The road to El Bayadh
The column cut across the crossroads heading south, then turned east to parallel the Saida to Marrakech road. The column moved slowly across the plateau, keeping their dust trail to a minimum.
Currie was scanning the horizon; a pall of black smoke rose off in the distance. “Waite step-on-it, let’s go see what goes on.” Waite nosed the track in the direction of the smoke and increased his speed.
The three paneled trucks on the road had just about burned themselves out by the time the company arrived. “Evans, up front pass the word,” Currie called out.
Lt. Evans pulled up beside the track, “Sargent have your men check it out”
“You got it boss, third squad, check it out.”
Currie sat on the track watching, Kovac had the 50 cal ready to provide covering fire, and he watched Evans’ men move down the steep slope to the road. He lit a cigarette; Rawls came up and climbed up on the track. “What’s going on down there?”
“Medic, Medic, on the double Medic,” sergeant Morgan called out excitedly.
The excited voice of Morgan crackled across the radio, “LT, LT, you have to see this, it’s horrible, Hurry!” Was all Morgan said?
Currie looked through his binoculars at the three burned out trucks, off to the side he saw Morgan waving to Evans motioning him to come.
“Currie tapped Waite on the shoulder, “let’s go see what’s going on.”
Waite eased out on the clutch, and slowly crawled out over the crest, and let the track idle down the slope to the bottom; he sped up and pulled up beside Evans who had run down the slope.
Evans was white as chalk all he could do was point. Currie and Rawls climbed down from the track and walked behind the burned trucks. The sight was horrible, lying on the ground three naked men who had had their throats cut. The blood-soaked sand caked their bodies. Just beyond them was a naked woman she was tied spread eagle to four stakes. Her skin was burned and was cracked and weeping blood. Rawls rushed to her side, he blotted her lips with water, she coughed, he held his head close to hers, and she told him she was Red Cross. There were four other women the Arabs and Germans had taken the other women with them. Rawls asked her how long she had been here, and with her last dying breath, she spoke the word, “yesterday.”
Doc was out of breath when he arrived, he saw the woman and gagged he cut her arms and legs loose. He surveyed her wounds. He took her pulse and listened for a heartbeat, he stood up and shook his head, and he pulled a ground cover from his bag and covered her. He looked at Currie, “God-damn Captain, those bastards mutilated that women the cut out her vagina, cut off her breasts and slit her belly open, from all the bruising on her thighs she was raped multiple times. I don’t see how in the hell she lived as long as she did.”
“Those Bastards have 4 more women out there and they will do the same to them if we don’t do something.” Rawls said
Wilkins was looking around, “They took their time with the men as well as the girl these men have been sodomized, castrated, and their throats were probably cut during the act, notice the blood pattern, and position of the bodies.
“Bury them bury them now,” Currie Said Mark their graves and mark the map, send a message to Battalion, tell them what happened here, tell em. Tell em hell, Get Jones up here Now!”
Jones came running down the slope he grabbed hold of Kovac to help him stop and slid to a stop in front of Currie. Currie was animated he was pointing at the bodies and then at the desert and then at Jones and Kovac.
“I want those bastards, do you hear me, I want them, Jones you told me once you could track a rabbit through a briar patch, if you can do that you can track these bastards through the desert,” Currie fumed.
“Sir, Captain may I pick my men and equipment,” Kovac said
“If it meets with my approval yes Kovac you can.”
“Captain, I want in on this Hunt,” Rawls said.
“Done!” Currie said.
“Kovac, Jones, pick your men,” Rawls said.
“Doc, Bailey, Macy, Sinclair, Perkins, Costello… Bishop, Waite, Snotky, Wilkins,” Kovac said.
“And Thompson,” Jones said.
Kovac and Jones picked the men 11 plus themselves to make 13 and Rawls made it 14.
“I will need one of the 30cwt’s, which is the best,” Rawls said.
“They all will do for we are going to do, they won’t fail us,” Waite said.
Rawls had extra water and gas loaded along with the new 50 cal rifle and three BAR’s, Radio’s and batteries, and extra ammo.
Jones and Kovac took a jeep and scouted the area and then doubled back to pick up Rawls and the men.
Currie cut them loose, “Find those Bastards I want them…Dead or alive I want them!”
Rawls rode with Jones and Kovac, Kovac would stop now and then Jones would get out of the jeep walk around and kneel he would figure out which tracks they were to follow.
Currie continued along the Saida Marrakech road heading toward El Bayadh
Kovac was heading a north by east course through the desert when Jones tapped his shoulder and pointed to the north. There were eight vultures floating on the air currents, Kovac turned the wheel and headed for them. He hadn’t driven a mile before the floor of the desert became a fine sand that swirled up about them as they drove ever closer to the vultures. “Jones looked at Rawls, “LT, I have a bad feeling about this.” Rawls looked at him and shook his head.
Kovac jerked the steering wheel to the right and slammed on the brakes the motor sputtered and died Jones looked down into a ravine at the same time two vultures came flying out their huge wings making whooshing sounds and pushing Jones back farther into the jeep.
God Damn, What the fuck was that! Jones screamed.
“Just those fucking Buzzards, Jones, you should have known what they were,” Kovac said pushing Jones off him.
“Oh My God,” Rawls said staring into the ravine. Jones climbed out of the jeep and stared into the ravine. Rawls rocked back and forth on his feet and looked skyward; Jones turned around took hold of the jeep’s front fender and vomited.
The 30CWT pulled up behind the jeep the men scrambled out running to the ravine each man looked and then froze in their place none of them had ever seen such a horrendous unspeakable sight in their lives.
AT the bottom of the ravine lay the two naked women, their hands and feet were tied with leather straps. The men could see where the women had struggled and fought off the vultures as best, they could. The vultures ripped the flesh off the dead women.
“Kovac,” Rawls said his voice cracking, “Bury them here, and just cave it in.”
Kovac looked at Rawls he was crying. “I will take care of everything I’ll let you let the CO what is going on.”
