MUD-BATHED PARACHUTE INFANTRY
The Story of J Company, 4-506, 101st Airborne
By Michael R. Chen
Based on the RP with Mikey Lee in September 2003
Part Two: Saving Sergeant Teerlink
Sgt Michael Rong Chen
The noise of the Willys Jeep engine was drowned out by the din of gunfire coming at us from all sides. Ssg Kevin Brooks drove with his head low as rounds snapped past. 2nd Lt Anna Rotsko clung to the hood of the jeep, firing her Grease gun at passing targets. Pfc Michael Lee sat in the passenger seat, firing his M1. The empty charger block ejected with the trademark ping, hitting him in the face.
“Damn! Everything here is out to kill me- even my own rifle!” he swore at the top of his lungs.
Cpl Rachel Smith sat to my left, firing her M1 as well. To my right, Pvt Michael Block was reloading his folding-stock carbine. I was covering the rear of the jeep with a Thompson. We poured out rounds as more and more German troops kept appearing out of nowhere. It shouldn’t have been a surprise; after all, it had been quite a few years since their blitzkrieg.
We were in Normandy. Somewhere in Normandy. Where, exactly, we didn’t have a clue. The jump early in the morning of June 6 had left us scattered all of the French countryside. The Air Corps would have hell to pay when and if we got back from this mission. They couldn’t even land us accurately. It was late afternoon
The events of the morning were a blur in my mind already. I was too preoccupied with the task at hand. After gathering together to the best of our ability, we had lost one killed, a Pvt Michelle Goldsworthy. In addition, we were missing Sgt Cody Teerlink, but at this point, we assumed he was dead. We were way off-target from our intended DZ, so No one else from J Company, much less the entire 4th Battalion of the 506th PIR had turned up yet. We were trying to find some semblance of a unit to assemble with.
As we sped along the dirt road, a shell exploded in front of the jeep. The jeep shook violently as Brooks careened around it, hardly affected by the explosion. He gritted his teeth and tried to peer through the dust cloud. Another shell slammed into the ground behind the jeep. Brooks floored the gas pedal, and we sped away.
We came to a stop a ways down the road. I had this ringing in my ears that was ebbing away very slowly, giving way to sound and noise. Dusting myself off, I glanced around. Smith was still next to me, looking somewhat shaken. She stared, her eyes fixed on some distant point. I poked her in the arm, and she came to, at first startled.
“You all right, Corporal Smith?” I asked.
“Yeah, I’m fine…” she replied.
Smith took her helmet off and began shaking dust out of her platinum blonde hair. To my right, Block was looking down the sights of his carbine. Lee clutched his M1 and watched Brooks look down the jeep. No Germans could be seen, and the sounds of battle were distant.
Then it hit me. I looked at the hood of the jeep. No one was there. There was no trace of blood either. I stood and signaled to SSG Brooks. He glanced up at me and I pointed at the hood. His eyes went wide with understanding.
“Where the hell is Ann-, er, Lt Rotsko?” he said out loud.
No one in the jeep knew. We exchanged looks of confusion and worry. Brooks jumped into the driver’s seat.
“We must have left her behind! Let’s go!”
Brooks turned the Willys around and we began to go back the way we came. However, we didn’t get far before our journey was interrupted by the creaking of tank treads. A Stug self-propelled gun pulled into view, and paused in the middle of the road. Our jeep screeched to a halt.
“Back! Back! Turn around and go back!” Lee yelled.
Brooks glanced back and began to turn the steering wheel when an explosion sent pieces of Stug flying everywhere. A harmless burning and smoking heap replaced the dangerous enemy armor from seconds before. I noticed movement on the right side of the road.
“Flash!” I yelled, raising my Thompson.
“Thunder,” responded a familiar voice.
Lt Rotsko climbed out of the grass, followed by three glider boys. One held a M9A1 breakdown bazooka in his hands. I could tell they were glider infantrymen by their straight leg clothing and boots. They didn’t wear jump boots; they had the “privilege” of fastening leggings to their feet. Instead of a jump suit, they wore ODs and M41 jackets. They didn’t get hazardous duty pay as well, and weren’t all volunteer. Every Paratrooper had volunteered for jump duty.
