Little Joe

Walter Galbraith

The following account by Pfc. Walter Galbraith of the 712th Tank Battalion is included in “Tanks for the Memories.”

The last man on guard at night was supposed to make sure that all the ammunition was out of the guns. We were in Germany, I forget what part of Germany it was, but it was in the winter. Some of the houses only had a wall up, and the GIs put their bedrolls against the walls, to shield them from the cold.

In the morning, I climbed up onto my tank, and my eye caught a glint of brass. I thought, “Who the hell left the ammunition in the gun?”

I had gone into the tank to check on Little Joe. Little Joe is the motor that turns the turret. If you press your thumb on one side you start the machine gun, and if you hit the button on the other side you fire the cannon.

I got in the tank and I saw that brass, so I removed the shell and I cleaned out the chamber, and then I threw the round back in.

Then I reached over to check on Little Joe, and when I did my hand came up, and I hit the button for the cannon.

The periscope was in front of me, and I saw the whole road blow up in front of the tank. I blew the whole goddamn road up. And I thought, “Oh my God, did I kill somebody?” That’s the first thing I thought about. So I reached up and I looked out. I didn’t see anybody walking around with no head on, and I felt good. I didn’t care what they did to me, I hadn’t killed anybody. And all of a sudden the company commander, the first sergeant, all the guys are walking up to that big hole that I made in the road, and I figured I’d better go face the music. So I walked up there, and I was just about to say, “Well, that’s the way the cookie crumbles,” when the first sergeant says, “Jesus! I drove over this road three times this morning and that goddamn mine didn’t blow up!”

Lisa Keithley of Vancouver, Washington, meeting Dale Albee, who was Walter Galbraith's tank commander. Walter was Lisa's great-grandfather.
Scroll to Top