Friday, July 31, 2020

Breakout in the West

National Archives

"Get up there Gammell, we're on the move again."

When my corporal spoke, I listened. He seemed like a good man, all the guys in my squad seemed like good men. Yes, I was a little nervous around the one they called "Cajun," he was pretty fierce, though in camp he was a lot of fun. Good sense of humor.

I climbed up on the tank, from there I could see that Sgt Brandt's section was already on the back of the lead tank, whose commander's name was Kaminski, I think. I was meeting a lot of new people and it was hard to keep track of who was who.

Sgt Brandt was still on the side of the road, talking with our lieutenant. I was a little surprised when another officer, joined them. He looked like a flyboy, leather jacket and all. I wonder if he had anything to do with the new tank Kaminski had been issued, it had an extra antenna, one more than the tank I am on.

"Hey kid, give me a hand up will ya?" I looked down and there was Duck, our B.A.R. man, my boss so to speak. I helped him up.

"Sgt Brandt, this is Captain Wilson, he's a P-47 pilot and he'll be in the tank with Kaminski. His job is to call in air whenever we spot something, shall we say, concerning. General Bradley put out the word that every column was going to have its own air support."

Sgt Brandt looked at the skinny, blond Army Air Force captain, I wonder if he even shaves yet? Can't be more that a teenager. "Pleased to meet ya captain, we're your infantry support."

Sgt Kaminski bellowed down, "F**k that Bill, you're my infantry support. He's my air support. So Lieutenant are we gonna sit here yapping all day, or are we moving out?"

2Lt Paddock chuckled and said, "Okay, okay Kaminski, I guess it's your show. Bill, the rest of the platoon will be traveling about 500 yards behind, if you need us, have Cat get on the radio and call us. All right?"

"Got it L.T., enjoy the ride!"

"Fuzz, kill us some Krauts and the beer's on me!"

The Army Air Force kid saluted then disappeared into the turret. Kaminski stood up again and bellowed, "Move out!"

In the long, dust covered column of prisoners, paratroopers Unterfeldwebel Günther Hahn, Flieger Lorenz Schuster, and Flieger Heinrich Pfeiffer were all that remained of Hahn's ten man squad. They had been separated outside Marigny during the horrendous bombing and subsequent artillery bombardment. The others might be alive, they might be dead, he had no idea. When it had all ended, he and Lorenz were frantically digging Heinrich out of a collapsed slit trench.

Heinrich had still been alive, but was unconscious. When an Ami patrol had come across them, Hahn figured they were all dead. He was stunned when a medic from the American 30th Infantry Division had treated Heinrich, pronounced him fit, then let the other Americans make them captive. They hadn't had a chance, their weapons were gone, and truth be told, the Amis had bombed, strafed, and shelled all the fight out of these men. They were willing captives.

They all had some hope of surviving the war now. Hahn felt slightly ashamed, but the news of the last few weeks had been all bad, their own generals had conspired to kill the Führer, the rest of the Wehrmacht¹ spit on the Luftwaffe² and openly disparaged Reichsmarschall Goering. To be honest, Hahn felt betrayed by his own service, he hadn't seen a Luftwaffe aircraft overhead since before the invasion. Where the Hell were they?

Situation in Normandy, 31 July 1944
Red circle shows the position of the US 1st Inf Div, the yellow circle that of the British 15th (Scottish) Div
From the War Diary of the 6th Battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers:
Caumont. 30 Jul
Operation BLUECOAT started, H Hour 0655 hrs.
44(L) Inf Bde formed the firm base through which 15(S) Div 46 and 227 Bdes advanced. 30 Corps and 8 Corps carried out the attack. 15(S) Div supported by Gds Tk Bde and 11 Armd Div attacking on 8 Corps front. 43 Div supported by tks attacking on 30 Corps front. 8 Corps made good progress from the start and got well fwd to the line of 2nd Phase by approx 1330 hrs, but 43 Div on 30 Corps front made little progress from the start line with the result that the flank of 227 Bde on left of 15(S) Div was exposed. 6 R.S.F. were lent to 227 Bde to protect left flank. The Bn moved over from posn on firm base west of CAUMONT to take up posn south west of LALONDE 7157 to facing EAST to cover approaches from the east. The Bn was in posn by 2000 hrs and spent the night in this posn.
Lalonde. 31 Jul
The Bn spent a quiet period and was not attacked from the open flank to its front. 

"Sgt Wallace, do you have a moment?"

Sgt Billy Wallace looked up from his tea and answered, "Certainly Sir, coming."

"No rush sergeant, do finish your tea."

"Yes sir, thank you sir." Of course Wallace didn't finish his tea but dumped his cup on the ground, where his platoon commander, Lieutenant Kenneth Orton, wouldn't see it. It was Wallace's contention, and experience, that officers tended to get pissy when kept waiting by the lower orders, as he'd heard his own called from time to time, particularly by the English. As Orton was a fellow Scot, he wasn't all that bad.

"Sir!" While addressing the lieutenant properly, he didn't come to attention or salute, as their battalion commander had explained to all the new officers, that was a good way to get killed. If a man saluted you near the lines, he probably didn't care much for you!

"Yes, sergeant, seems your squad is a bit low on men, and I am missing a platoon sergeant. I know you haven't held the rank long, but the chaps speak highly of you, as does Major Stansfield. So, how d'ye feel about being the platoon sergeant for 11 Platoon, B Company, the 6th Battalion of the Royal Scots Fusiliers?"

Wallace didn't hesitate, "I would like that very much, Sir!"

"Well then, d'ye think your man, what's his name, Rutherford I believe..."

"Yes sir, Lance Corporal Rutherford."

"Yes, well do tell him he has the squad now, oh, and give him these." The lieutenant handed Sgt Wallace a set of corporal's insignia. Heh, Gavin may not like this, he can't be just one of the lads anymore.

"Something funny, Sergeant?"

"No sir, not at all sir, just a bit of gas from breakfast I think, the bangers were not well cooked."

"Quite, carry on Sergeant."


"Heh, off to give Rutherford the bad news, and grab my kit," Sgt Wallace muttered, "I'm moving to platoon headquarters! I hope the food is better!"

¹ The Wehrmacht was the German Armed Forces, the Army (Heer), the Navy (Kriegsmarine), and the Air Force (Luftwaffe). 
² The German parachute arm belonged to the Air Force, not the Army.

