by Jambi aka Jamie Blesch
Radio call sign: en passant
This story is dedicated to my dear Canadian friend, Barbara Boudreau--our very own Nana.
Many, many thanks to DocB who beta'd this little tale. It is deeply appreciated!
Disclaimer: I do not own Combat! Or any aspect of the show thereof. Iâ€™m just borrowing the guys!
Harvey Boudreau stamped the last shovel full of earth into place at the base of the sapling and paused for a second
to enjoy the sunset coloring the sky. His breath clouded the chill air as he gave the little fruit tree a shake. Satisfied
that it was solidly in the ground, he stood back and dusted his hands off on the seat of his pants.
"Harvey!" his mother called from the covered porch, "Dinner is almost ready. You'd better hurry and get in here
and get cleaned up or you'll miss your train!" She didn't wait for an answer and the screen door banged shut
behind her. He knew then how really upset she was. His mother never let a door fall shut of its own accord,
much less violently.
He sighed and pressed his lips together. He loved her dearly, his father too, but he had to go. It wasn't his choice.
His number had just come up.
In a matter of moments the boy had the shovel and all the tools cleaned, put away in the garden shed, and was
headed into the house to get ready. He paused a moment on the stoop and surveyed his handiwork. The garden
was in, and the new fruit and shade trees he'd bought for his folks with his own hard earned money were safely
planted. Given time, everything would grow into a lavish and bountiful harvest.
A soft smile played about his lips at the thought of his mother standing in the garden with a salt shaker and eating
a tomato right off the vine. She'd done it for as long as he could remember, but this year had started out to be
different. The folks were getting on in years and his father had fallen from a ladder while trying to fix a leak in the
roof. Now he was laid up with a broken leg and had been fighting infection in it for over a month. At times it had
made him almost crazy with pain. His mother had her hands more than full, what with caring for both the candy
shop and his dad, and this year's prospects for a garden were pretty bleak. She hadn't said a word about it, but
Harvey knew she secretly wanted one.
Well, he might have only just turned eighteen, but this year he'd taken on the task and put in the garden all by
himself. He hoped it would be a comfort to the folks in the long months ahead and the up-keep not a burden.
Hopefully the arrangements he'd made with Smitty would be welcome and his parents would let the old fellow
help with the watering and weeding, then come harvest time let him keep some of the produce. He shouldn't
worry. If he knew his mother, she'd probably can a good portion of everything for him just to pay Smitty back
for his kindness.
Harvey shook himself and turned on his heel to go inside. Time it was, time to don the uniform and catch the next
train for the harbor, the next stop England as his orders stated. After that, he hoped it would be to France and
he'd maybe get the chance to go to Paris, see the Eiffel Tower and all the famous sights. But most especially he
wanted to get to go to the Louvre and drown in the pleasure of looking at all its treasures.
The thought of riding a train then heading out over a vast ocean to see the world stirred his heart, and excitement
at the prospect of this new adventure quickened his step. Only a touch of sadness tempered his elation when he
turned the corner into the hallway to his room. There beside his doorway stood his mother, unshed tears behind
"You know I'm proud of you, Son. Just promise me you won't lose that twinkle in your eye."
He enveloped her in a big hug. "I won't Mother Dear, just for you." He stood back and held her at arm's length.
"I'll be back to help you eat the new tomatoes before you know it. You let Smitty help keep that garden green for
She nodded, unable to speak, and gripped his arms tightly. He smiled kindly and patted her shoulder, an
understanding passing between them that was too deep for words. A cheery smile lit her face and she let go of
him and stepped aside. He smoothed a stray lock of hair out of her face, stooped to kiss her cheek, then moved
on into his room to gather his things and pack his bag. As she watched him, a single tear slipped unnoticed down
The train station was crowded with G.I.s galore as Private Harvey Boudreau, looking resplendent in his new
uniform, stepped off the platform. He checked his watch. Only eight in the morning yet the hustle and bustle here
was already huge and chaotic in its organization. It was quite the contrast to the relatively ordered quiet of the
Though the ride had been uneventful, he'd thoroughly enjoyed watching the countryside roll by, its green fields
and flowering trees covering the landscape. Already he found himself missing it--almost painfully so. There,
everything was in bloom.
