Introduction to An American Knight: LTC Tim Stoy, US Army Retired
The 3rd Infantry Division developed an outstanding reputation for aggressiveness and combat effectiveness in World War II. In its 10 campaigns in North Africa, the Mediterranean Theater, and in Europe the Rock of the Marne spent 531 days in combat, incurred 25,977 casualties, had 41 Medal of Honor recipients (the most of any division in WWII), and was decorated with the highest unit awards by the United States (the Presidential Unit Citation) and by France (the Croix-de-Guerre).
Combat units of World War II were comprised of men. It is the men of the 3rd Infantry Division and its attached units who earned that outstanding reputation, with their blood, their sweat, and their courage through innumerable fights in all conditions of weather and terrain. The most famous of those men are the division’s Medal of Honor recipients – their stories were told in the press and have been kept alive in books which are still sold today. However, countless other brave men fought in this war, many died with their heroism unseen and thus unremarked, others received lesser awards for heroism which fellow soldiers would know to respect but which do not carry the caché the Medal of Honor does, while all who survived the war worked hard to establish a sense of normalcy after the trauma they experienced. Their stories also deserve to be told.
Tory Failmezger does this with his book on his uncle, 1st LT Peter “Tommy” Welch. Reading the chapters on his combat service Tommy Welch fit right in in this aggressive combat division. He was the kind of soldier that 3rd Infantry Division Commander Major General John Wilson “Iron Mike” O’Daniel wanted, the kind who would take the fight to the enemy, who would accept risk in order to bring the war to an end more quickly. It was kill or be killed, and Tommy Welch was good at it and lucky. Tory has brought his uncle back to life, using his war time letters he paints a clear picture of a confident, maybe even cocky, young American fighting man.
Tory also takes us back in time, with his extensive use of period materials, to provide us a better understanding of the Army of WWII, and the America of those times. Almost 70 years have passed since the war ended, very few of the Greatest Generation are still among us, and few younger Americans have had the privilege of knowing a WWII veteran. The America of the 1940s doesn’t exist anymore, and it is difficult to put ourselves into the shoes of the men and women who rose to the occasion to defeat Nazism in Europe and preserved American freedom while aiding the Nations of Europe to regain their liberty.
Tommy’s post-war years show a restless man who appears to have been unable to come to closure with the sudden end to his part in the war. He seems to have been a man who found himself while mastering the challenges and the risks of combat. After the intense combat he experienced it is clear little in a peaceful world, in a tidy civilian existence, could provide him the adrenaline rush he needed and only experienced in combat. In today’s America it is probable many young men returning to civilian life after time in Iraq and/or Afghanistan face the same challenge.
Tory is extremely fortunate to have spent time with Tommy – what college kid would not love an uncle who would show him the ropes in the necessary, if not always openly discussed, social skills of young men? And we are extremely fortunate that Tory has chosen to share his deep affection for his uncle with us through this lovingly written and well-researched book. I am honored he has given me the privilege of writing this introduction.
Author’s note: LTC Stoy is a graduate of the US Military Academy at West Point and a thirty year veteran of the US Army. He is a historian of the 3rd Infantry Division and the 15th Infantry Regiment.