Thursday, September 17, 2020

The Patrol - Morning

National Archives

"Charlie, wake up."

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

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

"Ready to move out Bear?"

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

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

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

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

Man, apple pie.

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

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

"Bill who? Whoa, not Brandt?"

"Yup, the one and only."

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

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

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

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


Sgt Bill Brandt, USA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


  1. Something the Germans found out about fighting in a city. After they bombed Stalingrad to rubble, all of that rubble gave the Russkies all kinds of cover and places to hide. I guess other than Hue in Vietnam, Iraq was the first time since WW2 we had to do urban fighting. And I don't believe Hue was house-to-house.

    Glad the Sgt is recuperating!

    Still think about Gammell sparing the Feldwebel....I'd imagine there was some of that even in WW2.

    I am reading about WW1 - a great book - and some of the descriptions described in Trench warfare were for me unbelievable. For example the British barrage at the beginning of the Somme - the windows rattled across the channel to Kent. And if the wind was right, they could hear it.

    100 miles away.

    In 1914, there was a lot of fraternization before it really got ugly by 1915.

    Well, different war....

    You have me hooked on your series Sarge. Lex would be proud of you!

    1. An older lady at our church (I was 18, she was 69), had a brother that was buried alive by artillery in a trench in WW1. He was rescued, but came home a very different person than when he went in. That war tested the limits of sanity...

    2. STxAR - Her brother was lucky, there was obviously someone left alive to dig him out, usually they died.

      Yah, I'm thinking something like that would really mess a fellow up.

    3. From where I am, if the wind conditions are right, you can hear the tanks firing at Camp Blanding. Sound is funny that way.

    4. From the Redding, CA area, on many days, we could hear the detonation of old munitions in Herlong, east of Susanville, over the mountains, about 125 miles away.

    5. @ Skip, +1. We could hear tham as well in Chico. Closer than Redding, but still, those low frequency sounds echo through the mountain valleys.

    6. Cannon fire does carry. The guns at Waterloo could be heard in Dover.

  2. Fall starts next Tuesday, in the air here for several days now, trees turning, cooler overnights, lower sun's evolution in the sky.....a pause for the guys before the Germans react to potentially losing the first German city. Been enjoying the storyline Sarge.

    1. I'm reading up on that battle now, very interesting.

  3. I can see the men in the photo are carrying one of Mr. Browning's inventions.

    I might be repeating something I've said earlier, the WWII veteran father of one of our friends had said that Germany looked much like Pennsylvania, and if it hadn't been filled with people trying to kill him he would have enjoyed the country.

    Mail Call. Before cell phones and emails being deployed and getting a letter from home was a big deal. The 1MC would announce that a COD had landed carrying mail and shortly afterwards they'd announce "Mail Call."
    Depending on where you were in the Med, that letter from home might have been written ten days to two weeks before and your reply would take just as long to get home. You learned to keep it light, and talk about the good things.

    1. Mail call in the Med. Those were the days. I wonder how different it would have been for me had there been email back then. Guess I'm glad I'll never know.

    2. John - Never had "mail call" after Basic, you'd just go to the mailroom and collect your mail. But an empty mailbox was always a huge disappointment.

      Email has changed things a lot.

      The Ardennes and the Schnee Eifel always reminded me of New England.

    3. Shaun - An interesting point, I'm happy to not know such things. What if's can be awfully painful.

    4. All. It's been a very long time, but I remember that if you walked into the M & B division offices, (Main Propulsion and Boiler) the niches for mail were on your left as you came through the door.
      Each main and auxiliary space had its own mail slot.
      The mail Petty Officer would go to the ship's post office after mail call and get the bag of Engineering Department mail, and then the mail would be subdivided in the Engineering Logroom.
      Mom told me if I wanted mail, I had to write mail, we both kept up our ends of the bargain.
      The only time that the mail cycle went overlong was when we were orbiting Cyprus during the dustup.
      That was also when I switched to black coffee because we ran out of sugar and creamer for the coffee messes.
      When the messenger shakes you awake at 0315 to go on watch, you are going to drink coffee, and when the supply of sugar and creamer caught up with us, the coffee just seemed way too sweet.
      Navy coffee is in a class of its own.

    5. Mail took awhile to catch up with picket and patrol ships in WestPac.
      Then, when it did arrive, it took awhile for it to be sorted because postal clerk was a secondary duty.
      About the only real advantage to operating with a carrier was regular mail deliveries.

  4. That picture.... I grew up using lift the dot web gear. I think it was all made of cotton. Lots of memories there.
    And that Garand. What a beauty.
    Dad called his e-tool a hip spoon. Those guys have sure-enough shovels. Did they issues those for digging in mg emplacements? And being the tripod guy, I can't even imagine running around the forest with that balanced on my back.... With nothing to shoot back with? No thanks.
    I have one of those ammo boxes out back....

    80 years.....time waits for no man....

    1. US load bearing equipment was far superior to what the Germans had, I've used both.

      Every man was issued an entrenching tool, the one on the guy in the photo looks like a civilian shovel, probably to entrench the gun easier would be my guess.

    2. One of the first things stolen or liberated off of jeeps, even before they were issued (like straight out of the box) was... the lowly shovel. For some reason, we made darned good shovels back then. Though the pickaxe was also a popular tool to liberate in North Africa and Italy, not as popular in Northern Europe, I guess due to lotsa rocks in the first two locations and less rocks in the third.

