“November 27th, 1942. At the break of dawn Admiral de Laborde gave orders to scuttle the ships as soon as the Nazis entered the town of Toulon, so that the vessels couldn’t fall into the enemy’s hands. Most of the French navy’s biggest ships had taken refuge in the Toulon harbor. Witnesses said that many of the captains stayed on the bridge of their ships until they had sunk beneath the waves. Others even went down with their ships. Many crewmen stood on the docks and watched as flames engulfed their ships. Some wept. Others saluted. A quarter of a million tons of shipping were sunk, including the battleships Dunkirk, Provence and Strasbourg, seven cruisers and 12 submarines.”
His friend Charles was a typical French freedom fighter. He loved wine, and he loved women even more. He loved to sing, and he loved liberty. He had taken all these things for granted up until the German occupation. He lost his brother and father on the Island of Corsica a year earlier in a bombing raid, and yet the tragedies that had come his way hadn’t taken from him his love of life. Instead, they had hardened his resolve to fight oppression.
Soon after the first bombing raid that killed his father and brother, the Nazis arrived on the island in force. Charles had been torn between staying with the remaining members of his family or joining the Resistance. If he stayed in Corsica he risked being shot. It was because of this that his mother and sister pleaded with him to leave the island and fight on the Mainland for his country. He escaped the Island in a fishing boat with three others, and shortly after made contact with the Resistance.
Like many others, years of fighting had taken a gentle fisherman and hardened him to the realities of war. He had stabbed, shot, poisoned, and he had even strangled Nazis with his bare hands.
It wasn’t long until the local Resistance began its work on Corsica. They saw their mandate was to do anything that would frustrate, confuse or hinder the enemy. This entailed the carrying out of full-scale attacks on convoys, to simply cutting communication wires.
Charles had often spoken to Jerry about his happy and carefree childhood. That’s why it didn’t surprise Jerry when he decided to go back to the island. He said that it was his prayer that when the Nazis began retreating, Corsica would be their fist backward step. What surprised Jerry was his insistence that he go back with him. It didn’t take long for him to come to a decision.
To be continued.