Three months after the USA formally entered the Great War. England and France fought this war for nearly three years and were running short on young men. For almost three years, a stalemate dominated the regions over Europe. Both sides were looking for an advantage. With the introduction of the US, the allies now had a chance to end this war. Now, as America's first World War, many are ill-prepared for the horrors that would follow. However, for one man, in particular, this war would not only change him but give birth to a terrifying new legend—one few thought to be a myth. But to understand the tale, one must know the man behind it.
This is his story.
Robert H. Homes was a thirty-year-old from Montana. He grew hunting with his father and became a crack shot with a rifle. In school, he wanted to follow in his grandfather's footsteps, who served in the Civil war. However, his father did not want him to be a soldier and instead want him to be a good lawyer. As he entered high school, Robert pleaded with his father to let him at least join the national guard, but his father still refused. When asked why, his father explained that he waited every day for his dad to return as a young boy, and by the end of the war, he returned in a box. Robert's grandfather, according to his father, died from a stray bullet in Petersburg.
The family had a small funeral for him, and Robert's father was never the same. He then told him that sons bury their fathers, but fathers should never bury their sons. Then, his father made him swear never to enlist in the army. Robert protested and said that he wanted to be a hero like his grandfather. His father then slapped him across the face and told him that there are no heroes in war, only monsters. That was the last conversation he had with his dad.
Sometime later in his college years, he answered the call to arms as the untied states declared war on Spain in 1898. He quickly joined up with the Marines and embarked on his first war after a few weeks of basic training. In the first few months, he worked closely with future president Theodore Roosevelt and his rough riders. In the fighting that ensued, Robert was making a name for himself that his fellow soldiers started calling him Big Bad Wolf, as he could "crumble" any defensive fortifications the enemy had. By 1899, the war soon concluded, but this was not the end of his career. Soon the Phillipino-American war broke out, and Robert partakes in yet another fight. Unlike the Spanish war, Robert now had to contend with guerilla-style fighting. The fighting was so intense that he earned himself a battle scar, a slash across the face from a bolo knife.
After the Filipino insurrection, Robert was promoted to captain for his gallant bravery in the face of the enemy. However, he was beginning to feel the fatigue of war. Fighting in the dense Filipino jungles took a toll on him, yet that was only the beginning as he travels to a place he never imagines: China. Robert was one of fifty-five marines selected to join the American ambassador to Peking with Western nations.
Once stationed here, he soon made connections with the other fifty-four soldiers. Out of those fifty-four, he became friends with Texan Joshua Walker, Irish American Dustin Mcgowan, Ernest William from Boston, Conor Rojas from California, New Yorker Giovanny Bradford, Leon Dixon from New Orleans, Tashunka of the Sioux Nation, and Puerto Rican Cesar Gonzalez. Together, these nine men saw hell in the fifty-five-day siege of Peking and the other western powers. The fighting was constant, and the fear of being overrun was on everyone's mind. Yet, Robert remained centered and told his fellow marines that they would see it through if they stayed together.
With a lot of luck and a handful of prayers, Robert and his friends, along with the other delegates, families, and soldiers, survived the siege and made their long journey back to the coast, where they all hopped on the next ferry out of China and back home. Arriving in San Francisco, the "Peking Band" still stayed in touch even after some made their own lives.
Some got married, others joined the workforce, a few stayed single, but the one thing that did not change was their friendship. As for Robert, he contemplated meeting his father again. He was saddened to learn that his father passed away, some say of a broken heart. Robert did not talk much after that. That is until the outbreak of the Great War. However, unlike the previous engagements, America stayed at the sidelines. Robert, having grown accustomed to war, was itching at the chance to fight again. He would have to wait a whole three years until America finally entered the war. When the war finally came, Robert gathered up his fellow soldier, and the "Peking Band" was together once more. The story begins at the AEF base in Chaumont, France, three hundred fifty miles from Gevaudan.
