Sunday, November 29, 2020

The 26th to the Front!

US Army Signal Corps Photo

1st Lt. Nate Paddock woke up and looked around. His first thought was wondering why he was flat on his back at the battalion aid station, he didn't recall being wounded. Then it struck him, he had become violently ill after what had seemed to be a great Thanksgiving meal that regiment had laid on for the troops. What the heck had happened to him?

"Glad to see you're awake lieutenant, you were pretty sick. We were a bit worried about you."

Paddock looked to see who was speaking, as he did so it struck him that it was a female voice. A woman, dear Lord when's the last time he had heard a woman speaking English? He tried to sit up.

"Easy GI, don't want you pulling that IV out. The doctor says it can come out now anyway, but better I do it, less messy that way."

With that the army nurse, for Paddock saw the uniform now, and the captain's bars, began to remove the IV from Paddock's arm. Paddock couldn't help but notice that the captain was quite attractive, she smelled pretty good too!

"There, that should do it for you." She bandaged the spot where the IV had been, then began to tidy up and move on to her next patient.

"How long have I been here Ma'am? And where is here?" Paddock was disorientated. But he noticed that he was clean and, though it was a simple Army cot, he was awfully comfortable.

"Just a couple of days, you were pretty sick, in fact most of your platoon was sick as well. Seems that one of your battalion cooks wasn't as fastidious as he should have been. That food you got for Thanksgiving was contaminated, some of you boys were really sick, but I think you'll all be okay now. The doctor says you can return to your unit today, maybe tomorrow, depends on transport availability. Oh, you're in a field hospital outside Aachen. Any more questions?" She smiled as she said that and Paddock felt better just seeing that smile.

"I'll be back soon with your discharge papers, you can get dressed now if you feel up to it." With that she moved on to her next patient.

"Hey L.T., you gonna lay in bed all day and flirt with nurses or what?"

Paddock turned at the familiar voice and saw his platoon sergeant, Sgt. Stephen Hernandez, coming down the aisle. Even in the dim light of the hospital tent, Paddock could see that the man looked pale as a ghost.

"You get sick too, Top?"

"Coming out both ends L.T., thought I was gonna die, there were points where I kinda wished I would. Most of the platoon got sick, just the guys on sentry duty didn't, they missed out on the big turkey dinner. They're kinda happy they did."

"I hear one of the cooks f**ked up."

"Yessir, he ain't a cook anymore, he now gets to carry a rifle like the rest of us, not in our battalion though, regiment was afraid someone would shoot the bastard. You never know, fellow pops his head up on the line, bad things can happen."

Paddock finished getting dressed, all the clothing was new issue. After he laced up his boots he looked at Hernandez and asked, "Did all the guys get new uniforms, Top?"

"Yessir. Even the guys who didn't get sick, they brought the whole platoon back, Major Josephson wanted to keep us all together rather than attach the guys who were well to another outfit."

"Major Josephson?"

"Yessir, he got promoted, his command of the battalion was confirmed by division as well."

"That's great, now where are..." Before Paddock could ask about his rifle and his other gear, he heard his name called.

"Lieutenant Paddock?"

Hearing that female voice again, Paddock turned, there she was with a number of documents in her hands.

"Here are the discharge papers for you and the rest of your men. All of your weapons and other field gear are over at the armory. There's a couple of trucks waiting over there to take you back up to the line."

Paddock blushed and said, "Thank you, Ma'am. For getting my men back on their feet."

"The name's Edith Parsons, lieutenant. I didn't do it all by myself, there are quite a few other nurses and a couple of doctors you could thank. Not to mention all of the orderlies, your own medic pitched in as well."

"Really, Doc Milbury didn't get sick?" Paddock looked at Hernandez as he asked that question.

"No Sir, remember, Doc was up at regiment getting medical supplies for the battalion. He ate there, said the chow was pretty damned good. Bastard." Hernandez chuckled as he said that.