Thursday, July 30, 2020


National Archives

For the first time in weeks Sgt Brandt saw the rest of 2nd Platoon moving up. The guys in his squad, 1st Squad, had been operating semi-independently since 2Lt Heintzelman and SSG Andersen had been wounded and evacuated. He hadn't really gotten to know the new L.T., though the new platoon sergeant he knew. The man had ridden a desk in the rear at regimental HQ since 1943. Now someone else's pet sergeant was riding that desk, seems that SSG Draper had pissed someone off at HQ. Sgt Brandt wished the guy was anywhere but here.

"Sgt Brandt?" The new lieutenant came over to the squad with his hand extended.

Brandt stood up and dusted himself off, "Yes sir, pleased to finally meet you sir." Brandt shook the man's hand, the man had a good grip, which Brandt thought was a pretty good indication of character. Never trust a man who shook hands limply, his Pop had always told him.

"I've heard good things about 1st Squad, Sergeant. Really good things. Seems you guys have been with the tankers for a while. Do you like it?"

Brandt chuckled, "Well sir, like is a pretty strong word, ain't nothing to like about combat. But Sgt Kaminski, the guy commanding the tank platoon we're attached to, knows his business so it's not bad."

At that moment SSG Draper, SSG Andersen's replacement as platoon sergeant, was berating Red Thomas, said his uniform looked like crap, or some such nonsense. Sgt Brandt looked at the new lieutenant.

"Go ahead and take care of that Sgt Brandt, I'll get the other squads settled in, we're moving out tomorrow. Do you want to continue to ride the tanks? I can get one of the other squads to do it, you guys can ride in the trucks."

Brandt thought about riding under canvas in this country, blind to what's outside. "Uh thanks sir, but we'll stick with the tanks, that is if it's okay with you, sir."

2Lt Nathan Paddock, West Point Class of 1944, looked at Brandt for a couple of seconds, chuckled and said, "If that's what you want. Can we talk later?"

"Certainly sir, I'll find you."

Red Thomas was still sitting as SSG Draper continued to give him crap. Sgt Brandt walked over to them.

"Problem here Staff Sergeant?"

"Yes Brandt, your men look like crap, they are disrespectful, and what's worse, they seem to find me amusing."

Brandt shook his head, made a gesture with one hand and the entire squad stood up.

"First of all Staff Sergeant, it's Sergeant Brandt, not 'Brandt.' Second of all, my men have been in the thick of things for a few days. We've been in near constant action since D-Day. The men are tired, they're hungry, and probably not in the mood to deal with some martinet who has spent most of the war behind a desk. This is the front, Staff Sergeant, we have no time for rear area niceties. Now, if you wish to talk with a member of my squad in the future, you come to me first. Okay?"

"I'm not sure I like your attitude Brandt." Draper scowled as he said that.

"Perhaps no one gives a shit what you like, Staff Sergeant." Cajun Tremblay, who had come up quite silently, could look pretty menacing when he wanted to, he'd also revert to his 'down in the bayou' Cajun accent when he was really angry. At the moment he was furious, most of what he was saying was indiscernible to any but a fellow Cajun. What's more his hand had moved to and was now resting on the handle of his bayonet.

"Are you threatening me private?" Draper was ready to pull rank, which was not a great idea at the moment.

"Look Staff Sergeant, things are rough out here, close to the front. We don't take crap from anyone, Germans, rear echelon suck ups, or anyone. Why don't you run along now?" Cajun was so angry he was trembling.

"I'm going to report this Brandt! There will be a court martial, I swear!"

At that moment, 2Lt Paddock, who had noticed the commotion being stirred up by Draper, a man he detested, came back over to Brandt's squad.

"Do you have lots of free time Draper? Is this all you've got to do right now? It seems that I ordered you to arrange food for the men and a place for them to bed down. Is this how you do that?"

"Uh, sir, I delegated that to Sgt Fortin."

"You don't delegate Staff Sergeant, I get to do that, you don't. Now go do what I ordered you to do, move it!"

As Draper moved off, 2Lt Paddock looked at Brandt, "Sorry about that, Sergeant Brandt."

"Ah, it's the Army sir. I'm used to it."

"Nope, that man is an asshole. But you didn't hear that from me. Understood?"

Sgt Brandt choked back a laugh as he said, "Sir, yes sir!"

"Carry on Sergeant. See me after chow, okay?"

"Yes sir, L.T.!"

As the new butterbar walked away, Sgt Brandt felt good and bad all at once. The new officer seemed smart. Always a good start. But the new platoon sergeant, he felt trouble brewing there, a guy like that could destroy unit morale nearly overnight. He'd have to watch that one.

* Due to the color of a second lieutenant's insignia, a gold bar, they were often referred to as "butterbars." At least until they had proven themselves.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

End of the Line

From where he sat in the ruined barn, he could see the wreck of his tank. Oddly enough, it hadn't burned.

The two opposing tanks had come upon each other quite suddenly, both the Sherman and the Panther were manned by experienced crews. He hadn't had to say a word, his gunner had fired their main gun at point blank range. He figured the round had gone right through the enemy tank. They were within a stone's throw of each other. Neither could miss, neither did.

He couldn't know it but like his own gunner, killing the enemy tank had been the enemy gunner's last act in this life. He had been nearly cut in two by the tank round piercing the turret, then passing though the back of the turret. It was moving so fast that it had enough energy to cut through two plates of armor without deflecting or stopping.

His own tank had been hit low in the turret, just above the turret ring. Spalling from the enemy round had eviscerated his gunner, the round had then deflected off the breech of the main gun, decapitating the loader. He had no idea what had happened to his driver and bow gunner, they had bailed and run shortly after the tank was hit. No doubt they remembered well the screams of comrades burning to death inside their tanks. They weren't going to wait and see.

Enemy infantry had been nearby, supporting the enemy tank. Their fire had cut down both men after they had run a short distance, but he didn't know that. He consoled himself that the two men, from the same small town back home, had managed to get away.

The tank his gunner had killed didn't look too bad from where he sat, nor did his own vehicle. From his spot in the wrecked French barn, he couldn't see the holes in the turrets of both vehicles.

He had stayed in his vehicle until he had heard the enemy infantry move on, there were other tanks in his platoon still fighting. The enemy had no time to stop and check the two ruined vehicles. So he had dragged himself from his ruined tank and crawled to the barn. He barely remembered doing that.

It was at that point that another wave of pain had passed through him. He had never felt such pain before. An old soldier had told him that belly wounds were the worst, hurt like Hell and it took a long time to die.

He didn't want to die, he was only 23 years old. He had a wife and child back home, a two-year old girl whom he cherished. He loved his wife nearly as much, but what was it about children that one grew so attached to them?

