Nancy L. Meek

PRIVATE NEIBAUR: A NIGHT OF BRAVERY

Private Thomas Neibaur MOH
Private Thomas Neibaur MOH

Ten days of drenching rain,
their trenches thick with mud,
they did not care who won the war,
they’d seen too much of blood.

But yet they forged toward the wire,
exhausted, cold and wet,
then breaking through, they killed their way
past every foe they met.

Machine gun nests were next to go
as dusk crept o’er the land
advancing with them up the hill
as if Divinely planned.

Once atop the hard-won hill,
there was no time to waste,
so setting up their perimeter,
they dug their holes in haste.

Then suddenly the foe attacked,
young lads dropped where they stood,
prompting those in half-dug holes
to hide the best they could.

With thumping hearts, they scanned the dark
for snipers in the trees,
then thinking they had found one,
they aimed to make him cease.

An officer sought volunteers
to take the sniper out.
Neibaur said he’d gladly do it.
Two stepped up to be his scout.

Then off they crept into the night,
with a 12-lb gun and gear,
tree-to-boulder-to-hole-to-bush,
bros bringing up the rear.

But the trio made it just so far;
barbed-wire blocked their way,
un-maneuverable in the dark,
which made the sniper’s day.

The three leapt up, spun in the air
then landed atop the wire.
Caught in the act of being brave,
two bought the sniper’s fire.

Though Tom was hit, he did not die,
but his leg was wounded bad.
Shot three times, but bleeding slow,
he vowed he’d give it all he had.

Bum leg in tow, he grabbed the ammo,
the Chauchat, and nerves of stone,
then settled behind a bank of earth
determined to go it alone.

Chauchat setup, he zeroed in
on the sniper in the trees;
then, suddenly, he heard the foe
and felt his young heart squeeze.

It sounded like five thousand
as he looked toward the noise,
but ‘twas really more like fifty,
bayonets raised and poised.

Shouting, swearing and shooting,
they charged Tom Neibaur’s spot,
as he and the Chauchat answered
their barrels glowing hot.

The 167th, close behind and below,
soon joined the fire from Tom,
firing and loading, firing and loading;
no time to think about mom.

Then, out of the blue, the Chauchat jammed
expending but two clips-and-a-half.
Had it been just an exercise,
Neibaur would probably laugh.

Instead, he slammed it on the ground
then scrambled down the hill
toward his bros from Company M,
who fought with gusto still.

With less than 100 yards to go,
Tom grimaced then bit his lip.
Falling face-down in the mud,
a bullet had struck his hip.

Stunned a bit, he lay as dead
‘til he heard the foe arrive,
who tossed aside his pistol
assuming he wasn’t alive.

Tom watched the five retreating,
‘til they were nearly out of sight,
then he crawled and got his pistol
then stood with all his might.

He fired once, to warn “his guys”
then leveled his gun at the foe,
demanding they raise their hands.
What more is there to know?

Well, read on and I shall tell you
what he did to save the day
with the five rounds he had left,
five too many, by the way.

They dropped their empty weapons
and raised ten trembling arms
for Private Thomas Croft Neibaur,
gifted with grit and charm.

He gestured by waving his pistol,
and marched them a mile-and-a-half
to First Battalion’s headquarters,
where again he learned to laugh.

“How did you capture eleven?”
one Major asked, about his feat.
“I did it with these bullets”, said Tom,
“that nobody wanted to eat.”

No, that wasn’t really what he said,
but rather, “They attacked me
and I made a counter-attack.”
Either way, it rhymes with bravery.