Memories of pancakes on a war-filled morning
It is about mid-April of 1945, and WWII is nearing its end. However, some bombs, bullets and shells are still flying around. My unit, the 19th Armored Infantry Battalion of the 14th Armored Division, has been chasing the retreating Germans around southern Germany for a couple of months. We would occupy a town for a few hours, or sometimes for a day or so, then move on or fight on to the next town.
This event happened in a very small town consisting of a dozen or so houses on both sides of an unpaved street. In a patch of mud at the entrance of this town lay a dud artillery shell 6 inches or more in diameter with tire tracks going around it on both sides.
We pulled in late one afternoon, and each squad with its halftrack was assigned a house to stay in. The German civilians had fled before we arrived, and we settled in for some rest and relaxation. The sounds of war could occasionally be heard in the distance, and it was a welcome change to be out of our vehicles for the night.
The next day, after a good night’s sleep indoors, some of us wrote letters, some played cards, or munched on C or K rations. I got tired of doing the usual, so ignoring the dangers of possible booby traps, I decided to explore the two vacant houses next to us. The first house was rather bare, but the second house at the corner had much to hold my interest. It appeared that the people who lived there had left in a real hurry. This farm-type two-story house was well furnished, and food and drink was in the cupboards and cooler. Since I could read a bit of German learned in high school in my home city of San Francisco, I started snooping around in the food supplies. Before long I found some pancake flour, eggs, butter and syrup.
The thought of eating something besides K rations was overpowering so I got busy. The kitchen stove was a wood burner, and the woodbox was full, so I carefully built a smokeless fire, put on the frying pan, and mixed my pancake batter. Soon I had a nice stack cooked up, was spreading on a liberal amount of butter and syrup, when the familiar sound of a large incoming artillery shell got my full attention. It cleared the roof of the house I was in and exploded in the front yard of the house my squad was in, two houses away. Its shrapnel slightly damaged our halftrack, and the concussion shook up the nearby houses.
By then I was under the table in the now-dusty kitchen, and now realized that my smokeless fire had smoked. The Germans were quick to reload, and the second shell demolished the attic of my pancake house, causing more dust and ceiling debris to fill the kitchen. The third and last big round demolished the second story, and collapsed the ceiling down onto the kitchen table. I was safe, but my pancakes were not, so I never got a taste.
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