Prologue, Part 2: Go For Broke!

A/N: This is the second part of the prologue. It's only possible for me to publish this because I cut out a portion of it and use that as the base of my third draft. I'm sorry for taking so long to publish this, two years in fact, but life happened. I'm already overtaken by Wolfenstein II: New Colossus and its upcoming sequel Wolfenstein: Youngblood. Here I wrote my first action sequences for the fic as best as I could though part of me felt like it's not up to task.

Their TO&E included tanks and mobile artillery but not the M7 Priests. Instead they "received" the T19 Howitzer Motor Carriage, which were certainly better than the hand-me down M3 Gun Carriages they used previously which was nothing more than a M2 half-track with a 75mm cannon slapped on its back. They were wearing out anyway. Those were going converted to 105's, seemed Washington didn't consider them worthy of getting M7s but having some mobile artillery was better than nothing.

Their organic armored element consists of the M24 Chaffees, which were well liked for their crews for its size being friendly to their mainly diminutive statures and their nimble handling in combat, better than M3/5 Stuarts with their 37mm popguns. But mechanical attrition, combat, and low-priority supply status left them with no working tanks. That left them having to team up with a few armored elements allocated to support them. These were the 768th Tank Battalion and 679th Tank Destroyer Battalion, segregated units made up of Negroes. During their time in Italy the men whose ancestry came from a group of islands off the coast of northeastern Asia currently at war with the United States coming to America to lead a different life have bonded with men who whose ancestors were violently uprooted from Africa to serve as slaves toiling for the powerful planter families in the Deep South.

The Regiment's organic tank company was practically horseless and the lack of replacements, tanks and crew, isn't helping at all. But skilled tankers weren't meant to be put to pasture, especially in the eve of a major offensive, so the Regiment had given their blessing to Mikagi to find anyone who had spare tanks to crew. He started with a unit he knew well.

Tanaka was now at the 768th's motor pool. He noticed some new tanks parked there, their olive drab paints looking fresh, as well as a Panther tank, command version by its radio aerials, being reconditioned by busy mechanics. He went in when a black soldier stopped him. He gave him his credentials. The soldier saluted and he saluted back. He was led to the motor pool. Among the tank crews preparing was a man he knew well from earlier battles.

"Mornin'," greeted Tanaka, tipping his helmet. "I see you dragged a big cat here." He noticed the words Just Borrowin' inscribed in the turret.

"Mornin' to you too, Reuben," replied Captain Moses Tyrone, whose company of Jumbo Shermans with their 76mm M1 guns would lead the assault. He was among the first crop of black officers commissioned to lead armored units. It was a pragmatic necessity: the brutal attrition of Overlord had left a dearth of experienced officers and NCOs, the War Department thus have given commissions to black Americans. Not that it made their situation any sort of better among their white peers. "That's the battalion commander's ride, insists on riding with his troops than sittin' behind a desk." Fortunately, their commander was one of the few white officers who have no issue working with black officers.

"Germans left it in a hurry? They gotta be slipping."

"Not by much." The mechanics were lowering a new British diesel engine into the tank. The Germans have upgraded their vehicles to have modular engine packages which allowed quickchange for maintenance, even use captured Allied powerplants of the appropriate power. "What brings you here today?"

"Looks like we're gonna need your services again." Someone, James believed in his gut, thought about killing two birds with one stone by making the Niseis and Negros in Italy miserable by putting them together and throwing them into the meat grinder. However, both lucked out, took everything the Axis could throw at them and struck back twice as hard. Outcasts tend to stick together, especially after being thrown into the fire.

"Don't we all? Seems ours is pretty much in demand." Tyrone was no stranger to discrimination. In the Deep South the sons and daughters of slaves torn from Africa were not seen on equal terms as whites. And two different set of rules were made to keep it that way.

"I hear you guys just received some new tanks and I understand you are a little short on crews."

"That's right, fresh off the assembly line but the army decided to take a few of my guys back to Algeria to train new crews from the French colonial troops. Fritz decided to cut my troops further with his 88s during our probing action last week."

"Sorry to hear that." Must have been good men. He knew what their loss felt like.

"Well, that's war for you. Ain't no break from the fighting. I heard you boys had a new tank company."

"Currently unemployed due to action and mechanical problems," he explained with a wry tone, "not to mention the Luftwaffe cutting our company to size."

"Cleared it with battalion?" Tyrone asked.

"I'm about to but I thought I'd check it out with you first."

"I'm happy to welcome your men though the I gotta warn you, the tanks are a size too big for them."

"They can managed," he said confidently. "After Dahlquist, we can pretty much do everything." He took out a map. "We're supposed to assault this sector here on the outskirts of Padua." He pointed on the map.

"Padua? That's a tough walnut to crack." He frowned at the map. "Fritz has a lotta firepower ringed around the town."

"Padua's our first step into Vienna, unfortunately, the Fifth Army is going all out on this one."

"Which is about as about as optimistic as the last one." The last time they tried was a bust.

Tyrone fished a pack of Luck Strikes from his pocket. He took one out for himself and offered a stick to Mikagi. They both lit up and puffed. "The two us make helluva joke. We just need someone else like a Chinaman or Indian."

"Really?" asked Mikagi bemused. "Is it three different guys walk into the bar?"

"That one," Tyrone chuckled, "The Irish bar joke, never gets old. So is the Man spending lives." The mirth faded from his face.

"Never gets old." He grimaced. "Like some old attitudes in the army."

"I hear yah," he said sympathetically. He looked at the horizon. This war had been going on for them for four years but it felt like an eternity. The other thing that felt like that was how blacks and Orientals fared stateside. "Ain't chagin' much for us, things stay the same across the damn ocean."

"You're right." For a nation that prides itself in democracy and republicanism, social security for the poor and elderly and universal suffrage were fiercely resisted until recently. Only the Depression and its resulting misery made clear the need for massive government intervention, in spite of the howls and protests of the big corporations and their monied friends. This kept his respect for the late Roosevelt in spite of his approval of the order that uprooted their lives in the mainland.

"I hear Truman is planning to desegregate the army when the war's over," the black officer added.

Mikagi's face registered surprise. "I didn't hear about that."

"Don't you read Stars and Stripes, James?" They've been around to know each other on a first-name basis.

