Eric stared up into the frostbitten, dead, and barren birch trees bordering the muddy makeshift road. Eric Muller, along with Friedhelm Weber, had been travelling with a random tank crew for a few miles now on the road. Eric and Friedhelm had served in the German Heer since 1942, participating in the battle of the Falaise Gap, Stalingrad, and Normandy. They’d been through thick and thin together, along with the rest of the 16th Infantry Division, which had undergone many changes since its inception in October of 1934. They hitched a ride with the crew of a battle hardened Tiger I, sitting next to each other on the side of the tank. The white camo paint of the tank had been scratched off harshly, exposing the bare metal underneath. The metal components closest to the road were coated with mud. The division markings had nearly been completely scratched off, and small dents were present in the Tiger. The Tiger crew had not spoken a word to them since they boarded their tank, which was strange. Eric and Friedhelm shivered, feeling the cold metal on the backs of their legs.
“This forest is so pretty,” Friedhelm said, staring out into the vast expanse of forest ahead of them.
“I agree, if only it wasn’t so goddamn cold,” Eric said, chuckling try to lighten the mood. Friedhelm also joined him, grinning.
Suddenly, the driver opened his hatch in the front, and a few seconds later the commander opened his hatch, rising up. The tank slowly grinded to a halt.
Eric looked up at the commander, hopping off of the tank. “What happened? Why’d we stop?”
The commander looked down at him. “Something with the engine. We got hit back there while ambushing American forces, and we’ve had problems ever since.”
Friedhelm spoke up. “Well can’t you just repair it?”
“The engine is pretty badly damaged, we’d need an external crane out here to fix it, and we can’t radio for repair since the radio also got hit, unluckily,” the commander replied, tapping his figures on the rim of the cupola. He retreated back into the Tiger’s turret slowly.
As Eric and Friedhelm waited, they heard muffled chatter of the Tiger crew, discussing something.
Eventually, the Tiger commander along with all the other crew members climbed out of the tank, closing their hatches behind them. They walked around the side of the tank, out of view. More chatter ensued, and after a few moments the crew started to walk down the road. The commander joined them, turning back to the pair of friends. “We hope you’ll take care of her while we’re gone, we’ll try to be back as soon as possible. Oh, and don’t worry, no Americans come through this area. It’s pretty secluded. We’re going to try to find something to repair the tank. Just down this road.” He continued walking behind the rest of his crew, shivering.
“Well, great. We’re losing the war and we’re stuck in the Ardennes forest alone, with the Americans on our doorstep.” Friedhelm said defeatedly. He heard Eric sigh behind him. After a while, the tank crew was no longer visible.
Eric climbed up onto the Tiger tank, lending a hand to Friedhelm. Friedhelm sat down cross-legged over the engine bay, and Eric sat down and leaned against the turret. Feeling famished suddenly, Eric dug through the Tiger tank’s storage box on the back of its turret. He silently took out and handed Friedhelm some of the tin cans. Friedhelm studied the tin cans as he received them. One said ‘Cured Meat’ and another said ‘Goulash’ in black, bold text. He decided to eat the cured meat first, taking the tab and ripping the top off of the tin can. The contents inside looked similar to salami. He unclipped his canteen and took a swig of water before biting into the hard cylinder of salami. Eric took the goulash from him, opening the can and taking a metal spork wrapped in plastic from his gas mask canister. They never really used the gas masks anyways, so they put various things in it like cutlery, cigarettes, and chocolate. Eric stabbed some potatoes and carrots from the goulash.
While chewing, a thought came over his mind. “Hey… Friedhelm?”
He paused, pushing some of the ingredients from the goulash around, “Do you ever think we’ll get back home?...”
Friedhelm looked up at him, taking a bite out of his salami, “Well… of course we’ll get home. Whether it’s in a box or whole.”
“What if our home isn’t there?” Eric asked, his voice shaky.
