“Blow it out your barracks bag, Hank.”
“All I’m saying is, it’s pretty obvious why you and I are out here and not in there.” said Private First Class Henry Davidson to his visibly frustrated Sergeant.
“Somebody’s gotta be out here, so I’m not sure I see your point. Ain’t nothing we’ve done different than any of those poor saps getting shredded downtown before getting here.” SGT Rinaldi chimed in response.
“Look Sarge, I’m not complaining about it. I’m just saying…the Captain must not think either of us are all that vital to the cause considering we’ve been sittin’ on our hands in this dump of a church for days now.”
The two of them were assigned to a recon position on the outskirts of Aachen during the offensive on the city itself. The Nazis were dug in deep and the US Army was advancing slowly, day by day, towards the middle of the town. They found themselves being ambushed often and were experiencing heavy losses along the way. The same could be said for the Germans that were left, though they were doing a good job of hit and run tactics by hiding out in cellars and attics before attacking in the dead of night. Capturing this town would be a huge step before the eventual push into Berlin. The enemies knew this and were fighting as if the war depended on the outcome. And in many ways, it did.
“Like I said, still better than getting shot or blown to pieces by some kraut bastard while you’re taking a shit.”
“That almost sounds like a better time than being stuck here with you another day or two.”
“Yeah well, I’m all you’ve got, kid. So either shut up or go kick bricks.”
They both knew that wasn’t true. They’d grown close over the last few months’ worth of fighting as the 30th Infantry Division and 1st Infantry Division stormed towards the “vaterland” under the banner of the 1st Army. Soldiers had a way of talking down to each other as a form of endearment, and their bond was no different.
“You know what would be really great? Beer.” said Henry, with his head resting on the back end of his machine gun; half looking out of a window and half falling asleep.
“Now why is it that you’re always finding new things to say that make me sad?”
“All I ever heard about before we got here was how great the beer is. And yet, I’m as dry as ever.”
“Kind of hard to find beer when half the city is piles of rubble; I’d venture to say most of the bars are probably good as gone.”
“But there’s gotta be something left right? Especially out here where we are.”
“I wouldn’t count on it. Those krauts were stuck in those pillboxes for weeks before we finally flushed them out. Probably drank every last drop in town.”
“Yeah, you’re probably right. Would be nice though…”
He heard SGT Rinaldi let out a deep sigh from his side of the tower.
“Yeah, yeah it would. What’s say I went out looking for some?”
“Ha. Yeah, I wish.”
“No, I’m serious. It’s not like our boys aren’t pushing further away from us here anyway. I really don’t think there’s going to be any Panzers crashing out of the tree line for us to have to warn them about at this point. And we’d be fucked if they did anyway; may as well see about having a drink or two before that were to happen.”
Henry turned on his side to look at the Sergeant behind him, almost waiting for him to admit to it being a joke.
“What? I swear. We’ve been through about as much shit as you can throw at a guy and now we’re just sitting out here waiting for…for what? A call that we can waltz into the city with the rest of the fellas or get killed in a counterattack. Fuck that.”
“I’m not sure who you are or what you did with the Sarge, but…welcome to the tower!”
“Like you said, there’s gotta be something left around here. Someone’s stash, a forgotten box tucked away in a closet, something for us to get a buzz from. If I just go out for an hour looking, what’s the worst that could happen?”
“And besides, I’ll still be up here if anything does go down. It’s not like this gun needs two of us once it’s placed down. I just won’t be able to shoot shit behind me.”
Sergeant Rinaldi raised himself up to a knee and pulled out the binoculars he kept in his belt. He started scanning the tops of buildings looking for any sign of some place that might hold their treasure. It was still dark out but the kind of dark that let you see enough just to spook yourself. Artillery had been pounding the city for weeks and had not let up at all. Strikes that were close to their position shook his vision through the binoculars, but had been happening for so long that he barely noticed.
“Can you even see through those things right now? It’s nighttime.”
“So you’re really going to do this?” asked Henry while now fully sitting and leaning against the sandbag wall covering his window.
“You sparked something inside of me, Hank. It’s a mission now. That’s how we’ll justify it if anyone catches me out there running around with a couple of bottles.”
“You better hope whoever catches you is wearing gray. It’ll be a lot quicker of an end than if some GI catches you away from your post and drags your ass back to HQ. The Captain will probably torture you before shooting you. The Nazis will just shoot you.”
The Sergeant started gathering his gear in preparation for what might end up being a huge mistake. But he knew that the payoff would make it all worth it. The battle was about to break one way or another, and he’d rather not have to go through that sober. He contemplated whether or not to leave his rifle.
“You might end up needing this more than I will. You can’t exactly defend yourself if someone gets inside and makes it up here.”
He handed the M1 Garand down to the PFC and pulled out his pistol.
“I’ll move faster with this, anyway. Plus, I’m going to need to both hands.”
“You really think you’re going to find some beer out there, don’t you? I was only half serious when I said it.”
“Yeah, well, I’m full serious. You and I are going to be as drunk as a couple of Sailors by noon.”
With that, he began the climb down the rickety old church tower’s ladder, which was all the more dangerous in the dark. He didn’t know for sure where he was going or for how long he’d be gone, but he was focused now. He wasn’t sure what it was that Hank said that set him off, but felt like what he said about being undervalued to the rest of the unit was true. He was going to at least prove to one person that he could get something done; even if it meant temporarily abandoning his post to accomplish that.
To Be Continued