This is a story of two men in World War Two.
|The man walked silently down the many rows of white crosses at the Arlington National Cemetery. Though his body was physically there, his mind drifted back over many decades. His family followed close behind, whispering amongst themselves. The man walked down a path he had traveled many times. Even though he came here each year, each new time brought the memories. Why do I do this? He asked himself. Then he saw the cross, the one with the name of him on it. The man that had saved his life. The man that he had loved so much. The one he thought of every waking moment. The name that stirred in him this longing to see his face, to hear that voice one more time. To just see him smiling that wonderful smile. To be able to in the presence of such a great man. Everyone had forgotten about them, only statues left of this forgotten generation. But the man never forgot, no never. He couldn’t. His mind wouldn’t let him. No, not yet. Someday maybe, when the name of his wife or daughter slips from his mind, when he can’t remember what he had done moments before. Then the memories will leave, letting him end his life in happiness. But what about the happiness felt when remembering the man? It didn’t matter now, only that he was here and remembering. Yes remembering this great man that everyone else had forgot. Don’t worry, buddy. I’ll never forget. But what happens when he does forget, when he himself is gone and buried. Then this cross will just become another white cross in a sea of white crosses. And what of the man himself? Who will remember him? Again not the time for this. He is here for his friend, his old buddy. Oh how he wishes to be beside him, standing, talking, laughing like so many times before. How he wished he were back in France, the year 1944, his body younger than it was now and his buddy beside him. But just as a poor man wishes for gold or a blind man for sight, it was hopeless. That is over. History. But like every time he comes here he feels this. That’s good right? To feel pain for a man that paid the ultimate price for you? Yes feel, don’t let it build inside you. Feel. Remember. That’s the only way to bring him back now. He couldn’t take it anymore. Why not me Lord? Why him? I don’t deserve to live. He screamed inside his head. But he knew that he lied as he turned to look at his lovely wife and children and his grand children. But still he grieved for this man. He too had a wife, children. But he was gone, forever gone. But isn’t that life, the men surviving grieving the men that died. If he had died and the man survived, wouldn’t the man be here now feeling the same? That’s life. Right? It didn’t matter now. The sadness welled inside him, threatening to burst out. He dropped to his knees, the tears flowing like rain. He read the name over and over again. Such a beautiful name, he thought, remembering. He looked down on the man six feet below him and was back in France, reliving that horrible day. The tears poured out of his blue eyes as the floodgates in his mind burst and the memories rushed forth.
And when he gets to Heaven,
To Saint Peter he will tell.
“One more soldier reporting, sir.
I’ve served my time in Hell.”
June 6, 1944
The landing craft, PA-30-6, was tossed like a toy in the rough water. The weather was bad, but this was it. The chance to strike. The Allied commanders had decided. Germany’s streak had to come to an end. All great streaks come to an end. But then what about the American streak? That is another war, another story. And as the morning dawned on France, the boats carrying the most precious cargo, men, sped towards land. Each boat had been filled to capacity and the men inside were as scared as anyone has ever been. And as the beach neared, each man prepared.
Captain Thomas Frost was one such man. Tall, rugged, “battle hardened” you could say. He had piercing blue eyes, surrounded by the skin of a man twice his age. He had lived lifetime it looked, at least forty. He was truly thirty-five, always bringing stares at dinner parties. “If he’s thirty-five than I’m eighteen.” Women would remark to their husbands after talking to him, thinking he was out of ear range. He would just smile and talk to someone else, waiting to see the look on their face. But this was before the war, before he saw things that no man should see, yet so many had seen. Before he had seen a boy no older than eighteen slowly die on the ground mere feet from him, yet he was pinned down by fire. Before he had seen a man be there one moment, the next nothing but a crater. These things change a man after being exposed for so long. You forget the meaning of love when all the men you learn to love die before your eyes. When every friend you make is dead within the next week. You close off your mind to where you watch out for yourself, to make sure you go home. This is how Frost had been for too long. When you lose love you lose so much more.