"Great, so let's round up the guys and get going." Turning to Captain Parsons he said, "Thanks again Ma'am, anything we can do for you, ya know, souvenirs, that kind of thing?"

"Yes, lieutenant, end the damned war so we can all go home." Though she smiled when she said that, Paddock could sense the bitterness lying underneath. He didn't know that Parsons had been a nurse on a pediatric ward in Milwaukee before the war. Dealing with sick kids was a sadness unique to the human condition, but dealing with young men torn and dying from the weapons of war was quite another. She was sick of it all and couldn't wait for the war to end.

"That's what we want too, Ma'am. As fast as is humanly possible, I'm sure you've seen things, but enough of that, thanks Captain, we'll be off now." Paddock couldn't understand why he was so tongue-tied at the moment, and why did Hernandez have that stupid grin on his face?

"Take care of yourself Lieutenant, take care of your boys. I don't want to see you here again, understood?" She smiled as she said that, Paddock thought her smile was pretty special.

"Yes Ma'am, I'll try. Let's go, Top, we have a war to finish."

As they left the hospital tent Paddock turned to his sergeant and said, "You can lose the shit-eating grin now Top."

"Yes Sir, no disrespect Sir, but that Captain Parsons was pretty, real pretty."

"Yeah Top, I noticed. Now the lady said 'end the war,' let's go do that."

"Roger that, L.T."

Major Jürgen von Lüttwitz was exhausted, his unit had just traveled by rail nearly a hundred and twenty-five kilometers. With delays and Allied bombing raids, it had taken his Kampfgruppe four days to travel that distance. After all that, they were only 30 kilometers from where they had started their journey in the Hürtgenwald.

"Herr Major, you'll be pleased to know that the StuG we managed to drag to the rail head and bring with us has been repaired. Somehow the StuG troops 'found' an engine they could use. They just finished installing it and testing it. That beast runs better than it did with the old engine according to Hornbach." Sauer looked nervous as he reported that.

"What's wrong Manfred? You're usually not this skittish. Something bothering you?"

"Jawohl Herr Major, we need to get away from this railyard, the things attract Allied Jabos wie Fliegen auf einen Scheißhaufen."¹

"Yes, I know Manfred, but we must be patient. I've been told to expect new orders and soon. We can move the men away from the yard into Kall² itself, but don't let them disperse too far apart. Where the Hell is the Spieß? He should be making these arrangements, not you."

"Keller is over at the yardmaster's office, paperwork, you know how the Army is. We can't get enough men, bullets, and rations to the front, but the damned paperwork always has to get done." Sauer spat in the mud when he said that.

Von Lüttwitz looked at the commander of his 1st Company's 1st Platoon (the unit was now carried on Army rolls as an independent battle group and no longer attached to the 983rd Grenadier Regiment) and said, "Get Krüger to take care of that, he's been a Spieß far longer than Keller. He should know what to do."

"Jawohl Herr Major, I'll go see him now, he's already got the 2nd Company men bivouacked just outside the town. It's not far, I'll get the rest of the men headed that way in the meantime."

"Very well, also you need to update your uniform."

"Sir?" Sauer looked at his commander in some confusion, what was the man talking about?

"Your promotion to Feldwebel has been approved, division had the paperwork before we left the Hürtgenwald, it went up to Corps and finally made it back to me. Get those new epaulettes on your tunic, until I can find another officer, you have 1st Company. Oh, put these on those epaulettes while you're at it. I couldn't get that approved right away, but it made sense to do so, seeing as how you were jumped over the rank of Unterfeldwebel."

Sauer looked at the two strips of lace, meant to go on his sergeant's epaulettes, they signified that he was now an Offiziersanwärter, an officer candidate.

Sauer's new epaulettes.

In peacetime there would be more to becoming an officer, but Sauer knew, this was definitely not peacetime. If he survived the next few weeks, he figured he would be a lieutenant by Christmas, maybe even before. Not bad for a pig farmer, he thought.


