[lit-ideas] Americans close with the Germans at last

  • From: "Lawrence Helm" <lawrencehelm@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "Lit-Ideas" <Lit-Ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 9 May 2008 09:54:10 -0700

p. 181 of An Army at Dawn, The War in North Africa, 1942-1943 by Rick


"An apricot dawn spread through the valley, heralding a gorgeous autumn day.
Farmers shambled out to feed their livestock, casting anxious glances at the
200 gray-clad Germans who in the night had entrenched along the Medjerda's
east bank, a thousand yards from Medjez.  Kaptain Knoche moved his command
post into a cemetery on high ground east of town.  Seven A.M. passed, then
eight, then nine, and . . .  at 9:15 rifle fire crackled, followed by the
brisk notes of a machine gun.  Bullets swarmed back and forth across the
river.  Terrified residents ran from the town.  'The War,' an American
artillerist recalled cheerfully, 'was on!'


"West of town, several British soldiers waited roadside to guide an American
artillery battery into firing positions.  At a fair distance, they spied a
churning column of dust.  Soon the column resolved into four bouncing
howitzers and their gun teams hurtling up to and then past the frantically
waving Tommies.  Over a small rise they boiled, and down the forward slope
overlooking Medjez, where they lurched to a stop in full view of the
Germans.  Shooting that had been brisk now became furious.  A British
officer reported 'guns of all calibers firing.'


"British paratroopers and Derbyshire Yeomen hurried forward to extract their
cousins.  The melee subsided only when the truculent Yank gunners were
persuaded of the merits of defilade.  The British paratrooper commander,
Lieutenant Colonel S.J.L. Hill, upon inquiring about the eccentric America
approach, learned that the 'gun teams had worked it out that one of them
would be the first American to fire the first shot against the Germans in
this world war.  They had all started jockeying for position and racing each
other down the road.'  Colonel Hill accepted this explanation
philosophically, as he did the reply from a young American who, when asked
why he was firing at a church steeple in Medjez, said it was because he
could 'see if he hit it.'  The answer, Hill concluded, 'seemed fair



Lawrence Helm

San Jacinto

Other related posts: