeant to nothing. And that made me feel bad. He was drunk, and when he was drunk, he was another person, forget about it. Some general was up there, some minor general, not a big general, and he was in the area, and Warren threw a bottle at him, and the general had him demoted. But they didn't throw him out of the Army or put him in the stockade. I guess [Jack] Shepherd, who was the captain at the time, probably said, 'Look, the man was drinking, he's been through a lot, give him a break.' But there were a lot of things, so many guys could tell you stories that you probably wouldn't want to see printed."

   I never met Sergeant Warren, who passed away before I began interviewing veterans of the 712th Tank Battalion. But there's one more notable story Rossi shared.
   "This is at Christmastime," he said. "We're at Kirschnaumen [France]. Up on the hill the bulldozer tank dug out all the ground, and our turrets were just sticking above the dirt. We're in a holding position. This is just prior to the Bulge. It was miserable cold out there, and we were doing guard duty, four hours on, eight off.
   "So this one day, we're standing around, the house we were in had a blanket covering a hole up on the second floor where a shell had hit previously. We had to sleep up there. And the mother, father and daughter slept in the one room downstairs.
   "So we're in the other room, like the gathering place, it had a stove in it. We used to gather around the stove, oh, it was so cold. This one day Sergeant Warren, we had a kerosene lamp hanging from the ceiling, this was in the evening and Warren was drunk, and he's sparring at the lantern. We're all laughing, because he was really a card. He throws a haymaker at the lantern. He misses the lantern and hits me on the other side, and I went flying across the room. And I come up with the biggest fat lip you ever saw. And when that was over, we went to bed.
   "The next morning, I'm in one of the other rooms, and I hear somebody, they were talking, and I hear, 'Ahh,' he says, 'I never touched the kid.' So I went in and showed him my lip, and he believed it."

   "Several years ago," Rossi said a little later in the interview, "I got one of the newsletters. Milford Anderson and Warren had died about the same time. I just filled up. These are the guys I was in combat with, they're both dead. I wrote to Anderson's wife, I think I sent her a picture. And I wrote to Warren's wife and I told her what a great guy he was. In combat he was the type of man that you wanted behind you, because he was right there. He drank a lot, but he was a good soldier. I wrote to his wife and I told her about the incident where he gave me a shot in the mouth."

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