Posted on November 25th, 2016 by:

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By Jimmy Cannon

Stars and Stripes Staff Writer

35th infantry division

Insignia of the 35th Infantry Division.

WITH THE 35TH INF. DIV., Nov. 21, 1944—Playwright Noel Coward, the British theater’s fashionable dramatist of decadence who peopled his stages with rich and neurotic drawing-room loafers, today was invited to a vegetable-and-egg dinner with fruit for dessert by the Brooklyn men of this division.

“He’ll need no mess gear either. We’ll hit him right in the kisser with it,” said Pvt. Julius Rapp, of Brooklyn, who was wounded at Saint-Lo.

In his new book, the “Middle East Diary,” the story of his song-and-dance journey among the troops, Coward wrote, “I was less impressed by some mournful little Brooklyn boys lying there in tears among the alien corn with nothing worse than bullet wounds in the leg or a fractured arm.”

noel coward

Noel Coward and pianist Norman Hackworth perform for sailors aboard HMS Victorious in Ceylon, August 1944

“He couldn’t fight his way into Ebbets Field with nine tickets and he’s knocking guys fighting their way into Berlin,” said Pvt. Charles Burns, of Brooklyn. “I got hit at Saint-Lo and so did a lot of Brooklyn guys. I’ll take him with me and get him a reserved seat in a foxhole if he wants to see how Brooklyn guys act when hit.”

st lo wwii american soldier

A GI moves past dead German soldiers near St. Lo.

“No one who hasn’t been wounded knows how it feels,” said Sgt. Gerald A. Azzata, who thinks Brooklyn is too high class for Mr. Coward. “What right has any one to knock soldiers from any place because he sings them songs and does dances for them.”

Brooklyn-born William E. Lorenzo, who wears the Purple Heart, says he is one Brooklyn guy who didn’t cry when he was wounded. Lorenzo didn’t know he was hit until he saw the blood leaking from the gash and trickling into a puddle on the grass.

T/4 Peter Olson, a Brooklyn Purple Heart man, says, “The children in the streets of Brooklyn can lick the toughest playwright in the world.

“So I challenge him to fight my wife,” Olsen said. “No man in Brooklyn would hit a playwright. A man who would take advantage of a playwright would be run out of Brooklyn. My wife is the sweetest, nicest little thing in Brooklyn. But I’ll bet she’ll punch the living stuff out of him if she ever grabs him.

For More on the Battle of Normandy and St. Lo Check Out:

Overlord: D-Day and the Battle for Normandy

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