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The Battle for Atlanta

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  • #16
    Keep up the work my fellow writer

    Grandpa Troll
    Hi, I'm RAH and I'm a Benaholic.-rah


    • #17
      Thanks for the encouragement!


      • #18
        Something Smells Awful

        Reporting for a train at 16:30 doesn’t mean leaving at 16:31.

        “Typical army stuff. Hurry up and wait,” Carlos thought.

        It was now far into darkness. Carlos had waited on a cordoned off platform as the sun crept towards the horizon and then broadened out into a huge red flame before disappearing below the jungle covered western mountains. As twilight rose, the cries of howler monkeys split the air and bats swooped out of the rafters.

        The group assembled for the train was not large, but then again, not small. Carlos saw soldiers and officers from hit own artillery units as well as from engineering battalions. There were odds and ends of cavalry and infantry men also.

        Food was brought in and the wait continued. Most of the enlisted men did what all enlisted men, whatever the army, have done since time began. They slept while they had the chance. Around midnight, a darkened train backed out of the rail yard and into the platform. The men were hustled aboard quickly and the train pulled right out. As it began to roll, Carlos looked out and saw that lines of guards had blocked off entrance to the station until the train pulled out. They were trying to keep spies off the train.

        The train rolled into the darkened jungle valley around Cologne and Carlos slept.

        When he awakened, the train was coming out of the mountains and beginning to cross the great Mississippi River valley. This valley ran northwest to southeast and contained the eastern half of the country’s great cities. Sometime during the day, the train stopped at a deserted siding and the soldiers detrained for food and a chance to stretch their legs. Carlos realized that they had not seen another train that day and wondered if that was intentional. There were multiple train lines running up the Valley and it would be easy to route them all on different tracks.

        The trip continued through the day. As they traveled the weather got cooler and cloudier. The jungles of Germany were far behind them. He knew that they must have passed Cincinnati and Boston but again the train was routed far away from them. Finally, towards the end of the day, they reached a place that Carlos knew well – the great artillery proving grounds.

        At this place the weapons that saved the democracy had been invented, tested and developed. The first small steel field guns were formed and tested here a half century earlier. Over the years the guns had become bigger and more reliable. They now fired explosive shells instead of solid iron shot. Some guns were so big that only trains could move them. Most of the decisive guns required teams of horses to deploy into the field.

        Development of the guns led to development of armor to stop the guns. Armor was also tested at the proving grounds. These advances led to the armored ships that were now the scourge of the seas. That part of the armament of America had always met the challenge. The country was secure on its ocean borders from any attacker.

        Unfortunately, armor was heavy and could not protect men on land from the great guns. Thus, America was exposed along its long and difficult border to incursions from neighbors. Many times over the centuries troops had attacked the border cities and laid barren the lands around them. And, as many times, the attacks had been thwarted and the lands restored.

        The train was unloaded and the men and officers split up and unceremoniously bundled into barracks to prepare for mess and then retreat. All the soldiers were exhausted from the trip and fell asleep as soon as they could when the time came.

        They awakened go a horrible and loud growling noise that was accompanied with a choking blast of foul smoky fumes. The officers began waking up and noticed that it was still dark outside – maybe 4 a.m.

        The door swung open. “Men, it’s an early start today. We have work to do and we don’t have time to waste. Leave your dress uniforms behind and wear your worst fatigues. You’ll look like a miner by the end of today. Come on out.” The man left. Was he an officer? A civilian advisor?

        “Yuck. What’s that smell? It’s like the inside of a boiler room.” The men pulled on their oldest darned and patched clothes. Outside, where there had been an empty parade ground, there stood now two sizeable structures that were difficult to make out in the dark.

        “Gather here men,” the man called to both enlisted men and officers. “Have a look at this.” He waved his had and some electric lights came on. What confronted them were a pair of steel blockhouses with guns built into them.

        “How on earth did they build them here overnight?”

        Suddenly, one of them belched a cloud of bluish smoke and with a lurch began to move. It had flat steel panels pinned together that rolled around wheels and it rode on these ribbons of steel. The vehicle moved away from them at a good speed and turned right and then left. The circular gun battery on the top platform then turned on its own and threw out a ribbon of flame and smoke as it fired a shell across the range. As it rolled back toward the men, Carlos could see that it also had numerous machine guns mounted into its body. It was a land cruiser. A companion to the navy’s armored fleet.

        “All right now. My name is General Ali and I am the officer in charge of this unit. We will be the 1st Experimental Armored Artillery Battery until we come up with something better. For now, discipline will be at a minimum. You can call me Ali while we are on this base. You are all specially selected and I know that there are no goldbrickers among you. Time is important right now, not rules.”

        With that, the men were organized into teams of officers and men and mechanics. They began the indoctrination and training with the machines that were hoped to be the edge that could again save the Democracy in the next crisis. Work went on continuously that day and the next with only pauses for mess. During the evening hours they were lectured and taught by the civilian scientists who had made the prototypes. Everybody had a chance to try steering the machines and firing the guns.

        For their weight, the machines were surprisingly fast and easy to run. The technology had existed for some time but nobody had put it together. Gasoline or diesel engines were well developed and reliable. The major problems were finding factories and machine shops big enough to fabricate the steel vehicle shells.

        After a pair of weeks with the men sharing the two vehicles, a train pulled in with another dozen. The following week, two more trains pulled in carrying another 24. The men on the train said that they had been given a cover story in case the vehicles were spotted on the trains. They were told to say that these were mobile water tanks for use in the deserts to the north. The name stuck. The men liked it. “Feels like we’re inside of a water tank all right. It’s going to be plenty hot if we have to fight in the jungle.” Carlos wondered if that would be prophetic.

