World War II. The interior of a tented command post, after nightfall.
A single bare bulb hangs above the littered table, shining through a cloud of smoke from a dozen cigarettes. Junior officers stand around the table, sometimes reaching out to touch a map or quietly ask one another questions. Their commanders huddle in a corner nearby.
Several years into the war, this routine is practiced and well rehearsed; they all know what to do. In a few moments they will walk away from the briefing and into the night, which is very dark, very warm and strangely quiet.
But the briefing was neither casual nor reassuring. The objective has been identified and located -- they think -- but much about the enemy’s strength and intentions remains unsure. Their forces, ragged after years of steady battle, need replacements and fresh troops, but none are promised. There may be enough gasoline for the armor, but certainly not for support services. They need more medics, better radios, more reliable artillery charges.
These issues all were raised, and answered or ignored, in the briefing moments before. Now the young men will leave the huddle to return to the ranks, to brief and prepare and motivate their troops, to lead them into the morning to fight again. Despite their objections and concerns (all legitimate, some nearing criminal) they will fight again, and win, and then do it again. They do not know if they are months or years away from victory, but they fight each battle with all the strength at hand, and history will one day record the legacy of that perseverance and the fierce spirit that animated it.