“As I approached an opening on the right side of the hedgerow, I heard someone moaning. I came face to face with a young German paratrooper who had been hit by a large chunk of shrapnel. He had a very serious upper thigh wound, and his left trouser leg was bloody and torn. This was my first encounter with the enemy up close.
The German paratrooper is a fierce and fanatical warrior. Easily distinguishable by his round helmet and baggy smock. My first reaction was to put him out of his misery and keep going. I believe he knew what I was thinking. He begged tearfully, ‘Comrade, bitte!’ Which means, ‘Friend, please’.
He was an impressive looking young soldier around 19 years old. My age. He was as filthy as I was, with long, brown, stringy hair. I had always thought most German soldiers had short blonde hair. He had an athletic build, around 5 feet 10 inches tall, and a handsome face.
I suspended the promise I made at the beach about not taking any prisoners. I thought ‘That was then, and this is now’. I just couldn’t shoot a wounded human being at point-blank range. I made sure he didn’t have a weapon hidden on him, then I tied his belt around his upper thigh which stopped the blood from gushing. I gently swabbed the dirt from his wound and applied sulfur powder. His wince turned to a forced grin.
He was in pain, so I gave him a shot of morphine and a drink of water from my canteen. Then I let him have one of my Lucky Strike cigarettes and lit it for him. When I left he smiled weakly and said in guttural broken English, ‘Danke. God bless. Good luck…’
That changed my thinking about taking prisoners. I still hated the enemy, but I couldn’t kill one at close range. Especially if his hands were up. I sent one of our medics to finish what I had started. I hoped the German would recover and that his war was over.”
– John Robert Slaughter, US Army, June 1944.
As we always say here at Battles and Beers (TM) Every soldier has a story, and every story deserves to be told.