Chapter Two: Your Problems Begin After You Land
Okay Chapter Two, after a long writer's block and soul searching and getting detention at school, I am able to write! (Detention for throwing paper airplanes….damned math teachers…)
June 5th-6th, 1944
"Sergeant, where are we?" Private John Cotton asked. Cotton was a rifleman in Miller's platoon, a writer, an artist and played the guitar. He carried the guitar with him everywhere he went, to basic to jump school and even to Normandy. Cotton would always say that one day, "my guitar will be worth a whole lot of money. But I ain't never gonna sell it." Miraculously the guitar survived the jumped and Cotton despite loosing everything else he had was carrying it on his back.
Miller spotted Cotton before he landed and rushed over to him after he hit the ground. Before Cotton was out of his chute, Miller was checking if he had a map and compass.
"Damned if I know, John." Miller replied, "All these damned hedgerows look the same."
The night was dark and trees and hedgerows became shapes looming over you. It was hard to see and impossible to know what is what.
"For all I know, we might be walking in circles." Cotton looked about, "I distinctively remember seeing that tree before!" Both of them chuckled and continued on. After a while, Cotton began to see the same trees over and over again until he saw a tree with a dead paratrooper hanging by his parachute from its branches. "Miller, he got his M-1, take it." Cotton tossed the rifle over to Miller who caught it. "He has a .45 too. Guess I'll be taking it."
"Has he got a map or compass?" Miller asked, loading the rifle.
"Uh, a compass, no map." Cotton took out a small compass from one of the pockets and examined it. "Broken." Cotton declared and tossed the thing away angrily.
"You want his wallet?"
The two of them left the trooper with a M-1 and.45 and still no clue where they were going.
Kent had a better time. He immediately located his map and compass and got to work on finding where he was. From the church tower he saw in the distance before he landed, he figured he was near St. Mere Eglise and knew exactly where to go from there. Kent started walking, the soil crunching underneath his boot and his gear clanking. It made a lot of noise when he walked and it was hard for him to function properly with all of his gear. This made his a good target, thus he ditched most of his gear.
Kent made a mental note of a funny looking bush and walked on. He took a few steps and stopped. What that a helmet? He asked himself. He walked back to the bush, and just as he thought it was a helmet of a dead German. Kent examined the helmet and found four holes in various places. He looked about the bush and found the dead German a few feet away, four holes in his head and his body riddled with holes. "Christ," Kent whispered, "Some one really butchered this guy.
Leaving the helmet with the man, Kent continued walking. A few meters past the dead German, he found more dead Germans and one American. It looked to be a big firefight. Several horses were also slain and a crushed wooden wagon nearby.
Kent, seeing there was nothing he could do for the dead men and nothing they could do for him, he walked on.
Lewis was not as unlucky or as lucky. He considered himself lucky because of he was alive and unlucky because he was alive. Being alive meant that he could keep on living, get home in a few years when this whole thing ended, get married and have kids. Being alive meant that he could be shot by German patrols, especially since he spoke no French and no German and he had a weapon. He cursed himself for taking Latin in high school when he should have taken French.
He had a barely readable map, half covered with mud retrieved from a lost leg bag stuffed with rations and cigarettes and no weapons. "I really feel sorry for whoever lost this." Lewis commented, "Probably Mitchells."
Lewis found a barn in the middle of a hedgerow surrounded field and decided to eat a C ration and consider his situation. He opened the cans and looked at with disgust. He often wondered if he was going to die from eating bad food instead of shot.
He began to eat. "Okay," he said to himself between spoonfuls, "You are no brave, you can't fight, you have no weapons, no clue where you are without a compass, and the likelihood of dieing is 99.9 percent. And you are not even good at math." He ate some more. "Your situation: hopeless." He ended with the same conclusion every time.
He opened a package of cheese and crackers when he heard the sound of horses and the squeaky wheels of a German patrol wagon outside. He dropped the cheese and dived into a pile of hay in the barn.
"And so I told the stupid donkey to shut up," A German officer appeared in the barn, joking in German. He was followed by several other German soldiers talking about something Lewis could not understand. They looked around, found nothing and left.
A boy who was barely 16 remained and looked into the barn one more time. He turned about to follow the others when a silver reflection of metal caught his attention. He decided to investigate.