“These guys here are with the 327th. I thought you guys had left without me after I got thrown off the hood,” Lt Rotsko began, “Anyhow, I’m out of a-”
A shot rang out and Block crumpled down, dead. Lt Rotsko scooped up his carbine from the ground. I dragged his body behind his jeep, and stripped him of his ammunition, handing the carbine magazines to Lt Rotsko. She discarded her empty Greaser and ran at a crouch to the nearest point of cover, a large bush by a fence. I followed her.
“SNIPER!” Pfc Lee shouted.
Lee had dived behind the jeep. He scanned the area, looking for any sign of the sniper. Smith and Brooks lay prone behind a haystack, close to a farmhouse. The glider troops had taken cover behind another large haystack. I held my Thompson at ready as Lt Rotsko unfolded the carbine stock, bringing it to her shoulder.
“Anyone see that shot?” Smith yelled back towards us.
The smokeless powder and delayed-ignition tracers used by the Germans were concealing this guy’s position. No movement could be seen at all. Suddenly, one of the glider boys shouted.
“I’ll light him up with the bazooka!”
The soldier with the bazooka set it down to load, muzzle first. The tail poked up above the haystack. I groaned. The Kraut would have been sure to see it. As he inserted a round, his hand in clear view, his squad mates suddenly realized what he was about to do. They all shared the same thought.
“Don’t go out there! Not yet! It’s not safe!” they implored.
Lee shouted, “Wait! WAIT! No!”
However, the glider boy stepped out defiantly, bazooka raised. At that instant, a loud “krack” was heard, and a round passed through the guy’s neck, killing him instantly. He fell out into the open. The other two glider boys moved to drag him back under cover. Another “krack”, and one of the glider boys fell. The third scrambled back to cover. He peered out from the haystack and was shot as well.
“SNIPER! That farmhouse, left window!” SSG Brooks pointed.
“Give me covering fire! I’m going to plug the ....er!” Lee yelled, jumping up.
“Covering fire!” Lt Rotsko yelled, and began firing.
I opened up with my Thompson. The fast cracking of .45 rounds being spit out of the muzzle of my submachine gun sounded. Brooks and Smith fired at the window. Lee ran towards the window, brought his M1 up, and emptied an entire eight-round clip into the window. A “krack” followed by a muzzle flash told him that the sniper hadn’t been hit. He grabbed a grenade off his harness, the pin wired to one of the D-rings, and threw it into the window. After the explosion, no more shots were heard.
Brooks chucked his Thompson aside, and clambered over to the dead glider boys. One of them had a BAR. Kevin bent over, picked the BAR up, and cleared it. He gathered up the ammunition and stood up. Lt. Rotsko had assembled the squad by the jeep. We all piled in and kept moving.
SSG Brooks was driving the jeep down a dirt road. We had encountered various mixed groups of Paratroopers the night before. Today, we set out to find our own unit, and take our objectives. This didn’t seem likely, as paratroopers from other units reported seeing more than a few of our planes go down. Only a few other troopers from our unit had been spotted, but we hadn’t found them yet.
Lt Rotsko sat in the passenger seat, hefting the folding-stock carbine taken off Block. Cpl Smith sat on the right with a M1. I sat in the middle again, still with a Thompson. Pfc. Lee sat to my left, checking the function on his M1.
The road curved ahead into a four-way intersection. Brooks let off the gas some, and we turned into the intersection. As we made it into the middle of the intersection, the jeep conked out. The engine made a sputtering noise, and stopped working.
“What the ....?!” exclaimed Brooks, hitting the steering wheel. The horn made a loud honking noise.
Suddenly, I heard a loud mechanical creaking. I looked up and froze. Smith saw me freeze, turned to find what I was staring at, and stopped moving as well. To our horror, a Flak 88 up the hill was turning towards our direction. The crew had heard the ruckus made by our malfunctioning jeep. I watched them elevate the barrel, and didn’t react as the crew loaded in the first shell. A deafening thud resounded, and a shell whistled over to our position, exploding about twenty feet in front of the jeep. Another thud, and a shell exploded behind us. Lt Rotsko started yelling.
“THEY GOT US ZEROED!!! SPREAD OUT!!!! GET TO COVER!!!!!!”
