Jimmy and the General
One day during World War II, a soldier whom we shall call “Jimmy”, a medical orderly at the Army hospital in Cherbourg, France, was assigned to guard duty. While standing at his post, a jeep bearing a red pennant with a single gold star on it roared by. Suddenly, the Jeep stopped, and backed up to where Jimmy was standing. An officer jumped out and began berating him for not saluting.
“Don’t you know what that star means?”
“That you have a son in the service?” Jimmy innocently replied.
At that, the brigadier general turned away, but his heaving shoulders revealed that he trying hard to stifle a laugh.
Not long after the war, Jimmy was transferred to a hospital in Germany, and soon came across this same brigadier. Although not authorized to do so, Jimmy was wont to give shots to the nurses at the hospital. Jimmy was in great demand, because his shots were less painful than most. One of the nurses to whom he gave shots was none other than the wife of that brigadier general from Cherbourg. So, when the brigadier saw Jimmy at the hospital in Germany, he greeted him saying, “My wife always liked those shots you gave her.”
Many years after the war, Jimmy served as the bartender at a certain National Guard Armory, and like many an old soldier, would often recount his wartime adventures. The story of the brigadier general and the general’s wife was one such tale.
--With thanks to John A. Braden
Improbable Wars: The War of the Eight Saints (1375-1378)
Having some territorial issues in dispute with the Papal States, in 1375 the ruling council of Florence concluded an alliance with Milan, and went to war with Pope Gregory XI. By generous bribes, the Florentines enticed the Pope’s principal commander, the famed mercenary John Hawkwood, into refraining from operations in Tuscany, and stimulated unrest in the Papal States.
Since he committed himself to avoiding mounting a military threat directly against Florence, Hawkwood crushed the rebellions in the Papal States with great brutality. Seeking to strike more directly at his principal enemy, Pope Gregory deployed the most powerful weapons in his ecclesiastical arsenal. He excommunicated the Florentine leaders, placed the city under the interdict (thus barring any religious services to the people) and imposed various severe sanctions on Florentine merchants and travelers. These proved far more effective than any armed response.
The Florentine economy went into free fall, while internal unrest soared, despite efforts by the government to force the clergy to perform their religious duties. In mid 1378, following the death of Gregory, the Florentines concluded a peace his successor Pope Urban VI, paying an enormous indemnity.
The principal result of the costly was a major social upheaval, as the impoverished common workers of Florence revolted and imposed a short-lived radical regime, which was suppressed with great brutality.
As for the war’s name, the “Eight Saints" it refers to the “Otto della guerra”, the eight man council that directed Florence’s military affairs, though there are some who claim it derives from one of several other eight-man commissions that had a hand in running the city’s affairs at the time.
This is one of those tales that just might be true. It was found in Curiosities of War and Military Studies
, a British collection of military anecdotes from the mid-nineteenth century.
It seems that at one point during the Peninsular War (1808-1814), a British general was dining with some of his officers. As the meal opened, several of the officers declined the soup with some vehemence. His curiosity piqued, the general asked what objection the gentlemen had to the soup.
One of his officers rose to explain that a dead French soldier had been discovered in the well from which the water used for the soup had been drawn.
Hearing that, the general promptly called for another serving of the soup, adding, "it would have been better if the whole French army had been in it."