As night began to fall, he was nearly bereft of hope. The firing had moved on, it was getting quiet now, he could hear gunfire in the distance, and the occasional bark of a tank cannon. Perhaps the tank recovery people would be up soon. He knew they operated after dark, but he wasn't sure whose tank recovery people would be coming, if at all. He had no idea who was winning the battle.

The fighting had seesawed back and forth over the past few weeks, now it seemed that things were breaking open.

He heard footsteps nearby, he froze, who were they, his own people, the enemy? Perhaps even the French farmer who owned this barn? He was afraid to make a sound, he had heard that the other side wasn't taking any prisoners. Sometimes it was easier for the French to just leave a wounded man to die, unless he were behind the enemy lines. He'd heard of summary executions of Frenchmen harboring enemy wounded.

Then he heard a man speak, not in French, not in his own native tongue. So he assumed that they were the enemy. He looked down at the uniform he wore, though charred and ripped, it was pretty obvious which division he belonged to. Perhaps they will make it quick, he hoped.

A groan escaped from him as another wave of pain enveloped him. He thought of using his own sidearm to end the pain, but as a good Catholic, oddly enough, he knew that that was a mortal sin for which there could be no forgiveness.

He managed to pull his rosary from his map case, where he managed to keep it hidden from his superiors, and began to softly pray.

"Jack, you hear that?" I heard someone speaking but couldn't quite make it out, from the rhythm of the words though, it sounded like someone praying.

"Yeah Gammell, sounds like Kraut. But it sounds odd, it ain't English, that's for sure."

I wasn't sure what to do, the day had been chaotic. I had shot at two German soldiers who had jumped from a Panther, I wasn't positive, but I was pretty sure that I had hit one of them. At first I was kind of elated, rather like hunting deer back home, but now I wasn't sure how I felt about that. Right now I was too on edge to give it much thought. Another tank from Kaminski's platoon had killed the Panther which had killed them. No one got out of that American vehicle, we had checked. It was a sight I wished I had never seen.

"Jack, what's the holdup?" Sgt Brandt had come up with his section.

"Sarn't, there's a Kraut in there, sounds like he's praying. I wasn't going to go rushing in or grenade the poor bastard either. Whaddaya think?"

"Cat, get up here."

PFC Melvin Katz, "Cat," a native German speaker from Austria, came up and listened to the voice inside the barn.

"Sarge, he's an Austrian, maybe from Salzburg. But definitely Austrian."

"What's he muttering about?" Cpl Jack Wilson wanted to know.

"He's praying, he's asking forgiveness for his sins. He might be dying, at least he thinks he's dying."

Brandt turned to Cajun, "Go get Doc."

"What do you need Sarge?" T/4 Harry Milbury asked Sgt Brandt.

"I need you go in there with me and Cat. There's a Kraut, maybe wounded, maybe dying, I dunno. But I can't leave the man to suffer, even if he is a Kraut."

SS-Oberscharführer Hans Wunsche looked up as he heard a noise at the entrance to the barn. It wasn't full dark yet, but from the shape of the helmets, he knew they were Amis. He kept his hands where the enemy could see them and continued to work his rosary and prayed for forgiveness. Secret Catholic and a sergeant in the 2nd SS Panzer Division he knew he had much to answer for in the afterlife.

Then he heard a voice in German, an Austrian voice speak to him. He was confused, perhaps they were German?

PFC Katz stopped abruptly when Sgt Brandt shown his flashlight on the man. Black panzer uniform, SS runes on one collar, SS rank insignia on the other.

"Sarge, he's a f**cking Nazi."

Wunsche looked up when he heard that word, he was about to say that he wasn't a Nazi, never had been. His father and two older brothers were all fanatic Nazis, all members of the SS. Only he and his mother refused to join the party.

Now that both of his brothers were dead in Russia, his father, at least in a last, and rare, letter from home, was questioning his own faith in the ultimate victory. While he didn't know it, that letter, which had somehow gotten through the censors, was enough to see his parents arrested by the Gestapo.

In truth, Wunsche just didn't care anymore.

Doc Milbury finishing bandaging the wounded German, he gave him a syrette of morphine as well. The man's eyes went glassy.

"Well?" Brandt asked.

"If we could get him back to an aid station, he might make it, if he was one of ours. But he's a Kraut, what's more, he's SS. Some surgeons might not care about that, most do. If we've got our own wounded to treat, and we do, lots of 'em, he might not get seen for hours. And that's if we had a way to get him to the aid station."

Sgt Brandt looked down at the unconscious SS tanker, "If he doesn't get any treatment, other than what you were able to do...?"

"He might die while he's under, he might not, if he wakes up, the pain will be enormous."

"What if you give him another syrette of morphine?" Hebert asked.

"How do you know about such things Bear?" Doc asked.

"I worked in a nursing home before the war, bedpan commando, but I learned a thing or two. Docs and nurses never talked about it, but when the pain got too bad, especially with cancer patients, a bit of extra morphine helped. They died, but they died without pain."

Brandt stood there in silence for a moment, then he told the rest of the men to get outside.

When the barn was clear of all but the wounded German, Doc, and Sgt Brandt, Brandt looked at Doc and said, "Do it, if you can't, show me how and I'll do it. But we need to get moving."

Doc knelt down next to the unconscious enemy tanker, he pulled a syrette from his medical bag, injected it, then waited. After a long moment, the German soldier sighed. Doc took his pulse.

"He's gone Bill, ya did the right thing."

Why doesn't it feel like the right thing, Bill wondered.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

It's Silly Season Folks!

Long time reader, part time blogger Tuna here.  Yes, it’s been a couple months or more.  My creative juices have been suppressed by my schedule and an overall desire to just hunker down and try to tune out all that’s happening in the country.  I couldn’t really ignore it, but I did choose to not angrily write about it here.

The Silly Season.  I first heard that term when I was more closely following NASCAR, which has its own definition, but the true meaning from Webster’s tome is:  

For the purposes of NASCAR it has to do with its lack of an off-season.  Unlike other sports that have a long period between seasons, and have deadlines for free agency and trades, the NASCAR “silly season” is a 365-day-a-year cycle where team owners can and do hire or let go drivers at any time.  An additional aspect is the team sponsors often weighing influence – including extra cash – to get the driver they want.

Let me sum up-  the media focusing on illogical activity and cash influencing what happens.  Hmm, is that happening here in the good ole US of A?

