Currie, Walsh and Rawls stood gathered around the hood of the jeep where a map lay unfolded. Currie was explaining his plan tapping his finger on different areas to make his point. “I’ll say this, Captain, it is bold, it is daring, and quite mad, but I like it, we travel in the open 100 miles, 80 miles of it through German lines lay out a couple of days and ambush and then just drive out like nothing has happened, back through the German lines.”
“I agree with Brad. Charlie said, it is just crazy and foolish enough to work.”
“We have been running patrols and every night for the last week, probing the German lines, they are spread very thin from Sidi Bouzid to Gafsa, it is if we come and go at will, what will be any different to go in a few days then come out a few days later.
The front is not that fluid, that it is going to change that much in a few days and if it does, we will adapt, it is worth the risk,” Currie said folding the map – let’s get to it, pack it up, let’s get ready to move out. I want to be across the Sidi bouzid by first light.”
“Charlie, send Phillips, Henderson, and Bowman they can handle it.” We also have the 3 empty trucks and 2 30cwts will be empty what are we going to do with them.”
Reload the 30 cwt into the trailers, send the 3 30 cwt and the 2 trailers back, take Lane and Green, there are 10 prisoners, the five of them should be able to handle it, put Henderson in charge, he can find his way back to Headquarters, if anyone can.”
“You got it Captain, anything else.”
“No that’s all Charlie, thanks.”
The sun was setting; the shadows from the dune covered their progress from the watching prying eyes of the Germans. At a little after 20 hundred hours Curries column slowly crawled to a halt in the wadi about 50 yards from the Sidi Bouzid road.
Currie anxiously peered above the bank and stared through his binoculars, he could just make out the black shapes and dim lights on the vehicles coming his way, he couldn’t tell how many or how far away they were all they could do for now is wait.
The column drew closer, so did the wall of dust that accompanied it, it was either that or the column was trying to outrun the dust storm, either way the blackness of the night could get a lot blacker before it got any lighter or clearer. Currie folded his handkerchief and tied it around his neck; he adjusted his goggles on his head in preparation for what was coming. The dust storm raged, the German column was strung out and it just crawled along, the visibility was down to 20 feet or less.
The men were huddled down between the bank and the vehicles waiting. “Gather round, ok listen, we are going to cross, the Germans are strung out, the sand storm will cover us and hide the noise, we are going to cross between the vehicles, don’t stop till you are a good 500 yards away from the road in the wadi on the other side, now mount up get them started.”
Currie walked back out toward the road, stood in the middle of the wadi, and watched the German convoy pass, the first jeep pulled up. Currie stood watching the convoy when a German vehicle passed them, Currie slapped the driver on the shoulder, “go, – go – go,” he said, and stepped back. The jeep spun its tires in the sand, bounced its way across the road, and disappeared into the sandstorm across the road. Currie waved the next jeep forward, “ready,” he said. A truck pulling an 88mm gun passed, “go – go – go,” he said. The jeep bogged down, “damn it, go, – go – go,” the jeep broke out of the sand and raced across the road. A ½ track with a 37 mm gun was next, as soon as the Opel Blitz truck cleared the path Currie sent it across the road.
Boom, crash, crunch, Currie turned quickly in time to see the front of the ½ track up in the air; the track had hit something, but what? The ½ track treads began to slip, it moved slowly away from Currie, the track pitched up violently and seemed to launch itself as the treads grabbed hold of the twisted metal hulk under it. The front of the track hit the ground a Kubelwagen rolled out from under the track, the ½ track bounced wildly until it was out of sight.
Currie stood shocked and amazed at the event that had taken place. What seemed to have gone on for hours only took seconds to happen. Two more trucks passed by the wrecked car, not even slowing to access the damage.
Currie sent the next two ½ tracks straight over the Kubelwagen; it was dug in the sand blocking entrance to the wadi. The first ½ track bounced over it, the second rose up and then slid down the other side.
The Chevys and finally Currie with Kovac in his jeep crossed the road; the whole crossing took 31-1/2 minutes.
Currie rendezvoused with his column; he jumped out of the jeep at the first ½ track, what is the damage Sarge? “It peeled some paint off, dented the running board, I think there were 4 people in it, but hard to tell in this mess.”
“4 less to fight Sarge, 4 less” Currie said, “Good work ok, while we have this mess, let’s go; let’s make the best of it.” Currie swung back up into his jeep, “let’s go Kovac.” Kovac started out, the column formed up and headed east-southeast toward the Tunisian Mountains.
The morning sun was rising high in the sky, the sandstorm had died a silent death. Currie had the vehicles spread out 100 yards apart on the lee side of the dune, they were dug in and covered with camouflage, the storm had erased their tracks, they were invisible to anyone on the ground.
Currie took several compass bearings and plotted their position; they were about 40 miles from the Tunisian mountain range, 60 miles from the Maknassy Road, and about 35 miles deep in German territory.
The day was mild, and a light wind blew from the east; by mid-morning, all traces of the convoy had been erased. Currie sat there as the sand slowly piled up around him and his jeep, he was watching the contrails made by the heavy bombers in the clear blue sky, on their way to bomb the Germans and Italians, far to the north. The contrails looked like long white fingers growing in length pointing the direction that the plane flew. Currie watched the contrails of the fighter planes a smaller wispy trail meandering through the thicker contrails of the bombers.
