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Posted on Nov 17, 2008 in Electronic Games

Hell’s Highway, 1944 – John Antal Turns a Game into a Narrative

By John Antal

Zanovitch's bazooka team prepares to take the shot! Courtesy John Antal.In an instant, Zanovitch jumps out of the woods, runs about ten yards, and then quickly takes up a kneeling firing position in the road. The halftrack’s engine labors to pick up speed, and the Germans in the open back compartment scurry to turn the machine gun back to the rear. The Germans’ efforts are too late — Zanovitch already has the vulnerable rear of the halftrack in his bazooka’s stadia reticle. He squeezes the trigger and launches a 2.36-inch rocket at the vehicle.

Flames shoot out of the front and rear of the bazooka as the rocket grenade jets from the tube. In a flash of fire and smoke the rocket impacts the rear of the halftrack — a perfect shot. Zanovitch has proved as good as his word. There is a loud, ear-popping sound as the round detonates against the rear of the halftrack and the high-explosive, shaped-charge projectile sears through the halftrack’s metal rear doors.


The vehicle lurches forward, as if it had been pushed by a giant hand, and abruptly stops. In the smoke and flame, two Germans who survived the initial blast struggle out over the side of the vehicle. One man’s clothes are on fire.

“Fire!” Baker orders.

His men open up with a withering barrage of rifle and machine-gun fire.

Their rounds ping off the metal of the burning halftrack. The two Germans who slid off the side of the halftrack are easy targets. Every British and American weapon fires at them. The two men fall, riddled with bullets.

In less than twenty seconds it is all over.

“Cease-fire!” Baker orders and then stands up, waving his right hand in front of his face as the signal to cease-fire in order to make sure everyone understands his command.

The men along the ambush line stop firing. The only sound now is the crackle of the flames and the screams from a man inside the halftrack.

Baker hears the screams and guesses that they must be from the driver, who was somehow pinned inside the vehicle.

Thick, oily black smoke forms in a column above the flaming German vehicle.

Cat calmly stands up, walks up to the open compartment of the burning halftrack, and drops a grenade inside.

He dives to the ground, landing next to the dead German who is still on fire. The grenade explodes with a dull, hollow sound that echoes inside the armored vehicle.

There is no more screaming.

Cat walks back to the line where Baker is now standing.

“Was that necessary?” Baker asks.

“If I’m ever trapped inside a burning Bren Carrier,” Cat offers icily, “I hope some Jerry will do the same for me.”

Baker looks at Cat and then ducks as the ammunition aboard the flaming wreck detonates. Everyone hits the dirt as a shower of sparks flies skyward.

After a minute the fire dies down. The shower of sparks ends.

Baker momentarily surveys the carnage his squad has just wrought, then stands up. “Let’s move back to the vehicles and mount up. We’ve got to get back and report this. It might help convince headquarters to urge XXX Corps to get the lead out and get over this bridge as soon as possible – there’s got to be more live Germans where these guys came from.”




For more WWII action with Staff Sergeant Baker in Operation Market-Garden, read John Antal’s new novel, Brothers in Arms, Hell’s Highway, on bookshelves now.

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