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Blood On The Sand

Posted by jaylynch1988 , 10 December 2011 · 131 views

Explosions echoed all around, the sound of a hundred beating drums. Dirt flew up and enveloped the sky in a thick, blinding cloud of brown dust. Sounds of sporadic gunfire, shouting and screaming came from every direction. The madness of the situation at hand pushed even the strongest willed men past all their capabilities and left them a shivering shell of a man.

Suddenly as the explosions and gunfire lifted a moment of peace and tranquility consumed the land. As the dust settled and the concussion ceased ringing in the ears of the men, Pvt Ron Abernathy lay on his back, his originally sandy blonde hair was now caked in sweat and mud and stood on end, the usual white complexion was now replaced by a greyish tone, his clothes pocked with small holes as if someone had jabbed a needle in tens of places.

As Ron lay on the ground his sea blue eyes looking up at a dark and depressing sky, the pain that spread through his body felt unlike anything he had suffered before, he felt more pain in his stomach comparing it too a punch from a heavyweight boxer who used his full force, his arms seemed limp and lifeless life and he could only just use his legs. The wind was knocked out of his sail.

As Ron came to recognize his surroundings he caught a glimpse of a blurry shape heading toward him, the shape was crouched low with a rifle in his hand, the strange figure was now crouched low next to Ron. As the figure scanned the area with his rifle in his shoulder Ron recognized the face and managed to summon a few words "Hey Bishop….hows it going?? God i don't know what happened but damn I'm aching from it".

Bishop was a very good friend of Ron who had grown up with him on the main streets of Brooklyn, New York. They went too school together, basic training together and they had been posted in the same outfit, Baker Co, 16th Infantry Regiment. Over the years they had been through thick and thin and had always stood side by side, they were more than just pals, they were family, they were brothers. "Hey buddy, don't worry" the calm voice of Bishop reassured Ron "lets get you into cover".

As Bishop grabbed Ron by the belt his hand came to rest on a strange, moist mushy patch which turned his hand crimson red. Bishop stripped Ron of his jacket and his usual calm demeanor was now replaced by panic and worry. Small holes peppered Rons chest and arms but the one wound that had Bishop worried was the missing baseball sized chunk of flesh on Rons hip, as the blood oozed from the wound, Bishop regained his composure and again grabbed the belt and dragged his wounded friend into the nearby safety of a bomb crater. Ron lay on the floor of the crater his head still spinning and body aching.

Ron hadn't yet checked himself over, the thought not yet registering in his head but as he lay there he glanced down to see what the weird sensation was he could feel "Oh god…I'm hit…I'm hit" panic gripped Ron, one of the deadliest enemies in combat, worse than the actual regime he had been sent to fight against.Bishop tried desperately to calm his friend as he attempted to stem the loss of blood. "Ron your fine, you're gonna be fine….everythings okay, were gonna get you patched up and sent back to England, just think of all those good looking nurses tending to your every need…jeez i wish i was in your situation, you get too have all the fun while I'm here slugging it through the mud". The humor was a medicine to take Rons mind of the pain, even if only for a brief moment.

Bishop looked around the area surrounding him and was filled with joy at the sight of a white and red crossed helmet clambering over the ground and heading towards him and Ron. "Ron…hey buddy…its a medic. You're gonna be fine" Bishop waved his arm in the air "DOC….DOC, over here….we got a man down". The medic jumped in the hole and began assessing the wounds on Ron. As he looked closer at the wound on Rons hip the medic spoke, soft and calm to Bishop "Keep him calm, talk to him. Its a severe wound…we need to get him patched up the best we can till we can get him back to a ship. The shrapnel has gone deep and done some damage to his organs….i can only done so much".

As Ron lay on the ground Bishop was crouched next to him overcome with shock and emotion at the words the medic had just delivered. They looked at each other. "Hey Ron, do you remember you remember basic?" Ron stared at his friends face as the memories of the bus ride to Camp Houston came flooding back!!

As the rain trickled down the windows on a chilly February morning in 1942 the bus that was taking 18 year old Ron Abernathy and so many young, fit and eager men crawled to a stop outside a fenced off compound in the Georgia wilderness.

For a brief moment there was no noise, no movement outside of the bus, the rain seemed to ease. Inside the bus men stayed glued to their seats, the conversations that had drowned out the sound of the engine on the six hour drive had ceased. Ron turned to the man sat next to him "Hey Joe, what do you think…" the question was cut short by the opening of the bus doors and a tall, dark haired and tanned skinned man in a green jumpsuit climbed the steps and faced the bus full of now looking nervous men.

