Sunday, December 31, 2017

Happy New Ears!

To quote a great American (even when he's in pain!), "It's always sumthin'."

And living in the country, that's especially (and frequently) true.

While Sarge was vacationing in DC with his feet up and wait staff at full force, things are Rancho Juvat seemed to be collapsing around my ears.  My Beautiful Daughter had come for a few days and stayed in the guest house.  The guest room in the main house having been appropriated by Mrs Juvat as her workout room and would only be used as a guest room in dire circumstances. 

So it is written, so it shall be.

However, dire circumstances prevailed.  After MBD had retired to the guest house, we received a communique' which said it was near freezing in the house and could we come and educate her on how to work the heat.  Since the ambient air temperature was near freezing also, I rode to the rescue with alacrity.

Only to find that the heat would not come on even after a hard reboot accompanied by a circuit breaker cycling (or 15).

She accompanied me back to the main house and was soon ensconced in the guest room.  The following day, the prime directive for my actions was to get on the schedule of the air conditioning guy.  Which I did.

He arrived that afternoon, which floored me.  Same day service?  YGBSM!


He also knew what the problem was.

The prior year for whatever of Mother Nature's reasons the winter had resulted in Field Mice everywhere.  Furtive little creatures, they were rarely ever spotted, but left little clues shaped like little black grains of rice every where they went.
Cute isn't it? No...Not really, they're called a pest for a reason.

The problem in the main house was alleviated by the addition of Schmedly, Moushka and Mushka.  Thanks, guys! Mrs Juvat appreciated your hard work hunting the little creatures, even if she did get a tad excited when you dropped proof of your prowess on her pillow in the middle of the night.
Schmedly, a tiger by heart.

However, we still had problems in the Barn as well as the guest house throughout that winter.

Come spring, Mother Nature did her magic and the field mice disappeared.  

Or not...

Seems one of the little Mickeys decided to have his last meal on the control panel wiring of the AC/Heat unit.  It also seems that when he expired, that bit of electricity fried the control panel rendering the unit irreparable.

Realizing we had guests staying that weekend and not wanting to have to cancel, I asked him when he thought it might be back up and running.  I was very relieved to hear that he would order the new unit that evening, it would arrive the next morning and be up that afternoon.

Being in the proverbial circumstance involving rocks and hard places, I asked the usual question.  Having just watched "White Christmas", I gained a new appreciation for the line "between ouch and BOINNGGG!"

My wife, ever the glass is half full type, said "well, we needed a business deduction".

Yeah, babe, right!

In the middle of this episode, I'm leaving the property and hit the clicker on the gate opener.  Usually, I can open the gate from anywhere on the property.  I've got THE clicker.  Other mere mortals, have to get within a few feet of it in order for it to receive the signal.

I click the gate button, nothing.  Closer, nothing. Stop at the manual gate button.  It's laying on its side in the dirt.  

The horses have knocked it down using it as a butt scratcher.

So....I call the gate guy, explain the situation, and he says he can come that afternoon.  Again, I count myself lucky as he's usually booked quite a few days in advance.  Lot of people from a state out west that rhymes with california putting their money into ranches in Texas nowadays.  (Skip, I know what you're going to say "We're not all like that'" However, the ones moving here seem to be.)

Sorry, Sarge, I know, Back on Target!

So, the gate guy comes, has to replace the solar panel which charges the battery which died and caused the remotes not to work.  He checked out the manual button, pronounced it serviceable and hammered some angle iron into the ground and welded the post to it.

He said I might want to build a structure around it that the horses could use to scratch on instead of the gate infrastructure.

So it is written, so it shall be.

Been working so far.

After a long day of dealing with things and writing checks, I fix dinner and afterwords load up the dishwasher.  It's a nice dishwasher made by Bosch, very quiet and very efficient at washing dishes.


The next morning, I look at the dishes and it doesn't appear to have operated, even though it had made noise like it was operating.

Try it again, nothing. 

So....I call the local appliance repair guy.  He says he can be out the next afternoon.  Arrives right on time, takes a look at the problem and says "You want the good news or the bad news?"  

"Good News"

"Your wife is getting a belated Christmas gift"

"Bad News"

"It'll cost more to fix than to replace"


Didn't realize it, but evidently this model dishwasher has a float underneath and if it leaks and starts to flood, the float turns off the machine.  Unfortunately, that's also where the motors and other mechanical parts are located.  Machinery, electricity and water are not mutually compatible.