After collecting his rifle and other gear, 1st Lt. Paddock, accompanied by Sgt. Hernandez, headed over to where the trucks were waiting to take them back to the front. He was surprised to see newly promoted Major Alphonse Josephson, commanding the 1st Battalion of the 26th Infantry, standing by a jeep driven by the battalion sergeant major, M/Sgt. Brad Powers.

Paddock walked over to the major, not saluting by force of habit, and extended his hand, "Congratulations on the oak leaves Sir, 'bout time!"

Josephson laughed and said, "I guess so Nate, being a battalion commander is sometimes more trouble than it's worth, but hey, the pay's better! Now, are your guys fit and ready to head out?"

"Absolutely Sir, the docs here cleared us for return to duty. I, for one, am feeling much better, though Sgt. Hernandez looks a might peaked, he says he's ready." Before Paddock could continue, Josephson interrupted him.

"You mean S/Sgt. Hernandez, right?"

Paddock's grin spread over his face, his platoon sergeant now had a rank commensurate with his position. "Really Sir? That's out-f**king-standing!"

"Overdue as well. Now we're going back into the Hürtgen, I'm sure you're as unhappy about that as I am. But we're damned near on the edge of those f**king woods now. The entire battalion is being moved up to an actual castle, Burg Laufenburg according to my S2, who's a bit of a history nut. Built in the 12th Century, pretty much intact. At any rate, we'll muster there and then see what we have to do."

"Damn, an actual castle huh?" Paddock wondered what the bad news would be.

"Yup, according to the G2 up at division, they want the 26th to move up to the line Langerwehe-Juengersdorg-Merode. That'll get us out of the woods and poised to take Düren, which will f**k up the Kraut's logistics a great deal, then push on to Cologne, then across the Rhine. G2 says we'll be facing Kraut paratroops again, but these are mostly kids..."

"And old men?" Paddock asked, he'd heard that line before.

"Negative Nate, this is our old buddies the 3rd Fallschirmjäger Division. We destroyed 'em at Falaise, apparently they've been rebuilt with new recruits. So we can destroy 'em again I guess. Last word I had was that the battalion will be used as a flank guard for the regiment as we have so many new recruits in the ranks."

"Hell Sir, we're starting to be made up of kids and old men ourselves." Paddock observed.

"Seems that way, but our kids are mostly 18-year-olds, our 'old' men are in their 30s, you know the Krauts are fielding a lot of 14-year-olds and guys as old as sixty. Big difference."

"Copy that Sir. When do we move out?"

"Right now Nate, let's get this show on the road."

"Yes Sir! Hey Top, you heard the man, load 'em up, move 'em out!"

Next stop...

Merode, Germany
US Army Signal Corps Photo

¹ Like flies to a dung heap
² The town of Kall is located in the Eifel hills, approximatively 20 km south-west of Euskirchen. Not to be confused with the Kall River in the Hürtgenwald.

Author's Note: Yes, I'm back in the saddle again, feeling much better, thank you. I used the excuse of food poisoning to explain Paddock's absence from the field and the redeployment of von Lüttwitz's outfit in preparation for Die Wacht am Rhein, or the Battle of the Bulge as we knew it. Diverticulitis didn't fit the story line, food poisoning did. Hope y'all had a great Thanksgiving, mine, while less than optimal, was still a time of thanking the Lord for my many blessings.

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  1. Again, another excellent story in this very realistic series: my compliments on your outstanding subject-matter expertise. Field hygiene has been and still is truly one of the decisive factors in any campaign and woe to those who neglected it (e.g. Crimean War). Anyhow, your stories are my daily morning highlight - please carry on!

    1. Over the centuries disease has killed more soldiers than combat. With my recent illness, the topic presented itself to me.


  2. Yrrcchh!! Food poisoning, still can't stand Gatorade which brought me down once a couple of decades ago. Helluva way for the boys to get cleaned up, inventive twist Sarge. Glad not to be on that tank dozer, now there's a mudhole. Hope you're feeling better.

