In honor of Veteran’s Day and those men and women who gave up so much of their life at home to serve and protect the United States of America, I’m posting a story I had published in God Allows U-Turns American Moments in 2002. It represents so many young men and women, who at a young age, are desperate to take part in a greater cause to make our home a better place. Through their experiences, wisdom is born.
There’s no way to avoid the ugly in life, but here is how one man coped during WWII.
Surrounded by the Enemy
by Tammera Ayers as told by Richard Spicer.
“Why haven’t I gotten my papers?” I asked the draft officer.
I had just graduated from high school and knew if I got to Europe, I could win this world war for America.
“Go back home, son. You’ll hear from us,” he said.
I didn’t wait long. Within a few months, I was on Omaha Beach, a private in General Patton’s Third Army, helping push the Germans out of France.
Soon after I arrived, we received new M-1 rifles that we stacked every evening at suppertime. One evening, I picked up the last rifle. Strange, this was not my gun. It wasn’t new. I shrugged it off.
The next morning, rain pelted down as our company crossed a river into battle. I carried a bazooka, while another officer hauled the rockets. We were under fire as soon as the raft hit shore. Throughout the day we flushed the Germans out of pillboxes, dug foxholes, and pushed the enemy back. But as we prepared to stand our ground, we learned of a counter attack. We were ordered to retreat.
Slowed by the weight of the bazooka, I tried to climb a wet slope and fell behind. But the Germans behind me weren’t slowed down. Unable to reach my company, I dropped into a foxhole. The bazooka was useless without rockets. My only defense against the German’s was my rifle and one hand grenade.
I aimed the rifle, but a water bubble stuck in the peephole. I blew out the bubble then fired the gun.
Click. Nothing happened.
I frantically fired again.
Nothing. The gun was jammed.
I yanked out the clip. My hands shook as I fit a single shell in the barrel. I lifted the gun. It fired and I shot one man. I fed the gun a bullet and hit the second man, but I was too slow. The German’s were closing in.
Yanking the grenade out of my shirt, I pulled the pin, but I was too late. A German soldier held a gun to my head and ordered me to toss the grenade.
I joined the German soldiers and a captured American medic.
A young German boy lay wounded on a makeshift stretcher. One of the soldiers pointed at the boy, the medic, and me. Then he pointed to another German company across a field ablaze with American artillery fire. I knew we couldn’t make it across that field carrying their wounded soldier. I was sick, knowing my own men would shoot me down.
Grabbing one end of the stretcher, I yelled to the medic, “We’ll run to the edge of the field, hit the ground, and I’ll pry the Twenty-Third Psalm. Then we’ll run for it.”
We ran, hunkered down at the edge of the field, and I fervently prayed, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall lack nothing … Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me…”
We got up, ran across the field, climbed a fence, and arrived panting to a company of German soldiers. I don’t know what the German boy said, but I think he told them not to hurt us.
They ordered me into a sedan and took me to a small French village, leaving me with American POW’s. Then a German officer took me to another village. We stepped into a huge barn with German soldiers everywhere. I suspected they were waiting for orders of a counter attack.
I fell into a pile of hay. A German soldier approached, and I thought he would order me up, but he tossed a blanket over me. I slept through the night.
In the morning, they brought in jam and sourdough bread. One of the men threw me a pocketknife and motioned toward the jam. “Put that on your bread and eat it,” he said.
After we ate, I fell asleep again. When I awoke, someone had thrown an overcoat over me. Not long after, they placed me in a cattle stall.
“They’re going to search you,” one soldier said. “If you let me hold your valuables, I’ll make sure you get them back.”
I didn’t believe him. But feeling I had no choice, I handed him my gold class ring and the watch my brother had given me. The soldier soon returned and said they wouldn’t search me after all. He handed back my watch and ring.
From there, I was held prisoner at Moosberg, Stalag VII A, about thirty-five kilometers northeast of Munich, Germany, with ground force enlisted men and Air Force officer evacuees from several allied nations.
I was glad to be with American’s again.
I’d spent much of my childhood in church, and I knew God was real. So, when I faced the enemy, I knew my only option was to call on Him. I didn’t deserve His intervention; I hadn’t been living for Him. But when I prayed the Twenty-Third Psalm, God heard. He guided me safely through the enemy’s camp. The Bible says in Psalm 91:14-15, “’Because he loves me,’ says the Lord, ‘I will rescue him; I will protect and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.’”
On April 29, 1945, at 10:30 p.m., tanks from the American Fourteenth Armored Division crashed through double ten-foot barbed wire fences to liberate 110,000 Allied prisoners, including thirty thousand Americans. We were going home because men who risked their lives overpowered the enemy.
But I also knew I was going home because of God’s grace.