"No, I usually don't read Army newspapers. I get mine delivered stateside." Mikagi never bothered to read newspapers except by those sent by his wife, something to keep him connected to her.

"Just an op-ed piece. Though he's seriously considering it."

"I wonder if he's seriously considering about doing anything for us, Moses." A dreary thought entered his mind: deportation back to the Land of the Fucking Rising Sun, back to that feudal backwater that took his grandfather's life. He never told anyone but to him the term samurai meant only a killer and cultured thug.

"We have to win the war to find out. Or lose to Jerry."

"I prefer winning the war," he pointed out. "Or just this battle."

The black man chuckled. "You play baseball, Mikagi?"

"Sure, I do. I used to coach for our little league." Memories of a better time, when they thought they had it all figured out in America.

"How about after we win this, you bring over your guys to play ball."

"That be great!" The Regiment's men had few opportunities to play as of late. "We're planning to liberate the best Italian wine in the north."

"Sweet! We've been thinking the same, alongside liberating some German beer and sausages."

"You've got yourself a deal, Tyrone." They shook his vigorously. "And don't forget some sauerkraut and mustard. Goes well with the sausage."

"Don't sweat it, we'll throw in some cheese and bread. Now let's get this deal down at Battalion."

The men were thronged together as they awaited for the assault. The chatter wasn't as loud as before yet remained vigorous, knowing they'll be fighting yet again. They watched their T19 batteries and the artillery of other units blazing away at enemy positions further out. Behind them were the anti-aircraft batteries, forming a defensive formation to protect the artillery. It consisted of a few of the old M16 Multiple Gun Motor Carriages; some of the newer M21A1 Gun Carriages, based on the M10 GMC chassis, mounting twin Bofors 40mm on open turrets; the M25 AA, Canadian Skink AA tank with quad Polstens on loan to the US Army; a battery of the new M51 Skysweepers, 75mm AA with their own radar units and firing proximity-fuzed shells, meant to combat jets; and a few 90mm M3s. The remaining batteries were dependent on two radar trucks that scanned the skies for aerial threats and provided fire control.

"What are we waiting for?" Lewis Takasashi said aloud.

"Waiting for the Regiment to tell us to march," said Mori.

"Any longer," he complained, "and Jerry will cease to exist with all the artillery and air force doing the pounding. We'll be cleaning up the rubble."

"I bet Lew is late for his date with Handsome Hans," Maki said it out loud, causing a chorus of guffaws from the platoon.

"Laugh it up, fellas, but Jerry's gonna rue the day he fucked with us." In spite of his attitude, he was good as any of the old-timers still among them, if rather eager.

"Get yourself a dozen Purple Hearts while you're at it, Lew," said Higa. More laughter. "Seriously, Lew, you got a death wish or nine lives, something?" One characteristic of Lew was that he kept on escaping the aid station as soon as he got at least better, more so than others.

"Staying in the aid station is not my idea of fighting a war. Don't wanna get transferred to some intel unit in the Pacific. It's hell out there." Not to mention a chance for white yahoos to take their Japanese-related problems on him with a bull's-eye on his back.

"Well, don't you wanna go back home to your girl?" Higa asked.

"I wanna show my girl what a man I am," he said, his voice softer, more serious. "Wanna show his dad that he can count on me."

"You're serious on impressing Sakura's old man?" Higa knew that Lew and Sakura Isshin had eyes for each other but her father, Tomoda Isshin, known as Tommy by his peers, did not approve of a poor fisherman's son like Takasashi to take his daughter's hand.


"I know you wanna go home a war hero for Sakura but I got a tip for you: lose that attitude, especially over Akio. It's not his fault his father is on the other side."

"I'll think about it," Lewis replied, not seeming to like the idea. All his dreams for Sakura had been destroyed by Pearl Harbor.

"Then think quickly because we're about to go to war." The conversation was heard by Akio but he said nothing. He never told anyone he stopped speaking to his father ever since he moved to America. He had it leaving under his shadow, under the weight of the family name. He also did not expect to come back at all. All he wanted was to be his own man, in a land where his family name was practically unheard of.

At Fox Company, Kubou rechecked his Remington-Browning M9 shotgun. He had qualified for it. The weapon was dual-action, which meant he can switch between pump-action and a recoil-system that relied on inertia. It held six rounds in its tubular magazine plus one in the chamber. It had a fishtailed stock which fitted neatly into his shoulder.

"That shotgun will turn any Jerry you encounter pointblank into hamburger meat," Senrima said without looking at him. "Trust in your training to get you through. Did you stock up on explosive slugs?"

"Yes, sergeant." He had three boxes' worth of shells in his musette bag, strung up in bandoliers.

"That should put a dent on anyone's day. Make sure you point it at the right people."

"Yes, sergeant." He looked to his friends, Jiro and Gotou.

"He must have heard you field-strip the thing," Jiro suggested. "Get it together."

"I am," he replied. "Just having to face super soldiers scares the crap outta me."

"Don't worry, we got Maki on the 57mm." He gestured to Maki, shouldering the 57mm recoilless rifle. The M18, a weapon firing a shell with a perforated cartridge, had some of the best accuracy and explosive power in a portable weapon. Originally an armor killer for paratroops, it was turned against super-soldiers when found ineffective against some of the latest German panzers. The weapons were held by battalion and distributed at platoon-level as needed. Now was clearly one of those times.

Heads turned to some rumbling, seeing Shermans and other vehicles move in with the mass of troops parting way like the Red Sea. They looked factory fresh, their turrets ringed with skirts of HCR2 plastic/steel armour. Also their paintjob indicated an old friend: the 768th.

"Who are those?" Jiro asked.

"The 768th, one of the best tank battalions on our side in Italy," said Maki. "I tell you, those colored boys know their way around tanks better than anyone else I know of."

"How good are they?" Gotou asked. He never knew what it was like to fight with blacks.

