Subject: A SHOW OF STRENGTH
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
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
A Show of Strength