Forced to Kill
“Hey, wake up. Wake up!”
My eyes fluttered open, and in front of me I saw a battered face. My eyes closed again. My head was pounding. I had no idea where I was.
“Thought you were dead. Thank god you're alive, thought I was gonna be all alone.”
My eyes opened again. The man kneeling in front of me was in American gear. I sat up against the brush behind me. As I looked around, through my blurry vision, I saw that my bag was next to me, and my helmet was off. We were in a clearing in a forest.
“How’d you get all the way over here?” The guy asked in his heavy Boston accent. It all came back to me. Fear shot through me as I realized the danger I was in.
“Um.. my plane caught fire. I had… to jump late.” I muttered. With every word I spoke, my head throbbed more and more. I began to recall what had just happened. I remembered that I had just participated in the allied invasion of France. I reached my hand up to my head and rubbed it. My fingers ran through my buzzed hair. I pulled my hand back down, and it was covered in blood. I stared down at in awe.
“Don’t worry, the cut isn’t that bad. You just been bleeding for a while, that’s all. That’s how I knew you were alive.”
“How long… was I out?”
“I saw you come down, and I headed to find you. I’d say about ten minutes.” The soldier held up a white cloth to my head. He wrapped it around it and pulled it tight.
“Are you a medic?” I said feeling the wrap on my head.
“That’s right. I got separated from the rest of the guys cause when we were at the drop zone and the guy in front of me was just too god damn scared to jump. Finally got him to though, I pushed him out myself. What about yourself.”
It took me a while to recall. I was still dazed from the hit.
“Sniper… where is my gun anyways?” I looked around and I couldn’t spot it.
“It’s right here, don’t worry.” He put a hand on it in it’s spot on the ground. “We’ve gotta move before the Germans find us, we're far enough that there’s gonna be squads coming to find us.” He held a hand out to me.
I embraced his hand and he pulled me up. My head pounded even harder, but I ignored it. He grabbed my helmet off the ground and threw it to me. I caught it and strapped it on my head. He then handed me my rifle. I checked the magazine in it to make sure it was loaded.
“What’s your name sir?” I asked as he prepared his gear for battle.
“Sargent Henry Greer. My friends call me bing. Yourself?”
“Eh, one thing, ok? Don’t call me sir.”
We must have been traveling through the forest for an hour, and my head was getting worse and worse. The brush was thick, and it was hard to travel through. Bing had a compass, and we knew that the coast was toward the west, and we had our best chance of running into friendlies if we headed in that direction. We could hear the sounds of gunfire in the distance. I knew that my fellow soldiers that I had met in training camp would be fighting right now, and some of them may be dead.
As we moved through the forest, any animal that moved, or a slight breeze, that ruffled the branches or crunched on the dirt alerted us. We would stop moving, aim our rifles in the direction, until we decided it was clear. We had to move slow, and weave our way around trees. The further we got, the trees became less dense. It was meticulous work really, knowing that at any minute a kraut could jump out from behind a tree. Or a sniper could spot us, or maybe even an allied aircraft could drop bombs on us. It was my first action, and it was the most frightening fighting of the war. Even though there were no enemies in sight, it was the anticipation that there MIGHT be. You just didn’t know, and that’s the scary thing about it. The scarier thing was that I was a sniper. I was trained to be able to notice the slightest movement and recognize it as an enemy soldier. I was trained to be able to zero in and take my shot in less than five seconds of me spotting the man. And I was trained to get up and move right after I took the shot, so no one could detect me. But I was never trained to be the the soldier on the other end, to be hunted. I was always the hunter.
“What was that.” I heard a knock on a tree. With my training, I knew how to tell if the movement was an animal, or a human, and this sounded like a human.
“What-” Bing said turning in the direction I was looking.
I shushed him. I was entering into my sniper mode.
“Don’t move.” I whispered to Bing. He obeyed.
I aimed my rifle toward the small bush that we heard the sound from. I lifted up one foot and slowly placed it down, trying to make as little sound as possible. I continued this system a few more steps.
