Thursday, August 23, 2018

The Hunters, Hunted

Panzerjäger* I
"I'm giving you a platoon from the 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry, Leutnant. Patrols tell me there is a single Russian vehicle blocking the main highway just south of this little village, Raseiniai, I think it's called. Knock that bastard out, send a runner back when it's clear."

Lieutnant Wengeroth nodded and snapped out, "Jawohl, Herr Oberst!"

Oberst Erhard Raus, commander of Kampfgruppe Raus, which consisted mainly of one full regiment, the 114th and a single battalion of another, the 1st of the 4th Infantry, of his own infantry brigade, the 6th, of the 6th Panzer Division, nodded with some satisfaction. So far the invasion had gone like clockwork, prisoner interrogations revealed that they were facing the remnants of a Soviet Mechanized Corps, the Third.

The KV-1s of the enemy corps had come as a bit of a shock to his tank commanders, the small shells from their Panzer IIIs and IVs tended to bounce right off the big Russian tanks. But his on call air support, an entire group from Stukageschwader 3, had beat the Soviets up badly that very morning. The wrecks of a number of KV-1s and other support vehicles littered the fields around Raseinai, the oily smoke pyres marking the last stand of the Third Mechanized.

Or so Raus thought.


Ju-87 "Stuka" Dive bombers.
(Source)
Kurt Baumann sat on the back deck of the Panzerjäger I, just behind the two man gun crew and the small shield meant to protect the crew from small arms fire. He was just behind the vehicle commander, his sergeant Willi Klepper was on the right of the vehicle, his MP-40 at the ready. Kurt's K98k lay next to him, with all the brush to that side of the road, he didn't feel it necessary to actually hold onto his rifle.

"Baumann, pick up your verdammte rifle. Won't do you any good lying on the deck!"

Arschgesicht, Kurt thought to himself, but the left side of the road was clearing anyway so his rifle was now in his hands, at the ready. What does Klepper think I am, some damned rookie?

As he leaned out to see around the gun shield, Private Kurt Baumann, of the 2nd Squad, 3rd Company, 1st Battalion of Infanterie-Regiment 4, saw the biggest damned tank he had ever seen. Just sitting there. Bigger than even some of the tanks the Frenchies had.


Oberfeldwebel Artur Schlichter also saw the big Soviet tank, first he barked at the driver to halt, then looked to his loader, who already had an armor-piercing round up the spout of their Czech 47 millimeter gun. Bending his eye to the gun sight, Schlichter laid the gun on the target, low on the enemy tank's turret (which was turned so as to present the left face of the turret to Schlichter's vehicle), then barked...

"Feuer!" as he triggered the cannon, sending the round down range. Over the bark of the gun, Schlichter swore that he heard the round ricochet off the side of the Soviet tank at the same time seeing sparks fly just where he had aimed the gun.

"Reload! Schnell!" he screamed at Klaus Becker, his loader.

"Panzergrenate geladen!" Becker screeched as he slammed the breech block of the 47 closed.

Again Schlichter bent to the sight, noticing that the turret of the Russki was starting to turn...

In their direction.

Triggering the gun, he saw the round impact the enemy vehicle again. Again to no apparent effect.

"Scheiße! Reverse Hans, reverse!"

Schlichter was dimly aware of the two infantrymen jumping off of his vehicle and their squad mates scrambling to get out of the vehicle's path as the driver, Gefreiter Hans Landes began to back up. In his peripheral vision he noted that the landsers were heading for the ditches along either side of the road.


Baumann saw the flash of the Russian's cannon from where he lay in the ditch, without thinking, he buried his face in the dirt, both hands clasped over his helmet, rifle forgotten...

The big 152 millimeter round from the Soviet vehicle hit near the top of Schlichter's gun shield, exploding and reducing the top halves of Schlichter and Becker to a bloody mist. The driver, Gefreiter Landes, lived perhaps five seconds longer than the rest of his crew. All he felt was a vast numbness before he slid into unconsciousness and death. The pressure from the high explosive round killed him, not a fragment had touched him.

