Saturday, June 27, 2020

The 27th of June, 1944 - D + 21, Stovepipes and Close Shaves


Hauptmann Kurt Winkler's assault guns had finally made it to the jump off point, two days late. His platoon was down to just three vehicles now. A pair of wandering Jabos had destroyed one on the road and damaged another. Rather than move up with just two vehicles, they managed to repair the damaged idler wheel and track on Feldwebel Müller's vehicle. The Fallschirmjäger Oberfeldwebel who joined them at the jump off point was just a little upset.

"Where have you people been?" he barked at Winkler. Too late he noticed that he was barking at an officer.

"Watch your tone Oberfeldwebel. Do you know how hard it is to move these crates in daylight? You're lucky we made it here at all. Now, where is your company commander?" Winkler was angry at having to explain himself to an enlisted man, angrier still that his platoon had been delayed, once again, by the presence of Allied aircraft roaming the skies seemingly at will. Then to be upbraided by a damned Luftwaffe sergeant? It was the damned Luftwaffe making his life miserable.

"I am the company commander now, Hauptmann Bielefeld was killed yesterday by the Amis. So you're stuck with me."

Winkler sat in the hatch of his vehicle, steaming. After a long moment he calmed down. Pulling his map from a pocket in the gun compartment, he dismounted to figure out what the Hell to do next. I suppose this fellow has his own problems. Let's figure out how to drive the Amis back into the sea.

Sure, that's going to happen.

US Army Signal Corps Photo

Sgt Bill Brandt looked around at his little command, the seven guys in his squad, he still had the machine gun team, and now the L.T. had sent him a bazooka team. Two guys, Moe Jenkins and Sal Romano, both from the Bronx, both cocky little bastards. But they seemed to know their business.

Brandt had let them set up where they thought they'd have a chance at stopping the Kraut armor rumored to be in the area. He was also thinking about who he would choose to replace Jack Wilson. His buddy, and assistant squad leader, had caught a couple of grenade fragments the day before. Bill hoped that got him a trip back to England. But for now he was short a team leader.

"Ollie, get your butt over here." Pvt Theodore Olson looked startled, wondering what the sergeant wanted. He'd been daydreaming about a girl back in Wisconsin when the sarge called him over.

"What's up Sarge?"

Brandt had noticed that the kid seemed to have adapted to combat very well. He knew to keep his head down, he was a good shot, and when Wilson had been wounded, he had been the guy to jump in and direct Duck (Woodrow Simpson), Spaz (Alfred Esposito), and Bear (Jackson Hebert). as they all hesitated when Wilson went down. Olson had them returning fire while he told Spaz to check on Wilson.

"So you handled yourself pretty good yesterday when Corporal Wilson went down. Are you starting to get the hang of this combat thing?"

"Not really Sarge, but Jack's a good guy, when I saw him get hit, I was pissed. The only way I could help him was to kill the Krauts moving in on us."

There had been four dead Germans in front of their position at the end of the day. Brandt knew that Ollie had killed at least two of them. The kid was almost as good with a rifle as Brandt himself.

"So I need someone to lead Corporal Wilson's team, are you up for it?" Brandt was puzzled by the look on Ollie face, was the kid laughing at him?

"I don't think that's gonna be necessary Sarge."

"Jesus, I leave for a few hours and you're giving my job away? Wow, thanks Bill, what a pal!"

Before Bill could express his happiness at Jack returning to the squad, stitches on his face and his forearm heavily bandaged, one of the bazooka guys yelled out, "Kraut tanks, coming down the road!"


Winkler didn't like the idea of moving in column, he'd rather have his vehicles spread out, but in this hedgerow country each vehicle would soon be cut off from its infantry supports. He had paratroopers clinging to the back of his second and third vehicles, only the Oberfeldwebel company commander and his runner were on the back of his vehicle.

"Up ahead the track enters a clearing!" The sergeant was yelling over the rumble of the engine and the clatter of the tracks. He gestured with his hands in case Winkler hadn't heard him.

"Understood, I can read a Gottverdammte map Oberfeldwebel. Get your men ready to move!"

