Disclaimer: The Rat Patrol is not my property. They come out to play sometimes, then I send them home.
Author's note: tullyfan thought there should be a sequel, so…
Rollin' Rollin' Rollin'
Five days after returning to Ras Tanura with the information on the Kugelpanzer, Captain Boggs called the Rat Patrol into his office after one of their daily patrols.
As they walked into the office, Troy said, "You wanted to see us, sir."
Boggs indicated the two chairs in front of his desk and said, "Yes. How have the patrols been going?"
The sergeants sat down, leaving Hitch and Tully to stand behind them. Troy looked at the captain questioningly as he replied, "With the exception of today's, you have our daily reports, captain. Things have been quiet all week. The enemy doesn't seem to want to cross the lines lately."
Moffitt saw the look on Boggs' face and asked, "Is there anything wrong, sir?"
The captain sighed. "We heard from High Command today. They have a mission for you."
Troy glanced at Moffitt as he asked, "And what would that be, captain?"
"They want you to go back and get that Ball Tank from the Germans. High Command would like to see it and have it dismantled for 'research'."
Troy frowned. "They want us to just drive back there and steal the Germans prototype?"
Moffitt said quite frankly, "Pardon me for saying this, sir, but are they insane?"
Troy, Hitch, and Tully looked at Moffitt with surprise. They'd never heard the sergeant be so … well, candid when speaking to an officer.
Boggs smiled and said, "That's all right, sergeant. I said the same thing when Major Gleason told what High Command wanted."
Troy questioned, "They do realize that the Germans would've moved out of the area once they realized we'd been there, don't they, sir?"
"I can only imagine they do. However, the order stands. You'll be leaving first thing in the morning."
The next day the Rat Patrol was on their way before sunup. Two days later they were at the wadi they'd left the Germans in more than a week before. They approached carefully, but it was as they expected—the encampment was gone.
After they'd looked around, Moffitt sounded frustrated as he said, "There's nothing left to indicate which way they went. Sand and wind have taken care of that."
Tully asked, "What now?"
"Let's have a look at the map."
Moffitt had the map spread out on the hood of the jeep when Troy and Hitch joined them. Troy sighed as he asked, "Any ideas?"
Moffitt frowned as he studied the map. "Well, there are other wadis." He circled a spot and said, "Baysān Wadi is about one hundred miles east of here." Another spot was circled. "This one is farther yet and to the northwest. There are several others. However, it's here…" Moffitt circled a place on the map that was to the south as he said, "…where I'd place my bet."
Hitch asked, "What's so special about that wadi?"
"The fact that it's not a wadi at all. It's the Kharga Oasis."
Troy studied each of the indicated spots his counterpart had circled, then asked, "What makes you think they'll have gone there?"
Moffitt replied, "There was once a small village there. It had been abandoned even before my father and I visited the area years ago. I remember there were still some structures standing at that time."
Troy nodded. "They'll have water and possible shelter other than the tents."
"And there are date palms to give some cover and shelter from the sun."
Tully said, "It looks to be maybe 150 miles from here. That's a long way into enemy territory."
Hitch agreed, but said, "Yeah, but it would make sense that they've go further in, rather than move closer to our lines."
Troy finally said, "Okay, let's shake it. I'd like to be there before nightfall."
Troy and Moffitt were standing on the jeeps passenger seats with binoculars. They could just make out the German encampment in the distance and waning light. Troy smiled as he said, "You were right. Good call."
Moffitt said, "Well, let's just hope it's the camp we're looking for. We are in German territory after all. It could be anyone."
Troy gave a nod. "Let's circle around and take a look. We only have to get close enough to verify that the Ball Tank is there."
Hitch and Tully instinctively guided Bertha and Olive around to the best vantage point, knowing the growing darkness would help hide them. Troy and Moffitt searched the encampment with their binoculars until they both spotted what they were looking for. The Kugelpanzer was just outside the motor pool, encircled by German guards.
The sergeants slipped back down into their seats and Troy said quietly, "That's it. Let's find a place to spend the night and start fresh in the morning."
Troy was doing the early shift on watch. He was doing a circuit around the perimeter of their camp as the sun came up when he got a whiff of coffee. He smiled slightly and headed in for breakfast.