"Shit," Lewis hissed as he saw the boy approach the cans he left on the floor where he was eating. The boy took out his bayonet and started poking the hay. Well at least, he didn't call the others, Lewis said to himself. He checked for his own bayonet which was in his boot. He reached for it and thought over what he was going to one more time and lunged at the boy.
The boy who was trying to find the American in the barn with out help from his superiors was caught off guard when a blade hit him in the shoulder and drove him to ground. Before he could he scream a hand was pressed over his mouth. He looked up and his gaze was met by a pair of equally blue and equally frightened eyes.
Lewis was shocked at what he had done. He didn't want to drive the entire blade into the shoulder of the poor kid. All he wanted to do was give him a big enough wound so that he could not use his rifle. Now he could feel the warm blood ooze slowly from the wound. He looked away from the kid and listened for the fading sounds of the wagon. The horse and wagon creaked and squeaked into the distance and when Lewis was sure they were not coming back, he let go of the kid and pulled out his bayonet.
"English?" Lewis inquired, he was positive the answer was going to be a no.
"A little," The kid replied, grimacing in pain. His English contained a heavy German accent but it was understandable.
"Oh, that's okay, too bad I don't speak German," Lewis automatically replied, "Wait, you speak English?"
"Well, that makes thing a whole lot different." Lewis said more to himself that to the kid. "I guess I should take you prisoner."
"Prisoner?" The boy asked, his expression unreadable.
"Yeah, I should take care of that wound before I do anything else." Lewis said, trying to find some sort of bandage. Instead he found morphine. "This is better."
"A needle is better?" The boy asked, looking even more scared.
"Don't worry, it's going to make you feel better." Lewis gave the kid a shot of morphine. He was feeling less confident than he sounded, in fact he had no idea what he was doing. He used the kid's jacket as bandage.
"Do you know where Ste. Marie du Mont is?" Lewis asked.
"Yes." The boy replied, looking awkwardly at his bandage that used to be his jacket.
"That's where we are going. You are going to be the guide." Lewis told him, "Tomorrow at first light. Get some sleep."
The boy obeyed and found himself a pile of hay and fell asleep in a few minutes. Lewis watched the boy sleep and soon he was a asleep himself holding the rifle even thought he haven't the slightest clue how to operate it.
At the same time, Miller and Cotton were heading at a 45 degree angle away from them towards the beachheads. Miller was quiet and apprehensive and calculated what their chances of finding Ste. Marie du Mont were. His calculations resulted in a failure. He like Lewis was never good at math. Cotton so far has been leading the way and Miller feared that Cotton had no idea what he was doing.
Miller and Cotton trudged on, Cotton trying to figure out whether they should turn left or right, Miller still calculating, but he was really interested in what was going on back home. The two of them preoccupied by there own thoughts failed to notice the sound of a cricket. Until someone shouted "Flash!" were they aware of other people.
"Thunder!" Both of them called back eager to find who it might be and whether or not they could help them. They looked in the direction of the voice intently and watched Lieutenant Carter emerge along with Private Liam and Corporal Willson. Private Liam was General Roderick's jeep driver and Corporal Willson was part of the mortar squad.
"Sir, are we glad to see you!" Cotton exclaimed. "We are a bit lost and map-less."
"Even more lost thanks to Cotton here." Miller took out a toothpick and started to chew. Cotton gave a look and they all laughed.
"Liam here says he saw a sign several miles back and we were following it headed for the DZ." Carter explained. "Going our way?"
"We are now." Miller replied. With that, the group continued to head for Ste. Marie du Mont. They walked through the night and into the next day, crossing the Norman fields that were endless and filled with hedgerows. Miller by the next morning were sick and tired of hedgerows, bushes, trees, dirt and he wished he was anywhere but Normandy. Cotton on the other hand was happy and jolly scribbling in his notebook as they walked. Carter was his usual self, leading the men. Liam was giving Willson tips on jeep maintenance when the five of them walked into 2nd Battalion HQ and was greeted by Colonel Smith.
From there, they located E company and joined their respective squads. Miller found Kent and Ryans under a tree. So far Kent and Ryans were the only people from Miller's platoon besides for several wounded. Lewis was listed MIA and Captain Linnings was nowhere to be found.
"If Linnings bought it, doesn't that mean Carter is CO?" Ryans asked. Ryans was a curious fellow. He was a short construction work from Queens and was full of spirit and questions that seemed to never end.
