by Jim B
A brief story depicting troops in combat during World War 2.
|It was mid December 1944 and the American army was in a fierce struggle to stop the advance of three enormous German armies in the Ardennes Forest of Belgium. It was bitterly cold, the worst winter on record for western Europe. Early in the morning of our attack, we were advancing in a ditch that ran along side a road in the forest. We saw one of our medics leading a horse pulling a large sleigh filled with badly wounded men, maybe six or seven. They were being taken to a first aid station behind the front lines. One soldier at the back of the sleigh was laying back moaning, his left arm was missing at the shoulder but the arm tendons were hanging from the shoulder like long white cords flailing about from the movement of the sleigh. A moment later German artillery shells made a direct hit on them. We had flattened ourselves in the ditch when we heard the artillery coming in. When we looked up again there was nothing to be seen of the sleigh. They were all killed including the medic and the horse.
A little later I saw the body of a German soldier on the road that had been run over lengthwise by a tank and flattened into the snow and dirt. I remember the soldier behind me saying, “there goes some poor mother's son.” After a battle bodies could be seen lying about on the ground where they had been killed, some with their arms sticking up in the air like dead tree limbs. One that comes vividly to mind was a machine gunner bending down on one knee spreading the legs of his machine gun tripod in front of him when he was killed. The next day I passed through the same area on my way back to a medical aid station and saw the man's body still in the same position like he was frozen in time. I was told that in extremely cold weather rigor mortise sets in almost instantly. At times I wondered about the dead with their arms stretched up into the air whether in their final moments they were reaching up as if to call, “here I am, don't overlook me.”