Praetorium Honoris

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

The Patrol - Night

(Source - Page 269)

Night was falling, the forest seemed alive with noise which was unnerving to someone not used to such things, but to Pvt Charlie "Camel" Gammell it was only when the forest went silent that one had to be wary. He'd been born and raised on a small dairy farm in Vermont, enlisting at 17 after an old hag in town had commented on why he wasn't in the army. He was a big lad, larger than some men twice his age. But all the men in his family were big and burly, life on a farm with lots of good food helped that.

Pvt Jackson "Bear" Hebert walked behind and to Gammell's right as they moved in silence through the dimming light. They were on the edge of a firebreak, a common thing in this area. Fires were a threat, but the firebreaks helped keep them from spreading. They also provided paths through the wooded area which they could use, but the Germans knew that. Walking down the middle of a firebreak invited death. So they kept to the shadows of the trees, which deepened as night fell.

Neither man knew it but they were inside Germany now, less than five miles from the cathedral in Aachen, part of which had been built by Charlemagne over a thousand years before, though neither man knew anything about that. All they knew is that they had lingered far too long watching a German position even further forward. They had missed their objective and were now backtracking, they crossed back into Belgium after their brief invasion of the Third Reich.

The division was in the process of absorbing, and training, many new recruits to replace the losses suffered since Normandy. While that was going on, the experienced men were kept occupied with patrolling and gathering intelligence on the German defenses on this, the westernmost extent of Germany proper. The Germans were losing this war, and losing it badly, they just didn't know it yet. Or perhaps they simply refused to acknowledge the idea of defeat. Gammell and Hebert didn't really care, they had a job to do, a job they did well. But they had grown a little too confident over the past week.

Their platoon leader, 2Lt Nathan Paddock, had been tasked with sending out a patrol to check out the Belgian village of Moresnet-Chapelle. The battalion S2 had received reports of German activity in the village, after a day of observing the place, the platoon had learned that many of the villagers spoke German. After reporting this, the company commander had wanted someone from Paddock's platoon to watch the village, especially the road towards Germany. He was relying on Paddock's platoon a lot lately.

"I know Nate, but damn it, battalion is convinced there's Kraut activity in that village. Not just some civilians who speak German." Captain Josephson had mellowed considerably over the past week. Though he still suffered terribly from the loss of his wife and son, by focusing on the war and leading his company, he could put that aside. So he tended to be a bit more aggressive than the other company commanders in the battalion, which had not gone unnoticed at battalion.

"So Cap'n, my sniper team is pretty good, both Gammell and Hebert are comfortable in the woods and have been out on their own before. Why not have them set up and watch that road?" Though Paddock hated sending his men in harm's way because battalion was nervous about some German-speaking village in Belgium, he knew that Gammell and Hebert were good at being stealthy. Better send someone who could handle themselves than some big noisy squad-sized patrol.

"Okay Nate, observe only, no shooting unless they see Hitler himself. Got it?"

"Yes sir, they're good men, they can handle it."

"Good, oh, by the way, here." The captain said as he handed Paddock a small parcel. "You can put these on now if you'd like."

Paddock opened the parcel, it was a pair of silver bars, first lieutenant bars. He looked up at Captain Josephson and said, "Sir, I've only been a second lieutenant for barely three and a half months."

"Battalion wanted some recommendations for promotions, regiment is being generous lately I guess. What with all the new recruits coming in, they said to promote some veterans. You're a veteran aren't you?" That last part the captain said with a grin, he liked this kid and his platoon had a lot of veterans in it. Well-led veterans.

"Oh yeah, tell Wilson he's officially a sergeant now, also Katz is now a corporal. They've been doing the job, they should get the pay. Now move out before I change my mind and give the promotions to someone else."

Paddock nodded, he had misjudged Josephson initially, the man could be gruff as Hell, but he was a good officer, and a good soldier to boot. He headed back to the platoon to give newly promoted Jack Wilson the news. A good news, "hey, you got promoted" and a bad news, "I need you to send two guys out there," situation. But he knew his guys could handle it, he had confidence in his troops.