        As things turned out, they divided the 36 tanks into teams of four. One of the teams was a command squadron for General Ali. Carlos was given command of a squadron. Communication was difficult and Carlos had to spend a lot of time waving flags and yelling at the other “tanks” of his own squadron. He took to riding a horse with the team while it was practicing maneuvers in order to get his commands from one hulking vehicle to another. He knew that this would not work at all in combat so he wrote up a list of rules. He divided his squadron into two teams and assigned them roles as leaders and rear guards. It was frightening how difficult it was to see anything from inside the tanks and how hard it was to hear over the noise.

        In the meantime, things had gotten worse with the war. The call to mobilization had gone out again and the people were not happy. The government reorganized itself into the Republican Democracy of America and sought to channel people’s anxiety into the government rather than onto the street. The new Republic seemed to have stabilized things and internal peace was secured.

        Inca troops were seen all along the borders with Byzantium. Scouts crossed the border and pickets screened the armies. Many troops were spotted in many places. Their strange orange uniforms were easy to pick out from a distance and there was plenty of orange to be seen. Once again, it seemed that Byzantium would be the highway for invasion of America.

        Nevertheless, when the time came, it was still a surprise. People always try to explain away the bad and to hope for the good. There was still hope that the Inca could be bought off or would just leave on their own. Despite this, on a rainy day in June, the Inca army poured across the border. They were headed for Atlanta and San Francisco and every other border town. This time, Inca cavalry rushed ahead and bypassed strong points. They broke around Atlanta and headed for San Francisco. An enormous mass of infantry followed in marching columns that looked as if they stretched all the way back to the Andes. It was not the German invasion but it was almost as big. And this time the troops came with modern rifles and machine guns.

        The first round of defense was the same as it had been against the Germans. Artillery was concentrated and pounded the infantry columns. Cavalry followed up with attacks. The attacks had effect but caused enormous losses in the cavalry. These units knew to dig in and lay down defensive fire when the cavalry appeared. Things were not going at all well for the defenders. Surviving cavalry men wore haunted looks. Any mission would be the last for many of them.

        As a response, infantry units were stripped from all other borders to garrison the towns around the invasion. Cologne and all the far away towns were left with only the barest holding forces. Defense in this area relied on diplomacy rather than guns. Unfortunately, the German’s were notorious for not honoring treaties. How long would the peace hold there?


        • #19
          This next section is in two parts because I got carried away with the story. Thanks for your patience

          Carlos had been sent on ahead of his unit in order to scout for a good place to employ the secret “tanks.” He was chosen partly because he already had experience riding a horse and partly because the General seemed to already have some knowledge about him and trust in him. He and some subordinates were called into the General’s office where for the first time they saw him in uniform. General Ali wore a strange black uniform that they had not seen before.

          “You men are going out as the leading edge of our new service. You will be the first after me to wear the new uniform of that service, the Armor. Notice that the black will hide the dirt better,” he said as an aside while he smiled. “Do well for us. We will follow on the trains after they load tomorrow.”

          In the meantime Carlos and his men took the train to Atlanta and then rode their horses to an observation post north of town. He looked to the north of the city and saw the flood of troops moving through the hills around the town. They were indeed encircling it without attacking it. Clouds of dust marked the progress of troops all the way to the horizon under the now sunny early summer skies. The dry weather meant that even the infantry could move quickly. And there was a second massive army ready to follow this one on its trip across the border. And maybe a third behind that. In the meantime the cavalry was exhausted from its efforts and out of the fight. The few that were left were guarding communications and picking off stragglers. They also operating behind the enemy mass, tearing up rails and ambushing supplies trains. This all helped to slow the enemy advance by denying them use of the railroads.

          However, there was also news was that enemy cavalry had already been spotted far to the west of Atlanta, right at the outskirts of San Francisco. Troops stripped from elsewhere had confronted them and some late arriving American cavalry had barely stopped them from seizing the town before anybody could react. The problem now was to slow down and then stop the leviathan of infantry that was rolling deep into America.

          Carlos watched with his spyglass for a time and then decided that they needed a closer look. The infantry was using good tactics and staying out of the valleys. The tanks would have been best in the flatlands but would probably need to fight across the hills – because that is where the enemy was. As Carlos and his team prepared for a night reconnaissance, he realized that the new, black, uniforms were good for something else. They were perfect for sneaking around in the dark.

          And they went sneaking. The enemy mass was so large that it was forced to spread out. Since they were widely dispersed, no unit was certain who was next to them and there were large gaps where prowlers could sneak in and out unnoticed. In their black uniforms on dark horses they were extremely difficult to spot and only needed to evade a very occasional challenge. What Carlos found out was that the core of the army was very well equipped but that it was fleshed out with every unit that the Inca could bring out. With the infantry leading the way for them, even archers (yes, archers) could be effective. But if the infantry was ever forced to stop shielding them, these auxiliaries would be fodder. Carlos made maps and then the tiny force returned for a couple hours sleep before dawn.

          The next morning, Carlos received a telegram telling him to report to a railhead that had been built quickly over the last day. They had been quartering with cavalry units near Atlanta. The troopers were curious about the new black uniforms.

          Carlos told them, “We’re just new cavalry units. Nothing special”

          “Why the new uniforms? Don’t you guys want any color on those tunics? You something different.”

          “Maybe its because we were rushed through training. You know, all the losses at the front and all. Needed more troops fast and didn’t have those fancy azure tunics you guys have.”

          The trooper sniffed. “We’re gettin’ massacred and they expect half trained replacements to work. Well good luck to you. Those guys out there know there business. They hole up with their machine guns and you’re just one big target for them. I guess that we won’t be seeing you again. Not if you’re forming up today.”

