Wednesday, June 24, 2020

The 24th of June, 1944 - D + 18, Another Day in Hell

US Army Signal Corps Photo

"Sgt Brandt, this is Corporal Maxwell and his machine gun team from Weapons Platoon. I wanted to get you a mortar team as well, but in these damn hedgerows they'd have trouble spotting their rounds. So unless the Krauts were right on top of you..."

"That's okay L.T., an MG is always good to have."

"Any questions about your objective?"

"No sir. The rest of the company will be advancing through here," Sgt Brandt noted on the map the lieutenant was using to brief him, "we need to set up along here as flank protection for the rest of the company. That about right?"

"Yup, the rest of the platoon will be maneuvering with the company, I figured you guys could handle this mission."

"Got it L.T., you and your guys ready to roll Corp?"

"Yeah, let's do this."


Unterfeldwebel Günther Hahn and his squad were kitting up to move down a country lane which had open fields to their left but was enclosed by a hedgerow on the right side of the track. According to their map, the lane went like this for another 700 meters before it went into a dip with hedgerows to either side.

His squad was supposed to advance down the lane and provide flank support for a company-sized attack supported by three StuG III assault guns. It would be the first time they had seen any friendly armor since the Allies had come ashore, nearly three weeks ago.

Since that time they had been slowly giving ground, outnumbered by the Amis, constantly subjected to naval gunfire and air attacks. None of his men had had a decent meal in weeks, all of them were filthy and bedraggled looking, but their weapons were clean and their morale still high.

Hahn watched his boys joking with each other, adjusting equipment, having one last cigarette before they moved off into battle once more. Of his squad only his assistant, Gefreiter Max Baumann was familiar. Wolff, Busch, Pfeiffer, and Neumann were all new replacements, they had had a minimum of infantry training and had been Luftwaffe mechanics a year ago. Not enough aircraft to maintain, they became infantry.

But they were smart kids, rather than go to a Luftwaffe field division, the Wehrmacht decided to make them paratroopers. But they were Fallschirmjäger in name only, like Baumann had said, "Why teach them to jump out of airplanes we don't have?"

He and Baumann each had one combat jump under their belts, Crete, spring of '41. Though they had driven the Tommies off that island in the Mediterranean, their casualties in both men and equipment had been disastrous. He and Baumann had been in different squads in the same platoon. They were the only men from that unit to come out unscathed.

Then those nightmare years in the East, he and Baumann barely survived that ordeal and when their old division had shed cadre to form new units, he and Baumann had wound up in Major Friedrich August Freiherr von der Heydte's 6th Fallschirmjäger Regiment, here in Normandy. It was a big regiment, far larger than it's Army counterparts, but they had been bleeding men since Carentan.

He saw his men were ready and was about to give the order to move out when a Kübelwagen¹ with four men in it came barreling down the lane. Wondering if they were bringing new orders, the small car sped by, leaving a trail of dust behind it.

"Arschlöcher!" Baumann yelled at the car's occupants as it sped past.

"Ja Max, they are assholes, but one of them is our first sergeant."

"Another f**king mechanic, no offense guys." he said, looking at Wolff, Busch, Pfeiffer, and Neumann. But it was true, the company's ranking non-commissioned officer was a former bomber maintenance supervisor. Fat lot of good that did him out here.

US Army Signal Corps Photo

"Corp, you seeing this?" PFC Jim Weber turned to look at his team leader.

"Yup, what are those idiots doing? Hold your fire, probably a scouting party, but not a very good one, roaring up in that car like nobody's business." Corporal Maxwell signaled to Sgt Brandt that they had Krauts in the open. Brandt signaled him to hold fire, they had just gotten to this spot and were still setting up.

He moved up so he could see down the lane to the ruined farmhouse. Sure enough, three Kraut paras strolling up the road, while an older guy, kinda fat, Bill thought, consulted a map on the hood of the car. He also noted that while all four were dressed like paratroopers, only two of them were wearing the classic Kraut para helmet.