A closer explosion rocked the jeep to one side, and Lee fell out. Rotsko jumped out the passenger seat and slid off the road. Smith got up and barreled over the hood. Brooks and I climbed out over the left, taking cover in a ditch on the side of the road. A few shells impacted around the jeep. Finally, a shell landed dead center in the jeep, blowing it to hell. Jeep parts rained down on us. I heard Smith scream as she was thrown to the ground.
“SHIT!” Brooks yelled.
“WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO NOW?!!” Lee was yelling.
“I’m hit!” Smith was clutching her arm, lying on the ground, trying to stand up again amid the shelling.
“....!” I swore, standing up.
I tore off from the ditch, grabbed the back of Smith’s harness, and dragged her over to the side of the road. The shelling began to subside. Lee saw Smith bleeding, and yelled for a medic. However, there wasn’t a medic anywhere near us. After all, we were alone. I pulled on the shrapnel piece, but it was stuck fast. Smith yelled for me to “dig it out already”, so I drew my trench knife and dug it out, according to her instructions. She cringed with pain as I drew it out, and then exhaled slowly. Lt Rotsko was beckoning from the other side of the road.
“Sergeant Brooks! On me! Let’s find that 88!” Rotsko ordered.
The shelling subsided, and SSG Brooks ran over to Lt Rotsko. They took off running, and Lee followed of his own accord. Cpl Smith had removed her jump jacket to get a better look at the wound. She peeled off a nonregulation green sweatshirt she had been wearing and then began unbuttoning her OD shirt. I tried not to watch, and turned away, but I think she noticed. I tore my first aid packet open, and tossed Smith a field dressing. She wrapped it around her arm, and I helped her tie it off. The Krauts must have seen our movements, because another shell crashed down on the remains of the jeep, sending more shrapnel flying. I ducked down.
“Come on, let’s move.” Smith said, giving the exploded jeep a fleeting look.
We scrambled to our feet and ran up behind SSG Brooks and Lt Rotsko. Lt Rotsko had a pair of binoculars out, and was surveying the approach to two camouflaged 88s. Lee was crouched low just ahead of them. A few shells could be heard exploding behind us. Smith looked around, and realized she had left half of her jumpsuit back there.
“Damn, I forgot my jacket.” Smith quickly said, looking a bit nervous.
After another two shells, the shelling ceased again. Brooks glanced back to our old position, and chuckled.
“It’s probably blown to hell anyways.” Ssg Brooks replied, unable to suppress his smile.
“I’ll go take a closer look.” Lee announced, and crept forward without waiting for a reply.
“See if you can get a better assessment of their strength. I can’t see .... from here.” Rotsko called out.
Cpl Smith was fumbling with what equipment she had grabbed when we ran from the shelling. She had a M1 rifle held in the crook of her arm as she fumbled to put her cartridge belt on. She slung a Thompson magazine bag over her shoulder and put her helmet back on. She looked up as Lee came running back over.
“Lee, what’s the deal?” Rotsko asked.
Lee described the setup, “Two MG42s, one on each side of the defense. There’s about twenty guys around each nest, a squad each maybe. They look like Panzergrenadiers. I think there’s a tank in the brush too.”
“Shit…” Lt Rotsko swore quietly, under her breath.
Rotsko turned to Brooks and the two began discussing the situation quietly. A cracking noise was heard. Lee looked back, and signaled, talking quickly but quietly.
“Psst! Patrol! Get down!”
Everyone slipped behind cover. I lay prone on a slope by the side of the road, and Smith tumbled next to me. I couldn’t see where Lt Rotsko or SSG Brooks had gone off to. I saw Lee in a bush to my left. I raised my Thompson and drew a bead on the approaching movement. I heard Rotsko whisper to hold our fire. Smith gripped her M1 and looked on.
The German patrol strolled into the middle of the road. They weren’t very tense, apparently expecting us to be dead or dying, due to all the shelling that had happened. Rotsko raised her open hand slightly to signal that an enemy had been spotted, remaining out of their view. She and Brooks were on the other side of the road. The Krauts moved closer, scanning the area. All of a sudden, one of the Krauts was cut down by rapid gunfire. It sounded like a M1.
