Field cook - Duties were to set up field mess provisions to feed combat troops while in combat conditions. Having field warm meals created better morale. Meals had to be prepared using the items that reached the front. Food rations came after ammunition and water, so this was a challenge.
Famous military field and mess hall meal "SOS" in military slang. It is commonly referred to as stew on a shingle or same old stuff. It was made mainly with chipped beef and cream. At times leftovers from the breakfast bacon and ham were chopped up and added.
Walter G. Pfleuger, U.S. Army
CCC - Civilian Conservation Corp - A public relief program from 1933 to 1942 for unemployed males from relief families between the ages of 17 and 23. A part of President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, the monthly pay was $30, of which $25 was sent home to the parents.
Medals Awards: Two Purple Hearts, Bronze Star.
TAOR (tactical area of responsibility): Holland, Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Germany, Dover
Military campaigns: The Battle of the Bulge, The Rhineland, Central Europe
Married: May 1947 to Harriet (Gray) from Silver Creek
Children: Glenn, Karen, Elaine, Dwight, Paul, Kevin, Donald, Marie
Walter Pfleuger was born on April 9, 1922, in Silver Creek at the Oak Street Hospital. The family lived at their Hanover Street home where Walter's father, Melvin worked his grape and vegetable farm.
Walter's mother Hattie (Gould) beside her homemaking duties, also raised her family of Walter's two brothers Lester and Merlin and sister Joyce. Growing up on a farm meant a child was involved in all the duties that a farm required. Growing grapes and raising vegetables was a year's long job. It started with the early spring planting. In the summer there was summer weeding and fertilizing. Fall was the harvest season and led to the winter's repairing and starting the cycle over again. A farmer's life meant very few, if any, days to just do what he wanted to do.
Being a son of a farmer didn't mean you just worked on your family's farm. When a crop was ready to be picked or get ready for harvest, it was common for all the neighbors and kids to chip in and help for either money or for the one hand washes the other, knowing soon you may need your neighbors' help when your crop came in.
As a child, Walter worked on area farms located in the Smith Mills area. He was kept working from the first pickings to the final harvest. Walter recalls that the real money was in the first picking. To get to the farm on the first day meant the money was easier to earn; the second and third pickings meant more time in the fields and less money in his pocket.
When school time came, Walter attended the Smith Mill School, a two-room school that had one teacher who taught all classes and subjects making sure each and every student learned the subject matter needed to continue with the next grade. It was common for a student in the first seat taking a sixth grade final math exam and the student in the seat behind taking his second grade final math exam. After attending Smith Mill, Walter went to Forestville for classes.
On his 16th birthday, Walter walked into his principal's office and told the principal that he was no longer going to attend school classes. When asked why, Walter explained that he wanted to do something with his life. His dream was to join the Civilian Conservation Corps. He was accepted, went to Red House at Allegany State Park and signed up for its 6-6-6 program which included making bridges, roads trails, buildings and cabins. One day while Walter was going through the chow line, he was not happy with the food he was looking at and complained loudly, drawing attention from the rest in line. When the head of the mess hall asked, "Can you do better?" Walter's reply was "Yes. Yes, I can."
When asked what barracks he was assigned to, Walter replied Barracks B. The next morning a camp adviser came to Barracks B and told Walter to pack up his bags. In his mind he immediately feared he was going to be told to leave camp because of the day before. He was relieved when he was advised that he was now heading to cooking school in a small town near Binghamton.
School lasted two weeks and was a breeze for Walter. He now was doing a job he loved and enjoyed doing. Cooking for himself and family was natural for Walter. Now he was cooking for 300 to 400 a day.
Cooking in quantity was a much harder job because the measurements he once used for scrambled eggs, French toast and coffee went from teaspoons to quarts and gallons. One meal that was famous not only to CCC camps, but later on in his military life was the famous SOS, a meal that consisted of a lot of leftovers mixed into a master served over toast.
One day of school was completely dedicated to preparing boxed lunches that were used for jobs that were miles from the mess hall and would waste valuable time driving from the camp to the job and back. The last meals of the day consisted of chicken or fish. Working the mess hall as a cook, Walter received some extra pay which amounted to $1 per day. A corporal received $36 per month and a sergeant received $45.
Walter loved his job. He got to see what the real world was outside of Silver Creek. Little did he know that his life in the CCC was going to be beneficial in his military years to come.
