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Bed Check Charlie

       This was the name we gave to that solitary enemy airplane that hovered over our lines at night. We had air superiority and the Luftwaffe, for all practical purposes, did not exist anymore. The war was over for them. Their General Staff believed it but Adolf Hitler did not. Charlie knew it too but he had to follow his orders.

      He could be heard in the distance flying along leisurely and occasionally go into a dive and either strafe with his machine guns or drop a bomb. We could distinguish each activity distinctly. With such a large area for him to cover the chance of finding us in the darkness was slim indeed, at least we thought so. We had to be sure to maintain blackout procedures.

     The German civilians were polite but they were not our friends and could not be trusted. They did everything we demanded of them but we could not prevent them informing the enemy of our position. I wouldn't be surprised that they lit flashlights to pinpoint where we were..

     We stopped to spend the night at a Gen.Sherman tank staging area that had transient sleeping accommodations. It was a two story building that spread out like a giant U and surrounded a large courtyard. Parked in the center were a dozen or so of our tanks Conveniences were non existent. I hadn't taken a bath or shower for weeks. I managed to break ice on a horse trough once, fill my helmet with cold water and wash a bit. Magazine pages, and newspaper, if we could find some, would suffice as toilet paper. If I took my trousers off they could be propped up against the wall. (I rarely took them off.)

     From the window of my upper floor bedroom window I could see the moonlight reflecting off steel railroad tracks. There were other vehicles there and also water tank trailers.

     It was about 11 PM when I went into the yard. I sneaked up to one of those trailers, opened its tap and had my first shower in a long time. The water was cold, I shivered and my teeth chattered. A small price indeed to pay for that for that convenience.

     We slept on straw, two men to a room. The window was open, the stars could be seen, and the breeze coming through was tolerable. Trying to sleep wasn't difficult.

     Then I heard it. Bed-Check-Charlie was doing his rounds again, the usual drone of a single engine. The revolutions of its engines increased as it dove towards its target and then came the chatter of large calibre cannon and machine gun fire. With that episode over it settled down to a monotonous drone again. The sound got closer. My eyes opened and I started to perspire. Suddenly all was quiet, silence, the airplane seemed to not exist anymore.. That was temporary of course, for suddenly the roar of its engines appeared as out of nowhere and got so loud that the window it dove in our direction. I thought our tanks were shooting at the plane but instead Charlie was shooting at us. I could see the flashes reflecting off the window sill.

    A few minutes later we had our own activity. Our officer checked to see if there were any casualties. Fortunately there were none.

    It wasn't easy to fall asleep after that episode.

   When morning came, it was the start of a new day and a new adventure.

-- Dave


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