Currie drank from his canteen, settled back, waited, and watched the drama in the sky. He was jolted awake by the sound of low flying aircraft; he looked up to see three Stuka dive-bombers pass over the dune. Currie crossed his fingers; maybe they had not been spotted.
“Hold you fire,” Currie yelled out, “hold you fire.” Hold your fire was echoed down the line. “Do not shoot unless you are shot at,” Currie yelled out.
The Stuka’s returned, they flew over the dune twice and then flew off toward Gafsa. Currie looked at his watch, it was 1400 hours, five more hours until dusk, and 6 hours until it was dark, they had to hold out.
Currie waited, holding the handle of the browning 30-caliber machine gun, waiting for the look-out to sing out that the enemy was within sight. Sweat ran down his face, the drops fell on the jeeps hot metal parts, only to evaporate with a muffled sizzle. Currie strained to hear, craned his neck to see but all he heard was his own breathing and all he saw was tan brown sand glinting in the midday sun.
“Damn it something happen,” Currie thought, for Christ’s sake. Something has to happen.” Captain Look out says all clear, no planes no dust trails nothing all clear.”
Currie released the handle of the Browning, his hand began to shake, and Kovac lit a cigarette and put it up to his lips, “here you go Captain.” Currie nodded, took the cigarette, and sucked his lungs full of smoke.
The crews of the vehicles sat anxiously waiting for the planes or the enemy troops to show in force, every noise every time the wind blew differently or harder, the men grabbed their weapons only to realize it was only that it was only the wind and the sand.
The dune was alive, it moaned, creaked and popped, the sand would slide unexpectedly, the face of the dune where Currie had dug in his troops, changed by the hour. One part of the dune gave way; the alluvial flood of sand buried the trailer and half of the Chevy 30 cwt, the once near Shear vertical face was sliding away.
Currie began to fret, what if’s, and worry.
“Damn it, get dark,” he cursed under his breath.
“You say something Captain.”
“Er, uh, no Kovac, carry on.”
Kovac thought that to be strange, “carry on what,” he was buried up to his butt in the sand doing nothing but sweating and he wants me to carry on.” He lit a cigarette and handed it to Currie, “here boss,” tapping him on his shoulder. Currie flinched, then turned and took the butt.
“Thanks Top, this damn quiet is killing me,”
“Me too Captain, me too.”
“We only have about an hour to go and we can get on our way.”
“Your right Top, Currie looked at his watch. The words raced in his mind, “only an hour, only an hour.””
Currie wiggled about freeing himself from the sand that had drifted in around him, he pushed it away from him with his feet, another inch and the sand would begin filling the floor board of the jeep; he reached up and drug the sand from the side of the jeep pushing it down and under the front end.
The men began to emerge from their hidey-holes like turtles from the sand. The men stretched, twisted, some relieved themselves. Currie hurried down the dune to the first ½ track.
“Get this one out first and have it pull the others free, I don’t want to tear up any equipment, not now.” Once the rope was hooked to the bumper the ½ track belched a little black smoke and pulled the jeeps and the other trucks out of the sand with ease, it took the track 20 minutes to extract all the other vehicles.
The column started out heading under the cover of darkness to the mountains in the east. The Kubelwagen they had brought along now paid for itself a hundred times over; it ran up and down the dunes poking, its nose up to the crest, then moving on once the way was clear.
It was a little after midnight when the mountains rose up in front of them, “head south Top, and let us find a hidey hole.”
The column traveled slowly southward, at the base of the hills, they were looking for a ravine or hummock or wadi. The Kubelwagen with Macy and Petry flew up and stopped close to the lead jeep.
“This way Captain, we found a good spot.”
“Lead on Macy.”
“Follow him Top.”
When the sun rose, the column was neatly tucked into a wadi, the camouflage net was up and staked down. Currie and Kovac were up on the hill surveying the road, they were two miles from the road with a perfect view of the surrounding area for miles in every direction.
They had two days before the Colonel’s convoy was scheduled to arrive. Currie looked at the road, he saw the perfect place for an ambush, and he pointed it out to Kovac.
“Tonight, pick 3 men, we are going to go snooping around.”
“Let’s get back to the unit, you guys keep a good lookout, I don’t want any surprises.”
“You got it Captain,” Martin said, “I don’t like them surprises either.”
Currie led the patrol towards the road, he was followed by Kovac, Costello, and Murphy, five yards of space separated each man. The men followed Currie where he would walk, they walked, where he would crawl they crawled. Currie made his way slowly to the road and to the higher ground beside the road.
The road cut through a low rise, the bank on either side were cut back in two stops, there was about a 12-foot drop from the top of the rise to the base of the road.
Currie had crawled down to the first cut and was descending to the roadway when out of nowhere a German motorcycle appeared. Currie let go of his handhold and slid down the face of the rock wall to the road and rolled into the ditch. The motorcycle swerved braked hard and slid to a stop. The driver turned the wheel and headed back to where Currie had fallen in the ditch. The rider rose from his seat and steadied the schmeisser in his hands, sweeping the ditch with the barrel. The motorcycle stopped, the rider dismounted and began searching the ditch.