"Sure does." Kent lit a cigarette and exhaled the smoke, "Carter would make a good CO, like Linnings. Good men both of them, hate to see Linnings gone."
"Hate to see everyone gone. There are only 20 guys and 10 something wounded in all of Easy." Ryans replied.
"They'll start arriving soon. By my calculations, it takes quite a while to walk from our different landing spots to walk all the way here." Miller pointed out to Ryans and Kent.
"Since when did you have calculations?" Kent asked.
"Since last night," Miller told him. Kent nodded and accepted the answer. He himself did a few things unexpected last night, such as eat chocolate. He came across a trooper who carried a bagful of chocolate bars from D Rations and traded cigarettes for them. Now he is addicted to chocolate, something odd for a person like Kent.
"Most importantly, where is Lewis?" Miller asked. They all shrugged, no one knew. Miller hoped that Lewis was okay and finding his way back like everyone else. Kent thought that he would be hiding in a hole the whole war and never come out. Ryans thought that he would be dead. After all he made such a big deal about dieing, he might as well be dead. The thing about war to Ryans was that you are dead before you even get there. Just by enlisting and joining, you are dead. That's what war is, killing and dieing. Even if you are dead already, you might as well do you part and shoot the German sonofabitch.
"What's that on your rifle Miller?" Kent asked, spotting something on Miller's rifle.
Miller looked at the butt of his rifle to find a silver coin sized circle on the bottom and carving of women in the middle. It looked like a real coin from the states except it wasn't Lincoln. The carving was a masterpiece. Miller remembered how he received the rifle from Cotton. He thought of the dead trooper and felt guilty for taking the rifle. He wondered how the man felt having his rifle used by someone else with the carving of his wife in it. It certainly didn't make Miller feel good.
"I don't know," Miller lied, knowing that the two of them wouldn't really care about it.
As Miller calculated in the next hour people started arriving. Mitchells showed up around 0645 complaining about how he has lost his leg bag full of rations and cigarettes he got from some guys in Baker. He was followed by Mick, Lansfield and O'Reilly. Mick's real name was Robert Mickerick, everyone shorted down his last name to just Mick. He was a rifleman and was the company's first sergeant. Lansfield was from Pittsfield and a private. He was an ammo carrier who carried a .30 cal he found that night. O'Reilly was the only officer in the group, a second lieutenant from 1st platoon.
"What did I tell you Ryans?" Miller said in a I-told-you-so tone. Grinning as he chewed on his toothpick.
"Yeah, yeah you told, you told me. Quit rubbing in." Ryans said.
"Anyone here tried finding some liquor?" Mick asked. Mick was tired of beer from the English pubs, like most of everyone here, he wanted hard liquor. Millers on the other hand, had no need for liquor and wanted food.
"No, nothing," Kent said, "The first thing I did was check out the houses. Nothing. Damned Germans."
"Well, this is sure wonderful," Lansfield complained, "Nothing to do, no liquor, nothing." The word nothing at this point was popular amongst the men under the tree in the small village of which 2nd battalion moved into.
Lewis on the other hand was having a grand time eating German rations with the German kid. They had moved out at first light and the kid who's name was Schmidt, decided to share his food.
"If I am a POW of the Americans, do I receive peaches every day?" Schmidt asked excitedly.
Lewis was not sure of this, but peaches were served in the mess hall, if there was a mess hall, so he said yes. Schmidt jumped for joy. It seems that Schmidt and his buddies craved peaches like nothing else.
After Lewis finished eating, they moved on to St. Marie du Mont which was not far away at all. If Lewis himself had not stopped and kept on walking in the same direction, he would have hit St. Marie du Mont by sunrise. Lewis found battalion HQ and turned in the prisoner. He said bye to kid and told the private guarding them to give him peaches if he could.
"Peaches? Where the hell can get peaches?" The private whispered back.
"SHHH! No so loud, he might hear you. The kid wants peaches, make sure he gets them!" Lewis ordered. "And do you know where Easy is?"
The private shrugged to the last question and went back to thinking of ways to get peaches. Lewis continued to look for Easy and Miller and Kent, or anyone in Easy.
Miller spotted Lewis first, when he just left the prisoners and was walking in their direction. "Hey, that's Lewis!" He exclaimed.
