Saturday, November 7, 2020


National Archives

"Sir, we're supposed to have 192 enlisted men, six officers and three medics. Right now we've got 84 enlisted, just two officers, and just two medics." Before 1Sgt Saeger could continue, acting Charlie Company commander 1Lt Nathan Paddock interrupted him.

"I know all that Mort. We got kicked in the teeth pretty bad, the men are all pissed off, but none of 'em are ready to quit."

"Got it Sir, which is why you'll be happy to know that we've got fifty replacement headed our way, it won't put us at full strength but..."

"And just how many of them are new recruits, fresh out of the training camps?"

1Sgt Saeger looked at the lieutenant for a long moment, then said, "About thirty of 'em, Sir."

"Shit." Paddock pulled a cigarette from the pack on his desk and lit it, "well, I guess that means the other twenty are experienced. Or are these more guys combed out of the rear echelons?"

Saeger sighed, then said, "Couldn't tell ya Sir, probably a lot of them. I've heard that we're starting to run out of replacements. But we're not recruiting kids just yet." He nodded at a POW cage across from the company's bivouac, a lot of the German POWs probably hadn't started shaving yet.

"F**kers still know how to fight though." Paddock said with grudging admiration.

"Well, they're fighting on their home turf L.T., most of 'em grew up listening to Hitler's bullshit. Hell, half of 'em probably still believe it!"

"Well, I guess we just need to keep killing them then."

Captain Alphonse "Tex" Josephson was reading the latest message traffic from regiment. It looked like the Big Red One was going to be pulled out of the line for a while. They needed to absorb a number of replacements and the veterans really needed a break from combat. Josephson hoped that the replacements they received weren't just more cannon fodder. A lot of the new kids joined their platoons in the morning and were dead by the afternoon. The vets weren't even bothering to learn their names until they made it through a couple of days in the line.

He was still wondering what to do with Charlie Company, though Nate Paddock was a damned fine young officer, he just wasn't ready to command a company. There was an unattached captain at regiment looking for a company command, everything he'd heard about the man made him want to vomit. A staff puke looking for some time in a line company to make his record look good. Well, f**k him. I'll let Nate have the company before I give it to that feather merchant at regiment!

Captain Tony Palminteri had just gotten off a truck and was walking through the bivouac with his M1 Carbine over his right shoulder and his barracks bag over his left. It felt good to be back with the "real" army again. He'd spent too much time in hospitals and on staff duty since being wounded at Kasserine in February of 1943.

He'd been a First Lieutenant back then, he'd graduated from West Point in 1940 and had wanted to be a fighter pilot. Truth be told though, he wasn't a good pilot. He'd washed out of flight training and immediately volunteered for the infantry. His brother had been, or perhaps still was, an infantryman. He wished he knew what had happened to his brother when the Philippines fell.

Fragments from an exploding German grenade had taken off the top of his left ear and scarred his face badly on that fateful day in North Africa when the Krauts had come howling over the horizon and smashed into his unit. He'd spent a lot of time and effort getting back to 1st Battalion of the 26th Infantry since being evacuated to hospital. One of the docs had offered him a free ticket back to the States where he could sit out the rest of the war. He'd damned near punched the man in the face.

Now he was home.

A shadow fell over his desk as someone stood in the entrance to his tent, looking up, all Josephson saw was a silhouette of a soldier. Then the silhouette spoke, "Jesus, we must be losing the war if they gave you a battalion!"

Josephson's first reaction was to get angry, but there was something about the voice he recognized. He stood up and went up to the figure, grabbing a shoulder he turned the man so that he could see his face.

"Holy Shit! Tony, what idiot let you out of the hospital. Hell, you were always ugly, now you're spectacularly ugly." With that Alphonse Josephson hugged the man he'd been a platoon leader with back in '43.

"I heard you might need a company commander, Tex. Remember Smitty from the S2's office back in the day? Well, he's the G2 up at division now. Well, okay, he works for the G2. At any rate he said to get down here before regiment gave the job to some brown noser."

"You mean 'some other brown noser,' right Tony?" Both men had a laugh at that. The two had been fast friends from the moment they had met on the ship before Operation Torch.

"Yup, sit down, let me fill you in, I've got a damned good man keeping an eye on Charlie Company right now, a fantastic platoon leader, but Hell, he's only been out of the Point since June. Hang on a second." Josephson paused, realizing that he'd better let regiment know that he wouldn't be needing their man.


A harried looking corporal looked into the tent and said, "Sir?"