This had happened to so many other men. Men that couldn’t sleep at night because they would relive it. And these were the men storming the beaches. Men that had a cause to fight for, themselves.
As PA-30-6 came even closer Frost turned to look at the men he was leading into battle. The men stared back, looking into the Devil himself. That beach was the Devil. They were driving into the mouth of the Devil. But the look of indifference on Frost’s face confused them. How could any man not be scared by what was ahead? Had this man seen so much, cheated death so many times that this became boring? No. This man could hide his fear well. Inside he was screaming. Inside he was crying, knowing that moments from now he could be struck down, erased from the face of the earth like a bug being squashed. Right? He must feel fear.
This passed through every man’s head. They were terrified. Their stomachs were queasy, some of them vomiting. Oh it’s just the sea sickness. Or was it the fear of dieing in the next minute. Or seeing everyone around you die in the next moment.
Whatever the reason the Captain was looking over them. The driver warned them that there was ten seconds until they hit shore. Frost turned back around and looked forward, staring at the machine gun flashes already beginning to start. He turned back to his men, feeling for a moment sadness and then the captain in him took over. And in a brief show of sympathy, he addressed his men.
“May God have mercy on our souls. We’ll need it. All of us.”
Above Normandy France
June 5, 1944
D-Day – 1
The night before D-Day commenced, a large group of soldiers set out. These men were similar to the men storming the beaches, both were from the states, some from Brooklyn, some from Washington, even some from little ole Rhode Island. And these men were similar in the way that they were scared. Really and truly scared. They knew, just as the men storming the beaches would know, that they would be wiped off this earth. Gone. Poof. Just like that. One second they would be living, breathing, thinking, the next gone. Bye, bye Johnny. Or Ben. Or Billy. Or any one of them. That was the scariest part, not knowing when or how it was going to happen. But they all, or most of them, had accepted the fact they were probably going to die. And if little Johnny or Ben or Billy survived? Well then it was a blessing straight from God. Then they could fight another day, only to be killed in some town they couldn’t even pronounce the name of. Then his body would be shipped home. Maybe. That is if they could find his body. Yes, if they could pull it from the pile of dead men and find his dog tags, the only recognizable part left of him. Then he would be buried in some military cemetery and he would have full military honors. And his poor mother would be handed that folded American flag as the rain poured down and she would take it, not tearing up for all her tears had been spent. She would drift through the rest of her life wondering if he was happy. Wondering if she would ever see him again, living or dead. Wondering if he had died painlessly or horribly. But she would always wonder, think, dwell on the subject until she wasted away, old and still wondering.
This went through every man’s mind as the glider was rocked by the wind. Every man knew, deep down in their bones, that they were not ready. Not yet. More than half of them were eighteen and still young, their boyish faces trembling. They were “Young Men” now. But every one of them wanted to cry for their Mommies and pull their knees up to their chins, rock back and forth, cry. Any of those would have been better then trying to hide the fear behind a false mask of deep thought. For if one looked around himself he would see twenty or so “Young Men” deep in thought, their faces in deep concentration. But what were they concentrating on? Concentrating on the image of their wives, or just trying really hard not to cry. For that was the hardest thing to do now. That took everything, just not to burst out crying. Then there was the fear, very much known, but just below the surface. And every man was doing this, no conversation was held between them. Each man respected the others need to fight his own demons, as they were fighting theirs. So the only sound heard was the buffeting wind screaming past the glider and the softer roar of the twin-engine tow plane.
This was multiplied twenty fold on each plane or glider that was floating above this foreign and forbidding land. For this was step one of the invasion. These men were to jump from these planes and perform just like they practiced a hundred times. Then, once reaching the ground, they were to destroy “key” defenses and capture “key” bridges. Then hold all these “key” areas until the next morning or the next afternoon or two mornings from then or until the forces from the beach reached them. Whenever that would be. And if some men died? Well this war, is it not? If some poor, eighteen year old was shot and killed by a German, well there was ten to replace him. So let these “Young Men” fight and die and serve their country like any well made American. What was wrong with that? It was war, right? All is fair in love and war. Let these boys, for they were still boys even if they were labeled “Young Men”, die. Because all is fair in love and war. And this was war.
