Curries small convoy turned south towards Mak’tar at the town of LeKef and important crossroads in Northern Tunisia held by Allfrey and the British Corp. The trip so far had been uneventful; however, the closer they came to the front the reports of the big guns grew louder and the acrid smell of burnt powder became more and more noticeable. The road was scattered with the burnt-out hulls of trucks and tanks and the ever tale tell craters of bombs and artillery shells that made the harsh landscape an even more terrible place. The convoy wound its way through the craters and burnt hulls toward their destination.
Currie turned around in his seat, he caught the eye of Bailey who was riding in the ½ track behind him. He made the motion of a plane and pointed up, then pointed to his eyes and pointed up again. Bailey nodded and unlocked the 50 cal MG, he pulled the loading bar twice. He began to scan the skies for enemy aircraft. Currie glanced back at the armored car as it zigged around a bomb crater. Harrison was manning the 50 cal MG on the turret and scanning the skies around him.
Currie pulled the locking pin from the 30 cal, bolted to the jeep at the windshield collar so it would be ready. Kovac left the road and headed east across the flat grassy plain toward Pinchon and General Ryder’s HQ. Kovac slowed to a crawl and followed the 12” tall triangular shaped green flags fastened to a piece of wire thin steel. The flags marked the cleared path through the minefield. Ahead engineers were clearing and widening the path every hundred feet or so was a stack of Tellar antitank mines and personnel mines and a few Italian devil egg mines all left by the Germans as presents, deadly little presents. A group of MPs’ guarding the road flagged down Curries patrol and waved him off into a cork oak tree grove. The Generals headquarters was another 600 yards up the road in what looked like an abandoned farmhouse and barns. Currie climbed out of the jeep only to hear the pa-ting-zing of a ricocheting rifle bullet. The MP in the oak grove told him to stay low and follow him.
“Top, find Bailey and Jones have them break out baby, find those snipers, and stop them.”
“You ready Captain, General Ryder is expecting you.”
“Just a minute Sergeant, give my men a minute to set up,” Currie watched Bailey and Jones and three more soldiers with binoculars position themselves. “Ok Sarge I am ready.” Currie in a crouched position followed the Sergeant, each time the sergeant-stopped Currie would raise his helmet into the clear on the end of his carbine and then lower it, then raise it slightly again, pa-ting-zing another round ricocheting off the low stonewall.
“Damn it. Captain, you going to get us killed, keep your head down sir.”
The sergeant bolted ahead at a low squatting run, stopping abruptly behind a large rock to catch his breath. Currie followed him exposing a little more of himself, then he should have a bullet ricocheted off the wall and thumped on his helmet. Currie took his position behind the rock with the sergeant.
“Wait here a few minutes Sergeant let my men find them.” Currie put his helmet on his rifle’s barrel, raised it above the rock, and held it there. Currie heard the boom that belched from the barrel of baby; he heard another boom followed by two more.
“What the hell was that Captain?”
“A little relief sergeant, a little relief, we can go now.” The sergeant began running as fast as he could and dove behind the next rock. Currie held his helmet up again; he heard a whistle he turned to see Kovac waving the all clear sign. Currie waved back then rose and walked to where the sergeant was, “come on Sarge, the General awaits.”
“What the fuck, Captain, our boys been trying to get that sniper for a week. They say he is out there about 1000 yards or so.”
“Sarge he wasn’t out there far enough to be out of my reach.” The two of them walked the rest of the 400 yards to the farmhouse without a single shot fired at them.
“Get down you fools! There is a sniper out there,” a Lt. Col said, snaking his way along a low wall.
“Col, the Captain’s men got him a few minutes ago,” the sergeant said, helping the Lieutenant colonel up.
“My boys are still, watching, but for right now the snipers in that position are dead might change soon enough though.” Currie saluted the Col and headed toward the farmhouse.
Within minutes after reaching the farmhouse, everyone knew that Curries men had killed the snipers that harassed the left flank of the house.
Currie reported to General Ryder and outlined his mission. Ryder listened and finally raised his hand.
“Captain Currie, whatever you need ask for it, and if we can help you, we will, and thanks for the relief taking out those snipers. Are you sure you couldn’t do something about the 2 or 3 other snipers on the right side of the HQ?” Ryder said smirking.
“Sure general, you have someone that can show me how to get up to that rock outcrop on the side of the hill behind the house.”
“You Sergeant,” the General hollered.
“Yes, sir General.”
“Take Captain Currie here to the OP up on the hill.”
Sergeant is there a road to the top.
“There is a road that will get you about all the way up to the top, then you have a quarter mile walk to that outcrop.
“We’ll go that way.”
Captain Currie and the sergeant walked back to the oak grove.
“Wind them up Top, the Sarge here will show you the way to the top of the hill.” Currie climbed in the ½ track taking his seat up front, “good shooting boys, now let’s get the rest; there are 2 or 3 more snipers out there. The General wants us to rid him of the vermin.”
Bailey laughed and patted baby, “it’ll be a pleasure sir.”