Mrs Juvat and I had a lovely Lowes date the next evening and the dishwasher is supposed to be installed sometime this next week.

It's always something.

Yeah, it is!

Hope you have a Happy New Year (without plenty of unplanned business expenses).

OBTW, if like me, you believe honor and integrity are underrepresented in Flag Officers, please view the video in the sidebar under  It wasn't always thus.
Couple of the guys in the overhead banner have speaking parts.  Caution: it will get dusty.
Good addition, Sarge.

Somewhere North of Bastogne, in the Ardennes

Christmas Eve, 1944. Mac Peterson remembered where he was just four years ago. High school, he was a senior. His last Christmas at home with the family. The war was looming ever larger in Europe, and dangerous rumblings were coming from the Pacific.

Dad had fought in World War I, had been gassed in the Argonne Forest but had survived, Late at night he could hear his old man coughing, knew that he was suffering. At Christmas dinner, Mac's dad had taken him aside.

"Son, I know we're going to get into this war, sooner rather than later. Your grades aren't good enough to go to college. I'd recommend working for a couple of years, then go to school. Make something of yourself, well, that's what I'd say if I didn't think we'd be getting into this fight. So, when high school is finished, enlist, get in early, you'll make sergeant, like I did."

"Gee Dad, I was thinking of asking Marilyn..."

"There is no time for that Malcolm. After the war will do, just wait, don't make that girl a widow."

So he'd enlisted right out of high school. Went through tank school and was just finishing that up when the news of Pearl Harbor had come in. The Army had grown fast after that. Fast enough that Mac had made staff sergeant so quick that all the old hands just shook their heads and wondered how a young kid like him would handle things.

He'd handled things pretty well, from North Africa to Normandy. He'd seen a lot, too much really. Now he was here in this frozen forest wondering what the morrow would bring. Looking up he saw clear skies, maybe this foul weather would break and they'd get air support again.

Willi climbed down from 413, the letter from home in his pocket. He'd read it over and over again. His family was alive!

They had been out in the countryside, visiting his Uncle Klaus' farm. A chance to eat fresh vegetables and drink real milk couldn't be passed up. He had wondered, why the hell had the local office reported his family dead. The letter also explained that.

"When we arrived back at home son, the whole block was gone, our flat, the neighbors' flats, all gone. The Tommies and Amis destroyed our whole neighborhood. The authorities thought we were dead under the rubble. We're going back to your uncle's place outside Moosinning. Write us there."

Willi had a spring in his step as he walked over to Panzer 414. He needed to see what they needed in the way of supplies. They were running low on everything, except ammunition. They'd only seen the Amis a couple of times, hardly any ammo had been expended dealing with the Ami Shermans. Things were death traps.

MSgt Ted Dixon was walking towards Mac as he was about to climb up into his tank. The MSgt looked angry. Then again, Master Sergeants always looked angry.

"What's up Master Sarn't?" Mac asked, hoping it didn't involve his crew.

"One of our 63s broke an axle, it's not going any further. I can move the equipment over to the other, but the guys need a ride. You got room?" MSgt Dixon asked, with a look on his face suggesting that it wasn't really a request.
Dodge WC-63 Weapons Carrier
"It's gonna be cold riding on the back deck. They need to know that when the shooting starts they'll be sitting ducks, but yeah, we can make do." Heck, it won't be me hanging out there in the breeze, Mac thought. But still, a shiver ran through him, he'd seen infantrymen swept off the back of a tank in Normandy by a Kraut quad-20 mounted on a tank chassis.
Wirbelwind, Quad-20mm Flakpanzer
Sure, the tank had made short work of that flak wagon, but the infantry were slaughtered by that beast. While he'd rather not have to worry about the engineers riding on the back, he really had no choice in the matter.

"Yeah, we can do that MSgt. When do you guys wanna get back on the road?" Mac asked.

"First thing in the morning Sergeant, let the boys sleep. After all, tomorrow's Christmas." Dixon began to walk back, then stopped and turned.

"By the way, thanks Mac. You and your boys have been a big help. Won't forget it."

"Just doin' our job, Master Sarn't, just doin' our job." Mac said with a grin.

MSgt Dixon laughed and shook his head, maybe these tank jockeys weren't so bad after all!