Friedhelm chose to not respond, chewing his bite of the salami, the question lingering in his mind. He could feel Eric looking up at him, but he just stared down at the salami. Once Eric was done eating, he tossed the tin can into the forest, and cleaned his spork off, placing it back into his canister. A few minutes later, Friedhelm lightly tossed his can into the ditch next to the tank. He wiped his hands against his pants, sliding his K98 rifle into his lap. He ran his fingers over the harsh cuts he had made into the wooden stock with his knife. 30 cuts, for markers. 30 people with their lives cut short by this rifle. It was more of a remembrance than a scoreboard. He prayed he wouldn’t have to make any more markers. Friedhelm spied Eric running his fingers over a photograph of some sort. He leaned over, quickly snatching it from him and standing up.
Friedhelm looked at the picture, holding it in one hand while trying to holding Eric back with his other. He whistled in jealousy, “So you have a little lady friend you didn’t tell me about huh?” he said, laughing.
Eric tried snatching it from him a few times, failing. He groaned, shoving Friedhelm off the tank. Friedhelm fell into a small snow pile in the ditch. The photo slowly floated down onto one of the engine bay panels. Eric snatched it up and put it in his pocket before Friedhelm could do anything. But Friedhelm wasn’t getting up.
Eric looked down at him, and realized he was groaning.
“Hey, you alright..?” Friedhelm was gripping his arm. He hopped down quickly, kneeling down to him. He started to panic.
“Friedhelm?! Are you okay? We have a first aid kit in the-”
He was interrupted when Friedhelm tackled him, laughing.
“Stop messing around Friedhelm! We have a job to do!” The seriousness in Eric’s voice was cut short by giggles.
They started to lightly wrestle, kicking each other and rolling in the snow, both laughing at each other. The light snow on the ground stuck to their equipment and their uniforms. After a few minutes of fighting in the ditch, Eric shoved Friedhelm off of him. It felt good to release all the pent up anger and sadness of war. Their laughs turned to grins and slight chuckles as the day went on. Eric checked his watch: 1:24 PM. They brushed off their uniforms as they began to get up.
The two now sat on the tank, chatting, with their rifles by their side. They nearly forgot about the war, besides the huge tank they had underneath them, along with their rifles. The forest was peaceful, the wind slightly flowing through the trees like silk in a sewing machine.
But there was always calm before the storm…
A rustling came from the bushes, and the duo of friends hopped off the tank silently, hiding behind it. Eric peeked his head out around the corner, and he saw it was an American soldier inspecting the front of the tank. The American has his rifle slung around one shoulder, and he casually stood in awe. Eric turned back to Friedhelm and put up 3 fingers, mouthing the words ‘on three. One, two, three’. The pair turned around both corners of the tank, pointing their rifles at the lone soldier. He noticed Eric first, pointing his rifle at him. But in his peripheral vision he then noticed Friedhelm. Eric and Friedhelm were about 30 yards from him, staring him down. The soldier looked young, in his early 20s maybe. Eric could sense his energy as a young adult, the passion for excitement. He turned his rifle to Friedhelm, weighing his options.
“Drop it. Please,” Friedhelm begged in the softest voice he could.
“Listen to him, we don’t want to hurt you,” Eric said.
“I don’t want to use this rifle. But I have used it. My momma told me to never trust you dirty Germans,” The soldier said harshly in a slight country accent.
Eric sighed. “Fine. Let’s uh… let’s start with the basics. Where are you from?”
The soldier hesitated, glancing at Friedrich for any signs of movement. After a while, he spoke, “Atlanta. Georgia. You?”
Friedrich spoke up. “I’m from Dresden and he’s from Berlin,” Eric lowered his rifle a bit at the mentioning of Berlin.
“So what are you two doing out here?” He asked.
“Our tank’s engine has had some unexplainable problem. And what about you?” Eric said, curious.
Once again, hesitation struck, shooting another glance at Friedrich. “I’m with another guy. We’re scouting ahead for… krauts,” He eyed the two of them suspiciously still. The distrust in the air was so thick you could cut it with a knife.
Friedhelm seemed to wince at the word ‘kraut’. He didn’t like it, but he kept his mouth shut about it. “Do you want to call him over too? We have food in the tank.”
