A click filled the crisp morning air around me and my men. That click was my Thompson letting me know it's loaded. I looked at the faces of my squad; some were scared, some were angry, and some were indescribable. I then uttered two words that no infantryman ever wanted to hear.
"Fix bayonets." More clicks were heard, these were the clicks of the bayonets sliding easily into place on the front of a few M-1s. "Roy, you got him?" I asked one of our replacement medics.
"Yeah, Sarge," Roy replied coolly. "He's in bad shape though. McNeal might not survive." I thought for a minute, just above this dike, just about three hundred yards down the road, was a machine gun outpost we ran into. It was cleverly camouflaged; it had seen us coming down the road for the last mile. It waited until we had gotten within easy hitting range and opened up. We were on a two-mile long stretch of road surrounded on both sides by twenty foot tall hedgerows. We reached a series of drainage ditches which continued in twenty-yard increments all the way to the machine gun. I was skeptical of advancing with my whole squad, so I sent one of our replacements, McNeal, out in the open to check for mines in the ditches ahead. He barely got up past the ditch when the MG-42 opened fire on him. They hit him in the lower right stomach, but the bullet went clean through, luckily. He was still bleeding badly.
"Well they've got to be replacements; they wouldn't have opened fire yet if they weren't. Fix him up as well as you can Roy, we'll be back." I said. I gave a hand signal to one of my men. He pulled the pin off a smoke grenade and threw it as far as he could. I had chosen him to be the carrier of our smoke grenades because in civilian life he had been a great high school football player. He threw the grenade at a great arch and it landed about 75 yards ahead. I gave him thumbs up and returned to watching the smoke grenade. It filled the whole road after about thirty seconds. "Taylor, You hit the machine gun and cover us, alright?" I ordered our platoon sniper. He looked down his scope in the direction of the machine gun. He had hidden in the bushes and hadn't warned of us of the gun because his scope fell off. Score one for military ruggedness. "Go!" I yelled. My whole squad and I ran forward. The bad thing was that we left the ditch too late. The smoke started to disappear even though we were only halfway there. A sound of something like a piece of canvas ripping echoed throughout the Norman countryside. That was something we hated about the German guns; they had such a high rate of fire we couldn't even hope to match it. One of our guys clutched his side and let out a shriek of pain mixed with terror. He had been shot in the leg, not a bad wound. Well, it wouldn't have been a bad wound if the bullet hadn't torn the main artery in his leg. "Get down, get down!" I screamed. We all jumped in the ditch, the smoke was gone and we had very little cover. I poked my head up; a shot rang through the silence.
Taylor undid the bolt on his rifle and looked down his scope again. The assistant gunner looked on in terror; his buddy's head had just exploded for Pete's sake. He controlled his breathing and shot again. A stream of blood squirted out of the second German's throat as a .30-06 round lodged itself in there.
I was relieved when the gun didn't fire again. Thank god for Taylor.
"Hold here, I'm going to go check out the gun." I ordered. I did a quick sprint for about a hundred yards, but then got more cautious. I raised my Thompson to my shoulder as I approached. I sprayed the whole area with .45 ACP rounds and continued. "Roy! Get a stretcher and get up here!" I ordered. "As for the rest of my squad, form up on me! We're not done with our mission yet!" Once they had gathered around me (Taylor included), I began explaining the rest of the mission. "We made it this far men, we're almost there. That," I pointed to a church tower a few hundred yards off, "is our next objective! We have orders to take that tower, take out the AA gun, and hold our position until the rest of the company gets here. Too many men gathered in one area will attract attention, so they chose a squad, and it happened to be us. First we have to take out the guns at Pointe Du Hoc ourselves and now this? We're the luckiest Ranger squad in the whole army, eh?" The men chuckled at that. "Alright, we're going to move in through this hedgerow and take it out from behind. Parker, you check these Germans for intelligence and get the charges. The rest of you load up; this won't be easy." A chorus of 'Yes, sirs' came from my men. Parker walked over and signature flicked his cigarette away as he began to search the men.
"Parker, get the charges and blow this baby off it's hinges!" I whispered. He set the charge and we all retreated to a safe distance. "Fire in the hole!" I yelled. The charge exploded, sending shrapnel in all directions. "Go, go, go!" I ordered. We rushed in there and let loose a few shots at the guards before we continued upstairs. When we reached the top, we were surprised to find the Germans there gone.
