Thursday, October 15, 2020



The morning sunlight was starting to break through the fog. The rain had stopped and the branches of the trees glittered as the rays of the sun shone through the drops. It was very lovely yet the discovery of the company's two missing men ruined the beauty of the morning. Though death in the forest isn't uncommon, even less so in this fifth year of war, it was still unsettling. Almost obscene.

The bodies of the men were still lying where they had been when they died. Unteroffizier Peter Krause, the company Sanitäter¹ knelt next to them. Grenadier Karl Weber's cause of death was obvious, he had been shot in the forehead and in the throat, he had died instantaneously. He probably never knew what hit him. On the other hand, Gefreiter Otto Dorfmann had not died instantly.

"Looks like he bled to death Herr Hauptmann." Krause had opened the man's overcoat and had seen the large amount of blood staining his tunic and trousers. "Hit low in the belly, the pain must have been intense, but the bullet must have clipped an artery, probably the left common iliac. Once hit, he wouldn't have lasted long."

Hauptmann Jürgen von Lüttwitz surveyed the scene, there were shell casings from Otto's MP 40 on the ground near him. His radioman, Obergefreiter Werner Huber, had found an unexpended K98k round from Weber's rifle. Kid probably jacked in a round not realizing he didn't need to, a rookie mistake. The safety on his rifle had been pushed halfway to the firing position, the captain thought that odd.

Up on the small knoll overlooking where they had found the bodies, von Lüttwitz had positioned two men to keep them from being surprised. They had found cartridge casings from an American weapon. Grenadier Karl-Heinz Köhler, a veteran of two wars, came down from the knoll, he had been up there briefly when Unteroffizier Manfred Sauer sent him back down to let the captain know what they had found.

"Sauer thinks, and I agree, that there were two, maybe three Americans. They may have come across Karl and Otto accidentally. There are a number of Ami shell casings on the ground up there. Further back we found a path we assume was made by people, too wide to be an animal path. An Ami patrol perhaps." Köhler shrugged his shoulders at that, could have been Germans as well.

"So tell me Opa², where did you pick up all this knowledge of nature?" The captain asked, not to be difficult but because he was genuinely interested in his men.

"Game warden between the wars in Baden. It was peaceful and the job put food on the table. There was no work to be had in Saxony, so we moved."

Opa Köhler was normally a quiet man. He had a wife, who still lived in Baden, just outside the small town of Zell am Harmersbach, they had two sons, one was on the Eastern Front, a tanker, the other had been captured in North Africa by the British. They had last heard from the latter back in April. They had had no letters since then. They worried about their oldest boy, he was an officer, commanding a tank platoon in Russia. He wrote often, but the news was all bad.

"Do we bury them Herr Hauptmann?" Köhler asked.

The captain was deep in thought, thinking of before the war, and what might come after, he heard Köhler's question and it took him a moment to realize what the man was asking.

"Here? Certainly not, we have enough men to carry them back for a proper burial."

Köhler nodded, he got Lutz, Fuchs, and Stolz to help him, together they bundled up the bodies in their Zeltbahnen and prepared to move out. Just as they lifted the two bodies, Sauer came down from the knoll.

"Amis, at least a platoon, they're still a good ways off, but we need to hurry Herr Hauptmann."

Nodding, von Lüttwitz had his men moving within seconds. They were gone before the Americans came upon the scene.

"You sure this is the spot Sgt Hernandez?" 1Lt Nate Paddock asked his platoon sergeant.

"Yes sir, I recognize that downed tree and..." looking around on the ground, he spotted what he had been looking for, shell casings, "this is where McCall was standing, look down there by that fallen tree."

Paddock looked and he could see that the ground had been disturbed there. "What do you think Stephen?"

"I think the Krauts came back and collected their dead. We'd do the same." Sgt Hernandez hoped that his own Army would not leave him out here should he be killed in action but would do the same as the Germans seem to have done.

"Yes, yes, we would. I guess we tell the captain that there isn't any intel to be gained here. Woulda been nice to know which outfit those Krauts were from, guess S2 will have to do their own work. Saddle up, I want to check out this other position before we have to head back. I think the Krauts are up to something. I don't like it."

Sgt Stephen Hernandez studied his lieutenant for a brief moment, then said, "Give me Stump and Taggert, we'll track those guys," as he said that he gestured in the direction of where he thought the Germans had gone, "maybe figure out which outfit we're facing."

Paddock thought for just a second or two, then said, "All right, be back before sunset. Okay?"

Hernandez nodded, then set off with the two men he'd picked.

Some time later, the trio of Americans were close to the Germans who were carrying the two bodies. There were six Germans, four carrying the dead, two providing security. Unteroffizier Sauer and Grenadier Opa Köhler were both carrying MP 40s. Köhler's rifle was being used as part of a makeshift stretcher carrying the body of Otto Dorfmann. He had taken Dorfmann's weapon and ammunition pouches at Sauer's suggestion.

Köhler glanced to the rear and said quietly to Sauer, "We're being followed."

"How can you tell?" Sauer wanted to know.

"Do you hear that?"