"Men…my name is Captain Swanson, I'm one of the drill instructors here in charge of you men. My job is too toughen you up so that you will………without fear, without remorse charge the enemy and stick your bayonet into his putrid, black heart and make sure for miles around that his dying screams will make the enemy for miles around shit their pants and scurry back over the border from the hole they crawled from".

The introduction given by Captain Swanson sent a chill down Rons spine. That was his introduction to his new life. His welcome to the United States Army.

"You will exit the bus and form into three ranks outside the gate, you will stand at attention, DO NOT speak, DO NOT move, i will be the meanest bastard you know, you will not like me….but i can guarantee that when i am finished with you.." a moment of silence came through the bus, the only sound was the wind whistling through the trees "you will be ready" a smirk appeared on Captain Swansons face with a sinister grimace.

As Ron and Joe stood, a voice from the back of the bus called "Welcome to hell".

A chilling wind ran down the backs of the new men as they stood facing into the camp, rows of buildings were spread out inside the vast area, men in uniforms were seen marching in formation, the sight was remarkable, other men were seen clambering over obstacles into running into various buildings " Men..you will be placed in you billets and issued with your kit, you will have two minutes to store your kit and then i' thought we could end this day with a nice leisurely stroll around the camp" The barrier was lifted and the men were led by Swanson into a whole new world.

The rain had eased and the wind had died as Ron and the rest of the men were trudging through the mud navigating their way through the forest that surrounded the camp, exhausted and struggling they main thought was that things could not get any worse. Ron found it difficult to keep standing as the mud consumed his boots up to his ankles, his legs ached and he wanted to give in there and then. As Ron found his way to the front of the group Captain Swanson stopped in his tracks, turned and saw the recruits struggling to keep up. He paced between the shoddy line of men "YOU WANT TO BE SOLDIERS…..YOU WANT TOO KILL GERMANS…YOUR PATHETIC…YOUR WEAK" his insults only drove the men on to succeed, Ron at last reached the edge of the woods and found himself back inside the camp, he fell to his knees and thought too himself that things couldn't get any worse. He had no idea of the things to come.

A bugle sounded in the distance, the sun began to rise and the birds began too sing. This 'hell' Ron and so many men had come to, was into its third week. Three week of running through mud, close order drill, night problems and the assault course was starting to become enjoyable for Ron. He stood dressing himself and was thinking he could take anything else that Captain Swanson could throw at him, Ron had come to prove himself on so many occasions, he was a crack shot and a born leader who had been placed in charge of the platoon on numerous occasions. "Hey Ron can i ask you something" Bishops voice was shaky and trembling "You do me a favor if something happens to me….i want you to give this too my mom" his hands were trembling the envelope exchanged hands.

"Joe..whats wrong buddy??" asked a now concerned Ron, he had never seen his friend like this. "The other night i had a dream….we were standing on top of a hill overlooking the sea..it was gloomy and rough, we turned and walked away, then..all of a sudden…a shot rang out…i was lying on the ground, i couldn't move, you dragged me to a hole…you held my hand and promised things would be okay…..i died. Ron i died in a hole in the ground, i don't even know where." Joe stood to his feet and walked to the door, as he got halfway between the row of bunks the door swung open and in the frame stood Captain Swanson, hands on hips and a grin on his face."Morning men…..boy were gonna have a great day today…lets go for some air" The men got too their feet and followed Swanson out to the back of the camp, a strong putrid smell greeted the men as they reached the fields at back. Into view came a horrendous sight, blood guts and barbed wire were strewn over er the ground. Men turned grey with sickness and some lost their stomach. Captain Swanson stood facing the carnage and took a deep breath " I only have one word of advice for you…you keep your arse too the ground. That machine gun over there will guarantee you do just that. It will be firing LIVE rounds, you get to your knees while that thing is firing, i can promise you it will put you down…AND….you will stay down."

Through the previous three week the men had come to admire Captain Swanson, he had pushed the men hard to ensure they were ready for what Swanson called the horrors of war. The men were faster and fitter than before, although some of the men had been transferred out of the unit due to not coming up to scratch the men who remained were proud.

The stench of the blood and guts had become stronger as the men crawled under the barbed wire as the machine gun fired overhead, Ron was trying hard to gain a momentum to his movements but the entrails were slippery, his kit was heavy but still he manage to continue."COME ON MEN……YOU WANT TO SHIP OUT OF HERE BEFORE THE WAR ENDS" shouted Captain Swanson over the sound of the machine gun."YES SIR" the eager men called out.

The sun was high in the sky and a cool breeze ran through air as Ron sat on the step of his billet looking out into space. "Joe…do you remember all those time at home when we got into trouble, we stood by each other….we had each others back. I want you to listen too me, i will lookout for you, you'll be fine. I got your back and you got mine. We're gonna get through this okay. Just think in a few more years…you'll be there with your child on you lap, they will hear the stories you have to tell" the words seemed to put Bishop at ease, his composure relaxed. As the sky darkened Ron and went into the billet and climbed into bed. "You will go home" Ron muttered too his friend as he lay there with his eyes closed.

