Chapter Six: The Second Wave (Winter 1944-1945)
“Plug that gap now!”
What looked like a full company of enemy soldiers were pouring through the breach in American lines. They had flat ground in front of them and ample opportunity to flank American positions on the left and right. There weren’t enough to overrun the Americans… yet.
“I’ve got a company on the way, T.”
“Not quick enough. The enemy is moving too fast. Do you have the guns set up yet, M?”
“No, T. This terrain is tricky, I need a few more minutes.”
Another company appeared in the breach. The enemy had deployed smoke up the middle and the Americans’ operational machine guns were firing blindly into it. There was enough ammunition for the guns to get away with it, for now, but the results were bound to be less than optimal.
“Fire the rockets, M.”
“These are our last rockets. Are you sure, T?”
Moments later, streaks of fire and smoke appeared from the horizon behind the American lines, from behind the hills they were so desperately defending against the enemy onslaught.
“Come on, come on, come on! Stop these Frenchies!”
The friendly artillery couldn’t fire quickly enough for the forces on the ground. A third French company appeared out of the smoke into the breach, and then a fourth. This had to be the beginning of the main thrust of the French attack. Intel on just how many units the French had left was shaky but this attack represented at least a third of their remaining force, maybe more. Just then, R Force appeared and slowed the French advance. They were heavily outnumbered, but they didn’t need to beat them, they just needed to hold them until…
A short black teenager with braided black hair spins around in her chair and finds her mother, standing in the doorway with her arms crossed.
“Oh… jeez… just a minute, hold on, Mom.”
“What’s that, T?
“Nothing, keep up the attack.”
Out of the corner of her eye, Teanna saw yellow streaks zipping over the blotchy green terrain, evaporating the tiny sprites in a violent explosion of brown and orange pixels. The little tricolors blipping off the minimap meant one thing: the French spearhead was getting crushed.
“Teanna, I am not going to sit here raising my voice for no reason. Pause the game.”
The diminutive American commander flicks the mute switch on her microphone so her subordinates don’t hear her being scolded by her mother.
“Mom, I can’t pause the game, it’s online. Can I just get a few more minutes? I’m almost done.”
“Your grandfather is waiting.”
“He was supposed to come tomorrow!”
“Do you want me to tell a 74-year-old man to come back tomorrow because his granddaughter is too busy playing Shootymans?”
“It’s called World at W- never mind. Please, mom, we’re about to win. This is an important match.”
“You have three minutes.”
The American commander, no longer mysteriously indisposed, returned to find that control of the situation was slipping through her fingers. The smoke had partially cleared, and the French and American lines were now perilously close. Some units were engaged in hand-to-hand combat.
“Did you guys do a frontal charge? Dam- uh, darn it.”
“No, T, their reserves charged out of the woods as the smoke cleared. Is your mom yelling at you again? Tell her to make more cookies.”
“My dad makes the cookies, not my mom. And stay focused!”
Artillery was out of the question. The close quarters combat created too much risk of friendly fire. But now that the blocky gray smoke sprites were dissipating, the commander could more clearly see the array of French forces. They didn’t have enough infantry to see this attack through. So why had they done it?
“M, get the guns out of there now!”
“You got it, T.”
Madeleine got two thirds of her guns out before French counter-battery fire raked the hill she had occupied. That had been the French gambit: push forward enough to get a bead on Madeleine’s position, then obliterate her guns and give the French supremacy in artillery. Not a bad plan, but not good enough to beat Teanna’s squad.
The French infantry pulled back towards the woods after their commanders realized the ploy had failed. Robert’s forces had taken losses but held their position, and critically, most of the machine gun positions on the left and right of the American line had survived, meaning that the French running back across the clearing were running into their field of fire without smoke to cover them. With dozens of their soldiers falling dead in a manner of seconds, La Mafia Québécoise finally raised the white flag. They didn’t have the forces to stop Robert and Teanna’s infantry from chasing down their surviving artillery.
