He grunted softly while lifting jerrycans of water from the jeep.
"Jesus" he said as he stared up the steep trail, "I swear this damn hill gets higher every day! Okay, private" he grumbled to a fellow Marine, "grab those C rations. Once more into the breach."
Trudging up the well-worn path, the corporal allowed his mind to wander, thinking back to the battles that had been fought on this hill. Looking around, he observed the multitude of craters that covered the hillside. The smaller ones, he knew, had been created by mortar rounds; the larger by artillery fire. Hard to tell whose though, as this piece of real estate had changed hands several times during recent days of fighting.
Here and there lay unexploded rounds (duds) that were waiting their turn to wound or kill an unsuspecting trespasser. As he wended his way through the few bushes that managed to survive here, he hoped that such duds wouldn't decide that now was a good time to detonate.
His mind went back to that night in late July when the battle that became known as "Boulder City" (Hill 119) took place. In a way, it seemed like years ago. Then again it could have been yesterday as he recalled the sight of waves of Chinese attacking en masse, outnumbering the Marines on the hill by more than eight to one.
He shivered as he remembered the terror of almost being overrun, and the lieutenant, lying there badly wounded, telling him, "Son, it's time to call in a TOT (time on target). Get all the guns you can and drop them right on us."
He had done as the officer ordered, warning the Marines on the hill what was coming by yelling over the din of battle, "Fire in the hole! Fire in the hole!" The alarm was repeated down the line, as Marines dropped into their holes to await the onslaught. It came, oh hell, it came! Rounds from 105-mm, 155-mm, and 8-inch Howitzers blasted the ground around them, sending shrapnel whistling in all directions.
The pandemonium was unbelievable, and it kept up, shaking the earth until he thought it was the end of everything. Still it went on, and wouldn't stop until he called for a "Cease fire, end of mission." He didn't do it. He couldn't do it until he was sure that the enemy had been beaten back by the rain of death that he had called upon them.