Bastogne—December 25th, 1944—A white and red Christmas
At 3:00 a.m. they woke in their foxhole after the ground shook from the explosions that had started up again. The water in their canteens had frozen. Because of Nazi flares the soldiers in the foxhole could see that they were surrounded by a blanket of snow. Yesterday, Cpl. Tom Cole, their medic, poured disinfectant into the stomach wound of Private Papales and then bandaged him, but the private was still bleeding. Their sergeant had been killed and Privates Lancy and Eggert were bleeding from rifle shots to their chests, their clothes wet from the snow and their faces freezing.
At the first sign of dawn, they heard the Nazi tanks starting to roll again.
“We’ll never get out alive, will we?” Private Papales asked softly, crying like the young boy he was. Tom Cole held the boy’s hand but didn’t answer.
Private Steen, who had not been wounded, screamed his lungs out at the approaching tanks, as if they could hear him: “Fucking Nazis—I don’t wanna die like this!”
The tanks drove back and forth over all the foxholes they could see, trying to crush the men inside, until a huge morning fog settled over the whole area. It allowed the 501st Paratroop Division to move in with their bazookas without the Nazis seeing them. When the bazookas started firing, the Nazi tanks left as fast as they could. Cheers rang out from all the scattered foxholes like a hundred-man chorus. Tom lifted himself up and thought the coast was clear enough to get his wounded men out of the stinking hole they were in. He lifted Private Papales out and laid him flat on the ground, telling him, “You’re going to make it now, Timmy.”
Tom went back into the foxhole and started to lift Private Lancy, who was still bleeding terribly, but a German tank suddenly came from out of nowhere and ran over Private Papales. Tom crawled up and looked at the private’s crushed body and head. Tom then pushed his own head into the young boy’s body and couldn’t stop crying.
“Forgive me, forgive me,” he whispered.
Copyright © 2013 by Gene Wilder