In this week's letter home Cletus talks about transferring to a tank unit and waking up to a nasty surprise. The report on the battle mentioned in this weeks letter can be found here.
Dear Ma & Pa,
Hope everyone is well. Me and the Prof are both fine. I got a letter from you this week, it sure was good to hear news from home. When I read your letters it's almost like I'm back home with y'all for a while. I sure do miss you. Things are pretty bad over here right now what with them Nazis pushing us back. Seems like we ain't gonna push 'em back into the sea any time soon. I'm still with the Russkies looking after the Prof, doesn't look like I'm ever gonna get back into the action.
The Russkies got some replacements last week and they was getting trained up on the tanks and Vladimir asked me if I wanted to come along with them. I said 'sure iff'n you'll let me shoot the gun' and he said ok. Well you could'a knocked me down with a feather I didn't figure they'd let me shoot the gun. So I jumped up on that tank grinning like a opossum shitting peach seeds.
I'd been reckoning that iff'n they let me go back into action I'd like to join a tank unit. Boy they sure do have it easy. They get to ride everywhere and at night you can sleep in the tank iff'n you want, and all the bullets and shrapnel just bounce offa the armor. Sure beats walking everywhere in the pouring rain loaded up like a pack mule and you don't have to hit the dirt when the shooting starts neither. Well we gets to the training area and I had to wait till they's almost finished training them new fellas before I got my turn. Vladimir waves me over and I got into the turret. Boy that was one tight squeeze, now I know why all these Russkies are little guys. I asked him how you use the sights and he just laughed. He said that Russkie tankers just head out after the Nazis fast as they can and get in real close then they open up the breach, look through it til they sees a Nazi tank then they put in a shell and press the trigger. So I looked through the barrel and sure enough you kin see the target. Then he loaded up a shell showed me where the trigger was and told me to shoot. So I did. That thing went off with a bang like I ain't never heard. I nearly soiled ma britches, I thought it was Judgement day and the devil hisself was coming for me. Then Vladimir says something to me but I can't hear him real well on account of my ears still ringing. Seems we was headed back to base cos the tank started up. Boy howdy I thought those things were loud but theys worse when your inside 'em. Now I know why so many of the Russkies are going deaf.
On the way back I was lookin' around the turret when I noticed this patched up area and a passel of dings and scratches on the walls. I asked Vladimir what they was and he said sometimes when you get hit by a shell and it don't go through it knocks off pieces of the armor inside the turret. He said that was real bad cos you get these metal splinters bouncing around the turret cutting the crew to pieces. What with that and the noise it was about then I decided that maybe having to walk everywhere weren't such a bad thing after all.
A few days later we got orders to move out. We was to head south and secure this road so some other units could link up with the Brits for some big operation. Everything went ok and when it got dark we pulled off the road into some woods for the night. We couldn't cook anything on account of us not wanting the Nazis to see our fires so we ate cold rations and settled down for the night. I tried to get to sleep but I got this itchy feeling between my shoulder blades something jes didn't feel right. The Prof asked me what was wrong and I told him I felt like there was a big ol' grizzly bear out there just waiting and watching. He said there ain't no grizzlies in England and to go to sleep. So I did but I knew something weren't right.
Come sun up we was fixin' to move out when we heard these tanks starting up. Someone shouted 'Nazis!' and then all hell broke loose. I grabbed the Prof and got him into cover while our tanks moved to the edge of the woods and started firing. Let me tell you that being in the middle of a bunch of tanks with shells going every which way sure is scary. I started to dig a foxhole and the Prof joined in and said the next time I got one of those feelings he was gonna take me real serious.
We couldn't see much but the prof got on the radio and started to call in our air support. I'm not sure what happened next but we saw Stukas coming in on bombing runs and we had rockets exploding all around us. Some of our tanks got knocked out too but we could see lots of smoke coming from the Nazi positions as well. We did see the Russkie commander light out after some Nazi assault guns and we saw one get knocked out. After what seemed like ages things quietened down. Seemed we'd hit them hard and they'd pulled out.
As close as we could figure things it seemed like we'd bivouac'd right in the middle of what turned out to be an Hungarian assault gun battery. Anyway we managed to secure our objective and soon this other Russkie unit comes down the road to meet up with the Brits. We headed back to base but we heard later that the combined operation was a bust and we'd got our butts kicked.
It was a couple of days later we saw our first refugees. There was this long column of people trudging north just trying to get away from the fighting. There was no menfolk, cos they was all fighting, just women and children and old folks carrying what they could on their backs or pulling a hand cart loaded up with what was left of their lives. But the saddest thing was the silence, even the young'uns was quiet. Seemed like all the life had being sucked out of them. I wanted to go help 'em, maybe give them some food. But the officers wouldn't let me, said there'd be a riot if we started handing out food and we didn't have enough to feed them all anyway. That night I didn't sleep so good. I kept dreaming that the refugees were all people I knew and I tried to go help you but I couldn't move. But the worse thing was when I woke up the next morning and realised iff'n we don't stop the Nazi's here you and Pa and everybody back home could end up jes like those refugees.
I know God has a plan for us all but right now it's kinda hard to see what it is. I'll write agin next week.
Your lovin' Son,
The batrep on the combined operation mentioned can be found here.