Ten weeks had passed now since 18 year old Ron Abernathy had climbed down the steps of the bus and entered a whole new world. He stood facing the window staring out into the camp, reminiscing about the previous weeks. He now stood tall. He had proved his worth. Ron had survived basic training.

As the medic continued to work stabilizing Ron, stuffing his wound with gauze and watching the blood absorb into fabric like a sponge dipped in water, the sounds of gunfire still echoed all around as the battle on top of the hill continued. "We need to pray our guys get this beach secure soon, your buddy can only last a few more hours at the most with wounds like this" the tone of the medic pressed the need for emergency.

Bishop looked at his friend and felt hopeless as the words sank in, Rons complexion continued to go pale. "Talk to him about something else" the medic urged. Ron faced Bishop "I'll be walking through the Bronx in no time, sitting in a bar with a cold beer, its gonna be heaven." Smiles were exchanged as Bishop looked at his friend " Hey how about we get back to England sometime? Lets go and see London some more" Ron smiled as he remembered the boat crossing to England.

On the 24th August 1943 a convoy of ships were sailing in the Irish sea bound for England. Overhead fighter escorts patrolled the skies ready to pounce on the enemy if the dared attack. Thousands of bodies covered the decks of the ships, among the men on the ships was now 19 year old Ron Abernathy, his frame had built out quit large, his skinny lanky body had now built out into a slightly toned body of muscle. This was Ron's first time out of the states and he was quite apprehensive. As Ron was stood on the edge of the deck aboard the SS Sanmaria, quietly observing the sea waves stretch up the side of the ship and then retreat back into the grey, murking and unforgiving depths, he couldn't help but wonder were the war would send him, he had heard rumors but kept an open mind that his theater of war be Europe?

Around the ship the men tried to make use of the space, musicians played their instruments, men slept at any given chance, others gambled away their money playing poker or craps. Most of the men talked, whether it was about home or for a show of bravado. As Ron stood facing the expansive ocean he could hear one such comment of pure bravado from a GI behind him, "Dragging our arses half way around the world…tell you something now, there ain't gonna be one goddamn kraut left when i get to where we are heading". Ron chuckled to himself, not being one for biting of more than he could chew he was amused at the comment and let out a little laugh. He headed over to a group of men crouching under the stairwell that went to the observation decks, as he neared the group moans and cheers could be heard following that insults about mothers and sister were exchanged.

Ron peered over the shoulders of some of the men, a craps game was in full swing, Ron shouted over the roar of cheers that erupted suddenly "Hey buddy I'm in… put me down for $40, hell i probably wont need it anyway". Within the hour Ron had lost over $200, embarrassed over his poor luck and not very efficient gambling techniques Ron slipped away below decks. He bobbed and weaved his way past the hundreds of men crowded in the converted sleeping area, a mass of equipment and a foul stench of body odor greeted the men as they walked through the door, as he neared his bunk he stopped to talk with Bishop " Hey buddy…well the good news is if i die….I'm gonna die penniless" Bishop chuckled to himself as he looked at Ron with pity "Well unlike you buddy i got my cash stored away for a rainy day, maybe I'll save it till i get home and get back to America a rich man…or…maybe I'll slip away into Paris one weekend and have a good time, get myself a sweet-looking French girl, some decent food and a hellavu lotta booze. Yeah that sounds good" Ron gave Bishop a puppy dog expression and continued to his bunk. A foghorn echoed through the decks as Ron lay on his bunk in a daydream 'I'll be home soon' he kept thinking. As men cramped out the bunks, floors and anywhere else that could be used for a bed Ron closed his eyes.

The afternoon had bought a welcome sight to the men aboard the convoy, clear skies and a bright sun hanged overhead as the SS Sanmaria crawled into port. The men had gathered up on the deck eagerly to await the order to leave the putrid ship. As Ron stood anxiously waiting, shoulder to shoulder with his fellow GI's, the body of Captain Swanson stood tall among the men, after a moment to silence the troops he began his talk " Men…we have finally arrived in England, i expect you to show the utmost respect for the folks during our stay here, they've had Germanys foot up their arses for the past two years. The folks will be wary of us but i expect you to be polite, sit in the local bars and drink quietly….and please…save your hell-raising for London or Swindon. Among you will be soldiers from continents all over the world, you will be among Poles, Indians, Australians, French and many more, they are here for the same reasons as us..to win the war and get home to our loved ones. Remember that!! One more thing…any disorderly conduct will be punishable by the severity of the offense. Now will we move from here to a camp you will call home just outside of Portsmouth…thats were we are now, for those of you that flunked out of geography in school. So grab your gear and lets move out"