Willi was shaken out of a sound sleep by his platoon leader, Hauptfeldwebel Kurt Müller.

"Frohe Weihnachten Willi!" Müller said with a grin, handing Willi a cup of some hot beverage. "Drink! It's real coffee, we took it from the Amis!"

Willi took a sip, it was good. It had been months since he'd had real coffee.

Smiling he raised his cup to Müller, "Ja, Merry Christmas Chef! I suppose this isn't a social call?"

"Nein, you guessed correctly. In the morning, we'll be joined by a company of Panthers. While that's the good news, the bad news is that they're Scheißkopf SS bastards. But you didn't hear me say that, nah?"

"No Chef, I don't like those bastards either, but a company of Panthers is nice to have. Any idea when we'll join up with the rest of the battalion?"

Hauptfeldwebel Müller pulled his map from his pocket and opened it up.

"We're here, Brisy, not far from Houffalize. Word has it that the rest of the battalion captured some fuel at Houffalize, we join them there, then we hit Bastogne. Word has it that we have the Amis surrounded there."

"What about the SS?" Willi wondered.

"We're not waiting for them, supposedly they're still behind us, Rettigny I believe. Probably looting the village and terrorizing the villagers."

"Be careful Chef. The Gestapo has informers everywhere."

"Tsk, what will they do? Make me join the Army?" Hauptfeldwebel Müller scoffed.

"You know better Chef, you know of the punishment battalions. Are you in that much of a hurry to return to Russia? Only this time as a landser*, not a panzerführer**!" Willi looked around, always nervous when Müller expressed his anti-Nazi sympathies. He shared those sympathies but it was dangerous to express such things.

"Don't worry so much Willi! I know I can trust you. Now be ready to move out in about an hour. We need to take advantage of the darkness, I fear the weather is about to clear." 

With that, Hauptfeldwebel Kurt Müller headed back to his own vehicle. Panzer 421 was a Tiger taken from 2nd Platoon, whose commander had lost his nerve. Along with the rest of his platoon, bogged down in the Our River when the bridge they were crossing had collapsed.

This would not be the first Christmas he had spent in combat, hopefully though, it would be the last.

As they moved out, Mac looked up from his map. Looked like it was going to be a clear day, cold, but clear.

I could really use a P-47 or two on call, sure could. Mac had a good feeling today.

Maybe it would be a Merry Christmas. But not for the Germans.

Why don't they just quit? Mac asked himself for the hundredth time. As he thought about it though, would he quit if somebody was invading the United States?  Hhmm, best not to think on that too much.

Just keep killing them until they quit, it's what they pay me for.

"It's what they pay all of us for." Mac said to the T-5 standing next to his hatch.

"Huh?" Asked the puzzled engineer.

"Nuthin' pal, nuthin' at all, just hang on buddy, it's gonna be a long day..."

* Landser, a common foot soldier.
** Panzerführer, literally "armor leader," colloquially speaking, a tank commander.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Back Aboard

An uneventful return to Little Rhody was accomplished last night at 2330 hours local.

Yes, it was cold, again, not northern Canada cold, but cold enough.

Big Girl, after her long wait in airport parking, started right up like the good and faithful vehicle she is.

None of my cards worked when I attempted to pay for parking. The Missus Herself said I was doing it wrong, I insisted that I was doing it right. After all, the bloody machine said stripe up and to the right, the parking ticket went in and was read just fine. None of my cards would read, nor would hers.

So we had to back up, the chap behind us, give him credit, it was midnight, got the drift of my plan after only a few seconds of observing my back up lights. He rolled back, I waved to thank him, and pulled up to the only manned (personed?) booth leading out of the parking area.

She appeared to be of Chinese descent and gave absolutely one rat's ass about my troubles with the stupid machine. At least that's how I interpreted her blank stare when I handed her the ticket and a card and explained my dilemma in using the thrice damned robot in the other lane.

Did she speak English? I assume so, not enough folks in Little Rhody speak Chinese (Mandarin? Wu? Hakka?) to make it necessary to hire parking lot attendants who speak Chinese but have no English.

Perhaps she was just bitter about having to sit out there in the middle of the night, in the cold, taking payment for long term parking. Not a job which would make me be of good cheer, but hey, I'm a happy guy. I tried to play nice to the lady.

As she handed me my receipt, I looked her in the eye, no tenderness, no depth of feeling were apparent in her gaze. Not quite a basilisk, but not that far off either.