The rest of the men who had gathered at the ravine had stopped mumbling, Kovac could see the hate begin to build within each man, and he had seen it before in the trenches during the last War.
“Thompson let’s get some charges and let’s get this ravine collapsed we need to bury them. Let’s get it done we need to find and kill the bastards who did this. The rest of you back to the truck let’s give them some respect.”
The men began to grumble again cursing the Arabs and Germans something they had never done before.
Kovac moved the jeep Thompson set three charges along the top of the ravine, Rawls connected the wires to the detonator, he said a prayer twisted the handle and pushed the handle down the detonator whirred, the three charges exploded sending three small columns of dirt and dust skyward the ravine wall collapsed covering the women. Set three more on the other side lets complete the job. Thompson climbed down and then back up the other side he set three more charges just as he had the first three. He tossed the detonation wire to Rawls; Thompson took cover Rawls wound the handle called Fire in the hole and set off the charges when the smoke and dust cleared the women were completely covered by 10 feet of dirt.
Rawls called his men together they all had the same look the same expression their hearts were filled with sorrow their minds, their eyes filled with hate, Rawls spoke to his men, his voice, the inflection was different, it was the torture and death of the three women that had changed him. His mind had dwelt with the killing of the four Arabs at the crossroads, he had felt remorse then but now, those men dying, meant nothing more to him now than, squashing a bug was. “Mount up!” The usual murmurings and chatter were gone. The Men turned and mounted the trucks.
Today their innocence was shattered, the uselessness of war, the brutality, and blood lust, of man had revealed its ugly head, it was in their enemies, and it was within them as well.
Rawls climbed up into the jeep he motioned for Kovac to move out. “Find the bastards”
Jones looked for tracks and signs, “Stop, Damnit stop” Jones yelled out and jumped out of the moving jeep he crawled down into the ravine and then up the other side Rawls and Kovac followed him, there in the hard earth were the tracks of several horses leading away from the ravine. I will tack them give me your rifle and your canteens I will track them from here you drive on down and when you cross over come back and follow the signs I will leave.
“No, we will all go get me 8 sticks of dynamite, caps, wire, detonator, and a trenching tool. Hubba-hubba.”
Rawls began to dig at the bottom of the Ravine wall he dug in 18 inches. He took a stick of dynamite, slit it down the side, inserted the cap, and slowly pushed the stick into the hole. He dug three more holes about three feet apart. Rawls connected all the wires together and then strung out the detonator wire. He attached the detonator and set off the explosives there was a muffled wooooof. The walls collapsed, when the dust cleared the ravine walls were no more and a nice ramp took their place. “Let’s go gentlemen, shall we,” Rawls said.
Kovac started the jeep and picked up Rawls and Jones, down the embankment into the ravine and right up and out the other side. “Just like taking candy from a baby.”
Kovac drove Rawls kept watch of the horizon and Jones stared at the ground. Whoa- whoa, Jones jumped out of the jeep and picked up a ball of horse dung, smelled it then mashed it between his fingers. “The center was still moist, I would say about 6 to 8 hours old, let’s go.”
Kovac took off, about an hour later, they crested the top of a hummock, and there in the distance was the town of EL Bayadh.
“Hold up here,” Rawls, said, “according to the map this is El Bayadh, and the company should be around here someplace.
Wilkins, get on the radio and find the company.”
“White Rook, this is White Pawn, Come in White Rook over. White Rook, this is White Pawn, over come in White Rook.”
White Pawn hold your position.
Roger Wilco White Rook White Pawn out.
Rawls was scanning the horizon when he heard a jeep coming up behind them, the jeep pulled up to him.
“Mr. Rawls, I’m here to lead you lost sheep home.” Sawyer stopped talking; he looked at the men, and their faces. Sawyer had seen faces like this before, the Marne and the Ardennes in 1917. “Sir Captain Currie’s compliments, I’m to lead you back to the company,” Sawyer saluted Rawls.
“Lead on Sawyer.”
Rawls reported to Currie he described in detail what he had seen. Currie paled at Rawls description of the bodies. “Charlie we are going to get them and anyone that deals with them.” He rummaged through his pack and pulled out a bottle of whiskey, he thumbed the cork out of the neck and took a long pull out of the bottle. He handed the bottle to Rawls, Rawls shook his head, Currie pushed it at him again, this time Charlie took the bottle and took a long pull too. Charlie blew out a breath and shivered.
Currie called the officers and the senior NCO’s together around the map. I’m sending a squad to reconnoiter the village. Currie thumped his finger on the map. “You’ll go in tonight and be back here no later than 0100 hours, Sawyer I want you to lead the patrol, you know what we are looking for, Numbers, strongpoint’s, sentries, armor, vehicles, comm., center. I don’t want to go in there tomorrow thinking one thing and finding something totally different.” “Make your Rally point here,” he said pointing at a small building west of town, In and out no dillies dally, and you go in at 2200 hours.”
Sawyer went to the third platoon for nine more volunteers he had 25 wanting to go. He chose the nine he wanted. “Ok, listen up, no noise shed anything that makes noise, Jenkins go get me some black tape from Wilkins.” Sawyer began to rub the burnt cork on his face, neck and the back of his hands. He tossed the face black to Swayze. “Blacken up boy, that Irish face reflects too much moon light, we don’t want a beacon giving our position away, do we now.” Sawyers laughed
Jenkins returned with the black friction tape sawyer pulled off a piece and taped together his tags, “these little darlings sound like cow bells in the still night air.” He took his knife, shoved it down in his boot, and taped it around his leg he pulled the knife from its sheath and put it back in several times before he was satisfied. He took everything from his pockets and put it in his pack he took his cigarettes pulled on from the pack lit it and drop the pack of cigarettes and his Ronson in the pack. Then he stood and patted himself down and then jumped up and down to see if anything rattled or made noise. I want all of you to do as I have done, no exceptions, is that clear, or do I have to spell it out for you.”
Sawyer picked up his Thompson the sling and swivels rattled, “Damn I can’t have that, throw me that tape.” He taped the swivels and sling then shook the Thompson again. “That’s a lot better.”