“Who’s doing the shooting?” Rotsko shouted at us.
“I dunno! I can’t see a thing.” Lee replied.
Lee craned his head up slightly, staying low, to get a better look but didn’t see anything. The Germans were scared now, sweeping the area with their weapons, looking for something to shoot at. More gunfire sounded. A BAR. Carbine. Thompson. The Germans all died where they stood, and seven US GIs ran out, checking the bodies of the dead.
“Thirsty!” Lee called out.
“Victory,” came the reply.
“Paratroops! Coming out!” Lee yelled, and he slowly climbed out of the bush
“Okay. 2nd Rangers, we’ll hold our fire.” replied an officer at the head of the group. He was a Captain. I saw the railroad track bars on his helmet.
The GIs lowered their weapons. Our group began to come out from cover. I was up first, followed by Cpl Smith. Brooks and Rotsko were climbing out of a ditch on the other side of the road.
“Who’s the ranking officer here?” asked the Ranger Captain, surveying our dirty group.
Lee vaguely pointed at the group. The Rangers must have been shocked at our state. We were covered in dirt and had assortments of grenades and ammunition attached to us. Smith was missing her jump jacket, and the rest of us had a lax appearance to our uniforms. In contrast, the Rangers were all relatively clean. They looked as if they had taken the time to dust as much sand and dirt off their uniforms and gear after securing the beaches. Their helmets were free of scrim, and only a few wore netting. All of them wore fatigues with pockets on their legs.
“That’d be me,” Lt Rotsko said, making herself visible, “2nd Lieutenant Rotsko, 4-506, J Company. This here is Pfc Lee. Behind him is Pfc Chen and Corporal Smith. Behind me is Staff Sergeant Brooks. There’s a pair of camouflaged 88s up there. Are you our relief?”
“No, we’re not,” the Captain replied, “I’m Captain Williams. We’re looking for a CP of some type. I have orders to find a Sergeant Teerlink. Teerlink’s friend's boyfriend's brother's cousin's roommate’s best friend's goldfish are dead, all 24 of them, due to the war effort.”
“You can save your time. He’s dead.” Lt Rotsko looked grim.
“He? I’m looking for a Sergeant Candis Teerlink, 4-506, K Company.”
“That’s Cody’s sister. Well, I guess you can tell her that her brother’s dead too.” Brooks said, walking over.
They were interrupted by the noise of tank treads. A Panther was moving down the road, flanked by a small amount of infantry. The crew spotted us and fired a shot, blowing the top off of a tree. The Rangers, which had been taking, cover behind it scrambled out to find new cover.
“The tank is CLOSING ON US! Let’s MOVE!” Lee shouted, running back.
Without thinking, I was firing at the enemy infantry alongside the tank. Smith’s M1 pinged, ejecting the empty clip. She fumbled around for another one. A Ranger named Hamilton stood up and fired off a few rounds. He tapped SSG Brooks as Brooks jumped down next to him for cover.
“Give me some TNT,” he said.
Capt Williams and Lt Rotsko ran over to our position. Williams looked back and saw Hamilton wiring some TNT as he moved out into the open. He realized what Hamilton had in mind and shouted to stop him.
However, Hamilton paid him no heed and made a headlong dash at the tank. The German infantry, shocked at his foolish action, just stared. However, the tank crew evidently kept their heads, because they put a shell through him, blowing him apart. Smith and I ducked back, shielding ourselves from the explosion. Williams groaned, and shook his head.
Lee was firing at the tank, and so was Brooks. Smith and I resumed firing into the enemy infantry. The tank moved forward. Brooks got down, hiding his position. Lee threw a grenade, and the Germans took cover as it exploded. The tank stopped next to Brooks. Taking advantage of the location of the enemy tank, he jumped out of cover, blasting the Germans closest to him with a few last rounds from the BAR he had gotten off the glider boy. He discarded the weapon, and jumped onto the tank, holding a burp gun taken off a dead Kraut.
“Brooks! What are you doing?” Lt Rotsko shouted, looking concerned.
Brooks scaled the turret, and with his great strength, lifted the hatch off. He then crouched his tall frame low to minimize his chances of being hit. He emptied the magazine into the tank, and chucked a grenade in. Then he jumped off the tank and tore across to our position, diving behind Lt Rotsko as the tank exploded.