Traffic was light, but heavier than I expected for the lateness of the hour, but the drive home was rather uneventful. (Yes, two prize nincompoops were encountered, neither seeming to have a clue as to the proper way to drive, but they were quickly left in the wake as we proceeded to our destination.)

The feline staff were most pleased to see us. Well, at first it was just Sasha, no sign of Anya anywhere. Which made us concerned.

Then when the most timid of the clan made an appearance, Sasha was all over her like a defensive lineman with a clear shot at the quarterback. After breaking that donnybrook up, I realized that Sasha had been throwing her weight around, playing the alpha cat, while we were in Virginia.

After Sasha realized that the larger members of the pride weren't going to let her have her way, both cats expressed their appreciation at our return to the fold. One by sleeping on my legs all night, the other cuddled up to my face, pawing me whenever I moved as if to say, "Is it really you?"

I have never seen such affectionate beasties as the four cats we've been blessed with in our time as a family. Downright clingy they are at times.

As I type this, it is cold outside (21° F) and snowing (1 to 3" expected).

It's good to be home...

Friday, December 29, 2017

Travel Day

Heading back to Little Rhody today.

Posting will be light, probably nothing until Sunday.

So, read those folks on the sidebar and not to worry, I have another installment of Panzer 413 in work. Just gonna take a day or so to settle back into normal operating routine.

See you on the flip side.

Thursday, December 28, 2017


It's been winter for a few days now, haven't seen any snow yet, not that I really want it, but I won't say no. I'm still a ten year old boy at heart. But yowza has it been cold.

Not northern Canada cold, but in the twenties cold. I expected it to be warmer in Virginia but the temperatures have been the same as Rhode Island. With Little Rhody being perhaps a tad cooler.

Ankle hurts, not as bad as the other day. Now it isn't as swollen but man, it is colorful.

So, just a quick note to let you know I'm alive. But lazy, very lazy.

But hey, I'm on vacation.

Back soon.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

How the Mighty Have Fallen

See the brace? I don't ordinarily wear one of those, it's a new addition to my wardrobe.

The Nuke and I were out walking the dogs, hadn't gone that far when Bear, who was on my wing, decided to stop and sniff something interesting. So I turned to see what she was doing,

Bear in mind (no pun intended, well, maybe a little) it was dark out. As I turned to starboard, my foot managed to find the edge of a sunken hatchway in the sidewalk. I'd call it a grate, but it was solid, more like a hatch.

Thing is, the hatch was recessed about a half inch into the concrete. My foot found the precise spot where my ankle decided, "Fire truck this, I'm rolling this old man."

I heard (and felt) a "pop" as my ankle decided to "give way all." Down I went onto the sidewalk, with all the grace of a dropped sack of potatoes. But back in the day I learned how to fall, sort of, it wasn't pretty but nothing important was bounce checked. No concussion protocol necessary.

But oh Madre de Dios did it hurt like a sumbitch.

"Dad, are you okay?" The Nuke inquired, as Kodi licked my face.

"Ah negative, Ghostrider, I am not okay."

Actually what I said sounded more like, "Ow, ow, ow, ow, jumping Jiminy it hurts like a sumbitch! Gimme a minute, m'kay?"

"Can you walk on it? Can you move it?"

"Standby, running a full BIT check..."

Actually what I said sounded more like, "Ow, ow, ow, ow, jumping Jiminy it hurts like a sumbitch!"

Eventually I regained my senses and rather gingerly moved my foot around (the right one mind you, the one not attached to my bad knee, or perhaps I should say worse knee). Seemed functional. Slowly I tried to arise from my reclined position on the sidewalk.

It was slow, it was awkward and oh yes, oh shit, oh dear, it hurt. But I discovered that I could more or less move, I could put a little weight on it. (Which, not to jump ahead in our story, the Doc at the ER said, "Oh, you shouldn't put any weight on it."

Hhmm, so should the wee daughter of mine attempted to lift my not inconsiderable bulk from the grip of the sidewalk? Nah, I told the Doc, "Okay, I won't do that again."

Off to the ER we went, fortunately it wasn't busy, couple of young kids with stomach bugs, not happy campers. No GSWs, no automotive mishaps, no belligerent drunks (yes, I've seen all of those in various ERs, here and there).

