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Don Bennett's War

Chapter 21 - Taking a village


There was no light or sound in the village and no indication of what was to come. I was fourth man in the long line of advancing infantry as we moved into the outskirts of town. We were walking alongside a ten foot rock wall where fireworks seemed to break all around me. Some machine guns had cut loose on us and as the shells hit the rock wall, they exploded like big firecrackers. I saw a German on top of the wall jump down toward our scouts. One of the scouts shot him from the hip with his rifle. How the machine gun bullets missed me, I don't know, as it did hit one of the scouts twice in the knee, and our Lieutenant in the arm. I hit the dirt and crawled out a few yards from the wall.

As I lay there with the bullets sputtering against the wall just behind me, a small piece of shattered bullet hit me in the ass. It stung so much I yelled out with a big "Ouch! ", and felt back there, but only felt a small cut. They kept firing at us but no one else was hurt. I didn't return the fire because we were so disorganized. The firing stopped and all was quiet. The platoon Lieutenant told me to stay of there and he crawled back for help. Everyone else retreated back a couple hundred yards except six of us who were so far advanced we didn't dare move very much.

After a while it seemed safe to move, and we got together to decide what to do. The squad leader told me and another kid to go back and find our outfit and find out what the score was. We started back and saw some figures moving through the dark. We didn't know whether they were Americans or Germans, and when they began to fire at us, we were definitely bewildered as to what to do. The kid with me became scared but I thought they were Americans, and as we got closer we knew for sure and I told the other kid to go back and bring up the other four men.

I couldn't find our company but found temporary headquarters in a house. All the officers were in there resting while we were up there sweating it out. We left off our wounded scout at headquarters and found our way back to our company. Our company seemed at a loss as to what to do, too, and we were lolling together there on the hillside when Wham! A grenade went off a little above us on the hill.

The Germans were pulling the pins on their grenades and then rolling them down the hill at us. After a few more exploded, a patrol (not me, for a change) was sent out to try and stop the activity. The rest of us moved down the hill a little and dug in (we were scared as hell). Dawn broke pretty soon and we got organized and looked over where we had been the night before. Fearing a shelling, we dug in among some rocks on the hillside above the town. After awhile, we noticed a few of the enemy retreating across a field far on the other side of the town. I set my sights for 1100 yards and as a man would dash across the clearing, I would let go with a burst. I could see the water spouting up around them where my bullets hit but apparently none were hit.

About noon we began to move into town. As we got close, white flags began waving in the windows as the civilians got scared. No enemy was to be seen as we went through the town so we took a break in one of the houses.

When the word was passed down that we were staying here for the night, we looked through the big house for a place to bed down. Our squad settled for the top floor, but when mortar shells started falling on the town, we headed for the basement. (Some shells did fall on the house that evening, and guess where? Top floor.) The rest of the platoon decided on the basement, too, and so we were rather crowded. We settled down for our first sleep in days, interrupted only by the usual guard duty. Morning came and we had our usual K ration and coffee, and then set out on one of the most eventful days of our lives.

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