The explosion from the KV-2's big round, after tearing the top half of the small Panzerjäger into scrap metal and killing the entire crew, engulfed and killed or incapacitated most of Feldwebel Willi Klepper's squad. At the same time, the wrecked vehicle, still rolling backward, ran over Klepper's left foot. Saving his life.**

Baumann was deafened by the explosion, it felt like his head was stuffed with cotton. He was bleeding from both ears, his ear drums partially ruptured, he was also slightly concussed. His condition was survivable, what he did next was not.

Struggling to his hands and knees, Baumann saw his sergeant writhing in pain next to the wrecked Panzerjäger, holding his lower leg. Baumann thought it odd that his sergeant had his mouth open and seemed to be screaming. He was puzzled that he couldn't hear him. Then he staggered to his feet, determined to help his sergeant.



"Cannon reloaded, Serzhant Smirnov!" shouted Efreitor Nikolay Anatolyevich Shukov as he slapped his sergeant on the back. Private Arkady Petrovich Rogov stood by the ready rack, prepared to hand Shukov another round when needed. Nothing fancy, no calculating to do, all they carried was high explosive, the rounds were heavy, they could only carry twenty of them. Rogov had counted, now there were fifteen.

"Tovarishch Kapitan! One of the fascists is still alive!" screamed the bow gunner, Private Mikhail Gennadyevich Vasiliev.

"Then shoot him Mikhail Gennadyevich! Nikolay Anatolyevich, slew your gun to nine o'clock, I see more of those fascist self-propelled guns." His comment was punctuated by another German anti-tank round glancing off the top of the turret. The inside of the Dreadnought rang like a bell for a moment, as the turret slewed to engage another German vehicle.


Klepper was in intense pain, his foot was still attached to his leg but he knew it was crushed. His metal shod boot had been bent into an odd shape, causing him further pain, but as near as he could tell, he wasn't bleeding. Much.

It was then that he saw the young landser from Oberammergau stand and turn towards him. No, no, no.

"Get down Baumann! Get..."

He saw the 7.62 rounds slice through the young infantryman, killing him instantly. Young Baumann crumpled to the ground and didn't move, his sightless eyes still fixed on his sergeant. Klepper, in all his pain, had the odd thought that Baumann looked...

Surprised.

Platoon of German Czech-built Panzer 35(t)s advancing
(Source)
Just after seeing Valentin Alexandrovich's gun disassemble another German vehicle, Captain Smirnov saw a deployed platoon of German tanks coming into view over one of the gentle folds in the ground which were common in this part of Lithuania. All rolling plains or swamp he thought. He also noted that the light was starting to fade. Night was coming.

He would have to rely on Starshiy Serzhant Ivan Petrovich Tikhonov's lads from the 72nd to keep the fascist infantry at bay during the short night. He was confident the Nazi tanks would hold in place, for now.

The morning however, then we shall see how badly the fascists want this road...


Colonel Raus looked in disbelief at the young lieutenant, "A single Russian tank. One tank destroyed four of my Panzerjägers, and destroyed nearly a full platoon of infantry?"

"Jawohl Herr Oberst. From the description one of the survivors gave us, it has to be one of those big KV-2s, the assault howitzer."

"A survivor? Where is he?"

"He's wounded, Sir, they're about to evacuate him..."

"Gottverdammt Leutnant! I didn't ask you his condition. Where is he!?!?!"

As the chastened lieutenant led his colonel over to the dressing station, he saw them loading the sergeant with the crushed foot onto an ambulance. "You there, Sani! Hold up!"

The medic (Sani, short for Sanitäter), gestured to the stretcher bearers to wait. The lieutenant looked frightened, the colonel looked very angry.

