A Forced Eviction 5,100 Adult WWII | By: Oscar A Rat | | Category: Short Story - Military Bookmark and Share

A Forced Eviction 5,100 Adult WWII


"Come on, Hector." Tom forces a mule to its feet from a shady spot under one of the few trees near his homemade shelter. "No way out, buddy. We have to haul us some water."


After hitching the animal to an ancient wooden cart filled with empty five-gallon metal cans, the two set out for a two-mile journey to the nearest water source, a thin stream at that time of the year.


The year was 1944, place an isolated corner of a vast military base at Alamogordo Bombing and Gunnery Range in New Mexico -- a relatively unused area of mostly sand and scrub bush used as a target for artillery and bombing. Supposedly cleared of civilians, a few took their chances on that Off Limits land. One of them was a veteran named Tom Prince. He’d been wounded in a battle to take an island from the Japanese during an earlier WWII battle.


Weighing the danger of short rounds in favor of isolation from the cares of society, Tom settled-in and built a makeshift home within the perimeters of that huge base. To augment a small military medical allotment, he scavenged metal for resale as scrap.




Soon after sunrise, the sun is only an orange glow on the horizon, not yet beginning to heat the desert landscape from a chilly night. Dew is still steaming from sparse vegetation. The temperature will quickly rise to a simmering ninety-plus degrees.


While on the way, Tom sees a dust trail in the distance. He hides himself and the mule in a dry wash to prevent a military patrol from spotting them. Those patrols, four times a day, are a constant harassment -- one he's learned to avoid.


"We'll wait a little while, old buddy. They'll soon be gone," he tells his companion.


Opening one of the cans, still half-full of precious liquid, he takes a sip then splashes a quart or so into a clean hubcap to offer to the mule. They wait it out, watching the dust trail come even with them in the distance, then fade into oblivion.


"Dumb bastards. They'd never make it in the war." Tom shakes his shaggy head, unruly hair and beard almost as dirty as the mule's. "Not only keeping a patrol schedule, but following a paved road. The enemy would get them by the third time out."


Tom could have settled on public land, but likes the base because those same patrols keep others from bothering him by stopping idle tourists. His home is a shelter he built himself, made of homemade mud-bricks stacked around a bomb crater and covered by blocks of sod. It blends in with the immediate area of wild grass and isolated scrub trees. Since there is vegetation, Tom knows there is water there but has so far avoided the labor of digging a well. In regard to the danger, he's built in a few layers of sandbags to at least feel safer.


While waiting, sitting tight against the wall of the wash to take advantage of a spot of shade, Tom's mind wanders back to the war.…




"Why the hell we gotta stand watch up here?" John Evans bitched to Tom, standing alongside him on the deck of a troop ship. "They're showing a John Wayne movie down below." They were on submarine watch.


"Well, for my part I'd rather be here on deck. If a Jap sub does show up, I can jump. Better the sea than dying below deck."


"Yeah? What the hell can we do if we do see one? By the time we run all the way up to the bridge to report it, they'll have nailed us."


"Notice, buddy. I keep my life-vest and this bag of goodies near me at all times. I'd make out. I gotta canteen, three empty water bladders to blow up for flotation, k-rations, and my lucky rubber ducky with me." Tom grinned, nodding to a filled backpack sitting behind him.


"Rubber ducky? Jeeze, Tom, but you're a work of art."


"My daughter, Sugarbabe, gave it to me. What'll I tell her if I don't bring it home?"


"Worry about bringing yourself home."


The ship, the Alfred B. Snott, currently had two engines down, the sounds of whinnnning and pounding throbbed against their feet as they talked. Their vessel was forced out of the convoy for repairs while heading for some godforsaken island in the Pacific....


A bray brings him back to reality. Well, Tom thinks, looking at a fading dust cloud, they had made it to the war; a little late but in time for the invasion of Okinawa. He sighs and checks Hector and the cart out, giving both the mule and himself another drink of water. No need to conserve, since they're close to the creek. He even splashes a hubcap of liquid onto both their heads.