The Atlanta All-Stars won the day. Teanna had figured they were finished as soon as they did the worst thing a team playing France could do: they’d gotten their armor killed early. Still, LMQ had proven to a be resourceful opponent. Not as resourceful as the All-Stars though. Teanna, Robert and Madeleine would move on to Round 4 against Murder Death Kill. MDK was using Qing this tournament. Teanna hated fighting Qing. Especially as America.
“Yes!!! Okay, good job guys, gotta go!”
Teanna exited the game with a few swift clicks, and bolted to her feet, spinning around to find her mother with her arms crossed in the doorway.
“See, mom? Under three minutes!”
“It was four and a half. But I’ll let it slide. I’m not really sure what was going on there, but you sounded like quite the leader.”
“I get it from you.”
Teanna smiled a disarming smile at her. Her mother shook her head at this, but couldn’t stop a slight smile from appearing on her face.
“Come on. Your grandfather is waiting.”
Teanna did feel bad that she had made her grandfather wait, so she edged ahead of her mom in the hallway and stomped down the stairs.
Her grandfather was sitting patiently at the kitchen table, keeping his hands pressed up against his warm coffee cup. He heard the commotion of Teanna’s heavy footfalls and looked over to see his granddaughter running down the stairs.
“Good Lord, how does a girl that tiny make so much noise?”
He began to slowly and deliberately brace himself to stand up out of his chair.
“Oh, Grandpa, please don’t stand, you don’t have to stand.”
Like many a proud old man would, he continued trying to stand anyway but Teanna’s arms were wrapped around him soon enough. Finally, he settled back into his chair and returned the hug.
“How are things, child? How was your New Year’s?”
“Good! Mom and Ashley and I went to the fireworks at the Spartakiade Grounds. How about you?”
“Oh, that’s fun. I called your Uncle Gerald and then turned in at nine. Exciting, huh?”
He laughed his raspy laugh. Smoking for all those years had done a number on his throat. Teanna’s mother spoke up from the stairs as she descended.
“Teanna, you were so wrapped up by that computer game of yours, you forgot the whole reason Grandpa is here.”
Her mother waved a photograph in the air, one that she had taken from Teanna’s desk.
Teanna sprang up, slid across the hardwood floor and plucked the photograph from her mother’s hands.
“So, Grandpa, I have this, like, family history project at school? So, I went through the old pictures we have upstairs and found this one with you and all these guys. Nobody knows who they are.”
She flipped the picture over and then placed it down in front of her grandfather, who squinted at it and then grabbed his reading glasses from his shirt pocket. He put them on and then lifted the photograph closer to his face, finally recognizing the four young black men smiling and standing in front of a large lake.
“Oh, wow. Oh, wow.”
Sent: 5:55 AM April 22, 2010
Subject: ALL HANDS ON DECK: The PAF&G is coming to Atlanta!
Body: The news hasn’t been made public yet, but the mayor’s office told me that the Pan-African Congress has chosen Atlanta for the next Pan-African Festival and Games. This is a really big deal for the city because it’s the first time the event is coming to America. The Pan-African Film Festival is also coming which means that the host nation will be able to choose the films it wants to headline.
Let me be clear on one thing:
I REFUSE TO LET THE LOS ANGELES BUREAU HEADLINE AT A FESTIVAL IN ATLANTA. IT WILL NOT HAPPEN. NOT UNDER MY WATCH.
With that being said, we must begin our journey to headlining the first ever Pan-African Film Festival in America TODAY. And we’re going to need everybody we got to make it happen. So here it is:
I need every one of you, no matter what your position or how long you’ve been with us, to submit any film ideas you have. Even if you think they have nothing to do with the theme of the diaspora, submit them anyway. We need the best ideas we have if want to come out ahead in this. And that idea might be yours!
Atlanta Filmmaker’s Bureau
Sent: 11:26 PM April 22, 2010
Subject: PAFG Submission
Very exciting news about the Festival! It got me thinking about a paper I wrote in school about my grandfather, who told me a story about when he was living in Chicago and him and three of his friends saw a movie about an American fighting in Mittelafrika and then made a pact together that they would go to Africa to help finish the African revolutions. I’ve attached a scan of the photograph they took that night and of the paper I wrote. Be warned that I was thirteen when I wrote it so it might be a bit confusing to read. Hit me up if you have any questions about it.