Tully was getting ready to cook up some powdered scrambled eggs and spam when Troy appeared. "Coffee should be ready, sarge. I'll have breakfast done in a few minutes."
Troy grabbed a mug and gratefully poured coffee into it. "I've wanted this for more than an hour." He looked around their small camp. Bedrolls had been taken care of and stowed. Moffitt was going over some of the paperwork Captain Boggs had given them while Hitch was going over the jeeps.
"How're we gonna get that tank outta there?"
Troy sighed. "I've been thinking about that." He called over to Moffitt, "Do you think you can drive it?"
Moffitt slid out of the passenger seat of the jeep with the file and said as he walked towards Troy and Tully, "I don't see why not. According to the diagram of the inside it's a bit like a light Panzer."
Hitch set the water can down to recap it as he said, "It doesn't seem likely that the Germans will just let us walk in and take their tank."
Troy said, "Yeah, I'm still working on that part. After breakfast, we'll head back over there and look things over in daylight."
After they'd eaten, cleaned up, and stowed everything, Hitch and Tully took them back to where they'd spied on the encampment the day before. Only this time they hid in some scrub to stay out of sight.
The Germans were doing maintenance on the Allies target with guards' still standing watch around it. Troy and Moffitt scanned the encampment with binoculars to weigh their options.
After several minutes, Tully whispered, "Gimme the glasses, sarge."
Moffitt handed him the binoculars. "What do you see?"
"Just a sec." Tully focused on area of the camp for a short time, then said, "Back behind the motor pool." He handed the glasses back to Moffitt. "See those fuel drums? If you went in through there, it'll be a straight shot to the Kugelpanzer. In the dark no one'll see ya circle the perimeter of camp to get there."
Moffitt found the drums Tully was talking about. "Yes, I see what you mean."
Troy also took a look at the spot that Tully had indicated. Then handed the binoculars to Hitch as he said, "That could work."
Hitch looked and scanned the area around the drums. "If you go in around the east side there, you'll have a little extra cover with that scrub."
Moffitt agreed with a nod. "That would be the best way."
Troy said, "Okay, Hitch and I will run interference while Moffitt gets to the tank. Tully, you make sure those guards scatter so he can get inside." Everyone nodded their agreement to the plan. "Now, I want to spend a good piece of the day running patrols of the area. I don't want any surprises."
Troy called for a break at 1pm and they pulled into a waterhole they found between to hills. He tossed Hitch a boxed lunch and said, "Go up and keep an eye on things."
Hitch grabbed a canteen and one of the machine guns. "Right, sarge." An hour later, after they'd eaten and Tully had checked the jeeps, he hurried down and told them, "There's a convoy heading in the general direction of our German encampment."
Troy asked, "Are the jeeps ready to go, Tully?"
"All set, sarge."
"We'll follow them and see if they're really going where we think they're going."
The German convoy did go to the encampment and the Rat Patrol watched the offloading of the supplies that were delivered. However, the trucks didn't leave and Troy said with a sigh, "Well, that's more men we'll have to deal with tonight. I'm not liking this situation."
Moffitt said, "What other choice do we have?"
Troy chewed his lip as he stared at the Germans. After a time, he looked at his fellow sergeant and said, "If we cause enough commotion, do you think you could get to that tank?"
Moffitt frowned. "You mean now? Before nightfall?"
Troy nodded. "We stick to the original plan, but we go in now instead of waiting."
Tully was looking at the motor pool and the route Moffitt would have to take to get there. "The original plan won't work, sarge. At least not all of it."
"There's no way Moffitt can get around to the back of the motor pool without being seen in daylight."
Both sergeants checked what Tully had told them. He was right. Troy said, "I'm open to ideas."
After a minute, Hitch said, "If Troy and Tully run interference, I could get Moffitt to the tank. They'd never expect us to hit 'em during the day…"
Tully frowned and shook his head. "If anyone's getting him to that tank, it's gonna be me."
Hitch smiled slightly. "I just didn't want to volunteer you for something I thought up."
"I know, but I'm more than willing to do it."
