Quarry Stockade a Play by Herman Arsham
Quarry Stockade, A Play by Herman Arsham
Herman Arsham, our father, was the third of four children born to Russian Jewish immigrants in the Bronx, New York. He was born with very limited eye-sight and wore “bottle bottom” glasses from the time he was about two years old. When he was thinking about marrying our mother he first asked his family doctor what were his chances of being drafted. The doctor said “with your eyesight, no chance.” He married our mother and was drafted about a week later.
Although he did not enlist voluntarily, our father seems to have been one of those men who “found himself in the Army.” It was in the Army that I think he first began to realize that he had both better-than-average intelligence and leadership potential. From basic training he went to Officers Candidates School and shipped off to Belfast as a First Lieutenant. Following his World War II service he remained first on active duty at various bases throughout the USA and then in the Army Reserves, eventually retiring as a Major in 1971.
During his World War II service one of his assignments was as a commander of a prison camp for German POW’s. Because Yiddish was his first language he could speak and understand a lot of German. During his time as stockade commander he must have had some idea that his extended family members who had remained in Russia had perished in the Holocaust. Nonetheless, most of his stories about this experience centered upon his efforts to treat his prisoners with all possible fairness and decency.
Once he returned to the States he began but never finished writing a play about his experiences in post D-Day France. When he and our mother passed away in 2003, I found both handwritten and typewritten drafts among his effects. Of course I kept them, but it was not until late 2015 that I read and transcribed all the drafts. The resulting manuscript is 99% our father’s own words. I had to take a few educated guesses about sequencing and about some hand-written passages that were not fully legible. The footnotes are mine, and the dates, places, and events all seem to cohere pretty well from a historical perspective.
“Rear Echelon” was his alternative title for the play. And although he was rear echelon, largely due to his eye-sight, our father wound up very close to the Battle of the Bulge in which more American lives were lost than during the Normandy invasion. It must have been very nerve-wracking to guard over 600 prisoners with just a handful of men with German planes (“Bedcheck Charlie”) appearing several times daily, and news reports indicating that his position was directly in the path of the Ardennes counter-offensive.
Although he captures some of this tension, there is not much of a narrative arc to the play. We can only guess how it turns out. There was one fragmentary scene of “Lieutenant Austin” facing disciplinary proceedings following the confrontation with Captain Jones with which this draft ends, but it is so sketchy and inconclusive I decided not to retain it. I am not sure this would work well as an actual stage play, with very brief intervals of action and dialogue taking place on expansive, multi-level sets. It is probably better read than viewed.
I think it is a faithful recounting of some of our father’s most memorable World War II experiences. He did tell us some of these stories, like the one about the little French boy who sings for candy and cigarettes, and it feels real to me. It communicates an un-glamorized sense of war as a series of tedious and annoying events punctuated by moments of sheer terror. As a civil service worker in New York City government, I also got a familiar sense of the US Army as a large, sometimes dysfunctional government bureaucracy which managers must learn to navigate through trial-and-error.
Prior to the events described here my father had barely ever left the Bronx. His own parents had both died relatively young some years earlier, and they never got a chance to see how honorably their son served America, the “Golden Land” in which they had found freedom from tyranny and hatred. He faced these challenges with dignity and bravery and we are very proud of his service. This play may not be great literature, but it is a true-to-life account of how ordinary men like our father saved the world from fascism, and I hope it may receive the respectful attention that it deserves.
Characters in Order of Appearance:
POW / Interpreter
Act 1, Scene 1, Time 6 P.M., December 1944
The play opens in the orderly room of the Stockade Commander of the Quarry German POW Stockade. The headquarters is under the railroad bridge, a few yards to the right. In front of it run the cable cars belonging to the quarry. From the left hand window can be seen five or six flights of steep stone steps at the top of which the sentry can be seen as he paces. On the right can be seen the tent quartering the Negro guards. The HQ is made of cement. Inside on the left is a desk, and back against the wall is an army cot on top of which is a bedding roll. In the middle of the small room is a wood and coal burning stove with its high pipe. To the right is another cot.