"They blunted the thrust of the 17th SS Panzergrenadiers during the Assumption Offensive," Private First Class Shinji Aoki said as he recalled the brutal autumn fighting. The Germans launched an offensive during the autumn of last year, on the feast day that celebrated Mary's assumption into heaven, hoping to strike another mortal blow after Normandy. As always the 442nd was pushed into the meat grinder by Dalhquist. Their conduct during the battle impressed enough brass as well as provoke an inquiry that had long since deposed the Texan from command and provided the Regiment with much needed rest and reorganization. Aoki was forever grateful for their timely deployment, any second late and he would've been crushed under that onrushing Tiger tank in his foxhole. "They helped reinforced our sector against their attacks as well as probing actions by the 11th Panzer."

"Not bad for a couple of Jim Cr-" An angry punt on the helmet cut Kubou's statement short. Aoki gave him an angry glare.

"Learn a little respect for those men, boy," he reprimanded in a hiss. "You wanna be called names like Jap or Heeb too?"

"N-n-no," he replied in a stuttering wince.

"Good. They spilled the same blood as everyone else on here, just as we did. Get your shit together." With that he returned to distantly facing the front. Kubou did not think it a big deal being called names since he encountered it all the time, some to his face but most behind his back. Sad but true. Maybe no one here liked to call other people slurs and be slurred at.

The much-reduced tank company sans their tanks came forward to meet the Negro tankers. They seem rather excited. "Hey, did the army sent us Shermans?" Keiichi asked as he stared at the Shermans.

"I don't think so," said Kunimoto. "We're low in the list for due replacements, Keiichi. Watanabe's Chafees are busted and I believe the 768th is looking for guys to fill in for their new tanks."

"Watanabe and his guys look very happy." True to point, they enthusiastically inspecting their mechanized steeds like they've won prized stallions from a horse fair. "They look like midgets," he added as the tanks dwarfed the short-statured Japanese-Americans who will man them.

"They're gonna be reaching out a lot more often." A black tanker was explaining to the Regiment's tankmen the finer points of the Sherman.

"Alright, you all know your callsigns?" he asked one last time.

"Yes, sergeant," they all answered.

"Alright, mount up." The Nisei crews climbed aboard their new steads. The black sergeant saluted the captain. "See over at Padua, sir."

Watanabe returned the salute. "See you, too sergeant. And Berlin where all the great beer is."

Then a Panther tank with US Army markings appeared, much to the surprise of the Nisei. "What's a Nazi tank doing here?" asked an astounded Gotou.

"768th has a new commander and want's to fight, it seems," Maki answered. "We don't let good, working Kraut gear rot on the scrapheap in spite of orders."

The orders came up. "Mount up! To the carriers, go, go go!" The men quickly rose up, gathered their gear, and jogged to the waiting carriers. The tankers climbed aboard their new steeds. The infantry piled aboard either on the M3 half-tracks or the newer M44 troop carriers, based on the M18 Hellcat chassis. The vehicle can hold a squad inside a fully-enclosed passenger cabin, with a roof that protects its occupants from airburst bombs and shells. It had hatches on its roof to allow men to look up and fire from the inside. Its armament consisted of an M2HB machine gun and a brand-new United Defense M31A1 auto-assault cannon, mounted together in a square turret. The auto-cannon design was a machinegun equivalent of the Federal Laboratories 40mm shell-guns they used, among the weapons developed to defeat the Ubersoldaten of the Wehrmacht. Lastly, it can carry a dozen passengers. Tests of the carrier showed it can carry twice that but they improved armored protection by creating two layers of armor with a space in between at the cost of reduced capacity. It defeats the shaped-charged projectiles like the Panzerfaust and Panzershrek warheads by the outer layer dispersing the jets formed from the instantly-heated copper liners against the inner layers of armor, enhanced further with high-grade plastic armor.

Atop one carrier, the carrier troop sergeant did his impression of a train conductor for his passengers. "All-aboard! GI Amtrak leaving for Padua, Venice, Vienna, and Ber-lin~!" The soldiers took their places aboard the armored buses. For the replacements, it was an experience different from training boarding the troop carrier on their first day of action, like being inside a cattle car. Jiro swore he knew what canned meet felt like as he squeezed between Kubou and Gotou. A corporal was the last in and he shut the doors behind him. Jiro would have been horrified at enclosure if it wasn't for the top doors on the roof kept open.

Hara took his command staff aboard a half-track. It caused a flurry of jokes from some of them, calling the track an armored jeep. In truth he chose a half-track for its better visibility and low silhouette. They were exposed in its lack of a steel roof but he thought it fine: they can spring into action in a flash when needed to. From his place he observed the carriers, the tanks, other vehicles from the accompanying armored support such as the M16 and M21 AA, and the M26 Mortar Carrier, based on the M3 Stuart chassis and armed with a M2 4.2-inch mortar. With all this hardware he felt like they were ready to take on all of the German Tenth Army by themselves.

Mikagi watched his men board their carriers. How much has changed since they were first deployed they were mustered, how much has changed since they they were first deployed in Italy and in his case, as part of the 100th, the One-Puka-Puka, in France as part of Dragoon, where the battalion saved 1st Battalion, 141st IR at the mountain pass of Col de Montgenèvre in an ill-conceived attempt to secure it to push the Germans out of the French-Italian border, which occurred at the same time as the Assumption Offensive where the rest of the regiment fought. He had three faded-out wounds to prove his ordeal. He prayed he makes it back to his wife and son. He had only been around when he was born. He also prayed that they all make it back, even if it seemed an impossible wish, and that things would be better once this lousy, bloody war is over.

"Cap, everyone's aboard," Tanaka said to him, bringing him out of his reverie.

"Ah, thanks, Reuben."

"Don't mention it, sir." The captain closed the door and secured it. He mounted up on one of the open hatches on top along with his sergeant. Then the armored procession began. First the tanks, then the troop carriers, and the other support vehicles. Each take their place within a column where they can maximize their protection and firepower on the march. Before long, an engine of war snaked forward to meet the enemy. They passed by other units waiting for their turn to join the coming battle.

"Hey, look, it's the 442nd coming out to fight," cheered one GI in a singsong voice. He then shouted, "You boys gettin' us any closer to Berlin?"

"No closer than what the Army's doing here," Reuben replied. "They say today's the day."

The GI paced alongside the carrier. "Bullshit!"

"Bullshit's all we got, trooper."

"Tell 'em to hurry, we don't have all year."

"I'll pass it along to Clark in Rome."

