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Bellied up on a hedgerow, and other stories

War As My Fathers Tank Battalion Knew It

Release Date: 08/06/2019

Tail Gunner Sam Part 1 show art Tail Gunner Sam Part 1

War As My Fathers Tank Battalion Knew It

My father's 712th Tank Battalion didn't win the war all by themselves. They had help from above. In today's episode, we meet Sam Mastrogiacomo, a tail gunner on a B-24 who, when bullets from a German fighter plane shattered the glass of his turret, thought about his mother getting a telegram that he had been killed. For a full list of episodes and extra background, please visit myfatherstankbattalion.com. For my books and audiobooks, visit aaronelson.com. Thank you.

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Big Andy show art Big Andy

War As My Fathers Tank Battalion Knew It

Exciting news! My web site, myfatherstankbattalion.com, is now live with extra information about the episodes. Today, we meet Bob "Big Andy" Anderson, a tank driver who was awarded three Bronze Stars in 11 months of combat. The drivers in the 712th Tank Battalion were a close-knit community with a special set of skills.

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The Company Commander show art The Company Commander

War As My Fathers Tank Battalion Knew It

Clifford Merrill was the first of four A Company commanders in the 712th Tank Battalion. After recovering from wounds suffered in Normandy, he sat on a tribunal at the Dachau War Crimes trials, helped run a prison compound in the Korean War, and was wounded leading a convoy in Vietnam. To quote A Company veteran Sam Cropanese, "He wasn't afraid of nothin'!"

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The 4th of July on the 6th of June show art The 4th of July on the 6th of June

War As My Fathers Tank Battalion Knew It

The 712th Tank Battalion landed in Normandy on June 28, 1944. Twenty-two days earlier the D-Day invasion took place. In 1994, in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of that historic day, I interviewed several D-Day veterans. Lou Putnoky was one of them.

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Good News Bad News show art Good News Bad News

War As My Fathers Tank Battalion Knew It

Bob Levine was an 18 year old infantryman who was wounded, captured, and had a leg amputated by a German doctor in Normandy. Bob's daughter recently posted a photo of Bob and his wife Edith on Facebook with the notation that they both survived Covid-19, and Bob was just been released after two weeks in the hospital. Way to go, Bob! Today's episode is excerpted from my 1999 interview with Bob. For more on Hill 122 check out the nine earlier episodes on the battle.

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Memorial Day: Pine Valley show art Memorial Day: Pine Valley

War As My Fathers Tank Battalion Knew It

Memorial Day, 2020. The 712th Tank Battalion monument in the memorial garden at the Patton Museum at Fort Knox has 100 names. The eighth name, going in alphabetical order, is Quentin Bynum, a tank driver who gave my father a lift to the front in Normandy. Quentin, whose nickname was Pine Valley, was a farmboy from Stonefort, Illinois ...

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War As My Fathers Tank Battalion Knew It

Russell Loop started out in the horse cavalry, became a driver in D Company of the 712th Tank Battalion and was transferred to C Company as a gunner in a medium Sherman tank just prior to the Battle of the Bulge. In this interview, he shares his experiences in 11 months of combat.

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This episode is personal show art This episode is personal

War As My Fathers Tank Battalion Knew It

My father, Lieutenant Maurice Elson, joined the 712th Tank Battalion in July of 1944. He was wounded in Normandy and again in Germany. He died of a heart attack before I began collecting the stories of his unit, but what I learned of his brief time with the battalion launched an avalanche of stories.

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How Cold Was It? The Battle of the Bulge show art How Cold Was It? The Battle of the Bulge

War As My Fathers Tank Battalion Knew It

How cold was it in the Battle of the Bulge? It was so cold that an assistant driver from Tennessee told George Bussell that when he got home, if it was the middle of July and he thought about how cold it was, he'd go out and build a fire. The mountainous roads going into Luxembourg and Belgium were so icy that 37 and 44 ton tanks were sliding all over the place. These are a few of the many stories about the Bulge told by veterans of the 712th Tank Battalion.

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Sam and Joe show art Sam and Joe

War As My Fathers Tank Battalion Knew It

Sam Cropanese and Joe Bernardino were members of the same crew in A Company of the 712th Tank Battalion. They were both wounded at the Falaise Gap in mid-August of 1944. I interviewed Sam in Cape Coral, Florida, in 1993, and Joe in Rochester, New York, in 1994, 50 years after the war. Their story presents a vivid picture of life and death in a tank in World War II. Warning: Contains some graphic descriptions.

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More Episodes

Another tanker's son brought a picture taken from German documentary footage of a disabled tank with 712th markings to the 1992 reunion, hoping to find someone who could identify the circumstances and the crew. Spoiler alert: The results were inconclusive. but the nearly hourlong conversation the image sparked went in several directions that give some insight into life as a tanker in World War II. The cover photo is a generic illustration taken from the battalion's unit history.