It was early morning. A light mist so typical of the area cooled the morning air. From the adjacent build Lt Schrader could hear Schmidt singing Uber Alles…again.
Didn’t he know we were not just losing the war, but it was likely lost!
The Americans were here. Young, fresh, strong and incredibly brave, or stupid is what he thought.
They were here all right, thousands of them, everywhere, pressing probing looking for a breakthrough. They were not like the British. No these bastards would try anything. No traditions no dogma just success and death. Death to his precious few men.
Lt Schrader mused: But my area is secure, the bocage is our friend here. If they close on us we will tear them to pieces and call in reinforcements….oh that’s right . There are none of those. Thank God he was not on the eastern front! He had heard the stories. Stand and die our leader had ordered.
He stood, lit one last cigarette for the moment, and a good one an American Lucky Strike. Maybe today they will come.
“listen up men. We have orders from HQ to secure the area ahead so we can get the tankers thru.” Sergeant Smith and I have a plan.” Said Lt Blankenship.
Cpl Hubbard rolled his eyes, another plan from our west point baby. That son of bitch did not get his boots wet getting here, what hell does he know. My squad did, and most of them died to get this far. he thought.
Smitty was ok, but he spent more time wiping Blankenships nose and keep us outta trouble than managing the platoon. Lets hope its Smitty’s plan not our Lt’s.
It was indeed the Lieutenants plan. He was going to sneak in under cover and spot for the men and call in some arty while they advanced on the German positions.
Their exact dispositions were unknown at this point, but he needed to prove himself to his men. Their trust in him was thin at best.
Blankenship was scared but he knew that in order for his men to be effective they had to believe he could do the job as well if not better than them.
Things started out well enough. He had an ok position.
He heard his men begin to move out on the other side of the village, and initiate the plan. Only problem was Blankenship could not raise HQ for an Arty or smoke strike.
Cpl Hubbard was moving up cautiously, while Sarge got the teams powering in. He heard the thwump of the mortar. Thru his ‘nocs he saw that they were over shooting.
Thad who ran the 30 cal MG had gained the house north of the village and was putting down covering fire into the hedgerows, trying to suppress the krauts.
Blankenship was engrossed with watching his men, and trying to spot the enemy in the house.
He heard too late, the fateful footsteps 100 yards up the road. He turned bringing his tommy gun to bear . But it was indeed too late. They rushed him.
He fired quickly, wildly, then he was being attacked by 4 of them. He fell back against the hedgerow, its sharp branches pricking him, disorienting him. He lashed with a boot, swung his tommy gun like a club, knocking one guy over. A loud noise, ringing ears, heat, searing heat in his chest….his arm…his leg thrusting him bodily back thru the hedgerow. He cried out. Fumbling for his pistol, hands slick with blood. He wondered whose? He faded to black.
“Where the friggen hell is the smoke.” Thought the sarge? He could hear shooting in the distance. It could mean only one thing. Smitty thought.
He was going to have to train another Lt.
“All right men, we gunna do this the hard way.” Cisco, Rains, and Brown lay some fire down on that building. I’m gunna raise Battalion and try and get some fire on those guys so you sissys don’t get any boo boos.”
“Walk in the park Sarge. Walk in the park.” Said Rains.
“shuddup and shoot “ said Brown “it will work better when you take the safety off”.
Both of them smirked at each other and started to put some lead down range.
These hedgerows were a pain in the ass. They blocked LOS, slowed your bullets down and generally FUBAR’ed this whole exercise. The men were firing blindly into the ‘rows moving to try and get a decent shot here or there. The rest of the teams moved thru the orchard using those same hedgerows as cover.
Finally they heard it. “In coming” someone called. It was close. Danger Close. “Crap”, they all hit the dirt. Several dozen HE rounds hit the house and surrounds. It was quiet for a moment. Well quiet except for the ringing in their ears.
Then Smoke landed. Nice and thick. Sarge waved the boys forward. “Fix bayonets, close in with me.”
The mortar moved up thru the orchard after being directed to a nearby foxhole. They put more fire on the house. Smitty and his men closed on the house.
“STFU, they’re expecting us, if we’re lucky they will be wet behind the ears conscripts, if not you boys better bring you’re A game. IF it moves kill it.” Said Smitty.
They could see the dark outline of the building ahead. The assault was bloody, despite flanking the house, 2 men fell on the approach and one was cut to hell after a nade went off too quickly. Smitty, ran the stairs, hard on the heels of two of his men. With the downstairs clear there had to be at least one guy up here somewhere.
Blood and bullets splattered the wall ahead of him. “I’m hit…oh shit I cant see…Sarge ..sarge…please..please…oh shit. “ Smitty and his other private crouched at the corner. Smitty looked at the private. “Theres no helping him. You ready son?” ….there was a pause. “ye…yea…Yes Sir”, said the private.
“Ok, I’m popping a hot nade, then go in firing “.
Later downstairs. Smitty looked at the four broken bodies of his men, and then to the four left in front of him. He grimaced. “Listen up. Hold this spot, they may want to counter attack” I gotta get Hubbards ass in gear and get some smoke for him too.”
