DECEMBER 8, 1944 When Hackermeyer joined the second squad of the third platoon of C Company, the first thing he heard was Sergeant Cooley blowing his top. Hackermeyer had been sitting in a crowded truck all night and most of the morning and he ached. His legs and arms were stiff. His feet were almost numb. He hobbled to the tent of the company commander who passed him on to Assistant Platoon Sergeant Wadley. Wadley escorted him across the bivouac area, telling him what a rugged outfit he was joining. "We're fighting men," said Wadley. "We ain't got no room for yellowbellies, understand?" Hackermeyer grunted. "Give'em hell's our motto," Sergeant Wadley said. "Yeah," said Hackermeyer. Wadley reminded him of his Uncle Geor≥ the pretentious authority, the unconvincing bluster. "Another thing," said Wadley, "I don't want to see you dumping gear, understand? I see you dumping gear, I'll put a bullet through your brain. Understand?" Hackermeyer sniffed and limped along beside the barrel-chested, long-armed Wadley. Wadley's newly shaven cheeks were red and puffy while Hackermeyer's were colorless and flat. Wadley's helmet liner sat too high on his skull so that his head and helmet formed a giant egg shape. Hackermeyer's helmet rode too low. His inanimate black eyes were shadowed by the rim. Wadley moved in short, swaggering paces, one hand gripping the machine pistol hanging at his side. His expression was alertly grim. Hackermeyer plodded, his right thumb hooked beneath the sling of his rifle, his lean face emptied of expression. As they neared the hollow where the second squad was, they began to hear the raving voice of Sergeant Cooley, who was talking to another soldier. Cooley saw them approaching and came striding over. "What's this about leaving our overshoes behind?" he demanded. Wadley bristled instantly. "Orders, Cooley," he said in a quietly dangerous voice. "What idiot would give orders like that?" said Cooley. "Christ's sake, ain't we had enough trench foot? Take away our overshoes and every man in the outfit'll be crawling back to the aid station!" "I don't give the orders, Cooley!" Wadley shouted. "I just see they get followed out and, by Christ, they'll get followed out, understand?" Cooley turned his head and spat tobacco juice. "Watch it, Cooley," said Wadley in a threatening voice. "Watch it yourself!" raged Cooley. "They know damn well it rains two days out of three up here!" "Cooley!" "They know damn well we got to walk through water! They know damn well we got to sleep in foxholes filled with rain! They know damn well it's going to snow soon!" "Goddamn it, Cooley!" bellowed Wadley. Hackermeyer stood by sleepily while Cooley and Wadley called each other names. He had slept an hour and twenty minutes on the truck and had been taken from the replacement depot two hours after arriving there from a three-day trip across France in a crowded boxcar. He was not interested in what the sergeants were arguing about. Sniffing, he watched them with heavy-lidded eyes. Cooley appeared to be in his middle-forties. He was a man of medium height, chunky but not oversize. Wadley loomed gorilla-like next to him. Cooley's features were undistinguished except for his eyes which were a livid blue in the grimy, sun- and wind-burned, beard-stubbled leather of his face. He was wearing a mud-spatteredMatheson, Richard is the author of 'Beardless Warriors' with ISBN 9780312878313 and ISBN 0312878311.