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Ex-Soldier's Memories (1994)

By A. G. Adair

The late founder of AMEA Publications

(Reprinted in honor of Veteran's Day, 2000, from issues published prior to Fall of '99 Pencil Stubs Online crash)

The German artillery shell landed about 50 feet in front of where theree American soldiers were moving cautiously over the top of a hedge-row a few days after landing in Normandy, France, during the invasion that knocked Hitler from the face of the earth.

The shrapnel from the artillery shell sprayed outward. Two of the soldiers were hit. The lone remaining GI fell back to the "friendly" side of the hedge-row and attempted to see what could be done for his comrades . . .

An old ex-soldier, almost exactly 49 years from the end of the war in Europe, suddenly realized that his mind was pulling back things that the old fellow had chosen long ago to forget. He was the soldier who, by some miracle given only by Divine power, had escaped injury when his two buddies were killed.

It was not the first time and would probably not be the last time that he was/or will be forced to re-live incidents from a war that ended on his wife's birthday 49 years ago.

The old grey-headed man had experienced several other incidents that caused him to have a great and abiding belief in the protection of his Creator. He had come to believe over the many years since World War II, that God had something that He wanted the old man to do before he left this world. He had spent many hours trying to figure out what it was that he was destined to accomplish and had come to the conclusion that the revelation would someday come to him and he hoped he would be equal to the task.

On occasion, his mind had taken him back to a night shortly after American troops entered German land. His combat unit had moved out into no-man's land after dark this particular night and had set up position to bring harassing fire across an open field into a wooded area occupied by Nazi troops.

The order came down to begin the harassing fire. The unit opened up with 40mm cannon, .50 calibre machine guns, and anything else that would send lead flying toward the German lines.

Everything was quiet for a short spell after the firing. The soldiers who had accomplished their mission had fallen back a few yards and were protected in kilns in a brick factory they had taken over. The closed backs of the oven were toward the German lines. It was top quality cover for the barrage that came on their position from the enemy lines.

After about twenty minutes that seemed like twent hours to the Americans, the fire subsided and it was time to "march order" the artillery pieces, hook them onto trucks and move back. He (the author) and one more man went out to accomplish the move readiness. They had been outside only a few minutes when the Germans let loose with a mortar barrage on the brick factory. The two Americans completed their task and moved back into the kiln only a few minutes into the barrage.

Neither soldier was hit by shrapnel that was flying everywhere. However, the next morning he looked at his overcoat (the OD type that nearly reached the ankles) and the areas in the coat that were just outside the legs and between the legs looked like the moths had been after the coat. The soldier did not have a scratch on him. It had to be a miracle that he was not cut to shreds by the shrapnel.

There were at least two more such incidents during his combat days but the old ex-soldier is also afforded a look at the lighter side of the war at times when his recall is in a better mood. One such incident involved a soldier from one of the eastern states of the U.S.A. The man was of Polish descent, tall and gangly, with a big nose as a memorable feature, and a heck of a nice guy.

Before the break through at St. Lo, the outfit was in a holding situation in a small field enclosed by hedge-rows. The men had dug their foxholes in close to the base of the hedge-rows for maximum available protection from German small arms fire.

On this particular afternoon, the GIs were just lounging around in the field, taking it easy. All of a sudden the Germans opened up with mortars. The shells splattered all over the field.

The tall gangly GI suddenly jumped up, grabbed his rifle and headed for his foxhole. He went into the hole, head first with the M1 rifle following him into the protection of the foxhole. In a couple of minutes a helmet appeared above the rim of the hole, then a face with a long roman nose attached. Next to appear were two hands with a string of prayer beads grasped tightly with the fingers gingerly moving them at a rapid rate of speed.

The man was no doubt scared, but the rest of the soldiers in the area could not help but laugh at the spectacle of that helmet, nose, hands and prayer beads coming up slowly over the rim of the foxhole.

There are bad memories and there are good memories. The soldier of fifty years ago takes them as they come and gives thanks daily to Divine power that he is still alive and can recall days gone by.  

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