Currie hugged the ground, he didn’t move not even to breathe, he could hear the Germans hob nailed boots crunching the gravel on the road not far from his head.
Currie heard the German yell; he braced himself for the bullets that would surely kill him, but the German gurgled then fell flat on his face. Currie jumped, he opened his eyes and stared into the eyes of the dead man. Currie wet himself. “Come on let’s go”, Costello said, Kovac and the other men jumped down onto the road. Currie rose slowly, he looked at the German stuck in his back was one of Costello’s knives; it was buried up to the hilt. Costello grabbed the handle twisted it, rocked it back and forth to ease the withdrawal of it. Currie heard the knife cut bone, cloth, and gristle, he watched as Costello pulled the blood-covered blade out of the German.
Currie felt hands on him, “get up we got to get out of here, dump that motorcycle hide the bodies Kovac said,” “no don’t, take them back to the wadi, hurry, bodies and motorcycle and all.”
Drive the damned thing back there. Costello jumped on the motorcycle, cranked it up, turned it around, drove it down the road, and turned off headed to the wadi. Currie picked up the Germans helmet, let’s go he said and trotted off following the motorcycle.
“What gives Captain?”
“Change of plans, Top, change of plan.” Costello had stopped the motorcycle and was unloading the Germans when the men caught up with him
Quick, Strip the bodies bury them, come on let’s go Currie said pulling the German’s top off and turning him over to unbutton his tunic and pants, Patterson and Murphy pulled the dead Germans bodies off then their trousers. Currie striped off their belts and tunic, shirts, “ok let’s get them buried.” Kovac pulled the shovel off the sidecar; he and Murphy dug the shallow graves and buried the men. Kovac and Murphy caught up with Currie, Patterson, and Costello just as they arrived at the wadi.
I owe my life to you Costello, Thank you.
“Just doing my job, Captain, just doing my job.”
“Ok, gather round, Rawls, Walsh up front, come on close it up, bring it in.”
There is a wadi about 100 feet from the road that outlets onto the road, about at the crest off the rise, that will hide us until tomorrow night, then we will disperse to the positions along the top of the bank, there are plenty of crags boulders to take position behind. I want Mike you and your track here, Currie pointed at the drawing he had made in the sand, you will take out the lead vehicle and then block the road. Macy, I want you and your track here to take out the last vehicle and block the road and take out anything that moves.”
“Murphy your ½ track on the top of the bank, the bazookas are to take out trucks or armor; that Mike and Macy don’t take out.”
Kovac your jeep here, yours here and Shapiro your jeep here, neutralize everything but the touring car.” Snotky see which of those German uniforms fit you the best, you will stop the traffic and identify the colonel’s convoy, you’ll have a message for him or something, and Costello you are with Snotky, Any questions?”
“Yes Captain, do Snotky and I just stand around down there until he comes along?” Costello asked.
“Sure, why not you’ll be in German uniforms, you’ll have a motorcycle to sit on and wait; and we will be behind you, they’re due sometime between 20 and 22 hundred hours. We hit them hard and fast, we take the staff car, the Colonel, and whoever else is with him and then we run, as if the hounds of hell are after us, straight back to HQ.
“Any questions?” Currie looked around, “mount up and move out to that wadi.”
“Hubba – hubba,” Walsh added.
The column moved slowly out of the wadi and wound their way toward the road. Costello and Snotky dressed as Germans roared down through the column to the road, they took up a lookout post. The column reached the road, Snotky and Costello escorted the ½ tracks to their positions and helped to hide them in the nooks and crannies of the rocky terrain, two lone trucks passed them as they stood beside the road, truck neither slowed or stopped and soon the only sign of them was the dust they left in their wake.
“Hey – you guys can quit clowning around and haul your butts up here.”
“Shall we, Mr. Snotky,” Costello said as he fired up the motorcycle,” here we go,” Costello eased the motorcycle out on the road and then made a U-turn and revved up the engine, the motorcycle climbed up the bank and vanished over the top. Costello hit the kill switch and the motor shut off. “Hi yah Captain, what do you know.” Costello said grinning from ear to ear. “Can I keep it, pointing to the cycle, can I huh, can I?”
“For a while, as long as it’s an asset,” Currie patted Costello on the German helmet he was wearing – “for a while Costello.”
“Thanks boss,” Costello pushed the cycle into the bushes and covered it up with brush.
As the dawn broke over the mountain, the area seemed to come alive. A Flight of 6 Stuka dive bombers flew over them headed to the north, the flight was no more than 100 feet above them, they were close enough to count the rivets in the wing, and you could smell the slight odor of burned motor oil from the engines. The men watched the planes until they were mere specks in the sky.
No sooner had the planes vanished to the west, a clanking and grinding sound off to the east grew louder and louder, the dust was visible now long in great brown clouds in the clear blue skies, first to pass were several motorcycles then several cars and trucks, the line of trucks, cars, armored cars, ½ tracks, and tanks.
