Corporal Johnathan Harrison’s journal. 5th of June 1945
We are 90 km off the coast of Omaha, our assigned landing site. Our ship, the USS LST-325 was sailing in formation with other landing ships and was escorted by the Satterlee, a beautiful ship on which I had some pals. I had been getting a tad bit sick of the sea, after all, I am a soldier, not a sailor, but hey, if it helps end that Hitler bastard, I can endure. Yesterday I was playing cards with some of my buddies during duty when platoon leader busted us and we received sanitary duty, so I won’t have time for my usual routine of smoking. Playing poker, losing, and sleeping, and that’s probably a good thing. In the recent days I have noticed an air of concern around the ship, I believe reality is finally starting to set in on the privates who will probably be just the cannon fodder during the initial landing. Talking about the landing, we are most probably going to die tomorrow when we strike and all platoon leader can worry about is giving me sanitary duty…that’s evil as hell. Why am I even complaining? This journal will probably be lost as soon as some rouge Stukas decide we are an easy target, so I might as well keep it short. I will end the log here.
As soon as the Corporal put down his pen, he got his cleaning equipment and proceeded to clean the deck he was on. He swept the floor slowly, hoping that Platoon Leader Mercer will notice how meticulously he cleans and will stop his punishment. This didn’t happen. He saw other privates playing cards, some even improvising a table, some grenades, and bayonets in order to play Snooker, they were all spending their final day having fun. His morbid thoughts continued to ravage through his mind as he swept the floor. Above deck you could hear the lieutenants instructing a platoon of sergeants on the plan. He could not hear what he was saying the roof was made to stop sound. On the corridor he saw two of his friends running laps as punishment for their insubordination, a way better punishment than what he received. Below deck he could hear the engines running to produce a speed of about ten knots. Sometimes when he heard the underwater propellers, he imagined that a submarine was beneath them and he had the urge to go to the upper deck and launch the anti-submarine torpedoes. The sea had taken its toll on him, and it took a big toll. He kept cleaning until he reached the first armoury. Here plenty of weapons were stored, ready to be used for the landing. There, along the many carabines, he saw his precious M1. Despite not being allowed to customize his weapon, he hung a small cross by the tip of the gun. Somehow nobody had noticed it.
After two hours he finished sanitary duty, got his weapons, and headed to the upper deck for instruction by his Platoon Leader. He began saying:
“Men, I cannot lie to you, you have a very high chance of not coming back. You could know the plan perfectly but be hit by a bullet coming from a German using a machine gun who is in the mood for killing some good people. “The deck was wet, it was raining. The sea was rough, and waves were constantly colliding against the hull of the ship, sprinkling water everywhere “As soon as you get out of your landing craft you will be in the open, being heavily fired at. There is very little to no cover on that beach, so you will have to use whatever you can as cover. Craters created by shells? That’s cover. Czech hedgehogs? That’s cover. Bodies of fallen men? Unfortunately, that will have to be cover. You will slowly advance, overcoming obstacles with the help of our engineers. Each landing craft will be colour coded so that you don’t get lost. The objective it to get to the only source of natural cover, a cliff 200 yards from the landing position. Advance slowly, listen to your superiors, take cover, maintain coordination, and you may just make it. After you get to that hill the battle is not over. You will have to scale it and get to the German fortifications. They have established an extensive network of bunkers and trenches. You will be tired after scaling that cliff but will have to keep going. Each platoon will stay together and clean the trenches and bunkers of Germans. The fighting will be intense, I will not lie. You will also have to take out the artillery which will keep firing on the men who are still on the beach and the ships. After that secure the area. I want every farmstead, every house, every field in which Germans are located to be searched. I want all artillery that can pose even a minor threat destroyed. That is, it. The landing will commence at 0630 hours tomorrow. May god be with us.”
The men were dismissed, and everyone returned to their duties. The corporal saw some of his friends on the deck and decided to walk up to them. The friends were two other corporals and even a sergeant.
“So, what do you think?” Said Johnathan
“Me? Can’t say I listened very closely; all I’m interested in is killing some Nazis.” Said another corporal named Alexander Duke.
“I think that our boys in the air should first bomb them into oblivion before we sweep in and take out anyone who survived and still wishes to fight for Hitler.” Said the lieutenant, Robert Jackson.
