Nicholas M. Winters
COMRADES AT THE FRONTLINES
Part III: WINTER WAR
The Last And Final Battle…
God almighty, may the Lord have mercy on the Rangers’ soul…
At 0930, the first German counter attack wave came. The artillery started pounding shells onto the hill first. Then German infantries were moving slowly, very slowly out of the forest and moving up the hill.
“Hold your fire! Wait for my command! Hold your fire!” Cooper shouted at his men. And the other Rangers around him pass on the order.
Harry had his finger resting on the trigger and was looking hard on the oncoming infantry with his unblinking eyes. “Hold up Harry, wait for my command,” Cooper said as he moves toward Tex Adams’s position.
He couldn’t find Adams; he was too well camouflaged and too well concealed. Somehow, he managed to get near Adams position and accidentally stepped on his foot. “Ouch!” Adams cried. “So here you are,” Cooper called out in surprise, “Take cover, the Krauts are coming in, try to knock the German officers,” and Cooper went tumbling back into his hole.
The German infantry were passing into the Doyle and Harry’s crossfire zone. “Now!” Cooper shouted as he lets fly a grenade first, then swung his Thompson and started firing.
Harry opened up, cutting the Germans who were in the zone, Doyle followed up, forming the crossfire and sending the poor potatoes into hell. But then too, the German started firing at them. Charlie Company was engaged in a bloody dogfight with the Germans!
Doyle’s .30 cal was firing loud when suddenly a bullet shot through his neck and came out from the back of is head. Hall, who was firing on his Thompson furiously along with Lowell, had just the time to look over towards Doyle’s hole to find out what happen.
“Oh shit! Doyle’s hit!” Hall told Lowell as he scrambled out his hole, running toward Doyle’s foxhole, firing his Thompson from his hip as a cover.
Lowell, who couldn’t quite handle the oncoming enemy, soon reached for the bunch of grenade that Hall had prepared. He tossed all the grenades and “Boom! Boom! Boom!” they went, sending hot shrapnel sizzling at the Germans.
Hall jumped into Doyle’s hole to find that he had been killed. With all the loud firing and even explosion around, he managed to pull out Doyle’s dog tag and stuffed it into his pocket. Then, he stood up and, in a frenzy, got hold of the .30 cal and started pouring a hail of bullet onto the enemy.
The Germans fell back back. Initially, one by one they retreated, stumbling down the hill, then in groups of two and three.
Lieutenant Lowell shouted to his men, “The shit-heads are leaving! Send them some souvenir!” and continued firing his Thompson.
All around the area, Charlie company men began cheering and some even left their foxholes to fire at the retreating Germans.
Very soon after that, no Germans were to be seen. Cooper told the men to go get the wounded and bring them up the hill into the bunker where an aid station had been set up. Cooper told Adams to follow Harry down the slope and check the enemy dead to see if there was anything they could use.
Adams went to a dead German’s body and kneeled beside it, taking the dog tag off the German, he said, “May god have mercy on a soldier’s soul,”
“Hey, you’re fucking praying for the enemy?” Harry laughed as he searches the pockets of the German.
“Yeah, we’re soldiers on the battlefield,” Adams said as he stood up, “We didn’t want to kill each other, we’re just following orders.
“Yeah, yeah, may God have mercy on your soul too goddamn it,”
“I think I see something back there,” Adams said to Harry.
“What, like a deer?” Harry laughed.
“Shh… it’s over there, see that shadow?” he pointed out.
“Where?” Harry was straining his eyes. “I see it, it’s a kraut!” Harry holds up his BAR, finger on the trigger at the ready.
“Don’t! Its’ a medic!” Adams smacked Harry’s BAR aside. And in his best German, shouted, “Hande Hoch!” The German distinctly raised his hands, shouting, “Nein! Nein!”
Of course Harry didn’t like the idea of not shooting the enemy. He moved toward the German and stare hard, awfully hard into his eyes. The German was so afraid he did not look back.
Adams went through his pocket and made sure he wasn’t carrying any weapon before asking his to march toward the hill, help aid at the permanent aid station in the bunker. Then the two of them then move toward their foxhole to wait for the second counter attack.
About early afternoon, German artillery was pouring hell onto the hill again. The 88s continued to fire for over thirty minutes. Cooper was left with only half of his original company. Half of them were now casualties.
