Tuesday, December 22, 2020

The Slow Crawl


"We're getting slammed L.T., Jenkins has already lost four men, we've got Kraut infantry coming through the woods to our left AND right, and we've got tanks on the main road, supported by infantry in halftracks. Stump wants to know if we should hold or bug out. If we hold, we're dying where we stand." Pvt. Riley Taggert delivered that message in one drawn out gasp. He had run the entire way to the platoon CP which was roughly 250 yards back from 2nd Platoon's road block.

2nd and 3rd Squads were holding that position while 1st Lt. Nate Paddock held Sgt. Jack Wilson's 1st Squad in reserve. Paddock thought for a moment, as he was about to speak, Pfc. John Myerson handed the radio headset to Paddock, "Cap'n Palminteri's on the line L.T.!"

"Charlie One Leader, send!" Paddock was a little more abrupt than usual, he had multiple balls in the air and things were getting way too complicated.

"Nate, head to your rally point, now! 1st, 3rd, and Weapons platoons are getting slammed by SS tanks and infantry south of the lake. If you stay where you're at, you'll be cut off. Move now! Charlie Leader, out."

Paddock looked at Taggert, "Tell Stump and Greg to get the Hell out of there. Fall back to Berg! Go!"


Leutnant Stefan Berger in Panzer 111 was low in his cupola, the Amis were supposed to be just up ahead according to former Unteroffizier Oskar Schwarz, whose encounter with the Americans earlier that morning had cost him his rank, and probably his life. Berger remembered well the scene which took place with Major von Lüttwitz, Oberleutnant Köhler, commanding the reconnaissance unit, and Schwartz.

"Is there anyone in your unit who can obey orders, Oberleutnant Köhler? Do they, and perhaps you yourself, not understand what observe, but do not engage means?" the Major was furious, though he kept his voice low, his words were clipped and precise.

Köhler, for his part, did not answer, he knew the Major's question was rhetorical. Instead, he bowed his head and said, "If you wish to have me arrested for this failure, Herr Major, I understand. If my men have failed in their mission, that is my fault, my responsibility."

Von Lüttwitz stood there for a moment, then said, "Oberleutnant Köhler, you are dismissed. Go back to your unit and prepare to move out. You will bring up the tail of the column as your unit's usefulness is somewhat in question. As for this man..."

Von Lüttwitz walked over to Schwartz and ripped the epaulettes from his tunic. "You are under arrest. You apparently cannot obey orders, therefore you should have no right to give orders. Spieß!!"

Hauptfeldwebel Klaus-Peter Keller and Grenadier Günther Löwe came into the room. Löwe had his bayonet affixed to his rifle. Keller spoke.

"The Feldgendarmerie are outside, Sir. They are ready to transport the prisoner."

"Very well, get this man out of my sight. We have a battle to fight! May God have mercy on your soul, Schwartz, I doubt the Wehrmacht will..."

Berger saw the American bazooka team just in time. So did his radioman manning the bow machine gun. A quick burst caused the rocket the Amis fired to streak overhead. On the radio he informed Leutnant Manfred Sauer behind them in the lead halftrack what was happening.

Sauer had his 1st Gruppe disembark and deploy. Unteroffizier Köhler had his men on line and advancing under the cover of Grenadier Hermann Groß's machine gun fire. Köhler and Sauer were both in foul moods. Sauer because his cousin had been killed in action as a result of a man disobeying orders, Köhler because the man who was responsible for Theo Sauer's death was in his son's unit. The unit which now brought up the tail of the column in disgrace.

Shortly after the 1st Gruppe was moving, the vehicle carrying Unteroffizier Wolf Schneider's 2nd Gruppe had moved up, they too quickly deployed and began to maneuver on the Ami's other flank. If the Amis stayed in place, they were doomed.

Sgt. Greg Jenkins yelled for his reduced squad to fall back. He only had seven men on the line and the Germans were starting to turn his right flank. As they moved back, he saw Pvt. Frank Genovese go down, hit while covering his team mate Pvt. Peter Moreno.

"Damn it, Kilpatrick, lay down some fire on those bastards. We're about to get cut off!"

"No shit, Sarge!" As he yelled that, Kilpatrick turned his B.A.R. on a small party of Germans trying to rush up a few yards. He didn't hit any of them that he could see, but he made them go to ground. He was still getting used to the B.A.R. which had been Hank McTeague's until that morning. Now Hank was wrapped in his poncho back at the platoon CP, he and four others in the squad had been killed that morning, one more, Pfc. Harry Mitchell, had been sent back to the aid station as he couldn't stop weeping over the death of the assistant squad leader, Cpl. Hilario Santos. The two men had grown up together.

