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A Difficult Choice

Eugene Sand

    Eugene Sand was in a maintenance platoon in the 712th Tank Battalion.

©2000, 2009 Aaron Elson

    Eugene Sand, of Syracuse, Nebraska, was the driver of a tank recovery unit in the 712th Tank Battalion.

    You know, thereís one thing that sticks in my mind. Youíve heard the guys say about having nightmares and stuff like that. Well, Iíve never had any nightmares. I probably do a little more reminiscing now than I did for years and years after the war, and now Iíll find myself talking about the Army and the war to people that arenít really much interested in it, and I say, "Oh, well, Iím wasting my time with this guy." But thereís one thing that stuck in my mind, probably the first guy I ever saw get hit.

    As we were going with the recovery unit, we were supposed to go up for some reason, now that part I have forgot, but there were some infantry guys out there ahead of us. We were supposed to go through the infantry and pick up something. But an infantry guy said, "If I were you I wouldnít be going up there." There was a regular Caterpillar bulldozer in there someplace and why it was there I donít know, but it was just ahead of us, and that thing was blown to hell, and whatever got it was still up there. So we backed off to the side of the road a little bit, so that we werenít in plain view down that road, and we got out of the recovery unit and tried to discuss what we should do.

    I stayed quite close to the side of the recovery unit. We had cover on one side that way, and when I got to the rear of the tank, instead of just walking on past I looked around. There was one of these old hedgerows on the other side. There was no dirt bank; it was just a brush hedgerow that had been trimmed about shoulder high, and some kids from the Signal Corps were unrolling telephone wire just on the other side of that hedge fence. And probably as far as from here to that van that is setting out there, maybe not quite that far, a damn mortar shell landed right between the legs of one of them. It blew him up in the air, blew him over that fence and he landed in the road. He landed face down, and he was in such misery, I never heard anybody scream like that before. He was beating the ground with his elbows and his knees and he would raise his body up, and he was almost kind of making a circle.

    There were just a couple of infantry guys around there and us, and the thought that went through my mind was that somebody should just as well shoot him and put him out of his misery. This guy was in misery, you canít imagine. And I waited probably thirty seconds to see where the next mortar round goes, they always usually had a system they would use, they would cross them, and I thought, Iíve got a little cover here, Iíll probably wait a half a minute. And I couldnít believe it, here this old jeep comes buzzing up there, two medics jumped out of it, and we laid this guy on a stretcher, threw him on the back of that jeep, and one guy got back in to drive and the other one was strapping this guy down and giving him a morphine shot, and they got out of there in a hurry.

    Many times Iíve said, "Boy, I never was injured but I still was glad to see those medics show up when they did." Iíve always wondered, would I have shot that guy or wouldnít I?