PVT Billy Smith, US Army
Well Gramps, you and our Sarge were right, war is hell!
We have been pinned down on this beach for three days now. Those
Germans are excellent soldiers and have us pinned with machine
guns and artillery. The weather is too bad to call the fly-boys
in for air strikes.
Gramps, don't show this to Granny or Mom, but I am scared and
don't want to die. I am going to tell you about the last three
days and if I don't make it home, and there is ever another war,
I want you to read it to my little Joey. I want him to know how
horrible war really is. I hope and pray you never have to read it
The Germans opened fire on us while we were still in the landing
boats. Like I said before, many of the men were sick and could
hardly stand up, but when the Germans opened up on us they
recovered in a hurry. The Germans fired cannons, mortars, machine
guns, artillery and rifles at us. Men, that moments before could
not stand, suddenly could not only stand but could also run. At
least some did. Some never got the chance.
Many men never got as far as the beach. Our LT, the one I told
you about, was one of those who didn't make it to the beach. An
artillery shell hit right next to our boat and killed him and two
others as they left the boat. The rest of us just froze as we
looked at what was left of their bodies. The water was red around
the ramp from their blood. Another three or four men were hit by
machine gun fire before the Sarge got us moving again.
Sarge told us to take cover on the beach. Only there wasn't
really any cover on the beach. Just a few anti-tank pillions and
sand dunes. The Germans had the high ground overlooking the
beach. It was like shooting ducks on a pond, and we were the
My buddies and I tried to stay together but we couldn't. Sarge
tried to help keep us together but it was impossible. There was
so much confusion and so many men. We were all scared and running
for any cover we could find.
We were no longer the big brave soldiers we had been on the ship.
Now we were scared little boys, wishing we were home with our
mothers. I am not ashamed to say I was more scared then I ever
thought was possible. I know one thing. I will never again call
any one yellow or a coward. Under the right circumstances we are
Once the Sarge got us moving we hit the beach running, looking
for a place to hide. There were mortar and artillery rounds
exploding every where. Rifle and machine gun fire was so heavy it
was one constant sound, broken only by the boom of the big
shells. Men were falling everywhere. We just looked for cover
wherever we could find it.
I fell down behind a sand dune with a guy from another unit.
Rifle fire was kicking sand up right over our heads. Shells were
exploding closer and closer. A large artillery round landed close
and left a big crater in the sand. We decided to move to that
crater for more cover. It was just a quick dash but the Germans
were firing from every where. We ran from the dune and dived into
the crater just as a shell exploded. I landed in the bottom of
the crater and looked up. I saw the other guy's hand hanging over
the rim. I thought he must be hurt so I grabbed his hand to pull
him in. Only there was no body attached to that arm. I screamed
and climbed out of there as fast as I could. I ran to a nearby
pillion. I hunkered behind it, shaking all over. That pillion
didn't give much cover. Chunks of cement were breaking off and
hitting me every time a bullet hit the pillion. I knew I couldn't
stay there. I saw another crater nearby and dived into it. There
were two soldiers already there. One was dead and the other badly
hurt. I started to yell for a medic but stopped when I realized
the dead man was a medic. Besides, it was so loud no one would
have heard me. They couldn't get to us even if they did. They
couldn't help anyway. The wounded soldier was unconscious and I
could tell he would never wake up.
I just sat down and started to cry. I went to put my hands up to
my face but couldn't. That was when I realized I still had my
rifle in my hands. I had not fired a shot but somehow, I had
managed to hold onto my rifle.
The tears were running down my face, but suddenly, I was no
longer afraid. At least not the kind of afraid that keeps you
from acting. My fear was replaced by anger, as I realized that
American soldiers, like myself, were being killed by the hundreds
on this beach.
I had to do something. I had to fight back. I started firing
toward the German lines. I don't know if I hit any one or not,
though I am pretty sure I did. It didn't matter if I hit anyone,
as long as I was firing in their direction. I moved from crater
to crater and saw so many dead and wounded young men. I will
never forget crossing that beach. I finely got to a bunch of our
men who had made it as far as the dune grass.
I jumped into a large crater and there was my Sarge. He said
everything was so confused and the men had gotten so separated
that he decided the best thing to do was to get to the front and
let us catch up with him. He said I was the first to make it that
far. He also said that he figured at least half of our outfit was
either dead or wounded.
There was another man with Sarge. He was about Sarge's age, but
only a Private. I must have had a strange look on my face when I
looked at his stripe, for he laughed and said "Easy come,
easy go. If I had all the stripes I've lost, I would be a general
now. But rank don't mean nothing out here boy. I ain't never
heard of a bullet being choosy". He had a good point.
As darkness fell we sat down and gave our guns a rest. The rifle
fire fell off but not the artillery. Now it was not a constant
sound, you could hear every shot. You could also hear the screams
and cries of men. Wounded men were begging for help, or to die.
Some men started moving from cover to cover either to help the
wounded or to get farther up the beach. Suddenly tracers exploded
lighting up the night sky and silhouetting the men for the German
riflemen. They started firing at once and men were falling
everywhere. By the time the tracers died out all of the men who
were able had found cover. That happened again and again all
night, but each time there were fewer men caught in the light.
As we were sitting there, the Sarge looked at me and said,
"You're lucky son, very lucky." I wasn't sure what he
meant, but figured he was talking about me being with him. He
soon explained himself. He was thinking out loud as much as he
was talking to me, and the Private was nodding his head in
agreement with the Sarge. He went on, "You just joined this
Company before we shipped out, so you haven't had time to make
any strong ties. You could move forward without worrying about
your best friend that you had promised to stay with. You didn't
have to be afraid to look at every body for fear it might be him.
You hit the beach with a lot less baggage than a lot of these
I thought back to the soldier in the first crater and what it
would have been like had that been my best friend's arm and not a
stranger's. It caused a cold chill to go down my back. As bad as
it had been it would have been so much worse if he had been a
We stayed where we were for hours. Catching a few winks between
firefights and trying to stay warm. If I ever get out of here I
don't care if I never see another beach. It is the coldest place
in the world. Especially in wet combat gear. We all left the ship
with dry socks in our packs. Now, if we still had our packs,
everything in them would be soaking wet. Besides, I would be
afraid to take my boots off now, for as soon as I did the Germans
might attack and I would be caught barefoot. I think I must have
about five pounds of sand in each boot, along with a couple of
gallons of water.
About an hour before first light the Sarge said it was time for
us to move. I looked at him and said that we would get caught in
the tracers and killed. He said we would have to chance it
because the Germans knew where we were and with the light they
would hit our spot with everything they had. What he said made
sense and the three of us moved out. We were in luck, for we were
able to move to another spot and dig ourselves in before the next
tracers went off. When they did, I started to fire, but the Sarge
stopped me. He said they were trying to mark everyone's location
before sun up. So I sat back down and didn't fire. We listened to
the surrounding fire. Most of which was coming from the German
side. I knew that meant the word had gotten around and most of
our guys were trying to keep their locations secret.
It was really hard not to go to the screams of the wounded, but
there was truthfully nothing we could do for most of them. As
terrible as it sounds, we had to worry about ourselves and
staying alive. We didn't have any place to take the wounded. All
we had was a narrow strip of beach with ocean on one side and the
Germans on the other. If we could break through the German lines,
we could then get help to our wounded.
With first light the fighting started all over again, but
everyone on our side had aged, and gained a lot of experience, in
just a few short hours. It had been a hard lesson, but you
learned it if you wanted to stay among the living.