Amazing Kids! Magazine

The Tunnel

By Brandon Guevara, age 10, Ventura

 

Thick smoke covered the beachhead as Paul tightly gripped his rifle. Through the deafening noise of bombs and mortars exploding, he heard the commanding officer shouting, “Fifteen seconds, I’ll see you on the beach. God be with you!” The cold water splashed onto his face as he tumbled over the side of the landing craft. Unexpectedly, memories of his last conversation with his family invaded his thoughts.

He was sitting in the living room with his parents listening to their favorite radio station as the broadcaster announced that Pearl Harbor had been attacked. “This is madness!” his father exclaimed. He stared wordlessly at his son Paul. Paul was 18, tall, thin, and quiet. He kept to himself most of the time. Although Paul was very patriotic, he had never considered enlisting in the army.

“Dad, I have no choice,” stated Paul.

“What do you mean?” his father asked.

“I have to enlist,” Paul said with a sigh. “I can’t stay here in the comfort of my home when I could be fighting for my country.”

His father stared at him blankly. Paul glanced at his mother, who was staring at her knitting as a tear ran down her cheek.

A couple of days had passed when Paul had just finished packing his family photos, clothes, and his dad’s patches that he had worn in World War I.

“Paul, it’s time to go,” his mother gently reminded him while standing in the doorway to his bedroom.

Paul nodded silently. He reluctantly walked out of his bedroom clutching his duffel bag. Three days later, Paul quietly sat watching the familiar sights pass by as he rode on the troop train to boot camp. Before he climbed on the train, his mother and father took him down to the depot, and his dad shook his hand and hugged him. Mom kissed him bravely but quickly turned her back to Paul so that he wouldn’t see her crying.

Suddenly, the deafening explosion of a mortar shell shattered his thoughts. He was sinking beneath the surface of the water as he struggled to get to shore. He started ripping his gear off frantically. As he clawed toward the surface, he could see his gear disappear into the dark water. Immediately, gunfire bombarded him from all sides as he dived for cover behind a tank trap. Since his M1 Grand was at the bottom of the ocean, he caught a glimpse of some weapons scattered on the beach, but he did not want to take the risk. As he looked around, he noticed a lifeless American soldier holding an M1 Grand. Horrified at the thought of even getting close to the dead soldier, he hesitated, reconsidering his options. Shortly, Paul realized he had to just grab the weapon and ammunition. With that decision made, Paul quickly clutched the weapon and the backpack, which contained magazines and grenades. German machine guns were rapidly firing across the strip of beach he had to cross to reach the ropes hanging down the side of the cliff. Paul stood from a crouching position and made a mad dash. He could hear the gunfire roaring around him as he tried to maneuver his way to the cliffs. After he had covered just a short distance, he heard a loud explosion nearby as it knocked him off his feet. Terrified, he lay there for several minutes. Landmines! he thought. They didn’t prepare me for this. At this point, he realized what he needed to do to survive. He stared at the soldier who had already stood up from the ground and had begun his treacherous journey through the beach strewn with landmines. The other soldier stepped forward, and to Paul’s surprise, the soldier was safe. Paul held his breath and carefully stepped in the same direction and was also unharmed.

After several minutes, Paul had made it across the minefield. As Paul gazed up at the towering cliffs, he realized he had to use the ropes that were shot up there to get up. Immediately, Paul raced towards a rope. He firmly grabbed the rope and climbed up. As he ascended, the rocky cliffs seemed to glare at him every step of the way. Finally, as he reached the top of the cliff, a hand reached out and pulled Paul up. As he looked up at the soldier helping him, he recognized his friend Frank, whom he had met at boot camp. He felt encouraged when he saw Frank. Frank and Paul both bolted towards a trench where others from his platoon were firing at the Germans, but the Germans were heavily armed with an mg42, the fastest gun in World War II. Paul realized if he and his platoon members didn’t escape, they would not survive. Paul looked around desperately for an escape route, but the only way was through a tunnel leading toward a bunker. Paul knew it would be a risk, but he became conscious of the fact that it was the only chance of coming through the battle.

Paul yelled to the others, “Get in the tunnel with me; it is the only way out!”

“We’ll never make it,” responded Frank fearfully.

