Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Weird Dreams

"Oberfeldwebel! How long do we have to sit here with the engine off? I'm freezing my arse off!"


"Ja, Oberfeldwebel?"

"Slap Schmidt for me would you?"

Schmidt was a Grünschnabel, a rookie, he had only been with the crew of Panzer 413 for two months, straight out of the Panzerschule. Kid was only 18 years old, a volunteer! The rest of the crew had been together since '42. They'd lost their old commander when he went off to become an officer shortly after Arnhem. Everyone else had changed positions and poor Schmidt got stuck in the front as the radioman/bow gunner.

Now they were sitting in the dark, operating the engine periodically to keep the oil warm, waiting for the attack to jump off. Ten days before Christmas.

Willi was nearly nodding off when he heard the sharp rap on the hull. Stirring he popped his hatch open to see the face of his platoon leader, Hauptfeldwebel Müller.

"Crank her up Willi, we're about to move. Just waiting for the Landsers to clear the road ahead."

"Zu befehl Kurt! Fire up the engine Horst, lets get Schmidt warmed up for battle!"

Panzer 413 jerked forward onto the road. Tracks throwing up mud, Horst maneuvered into position behind Panzer 424. While he desperately wanted to sit below his hatch, he couldn't see anything due to the mud being thrown up by 424. The wet mist was clinging to everything, including him, and he was starting to shiver.

Willi was standing up in his commander's cupola, wishing he was the gunner once more, out of the wind. But 413 was now "his" panzer, though the battalion commander, Major Lange, might disagree. It had been a long time since they'd rolled into the attack, most of the battalion was excited by the prospect.

Except for Schmidt of course, he was cold, he was damp, and he missed his home in the Harz Mountains so much. Last Christmas he had still been in school, home for Christmas with his parents and his sister. His oldest brother had been killed in action in 1941, fighting with Rommel in North Africa. His next oldest brother was still in hospital, recovering from the traumatic amputation of both legs below the knee when his Panther had been destroyed by an American Jabo (fighter bomber) near Falaise in France.

He had wanted to join up and fight the enemies of the Reich, but his father wanted him to finish school first. As Vati was a Party official, Schmidt had stayed home while nearly everyone else his age had already been swept up by conscription.

Tank school had been fun. But now he was at the front, the enemies of the Reich were much closer now. Fantasy had become reality. Reality was cold, drizzle, fog, bad food, and the distinct possibility of being killed or maimed in the days ahead.

As the tank rolled towards Luxembourg, all Schmidt could think was how badly he wanted to go home.

"Hey Sarge, you hear that?"

"Hear what Jackson? All I hear is the rain and you yapping."

"Tanks, I hear tanks."


Then Staff Sergeant Jones heard it too. The squealing of tank tracks and the low rumble of what had to be a tank engine. Multiple tank engines. He was staring down the road from where they had set up in a hasty position, a couple of mines, a rickety wooden barrier, and the barest amount of wire they'd grabbed from a farmer's barn in the village to their rear.

The sound was getting louder now, though it was still dark and the fog was thick, Jones figured that whatever was making that noise would soon roll into view.

Then the world erupted in fire and death.

Precisely on time, German artillery began slamming into American positions all along the Ardennes front. 105 mm artillery rounds slammed into treetops, detonating and sending hot steel and wood splinters into the men clustered below. No one had had time to put up any overhead cover over their foxholes. Fortunately the trees were so thick that very few were wounded, but everyone had their heads down, waiting for the barrage to roll over them.

"Jackson, come on we gotta move!" Jones yelled as he grabbed Jackson's shoulder.

"Come on man!"

That's when Staff Sergeant Jones realized that Jackson wasn't going anywhere, ever. A wood splinter had been driven into the back of his neck, Jackson was a goner.


Jones stayed low as he turned and ran down the track towards his company CP. But not low enough.

Gefreiter Pizzeck was the bow gunner in Panzer 424. As his tank rolled out into the open he saw movement just down the road. Swinging his machine gun in that direction, he squeezed out a short burst. Whatever had been there wasn't there anymore.