          Carlos and his men smiled to each other. “We’ll do our best. I hope we do meet again.”

          They started to walk off but Carlos pulled up. “Ah, do you know Lieutenant Walsh? Simon Walsh? He’s a cavalry officer with the 88th.”

          They nodded.

          “If you see him, tell him that his friend is going to meet him for a beer in Cologne next October. And he’s buying for a change!!”

          Laughter and then parting. Soldiers were rough at their partings and needed to be. It seemed that you could run into the same people all over the country at different times and then in a moment of flame they would be gone. Their was a solidity there but also always distance. Can’t get too close but can’t be too distant either.

          The men mounted up and rode west from Atlanta on one of the roads to San Francisco. All the roads west were full of traffic. There were infantrymen with brand new rifles and uniforms marching gingerly in new boots. Carlos watched more than one pull at the straps of his pack as if it were chafing. He realized that these were raw recruits. These were the half trained replacements that the trooper had been wary of. Things were getting desperate to send men into combat like this!

          Going the other direction on the road were wagons and people walking. Refugees from the attacks. Many of these people had been forced to leave their homes and carry their lives away with them on their backs twice in as many years. There was always the fear of what would be left behind when the armies were done fighting over their homes. The men rode on in silence.

          After a time they left the road to travel cross country to the new rail line. They passed clusters of infantry dug into foxholes on the tops of hills. It was a forlorn defense against an army the size of the one headed that way. Carlos made certain these units knew they were friends because they had the grim look of men already dead and willing to go down fighting. They didn’t seem much interested in the funny uniforms, only that they were not the enemy. They were also quiet and on edge.

          Finally they approached the siding which had been barricaded with barbed wire. The familiar growling and stink of exhaust greeted them. Tank after tank was being driven off of flat cars and into neat lines of formations. Mechanics were crawling over them and supply troops were arming them. Wagons with fuel tanks stood by the trains to get filled so that they could follow the vehicles and refuel them.

          “General Ali, sir. Good to see you and to see the troops!” Carlos greeted the General at a railroad siding. He admired his fellow tankers in their new and distinctive black uniforms.

          “Yes, yes, nobody’s watching so relax a little. We’re here and half unloaded already. I hope that we’re close enough to the enemy that we won’t need to drive all day. You know these things can be cranky.”

          “Well, sir,” he paused as the General frowned, “ah, er, Ali, the enemy hole up every night at the end of their march and they form on hilltops and ridges. From where I saw them last night, they should be about 5 miles away from here by this afternoon. I think that’s close enough.”

          “I looked for flat land to attack them but they stay up in the hills. We have no choice if we want to fight but to take them up there. And I have a thought, if I can share it.” Ali nodded. “I know that we were planning to use the tanks on some weaker force in order to test it. See if we could get them running and them maybe make the column stop. But I believe that it is going to be bigger than that. If we can break the main troops, then the cavalry can take the rest. We need to find out right now if we can match their elite units.”

          Ali smiled. He liked this young officer. Active and opinionated but tempered with experience and good judgment. Besides, he felt the same way. They were going to save the republic!

          “Carlos, I like the plan. I like it so much that we are going to make it better.” Carlos looked back quizzically.

          Ali replied with a sly grin of his own. “You didn’t know this, but there are other Armor battalions that have been training. Not very many but maybe enough. We’re betting everything on this weapon. Our factories are making parts for them 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.

          He waved his hand to the north. “They are all forming up over there. Every train we have must be up here to support this attack. There’s a lot we don’t know about how these things are going to work but we’ll learn as we go.” Ali paused a moment to look inwards, “But if they don’t work, we might be in big, big trouble. The army has sent one unit over to provide defense for us if we need to fall back.”

          “But we’re not going to let that happen. We’ve started taking down cavalry units to supply men for the new formations. Believe it or not, you are now a cavalry officer. We are all going to attack together.”

          In response to Carlos’ stricken look, Ali went on, “But we’re actually tank officers and we know that. The staff just doesn’t know it yet. Tell you what, if you want to go back to the artillery after our work is done, then I’ll arrange it. But give it a try first.”

          “Now bring me a map and show me where the enemy is coming.” Ali called his tank commanders together and they made a plan.


          • #20
            Mounted scouts kept up a steady update about the progress of the enemy’s main force. Before long, men standing atop the tanks could see the columns of dust through telescopes. They were 10 miles away. Then 8. Then 6. At 25mph the tanks could reach them in 15 minutes on a flat and smooth plain. Across hills with walls and ravines, the tanks would take an hour or more. All was ready. Men waited on or next to their tanks. Engines were turned on and idling. Eyes turned to General Ali who stood near the telegraph. Finally he read a note a turned. Seeing all the eyes on him he gave his sly grin.

            “Mount up you mechanical cavalrymen!! It’s time.”

            With that, men disappeared into their steel shells as fast as groundhogs into their holes. The tanks’ commanders sat on top and yelled orders inside. The beasts began to move, rolling off in a wide column through brush and around trees. Local ranchers had already fled and their houses and yards stood empty to the grunting monsters that clawed through towns.

            They had hoped to reach the enemy before they had set up their camp with entrenchments and fortifications but realized that they were too late for that. Enemy engineers had gone ahead and laid out defensive lines for the troops to fall into. However, the artillery, the big guns that had so often saved America, they were there to help. As the tanks crawled through the low hills, the guns fired shell after shell. The dust and smoke helped to hide the tanks as they came up. The Inca troops hunkered down in their trenches, knowing that when the artillery stopped they would have plenty of time to set up before cavalry or infantry could reach them.