“I am not going to stay here and die, and neither are you!” shouted Paul.

Paul clutched his M1 Grand, clambered up the side of the trench, and hurriedly dropped down into a tunnel with concrete walls. Frank and three other soldiers from the trench closely followed Paul into the tunnel. Paul walked cautiously through the tunnel. He was trying to reach the entrance at the end of the tunnel, which led to a bunker manned by German soldiers. As he approached the bunker, he could hear German voices. He stopped and looked at Frank. Frank stared at him blankly.

“Trust you, oh, really?” exclaimed Frank.

“Aw, shut up!” demanded Paul.

Frank started reconsidering their options. “We could just go back or…”

BOOM! Paul was knocked off his feet during the impact. A mortar had been fired directly at the tunnel, which forced cement, rocks, and dirt to cover the tunnel behind them! Paul stared at Frank, who seemed to understand there were no more options. Both Paul and Frank realized that they could no longer retreat to the beach. Terrified, the others in the group were grasping their weapons so tightly that their hands appeared to be locked around their rifles. Paul pulled out a smoke grenade.

“I am going to throw a smoke grenade in the bunker; Frank, you throw a frag grenade in, and the rest of you give me covering fire!” ordered Paul.

Paul pulled off the piece of metal, which activated the explosive. He threw the grenade into the bunker. A few seconds later he heard an enormous explosion and yelling. The smoke from the smoke grenade seemed as a moving sheet of gray. As the three other soldiers hammered fire in the bunker, Paul and Frank carefully made their way into the bunker. Paul shot his rifle as fast as he could with Frank beside him doing the same. When the smoke cleared, he realized he had taken the bunker out. The team exited through a steel door. As Paul walked, he fell to the ground in pain. Horrified, he realized he had been shot. The adrenaline had distracted Paul from the searing pain of his leg wound. Concerned and worried, his comrades surrounded him as they tried desperately to help him up.

As Paul regained consciousness, he recognized his surroundings as the medical tent. He observed several other wounded soldiers lying on makeshift cots and medics scurrying around attending to each one. As he gazed at his surroundings, four blurry figures approached him. When the men got closer, he noticed they were not just any soldiers. It was Frank with the others from his group.

“How are you feeling?” asked Frank.

“Better than ever,” joked Paul with a smile.

A woman dressed in a plain white dress with a large, red-colored cross in front of her uniform stepped in front of Frank and gently asked Paul if he needed any more medicine for his pain.

“When I am going to return to battle?” questioned Paul.

“Not quite yet. We are going to have to take you to a hospital ship for further care,” explained the nurse gently.

“Well, how long is that going to take?” questioned Paul impatiently.

“We don’t know yet,” the nurse softly remarked.

There was a long pause. The nurse tried to leave before Paul asked any further questions. Frank slowly went to the nurse and quietly asked, “Is he going back to the war?”

The nurse slowly shook her head no.

“Hey, what’s going on here?” remarked Paul.

Frank looked down at Paul with a sad facial expression.

“They’re sending me home, aren’t they?” Paul asked with a sigh.

“I’m sorry,” said Frank.

Frank felt very bad having to leave Paul in the hands of the medics while he returned to the platoon.

After a couple months, Paul was back on the train going home. He quietly watched the familiar sights roll by as he listened to the clickity-clack of the train. He thought about Frank and the other soldiers. He felt guilty leaving them on the cold and dangerous battlefield while he recuperated safely at home.

Screeching to a halt, the train hissed angrily. As Paul slowly stepped down from the train platform, tightly holding onto his crutches, he stopped in awe as white banners reading, “Welcome Home” shot up everywhere.

“Welcome home, honey!” shouted his mom while she tearfully hugged him.

“Welcome home, son,” mumbled his dad.

As Paul got out of his daze, he could hear trumpets blaring and drums beating. He realized his whole neighborhood was there giving Paul a warm welcome.

As months went by, Paul regained his strength. He read in the newspaper that the U.S. had defeated the Germans in the Battle of Normandy. Soon after Paul had returned home from the war, Harry S. Truman awarded him the long-cherished Medal of Honor. Paul also finally came to terms with his early departure from the war and recognized that he had acted courageously.