Staff Sergeant Jones, from Milwaukee, had been thrown into a patch of low brush by the burst of machine gun fire. He was trembling from the shock of it, he'd never been shot at before by someone actually trying to kill him. Oddly enough, he felt no pain, just sleepy, very sleepy.

Panzer 424 halted just past the rudimentary roadblock, after crushing it underneath 424's tracks. The tank commander, Leutnant Rolf Eberhardt, looked back towards 413 to see the second Tiger in the column right where he should be. To his right, in a shallow hole, was a dead American, just up the road, partially in the brush was another. Probably the man that Pizzeck shot at. Wasn't much left of him below the waist, Pizzeck's MG 34 had torn the soldier nearly in half at this range. He idly wondered where the man's legs were when a loud bang behind him made him turn.

Panzer 413's left track had rolled right over one of the mines Jones and Jackson had planted in the road. One of the links was shattered and the rest of the track had rolled right off the drive sprocket. For now, 413 was stuck, in the middle of the road, blocking the rest of the battalion from moving forward.

Eberhardt jumped down from his tank, right onto the second mine which Jones and Jackson had planted in the road. Though his weight shouldn't have been enough to set the mine off, a faulty fuse and the extra impetus from Eberhardt jumping down off his tank was enough to trigger the mine.

There was less of Eberhardt left than there was of Jones.

"Scheisse! Dismount, get that spare section of track off the turret, grab the tools, lets fix that track or no one is going to be advancing!"

As Willi's crew began to fix the busted track, Major Lange came up.

"What's the holdup Hoffmeister?"

"Mines Herr Major. We hit one, Leutnant Eberhardt stepped on another. We should have this track patched up in 30 minutes."

"Shit. I'm sending some engineers up to check for more mines. Watch your step!"

"Jawohl Herr Major."

Strange dreams Monday night. Woke up at 0230, after dreaming that I had had to fix the track of a Tiger tank, stranded in a barn, with the engine compartment buried under a pile of what appeared to be mulch. (Too many years assisting in the annual ritual of the mulch might explain that part of the dream.)

Had a kid from work with me, young guy just out of college. No, they hadn't covered fixing a busted tank track at his school. So I had him clean the mulch off the back half of the tank. I started replacing the busted link in the track. How I knew how to do that is beyond me, maybe I saw it in a movie. Maybe I read it somewhere.

But I woke up before the track was repaired.

The mulch had been cleared away though.

Damn. What the heck did I eat Monday night?

And yes, the story above will be continued in December. Too early right now for Battle of the Bulge stories.


  1. You need to write a book, my Friend, and quite possibly two or three.

    1. I agree. You captured the souls of your characters very well, made for easy and enjoyable reading. Distilling boring academic works (I am one of those people who read some of the US Army's books on the Pacific war. How could a book about such a wet theater of combat be so very dry?) into understandable and, again, enjoyable words is definitely a talent you have.

      Write the damned book(s), please.

    2. Working on it, in fits and starts.

  2. Good start let's see... November 15 to December 16...damit! Off for some recoil therapy then...up to 39F today so lets drag out the K31 and M39.... :).

  3. Thanks for the post; that was a good start. Awaiting the rest.

    Paul L. Quandt

  4. Well written first had accounts tell so much more. Here is one of my favorites. I may have linked to it before.,204,203,200_QL40_&dpSrc=srch

  5. I had the strangest feeling years ago while stationed in Germany. There were a lot of WW2 era facilities and a loading ramp by the train tracks was one of them in Baumholder. The buildings were the sturdy stone and tile roofs the Germans made for the "1,000 year Reich".

    I had the strangest feeling - an epiphany? That I had been there before.

    As a German or American I can't say.

  6. Hurtgen Forest, mebbe? I liked "When Trumpets Fade"....

    1. My great uncle was wounded in the Hürtgen.

      That book is excellent.


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