Thursday, September 17, 2020

The Patrol - Morning

National Archives

"Charlie, wake up."

I came awake, I was in the middle of a very weird dream when Bear had shaken me to consciousness. I was back home, driving a Kraut car, dressed in a Kraut uniform, in front of my Mom and Dad's place. I could clearly see a man some hundred yards away, aiming a rifle at me. I had just seen the muzzle flash when Bear woke me.

"Okay, okay, I'm awake." I checked my watch, it was already light out, nearly 0600. We needed to get back to the platoon.

"Ready to move out Bear?"

"Yup, let's roll, I'll take the point."


The two men picked their way carefully through the woods. From what they could see of the sky through the forest canopy, it was going to be another cloudy and cool day. Both men were from the northeastern part of the United States, Gammell from Vermont and Hebert from New Hampshire, and the weather felt like fall back home. Hebert had mentioned to Gammell the night before that it made him homesick.

"Pretty soon the leaves will be changing, the air will smell different, the angle of the sun changes the colors of things. Man, but I miss being home." Hebert felt like he could confide in his fellow New Englander and often did.

"Yeah man, I hear ya." Gammell didn't want to think about home. He'd watched that Kraut hug the woman he had assumed was his mother the night before, he'd nearly choked up. He was still a bit of a boy at 17, though the number of men he'd killed since joining the Army made him feel more mature. But inside, the little boy who loved his Mom's apple pie wasn't far away.

Man, apple pie.


First Lieutenant Nathan Paddock was making his way to 1st Squad, he had mail for Sgt Wilson. He didn't usually bring the mail to his guys, that's what the platoon guide usually handled, this letter was special, it was from 1st Squad's old sergeant, Bill Brandt.

"Hey Jack, you have a letter from Bill!"

"Bill who? Whoa, not Brandt?"

"Yup, the one and only."

The men in the squad who remembered their old sergeant gathered around to hear what he had to say. He had been wounded pretty badly two weeks ago. The letter was postmarked from a hospital in England.
Hello Jack,

Hope you and the boys are okay. I'm getting better, I think. I have feeling in my legs so the Doc thinks that my spine is okay. But it will be a while before I start walking again. Doc says that they're sending me back to the States, looks like my Army "career" is over.

It still hurts to breath though I had an operation to fix my lung. Doc says that'll heal just fine. I guess I'm pretty lucky! 

Say Hi to the guys for me. Stay safe, I'll write again when I get back Stateside.

Sincerely,

Sgt Bill Brandt, USA

"Damn, that's good news," exclaimed Cajun, "I always knew the Sarge was a tough customer."

"Yeah, well he's okay, that's the important part, we should..." Sgt Wilson was interrupted by a shout from one of the new guys, Hank Cambridge.

"Patrol coming in Sarge, looks like Camel and Bear."

1Lt Paddock looked up, sure enough, it was the two guys he'd sent out early yesterday. As they entered the lines, Paddock said, "Hope you guys got some sleep last night, we're heading out in an hour or so in platoon strength. Combat patrol, give some of the new recruits a little experience. According to battalion, the division is going to be attacking Aachen. We might have the 'honor' of seizing the first German city."

"City fighting is a lot different than fighting out here in the woods." Captain Josephson had come up while the men were talking. "More like the bocage but you can see even less."

"Morning combat patrol is cancelled Nate. Regiment has set up an 'urban combat' training area in the rear. Trucks will be by around 1000 to take the company there. We need the training, especially the new guys. Be ready." With that the Captain headed back to the company CP.

"You heard the man, pack your gear. Sgt Wilson, I'll leave you to it." 1Lt Paddock went off to get the rest of the platoon ready. He was not excited about fighting in a city. Not at all.


The Patrol - Visitors

Bundesarchiv
Antoine Duchein stared in befuddlement as the German car drove past him. He thought he recognized the passenger. "Wasn't that the Paasch kid?" he muttered. The Paasch family were German speaking residents of this part of Belgium, among those people who had not been entirely pleased when the area had been annexed by Belgium after the Great War. They had been required to register with the Belgian government unless they swore allegiance to Belgium.

When the Germans had returned in 1940, many of those people, including the Paasch family, had been thrilled to be a part of the Reich once more. A number of the young men had volunteered for the German armed forces, Otto Paasch was one of them. He had joined the Luftwaffe in 1941 and had become a pilot.

Duchein marveled at the nerve of the young man returning to the village after the Germans had retreated, "family is family," Duchein muttered. As he recalled there was a young lady whom young Paasch was sweet on, he would be sorely disappointed if he expected her to still be around.


Frau Paasch heard the Kübelwagen pull up and stop outside the door to her home, she peaked fearfully through the curtains, then ran over and flung the door open wide...

"Otto! My son! What are you doing here?"

"It's okay Mama, I'm here to take Greta back to Germany with me. But I had to stop and see you first, where is Papa?" Feldwebel Otto Paasch of the German Air Force looked around expectantly, his father was usually in the sitting room this time of night, sipping an aperitif and listening to the radio.

"Papa is not here, Otto, the Belgian police took him away yesterday. He has been accused of being a collaborator." Frau Paasch looked terrified, it was something she had feared when the German military had retreated from the region. The Paasch family had made no secret of their loyalty to the Third Reich. Another son, Franz, had been killed in action on the Eastern Front, his photo, draped in black crepe, stood on the mantelpiece still. The glass was cracked from when the police had swept it to the floor.

Otto looked thoughtful, then began to speak, before he could say a word, his mother interrupted him, "Greta is dead Otto. I am so sorry. She was trying to make her way to Aachen, hoping to meet up with you when she was caught in an American artillery barrage."

"Why would the Amis be firing artillery at a refugee column?" Otto was puzzled, forgetting the times he and his squadron mates had strafed a column on the road only to realize that they were civilians.

"She was riding with the colonel who used to command this area. He offered her a ride in his staff car, she accepted. The Amis destroyed the entire column, very few survived." Frau Paasch was weeping now, she had liked young Greta Mollers and had assumed that she and her Otto would someday wed. The war had ended that dream.

Otto sat down heavily at the kitchen table, his eyes were wet, but he had seen so much death over the past few years, that not even the death of his Greta seemed to bother him as much as it should have.


Gammell and Hebert had worked their way closed to the village, they could see down the main street now and watched the driver of the Kübelwagen smoking a cigarette next to the small vehicle. Gammell watched through his rifle scope while Hebert swept the area with his field glasses.

"No other Krauts around Charlie." Hebert didn't like Pvt Gammell's nickname of Camel, mostly because he had quit smoking and he thought the nickname was stupid. Jack Leonard, who considered himself a funny guy, gave him that nickname after Gammell had started smoking. The kid had started smoking after he'd killed a few Germans, Gammel had admitted to Hebert that he found it too easy to kill, but the memories of each kill sometimes kept him awake at night. Smoking helped settle his nerves.

Hebert was now studying the kid who was smoking next to the Kraut car. "He's Air Force Charlie, he's a one-striper, just like me! The guy inside must be an officer, maybe he's got a girl in town?"

"Let's keep watching, I don't want to head back before daybreak, we've got the time, it's stopped raining, where else we gotta be?" Gammell sighed as he said that, he could think of a thousand places he'd rather be.


