Thursday, April 22, 2021



S/Sgt Jeff Kilcannon rushed into the 1st Platoon CP, "Sir, we've got a big problem, one of our patrols found a couple of dead GIs!"

"Uh, we're at war Jeff, not a surprise to find dead men." 1st Lt. Nathaniel Gonzales stood up and put his helmet on, then he reached for his carbine. He figured that he'd better check this out, Kilcannon wasn't normally this excitable.

Kilcannon explained, "Sir, these guys are from 8th Armored, they've only been dead a day or so."

After that revelation, Gonzales had Kilcannon fetch Sgt. Rudy Taylor's 2nd Squad. He also dispatched Pvt. Frank David to let Charlie Company's commander, Cpt. Stephen Hernandez, know what was going on. "I don't want this going out over the radio." He explained.

Gonzales knew that the 8th Armored Division was operating to the north of the Harz. Why were these men so far from their unit? Deserters perhaps?

Cpt. Hernandez listened as David explained what was happening, then he told the messenger to head back to his platoon. He called the First Sergeant into his office.

"Mort, send a runner to each platoon, no one is to leave the vicinity of the village unless with their squad. I think we have a possible Werwolf¹ situation." Hernandez had said 'werewolf' using the German pronunciation.

1st Sgt. Saeger looked at the company commander as if the man had just grown a second head. "Werewolf Sir? Are you serious?"

Hernandez realized that he hadn't yet shown his first sergeant the message that had come in via courier that morning. Pulling a piece of paper from the pile on the table he was using as a desk, he handed it to Saeger. "Better read this Mort."

The message detailed what division knew about a Nazi plan to set up guerilla units behind the lines, the two dead men that 1st Platoon had found could very well be related. Saeger read through the message, then swore, "Holy shit, Sir, this could be a big problem."


SS-Scharführer Ernst Schneider was rewinding the bandage on his right hand while SS-Sturmmann Rainer Bodenschaft kept a lookout in the direction of where they had surprised the two American soldiers. 

Schneider and Bodenschaft had ambushed the two Americans, killing them with their fighting knives. While they still had their StG 44s, ammunition was scarce, also, firing was noisy, so they had used their knives. All had gone well except that Schneider had lost his grip on his knife and cut the palm of his hand. It hurt like Hell and was still oozing blood.

"We should go back and get their medical kits, Americans all carry that sort of thing don't they?" Bodenschaft was trying to be helpful, but the older man was in no mood for it.

"Shut up Rainer, it's not that bad. It hurts but I'm not wandering back to that area. Eventually the Amis will find the bodies. The men in the village aren't as careless as they two men we killed. I suspect those two were deserters looking for loot."

The two SS men were all that was left of an SS mountain infantry company that had been sent into the Harz Mountains when Heinrich Himmler had ordered the creation of the Harzfestung.² Their unit had been cut to pieces by elements of two American infantry regiments, both having strong armored support.

Both men had been in the Waffen SS since the invasion of Russia, they had seen and done things which made them realize that there would be no pity for men of their ilk after the war. Therefore they had resolved to fight on, no matter the outcome.

Pfc. Omar Horton held a hand up, behind him the squad halted and faced outwards, each man covering a particular sector. Sgt. Lawrence Hanson hustled up to where his lead scout was. He was scanning the forest around him, his senses heightened to any threat. He'd been at this since North Africa and so far his instincts had kept him alive.

Hanson took a knee next to Horton who pointed at the ground in front of him. Hanson saw it immediately, a bloody scrap of cloth. There were also boot prints, the kind made by hobnailed German boots.

"I think two guys, maybe three. They stopped here, probably to tend to a wound. There's no blood trail leading away from here, so the guy can't be hurt that bad." Horton looked off into the woods, the underbrush hinted at the wildness of the place, the Germans liked their forests tidy, this area was still as wild as it had probably been back in ancient times.

Hanson nodded then tried his walkie-talkie, nothing but static, too many hills, too many trees for him to get a signal. He thought about it, then decided that they should head back. There were definitely enemy about, not many, but probably the fanatic kind. They could have laid low until the war ended, but they had killed those two men from 8th Armored.

With knives for God's sake!

Reluctantly, he ordered the squad back to the village.

"My man says two men, maybe three, they'll be hard to find in this wilderness." 1st Lt. Gonzales explained to Cpt. Hernandez.

"I've already talked with Maj. Josephson, he wants us to sweep the area. We're moving east anyway, I'd have rather gone by road, but now we're walking. So we'll move out in skirmish order, two platoons up, one back. Let your men know that if they see anyone, shoot first, ask questions later, these guys might be guerillas, they might be deserters, but they're desperate. They could have let those armored guys pass, but they didn't. No signs of a struggle, those two men were ambushed." Hernandez paused and looked at his platoon leaders.

"Questions?" he asked.

1st Lt. Nate Paddock raised a hand, then said, "Brad Woodstock says he's got orders to follow the rest of the regiment south, so we're without tank support. Right?"

"Yeah, tanks aren't much use in these woods, so they've been ordered to rejoin their battalion. We might not be going to Czechoslovakia after all. It depends on what we find as we sweep to the east. Get your men ready, pack three days rations. We move off at first light."

"Half the men on watch Sir?" 2nd Lt. Bob Poole asked.

"Yup, good idea Bob. Two shifts of four hours each. Make sure you leaders get your sleep. A tired leader makes mistakes, those mistakes get men killed. Platoon sergeants take one watch, officers the other." Turning to his Weapons Platoon leader he said, "Herm, I want your platoon around the company CP, MGs covering the roads, mortars ready for action."

2nd Lt. Herman Jacobsen nodded and said, "You got it boss."

"Okay guys let's do this, we've got our work cut out for us."

Schneider and Bodenschaft linked up with a five-man unit of Volkssturm just before sunset. Schneider immediately took command.

"We're going to start hunting the Amis. I want them scared to leave their bivouacs at night. I want them looking over their shoulders during the day. I want to kill some and terrorize the others. We have our orders, the Reichsführer has declared the Harz a fortress. We are its garrison. Reinforcements from 11th Army are headed this way. Final victory is a question of willpower, not fire power." Schneider had an odd tone to his voice, almost as if he were preaching to the men.

The five Volkssturm men shared hidden glances, none of them were thrilled with the idea of fighting any more. Especially not under an SS fanatic.

When the two SS men woke in the morning, they discovered that three of the Volkssturm had disappeared in the night. Local men, they knew these woods, which Schneider had been counting on. Which also meant that they had little chance of tracking them down.

"We'll keep patrolling, there are others out here. We shall be werewolves, the enemy will learn to fear us." Schneider harangued the men as they prepared to move to a new position.