"Pass this to him too and that Limey Alexander." He flipped the bird and grabbed his crotch in a thrusting motion.

He chuckled. "Definitely that." He waved him a goodbye. The banter was refreshing, no racist venom, just GI humor. In fact, they've been receiving less and less of it as each day passed by.

The armored behemoths rumbled onward, passing by marching infantry, trucks, jeeps, armor. The sounds of war drew closer as the formerly intense softening barrage was giving way to more sporadic pounding. The chatter of small-arms fire intensified as they grew closer. The passengers aboard the troop carriers can hear them with their roof doors open. Some of the men were standing atop the openings savoring the fresh air.

The armored column passed by infantry and vehicles moving to and fro. There were ambulances and stretchers for the wounded who were streaming back, the loud noise of smaller planes ripped through the spring air. Even before Operation Taipan, the "static front" was hardly quiet as both sides fought a tit-for-tat battlefield made up of raids, probing actions, and artillery and airstrikes. For some of the replacements who peered from their rides, it had a surreal quality to it: it felt like a scenic route through the country or a movie set, except it's real and so was the chance of death. Two feelings, calm and tension, walked hand in hand inside of them like lovers, producing their feeling of unease. But to the veterans, very little of it surprised them. Those sights had long been common to them like a trip to work, which was what they were doing now. Above in the air they heard the drone of massed bombers, the newer men actually looked up to see the impressive air armada of Allied strategic bombers soaring forth to strike targets in Nazi territory. The old breed, however, knew the Nazis were doing the same to targets in their part of Italy as well as Greece and North Africa. Whatever the outcome there will be a lot of rubble to clear up.

"Hey sarge, what's going on up there?" Tak asked.

"15th Infantry is marching out with us," his sergeant replied, "Padua looks nice up here, with over a hundred thousand heavily-armed Wehrmacht ready to greet us like always."

"That about covers it," Mori noted as he gripped his machine gun like it was his crutch.

They passed by two Deerhound armored cars, mounting 57mm guns in sloped turrets. One of them had a hole on its turret while the other had lost a piece of its armored skirt. The replacement Nisei muttered quietly amongst themselves as they saw the cars limping back. The veterans kept mainly quite but offered a word or two of it and other sights they passed by.

The procession came behind a low rise in the land, almost a rolling ridge with infantry in their foxholes watching the line. The only fighting was done by their mortar crews, pounding the enemy that lay behind that ridge in concert with the artillery and aircraft. They didn't rise out of their holes, they were awaiting trucks bringing their relief and taking them home. The Regiment was not it, it was part of the assault force. The rise shielded their approach as they exited a vale between two hillocks. Outside was a peach orchard, which shield them further, proceeding further and further.

"All elements, this Charlie One-Four," declared the battalion commander in his purloined Panther, Just Borrowin'. "Proceed with assault. Rain One will lead."

"Copy that, Charlie One-Four," Tyrone acknowledged. "All tanks, this is Rain-One Actual. Form a shallow right echelon on me. When we hit the flat ground spread out to thirty yard interval. On my signal we'll drop the doughs and heavy fire power, roll up those Kraut positions. Everyone copy?"

"Red One-Three copies, Wilco," answered Red One-Three, Prince of Wails.

"One-Four. Roger all," affirmed One-Four, Froggie Blue.

"This is Five," confirmed a Nisei tanker. "We got you, Sweet Cindy." He referred to Tyrone's tank, nicknamed after his wife.

"This Howard One-Actual copy," declared Watanabe on the radio. "Hooking up with 3rd Battalion."

They came nearer the hedge. "All vehicles halt!" ordered Tyrone . "Get 'em off."

The word came to the carriers. "Dismount!" The Nisei emerged swiftly out of the M44s and tracks. Taking a knee, they crouched on the ground.

"Corporal Satoshi!" Mikagi called out. "You and Yamada get atop Sweet Cindy, man the fifty and tank phone."

They acknowledged and clambered aboard the back. The tanks buttoned down except for the top hatch as they and the carriers marched forward. The TDs, mechanized AA, and mortar carriers hung back, spacing themselves carefully to provide fire support and minimize losses from bunching up. Mikagi drew breath as they waded into the waist-high barley.

The tanks and carriers burst through the hedges into the barley, mulching the stalks into the spring mud, the infantry climbing over the embankment and falling behind the vehicles. The only other vehicles to join them were their mortar carriers, the black battalion's Stuart-based M26 mortar carriers, with their 4.2-inchers and the Regiment's own 81mm carriers, M21 MMC configuration modified at their workshops, and a few of the AA tracks. Advancing first wave spread out as much as the fields allowed. They officially started battle, yet no bombardment, no shooting greeted them. The Germans were holding back, it seemed. On the barley field were dead hulks of vehicles, both Allied and Axis. They had just entered a wolves' den. The question is, was the wolf waiting to ambush them or was he letting them trip on their own swords?

BRRRRRRRDDDT! The sound of a buzz saw broke the silence. Tracers lit out from the barley, hitting some of the men before the rest scrambled tightly behind their armor. Then a second long burst shouted again. An MG42 lay on the grass!

Yamada fired into the general location of the machine gun with Mah Deuce, only for it to spit back at him. A carrier fired a few rounds from its M31A1, the machine gun crew erupted into sod and guts.

The barley and the hedge lit up small arms fire. "Get down! Get down!" Mikagi's order was instinctively followed the infantry as small-arms fire ripped and rent the air. Their armored escorts replied with their own machine-gun fire, followed by their big guns. Then came the roar of the anti-tank guns, followed by their shrieking high-velocity shells and the loud pop of mortars, their shells screeching through the air. The ground around them erupted into bursts of wet sod, fire, and smoke. The shells scored some hits on the Shermans and carriers. Shrapnel and slug take their toll on the men.

Huddled behind the turret of Tyrone's Sweet Cindy, Satoshi peaked his head out of cover to observe the enemy line spraying gun fire all over while his companion fired the Fifty blindly. It was followed by the thump of mortar shells which exploded on the ground, the worse ones in mid-air, spraying lethal shrapnel. One 120mm shell took out the carrier San Antonio, blowing the turret clear from the body in a spectacular fireball. The crew did not survive.