"I have to get back Mama, if we're not back by midnight my flight commander will have a fit. He's kind of excitable." Feldwebel Paasch was reluctant to leave, but he knew that there was nothing he could do for his father. He sighed as he thought of Greta, he remembered her blue eyes and blonde hair, but her face was already beginning to fade in his memory. She had wanted to get serious, he had made her wait, "After the war there will be plenty of time for romance Schatzi¹." How little he knew.

Frau Paasch followed her son outside where she was introduced to Gefreiter Oswald Schnelling. "Are you sure you and Herr Schnelling wouldn't care for something to eat before you go?"

"Thank you Mama, but if we're late, the Eastern Front beckons." Otto said it lightheartedly, forgetting that his older brother, a member of the Waffen SS, had died in the maelstrom of that front.

"I'm sorry Mama, I meant nothing..."

"It's all right Otto, I understand, you must get back. Kiss me my boy."


"Wanna bet that's his Ma?" Hebert almost smirked when he said it, until he felt the pang of missing his own mother.

"I won't take that bet. I wonder how a sergeant gets a driver and a car to visit his mother?" Gammell wondered as he shifted his sight so that the aim point was on the young German's chest. One squeeze and he is history, Gammell thought, but in front of his mother? I'd deserve Hell for that.

The two Americans watched as the Germans got into the small car, started the engine, and drove off. The passenger waving at the older woman as they vanished into the dark.

For Feldwebel Otto Paasch and Gefreiter Oswald Schnelling, it would be a long drive back into Germany with dim headlamps and the mist. For PFC Jackson Hebert and Pvt Charlie Gammell it would be a long walk back to their platoon's bivouac.

The night wore on, the rain came and went. Paasch and Schnelling made it back to their airfield with only minutes to spare. Hebert and Gammell would still be out in the forest when the two Germans went to bed.

The night wore on as the distant rumble of artillery reminded everyone that the war still ground on, people were dying, people were trying to continue living, even in the midst of chaos.

The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him. ― G.K. Chesterton



¹ German for "sweetheart"

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

The Patrol - Night

(Source - Page 269)

Night was falling, the forest seemed alive with noise which was unnerving to someone not used to such things, but to Pvt Charlie "Camel" Gammell it was only when the forest went silent that one had to be wary. He'd been born and raised on a small dairy farm in Vermont, enlisting at 17 after an old hag in town had commented on why he wasn't in the army. He was a big lad, larger than some men twice his age. But all the men in his family were big and burly, life on a farm with lots of good food helped that.

Pvt Jackson "Bear" Hebert walked behind and to Gammell's right as they moved in silence through the dimming light. They were on the edge of a firebreak, a common thing in this area. Fires were a threat, but the firebreaks helped keep them from spreading. They also provided paths through the wooded area which they could use, but the Germans knew that. Walking down the middle of a firebreak invited death. So they kept to the shadows of the trees, which deepened as night fell.

Neither man knew it but they were inside Germany now, less than five miles from the cathedral in Aachen, part of which had been built by Charlemagne over a thousand years before, though neither man knew anything about that. All they knew is that they had lingered far too long watching a German position even further forward. They had missed their objective and were now backtracking, they crossed back into Belgium after their brief invasion of the Third Reich.

The division was in the process of absorbing, and training, many new recruits to replace the losses suffered since Normandy. While that was going on, the experienced men were kept occupied with patrolling and gathering intelligence on the German defenses on this, the westernmost extent of Germany proper. The Germans were losing this war, and losing it badly, they just didn't know it yet. Or perhaps they simply refused to acknowledge the idea of defeat. Gammell and Hebert didn't really care, they had a job to do, a job they did well. But they had grown a little too confident over the past week.

Their platoon leader, 2Lt Nathan Paddock, had been tasked with sending out a patrol to check out the Belgian village of Moresnet-Chapelle. The battalion S2 had received reports of German activity in the village, after a day of observing the place, the platoon had learned that many of the villagers spoke German. After reporting this, the company commander had wanted someone from Paddock's platoon to watch the village, especially the road towards Germany. He was relying on Paddock's platoon a lot lately.

"I know Nate, but damn it, battalion is convinced there's Kraut activity in that village. Not just some civilians who speak German." Captain Josephson had mellowed considerably over the past week. Though he still suffered terribly from the loss of his wife and son, by focusing on the war and leading his company, he could put that aside. So he tended to be a bit more aggressive than the other company commanders in the battalion, which had not gone unnoticed at battalion.

"So Cap'n, my sniper team is pretty good, both Gammell and Hebert are comfortable in the woods and have been out on their own before. Why not have them set up and watch that road?" Though Paddock hated sending his men in harm's way because battalion was nervous about some German-speaking village in Belgium, he knew that Gammell and Hebert were good at being stealthy. Better send someone who could handle themselves than some big noisy squad-sized patrol.

"Okay Nate, observe only, no shooting unless they see Hitler himself. Got it?"

"Yes sir, they're good men, they can handle it."

"Good, oh, by the way, here." The captain said as he handed Paddock a small parcel. "You can put these on now if you'd like."

Paddock opened the parcel, it was a pair of silver bars, first lieutenant bars. He looked up at Captain Josephson and said, "Sir, I've only been a second lieutenant for barely three and a half months."

"Battalion wanted some recommendations for promotions, regiment is being generous lately I guess. What with all the new recruits coming in, they said to promote some veterans. You're a veteran aren't you?" That last part the captain said with a grin, he liked this kid and his platoon had a lot of veterans in it. Well-led veterans.

"Oh yeah, tell Wilson he's officially a sergeant now, also Katz is now a corporal. They've been doing the job, they should get the pay. Now move out before I change my mind and give the promotions to someone else."

Paddock nodded, he had misjudged Josephson initially, the man could be gruff as Hell, but he was a good officer, and a good soldier to boot. He headed back to the platoon to give newly promoted Jack Wilson the news. A good news, "hey, you got promoted" and a bad news, "I need you to send two guys out there," situation. But he knew his guys could handle it, he had confidence in his troops.


I signaled a halt, Hebert immediately moved closer.

"It's getting too dark to continue, I think we missed a turn somewhere, I don't really know where the heck we are." I was pissed at myself for getting lost. We should have come across the road in the last mile or so, now we'll be stuck out here through the night from the looks of it. Damn it!

"Well Camel, at least it ain't raining." Bear quipped. So of course, it started raining.


1Lt Paddock came over to 1st Squad's bivouac shortly before sunset, "Sgt Wilson, they back yet?"

"No sir, I ain't worried yet. Camel and Bear are pretty capable, they might be out there all night if they've got a good position. I wouldn't worry until tomorrow. I don't like that they're out there, but they're careful, they'll do the job. Don't know if it'll satisfy battalion, but..."

"Yeah, I know, you guys hunker down, it feels like rain tonight."

"All right, talk to you later L.T."

With that, the 2nd Platoon settled in for the night. Paddock and Wilson were worried about Gammell and Hebert, but not excessively so.


"Bear, you seeing what I'm seeing?" I couldn't believe it, but there appeared to be light coming from over the next rise in the ground. "Maybe a village?"

