"The Last Battle" was a story printed in the third issue of The Twilight Zone comic published by Gold Key.
When George Rogers undertook a perilous mission to retrieve reinforcements for his comrades pinned down by Nazi soldiers, he never could have guessed just where that help might come from...the Twilight Zone.
Cast of characters
- army captain
- army medic / corpsman
- army officer
- German soldiers (25)
- Roger's company (12)
- Roger's sergeant
- Sarge's company (9)
"In a desperate attempt to get help for his entrapped company, Pfc George Rogers is about to become part of the strangest rescue mission of World War II. Concussion from the exploding shell stuns the young soldier. Suddenly, an armed figure looms over him."
Story summaryIn the year 1944, American soldier George Rogers had become separated from his company, pinned down from enemy barrages. During an attempt to rejoin his men, he was knocked off of his feet by a bomb blast. As he tried to regain his senses, he heard a voice say, "Let's go, bucko. On your feet."
Rogers did not recognize the man, but he was dressed in an American uniform with the rank of sergeant, although something did not seem quite right about it to George. He assumed the helpful stranger must be some special type of troop sent in to help his company. The man shared that he thought Rogers was a Boche spy at first, but on a second look he recognized a fellow American. The passing soldier helped George to his feet and told him he would take him back to get first-aid at his camp.Rogers was taken back to a trench fortification where more men waited, dressed similar to the sergeant. Inside of the bunker, a medic and two senior officers sat around a table and looked over maps and diagrams. George Rogers saluted the men and introduced himself. Then he began to tell them how he had come to be separated from his men.
His division had shipped over from the United States to Cherbourg two weeks before, under the cover of night. Upon arrival, they were transported by truck to Belgium and given orders to relieve the unit on the frontline at Ardennes Forest. Rogers' company had been the first to move out. They arrived on the front on December 16 and began to dig in around a small farmhouse. The ground was rocky and the frigid weather had made the digging even more difficult. As a result they had hardly any cover when a squad of German tanks stormed out of the fog toward them and opened fire! Those that could had sought refuge inside the farmhouse.They had been safe there until later in the day, when German infantry was sent in to attack the survivors. The Americans were able to fend them off, using the house as cover. They realized the structure would not protect them forever but reinforcements could not be ordered because their radio no longer functioned. As time went on, the company suffered an onslaught of artillery fire, heavily damaging the building. Time was running out and they needed a plan.
After some contemplation, Pfc. George Rogers volunteered to sneak out after darkness fell to search for any of the other companies they had traveled in with. It was a risky move but Rogers knew that his men were in a desperate situation. His sergeant, the acting officer in command after his own superiors were wounded or killed, ordered him to forget the plan under threat of court-martial. Rogers was not willing to forget, however, and so when nightfall came he slipped away from the farmhouse on his rescue mission.
The surrounding forest was saturated with German soldiers, but Rogers carefully made his way around them all through the night. By the next morning the fog had begun to clear and he reached the end of the wooded area. Before him lay an open field. It was perilous, but he did not see any enemies in the area and so he began across the pasture. A loud blast tore through the air and the next thing George Rogers recalled was the kindly sergeant helping him to his feet.The men in the bunker were captivated by Rogers' story. They immediately offered to rescue his trapped allies and asked Rogers to lead the way. The shaken soldier was glad for the help, but the uniforms and gear of the men still did not seem quite right to him. The items appeared to be old and worn. When he mentioned this, the Captain comforted the private by stating, "Don't worry about that, son! We've been out of contact for a long time, but we're still a crack fighting outfit!" With that, he instructed the sergeant to outfit Rogers with a helmet, overcoat and a rifle in the ten minutes before they moved out.
As Rogers was equipped, the other men fixed bayonets to their rifles and talked excitedly about the mission. A soldier named Charlie remarked that he thought they might have been stuck there forever while another hoped that after this mission they might go to the "rest area." Rogers was puzzled but the Captain interjected before he had time to question the statement, instructing him to take the lead. When he agreed, the Captain rallied his troops with a speech about settling an old score with the Boche and this time doing the job right. With that, they charged back toward the farm.
The group neared the farmhouse under the cover of night and an eerie fog rolled in. Soon, Rogers and the Captain had been separated from the others in the thick fog. Suddenly, four German soldiers jumped out of the mist with guns pointed at the two Americans. The tide quickly turned, however, when the rest of Captain's troops caught up to them with their bayonets aimed at the Germans! Taking the prisoners to the rear of the line, they continued on to the farmhouse.From the woods, the men could see the house was again under bombardment. A whole German company had started to move in to remove the Americans one way or the other. As the German offensive continued, the attackers never noticed the group of armed men in an old-fashioned bayonet charge rapidly approaching them from behind until it was too late! The Germans were run off and the reinforcements continued to chase them off into the fog, as the stranded men in the farmhouse roared with cheers.