Sawyer inspected his men they were all prepared and ready to go. They staged at the rally point at 2200 hours and then they moved out in pairs of two, they each had a section of town to reconnoiter and when they finished, they were to report to the rally point.
“Ok let’s go,” Sawyer, said, the men moved up the dune one at a time and rolled down the other side into the wadi they followed the wadi along the road to the town. Sawyer pointed at Miller, Sharps, Dickens, and Ricks and then pointed to the right side of the town. The men moved out up over the wall and crept along the outside of the buildings. He pointed to Swayze and Jenkins and pointed down the road to the center of town. He gave them the signal and they crawled out of the wadi and ran toward the building that bordered the road. He pointed to the rest of the men Chastain, Hills, Jackson they crawled out of the wadi made their way across the road and moved to the left of the town.
Sawyer made his way around the first building he stopped at the corner to his right was an alley leading back to the main road and across from him was an alley with a building on both sides. He cut to the left and made his way to the outside corner of another building. He took a peek around the corner the way was clear then they crept to an open shed attached to the building he kept his weapon at the ready and signaled his men to move across the open shed to the other side, then he made his way across.
The next corner was another road it led directly to the square; Sawyer peered around the corner and signaled his men to make the crossing to the next building. Sawyer rolled around the corner and quickstepped it to join his men. The next two buildings separated by a narrow alley were fallen in there were no back walls or roofs on them, the men made short work of inspecting the buildings. A wide alley separated the next buildings one had a stock-pen behind it, the alley led to the Square Chastain made his way down and looked around the square and then returned to join the rest of the men.
The four men began their journey back to the rally point they had seen nothing they had heard only the jingling of the goat’s bells and the noises of the camels. The same noises they had heard on the way in they heard on the way out. They made it to the north side of the town and crossed the road and back into the wadi.
Miller, Ricks, Sharps, and Dickens arrived at the Rally point 0030 hours they waited for Swayze and Jenkins until 0100 Sawyer growled, “Go! I don’t like it any more than you do, we have our orders.”
Miller cut him a look; as if he was calling him, and SOB. Sawyer pushed him. Miller took off in a crouched run; Sawyer was the last man to go he kept looking for Swayze and Jenkins. Every man in the squad would stop from time to time, looking back at the town. At the end of the wadi, they climbed the dune again one at a time lying flat searching the darkness hoping to catch a glimpse of the lost men. Sawyer finally climbed the dune and kicked the men off the top. They huddled up on the other side,
“We left men in there we should have gone in to get them.”
“Go Where and Do What? Do you know where they are? I didn’t think so. I don’t like it any more than you do, but God Damnit I am not going to risk the lives of eight over the lives of two. If they are hiding, we will get them tomorrow and if they are dead, the only thing we could do now is to drag their bodies out. We will find out tomorrow.” Sawyer snarled, slurring his words. “God Damn-it, move your asses, back to camp let’s go.”
“Halt who goes there,” the voice said clearly, “what is the Password.”
“Tinkerbelle,” Sawyer said.
Barnes was laughing when Sawyer passed him
“Who makes up this crap?” Sawyer sneered.
“I make up that crap,” Currie said.
“We lost Swayze, and Jenkins, they went up the center to the square they didn’t come out. We don’t know what happened. We heard nothing no gunshots, no noise, nothing, they still might come out.” Sawyer said.
“Let’s hope so,” Currie said. “Ok, Miller what did you see?”
“I counted about a dozen horses and as many camels, there were no lights, no dogs, no voices, nothing we looked on the roofs, it was too quiet. The whole time I was there I felt as if we were being watched, but other than that I couldn’t see anything out of the ordinary.”
“The buildings were mud and brick about a foot thick the roofs were made of Spanish Tile, wood doors and windows there are 10 buildings on the right side that we surveyed.” Miller said.
“We counted 9 one story and one two story building all the same construction 30 or so camels and horses no vehicles no cars no lights no sounds.” Ricks said.
Rick’s pulled the coil wire from his pocket and tossed it on the table from the generator behind the 2-story building. Currie picked it up and handed it back. “Keep it we may need some electricity.” Currie said
Currie thought a moment, “I want third platoon in reserve, first platoon on the right and second platoon on the left I will take the ½-track up the center to the square. First platoon will sweep the building from north to south and come in the south side. Second platoon sweep the buildings on the left and wheel around and take the southern buildings and move toward the center.” “Search each house; don’t get trigger happy, I don’t want a lot of dead civilians, I want our men and that women. Mike, I want you to stay with third platoon stay close to the radio, if I need you, I want you in there before I finish calling you.” Once the village is secured bring in the trucks.”
“You got it boss,” Meyers said.
“We go at 0600 hours, any questions?”
Currie squatted to light a cigarette; he was followed by everyone who had been standing at the table. He cupped it in his hands and then stood up he blew a long thin stream of smoke out.
He picked a speck of tobacco off the end of his tongue. “Gonna be a long night, get some sleep.” Currie mumbled and took another drag.
The word spread that Swayze and Jenkins never came out of the village. Everyone was getting ready for the morning. Gleason lit off the gas stove; he put two pots on to brew. Currie watched Gleason for a minute and then said, “What are you doing?”
“Hell captain, making coffee, it aint like they don’t know we are here, beside the winds are from the east, you can smell the camels and the shit from the village, aint likely they are behind us now is it?”
“Bring me a cup I’ll be on the track.”
“Yes, Sir right away sir.”
Gleason went back to measuring the coffee into the percolator basket.
Currie smoked cigarettes and drank coffee he stared off into the east as if he was searching for something, he would pull up his sleeve and look at his watch. He felt as if time had stood still for him. What would tomorrow bring? What would happen? Currie felt a tug on his sleeve. Gleason handed him a full cup. He opened his eyes Wha… he spat out “its 0500.”