Apprentice Special Effects Engineer
Atlanta Filmmaker’s Bureau
GrandpaAndHisFriends.png 4.35 MB
[IMAGE PREVIEW UNAVAILABLE]
Familyhistoryassignment.rtf 34 KB
Personal History Paper
January 2, 2001
72/100 Good concept but it looks like you rushed it and it seems pretty obvious to me that you didn’t even attempt to revise it. I know you’re better than this, Teanna.
I found this photo of my grandfather and three of his friends in an old box. It doesn’t have a date or names on it, but my grandfather said it was taken in 1944 in Chicago.
He said he and his friends had watched a movie about an American soldier doing heroic things fighting in West Africa on a big screen they had put up for the Third Congress. Who’s they?
My grandfather and his friends had been apprentices for Chamber delegates. But their time was running out and they were going to have to go back to factories to work. Don’t start a sentence this way. My grandfather said he thought he had the ability to do something other than factory work that was also important. Read these sentences out loud. If they’re awkward, rewrite them.
He thought maybe he could be a scientist and work on some kind of secret project.
But when the British Civil War happened, he thought that maybe things weren’t as good in the world as he had thought. Socialist countries had been united but now things were tense between them. Different socialist nations were starting to do things in different ways that they didn’t agree about.
When he saw the movie, his friend Marvin said that they should go to Africa to help the rest of Africa defeat the colonialists. They all went to the Foreign Ministry office and signed up to volunteer the next day. My grandfather said he went to Namibia and helped the Army there fix up the railroads to the other countries so that fighters and supplies could be moved around to different countries where they helped the fight. This sentence runs on. His friend Marvin died over there. Over where? Be specific. His other friend Leon fought in Angola. His other friend Joshua fought in South Africa.
This is important to my family history because it’s how my grandfather decided he wanted to work for the Foreign Development Agency. If not for that, he might not have met my grandmother, who is Igbo and from Benikongo. You need to elaborate more with this final paragraph for it to be a suitable conclusion. You clearly did the work to research this, but your write-up needs a lot of work. Come talk to me after class.
Sent: 1:56 PM May 19, 2010
Subject: RE: Archives Request
This concept sounds very interesting, so please feel free to contact us for any more assistance you may need. As you requested, I went through the archives and pinned down the records for the four men in the photograph.
Robert Carter, your associate’s grandfather, did indeed serve with the Volunteer Brigades in a support role in Windhoek, Namibia. His records show very little of note during the time in question. There were no special merits or demerits.
Leon Thomas, Jr. is the man to the right of Robert. Something you should know right away is that he is the Thomas in Pryor-Thomas, meaning he’s her father, so that’s an interesting wrinkle given how Pryor-Thomas feels about having anything about her personal life in the media. Thomas served in the Angolan detachment of the Volunteer Brigades as a medic. He was awarded the Medal of Military Merit by the Angolan government for his efforts in a battle near what is listed as Sá da Bandeira, today known as Lubango. Promising, but we don’t know any details about his heroism.
Marvin Harris III is the man to the left of Robert. He served in the Mozambican expedition as an infantryman. He was killed in action in that debacle.
The man to the left of Marvin is Joshua Brown. He served in South Africa as a “specialist.” What that means is undefined. There’s no information listed about his service at all, which is unusual. I would suggest getting into contact with the South African archives to see if they have records of his service.
By the way… you sounded like you were going to start sending bombs to the LA bureau. Nobody wants a bureau from another city to headline in theirs but you’re gonna burn yourself out if you let yourself stay so mad about it.
Chicago Filmmaker’s Bureau
Sent: 9:18 AM June 8, 2010
Subject: RE: Angola???
Hey Andrea, it was great to hear from you! When are you coming up to New York again?! We need to have lunch.
I love the idea, and I think the judges will go for it. I’m sure it’s better than whatever Los Angeles is doing, I don’t think you need to be so worried about them. Anyway, we do have people in Angola working on some nature shit for the Ministry of Education. I’ve been sorting through footage of aardvarks fucking for weeks and helping you with this would be a welcome change of pace. I forwarded everything in your email to our team there and I’ll let you know as soon as I hear back.
