From Chicken Soup for the Veteran's Soul

A Show of Strength

In war nothing is impossible, provided you use audacity.

General George S. Patton

In the spring of 1945, the war was almost over in Northern Italy. My squadron, the Ninety-first Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, an armored company consisting of light tanks, was encamped in the Po River Valley.

By this time, the Germans realized the end was near and were surrendering in large numbers.

A German general in our area had indicated that he was interested in talking with an Allied officer. It was assumed he wanted to discuss surrendering, since the German insisted on meeting with an officer of equal rank, a common requirement for surrender negotiations. It was arranged that the two generals would meet in a small village nearby.

The decision to surrender is always a difficult one. To put one’s own fate and the fate of the men you command into the enemy’s hands is a daunting prospect and needs to be considered carefully.

It seems that someone in authority thought this German general might need a little encouragement and came up with a plan to help him make the right choice.

At the agreed-upon time, a member of the American military police escorted the general to a building along the main street of the village. The streets were narrow, and the building was very close to the street, with only a tiny strip of sidewalk separating them. As the general walked up the street, the first of a line of American tanks began to rumble past him, almost running over his boot, as it passed with only an inch or two to spare. The tanks continued to roll by as he turned into the doorway.

Once he was inside, tank after tank passed by the window of the room where the two generals were meeting. The tanks were so heavy that the floors vibrated each time a tank went by. There was no way anyone could ignore this impressive show of strength.

After almost one hundred tanks went by with no sign of the parade ending, the general must have seen enough. He couldn’t wait to get his signature on the papers spread in front of him on the table. He surrendered all the troops under his command, bringing the Allies another step closer to victory and to the end of the war.

What the general didn’t know was that on the day of the meeting, our armored company received orders to drive our five tanks up the main street of the village. We were instructed to start our drive at a certain time and proceed north past the meeting location. Once we were three or four blocks past the building, we were to go east two or three blocks, south eight or ten blocks, and west to the main street again, and then we were to repeat the process until we received further orders.

We followed our orders, and after we’d made this loop about twenty times, the signal came for us to stop. The Germans had raised the white flag!

We went to refuel our nearly empty tanks, feeling that the money for fuel had been well spent and had surely saved more than a few lives on both sides.

Ivan W. Marion
Submitted by Edward Daszynski

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