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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Sometimes the Berserker Wins

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

For want of a better idea, one of the tales of my misspent youth. Do not copy this, or allow your children too.

Being of a bent to "jyne the infantry," I engaged in play which involved firing BB guns at my friends (while they would also fire at me). We wore "protection" (eye goggles and field jackets over bluejeans and boots, but needless to say that left hands . . . and throats . . . exposed. One of these little training exercises pitted two of us against the other two (actually, most of them were two-on-two affairs, but sometimes it was three-on-one, two-on-one, or three-on-two).

In this particular case, my buddy and I ran into the opposition in the woods. While we were trying to move up, my buddy was hit. The position of this hit meant he would play "wounded." Now he was between me and the enemy, in exposed ground. I was now outnumbered two-to-one, and my buddy was at the enemy's mercy (and one of the enemy had a notorious habit of not being merciful in our little group).

I had to rescue my buddy, so I burst from cover, laying down as thick a barrage of BBs as I could. Reaching my buddy, I grabbed him and dragged him back towards the log I had been using as cover, stopping every few seconds to lay down another barrage of BBs in the general direction of the enemy (if you can imagine that with a single shot BB gun that had to be cocked for each shot).

I made it back to the log, and began hauling my buddy over, and they got him. I heard the BB thwack into the center of his back. All my effort to save him gone for naught.

The reaction set in, and before "the enemy" could fathom what was happening I was back over the log, charging them, again laying down fire as fast as I could. Neither of them "survived" my berserk attack.

It was Hollywood, it was stupid (not just because we were firing BBs at each other). Something that would never happen in the real world. Except . . .

I have been reading a book about Omaha Beach, and a couple times in it scenes of that nature are described. American soldiers who were either trying to save a fellow soldier who was killed and going, essentially berserk and doing mass damage to the defending Germans. Or individuals who were themselves hit by enemy fire, and so enraged by the wound that they assaulted the German position and destroyed it.

I have no doubt that a great many men on that beach and in the fields just beyond it did similar things, but that only a few survived doing so. The numbers against such moves are always stacked against you. But sometimes the berserker will get through where a sane man would be killed.