I thought about moving up to that rise, couldn't be campfires, no one was that stupid, but we'd all noticed that some of the Belgians were convinced that the war had moved on, their lives were returning to normal and there were no Nazis around to enforce a blackout. So they lit their lamps and acted as though peace had returned.

"Ya know Camel, with this rain we could move up, see what's going on, the rain will help muffle any noise we might make."

"And maybe stumble into a Kraut position?" I asked.

"What, Krauts? You think the Belgians would have their houses all lit up if the Krauts were still around?" Bear sounded skeptical and I had to agree. So we moved.


Antoine Duchein was extremely drunk, he had been drunk it seemed since the Huns had left three days ago. The village was getting back to normal, after four years of being under the Nazis, it felt good to loosen up. But when would the Yanks arrive? As far as he could see, there was nothing preventing the bastard Nazis from returning.

As he took another drink of his vin rouge, he heard something in the rain, a vehicle!


Gammell and Hebert had got into a position where they could now see the village of Moresnet-Chapelle and the road leading into it from Germany. They could now complete their mission, so they settled in for a long, and wet, night. They too heard a vehicle on the road below. It didn't sound like an engine from Detroit.

Sure enough, a Kraut Kübelwagen with two men in it, one an officer, the other an enlisted man, drove up the road. Gammell and Hebert watched as the vehicle rolled into the village, then they lost sight of it. So apparently there was German activity in the village. Battalion was right. Now to report back.


To be continued...





For those wondering, the eye is a bit better, no ointment yet, thanks to the virus thingee shipments aren't arriving when expected. But the moist warm compresses help. At least I felt well enough to write. Had to make it at least a two parter though, otherwise I'd be up all night. Stand by for heavy rolls!

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

The Eye


No, not this one -

(Source)
That one in the opening photo. Some sort of plugged up something or other.

Popped up Friday morning as I lay abed at Chez Tuttle et Nuke. I figured, "Okay, mosquito bite or something."

Nope.

Had a routine eye doc appointment Monday AM, she figured it was a plugged and infected something or other. I had no idea there were glands and stuff up under the eyelid.

Warm compresses make it feel better, meds are on order (apparently my local pharmacy ran out, sigh...) and will be on station today. Some sort of salve to apply to the inside of the eyelid.

That should be fun.

Not.

In the meantime, typing strains the poor bastige, so I'm giving the left eye the night off. As the two eyes eat, sleep, and fight as a team (none of that individuality crap), you get this for a post.

Yeah, I know, it ain't much, but...



Yeah, something like that.



Monday, September 14, 2020

ARRRGGGHHHHH!!!!!

 Back in the Stone ages when I was in College, I had a couple of posters hanging on my dorm room wall.

One was this one.

Source

Which kinda summed up my attitude at the time.  I wanted to get out of college and get on with living.

The other was a bit of a throttle on that emotion.

Source

But, Mrs J and I had a vivid example of the truth in the latter this past week.  We had been set up to close on our house today since the 25th of August.  We've checked at least weekly with the various agencies involved to make sure everything was on target.

"Yep, juvat, all's well."  

You know where this is going don't you?

Thursday we called again to check.  When we called the bank, we got a "We'll get back to you". 

Yes, my internal Radar Threat Warning gear went into screaming alarm mode.  Later that afternoon, we  got a call saying the underwriters were behind and our closing was rescheduled for the end of the month.

Fortunately, NASA was quickly able to strap a payload to my hind end and save launch cost for a resupply run to the ISS.

Upon returning to Earth, I explained to them that the agreement with Tilson expired the end of the month, that we had already arranged for the moving company to move our heavy stuff Tuesday and they would not be available again until after the end of the month and, finally, that we had set up delivery of our appliances which also could not be rescheduled.

At that point, Mrs J being the kinder and gentler of the two of us, asked what was the hold up.  The banker replied that the refinance office was way behind due to a huge demand for refinancing (low interest rates expected to go back up).  But...Refinancing a loan isn't all that time sensitive (other than the interest rated going up, but they're usually locked in at some point), the people are in the house already and not moving, so they take a more laid back approach to deadlines.

We should have been a new home finance case.  Mrs J was much better able to explain that to them than I.  I was still exhausted from my flight to the ISS.

"Oh, well, that IS a horse of a different color." said the banker.

"No S#!7, Sherlock" I think to myself (I hope).

Lots of phone calling ensued and the end result is the closing is scheduled for next Monday, however, Tilson is allowing us to move in as scheduled.  All that was needed was to add them to our insurance policy in the interim until closing.  USAA was happy to oblige.  So there were at least two customer conscious companies in the process.

Replies to comments for this post may be a bit slow as I'll be otherwise occupied while you are reading this.

Now, to change the subject, a bit.

Most of you know that my last couple of posts have been about the Medal of Honor awarding process and some of the things going on behind the curtains.  Not meaning to disparage a recipient, but it appears to me that some MOH awards are, let's just say, more "obviously" appropriate than others.

And as I was researching awards that were in the consideration process for upgrading a previously awarded medal, I came across one of those "obviously" Medal of Honor worthy situations.

Source

It's October of 2005, SFC Alwyn Cashe is leading his squad in a Bradley fighting vehicle when it hits an IED.  The squad's translator is killed in the explosion and the vehicle is engulfed in flames.  SFC Cashe has been blown off the vehicle but reboards and rescues the driver who is on fire.  He extinguishes those flames as rifle fire starts erupting around him.  One of the other survivors manages to open the hatch, but the interior of the vehicle is on fire.  SFC Cashe's uniform is soaked in fuel, but re-enters the vehicle to rescue the members of his squad.

Now on fire, he re-enters 3 more times rescuing all 6 members of his squad.  By this time, he is the most severely injured member thereof.  With 72% of his body covered in 2nd and 3rd degree burns, he insists that the other members of his squad are on the medevac flight before him.  SFC Cashe died at Brooke Army Medical Center 3 weeks later.  People who were with him said he never stopped asking about his soldiers.

For his actions, SFC Cashe received a Silver Star. You read that right, re-enters a burning vehicle rescuing all 6 members of his squad while himself on fire and gets the third highest award for Valor.

In 2011, his commander realized that he'd made a mistake and submitted paperwork to upgrade it to the Medal of Honor.  No action was taken.  In 2017, the decision was made to re-evaluate many awards, including SFC Cashe's, for possible upgrade.  His package has been slowly making its way through Fort Fumble and finally the SecDef recommended approval in August this year.  The final step will be approval by the President.  

Folks, this is a "No Brainer".  This is quite likely THE most deserving Medal of Honor recipient I've read about, and that is in no way denigrating any other recipient. "Conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty" is the criteria. 

Yeah, if he doesn't meet that criteria, I don't see how anyone else ever will.

Sergeant First Class Alwyn Cashe's Silver Star Citation:

Sergeant First Class Alwyn Crendall Cashe heroically distinguished himself by exceptionally valorous conduct in the face of the enemy of the United States as a Platoon Sergeant in 1st Platoon, Alpha Company (HARDOCK), 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment stationed at Forward Operating Base MACKENZIE, Iraq, on 17 October 2005. 

On the evening of 17 October 2005, Sergeant First Class Cashe's heroic actions saved the lives of six of his fellow soldiers. At approximately 1920 hours, 1st Platoon of Alpha Company, 1-15 Infantry departed FOB MACKENZIE to conduct a route clearance in the city of Daliaya, Iraq. 

