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Through the Eyes of an Allied Soldier

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I will never forget that day; every time I close my eyes, I can see the blood-stained beaches and taste the pungent aroma of death in the air. The date was June 6, 1944, and I was in the first wave of soldiers to storm Omaha Beach. When my U-boat landed on shore, I could see the shower of bullets making their way to the allied position. When the metal door to our boat dropped down, to the sand, the two men in front of me were met with German machine gun fire. Before their bodies hit the ground, I dove to the sand and made my way to the safety of a mortar hole just out of sight of the machine gunners in the pill boxes. Behind me, I could hear the roar of the ocean and then only a few yards ahead of me a mortar round exploded; it was like God himself had silenced the beach. When I regained my sense of hearing and had shaken off the feeling of shock, I looked around me and noticed a solder named Peter Wellman. He was a young kid from some town I can’t pronounce in Iowa. I remembered the times we talked about our lives at home before the war had begun. He told me (at basic training) that his wife was expecting a child soon. I imagine that she must have given birth by then. I saw that Peter was hit in the side with a piece of shrapnel, and he couldn’t move. I crawled to the edge of my hole and pulled him in. The look in his eyes still haunts me to this day. I could see the pain in his eyes and the look of sorrow on his face. I shut his eyes and turned back to continue the assault on Omaha.
Our main objective was to reach the far end of the beach to blow the line of barbed wire set out by the German forces to stop our attempts at a northern invasion of France. After crawling through the bodies and across the wet, cold sand, I had made it. I was one of only a fraction of my company to make it to the fence of barbed wire. The beach was littered with bodies, but we knew that those who died did not die in vain. It was up to those of us who had lived through the battle to make those fascist Nazis pay. We regrouped and planted the charges to blow the barbed wire. When it blew, we crawled over the hill of twisted metal to the base of the German position. From there, we knew that we had to take out the machine gun nests and make our way to the top of the hill. If we controlled that position we could direct men and equipment through a safe path up the beach. On our way up to the pill boxes, we were met with a barrage of bullets and hand grenades. We lost many more men on our way up, but we also took many lives, and we were proud to fight in memory of our fallen brothers. When we had taken the pill boxes, we had reached a level playing ground and a strategic victory in our invasion. We cleared the trenches behind the pill boxes and had begun to signal our forces to rejoin the rest of the scattered companies for an assault on German-occupied France.
We were given two days to rest while we recovered from the bloody battle on the previous day. We had no idea just how many men died on the beach, but the numbers came out to about fifteen hundred GIs and somewhere between four and nine thousand dead Germans. I tried not to look at a battle as a victory when we had to burry the men we had come to love like brothers. We had a family connection that could only be understood by those men who suffered those terrible losses. Every day I tried my best to honor those men by fighting for their family’s safety and freedom. I learned that in war there is no good time to mourn. Before I had begun to miss my brothers, we received orders that we were moving out.
We all knew we would end up making our way to the heart of the Nazi empire: Berlin. Many of us were eager to get a shot at the cause of all this mess: Adolf Hitler himself. We set out on a course that would take us through Southern Belgium and down into Germany in a strategic move that would stop the Nazis from fleeing south to Switzerland. We headed out on a long trek, mostly on foot, because we couldn’t get our tanks across the mountains terrain. Along the way we met little Nazi resistance, and we took this as a sign of the slow destruction of the Nazi empire. We heard stories of the great Panzer divisions. Some said that they would ravage the battle field and rip up the ground as it tore across open fields. It was said that they could climb mountains and shoot a man down before he could even see the muzzle flash of its 75-millimeter main gun. In actuality, it could only move twenty-six miles per hour, and its gun only had a small range. But, being a country boy of just twenty years of age, I believed that at any moment I could be in the sights of one of these Nazi war machines. I soon began to see that German tanks should be the last of my worries; there were many more deadly obstacles hiding just across the field.