Damn, these patrols are increasing lately, he thinks as they resume their journey. There used to be only one a day. I hope they're not going to start firing artillery into this area again.




A half-hour later, Hector senses water and tries to hurry but Tom holds him back. There are gophers around the waterhole and he fears the mule will step in one of the numerous holes, many grown over with grass. Also, the cart might, if going too fast, lose a wheel. The rusty bolts holding them on could give at any time. Tom had found it abandoned, half sunk in debris and sand, on an initial trip to the area. It might have sat there since gold-mining days.


Eventually they make it, scaring a flock of birds and a lone prairie dog from their own drinks. Tom immediately sets to filling the cans, stacking full ones neatly into the cart.


Hector takes a long drink and wanders over to stand under a tree. He will be no help, but will be facing an exhaustive task by pulling the full load on the way back.


The sounds and flashes of a bombing run in the distance take Tom back to that crucial attack, the one that sent him home to the US.…




It started when they'd climbed and tumbled down a net hung over the side of the ship and into a Craft, Landing, Personnel, a relatively small boat sporting high sides and one .50 cal in a small cupola at one end. It was staffed by navy, one driving, one on the gun, and one to take care of the passengers.


They had been warned that if they fell to make sure it was into the boat, as the weight of their combat gear would pull them down with little or no chance of being rescued. Tom managed to climb down, holding on tightly to strands of netting.


Once filled with apprehensive -- no, just plain terrified -- soldiers, the boats had circled the ship for hours before forming up into a line and waiting for the lead vessel to head for shore. The rest, including Tom's, hurried behind. Tom didn't even recall the name of the island, "Okie Dokey" or something like that in the inscrutable Gook language. It was only after being wounded and back on a hospital ship that he learned it was named Okinawa.


Although there was some artillery coming at them, it wasn't too bad. They were coming in on the second day of the attack. American fighter planes zipped along overhead, tracking down the sources of enemy artillery. There were also a few heavy machine guns still dug in near the beach and firing at them.


The landing was organized. As they stepped off the landing craft, a beachmaster with distinctive white helmet waved them to a stand of palm trees, every one of which was broken from the battle the day before.


"Jesus. That wasn't too bad," Jim, a buddy, whispered to Tom as they gratefully lay side by side, trying to hog meager shade. They also hoped the trees would protect them from occasional sniper bullets they heard and occasionally saw as sand spurted nearby.


Beach personnel seemed to ignore those deadly missiles, going about their tasks as though in a port back home. There was constant activity as troops and supplies left the boats, the latter to be stacked in specific spots for later distribution. Troops were sent to widely separated locations to wait for orders.


"Listen up."


Tom raised his head to see one of the company officers standing in front of them, hands on hips. A piece of paper could be seen clutched in his right hand. "Listen up, here. We're to assist the 198th, straight ahead in the jungle. We have a guide to show us the way. Form up at trail arms and follow me.


"Keep an eye out. There are Jap infiltrators in there, some dug in from before the attack and looking for a chance to die for their emperor. Keep at least ten yards between you ... and let's get moving, people."


Fear, having leaked away in the quiet setting, returned with a vengeance. Gathering loose gear, we rose to our feet and reluctantly fell in behind the lieutenant. We followed a trail through increasingly denser growth, eventually coming to an asphalt highway.


Staggered on both sides of the roadway, we followed its path until coming to a built-up area. The village included only a dozen or so huts, well-made though many ruined and most sporting grass roofs. A couple of loose pigs rooted inside one of the huts, maybe looking for food, although there seemed to be plenty of grain for the chickens getting under our boots.


Rifle barrels swung back and forth as we apprehensively eyed each possible hideout. We paid attention to doorways and glassless windows as we trooped through the village. On a distant hill, we could see a large, more modern, American style home -- almost a mansion. Compared to the village, it looked incongruous in that primeval setting.


