Roy Burdette Maguire, T/SGT C Company 712th Tank Battalion was my Father. He was born at home on 20 April 1922, in Benton County Indiana. The same birth date as Adolph Hitler, I have always found this ironic. I will retell his stories as best I can. However I can not provide dates or locations with any accuracy. My Father was in training to become a B-24 pilot when his training unit was offered the opportunity to volunteer individually for radio communications training. Dad had always been interested in radio electronics and this was just after the first raid on Schweinfurt, (60 B-17's lost, along with 610 crewmen). He thought, " what the hell this has to beat life in a bomber". He volunteered and after completing training was assigned to the 712th as a radio repairman for the tank radios. The 712th Tank BN had one of the highest casualty rates of any allied unit in the European Theater of Operations.
I asked Dad if he landed at Normandy. "Son if I had we would not be having this conversation". The 712th went ashore at Normandy on 19 July 1944 and then spent 100 days in continuous combat. I asked him how fast an M4 Sherman tank would go. "One hell of allot faster than you want to be riding in one". Dad did you ever drive a tank? "With the casualties my unit suffered I served in every position including tank commander".
Did the radios work well? " Until you fired the main gun then it never seemed to fail that one of the vacuum tubes would blow and I would be on my way to fix another one".
In W.W.II it was not uncommon for relatives to serve in the same unit. May Father told me the story of one man in his unit who was so despondent at the death of his brother, he thrust his hand outside of a tank hatch and allowed a grenade to detonate in his hand.
During the "Battle of the Bulge" Dad was riding in the commander's position standing in the open hatch as the unit advanced up a road. The tank was hit broadside by a German Flak 88, ejecting him out of the tank and into a snow drift. He was uninjured the other 4 crewmen were killed. In the same advance another tank was hit by Quad ADA gun. He said the tank armor was bulged in like horizontal icesicles.
In a small town they found a young woman who was terribly distraught that her piano had been destroyed when her home had been caught in an artillery barrage. A day later in another town Dad and his friends found an intact baby grand piano along with a large quantity of brandy. After reducing the quantity of brandy they all decided it would be a great idea to give the piano to the girl a few kilometers down the road.
They loaded it in a captured German cargo truck and headed down the mountain road with the remaining brandy. A few kilometers down the road they lost control of the truck and as they all jumped off of the speeding truck watched it and the piano plunge into a valley. I think they still had enough brandy for the walk back to their unit.
Dad also told me of another member of his unit who could not vent enough of his rage in the daylight hours. Most nights after the unit went into night time defensive positions he would walk off into the night with a bazooka and a few rounds. Many times in the morning they would awake to find him back in camp and see the column of smoke rising from a German tank on the horizon. This guy actually survived the war.
Later in the war he told me of moving in convoy in the early evening. The American armored convoy moving out on one side of the hedgerow. There was another armored convoy moving on the opposite side of the hedgerow. Tank and vehicle commanders rode visibly standing in the commanders copula. The other formation was German. The men on both sides kept their eyes directly to the front ignoring their enemy. They had all had enough war for one day. There was not a shot fired.
Many nights during the "Battle of the Buldge/Ardennes Offensive" my Father slept under his tank in the snow. He hated winter for the rest of his life.
I was 14 years old before I ever realized that my Father was always absent when my Mother vacuumed the house. I found out from an uncle the noise was too similar to a German Nebelwefer rocket mortar.
Like most combat veterans my Father rarely spoke of the war and when he did it was usually only to relate a humorous story. When I was 18, I told my Father I was interested in joining the Army and serving as a tank commander. He immediately informed me if I had learned so little from his experiences and was truly that ignorant I could change my last name or he would do it for me. My Father did not live long enough to see me graduate from college or join the Army.
As told by his son: Thomas J. Maguire
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