My company, consisting of just one hundred and fifty men, reached a flat and desolate field that seemed to stretch for miles. We all had an eerie feeling about not seeing any signs of life; we didn’t know what dangers awaited us just along the opposite tree line. We set up a scout team to survey the tree line, and they had almost given us the “ok” when they spotted a glair from the sun on a riffle scope. Lucky for us, we had one of the best marksmen in the battalion. His record was one hundred and seventy confirmed German kills, including fifteen officers. Before joining up with us at Normandy, he had been part of an effort to drive the Nazis out of much of Western France. His name was Corp. Andrew Cochran, but we knew him as Lefty. Lefty was the only soldier that I knew who could shoot a rifle left-handed as just as well as he could right-handed. It didn’t matter how he wanted to fire his weapon. The fact was that he was the best we had, and we were happy he was on our side. It took some time, but he was able to set up in position under a tree where he could see the German sniper. We set up a decoy using a helmet of a high ranking officer, so Lefty could flush him out. Lucky for us, he wasn’t a very smart sniper. He took the bait, and Lefty had pinpointed his position. He was four hundred yards out and about fifteen feet up in a pine tree. Lefty took in a breath, exhaled lightly, and squeezed the trigger as if to be cautious about shooting his target. He wasn’t apprehensive; he was methodical and precise whenever he took a shot. That’s what made him a great sniper. After he scanned the tree line and saw no other enemy snipers, our captain sent out twenty men to make their way across the field. We never would have guessed what was waiting for us.
Our first team made it across the field safely, and then our whole company followed across the open terrain. When we had made it about half way across, we were rushed with a bombardment of fire from German machine gun nests built into foxholes. I ducked for cover in an impression in the ground that was most likely made by a mortar round. To my side, I saw that Lefty was signaling me to stay put while he tried to make it to a safe spot beside a tree. He made it to the tree, and as he pulled the rifle scope to his eye, a mortar round came down on top of him. I knew that there was no way he would have survived. I looked ahead of me and engaged the machine gun nests, using my semiautomatic M1 Grand, with no avail. When we killed one Nazi gunner, two more came up to fill the ranks. As if we weren’t preoccupied on the battle with the soldiers in the woods, two screaming Junkers Ju 87 came out of the tree line. These were some of the best planes the Luftwaffe had in their vast arsenal. They could fire any of their three 7.92 mm machine guns and mow a whole company of men down. They dove down on us and only got a few shot off before they seemed to fly into the sun, disappearing as fast as they first appeared. We looked around and saw no sign of the planes, and we radioed for an air strike on the tree line. It was our only hope at coming out of that battle alive. Within twenty minutes we had mortar rounds dropping as fast as rain droplets on the German gunners. The forest lit up like the Fourth of July on a dark, starry night. As the German gunfire seemed to slow down, we made our way across the field and met in hand-to-hand combat with the remaining German troops. Most of their numbers were wiped out. Only a few dozen made it through the hail of mortar rounds. As we cleared the forest, we regrouped once again and tended to our wounded. For a while it seemed that this would be the extent of our fighting. We learned from our flyboys that the pair of Junkers we had seen earlier was all that was left of the great Luftwaffe. They had come from a town called Bastogne in the southern part of Belgium. At the time there was nothing special about this town; the only significance it held was that it was our rallying point before we were going to pass through Germany on our way to Bastogne.
In the months that followed, we entered into some small arms fire with pockets of Nazi soldiers. It seemed that they too were headed to Germany. We knew that we would soon be cornering a vicious animal. They were pushed back by US and British forces to their west and Russian soldiers to their east. We all knew it wouldn’t be long before they fought for their very existence. It was early December, and it was my first European winter. They were nothing like the winters I had seen back in the States. The temperature was constantly just above freezing with wind gusts that seemed to shake the forests.
By December 10, 1944, we had reached the small town of Bastogne were we met up with members of the Screaming Eagles and the 10th Armored Combat Division. They were dug in and ready for a German counter attack; at that time, Bastogne was the last city where Nazi forces could branch out across Western Europe. The control of this town meant victory or defeat in the eyes of both the allied and axis forces.
We would soon wage war with the last of Nazi Germany’s great military machine; this was the death of the Blitzkrieg and the end of Hitler’s rule over the people of Western Europe. The world would again be able to sleep without the fear of Hitler’s death squad knocking on their door. At last, the world could begin to mourn for the some-seventeen-million lives lost as result of the Holocaust and torture at the hands of a man who was that which he fought so hard to destroy.




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