Passing Into History: Traitor
February 28th, 1945- 1352 hours- Near the center of Bitburg, Germany.
Sgt. Raymond A. Ellis of 2nd Platoon, Able Company, 8th Battalion, 1st Infantry Division or better known as "The Big Red One" was crouched low behind a shattered piece of masonry that used to be the south side of what was left of Bitburg's Municipal Planning Council building. His M-1 Carbine was hot to the touch from a fire fight with elements of the 13th Mechanized Infantry. He breathed hard and got his bearings. He could see Pat Kantner, Loddy, and Ricks running toward his position followed by a few others from 2nd Platoon. He motioned for them to pick up the pace.
"What's the situation from the town square?" Ray asked Loddy, 2nd Platoon's radio operator, as the three scrambled to Ray's little patch of wall. The rest followed quickly.
"Shitty, Sarge," answered Ricks before Loddy could get a word in. "We lost Harry and Martinez." Ray shook his head at this. "The Krauts got 3rd Platoon pinned between a hotel and some kind of construction project. Some of the boys from 3rd managed to slip into a warehouse to the east en-" A loud explosion down the street drowned out the rest of what Ricks was saying.
Ray switched the magazine in his weapon without looking and yelled, "What!"
"I said, 'the boys in 3rd won't hold out much longer if we don't find a way out for 'em!"
Loddy than spoke up, "Ray, these guys aren't SS, but they sure fight like 'em" Pat Kantner just nodded to this.
"They've two MG-42s that we can't get to." Pat Kantner spoke then looking pale. The sounds of fighting were getting too close for comfort and the group of eight displaced to a stable house down the block. It was devoid of horses, but still smelled of manure.
"We gotta call in some artillery support, now!" Ray said decisively. "Loddy, get a hold of 1st Platoon and see if they can give us a grid reference. We got no sight here."
"Sarge, last call from 1st Platoon said they were stuck diggin' out some Krauts from a store at the south end of town; Too far away." Loddy shook his head.
"Goddammit! Get me Item Company!" Ray didn't think too highly of Srg. Cameron the head of Item, but in a crunch the man knew how to get the job done regardless of how he acted when the fighting was over.
Loddy called over the wireless to 1st Platoon of Item Company. Turns out they were not that far away from Ray's position and were moving up the main thoroughfare north toward the Square.
This is what Ray was hoping for.
"You tell them to converge on what's left of 3rd in the warehouse on the east side and tell 'em to do it fast. 3rd Platoon doesn't have much time."
As Loddy was radioing back Ray gave orders that the remainder of the platoon will attempt a flanking maneuver through the alley way behind the stable. "Maybe we can catch the Krauts off guard." Ray hoped he was right or this would turn even uglier than it already was.
The alley was rather quiet compared with the streets. The MGs the German's were using sounded like buzzsaws. Smoke from the myriad of fires that burned were blackening the afternoon sky as Ray and his men moved closer to the town square. Upon reaching a side street Ray directed the rest to move into another bombed out building.
Loddy's radio began to chatter at them. Loddy listened and said that Sgt. Cameron could see the warehouse where 3rd of Able were holed up. They were receiving harassing fire from a position north east of the square past the building where 3rd was and couldn't get around it. They needed Ray's platoon to create a diversion on the MG nest closest to them to draw their fire. Ray thought this could be done because they were only another hundred feet or so from another side street that contained the building the MG was in.
"Okay, boys, were gonna hit that building with every thing we have." Ray said thinking that what they had wasn't much. Ray gave the go ahead and the platoon leapfrogged one another until they were within site of the building. Ray gave the order to fix rifle grenades and have hand grenades ready. Ricks, Pat Kantner and three others fired their rifle grenades at the upper floors of the building on its south-west side. The MG didn't let up, but the Germans on the north-east part of the square began to think something was up and began firing on Ray's position.
"Okay, I think we got there attention!" Ray yelled to the others.
The squad moved further back into a blasted storefront and waited for the Germans in the building to come out and see who was bold enough to challenge them.
Once Ray saw their helmets through the broken windows in the building he gave the order to fire. Some fired their rifles, others lobbed grenades through the windows. Screaming could be heard and shouting in German.
"Alright, alright, let's go, let's go!" Ray shouted. They closed the distance to the building in four seconds and broke the door down, but not before tossing another frag inside to make sure the enemy was down. Once inside they shot anything that moved and quickly ascended the stairs to the second floor. There were only three Germans left; one firing the MG at the majority of 3rd Platoon of Able trapped in the construction site, one feeding the ammunition, another guarding their backs. All three were dispatched easily. Ray could see the building that housed the second MG-42 to the North side of the square.
