Lost Eagles Copyright 2000 Peter Franklin

By Virtex


"Arm yourselves, and be ye men of valour, and be in readiness for the conflict; for it is better for us to perish in battle than to look upon the outrage of our nation and our altar."
- Prime Minister Winston Churchill



June 1944: The Allied army storms the beaches of France in Operation Overlord, the biggest amphibious invasion ever known to man. This was the turning point of World War II, the one thing that changed the history of the human race. If it would've failed, evil, for once, would have triumphed over good.

There were many brave men involved in D-Day, in all Allied countries. Many of them died in battle, many of them survived. This is the story of some of the bravest men in Operation Overlord. These men were of the 101st Airborne "Screamin' Eagles", to be parachuted in the night before June 6, 1944. Unfortunately, conditions were not favorable for flying that night, causing the widespread drop of all airborne troops. Over that fateful twilight, these soldiers strove to accomplish their missions, banding together in what groups they could find.

Though many of them died, the airborne vanguards completed their missions, helping in the tide of the war. Many of them were also missing in action, presumed dead...


****

I stalked across the open French countryside with my three other comrades, clutching my M1928A1 Thompson submachine gun tightly. The pasture had high, green grass, with the occasional cow every few hundred feet. It was July 7, 1944, two days since our landing. We had been wandering the farms of this damned French land ever since, searching for some sign of Allied soldiers. By now, we had given up on our mission.

It had so been our luck that upon the rough landing every single one of us had broken our compasses and soiled our maps beyond recognition in the wet terrain. We were lost and running out of K and D rations.

We were just four young, innocent, all American kids, far away from home. My comrades included Private First Class Graham, Private Trent, and newly promoted Sergeant James. My friends call me Tequila, even though I am all American. We weren't even in the same platoon or squad. We had all met on the night before D-Day, when we were shipped in, separated from the rest of the soldiers and as we were now, lost.

It seemed as if we had been walking past the same cows and pastures for hours. Everything looked alike. There hadn't been any signs of German troops, except for the night of the parachute drop. Sooner or later I figured we would find something.

Graham spoke up to break the silence lingering over us. " There has to be someone who owns all these cows, right?"

" If there is, they own a hell of a lot of them." Sergeant James replied. He had been a Private First Class before this mess, and on the night of the drop he was promoted. I could tell he was uneasy about leading our group. I didn't blame him, he was the one who had to keep a cool head the entire time, and show the others we were all going to make it through this.

Private Trent, at age sixteen, was the youngest of our group, and the one with the most nerves. " I hope we find something else besides cows out here."

" I found something else." Everyone turned their attention to Graham. " Cow shit."

We laughed shamelessly at the joke, knowing we needed it in this time of despair.

There was a dull crack of thunder, followed by a light drizzle of rain. It had been raining off and on ever since we had arrived, and the sky was overcast all the time. We didn't bother to put on the rain coats they had supplied us, it would only slow us down. Each of us had dumped half of our equipment to decrease the weight we had to drag across this dreary place. Now, all we had on us were our weapons and ammunition, our hunting knives, one Hawkins mine each, four blocks of TNT each, three first aid kits each, smoke signaling grenades, and our water and rations. Graham had also chosen to bring his machete along, at his own expense. We also had two cartons of cigarettes each, and by this time most of us had one and 3/4 cartons of cigarettes left.

I glanced at my barely functioning watch, saw it was 4:30 in the afternoon. It would be dark in a few hours. I hoped to God that we would find a village by sundown, or some time tomorrow. I wanted to go back home, see my family.

And Rachel . That poor girl had stayed with me ever since I had joined the 101st, writing me letters and worrying over me. I wanted to see her so badly. To hold her in my arms once again, pull her into my chest as she cried (I know she would) and comfort her that I had survived war. I wanted to run my hands through her silky blonde hair, and kiss her softly on the forehead once again.

" Hey Tequila, you okay?" Graham snapped me out of my daydream.

" Oh, uh, yeah, yeah."

I patted the letter she had last written to me, sitting inside my breast pocket next to the death letter. The death letter was to be my last words to my loved ones should I ever die fighting for my country. I entrusted Graham, James, or Trent to make sure it made it home if need be.

Popping a cigarette into my mouth and lighting it up, I glanced at Sergeant James, who was squinting at something in the distance.

" What is it Sarge?" I smiled, knowing he hated being called that.

It must've been something important because he ignored my taunt. " I think we've found a village."

" You're kidding."

" No."

I nearly dropped the cigarette out of my mouth. I was speechless.

" We might be going home, gentlemen!" James declared happily.

The four of us broke into a mad dash, heading for the small set of buildings on the horizon.

We slowed down upon seeing that the set of buildings was a barn and a house. Still, whoever lived in there could provide hospitality.

Approaching the house cautiously, we crept onto the porch, covered with dusty rocking chairs. James, who could speak both French and German, knocked on the door.

No answer.

Knocking again, he called out a greeting in French.

No answer.

James tried the door, found it was locked, and peeked inside the window.

" Maybe they're not home." Trent suggested.

" Where the hell would a farmer all the way out here be off to?" Graham retorted.

" Wait, maybe he's right. Maybe the farmer abandoned the house for the war, and will come back when things are over." I argued.

" Well if he did abandon his house, he took everything with him." James said from the window. " There's nothing in there but cobwebs."

We had to see if there was something, anything at all, in that house. Graham kicked the door open and we went in, searching for anything useful. There was nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Except for beds. The upstairs had three bedrooms, each with a bed and nothing else.

" I say we stay here tonight, changing guard at the door over the night."

We all agreed with James, and so, eating very little, we prepared for bed. James said he would take the first shift, and I the second, Graham third, Trent last.

It felt good to be lying in a nice, cool bed, even without sheets or a pillow. I couldn't remember the last time I had actually slept on a real bed like this, as opposed to the hard ground or a cot. For the three hours of sleep I received, I dreamed of Rachel, and her long, flowing golden hair. I missed her so, so badly.