He hesitated, but slightly nodded after a moment. He started to lower his rifle, but quickly turned to Eric with a fire spewing betrayal in his eyes, aiming his rifle. Just when the soldier was about to fire, Friedhelm shot him in the stomach. The crack of the shot resonated throughout the forest, sending a small flock of birds flying. He dropped his rifle onto the road, the light fading from his eyes. He clutched his stomach, falling backwards onto the ground. Friedhelm let the trigger go back into its natural position by slowly removing his finger. He glanced at Eric, who had now lowered his rifle and was looking at the dead soldier with a sorrowful look in his eyes.
Friedrich spoke up after a few moments, with a shaky voice, “Go get a blanket from the tank.” Eric didn’t move, still staring at the body. Once again, his voice louder and firmer, Friedrich said, “NOW.”
Eric hurried back to the tank, climbing up to it and tossing down a large olive colored blanket. Friedrich started digging into the ditch on the side of the road, making a small grave for him. Once he was done, he grabbed his rifle, helmet, and dog tags and set them aside. He dug through his thick coat, finding a blood stained photo of a pretty young lady. The bottom right corner had been signed, ‘Charlotte’ with an elegant heart accompanying it. He slid the photo into the band around the soldier’s helmet, securing it. Eric and Friedhelm lowered him into his grave, and draped the olive blanket over him. Eric grabbed Friedhelm’s shovel and filled the grave with dirt, packing it down. Friedhelm stabbed the rifle into the ground barrel first, placing the helmet onto the stock, and tossing the dog tags onto the freshly packed ground. The two friends inspected the grave, staring down at it. They both gave a silent salute. Friedhelm sighed, climbing back up onto the tank. He sat down with tears in his eyes, quickly flicking out his knife and angrily cutting another marker into his stock. He wiped the tears in his eyes on his wrist, and he hadn’t noticed that Eric had climbed up and sat next to him.
“I-I didn’t want to…” Friedhelm’s voice said shakily. “But… I had to.. or... maybe I could’ve stopped h-”
Eric interrupted, placing a firm hand on his shoulder. “You saved my life. It’s over now. You did what you had to do. Sometimes you have to do these things,” he kept watch, making sure the other soldier he mentioned didn’t sneak up on them.
Hours later, the two friends, still slightly mourning their recent incident, were watching the sunset slowly dissolve into night. The orange, yellow, and red beams of sun cut through the gaps in the trees, seeming to warm the forest one last time before the night set it. They shivered, huddling together for warmth while sitting on the Tiger tank’s turret. Their rifles were placed across their laps, if the time came once again. Eric reached behind him, taking off his gas mask canister. He stood it upright, opening it and taking out a chocolate bar. He closed the canister silently and started to rip open the red and white foil around the chocolate. He offered some to Friedrich, who refused silently. As Eric devoured the chocolate bar, night soon fell around them, engulfing the tank in darkness. Eric threw the wrapper aside, off of the tank, munching on his last bit of chocolate happily.
Eric spoke up suddenly. “Hey, you mind if I take a bathroom break in the forest?”
“No, but why in the forest? And why are you telling me this anyways?” Friedhelm said, clearly disgusted.
“In case anything happens, you never know,” Eric said, walking into the forest, laughing
Friedhelm, feeling hungry once more, decided to eat something. He dug through the supply box on the turret and pulled out some salted crackers, along with what looked to be a tea bag from France. He poured some water from his canteen into a tin cup and placed the tea bag inside. He set it aside as he opened the packaging of the crackers, taking one out and bit into it. After a few seconds of chewing, his mouth felt dry already. He nibbled on a few more crackers, bored. Staring at the night sky for a few minutes, he felt his tea was ready. With a slight sip he confirmed it, taking the tea bag out and lightly tossing it in the ditch next to the tank. He paired his tea with the crackers, waiting for Eric to get back. He glanced at his watch, as Eric was taking quite a while in the forest. While drinking his tea, he saw the silhouette of a figure staring down at the grave, about 25 yards away. Thinking it was Eric, he turned on his flashlight that was clipped to his Y-straps.