The sergeant took them to the opposite side of the hill the road turned into a narrow path about as wide as the jeep. The ½-track chewed the dirt off the side of the embankment as Jones fought the steering wheel trying to keep the ½ track on the narrow path following Kovac. Kovac turned to the left, headed into a small grove of trees, and stopped. The rest of the unit pulled into the tree line and out of sight.
Currie crouched down and made a zig zag run to a group of large boulders. Below him and to the right was the OP the Sergeant had spoken of, the terrain between the boulders and the OP was open, broken up by a cluster of bushes or piles of rocks. Making your way to the OP by day light would let every kraut that was watching know where you were, and where you were going.
“Sergeant, is there another way to the OP?”
“Yes sir,” the Sergeant pointed to the trees and said there is a path to the OP, but you are just as exposed there as if you were going to the OP from here.” Currie looked around and headed off to the right, down the slope to a dense copse about 30 yards below. As soon as Currie entered the copse he disappeared, Kovac was right behind him and he disappeared just as Currie had. The Sergeant watched in disbelief.
A head appeared above the thicket, Kovac signaled for Jones and Bailey to follow and then signaled for two more to follow them – Jones and Bailey took off towards the thicket, the MP slipped into the thicket.
The thicket looked from the outside like an impenetrable tangle of brush, but that was only the illusion, the bushes themselves grew in clusters and clumps and over the centuries, the Arab goats had made tunnels and large covered bedding areas all through the thicket.
The men made their way to the edge of the cliff and the edge of the thicket, the cliff fell off some 100 feet to the bottom. To the left and 20’ feet below them and about 50’ away was the OP. Currie could see three men they were laid back in the shade sitting on crates and the 4th man sweeping his binoculars to the left and to the right, as fast as he was moving the glasses the only objects he was likely to find were objects the size of houses. Currie was about to yell at them when he heard a ba-zing and saw rock chips fly from the rocks around the OP, the three men rolled off the crates and onto the rock staking cover. The fourth man ducked behind a boulder and covered his head with his hands. Within seconds, two more ba-zings were heard, and more rock chips flew O.P.
“Set up here Bailey, use the extension tubes on the scopes. “
Currie sat up the periscope range finding scope he swept the area. “They’re less than 800 yards if they’re using their 7.92 mm, it falls off after 800 yards, and it isn’t worth spit at 1000 yards,” he muttered.
Jones had the 50 x Navy binoculars, Currie was on the ranging scope, and Macy and Patterson were filling sandbags and pushing rocks toward the cliff edge.
“Jones, straight out, 600 yards, 2 rocks and bushes, a small wisp of dust trailing off to your right, another wisp of dust.” I got it sir.
Ok Bailey, 20 to the right, 30 down from the large boulder and bush – there is a bush split down the middle.
“I have it.”
Ok – 20 more right, tree stump, ok now drop 20 to rocks, bushes, 3 rocks string of bushes.
“I got it.”
“Puff of dust,”
“Rabbits, two fucking rabbits,”
Bailey shifted the weapon. “I see the rabbits now; hey they look like they are tied up. Bailey shifted his weapon to the right, “I have a scope right end of the brush before the rock.”
“I see it,” Jones dialed in the binoculars, “3 men one shooter.”
“665 yards Bailey,” Currie said. “They are all yours,” Bailey flipped off the safety took a deep breath, let it out and squeezed the trigger; the gun roared and recoiled. Bailey set up again ejecting the spent shell.
Jones and Currie watched as the dirt erupted in front of the bush and in an instant, a body flew into the air along with a rifle that cartwheeled over the body.
Bailey sighted back in for time to see the body hit the ground and he fired again, this time a rock exploded, a second man rolled back along the ground his head was snipped off his body by the round. The third man jumped up and ran, Bailey reloaded took careful aim and squeezed the trigger; the man in full run did a double flip when the bullet struck him dead center in his back.
The men in the OP dove for cover by the reports of the 50-caliber gun and were still hiding when the MP Sergeant yelled down to them that everything was ok. One of you guys get over to the OP and draw their fire, the rest of you stay here.
“Hey Captain, about 2000 straight out is two tanks there are three krauts standing on the turret; let’s see what baby and I can do.”
“We are here to kill the enemy, have at it, just don’t waste time and ammo on something you know is way out of range or have any hope of success hitting.”
“Excuse me Captain, what is the range to the target? Just to the left of that rock outcrop straight out from us maybe 2 points to the left.”
Currie twisted the knobs sighted the cross hairs on the target, “there are 2 tanks side by side, 3 men on the turrets, rang 2140 yards.”
Bailey twisted the focus ring on the scope, then shifted his body and settled in, “I see those bastards, Bailey began to breathe deeply, he sucked in a long breath, slowly let it out, he stopped breathing at the same instant the gun roared. Jones began to count, “1 thousand, two thousand, three thousand, missed, too high, I didn’t see any impact out front.”
Bailey shifted his position, cycled the bolt, and loaded another round, he sucked in a deep breath and slowly began letting it out the cannon roared again.
