Louisiana military maneuvers
In 1940-41, the sounds of battle rang out over the countryside of central Louisiana as troops and future military leaders "rehearsed" for the real thing.
Blue and Red battled each other for dominance, land, and supplies. Troops camped in the fields and woods as well as on courthouse lawns and people’s yards, forded rivers and bayous, and shot at each other with wooden “rifles.” Modern air support combined with horse-mounted cavalry and motorcycle cavalry as each army maneuvered for victory.
Men who would later become leaders during World War II strode through these woods, stayed in the Leesville Hotel and planned campaigns – men like Dwight D. Eisenhower, George Patton, George Marshall and Omar Bradley. Many others, 400,000 of them, not so famous, slogged up and down central Louisiana participating in mock battles in the woods and towns.
Many people here have memories of the maneuvers. One widely told story concerns Gen. George Patton and Lt. Gen. Walter Krueger: Lt. Gen. Krueger, commanding the Red Army, crossed the Sabine River into Louisiana. The Red Army promptly stalled and was unable to continue its invasion. Gen. Patton had bought all the available gasoline in the area with IOUs, leaving Lt. Gen. Krueger stranded. Others tell of tanks rumbling through town and blocking traffic as a battle was fought, and that truces between the red and blue armies were declared at lunchtime so that everyone could eat. Bombs were actually sacks of flour dropped by dive bombers. Battles took place in yards, and courthouse lawns, on town streets, and deep wooded areas.
A documentary about the Louisiana Maneuvers is now available from the Vernon Parish Tourism Commission. VHS copies are $20 each. For more information or to order a copy please call 337-238-0783 or email email@example.com.