First Line of Defense
“Go left… toward the water!” Erich screams out.
The steering wheel lurches, first to the left, then to the right, and then back to the left as our little Kubelwagen (bucket car) bounces and bumps over the sandy beach at over 40 kilometers per hour.
“Ok, ok,” I reply, knowing that as much as I want to, I’ve little if any control over which way our improvised dune buggy of four drunken officers is headed. Realizing how pointless attempting to hold the steering wheel would be, I reach down with my right hand to grab the bottle of ’38 Barolo that Erich is guarding under his left arm.
Seeing that I’m going for the wine, Erich yells out, “Hold the wheel! HOLD THE WHEEL!” He reaches out with both arms to try to stabilize the steering wheel.
The Barolo is free!
I grab the bottle quickly, just in time to save it from hitting the floor when the Kubelwagen makes a hard landing from a jump off of a sand dune.
“I can’t hold it steady!” Erich yells as I press my foot to the brake and slow down the car.
Good, now I can find my bottle opener
The Kubelwagen comes to a halt on the upward slope of another sand dune.
Erich looks shaken. Sober, he is a commanding figure in his crisp Captain’s uniform. Drunk, he is a nervous, disheveled mess of a child with no balls.
“That was fuck’n great!” Jürgen slurs from the back seat.
“I’ve next swig,” Horst calls from behind me as I fumble with the bottle opener on the Barolo.
My fingers are numb from the bouncing steering wheel, thereby slowing down my already alcohol-impaired ability to do anything requiring fine motor skills.
“Damn it, Peter, I’m thirsty!” Horst yells as he kicks my seat from behind.
“I’m opening i….”
BOOOM BOOM BOOOOM BOOOM BOOM BOOOM BOOOOM
Before I can say the word it, a series of explosions rock the beach, spraying sand and dirt into the Kubelwagen from all directions.
What the hell is going on?
Jürgen cheers as each new explosion sends towering geysers of debris into the sky. “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah!”
Dazed and confused, Erich looks around.
Horst calls out, “Give me the damn wine!”
Sand is blowing in every direction, as my fingers are finally able to manipulate the bottle opener. I twist to the rhythm of the explosions.
The cork comes out with what I can only assume was a pop.
No sand in the bottle.
I throw the cork down with my left hand while I quickly bring the Barolo up to my mouth with my right, hitting the glass bottle on my front teeth a little too hard.
Horst kicks the seat again, yelling something I can’t hear.
Ahh, that’s good wine.
I sit for a moment to savor the taste of the Barolo before it dawns on me that the explosions have stopped. The Kubelwagen is silent for a brief instant.
“Give me the bottle!” Horst yells out, again kicking my seat.
I turn to hand the bottle behind me when out in the distance a ship – no, a flotilla – catches my eye.
I stare for a moment as the image of a few ships turns into many, then hundreds.
They’re heading toward the beach!
I drop the Barolo toward Horst as my mind loses grip to the awesome site.
Jürgen taps me on the shoulder. “We’re going to need more wine for our guests,” he slurs.
“Damn it, Peter!” Horst yells out, brushing red wine off of his uniform as he turns his head toward me. “You spilled it!”
The ships are getting closer to the beach. As they do so, the front of the ship closest to us opens to reveal a ramp.
Jürgen punches my shoulder. “We’ll take the ship! Drive onto the ramp!”
Without thinking, I floor the gas and turn the steering wheel. The little Kubelwagen jumps to a start as it begins clawing its way up the sand and then left toward the beach.
That’s a big ship!
Erich, who has been silent since we first saw the ships, turns to me and smirks, “We’re going to capture a ship.” A small smile flits across his face.
The ship approaches the beach just as the Kubelwagen reaches the water line. The ramp of the open front of the ship is directly in front of me, so I press the gas pedal, and we drive our Kubelwagen right up onto the ship. Hundreds of American soldiers and a tank meet us at the top of the ramp.
One of the soldiers toward the front yells out, “What the hell are you doing??”
Jürgen replies in English “We’re taking your ship.”
I didn’t know Jürgen spoke English.
Several of the Americans have their guns aimed at us. One, with a set of double bars on his uniform, walks toward the Kubelwagen, toward me. A slow gait to his step betrays some hesitation.
As Horst stands up in his seat, his metal belt buckle scratches the back of my head. He extends his left arm toward the American, offering him the almost-empty bottle of Barolo.
Damn it, he’s wasting it!
The American takes the Barolo, puts it to his lips and, with some reluctance, takes the final swig. He smiles and then reaches into his jacket and lifts out a small flask, which he hands to Horst.
Without hesitation, Horst gulps down whatever is in the flask.
Erich turns to me and says, under his breath, “I don’t think we can take this ship.”
There are a lot of Americans.
Our Kubelwagen is now surrounded by Americans. One offers me his hand. I take it.
He pulls me out of the driver’s seat just as Erich, Jürgen, and Horst are also removed from the little car.
Our war is over.
Jürgen asks, “What was in the flask?”
“Scotch,” Horst replies.
The American with the flask smiles and leads us away from our Kubelwagen.
wide-light” locale=”US” tag=”thiiswri-20″]
By Jeremy Strozer
Threads of The War collects and shares personal narratives during real events across the span of The 20th Century’s War. From the seats of a German cinema in 1915 and high over Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941 to under the water of the port of Alexandria Egypt and on a rail line in East Prussia in 1945, the reader is carried from one front of war to another in short easily-readable, yet emotionally compelling, bursts.
Each story in this collection opens the door to a unique personal facet of war; exposing the reader to the facts, fictions, and fallacies of armed violence. Following each story, the reader is provided specific and revealing facts about the events narrated, offering both entertainment and education within the time it takes to read a blog post.