But now they were in a fight for their lives, tank and machine gun fire was streaking overhead as the Germans tried to kill the rest of Jenkins' squad.

Just when it seemed that it was all over, friendly mortar fire began to impact near the German position. High-explosive rounds, followed by smoke rounds to cover the withdrawal.

Sgt. Jenkins yelled out, "RUN!! LET'S GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE!!"


Berger knew that the Amis were on the run, so he ordered up the rest of his platoon. As he ordered his driver to proceed, with caution, they rolled up the road to Berg. If he could get his tanks into the town before the Amis got there, he could destroy their transport and bag the lot of them. Then there was a crump, followed by a sickening lurch to the left.

"Verdammte Landminen!¹" he screamed as he realized that he was out of the fight, and his tank was blocking the narrow road.

Unteroffizier Hans Sauer² was leading his 3rd Gruppe out of the trees and into a small field. The field was muddy, so he didn't notice that the ground had been disturbed. Until one of his men stepped on a mine.

Grenadier Kurt Schoenauer had tripped the American M2 anti-personnel mine, the mine's propelling charge blew his foot off and caused the main charge not to rise as high as it should have. The main charge, essentially equivalent to a 60mm mortar shell, detonated around three feet in the air, which killed Schoenauer before he felt the pain of his destroyed foot.

Grenadier Carsten Pfeiffer was nearby, though he wasn't killed instantly, he died before he could receive medical attention. Grenadiers Peter Möller and Harald Koch were both wounded, Koch badly enough to require evacuation to a field hospital.

Shortly after the mine detonated, the cries of "Sanitäter!" began to echo around the field.

Sauer knew that where there was one mine, there were usually more. He ordered his men to freeze in place. He hated the thought that the Amis were getting away, but he hated the idea of losing more men more than anything.

Sonderkraftfahrzeug (SdKfz) 8 - 12 ton prime mover

Von Lüttwitz looked at the wrecked PzKw III which had been towed off the road by the big SdKfz 8 heavy halftrack from his Panzerkompanie's maintenance team. "Any chance of fixing this?" he asked the Panzerkompanie's commander, Hauptmann Norbert Sauer³.

"Perhaps, the drive sprocket is destroyed, as is the forward road wheel, we should have those in our stocks. But not before tomorrow afternoon, Sir." Hauptmann Sauer realized that so far, the armor in the Kampfgruppe had accomplished precisely nothing. Other than lose men and vehicles.

"Damn it! Well, best get started then, Hauptman. Orders group in 30 minutes next to my Kübelwagen. It's getting dark and we're still nowhere near our objective!"


"What is it Günther?" von Lüttwitz asked his messenger.

"Report from the south, Herr Major, the SS have been stopped cold by mines and American tank destroyers."

"Scheiße! The Maas? We'll be lucky to reach Berg by Christmas! Damn it!"


Once again, resistance by small groups of American soldiers, often unsupported, have held up the German advance for another day.

The Germans in this sector have been attacking for nearly a week, they have managed to advance ten miles.

Ten miles.

¹ Damned land mines!
² No relation to Manfred or Theo
³ Again, no relation to Manfred or Theo. Yes, there are a lot of Sauers in this outfit...

Link to all of The Chant's fiction.


  1. Tick tock.....tick tock....somebody's timetable is getting....ah....adjusted. Interesting article at that first photo on the Battle. That photo, a peculiar way of carrying a long gun by one hand on the forend, puts a lot of strain on one hand with that method. There's at least five guys doing that.

    1. Do a search on "trail arms," it's a thing. A military thing. Not sure of the efficacy of holding a weapon that way, but they learned it in training.

  2. Soon the weather will clear, and the Jabos will arrive. Christmas Day, wasn't it?

  3. When I was a kid, I read a book on Guadacanal. I think it applied to other Pacific islands, too. They measured their advance in touchdowns. How many 100 yard gains they made during the day.... A 100 yards a day. 10 Miles seems like a lot, until I remembered the dash through Belgium into France, or the push into Poland or Russia... Must've felt like running in waist high water....

    @Nylon12, I wonder if those guys are in the process of moving the rifle from under their arm to sling it, or vissy verssy. Dawned on me that a snapshot only gets that instant, and not much before or after... There isn't much motion blur tho...

    1. The guy in he foreground looks to be carrying an StG.44, while at least one of the other rifles appears to be a G.43. Perhaps the magazines on those rifles get in the way of carrying them at their balance point, hence the forearm carry? Carrying them behind the magazine and trigger guard might be more awkward??