I also missed my family. I missed my pop, outside on the rocking chair smoking his pipe and reading the newspaper. I missed my mom, baking apple pies and probably preying for my safety. And my little brother, at age 7, who thought I was the "bestest" brother in the world. I could see them all doing their daily chores, occasionally glancing at the blue star hanging off the porch railing, symbolizing that I was out fighting for their freedom.

I dreamt that I was once again with Rachel, sitting next to her on our porch swing, rocking back and forth. The sun would just be dipping into the clouds, bright oranges and reds and pinks spreading over the sky, creating a whirlpool of colors.

We were holding hands, and I could feel her soft skin on mine. We turned to look each other deeply in the eye. Her blue eyes were like beautiful gems. She whispered something to me, but I could not hear her. I could only see her lips moving, her eyes slowly blinking. Time seemed to slow down more and more as the silent words escaped her lips. That was the last I could remember.

" Tequila...Tequila. Tequila!" Sarge's voice startled me awake. He was holding a lighter before his face, the flame flickering in the darkness.

" Huh? I'm awake, I'm awake." I stood groggily and picked up my equipment.

" Three hours and then you wake up Graham."

" Yes sir."

I stumbled out of the room and took my post at the front door, gripping the "Tommy" gun with both hands. I stuck a cigarette in my mouth and lit it up, my lighter temporarily brightening the dark foyer. As soon as the flame went out, there was only moonlight streaming through the windows and the small red glow of the end of the cigarette to illuminate the area.

Listening to the rain pitter-pattering on the roof, I looked outside through a window, saw the eerie blue pasture, dotted with cows and bulls. It seemed to stretch to all ends of the Earth, going as far as I could see. Far above, a full moon pushed through the clouds and shown down on the countryside, backed by millions of tiny stars. The midnight navy sky reminded me of a piece of black paper held to a light, with tons of pinholes poked in it, one giant hole standing that was the moon out amongst the rest.

My heart ached. It ached like it had never done before for my loved ones, my home, so far away. A whole ocean separated me from them. I knew this heart ache would only get worse as time moved on.

The first hour passed at a grueling pace. I didn't think any Germans would show up all the way out here. I guessed it was just a safety precaution, but having so much time to think was making me homesick and lonely.

" Hey Tequila." Graham appeared out of the dark. I almost shot him in my surprise.

" You scared the hell outta me."

" Sorry. I couldn't sleep. I figured I'd come out and keep you company on your shift until it was my turn."

" Heh, thanks."

Graham didn't answer. He was standing before another window, gazing out. " Sure is beautiful out there."

I saw that he had a faraway look on his face as he stared at the pasture. I looked out the window and listened when he began to speak.

" I got to thinking. Just take a look at this scene. It's a beautiful summer night. The moon is full, shining on a rolling field. I take my time to admire these nights because it could be the last time we ever see something like this. Who knows, we could die tomorrow, or we could die a week from now because of starvation. Or we could all make it home. You'll never know until it happens. I hate to think like that, knowing that you really could lose your life fighting tomorrow, but the thought just won't leave my mind. Haven't you noticed that life seems a little more sweet, a little more rare now that the odds are against us?"

" Yeah." I replied, my own voice sounding concentrated on something else.

We both fell silent at that time, both in deep thought. Finally, I offered him a cigarette.

" No, got my own." He removed a pack and a lighter out of his pocket.

For the rest of the two hours we discussed everything from dirty jokes to what our hometowns and families were like. When my shift was over, I left to the room where Graham had been and attempted to sleep.

I found myself staring at the ceiling for quite a time, thinking about what Graham had said. What if I did die the next day? What if this was the last real bed I would ever sleep in, or the last full moon I would ever see? What was death like? I reassured myself that I would not die for no apparent reason. I would die defending my country, the freedom of the world, and my own life.

With that, I drifted off to a dreamless sleep.

James woke me at the crack of dawn. I dragged myself out of bed, slipped my heavy equipment pack on, and met everyone in the foyer.

We departed quickly, the Sarge only giving us time to light a smoke if we wanted to. Across the ever going field we trekked, the gray of dawn breaking over the horizon.

I noticed Graham admiring the sunrise and remembered his words from the night before. I took them into consideration and glimpsed at its beauty, the rather strange shade of bluish-gray everything took on as the sun rose into the clouds.

The day was drier than before. A hot sun beat down upon us by ten AM. All four of us were dripping with sweat by noon, and at that time the sun's heat only increased.

I discovered that less and less cows covered the tall green grass. I had heard that Normandy, the part of France we were supposedly in, was supposed to be all farmland. This seemed to be farmland, but there was only one farm so far. No wine orchards, no barns, no stables, nothing. It was transforming into just a big, empty pasture.

All day we marched in silence across acre after acre of empty farmland. My thoughts were, of course, on Rachel and my family. I guessed the others' thoughts probably were, too. From what I had heard everyone in our little squad had a healthy sized family. I wasn't sure who had a girlfriend except for Graham, who had told me about her.

Her name was Jenny, and I could tell he was obviously madly in love with her. I felt the same way for Rachel, though. He had described her as, " The most intelligent, beautiful, sweet girl you'll ever meet. She has long auburn hair, soft and shiny. Her eyes are green as jade. Her voice is like a soothing melody. I'm going to marry her when I come home."

I had never known Graham was so poetic. I had wished him the best to his relationship, and he wished the same to me.

My mind drifted over many subjects, always coming back to my loved ones. I had memories of my family come back to me, like the time I gave Billy, my brother, the Christmas present he had asked for on his last three lists. My parents had searched all over the place looking for it, and had no luck. One day I found it, so I picked it up right away and wrapped it. I could see his face, the joy he had painted on it as he jumped up and down with the present. Then there was the time my father and I went fishing. Or when my mother took me out to the ice cream shop for the first time. All kinds of memories washed over me.

I remembered the white Christmases of New England, everything covered in a sheet of snow. I also remembered the mild summers, when I would be off from school and have time to visit my friends.