Activity on the deck was high, with people talking about the upcoming battle. You could see men sharpening their bayonets, others cleaning their guns, an eerie atmosphere aboard the ship, it was quiet, almost too quiet, when suddenly:
“STUKAS!” the anti-aircraft gun operator said.
The platoon leader immediately called for aircraft to help them, but the nearest were on a patrol mission 20 km from here, so they probably would not arrive in time, as the Stukas were already beginning their dive. Anti-aircraft guns and even M1s started firing and destroying everyone’s eardrums. The Stukas kept diving. Platoon leader screamed:
Everyone heard the iconic sounds of the Stukas, designed to instil fear upon its targets. The bombs started screaming as they flew. Everyone got down, hoping for the best. 500 meters, 400 meters, 300 meters. The ship tried accelerating to escape the bombs. The ship that was escorting the transport started firing at the Stukas, but they were already gone. 200 meters, 100 meters. Was this it? If only one of the bombs hit the ship it would sink, killing many people aboard. 50 meters, 40 meters, 30, 20, 10. One of the bombs hit near the stern of the ship. The other one missed by 5 meters. The bomb that did hit didn’t explode when it touched the deck, but penetrated it, going below deck, one by one, without exploding. Luck was with them. The bomb managed to make it all the way through the ship without exploding, only going off once it was 10 meters below the ship.
The only damage the ship suffered was that it got some holes in every deck and water started flooding. Repair crews immediately got to work. Despite the bomb not going off, some men still died because they were hit while the bomb was falling through the ship, and some drowned as the water began flooding the ship. The men on the deck got up and without even thinking they went to their battle stations, manning the guns and keeping watch. The flood had been contained and the bulkheads were working.
The platoon leader ordered his men to stand down battle stations after 20 minutes, but then then a small force of two German destroyers approached the ship. The Satterlee immediately began screening the transport and firing 3 of its four 5-inch guns. It launched torpedoes, but the destroyers were too agile. They began circling around the two ships and barraging them with shells. The Satterlee’s hull had been breached and a fire started. The Satterlee was clearly getting torn apart, but the transport was the main target. Although with limited armament it started firing at the two destroyers but inflicted low damage. The Satterlee was being flooded and tipping over on starboard side. The transport had two major hull breaches which had been sealed off, but one of the boiler rooms had been taken out of action. It was clearly hopeless. Johnatan began firing a Panzerfaust at one of the destroyers, hoping it will cause damage. It did not. The Satterlee started sinking, with her men abandoning ship, it was clear that the transport was next, and it would not survive long. the destroyers began to fire the final shells which would end the ship. Right as they were ready to pull the trigger two P51 Mustangs equipped with one torpedo each arrived. They were the planes platoon leader called for when the Stukas attacked. They came right on cue. Both planes dropped their torpedoes 50 meters from the destroyers and managed to inflict catastrophic damage. The pilots radioed in.
“How are you doing boys? it looks like you need some help.” The lead pilot said.
“Dear God, I can’t believe it, you arrived when we needed you the most. Right on cue boys, right on cue!” The captain of the transport said.
“Don’t mention it, you owe us a drink. All of you”
“Go scout the area, will you? I want to make sure that we don’t have any more surprises. We will take the survivors from the Satterlee aboard the transport”.
The two planes vanished in the distance, patrolling the area. The men began helping the repair crews seal off the flooded sections and keep the ship afloat. By the time repairs were finished it was 2109. With a few hours till the battle, everyone went to sleep, and the ship regrouped with the rest of the invasion force only 10 km off the coast of Omaha. Now that the entire group was together every ship of Strike Group O and Bombarding Force C could be seen floating in the dark waters of the English Channel. The men knew that in a few hours the greatest battle of their lives was about to commence. The fear of all 34.000 soldiers could be heard in the hearts of everyone. This moment of fear brought them all together as brothers, all fighting towards one shared goal: bringing peace to the world. Johnathan began writing in his journal again.