“Nice job son!” Captain Williams congratulated Brooks, then he yelled for his Rangers. “Who’s left? Wells! Steck! Bennington! Get over here!”
The three surviving Rangers of the original six ran over. Smith, Lee, and I continued to harass the Germans with fire. Rotsko started firing her carbine, hitting a Kraut in the leg. Williams had his Rangers move up to the left to push the Germans back. However, a loud screech was heard.
“PANZERSHRECK!” Lee yelled.
Everyone hit the dirt. I looked up as a round sailed over my head and impacted a tree nearby, exploding. Smith’s M1 ejected her last empty clip. She chucked the rifle aside and drew her .45, firing three shots. The nearest Kraut dropped dead. A loud crack, followed by a clatter was heard. Lee swore loudly. I turned to look at him, and noticed that his M1 had been shot out of his hands. A Kraut charged him through brush, but Lee shot him with his pistol after slicing him with his trench knife.
“We’re running out of ammo, sir!” yelled one of the Rangers. William acknowledged him with a nod.
“Same with us!” Smith yelled at Lt Rotsko.
I emptied my last magazine. I started firing with my pistol when I heard the shriek of shells. The 88s had started firing again! ....! We were in for it now! I watched as the Germans pulled back slightly, and started opening up on us with everything they had.
“We’ve got to pull back! There’s no way we can take the 88s out right now. We’ll have to come back. Looks like it’s time to find that CP you were looking for, Captain.” Rotsko said, not stopping for his answer.
Rotsko turned and ran at a crouch. I followed her immediately, tailed by Smith. A round shot her helmet off into the middle of the road. She turned to retrieve it when a shell crashed down next to it, turning it into a blackened heap. I grabbed her arm, not turning around to look at her.
“Come on! Forget it! We gotta move!”
Brooks ran past us at this moment, and we followed him. Lee was thrown down by an explosion, but he scrambled to his feet and followed me. Williams and his Rangers fired off a few more rounds at the Germans before following.
I awoke to the sound of a Thompson being cleared. I looked up to see Cpl Smith with a Thompson in her hand. An open magazine bag held numerous Thompson magazines. I sat up and she noticed that I was awake. She smiled and returned to messing with her Thompson. She was still wearing the pink tank top from the day before, except that now it was rather dirty. I looked at myself and realized I was covered in dirt too. Then I remembered the events of yesterday. We had crashed under a tree.
“Where’d you get that?” I asked.
“Off of Sergeant Rhodes from K Company. He broke his leg on the jump.” She replied.
“K Company? What? They turned up?”
“Yeah, Michael, while you were asleep, some more of the 4th Battalion survivors turned up here. Lieutenant Rotsko is the only officer left from J Company. There’s still no sign of anyone from L Company, except for Tom Hadid.”
“Did Candis show up with K Company?”
“Nope, she didn’t. No one’s seen her yet.”
“If there isn’t a body, that means she might still be alive. What do you think, Rachel?”
“I don’t know… yeah. Whatever.”
I gathered up my gear and slipped my harness on. I reached down and picked up my M1 rifle. Those of us without ammo had acquired replacement weapons or extra ammunition. I slung a bandolier over my neck and stood up. I saw Lt Rotsko standing with another officer, talking. They were by a large mass of gear and ammunition. I strolled over and they looked up. I saw that the officer was a platoon leader from K Company, 2nd Lt Alexis Garrod. I saluted her quickly as she saw who I was.
“Lieutenant Garrod.” I said.
“Glad that you could join us. I guess I’d better stop saluting you, so you won’t be a target,” I chided, grinning.
“Yeah, you’d better, or I”ll kick your ass. You know I could.”
I began stuffing M1 charger blocks into my Air Corps pouches. Smith came up behind me and collected grenades. Soon, we were joined by SSG Brooks and Pfc Lee, all collecting ammunition. Brooks had a Thompson as well. Lee had another M1. A few K Company paratroops had made their way over. In addition, L Company man Pvt Tom Hadid was with them. He greeted us immediately.
“These are my troops,” Garrod said, gesturing to them.
