Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Tanks? We Have Tanks?

Panzerspähwagen II "Luchs"

"Herr Major, there are two officers waiting outside. They say that they have been assigned to our Kampfgruppe." Hauptfeldwebel Klaus-Peter Keller, the Sergeant Major, or Spieß, for Kampfgruppe von Lüttwitz, looked somewhat nervous, which was out of character for the man.

"I'm not sure what I need with two new officers Spieß, but send them in." Major Jürgen von Lüttwitz, the eponymous leader of the Kampfgruppe waited a moment.

Sighing, he put his pen down and sat back in his chair, "There's more to this than just two new officers, isn't there, Klaus-Peter?"

"Yes Sir, both men are tankers, black tunics and all. What's more, they seem to have brought tanks with them."

"What?! Show them in, I would love to have tanks, but we step off in two days. This is insane." von Lüttwitz got up from behind his 'desk' (a table in a small Gasthaus) and put his cap on, if he was greeting new officers for his unit, best to make it formal.

Hauptfeldwebel Keller entered the building, holding the door for the two Panzer officers. Von Lüttwitz had always thought the black panzer uniform with it's skull and crossbones on the collar looked rather foreboding. Not as bad as the SS dress uniforms, which he also thought were rather garish. At least the Panzer uniform had a basis in German history with the Death's Head Hussars, and the tankers did consider themselves the spiritual descendants of the old Prussian cavalry.

The taller of the two officers snapped his heels together and saluted in the old way, "Guten morgen Herr Major, Hauptmann Norbert Sauer from the Panzerschüle. We would have been here sooner but moving tanks by rail isn't as easy as it was in the old days. We had to drive here from the railhead and the roads aren't that great. At least the overcast keeps the Ami Jabos at home. My unit has 87 men and 14 PzKw III Ausf Ms."

Von Lüttwitz returned the captain's salute then offered his hand, which the man took. "Panzer IIIs? A pleasant surprise to have any tanks at all I suppose."

"We know how to use them Herr Major, many of the men were instructors at the Panzerschüle, the others worked there in many roles. We haven't been together long, but we're experienced. I think there are perhaps two or three recruits in the company, even they have been with me for two months."

Von Lüttwitz nodded then looked at the junior of the two tankers, who snapped to attention and also saluted in the old way. "Herr Major, Oberleutnant Ludwig Köhler at your service. I command 63 men and we are equipped with 7 Panzerspähwagen II "Luchs" reconnaissance vehicles. Quite honestly, I think we were lost in the shuffle when this operation was put together. I complained to my uncle at OKH, he sent us to you." Köhler paused for a moment.

"Sir, if I may ask, when do we move?"

"Day after tomorrow if the plan holds, there has been some rumbling from higher up for us to stay out of the way of the Leibstandarte as they push for the Maas and eternal glory. I would prefer to jump off on the 16th, but as my Spieß is fond of saying, I only work here."

"So gentlemen, see to your men, Keller will assist with that, then report back here at 1500. We are having an orders group at that time. Questions for me?"

Both of the tankers answered in the negative, then left to see to their men and vehicles. Before Keller left to assist them, he said to von Lüttwitz, "I'll have full rosters to you before 1500. But just guessing, we now have over 500 men and close to one hundred vehicles."

"Now I just need to figure out what to do with this excess of good fortune, thank you Spieß."

Unteroffizier Karl-Heinz Köhler was walking down a street in the small town of Kronenburg and noticed something as he turned the corner, tanks. They looked like PzKw IIs from where he was, then he saw the road wheels, these were the "Luchs" variant of that vehicle, used for reconnaissance. Then he saw someone he recognized, his son.

Coming up behind the young man, he was surprised to see that his youngest was now an officer. He spoke, as gruffly as he could, "Excuse me Herr Oberleutnant, but you can't park that thing here!"

Whirling around, furious, the young officer caught himself when he saw who had addressed him, "Vati! What are you doing here, I thought you were home with Mutti!"

"No Bubi, the Army decided they needed my vast experience and recalled me to the colors some time ago, didn't you get our letters?"

"No, mail in the East is sporadic at best, then I was wounded..."

The look on Köhler's face startled the young Panzer officer, "No Papa, I'm fine, just a scratch really." Young Köhler took off his cap so his father could see the nasty scar just below his son's hairline.

"Ouch!" Köhler the elder exclaimed. Though nasty looking, and no doubt he had bled like a stuck pig, the wound was not dangerous, another millimeter lower though... "Does your mother know?"