Corporal Jonathan Harrison’s journal. 5th of June 1945
This is it. In about 9 hours we either die or free Europe. This landing will be decisive to the future of the world, as if we do not at least liberate some nations and the Soviets are left to ravage freely then Europe will be red, and that is something that must be avoided. Today we were attacked and suffered massive damage, with the Satterlee sinking. Because of the sinking we had to take aboard the survivors from the ship, and if the transport was crowded before, it is even more crowded now. I just wish that this war could have been ended before it started, somehow, I don’t know how. This bloody war took away my youth, but at the same time it made me discover that even in the direst of times, you will have brothers to help you. It made me realize that every war in history could have been avoided if the politicians were smarter, for example with appeasement, one of the worst policies. I try not to reflect too much on what is about to come, I just try to let the adrenaline guide me. But I can’t. It’s like my body wishes for me to keep thinking about the battle and pushes me to question everything, unlike a good soldier. This will probably be my last journal entry, so I might as well get a bit more philosophical. I hope that, if I die during the battle, my name will not go unnoticed, but I am sure that will not be so. Whether I die or live my name will still be one in the statistics. I will either be a number on the casualty report or a number on the survivor’s report. The names of men like me don’t get immortalized in history, only of higher ups like Churchill, Eisenhower, and Roosvelt. Anyways, I should cut this log short.
Johnathan put his pen down and gut in his bunk bed. He was in the room with 5 other men, all of them corporals. His bed was hard and uncomfortable. His room was small and crammed, only consisting of three bunk beds, a table, two wardrobes and a small sink, however, when the lights were shut and it was all black, he liked to imagine himself in a mansion, with rooms which could fit entire airliners, yet, whenever he woke up, he remembered that it was all just a fantasy. All his roommates were asleep. Johnathan wondered how they were able to sleep with the knowledge that tomorrow they were going to face the greatest battle of their life. This thought scared even an experienced soldier like Johnathan.
Because he was not able to sleep, he decided to take a walk on one of the corridors of the ship. The lights were dim, as energy needed to be preserved for external lights. He went to the med bay where he saw soldiers still recovering from the STUKA and destroyer attacks. The medical staff had been working nonstop, and that brought them on the verge of falling asleep on their feet. There were only 10 beds in the entire med bay and 3 medics, all of this to tend for the 300 people aboard the transport. He began thinking that being the ship’s doctor was actually more difficult than fighting on the front.
He kept moving through the dimly lit corridor, reaching the main staircase. He decided to go down into the tank storage are. There he saw three Stuart tanks and one Sherman, each dusting. The only people who were active in the storage area were some engineers and the crew of one of the tanks practicing hand to hand combat for some reason. Why were they doing it? All they were going to do was sit in the tank and shoot from afar. I wouldn’t know. Behind the tanks one of the tank shell storages was located. It was empty as the tanks were already loaded for the battle. In his mind he asked himself why couldn’t the tanks go first, with the infantry staying behind them? It wasn’t his job anyways to ask questions, it was the job of the higher-ups. He decided to go down even more to the engine room. There 5 engineers were on duty. They were drenched in sweat and their skin was smoky, they had probably been in here all day. One of the engineers came up to him.
“Can’t sleep huh?”
“Yeah, I guess”
“It is quite disturbing to think that you are going to experience a bloodbath first hand” He joked “But each and every man who will be at Omaha will be remembered through history. Everyone who lives or who dies will be remembered as a saviour of the World. You will be a hero”.
His words inspired Johnathan “I’ve fought many battles and have seen many good men die, yet something seems off about this one. For the first time I am afraid, maybe even terrified, of going into battle”.
The engineer thought about this for a second and responded. “It is completely normal, I believe that even the lieutenants or majors, who have the most experience, are absolutely terrified, but that fear is superseded by their sense of duty. They all know that they will fight and might die for peace in the world, and that is a noblest of goals”.
The engineer’s words brightened the dark night for Johnathan. He said goodbye and went up to the deck of the ship. It was basically empty apart from a few soldiers keeping watch and the captain talking to his first officer. From the deck you could see the entire strike group and bombardment group. Occasionally a few shells would be fired by the bombardment group to keep pressure on the Germans and get them frustrated. He went to the bow of the ship and could see the distant light of French villages. He was so close to victory. A feeling of relief wept over him. The battle of tomorrow was going to be the final obstacle to victory. Finally, after staying on the deck for one hour he went back to his room and got to sleep, it was 0025, only six hours remain.