“1 thousand, 2 thousand, 3 thousand, 4 thousand, bulls-eye, one down,” Jones said.
The two remaining Germans dove down the hatches of their tanks. The krauts fired their guns, the rounds traveling at a chest high distance off the ground, immediately picked up the dust and sand in the vacuum of the high velocity round as it crossed the desert, the chest high wall of dust had an eerie green glow caused by the tracer magnesium burning in its tail. The shells exploded at the base of the cliff causing little damage or no damage. However, they gave their position away and within minute’s artillery shells began to rain down on the two tanks, the forward artillery observers in the OP were on the phone adjusting the fire of the guns several miles behind them.
“Ok, we are done here, we can go now,” Currie said folding up his range finding scope. The men packed up the equipment and began moving back through the thicket. “Damned good shooting Bailey, damned good.”
Currie climbed the slope, walked to the boulders and then walked to the edge of the cliff, directly above the O.P. surveyed the desert and then made his way back to the vehicles.
“Currie fired up a camel – “you know, Top, they are going to put snipers back into that position tonight. Why don’t you take some men out and surprise them when they show up? Yes sir, Kovac said. I’ll take a few mines too; they will give the next krauts a pleasant surprise as well.”
“Good idea. Top, that is a splendid idea.”
The rumble of artillery detonation tapered off, then stopped, the smoke cleared except for the twin columns of greasy black smoke rising from the burning tanks.
“Scratch 2 tanks,” Bailey said.
An out of breath sweating, lieutenant burst into view. “Captain Currie, oh there you are, the General would like to see you as soon as possible.”
“Be right with Lieutenant.”
“Thank you, sir,” Oh please hurry sir.”
“Top, get everything in order for tonight,”
“I’ll take Bailey with me, let’s go, lieutenant, the General waits.”
“Yes, sir Captain,” I’ll be ready.
“Put someone in the OP with the 50-power scope, don’t let them sneak out to the spot before we get there to surprise them.”
“Lead the way lieutenant,” Currie fell in bind the Lieutenant, the MP Sergeant fell in behind Currie, and Bailey brought up the rear. The walk down the hill took about 15 minutes, when Currie reached the farmhouse, there were soldiers standing outside the barn and the farmhouse and all was quiet. Currie and the others strolled across the courtyard to the house. The men standing around waved to Currie and gave him the thumbs up and others nodded to him. General Ryder was standing in the farmhouse next to the door smoking a short stubby fat cigar.
Damned fine job Captain took what – two hours to get those peckerwoods, them peckerwoods have been pecking at us for the last 5 days, night and day, how in the hell did you find them so fast.
Currie looked at Bailey and winked. “Well sir, I just ordered this man to stand in the open and let the peckerwoods shoot at him, we located them and shot them.
“He is a brave man, but a little slow isn’t he, to be used as a target.”
“He is a brave man and a lot quicker than he looks.” Currie smiled, “actually sir he is the shooter and we got damned lucky. The kraut snipers got complacent and were careless, we were lucky, we saw them move, they weren’t 600 yards away and easy shot for Bailey.
“Good shot man, killed 3, 4 at that range, proud of you son, but what I want to know, how did you get these 2 tanks to fire and give away their position; the boys in the OP said you shot at them.”
“Just a couple of pot shots, General, Sir; it was pure luck just to see them, much less hit them,” Bailey said smiling.
“Well you boys did a good job at least now I can take a whiz without having to crawl to the latrine.
“Oh, there you are Colonel, you boys take care now.” The General sauntered off with the Colonel.
Currie looked at Bailey, we had to run down here just to hear that the General could walk to the latrine, hell Bailey, I thought all Generals had piss runners.
Sir, I hear some General, have Colonels that go piss for’ em.
Currie laughed, “yeah you might be right Bailey, you just might be right.”
“Let’s go up the hill, and keep the beasts at bay, so the general can walk upright to take a whiz… let’s go Bailey.”
“After you, sir.”
Bailey and Currie waked up the hill to the oak grove, they walked through the grove that showed the signs of war, twisted and splintered trunks, gashes torn in the bark, limbs snipped from the trunk by shrapnel, and the ground gouged and scarred by countless artillery shells shot by the Americans and Germans. However, the land, the hill, and the trees would be here long after the war was over, long after the combatants were gone.
Currie put it out of his mind and refocused it on the war. All along, the front things began to happen, the artillery barrage here followed by the movement of tanks and troops. The Germans would attack or reposition their troops and armor. The Americans and allies would reposition their lines to counter what they thought the Germans were doing, “a chess match,” an over matched chess game, the Germans were the masters of this type of warfare, and we were the beginners, or was it a game of cat and mouse, and we’re the mouse.
Currie reached the top of the hill. Kovac had six men ready to go out, the men were eating rations augmented with cheese and bread brought with them from Tebessa.
