Remembering “‘Ole Blood n’ Guts”
by Dana Lee Stone
“It was his blood, and our guts.” George Osborne of Tarboro laughed as he recalled his experiences in Patton’s Army during World War II. “He was the greatest general and his men loved him. They respected him, and he respected them. He wouldn’t ask his men to do anything he wouln’t do. He was our greatest leader, and had no fear. I saw him three times up at the front. At the Rhine River, he led his men across, wading in front of them.”
George Osborne is 94 now. Originally from Wallace, North Carolina, Mr. Osborne was drafted (“my wife wouldn’t let me volunteer”) into the Army during World War II. He served in France, Germany, and Austria, part of the 65th Division, 565 Signal Corps.
During his first days in boot camp, Osborne said there was a particular sergeant who came into the barracks to give the men a little advice. “Boys,” he said, “there are three things to do in the Army, and if you do ‘em, you’ll get along fine. Keep your bowels open, your mouths shut, and don’t volunteer for a damn thing.” Osborne earnestly admitted, “I’ve stuck to that pretty well.”
He continued, “they sent me to Camp Shelby in Mississippi where I had basic training, then to New York to get ready to go overseas. They put me on KP. I noticed they had some hams hanging up and I asked, ‘what’s that, horse meat?’
“They said, ‘no, that’s beef.’ And I said, ‘no cow ever grew that big!’
He was warned not to say anything about the horsemeat, because “the boys wouldn’t eat it.” Osborne recalled how he looked over to see a soldier eating it: “hey, buddy, that’s pretty good horse meat, isn’t it? Someone in the background neighed like a horse, and don’t you know that boy put his plate down, and wouldn’t eat anymore.”
Osborne continued his story by describing his deployment. “We got shipped to la Havre, in France. They had supplies for 3,000 men and here 30,000 came in on this convoy. They put us in these tent camps. For the first two weeks, the only things we got to eat were a spoonful of powdered eggs, a half a canteen of coffee, and a piece of bread. They had garbage cans for the trash, but no garbage ever went in them.”
As a driver, Osborne covered a lot of territory during the war, covering most of France, Germany, and Austria. He told me about on his most memorable experience in Germany, when he encountered German SS troops. “We were out in the woods and they asked for volunteers. Me like a crazy fool, I volunteered…We were out crawling through the woods when a shot came through. BLAM! I felt the heat when it went across the back of my neck. I looked around from where I saw the flash, and I didn’t even take aim. I shot. The bullet hit him in the head…This experience broke me from volunteering. I don’t volunteer for anything anymore.”
Osborne elaborated on one of the most controversial incidents of the War, the famous “slapping incident” that involved General Patton. “I didn’t see it,” he explained, but this boy was laying out and Patton slapped him. I think the boy was scared, mostly. Patton slapped him in the face with his glove.”
The incident led to Patton being reprimanded. Osborne offered, “a lot of people think it was the worst thing Patton could have done, to slap that boy, but I don’t think so. I think it brought the boy to his senses.”
Recalling the death of General Patton, Osborne reflected: “he was killed in a wreck. He wanted to go into Russia and we all thought that the CIA was behind the accident. That was really a sad time, when Patton died.”
Osborne is obviously proud of his experiences during World War II, even though he claims not to have done “very much.”
“Our Division went the furthest and the fastest of any Division over there,” he said. Surely these memories went with him on a trip several years ago to West Point for a reunion of the 65th Division. “You know,” he said, “I may be the oldest one in it now. I was 92 then, and I’m 94 now.”
Nowadays, George Osborne can often be found at the Roberson Senior Center in Tarboro, where he goes for lunch and to socialize with his many friends.