As the curtain rises a Captain is seen lying down on his cot smoking and reading a report. A disheveled man, a German POW who acts as his interpreter, enters hurriedly, bows to the Captain, clicks his heels and quickly builds a fire. He sweeps up the room and cleans out the officer’s ash tray. Again he faces the officer, clicks his heels smartly, and asks:
POW / Interpreter: Will there be anything else Captain?
Captain Jones: (Handing man a cigarette) No. That’s all. Be sure you get down here at 7 A.M. tomorrow and get me some hot water and get the fire going.
(POW / Interpreter exits and salutes incoming Negro Sergeant Burkett, entering. Sergeant Burkett is tall, handsome and rather sad, belying his snappy uniform.)
Sergeant Burkett: Sir, there’s a Lieutenant on his way here from Verdun. Could be your relief.
Captain Jones: Well, Sergeant I guess that means I go back to Paris. I’ll sure be glad to get back to a lively town. This place has put me to sleep. Are you men staying on?
Sergeant Burkett: No sir. I hear tell we are to rejoin the company and we’ll be together for the first time since we left England (Sergeant exits)
(Lieutenant Austin enters. He is short, wears glasses, carries a lot of baggage and looks travel-worn. He straightens up and reports to Captain.)
Lieutenant Austin: Lieutenant Austin reporting, sir! With one Corporal. Here are our orders Captain.
Captain Jones: Glad to see you Lieutenant. Did you just get in from Verdun?
Lieutenant Austin: No sir. I was in charge of Bellicourt (1) Stockade, a lousy mud-hole. I’m glad to be rid of it.
Captain Jones: (Reading) Just a minute, I want to finish this page. What outfit you with? Oh yes, QM Labor (2). How’d you get so muddy?
Lieutenant Austin: Rode in an open jeep next to the driver
Captain Jones: It’s hell to be a Lieutenant.
Lieutenant Austin: I was assigned to Northern Ireland, but our Base Section broke up and I became surplus.
Captain Jones: Well we can use you Lieutenant. This unit is part of a larger command. My Colonel is in charge of all eight German POW stockades. I know about Bellicourt Stockade – 3,000 POW’s mostly living in hospital tents in mud up to their knees. Many of them are sick and can’t work, but we got to get them on those work details. The one at night is a bitch. They have to load five-gallon cans of gasoline on railroad cars. It gets cold at night and we have trouble getting together enough POW’s to handle the work. (Lieutenant Austin looks uncomfortable) We’ve had problems in Quarry Stockade. We had a Second Lieutenant who fell in love with a French woman, the quarry owner’s wife. We had to transfer him out. We had a German-loving Sergeant who sang songs with the POW’s and slept in their stockade.
Lieutenant Austin (looking uncomfortable and annoyed): Captain, do you mind if I sit down now?
Captain Jones: Not at all. What’s the trouble? You do look like hell! Why the heck don’t you use your head? You didn’t have to report to my office the instant you got here. Why the hell didn’t you get washed up first, have some coffee, then report? Wouldn’t that have been smart?
Lieutenant Austin (shrugging): Sorry sir, no excuse. (Pulls up desk chair and sits)
Captain Jones: Alright Lieutenant, take it easy. I probably did the same thing myself when I was a Lieutenant. (Under his breath) What’s this Army coming to?
Lieutenant Austin: How many POW’s do you have sir?
Captain Jones: (Reading) As of today’s Morning Report six-hundred able, forty sick, and forty NCO’s who are not required to work. Six-hundred and eighty POW’s in all. This is the set-up. The Engineers down the road operate the Quarry. We supply the labor to them. We do the feeding, housing, and guarding. You have thirty Negro guards with no weapons other than rifles. They will probably move out at any hour, but you’ll get at least five immediate replacements for your first guard shift. Your POW’s are housed in four hospital tents and in a damp air raid shelter from which we are trying to move them at the request of the Colonel. The Quarry belongs to an old Frenchman whose office is across the road. He’s got a young wife that’s a beaut. But stay away. You can’t get near her. You get your coal and hot water supply through him.
Lieutenant Austin: How many guard posts do you have Captain?
Captain Jones: Five, all stationery.
Lieutenant Austin: Any barbed wire?