Bodenschaft thought that his old comrade had finally lost his mind. Their was no hope of victory.

There was, in truth...

No hope at all.

¹ Werwolf (German for "werewolf") was a Nazi plan which began development in 1944, to create a resistance force which would operate behind enemy lines as the Allies advanced through Germany, in parallel with the Wehrmacht fighting in front of the lines. It is widely misconstrued as having been intended to be a guerilla force to harass Allies forces after the defeat of Germany, but this misconception was created by Joseph Goebbels through propaganda disseminated through his "Radio Werwolf", which was not actually connected in any way with the military unit. (Source)
² Fortress Harz

Link to all of the Chant's fiction.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

A Breather


"You wanted to see me Sir?" 2nd Lt. Bob Poole had been summoned to the company commander's makeshift office which was situated in an old barn not far from Charlie Company's latest battle with the retreating Germans.

"How's Kincaid working out for ya?" Cpt. Stephen Hernandez was still trying to get to know as many of the new officers and senior sergeants as he could. April had been a rough month for the company so far, and it wasn't over yet.

"He's a good man I think. The kids like him, he seems to know his shit, but until I get to see him in action, I can't really judge the guy. D'ya know what I mean Cap'n?" Poole was still getting used to being an officer, Hernandez probably was as well. Hell, it wasn't that long ago that both men were platoon sergeants!

"Yeah, tough to gauge a soldier's worth before you've seen him in combat. But the reason I wanted to see you is that we'll be moving again, this time to the south. The fighting here in the Harz is wrapping up. Division wants us to hang tight, our regiment is officially in reserve for now. A guy I know at regiment says that we're going to be headed south, to Czechoslovakia if you can believe it. But for now we're the division reserve until the boys in the 16th and the 18th finish mopping up resistance in this area."

"Good to know Sir, but why aren't the other platoon leaders here?" Poole was worried that perhaps he'd done something wrong. He wasn't just a new officer, and though he'd been Damien Lott's platoon sergeant, he was new to leading a platoon. He still felt somewhat responsible for Lott being relieved by Palminteri. That situation, so he had heard, was being looked at, regiment was concerned that Palminteri's later mental breakdown may have influenced his earlier decision to relieve Lott. Lord knows they were all under stress, but the Captain had been really stressed when he'd fired Lott.

Hernandez coughed to get Poole's attention.

"Sorry Sir, I was thinking about Lieutenant Lott." Poole snapped back to the present.

"Yeah, from what I understand, regiment is reviewing his relief. If he is exonerated, he won't come back to us. He'll go to one of the other regiments, probably the 18th, they've taken some serious losses in lieutenants and sergeants."

"Yeah, wouldn't look good him coming back here, but he wasn't a bad officer, he just f**ked up that one time." Poole sat up in his chair and leaned forward, as if he was about to make a point.

Hernandez held a hand up to stop Poole, "I know Bob, I know, we lost men because Damian didn't have the armor leading the way. Yesterday we had the armor up front and we still lost men. Cap'n Palminteri maybe shouldn't have relieved Damian, but he did, so Lott's reputation is shot in C Company, Hell, probably the whole battalion as well. I don't know."

Poole sat back in his seat and sighed, "If the f**king Krauts would just quit."

"Yeah, and if my uncle had tits he'd be my aunt."

"L.T., I've got four replacements for 2nd Squad: Jacques, Weiss, Gustafson, and Worthington. These guys are green as grass L.T., I don't even think they shave yet." S/Sgt Jack Wilson gestured over his shoulder with his thumb.

"Maybe we should divvy these guys up between the other squads? Chapman's got six green recruits in his squad, half of his guys."

"Yeah, but he's also got two pretty smart guys in O'Neal and Grant, college boys as I recall. Besides which, Cap'n says he's gonna keep 2nd Squad back as the Company reserve. Also, we're not going anywhere just yet. Looks like we'll be in this little village for a couple more days." Paddock stepped outside to see the new guys.

Damn, they look young, he thought.

Rumbling down the main street of the little village, tank after tank rolled by. Interspersed with those tanks were trucks towing artillery, trucks loaded with infantry, and the occasional jeep or staff car. The 26th Infantry Regiment was on the move, for now the 1st Battalion's Charlie Company would be in reserve. Someone at division had decided that a single company was enough of a reserve for now.

As the new men watched, a long column of halftracks carrying infantrymen passed by, from the catcalls of the men in the tracks, the new men realized that they stood out like sore thumbs in their clean uniforms and new equipment.

Pvt. Herschel Weiss said, "I feel like I should go roll in a mud puddle or something, just so I don't stick out as much." He heard a voice behind him.

"Don't worry kid, you'll get dirty soon enough. Provided you live that long. I'm your platoon sergeant, S/Sgt Wilson. Follow me, I'll take you to your new home. You're all in 2nd Squad, your squad leader is Sgt. Chapman, don't let the name fool you, he's a Cajun from the bayous. Don't get him excited or you won't be able to understand a word he says."

Pvt. Ed Jacques spoke up, in heavily accented English, "Bon! Un homme from da' bayou. Laissez le bon temps rouler!¹"

"Hhmm, you and Sgt. Chapman should get along just fine. At least when he's yelling at you, you'll be able to understand what he's saying. The rest of you don't worry, Sgt. Chapman does speak English. Sort of. Come on, let's go."

Charlie Company gets a breather, one they need, but the war rumbles on to the East. Die hard SS and Wehrmacht units continue to fight on, the SS for their twisted ideology, the Wehrmacht for their homes.

Men will continue to die right up to the end.

On both sides.

¹ Let the good times roll.

Link to all of the Chant's fiction.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

On the Slopes of the Brocken


As tracer fire from at least two German machine guns crisscrossed overhead, Cpl. John Myerson yelled over at his lieutenant, "Welcome back L.T.! Nice of the Krauts to provide fireworks for your return!"

1st Lt. Nate Paddock just grimaced at his radioman, then tried to burrow deeper into the mud at the bottom of the roadside ditch that the platoon command group was taking shelter in.

The day had started normally enough, 2nd Platoon was in the lead once more, riding the tanks of 2nd Lt. Brad Woodstock. Their battalion, the 1/26, was covering the left flank of their sister regiment's 2/18 battalion. That battalion had been meeting heavy resistance from what Paddock had been told.

The 1/26 was following what was essentially an improved logging trail along the southern slope of the tallest peak in the Harz Mountains, the Brocken¹, which still had snow on its upper reaches. They had just moved out of the forest and onto a better, paved road when all Hell broke loose.