Currie pulled his knife, picked up the bread, and shaved off a good fist sized chunk of cheese, “try some of that Italian ham, it’s over there Captain,” Keyes said, and he flipped the towel off it. Currie laid the bread and cheese down and cut off several thick slices of the spiced ham, “thanks Keyes,” he picked up the cheese and bread and then walked to his jeep where he gorged himself.
Kovac’s patrol sat at the bottom of the hill waiting for the sun to drop enough to cast the hill’s shadow out past the sniper’s nest, but still be high enough to shine in the Germans faces, blinding them to the patrol’s actions.
Kovac’s patrol reached the spot where the sniper nest was, a shallow dished out area behind an exposed rock line dotted with small scrub bushes, and about 20 feet behind the rock line was a shallow narrow wadi leading off toward the east.
Kovac crawled to the first body, Baileys bullet had entered the body between the shoulder and the neck traveling parallel to the spine the bullet plowed a tunnel through the man’s chest and abdomen, finally exiting at the left hip joint and removing the man’s leg in the process.
The second body, the first one Bailey had shot the bullet entered the top of the head, the hydraulic shock blew the man’s head off then it exited his body about mid chest. The 50-caliber 750-grain bullet packed enough energy to lift the 150-pound man and throw him 10 feet from where he was shot.
The third body bent double backwards, the back of the man’s head touched one of his heels, and the bullet had cut him in half.
Kovac searched all the bodies most of the documents and maps were soaked in blood and tissue, none of it was useful, then he crawled to the wadi, it was about 4 feet wide and 2 feet deep. Dug into the embankment of the wadi was a little cubby hole containing a German sound powered phone. Kovac threw up his hand and put his index finger to his lips and made the quiet sign. He picked up the phone and showed it to the rest of the men.
Kovac scooped a hole in the sand with his hand, he carefully lifted the head set from the canvas bag; and laid it in the hole, to muffle any sounds they made in preparing their trap. The men dug shallow slit trenches on one side of the ravine about 10 feet apart to give them a margin of invisibility before springing their trap. Miller finished planting the last of the eight anti-personnel mines and slipped into his slit trench beside Kovac.
The sun had disappeared behind the horizon, the land was plunged into an eerie glowing darkness, and Kovac rolled to his side, looked up at the new moon, and then looked behind the moon to the stars. The blackness was everywhere, with tiny dots of intense light interrupting the darkness, just as the flashes of bright white light from the thundering artillery shells interrupted the dark horizon around him. Kovac laid flat on his belly and waited like the rest of his men did.
The waiting, the silence the cold night air, Kovac rested his chin on his hand that cradled his 45 cal pistol; he stared off into the blank face of the man beside him, Kovac could barely make out his outline in the darkness and this alone made him feel good. If he couldn’t see a man 10 foot from him then the Germans couldn’t see them either.
It was 0200 in the morning when the sound of crunching sand and the clink of metal was heard, Kovac was dusted by a handful of sand thrown on him from their left, he saw crouching figures, they would take 20 steps and then stop and listen, then another 20 steps and stop. Kovac saw movement across the ravine and then it stopped, his men were ready to take them alive or kill them, either way was ok with him, he then heard the sound of the phone being pulled from the sand, “that’s how they had found their way,” Kovac thought. From the time they first heard the three Germans, the time had seemed to stop, it seemed to take forever for the Germans to make their way to them.
Miller sprung the trap; he yelled out and leaped upon the middle German knocking him to the ground. Kovac and the others swarmed over them, wrestling them to the ground.
A muffled moof was heard and then a moan. Miller pushed himself off the German, clutching his belly, a bright flash of light lit up the area and a boom from the pistol rang out, the bullet caught Miller in the chest, he fell forward onto the German. The German had the pistol wrenched from his hand by Kovac. Kovac rolled Miller over felt for a pulse, there was none. They tied and gagged the three Germans and headed back to their lines.
“Get these men and Miller out of here, cover your tracks, I’ll set the last charge and be right behind you, don’t forget to signal you’re coming in.” The men took the Germans and Miller’s body with them. Kovac scurried up the wadi to the sound power phone and disconnected the phone from the wire and connected the detonator wires to the hand crank on the phone, whoever came up next and used the phone would explode a 25 lb. satchel charge of TNT. Kovac pulled the receiver from the sand and stuffed it into the canvas bad, then took one last look around and made a wide circle around the empty sniper’s nest to avoid the mines and made his way back to his lines.
Currie waited, and paced back and forth beside his jeep, and then waited some more, “where are those bums? What is taking them so long?” Currie lit another camel off the camel off the butt of the Camel he was smoking and then dropped the ½-smoked butt on the ground with the other 100 or so butts that he had trodden into the sand.
“Their coming in sir,” Macy called out, “their coming in now.”
Currie threw down the cigarette and headed toward the line. Currie counted the men, 6, a body and 3 Germans, “where’s Kovac?” He grabbed Perkins, “Where is Kovac.”
“He is bringing up the rear; he’ll be here shortly,”
“Who bought it?”
“Miller sir, Miller bought it Captain, no other casualties, just Miller, just Miller,” Perkins muttered as he walked away, “just Miller.”