This is what went through the mind of Sergeant Ryan Valintino. He was the oldest man there at twenty-four and one of the youngest Sergeants in the Army. But they were in need of men and the Army didn’t care what age you were, so long as you could fight. He was a well built man, a moderate five feet, seven inches with his boots on. He wasn’t a giant by any means, not the strongest man in the Army, but he wasn’t weak. No, he had proven that in England.
A few weeks before leaving England he was granted a weekend pass. So he set out for Gloucester determined to have a good time, knowing that this was probably the last time he would be given a pass. When he got there he and his buddies found this little bar, or pub as the sign said. And they got drunk. Really and truly drunk. They drank and drank and he vomited, then he got cleaned up, only to drink and vomit some more. He could barely stand, let alone walk when he was done. So he was carried out of the pub and left in some alley until morning. He woke in a puddle of his own vomit and urine with a hangover that surpassed all others by twenty miles. He stumbled to the street, his vision blurry from the intense pain, and slowly made his way back to the pub. There he found his buddies, already starting to drink at two ‘o clock.
“Well, hello sleeping beauty! You sure do look nice this morning!” The man closest to Ryan yelled. The pub erupted in laughter. The noise intensified the pain in Ryan’s head, he grabbed his ears in an attempt to stop the noise.
“Aw, poor sleeping beauty’s ears hurt! You have a rough night, sleeping beauty? Oh, I’m sorry, I figured the rats would have kept you company!” The same man said, getting louder as if fueled by the other men’s intensifying laughter. Ryan’s head felt ready to explode, he looked up at this persistent bastard. Their eyes locked and in a moment of sheer and utter clearness, Ryan knocked out the man’s front teeth. He didn’t remember pulling his arm back or even swinging, just that moment of clearness when everything stopped but his arm. He saw all this happen, but he did not feel it happen. No, but it had happened. The man was staring, dumbfounded, his smile vanishing into a bloody grimace.
The other men in the pub also stared. This American had just walked in and within moments had knocked out the front teeth of one of the largest men there. Then to everyone’s astonishment, he turned and left, holding his head with one hand, the other loose at his side. So Valintino had become the silent killer, a man who did not talk much, but was avoided in confrontations. Everyone just wondered what would happen in a combat situation. Would he snap again, like the time in that English pub? Or would he choke, like so many other men would?
Whatever would happen, he was still respected. He wasn’t a loud man when he talked, just normal, not too shy. He was married, but few people knew about her. He didn’t talk about her. She was forbidden. Only for him to know and only for him to miss. He wondered if when he got home, if he did, would she be the same. He had idolized her, put her on a pedestal and made her a goddess to him. When he got home, that is if he did, would she be a disappointment? Would she just be ordinary compared to what he had made her out to be? He hoped not, but deep down inside, he knew nothing would be the same. Nothing ever again would be like it used to be.
Just as these thoughts and others passed through his mind, Germans were taking aim at his glider and the others scattered throughout the sky. The Germans were surprised, yes, but they were trained for this. They knew what to do. So they manned their Anti- Aircraft guns and realized how easy this was going to be. These gliders were doing as their names implied, gliding. So the Germans aimed and began to fire.
One such German was Clause Vald, an infantry soldier in the German Army. Just a normal foot soldier, nothing more. He had awakened this morning to sirens, horribly loud sirens. He literally rolled out of bed and crashed to the floor. A man in the door to his barracks was screaming about bombers or something. Not a god damn drill now. He thought. But then he heard the report of the devastating eighty- eighty caliber Anti- Aircraft weapon. Maybe there are bombers. He stood and ran out the door. He scanned the sky and saw nothing.
“Hey, look! Right there!” A fellow soldier yelled in German, doing the same as Clause was, pointing to the sky. Clause followed the finger and saw the outline of planes on the dark sky. They weren’t bombers, too small, maybe a small transport plane. Or a glider.