"Well, guess Lewis made it." Ryans said, "Always thought he would die." He lit a cigarette and chuckled.
Lewis soon reached the group, he was grinning widely, happy to see his friends. Lewis looked no better than any of his comrade. They were all covered in dirt and grime and despite the fact that they were fighting a war, just the simplest reunion was a grand event.
"No liquor," was the first thing Micks said to Lewis.
"You know the man doesn't drink," Kent replied.
"Yeah, you do know I don't drink," Lewis said. Lewis feared that smoking and drinking might kill him. Even if he died on D-Day, it was better to die a non-smoker and drinker.
"If I did know, I wouldn't have asked." Micks said, surprised that Lewis didn't drink.
"Well, if you really want to know, out situation is boring. Nothing to do, nothing to drink. In short, nothing." Lansfield explained again. Lewis nodded.
The conversation drifted off and everyone went about his own business of thinking and looking around. Miller thought about his cows again. They were constantly on his mind because that was the only thing that he could think about. He didn't want to think of his family who were constantly worrying about him because it made more homesick than ever. His mother never wanted him to go, she hated that idea and opposed it at all cost. It killed her when he left, she cried and cried. His father was not quite as happy either but proud that his son was going to fight for his country. Miller eventually thought of his little sister who was too young to understand why he was going away and cried just because she couldn't play hand games with him. Then Miller moved on to thinking about Dawn, a girl who lived on a farm just half a miles down the road. They'd walk to school together. Somehow now, he ended up missing her too.
Kent was thinking of all of his brothers. He had four of them. The eldest brother, Fred, was in Italy as an infantryman. He fought in North Africa and participated in Sicily. Kent looked up to him like a hero, he was the reason he joined the army and he wondered what he was doing. His second eldest brother, Victor, was a bombardier of a Flying Fortress. Kent always thought that Victor would be an officer on a general's staff, instead he ended up as a bombardier who has only 10 more missions. If only the parachute infantry was like that, it counts your patrols and sends you home after 25 of them. Goddamned infantry have to do the dirty work, Kent thought to himself, well, I don't want to die in a goddamned burning plane either.
Lewis was thinking of Schmidt and how he was doing. He would never know but he thought about it. Schmidt reminded Lewis of the kid who use to live next. He was about the same height and for some reason when Lewis enlisted, thought of his as a hero. Lewis was embarrassed by this and agreed to write him letters, which he did. This caused people to think that he had a little brother. But he was an only child.
All of them thought of what was about to happen. They all knew that they would move out and face the enemy. The practice jumps and field problems were behind them because no matter what the army prepared them for, they could not prepare them for combat. They all knew that this period of waiting for something to happen and having nothing to do was a rare moment and it was going to end sooner than they thought.
"Easy company!" It was Carter, he interrupted all of their thoughts, "We have to take out some German ack-ack guns near Brecourt. The air corps missed them since they were dug in. If we take them, we clear Utah of shells and open up the causeway." Carter explained, this was their briefing, "Drop all of gear, only ammo and weapon. We are moving out now."
Everyone grunted. The 15 or so men in Easy moved out after Carter. This was of no surprise that they would be moving out and no one liked it. Miller kissed his cows goodbye and Kent hoped that he would see his brothers, and Lewis wondered if the navy had peaches.
"Goddamned Air Corps. So much for intelligence officers." Ryans said, "There isn't one intelligent officer among them."
"Ryans, there's a difference between and intelligence officer and an intelligent officer." Miller said, putting his toothpicks away and grabbing a rifle, pausing to look at the carving, "The only similarity is that neither of them exists!"
"They don't exist," Lewis started laughing, "Brilliance in a bottle."
"Hey watch what you say," a battalion staff officer commented as they passed on their way to Brecourt, "I'm the intelligence officer!"
"Then you don't exist!"
They moved out joking about everything as they went. They past the Norman fields, admiring and hating it. They admired it because of it's beauty. The green grass and beautiful and trees, Miller admired it for the beautiful cows. They hated it because they had to fight for it. As far as Miller, Kent and Lewis were concered, everything was fine, just as the mission briefing for D-Day said it would. Germans everywhere, cows and hedgerows that were a few feet taller, it was normal.
What the hell can go wrong, after it's only a war, Miller thought to himself.
Okay, what do you think?