Along Route JAIME, the lead Bradley Fighting Vehicle, of which Sergeant First Class Cashe was gunner having just moved from a NMC vehicle, struck a victim detonated pressure-switch IED at grid MC 25357243. The blast ignited the fuel cell on the vehicle causing fuel to spew everywhere. The vehicle came to a stop and immediately erupted in flames. 

Sergeant First Class Cashe was initially slightly injured and drenched with fuel. Despite his condition, he bravely managed to get out of the gunner's hatch, crawl down the BFV and assist the driver out of the driver's hatch. The driver had been burned and Sergeant First Class Cashe extinguished his flames. 

The following minutes were crucial. Six soldiers and a translator were in the back of the Bradley. Flames had engulfed the entire vehicle from the bottom and were coming out of every portal. The squad leader inside the vehicle managed to open the troop hatch door to help the soldiers escape. 

Without regard for his personal safety, Sergeant First Class Cashe rushed to the back of the vehicle, reaching into the hot flames and started pulling out his soldiers. The flames gripped his fuel soaked uniform. Flames quickly spread all over his body. 

Despite the terrible pain, Sergeant First Class Cashe placed the injured soldier on the ground and returned to the burning vehicle to retrieve another burning soldier; all the while, he was still on fire. 

A crew from a trail Bradley arrived within moments and assisted with CASEVAC. During all this and with severe burns, Sergeant First Class Cashe bravely continued to take control of the chaos. Within minutes, the company First Sergeant was on the scene and began to evacuate the seriously injured soldiers. One of which was Sergeant First Class Cashe. 

In the end, the national translator was killed in action, and 10 soldiers were injured. Seven of the ten were very seriously injured. Sergeant First Class Cashe stayed a hero through it all. His injuries were the worst as he suffered form 2d and 3d degree burns over 72% of his body. 

Sergeant First Class Cashe's heroic actions saved the lives of six of his beloved soldiers. He is truly deserving of this award. His actions are in keeping with the finest traditions of military heroism and reflect distinct credit upon himself, Task Force LIBERTY and the United States Army."

Rest in Peace, Warrior!

*Last week Beans had asked, since it's known as the Congressional Medal of Honor, why Congress wasn't involved in the Medal of Honor approval process.  That answer is "Because the medal is presented "in the name of Congress", it is incorrectly known as the "Congressional Medal of Honor". However, the official name of the current award is "Medal of Honor". A bit of linguistic trivia for a Monday morning.


Sunday, September 13, 2020

The Watchers

US Army Signal Corps Photo

Pvt Jackson "Bear" Hebert was watching the small outpost across the valley. So far he had seen six Germans around the small pillbox they'd been watching. He had the feeling they were on the edge of the Siegfried Line. The pillbox looked like it had been there a while.

He and Pvt Charles "Camel" Gammell had moved into position a full hour before sunrise. They had spent a miserable night moving through the forest in the rain and the mist. The company commander had a job for 1st Squad of 2Lt Nathan Paddock's 2nd Platoon. Since they'd brought in those prisoners a few days back, it sure seemed to Bear that they were starting to get more of the shitty jobs, as he thought of them.

He thought back to what newly promoted Sergeant Jack Wilson had told him the day before, "Damn it, Bear, quit yer bitching, the captain likes our L.T., thinks that 2nd Platoon is the best in the company. And we are, this is better than digging trenches and patrolling isn't it?"

Thinking on it, he realized that this did beat patrolling and digging.


There, that bastard's an officer, I'm sure of it. He's wearing a helmet and carrying one of those new guns that a few Krauts had, and he acts like an officer. Battalion S2 said the new gun was called the StG 44, it could be fired single shot, semi-auto or full auto. Packed more punch than a Schmeisser¹ and was pretty lethal. Be nice to grab one of those.

"Bear," I whispered to my spotter, "do you see the guy bossing the other guys around?"

"Yeah, Camel, I see him."

"Watch this..."

I waited for the right moment, once he had the others working at whatever it was he wanted them to do, I'd take the shot.


"Um Gottes Willen! Don't they teach you children anything in the Hitler Youth? This is not how you dig a foxhole!" The SS captain was furious with the five men he had assigned to this position. Although one was a veteran of Normandy, he was only 18 and a very junior corporal, the other men were recent draftees and knew nothing of war at all, the oldest was barely 17, the others were mere children of 15 and 16 years of age.

"I'm s-s-s-sorry Herr Hauptsturmführer, we'll redo the p-p-p-position." The young SS corporal stuttered when he was nervous, and he was more than nervous at the moment. Though the captain was wearing an enlisted man's greatcoat, he could clearly see the patches of the man's rank only partially covered by the oversize collar. He also saw, quite clearly, the Knight's Cross dangling at his throat.

"Don't call me 'Herr'  you stuttering idiot, we're not in the f**king army, this is the Waffen SS, we're all comrades, right!" SS-Hauptsturmführer Willi Horten was furious with the material he was given to work with these days.

As the men began to work at repairing the position, SS-Rottenführer Karlheinz Weber shook his head, he'd won the Iron Cross 2nd and 1st Class in Normandy and during the fighting thereafter. The division commander himself, Kurt Meyer, had pinned on his Iron Cross 1st Class and made him a corporal the very same day. Now this jumped up bastard from the Leibstandarte was throwing his weight around, just because he could.

He turned to ask the captain a question about when they might expect ammunition for their MG 42, which sat useless on its tripod, they had no ammo for it at all. At that moment the captain's head snapped to one side as most of his brain burst from the left side of his head.


"You got him Camel, the NCO is frozen, take him."

I shifted my sight picture slightly to the right, staring back at me was a very young, very startled SS man. A corporal from the collar patches, no matter. I squeezed the trigger and saw the man drop, a pink mist in the air where his head had been.

"Let's move, Bear."


The oldest of the four draftees, one Willi Schmidt from Hamburg, had heard the muffled grunt from the captain, when he'd turned to see what had happened, he had seen his corporal take a round through the face, and seen brain matter and blood blow out the back of the man's head.

"SNIPER!! TAKE COVER!!"

Young Peter Dorfmann had stuck his head up to see what all the shouting was and was immediately hit in the throat. He choked to death on his own blood as the others cowered in their holes.

Schmidt was in his foxhole, had his rifle ready for whatever came next. Though he really had no idea what that "next" might be. Was the sniper fire the prelude to an attack, kill the officers and overrun us, or was it harassing fire? He had done well in training, but he was learning quickly that training bore no relationship to the real thing.


"Three down, three to go?" Bear asked, looking expectantly at me.

"Nope, L.T. said to take a look, raise a little Hell, then report back. We've done that." I answered, though I would like to go have a look. But where there were fixed defenses, like pillboxes, there were probably mines as well, and barbed wire.

"Much as I'd like to, we've done enough. Let's head back."


The two Americans slipped back into the forest. The water dripping from the trees and the mist muffled their movements, even if the Germans on the other side of the valley had any intention of coming after them, which they did not.

The three remaining Germans, one 17 year old, one 16, and the other only 15, were at the bottoms of their poorly dug holes, shivering with fear. The 15 year old had wet himself and the 16 year old was actually crying. The three boys were terrified that the Amis would come and kill them.