To his surprise, the soldier was dressed in an American uniform, and it was presumably the one soldier the other was talking about. They both stared at each other in shock, hesitating. Friedhelm saw the American was carrying a bundle of sticks and twigs. As if on cue, the soldier dropped his bundle and tried reaching the the rifle slung around his shoulder. Friedhelm scrambled for his rifle. He snatched up his rifle, trying to load another round in with a shaky hand. He couldn’t concentrate enough to work the bolt because of the surprise visit from the American. The solder began rushing towards him, while also trying to load another round into his rifle. Friedhelm finally loaded in the round just as the soldier jumped up onto the tank, abandoning his rifle while tackling him onto the top of the tank’s turret. The soldier grabbed Friedhelm by the rifle, trying to hit him with the stock. They wrestled over the rifle, and Friedhelm finally found an open spot where the soldiers hand had slipped, sending Friedhelm’s rifle flying into the ditch. The soldier began to choke Friedhelm, who had just thought to reach for his Luger.
The soldier said through clenched teeth, “YOU KILLED MY BROTHER! MY ONLY BROTHER!”
Friedhelms vision was starting to fade, but he held the soldier’s neck firmly with one hand, trying to distance himself as much as possible. He struggled to undo the clasp on the holster through the pain and vision loss. The soldier had begun crying, and his anger towards Friedrich worsened.
Friedhelm choked out the words, “I… didn’t… mean… to!”
Friedhelms grip loosened and he was on the verge of passing out.
A loud crack accompanied by splintered wood had stuck the side of the soldier’s helmet, sending him flying off of the top of the tank turret. Friedhelm glanced over to his body while gasping for air, which was now laying on the road, motionless.
“Home run!” A familiar voice exclaimed triumphantly.
Once he was done gasping for air, Friedhelm looked up to see his friend, Eric. Friedhelm said angrily, “What the hell dude?! You could have killed him!”
“Yeah, but he was going to kill you first. So you should probably be thanking me. At least I didn’t SHOOT him, or else he’d be actually dead,” he said.
Friedrich let out a few more coughs, and was helped up by Eric’s hand. “Well, thank you.”
“But you should have seen your face! It was all like ‘Save me Eric, save meee!’” he said in his best girly voice before breaking out into immense laughter.
Friedrich threw a scowling face at Eric while hopping down to check on the soldier. He removed his helmet and saw a large gash, but he was still breathing, thankfully.
“You’re lucky he lived, you idiot!”
“Yeah, yeah, whatever. You sound like my mom after I pushed you off the treehouse balcony. Survival of the fittest, as that once famous man said,” Eric said as he inspected the splintered corner at the end of his stock.
“We should probably get to sleep now, it’s really late,” Friedhelm said, looking up into the sky.
“Alright, there’s a place I saw while walking back in the forest. It’s dry and we can use the trees for cover,” Eric replied.
“Okay, let’s move him first though,” Friedhelm said, motioning to the unconscious American.
Within a few minutes, Friedhelm and Eric had moved the soldier to the spot Eric had mentioned. They both went back for their rifles, leaning them up against a tree far from the American. Friedhelm gathered the wood that the soldier had dropped and began to pile them up for a fire. Eric carried all of the tin cans of food he could, staking them near the exposed roots of a large spruce tree. Friedhelm and Eric chatted as Friedhelm tended to the newly made fire to fend off the cold. After the fire was big enough and could support itself for some time, Friedhelm tended to the soldier’s head wound. He placed a cotton ball onto the wound and wrapped his head with the little amount of gauze they had found in the first aid kit. He placed the soldier’s pack under his head for a pillow, and he unholstered the soldier’s pistol, silently giving it to Eric. The tank had many blankets in the storage area, so he had decided to drape one over the soldier. For warmth. Eric inspected the pistol, turning it all sorts of ways to get the full picture. Friedhelm moved over and silently sat a few feet away from Eric, poking the fire with a stick. They grabbed some cans of food a few minutes later, heating them over the fire. A large part of the night after dinner was dominated by talking and stifled laughter, as to not somehow wake the unconscious soldier. Eric had declared he was tired, retreating into a sleeping bag they had found in the tank. Friedhelm sighed, staring at the fire licking the air for a few minutes before he was tired himself. He slid into his sleeping bag, checking his watch. 11:46. After a few moments of fighting the tiredness, he had lost, and sleep took him quickly.
