Thursday, May 28, 2015

Hailstorm on Hill 425 Part Two

The next morning the choppers were up, coming down in a haze of swirling fog. A few scouts had crept out earlier and marked the LZ beforehand with IR strobes, but even then guiding the birds down into the confined space was difficult. Things did go off without a hitch, for the most part. They always expect Yanks to come in helicopters.
They tumbled out, Martin took his guys and duck walked up to something solid as the other two squads organized. They would have trouble seeing anything that was there in the mist looking for them. But on the other hand if they used their estimates and movement plans as they should, they might just be able to sneak through and not have to get into a brawl. On the other hand their CDF allies north of their assault route might not be able to see anything to take out in support.

But they'd planned for the fog, for the low visibility. If they couldn't see thirty yards in front of them, they'd walk twenty yards apart so they could at least see each other. Fighting in the fog would deteriorate into a knife fight anyways, at least they could hope to help each other out in twos with bayonets. But these weren't the usual conscript troops, scared of getting run through with knives—the VDV had a reputation for being willing to do just like the 11Bs with the stars and stripes on their shoulders.
As far as sneaking was concerned, they knew the enemy would be out there looking for them. The fog just made it harder to actually find them. Ideally they'd come out of the old fields and slip through to Hill 425. As they put one foot in front of the other and the tension grew, the soldiers would routinely check outside their sector, expecting some burly blue-bereted Russian in a white and blue tank top to step out of the mist, AK at his hip. And the main thing was that the riflemen in the mist had to keep quiet. Snapping branches and rustling leaves in the rows in the field spooked everyone.
At about the halfway point, they heard shouting in Russian. They halted for a moment, dropping to one knee and raising their rifles. Wilkins motioned to his squad, the men splitting off a bit to expand their bubble of security. They were hoping that if things did get worse, the enemy would run into the extended bubble and get enveloped quickly and neatly. The only issue is that fog makes coordination tough, but they'd been fighting together long enough that they knew each other's movement quite well, it wasn't the kind of maneuver you'd trust green troops with, especially not in the foggy mist of the morning.
Martin was certain it was counting, coming from his left to his right. Most likely to keep track of everyone. Ideally they'd just walk by, but was that any better? When they hit the enemy positions on the other end of the field they'd have . . . eight men from the sound of it behind them. Considering that Grimes was supposed to be on rearguard anyways, Martin decided to leave him with his job, the order to move forward in team bounds went up.
The rustling of the grass and bushes seemed as loud as a jet engine in the quiet of the morning, the regular counting breaking out every minute or so. And as it got louder the adrenaline started pumping during each rush. Each row of rocks and stubborn vegetation marking ten or twenty yards, each dash desperate leaving the soldier huffing under the weight of their gear. The stopping and the starting being the worst part, at first anyways. Then eventually the whole routine being an agonizing torture run with slight breaks in between as the whole platoon's pace became maddening. For a two-hundred yard stretch of fields, it felt like it took a day to get halfway through. And then a shot rang out, and in an instant six more. Then more, and more, and the quiet Yankees began yelling, and the fog started to dissipate, and shit was hitting the fan.
Martin urged them on, the right flank security had hit a Russian sentry team sent to investigate and had dropped both of them, the fire there slacking. But that meant the platoon was meeting the Russians in the fog, and Grimes darted off to the left with his other light machine gunner to deal with the inevitable. Wilkins drove his men up the center, and that wasn't the plan. It was proactive, but it wasn't the plan.
More shots rang out, a flurry of automatic fire cut through the fog to the left flank, some groaning and screaming, some arguing in a mix of languages, then nothing. Martin checked on the radio net. “How many?” And each security group checked in.
“This is alpha, got three over here.”
“Bravo to Six, we've got two here.”
“Charlie, two tangoes down.”

Martin counted in his head, remembering how many voices there had been. He came up one short. That either meant he was lurking around or he'd dashed off to get help. The de facto platoon leader couldn't be cautious, he had a timetable to meet. “All units, return to formation, prepare to move, over.” He stood back up, wiped his forehead, and marched up to the next row of rocks and vegetation. In the fog, in the confusion and tension, the Old Fields seemed to swallow them up and go on forever. Until it didn't.

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