A Few More Minutes With Andy Rooney
I read the interview with Andy Rooney (April) with great interest. Andy reports how astounded American ground forces were to find the Ludendorff Bridge over the Rhine River, at Remagen, still intact, since the Germans had destroyed so many bridges.
I was largely responsible for the bridge being intact. As a lead bombardier with the Eighth Air Force, one of my missions was to destroy that bridge. We thought we had hit it, but photos showed that our bombs had struck all around the bridge but not the bridge itself. Soon thereafter, the American troops arrived, and as Andy reported, many of them crossed over the Rhine before the structure collapsed. The Germans tried to bomb it with their twin-engine jet bomber, the Arado Ar-234B, and with artillery fire.
My superiors were not pleased that I didn’t destroy the bridge, but their attitude changed when the successful crossing was known. So it was a very fortunate miss! My outfit was the 735th Squadron, 453rd Bomb Group (also Jimmy Stewart’s outfit).
I am writing to Andy at the 60 Minutes office—hope to trade some war anecdotes with him!
Lt. Col. Seth Heywood (Ret.)
Andy Rooney’s assertion that the Germans were good scientists but did not make good soldiers is nonsense. Perhaps while driving around France making his notes, he did not encounter the battle-hardened 21st Panzer Division or the fanatics of the 12th SS Hitler-Jugend or the deadly Tigers of Panzer Lehr Division.
If the Germans made poor soldiers, then Rooney’s Bronze Star and Air Medal awarded for bravery must be of little value.
By Rooney’s own admission, the Allies were bottled up in the vicinity of the Normandy beachhead for seven weeks before the breakout at St. Lô. How then could this be possible, given the overwhelming Allied support from the air? And why was General Bernard Montgomery unable to take Caen for a month?
The Germans fought splendidly against overwhelming odds in the hedgerow country of France. They fought against crushing Allied air power. Most of all, they fought against the continuous flow of nonsensical orders emanating from the Führer’s headquarters to hold out at all cost and be wiped out entirely.
I must take further issue with Rooney’s assertion that George Patton was “a bad general” who got “too many guys killed.” Reich Minister Albert Speer described Patton as an “American Rommel” as he raced across France before finally forcing his own passage over the Rhine. I would believe Speer much more than a liberal war correspondent who made a career out of bashing the U.S. military. Inspector of the armor troops Heinz Guderian also shared in Speer’s observations concerning Patton’s speed in warfare.
Our national leaders would do well to heed Patton’s advice in the conflicts of today. Meanwhile Rooney should stay away from World War II Magazine and stick to doing his cutsies for 60 Minutes.
I read Andy Rooney’s war memoir and found it and your interview interesting. But both revealed his judgment of General George Patton as a leader to be myopic. Rooney’s prewar pacifism would not dispose him well to Patton (or Ernest Hemingway), but his assessment of Patton is so far off the mark to require comment.
Patton saved Allied lives by not giving the fleeing enemy a chance to reestablish its defense lines. Rooney likes the general who waits, builds up, plans and ponders, thus showing he “cares” for his soldiers, all the while taking casualties without going anywhere, capturing anything or advancing the war to a conclusion. The Germans rightly feared Patton. As Talleyrand said, “I am more afraid of an army of 100 sheep led by a lion than an army of 100 lions led by a sheep.” Patton’s Third Army was a lion leading lions.
Rooney’s disdain for the fighting qualities of the German soldier is absurd. While the best German soldiers may have been dead by 1944, a number of superb units still faced us. His comments unintentionally minimize the accomplishments of the brave men who fought them.
Andy Rooney says (about meeting Hemingway), “you should never meet one of your heroes.” Rooney’s book and his interview reveal an unattractive part of him: myopic disdain for those unlike him or who think differently from him.
Thanks for your fine magazine. I enjoy the WWII Today segment.
Paul A. Hass
Three-Day Pass to Where?
May I make nit-picky corrections to your article “A Very Important Prisoner” (March 2007)? In the story, author Gene Santoro states that Captain John Burden (MC, XIV Army Corps) became the first Japanese language officer in combat on Guadalcanal Island in December 1942. He was mistaken.
There were three other Japanese-speaking intelligence officers on Guadalcanal before Captain Burden arrived in December. They were 2nd Lt. Ralph Corry, USMC, with the Fifth Marines, who was killed on August 12 as the translator and a member of the ill-fated Goettge patrol, and 1st Lt. Eugene Boardman, USMC, with the Second Marines. Boardman arrived on Tulagi Island on August 20 from the rear base at Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides Islands. The third officer was Captain Sherwood F. Moran, USMC, with Headquarters Company, 1st Marine Division. Also, Santoro goes overboard when he quotes Captain Burden: “Any soldier bringing in a POW got a three-day pass and ice cream.” A three-day pass to where? On Guadalcanal?
Stanley C. Jersey
I have just finished reading “Souvenir of Cebu” (April 2007). I enjoyed the article and thought it was well-written to a point. What I did find surprising was that your magazine allowed the slur “Jap” 60 years after the war. I understand that the author is a combat veteran of the Pacific War, but usage of any racial slur 60 years later is unprofessional. Would you allow the slur “nigger” to be used in your magazine even if it was written today to describe an event involving black people 60 years ago? Considering that the author is an educator, poet and a Ph.D., I would expect you to hold him to a higher standard.
‘Kilroy Was Here’
Although the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., is mostly a solemn place, there is a touch of humor. Along the curved sidewalks leading to the Reflecting Pool, two samples of the famous message “Kilroy was here,” complete with picture, are engraved into the stone. My late father told me that out in the Pacific, no matter where you went, you invariably found this message on the nearest available vertical surface. Even my postwar generation, growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, knew about it.
Originally published in the June 2007 issue of World War II Magazine. To subscribe, click here.