I followed down the hill across a stream and onto a steep hill. We came under heavy sniper fire.
It’s around 7 or 8 in the morning, we slept in a tent not too far from the front line, it was icy and I had some hypothermic reactions but felt OK the next morning. I was a bit tired but decently rested and not very Hungry, so a Hershey Bar did the job for my breakfast. We geared up and I was handed a new set of Minefield Tape in case I have to clear any minefields. We all got filed in for inspection and set off in staggered rows with the 1st, 83rd and some elements of other Units.
We cleared a field and continuously believed to spot enemies. We reached a road and crossed into a ditch. 2 Scouts cleared the short forest ahead and we moved in and sought cover in another ditch. Scott, our Radioman was next to me most of the time until now. The Scout’s report back to our Lieutenant, who then called me forward. I suspected there might be a job for me. Our scout, Cpl. Jones, Informed me that the entire field ahead was a strongly fortified minefield. The field was roughly 100 yards long I think. I felt a bit nervous since it was an open territory but the job needed doing.
I called forward my friend Jason who would hold the tape for me while I cleared the field. The idea of the tape is that It draws a lane through the minefield for the rest of the unit to follow. I gave Cpl Jones a brief lecture on how one clears a minefield the safest way and off the two of us went, with about 60 or so guys in the ditch watching us. I felt like I was in the limelight, my time to shine type of thing.
The field was muddy and my Knees were damp and cold, my trousers absolutely ruined. We got about half way across the field and had found nothing, I suppose we had coincidentally struck their own passage way through the field. To our right was a small pit with a lake. Suddenly Cpl Jones reported Germans in the tree line on the far end of the field. I could see about 5 of them. They were just watching us. It did freak me out in a way, since I felt so defenceless, 2 guys in an open field against a tree line of Germans behind cover. I suggested we slip into the pit and let the fire fight ensue, but Cpl Jones called forward our Lieutenant to hear his opinion. Sometimes I’m glad I’m just a Pfc. He suggested we continue clearing the field slowly, which we did, in the meantime more Rangers were following up the line of tape I had laid.
Keith, a Tech-Sgt. Crawled up next to us with a Bazooka and fired a shot. Soon we received incoming fire and I started clearing the field faster than ever imaginable. In the meantime I saw a bunch of Infantry, the 83rd I believe rush up both sides of the field at an insanely fast pace and flank the Germans, they did a great job. My Unit pretty much rushed over the field and we took a German [private] paratrooper Captive. Also being an Interpreter I told him to stay down, which he did. I had run out of tape, so I hoped it was the last mine field for a long time.
We sat down in the ditches on either side of the road and I shared out some chewing gum and helped Scott with his Radio. We had a short rest but it did good.
The 1st I think cleared the next field and returned safely. We then were sent on a quick attack into the first part of the forest where we swiftly took and overran a German outpost. After that we crossed a road and headed over a somewhat hilly area through the forest. After a mile or so about 5 of us came to a clearing. We spotted some Germans which disappeared. Jim, a New Guy who seems very nice chased after them. I followed down the hill across a stream and onto a steep hill. We came under heavy sniper fire. I’m not sure who did it but a small group of Rangers flanked and killed 2 Snipers and captured a Third. I was called forward to interrogate him. We found a map on him so I used it to compare with ours and further more gather some Intel. We found him helpful and rewarded him with a Hershey bar and set him to our lines. We followed down the road a good bit and came across a cross road. We cleared it. At this point I fell into a small hole with my left leg and injured my knee. We came across some other American troops but I think these are mainly scout parties. I think we are somewhat ahead of the general line of attack. We eventually came to a river and followed along it until under enemy fire from some kind of strong point where we had heavy losses on both sides. Eventually the Lieutenant and I crossed a stream running into the river and separated. I scouted a narrow path covered in vegetation but came under sniper fire and returned. Eventually the fire died down and we all re-grouped awaiting a ride to where we were to set up our frontline. It is now about mid day.
The Dodge never showed up so we walked about a mile back the way we came to the cross roads we cleared earlier, I suppose my guess was right. We were ahead of the lines. People started dropping their packs and most just jumped into holes. Being one of the latter to arrive all holes were taken so many people just sat down behind trees etc. for now. I found a huge bushy area and located myself behind that. At least I have some visual cover. I cracked open a can of Sausages and ate them cold. They filled the spot. Jim, the newcomer, is at about 10 yards behind me almost exposed. I tell him to join me. We decide to dig and share a foxhole. The Earth is too hard so we end up with only a small pit, but it’s big enough for a fire. We then get some bigger branches and logs and make a decent bit of cover.
