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Ernie’s Goat: A World War II Memory from E.F. Lankin

Ernie Lankin WWII pics

February 20, 2013

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This delightful submission was from our reader Jack Stiff. It was written by his wife’s uncle.


I met her in the battleground of Normandy, France. We were pushing hard to drive the enemy back to Germany. It wasn’t easy.

It was approaching dawn; dawn and dusk are the critical times for attacks from the enemy. I heard a noise a few feet away. I had a grenade ready to throw. I heard a small cry. I could see the outline of what appeared to be an animal. My partner must have heard the same sound. It got lighter so then we were sure of what it was. It was a goat. On closer inspection, it was a big nanny goat.  She seemed glad to see us, though she was still crying.

We were puzzled until one of our men, who was raised on a farm, said she was badly in need of milking.

Our men got busy milking as soon as we were sure no attack was being formed. Our cook made a big brew of coffee, and what a difference the rich goat’s milk made.

We knew that we would be moving forward in the attack. I was concerned how we would take      care of the goat and our precious milk supply. We had liberated a Bren gun carrier that had belonged to the British. We removed five dead from the carrier, took their dog tags and sent them to the Padre, giving location. We cleaned and disinfected the carrier, and painted our own numbers on it. This was going to be transportation for our livestock. We built a ramp to get her up and into the carrier. She could now travel in style.

The drive was on. Some days we dug up to six or more slit trenches in a day.

This was a time when you were glad you spent time sharpening your shovel blade. There was always a trench dug for the goat, our mascot and provider of our milk. Each day we found enough for her to eat, and when possible, gave her a little attention.

We had been under heavy artillery fire, mortar fire and even the dreaded 88mm. That is probably the worst of the German weapons. We had also been fired on by machine guns and aircraft.

Our goat stood up well. We had come 100 miles in the last few days, and had arrived in the city of Nijmegen, in Holland. We took over houses for shelter, and a place to clean up, get some cooked food, and some rest.

E. F. Lankin WWII

Nanny was happy. She had been staked out in a vegetable garden and had a good shed to sleep in.

Our men were in out posts 24 hours a day, looking out for the enemy. There were patrols every night.

The Americans were having great problems at the Battle of the Bulge. There was concern that if the Germans broke through the American lines, we would be next. But we were prepared for just about anything. Then the word came through that we would be moving out to relieve the people of North Holland, who were in a bad way from lack of food and medical supplies.

We left nanny staked out in the vegetable garden at the house in Nijmegen Holland. She seemed sorry to see us go. I think of her and hope she found a good home.

About the Author(s)

Jack Stiff

Ernie Lankin was Jack's wife's uncle.

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