I was ripped from these flashbacks by a horrifying sound. It was the sound of metal working against metal, mixed with the sound of treads going over gravel. Along with that was the simultaneous marching of many pairs of legs.

My heart beat seemed to double. My stomach tightened and a queasy feeling came over me.

" Taaaannk!!" Trent spotted it first. We all dropped to the ground, immediately being hidden in the tall grass.

We were dead silent. All I could hear was the sound of those terrible treads moving and a small army stomping behind it.

My upper lip dampened with sweat, as did my forehead and armpits.

I was as still as possible, listening in on the noise.

I realized that it was getting more distant rather than closer.

Graham noticed it too. " Sergeant, it sounds like they're moving away." He whispered.

James stood, slowly, to a crouch. He brought a pair of binoculars to his eyes.

" What the hell would a tank be doing all the way out here?" I wondered aloud.

" Invading a town." Was his reply.

We all faced the direction he was looking. Sure enough, the tank and a platoon of Germans were invading a small town several hundred yards away.

" We need to help the people in that town." James stated, his voice unfaltering.

" How? We're just four soldiers against a tank and a shit load of Germans!" Trent cried.

" Do you wanna die out here by starvation? Or do you wanna die defending innocent people?!"

Trent fell quiet and we made our advance for the town. The enemy had gone through the Eastern entrance of the town, on our right. We headed for the Southern entrance, directly in front of us.

I couldn't help but feel nervous. This was really my first battle. And the odds were against me.

I scrambled to check the ammo on my M1928A1 before we entered the village. It was completely full, as I had guessed. I was the only one in the group carrying a submachine gun, the others were carrying the standard issue M1 Garand semi-automatic rifle.

At the time, I couldn't believe what we were doing. Four soldiers versus one tank and forty enemy troops.

Suddenly, there was a crackle of fire from somewhere nearby. We heard shouts in both German and French, and more fire.

The four of us walked cautiously down the main street running South to North, which was crisscrossed by many other streets going West to East. We came to the first crisscross, where all the shouting was coming from.

My stomach tightened into a ball. My grip on the submachine gun was sweaty. I prayed to God for protection.

James peered around the corner, motioned to us with his hand to stop. " They're heading this way, but it looks like the French have a resistance force going. Snipers are picking German soldiers off from the roof and-oh shit!"

A loud explosion erupted from that end of the village, followed by screams. I could only imagine what that tank was doing.

" Graham, Trent, take a position on top of the roof of this building. Tequila, follow me."

Graham and Trent disappeared into the doorway of the building. James nodded to me and we broke into a sprint across the intersection. I observed the fight between the resistance fighters and the Germans as I passed by.

The French were in hiding, shooting at the Germs from all over. The lines of soldiers spread out, going down each of the roads in groups of 8. The tank rumbled down the main street.

Civilians came out of their homes to investigate what was going on only to be shot or crushed to a pulp. It was a tragic thing to watch. It was worse not being able to do anything.

" Where are we going?" I called to my superior.

" We're gonna try to flank them!"

Still going down the South-North street, we came to another intersection. Taking time to glance around the corner, James and I made a run down the road, staying to the left side and using cars for cover.

We ran for about fifty yards until we encountered an offshoot of the road that led to the main street. We were on the opposite side of it. Eight Germans were heading our way.

They saw us right away and opened fire. I ducked behind a car, bullets zipping over my head. James was already shooting back.

I wondered how a man could stay so calm and collected in the midst of battle. His face showed no signs of perspiration whatsoever. He was focused, determined.

Another spray of rounds came at us, punching holes in the hood of the car. I stood and squeezed the trigger, taking one man down. I went back into cover half a second before I would've been shot.

My heart was racing faster than it had ever gone. Adrenaline pumped through my sweat drenched body.

After waiting for the enemy fire to stop, I turned and shot around the edge of the car. James, at another car, rose and shot off half of his eight round clip. When we went back down, three men were taken out.

Three were left, for Sarge had killed one before I did. These dumb Germs had no cover at all. They were sitting ducks in the middle of the street.

I went up with James and we killed the last of that squad. We hurried down to the main street, taking cover at the corner of the building.

A platoon consisted of forty men. At least twenty were still waiting to go down their offshoots. And we had their backside.

I fired the rest of my clip at the enemy. Some of them turned and pointed, bringing ten men worth of attention towards us.

They found covered positions quickly, and the ensuing exchange of fire would have been long, had they not been pinned down by French snipers.

We advanced up the street, my stomach still curled up. So far, I had been lucky.

The two of us stepped over many dead bodies, civilian and Nazi. I never knew that a bullet could do such damage. Skulls were exploded, bones shattered, blood sprayed all over the street from the force of a piece of metal. War is a terrible thing.

It wasn't long before the Germans discovered us following them. I kept my eyes on that tank, hoping it wouldn't turn around.

A few Germs held us down behind another car. We managed to defeat them in a few minutes. Now, only a couple soldiers and the tank remained on the main street.

Firing at the soldiers with quick bursts, we moved up slowly. We were lucky that the tank hadn't seen us yet.

The minute that thought left my head I saw the tank begin to rotate its massive barrel. I felt like I was looking down the throat of Death.

My increased heart rate froze. The tank's barrel passed by me and James, though, pointing at a building a few yards away from it with French resistance soldiers inside.

BOOM!

The sound conquered all the others, ringing out above the gunfire, the screams. I would never forget the screams. The horrible, blood curdling screams of innocent people being slaughtered.

An ear splitting explosion followed directly afterward, and the base of the building spewed shrapnel and flames everywhere. From our position almost one hundred feet away, James and I were rained upon with glass and metal.

My ears rang, and everything seemed dulled out. When we stood and fired, it sounded 3/4 as loud. One German, with three rounds in his chest, collapsed, a thick oozy puddle forming under him.

We killed off all of the Germans on the main street, leaving the tank. Death. That was the only was I could describe how this tank looked to me. Death. Not death, but Death. The Grim Reaper.

