Saving the farm from invading German troops

Years ago, I could kill a half-dozen Germans a day and barely bat an eye.

I would have killed a lot more, but I lived on a farm. We had morning chores – making sure the cows had food and water – and on many days we boys would pick strawberries or red raspberries that we could sell for nickels and dimes.

This was during my so-called carefree days when I was about 10 years old. When our little farm jobs were done, I was free to roam our 80 acres in search of enemy soldiers.

Often, I would go on these missions with my brother Mark. Other times, it would be just me and my collie Brownie.

Generally, the Germans would be in our woods, which were shaped like an upside-down L with each leg about 100 yards deep and 100 yards long. The section that ran north and south was mainly flat with old pine trees so thick it was difficult to walk through. It was rare to find Germans there.

The section that ran east and west had a tall hill and two deep ravines with a mix of dying oaks, maples and hickory trees. There were huge fallen logs that gave the Germans easy places to hide and to set up their machine gun nests.

There were two main ways into enemy territory. We could enter the pine woods from the south end and move north, dodging from trunk to trunk just in case the Germans were on patrol there. We watched for trip wires or any markings on the matted forest floor that would indicate a minefield.

That was the slow route. If we were successful, we could catch the Germans by surprise. Their eyes would be fixed on the open field, the cow pasture in front of the east-west woods.

If I had been a German, and I never was, I would have been watching that pasture too. It was vulnerable to quick frontal assaults. A large Allied force could rush in that way, sacrificing its weaker soldiers but overwhelming the German defense.

We never had a large force. If it was just me and Brownie, and maybe Mark, we couldn’t afford to lose anyone. We would creep through the tall grass, wait until the sentries weren’t looking and dart forward, using large multifloral rose bushes as cover. When we got close enough and were sure where every sentry was stationed, we would shoot them.

I had a favorite forked stick that worked just like the tommy gun that Sergeant Saunders carried on the “Combat” TV show. I had tried a longer stick that was like the Browning automatic rifle that Caje used in that show, but it was noisier. I didn’t want the rat-a-tat-tat giving away my position.

From the closest multifloral rose, I could crawl toward an opening in the woods. Once I got there, I could squat-run toward the gully where the Germans had their headquarters. I zig-zagged between tree stumps, making myself as small a target as I could. When I was close enough, I would toss two potato-sized rocks – my hand grenades – into their midst. I would yell “Booooom!” If there were survivors, I would shoot them.

On rare occasions, there would be no Germans in the woods. I would have to climb the fence into our neighbor’s pasture. The Germans would be down by the little pond. It was less difficult to shoot them there, almost too easy. They had no cover. They were like sitting ducks.

I never looked for Germans in the back corner of the woods, and neither did Brownie. Something growled at us once back there so we stayed away.

In the three years or so that I killed Germans, I never killed an Italian, a Russian or anyone Japanese. I suppose I would have, if they had gotten in my way and needed killing. We lived pretty far out in the country and I don’t think the Japanese ever came down our road.

I never rode a horse and shot an Indian hiding in a wigwam. I didn’t have an electric beam that killed Martians. If the kids over on Brick Road did that, they never told me. You would think they would say so.

My father had fought in Germany in World War II. He kept his old helmet up in the attic, and my brothers and I tried it on. Obviously, it didn’t fit us yet. But from what we knew about the war, we figured Dad had killed a hundred or so Germans.

One day, we worked up our courage and asked, “Did you kill anyone during the war?”

“Not directly,” he said. He had worked as a radar technician with the Army’s anti-aircraft guns. As far as he could tell, his gun fired a missile up in the air and that was the last he saw of it.

This was disappointing news. I knew if someone asked me that question, I certainly would not answer, “Not directly.”

I was no Sgt. Saunders, but I was pretty good at killing Germans with my forked stick and my rock. Why pretend otherwise?