            But when the artillery stopped and they looked out, there were no men or horses or infantry with rifles. The strange moving steel pillboxes came up surprisingly quickly. They ignored the barbed wire as if it were not there and bridged trenches easily. The defenders looked at each other uneasily. They knew that they had moved too quickly for their own guns to keep up. Things were suddenly happening too quickly. An easy march had turned into combat with a breath sucking shock of speed.

            Carlos had ridden atop his tank for over an hour. It was stinking hot on top of the metal and the crewmen had all the hatches open. By necessity, because of the speed necessitated by the desire for surprise, the Armor Battalions would come in somewhat piecemeal but within 15 minutes or so of each other. Carlos and the other men of the 1st Armor would be the first in. They would know before any others about how successful the tanks would be. Unfortunately they had lost 4 tanks to mechanical problems before reaching battle. Recovery wagons were back with them, trying to make field repairs.

            Carlos was covered with dust from the ride and his pretty black uniform had turned a reddish orange color. “Maybe,” he thought, “ they picked the wrong color. Instead of black to match the grease they should pick tan to match the dust!”

            Ali led the unit right up near the area of the bombardment and had his unit spread out. They would attach slightly uphill across a grassy swale that was spotted with oak and maple trees. The enemy had sited themselves to have a good and open field of fire. But that open field is what the tanks were looking for.

            Mounted messengers galloped down the lines. “General says to move when he moves. Keep moving. Don’t stop if he gets hit. Drive them off the hill and listen for the bugle to reform!”

            Carlos looked down at Klaus the driver and Mbutu the gunner. He couldn’t see the rest of the crew. He grinned and said, “Time for the inspiring speech men.” They looked at him with a “what now” look. “But fortunately for you I don’t have one. Just, let’s don’t screw up.” That broke them up and they were laughing as they slammed the hatches, leaving Carlos as the only one outside the safe shell of the tank. He sat atop the turret and watched the familiar explosions of artillery as the shells rocketed down after their trip from miles behind the front. The explosions stopped with an ear ringing suddenness. Ali gave a wave and leaned forward to yell into his tank. It started to move.

            “Go, go, go! Let’s get this pig going,” Carlos called down. Klaus engaged the clutch and dropped the tank into gear. It moved smoothly forward and trumpeted fumes out the exhausts. Mbutu and the loader swiveled the turret slightly from side to side to make certain that the action was free. To Carlos’ left, one of the other tanks stopped and its gun fired. The shell burst a couple hundred yards ahead near a building. Carlos thought that he would wait until they were right on top of the enemy before firing. Just like a charge should be.”

            The 32 tanks moved steadily and inexorably up the hill in pairs. Carlos watched as they came to the first concertina of barbed wire and watched it flatten. Ahead was a broad barrier ditch meant to slow down cavalry or infantry charges. The tank rolled into it and started to tilt down. Then the front of the tread caught the far bank and they rolled across.

            A bullet whanged by Carlos’ head. It had deflected off the hatch he was sitting next to. He realized that there were bullets everywhere, banging harmlessly off of the tank’s hull. He’d just been riding like an observer without paying attention. He could see the enemy troops just ahead, shooting their rifles quickly. With wild eyes they worked the bolts and fired rounds. The machine gunners, who had thought they were invincible, fired and fired and fired. The loaders looked over their shoulders for a place to run. Carlos slipped down inside the turret.

            “Mbutu. Before we do this again, I want my own gun up there. A pistols not enough for this.”

            “Again, Carlos? What makes you think there will be an again.” He laughed. “Let me shoot now, OK?” Carlos popped his head out of the turret for a look rather than using the periscope. He had steered them into the midst of the enemy lines and the soldiers were drawing back.

            “Stop the tank. OK, let ‘em have it before somebody decides to be a hero.”

            With that, the 30mm gun let loose and the machine guns opened up from all angles. The breech was yanked open and a choking cloud of cordite poured over the gunners and crew. Another shell was jammed in and Mbutu turned the turret. The tank shook again to his shot. Carlos looked out again and the orange uniformed troops were running. They were running and had dropped their guns and their packs. They ran as if they would run all the way back to the Andes. He slid back atop the tank and had a good look around. It was smoky but quieter suddenly. His tail tank popped it lid and the commander came out and waved. To the left and right Carlos could see that the story was the same. The tanks were there but the infantry had left. The growling noise of moving tanks started up again.

            “OK, fire it up. Let’s keep ‘em moving.” The left tread moved over a machine gun on its tripod and made it flat. At the last second he saw that the gunner had died at his gun and went under the tread too. He felt the bile rise in his throat. War was not pretty close up. Carlos looked around at the litter of the battle. Wagons and broken trees. Guns and packs, clothes, boots, bottles – all manner of material – lay scattered as if from a giant’s clumsy hand. In the mix were sad lumpish mounds that had been men minutes before. Men who had dreamed dreams and told jokes. Men who might have been brewing coffee if the battle had not happened. But they were men who should not be here. They should be back in the Andes playing baseball.

            “Where do we go,” the driver’s call brought Carlos back to the present. He saw Klaus’ face blackened from the guns’ fumes and realized that they were all indeed brothers. He and Carlos and Mbutu and the rest could not be told apart. Carlos laughed violently and shook his head. He looked around and saw that the smoke had lifted in a slight breeze since the fighting stopped. He saw Ali’s tank rolling along the ridge to the north. “Left, turn left. We’ll keep position on the lead.”