Friedhelm felt a poke at his ribs, stirring him awake. He opened his eyes, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. Beside him sat Eric with a stick.
“I’ve been poking you with this for the last 20 minutes. You’re quite the heavy sleeper,” he said.
Friedhelm sat up groggily, staring at him. “Well, it’s good you woke me up, because we still need to figure out what to do with…” he paused as the American slightly stirred. He finished off the sentence with a gesture toward the soldier. Friedhelm let out a tired groan as he got up, checking his watch. 8:34 AM.
While he was asleep, Eric had seemed to restart the fire. Friedhelm took the time to melt a few handfuls of snow in a pot. Once the snow had melted and the water was lukewarm, Eric set off deeper into the forest to take the time to wash himself, since he had not done so in a few weeks. Friedhelm tended to the fire and after a few minutes, Eric returned, clean yet shivering from the cold. Friedhelm repeated the snow melting process, taking the pot with him into the forest. Eric poked at the fire until Friedhelms return. Once he had returned, they both grabbed some blankets from the nearby tank, wrapping themselves up and huddling close to each other for warmth. Once the sun had risen into the sky a bit, they shed their layers upon layers of blankets like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon. It was significantly warmer, and the two friends had decided to eat breakfast.
Eric opened a can of salami, once again, and Friedhelm opened a tin with various cheeses inside. They cut the salami up, dividing it between themselves. They both made a cup of lukewarm tea for themselves. This was practically a banquet compared to starving days on end with just enough scraps to keep you alive. After 1941, Germany had decided to completely rely on conquered lands to provide food for their troops. Which obviously wasn’t the best idea.
“So,” Eric said, chewing, “I’ve had an idea for a while now.”
Friedhelm rolled his eyes, “Yeah, you said that last time and now we’re losing the war.”
“Well, since you mentioned the war…” Eric stared down at his sliced salami.
“Here we go..” Friedhelm sighed.
“I was thinking we could…” Eric looked up to Friedhelm, “...desert.”
Friedhelm nearly spit out his tea at the words, but managed to swallow it. “Are you crazy?! Where would we go?! We’d probably get shot for deserting our post AND disobeying orders!”
Eric bit into his salami slice, grinning, “I heard Switzerland is nice this time of year.”
Friedhelm paused. He did have a point. Switzerland was a neutral country.
“What about the American?” The two of them both glanced over to him, who was just starting to wake.
Eric lowered his voice to a whisper, leaning into Friedhelm’s ear, “We can drop him off with any advancing American forces and hope they don’t shoot us. Or we can take him with us.”
The American looked around from his laying position, blinking a few times for his vision to finally focus. He observed his surroundings; the snow, the trees, and the fire. Friedhelm and Eric watched him carefully. The American soon realized he was in an area he had not seen before.
What the hell happ--
“Morning, sleepyhead.” a voice said, startling him.
He jolted up into a sitting position, using his heels and hands to back him into the tree as fast as possible. He reached for his M1911, which was no longer there, for some reason. He glanced around, not seeing his pistol anywhere. The two Germans stared at him, smirking a bit, with their rifles by their side.
“Yeah we were afraid you’d do that, so we took your pistol. It’s just for safe measures.” The other German said softly, trying to calm him.
He stared, confused, at the pair. He opened his mouth to speak, but a sharp pain racked the right side of his head, similar to a migraine. He held his hand gingerly to the injury, removing it to find a dash of blood on his fingers.
“Yeah, that was me, sorry. Kind of hit a homerun on your head there.” the same German announced.
So many questions filtered through his brain. He couldn’t pick just one, his mind swimming with anger after his brother’s unfortunate incident.
