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This United States Tank division found
itself facing something far more terrible
than Japs—across a million years of time!

BLITZKRIEG IN THE PAST

by JOHN YORK CABOT

I REMEMBER that we had just been issued our new uniforms, and that I had just wrestled into mine and was standing back away from the mirror above my bunk getting an eyeful of myself and feeling pretty classy. Classy and proud as hell to belong to an armored division of Uncle Sam's Army.

At a quick glance the new raiment looked like nothing more than an olive drab suit of coveralls belted at the waist and strapped to the shoe tops. But my division insignia, stitched to the shirt front, with the lightning bolt of crimson flashing through a triangle of blue, was the thing that really gave the outfit class.

If you've never met a blitz-baby, a soldier of an armored division, you don't know anything about the real backbone of this man's army. 'Cause whether the public is aware of it or not, we know that the tank corps is the finest, fightingest, classiest branch of the U. S. Armed Forces.

And the U. S. Tank Corps is the finest in the world.

We're going to prove it in Australia, and in Burma, and in Libya. Yes, and we're going to prove it in Norway, and France, and Germany; in the Philippines and in Tokyo.

We'll shove so many tanks at the Nazis and the Japs and the Wops that they'll wish they never heard of mechanized warfare! It'll be blitz tactics by the best blitzers in the world.

And right now, the maddest!

So you see where that puts us. You see why you have to excuse the fact that maybe we're a little cocky, a little clannish, and a little pitying toward the sissies in the infantry, the paratroops, the quartermaster corps, the artillery, and the air corps—just to name a few of the lesser branches of the service.

Hell, all the time you hear statements made to the effect that there is more esprit de corps, more first rate morale in the armored divisions of the United States Army than in any other arm of the service. And if you were one of us, you'd believe it.

So there I was, admiring the new togs and puffing out my chest like I said, when into my barracks trooped Rusty Harrigan and Leeds McAndrews.

Rusty and Leeds are my buddies. We three comprise the unit operating one light tank. Rusty is the gunner—and what an eye he has—and Leeds is the guy in the tower who kicks the hell out of my skull while signaling me to turn this way and that.

"Well, well, well," Rusty said most sarcastically, catching sight of my preening. "You gonna pose for one of them covers on a picture magazine?"

Rusty is red headed, Irish, freckled and sharp tongued with his wit. He stands five six in his sox, and has a pair of shoulders that would look large on a guy twice his size.

Rusty also has big, red-knuckled mitts. Hanging loose at his sides they look like twin bunches of crimson bananas. But, baby, those mitts can caress a motor like a super-skilled surgeon. And they can trigger a machine gun the way I hear Billy the Kid used to twirl a six-shooter.

"So what?" I snapped. "I think they look plenty classy, these new togs."

Leeds McAndrews came in with that mild, drawly voice of his.

"Burt is right, Rusty. Now, we won't be mistaken for common garden variety soldiers."

LEEDS is tall and thin. His hair is black and frames a long, somber, studious pan. If you'd put horn-rimmed specs on his nose, he'd look like an elongated edition of Harold Lloyd back in the days of silent pics. Some day he'll be a brass hat, and one of the best damned tank tactic strategists. There's nothing he doesn't know that he can't learn if you give him five minutes to concentrate.

I grinned: "You said it, Leeds. Hell, four days ago some floozie was wandering around camp looking the place over, and she stops me to ask if we're part of the coast artillery. Imagine!"

"And if she sees you in this new Government Issue field uniform and shock proof headgear, she'll want to know if you're first string on the football team," Rusty said.

But I noticed he'd donned the new issue, and that his barrel chest was puffed out a mile.

"What did you come in here for?" I asked. "Fashion parade?"

Rusty grinned. "I just wanted to tell you that you and me and Leeds are gonna get a chance to get this new issue gear all nasty dirty this afternoon."

"What?" I yelped. We were all slated for town tour that afternoon.

"It's the truth, Burt," Leeds broke in. "Special orders. Our unit has been assigned to test duties this afternoon. We're to report to Major Hobart right after noon chow."