Kovac appeared from the blackness of the night like the prodigal son returning home, and a sense of calmness settled into him, and his focus changed from worry to relief, and now he would deal with the prisoners.
Currie picked up and looked at the weapons the men brought back with them, a Mauser 98 with a 4-x Styr scope, Currie set it back down, this weapon he would inspect more carefully tomorrow, he paused to look the two-schmeisser machine pistols hanging by their slings from the door of the ½ track. What really interested him was the American Springfield 03A4 rifle with a Unertl 16-x scope just like his, well almost like his.
“Which one of these krauts is the sniper?”
“The tall one Captain, the sergeant he was carrying both the rifles.”
“Bring him along.”
“Come on you, yes you, rouse, rouse,” The German stood up and marched off with his captors – to the other side of the hill to a small-secluded clearing where several other men waited.
As soon as Currie began to speak, Snotky began translating, into German what he said. Currie asked the German, to what unit was he assigned? Where was his unit? How many men were in his unit? What equipment made up the unit? Where did he get the American rifle?
The German sat there, he would look at Currie when he spoke and then at Snotky. Currie and Snotky verbally assaulted the German. The German said, “Mien namen.” One of the two men standing behind the German knocked him off his seat onto the ground.
“I don’t care about your name, your rank, or your number; you will answer my questions when I ask them. I have your papers here; I know you name.” Currie spat out, dropping the paper in his hand to the ground. Currie spoke calmly, clearly and slowly; compared to the bombast that Snotky threw at the German.
The German shook his head and rubbed the spot where the guard had hit him. Two pairs of hands lifted him off the ground and set him on the stool – Currie began again, what unit? Where was his unit?
“Mein namen Carl Tob….”
The guard knocked the German off the stool from the other direction. There was a deafening, silence among the men, they just stood there watching the German laying on the ground, “Geneva Conventions,” the German started to say, when the guard hit him again in the head.
Currie squatted followed by Snotky, “this is Africa, we don’t have the Geneva Convention here, therefore you will tell us what we want to know or else.” Currie jerked his head to the left; the men behind the German lifted and drug him to a sturdy table. He was thrown onto the table on his back and tied securely to the table. The German struggled but it was to no avail, he was in Curries World now and not even Divine intervention would save him now.
The German craned his head to watch as Curries men pulled his boots and socks from his feet.
“Now, Carl, you will tell me exactly what I want to know, this is your last chance to do so, if you do it will save you from a considerable amount of pain.” The German defiantly sneered at him then spit, the thick white frothy saliva hit Curries cheek and dropped onto his hand. Currie stood straight and wiped the spittle from his cheek. “A man has to fight with whatever weapon he has available, even if it is his own spittle, not as effective as a bullet, but in some ways a whole lot more damaging.”
Currie walked to the end of the table and picked up a 2-foot long, one-inch diameter oak baton, a leather loop tied around one end. Currie slipped the leather loop over his hand and pulled it tight, securing the baton to his wrist.
You two over here, Currie placed them to either side of the man’s feet; he took one of the men’s rifles, laid it across the Germans feet, and hooked the sling over the balls of his feet just below the toes, “roll it up tight.” The two men rolled the sling around the rifle pulling the Germans feet up and bending them backwards towards the Germans heard. The German moaned and tried to move but the ropes gripped him tighter.
Currie raised the baton and swung it, the baton crashed into the Germans feet between his heels and the balls of his feet. The German screamed and cursed each word translated by Snotky. Currie laughed and brought the baton down on the soles of the Germans feet again and then again. Currie methodically worked the baton from his heels to the balls of his feet. Between each well-placed blow by Currie, Snotky would say in German to the man, “answer the questions or it will get worse,” and then Snotky would laugh just loud enough that only the German would hear him – the German screamed I pain and passed out.
Currie had the other two Germans brought over to see the man their comrade laying there bound to the table, they looked at his deformed feet which had begun to swell and the color of his once white skinned feet now looked purple and in some places black or plum colored. The two men mumbled to each other while stealing glances at their comrade’s disfigured feet.
The tortured man woke up moaning and struggling with the ropes binding him to the table. The men talked to their comrade until Currie and his men appeared from the shadows like specters from the grave.
Currie began again, what is your unit” Where was his unit? With each pause, Currie looked at Snotky who spoke in German to the man and again the man refused to talk.
Currie nodded his head; the rifle again placed on the man’s feet, the sling that ran across the balls of his feet was tightened until the man’s toes now swollen and broken pointed to his head. Currie took the baton and gripped it as if the baton was a baseball bat. He swung the baton; the impact sent the man into a screaming rage of pain and one of his feet burst open with blood spraying everywhere.
The two Germans sat staring at their Sergeants mangled feet, surely, he would never walk again, and if he did, he would walk as a cripple or hobble on useless feet.
“Get him off the table.” Currie turned and pointed the bloody baton at the younger of the two remaining soldiers, “take him next.”
The young soldier burst into hysterics, “No. Please,” he yelled, “please not me, I am too young.” Snotky slapped him.
