Chapter One: The Day of Days
This is a rewrite of the previous story which was a revised version of another story. Giving third person a shot since first person didn't quite fit the way I wanted it to. Some characters' ranks are changed and switched and stuff.
June 4th, 1944
Operation Overlord, forever known as D-Day was the ultimate turning point in WWII. With men from the British, Canadian and American forces storming the beaches of Normandy and jumping behind enemy lines the previous night, the Allies successfully invaded France. Originally D-Day was set for June 5, 1944, but due to bad weather in the channel, it was pushed back by one day. For the allied airborne forces who were to jump into Normandy the previous night, this meant waiting another day.
On this particular day, Corporal Miller, Corporal Lewis and Sergeant Kent of the two airborne divisions taking part in the invasion, were one of the few who were not enthusiastic about the postponement.
"Pleasant day isn't it? The big grey clouds, the strong winds, the bad weather in the channel and the postponing of an operation you have been preparing for, for two years." Kent remarked staring up at the sky.
"It is pleasant enough for me." Miller replied chewing on a toothpick. Miller was fond of toothpicks and constantly chewed on them.
"Don't worry Kent, old buddy. It's one more day you get to live." Lewis pointed out to Kent. He was never optimistic and has been having fits about dieing on D-Day ever since the division was shipped overseas.
"I guess this is the calm before the storm, eh?" Miller spoke up.
"You guessed right." Kent replied, "I don't like it."
The three of them sat under a tree outside the movie tent in silence. None of them liked the movie and decided to stay outside. The conversation trailed off and everyone sat in their own murky pool of thoughts.
Miller thought of his cows on his farm and how they were doing. He was never worried, calm and cool under pressure and never raised his voice.
Kent thought of his brother in Italy and how he was doing, did he know that his little brother was taking part of the biggest invasion in history. Kent was the troublemaker, a perfect example of a goldbricker.
Lewis relished in the postponing of the operation. He got bad vibes from the operation Tiger mess, that mistake he made on the practice jump and the bad weather, even though he was thankful for it.
"You know, I think sometimes that God is messing around with us." Kent said suddenly, his voice cracking the silence. "Look at it, He picks the perfect time for a storm!"
"The perfect storm?" Miller asked. He thought for a moment, "More than perfect, a divine storm."
"So, it's the calm before the divine storm?" Lewis chuckled, "Brilliance in a bottle." That was Lewis' favorite expression, with him, everything was in a bottle.
"Is it even going to be a storm?" Kent asked.
"No, don't think so." Miller shook his head, "Just bad weather, some rough waves in the channel. After all, God is just keeping us on our toes."
"He picked one hell of a time to pull off something like this." Lewis said.
"One hell of a time to pull off any of this war crap." Kent declared.
The tent flap opened and the lieutenant stepped out. Lieutenant Roger Carter was a quite man from Boston. He never got mad at his men and never gave his men a reason to get mad at him. Miller, Kent and Lewis stood up as he approached and saluted him.
"No need for that now. We officers are all in the same boat you are." Carter replied.
"We're not in a boat sir. We are in an aircraft, a perfectly good aircraft. You'd wonder what kind of a lunatic suggested the idea of a whole division of men jumping out of them, sir." Kent joked. They all laughed.
"Ben Franklin would be the lunatic." Carter replied, after the laughing died down.
"That fits just fine sir." Lewis smiled, "C'mon, would anyone in their right mind try to get electrocuted by attaching a key to a kite. Who would go through all that trouble?" They all laughed again.
"Oh, yeah." Carter said, suddenly remembering why came outside in the first place. "Miller, your promotion came through." Carter gave Miller his papers and his news sergeant stripes. Miller was shocked. His toothpick fell out of his mouth. Carter went back into the movie tent shivering.
So the night went on with Kent and Lewis making fun of Miller and his new stripes. All of them pondering the same question: what's going to happen tomorrow?
June 5th 1944
Miller tossed his gear into the truck and hopped on, taking a seat next to Kent and Lewis. Both of them were in his stick, his squad, his platoon, his company. Kent was reading Eisenhower's letter, which everyone received from the jumpmasters. Lewis was examining the airsickness pills they were given with a suspicious look. By the way the atmosphere felt, Miller would not be surprised if he was at a funeral. He could feel the heaviness of the apprehension in the air and it did not make him feel better.
The truck shook slightly as the engine started. The truck rattled and coughed and miraculously made it out into the field and dropped the men off next to the planes.
The men piled off the trucks like a flood invading the quite peace that held the air field. Miller, Kent and Lewis's jumpmaster was Lieutenant Carter. He came around and checked on everyone and helped each person put on their gear. Then he went around again, giving each person a pep talk and securing his gear for him.
With that done, each man, fully dressed and weighing twice as much as his original weight took a seat under the wings of the C-47s.
Miller poked around in his pockets and took out a pack of cigarettes which he carefully placed so it would fit. He lit it and exhaled the smoke. He was not addicted to cigarettes; he usually gave away his packs to Kent or Michtells, a machine gunner, who wanted cigarettes as much as he wanted to go home. But on days such as this, a cigarette was needed.