I think both those definitions have merit for why I’m calling this particular time in our history the silly season.  First off, we have COVID-19.  I don’t know if the Spanish Flu or Polio grabbed a hold of the world's psyche like this particular coronavirus, but it has definitely grabbed the balls.  The world was shut down for a few weeks, until we learned that 14 Days to Defeat the Virus was nothing more than a well-intentioned slogan.  Then everything was cancelled- from graduations to weddings, surgeries to funerals.  The infection rates continued to climb, as did the rhetoric and criticism of the federal response.  We had a ban on travel from China, which was immediately branded as racist.  And now the same detractors are complaining that we didn’t have a complete travel ban like New Zealand, which has eradicated the virus.  That’s all well and good, but the Kiwis live on an island, have a population barely more than San Diego County, and paid their residents 80% of their salary to stay at home.  We just don’t have the social safety net that NZ and European countries have.

Germany has done pretty well with their numbers too, which why I’ve read that our response pales in comparison to the Teutons. 

Germany has confirmed more than 200,000 cases of Covid-19 and more than 9,000 deaths in a population of more than 83 million. Germany’s mortality rate per 100,000 is among the lowest in Europe. By way of comparison, the U.S., with about four times the population, has had more than 3.8 million cases and 140,000 deaths.      Source
The article where that quote came from is supposedly praising them for acting on the strong leadership exhibited by Angela Merkel, but how we acted at the beginning of this is not much different.  While there are some differences in our responses, some of the positive aspects were done here as well- lock-downs, ramping up additional medical support (beds, MASH-like hospitals, respirators, ventilators, supply chains), listening to expert medical advice (Fauci is mentioned in the article in comparison), use of homemade masks, access to tele-medicine, etc.  We shared negative aspects as well including an N95 mask shortage.  However, they have a far more generous benefit plan for employees who received a larger portion of their salary than our unemployment benefits provide.  They also have a healthier population, had a better ramp up of testing, and a more accepting attitude towards being tracked and told what to do.  I think they also benefit from not having a media that is as vitriolic towards their Prez as we have.  He and the CDC are putting out the same info that the Germans are, but I think they just don't hate the messenger like some Americans do.

While their numbers are to be envied, I still don't know what to believe as far as the numbers go since we are financially incentivizing the diagnosis, and health agencies have admitted to BS COVID-related deaths.  I've also read reports of positive results for people who were never even tested.  My wife was sick early on in this pandemic and through tele-medicine was diagnosed as COVID-presumptive.  The doc wouldn’t order the test until her symptoms became worse or more persistent, which they didn’t, but with that supposed diagnosis, I couldn’t go into the office.  So I took her up to the Naval Hospital for a test, which came back negative.  And the fact that neither me or my daughter got sick led me to believe the Navy’s test was correct.  Her doc quickly ruled that as a false negative.  I only found out later that her office was reimbursed by Tricare at more than twice the rate of a normal illness.  Same thing for all these city and county health departments who are claiming a car accident victim, who happens to have been tested post-mortem for COVID, as a COVID-related death.  Follow the money.  It's skewing the numbers.

What else is silly about all this?  The news loves to talk endlessly about COVID of course, which is understandable, at least to some extent.  Every news broadcast opens with the current statistics, mainly only the new infections.  Deaths are mentioned, but briefly.  Total people recovered?  Not that I’ve seen.  These stories don’t mention though that asymptomatic are very unlikely to spread the virus; That the young, who are the majority of the newly infected, have a better chance of being struck by lightning or being hit by a car than to die from COVID;  That the overall mortality rate is very low and deaths aren’t climbing in comparison.  The news also had a grand time of pointing out the spiking numbers in the early open (and red) states of Florida, Texas, and Arizona, supposedly tying their rates to their GOP governors and blaming the supposed cuing from Trump.  They completely ignored blue states of NY, NJ, and California who had rates far higher than those others, and whose governors don’t give a damn what Trump says.  The media is fueling our fears.
Finally, it’s election season, and anything goes, as long as it will hurt the opposition.  Journalism used to be referred to as the Fourth Estate, due to its independence from the influence of politics, business, and any other special interest.  Now, that independence has been completely abandoned so any COVID story that can be skewed to make Trump look bad flies freely, with no attempt to cover any other side.  Wouldn't it be nice to see some investigative stories about ANTIFA, their organization, their funding, etc?  How about interviews with police departments or small businesses that are affected by the rioting?  How about asking the BLM organizers if they support the violence, the damage to private businesses, and the looting?  A tally of damages to these cities would be informative.  With regards to COVID, they should compare on the number of heart attack, domestic violence, and suicide victims before the shutdown, and now. 

Before all this started we had a booming economy with the lowest unemployment rate in history for every minority.  The Blexit movement was slowly gaining steam as some in the Black community were waking up to the fact that 30 years of democratic rule had done nothing to improve their schools, their job prospects, their poverty rate, or the black on black crime rate.  Then a career criminal was killed by a white cop in Minneapolis which was just enough to re-stoke the fires of anger and hatred, fanned by the financially backed ANTIFA thugs, and fueled by BLM.  BLM donations go right to the DNC to keep putting liberal politicians in office, the same ones who have done nothing for those Black Lives for decades other than talk a good game and reaffirm their status as a supposed subjugated race.  The Democratic party was on the verge of losing the black vote due to the economy and the truth, but both those were suppressed by COVID and violent protests.  The absolute silence from the left on the violence is possibly going to backfire on them though.  Liberal is one thing, left is another, but the DNC is now a party of lawless communism due to the Defund movement and demands for free everything and every other issue* that ignores the constitution, fairness, and personal responsibility.  Those don’t play well in fly-over country for sure, but not in a lot of the rest of the country as well. 

So we have the perfect storm of COVID and racial tension being politicized, monetized, and sensationalized.  The upcoming election, which is essentially only three months away, puts us squarely in silly season.  I have a prediction on the election, but with google data manipulation (video above) and “Dead Man Walking Voting” I’m not so confident.  If Trump does defeat Biden, I’m sure the silliness will continue as the left will just make up something else to remove him from office.  If somehow the election goes the other way, at least COVID will magically disappear!

*No bail, free college, slavery reparations, disruption of the nuclear family structure, divestment in jails and laws that imprison black criminals, collective ownership of the economy

Monday, July 27, 2020

The "Purge" has begun

No, It's not what you're thinking.  If you're here for more ranting and railing against the BS orders of overpaid, under-educated, but impressively degree'd, gummint bureaucrats, you're going to be disappointed.  I'm trying to avoid getting my blood pressure any higher than the bastiges already make it.

Nope, not going there.