“Don’t shoot!! I’m an American!!!!” We both aimed our rifles toward the sound. Laying under the bush was a small soldier. His helmet was off, and he clutched his arm. His sleeve was stained red.
I lowered my rifle and breathed a breath of relief. Bing went over to the wounded soldier and surveyed the injury. I chose not to look, I never like blood. Ironic right? I was a sniper and I couldn’t stand blood. Eventually got over that fear.
I took a seat on a nearby tree trunk, and laid my rifle down next to me. I pulled out my water canteen and took a sip. I smiled as the cool water trickled down my throat.
“How’d you get that?” I asked, looking away.
“I must’ve caught it on a branch or something when i landed. I’ve been laying here for about thirty minutes. Thought i was a dead man, thought the jerries were gonna find me first.” He explained looking over his arm.
“Thought I was too ‘til I found Danny here.” Bing said as he wrapped the soldier's arm.
“We got to move, if he’s being laying here for thirty minutes, he’s lucky no Germans have found him yet.” I said as I stood up and retrieved my rifle.
“I saw two jerries walk no more than twenty yards from me just a little after I landed. They didn’t spot me in this bush.”
“Lucky.” I muttered under my breath.
“What’s your name sir?” Bing asked as he helped him up.
“I’m Private Scott Davis.” He said out stretching a hand.
“Sargent Henry Greer. Call me Bing.” Bing grabbed his hand and shook it.
“I’m Danny, now let’s move before you two get us shot.”
“Light.” I squinted through the forest and spotted a yellow glow in the distance.
“Just over there, you see it?” I asked pointing.
“I see it.” Bing answered.
“Fire maybe? A battle?” Scott said.
“Couldn’t be. We would hear gun fire. Looks like light coming out of a window.” I whispered. “Let’s move. Let’s figure out what it is.”
We all walked through the forest in our usual way. Slowly moving making the least sound as possible. I felt a little safer now, with another man. If there was a German century, maybe we would have a chance. But I tried not to think like that. You can’t think like that. If you start to worry in war, you will only make your chances of survival worse.
We approached the light and noticed that it was inside a clearing.
“Amerikaner! Dort von diesem Haus!”
“GET DOWN GERMANS!!!!” Bing screamed as he hit the floor. I did the same and collapsed to the ground.
“Behind us, there they are!” Scott screamed.
The sound of another German rifle filled the air. I nervously pulled out my rifle and with my shaky hands, I slid a clip in.
It was the sound of Scott’s rifle.
I looked down the scope and scanned when I spotted movement. I homed in on him, but he kept moving. My hands shook my rifle, and I couldn’t get a clear shot.
CRACKKK! Another shot.
My target kept moving and I followed him with my scope. Finally, he knelt down and aimed his rifle to shoot. This was my chance. I held my breath.
But I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t shoot him. I couldn’t kill someone. I just couldn’t.
“Nice shooting Scott!” Bing yelled.
“Is that all of em?” Scott asked.
“Yes.” I said pulling away from the scope.
“Let’s get to that house.” Bing whispered.
The thought of me not being able to pull the trigger followed me the whole way to the house. ‘What’s going to happen if a german’s about to shoot Bing, or Scott? What will I do? Sit there like an idiot? What happens if a Germans pointing at me? What if it’s a kill or be killed situation?’
We crept up the steps to the deck on the house. The steps creaked under our feet, as we approached the door to the hundred year old farm house. Scott leaned up to the door and put his ear on it.
“Don’t hear nothin”
“Maybe those soldiers were from here.”
We all stood there staring at eachother. What to do next.
“There might be a radio inside. Then we can radio HQ and see where they are set up. If worst comes to worst, we can camp out in here until the boys land on the beach.” Even though I couldn’t shoot a man, I was smart. I had military sense.
“Great idea Danny, let’s go in.” Scott said laying his hand on the doorknob. He slowly turned it, and creaked the door open. We all pointed our rifles inside.
Bing entered first, as we waited outside.