I sat down on my bunk.

"But I made a date, damn it," I groused.

"So did I," Rusty echoed. "A little southern peach. Boy what a figure!"

Leeds grinned widely. "Thank God I was going to wait and take my chances."

Rusty scowled angrily. "Why in hell can't they get another tank besides ours?"

"We're the best," Leeds said simply.

"Yahh," said Rusty. "We're the top tank team. And what do we get for it? Time off? Medals? Yahh!" He slumped down bitterly on the bunk next to mine.

"There'll be a gold star on your report card, Junior," I ribbed him, "if you just be patient."

"Sometimes," Rusty said morosely, looking at the ceiling, "I think my insides must be shook up like a milkshake, or a Tom Collins."

"With you it'd be more like a Tom Collins," Leeds predicted.

"Bounce, bang, bounce, bang, dust in your nose and your throat. Bounce bang, bounce bang, bounce—" Rusty chanted.

"The needle's stuck in that record," I cut in. "Someone turn it over."

Rusty glared at me. "What I mean," he said fiercely, "is why did I ever get in this outfit anyway?" He shook his head. "Sometimes I think I was crazy to join."

"Why don't you ask for a transfer?" I asked. "There ought to be some lace and lovely branch of the service that could use you."

Rusty sat bolt upright.

"Are you crazy? Do I look like a walking soldier?" He demanded. "And besides, what'd happen to our armored division if I quit?"

"That's right, Rusty," Leeds McAndrews said dryly. "You wait until they can find a man good enough to replace you."

"Hah!" Rusty snorted. "I should wait that long!"

It's like that in the armored divisions. Beef, beef, beef. But just offer any one of them a chance to transfer to another branch of the service, and run, mister, run.

Leeds turned away. "Think I'll get back to my barracks," he said. "I want to do some reading." He left.

"Smart guy, Leeds," Rusty observed after he'd gone. "Alla time reading, reading. Hell, I'll bet he's read so much he's hadda start all over again on the books he began with."

"That would be impossible, Rusty," I told him. "Impossible for one man in a thousand lifetimes."

Rusty blinked. "Yeah?"

"Yeah."

Rusty considered this silently. A great man on a motor, a genius with a gun, Rusty.

"That's a lotta books," he said at last.

I nodded soberly. "That's it exactly." I rose, stretching and yawning. Rusty looked up at me.

"Where you going?" he asked.

"Think I'll wander over to the canteen," I said. "Want to pick up a magazine that's out today."

Rusty nodded, leaned back and closed his eyes....

LEEDS and Rusty and I met outside the door of Old Blue Bolt—he's Major Hobart, commanding officer of our Tank Unit—shortly after noon mess.

"Did you call your southern peach and cancel this afternoon's engagement?" Leeds asked.p>

Rusty snapped his fingers. "Cripes! I knew there was something I forgot!"

I grinned, and Leed's somber eyes twinkled. We had something to keep Rusty sweating about all afternoon now.

And then the door of the office opened and Old Blue Bolt himself stood there, looking at us with those steely blue eyes of his. He was a rugged, carved out of rock-ish old duck. Former cavalry officer with Teddy Roosevelt at San Juan, he'd won his comish in the Spanish War while still a punk of eighteen. In the World War I, he'd seen action as a Captain in charge of the first tank units of the A.E.F.

His voice was hard, and the words came from him like bits of shrapnel exploding at you.

"Sergeant Joyce," he snapped, "your crew ready?"

We'd all gone ramrod to attention. And now I saluted.

"Reporting, sir," I said.

"At ease," Old Blue Bolt snapped. "Come inside with me."

We entered his office, and he waved us to chairs as he stepped to his desk and pulled several operations maps from his desk. Then he turned back to us, papers in hand.

"I've picked you men for an experimental job this afternoon," he said, "because of your record. Your task won't be difficult, and will consist merely of a routine tank reconnaissance operation—over terrain which we have mapped here."

Old Blue Bolt handed the operational maps to me, and I glanced at them briefly.