Got in, they took X-rays, three I think, then I was pronounced bowed but unbroken. 'Tis a sprain, no broken bones. Ice it, take pain meds as necessary (they offered opioids, I only hesitated a second before saying, "Nah, I'm good. OTC meds should be fine."), and here's a referral to an orthopedic guy, should you need it.

I'm "okay," but I won't be doing a lot of walking for the next few days (perhaps a fortnight the Doc said). Just what you want while visiting the Nation's Capital.

Ah well, I had a good couple of days, and that's no wee sma' thing.

So I am somewhat hobbled, and somewhat humbled. This too, shall pass.

Like Buck said, "It's always sumthin'."

Why yes, yes it is.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

The Game

Coin Toss, Broncos vs Redskins
Christmas Eve 2017
I played football as a kid, I enjoyed it and there are days I miss it. I used to watch every single NFL game I could. Three games on Sunday, one on Monday night, one on Thursday night, and the occasional Saturday game, once the college season was over.

In recent years though, I have grown tired of spending most of my Sunday in front of the television. I still enjoy the game and as the playoffs approach I expect that I'll be watching the games again. At least throughout the playoffs. (Cue Jim Mora.)

Christmas Eve was the first time I have had the opportunity to actually attend a pro game. I used to think that watching it in the comfort of my own home was preferable to attending in person.

Depending on the seats one has, I like being there in person. There's a lot going on in those big stadiums, the game itself seems to go faster when in attendance. While the folks at home are getting bombarded with commercials, in the stadium there are other things going on.

Yes, the cheerleaders are present. Always trying to keep the crowd engaged during commercial breaks.
At halftime there's the band, much more entertaining than watching the in studio talking heads.
Oh yeah, there's a game going on out there as well.
I had fun Sunday afternoon. The Nuke had got us awesome seats, 45 yard line, front row.

First thing I noticed is that everything seems smaller than what it seems on television. The players, while they are pretty big guys for the most part, look more human-sized in person. The field doesn't look as long nor as wide. It looks as I remember it from high school.

But man, the game is incredibly fast. More so in person. I've watched a couple of games on television since Sunday. It looks artificial on television, looks real in person.

It was a cool thing to do on a Christmas Eve, Fed Ex field is nice, has a very cozy feeling. Folks are nice down here in northern Virginia.

I'd do it again, seeing it up close and personal reminded me of what I loved about the game when I was young.

Hope everyone had an awesome Christmas.

I did.

Monday, December 25, 2017

So, This is Christmas*

Saw this picture on Instapundit and really liked it.  It conveys so many emotions, relief, happiness, wonder and most of all Joy, and that, to me is the meaning of Christmas. She probably has no idea who the guy who's hugging her mother is, but Mom's happy, so she's happy.  Dad's been doing his duty to protect those he loves and get's to see the results of that effort.  I think it's an excellent Christmas photo.

My Dad was always a big fan of Christmas although you had to see through the gruff and bluff.  After Mom passed, he moved here and bought  a house with extra high ceilings.  That Christmas, he went and bought an extra tall Christmas tree and decorated it.  (Which, scared the heck out of me when I came by and saw him on the ladder.  Discourage him from doing that?  Not gonna happen!)  He did that for several years until he fell and hurt his back.  Then....I got to practice climbing that ladder and decorating.  

When he passed, what to do with his Tree was the subject of discussion.  Unfortunately, nobody had a house where it would fit.  Disposing of it was not an option we would consider.  But that Christmas, I noticed the staff at the Elementary School was setting up a dinky little 4' tree.  Marched into the Principal's office and told her I had something better.

They've set up Dad's tree in the vestibule every year since. Kinda brings him back a little.

Yes...I believe Dad had a finger in that set of circumstances.

I also believe that Christmas has nothing to do with presents and things, it's got everything to do with Family and Friends and it started with a Family of three in Bethlehem.  They didn't have much but they had each other and the greatest gift of all.   So... I'm going to focus on my family.

We hope things continue to progress with My Beautiful Daughter and her Boyfriend.  

So....THIS is Christmas!

Mrs Juvat and My Christmas gift arrived Friday Night.  Little Juvat arrived home Friday night after a 31 hour trip with delays for Fog at one stop, rain at another, and then American lost his bags.  All that having been said, there was Joy on his arrival.

Merry Christmas to all our Readers, may you have a peaceful, joyous Holiday Season, and a wonderful New Year.

