Currie gave Rawls and Walsh a few final thoughts and orders before he mounted up in the jeep preparing to head out into the desert in the early morning light.
Currie had selected his team of men, 10 enlisted and himself making 11. Kovac drove the jeep. Currie opted to take the M-3 with the 50 cal machine gun, instead of the 37mm antitank gun. Bishop was the driver and riding with him were Costello, Petry, Sinclair, Macy, and Jones; and Bailey and Doc rode in the Chevy, 30cwt was.
The jeep had been fitted with the radio on the passenger side right behind Currie. The 50 cal was locked in the horizontal position facing forward, the 30 cal browning was locked down with the barrel pointed skyward on the back of the jeep were 4 Gerry cans of gas and a Gerry can of water mounted behind the rear wheel on each side and lashed to the front frame rails between the grill and the bumper was a small GP tent, the spare tire had been relocated from the right rear corner to the center of the hood, to make room for the Gerry cans, stowed behind the front seats were 4 boxes of 50 cal ammo and 2 boxes of 30 cal along with an aid kit and 2 portable field radios. The ditty bags under the two front seats contained silver coins, cigarettes, tea, coffee and a couple cans of tobacco. Currie slid his rifle into the scabbard mounted behind his seat next to the radio. Kovac’s Thompson was in its scabbard mounted outside on the front body before the fender within easy reach from his seat. The ammo for the Thompson and Curries rifle was neatly stacked and stowed between the front seat next to the two thermos bottles of coffee and an opened carton of camel cigarettes.
Currie sat down in the seat of the jeep, Kovac swung into the driver’s seat, “we’re ready Captain, “ said Kovac, “move out Sergeant,” “Yes Sir,” Kovac started the jeep and slowly pulled out of the yard onto the drive way heading for the road.
Currie looked behind them, the M-3 ½ track seemed to lope forward with each gear change, as it followed the jeep out to the road.
The M-3 was loaded to the gills with 6 men and supplies from the front bumper with its large steel rollers and then the winch mounted on the frame in front of the grill between two front fenders were used for storage, the tent canvass and camouflage netting were bundled and tied to the bumper and the fenders and above these bundles of canvass was several Gerry cans of water that were hung from the fire wall below the wind shield on either side of the vehicle the ammo flaps over the windshield and doors were down and secured. About 2 feet behind the driver’s door; was 10’ of spare track and tied off to the track were shovels, picks, track repair tools, and the tent poles for several tents. A tarp covered a lot of the top; the men had rigged it to keep them in the shade during the long hot hours in the sun. They rode on metal benches one on each side of the truck stacked and packed under the benches, were boxes and crates of food and ammo, other supplies. They had improvised a rack on the inside to hold their weapons, and stuffed hay and grass into burlap bags to make cushions to sit on, not much relief from the bone-jarring ride of the ½ track.
Behind the ½ track was a 2 ton capacity trailer loaded down with Gerry cans of gas, water, mines, explosives and food, the trailer would be discarded when it was empty, but for now it took the place of a 6 x 6 and behind that was one of the coveted Chevy 30cwt. The Chevy carried; the spare parts, clothes, rations, cigarettes, weapons, medical supplies, and whatever else they thought they might need of the patrol. There were no gas stations or Piggly Wiggly’s out here in the desert, there would be no resupply, they would go and stay on patrol until they had only enough supplies to get back. Then Currie would stretch it a little tighter, hoping our lines were closer to where we were than farther away; and then there was the enemy to contend with as well.
The column headed east by south following a well-worn camel trail. The trail itself, a depression in the desert floor maybe 3’ wide, was worn smooth by camels, men and horses for the last two thousand years or more before man discovered the new world, and here they were a world away from all they knew. Now they were embroiled in a world at war, pawns in the deadliest of all chess games.
The column moved along at about 20 mph; the only air moving was the air pushed around by the vehicles moving through it. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky to block the rays of the sun. The sun blazed in the heavens and cooked everything below, the desert, the men, the vehicles, the vehicles the metal surfaces exposed to the sun couldn’t be touched, the heat radiated off the metal skin, cooking, burning, the men. Their uniforms, soaked, wet from sweat, the sweat ran from their faces, and heads in rivulets, and it would sizzle when it landed on the steel bodies of the trucks. They cursed the heat of day, and they cursed the cold of the night. The temperature would fall from 120 degrees to 40 degrees within hours of the sun dropping behind the horizon, and then they would wish for the warmth of the sun. They had to survive the day to survive the night.
The sun soon sapped the strength of the men; it was as if their own sweat, in this god-forsaken land, was basting them.
Currie brought the column to a halt; he said they would rest during the hottest part of the day. A tent stretched between the ½ track and the 30-cwt parked side by side gave the men some relief from the broiling sun… Camouflage netting was spread out to break up any hard horizontal or vertical lines. Those kinds of lines were very uncommon in nature and could be seen for miles. The men drank water and ate from the K-rations. But mostly they drank water and slept. Two men kept watch and they were relieved every hour. The heated air became so dry it began to suck the water from the men’s clothes. The once wet clothes were dry as a bone, dry as the desert they were in. For 6 hours Currie and his men laid in the shade of a tarp in the middle of nowhere, headed east headed straight into the mouth of hell, the lair of the German beast. Currie and his small force was going to be like a flea on the tail of a dragon, they could not hurt it or kill it; all they could do, would be to watch, learn and maybe just maybe sting the beast before it found them and ground them into dust in the desert to never be seen again.
