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"The Rules of Death": After returning from a ferocious firefight with a squad of Panzer tanks where all but three of them make it out in one piece, Jeb Stuart believes he has had enough of the war. But the death and destruction has taken a greater toll on their commanding officer Captain "Skippe
- War... It's like a hungry fire... being fed by tanks and men... steel and flesh melting in the flames of combat!
Appearing in "The Rules of Death"
- General J.E.B. Stuart
- Captain Jamison
- Major John S. Buckley (Dies)
- Unnamed enemy soldiers
- Unnamed allied soldiers
- Kelly, Shapiro and Fischetti (Dies)
- Lts. Woods, Riley and Donetti (Dies)
- Lt. Peters (Dies)
- Privates Vincent, Bracken, Aston and Sawyer (Dies)
- The Haunted Tank
- Panzerkampfwagen IV
- Willys MB U.S. Army Jeep
Synopsis for "The Rules of Death"
After returning from a ferocious firefight with a squad of Panzer tanks where all but three of them make it out in one piece, Jeb Stuart believes he has had enough of the war. But the death and destruction has taken a greater toll on their commanding officer Captain "Skipper" Jamison. That evening Jeb notices that the lights in the Captain's barracks are still on. Entering, he find a babbling and broken Captain Jamison, clearing past the breaking point. The next morning the squad watches as the medics take Jamison away to base hospital for psychiatric treatment. It looks as if he's out of the war, maybe for good.
The next day, the new commanding officer arrives on base, Major John S. Buckley, and he is less than impressed. First, the soldier at the gate forgets to check his pass, then the desk sergeant is found to be lounging with his feet up. He calls a meeting of all crews, only to find them tardy and wearing uniforms that looked like they'd been slept in. Buckley swears that he will bring the camp, and its men, up to his standards. He places Lieutenant Peters on report for aborting his missions three times in the last month, calling him a coward and assigning three men noted for spending more time on sick call to his crew.
With orders to keep going and stand and fight at all costs, the next day Stuart and his tank pull out on their next mission with the rest of the tank squadron. The Panzers are waiting for them, but they held their ground and fought until the Germans high tailed it out in retreat. But it cost them. Three tanks - three crews, dead. Jeb Stuart makes a remark that at least they died shaven and in clean uniforms, and is reprimanded by Buckley for his insolence.
Time passes, and the mounting losses begin to take their toll on Major Buckley. Letter after letter he is forced to write, each one to another grieving family. Every name a man lost under is command. Then one day after a particularly bloody fight, Buckley rushes outside of his barracks just in time to watch Lt. Peters' tank barrel through his building. It stops, and upon opening the hatch they find Peters had driven the tank back to base by himself, with one arm blown off, surrounded by the dead bodies of his crew. Buckley vomits from the grisly sight. He begins to sob, mumbling incoherently.
The next morning, under his orders, the tank squadron begin to roll out once again. Buckley rushes out of his tent, screaming for them to stop. He's snapped, crying that they'll never come back. His men hold him back. Their orders are for maximum effort - the enemy was going to break through at the weaker point and had to be stopped. The tanks roll out to create a barrier between them and the Germans. Jeb has never seen so many Panzers in a battle, and they clearly out gun them. The battle begins, with shells exploding all around them. Jeb spots a lone jeep driving to avoid the devastation, when an explosion knocks it over on its side. It's Major Buckley, who hijacked a jeep and ran towards the battle. He climbs aboard the Haunted Tank, talking over command from Jeb. He orders the entire squadron to open fire, and through a red, cordite-stinking haze Jeb could see the Panzers move in for the kill. With Buckley in charge, the squadron goes wild into the enemy pounding at them until the Germans sound the retreat. Major Buckley relaxes, removing his helmet just as the last Panzer takes a final shot at them. The shell explodes next to the tank, sending shrapnel tearing into the Major's body. Buckley dies in Jeb's arms, a final smile of satisfaction on his face. As the Haunted Tank rolls by the others carrying Major Buckley's body, the men salute their fallen officer. He had earned their respect.