The mood at the AEF was gloomy and lacking life. Though only been here for a few months, it some, it felt like years. The HQ was in the center of the landing area, with all squad leaders reporting to the CO. The "Peking Band" kept busy by attending to the base objectives: teaching recruits how to use their rifles, helping the medics, and dispatching news to the Front. Yet Robert wanted an actual assignment. He and his group of friends were soldiers, and soldiers fight. After discussing with his team, he made his way to the CO's building. Moving the tent flap aside, He walks in front of his commanding officer and salutes.
"Sir, Captain Robert speaking," he said. His superior was another veteran of the Boxer rebellion, Sergeant Major Ramon Anderson. He sat behind a small oak bench with his lamp, a stack of orders, and oil and quill. His face was covered with white and brown fuzz. His eyes look up at the saluting soldier and salute him.
"At ease. What brings you here, son?"
"Sergent Major, we have been here for a few months now, and my men are getting restless. We enjoy helping out the recruits, but we would like an assignment, sir. We want to help our boys on the Front." The aging superior chuckles and gets up from his chair.
"I know the feeling, son, but our boys are not ready to fight a modern war yet. Hell, many are not ready to even be here. Until our boys are fighting ready, I'm afraid we are all stuck here." Anderson could see the disappointment in Roberts' face. Then he remembers a special envelope he got from the Candian army. Perhaps Robert's would be interested in it.
"Looks like today is your lucky day. I have in here correspondence from our Canadian allies from the Front. This information here is top secret. So please gather your men and wait for me in your tents. Understood?" Roberts salutes and exits the tent.
Ten minutes later, the "Peking Band" gathered in Robert's tent and waited for their orders.
"Finally, we get to see some action," said Joshua.
"It beats staying here until the end of the war," replied Ernest. Robert tells his men to be quiet as the Sergent major entered, accompanied by another soldier who came from the army from the looks of it.
"Gentlemen, what I am about to tell you cannot leave this room nor this circle of people. Am I clear?" Everyone nodded before Anderson continued. In his hands was the envelope from earlier, and he proceeds to explain the mission to Robert and his men.
"Gentlemen, I do no know if you are aware, but for the past couple of weeks, our supplies have been halted in southern France by an unknown assailant. Supply trucks have been demolished, and the men guarding them have been torn to pieces as if by some animal. It seems we are not the only ones. Our Canadian allies from the Front have told us that several men have been found with their necks ripped out. Then as quickly as the attacks began, they ceased until now."
"Sounds like a wild animal, sir?" said Rojas.
"That is what high command says, but I have doubts." Anderson then gestured to the soldier next to him. "Which leads to my next topic. Gentlemen, this is Sgt. Travone Calhoun of the 369th."
"A Harlem Hellfighter," said Giovanny.
"Yes, soldier, a Harlem Hellfighter. Sergeant Calhoun has experience with the creature in question. He and his men were also along the Front when the Canadian attacks occurred. Since then, he has followed the creature's trail to one special place in southern France: the province of Gevaudan." Before the Sgt Major could continue, Robert spoke up.
"Sir, if I may? These attacks seem to be little more than a wild dog attack. I don't see why the army and the marines should be concerned, sir?" This time, Calhoun was the one to answer.
"Captian, these attacks are more than just the result of a wild dog. My men shot the creature several times with our rifles, and not one bullet put it down. Secondly, my report shows that german lines also run down to southern France, and not one of their supply lines has been attacked. Something is protecting the Germans. Something unnatural."
"You see, gentleman, this is why I have chosen your group for this assignment. Your uniqueness is invaluable. That is why I need your team to look into this." Robert and his men look at each other. This was unlike anything they had asked for. But, if there was something attack their troops, they had to stop it by any means.
"We're your men, sir," said Tashunka. The Seargent major smiled and handed Robert all the necessary documents and files on the mission.
"And one last thing, Sgt Calhoun will be in charge of the operation. Is that clear?" All nodded. "Very good; grab your gear, and be prepared to leave in two hours."
"Sir, what is the name of this operation?" asked Dustin.