Currie was sitting on the sand leaning against the tire of his jeep, he looked around at the nine men he had chosen, how many would survive, how many would be buried in the desert of Africa, he said to himself, none of these sons of bitches would be buried here, he buried enough already, it was his time to bury the enemy, bury the murderers who had killed and skinned his men, the Arabs, the SS they would pay and pay dearly, he stubbed his cigarette out the looked at his watch, three hours until they were to move out. Currie closed his eyes and tried to sit up,
“Hey Captain,” Doc said, “Take these salt pills and eat something.”
Currie opened his eyes, Doc held 2 salt tablets between his fingers and a cup of water in his other hand. “Thanks Doc,” Currie said taking the tablets and the water.
Doc pried at a cardboard box, k-ration dinner laying it on the sand beside him
“Oh Joy!” T-bone steak again, I’m getting tired of it, have we got any spam on powdered eggs, you know I like those better,” Currie said sarcastically ripping open the box, “oh goody! Cake, bread, some mystery meat stuff; I bet you that it is horse meat or armadillo meat.” Currie opened the cans and choked down the food, it wasn’t that bad. Currie used one of the tops to dig a hole and he buried the tins and cardboard in the sand, he knew the wind would eventually uncover it, but by that time they would be long gone. After he was finished, he stood, stretched, then walked around to the other side of the truck and relieved himself.
“Let’s get finished up,” Kovac said, “and get the stuff stowed, you got 20 min., to be ready to go.”
Currie walked to the jeep and pulled out the map case, unfolded the case and the map; he looked at his watch; they had traveled 6 hours at about 20 mph and that should put them about here, he tapped his finger on the map about 40 to 50 miles from Tunisia and 90 from Tozeur. They had about 4 hours of light left; if he was right, they would be down about 20 miles from Tozeur at the foot of a small mountain range. Currie turned the sun was far to the west, but still high in the sky. Plenty of light left to get there and get camped. Tomorrow they would scout and begin their work in earnest.
“How are we doing Captain?” Kovac asked. “Are we still on schedule?”
“Yes, we’re in good shape, another 3 to 4 hours should put us right where we want to be and on time. Bailey, Bishop over here.” Currie said, laying the map out on the hood of the jeep.
“In an hour or two, Kovac and I will stretch out the lead by 2 to 4 miles, you two hold back and stay at 20 mph or there about; we will scout ahead, turn on the portable radio, keep radio silence; if we run into trouble we will call you; you know the call signs. Keep your eyes peeled, no screw ups, you got it.”
“Yes sir,” Bailey said,
“You got it, Captain,” Bishop said, and nodded his head.
“Let’s get this place squared away, no trash left showing, bury it and bury it deep, let’s get to it,” Currie said.
“Kovac, double check everything again,”
“Yes sir,” Kovac said.
Kovac thought, “Something is worrying the Captain, something is out there, that’s all it can be.” Kovac pulled each man to the side, “be on alert, no screw ups; and be ready for anything.” The men went about their work, rolling up the camouflage netting tying them down and checking them twice. The tents were rolled up, tied, and stowed; weapons checked, the MG’s were inspected and reloaded, the fuel tanks were topped off, tires checked, oil checked, the empty Gerry cans had two holes poked in the bottom of each with a pick axe and were buried. The men mounted the trucks and sat quietly. Currie gave the signal; the trucks followed Currie and Kovac.
The sun began to settle on the horizon. The temperature began to fall by, 1800 hours it was 90 and at 1900 hours, it was below 80. Currie and Kovac pulled out ahead of the others, the jeep kicking up a dust trail that could be seen for miles, and just as the dust trail began it quit, Currie had pulled 5 miles ahead and had slowed down to 15 to 20 mph searching, the road ahead and to either side for any sign of the enemy.
Currie and Kovac poked along until they found a good spot to stop for the night, a shallow wadi, but deep enough to conceal the trucks. Currie and Kovac waited on the trail for the others to catch up to them. When the ½ tracks and truck showed up, Kovac flashed his light at them and directed them into the wadi. The men scrabbled down and covered the trucks and jeep with camo netting.
Currie took two compass bearings and plotted their position and on the other side of the hill, not 12 miles away stood Tozeur.
Petry started a small fuel stove and began heating water; they would drink cowboy coffee tonight.
Currie sent out two men on a sweep about 500 yards out to recon the area around them; and set the sentries and lookouts. “Sergeant Bishop,” Currie said motioning him over, “Kovac over here,” Bishop and Kovac joined Currie at the edge of the wadi. The chest high wall of stone and dirt gave them cover and protection from anyone out there. Currie rested his elbow on the top of the wall and peered through his binoculars at the mountain in front of them.
Currie handed them to Bishop, “do you see that outcropping of rock about 11 o’clock.”
Bishop shifted his stance, “yes I do, and it looks like goats’ head, well sort of like goats’ head.”
“Yea, that’s the one Currie said taking the field glasses and handing them to Kovac.
Kovac scanned the ridge and pointed them out, “does kind of look like goats’ head.”
“Bishop I want you to pick 2 men, rations for two days, ammo, radio and batteries you know the drill, and I want you to find a hidey hole, where you can see the trail and the town, and locate us a hidey hole. I want you up there and in position by first light. We will move up when you see that it is all clear.”
Bishop took the field glasses from Kovac, he looked through them scanned the hill. “I want Macy and Jones and Bailey and Petry. I’ll send Petry back down to you when you’re in your hidey-hole. If we are going to be your OP and rear guard, I want something to mess up their day.”