Tell us what we want to know, the other German looked at him and then at the crippled man, “Ya, we will tell you.” Snotky told them to follow him; the two Germans were fountains of information – a wealth of information. They were Panzer Grenadiers from the 10th Division Afrika Corp. They told of 3200 men, 61 tanks, 15 of which were Tiger tanks. The men told them that there was a larger build-up of troops and tanks around Kasserine.
Currie worked on his report to the Generals, detailing the troop concentration and placement around Pinchon and the passes at Fon douk. He carefully listed the names and strengths of the battalions and brigades and the placement of anti-tank guns and other gun emplacements. He used a blue grease pencil to list and mark the same map from the notes taken from the questioning of the second man and composed the two, he then went back to the men and tried to confuse them on placement and names, after 6 hours he had a pretty good idea what was current and what was bogus.
It was a little after 1300 when a large explosion detonated destroying the enemy sniper nest.
“Kovac, did our 3 friends make it back to their lines, I know they made it as far as the sniper’s nest, which is when I lost sight of them Captain.”
“Kovac, my friend, I am sure they are in a far, far, better place, wherever they are.”
“Or places Captain,” and with that said, they both laughed.”
Currie completed his report to G2; he folded papers and maps and pushed them deep into the canvas map bag, sealed the bag and handed it to Kovac. Take this to HQ, give it to Col Lemonds, G2, and see if they have any orders for us. Currie leaned back in his seat, lit a cigarette.
Currie watched Kovac climb into the jeep and headed off down the hill to headquarters – Currie turned his attention towards the enemy, “I’ve got to get that hill stirred up, and make the enemy show themselves.
About the same instant Currie had that thought, a German artillery shell detonated the concussion knocked him out of his seat and on the ground, he rolled over to a ½ track for cover then figured he had better seek better shelter. Currie sprang up and ran to the wood-line trying to dodge the shells that were detonating in abundance around him.
Currie dove into a slit trench occupied by two other men. The men quit cursing after they found out who had jumped into the trench with them, “Captain, I guess there is always room for one more. Currie shifted around and pulled his helmet down over his face. The shells burst, the explosions thundering against their ears, the raw force of the shock waves twisted and bent the trees blew bits of dirt about at blinding speeds and little metal fragments that buzzed and whistled through the air they sliced, diced and chopped apart everything they collided with, nothing was safe, nothing. As suddenly as the shelling started, it stopped, – the silence was eerie, the acrid smell of burnt powder, the smoke, and the dust blurred their vision, and Currie bolted from the trench.
“Let’s go! Mount up let’s go!” He yelled, “let’s go,” men began to emerge from the oak grove and fox holes, “Perkins go get Bailey and Jones from the OP,” Currie screamed, Perkins scrambled off toward the face of the hill. Currie heard the whine of the shells that passed overhead and the distant rumble of the guns; he heard the detonation in the hills across the plains. Currie moved forward, the flashes and detonation were like a string of firecrackers going off; the individual detonations became a continuous roar. He felt the shock waves from the explosions, 2 miles away; from one end of the hill to the other, from the front to the back, great oranges balls of fire and black smoke rose towards the heavens like a funeral pyre. The conflagration, the destruction of the hill mesmerized him; hundreds of explosions every minute turned the enemy stronghold into a heap of smoldering rocks and dirt.
“I am sorry Captain,” Bailey yelled, “you told us to stir the shit; we stirred a little too much I think.”
Currie stirred from his trance, “what did you say,”
“You told us to stir it up, well we did.”
“Good man, damn good man, now let’s get the fuck out of here,” Currie headed back to the vehicles, “let’s go.” Currie crawled aboard the ½ track, he slammed the door, shit the door ½ inch thick steel door, had a gash 2 inches wide and 6 inches long torn in it, the shrapnel had pierced the door and rattled around the track before falling to the floor. The engine hummed, and they were off, “Macy do we have everyone.”
“Yes, sir Captain, all; present one slightly wounded,”
“Kovac is still at HQ, he will meet us out at the road. Currie nodded, and grabbed hold of the hand bar to keep from being thrown about; Macy drove down the path at 30 mph that they drove up at 5 mph.
“Hold on Captain, the bottoms coming up,” the ½ track hit bottom and sprung off the ground traveling 30 feet before the front wheels violently hit the ground. The engine revved up until the tracks caught hold of the earth, the occupants were flung around the track. Currie grabbed Perkins as he flew into his lap keeping him from flying out of the track.
“Woo hoo ride ‘em cowboy!” Bailey crowed he had the biggest grin on his face riding the bouncing flying track.
Macy fought the wheel of the careening track bringing it under control. Currie looked behind him, men were sprawled all over the place, and holding onto anything they could find to hold on to all except Bailey who stood erect his legs spread wide and bent at the knees, he held onto the 50 caliber MG with one hand while swinging his helmet with his other hand. “Yee haw,” Bailey yelled out, “ride em cowboy.” Currie grabbed Perkins trying to pull him from the floorboards – between his feet. Macy turned the wheel hard to the right and brought the ½ track back on the road, before shifting it into high gear, “where too Captain.”
