Thursday, June 11, 2020

The 11th of June, 1944 - D + 5, Tigers in the Mist

Fighting in the Bocage
(US Army Signal Corps Photo)

Sergeant Bill Brandt had managed to stem the bleeding from Private Teddy Woolworth's lower leg. His leg from mid-calf down was nearly severed, only some ligaments held the whole thing together. A belt from Teddy's musette bag as a tourniquet and using Teddy's bayonet to cinch it tight kept the young soldier from bleeding out.

Bill carefully looked down the line he figured the fire had come from, yup, there they were, though they were barely visible. Two Germans and a machine gun on a bipod. He'd heard one of the Germans yell out, "Hör auf zu schießen, du Arschloch!¹"

When he heard the slap of hand on helmet, he'd dashed to drag Teddy out of the beaten zone. He'd been on the receiving end of a slap to the helmet a few times, especially in boot camp! Bill figured that the Germans were waiting for bigger fish and that the gunner had fired prematurely. The fellow in charge hadn't seemed happy at all.

He signaled the rest of the squad to hold in place, then, looking at Corporal Jack Wilson, he gestured for him to do a three count, then join him. "Stay low" Bill silently mouthed at the guy he'd known since boot camp.

At the count of three, Jack moved, Bill then sent an entire magazine of .30 caliber rounds at the two Germans before they could open fire on Jack. Bill was pretty sure he'd hit one of the Germans.

"Jesus, Sarn't Bill, are ya trying to get me killed?" Jack huffed as he took up position near his buddy Bill.

"Do you still have that rifle grenade gear?" Bill asked.

Rather than answer, Jack began assembling the rig onto his Garand. When done he had to pat himself down to find the special blank cartridge needed to shoot the grenade. He found it, then loaded the round, then loaded the grenade. He was ready.

"You ready Jack?"


"We're aiming for that corner down the line along which we advanced on the other side of the hedge. I'm gonna lay down some fire on that, hit where I'm hitting."

With that, Bill opened fire. Nearly at the same time, Jack launched his grenade down range. It hit with a satisfying bang and Bill knew that his idea had worked when he had heard someone scream, loud enough to be heard over the explosion.

Sergeant Brandt had the rest of the squad move up, he detailed one man to fetch the medic who shouldn't be too far away. Then it was time to clear this field. The squad's M1919 machine gun was set up to sweep the field to cover them as he took a team down to check where the Germans had been. The battalion S2² was hot for intel on who they had been fighting over the past day. Opposition was stiffening.

Browning M1919 .30 caliber machine gun.

Bill took three men with him, he had Jack stay with the MG team, I mean, it was all about fire and maneuver right? At least that's what Bill remembered from training, he was leading the maneuver element, and Corporal Wilson led the fire element, the guys whose job it was to cover the guys on the move. Sergeant Brandt was a quick study, but damn it, all this stuff gave him a headache. He wasn't so sure he liked being in charge.

The maneuver element reached the position which Bill and Jack had attacked. There were two dead Germans, still in position behind their bipod mounted MG34. Sergeant Brandt had one of the privates search the bodies and the kid retrieved two sets of papers and some miscellaneous personal stuff, letters and photos. Bill didn't look at the photos or the letters, he just stuffed everything in his musette bag.

These Germans weren't run of the mill infantry, they were fallschirmjäger, paratroopers. No wonder they'd been having such a tough fight lately!


Panzerschütze Georg Hansel was finishing up brushing away the marks left in the hard dirt from backing their Tiger into the small treeline. Anything coming up the road would lie under their sights for a good kilometer. The countryside near Caen was still fairly open, nothing like the Bocage country where the Amis had landed. More and more Tommy tanks were coming ashore. So far all they had done was sit there in their tank lagers. Even a lowly private like himself knew that the Tommies couldn't wait forever.

His own schwerer Panzerabteilung³ was nearly in position to start counterattacking the invasion beaches. They would have been there already except for all of the Allied Jabos attacking as soon as the sun was up. Fellow couldn't move during the day without getting bombed or strafed! 

His buddy Oberpanzerschütze Horst Krebs had told him today that the fuel convoy they should have rendezvoused with that morning was busy burning some ten miles away. They'd been caught in the open by a pair of English Typhoons.

They weren't going anywhere without petrol!

As he walked back to the tank, the mist began rolling in off the Channel, which wasn't that far away. At the same time Georg heard engines to his right. A glance revealed a line of what had to be English Bren-gun carriers. Were these Englishmen insane? Where are their supports?


