Thursday, October 29, 2020



Von Lüttwitz looked at Leutnant Gerd Vorwald in amazement, "Do you mean to tell me you stopped when the enemy opened fire at our StuGs, you just burrowed into the forest floor and kept your heads down?"

Vorwald started with, "Herr Hauptmann, the attack was so sudden, there were a dozen American Shermans, at least a battalion of infantry, we couldn't get close enough to..."

The engineer detachment NCO, Unteroffizier Sepp Zumbach chimed in, "Sir, there were three Shermans, two of which Bielefeld's StuGs destroyed. There were maybe three squads of Ami infantry. It was hard to tell once the shooting started, but there weren't that many of them."

Turning to the tough looking engineer NCO, von Lüttwitz continued, "And you Unteroffizier, why didn't you drive off that infantry?" Von Lüttwitz was livid.

"We tried sir, but the six of us were pinned down by rifle fire, Pionier Kaufmann was badly wounded when we managed to rescue the men from one of the destroyed StuGs. We did as much as we could sir." Zumbach wasn't happy with the way things had gone. He had screamed at Vorwald to get his men into action. They had done nothing, nothing at all.

Von Lüttwitz looked toward where he knew his Sanitäter, Peter Krauss, was working on the three wounded men. Then he turned to Unteroffizier Klaus Bittner, whose vehicle had been destroyed and two of his crew wounded, "Unteroffizier, I want you and your man here to escort Leutnant Vorwald back to battalion. I will send a brief report with you. Please inform the major that we have no room for cowards up here. The lieutenant is relieved of his duties and is under arrest."

Bittner looked at his driver, Gefreiter Hans-Ulrich Karch, then back at the captain, "Certainly sir, but what about my wounded men, especially Hebl?"

"We have no means to evacuate them, I can't use you here Bittner, you're not an infantryman. As soon as things here settle down, if that ever happens, I will evacuate the wounded to the rear."

Vorwald spoke, "Herr Hauptmann, you have no right..."

"SILENCE!" Von Lüttwitz was shaking with rage now. "I could convene a summary court this very instant Vorwald, I could have you shot right here and now!! Do you understand?"

Vorwald's confidence was shaken now, it's true, he had panicked and ordered his men to dig in, he had ignored the engineer's pleas for assistance, but this, this was too much to bear.

"Herr Hauptmann, please let me stay, if I am sent back my family will be disgraced. Let me stay as a simple grenadier, I..."

Von Lüttwitz took a deep breath, he could use every rifle he could get, at the moment he had more weapons than he had men to man them. He stepped forward and tore the epaulettes from Vorwald's shoulders. "Very well, Grenadier Vorwald, find a rifle and report to Gefreiter Köhler, you're in his squad. Prove yourself and no more will be said of this."

Just then Peter Krause came up, "Sir, beg to report, the man who lost his hands has been bandaged up, he's in no immediate danger from his wounds, but he should be evacuated and..." Walking up behind him was Bittner's gunner, a heavy bandage on his head.

"I'm going to have quite a headache Hasso," he said, looking at Bittner, "nothing worse than I'd get after a long night at a Biergarten. Do we stay and fight?" Obergefreiter Gotthard Gartner was ready to continue fighting, he was mad that his friend Panzerschütze Rolf Hebl had lost his hands.

Von Lüttwitz answered, "No, though I appreciate the offer, Obergefreiter. Bittner, take your men to the rear, Hebl should be seen by the surgeon. Ah, I see your platoon commander's StuG has arrived. At least they survived."

The men all turned as Bielefeld's surviving StuG III came backing through the forest towards their position.

National Archives

SFC Pedley listened as the last German assault gun made its way away from the battlefield. There was no way he was going to send anyone else out there to contest its retreat. He walked back to Mac Peterson's Sherman, the lone survivor of a platoon of four tanks, where Mac leaned against the tank smoking a cigarette.

"Well Bud, if it's any consolation, four guys from "Red Ryder" survived, though Red apparently wasn't one of them." Peterson took a long drag on his cigarette, dropped the butt to the ground and drew another from his pocket. "Man, if combat doesn't kill me, these things might."

