I got interested because the author, Bill Sefton, just passed on to glory recently and his grand daughter is a dear friend of mine, so when I heard that this 90+year old Grand Rapids advertising maven had written a book about his experiences in World War 2 as a paratroop officer on D-Day, I was ready to read! Bill was just a kid when he joined the army, and he wrote about his experiences with such candor and contagious humor that I kept laughing right up until the war became deadly. Sefton was ever innovative, able to think on the run and land on his feet. Two of my favorite stories were the time he caught and traded a big snapping turtle for some much-needed window bars to secure a jail he was guarding, and the time he convinced a naval supply officer to exchange a hedgehog (which would make such a perfect French mascot) for some crates of canned peaches. Bill survived the war, married a beautiful army nurse, and eventually settled in Grand Rapids, where he fathered ten children and developed the largest advertising business around. I’ve noticed that his book is now out of print and would cost somewhere between $74 and $200+ to buy, so I’m just going to share a few words of wisdom he learned from surviving the war (and life). I think these are sterling life lessons applicable for all of us. So, if you’ll permit me to quote:
“Morale and esprit de corps in a unit wax or wane in relation to the nature of experiences shared. If training is rigorous and challenging, troops feel good about their accomplishments. If it is undemanding and haphazardly conducted, they lose confidence in leaders, commanders, and themselves.”
“I learned never to underestimate the intelligence of my men. They will see through bluff and bluster, perceive and resent any cavalier attitude. They will respond favorably to discipline they consider consistent, fair, and pertinent. They will respect you in direct ratio to the consideration you exercise on their behalf.”
“The first time in combat is a traumatic experience. People you’ve never met are trying earnestly to kill you. The human tendency is to hug any cover available rather than expose yourself by returning fire. Only the intensity and effectiveness of previous training will modify that impulse.
When attacking enemy positions, audacity may well reduce your casualties. Hesitancy inevitably will increase them.”
“When your attack starts to falter and momentum hangs on your next decision, the only order to give is ‘Follow me!'”
“There is just one effective shield against the mental and emotional stresses of combat. It is the firm conviction that there is a Supreme Being who decides the extent of your survival. So you do your job to the best of your ability and let Him call the shots.”
“Most military principles of leadership applied in business enterprises as well. Maintain a positive attitude, assign attainable objectives and communicate the importance of accomplishing them, specify individual responsibilities and timing of reports on progress, praise successes in public and critique failures in private.”
Finally, Sefton finished with the “two most important lessons learned in combat. One is to thank God for every new day and to squeeze all possible juice out of it. The other is to keep forging ahead. It’s harder to hit a moving target.”Judging from what I’ve read and heard, I believe Bill Sefton was a man of his word, and despite the tongue-in-cheek title, I think It Was My War I’ll Remember it the way I want to! is a very uplifting and reliable resource for those of us who want to learn more about survival in both war and peace!
“Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday.” (Psalm 37:4-6)