Pool, Lafayette Green (1919–1991)


By: Mike Zambrano, Jr.

Type: Biography

Published: September 15, 2021

Updated: September 15, 2021


Lafayette Green Pool was born in Sinton, Texas, to John McKinley Pool and Marion Lee Ruth (Lacook) Pool on July 23, 1919. He was a U. S. Army tank commander during World War II and credited with destroying twelve German tanks and 258 armored vehicles and self-propelled guns in eighty-one days of combat. His tank spearheaded twenty-one major assaults, and he earned the nickname “War Daddy.” He is also sometimes referred to as America’s “tank ace-of-aces.”

Poole grew up on a farm in Sinton and graduated from Corpus Christi College Academy in 1939. Tall and lanky, he won the sectional 165-pound boxing crown at New Orleans, Louisiana; he turned down an opportunity to compete in the Golden Gloves national final tournament. After high school, he enrolled at Texas College of Arts and Industries (present-day Texas A&M University-Kingsville) in Kingsville and majored in engineering. After a year, he left college and attempted to join the U. S. Navy with his twin brother, John. While his brother was accepted, Pool was rejected due to an eye injury. He persisted and on June 14, 1941, enlisted in the U. S. Army.

Pool received his basic training at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio. Upon completion, he was sent to Camp Beauregard, Louisiana, and assigned to the Fortieth Armored Regiment. When the Fortieth was disbanded, Pool was transferred to the Thirty-second Armored Regiment, Third Armored Division, at Fort Polk, Louisiana. During the coming months, the division trained at the Desert Training Center in the Mojave Desert (southern California and western Arizona); Camp Pickett, Virginia; and Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania. In December 1942, while on leave, Pool married Evelyn Lois Wright.

In August 1943 Pool’s regiment moved to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, in preparation to be shipped overseas. On September 4, he boarded a train bound for New York Harbor and the next day departed aboard the RMMV Capetown Castle. The ship arrived in Liverpool, England on September 15. Pool, then a staff sergeant, was billeted at Codford, Wiltshire, and he trained at Salisbury Plain with Third Platoon, I Company.

By late June 1944 Pool’s unit landed on Omaha Beach in Normandy, France, where his regiment was assigned to Combat Command A. During the next eighty-one days, Staff Sergeant Pool commanded three different Sherman tanks across France, Belgium, and Germany. The first was an M4A1 armed tank that he named In The Mood. When asked why, he replied, “That’s the way I felt then—just in the mood for anything.”

During Pool’s time in combat, his crew remained intact. They consisted of Cpl. Wilbert “Red” Richards (driver), Pfc. Bert Close (co-driver and machine gunner), Cpl. Willis Oller (gunner), and T/5 Del Boggs (loader). On June 29, 1944, In The Mood entered combat at Villiers-Fossard and was hit by a German panzerfaust, a hand-held anti-tank weapon. Pool received his second tank, an M4A1(76)W that he also named In The Mood, on July 1. During combat in the village of Fromental on August 17, this tank was knocked out by friendly fire when an American P-38 fighter mistook it for a German tank. His third tank was also an M4A1(76)W. On September 19, while attacking the Siegfried Line in Munsterbusch, Germany, the Sherman was struck by a round from a German Panther tank. Damaged, but not immobilized, the driver attempted to back away when a second round struck and tipped the tank into a ditch. The round killed Pool’s replacement gunner, Pfc. Paul King; Oller was not present for this action. Pool was thrown from the tank and suffered serious shrapnel wounds to his right leg. Later doctors were forced to amputate it eight inches above the knee.

Pool returned to the United States and was admitted to William Beaumont General Hospital in El Paso, Texas. He was later transferred to Lawson General Hospital in Chamblee, Georgia. The facility specialized in prosthetics. Pool was fitted with a wooden prosthetic leg and discharged in June 1946. He later opened a filling station and garage in Corpus Christi, Texas. He tried several other businesses, but was not content.

In July 1948 he was allowed to re-enlist in the U. S. Army and entered the Transportation Corps. He later rejoined the Third Armored Division as an instructor in automotive mechanics. On September 19, 1969, Pool retired from the U. S. Army as a chief warrant officer two. He attended San Angelo College (present-day Angelo State University) in San Angelo, Texas, and received certificates in accounting and business administration. He later became a preacher and taught junior high school. On March 24, 1970, tragedy struck when his son, Capt. Jerry L. Pool, Sr., went missing in action in Cambodia during the Vietnam War. He was declared dead in 1978.

On May 30, 1991, Lafayette G. Pool died in his sleep in Killeen, Texas; he was seventy-one years old. At the time, he was survived by his wife, Evelyn, his four daughters, and three sons. He was buried at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio. His military awards include the Bronze Order of Saint George Medallion, Belgian Fourragère, Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Purple Heart, Good Conduct Medal, American Defense Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with two bronze campaign stars, World War II Victory Medal, National Defense Service Medal, French Légion d’Honneur grade of chevalier, and French Croix de Guerre with bronze star.

The main character (portrayed by actor Brad Pitt) in the 2014 motion picture Fury was patterned after Lafayette “War Daddy” Pool.

Association of the 3rd Armored Division Veterans: 32nd Armored Regiment (http://3ad.org/unitpages.cfm?subpage=4903), accessed September 9, 2021. Corpus Christi Times, August 4, 1941; April 6, 1948. George Forty, Tank Aces: From Blitzkrieg to the Gulf War (Motorbooks International, 1997). Dean and Nan Kleffman, “The Forgotten Tank Ace: Staff Seargeant Lafayette G. Pool, an American to Remember,” Journal of Military Ordnance, March 1998. Letter from Lafayette Pool and wife Evelyn in 1970, Published in the 3rd Armored Association Newsletter, December 1970, Written November 6, 1970 (http://3ad.com/history/wwll/pool.pages/letter.1970.htm), accessed September 9, 2021. Spearhead In The West: Third Armored Division 1941–45 (Nashville, Tennessee: Battery Press, 1980). Sgt. Frank Woolner, Combat correspondent, 3AD HQ, “Texas Tanker,” YANK Magazine, September 22, 1944, available on (https://3ad.com/history/wwll/pool.pages/yank.magazine.htm), accessed September 9, 2021.

Categories:
  • Military
  • World War II
Time Periods:
  • World War II
  • Texas Post World War II
Places:
  • Southeast Texas
  • Gulf Coast Region
  • Corpus Christi

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Mike Zambrano, Jr., “Pool, Lafayette Green,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 27, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/pool-lafayette-green.

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September 15, 2021
September 15, 2021