Lafayette G. Pool, WWII Hero
Lafayette G. Pool was born on July 23, 1919, on a farm in Odem, Texas. He graduated from high school in Taft, Texas in 1938. He attended an all boys Catholic Academy where he graduated as class valedictorian. Afterwards, he enrolled in Texas, A and I College, as an engineering major. He left college to enlist in the Army on June 13, 1941. He took basic training at San Antonio, Texas, and then was sent to Camp Beauregard, Louisiana, to the newly forming 3d Armored Division. He landed with his unit at Normandy in June, 1944. As an M4 “Sherman” Tank Commander in Company I, 3d Battalion, 32d Armored Regiment, he led his crew across France and Belgium and led his Task Force in 21 separate attacks. In 80 days he and his crew destroyed 258 German vehicles, captured 250 German soldiers, and killed an estimated over 1000 German soldiers. In his final battle SSG Pool was blow from the turret of his tank and his right leg was shattered and had to be removed. He was discharged from the Army in June of 1946. He was recalled to active duty in 1948 to serve as an instructor with 3d Armored Division at Fort Knox, Kentucky. He retired from the Army on September 19, 1960 as a Chief Warrant Officer 2d Class. His military decorations included Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Purple Heart, French Croix de Guerre with Bronze Star, Belgium Fourragere. Lafayette Pool passed away in his sleep on May 30, 1991.
(From Yet Another Source)
A NATURAL FOR TANKS
Though activated in mid-1941, the 3d Armored “Spearhead” Division did not go into action until the end of June 1944. Its first action took place in the Villers-Fossard salient north of St Lo. It was during that time that the tankers of the outfit got their first taste of battle. Even though in great disarray after the massed bombing preparatory to the Allied breakout, units of the 2nd Panzer Division still offered resistance.
Among the young and excited armored knights of the 32d Regiment, 3d Armored Division was SSgt Lafayette G. Pool, from Sinton, Texas. Pool seemed to be a natural to mechanized warfare. In his very first engagement, his tank, “In the Mood,” was responsible for the destruction of over 70 German soldiers and three armored vehicles. He quickly became known as “the Texas Tanker.”
He had a crew that was also a natural for the task. PFC Richards, the driver, and Corporal Close, the co-driver/machine gunner were ably complemented by Corporal Oller, the gunner and T/5 Boggs, the loader. It was said that Oller saw all of France through the sights of his cannon. He seemed to always have his eyes pressed to that sight, and the sooty imprint of tanker’s goggles was a part of his natural look.
On one occasion, night had overtaken the tank platoon and Sgt. Pool was about to call it a day. As he opened his mouth to order, “Driver, halt” the shape of a 40mm dual purpose AA gun emplacement materialized less than 50 feet from In the Mood. He shouted with no warning, “Gunner, Fire!” Oller, his eyes perpetually pressed against the sights instantly responded, putting a round directly through the enemy gun and taking it out.
AN ARMORED MELEE
In another encounter in the late afternoon some days later, Pool’s platoon was skirting south of the town of Colombier, France when a German Panther rolled directly in front of the lead tank. It quickly got off two rounds, but the nervous enemy gunner missed both times. Before a third projectile could fly from the long, deadly looking 75mm barrel, Pool’s gun barked and ripped the Panther turret from the hull. At that range, even the Sherman could be deadly!
As it turned out, they had driven into a veritable armored hornet’s nest. Remnants of the 2nd Panzer Division were reconnoitering in the area. Firing began at once and the enemy seemed to come from everywhere. Colonel Richardson, commander of the 32d Regiment could hear the orders and the swearing from the crews as they frantically tried to adjust to the unforeseen encounter. By dark, it was all over. Pool and In the Mood had taken out two enemy tanks and at least two armored cars. Dismounted German crews were fed lead for a late supper by machine gunner Close.
The action brought Pool up for another medal. By the time the Siegfried Line had been reached, the young “Texas Tanker” had been awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the Legion of Merit and the French Croix de Guerre with gold star. He was also twice nominated for the Congressional Medal of Honor. By the time Pool was wounded in action near the German border, he and his crew had accounted for the destruction of 258 enemy armored vehicles, taking 250 enemy prisoners and killing over 1,000 German soldiers…quite a record for a single tank crew! Pool survived the war and lived to receive high honors from US Armor Association Awards Program. His CO later said of him, “Pool is the tanker of tankers.”
(From Yet Another Source)
Lafayette G. Pool, born July 23, 1919 in Odem, Texas was an American tank-crew and tank-platoon commander in World War II and is widely recognized as the US tank ace of aces, credited with over 1,000 kills, 250 German prisoners of war taken, 12 confirmed tank kills and 258 total armored vehicle and self-propelled gun kills. All of which took place in a combat career that covered only 81 days in action from 27 June to 15 September 1944 with three different Shermans, all of which bore the nickname “IN THE MOOD” I-III.. He received many medals, including the Distinguished Service Cross, the Legion of Merit, the Silver Star, the Purple Heart, the French Fourragère, and the Légion d’honneur.
Pool served with Combat Command A of the US 3rd Armored Division in France between June and September 1944. He successively commanded three Sherman tanks, The first lasted from 23 June until 29 June, when Pool’s M4A1 was hit by a Panzerfaust causing him and his crew to bail out of the stricken tank. The second lasted from around 1 July 1944 to 17 August, when Pool was leading the process of clearing remaining German forces from the village of Fromental. This tank was knocked out by friendly fire of a P-38. The third and last was destroyed on the night of 15 September while attempting to force the Siegfried Line at Munsterbusch, southwest of Aachen. The tank was hit by an ambushing Panther, and while Pool was trying to back his damaged Sherman up, the Panther hit it a second time. The second round caught the tank on the edge of a ditch and flipped it over. The same round blew Pool out of the commander’s hatch, seriously slashing open one of his legs with a shell splinter. The leg was so badly mangled that it had to be amputated. He kept the same crew throughout the war, with CPL Wilbert “Red” Richards as the driver, PFC Bert Close as the assistant driver and bow gunner, CPL Willis Oiler as the gunner and T/5 Del Boggs as loader.
After 22 months of rehabilitation and being fitted with a prosthesis, Pool opened a filling station and garage at his home in Sinton, before he again enlisted in the Army and was sent into the Transportation Corps. With the intervention of General Allen, he finally managed to “come home” to the 3rd Armored Division where he would be an instructor in automotive mechanics. He retired from the Army on September 19, 1960 with the rank of Chief Warrant Officer Second Class at Ft. Sam Houston, Texas. He died on May 30th, 1991 at the age of 71.