"Sir, I found something!" Parker yelled. "It's a note from the other German soldiers…"
"Well, what are you waiting for? Read it aloud!" Parker nodded and began reading.
"110 mechanized infantry unit 6/8/44
Major Wilhelm, we have just received orders to move onto the next town, so we left a few men here from our unit to tell you. In case they laze off, this note is here. Please forgive us for not telling you before you got back from leave, you were due back today, and the orders were just implemented a few minutes ago. Please radio into HQ for the rest of the information.
"The eighth of June…That's today…" I realized. "Parker! Go check the bodies for the Major! Taylor, you watch the town and take out any high value targets. Everyone else assume the Major hasn't come yet and get ready to capture him. He probably won't be alone, so do not slack off. Go!" I ordered.
Clip-clonk, clip-clonk, clip-clonk! went a horse's hooves as it approached the tower. I gave the hand signal to get ready. We had propped up the men we had killed earlier in chairs with a deck of cards laid out in front of them. The Major came in with two guys who each had an MP40.
"Open fire!" I yelled, M1911 pistol and trench knife at the ready. Three rifles barked and I ran out towards the Major. His two escorts fell, but they had pulled the triggers on their way down. A bullet skimmed my arm, but I managed to keep running. I grabbed the Major, swung him around, put my pistol to his head, and my knife to his throat. After removing all of his weapons, I decided it was safe to let him "Parker, come talk to this guy." I ordered. I Parker grabbed some rope and tied the Major to a chair. I went back upstairs. "Got anyone yet, Taylor?" I asked. His eyes shifted slowly over to me.
"No." He aimed back down his telescopic sight. I made a face at him and went back downstairs. Not much later, as Roy was helping clean my wound, we heard two rifle shots from upstairs.
"Taylor must have found two of 'em." I said. "How would you guys like it if we stayed here tonight instead of heading back once our company gets here?" I ashed my men. They all jumped around like little boys at a birthday party. "I assume that's a yes." I said to myself and grabbed a cigarette from my pouch.
We woke up the next morning well rested and full of food kept at the church. We decided to go back to base camp and reload on ammunition before heading out for our next objective.
"Taylor! You stay here and...do whatever you snipers do. The rest of us are going back to camp for ammo!" I yelled at him. Silence was the reply. "I don't really understand why he hates me so." I said as we left.
As we were heading back, we ran into that machine gun again. It cut down most of my men because we were off guard. Parker managed to take it out with a well placed rifle shot though. The only men left were Me, Rifleman Parker, and Medic Roy.
"What the hell was that?! We took out that damn gun! Why the hell didn't Taylor shoot those goddamn krauts?!" I screamed in anger. "I'll have his ass for this!" I yelled, beginning to run back to the tower.
We got there and I ran upstairs to yell at Taylor.
"Why the hell didn't y-" I stopped immediately as soon as I saw Taylor. He was completely pale, and had a huge hole in his eye. His hand was resting on a half-open bolt. I heard a yell from downstairs. I grabbed Taylor's sniper rifle, one of his dog tags, and ran downstairs. "What is it?" I asked when I got down.
"We've got what looks like two platoons of men heading straight for us." Parker responded.
"How far away are they?" I asked. The church tower was perched on a hill overlooking no mans land and a French town, so we had a great position..
"It looks like...a good thousand yards, but they're still heading for us...Say sarge, what happened to Taylor?"
"Eh, shot in the head. Enemy sniper. I wouldn't reccomend going up there unless you want to be laying next to him." I replied. Parker was as shocked as I was that we'd lost Taylor. But we didn't have any time to mourn, or we'd be in serious trouble. I thought for a minute about our situation. "Alright, drop any unneeded material; we've got to run if we're gonna live." I looked directly at Parker when I said this next part. "That means loot too." Parker got mad, but did as I said. Roy didn't have any excess material, so once I dropped my Thompson I was ready to go.
We slammed open the door to the church and ran toward the MG-42 in order to get away from the advancing infantry. We were running for no less than ten seconds when they opened fire on us, as they had gotten considerably closer. Then I heard two 'ping!'s. I turned my head and saw both Parker and Roy begin to fall.