SFC Bud Pedley shook his head, "Glad I never picked up the habit. So Red is missing?"

"Yup, I talked to his gunner, Billy Newsome. After their tank was hit in the engine compartment, they fought for as long as they could, then the sucker began to burn, so they bailed. Somewhere in the confusion Red went missing. There were a lot of rounds in the air last night, he might have been hit, Ted Ramsey is looking for him now."

"Shit. Red's a good man, where are the rest of his crew?"

"I sent them to the rear, told them to ask for more tanks."

"Seriously, after all that shit last night?"

"Bud, we drove off those f**king Krauts, did you know they had infantry with them? Bastards went to ground then ran when they had the chance, well, except for this one bunch who withdrew from tree to tree firing as they went. Ted told me that the bastards kept him from maneuvering."

"All right, let me see what I can do. There's a battalion of the First down the hill from the main Kraut position. Maybe they'd like another chance at these Krauts. Brewster!!" Pedley stalked off, wondering where the radioman had gotten to.

Captain Alphonse Josephson handed the handset back to his radioman, "Gus, I have a job for you guys!"

1Lt Gus Chambers, now commanding Charlie Company, Josephson's old command, came over, "Whaddaya got Sir?"

"3rd Armored managed to get a couple of tanks and some infantry up an old logging trail over to our right. They're close to the flank of those f**king Krauts up on this ridge in front of us. Think you could take Charlie over to..." the captain turned his map around and pointed to where he wanted C Company to go, "here, right here. Third Herd is going to send another platoon of tanks up there, but they're short of infantry. Want to give it a go?"

"Damned straight Tex. Going straight up this rise ain't gonna cut it, get on their flank, we could drive the bastards couldn't we?" Chambers was itching to get into the fight with his new command.

"Exactly. As soon as you're in position with the armor, we'll demonstrate to the front, mortars, machine gun fire, yell insults, throw rocks, whatever we can to distract the bastards. When you pitch in, we'll advance too. Catch those bastards between a rock and a hard place."

"The old hammer and anvil tactic, I like it sir, like it a lot. Let me get my platoon leaders together..." pausing to look at his watch, Chambers continued, "we can be on the move in a couple of hours."

"What are you waiting for Gus, go kill some Germans."

"If the Amis come with tanks, they'll come right down the same track I did, Herr Hauptmann." Unterfeldwebel Hasso Bielefeld consulted his map after pointing to the very rough trail his vehicle had followed after disengaging from the Americans. "I have a good position where I am now, and plenty of ammunition. If you can spare even a half squad, I can hold our left flank against all comers."

"Excellent Unteroffizier." Turning to an older man standing nearby he said, "Opa, want a shot at supporting armor?"

"Why not Herr Hauptmann, Panzergrenadiers get to ride into battle, right?" Gefreiter Karl-Heinz Köhler, known as "Opa¹" to the men in 5th Company for his age, he was a veteran of the First World War, grinned as he answered his company commander. "As long as Sauer doesn't complain too much that is."

"I'm sure my 1st Platoon commander can spare you." Von Lüttwitz needed to reorganize his defences. Though Leutnant Vorwald had proven to be useless so far, the men he had brought with him had brought an MG 42, which would replace the one he'd lost a few days ago. He also had Zumbach's engineers, the five of them that were left anyway. But they had brought more mines, so it was time to prepare more surprises for the Amis.

"Sepp, I'd like your ideas on where to plant those mines you brought up with you."

"I thought you might Herr Hauptmann, we have a few other tricks to spring should the Amis try your front again. We also have a couple of Teller mines for the flank over there," he gestured in the direction of Bielefeld's StuG III, "they would be a nasty surprise for any tanks trying to overwhelm Bielefeld's lone vehicle."

"Let's get to it then. I'm sure we won't have to long to wait, the Amis are not a patient people!"

Two groups of men, wearing different uniforms, preparing to contest this obscure ground within the Green Hell of the Hürtgenwald again. How much blood would it take to slake the thirst of this dark forest?