As the men piled onto trucks and began rolling through the streets towards the camp Ron couldn't help but feel the apprehension from the civilians on the streets, he turned to Bishop "These folks don't really seem to want us here, i was at least expecting the red carpet" laughter roared through the truck. By nighttime the trucks had been driving through the countryside for over 2 hours and had finally stopped before a mass of tents, vehicles and equipment, the sheer volume of numbers was more that experienced back at Camp Houston. After an orientation of the camp to show the vital necessities Ron strolled through the camp away from his tent and towards the movie theater. After a few exchanges of words with the men of his platoon Ron found Bishop in conversation with a man in German uniform, "Hey Bishop…whos your friend??" a moment of silence passed as the stranger looked at Ron " A'rite guv'nor, how ya like me Jerry clobber?? only doing it so you guys can get you're mince pies used to what the enemy looks like" Ron stood confused and just answered "Yes" to avoid any embarrassment between the 3 of the men. "Hey I'm just off to catch the movie, you guys coming?" Ron zipped his jacket as the wind began to blow through the camp, "No thanks buddy, I'm heading of to my pit, I'm beefed. Oh thats bed and tired in your lingo my good English chum" The moon began to shine as the men parted ways.

Morning came with the unwelcome order to pack kit for two days exercise which would be starting that afternoon, the sun shone in the sky and the birds tweeted all around the woods that covered the perimeter of the camp. As the afternoon drew closer, Ron stood among the men waiting for the orders of the exercise. A map was placed in front of a jeep showing a photograph of a village surround by woods. From the bonnet of the jeep Captain Swanson stood and addressed the men "We are tasked with the reconnaissance and capture of this village 10 kilometers to the north, your mission is to firstly locate dig in among the edge of the woods here, i want scattered foxholes with full fields of fire. The second part of the mission is to locate enemy positions and any anti-armour emplacements and report back to the CP , after a 24 hour recce to determine enemy strength we will head into the village and kill or take prisoner the enemy. The missions is vital as the roads in and out of the village head toward the city and ports which will give the enemy a new landing stage to launch an attack on U.S soil. We cannot fail" Ron and his fellow soldiers moved out as one into the country.

With the rise of the sun, the woods surrounding the village came alive with the roars of the men as they charged downhill from their position, rifles in hand toward the village before them. As they neared the village shots rang out from every direction as the 'enemy' soldiers appeared in the windows and lay down fire on the men. Ron reached the edge of the village with three men in tow, opposite their position Captain Swanson and his group turned a corner and proceeded one by one to clear the houses on the right side of the lane, grenades were put through the windows and immediately following the explosions the doors were kicked in and men streamed inside firing their weapons and hollering with a menacing roar of warriors, Ron watched, amazed at the sight and then threw himself and the men following into action. As the came upto the first house Ron signaled the second man in his group to put a grenade into the window, he stood at the door waiting for the explosion, as that happened Ron and another man in his group kicked the door straight of its hinges and rushed the first room they came into, rifles in their shoulders scanning the room for signs of the enemy soldiers. Suddenly in the doorway ahead a man appeared, although Ron knew it was only an exercise and the bullets and grenades were for training purposes only he went into action like his life depended on it. Shots rang out and the man in the door fell to the floor and played dead. As Ron left two men to secure the upper floor of the house he exited the first position and carried on to the next house. Two hours had passed since the attack began, the positions were taken, adrenaline pumped through the veins of the men and conversations regarding the attack began, surreal as it was the men all had the same thought 'soon we wont be firing blanks'.

It was now the beginning of April 1944, over the past year the training had intensified, the marches were longer, the exercises had lasted from days to weeks, many of the men noted that the food had rapidly improved, steak and dumplings had become a weekly treat, also the quantity of ice-cream had improved and became available 7 days a week. Many of the men took this as a sign that things were ready to start soon. As Ron sat to eat his ice-cream he thanked god that he had survived to this points, many incidents had happened over the year that shook Ron to the core, the worst experience for Ron was on a landing exercise at Slapton Sands when German U-Boats had come in and fired upon the convoy as the men prepared to move out, Ron sat reflecting on this and remembered the men who didn't make it. He was one of the lucky ones to be plucked from the sea, it would be a moment he could never forget.

