Could It Happen Again?

October 13, 2010
By
I was just a boy living in a small town in Kentucky when my eldest brother, John went off to war. It was 1940, and he was 19. I was the second oldest of a family of 6 at the age of 17. John and I were the only boys who lived with a mom, dad and two little sisters, named Mary and Susan. Mary was 12 and Susan was 9. Anyways, we lived in such a small town it was hardly affected by the war. Our parents decided to home school us because they didn’t have much money to pay for books, pens and paper so mother bought a chalkboard slate no bigger than a piece of paper and taught us on that. John always said he wanted to fight for our country since he was a small boy, and ma and pa never agreed to it, until he finally proved himself mentally and physically capable of handling what lie ahead.
At the age of 18 John left and almost immediately saw himself in combat, and less than 4 months later, his birthday had passed. Ma and Pa were able to send a card with some money and an old baseball card of Johnny Marcum, who played major league baseball when John was a small child. John never got that card. His entire squadron was bombed and shot at from all directions and John was not lucky. My parents got the letter about what happened to John and I was furious. I would do anything to get revenge for my brother. I had made up my mind and was going to join the war. The only problem was that I wasn’t old enough. My 17th birthday wasn’t for another 3 months so I would have to wait. I have heard of 17 and occasionally 16 year olds making it into the army, but only because they looked older than what they were, which was an advantage to me because I have been told that I look 19, for I had a very distinguished look.
Later on, my 17th birthday came and went and I decided that now I would try to enlist. As I approached the recruiter’s office I was shaking and nervous. They asked for basic information, weight, height, birthplace, etc. and then came the question: “How old are you?” I gulped and slowly answered 18. The large man sitting opposite me in the very tall chair then scheduled me for the Army General Classification Test or (AGCT) and I stood up, shook his hand and walked out the door. I went home and studied the entire night on just anything I might be tested on for my test was tomorrow. The next day I realized that it was mainly a test based on your will to join and if you could handle how war affects a man. War is nothing but manslaughter and hatred. I was beginning to question what made my brother make such a decision but just as quickly as that thought entered my head; it was overcome by the thought of those Nazis who took him away from me. I apparently have a strong will and was accepted. I went through one entire year of boot camp and then, saw war for the first time.