They waited for their rescuers to return to thank them properly but they did not come back! The sergeant ordered his men to search the perimeter, but they only found one wounded soldier left from the charge. It was Rogers! He was unconscious and mysteriously dressed in what appeared to be a World War I helmet and coat, just as their rescuers had worn! They would question Rogers when he awoke, but to his sergeant it appeared as if George Rogers had somehow summoned help from perhaps the only possible place it could be found...somewhere out of time.
"A battalion of American troops, cut off and massacred by the Germans in 1918, couldn't rest in peace until it avenged itself! Impossible, sergeant? Not in the Twilight Zone!"
Response and analysis
Notes and annotations
- Boche was a nickname used to refer to the Germans in a derogatory sense during World War I. It was considered a derogatory term, originating from the word caboche ("head" or "cabbage"). This, similar to the term Kraut which was used in World War II to refer to Germans in the same manner, is believed to derive from the diet popular in Germany at the time, namely cabbage and sauerkraut.
- Cherbourg is a port located in northwestern France, first created as a port by invading Vikings and later becoming a strategic location in later military conquests such as those of Napolean Boneparte. The site was even home to a sea battle of the American Civil War, when the Union ship, USS Kearsarge, sunk the Conderate raider, CSS Alabama on June 19, 1864. As referred to in the story, the port played a vital role in the preparation for the Normandy Invasion in World War II, acting as a landing site for Allied troops. On June 6, 1944, the American military began a campaign to capture the fortified port and were successful after three weeks of hard combat, on June 30.
- The Ardennes Offensive or Ardennes-Alsace campaign, lasting from December 16, 1944 toJanuary 25, 1945, was a major offensive of the German military commonly referred to as the Battle of the Bulge. The intention was to push through the Ardennes Mountains, a vast forested region of Belgium in an effort to split the Allied line, weakening the British and American defense. The mountainous terrain and thick forests have made the area a battleground of choice for European powers for several centuries. The area had already seen combat during World War II, when the Battle of France took place in 1940, which resulted in a German victory. Germany had again planned to use the strategic location to their advantage, to force the Allied forces to separate, allowing them to go on and capture Antwerp, Belgium and ultimately encircle the four amassed Allied armies. This virtual stranglehold, they hoped, would be reason enough to force the Western Allies to surrender. The city of Antwerp had become highly contested property due to its deep-water port, vital to the Allies for the swift delivery of larger vehicles and men and supplies in great numbers. An Allied victory in the Battle of the Scheldt (October 2, 1944–November 8, 1944) had allowed access to the port by November 28. Despite the victory, the Allies were unable to push forward with their plans to end the war by 1944, forcing them to spend the winter in Belgium and leading to the German Ardennes Offensive. Although the Germans were favored to win the battle, especially with the Allies' air forces grounded by poor weather, they were ultimately forced to retreat to the defences of the Siegfried Line with serious losses of men and equpiment. It was a crucial, yet costly victory for the Allied forces, with over 19,000 American soldiers and over 1,400 British soldiers killed.
- Pfc. Rudy Mello of "A" Company, 526th Armored Infantry Battalion, reported an experience he had on December 18, 1944 that much resembles the one Pfc. George Rogers and his company—also referred to as "A" Company—encountered upon entering Belgium:
"We left Chateau Grimonster and arrived in Stavelot [Belgium] between 5 and 6 am on December 18th and our squad was told to dig a fox hole on this small hill overlooking the Plaza or Town Square...To dig into that solid frozen ground was impossible, but it did not matter for with in minutes of digging we heard small arms fire behind us and the sound told us it was not our guns."
- No unit information is provided other than Rogers was a soldier in A Company. It could have been based on the one described above or any other Company A in the area at the time. For example, Company A of the 291st Engineer Combat Battalion was one of the first groups sent into Belgium to impede the German army's movement of heavy artillery and hinder their supply efforts by destroying bridges and other constructions, setting landmines, and creating and defending roadblocks.
- The group referred to as "The Lost Battalion" was comprised of nine units of the United States 77th Division, amounting to roughly 554 men. In October of 1918, the soldiers were isolated in the Argonne Forest by the German army during World War I. Attempts to contact their command were unsuccessful as every runner that was dispatched became lost or intercepted by the Germans. 194 of the men would ultimately be rescued, while nearly 197 troops were killed in action. The remainder, some 150 men, were deemed missing, possibly taken prisoner.