The barrel began to turn towards us.

It was too far away to throw a grenade, if that would do any good.

Death locked on to us.

Then it burst into a giant fire ball with a tremendous explosion. I looked skyward, and saw a Frenchman toting a smoking bazooka silhouetted against the sky.

James and I backtracked, reuniting with Graham and Trent. Together, along with the help of the French guerrillas, we hunted down and exterminated the last of the Germans in the village. It was almost dark by the time we actually spoke to our French comrades. They were very kind to us, and most of them spoke English. They said we were lucky they did not shoot us. They recognized us because of our green clothing.

" Are the Allies invading Europe?" Was the most commonly asked question. A small crowd surrounded us, cheering for us, even though it had been a sorrowful battle with many civilian casualties.

I admired the French sunset, much like the one in my dream from the previous night, as we were being pushed down the street.

Then it hit me.

I had killed someone. I had actually killed a human being. What would Mom think? What would Rachel think? I began to shake violently.

" What's going on? Tequila, you okay?" Graham asked.

" He's a rookie. It's just been his first battle." Sergeant James said, " The shakes are a normal thing. Get this kid a cigarette."

Someone stuck a cigarette in my shaking hand. I tried to light it, yet my grip was too unsteady. I collapsed.


I woke up in pitch blackness. I thought that maybe I was dead at first, before I saw the small streams of light coming through a crack in the ceiling.

I was lying on a bed, more of a haystack, in a dark room. Where was I?

I stood up groggily, tripped over my equipment. I slipped it all on and searched for a door. I remembered my lighter and fished it out of my pocket, striking a flame.

The room was a cellar. A strange cellar at that. Maps and guns covered the walls. I stumbled up the stairs and opened the doors.

I found myself in a bakery. A wonderful smell drafted over me. I was behind a counter. There were customers and employees inside, but my fellow soldiers were no where in site.

" Bonjour mon ami!" Greeted a chef from the kitchen. " I am Jean-Paul, the owner of this restaurant. I suppose you are looking for your American friends?"

" Yes." I replied to the thickly accented man.

" They are with Dimitri, cleaning up the city. You fainted last night after the battle, so we put you in the resistance headquarters to make sure you were safe. They said for you to wait here until they come back. Would you like some breakfast?"

Who was this Dimitri? I only nodded, dumbfounded. The HQ of the resistance was in a secret basement of a bakery?

I sat down on a bar stool as Jean-Paul served me a cup of coffee and two delicious cinnamon rolls.

Sipping the amazingly strong coffee, I remembered why I had fainted. I had gone into shock because I had killed living human beings. Sighing, I slumped in my seat, ashamed of myself. I took a bite of a cinnamon roll and thought it over. The cinnamon roll tasted like a piece of heaven, after surviving on military rations for days.

I was struck deeply with guilt. Those men had wives and children, or girlfriends, little brothers, families. They were just like me. I felt as though I had murdered an innocent man.

Sighing again, I finished off my cinnamon rolls, stuck a cigarette in my mouth, and walked out the door. I was going to find the rest of the boys.

The day was not as dry as the previous one, nor warm. Once again, the sky had become overcast and a light rain sprinkled down. The sun was just a blurry yellow dot in the clouds.

I could not bring myself to raise my head. I stared at the ground, trudging past the pools of blood formed by now removed dead bodies. The wreckage of the tank was still there-a charred, crumpled wad of metal.

I'm not sure how long I walked through the silent town before I found Graham helping clean up the bodies of four German soldiers.

" Tequila! Are you okay?"

" Yeah...yeah, I guess."

Graham frowned. " What's bothering you?"

" I...I just can't believe I killed somebody. I feel guilty of murder."

" You talking about the Germs? You can't possibly feel bad about them! Just think about this, they would've killed you without a second thought, and not felt guilty. They wanted you dead probably more than you wanted them dead. You killed them in the name of your country, in the name of freedom, in the name of peace."

That did make me feel a lot better. " Thanks." I blew out cigarette smoke. " Where are the others?"

" They're spread out all over the city cleaning up. It's a messy job, I could use some help."

" I'm not sure if I can do this just yet. Sorry."

" I understand." He said as I began walking back for the bakery. " And remember, savor your life to the fullest everyday."

I tried to keep the thoughts of the battle out of my mind. I turned to thinking about Rachel and my family. The heart ache came back to me.

I hoped Rachel was okay. I knew she worried over my safety everyday. I hoped that someday in the near future I could hold her tender hand again, kiss her soft lips, keep her close.

I hoped someday in the near future I could see Billy's young smile, Pop smoking his pipe, and Mom baking those apple pies I loved so much. I wanted to go home.

I came back in to the bakery, and was greeted by warm smiles all around. These people must've known the hardships we faced and the sorrow we held. On the same token I knew how much it pained them to see their neighbors exterminated like ants, their houses destroyed.

Like I said before, war is a terrible thing.

I sat down in my same spot, drinking the lukewarm coffee. I noticed that my perspective of life had completely changed since the day I joined the magnificent 101st Airborne. The world did not seem as joyous as it used to be. Things used to be so simple, so innocent. Nothing was that way anymore. Everything was complicated. Everything was stained with blood.

It was another two hours before my three friends came in. They all asked how I was, and I replied that I was all right, not telling them of my feelings.

" Dimitri, the leader of the resistance in this place, is calling a meeting for 19:00 hours tonight in the cellar. He says it's important to the survival of the town. That means..." James glanced at his watch. " You have seven hours of R and R. Dmitri assures us that if anymore Germans come into town we will be notified within two minutes of their arrival."

We thanked the Sarge for our free time and I watched as they grabbed a bite to eat.

What to do for 7 hours? I could sleep. Or I could explore the city. I decided to see what Graham was going to do.

" Hey Graham, what are you going to do for R and R?"

" I'm gonna sleep. How about you?"

" I'm not sure yet."

