Who Guards the Guards?

Brooklyn-born Private First Class Murray Lefkowitz had just escorted two German prisoners back to the 399th Infantry's regimental PW cage, and was headed back to his outfit, Company E. As the tepid mid-December mountain light gave way to dusk, four German soldiers jumped Lefkowitz, capturing him.

The three German privates and their squad leader -- all of the 361st Volks-Grenadier Division -- began to escort the unlucky PFC Lefkowitz through the deepening dark back to their own lines. Just a few steps into their trip, however, Lefkowitz heard unmistakable GI banter a short distance away. Just as he was getting ready to shout a call for help, the German Unteroffizier read his mind and pressed the muzzle of his machine pistol to back of Lefkowitz' head. That ended thoughts of escape . . . for the moment.

As the quintet quietly proceeded up the road, a jeep laden with hot chow turned the corner and almost ran into the party before the driver halted the vehicle. Peering through the blackness by the light of the jeep's blackout lights, the driver could only discern a small group of men in front of him -- but not the cut of their uniforms or the shape of their helmets. "Who's there?" the driver called out.

Realizing that this was the last stop before landing in a German PW compound -- with the added awkwardness of the "H" on his dog tags -- Lefkowitz shoved the German NCO into one of his men, leapt into a roadside drainage ditch, and rolled away downhill, into the darkness. In a flash he was on his feet shouting, "Shoot the Heinies! Shoot the Heinies!" Fearing a trick and effectively blind in the mountain night's murk, the driver hesitated. Seizing the moment, Lefkowitz, a fluent German speaker, yelled to his erstwhile captors to "komm 'raus mit den Händen hoch!" and the three grenadiers obediently complied with his "command." The German NCO declined, and got away cleanly.

-- From the Century Sentinel, 23 December 1944