Five hours later he was woken up by his roommates. The transport began moving. This was it. He got in formation with his platoon and went to the armoury to equip himself. In only a few seconds he got his combat uniform on, his M1, his grenades and his pistol, four items essential to survival on the field. The ship was only three kilometres off Omaha and German artillery shells were already striking ships. Above him he could see P51s and Spitfires engaging German fighter aircraft, fighting for control of the sky. Everyone was summoned to the deck. In two columns, 300 men, all fully equipped and ready stood straight. The corporals and sergeants were in the front while the privates were in the back. The platoon leader began speaking.
“Men, this is it. It is now or never. I talked a lot yesterday so I’m just going to cut this speech short. Follow orders, take cover, maintain cohesion, and survive! You are all heroes. Your deeds shall be immortalized! Go”.
The ramp opened and everyone, one by one, started exiting the transport. As soon as the first man left the transport machine guns and snipers started blazing. Johnathan was leading his squad of 10 men. He advanced to a Czech hedgehog and took cover. His men began firing at the German positions atop the cliff, without any success. As soon as the corporal left the transport, he felt the greatest fear he ever felt, but kept going. He took cover in artillery craters, the sand feeling rough and soaked in blood underneath his fingertips. The air was humid and had a metallic scent. He could hear fallen men calling out for help and fellow corporals ordering their men. He saw a slaughterhouse. A bloodbath. He shouted to his team.
“We must advance!”
He began firing his M1 to lay cover to his men who were advancing. They had to go 182 meters through enemy fire, landmines, and barbed wire. No easy feat. The squad advanced to the next obstacle, a barbed wire fence…
150 meters from the hill. German infantry began advancing on them, so they took cover behind some rocks and Czech hedgehogs, The Germans that advanced were wielding FG42 machine guns, very rare this late in the war. It was clear that they too were desperate, as they were firing in every direction, without a specific target. Johnathan began firing, killing two in a few seconds before the other eight Germans took cover. They had no way of shooting at them. Fortunately, a shell from a friendly ship which was just hitting targets at random, like it was on a frenzy, killed the Germans, allowing the men to advance. As they passed by the dying enemies their screams could be heard from miles away. It made Johnathan question himself, after all, they were people too, and all people should be treated with the same dignity. He ignored his words and advanced 10 meters, meaning that there were…
140 meters to the hill. More German troops began launching counterattacks. The squad regrouped with another one led by a sergeant and began laying heavy fire on the incoming Germans troops. The two squads quickly realized that they were outnumbered and made a circle, firing at the Germans who were slaughtering them. Of the 10 men in Johnathan’s squad 2 died and 1 was injured. The two corporals realized that they needed a change in strategy and split the team in pairs of two who were to move to encircle the attacking, Germans. Johnathan and the other corporal flanked left and threw grenades, trying to create confusion. They were almost ready to attack the Germans from the flank when a sniper fired and missed Johnathan by an inch, instead hitting the other corporal directly in the neck. Without even thinking the protagonist got in close quarter combat with one of the Germans so that the sniper would not be able to shoot him. Johnathan took out his combat knife and launched at the opponent, an 18-year-old Austrian who had been drafted. The kid had no chance. Johnathan moved to the other Germans in coordination with his team and defeated them. They began advancing while staying low so that they could avoid German sniper fire.
130 meters. Enemy recon troops spotted the Corporal and his team advancing and ordered heavy machine gun fire on their position. Johnathan and his team stopped advancing and took cover in a crater created by an artillery shell. It was not good, but it was something. The machine gun fire kept coming, not giving him or his comrades the opportunity to even peek. Their advance had come to a halt. The machine gun bullets were slowly eliminating the sand that was in their path to the men, and if the sand was gone, they had no cover. Johnathan decided that he had no other options and decided to try to snipe the machine gunners with one of comrade’s sniper. He slowly looked up, hoping that the bullets won’t reach him and took his shot. One machine gunner down, two to go. The others intensified their fire now that they knew Johnathan’s position and he had to get back to cover. They were pinned down until
Two tanks started rolling and arrived at Johnathan’s position, shielding him from machine gun fire. He and his team got behind the tank and advanced slowly, Sniping the remaining machine gunners from behind.
