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702nd Tank Battalion “Red Devils”

Rolling On

 

Another capture was made near Argentan of slightly less military importance.

It is best described by Milton Still of "D" Co. in a 1986 story published in the 702nd  “HOT LINE”

 

 

“Friends, today's topic is rabbits.  Not Peter, not Doc's Bugs Bunny, not country western's Eddie, but Fred Bodkin's Joe and Josephine.  All the 1st Platoon and most of the men of 'D' Company will remember Fred's rabbits.  For about five months they served with courage and loyalty as 1st  Platoon mascots.  As Fred and the rest of the crew of (then Platoon Sergeant) Ike Walker's tank said, “Eight live rabbit’s feet have got to be better luck than one dead one”.

 

Fred, who was driver of “Wanda”, number four tank in the platoon, picked up the two month old babies, complete with house (hutch), while on a recon. mission with 1st Platoon of 80th Recon., near Argentan, France.  The fate of their parents has never been established, but my guess is that they were someone's main course.

 

Anyway, Joe and Josephine lived in their box on the rear deck of the tank.  Eating like the rest of us, what food could be scrounged from homes.  For them, apples, grass, an occasional sugar lump.  For us, eggs, bacon, ham!  Joe and Josephine thrived on their diet and even though the neighborhood had a tendency toward noise and the occasional bullet passing through, they grew to adulthood.  They didn't seem to mind the movement or engine noise, (the engine heat, they enjoyed) and adjusted to both outgoing and incoming fire.  As they grew up, they were given their freedom to roam all over the hull surface.

 

Fred and Norm Stahl (assistant driver) tell of looking out through a periscope only to see a rabbit looking in!  During the Battle of the Bulge, a Life magazine correspondent took photos and promised to write the story of the only four-man, two-rabbit light tank crew of the war.  If it was done, we never saw it.

 

In March of '45, when we left the task force with the 76th Div. and rejoined the 80th, Platoon Sergeant Walker was given his much deserved battlefield commission, left “D” Company and Fred went back to driving the Colonel's jeep.  Norm Stahl came into my tank and the rabbits stayed on number four, with a partially new crew.  We figured Joe and Josie's experience would be useful to the new men.

 

During one counter-attack of Goesdorf, Luxembourg (from Bockholtz), artillery fire chewed up the sandbags we always had on the deck and slope plate.  The sand all ran out, but Joe and his friend didn't get a scratch!  I never mentioned this to Fred, but I don't think Josie was properly named.  At least we never saw any little rabbits.  Maybe they figured the neighborhood was no place to bring up children. Anyhow, they were given a permanent home in Germany in or near a town named Sitters while we were preparing for the Rhine crossing.  In closing the saga of these two fearless, fuzzy, four-footed tankers, Fred wishes to begin a campaign for the recognition of their unselfish service and the proper awarding of the four battle stars they earned, (I'm with you, Fred!) . . .” Milton Still

 

 

 

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