"Yes sir, I got to spend two weeks at home convalescing. She knows and yes, she was very mad at me for getting wounded."

"What happened? How were you wounded?" Unteroffizier Köhler wasn't a soldier at the moment, he was a father.

"We were hit on the gun mantlet by a Russian anti-tank shell, a piece of it sheared off and gave me a new haircut. Rather closer a shave than I cared for Papa." While the young officer was grinning when he said that, something in his eyes betrayed just how close it had been.

"So Ludwig, why are you here?"

"Ah yes, my men and I were reassigned to this unit. As we had no job, I wrote to Uncle Fritz..."

"You wrote to your grandmother's brother at OKH?"

"Yes sir, I had to do something, our unit was still forming. Most of the Luchs are in Russia, but Uncle Fritz thought we might be useful here. He knows that you are here by the way, he's always liked you, you know that, right?"

"Really, I thought the old colonel didn't think much of his granddaughter's husband. He's never really spoken to me, officers and enlisted weren't as friendly in the Great War you know."

"Yes, I know. But it's also the reason you have a company of PzKw IIIs assigned to you as well."

"Really? I didn't know. Your Uncle did that as well?"

"Yes Vati, he's been following the adventures of Kampfgruppe von Lüttwitz, very impressed he is."

"Huh, impressed is he? Well, he should be, our Major is something of a warrior you know."

"Yes Vati, I know that, Knight's Cross for leading the remnants of his company across France after the collapse at the Falaise Cauldron."

"Seven men Ludwig, only six made it."

"Yes sir, but it impressed the Führer. So..."

"I see. Anyways, it's good to see you Bubi. You know the rumor is that we're attacking soon."

"Why do you think I'm here Vati? I know that. My Panzerspähwagens will be leading the way!"

"That's all well and good laddie-boy. Just make sure you keep your head down this time."

"Yes Papa. Oh!" Oberleutnant Köhler checked his watch, "I have to go, orders group in 15 minutes."

"Alright, run along, ahem, Herr Oberleutnant."

Unteroffizier Köhler was waiting outside the Gasthaus waiting for the orders group to break up, which it did shortly after he got there. The first man out was Leutnant Manfred Sauer of whom the men joked that if he kept getting promoted at his current rate, he'd be a field marshal by next spring. Köhler wondered if any of them would still be alive in the spring of 1945.

"Leutnant Sauer, they must have emptied the jails in Saxony, I see at least six Sauers on the new roster."

"You know Opa, I'm an officer now, you need to show me more respect."

"Ah, of course Sir, they emptied the jails Sir, more Sauers Sir!"

Both men were grinning at this point, Leutnant Sauer then told Köhler, "Theodor Sauer is actually my cousin, I heard from his commander that he's in that Panzerspähwagen outfit. By the way, the commander of that unit..."

"My son actually, I ran into him shortly before this meeting you just got out of. Any word?"

Leutnant Sauer looked around before leaning in and whispering, "Sunday. Sunday we march into Belgium. The leading elements of the attacking force hits the Amis on Saturday. We have our work cut out for us. Oh, one other thing, we are now officially a motorized unit. I guess that goes hand in hand with all the vehicles we have now."

"Pray for bad weather Manfred, if it clears..."

"I know Opa, we'll be bombed and strafed into oblivion. So, that's all I can tell you now. Platoon meeting with all the squad leaders will be at 1900, in my quarters. All right?"

"Certainly, I'll tell Wolf and Hans. Are you sure Hans isn't a relative as well? I mean he shows up and 'bang,' he's a squad leader."

"I think the Nahkampfspange has more to do with that then his last name, Opa."

"I know Manfred, just kidding. Ya know, my son outranks you, so be nice to me, okay."

"I hear you also have an Uncle at OKH?"

"My wife's grandmother's brother, a colonel. Lost a leg in the Argonne Forest in the last war, but he can still command a desk I suppose. He's never liked me, wanted his granddaughter to marry some fool of a artillery officer. He died at Stalingrad."

"Still, with that kind of connection..."

"Wouldn't think of it Manfred, my duty is here."

"I know, hey, you watch yourself over the next few weeks, do you hear me?"

"I do Sir, but I'll be pretty busy watching your back, so..."

"Hahaha! Hey, there's your son, I'll leave you to it then."

Köhler nodded and called out to his son, from there the two went to get food. Ludwig had always been hungry growing up, Köhler remembered. Nothing had changed.

And yet, everything had changed. Would they both survive the coming fight?

Köhler thought of the motto on his belt buckle¹, he certainly hoped that was the case. Though he had his doubts.