100 meters. He and his team were advancing slowly but steadily, maintaining cohesion with the other units who were also advancing behind them. The protagonist was feeling as determined as ever and knew that nothing was in their way. Nothing except for a field of dragon’s teeth. Because of the dragon’s teeth the tanks couldn’t advance as easily, and the infantry had to go on their own. An advantage was that the dragon’s teeth gave them cover from snipers and machine gun fire. The bad part is that German soldiers could easily hide in them and make an ambush. That is exactly what happened. German infantry armed with rifles ambushed the Allied troops inside the dragon’s teeth field. Johnathan ordered his men to keep pushing and throwing grenades, as they would be effective due to the close quarters nature of the dragon’s teeth. The tanks started laying support fire, but because the field slowed them down so much, they became easy targets for Panzerfausts. Germans took out their knives and engaged in hand-to-hand combat. The same men who a night before were seen playing Snooker with bayonets. Were now using their bayonets to repel a German attack, and they were failing. They were all killed. Johnathan and his men kept fighting with their knives. The sight of bloodthirsty enemies, screaming bloody murder, scared the protagonist more than anything. He began to understand why some considered them animals. He began fighting a 26-year-old German private, both with knives. The enemy pinned him to the ground and tried to slice his throat. Johnathan resisted and tried to grab his handgun. As Johnathan took his moved his hand the German managed to get his knife only a few centimetres from the protagonist’s throat. Johnathan finally grabbed his pistol and shot the enemy in the stomach. He proceeded to help his comrades by shooting their opponents and kept advancing through the dragon’s teeth field. Seeing that the German troops send in the field have been defeated, the enemy artillery operators began launching shells at the field. There was no time to recollect and wait around, they had to advance faster. Johnathan led his five surviving teammates through the dragon’s teeth and exited the field. They took cover behind some Czech hedgehogs.
80 meters. Artillery shells kept coming and another wave of German infantry was advancing. They were truly pinned down. Enemy troops began firing at them, who either had to advance to a network of anti-tank trenches or retreat to the dragon’s teeth field. They decided to advance. Johnathan sent his men first, providing cover fire with his M1. The men ran for the trench, with every German being distracted by Johnathan. He felt a sense of peace now. He knew that his men would get to the trench and hopefully, along with the other allied troops, be able to clean it out and advance. He will die protecting his men. While in this state of peace, he heard the sound of allied bombers above him. The cavalry has arrived. The bombers began dropping explosives on the German positions on the beach. Now that he was covered by the smoke from the bombs, he continued to the trench to regroup with his men.
50 meters. He and his squad regrouped in the enemy trench with other allied squads. They began slowly cleaning the trench. Johnathan advanced slowly, with his M1 ready. Suddenly a squad of Germans ambushed him. He and his team took cover behind crates while the enemy squad was hidden behind a barricade made of wood. Johnathan thought about going over the top and attacking them from above, but that would expose him to snipers and machine gun fire from the hills. He rolled one of the barrels he was hiding behind over and begun rolling it all the way to the enemies, going along with it while firing his handgun. He got across to the enemy barricade while staying behind the rolling barrel. When he got to the enemy barricade, he began shooting the Germans with his pistol, clearing the way.
“Advance! Path is clear.”
His squad and two others moved forward to a bunker.
“We need to clear this bunker. I will plant a charge on the front door to open it. As soon as the door explodes, I will need you to throw grenades inside, as many of them. As we do not have flamethrowers, we will need to smoke them out with grenades and smoke bombs. After the grenades detonate move in line inside the bunker and shoot to kill. Let’s get this over with.”
The sticky bomb is planted on the door, and it explodes. As soon as the door is gone grenades come flying in the bunker, filled with 10 Germans. 3 died because of the grenades. Smoke bombs are launched as the panicking Germans begin shooting in every direction. The men enter in a linear formation, with unmatching discipline and take cover behind some barrels and walls. The rear section of the bunker had been cleared, only 5 Germans remain in the front. They have prepared themselves and had a machine gun prepared. The men went in again, this time spread out, not expecting the machine gun. 5 men got massacred, with the remaining ones taking cover. Only 3 members of Johnathan’s squad survived, not including himself. Knowing that as soon as he peeks above his barrel, he will get shot Johnathan starts shooting blindly in every direction, throwing his last grenade over the top. The grenade managed to take the machine gun out and the two remaining Germans surrendered. But, fuelled by rage, a British soldier who had one of his friends killed in the bunker raid by one of the surrendering Germans began to beat the killer German up. He was quickly restrained by other soldiers. Johnathan yelled:
“Thompson, take those prisoners to the forward base” The forward base being a small section of the trench system captured by allies which was being used as a hospital, POW storage and base of operations.