Machine gun fire from the right had peeled the infantry off of the lead tank, Box O' Nuts, commanded by Sgt. Ken Boyd. From what Paddock had seen, at least four of his men were sprawled in the road near the tank and Sgt. Boyd was slumped over the edge of his turret. Paddock had no idea if any of those men were still alive.

Just when he thought that things couldn't get any worse, Myerson pointed at a hole in the radio. They were stuck in a ditch, under heavy fire, and had no way to communicate with the rest of the platoon, or the company for that matter.

Pfc. Jack Horner, Box O' Nuts' gunner, was slewing the turret to the right, trying to lay the gun on where the German tracers were coming from on the right. He was covered in the blood of his tank commander, Ken Boyd.

"Got him! Firing!" he yelled out.

Horner stomped on the floor trigger sending a high explosive round downrange. It must have hit something because the fire from that sector ceased.

Cpl. Jon Riggs, the driver and now the de facto commander of the tank, screamed over the intercom, "Another MG 10 o'clock! Kill him!"

Horner began slewing the turret in that direction when the tank suddenly rang like a church bell. A German anti-tank round had glanced off the turret, knocking Boyd's body to the roadside.

"Shit! Shit! Shit! Get us out of here Jon!" Horner was screaming, he was starting to slew the turret back to the right where he thought the AT gun was, he hadn't gone far when another shot from that gun hit Box O' Nuts again. This one penetrated the hull in front of the assistant driver, Pvt. Bob Turner.

Paddock was watching when the second round hit Box O' Nuts. "F**k!"

"John, with me!!" Paddock bellowed as he rose up from the ditch and made a dash for the tank behind Box O' Nuts. He had seen the muzzle flash from the German gun and he wanted to kill it before it hit another one of the tanks.

Myerson followed close on his lieutenant's heels, yelling "Shit!" with every footstep.

Paddock picked up the phone on the back of the second tank in the column, he had no idea which tank it was, but the voice on the other end sounded familiar. "Brad, that you? It's Paddock."

"Yeah, it's Woodstock, did you see where that AT gun fired from?"

"Yup, if you pull up to the right of Box O' Nuts, the gun is at one o'clock, just inside the tree line."

"Got it!"

Paddock and Myerson stayed directly behind Catamount as the tank rolled forward at slow speed. Before reaching a point where they could engage the gun, the Germans fired their AT gun again. The round screeched past, just missing the third tank in the column.

The gun on Catamount barked and Paddock watched as a white phosphorous round exploded right about where he had seen the muzzle flash. A spectacular secondary explosion told him that the German gun was no more. The resultant screams from that location told him that the gun's crew were burning to death. Something which, surprisingly, didn't really bother him.

Woodstock's tank had rolled forward again after taking out the German AT gun. They were almost immediately engaged by the German machine gun which had been to the left of the road. Another round of white phosphorus silenced that crew as well.

Two more of Woodstock's tanks rolled forward and into the narrow fields either side of the road, they quickly eliminated all resistance in the tree line with machine gun and cannon fire. Paddock swore that he had seen two small parties of Germans emerge from the tree line with their hands in the air, both parties had been swept by machine gun from the tanks and rifle fire from his own platoon. The men were not in a forgiving mood.

The cost of the encounter was high, four dead, two from Boyd's tank, including Boyd himself, and five wounded, three tankers and two infantrymen. The infantry casualties were all from Sgt. John Chapman's squad: Privates Guy Morse and Herman Bridges had both been killed, Privates Leon Higgins and Ronnie Williamson were both wounded, Williamson badly.

Paddock watched as Doc Milbury worked on Williamson, a weapons carrier had been called up to evacuate the wounded, Paddock hoped it made it in time to save Williamson. Myerson was looking for a replacement radio back in the halftracks which followed the tanks. The infantrymen who had been riding in those vehicles, from 3rd Platoon, were already in the tree line, looking for German survivors.

Pvt. Ronnie Sykes heard a rustling in the nearby brush, he stopped and waved at the man to his left, some ten yards away. Pfc. Neal Mendoza gave Sykes a thumbs up, then pointed his rifle in the direction Sykes had indicated.

Sykes made sure the safety was off on his Garand as he advanced, one slow step after another. Using the barrel of his rifle to part the brush, he saw a man in the mottled camouflage favored by the Waffen SS. The man was bloody from the waist down and was trying to crawl away. Something made him stop, he rolled over and looked directly at Sykes.

"Bitte, nicht schiessen.²"

Sykes recognized the collar tabs of an SS sergeant, the man was older, hard-bitten, a real old soldier. His eyes darted around, Sykes thought he looked like a predator at bay. Though badly wounded, the SS sergeant still had an air of menace about him. He tried to sit up.

Which is when Sykes shot him in the chest.

The SS man's eyes glazed over and with a muffled gurgle he sank back to the forest floor, dead.

Cpt. Stephen Hernandez was talking with both Paddock and 2nd Lt. Bob Poole, commanding 3rd Platoon. Hernandez had sent 1st Platoon, along with Woodstock's four surviving tanks, further up the road, into the forest.

"From what your guys found, what do we have, a mix of SS and Volkssturm?" Hernandez asked, looking at Poole.

"Yeah, twelve SS and fifteen Volkssturm, the anti-tank gun was manned by SS men, most of the Volkssturm were kids, most of 'em in Hitler Youth uniforms wearing Volkssturm armbands." Poole paused then added, "One of my guys killed a wounded SS man."

Hernandez waited a beat, then said, "And?"

"Well, Cap'n, I mean, I don't like my guys getting in the habit of shooting wounded men, even SS." Poole seemed uncomfortable with bringing it up.

"Come with me, you too Nate."

The three officers walked over to the side of the road, where, bundled in their ponchos, were four dead American soldiers. Hernandez pointed to them, then spoke.

"Take a good look Bob, Nate. I don't like killing any more than the next man. But the bastards who did this know the goddamned war is lost. I don't know why they don't just quit. They want to fight? F**k them, we'll fight. I don't care if I have to kill every goddamned German in uniform to make this war end, I'll do it. Look good and hard gentlemen, this war can't last much longer and you know what, I'm tired of losing men like this."

Hernandez sighed, took his helmet off, ran one hand through his sweaty hair, then placed his helmet back on his head. "Look Bob, talk to the kid, what he did wasn't exactly right, but it wasn't exactly wrong. Those bastards want to live, they should surrender before they shoot at us."

Poole nodded, "I know what you mean Cap'n, but it bugs me when shit like this happens."

"It bugs me too Bob. But stuff like this happens all the time. Go on, mount up, I want your platoon backstopping 1st Platoon and the tanks."

As Poole jogged off, Hernandez turned to Paddock. "Sure you want to stay with 2nd, you coulda been killed out there. Think Edith would forgive either of us if that happened?"