Captain Jones: No. These POW’s have had enough of war. They just want a place to sleep and bread and potatoes for the duration. Don’t worry about them.
Lieutenant Austin: I had seven escape from Bellicourt which got me a reprimand through channels from General Bradley’s Headquarters. What’s up on top of the Quarry?
Captain: A small ack-ack (3) unit.
Lieutenant Austin: Any air activity?
Captain Jones: A little now and then. Bedcheck Charlie (4) is always a nuisance
Lieutenant Austin: Any escapes?
Captain Jones: Only five or six but they were recaptured. Here comes the next shift Lieutenant. I am turning everything over to you.
(Sergeant Burkett re-enters with five other guards)
Captain Jones: Sergeant, your new CO (Sergeant salutes smartly)
Lieutenant Austin (Stands and returns salute): Sergeant, order your men to present arms for inspection. (Goes from man to man, makes comments): Weapons need a bit of oil and polish, shoes need shining. As you were.
Lieutenant Austin: Sergeant, why is your crew so quiet and sad? Any Bronx men here?
Sergeant Burkett: I am, sir.
Lieutenant Austin: Well I am too
Sergeant Burkett: Sir, I’m a man. I don’t complain. I’ll tell you this though, these Germans think we’re stupid but I know what schvartze means.
(Corporal Linaro enters. He is heavy-set, flush faced, hoarse voice.)
Corporal Linaro: Lieutenant, there’s a jeep waiting outside to take the Captain.
Captain Jones: Good luck. Paris here I come.
Corporal Linaro: Lieutenant, it’s going to be cold and damp here with the cement floor.
Lieutenant Austin: OK Liney, take the cot near the stove. Looks like we got a better set-up than Bellicourt. Better than sleeping in a box car. How about getting set up here? I want to go above to look over the guard posts and the stockade. We’ve got over six-hundred POW’s but these ones pound rocks and we won’t have to worry about escapes. They like it here.
Corporal Linaro (sagely): Don’t trust those heinies Lieutenant. They’re two-faced. They’ll bow and act nice but you never know what they think.
Lieutenant Austin: I’m also going up the road to see the Engineers. I’ll be back around 8 o’clock.
Corporal Linaro: I’ll make chow. I got some potatoes and some spaghetti from home.
Lieutenant Austin: OK. I’ll throw in some cognac and we’ll have a house warming.
(1) Bellicourt is a commune in the department of Aisne in Picardy in northern France.
It lies on the N44 road between Cambrai and Saint-Quentin and over the principal tunnel of the St. Quentin Canal. It was the site of numerous intense combat actions and battles during World War I.
(3) Ack-Ack: Anti-aircraft artillery
(4) Bedcheck Charlie was well known to US troops in Europe, when lone German planes appeared over their lines in late afternoon/evenings.
Act 1, Scene 2: A little later, at the Engineer Headquarters
A barracks-type wooden house, probably put together by the Engineers to resemble a training barracks. The Officers’ Room is seen as you enter. There are four or five cots in the corners of the room, a fairly large table that can seat about eight in the center of the room.
Lieutenant Austin (enters and speaks): I’m Lieutenant Austin. I’m the new stockade commander of the Quarry.
Captain Williston: Howdy. Meet Lieutenant Baird and Lieutenant Mooney. Pull up a chair and have chow with us. Henderson, set up another plate.
Lieutenant Austin: Oh thanks. I left my Corporal. Okay to send one of your men with a message for him not to wait for me with chow? Thanks.
Captain Williston: Your Corporal will have to eat downstairs, or with the ack-ack crew.
Corporal Henderson (to Lieutenant Austin): Here we are sir, baked beans and roast beef.
Lieutenant Baird: I don’t want to have any trouble with you. That Captain gave us a hard time. Didn’t like the way our men chased the prisoners. Your guards are pretty sloppy and I’ll have to come around and give them a little brushing up.
Lieutenant Austin: (Inaudible – starts to respond to Lieutenant Baird but then stops and says) What do you fellows do for excitement? (noise of planes and trucks outside) You fellows play cards?
Captain Williston: Finish up and we’ll play some poker. Outside of Pierre that’s our main form of entertainment. He’s a French boy. You’ll see him soon.