We enjoy a cup of coffee. I usually don’t drink coffee but it really does feel good. Jim indeed is a very nice guy. We kept hearing that Germans were near but it seems they’re just looking, so it’s decided we shouldn’t fire at them unless fired at or they come very close. My feet are starting to ache and it’s now about 2 or 3 in the afternoon, we can hear some explosions now and then. I walk down the line to familiarise myself with who’s who. Turns out at the end of our line is the 83rd. Just so happens a friend of mine who is in the 83rd is about to head out on a patrol so I say hello and wish him the best of luck. He did return.
We spotted a single German firing in the opposite direction, presumably at a patrol, about 300 yards down the hill. We lined Up 3 of our guys and fired at him. A turkey shoot really. The dodge has been driving along the road right in front of our lines ever since we got here so fortunately I hitch a ride to HQ where we left off this morning.
I took a bag designed for bazooka rockets and threw a few packs of Hershey’s, Gum and even some nice officers Cigars in there, refilled my canteen and took the next dodge back to the line before anyone caught on. Upon arrival one of our Sgt’s tells me we’re all headed out on patrol so I get my gear and put down my bag of goodies. Since my cover has so many branches I have distributed my stuff to hang off all the twigs. So no animals or dirt/mud can get on any of it.
We were briefed that the Germans were on there way and we were to meet them at the weakest point of their route. A small valley with a river crossing, so Heavy weapons set up behind trees and in shell holes along the edge of the ridge. I helped carry a mortar down to the ridge. We all waited but nothing came so most of us, except Heavy Weapons, set off to find the enemy and lead him to us.
We walked a mile or so and most of us were exhausted after the long day but I felt glad the sun was out and swiftly took off my jacket. We came to a camp of theirs and bumped into some British paratroopers, so we all attacked. German losses were high. We then retreated and came across futile German resistance, we somehow made it back.
My feet have a bunch of raw spots and my shoulders have rashes of sorts where the straps of my pack have been rubbing off. I feel I’ve done enough for the day. Seems everyone agrees since we’re told to bed down for the night. I keep my Rifle and some cartridges lying out right next to where I sit. I unpack all my other stuff and hang it onto pieces of the branches we’re using so I can easily access it. I’ve got 3 cans of food left since lunch. I decide I’ll have the tomato soup tonight, The Beans and sausage for Breakfast and the Spaghetti when I need it.
Most guys head back to HQ leaving the line thinned out. I look who’s around and come across Pete and Johnny who have a fire going. I join them and cook my soup. Pete has some bread which he gives to me, how lovely! It’s around 6 PM. So I give them each a Hershey bar and Jim arrives back from HQ. He wasted no time to use our ‘foxhole’ as a fire pit and put down his poncho as a ground sheet next to it. I like his thinking!
We, well Jim mainly, collected a good deal of Firewood and we stacked it on the other side of the Groundsheet so we could reach it while asleep. We went to bed after a chitchat at around 9 or so but both of us woke up at around 11:30 since the fire was going out! We threw in more wood and re-lit the fire. Once it was burning we decided to have some more coffee to warm up, it did a world of good.
We then put in some more wood and dozed off around 12:30. The night was beautiful. Very little wind and a full moon so everything was visible. The fire near my feet felt great and my helmet makes a decent pillow. I feel quite happy with My wool blanket wrapped around me sideways up to my chest and my raincoat dropping to my knees to keep my top nice and warm. Jim enjoys the privilege of his sleeping bag.
At around 3 am I wake up again and the fire’s still going, I guess Jim must have gotten more firewood in the darkness, good man! We then started burning down our own branches and packing up item by item as we figured we’d move out tomorrow anyways. We stayed up after that and by 5am all the wood was burnt, I used the last flames to cook my Beans and sausages which went down just great. I packed up and threw the bazooka bag, filled with my blanket onto the dodge to take up to HQ for me. I’m ready to rumble, but totally physically exhausted.
Three hours later a German patrol ran into us from behind, I think they were just trying to get back to their lines, however we wiped them out, we then headed out on a very long march engaged in several fire fights along with our buddies in the 1st and 83rd. I am so exhausted that I cant even kneel down properly, so I just stand behind trees and hope for the best.
We carry on forward until we reach the bridge. Eventually we repel the Germans over the bridge and establish a line on the other side. Mission accomplished, we are now being pulled off the front line after some 30 hours or so….. I’m glad I can finally get a rest.
Pfc Jamie “J-mac” Macpherson. 2nd Ranger Battalion.
If you would like to join Jamie in his adventures then you can join the reenactment group he is a member of – Normandy 44. One of the most professional groups in the UK and you can find them here. Normandy 44 [/private]