After traveling several miles on foot, King Company were finally coming to the point where Intelligence had put a Nazi regiment holding ground.
Sgt. Saunders, as he finally saw, just over a small rise before them, some of the Nazi soldiers they'd been sent to find. To observe and track, not necessarily to engage. Unless said Nazi soldiers spied them on the rise and opened fire on them. Then it would be a battle to the bitter end.
Sgt. Saunders gave a hand signal which meant to stop. Then, using a nearby tree as a shield against gunfire from the Nazis, he peered around it to make certain their presence had not been observed.
The next silent hand signal from the sergeant was one that meant the small group he was leading needed to drop to the ground and belly crawl up to the top of the rise.
That way everyone would have an unobstructed view of the Nazi soldiers encamped a couple of hundred yards from them, and would be able to return fire should they all fall under enemy fire.
Returning to Caje, Kirby, Doc, Littlejohn, Stevens, Dawson, and Hillberg, Sgt. Saunders said, "Looks like the recon reports were right on the money. I'm going to try to get a little closer on their left flank, to see if they have guards posted. Stay here and out of sight. I'll come back after I've seen all there is to see. Got me?"
"Yeah, Sergeant," Kirby replied, adjusting his helment and pulling his rifle snug.
"Got it, Sarge," next responded Littlejohn, also pulling his rifle snug.
"Absolument, le sergent," came Caje's French reply. His rifle already snug, from the moment the first dropped to the grass atop the rise.
"We're with you, Sergeant," Doc said just after Caje. His rifle as snug as he could get it, in preparation for firing upon the enemy.
"Ready, Sgt. Saunders," came Dawson and Stevens in a unified voice, shakily pulling snug their own rifles.
"Yes, sir, Sergeant, sir," Hillberg said, and almost immediately chastized himself for calling Sgt. Saunders "sir", when the man he worshiped as a hero specifically instructed him not to do so. His rifle was prehaps pulled snug much more tightly than any of the others. Even the four PFCs whom were always in the sergeant's number.
Even as Sgt. Saunders snuck off to do a little recon work of his own, his Tommy gun now in hand and ready to open fire should his presence, or that of his men, be discovered.
As for the Nazi soldiers, they jabbered amongst themselves, as they carried out various duties in the section of the French countryside, which they had held for weeks...
"Haben Sie eine cigerette kann ich ausleihen?" one Nazi soldier asked of another, their weapons slung over their shoulders, which spoke volumes about how relaxed they had become whilst holding down this French rural location.
"Ja, das wollte ich mir ein rauchen," came the Nazi soldier's response, whilest pulling out his half-smoked pack of cigerettes. Handing one to his fellow soldier and taking one for himself. Then using a lighter to light both, as they allowed smoke to swirl up and away from their helmented heads.
"Diese Pflicht ist langweilig, ja?" the first said to the second. Sharply inhaled cigerette smoke issuing forth which each spoken German word.
"Ja, sehr sogar," came the smoke-ladden reply from the second Nazi soldier.
Meanwhile, along the sloping lines of the rise, two or three hundred yards distant, the camouflage helment wearing Sgt. Saunders was rapidly making his way to one side of the gathered Nazis.
All was going as planned, until the sergeant was making his way back up the sloping lines of the rise, and stepped on a large, and exceedingly dry, twig...
Which immediately got the attention of the heretofore relaxed Nazi soldiers...
"Was war das?"
"Es kam von druben!"
Suddenly Sgt. Saunders found himself trapped behind a thick tree, as the Nazis opened fire with their rifles and machineguns...
Some ricocheting off the tree, as others were burrowing deep into the living wood.
Reacting both on instinct and experience, Doc, Kirby, Caje, and Littlejohn returned fire with their rifles, which sent the Nazi soldiers scurring for cover, as a couple were hit and brought down in a couple of bloody lumps.
As to the new PFCs assigned to Sgt. Saunders by Lt. Hanley, they were all so afraid of the incoming fire, that they let go of their rifles, while buring their heads in the grass with hands interlocked on the back of their helments.
All save one...
"The Sergeant's pinned down!" he shouted to the more experienced PFCs. "We've gotta save him!"
"We can't do that right now!" shouted back Kirby, even as he, Caje, Littlejohn, and Doc continued to fire back at the Nazis, who were firing at them, as well as at the sergeant. "In case you having noticed, Hillberg, we're pinned down, too!"
As to Sgt. Saunders, he would pop out from behind the thick tree and fire a short burst from his Tommy gun. Some hitting Nazis, but most just richocheting around them. Such was the problem when haphazardly firing back whilst under attack.
"We've got to do something!" loudly said Hillberg, more to himself than anyone else, as incoming and outgoing gunfire continued whizzing and richocheting all about them.
Quickly standing and running, at full speed, along the sloping lines of the rise, attacting Nazi gunfire, Hillberg had quickly made his way to Sgt. Saunders, who didn't respond to the attempted rescue the way Hillberg had expected.
"What the hell're you doing, Hillberg? You're gonna get yourself killed!"
"I can't just sit by and let you get killed, Sergeant," came the quite logical, or so Hillberg believed, reply, even as he joined Sgt. Saunders behind that bullet-riddled tree.
"Well, now that you're here," the sergeant said simply, "you might as well return fire with me."
But Hillberg wasn't there, as far as his way of thinking, to simply hide and shoot back at Nazi soldiers shooting at them. He was there to save a hero.
"Get ready to run, Sergeant!" loudly proclaimed Hillberg, just as he made a break from the tree, and took the fight to that end of the Nazis.
"Hillberg! Hillberg! Get back here, you fool!" Sgt. Saunders shouted, even as Hillberg succeeded in drawing fire from that left flank of the Nazi soldiers.
This did, indeed, free up Sgt. Saunders so that he could make it back to his King Company PFCs, and try to lead them away from the barrage of bullets, in order to radio back to Lt. Hanley at HQ, using the one being carried on Littlejohn's back.
Then he planned on making his way, along with the rest of King Company, around to try and pull out Hillberg by using suppressing fire from the PFCs.
Unfortunately, Hillberg had a plan all his own...
"Damn you, Krauts!"
Even as he shouted such, he literally took the fight to the Nazis by running toward them, and firing his rifle continuously.
But he would, instead, end up being bullet-riddled and bloody, as he dropped dead, even though his bullets had found bloody homes in several more, now also dead, Nazis.
Even as such was shouted out by Sgt. Saunders, in a combination of anger at the Nazis who'd killed Hillberg, as well as a deeply set sorrow over having lost one of his men...
"We've gotta get outta here, Sarge!" Doc yelled at Sgt. Saunders, forcing him to fall back on his plan to retreat and radio HQ.
"Let's go," Almost muttered Sgt. Saunders, as the words were almost caught in his throat, at the sight of an unmoving and bleeding out PFC Hillberg continued to twist his emotions inside-out within. "Move!"
After leading the remainder of his men back to a point where they could safely stop, seeing as how the Nazi soldiers were not pursuing them...
"Littlejohn," ordered the sergeant with a wave.
"Coming, Sergeant," was Littlejohn's reply, as he came to Sgt. Saunders in order to allow him to use the radio.
"King Company to HQ, King Company to HQ."
Over the radio came Lt. Hanley's voice, replying, "HQ, King Company."
"We observed and engaged the Nazis at reported area," reported Sgt. Saunders with a certain amount of sadness in his tone and facial expression. "We lost one man: PFC Martin Hillberg. He died a hero."
It was at that moment that Sgt. Saunders felt a certain amount of hero worship himself.