- The men of the Lost Battalion wore a model of the Brodie helmet, otherwise known as the M1917 or doughboy helmet, which was designed by John L. Brodie of London, England in 1915. The American military retired the Brodie in favor of the better protection offered by the M1 helmet. The M1 was a standard issue combat helmet developed by the United States for use in World War II. It would remain the default helmet for American soldiers until it was phased out during the 1980s for an improved design, the PASGT helmet.
- The soldiers were pictured using a vehicle that appeard to be a Landing Craft, Tank (LCT), an amphibious transport vehicle use to deliver personnel, gear, and vehicles to the shore. The LCTs had arrived on a ship, possibly a Landing Ship, Tank (LST), a large, ocean-going ship used to deliver tanks and other vehicles.
- Rogers is pictured in the story carrying what appears to be M1 Carbine, seen beside what seems to be a M1919 Browning machine gun, and is later equipped with what is likely the M1903 Springfield rifle, commonly equipped with a bayonet during World War I. The captain in the Lost Battalion appears to use a Colt M1911 pistol.
- The phrases shouted by Roger's Nazi captors, "Halte! Hande hoch!" roughly translate to "Halt! Hands high!" in German.
- Originally published in color
- Printed on newsprint, 11 pages
- Reprinted in Mystery Comics Digest 03
- George Rogers was from "A" Company.
- Identification tags on the amphibious troop transports (LCTs) from the ship the Americans arrived on include: EG, 70 and either 77, 22, or ZZ.
- World War I
- World War II
- "The 7th is Made Up of Phantoms", another story dealing with soldiers interacting in a war not of their own time
Notes and references
- ↑ Wikipedia contributors. "List of terms used for Germans." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Version: July 24, 2009. Retrieved: July 28, 2009.
- ↑ Wikipedia contributors. "CSS Alabama." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Version: July 28, 2009. Retrieved: July 28, 2009.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 Wikipedia contributors. "Battle of Cherbourg." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Version: July 5, 2009. Retrieved: July 28, 2009.
- ↑ Wikipedia contributors. "Cherbourg." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Version: July 19, 2009. Retrieved: July 28, 2009.
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 5.2 Wikipedia contributors. "Battle of the Bulge." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Version: July 28, 2009. Retrieved: July 28, 2009.
- ↑ Wikipedia contributors. "Ardennes." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Version: July 18, 2009. Retrieved: July 28, 2009.
- ↑ Wikipedia contributors. "Battle of the Scheldt." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Version: July 25, 2009. Retrieved: July 28, 2009.
- ↑ Wikipedia contributors. "History of Belgium#World War II." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Version: July 29, 2009. Retrieved: July 29, 2009.
- ↑ McCullough, David. (2005). American Experience - "The Battle of the Bulge". [Videotape].
- ↑ Rudy Mello. "Stavelot, December 18, 1944," January 17, 2006. Retrieved: July 28, 2009. Source.
- ↑ "Then, as the Germans neared a creek (the Lienne) a squad of Company A, 291st Engineer Combat Battalion, blew up the only bridge." Hugh M. Cole. The Ardennes: Battle of the Bulge, pg. 268, 1965. Office of the Chief of Military History, Washington DC.
- ↑ David E. Pergrin and Eric Hammel. First Across the Rhine:The 291st Engineer Combat Battalion in France, Belgium, and Germany, Zenith Press, 2006. ISBN 0760324085. Google Books overview.
- ↑ Wikipedia contributors. "Lost Battalion (World War I)." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Version: April 30, 2009. Retrieved: July 28, 2009.
- ↑ Wikipedia contributors. "Brodie helmet." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Version: July 27, 2009. Retrieved: July 28, 2009.
- ↑ Wikipedia contributors. "M1 Helmet." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Version: June 30, 2009. Retrieved: July 28, 2009.
- ↑ Wikipedia contributors. "Landing craft tank." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Version: April 11, 2009. Retrieved: July 28, 2009.
- ↑ Wikipedia contributors. "Landing Ship, Tank." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Version: July 14, 2009. Retrieved: July 28, 2009.
- ↑ Wikipedia contributors. "List of common World War II infantry weapons." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Version: July 19, 2009. Retrieved: July 28, 2009.
- ↑ Wikipedia contributors. "List of infantry weapons of World War I." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Version: July 19, 2009. Retrieved: July 28, 2009.
- ↑ Google Language Tools
- Bob Klein and Mike Tiefenbacher. "The Twilight Zone no 3 (1962 series)." Grand Comics Database. Retrieved: July 26, 2009.