#126 – The Guns of Navarone

My sister-in-law caught her five-year-old son smashing his sibling’s American Girl doll to pieces with a rock yesterday. When asked to explain his conduct, Franco proclaimed himself “Thor,” and said he’d killed one of his enemies. Gina fears her son’s bloodthirsty impulses and their dire implications. I advised my wife to let her know all boys like to destroy things: “Just tell Gina about me and ‘The Guns of Navarone’; she’ll feel much better.”

As a little boy, I regularly waged imaginary battles causing actual carnage. I’d step into the shoes of an imaginary alter ego and employ G.I. Joe action figures to conduct World War II missions in my backyard. “The Guns of Navarone” was a classic example.

One morning in October of ’71, a/k/a 1944, the decorated strategist, General Richard C. Stern, “volunteered” his deadliest Joes for an important suicide mission: to blow up a munitions’ factory in Essen, just north of dad’s hammock. General Stern deployed his band of molded plastic marauders to the Ardennes forest, a tree-lined area between the swimming pool and the fence. The team parachuted into a gully southwest of Bastogne, right next to the swing set.

In typical fashion, a Nazi regiment ambushed the squad even before they broke camp. Panzer shells (i.e., large rocks hurled by me) rained down around the Joes. In moments, “Henry,” the fuzzy headed African-American Joe (an unparalleled knife assassin), took a fatal hit to the chest. The shell striking him crushed his plastic torso and snapped the critical elastic band connecting his midsection, head and lower body. One second he looked ready to carve up Germans like Christmas hams; the next second, his head sat atop the seesaw, his chest lay on the slide, and his legs protruded from the sandbox. Similar fatal decapitations befell “Dirk,” the fuzzy blond-haired Joe, and “Joe,” the fuzzy brown-haired Joe.

Within minutes, only one team member remained: “Mick,” the fuzzy red-headed Joe (a demolitions expert). Yet even he didn’t escape unscathed. His shoulder took a direct hit. The plastic hinge connecting his arm to his body shattered, and the arm fell off. Despite arterial spray jetting from his shoulder socket (the contents of a ketchup packet I kept handy), Mick kept his cool and reattached the limb (using the roll of masking tape I’d packed to treat such injuries).

Against all odds, Mick reached his goal, traversing a wheat field on the outskirts of Essen (the un-mowed stretch of lawn next to the hammock), and arriving at the munitions factory (a Lego masterpiece constructed earlier that week). He rigged the building with explosives (courtesy of firecrackers I’d “borrowed” from my brother’s supply). Only, he miscalculated the fuse’s ignition time and failed to clear the blast zone before the factory exploded. With a mighty roar Lego pieces flew everywhere, and Mick’s arm fell off again.

Just then, the back door opened and my brother emerged. Frank scanned my swath of devastation and matter-of-factly exclaimed: “There he goes again, taking out the Guns of Navarone.”

On second thought, maybe Sophia should cheer Gina up with another other story … from someone else.

Henry — before the fatal hit

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