Four days before the Axis surrendered in Italy in 1945, the Força Expedicionária Brasileira (Brazilian Expeditionary Division) made a push for the Allies in the Taro river area near Collecchio.
A swirling breeze lifted scattered leaves into a shrinking spiral against a cloud bedecked blue sky that spoke of ascending hope. Sargento Zenóbio da Silva, 6th Regimental Combat Team, 1st Division closed his eyes against the momentary grit, opened again to the ocular lens, resumed his breathing, tightened his tension on the trigger and waited.
Hidden in a young orchard to the west, scanning through his binoculars Oberleutnant Frederich Schmidt, 242nd Sturmgeschütz Battalion, 90th Panzergrenadier Division saw a flicker of breeze-born leaves rise above the stone wall lining the street exiting the town. The gaps in the stones would make excellent sniper hides.
Stabsgefreiter Oskar Hinkel, knelt at the Fiume Taro’s edge, filled their canteens and returned, distracted by the glory of the mid-day sun, walking upright through the trees.
“Get down, Hinkel, get down! The sun is bright and betrays us,” hissed the Oberleutnant. Hinkel instantly dropped, scattering the canteens as he hit the grassy earth.
Studying the orchard eight hundred yards across the river, Sgt Zenóbio thought he saw movement in the trees while their branches briefly bobbed up and down as if waving to him. There! A semicircle by a tree trunk betrayed a partial silhouette of an enemy’s helmet. His rifle cracked like a splitting rock and the telltale spray glinting in the sun confirmed another casualty. Oddly, though, it had no color as if the light stole it away.
Schmidt called in the coordinates at that edge of the town. Da Silva quickly withdrew under cover knowing artillery would soon obliterate his position. StGefr Hinkel picked up the canteens and crawled back.
When he reached their position Hinkel held up the canteens and over the roar of exploding artillery exclaimed, “Heir Oberleutnant! He’s killed your canteen!”