            They rolled forward and saw that the Inca had rallied together into a strongpoint among some rocks. As the tanks rolled toward them, some of the enemy soldiers moved back and melted away. Carlos could see an officer urging his men onwards. Suddenly, from a trench to the right, a cluster of orange uniforms burst out. As quickly as they appeared, they threw grenades. Fortunately they bounced off or missed. Machine guns spoke from the tank and the men ran and died. Further to his right he saw a tank swarmed with orange uniforms. The machine guns killed many of them but finally a grenade went off next to the tank and it stopped with a broken tread. Carlos led his tank over to the stricken vehicle and drove the attackers off. Then he turned back to the attack.

            Ahead were the rocks. He stopped so that Mbutu could fire at the troops hiding there. “WHAM” the tank shook as if it had been dropped. Carlos bruised his back against the rim of the hatch. The crew were holding their ears and one had blood running from his nose.

            “What happened? Is it the gun?” But Mbutu shook his head.

            Carlos painfully looked out the hatch again in time to see the explosion of a shell near another tank. It was field artillery. Carlos did not like that at all. They must have been hit by one but they were all still alive.

            “Everything working? Forget the gun for now, I want to move fast. There are cannon out there somewhere.”

            The tank dropped into gear and moved through the rocks. There were indeed a few field guns but they were unmanned by now. Ali and the other tanks had cleaned them out.

            Carlos noticed that it was getting darker. Twilight had come while they had been fighting. Again he looked over to Ali and again Ali waved them on.

            The tanks moved forward into the gloom. Ahead of them, men ran and scattered. Occasional stands of men were made. Mbutu started to use his gun while they were still moving when they came to these temporary hard points. He did not always hit but the targets usually ran anyway.

            Finally it was nearly completely dark. Carlos had forbidden Mbutu to fire the cannon out of concern for hitting other tanks. He figured that the machine guns were safe enough. The tanks had clustered together as the dark came so they would not get lost. Fuel was low and Carlos realized that the enemy could easily sneak up on them in the night. They heard the bugle signaling halt.

            Carlos stopped the tank and stood up on the turret. He could still see some neighbors within a couple dozen yards. While he waited for them to open up so that he could talk to them, a cavalryman trotted up.

            “Good evening sir, is this the 1st Armored?”

            “Yes it is. Are you alone or with scouts?”

            “No sir. The whole regiment is behind me. When the commander saw the tanks disappear like that with the enemy running, he called in all the local units. There are infantry about an hour behind.”

            “How far have we gone? We’ve been fighting for hours it seems like”

            “Couple of hours, sir. You’ve moved about 4 or 5 miles since you started the fight today.
            The enemy have gone a lot further. Word is that the whole front moved back. Nobody knows where they’ll stop.”

            He continued, “But I need to talk to your CO. We have to pull you back to safety.”

            “Wait a minute, first. You’re with the 88th?” The man nodded. Carlos grinned. “Where’s Lieutenant Walsh. I’ve got to tell him about this.”

            The man paused. “Bad news, sir. The Lieutenant went down while we were covering your flanks. He’s been taken to the field medical unit.”

            A hollow feeling exploded in Carlos’ chest.


            • #21
              nice additions my friend keep 'em rolling
              Hi, I'm RAH and I'm a Benaholic.-rah


              • #22
                Carlos will be back soon. The real Carlos is not feeling well these days. Ugh...



                • #23
                  Originally posted by Golden Bear
                  Carlos will be back soon. The real Carlos is not feeling well these days. Ugh...

                  Hope its nothing serious Carlos

                  Get well soon
                  Hi, I'm RAH and I'm a Benaholic.-rah


                  • #24
                    Thanks, GT. It's some new medication and it leaves me queasy for a few hours in the a.m. But it has gotten better.

                    Now I just need a little free time for the next installment.


                    • #25
                      Originally posted by Golden Bear
                      Thanks, GT. It's some new medication and it leaves me queasy for a few hours in the a.m. But it has gotten better.

                      Now I just need a little free time for the next installment.
                      Get the real world straight this will wait my friend
                      Hi, I'm RAH and I'm a Benaholic.-rah


                      • #26
                        Friends Come First (In two parts)

                        “Sorry, Carlos,” Ali said, “we need you here. We’re back on the line right away tomorrow. I know you want to see your friend at the aid station and I’ll get you leave as soon as I can. But right now I can’t risk you not finding your way back here before dawn.”

                        Carlos was silent, with the feeling that he did not actually know how he felt about being denied the opportunity to visit his friend Simon. Carlos had seen people, friends, killed and had dealt with that. But he never admitted the possibility that he might be injured. He and most of the others lived in denial about that aspect of their professions. Now he had to come face to face with another of the many dark faces to war.

                        “I’ll go see if I can sleep after I check on the mechanics.” He left Ali.

                        The unit had pulled back after dark into an abandoned town. Tanks were gathered in a rough circle and were being serviced by their mechanics. Electric lights hung suspended from wires over engine compartments. Carlos went to see his own machine. It was covered in dust, grime and soot from a long afternoon of fighting. The crew chief saw him coming.

                        “You’re gonna invalidate the warranty, you keep this up!” He pointed to an 8 inch gash in the sloping front armor of the tank. “You better not do too much of this if you want to keep coming home at night.”

                        Carlos remembered the shock from the strike of the field gun’s shell against the tank. He squinted and the gash and thought that it did not look too bad.

                        “We’ll be OK until they realize that they need naval armor piercing ammunition to fight us. They’re so far from home right now it might take them weeks to get some to the front.” Carlos replied.

                        “You think that, but not all the tanks came back you know.” The mechanic grimaced. “We’re lucky here in the 1st, we only had a couple unretrievables, but other units had some tanks blown up. Suicide attacks, things like that. You watch out.” He turned back to his task of checking the track links and wheels.”