Lieutenant Meyers is getting the men ready the LT told me to tell you, when you are ready, they are ready. But Sir it aint fair Mr. Meyers put me in charge of the trucks when he calls, I am supposed to bring them in. I want in sir; I saw what they did to those people and to that woman and I want to go.”
“You’re a sergeant Gleason you’re to do your duty that’s your job to protect those trucks and bring them when we need them, you’ll have your chance this war is a long way from being over we are 1000 miles from Tunisia where the Germans are now.”
“Yes Sir, but it still aint fair… I’m going sir.”
At 0545, the trucks started one by one the smell of gas hung heavy in the cool desert air; Wilkins cranked up the ½-track idled the engine. Then the rumble of the engines began to smooth out. The column moved out slowly and headed toward the road to EL Bayadh when they were within ½ mile of the town the men of the first platoon dropped off the trucks then the men of the second platoon dropped off the trucks the trucks pulled to the side and turned around heading away from the town.
Wilkins was driving and Romero was on the 50 cal he closed the loading door and smacked it shut he tightened the hand wheel and traversed it right to left and back. “I’m ready Sir.”
“Let’s go Wilkins,” the track pulled out onto the road and headed toward the town the men followed spaced out a few yards apart, their weapons at the ready. Currie thumbed the safety off on his carbine on and off “Ok, we can pick it up a little,” Wilkins pulled the manual throttle out a bit. “Nice touch.” Currie said.
The nose of the ½-track was within a dozen yards of passing between the first two buildings going into town when Wilkins brought it to a halt; the first and second platoons fanned out and moved into position. Ok let’s do this,” Currie said
Wilkins moved out slowly the men of second platoon on one side the men of first on the other kicked open the doors of the buildings. The track moved past the buildings until it was in the square Wilkins brought it to a halt beside the fountain. The men began to move the Arabs they found in the buildings toward the square.
A shot rang out. it ricocheted off the track, and hit the wall, before a second shot could be fired Romero had begun firing the 50 cal he swept the buildings from left to right and right to left raking the windows and doors of the buildings. Currie raised his hand Romero stopped firing there was the sound of a second shot. Then the all too familiar budda, budda, budda, of the Thompson submachine was heard then all was quiet…
Romero swung the 50 to the right; Snipes had his helmet hanging from the end of the Thompson’s barrel, he was peeking around the edge of the building “hold your fire, “he yelled. Romero traversed the barrel to the left Snipes put his helmet on and eased along the front of the building, followed by Waite and then Bailey. Snipes waved Bailey to the other side of the door. He pulled a grenade from his vest and pulled the pin. Waite kicked; the door open and Snipes threw the grenade into the room. The boarded-up windows blew out raining down glass and wood followed by an ugly red-orange fireball and a loud bang. Snipes stood in the doorway and sprayed the room with the Tommie gun the gleaming brass shells arched over his shoulder scattering when they hit the ground. Currie watched the three men slowly walk to the next door.
The door opened slowly an old man emerged with his hands up. Snipes grabbed him, pulled him out of the doorway, and pushed him to Bailey Snipes spun around and crouched at the doorway then entered and yelled clear. He came out he and Waite began moving to the third door no one was in sight.
Sergeant Warren called all clear on the left and began moving toward the square. Second platoon began clearing the last building.
Wilkins moved the track to the other side of the square to cover the Arabs forming up.
Monroe came out from the alley and collapse against the wall, “Medic, Medic,” he yelled. Doc and another corpsman ran to his aide all Monroe could do is point over his shoulder down the alley. Snipes Kovac and Bailey worked their way down the alley. Currie dismounted the track and ran toward the commotion; the bulk of the first platoon stood hypnotized staring through the wide-open door of the warehouse. Kovac entered the doorway, he turned and grabbed the door and vomited. Doc followed Kovac in the door
“Somebody, anybody. Go get Currie,”
“Make a hole,” Currie said pushing his way through the men. “Oh, for the love of God,” Currie cried out.
In the corner of the room were the two women, naked, bloody, tied up, gagged and in shock. In the other corner of the room were two carcasses, they were hung from the rafters by meat hooks, they were bloody and raw looking Currie went closer he turned around fell to his knees and vomited. Doc Wisecarver and Wilkins went to take a closer look.
They’re hanging by a meat hook in the jaw, the bodies hung a foot, or so off the floor they were naked. Their skin lay at their feet and blood stained the floor under them, Wilkins put his handkerchief to his mouth and nose. He shooed the flies away. “Captain, they have been skinned, from their necks to their ankles,” he called out.
Wilkins turned to look at the other body when he heard a plop, he turned around quickly, the body he had just been looking at the peritoneum had split open, the intestines and other internal organs had fallen to the floor. “God Damn,” Jones looked at the bodies.
Doc was trying to help the two women but every time he tried to touch them, they would scream and huddle closer together. “Doc, sedate them, morphine will calm them down, and then you can work with them.” Rawls said kicking at the dirt on the floor.
Doc took an amphoral, snuck up on the first women, and stuck her she screamed and rolled away from the other woman, Doc quickly stuck the other women with the morphine, and he waited. Stretchers, blankets, Straps, and get these men out of here.”
Currie yelled out, “Secure this fucking town now I want every living soul in the square now! Get third platoon down here now get the trucks.” Romero picked up the radio and told Meyers to come at once Captains orders.
Currie yelled at his men again, “I said secure this fucking place now, I want every fucking Arab to the square now… under armed guard.”
Rawls and Copeland began yelling, “You heard the man let’s go.”
“Romero, get me Battalion HQ on the horn Pronto.”
“Captain shouldn’t we get these men down,” Evans said
“Captain, Sir, we need to treat this as a crime scene a murder scene S-2, CID, somebody needs to look at it and document it.” Wilkins said.
“I agree with you sergeant, but for now we wait for the Battalion to tell us what to do.”
“Captain, I have Battalion on the horn.”
“White Knight this is White Rook…” Currie told Colonel Snow what had happened at El Bayadh and what had happened to the Red Cross women. Colonel Snow told Currie to stand by.
