Road Out of Hell

I was in the thick of battle. I looked up at the enemy's modified bulldozer in front of me. A short while earlier it had burst from its hiding place, the 88mm cannon mounted in its blade belching death towards us.  The bulldozer lay silent now, its life spent.  The modified driver’s compartment had been cut in half by the stream of lead bullets pouring from my armored car's browning machine gun.

Luso Monster

The crew had been blasted into a porridge of burned flesh and warm diesel fuel.  Its commander had tried to jump clear, only to be eaten up by the bulldozer tracks.  One leg lay grotesquely on the ground thirty yards behind the ditch that finally halted the bulldozer’s drive forwards, the rest of him a bloody red smear in the churned up dirt.

I was barely eighteen years old.  This was my first experience of being under enemy fire, and it should have been my last.  The Cuban trained MPLA guerrilla forces, fighting for their Soviet masters to gain control of Angola, had planned their ambush well.  But they could never have known that Captain Laubsher, commanding officer of X-Ray’s 140mm medium range artillery guns, had come forwards in my armored car to personally control his men’s fire.

Or that he had used set of aerial photographs to identify specific targets, including the very end of the runway where we now stood. Or that he was willing to risk everything!

A heavy rain squall had forced us away from the airport buildings and onto the runway where we sat invisible in the pouring rain. The bulldozer had led their counter attack using the rain as cover. The flashes from its canon fire had illuminated it against the skyline as a perfect target. I had fired four hundred rounds from my machine gun into the bull dozer. One tracer bullet then four lead bullets, leaving my machine gun barrel every half second.

The three armored cars to my right had seen the red glow of my tracer bullets striking the bull dozer and used this for their aim. The shells from their 90mm cannons had completed the kill.

Still, the enemies advancing, despite losing the bulldozer, were too many for us. The Captain of the artillery sitting in the armored car with me recognized our dire situation at once. Using his radio he commanded all eight of his guns to fire at the runway. It took mere seconds, for they had only to select the settings prepared the night before. I heard the multiple distant thumps as the shells from the 140mm guns were launched towards us. I heard the unique whistle of the incoming shells. Would we catch the enemy in the open?

This was the ultimate in high stakes gambling. We waited in anticipation. I expected to die!

The artillery shells were designed to explode fifty feet above the ground, discharging their load of shrapnel directly downwards into anything exposed below.

As my frightened body hunkered down inside the quarter inch of armored steel protecting us from the flying metal, my petrified "self" fled to where it could hide from the sounds and sights of disintegrating bodies.

My training took over and I watched myself, as if once removed, mechanically performing the duties expected of me!