Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Blood on the Snow


Unteroffizier Sven Schneider was nearly invisible to an observer farther up the road in the direction of the Americans. He was wearing his reversible camouflage suit white-side out, though the uniform was smudged and dirty, it was still enough to make him difficult to spot. The overhead cover for his hastily dug foxhole would not have covered up the detritus from the hole he'd dug the night before, but the fresh snow did.

Schneider was just one survivor of the eleven men from the 2nd Assault Platoon of Grenadierkompanie Koch. He now commanded what remained of the thirty-three men of the platoon who had marched into Belgium from Germany just two weeks ago. Just the previous day word had spread throughout the company that their surviving senior NCO, and the new commander of the company, had been shot while trying to desert to the Americans.

He knew better of course, Unterfeldwebel Paul Wolf, who had commanded company headquarters but now commanded the company itself, had been at the orders group where Otto Meyer had declared that further fighting was idiotic, they should surrender. Major von Lüttwitz had had Otto stripped of his weapons and gear and told him which way the American lines were.

"So Otto just walked off, one of the snipers killed him before he'd gone twenty meters. I guess the Major wanted to send a message." Wolf had said.

"Message understood, no surrender, we fight on. I always thought Otto was soft. He might have been a good U-boat man, but he was a shitty soldier.¹" Schneider thought of that as he watched the American M8 scout car parked not sixty meters away. The Amis were curious, but not insane. He wondered if they would advance any further, they couldn't see down the road past his position, he had stood in that very spot yesterday afternoon.

The Amis had been snooping around all morning, looking for some sign of German resistance and finding nothing. Schneider thought they might now be comfortable with the idea of advancing further, he nodded at Bernhard Möller and Ludger Albrecht manning the squad's MG 42. If the scout car advanced, they would open fire. When they did, that would signal to Christof Jung and Gunther Frank that they should launch their rifle grenades.

Corporal Mike Hess lowered his field glasses. He couldn't see anything out of the ordinary, but it was a perfect spot for an ambush. He got on the radio, "Mac, Hess here. I'm moving up, I can't see anything, maybe the Krauts have pulled back."

Sgt. John MacDonald in his M8 was a quarter-mile back, he wasn't happy with this mission, but battalion wanted his guys to check out the road to Wirtzfeld. S-2 was convinced that the Germans in this sector had fallen back to the south of the town. MacDonald wasn't so sure.

"Go ahead Mikey, but be f**king careful."


Hess told his driver, "Okay, Jimmie ease us on down the road, you see that clump of bushes on the left?"

Pfc. Jimmie Stevens answered, "Got it Mikey, moving out." Putting the Greyhound scout car in gear, Stevens moved the vehicle down the road.

Pvt. Jack Holloway chimed in on the intercom, "I don't like this Mikey, I can't see anything ahead of us, my gut says Krauts ahead."

Cpl. Hess told his men to stow the chatter. Then to his gunner, "Keep the gun on that clump of bushes, if the Krauts are around, they might be in there. It's a good spot to cover the road."

It was a good spot to cover the road, but there were other spots as well, better spots.

Grenadier Alfred Ziegler was an old hand. He'd once been a sergeant, but a drunken episode in Kharkov saw him demoted to private and sentenced to a month in the stockade. That sentence had saved his life. His old unit had been destroyed to a man in the bitter fighting in Kharkov in the late winter, early spring of 1943.

Sent to the west, he had been wounded in Normandy and had recovered in time to be assigned to one of the new Grenadier Companies, which were intended to fill the ranks of the newly created Volksgrenadier divisions. His company had been "one too many" and had been shunted off to this makeshift Kampfgruppe.

He saw the scout car start to move, when it was close, he got up on one knee, his snow suit made him nearly invisible, but it didn't matter, the man in the turret of the car was focused on the road to his front. Ziegler noticed the man turn in surprise when he heard the swoosh of Ziegler's Panzerfaust.

Schneider watched with grim satisfaction as the warhead from Ziegler's Panzerfaust burned through the side of the lightly armored scout car. The burning jet of plasma killed the two man turret crew instantly. The driver and assistant driver managed to get out of the car, but the first burst from Möller's MG 42 killed both men before they could escape. The driver was sprawled on the road next to the burning car, the assistant driver had fallen back into the inferno of the destroyed car.

"Stay alert, where there's one car, there's always another." Schneider said to his men.

