Tuesday, September 22, 2020

The Stink of Defeat


"Hey Duck, you seeing this?" Corporal Melvin "Cat" Katz nudged PFC Woodrow "Duck" Simpson, he thought he saw someone on the Kraut side of the clearing waving something pale in color. Maybe a white flag?

"See what Corp? I didn't see anything."

"Do you see that small stand of birch? Just to the right of that, there! There it is again."

"Okay yeah, I saw it that time. Someone waving a white flag? What, the Krauts wanna quit now?"

For the past few days the Germans had been patrolling very aggressively. Battalion figured they were giving their new guys some front line experience and they were interested in what the Americans were up to. Aachen seemed to be ripe for the picking yet the American lines were thinly held. There was a lot of training going on behind the lines for the assault on the German city, a lot of new recruits were being assimilated while the veterans held the front line. The Germans were, needless to say, curious.

Yesterday a German patrol in platoon strength had advanced out of the tree line at first light, probing the American line. They had blundered into a very alert machine gun position. There were at least seventeen dead Germans in the field to Katz and Simpson's right. One guy had still been alive when his buddies had fallen back. He had screamed for his mother all night.

He had fallen quiet just before daybreak.

The white rag was waved again, so Cpl Katz, born and raised in Austria, shouted out, "Wollen sie sich kapitulieren?"

"What did you ask them?" Duck didn't know much in the way of German, other than "hands up" and "drop your weapon."

"I asked 'em if they wanted to surrender. Maybe I confused them by asking in German. Let's try English. Hey, you guys wanna surrender?"

From across the field they heard, "Ja, ja, surrender, don't shoot, we come out!"

Moments later three wretched looking Germans came out of the trees, one was holding the white rag on the end of the stick, all were unarmed, no other gear apparent, no helmets, and hands raised in the air. All three men looked exhausted.

"Alright, come over, move it! Schnell!¹"

The three men stumbled across the field and into the position which Katz and Simpson were manning, not much more than a deep hole scraped into the ground. While Simpson covered the men with his Garand, Katz had them sit at one end of the position. At that moment Sgt Jack Wilson came up.

"What the Hell ya got here Cat? Prisoners?"

"Yup, they came over all by themselves, voluntarily."

"Search 'em. Duck, if any of 'em twitches, shoot the bastards."

One of the Germans looked in horror at Wilson and spoke, "No sergeant, we want no trouble, we want to surrender. We are losing the war, why die for Hitler?"

"Chatty sumbitch isn't he?" Duck chuckled, keeping his rifle trained on the men.

Sgt Wilson looked the Germans over, they looked defeated. "Take 'em back to the platoon CP. They'll probably go all the way back to battalion, but that's the L.T.'s call."

1Lt Paddock had Katz and Simpson take the Germans back to the company CP, he didn't want his guys away from the platoon any longer than necessary but he'd let the captain decide what to do with the Krauts. On the way back, the English speaking German engaged Katz in conversation.

"Your German is very good, you almost sound Austrian."

"I am Austrian, knock off the chit-chat, I have no use for you Kraut bastards." Cpl Katz spat on the ground as he said that.

"We're not all Nazis you know." The German continued.

"Shut the f**k up, I'm a Jew, you bastards made us flee from our home. F**k Germany and f**k you."

Simpson had never seen Cat so worked up. But at the mention of being Jewish he noted that the German wasn't as chatty as before. In fact one of the other Germans had perked up at the word "Jew." Simpson thought it best to let that go, Cat had probably noticed it as well, he didn't miss much.

"So, you boys don't like Jews do you? Ja, ich bin Jude und stolz darauf.²"

"We are not Nazis, we don't all hate the Jews." The German protested.

"Shut up Kraut, one more word and you get shot, ya know, while escaping. Auf der Flucht erschossen, keine schlechte Idee.³"

The German, understandably, stayed silent for the rest of the trip back to the company CP.

Back at the platoon, Simpson asked Katz, "What was up with that Corporal? I've never seen you so mad before."

"I'm just sick of all this shit Duck. Those Krauts have been fighting for Hitler for years now, the going gets tough and they just up and quit. They'll wind up in some POW camp while we have to keep fighting the ones who won't quit."

"Did you see that one guy when I told 'em I was Jewish. You could almost smell the hate and the fear on him. I'll bet they claim they know nothing about the camps, but they know, the bastards know."

Simpson looked puzzled for a minute before asking, "What camps? What are you talking about?"

Katz looked at his squad mate for a long minute, then he explained about the concentration camps and the murder of his people. It wasn't something that every GI knew, but every Jew in the U.S. Army knew, and wouldn't forget.

"Jesus Cat, I mean Corporal, I really didn't know. Man, I hate those Kraut bastards even more now."