The country was at war. In a two-fronted war, joining the Army and being from the East Coast almost guaranteed that you would be heading for Europe to take care of Hitler and his advancing armies.
The day came in 1942 when Walter was the property of the United States government. He was now a G.I. (government issue). Being property of the government also meant he was issued a service number. This is the way the government could identify its property, even if the property was a person.
Walter started his service at Fort Niagara, which wasn't far from home. Here, he was trained in basic skills. Upon completion Walter headed for his new assignment at camp in Kansas. Here he completed his entire basic training. After graduation, all the recruits in Walter's battalion each waited for an assignment and duty station.
When the staff sergeant yelled out Walter's name, he was excited to learn he was heading to France and would be assigned to headquarter's battalion. He also received his dream job as an Army cook. He was worried that the Army may have different ideas as to how to place him. Hearing his job classification of Army cook made his day. Along with his title and with his assignment, Walter received a 30-day leave before heading to Europe, his first time ever leaving the country.
His 30-day leave went by so fast that it seemed like one day, not the entire month. With the month behind him, Walter boarded a train heading for New York City and a liberty ship. Reporting on time, Walter found himself boarding a liberty ship which was built to carry 800 soldiers.
While reporting and asking permission to board, Walter asked what his duties were while en route to France. His answer was to find a bunk, report to the deck NCO (non-commissioned officer), keep yourself busy and stay out of trouble. On the trip from New York to France, Walter spent his time playing cards and walking the deck. He was really surprised to learn that he didn't even receive mess duty, not even a work group. All he had to do was show up for meals.
All this came to an end when the ship docked in Scotland. Here Walter was given a three-day pass. He explained that he needed so badly just to lose his sea legs. When the three-day pass ended, Walter reboarded his liberty ship and sailed to South Hampton. Upon arrival, he was advised to take a train that would take him to Paris, France. The trip took three days, and included stopping in every town or village along the way.
The war was all around Walter, yet he felt no pain that came with it as of yet. Soldiers were either going his way or waiting to return from the way he came. No duties, no orders to do anything. It was as if Walter were on a sight-seeing tour of Europe but deep in his mind he knew he was heading into harm's way.
When the train ride was over, the smell of war was in the air. The uniforms were now getting dirty, and very little saluting, if any, was to be seen. Walter was now at the front and his duties were to feed the Army the best he could. It was nothing like the CCC and the Army's cooking schools. Working as a field cook meant exactly what it sounds like - he was out in the field and used whatever food and whatever utensils he had. At times Walter was cooking out of a barn, and, if lucky, the troops would secure a nice, clean place to complete the meals.
As the Army advanced, so did the field mess tents. As the war prolonged, Walter found himself cooking in France, Rhineland, Holland, Belgium, and even seeing the white cliffs of Dover.
Life as a field cook didn't mean staying in the rear and cooking. Many times cooks spent time on night perimeter duty and participated in many patrols. In addition to cooking, Walter received two purple hearts and the bronze star. While his unit was in Germany waiting for their orders to come home, Walter cooked his last Army meal with the rank of Master Sergeant, United States Army.
When he returned home, Walter still enjoyed cooking. He no longer had to make meals for 300 men in a blizzard where he would take a five-gallon can and fill it up with water that freezes before he could get to the mess areas.
Walter later applied for and received a position with the Ford plant in Buffalo. There Walter worked as a lift-truck mechanic. Now retired, Walter was interviewed at the Chautauqua County Home.
When asked about some of the stories that stayed with him for all the years that had passed, Walter recalled his first time in France and being assigned to headquarters battalion. He was sent into a battle which later became known as the Battle of the Bulge.
He also remembered cooking one day and noticing a lot of brass congregating in his mess area. He later saw this 4-Star general named Blood and Guts pass through his line. The name "Old Blood and Guts" belonged to one man, that man being Gen. George S. Patton. Another story that Walter told as if it happened yesterday was the way the French underground operated and the way they handled their German collaborators, telling stories of how the French women who went with the Germans had their hair all cut off and some were even tattooed with the name traitor inked in their forehead.
War brings things like this out and memories of war stay with those who witnessed it. Walter Pfleuger is one of those heroes. He is our hero of the week!
Thank you Walter for your service to our country.