Battalion told Currie to make a full report, bury the men; Regiment was sending a medical team to pick up the women, and White king would arrive, their location at 1600 hours.
The villagers had been rounded up; Meyers and Copeland were interrogating the villagers. They all had the about the same story, the Bosch the Italians and 40 plus Arabs entered the village, they took shelter for 2 days they left, they came back they left they came back yesterday, and left very early this morning. The villagers heard screaming; they were afraid to do anything. The mercenaries abducted several young girls, and several of their women were raped and violated.
Currie looked in on Doc and the two women there were two Arab women helping Doc clean the women up. Doc had cleaned and sutured the worst wounds. Something he would not have done but he could not let them stay the way they were. Doc knew the women had internal injuries and were in very bad shape. “How are they Doc?”
“There are alive, I have given them 2 units of plasma, and starting the third their pulses are up and their blood pressures and looking better a good surgeon at a hospital, they would have a better chance at survival than here, they have been mutilated, and their pudendum’s have been ripped up and almost torn out of their bodies. Hell, Captain they cut off their nipples and for what? I don’t understand it!” Doc said shaking his head.
The ambulance will be here soon to get them; all I can say is do your best. Doc do you have any of that medicinal alcohol on hand if you do, have a drop or two, that’s an order,” Currie said.
Doc shook his head. However, he never had that drink; he had vowed a long time ago never to drink again.
Currie rounded the corner, “Captain I have been talking to Jones and Wilkins.”
Currie stopped and faced Rawls “Let’s have it.”
“Jones says he has picked up the trail of the Arabs he has a count of 40 Arabs and the 2 kubelwagens. Wilkins says the Germans and the Italians both participated in the tortures, he found where the Germans sat, smoked, and drank. Wilkins said from the tracks on the floor and the shoeprints they were all involved.”
“Regimental will be here at 1600 hours today. We will find out what is what from them; however, our orders haven’t changed, move east, protect the flank, engage the enemy, send out patrols, probe there lines, harass the forward elements, and if we come across our Arab, Italian, German marauders we will engage them to the last man, their last man.”
Four men in a jeep, followed by an ambulance, six people in a command car and another jeep pulled into the square, scattering the villagers and choking the area with dirt. A tall Major followed by three female lieutenants and two corpsmen got out of the command car and headed toward Currie.
“Oh Captain, I say there, Captain, where are the women.” The major said in a heavy New England Brogue.
“Right this way Major, pointing to the doorway behind him.”
Within minutes the medical people had set up a portable operating theater, the doctor and nurses set about examining the women. The Major looked at the sutures Doc had done.
“Nice needle work Corpsmen. You won’t mind if I remove a few to check for deeper problems.”
“Hell, no Major I stitched them up to close the wounds, to keep the flies out. If you can spare it, I need a few things?”
“Mitchell, Get the Good sergeant here anything he wants, within reason that is.” The doctor said to a short redheaded nurse.
“Yes Sir, this way Sergeant, let’s go raid the pantry shall we.” Snickering,
Wisecarver smiled, “Say, lieutenant, when the war is over would you marry me.”
She smiled and winked, “Ok sweetie,” she opened the ambulance door, “Help yourself honey to all you need.”
“Oh, I wish I could,” Doc said the nurse turned and headed toward the building.
“Where’s Ricks? Kovac find Rick let’s get that generator running they need some light.
Yes Sir, Right away sir.” Kovac hurried away.
The lights in the building flickered then glowed then flickered then died. The Rumble of the old generator was heard again, it sputtered to life; the lights flickered then glowed brightly in the building. Waite poured the fresh gas into the generators tank and adjusted the carburetor. “That will do for a while.”
The surgeon was still working on the women when the Regimental Commander arrived in an L-5. Currie and Meyers were waiting beside the road, when the plane touched down. Currie drove the Colonel to the warehouse. The bodies of Jenkins and Swayze were lying on a Poncho and covered with another. When Currie pulled the poncho back “Son of a bitch” the General said, when Currie pulled the other poncho cover up the general turned around “I thought your orders were to bury these men.”
“I am Sir the Men are digging the graves now sir.” Currie said. He pulled the notes he had made from his pocket.
“Captain put those notes in your AAR’s,” General Holmes said.
“General Holmes, Sir I want those bastards to pay for what they have done here.”
Captain I want them to pay, as well I can’t allow you to hunt them down. I can’t allow you to use over 100 men to hunt down 40 Arabs. No sir it isn’t right thing to do; however you send out your patrols to scout around, and if one of your patrols finds them and engaged them, if any surrender, I say again if any surrender, then bring them to me and I will try them and hang them.”
“I will under no circumstances sanction a vigilante party to hunt down those men. Do your job. Follow your orders, and to clarify your orders I will say them again. You will proceed on an easterly track heading toward Tunisia, you are to protect the flank, deny access to our rear area, Scout out the enemy, and if you find the enemy report its position to regiment if you have superior strength in numbers then engage them.”
“General, you know, this stinks to high heaven. What would you do?”
“Captain, I know it stinks, but you have your orders. Personally, I would hound them to until hell froze over.”
“Yes Sir, General I will follow my orders to the letter.”
Currie drove the General out to his plane, he climbed in the back seat the pilot started the engine Currie saluted and went back to his jeep the plane spun around the pilot gunned the engine and it was gone in a cloud of dust. Currie lit a cigarette and sat on the fender of the jeep he thought follow your orders send out patrols what is a patrol size he could send out reinforced patrols that could be maybe a platoon. Yes, thank you General Holmes.”
He flicked his cigarette away and got in the jeep. Currie drove back to town humming “Don’t sit under the apple tree with anyone else but me”
Currie pulled the jeep up to the village hotel, the only building in town with electricity. Currie walked in and took a seat in the small lobby. Private Beasley was carrying in a box, “hey Beasley find Kovac for me.”
Kovac reported in, Ask Mr. Meyers, Copeland, Rawls, Evans, and the platoon sergeants to meet me here at 1830 hours.
An old Arab sort of swept in from the back of the building, “Would the American
General care for a drink,” He said.