Company Sergeant Major Lloyd Paxton was uneasy. They were trundling down this Norman road like nobody's business, haring off towards "God knows where," as Lance Corporal Williamson had said. Paxton, in the lead vehicle, told his driver to slow down. "I don't bloody like the looks of this." he muttered as he scanned the tree line about 750 yards ahead.

"Stop the vehicle Jackie, I daresay there's Jerries in that tree line, I can damned near smell them!"

As Paxton began to scan the tree line with his field glasses, he heard a rather whiny voice behind him. "Why are we stopping Sarn't Major? I don't want to be out here after dark."

Leftenant Winston Smythe-Beddows was an absolute babe in the woods, a complete neophyte. This was the first time, Paxton thought, that he'd been released from the captain's apron springs to go "play war" with the big boys.

Dismounting from his vehicle, CSM Paxton walked back to Smythe-Beddows' vehicle. "Leftenant, we're stopping because I don't want to just go charging up this road like a bunch of silly geese. I think there are Jerries about and I don't like the look of..."

Paxton was shoved to the ground by the force of the explosion which hit his Bren carrier. There was little left of the vehicle or its crew after it had been hit by a high-explosive round which could only have come from the tree line ahead.

The leftenant was just standing there like some bloody day-tripper on his first trip to Brighton. Paxton knew they could be in serious trouble.

"Dismount! Into the trees! Move, move, move if you silly bastards want to live. Sparks get the bloody RAF on the radio!"

As another Bren carrier, this one empty, the Germans' second round had been slow in coming, exploded into scrap metal, the radio operator, Private Will "Sparks" Jackson handed the radio handset to Paxton. The leftenant looked like he was going to cry, he should be on the radio, not the Sarn't Major!

As he hastily explained the situation to the RAF air liaison officer on the other end of the net, who had nothing for him (unfortunately the flyboys were apparently done for the day - everyone had returned to base - they didn't like the looks of the weather), he saw a vehicle roll out of the treeline. It was a bloody Tiger!

That tank began to methodically destroy every single one of their vehicles as the mist and the night moved in. By the time the sun had set, the Tiger had vanished and the only thing that Paxton could hear was the sound of their vehicles burning on the roadway.

"Looks like we're walking home Leftenant."

Back the way they came, back to report that German armor was on the scene. Caen seemed further away today than it did on D-Day.


¹ Stop shooting, you asshole!
2 The battalion S2 was the intelligence officer in battalion headquarter. One of his jobs was identifying the enemy units his battalion was up against. Higher levels (regiment, division, etc.) were designated as "G2."
³ Heavy tank battalion. Typically the German Tiger tanks were grouped in battalion strength and controlled at the Corps-level, they weren't typically assigned to a Panzer Division. (Remember "Panzer" is the German slang for "tank," short for Panzerkampfwagen, or armored fighting vehicle.


  1. Very good reading.

    A weapons purist note, the M-1 Garand uses a clip instead of a magazine. "....Bill then sent an entire magazine of .30 caliber rounds at the two Germans...."
    I think the Army says medic instead of corpsman. "...he detailed one man to fetch the corpsman."
    And a two for one. In the sentence "He'd been on the receiving end of slap to helmet a few times, especially in boot camp!" I think the sentence would flow better by changing saying, "... a slap to the helmet...." And although I'm not positive about the Army in 1944, I think Sergeant Brandt would have said "basic training" instead of "boot camp".

    Please may we have more.

    1. As to the whole clip/magazine thing, there's a discussion which has only reared it's head in recent times. The place where the clip to load the M1 goes is called a magazine well. Clip/magazine, meh. And yes, it's "medic" - I've got a buddy who is a retired corpsman, not the shipboard type but the "in the field with the Marines" type, also due to my deep affiliation with the Navy, my brain always pick "corpsman," even though "medic" is indeed the correct US Army term.

      As to basic training or boot camp. Every GI reference to that training I've seen has been "boot camp."

      Hey, they're GIs, not historians! 😉

      I'll fix the slap and the corpsman.

    2. Proper term for the M1's ammunition feeding device is "en bloc clip", and it inserts rounds into the magazine. The latter term is being used as a designation for ammunition storage area, as in a battleship's magazine, not as a box magazine used to load ammunition into a rifle or pistol, etc. Thus magazines can be internal or external. And clips can be used to insert ammunition in either kind - stripper clips hold rounds of 5.56x45 that can be used to load the external magazines of M16 family rifles, etc.