Yes, he had seen pictures of German gliders, used to drop troops behind enemy lines. That meant that was the Allies were doing. So that meant...
“Oh Christ...” He muttered. That meant the Allies were invading France.
“You! Yes, the one with his thumb up his ass! Get over here!” That was the voice of a leader, some one of importance.
“Yes, sir! Coming right now!” He replied in German. Clause saw the man, a Capitan it looked like. Must be visiting or something, because this little rat hole of a base was run by a Lieutenant.
“What the hell are you doing? This isn’t stargazing time, you runt! Now man that A.A. gun. Now before I stick my boot up your ass!” The Captain talked with a free tongue, something Clause always hated. You want to talk bad, well do it somewhere else, I speak bad enough myself. He seated himself in the turret of the weapon.
“How do you operate this again...?” He mumbled to himself. “Yes, now I remember. Safety latch here, pull back lever to cock. Aim and fire.” Clause found one of the planes, the dark sky behind it. He brought the recital up and aimed out in front of it.
“I’ll just lead those Allied bastards right into my fire.” He said to himself again. The gun was cocked and poised, ready to fire. Clause paused, just for a moment, thinking of the men that were in that plane. Then the soldier in him took over and he squeezed the trigger, spraying the plane with bullets, smiling with satisfaction as the shells erupted around the plane and it was rocked back and forth.
Ryan Valintino was silent, along with the others, as the first shells were heard. They were like thunder, low thunder that immediately brought every man to attention. The glider was dark, no artificial lights onboard except in cockpit. So the men sat in silence and darkness, the storm gathering, the fear almost tangible in the air. The thunder grew louder, filling the men’s ears and soon some of the men began to tremble.
Valintino was one such man. He had never been so scared in his life before. He knew that the shells would soon start to hit them. They were a sitting duck, a slow glider that could not evade or speed up to save itself. He thought he was going to start crying, all his fellow soldiers as witnesses. And he was their leader. He couldn’t do this! His hands were shaking uncontrollably and the man next to him looked down at his hands. The man tried to smile, but instead he had a look of intense pain.
“Don’t worry, Sergeant, just remember training. Just imagine we are over the good, ole U. S. Then when it’s over we go back to base and get a big jug of beer. Does that help sir?” The soldier’s face showed concern for Ryan, the man wanting his leader to be okay. He tried to smile again, but the result was the same as before, more of a grimace then a smile.
“What’s your name, soldier?” Ryan had turned to face the man, all the others listening.
“My name is Mack Murphy. Private First Class, sir.” Murphy replied as the sound of the shells grew louder. Valintino’s hands began to stop trembling, the talk diverting his focus. The man was not truly a man, more of a boy, not more then eighteen years old. He looked at Ryan, waiting for a reply, anything that could keep this conversation going. He was as scared as anyone else and this talking was welcome compared to the crushing silence.
But when Valintino didn’t reply he looked away and faced forward again. Silence settled around these men, the fear returned. Valintino continued to look at Murphy, thinking how young he looked, how out of place in his combat harness, his rifle lying across his lap. Ryan turned and looked around. All of these men looked young, so young. They were not ready for war and all of the things you see when involved in it. Valintino had talked to men that fought in the First World War. These men had seen things that haunted them every night. They saw things men are not designed to see, things both physical and emotional. Valintino knew that this is what would happen to these boys. And also what would happen to him. But now he had to focus, to prepare mentally. This was war and he was a soldier. Now it was time to let the training take over, to succumb to the urge to fight. Now was the time to step up and lead these boys, to protect them, help them get through this so they could go home. Valintino looked around one last time, seeing his squad on one side of the glider, Sergeant Neal or O’ Neal or something like that’s men on the opposite side. Sergeant Neal or O’Neal or something like that was sitting silently, his hands on his head, pondering something. Whatever it was, it didn’t matter. The shells were closer now, their thunder louder.