Odd that, Bill thought, but only for a moment.

"Open fire Judd."

Corporal Maxwell tapped Weber on the shoulder. The gunner immediately fired a short burst at the three kids in the lane, they went down like ten pins. Poor bastards didn't stand a chance.

US Army Signal Corps Photo

Hauptfeldwebel Dieter Schulte looked up from his map, admitting to himself that he was lost, this road didn't look right. At that moment he heard the distinctive chatter of an Ami light machine gun. He saw his escort troopers go down hard.

Tossing the map aside, the First Sergeant (der Spieß in German parlance, literally "the spear") scrambled to get behind the wheel of the Kübelwagen and get out of there. But as he reached to engage the gear shift, five rounds from an American M1919 Browning .30 caliber machine gun threw him back and to the right in the small vehicle.

For a moment Schulte felt nothing other than a certain breathlessness. He was looking up, the sky was so blue, there were fluffy white clouds drifting past. Just before he died, Hauptfeldwebel Dieter Schulte pictured his wife and their two children. It was too beautiful a day to die.

But die he did.

Fallschirmjäger with MG 42

Gefreiter Max Baumann was in position to look down the lane but not far enough. He and his section, Flieger Karl-Heinz Winter on the MG 42, assistant gunners Flieger Ludwig Böhm and Flieger Johannes Krämer, along with Flieger Walter Neumann, were in advance of their squad leader, Unterfeldwebel Günther Hahn, and his section, Flieger Lorenz Schuster, Flieger Otto Wolff, Flieger Arnold Busch, and Flieger Heinrich Pfeiffer. They had wondered where the Hell the First Sergeant was off to in such a rush.

Then he had heard Ami machine gun fire and he could see smoke just past the wrecked farmhouse on the left side of the lane.

"Scheiße! Wait here, I'm going for a look. Neumann, go back and bring up the rest of the guys!"

He moved slowly, staying in the shadows of the hedgerow. When he could see into the dip in the lane and past the farmhouse, he saw Hauptfeldwebel Schulte's Kübelwagen, the car was smoking slightly and he could just barely make out a body in the car. There was, however, no mistaking the three dead Fallschirmjäger sprawled in the ditch about ten meters in front of the car.

"Amis!" he muttered to himself as he slipped back to his section. Where he found his squad leader waiting.

"What was that Max?"

"Der Spieß drove right into an ambush from the looks of it. One dead guy in the car, three about ten meters ahead. They probably got out to provide security. No doubt they spotted the Amis, who cut them all to shreds."

"Scheiße, where the Hell is the armor? We can't just blunder ahead, I'll bet the Yanks are dug in up there, just waiting for us!"


Two kilometers away, Hauptmann Kurt Winkler looked again at his watch. He expected that they should have received their orders to move up by now. He wondered what the holdup was. As he looked down the road, a motorcycle rolled up.

"Herr Hauptmann! Why are you not advancing? The major is furious!!"

"At ease, Obergefreiter, we've had no messenger until now, what the Hell are you headquarters sots playing at back there?"

"Sir, with all due respect, you need to advance. A messenger was sent out over an hour ago. He didn't arrive?"

"Seriously Obergefreiter, do you see any other messengers here?!"

As he finished barking at the headquarter's courier he signaled his men to mount up. They were late and there would be Hell to pay for that. 

Headquarters had sent a man on a motorcycle over an hour ago. At that moment he and his bike were in a ditch a kilometer away. A passing Spitfire had seen the man barreling down the road, so the Spit banked around, flew straight down the road behind the motorcyclist and strafed him. As the pilot pulled up, he had no idea if he'd hit the man or not. But his fuel was getting low and he needed to get back to base, which was a small airfield built by the Royal Engineers just behind Sword Beach. It was rough, but it was home for now.

For want of a nail²...