"She's already mad at me for being back up on the line. She'd go crazy with worry if she knew I had my old platoon back. But hey, if my men have to lay it on the line, I want to be there with them."

"Okay, but ease up on the heroics, Myerson told me what you did. Gutsy, but you could have gotten the both of you killed. Be careful Nate. Okay?"

"Okay Stephen, hey, ain't this a hoot? You used to be my platoon sergeant, now you're my boss. Funny how life works, isn't it?"

"Does that bother you Nate?"

"Hell no, you're one of the best soldiers in the outfit. The men would follow you through Hell, so would I. And yes, I'll be more careful, Myerson told me if I ever did that again he'd kick my ass, officer or no."

"Heh, your radioman's a big boy, I wouldn't piss him off."

"Yeah, good point. All right, I need to see to my men. Chapman's squad has been taking it in the teeth lately, they lost Sgt. Cruz and Pvt. Genovese not long ago, now these four guys. Any chance I can cut them some slack for a few days?"

"Yeah, I'll make them the company reserve, keep 'em out of harm's way for a week or so. At least until we get replacements. Ah, my XO's waving at me, probably more paperwork I need to sign."

"How's he working out?" Paddock wanted to know.

"Good kid, overeager, ya know, like a young puppy, but a good kid. He'll do."

Paddock nodded then said, "Back to work I guess."

"Be careful Nate, I mean it."

The view from the Brocken, in the Harz Mountains.

¹ Also known as the Blocksberg.
² Please, don't shoot.

Link to all of the Chant's fiction.

Monday, April 19, 2021


 Well....Haven't made a lot of progress clearing things off the "To Do" list this past week.  I did, however, find someone who makes house calls for riding lawn mowers.  Made calls to several lawn mower repair places, unfortunately, all required me to deliver the mower to their facility.  Which wouldn't be too difficult if the mower would start or move into neutral so I could, possibly, push it up a ramp into the bed of my pickup.

No, Beans, you're right. I'd have to bribe the two teenaged boys that live close by to come and help push.

In the Jungle, the Mighty Jungle, who knows what sleeps tonight!

Anyhow, just because I like the sound of rejection and the jungle was closing in, I called one final person.  I explained that the mower wouldn't start. It made a click and then nothing.  I told him that I'd replaced the battery when I first encountered the issue,  but that hadn't fixed the problem. It merely went from no reaction whatsoever when the key was turned to a click with the new battery.  I couldn't open the hood to see if I could see anything wrong, because the last operator (She shall remain nameless, since she HAD mowed the lawn) parked it right against the house.  Since the hood is hinged at the bottom front, the house interfered with opening.  Since I couldn't get it into neutral/disengage the brake, rolling it backward wasn't possible either.  I then asked if he, by chance, made house calls.  Surprisingly, he did.  For a mere $70, he'd come take a look.  He suggested a few things I could check vis a vis the transmission and brakes.  None of which were in my skill set.  So, Saturday arrives as does he.  He mounts the beast, turns the key...and...

No, Beans, it didn't start.  It just clicked.

I felt vindicated.  He popped the seat up, checked the connection to the battery. (Which I had done). Disconnected it and took a wire brush to the ends of the connecting wires.  Hooked it back up, got back on, turned the key...And...

Yes, Beans, it started right up.

I rationalized the visit expense by thinking that the cost of back surgery trying to get the mower into the truck, even with two strapping teenage boys to assist, would undoubtedly be more than that $75 bucks.  

My job will be to use the push mower to finish the yard.

We've also made some progress on refinishing the dining furniture on what will be a second guest house on the property.  DIL is currently living in it and will until she leaves with Tex, the Wonder Dog. for their next assignment.  She's been very patient, but the finish on the chairs has been peeling off and the cane in the seat back has failed in one.  So, this operation (as yet unnamed, suggestions always gratefully accepted) has several phases.  (Yes, Beans, just like all my Operations.) Phase One ( now underway) is to repair, re-stain, recover the seat cushion, and re-cane the back  of two of the four chairs.  

Progress was made in that, the old finish has been sanded (and sanded, and sanded, and...) and re-stained.  The seat cushions have been recovered, quite nicely I might add, through no real skill of my own. (No, Beans, handling a staple gun does not require great skill. Folding the fabric around curves, pulling it tight while maintaining the pattern alignment with the front of the chair, on the other hand...).  

This only leaves the re-installation of the cane.   Which is our project for this week.  According to the YouTube videos, this should only take about 2 minutes.  YouTube videos are filmed in real time, Right????

We shall see how this turns out, then debrief for lessons learned and start on the last two. But, right now, it's looking pretty nice.

Personal projects? I read a post on Instapundit about this pamphlet "Before I go".  After the episode at Dead Man's Curve last week, I figured it would be worth it to take a look at what we've got in place and make any needed changes.  While the subject is difficult to address, I'm about halfway through it and already it's proven its worth in pointing out things I need to change/add/or update.  Highly recommended.  

Those are "To Do" slips sticking out the top and side.

Mrs J has decided to learn to paint using water color.  Been at it a few weeks now.  Frankly, I think she's doing great.

Our new House (with two imaginary trees)

Finally, Mrs J, the Dogs, and the Chauffer are planning to take a vacation the end of May.  We've decided on visiting Palo Duro Canyon, near Amarillo.  The plan is to rent an RV, pick up a rental vehicle when we get near and scope out the area.  We've never visited there, so any suggestions on must see/do things would be appreciated.

Peace out, y'all!  Remember, we ain't getting any younger. Besides...I've got a date with a push mower.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Back Stories


S/Sgt Homer Kincaid, 3rd Platoon's new platoon sergeant, was sitting under a tree, rummaging through a ration carton, looking for something appetizing. He knew the likelihood of finding something was slim, the men had already picked through and found all the good ones. He found that all that was left was ham and lima beans. He thought about just skipping a meal, but he was ravenous, so he took it.

"Yummy." Kincaid said in a disgusted tone of voice.

"What's that Sir?" Pvt. Abel Simpson, one of the platoon's basic duty privates had walked over, he too was hungry.

"Nothing Private, just happy to find something to eat, even if it is ham and lima beans."

Simpson's eyes lit up, "Really? I'll trade you Sir, I love lima beans."

"Whaddaya got Private?"

"Meat and noodles, I hate noodles."

"Okay, I'll trade ya, have a seat, join me for dinner. What's yer name son?"

"Simpson, Abel Simpson."

"Buddies call ya Abe?"

"Yes Sir, they do."

"Pleased to meet ya Abe, and don't call me Sir, I'm a sergeant, okay?"