Here people shoved past one another and flashes of bright color wove through the throngs clustered here and
there, but there was not a green growing thing in sight. The background noise was just short of deafening and in
a decidedly subversive manner, the incessant chatter of men and machines had drowned out the voice of nature.
Only an occasional shout was loud enough to pock mark the excess of sound.
Boudreau looked up at the sky. A fine particulate haze had settled over the harbor and dust clouds billowed up out
of ship's holds where cargo was being loaded. The smell of so many people crowded into one place all but
choked the air, and to add insult to injury, there was an overwhelming odor of dead fish with not a breath of wind
to blow it away. He pinched his nose to keep from smelling the freakish combination then realized he would look
pretty silly walking around like that all day. They said your nose got used to smells after awhile and then you
didn't notice them anymore. He hoped "they" were right and shrugged and let go of his nose.
Distracted by his thoughts, Harvey walked right into a small swarm of gnats and absently batted them away with
the back of his hand. With this many sweaty humans in one place, it was no surprise that the insects were having
a feeding frenzy.
The magnificent sight of the Navy's great ships, all patiently awaiting their human cargo, stopped him dead in his
tracks. It thrilled Harvey to no end making the excitement he'd felt at home now seemed so generic. There it had
been composed mostly of speculation on the unknown. Here it had specificity. He was both surprised and pleased
at its intensity.
"Attention all troops bound for England!"
Boudreau craned his neck and finally spotted where the call was coming from. A uniformed officer with a
megaphone that looked glued to his mouth was shouting in his general direction.
"Step into the line located at the West end of the flagpole! You must present your papers to the clerk at the desk
and receive your boarding pass before you will be allowed to board your assigned ship!"
The uniformed officer turned smartly toward another point on the compass and repeated his announcement.
Harvey straightened his uniform jacket then shifted his bag from one hand to the other. Best get on with it.
He shuffled through the crowd and headed for the booth he could now see was obviously set up for soldiers just
like himself, soldiers new to the war. He stepped into the back of a very long line and was immediately followed
by several other G.I.s. He looked back the way he'd come and saw he was just in time. The line now stretched
out far behind him.
He turned back around and set his bag down at his feet. He hadn't realized it was so heavy before, and resolved to
pare down some of what he'd brought along. They really were items he considered indispensable, but it was
possible he could live without a few of them. He chewed on his lip. Toss any of his books? His stomach churned
in distaste. This was going to take some serious thought.
"Move along, Pal." prodded the G.I. behind him.
"Sorry." Harvey apologized, for a brief moment considering striking up a conversation with the fellow, but the
guy's face was plastered with such a sour look that he decided not to chance it.
After an hour of waiting and the line moving along only at a snail's pace, Boudreau began to grow thirsty and not
a little miserable. It was hot, nearly unbearably so, with the sun beating down and no semblance of shade
anywhere around--not even next to any of the metal-clad buildings. He felt sticky all over and little rivulets of
sweat trickled down between his shoulder blades. He stuck a finger between his neck and collar and gave his tie a
tug. Who'd ever invented such a tortuous piece of clothing, much less thought it improved the appearance? He
was half a mind to give the fellow a piece of his mind.
After what seemed an eternity the line moved forward a few more feet. He stepped to the side and looked out
over the gaggle of G.I.s still ahead of him, then glanced at his watch. Only nine thirty. A rueful smile touched his
lips. It was going to be a very, very long day.
If he threw up one more time, his stomach was going to join its meager contents which were now plummeting
over the ship's guardrail and into the churning water far below. Though sick as a dog, he was thoroughly thankful
to be out in the sun and wind, not trapped in the sweltering heat down below. There the temperature had soared
to unbearable heights and the officers had turned out as many troops as they could squeeze on deck. He knew his
turn to move back into the "hell hole" was coming and this blessing would be short-lived, but he wouldn't let
himself think of it right now. He was suddenly amazed at the thought that already he was learning to
compartmentalize pain and suffering--something a very wise DI in England had told them they needed to develop--
and he had yet to set foot on French soil!
His stomach revolted again and he heaved the last vestiges of his English breakfast into the sea.
"Never been on a ship before, Mac?"
Harvey turned to see the blurred image of a rather stocky soldier, and carefully shook his head no. "I shipped over
from the States this past Spring, but the ship was ten times this big," he wiped at his watering eyes to clear his
vision, "I could barely even tell I was aboard a ship, and I don't think the sea was near this angry."
