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That time a beer wasn't just a beer.
November 25, 2013 10:13 AM   Subscribe

65 years ago Vincent Speranza filled his helmet with beer to provide refreshment to some wounded in Belgium in WWII. Visiting in 2009 to commemerate the 65th anniversary of the battle, Vince learned that his act was immortalized on the label of Bastogne’s Airborne beer. The beer is typically served in ceremonial helmets.
posted by COD (33 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
“They’ve opened up another chapter [in my life]… I feel like I’m home again.”

This guy certainly deserves it. What a great story.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 10:26 AM on November 25, 2013


Very cool story. It's always touching and a little mind-blowing to hear first-hand accounts of events from WWII from vets who are still alive and kicking.
posted by Atom Eyes at 10:33 AM on November 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


The man they call Vincent!

He ran to the tavern in a war with no fear,
He found a working tap and filled his helmet with beer.
Our love for him now, fondly reminiscent,
The hero of Bastogne, the man they call Vincent!
posted by samsara at 10:35 AM on November 25, 2013 [15 favorites]


Now with 10% more hair.
posted by stormpooper at 10:43 AM on November 25, 2013


Damn, that's such a great story. Thanks so much for posting this!
posted by Pecinpah at 10:48 AM on November 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Great, just great!!
posted by Mr.Me at 10:52 AM on November 25, 2013


Now with 10% more hair.

And 100% less lice!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:54 AM on November 25, 2013


There's a reason beer has been the go to beverage for most of history. The right combination of refreshing, invigorating, intoxicating, and relatively aseptic when compared to other options available.
posted by Fezboy! at 11:06 AM on November 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Look at the look on his face as he poses with the beer. I just don't have the words. But I think some of the beer foam got in my eyes.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:10 AM on November 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Fezboy!: There's a reason beer has been the go to beverage for most of history. The right combination of refreshing, invigorating, intoxicating, and relatively aseptic when compared to other options available.

Also, the tavern probably had beer on tap, not wine.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:12 AM on November 25, 2013


Now that we have refrigeration, I'm so glad we humans haven't yet lost our knack for preserving spoilable foodstuffs through crafty manipulation of biology and chemistry. What would life be like without a good drink, cheese, sausages, jam, bacon, and pickles?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:14 AM on November 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also, the tavern probably had beer on tap, not wine.
posted by IAmBroom at 13:12 on November 25 [+] [!]


And thank god for that ;)

/WINEIST!
posted by Fezboy! at 11:22 AM on November 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hmm. He used the same helmet he used for his foxhole toilet. Cures what ails you I guess.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 11:22 AM on November 25, 2013


Nuts!
posted by MartinWisse at 11:31 AM on November 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


He used the same helmet he used for his foxhole toilet.

It's like the old joke about just renting beer in reverse.
posted by TedW at 11:32 AM on November 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is there anything beer can't do?
posted by drewbage1847 at 12:01 PM on November 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Cheers to the 501st/101st! (501st Signal checking in on this one.) Terrific post, and now I know what to seek for the empty space on my shelf.

(My story about retrieving beer for my wounded 101st comrades involved The Red Carpet Lounge, the 3rd Brigade returning after summer manuevers, happy hour prices, dance floor fights and bouncers with tear gas. Lots and lots of tear gas.)
posted by TomSophieIvy at 12:22 PM on November 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


One guess on the snack served with Airborne beer.
posted by arcticseal at 1:18 PM on November 25, 2013 [3 favorites]




Bastogne label link is broken -- 404.
posted by jadepearl at 3:08 PM on November 25, 2013


Try this for the label of Bastogne's Airborne beer link.
posted by Daddy-O at 3:36 PM on November 25, 2013


Not sure if everyone spotted this link in the comments at the Stripes article - goes to an archive of oral history interviews with Mr Speranza. Thanks for the great post!
posted by Abiezer at 4:31 PM on November 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


The label link is working as of the time stamp on this comment.
posted by COD at 5:48 PM on November 25, 2013


My big takeaway from this is that no matter how bad my days in the modern U.S. Army are, at least I've never had to shit in my helmet.
posted by A Bad Catholic at 8:27 PM on November 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, here are some more photos of Vincent Speranza visiting the 501st in Alaska.
posted by A Bad Catholic at 8:39 PM on November 25, 2013


at least I've never had to shit in my helmet

Did anyone actually ever shit in a helmet (pranks excluded)? Why would one do this anyway is there somemilitary necessity I'm unaware of? Why not just poo on the ground or in a hole? Cooking in a I steel helmet can see. Drinking or washing out of one, why not? But shitting in it?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:36 AM on November 26, 2013


Shitting in it would be a foxhole expediency when you're pinned down by artillery for an extended period of time. If you have to spend a day or three in a hole not much bigger than you and a few of your foxhole buddies, at some point, nature is going to call, and when it does, you don't want to be laying/sliding around in your own leavins...
posted by stenseng at 12:28 PM on November 26, 2013


laying/sliding around in your own leavins...

Oh, but putting them on your head, no big deal?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:39 PM on November 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think the notion would be, say for the old M1 helmet, remove the liner from the "steel pot," do your business in the "pot" for foxhole containment purposes, empty out the "pot" when time/safety allowed, rinse the pot with water/snow, wipe it down, reassemble.

From the Wikipedia entry: "The design of exterior metal led to some novel uses: When separated from the liner, the shell could be used as an entrenching tool, washbasin, bucket, and as a seat. The shell was also used as a cooking pot but the practice was discouraged, as it would make the metal alloy brittle."

Keep in mind, this is combat we're talking about... not the most pleasant or sanitary circumstances.
posted by stenseng at 1:02 PM on November 26, 2013


So I'm just trying to picture a time when you've got enough security to take off the shell, poop in it, toss the poop, rinse the shell and put it back onto the liner, but you don't feel safe enough to poop on a sheet of paper and toss that, or to slip out of your hole and poo behind a nearby bush. If you are too pinned down to poop anywhere else, why the hell would you take your helmet off? Your helmet means a safe head, poop in the foxhole means stinky boots.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 1:12 PM on November 26, 2013


Also, if you presumably dug the hole with your entrenching tool, why not just poop on that and caca-pult it?

Also, this guy finds it dubious too.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 1:15 PM on November 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'll take the word of the guy who was actually there that he used his in the fashion. Anecdata, but my grandfather was in Italy and Africa with the Allied tank corps in WWII, and he also mentioned this happening from time to time as well.
posted by stenseng at 1:51 PM on November 26, 2013


Sure, but... some of them were doing that before the war, too.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:56 AM on November 27, 2013


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