About Tim

Timothy M. Gay is a writer based in northern Virginia. His essays and articles on the Civil War, politics, baseball, college basketball, and golf have appeared in USA Today, the Washington Post, and other publications.


3 Responses to “About Tim”

  1. Tim Gay Says:

    I’ve been awful about keeping this thing updated. But now that ASSIGNMENT has been out for a few weeks, I should have a bit more time to blog. I’ve had some success in placing columns and features about ASSIGNMENT around the country. But here’s one’s piece that I couldn’t find a home for. It tells the story of Sgt. Odell “Buster” Tedrow.Rockport Medic Buster Tedrow Hid in an Oven from

    The Nazis – And Lived to Patch Up More Wounded

    by Timothy M. Gay

    When Odell “Buster” Tedrow, a native of Rockport, Illinois, joined the U.S. Army’s medical corps after graduating from Pleasant Hills High in the early 1930s, he never imagined that a decade later his exploits would become front- page news. Or that a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist would recount his death-defying tale to the world.
    But that’s what happened in Sicily in August 1943, thanks to the appetite for fame of the U.S. Seventh Army’s commander, Lieutenant General George S. Patton.
    Tedrow’s humble background was as far removed from George Patton’s privileged and martial upbringing as a soldier can be. Buster was the unlikeliest of heroes; he had come into this world in 1915, the child of an unwed teenaged mother. Even after his mother married a man not his father, she couldn’t afford to care for Buster.
    A kindly aunt whose family lived in rural Rockport raised Buster as her own. He graduated from high school in the teeth of the Great Depression and smartly joined the Army. His training as a medical corpsman proved invaluable when the U.S. entered World War II. Tedrow was made a staff sergeant and sent to the Mediterranean Theater along with the rest of the Third Divison in the fall of 1942.
    On August 10, 1943, Tedrow found himself behind enemy lines outside the tiny Sicilian village of Brolo on the Tyrrhenian coast. Tedrow and a group of other medics had been assigned to the Third Division’s Second Battalion, a special commando unit that – at Patton’s insistence over the objections of his then-deputy, General Omar Bradley – had been deposited in a nighttime beach assault on the Nazi stronghold at Monte Cipolla.
    The craggy 700-foot high hill stood between Patton and glory: the capture of Messina, Hitler’s last outpost on the island of Sicily, directly across the narrow strait from the Italian mainland. Patton and British commander Bernard Montgomery were engaged in an unseemly race for Messina – and to dominate the global press coverage that would inevitably follow. To make sure that the world knew who had authorized the dicey amphibious operation, Patton’s public relations officers had arranged for a number of correspondents to accompany the commandoes, one of whom was the New York Herald Tribune’s Homer Bigart.
    Staff Sergeant Tedrow’s job upon hitting the beach in the early morning hours of August 10th was to help set up a field hospital at the base of the mountain. “At dawn, when the shooting began,” Bigart wrote, “[Tedrow] set out with a stretcher party in search of wounded men.”
    Communications and picket lines were so slipshod that Tedrow and five other stretcher bearers were under the impression that Brolo, just down the road, was in friendly hands. It wasn’t.
    The six Americans stared, mouths agape, as they rounded a bend and came upon two swastika-bedecked German staff cars parked in front of a stone residence. Shots rang out; two of Tedrow’s cohorts were hit; the other three threw their hands up to surrender. Tedrow, however, dove between the cars and barged into the unoccupied house.
    “Tedrow found himself in the kitchen,” Bigart wrote. “A door leading to the interior part of the house was locked and he looked about frantically for some place to hide. There was only the big oven. Tedrow got down on his hands and knees and crawled into it.”
    German soldiers barged into the house looking for him. Tedrow wedged himself deeper into the oven and held his breath. One German yelled, in English, “American swine!”
    A few moments later, Tedrow heard car doors slam and glimpsed polished boots crossing the kitchen floor. It was an enemy colonel ordering his charges out.
    Tedrow prayed that the colonel and his staff wouldn’t want to bake anything for breakfast. Instead of preparing food, they were debating the merits of the German counterattack in and around Monte Cipolla.
    It was stifling hot in the oven; soon Tedrow had swallowed all the water in his canteen. “A sharp prong was digging into his back,” Bigart wrote. “He stood the agony as long as he could and finally, when the room emptied for a moment, he managed to squirm around and blunt the prong with his knife.”
    As a U.S. Navy cruiser blasted away at various points during the day, Tedrow felt the reverberations. He also heard American A-36s drop their bombs on Monte Cipolla, more than a few of which tragically struck U.S. GI’s. Tedrow heard the Germans chuckle about the Americans’ vulnerability. The Germans had driven the Americans out of the valley and were again directly linked to their front units five miles ahead. Tedrow could sense they were licking their chops about the prospect of reclaiming Cipolla.
    At 10 o’clock that evening though, a motorcycle courier roared up with bad news: the German’s inland line southwest of Brolo had been violated; a full-scale retreat to Messina was underway. Tedrow worried that the colonel would want to burn papers in the oven before heading east – but the sergeant’s luck held.
    “The staff cars roared away,” Bigart’s piece concluded. “A sudden wave of fatigue overcame Tedrow and he slept until dawn. When he awoke American jeeps were passing the house. He emerged and walked stiffly to the road.
    “In an orchard down the hill wounded men were moaning softly. They were his comrades, lying on cots beneath the trees.” Later that day Bigart heard about how a medic had secreted himself from the supposedly impervious Nazis, sought him out, and relayed his story to the world.
    Odell Tedrow lived to treat hundreds of wounded GIs in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations. He served with great distinction in Italy and later in the south of France. There’s a decent chance that he bumped into Homer Bigart once or twice more. As the war went on, Bigart became one of America’s most esteemed correspondents, winning the Pulitzer for his work in 1945. He covered hundreds of stories, but none quite as remarkable as Odell Tedrow’s.

    # # #

    Timothy M. Gay is the author of ASSIGNMENT TO HELL: The War Against Nazi Germany with Correspondents Walter Cronkite, Andy Rooney, A. J. Liebling, Homer Bigart, and Hal Boyle, now available from New American Library/Penguin. This article is adapted from the book.

  2. fred dugan Says:

    I enjoyed this book very much. One thing, however; on P. 446 Mr. Gay says “It infuriated reporters that Jackson, an experienced prosecutor, let Goring get away with it”. “It” being “out witting the chief prosecutor.”
    The fact is that it infuriated Jackson too, because the Chief Judge at Nuremburg allowed Goring to bypass the usual rules of cross-examination which usually holds witnesses to “yes and no” answers and allowed him to expound on his answers and philosophy. Many of those responses went on for quite sometime.

    I think it only fair to Justice Jackson reputation to point this out.

  3. Manny Says:

    I just finished reading Timothy M. Gay’s book Assignment to Hell. The editing was not good and it feels like it was rushed. Whoever did the fact checking on this book did not do a great job. This book was not well researched and could have been written better.

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