Wednesday, December 9, 2020

In the Valley of the Kyll¹


"Herr Major, there's a courier here from First SS Panzerkorps!" Grenadier Günther Löwe announced breathlessly as he ran into the small Gasthaus where Major Jürgen von Lüttwitz had set up the battle group's headquarters.

"So where is this courier Günther? I don't see him?" von Lüttwitz asked with a puzzled expression on his face. His new messenger was rather excitable at times, but he meant well.

"He's talking with the Spieß, seems they're both from the same town in Saxony."

"Ah, very well, I'm sure he'll be along shortly. Go get something to eat Günther, I shan't be needing you for a while."

"Danke Herr Major!" As Löwe dashed from the room, he nearly collided with the courier who was just coming in.

Von Lüttwitz stood and greeted the young SS-Untersturmführer from corps headquarters. "What can I do for you Untersturmführer? Have we met before? You look familiar."

"Yes Sir, Normandy. I remember you from the conference at Panzer Meyer's headquarters just before the entire front collapsed. You're famous for your small unit's anabasis, your Ritterkreuz is well-deserved! I'm Schüler, Horst Schüler of the 2nd SS Panzergrenadier Regiment." The young lieutenant extended his hand and shook von Lüttwitz's hand rather enthusiastically.

"Oh, well, thank you Schüler, do you have messages for me?" von Lüttwitz was rather busy and needed to get back to the paperwork piling up on the table he was using as his desk. The little placard he had set aside, labeled "Stammtisch," reminded him of happier, simpler times.

"Yes Sir!" Schüler handed over a bound packet of documents. "These contain the operation order for your unit. You are also receiving reinforcements either later today or early tomorrow, depending on the weather."

"I presume that is if this awful weather holds?" Low scudding clouds, overcast, intermittent rain and fog, all prerequisites to keep the Allied Jabos off their backs. All of which they'd been "enjoying" over the past few days.

"Yes Sir," Schüler reached into his map case and pulled out another piece of paper, which he unfolded and read from, "according to this, your Kampfgruppe is being reinforced with a Grenadier Company and a platoon of tanks."

"Tanks?" Although von Lüttwitz already had a nice little contingent of assault guns, tanks would be an excellent thing to have in addition. "What sort of tanks?" Hoping for Panthers, he'd settle for IVs.

"Five Pzkw III Ausf. Ms, according to this." As he spoke, he handed the paper to von Lüttwitz.

"Ah, IIIs, lovely, better than nothing I suppose..."

"Sir, these have all been refurbished, all have side skirts, and very experienced crews from the tank school."

Panzerkampfwagen III, Ausführung M

"Why aren't they being assigned to a Panzer or Panzergrenadier unit?" Though von Lüttwitz wasn't one to look into a gift nag's mouth², he was curious as to why his unit was getting these older vehicles.

"Ah, no one else seems to want them. They'd take them in the East, but these have been directed to us here in the West. Take them, use them as you see fit." Schüler told the major his opinion, it made sense to him.

"All right, you're correct of course. IIIs are better than no tanks at all, aren't they?"

"Aber natürlich, Herr Major. Now I must be off, I need to be in Bitburg by midnight! The best of luck to you Sir, it was an honor to see you again!"

As the young SS officer left, von Lüttwitz noticed that his old comrade Feldwebel Manfred Sauer was standing behind the bar. Von Lüttwitz said to him, "So how long have you been standing there, Manfred?"

"Long enough to wonder why you haven't been sent off to Berlin to work for the Propaganda Ministry. You seem to be quite popular with the Waffen SS." Sauer said that with a sardonic grin.

"One of these days you will say something like that in front of the wrong person and..."

"I only look stupid, Herr Major."

"Understood, now in this letter, my dear Fahnenjunker-Feldwebel, in addition to the list of reinforcements we're receiving, is official approval of your new rank of Leutnant. You'll have to start behaving yourself, now that you're an officer." von Lüttwitz grinned as he said that.

"I've been a Fahnenjunker for little over ten days, the Army never moves that fast!" Sauer exclaimed in surprise.

"Well, step over here my dear Manfred. We have been slated to go over to the attack within the week. If this foul weather continues that is. The Wehrmacht will be on the march again, we are to attack in the Ardennes and drive to Antwerp. So of course, the Army needs more officers to lead this attack." von Lüttwitz tried very hard to keep the sarcasm out of voice.