Currie looked at him and said, “Sorry not a General, only a Captain.”
“But you will have a drink.”
“The Captain will have a whiskey if you will join him.”
The Arab turned and left, within a few minutes he returned, he carried a silver tray sitting in the center was an old dusty bottle of Haig pinch and on either side of the bottle were two square short glasses and a pitcher of water. “This sir is all I have; I hope it is enough.”
The Arab flipped up the twisted wire locking bail, pulled the cap off, and carefully poured the whiskey into the glass. The Arab set the bottle down Currie picked up the bottle, blew the dust off the label, and read Edinburgh, Scotland dated from the early 20’s. He set the bottle down and picked up the glass Currie sipped the honey colored smoky flavored scotch. He was drinking scotch that was as old as he was.
“Is there anything wrong, sir?”
“No there is absolutely nothing wrong” he leaned back into the chair and watched the lazily turning fan. Currie was deep in thought, holding an almost empty glass. Meyers and Rawls brought him back to the present. A few minutes later Evans and Copeland along with all the sergeants came into the room.
Currie laid the patrols out for them; every patrol would be led by a platoon leader or a platoon sergeant First and third squad would be the nighttime patrols and second and forth, squads would be used for daytime patrols each patrol would have a jeep and a 30 cwt 2 BAR’s and a 30 cal MG.. Call in for support or act depending on enemy strength.
The routes and sectors that were laid out covered all cisterns, wades’, oases. Curries map looked like a drunken chicken had scratched around it. “Mark your maps, everything you see on this map are within a kilometer or two of where it’s marked, you should not have a problem finding them.”
Captain Sir where did you …”
Currie pointed over his shoulder to the old Arab standing over in the corner Gentlemen meet Sheik Ali Mahmud Abissi.”
It is the least I can do, you have done a great service to me and my village repairing my generator and driving those rouges out. They have no honor they have disrespected my village and me they steal my daughters and dishonor my children. May Allah guide your way and send those rogues to hell.” The sheik gave a slight bow turned and left.
“He will send word to the villages to the east asking them to help us in any way they can.”
Gentlemen let’s get started shall we.
Currie folded up his map and walked to the door, he watched Doc work, lancing boils, and doing minor surgeries, in the shade of the only tree growing in the village, the medical party that had been there gave Doc more supplies than he could use. He decided to use the extra on the villagers Doc would remember the little redheaded nurse for quite some time.
From what Currie could put together from Rumor and stories, Doc Wisecarver was a very gifted and tortured man he was a doctor in civilian life. He quit his medical practice when his wife died from injuries received in an automobile wreck. Doc was in a neighboring town treating miners when the call came through that his wife was at the hospital He tried to get back to the hospital but the roads the weather nearly made it impossible when he did arrive he did everything he knew how but she was too far gone to save. After his wife’s funeral, he left town and drifted until he joined the Army. The profession he had run from all those years the Army forced it upon him. Doc did his job well, but sometimes Currie felt that Doc had no feelings no emotions.
Currie started the jeep, a shot rang out and he heard the sickening sound of a bullet hitting a body he saw a man fall to the ground, he un-slung his carbine and shouldered it, he scanned the rooflines through the sights. He heard nothing, and then he saw the movement of a man on the roof across the square his finger tightened against the trigger he lined up the sights and pulled the trigger once, the man’s body rocked, and he stood straight up. Currie sighted his carbine at the man’s turban and fired, he saw the crimson halo from his head shot; the man doubled over and fell to the roof. He lowered the carbine. He felt a hundred years old. Everything was different now he had killed a man he had killed the enemy. Soldiers rushed to their fallen comrade with their weapons at the ready. Currie walked to the building where the shot came from his men were already there, they pitched the Arab and his Italian made rifle off the roof. Currie turned the body over with his foot; he looked at the Arab, he had shot him 4 times in the chest and once in the head. He looked back to where his jeep sat idling about 100 yards. “Five shots to kill a man, no, that won’t do at all,” Currie thought.
Currie walked back across the square to where the man had been shot. Doc tried to save the man’s life. Currie looked down Phillips, second platoon, he was a good man, HELL! They are all good men. Currie squatted beside the man, said a little prayer, and picked up his M-1 Rifle. Doc handed him his ID tag, He had three Tags now he had three too many Curries spirits sank a little lower he knew in his heart before it was all over, he would collect a lot more of those little metal tags. “Hand me his ammo belt,” Doc pulled it from under the dead man and handed it to Currie.
He walked back to his jeep and tucked the carbine into a space in the back. That weapon is too light it doesn’t have the stopping power, the killing power, I need. From now on, it will be the M-1 or the Springfield 03-A3. He set the M-1 in the seat Currie took off his Webb belt adjusted Phillips to fit him and reattached his pistol holster and replaced Phillips canteen with his.
“Captain that Arab hasn’t been in town long his camel is tied up behind the building.”
“Get a patrol ready and get Jones to back-track his trail, let’s get them Mike.”
“Captain Currie, my friend that is an old Arab trick they sacrifice one man and you pursue them they set a trap and you lose many men. Send a small party of men let them scout the trail the first high ground they come too or the first riff that is where the trap will be sprung at that point you have your men just sit and wait a while or begin probing behind them. They will leave and wait somewhere else.”
“We must never underestimate the enemy or the Arabs again,” Currie thought.
The patrol pulled out, Currie watched them go, the sentries had been changed he walked around the village all was quiet really it was too quiet. He had a bite to eat and drank almost a whole pot of coffee he thought about the events that had taken place over the last couple of days. He patted himself down where were his cigarettes he walked out to the jeep and pulled a carton from his stash, he pulled two packs out he stuffed one in the leg pocket and the other in his shirt pocket. He lit up a cigarette and moved back into the hotel.
The patrol had cut the trail of 10 to 20 men just where the old Arab said they would find them, they headed toward east. The patrol continued heading south they had just turned to the east when they cut another trail this time there were many camels and very few horses.
