Nicholas M. Winters
COMRADES AT THE FRONTLINES
Part III: WINTER WAR
Assault The Hill!
Just before dawn, Cooper gathered his men and separated them into two sections.
“Lowell and Hall, you guys will lead half the company; me and Harry will take the rest and we charge at the first daylight, we move side by side, you hear?” Lowell and Hall nodded back to him and Cooper went to Harry.
“Harry,” Cooper called on him.
“You better have lots of ammo ‘cause we will be needing your BAR on the fight,”
“I’ll have enough to wipe out Hitler’s SS.” Harry said with confidence.
“You just be ready,”
At the strike of dawn, D company was the first to attack. M-1 rifles and some machineguns were heard just as Cooper was getting the men ready.
“Alright! Let’s move out now,” Cooper called as he swung his Thompson. Lowell with Hall was on their left flank, moving quietly, not even laying any covering fires. When the Germans started firing at them, Cooper too, fired back.
“Lay some cover fire!” Cooper shouted as Harry knelt down, took an aim at the Germans around a sandbag bunker and squeezed off three rounds of his BAR. His three shots killed both Germans manning the MG42.
“Where did you learn that?” the astounded Cooper asked.
“When you were in England…” Harry replied. Harry was no longer the old him; he no longer blazed away with his BAR, now he aimed perfectly before firing off a shot – sheer accuracy.
Cooper continued to run and by luck or by some blessings, he and Harry and his men arrived at a molehill about 100 yards from the base of the hill where they could take cover. Lowell and Hall were with their men on Cooper’s left. C Company had yet to take any casualties.
The Germans were somewhere on the ridge firing a few MG42 rounds on their position, and although not inflicting any casualties, had them pinned down.
“How many times do we have to get pinned down in this goddamn war?” Harry complained as he took off his overcoat.
“Ready your rifles; put some fire on that crew!” Cooper called out as he reloaded his Thompson. “Covering fire!” Cooper shouted again as he fired his Thompson at the ridge of the hill, hoping the hot lead from his Thompson would hit one of the Germans, but it didn’t.
All the men started firing their M-1 rifles at the Germans up on the hill. Since most of the men were replacements, none of them managed to hit any Germans.
“For Christ’s sake…” Harry cried as he aimed his BAR and fired several rounds. Three of the Germans tumbled down the hill – dead.
As the Germans on top ceased firing, Cooper hollered to his men, “Let’s get the bastards!”
Harry covered the entire company; his accuracy with the BAR provided security and firepower.
Private Tex Adams, a considered-veteran who had joined 2nd Rangers when they were in the Crozon Peninsula, with the sniper rifle in hand, was the first one to reach at the base of the hill and began laying some sniper-covering fire…
“Move! Move!” Harry shouted as he continued to fire at the Germans every time he saw one. Cooper was at the back pushing men forward and moving toward the hill.
With Harry covering the company, a combination of struggle and fast movements, some Rangers had already reached the top, firing at the Germans in their sandbag bunkers.
Sergeant Hall, who was first up, begun hurling grenades and firing his Thompson. The combined rifle and machinegun fire of the Rangers cut down the Germans who tried to fall back to their second line.
“To the bunker!” Harry called out as he moved toward the concrete fortification at the highest point of the hill.
Two privates hurled their grenades into the building and Harry waited at the door for the explosion. When the grenade exploded, one wounded German came crawling out of the exit. Harry placed his barrel between the German’s eyes and squeeze off a round.
The other companies came up the hill and, with a few casualties, 2nd Rangers had captured Castle Hill only after thirty-minutes of combat. The Medics quickly patched the wounded together and even set up an aid station at the bunker.
Before anybody could settle down, artillery came pouring down at the hilltop. The shells hit every square-inch of the ridge. More casualties were taken and the Rangers dived everywhere in search of cover.
When the artillery finally stopped, Cooper was told to defend the hill. He brought his boys to the slope of the hill and told them to dig in. Sergeant Hall shared a large foxhole with Lieutenant Lowell, Harry and Cooper dug shared another foxhole behind a large rock.
The foxholes were several yards apart and staggered randomly. Harry and Cooper were near the frontline, with Lowell and Hall to their left. Low on ammunition, Charlie Company could only fight back one German counter-attack.
Harry positioned his BAR facing down the hill, ready to cut the Germans down as soon as they attacked. Cooper was cleaning his Thompson. Lowell and Hall with their Thompsons could make a better light machinegun crew. Hall was piling his and Lowell’s grenade together near him, easier to reach.
“What’s that bunch of grenade for?” Lowell asked.
“We need them if the enemies come up in bunch.”
“Hell if it takes a direct hit of mortar.” And Lowell was right; they shouldn’t have their grenades bunched up like that. Even a round of bullet may set them all off.
Cooper placed Adams in a superbly covered position with his sniper rifle. He then placed PFC Doyle on the Browning .30 caliber machinegun on to their left side creating an angle which set an overlapping field of fire with Harry’s BAR.
Others were well placed in their foxholes with a few bandoleers of ammunition only. As soon as everything was set up Cooper gathered the men together giving the last of orders and brief.
“Now listen up,” Cooper begun. “We don’t have enough ammunition to fight a long battle so watch your rate of fire; don’t give your positions away recklessly.”
“What if we run out of ammo?” Doyle asked.
“Then you’ll have to use your bayonets, whatever you do, fire every round of ammo with perfect accuracy, we cannot afford to waste our ammo!” Cooper replied, giving hard stares to the men.
Charlie Company went back to their foxholes and stayed as concealed as possible. How much worse could this war be? Cold, starving, low on ammunition, low on morale, not enough men to cover their positions and still needed to fight the counter-attacks?
Well… no matter how bad the situation, the Rangers had to hold on.
©Copyright 2004 by Nicholas M. Winters