Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Aftermath and Prelude


Corporal Jack Wilson got out of the jeep, gingerly, rather like an old man. While his ankle wasn't broken, only sprained, the medics had wrapped it up tight and told him to stay off of it for a week. Well, two days felt like a week to him, especially being away from his buddies for so long.

"Corporal, I can't release you back to your unit, not until that ankle heals."

"How long will that take Doc?"

"One to three weeks, but that's if..."

"Doc, it feels fine, if I lace my boot up really tight, I hardly even notice it."

"Look soldier, what's your hurry? You can stay back here for a couple of weeks, rest up, give that ankle a chance to fully heal."

Wilson looked down at the floor of the medical tent, "Doc, you don't get it. I need to be with my buddies, we lost three guys the other day, two wounded, one killed. They need me."

The doctor shook his head and said, "It's against my better judgement but... Tell you what, jog over to that tree, yes, the one next to that jeep, then jog back. If you can do that..."

Wilson was up and jogging, it was sore as Hell, he was limping a bit, but it was tolerable. He knew he could do this. When he was done, he stood in front of the doctor.

"Sit down, take that boot off and let me have a look. You didn't do that bad, but you were limping, a bit."

Wilson sat down and got his boot off. The doctor removed the wrapping and then ran his hands over Wilson's ankle, which was still black and blue, but not as swollen as before. He pressed hard on one spot, Wilson grimaced.

"That hurt, didn't it?" The doctor was looking intently at Wilson.

"Yeah, Doc, it hurt some, but I can manage it. It ain't that bad. We're really short of riflemen on the line. I can do this."

The doctor shook his head, said, "It's your funeral, but I get it. I was in the infantry in WWI." With that he made a note in Wilson's file, then signed it. He then wrote out a pass to get Wilson back to the front without some overzealous MP picking him up for being AWOL.

"Get out of here before I change my mind."

"Thanks Doc!"

Now that he was back in his company area, Wilson felt a lot better. He had to find his squad.

"Sarn't Major! How long d'ya think we'll be laagered up here?"

Regimental Sergeant Major Oswald Brookes paused then looked up at Sergeant James Fitzhugh, in command of a troop of Shermans. Fitzhugh was sitting atop tank 55, his personal vehicle, a Sherman VC, mounting a 17-pounder gun.

"Are ye writing a book Fitzie? Should I have Leftenant-Colonel Bryce-Heath come down and personally brief you, perhaps you'd rather go straight to the top and have a chat with Monty. Maybe the Prime Minister himself."

Sgt Fitzhugh dismounted from his vehicle, wiping his hands with a semi-clean rag, "Nah, Sarn't Major, it's just that the lads are getting a bit anxious. We hear that Caen has fallen, then we hear that the Jerries still hold parts of it. We're anxious to get stuck in."

"When I know, you'll know. From what I understand, Monty has a couple of ops laid on which should chew up the German armor, and mayhaps draw more of Jerries' armor onto us from the Yanks' side of the battlefield."

"Right, like we're not facing enough of the bastards now!"

"At ease Fitzie, I expect we'll be heading into battle soon. Probably once we get stuck in, your lads may not like what they asked for!"

The sergeant major moved on, checking on the morale and the readiness of the men and their tanks. He had a good feeling about this, the lads were keen.

Sgt Billy Wallace and the five members of his reduced squad were in reserve. The battalion had been moved from place to place over the past week and couldn't seem to escape the effects of German shelling and mortaring. The battalion had lost forty-seven men (twenty-one dead) during their so-called rest period.

Sgt Wallace stood to attention and gestured at his lads to do the same when he saw his company commander, Major William Stansfield, approaching. He had with him four boys who couldn't have been older than fifteen, all dressed in uniforms and carrying the proper kit, but Wallace couldn't help wondering what secondary school the Army raided to recruit these lads.

"Stand easy lads. Billy I have some more men to fill out your squad, just came over from Blighty yesterday. I know they look young, but they're eager. Take good care of them won't you?" With that the major headed back from where he had come from.

The four new men, more like boys Billy thought, stood nervously in front of Wallace and his five veterans. Sgt Wallace looked them over carefully and then spoke -

"Right then, if you live long enough, I might learn your names. Lance Corporal Rutherford there will get you settled in. Do what you're told, when you're told, and you might see home again. Now who are you and where are you from, smartly now."

"Private Will Aikenhead, from Edinburgh."

"Private Jock Hume, Glasgow."

"Private Seamus Turnbull, Aberdeen."

"Private Angus Waugh, Glasgow."

"Right then, when's the last time you lads ate?"

One of them, Wallace thought he said his name was Hume, spoke up and said, "Yesterday mornin' Sarn't."

Wallace shook his head, turned to LCpl Rutherford and said, "Get some food into these lads, show them where our bivouac is, and then report back to me. I think something is in the wind if we're getting replacements this soon."

Sgt Brandt looked up to see Corporal Wilson shuffling towards him. Surprised he put down his coffee and hugged his buddy.

"Damn it, you're a hard man to keep down aren't you? Ankle's okay, you look a bit gimpy to me."

"Nah Bill, I'm fine, it's a little sore but if I keep my boot laced up I barely notice it."

"Bullshit," Sgt Brandt chuckled as he said it. "I know you better than that, hurts like Hell doesn't it?"

"No, really, it ain't that bad."

"Well, I hope so. I've got the feeling we'll be going into action again soon, like tomorrow. I don't want to see you get killed because you run like an old man!"

"Hell Bill, I can still go to ground with the best of 'em. Hell, gravity does all the work. Did you hear about the L.T. and Andersen?"

Sgt Brandt got a worried look on his face, "What about them? They didn't die or something did they?"