"Bloody Amis, if I know them, where there's one, there's probably a dozen more!" Grenadier Fridolf Keller said, then spat into the snow. He didn't like Americans, they had killed his brother outside Eindhoven, and their bombers had made his parents homeless. Keller and the other men in the squad spread out to cover any advance by infantry. They'd let Ziegler and the machine gun team cover the road.

Alex Boone and Brad Gonzales were ahead and to either flank of Sgt. Jack Wilson's squad, which was on point for 1st Lt. Paddock's 2nd Platoon. They were advancing along a snow-covered road which had seen recent traffic, probably that morning due to the fresh snow which had fallen overnight.

"Cat, what do you think?"

Cpl. Melvin Katz had noticed the tracks, a couple of vehicles he thought, probably American, at least the tire tread imprints in the snow looked American. Not that he knew that much about vehicle treads, he just had a feeling.

"Coupla M8s I'll bet. L.T. said that the 99th has some recce units in the area." Before he could say another word, Wilson noticed that Boone and Gonzales were both signaling, "Vehicle approaching."

Moments later an American M8 Greyhound scout car came down the road, at speed. When the crew noticed the infantry alongside the road, the driver hit the brakes, hard. Which caused the car to skid off the road and into the ditch. Fortunately the car didn't roll over, but it was stuck for now.

"Jesus, don't you guys know how to drive in the snow?" Sgt. Wilson asked as Luther Thomas and Cecil Brown, two of his B.A.R. team, helped the crew out of the car.

Sgt. MacDonald, shaken from seeing one of his vehicles destroyed and its crew slaughtered, not to mention the sensation of nearly being thrown from his turret when Pvt. Mel Zuckerman skidded the car into the ditch, swore loudly as he dismounted.

"F**kin' idiot is from Miami, what does he know about snow?" He was glaring at the young private as he climbed out of his driver's position.

"Sorry Sarge, you said move and move fast. Then you said stop, so I stopped." Zuckerman explained.

"Next time think! Okay?"

Sgt. Wilson wanted to know what the M8 had been running from, so he asked, "Sarge, what were you guys moving so fast for?"

MacDonald collected himself then said, "Kraut anti-tank position down the road, they destroyed my other vehicle, I wasn't going to stick around and get killed myself. So..."

"Got it, Alex, Brad, go check it out." The two scouts moved out.

"Sven, Amerikaner da drüben.²" Gefreiter Bernhard Möller whispered from behind his MG 42.

"Ja, I see them. Hold your fire."

"You see 'em, Brad?" Boone whispered.

"Yup, looks like a machine gun team. I got a bead on the gunner." Pvt. Brad Gonzales answered as he nestled his M1 into his shoulder. Gonzales was a very good shot, he knew he could hit the man from this distance. But could they then get away before the Krauts reacted?

Pfc. Alex Boone looked around, they had a good path to follow to pull back after taking the shot if they needed to. So he whispered, "Take the shot."

Too late Unteroffizier Sven Schneider noticed that one of the Americans had his weapon aimed in their direction. As he turned to tell Möller to open fire, Möller was hit in the face. Möller's head snapped back and then he slumped forward over the gun. Albrecht raised himself up on one knee to pull Möller off of the gun, which was a mistake.

Albrecht grunted as he felt something akin to a hot poker run into the side of his chest and burn through him. The American round had entered his left armpit, tore through both lungs and then exited out his right side just above his hip. For a moment he felt nothing other than that burning sensation. Then he was screaming in agony.

"Go, go, go!" Sgt. Wilson was deploying his men as fast as he could. When he'd heard the first shot, then the second, he knew that Boone and Gonzales had found something. He arrived in time to see a German in a snow suit seem to come up out of the ground and turn to run.

He didn't get very far.

They didn't see the other Germans in the squad opposing them slip away into the woods. They had little stomach for further fighting after seeing their leader go down.

Unteroffizier Sven Schneider gasped as he tried to take a breath, he was lying in the snow just behind the machine gun position. He had seen Möller die, then saw young Albrecht stupidly expose himself to clear the gun. When Albrecht had gone down screaming, he decided that he'd seen enough. He got up to run.

The pain in his back was enormous. He was coughing and each cough caused gouts of blood to issue from his mouth. The snow was stained red around his face. He knew he was dying and felt an immense sadness. He had so wanted to see his home in Oberammergau again.

As his life slipped away, he heard the crunch of boots in the snow nearby, probably the very men who had killed him and his machine gun team.

Then he felt...


¹ Ironic when you consider that Schneider had come from the Luftwaffe.
² Americans, over there.