We plodded along for another mile or so, finally meeting an officer in a jeep coming from the other direction. As we stood, resting and restless, the two officers conversed. Finally the stranger left, going back to his own unit, I supposed.


"Spread out and dig in, gentlemen," our officer told us. "NCOs meet with me. We're to stay here tonight. I expect we'll go on up to the front tomorrow, so get a good sleep tonight."


We spread out to dig into soft soil, only as deep as we figured we had to in making two-man foxholes. I was paired with a guy named John, the wild one of my platoon. John was a constant complainer and maverick. I had to threaten him with a physical altercation to make him help dig. Even then, he didn't do his share.


Luckily our squad didn't have to stand guard duty, having only to help dig a latrine. Don't ask me why a latrine, what with all that empty land around us for one night. We could have crapped anywhere we wanted -- outside our nest, of course. In any case, it got us out of guard duty.


"Tom ... uh, cover for me, will ya? I gotta check out something. I'll be back by morning," John whispered.


"What the hell you talking about, idiot? We're lost in this damned jungle and you're probably hunting pussy?"


He looked at me, sheepishly.


"Na. Though I'd love to find some of that good squat. I wanna check out that house on the hill. I'll bet there are valuables, or at least souvenirs, there. If the officers ain't got there first."


"And get yourself killed if any slants are still there? That's what you'll do. Fuck if I'm gonna explain to the lieutenant."


"Come on, man. Ain't nobody gonna know. If anyone were there, the place would have been leveled already or flying our flag. I'll bet they're saving it for some command post or other, and that the owners left when we got here. Should be plenty of stuff to take ... as souvenirs."


I made a fateful decision, not the best in my life.


"I better go along. You might get in trouble and two rifles are better than one."


Since our digging of holes hadn't been supervised, and nobody knew who was where, we talked a buddy into taking over our hole. That way no sergeant would notice an empty one and sound an alarm. Hell, that part was easy. Who wouldn't like a roomy hole in the ground for their very own, and without digging? Maybe it was the chaos at the landing, but the normally by the book army hadn't even seen fit to hold a roll call since we landed.


Soon after dark, John and I left and proceeded to the nearest perimeter guard. All it took was setting up a password to get back in, and a promised share of any loot to get us out. We fairly strolled uphill toward the large house. Finding a paved driveway, we walked up it as though there wasn't any war on. I don't know why, but charismatic John seemed to instill confidence in me.


"Let's start upstairs and work our way down," John whispered, racking a round into the chamber of his new M1 rifle.


Doing the same with my weapon, fear returning with the loud "Snap" of the chamber closing, I followed him up a circular stairwell. At the top, John entered a room on our right. I did the same on the left side of a hallway.


A normal bedroom suite faced me, with familiar furnishings. There were a few personal items lying on a dresser, along with women's clothing in the drawers and on the rug. It had obviously been picked through and I couldn't find anything valuable. The other upstairs rooms were the same.


John, however, had found a bottle of liquor. It was quart-size and unopened. At least we thought it was booze, knowing so when John forced a cork out with his combat knife and took a taste.


"Probably nothing much to steal," he said, taking a swig. His cheeks puffed out as though about to spit it out. Swallowing, he laughed. "Good stuff. Kinda sweet though."


He passed me the bottle. We sat on the edge of the bed, talking and drinking, for awhile. Then took turns guarding as we each had an hour and a half nap before searching the downstairs. The atmosphere was that relaxing, seeming far from the wa, despite booming going on in the distance.


"Probably won't find much. Whoever lived here must have had time to pack," John repeated, waking me from my rest in a real bed.


We were halfway through the first floor when John stuck his head into yet another room. There seemed to be dozens of them and we'd found little to liberate so far. Only a small pile of items like liquor or wine and some useful items such as handkerchiefs, pocket knives, and the like. We stacked them on a table near the front door.