They stopped, Mikagi thought, they'll stall and get themselves killed. Then a thought hit him. "Satoshi!" he cried loudly. "Get some smoke into the line. German positions have got us zeroed. Do it, now!"

He nodded and hastily. He pulled out the exterior phone of the Sherman. "Smoke! I need smoke across the line! Fire Willy Pete into the tree line!"

"Roger, firing smoke." Tyrone relayed his order to both the tanks and the tank destroyers at the back to fire smoke. A few salvos of their white phosphorous shells laid a blanket that obscured the Axis view of the field.

"Get the Regiment on the horn," Mikagi ordered as his RTO handed him the phone. He repeated the order, giving target reference, and he was rewarded by their artillery adding more to the blanket of white.

Mikagi signaled the assault to continue. "They're blind! Charge through! Keep behind the tanks and protect their flanks! Go!" They only have a precious few moments before the white phosphorous burns out. Armor and infantry surged forward, closing as much distance as it can as enemy positions fired blindly at the surge, no way to direct their heavier firepower. Furthermore, a light gale was in their favor, blowing the smoke into their opponents' faces, hampering their effectiveness further.

Closer! He thought desperately as they made it a few dozen meters. Their armor wasn't idle either, firing controlled bursts into chemical fog to discourage any Germans foolhardy enough to meet them into the fog. Their mortars fired haphazardly behind, no means to correct their fire against the American assault. The infantry kept their eyes up as they have to watch out for the smarter soldaten, bidding their time on the ground with an anti-tank weapon, Panzerfaust, bundle grenade, magnetic mine, while risking being crushed to death by tank treads. Some did appear but they were shot for their troubles, while other enemy infantry were ran over by the Shermans, others lost their nerves, took heel, and got shot. The Regiment kept their marksmanship and fire discipline honed a thousand times over in the course of their campaign.

Closer! Bullets were pinging against the front armor, causing a few riders to cringe. They kept to the rear while their escorts fired an occasional HE shell into the blanket of white smoke. And the blanket was dissipating.

A thunderous explosion followed by a high-pitched whistle zinged by Sweet Cindy. Shit! Now they're desperate. They disappeared into the fog.

The Germans were confounded by the fog that blew into their faces. In panic most Germans took whatever they had to form a scarf on their faces to protect themselves from the stench of the white phosphorous. They only fired in scattered bursts, not knowing what to expect and conserving their heavy ordnance. No one would dare attack through this fog!

"Keep your eyes open!" A German Leutnant shouted. "The Amies would among us any moment now." That they did and held their fire, more so by their confusion as well as their orders. They gripped their weapons as they waited, hoped, the smoke would thin out enough for them to see their enemy. The screams of their comrades who survived some of the stray WP shells echoed throughout the line as their flesh was burned horribly, wafting the smell of overcooked meat throughout. It was unnerving just to hear them. The rumble of armor and shouting increased. The frightened soldaten, German, Croatian, and Italian, looked around for the unseen enemy, pointing at any figure forming out of the smoke. Pot shots were being fired at silhouettes.

A steel box on treads burst forth from the smoke, crumpling the barbed wire and into the first line of trenches. Its turret fired into their lines, a heavy machine-gun and an autocannon spitting forth into any positions it saw, blasting them away. A panicked draftee raised his Panzerfaust and fired into its side, causing it to stop. Quickly he tried to get away but he was stopped on his tracks by a Sherman, covered in olive-drab plastic tiles, bearing down on him, emerging out of the fog like a dragon from his mother's stories. The Leutnant grabbed him. "Get your ass out of here, dummkopf!" He threw him back into the trench before the bow-mounted .30 cal cut him down, his body dancing like a marionette before collapsing. The tank fired its main gun, its triumphant roar. The replacement screamed at the speed by which the violence swirled around him.

"Scheisser-!" was the last word of a Gefreiter in his machine-gun emplacement before his position and crew were obliterated into a cloud of smoke, sod, and human bits. American armor fired into the enemy at pointblank range as the Regiment's troops charged into their positions. The element of surprise has been achieved and battle had been joined furiously as Allied and Axis clashed.

The armor negated the advantage the Germans held with their well-sited defenses. However, the Germans possessed Panzerfausts, Panzerschreks, recoilless guns, and hand AT mines and grenades, plus they sited their anti-tank guns further back to the rear, hitting American armor but most of their attempts defeated by exploding harmlessly on the "plastic" granite armor. But in spite of the furious defensive fire, a crucial dent had appeared, one they need to turn into a breach.

"GO FOR BROKE!" broke a blood-curdling cry, their regimental motto was repeated amongst the Nisei.

Pumped up, the first wave of Nisei rushed into the trenches under the cover of their armor and jumped in, bayonets drawn. Mikagi jumped in and hip-fired into a group of Germans, the .30-06 rounds passing through their bodies in such close-quarters, downing them. His sergeant came to his side and shoot several Germans in their foolhardy attempt to retreat to the second defensive line in the open. A third soldier tossed a grenade into a communications trench, which sent an enemy flying. They started to navigated the furious confused maze for earthenworks.

At a junction two men were gunned down by an MG42 from a prefabricated concrete-and-steel pillbox covering the entrance to another trench. "Medic!" one of them yelled, pain in his voice. The turret held its fire. It awaited new victims.

"There's a pillbox blocking our way!" Mikagi shouted. "Put some 40 on that thing." Two Nisei were diverting its attention, take potshots at it, earning bursts sending dirt clods flying.

"Got it," replied a soldier from his headquarters section. He broke open his Shell Gun like a double-barrel, slipped in a shell and snapped it back. The action was duplicated by First Platoon's grenadiers. He adjusted the sight and fired over a high angle. A thump, then two more, came and the shells scored a direct hit onto the pillbox, blowing its machine gun off. Two medics rushed over to tend to the fallen troops.

"Fritz is gone! Let's go!" Tanaka lead the charge through the trench. A gaggle of Germans emerged from a fork in the trench. His Thompson Carbine sent four of them twisting and falling to the floor. A fifth popped out again with his pistol drawn but his head snapped back, sending him against the wicker-and-wood wall with a bloody smear on it. Mikagi came behind beside him. The sergeant followed his captain. They began the grim, tedious task of clearing the first trench line. Navigating the maze of furrows full of hostile Werhmacht, trading fire until one side gave up. As neither quarter was asked nor given, the bloodletting was furious as both sides fought in the trenches that was the threshold to Padua. Baker Company gave a good account of itself as it fought its way through the labyrinth. Corporal Keiichi dodged bullets moving in the open to catch up with his platoon, jumping into them.

