Jack redoubled his efforts and had barely managed to remove the last of the snow, to reveal those bright white letters— P O W ––against the dull brown of the freight car. The P-51 was moments away from opening fire again. Jack thought about jumping onto the next car, but time was against him. He had done what he could.
Nearly out of breath, he stood in the middle of the freight car and waved the broom over his head, like a chimney sweep who had gone berserk. He waved and prayed, prayed and waved.
And he wasn’t alone. Down below, a mass of uniformed men, huddled together and unified in purpose and prayer, stared in terror at the advancing fighter, pitting their hopes on one man, an unknown man, one wielding not a weapon but an ordinary broom. Whether it was the collective prayer or his frantic waving, it worked.
As the Mustang zoomed overhead, the Rolls Royce V-12 Merlin super-charged engine roared with pleasure, yet the Browning .50 caliber machine guns, which just as few moments ago had spat out fierce destruction in their wake, remained deathly quiet, as if an unseen hand had stayed further mayhem. For the briefest of moments, Jack thought he saw a grin on the pilot’s goggled face. Or was it just his imagination?
Jack’s courageous action hadn’t gone unseen. At the last second the Mustang pilot was alerted by Jack’s frantic waving and spotted the crudely painted white letters. He made a split-second decision, thus averting further casualties—not killing his own landsmen.
Jack dropped the broom, which only seconds ago had been elevated to a life-saving instrument, now returned it to its former use, no longer a fitting utensil to ward of an attack. He faced the cheering men spread out below. Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted the two departing Mustangs, each one waggling its wings as it headed northwest.