Currie thought about it for a moment “good idea, Bishop, take Bailey and Petry too, use him as a runner for right now.”
Bishop handed the glasses back to Currie “I’ll get ‘em ready,” he said. “He called out, Macy, Jones, Petry on me.”
Bishop talked to the men using a lot of hand signals, and looks toward the mountain, when he was finished, the men split up and began getting their gear together. Jones and Macy got the 50, a can of ammo, the spotting scope, and their gear; they stuffed their packs full and prepared for the hike up the hill. They had a 5-mile walk, uphill most of the way, but they had all night to get there. Petry swapped out his M1 for a lighter weight carbine and hung two extra canteens on his web belt, he was ready, or so he thought when Bishop dropped a dozen or so boxes of rations in front of him, “But Sarge,” he said. “But Sarge, my ass, you got room stow it and pack it up, you have 2 minutes.”
“Ok, Ok Sarge,” said Petry.
It was dark and it was nearly 1900 hours when the four men trudged out of the wadi into the darkness and headed up the mountain, Currie watched until their forms blended into the darkness and they disappeared. Currie crouched down and lit a cigarette, shielding the red glowing tip with his hands and from any prying eyes.
Currie settled down on his haunches between the jeep and the truck, he finished his cigarette and then snuffed it out in the sand. Currie glanced up at the stars that seemed to poke holes in the inky blackness of the night, also seemed to poke holes in him. Currie felt alone more alone than he had ever felt, and he shivered and shook, he grabbed the jeep to steady himself, and he tasted the bile that rose in his throat to his mouth. He swallowed then closed his eyes and slowly breathed in a deep breath, he shook his head as he exhaled then breathed in slowly again. Slowly the feeling of being alone and doom began to leave him, he began to breathe easier, and he reached in the jeep and grabbed his coat throwing it around his shoulder.
He took a deep breath, “that, that’s fear and death,” he said to himself plopping himself on the ground. He shivered what a foul taste it has, he could describe the taste, but there was no way he could ever begin to describe that feeling he had had. He couldn’t find one word to begin the description of that feeling he had within himself.
Currie sat on the ground crossed legged, his arms in his lap, his shoulders hunched forward and his head hung low, he felt as if someone had pulled out the stopper and he had just deflated into a mushiness that again he could not describe.
Currie woke as Kovac shook him, “Bishops in position, he can see the whole trail and the town, he says it is clear and we can come on up.” Currie stood up, a cup of coffee was on the running board, but it was ice cold, and a blanket dropped from around his shoulders as he stood and stretched,
“You look like hell, Captain,” said Kovac.
“I feel like hell Sarge. What time is it? We ready to travel. What’s our status?” Currie blurted out.
“It is dawn 30. Time for some beans and coffee and we are ready when you are.” Kovac said confidently.
“Very good, top, Very good!” Currie said patting Kovac on his shoulder, and act Currie had never done before, “come on, where is the coffee,” Currie stood straight and stretched again, “lead on Mc Duff,” Said Currie.
Kovac led the way to where Bailey had coffee cooking on the small gas stove, “time to go, Bailey” Currie said lighting a cigarette and then reaching for an empty cup for Bailey to fill.
Currie took the coffee back to the jeep and set it on the hood, he picked up the cup that was resting on the running board and poured it out. Currie then picked up the blanket and folded it before stuffing it behind the seat in the jeep. Then he reached out and took hold of the rifle that was tied on its restraints. Currie slid his hand down the cold steel barrel to the wooden forearm and over the sling swivel he squeezed the wooden stock and it reassured him in some small way; he knew it wouldn’t let him down, when the time came for him to use it.
He picked up his coffee and then sat in the seat in the jeep sipping it slowly, savoring the foul-tasting coffee, he had, had worse, but he could not remember having any coffee this damned bad. He thought about shooting the cook, but he was too valuable, he would just order him never to make coffee again. Yeah that would do it. Currie took another mouthful but before he could swallow. he just had to spit it out, “god damn,“ he said, “that is the worst fucking coffee I have ever had, someone shoot the fucker who made it, then he threw the coffee out and laughed, come on Top; mount them up, let’s move out.”
“Ok. mount up you cut-throats,” Kovac said; and then he whistled, the two lookouts made their way back to the encampment. Kovac swung in behind the steering wheel of the jeep and started the engine; he cranked hard on the wheel and started out of the wadi. Kovac turned the wheel sharply and then straightened it. The jeep moved slowly along at a creeping pace, waiting for the track and the Chevy to fall in behind them, the trio of trucks slowly made their way up to the hill dodging the larger of the rocks and avoiding the holes and ruts on the trail. The trail was barely wider than the track that seemed to scrape the walls along either side from time to time. For nearly an hour, the three war machines trudged onward.
Petry was sitting on a large boulder alongside the trail; he hopped off it when the jeep rolled into view. Kovac pulled up next to him. Petry pointed back over his shoulder there was a ravine that branched off in a fork that was big enough and well-hidden to be their hidey-hole.
Currie jumped out and he and Petry walked the 30 yards up the wide mouth to the junction of the other two ravines he sent Petry back to the jeep to tell Kovac what Currie wanted.
Kovac pulled forward and stopped, he got out of the jeep and motioned the track forward, he told Bailey to back in after the Chevy, Kovac jumped on the running board of the Chevy. “Ok Doc, back her in there, the Captain will direct you,” Doc let the Chevy roll forward then he put it in reverse, turned the wheel and begin backing into the ravine. Kovac dropped off the running board and signaled the truck to back up, and Petry followed in the jeep. The Chevy backed in through the narrow entry into a large flat high walled area. Currie backed Doc to the end and parked him a couple yards from the wall at an angle. Currie then put the track about 10’ away, then the jeep. ”Spread out the camo netting and tarps; let’s get this stuff covered up,” Currie said.
