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US Army

A Routine Reconnaissance Patrol

A Routine Reconnaissance Patrol.
 
Squad Leader, Dick Thomas, and his buddy Bob, had been making plans for the past half hour – plans centering around the gas station they would open when this damned war was over.  The two future partners were still planning when Lieutenant Simms, the platoon leader, crawled up and told Dick it was dark enough to move out. 
 
Dick knew that Bob shouldn’t be going on this patrol.  He had acted as first scout on the last four.  But Dick also knew it would do no good to argue with him.  Everything they had done, they had done together.  Bob would not let this be the exception.  The peculiar trait of being able to see in the dark had won Bob the nickname of “Owl” and the job of first scout. 
 
Tonight was just another routine reconnaissance patrol of five men.  It would be a fairly simple job to go out, scout the area and bring back the required information.  There would be no moon tonight, which would be a fact in their favor.  Dick took a lot of pride in his squad.  It functioned like a well-oiled machine.  It should, it had had enough practice.  Tonight was no exception, and without a word or sound the men formed and a silent signal from Dick, moved out. 
 
Bob moved ahead of the rest like a dark spectre, uncannily sensing where he would blend with the skyline, where they could move fast, and where they had to go slow.  They had already covered 400 yards and Dick had begun to think, “Just one more daylight patrol tomorrow and then rest camp,” the GI’s heaven.  Then they could really make plans for their business.  Then He could listen to Bob again telling him of his wonderful wife and son.  His thoughts were interrupted when he suddenly realized that Bob had frozen into a black statue, straining to peer into the blackness ahead.  Then it happened.  The flare going off overhead lighted up the entire area with a bright unearthly blue that threw everything into stark relief. 
 
The Kraut machine guns opened up before they could take cover.  “Brother, this is it,” thought Dick.  “Right smack into the middle of a Kraut combat patrol of about 20 men.”  By now the slugs were whining a song of death around them.  Glancing behind him, Dick breathed a sigh of relief, -- none of these angry, deathly hornets had as yet stung into his men.  But Bob – he should have crawled back by now, unless – unless he was hit up forward.  The enemy knew their position now, there was no longer any need of silence.  Turning back to yell, Dick could see that the Kraut patrol had moved in behind them.  They were cut off from their lines.  “Hold down here,” he yelled, “Bob is hip up front, I’m going to get him.”  “You better get him, he’s the only one who can see to get us back.”  The voice was that of one of the men to the squad.  “I’m going to get him because he’s hit and he’s my buddy, “ snapped Dick. 
 
Dick could feel Bob’s face, wet and sticky as he turned him over.  For an instant he thought Bob was dead, then he heard his voice, “Just drag me beside you, Dick, and I’ll get you back through them.  Old Owl eyes hasn’t failed you yet.”  “I led you in and I’ll lead you out.”  Two hours later as the doctor at the aid station look at Bob, Dick spoke, “You’ve got to bring him around. Doc,  he brought the whole damned patrol in safely tonight.  He couldn’t walk, so I dragged him.  For two hours he whispered in my ear, when to duck, when to move on and when to turn.  You have to pull him through.” 
 
The Doctor looked up from Bob’s face and turned unbelieving eyes on Dick.  “Save hat talk for the psycho ward, soldier, you dragged a dead man in.  This man was killed instantly.  He caught it right between the eyes.”
 
The next morning Dick reported to the old man and smiled as he said, “It’s OK, Captain, I can take my patrol out this morning.  You see, Bob told me what we are fighting for, so that his kid and I can start that gas station we planned.”  The old man turned to his executive and watched the patrol move out.  “He’ll bring his patrol back today, he has a buddy as first scout.” 
 
Source: Bulge Bugle August 2013

By Jim HARRIS

 

194th Glider Infantry Regiment,

17th Airborne Division

 

Campaigns

Battle of the Bulge,

Belgium