I recognized Pvts Samantha Dennerline and Alyssia Ferrari from K Company. I didn’t recognize the third member. She was a trooper named Johnson. After some introductions, we gathered our stuff up. Captain Williams from the 2nd Rangers made his way over to us, followed by his troops: Wells, Steck, and Bennington. He had an important air about him, so everyone stopped to listen.
“Okay, guys and girls, I was able to get in touch with our superiors. I told them about your situation, and they said I could attach you in the search for Sergeant Candis Teerlink from K Company. A few 82nd paratroops are going to take out the 88s. We’re to go see if they need assistance.”
“So we’re only being committed if it’s bad?” Lee asked, holding his hand up.
“That’s right. We’re just a reserve force if they need it. Okay, is everyone ready? Let’s get ready to move out. ”
Those who hadn’t gathered their gear ran to get it, and we all fell out. Pfc Steck took point, followed by Lee and I. Lt Rotsko and Cpl Smith were behind me, followed by Capt Williams. Between him and Sgt Wells walked Lt Garrod and Pvt Dennerline. Pvt Ferrari and Pfc Bennington followed Dennerline. Then came Cpl Johnson. Ssg Brooks and Pvt Hadid took up the rear.
We headed out the same way we came before as yesterday. Shell craters were everywhere. We had really been shelled yesterday. The troopers chatted among themselves as we moved. All of a sudden, gunfire broke out up ahead. We paused for a moment, then figured it was the 82nd guys going after the 88s.
“Come on, we’d better hurry,” urged Lt Rotsko, “hubba-hubba, one time.”
Everyone picked up the pace. We paused just past the hulk of the Panther Brooks had destroyed the day before. The gunfire was sounding almost singularly German. Where the left flank should have been, there were a few dead paratroopers plus a Stug. They were pounding the paratroopers who had pulled back to the right flank. Smith glanced at me with a look of concern. Lee spoke what were all thinking.
“Shit, that was our advance force?” he whispered.
“Looks that way, damn.” I replied, seeing Captain Williams motioning for us to stay still.
“Wait here. Wells, on me,” Williams ordered, taking off with Wells on his tail.
“What’s the plan Anna?” I asked, screwing formalities. Now wasn’t the time.
“Shit! There’s three tanks! Two Stugs and Panther!” Kevin exclaimed, coming back down to us.
“I see a MG team!” Lee announceed to the group.
“Michael, Captain Williams is in charge. There’s no point in asking me.” Lt Rotsko replied. She frowned as she said that.
Williams came back, and beckoned for us to follow. Lee muttered something about not expecting them to come back. We ran over to the right flank where most of the paratroopers were wounded or dead. They all lay prone, firing in a futile attempt to hold off the enemy. A medic was working on one severely wounded soldier. A .30 cal machine gun lay silent, surrounded by ammunition belts. Lt Garrod saw it, and immediately tapped Dennerline and Ferrari.
“You two, get that .30 cal up. NOW!”
Dennerline and Ferrari dove to the gun and Dennerline started firing as soon as her finger found the trigger. Ferrari noticed a bazooka and round bag lying in the open, on the body of a dead paratrooper. She yelled for everyone to hear.
“Over there! There’s a bazooka in the open.”
Everyone saw it. Johnson started to run out and get it. Without waiting for an order, we laid down covering fire. Lt Garrod shouted the Germans, stood up, and blazed away with her Thompson. I think it scared the .... out of them, because the withering fire momentarily thinned, allowing Johnson to bring the bazooka back. Williams collected his Rangers together. He asked for an extra man, so Rotsko assigned Lee to him.
“Lee, you’re with Williams. Chen, you’re with Smith. Brooks, you’re on me.” Rotsko spoke quickly and clearly.
“Dennerline, Ferrari, give them suppressing fire. Hadid, you’re loader for Johnson. Take out the tanks.” Lt Garrod was directing her troops as well.
Williams shouted, “Let’s move! SUPPRESSING FIRE!” and took off.
Williams’s group moved up the right and was immediately hit by a second, hidden machine gun team. I followed Lt Rotsko up the left. We all yelled loudly and fired our weapons from our hips. Brooks was right behind Rotsko, followed by Smith and I a few steps behind. We stopped at a ditch. Looking back at Williams’s group, I noticed that Steck lay dead, cut up by the MG fire. Bennington was firing his M1 from behind a haystack.