"Mechanics are already installing the device you are to take along with you in the M-3 tank I want you to use," he went on. "You needn't be too concerned with its operation—that's more a matter for our testing engineers."

"What sort of a device is it, sir?" I asked.

"A rather startling development in tank radio communication," Old Blue Bolt answered. "If it works." He paused. "However, your job today will not, to repeat, concern operation. We're merely installing the mechanism, turning it on full power, and seeing how it stands up under the actual physical thumping around it will get from standard tank reconnaissance such as you will go through today."

"I see, sir." I declared.

Old Blue Bolt suddenly snapped a salute. "That is all. See you on the garrison grounds in ten minutes. Have your M-3 ready to roll by that time."

Leeds, Rusty, and I were kicking through the dust of the testing grounds three minutes later.

"Why in the blazes don't they put us through the paces right here on the reservation?" Rusty demanded. "Good Lord, this'll be a mere two hundred mile jaunt. A hundred miles each way."

Leeds was looking at one of the map copies I'd given him. He grinned. "You're a little off, Rusty. It'll be a hundred and thirteen miles going, and one-eleven coming back."

Rusty shrugged. "Okay, okay, twenty-four miles more doesn't make it any sweeter."

"Stop thinking about your southern peach," I ribbed him. "This'll just be a jeep jaunt."

Rusty waved a big paw disgustedly through the air. "Yah—a nine hour haul."

"Off again, Rusty," Leeds put in. "Twenty-five miles an hour top in an M-3, you know. Think for a minute we can average that?"

Rusty shrugged his shoulders. He glared at me. "Put me in the steer nest of that bounce buggy and I'll average it!" he promised.

"No thanks," I said. "I want a few bones left unfractured."

THE special equipment was already inside our M-3 when we rolled out onto the garrison grounds in it some five or six minutes later. We'd only had time to make the very briefest scrutiny of it, and with the exception of Leeds McAndrews, who whistled interestedly at the sight of the complicated little box of tubes and wires, there wasn't much you could gather from such a quick peek.

"Looks like something outta Buck Rogers," Rusty had grumbled. "Give me a gun any day for simplicity."

"When we clear the reservation I'd like to take a closer look at it," Leeds had said. "I think I've got an idea of what it's supposed to do."

"Rusty'll relieve you in the tower," I promised him, "once we get out of sight. But for godsakes don't try to take the damned thing apart."

On the garrison grounds Old Blue Bolt and several other brass hats waited for us. There was a short, dumpy, bald-headed guy in civvies with them. We rolled to a stop and got out, while they clambered inside the tank for a last check-up. From the conversation, it became evident that the dumpy, baldheaded little guy in civvies was the inventor of the device, and that the War Department was giving him a preliminary test on it.

While we waited outside, I noticed Leeds squinting up at the sky curiously several times.

"What's wrong?" I asked. "Stormy weather ahead?"

That's Leeds McAndrews, just like I said. There's damned little he doesn't know a lot about, even to the weather. And he doesn't depend on a bunion for that, either.

Leeds nodded soberly. "We're due for some wet stuff," he observed quietly.

"Hot damn!" Rusty had overheard him. "It'll kill that blank-blank dust."

A big grin split his mug. "And cut down our time," I reminded him.

The grin left Rusty's face. "Hell," he said, "you never win in this man's army."

Old Blue Bolt, the officers, and the inventor were clambering out of the tank again. On the ground, Old Blue Bolt snapped a salute.

"You have your orders, sergeant," he said. "Carry on!"

CHAPTER II
Georgia Disappears

HALF an hour later we were making a maximum twenty-five per along a smooth enough dirt straightaway. But the day was a scorcher, and the dust kept sifting through the front vision slot with choking monotony.

I was beginning to agree with Rusty as to his first wish for the deluge Leeds had promised. My back was drenched with sweat, and the perspiration cascaded down my forehead like a miniature Niagara.