I remember standing at the kitchen sink, searching for anything useful in the way of opened bottles of cleaning supplies, when I heard I heard a scuffle in that other room. Surprising as it might seem, both our rifles were lying on the kitchen table.


A female yelp and John's cursing brought me to his aid, weapon extended. Inside, he had a woman under him on the floor, hands joined to hers as she flailed away, pinned down by his weight.


"Grab her legs," he said.


I did as asked. We had a thrashing wailing wildcat on our hands. Eventually our superior weight won out and she ended up trussed to a kitchen chair. As I tried to gag her with a dishrag, she managed to nip at my fingers until I sighed and gave up, letting her spout off in a foreign language.


"Now what the hell we gonna do?" I asked. "If we leave her here tied up, she might starve. We sure as hell can't take her with us, and leaving her untied is hardly an option. For all we know, she might have a gun stashed somewhere."


"Hey, Tom, don't sound so worried. I can handle it. Why don't you go on searching and leave us alone, uh?" He gave me a sly wink, patting the woman on the cheek from behind and bringing on more cursing. You don't have to understand the language to know swearing when you hear it. Of course, the spitting and angry eyes helped.


"Right. You ain't gonna hurt her, are you?"


"Na. I have a way with women. Give me a few minutes and I'll tame her."


"Don't take too long taming that wildcat. Remember, we have to be back before dawn."


"How can I forget it? Well, I know one way," he said, holding her head with one hand and bending down to her ear.


She made so much noise at that action that I hurried out of the room, not wanting to be a party to rape.


As it turned out, it took an anxious hour or so before John came out, a smile on his face. Otherwise ignoring me, he filled a glass of water from the tap and carried it back into what I figured was a death chamber by then. With all that had happened in the past couple of days, the thought of rape simply terrified me. The army hung you for that.


A few minutes later, the woman came out to the kitchen, where I still waited. Seemingly unconcerned, she smiled and filling a teakettle with water, proceeded to make tea.


What the hell? I remember thinking, was going on here? John came out a few minutes later, buckling his belt.


"Sorry. I had to take a dump," he said. "Hotsuko said she'd make tea for us before we left. This place belonged to a Kraut family. They moved inland when we landed."


All so damned unconcerned. Here I'd almost crapped my pants over that guy.


With all that activity at the house, we didn't make it back to camp until sunlight had begun spreading through the trees. And, of course, we found an empty campground. Even the latrine was filled in.


"Now what the hell we gonna do?" I asked, arms laden with loot and gifts from Hotsuko.


"No sweat. They must be up the road a ways, probably don't even know we're gone. No roll call or nothing. If they do know we're missing we can make up some excuse. We got lost on the beach? That should do it."


"And what about all this junk? We can't say we found it on the beach."


"Hide it somewhere, except for these and that and some booze." He held up a pair of pink panties, a gift from Hotsuko who, as it transpired, did speak a smattering of English.


We set out to find our company, somewhere up the road headed north. As we walked, we found ourselves back in the war. No snipers, thank God, but plenty of noisy shelling ahead, the sounds getting louder as we moved closer to the action.


Strings of ambulances raced past us toward the rear, several times -- forcing us off the road. It didn't look or sound good. Later, we did run into snipers. Two of them I think, since the shots came from either side of the road.


We left the paved surface to walk closer to sheltering trees. Even after proceeding for a couple of miles, we stayed within the trees and brush, not wanting to risk the road. We were two lone men with rifles, one wearing pink panties stretched over his helmet -- for luck.


We stopped when we heard someone say something indistinct in a loud voice. It was about noon at the time. Advancing and parting bushes with our hands, we saw a small encampment with a pot or something hanging over a small fire. A little Jap guy could be seen puttering around the campfire.


"Japs," I muttered, bringing up my rifle.


"Sheee, quiet," John answered. "Check them out. I see at least a half-dozen of the bastards." He turned to me. "Wait a while. They'll leave on their own."


"We have the drop on them."


"You want to die? Not me. We can wait and tell somebody later."


