Monday, August 2, 2010

Light & Shadows: Excerpt VII

After being wounded in the Battle of the Bulge, Arnold volunteers for transfer to SHAEF, the headquarters of the Allied forces created by the British and the Americans at the beginning of 1944 to plan and carry out the Allied invasion of Europe. After the invasion, its headquarters moved from London to Versailles, and later to Reims, where Arnold encounters General Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Arnold poses in his Eisenhower jacket, Versailles. On his shoulder,
the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces insignia indicates his current service.

Below that is the stripe showing that he has been promoted to Private First Class.
On his left lapel is a “U.S.” button and below that, just above the pocket, is his Combat Infantry Badge.

The day after the surrender, I wanted to see the map room in the Little Red Schoolhouse, site of the historic signing. I guess I thought that I had an obligation to my future children and grandchildren to see the place where the Germans had surrendered. I knew the sergeant who was guarding the room, so I asked, “Do you think I could take a look?”
“I don’t think there’s anybody in there,” he answered, “Why don’t you just open the door and see?” When I did so, the first thing I saw was a cluster of five stars. Slowly, I raised my eyes and found myself looking right into General Eisenhower’s face. “What do you want, soldier?” he demanded, looking pretty surprised. He wasn’t angry, but I don’t think he appreciated the interruption. “I just wanted to take a look, sir,” I replied meekly. “Well, take a good look, soldier, and get out!” he said. I looked, and that was my rendezvous with destiny!

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