“If ever a goose was cooked ours was damned sure cooked.” Currie thought peering around the rock, the dust hung heavy in the air as the armored column slowly passed by. Currie had less than 20 men, 7 vehicles and here not 50 feet away was one maybe two German regiments he had already counted 100 tanks made up of panzer IV’s and V’s and armored cars.
Currie lit a cigarette as the last trucks and cars rumbled down the highway. It has been 4 hours since they heard the first sounds and saw the first vehicles now, he watched the last vehicle slowly became engulfed in the dust.
Currie was doodling in the ¼-inch layer of dust left by the armored column. Before Currie could react, they were over him, hundreds of them; the roar of their engines was deafening, the Heinkel bombers flying west to support the armored column, zooming past the bombers were Focke Wolf 190’s and Me 109’s, the hedge hopping fighters itching to find anything to destroy and above the Heinkel were more fighters flying high cover.
“Top what have we gotten into?” The rest of what he said was drowned out by the airplanes, the noise the vibration from them caused the dust to dance and the ground to shake; he put his fingers in his ears.
“What did you say sir, I couldn’t hear you,” I said what have we gotten ourselves into.”
Kovac shrugged his shoulders, “whatever it is, you’ll get us out of it.”
Bailey crawled up to Currie and handed him a radio message. Currie read the message and shook his head, he handed it to Kovac. “Thanks, send more,” signed Meyers, Kovac laughed and mouthed the word more.
“You’re on Costello,” Currie called out.
Costello started the motorcycle, put on his helmet, and adjusted his goggles. Snotky crawled into the sidecar, pushed the radio down between his legs, and adjusted the sling on his Schmeisser machine pistol.
Costello pulled the cycle out on the road and headed east they passed two 4-truck convoys about three miles out, after they passed the convoys Snotky pulled the radio out and spoke into it. “Not, I say again, not the one.”
“Stand down, pass the word.”
Costello pulled off the road and then turned around and followed the four trucks back to the ambush point he slowed and pulled off the road to wait for the next approaching column.
Currie threw a rock at Costello and Snotky and then he motioned for them to go. In the distance, about six miles out, he had seen the black hulks and the wavering trace of dim yellow headlights of the approaching column.
The radio crackled, “play ball, play ball, Benz leads the column, 2 armored cars First and last, 6 trucks in between,” Costello turned the bike around and waited, Snotky sent the message again.
Currie yelled at Shapiro, “Go – go – go – “
Shapiro pulled the ½ track out on the road, the gun crew depressed the antitank gun and pointed it down the road, and Shapiro bailed out of the driver’s seat and manned the 30 cal browning and the back right corner.
Macy fired up his track, closed the top and windows, the barrel of the gun was directly over his head, and when it fired, it deafened him. Macy eased the track out of the hidey-hole and stopped it about 40 feet from the road. Macy watched as the Mercedes Benz passed, followed by a Sdkfz 222 6-ton armored car, then, one, two, three, four, five, six, Opel blitz trucks and finally a Sdkfz 231 heavy 6-wheel radio armored car, the antitank gun above his head fired. A brilliant yellow flash lit up the area blinding Macy, the gun fired again, he was kicked in the back, “go – go – go “ Macy drove half blind toward the road, his truck hit the radio car and pushed it across the road turning it on its side, the 2 browning machine guns began firing, Macy rubbed his eyes.
Shapiro watched the road, the Benz coasted over the crest of the hill followed by the armored car, as soon as the armored car was in view the 37 mm antitank gun roared, the Mercedes Benz slid to the side of the road and bounced back after hitting the bank. The armored car seemed to stop a small explosion bulged the sides before a tremendous explosion lifted the 6-ton armored car off the ground and engulfed it in an orange fireball, before it crashed down on the road, the flame lit the area up like daylight.
Jones shouldered his rifle and took a bead on the Mercedes Benz, the driver jumped out firing his pistol. Jones squeezed the trigger on his M1, the driver slumped to the ground, the other German who was hurt in the crash tried to exit the car with his machine pistol. Jones pulled the trigger again, the guard spun around and sprawled face down on the road, and another figure emerged from the back seat holding a pistol. Jones squeezed off another round hitting the hand holding the pistol, the pistol disappeared. The German grabbed his hand and fell to his knees.
Shapiro began firing his 30 cal browning at the Germans. They were running toward his side of the armored car. He raked the area from side to side; the Germans fell over each other as the 30 cal bullets riddled their bodies. The three jeeps and the remaining ½ track appeared on the bank above the six trucks, raking the trucks and the Germans with 50-caliber and 30-caliber machine gun fire. The Germans fired their weapons to no avail, one by one they fell, the trucks burned the moans, and screams of the wounded, muffled by the intense machine gun fire.
Currie and Walsh approached the Mercedes Benz. Currie took the rider’s side; Walsh took the driver’s side. Currie grabbed the German holding his hand and forced him to the ground, he slowly opened the door. Two shots rang out; Walsh smashed the window glass with his rifle butt and stuck the barrel against the Col’s head. The Walther pistol tumbled out the window. Currie eased up to look in, he saw the Colonel, but something else caught his eye. He thrust his hand and grabbing a hand holding a pistol, he twisted it around; he heard a bone snap and a woman’s scream. Currie jerked the woman out of the door. She tumbled to the ground. “Roust, roust,” Currie said waving his pistol at the colonel.