I was undecided. I'd joined the army to kill, not die. I knew my duty was to fight, only fear holding me back.


I looked closer, trying to count the enemy. That's when I noticed that three of the eight were Americans. Not only that, but ranking officers. They were wearing no insignia that I could see, but a GI soon learns that fitted and pressed uniforms mean the higher classes. Enlisted uniforms tend to be baggy and ill-fitting. Combat rank insignia is dark and hard to see, not shiny like in the rear.


"American officers. Obviously captives," I told John, who only shrugged, settling deeper into the bushes.


"Screw 'um."


"Well, I gotta do something and you damned better help."


"Screw you, too."


But he did pick up his rifle.


"You ease over to the right, while I take the left. We'll catch them in a crossfire," I told him. "Wait for me to start it."


I did as I said, moving about twenty-feet in the next fifteen-minutes, afraid at every step that I'd be seen. Getting into position behind a tree, I looked over at the enemy, by then engaged in drinking from small cups -- maybe tea? A couple were eating, no doubt the equivalent of our combat rations. The captives sat on the ground nearby, hands behind their backs.

Ignoring my orders, John started the action.


A shot rang out and I could see one of the Japs fall, right into the fire. The action scattered coals and ashes, helping to shock the others. For a couple of minutes that seemed like an hour, we fired into the camp, trying to hit anything that moved and wasn't an American. The enemy did get a few shots off, but their single-shot bolt-action Arisaka rifles were no match for our semi-auto M1s. We knocked them down like rabbits.


A bullet hit my helmet, spinning it around like a top, with hot lead zipping around inside until it found an exit. I picked myself up, blood covering my face and dripping down my chin. In the heat of action, I hardly noticed.


When the dust cleared and I'd fired several eight-round strip-clips -- some while almost blinded by my own blood -- there was a sudden quiet in the camp. The captives were prone, trying to wish themselves underground, I thought. It's what I would have done.


I hastily loaded another strip-clip into my magazine, rapidly moving my thumb out of the way and hearing a "snap" as the first round chambered. Rising, I moved cautiously toward the campsite while wiping blood from my face with a sleeve.


"American. American," the oldest captive shouted, even before seeing me. He held the fear, not me.


It didn't take long for me to cut leather straps holding their arms across their backs. Stretching, they thanked me profusely.


It wasn't until then that I noticed John hadn't joined us. It took me a few minutes to search, finally finding him by a glint of pink in the bushes. If it stood out that much to me, it must have been the same to the Japs, was what I figured. Especially when I saw he'd been shot in the crotch. Not his, but the crotch of the pink panties on his head. The bullet went through soft cloth, into hard metal, and scrambled softer brains. The idiot. Was it Hotsuko's revenge? I wondered.


I don't know what happened after that. Lose of blood and probably shock caused me to lose consciousness. Later, I woke on a hospital ship, having a metal plate in my head, a silver star for valor, and a million dollar wound. One that guaranteed a trip home and pension for life....




Tom is jerked back to the present by a nudge from Hector, now full of water and wanting to get back home. That's the way war is, he reflects, filled with fear, danger, inconsistencies, and chance. Chaos.


He's tired, but knows the cart is too heavy to take his weight and poor Hector doesn't deserve to have to carry it. So he walks back beside the cart, the sound of sloshing water and bumping of metal cans accompanying the two as the cart rolls over humps in the soil.


When close to home, Tom can see the top of a tall tower in the distance. They're always trying out new weapons and defense systems, Tom knows, so the tower doesn't bother him. He's seen some very strange aircraft in the past, one that looked like a flying wing only, no fuselage at all. Another had been very fast, a trail of fire shooting out of the rear. Nothing much surprised him anymore. Besides, he figured, it's probably only a new kind of radar or radio tower.


Unhitching Hector near a deep hole he's dug in the ground, Tom takes time to unload the wagon, stacking his water supply into cool underground dimness. He then goes into his shack which, half underground itself, is twenty degrees cooler than outside.


