T he thunder of C-47s flying overhead. For the hungry, cold, and underequipped men besieged in and around Bastogne, the roar was like a mother’s sweet and soft lullaby, a sound promising security and warmth. Finally, after almost ten days of stormy weather, the skies had cleared and the Army Air Force could send out their planes, both to resupply the men and to destroy German artillery and tanks.

Abe’s company had marched most of the morning, beneath Allied aircraft racing through clear blue skies. They finally halted in a small Belgian town that had been taken by the Germans and then retaken by the Allied forces in some of the week’s fiercest fighting. The front line was now a few miles in front of them, and the men would have a chance to get some hot food, medical attention, and much-needed rest.

Abe found himself a billet in a small home, one of the few that had not been destroyed by the German artillery barrages, and he made himself a comfortable bed out of a mattress he’d found lying among the ruins of a house, carefully clearing the glass shards that covered it. He caught a couple of hours of sleep and then, refreshed, walked out to his jeep, easily recognizable by the hood ornament it sported so proudly. The motor had been balky and he hoped a little oil, drained out of an abandoned German jeep, might get it purring again.

He glanced up at the sky. More planes, some of them dropping small gold and silver squares; those pretty aluminum trinkets that the men grabbed for souvenirs were designed to confuse German radar. Abe had already amassed quite a collection, which one day he hoped to share with his little boy, so he turned his attention back to the jeep.

Suddenly, though, he gazed upward again; something was wrong. Amid the roar of the engines he heard a different sound, a sinister sound — the steady, swift pounding of German anti-aircraft guns shooting, their deadly projectiles heading straight for the aircraft above.

The planes were already taking evasive action, soaring upward or careening to the left or right. One C-47, banking sharply, seemed to stall in midair. In the space of a few seconds Abe saw several parachuting figures hurtling out and then, with a heart-stopping explosion, a fireball blazing in the sky.

The other aircraft disappeared into safer skies, the Kraut ack-ack quieted down, and all was silent.

Except for the sound of a jeep’s engine revving up.

Some of those airmen may have survived.

He raced into his billet and grabbed his rifle, some grenades, a first-aid kit, his canteen, and binoculars. Should he call for a squad to accompany him? His best men were exhausted from the past few nights’ artillery barrages; let them sleep. There were substitute G.I.'s available, just arrived from the repple-depple,1 but they were untrained and inexperienced, and would just hold him back.

I’ll do this myself: Search and rescue time, Abie boy.

Captain Abe Levine roared off toward the forest. (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 540)