¹ Built by Volkswagen, the rough equivalent of the American Jeep.
² “For want of a nail, the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe, the horse was lost.
For want of a horse, the rider was lost.
For want of a rider, the battle was lost.
For want of a battle, the kingdom was lost,
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.” - Attributed to Benjamin Franklin


  1. Today's chapter and photos dovetailing quite nicely Sarge. Human messengers can't replace over-the-air comms when you don't have air superiority, can they? Look forward to each day's post to see how the story-line progresses.

    1. Glad you're enjoying it Nylon12.

      At some point I need to consolidate what I've done so far and make sure all of my characters are accounted for. (Tough as I keep introducing new ones!)

  2. I have not seen this variety of WW II pictures since I was in the 4th grade and reading about the war. Thank you.

    1. There are lots of images online, not as many as I'd like (what do you mean there are no photos of paratroopers riding an assault gun?). A lot of times the photos I have found help to move the story along and sometimes inspire certain things in the story, like the four German paratroopers in the Kübelwagen.

    2. More recent textbooks than when I was in 4th grade have sanitized everything about WWII. Now you'd think it was the ladies and minorities who did everything and it was the white guys who stayed behind and worked in the factories. Darned progressive leftist agenda, grrrrr.

      My favorite section of the 4-6th grade library was the freaky monster section (urban legends, things like celocanths and other unexplained stuff like the Easter Island carvings and stuff) and the WWII section.

    3. Had we gone to the same schools we might have run into each other there. Of course, I would have to be a "bit" younger as well.

  3. Are you about to mention that the StuG's were part of the Artillery arm, not Panzer, with the ribbing and clannishness that implies?

    1. Well, that was mostly among the officers of the artillery branch and doesn't really apply to the guys fighting for their lives in Normandy. It is an interesting point.

    2. No, really, StuG were an elite arm, and something that punched way above its weight. Consider the Brit's concept of infantry tanks (Matilda thru Churchill) vs Exploitation tanks (Cruisers up until Comet). After that they finally got it, and made Centurion, which lingering, The Winners of WW2 had T34, and then T54/55, some of which still linger...and their near descendants T72 et al. T14 looks dangerous, but in the end, it will always be a son of Adam that rules. Hint?

    3. The guy fighting for his life doesn't really care about all that.

  4. Ah, Volkswagen at War! Love the looks of the Kubelwagon. Neat vehicle. I remember when VW brought out 'The Thing' which was basically a kubelwagonish exterior to the classic bug. Come to think of it, the actual kubelwagon was basically an exterior on top of the classic bug chassis, since VW only produced 1 or a few bugs before immediately switching over to making kubels. Actually not a bad vehicle, air-cooled engine in the rear, light weight, could be made to float. Just not as powerful as the US jeep, of course.

    As to the dumb kraut sergeant, yeesh, go barrelling past troops and then stop in the open? He deserved what he got.

    On a different note, what are your feelings about your state house wanting to change the name of Rhode Island to just 'Rhode Island' during this whole summer of appeasement?

    1. I think the progressives are idiot stooges who will keep kowtowing to the Marxists until somebody gets killed. That's already happening in some places.

      As to the official name of Rhode Island? That debate has been on and off for years. Personally I don't care, I'm not from here.

    2. Personally, I think it's a wonderful opportunity for A Learning Moment! Don't change the name of the state because some idjits think Plantations meant southern slave plantations in the 18th and 19th Centuries. Giving in to Maoists is always the wrong thing to do. Far better to explain not only what it meant way back when, but how words change meaning over time. Giving in to bullies is always the wrong thing to do, period.

    3. Yet the Progressives keep doing it.

  5. Das Pferd war verloren...

    Epic stuff Sarge. Thanks.

    1. I'm in for the long haul!

      Now that you mention it -

      Aus Mangel an einem Nagel ging der Schuh verloren.
      Aus Mangel an einem Schuh war das Pferd verloren.
      Aus Mangel an einem Pferd war der Reiter verloren.
      Aus Mangel an einem Reiter war die Schlacht verloren.
      Aus Mangel an einer Schlacht war das Königreich verloren,
      Und das alles aus Mangel an einem Hufeisennagel.


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