"Hear what?" Sauer heard many things, but nothing in particular stood out.

"An angry squirrel, they chitter like that when someone has disturbed them."

"Really, a squirrel? Okay, now I hear it. I had no idea."

The Germans carrying the dead were hustled along a bit faster as Sauer and Köhler prepared for action, walking backwards, weapons at the ready. When Köhler stopped and took a knee, Sauer did as well.

"Do you see them Manfred?"

"Yes, I think so Opa. Three men, why have they stopped?"

"They see us."

"Halt." Hernandez hissed at Taggert and Gentile. "I think we've been spotted." He knew he should have waited when that damned red squirrel had started chattering.

The three men watched for a moment, then Gentile said, "Look past them, four guys carrying two bodies."

"I see them, what do we do Sarge?" Taggert asked, half looking at Hernandez while trying to keep an eye on the Germans as well.

Hernandez thought about it, here's these guys, soldiers, just like him and the two men with him, collecting their fallen comrades, it didn't seem right to interfere. It felt, wrong somehow.

"What is he doing?" Sauer began to raise his weapon, then Köhler placed a hand on the barrel of Sauer's machine pistol.

"Don't shoot, we're too far away anyway. Watch and see what he does, this is odd, but I've seen it before."

They watched as one of the Americans stood up and raised his rifle, with one hand, over his head. He held that pose for a few long moments. Köhler noticed that the other two men with the standing American had disappeared back into the forest, in the direction of the American lines.

Slowly the standing American lowered his rifle, then raised one arm, palm open, towards the two Germans. He then turned slowly and disappeared into the forest.

"What the Hell did we just see?" Sauer sounded very surprised.

"Chivalry may be dead in many places in this war, Junge. But it is alive in this forest, today at any rate. Who knows what might happen tomorrow?"

"Are you saying the man let us go? That he was, I don't know, saluting us?" Sauer was sounding very confused.

"I can't be sure, but I think he was. I saw this happen on the Western Front in 1914. Have you ever heard of the Christmas Truce?"

"Yes, but I always thought that was English propaganda."

"No, it really happened, a school chum of mine was there, he told me about it after the war. These things happen, I think that American was telling us, 'Go and bury your dead, we can kill each other some other day.'" Köhler sighed as he finished his story.

Sauer looked at the older man in amazement, "Opa, I had no idea you were such a romantic."

"Keep that to yourself, Junge. The Nazis don't really care for that sort of thing."

Sauer spat on the ground and said, "F**k the Nazis, let's get going, Opa, before the Captain thinks we've quit the war."

The two Germans disappeared into the forest.

"What just happened Sarge, we had those two Krauts dead to rights!" Taggert was upset, all he had seen were two of the enemy, out of range for their machine pistols, but well within range of his Garand.

Gentile spoke before Hernandez could, "You'll learn kid, there's a time to kill and there's a time to let live. Those Germans were taking their dead home with them. It would be wrong to shoot up what was basically a burial party, right Sarge?"

Hernandez nodded, looking at Gentile, he asked, "How are you not a sergeant?"

"Long story Sarge."

"I'll bet."

Taggert sort of understood what the two older men were talking about, and yeah he would have felt weird later on if they'd killed those Krauts.

"I guess we couldn't catch those Krauts, right Sarge?" Taggert made the suggestion, hoping he really understood what had just happened.

"You're a good man, Riley."

¹ Medic
² Grandpa, Köhler's nickname, due to his age.


  1. There's more than one unwritten rule eh Sarge?

  2. Odd timing where I finished the post and had to wipe my eyes and blow my nose.

    Another great chapter.

  3. That sure wasn’t the case in the Pacific

    And I imagine with some of the fighting it wasn’t the case in the ETO but I’m sure it happened

    1. Very different cultures in the Pacific war, not so much in Europe.

    2. Rob - The Eastern Front could be just as vicious as the Pacific. But again, different cultures.

    3. Strange thing about the Pacific was, even though it was, for all intensive purposes, a galaxy away from Europe, it did happen. Little acts of kindness on both sides. Just, well, the kindness of one group was often overshadowed by the unkindness of that group's other groups.

      An example of this would be "Hacksaw Ridge" where the medic was saving people on both sides of the conflict, only to have the Japanese wounded killed when they reached the bottom.

    4. It must have been pretty rare.

  4. Odd moments that work out right. I've seen that happen before.

    I've been told not to lock eyes with a dog. But I do it. And they usually quit barking. It's kinda weird. I've never been attacked by one.

    I've been told not to lock eyes with obvious 'bad' dudes. But I do it. And then nod my head. They nod back. And we give each other a wide berth.

    And if I foul up on the highway, I make eye contact and a wave with my best contrite face. That usually breaks the anger. A soft answer turns away wrath.

    I wonder if the overt 'I see you' is really a sign of respect, like the open palm Hernandez gave Opa Kohler?

    I instinctively hold most advice on dealing with humans at arms length in a plastic bag. I treat everyone I meet with respect, and have only very rarely not had it returned.

