Writing Catalog

Lucca Radjenovic

Grade: 9

University School - Hunting Valley

Instructor: Ashley Worthington

Three Miles Up, Three Miles Down

Short Story

Three Miles Up, Three Miles Down

Three Miles Up, Three Miles Down
June 6, 1944 11:50 PM. The sky was pitch dark. The only thing the men could hear was the buzzing of the squadron of C-47's dual prop engines. Everyone could feel the tension around them. They all knew that all their training, all their pain, led up to this moment and that some of them might not return to their families. One man in particular felt on edge. He knew that if he were to be killed, there would be no one to provide for his single mother and his two grandparents. He had moved to the states 15 years prior to this, settling in South Philadelphia at the start of the Great Depression. Without his help, the family would fall apart. He gripped his gold necklace and said a prayer in Serbian.

In war, there is a risk for everything. Every single US soldier knew that when they signed up, they might not come home, but what was so good about being in the airborne was that crisp $50 paycheck every month. $50 was a lot for 1944, and that money could help his family tremendously.

The jumpmaster yelled, "6 minutes until jump! Sound off for equipment check!"

All 16 of us yelled, "I'm okay!"

We all shuffled forward to tense the parachute release line and witnessed enormous clouds of flak around us.

The pilots of the C-47 did their best to not be hit by the flak but it was no use. Flak, it sent out jagged metal fragments that tore through all nearby aircraft. It left a characteristic black cloud hanging in the sky where the planes next to them had once been. Fortunately, their plane had not been critically damaged by it.

Once again the jumpmaster shouted, "Clear the door! 30 seconds till drop. God be with you!"

"Those thirty seconds, let me tell you, they felt like 30 years."

The green light flashed bright as day. Everyone started to jump out, I was in the middle of the stick and when I got to the door and planted my foot on the rim. I hesitated because I knew all the training I'd done for the past year led to this and I was ready. I jumped, but the moment I went airborne, the plane's fuselage blew up! It had been hit by an anti-aircraft shell. I was lucky to get out alive, but the men behind were not. As the plane went down, and shrapnel was thrown everywhere, it sliced through my parachute like paper. I was 3 miles up and it didn't take long to get 3 miles down. I released my reserve chute and at only a couple 100 feet off the ground, I was lucky not to be dead for the second time. For the whole time, I hadn't realized I was holding onto my necklace, but I continued to hold onto it because I believed it brought me luck. Not long after, I hit the ground hard, falling on my back from the force of the chute pulling me back and I was knocked out.

Nearby, a group of 2nd platoon men from Able Company along with their new C.O. Dick Miller. Millers grew up on a small farm in Connecticut where he was exposed to the wilderness and always hunting where he learned to be a good marksman. Able Company was heading towards him, they saw him struggling to deploy his parachute in the sky and started to move in the direction of where he landed.

The C.O. yelled, "Kosta, get your ass up! We're moving out! With or without you."

"Yes sir! I'll go where you go."

"That's what I like to hear, sergeant! Now we are going to be hitting a German forward command center that needs to be destroyed to ensure that all the beach landings on Normandy are successful and that we can call D-Day a successful operation."

He pulled a map of Normandy out of his haversack, however he couldn't see anything and yelled, "Get me some light on this map! It's still too dark out here."

It was around 4:40, still dawn and the enemy could see them however they couldn't see each other.

"Here, the FCS is 3 miles North and 6 miles east. Kosta I want you to take a group of four men and I want you to take the right flank and clear everything on that side and I'll do the same on the left. I forgot to give you this back in England before we took off. It's a letter from your mother."

It read, "My dearest Kosta, we're moving to Barberton, Ohio in one month's time. We shall open up a dairy farm. Love, Mama."

When Kosta was originally deployed, he was a corporal but many died on the descent to the ground on Normandy when parachuting. He was now a sergeant. During war, it's easy to get ranked up to replace a fallen soldier.

"I'll see you on the other side Dick."

"Yeah, I'll see you."

"Evans, Rayman, Jackmon, Willie, Hill, Olin. Let's get moving! We have to take the backroads of Normandy so we don't get caught by some krauts!"

"Sir, what is a Kraut?"

"Well Evans, a Kraut is what we US soldiers call German soldiers because they like their sauerkraut."

"We're 10 minutes out sir."

"Thank you Jackmon."

Olin started to sing, "He was just a rookie trooper and he surely shook with fright, He checked off his equipment and made sure his pack was tight; He had to sit and listen to those awful engines roar, You ain't gonna jump no more."

We all joined in singing, "Gory, gory, what a hell of a way to die, Gory, gory, what a hell of a way to die, Gory, gory, what a hell of a way to die, He ain't gonna jump no more."

After those 10 minutes of singing there was a connection with those men I never felt before. I felt like a band of brothers.

"Everyone, bring guns and ammo only. I repeat guns and ammo only, anything else will slow you down."

I checked one more time to see if my necklace was there, I can't go anywhere without it.

Hill asked, "Where'd you get that necklace from?"