The man looked old, older than many of the Volkssturm that Charlie Company had faced to date. But this man was no Volkssturm trooper, he was regular German army. 1st Lt. Nate Paddock and Sgt. Melvin Katz were heading up to the lines to talk to the man. Doc Milbury had patched him up and had sent a runner back to fetch Katz. The lieutenant decided to tag along.

"I'm surprised you're back with the platoon L.T., I would've thought you'd done enough for the war effort." Katz was to the lieutenant's left and his gaze had taken in the nasty scar on the left side of Paddock's neck. In truth, the man was lucky to be alive. Another fraction of an inch and Paddock would have died on a snowy hillside in the Ardennes.

The two men came out of the woods near the small village of Schierke, another of the small picturesque towns the battalion had fought through in the Harz Mountains. The 26th Infantry Regiment was idled for a few days as their sister regiment, the 16th Infantry drove to the east, pinching the 26th out of the line. The men didn't mind, not at all.

But that morning a small German patrol had blundered into C Company's roadblock which was manned by men of Paddock's 2nd Platoon. Of the seven German infantrymen, six were sprawled in the road where machine gun fire had cut them down. The soul survivor was sitting against a stone wall, his left leg heavily bandaged, he and one of the new recruits, a Pvt. Dan Jackson were communicating via gestures and the few words of German which Jackson had learned in high school.

"Private, any useful information from this fellow?" Paddock asked.

"Well Sir, he's about fifty-something years old, this is his second war, and he's glad to be out of it. He smiles a lot Sir." Jackson answered.

Sgt. Katz thanked Jackson and told him to stick around, he could take the prisoner back after Katz had talked with him.

"So old fellow, this is your second war." Katz began.

The old Landser looked surprised at Katz' perfect German, though Austrian accented the old fellow had no trouble understanding Katz as the man was Bavarian and had lived not far from the border with Austria.

"Ja, ja, I was a Feldwebel in the first war. Wounded twice, once on the Marne in 1914, the second time near Amiens in 1918. Damned French tried to kill me twice they did. I sat out most of this war until after Stalingrad, we were running out of men, so I was called up."

"How old are you?"

"Fifty-nine, right now I feel like eighty. My name is Stefan Huber, 26th Volksgrenadier Division. Oberfeldwebel, I was in charge of those boys you fellows killed. I told them not to come this way, but you know the young, headstrong."

"Indeed. How is your leg?"

"Pretty bad, but I was hit worse in the first war, I'll live. Unless you Amis decide to shoot me, that is." The old soldier chuckled when he said that. But the laughter never reached the man's eyes Katz noticed.

Katz explained to Paddock what they had been talking about, Paddock asked, "He seems pretty cheerful, like he's seen it all and doesn't care any more. Why?"

Katz turned back to Huber, "Why do you laugh Oberfeldwebel, your men are dead, you're wounded, your country is losing the war. What is it that makes you laugh?"

Huber sighed and the smile went from his face, a dark shadow seemed to cross his visage as he looked up at Katz, "My wife was killed in a air raid on München, my two sons are dead, one in North Africa, the other in Russia. My daughter is a widow, her husband was also killed in Russia. I haven't heard from her in over a month, I don't even know if she's still alive. But I am, and I mean to find her if I survive the war. If I don't survive, at least I'll be with my wife and boys. Things are so bad, I have to laugh, or go insane. Maybe I've already gone insane."

Katz turned to Paddock, "Yes Sir, he's seen a lot." After explaining the man's story to the lieutenant, Paddock told Jackson to get a couple of other men and help the Kraut to the aid post.

Kincaid had his shirt off, he was using his helmet as a makeshift washtub. After cleaning himself up as best as he could, he was getting dressed again. That's when one of the men noticed the heavy scarring across the sergeant's stomach.

"Jesus Sarge, how did that happen?" Cpl. Glenn Cline, the company clerk had trouble looking away, he recognized a bad wound when he saw one. "Why aren't you back in the States, seems you've done enough."

As Kincaid buttoned his shirt he looked over at Cline, "I'm career Army, corporal. I enlisted in 1925, an awfully long time ago it feels. Hell, some of the men I rode up with on the truck were born after I joined up. This is my life."

"But you should have been sent home with a wound like that." Cline insisted.

"Sure, I could have. But my buddies were still fighting, my men were still on the lines. So after the wound sort of healed up, I convinced the Army to let me recuperate here, then when I felt well enough, I came back up. I wanted to come back in December, but the docs all said I wasn't healed enough. But now I am and now here I am." Kincaid finished dressing as 1st Lt. Nathaniel Gonzales came into the barn the 1st Platoon was using as a CP.

"Ready to check the positions with me Sarn't Kincaid?"

"Yes Sir, let's have a look. It's been a while since I've been in action, anything new I should know about?" Kincaid and the lieutenant left the barn, Gonzales filling Kincaid in on all that had gone on in the unit over the past few months.

"Well don't that beat all?" Sgt. Don Arnold said.

"Why's he only a Staff Sergeant?" Cline asked, he checked his watch as he said that, he had to get back to the Company CP soon.

"He's old Army Glenn, wasn't nothing for those guys to get promoted, get busted, then get promoted again. I suspect our platoon sergeant has done that, probably a couple of times. Hell, he joined the Army the year I was born!" Arnold shook his head, "He's old school, that one is."

"Mitch, get in here!" Cpt. Stephen Hernandez had a piece of paper in his hand which concerned him, why hadn't his XO mentioned this?

"Sir?" 2nd Lt. Mitch Hornsby was a 90-day wonder, he had dropped out of college in the summer of 1944 and headed to the recruiter's office shortly after the family had received notice of his younger brother's death in the Pacific on Saipan. He had wanted to join up earlier but his father insisted he finish his education first, he was within a year of getting his medical degree.

"Why didn't you tell me that the Army Medical Corps wanted you." Hernandez waved the paper in the air, "Says here you're close to being a doctor."

"They wanted me as a medical assistant, Sir. Really though, my grades in school were terrible, I was starting to question my 'desire' to be a doctor."

"You don't sound like that was ever your desire, Mitch."

"No Sir, my Dad is a doctor, both grandfathers are doctors. It's kind of the family business. When Jack, my younger brother, enlisted right out of high school in 1943, my parents were furious. I was envious. Everybody was going off to war. Except me. So, first chance I had, I joined up. Because I had a college degree, the Army sent me to OCS. And now here I am."

"Okay, I get it. Any more secrets Lieutenant?"

"No Sir. Well, yes Sir, one."

"And that is?"

"I actually wanted to be a pilot. I sent in an application before I shipped out, I haven't heard anything back yet."

