©2003, 2009 Colin Charland, Chad Charland, and Claire Ashford
Somewhere in July '44
While laying stretched out in an apple orchard one morning early, I looked up and saw a figure of a soldier heading towards us. Turned out to be a paratrooper, and he appeared to have a stomach wound. As he got near to us, he asked for the aid station; he had received his wound by a German who had pitched a grenade at him that exploded with some of the pieces hitting him in the stomach area, but he killed his attacker.
His wound was pretty serious and he was holding his guts in from coming out. He must have been in pain, but didn't show it; shock hadn't set in yet. He sat down and asked for a cigarette. I gave him one and gave him the pack. We directed him to the first aid station and offered to help him there, but he thanked us and said he'd make it okay and hoped he wouldn't meet any more snipers; there were quite a few of them around lately. We wished him good luck with a few prayers. To this day, I still wonder if he made it to the aid station and didn't die on the way.This trooper had a lot of courage and determination. Judging by him, we figured these 82nd troopers were a tough bunch. He was 19 years old, same as us, although I felt a hell of a lot older than that. You grow up fast in battle. This war was no kid stuff – no place for the faint hearts and squeamish. Some short time after the incident, while by myself, I broke down and cried for him and all the others I had seen, some were my close pals. I'd see a hell of a lot more before this damned lousy war would come to an end. I wondered if there was a white marble cross for me while on this journey – during all this fighting. I always had visions of it. I wondered how I was going to die and what condition I would be in when they finally would find me – if they did, or parts of me, all of these thoughts were enough to crack you up. All this I remarked to Bill, who felt likewise.
One soldier in our squad said one day: "Hey! You guys, hold on to your rifles if you live long enough for when the war finally ends and when we get home and have to shoot the 4Fs and draft dodgers that stole our jobs, wives and girlfriends from us while we went to fight and defend the U.S.A. and them from damned Hitler Germans and the Japs." It struck us funny, although the thought remained. Maybe it was true, but being home was the farthest thought from my mind; keeping alive and in one piece and sane was foremost, plus killing all the damned Krauts we could find and there'd be a lot of them S.S., Wehrmacht, Hitler Youth, Gestapo, etc. ... fellow travelers f-----g bastards in my best French. As old "Blood and Guts" Patton said, "The more of these German bastards we send to Hell, the quicker we all get home."
"Ain't that the truth."