Alone

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: War and Military  |  House: Booksie Classic
A lone Paratrooper of the 82nd Airborne is lost in Normandy. Will he survive? Originally created as my Major-Work for Extension English for School. All feedback is more than welcome

Submitted: June 19, 2017

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Submitted: June 19, 2017

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June 6 1944

0:54 hours

Somewhere over Northern France

 

Across the once sleeping skies of Northern France. Havoc was being wrought both on the ground and in the skies above. After nearly 5 years, it was finally happening. The liberation had begun. The Frogs would finally be free. The largest Allied invasion in history was starting. Over 3 million personnel, ships, planes and tanks were to take part in this ‘great crusade’ to free Northern Europe from Nazi tyranny. For many, the war to free Europe would begin in a seaborne transport craft designed to travel across the channel and drop them off at one of six landing beaches. These beaches were codenamed: Gold, Juno, Omaha, Pointe du Hoc, Sword and Utah. These selected landing zones would be the staging points for the Allies to commence the systematic elimination of Nazi military presence in France and in turn, Northern Europe. For Samuel however, his war would begin in a C47 transport plane that would guide him, along with thousands more over Northern France behind enemy lines to lay the foundations of the amphibious invasion.  Samuel recalled the hideous groan coming from the engines of the transport plane. This rust bucket looked about as solid as a chunk of tin foil. It felt like there was a better chance of going down over the channel than actually getting to the drop zone. The C47 transport plane allotted to 2nd Platoon looked more likely to shrivel up from erosion before it would even get off the ground, let alone safely cross over Northern France under intense gunfire. Their jump boots were in better shape and they hadn’t touched them since Baker Company left Fort Bragg months ago. Apparently some habits survived devastation. It reminded Samuel of his old man’s truck back home. That old bat looked like it hadn’t been cleaned in decades; it had more rust than a shipwreck. Still, he looked back on the days back home with fondness.

 

The feeling of just relaxing without a care in the world was still possible a few years ago but that was long forgotten by the time Operation Overlord commenced. Innocence was nothing more than a facade trying to deceive people into believing that America could simply hide from the horrors of war. December the 8th would remain indefinitely engraved in his mind. It was a warm morning. Christmas was in a few weeks. His mother had been planning to visit Hawaii for New Years. The Dow Jones industrial average was somehow up nearly three per cent. The Index had gone up too: a rare occasion. Samuel’s family had been struggling financially since Gilbert, his father, had closed down the family dairy farm to avoid further financial losses. Even with the monetary strain, the family had scrounged up every spare penny for the trip to Hawaii. The depression wasn’t going to impede this year’s celebration. It was a graduation gift for Samuel’s younger brother, Michael. Michael was a cheerful young man who loved the piano. He was nearly tackled trying to check the mail by Gilbert, when he burst through the door like he was possessed. He looked like he’d aged a decade in a matter of seconds. He was chuckling like maniac only minutes before. Somehow he had almost transformed into a vegetable in such a small space of time. He just stared darkly. He looked hollow. After a few moments of heavy breathing, Gilbert darted towards the small radio in the living room; next to the piano that Michael enjoyed playing so often, and turned the volume to maximum. Samuel could hardly believe his own ears.

Yesterday, December 7, 1941 – a date which will live in infamy – the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.”

 

Pearl Harbor changed a nation in an instant. Overnight, an entire country had been sent into a frenzy of hatred and panic. One might have thought the United States had gone into meltdown. However, every family had a role to play. Every household had to contribute. The Marine Corps looked rather appealing to Samuel at that time. Nobody had any idea what the ‘Airborne’ even was. When an article was published in the local newspaper, ‘The Austin American-Statesman’, advertising for enlistment into the airborne, many locals were horrified. Who in their right mind would sign up to jump out of an airplane? The schoolboys however, were convinced with little effort, when the article mentioned that they paid an extra $50 a month. 100 bucks a month was a life changer compared to the regular infantryman, who was only paid $50 a month. Though, the article did forget to mention that jumping out of a plane was a lot easier when during the day and when nobody is shooting at it. Life was so simple back then, unlike what was to come.

 

It was as if a symphony of destruction was playing outside the C47 that was supposed to take the platoon over the channel and end up somewhere around the drop zone. 2nd Platoon along with Baker Company and the rest of the regiment as part of the 82nd Airborne had been tasked with advancing on the German held town of Sainte-Mere-Eglise and holding it until relieved by the 4th division after a hopefully successful amphibious landing at Utah Beach. It would have been a piece of cake had the division not been scattered half a world away from the drop-zone, but there was nothing to be done about it. Some of the pilots didn’t look old enough to shave, let alone wrap their heads around the possibility of death. It didn’t change the brief. Samuel just wanted to live long enough to get out of the plane, although for many, that dream would stay a dream. Whether it was due to luck or the powers that be, Samuel drew the lucky card and was assigned as the first man to jump. He wasn’t too sure how to react to being the first to jump out. It was both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, he would be the most likely to survive as the first one out, but on the other, being at the front made him the bigger target as his parachute would be the first object to launch from the aircraft. The wind crashing into the paratroopers’ scruffy face upon jumping wasn’t exactly ideal but it was better than sitting in a flying eggshell, being shot at from a hundred different angles.

 

 The view was spectacular though. Like a Christmas tree, every few seconds another plane would light up the sky as if it were a flaming lantern. For one night only, the largest fireworks display was being offered. The landscape presented a tragic irony. How could such a beautiful countryside be compared with the graveyard it had become? He almost felt guilty for smiling, forgetting for an instant that each fireball was filled with brothers who had trained and bled together for nearly two. Nothing the officers lectured at Fort Bragg could have prepared anyone for this. This was the real thing. No instructor, no manual, no second chances. Samuel wondered if he would be one of the few who’d survive the ordeal, and prayed for his own safety.