Hernandez shook his head and chuckled, "Well Mitch, if I see anybody from the Army Air Forces looking for you, I'll let you know. But for now, you're still my exec. Sometime in the next couple of days I'll take you up to see the war. You might wish you'd stayed in college after that. Dismissed."

Hornsby left the captain's office, actually the sitting room of a private residence, and wondered why people couldn't understand why he wanted to be here. He desperately wanted to fight. The Japanese had killed his brother, he had wanted to go to the Pacific, but the Army sent him to Europe.

Well, he thought, when the Germans quit, they'll need men to fight the Japanese, then I'll transfer, fast as I can.

The ignorance of youth...

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Saturday, April 17, 2021

Promotions and Replacements


1st Sgt. Mort Saeger stepped into the CP, "Cap'n, there's a brand new lieutenant here. Says he's supposed to take over 3rd Platoon?"

"All right, Mort, send him in." Newly promoted to captain, Stephen Hernandez was already noticing that running a company required a lot of paperwork. He wasn't sure how he felt about that, but if he wanted to make the Army a career, company command was a good step to take.

The new man stepped into the room and came to attention, then snapped a salute while bellowing, "Sir, 2nd Lt. Mitch Hornsby reporting for duty! Sir!"

Hernandez looked at the man, everything about him said "NEW!" His uniform looked as if it had just been issued, as did all his gear. Hernandez looked down at the man's boots, a little mud on the bottom but that was all.

"At ease Lieutenant. You will not be taking over 3rd Platoon..."

"But Sir, my orders..."

"I don't care what your orders say son, but your ass belongs to Charlie Company now and you'll go where I put you. You're green as grass, so until you have a bit more experience, you're going to be the Company XO. I hope you're good with paperwork, because you're going to be doing a lot of it."

"XO, wow, thanks Sir!" Hornsby thought that was better than being a platoon commander, which it was in some ways, especially for the men he might have gotten killed because of his absolute lack of combat experience.

"Don't thank me just yet lieutenant. Go see 1st Sgt. Saeger, he'll get you situated."

"Sir, yes Sir!"

"And you can knock that shit off right now. Dismissed."

Brad Woodstock watched as Otto Walls and his crew brought the new tank into camp, it was an M4A3(76)W. The long-barreled 76mm gun stuck out like a sore thumb among the short-barreled 75mm guns of the rest of the platoon.


Sgt. Walls dismounted and walked up to Woodstock, he paused then said, "Does battalion know that you're impersonating an officer?"

"I reckon they do, they promoted me this morning." 2nd Lt. Woodstock looked at his shoulders and shook his head. "Times must be tough if they made me an officer."

"Heh, no comment Brad, er, I mean, Sir." Walls threw his platoon commander a ragged salute which made both men chuckle.

"Nice tank Otto. We finally have a big gun in the platoon. Nice."

"She's yours if you want her Brad." Sgt. Walls assumed when they were issued the tank that his platoon commander would want it.

"Negative Otto, I'm comfortable with Catamount. The old girl has gotten us this far, I'd hate to swap horses in mid stream." Woodstock grinned as he said that. "Besides which, that big gun is gonna attract Kraut fire like a candle attracts a moth."

"Hhmm, don't do me no favors Brad, but she is a nice tank. I'm going to name her 'The Great Wall.'"

"That's in China ya know." Woodstock offered.

"Damn it, I know that Lieutenant, but I always name my tanks 'Wall', this one is too big and nice to be just 'Wall' 'so she's 'The Great Wall.' Is that okay with you, You Highness?"

"Well, she's your tank buddy, you get to name her."

Hernandez handed a sheaf of paper to his new XO, "Send these names up to battalion. I've taken the liberty of promoting these guys to the indicated rank. Let the major know that I need his blessing on these."

Hornsby looked at the names...

Garrett Weber promoted to Corporal, Assistant Squad Leader, 1st Platoon/1st Squad
John Chapman promoted to Sergeant, Squad Leader, 2nd Platoon/2nd Squad
Daniel O'Neill promoted to Corporal, Assistant Squad Leader, 2nd Platoon/2nd Squad
Robert Poole promoted to 2nd Lieutenant, Platoon Leader, 3rd Platoon

Then Hornsby remembered something, he checked his field jacket pockets, found what he was looking for and handed it to Hernandez, "A list of the new replacements, Sir. 1st Sgt. Saeger already has a copy."

S/Sgt Homer Kincaid
Pvt. Matt McDaniel
Pvt. Jeff O'Neal
Pvt. Matt Swanson
Pvt. Billy Pires
Pvt. Jim Wilhite
Pvt. Charles Bennett
Pvt. Tomas Ramos
Pvt. Dan Jackson
Pvt. Bob Carroll
Pvt. Drew Morgan
Pvt. Drew Lewis

"Other than S/Sgt Kincaid, they're all fresh recruits from the States. I rode up here with Kincaid, he was wounded in Normandy, late June, he's just been released from the hospital." Hernandez listened as Hornsby told him that. Good, the kid pays attention, he thought.


Saeger poked his head in, "Sir?"

"Bob Poole needs a platoon sergeant, how about..."

"Kincaid Sir? Already done."

"Thanks Top."



"Your first lesson in Charlie Company, listen to the sergeants, they've been around. Learn from them, they'll keep you alive if you do. Understood?"

"Well, of course Sir, but..."

"Understood, lieutenant?" The glare Hernandez gave the new lieutenant was enough to peel the paint off a Tiger tank at a thousand yards.

"Sir, I understand."

"Good, dismissed."

The 1st Infantry Division in the Harz Mountains
April 1945

(26th Infantry is underlined in blue)

Author's Note:  Condolences to MrGaribaldi on the recent loss of his Dad. Been there, done that, still hurts. Thoughts and prayers brother. If you're so inclined, stop by his place to wish him well. Good men, father and son.

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Friday, April 16, 2021



The three officers were standing together near the fence which separated the officers' camp from that of the enlisted. They had been talking with the two surviving senior sergeants from their old battalion, it seemed that a number of the men had fallen sick. No doubt because of the conditions in the camp.

A lot of the men were still sleeping in the open with nothing between them and the heavens but a Zeltbahn, sometimes they didn't even have that. On sunny days it wasn't too bad but sanitation was becoming an issue as well. There were no proper latrines and some of the men were so demoralized that they were just doing their business anywhere.

"Do you regret surrendering, Jürgen?" Leutnant Manfred Sauer watched his major's face as he waited for an answer.