They all looked at Moffitt, who sighed and said, "Well, let's get this over with before I realize what I'm about to do."
Troy gave a nod. "Okay, Hitch and I will go in first. Once the guards are distracted, Tully gets Moffitt to the tank."
Moffitt managed a slight smile. "You make it sound so easy, old boy."
"I wish it was."
They prepared to go in. Troy and Moffitt were behind the 50s. Goggles were put in place over eyes and Troy told them, "Remember, Tully, hang back until Hitch and I get things going. Moffitt, if you can supply a little extra cover, that'd be great."
Moffitt primed the 50 and said, "You'll have it."
Tully pulled a machine gun from its fender holster, primed it, and put it across his lap.
Troy primed his own 50 and said, "Let's shake it!"
Hitch and Tully put the jeeps in gear and floored it, sending plumes of sand into the air. Troy and Hitch went straight into the encampment with heavy 50 caliber slugs flying. Tully slid the jeep to a halt at the perimeter as Moffitt opened fire.
The Germans were caught completely off guard by the attack, and many died before they could bring their arms to bear.
As German bullets finally began to fly, Tully watched the guards standing around the Kugelpanzer. At first only three left their posts, but as the fight intensified the others followed suit. That's when Tully shouted over the din, "Here we go!"
He accelerated into the camp, heading directly for the tank, running over anyone in his path, and with Moffitt still firing from the back. Tully circled the tank and came to a halt. He grabbed the readied machine gun up and began laying down cover fire as Moffitt scrambled out of the jeep.
The sergeant quickly found the hatch and climbed inside. He looked around and began to flip switches, then he pushed a button and the engine came to life.
Tully yelled, "We gotta get movin', sarge!"
With a jerk the Kugelpanzer started forward. Tully dropped the machine gun back into his lap to shift the jeep. Once he got moving he picked up the gun again in his left hand to help cover Moffitt as they headed out of the encampment.
It was unfortunate that the tank's top speed was just under five miles per hours. Moffitt could hear bullets pinging off the Kugelpanzer's shell as he stared out the small slit to see where he was going.
Troy was keeping an eye on the tank and Tully. As soon as they were out of the camp and heading into the open desert, Troy tapped Hitch on the shoulder to let him know it was time to get out.
Hitch turned the jeep and headed towards the motor pool. As they passed, Troy tossed a bundle of three German grenades into at the fuel drums. Hitch then turned sharply to get away as quickly as possible.
As soon as they caught up with Tully, Troy yelled, "No matter what you stay with Moffitt!" When the private gave a thumbs up, the sergeant had Hitch turn back to run interference.
Moffitt was relieved when he spotted what he'd been looking for the last few miles. He turned the tank toward the scrub to hide. When he switched the engine off and opened the hatch, Tully was there and asked, "Everything okay, sarge?"
Moffitt climbed out as he said, "It's nearly out of gas. I thought it best to find a place to hide."
Tully got out of the jeep. "I'll fill her up."
Moffitt took a machine gun and said, "I'll keep a look out for Troy and Hitch."
Ten minutes later Tully had just lashed down the fuel can when he heard gunfire and recognized the sound of a 50 caliber machine gun. He quickly got in behind the jeep's wheel, and started rolling as Moffitt ran towards him.
As Moffitt climbed into the back, he said, "Troy and Hitch could use some help!"
The pesky Germans that were chasing Troy and Hitch didn't know the second jeep had come up behind them. Moffitt made quick work of one of the halftracks, leaving four. They split into two pairs—one to continue after Troy and Hitch, the second pair went after Moffitt and Tully.
The Germans were persistent, but the jeeps were more maneuverable. Grenades and 50 caliber slugs took their toll. Soon enough the last two halftracks were leaving the fight behind to head back to their encampment.
Hitch and Tully stopped next to each other to watch the Germans retreat, then Troy asked, "What happened to the tank?"
Moffitt smiled a bit as he replied, "I was running dangerously low on gas and pulled into a hiding place to get a fill up."
Troy gave a nod. "Okay, let's go pick it up and get rolling."
That evening, the Rat Patrol finally stopped for the night in the cover of a waterhole. After getting a hot meal, Troy said, "You know, Moffitt, as slow as that thing is, the war will over before we get it back to base."