The firing had stopped, the barrels of the machine guns smoked and crackled from the heat of firing. Jones came up and crouched beside Currie. “Cover them,” the colonel and the woman, and the wounded lieutenant, lay on the ground. “Captain, Snotky wants to know if he can come in. Pass the word Top, tell them it’s Costello and Snotky.”
“Hold your fire Snotky and Costello are coming in – hold your fire. Ok get these three to the track and tie them up, wind them up and let’s get out of here.
Walsh, get some help, search the Benz front to back, Macy backed up and pulled around the burning truck. The ground for 200 yards covered with the dead and dying men. “Damn it,” he said. He backed up steered the truck up the bank to the crest and rode the ridge until he was clear to come back down to the road. Costello and Snotky were right behind him, they slid down the bank and almost overturned, and when they reached the road, Costello yanked the handlebars and gunned it, the cycle wobbled, wiggled and then scooted out on the road coming down on the ground. He skidded to a stop in a cloud of dust.
Kovac pulled the jeep up to where Currie was standing, “what’s the count Top?”
“2 dead, 3 wounded, Captain; Doc is taking care of the wounded.”
“Who is dead?”
“Williams and Walter – Patterson, Murphy, and Tollson wounded, they will live.”
Costello started the motorcycle, Snotky wiggled down into the side car, Costello pulled up beside Currie, you guys head down the road to Gafsa, radio us if anything heavy is coming; with all the dust and gunk, you can’t tell us from them. Don’t get out too far.” Costello twisted the throttle and pulled out heading down the road.
“We all set Top?”
Then let’s go. Currie swung into the jeep and sat on a seat full of 50 cal shells and links, Currie locked down the still warm Browning machine gun.
Kovac pulled out around the other vehicles and took the lead, “open it up Top, and let’s get the hell out of here.”
Top shifted into high gear and mashed the accelerator to the floor. Currie looked over his shoulder, the eight vehicles were still burning the black columns of smoke, rose into the night sky. Currie turned back around and stared at the road ahead of them. Kovac saw the motorcycle about the same time as Currie.
“Is that Costello?”
“Slow down but don’t stop.”
Currie looked hard at the men on the cycle.
“Yeah, that’s them,” Currie said. Pull over.
Costello had pulled out behind them and pulled up next to them when Kovac stopped.
It is deserted, we went through and came back out here, and there isn’t anyone around.
“The town Captain, the town is deserted, or it was 29 minutes ago.”
“Well then let’s go lead on Costello.”
Walsh pulled up beside Currie, “What’s up?”
“The town is deserted were going straight through, pass the word to be ready, but no shooting, unless were shot at. Walsh told each truck and jeep then he brought up the rear and took a spot right in front of the last ½ track and behind the Chevy 30 cwt.
Gafsa was quiet and dark not a soul Arab or German was about, they didn’t even see a stray dog or a loose chicken as they passed through the town at 30 miles per hour.
Within minutes, the column was through the town, headed up the highway to Feriana the radio crackled; it was Costello, an enemy column was headed toward them. Currie told Costello to head for the oasis. The column turned off the road and ventured over the dunes and away from the road.
Before dawn, the camouflage netting they pulled over the jeeps trucks and tracks made them invisible, the tracks and ruts scoured clean from the desert floor from the road to the oasis by the wind. The men uncovered the Arab and German tents and sat them up.
The Colonel, the woman and the wounded lieutenant sat in the sand beside the ½ track.
Colonel Helmet Schmetz, of the SS, a striking 6’ tall, a barrel chested man, his close cropped silver grey hair covering his long square head, the colonel’s face divided by a long thin Arian nose that separated his steel blue eyes his face was completed by his plump lips over his dimpled chin. The colonel stared defiantly at Currie as he approached him.
“Have you searched them Charlie.”
“Yes Captain, the Colonel, and the lieutenant have been searched; we found some papers not much else.”
“How about the woman, did you search her?”
“No sir, we didn’t think about her.”
“Well search her and do it pronto,” Currie said.
“Come on missy stand up.” Rawls reached down to take her arm, the woman kicked at him and began what Rawls presumed to be cursing.
Currie walked over to her, grabbed her by the hair, and pulled her to her feet. She began kicking at Currie, “Kovac, Shapiro, grab hold of this bitch. Bailey you too.”
The three men grabbed hold of the screaming woman. Rawls began patting her down avoiding the breasts and crotch. “Oh, for god’s sake Rawls, search her.” Rawls stepped back to look at Currie, Currie crouched and ran his hand up the inside of her legs; she cursed him, swine kopf. “Oh, what do we have here.” Currie said, he pulled her skirt up to her waist. Tucked into the woman’s stocking held in by the garter, was a Walther 6.5 mm automatic pistol. Currie twirled it around his finger, “now search the bitch!” Rawls started at her neck, shoulders, arms, breasts – “hey what is this,” he said, patting the spot below her cleavage. He pulled open her blouse and dug down between her breasts with his fingers; the woman screamed spit and squirmed away, but Rawls persisted and pulled a long think surgical knife from a leather sheath from between her breast and hidden under the front of her corset. “Damn this S-O-B is sharp.” “Hey Doc, what is this for,” Rawls handed the blade to Doc.