"What did ya see Camel?" Sgt Wilson asked.

"A Kraut pillbox with six men, there was an officer yelling at the other guys, who all looked pretty young and scruffy. SS men, which surprised me. They must really be scraping the bottom of the barrel over there."

"Okay, did you mark the position of the pillbox on the map?"

"Of course Sarge, I may be new, but I ain't that new."

"Alright, anything else to report?"

Bear chimed in, "Yeah Sarge, now there's only three Krauts holding that position."

"Three, what happened to the other three?" Wilson wanted to know.

"I shot 'em, Sarge. The officer and some junior NCO. Then some dumbass kid who popped his head up before we had the chance to move. He popped up, I shot him." Gammell answered matter-of-factly.

Bear chimed in again, "Yup, three head shots. Boom, boom, and 'oh hello there,' boom."

That earned him an annoyed look from Gammell, "Come on Camel, you fired three rounds and killed three Krauts. I saw them fall, all of 'em."

Sgt Wilson looked impressed, "Alright, good job, Camel. Go tell the L.T. what you observed. Bear you stay here, L.T. don't need a cheering section."

(Source - modified)

Reports from the front line to Oberbefehlshaber West² indicated that casualties had been light on the day that two men of the 1st Squad/2nd Platoon encountered six SS men at a small pillbox just inside the German border.

The war ground on...





¹ The MP 40 was often called the "Schmeisser" after Hugo Schmeisser who designed the MP 18, although he was not involved in the design or production of the MP 40. The MP 40 machine pistol is a fully automatic weapon firing the 9 mm parabellum pistol round. The StG 44 fired the 7.9 x 33 mm kurz round, which was a shortened version of the ammunition used by the K98k. It had a longer range than the MP 40.
² Oberbefehlshaber West. or OB West was the commander of all German forces on the Western Front in WWII.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

The Woods Are Lonely, Dark and Deep¹

(Source)

Pvt Riley Taggert was on point, though the kid was a rookie, he had proven himself to be pretty sharp. He was also good in the woods, he'd been, of all things, a forest ranger when his number came up and he was drafted into the Army. He saw things out there which others missed completely.

Taggert signaled and the platoon came to a stop, the men faced out to cover their sectors and 2Lt Paddock and SSgt Graves moved up to Taggert's position.

"Whaddaya got Tags?" the lieutenant asked.

"I dunno sir, I got a funny feeling about this place, the ground looks, I dunno, like it's been raked over or something. It doesn't look like it's supposed to." Pvt Taggert knew what he meant, but it's hard to convey a suspicion, a gut feeling about something you learned working in the forests of North America. The woods here in Europe were a bit different, more tame somehow, but there were things here which just didn't look right.

"Raked over? Sure, the Europeans like to keep their forests tidy but..." Paddock started to say when SSgt Graves interrupted him.

"It doesn't look random enough."

"Yeah, that's what it is, it ain't random, it's almost like the forest floor has been groomed." Taggert agreed.

The lieutenant raised one eyebrow, he wasn't sure what these two were going on about. The he looked to the rear, then back to the front. The light came on...

"Mines. Sergeant Graves, Tags, have everybody hold their positions, no one moves forward." Gesturing to Pvt Herman Shapiro, one of the platoon messengers, he motioned for the man to come up and join him.

"Sir?" Pvt Shapiro looked at his officer, waiting.

"Go back and have the squad leaders come up to, that tree over there," he indicated a tree with a very thick trunk which stood out from the others, "then report back to the captain, tell him we have a suspected minefield directly ahead of us and to either side for as far as I can see, call it fifty yards. Now go!"

Shapiro headed back down the way the platoon had moved up, contacting each squad leader, he told them what the L.T. wanted, then headed further to the rear. As the entire company was on the move, it might not be easy to find Captain Josephson's CP.


Shapiro found his way back to the company CP, the C.O. was with the First Sergeant and a couple of other men from company headquarters, most of the headquarters were further back with the company XO,² First Lieutenant Gus Chambers. Captain Josephson liked to move the company in stages, using the XO and his team as a base of operations. Also made it easier for battalion to keep track of the company, though being "once removed" from battalion, it gave Josephson a bit more flexibility.

"Mines huh?"

"Yes sir. Lieutenant Paddock wanted you to know, he's going to have his men deploy and start marking where the mines are. They're about 200 yards north of here and..."

At that moment there was a muffled explosion.

"Damn it, those are mines. Mort?" he said, looking at his First Sergeant.

"I'll take a couple of the messengers with me and check it out."

"Medic?"

"Doc Milbury's with them, he's also got the new medic with him, Jackson."

"Alright, go!"

With that, 1Sgt Saeger was on the move, he took Privates Samson and Hillsbury with him.


Private Bob Taylor of 3rd squad had wandered off the track to answer a call of Nature. He'd tripped the wire on a German S-Mine³ (Bouncing Betty) as he'd gone to lean his rifle against a nearby tree. The mine, as the name implied, bounced up around waist height then detonated. A number of steel balls had gone into him, killing him outright. Most of the steel balls in the mine smashed into the surrounding trees, but at least one had hit Private Max Smithfield in the back of his left thigh, he went down hard.

When Sgt Mike Peavey saw his man go down, he immediately yelled for a medic. Doc Milbury hurried up to Peavey.

"Over there Doc, be careful, sounds like Taylor stepped on an S-Mine."

"Shit. Okay, let's go Dylan."

It was immediately obvious to Milbury that Taylor was dead. So he and PFC Dylan Jackson went to work on Smithfield, bandaging him up to stop the bleeding, the ball from the mine had gone through the muscle at the back of his thigh, messy but Smithfield would be okay.

"Mike, can I get a guy to help Jackson get this man back to the battalion aid station? He's hurt but not too bad, he'll need stitches."

Before Sgt Peavey could answer, Pvt Smithfield spoke, "I ain't going nowhere Doc, it ain't that bad."

"Oh, so you're a doctor now Max?" Milbury knew that the men hated to leave their buddies, but the man really did need to get stitched up.

"I'm fine, really, it hurts a bit, but I can handle it." Smithfield insisted.

"Really, so when it gets infected, and it will, there was a lot of dirt and crap in that wound, what are you gonna do then? Drag yourself back? Let 'em cut your leg off?"

"Seriously Doc?" Smithfield looked a little less adamant now.

"Yeah, seriously. Go back, let the battalion surgeon sew you up. He'll keep you for a couple of days probably, then if there's no infection, he'll probably send you back up to the company."

"You keep saying 'probably' Doc..."

"Yeah, I can't predict the future Max, everything in life is a 'probably' until ya know otherwise."

"Okay, Doc, I'll go back."


Sgt Peavey had his bayonet out and was probing the ground near Taylor's body. It was obvious to Doc that he was dead, but he had to check.

"Chink." Peavey's bayonet had contacted something metallic below the soil. He checked all around, he saw no wires, saw nothing protruding from the forest floor to trigger a mine, but it didn't pay to take any chances. He slowly dug around the object, it felt odd, didn't seem like a mine. Eventually he cleared away the dirt surrounding the buried object. It was a piece of rusted steel, looked like a piece of a Kraut helmet. He pulled it out.