"Let battalion know I've got my new Charlie Company commander. Tell 'em to send their guy elsewhere. Capeesh Corporal Antonelli?"

"Capeesh Sir, I'm on it."

Cpl Jacob Winters poked his head into the lieutenant's tent and hissed, "Sir, Captain Josephson's coming, he's got some other captain with him."

"Thanks Jake, carry on." Paddock said as he got up, putting his overseas cap on as he did so. He stepped outside of the tent and snapped a salute to Captain Josephson. He figured this other captain was his new boss. He felt relieved to not have to take on a company just yet, but a little disappointed at the same time. One didn't graduate from West Point without being fiercely competitive.

"Nate, meet Tony Palminteri, West Point Class of 1940. Tony and I go way back. He had a platoon in Able Company in North Africa, got wounded at Kasserine, now he's back. He's your new boss. You've done a great job Nate, but you're not ready for a company just yet. I'll leave you two 'ring knockers¹' to get acquainted." With that Captain Josephson headed back to battalion.

"So Lieutenant, nice to meet you. How 'bout you take me around, introduce me to the guys. They know you, I don't know if there are any guys from North Africa around who might remember me, so..."

"Sure Cap'n, we have one guy from North Africa in the company, he's got 3rd Squad in 2nd Platoon, Sgt Flavio Gentile, though we all call him Stump."

"Okay, I remember Gentile, punched out some staff puke, got busted to private. Glad he's back where he belongs. We called him 'Philly' back then."

"Yup, that was his nickname when he got here, then the platoon 'comedian' said he looked like a tree stump, so..." Paddock had a moment of pain, he'd written a letter to Jack Leonard's parents just the night before. He'd been the man to give Gentile that nickname. Now Jack was dead.

Palminteri had noticed the shadow pass over Paddock's face. "You guys have had it rough over the past few weeks haven't you?"

"Yes Sir, we lost a lot of good men. But we killed a lot of Krauts in the process. It's good that we're getting a veteran to lead the company. I wanted it pretty badly, but the Cap'n was right, I'm not quite ready."

"Well, let's go meet the guys."

The two officers noticed a number of trucks pulling into the camp, loaded with men in new uniforms and with new equipment. Replacements. It was going to be a lot of work to get Charlie Company back in shape. But the outfit was indeed in good hands.

¹ The term "ring knocker" is used to denote graduates of one of the service academies. It's use is generally derisively used by officers who did not attend a service academy. I don't know when this term was first used, but I am claiming artistic license to use it here. Remember, Captain Josephson is not a graduate of a service academy. He received his commission via ROTC.

Link to all of The Chant's fiction.


  1. How long does the company get before it's back in action......time to learn new faces and quirks and stories. A lot of young faces in that photo.

    1. Hard to say when they'll be back in action. As I recall, the entire division was pulled out of the line on the 7th of December. Only to have to go right back in on the 16th. The start of the Ardennes Offensive!

  2. Praise the Lord for good, experienced Leadership! Some glory hound REMF would've commenced to getting them all killed in his first attempt to demonstrate his superior understanding of theoretical tactics.

    1. I almost went that way, but decided the boys deserved better.

    2. While not in this tale, remember, in the real world "some glory hound REMF" who missed this opportunity would have ended up with some other unit. Not everyone in the military (or not) is a good match for the needs at hand due to mental, physical, moral or experience factors.

      Glad to see this new character arrive. We get to meet some very interesting people, thanks to the author's creative imagination and literary license.

      You know, Sarge, that Tom Clancy was an insurance salesman who scribbled stories on the side, until he decided to make that his day job. Authors seem to make a commitment to crank out "x" number of words a day, and you seem to be hitting that on a very regular basis. Even with the distractions of that other job.
      John Blackshoe.

    3. Tom Clancy is one of my favorite writers. Reading Clear and Present Danger at the moment (for, I think, the fourth time).

      I kept saying I wanted to write more, the blog gives me that freedom. Some day, this will be a book. Hopefully sooner rather than later!

      Thanks JB!

  3. Some of the words duplicated themselves...

    Hey AFSarge;

    "Ringknockers"...Now that is some inner knowledge right there, only someone that has been in or really knows the Military especially the Army knows that term for the boys from Hudson High. Shows the research and shows why your stuff is soo good. It is best that the company didn't get assigned to some puke wanting to "punch his tickets" with a combat command right before the end of the war for post war advancement. " A lot of the new kids joined their platoons in the morning and were dead by the afternoon. The vets weren't even bothering to learn their names until they made it through a couple of days in the line." It was a shame it took Vietnam before the Army finally fixed the Individual replacement system with the regimental system. Another excellent Post.