Moffitt nodded. "I've been thinking about that too. If we turn west in the morning and only stop to gas up, we should be in Allied territory before midnight."
Troy smiled as he blew cigarette smoke out of his nose and mouth. "I trust there's more to this plan?"
Moffitt took a map out of his jacket pocket and said, "Remember that cave we accidently found in the hills…" He circled an area with his finger. "…right in here?"
Troy looked at the map that was illuminated by firelight. "Yeah, that cave is well hidden. If Tully and Hitch hadn't gotten snoopy, we'd never know about it. What are you thinking? Hide the tank and come back for it later?"
Moffitt smiled. "Something like that. We could hide it in the cave, then get within radio range and send a message with our coordinates. Have a truck come pick it up and we escort it back to base."
Troy thought about it and finally agreed. "Yeah, it could work."
It was well after nightfall when they reached the hills. A quick search revealed the cave and Hitch and Tully carefully moved the scrub aside so Moffitt could drive the tank inside. Once the sergeant had crawled out and joined his friends outside, Hitch and Tully meticulously replaced the plants and added a few more so the cave was well hidden again.
Moffitt said, "We should probably get going. The sooner we get that message out the sooner they can get here with a truck."
Troy sighed. "About that. I'm thinking it would be better if you and Tully stay here. Hitch and I will go take care of contacting base." Before Moffitt could argue he said, "It would be better if someone stayed here to keep an eye the cave. The last thing we need is for someone—German or Arab—to stumble across it. I don't foresee any problems, but if you don't hear from us in four hours, you'll have to take care of sending that message yourselves."
They all knew what that meant, but didn't voice it. Moffitt nodded and said, "All right. I'm not keen on the idea, but Tully and I will wait here."
Troy looked at his driver and said, "Let's go, Hitch."
After the jeep disappeared into the darkness, Moffitt said, "We'd better get the jeep under wraps for the night, Tully."
"I'll take care of it, sarge."
Moffitt took a machine gun from its holster. "I'll take first watch. Eat something and get some rest."
Tully made tea and took a mug out to Moffitt along with a box of K-rations. Then he wrapped a blanket around his shoulders and got comfortable in the back of the jeep with the radio's headset on.
Nearly four hours later Moffitt was trudging tiredly towards the jeep so Tully could take over on watch. He was only a few yards away when he saw Tully jerk awake and reach for the microphone. After a few seconds, the private said into the mic, "Right, sarge, we'll be waitin'. Over and out."
Moffitt hurried to his friend's side. "Did they get a message out?"
Tully slipped the headset off and said, "Yep. They're waiting for an answer from Captain Boggs. Troy said he'll let us know as soon as he hears something."
"Good." Moffitt handed the machine gun to Tully and said, "I was just coming in to get some rest."
Tully pushed himself up and hopped out of the jeep. He traded his blanket for the gun and said, "On my way, sarge."
With a tired sigh Moffitt wrapped the still warm blanket around himself and got into the jeep's passenger seat with the headset.
The sun was just starting to come up when word came from Troy that a truck was on its way. Moffitt yawned as he got out of the jeep. He stretched and spied Tully making his rounds. After relighting the fire, Moffitt put water on to heat, then got what was needed to start breakfast.
Tully got a whiff of eggs and spam cooking and smiled as he headed into camp. "Mornin', sarge. Hear anything from Troy and Hitch?"
Moffitt stirred the eggs and turned the spam in the pan. "I did. A truck is on its way. Troy and Hitch will wait for it and lead them back here." He scooped some eggs onto a plate, added two thick slices of spam, and handed it to Tully as he asked, "Coffee or tea this morning?"
Tully's stomach rumbled hungrily as he took the plate. "Got any of that good tea your mom sends you?"
Moffitt grinned. "Of course. I never leave home without it."
It wasn't long before they were sitting side-by-side, eating breakfast in companionable silence.
Tully cleaned up and stowed their gear. He had filled Olive's gas tank and had started to check the engine when Moffitt called from his spot on the hill, "We may have some company coming."