New York Filmmaker’s Bureau
Sent: 10:24 AM June 14, 2010
Subject: SOMEBODY TOLD
Los Angeles knows about the Angola proposal and has their own people on the ground already, and they’re definitely trying to steal OUR idea. I’m gonna figure out which one of you decided to blab on some dumb fucking forum which I’ve TOLD YOU: LA IS ALWAYS WATCHING THOSE FORUMS. When I do figure it out, you’ll be making STI prevention PSAs for the rest of your fucking life. Get your shit together!!!
Atlanta Filmmaker’s Bureau
Sent: 10:29 AM June 14, 2010
Subject: Regarding my last email
Body: I apologize for the severity of my last email. It was unprofessional and unbecoming. Please refer to bureau bylaw 715.6A regarding keeping production information confidential. Furthermore, I am aware and always willing to abide by our participatory disciplinary process. Thank you.
Atlanta Filmmaker’s Bureau
Sent: 5:56 PM June 26, 2010
Subject: Re: Angola research
Body: Apparently the Angola archives fucked up and gave the information my guys requested to somebody from the L.A. bureau who is also in Luanda. They were perfectly nice about it and dropped it off at the studio we’re working out of here.
Anyway, the nature bullshit is held up because some baboons (literal baboons) wrecked our camera. Since my Director of Photography is an obnoxious perfectionist, the camera that got wrecked needs some ridiculously specific part that is only made in Vietnam. The shit we put up with for our craft! That means my guys don’t have shit to do so I had them digitize all the documents the defense ministry handed over about the foreign volunteers. And they handed over a lot, way more than what you asked for.
The records include details of ALL foreign support efforts of the Angolan revolution, even what nations who didn’t send fighters did. It’s a massive file so they’ll send it over through FTP when they can.
New York Filmmaker’s Bureau
Sent: 2:56 PM August 6, 2010
Subject: Done with the Angola files
We’re preparing a full presentation of what’s in the Angola files, but I wanted to get a brief summary of the key points to everybody before the weekend.
Leon Thomas Jr. does appear in Angola’s service records, and his service record is just about as vague as the American record that Isabel found for us. The Leon Thomas Jr. story according to the Angolan and American records is that he was a medic and he was heroic enough in Lubango to get a medal. What was that heroism? Nobody bothered to write it down.
Leon, as a semi-public figure, has mentioned getting a medal in Angola, but doesn’t really discuss what he did to earn it. Not an uncommon trait amongst war heroes, but something that I think arouses suspicion combined with something else we learned.
Who’s going to clear this up for us? The British, of course! Unlike the American Red Army, who seemed content to vomit volunteers and equipment into Africa without ever following up to see what those men and materiel were being used for, the Republican Army organized and sent their own units with British commanders. And they kept records of what they did.
This is pretty typical of the time. British military intelligence had long standing connections with African socialist groups and provided support to their favored factions within the broader Angolan Revolution. Compared to the French and British, American intelligence networks in Africa were embryonic. The American Red Army went from having no contacts in these colonies to managing large-scale war efforts in a matter of months. So, the Angolan revolutionaries figured out that they could goad America into sending more troops by showering honors upon the volunteers. The American government, in their amateurish lust for good will and good press, totally took the bait and threw troops and equipment at any group that could sing even the first line of The Internationale and would pin a medal on an American.
The same flattery tactics didn’t work on the British. The British command was deciding how many people it would send to Angola and so Angolan coaxing for more support took place at higher levels. Thus, the Angolans were more likely to be honest about what the British fighters were doing. An American fighter in Angola was six times more likely to be awarded a medal than a British fighter.
So, in order to get a more accurate picture of what actually went down in the Angolan Revolution, we dive into the British records. The British kept records of all engagements they had knowledge of, even ones with no direct British involvement. They do show one engagement near Lubango, where an Angolan militia (which included 75 American volunteers) surrounded and captured a Portuguese unit in the dead of night, inflicting “about 150” casualties on the enemy with only 2 Angolans suffering “minor injuries.”