Over the previous year a rumor had circulated among the men, Ron remembered the moment cheered with joy as he was given the order that he would be taking part in Operation Overlord: The Invasion Of Europe. It was a chilly morning in Oct 1943, the air was cold and the grass was covered with dew, Ron and hundreds of other GI's shuddered as they sat in a tent looking up at maps, photographs, sand tables and other models featuring towns and villages. Ron turned to a GI "Hey buddy, you got any idea what all this is for? i don't recognize the areas." As the GI turned to Ron the tent door opened up and in walked Captain Swanson who proceeded to a stand in front of the men, "You are here today because for the past 2 years you have been training for one moment in your life….the Allied command had been preparing this mission a good while now!! Careful selection, preparation, confidentiality and training have ensured that we can suprise the enemy and gain a foothold with which we will push the enemy back……men….in 8 months we will be leaving here and moving out to transport ships in Portsmouth ready to take part in the most awesome invasion in the history of man. I respect each and every man sat in front of me, I will shake each of your hands as you leave here and it will be shaking your hands as we set of from the transport ships to head into battle, now we have all heard of Hitlers Atlantic Wall…well men…were gonna be the guys that bring it down and shove it so far up the arse of the Third Reich that they'll be coughing dust for the rest of their days. Men prepare to move out….to Europe….TOO VICTORY". On hearing those words a resounding yell came from the men as they threw their fists into the air.

The eight months had passed and as Ron headed to a ship and was walking up the gangplank he turned and took one last look at the place he had come to love, a place he thought of as home, as he stepped onto the deck he was handed two letters from a mail clerk. He went to find any suitable area and placed his kit on the floor and opened the first envelope, as he looked at the letter he stomach rumbled with butterflies, it was a letter from his mother.

Dearest Ron

I know it has been a while since i last wrote, i hope your okay and keeping strong. Me and your father are okay, just worried a little. I cant wait for you to return home. I know this letter is short but i will write to fill you in on the happenings at home. Be safe and write when you can.

All my love

Mom

Ron got a lump in his throat and a tear in his eye. It had been over 2 months since he received a letter and each time it made him feel homesick. He lay back on his kit and the transports pulled anchor and headed off to take Ron and thousands of other young men to war.

The fighting upon the hill had moved inland but shouts of German and American voices were still within hearing as Bishop carried Ron on a stretcher to a first aid position on the beach, as they moved downhill a series of fierce explosions rocked the cliffside, the guns of the armada spread over the ocean opened up once more. Bishop and Ron were showered with debris as a shell hit a German casemate directly above them. Suddenly a lone plane in the air had appeared and opened up with its machine guns, the medic carrying the front of the stretcher was hit and killed instantly and as Ron fell to the ground a round slammed into his back, he screamed with agony. "I gotcha Ron hold on" shouted Bishop as he grabbed Rons collar and dragged him to the cover at the bottom of the cliff. Another medic looked at Ron and stopped what he was doing, he checked Ron over, the round had gone through his kidney and traveled up through his lung and out of his chest. As the medic worked Bishop asked another question "Hey Ron, how do you like the sea, should we go sailing when we get back" the morphine had calmed Ron as he listened intently to the ocean waves.

The sea was rough and the skies were grey, waves washed over the ships and craft scattered throughout the sea. It was the evening of 5th of June 1944. The moment that Ron had trained for over the past 2 years was beginning. As he slumped against the side of the transport craft he pulled a letter from his combat jacket, as he looked at the words his thoughts began racing 'what if i mess up…god…what if i die'. He turned to Bishop "Listen to me closely, i want too make sure that we both come out of this alive. When we hit the beach you stay on my ass, there is only one person on this craft i trust, and thats you." Bishop nodded his head in approval. "Hey Ron, just think that in 15 years maybe even sooner we could be going back to France, obviously no-one will be trying to kill us. We can have a beer on the beach and talk about the day we helped to save the world". Both men smiled, that vision seem distant but alive.

As the boats glided over the sea, men looked out into the horizon, they were all in their own little world. As men stood around the deck, Ron caught sight of Captain Swanson, "Hey Captain…I've never asked you…..what did you do before the war?? I mean do you have a wife, kids??" Captain Swanson looked down at Ron and Bishop "Believe it or not Abernathy…i was a lawyer…i used to work in Chicago, as you can probably guess from the gangster movies you guys have seen…its a pretty rough place to live at times, i can tell you something though i would never trade it for the world. I was brought up there as one of five children. Its also where i met the most adorable lady you could imagine. I was the guy who would stop at nothing till she became my wife…you probably wouldn't have me down as the type of guy to spend hundreds of dollars on roses and serenade her with beautiful love songs, but believe me i did it all.She's carrying my first born…..a son…theres not a day that goes by where i don't think about them. I promised her I'd brush my teeth and comb my hair each day….i also promised her that no matter what i will get back to her, i couldn't bear to think of my son growing up without a father. I want to play softball with him and tell him stories about these times."