The other German spoke up, interrupting his thoughts. “I’m Friedhelm, from Dresden,” he said, his short, black hair sweeping to the side a bit, “and that’s Eric. Berlin.” the other German waved, his blonde, undercut styled hair left undeterred.
They went back to eating whatever it was out of their tin cans. Every so often, they’d glance at him. He hesitated, wondering if he should trust them.
Was this a trick…?
Finally, he decided to speak up. “I-I’m… Jones… Private Jones. Atlanta, Georgia.” He said, trying to level his voice out as much as possible so he wouldn’t seem weak.
“Well, it’s good to finally meet you, Jones. You up for some breakfast?” Friedhelm asked, holding out a tin can towards him.
Feeling suddenly hungry, he snatched the tin can out of his hand. He ate some slices of ham silently, until a thought crossed his mind. He thought about not asking, until his mind went into overdrive and he simply had to ask.
He sharply blurted out, “Why’d you kill my brother? You could’ve saved him like you did to me, krauts.”
Eric and Friedhelm looked at him, surprised and taken aback by the sudden question. They both glanced at each other, and set down their tin cans and sporks. They thought about how to respond.
Friedhelm spoke up softly, as to not anger him. “It was in self defense. Your brother was going to accept our hospitality yet he turned on us,” he paused, thinking for the right words, “but he seemed like he was a fine brother.”
Jones seethed with anger. They’re probably lying. He couldn’t trust them. After all, he was in a forest, alone, with two possible enemies he had not met until 10 minutes ago. Another question popped into his head.
“And… why didn’t you just kill me too?”
Erich poked at his various cheeses with his spork, “...I didn’t want your mother to receive two notes in the mail about her only sons. The world has seen enough death, with this war of ours. I value the human life more than the pressure of a trigger pull.”
“Well…” Jones said, trying to clear his mind, staring at the contents of the tin can. “That’s quite thoughtful of you,” he finished, looking up at Erich.
“We are all human, even through the fires of war.” Friedhelm said, munching on a piece of salami. Jones smiled slightly. He stood up, silently picking some flowers, and walking over to his brothers grave.
Friedhelm and Erich stared at him as he walked past them, and continued to stare. Jones laid the flowers on his brothers grave softly, and had sat cross-legged on the ground to ‘speak’ with his brother.
Erich spoke up softly, “Poor kid. It’s a good thing we didn’t… y’know…”
“Yeah.” Friedhelm replied. “So what do you think about the Switzerland thing?”
“It’s… it’s a tough choice.”
“So should we just surr--”
“No, let’s do it.”
“Really, are you sure? It’s a big leap of faith...” Erich asked, concerned.
Friedhelm turned to his friend, giving him a nod of complete confidence and trust.
Erich smiled. “Then it’s settled. We’ll find a car. German officers are bound to be around here since this is slightly secluded.”
Jones came back, and silently sat across from them, keeping his gaze on the tips of his snow-covered boots.
“Jones.” Erich said, snapping him out of it.
“Y-yes..?” He said, still looking down.
“We were wondering if you’d like to come to Switzerland with us.”
Jones paused for a long while. “Why…?”
“To escape the war. For a better life.”
“What about my friends? My division?”
“If you want to stay with them fighting, you can. We could drop you off near some American forces if we find any...”
“No… they’ll shoot you. I’ll find my way home when we get into Switzerland.”
“Alright. Everyone gather your things. We’ll start going soon.” Erich said, digging through his map bag, pulling out a small square. He started to unfold the square as Friedhelm and Jones cleared up the area. The square revealed itself as a large map of Belgium and the surrounding countries. Within half an hour, the area was cleaned up and Erich had planned out the route. They took some food cans from the tank, placing into unused pouches and bags on their uniform. Erich handed the map to Jones, and he recalled hearing there were small pockets of German held areas along the route.
“I think we’re ready…” Friedhelm said softly. Jones and Erich both nodded in agreement.
The trio walked out of the forest, observing their surroundings. The road seemed to stretch for miles.
