Open main menu

Colonel Harry Albert "Paddy" Flint (February 12, 1888 – July 24, 1944) was an officer of the United States Army during World War II. Although at 56 years of age he was considerably older than was generally acceptable for field-grade front-line infantry officers, he is most known for leading the 39th Infantry Regiment from its service in Sicily until he was mortally wounded six weeks after D-Day.[1]

Harry Albert Flint
Harry Albert Paddy Flint (US Army Colonel).jpg
Flint in front of the 39th Infantry Regiment headquarters, with the famous AAA-O slogan on display
Nickname(s)"Paddy"
Born(1888-02-12)February 12, 1888
St. Johnsbury, Vermont
DiedJuly 24, 1944(1944-07-24) (aged 56)
Caen, France
AllegianceUnited States United States of America
Service/branchUnited States Army seal United States Army
Years of service1912–1944
RankUS-O6 insignia.svg Colonel
Commands held56th Armored Infantry Regiment
Headquarters Detachment, 2nd Armored Division
39th Infantry Regiment
Battles/warsWorld War I
World War II
AwardsDistinguished Service Cross (2)
Silver Star (3)
Legion of Merit
Purple Heart

Contents

Early lifeEdit

Harry Albert Flint was born in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, on February 12, 1888, the third of seven children born to Mabel and Charles G. Flint.[2] Inspired by stories of returning veterans of the Spanish-American War, by age 11 was decided upon a military career.[2]

Flint was educated in St. Johnsbury, and graduated from St. Johnsbury Academy in 1907.[3] He took the entrance examination for the United States Military Academy (West Point), and scored well, but there were no vacancies, so he did not receive an appointment.[3] He attended Norwich University for six months in preparation to enter West Point, and in May 1907 he was appointed to the United States Naval Academy.[3] He attended the Naval Academy until March 1908, when he received an appointment to West Point.[3]

Flint graduated from West Point in 1912, ranked 41st of 95.[3] He received his commission as a second lieutenant in the 4th Cavalry.[3]

Start of careerEdit

Flint served initially with the 4th Cavalry at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii and in Manila, Philippines.[3] During the Pancho Villa Expedition of 1916, Flint was stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas, and his request for service on the border with Mexico was turned down. When it appeared that the United States would enter World War I in 1917, Flint transferred to the Field Artillery, hoping this would facilitate an assignment to a combat unit.

World War IEdit

Flint served in France during World War I, and his regiment provided replacements soldiers for units on the front lines. After the Armistice, he joined the Third Army -- the Army of Occupation -- in Koblenz, Germany.[2] Flint performed several staff assignments, including employing his Cavalry background to serve as a remount officer.[2] He received the Czechoslovak War Cross 1918 from a grateful Czech government, which appreciated his honesty when buying and selling horses.[2] Flint was also commended by his commander after he prevented the detonation of a trainload of high explosives during a fire at an ammunition dump by taking over the controls of a switch engine and maneuvering the train through the flames to safety.[2]

Post-World War IEdit

Flint returned to the United States in 1921, and his post-war assignments included: instructor at the Cavalry School; attendance at the General Service School and Command and General Staff School, and professor of military science at the New Mexico Military Institute.[2] He attended Ecole Supérieure de Guerre in Paris and became fluent in French.[2] Flint also performed staff duty on the office of the chief of Cavalry and at the Air Corps Tactical School.[2] After serving with the 1st Cavalry Regiment at Ft. Knox, Kentucky from 1933 to 1935, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel as head of the ROTC program at the University of Illinois.[2] From 1939 to 1941, Flint served with the 5th Cavalry Regiment.[2]

World War IIEdit

Assigned to the 2nd Armored Division, Flint commanded the 56th Armored Infantry Regiment, for which he received the Legion of Merit.[2] Later assigned to the U.S. II Corps, Flint took part in the invasion of North Africa as part of the corps G-3 (operations and training) staff and as a liaison officer to the French headquarters in Algiers.[2] For his service with the French, Flint received the Legion of Honor (Chevalier).[2]

Hoping for a combat assignment despite his advanced age, Flint approached II Corps commander Omar Bradley directly in April 1943, shortly before the invasion of Sicily (Operation Husky) and requested combat duty.[2] Soon afterwards, Flint was assigned as commander of the 2nd Armored Division's Headquarters Detachment.[2]

