|Gulfport Author and WWII Vet Says America May No Longer Have What it Takes to Fight
Former Member of Patton's Raiders Ponders Where We Stand This Veterans Day
GULFPORT, MISS -- When Oscar Ladner was 19 he was a new recruit in General George Patton's 3rd Army getting ready to breach Nazi Germany's Siegfried Line and fight his way into enemy territory. Ladner, and millions of others just like him, went to war more than 50 years ago to protect freedom. America had what it took then, but Ladner, who was part of the elite fighting force known as Patton's Raiders, isn't so certain that the American people today have the same resolve and ability to sacrifice as they face down Saddam Hussein and the war on terrorism.
The fourth generation American freedom fighter who earned the Bronze Star Medal and Combat Infantry Badge for his bravery in the 65th Infantry recalls that his mother gave up her aluminum pots and pans to be used toward the manufacture of airplanes because she treasured and valued freedom and liberty. He believes that Americans now take the freedom for which he and his comrades fought for granted, and that they willingly stand by as their basic freedoms erode.
According to Ladner, a retired attorney, the men who became Patton's Raiders were chosen for their demonstrated intelligence, discipline and courage. Patton relied on the men in the special combat unit to protect his new Pershing tanks, which came equipped with 90-mm cannons. The tanks were a central part of Patton's German invasion plans.
Ladner says Patton needed men to ride shotgun on the Pershings who were capable of enduring hardships and possessed the stamina to continuously push forward in all kinds of weather. "We Raiders were perfect targets for the Nazis who tried continuously to eliminate us by firing Panzerfausts at us to knock the tanks out. It was like a suicide mission."
Ladner says Patton was "a soldier's general who got the job done quickly." He adds, "I remember him as a man of great passion and wisdom who did the best for his troops. Even if it was extreme it saved lives and paid off in the end."
Ladner also saw firsthand the horrors of the concentration camps when his division entered the Manthauser concentration camp after the war was over.
For 50 years after leaving the service, Lander never spoke of the horrors, killings, lack of sleep, cold and hunger that he experienced as a soldier. In fact, he didn't speak about it until viewing the movie "Saving Private Ryan" served as a catalyst for his need to recall his war experiences. When Lander began writing his memories down he could not stop. On one occasion he wrote for seven straight hours. It took him four years to produce his memoirs of the war in a book called A Test of Faith and Courage: Patton's Raiders in WWII (Liberty & Freedom Productions, Inc., $29.95).
Midwest Book Review said about the book: "A Test Of Faith And Courage: Patton's Raiders In WWII is Ladner's candid, eyewitness, autobiographical account of battlefield nonstop peril, hunger, mental and physical fatigue combined with outstanding acts of humanity, comradeship, and patriotism."