However, I'm not a good enough story teller/writer to come up with a ripping tale of WWII in the European (or any other) theater like someone else we know.  So, given the state of my activities (or lack thereof) during this so called "plague", I'm forced to bring you up to speed on "The Project".

Off we go.....

Had a discussion with the Construction Supervisor late this week and asked him what was still on the "to do" list.  Well....the appliances are in, the trim guys are coming back to finish the floor and other trim.

Yes, The Vent trim needs to be installed.

he paint guys are coming back to finish the paint (places where the wall got dinged when something else was being added as well as a couple of places they missed (top of the fireplace) and such).
The blue tape marks touch up spots.  Notice the band around the top of the fireplace.

But other than that, he's going to start scheduling final inspections.

I then asked him if I could schedule the road work.

The road is about 2300' long from the county road to the garage.  It's currently a mix of ground caliche and gravel which, with the rain we had in May, has hardened into a pretty good base.  The problem with it is, since both our vehicles are dark colored, the light caliche dust turns them a sickly bluish grey color.  We knew this would be a factor and so wanted the road to be paved.

We also have a wash on our property that flood occasionally making travel to and fro, well....problematic.  It generally recedes within a few hours or at most a day.  However the bottom erodes away leaving a muddy, bumpy, sometimes impassable mess.
This was taken about 4 hours after the latest incident.  Water was up to the washed out area in the center of the picture.  The "Wash" is passable now at about a foot deep, but very soft and muddy.

Which isn't good if you've got a guest house on property and guests are in it.

So, we're also going to put down concrete in those two water crossings.  It will take about 5 days for the concrete to set, so we'll be going cross country through our pasture for a bit.  This all will take place Mid-August, so we're hoping the weather, especially rain, won't be a factor.

The concrete won't help us to cross when the wash is in full flood, but once it begins to recede, we should be able to pass through without getting stuck in mud.  At the very least, we hope to not have to rebuild that section of the road every couple of years.

Once the crossings are built, the paver will come in and chip seal the road.  Except for the low crossings, our existing road, put in about 15 years ago is still pretty passable, so that method should suffice.

With those two actions complete and assuming the inspections don't find anything, we should be ready to close.  We're expecting that to happen the first part of September.

Hence...The "Purge" has begun. 

Purge rules:
1) If it's broken or obsolete and valueless, throw it out.
2) If it's in OK shape and usable, but you haven't used, seen, our thought of it in quite a while, donate
3) If it's family history, keep it, but move it into the plastic boxes (Mrs J has an ongoing project to go through pictures and stuff, sorting them into appropriate boxes to hand off to friends/children who might be interested).
4) When in doubt, throw it out. Then check with Mrs J.  (She's like the Supreme Court on granting clemency or ordering the execution.
5) Don't compare any of the above rules to the execution policy of Mrs J.  Her rules don't apply to me.

So...Given the ROE, I have commenced a ruthless action on my spaces (or wherever Mrs J points me). While I've thrown away a lot of true Junk (I mean who really needs to keep the dozen CD's that Sql Server 2008 came on?  Who's got a CD player that will read them? Surely, Not I!), I have rediscovered some actual treasures and applied Rule 3.  Last week's discovery of my Aunt and Uncle's WWII ration cards was one.

Had another this week.  In 2012, the Juvat Clan flew to Italy in late October, spent a few days in Cinque Terre. Then trained back down to Rome and got on a cruise ship and cruised the eastern Med.
But in both those posts, I neglected to mention that on our first day after arrival in Rome, we visited the Vatican.

Very interesting place with an awful lot of things to see, and having only one day there, couldn't possibly see and do all of them.  Still...So I'm wandering through the gift shop, I thought of my best friend in the School District, a lovely Lady about my age, she was the first person I met in the district.  Literally.  She was the High School Principal's assistant and I met her when I showed up to be interviewed for a job.  We became great friends and still are. 

Well, I'm wandering around the shop and happen to see a Rosary.  Since, my friend is Catholic, I thought a Rosary from the Vatican would be a great present for her next Birthday (in July, the 27th to be precise). So I bought it, packed it away in the suitcase and when we returned home in mid-November, put it in a safe place to give to her the following July.

July comes round and my Steel Trap mind had apparently rusted shut. (It happens...more and more frequently nowadays.)  I couldn't remember where I put it and try as I might, the searches came up empty handed.

Well...Fast forward to this past week.  I am working my way through my office area.  (3 black garbage bags of throw away,  two cardboard boxes of donations, if you must know and still more to follow.)

The Eagles STAY as does the guy shooting his watch.  The coffee cup is teetering between rules 1 &2. Could go either way.  The picture frame is a no brainer, it stays, as does the zippered document bag with my Dad's paper's in it.  The unsent Cards will go in the file cabinet for future use.  I'm researching the package of electrical adapters to see if we still have whatever they plug in to.  However, the paper stuck behind the shelf?   Dead Meat!  See how ruthless I am?
I'm emptying off my storage shelf by my desk and behind a stack of books I see a small bag, with a rosary inside.

And...Since this is published on Her Birthday, I'd say this was pre-ordained.  I'm hoping to sneak in to her office this morning before she arrives and leave it and a Card on her desk.  I think she'll like it.

So, maybe a purge every once in a while is a good thing. Now if we could just do the same with politicians.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

The Germans in Retreat


SS-Oberscharführer Herbert Schubert watched as the last Panther rolled by his vehicle. He had seen three Panthers and just two of the Pzkw IVs go by, there may have been others retreating from the village, but he doubted it, this was the main road through town. He had been ordered to hold this position on the northern edge of Marigny and had his own tank plus an understrength platoon of Panzergrenadiers from the Deutschland regiment. As far as he knew, they might be all that's left of that regiment.

His unit, the 2nd SS Panzer Division "Das Reich," had suffered severely during their movement from the south of France to Normandy. Partisan attacks and air raids had destroyed many of the division's trucks. The trucks used to haul ammunition and fuel. Most of the armor had survived, but only because they moved at night. Upon arrival in Normandy the division had started to bleed to death.

Every day saw naval gunfire and air attacks whittle down their strength. Allied armor had also chipped away at the division's tank strength. Whereas the Shermans weren't really a match for the Panther, tank for tank, they stacked up well against the Pzkw IVs. And though a single Panther might knock out three Shermans for every Panther lost, the Amis and Tommies could replace their tanks almost immediately. Once a Panther was destroyed, that was it, any of the crew which survived were sent back to the rear to await replacement tanks, which were very rare.