Captain Swanson ended his talk and for the first time in two years Ron and Bishop noticed a tear run down his face, "so what about you guys….whats waiting for you when you return home??" Bishop began "Well, unlike you Captain i don't have anything to really look forward too, i mean i ain't got a girl waiting for me…at most the only thing i could have the chance of spending time with would be the family that is waiting for me. I do know what i want to do with my life though. I'm going to college when i get back to the states, study medicine and become a doctor." Captain Swanson interrupted "Sorry but I'm just wondering why you wanted to be a rifleman and not a medic, You know, wanting to be a doctor an all??". The conversation shifted back to Bishop "Well i joined the infantry as a rifleman because i wanted to make the most out of my time, i didn't asked to be here..just like you and Ron didn't ask to be here. I never backed away from a fight in my life and even though we have traveled half way around the world i still hold that opinion, i guess i always will. Me and Ron have always had the same value…we grew up together and from the first day of school we have always watched each others back. I suppose what I'm trying to say is if someone is inviting me for a fight of this magnitude I'd rather go in with a rifle than a first aid kit."

Captain Swanson went into his jacket and pulled out a cigarette, as he sat with Ron and Bishop he felt a great admiration for them, the bond that existed between the two men was unbreakable. The waves were now rising about the side of the craft, the wind howled and the rain started to pour. As the three men huddled under their rain coats for cover Ron began talking about his life waiting for him, "I want to go into construction, i always remember as a small boy looking up at a skyscraper as it was being built, i used to catch glimpses of the men walking along the steelwork, dangling their feet over the side. It amazes me how skillfully those things are built up, the reality being that in a hundred years well after i have passed a thing that i have contributed into building will still dominate the sky. It will be my little mark on a huge world. I hope to be married and have a house full of little Abernathys running around my ankles. I want to see my kids grow up and still be around to become a grandparent. Sitting there by the fire, telling them stories about now, drinking my scotch and smoking a pipe. The way it should be" The men laughed at the remark but it all seemed possible.

Night had fallen, the air had calmed and the wind had softened , overhead and all around was silent, suddenly in the distance came a peculiar noise. Overhead was hundreds of silhouettes of planes, "look its the paratroopers" the sea erupted into shouts and screams from the men waiting to attack the beach "GO GET EM BOYS". As the mood settled Ron slouched back down and closed his eyes in a feeble attempt to sleep.

Thunder and violent jolts awoke Ron who jumped to his feet with fright, he looked around as other men jumped to their feet. He soon realized that the thunder was coming from any and all guns in the armada as they opened up to start the pre-bombardment before the infantry went into battle, before the armada was the objective rising up from the horizon, "Welcome to France" a voice shouted.

The sky had started to brighten with light as the ship stopped in the ocean, as the wind blew another noise could be heard traveling through the air. Captain Swanson looked at his watch "Its just after 5am, when you hit the beach you'll think you're in hell, men will be hit and some will be killed, its a horrible price to pay but thats war. The most important thing you can do is keep moving forward, stay low and stay in cover. I wont lie to you…its a horrible memory that will stick with you for the rest of your lives. Listen to my advice and you'll get through this, we will get through this". As Ron stood waiting to climb the net after Captain Swanson had finished his talk he heard a soldier say a prayer asking god to watch over him and give him the strength to live through the next day.

Ron reached into his pocket and pulled out a rosary, he closed his eyes gripping his rosary with his strength…

"Hail Mary, full of grace.

The Lord is with thee.

Blessed art thou amongst women,

and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

Holy Mary, Mother of God,

pray for us sinners,

now and at the hour of our death.

Amen."

Ron stepped forward, unsure of what would lay before him. As he climbed into the landing craft his hand still gripped his rosary.

Ron lay on the beach, pain ran through his body as the morphine started to lose its effect, the medic had patched him up best he could but he still felt hopeless, "Listen buddy, he ain't gonna last long now, his liver was ruptured and he's bleeding internally, I'm surprised he's lasted to be honest with you". Bishop looked at the medic and then at Ron, he took of his helmet and threw it on the sand in anger. "Listen to me Ron, you're gonna be fine. Just think of your skyscraper and your grandchildren. It cant be too long now, the boats should be coming back in soon. We'll get you out of here" Bishop choked back the tears as Ron started to speak "I lost you….when we hit the beach everything went to hell"….

It was the morning of June 6th 1944. In the English Channel heading towards France, Ron stood side by side with 28 other men as their small craft headed towards their objective. "1 minute till disembarkment" the coxswain called from the rear of the boat, waves rose over the side, splashing the men and causing some of the already unstable soldiers to vomit over the sides. At the front of the craft Captain Swanson gave his orders to the men "When we hit the beach, don't stop, you need to get your asses up there and take those positions. Any wounded men will be left for medics, just concentrate on getting up there. Save your ammo unless you can guarantee that your target will fall".