My platoon was made up of the meanest and toughest men in America and didn’t even show the slightest look of regret or fear. But for me, it was the most intense, most indescribable feeling in the world. We had about 80 men in our platoon and all of them were older than me. I had just turned 18, but had to say I was 19. As we all marched down the rocky road, a lot went through my mind, first of all how beautiful the scenery was, because we were in France, and second my family who I had left and haven’t seen in almost a year. We finally made it to the rendezvous place where we met up with another couple of platoons. All together we had a little over 200 men. We were each told to go to a specific place, keep low, and aim at the woods directly in front of us. The entire field of land was like an O shape with a trail leading to it and trenches with mounted guns covering almost the entire field. About 75 percent of us went into the trenches and the rest of us went into the forest behind the trenches. I was the 25 percent that went in the forest.
I was very nervous for I had no idea what would happen and as soon as I got into the woods a sniper bullet hit the tree next to me, startling me half to death and causing me to drop my gun. Another bullet was shot and this time did not miss its intended target. All I heard was the shot, then a thud. My gun had so much dirt in it; I couldn’t pull the trigger, so I just picked up the gun from the fallen soldier. Nearly a split second after I picked up the gun one sniper from one of the other squads took one shot, than we heard the sound of something falling down a tree, while breaking all the branches on the way down. It was scary and silent, we all knew that there either could have been one man or 300, nobody knew and it was as if the Earth stood still.
It was dead silent, nobody moved we were all fixated on the woods and suddenly we started hearing this faint grumbling sound which got louder and louder as it got closer. Soon we realized it to be a tank, followed by an entire legion of Nazis that were probably just marching until that sniper found us. As soon as the tank showed itself, the bullets whizzing by sounded like rain with the hail of gunfire going both ways. I had no choice, after everything my ma had told me about violence being wrong I went against it and shot one bullet hesitantly. It was a hit, but did not kill immediately. The poor man that I had wounded was struggling on the ground. I felt awful, but quickly remembered about my brother, and repent turned to pure anger, I aimed and shot another bullet. I just took a life. The feeling was not one to be proud of. I felt ashamed but at the same time lifted a great deal of stress. I then quickly hid behind a tree, my back pushed up against it, bullets getting within inches of hitting me. I took a deep breath, clenched my teeth, grasped the trigger, and got out of cover, spraying a barrage of bullets in every direction. I didn’t even look to see if I hit anyone. In the middle of everything, I heard the Nazi commander yelling and shouting out orders. I soon realized that he said to retreat! All of the remaining Nazis seized fire and ran. We had just won, and I was already feeling my emotions and feelings come around and bite me.
One week later, I found myself slowly progressing in rank. I was a private, now I’m a private first class, and next, a corporal. It didn’t really mean much to me if I didn’t get the next rank or insignia, as long as I was still breathing and haven’t lost a limb, I was happy! I do have to admit though, that something wasn’t quite right. We had all heard the rumor about the missing squad 28. The story goes that they were sent to the Azores by means of a plane. The entire squad and squad leader pretty much despised one another, for reasons I have yet to figure out, and when they went to the Azores, the squad leader gave each one a smoke then shot them up. When the plane returned, the only people left were the squad leader, pilot, and two gunners. When the squad leader was asked what happened he stepped out of the plane, leaving the pilot and gunners still in the plane and as soon as he was far from the plane, it just blew up! Now I’m sure that some parts were exaggerated one way or another, but it was never proven. The name of the Squad leader was Michael Richardson. He was one man that never really talked; he was just a very shady guy who no one knew much about. The whole thing was really getting on my nerves and I started to think about his reason for joining, because he was pretty old and not in the best condition. Maybe he joined in search of revenge for a loved one’s death. I don’t know, maybe the fact of one of our own possibly killing an entire group of us when at our most vulnerable, just made us feel uncomfortable and just uneasy.
With that in mind we were sent on our most crucial and vital mission yet. We were sent to a concentration camp and try to free as many people as possible. Our platoon, specifically squad 42, was sent to Drancy, which is a concentration camp located right here in France. If we are to succeed, it could pave the way to closing down other camps in Europe, so a lot was at stake. Once again keep in mind that my squad had about 15 men, and our platoon had about 80, so the odds were against us. On top of that, we only had 2 snipers, and not even 1 tank. Most of our guns were Thompson M1A1s and Springfields, with very limited ammo. But the Germans, however, had top of the line weapons of mass destruction. So here we go, short in men, guns, and ammo, but high in spirit and determined to come home heroes, and to accept nothing less. As we marched down the dirt road to the camp, we saw nothing that anyone in their entire lives should have to even imagine let alone see. This camp, it wasn’t anything like what we imagined, we had pictured 200 people, at the most, not 2000! But we underestimated the power and destructive capabilities of evil and pure hatred as I just kissed my cross and let out a tear. All of my fear, sadness, and confusion quickly entered my mind and hit me all at once, but I couldn’t back down when my country and family needed me most. All of a sudden in one split second, my entire life, my third birthday, joking around with John and playing with Mary, and all of the Thanksgivings and holidays had flashed before me, and the first gunshot went off.


We all took to the ground and hid in bushes and behind trees, but as we looked around, expecting to see 400 Nazis charging at us, there were none. They all remained in the camp, they didn’t even look alerted. We slowly got up, but not giving up our aim at the camp. We slowly moved closer and started to surround the square prison. We were finally in position. Our colonel would give the initial signal of when to commence with the mission, then the corporal would give the confirmation signal. We were all nervous and sweating like dogs as we awaited the signal. I took one look at the man next to me and saw him trying to hold back a cry when just then; all of our men rushed the gates and shot at every Nazi behind it. I had missed the signal! I grabbed my gun and charged to meet up with the rest of the men. Gunfire everywhere! I took my gun and looked around, trying to decide where to shoot. I looked up to see a Nazi guard in the lookout tower right above me, aiming at the man next to me. I quickly turned around and pulled the trigger with every muscle I had. *click*. Nothing happened. Just then I watched a man lose his life right in front of me. I looked at that man. My face tightened with anger. The guard turned, back facing me, and then I looked at my gun. When I picked it up, there was no magazine in it. I felt awful; I had just as much to do with his death as the Nazi. I grabbed the gun from the man and read his name on his dog tag. William Jefferson. I said a prayer for him and shot at the lookout tower. Two more hours of bloodshed went by, until we finally won. I don’t know how we did it, but we did it.
When I entered the camp, all of the man slowly shuffled and limped to us. Their faces showing extreme amounts of happiness, they were hugging us and crying, and even though they did not speak our language, they still tried to explain what happened and were probably asking for food and water. I felt enlightened with joy, knowing that I had done a great thing. That day was the day that I finally avenged my brother’s short life, and that lifted a great deal of emotions and stress off of me. It was 1943 now, and I am 20 years old. One year later while on a routine march down the street at our home base, we were attacked, in our squad of 15 men, 8 were killed, and the rest wounded. I was shot in the arm and acted like I was dead, hoping they would just leave. I laid there for an hour before our platoon could come and capture the Nazis. Luckily, I was wounded bad enough to go home. I came home to my parents and little sisters without my left arm, and ma gave me quite a smacking, than hugged me. After all that war, pointless bloodshed, and death you have to ask: “Could it happen again?”





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