In 1917, Polish immigrant Stanley Lane enlisted in the Army on his 16th birthday. When his age was discovered he was offered a discharge, but he refused. His unit was shipped overseas but Lane was not permitted to go because of then-existing regulations restricting non-citizens from serving overseas. Thus, he performed his service in the United States, serving in the cavalry and field artillery. He was discharged shortly after the end of the Great War. Lane became a United States citizen in 1919 and promptly reenlisted. He saw duty at many Army posts including Panama, Hawaii, Alaska and Fort Meyer, Virginia.
During the Second World War, Lane, by now Lieutenant Colonel, served with General Eisenhower’s advance forces in England and later as part of the U.S. forces that invaded North Africa in 1942. He was rotated to the home front just prior to the Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion of Normandy. Lane served as director of a department at the Army Quartermaster School at Fort Lee during most of the war in Korea. After three decades of service in the U.S. Army, Lane retired in 1955. The following is excerpted from an interview with Colonel Lane conducted on 13 December 2001:
“I was born in Warsaw, Poland, in the Jewish ghetto. And the date, October 1, 1901. After I was here [in the United States] and went through the eight grade in the school and, well, the war broke out in 1914, and we read a lot about it in the paper. And in 1917, I was 16 years old exactly, and I enlisted on October 17th, 1917. I was exactly 16 years old.
“[My family] didn’t know about it until later on, after I left. I didn’t tell them I was going. Maybe my brother knew, but I went without telling anybody. I didn’t want anybody to know I was going to do such a thing, because they wouldn’t approve of it, which they didn’t. Later on they—I think they got the Red Cross to get me out. And the Red Cross did come with a service of some kind while I was in Texas, saying that I could get a discharge if I wanted it. And I refused to take it. So we just stayed there to finish things out. I enlisted in the cavalry, and I thought that was the greatest thing going because I’d get a horse and maneuver on horse. And a great deal of my reading books in the library, I read a great many of them by Zane Grey, who was the author of a lot of these scouting books. And I thought that was the greatest thing. I could be a scout. I could learn that and be a trooper and something else. Well, I did. They sent me to Fort Oglethorpe; it was my first assignment. And that was the home of the 11th Cavalry. But at that time they broke it up, and they formed the 22nd Cavalry and the 23rd Cavalry. So I got into the 22nd, and I was in headquarters troop of the 22nd Cavalry. And we just stayed there about six months or so, and then they moved the whole business down to Texas, to a place called China Springs. It’s a little town outside of Waco. We stayed there for about six months or so. And then during that time, they changed us to field artillery, horse-drawn field artillery. I was in Headquarters Battery of the 80th Field Artillery at that time. And then from there we went to Fort McClellan, Alabama. The reason we went there was to get some training in mountain-type artillery practice, which we did.
“A requirement of going overseas was that I would be a citizen, and I was not a citizen at that time. So during our time in Alabama, when we were scheduled to go overseas, they brought in a federal judge there to grant citizenship to anybody who wanted it. In my instance, all I remember is about 15 or 20 of us came there to go before this federal judge. And they all went there individually, and I suppose they got their citizenship. But when I came there, he said no. So I didn’t get any citizenship. And that’s why I couldn’t go overseas, because there was a law that prevented it. And so then they sent me to another organization that stays in the States. It was called the Development Battalion. And when I got in there I became a corporal right away. And I got to be an acting supply sergeant and so on in relatively few months. I was only 17 years old.
“But I’ll tell you what happened to me there. During our stay there, I, as a corporal, and there’s a sergeant was with me and another private was with me, the three of us, we went to — we took a trip to Birmingham. We were near Birmingham, from Anniston, Alabama, to Birmingham. And so during that period — it was on a weekend. We left the camp about Friday afternoon and came back on Monday afternoon, all three of us together. And we had some experiences on the way, the car getting stuck in the mud. We hired a driver, and he pulled us. Anyway, when I came back, I was charged with one day of being AWOL. See? Now, actually, I wasn’t AWOL at all. I came back on Monday late in the afternoon. We were back in the unit about four o’clock in the afternoon.”
We honor you, Stanley Lane.
(#Repost @National Museum of the United States Army)