“It’s clear so far.” Bing whispered from inside. We continued into the house, and checked all the rooms. It was clear.
“Still haven't found a radio?” I yelled as I trudged down the stairs from the second floor.
“No, but I found some champagne” Bing smiled as he pulled it out of the ice box.
“We’ll celebrate after we radio HQ. Is there a basement in this joint?” I asked pulling the bottle out of Bing’s hand and placing it on the large oak table.
“Stairs over here Captain.” Scott said in a sarcastic tone.
“I’ll go check down there, Scott come with me. Danny keep watch.”
Bing met Scott at the stairs. They left their rifles on the table and opened the rickety door to the basement. I wondered if I should have reminded them to bring their rifles. They both disappeared into the darkness, and it was too late.
I sat down on the table and lied my sniper down. I was still embarrassed from my inability of me to kill. When I was a kid and I wondered if they had known I could of shot him, and I didn’t.
Suddenly the door to the basement slammed. I sprung up to my feet. Once again, my heart began to pound. I slowly walked over to the basement door. I leaned up against it, and just as Scott did, listened in.
I heard movement, and the sound of shuffling. It sounded like more than two pairs of feet. Then there was a muffled yelp.
“Dannyyyy” I heard. They were in trouble. There must have been Germans down there. But if there were Germans, they would have shot the two men already, right?
My first instinct was to run, but I knew I couldn’t. I couldn’t do that, not when they needed my help. I stood there, motionless, listening to the struggling bodies down stairs. I had to go help. Before I could take my decision back, I pushed open the door and ran down the stairs. What I saw was a German soldier wrestling with Bing on the damp floor of the basement. The German was on top of him, and in his hand he held a small pocket knife. At the bottom of the stairs was Scott’s motionless body.
My heart dropped, and I froze. I stood at the last step and watched as the soldier wrestled more with Bing.
“BING!!” I yelled. He turned his head slightly, and so did the German. They both froze. I must have stood there staring at the two men for at least ten seconds. We were all in awe.
The German suddenly punched Bing in the face and leaped off of him. In shock, Bing fell backwards, and hit the floor about twenty feet away from me. The German then began to sprint full force toward me with his pocket knife extended.
My mind went blank, and the adrenaline kicked in. I don’t remember what I was thinking then, I don’t even remember doing it. It was as if my body took control over my mind.
My hands flew to my handgun that was strapped to the side of my belt. I yanked it out, cocked it, and squeezed the trigger.
The German screamed out in pain, and collapsed in front of me. His hands flew to his stomach, and clutched it. Blood trickled out. I lowered my pistol.
I froze once again, and looked down at the body of the dead German in front of me. I let out a sigh of relief.
Bing jumped up, and ran over to Scott. I returned to reality, and I had realized what I had just done. I had killed a man. I had done it, I overcame my fear. I was ecstatic, but for just a moment. Then an immense feeling of sadness flowed over me. I sat down on the stairs, and laid my face in my free hand. A tear dripped from my eye.
“Who was shot? Where’s Danny?” Scott sputtered out.
“He’s the one who fired. He got the kraut.” Bing explained helping Scott up.
I could feel Scott and Bings eyes fall over me, but I didn’t care.
“Nice shot, Danny.”
As I look back on it now, I am PROUD of my actions of my soldier. I am proud that I served for my country. I am proud of all the American lives I saved, my fellow soldiers and civilians back at home. I am proud of all the Jewish people I saved. I am proud that I was a part of the destruction of the Third Reich. There were a lot of things to be proud of when I returned to the States, but what I was not proud of was that I killed. I killed people. I killed men, and those men were just like me. Fighting for their country, and trying to stay alive. When I killed for the first time, I cried. I cried. I’m sure you don’t usually hear that from a soldier, but I did. I eventually got over my fear, but that first kill still haunts me. I often wonder about that German. What was his name? How old was he? Did he have a wife, kids? I will never know, and that bothers me. But there’s nothing I can do, and that is something I have to accept. Just like I had to accept the fact that I was a soldier, and soldiers killed. I was a killer.