Saturday, September 13, 2003

Another book excerpt

This is also from "Parachute Infantry" by David Webster.

He describes an attack by German 88's.

"Sitting in an inch of water. I closed my eyes, gritted my teeth, held my breath, and clutched my elbows with my arms around my knees.

Three more shells came in, low and angry, and burst in the orchard.

"They're walking toward us," I whispered.

I felt as if a giant with exploding iron fingers were looking for me, tearing up the ground as he came. I wanted to strike at him, to kill him, to stop him before he ripped into me, but I could do nothing. Sit and take it, sit and take it. The giant raked the orchard and tore up the roads and stumbled toward us in a terrrible blind wrath as we sat in our hole with our heads between our legs and curses on our lips.

"I never felt so helpless before," I confided to Wiseman in a dry whisper an hour after the shelling started. "I'd give a foot to get out of here."


Three pounds of TNT. A muzzle velocity higher than a rifle bullet. Hundreds of pieces of jagged, red-hot metal. Black clouds of smoke. Eighty-eights. Death.

Three more came in. The Germans were firing in battery, probably from tanks or SP's. The last shell was so close that it clanged when it exploded. Three more arrived.

The ground quaked, and a rancid black thundercloud curled down into our hole, making us cough and choke. An ugly chunk of hot steel an inch square plunked into Wiseman's lap. He grinned.

"Close," I whispered. "They're traversing the orchard." I felt as if the giant were near enogh to hear me, and I was afraid to raise my voice for fear it would draw him to us.

Thee and then three and then three.

No wonder men went crazy in a shelling. it was the worst experience on earth. You could fight a tank and shoot back at an airplane and meet a man on equal terms, but there was nothing you could do about artillery. The Germans called it the whispering death.


The next three shells came in so fast that their zipping sound was intermingled with the explosions. The giant grabbed our hole and shook it back and forth.

I dissolved and waited to die. Each salvo had come closer; this was the closest of all. One of the shells had hit a tin shed ten feet away. The next three would bracket us."

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