Nowhere, pull up here; let’s reform the unit and wait for Kovac.
Macy’s smile turned to a frown, he pulled his foot from the gas pedal, “first bit of fun and look what happens,” he mumbled. Currie got Perkins from out of his lap and off the floor. Macy slowed and pulled over and stopped. Currie stood up and surveyed the damage, nothing had been damaged to badly here, and he looked back into the dust trail to see if he could see the armored car or the 6×6. Currie was about to dismount when he heard and then saw the other two vehicles coming out of the dust. Currie dismounted and flagged them down.
“Any damage,” he said.
“Where did you go Captain, we were going down the path and you turned right over the side and straight down we couldn’t follow, you went off the cliff, we thought you were dead.” Currie shook his head, “that was a wild ride, I will say that, let’s go Macy he said climbing into the ½ track.
Jones was sitting up his back on the machine gun post and he held a piece of gauze on his forehead, “damn, your hide Macy, trying to kill us huh.”
“Doc will fix it, Jonesy, don’t fret about it.” Macy called out, “don’t fret about it,” Macy laughed.
The convoy moved out toward Fondouk. Currie stood in the seat watching the terrain, he knew the enemy was not far away and standing as he did make him a very good target. Just ahead in the road were several burning trucks and Stewart tanks. Currie yelled for Macy to pull off the road and stop behind the wrecks in the palm grove.
Currie jumped down, strolled up to the first truck, it lay twisted and smoldering beside the road. Grotesque forms of the burnt corpses lay sprawled on the ground, he watched one corpse break apart and its skull roll a few feet and stop. He turned his head and stared at the hills in the distance. This place was as good a place as any place to encamp tonight and launch a patrol out into no man’s land.
Currie moved to what was left of a date palm; the palm’s trunk was splintered chest high. He stood behind it; he steadied his binoculars on the splintered stump and searched the broad flat fields in front of him. The tall grasses in the field, waved in the chilly breeze of winter, making the grass come alive, hiding everything and exposing everything at the same time.
The tall grass was a paradox, it would hide his men, and it would hide the enemy as well.
Currie left his binoculars lying on the stump, he dropped to a kneeling position and lit a cigarette, he looked up and down the line, and his men were spread out each searching the grasses and the fields for targets. The sparkle or flash of reflected light from a pair of binoculars or a scope, he bumped the stump with his back, the stump vibrated the binoculars, the binoculars rocked back and forth. He heard the reports of several rifle shots; however, no bullets came close to him that he knew of. Currie crabbed his way up the line to Macy and Kovac, all three of them watched diligently for anything out of the ordinary, a flash, any movement, anything, they sat there and waited in silence.
All around them birds chirped, insects buzzed, the leaves and grasses rustled in the chilly February winds. In the distance the reports of artillery firing and the detonations of the shells and every so often the scream of a shell passing overhead would drive them to the ground, and take cover, the shells passed over them artillery units playing cat and mouse with each other at a range of 20 plus miles.
“In-coming!” someone yelled. Men dove for cover, the thump of the Mortar shell was followed by an explosion, dirt sprayed high in the air, and an orange flash and puff of grey smoke the air was filled with dirt and tiny chards of killing maiming metal that buzzed randomly about embedding itself in everything that was exposed or unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“Where away,” Currie yelled, “where away.”
“10 O’clock, at 4000 yards, rock fence wall, left of the break in it.” Currie watched he saw the puff of smoke from the tube as the mortar round soared up, up, and into the air.
“I got it,” 10 O’clock, 4000, Bailey, Jones,” “no good Captain,” Bailey bellowed out.
Currie pulled himself into a sitting position, “damn,” “Macy get on the horn, get fire control to drop a few rounds, we will correct.”
Macy turned the radio twisted dials and finally said, something, Currie handed Macy a map and he called off the coordinates to fire control, “were on the list Captain, he said it won’t be long.”
A shell screamed over their heads, Currie watched the shell somewhat larger than a football and about two-foot-long strike the earth and erupt in a column of smoke and fire.
“200 short, 100 left,” Currie yelled out. Macy called fire control and repeated what he had said. Another round screamed overhead again, Currie watched it detonate it was 50 mils short, up 50, Fire for effect. Macy called it in. The air over them filled with the screaming roar of shells the stone walled fence and everything around it disappeared in a dark cloud of fire and smoke. The dust cleared Currie saw men running, Currie yelled out, enemy retreating up 100 mils and repeat. Macy relayed the information and again the sky filled with the scream of shells, the artillery shells started at the wall and walked with the enemy troops overtaking them with ghastly effectiveness. Currie called out, “cease fire,” Macy repeated it and added, “thanks Mac, good shooting.” Macy dropped the headpiece in the cradle, “what now Captain.”
