Sue's Writing Desk

A Tale for Memorial Day

William Wayne Weems

2022 by William Wayne Weems

Photo of the Fred Cooper family in 1943.
Photo of the Fred Cooper family in 1943.

Nearly two weeks ago my Spouse Annie Sue and I soberly viewed an isolated metal outbuilding which is set outside the high fence surrounding the rear of her West Tennessee family farmhouse. The sliding doors had been wrenched off.

We had been fearing a sight such as this ever since the massive power driveway gate down at the highway had been severely damaged and had to be tied open. There had been bad weather, but that didn’t look like storm damage. This didn’t either. Sue moved to enter the building. “Careful” I said “snakes”. Sue said “I have to see if the desk my Daddy made me is still there”.

Shortly she emerged with a bright smile. Still there, she observed, and undamaged. In 1943 her Father, Floyd Cooper, faced the uncomfortable reality that despite having a Wife and 5 year old Daughter, he would soon be “drafted” into our Nation’s wartime Army. Among the things he did was hand craft a home schoolwork desk for his Daughter, who would start school in his absence. By mid-1944, Floyd was a crew member of a US Army armored vehicle called a “half track”, which was assigned to a Reconnaissance Battalion leading the way in central France. By a letter to a friend, later given to Sue, Floyd admitted to have been “mighty scared” by his current activity. Things would quickly become worse, for he and his crew mates would soon be called to follow the command orders of historical figures.

The Germans having either trashed or blocked major European port facilities then in Allied hands, the bulk of US Army supplies had to be hauled in across Normandy beaches and trucked to fighting units along the front line. The further away the front line moved, the harder this resupply became. When British General Montgomery was given material priority for his Airborne and Armor strike into Holland, General Patton’s forces were forced to halt at their current positions in France. Floyd’s unit ground to a halt near the French village of Dornot on the Moselle River.

General Patton fumed, correctly observing the Germans would take advantage of such delays and the longer his advance was delayed, the harder that advance would be. He therefor ordered Floyd’s unit to lead a crossing of the Moselle with whatever resources they had in hand. Little did he know the Germans were already ready for them on the other side with fanatical SS troops and deadly 88 mm cannons.

The Germans let a sizable portion of Floyd’s unit cross the Moselle before opening fire. Floyd’s Commander desperately radioed for permission to retreat, since his force was being cut to pieces. Instead he was ordered to remain in place and continue the fight. They stayed so surrounded for over 12 hours. Floyd’s commander was killed. Floyd himself likely died when his half track was destroyed (probably by one of the deadly 88 mm cannons). Post Mortem records indicate his right leg was totally shattered. The bloody carnage was so great Floyd’s body was misidentified as FRED Cooper, and he was incorrectly listed as “missing in action” until 1945. But Floyd’s unit had by its sacrifice pinned the enemy in place, and other US Units successfully crossed the Moselle without serious losses further South.

Sue’s Mother never remarried, and paid to have her husband’s remains transported back to his home. She has since passed away, and her body lies next to his in the cemetery of the Pyburn Union Church. Being a family plot, no institutional visitors come to decorate it with a flag on occasions such as Memorial Day.. Sue paid for a paving stone inscribed in her Father’s memory in the Savannah military memorial, but was offended when the local museum haughtily refused to accept or display any military curios from the past century. After all, she also possesses an elaborately colored proclamation signed by the Governor of the State of Tennessee in 1945, naming her Father as part of the State’s “Honor roll of Heroes”. But too many years have gone by, and one of the few remaining remnants of Floyd’s stay among us is the crude desk he made for his Daughter. Another is the formal studio photograph he had made before his departure (photo)....would you say his Wife may have had a premonition? When Anne Sue and I in turn pass away, her homemade desk is likely to be rejected even by the local Goodwiil, but at the present time Sue still cares.

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