(They play cards. As they play, the radio gives an account of the latest war news. First reports of Von Rundstedt’s (5) drive are beginning to come through. Bing Crosby sings “White Christmas.”)
(Little Pierre enters. He is a red-cheeked boy of 7 or 8. Over his regular clothes he wears a girl’s dress for extra warmth. He is in very good spirits.)
Little Pierre: Bon ca va. How do you do?
All: Good evening.
Little Pierre: Please, do you have a cigarette for Papa?
Lieutenant Baird: How about chocolat for sister?
Lieutenant Austin: Comment ans avez vous?
Little Pierre: Neuf
Lieutenant Austin: Voulez-vous chanter Le Marseillaise ?
Little Pierre: (Sings the French national anthem with spirit and the American officers’ attention is now centered on his singing): Formez vos bataillons…
(At this point the ack-ack weapons above the quarry open up and the wooden barracks reverberates with the ear-splitting sound.)
Little Pierre: (Stops singing, hastily excuses himself and exits with the exclamation) Ah! Bonjour!
The drone of planes sounds overhead and the ack-ack fire continues. It is all over in a little while. Lieutenant Austin excuses himself from the card game)
(5) Field Marshal Karl Rudolf Gerd von Rundstedt (1875-1953), the senior German field commander in World War II, directed the German war effort on the Western front from 1942 to 1945. After the Allied landing on June 6, 1944, Rundstedt withdrew German troops to the Seine River, which brought his dismissal and replacement. After his successor failed to reverse the situation and committed suicide, Rundstedt once again returned to the position of commander in chief in the West. In the following months he oversaw the declining fortunes of the German defense and watched with great consternation as the Third Reich’s last counter-offensive, the Ardennes offensive (Battle of the Bulge), failed.
Act 2, Scene 1
At the Quarry, the following morning. The POW camp consists of hospital tents and an air raid shelter at the lower part of a rock incline. To the right is a stone quarry. Around the stockade is a barbed wire enclosure. There are seven sentry berths – six around the enclosure and one above the air raid shelter. There is a small office or check-point to the left of the stage. It is dawn – a whistle blows and you hear voices inside the tents – but one louder and authoritative voice barks “Achtung!” An American GI with a carbine slung over his shoulder takes the POW’s report.
Sergeant Carter: Alright Fritz, get these boys out a little faster next time. We got lots of work details to cover.
POW Fritz: Sergeant it is very cold and the men couldn’t get up.
Sergeant Carter: Next time you boys are late, no breakfast. Tell them that. Now call out your details and those men will eat first. Those not on work details will be last on line.
POW Fritz: Jawohl.
(Calls out details, and from many a few are chosen. American guards arrive with vehicles and report for prisoner work details. Lieutenant Austin emerges from office. He is tired-looking, eyes red.)
Sergeant Carter (saluting): Good morning Lieutenant. Sure cold today. It’s gonna be tough to guard these POW’s on the rock pile.
Lieutenant Austin: Just instruct your men to keep a sharp eye on these prisoners. Word has come down that the enemy troops are on the offensive. There are supposed to be many Germans disguised as GI’s. (6) Make sure that the POW’s don’t contact anybody.
Sergeant Carter: Yes sir! Only one thing, we’re short of guards…
Lieutenant Austin: I’ll contact your platoon leader. Lieutenant King, isn’t it? (Speaking into field telephone) 21st Engineers? Lieutenant King, Lieutenant Austin speaking, Commander of Quarry Stockade…You are using a lot of POW’s on the quarry. Suggest using additional guards…These POW’s are your responsibility once they leave the stockade. If any escape it’s your neck…Four guards? I’ve got seven posts now. What’s your Date of Rank Lieutenant? Sorry, I out-rank you. I have to keep seven guards. I’ll take the responsibility. I can’t jeopardize the lives of four guards, my Corporal, and myself just because your Captain decided at this time to consolidate his company. Things are happening around here. I can’t let myself be caught with my pants down.