Currie climbed up the wall to a ledge and looked over the rim; he had a great view, a broad plain spread out in all directions in front of him and he could plainly make out the town and ever thing in and around it. Currie turned and then climbed down, “Petry where is Bishop,” Petry pointed up, come on grab a field telephone and roll of can wire, said Currie.
It took Currie and Petry about ½ hour to climb the 100’ up to where Bishop and the boys had built a wall from loose rocks and shrub bushes under a large out cropping of rock. The men sat in the shade on the packs; their OP was almost invisible from the air or from the ground. Currie told Bishop to bring up some camo netting and cover their wall of rocks, “you stacked the rocks and have dozens of vertical and horizontal lines, and observant person can spot it easily; but the bushes will conceal it until the leaves drops off them. “Good job men,” he picked up the spotting scope, he could see from this place a good 50 miles and maybe even farther. Excellent men, bloody excellent, he said. Petry cranked on the phone and Kovac answered, “phone check,” Petry said, roger 5×5, Petry dropped the hand piece back in the canvas bag, phones up Captain, Petry said.
Currie put the spotting scope on Tozeur, three roads converged on the town, and they could see each road and follow it for at least 20 miles. Currie’s mind clicked, we can set up ambushes and then disappear back to our hidey-hole. He handed the scope to Bishop. I will send people up to relieve you in a while, keep a good lookout. Currie walked out of the OP and headed to the trail; they have made coming up.
As darkness fell the traffic on the roads increased, at first jut one or two but as the night progressed, the traffic became almost continuous. They counted 162 vehicles by moon light from the dusk to dawn. Mostly supply trucks, a few cars, and even fewer tracked vehicles.
Currie studied his map, the 3 roads in and out of Tozeur one road ran north to Tebessa in Algeria. The second road ran to the north and east to Gafsa and then continued onto Kasserine in the north. And the third road ran to the southeast, to the port city of Gabes on the Mediterranean Sea, it was this road that had the most traffic heading to Tozeur and then on to Gafsa and points north. This is the road that Currie would plan his ambushes of a single car or truck, but no more than 2 vehicles together, for his plan to succeed he would capture both men and machines. Burning shot up vehicles with dead men in them on the road might arouse some suspicion – but missing vehicles and men, who were to say when they’d disappear.
Currie thought about how to accomplish his plan, he tapped his finger on the map, and how do I stop a vehicle and subdue the people without firing shots or raising any suspicion. He thought about a road block, no – it would take too long to set up and tear down and it wouldn’t be quick enough; it had to be so quick, the Germans wouldn’t have time to react and they had to stop them in an instant, like they’re hitting a brick wall, yeah. That was it and accident, make them crash, it would stop them; his boys would swarm over them, subdue them, then haul off their bodies and the wreck, but where he looked again at the map. Currie studied the map then he saw it, about 20 miles south of town, the road made a left turn right turn to jog around a ravine; a good place to run them into the ditch. He had the ½-track block road.
It was 2000 hours and dark, the new moon only gave enough light to be a hindrance instead of any help. The jeep and the ½ track threaded their way down the trail until the ground leveled out. Currie and his group headed southeast and then east until they cut the road – from time to time, the radio would crackle. Bishop was on the hill keeping Currie advised on the flow of traffic. Currie found the two turns and the ravine. The ravine off to the left was about 4 to 6 feet deep and 10 to 12 feet wide.
The radio crackled, Bishop told Kovac, 1 small car or truck was heading their way and it was traveling fast. Kovac told Currie what Bishop had said.
Ok, pull the ½ track on the road here at the exit of the curve with the nose of the track pointed into the open, the broad side of the track would wedge the approaching vehicle toward the ditch, and hopefully into the wadi.
Currie waited everything was in place, the Kubelwagen’s tires squealed as it rounded the corner, Currie watched as the driver began fighting the wheel, the Kubelwagen’s tire locked up the Kubelwagen slid forward hit the ½ track broad side and then rolled down into the ditch.
There were four men in the German car; they were thrown from the vehicle as it rolled down the embankment. Currie’s men scrambled over the embankment, they grabbed the Germans and forced three of them on the ground, the 4th man the driver was pinned under the command car. The Germans were tied up and gagged and carried and put in the ½ track, a tow rope was tied on the Kubelwagen and the track pulled it out of the ditch, the men turned it up on its wheels; the dead German was thrown in the back seat.
“Okay – mount up, let’s go,” Currie said, Hubba – hubba – let’s go! The track pulled the Kubelwagen through the desert until they found a ravine deep enough to push it into to hide it, and then they started back to their hidey-hole. Snotky kept a close eye on the prisoners. The crash had knocked the three out and it won’t until they were about back to their camp did one of them regain consciousness, then after a while the other two stirred. Snotky sat them up, pointed his Thompson at them, and pressed it between their eyes pushing their heads back; then in German, he told each one to remain quiet or he would kill them.
The track and the jeep backed into the ravine and disappeared into the hidey-hole. Hey Doc, come here Snotky called out. I have three banged up people, Snotky and Wilkins dropped the three men out of the track onto the ground. The SS guard had a bad cut on his arm, The German SS Captain had head lacerations and one bad cut on his leg and the other wasn’t German at all; he wasn’t dressed in a German uniform. Doc pulled the gag from the man’s mouth, the man looked surprised and dazed, “I say old son hell of a way to rescue someone, wouldn’t you say,” the man said in a staunch British accent. “Hey Captain, I think you need to see and hear this, Doc called out. I say you are American aren’t you; golly good show, untie me and let’s get back to our lines shall we. I have a lot to report. Currie walked up and heard the man speak.