The men advanced through the trench system, clearing pillboxes and MG nests. The fighting was heavy. This was truly hell on Earth. Johnathan kept going, he knew that the fight was not yet, and a long road, from being over, but his determination has never been stronger. From the trench he could still see the ships sending out barrages of shells onto the hilltop bunkers, and mostly missing. He wondered how many men already died, only 30 minutes into the invasion. 1000? 2000? He would only know after the battle for Omaha is over. Eventually the forward trench system was almost clear, with only a few Germans being cornered up in an artillery nest. They had a lot of cover, but being surrounded they made the right decision of surrendering. Those 10 Germans dropped their guns, but when they got taken away one of them committed a suicide bombing by igniting an anti-tank grenade in his pocket, killing him, the other 9 German prisoners, and 20 allied soldiers. Johnathan saw the explosion from 20 meters away and ran to the site. One of his best friends, Corporal Robertson, was escorting the prisoners. He was killed in the bombing.
The protagonist kneeled in front of the disfigured and deformed body of his friend. His left arms were just a pile of flesh, with only bone remaining of the left side of his face. His uniform had been almost completely torn off by the explosion and his entire body looking like he had been dead for 20 years, being eaten by crows. The once joyous and proud Robertson was just an insignificant body. Johnathan could not get up. He began tearing up, his mind completely out of place. He wondered, no, he knew, that this was not a worthy end for a man like his friend. A blend of horrible emotions swept him. Anger, sorrow, grief, even fear, fear that he will meet the same end. The protagonist kept kneeling in front of the torn apart bag of meat that was his friend. Artillery shells were landing meters away from him, yet he didn’t care. In his mind he was in an empty room with his friend’s body. He would have stood there, weeping, even more if he wasn’t waken up by a sniper bullet flying straight into his helmet. Fortunately, the helmet resisted. The man pulled himself back together and took cover, regrouping with what remained of his squad and advancing. For now, he would have to forget his fallen friend, for now, he would have to advance.
30 meters. The men were at the exit of the trench system and almost at the hill, but these 30 meters would be the hardest to navigate. Of his squad of 10 people only two others remained. The German soldiers who had been in the trench realized that they were losing and retreated towards the hills. Those last 30 meters between Johnathan and the hills were just open space. Absolutely no obstacles, no mines, just clear space. The men knew that if they tried going through it, they would immediately be gunned down by the Germans on the hilltop, so that wasn’t an option. Another viable option were tanks, which could provide cover, but most of the tanks were still stuck navigating the Dragon’s teeth field or the anti-tank trenches. Johnathan could only think of one option.
“Bring in the flamethrowers!” He shouted.
He hoped that enough flamethrower units constantly firing would generate enough smoke to cover the men. It was clear that this was not a sound strategic move, and he would barely live to see that. 10 flamethrowers began spreading fire, but that only gave away the location of the enemy troops to the Germans, who initiated a bloodbath. Johnathan was still advancing behind one of the troops when he realized the plan was not working. He shouted that everyone retreat to the trenches. He could see that on each side of the beach every man was stuck in the same part. Johnathan was running back to cover when he was shot in the back of his upper arm by a machine gunner. He tried to contain his pain and got back to the trench system. Miraculously, the bullet did not penetrate hard enough for this to be a major injury, and a field medic at the location managed to get it out within seconds. Johnathan could not find another way of traversing those 30 meters, until…
“Our boys in the sky have arrived!” Shouted a sergeant.
Indeed, air superiority was finally gained, and bombers began operating, destroying any German on the hilltops which was not in a bunker. This gave everyone on the beach the opportunity to finally advance to the hills.
0 meters. The first phase of the battle was completed. Every soldier had reached the base of the hill and began climbing it in order to reach the German fortifications on the hilltop, which were already devastated by bombing runs. Johnathan felt a sense of euphoria as soon as he touched the hill, he knew that the hardest phase of the battle was over, and from now they basically won. He completely forgot about his fallen friend, it seemed like it was only a piece of the past right now. Along with every soldier on the beach he kept climbing and eventually reached the top of the hill. There he found another trench system and advanced into it. The adrenaline levels in his body were skyrocketing. This time the remaining flamethrower units were to advance first across the whole trench system, a decision not well thought out because of the overconfidence of the commanding officers.