Appearing in "The Soldier Who Couldn't Kill"
- Private Pete Howser
- Private Coyle
- Unnamed Nazi Soldier
- Hans (Dies)
- Four unnamed members of the draft board
- Unnamed Location
Synopsis for "The Soldier Who Couldn't Kill"
Amid the back and forth skirmishing and sounds of sporadic gunfire, a familiar cry is heard - the call for Medic. Private Coyle has been shot in the arm, wounded on the battlefield. Private Pete Howser, the company field medic, crawls belly down in the dirt towards his position. They are both pinned down by a German machine gun just a few yards ahead of them, unable to move any more than the slightest inch either way.
The Germans are uncertain if they had just wounded the man, or killed him. One German soldier picks up his rifle and heads out towards them to find out. Coyle spots the approaching German through the haze, and tells Howser to shoot him before he spots them. Howser refuses to kill, telling Coyle that he's a C.O. (Conscientious Objector) due to his religion, and that he informed the draft board that he'd do any job the army has for him as long as it doesn't involve killing. Coyle doesn't give a damn about his religion, telling him that it either kill the German or be killed. Howser makes the decision, and takes hold of the machine gun sitting nearby. He fires, but his aim is lousy and he misses with every shot. To their surprise the German turns around and runs away. Howser is grateful that he didn't have to kill the man. Howser picks up Coyle and helps him walk as they start back towards the aid station. As they pass the German machine gun pit, Coyle notices that Howser's shots had missed the first German, but hit the second in the pit dead on killing him. He decides not to tell him, letting Howser believe that his record is still clean.
Appearing in "War Without End"
- Lieutenant John Bell I
- Lieutenant John Bell IV
- Unnamed allied soldiers
- Unnamed enemy soldiers
- Manfredi, Jones, Kunkel (Dies)
- Portable foxholes
- Sonic gun
Synopsis for "War Without End"
Somewhere in Europe in 1945, Lieutenant John Bell studies a much-handled photo of his young son Johnny as he sits in a foxhole. His squad is on a mission to take out the "Heap", a heavily armed German fortress sitting atop a hill and the last enemy strongpoint holding up the Allied final breakthrough. The Lieutenant is daydreaming of the end of the war and his return home, until he is brought back to reality by a bullet zipping through the center of the photo. Bell hates the Heap, how it blots out the sky, how it keeps him from returning to his family and son, and how he has to send me to certain death just for a few more yards of ground closer. Bell rallies his men for another push, but the second they jump up to make the charge they are surrounded by the bullets raining down on them from the Heap. The squad manage to make it just a few more yards forward, to a stone wall that snakes across the field, but the gain of ground comes at the price of three of his men. Bell is ready to make another push, but orders from Battalion call for them to pull back so the bombers can come in for an air strike. The Lieutenant obeys the orders and sends his men back just as the bombers swoop in for the kill, but after the smoke clears the Heap is still standing just as strong as before. Furious, Bell leaps up to charge the Heap on his own, just as a shell is sent in his direction. It explodes, flinging Bell through the air. The sky seems to swallow him like a hungry mouth.
Flat on the ground, Bell wakes up, numb but alive. He looks up to see that the Heap is now gone, and in its place some type of strange building. He gets up and begins to wander around the field, looking for his men. They are nowhere to be seen, but he notices strange shiny pods dotting the ground around him. As he nears one, it opens up and a hand pulls him down to the ground. The stranger scolds him for being out in the open. The pods are portable foxholes, a standard with the army since the year 2000. Lieutenant Bell realizes that the explosion must have knocked him into the future. The stranger introduces himself as Lieutenant Johnny Bell, and the Bell from the past is shocked to find that he's talking to his own great-grandson right in the middle of World War 3. The future Bell explains that the tower on the hill is armed with a sonic gun that's holding their troops at bay, and is surrounded by an impenetrable Magno-field. Just then the sonic gun is fired and, in order to save Bell the future Bell leaps out of his foxhole grabbing him and flying to safety with a jet pack. Landing nearby, the two discover an old Roman aqueduct that runs under the hill, uncovered during the last missile strike. The future Bell then leaps off into the air to join his men in a last resort air strike. The tower fires, and a huge explosion wipe every soldier from the air, and knocks Bell off his feet just like before.
