The shelling had gone on for days. The Krauts would take a few hours off each night, but when the sun rose, we all heard the whump! whump! of the 88′s coming to life again. Seconds later, noise and fire erupted all around us and wouldn’t stop until well past sun-down.
We lost a lot of good guys in Bastonge. Jimmy, Mac, Sal, Johnny – too many, too soon. We lost a lot of the new guys too – Greens just out of boot who thought Normandy was a legend, and I suppose to them it was. We were the tough guys, the veterans. The Greens looked up to us, but we avoided them. We had learned what it was like to lose a buddy and we didn’t want anymore buddies.
If the shells and the bullets didn’t get you, the cold did. That’s what happened to Lieutenant Walker. He started a cough, worse then the rest of us, but it was when his feet turned black from frostbite that the medics shipped him back to Mourmelon. A Green was promoted to take his place – Lieutentant Jones. Jones looked to me like a school teacher, all thin, pointy nose and glasses. He never said much, just let us vets do what we did. Which was fine with us. We didn’t need an inexperienced officer who would probably run at the first sign of real trouble.
When the sun rose on the 23rd, we didn’t hear the 88′s start up. It was quiet. Looking out over the grazing field toward Foy, it was all fog and silence. We were uneasy.
Lt. Jones dropped into my foxhole, a question on his face.
“I don’t know, sir,” I whispered to him. “Might be they ran out of ammo?”
“Not likely,” the Lieutenant whispered back. “They’ve got a solid supply line into Foy.”
The silence continued for an hour. We were on edge, expecting an all out attack at any second.
What we got was a voice.
One of the Krauts, probably an officer, was shouting to us across the pasture. I didn’t know what he was saying, but he kept repeating the same thing.
“We have anyone who speaks German?” Jones asked.
“Yessir,” I pointed east. “Schwartz does.”
“Go get him.”
Just as I was about to climb out of the foxhole, Schwartz jumped in.
“Lieutenant, the German are asking for our surrender,” he said between gulps of air.
“Yessir,” Schwartz wiped his mouth. “They say that if we approach slowly across the pasture, hands up, they will accept our defeat.”
Jones looked at Schwartz a moment before he began laughing. I couldn’t help thinking for a moment that this soft Green officer was just happy to get out of a foxhole.
“Sir?” I asked.
Jones’ laughter subsided to chuckles. “I was just reminded of Jeanette Soltz, Sergeant.”
“Sir?” I asked again.
“Jeanette used to be the caller when we played Red Rover when I was a kid,” he chuckled. “Little cheater, she was.”
Schwartz and I shared a look, wondering if Jones had lost it.
“What are we going to do, sir?” Schwartz asked.
Jones stopped chuckling and gave us a level stare. “I never trusted Jeanette Soltz.” The Lieutenant grinned. “Tell the boys to dig in.”
I gave lisa this prompt: You receive a package in the mail from your grandfather who died 12 years ago.