"Jesus Mike, what the Hell is that?" Doc Milbury asked, it looked like a German helmet but was oddly shaped somehow.

"It's a Kraut helmet from the Great War." Captain Josephson knew enough history to know that the Germans had been fighting in these woods for a long time. Franco-Prussian War, then World War I, and now the current war. "They look kind of the same as what the Krauts wear now, just a little deeper I guess you'd say. Heavier too." The captain had come up quietly, no one had noticed him until he spoke.

"Peavey!" The captain noticed the squad leader staring at Taylor's body.

"Sir?" Sgt Peavey seemed to be jerked back to reality by the captain's voice, he hadn't even heard the man speak.

"Take your guys back to the company CP, take Taylor with you."

"Ah, okay sir, but..."

"Listen to the captain Mike, take your casualty back. We're not going anywhere for a while." 2Lt Paddock had come down the track to join his company commander, word had traveled quickly that the C.O. had come up.

Sgt Peavey got his squad together and the men, carrying Taylor's body, followed him back down the forest track.

"Situation, Nate?" asked Captain Josephson.

"The place is filthy with mines Cap'n. We could probably clear a path in a couple of hours but..."

"Yeah, I know, it's getting dark. Go ahead and dig in here, I'll have the other platoons fan out and start digging with what light we've got left. There's no way I'm moving through these woods at night with mines around."

"Got it Cap." Paddock went to get his other two squads on line and dug in for the night. They'd deal with the mines in the morning. It was starting to rain, of course. What's next, Paddock asked himself, Kraut mortars?


"Geez, it's cold, it's wet, and I'm sitting in this damned foxhole in this damned forest. I wonder how close we are to Germany?" Paddock was thinking all of this out loud and trying to will his eyes to part the darkness of the forest.

"What's that L.T.?" asked platoon sergeant Herb Graves as he slid into the hole next to his platoon leader. He'd gone out to check the line one more time.

"Just thinking out loud Herb? We've gotta be close to Germany, right?"

"Yeah L.T., I was looking at the map earlier, that next ridge, that's Germany. We're close, I think that's why we hit a minefield."

"Well, we had to get here someday." Paddock looked out of the hole into the forest and said, "The woods are lovely, dark and deep..."

"But I have promises to keep." Graves continued.

"And miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep."

"I don't think Frost had to contend with mines L.T."

"No, I'm sure he didn't. Get some sleep Herb, I'll take first watch."

"G'night L.T., give me an hour or so, I'll be fine."

"You got it."

Paddock looked into the woods, Germany and the Krauts were on that next ridge.

Another one of his men dead, another one wounded. Would the platoon make it to the end of the war? He wondered if the war would ever end.

Who knows, he thought, I sure don't.

And these damned woods aren't lovely, they're pretty damned lonely looking to me, Paddock muttered.





¹ With apologies to Robert Frost.
² XO = Executive Officer, pronounced "X-Oh"
³ S-Mine - Schrapnellmine, or shrapnel mine, also known as a Bouncing Betty.

Friday, September 11, 2020

2,977 - Revisited

(Source)
American Airlines Flight 11 - 87 passengers and crew.

United Airlines Flight 175 - 60 passengers and crew.

The World Trade Center - 2,606 civilians and first responders.

(U.S. Navy Photo by Photographer's Mate 2nd Class Jim Watson)
(Source)
American Airlines Flight 77 - 59 passengers and crew.

The Pentagon - 125 civilians, soldiers, and sailors.

(U.S. Navy Photo by Journalist 1st Class Mark D. Faram)
(Source)
United Airlines Flight 93 - 39 passengers and crew.

Shanksville, Pennsylvania - 1 police officer on the ground.

(U.S. Government photo)
The youngest was 2 and a half, the oldest was 85.

How many years of life experience were erased that day? How many years of potential  were erased? We will never know. We can only mourn the dead. Not bring them back.

I wish I could forgive those who perpetrated these heinous acts fifteen years ago. But it isn't in me, God forgive me, but I cannot forgive this, ever.

I remember, I mourn.

Woe to those who would let such a thing occur ever again. That too will not be forgotten, nor forgiven.

(Source)
(Source)
(Source)


Note: In the casualty figures above, I do not include the perpetrators. May they rot in Hell for all of eternity and may their names never be spoken again. May they be forgotten, unforgiven, and unmourned. Forever.


Upon reflection...

I posted that four years ago.  It was an election year, as is this. At the time I was not very confident in the outcome of the election. Needless to say I was surprised. Pleasantly as it turned out.

Once again I am not very confident in the outcome of an election. For many reasons which I won't go into. You have your opinions, I have mine, they probably differ. And I respect that.

I say above that things would neither be forgotten, nor forgiven. It seems though that those that remember grow smaller in number each year. Every time I drive near New York and see the skyline, I remember what it used to look like. It's a constant knife to the belly.

Many just don't care, and that grieves me.

Not all have forgotten, read this.

Those who forget the past are not necessarily doomed to repeat it, but they are certainly doomed to make the same mistakes over and over again.

I fear for my country...





Thursday, September 10, 2020

Random Mutterings


Having survived the outrageous antics of certain people traveling upon the thoroughfares betwixt Little Rhody and the Old Line State, I arrived safe and no less sound than usual upon the shores of the Chesapeake on or around 1715 hours local on the 8th of September in the Year of Our Lord Twenty and Twenty. That is, Tuesday.

Greeted by my middle daughter and her hounds, the latter two of which were growling at me until they caught my scent (who thereupon became deliriously ecstatic as only a canine can), I was once again at Chez Tuttle et Nuke. I should note that The Nuke continued to growl at me, even though I was recognized and allowed entry. Perhaps I should have arrived bearing gifts?

That being said, this trip to Maryland is a little shorter than the last. Instead of a full week, with a travel day on either end, it's only four days, two of them being travel days. As my supply of PTO is not endless, I need to preserve some for later trips. Of which, I'm told there will be a few. After all, Maryland is "only" 400 miles from Chez Sarge in Little Rhody.

Haven't worked much on the book as it was kind of a quiet spell in Europe in late summer of 1944. The Germans were nearly finished retreating into the West Wall. (What many referred to, and still refer to, as the Siegfried Line, auf Deutsch it was known as die Westwand, not "Westwall," which, as near as I can determine, is just a bad translation. In English it would be known as the West Wall. I guess Siegfried Line just sounds cool.)

At any rate, the Germans were retreating in spots and were trying to reconstitute what units they could. Including two Waffen SS divisions in the vicinity of a Dutch town named Arnhem. Which Monty didn't see because he didn't want to, it stood in the way of his "pencil like" thrust into Germany.

Speaking of which, there are no units in the book which actually participated directly in Operation Market Garden (started 17 September) the British 11th Armoured Division provided flank support. So it's possible I'll touch upon that. But not this week.

Since Sgt Brandt's wounding (and Ollie's death) you might notice a refocus from Brandt's squad to the entire platoon. 2Lt Paddock is a character I intend to explore further, his relationship with his troops, especially his platoon sergeant, and his company commander.

At first I wanted to make Captain Josephson a screaming prick, then decided against it, sort of. What makes a man be a jerk? So I plan on exploring his character more as well. I rather regret having Bill and Ollie get gunned down on the street of a Belgian village but that happens in war. If it doesn't happen in the book, makes the book a little less authentic, to me at any rate. But what do I know? I've never written a book before, and there are days when it really shows. Those of you who spot the errors and let me know, I really appreciate it.

