In the late stages of World War II the Germany Army was inducting boys as young as 13 into the army. 'No Retreat' is a fictional story of two young Bavarians inducted into the war in 1944...Just in time for D-Day, Operation Market Garden, and the Battle of the Bulge. The storyline is fictional but the events of history are all true.
Preparations for Invasion
Rennie was assigned to support one of the machine gun emplacements. It was his first time to view close up a Maschinengewehr (MG34 machine gun). In the Hitler Youth they had practiced with one, but used a broomstick instead of the real thing. This machine gun fired rounds so fast it was impossible to count them. It almost sounded like canvas being ripped rather than quick rounds being fired. It was a terror weapon that British soldiers came to fear in the 1940 campaign. The Allies had nothing to compare with it. It was a belt-fed weapon capable of firing over 800 rounds per minute and usually required a two man crew. The MG34 was air-cooled and gun crews usually carried extra barrels to replace overheated ones. The reputation of the MG34 preceded it and allied commanders tried to set aside fears among their infantry but it was devastating in its results. It was updated in 1942 with the MG42, but veterans still preferred the MG34 if they had an option. The older gun was tried and true. Old Sergeant Schultz was the main operator of this particular machine gun and saw the look on Rennie’s face after one practice firing. When he asked Rennie if he wanted to try his hand he knew the answer by the look on Rennie’s face. Sergeant Schultz fed the belt of ammunition into the breech as Rennie cut loose with a ten round burst of fire at an obstacle on the beach. Never could he have imagined any weapon would fire so much, so quickly. The obstacle was metal and the ricochet rounds could be heard plinking up and down the obstacle. This was a weapon without equal and the young soldier did not want to give it up anytime soon. Rennie had a grin on his face a mile wide as he returned the shooter’s position to the Sergeant.
June 1st, 1944 the air activity over the French coastline started to heat up significantly. Rennie and his unit could almost count on American fighters coming over their area on a daily basis. The 99th had to make sure all tanks and trucks were either under trees or heavy camouflage nets to keep from being bombed or strafed by the planes. Reports were the planes were attacking everything from Amsterdam to Cherbourg along the coast and many targets farther inland. The units now making the transfer from the Russian front to the West were really subjected to intense attacks. A lot of valuable armor was lost on the roads when they were unable to find cover. The American P-51, P-47, and P-38 fighters were free to find targets of opportunity in France since the Luftwaffe was a no-show in this campaign. Rail traffic was at a standstill since the American fighters destroyed any train that ventured out during the daylight hours. Even at night the trains had to deal with the French underground. Explosions set by the French locals would derail trains and knock down telephone poles on a regular basis. Communications between the German units was limited to shortwave radio between headquarter and outlying units, until repair crews could re-connect the downed telephone lines.
Rennie did not have duty on Sunday, June 4th, so he asked Klaus if the two of them might try to get in some swimming and shopping at Le Havre. Klaus inquired if his new girl- friend, Marie, might join them. It was okay with Rennie, but as it turned out, Marie had to work that day and could not take off. So it would be just the two life-long friends together again. It sounded like a good idea and both looked forward to the time away from the army. Both had settled into the system of occupational duty and looked for anything to take them away from the doldrums of day to day routines. Sunday arrived but so did a monsoon rainstorm. Rennie and Klaus were both disappointed in not getting to go to the beach, but it was a good time to bring each other up to date on what the other was doing. Klaus and the girl in Le Havre were starting to get serious and he was making trips into Le Havre to see her without Rennie. He was even mentioning Marie in his letters back home to his parents.
Monday was more of the same. Rain was coming down in buckets but soldiers have a duty to perform. Rennie had a spot on top of the wall behind the machine gun nest and a field of fire viewpoint allowing him to see over a half-mile in front of him. But not this day as rain was pouring down all over Western Europe. After sitting there for a few minutes in the drenching rain, he was allowed to come inside one of the bunkers to get out of the wet stuff. Most of the battery crew was confident the Allies would not be such a dunce as to invade in this type of weather. The coastal battery soldiers had installed a short antenna and even had a radio to enjoy music from a Paris radio station. Foot-soldiers could only envy the easy living these troops were enjoying. The inside of the fortifications could be hot as hell in the daytime, but now during a downpour, it was the best place to be. The general feeling was the Allies had missed a chance for the invasion during the last part of May when the tides were low and the weather nice. Now after the first week in June the high tides had returned to the French coast. Most of the Command Officers were even taking the opportunity of the bad weather to participate in some war games back in Rennes. The games would give them a feel for what was to come in the event of a real invasion. Even overall coastal commander, General Erwin Rommel, was taking the opportunity to return to Germany to celebrate the birthday of his wife, Lucy. He had one of his aide’s buy her a pair of handmade shoes while in Paris. Rommel departed Sunday and planned to visit home before heading for the war games. Most of the battalion commanders and higher ranking officers would be attending the games. Major Kruper was the senior company commander and was placed in charge of the battalion while Oberst-Colonel Walter Swink was away at the games.
Just as soon as he finished his duty Rennie returned to his tent to try and find a dry uniform. He had been drenched twice today and was afraid he might catch a cold if he did not dry out. While changing, he heard a roaring noise coming from the West. He looked up into the rainy sky and saw hundreds of planes crossing the coastline. Some were bombers and he could hear the explosions off in the distance, but most of the planes were transports. He thought he detected some of the planes pulling gliders but he was not sure as the rain was striking him in the face. Rennie had just finished unbuttoning his tunic when he heard the sirens go off. He grabbed his helmet and his rifle and headed for the headquarters tent. Just about ten feet out, he realized he did not have his rain poncho and quickly grabbed it too. The area in front of headquarters was filled with soldiers telling each other what they had seen and it was mostly a disorganized mob. Major Kruper quickly got the men in formation and starting dispatching orders. There was a report of paratroopers landing behind the 99th Panzer, between the cities of Le Havre and Caen. Sergeant Schultz grabbed Rennie by the arm and told him to come with him.
The grizzly old sergeant had been in combat many times and he was one of the few that looked like they knew what they were doing. Schultz and Rennie made it to the concrete pillbox and joined the ten soldiers already there. It was getting dark and they surveyed the English Channel through powerful field glasses but could not see a thing. Schultz tried the radio and was told to stand by as a reconnaissance unit had been sent out to check on the paratrooper report.