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  1. Can't help feeling sad after today's read, for both sides.........what a waste. Guess I've gotten old eh Sarge.

    1. Yeah, war is always such a waste. Let the past be a reminder to all of us to be vigilant, in order that we may be prepared to frustrate the plans of those psychotic enough, or moronic enough to begin such madness in the future.

    2. Nylon12 - As the war sputters to a close, many thousands more will die. Makes you wonder why, doesn't it?

    3. Patrick - Concur. Those who wish to start such things are seldom in the front lines, a pox on them.

    4. Even sadder, in all the theaters of war, the killing continued after surrender/capitulation/the end. Understandable back in 1815, not so in 1945. There were hard cases and holdouts for months, years, decades...

    5. It always does, it's always the politicians and "statesmen" far behind the lines who transition nearly instantly from war to peace. Those in the field have to wait and suffer on.

  2. I always wondered what would go through your mind at that moment... Seems reasonable. I know the feeling of acceptance when the accident is unavoidable. It's a sinking feeling that you've done your best, but it just wasn't good enough that time... And you kind of relax... Or you get madder than a hornet and the berzerker comes out. Ditto, Nylon12. Age mellows...

    And for those that think an M1 wasn't accurate enough to take targets past 600 meters... Beware the man that owns one gun, because he probably knows how to shoot it. Every rifle has a personality. And spending that much time with it, you get to know it. If it won't shoot worth a flip, you won't try and get it to. I have an M48 that was field modified into a scoped rifle in a certain eastern European country in the early 90's. They botched the mount, but without it, it is a card splitter. I finished it with the correct mounts (more than the rifle cost) and a European type scope. It looks the part. Without glass, it acts the part, too. I wouldn't dream of standing in front of it closer than a 1000 yards. Sometimes, everything goes right when they build them.

    1. As has been said elsewhere: 'If I can see it, I can hit it - if I KNOW the firearm'.

    2. STxAR- The M1 is a very good rifle.

    3. The M1 is good enough to hit man-sized targets using iron sights at 1000 yards. With a good set of eyes, of course. But doable. Hitting a horse-sized (broadside) target at 1500 yards is also doable with a smidge of practice. The .30-06 is a very energetic round. And the M1 Garand is a very stable shooting platform.

    4. With the bullet path described, I would not be surprised if the temporary wound channel popped Albrecht's heart. .30-06 pushes a pretty impressive shock wave ahead of it.

    5. And for those that think an M1 wasn't accurate enough to take targets past 600 meters... Beware the man that owns one gun, because he probably knows how to shoot it. Every rifle has a personality. And spending that much time with it, you get to know it. If it won't shoot worth a flip, you won't try and get it to.

      Years ago I took the DCM program, learning about the M1 and shooting targets at 1000 yards. The Target was maybe a yard wide but at 1000 yards looked like a pinhead.

      And I was hitting it with that rifle.

      I was able to buy an M1 at th4 Govt arsenal. And I have often wondered if that rifle could talk, what would it tell me? Where had it been?

    6. I have a couple of rifles and pistols I wonder the same of.

  3. slow and bloody......Guess even countries take time to die.

    1. With great suffering along the way...

    2. It's the flailing around after death has occurred that is the sad part.

      Once the tables turned during the Bulge, it was, to quote Corporal Hicks, "Game over, man. Game over."

  4. Scouting. Never fun, always dangerous, great way to give a guy a bad case of nerves.

    The link to the M8 Greyhound picture goes to a very interesting and seemingly impossible action. A 37mm armed M8 taking out a vaunted Tiger 1. The US 37mm gun was a pretty darned good weapon, excellent velocity, high quality ammunition and could fire cannister. Funny... the M8 was originally designed as a tank destroyer. Made a good scout vehicle and, without the turret and a scarf ring instead mounted with a .30cal or .50cal MG, made a decent little APC too.

    And the Forest snacks on crumbs and nibbles between the main battles...

    1. I've wanted one since seeing one on "Adam-12." Even the M20 Recce version.

      Or a Cadillac-Gage V1000...

    2. I like that last one, Security Police had 'em in Korea. Neat looking little vehicles.

    3. I have the Squadron/Signal book on the M8. Apparently, it was not uncommon to remove the fenders, because they tended to get ripped off by brush. They look odd without them.

    4. Didn't know that, but it makes sense.

  5. armored cars had a distinctively risky mission profile... find enemy and hightail it...


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