The wood on the walls and floor of the trenches began burning, making it very fragile. Soon allied units began trapping their legs in that fragile wood, allowing enemy units to gun them down. Soon many flamethrowers had died, and the wooden floor and walls were beginning to crumble. The trench was falling apart. The men, allied and enemy, began sprinting out of the collapsing trench system. This collapse was caused first by the wood being made fragile by the flamethrowers and the soil being moist, making it prone to landslides. Due to the soil being displaced the German bunkers soon collapsed, crushing the people inside. Many men were trapped in the soil, but there was no time for rescuing. The men were in the open. Johnathan managed to get out of the trenches and cling onto a tree so that he doesn’t get taken away by the landslide.
After the soil had settled the men regrouped. The 2 men in his squad were still alive, and they began advancing along with the others in their group. The next target were artillery encampments 100 meters in front of the. This time there was more cover in the form of trees and enemy sandbags, but this also meant more cover for the enemy. The men slowly began advancing, side by side with other squads, until a flurry of bullets started flying from the front. The Germans had already taken defensive positions and were ready for the Allied advance. The men took cover behind trees and began firing back, all huddled behind trees which were about to fall. One of the sergeants came up with an idea to advance. He ordered the heavy machine gunners, which were still recovering from the landslide inside the trench, to fire on the Germans, providing cover to the other units. As soon as the machine gunners started firing every infantryman in the group advanced.
But suddenly, the machine gun units stopped firing. It was because of snipers shooting them. As soon as cover fire stopped the German units came out of hiding and began hand to hand combat with the group. Johnathan was knocked over by a SS officer wielding a combat knife. He saw the other men with their bayonets and knives. Eventually the corporal was saved by one of the men in his squad who fired at the SS officer with his handgun. The Corporal began helping his comrades and eventually the group repelled the counterattack. After regrouping they began to advance again, taking cover behind trees. They had reached the artillery encampments only to find them abandoned and desolate. The men kept looking, maybe it was an ambush, they thought, but they would never think of what was really happening. The Germans had abandoned the encampment and planted many explosives, so that when allied soldiers reached it they could detonate them from afar. Johnathan kept looking until he found the bombs. A shiver went down his spine, he then began screaming.
“It’s a trap, everyone gets out!”
The Germans, seeing that their trap had been discovered detonated the charges. What followed next was a sight one would think they would only see in hell. 50 explosives went off at the same time, causing a massive wave of pressure to launch the allied soldiers dozens of meters away at high speeds. At the same time came the sound of the explosion, rupturing eardrums and making skin vibrate. Johnathan managed to take cover behind a tree as the bombs went off, but most of the men in the group were not so lucky. A massive cloud of smoke rose, letting people miles away know what was happening. The surviving men didn’t even have time to get back to their senses and they were attacked by a force of 50 SS officers. Johnathan grabbed his M1 and began shooting aimlessly behind the tree, his ears still ringing and his vision blurry from the flash caused by the explosion. The Germans were getting closer, slaughtering everyone they saw. The corporal slowly regained his senses and began shooting with better aim, but this only revealed his location to the enemy, which were now directing their fire at him. He was pinned down, being shot at from every direction. In this crucial moment he weighed his options. Surrender would mean death, as the Germans were not renowned for taking prisoners. Retreat would probably result in a court martial and maybe even capital punishment, so that was not an option. His brain just blocked, and he decided to stay behind the tree, firing blindly.
The German troops kept closing, but right as they were about to get to point blank range reinforcements arrived. It was truly a sight for sore eyes. A group of 500 soldiers appeared and began advancing, decimating the 50 Germans. Johnathan could not believe this; they arrived right on cue. He regrouped with what remained of his squad, only one private, and advanced with the group. The battle was almost over, with the last objective coming now. The men were ordered to capture a farm which was being used as a rendezvous point for German forces retreating from the beach. The farm was five kilometres away, so the men had to wait for trucks to arrive in order to advance. Along with the trucks came the tanks and the cars carrying the general himself. A proper forward base had been established as the men left for the farm in trucks.