¹ German Army belt buckles were inscribed with the Nazi eagle topped by the words "GOTT MIT UNS" - "God is with us." The same motto adorned the belt buckles of German troops in the First World War.

Link to all of The Chant's fiction.


  1. Father and son... You are going to be playing with our emotions, aren't you Sarge.
    While I embraced and proudly accepted my service and the dangers involved, the thought of my children serving gave me pause and self reflection. The youngest turned 18 three days ago. While I would be proud to have any of them serve (with the trepidation's that come with that aside) oldest is already in Cal Poly, youngest leaning academics route too. Maybe they'll be engineering officers, God forbid...

    1. Pause and self-reflection, I hear ya. All three kids went into the Navy, two SWOs and an NFO. Yes, there were scary moments and worries but I was ever so proud of them, still am. Both girls married Navy fighter pilots, one recently retired, the other is an instructor pilot at the West Coast RAG. Naval aviation, talk about trepidation!

      As to the Köhlers, that just sort of happened when I noticed that the kid in charge of the reconnaissance outfit had the same last name as Opa. So I dug into Opa's back story, sure enough. He has two sons, one was captured in North Africa the other was a tanker in Russia, so I decided it was time for a family reunion.

      Play with your emotions? Well, sure, it's what I suppose good writers do, and I aspire to be just that.

      Congrats on your kids, engineering ain't easy!

    2. Naval aviation, bast in the world. Had them flying off my roof for seven years. I think one of your SWO's was a nuke, congrats, tough schooling. I got out as a MM1 nuke 2plant, Rar, CVN-70, 87-94. Guess engineering may be in the blood. My Dad was a Hull Tech nuclear component welder on sub tenders. Father-in-law, Cal Poly engineering grad worked for Boeing, so I guess my Kids are destined.
      Hey, your writing keeps me coming back, so play with those emotions all you like, I read and weep over your stories alone.
      And I will damn sure buy the book.

    3. The oldest daughter was indeed a Nuke SWO, now she's out of the Navy and works for Naval Reactors. All the kids are way smarter than their Dad, they get that from their Mom I think.

      USS Carl Vinson, my Nuke was on USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69).

      It does sound like engineering is a major component of your DNA.

      Thanks Dakota Viking!

    4. Oooooh, Naval Reactors... Boy, do I have some stories about them. That's a Love HATE relationship, NR vs. the fleet. Again, congrats to her, those NR types were sharp (though some of them could be pricks... cough, cough). In retrospect they had a tough job to do and it is a testament to them that Naval Nuclear Power has an unmatched safety record.

    5. The Navy has a superb safety record in the nuclear field.

  2. Seconding Dakota......getting your readers more invested in the Germans just before the last throw of the dice....well played Sarge, well played .

    1. I await the next few days with a certain amount of fear, I have grown to love some of these characters. It's war, people die. One of the things I aim for in this story is to show the humanity which exists in the horrible crucible of war.

      Oh, and that war sucks, that's another thing I want to show.

  3. Very engaging Sarge. Perhaps because of the fact we are Americans, we often scarcely think of the humanity on the other side of the lines

    (To be clear: not arguing for National Socialism. But like any people, they have dreams, hopes, and plans just like anyone else).

    1. Sarge, also found the book on the Kamikaze I was trying to remember. It is called "Cherry Blossoms on the Wind" and is published by the Yasukuni Jinja. I could not find an easy reference online so not sure if it is published outside of Japan.

    2. TB #1 - Not all Germans were Nazis, something we tend to forget. Especially in the politically charged times we live in. The Germans were indeed individuals with hopes and dreams. The Nazis twisted that to their own ends, that ended badly.

    3. TB #2 - I'll have to ask The Nuke to procure me a copy next time she's in Japan. She goes there quite a bit for work.

      Published by the Yasukuni Shrine (靖国神社)? A place which is not well understood in the West. But a place I respect. FWIW

    4. Yes, published by the Shrine itself. It was actually a desk book in a hotel we stayed in at Asakusa.

      We performed an embu (demonstration) there this year in February as part of the training we did on a stage within the temple complex but across from the shrine. We also got to go where a great many tourists do not get to go into the inner part of the shrine. It is not every day one performs at a 150 year old monument. Truly a lifetime memorable experience. If we are able to go again, I may look for the book.

      Sakamoto Ryoma, one of my heroes, is enshrined there.

    5. Fascinating story. I looked up Sakamoto Ryoma, a man ahead of his time in Japan. I think history would be rather different had he lived.