No sooner had those words come out of his mouth then a projectile hissed over the roof of his StuG. "Panzerschreck! Oberfeldwebel get your men off my vehicles! Schnell!"

Winkler's gunner had seen the location of where the Amis had fired from, there was a lot of blowback from those hand held anti-tank weapons. He stomped the pedal and sent a round towards the Amis.

"Jesus!" Sal Romano exclaimed as he felt the heat from the German round fly just past them. It hit a tree on the other side of the field, splintering it about in the middle.

"Dumb shits are firing anti-tank at us!" Moe Jenkins laughed. Sal tapped him on the back to let him know the next round was loaded. Moe lowered his aiming point and squeezed the trigger. As soon as the round left the tube he shouted at Sal, "Come on Sal, move your ass!"

"Reload, reload Hannes! Quickly!" Winkler was kicking himself for forgetting that they had an anti-tank round in the gun. Useless against infantry unless the guy on the other side was having a really bad day.

He heard the sound of small arms fire now, both from his own infantry and from the Amis as well. He didn't really hear the Amis firing, but he could hear their rounds spanging off his vehicle.

His gunner let him know that the gun was loaded, but there were no targets that he could see to his front. "Karl, pivot right!"

The StuG pivoted to the right as Winkler attempted to bring his cannon to bear on where he thought the Amis were. At that moment there was a thump, then an explosion behind him. He turned in time to see his number two vehicle erupt into flames.

How the Hell did those Amis get on our flank so fast?

"Where the did those guys come from?" Jack Wilson had seen the German assault gun pivoting in their direction when the vehicle behind it was hit. He had a glimpse of Shermans in the field across the way, hitting the Germans in the flank. He thought that perhaps he might live another day.

"Get across the lane, the Krauts know we're here, let's move while they're busy!"

The squad followed Brandt as he sprinted across the lane and rolled over the low hedge on the other side. One of the machine gun team had been too slow and had been cut down by a Kraut machine gun in mid-stride.

At that point one of the Shermans was hit, most of the crew got out, but the driver had been killed by the round entering the front hull. The bow gunner was badly wounded by spalling from inside the vehicle. His buddies couldn't get to him as the Krauts were shooting at the tank, hoping to kill the crew. The bow gunner died next to the driver.

Winkler was screaming at his driver, "Reverse, reverse, there are Ami panzers to our flank, get us out of here Karl!"

Winkler's command was lost in the explosion which hit his vehicle from the side. American tanks on the left, an Ami bazooka team on the right. He had forgotten about them. It cost him his life.

Oberfeldwebel Fischer was slowly backing down the lane, providing covering fire for what was left of his company. No more than an understrength platoon at this point. Another withdrawal, the Amis capture another Norman field. But Fischer knew that the open country wasn't that far behind them. If the Amis ever reached that area, they were done for.


Corporal Maxwell and PFC Weber were kneeling next to Pvt Matt Smith. Matt was dead, in the Army for three years, survived North Africa, survived Sicily, even survived being busted from sergeant back to private. Now he was dead in the middle of nowhere Normandy. For what, another stinking hedgerow, another French field?

Brandt watched the machine gun team mourn their dead. He stayed away from them, let them process the fact that one of their guys was gone.

Another field, another quarter mile closer to open country. Brandt realized that if those armored guys hadn't shown up today, they'd probably all be dead right now.

Brandt slung his weapon and walked down the track, L.T. was coming up with the rest of the platoon. Three weeks since D-Day and they were still in the damned hedgerows.

Damn it.


  1. Geeeez....what's that.... half a dozen holes in the front hull of that Stug IIIG? Good rhythm going Sarge, am enjoying the daily drop con mucho gusto (with all due apologies to my high school Spanish teacher).

    1. Yeah, that StuG is pretty chopped up.

      Thanks Nylon12!

    2. It's an issue that the American Armor creators had. They wanted to do static testing on German pieces to find weak spots and ensure their equipment would be able to penetrate.