“Hey! Those shells are getting close, so the tow-plane is going to leave us here.” The pilot reported as a loud noise vibrated through the glider. Ryan heard engines roar for a moment as the tow plane pulled away. Then the pilot continued, “Ya’ll got about ten minutes until you gotta jump. Get ready!” All of the men looked towards the cockpit. The pilot stared at them for a moment and realized how young they all looked. He turned back around and continued to scan the sky. Valintino looked down at his gear, made sure it was secure. He examined his rifle, a M-1 carbine, a gun specifically designed for the paratroopers. It was the same as its sister gun, the M-1 Garand, except that it had a bottom feed clip and foldable stock. It was semi-automatic just like the Garand, but it held more ammunition. Valintino unfolded the stock and folded it again, ensuring that it worked effortlessly, then he secured the strap around his neck and continued the inspection.
After he was certain his gear was ready he turned to the man next to him. He was a boy also, about eighteen. Ryan looked over him without saying anything, made sure he had everything. The boy’s face was green and he looked sick to his stomach.
“Hey, what’s wrong buddy?” Valintino asked as the shell’s thunder grew louder. The boy jumped as if the Ryan’s voice had scared him. He turned slowly towards Valintino, obviously scared. He just stared at Ryan, didn’t say a word, then turned quickly and vomited.
“Oh, shit! Watch it man! You got it all over my pants!” The man opposite the poor boy said as he lifted his legs. The vomit pooled under the man and the smell immediately assaulted Valintino’s nostrils. The boy moaned and looked up. Everyone waited, not saying anything, wanting to see if he would do it again. But instead the boy looked up at Valintino, his eyes watery. The guy opposite the boy started to say something but Valintino cut him off.
“Hey, buddy, don’t cry. I know you’re scared. We all are, any man in his right mind would be scared here.” The shells grew ever closer, the noise growing louder and louder. “So just relax, like Murphy said earlier, imagine we are going to go back to base and this is all just a training mission.”
“But that’s it, sir,” The boy said barely loud enough to be heard above the growing noise. “We aren’t going home. We’re going to get killed. That’s why I’m so scared. I know that I’m probably going to die. I don’t want to die, sir, not yet. I’m too young. I’m only eighteen!” The boy started to sob, his hands grabbing at his face. Everyone was quiet, knowing that each and everyone of their fears had just been voiced. They all held back tears, knowing that they could die at any moment. But, God, why?
“Hey, stop crying!” Valintino’s inner leader took over, he had to help this boy. But he felt the same way, he didn’t want to die. Not yet, he was still young. But he had to say something, had to comfort this boy. “Stop, you’re not going to die. After this is over you’re going to go home.” Ryan stopped and realized it was quiet, no more thunder from the shells. Everybody else realized it too and the boy stopped crying and looked up.
“It’s over, I think we made it through.” Someone said and Valintino relaxed a little. Least that part was over.
“See, I told you. You’re still alive.” Just as the words left his mouth the glider was rocked by a deafening blast. Valintino looked up and saw the boy, mouth wide open, blood gushing from a massive shrapnel wound. A second blast rocked the glider. Valintino regained his balance and looked for the boy. He was sprawled on the floor of the glider, eyes blank and staring. Ryan realized he was dead and looked up at everyone else. They stared in astonishment at him. Then a third shell rocked the glider. Then a fourth. And a fifth. It continued and more men were screaming and bleeding. Valintino’s sight was blurred, it was happening so fast. He felt himself stand, someone shouting about jumping. He felt himself moving, going somewhere, the glider rocking furiously beneath him. He saw the cockpit for one moment, the glass shattered, the pilot slumped over the controls. The glider began a steep descent and then Valintino felt the solid floor disappear. There was a moment of sheer delirium, of utter and total confusion, then a mighty jerk, as what he thought to be the parachute opened. Then the wind drowned out all of his senses and he floated toward what he thought to be France.
