The famous generals of World War 2 are Eisenhower, Montgomery, Bradley, MacArthur and Patton. But one of my favorite ones to study is the American general whose name keeps popping up whenever I read about D-Day: General Norman “Dutch” Cota who landed on Omaha Beach.
He was a strict disciplinarian and good tactician, but it was his personal courage and concern for his troops that really impressed me. Stephen Ambrose tells us this story in his book “Citizen Soldier”:
General Cota came up on some G.I.’s who were pinned down by Germans hiding in a French stone farmhouse. (It was the next day after D-day, and the general knew our troops could not afford to get bogged down in Normandy.)
He asked the young captain why they were hunkered down. The captain responded, “Sir, the Germans are in there, shooting at us!” “Well I tell you what,” said Cota, unbuckling two grenades from his jacket. “You and your men start shooting at them. I’ll take a squad of men and you and your men watch carefully. I’ll show you how to take a house with Germans in it.”
His men opened fire, and the general led a squad to attack the house. He and another man kicked the door in and threw the grenades. The grenades exploded and the surviving Germans ran out the back.
Cota said to the young captain: “You’ve seen how to take a house. Do you understand? Do you know how to do it now?”
“Well, I won’t be around to do it for you again. I can’t do it for everybody.”
But word of the story got around. And Cota’s men (and many others) drove the Germans out of Normandy.