Doc turned it over once, “it’s an amputation knife, 2 cuts, one under, one over, and it cuts to the bone then you saw the bone you can take a leg off in 30 seconds.”
“Give me the knife.”
“Here you go Captain,” Doc handed it to him, “turn her around,” Currie pulled up her coat and blouse, the corset was laced from the hips to the center of her back, he slipped the blade under the strings and with one long stroke cut them loose. Then he cut the garter straps in the back. The woman was screaming, cursing trying to free herself from the men.
Currie cut the garter straps in the front and then the straps over each shoulder, he grabbed the corset right below the breast and jerked it from the woman’s body; several pieces of paper floated to the ground, several others still were pinned to her chemise.
“Damn it gets more interesting by the minute doesn’t it, Walsh, didn’t you get her suitcase.”
“Yes Sir,” Captain.
“Find her something to wear, pants, shirt, underclothes, then strip her.”
“I will not give you barbarians the pleasure to strip me, let go of me you fools, I will take off my clothes, you bastards want to see the body of a German officer, I will show you what a woman’s body looks like.” She spat the words at Currie and the men untie my hands, Currie stood in awe. Untie her, let her go. Kovac, Bailey, and Shapiro stood back.
“I am Ilsa Hoffman, Dr. Ilsa Hoffman MD. Medical Service.” She bent over, untied her black oxford shoes, and then kicked them off at Currie. When she kicked her shoe off her hose slid down her legs, piling up around her ankles, she pulled her skirt around to the side and unbuttoned it; she pushed it down over her hips, stepped out with one foot, and kicked the skirt to Currie, which he caught. “I am a Captain in the Africa Medical Corp,” she said pulling her jacket off and throwing it at Currie, she ripped loose the cuff buttons, jerked open her blouse and pulled it off. She stood there in her chemise, bra and panties, all white, all military issue. She pulled the chemise over her head and dropped it on the sand at her feet, next came the bra, she slipped the straps off twisted the bra around and ripped it open. She threw it at Currie, “you son-of-a-bitch, how many? How many am I expected to fornicate and satisfy, or do I do all of you.” She yanked her panties down and kicked them off, “well here it is, which one of you bastards, do I take first?” Ilsa stood there shivering, well, “who is to be first, come on you bastards,” she screamed. Walsh threw her a blanket, “cover yourself woman.”
“Give her, her clothes,” Currie said, “Frau Doctor, no man, officer or enlisted, will know you carnally, .
Ilsa stood naked, she was tall, about 5’8” with a very pleasant face. She had an ample bosom but her large nipples made her bosom look smaller. She had a thin waist, nice full hips; the light brown wispy pubic hair covered her full plump pudendum – her legs were long and shapely. Ilsa wrapped the blanket around her body; she dropped her head staring at the sand around her feet.
Doc held her clothes out, “Frau Doctor, come with me.” Ilsa looked at the Red Cross on his arm, she glanced at Currie with tear-soaked eyes; she stumbled off after Doc sobbing.
Snotky was reading the notes that fell from her and the ones that were pinned to her chemise.
“Hey, this is good stuff; Captain, “it is a report on the medical on how many wounded, sizes of units and medical supplies needed, fills in a lot of blanks about troop strength, she has a few cities listed as well.”
“Search the colonel again thoroughly and the lieutenant down to their skin if necessary,”
“Yes, sir Captain,” Walsh said.
“That will not be necessary lieutenant,” Col Schmetz said in passable English.
“Well, wonders never cease,” Currie, murmured. The Colonel pulled off his tunic, pulled a belt from around his waist, and handed it to Walsh. “Captain May I ask for the return of my cigarette case and lighter, sentimental reasons you understand which is of no value to anyone but me.”
“The lighter and case,” Currie said, “We are no thieves, cough it up.”
“It is over here,” Rawls said, “in the box of personals.”
Currie reached out and took it from Rawls; he opened it and looked at it. “There is more to this than just cigarettes,” Currie said handing it to Costello; “find the hidden compartment.”
“But Captain, I assure you there is no hidden –
“Here you go Captain,” Costello handed the cigarette case back to Currie, the left side was open in it was a picture of a woman and 2 small children, and 2 small glass vials with an amber liquid in them. Currie popped them out into his hand, he looked at them, “Cyanide Colonel, tsk – tsk.”
“Captain, a man has to do what he has to do.”
“You’re not going to do it here.”
“Check the lighter,” he pitched it at Costello.”
Currie snapped the cigarette case closed and handed it to the Colonel.
“Lighter is ok sir,” Costello tossed it back to the colonel. Currie threw the colonel a pack of camels,
“Danka Herr Hauptman.”
Lieutenant Koppel was stripped to his shorts, he was given clothes, a field uniform from his luggage; the lieutenant struggled with his clothes but managed to get dressed.
