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2014, Aaron Elson

   

The Professor

Walter Galbraith

2014, Aaron Elson

    Walter Galbraith was a gunner in D Company of the 712th Tank Battalion. He told this story at the battalion's 1993 reunion in Orlando, Fla.

    While we were in basic training, we had to learn how to drive a tank.

    We practiced on an old tank, and we had to shift into first, second, third, fourth gear, and by that time you’re looking this way and the tank is going that way. The only directions that the driver would have were that the tank commander would press him on the shoulder, right shoulder turn right, left shoulder turn left.

    We had to go through this obstacle course with these tanks, and so each of us took turns driving. I went through it, and then somebody else went through it. There were two great big trees with just enough room for a tank to go between them. So when you’re driving, they said, "Don’t stay in first all day," which some guys would do. As soon as that tachometer went so many thousand rpms, you had to shift.

    The instructor’s sitting beside the bow gunner, and the driver’s going, and so he’d tell you to keep your eye on the tachometer.

    So my turn came and I went through the trees, and I’m looking through the periscope, it looks like the trees are moving. You’ve got that little spot to see through. I see these trees, and I hit the lever to turn a little and I go right between them.

    Then this fellow got in, and we called him the Professor, I can’t think of his name, but if you asked him a question, he’d say, "Well, uh," it took him all day to answer. But anyway, it was his turn, so we get in the tank, and he’s driving, and the instructor said, "Keep your eye on the tachometer."

    "Ow-kay." He talked like Mortimer Snerd.

    We went down through the obstacles, and we finally come to those two trees. I saw one of the trees move in front, and I thought at the last second he’s gonna pull on the lever and go right between them. Then, "Bang!" He hit that goddamn tree, and ruined the tank’s transmission and everything, and all the tree’s branches came down on top of us, I landed on top of the bow gunner, the tank commander landed on top of the driver, and everything got quiet for a second. And the instructor said something like, "God damn you!"

    And he said, "Well, you told me to keep my eye on the tachometer, didn’t you?"

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