By Patrick J. Chaisson Red-hot grenade fragments sliced through First Lieutenant Bill Munson’s left arm and shoulder, causing him to fall backwards onto the lip of a German machine gun nest. He saw several enemy soldiers nearby, their distinctively shaped steel helmets silhouetted against the night sky, but was powerless to react. Munson’s Thompson submachine gun, which he held in a death-grip with his one good hand, was completely empty. His only hope of escape was to play dead. Sprawled halfway across the fighting position, Munson kept absolutely still as bullets fired by friend and foe alike snapped by, inches above his head. Miraculously, he was not injured further in this fusillade. Sometime later, after things quieted down, Munson heard low voices approaching. To his horror, he realized they were not speaking English. A German kicked him hard in the ribs and wrested the Tommy Gun from his grasp. Then the enemy patrol withdrew under fire from a sudden U.S. mortar barrage, leaving him wounded and weaponless—but alive. First Lieutenant Orville O. “Bill” Munson, commanding Company A, 48th Engineer Combat Battalion (ECB), endured this harrowing ordeal on the slopes of Mt. Porchia, Italy, during the first week of 1944. Two thousand G.I.s repeatedly assaulted its rocky crest January 4-8, only to be hurled back by ferocious enemy counterthrusts. Artillery, machine guns, and antipersonnel mines took a heavy toll, as did bitter winter weather conditions for which th


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