 

It must have been a few minutes before the fields below properly came into view. The iron wind nearly kicked Samuel into a nearby farmhouse. The strangely untouched grass made for a surprisingly smooth landing albeit with the loss of both his reserve chute and radio kit. The chirps of the local nightlife and the screeches from the skies above masked movement as several moments passed by, allowing Samuel to take in the environment. It hadn’t been until that moment that it dawned on him that he was completely and utterly alone. For the first time, there was nobody to hold his hand in the face of a challenge. The brushing back and forth of the local bush would provide temporary security when moving around for the time being. The distant shouts of gunfire at least alerted the shadow of his location in comparison to surrounding German patrols. However, a quick study of the shrubs and the weeds, foreign-looking, led to an abrupt conclusion: he had no idea where he was. The transport had either gone past the designated drop zone or dropped everyone out long before it. Oddly enough there was nothing that mimicked or gave an illusion of life in the direct area. The surrounding ferns weren’t exactly offering much assistance either. The innocent woodland impaired any struggle to find anyone. With some effort, Samuel slowly dragged himself through the foliage, creeping cautiously towards the nearby hilltop. Figuring out his location was now the trop priority; the peak would provide a nice vantage point to get his bearings.

 

From the crest of the hilltop, the lonely warrior was now overlooking the valley. The fireworks above were beginning to disperse and separate, revealing the soft clouds. The softness of the untouched hilltop was a rather welcome change of terrain. What felt like a gale-force wind every time a plane flew over had now descended into a gentle breeze as he systematically scoured the hedgerows in front for any signs of activity, hoping that somewhere nearby was a fellow American. Just ahead, lay what remained of a scorched transport, ripped apart and scattered over the nearby fields. Samuel could almost make out the distinctive camouflage of a helmet dangling from one of the windows, amid the charred remains of those few who couldn’t get out in time. Hopefully he didn’t know anyone that was on board. His days back in Austin had taught him to befriend those he could, because apparently, life was short. At least that was what his father had taught him.

 

The scouting run was interrupted as the chance of a meet and greet with the Germans was offered as an especially familiar looking shell rocketed past his left shoulder and into the trunk of the willow just behind. On impulse alone, the scruffy faced man automatically reached for the carbine on his back only to find that no such rifle was present. The current predicament was getting worse and the patrol was closing in. This temporarily silent hilltop, in a matter of seconds, had become a battleground once more, forcing a series of dashes between trees and shrubs alike to avoid the hailstorm of bullets that were gradually getting closer to the intended target. It seemed that unless something drastic happened, the demanded acquaintance with several shells and a German patrol would occur in the very near future.

 

Time appeared to come to a halt as no matter how many trunks and hedgerows that were bolted past, the bullets followed shortly after. Survival depended the following minutes. The top priority had changed to finding a ranged weapon, which left two options: either ambush the patrol with a combat knife and hope for the best or search for a body somewhere and pray that an M1 was attached to it. For Samuel’s sake, he prayed the latter would come true, although fate had other ideas. Whilst bolting through the patterns of the woods, the camouflaged tree root sticking out ahead had gone unnoticed and Samuel stumbled over it. Before he knew it, he was helmet first into the dirt. After a moment, the disgruntled warrior sat up and surveyed the local bushland. In his vicinity, harsh and guttural German, pointed with resolve, forced its way into range of hearing. The tree trunk to the dark figures’ nearest right seemed the sturdiest, most likely candidate to conceal the presence of a person. The ragged bark of the trunk however, didn’t prove to be the most comfortable rest for the few seconds of its usefulness, although it did provide an opportunity to offer a more ‘Texan' greeting in the event a certain patrol strolled into the direct vicinity.

 

Surely enough, the foreign grunts had slowly, but surely made their way towards the inconspicuous mass of bark that the weary Southerner was crouched behind, knife at the ready, prepared to fight to the last breath. Samuel waited until the last possible second to spring his trap. By waiting until the last of the four had wondered past, he now had the advantage. The tired knife-wielder took one final moment to picture his family one last time before lunging out. In the blink of an eye, the unsuspecting Fallschirmjäger had taken his last breath before a familiar looking knife had spun its way around and violently slit the throat of the clean shaved man. His final yelp, before succumbing to the shock and blood loss had however alerted the now three-person patrol. Samuel dived towards the corpse and yanked the alien submachine gun out of its cold hands. He closed his eyes briefly, and bolted out from the ground. Without even as much as a glance, he blindly fired into the direction of the weapon flashes in front. After several seconds, the repeated clicking sound coming from the firing pin of the Mp40 had signalled that the magazine was empty. The light show died down and the woodlands had once again assumed their position of silence. The smoke coming from the barrel, slowly oozing into the air was ghostly. A worrying emptiness filled the plateau.

 

Once the smoke had cleared, it was clear that the three had not survived. Their remains were splattered across the shrubs behind them. It was as if the ridge was painted red. A lone cough sputtered out from the exhausted paratrooper as he assessed his fallen enemy from a distance, before stumbling to the ground himself. Samuel, drained and groaning, scrolled his eyes down to his chest before noticing the coloured liquid pouring out from his left side. He let go of the dead Mp40 and crawled towards the nearby crest on his right. The fading soldier eventually propped himself up against a downed trunk that faced towards the open countryside ahead. He stared out into the distance, wondering what his brother might have been up to. Samuel hoped that Michael was still at home composing, safe from the bloodbath of war. Time seemed to gradually race forward, and his vision was starting to blur. He could have sworn the sun was beginning to rise before the darkness took over and the fields faded into blackness.


© Copyright 2017 Nwood. All rights reserved.

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