                        Carlos stepped back to watch. Sometimes the tank seemed like a living creature but tonight it just looked ugly and cold. Small too. Not like a place where a crew of men should hide for comfort during a battle.

                        “Hey, one last thing.” He called. The chief looked back to him. “Can you mount a machine gun up there on top of the turret? I’m tired of getting shot at without any way to shoot back.”

                        The chief pushed his cap back with a grimy hand and looked at Carlos and then at the tank. Then he grinned. “Sure lieutenant, we’ll put machine guns all over this for you. It’ll be good to see some of the officers do some of the fighting for a change.” He winked and laughed.

                        Carlos wandered back out of the light of the motor pool and headed towards the building that his crew had taken over for the night. It was a warm summer evening and he could see a full cap of stars crowning the skies. It seemed too quiet to imagine that he would be back in the battle again tomorrow. But then the eastern horizon lit briefly and the distant report of a cannon reach his ears. The battle continued even at night, even without him.

                        As the tanks had pulled back earlier that evening, a shroud of cavalry had closed around them to keep enemy infantry and unwanted eyes away. The tanks growled and clunked west away from the lines while infantry units paced the opposite direction to keep the Inca from counterattacking. Their eyes were glued to the rolling metal boxes and Carlos thought he could read their minds: “What happens when the enemy starts using these against us?”

                        Carlos reflected on that thought and wondered what would happen next. He had already heard that engineers had started plans for a new and bigger tank. Soon tanks would be fighting other tanks and not just infantry.

                        He reached his bivouac and saw his crew sprawled on the ground and in hammocks around the front of a beat up plastered one story house. They slept soundly after the day’s fighting and terror. He sat on a blanket and thought about Simon. It would be only a few hours until dawn and he knew he would not sleep.

                        As it turned out, he did nod off but he did not get to sleep very long. In the early morning dark the commanders were all called into a conference with Ali. They reviewed their position on a map and Ali put his finger on a spot labeled as woodlands.

                        “This is the objective for us. Some units backed into this woods and holed up. They’ve tied it up with barbed wire and the infantry cannot get them out. We’re going to discover whether we can fight inside woods today. We’re going to learn a lot of things every day for a while now. Plus, the infantry are going to follow right in with us as we go. Hopefully we can rely on them to keep enemies off of us in the close terrain. Don’t be heroes. Don’t outrun the other tanks. Don’t outrun the infantry. Don’t get surrounded.”

                        “You would think that they would have headed for home after the beating their army took yesterday but they recovered and formed a new line. It looks like we are going to actually have to destroy their units one by one until they leave. Apparently new infantry units are pouring across the borders. However, we have more tanks arriving every day also. Unfortunately for us, for today we only have about half the strength we had yesterday.”

                        The young officers looked at Ali. “yeah, well, some of the units got pretty chewed up by the end of the day. After they pulled out the tanks were loaded onto railway cars and taken into Atlanta for rebuilding. They’ll be back tomorrow but for today it just us and a few close friends.” Ali tried to give the wicked smile that showed his confidence in himself and his men. But it looked tired just as the men looked tired.

                        The tank commanders went back and shook men awake. Carlos made coffee and shared it around. Mbutu, Klaus and the others painfully stretched themselves and ate some stale rations. They were silent while they had their caffeine.

                        They started their tanks in the dark and began funneling onto a dirt track, each tank following a tiny light on the back of the tank in front of it. The men sat on top of the tanks or with their heads projecting out hatches. The dust and the exhaust smell brought unconscious memories and tensions to the men. As they rode through the dark they changed from the silent sleeping village of men into the deadly and merciless warriors that they needed to be to survive the day. They no longer thought of family or home or about surviving the war. They thought only about their guns or their neighbor machines. They were a powerful steel projectile about to be hurled against the invaders of their homes.

                        With the onset of dawn’s glow they were passing through hilly orchards and were just over a ridge from the woods they were ordered to attack. Infantry was already moving all around them. Some carried the new portable machine guns. They were small and had short range but they complemented the more accurate but slower rifles. Particularly in close quarters fighting. The tanks were signaled to disperse into their attack formations and they spread out between the infantry units and headed forwards.

                        As usual, an artillery barrage began hitting the front enemy positions as the tanks and infantry crested the ridge and started to head into battle. Only a few enemy guns fired in return because the big guns were still days behind the enemy’s leading units. Still, there were enough small field pieces to drive the American infantry to the ground. The troops began to follow the tanks and leapfrog forward through broken ground and tumbled buildings.

                        Carlos rode atop the turret of his tank as they broke off from a tiny street and headed across the yard of a 2 floor white frame building. The porch had taken a shell hit and was fallen onto the lawn. A power pole stood by the street with a drooped and broken cable hanging from it. A line of tall evergreen shrubs lay ahead of the tank. Some friendly troops were on the ground behind it, waving the tank forward.


                        • #27
                          A sergeant popped up and ran to the side of the tank. “They’re straight ahead about 200 yards out. We’ll follow as fast as we can.”

                          Klaus crept the tank up to the hedge and nudged it through. Mbutu saw movement at the edge of the woods ahead and opened fire. Carlos felt the stinging backblast from the gun and tasted acrid smoke. The shell exploded among trees at the edge of woods. As if the shell was a signal, machine gun and rifle fire poured out of the woods as a hail in the direction of the tank. Carlos ducked into the turret while bullets blistered the outside of the tank. Mbutu was inside the turret with his usual big smile on his face. The loader was closing the breech on the gun and Mbutu used the pedals to twist the turret.

                          “Hmm. Let me see now. You or YOU!” Mbutu pulled the trigger and the tank shook again. The breech was pulled open and smoke came into the tank. “Those guys aren’t going to like that one. They can also try this.” He fired the coaxial machinegun while the gunner loaded another shell. Carlos popped the lid and took a cautious look out. He saw tanks pulling forward from trees and hedges to the left and right. They were drawing fire now.

