The Higgins boat swerved back and forth as I felt my stomach fluids depart through my mouth. The sour liquid burning my tongue as it went. Mortars were landing all around us. Some hitting the empty water and some smashing into other landing craft in the icy waters we were in. I gripped my M1 carbine tighter as the beach approached.
I belonged to alpha company, the first ones to hit the beach on this day, June 6, 1944. I was a private first class in the United States army. We were standing in small twelve-men, square shaped “Higgins” boats. We were heading toward a beach where we knew the enemy was well dug in and waiting for our vulnerable selves to run up the vacant beach.
“Thirty seconds!” the sergeant screamed over the hum of the boat and the sloshing of the waves. My friend beside me, Joey, put his hand on my shoulder and told me that everything was going to be alright. I started to pray.
“Ten seconds!” The sergeant yelled again. I had to piss. Don’t think about that now. Think about making it through. Think about how you are going to get back home. Remember your training Ben. The ramp fell to the moist sand with a thud and the chaos started.
TING! TANG! Loud noises everywhere. I just followed my instinct; my training. Warm liquid splattered on my face. I gripped my rifle and started running. The men in front of me were falling like flies as I reached the sand. Warm water splashed over my tight boots as I scrambled up the beach. My sergeant was split in half as he was running. Long, wet tubes falling all over the place.
I fell down. There was a grown man beside me, screaming, “Mommy!” Half of his face was missing. I scrambled back up and started to run again when an explosion went off in front of my face. Two bees must have stung me at that exact moment because I felt sharp pains in my stomach. I of course ignored them and continued on. I found a tank trap and jumped behind it, bringing my knees in and my rifle fell to my side. The tinging of the bullets ringing around me.
I was only about half way up the beach. I was out of breath and the only thing I could see was sand flying up in all directions. I wiped my face with my hands. Blood. It was everywhere. Then I remembered the sharp pains in my stomach. I reached down and felt a hole. It stung as I prodded with my finger only to pull out more of the sticky fluid. I felt around some more and found a small metal object. It was shaped in a kind of half circle. I tried pulling it out but the pain was so unbearable, I had to stop.
I picked up my rifle and started running again. Sand was being kicked up into my face and I couldn’t see where I was going. I was in their sights. One of those Germans was shooting at…ME. I tripped and fell right into someone’s used-to-be leg. The exposed bone scraped my face. The soft, wet flesh soothing the cut as I stood yet again. A loud plat came as a bullet hit the man with no leg and the blood splashed up onto my face. I started to run again. The pain in my stomach becoming unbearable. I ran up to where the barbed wire fence was blocking a slightly raised line of ground. I fell just beneath this ridge started ripping the plastic off my gun.
Some men had made it to the ridge too. After I got the plastic off of my carbine, I reached into the pouch hanging at my side. I grabbed a rectangular cartridge and shoved it into my gun. I pulled the lever back and let it go, turned to the bunker above me and started shooting. Soon I noticed that my shots weren’t doing anything but putting chips in the cement. I released the empty cartridge and shoved in another. The sand must have jammed my carbine, because a bullet was sticking straight out of the side, horizontal to the ground.
I dropped back down to the sand and started to pull at the lever when the explosion came. I felt something rip into my legs like a hungry animal striking. I suddenly couldn’t hear anything and all I felt was searing pain in both of my legs. I looked down. There was nothing. Blood oozed out of my…stumps…I had stumps, not legs. Not anymore. The red pool was growing.
Then I saw the carnage. I dropped my gun in astonishment. Men’s ligaments were flying all over the place. Sand bursting up and over my face. Blood pools. Dead men, screaming. Bullets ripping into soft flesh. Men running up the beach as fast as they can only to lose an arm or a leg to relentless machine gun fire and mortar rounds. The corners of my eyes went black. I started to hear the screams again. My face burned. I reached up. Exposed bone. Drooping flesh. I let my head fall back onto the soft sand and let the blackness take me. The soothing blackness. And I could hear no more. Just the joyous chorus…