Rawls reported in, he told Currie about the column of Arabs heading directly toward the town. Follow but do not engage the Arabs, we will set a trap for them in EL Bayadh. Rawls begin to follow the tracks; the patrol crested a small hummock and came within a hundred yards of the Arabs.
The Bedouins traveled along at a slow pace they stopped and turned to watch the Americans then they turned and at a slow walk, they began their trek. When they were about a quarter of a mile away, Rawls started the patrol they followed the Bedouins. Rawls called Currie and told him of the chance meeting and that the Bedouins had shown no aggressive behavior had brandished any weapons.
Currie told Rawls to make contact. He approached the Bedouins and moved to within 20 yards of them he asked them to identify themselves. A Bedouin on his camel approached them slowly and pulled up his camel to a stop he leaned forward told Rawls that he was heading to El Bayadh he is the son of Mahmud Abissi. Rawls smiled and told him they were Americans and they had met his father.
Currie told Rawls to continue his patrol, he told the Bedouins goodbye, and they left them Rawls headed out into the desert.
By daybreak the, caravan had unloaded their cargo and were bedded down, when Rawls entered the Village. The company was ready to roll out Rawls sat with Currie and gave his report. Currie told him that the Bedouins had seen the Goumiers and the Germans were headed in the direction of Berriyyane to the east. Ali Mahmud told them that Berriyyane was about 50 or so miles across the desert.
The morning patrol had already left when the company pulled out Rawls rode with Currie in the jeep and filled him in about the patrol.
Romero was hanging onto the 50 cal scanning the horizon and the tops of the dunes; behind him to the right was a speck on the horizon. He picked up the binoculars and tried to look but the track was jumping around too much. He moved to the side of the track and steadied himself against the side of the track. There it was the speck was an airplane coming in low and very fast, Romero tapped Solomon on the shoulder and told him to pull over, and he motioned the other trucks to pass him. Copeland looked up At Romero; Romero pointed to the rear Solomon had just fallen back in line, when Romero fired his first burst of bullets, the German HE-117 veered sharply to the left to avoid the stream of 50 cal tracers and bullets. Romero followed the plane, the 50 cal machine gun spit 500 bullets a minute at the enemy, it spit the hot brass, and the metal links at Copeland.
Miller and Johnson who had mounted the 30 cal machine guns on their trucks began firing at the Henkel the plane made one pass then its last pass the 2 30 cal and the 50 had a perfect sight picture all three guns opened up at the same time and all began pouring round after round into the plane. The plane stayed its course and strafed the column before heading back to the north.
Currie walked down the road accessing the damage a few cuts and bruises, two trucks had a few holes in them none critical,
Currie stopped beside the track “Good job Brad,”
Copeland pointed to Romero, “Captain Thank him. He saw the plane, he gave the orders to Solomon, I was along for the ride on this one.” he dumped a helmet full of brass and links over the side of the track.
Currie looked down where Brad was sitting, you’ll be digging those things out till hell freezes over,” Currie said laughing.
“There not to bad when they are cold but when they are hot and flying around, I invented a brand-new dance trying to dodge them. Copeland said
When the convoy rolled up on a rise that overlooked the road from Laghouat to Berriyyane dusk had fallen. The road lies in a depression about a mile away. This is as good a spot to bivouac we have the high ground. “Kovac circle the wagons.” Kovac got out of the jeep and walked to the center of what would become the bivouac are he blew his whistle and circled his arm the trucks one by one began to move and pulled in and formed up.
Gleason was the first one out of the truck and he began the ritual of making two large pots of coffee. He began to curse a long loud string of words that would have peeled the paint off the walls, had any walls been around. Everyone watched as a coffee pot flew in a long high arc through the air then crashing into the desert sands. Another pot followed shortly thereafter the two pots had been rendered useless by the strafing plane. “Those Bastards… those Sons of a Bitches” Gleason raised his clinched fist and shook it at the sky. Gleason gas stove was ok, his supply of coffee was intact all his cups were unharmed. Kovac picked up one pot, one bullet had gone through both sides, and another bullet had passed through the side and the bottom. The other pot fared no better it had one mortal wound, a hole, dead center in the bottom. “How in god’s name am I going to make coffee now?”
“Use a Jerry Can, it might make the coffee taste better,” Springer said laughing
Gleason Grabbed his rifle, all right you bastards, Come on! You can curse me, but not my coffee, Come on you.” Gleason screamed out.
“At ease sergeant, do you still have those percolators we used at Jackson,” Currie said.
Gleason smiled, “I sure do.”
“Well make us a pot and boil some water they can use the instant from the K-rations.”
“Yes, Sir won’t be but a minute sir.”
The patrol reported a small convoy heading towards Laghouat and armored car and seven supply trucks on the road. We might have time.
Currie sent three squads to the road and took the 1/2 track down and positioned it where the 50 could cover the road as well as the sky.
He spread the rest of the company out behind the rise. Thompson and Jones set up the 50 cal rifle about 100 yards off to the side of the road. He would be firing directly into the trucks and the armored car. Thompson tapped Jones on the arm off to the right eight dark shapes moved up the road. Jones sighted the armored car and waited. Jones fired the rifle the round pierced the windshield armor the car swerved right and ran off the road.
Jones fired again this time the round pierced the engine block of the first truck it skidded to a halt blocking the road. Jones shifted his sights to the last truck and fired again. The engine exploded in a ball of orange black flames. The driver bailed out of the car and ran for cover right into the arms of third squad. The Italian threw up his hands and surrendered. The two guards that were in the back of the truck jumped to the ground and fired their guns they were both cut down by a Thompson. Costello called out in Italian for them to surrender the drivers were the first to climb out of the cabs and throw down their weapons the guards were the last but as soon as they heard the 50 cal open fire on the armored car, they too bailed out their weapons preceding them.
Currie walked out onto the road and surveyed the scene “let’s get the trucks off the road pull the lead truck with the ½-track. And the last truck; drag that one too into the desert.”
They captured 27 Italians 26 enlisted men 1 second lieutenant they had killed seven. Two of the seven were German, one was a Captain the Italian commander and the rest were clerks and drivers.