    1. Recovery continues apace.

      Yes, food poisoning, been there, done that, a terrible experience.

    2. I can only stand Gatorade when I'm doing extreme work like fighting or lifting. And always the type that is as colorless as possible, so it won't stain if I'm messy getting it down or if it comes back up, if you know what I mean. Got razzed for it some, until someone tossed a bottle of shocking grape stuff down and then it came up and ruined his nice new fighting surcoat that was mostly white, hand sewn, for a really big tourney. Sucker...

    3. I remember the original Gatorade, wasn't great, wasn't bad. Can't stand the "modern" stuff, as part of my diverticulitis recovery some years ago, The Missus Herself brought some of that stuff home, nope, nope, nope. Couldn't tolerate it, now my taste buds associate the stuff with intestinal pain. So I won't go near it.

    4. Preps for my last two scopings included mixing the "GO" juice with clear Gatorade.
      Everything came out OK, and while not really something I'd chose for a relaxing evening, the "going" process wasn't the Saturn Five power blast that Humorist Dave Barry talks about.

    5. I've had what Dave Barry wrote of, on two occasions. Not for the faint of heart...

    6. With my already, hrmmm, fast system, colonoscopy prep was, to say the least, exiting and energetic. Not a mighty F1 firing off, more of a continuous artillery fire for 8 hours.

      I was not amused.

  3. We had a winter camp out one weekend in the scouts. Dad went on that one. He taught me how to wash out of a bucket without getting undressed. That was a new skill. We had to chop ice away from the spigot in the ground to get water. It was very cold that day.

    He was a good teacher at times. Found out the folding bits have to be kept clean, and the mess kit washed and boiled after every meal. He never mentioned what unit he was in, but I think I found it. 1st Missile Battalion, 56th Artillery about 1957-1958.

    Weird what your stories and comments bring to mind... Glad you are back in trim.

    1. That outfit has quite a history!

      The 1st Battalion, 56th Air Defense Artillery traces its history to 1921 with the Organized Reserves as Battery A, 506th Artillery (Anti-Aircraft). It was inactivated in 1933 and reactivated in the Regular Army. The Battalion's history encompasses 10 major campaigns during World War II, resulting in its being awarded an Army Presidential Unit Citation, a Navy Presidential Unit Citation, and the Luxembourg Croix de Guerre. The War department cited the 56th Field Artillery Battalion as a whole for its battle honors in the performance of duty 21 to 28 November 1944 in the Germany's Hurtgen Forest, while reinforcing the 121st Infantry Regiment. It reads in part, "Foot by foot and against great odds, the regiment and its attached and reinforcing units drove the enemy from Log Bunker and Pillbox, passing concentrations of artillery and mortar estimated at 3500 rounds per day at the height of operations, and finally capturing the strategically important town of Hurtgen in fierce house to house combat." (Source)

  4. In the top photo, the wounded are being hauled in a captured Opel Blitz! Look at the wood box walls, not the steel ones of a CCKW.

    1. I believe you're right. Did some searching on images of the Opel Blitz, does look like it.

      Poor Germans, they don't have many trucks and we stole one, while we have lots and lots of trucks.

    2. Which they stole when given a chance. I've seen Deuce and a Halfs painted greyish with German marking on them.

      Spoils of war, just spoils of war.

    3. The Germans would use anything which would run. T-34s, Shermans, anything, because they had no real choice.

  5. Sarge, you continue to amaze and impress me. What a lovely plot twist to move everyone on (and how graphically portrayed, thanks ever so much for that). Looking forward to the next installment series.

    1. Well, when one is going through an intestinal malady, and taking time off to deal with it, it gave me a good way to cover why I hadn't blogged in a couple of days. Fortunately my wingmen came through for me. (Juvat had a post all set for Sunday, just in case. You'll see that one tomorrow.)

