"Beautifully written... perfectly evokes life and battle in a parachute infantry company."—Washington Post Book World
The remarkable memoir that inspired Band of Brothers .
Paratrooper David Kenyon Webster jumped into the chaos of occupied Europe on D-Day, fighting his way through Holland and finally capturing Hitler's Eagle's Nest. He was the only member of Easy Company to write down his experiences as soon as he came home from war.
Webster records with visceral and sometimes brutal detail what it is like to take a bullet in the leg, to fight pitched battles capturing enemy towns, and to endure long periods of boredom punctuated by sudden moments of terror. But most of all, Parachute Infantry shows how a group of comrades entered the furnace of war and came out brothers.
'Beautifully written and perfectly evokes life and battle in a parachute infantry company' Washington Post
'A classic wartime memoir' Stephen K Ambrose-- Dieser Text bezieht sich auf eine andere Ausgabe: Taschenbuch .
Über den Autor und weitere Mitwirkende
From the Trade Paperback edition.
Leseprobe. Abdruck erfolgt mit freundlicher Genehmigung der Rechteinhaber. Alle Rechte vorbehalten.
O.K., let's go. Mount the buses and say goodbye to the village of Aldbourne, to its green hills and mossy barns and thatched cottages, to the white pubs, the brown cow-pond, the old gray church. A V sign, a wave of the hand, a friendly smile for the two bakers and Barney and Ma and the crippled man who drags a child's cart, collecting cans for the scrap-metal drive. No more London, no more mild-and-bitter, no more field problems or playground jumps.
We were hot and crowded on the ride south but not unaware of the beauty around us, a beauty made more lovely by the knowledge that many of us would never see it again. Loaded with gear and ammunition and sweating terribly in woolen winter uniforms, we drove under the tall green trees south of camp, past Wittenditch and the back hill to Ramsbury, past the cozy tea room at Chilton Foliat and the water meadow and cattail bog that fronted on the pink, Elizabethan magnificence of Littlecote Manor, home of the legendary wild Darrells and more recently of our regimental commander, Colonel Robert F. Sink.
We crossed the Kennet River on an arched stone bridge, made a sharp left turn at the Froxfield-Littlecote intersection, and rolled through Hungerford to the Great Western Railroad station on the outskirts, where we must have waited for hours. At least it seemed like hours, for the sun was so hot, our gear so tight, our clothes so airless and itchy. Gradually the talk died down and more and more men lay back on their musette bags and fell asleep. Tension passed into boredom.
It was supposed to be a secret that we were setting off for the Invasion of Europe, but the secret was hard to keep from passersby. Our fresh bandoleers, new ammunition pouches, and full musette bags; the camouflage netting on our helmets; the bundles of orange cloth and identification panels that almost every man carried; the trench knives sewn on our boots; the tense, excited way we talked.
I, however, was still skeptical, for I had imagined that our last move would be at least as well disguised as our arrival in Aldbourne. It would be proper, correct, and traditional, I thought, to fade away from Aldbourne on a cold, dark night in a sealed convoy. After all we had been told about security, it seemed foolish to move us out so openly for D-Day at hot high noon. I looked at the orange cloth and the orange smoke grenades and loudly proclaimed, "Hell, this is just another goddamn maneuver. This time we're the orange team."
Our train slid in and stopped. We piled aboard, a squad of twelve to each compartment designed for six civilians, threw our excess gear on the floor, and put the machine guns and mortars in the luggage racks overhead and the musette bags under the seats. Down came the broad leather window straps and with them the windows, and soon everybody had settled back quietly with his thoughts and his memories and forebodings to rest awhile and enjoy the trip.
Fast and smooth we rode, shot through the green landscape in our sealed tube, as if we were trying to make up for all our waiting. We rattled south and west, through pocket villages and little towns we'd never heard of before. Through Pewsey and Westbury and Bruton and Cas Cory, Yeovil and Axminster. Through tunnels and across rivers that would be brooks and creeks in our own land (the Avon, the Wylye, the Stour, the Frome, the Axe). As we got sleepier and sleepier, we came nearer the Channel and saw scores of overgrown 1940 pillboxes, their sagging barbed wire draped with wild vines.
"Tweet, tweet!" our engine shrilled as we rattled through the stations without a pause. "D-Day calling," the wheels replied, "D-Day calling, D-Day calling, D-Day calling."
We dozed or talked softly, smoked or looked out the windows, opened our K rations and ate them. The hills got bigger and greener, with great, shadowy belts of trees on their tops, and the train increased its speed. Whistling shrilly at tunnels that blew soot back at us through the open windows, it carried us like a tidal wave toward the dark shore of combat for which we had been so long preparing. On and on, "D-Day calling, D-Day calling, D-Day calling."
At twilight time, we rattled into a village way station and stopped. Men got out of the forward cars, cursing and banging their gear, and soon an officer shouted in our window, "Everybody outside! This is it."
We untangled our harness and twisted into it and fell out on the platform, rubbing our eyes in the sudden glare. honiton, a sign said.
We looked around and saw a little brown hamlet poured unevenly down steep cobblestone streets. Not a civilian was in sight. It was so utterly deserted that it reminded me of Las Vegas at nine in the morning.
Machine guns and mortars on our shoulders, we staggered up a steep incline, turned a corner, climbed aboard a column of trucks waiting for us with tailgates down and motors running, and drove slowly out of town.
"Where are we going?" someone asked our driver.
"To this airfield five miles out."
"Oh . . ."
And that was that.
The long brown convoy snaked and whined and grated uphill with dryly shifting gears on a narrow, dusty road. Higher and higher we went, until at last we reached the topmost plateau, a man-made butte for runways. We stopped in a country lane bordered by stout hedgerows sweet with honeysuckle.
I looked over the tailgate and saw a half-timbered cottage down the way and a line of green pyramidal tents on the other side of the north hedge and suddenly recognized the place. We had bivouacked here before the last night jump a few weeks ago. It was simply a bivouac area then and a very good one, but nothing more. Now it was the marshaling area.
Entertainers and newsmen on deadline can talk all they want to about tension, but they wouldn't know tension if you dipped it in a bucket of water and hit them in the face with it—unless they had spent five days in a marshaling area, waiting to start the Invasion of Europe.
The only comparable sensation would be those last five days in the death house, when everybody is quiet and considerate and they feed you well and let you sleep late and write letters and give you little favors and comforts. The chaplain comes around to see you, the warden makes a speech, and maybe you write a letter to your mother.
If you have a mother and she still cares.
Or you write your girlfriend, who is probably going steady with somebody else by now, as ours were.
Finally there isn't anything more to do. You eat your last meal and put on your clothes and walk down the corridor to the big flash. You go out of the world the way you came in: surrounded by people and utterly alone.
That's the way it was in the marshaling area.
Ours included both the runways from which the C-47s and gliders were to take off and the tent cities pitched on their outskirts for the accommodation of waiting parachutists and glidermen. Troops were assembled here for greater control, absolute secrecy, and more intimate instruction in the tasks before them. They were briefed and issued maps and whatever special equipment or ammunition was necessary to complete their wardrobe. They loaded the bellies and doorways of C-47s with parapaks of bandoleers, mortar shells, and machine-gun ammunition, with K rations and D rations, medical supplies, and 75mm pack howitzers. Jeeps, trailers, and fully assembled 105s were lashed down in British Horsa and American CG4A gliders. Nobody visited other companies,...