"That was crazy!" Kato snapped at him. "Are you looking for a spot in the Hawaiian Herald obituary?"

"No more than you, Allan." They huddled behind sandbags, weathering the fire from by MG42s laid on the trench floor. Hitler's buzzsaws were really living up to their name as they stitched the sandbags. "If that bastard keeps firing we won't have any sandbags left." He fired a burst of his carbine, ducking after the Germans replied with a burst. In a sandbag parapet next to him, a machine-gunner fired his Johnson with supporting riflemen to keep their opposition from lobbing grenades but can do nothing about the MG42s.

A frightened replacement turned to Keiichi. "What?'

"Take it, easy, Private. Hans needs to change his barrels and reload, which ever comes first."

"Ain't waiting for that." Takeda took out a hand mirror and carefully angled it outward to see the Germans. Yes, they were busy blazing away at them. He kept angling, hoping for no reflection to give away the mirror. They'll shoot it out and his hand too.

"What's the situation?" Sergeant Hiroshi inquired.

"Couple of 42s, Matt, and perhaps a dozen infantry. I could see a G43, plus a few Mausers and Schmeissers."

"Alright, all riflemen, switch to 20s." The "20s" were twenty-round magazines for the Winchester M2s, issued in order to take advantage of its full-auto mod in an emergency. Everyone replaced their ten-round mags for the twenties. "Get the shell guns ready." The squad grenadier loaded his shell gun.

After a few long-bursts, rifle and SMG fire took their place as shouts came out of the Germans replacing their barrels. Some brought some Panzerfausts along. "Shit," called out Takeda. "They got Panzerfausts."

"Now! Suppressing fire!" Hiroshi's order was followed in no time, the Johnson fired a long burst and riflemen popped out to spray death into the enemy. The steam of bullets collided into the other side including the Germans. The Shell Gunners popped their weapons, the shells sailing over the ground between them and blasted several Germans away. They moved forward to secure the weapons pit. They just liberated a piece of Axis territory. More to go.

Able had hit the worst of the defense. Mikagi barely managed to secure a section of trench when a wall of firepower opened up on them "We gotta clear these trenches." He peered above and he saw the secondary defense line, machine guns, rifles, and RCLs blazing away.

"We are facing heavy resistance!" Tanaka shouted over the heavy fire. "We can't make any headway until those guns are cleared! And the Germans will dislodge us if we stay here too long."

"Think we need to call in some fireworks. Tooru, get over here!" Their radioman, Tooru Sakamichi, came over to the captain. He grabbed the phone from his set and began making the call. "This is Able-Red, Able-Red Six-actual calling for Yellow Bird, come in, Yellow Bird."

High above the skies hovering at least five hundred feet under fire from enemy flak was a lone Sikorsky-5 helo, call sign Yellow Bird, surveying the battlefield as a Forward Air Controller. He received Able's message while other helos, not FACs, zoomed to and fro to direct fire for him. "Able-Red, Yellow Bird copies, how can I help you?"

"We ran into heavy German resistance," Mikagi answered, "fortified machine-gun emplacements, anti-tank, and mortar batteries, high density fire, requesting artillery and air support before we can advance over at Grid 223-069, IO say again, we request heavy fire support at Grid 223-069."

"Copy, we are checking for targets now, calling in all available support." He then passed on his message to other liaisons and FACs, burning the airwaves. Soon, this message, along with others and countless surveying formed a picture and now they've allocated enough assets for the spearhead's request. "Able-Six Red, we need your position over to avoid friendly fire."

"Our position are to be indicated by red smoke, over."

"Roger, watching for smoke."

"Able-Six Red copies." He then declared to to his troops. "Everyone pop red smoke so our spotters can tell see us from air. Pop red smoke now!"

All his officers and NCOs took out their red phosphorus grenades, pulled the pins and and flung them over as they kept down under the heavy fire. It was a tense few seconds when the canisters spewed thick red mist that filled their fronts.

"Everyone, hold on to your helmets!" growled Tanaka. "This is gonna get loud!" A replacement next to him, strapped on his helmet and laid down. The veteran beside him chuckled at his measure of safety.

"Able-Red Six, I see your smoke, standby for fire mission. Get your people back and lay down. This is gonna be a big one." He then directed fire from air and artillery elements controlled via alert. In moments, everything available from 105 to 203, to rocket artillery and perhaps over a few hundred close-air support moved in for the kill. The ground where Able and the rest of First Battalion laid shook with each concussion produced from the bombs as shell and bomb violently rained in front of them. Artillery shells set for impact or airburst, high-explosive or white phosphorous, fragmentation bombs, Willie Pete, rockets peppering the land, and napalm took their toll on the Wehrmacht as the rolling thunder of death moved slowly further away from Able, reaching into the rear. Aircraft, from Thunderbolts, Havocs and Typhoons to Shooting Stars and Meteors, swooped in to add to the maelstrom like birds of prey, noisy in their shrieking.

For some of the replacements, they were momentarily deafened as they laid down while the veterans cautiously peered to see the destroyed vista arrayed in front of them: the idyllic vineyard, the orchards, and quaint country buildings where no longer postcard-perfect. In it were wrecked enemy positions including twisted pieces of artillery and vehicles. Then came the roar of the jets and props in their flybys, the triumphant war cries of machinery inspiring the troops, who cheered wildly at their guardian angels blazing away with their guns.

"Able-Red Six, enemy opposition neutralized for now," reported Yellow Bird, "way to Padua practically clear."

"Outstanding, Yellow Bird, outstanding. You just made Fourth of July early. Get you a case of beer for that."

"You're welcome, Able-Red. Call if you need me and give 'em hell, Yellow Bird out." With that Mikagi hung up.

"Alright, let's go! Able Company, on me!" He charged forward.

"You heard the captain!" Tanaka ordered. "Go! GO!" He and the rest of the company rushed after their captain. Armor and other infantry followed through, at last able to use their mobility and firepower on the enemy.