    3. I knew that. Didn't want to spend time on it. But you covered it well.

    4. Or, since you didn't specify he was carrying an M1 Garand, he could have been carrying a BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle - 20 round box magazine-fed light machine gun firing the same .30cal ammo as the Garand - a version of which was used to kill Bonnie and Clyde.) Though usually a sergeant would be carrying either an M1 Carbine - another detachable magazine weapon, firing a shorter .30 cal round, or a Thompson submachine gun firing the .45ACP round, but since the text said .30 caliber ammo being loaded that really leaves either the M1 Garand or the M1 Carbine (unless Sgt. Bill had picked up the BAR...)

      And, yes, M1 Garand has an internal magazine fed by an en-bloc clip. Futz with the design - which was done after the war - and you can change the internal magazine to a detachable box magazine (and do some other stuff to the design) and you get the M14 rifle which replaced the Garand, but was subsequently replaced by variations of the M-16 firing the 5.56x45 round.

      Firearm development is fun and is really screwy in some places. Like, if we were talking about the Pacific theater, the group could be firing basic .30 caliber rifle ammo from a M1903 Springfield bolt action rifle, a M1917 Enfield (a British design manufactured to fire .30 caliber rifle ammo for the Americans in WWI and still in use in North Africa and the Pacific - especially in the Philippines, or the M1 Garand, or the BAR or the M1941 Johnson Rifle (a competing semi-automatic design to the M1 Garand, interesting in that it had a 10 round internal rotary magazine that was fed by the same 5 round stripper clip as used by the Springfield and Enfield, and a version was designed as a light machine gun with a larger 20 round detachable magazine (fed from the left side of the M1941 JLMG.))

      Hey, at least we weren't as screwed up as the Germans...

    5. Since I am Ltfuzz in so many places, I have to state that all I understand about stuff like the above is,
      "Select centerline, arm, depress trigger, dispense 400 rounds"
      Geben Sie dem Leutnant eine Pause, er ist nur ein Kind!

    6. Beans - Jack carries a Garand, as does Bill. I'm well aware of what everyone in a US squad carried. Also even more familiar with what the Huns lugged around.

    7. Heh, dispense 400 rounds. What's that take, a couple of seconds? Tops?

    8. I remember a book about the fighting down towards St. Lo regarding a really nasty machine gun nest. It was a very intimidating MG-42 and they just weren't able to knock it out. When they finally did (with a direct hit with a bazooka, IIRC?), they found the gunners were completely out of the line of fire, operating the machine gun with cords and only briefly exposing themselves to reload. I wouldn't have wanted to carry or feed an MG-42 (or MG-3) in an offensive, but sitting in defense with adequate supplies -- oh yeah, baby!

    9. The Germans could be very clever with their defensive positions.

      I've done the assistant gunner thing, two cans of ammo and a spare barrel. Loads of fun...

      (Did I mention that it was winter and there was snow on the ground?)

  2. I don't know who your illustrator is, but he does good work. Telling the story in the pictures tickles me. Well done.

    1. Finding just the right pictures can be a challenge. Then there is the old "one picture is worth a thousand words" thing. I try to get mileage out of both.

  3. Your story is progressing nicely, Sarge. Always good when you can 'see' the characters and action as a result of an author's words, good on ya for that! Always have liked James Lee Burke's fiction for his ability to paint a picture, especially in his earlier Robicheaux novels. Can almost smell the bayous in those books.
    Regarding battlefield first aid, I'm kind of amazed it took as long as it did for purpose built tourniquets to be produced and routine training to be included on their use by military forces. Their widespread use has had a great positive effect, but it took some major advocacy by some Army ER docs to make it so widespread. Stop the Bleed programs currently offered to anyone are well worth attending.

    1. I see that a couple of Mr. Burke's books have been made into movies. Pretty sure the films are nothing like the books, but if they are true to the character the author created, they might be worth a look. I note that Amazon Prime has In the Electric Mist available. I shall be viewing that at my earliest convenience.

      Most people don't realize that if you nick the wrong thing, or lose a big portion of your anatomy, bleeding to death doesn't take all that long. We'll learn more about the character of Bill Brandt as we go along. He's a quiet guy with many talents. Incidentally, that name was stolen from a friend of mine. Most of the characters on the American side have at least part of their name borrowed from people I know, or have known.