"Do I regret not sending my men to their deaths? Do I regret not having to follow insane orders from those criminals in Berlin? Yes, I think of them as criminals now, they have betrayed the German people and have led us into Hell. Do I regret wondering where our next meal is coming from? Whether or not we'll have enough fuel and ammunition to fight?" von Lüttwitz paused, he looked across the wire and saw his sergeant major instructing some of the younger men in how to attach their Zeltbahnen together to make a tent.

"Not at all Manfred." Turning to Leutnant Heinrich, the former Panzer commander, he asked, "How about you Ralf, do you miss your Panther?"

Heinrich nodded, "Of course, Herr Major. I miss the sound of the engine, I miss the feeling of commanding such a fine fighting machine. But do I miss hearing my men scream as fire consumes them? Do I miss freezing inside the tank in the winter, or sweating like a pig in the summer?"

"No Sir, I do not."

Hauptfeldwebel Georg Eichmann watched as the four young men managed to put their shelter together. "You can sleep in relative comfort under there. It will be a little tight, but it's better than being rained on."

Grenadier Kurt Schröder laughed and shoved his comrade, Grenadier Uwe von Weber. "It will be fine as long as Uwe can contain his farts!" The two young soldiers had been on the battalion staff, essentially as extra hands for doing the heavy lifting, pitching tents, packing and unpacking equipment. They were overjoyed at the prospect of actually surviving the war.

Eichmann chuckled as he walked over to Hauptfeldwebel Klaus-Peter Keller, Sauer's company sergeant major. Eichmann was junior to Keller in seniority but higher on the "food chain" as the company clerk, Obergefreiter Adolph Storch, liked to say.

"Klaus-Peter, any word on those extra rations you've been trying to organize?"

Keller turned around and said, "Is that all you can think of Georg? Eating?"

"What else is there to do in this Godforsaken camp?"

"True, and the extra rations should be here after dark. The men still have some of their medals and badges which they're willing to trade for more food. The Amis are entranced by the stuff." Keller explained.

"They could just take those things!" Eichmann exclaimed.

"Funny thing about the Amis, Georg, most of them are decent sorts, they like to 'play fair' as one of them told me."

"All that f**king artillery they hit us with in the Ardennes didn't seem very fair. Getting strafed and bombed from Normandy to the Rhineland didn't seem very fair." Eichmann always thought that the Americans wouldn't fight man to man, they used steel instead of blood.

"Oh, they don't believe in fighting fair, that's certain. But want to make a deal with them, they're willing to talk. You can't eat medals, or rank epaulettes, can you?"

"Well, sure, that's true. I just wish those bastards in Berlin would quit so that we could go home." Eichmann shook his head, he couldn't believe the war still dragged on.

"It will end, and soon I'm sure, but no doubt the Russians will have to kill every Nazi in Berlin first." Keller said.

"The Russians? Won't the Amis and the Tommies strike for the capital?" Eichmann seemed amazed that the Russians would be allowed to take Berlin, had the Western Allies no political sense?

"One of the guards, a German speaker, told me that Roosevelt agreed to letting the Russians take Berlin before he died."

"What? Roosevelt is dead?"

"You didn't know?"

"No, I didn't. The Russians in Berlin, that's bad. Did you ever serve in the East, Klaus-Peter? Do you know what we did there?"

"Yes and yes. The peace may turn out to be worse than the war, especially in the eastern parts of the Reich."

"We sowed the wind, Klaus-Peter."

"Yes Georg, we truly did..."

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Thursday, April 15, 2021

The Last Tiger - Final Stand


Von Schiffler's men were dug in to either side of the tank. The thirty-three survivors were now commanded by an Obergefreiter. He had them set up with their surviving machine guns, an MG 34 and an MG 42, to cover the road leading out of town.

Hoffmeister had to ask, "What if their infantry go through the woods and not down the road?"

The Obergefreiter winked and said, "Mines, the woods on both sides are mined. If they go that way, we'll know."

"Is anyone covering the mine field?"

"Two men, either side of the town. If the Amis start mine hunting, they start sniping. One way or the other, we'll know."

"Do you have enough ammunition?"

"Yes, of course, as much as the Reich can spare. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to get back to my position." Obergefreiter Fritz Wolf shook his head as he walked away, "F**king tankers..."

2nd Platoon was still to the south of the town, working their way slowly through the woods, heading east. They were moving slowly, pausing frequently to look for booby traps and mines. 1st Lt. Hernandez had a bad feeling about these woods. He thought he'd rather face that Tiger than be in another battle in a forest.

The platoon's point man, Pfc. Alex Boone, signaled a halt. Hernandez saw Boone's squad leader, Sgt. Katz moving to join him. At the same time, there was a voice on the radio, Hernandez thought it sounded like Gammell.

Myerson, the lieutenant's radioman listened to a brief transmission. "Charlie's got two Krauts up ahead. Take 'em?"

Hernandez nodded.

Gefreiter Horst Lachfeld and Grenadier Jost Wichstein were looking in two separate directions, Lachfeld to the right, Wichstein to the left. Their job was to watch over the thin minefield their unit had placed only a few days ago. The mines were old, they weren't buried well, and some of them weren't buried at all, simply stuck under a pile of pine needles on the forest floor.

Wichstein heard a hissing sound, then a dull "thunk." As he turned to see what it was, he saw something move to his front in his peripheral vision. Before he could determine what was going on, another American bullet came hissing in and hit Wichstein in the upper chest.

Lachfeld was already dead, Gammell's first round had hit him just below his right eye. The bullet had gone through, leaving a pink mist in the air. Wichstein was gasping for breath. Gammell's second round had gone through his esophagus, deflected down through his left lung, and had gone out his back over his hip. His throat kept filling with blood and he tried to spit it out, gasping and coughing as he did so. He knew he was dying and there wasn't a thing he could do about it.

Cpl. Maurice Ryan, Sgt. Katz' assistant squad leader was maneuvering his element of five men, including himself, to the right. They'd spotted the two Germans, Ryan saw that someone, probably Charlie Gammell and that rifle of his, had taken out both of the Germans. So he thought to maneuver to the right.

As they did so, Pvt. Caleb Christensen, the squad's grenadier shouted a warning, "Mines!" But it was a second too late.

Hernandez heard the crump of an explosion, has to be a mine he thought, then he heard the agonizing scream of one of his men.

"F**k! Doc, with me!" He jumped up and advanced to his front.

Hernandez, followed by his radioman and Doc Milbury, moved to the sound of the screams, which continued and seemed to increase in agony. When they got to the scene, Hernandez nearly vomited, there was one of his men, Pvt. Manny Conrad, writhing on the ground holding what remained of his left leg as he rolled back and forth, screaming.

Doc Milbury immediately made the two men next to Conrad move. "Gimme some room guys, hold still Manny, I got you."

