It's October 31st, 1944. The sun was setting, and the stars were just coming out as I sat in the Douglas C-47 cabin. The war was coming to an end and we were sent to finish it. The Axis had retreated closer to Germany for a final defence but it didn't do them much good. It was only a matter of time before they were defeated.
There were about 30 of us waiting restlessly to be dropped behind the German defence lines to gather intelligence and get in touch with the underground resistance. A few of the men were sleeping, but most of us were too anxious to be tired.
I just wanted to get the jump over with. The anticipation was killing me, as jumping out of a perfectly good aircraft didn't sit well with me. For the past six hours I just kept flicking my Zippo open, then closed over and over to get my mind off how cold it was. All of us were shivering because the metal seats and interior of the plane had gotten very cold.
Eventually, we heard the Jumpmaster yell over the buzz of the engines, “Get ready! One minute!”
We all sat up straight and awaited for his next command.
“Stand up! Thirty seconds to jump!”
We all got off of our seats and stood up straight.
We all made sure whoever was in front of us was ready to jump. We clipped the parachute pull-cord to the tether. Then the red light on top of the jump door lit up as the Jumpmaster opened the door. An uncomfortable cold breeze blew into the plane.
All of the sudden, the green light lit up and then the Jumpmaster yelled, "Go! Go! Go!” Before we had any time to react, we heard anti aircraft fire all around the plane.
One of the rounds hit the right wing and the plane lurched to the left and we all fell over each other. The Jumpmaster yelled over the explosions, “Quick! Jump before we're all dead!” I quickly got up and ran for the door and jumped. I didn't look back. I felt a tug from behind me as my parachute came out. I was so high up in the air, I couldn't tell where I was going to land. A moment later, I heard a huge explosion and the sky to my left was suddenly on fire as I watched parts of the plane spiralling towards the ground. I didn't know how many guys made it out. As I got closer to the ground, I noticed I was drifting towards a rather small, yet out of place forest.
I tried to steer away from it by pulling towards the right, but it was too late for that. I was landing in this forest whether I liked it or not. As I approached the forest I tried to dodge the trees but I failed miserably. My right arm bounced off a tree and it almost broke. Before I could experience any pain, I slammed right into the trunk of a massive tree and hit my head really hard. I saw a bright flash in front of my eyes and blacked out. I woke up hanging from my parachute which was caught on the tree that knocked me out.
At first I didn't remember what happened and why I was there, but my wits came back to me and I realized I had to figure a way out of my situation. I looked down and trembled. I was probably about 20 feet of the ground and the only way I get down was to cut my self loose. I reached for the M1 Garand rifle behind my back. I took off the bayonet then dropped the rifle. It landed with a menacing thud which made me even more scared to fall. After some time cutting, I fell and landed on the side of my right leg. It was excruciating. At first I thought I had broken my femur, but after about ten minutes I could walk okay with a little bit of limp. I looked around and noticed that the trees all had a distinct feature.
They looked like a humanoid creatures from a comic book. The tree I had slammed into looked like it had a face of someone screaming in agony. It was a very dark blackish colour and unlike any species of tree I had ever seen. It looked like it had giant hands, coming down to grab me. The forest was completely silent. The sounds of war, the howl of the wind and the sounds of birds chirping were all absent. In fact, this forest felt like its own world. It gave me the feeling that I was constantly being watched by an unknown entity. But probably the strangest part of all, was the sky. It was a foggy orange colour.
I decided it was wise to get out of the forest and try to find someone from one of the planes. I took one more look at that tree as if I thought it was sneaking up on me. It just gave me a bad feeling. I started to walk and something became obvious. There wasn't any life other than the trees. I haven't seen a bird, a squirrel or any insects. I walked for about half an hour, but then stopped to think. I thought this forest was small?
I turned to go in a different direction when I saw the same tree I had slammed into earlier. Had I walked in a circle? I am smarter than that. I must have been a little disoriented from smacking my head. This time, I walked in the opposite direction than before. After a few minutes of walking, I noticed the forest brush was starting to get thicker. It was hard walking and it seemed like I had walked for hours. The forest was much bigger than I had thought.
I was happy to come across a stream, because I had gotten very dehydrated. I knelt down and took. a nice long drink. I sat down and pulled out all my supplies that had some sort of use. I lit a much needed smoke, and sorted through my gear. I had a lighter, multi-tool knife, some extra socks, gloves, combat knife, empty canteen, and my ammo. I put my multi-tool in my pocket and the rest of my stuff in my rucksack. I filled my canteen and surveyed the stream. I noticed some some small fish swimming around by the mouth of the stream.