(Sounds of more air activity)
Sergeant Carter: Sir, we’ve got wire strung. Your guards should stay outside the wire. If they see or hear anything between the kill zone rows of wire they should be instructed to shoot and ask questions later. I saw those ack-ack boys above; they’ll fire two rapid shots if they need help. What a lousy position we’re in, a perfect drop zone for German paratroopers.
Lieutenant Austin: I can get some more wire tomorrow morning, also a machine gun. We’re having a little air activity.
Sergeant Carter: Better not wait until morning. The situation is getting worse. We’ve got to work fast.
Lieutenant Austin: Goddam it, I know the situation is serious. I only got here yesterday. I have four guards for 600 POW’s, no enclosures, no vehicles, just the best wishes of the Major. Do you have a truck I can use? I’ll get wire if I have to steal it and I may get a machine gun if I can get my C.O. off his ass.
(Corporal Linaro enters, carrying an issue of “Stars and Stripes.”)
Lieutenant Austin: Corporal, put that away. Do you want the POW’s to know the news? What are you doing?
Corporal Linaro (disgusted): Sir, we’ve got air activity and the POW’s won’t douse their lights.
Lieutenant Austin: Sergeant, double the guard. Fire a warning shot in the air and if they don’t douse those lights shoot at the tents. Liney, grab your helmet and let’s go above. We’ve got to get some more barbed wire. On a foggy night our guards won’t be able to see a thing.
(In the meantime the planes have returned and ack-ack fire is heard again. One of the planes is heard to have motor trouble. It has been hit. The pilot tries to right himself but cannot. The plane plummets to earth with a crash and blazes. It becomes a crematorium for its occupants. No-one has time to inspect the crash site in the hectic events that follow. More sounds are heard from off-stage, and as they come closer they are heard more distinctly.)
Two Guards (breathlessly): Help! Help! There! There!
Lieutenant Austin: Calm down soldier. What’s the trouble?
Guard: Sir, some prisoners are running that way!
Lieutenant Austin: How many? Are you sure you saw this? Couldn’t have been a rock falling? Why the hell are you running away from the noise? You should be running towards it. Sergeant Carter, we’ve got to count the POW’s. (Aside to Corporal Linaro) The Major will sure raise hell about this. Wake up the prisoners. I want them counted immediately. Sergeant, I want a report within an hour. Call out the rest of the guard. I don’t want any gasoline fires. No sitting down. Keep moving. No congregating on duty, understand?
(A truck drives up with two squads of paratroopers. Lieutenant Mooney steps down and shakes hands with Lieutenant Austin.)
Lieutenant Mooney: We’re up here to reinforce you. The situation is grim. Von Rundstedt’s troops have broken through, our forces are retreating.
Lieutenant Austin (to Corporal Linaro): Corporal go back to town to try and get some concertina wire to better protect the stockade. There are only five sentry boxes around the tents, on a dark night it would be a simple matter for them to stage a mass escape. Besides, the POW’s have been getting too friendly with the guards.
(Airborne Lieutenant and his Sergeant enter)
Airborne Lieutenant: Lieutenant, I’ve brought two squads of men to patrol the stockade, the railroad bridge, and the narrow bridge across the Meuse River (7). We have French guards watching the bridge from across the road, and the Engineers are mining the road itself. The Germans are on the other side of the Meuse. If they try to cross the bridge we’ll blow it up.
Lieutenant Austin: OK Lieutenant. I don’t have any quarters for your men. You and your Sergeant can sleep here. I sent my Corporal for a truckload of concertina wire and a 50 caliber machine gun. Those guys at HQ are crazy. They haven’t heard anything about German troops around here. They had an air attack at the Citadel in Verdun (8) so they’re thinking that everything is happening to them and nothing up here.
(The situation is tense. The men do not know it at the time, but the Battle of the Bulge has begun (9))
(6) Operation Greif (German: Unternehmen Greif, meaning “Griffin”) was a special false flag operation commanded by Waffen-SS commando Otto Skorzeny during the Battle of the Bulge in World War II. The operation was the brainchild of Adolf Hitler, and its purpose was to capture one or more of the bridges over the Meuse river before they could be destroyed. German soldiers, wearing captured British and US Army uniforms and using captured Allied vehicles, were to cause confusion in the rear of the Allied lines. A lack of vehicles, uniforms, and equipment limited the operation and it never achieved its original aim of securing the Meuse bridges
(7) The Meuse is a major European river, rising in France and flowing through Belgium and the Netherlands before draining into the North Sea. The Meuse and its crossings were a key objective of the last major German World War II counter-offensive on the Western Front, the Battle of the Bulge (Battle of the Ardennes) in the winter of 1944/45.