Up above me, getting plenty of fresh, clean air on his lean face, Leeds McAndrews had the gall to keep up a cheerfully incessant whistle. And to my right, Rusty accompanied him with a steady monotone of profanity.

Rusty interrupted his blasphemous monotone long enough to chant despairingly.

"Cool," he said. "Clean... fresh... cool... clean... fresh... cool!"

"What's eating you?" I demanded loudly.

"I was thinking." he said, "of how nice it wouldda been had I joined the Air Corps insteadda this outfit."

I silenced him with a glare.

"What about that damned rain Leeds promised?" Rusty yelled after a minute or so.

I knocked Leeds' leg with the side of my head. I looked up as he peered down at me.

"Where in the hell's that rain?" I asked.

Leeds grinned. "Another twenty minutes," he promised.

I looked at the operations map at my elbow. Another twenty minutes would find us in rough enough terrain without mud to mess through. I sighed. Maybe Rusty was right. You never really win.

But Leeds had miscalculated, for once. We got our rain in fifteen minutes, not twenty. Got it while we were still traveling the smooth dirt straightaway.

I heard it patter on the tank, lightly at first. But the drops were big, and pretty soon they were coming harder and faster, and all of a sudden the smooth dirt straightaway was covered in a sheeting downpour.

"Turnabout!" Rusty grinned, yelling. He pointed his finger up toward the tower where Leeds was now taking a drenching. "First we bakethen he drowns!"

Leeds kicked my shoulder in a stop signal. We halted a few yards forward. I moved aside, and he clambered down.

"How about Rusty taking the crow's nest while I get a look at the radio device we're lugging?" Leeds asked.

I looked at Rusty, whose face had suddenly gone dark.

"Nuts to that noise!" he protested sharply. "The minute it gets wet up there you decide to change places with me. Yah!"

"There was no squawk when I first mentioned it," Leeds reminded Rusty.

"It seemed like a good deal, then," Rusty countered. "Thought it would give me a little pure air for a change."

Leeds grinned. "In other words you had no objections to it when we were getting started, is that right?" Rusty nodded, starting to say something.

Leeds cut in. "And in other words you sanctioned a bargain then, but want to back out now."

"Yeah, but—"

"Un for seen circumstances can't make an agreement any less binding, ethically," Leeds cut him off again.

Rusty muttered something hot. Then he sighed. "Every time I try to argue with you, McAndrews, I lose my shirt." He stood up and moved around, permitting Leeds to slide into the position he'd vacated.

"Up you go," I grinned.

Tight-lipped, Rusty clambered up into the tower. And when he gave my shoulder the starting nudge with his foot you'd think he'd wanted to root a field goal from the fifty yard line.

"Hey!" I yelled. "A little easy there!"

We rumbled off once more, and through my vision slot I could see the rain slashing down even more viciously than before, while the sky grew ominously darker and the first splitting explosions of thunder sounded in the distance.

ABOVE me, I could hear Rusty's faint, wrathful grumblings. Leeds was busy in his inspection of the special radio apparatus, lost in blissful fascination at the intricate arrangement of it.

We clanked along the dirt straightaway in that fashion for another fifteen minutes, while the fury of the rain and the crashing reverberations of thunder grew greater with every passing minute.

Jagged flashes of lightning were now splitting the sky on an average of once every two or three minutes.

Then Rusty was kicking my shoulder hard in a stop signal.

I slowed the tank to a halt.

Rusty's head peered down.

"Do I have to stay up here and be top man on a lightning rod?" he demanded plaintively.

I glanced at Leeds. "How about it? Had enough look-see?"

Leeds looked up. "Eh? Oh—" He grinned. "Tell that red head I'll relieve him in another five minutes."

I passed on the information. Rusty glowered.

"Okay." he said sullenly. "But I'll be counting off them five minutes like a clock."

I glanced at my operations map, and peered out to see our road position.

"That next fork up there," I told Rusty, "is where we go off over the bounding hills and dales. Don't let me miss it."

Rusty muttered something indicating none too pleased agreement and sat back up in his perch.

I started up again, just as a part...

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