The eleventh hours of the eleventh day of the eleventh month Private Doug Clark wasted away in an endless trench on the Western Front; a wasteland of craters, mud and tree trunks splintered by bombs and howitzer shells. He shivered in damp and cold air. His coat that everyone assured him would keep him warm, was wet and useless. There was word of a truce about to begin, but the general would have none of it. He wanted to carry the fight to the city of Berlin.
Doug didn’t immerse himself in the politics of generals and such; his concern was warmth and survival. He heard of a flare that would signal the truce to commence, but didn’t remember what the color of that flare was. When the platoon sergeant, a kindly looking older man with a gray mustache and fat, jovial face, told them moments ago, a mortar landed and exploded. The blast muted whatever he said in regards to the flare’s color.
I’m too cold to care at this point, Doug the doughboy stated miserably to himself. The color could be the colors of the rainbow for all I care. He had a four day growth of beard on his nineteen year old face. It made him look more manly, he thought. At least back home in Philly I won’t be called kid anymore, when I get back. He wasn’t a big man, but he wasn’t small either. I’m just an average guy trying to do the right thing, he kept convincing himself.
It was quiet now, only an occasional cannon shot could be heard from behind them. Then they could hear the low pitch whistle as the shell flew past them and then the ear-piercing explosion over there on the other side of the line.
This place was a beautiful forest, the Ardennes, before the war, seemingly an eternity ago. Now, Doug only saw a muddy zone of absolute devastation wherever he looked.
There was no flare that shot up though, instead a whistle sounded that ordered everyone to pull themselves from the trenches and attack their trench 500 yards away. A no-mans land of barbwire and mines, machine gun nests and pillboxes that had seen its share of conflict since America went over here back in 1917. What is going on, Doug asked himself as he followed the orders of the platoon sergeant and platoon leader, screaming at them at the top of their lungs. They ran through the wire, all shredded from the last cannonade that erupted moments ago. They pushed them to their trench and Doug could see the scared faces of the German soldiers someone hastily tried to create a makeshift white flag from a towel, or something. They all seemed more puzzled by this than anything, as if the general wanted that last 500 yards for himself. The Kaiser’s Krieger threw down their Gewehr 98 rifles to the ground and raised their hands in the sign of surrender.
Doug reached them at the same time as the platoon sergeant and began ordering them in German who was in charge. A corporal pointed at an officer who also dropped his personal weapon and his sword to the ground and raised his hands. The platoon sergeant held his Browning BAR level to the Captain and asked him in German, “Are you prepared to surrender at this time?”
“I will only talk to your commander,” he replied with contempt to the NCO.
“LT, he will only talk to your kind,” the Sergeant pointed out with sarcasm in his voice.
The lieutenant came up to the German captain and said, “I don’t speak German.”
The officer looked at both men in confusion and frustration as he realized he had no choice as to whom he talked to and stated to the platoon sergeant, “Yes, my men are prepared to surrender.”
Doug guarded a group of German privates who spoke quietly among themselves and asked him a question in German. Doug, being from Philadelphia, recognized some of the words, but had a hard time figuring out what he asked. “I’m sorry, my German isn’t that good,” he replied in a halting German that all laughed at.
Finally, another German soldier in the group asked in English, “Now that you have successfully invaded our land, what do you plan to do with us? The war is over, American.”
“Sir, is that true?” he asked his platoon leader, a clean cut butter bar from West Point.
“I supposed it might be true,” he stated as a green flare shot up into the sky and a loud whoop of joy erupted from everyone up and down the front.