      My first armor kit in the SCA used WWII type load bearing equipment. And, yes, cotton straps. Surprisingly strong and comfortable, and very well thought out. Not like US WWI equipment, which sucked to high heaven, as it was designed to only allow the front pockets to be accessed during battle, while the WWII stuff allowed all the pockets on the LBE to be accessed, and stuff to be relatively easily removed, and stuff in the backpack to be accessed.

  5. Yikes, city fighting. I'd never thought much about it before and don't recall being much interested in reading about training, but it's pretty American to introduce urban combat training. I know I can thank my own training for making things so much easier when doing real world ops.

    Million dollar wound for the Sarge.

    Lots of fighting and dying to go...

    Thanks Sarge.

    1. Eight months to go in the ETO, lots of fighting and dying left. The Germans were absolutely defeated and had almost no chance of victory. But they wouldn't quit. Something we Americans bitched about yet we also make a big deal about not being quitters. Interesting dilemma. There was a line in the movie Fury about why wouldn't the Germans just quit. Wardaddy asked his guy that if someone was invading the USA, would you quit or fight to the end.

      I know what the answer would have been in 1945, not so sure what it would be in 2020...

    2. In several of the history books I read it was mentioned that Roosevelt’s insistence on unconditional surrender is what made both the Germans and Japanese continue even when all was lost.

      I know that the Japanese in particular knew that the war was lost but they wanted surrender on terms more favorable to them

      That is why they instituted ketsu-go, The plan to use all of the civilians from children on up in defending the homeland

      Okinawa was a prelude

      They wanted to make it so costly if the Americans would want piece

      Wonder if that was the Nazis motivation or they simply knew what was in store for them with victorious allies

    3. Not many people realize that the Japanese did NOT surrender unconditionally. They surrendered under the condition that they could keep the Emperor, which we agreed to. As for the whole FDR insisting on unconditional surrender, and publicizing it, yes, that was stupid. No doubt also why the Germans fought on even when there was no hope left.

      Something else, FDR's Secretary of the Treasury (Morgenthau) had the bright idea of turning Germany into farmland, prohibiting industry of any kind. That idea was no secret and Goebbels played that for all it was worth. Politicians have always had trouble keeping their mouths shut.

    4. Ah, Morgenthau... As that plan to make the fallen be an agrarian society worked so well after the American Civil War, which damned the South into basically malnourishment until around the mid 30's and the introduction of fortified bread and the move away from cornmeal as the basic food staple.

      FDR (and Eleanor, can't forget her puppet-running of FDR in the later years) and his administration made a lot of mistakes in planning for the end of the war.

  6. Cigarettes, oh the wonder of them all. What comfort. These guys smoking whilst running up a hill. Hands free smoking - an art form in and of itself. Paper sticking to your lips. Tearing the flesh when you try to remove it. I could go back to them in an instant if I didn't know how they stink.

    At Jeanie's check up yesterday in Gainesville, there was some fellow of a certain age who still was hooked and not yet dead. There was no problem telling which one he was in the waiting room. How our society has changed. ;-)

    1. I started smoking in the Air Force, while stationed on Okinawa, didn't quit until eight years ago. There were times on active duty when having a smoke really made things better, looking back on it, really crappy habit. Yes, and smelly too!

      Society has indeed changed, some parts for the better. Some parts...

    2. I remember lighting cigarettes from a glowing wire in the control room because there was not enough O2 to support a flame from a match. The cigarettes tasted horrible. Once we put the pipe up and started snorkeling things improved. Old Guns

    3. (Don McCollor)...I think it was in "The Misfit Brigade" (about a SS penal unit) where two of them are marching with one smoking a cigarette. On meeting an officer, the smoker flips it end for end into his mouth out of sight (no hands), salutes the officer, then flips it back out and resumes smoking...

    4. Cigarettes, oh the wonder of them all. What comfort. These guys smoking whilst running up a hill. Hands free smoking - an art form in and of itself. Paper sticking to your lips. Tearing the flesh when you try to remove it. I could go back to them in an instant if I didn't know how they stink.

      Smoke em if you got 'em, bum em if you don't!

  7. Glad you didn't do too much damage to Brandt's spine. Spinal cords are weird. One person will get a nick and lose all control past that point, another will take significant damage and recover, even to the extent of the nerve tissue growing back or rerouting signals.

    Hmm... pulling everyone back for mandatory training. Going to do a round of city-fighting?

    1. 1st Infantry Division was heavily involved in Aachen.

  8. Looking at the photo, I wonder if I’d have been a decent grunt.
    I liked what little autonomy I had in the Navy.

    1. I think you would have, we humans are pretty adaptable.

  9. Hey AFSarge;

    Aachen was Urban fighting, and yes so was Hue, the South Vietnamese forbad us leveling the city because of the historical significance of the city so we had to take it back block by block so the NVA had spiderholes and ambush positions everywhere. 1st Infantry Division(My Division, Yes I'm proud to be associated :) but the Huertgen forest really tested the metal of the division.

    1. My Great Uncle John (Gammell BTW) was wounded in the Huertgen. A very tough fight.

  10. Just noticed the lead guy has the M7 Grenade Launcher installed on his M1 rifle.

    Good writing, keep it up.
    John Blackshoe


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