Staff Sergeant Lafayette Pool and his M4A1 (76mm) Sherman tank
Lafayette Pool, a tall, lanky Texan, served just over 80 days in combat from 27 June 1944 until 19 September 1944. Yet his combat career was so successful that many historians consider him to be not just the greatest tank ace of World War II but the greatest tank ace ever. He destroyed 258 enemy vehicles and twelve tanks (mostly Panthers) while capturing 250 enemy soldiers. Pool was what the army calls a ‘hard charger’ and a real go- getter. As a boxing champion, he even fought an exhibition match with the great Joe Louis. He volunteered for tank duty. When the new M4 Sherman tanks were assigned to his unit, he gave up a championship fight so he could train with his men.
He was a demanding taskmaster who twice turned down promotion to Lieutenant so he could train his men, and his men loved him for it. His tank crew called him ‘War Daddy’ and he called them his ‘Pups’. His colourful crew were driver PFC Wilbert ‘Baby’ Richards, bow gunner Corporal Bert ‘School Boy’ Close, loader T/5 Del ‘Jailbird’ Boggs and gunner Cpl. Willis ‘Ground Hog’ Oller. The first tank they rode into combat was a standard M4A1 Sherman named ‘In the Mood’. During Pool’s tour in combat he had three different tanks of that name shot out from under him. Pool was assigned to Item Company, 3rd Battalion, 32nd Armored Regiment, 3rd Armored Division, known as the ‘Spearhead’ Division. Pool was known as the ‘Spearhead of the Spearhead Division’. He led his unit into 21 full-scale attacks and his preferred tactic was to charge in close and mix it up, even against powerful opponents like the Panther. “We were the invincible arm of the Lord’s wrath,” Pool would later say. “We were fighting a war we saw simply as good against evil.” Pool’s luck finally ran out on the night of 19 September 1944 as ‘In the Mood III’ was ambushed by an ‘88’ anti-tank gun. The tank was hit twice, destroying the turret. His crew received only minor wounds, but Pool lost a leg. He was twice recommended for the Medal of Honor, yet it seems Pool was more concerned with smashing the German Army, even if he had to do it himself.