Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Panzer 413 - The Road to Gouvy

"Hold up Louis, hold up." Sergeant Mac Peterson yelled over the intercom to his driver. Fumbling with his map, looking at the crossroads ahead, Mac realized, he had no idea where they were.

On the radio to the only other tank in the platoon, Mac ordered, "Tom, let's stop here. Do you have any idea where the Hell we are?"


Tom Friedberg, always the freaking comedian, Mac thought. 

"Yeah, that's right, we're in freaking Belgium. Get over here, put out security, let's figure this out."

Part of the 7th Armored Division, these two tanks were all that was left of 2nd Platoon, B Company, 17th Tank Battalion. Now they were moving forward on a bitter cold day, somewhere in Belgium, looking to meet up with their replacements to bring the platoon up to full strength.

But sometime over the past couple of days, in heavy fog, rain, and now snow, they'd gotten lost. The night before they'd seen a lot of movement to the rear, not organized, but a full panicked retreat. They couldn't get any scuttlebutt from those guys other than, "The Krauts are coming, thousands of 'em!" And "You're going the wrong way pal, unless you want to die!"

So Mac had to figure out just where they were, in order to figure out which way they had to go, in order to get to where they were supposed to be. In the middle of a battle, apparently. Mac could hear the rumble of artillery in the distance. A lot of artillery.

"Nein, we should have turned left at that last crossroads. The rest of the company must have turned, we continued straight. Scheisse!" Willi was livid.

First the busted track on the first day of the offensive. Then trying to get through the traffic jams at the border. While American resistance had been sporadic, they were already behind schedule. They'd expended what, two rounds so far? What was worse, they were already well behind the rest of the battalion. The rest of the battalion in their slow and clumsy King Tigers had left them in the dust. (So to speak, what with all the rain and snow the roads were mostly mud and frozen mud.)

Now the sun was already below the horizon, at least Willi thought it was, he han't seen the sun in over a week! It was rapidly getting dark and the snow was starting to pick up, as was the wind. Another cold night rattling over these crappy roads, trying to get into the fight.

Damn it, what else could possibly go wrong?

"Horst, crank it up, there should be a small crossroads just ahead, we take a left there. Then we'll motor down to Limerlé and lager there for the night."

"Jawohl Herr Oberfeldwebel! Zu befehl!"

As Panzer 413 rolled forward, Panzers 412 and 414, started up with just enough of an interval to keep an eye on the tail light of the tank in front but not too close. Visibility was bad, and getting worse, but you didn't want to be too close to the tank in front, had to leave some room for maneuver.

Willi turned to see where Panzer 412 was when a streak of fire came out of the night from not even 50 meters off the road. Willi watched in horror as the streak slammed into the side of 412's hull. Panzer 412 immediately pulled off the road to the left, seconds later a bright flame shot skyward from the commander's cupola as the ammunition began to cook off.

In the sudden light Willi saw two Shermans in the spot where the shot had originated. He also noticed, briefly, that he had not seen the intersection, it was a small side road, and they were still on the main road to Limerlé. All that passed in a flash, just then 412's turret shot into the sky, the seven ton turret flipping into the air like a child's toy.

As Willi ordered Horst to make a hard right turn, to put their thickest armor towards the enemy, he barked out, "Panzer, three o'clock, load Panzergranate!"

Georg, the loader, immediately yelled out - "Panzergranate geladen!" - as he already had an armor piercing round in the gun.

Gunner Fritz Weber was cranking the turret to the right to lay the big 88 on the target, which he couldn't yet see.

"Holy crap! Louis back her up fast! That's a bunch of freaking Tigers!"

Louis Clark had "Tennessee Whiskey" backing up fast, almost before Mac ordered it.

Tigers scared Louis. I ain't messing with no Tiger, Louis thought to himself, trying to push the accelerator through the floor.

As Louis pushed the tank to its limit, Mac felt the hot breath of a tank round pass just over his turret.

"Scheisse! Missed! Reload, reload dammit."

Out of the corner of his eye, Willi could see that Panzer 414 had gone left off the road and behind the burning hulk of 412, though 414 was as visible as if the sun was up, the wreck of 412 shielded them from the two Shermans which had ambushed them so effectively.

"Panzergranate geladen!" Georg bellowed.

Before Willi could yell "Feuer," Fritz fired the main gun, at this range the 88mm round went into the front of the American tank as if it's armor was mere paper. Willi could see a bright glowing hole where the round had hit.

In the next instant he had to duck down inside his cupola as the Sherman's ammunition ignited. The turret, much like 412's, flipped end over end over the back of the destroyed tank and over the second Sherman which Willi could see backing quickly into the brush.

