Soldier Boys by Dean Hughes

Soldier Boys by Dean Hughes

Author:Dean Hughes
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers


On the day after Christmas, Spence’s battalion boarded trucks and moved north, closer to the front. The truck drivers dropped the men off, threw off some equipment, and got out fast, but Spence saw no sign of any action nearby. In the distance he heard rumblings of artillery fire, and down the hill from where he was standing he could see two burned-out American Sherman tanks and a German Panzer. “That looks like one of those big Tiger Tanks,” Ted said.

Spence nodded, but what he had noticed now were some dark lumps alongside the German tank. He was pretty sure they were bodies.

“Hey, look at that,” Vic Barela said. “Stiffs. I’m going down there to check ’em out. Maybe I can pick me up some souvenirs.”

But Sergeant Pappas said, “Just stay where you are. We’ve got to find out where we’re digging in.”

So the men stood where they had been dropped off—and waited—but the feeling was eerie. What if they were being watched by the enemy? Maybe Germans were zeroing in with their artillery already. “Shouldn’t we take cover somewhere?” Spence asked Ted.

“I don’t know. I guess the officers know what they’re doing.”

“I wonder.”

But it wasn’t long until the entire company was marched off to a nearby woods. Each platoon was assigned an area along the edge of the trees, and then each squad was placed by the platoon leader, but it was Sergeant Pappas who picked a spot for Spence and Ted. “Dig in right here,” he told them. “This is the perimeter we have to hold. The ground under all this snow is frozen harder ’n rock, I’m sure, so start digging if you want to sleep warm tonight.”

“Sleep warm. Right,” Spence muttered, and Ted laughed. But they began to scrape the crusted snow away, and then for the next couple hours they dug into the frozen ground. The sergeant came by once and told them, “When artillery hits in these trees, it sends broken limbs flying—just like harpoons. Those things can stab right through you. So cover your holes and stay close. As soon as the Krauts realize we’re here, they’ll want to give us something to think about.”

“Where are we, anyway?” Spence asked.

“They don’t tell me nothing like that. All I know is that we’re in Belgium. And someone said a town called Bastogne is over that way.” He pointed in a direction that Spence figured was mostly east. “That’s where the 101st got tied up. They’ve been surrounded, is what I heard on the radio. Patton is supposed to be marching the Third Army in there from the south, but I haven’t heard anything about whether he got there or not.”

“What about the Germans? Do we know where they are?”

“Somebody does. I don’t.”

“Wouldn’t it be easier if we knew what was going on?”

“The big boys tell me that if we don’t know nothing, we can’t tell the Krauts nothing, either—if we get taken prisoner. So I guess that’s about right.”

None of this seemed like the stuff Spence had seen in the movies.


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