"Was that Able?" asked a soldier as the massive firepower display rocked the ground, the display of fire power to their left flank horrendous.

"It's Able, alright," confirmed another soldier as they brought up the flank.

Fox Company prodded into a hornet's nest. It was evidenced by the wrecked Shermans and carriers. The company found a low rise on the ground to throw themselves prone on. The men formed a skirmish line, firing and lobbing grenades at the opposition. "Alright, pop smoke!" Hara ordered as he took his smoke grenade out, pulled the pin and threw. They fired furiously while the smoke began to fill. When it filled, he yelled, "Forward!"

"Let's go, third platoon!" Senrima growled as he jumped into the smoke, followed by the rest of the platoon. The Germans had no chance to react as the Korean popped out of the smoke, jumped in, and sprayed murderous fire with his Winchester M2 Carbine on full auto. One of the Germans who survived the volley attempted to jump him with a trenching tool. Senrima blocked the attack, pushed it sideways, and gave a haymaker with the stock, sending Fritz to the ground. He pressed his magazine released lever with the lip of a fresh mag, the empty one dropped, pressed the fresh one in and pulled back the operating rod, chambering a fresh round, all in one deft motion. By then his men had jumped in. The platoon's got a foothold in the maelstrom as seemingly millions of tracers flew over their heads.

"We gotta take out that AT battery," Hisashisaid as his platoon gathered around. "Our tanks ain't going nowhere."

"Let's get some air and arty on them, sir," one of his sergeants suggested.

"We can't. We don't know how the attack is going elsewhere. We risk friendly fire. It's up to us now. We gotta clear the trenches fast." The mortar round exploded on the ground outside their trench, making his point.

"Yes, sir," they all replied as they began their current task. Third platoon began to work the trenches, facing heavy resistance. Jiro and his friends managed to make it through the barley fields and into the trench. They never expected make it this far. His back huddled against a trench wall, Jiro hyperventilated as images flooded his mind, a man shot in the head, a tank exploding into a fireball, tossing a man riding it and manning its 50s, followed by one of the tankers emerging out in flames, flailing his arms around. He never saw anything horrifying in his life. He could still hear the screaming. His hands wrung as he tried to hold his rifle. Then he saw Senrima loom in front of him, looking every bit fierce as the fearsome warrior he was reputed to be.

"What the hell are you sitting for?" he rebuked with a growl. "Get back in the war, Ishikawa!" He was pulled up by his webbing gear and forced him to stand. The sergeant forced the rifle in his hands and rushed off. Jiro took a deep breath and followed him, joining up with his squad leader.

"Keep up the fire, gents!" ordered the staff sergeant ordered. "Don't slack off." A deep scream was heard. Jiro saw a German arching his arm back. He fired into his gut but too late, his potato masher flew free.

"Grenade!" the sergeant hollered and they took whatever cover they could take. Said grenade landed in front of his face. Jiro, in panic, grabbed the grenade and threw it out of the trench, where it exploded harmlessly.

"Good thinking, Ishikawa," his squad leader congratulated. "Keep moving, don't bunch up." They all followed him. A few vigorous clashes later, they came into an entrance that led underground. The sergeant signaled them to halt. They can hear frantic German out of it. A man came out running without even looking at them, nearly giving out heart attacks. He called his troops, "Moto, Adachi." He then gestured them to throw grenades. They nodded, came forward, pulled the pins, released the safety levers, then tossed the pineapples into the entrance. Two large booms came out, followed by panicked screaming. "Kubou, Moto, Adachi, clear it out." They all rushed in.

The Germans were dazed by the powerful blast and blinded by smoke. One of them was coughing when Moto fired a burst from his M2 carbine. The German was tossed back. An rifleman pointed his Kar98k but was stitched by Adachi's carbine. They just cleared a section of the barracks. They scanned warily for more enemies. They went for an entrance that led to another section of the barracks but a burst of a Schmeisser knocked Adachi off his feet. "Shit!" Moto cursed as he fired his whole mag into the entrance, sending whatever enemy holding that position scrambling for cover. Kubou hid behind a foot locker while Moto dragged his friend backwards.

"You okay, Tom?" he asked.

"Jesus..." Adachi grunted, grimacing in pain, "felt like a sucker punch..."

"That's okay, you ain't bleeding. Thank God for Doron-"

"Fich dich, Amerikaner!" The German greeting was punctuated with a Potato Masher.

"Grenade!" he cried as it landed on their spot. "Kubou, throw it back."

In terror the shotgunner did as he was ordered and flung away from the side, sending a double-cot into bits. Then Germans rushed it blazing. Moto fired his carbine, only croak dry. Kubou brought the Remington-Browning M9 to bear, depressing the trigger, sending the Germans flying away. He had set it to auto, resulting in a spectacular, if unintended, feat of firepower. A few precious seconds was all Moto needed as he grabbed his own grenade and flung it inside the entrance. It exploded with some choked screams. He grabbed his carbine and reloaded. "Kubou, on me!" The former clerk gout up and quickly fed fresh shells to his scatter-piece. They rushed in and they shot the shit out of the remaining Germans inside. The smoke cleared and they were now walking. Kubou looked around at the aftermath of their firefight was clear: lots of bodies sprawled on the floor bleeding with horrific wounds. He could only stare as the adrenaline slowly wore off.

A tap on his shoulder alerted him to Adachi, now on his feet. "You did good, kid. Don't stare at the bodies. Fight ain't over yet." He nodded in reply as Moto came out with a stack of papers in his hand.

"We hit the jackpot," he said as he tucked them into his jacket. "Regiment's gonna love this intelligence."

"Hope my knockout was worth it," groaned Adachi as he trailed his carbine along.

"Kubou, right?" asked Moto. "That was great what you did."

"Yeah." Kubou nodded in agreement.

"Load your weapon, you must have shot it all off on Jerry," he suggested. "And oh, be sure to grab an MP40 and some ammo. The M9 isn't good for fighting in a courtyard."

"Thanks." He loaded shells into his shotgun.

"Don't mention." He tapped his shoulder in reassurance. "I owe you a drink when this is over." They all filed out of the barracks but Kubou managed to grab a submachine gun, some magazines, and grenades on the way out.