"Get ready" the coxswain called as he released the ramp, at that moment machine gun fire erupted from up over the beach, the men at the front of the crafts fell as machine gun rounds slammed into their bodies "Get over the side" Captain Swanson called as he jumped into the murky depths. Ron followed suit, the ice cold water stunned his body, as the weight of his equipment pulled him further down Ron looked at the other bodies in the sea, red mist popped out as the unlucky men were hit by arcing bullets as they descended gracefully to the bottom of the channel.

Ron struggled to release his equipment and grasped at the sea above him, the desperation for air was immense, after a few strokes Ron found himself floating near the waters edge, the view around him stunned him, men running up the beach were cut down as they ducked and weaved between obstacles, other men cowered behind the carnage desperate for survival, to his side Ron watched in horror as another craft erupted in a ball of flame, men threw themselves in the ocean as they extinguished the flames, their bodies burned and melted by the immense heat. As Ron knelt behind an obstacle an unknown soldier dropped to his knees in front of him and began to pray, suddenly he was hit by a barrage of bullets and slumped onto his face, blood poured from the man in a fine stream and began to wash up in the waves.

"Abernathy" a voice called out, as Ron scanned the area he saw Captain Swanson crouching behind an obstacle, around the Captain were dead and dying men, red mist popped out of the corpses as stray rounds impacted into their bodies, "Move up the beach…get too the seawall" the Captain shouted. Ron began moving forward with others, the distance seemed too great to cover in this hell, beyond the obstacles lay flat open beach, no evident cover around "God damn those Navy guys, they can't shoot for shit." A soldier called out as Ron took cover behind the body of a fellow soldier to quickly catch his breath, he looked up over the beach, he saw too his amazement two concrete bunkers that seemed to dominate the hill, around that he caught sight of muzzle flashes as rifles and machine guns fire onto the men below, it seemed to Ron that they were the game in a mass turkey shoot.

Ron and a group of men reached the seawall and looked onto the beach, the mass bodies shocked their nerves, as men raced up for the cover of the seawall in their droves the unlucky few stepped onto mines, their bodies rose up high into the air, sand and body parts rained down onto the cowering men below, Ron felt a thud on his helmet and onto his lap dropped a hand, the man next to Ron screamed in horror, he stood to his feet and jumped the wire on the seawall. As the man reached the opposite side he was shot through the head by a single bullet, as his body fell to the ground he landed on a mine. The explosion rocked the ground under Ron and the others.

Captain Swanson meanwhile had found his way to Ron "Good man Abernathy, I'm glad you made it, this is hell, we need to get off this beach before we get pinned down completely. Everyone listen to me, we need to get some more weapons and ammunition, grab them off the beach" Cautious men raced to the nearest corpse and relieved the unlucky soldier of his rifle, machine gun or anything else that could be used. Ron raced to a wounded soldier, the man was screaming with agony, his stomach hanging out over his side. Ron grabbed the man and attempted to drag him to the relative safety of the seawall. As they made the journey the man kicked out and an explosion knocked both men down, a mine had gone off and the men had lost the lower half of his body, Ron lost the color in his face as he looked on with fright. He dived the last few feet and buried his head into the seawall.

"Get some bangalores…bangalores up the line" men called out, the tubes were pushed under the wire of the seawall, "Fire in the hole" as the order was called the men braced themselves, the explosions threw sand and wire high into the air. The men clambered to their feet and climbed over the wall, desperate to find more cover up the hill. Ron and the men raced to the top of the hill and found themselves retreating soldiers, the men dropped to their knees and aimed their weapons, it was just like target practice, the GI's fired and the men in front dropped to the ground. "Get some cover" Ron called, he saw a burned out truck a few feet to his right and dashed towards it, as he took up his cover he saw a boot stick out from underneath " Get out…get out now" Ron barked as he grabbed a boot and pulled, he was left staring at the face of a blonde German boy,"Get outta here" Ron screamed, the boy got too his feet and began to run from the battle As he watched, Ron saw with horror as GI's coming up the hill spotted the fleeing German and opened up with a volley of fire, the boy fell to the ground dead.

"Abernathy, come on, we need to take that position" Captain Swanson called, he had found his way to the top of the hill and had the same thought as Ron, the truck was survival. He was pointing towards a concrete emplacement over the field, the men crouched and began moving forward. As the reached the entrance of the bunker Captain Swanson threw in a grenade, the explosion echoed all round, as the men entered the position they saw dead Germans all over, the bodies were twisted and smoke from hot shrapnel rose from the burning bodies. They continued forward and stood at the front of the emplacement overlooking the beach "Goddamn this is hell, those boys down there didn't stand a chance, Jesus most of them weren't even old enough to smoke" Captain Swanson remarked. "You got that right" Ron replied as they left the safe haven and went back into the battle.