Later I decided to sleep. The minute I lay on the soft bed of the village hotel, after taking my first shower in days, I realized how tired I was. I was sound asleep in a matter of minutes.

Once again, I dreamed of being back home. This time, everything was in full sound. Billy was playing with his army men, depicting a battle of several soldiers versus a toy train of his. I tried to say hello, to tell him I was back and how much I missed him, but he couldn't hear me. I moved on into the kitchen. My mother was there, making dinner. She seemed as though something was bothering her, as if she was sad. She pulled something out of the oven. I went over to hug her. I went right through her like a ghost. What in the world was happening? I ran out the door to Rachel's house. First, I attempted to knock on the front door, but my fist made no sound. I took a secret route along her roof as I had done many times in the middle of the night to her room.

There was Rachel, sitting on her bed, crying. It pained me to see it, and I opened her window to go in and comfort her.

" Rachel, I'm back..." I said, knowing it was no use. She continued weeping, makeup running down her face.

I reached out and went right through her chin, which I was trying to cup in my hand. I was now frightened.

Jumping out the window, I ran back down the street to my house. There was Pop, sitting on the front porch. Rings of smoke drifted up from his pipe. He seemed saddened too. I grabbed him and shook him, now tears were running down my own face.

" Pop! Answer me! Please! What's going on?!"

He only kept on reading the newspaper, unfazed.

I turned around to go back inside, to my own room, where I could think this out.

Then I saw it.

A golden star had replaced the blue one. That meant...

" Oh my God." I dropped to my knees and buried my hands in my face.


Graham woke me. It was almost 19.00 hours. I threw all my things on and followed him to the bakery. Sarge and Trent were already there. I ordered a cup of coffee and took it with me down into the basement, still feeling a little disturbed by the dream.

There were at least fifty people squeezed into that little cellar, packed around a card table with a map laid out on it. The man whom I guessed was Dimitri was staring down at the map intently.

" I will be speaking in English tonight for our American friends." He announced, smiling at us. " Tomorrow a very important thing will be happening. It will might the history of this town, which we have defended from evil for hundreds of years..."

" The soldiers that came in today were basically scouts. According to an inside source, at 5:00 PM tomorrow afternoon, a large train will arrive three kilometers away. This train will be filled with Nazis, half tracks, and tanks. It is intended to destroy our homes! We cannot sit back and let this happen! We will intercept the train before it reaches its stopping point and blow it up. Our American friends have one mine each, which we can lay on the tracks. It will be derailed by the explosion, most likely killing all the men onboard and disabling the vehicles."

The train. Billy was playing with a train in my dream. Oh my God. Was this dream a prediction of my future? A foreshadowing of my death? I felt like I was going to be sick.

" This mission is voluntary. You may join if you like, if you wish to stay home, it will be understood. We will meet tomorrow at the Northern gate at 2:00 PM. At 2:30 we are leaving, so if you wish to fight for your homes, be there by then!"

My stomach knotted. What if my dream was true? Was I going to die tomorrow?

The meeting departed, and the four of us were left with Dmitri. I blinked slowly, staring at the wall in disbelief.

" Are you okay?" Trent inquired.

" Yeah, I just need a cigarette." I stuck one in my mouth, lit it. I started up the stairs slowly, wishing for the bed in my hotel room. Exiting the bakery, I stopped to watch the sun melt into the horizon, for I knew it might possibly be my last view.

I walked to the hotel, tossing my cigarette away as it began to rain. I wanted to be home, reunited with my family, with Rachel. I knew I couldn't.

I didn't want to die yet. I wanted to see my brother's smile one more time, smell my mother's cooking again, hear Pop's stories for the last time. I wanted to feel Rachel's soft lips against mine.

Inside my room, I lay on my bed, staring at the ceiling for many hours. I thought over my whole life, for I was positive I was going to die.

It was almost midnight when I finally drifted off to a dreamless, empty sleep.

I awoke before dawn. I took a shower, put on my uniform, and strolled outside to watch the sunrise for the last time. It was a rather unclear one because of the overcast sky. It feels strange, knowing your going to die on a certain day. I didn't exactly know, but I had heard of these things happening before. Presidents dreamed of being shot before their assassinations. People saw their long dead relatives before being killed in an accident of some sort. I figured mine was no different.

After sunrise, I went to the bakery to taste the sweet French rolls again. I savored every bite. I wanted my last meal to be a good one. French cinnamon rolls seemed appropriate to me. I didn't know why.

I stuck around the bakery all day. Graham and the others came in, getting their own breakfast. They continuously asked me what was wrong and I would simply shake my head, staring at the countertop.

At 1:45 I departed, nodding my goodbye to Jean-Paul. Outside, I lit a cigarette as it began to rain. It was a light rain, a little more than a drizzle. I began to wonder whether my dream was coincidence or not. I also thought about chickening out, staying behind, but that would be letting these people down. They were depending on me to help stop the Nazis. And that meant dying for them, too.

What if my dream really was a coincidence? I thought more rationally. After all, a lot of people have dreams about dying. And most of the time, theirs never come true.

Instead of thinking about it, I tried pushing all of the thoughts out of my head. I concentrated on the mission, not on whether I was going to die, or getting homesick pining for my loved ones. I was a soldier of the United States of America. I was supposed to be proud, brave, and honorable. I was supposed to stand up in the face of crime and injustice, and fight for freedom.

It was almost exactly 2:00 when I reached the Northern gate. The same fifty men from the previous night were there. Graham, Trent, and Sergeant James were near the front of the crowd. I made my way over to them and Dimitri.

" Ah, you are the one they call Tequila, correct?" Dimitri asked me.

" Yeah."

I turned to Graham. " How do you feel about this mission?"

" Great. What could go wrong? We're just blowing up a train."

" I don't know, I just have a bad feeling about it. Something just isn't right." I replied.

" What could it possibly be?"

I shrugged, listening in on James' conversation with Dimitri.

" Do you know the exact spot to place the mines?"

" Yes. I have everything planned out on this map."