"Loddy, fire mission," Ray spoke to Loddy as he relayed the information back to the artillery battery west of town about a mile away. "Grid 669 by 384."
After about five seconds the platoon could hear the 105mm shells scream overhead. The explosions shook the square like an earthquake, but missed the building in question.
"Left 15, drop 50, fire for effect!"
The shells screamed again shattering the building like glass and silenced forever the MG-42. Ray's platoon cheered and clapped each other over the back. Ray could see below them in the battered construction site what was left of 3rd Platoon, Able Company. They were already moving out from the site and heading toward Ray's position in the building across the street when the east side of the building that Ray was in was enveloped by a terrific blast. The whole platoon was knocked flat as the whole east side of the building slid down to the street in a pile of smoke, fire, and rubble.
Ray couldn't hear a thing his ears were ringing so badly, but he could make out the word Pat Kantner was mouthing.
It was true. Two Tigers were making there way through the square at a steady pace and were closing on the remainder of 3rd Platoon in the warehouse on the east side.
Ray's hearing was starting to come back as he heard himself asking, "Can this get any fucking worse?"
He turned to Loddy to call in another arti strike before the Tigers got too close to the warehouse, but Loddy didn't have a head anymore. Ray was surprised and spit in disgust. Somehow he got up from the floor and walked slowly toward the ragged opening in the building. The dust from the pulverized stone was thick in the air, but he could see 1st Platoon of Item Company about a hundred feet away down below on the street. He thought he could see Sgt. Cameron yelling at his radio man. Cameron and his men then ran back the way they came. Fast. The Tigers were now close enough to fire point blank into the warehouse.
The warehouse and the Tigers were engulfed in flames as shells rained directly on top of them from the artillery battery outside of town.
Cameron had called in a fire mission on Able Company's men!
Ray was screaming for it to stop because he knew without a doubt that the ten or so men that were left in the warehouse were now all dead or dying.
March 1st, 1945- 2112 hours- East edge of Bitburg, Germany.
Sgt. Ray Ellis was feeling physically better than yesterday, but emotionally he was in bad shape. Even a resent letter from his wife back in the States couldn't keep his mind off of what had happened yesterday. He kept blaming himself for the death of the men in the warehouse. He knew that ultimately it was Sgt. Cameron's fault; he that got Ray's men killed by calling in that arti strike too close. Ray had even filed a report with Regiment, but they said it was a terrible accident. They didn't listen; nobody wanted to care anymore.
Ray wanted to care though.
He folded up the tattered letter and placed it inside his shirt pocket next to his heart. He grunted and got up from his cot in a makeshift aid station and decided to walk out into the night air. It was colder than yesterday and it was raining, but he didn't notice. He just had to clear his mind somehow.
The battalion had captured the city and only sporadic gun fire could be heard now toward the Kyll River. All of it was rather peaceful except for the sound of a woman screaming. Ray had gotten used to the screaming lately, to his shame, and decided not to let this pass into history like the ones before. He made his way slowly to a ramshackle house at a crossroads and as he got closer he could hear that it was a woman screaming and crying. He got to the door and could also hear laughter, drunken laughter.
He pulled his .45 out of its holster and kicked the door in.
At first nobody noticed him, but the woman that was being raped by an American soldier also surrounded by more gawking American soldiers saw him.
Her eyes were like nothing he had ever seen.
Ray pulled back the hammer on his pistol and fired a round into the ceiling. This stopped the laughter, and the man raping her jumped off her like she was on fire. The soldiers stopped their carousing; the crying, screaming woman didn't stop, but only became muffled as she turned away into a pillow. Ray could recognize that these were men of 1st Platoon, Item Company. His anger seethed, but it absolutely went through the roof when he saw that the man that had been raping her was Sgt. Cameron.
"Ellis," Cameron said flustered and zipping up his pants. "What the hell are you doing?"
"I could say the same to you." Ray said flatly leveling the pistol at Cameron. There was a silence for a time except for the woman. The soldiers around Cameron stared at Ray and than back to their Sergeant.
Cameron laughed out in a huff and said, gesturing to the cowering woman, "What this? Do you want a piece of this, Ellis?"
"Don't." Ray warned.
"What, she's a Nazi." Cameron began to button his shirt.
By the look of the house and the very staunchness of it all, a bare table and a sunken bed, one single picture on the wall, the woman with her plain dress, ripped and blood stained, yes, but none-the-less plain, she was obviously not a Nazi. Cameron thought differently however.
"They're all Nazis don't you know Ellis?"
Ray wanted to shoot him right there.
"Get out of this house, Cameron."
"There all fucking Nazis, don't you know that, Ellis!" Cameron strode up to Ray as if he wasn't brandishing a loaded pistol.