It was getting colder as well, winter was not that far off.

¹ German for Grandpa.

Link to all of The Chant's fiction.


  1. I was worried about Peterson and his tank, with the sun coming up, and lighting his tank, while the StuG III was up hill and upsun, hidden by the glare.

    1. Not much light in this neck of the woods. What little sun that gets through is very fleeting.

  2. Move, counter move, regroup.....when will the Krauts run out of everything?

  3. Again, waiting for tomorrow to relieve the tension built in this episode - although I fear heavy casualties on both sides. And while we're at it, mines suck!

    1. Yes: I'm expecting 'Nightmare In The Trees, Part II'; but then it is easier to predict the past...

    2. Tom - I knew you'd like the mines. (No one likes mines!)

    3. Frank - Nice title, I might just "borrow" that. 😉

    4. Be my guest.
      Now, let me strut around being modest :)

  4. It’s just relentless, innit?
    This tale shows that well.
    You keep writing them.
    We’ll keep reading.

    1. September through January was an unending horror for the troops on both sides in the ETO in 1944.

  5. Is that a USGI in the lead photo with a MG 42?

    Excellent story, I come along every day and read the latest- thank you!

  6. Vorwald is lucky he's not decorating a tree or in a prison battalion right now. Damn coward!

    And, well, I wouldn't want to try to bat a StuG through trees. The Pzkfz III chssis (upon which the StuG III was built upon) was pretty good, but sometimes very finicky in backwards mode, especially around tree trunks.

    Mines, why did it have to be mines? And big ones, too. I wonder what tricks the engineers are going to use with their mines...

    As to Red. Hmmmm... that's going to be an interesting thing. Is he dead? Is he yellow? Is he injured and dazed and confused?

    Even your 'boring' non-action parts are very engrossing, and cliff-hangery.

    1. I was tempted to have von Lüttwitz just shoot him out of hand, but the kid is only 18 years old and green as Hell. So I (meaning von Lüttwitz) decided to give him another chance, guy can still point and shoot a rifle. Perhaps Opa can straighten the kid out.

      I don't know yet what's going to become of Red. We shall see.

      Thanks Beans!

  7. Hey AFSarge;

    Mines suck.....Vorwald was lucky that Lon Luttwitz didn't flat out convene a "Court of Honour" then have him shot. especially with the kid coming from a "Upper Crust" family, this would have been the ultimate disgrace. Von Luttwitz shows mercy instead. Another excellent installment.

    1. (Don McCollor)...the Americans had their ways too, but from the bottom up...One account was of a green Lt standing up 'observing' and bringing down artillery fire on their position. While they were prone, a Sgt ground a pistol in his ear and said something like "Do that again SIR and you will be missing in action"...

    2. It happened from time to time.

    3. (Don McCollor)..(I think this was in "The Glider Gang")...pilots and copilots in the WACO C4 glider did not wear parachutes. First to inspire confidence...More importantly, there were a dozen or so armed soldiers (without parachutes) between them and the exit door...

    4. Rather a good deterrent I would think.

  8. As someone else said you give an excellent viewpoint from both sides.

    I too was thinking Vorwald would normally have just been sent back and been shot or put into them penal battalion.

    On Netflix I am re-watching an excellent two season series on this prestigious Berlin hospital that I guess traditionally was at the forefront of new surgical techniques.

    I am in the World War II season and they have this German soldier who apparently shot himself in the leg to get out of Russia.

    And the hospital staff is trying to keep that information from the SS psychologist who would have him arrested and shot.

    A minor typo:

    "Why not Her Hauptmann”

    I only put this in because I figured you’d want to correct it. When I post some thing it is almost scary.

    I have to seemingly go through it five separate times on different occasions before I catch all of my typos

    At least I think I’ve caught them 😁

    1. Ah yes, the Charité in Berlin, an excellent series!

      Made the fix, thanks for the correction. (If I could catch all of my typos I'd be a happier writer.)

    2. I don't think any writer can catch them all Sarge; I have even caught a few from Hizzoner, although darned few.

    3. And then you often wonder if he did it intentionally...


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