| "Liberating Alaska"|
POD: c. 1867
|Type of Appearance:||Direct POV|
|Date of Birth:||19th century|
|Military Branch:||United States Marine Corps|
Houlihan had been part of the force the United States sent to Siberia to fight the Red Army during the Russian Civil War. Years later, in 1927, Houlihan was part of the force sent by the U.S. to Nicaragua to bring the country in line with the USA's demands. In late June, 1929, Houlihan was sent to Siknazuak after Soviet leader Joseph Stalin in pro-Soviet agitators to create an uprising against the American garrison there, and then sent "volunteers" and weapons to completely seize the town.
Houlihan and his company were part of the first wave, disembarking from the SS Liberty Glo in motor boats, and landing on the beach. They made their way up the Siknazuak River, encountering their first fight in a small hamlet nearby. They continued to receive air support from the USS Lexington as made their way towards Siknazuak.
While the Marines successfully disembarked, they immediately landed in a bog along the beach. Weighed down as they were, the men couldn't move forward very quickly. When Corporal Veliotis suggested corduorying a road through the muck, Houlihan reminded him that there weren't any trees nearby. The mosquitoes also began to bite them.
Almost immediately, a machine gun opened up from one of the nearby houses. The marines returned fire, and quickly began to entrench. The planes supporting them zeroed in on the house and destroyed it, and the machine gun ceased. To Houlihan's horror, an unknown lieutenant ordered a frontal assault.
However, the Reds had been playing possum, and started firing again. While experienced men like Houlihan and Veliotis hit the ground, younger men were mowed down, including the lieutenant. Now the senior officer on the ground, Houlihan ordered the Marines to advance by squads. This time, a BAR man fired forty rounds into the house at close range. Houlihan took a chance, and commanded the men in the house surrender in Russian. Those Russians who could stand did surrender, much to Houlihan's relief.
Impressed, Captain Reardon promised Houlihan he'd provide a written commendation, though Houlihan doubted it would do his career much good. Reardon surveyed the terrain in front of them, and realized that the Bolsheviks had one or two barbwire belts, and fox holes behind the wire. Rather than send troops in, Reardon had the men move to the western edge of the land and wait for mortar teams and armored vehicles. Houlihan was pleased that Reardon had the sense not to waste the lives of his men. Another nearby company commander wasn't so cautious, and his company sustained some casualties from another Maxim gun nest before he decided to dig in.
While Houlihan watched, Reardon sighted for the mortar team, led by a red-headed southerner. Unfortunately, it fell short. When Reardon reviewed the position again, he was shot in the head by a sniper. Despite his own horror at Reardon's death, Houlihan did his duty, and this time the shell hit the building containing the nest. The Maxim stopped firing. After several tense minutes, the Maxim gun started up again at the sound of an approaching American armored car. When the Maxim gunners began shooting at the car, Houlihan could direct the mortar team again. After four shots, they destroyed the machine gun.
The Bolsheviks who could run retreated back towards Siknazuak proper. The injured were taken prisoner. One Bolshevik (Houlihan noted he was Jewish) asked why the U.S. had taken Alaska from the Russians. When Houlihan pointed out that Lenin had given it up and that the President of the United States was not going to let the Bolsheviks invade, the wounded prisoner insisted that the President was just an enemy of the proletariat. Houlihan stopped listening to the prisoner, opting to look for George Veliotis instead. When he found Velitotis, Houlihand told Veliotis that he would be in charge of the section, while Houlihan determined if he would be in charge of the platoon or the whole company. A lieutenant, Grover Whitfield, could still lead the company, much to Houlihan's relief, although Houlihan didn't quite share the young man's belief that taking Siknazuak would be an easy task.
They reached the final barbwire line when the sun went below the horizon, although it wasn't actually completely dark the way it would be in lower latitudes. More Bolshevik Maxim guns opened up. For the next hour, the Marines dug trenches and attacked the machine gun with mortars and two armored cars While the Maxims were defeated, the majority of the Reds had ample time to retreat back to Siknazuak.
With the way apparently clear, Lt. Whitfield led the men down the road to Siknazuak. After about one hundred yards, Whitfield stepped on a landmine and was killed. Another Marine joined him. So Houlihan and the rest of the Marines waited for sappers to dig a trail through the minefield. Even so, one of the armored cars drove over a mine a was disabled. None of the crew was killed. Bombers continued to attack Siknazuak proper, even as the Marines slowly made their way to the city.
Three hours later, the sun was back up, and the Marines were on the eastern edge of Siknazuak. Fires burned from the bombing, but the Marines were met by defenders. Another Marine captain waved a white flag, initiating a brief truce. The Bolsheviks confirmed they could understand English. The captain promised that if they surrendered, they'd be treated as prisoners of war and sent back to the USSR. One Bolshevik officer asserted that they would take back what was theirs. When the Marine captain reminded him that Lenin had ceded Alaska and that they had no business this side of the Bering Strait, the Bolshevik replied that the U.S. should not have been in Siberia in the first place. Thus ended the parlay.
Once again, Houlihan and his fellow Marines were in combat. They soon received help from two M1917s, which did level buildings and send the Reds running. Nonetheless, one brave Red climbed onto one of the tanks with a whiskey bottle full of a flammable liquid. He dropped the bottle on decking, the liquid spread flame to the engine, the tank began to burn and the crew had to evacuate. The other tank held back, although it kept firing. Houlihan was dismayed that the Marines would not have an easy time of it, after all.
As they moved on, Canadians and Americans who'd lived under the Bolsheviks fled to the marines. One Yank described how the Bolsheviks were prone to executing people who angered them, or sending them off to the mines and working them to death. The Yank said that the reason he'd survived was that the Bolsheviks went after the local Russian population harder than other groups, claiming that the Russians were Whites. Houlihan directed him toward the back of the lines.
Houlihan and his men then made their way to the most densely populated part of the town. With the Bolsheviks putting up their stoutest resistance yet, both sides soon engaged in close quarters combat, with the marines using their bayonet and trenching tools. Only when the marines reached the middle of town did the Bolsheviks begin to surrender. Some still managed to retreat into hills north of town. While Veliotis was certain they'd surrender once they were hungry and cold enough, Houlihan had his doubts.
With the break in fighting, more Americans and Canadians made their way to the marines. One was plainly a New Yorker, as well as an admitted moonshiner. He offered to tell Houlihan and Veliotis where the graves of the Bolsheviks' victims were located. They brought him to a Captain Green. The whole group followed the moonshiner to a series of graves that looked more like trenches. The moonshiner explained that past the four-foot depth, the ground was frozen solid.
Upon seeing the graves, Green announced that they needed to find photographer so all the world would know what the Soviets were. He also stated that the marines would be there to protect the town from remaining Reds in the hills. Both Houlian and Veliotis were unhappy about the prospect, but after Green and the moonshiner had left, and Veliotis went off to find a camera, a Russian woman approached Houlihan with flowers, thanking him for his role in liberating Siknazuak. He suddenly didn't mind garrison duty as much.
- ↑ Asimov's Science Fiction, July/August, 2018.