Requiem For Nicholas Gomez
L-R McDonald, Sweaney, Gomez, Unknown, Condon, Terril, and Pritchett
There in the Summer 2004 issue of the Blue Ridge Service Magazine, under Taps, did I relocate Nick.
My recall was instantaneous and in great detail.
Nick did not stand out in a crowd. Being of Cuban descent and reticent in style and nature, he seldom brought attention to himself, by means of what he said (at least in English), or what he did. Yet, his impact on the 1st Battalion, as did the rest of the I&R Platoon as well, was observed by the writer on many occasions.
I cannot ever recall seeing a special training session for I&R Platoon members, possibly the battalion S-2 excepted. Their mission and their manner was conceived, ordered and implemented by the battalion commanding officer and his staff. In our case, Hiram Ives, Cyrus Addams and William Sweaney, S-6, S-3 and S-2 respectively.
Each day, the battalion received intelligence reports from the Division G-2. From there, it was the responsibility of the battalion as to what it faced in the form of enemy units, natural and man-made obstacles. Topographic maps indicated some of the latter, but planning the attack was the function of battalion S-3 Operation. I was the senior non-com on that staff.
To aid in the development of planning to achieve the higher designated mission, the I&R Platoon was sent into and behind the enemy lines. To observe and report as to the complement of troops immediately to the front, their disposition on the ground, their perceived state of readiness and obstacles, both to them and us, that would aid or retard our efforts. To engage the enemy in battle on that reconnaissance was to be avoided! Coming back to and through our own lines was a feat within itself! Casualties in that effort were not uncommon, but that is another story. Thank God we had no media to meet our patrol when it returned!
As a member of that platoon, Nick and the others would report to the battalion operations staff (S-6, S-3 & S-2) their observations. Nick was always the last to express himself. He challenged no one, but his opinions differing or not, came forth in his halting English and style. His mind was photographic and his projection of the battle to come was precise and organized.
The operations staff then considered all inputs, including rifle company commanders and the plan and order of battle was set and communicated to those responsible to carry it out.
As the senior operations NCO, I had the opportunity to observe the process and the participants, from our first battle to our last. The platoon of which Nick was a part, greatly facilitated the planning.
In the process, I am told Nick received six Purple Heart Medals and two Silver Star Medals.
I know there were many! At the time, it was my responsibility to send these men into the enemy territory, without consideration of their return or not. It was so ordered!
When I left the unit in September of 1945 for relocation to a higher point carrier unit, Nick was hospitalized somewhere. I never saw or heard from him until 1993. He and I met, by coincidence, in Florida, to which location he and his wife had retired. I was prepared for an attitude, which said, "you sent me into harms way over and over, why would I want to see you now?" Such was not the case. We became friends, and we visited when we went to our Florida home four times a year. Our mutual experiences provided the continuity of our relationship.
He and his wife left Florida in the late 90's to relocate near others of their relatives in Maryland. She died several years later, without her to speak on the telephone, he dropped out of my sight.
Then comes Taps!
To Nick and the platoon as a whole, I express, belatedly for sure, my appreciation for their service on behalf of our battalion and our country. I would hope that Nick died as he lived, with the quiet resolve to do what had to be done, prepared for the unknown, which lies ahead.
William A. Schmalz
Hayseed Red 3
1st Battalion, 319th Infantry
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