After putting the hood down, Tully quickly pulled the camouflage tarp back into place. He grabbed the second machine gun and went up to look out at the desert. He hunkered down behind a boulder with Moffitt and asked, "Germans?"
The sergeant handed the binoculars to the private as he said, "Yes. They're no doubt looking for their missing Kugelpanzer and the people that stole it. They've probably been following our tracks as much as possible."
Tully frowned as he peered out at the German patrol. "It does look like they're coming this way. Think they might know about the cave and are comin' to check it out?"
"Could be. Is the jeep ready to go?"
Tully nodded. "She's ready."
Moffitt said, "If they don't turn soon, we'll have to be set to go out and lead them away."
Twenty minutes later, when the patrol was less than two miles away, they suddenly turned north in the general direction Troy and Hitch had gone. Tully said, "Looks like they're going to follow Bertha's tracks now."
"There was enough wind last night to obliterate most of the tracks we left behind. They'll follow just about anything they can see, but I don't see them going much farther into Allied territory. However, just to be safe I'm going to contact Troy to warn them about the possibility there may be trouble on the way."
Tully said, "I'll stay here and keep an eye on them as long as I can see 'em."
It was nearly midafternoon when the radio again crackled to life. Tully answered and then went up to inform Moffitt of the call. "Troy says the truck is there and they'll be headin' our way soon."
Moffitt gave a nod. "Good. Did he say anything about that German patrol?"
"Yeah. They haven't seen it … at least not yet."
Moffitt checked his watch and said, "If they're lucky, they'll make it back here before dark."
The rest of the afternoon was quiet, save for the buzzing of occasional insects, with Moffitt and Tully taking turns on watch and listening for any news on the radio.
It was about 1800 hours when the sound of gunfire could be heard in the distance. Moffitt hurried up the hill to where Tully was and asked, "What is it?"
Tully handed the binoculars to the sergeant and said, "Looks like that German patrol ran into Troy, Hitch, and our truck."
After a quick look, Moffitt said, "Let's go give them some assistance before they get any closer."
The Germans hadn't realized who they were up against before the appearance of the second American jeep and they were taken by surprise.
As the jeeps ran circles around the enemy with 50s blazing, Troy managed to kill the Germans commander while shooting up the halftrack's engine. Moffitt, as was usual for him, tossed a well-aimed grenade into one of the other halftracks. The explosion rendered the vehicle useless and the occupants dead. Without their commanding officer and the destruction of two halftracks, the Germans decided to cut their losses and head back to their lines with their tails between their legs.
When they finally got to the cave, Troy hopped out of the jeep and said, "Thanks for the rescue, Moffitt. Anyone hurt?"
The truck's driver said, "One of my guys was hit, sergeant!"
Moffitt grabbed a med kit and started for the back of the truck.
Hitch joined Tully, who was leaning on the jeep. "It was getting a little dicey out there before you and Moffitt showed up. We couldn't…" Hitch saw blood on his friend's sleeve and called to Troy, "Tully's been hurt, sarge!"
Tully shook his head. "I'm okay. It's just a scratch."
Troy hurried over as Hitch tore open the bloodied material on Tully's upper arm. "How's it look?"
Hitch said, "It's a graze. I'll take care of it."
Troy smiled slightly at Tully. "You and your 'scratches'." He walked over to the truck as two men got out of the back and stuck his head in, knowing that Moffitt would want to know about his driver. "Tully took a graze to the arm. Hitch is cleaning him up." Troy looked at the wounded man Moffitt was working on and asked, "How's he doing?"
Moffitt was relieved to hear about Tully, and said, "This one took a bullet in the chest. It's going to be touch and go."
"Can we move him so we can load the tank?"
"If we're careful."
Troy instructed one of men to help Moffitt and had the other two follow him to the cave.
With a low whistle one of the men said when he saw the tank, "Isn't that something."
"Yeah, it's something all right. I just hope it's worth it."
The Kugelpanzer was loaded into the truck and secured. Everyone got into their respective vehicles and they were on their way.
They drove until it got too dark to safely go on, then found a place to make camp.
Unfortunately, the badly wounded soldier died during the night, having never regained consciousness. He was buried in the sheltered area where they'd spent the night.