"My father gave it to me before my family left Serbia. My father promised he'd meet us in the States, but he never made it."

Mellish yelled, "We're here."

(D-day +1)

As we reached the forward command center, it was early morning and the only things we could see were all the fortifications that were built up. They had MG42 machine guns for close ground support and heavier caliber guns like flak 88's for taking out tanks and airplanes.

"Here's the plan. Evans, Rayman, Jackmon you'll go down the middle, clear a path and meet up with Captain Miller on the left flank. Use your smoke and hand grenades wisely. Willie, Hill, Olin you're with me. We're going down the right flank and going to have to take out the flak 88's as they will cause us a lot of trouble. "

We all split up, but little did we know that some of us would never see each other again. Unfortunately, that's how war is. One second you're talking to someone and then the next thing they're dead.

"You see all those ammo boxes men? We're going to blow up all the ammo boxes by the 88s. Hopefully we will create a diversion for the other men, so they can punch a hole directly to the command center."

"What are we going to use to blow up the ammo? Hand grenades?"

"Olin, that's a good idea. We're all going to throw a grenade at the same time to increase our chance of blowing everything up."

Suddenly Hill yelled, "Get down in the trench! Mortar fire incoming!"

We all dove into the trench but the fragmentation of the mortar hit the chest of Mellish and we all knew he was a goner but none of us wanted to say it.

I yelled as loud as I could, "Those Krauts had us zeroed in on their scopes and were just waiting for us!"

"Kosta, please deliver this letter to my family for me."

"I promise you that I'll deliver it Mellish."

In that second, he died. His family wouldn't find out until 3 weeks after.

"Willie and Hill, we've got to get this done! Grab a hand grenade and on the count of 3 lob it. One, two, three!"

They all successfully hit the ammo boxes and the explosion made a nice fourth of July firework display.

"Let's get moving towards Evans and them, before they have us zeroed in again!"

Evans said, "Kosta, I lost both Rayman and Jackmon! We punched the hole but they both got mowed down by some MG's. Those things are deadly!"

"Can we still accomplish the mission Kosta?"

"Hill, we still need that left flank cleared by Millers."

"Where the hell is Millers? What the hell is that whistling noise?"

A second later, there was a large explosion near us.

"Is everyone ok? I got hit in the thigh, otherwise I'm fine."

"Sir, both Evans and Willie are dead."

"Hill, let's get the hell out of here then. This is a lost cause, and if we don't play this smart, we'll both end up like Evans and Willie."

Millers yelled, "Kosta! Hill! Get over here to the tree line, this is the only cover."

Kosta asked, "Dick, where are all your men?"

He hysterically responded, "They all died. When the mortar fire came in, one took them all and I was lucky enough to be far enough away to barely survive. I got hit in the stomach and I'm not making it out of this war. There are three Tiger H1 tanks coming towards us. Save yourselves, I'll hold them off as long as I can."

Kosta and Hill respond, "We're not going down without a fight."

"All right. Set up some claymore's right before they enter the tree line and it will explode under them. I'm not letting you do more, so get out right after that and that's an order."

Kosta and Hill grab the claymore's, wire them together and set up three rocket launchers for Millers.

Hill asked, "What's that rumbling noise?"

Millers responded "That's the sound of 150 tons of German engineering rolling towards us."

Kosta said, "Everyone grab a rocket launcher! Wait for the claymores to go off and shoot the sides of one of the Tigers. They will ammo rack"


"All three of the Tigers were hit but none of them got hurt. Get ready to fire! Make aim! Fire!"

We all shot the same Tiger and it was a success. One of the rounds went through the Tiger and blew it up. The other two tigers rolled through the smoke and fired at us, and they both missed.

Kosta exclaimed, "There's not enough time to reload the rocket launchers in time to fire again. We have to retreat!"

Millers yelled, "I'm dying right here, right now! You guys are getting out of here!"

I had never seen someone run at a Tiger the way Millers did, without fear. "Clink!" was the noise that was made after Millers pulled a pin from the hand grenade. He had thrown a grenade into one of the Tiger's killing the crew of Germans, and he was already jumping onto the other one when he was shot in both legs by a German Wehrmacht soldier following behind the Tigers.

"Get out of here Kosta, now!"

The second hand grenade in Dick's hand blew him up. He bought both me and Hill enough time to escape. I thought I would never make it back, but if it weren't for Dick, I would have died that day and never made it out of the war. In the end, I would do it all over again and relive it all over again because I don't think I would have become the same person today.

[World War II was a war that was not easily won and it took everyones part to win. I wrote this story to tell the reader about the bonds soldiers formed during war. This story in particular shows how soldiers have to react to situations based on the circumstances and knowing how to make decisions quickly or it will cost the lives of the men around the person making the decisions. Dedicate this to all the Soldiers of WWII and that lost a friend giving his life to a cause bigger than himself. I used my grandfather's name, Kosta, as the main character because he lived in Serbia during WWII being old enough to be well aware of everything going on, even the dreadful things that he experienced and saw happen.]