The G.I. smiled sympathetically and tapped his arm with a canteen. "Here, take a swig and wash out your mouth.
Don't drink anything though until your stomach settles."
Harvey took the proffered container, "Thanks, that's kind of you."
"Don't mention it. My name's Calhoun, by the way, and I used to spend summers with my Dad out on a lake in a
"That must've been a lot of fun. My name's Boudreau, and I'm from Minnesota up near the Canadian border.
Where're you from?"
The young man snorted, "Cincinnati, can't you tell by the accent?"
Harvey grinned. "Well, I was trying to be polite."
Calhoun threw his head back and laughed. "I knew I was going to like you the minute I laid eyes on you!"
The two soldiers shook hands. Harvey felt a surge of gratitude and sent up a silent thanks to The Man Upstairs.
His time in England had been spent in training and constant drill and there'd been no chance to develop friendships
of any kind. Until this moment he hadn't realized just how much he needed one.
"So, how long you been in the Service?" Calhoun asked.
"All right you guys!" interrupted a harsh voice, "Your turn in the beauty parlor is over. Smart step! Line up in
your designated groups and move below decks!"
Startled, the two boys looked at one another in disbelief. Their brief moment of visiting the world of kindred
spirits had come to an abrupt end.
Calhoun held out his hand. "Well, Boudreau it's been great meeting you. Maybe see you on deck again before the
trip is over?"
Boudreau took the hand, shook it firmly, and nodded solemnly. "It'd be my pleasure, Calhoun."
They both knew the words were just pleasantries. This trip was almost over and it was very likely the last time
they would see one another until they were all ashore--if then.
Calhoun dropped his eyes and the handshake and turned to walk away.
The Private paused and turned around.
"Maybe we'll get assigned to the same outfit." Harvey offered.
Calhoun smiled broadly. "That's a possibility Boudreau, but if not, I wish you all the best."
Harvey smiled back, "You too, my friend. And a safe passage back home when this is all over."
Calhoun nodded and disappeared into the hold with his group.
If he was truthful and faced reality, Harvey figured it would be the last he'd ever see of him again this side of
Paradise. But that wouldn't stop him from counting Calhoun as a friend nor keep him out of his prayers at night.
Taking a deep breath, he followed his own group into the sweltering heat below.
The group of seven replacements stood shoulder to shoulder. They'd been ordered to assemble in the small
meadow and to stay there until their new commanding officer arrived, or until otherwise relieved. After two
weeks in an infantry refresher course, they all knew they were now part of the 361st, that Captain Mark Jampel
was the CC of King Company, and Lieutenant Gil Hanley their Platoon Leader. As yet they had not met either.
The thing that most concerned them at the moment though was that they did not know to which sergeant they
would be assigned. They waited patiently, or not as dictated by their personalities, for the NCOs to arrive and
each speculated on which would be their squad leader. Each sergeant's squad had plenty of legend to mark its
existence, but one in particular stood out, that of a certain Sergeant Chip Saunders, and there were those in the
group who fully expected to be new members of his squad.
They'd been there all of forty minutes when their hushed discussions were interrupted by the sound of new
voices filtering in through the surrounding trees. To a man they grew silent. Both fear and excitement crackled in
The approaching voices grew louder, accompanied by bursts of laughter which only succeeded in ratcheting up
the tension in the meadow.
It seemed to take forever then all of a sudden they were emerging through the trees, three sergeants, each
rumpled and dirty and accompanied by soldiers who appeared just as unkempt as they were. They all stepped into
the meadow as though onto a stage, spread out in a line, and took up positions directly in front of the
replacements. All talking ceased, and even with the birds making a racket in the trees, Boudreau could hear his
heart thudding against his ribs.
The NCOs took their time, carefully scrutinizing the new men. The replacement's anxiety seemed to grow the
more the sergeants and their men stood silent and watchful. Harvey wished someone, anyone, would just say
The NCO at center stage seemed to read Boudreau's mind. He scratched at his red beard, a tremendously bored
look crossing his face, and spoke in short clipped tones.
"I'm Sergeant McHenry of third squad." He took a deep breath and all but yawned, "When you hear your name,
step up front and center and be accounted for."
He reached a hand back over his shoulder to a short private whose face seemed permanently marred with a sneer.
