L ieutenant Pontiac had the crazies.

Not battle fatigue, that dreaded darkness that can overtake a soldier when he has gone through too much physical and mental suffering, when his brain and his heart cannot absorb even one particle more, and he escapes into paralysis, hallucination, or endless sorrow.

Not First Lieutenant Abe Levine — “Lieutenant Pontiac”— who’d received a Bronze Star for his service in Normandy and a commendation for blowing up a tank in Holland with a few grenades. Not the officer so admired for his calm during battle and his exploits when things were quiet: the only officer in the army whose jeep sported a Pontiac hood ornament! Not the man respected for his fairness who, when his CO recommended him for the commendation, had refused unless the other members of his squad were also recognized, an unusual gesture in an army where officers often ignored the contributions of enlisted men.

No, this past week Lieutenant Levine was just acting a little… crazy. Relaxed crazy. Fun crazy.

Actually, here in this base, everyone was having some fun. After two months in Holland, fighting what the G.I.'s soon realized was an unnecessary and probably losing battle, the paratroopers had been replaced by regular infantry units and were sent to rest and regroup in a base in liberated France.

Here they trained the green recruits fresh from the States who’d been sent to replace those wounded or dead. They practiced maneuvers and football with equal enthusiasm, and waited for the next parachute drop, probably into Germany itself, and probably, they assured each other, not until after the winter. Here they basked in hot food and regular mail calls, with letters and packages from their loved ones.

Come to think of it, it was that last package that had set the Lieutenant off onto his newest escapade: lighting candles every night on a barrel set up in front of the barracks, and singing at the top his lungs some odd Jewish songs.


Abe knew quite well that his men thought he’d gone nuts, but frankly, he didn’t care.

It was Annie’s package that did it. As always, the letter that accompanied it was lighthearted and loving: after ammunition, the most important part of his soldier’s gear.

Mutty helped me bake Chanukah cookies today, which meant the process took twice as long. What a mess! We made them early so we could send them to you, and I hope you like them even if they crumble or get hard on the way there.

I guess it’s hard for you to keep track, so you should know that Chanukah this year begins on Sunday night, December 10. I don’t know if you’ll be able to light a menorah, but at least you should remember (and enjoy the cookies!). Papa says we’ll mark the holiday as we always did, with great joy, with all the men lighting every night, and then latkes (I’ll be frying for hours!) and singing. He says it’s a reminder of how victory is in G-d’s hands. May it be soon! (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 536)