“They’re trapped under the hill, pinned down by MG fire. It’s coming from that MG nest we couldn’t se earlier. Smith, take Chen and get rid of the MG nest. Then you can join us at the first 88.” Rotsko ordered.
“You’ll need TNT!” Smith said, and pulled out a few blocks of TNT, and threw them to Brooks and Rotsko.
Brooks and Rotsko caught the TNT. They stuffed them out of sight and
“Come on.” Smith beckoned, and we began creeping towards the MG position.
Smith and I hit the dirt down beside the MG nest. They hadn’t noticed us because we were behind a smoking halftrack, destroyed by the 82nd guys earlier. I saw Lee peek out and get struck by a round from the MG. He spun around, hit the ground, and screamed in pain. Bennington yelled for a medic.
“Okay, cook ‘em for three, and throw. Then rush.” Smith said, and without waiting, pulled the pin on a grenade, letting the spoon fly off.
I did the same. After counting to three, we chucked our grenades into the nest. They landed in the center and exploded. The machine gun was flipped forward as the tripod it was mounted on was lifted up by the explosion. I jumped up and fired into the nest. Smith emptied about half a magazine into the nest as well. No one was left alive. Afterwards, Smith and I ran to the first gun, firing at some retreating Krauts along the way.
Lt Rotsko and Ssg Brooks had already secured the first position, and Brooks was working on the TNT as Rotsko fired into the second position. Rotsko looked up, saw us, and pointed at her helmet.
“Smith, on me. Chen, stay here with Brooks and help him with the TNT. We’ll take out the second gun.”
Rotsko and Smith took off as I helped Brooks wire the TNT. About ten Germans were still at the second gun, but they faltered after Rotsko and Smith charged in, guns blazing. One of the Krauts started to hold his arms up and say something but was cut down by Smith. I looked back and saw that Williams and crew were moving. The medic from before was working on Lee. I saw Wells crumple. He didn’t get back up. Bennington and Williams kept on going.
An explosion rocked the ground. Brooks and I saw a Stug go up in flames. Johnson moved out of the brush, followed by Hadid with three bazooka rounds. The second Stug moved in on the two. Johnson crouched, and Hadid loaded in a round. Johnson fired but missed. The Stug fired a shot, but missed as well. Hadid loaded a second round. However, a round stuck Johnson in the head, killing her instantly. Hadid fired off 8 rounds from his M1 in the direction of the shot. A Kraut fell. Hadid picked up the bazooka and sighted it. The Stug fired again. The shell exploded behind Hadid, uprooting a small tree. Hadid fired as he was knocked over by the explosion, shooting way high. He got up and fumbled with the round bag. I saw Lt Garrod run up behind him, firing her Thompson. She grabbed the last round, loaded it, and patted him on the back.
“You’re good to go!” she told him.
Hadid fired the bazooka, this time scoring a direct hit, blowing the Stug up. Brooks and I cheered. Tom glanced over and smiled, but quickly frowned as rounds snapped past. He stood and ran back to cover with Lt Garrod. Just then, I heard Rotsko yelling.
“We’re blowing the second gun! Make room!”
Brooks and I moved out of the way as Smith and Rotsko dove into our area. The second 88 blew up in a fiery explosion. Rotsko gestured to Brooks, who armed the TNT we had wired to our gun. We all jumped up without a word and ran down the hill. The 88 blew up, and Germans began opening up with everything they had, trying to hit one of us. Brooks was struck by a glancing round in the leg but kept going.
We reached Lee’s position, where he was fighting with the medic. The medic was insisting that he lie down.
“WHERE DO YOU THINK YOU’RE GOING?!!” the medic yelled.
“SOMEWHERE!!! It’s not THAT bad!!!!” Lee replied, wincing.
Apparently, Lee had been hit in the chest, but a charger block in his bandolier had slowed the round, leaving the penetration shallow. However, it was still causing him great pain. Finally, with the rest of us there, we were able to convince him to stop moving. The medic moved on to aid Brooks. However, as soon as the medic turned around, Lee got up and snuck away.