Currie had the trucks unloaded and anything useable they kept and anything that wasn’t they would burn. They unloaded ammo and rations, wine brandy and kitchen equipment. When they were finished, unloading the ground behind the trucks looked like a scene from the movies where the Indians had thrown everything about the ground after looting the wagon train.
Gleason was combing through the junk when he spied a shiny copper domed cylinder about three feet tall the plate on the urn said Espresso en Vapeur. “Hey Costello, what the hell is this thing?”
Costello walked over and turned the cylinder to read the nameplate says here it’s a coffee percolator espresso machine with a steam chamber…”
You mean an espresso coffee maker and a coffee urn.”
“Yea, that’s it you got it”
Is it all here, I mean are all the parts here for it?”
“The hell if I know?”
“Well ask somebody grab one of those Italians and ask him.”
The Italian lieutenant heard the conversation and called out, “I can answer your questions, and I am familiar with that machine.”
Gleason walked over to the where the lieutenant was “Come with me Sir.”
Hey Gleason, where are you going, I am supposed to be guarding them” Nichols said.
“Hold your water I will have him back here in a flash. Now Sir please tells me about the machine.
The Italian lieutenant started digging through boxes and he moved several and then began to hand boxes to Gleason. He called off in Italian what they were, these are sight glasses to check the water level, and these are filters, and these are wicks, and this is the burner, and the basket to hold the grounds and that looks about like that’s all there is to it and oh yea this booklet tells you how to use it.”
Gleason stood there his arms loaded peering over the boxes his weapon dangling from his arm. “Thank you very much.” Gleason said.
“You want me to go back over to the other place and stand with my men?”
“Yes, I think that would be a very good idea.” Gleason turned to follow him. Costello was there leaning up against the truck. “I will take him back over for you.”
“Thanks Costello thanks a lot.”
You know if you don’t translate the book and teach him how to use it, he will blow himself up,” the lieutenant said.
“My uncle in Brooklyn has an espresso machine in his bar. I have made coffee with it many times. I will show him how to make coffee and not blow himself up.” Costello said.
Bishop woke Currie there was activity down the road, “Get Copeland and Evans,
Currie stood up on the dune with his binoculars he saw the two dark grey lumps traveling toward them he focused the field glasses and made out an Opel blitz truck and a kubelwagens. “Ok let’s go, I want 2 squads on either side of the road Jones will take out the truck the same way he did the Italians, and fire on the kubelwagens when they are in range I will hold the rest of the company here, Move out.”
Evans had his men spaced out one squad on the left and one on the right. The kubelwagens drove right down the center of the road the Opel Blitz truck was no more than 10 feet behind the kubelwagen. Jones fired the rifle the windshield of the kubelwagens exploded and the engine of the Opel Blitz erupted in a hiss of steam. The kubelwagen swerved and slid to a stop the two Germans stood and begun firing their machine pistols Jones pulled the trigger one German was back flipped into the truck behind the other Germans ran toward the dunes, they were cut down by Nichols .30 cal machine gun.
The men in the rear of the Opel Blitz truck jumped from the rear of the truck they dove for the ground and then began firing at both sides of the road. Nichols fired the machine gun the dirt kicked up in front of the men. He fired another burst and the dirt kicked up behind the men. Snotky called out “surrender or die!”
Several Germans stood and raised their arms, Nichols swept the men again with machine gun fire, the rest of the Germans began to stand and lay down their weapons. Snotky told them to walk to the edge of the road with their hands on their head.
The men were searched and then escorted to the area holding the Italian prisoners.
Able company had killed 40 men captured 30 they had destroyed eight transports one kubelwagen, and one armored car 20 tons of supplies Able Company loses three men KIA, two WIA, and two coffee pots damaged beyond repair.
Currie called Battalion and gave his report. Battalion was going to send trucks, and MP’s to collect the prisoners and the Intel, Battalion told Currie the trucks would be there before nightfall they were to hold their position until relieved of their prisoners.
Currie knew it would be tomorrow or tomorrow afternoon before the trucks arrived. He called for a briefing of his officers and his NCO’s. Send out your patrols set your sentries post guards over the POW’s and have the boys break out those 10 in 1 ration and use some of those Italian rations as well.
Gleason had cleaned and shined his new coffee pot. When he heard they would be here until tomorrow he unpacked the pot. He filled it with water this coffee would be much better than the last pot he had made. He opened the door to light the burner. “NO, NO, NO,” the Italian lieutenant called out, “No don’t light the burner,” Gleason turned to look at the lieutenant. The lieutenant was pointing to the pot the Italian yelled out “Boom petrol, Boom,” Gleason looked at the pot.
“Hey Costello, what’s he yelling about, find out for me will you.”
Costello went to the POW’s holding area; he talked to the Lieutenant in Italian and then brought him over to Gleason. The Lieutenant opened the door took the burner out and set it aside he tipped the espresso machine on its side and over a cup of petrol ran out. The lieutenant took the rag and wiped it out wiped off the burner and the pot he lit the burner and adjusted the burner then he slipped the burner into the pot, He showed Gleason how to adjust the gasoline burner. Gleason watched the temperature dial as it climbed toward 110 degrees Celsius; he watched the pressure gauge as it climbed to one BAR Gleason turned the burner to low. He filled the basket with coffee, then put the top on and twisted it to lock it on he pulled the valve handle down. He watched the sight glass it began to fill with the dark black coffee. He turned the valve off when he heard the steam begin to hiss and vent. Gleason filled the enameled cup to the brim and tasted it. Goddamn that was the strongest coffee he had ever tasted.
Gleason poured half of the coffee out, added water to fill the cup, and then tasted it again; it wasn’t bad not bad at all. He fixed a cup for the captain and carried it to him. It’s a little strong Sir but it is good.
Currie sipped the Brew he shivered and mouthed the words strong. Then took another sip “That’s not bad coffee strong but good.”
“I’ll work on it, the next one will be just right.”