Dr. Livingston, I presume, Currie said.
No, not at all, I’m Colonel Patrick H. McGee, His Majesties Forces, British 8th army, now if you would release me Captain, we will get started back to our lines, and I had a report to make out of utmost importance.
My dear Colonel, since I have no idea who you are, and you don’t have any identity papers you won’t mind if I leave you tied up until I can verify just who you are!
“Captain, I am a Colonel and as your superior officer, I demand that you untie me, McGee roared.
Colonel McGee, Sir, as far as I am concerned you could be an English-Speaking German impersonating Colonel Patrick H. McGee; now if you were in my position what would you do.
Doc wiped the cut on the man’s head, McGee pulled away., “Damn-it man, who do you think you are?”
Doc jerked him back, “I am a Corpsman who, is going to sew up you head wound, now Colonel or whoever you are, you can sit still or I can have that man over there smash you in your jaw with his rifle butt, and put you out. Now sir will you sit still or what’s it gonna be, your choice.”
The Colonel settled down like a lamb, he winched each time Doc stuck the needle through his skin. Doc gave him 18 stitches, “Good man,” he said; “Windy give the man a cigarette.”
Kovac came over to the Colonel and asked his name, rank, and serial number, McGee repeated it, Kovac wrote it down, now is there anyone at Command you would like us to call and have you verified? The Colonel snorted, “yes, you buffoon; talk to Monty he will tell you who I am.”
Kovac laughed, “oh hell yes, I will go call the Field Marshal and invite him to tea while I am at it.”
Doc started to work on the German Captain, he cut his sleeve up to the shoulder and sewed up the laceration to his upper arm, then bandaged it; he cut is pants and cut his boot to remove it from his foot, his leg was cut and the bones were broken. Doc looked at Currie.
“Fix him,” Currie said, “I want answers first, and dead men give no answers.”
“Ok boys, grab the Kraut, and hold him down.” When Doc pulled out the leg and twisted it, the German woke up, he threw the men off him, and sat up, he stared at Doc, “Mein Gott,” he said, and passed out again. Doc splinted the leg and then dumped sulfur powder into the wound and sewed it closed.
The German Sergeant’s arm was not bad enough to require stitches, so Doc dumped the sulfur powder on it and bandaged it up.
“Hey Captain,” Doc said, “the German needs a morphine shot, you want me to give him one.”
Currie looked at him. “Hell, no Doc, save it for our guys, I am sure the Captain is tough, that broken leg and cut arm won’t bother him, remember they’re the supreme race, or that is what they claim, let’s see shall we.”
Doc shook his head, he would never go against Currie, he had promised him that a long time ago. It was mid-morning, Captain Currie and Kovac walked over to Colonel McGee, Kovac cut the rope around his ankles and then Currie and Kovac stood the Colonel up Kovac cut the ropes that bound his wrist, the colonel shook his hands getting the blood circulating in them again. Currie and Kovac saluted “Colonel McGee, General Fredenhall sends his greeting and welcomes your home; he also added that he would have done exactly as we have done had he been in our place.”
“Well yes, I imagine he would; now when do we leave.” McGee said looking first to Currie then Kovac, “Colonel a patrol has been sent, they will arrive sometime this evening or first thing in the morning, and they are to take you and these two German’s back to Algiers, so come join us, we have some rations and some tea and some English tobacco.
“Do you have coffee and a Lucky,” He asked; “habits I picked up in the Colonies.”
Kovac pulled a pack of Lucky’s from his pocket and handed them to him along with a pack of matches,
“The coffee is this way Colonel.” Currie said, the Colonel walked beside Currie, Kovac motioned Costello over, “you have you pig sticker on you,”
Costello pulled it and it flashed open. “Do not and I will say this again – do not let him out of your sight, if you have to use it, use it, they aren’t sure if it’s him or not.” Costello folded the switchblade up and pushed it down in his pocket, he and Kovac joined Currie and the Colonel for coffee.
The SS Captain, a Hauptstrumfuhrer Heidrick Muller woke up and looked around, Snotky was sitting with a Thompson lying across his lap, and a few yards away were the Germans Captain. “Where am I,” he asked.
Snotky said in German “You are a prisoner of war; you have been captured by the American Army.”
“I am in pain, I demand morphine.”
“Captain Currie the kraut captain is awake”
Currie walked around the truck and stood beside Snotky,
“Captain the Kraut Captain is demanding morphine.”
Currie’s expression hardened and he said slowly and emphatically, “morphine, Hauptstrumfuhrer Nein, no, nix,” he turned to leave, the German said in English,
“Under the Geneva Convention, prisoners are afforded the right to medical care and the right to drugs to ease their pain.”
Currie stopped and slowly turned, he then walked five paces to where the German sat, and Currie knelt beside him. “Since you understand English, I’ll tell you this; I am the leader of a rogue band of bandits, gangsters, if you prefer, we do not believe in the Geneva Conventions. When I am done with you, and the Colonel, and the Sergeant, over there I will kill you all, none of you have any value to me, and you are only a liability.” Currie stood, stepped back two paces, he turned his back to the German, he looked at Snotky and winked, “Snotky, if this kraut moves or speaks another word, kill him.”