    1. The Army's replacement system was a horror show.

  4. Over my time in service, I've had some really good C.O.s. And a few REMFs.

  5. I've also heard of the phrase "West Point Prtective Society" used when other ringknockers circle the wagons to protect a graduate from criticism or to push one into a position one is not ready for.

    There are good things about service academies, and there are bad things...

    Glad 'our' company actually didn't get pooped on with the captain thing. They've had too many tough breaks since the Beaches.

    Nice way of defusing the tension for a day at least.

    1. While the guys regroup, I work on other aspects of turning this into a book. Gotta organize all my notes so I can keep track of who's who and who did what, when, etc. Need to work more on the character's back stories as well.

    2. When I was looking AF 90 day wonder school, I was told I could do everything right and not advance, but service academy guys god do everything wrong and still make a promotion. I guess it makes sense, in a cranium in rectum kinda way....

  6. I've been following this story since you started, I haven't felt the need to comment until now but I've just re-read 'Armageddon' by Max Hastings which deals with the Western and the Eastern fronts. It's interesting to contrast the two. Hastings characterised the western front as a series of advances with constant small scale actions and a steady drip of casualties, the eastern front was just a meat grinder. What comes across at this point is that the British, in particular, were just exasperated with the Germans for not surrendering when they must have known the game was up. You have to have a grudging admiration for the professional ability of the Wehrmacht whilst still hating their ideology.
    It's also interesting to note that Tedder wanted to sack Montgomery after Arnhem but that was not possible. How Eisenhower put up with him I do not know.
    Keep going, its a good read.

    1. Max Hastings is one of my favorite historians! He was spot on with that comparison of the two fronts.

      I always liked Tedder.

    2. Armageddon was a great book. One thing I remember from it was Hastings claiming that the Soviet union faced 2/3 of the Wehrmacht while the west only had the other third

    3. The Soviets regarded the western front as a sideshow. Compared to the eastern front I don't think they were that mistaken. One of the sources I've seen states that the Germans suffered about 3.5 million casualties on the eastern front as compared to c400K on the western front throughout the war. I'm about to re-read 'Berlin' by Antony Beevor as well as works by Professor Sir Ian Kershaw. I suppose lockdown does have some benefits.

  7. In the army we could always tell someone who was from West Point. They had a certain bearing about them.

    Couple of the problems from Vietnam I read were the men would rotate in and out individually and not as a unit. And plenty of officers who just wanted their ticket punched with a little command time on the front lines.

    In that book on World War I I was surprised at two officers who would have a big influence on the second world war.

    Douglas MacArthur and George Patton.

    Even then MacArthur was at the beginning a colonel and Patton was a major

    They would lead their men from the front.

    Pretty unusual don’t you think?

    1. The unusual bit is that those officers who led from the front often didn't survive. Those who get their tickets punched with minimal effort become generals and admirals in peacetime. And get us killed in wartime.

    2. Plenty of better officers than those two were blooded in WWI. See, Cates, Clifton for only one of many.
      Boat Guy

    3. (Don McCollor)...(at the risk of raising a furor). General Grand was a mediocre West Point officer until his unique talent was discovered that few more esteemed officers had - he could lead armies...

    4. An outstanding read is the book "Neptune's Inferno" by James D Hornfischer. It is a damning tale of the US Navy's baptism in fire and death during the Guadalcanal campaign. Most of the carnage on the American side was due to inept Naval leadership, those Admirals and Captains that were perfect peacetime sailors but lacked the teeth of a wartime warrior. Bookend that book with the book "Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors" by the same author and you see the massive change in Naval leadership.

      Both are high on my list of recommended books.

    5. Hornfischer's trilogy of the US Navy in WWII has an honored place on my bookshelves (Neptune's Inferno, Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors, and The Fleet at Flood Tide).

  8. First time I ran across the term "ring knocker" was in a story by William Edmund Butterworth III (W.E.B. Griffin's); don't remember which one.

  9. Not sucking up Sarge but I'd put you in the same class as Butterworth.
    Just the other day I told a guy my age I was sorry he didn't go to college after seeing his USNA windbreaker.
    Yeah I'm OCS ( as was my Dad and his brother). I was offered Naval Academy Prep School in bootcamp. Surprising me, my Dad advised against it.
    Boat Guy

    1. High praise indeed!

      All three kids went ROTC. One son-in-law went OCS, the other went to Annapolis.


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

NOTE: Comments on posts over 5 days old go into moderation, automatically.