A few days later the Americans launched an all-out counterattack. Their artillery shells and aerial bombs landed on the hills defended by our division, loosening the dirt and cutting down trees, some of which burst into flames. Despite not knowing what to do or where to go, we held our line and fought back the enemy's advances again and again. Not until the afternoon of May 22 did we receive orders to move north, cross the Han River, and build a defense along its north bank. Immediately we began to retreat. But that same evening another telegram came, ordering us not to cross the river, and instead to set up a defense line on the south shore and hold it for four days to cover thousands of wounded men being shipped back from the front. This was easier said than done. We had no food left, and our right flank would be exposed-the Sixty-third Army, which was supposed to cover it, had already retreated to the north of the river. How on earth could we fight in such disarray? The enemy saw our predicament, so they assembled more men, tanks, and artillery, and kept pursuing us.
Excerpted from War Trash by Ha Jin, chapter 1 and part of chapter 2 (pages 6-20) of the hardcover edition. Copyright© 2004 by Ha Jin. Excerpted by permission of Pantheon, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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