" Are all your men armed well?"

" Yes, do not worry. I believe everything will go fine."

The rain increased to a moderate fall. I extinguished my cigarette into the ground and let the droplets land on my helmet, running down my face. The sound of the rain spattering onto the kevlar of my helmet was soothing, like a soft melody.

I started to drift off in various thoughts for the next thirty minutes. Graham kept asking me what I was staring at and I would keep saying that I was just thinking. Many things ran through my mind. More than once death and homesickness came up.

" Alright!" Dimitri whistled loudly to silence the crowd. " Are we ready to leave? Have you all wished your families farewell?"

There was a simultaneous "yes", or "oui." I could not say the same.

" Follow me, we will be hiking for about three kilometers. When we reach the train tracks we will lay the mines and back away a hundred meters to watch the show. If you see anything suspicious on the way or when we get there, notify me or one of the Americans quickly."

I was surprised at how well this man spoke English. It was unusual for me to hear that in a foreign country. After he finished explaining the plan in English, he retold it in French so everyone understood. We left at 2:28 PM, the rain increasing slightly again.

As before, I felt pangs of nervousness inside me. My stomach tightened. I started to sweat a little bit.

Sergeant James showed the calm , cool face of a trained killer. He had led us very well this whole time. Trent was just as or more nervous than me. Graham appeared a little nervous himself, though he still kept most of his calm.

I was experiencing deja vu as we entered the rolling plains of the French countryside. Far, far off in the distance I could make out what appeared to be an orchard. Rows and rows of wine grapes, fruit trees, and other vegetation covered the area. And, not more than thirty yards away from that was the train track.

The rain grew heavier and heavier as we trekked along the muddier and muddier terrain. We were going at a medium pace, which meant, I guessed, it would be 3:30 PM or so before we reached the tracks.

In the meantime, I desperately tried to stop myself from thinking about that dream. I just couldn't get it out off my conscious. I attempted thinking about major events in my life. Me and Rachel's first date came to mind. I considered it a major event because it was the first time I had ever fully experienced what it meant to be in love, and to be loved. A warm, joyous feeling came over me suddenly. I was remembering how it felt. This feeling made me want to hold Rachel, and it made me think about something I had never thought of before: marriage. I was eighteen, and we had been dating for two years now. Maybe it was time...

I remembered our first date as clear as spring water. I could reenact it in my head perfectly.

I was a young, happy sixteen year old, and surprisingly not drafted into war yet. It was October, 1942. I vividly recalled the browns and reds and oranges of the trees, and the leaves floating gently down from them like feathers. I had met Rachel back in May, and we had been good friends for quite some time. Finally, I asked her out. She said yes, of course, and on October 20 we had the date.

I took her to a park that I had picked out days earlier. All around, the leaves were falling like the rain I was walking through now. We packed a picnic and strolled across the park, admiring the genteel beauty of a New England autumn. We held hands the entire time, and even now I could sense her touch. At sunset we sat down under a tree to watch it and eat.

We scooted closer to each other every minute the sun dropped lower. When dusk fell, I gazed at her bright blue eyes, and I could actually feel the love coming from her. I could tell she loved me. And that was when we kissed.

My heart ached for her. For a warm home. I looked ahead and saw that there was only a few more hundred yards until we reached the train tracks.

The rain became a downpour, quickly turning the soil beneath our feet into a muddy goo. I glanced at my watch as we stepped into the orchard. It was 15.33, or 3:33 PM.

Through the rows and rows of beautiful wine grape bushes we marched, and occasionally one man would slip on the mud. The sky was dark gray, making it seem as if it were 6:00 or so, instead of mid-afternoon. We passed by an empty house, much like the one James, Graham, Trent and I had encountered days ago. Judging by how well the crops had been attended, this house hadn't been deserted for long.

Eventually we came to the train tracks. My heart skipped a beat when I saw them, and I kept telling myself it was just a dream, not a reality. I did my best to not show my nervousness.

Sergeant James instructed us how to lay the Hawkins mine on the tracks. There was no way this train could make it past. What could go wrong? I asked myself. Nothing. I couldn't find anything that could make this mission a failure.

When we finished laying the mines we were soaked. Cold and shivering, everyone headed back one hundred meters into the orchard, where we waited.

Dimitri would not let anyone enter the house for cover from the rain, for, he said, " It would be disrespectful to the owner who will return when the war is over." So, we had to stand in the rain.

I handed out cigarettes to those who had none, and smoked one myself. I had almost smoked three packs in the last two days. Before being drafted, I was a light smoker. Maybe two or three cigarettes a day. Now, I smoked whenever I had the chance.

I talked to Graham to pass the time. Trent joined in our conversation. We were speaking about what we would do when we got home.

Graham seemed like he had everything planned out perfectly. He went into great detail of how he was going to propose to Jenny. Trent, who didn't have a girlfriend, said he was going to sit in the bath tub until his whole body was pruned. Then they asked me what I was going to do. That is, if I made it home.

I thought for a moment. " I'm going to eat my mother's apple pies until I get sick. And I'm gonna sit down and have a long conversation with Pop. And lastly, I'm gonna go to Rachel's house, and I'm gonna wrap my arms around her and hold her close."

We started discussing about our family life, what we did if we worked, and where we lived. Graham lived in some small town in Virginia, and Trent lived in San Francisco. After that, we talked about all kinds of things.

At 4:56 we heard the sound of a train. Every single man there turned their heads to see the long train speeding towards the mines.

Every muscle in my body tensed. The time it took the train to reach the mines seemed like hours.

The explosion made my ears ring. I watched in near deafness as the train flew off the tracks, falling on it's side with a gigantic splash of mud. It skidded for several meters, entering the orchard and flattening the crops. The opposite end of the train barrel rolled, and the cars ripped apart, sliding off in all directions.

We backed up another twenty five meters to be completely safe from the cars. My eyes widened with amazement when one car smashed and rolled over the spot the group had just been in.