PFC Simpson had the opportunity to see another facet of Nazi Germany the very next day. Once again he was on the line, with Pvt Chris McWhorter this time. He was carrying his Browning Automatic Rifle again instead of the Garand. His B.A.R. had been with the company armorer the day before, it felt good to have the big weapon in hand once more.

"Hey Duck, Krauts!" McWhorter called as he aimed his weapon, "Are they surrendering?" McWhorter seemed surprised.

"Looks that way, more Krauts who want the war to be over." There were five men this time, two of them waving pale colored rags on sticks. "Cover 'em."

The five Germans waited, hearing nothing from the American outpost line, they walked on, waving the rags and shouting, "No shoot! Comrade! No shoot!"

When they were roughly halfway across the field, the distinctive sound of an MG 42 ripped through the stillness.

"Holy shit!" McWhorter exclaimed, "The Krauts are killing their own guys!"

Indeed, the Germans who were crossing the field had been shot down by their own side.

"Man, ain't that something?" Simpson said to McWhorter, "I guess the Krauts have decided that no one else is going to surrender, eh?"

"Wow, I guess not..." McWhorter muttered to himself.

And the war raged on...

¹ Fast!
² Yes, I'm Jewish and proud of it.
³ Shot while escaping, not a bad idea.


  1. I wonder to how many Americans died with a fake surrender? If I saw some surrendering I sure wouldn’t stand up.

    I think the Japanese were notorious for that which is why the Marines usually gave them no Quarter

    1. It happened in the ETO, probably not with the frequency Hollywood portrays, but it happened.

      Problem with the Japanese was that they would not surrender if able to fight, any surrender by them was bogus. Until the Emperor said it was okay.

    2. Though, in the Pacific, the ' "Oh, this one's wounded!" then either there or after being carried to an aide station the boom of a grenade ' maneuver was about as prevalent as it was shown in the movies. Which meant, unfortunately, that the only wounded Japanese soldier moved was most likely an unconscious one. And, more often than not, GIs just... made sure that the supposed wounded and surrendering soldier was... room temperature.

      There's a reason for a lot of the photos of Japanese surrendering that they are only wearing their fundoshi (underwear) and even at that, still some sneaked a grenade or knife in to kill Americans.

      The Pacific was just... a bad fight.

    3. A lot of photos of surrendering "Japanese" are actually Koreans. Many Koreans were conscripted as laborers on Japanese held islands in the Pacific. Korea had been taken over by Japan in 1910. The Japanese worked very hard to eliminate Korean culture. Koreans were considered to be second class citizens of the Empire. No love lost between those two cultures.

    4. Also lots of natives on islands like Saipan or Okinawa were press-ganged into military late in the war...
      However, Japanese did actually start to surrender more often as the battle after battle was lost - though still it was minuscule proportion compared to Germans.
      Also note, despite all horrors of Holocaust, most western POWs, and even Polish ones from 1939 campaign and onwards survived German captivity. No such luck for hapless Soviets, with survival rate lower than 30% IIRC. . And then there were Poles who were captured by Soviets, with officers and NCOs killed almost to man at Katyn and elsewhere. Also very few Germans survived Soviet captivity, at least initially... From 300k captured at Stalingrad maybe 10% returned...

    5. The Korean laborers? That just sucked. There's no telling how many Korean 'laborers' were killed in the central Pacific. And, sadly, the Japanese often treated the natives far better than the Koreans.

  2. The ETO could get as nasty as the PTO.

    1. But rarely did the PTO get as clean and friendly as the ETO.

      It's easy to slip to 'barbarism' as we looked at the Japanese. It's considerably harder for 'barbarians' to ascend to 'civilized' levels.

      We had many things in common with the Germans. Which made us and them understand each other better.

      We did not have many things in common with the Japanese. Culture shock is the nicest way of describing it.

      War... is Hell.

  3. I was fully expecting the 'Eastern Front' solution with the first group of prisoners. I was unpleasantly surprised that the second group met that fate.

    It's much better to move into 'surrender' position at night, but then again, that's when the fanatics patrol the heaviest and trigger fingers are itchy on both sides.

    Sucks to be stuck between a rock and a hard place like that.

    As to the Camps, the knowledge was out there, but it was brutally suppressed by US news organizations and the Government. No, not beating reporters or anything (for this was pert near the last time reporters actually had the nation's, as a whole, interests at heart) but the information could have been trumpeted and used, like... the sinking of the Lusitania and other 'atrocities' of WWI, as propaganda and as a shock to push the total surrender agenda. As it was, once we started liberating work camps and death camps, the decision to record and get the info home was the right one, as it energized a war-weary nation.

    "But we're not Nazis, we didn't kill any Jews." Guilt by association. Guilt by not noticing what was plainly in front of their faces. Sad to say, that type of aversion and guilt still exists today.