(8) During World War II, in September 1944, the Citadel fortress at Verdun was heavily bombed by the Germans after its liberation by American forces.
(9) The Battle of the Bulge (16 December 1944 – 25 January 1945) was a major German offensive campaign launched through the densely forested Ardennes region of Wallonia in Belgium, France, and Luxembourg on the Western Front toward the end of World War II in Europe. The surprise attack caught the Allied forces completely off guard. United States forces bore the brunt of the attack and incurred their highest casualties for any operation during the war. The battle also severely depleted Germany’s armored forces on the western front which Germany was largely unable to replace. German personnel and Luftwaffe aircraft also sustained heavy losses.
Act 2, Scene 2
Later that evening, Lieutenant Austin is alone in his quarters, writing and speaking out loud as he writes.
Lieutenant Austin: Dearest darling, a new command has been given me today. I cannot tell you where, what, or even why. Suffice it to say that it will keep me busy until the next tour of duty, as they say in the Army. I’m glad I’ll be busy as that will cause the days to move swiftly and make our long-awaited reunion move closer and closer until we can be together again – happy day.
Act 2, Scene 3
Also that evening, inside one of the POW tents. Several POW’s stand talking in a circle.
POW 1: It is time to plan to escape. Field Marshall Von Rundstedt is moving in this direction. The Americans are frightened. This is our chance to help the Vaterland.
POW 2: Alas, we have lost the war. Hitler is insane. We cannot win.
POW 1: You pig (strikes POW 2) I ought to kill you. Let us have an election and choose a new leader. The Lieutenant will be surprised when we tell him tomorrow.
Act 3, Scene 1
Lieutenant Austin and Corporal Linaro are at the Quarry the following morning.
Corporal Linaro: Lieutenant, there were no POW’s missing. Those guards must have heard a rock falling. There’s trouble though, the prisoners had an election and picked out a new lagerfuhrer (10) and seven other non-coms.
Lieutenant Austin: What? Why didn’t you report that right away? Get those eight POW’s down here immediately.
Corporal Linaro: I didn’t know…
(Linaro exits stage, returns with POW’s)
Lieutenant Austin: Why didn’t you tell me about it before holding an election? You nervy bastards. Do you know what’s going to happen now? I’m sending all of you back to the Central Enclosure. I understand your flyers have dropped bombs on their own troops.
POW 1 (confused, with accent): I do not understand… Sir, according to the Geneva Convention the non-coms in charge must be of the highest rank…
Lieutenant Austin: You’ll see what you’ve elected yourselves to. Stupid. Linaro, have the guards take them to Central Enclosure. I’m sending them back to Stenay (11)
Lieutenant Austin (Speaking into field telephone): Major, Lieutenant Austin reporting. The POW’s have had an election and put a new non-com in charge…I don’t like it either. Von Rundstedt is moving east and the stockade is likely in his path…In fact, it’s a perfect drop-zone for airborne troops… So they elected themselves right out of this soft life. I’m sending them back to Stenay…
Lieutenant Austin (to Corporal Linaro): Major has a machine gun in the company supply room. What a hell of a place for it. That son of a bitch doesn’t want to get it dirty but we need it.
(Noise heard from nearby. Two GI’s enter carrying a young blond POW whose head is bandaged.)
G.I.: Lieutenant he was working on the quarry and a big rock above him got loose and hit him square on the head.
Lieutenant Austin: Bring him into the office. Call the medics. You better get back to your posts at once.
Private: Sir, the Major sent me. You’ll get the machine gun. In the meantime here’s a belt of eight hand grenades (Places them near the injured POW.)
Lieutenant Austin: Tell the Major I need more concertina wire and I’m going to have to double the guard.
(Lieutenant Mooney enters)
Lieutenant Austin: Lieutenant here’s an injured POW. The medics are supposed to pick him up. He might be dead for all I know. Maybe you’d better take him to the medic.