The house was torn open by a runaway car. Half of it collapsed into the thickening mud and wreckage. The orchard was virtually destroyed. Pieces of metal were everywhere. Twisted, dented train cars were spread out for almost a mile. The fifty-five of us were lucky not to be crushed.

Dimitri barked out orders. We were to search every single car for survivors and take them prisoner.

I went with Graham to investigate the house. Debris and wreckage were every ten feet. I wondered how anything could survive this.

Wooden planks and boards lay all over the car, which was on it's side. I found the roof hatch, half buried in a pile of wood. Graham flung open the door and we shoved our guns inside. There was an eerie stillness. Graham leaned down and peered into the darkness.

" There's nothing in here."

" Nothing? Are you sure maybe everything wasn't thrown out?"

" Yeah. This whole thing is sealed up."

We went to check other cars.

We followed the same procedure on every car we came upon. Some of them were filled with shattered crates, others had outdated military vehicles.

I had a bad feeling that some scheming was involved. Maybe the train was a distraction.

Again and again we found empty or hoax train cars. Some even had dummies in them. Something was going on here, and it was making me really nervous.

The others were discovering this too. They emerged from inside the cars looking confused or shocked. An anxious chatter fell over us.

" Hey guys!" It was Trent. He was at the gnarled junk heap that used to be engine car. " I found the remains of a real body!"

BOOOOM!!

Suddenly, the engine car, along with Trent, exploded. I was horrified, watching one of my own comrades being literally blown apart. The smoke cleared, and nothing was left. But no one was watching the smoke clear. Everyone was staring at the approaching line of tanks and soldiers.

My blood froze and my back turned into a pipe of cold water. The train was a hoax. The only person actually alive on the train before it blew up was the engineer, who controlled it. The Germans must've known about the French's inside man, and told him...

" Oh...oh my G-God." I stammered.

" Take the soldiers out while you still can!" Dimitri shouted to his terrified men.

I felt Graham grasp my shoulder and yank me along through the pouring rain. We stumbled on the mud, the crackles of gunfire all around us. We took cover behind a train car that hadn't been damaged too badly.

Graham began firing around the corner. I brought myself to begin shooting at the soldiers, who were about fifty yards away, marching on either side of the tracks.

I couldn't count how many men were coming towards us. We were outnumbered by at least four to one.

I struggled to aim in the pouring rain, letting off short bursts. I wasn't sure whether I hit anyone or not. I didn't care. My mind was racing too fast. I just fired blindly at them.

There was a cling!, signaling that Graham's M1 was out of ammo. With the M1 Garand, when the clip was empty, it was ejected out with that characteristic noise. He stopped and reloaded, just as I ran out of ammo.

I slapped in a fresh clip, noticing I only had three left. Sixty rounds of ammunition, plus two clips for my .45 M1911 pistol and six grenades. It wasn't going to be enough.

There was a resounding kathunk! of a tank shell being fired, and seconds later a loud explosion. My ears were ringing again.

I turned around the corner of the car and shot off a few more rounds. The Germans were moving quickly, spreading out and, most likely, surrounding us. The odds of us winning this battle were almost nil. If I was going to die, I was going down with a fight.

I wasn't sure where Sergeant James was. I hoped he was still alive. He was a good man.

Above the sound of screams and gunfire I heard a crack of thunder. The clouds had turned the sky almost black, and it seemed like night. The rain was not slowing up, and now there was lighting.

Kathunk!

Another explosion. This time I saw it, a train car igniting into flames and flying into the air. The tanks were picking our cover off one by one.

I shot off more rounds of my M1928A1 Thompson submachine gun, probably killing someone. I felt a little guilty, but that guilt was soon washed away as I remembered what Graham had said, and realized it was too true.

I looked around the rainy battlefield, and saw that the men were holding their ground against the Nazis. They wouldn't budge, even though now the Germans were less than 20 meters away.

I tried to see if they were flanking us. I couldn't see any enemy soldiers except for the ones coming straight for us.

I could actually aim now, the Germans were so close. I was taking out one almost every time I turned to shoot. Me and Graham's position was well known, tracer bullets were zipping by us like hordes of flaming bees. A few times I ducked back to cover just in time before a bullet dented into the metal.

Another train car exploded, another man was dead. We were gaining casualties fast.

I pulled the pin on my grenade, squeezed the handle, and chucked it at some Germs taking cover behind one of the farther out train cars. It rolled right up to them and blew up, covering one in shrapnel and not injuring the others.

I had five grenades, two submachine gun clips, and two pistol clips left. Graham seemed to be okay on ammo.

A flash of lightning lit up the sky. I saw three Germs sneaking through the far side of the orchard to my right.

" Graham! Look!" I pointed and fired. One of the enemies dropped dead, and Graham took care of the rest. They were flanking us.

The tanks were a little farther off. They were holding one position, firing at different cars.

I fired some more at a few soldiers behind the car at the house. I turned to look for more flanking men, and saw one of the French resistance members trying to advance to a new train piece. I watched in horror as his head exploded in a cloud of red. You tried to forget those things in war.

Since the man was shot in the head, when most ground shooters hit the chest, that only meant one thing: there was a sniper. Probably on top of the house. We were pinned down.

A nearby car was transformed into a giant fireball, the men using it for cover blown to pieces. The tanks were getting closer to Graham and me.

Graham hurled a grenade at a few men, and I only heard it explode. I was too busy shooting at some other enemy soldiers.

" How are you doing on ammunition?" I yelled.

" I've got five grenades, six clips for my M1 and two clips for my .45! You?"

" Five grenades, one and half clips for my Thompson, and two clips for my pistol!"

" Whatever you do, Tequila, don't give up fighting! Use your hunting knife if you have to! Just don't die without a good fight!"

"Okay!"

We had to shout to be able to hear each other over all the noise.

I thought I saw the Sarge run to another car about ten meters away. I tried to call out to him, yet it was no use. I had no clue where Dimitri was. He might've been dead.

