[ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]
.Simultaneously, the prop blast tossed them this way and that.With all the extra weight and all the extra speed, when the chutes opened, the shock was more than they had ever experienced.Jumping at 500 feet, and even less, they hit the ground within seconds of the opening of the chute, so they hit hard.The men were black and blue for a week or more afterward as a result.In a diary entry written a few days later, Lieutenant Winters tried to re-create his thoughts in those few seconds he was in the air: “We're doing 150 MPH.O.K., let's go.G-D, there goes my leg pack and every bit of equipment I have.Watch it, boy! Watch it! J-C, they're trying to pick me up with those machine-guns.Slip, slip, try and keep close to that leg pack.There it lands beside that hedge.G-D that machine-gun.There's a road, trees-hope I don't hit them.Thump, well that wasn't too bad, now let's get out of this chute.”Burt Christenson jumped right behind Winters.“I don't think I did anything I had been trained to do, but suddenly I got a tremendous shock when my parachute opened.” His leg bag broke loose and “it was history.” He could hear a bell ringing in Ste.Mere-Eglise, and see a fire burning in town.Machine-gun bullets “are gaining on me.I climb high into my risers.Christ, I'm headed for that line of trees.I'm descending too rapidly.” As he passed over the trees, he pulled his legs up to avoid hitting them.“A moment of terror seized me.70 ft.below and 20 ft.to my left, a German quad mounted 20 mm antiaircraft gun is firing on the C-47's passing overhead.” Lucky enough for Christenson, the Germans' line of fire was such that their backs were to him, and the noise was such that they never heard him hit, although he was only 40 yards or so away.Christenson cut himself out of his chute, pulled his six-shot revolver, and crouched at the base of an apple tree.He stayed still, moving only his eyes.“Suddenly I caught movement ten yards away, a silhouette of a helmeted man approaching on all fours.I reached for my cricket and clicked it once, click-clack.There was no response.The figure began to move toward me again.”Christenson pointed his revolver at the man's chest and click-clacked again.The man raised his hands.“For Christ sake, don't shoot.” It was Pvt.Woodrow Robbins, Christenson's assistant gunner on the machine-gun.“You dumb shit, what the hell's wrong with you? Why didn't you use your cricket?” Christenson demanded in a fierce whisper.“I lost the clicker part of the cricket.”Slowly the adrenalin drained from Christenson's brain, and the two men began backing away from the German position.They ran into Bull Randleman, who had a dead German at his feet.Randleman related that the moment he had gotten free of his chute he had fixed his bayonet.Suddenly a German came charging, his bayonet fixed.Randleman knocked the weapon aside, then impaled the German on his bayonet.“That Kraut picked the wrong guy to play bayonets with,” Christenson remarked.Lieutenant Welsh's plane was at 250 feet, “at the most,” when he jumped.As he emerged from the C-47, another plane crashed immediately beneath him.He claimed that the blast from the explosion threw him up and to the side “and that saved my life.” His chute opened just in time to check his descent just enough to make the “thump” when he landed painful but not fatal.Most of the men of Easy had a similar experience.Few of them were in the air long enough to orient themselves with any precision, although they could tell from the direction the planes were flying which was the way to the coast.They landed to hell and gone.The tight pattern within the DZ near Ste.Marie-du-Mont that they had hoped for, indeed had counted on for quick assembly of the company, was so badly screwed up by the evasive action the pilots had taken when they hit the cloud bank that E Company men were scattered from Carentan to Ravenoville, a distance of 20 kilometers.The Pathfinders, Richard Wright and Carl Fenstermaker, came down in the Channel after their plane was hit (they were picked up by H.M.S.Tartar, transferred to Air Sea Rescue, and taken to England).Pvt.Tom Burgess came down near Ste.Mere-Eglise.Like most of the paratroopers that night, he did not know where he was.Low-flying planes roared overhead, tracers chasing after them, the sky full of descending Americans, indistinct and unidentifiable figures dashing or creeping through the fields, machine-guns pop-pop-popping all around.After cutting himself out of his chute with his pocket knife, he used his cricket to identify himself to a lieutenant he did not know.Together they started working their way toward the beach, hugging the ubiquitous hedgerows.Other troopers joined them, some from the 82nd (also badly scattered in the jump), some from different regiments of the 101st.They had occasional, brief firefights with German patrols.The lieutenant made Burgess the lead scout.At first light, he came to a corner of the hedgerow he was following.A German soldier hiding in the junction of hedgerows rose up.Burgess didn't see him.The German fired, downward [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]