By Jared Frederick & Erik Dorr
Swirls of black smoke billowed high above the steeples and splintered roofs as Lieutenant Ronald Speirs surveyed the stucco exteriors of storefronts and dwellings pocked by the scars of urban battle. Carentan, the once ornate French commune nestled along the banks of the Douve River, was a charred and blistered shell—a ghostly visage of its former self.
Local citizens had long awaited the hour of liberation from Nazi tyranny. Deliverance thundered forth from a devastating barrage of heavy naval guns, American artillery, and mortars raining ruin upon their historic community. Such was the terrible price of evicting the despised German occupiers.
“The place was a mess,” observed one witness to the carnage. “Buildings on fire, dead Germans lying around, smashed equipment, streets blocked by rubble or with gaping shell holes, and the not-too-distant crackle of small arms.”
Speirs, a Dog Company platoon leader, meandered through the coils of Normandy brush, maintaining a watchful eye on the frontline. His bulky Thompson submachine gun was casually slung over his shoulder.
A displaced victim of a petty officer rivalry, the lieutenant was a relative newcomer to Dog Company. Recent battlefield forays rapidly established the 24-year-old Bostonian’s reputation as a man not to be trifled with. Conjecture regarding his actions against prisoners of war and one of his own belligerent sergeants swiftly became fodder for foxhole scuttlebutt
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