Oh one last thing, when you take a "selfie" with your cat, don't be surprised if she looks at you like you're an idiot. Which isn't far from the truth...

Or so I've been told.


Cats can be pretty judgmental at times.

DAMHIK...



Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Knives! ona-Stick!!!

 So, using your short sword, you have successfully expelled the Barbarians, be they Goths, Visigoths, Huns, Saxons, Gypsies, Mongols, Hell's Angels (yeah, I had to go there...)  Now what?  They are out of your abode, casa, keep, pad, place, but they are rolling around in your yard, stepping on your flowers, touching your bbq, peeing in the bushes, unsorting your recyclables and other heinous things.  Yet all you have is 3' of a big knife.

What to do?  WHAT TO DO?

Well, you use a knife.  But not any knife, you use a knife-on-a-stick.

What?  What deviltry is this?

It's called Pole-Arms.  As in Arms.  On a Pole.  For simpler-minded individuals, yes, you touch people with a 10' pole (or 6' or 14' or or or.)

But what type of polearm?  For the variety of polearms is wide and varied from axes to billhooks to fauchards, fauchard-forks, guisarmes, poleaxes, halberds yada yada yada.

All are nice.  All have a place.  But we're going to fixate on knives.  On a stick. ON A STICK!!!

So basically, well, for a knife-on-a-stick, you basically take a knife-like-object and put it on a stick.  Where the handle for the knife-like-object would normally have a handle, you replace the handle with a socket in which to connect a stick.  

So... take a dagger-like object and put a pole up it's butt and you have a spear.  Or a pike (a spear that's much longer, like 12-16' longer where a normal spear goes from 5' to 9')

Or take a sword-like object and attach a pole in it's socket and you have... a war spear, or a boar spear.  Or a glaive, which is a fancy French word for... single edged sword (like a cutlass or falchion) on a stick.  Or a naginata, which is a Japanese katana-like blade... on a stick.

I mean, it doesn't get much simpler than this.  Take a blade and put it on a stick.

Why?

Well, see, extend your more-useful arm in front of you.  Now visually add 2-3' to that.  That whole 2-3' is your best range for a sword. Maybe a little closer but not much.  Anything closer is what some call knife-range, or grappling range.  Anything farther than that, your opponent is standing there looking at you and with his/her/its eyes saying, "Yeah, so?"

Now.  Take that Knife-on-a-Stick (KoaS) and hold it in one hand, with the hand at the point of balance of the shaft.  With a 6' shaft, that KoaS gives you roughly the same range as a sword.  Wooo.  Big change.

But... you don't bat one-handed, do you?

Take that same shaft.  Place your dominant hand near the non-pointy end.  Now place your non-dominant hand about 3' (or a yard, or a meter) up the shaft.  Stand so your front hand's foot is in front and pointed towards the nominal enemy.  Rotate your body about 45 degrees back away from perpendicular (or 135 degrees off ) to the shaft. Place your dominant hand's foot back and to the side about 12" offset from the front foot.  Like... 

This is how you hold your shaft.  
Body cocked 45 degrees
lead foot pointed at enemy, rear foot braced at roughly 90 degrees to the lead foot.
Notice the hand positions.

Notice that now, just by rocking your arms or choking up on the shaft, your weapon can reach from about 3' in front of you to over 6' in front of you.  Which places that enemy with a knife or sword or axe firmly within your range and now you can keep him/her/it outside of his/her/its range. 

Starting to make sense yet?

And... this is where the old, infirm (as long as you have two working arms) the young, the undersized can get the best of some 250lb 6'6" neo-barbarian.  Because the pole-holder can double the arm strength and increase the geometrical power release of the point (because, knife in hand swung 90 degrees at 3' range produces X amount of energy, but knife in arms swung 90 degrees at 6' range produce sooo much more than X amount of energy due to length of weapon traveled and such.  Like... so.

See the bended arms? 
Very important, as those are springs to poke with
Notice Arc is from above head of enemy to where you can cut his ankles

 

Notice #1 - See how far forward that spear point is? That's about 3' further than a hand-sword.  See how far that tip travels on the curve?  That curve increases Kinetic Energy and chops through much farther, so weaker person can do same or more damage with spear than stronger one with knife or sword.

Notice #2 - That the 90 degree arc of swing does not go from perfectly vertical.  Because you rarely are poking a giant in the nuts.  Instead, keeping the top of the swing to about 75-80 degrees max above horizontal gives you the ability to whack the enemy from chin to shin, even top of head to foot (what?  Put a knife/sword through someone's foot and they stop fighting real quick.)

Where was I?  I was drawing funny pictures and...

Oh, yeah, now see that 90 degree arc?  It extends to the horizontal plane, too. Actually it's a 90 degree cone from the spear-wielder's chest to the weapon's main working end.  So one person can threaten a wider bunch of barbarians than one knife or sword wielder.  Because the tip of the weapon covers more area...  Math.  It's all math.  Geometry, Algebra, Calculus and such.  But it's math that your body already knows, you just have to teach it to your muscles, but really, it's info that your body already knows.  Spear is almost instinctual, where sword fighting isn't.  Operative word is 'almost.'  Any goon can run a spear (translation, any one can use a spear) but a little practice increases ability quickly.

So far I've been using the word 'spear.'  Explanation:  A spear (lance, pike, yari etc) is a blade from 6-12" long, with sharpened edges usually all around (so both thin edges are sharp.)  This is the basic weapon from Cave Man to Modern Man (how long is your modern bayonet?  6-12" is average from WWII on.)

What happens when you hit the opponent with the shaft and not the blade or socket?  Well, it still hurts, but you won't cut or mostly kill.  And you may break your shaft if the end behind the socket doesn't have metal strapping protecting the exposed shaft (called, sometimes, languettes.)

Now, whacking someone with just a pole is perfectly legit.  It's called Staff Fighting (versus what happens at the Pentagon, which is a whole different type of Staff Fighting, more like Staff In-Fighting...) Yes, like in "Robin Hood."  A simple wooden staff is a deadly weapon, capable of smashing skulls, breaking arms, kind of like whacking someone with a 5'-6' baseball bat.  And in staff fighting you can use a shorter staff like... a baseball bat.  Or even a shorter one-handed staff, called a baton.  Philippine Escrima fighting is done with two batons.  Medieval knights often used batons in training as though against exposed body parts it could hurt, it hurt a lot less than using a training blade or a tourney blade (tourney blades often had their edges cut off or 'rebated' (and, yes, it's where the term comes from, as the edge steel is a higher quality steel and the smith who cuts it off literally either buys it from you or hands it back to you, thus rebating it.)

But we're talking poleknives, so...

Or... or... you could extend the length of the blade to 18", 24" or even, gasp, 30"or more.  And you get a War-Spear, or a Boar-Spear (War are usually 14-18" with languettes or a very long socket, sometimes with a cross piece, Boar spears are 12-18" long blades with a crosspiece on the socket to keep the fracking boar from just running up the spear-pole and gut you.) or a glaive (single edged sword about 18"-24" long (48" long ones are bills, add a hook on the tip and they are bill-hooks (a derivation of an agricultural tree trimming and fruit-gathering blade, no, really...)  And you can find about 3-5 names for every variation you can think of, plus variations you don't want to think of.