Doc stabbed a morphine syrette into Conrad's butt, then he dug into his bag and pulled out a tourniquet, if he didn't tie that leg off, Conrad would be dead in less than a minute.

On the opposite flank, the northern side of the town, S/Sgt Bob Poole's 3rd Platoon had spotted the hastily laid mines to their front. As they started to clear them, a German position some fifty yards to their front began firing at them.

The B.A.R. of Pfc. Don Miller, 2nd Squad, made short work of the two Germans in that position. One was hit and went down in the foxhole, the other managed to run roughly 10 yards before Miller cut him down as well.

Within twenty minutes the 3rd Platoon had reached the German overwatch position and could see the main German position east of the town. They also spotted that damned Tiger tank.

Poole turned to his radioman, Pvt. Lou Hess and said, "Get the Cap'n on the horn, we need artillery and..." Poole stopped as Hess was pointing to the sky. He was puzzled, then he noticed, the sky was clearing.

"Get us some air Lou!"

Cpt. Palminteri's radio was not working, he sent a messenger to have 1st Platoon's radioman join him, but it took precious time. Finally, with no word of what was happening on his flanks, Palminteri decided to send the tanks forward. He looked up at S/Sgt Woodstock in his tank, and with a sad look, pointed east.

"F**k! Cap'n's radio is out, can you get anything on our net Roger?" Pfc. Roger Blaisdell was in his bow gunner's seat trying to get a message out. The radio's were working, he could talk to the other tanks just fine, but no signals were getting out of the valley.

"Nothing Sarge. Too many hills, too many trees."

"Shit." Keying his mike, Woodstock told his other tanks to fall in behind him. When they got to the open on the other side of town, he told Harrell in Misfit II to go left, Boyd in Box O' Nuts was to go right, and to Winkler in Boozer he said, "Stay on my ass Wink, when that Tiger kills us, use us for cover and hit him hard while Doug and Ken try to flank the bastard."

In the front of the tank, Will Hartness, the driver, exchanged a look with Blaisdell, he mouthed the words "kills us" and then raised an eyebrow. All Blaisdell could do was make sure his machine gun was loaded and ready, just in case they did survive.

Hoffmeister told his crew, "Hear that boys? The Amis are coming. I can hear their engines. Standby, kill whoever pops out first then..." Hoffmeister paused as something above the treeline caught his eye. Damn it, when did it stop raining?

The first P-51 pickled his tanks a second too early, his wingman dropped right on time. Cpt. Joe MacInnes grunted in disgust as he pulled out, maybe his wingman, 1st Lt. Rich Lang would have better luck.

But Hell, they were dropping napalm, close enough should be good enough.

Woodstock heard the roar of the two Mustangs over the roar of his own engine. He had just ordered Hartness to floor it when the birds passed over. He glanced up, then back to his front.

"Why the heck are they dropping their fuel tanks, no bombs?" he muttered, then the first shiny object tumbled into the ground and the fires of Hell opened up before the gaze of Woodstock and his crew.

Lang, his aircraft out to MacInnes' right and stepped back, laid his napalm right over the German infantry position. Which was next to the biggest tank he had ever seen.

MacInnes' drop was maybe fifty yards short, but close enough that a large part of the burning jellied gasoline enveloped the front of the Kraut tank he had caught a glimpse of as the two aircraft flashed over the German position.

"Let's go around, make a strafing pass Rich."


Hoffmeister's face and hands were badly burned, though none of the napalm had touched him, the heat was enough to burn him. As he, his gunner, and his loader bailed from the tank, he tried to turn back and save Krebs and young Schmidt, but the men in the front of the tank had had no chance at all.

They died screaming.

A medical team sent from battalion was working to treat the German survivors, many of whom had been badly burned. There weren't many survivors, but they were already being loaded onto American trucks to be further treated in the rear.

Brad Woodstock watched as a big man, wearing a semi-charred black German tanker's uniform, was being helped along by a medic and another German tanker. He nodded at the man, then nodded again at the burning King Tiger not a hundred yards away. The German nodded, then he pointed his chin at Catamount, Woodstock's Sherman.

Woodstock nodded, the German stopped for a moment, then raised a bandaged hand to touch his cap. Woodstock returned the man's salute.

After the German had been loaded aboard a truck, Woodstock turned to his gunner, Sgt. Jerry Parsons. "Tough looking sumbitch, ain't he?"

"Tough as his tank, boss. He's got a couple of medals on that toasted tunic, doesn't he?" Parsons offered.

C Company's First Sergeant, 1st Sgt. Morton Saeger, was standing nearby. Saeger was a German speaker and had studied all the documents on the enemy they faced. He spoke up.

"Iron Cross 1st and 2nd Class, the Eastern Front medal, tank badge for 50 engagements, wound badge in silver, means he's been wounded three times, maybe four. Did you notice the band around his sleeve?"

"Yeah Top, what was that?"

"That man fought with Rommel in North Africa. That's an Afrika Korps cuff title. The man has been around."

Woodstock nodded, "If those 51s hadn't showed up, I'd be dead, or worse, probably by that guy's hand. Better'n gettin' killed by a rookie I suppose."

All Parsons could say was, "You'd still be dead, rookie or real pro, doesn't matter. I'm glad we're still on this side of the grass."

"Yeah, me too." Woodstock looked around, pleased to still be alive after meeting with a King Tiger. They'd lost a tank, but not a single man. In fact, Otto Walls and his boys should be back any minute now, having gone to the rear to collect a new tank.

"Good to be alive Jerry."


Major Josephson had come up with a few members of the battalion staff, they wanted to see the King Tiger. As they examined the still smoldering wreck, Josephson took Hernandez aside.

"Stephen, Tony broke down, I had to send him to the rear. When his radio crapped out, and when he heard you'd lost a man to a mine, he lost it. Sat down and started crying. I want you to take over the company, Hell the war is almost over. I hear you want to stay in the Army after the war?"

"Yes Sir, I do. There are worse ways to make a living."

"That's true. I'm going to give 2nd Platoon to Nate Paddock, he says he's up to it. You okay with that?"

"I thought he was on light duty?"

"That ended on the last day of March, the battalion doc says he's good to go."

"I'm sure the men would love having Nate back. No problem here Sir."

"Good. Oh, put these on, I'll get regiment to push it through." The major placed a small wrapped bundle in Hernandez' hand. "Stay alive compadre, keep your men alive. No foolish chances, just solid, by the book soldiering."

"You got it Sir."

As Major Josephson walked back to his jeep, Hernandez opened his hand to see what Josephson had handed him.

A pair of captain's bars.

"Well damn..." Was all Hernandez could say.

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