    2. STxAR - Especially when they needed to cross the Maas (Meuse) and then drive to Antwerp. Before the weather cleared. It was never a rational plan. Note above, trail arms is a thing, not sure why.

    3. Tom - I see the 44, couldn't see the 43, that picture is really fuzzy, I hunted but couldn't find a better (and usable from a legal standpoint) copy.

  4. "Is there anyone in your unit which can obey orders, Oberleutnant Köhler?
    don't mean to be a "grammar nazi" (you should excuse the expression🤣), but anyone/who vs. anything/which or did the Nazi Majors depersonalize their men that much?

    1. Here's another one: "But now they were in a fight for their life, ..." plural soldiers (they) fight for their plural "lives", not singular "life"

    2. Nein. Without summoning my inner grammarian, you must realize languages have changed over the years; what seems right today would definitely be out of place then. 'which' is proper.

    3. Rick - True for English, aber auf Deutsch things are less complicated "Gibt es jemanden in Ihrer Einheit, der Befehle befolgen kann?" - avoids the whole which/who thing altogether.

    4. Another one, Sarge:
      "Orders group in 30 minutes next to my Kübelwagen in 30 minutes."
      Even knowing how this must end (in the long run), I'm entirely too engrossed in this story. I look forward to getting home in the evening & reading the latest installment (or instalment, if one prefers)!
      --Tennessee Budd

    5. (Don McCollor)...another nit. "stand or bug out". I think "bug out" became popular in the Korean War...

    6. Tennessee Budd - Fixed that. (I must have been sleepy that night.) Thanks! (On both counts!)

    7. Don - The term originated in WWII, became popular with civilians in the '50s.

    8. (Don McCollor)...I stand corrected...

    9. It's good to check on those kinds of things. There are times when my historical periods run together.

  5. Sarge, I am obviously more deficient in my history than I should be - this sounds like a close run thing that very much could have gone the other way - am I really that out of touch?

    1. The first few days were touch and go, after the 6th Panzerarmee couldn't break through on Elsenborn Ridge, things started to go wrong. The failure to seize Bastogne sealed the fate of the attack, from then on it was doomed to failure.

  6. Lt. Paddock refers to the 'Berg.' Herr Major refers to the 'Berg.' Which 'Berg" are they referring to, as the maps show (scrolling up and counting, good thing my toes are exposed so I can count and type...) 6 'Berg's, though three intuitively are not THE 'Berg.'

    Inquiring Bergermeisters want to know...

    Other than that, good story. And we see why so many troops loved and hated mines.

    1. To the east of the C Company rally point (last map) is the Belgian town of Berg. It's also the point to which Paddock's platoon is withdrawing. There are a few terrain features which have the word "berg" as part of the name. Berg auf Deutsch, means mountain, hill, mount, pile, heap, or tor.

      This area in Belgium is very German.

    2. Good episode as usual, Sarge. The thought occured to me lkast night, while readinkg A Higer Call, the account of the encounter of Luftwaffe ace Franz Stiger and the B-17 crew of Ye Olde Pub, that he too did sometinkg so rare, humanizinkg both sides. Like your stories, you get a good idea knowinkg life both in JG-27 and the 379th Bomb Group.

      Good job.

      Wonder if the fictional Schwartz. Since the Nazis aren't involved, and the was desperate for men, maybe a punishment battalion?

      This made me recall something in the book last night with Stiger knowing, if the Nazis found out, his execution. He recalled the execution of a German war widow simply for telling a joke about Hitler.

      On the M2 land mine, I remember something from the Army. They had this little bitty mine designed not to kill the unlucky recipient but to blow his foot off. The idea being you just took 5 combatants out of the scene rather than simply killing one. The 4 of course were to carry the wounded man to an aid station.

    3. I sure seem to like those "k"s on the keyboard ;-)

    4. William #1 - Schwartz will probably wind up in the East in a punishment battalion. I remember that mine as well, maiming rather than killing. Nasty but effective.

    5. William #2 - I was wondering if there was a sale on the letter k. 😉

    6. Get them while they are hot 😁

      Sometimes blogger gives you the option of deleting after you posted but it didn’t this time.

      I was going to correct it but oh well

  7. A great read! I'm finding myself totally immersed in it.
    Interesting name coincidence: The Bastogne surrender demand was from a von Luttwitz.

    1. Yes it was. Not sure if they're related. Probably are.

      Thanks Mark.


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