      A shame.

    6. Sarge, I like to believe things would have been very different but one never knows. I will still say he is still a popular figure in Japan.

      Romulus Hillsborough has a biography of him called Ryoma. It is a bit of a tome - not bad, just long - but is sadly one of the few English references available.

      The Bakamatsu period (1853-1867) is a terribly interesting period of Japanese history that, perhaps in some ways, reflects the sort of chaotic transition from an old to a new world that we seem to be undergoing now. One would hope our own Ryoma will arise.

    7. Sorry, Bakumatsu. Fingers faster than my thoughts...

    8. TB #1 - That period is very interesting. Transitioning from the way things had been for thousands of years to a new way.

    9. TB #2 - It's a typo, they happen (far too often with me). I see "bakumatsu" and my brain thinks "bakufu," which isn't the same thing at all!

  4. I agree with TB, I never really considered the humanity of the enemies of WW2. There were inscrutable to me. The interplay between old warrior and younger warrior are very familiar. Like minds find each other... I mean, we Chanters are all here, aren't we? Good stuff Sarge, good story.

  5. ~sings~

    It's a small war, after all....


  6. you mean our enemies don't all have fangs and horns and tails? who woulda thought...

    Nice job, Sarge - like you, I am both looking forward to the follow on posts and dreading them ...

    1. Not all of our enemies have fangs and horns and tails, however some do.

      Thanks Tom!

    2. No. That's the Pacific Theater... (sarcasmish)(maybe not)(maybe so...)

  7. That's a surprising lot of tanks, albeit light and medium. But the Luchs had a heck of a 20mm autocannon on it (not nearly as good as the one in World of Tanks, but still pretty good.) A .50cal on steroids. Not a nice thing to face as an infantryman.

    At least the bazookas, recoilless rifles and rifle grenades can take out a Luchs or a IIIM with a hard kill (taking out the tank totally) versus having to rely on breaking tracks and blowing away road wheels like on uparmored IVs and Panthers and both types of Tigers, including all the assault guns and tank hunters based on the IVs, Panthers and Tigers.

    There's going to be a lot of heartbreak and sorrow in the coming weeks.

    Maybe common sense will prevail, and the whole German unit will be cut off with little loss and surrender as a whole. Yeah, right...

    1. I don't even know what's going to happen until I start writing. I start with a rough idea, sometimes based on whatever photos I find, and then go from there. It just seems to flow...

    2. Luchs, the cute little terror of tier 4...
      And yeah 20mm can be of not use against sherman but if it catches trucks or even half-tracks travelling...
      As for the IIIM, long 50mm can konock out a Sherman with flanking shot to side armor, and will massacre half tracka and the like.
      Never underestimate training instructor crews. It took B-17 carpet bombing to destroy Bayerleins Panzer Lehr Div. in normandy....

  8. I was reading this I thought what a monumental challenge is must have been for the Germans to both integrate and fortify these units and then co-ordinate the attack west!

    And something you have shown is the camaraderie on the German side too.

    1. The Germans were very good at tactical improvisation throughout the war. Still, to have two new units attached to your outfit on the eve of battle would be a challenge.

  9. Hey AFSarge;

    Excellent Post, the Germans had 2 Tank schools, one near Munster and the other near Wunsdorf. I had to dig them out of my books, I knew that the Germans had an infantry combat school near Hammelburg , that was the one that raised havoc with Task Force Baum, the one that Patton sent to rescue prisoners from a Stalag including his son in law I believe, going by memory. That was an excellent idea incorporating cadre from the tank school with this operation, It shows that the German are going for Broke when they are utilizing their trainers in an operation.

    1. Indeed they did. And yes, Patton's son-in-law was a POW at OFLAG XIII-B, near Hammelburg.

      The Bundeswehr still trains their infantry at Hammelburg.

    2. Wasn’t there one, or is there one, near Baumholder? I remember a tiger tank sitting out in front and damned if that thing didn’t look almost as modern as our then M 60 tank

    3. The Wehrmacht did have a training camp there, but the tank schools were elsewhere.

  10. I forgot to mention, "Tanks for the memories!"

  11. Norbert Sauer has a Kline Panzer Lehr?
    Is the German word for granddaughter, and grandniece the same?

    1. Norbert ist der Cousin von Manfred Sauer. He does command a mini-Panzer Lehr, sort of...

      And granddaughter is die Enkelin, grandniece is die Großnichte.

  12. playing catch up.... :)

    "many of men were instructors at the Panzerschüle"

    "many of my men..." ?


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