Erich and Friedhelm eyed the tank up and down before walking down the road alongside Jones, leaving the crippled and dying tank behind. They walked for miles, with their rifles slung over their shoulders, silently observing the trees. The winter snow glistened on the dead branches and the shriveled leaves. Boots were soon caked with mud, somehow managing to get into every groove. Jones kicked along a rock he’d found a while ago, keeping his gaze locked onto it after every kick.
Friedhelm squinted, seeing something that looked like a car on the road in the distance. He turned to Erich and Jones. “Hey, you guys see that?” He pointed at the vehicle.
“Uhh… no…” Jones said, concentrating and squinting as well.
“That, right there. The tiny dot out there. It might be a car!” Friedhelm said, pointing repeatedly and hoping Jones would see it.
“It kind of looks like a tank… or a car…” Erich said.
“Oh, nevermind, now I see it. Yeah… what is that?” Jones said curiously.
Friedhelm began sprinting towards the vehicle, whatever it was. Erich and Jones quickly followed suit.
As they got closer, they noticed it was an American halftrack. It looked badly damaged, with the right track completely blown to pieces and dislodged from the road wheels. They slowed down as they approached it, breathing heavy from the sprint. Blast marks and bullet holes peppered the halftrack. Erich and Friedhelm scrutinized the wreck, which was dumped halfway into the roadside ditch. They opened the back section of the halftrack, which was empty and burned out.
“Where’s the crew?” Friedhelm asked.
“You think I know? They could be captured or… dead.” Erich replied.
Jones let out a loud gasp, muffling himself when he realized what he had discovered. Erich and Friedhelm ran across the road to the opposite ditch where Jones was.
“What?! What is it?!” They said in unison.
Jones silently pointed down to the bodies of 5 American soldiers, lightly covered by snow. Their rifles laid next to them, and a few were still gripping them. Blots and streaks of dark red blood stained their camo uniforms. They all looked down into the ditch, in a mix of silence and shock. The dedicated soldiers had clearly tried to defend their small position.
“But I thought Americans weren’t out this far…?”
“It’s… it’s…” Jones stuttered.
“What is it?!”
“AMBUSH!” Jones yelled just as an Tiger I burst out of the forest down the road from them, quickly aiming its gun.
The trio sprinted back to the halftrack, diving into the ditch as the Tiger I fired a round, hitting the nearby forest just past them. German troops filtered out of the forest behind the Tiger I, taking cover behind various bits of trees. Erich and Friedhelm crawled up, peeking their head over the edge of the ditch. The Tiger I fired another round, hitting the ground a few feet in front of them. The troops began to fire at them, hitting even closer to them than the Tiger I did. Erich and Friedhelm ducked while Jones dug through the back of the halftrack.
“What are you doing?! We have to fight!” Erich shouted.
“Shut up! Just… shut up and give me a minute!” Jones shouted back, still continuing to dig through the back.
Erich and Friedhelm fought harshly, taking out a few Germans. They felt nothing now but adrenaline and the need to survive. Jones emerged out of the halftrack, finding what he was looking for. He ducked and ran, hiding along the length of the ditch until he was close to the Tiger I. He pulled out a panzerfaust, aiming it at the tank. Erich glanced over, seeing him aiming the panzerfaust.
“JONES! NO!” Erich screamed, scrambling to run over to him.
But it was too late.
The Tiger I machine gunner cut him down just as he fired the rocket. The rocket struck the front section of the turret ring, exploding. The Tiger I burst into flames, exploding a few seconds later. It proceeded to burn to a crisp. Jones’s body laid at the bottom of the ditch, with the empty panzerfaust tube beside him.
Friedhelm and Erich finished off the small squad of German troops, bursting into tears as the last fell. They sat at the bottom of the ditch, mud, snow, and dirty water caking their uniform. They walked over, laying a blanket they’d stolen from the tank over his body. They stabbed the empty panzerfaust tube along with his rifle into the muddy ground, placing his helmet on top of it as a memorial.
They gave a silent salute.
“War is hell.” Friedhelm said.
“Krieg ist die hölle.” Erich whispered in German.
Did you enjoy my story? Please let me know what you think by leaving a review! Thanks, Peter EgerWrite a Review