"Shut the engine down Klaus, we can't afford to sit here wasting fuel. We're in a good position and... Scheiße! Ami tanks, 500 meters! Load Panzergrenate!"

Northern edge of Marigny¹

Sgt Brandt saw that they were close to the ruins of Marigny, at least that's what his map said. He heard the tank commander, Sgt Kaminski, inside the turret yelling something. Then the man emerged from his hatch.

"Brandt, there's a Kraut Panther up ahead, get your boys to hold on, we're taking a short cut!" At the same instant he ordered his second tank to cut right and take up position near the ruins of a barn just off the road.

Brandt barely had the chance to get his section to grab something when Kaminski's tank turned sharply to the left. Brandt thought the tank would ride up over the hedgerow and was surprised when the apparatus on the front of the Sherman dug into the base of the hedge and the tank bulled right through.

National Archives

Though the ground sloped up, exposing the tank's belly, they weren't stuck on the road. At that point Brandt realized that Wilson's section was on the second tank, so now his squad was divided. He ordered his section to dismount, "Over the side boys, take cover!"


Schubert couldn't believe his eyes, the Ami tank had charged right through the hedgerow as if it wasn't there. He'd also seen another Sherman turn in behind a ruined building. There were three other Shermans on the road, "Ami panzer dead ahead, 500 meters, feuer!"

After they fired, and saw the Sherman stop and begin to burn, he ordered his driver to roll forward to get in front of the building they were next to, he couldn't see to his right and he needed to know where that Sherman had gone. At that moment a round from the Sherman in the ruins hit the left front corner of his vehicle. The armor failed catastrophically, fracturing it. The armor piercing round went under the turret basket and out the right side of the Panther.

"Out Männer, get out, she's going to burn!" Schubert screamed at his crew.

As he swung his hatch out of the way, he saw his gunner bail out the rear entrance to the turret. He could hear his driver and bow gunner screaming in agony as the tank began to burn. As he climbed out, he had just a glimpse of the loader, he had been caught by the recoil of the main gun. Damned Grünschnabel²! What were they teaching these kids at the Panzerschule?

"There, kill that son of a bitch!" Brandt bellowed at Red, his B.A.R. man, but Red had already seen the black clad tanker trying to get out of his vehicle, which was starting to burn merrily. He fired a short burst, then watched with satisfaction as the Kraut crumpled back inside of the turret.

The ragtag platoon of SS infantrymen who had been deployed to support Schubert's tank, broke and ran when they saw the tank get hit, and then watched in horror as Schubert himself was killed by the Americans. No one wanted to die for the Führer in this little crappy village.

The infantry didn't get far as the fourth tank in Kaminski's platoon had moved around the wreck of Jackson's tank. Sgt Weathersfield saw that Jackson and his crew had got out, he ordered Williams in number five tank to follow him in.

As they barreled down the road, he could see that both Kaminski and Sgt Wallace, commanding number two, were laying down high explosive into the few remaining buildings ahead. As they moved up, he saw movement in what must have been a small marketplace before the bombs and artillery had killed the town.

"Pete!" Weathersfield barked at his bow gunner, his gunner in the turret already had the coaxial machine gun, which was mounted next to the main gun, chattering in the direction of the running figures.

"I see 'em!" Pete Halliday also opened fire and saw at least one German collapse as a tracer round seemed to go right through the man.

From a ruined building nearby, the gunner from Schubert's tank, SS-Rottenführer Karl Lange saw the SS infantry get machine gunned in the main town square. He was shaking uncontrollably. He had pissed himself when the tank had started to burn and had been convinced that he was a dead man. But he had got away clean, turning he had seen his commander, Herbert Schubert, collapse back into his turret, blood splattering the top of the tank as the American rifle rounds tore into him.

He waited, he saw American infantry in the square, checking the dead SS men. One fired a shot into one of the men on the ground.

"Those bastards! They're killing the wounded!" Lange went from being terrified to being enraged. He pulled the bolt back on his MP-40, which he had wisely taken with him when he had bailed out, and began to work his way forward.

"What the f**k Cajun, why'd you shoot that Kraut?" Ollie couldn't believe it when one of the Krauts, badly wounded, had started to roll over, and Pvt Andre Tremblay had shot the man in the back. The wounded German had stopped moving immediately.

Cajun told the guys to back away, the Kraut he had shot had been trying to fuse a grenade, he wasn't sure if he had or not. Now Ollie understood.

"Cover!" Sgt Brandt had yelled. After a few long seconds with no explosion, Cajun moved up and rolled the dead man over, the string which fused the grenade was still in the handle, the bead in the dead man's fingers. He had died before he could fuse it.

Virgil Kennedy, one of the new guys from the band, walked over to the dead man. Looking down on him he started to say something when a burst of fire broke out to his right rear. Pvt Kennedy hit the ground in a hurry, spinning in the direction of the firing.

SS-Rottenführer Karl Lange was bringing his submachine gun up to shoot the American standing over the dead SS man. He was furious, he figured that he could kill or wound most of the Americans in the little square. He had no idea that Corporal Jack Wilson's section was coming up behind him.

PFC Howard Dickenson had seen the Kraut first. He saw the man bringing a weapon to bear, he couldn't see the targets the man was obviously going to open up on. There was no time, he brought his M-1 to his shoulder and emptied the magazine in the SS tanker's direction.

Cpl Wilson had immediately ordered the rest of the section to hit the ground when Dickenson opened fire. He was all set to berate the new man when he heard a scream of agony to his front. He saw a man in an SS tanker's black uniform spinning slowly around, trying in vain to bring his weapon to bear.

Though seven of the eight rounds Dickenson had fired missed, one had hit the German in the small of his back, partially severing the man's spinal chord. He was dead, but didn't realize it yet.

SS-Rottenführer Karl Lange had no feeling in his legs, he hadn't fallen over due to some trick of nature. Perhaps it was because his knees were locked. He desperately was trying to swing the MP-40 in the direction of the man who had killed him, but the world went black before he could do so.

Sgt Brandt came over to Wilson's section, "You guys okay, anybody hit?"

"Nah Sarn't Brandt, we're all good. Freaking Howard here saw this Kraut, "Wilson punctuated that by kicking the dead SS tanker, "and cut him down without saying a word. Probably saved a few of you guys, he had you dead to rights. Course, his marksmanship sucks, but that we can fix. Kid's got good instincts."

Dickenson was trembling, the adrenalin was still coursing through his body. He hadn't thought at all, he'd seen an armed man about to shoot his buddies, so he had shot him first. Without a thought, without a moment's reflection. Just like that, he had killed a man.