"Oberfeldwebel! What is, mein Gott, is that you Willi?" Raus had known Willi Klepper since Poland, a good man to have in a fight.

"Excuse me for not getting up Herr Oberst. Whatever the Sani gave me is working well, I am feeling no pain. I daresay I shall never dance again though."

As the colonel looked askance at the medic, the medic mouthed the word 'morphine.'

Nodding at the medic, Raus continued, "What did you see out there Willi?"

"A very big Russki tank with a very big gun. Had to be a KV-2, the thing ate our panzers and my squad like we were nothing. The 47 rounds just bounce off." Klepper began to sing "Erika."


Auf der Heide blüht ein kleines Blümelein
und das heißt: Erika.
Heiß von hunderttausend kleinen Bienelein
wird umschwärmt Erika
denn ihr Herz ist voller Süßigkeit,
zarter Duft entströmt dem Blütenkleid.
Auf der Heide blüht ein kleines Blümelein
und das heißt: Erika.

"Go ahead, Sani, get him to the rear." Patting the sergeant on the arm, the colonel turned to the lieutenant -

"Send a runner to the Flak Bataillon. We need one of their 88s. Now!"

If the feared 88 millimeter FLAK 37 can't crack that Soviet tank, then nothing could. By morning we shall see, the colonel thought.


88 mm Dual Purpose gun, Russian Front
(Source)





* Panzerjäger = tank hunter (literally "armor" hunter)
** He would be evacuated back to Germany, crippled but alive. He survived the war, the sole member of his company to do so

Other notes:
Leutnant = lieutenant
Oberst = colonel
Infanterie-Regiment = infantry regiment
Tovarishch Kapitan = Comrade captain
Landser = German military slang for an infantryman
Oberfeldwebel = master sergeant
Feldwebel = sergeant
Serzhant = sergeant
Gefreiter/Efreitor = corporal (German/Russian)
Arschgesicht = German equivalent of "asshole, literally "ass face"
Starshiy Serzhant = sergeant major

10 comments:

  1. Nice....very nice...... will there be MOAR?

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  2. I need to slow down my reading speed. Your story needs to be savored for the fine writing it is, but once I'm into the story I just keep reading faster and faster.

    Very well done.

    "Schlichter layed the gun on the target..." I started agonizing over "laid" versus "layed" and decided to look it up on the internet. The grammar folks lean heavily towards "laid" but I very far away from my area of expertise.

    As Nylon12 said MOAR!

    Thank you for the story.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I woke up in the middle of the night (seriously) and asked myself if I had actually used "layed." Got up this morning and, sure enough, I had. Though it looked right, I Googled an article on laying a gun, they used "laid." So that has been corrected. D'oh!

      And yes, there's more.

      :)

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  3. You've got a nice style and flair for historical fiction. As the others have said, keep it comin', its good.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Aaron. You folks keep reading it, I'll keep writing it.

      ;)

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  4. Nice job. Those 47mms didn't stand a chance against heavy Rus armor. Against most everything British, or about half the French stuff? Worked quite well.

    Now if the idiot gunner had targeted the running gear, and then gone around the back to hit the engine compartment, well, would have been somewhat different. Especially if, while the turret was trying to chase the Panzerjager, some pioneer or smart landser snuck up and put a satchel charge under the turret bustle. But that's all armchair quarterbacking.

    Those early Soviet monsters were a shock even to the mostly unflappable Finns. Quite a shock to the Germans who thought they were the cocks of the walks at the time.

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    Replies
    1. And nice death by just concussive air pressure.

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    2. Getting close to a functioning enemy tank takes cojones of rather large size. Targeting the running gear just immobilizes the vehicle. Not a mission kill. The KV-2 had two to three MGs, for keeping pesky infantry away. Also, this KV has infantry support. Bear in mind this incident was in the first few days of Barbarossa, situation was very fluid.

      Stay tuned.

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    3. The overpressure was for Scott the Badger.

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Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)