June 6, 1944
Private First Class Michael Reynolds was about to hit the beach. He was “embarking on a great adventure”, one that he would not forget. No he wouldn’t forget this, he was young and this was implanted in his mind. This poor kid was eighteen and was afraid to die. But he couldn’t think about that. He had to think about what’s ahead. And that was the beach. That hellish beach is what he had to think about. But when he thought of that he thought of death. His death in particular. He could see the flashes from the gun emplacements already, the machine-gun nests firing wildly. He shouldn’t even be here. He was a marksman, a sniper. He should be back on the boat waiting for the others to clear the bunkers and such with their Garands and Thompsons. But no, he was here, in this goddamn boat getting tossed like a toy as they approached that goddamned beach with those machine guns aiming right at them. It was suicide, this whole thing was suicide! But he would have to grit his teeth and man up, everyone else was ready. So he did just that, he gritted his teeth and got ready.
Reynolds looked over at the Captain, a fine man in his eyes. He had always liked Frost, he was an excellent leader and tactician, always planning the best route or always using the best strategy. But the Captain was stern, never growing accustomed to a certain soldier. He had seen a lot in his life, more than Reynolds ever wanted to see. He had been in North Africa and Italy before this campaign and had seen more death than any man should. He was hard and was uncompassionate to his men, always pushing them to the limits. But he was always there beside them, running along with them. And as Reynolds looked at the Captain, he saw something he had never before seen with this man. He saw a hint of fear in the Captain’s eyes, very subtle, but never the less there. So the man was human, he did feel fear. Anyone would feel fear looking into the eye of this beast. This was death! Reynolds could feel it in his bones, this was going to be bad. Very bad. But he had to do it. It was too late to turn back. The pilot of the boat said there was ten seconds until they landed. Reynolds saw the Captain turn to face the men in this ill fated landing craft. He thought for a moment then addressed them.
“May God have mercy on our souls. We’ll need it. All of us.” Then it was upon them. The boat jerked to a halt and the ramp dropped open. The first of the men began to run clear of the boat. Then Reynolds heard it. He quickly looked up and saw it. A machine gun opened up, spraying the men in the front of the boat. The first two were blown apart, both slumping to the floor as a third and fourth were killed. It was happening so fast, Reynolds didn’t know what to do. More men were being massacred as the German guns continued their methodical work, working their way towards the back of the boat. An artillery shell erupted nearby causing the boat to jerk tremendously. Reynolds was pitched forward, smashing into the soldier in front of him. He looked at the poor guy, then realized that he was carrying a flamethrower on his back.
“Oh shit! Look out, this bastard’s got a flamethrower!” Reynolds yelled as he jumped over the side of the boat. Several men followed his example. The water was waist-deep, but his heavy pack made it difficult to move. His gun was lost in the struggle as he clawed for his knife to cut himself free. Bullets sliced though the water around him and finally he cut himself free. He felt something jerk him up towards the surface and then someone was helping him through the water. He turned to see the Captain struggling like he was. Then an explosion erupted to the right of the two men. Reynolds turned to see the boat engulfed in flames and burning men jumping into the water. The doomed boat’s pilot himself was partially on fire as he slammed the boat into reverse and tried to flee. Reynolds, with the help of the Captain, struggled to the beach, tripping over helmets and abandoned rifles. They reached a steel landing obstacle and crouched behind it. Shells were exploding all around them, the machine guns never stopping their deadly barrage.
“Sir, where to now?” Reynolds asked as more and more men gathered nearby. The Captain was the nearest leadership and these men needed a leader.
“We need to get anywhere but here. These goddamned machine guns have us pinned down, so we need to move. The gunners will aim for larger groups, so grab someone and move. Run until you reach the seawall and then regroup there. Keep your rifles clean and ready. Johnson where the hell is your BAR?” The captain addressed Corporal Johnson.
“It’s out there, sir. I lost it when I jumped over the side.”