      The issue? The front-line tankers, given half a chance, did the exact same thing during the after-action slowdown and consolidation. Looks like the tankers were testing where the best place to penetrate the front glacis plate was.

      If you look through the archives or in history books, you'll see lots of German armor that gouged up and holed. Some of it was the 'experts' and the 'Armor Board' but many were just normal Joes trying to find out how to kill the Germans. Very smart in a lot of ways.

    3. There's footage floating around the internet showing GIs bouncing bazooka rounds off a King Tiger.

    4. I'd assume they just kept shooting at it until it either caught fire, exploded, or the crew bailed out. Otherwise, how would you know it was dead?

    5. "just keep shooting" (also, the add-on concrete armor took some hits, too):

    6. a bear #1 - A lot of tank crews were fire on tanks which looked okay, but were actually already knocked out. Just to be sure. You would shoot at the target until it was no longer a threat, usually noted by one of the three means you mention.

    7. a bear #2 - If you could you kept shooting, but there were other threats on the battlefield as well, couldn't focus on one guy. Always honor the threat. The lower hull of that StuG has a lot of non-penetrating hits, but those could cause lots of spalling in the crew compartment, always a bad thing.

  2. D + 335 is the end of the war in Europe.

    1. An then there's the consolidation and reconstruction phase, followed by the Cold War just a few years later.

      Many of the guys in Europe originally thought VE Day would lead to unending days of wine and roses, followed quickly by a trip home. Instead, more and more were prepped for movement to the Pacific Theater in preparation for invading Japan.

      And then we dropped the Bombs, and they surrendered, and then a confused US Military suddenly had to change plans and then started shipping troops home in wholesale lots while still keeping a lot of troops in Europe. And, like all things US Military, one of the most half-assed things was that long-serving troops often got sent home after fresh troops from America were sent home. The American Military - Dealy in War, Stupid in Peace.

    2. Peacetime military can be a pain.

    3. @Beans
      And those of the post-VE Day US Army tasked to go to the Pacific were deeply pissed! They felt that they had served their fair share and that it was time for other to their duty, regardless of valid military reasons why veteran units would be far more effective than green units in the invasion of the Home Islands. Likely no more pissed than those of the European wing of the Red Army tasked to go east against Japan, but oe was much more silent than the other.

    4. Understandable from both points of few. Thank God it ended when it did.

  3. The original bazooka, a 60mm-ish diameter rocket, was a bit anemic for frontal hits. Replaced by an 89mm Super bazooka, which did have the power to penetrate frontal armor. Of course, the SB was designed after we got our hands on the German panzershreck, which was created by the Germans after they got their hands on our bazookas. Mostly from our bazookas captured from Russians.


    Made by America. Sent to Russia. Captured by Germans and improved (of course). Captured German stuff led to improvements of American stuff.

    Weird development story, isn't it?

    Getting excited about the new voiture? Sad at the retirement of Big Girl? Happy-Sad?

    1. Happy-sad describes it very well.

    2. The truly sad part is that after VE Day, the US Army effectively abandoned the Super Bazooka, leaving only the original 66mm rocket in Korea in June-late-August 1950 against T/34-85s. Then after bringing back the Super Bazooka, we abandoned it yet again in favor of the 66mm LAW in Vietnamm, which was (Surprahz! Surprahz! Surprahz! according to PVT Gomer Pyle, USMC) completely inadequate to take out T-54 or T-55 tanks from head-on, or even PT-76 light tanks too often to be comfortable with). In my mind, and overall criminal bit of misplanning!

    3. And following the 66mm LAW, we deployed the very arguably argued Dragon ATGM.

    4. "arguably criminally" planned Dragon ATGM. Likely as can be argued the criminal LCS if we fight China in the South China Sea in the next decade.

    5. Larry #1 - Bean counters at their worst!

    6. Larry #2 - No, they outdid themselves there as well.

    7. Larry #3 - If the LCS ever sees combat I'll be surprised. Everyone involved in that POS should hang their heads in shame.

  4. for us in Poland, VE was in 1989 when communism fell...

  5. a nice analysis of infantry squad capabilities


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

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