    Good post. Sobering post. Navel gazing and contemplation post.

    1. My thought was that the first group would be more likely to get away with going over to the enemy. Subsequent groups would not be as lucky.

      Thanks Beans.

  4. To switch topics completely, we had our first 64 degree night down here. Yay. Unfortunately the blood birds (mosquitoes, and not the nice wooden British planes) are still active as all get-out, and so are the noisy people smoking their medical marijuana outside, so we must keep the door shut. Sigh. Now, when it gets down to 30ish, the door and screen will be in place and fresh cold mosquito-free air will circulate.

    How's the weather where you are?

    1. Smoky still, with temps forecast to reach the triple digits by Sunday. Fortunately, the overnights have been in the fifties.
      Oh, yeah, but it’s a dry heat ;)

      Thanks for asking

    2. Beans - The weather here has been in the 60s during the day and down into the 40s at night, very pleasant. The leaves are starting to change, it is very crisp and lovely.

      Supposed to be in the 70s today. Fall is here but I wouldn't be surprised if it got hot again in a week or so.

    3. Skip - Smoky, yuck. Triple digits, double yuck.

    4. Pushing up to the mid to high 80's and we're dry. Which makes the ground very crunchy.

      The really bad thing about 60's at night? We still have to run the AC. Boo! Hiss!

    5. Here it's a crisp, low humidity 50s.

    6. Argentina, northern patagonia. winter just officially ended. still chilly in the am. still frost some days. had first night without a fire. today, blue sky. first light is around 7:30 or 7:45. not much covid here. most people here, do not speak english. some understand a little. mail is terrible. getting a package from the states is a nightmare.

    7. That's right, Southern Hemisphere, spring approaches!

      How's your Spanish?

    8. South Island NZ here. Same as you Patagonia, last night no fire as well. First time since april. Put shorts on for work yesterday and notice work boots are very hot.

  5. Well, what the heck. If we're gonna thread hijack (Hey, Beans started it...)

    A friend just sent me this. All here will enjoy.

    "The photography is HD, it is shot as the B-17 takes off from Falcon Field in Mesa, AZ and then flies over the Superstition Mountains to the east of Apache Junction and then onto Roosevelt & Canyon lakes on the east edge of the Phoenix valley. The backdrops are stunning. Music is from the mini series John Adams."


    I use this free program to download videos from YouTube, Vimeo, etc.


    We can watch YouTube on our big TV, but not Vimeo. So I download a video, copy it to a USB drive,
    and plug that into the TV. Tada! Big screen picture and sound.

  6. Moment from "To Hell and Back" (the book) seared in my mind; Brandon attempting to accept the surrender of kraut infantry and being cut down by an MG-42. It was in the movie too but I didn't see that until years after I read the book. Brandon would share letters from his 10 year old daughter with the squad. "Dere daddy im in school but teecher is not looking. I made 100 on math but I did not make 100 on spelleng..."

    Hijack -- post title reminds me of my first night in boot camp, stink of de feet...

    Another great installment Sarge, thanks!

    1. Been years since I read that book. Might need to find a copy and reread. If I only had the time...

    2. Thank you, Shaun, for putting into words what I was thinking about the post title.

  7. Hey AFSarge;

    Yeah the ETO and the Pacific were 2 different wars, the Pacific was no quarters given, like the Soviets and the Germans, Bloody and vicious. As far as the Germans knowing about the camps, I had the pleasure of talking to a few "old" Germans that I became friends with during my time in Germany with and we got to talking about WWII and they told me about what it was like being in Germany during that time. How controlled it was, how the control of the Nazi party and Adolf Hitler was pervasive. They heard rumors of camps but many Germans didn't believe the rumors because they didn't believe that people that had contributed such culture to the world would do such barbarism. When the truth came out, a lot of Germans committed suicide in shame. Many others went through a period of no morals and self degradations after the war in shame, the 5 years after the war were really rough on the Germans civilians. I had some some research and blogged about it in the postwar period. It didn't start getting better until Germany came out of the occupation and got their own currency the "DM" and started their own economy again to counteract the Soviet propaganda coming from the East.

    1. I used to ride the trains a lot in Germany and I had this wonderful conversation with this then middle-aged couple about life in those times.

      It’s funny with retrospect how do you consider them old at the time and now I am far older than they were.

      But they said that until Stalingrad they thought Hitler was pretty good.

      And I can understand that feeling-bringing a country up from extreme chaos and financial destruction to near full employment and pride

      But as far as no Germans knowing about the camps look at the crowd at the Nuremberg rallies

      And then remember Kristallnacht.

      Certainly the whole population was not complicit but they can’t say they didn’t know what would probably be going on.

      On the other hand a wonderful book about that time in Berlin is by Erik Larson.

      No one in the state department wanted to volunteer as ambassador to Germany in 1933 and Roosevelt went outside and picked this university of Chicago professor.

