Three. Just three; things that you look forward to in a combat zone --- more so on the front line. The first every grunt would say would have to be sleep, seventy-six straight hours of non-stop gunfighting tares you mentally and physically, followed closely by food; sometimes the two would switch importance and need of --- the mind and body can go a lot longer without sleep than food. The third: a hot shower. Of course to see peace is the first.... But only the dead see it.... Or do they.
The 101st Airborne's Paratroopers of the elite 502nd P.I.R had been hit hard all day. War was hell and a bitch .... But this shit was something else. It amazed Sgt Averson what a human being considered to do to another human being under the impression of winning a few little battles in a war.
Sgt Averson was field promoted his current rank of E7 from E4 after most of his platoon was hit with heavy fire from numerous Maschinengewehr 42s: a 7.92×57mm Mauser general-purpose machine gun designed by Nazi Germany and used extensively by the Wehrmacht and the Waffen-SS. Charlie Company took the most casualty while storming the town hall, in a city fortified by the 55 Brigade, in the middle of the day. Two of the three C-130s sent out had been shot down by an improved Flak-38 20mm anti-aircraft gun known as the Flugzeugabwehrkanone-30. The closest Allied meat chopper equivalent to the beloved mighty Flakvierling system, nicknamed the "Krautmower" for its high rate of fire, was a heavybarrel .50 caliber M2 Browning M45 Quadmount.
Tomorrow morning wasn't looking any better.
To make matters worse it was going to be Christmas Eve.
Christmas Eve. Northern Germany. 1914. 20:00 Hours. Thursday.
In the hours leading up to the 25 of that December French, German, and British soldiers ventured out, across trenches along an area called:No Man's Land, to exchange seasonal greetings and talk. In some areas, men from both sides mingled and exchanged food along with souvenirs.It was a peaceful and friendly interaction between opposing forces that was called Fraternisation.
The truce occurred five months after hostilities had begun as few units arranged ceasefires as a symbolic moment of peace and humanity amidst one of the most violent events of human history. It was particularly significant due to the number of men involved; soldiers on both sides noted a period of peace. During the hours after dusk rations were brought up to the front line and not a single round was fired while they collected their food.
He vividly remembers the sounds echoing in the eerie silence. That morning only a handful of guards were asked to pull duty. They all went outside, the farm house and other buildings they had been bunkered down in to get out of the flooded cuts in the soil, and just stood listening. And, of course, thinking of all their loved ones back home.
All he heard for endless months on the lines was the hissing, cracking, and whining of well aimed bullets in flight. They rung out over the machine gun fire and distant German voices mostly calling for artillery.
But that morning there was a dead silence.
Right across the blood stained land, as far as anyone could see, Germans and Americans laid down weapons. Both sides shouted their versions of what each translated in their own language to be 'Merry Christmas' --- even though nobody felt "Merry."
Sgt Averson wrote home during a regular half-hourly truce to recover dead soldiers for burial. In his letter written to his beloved sister Julien MacMahanni he wrote:
"...The proximity of trench lines makes it easy for soldiers from either side to traverse. The quiteness gaves way to shouting greetings to each other. This may be the most common method we are currently using to arrange half-hourly informal truces to find the dead and treat the wounded. One unusual phenomenon that has in recent hours grown in intensity is music: The Germans place candles on their trenches and on Christmas trees then continued the celebration by singing or playing small pocket instruments.
One of my men,no more than 18 years old, [So] bravely lifted his head--- to witness the truce --- high above the parapet while others reluctant for fear of German snipers. Moments later men from both sides walked onto an area we call 'No Man's Land'. I watched as both Officers and enlisted shook hands and exchanged cigarettes and cigars. The captain smoked a cigar with the best shot in the German army; who came out of nowhere to join us in the festival which lasted through Christmas night continuing until New Year's...."
In another letter to Julien he said:
" We all have somehow at some point develop a camaraderie as we go about our daily routine. Nazi soldiers send stray dogs to our camps in hopes to lift the spirits of the wounded. Our hospitals take both sides during this period; They reminisce, with troops eagered to share and describe their heroism. The Germans recollected about the fishing they did before the war, and decide to try and go back to their fishing spot, even though it is in No Man'san’s Land. A handful of us join them.
In Germany Carp, also known as Karpfen or Weihnachtskarpfen, is a traditional meal eaten on Christmas Eve.In this part of Northern Germany the Carp is often marinated in a vinegar-wine sauce for 10-15 minutes. This marinade is often made from warm vinegar, water, and white wine; seasoned with fresh onions, bay leaf, and peppercorns. The acid in the vinegar causes the fish to lose its sliminess but it also turns the fish a blue-ish color; which is why this process is called "Carp Blue" or Karpfen Blau. The fish is then either cooked in the marinade or its baked in the oven over a dish of steaming vinegar. Traditional side dishes include boiled potatoes and horseradish.
We ate like Kings not friends or Foes..."
The silence ended, early in the afternoon of January the 2nd, and the killing started again. It was a short peace in a terrible war.
He grabbed his binoculars and looking cautiously....