Currie walked to where he had left the binoculars on the tree stump, he reached up, and picked them up, when some terribly powerful force ripped the glasses from his hand, the glasses spun through the air for 20 feet before crashing into the ground. Currie grabbed his hand, it was numb to his wrist, he looked to see if there was any blood, he held his trembling hand out in front of him, it was all there, and there was no blood. Currie shook it, “Damn that smarted.”
The first shot that smashed the glasses had come from a German soldier that was no more than 100 yards from their position. He aimed the sights of his rifle on what he thought was a helmet, he aimed a little lower and fired, the second bullet he fired struck the stock of Macy’s rifle, splintering it into a hundred pieces and driving a piece of it into his leg.
“That S-O-B,” Macy called out, “I’ve had about enough of this shit,” Macy jumped up on the running board of the ½ track and jumped over the side, another shot rang out pa-ling; the bullet ricocheted off the steel plate. Macy started the track, turned the wheel hard to the right, dropped the clutch pedal, and mashed the gas pedal. The ½-track burst through the weeds and trees into the field, Macy swerved back and forth.
“What is that fool doing? Is he crazy?” Currie yelled out. Currie watched as the stick grenade tossed by the German at the ½ track bounced off the side and exploded. The track came to a sliding stop. Macy popped out the top with a 30 cal browning machine gun and enfiladed the trench with fire. Macy stopped firing, took a good look sprayed the trench again with machine gun fire. He put the ½ track in gear and ran over the trench, forward and reversing until the trench was nothing but an unmarked grave. Macy pulled over the trench one more time, drove the track back to the road, and pulled up beside Currie. Currie jumped up on the running board and twisted the handle opening the door. “Are you fucking crazy,” what were you trying to prove. We can’t afford to lose men or equipment with crazy stunts like that. What do you have to say mister?”
“I need Doc,” Macy said, pointing to his leg an 8-inch long splinter of wood from his rifle was stuck in one side and a bloody point exited the other side of his leg.
“Oh shit. Medic,” Currie called out, “Medic.”
Doc came running up to the track, just as Macy swung his legs out. Doc saw the blood and the pants leg and, on his boot, “what the hell, move back, give me some room.” Doc pulled out his scissors, cut his pants, and boot laces. Doc pulled the boot off and then cut the pants from around the splinter. “Battalion aide station is where you’re going,” Doc said. “The Aide Station is 4 or 5 miles back.”
“Hey doc, give me some morphine, and jerk it out or cut it out,” Macy almost pleaded with Doc. Macy that splinter of wood goes through the thickest part of you calf muscle, I can’t jerk it out, because I don’t get all the splinters. I don’t have an operating room to cut it out, remember I am not a Doc just a corpsman.
“But you were a Doc, you were a Real Doc.” Yes, Macy I was a real doc, but I can’t, I just can’t.” Doc popped the top off a morphine ampoule and stuck him in the leg, then shook sulfur powder over the wound and dressed it the best he could. I’ll take him in the jeep back to battalion aide and pick up some supplies. I won’t be gone over an hour.
“Kovac drive them to battalion aide.”
“Yes Captain, come on you guys; Kovac helped Doc put Macy in the jeep.
Kovac we will be in that grove over there, you two get back as soon as you can. Currie called out, “alright, move it all into the grove, and put out the netting.” Bailey you and Jones, keep watch, if it isn’t ours shoot it.”
Currie rode the track up into the grove of trees to his left, he saw a clearing and a cavern, he tapped Perkins on the shoulder and pointed, and Perkins screwed the wheel to the left and entered the clearing on the down hillside. Currie thought, “A cistern, a Roman built cistern.” Currie hopped down the ground sloped towards the mouth of a cave dug into the side of the hill. The floors and walls were lined with big square blocks of limestone, there was about a foot of water in the lowest corner. “Turn around and back in.” Currie directed the track then the armored car and finally the 6×6, “cover the mouth of the cave with netting boys and let’s cover up our tracks as best as you can. The cistern drain field was about 1000 yards square with a gentle slope toward the mouth of the cave.
“Perkins run a phone and line down to Jones or Bailey,” Yes Captain. Perkins picked up the T18 field phone and a roll of wire; he fastened one end of the wire to the 6×6 and attached the handle to the spool. Perkins started towards Jonesy and Bailey, the spool uncoiling the wire with a squeaky squawking noise, within a few minutes Perkins had vanished into the shadow of the grove.
Currie climbed to the top of the hillock and glassed the area, off to the east about 6 to 8 miles away on the horizon several distinct dust trails rising into the sky each dust trail formed by a column of armor, enemy armor. “I’ll bet you a doughnut to a dollar,” he said cursing, “that, that is the 10th brigade of the African Corp attacking” – Currie had taken two steps when an artillery shell detonated behind him, throwing him down the hillside, he rolled and summer-salted and cart wheeled to the cistern basin where he came to a bouncing stop. He was dazed, he tried to stand, and he felt as if he was being pulled from three different directions at the same time. All he could hear was a buzzing sound when the motion stopped, he felt a sharp sting to his face, he shook his head; he tried to focus his eyes, “what the fuck,” he yelled out, he slapped away all the hands that were touching him, “enough.”