"Give me that list, Martin." Without a word, Private Martin handed him a folded slip of paper. With a flick of the
wrist, McHenry shook out the folds and proceeded to read, "Harrison, Carlisle, Stoops! You men are with me."
Without another word McHenry threw the piece of paper on the ground and began to march right back the way
he'd come, sparring not a glance behind him.
Astounded, the replacements stood speechless and watched as three of their number hurriedly fell out of line and
ran to join the retreating McHenry and third squad. Harvey hadn't gotten the chance to get to know any of these
guys well, but somehow it still felt like he was being deserted. He stopped himself from lifting a hand in farewell
when Stoops looked back, a lost look on his baby face.
"All right you men, get your minds back on the job." barked a very non-descript NCO drawing their attention
back to left stage, "My name's Renfrew and I'm squad leader for Second Squad." The four angry looking men
with him stepped back out of his way and he began to pace back and forth. "I expect any man who joins my
outfit to obey my orders without question. There'll be no whining. There'll be no crying." He stopped in his tracks
and leaned menacingly forward. "You got that?!"
Startled, every replacement snapped to attention. "Yes, Sir!"
Renfrew laughed derisively, "And you don't call a non-com Sir! That's reserved for officers. You understand
"Yes, Sergeant!" they said as one.
"All right, drop and give me ten then I want Garfield, Bartinelli, and Kazinski to get their butts over here!"
Suffering a second's confusion, the replacements stood still.
"NOW!!" roared Renfrew, and every man was instantly on the ground, giving him the requisite ten push-ups.
"See there?" Renfrew crowed at the sergeant standing quietly in his position on right stage, "That's the way you
get your men to follow orders. You MAKE them do what you say, you work them 'til they drop, and you don't
give them any out."
The right stage sergeant said nary a word, merely watched as the remaining four replacements finished their push-
ups and clambered back to their feet.
Garfield, Bartenelli, and Kazinski quickly gathered up their gear and each gave Harvey a frightened look as they
moved to join their new squad. "See you, Harvey," whispered Kazinski as he passed Boudreau.
"And no talking in the ranks unless I say so!" yelled Renfrew. "Now quick march. We got to get back to the CP
pronto. And I'll have none of that sissy whining that you want to go home, is that understood? I'll keep you
working so hard you won't have TIME to miss your mama!"
The new replacements hurried to do his bidding, Renfrew ranting the whole time. Every G.I. still in the meadow
silently watched them go. They had not quite made it to the perimeter of trees when one of the third sergeant's
two men shouted after them, "Good luck with your robot army, Renfrew! Make sure them fellas oils their joints
once in a while so's the Krauts won't hear 'em comin' an' get in the first shot!"
"Pipe down, Kirby," Harvey heard the third sergeant admonish him, "It's Lieutenant Hanley's job to handle
Kirby nodded, "I know, Sarge, he just gets under my skin's all."
The NCO tolerantly shook his head in agreement and then, accompanied by the two men, slowly exited right
Curious, Harvey silently observed the them as they moved casually towards him. They exuded a kind of
confidence that he couldn't quite place. Then it came to him. He hadn't thought of it until this moment, but every
one of the sergeants and their men had seen death and destruction up close, and what's more had caused some of
But these three were different than the others. They had none of the bored, dismissive behavior of Sergeant
McHenry and sneering attitude of Private Martin, or the domineering, blustering bravado of Sergeant Renfrew and
smoldering anger of his men. By comparison they were quiet, hard and lean, and seemed to lack the need to
boast. Harvey instinctively knew that they were much more dangerous than McHenry, Renfrew, and their squads
all put together.
He suddenly realized he hadn't been called to join them, rather they were coming to him. He nervously looked
right and left, feeling utterly vulnerable, and swallowed hard. A twinge of fear twisted in his gut and his thoughts
flashed through his head at lightening speed. He fiercely quelled the impulse to panic and told himself it was better
to try to figure something out about these guys than to let fear be the sole dictator of his opinions. Actively
compartmentalizing his feelings, he made himself continue to watch the men as they approached, concentrating
and focusing his mind on his observations. His thoughts became organized and his mind cleared.
All three soldiers were of relatively the same height, and almost the same build. Their lean bodies attested to the
whittling effect of rough living conditions, namely the lack of clean water, enough food, and adequate shelter. As
they moved, one significant feature seemed to stand out. Each man's walk was distinctly different.