When Bell awakens, he finds himself back in 1945 with his men. Knowing what he must do, he grabs a shovel and begins to dig in the area where he had seen the aqueduct in the future. His men join in, and soon they uncover the top of the structure. His men are confused as to how he knew it was there, but Bell keeps the secret to himself. They fix bayonets and run into the underground aqueduct that leads them right to beneath the Heap. There they find the Germans unprepared for a sneak attack. They spring from nowhere, taking out every German in the fort until they reach the heart of the fortress and its command. Rounding up the remaining prisoners, Lieutenant Bell thinks of his experience in the future and wishes his great-grandson good luck and farewell.
Appearing in "Whose War Is It Any Way?"
- Enemy Soldiers
- Unnamed C.O.
- Unnamed 1-star General
- Unnamed warfront location
- The Haunted Tank
- Panzerkampfwagen IV
Synopsis for "Whose War Is It Any Way?"
Gus Gray, the Haunted Tank's gunner, stares with disgust at the Confederate flag waving in the breeze from the antenna of his tank. He can never forget that it is the symbol of the South, the flag of slaves, bigotry and suppression. Even now, he feels that he is fighting to be free.
Out on a mission, the boys hear Jeb Stuart talking to himself from atop the tank. While Jeb has a one-on-one discussion with his famous ancestor's ghost, those below discuss what war means to them and what it will take to win. Their discussion is cut short when a group of Panzers appear to the left of them. While Jeb takes shots to knock out their officers on top, Gus does what he does best - loading the shells that Rick fires to knock the tanks out of commission. Both Panzers are destroyed with speed, and Jeb orders the tank forward towards their next checkpoint before they return to base.
When they return, their Commanding Officer is waiting for them along with one-star General from headquarters. The General takes one look at flag waving from their tank and loses his temper. He turns to Jeb, telling him that this is the United States Army, not the Confederacy, and orders the flag removed immediately. Jeb is heartbroken to have to remove the symbol his family fought for so hard, but obeys the order and tells his men to remove and burn it. The others don't feel right obeying the order, but Gus has no problems with burning the symbol of oppression. He rips the flag off the antenna and throws it onto the fire. But before the flag can burn the fire is mysteriously extinguished, and when he attempts to relight it the flag is caught in a gust of wind and blown away.
The Haunted Tank is once again ordered out on patrol. Later that day they are ambushed by a squad of Panzer tanks on the field. Gus loads the turret as fast as he can, but each shot that Rick takes misses its target. It's like the entire tank and its crew had been jinxed. Jeb orders a swift retreat downstream, allowing one Panzer a clear past back to the Army's base. The Panzer opens fire into the base, destroying U.S. tents and tanks. The Haunted Tank arrives back just in time for the firefight, but the previous battle with the Panzers left them severely under armed with only one shell left. The Panzer spots the little tank on the hill approaching and swings its turret around to get a clear shot. Just then, the ghost of General J.E.B. Stuart appears before them, carrying the lost Confederate flag that had been blown away. He drops the flag right on top of the Panzer, obscuring the view of the gunner inside. Given the chance they needed, Rick takes his last shot and hits the Panzer square on, destroying it.
The battle now over, Jeb gets down from the tank to retrieve the flag from the remains of the enemy tank. He tells the General that he destroy the flag as ordered. The General stops him, telling Jeb that after the good job they did in the firefight, they can fly any flag they wish!
- No special notes.
- According to a calendar on the wall, "The Rules of Death" occurs in July.
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Links and References
- G.I. Combat series index at the Grand Comics Database
- Haunted Tank article at Wikipedia
- Haunted Tank article at Don Markstein's Toonopedia
- Haunted Tank article at the Unofficial Guide to the DC Universe