January 8, 2009

Robert Rogge

The rain poured down, and the troops tramped ankle deep in mud that stunk of rotting corpses. When they were forced off the road by the lorries, their boots sucked and squelched in the deeper muck of the ruined fields.

The rain hissed on their helmets and ran into every crevice of their rain capes. It ran cold down their necks as they sweated under the rubber capes. The rain dulled their spirits, and it fell and it fell and it fell.

The men tramped away from the guns and into the drifting, gray sheets of rain. Their spirits lay dead in the sopping fields.

The rain fell on the awful faces of the dead and washed the wounds, leaving ugly gaps, dark red and black against the yellowed skin. The rain fell on the whimpering wounded lying on the soaked stretchers. The injured men twisted their faces from side to side trying to escape the cold, pitiless downpour.

A man could bear almost anything if only he could keep the rain off his face.

The sheeting rain muffled the sound of the guns in the distance, and the water streamed down from the tall, leafy poplars along the road. The kilo markers passed in solemn, sodden slowness.

The attack had failed and the dead lay uncomplaining in the rain. The tanks, mired in the muck, never reached the start line. The field guns, hub deep in mud, became unmanageable, their fire erratic and out of aim. The machine gun companies got lost in the woods, stumbling through the underbrush with their heavy loads, unable to find their fire positions. Scudding clouds grounded the planes.

The infantry went forward against the MG 42s and the mortars. A few bent back, away from the murderous fire, pulling away to where they could live.

And the rain fell dismally, washing away the hash of battle left in the field.

from Fearsome Battle


Robert Rogge, an American, fought with the Canadian Army in World War II. He wrote of his experiences in Fearsome Battle. Under the pen name, Robert Elliot, he is also author of The Eagle's Height, a novel of air combat in World War I.

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