“I’m going to find Captain Williams,” he said, moving up the hill, appearing to be in pain.
“Where is Captain Williams anyways?” Brooks asked as the medic bandaged him up after removing the round.
I looked up the hill and saw the Germans plus the third tank, a Panther, pulling back. Williams and Bennington were pouring fire into them, not letting them have an easy retreat. Lee came up behind them and joined in the fray. However, Williams noticed him and told him off.
“What the .... do you think you’re doing here Lee? You’re wounded! Get back down there!”
“Sorry sir, I couldn’t stay down. I told them it wasn’t that bad.”
“Well, they’re gone anyhow. Rotsko already blew the guns. Come on, let’s get you out of here.”
When Lee got back down the hill, the medic grabbed Lee and practically threw Lee into a stretcher. Then, threatening to tie him to the strecther, he had two of the 82nd guys haul him off. The 82nd wounded who could walk were making their way back to the makeshift HQ.
I searched for Dennerline and Ferrari. I couldn’t find them. However, the medic told me that they had been wounded as well. They had been firing the .30 cal when it a grenade went off near them, wounding them and knocking out the gun. However, they held their ground against a sneak German counterattack, intended to throw us off our balance and trap us between the guns and them. Even the previously docile 82nd guys had joined in the fray.
We returned to the HQ for a breather. More troops were pouring in. There, we saw troops from L Company. Lt Ryan Hall was there with several paratroops. Lt Rotsko shook his hand and grinned. When I reached them, the first thing I asked him was that if he’d seen Candis. He shook his head and said no.
“No, I haven’t seen her. These three with me are the only ones from L Company I’ve found.”
I looked at the three troops with him. I recognized them as well. Pfc. Katelyn Dennis, Pvt Michael Klobe, and T5 (Corpoal Technician) Courtney Duncan. Dennis had a folding stock carbine, Klobe had a M1, and Duncan was a medic. Whew, I thought, we finally have a medic of our own.
“All right everyone, we’re taking a break here. Don’t wander though.” Lt Rotsko said to our group.
At those words, everyone dispersed and flopped to the ground, tired from a long day of fighting. Smith lay down under a tree and promptly fell asleep. I kicked back and cleaned my M1. Later, I woke Smith up around midday. Everyone munched on K Ration Dinners. Williams came over with Bennington saying that we would resume the search for Sgt. Teerlink in the afternoon.
When the afternoon came, we all gathered our gear and moved out.
After much searching in the ensuing days, we came across a paratrooper leading a cow on a leash. I was lead scout, with Pfc Dennis right behind me. I called out the challenge.
“Wool!” I yelled out.
The paratrooper looked up and replied, “Rabbit.”
“It’s clear out here!” Dennis yelled back.
Lt Rotsko and Captain Williams came running out of the brush. The more seriously wounded members of our unit were not present. We had left Cpl Smith with them to make sure they didn’t try to follow us. Besides, she was wounded too, and we were unable to get her to stay otherwise. The rest of K and L Companies were in reserve. Instead of fighting, we had concentrated on moving quickly and quietly through France in search of Sgt Teerlink.
I looked at the paratrooper more closely. She had long blonde hair, and her skin was tanned. Chevrons on her sleeve told me that she was a sergeant. She held a Thompson in her hand, and was trying to get the cow to move after it had stopped. The cow dug it’s hooves in and mooed loudly. I noticed the name “Teerlink” stenciled on her jumpsuit, above the left breast pocket.
“Sergeant Candis Teerlink?” I asked tentatively.
“Yeah, why?” she answered, brushing hair out of her face, and turning to look at our group.
Williams strode forward, and said slowly: “Your friend's boyfriend's brother's cousin's roomate's best friend's goldfish are dead, all 24 of them.”
Teerlink froze up. “Oh shit…”
Rotsko quickly added, “And your brother, Cody, is also dead.”
Teerlink started sobbing. She dropped to her knees, and released the cow leash. She covered her face with her free hand. Williams thought for a moment, then announced the one bit of good news he had.
“You’re going home, honey. Come on, you’ve got a plane ticket home.”
We all stood by quietly as Capt Williams led Sgt Teerlink away, still sobbing.