"Dickenson, come with me." Brandt tugged at the man's uniform sleeve and led him away from the group. "Jack, get the men sorted out, search the dead Krauts for intel, see what the tankers wanna do next."

Dickenson stumbled along after his sergeant, the adrenalin was starting to wear off. He thought back to his days growing up, he'd just killed a fellow human being. Was he going to go to Hell now?

Brandt took Dickenson's rifle and helped the kid sit down inside a ruined store, at least it looked like a store to Brandt. Brandt then noticed that Dickenson was crying, big tears coursing down his dirty cheeks.

"What do they call you back home kid?" Brandt was kneeling next to the man, talking gently to him, like you'd talk to a nervous dog.

"Uh, what? Back home? Oh, sorry Sarge, everybody calls me Howie. Back home and in the band." He managed to get the tears under control, but he was still shaking.

"Okay, listen up Howie, you did good out there. You killed an SS man, an actual Nazi bastard. His division has been killing innocents all over Europe since the war began. The SS, they like to kill Jews, they like to shoot prisoners, they treat non-Germans like trash. Killing him was a good thing. I know you don't think so now, but trust me kid, you did good."

As Brandt talked Dickenson down, he used some water from his canteen to wet the rag he used for cleaning his gear, then used it to clean Dickenson's face. He didn't want the other guys giving him any crap about this. Everyone reacted in different ways the first time they killed someone. Sometimes that small fact didn't hit them for days, for some it was years.

One moment the guy was living and breathing, the next he was on the ground, blood painting the dirt, eyes staring at nothing. A hunk of dead flesh. But this was war, they had no time to think about the dead, only what came next, the next mission, the next meal, the next mail call.

The Germans Brandt had killed visited him in his dreams, it had terrified him at first, then he realized, the dead Krauts weren't mad at him, they would have killed him had they had the chance. But Bill had shot first, and had shot true, it was weird, but it was almost like the men visited his dreams so that he would remember them. Fellow soldiers.

"Sarge, sarge." Dickenson was shaking Sgt Brandt, he had drifted off, somewhere.

"Wait, what?" Sgt Brandt snapped back to the present.

"Corporal Wilson is yelling for you, the tankers want to move on. You okay Sarge?"

"Yeah, kid, let's go. Tomorrow's another day. Ya done good today, keep it up."

Pvt Howie Dickenson followed his sergeant back to the town square. The dead SS men had been moved to one side, pockets inside out, but their faces had been covered out of respect for the dead. Not to mention it being better for the morale of the living.

They climbed back onto the tanks, of which there were now only four. Kaminski had sent Jackson's crew to the rear, they'd be back up within a day with a new tank. Tanks they had plenty of, Kaminski was more worried about keeping his men alive. So far he'd only lost one man since they'd landed in Normandy. He wanted to keep it that way.

As the tanks pulled out, the other men in Wilson's section were all looking at Dickenson with respect, his fellow bandsmen, Jack Leonard, saw his buddy in a new light.

Cajun slapped Dickenson on the back, "Nice job Howie, you probably saved some of our guys today. Want a smoke?"

"Sure, thanks, uh, Cajun is it?"

The men laughed, PFC Howard Dickenson was one of them now, a soldier.

¹ Most of the buildings in this modern day photo would have been in ruins.
² Green horn, rookie.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Into the Moonscape

US Army Signal Corps Photo

The men were waiting, it was the Army, you always arrived early, no matter what time you had to be there. The tanks were supposed to meet them at 0400, so of course the new Platoon Sergeant had them all ready to go at 0300. It was still dark but Sgt Brandt imagined that the eastern horizon might be getting a bit paler. As he recalled, sunrise would be shortly after 0500. The squad was well off the road, no fires, the moon had set before midnight, and they were sitting in the dark, huddled together.

"Hey Sarge," one of the men whispered, Sgt Brandt was pretty sure it was Ollie.

"What is it Ollie?"

"Yeah, that Springfield we got a hold of, you know, the one with the grenade attachment and the scope?"

"What about it?"

"I was talking to a guy, to use the scope I have to take off the iron sights, which means I can't use the grenade launcher. The front sight kinda helps hold that on."

"No kidding?"

"Yeah, no kidding. I kept the scope in my pack, maybe we could use it in trade for something. Is that okay, or would you rather have a sniper than a grenadier?"

Brandt thought about it for a few seconds, "Right now the grenade launcher. Once we get out of these hedgerows I might change my mind. Anyways, TO&E says we're supposed to have a grenadier, not a sniper."


So I'm listening in, trying to learn as much as I can before we go into battle. I wonder what the heck Sarge is talking about, t o n e? What is that? Has it got something to do with music. I gotta ask, even if it makes me look stupid.

"Sarge, what do you mean by a 't, o, n, e'?"

The other guys laughed until Sarge told the guy they call Cajun to explain it to me. He couldn't, seems I'm not the only one in the squad who doesn't know what that means. I don't feel so bad now.

"Alright Gammell, a 'T. O. and E.' is a table of organization and equipment, you get it?"

I answered, "Okay, that makes sense, what's it for?"

Sergeant Brandt went on to explain that everything the Army does is written down somewhere. The Army even tells you how many t-shirts, pairs of skivvies, and pairs of socks you're supposed to have. So it makes sense that they'd also have written down everything from what a squad's supposed to have up to what a division is supposed to have.

"Of course, Gammell, it doesn't always work out that way. We've got two B.A.R.s, TO&E says we're supposed to have one. Sgt McGillvery over in 3rd platoon carries a Thompson, TO&E says he should have a Garand, like I've got. Sometimes you gotta scrounge to get what you need."

I had to ask, "So Sarge, do you want a Thompson?"

"Not really, it's a close in weapon, it would be good in these damned hedgerows, but my rifle has kept me alive this far, so I'll stick with it."

At that point I could hear vehicles coming down the road, sounded like tanks. I gotta admit, I was ready to wet myself, what if they were Kraut tanks? I had no idea at the time that they sounded different from ours. I would learn.

"Alright guys, sounds like our ride is here. Line up but stay off the road. Jack, you and your section take the second tank, we'll hop on the first."

"Got it."

I couldn't understand just why my legs were shaking, then it hit me, I was scared, real scared.

National Archives

Sgt Brandt looked to the east, the horizon was starting to lighten, not enough that he could see his watch, but light enough that he could make out the dark shapes of a platoon of Shermans coming down the road. Their taped over headlamps gave the tankers just enough light to see. Still and all, Brandt stood well off the side of the road when he turned on his flashlight, red lens in place, and waved down the lead tank.