    1. STxAR - The open palm was intended to be a sign of respect.

    2. The open hand has always been a powerful symbol of respect to me. "See, no weapon, I mean you no harm."
      I grocked that immediately, cause it's in my vocabulary.

    3. (Don McCollor)...Hernandez raising the rife over his head then lowering it fallowed by the open palm could have come right out of "Jeremiah Johnson"...

    4. I see we like the same movies, Don. 😉

  5. There is a song about the 1914 Christmas truce - Twas Christmas in the Trenches - that is rather nice ad captures the spirit of the moment correctly if you can find it.

  6. Somebody must be cutting onions or maybe my allergies are acting up. Knowing what's coming up just makes this even more heart-breaking.

  7. Hey AFSarge;

    The Western way of treating prisoners and their dead was different than other societies. it was one of the things that united us, we would go back for our dead as would the Germans. the Russians and Japanese didn't care, their cultures were different. We used to make jokes about "Klingons" as trying to figure out the Soviets. as far as other cultures. The treatment of our dead transcended war, it was something that binded us. It was also what gave us our unique qualities.

  8. Random acts of kindness, of humanity. The ability to relate to each other was what made postwar relations in conquered Germany so easy, well, at least between the US soldiers and most of the German citizens.

    It was a good day not to die.

    And can't wait for the stories of why Gentile isn't a sergeant no more.

    1. It's coming.

      I like the Germans, damned good folk to have on your side.

    2. Individually, certainly. Those I've known both in and out of the Bundeswehr are nearly all good folk, with the allowance for the same percentage we are saddled with.
      Get up in the DefMin and Kanzler levels and they aren't worth a damn, sorta like those seditious letter-writers we've recently seen over here.
      Boat Guy

    3. Their government sucks right now, wasn't always like that after the war. Merkel is a commie.

    4. When the wall first came down there was a joke among the Germans in the west they would’ve been better off had it stayed up

    5. Yup, cost the Germans a lot of money.

  9. Newbs in contact vs vets in contact. Experience can make surprise, mmm, less surprising perhaps? Nice comparison and good food for thought.

    Thanks Sarge!

  10. The point about this type of thing not happening in the Pacific is an interesting one. But then again, it was a completely different type of fight. Wooded or open terrain with scouts and a hunter/hunted type of fight in Europe, but an island hopping campaign with opposed amphibious assaults in the Pacific. However, the culture of the Japanese was entirely different than that of the Germans, as was said, so they would have never given ground or quarter, nor would we. I'd expect we were respectful of their dead, for the most part, but they ATE ours. I think Christianity has a lot to do with it. Might be something to write about in the future- how the dead were dealt with.

    1. @Tuna two great books by James Bradley were flags of our fathers and his follow up Flyboys

      The first one he tells about how vicious the Japanese were to the Marines on Iwo Jima

      There is a story about what they did to one captured marine and you shutter.

      I think the Marines after witnessing this decided no quarter

      And the Japanese for the most part expected none

      That culture only came about in the 30s with the military and their perversion of bushido

      In his follow up book he talks of the B-29 raids and the fate of a few captured flyers on Chi Chi Jima.

      That’s an island about 100 miles or so off from Iwo. North I think. It was the transmission center for all Japanese forces in the Pacific.

      They were beheaded and then the Japanese ate their livers

      It was classified for some years

      As I’m reading this I am glad I never had to see combat.

      I would like to think I would do my job but killing would change you.

      God bless those who have gone through it

      A relative of mine, West Point graduate, went to Afghanistan and saw his best friend blown up in an IED

      I don’t know if he killed anyone and of course those things you do not ask

      But he is still suffering from it

      In reading the series I’ve watched Sauer from a seemingly cold-blooded killer to human

      I’m sure we haven’t heard the last of him

    2. I'm several days late in replying, but I've read both. That's when I learned about them eating our flyboys. And I'm sure our troops weren't always saints, but better than the enemy.

    3. I'm several days late in replying, but I've read both. That's when I learned about them eating our flyboys. And I'm sure our troops weren't always saints, but better than the enemy.

  11. Dang, Sarge. Brilliant! I declare, I believe you have 'found' that ol story line, the one that twists and turns just as much as human nature.

    On the other hand, danggit, I'm coming to like these men - on both sides - but something tells me it's gonna be a cold winter. Very cold. And harsh.

    1. I for one am not looking forward to it. Too many bad things are on the horizon.

  12. Touching, Sarge! Some of us still do believe in chivalry. I think you do; it comes through in the way you talk about how you treat people, and especially ladies, notably your lovely wife.
    Second sentence: "shown" s/b "shone". Probably an error by SpellCheck, an abomination which I don't allow on any device, & which is a creation of Hell's own Black Ops research.
    Since it's Hell, would that be White Ops?
    --Tennessee Budd

    1. I do!

      D'oh! I don't use spell checker on the machine, just the one in my head. Totally blew that one, as soon as you mentioned it, I knew exactly which line it was on. Sometimes my brain just fizzles on certain words. Or my fingers type something else. Mea culpa!

      Spell check drives me nuts as it has such a small vocabulary, it goes nuts when I throw German at it!


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