Adams was wounded by artillery shrapnel but insisted staying in the fight. Harry and Cooper were fine in their foxhole, but ammunition wasn’t enough to hold another fight. Lowell too had a piece of shrapnel in his back; the medic had taken the shrapnel out and cleaned his wound but he was moaning about the pain but refused to get into the aid station.
“So what the hell should we do if ever the Germans come on us again?” Harry asked Cooper.
“Well, I ain’t surrendering. The price is too high for me to surrender; I would not give up or give in.” Cooper sternly replied.
Just then, Hall scrambled to their sides and asked, “You guys running out of ammo?” Harry looked up and told him, “Yeah of course, you got some to spare?”
“I think this could do just fine.” Hall passed him the .30 caliber machinegun Doyle was using. “Whatever you do, don’t shoot at birds.” Hall kidded.
Out at the coldness, Cooper was watching the perimeter with his binoculars but with all the fog the binoculars did shit. Harry was preparing his 30 cal, with no tripod the .30 cal was heavier to sway around, so he fitted his BAR bipod to it.
Cooper was in the middle of the entire company of men – more like a platoon of men – barking orders, “Now listen up! To save ourselves some ammunition, we need to fire perfect shots.”
The other Rangers continued nodding, half listening and half sleeping. “Since we have limited visibility, we wait till they’re on top of our holes before we open fire!”
“What the…?” Harry and the others suddenly come to life and chattered amongst themselves in disbelief.
“Quiet!” Hall shouted and the Rangers fell silent.
“Yes, if possible, we take them down with bayonets before we fire on them!” Cooper said to them, holding his bayonet in the air. “Now I don’t know about you replacement boys. But I hope you know that there’s a war going on and Rangers like us must continue to fight!”
It was a real morale boosting speech by Cooper. When he had finished, the Rangers were already clicking their bayonets onto their rifles. On average, each man had about two bandoleers of M-1 ammunition, which is equivalent to sixteen rounds per man. With Charlie Company’s 20 remaining men, there were only 320 rounds to use on the Germans.
The likelihood of the replacements missing with their shots, 320 rounds would be barely enough. To survive, Charlie Company would need all the luck and any miracle they could get. But that wasn’t all; the Germans were starting the Battle of the Bulge…
By 1425, the Germans pressed another major counter attack on Hill 400. Artillery started coming in at 1427, it continued for another thirty minutes before the German infantry was seen.
As the Germans were climbing the slope, moving very quietly, Cooper had already prepared his men. The artillery wounded some, some were still okay, and some were dead.
Harry was rubbing his machinegun, trying to keep in warm and ready for a long fight. Cooper held his Thompson and murmured to himself, “You sons of bitches.”
Hall was alone because Lowell was wounded and was being cared for at the aid station. He grabbed his grenade and held it tightly in his fist. The Germans were moving closer and closer and even closer. They had already passed Charlie Company’s OP and were entering the men’s foxhole position. But nobody made a move nobody fired their weapons, nobody dared even to breathe.
“Harry, put some ice into your mouth,” Cooper said as he did so himself.
“What? What for?”
“The Krauts’ gonna see your breath as they come nearer.” Cooper whispered back. Jesus, we’re gonna wait till they get that near? Harry thought.
Another moment later a German fell into somebody’s foxhole. The Ranger inside fired his weapon and that did it: broke hell loose. Hall came up and hurled his grenade before diving back inside again.
Two Germans who saw Hall tried to run to his hole but Cooper got up and killed them before diving back into his own hole. Others were doing the same, coming out of cover, firing a few rounds from their rifles and then ducking back to their hole.
The Germans couldn’t withdraw, they couldn’t attack, they couldn’t move! The commander barked some orders into his radio and then to his men. The Germans were retreating, scrambling and rolling and tumbling down the hill. They were, pulling back!
“Oh no!” Cooper said to Harry before shouting to his fellow Rangers, “Cease fire! Cease fire! Get back into your hole! Get back!” But he wasn’t taking cover; he was pushing men back into their hole and shouting for them to take cover.
Everybody who received his orders went diving into their foxholes. And before he could go another further step, a shell landed nearby and blew him skyward…
After that, everything including his vision, his mind, his body, went blank…
©Copyright 2004 by Nicholas M. Winters