  6. That last picture - can't have a war without mud. I think Beans was onto something when he said that tents set up some atmospheric resonance that make rain, so do shelter halves...and I bet foxholes also contribute somehow.
    Maybe he's done a study on it?

    1. Well, I can attest to the fact that it rains a lot in that part of Germany in the fall. Another guarantee of foul weather is to have fifteen or so kids kitted up and ready to play football (what we call soccer). It will rain, DAMHIK.

  7. Hey AFSarge;

    man you did good with that post, Now I won't be surprised to see Lt Paddock make reasons to go back to the rear to "check on things". I have heard of a lot of marriages after the war from such meetings. As far as hygeine goes, you hit upon a major one, dysentary can cause more problems then enemy action. When I was doing Boy scout stuff, we stressed sanitation and cooking the food big time, having an entire troop or unit down with "Montezuma's revenge" ain't fun. Man the 26th infantry regiment has some history, the "Blue Spaders" have been around since 1901. I remembered seeing some of their marking at "Cooke Barracks" in Geoppingen where I was stationed in the 1980's.

    1. Thanks MrG.

      No, we haven't heard the last of Cpt. Edith Parsons.

  8. Burg Laufenburg is a sweet looking castle. At least our boys will be out of the rain.

    Only one problem.

    Castles are a stone-cold beyotch to keep warm in anything cooler than 70F weather. And even though it's been 'mondernized' some time in the 16th or 17th century with more windows, still not enough to let in enough solar to warm the place.

    It's the type of architecture that makes for damp, uncomfortable, chilly and miserable weather.

    Our boys just can't get a break.

    Now, with a real good rebuild, pulling the floors and putting in in-floor heating, paneling the walls with lots of insulation between the layers, and adding a decent dehumidifying system or two, you can get the interior temperature/humidity up from soul-sucking clammy to just wearing a sweater over warm clothing. There's a reason they made those arm chairs with the huge backs so they block the wind and chill while you're huddled in front of a fire. Same with those beds with curtains.

    As to our boys on both sides.. Promotions all around! Whooohooo!

    Glad you're feeling better.

    The Forest still waits. And we get to find what eldritch evil lurks deep in the castle basement.. (been reading too much 'Monster Hunter International' books...)

    1. A northern forest and a castle. Almost time for some Ravendark music, if you like that type.
      Before retiring, I got a coworker hooked on Monster Hunter - he really enjoyed that series.

    2. The castle probably won't play much of a role in the coming episode. It's just a place on the map which everyone can find.

    3. Larry Correia is a talented author, my tastes don't run that way, but I can still appreciate his writing.

  9. Welcome back to the front. I hope the medics and nurses back at the hospital tent treated you well.

  10. poisoning. While deployed to the desert during the first go-round, a MI company on our log base was combat ineffective for several days due to contaminated food served one evening.
    And Soldiers and Nurses, oh my! While at Stinson Field perusing the Collin's Foundation WW2 aircraft, I struck up a conversation with a retired CW4 Huey pilot and his wife, a retired LTC Army Nurse. Seems they met in Vietnam; he was shot down and evac'd to a combat support hospital where she was the attending nurse caring for him. Still together almost 50 years later. - Barry

    1. The nurses were worth their weight in gold. Still are!

    2. (Don McCollor) [from "There's a War to be Won"] A nurse 2nd Lt Frances Sanger who wrote a letter expressing that to be able to share the hardships of the wounded and ease some of their pain was a privilege. Hours later, she was killed by a shell...Her letter, picture and obituary appeared together in the Paris Stars and Stripes...

    3. So many sacrificed all of their tomorrows for our today...

    4. My mom (Air Force occupational therapist) met my dad (hot shot F-84G pilot) when my dad was in Alabama for treatment for something wrong with his eyes. The AF grounded him. She ran over him with the Love Truck. Or something...

    5. Now don't go all foreshadowing on me again!

  11. Amazing how fast the promotions come in a time of war. I remember in basic training 1972 we actually had a recruit who was a staff sergeant. I guess he was a Vietnam veteran from the first cavalry division in the army and it’s infinite wisdom made him go to basic again but keep his old rank.