"They kill Americans, Ellis, and they don't discriminate. Only a Nazi or a Nip could kill an American and walk away with a smile," Cameron pointed back toward the pathetic heap that was the woman; her back was hitching in time with her pain. "I'm teaching them that what they are doing will not be tolerated!"
"Get the fuck out of this house!!"
"You're a goddamned traitor, Ellis, you're no better then they are."
With that Cameron and his men left the house and Ray could hear their laughter as they walked back to town.
Ray stood there for a moment as the cold night air breathed into the house cleansing it of the smell of sweat and alcohol. Ray then close the door and turned to the woman. Her crying had calmed down to mere sobs. He didn't know what to do, but decided that he was going to have the MP's pay a visit to Cameron tonight. He emptied what little money he had from his pocket and dropped a C ration packet on the empty table.
The woman didn't even turn around.
He opened the door and felt the rain on his face. He turned back once more and said, "Es tüt mir leid," ("I'm sorry") before closing the door to go and look for an MP.
March 2nd, 1945, 0825 hours- three miles east of Bitburg, Germany, near the Kyll River.
Sgt. Cameron was not arrested the night previously because by the time Ray got back to the CP the Germans were launching a major counter-attack along the Kyll River and were pushing back into Bitburg itself. Half the division was brought up to defend the town and to push the Germans back across the river into a full scale retreat.
Ray and his platoon were tired from a night of hard fighting. The sun had been up for hours now, but its light was clouded over with fog and drizzle. The damned fog wasn't all encompassing however because the sun did peek out from time to time, but where Ray's platoon was walking the fog was obscuring the road ahead and was making it impossible to see anymore than a few hundred feet ahead of the column. The Regiment had been reinforced with ten Shermans earlier in the morning and was moving up a muddy road to catch up the retreating enemy.
Thunderbolts from further north had been pounding the Germans since daybreak and Ray was hoping that this would get done quickly so they could all have a proper rest and refit before the big push to the Rhine that everyone knew was coming. Ray's mind also was dwelling on Sgt. Cameron and the woman he'd raped. Ray swore to himself that he wouldn't let Cameron get away with what he had done. The Americans don't deliberately hurt civilians; that is what made them different from the Nazis.
After a couple more minutes of walking the sun began to show itself. Ray turned his face up into it gratefully. The platoon was keeping up its pace with the tanks. Then an explosion shouted from up the road. A Thunderbolt had scored a hit and it was close. The Tanks began to roar forward leaving the infantry to see if they could catch the enemy out in the open. Firing began soon after as 2nd Platoon and the rest of Able Company spotted the enemy.
As Ray and the rest of his men ran up they were met by Sgt. Cameron and his men from 1st platoon of Item Company. Ray swore and kept on moving. Cameron didn't even notice him. The Americans spread out along the road and moved toward a field to the north where the main concentration of retreating Germans was fleeing.
Soon the two platoons came across a Sherman that had stalled out on the road. One of its tracks was destroyed. Ray could hear machine gun fire cutting into the south side of the road, but couldn't see an enemy.
Ray was about to give the order for grenades to be tossed into the ditch when a German soldier climbed up onto the road and ran at the tank.
"Everybody get down," Ray screamed when he saw that the German was carrying a live grenade. "Get down into the ditch!"
The tank exploded as the grenade was stuffed into its view port engulfing the German and most of the road. Luckily Ray's Platoon dived into the North part of the ditch and none were harmed. Cameron and his Platoon were not so lucky. Most of them were wiped out in the blink of an eye when the tank's supply of munitions went up.
After getting his bearings Ray gave Ricks and Pat Kantner the order to move the rest of 2nd Platoon out into the north field and start moping up stragglers. The fighting was dying down now as Ray took aside Pfc. Wilder to check out the south side of the ditch. Wilder said in a Kentucky accent, "I can't believe what just happened to that tank, Sarge!" Ray didn't say anything to this.
The sun was beginning to show itself mightily now and cast their shadows upon a German soldier that was crying and looked absolutely beaten.
"Hilf Mir!" The soldier yelled in pain to the two standing there.
Sgt. Raymond A. Ellis had been in the war long enough to know what the German soldier had said.
Ray and Pfc. Wilder helped the broken man up out of the ditch and saw that this "man" was no Nazi out to kill and enslave the world, this was a kid of no more than 19 or 20 years of age.
Up on the road Ray passed by the broken and quite dead body of Sgt. Cameron and said to himself that he was not a traitor to his country or to himself.
"What's that you say, Sarge?" Pfc. Wilder asked.
Ray looked at the smoky horizon of burnt out half tracks and destroyed equipment and said, "Nothin.' Let's get this kid to an aid station."