Service a la mode, by Bernard Silverman, 4th AD, 35th Tank Bn, Co C

Bernard Silverman
Bernard Silverman

“Your mission is to enter this territory, which may be infested with the enemy, and see that the tanks get their gas, ammo, rations and water. It is imperative that they get it tonight, because a counterattack is expected tomorrow morning.” And with these few words, the Colonel had dismissed me, and I was on the way, with four trucks, into the blackness of a sporadically-lit sky, filled with the blasting roars and unknown terrors that accompany the front line.

Service Company again would brave the dangers, which even Armored Vehicles would hesitate to encounter. Two and a half ton GMC trucks laden with precious supplies for the tankers were driven by unsung heroes, and their only comfort was an assistant who carried a machine gun, and was later seared to death.

Traveling on a dirt road under blackout conditions; training eyes on the vehicle in front; watching every spot of moving brush; and depending on the leader, who is going into territory he has never seen before in his life. A map was the only guide, but it was too dark to see it, and I could not chance showing a flicker of light. Depending on memory, not only as to where the roads were, and which turn to take, but also where the tanks were located according to the last report.

A Heinie burp gun goes off. It sounds close. Yes, darn close. If anything else can be heard, it’s the pulling back of belts as each man becomes more alert and strains his eyes even more.

“Halt!” A figure with drawn rifle jumps out into the center of the road. Next, came a screaming of brakes, and the cursing of the drivers. Thank God, it’s a doughboy. “Give the password”, ask him if he has seen any tanks. The directions he gives are not the same we had received. But they could have moved—they’re always moving.

I’ll have to chance it. Can’t afford to take a cumbersome truck through unexplored fields. “Joe, come with me. We’ll take a recon on foot.”

Stumbling along in the blackness, it seems like miles. Is that the outline of a tank? Maybe it’s just a bush. Always seems like one in this damn darkness. “Sure, Joe, that’s a 76mm sticking out. Better holler out, or they’ll mow us down.”

“Baker Company?” “Who goes?” comes the reply. We answer.

“Goddamn, you guys, always coming around in the middle of the night!” We know he doesn’t mean half the profanity that’s thrown our way—it’s the strain. Anyway, we are so happy to have found him.