39th Infantry RegimentEdit

In mid-July 1943, Flint was appointed to command the 39th Infantry Regiment while fighting was still ongoing in Sicily.[2] The 39th Infantry had fought in North Africa and Sicily, and had sustained numerous casualties.[2] In addition, the regimental commander had to be evacuated after breaking his leg in an accident.[2] The 39th Infantry was a unit of the 9th Infantry Division; when division commander Manton Eddy requested a new commander for the 39th Infantry Regiment, Bradley recommended Flint, and Eddy accepted.[2] Flint took immediate steps to restore the regiment's morale and fighting spirit.[2] He gained notoriety for some activities, with Seventh Army commander George S. Patton commenting at one point that "Paddy Flint is clearly nuts, but he fights well."[4] In a letter to his wife Beatrice, written on June 17, 1944, Patton wrote, prophetically: "Paddy is in and took a town. He expects to be killed and probably will be."[5]

Flint led his regiment during continued fighting in Sicily, including the Battle of Troina, for which he received the Distinguished Service Cross.[2]

AAA-OEdit

The 39th Infantry regiment's slogan, "Anything, Anytime, Anywhere - Bar Nothing", also known as the Triple-A Bar Nothing slogan, was given to the regiment by Colonel Flint. This slogan, in which the regiment took great pride, was displayed on their helmets and vehicles, even in combat. Using such readily identifiable markings was against orders, as they could give the enemy valuable intelligence as to the units and leaders they faced in battle, but Flint disregarded the risk, declaring, "The enemy who sees our regiment in combat, if they live through the battle, will know to run the next time they see us coming." When Flint received command of the regiment it was somewhat of a lackluster outfit, but his enthusiasm and this slogan helped to turn it into an effective fighting unit.

The best example of useful gimmickry during World War II was the "AAA-O" of Paddy Flint. When Colonel Flint assumed command of the 39th Infantry in Sicily in 1943, it was not a good fighting outfit. Paddy immediately had "AAA-O" stenciled on the helmet of every man in the regiment.

When questioned by his corps commander, who had issued orders against such stenciling on helmets, Paddy explained, "That means anything, anywhere, any time bar nothing." It was so-explained by General Omar N. Bradley in A Soldier's Story, but junior officers in the 39th, said they could lick, "Anybody, anyplace, any time bar none." Regardless of the version, it worked, and Flint made the 39th one of the best-fighting outfits in Europe.[6]

The AAA-O slogan also showed up in a strange stamp cancellation that had some people wondering what on earth it meant. Apparently, Paddy's 39th Infantry had so impressed the German Army that they used the unit's slogan/logo on a pseudo-cancellation on a propaganda postage stamp. An article by Jerry Jensen, "A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words" at the Wayback Machine (archived October 12, 2007), explains the story.

Normandy invasionEdit

Flint commanded his regiment throughout fighting in Normandy after arriving on Utah Beach at D-Day plus four.[2] He became known for his "lead from the front" style and fearless demeanor; he received three awards of the Silver Star for heroism in France.[2]

On July 23, 1944, the 39th Infantry was advancing on the Saint-Lô-Périers road when it was held up by heavy mortar fire.[2] Leading from his customary place on the front, Flint and a rifle patrol soon discovered a German pillbox. Flint reported the location by radio and called for tank support.[2] When the tank arrived, Flint rode atop it as it sprayed the hedgerows with machine gun fire.[2] After the tank driver was wounded, Flint dismounted and continued to advance with the rifle patrol.[2]

Death and BurialEdit

Flint was hit by a sniper's bullet as led the patrol into the shelter of a farmhouse during the fighting on the Saint-Lô-Périers road.[2] Medical aid men and stretcher bearers evacuated him to a treatment area behind the lines, where Flint died the following day.[2] He was buried at United States Military Cemetery No. 2 in Ste-Mere-Eglise, France.[3] In 1948, Flint was reinterred at Section 2, Site 310 of Arlington National Cemetery.[3] For the action in which he was killed, Flint received a second award of the Distinguished Service Cross.[2]

FamilyEdit

In August 1912, Flint married Sallie Helena Emery of Chelsea, Vermont, whom he met while both were students at St. Johnsbury Academy.[3] They were the parents of a daughter, Sallie.[3]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Anything, Anytime, Anywhere Bar Nothing: Remembering "Paddy" Flint -- Journal of America's Military Past Spring 1997 (ppg 52-66), Summer 1997 (ppg 71-81) and Fall 1997 (ppg 61-71)
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae McConnell, Patrick (September 16, 2018). "Harry A. Flint, COL, USA". USNAmemorialhall.org. United States Naval Academy Virtual Memorial Hall.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Reed, Jim (June 1, 2014). "Colonel Harry A. "Paddy" Flint". History & Heritage. St. Johnsbury, VT: St. Johnsbury History & Heritage Center.
  4. ^ Patton's Quotes
  5. ^ Patton Papers, Library of Congress, box 18
  6. ^ Leadership for the 1980s, an article in the Air University Review, September/October 1983

External linksEdit