I'm going to go spend some time with my Family. 
*From the Lyrics of a song by John Lennon

Sunday, December 24, 2017

And It Came to Pass...

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. Luke 2:8-15 (KJV)


From my family to yours, may the Blessings and Peace of Christmas be yours now and in the years to come.

Wishing you joy, and love.

Merry Christmas!


Saturday, December 23, 2017

Panzer 413 - Hell is Cold

MSgt Ted Dixon was not a man to be rushed. His guys were wiring the bridge on the road which led to Limerlé, the tanker he'd picked up in Gouvy said that the Krauts had already gone down that road, so why bother blowing the bridge?

"Well, we're on this side, they're on the other. While this is a pretty small creek, no bridge will slow the Krauts down won't it? Keeping them away from our own precious selves. I like that, don't you?"

The tanker just shook his head and walked back to his tank. He didn't understand combat engineers, thought they were all nuts.

The tanker was Mac Peterson, he'd lost track of how many days they'd been running around these Belgian woods and hills. One moment cozy in barracks, the next on the road with Tom Friedman to meet up with replacements who'd been sent forward already. And wasn't that just like the freaking Army?

Now Tom and his crew were dead, not 50 yards to their front, still in their burned out tank, not far from the wreck of the Tiger Boston Beans had killed. Their youngest crewman, Private Herring had wondered why he smelled burned meat when they'd driven past the two wrecks. Wondered out loud until Louis Clark, their tank's driver had told him to shut the Hell up. The kid would learn.

Damn replacements.

As he grabbed the main gun and climbed up to the turret, he saw the engineer waving at him. Looks like they were ready to move out. Hooking up to the intercom, Mac ordered Louis to turn Tennessee Whiskey around and follow the engineers. Bob Norwood was already cranking the turret around to face over the back deck of the tank. Just to discourage anyone coming up the road behind them. Only Krauts were back there.

As they moved out, the wind kicked up and the snow started up again. Mac thought, if I survive this damn war, I'm moving to someplace where they don't know what snow is!

Pierre Marchand stood in the doorway of his home and watched as the German officer climbed down from his tank. Pierre hated les Boches, he had been a young man in the 1914 war, too young for the army, but old enough to remember the Germans. They had had his maternal grandfather and two of his cousins shot. To encourage the rest of the village to cooperate with them.

"Old man! Have you seen the Americans? How many men? Tanks?"

Of course the pig spoke in German, why did les Boches always think that everyone in this part of Belgium spoke German. All the German speakers were over in St. Vith, here they were all good Walloons, not Huns.

Kurt Langanke looked at the Belgian standing in front of him with frustration. Did these stupid peasants always have to act like they knew nothing? Maybe the clod didn't speak German. So...

"Vieil homme, avez-vous vu les Américains?"

"Avez-vous vu des chars, de l'infanterie, combien?"

"Can you speak at all you bloody clod?"


As the Boche talked to him in his terrible French, Pierre had a sudden chill. When the man's white camouflage coat collar fell open, he could see the SS-runes on the man's uniform. An SS-man, Pierre didn't feel good about this. He better tell him about the tank and the trucks, three weren't there? Maybe twenty men?

"Un char, trois camions, peut-être 20 hommes, commandant."

Pierre was shaking now, he hoped the German thought it was from the cold. Go, just go, fight your war somewhere else, he thought.

The Hauptsturmführer thought for a moment. Seemed plausible, if the Ami had had a stronger force then they might have stood their ground. He'd been seeing signs of American panic for two days now. Abandoned vehicles and equipment, even overcoats and rifles thrown off in their hurry to run away. Harrumph, he'd run these bastards to ground, they would have to stand and fight sometime.

"Merci, mon vieux." Kurt turned on his heel to remount his Panther, the old fellow was harmless. Maybe even simple. Chap had been shivering like a newborn colt.

Climbing into the turret he ordered his tank forward and pumped his fist in the air. As he did so, he saw that the snow was harder now.


As the column of tanks rolled by, Pierre counted 11 of them, they were followed by halftracks packed with infantry. Grimacing at the Germans as they rolled by, they were laughing and mocking him, one even threw a snowball at him.

Pierre shook his fist and yelled the only German he knew, "Scheißkopf!"

For that, an SS Sergeant riding in one of the halftracks shot Pierre Marchand down in the street, right in front of his home.