    So he out ranked a couple of drill sergeants

    1. We had a recycled Marine sergeant in USAF Basic Training, he drove the instructors nuts as he refused to call them "sir." He had to spend only a couple of days with us while the USAF pulled their collective heads out of their collective asses. As he'd been out of the Corps for only a couple of months, he was reinstated as an E-5 and went straight to his tech school.

      Guy was awesome.

    2. There is an old joke from Bill Mauldin - one of his WW2 cartoons - Willie and Joe - where Willie is visiting his nephew in the AAF and the kid is a full Col. Of course, it was the terrible attrition there that brought promotions so fast there.

    3. My dad's administration sergeant was a transfer from the Marines. Guy did DI, the whole thing, got injured, transferred. And we kids were scared of him. 6'5", wide as a door frame, Marine DI attitude. That was scary!

    4. Bill - Promotions in the USAAF were pretty quick, probably because the service expanded so much.

  12. In the Civil War my G-Grandfather's regiment suffered 4 Officers and 63 enlisted men killed in battle or died from wounds, and 148 enlisted men dead from disease. A bug will kill as well as a bullet.

    1. Though a bullet was quicker.

      In the Napoleonic Wars, most sick men resisted going to the hospital, knowing that it was most likely a death sentence

    2. And rightly so! Hospitals were for getting surgery and amputations and for dying.

      One of the smartest things to come from Napoleon's innovations was the triage concept. Those expected to live, either from light wounds or because they've already been operated on, were to be kept upwind of those not expected to live. And splash everything down liberally with strong vinegar! And get air to the patients, fresh fresh air.

      30-40 years later, Florence Nightingale will bring these same concepts to the British in the Crimean.

  13. The Ship's foreign port briefings prior to pulling in, always always warned against eating from street vendors. Some of the best stuff I've eaten overseas was from street-carts in dirty alleyways in the PI and Korea; hole in the wall eateries in Hong Kong and Singapore or even a thatched beach shack in Kenya.
    Yet where did I get a very nasty case of food poisoning? On the ship... after being at sea for over a month.

    1. (Don McCollor)...A "Traveler" posting on 'Active Response Training' noted that the safest places to eat were popular street venders. Forget the sanitation. If the locals got sick, he would very quickly be out of business...

  14. (Don McCollor)...Now that you are recovering Sarge, a bit of nitpicking. 'Paddock's grin spread over his face, his platoon sergeant now had a rank commensurate with his position. "Really Sir? That's out-f**king-standing!"' almost smacks of Vietnam. Would have expected the "f**king" to be before the 'outstanding. ...Now a bit of (probably) flu in college. At breakfast (trying not to gag at the sight and smell of scrambled eggs and sausage) weakly asking if they had any crackers. Got two generous handfulls. Then to Chemistry class. Passed most of them to a friend behind me that looked worse than I felt. Then to Health (a misnomer) Services. Got a large brown bottle, label indicating among other ingredients kaoepectate and powdered opium. Not having a tablespoon, I went to bed and took a good swig. When I woke up twelve hours later, I was more or less cured...

  15. Waking up in the presence of an angel...fresh linens...the sights, the sounds, the Smells! Hard to put into words, but a vivid experience, never to be forgotten. Nothing more re-vitalizing to a young warrior! And a vivid reminder of why sometimes we have to put it all on the line in defense of all that is good in this world. Shit, I think I mighta just kinda quoted Samwise Gamgee!

  16. Sarge...this has been bugging me....Pfc. Jackson he a He-bert or an A-bear?

    1. He pronounces it "He-bert," but his buddy Pvt Andre Tremblay, aka Cajun, from New Orleans, pronounced it the French way, "A-bear." The other guys thought Cajun was actually calling him a bear, the nickname stuck.

      Officially "He-bert," with the squad he's just "Bear."


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