So with these swords-on-a-stick you can whack with the blade (and socket, if you must) over a greater length of weapon, giving you a wider purposefully killing section.)

Couple other parts of the KoaS.  There's the pole, usually about 1" to 1.5" (roll your fingers like you're holding a pole.  What's the diameter of the circle you now created?  about 1" to 1.5", unless you're a mutant like me (2" diameter.  I have problems finding gloves and armored gauntlets that fit my hands (also unusually wide palms...))  The pole should be strong enough it doesn't break when you smack it on someone's head, so, hickory or ash or oak.

There's the butt-end (the non-primary pokey end.) which can be just a plain end of the pole (boring, but works) or can be fitted with a metal ferrule to keep the end-grain from splitting, or fitted with a cap (for the same reason) or a spike-on-a-socket (for poking with the other end) or a ball (of wood, or metal) as a grip and as something to whack someone with.

Then there's the overall length.  Best fer fightin' on foot is between 6' and 9', maybe pushing to 10' with just a simple spear point.  Why only 9ish feet?  Because, that length thingy we talked about in making arc swings also means that the longer the weapon, the more mass and momentum is farther away from your center-of-mass and it makes it harder to move the blasted thing.  Typical rule is the heavier the blade, the shorter the overall length.  Within reason.  Seriously.  Don't go ultra long.  Maybe start long, and just cut off 3" until it feels good to you.

Yes, there are exceptions, like pikes.  But pikes, long long spears up to 16' long) are used in a group.  Individually a single pike is hard to use as it is hard to move from simply pointing at people (and, um, shoving them into said people.)  Very few actual warriors or soldiers or fighters could actually wield a pike like it was a shorter spear.  There were a few, the freaks...

Now that you have a KoaS outfitted to the length you want and the blade you want, and maybe with languettes protecting the shaft this side of the socket and any butt-features you want... how do you use it?

First, remember that second picture?  Always keep your primary weapon forward of you, way forward of you.  And your shaft is your shield.  There is never ever ever ever EVER any need to swing the weapon tip behind you or past about 45 degrees, maybe 60 degrees MAX to either side of an invisible line between you and your foe.  EVER.  Don't Do It.  Because as soon as you inevitably whip your tip out of that cone of doom and your foe will rush you and go all monkey (it's what I call it) on you and just chop you up.  It's what I do when I have a sword and shield and fighting a pole weapon - take the hit on the shield, charge and just hammer the dog snot out of the guy.

There are Four (not one, two, or three.  Four) Basic Maneuvers.

Thrust:  Arms close to body, back hand on one side, forehand on another, then extend arms towards enemy while holding your pole.  Stick it in.  Pull it out.  In.  Out.  Doesn't get much simpler than that.

Fore cut:  With the blade in line with whatever plane you're cutting on, and the blade on your forehand side of the enemy, swing forward with the forehand, while either keeping the butt-hand stable or pulling it into the body.  Like you are casting a heavy surf pole.  Swing forward - Whack - pull back.  Swing forward - Whack - pull back.  Second easiest maneuver to understand.  Swing, cut. Swing, cut.

Simple Fore Cut.  
Swing your heeeps with the direction of the cut.

 

Back cut:  With the blade on the backhand side of the enemy, pull your blade towards your forehand side with your forehand while pushing your backhand away from your body.  Pull back - Whack.  Pull back - Whack..

The Back Cut
Again, sweeeng your heeeeps with the direction of the forehand
Punch out with the back hand
'

And...

The C Cut:  Extend your weapon to block his/her/its weapon.  Push against the weapon.  Now whip your weapon tip in a 'C' shape around his weapon and do either one of the first three maneuvers.  Extend, smack weapon, whip a C, and (stab, forecut, backcut) return.

That's it.  Simple.  SIMPLE.   4 basic moves.  Stab.  Forecut.  Backcut. C-cut (really a C-maneuver.)

 

Now do combos, that means multiple moves.  Hit using one move, hit again using the same move, maybe hit the third time but then toss in another move.

Thrust, thrust, cut.  Forecut (and cut through the target) backcut, forecut.  Forecut, Forecut, Forecut, Thrust.

 Get the idea?

 

Advanced moves are:

Butt-Punch:  See that last illustration?  Take your back hand on the shaft and punch your foe in the gut or face with the butt, or your hand if you're wearing armored gauntlets (do not do if your hands aren't armored.)  It's equivalent to punching with the butt of a rifle during bayonet drills.

Clothes-Line:  With the portion of the shaft between your two hands, punch your foe.  In the head.  In the neck.  In the body.  This is a great pushing move (if you are heavier than your opponent, he moves, if he's heavier, you move, either way, you get space to use the weapon end of your weapon.)  And, yes, if he's running into you and you catch him on the neck, it's just like he runs into a clothesline.  Thus the name.

Butt-Poke:  Most effective with a butt-spike or metal end, but works with a plain shaft, too.  Again, your foe gets within your swing.  Take the end of the shaft and poke him.  Poke him hard.  If you don't have a spike, poke him in the face or the gut.  If you do have a spike, poke him anywhere.  But POKE HARD!

 The 360:  Yes, I said to keep the tip of the weapon within a 90 degree cone, but stuff happens.  If the point is pushed past 90 degrees, and you have the room, you can just let go with the forehand, and whip the shaft over your head and then grab the shaft again with your forehand and within the last 60 degrees before hitting your enemy then put some real power into it.  And, yes, this is an advanced move. REALLY advanced.  It sounds simple but takes lots of practice to know when you can get away with it.

The... DROP:  If you miss, and miss bigly, and the foe knocks the weapon out of one or both hands and you have no chance to really recover, DROP the weapon, forget about it, and just run away.  Seriously.  You aren't encumbered by a heavy weapon, your foe is, you know the terrain, he doesn't.  So run away, run away.

The One Handed Jab:  Holding the weapon in your dominant hand, over your shoulder, Jab forward and down.  Sounds simple.  Works great for frog-gigging, but with a heavy weapon, it's a lot harder than you think.  This is actually how lancers used to fight either in an open field (where your opponents are all around you) or in the charging line before the concept of a crouched lance (shaft held between your body and your dominant arm, dominant forearm alongside the shaft, hand held on the shaft (palm up, shaft on palm.)  Yeah, try one-hand jabbing with a glaive. What makes this one difficult is knowing when you can get away with it and having the muscle-mass to do it.

Most advanced moves require body mass and muscle mass and practice to do effectively.  Almost anyone can do the First Four Basic Moves.  So basic it's what was being taught to Japanese children as young as 7 to use in preparation for the US invasion of Japan in 45 or 46.  And old people were to do it, too.  And ladies.  And, well, everyone.  It's one of the reasons spears and blades-on-sticks have predominantly been the primary war-fighting stand-off weapon since day 1.

Cold Steel makes some really nice spear blades and polearms.  Their boar spear is really nice..  And surprisingly cheap, and strong.  But there are lots of places that sell quality (and lots of not-quality) weapons...  Have fun.  Spear away.  It's all fun and games until someone loses an eye and then you can call him Odin.