      And he talks about those times in the how the Nazis gradually seized control in Berlin of the population

      Failure to give the Hitlergruss-the Nazi salute-would result in a beating

      And he said that the Nazis actually had about 100 locations in Berlin where they would take people to be tortured. Sometimes killed.

      In 1933, all without repercussions of course.

      So whatever Germans who weren’t ardent Nazis or at least cowed into submission.

      I had a good friend in Germany who random army photo lab

      Taught me a bit about photography

      And after a while he start talking about his time about being drafted and in the head he march in 1940 into Paris.

      Then he was sent to Norway at Narvik.

      Then came the Russian front. .

      I never did get where he was fighting but I have a feeling it was at Stalingrad

      Ended up in a Soviet Gulag for 10 years and he said the only way he was able to survive was that he was a diesel mechanic end of some use to the Russians.

      Of 100,000 Germans captured, 6000 came out in 1955.

      Willi Schubert was one of them.

    2. There are a lot of really nice houses in the woods built by the German prisoners.

      And the prisoners also poured a lot of concrete on 'secret' military bases. And then became part of the secret in a not fun way.

      Much better to be caught on the Western front, or the Southern front.

    3. In spring of '45 German units retreated west to surrender to the US or the Brits. In the West was life, in the East was slow death...

    4. I wonder had we gone into Berlin instead of the Russians if we would’ve lost 200,000 soldiers as they did.

      The Nazis knew what was in store for them when the Russians came

      Reading this book about world war one and their casualties even 200,000 doesn’t seem big.

      But I read that’s what it cost the Russians to take Berlin

  8. Reading about the murder of those surrendering, the Russian Gulags, and things we've commented on in recent days, I don't think we've had an "honorable" enemy since the Great War. Led by psychotics (Hitler/Hirohito, Saddam), fought by the brutal, vindictive, and heartless (Nazis, the SS, Japanese Army, Viet Cong), the stories of atrocities and brutality towards the enemy and POWs are endless and shocking. I guess that's why we need war and we're always the good guys though.

    1. Well, the behavior of the Germans in Belgium in WWI was nearly as brutal as in WWII.

      Hell, the Prussians under Blucher misbehaved all the way from the battlefield of Waterloo to Paris. In revenge for the behavior of the French after defeating Prussia in 1806. The treatment of POWs during our own Civil War was very dishonorable.

      All war is nasty, yes, some are worse than others.

  9. Yeah, I guess that's why they say history is written by the victors. Downplayed to some extent in my memories and the fact that I'm not much of a historian. I guess I was thinking of the honor that aviators treated each other with in world war I.

    1. That chivalry didn't carry over to the trenches after 1914. Though there was an unofficial Christmas truce in 1914 between the British and the Germans, the highers ups worked hard to encourage hatred.

  10. Well, the behavior of the Germans in Belgium in WWI was nearly as brutal as in WWII.

    Hell, the Prussians under Blucher misbehaved all the way from the battlefield of Waterloo to Paris. In revenge for the behavior of the French after defeating Prussia in 1806. The treatment of POWs during our own Civil War was very dishonorable.

    All war is nasty, yes, some are worse than others.

    This WW1 book I am reading is fascinating. Yes, the Germans committed terrible atrocities in Belgium in 1914. And that reputation carried them throughout the War -

    I was amazed at the fervor at which young men joined in Britain, France and Germany ... in 1914.

    At the industrial level of killings by artillery and machine gun. One unit of 28 officers and 650 men was sent over the trench and came back with 1 officer and 50 men.

    At the stupidity of the senior commands.

    In our own inhumanity in POW camps during the Civil War - wasn't that mostly Andersonville? And the South was destitute although IIRC there was a Confederate camp commander who was a sadist. I'll have to look it up.

    1. Confederate prisoners in the North fared nearly as bad.

    2. (Don McCollor)...Then there were the "Galvanized Yankees (like the thin coating on a steel pail) that were paroled from POW camps, made US troopers, and sent west to fight Indians...Not sure taking on Sioux and the other Plains tribes was more healthful...

    3. I remember the term. The Germans who joined the Legion and went to fight and die at Dien Bien Phu would know them as brothers.

  11. (Don McCollor)...The French Foreign Legion was special in that the recruits did not swear loyalty to France, but only to the Legion itself. There was one recruit that showed leadership ability and was promoted to Corporal. Asked if he had previous experience, he answered (in a thick German accent) that he had once commanded a panzer division...

    1. (Don McCollor)...In the 1920s,there was a rich American socialite that got drunk on his wedding night, had a tiff with his bride, walked out and joined the Legion...The iron Door closed...The report was he had already served two years of his five year enlistment. {Marching round in Algeria in the summer "I was a fool, what a fool I was":...


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

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