"Nope, L.T. lost his leg and they had to amputate SSG Andersen's left foot, that Kraut bullet completely shattered his heel. The docs couldn't save it. They're both headed back to England and then to the States. Their soldiering days are over."

Sgt Brandt just stood there for a moment, then shook his head. "Ya know we have a new butter bar, the day we landed at Omaha, he was graduating from West Point. Kid is as green as they come. Our new platoon sergeant is an old hand, but has spent the entire war in the rear. I guess he couldn't hide anymore."

Cpl Wilson just looked off into the distance, "I wonder how many more we'll lose before the Krauts call it quits?"

Sgt Brandt answered, "Heck Jack, the Krauts are falling back, but they're fighting for every square foot of France they hold. Looks like we'll have to kill 'em all."

Cpl Wilson just sighed, "Yeah, if they don't kill us first."

The sun was setting on yet another day in Normandy. But there had been no fighting for Brandt's, Fitzhugh's, and Wallace's men that day.

But the war was nowhere near over. The fighting was about to intensify.


  1. Calm before the storm........

    1. Indeed, but more for the Germans, they have no idea what's coming.

  2. Rest and refit. Sounds like a plan to me...

    I fear we are in that calm before the storm right now, right here.

    Things personally settled down a little, then the fridge crapped out. I just need a simple one, and some of the wait times are clear into October for a durn ice box. Whoever thought it smart to offshore necessary manufacturing should be keelhauled, by everyone that cares to take a turn. I line up twice...

    1. I saw the problem with the idea of offshore manufacturing some time ago. I blame corporate greed and stupidity as well as Congressional greed and stupidity. Won't make things in the US becomes can't make things in the US. I'd give the people behind this mess long prison sentences in Supermax.

    2. Sarge. Many years ago our local newspaper ran a series that detailed exactly what you said about corporate greed and congressional greed in relation to China. I doubt it would get printed in today's climate.

    3. Well, it would get printed but as an example of how wonderful global trade is.

    4. Thanks to the takeover of business by MBAs and accountants, we now have this mess on our hands. Machines that take months to make are scheduled to arrive 'just in time.' Peeves me off, it does.

    5. STxAR - check out a real appliance store, some places still have them, and especially check out their 'scratch and dent' section. Sometimes, just for a cosmetic defect, you can get a couple hundred off. And they usually carry the more rugged appliances than the big-box stores.

    6. Wilco. I'll give them a check. There is one or maybe two here in south Texas I'm aware of...

    7. MBAs and accountants...

      You forgot the corporate lawyers.

    8. (Don McCollor)...There also may be stores that specialize in "freight damaged" appliances. I got mine from a local store (informally known as "Scratch & Dent) when my fridge went belly up a few years ago. Bigger than I planned (new, cosmetic damage only) and 2/3 of the price of a pristine smaller equivalent replacement. No worries about scratches getting it in the house, and like brand new after applying a few strategically placed refrigerator magnets [this may not work if married]...

    9. That would work, again, if the spousal unit approves of such a thing.

  3. Been away from the story for a few days, just got caught up. Still a very good read, Sarge, good depiction of life on the front. And I liked the Willy and Joe cartoon a couple of days ago, very droll as our Brit friends would say. Keep up the good work, amigo!

  4. Perhaps one of your squads/troop can run into a young sergeant named Audie Murphy--before all his heroic exploits. It would be kind of neat.

    1. Unlikely as Audie Murphy was with Patch's 7th Army in the invasion of Southern France. I'm also trying to avoid having historical figures directly involved in the story.

  5. The Ebb and Flow of Combat. You see it in the micro-scale, on the actual battlefield during the fighting, and you see it during the periodic slack times that just happen, as both sides consolidate what they have and don't have anymore. And during the maneuver phase of a campaign.

    Man, that sounds so much like an Avalon Hill game, doesn't it. Attack Phase, Consolidation Phase, Maneuver Phase. Amazing how AH and SPI were able to break complex combat into relatively simple steps and still produce a product that closely matched the real thing, abstractly, of course (I would really worry if, during some game, blood started pooling on the board.)

    1. Hours of boredom interspersed with moments of stark terror.

  6. I have a confession. When you started this series I chose not to follow along. My reason was because I had read so much of the lead up to the invasion and the months following. I didn't want to again stomach the gore.

    Then a change of mind brought about by the remembrance of the fact of never forgetting and to honor them who fought. It was around D+24 I began reading. I am glad I have because your's is a good style of writing; not benign yet not crude in the actual events. I had feared getting personal with these men yet your writing presents it in such a way that its...okay. It's not so hard on the psyche to know these personas - even though they be fictional, they are firmly based on the real lives of real men. I guess I mean to say that by your style of writing I don't get so choked up. Thank you.

    Perhaps I should explain further. My dad was 26 yrs active Marine. It was, um, disturbing when many of the dads of my friends did not return and seeing first hand the effects on so many lives. I'm trying to avoid the word traumatic but I guess it was, a trauma on the home front. Having studied military history for so many years, there is sort of a monotony although horrifying. It is that which I meant to avoid when I chose to not follow your writings.

    1. Understand perfectly Rick. Having been around military aviation for a long time, and more recently being closely associated with Naval Aviation, the feeling of loss is real, the trauma (for it truly is) is also very real. It may not be someone in your immediate family but it is most certainly a member of one's extended family when a jet goes down. Your having a Marine Dad really puts you close to that sort of thing.

      I have a buddy who was a corpsman embedded with a Marine battalion in Afghanistan, there is no way he would read this series.

      It feels far too personal.

      Good thoughts Rick, thanks.

    2. Thank you. I'm in commercial aviation. I stopped counting at 25 and that was a long time ago. That does not include the smoking holes on base.


    3. It can be overwhelming at times.


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