I signaled a halt, Hebert immediately moved closer.

"It's getting too dark to continue, I think we missed a turn somewhere, I don't really know where the heck we are." I was pissed at myself for getting lost. We should have come across the road in the last mile or so, now we'll be stuck out here through the night from the looks of it. Damn it!

"Well Camel, at least it ain't raining." Bear quipped. So of course, it started raining.

1Lt Paddock came over to 1st Squad's bivouac shortly before sunset, "Sgt Wilson, they back yet?"

"No sir, I ain't worried yet. Camel and Bear are pretty capable, they might be out there all night if they've got a good position. I wouldn't worry until tomorrow. I don't like that they're out there, but they're careful, they'll do the job. Don't know if it'll satisfy battalion, but..."

"Yeah, I know, you guys hunker down, it feels like rain tonight."

"All right, talk to you later L.T."

With that, the 2nd Platoon settled in for the night. Paddock and Wilson were worried about Gammell and Hebert, but not excessively so.

"Bear, you seeing what I'm seeing?" I couldn't believe it, but there appeared to be light coming from over the next rise in the ground. "Maybe a village?"

I thought about moving up to that rise, couldn't be campfires, no one was that stupid, but we'd all noticed that some of the Belgians were convinced that the war had moved on, their lives were returning to normal and there were no Nazis around to enforce a blackout. So they lit their lamps and acted as though peace had returned.

"Ya know Camel, with this rain we could move up, see what's going on, the rain will help muffle any noise we might make."

"And maybe stumble into a Kraut position?" I asked.

"What, Krauts? You think the Belgians would have their houses all lit up if the Krauts were still around?" Bear sounded skeptical and I had to agree. So we moved.

Antoine Duchein was extremely drunk, he had been drunk it seemed since the Huns had left three days ago. The village was getting back to normal, after four years of being under the Nazis, it felt good to loosen up. But when would the Yanks arrive? As far as he could see, there was nothing preventing the bastard Nazis from returning.

As he took another drink of his vin rouge, he heard something in the rain, a vehicle!

Gammell and Hebert had got into a position where they could now see the village of Moresnet-Chapelle and the road leading into it from Germany. They could now complete their mission, so they settled in for a long, and wet, night. They too heard a vehicle on the road below. It didn't sound like an engine from Detroit.

Sure enough, a Kraut Kübelwagen with two men in it, one an officer, the other an enlisted man, drove up the road. Gammell and Hebert watched as the vehicle rolled into the village, then they lost sight of it. So apparently there was German activity in the village. Battalion was right. Now to report back.

To be continued...

For those wondering, the eye is a bit better, no ointment yet, thanks to the virus thingee shipments aren't arriving when expected. But the moist warm compresses help. At least I felt well enough to write. Had to make it at least a two parter though, otherwise I'd be up all night. Stand by for heavy rolls!


  1. Keep up the TLC for the eye Sarge......lay off winking at the pretty gals neh? Oh... today's a cliffhanger!

    1. I was still writing at around 2200, decided sleep was necessary, so...

  2. Dang it! Now I'll be thinking about the fate of those two GIs all day!
    Rest is often good medicine for any infection - helps getting the immune system up to speed. How'd the ointment do overnight?

    1. Alas, the ointment was delayed...

      Keeping my fingers crossed that it comes in today.

  3. Huh, if those guys are on patrol long enough, do we get an answer to the eternal question:

    Does the Pope s**t in the woods?

    1. A most excellent question.

      Don't know about Popes, but bears certainly might.

    2. Though camels usually do it in the desert (one hump) or on rocky terrain (two humps.)

      I think the lack of noises and activity count as a 'desert,' and the situation that the writer is putting them in counts as 'rocky.'

  4. This is a really good story....

  5. Aw, sheisse... Nothing good can come of this. A kraut occifer rolling into a village where they're celebrating the krauts leaving and two GIs are there to witness with orders to hold fire and no way to communicate...