Hubbard and his boys had made it to within 2 hedgerows or 50 yards of his objective. But was taking a lot of fire. He was not going anywhere without smoke. It looked like the Jerries were content to hunker down, only firing the occasional shot. His line was more spread out than he liked but with these hedges it was the best he could do.
The sound of pounding footsteps came his way , just as the smoke hit. He turned and saw Lucas with the MG running towards him. “Come On Hubbard” He cried. “Lets go F’up some Gerries. “ ………..Hubbard shook his head. “Why me” he said. He could already here the chunking MG as Lucas disappeared thru the hedgerow.
“well” he roared. “Get your asses in there for that crazy son of a bitch gets us all killed” They moved as one , following the sound of Lucas’s mg.
The Germans , could hear a pair of boots on gravel….on the road….dead ahead. No! one crazy American…? WTF? Before his poorly trained conscripts could react a young GI with what looked to be a very big machine gun crashed thru the hedgerow, spraying bullets every where. His men dove for cover. The Cpl stood his ground. He stretched out his arm and pointed his Luger at the GI. Taking careful aim. He fired. Once. Twice. Silence. The apple orchard was silent. Smoke drifted from the barrel of the MG.
On his knees, face in the ground, The German Cpl grimaced. He’d been shot before. But this felt different…worse. He tried to straighten, to lift his head to see what had happened. But it felt soooo heavy. He could not. He could not see his adversary, only an apple, shriveled, decaying and smelling cloyingly sweet was in his fast dimming sight. What happened…who was that man, where his last thoughts.
Lucas spun to his left and fired at another squad edging closer thru the smoke to see what was going on. All around him Lucas could see smoke but this part of the orchard was relatively clear. He heard Hubbard “ Well I’ll be damned if that ain’t a Luger. Been looking for one of those. Nice work Lucas.” Hubbard took the pistol from the death grip its dead owner.
“Spread out, we got Jerry on both sides of us here now.” Said Hubbard. He walked over to Lucas. “Nice work asshole. Next time you go charging off into the smoke, friggen well ask me which way.” He growled. He turned and walked away.
Hubbard and his men started to take fire from both flanks. Smitty and his team were also bogged down in the building taking a lot of fire.
The US arty starts to zero in on the primary objective. Smitty send one squad across the main road to try and circle the Jerries. If we can put fire on them from all sides they might break and run.
In the distance Lucas saw one team of Germans drop guns and make for an exit over by a house some 400 yards away. Things were looking pretty good he thought.
Lucas turned with his MG and began to spray fire into the main large building in front of him. It looked like a command post. Heavy MG fire occasionally sprayed the smoke. He could hear Jery approaching from his left. Time to move! Under a hail of bullets he crosses the road and used the hedgerow for cover. Four Germans turn and start shooting at him, swinging the MG and the trailing ammo chain around he sweeps thru them and throws a ‘nade for good measure. Well we got the crossroad. Now where is everyone? He looked around. Only now realizing he had taken off again alone…
Lucas hears incoming 105MM shells and looks down the road to see the entire area being pounded to bits. The Heavy MG stops firing.
Smitty calls to his men, “we need to secure building in case they counter attack.” The guys start piling up mattresses against the walls and windows, just as a hail of bullets rips thru the building. Two men are wounded. They hunker down, peering thru the smoke waiting to see if Hubbard and his boys are ready to storm the building. “ Hey Sarge, those new recruits have taken off back to the Mortar section. “ says one of the wounded men.
No way! Thinks Smitty. Dam it. I’m here alone with 2 wounded men. “ You guys better grab a gun and hunker down low.”
The smoke begins to thin. Smitty can see Lucas up the road in the woods with an MG. “Well I’ll be damned a regular rookie hero!” Hubbard and his teams are on the other side of the road . There is no fire coming from the primary objective.
Smitty runs out the back door and signals the men to keep going across the road and head to the house on the south side of the road. Hopefully the Germans wont think to try and retake his position if they are being fired on from 3 sides.
The Germans appearing more organized now, and recovering from the arty start laying down fire from upstairs on Hubbard. Half his men take hits from shrapnel and flying debris. The Volksgrenadiers behind them begin to pepper his men as well.
Hubbard hunkers down from the large caliber bullets. “Where is Smitty and his crew?” shouts Hubbard. “Can anybody see ‘m?”…. Ok…fine. He thinks.
“You guys stay here, I’m going take care of our rear first then we will work out what to do about the house.”
Hubbard rounds up his men who are back in the hedgerows. “Listen up; you guys have to get those bastards in there” He points at the woods. They are tearing up Thad, and the rest of the fellas. “ Lead off with nades and rush ‘em from two sides. …Well get going damn it.”
Four GI’s die in the assault. But it has the desired effect. The German Leader seeing his flanking force eliminated, surrenders.
As he walks out Schrader, sighs a sigh of relief. Now the war was over for him. He reaches into his breast pocket for a Lucky Strike. “ Look out” a young kid in front of him shouts…Schrader turns his head and yells “nicht wahr, nein, nein….ein Lucky Strike”
Bullets thud into his chest. Glazed eyed he slumps to the ground.
His war is indeed over.