Snotky noticed the wink, “Oh yes Sir, I’ll put a bullet right between his eyes will be my pleasure to kill another Nazi bastard.”
The German started to speak, Snotky rose flipped the safety off the Thompson; the German heard the click and saw the Thompson pointed at him, he looked up at Snotky, “Come on kraut say it, then I can kill you, come on say a word.” Snotky said, raising the Thompson to his shoulder Snotky settled his cheek on the stock and looked down the sights. The German’s face went blank, he closed his mouth, and sat there, “damn you,” Snotky said, “Damn you.”
Williams found Currie and handed him a note. Currie unfolded it and read it, he wadded it up and stuffed it into his pocket, “where’s the Colonel?”
“Last time I saw him he was over there by the track.”
Currie started toward the track, “come on Williams.” Currie rounded the truck to see the Colonel holstering a 45 pistol, 10’ feet behind him Costello stood leaning up against the wall of the canyon.
Colonel McGee I have a message from General Ryder, he said, “this question will verify once and for all if you are the real and true Colonel McGee. You see Colonel some folks say you are dead and that you must be an imposter.”
“Come on dear boy ask you question, I am who I say I am.”
Currie pulled the crumpled piece of paper from his pocket, “who was Matilda?” Currie watched McGee’s reaction and at the same time, he saw Costello’s hand move toward his pocket.
Colonel McGee stood there, he blankly stared at Currie, “Matilda,” Colonel McGee said, “only one man on earth besides me knows about Matilda; and I haven’t thought about it in years. Matilda my old son – was the prettiest red-coated Irish-Setter bird dog in all the British Isles, and the dumbest no hunting dog god ever created. I was saddled with that dog for 16 years till she died; had anyone other than his Majesty King George given her to me, I would had drowned the damned no account dog after the first season I hunted her.”
Currie smiled, “So is that is your answer Colonel.”
McGee laughed, “No Captain, Matilda is a bloody tank I helped designed to clear land mines,”
Currie said, “That sir is the answer I wanted to hear.”
“And if I had stayed with the first answer,”
Currie pointed to Costello. “My dear Colonel, that man behind you, would have killed you.”
Colonel McGee turned to see a knife from nowhere appear in Costello’s hand. Costello held it ready to throw,
“He could miss,” McGee said.
Currie picked up a ration box and held it up; Costello threw the blade, it whistled pass Colonel McGee and struck the box dead center. The blade buried to the hilt in the box. Costello started toward Currie and the Colonel; he stopped beside the Colonel and without looking at him
“No, I would not have missed and my old son, Colonel McGee you would be quite dead.” Costello reached for the knife, Currie handed him the box and the knife.
The Colonel looked at them both, “No! I don’t suppose you would have missed.” Costello smiled, “Not in this life-time Colonel, nor the next.”
Costello wiped off the blade folded the knife and it disappeared into his pocket.
“Why all the drama?” McGee said. “Your first radio message confirmed who I was.”
“Not really Colonel, you see the first message said you were dead and were being impersonated by a SS officer, the second message it could be you but we wanted to be careful until they came up with a way to tell and that was the third message.”
“Why did you cut me loose and let me walk around freely. I could have caused you all kinds of trouble, and on the other hand, he was behind me every step I took he was there.”
Currie nodded his head,
“And the side arm,”
“Broken, firing pin.”
Colonel McGee unhooked his web belt and pitched the belt and pistol over to Bailey who was sitting beside the camp stove cleaning a rifle, he caught the belt, and holster, Currie smiled, “well that’s that then.”
Wilkins carried a piece of paper to Currie, Currie read the words scrawled on it. “Good news Colonel, Head Quarters thinks you are very necessary, they are sending a plane to pick you up. Kovac will take you to the other side of the mountain where you will be picked up; you’ll leave in about an hour.”
“By Jove that’s bloody wonderful,” the Colonel said. “How about a cupper shall we.” Currie turned to walk off, he stopped, and as he turned around, he drew his pistol, as he faced the colonel. He raised the pistol, the colonel looked at him, and a strange peace fell over the colonel’s face as the bullet from Currie’s gun drilled its way through his head. The Colonel’s head snapped back, and his body was jolted off its feet, he sailed a few feet backward before his body crashed into the sand.
“Jesus H. Christ,” swore Kovac, “what the fuck?”
Currie handed the last message to Kovac who read it aloud, “Flash – Colonel McGee, imposter, – signed by General Stroh.”
“Now Kovac lets go talk to the Captain and see what they were going to do with him,” Currie began to walk to where the German Captain sat.
“What about the Colonel,” Bailey said,
Currie said without turning, “When I done with him, drag him out of here, and let the buzzards have him, dump his body in the desert.” Currie dropped; his pistol back into his holster and fastened the flap over the gun.
Currie walked around the vehicles to the back of the truck, Snotky had moved the men so they sat on the sand with their backs to the canyon wall.
Currie pulled up a couple ammo boxes and stacked them on top of each other then sat facing the German Captain. The German looked at him, Currie lit a cigarette, “hey Bailey where is the Colonel, bring him here, I want him present when we interrogate these men.”
Bailey and Petry carried the Colonel’s body into sight and then dumped him on the ground. The German’s stared at the Colonels head, a small black hole was in the center of his forehead and from it oozed a trickle of thick red blood. The Colonels hair was red and matted with blood where the bullet had exited. Flies had already begun to buzz around the dead man’s head.
