— Dawn. Pressburger briefs the tank commanders before the tanks begin to roll into Czechoslovakia. —
Dawn didn’t so much break, as inveigle its way into the darkness. Thick fog caused drops of ice cold water to drip off everything, soaking the Sherman engines’ spark plugs and making them reluctant to start. But now the steady rumble of the V8s in the gaseous Hades between silent trees added a hypnotic quality, which soothed the crews. The pre-dawn briefing didn’t start well for Jack:
“Merriweather, that’s the third time you have gone AWOL under my command,” Pressburger bellowed, throwing down a wad of maps. “If you weren’t the best tank crew I have, you would be up for Courts Marshal. Just once more and … .” He left the consequences hanging.
Jack noticed the tent canvas seem to shimmer, as if it wasn’t quite there. Then he found he couldn’t remember what the man had just been saying to him.
“You listening to me Merriweather?”
The other five tank commanders, the last left in the 4th Armored Division’s 51st Armored Infantry Battalion, glanced at Jack, but he stared ahead, stone-faced.
“Now, down to business,” Pressburger continued. He rolled out a large map on a table and stuck his finger onto a black spider. “This here, is Pilsen. That’s where we’re going. Patton just got the go-ahead from Eisenhower and Bradley to invade Czechoslovakia. But we’re not to go beyond Pilsen. Why Pilsen?”