    2. Tom. My wife and I went to a Stop the Bleed course and as you said, it was time very well spent.
      We also bought several quality tourniquets in a bright color, and have them placed ready to hand.

    3. What's weird about the use of tourniquets is that until the 1970's, they were the cat's meow for immediate first aid on the spot. Then some 'studies' said people were miss-using said limb-wrappers and causing harm, so a lot of basic first aid courses in the USA dropped tourniquets from their course, with the expected results of more limbs lost and more deaths ensuing. Then along comes 1989 and suddenly the Military is real interested in tourniquets again, especially with all the developments of quick clotting materials coming from those wily Israelis (seriously, who would have thought using shrimp shells as a base for making a clotting powder, and isn't that not kosher?) So now tourniquets are back in style and 'cool' and an accepted method of stopping limb-loss (well, the part that's above the tourniquet) and life-loss.

    4. I love it when boffins do studies, usually involves government grants, lots and lots of taxpayer money wasted and guys dying in the field. Lovely.

  4. I almost need to go away & come back in a couple of weeks to see what happened... good writing!

    1. Thanks Rob.

      I know it kinda sucks getting it in small bites, but if I didn't do it this way, it would gather dust.

    2. You are just our version of the daily soap-operas. Now if you could get a shaving company to sponsor you...

      Now, Burma-Shave Theater presents: Your Daily D-Day plus Days!

    3. Signs posted along the road...

  5. Bren carriers are neat things, not as small as you think, about the size of a car, capable of carrying and towing a surprisingly large amount of stuff while keeping the occupants mostly safe from rifle and machine gun fire. But not cannon fire, and assuredly not 8.8cm cannon fire from a Tiger. Ouch.

    What the heck were they doing unescorted? Wait, did Monty have something to do with it?

    Otherwise, fine story. Caen was pretty thrashed as a port and took a long time to rebuild. The 'temporary' beach ports built took up the slack and were still used until the end of the war.

    1. The pictures give you an idea of the size of these vehicles, which is why I include them. Also, Caen isn't a port, perhaps you were thinking of Cherbourg? Caen was important as it sat astride a major road network.

    2. Yes, screwed up Caen and Cherbourg.

  6. Caen was real meatgrinder for both sides, Germans threw the fanatical SS division Hitlerjugend into the fray, while Brits eventually got Canadian and Polish divisions as tip of the spear when breakthru came...
    We all know teenagers tend to ignore risks and think they are iommortal, give them ideological cause to believe in and they are bound to fight to the last. On the other hand, Poles were just itching for setling the scores with Germans, especially after they heard of Warsaw uprising...

    1. The Hitler Youth division was fanatical, some of their troops were so young that they didn't receive a cigarette ration but a "sweets" ration instead. Candy and the like.

      By August that division was nearly completely burned out.

    2. couldn't have happened to a more deserving group of 'kids'! As you said, fanatical. A former British sniper told me that toward the end of the war, when they were approaching a German village, they never knew if they would be welcomed (since their coming signaled the end of the war was approaching) or met with fanatical resistance from Hilterjugend or the like ... so he often was tasked with scouting the villages prior to the main element showing up on the village's doorstep ... one such tasking led him to meet his future wife, who happened to be hanging out her laundry when he was observing the village ... the rest of that story is quite charming! (realizing that I may have told it in a prior comment that I don't remember at this point!)

    3. Good story Tom. Some of those kids knew nothing of life other than what Hitler wanted them to know.

      The Nazis were despicable.

  7. Replies
    1. The Chieftain would add, "When it worked!" He's got some interesting commentary on the myth vs. reality of the Tiger and King Tiger
      (and not the Tiger King!!)

    2. These were actually Tiger Is!

    3. Tom - Quote the Chieftain and you've got my attention!

    4. He's really very good, isn't he? Been watching some of his videos, they are excellent!

    5. I've met him in person, very smart guy, great sense of humor.

    6. One of the finest parts of Kelly's Heroes is when Donald Sutherland exchanges for the Tiger Tank and his crew chief starts to complain. "Stop with the negative waves man, it is a beautiful tank" or words to that effect (too long since I have seen it).

    7. Moriarity declared the mighty Tiger to be a "piece of junk."

      Love that movie!


Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)
Can't be nice, go somewhere else...

NOTE: Comments on posts over 5 days old go into moderation, automatically.