    This is gonna hurt, ain't it?

    The Volkswagon engine does have a very distinctive sound, doesn't it?

    Glad your eye is better. We, too, at Chez Haricots, have experienced 'delays' in medications. Which, when dealing with some that have limited lead times thanks to the 'Affordable Care Act' and other stupidities dealing with the legal drug world from the presidency of TWPE and his doofus sidekick, Slow Joe. Which ain't fun. Especially when you show up on Friday when they've said it would be in, and you called the prescription refill order in at the beginning of the week.

    Them - "Oh, we're not getting the prescription you called in a refill for until next Monday because our shipments don't come in on the weekend."

    Me - "Can you do a partial?"

    Them - "We're not allowed to do a partial."

    Me - "Can you call another pharmacy in your chain to see if they have it and transfer the prescription?"

    Them - "We can call, but according to XYZ=PDQ (an invocation of demons known as 'ACA') we can't transfer THAT prescripion, you'll have to call your doctor's office and get..."

    Me - "You mean the one that closed 5 minutes ago? Don't you people think? Don't you think that some of these meds that have critical 2 days before end-of-bottle max refill time and other restrictions should have been pre-ordered and set aside for just this instance?" (as my normally boisterous voice goes from loud to louder, and all the cheerfulness comes out of said voice.) "Are you people purposefully trying to kill XYZ person in the family?"

    Yeah, I've experienced issues since Corona-chan reared her ugly but mostly non-dangerous head (unless you're an old person in Wisconsin, New Jersey, New York, Miami-Dade-Broward...)

    Breathe, Beans, breathe.. Switch topics...

    Can't wait for the next installation of 'Dooooom in the Foressssttttt!'

  6. Another gripping installment.

    This line, shifting to first person seemed out of place, and would be better as third person. (Going by ear, not a grammar nazi)
    "I signaled a halt, Hebert immediately moved closer."

    Hope the eye healing continues.

    1. I intentionally use first person when Gammell is the focus. It does get confusing in spots.

  7. And the plot thickens. more than one sense.

    I, too, have experienced prescription delays.
    Though, fortunately, not recently.
    I remember how frustrating it is, particularly because whoever it is you can speak with about it usually has no more control than you.
    Big Grrrrr!

    Maybe those Germans just went back to the Belgian village for another beer... ah, bier?
    Because we all know about how well Belgians brew.

    1. Might be a cherchez les femmes sort of thing as well.

  8. Hey AFSarge;

    The Antici......Pation, LOL Either the Ketchup commercial from the 70's or "Frankenfurter" saying it in "Rocky Horror Picture Show", LOL depending on your perspective.

  9. Ruh-roh. Is that scary music I hear in the background?


    1. Could be innocent hijinks on the part of the Wehrmacht.

      Ya never know. (Sometimes I don't know until I start writing...)

  10. It is a cliffhanger! But does one Kubelwagen in the village mean there’s crowd activity?

    Maybe they’re just passing through

    1. Hahaha! Crowd activity, next comment explains it all.

  11. Crowd = Kraut naturlich. And how did the Germans come to be known as Krauts?

    Sauerkraut I guess

  12. Sarge, your postscript sort of answered my question about whether you were writing this as you post, or posting up excerpts from something you've already written, but I was wondering if you had already started shopping this to editors yet. I'm not a regular reader of this type of work, but I think it's really exceptional and would expect there's a decent market for it.

    1. It's part of a series I started back in June, though it ties in with a brief series I wrote about the Battle of the Bulge a few years ago. All the talk of pandemics and politics sickened me so much that I almost quit blogging. A number of folks have mentioned that I should write a book, this is pretty much it. Working on this, and letting people read it and comment on it, has saved my sanity in this rather bizarre year. You can find all of the fictional stuff I've written here. It got big enough that it needed its own blog page to track it!

      I'm enjoying doing this, if there's a market for it (and I think there is) then someday who knows, I might seek to get it published. For now, I'm enjoying the ride.


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Can't be nice, go somewhere else...

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