"Drive to Antwerp with what?" Sauer asked. "Does the Führer believe his own propaganda. We might be able to hold the line of the Rhine, but attack to Antwerp? Das ist wahnsinnig, völlig wahnsinnig!³" Sauer was nearly beside himself, he had had thoughts of actually surviving the war. But now?

"I know, I know. But we really have no choice, the best we can hope for is to keep our boys alive, I don't mean to take any unnecessary risks but..."

"I know Jürgen, I know. We have to obey orders, but yes, no charging into the fight like the SS. We're too smart for that. I hope."

"I hope so, now my dear Leutnant Sauer, how about you send the Spieß out to collect all of my officers, we need to go over our objectives, and how we might achieve those without dying needlessly."

1st Day's Plan of Attack, Kampfgruppe von Lüttwitz

Looking out the window in the front door of the Gasthaus, von Lüttwitz noticed that it was snowing.


² The expression in German is "Einem geschenkte Gaul schaut man nicht ins Maul." Literally "one doesn’t look into the mouth of a gift nag."
³ That is insane, completely insane.

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  1. "and very experienced crews from the tank school"....eating their seed corn the Germans are.

    1. That's what they were reduced to in late '44.

  2. Mrs. Pierce's brother is about to get really cold feet, and wind up losing toes as a result. She was my fifth grade teacher. Her brother was under General McAuliffe.

    I never cared to see the german side of things, even the Whermacht as opposed to Wafen SS. But being humans, I can imagine they were just as 'happy' about this I would be. You have engaged my imagination, Sarge. Very well done.

  3. My planned Streetview road trip from Kroneburg to Losheimergraben hasn't happened because the Google camera car didn't drive that route yet.
    My search of Losheimergraben did produce photos of the area in 1944, and photos of the recent past.
    I'll paraphrase STxAR a bit by saying you continue to engage my imagination.
    And even with the house thermostat set at a comfortable temperature, I'm feeling a chill when I look at the photos of snow covered fields.

    1. Go to Google Maps, move the map to Germany, zoom way out to see all of Europe, engage Street View, note that Germany has virtually zero Street Views of the countryside. I think the Germans won't let them do that. (Probably for privacy reasons.)

  4. A most highly decorate pig farmer, our Sauer is. By April he should be an Obersleutnant! (Light Colonel..)

    And the Pzkfg III M with the long 50mm should be good on any light American armor or halftrack or truck, and from the side good against a Sherman. They'll be able to cover the Stug IIIs well, acting like a medium tank is supposed to act like. Completely worthless on the Eastern Front but still somewhat usable. Especially as anti-infantry vehicles.

    So, a tank platoon here, an assault platoon there, a couple companies of infantry, some engineers, attached artillery unit... Our major is getting a nice little command going. Any larger and they'll need to buck him up to Oberstleutnant!

    Good job on building the tension, by the way!

    Today must be Exclamation Mark day! For I seem to be using a lot of them!!!

    1. I wanted von Lüttwitz to have tanks. So he got tanks, old ones to be sure, but a tank is a tank, except when it's a PzKw I or a PzKw II. Now, of course, I need to get Paddock's boys some bazookas!

    2. The PzKw II wasn't bad, for a scout track. Pretty useful against infantry. Against actual armor? Sucked to be the PzKw II crew...

    3. Ja, aber es ist nur ein kleiner Panzer.

  5. An old Lex trick. Drive the readers to the dictionary to look up an oddball word, only to have it turn out to be precisely what it needed.

    Anabasis- a march from a coast into the interior, as that of the younger Cyrus into Asia in 401 BC, as narrated by Xenophon in his work Anabasis.

    Well played, Sarge.

    1. 'Tis where I learned my trade.

    2. Learned about der Anabasis reading sci-fi, because, of course, when I went to school the classics were already disappearing.

    3. When I was in school the classics were things along the lines of Tom Sawyer, the book, not the song by Rush.

    4. Xenophon? 401BC? Hey I'm not THAT old../VX :)

  6. Hey AFSarge;

    Another Excellent Post with the backstory:)

    1. Thanks MrG, the backstory is, to me anyway, important. If you don't know the characters, why would you care about them?

  7. Sarge, one of the more....mind expanding books I read this year was a book in Japan which was the last letters of Kamikaze pilots. It was a very different perspective.

    Likewise here. Thanks, as others have said, for engaging my mind.

    1. That would be an interesting read. Title?

    2. I am away from home at the moment but will send it as soon as I get back.

  8. I guess battlefield commissions were not all that uncommon on both sides


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