Lieutenant Mooney: Hey, what the hell is he doing near those grenades?
Lieutenant Austin: I don’t know. My Major thought we’d need them so in the middle of everything he had them dumped them in here. Let’s get this guy to the medic. What do I do with these damn things – I don’t even know how to use them.
Lieutenant Mooney: Leave them with me. Keep him warm, don’t give him any liquids. The doctor is due here any minute.
Doctor: How do Lieutenant. I’ve had a hell of a job finding this place. I hope you don’t have any sick POW’s here.
Lieutenant Austin: We’ve got a POW who just had a rock fall on him. I think he’s got a fractured skull.
Doctor: I’ll go take a look at him. Do you want to tell your POW’s to get a sick call ready? You’ve got quite a few for such a small stockade.
Lieutenant Austin: Doc I thought you were supposed to hold a sick call every day?
Doctor: Oh well
Lieutenant Austin: How about the injured POW?
Doctor: Send him down to the hospital in Verdun.
Lieutenant Austin: Wait a minute Doc, I don’t have any vehicles. This man is your responsibility from the time you get here.
Lieutenant Mooney: Doc the Lieutenant is right. That man is seriously injured. If he dies you are responsible. We better run him right down to the hospital.
Lieutenant Austin: Thanks Lieutenant. Linaro, make an entry in the medical record.
(11) Stenay is a commune in the Meuse department in Lorraine in north-eastern France, site of another German POW stockade.
Act 3, Scene 2
Towards evening that same day, Lieutenant Austin, Corporal Linaro, and Sergeant Carter are at the Quarry
Corporal Linaro (excited): Sir, orders came from Captain Jones. He wants all 600 POW’s bathed tonight!
Sergeant Carter: The trucks refuse to come down to the tents. They claim the road is mined. The drivers will not take that chance. We’ll have to march the POW’s a hundred yards up the road.
Lieutenant Austin: The hell with that. I can’t risk bathing 600 POW’s with so few men to guard them. On a dark night anything can happen.
Sergeant Carter: Sir, the Captain wants these POW’s bathed. The schedule has been set up by the Colonel at HQ.
Lieutenant Austin: I’ll take responsibility. We are not marching these POW’s out. (On field telephone) Major, I know I’m going to get chewed out but this is not the night to bathe my POW’s
(Major’s voice can be heard on phone)
Major: What? Give me that again
Lieutenant Austin: All hell is breaking loose here and HQ wants the POW’s bathed. There are four trucks which refuse to drive right up to the stockade. They claim the roads are mined. I’d have to march the POW’s over 100 yards to the trucks on a dark night with less than ten guards. I’m not sending them out sir.
Major: I agree with you for once Lieutenant. Let the POW’s stay dirty. HQ sure has flipped. The Germans are counter-attacking and all we have to do is let 600 more of them loose. I’ll back you up.
Lieutenant Austin: Thanks Major
(Lieutenant Austin calls Captain Jones on field phone)
Lieutenant Austin: Captain Jones, Lieutenant Austin reporting
(Captain’s voice can be heard on phone)
Captain Jones: Where are the POW’s to be bathed?
Lieutenant Austin: I’m not sending them out Captain
Captain Jones: Why?
Lieutenant Austin: Because it’s a perfect opportunity for those of them that wish to escape
Captain Jones: What about your guards?
Lieutenant Austin: I have less than ten, but even a hundred wouldn’t help. It’s too dark to march them. Captain, I’ve already spoken to the Major and he agrees with me.
Captain Jones: You shouldn’t have called the Major. You’re out of line.
Lieutenant Austin: Captain, if any of the POW’s escape it’s my ass. I’d rather not bathe them than have them break out.
Captain Jones: Ah hell, they’re not going anywhere. They know the war is lost.
Lieutenant Austin: Captain, I’m in charge of the stockade and it’s my judgment that they stay dirty.
Captain Jones: Okay Lieutenant, I’ll have to report this to the Colonel and this will go on your rating.
Lieutenant Austin: Sorry Captain. (Puts away phone) Return the POW’s to the stockade.