The men arrived, all of them ready to destroy the last German outpost in the region. They immediately encircled the farm and laid siege to it, but the enemy had fortified it with sandbags and armoured vehicles. The man leading the assault on the farm, Sargeant James Richter, first ordered an airstrike. The plan was that after bombs were dropped the besieging units would capitalize on the chaos and easily advance into the farm. As everything, this would turn out not to be so straightforward. The bombs exploded and the go ahead was given for the assault, but what the allied soldiers didn’t know is that the Germans had dug foxholes to protect them from bombing, and as soon as bombs stopped dropping the enemy soldiers resurfaced and quickly went to their defensive positions, gunning down the allied soldiers, who ran faster. Eventually 200 of them reached the German barricades and began scaling them, penetrating the defensive line. The Germans retreated and formed another defensive line behind sandbags, trying to fight off the allied soldiers, who had now fully entered the farmstead. Johnathan was ordered to take 20 men and clear a barn. He entered and was quickly greeted with heavy machine gun fire. He took cover behind some haystacks, with his men firing back from behind other sources of cover. The battle for the barn raged on until a deafening sound was heard.
A Stuka had dropped a bomb right onto the men. This didn’t make any sense, because by blowing up the barn Germans would be killed too, but it seemed like the Nazis would do anything to kill some allied soldiers. The bomb exploded and the barn went up in flames. Johnathan was sent away by the pressure wave. He felt the extreme heat of the bomb against his body, boiling the blood inside his veins. He was sent flying out of the barn with major internal bleeding and other injuries. He saw that he was the sole survivor of the attack on the barn, with both the other 20 men and the Nazi soldiers dying. He looked at his comrades fighting for the rest of the farmstead, and it seemed like they were winning, with the remaining German soldiers being cornered up. Yet, while his comrades were achieving victory, Johnathan was dying, suffering severe internal and external bleeding. This was it for him, he though, as he began gurgling blood. He felt a final moment of euphoria and satisfaction, as he fulfilled his pledge of sacrificing his life for his nation. His eyes slowly began closing as he entered shock, with little chance of recovery. With his last breath, he uttered.
“I’m coming, Robertson.”
After what seemed like an infinitesimal amount of time, he woke up. Around him he saw tents and encampments. He slowly regained power and lifted himself up. A military doctor walked up to him.
“You’re finally awake corporal, I have to say I thought we lost you.” He said calmly.
“W-What happened?” Johnathan asked, his mind foggy.
“Well, you got caught in a Stuka bombardment and suffered massive damage to your body, that is for certain. One of the privates in the squad leading the assault on the farm, I think his name was Private Brian, carried you to this base one kilometre, where we were miraculously able to treat you”.
“Did we win?”
“Yes, we won the battle. You should have seen the Germans running across the hills, truly a magnificent sight. Now, you’ve got a report to make to Lieutenant Clarke about, well, what you did the entire battle, so you might as well.”
The corporal began walking, still not fully comprehending what the doctor told him. He saw soldiers drinking and celebrating. They won. The war was as good as over. Johnathan fell to his knees and began screaming in joy. He left military discipline behind in favour of celebration. Despite having just woken up from a coma, adrenaline and endorphin quickly entered his bloodstream in massive quantities, making him jump and yell out a victory cry. Eventually the corporal arrived at the lieutenant’s office. The superior began speaking.
“So, Corporal Johnathan, how was your nap?”
In a joking tone, he responded “Good sir, quite relaxing.”
“I’m impressed by your survival, we lost many corporals on the field, even more than privates. Your abilities for survival have been fully proven, and you will be walking out of this office with at least a Purple Heart, maybe even a Bronze Star when high command hears of this, but one thing I must say is that you are a hero, not only of the Unites States, but of the World, so congratulations corporal”.
The lieutenant shook Johnathan’s hand and placed a Purple Heart on his uniform, a medal he would later keep for his entire life. The war was not yet over, heck, it was far from over, but Johnathan knew that his efforts today closed a chapter in world history and started a new one, one in which the enemy would be defending, not attacking, and he was most proud of that. He walked out of the office, relieved of everything. For once in his life, he finally felt free, liberated from all stresses. He walked up to a flower field and laid down in it, beneath the blue, clear sky. He forgot about every horror he has seen in the battle, about every man who died and every bloodthirsty enemy, for now, those didn’t exist. For one moment in his life, inner peace had been achieved. With a relieved voice, he said.
“Are you proud, Robertson?”
His words were taken by the wind and led to new places, possibly to heaven, where his fallen friend was listening.