Third platoon was making headway into the trenches. Their M18s and Shell Guns have given them edge needed to blast Jerry from his trenches and they were making their way to the AT batteries. However, they didn't go directly into the teeth. They found a way to flank it. Senrima emerged from a rise and saw Germans rushing over to the left in a hurry. Now he saw was an Italian Black Brigade contingent guarding the flank while the batteries fired on. Hara came over to him. "Tell me something, Kato," he requested.

"First Battalion must be doing their job right," he answered with satisfaction. "Germans are reinforcing their left flank, leaving only a bunch of Eyetie Blackshirts to protect the guns."

"Really?" He could not believe their good fortune.

"Drunk murderers don't make good soldiers," he noted coldly, remembering their handiwork in the form of hung villagers and looted homes on their march. "Second squad's keeping them busy." Their second squad was given the hardest tasking, fighting the Germans defending the quickest route to the guns.

"Let's give those fascist sonsofbitches a wake-up."

He smiled grimly. "Yes, sir."

He gestured the balance of third platoon to form up. Then they deployed accordingly. They deployed their M13A1 Johnsons against the battery, one concentrated on the Italians and the other on the battery. Their sniper took aim at the officer, who was giving orders standing up. Stupid way of managing things. The rest moved stealthily, crouched low and deployed into a skirmish line as closest as they can without being seen. They could not believe how the Black Brigadiers were not looking their way! Stay dumb, winos.

They pulled the pins on their grenades and tossed them over. The Italians screamed as the pineapples dropped around them. The strutting officer had a new hole on the forehead and several small bangs sent the Italians tossing. The machine guns roared, sweeping their fire at the enemy, who promptly dove for cover or were stitched down. Maki fired his M18 RCL at a PAK 38, its crew just loaded a round and the 57mm shell hit the breach, completely destroying and ripping its crew to shreds in a flash.

With a yell they charged.

Caught in a surprise flanking maneuver, the German defenders, gun crews and infantry, had little time to respond while third platoon closed the pincers. Some of the men were shot in the process by the defenders but it did not deter them as they fired and maneuvered furiously. Shell Gun, Johnson LMG, and M18 had done spectacular damage. The Black Brigade men panicked and retreated en masse through a trench, blocking the way of a German squad responding to the attack. The result was nothing less of a massacre as third platoon mercilessly cut down the Axis infantry, bullets going through several bodies before stopping, blood erupting from wounds, ending with men falling into heaps streaked with red.

They bypassed that mess and attacked another battery, who were shocked into inaction. The enemy held up their hands and gave up without a fight, frantically begging for mercy after seeing the slaughter. Screaming and some authoritative, if mess-up, German later, the guns were secure as the rest of second battalion moved further into the breach. "Han, tell the tanks they can move. Guns are secure."

R/TO Pfc. Hanada tuned in his radio to the tanks' frequency. "This is Fox Red-Six, Fox Red-Six. We have secured the guns, I repeat, we have secured the AT batteries. Tanks are cleared to go."

The message was heard loud and clear by Hannibal. The battalion commander smiled with satisfaction as he watched through his binoculars. The damned Japs did it again! That camp policy did an injustice for this fine troops. Now the rest of the attack can unfold. "All tanks, move forward. We've got an appointment on Padua." The tamed Panther lurched forward at its new master's coaxing.

"Rain-One Actual copies," replied Sweet Cindy. He then ordered his tanks to rally to support. "Gentleman, Padua's open for business." The replies where enthusiastic. They rallied to Hannibal's flanks.

"About time." Captain Watanabe gave the orders for his Shermans to move. "Be careful," he added. "Our temporary tanks are twice the weight of our Chaffees. We're assault now, not recon. Let's takes these hulks for a spin." His company, brought to full strength with 768th's replacements, acknowledged as they led Third Battalion, held in reserve until now, through the opened way. The rest of the Fifth Army allocated to them followed behind.

"Hey, Captain," asked one of his tankers. "What happens if we lose a Sherman?"

"A Sherman costs fifty-thousand dollars, all out of the pocket of the American taxpayer. Lose them and you, your children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren will be covering the loss twenty percent."

"Sounds like the old country," remarked Corporal Ichigo "Itchy" Ikeda, at the far end of their left flank.

"Definitely like the old country," agreed Kamio, "where your daughter takes the place of the family cow in America."

"Glad we got out of there, away from owing money to Yakuza thugs," enjoined Itori.

Pvt. Lewis Harper, a native to Macon, Georgia sitting in the assistant driver's position, was intrigued by the curious term. "Yak-coo-zuh? What's that?"

"Gang back in Japan, kinda like with the Italians and Irish mob in New York," explained Itori. "Nasty bunch." You got no idea, Private Harper.

"Okay, get off the air, we gotta a job to do," ordered Watanabe to his units. "Let's plow a road for 3rd Battalion. Yoshi, right stick." The armored juggernaut move amongst and passed the Germans with relative ease. Such a move puts armor in danger of surrounding enemy infantry but friendly dogfaces followed closely behind and the German defenders' could not coordinate their forces as their situation quickly turned to hell. GI and Werhmacht traded fire in close quarters, both sides not holding back on the violence. Here and there, a machine gun cut a bloody swathe or a grenade broke up a squad, in one ground was taken, only to be lost in the next; a random melee occurred when both sides made contact too close. However, bold use of Allied armor and surprise decided the matter already. Tank and troop carrier made short work of pockets of enemy resistance. A burst of the auto-cannon quickly did away most emplacements while the Sherman guns had the last say for many a machine gun. The infantry protected their armor's flanks, shooting at any Germans coming out to fight. Some unfortunate Axis troops found themselves greasing tank treads with their bodies. A lot of Germans began to surrender as their situation has unravelled so quickly nothing can be done about it. But they merely herded them together, leaving them for subsequent echelons to deal with. They have a city to crack open.

A/N: This work was a shot in the dark for me: I have no idea of military radio procedure or assault tactics and looked up with the best information I can find. Feel free to point out goofs in this chapter in Reviews or PM. It helps me a lot to see where I went wrong. It would help me make better action sequences in the future.

Thanks for reading,
Anime Borat.

To be continued...