After the fury of the last seventy two hours, the silence of the mess hall is scary, but safe yet every so often there seems to be the after echo of the Martian horns. And then I look around at the empty seats, and I realise just how lucky we were.
The battle didn’t go well right from the get go. It seemed as though the Martians knew our every move. Within moments of the platoon commander giving the order to advance we heard the peculiar sizzle that a heat ray makes when fired. It’s at that moment you hope that it’s not going to be the last sound you hear.
“Lulu’s hit! Lulu’s hit! Turn starboard” yelled one of the helmsmen, having seen our sister tank take the full force of two heavy heat rays.
It took two helmsmen to steer the tank properly, and now they lurched the controls with all the force they could muster. Our Mk III Steamer “Lizzie” jolted to the right in response to avoid the burning wreck that was once Lulu, and continued on. The two tripods from which burning death had come from were in front of us.
“Gunners, take the monster in front of us. Looks like Loretta’s going after the other one!” comes the order.
Fred Wilson, my gunner was already sighting the massive metal machine, and given the word, he fired. The starboard 4” gun roared, as did the other two guns in quick succession. Through his sights he saw the shells impact the Martian and engulf it in a shroud of smoke. Moments later the machine fell through the smoke, hit the deck and exploded. The force was incredible – Lizzie actually rocked on her tracks. Then she rocked from a second blast.
“GOD DAMMIT!! Loretta’s gone!” screamed Ed Marks, the port gunner.
“Full reverse… NOW!” Skip ordered, and the helmsmen reacted as one.
Suddenly we were back peddling away from the second tripod that had already taken out the second tank of our platoon. It took the Martian a few moments to realise that his comrade was down. Maybe it was this moment that saved us.
As we had made our attack, the fire that was ravaging Lulu behind us had found the magazine. The remaining rounds onboard the doomed tank had ignited as one. This must have been the second blast we had felt. And now, instead of a burning wreck, all that remained was a smoking crater.
Lizzie went backwards, then suddenly downwards.
We had found the crater that marked the death of Lulu, and in we went. Maybe it was dumb luck, but as the remaining Martian searched for any remaining Human tanks, we were at the bottom of a hole just yards away, covered by smoke. Skip gave the order to kill the engine, and we waited. In this hole, Lizzie wasn’t going anywhere. Either the Martian would find us and torch us, or we might just get a break, and it’ll pass us over. Seconds became minutes, and nothing. At times we thought we heard the Martian horns blasting out. Nobody moved. Nobody dared breathe too hard.
After three hours of this dreaded wait, Skip decided that he had to find out what was happening. Surely if the tripod was going to find us, it would have done so already. Slowly he cracked the top hatch, and lifted. Gingerly pushing his head higher, he looked out. Then he opened the hatch fully, and lifted himself out. We all followed, not caring if there were Martians there or not.
Outside the battlefield was quiet. The Martians had gone. Turning, the Skip noticed a cloud of dirt off in the distance. At first he wasn’t sure what it was, but it got closer and we breathed a sigh of relief as it became recognisable as a single Rough Rider.
After that it became a blur. They sent transports to evacuate us back to base, and a Field Engineering Unit retrieved Lizzie. We were safe, for the time being.
Three weeks later, and Lizzie has been repaired. No longer plain Lizzie, she’s now “Lucky Lizzie”. I only hope her luck holds out. Our orders have come in. With our platoon gone, and our battalion decimated, we’ve been reassigned. A new unit, and a new commander who wants tankers with battle experience. They say that this young captain has some different ideas about how to go after the Martians. Let’s hope Captain Patton and his Mobile Armored Corps works…
(from the personal journal of Cpl William Brody artilleryman, US Army)