The Belgian wasn't really that old, he was only forty-two, but he wouldn't see forty-three.

Oberfeldwebel Willi Hoffmeister was frustrated, his old comrade, Otto Krämer had just come back from talking with the company commander. They wanted him and Becker in 414 to travel back up the road they just came down, then over to Rettigny, where there was rumored to be more fuel. They'd be accompanied by two halftracks of panzergrenadiers.

"Secure the fuel Willi, we are starting to be desperately short of that item."

"Verstanden. And after that?"

"Head north, you see here on the map? Take that road down to Houffalize. The rest of the battalion should be there by now."

"Houffalize? I thought we were headed to Bastogne?"

"There's an American tank force in that area, they're threatening our flank and the flank of 6th Panzerarmee. Our Tigers should make short work of them. Then Major Lange will tell us what's next."

Sighing, Willi compared Otto's map to his, he marked Rettigny, the road there, then the road north, then to Houffalize.

Google Maps
Mac stood on his seat looking down the road, the engineer's jeep was just around the bend in the road, apparently they were setting some mines, both on the road, on the verge, and on the trees beside the road. As the terrain was rising here, the engineer sergeant thought it would be a good spot to slow the Kraut advance in this sector.

Google Streetview
Mac looked around, decided that when the engineers were done, he'd back up a hundred yards or so and wait. If the Krauts made it through the mines, maybe he'd toss a few rounds their way, get their attention, make them deploy, then Tennessee Whiskey would scoot.

Well, we'll see, he thought.

Langanke was in his turret, trying to stay warm, looking at his map, trying to concentrate. He didn't remember being this tired in Russia, maybe it was the circumstances, the odd "last chance" feeling of this whole offensive. He heard a loud bang behind him, what the...

The Panther behind his had rolled over a mine, Langanke could see that the track was damaged, that's when he noticed the wires running into the trees along the road.

Waving frantically he tried to get the column to halt, too much interference on the radio made it hard to communicate between tanks, sometimes the old fashioned ways were still effective. He heard another bang, looked up to see a tree falling onto the road directly over the turret of the third vehicle in line. His second in command's Panther.

Looks like the Amis were fighting back

Damn it, the damned American engineers!

Mac heard the explosions, ha, that'll teach 'em, he thought.

"Jim, Bob, you boys ready?"

"Got AP up the spout boss," Jim Sherwood answered.

"Sighted in on the bend in road Mac, we're ready." Gunner Bob Norwood chimed in.

Mac settled lower in the turret, no sense being a target just yet.

Langanke had sent one of his halftracks forward, told the sergeant in charge to scout further down the road while they sorted themselves out here. It was slow work but they managed to get one vehicle clear of the hastily planted mine field.

SS-Hauptscharführer* Manfred Weber had a man on the hood of the halftrack to watch for possible mines and booby traps. He had the rest of the men ready to jump out and deploy should they run into anything.

Well, they did run into something. Something Weber wasn't ready for. This was no simple Belgian peasant to be gunned down.

Mac barked, "Fire!" as the Kraut halftrack rolled around the bend in the road.

The shot bored straight into the driver's compartment of the vehicle, the vehicle slewed to a stop as Jerry Herring opened up with his bow machine gun at the Germans trying to bail out of the stricken vehicle.

His first burst killed the man on the hood, then it killed Weber, as Herring, in his inexperience, let the gun rise from the recoil. He quickly adjusted though and clipped one of the Krauts trying to scramble into the woods alongside the road.

It all ended rather quickly as Tennessee Whiskey fired a high explosive round into the disabled halftrack. Which pretty much finished the battle.

Mac ordered Louis to move out. It would be a while before that halftrack could be moved!

As Langanke's Panther moved out, he was expecting to see his men ahead, engaging American engineers. He wasn't prepared to see his halftrack destroyed and apparently most of its squad dead, scattered around the vehicle or still in the vehicle.

Again, the damn Ami engineers had delayed his column. At this rate they wouldn't make it to Houffalize before morning.

"Put out sentries, we'll lager here for the night!"

And again it was starting to snow.

As for Panzer 413, Willi's Tiger was waiting for his own engineers to fix a damaged bridge to his front. They'd be lucky to get to Rettigny tonight.

He tugged his collar tight and sat back into his turret. He noticed the snow.

And wondered if any of his family still lived.


* Hauptscharführer, senior platoon sergeant.