                          “Time to roll.” Klaus set the tank going. Close behind and to the tank’s left, the tail tank pulled out to watch the flanks for Carlos. Carlos saw tracers reaching from the woods to a tank to the left. He reached for his new machine gun. The mechanic had taken a tripod mount and stripped it down and welded it to the turret top. Carlos need to lean forward a little to reach it. Kind of an uncomfortable reach actually. For now, he took the safety off and pulled back the cocking lever. He pressed his fingers up under the dead man switches and pressed the trigger with his thumbs. His trail of bullets started off at the top of trees that were now close enough to distinguish branches. Leaves and pieces of trees cascaded from the flow of bullets. He stopped the burst and corrected down and fired again – aiming at an active machine gun. This time the bullets streamed toward the target, kicking up dust and stones as they rattled around the dug in crew. The enemy gun stopped firing. But whether from injury or because the crew was just laying low was impossible to tell.

                          Trees crept closer as the tanks covered the field. Some kind of low growing crop was green and sprouting. The treads left ugly gashes of brown and black through the area. Just before entering the woods Carlos stopped the tank and they fired the main gun and fired the machine guns into the area immediately in front. He saw movement but it was hard to focus on where. There were explosions as defenders tried to throw grenades. But most of the grenades fell short. Men were trying to stay away from the steel beasts.

                          Then it was time to go in. From sunlight the tanks rolled into dappled shade. There was a lot of brush and fallen trees amongst the oaks and maples. Carlos was uncomfortable with how close the terrain had gotten. He was reassured that his tail was tight behind him and other tanks were so close that they looked like they could touch each other. Around the tanks, at the edge of the woods, barbed wire had been densely spread and trenches had been dug. There were a few bodies but not many. The enemy troops had managed to pull back – or had run. Carlos hoped they had run. He looked behind again. “Where are the infantry?” he thought. “They’re taking too long!”

                          After a few moments with only desultory firing occurring from his left and right, troops began approaching from behind. Carlos made certain that they were friendly and then waved them forward.

                          “Loot says we’re supposed to push past you and call for help if we need it. I think you guys should go first. Nothin can touch you in there,” a sergeant said to Carlos. “Just stay close anyway.” He sounded envious and maybe even angry at the tankers. Carlos thought that he should be happy that he had helped save them from the need to charge across an open field into machine guns. The infantry moved through and a crackle of small arms fire began to open up as they advanced. The tanks began to creep forward, trying to keep the infantry in view. The enemy had not backed far into the woods. Very quickly the advancing infantry became pinned down. Carlos waved his tail forward and the two of them rolled up. The same sergeant ran to the tank in a crouch.

                          “Ahead to the right they’ve got some kind of pillbox or something. To the left in the house too,” he said with wild eyes. “It’s death for us to go out there. We’re sitting here until you do something. We don’t have to kill ourselves when you guys are sitting pretty in those tanks!”

                          Carlos did not even try to answer. The man’s nerve was shot. Still, he did not like going through broken terrain like this without the infantry in support. “This is going to be rough, guys. Mbutu, fire while we’re rolling. Fire at anything that moves. Watch out for a house on the left and troops holed up on the other side.”

                          The two tanks crunched forward. The infantry moved to the side to let them through. They were in the bottom of a small valley. A small creek ran through and across the valley. On the left, in a turn of the creek, sat a stone two story house. Immediately as the tanks cleared their own lines, gunfire came from the house. The two cannon from the tanks fired in unison and struck the house. Carlos peered to the right, where there was supposed to be a bunker. A spur of a hill came down on that side and pocket of trees stood behind it. He could not see a bunker. Still, he saw how the enemy had set up a trap for infantry. Attackers would get struck by fire from the house and would try to outflank it by going through the cover to the right. A blockhouse in the woods over there would enfilade the infantry when the were looking the other way. Carlos figured that once the tanks silenced the house, they could go that way and attack the still invisible bunker from a distance from the left side of the valley.

                          The tanks closed on the house, continuing with their fire. Enemy fire had all but stopped and troops had been seen running out the back. The stone house had fallen in on its front wall after several hits. Carlos yelled to the backup tank, “Stay behind me. Watch our backs. I’m going to circle behind that bunker.” He wondered why the bunker had still not fired. I decided that they were still just being coy and hoping to lure unsuspecting victims into their trap. He was going to try to turn it back on them.

                          Klaus turned the tank to the right and they came around the spur of the hill. Nothing, still nothing. Suddenly the woods straight ahead seemed to part as a hail of gunfire and grenades came pouring out. The bunker was straight ahead. Mbutu turned the turret, pulled the trigger, and…

                          The tail tank blew up with a clang and a whoosh of flame. Men scrambled from the hatches. Carlos turned to look and wished that he could pivot the gun that way. He realized that he could if he climbed out of the turret. He did that and got behind the machine gun. He saw a flash from behind the ruins of the stone house another explosion on the tail tank. Bullets rained on the crew as they tried to escape. There was a field gun hidden behind the stone house. It had struck the back of the tank where armor was thinnest. Carlos’ tank was lucky because it was screened by the corpse of the other tank. He started spraying machine gun fire in the direction of the enemy cannon. He suddenly became painfully aware that he was out in the wide open as bullets from the blockhouse side spanged around him.

                          “Boss, boss, boss, get back in. Please, get in.” Klaus had opened his hatch and yelled up at him. “We’re in a crossfire.” The man’s eyes looked huge in the circle of his blackened face.

