Passing into History: Captured
March 2nd, 1945- 0831 hours- three miles east of Bitburg, Germany, near the Kyll River.
Private Thomas Meier's dreams were not good dreams by any means of the imagination. Right now he was dreaming about his home and it was on fire. The house in Mannheim that had been in his family for three generations was a blasted ruin and his family as well; his mother, father, and four siblings were all dead; they were nothing but burnt bodies in the morass. Thomas wanted to help them but knew he couldn't.
They were beyond help just as Germany was.
Thomas woke up in the horse drawn wagon to chills and pain in his arm and leg. He had tears in his eyes. The sun had been up for hours now, but its light was clouded over with fog and drizzle. It was cold outside and the blanket that was wrapped around his head and neck didn't help much. A half-track that was carrying another dozen wounded along the muddy road belched smoke from its exhaust. The whole column was spread out along the road in disarray; mostly wounded in this part. The front and rear guard would be made up of perhaps a panzer or two and another half track; most of the 13th Mechanized Infantry, of which Private Meier was a part, just walked. This made Thomas laugh to himself as he wondered how the hell they had more horses and carts than motorized vehicles.
Nobody really said anything as the sun peeked through the fog for a few minutes.
Thomas was asking the man next to him, a man with a bloody gash down the side of his face, if he had any water to drink when an explosion rang in his ears. One of the last remaining trucks of his regiment blew apart in a flurry of shrapnel and bodies about twenty yards from the wagon. An American Thunderbolt that had been hunting back and forth above them had taken advantage of the sudden drop in cover and roared overhead just as quickly as it had come and began strafing the column behind Thomas. Others in Thomas' regiment began shouting orders and running for cover. The wagon that he was in with four others slumped down toward the wet road as the horse that was drawing the cart had been hit by a piece of the burning truck.
"Shit, Meier, we gotta get outta here!" Private Willi Kliess screamed to Thomas as he ran up to the cart. Firing began up and down the column now, but mostly to the rear. The Americans had caught them in the open again. Thomas looked at his friend and said as if not hearing Willi, "The fog should protect us from them." Willi just looked at Thomas. Another explosion knocked him into action.
"COME ON!!" Willi insisted again and grabbed Thomas by the collar of his battered uniformed to drag him free from the cart. One of three others from the cart stood up and was killed instantly by a shot from the rear. He toppled over the side of the cart like a rag doll. As Willi and Thomas made their escape into the ditch on the south side of the road the wagon and the rest of its occupants were crushed beneath the weight of a mortar hit. Thomas' ears were ringing now and he was crying from the sutures in his arm and leg that opened up again from Willi throwing him into the ditch. Willi got up on his knees and shot twice at the approaching Americans. His KAR 98A then jammed and he swore. Thomas could feel the rumbling of tanks through the soft mud and was happy that the war was finally going to be over for him. Then I can see my family again, he thought to himself.
Willi shook Thomas roughly and yelled, "Here, take my helmet!" Thomas accepted with no protest the steel pot that was thrust onto his head. He only sighed into the mud. Willi took his last two stick grenades and armed one, immediately throwing it toward an American Sherman that was closing the distance between them. Thomas turned and could see his friends and fellow soldiers being cut down by machine gun fire as they tried to escape across the field into the trees.
Some looked to have gotten away.
For a second Thomas thought that he should make a try for it, but before he could decide either way about staying where he was or going Willi's grenade exploded with a loud thud against the underside of the tank. The tank at this point couldn't be seen as it was three feet above them on the soupy road, but Thomas knew that it was too late and that he was going to die very shortly.
His eyes bulged at the prospect and though, yes, he had been through hell for the passed two years in Hitler's army he wasn't ready to pass into history.
"Willi," Thomas croaked. "I don't wanna die!"
Willi stared straight into Thomas' eyes and said calmly, "You won't my friend." With that Willi jumped up onto the road and pulled the porcelain pin on his last grenade. He ran straight at the Sherman that had stalled out on his first grenade and was cut down like the others, but not before he got the grenade through the view port of the tank.
Thomas' eardrums shattered as the explosion from the grenade set off the tank's stock of shells. The high grass in the ditch was shaved clean; parallel with the road. Thomas didn't see this because he had mud in his eyes.
After awhile the fighting died down. Thomas could hear the Americans approaching on foot. He could only understand a little of their English, but he could tell they were exclaiming over the destroyed Sherman. There was sporadic gun fire now and much of it was further away. The fog began to lift even more now and let the sun kiss the ground for a moment when the two G.I.'s looked over the road and into the ditch and saw Thomas.
Thomas was in pain and yelled with all his might, "Hilf mir!"
Then he passed out.
Thomas awoke from a dream and found himself in a hospital bed. The nurse told him in German that he was in an American Military hospital in Belgium and that he had been drifting in and out of consciousness for the past two months. She also said that the war in Europe was over.
Thomas cried and cried. He cried with joy and than was horrified when he remembered Willi. The nurse turned away to send for a doctor as Thomas cried some more, but this time in pain and anguish. He cried for his friend Willi, his own family, himself, and for Germany.