A good game of “I Ain’t Been Shot Mum” last night:  Hauptmann Turrill and Captain Brown fought a bloody and very close fight.

The scenario: It's late 1944 in Southern Italy, and the Germans are gradually retreating to their prepared winter line, giving up ground slowly. The advancing Americans have stumbled upon a bridge that has not been blown over a little tributary. Unbeknownst to the Americans, the bridge is wired and the Germans tried to blow it an hour before and something is wrong. The Lt. of Pioneers has been called for and he is coming up fast with a squad of  engineers, to join the engineer squad already under the bridge, scratching their heads. Perhaps the Lt. can straighten this out in time. If he does, he’ll send up a flare, and run like hell.  At that signal, the fellows on the detonator will try once again.    Hauptmann Turrill has his two 75mm AT guns and two understrength platoons on his side of the river, besides the engineers.

Unfortunately for the defenders, at that very moment Captain Brown has arrived with three full platoons of US infantry and a platoon of M3 Scout cars and scouts jeeps, with a platoon of 82mm mortars on call. The locals tell Brown all the Germans are on the other side of the river, that there is a ford to the right, and that there were busy Germans working all over the bridge all day. The Americans very swiftly deployed right and forward and pushed right up to the bridge approaches and across the ford, causing casualties to the German pioneers under the bridge who had to move back to the bridge approaches on their side, just as the Lt. of engineers came up with an additional squad.  A Scout car found a Pak 40 the hard way and brewed up.

While the German engineers traded fire with the Americans from cover, their Lt. was alone half way across the bridge fiddling with the primers and cable connections. One American squad advanced and were just outside close combat range on their end of the bridge deck. The two engineer squads advanced past their Lt., (whom they left to keep fiddling) and assaulted the lone American squad.  My money was on the elite pioneers who were better armed for such things, had higher morale, and out-numbered the Americans 2 to 1. But such are the fortunes of war that after three rounds of bloody close combat, the two German squads were depleted to two men each and routed off. Maybe somebody tripped on his own demo charge. This left the Lt. alone with his pliers and flare gun facing two platoons about 30 seconds from storming across. Two freshAmerican squads, joined by Captain Brown himself—never one to be left out of the moment of crowning glory—dashed up toward the lone German to seize the far side approaches.

It looked like this bridge was in American hands and wasn’t getting blown, but we gave the bold technician one more chance (1 out of 32), and the lucky little guy got it. That meant the bridge was ready to go, the flare went up, and now all that was needed was to have the detonator team get their particular chit drawn so they could do their duty. There was still time for their plans to be foiled, or to at least allow Brown to go back or get across, but no. The detonator team was the very next chit drawn. After one more check to see if the man on the plunger was a Quaker (he was not), the bridge went BOOM and Captain Brown, the Lt. of pioneers, two American squads and a few men on the approaches coming up behind were sent to oblivion.  The Americans who had crossed the ford sloshed back across, and that was the end.

Well played, and a fun evening of mayhem! Plus, Captain Brown brought some of his excellent homemade Belgian farmhouse style beer.

Joe Patchen