Tired from the walking and heat, Tom undresses completely -- no reason for modesty in that temperature -- and lies down on a surplus army cot for a nap. While sleeping, his mind returns -- as it often does -- to the war.…




When he left the hospital, a civilian again, Tom caught a train to his home town in New Mexico, anxious to find his wife and child, Sugarbabe.


Tom carried the lucky rubber ducky as he walked quickly up to the front porch of his home. He didn't wait to knock, simply dropping a duffelbag onto the wooden surface and shoving open the door.


Thinking to surprise his wife, he hurriedly checked the ground floor, room by room, before racing upstairs. He found her in bed with a stranger, the two entwined as though man and wife, the smell of sweaty sex filling the air of the closed room. There was one other important difference. They were both women.


One hand still on the doorknob, the other reaching as though in supplication, with shoulder resting on a door-frame, Tom could only stare -- trying to think. He tried to understand, even as the two slept on, unaffected by his grief. Vaguely, he recognized a friend of his wife's from her work -- but only vaguely.


Tears dripping down reddened cheeks, Tom stepped back and closed the door ... silently. He had to have time to think, to organize a wildly tumbling mind. His natural inclination was to raise hell, but what would that accomplish? Nothing. Of course he couldn't stay, not with "that" in his home.


Forcing himself to his feet from where he slouched on the top step of the porch, he went back inside to look for Sugarbabe, his daughter. Tom found her room empty, not even a bed. It was being used for storage. She wasn't in the house.


When had that shit started? Tom wondered. He'd only been gone for a year or so, a good part of that in training -- where he could come home on pass every other weekend. The battle for Okinawa had been his first overseas assignment.


Tom didn't trust himself to wait and accost his wife. He knew that, in his state of mind, he might kill them both. Instead, almost in a daze, he slunk down off the porch. Searching through his canvas duffelbag, he left Sugarbabe's rubber ducky on the kitchen table, shouldered his bag and left....


Eventually, Tom ended on the range, a hermit, rejecting life and its attendant problems. Now alone with only a mule to talk to ... and his memories. Maybe someday, he thinks, he might go home. Maybe, or maybe not. He hasn't talked to his wife since, only sending money to the child -- and that in care of a lawyer in order to make certain Sugarbabe gets it.




"All clear, Professor Oppenheimer, all systems are go. General Groves is only waiting for a final clearance for intruders and trespassers. He'll start the countdown soon," Colonel Tratski tells the scientist.


The colonel has to look up from where he sits at a gray army field desk, headphones connected to a field radio on its metal surface. A loudspeaker is wired across the room and can, with the flick of a switch, be patched through to the radio.


Anxious witnesses stand on a low platform, peering through thick glass set into a concrete wall at a tower in the distance.


Although the others are chattering away, the professor stands, dejectedly thinking of the horror he'll be instrumental in releasing. The supposed fact that it might save hundreds of thousands of Allied lives only partially mitigates his responsibility.


To the rest of them, it is only another strange new weapon, one of many they've seen in the last few years. To Professor Oppenheimer, it is a devil he's unleashing onto the world, one that might go down in infamy.


"Ten ... nine." A loudspeaker quiets the room, all eyes going to a thick, darkened, glassed over slit in the wall of the bunker. They stare at a tower framed by white clouds and noonday sun. They're anxiously waiting to see if years of work and the expenditure of millions of dollars has been in vain.


"Eight ... seven." Tom rolls out of his bunk, mind filled with an unexplained premonition. He starts for his open doorway, no door needed in his isolation.


"Six ... five." Three-dozen fingers cross in the heat of the bunker. Eyes can't help blinking.


"Four ... three." Tom steps outside, walking over to Hector. The mule’s flanks are quivering as it stares at that strange tower. Tom can't help his own eyes swinging that way, an odd fear filling his heart.


"Two ... one.... Zero."


The End.

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