“Well find another one and then get to the seawall. You, Reynolds, find a medic and tell him to get over here and get these burnt bastards. We lost half of First Platoon when that goddamn flamethrower blew up. And you, Milton, go with Reynolds. Tell those medics to hurry. Now! Move!” Reynolds took off and ran up the beach. Private Milton followed behind as he ripped the plastic covering from his M1 Garand. Reynolds jumped into a shell hole and grabbed a M1 that lay discarded. He ripped the plastic from it and then continued.
“Mike! Where the hell you going?” Pvt. Milton asked as Reynolds continued to move along the beach. “Those burnt guys are way back there.” Reynolds stopped and turned to grab Milton.
“Do you want to die?” Reynolds asked in an intense whisper.
“No, who the hell does?”
“Well if you want to live then trust me. We need to get to that seawall. Those guys will be fine, trust me.”
“But the Captain said to get a medic.” Pvt. Milton persisted and then began to get up. “If you’re not going to, then I will.” He stood and began to leave.
“Milton, get back here. We have to get to the seawall. It’s the only safe place on this hellish beach.” Reynolds grabbed Pvt. Milton’s arm.
“Get the hell off of me! Do you only care about yourself? What about those poor bastards back there? They need some goddamn medics!” Milton ripped his arm away from Reynolds and began to leave. Shells all along the beach erupted, one very close, showering the two men with dirt and sand.
“Hell, Milton that’s the only person you can care about! Yourself! If we want to survive this the people we got to trust is ourselves and the man next to us!” Reynolds yelled as Milton continued to move away. Pvt. Milton stopped and looked back at Reynolds.
“No, Mike, you’re wrong! You have to care about your friends and your fellow soldiers! Those men need medics, so they’ll get some medics!” Milton turned and headed towards a group of men thirty yards away. More shells exploded on the beach, several hitting very close to Reynolds. He covered his face and then jumped up and continued up the beach. He glanced back once to where Milton had been heading. The Pvt. had dropped to the ground and was covering his head with both hands. Milton jumped up and ran over to the men, all of them cowering behind cover. Reynolds could see them talking and then a machine gun began to fire on him.
“Oh you sons of bitches!” Reynolds jumped into a shell hole and cocked his M1. He rose up over the rim of the hole and fired blindly as the German bullets chewed into the ground directly in front of him. One round slammed into the barrel of Reynolds weapon, splintering the forward grip and sending bolts of pain through his hand and arm. Reynolds screamed as he looked at his left hand, the middle and index fingers missing, only bloody nubs left. Several shards of hot metal had sliced his forearm in many places and to his greater dismay, saw a large shard of wood impaled in his left bicep. His left arm was in agony as he grabbed hold of the wood and ripped it from his bicep. He screamed in pain as the machine guns continued to fire on him.
“Oh God! What the hell do I do? My freaking fingers are gone! Oh Christ, help me!” Reynolds grabbed at his canteen and poured water on the bleeding wounds. He tossed the canteen and then grabbed the nubs that had been his fingers. He squeezed as hard as he could, the worst pain he had ever felt shooting through his hand. He screamed again and then reached for his canteen. He realized he had tossed it out of his hole in his haste and now he nothing to clean the blood. He cursed himself as he tried to get up. He crawled out of the shell hole, never letting go of his bleeding hand. The bullets hit all around him as he crawled madly towards another hole. He had to reach Pvt. Milton and then he could get a medic. Oh, how ironic it was that he was needing a medic, just like the poor bastards had needed a medic. So the tables had turned on him. Now he was crawling wildly towards a smoking shell hole while he dragged his useless left arm and the two nubs that had been his middle and index fingers squirted blood all over the sand. Well at least he was still alive. That’s more then the poor guy that lay dead in the hole that Reynolds reached could say. The half of the poor bastard’s face was missing and his uniform was covered in blood. Reynolds grabbed the man’s canteen and poured water over the wounds on his arm and hand. The dead man’s rifle lay beside him, a Thompson submachine-gun. Reynolds grabbed it with his good hand, then climbed out of the hole. The German gunners immediately began to fire on him as he struggled to cock the rifle with one hand.
