The Shot Heard Round The Meadowlands
I had joined the New Jersey State Guard in July of 1941. I learned about World War Two the day I was bringing my second son home from the hospital from being born. I was called up to active duty with the State Guard right away.
The State Guard's role is basically the same as the National Guard, but it isn't federalized. We trained in riot suppression, security and combat. In the panicky months after Pearl Harbor, security is what we were used for. It was a very scary time. We, the United States, England and Russia, we're being beat up all around the world everytime you turned on the radio. U boats were off the East coast, the Japanese were off the West Coast. You really thought we could lose this war. And saboteurs, they were probably all around us. There was the bunds before the war afterall, Germans in favor of Nazis. It sure seemed to be a scary time.
Northern New Jersey was a big part of the War Industry, ammunition, Forts, Ports, factories, and rail lines to connect them. This all seemed to be prime targets for sabotage and my unit was assigned to guard some of the key areas. One such area, the one I guarded, was a railroad bridge somewhere up in the Meadowlands. I was out there alone, just me and my rifle. It was cold, dark and scary. There could be saboteurs afterall. In fact, during the war the Germans did put sabotuers ashore and did some damage.
That night, though, it was just cold and dark. Until the wee hours when all of a sudden down the tracks comes a noise. All at once the cold and the tired go away. Is this a sabotuer? I held my rifle tight and listened for all I was worth.
The noise came again. A metallic noise! That is no animal, thats a man, I realize. Oh brother.
"Halt!" I shout as I was trained, "Who Goes There!"
Nothing. Just plain silence. Now I am getting nervous. I shout again, but get no response.
Well, I have to do something. But going out and seeing what the noise is is not in the picture. No way, Jose. I point my rifle in the air and shout "Halt, or I'll Shoot"
Nothing. I raise my rifle and fire it into the air, "Bang!".
The shot rings out real loud, but not so loud that I don't hear the sudden clang of metal and the sounds of feetsteps making away from me making a beeline line down the tracks. That seems pretty scary too, so I stay put, guarding my bridge, none too eager to go see what was out there.
Well I spent a long nervous night but there were no more noises. When the sun came up I walked down the tracks to see what was going on. There I found the enemies weapons - muskrat traps. Some poor bastard was out illegally trapping muskrats for money and didn't want to get caught. And the people who did that didn't speak English much either so he probably didn't even know what I said. But he heard that shot, it must have scared him pretty bad because he never did come back for that trap. He's probably still running.
-- As told by James Justin to his family
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