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Don Bennett's War

Chapter 22 - Lundeen


As our company began to move out of town, we were alerted by a rifle shot, but found out that one of our men had shot himself in the foot accidentally. A good way to get sent back to rear echelon. We moved out of town a few hundred yards and got organized to meet the Germans ahead. As we moved out, phosphorus shells exploded by us to cover our attack. As we moved along a grape vineyard along a small hill we heard a few shots fired up on top of the hill. One man from our second squad came running down the hill toward us holding his right arm. His right arm was shot half off and I could see the bone of his upper arm sticking out of his jacket. We yelled back for an aid man but since none came, I started working on his arm. I cut his clothes away and was ready to bandage it when the aid man came up. While working on him, he told me he had suddenly ran onto a couple of Germans who had been waiting for us. They fired at him, hitting his arm, but he managed to shoot one of them in the head before he came down to where we were. When we were ready to move on again, one of our men just a little ahead of us was shot in the upper leg. We were going up to rescue him when machine gun bullets began to hit all around us. We dived for cover behind a small rock bulkhead about two feet high.

We laid there for a few minutes trying to decide what to do. There wasn't much we could do, we were pinned down. We couldn't head back for the enemy could cover the road going back to town. And we had only slight cover on the way up to where the machine guns were. Our squad leader Burka asked if any had a hand grenade, and when he learned I had one, he asked for it and said he was going to try to sneak up and throw his grenade at them. We told him he didn't have much chance, but he started out anyway. He only crawled 20 feet when a burst of machine gun bullets cut him down. The medial aid man (whose red cross on his helmet was supposed to grant him free run of the battlefield without being shot at) dashed out to give aid to Burka, but just got past the cover of the bulkhead when he fell in a hail of bullets. He laid out there yelling and groaning and asking for help.

Lundeen said he was going out to bring in the aid man, and wouldn't listen to me when I cautioned the same would happen to him. He just reached the aid man when I saw machine gun bullets hitting all around him and then saw him roll over as he yelled, "I'm hit! ". Knowing it would be suicide to go out and get him, I asked him if he could crawl up to where we were. He said he would try. He just made it up to the narrow part of the first part of the bulkhead when he said he couldn't make it any further. I asked him to try to make it a few feet further up to where I had dug a small hole in the rocky soil. Here I would work on him without sticking my head above the bulkhead. He grunted and groaned and made it with our help to the prepared place. He said he couldn't feel anything from the hips down, and he said he thought he was going to heave. I told him to ahead and heave and then take it easy, and save his strength.
I cut his clothes off around his waist and hips and saw where he was wounded. One bullet went in and out of one hip, and those wounds were not bleeding much. The other bullet went in the other hip and came out about an inch from his anus, resulting in much bleeding. I found the spent bullet in his pants. I used my own aid bandage and also those of the other men there trying to stop Lundeen's bleeding. Those wounds were very difficult to bandage, especially the one near the anus.
While trying to patch up Lundeen, the machine gun bullets kept coming at us, just a few inches above our heads and a few inches above my feet, which I had sticking out in the grape rows. I would see the bullets tearing into the grape vines and poles just above my legs.
A man from another squad came dashing up to our cover. He had a bullet hole clear through his helmet, but just high enough to miss touching his head. A man from our squad slowly poked his helmet above the bulkhead and Wham! It was knocked out of his hands by the bullets. A man from the heavy weapons platoon made it up to us to find out where the enemy stronghold was. A bullet had nicked his neck and I bandaged it with his scarf. He dashed back to give the enemy position to the mortars. He must have made it back for a mortar shell landed just ahead of us, closer to us than to the enemy, and close enough to shower us with dirt. The next shell hit behind us. We figured the next one would be on us, but no more came.
Lundeen's bandages didn't hold very well, so I put pressure on one wound with one hand and on the other wound with my other hand, and held them there while the other fellows covered us with two blankets to warm Lundeen up. This was to help stop shock.
How long I lay there in that position I don't know, but I remember looking back after a while and seeing reinforcements coming up, and also tanks a little ways back. The infantry boys were using little caution. We yelled a warning back at them, but they didn't use caution till the enemy fired at them. They then hit the dirt and I heard one yell that he was hit. They advanced over us and the enemy seeing them and the tanks coming, knew the gig was up and came running into our lines with their hands raised. Some men of our squad, embittered by what had taken place, were going to shoot them, and refrained only because of the chance of hitting our own men.

The danger over, we got up and got our wounded ready to take back. The medical aid man was dead, and Burka, with two bullets in his head, was near death. The man with a wounded arm could walk back. But we made makeshift stretchers out of blankets and grape poles and carried Lundeen and our man with a good size hole in his leg, who had laid by himself up on the hillside for hours, back to the town where an aid station was set up. We left our wounded and went back out to our company. We found them out by the tanks ready to move out. As we got there, the tension of the last battle left me, and my nerves gave out and I leaned against a tree, put my head in my arms, and bawled like a baby in front of the tanks and what remained of our company. Lieutenant Rosa came up to me and said everything there would be all right, and to go ahead and cry it out. After a while I got a hold of myself and went back to the remaining four members of our squad and we then again advanced forward.

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