“Damn you! Can’t you leave me alone for one freaking second?” Reynolds screamed at the Germans who continued their deadly barrage. He finally managed to cock the weapon as he ran to find cover, the Germans keeping up the fire. Reynolds finally reached a steel landing obstacle and crouched behind it. He stuck the weapon out and held the trigger down spraying the pillbox. The machine gun fire stopped and Reynolds held his breath. Thirty seconds passed by and then he decided to move. Reynolds tossed the gun aside and began to run toward a group of men thirty feet away. As soon as he left the cover the machine gun opened up and Reynolds knew he was dead. He felt something slam into his right thigh, then he fell to the ground, his right leg refusing to move. The bullets raked his right arm, blood erupting from several wounds. The pain that he had felt in his leg disappeared as the pain in his arm intensified beyond all thresholds. He clawed at his right arm with his bloody left hand and then realized that he was going to die. He rolled over and then two bullets slammed into his lower back, sending shock waves through his entire body. Reynolds vision was blurring as he felt something jerk him up and then he was moving, being dragged by someone or something. Darkness began to envelop him as he was rolled over. He could faintly make out a face as he began to lose consciousness, someone was yelling to him. Something about his name. No matter. He was tired, oh so very tired. The pain was gone, leaving numbness in its place. Oh he was tired. Finally the darkness enveloped him and everything was quiet for him.
It was bad. Very bad. And this medic had seen a lot. Medic William Andrews looked down at the bodies that had been laid in rows. These were fighting men, men that were dead or dieing. This was the ultimate toll of D-Day. The fighting was over, the soldiers now were clearing a path for the troop transports and the tanks. Some of the pillboxes still held Germans, every now and then the medics would get sprayed. Of course Andrews would drop down and lay flat, praying that he wouldn’t be hit.
“Andrews, get over here. Help me sort these bodies.” A young medic called. Jones was his name, maybe, or Johnson. One of those. Andrews made his way over t the young man.
“They’re men, Jones. Not bodies. Some of these poor bastards are still alive.” Andrews knelt and looked at the first man. Several bullet wounds in the chest. Slight breathing. Not more than ten minutes to live. “Hey Jones, this guy, give him two shots of morphine.”
“Sir, the names Johnson and won’t that kill him?” The young man questioned as he prepared the first shot of morphine. “I know one will ease the pain, but two is an overdose.”
“Son, you’ll learn soon enough. Give him two. Let him pass in peace. He’s got less than ten minutes as it is.” Andrews had seen a lot in his thirty-five years. A doctor in the states, he volunteered to fight. He had served in Italy and North Africa, watched many a men die. He had realized something very soon though. To die suffering was a horrible way to go, but two shots of morphine was like going to sleep and never waking. A lot better than dieing with your leg or arm missing, feeling everything. He turned and motioned for the priest to bless the body. Johnson gave the man the first shot and then prepared the second. Andrews moved on. The next man was an infantry man. His patch showed that he was in the 116th Infantry, 21st Division.
“Hey Johnson. If the guy has got a red M on his helmet, then give him the two shots. Otherwise we’re going to try to fix him. Got it?” Andrews looked over to young medic. He gave the man the second shot then stood and came to Andrews’s side.
“Ok, I can do that. What about this guy? He gonna make it?” Johnson asked as Andrews looked over the man. He had just been dragged over. The poor bastard had been chewed up. His right arm was shredded and his right forearm was sliced up pretty bad.
“I don’t know yet. He might make it. He’s lost a lot of blood though, we just got to keep him awake.” Andrews glanced over to Johnson before continuing his examination. The poor guy was still coconscious, barely hanging on. He was in intense pain and was obviously in shock. “Hey, what’s your name? Come on, stay with me. No use, we lost him. Damn it! Johnson get this one.” Andrews looked at the man’s left hand still clutching his right arm. He took it and laid it at his side, noticing that the index and middle fingers were missing. The poor bastard. Andrew dabbed his finger in the blood pooling around the soldier and marked a M on the poor chap’s helmet. Then he stood and moved onto the next man, knowing there was a hundred more to look at.