“Who was he,” Currie said as he pointed to the body of McGee,
Captain Mueller looked at Currie, “he was a colonel in the British 8th Army,”
Currie shook his head, “no Hauptstrumfuhrer, he was not Colonel McGee, he was a German imposter, now he is dead, so I want you to answer my questions or you will end up just like him, dead – now who was he?”
“Mueller Heidrick, Hauptstrumfuhrer, Waffen Schutzstaffel.“
Currie looked at him, “that isn’t the question I asked, who was he, was the question I asked.”
“According to the Geneva Convention all I am required to give you is my name rank and number.”
“If I believed and follow the Geneva Convention the colonel over there would be alive and tied up sitting right there beside you.”
The Hauptstrumfuhrer looked at the colonel’s body then at Currie. ”I have told you all I am going to tell you and the Hauptstrumfuhrer looked down.”
Currie stretched out his foot and kicked the German’s broken leg. The German sat bolt upright, his face contorted with pain, and then his face changed from the face of pain to a face of hate. Currie kicked the man’s leg a little harder, the German swore in German,
“Snotky, what did he say?”
“He called you the son of a fatherless godless swine.”
Currie laughed, “I expected something like that, and let’s see what else he will call me.” Currie pulled his pistol from the holster, leaned forward, and tapped the barrel quite soundly exactly where the German’s leg was broken. The German’s body stiffened and then his head dropped to his chest before he rolled on his side; the German had passed out from the pain.
When the German awoke, he tried to move but he couldn’t, he raised his head, he was tied to a stretcher what was elevated a couple of feet off the ground. Mueller heard a voice say, “He’s awakening Captain.”
A few minutes later.” Captain Currie walked into sight; Mueller watched as Currie drank from his cup and then set it down on a box beside the German’s head. Mueller smelled the coffee that was in the cup. Currie sat down beside the Hauptstrumfuhrer.
“Coffee bitter,” the German said softly.
Snotky said, “He wants coffee,”
“Does he now?” Currie reached forward picked up the cup, brought it do to his nose to smell it; then he reached out with the coffee cup as if he was going to give the German a drink, but at the last moment, Currie stopped and slowly poured the coffee on the ground. The German watched the dark black liquid spill from the cup; he could hear the coffee mixing with the sand below him, Currie poured the coffee very, very slowly. The German closed his eyes and let his head drop back onto the stretcher finally the sound stopped, “hey Petry bring me another cup of coffee would you,”
“Sure, thing boss,” Petry said,
Currie cocked an eye at Petry, but he had already disappeared from Currie’s sight.
“Mueller,” Currie said, “Mueller,” Currie jarred the stretcher,
Mueller looked at him, Currie said in a very calm voice, that belied what really was meant to be said; “I am going to tell you this one time, and one time only. I want answers, you will answer all my questions and when you do I will give you morphine, coffee, cigarettes, good food, and eventually freedom; however, if you don’t answer my questions I am going to hurt you until you pass out then I will bring you around and ask you again. I will do this repeatedly, until you answer my questions or die. Then I will start on the Sergeant,” Currie put his hand on the Germans’ broken leg and pushed down on his leg as he stood up, the German screamed out in agony, but he did not pass out. Currie pressed on his leg harder; the German screamed again and passed out. Currie walked pass all the men who had gathered when they heard the German’s first scream.
The men looked down at the German, they turned and walked away, the images of the dead and dying at Al Wad and the skinned bodies, of Perkins, and Snyder hanging from the meat hooks at El Bayadh, they felt nothing at all for the man lying on the stretcher before them.
Doc checked his pulse; it was 120 and then the German’s blood pressure, which was dangerously low. Doc reached up into the Chevy truck and pulled a wooden crate out on the tailgate; he opened the box and pulled out two bottles of saline. He hung the saline from the hook and started the IV in the German’s arm. He set the drip, wide open, and watched the saline drain from the bottle, within minutes the saline bottle was empty. Doc took his pulse and blood pressure again; he pulled the needle from one bottle and punched it through the rubber stopper of the second bottle. He set the drip and checked the pressure again, it was coming up, the German stirred on the stretcher, and he looked at Doc, “Danka Herr Doctor,” Mueller said, Doc walked off saying nothing.
“Captain, I checked out the prisoner, he was in shock his pulse thin and racy and gave him 2 units of saline.” Doc said as he approached Currie who was squatting beside the Jeep smoking a cigarette.
Currie stood up, “you did what, who told you, and you could do that!”
Doc looked at Currie and said, loudly, almost yelling, “Captain I am corpsman it is my job,” and then Doc almost became quiet, “look Captain do you want him alive until he tells you what you want to know or die, because if he is dead, where he was heading and what he was going to do dies with him. You have your job to do I have mine, no morphine, no pain pills ok, I can understand that, but they must be alive to answer questions and that my job. It’s not my job to tell you how to do your job and I don’t condone it, but I signed on and I gave my word, in for a penny in for a pound, so let me do my job and you do yours. I will keep them alive, but I won’t help you kill them.” Doc turned from Currie and walked to the circle of men. “Damn it, give me a cup of fucking coffee,” Doc said. Kovac handed him a cup he had just poured before Doc told off Currie.
Currie stood there then he heard himself say, “You’re right Doc, you do your job, and I’ll do what I have to, to accomplish mine.” Then he lit another cigarette, “Damn-it Doc,” he said to himself, “You keep em alive.”
Currie threw his cigarette down and walked over to where Doc stood. “Ok Doc, you keep em alive, food, water…” Doc interrupted Currie, “drugs, blood, plasma, too,”
Currie nodded, “ok.” Currie continued to question the Hauptstrumfuhrer and his Sergeant, and in due time the story of Colonel McGee had fully unfolded. They had also extracted other vital and important intelligence about German operations in Tunisia.
