Delivering The Enemy

By Roger Pinckney

      Uncle Marsh showed up just ahead of the first blizzard. I picked him up at the airport and brought him to the farm in northern Anoka County. I gave him the upstairs bedroom in a house made of salvaged Soo Line boxcars as the snow began to fall, big Hollywood flakes at first, swirling on gentle cats-paws, a breeze that would soon become a howling gale.

      There were two brothers, Shelley and Marshall, grandsons of Irish immigrants, sons of the first OB-GYN in the North Dakota Territory.  Marsh was the youngest. They were too young for the draft but both, with parental permission, joined the North Dakota National Guard when they turned 17. Shelley went to Italy where an ME-109 machine-gunned him off a Jeep. He took a bullet in his thigh and spent the last of the war in rehab. Marshall joined Patton’s Third Army and fought at the Bulge and into the German heartland. Now he was in the kitchen of my house as our world filled up with snow. It covered the first step, the second, the third and was crowding the windowsills when I began whittling on the fat buck hanging from a rafter in the insulated well-house which doubled as my skinning shed.

      It was a little after noon and Marsh already had a whiskey going, the first of many he would down that day. If this was his chosen remedy for post-traumatic combat stress, it failed him when I started butchering that deer.

      “Geeze Rog, I haven’t seen such gore since the Battle of the Bulge.” He freshened his whiskey, took a long pull while remembering.  “It was snowing like this, wet snow, big flakes. We couldn’t see more than a hundred yards. Couldn’t tell a GI from a Kraut till you were almost face-to-face. Not sure who thought it up and how the word got out, but we threw away our great-coats and fought in our field jackets. The Krauts kept theirs, they were well below the knee and it was easy to spot them.”

      I threw a hind quarter on the table, worked loose a ham. “You were in the infantry, right?”

      “I carried a Browning Automatic Rifle. Hymie….  Hymie… I forget this last name, a little Jewish kid from Jamestown, North Dakota, carried my ammo.”

      “I heard it was one hell of a gun.”

      His drink was getting low. “You got any more Seagram’s?”

      “No, but I got you a bottle of Canadian Mist.” North Dakotans wouldn’t know good whiskey if you threw them in a barrel of it.

      But Uncle Marsh was still back in the Ardennes. “We came upon this stone farmhouse with smoke coming out of the chimney. I set up the BAR, ran the sight up to 700 yards, switched it over to full-auto and put the sight on the door. The road from the door was cut into a hill.  Sarge told me to hold my fire till they got into that cut. God, Roger, they had no place to hide.  I killed seven men in seven seconds.” He pointed at my butchering, “And that’s the most gore I’ve seen till today.”

      “Honest meat.” I grabbed another hind quarter, went to slicing.

      But Marsh wasn’t done yet. “About 20 miles up the road, we were in Germany proper then, fighting our way into some small town. Some German opened up on us with a heavy machine gun. I kicked in a door and we tumbled inside. The place was full of civilians, women and children. They were terrified at the sight of us. A woman was in hard labor.”

      “Good Lord, man!  What did you do?”

      Marsh took another long pull, drained his glass, nothing left now but cubes. “Hell, I delivered that kid. Cut the cord with my Kabar and tied it off with my GI shoelace.”

      “What did you know about delivering a baby?”

      “Not a damn thing. But everybody in my squad knew my daddy was a doctor and I was the closest thing they had at the time.”

      “What happened next”

      “We waited till the machine gun quit then went on down the road.”

      I broke out the Canadian Mist, poured him a good stiff snort.

      “The guys gave me hell, of course. Said we were supposed to kill Germans, not make more of em.” He paused, “I often wonder about that little boy and I thought someday I would try to look him up and see how he made out, but I guess that won’t ever happen.” He took a long pull on his whiskey. Another skift of snow whispered across the roofing tin and the rising wind rattled the window panes. “I reckon that’s the finest thing I did in the war. But they don’t pass out medals for that, do they? You want a drink?”

      I did.

From the FE Films Archive

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