"Captain…Ron" a voice called out, the men looked and saw Bishop looking over a crater, they ran towards him, men all around raced in every direction, the adrenaline flowed through the soldiers veins as they pushed the fight further inland, screams of American and German could be heard as shot rang out. The men dived into the crater along side Bishop, "God am i glad too see you guys, i cant find anyone else from the platoon Captain". The men peered over the crater, up in front a squad of soldiers were making their way forward when out of nowhere a machine gun opened fire upon them, the men raced for their lives in a feeble attempt to outsmart the firing defenders. They fell like harvest being hit by a scythe. "We've got too get that machine gun, we don't stand a chance till its out" Captain Swanson called, he fired his weapon but it seemed the bullets just bounced back of the gun, "We need to get a grenade on it, cover me". Captain Swanson got too his feet and raced forward, bullets kicked up dirt around him, Ron and Bishop looked on in awe as the Captain reached the gun and threw a grenade, the explosion knocked the position out. Captain Swanson turned and smiled as he waved the men to come forward. Suddenly his expression changed, Captain Swanson fell to his knees, he had been hit by rifle fire, as he struggled forward on his knees Ron had rushed toward him. "Captain..don't worry you're gonna be fine" Ron saw bullet holes poke through the combat jacket. He picked the limp Captain Swanson up and placed him on his shoulders. "Come on" Bishop called, over the din of the battle he heard what sounded like a freight train in the air, suddenly out of nowhere explosions rocked the ground as mounds of air flew up high. He looked on in horror as Ron and Captain Swanson disappeared in a cloud of dust.

Ron and Bishop were now back on a craft heading towards the large ships in the distance. "I couldn't do anything, i just looked on helpless" Bishop confessed to his wounded friend. "I thought you were a goner, i saw you carrying the captain and then you disappeared". Ron looked up at his friend and gripped his hand, his wounds had been patched up the best they could by the medics on the beach, they put him out first in an attempt to save him, he had lost a lot of blood and had been wounded numerous times. As they reached the ship deck, dead and wounded littered the ground, moans came from all around as medics fought valiantly to save each person. "Don't worry guys were getting you back to England" a voice called out as it steamed back over the channel to friendly shores. Ron and Bishop were leaving the battle and the horrors behind them. "I'll be fine in a few days" Ron remarked.

More than 50 years had passed since the men landed on the beaches of Normandy, the Allies had won the won by the next year, and the Nazi regime had been crushed in Berlin. Back in Brooklyn life had settled back to normal, inventions had marveled the world as televisions and other items had been created. Not many people knew how the generations before them had laid down their lives for their country.

As the sun shone high in the air and birds flew overhead a man walked through the rows of headstones in the cemetery, one hand holding an infant and flowers grasped in the other. "Here we are Mike" the gentleman declared, they stopped before a white cross, "Who is he grandpa" the little boy called out. They looked at each other, a tear ran down the cheek of the man "Well this man is my friend, i grew up with him and i met him when i was about your age Mike…his name was Ron"

They stared at the cross for a moment and then the man knelt on the ground, he placed the flowers on the headstone and pulled a medal from his pocket "I got this while fighting in Holland, you deserve this more than me. You were a true hero. I'll never forget what i saw that day upon the beach. You were so selfless, you tried to save the Captain while i looked on. I still feel guilty to this very day". The man choked back on his tears. "I brought my grandson along with me today, I've told him the stories about what i did through the war but i brought him here so he could meet a real hero. I hope i did you guys proud. As soon as i returned i visited your parents and told them what had happened and how their son had died a hero, i also went to Chicago and told Captain Swansons wife what had happened. She is ever grateful to you for attempting to save his life, her little boy is grown up now and would you believe it, he followed in his fathers footsteps, Swanson would be proud. I've never been able to go back there, the screams, there god awful and i can hear them in the night. The gunfire, the explosions, our men lying on the ground. It overwhelms me"

After standing at the cross the man took the little boy back home, he had spoken at some length about the war but could never fully explain the horrors that he had seen on the beaches of Normandy. He had returned home from the war a changed man. His dreams hadn't been fulfilled instead he worked towards putting an end to war, he believed no man should ever go through the horrors of 50 years ago. The gentleman had married and had produced a fine family and was gifted with grandchildren, he had never hurt anyone since returning from Europe, the war had a profound effect on him. As the light turned to dark the man had finished his meal and gone to his bedroom, he knelt before his bed and thanked god for letting him survive the war, the man clambered into bed and gave his wife a kiss on the cheek, he closed his eyes. His heart felt content and the guilt lifted from his body. Bishop died a proud man.





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