At night Currie’s cut throats would prey on one and two vehicle convoys, running the roads. The men engineered and improvised some unique ways of making the approaching vehicles drive off the roads into ditches or have them slam into rocks or poles alongside the highway. At each accident Curries boys would look for survivors and search the vehicle for maps, codebooks, radio equipment and or anything else that they thought would be of interest to headquarters.
The men on the ridge counted the vehicles and reported their position and their direction of travel. After the reports were radioed to Headquarters, air raids would soon follow around Gafsa and farther north.
After 16 days of harassing the enemy, Currie packed up and headed toward Tebessa. Currie and his men had collected quite a collection of people, maps, code books, the most vital of these materials including a German Colonel in Rommel’s Afrika Korps, these were carried to the other side of the mountain out of sight from Tozeur and there they were picked up by light plane and flown back to Headquarters in Constantine.
Curries men along with 14 enemy prisoners, 4 Italians, 10 Germans, 2 Kubelwagen, and 2 Opel Blitz trucks pulled out of the canyon swinging wide to the west of Tozeur and by nightfall and 100 miles later, they were in Tebessa. They turned the prisoners over to S-2 and the MP’s. The Opel Blitz Trucks, full of maps, radios, codebooks, transcripts of interrogations of with prisoners, and records of the radio traffic between HQ and them, every detail, well almost every detail of their 16 days in the field was in those trucks. The personal effects of the prisoners were included along with those of Hauptstrumfuhrer Mueller who had finally succumbed to his wounds; he received in the auto crash.
Currie sat in the anteroom to General Stroh’s office with a cup of whisky, he stood when the doors to Stroh’s office opened General’s Patton and Fredenhall walked out and across the room.
Fredenhall stopped turned, “your Currie?” he asked. Currie nodded, “Good job son, good job,”
“So that is Currie’s boy huh,” Patton said, and the Generals left the anteroom.
Meyers followed the Generals out a few seconds later he turned to look at Currie. “God damn Billy, you look like hell, come, come on in”; Meyers patted him on the shoulder and ushered him into Stroh’s office. Stroh came from around his desk, his arm out-stretched; “welcome back Captain, let me be the first to tell you, hell of a good job, damned good Intel; it’ll take S-2 a good month to inventory that load you brought in much less process it . I’ve put you in for some decorations and accommodations,” he said while pumping Currie’s hand. Stroh stopped and sniffed the air, Captain is that you I smell?” Currie nodded,
“I came here straight from the field, and I did not take the time to shower or change. I thought it was more important to report when I arrived – than to lolly-gag around and clean up.”
“Meyers get this man out of here; get him back to his unit. He is to bathe, he is to put on clean clothes, he is to eat, he is to get a little drunk, and then have him report back here to me. I want you to take personal charge of him, have that man before me at 0800 hours tomorrow; do you both understand me?” Meyers stood at attention.
“Yes, Sir General Stroh,” he took Currie by the arm, “alright you smelly bastard, let’s go.”
Stroh stood behind his desk and said, “Take me a week to get that stink out of this office.”
Rawls and Walsh were sitting in a jeep outside Headquarters when Meyers and Currie walked out the door. “Captain Currie, Meyers over here, Rawls called out.” Rawls got out of the jeep, “your chariot awaits,” Currie grabbed hold of the side and sprung up into the jeep and settled into the back seat, Walsh climbed to the back and Meyers took his place up front. Walsh sniffed
Captain Currie said, “I know I stink, the General told me so. Let’s go Charlie.” Currie leaned back; Rawls drove through the streets of Tebessa to the unit area. He pulled up to a tent; your home away from my home, “he said.” “Officers latrine and shower are two tents down and over two to the left.
Currie climbed out of the jeep, “meet me here in one hour,” he looked at his watch, 2100 hours and then he disappeared into the tent. Walsh, Rawls, and Meyers stood there and looked at each other.
Rawls said, “My tent will have a drink and wait and see what goes.”
When Currie emerged from his tent, he was scrubbed clean, shaved, wearing clean clothes, he stood there his hand on his hips, then he looked left then right; Walsh and Rawls had been busy. Currie strolled down between the tents; there were more than 27 people around. He strolled up the line of tents until he smelled it, he walked to the next tent a hand painted sign was stuck in the ground, Able Co. H.Q. Currie stuck his head into the flap and looked around the empty tent. “The boys had been busy.” Currie walked back towards his tent when he heard Rawls laugh.
He stopped and knocked on the tent flap “anybody home,” he said, “Come in Captain,” Rawls said. Rawls, Walsh and Meyers were sitting around a table, a bottle of Scotch whisky sat uncorked on the table, “have drink Billy” Meyers said, handing him a glass. Billy picked up the bottle, wiped the neck on his sleeve, and then brought the bottle to his lips. The three of them watched in amazement as his Adams apple bobbed up and down when he swallowed the scotch –
Currie took the empty bottle from his lips and wiped off his mouth – “thanks boys,” he said.” I needed that;” he set the bottle down on the table, “now I am hungry, lets to get something to eat.” He turned and walked out of the tent – Meyers, Rawls and Walsh followed him, “Where too,” he said smiling.
Three tents up this way Captain, Rawls said leading the way. Rawls pulled the tent flap back, a table set for 4 on a white starched tablecloth, “Come into Café Algeria,” Walsh said.