"....Those battles were not fought by alert, well-rested, well-fed, healthy men, but by men suffering exhaustion, from heat and dysentery and the neverending itching induced by lice and fleas, from never being allowed to stretch out and get a night's sleep, and from continuously living with grinding tension arising from the irrepressible dread of being blown to pieces or being left mangled or crippled."
--George E. Blackburn, The Guns of Normandy
Early August 1944
I'm sick. I don't want to be but I am. It's the blasted sand fleas and lice, they're everywhere, biting everyone and spreading disease. The fact that we haven't bathed or live in a clean environment doesn't help matters either.
It's dysentery I got. Bloody shit I can deal with but the abdominal pain is enough to have me doubled over and wanting to shoot myself.
It drains all the energy out of you too. During and after the disease you're exhausted because you've been near to dehydration and are left feeling less vigorous then before. Taylor had recently gotten over the dysentery and was walking around sluggishly, eyes dull. No doubt if he had a proper rest he would feel better by the end of the day, but the constant digging in and moving about in the summer heat gives no such relief.
Did I mention how awful I feel? There had been so many cases of dysentery that the MO is no longer accepting cases at the regimental aid post.
"This whole damn army is sick with it," Grayson grumbles to me. "How do they expect us to fight when we're in such horrid shape?"
"I don't know." I reply. "But it seems that they don't realize whats going on down here."
So I'm stuck with the dysentery while lice and fleas inhabit every nook and cranny of my uniform, while we get shelled and shot at, and the sun glares down on us. Lovely, just lovely.
We were to break through to Falaise after the Americans finally broke through their bridgehead in the West. We weren't being told much about Falaise which gave rise to many shit-house rumours about what we were actually doing. To put it simply and from what I discern from all the rabble was that we and the Brits were to push through to Falaise and surround the German Army, cutting them off in a "pocket" or "gap".
We were able to meet some Americans during when they advanced but it was a short lived interaction. The most time I ever spent with a Yankee was in London. Very obnoxious and cocky bastards they are but they seem decent once you got only one or two of them as company.
Anyway, we're all gearing up to go to Falaise. Our artillery has left their positions to move closer to the Germans; we saw their convey pass us today. We also been digging trenches alongside armoured bulldozers. It's about damn time we had those things. They get the job done faster.
Taylor had been quiet for most of the day. I assumed it was because he wasn't feeling too good and left him be. But being raised in a household that taught me to be sensitive to other people's needs, I decided I should go talk to him to make sure Taylor was okay.
I find him under a grove of trees and sit next to him. "How's it going?"
He shrugs. "Feeling a little better."
I smile. "Good to hear."
We sit in comfortable silence for awhile. I glance over at Taylor and study his face. He neglects to remember how observant I am as I see an array of emotions pass over his face as he stares off into the distance.
I cock an eyebrow at him. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing's wrong man."
I snort. "You lie!"
He gives me a venomous look. "Don't act like my mother please."
I lean back away from him, feeling stung. "I was just asking Taylor. You've been acting pretty mopey."
Taylor's face softens and he looks. "I'm sorry. I just been thinking."
"Thinking about what?" I pressed. I probably sound very annoying to Taylor.
"I just-I just got a bad feeling about all of this." He confesses. "Like something bad is going to happen to me." Taylor pauses as his eyes take on a fearful look. "Arty I think I'm going to die. I really don't think I will make it out of Falaise alive!"
I freeze completely. It takes me a moment to speak. "You're just exhausted Taylor," I reason. "The tension's getting to you. On top of that everyone's been sick and hasn't sleep much. It's probably nothing."
"I don't know." Taylor twiddles his thumbs nervously.
I put a reassuring hand on the back of his neck and rub the tense muscle there. "Cheer up. Maybe we'll get some mail from home!"
Taylor gave me a sheepish look. "I hope to God you're right."
Once night fall comes and covers the world in its shroud, I jump into my slit trench to try to catch some shut eye.
I mull over Taylor's paranoia as he sits sleeping next to me. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't worried. I had heard stories from my father when he was in the Great War. He told me that some soldiers knew when they were going to die. He recounted many instances when close friends told his platoon that they would not survive the day and ended up being right.
I can't help but wonder how that can be. How can a person know they are going to die when they are not sick with a terminal illness or face-to-face with the circumstances that could cause their death? It was a mystery to me. Personally I have never experienced this premonition and I hope that I never will.