Boilerplate Sighting 1944


This is an actual unedited submission.
I had to share it with BP partisans, enjoy!




Sid Richardson, 1944



Above: Richardson attempts to get his story told.
Below: Excerpt from Richardson's journal.
Paul,

I had to write to you about a sketch I recently found among my grandfather's things. He was a War Correspondent in WW2 and actually saw Boilerplate (or so he claimed) as a child, along with Teddy Roosevelt, apparently during his 1904 re-election bid.
Sid Richardson was a writer and sketch artist for the Associated press. He went in to Normandy right after D-Day with Howell Dodd and later worked alongside Bill Mauldin.

In 1944, he was covering the Japanese-American (Nisei) fight with the Germans in the Vosges mountains in France. After that battle, he headed back to the Hotel Scribe in Paris, where the Press Center for the European Theater of Operations was. Along the way he went through Varennes-en-Argonne. His Weapons Carrier broke down and he was thumbing a ride when a local farmer asked for a smoke and started a conversation. Finding out that Grampa was a reporter, the farmer took him to see the "mechanical man" that had been sitting on his farm since the teens.

Grampa was in a hurry, so he quickly sketched what he could, took a few notes and was going to write a story. When he got to Paris he wrote the story but the chief of the press center, a former Hollywood press man named Barney Oldfield canned the story and sent two goons from the Office of War Information (or maybe the OSS, the precursor of the CIA) to tell him to drop the story - permanently. He complained to the AP chiefs in Washington and New York but apparently was told to clam up. Eisenhower's office even threatened to pull his credentials and send him home which would have been a massive career blow. He wrote a few pages about it in the draft of a autobiography that he never finished.

My mother recently found his old map case which had some stuff in it, including his notebook with the sketch of what he thought was the robot rusting away against a tree. Mom could only find one page that Grampa wrote in the 1950s that mentioned the robot and he was very sure he'd seen Boilerplate's torso and right arm rusting away. He told Mom then that he had led cartoonist Bill Mauldin to the village but couldn't find the farmer or the farm. Mauldin and some of the others gave him quite a ribbing about the experience later on. Ernest Hemmingway had accused Grampa of seeing it only through a calvados-induced haze, but Gampa didn't drink (certainly Hemmingway had little room to talk).

He wrote a little on it but didn't mention anything to the family until the 1960s. I think he told me a little about it but as a kid, I was more interested in the cussing out he'd gotten from Patton and his friendships with famous people at the time. I sure wish I'd asked him more about it now. I don't think anything he ever had to say about Boilerplate ever got into print.

Enclosed are a few scans of the things I thought you'd be interested in. One is the only page from his writings that actually mentioned the aftermath of seeing the robot's remains, a copy of the telegram he sent to the AP begging them to help him post the story, a scan of the sketch itself and his notes, a photo of the stuff that led me to this discovery and the only photo I have of Grampa at the time. I think it was taken as part of a story written about him for the Elizabethton Star (a Tennessee newspaper) about being awarded a Purple Heart right before the Battle of the Bulge started.

Anyway, I hope this is all of interest to you. I know people laughed at him for thinking he'd seen Boilerplate rusting away and incomplete, but given the treatment he got from the Army and the location of the sighting (I found out it would have very been close to where Boilerplate's last battle in 1918 was), I don't think this should go unknown.

Grampa would have liked knowing someone knew of this after all these years. He was a good man and carried the bitterness of this to his grave. We heard the story as kids but never really thought much about it until your book came out and I started reading about Boilerplate. Grampa always used to talk about seeing it walk around the one time he saw it as a kid.

David Richardson


Thanks, David, for sending this material. The legend of Boilerplate continues...
Oh, and I'm a huge fan of Bill Mauldin!

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