Surrender! The German soldier was pointing his bayonet at me. He could have squeezed the trigger, I was waiting for it. The day before I was with my battalion working some hedges along the road, in the south of Bastle. I was near the back of the group and we was taking some small arms fire all day. We had taken out some of the enemy and we had lost a few of our own . This was getting to be quite normal around here and to be expected. I remember when in boot camp the leaders telling us to look around the room. He told us that only three guys in this group would survive this war. So I understood the odds of some of us getting killed on a regular basis was to be somewhat normal.
The battalion had settled for the night and our colonel told us that we would have to dig fox holes, two in a hole would guard our defensive positions. My buddy and I had dug for hours and the hole was of good size. The two of us jumped in and took our rifles and ammo that was needed. Jeff my buddy told me that he would be the first to guard and that I could kind of nap out if I wanted to. I replied no problem because I was very tired from walking the hedges all day. I dozed off and was dreaming of home. My mother’s home cooked thanksgiving dinner with all the fixing was on my mind. I was also dreaming of my girlfriend Rayleen who I hadn’t seen for over a year now. I must of been out for awhile and was jolted to my right shoulder. I woke up real fast to see my buddy Ray lying in a pool of blood and he was looking at me. Ray took his last breath and about the same time I heard a shot and it hit just to left of the fox hole with dirt flying all over the place. I jumped out of the way and my helmet fell off my head. I was scurrying about to get my helmet when I looked up and a soldier was telling me to surrender. Hands Up! I thought this was the last person I was going to see and he waved for me to get out of the hole.
The soldier brought me back to his placement and I was put into a chamber of total darkness. I was in a squatting position and after it seemed like two days, finally someone came to the door. A man speaking broken English told me that I am now a prisoner and that I had to talk to his leader about the atrocities I had done to his fellow soldiers and his country. I met with a portly man who also spoke broken English and he was a mean son of a gun. He asked what my name was and I wouldn’t tell him. The man punched me in the stomach, I thought I was going to die right there. He again asked me my name and rank. I still did not reply and this time he took a wooden stick and smashed my right knee. I fell to the ground and then he hit me over the head. I saw stars and then passed out.
I woke up back in the dark room as earlier but this time I was in so much pain. I couldn’t breath without serious pain. Many day and nights had gone by then the soldier came to the door. He gave me food and water, which seemed to bring me back to reality. He told me that I had to speak to this leader again. I was brought back to the portly man and again asked the question. Your name and rank. This time I was not a fool and told him my name. Richard Mulligen and my rank was a private. Mr. Mulligen, you have been bad to our soldiers and country. You are going to pay us back by working on our railroad system. You will need to be strong, we will provide you with food on a daily basis. You start this project tomorrow and will go early in the morning and come back here at night. It is not going to get you back to your country but you will become one of us.
Time went on and work was hard. Many of us captured was working the lines on the rail. I remember this day like it was yesterday. A United States fighter jet swooped down on this rail yard and starting shooting every soldier in sight. All of us hid in the hedges and when the jet was all done shooting we looked to our left and US Army tanks were coming in one right after another. One stopped in front of where I was hiding and the hatched opened up. The soldier hollered come on you rednecks get your assses over here. We all gathered and behind the tanks were trucks. We all loaded into the back like cattle and then we drove off. We came back to Fort Riley which was way back from the fire line and real far from the enemy camp that I was located. All of us soldiers got out of the truck and were brought back to a bunch of men cheering and clapping for us.
We were finally going home. After the record of men was taken, it was told that we spent 385 days at this prison camp. I had lost 68 pounds and didn’t even look like myself anymore. We were flow back to the states and when I got off the airplane there standing at the tarmac was my beautiful girlfriend Rayleen. It was the most beautiful thing in the world. We hugged for it seemed like hours and kissed.
I will never forget the boys that I was held captive with and I’m sure they will never forget me. All I can say is that war is painful. I still have the scars to prove it. My mind, my body, my soul have been etched forever. I have lived on and the American Flag has so much meaning.