In memory of the 77th Anniversary of D-Day
The flak was ungodly and the pilots had no choice.
They green lit the stick going way too low and way too fast.
When Hank left the plane he was upside down looking up at his deployed canopy as fountains of orange and red tracer rounds zipped by him in brilliant ropes of light. The ground looked like it was on fire there was so much activity and Hank’s heart raced as he saw nowhere to land there wasn’t a German gun flash. Suddenly there was a loud explosion above him as a C-47 was cut in half by a flak burst, as the nose of the plane sheered away, the fuselage tumbled to the earth and Hank watched in horror as the stick of paratroopers inside were engulfed in flames and came tumbling out like burning embers being carried away on a stiff breeze. Hank turned his head away and prayed harder than he had ever prayed in his life.
Hank hit the ground so hard it knocked him out cold.
Later he awoke to the sound of a German twenty millimeter flak gun popping off like a typewriter fifty-yards away. He wasn’t sure how long he had been unconscious, it could not have been more than a few minutes. Instinctively he reached for his rifle but it was gone, along with all his ammo, his sidearm and even his damn jump knife and canteen. All he had in his pockets to invade fortress Europe was a cricket clicker and three half melted Hershey bars.
Moving away from the flak gun, Hank shimmied and bounded through the bocage toward what looked like a farmhouse in the distance. Arriving on the outskirts of the farm Hank was met with the challenge word of “Flash!” Without thinking he responded “Thunder!” and two other troopers appeared out of the thick brush, Pvt. Thomas and Perry, both from Hank’s stick.
“Well if you ain’t a sight for sore eyes!” Pvt. Randall Thomas exclaimed slapping Hank on the back. Hank smiled and shook hands with both men.
“Please tell me you know where the hell we are” Hank whispered looking at Thomas and Perry intently.
“No goddamn ideal.” Thomas replied, taking a drink from his canteen and then offering it to Hank.
“Well at least you both got your rifles!” Hank replied, eyeing the two M1 Garands.
Perry laughed and handed Hank his .45.
“Don’t worry, we lost our leg bags too.” Thomas replied.
“So what’s this farm?” Hank asked.
“It’s crawling thick with krauts, I counted at least a platoon in there.” Perry answered, adjusting his helmet.
“Most likely using it as a resupply point for AA ammo. No way we can take that on. I heard trucks just beyond those trees, I say we find that road and follow it until we find a road sign so we can get our bearings on where the hell we are and find our unit!”
Without waiting for an answer, Thomas took point and bounded over to a drainage ditch which ran beside the farm and almost all the way up to the road. Perry nodded for Hank to take second position and he bring up the rear since all he had was a pistol. They maintained tactical spacing and moved as quietly as they could through the knee deep water. Reaching the road, Thomas gave the hand signal for the rest of the element to find cover while he scouted if it was clear. Hank took a position behind a tree that gave him good visibility of the road in both directions while Perry went prone in the brush. Just as Thomas was about to reach the other side of the road and give the signal to cross, the sound of a truck engine could be heard rumbling their direction. Thomas gave the signal to find cover. When the truck was about ten yards away suddenly the night lit up like the fourth of July and all hell broke loose. Perry came running up beside Hank.
“What the hell is going on?”
Hank heard the familiar sound of Garand’s and a .30 Caliber Browning and smiled.
“Sounds like some of our boys decided to get into the war!”
The firefight was over in under a minute and soon Hank saw a total of six men step out of the bocage onto the road to investigate the truck.
“Flash!” Hank yelled at the top of his lungs down the road.
Suddenly the squad got low and trained their muzzles in Hank’s direction.
“Thunder! Show yourself!” a voice replied from the squad
“Hundred and First, we’re coming out” Hank yelled
Hank, Perry and Thomas immerged from the thick brush out onto the road and slowly walked toward the lead man in the squad.
Hank immediately saw the subdued bar on the helmet and saluted and sounded off.
“Private Parker, Able Company 502nd, Lieutenant.”
As Perry and Thomas sounded off Hank recognized two of the men from Charlie Company 502nd, Roselli and Davis. As Hank went over to shake hands he heard the Lt. identify himself.
“Lt. Winters. Easy Company, 506th. You men sure are a long way from your drop zone!”
“I think we all are sir.” Thomas replied with a laugh.
As Hank walked past the truck shot all to hell, he saw the dead German driver shot through the temple. Walking around to the back were six more dead soldiers, all of them killed before they could exit the truck.
“Not a bad piece of shooting if I do say so myself.” A trooper with a Browning .30 caliber over his shoulder said smiling.
“Yeah well I nailed the driver!” another trooper replied with a smirk.
Everybody got quiet as Lt. Winters approached.
“OK, this road is busy tonight so police up weapons and ammo and let’s move in two tactical columns to the farmhouse. Thomas, Parker and Perry, welcome aboard. You’ll be attached to me until we find your unit. Parker, be sure and grab a Kraut rifle and some ammo until we can find you a replacement.”
“Yes sir” Hank replied.
Hank walked over and picked up a K98 and an ammo pouch from the back of the truck and slung it over his shoulder.
As the squad bounded toward the farmhouse in two tactical columns Pvt. Hank Parker said a prayer and thanked God for getting him this far.
He knew he had a long way to go yet, but this was a good start in the big scheme of things.