Doc returned with Dr. Hoffman, she was dressed in a pair of slacks, a dark shirt, and a jacket, her black hair tied up in a white scarf. She walked bare footed over to where her shoes were, reached down, picked them up, and joined the Colonel and Lieutenant where she put on black socks and her shoes. The colonel offered her a cigarette, she eagerly took it, and Currie watched as she stuck it between her plump lips and watched her cheeks as she sucked the smoke into her lungs. Currie watched her chest rise, then fall as she exhaled the smoke.
“Lieutenant Walsh is it?” the Colonel said.
“Yes, Colonel I am Lieutenant Walsh.”
“May I ask where the rest of my men are being held?”
“You are all there is, we brought no other prisoners.
“Setting my men free was a noble but foolish thing to do.”
“No sir, you three are all that survived. My god, 142 men, were there any wounded?”
Walsh shook his head, “No.”
“Not one man was left alive,” Dr. Hoffman said.
Walsh looked at them, we checked everybody we could find, and there were no survivors.
“They were good, loyal men, so young, so brave.”
The Colonel shook his head, he mumbled, “May god have mercy on their souls. One more thing Lieutenant, Dr. Hoffman would like some medical supplies to treat Lieutenant Koppel.”
“I will ask the Captain.”
“Thank you, Danka, Lieutenant Walsh.”
“Colonel here’s some food for you and the others.”
“Thank you, sergeant, it is sergeant isn’t it?” he said taking the K-rations.
“Yes, Colonel it is, I’ll be right back with some coffee for you to drink.”
Doc returned with three canteen cups of coffee – and passed them out to the three.
“Dr. Hoffman the captain said I am to offer my assistance and any supplies we have for you to help the lieutenant there.”
Ilsa looked – through her red puffy eyes at Doc. “His hand is very bad; I need to operate and remove the fractured bone chips and stop the bleeding.”
“Dr. Ma’am, this is the desert, we can’t operate here on him.”
“Sergeant if I don’t operate now and do what I can to repair the hand soon, I’ll have to amputate it.”
“Please Sergeant Help me.”
“Ma’am, I know I have the instruments, but we have no sterile place.”
“What about a tent sergeant. I can make do in a tent.”
“I’ll ask the Captain that is all I can do ma’am.”
“Thank you, sergeant.”
“What are we going to do with them Captain? Are we going to take them to HQ and let HQ interrogate them or what?”
“Charlie, I don’t know yet, the papers they have means they know a lot more than what is on the papers.”
“Captain, I’ll help you interrogate the men, torture them, and help you throw dirt on their faces – “
“But” Currie said looking at him.
“But” I can’t do that, I can’t kill a woman in cold blood and we, if we interrogate the colonel, we would have to bury the three of them. That is something I couldn’t do.
“Charlie, he is too high a profile, people will want to know where he is, he is too hot a potato. Headquarters has already sent us a message, wanting to know where he is and when we will be back. It seems the German are quite frantic, they are looking everywhere for them and the unit that killed 200 of their best SS troops, so that is two reasons why he needs to stay alive, too many people know we have him.”
“Hey Captain, could you do it?”
“Do what? Charlie”
“Kill her.” Rawls studied his face and he knew the answer, it mattered not what he might have said, he saw the truth in Currie’s face and that comforted him.
“Come on Charlie we got things to do, we need to pull out tonight, double check the camo netting and drag the sand again, we need to disappear.”
“You got it boss,” Rawls said, “You got it.”
“Captain, that German doc needs to cut on the lieutenant’s hand to save it, she wants to use a tent and this list of equipment and supplies. Doc handed the list to Currie.
“Let her do it, give her what she needs, just watch her close, and count the instruments twice,” Currie handed the list back to Doc.
Doc stood there he mumbled, “What the hell just happened.” Doc set up a tent for surgery; Ilsa prepared the lieutenant and gave him two morphine ampoules. Doc watched as Ilsa cut open the hand from the knuckles to wrist; exposing the bones or what was left of the bones of the middle two fingers. Dr. Hoffman cut the shattered bone and bone fragments out of his hand. She shook her head and muttered to herself. Doc watched as she removed the two middle fingers and the center of the hand, she worked for an hour reconnecting blood vessel and then she pulled the first finger and the small finger together, sprinkled sulfa powder on his hand and sutured them together. “I couldn’t save them,” she said; “they were too far gone, I hope the hand will survive; only time will tell that’s all I can do.” Ilsa packed gauze around his hand and then bandaged it. The lieutenant stared blankly into space mumbling something unintelligible. Ilsa popped another morphine ampoule into his arm. “That will do it, there is nothing more than I can do.”
“You did a splendid job Doctor, I’ve only seen one better pair of hand than yours, you’re a very talented surgeon Dr. Hoffman.”
“Sergeant, you said one better may I ask who.” Doc looked her in the eye, “my wife was the most gifted surgeon, she had the touch, and she made me look like a meat cutter,”
Doc looked at his hands, turning them over, “I couldn’t save her, and I tried everything I knew,
“How did you? Why did you operate,” Ilsa asked?