"Shit, shit, shit. Damn it!" Mac nearly sobbed as he watched Tom Friedberg's tank come apart. Then he ducked reflexively as Tom's turret flipped overhead and then came down just behind their tank.

"Ah crap, Louis! Left stick, left stick or we're gonna get hung up!"

Tennessee Whiskey turned just in time to only scrape the side of the burning turret that moments before had destroyed an enemy Tiger. Mac looked to his front, nothing. The snow was now falling hard, visibility was near zero. When they were about a hundred yards from the road, as Mac figured it, he decided to gamble and see if the Krauts were chasing them.

"Louis, stop the tank!"

The tank came to an abrupt stop and slewed sideways, the field they were in was starting to freeze. Mac listened intently but couldn't hear anything but Tom's tank, Boston Beans, burning furiously. In the snow ahead and to the left there was a harsh glow, but no sign of pursuit.

Willi waited. Part of him wanted to chase the damned Sherman, killing the one that had killed Gerhard and his crew was somewhat satisfying, but he wanted both. Just then the radio crackled to life.

"So, Willi, do we give chase or proceed to Limerlé?" It was Hans Schäfer, the commander of 414, which had halted out in the field to the left of the road.

"It's not getting any warmer you know."

"Ja, marsch! We proceed to Limerlé!"

With a last long look at the funeral pyre which had been Panzer 412, Willi turned to the front and began looking at each side of the road. Visibility was so bad that he couldn't see more than a few meters to either side.

"Ich hasse diesen gottverdammten Krieg!"

"Louis, crank it up and head back to where we left Boston Beans. I want to get to Gouvy and fast. I just hope we don't run into any more Krauts tonight. We need to let someone know that there are Tigers behind us, on the road to Bastogne."

Tennessee Whiskey rolled past the wreckage of Boston Beans and then turned hard left back on to the road to Gouvy. The burning Tiger marked the intersection where the road curved towards Limerlé.

"Goddamn Germans, goddamn war."



  1. Sarge.....Book please....

    Most excellent post though.

    1. Working on it, by fits and starts.

      Y'all are getting to see a work in progress.

  2. At the risk of sounding impatient....... MOAR! Nicely done Sarge. Pictures a crowning touch...:)

    1. I like pictures, finding the right ones helps set the tone, convey the atmosphere.

  3. Somewhere in Little Rhoddy there is a great novel just waiting to break free. Sarge, I can tell that a third career is looming just over the horizon. Merry Christmas and a Happy (and productive) New Year.

  4. Driving around in the snow in the dark, buttoned up, and they wonder why they keep getting lost...

  5. Tanks on tanks, explosions, smoke, snow, and just a little fear make for a real page turner.
    Keep on keeping on.

  6. Chris, captivating and well-timed post. Waiting for the book.

  7. At the snippet's end it took a few seconds to leave the cold and terror of that crossroad and come back to Philly.
    Standing by for more.

  8. I echo all of the comments above. You have a talent for writing. We, your readers, are happy to read what you write. I am sure that Lex is proud of you.

    Paul L. Quandt

    1. Now that right there is a compliment. A huge compliment.

      Thanks Paul.

    2. Rhythms of Armor
      Well done. Almost sounds like you were a tanker, instead of a Phantom Phixer.
      John Blackshoe

    3. Being a tanker was once an idea I had.

      The Army wanted me do other things, so I joined the Air Force.

      But I still like tanks.

      Thanks John, huge compliment. Y'all are making me blush.

  9. Nicely written indeed, and I concur with the opinions expressed above that you've got quite a book there in the making.

    1. Thanks Aaron.

      I'm hoping I can sustain the momentum!

  10. Pour it on--I look forward to seeing more of this. I actually wait for it....

    1. Tomorrow is another day. (Yes, that's a hint.)

      Thanks Jenk.

  11. Not much I can add except I guess I'm going to have to get a German to English dictionary.

    1. Google Translate is your friend.

      In the future I'm going to try and write in such a way that the German is "revealed" by the context of what's going on. And the use of footnotes. We'll see how that goes.

      Thanks SoCal.

    2. I get the gist of what they're saying but I sure some is lost in the 'translation.'

    3. That's what I was hoping for, but there are times that I do go overboard.

      Footnotes are needed, methinks.

  12. It took a lot for a Sherman to kill a tiger didn't it?

    1. It did indeed.

      Had to be close or off to the side or rear where the armor was thinner.

  13. Early reviews give it two thumbs up! This really makes me think of Fury. Well done so far.


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