Monday, August 29, 2005
Numb With Fear, You Fight Like Hell!
The first time they came at us with all bugles blowing, it was just before dawn. In the scope I could see them well, running to the hill like a horde of ants. But they carried weapons, not feelers, and they were shooting at the hill to make us keep our heads down. Before my panic paralyzed me, I grabbed my M-1 and took aim at the Gooks that were coming directly at me, and began firing as fast as I could aim. The hill around us was afire with our guys blasting away with everything they had, and the charging Gooks just kept on coming! I lost count of the number I thought I hit, but I continued to fire and reload, fire and reload, as fast as possible. The base of the hill was covered with their bodies, and the air stank with acrid powder smell as the sun came up.
The bugles blared again and they ran back to their lines. For the moment it was over. They brought chow around to us that day, along with more bandoliers of ammo, and my new Springfield too, all fitted out with a nightscope. The Sarge had done it again. After lunch, Sarge came over and went down the hill ahead of our hole. When he came back he looked at me for a long time.
"You are a good shot, Mann, he said, Lots of those Gooks out there were shot in the head. Did you aim for the head, or was it an accident?" "Sarge, I aimed for the base of their necks." "Why there", he asked? Well, I thought that if they leaned down when they ran, I'd hit them in the head, and if they kept on as they were it would be their throat, but if they stood up taller I'd get them in the chest," I said. "Besides, I said, I had to use that damned M-1, and it just isn't that accurate out at 300 yards." He looked at me again and asked if I could have hit them between the eyes if I aimed there. "With my rifle, yes," I said. He nodded and went off.
The rest of that day was spent in hauling the dead away from the hill and getting used to the feel of my new rifle. It was almost as nice as my own. We were whistled to chow that evening, and I got some nice words from the other guys. Sarge came over and said he had a suggestion for me and Paul. Move your sniper nest another 100 yards to the left tonight. "Hey Sarge, Jacoby told me to go to the right. If I move back to the left I will be right under the main observation post", I said.
With an exasperated look he told me to move it like he said. "The OP is not going to be just there tomorrow, understand?" I understood. We found a nice shell hole to the left, and set it up for sniping. Seems ironic, I thought. I cause us to be shelled, and then use one of the shell holes!
We had to register a few new points the next day, but it wasn't a big deal. I noticed that the OP had been moved downhill a bit. The reason for it became obvious when the hilltop was shelled all afternoon. We dug deeper into the holes and just hoped and prayed that no shell would find us. When the shelling let up, I heard a welcome sound: tanks were coming up to the left and right of us and taking camoflaged positions that would cover the approaches to our hill. My guess was that the Brass expected another attack tonight, and we were going to be ready for them. A couple of GIs came into our hole with us: we were being reenforced.
"Mann!" shouted the Sarge. "Yeah Sarge, what's up?" I asked. "This time I want you to look for leaders, not the slugs. They should be just behind the first wave, standing upright and walking, and others will show up mingled with the second wave as it musters about 1,000 yards away. Can you hit anything at that range? he asked. "That is far for a 30.06, but with luck I might get one or two", I said. "OK, do your best. And, Mann, good luck!" I cleaned all three of my weapons.
Late that afternoon they came at us again. Hundreds of them filled the area in a second it seemed. Paul scanned for me, and said find the forked tree, and then look to the right of it about ten yards. Sure enough this guy was standing there egging the Gooks on with a stick or something. Not quite 750 yards. I dialed it in and set the crosshairs on him. I fired. Miss, said Paul, but the guy was still there! This time I squeezed the trigger slowly and didn't realize when the gun went off. "You got him!" said Paul. Then he aimed me at a scrub tree farther away. Another officer with his stick, or sword in his right hand. No, it was a sword. I fired again. He sat down abruptly, and didn't get up. We kept this up till dark, and then I switched to my other rifle with the nightscope. I couldn't see well enough to hit anything so far away, but I took a few shots at movers down on the level ground. They stopped moving.
Another carnage was out there in front of us. They used up their people as if they were animals to be slaughtered. I had been too busy with my mission to see the whole battle, but Paul said it was an awesome display of firepower. He had to pass up targets because they were being masked by exploding shells from the tanks and artillery, and the napalm dropped by AD-1s. The Army rolled out the next day and took another hill a mile or so ahead of where we fought.
Another hill, another hole or two to dig. More sniping. And so it went, seemingly forever. But Sarge came around and said "call me Bart"! Why that simple thing was so important to me, I will never know. But it was.