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Black Lamb


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The boys are getting rowdy

December 1st, 2004


Graves Kaserne, Aschaffenburg, Germany
Christmas, 1967

The Russians, we were told, had 55 armored tank divisions, ready to roll over the Czech border into Germany and flatten us like pancakes.

It was at the end of a long day and I was in the midst of a nice hot shower when I heard all the shouting: “Alert! Alert!”

So it was back into uniform and off to the motor pool to rev up the ambulance and follow the others out into the middle of the woods somewhere. Then the long wait in the dark and cold until the higher-ups gave us the word that we could stop pretending.

This was a game we’d play about once a month, with variations. For me, that eventually meant driving a deuce-and-a-half truck and making coffee for the officers, instead of snoozing in the back of an ambulance.

We weren’t really worried, because the real thing was happening far, far away in Vietnam, where we definitely didn’t want to be.

“Short!” we’d hear those infantry boys yell, with all their hearts and minds and souls, as the last days of their Army time began to tick away.

Others, however, weren’t so lucky. They’d be beaten down by the harassment of winter maneuvers in the snowy fields of southern Germany, and they’d volunteer to go fight for freedom in the warm, sunny Far East. “We’ll get you there within a week,” the Army promised them, but with no guarantee to get them home afterwards.

It was during an alert in early December that I began to collect the pine boughs — maneuver damage — lying about in the wake of tanks. And then there was a trip to the great outdoor market at Nuerenberg, to bring back little golden angels with waxen faces, which we hung up on the walls. And the expedition down to Miltenberg-am-Main where I traded my ration of two cartons of cigarettes for a number of bottles of their famous red wine.

“O Tannenbaum!” For our folks, far away, we were in a mythical holding pen called “Germany,” but in fact we were in a setting better compared to Washington Irving’s Catskills, called the Spessarts, and which the locals claimed to be the tip of the tail of the Lion of Bavaria.

It was agreed among us — the various clerks at battalion headquarters — to devote no more than a quarter, or its equivalent, a Deutschmark, to each other. And off we went, mostly to Woolworth’s downtown, to exercise our imaginations. For example: a little eighty-pfennig plastic coat hook for Dave, so he’d have a place to put his pinups. It was the late Sixties, after all.

And then December 25th came; our room was full of the smell of fresh pine, the angels twinkling at us from their perches, the pile of presents on the table. But not for me: I was on CQ duty — Charge of Quarters — meaning that my post was at the telephone, in case someone were to call and say “The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!”
Most of us on CQ usually stretched right out on top of the table, propping a broom and dustpan on the door so that their crash to the floor would give us ample time to be on our feet to greet any intruder. This duty would be followed by a day off to recuperate from an allegedly sleepless night, a day which could be put to good use if one were well rested.
Would Christmas be any different?

Jerry phoned in from the Company B office on the second floor. “The Company C boys are getting pretty rowdy upstairs,” he told me. This was nothing new. More booze than usual, probably.

I dashed down to the room to briefly share in the opening of presents, the good cheer, the laughter, the wine, and then dashed back to my post.

The phone rang. It was Jerry again. “I just saw a washing machine go by my window,” he said. •

Posted by: The Editors
Category: Albright, All Christmas Issue | Link to this Entry


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