I thought they would make a better meal than my bland tasting rations. I took my rifle off my back and used it with the bayonet as a spear. When I ran out of patience, I had three fish. I gathered some dead wood for a fire; just enough to cook the fish. I piled the dead wood into a cone shape, and put some fallen leaves at the bottom. I took my lighter, flicked it open and burned the leaves till the fire spread to the wood.
I was about to cook the fish but I quickly changed my mind when I actually gave them a good look. They were completely mangled and mutated. One of them had a second mouth located under its gills and the other two had three eyes. I gagged and threw them into the woods as far as I could and waited by the fire for a few minutes. When I was done I took another look at the stream. It was flowing fast and I would have to walk to find a place I could cross. Finally I saw a downed tree which acted as a bridge. I was able to get across without any trouble.
As I scrambled up the bank, back into the forest I looked up and was terrified at what I saw. It was the tree I had crashed into. My parachute was still tangled in the branches. This time I had not walked in a circle, because there was no stream nearby the last last time I saw it. I was overcome with fear, so I turned to the opposite direction and ran until it was out of my sight. Somehow, I was getting close to the edge of the forest, because it was getting brighter ahead.
I sprinted towards the light and suddenly found myself on a beach. It looked like it went on forever. I ran to the water's edge and sat down with relief because I could not see the tree any more. I looked up in the sky to see a solar eclipse. That explained the orange sky. I examined the water to see that it was very shallow. About knee deep and it didn't get any deeper. I couldn't see any land at all in the distance which made me very confused and worried. The shore and the water seemed to go on forever. None of this stuff was in the pre-flight briefing.
I didn't remember hearing about any large bodies of water and especially not an ocean. I was filled with frustration and anger, but all that anger and frustration turned into fear, when I saw a figure in the distance standing in the water. As time went on, more of them appeared. There were about two hundred now, just standing there. All of them had different body shapes, some were large some were small, some were skinny and some were fat. I squinted to see who they were and I was horrified.
They had what appeared to be skin of bark and the same lifeless face as the tree that I kept seeing. I turned to run but I stopped myself because the only other place to run was back into the forest. I looked around but realized I was out of options. I had no choice but to sprint back into the forest. Before I even got a few feet into the forest, I tripped over the roots of a tree and fell into a deep hole. When I cleared dirt from my eyes, I looked up to see that the hole was rectangular, and there was a tombstone towering over me. It was a grave. It read:
MATHIEW JAMES HUDSON
KILLED IN ACTION
OCTOBER 31st 1944
That was my name! My eyes widened in disbelief as I saw the tree standing over me at the foot of the grave. It had hollow, lifeless eyes and looked at me without mercy. I tried to climb my way out but the tree's roots began to grow over the grave faster than I could move. I was knocked backwards and I fell down into the darkness just as everything went black.
Two medics were working desperately as they tried to save a severely injured soldier in front of them. They found the man hanging from his parachute in a large yew tree with massive head trauma.
The two men glanced at one another when one of them said, “He is gone, let's call it. Time of death is 1425 hours.”
The other medic said, “Check his tags; who is this guy?”
The first medic read, “Private Mathiew James Hudson... 64th Airborne Unit.” The sergeant came over as this was taking place. “Get this casualty over to the whirly-bird. Judging by the way that he hit that tree, it is a miracle that he survived this long. He fought hard to pull through. Not hard enough I guess.” The sergeant then thought to himself about how he would have to write a letter to his family. It was one of those letters that every parent dreads.
DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY
HEADQUARTERS, US ARMY SUPPORT COMMAND, QUI NHON
APO San Fransisco
10 NOV 1944
863 Springbrook Drive, Nashville Tennessee
Mr. and Mrs. Hudson,
With great sorrow I write to you regarding your son, Corporal M. Hudson 64th Airborne Unit. He passed away on October 31st, 1944, after an impact against a tree when being paradropped from a heavily damaged plane. He was knocked unconscious, went into a coma and later died.
We assure you that news of your son's death has come as a great shock to all who knew him. I genuinely hope the knowledge that he died serving his country will bring you comfort in this moment of sadness.
Personally, for his squadmates and officers in command please accept our deepest sympathies and sincerest apologies.
Sincerely, Sergeant H. Cambell
Written by Wamjelly