When Captain Boggs got word that a truck and two jeeps would soon arrive at the base at Ras Tanura, he went out to meet them at the motor pool.
Once the vehicles were parked, the Rat Patrol got out of the jeeps and greeted the captain with a salute. Boggs returned the gesture and asked, "How did it go?"
Troy fished a set of dog tags out of a pocket as he said, "The mission was a success, sir, but…" He handed the tags to the captain. "…we lost one man."
Boggs took the dog tags and looked at the name. "Private Parnell." With a sigh he said, "I'll have his family contacted." Then the captain looked at the truck. "Let's have a look at this 'Ball Tank', sergeant."
As they walked up to the back of the truck, one of the men pulled the flap aside to reveal the captured tank.
Boggs nodded. "Interesting." The men began to pull the planks out so they could offload the German vehicle. "Who got to drive it?"
Moffitt said, "I did, sir. It took a bit of getting used to, but it wasn't too difficult."
"What's your overall evaluation?"
"It's slow in sand. The slit doesn't afford much help when trying to see where you're going. It's a cumbersome machine when it comes to steering and shooting the 7.62mm machine gun at the same time. That was something I chose not to even attempt, captain. Overall, I wouldn't trade in the jeep for one."
When the Kugelpanzer was out of the truck and sitting in the light of day again, Captain Boggs strolled around it and said, "High Command is going to have a heyday with this capture. The report says this is the only one."
Troy gave a nod. "Let's hope they don't try to duplicate it, captain. That report also said the Germans were going to send the finished products to Japan."
Boggs turned after having a look inside. "Good work, men." He noticed Tully holding his arm and asked, "Are you all right, Private Pettigrew?"
Tully said, "Just a scratch, sir."
Troy smiled. "A bullet grazed him. More than a 'scratch', but not serious."
Moffitt added, "We'll get him to medical as soon as we're done here."
Boggs said, "Very well, you're dismissed. I expect a written report on my desk tomorrow. Other than that, take the next forty-eight hours off."
Troy saluted. "Thank you, captain."
As the four Allies walked away, Tully said, "I don't need to go to medical, sarge. Hitch didn't use as much alcohol as Moffitt usually does, but he did a good job on me. I'm okay."
Before Troy could respond, Moffitt smiled and said, "All the more reason to get your arm checked out. I'm sure Hitch did do a good job, but better safe than sorry."
Tully sighed, knowing he wasn't going to win the argument. "Hitch, would you go find Charley? Make sure she understands it's nothing serious."
Hitch grinned. "Sure, Tully."
"And don't tell her it's just a scratch either. She won't believe it."
Troy and Moffitt walked with Tully to medical and were waiting for him when Troy noticed the look on his fellow sergeant's face and said, "You look deep in thought. What's going on in that head of yours?"
Moffitt chuckled quietly. "I was just visualizing an entire armored company made up of Kugelpanzers rolling slowing over the dunes."
Troy couldn't help but chuckle himself at the thought. "It's going to be a while before that scene gets outta my head."
"Like a herd of small, unwieldy elephants."
Hitch and Charley walked in as the two sergeants chuckled together. Charley asked, "What are you two laughing at?"
Moffitt explained and Hitch laughed, but Charley didn't understand. Troy said, "You'd have to see it for yourself."
Charley smiled slightly. "I guess so. Now, where's Tully?"
Moffitt said, "The doctor is taking care of him. It really isn't serious, Charley. He should be out any minute."
"Hitch says you've all got forty-eight hours off."
Troy nodded. "That's right. You'll be able to dote on that husband of yours for two days."
Charley grinned and said, "I'd dote on him anyway."
Tully was rolled out in a wheelchair by a corpsman. He stood up and Charley took her place next to him and asked, "How're you feeling?"
Tully shrugged. "I little sore, but I'm fine."
"Good. I want to see the small elephant you guys captured."
Tully looked totally lost as he looked around at his friends. "What?"
Troy, Moffitt, and Hitch were again laughing as they led the way back to the motor pull and filled Tully in.
Sorry, but I got the Rawhide theme stuck in my head after Moffitt's comment, "I was just visualizing an entire armored company made up of Kugelpanzers rolling slowing over the dunes."