by Sandy Kalman
Don D. “Buck” Tague was one-of-eight of Patton’s Third Army soldiers who attended the 65th Infantry Division mini-reunion in Tampa, Florida, from February 13 to 16, 2014.
Accompanying Buck were three family members: Buck’s sister, Vera Ann Crandal of Wayland, MO; Buck’s sister-in-law, Mona Trent Wynn Tague of Quincy, IL, and FL, and me.
Soldiers and others toured the Henry B. Plant Museum, the City of Tampa, and Ybor City, with stops at a local brewing company, and at the Columbia Restaurant for a meal and flamenco dancing.
As far as these reunions go, I have a pretty long history. I went to my first reunion in 1978 where I met Col. William E. Carroway. Dad insisted I get a chance to meet Carroway. I remember the huge banquet room and the swing band with hundreds of dancers in long ballroom dresses and tuxedos, all dancing and having a fine time. In stark contrast, still having a great time, in 2014 the only dancing was performed by somebody else.
In the field of war, Buck first met Col. “Bill” Carroway as the result of one action: “Hey, Tague, can you ride a bike?”
“Can you take a message to headquarters?”
Buck met the Colonel at headquarters. Both Buck and Carroway survived World War II and the Korean Conflict. Carroway would call on Buck to do various things as needed in WWII. As Buck’s daughter, all I can say is I think Buck’s extra duties go far beyond his pay-scale but never beyond his abilities. I mention here only two of the several extraordinary tasks Buck was asked to do as a Private First Class.
There was the time Buck was told to go to a certain village and find out what was going on there, something fishy was up he was told, and headquarters needed to know what: “Tague you take 10 men and a truck and go there and tell me what you see.” More and more ominously on approach, signs were something was up. Apparently it really was true one could tell if Americans had been in an area or not by the trash they left behind (there was no American trash!). That meant this was uncharted territory and anything could be there. The sounds or lack thereof (there were no sounds!) seemed to scream of clandestine something or other and brought complete seriousness to the men. A small town should have activity of some kind, yet there was nothing. Buck told the truck to hang back. He got the men to spread out and cover each other. Buck said to wait for him for so many minutes and then turn around and go back to camp if he didn’t return. He went in to town. Suddenly a door opened in what he thought was a wall, an opening that belched out first a white flag, then emaciated men and tattered flags all coming out to the ordered form of soldiers’ marching. Apparently, operators of this prison camp had fled leaving behind among the prisoners, French and English military men who had been held captive since 1939. Their question to Buck was: “What took you so long in coming, ole chap?”
Another time Buck was asked to volunteer for an activity, but that assignment was probably done by a medic and not a colonel, maybe even the medic mentioned below. A soldier by the name of Richard P. Hignie was among those soldiers billeted in Enns, Austria, at “the castle” where Buck was staying. Most of these soldiers remained in Enns after VE Day, coming back to the US only after VJ Day. Hignie said he lived on East 33rd and Third Street in New York City and he was loud in is complaints he was tired of all this shrapnel. The medic told him there was no way he could take it out for him because he simply did not have the time. The medic said he was not the person to help: “Anybody with patience and time could do it he said.”
“Hey Tague can do it,” somebody said. And Buck did.
An unscheduled event happened in the Hospitality Room that needs telling. Another soldier’s daughter walked in bearing her father’s scrapbook and photos. She had found the reunion location online researching her father, Irvin J. Dvorak, a medic who passed away 13 years ago. Dvorak won the Bronze Star for heroism in saving three soldiers. His daughter said her father always told her, “They give one of those medals to everybody.” For the longest time she said she believed it, but now she recognizes the extreme humility of her father. As a military mental health support person trained to recognize post-traumatic stress disorder, she said she was surprised her father did not ever exhibit any symptoms of PTSD, even though he admitted to her he was very frightened.
Some of Dvorak’s photos brought back memories to Buck. There was a photo of the library at the monastery of St. Florian. Buck reminded us that St. Florian was martyred on May 4, 304, or 1,641 years to the day before the Americans marched into the area.
One other photo taken from the clock tower in Enns showed three buildings with medical vehicles parked outside. Buck said one of the buildings was the medics’ headquarters and one was “The Typhus House.” In Enns, several soldiers came down with typhus and they were strictly quarantined for 30 days. Buck said lice were so bad in Enns all soldiers were sprayed with DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane), the chemical banned in the United States in 1972.
Arrangements for yet another reunion are in the works. Soldiers will probably not be dancing at this next one either.