The big beast rumbled to a stop and the tank commander leaned over the side of the turret and shouted, "You guys 2nd Platoon?"

"Yup, 1st Squad, you guys our ride?"

"Yup, climb aboard, make sure you guys come up the front of the tank, not the sides, not the back. I had a staff officer try climbing up the side last week, tank rolled a bit, he got his foot between the track and the roller. They sent him home, with one less foot than he came over with!"

Brandt turned to his squad and yelled out, "Climb up the front, Jack, you guys take the second tank, we've got this one. Okay with you buddy?" He shouted up to the tanker.

"Sounds good, let's get moving, it'll be sunrise soon."

As Brandt watched his guys climb up, he couldn't help but notice there was extra steel welded onto the front of the tank, down low. When he got up next to the tanker, he asked him, "What the Hell is that on the front of your tank?"

"Heh, you'll see, we can rip right through a hedgerow with that thing, some guy in 2nd Armored had the idea. We used cut up bits of German beach obstacles to make 'em. They work pretty damned good too. You'll see."

Checking to see that the infantry were well aboard, the tanker ordered his platoon forward.

Man, I think I'm going to throw up. I'm scared, I'm hungry, and I have no idea what's going on, and here we are rolling down a narrow road in France riding on the back of a tank. What happens if I fall off?

Damn it, I should have waited until I was 18 to join up, I shoulda let them draft me.

What am I doing here?

As the day grew brighter, the men noticed that the countryside was badly torn up. Here and there were ruined farm buildings with the occasional wrecked German vehicle. A lot of dead tanks and dead Krauts. To Sgt Brandt and a number of others, it looked as desolate as the surface of the moon.

As the column rumbled past one farmhouse which was near the road, Sgt Brandt saw two French men and one woman digging through the rubble of what may have been their home. The look of sheer hatred they gave him was startling, so far since they had landed the French had been friendly and welcoming.

I guess if they had bombed the heck out of my home, I'd be angry at those that did it too, Sgt Brandt thought. But still, the Germans weren't just going to leave, were they?


He was a year younger than Gammell, he wouldn't turn 17 until August. He had been forced into the Waffen SS that very spring from his home in Romania. His grandparents had emigrated to Romania from Germany before the First World War. His grandfather had been in the Romanian Army in that war. He had fought the Germans in that war.

When war had come again, his country joined the Axis powers. As things started to go bad for the Axis, recruiting parties had started sweeping through the ethnic German communities along the Donau¹ River "recruiting" men into the SS. German draftees were sent to the Wehrmacht, the SS weren't supposed to touch them, but they could accept volunteers. As that supply began to run low, especially for the newer SS units, the Volksdeutsche² were coerced into joining.

He didn't mind, he was bored and didn't want to go into the Romanian Army, they were poorly led and poorly equipped. They had suffered badly in Russia. Romania was wavering in its commitment to Hitler and the Nazis. But he figured he'd be better off with the Germans.

He spoke German with an odd accent, but in the 17th Panzer-Grenadier-Division "Götz von Berlichingen" that was hardly noticed as a great many of the men in the newly formed division were also Romanian Volksdeutsch. He fit right in.

Now SS-Schütze Andrei Hartenstein was all alone. He had been the assistant gunner for the MG 42 in his squad, but the bombing raids of the morning had killed the gunner, most of his squad, and had knocked him out cold.

He had awakened when he heard the rumble of tanks coming down the road to his left front. He wanted to run but it was too late. He pried the machine gun from the dead hands of his friend Florin Demetrescu and set it on its bipod. He made sure the drum magazine was properly seated, then pulled back the bolt to load it. Then he waited.

"Okay, hold up. You see those ruins ahead Brandt?" the tanker sergeant was getting a bit nervous as they approached what had been a crossroads village. Now it was torn up fields and ruined buildings, many of them still burning.

"Got it. 1st Squad, dismount and spread out. Jack, base of fire. My guys, on me."

As he was barking those orders, the men dismounted from the tanks. Cpl Wilson had his section on line along an embankment facing the crossroads. Sgt Brandt was getting his guys into skirmish order when a single round snapped overhead. Someone was firing at them!

"Billy, put a round into that wrecked shed. I think that's where the shot came from, the guy is either the crappiest sniper ever, or he's really stupid!"

The turret turned slightly, them the cannon barked, sending a high explosive round right where the tank commander wanted it.

SS-Schütze Andrei Hartenstein was neither a sniper, nor stupid. He was, however, extremely unlucky. His gun had jammed after he had fired a single round. The drum magazine had some dirt in it and that had caused the second round to not feed.

As Hartenstein had frantically worked the bolt of his jammed MG 42, his frantic movements had been seen by the lead American Sherman. The single round it had fired had exploded against the wall directly behind Hartenstein. The blast from the explosion killed him instantly, the fragments from the round tore his body up terribly.

His body would be dumped in a mass grave and there he would lie until 1957 when the men in that grave were disinterred, then reburied in the Marigny German War Cemetery. There he would lie as an "Unbekannter Soldat," an unknown soldier, for all of eternity. All his family knew was that he had been killed in France, the circumstances unknown.

We checked out the building that the tank had fired at. Sure enough, there was a busted up machine gun and what I thought was a pile of bloody rags next to it. The nearby helmet should have tipped me off that it was more than rags.

Sgt Brandt asked me, "First dead Kraut you've seen up close kid?"

That's when I realized that moments before, the "pile of bloody rags" had been a living, breathing human being.

I turned around and began to vomit, it was more than I could take.

"Geez, first dead guy he's seen up close and he's heaving breakfast all over France." Cajun muttered.

"Least he ain't wet his pants yet, Cajun. More'n I can say for you." Red Thomas, Brandt's B.A.R. man, whispered that to Cajun. The kid could be a bit brash at times. Red well remembered the first time they'd come under Kraut mortar fire, Pvt Andre Tremblay, aka Cajun, had indeed pissed himself. A lot of guys did the first time they came under fire.

All men react differently in the presence of violent death. Sadly, it didn't take long to become inured to it. Cajun and Red had seen plenty of dead people, Americans, Germans, French, they'd even come across a downed Spitfire a few weeks back, pilot still inside. They'd just moved on, nothing to see.

In years to come, those dead would haunt their dreams. But they were young, they had much to learn.

Marigny German War Cemetery

¹ The Donau is the German name for the Danube.
² Volksdeutsche, people of German ancestry but not citizens of the Greater German Reich