Leon has always been vague about what happened in Lubango. He says he earned his medal for being a “good medic.” How many opportunities are there to be a good medic when there are two minor injuries in your entire force? I’ll let you all draw your own conclusions about that.
Researcher & Archivist
Atlanta Filmmaker’s Bureau
Sent: 4:24 PM September 9, 2010
Subject: Focusing the Project
Body: If you missed the meeting today, then here’s a quick catch up on what we decided.
We can’t possibly fit the stories of all four men into one movie. Robert’s story is too uneventful, and Leon’s is far too unreliable. So that leaves Marvin in Mozambique and Joshua in South Africa. We don’t know enough about Joshua yet but many of you have made interesting cases to center the project around Marvin.
We decided not to do that. Here’s why.
France refused to help the Mozambican socialists because of a petty disagreement between the negotiators. This is really a pretty shameful thing we’d have to contend with for a story with Mozambique and I just don’t think it would make for the type of film that the festival judges would choose as a headliner.
It’s important for the film to center the fact that the Africans liberated Africa, with our assistance. While we can make an American the central character, we must also center the story of what they learned from and how they supported the local population. However, the campaign in Mozambique was disjointed from the start. The locals and Americans didn’t communicate effectively, so I don’t know if this is the kind of story we want to tell either.
And so, the climax of the Marvin story would be as follows: Marvin lands with the rest of the Americans. Because the Portuguese knew they were coming, they were massacred.
The Mozambican Revolution fails. I don’t know about you, but I’m not brimming with Afro-American pride because of this endeavor. It was a disaster, and while I’m interested by a film that deals with the frustrations when international socialist solidarity fails, I don’t think its appropriate for the Festival. Marvin is a hero, but not the hero for the story we need to be telling.
The paucity of film about the first Mozambican Revolution was a good point in favor of centering Marvin. However, South Africa’s revolution gets more attention for a reason, because it was longer, more fruitful and more intricate. On the other hand, it dominates French film about Africa because the French love to play up their alliance with the RSA. If you ask me, it’s because they’re ashamed of how they failed other African states. From what I remember from to the judges at the Lagos festival, they were fairly negative about how French submissions so often center white French heroes in the South African Revolution. However, we are not France. Black America is part of the pan-African community and, in my opinion, we are not being obnoxious or colonial by telling the story of a black American who fought to liberate black Africans. It’s different, and we have the experience and insight to do this kind of story the right way. Provided we can get the information we need about Joshua’s service, I think this could be a very promising subject.
Atlanta Filmmaker’s Bureau
Sent: 12:42 PM October 2, 2010
Subject: Re: The South Africa Project
Body: We heard from the archives and they can’t give us the files about Joshua’s service until the Ministry of Defence there approves their declassification. I am told that this is a formality and that there’s no reason not to declassify them. This will make it very public what we’re looking into. Luckily, I have it on good authority that Los Angeles has chosen their concept. I’m told that it’s basically Hamlet but the characters are all lions in the savanna. It sounds moronic. In the meantime, we did get some previously declassified information about a woman connected to Joshua. And it’s real good stuff.
Joshua married a woman named Unathi Masuku, and she was an instrumental figure in orchestrating the initial wave of urban uprisings which marked the beginning of the end for the white regime.
She earned three separate medals for heroism in the battle of Mbabane. Two of the medals mention bravery in hand to hand combat. Unathi was the REAL DEAL. We’re sending a team over and they’re going to track down her descendants immediately. Even if we don’t find anything about Joshua, we could probably just make the whole movie about her.
Atlanta Filmmaker’s Bureau
Sent: 2:48 AM October 9, 2010
Subject: Unathi’s Family
Body: Teanna and I talked to some Joshua and Unathi’s children today. They had some real interesting stories to pass down from their parents.
They had quite the story about some British guy named Roger. Apparently, he was Unathi’s first squeeze, as Unathi and her ANC cell had been paired with Roger’s British special operations unit, doing some real high stakes sabotage operations.