                          Carlos crawled to the hatch and dropped in without looking. He landed on Mbutu. The gunner laughed at him and shoved him off. Mbutu was a powerful man. He fired the cannon again. “Where you takin us next? Why can’t you ever find us any targets?” Again the loader struggled with the breech and Mbutu put his foot on the lever and helped him to kick it open. A long brass casing fell on the floor. Carlos put his head out of the hatch to look at the other tank’s crew. Three of them, no two – one was motionless - huddled under the front of the now burning tank. If they moved anywhere, they would be exposed to fire. Carlos was afraid about the ammunition exploding in the fire.

                          “Where’s the damn infantry?” he yelled.

                          Klaus yelled up again. “Gotta do something, they’re coming out now!!”

                          Machine guns hammered. Carlos so men standing and running and then dropping into cover. Some were felled by the tank’s guns. They kept coming. He looked back and men were coming the other way.

                          Men to the front, men to the back. “Fire it up, we’ll run them down!” Carlos ordered the tank forward at full speed without regard to the creek or trees. Klaus steered wildly. The tank slewed into the brush where men were advancing from the damaged blockhouse. Carlos could see that it was a formidable obstacle made of logs pounded together with earth and rocks. The advancing men began to turn away and run in all directions to get away from the tank. Carlos led it in an arc and then turned back towards the stone house. He wanted to keep the survivors from the other tank safe. It seemed that the field gun may have been silenced. He hoped so.

                          He took the tank up to near the burning wreckage and fired into the advancing infantry from that side. But they were very close. A grenade bounced off the tank and exploded harmlessly. The enemy on this side would not run. Carlos did not want to risk getting near to the field gun again. He heard firing to his left and saw American infantry beginning to advance across the field and to take the Inca infantry under fire. But they were slow.

                          Carlos fired his machine gun. Klaus kept the tank moving. Inca infantry came a little closer on each circuit the tank made. Carlos felt tired. His crew was slowing down. Suddenly, several grenades came sailing at the tank at the same time.

                          Carlos ducked as the small bombs went off around the tank, making clinking noises on the shell.

                          “Uh, boss,” Klaus called, “we got a problem. I think the track’s broken.”

                          Carlos looked over the left side and then the right. Sure enough, the end of the track was visible at the back. Enemy troops seemed emboldened by the crippled vehicle and started running closer. Carlos fired at some and then more showed up. “Aw darn it.”

                          The tank’s machine guns kept up a desperate fire but it was not enough. The two survivors of the other tank were prone on the ground and firing rifles. Who knows how they got the guns. The Inca infantry stood as a body and ran to the tank, firing wildly as they came. Twenty yards, ten, they touched the tank just as the American infantry did from the other side. Carlos and the crew climbed out during the melee and fought swinging wrenches and toolbars. The American troops kept coming in and in a moment, all Carlos could see were their backs as the battle swept beyond them. The crew gathered together by the side of the tank. Klaus and Mbutu lay on the ground, each with bloody bandages applied to their bodies.

                          “What’s happened? How bad is it? Do we have a medic?”

                          “Boss, you’re gonna need another chauffeur for a while now. I don’t feel so good,” Klaus gritted out.

                          Mbutu joined in, “and Boss, my name’s actually Mboto. James Mboto.”

                          Carlos looked stricken at having called his friend by the wrong name for so long.

                          “But don’t worry, I like Mbutu just fine. Don’t ever change.”

                          Carlos tried to keep the quaver out of his voice. “We’re a team and we won’t be right until you guys are back.”

                          “Men, let’s evacuate these two back to safety and help. I can’t abandon the tank, though. Go without me. Leave me a rifle and return with help. That’s an order.”

                          The men put Klaus and Mbutu onto blankets and then picked up the blankets as makeshift stretchers. “We’ll be right back, Boss. Keep your head down.”

                          The men stumbled away with their loads. Mbutu was a bulky man. Carlos crept inside the quiet tank and looked for the demolition charge. They were given a charge with a timed fuse that they could use to destroy the tank in order to prevent capture. He figured that he had better be ready just in case. Sitting on the tank and listening to the now distant sounds of gunfire and tank cannon he paused to think. He did not like the feeling of being trapped that he had had when the tank broke down and the infantry came on in waves. He felt like he had done enough of this. He wanted to see Simon. He wanted to go somewhere that snipers and flames and bullets did not exist. He did not know what he wanted to do beyond that. Still, he sat on the tank and waited.

                          After a time, he heard a rifle’s crack and a bullet hit the tank. He ducked behind the turret and looked for it. “I could use some support right about now,” he thought to himself. He raised his rifle and fired in the general direction the shot came from. He looked again and several shots came now from the area of some trees. He saw troops moving, Inca troops. Carlos looked back to the west for help and saw none. He saw the Inca coming forward. With a quiet curse he dropped into the tank and pulled the tape that lit the fuse on the demo charge. He bailed out and ran for it, with bullets whining around him. The tank lit off with a roar as the ammunition was set off by the charge. The turret came loose and tilted with a nod over the side. The tank was dead.

                          The enemy infantry seemed uninterested now in the two wrecked vehicles and left the battlefield to Carlos. It seemed very very quiet now to him. He was alone on the still and smoking battlefield. He realized that he really was on his own now. He could go back to camp and be reassigned or he could go find Simon and then see what happened next. Responsibility to the army or responsibility to his friend.

                          Friends come first.


                          • #28

                            party hard old chap
                            Gurka 17, People of the Valley
                            I am of the Horde.


                            • #29
                              Thanks Paddy!


                              • #30
                                Looking good

                                Keep it up Golden One
                                Hi, I'm RAH and I'm a Benaholic.-rah