When Jackrabbits Hide German Soldiers

by David Roten

Boredom could have cost Jack Simpson his life during World War II.

“We were advancing up through the Rhone Valley of France, and the Germans were in retreat in front of us,” he said. When Simpson and his company reached the Rhine River, they found that the Germans had already blown up the bridges. “We had to stop and wait for the army engineers to come and build a pontoon bridge so we could take our tank across.”

With time to kill and few entertainment options available to him, Simpson searched for a way to amuse himself. He found what he was looking for on the side of a hill some distance away. It seemed harmless enough.

“There were these jackrabbits with these great big legs, and I’d take my rifle and shoot up close to them,” Simpson said, describing a scene not unlike a shooting gallery at a carnival. “I walked up the hill popping away at these rabbits, watching them jump, and all of a sudden, up out of a draw, come about 12 or 13 German soldiers; and they had their hands up. They thought they were surrounded. It was [just] me shooting.” 

Simpson acknowledged that he could have been an easy target for the hidden enemy on another day. “They could have killed me up out of that draw,” he said. “I never would have even seen them.” Thankfully, it was not to be. “I told them I would accept their surrender,” Simpson said. “I had them stack their weapons in a pile, I got them all together and I marched them down and turned them over to the MPs.”

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