The man to the sergeant's left was dark, with piercing eyes and a strong chin. His stride was deliberate, fluid, like
a great cat, his movement almost mesmerizing in its grace. A southpaw, he carried his rifle at the ready and
sported the beret of one specially trained as a Scout. He'd bet his bottom dollar that this man was the quiet,
brooding sort, and ultra-lethal in the field.
The soldier to the sergeant's right was the scout's antithesis, wiry, drawn tighter than a piano string, and his dark
eyes darting left and right. He seemed ever watchful and aware of his environment. His slightly side-wheeling
walk revealed his risk-taking nature, and his weapon, a Browning Automatic Rifle, was trained in the same
direction as the scout's. That meant he was a left-hander too, but, unlike the wary scout, Kirby's BAR hung from
its strap, slung to crisscross his ammo beltâ€™s suspenders, and he rested his arms across the rifle in a very
nonchalant manner. He wore his helmet tipped back at a jaunty angle, and in Harvey's mind the body language
plus the barb hurled at Renfrew singled this man out as the squad's smart mouthed jokester. Almost on cue, the
man murmured a comment and brief smiles crossed the faces of his companions. It sealed Harvey's appraisal of
him, especially since a singular smirk remained on Kirby's face.
Boudreau's quiet analysis then turned to the sergeant himself. His walk was nothing short of a saunter, self
confidence a dominating feature, and he carried his Thompson machine gun naturally as if it was an extension of
his body. His helmet was casually tucked beneath an arm, and his demeanor that of a man used to the heavy
weight of responsibility. Boudreau wondered how he'd come by that Thompson. It wasn't regular G.I. issue, and
neither was the Pacific Theater camo cover with which the sergeant had dressed his helmet. That told him there
was an interesting story behind this sergeant and the same had to be true for his men.
The more he observed, the more Harvey was consumed with curiosity about them and it seemed no time at all
before they were there not more than three feet away, the NCO and his two shadows parked right in front of
Boudreau. Up close Harvey could see the sergeant's tousled blonde hair and his bloodshot blue eyes were direct
evidence of a recent lack of sleep. He could also see that much more clearly just how much these three had been
honed down to nothing but muscle and bone. Though he trended on the thin side himself, just looking at these
soldiers made Harvey feel like a spoiled, pudgy, rich kid who'd been overfed and indulged all his life. He looked
down, feeling a sense of shame at his heretofore pampered existence.
The BAR man broke the ice and was the first to speak. "Sarge, would ya look at this wag-tail puppy?" he waved a
grimy hand in Boudreau's direction, the smirk on his face in full force, "He don't even look weaned yet."
"Yeah, Sarge, he looks to me like a little green fish caught on the end of a hook," agreed the somber Scout. He set
the butt of his M1 on the ground, scrubbed his jaw as though in serious thought then cocked his head to one side,
"A little green fish too young to keep."
The BAR man leaned back behind the sergeant, winked at the scout and stage-whispered, "You're right, Caje. An'
if ya ask me, I think we should throw him back."
"Shut-up, Kirby," growled the Sergeant, but there was no bite to accompany his bark. In fact there was a twinkle
in his eyes and Harvey could see he was clearly amused. The fear he'd been so desperately trying to contain
dropped away to almost nothing.
The NCO slung his Thompson over his shoulder and with a shrug tucked both thumbs into his belt. He finally
addressed Boudreau personally, "Well, Soldier, looks like you're the last of the pack." The NCO looked around
the small meadow, pointedly conveying to Boudreau that he was now entirely alone. Harvey's eyes went wide at
the realization and it sent the squelched anxiety boiling right back up. He gulped. What had he been hoping for, to
The sergeant sighed at the unintended response and pulled his Tommy gun off his shoulder. He held it loosely,
stepped a hair closer, and looked Boudreau straight in the eye. Surprised, Harvey read kindness and not a little
sadness there, both emotions obviously felt for him. Oddly comforted, his insides quieted and he breathed a sigh
of relief . He was mildly shocked at the thought that things might actually turn out OK.
The NCO smiled slightly and finally introduced himself, "I'm Sergeant Saunders. You must be Boudreau and it
looks like you belong..."
"Yes," Harvey quickly interrupted. The first grin in a long while lit his face, and with a renewed sense of hope he
said, "I belong to you, Sergeant."
en passant out
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