“I was the only surgeon within 100 miles; we were the only surgeons at the hospital in the town where we lived.” Doc picked up and counted the instruments, he stopped, put his hand out, snapped his fingers, “give it back,” Doc curled his middle finger up and straightened it and curled it again, “the Captain stripped you once, he will do it again.” Ilsa pulled the scalpel out of her sleeve and handed it to him.
“He would, wouldn’t he?”
“To the skin and such lovely skin, it is,” Doc said, grinning. “Well, I hope you enjoyed it because you won’t ever see it again, I can promise you that.”
Doc finish counting the instruments, he dropped them into a deep tray on the table. He stood back and with a sweep of his arm, showed her the way to the tent flap. “Corporal take the Doctor back to the Colonel, the lieutenant will be ok, we will put him on a stretcher and bring him round directly.”
“This way doctor,” the corporal raised his rifle pointing it the direction she was to go. The doctor straightened herself, pulled the gown and her hat off, which she dropped on the chair, “I am coming Corporal.”
“Yes ma’am,” he said.
“Be nice to the lady Corporal.”
“I am always nice, Doc, you know that.”
“This way ma’am and don’t dally, we need to be on our way.”
“Oh, all right, Corporal.”
Captain, Captain Currie, I just heard Combat Command C is raiding Gafsa, Col Stack and his boys are there now, Macy said handing the note to Currie. That was Stack we saw on the road, if that is the case let’s get going.
“Walsh, Rawls, Kovac, Lets go, let’s get moving, move it – Hubba – Hubba,” Currie yelled. The men who had been idly lazing around, jumped, they pulled the tents down and pulled the camouflage netting from the vehicles.
“Top grab that German stuff, don’t leave anything here, let’s go, let’s go, let’s go!” Within an hour, Currie’s command was on the move. Macy had radioed HQ and told them of their movement toward Tebessa, they would be there by late afternoon. HQ told them, Combat Command D was at Feriana, and to radio them of their presence. At 1600 hours Curries Column passed the check point at Feriana, it would be, 1900 hours before they were back in Tebessa, and 3 hours before Currie and his men could relax.
The unit rolled by Speedy Valley where Fedendalls’ II Corp was dug in along the canyon, it looked like a small tent city, complete with streetlights and traffic cops.
The column swung in the main gate under the arch that Alexander once walked under some thousand years ago. Currie’s eyes widened. The town had turned into a supply depot; the column threaded its way through the roads, narrowed and choked off by box upon box of supplies of every description and size possible.
The column halted in front of the school turned Headquarters, “wait for me,” Currie slapped the side of the jeep and dismounted; he turned and signaled to Walsh to bring the prisoners.
Currie caught an MP by the elbow, “hey watch it Mac,” the MP looked at Currie “Oh sorry sir,”
“You see; the German Colonel, the woman, and the Lieutenant, get some help, and take them to S-2 for interrogation and Corporal, treat the lady nice even if she is German.”
“Look Corporal, she is a Doctor, the last I heard, they were saving lives not taking them, she might have saved one of your buddies.”
“Yes, sir Captain will do.” The corporal un-slung his carbine, held it at port arms, “come with me, this way Colonel, this way madam,” the corporal walked them around the building and disappeared,
“Mr. Walsh, gather up all the stuff, drop it off at G2. I will meet you back at the unit as soon as I can.”
Walsh nodded, “you got it William, say hi to Mike for me.”
Currie patted his shoulder, “Will do, Brad, will do.” Currie headed for the door up four wide white marble steps and through the two massive oak doors into the hallway. The hallway was ringed with Roman arches and white marble, columns, a grand staircase of white marble wound and snaked its way to the third floor. Currie stood there looking at the mosaics on the floors and walls and the Moorish – Roman architecture. The palace of a king he thought once filled with pashas and harem girls and eunuchs’, now filled with soldiers and god knows what.
“Can I help you Captain,” a whiney voice crumbled Currie’s dream of the Arabian nights.
Currie shook his head and looked at the face, the voice came from, the corporal looked like an elf, he had wire rimmed glasses riding low on his bulbous nose, the earpieces hooked around his large cup shaped ears. Currie shook his head again and looked again at the man, “General Stroh.”
“Up the stairs to the right the end of the hall,” the corporal wheezed and whined.
“Thanks,” Currie looked hard at the man’s face, again staring at the black bushy eyebrow that ran from his right ear to his left ear without interruption.
Trying to compose himself, Currie stumbled off toward the stairs. “Poor man,” he thought, “that is one god ugly man; I bet his mommy hid him when he was young.” Currie took the stairs two at a time to the second-floor landing, then down the long high-ceiled hallway to the offices of General Stroh.
Currie pushed the door open with his shoulder and walked into a room full of people, the room slowly quieted as each stopped talking and turned to stare at him, hands began patting Currie on the back, good job Captain, and way to go, congratulations, were heard from every man in the room. Meyers ushered Currie through the door and closed them behind them, the voices now muffled through the door became murmurs.
“Billy how the hell are you,” Mike said pumping his hand.
“Oh, sorry Billy,” Mike let go of his hand, “come on in the Generals are waiting.”
“Generals, yeah Generals.”
Billy shook his head then looked up, “why me? Why me?”