A train car very near to us blew up from a tank shell. I peeked around the corner of our car to see where the tanks were. They had moved up quite a bit. Scanning over the field, I saw that many cars were laying in flames. The air stank of death. I noticed that there was a good amount of Germans dead, for the size of our force. They were still advancing on us, creeping in like the fingers of the Grim Reaper.

" Graham! We're going to have to get outta here in a few minutes!"

" Where do we go?"

I was silent. We didn't have anywhere to go. We wouldn't last long outside our cover, and we were in enough danger as it was behind it.

" Try to take out the sniper! It's our only chance!"

I knew he knew where it was. He leaned out, taking careful aim in the rainy hell to shoot him down. He fired off his whole clip at the top of the house.

" Damn it! I can't hit him! It's too rainy!"

" Try this!" I handed him my gun.

He let off a few rounds in the general direction of the sniper, and shook his head, giving it back to me.

" It's no use! We'll just have to chance it!"

Another train car exploded. Another group of casualties. I had no clue of who was left. I hadn't seen Sergeant James or Dimitri, so I feared the worst.

I used up my clip on some Germans hiding behind a flaming car, and put in a new one. That was my last clip. I had better use it sparingly.

Graham squeezed off some bullets at some Germs trying to flank us. When the lightning flashed again, I saw them all around us. There was no way out of this battle alive. My dream was true, after all.

I sprayed a few rounds when the next flash of lightning revealed the enemy about twenty five yards behind us. Two of them fell dead.

Graham took a glance at the tanks and screamed, " Oh shit! We gotta get out of here!"

I took a look myself and saw a tank pointing its barrel at us. The throat of Death.

We sprinted as fast as we could, the adrenaline pumping through our veins. A split second after we left our cover I heard the kathunk and felt the heat of flames on my back. Tracer bullets buzzed by us as we ran faster than we had ever run.

" Graham! Where are we going?!"

" I don't know! Just run and try to find cover!"

We entered the remains of the orchard, bushes seemingly flying by us. I slipped and fell face first into the mud. A spreading warm feeling came over me, and I knew it was the feeling telling you, you were going to die.

I lay there for a few seconds, waiting to be hit. Nothing happened.

" Tequila! Get up! Please don't be dead!" Graham pulled me to my feet hastily and we restarted our run through the orchard.

I could feel and hear bullets rushing by me, knowing that every time I was coming close to death.

Graham was curving his path towards the house. That was our only chance-find cover somewhere in or on what was left of it. He pointed his rifle up and shot at the sniper until I heard the kling. He dropped the M1, frantically ripping the pistol out of his holster.

I fired up at the sniper, too, in an effort to keep him from hitting us. My magazine went dry in a relatively short amount of time. I took out my .45, flicked off the safety.

With the next flash of lightning, I thought I could make out the green of an American uniform standing by the house. Sergeant James was alive!

He laid down cover fire for us with his own M1 Garand. We were now only 5 meters away from the house. We were so close.

The first bullet hit me in my stomach. I didn't realize I was hit until I felt an agonizing pain in my gut, and felt hot, sticky liquid leaking out. I stumbled, and then I was shot again. This time the bullet ripped through my abdomen, and came out my back, shattering a vertebra. I lost feeling in my legs.

With a hoarse cry I fell. I landed hard in a mud puddle only three and a half meters away from Sergeant James' position.

Graham turned to help me up.

" Go on! Save yourself!" I said hoarsely. I could feel tears running down my cheeks, for it was the end. A gut shot meant certain death.

Graham flinched and collapsed as he took a shot in the shoulder. He stood back up, his left arm hanging loosely at his side as he ran to the side of the house, out of the sniper's range.

I dug my fingers into the soggy ground to try and pull myself along. I couldn't move my legs at all. My stomach hurt so bad I couldn't stand it.

" Oh God it hurts!" I wailed. I slowly dragged my legs behind me, inch after inch. Dirt and mud slid into my wound, making it hurt only more. Why did I have to die like this?

I wanted to see my family again. I wanted to hold Rachel in my arms. I was never going to. I wanted to go home, smell those apple pies, talk to my Pop, tell stories to my little brother, and just hold Rachel close. I couldn't.

I pulled myself closer to the Sergeant, shouting at him and Graham to stay there. It hurt so much. The pain was unbearable.

I tried and I tried to move faster. I just couldn't.

I began thinking of my happiest memories of life. More tears ran down my face. Why couldn't I see my family one more time? Why?

The fifteen or so feet felt like miles. I used all the strength I could muster to drag my dead legs.

I imagined my mother opening the letter addressed to the family, and bursting into tears after reading the first few lines. I could see her calling Rachel up. I didn't want it to be like this, but it was no longer in my control. My life was over, cut short by a sniper's bullet.

Poor Rachel! How I wished I could kiss her again, stroke her soft golden hair, see that beautiful smile. It was never going to happen, we would be torn by death. I asked myself why over and over.

I reached into my pocket, feeling my strength deplete by the second, and pulled out the death letter. If somehow, some way Graham or James could make it out of this battle I wanted them to deliver it. My hands felt like lead weights as I brought the letter out, encrusted with mud and dirt, and stained with my own blood.

I was lightheaded, and my hearing was almost gone. My vision became blurry. But I dragged myself along as best as I could, now moving at an extremely slow speed.

I couldn't go any further. I was so close to my friends. Graham was shooting at something with his .45, screaming. Sarge was also shooting, occasionally glancing at me. I hoped they made it out alive, and didn't suffer the same fate as I did. My vision went completely black, my hearing now nothing but a dull drone. I could feel my last breath slipping out of my body, my last heartbeat stopping.

I love you Mom, Pop, little Billy. I wish I could see you again. I love you more than anything in the world, Rachel. Please don't be sad. Please.



In blossom today, then scattered
Life is so like the delicate flower
How can one expect the fragrance
To last forever?

-Admiral Onishi
Takijiro, Japan


Dedicated to the brave souls who lost their lives in battle defending this great world from evil.