One day, they are headed to meet a French team for some big operation, and they all get ambushed. Roger gets wounded and Ubathi has to leave him behind in order to get the rest of her people out alive. She figures that Roger has been captured and wants to find out where he’s being kept so her people can attempt a rescue. A few days later, Ubathi gets word that her childhood home has been burnt down and that Roger’s head was left amidst the ruins, stuck on a bayonet. The regime forces had executed him and targeted Ubathi’s family for reprisal. It was supposed to intimidate her. Naturally, it ended up infuriating her instead.
Lo and behold, this happens to the exact same day that Joshua arrives in the town. He was supposed to be a regular infantryman but Ubathi picked him at random out of the new arrivals and conscripted him for her special operations squad. The children are insistent that this was destiny.
They didn’t have much to say about what Joshua and Ubathi got up to, so hopefully we can find out more about that. But they do mention that the family house outside Bulawayo is the house where Ubathi killed Roger’s murderer. Not really sure what the story is there but that region saw a lot of counter-revolutionary activity, so it would follow that his murderer would seek refuge there after the cities to the south fell to the ANC. I’ll look into it more.
Researcher & Archivist
Atlanta Filmmaker’s Bureau
Sent: 8:56 AM October 30, 2010
Subject: We Have Our Film!
Body: We spent all weekend going over the material provided to us by the South African Ministry of Defence and goddamn, we have our movie! Here’s the basic outline:
Ubathi Masuku, tough young lady, is fighting to liberate South Africa with a dashing Brit who she has feelings for. They get ambushed! The Brit is captured! Oh no! Ubathi resolves to rescue her comrade, but tragedy strikes when regime forces burn down her mother’s house and leave the Brit’s head as a warning! She’s not intimidated by this, she’s mad as hell! So, she picks out of a group of new arrivals a handsome young man who made a vow that he would help free Africa the way his father fought to free America. Joshua Brown is in the squad and they have a mission: Find everybody responsible for terrorizing her family and executing their people. They all have to pay! As Ubathi, Joshua and the squad work to bring justice to the murderers, Joshua and Ubathi bond and fall in love!
It’s got it all! Loss! Love! Action! We don’t have to make up too many things! This is our movie! I can’t wait to make it happen with all of you.
Atlanta Filmmaker’s Bureau
Sent: 10:56 PM April 26, 2012
Subject: just for you
Body: I wanted you to be the first person in the bureau to know this because this all started with you. We did it.
Gold Medal. Headliner of the Pan-African Film Festival. In our own city. On our own terms. Those smug bastards in Los Angeles can eat our WHOLE ASS, and it all started with you not being too embarrassed to show your terribly written middle school paper to all your comrades. Thank you so much.
Atlanta Filmmaker’s Bureau
Sent: 6:45 PM May 5, 2012
Subject: Loved the movie!
Just wanted to pass along congratulations on the big honor! Masuku’s Marauders, The Atlanta Bureau’s first headliner of a major film festival! Who would have thought when we were roommates at Haywood that we’d both have major headliners!
I did see the film and I have to say the ending was masterful! Joshua avoiding talking to Ubathi about what he’ll do after the war the whole film. And then he finally says he wants to stay! I. Was. SOBBING!! Where’d you find these actors?! They really made it all work.
The whole final scene where they go to the manor of Colonel Van Onselen was so great. They’re not just walking happily into the sunset, no that’s way too simplistic. Instead they find this quiet idyllic manor, and after every terrible thing that has happened, they are in this peaceful quaint little place removed from it all. Every bit of peace and pleasantness Van Onselen had in his life was gained from the cruelty he inflicted on others. And after all of that, Ubathi had taken it from him. That’s what she’s experiencing when she sits on his furniture and just sobs because she’s SO TIRED. That catharsis… I felt that. Does the revolutionary exult in their glory so much as they struggle to gain the opportunity to have that kind of catharsis and healing in peace and under their own sovereignty? Rhetorical question, of course.
We should get together and chat about our different angles on it. Just like the old days in our dorm.
Love and miss you,
Los Angeles Filmmaker’s Bureau