His thoughts drifted off to two years ago, to Camp Toccoa, Georgia, to basic training. Captain Linnings would lead the men in PT and then double time up Currahee, a hill more than a mountain but nevertheless a tedious task to perform if one is running up it.
"Three miles up and three miles down." Miller said to himself quietly and chuckled.
He wondered what would happen to the men in his company after today, would they still be the same? Would he, himself be the same, would he make it out alive or die as Lewis predicted. He pondered the question, pounced at it like a tiger, ripping it apart and seeing it from every angle and always ending up in the same useless conclusion that he could not know and did not want to know.
Miller looked at his watch, 2200 hours, time to mount up. Lieutenant Carter came around and helped each man into the plane.
"Good luck Miller," Carter said as he helped Miller into the plane, "See you on the other side of the channel."
At 2310, the C-47s formed up on the runways and took off. To Miller it was yet another practice jump. The same feeling in your stomach when you lift off and that calm in between, but he knew it was different. This was the jump that was going to make a difference.
Kent was two seats left of Miller and very sleepy. "Goddamn airsickness pill," he muttered and then drifted off into semi unconsciousness. He had a dream of fried chicken and a girl named Francie who lived next door, he had no idea why.
Lewis had no problem staying awake, he didn't take the pill. Now as the planes moved further and further into death Lewis wished he had taken the pills. He would be peacefully sleeping like Kent instead of worrying about the how many ways one can die.
Miller looked out the window, all he could see were clouds, and the deep dark channel below. As the clouds drifted pass, the inhabitants of the channel water were revealed. Rows and rows of ships in all different sizes and shapes lay below him. Miller looked with awe. He gulped and turned back around to face the interior of the C-47. He was scared now. He could not have guess at the size of the invasion. He was just another person among thousands, tens of thousands that were all gathered here today, for a great crusade. He felt so small, so insignificant among the others.
At one point, after the formations passed the islands of Guernsey and Jersey, the planes hit a large cloud bank. None of the men noticed, but the pilots did, taking evasive action in fear of collision and evidently broke formation. C-47s came out of the cloud bank all over the place. Miller looked out the window again, expecting to see land and the C-47s next to his. He was greeted by land and an empty sky, devoid of planes. Miller blinked, shocked, where are all the goddamned Dakotas? His mind shouted.
Then the antiaircraft guns began to fill the skies. Flak and tracer bullets came up, racing to be faster to strike a target than the shell next to it. Miller felt helpless, he could hear the shrapnel making contact with the fuselage. Kent awoke to the sound of bullets which was a surprise. He immediately reached for his M-1 only to find himself still in the plane. Lewis prayed one last time and hoped for the worst.
The C-47 rocked back and forth, swayed from side to side and threw the paratroopers in all directions.
"To hell with it!" lieutenant Katers the pilot of the plane shouted to his co-pilot. He was going 160 miles an hour, with plenty of holes in his plane so that it resembled cheese, a load of troopers in the back, and no choice but to hit the green light, so he did.
The green light turned on. Carter looked back at his men, then looked out into the night which was a chaotic mess, inhaled and jumped. His men followed him out into the night. Miller closed his eyes as he approached the door and blindly jumped out. Kent, two men behind Miller forgot everything he was taught, lost and confused at what to do, Ryans the man behind him, pushed him out. Lewis was in worse shape, praying, crying and going insane, somehow he made it out of the plane.
The plane itself after all the troopers jumped out, turned around in a sharp turn and raced back to England. Katers breathed a sigh of relief as he saw the channel and England in the distance.
Lieutenant Carter held his breath the whole time, from jumping out to making contact with the ground. He was certain his lungs would explode by the time he reoriented himself.
Miller opened his eyes a few seconds afterwards when the chute ripped open. It was routine, he had to check on his chute, to see if it was alright. He looked down from chute to his boots, everything was in place. Then he shifted his view to the sky. For the third time that night, from the allied armada in the channel to the vanishing of the C-47s after the cloud bank, he was amazed yet again.
The sky around him erupted like a volcano. Burning planes, paratroopers, tracers, shells, it all happened simultaneously. For a few moments Miller was paralyzed, forgetting the war and staring at the sky. It was the grandest display of firepower he had ever seen.
Breaking from his trance, he found himself only fifty feet from the ground. He pulled at the risers, filling the chute with air and landed.
Kent had a similar experience. With the opening of his chute, he remembered what he was supposed to do. An influx of information swept through his brain, check your chute, check your leg bag, pull the risers, and watch out for that tree. Kent was the only person to land with his leg bag attached despite loosing all of his other equipment.
Lewis pulled it together in the end and landed without trouble. His mind still full of images of him dieing but he was alive. The first thing he did was say to himself, "Damn, I just cracked the Atlantic Wall."
Cracked might have been an exaggeration. The tight DZ pattern near St. Marie du Mont when to hell the second they hit the cloud bank and the pilots took evasive action. Men were scattered everywhere. Compared to the Americans, the British Ox and Bucks had a better time.
To hell with the objectives, they all said to themselves, I have to stay alive long enough to get back to my unit, then I can worry about the goddamned objectives. So, each trooper who wasn't with a buddy, set out to find one and to find his way back to his unit. For Miller, Kent and Lewis, that unit was E company.
Well, hope you liked this one better! The later chapters will be kept the same until I rewrite them.