Sunday, January 31, 2021

On the Move

(Source - Page 82)

Cpt. Tony Palminteri came into the 2nd Platoon CP, he had a visitor with him, Major Alphonse Josephson, the former commander of Charlie Company. The men in the CP immediately stood to attention but the Major bid them to sit back down.

Maj. Josephson looked around the table where 2nd Lt. Stephen Hernandez had his map spread out. He recognized a number of the men.

"Those bars look good on you Stephen, Jack, nice to see you finally got those Staff Sergeant stripes sewn on properly." Josephson said that with a wink, the last time he'd seen S/Sgt Jack Wilson was shortly after the man had come close to getting hit outside Wirtzfeld, all the enemy round had done was torn the stripes right off of his field jacket.

"Stump, how are you? It's good to see that you're behaving yourself!"

"Just not getting caught Major!" Sgt. Flavio "Stump" Gentile answered.

"I've got new orders for you Lieutenant, I'll let Captain Palminteri brief you on those in detail, suffice to say, you're not going in and hitting that bunker line that Cat discovered yesterday." Major Josephson nodded at Sgt. Melvin Katz as he said that, he knew that they'd lost a man during a brief firefight.

"Your men did a good job Cat, now we know where the Kraut outposts are, but that wasn't the main line, aerial reconnaissance indicates that the German main line of resistance is about a half mile east of that bunker you hit yesterday." Josephson paused, then continued.

"I know it stinks to lose men in a skirmish, but we aren't going back that way. 82nd Airborne has punched a hole through the Kraut lines just south of us. You boys will be exploiting that hole. We're mounting all of Charlie Company on halftracks and adding a second tank platoon to the mix. Cap'n Palminteri will give you all the details, I've got to go over to Baker Company, they'll be hitting that outpost line to keep the Kraut's attention fixed on that."

"Like Patton says, we're going to hold them by the nose while Charlie Company kicks them in the ass."

Major Jürgen von Lüttwitz looked up as his platoon commanders entered the small room he was using as his headquarters, it was part of a small guest house in a little town which none of them had ever heard of before arriving here to defend a portion of the Westwall. They had yet to join their parent division, the 18th Volksgrenadiers, who were fighting the Americans further to the south.

"Manfred, Otto, Adolf, come in, come in."

Von Lüttwitz waited for the men to be seated, then said, "Coffee? A friend of mine brought it to me, his unit actually captured a quantity of it last month from the Amis. It's the real thing, I can assure you."

Grenadier Ernst Schottenstein served coffee to the four men. He was one of the company messengers, was acting as the Major's orderly, something which the official Table of Organization and Equipment didn't provide for, at least not officially.

"So, Adolf, you lost three men yesterday?"

"Yes, Herr Major. One was only slightly wounded, he should be returning to his squad no later than tomorrow or the day after, a concussion is what the Sani told me. Unfortunately Grenadier Rader is probably going to lose his right arm, he was evacuated to the rear last night, and Grenadier Hönigswald was killed in action." Feldwebel Adolf Hase had not been happy with the task of sending a squad forward to man an old bunker, losing two men in the process.

"Your men did their job, they brought the Amis up short which gave the rest of us time to complete our preparations here. Otto?"

Leutnant Otto Brückner leaned over and pointed out the areas his men had mined and booby-trapped while Hase's men were trading blows with the Americans. "Preparations are complete, Herr Major. These areas should delay any attacker for better than a day. Are we leaving anyone behind to cover the mined areas?"


Leutnant Manfred Sauer answered for the Major, "We have received reinforcements from the local Volkssturm battalion. These are men unfit to serve in a regular unit but should be fine behind the defenses we've set up. They are old, yes, average age is around 55, but they are more than adequately equipped with machine guns and Panzerfausts. Plus, they are locals, they know the area. They will man the defenses when we move south."

"South, Herr Major?" Feldwebel Hase always felt like an outsider in these orders group meetings as he was the only enlisted platoon commander. But Manfred Sauer had let him know that he too had been an enlisted platoon leader once upon a time, and Major von Lüttwitz trusted him.

"Ja Dolfo, the Amis have punched a hole through the line south of us, we need to fill that hole before the Amis can exploit it with his armor. We march as soon as our transport arrives." Major von Lüttwitz explained.

"What sort of transport are we expecting, Herr Major?" Hase wasn't shy about asking questions, which Sauer liked, on the other hand Leutnant Brückner had never been an enlisted man, so he looked irked by the sergeant's questions.

"A platoon of Sturmgeschütz and enough trucks to move the men the thirty or so kilometers we need to go. The weather is supposed to remain overcast and snowy. Hopefully the roads won't be too bad. I expect..."

The sound of vehicles entering the village was loud enough to drown out all conversation, so the men went outside at Major von Lüttwitz's bidding. Turning around in the village square were three armored vehicles and a number of old Opel Blitz trucks with open tops were finding places to pull up and wait for their passengers.

"Right then, let's get the men loaded, we move as soon as everyone is aboard." von Lüttwitz walked over to speak with the commander of the armored vehicles.

"Sir!" The man in the field gray assault gun uniform wore the rank of an Obergefreiter, not unusual at this stage of the war for a platoon leader, but the man looked no more than 17 years old!

"Obergefreiter, is this the extent of your platoon?" von Lüttwitz had hoped for at least four Sturmgeschütz, he supposed he was lucky to get three.

"Sir, my other vehicle broke down about three kilometers back. Once the crew gets her running again, they know where to join us. I'm Krausse by the way, Anton Krausse. Late of Sturmgeschütz Abteilung 244."

"Late of?" von Lüttwitz thought that choice of words odd.

"Sir, the bulk of the unit was destroyed in the Ardennes. My platoon is all that's left, we were held in reserve and never got into action."

"I see, well, welcome to the 5th Company, II Battalion, 294th Grenadier Regiment of the 18th Volksgrenadier Division."

"Thank you, Sir. Uh, I thought the 18th were further south, in the Schnee Eifel?"

"Ah, but they are my dear Krausse, like you we are but the remnants of another unit and haven't been able to join our parent unit yet."

"Do we have a mission, Herr Major?" The young corporal seemed nervous.

"Why yes, yes we do. We are to stop the Amis, here..." Von Lüttwitz showed Krausse on the map where they were headed. "You've fought the Ami Shermans before, yes?"

"Yes Sir, in France. So we're going to be plugging the hole I heard about?"

"Yes indeed, we are. Our primary mission is to stop the Amis from penetrating any further."

"So I presume we have a secondary mission as well, Herr Major?"

"Why yes, dear boy. Stay alive. That's our other mission. Now let's be off, the Amis won't wait for us to get there!"

With that, von Lüttwitz led his men down the road to another battle. No doubt they would be outnumbered and probably outgunned, but what choice did they have?

None, if the truth be told. It was the Twilight of the Gods, von Lüttwitz thought, Götterdämmerung, though he'd never been a Wagner fan, too turgid and dark for him. What he would give to hear a bit of Vivaldi right now.

Link to all of The Chant's fiction.

Saturday, January 30, 2021

The Bunker

(Src1 Src2)

"What do you think, Rudi? Will the Amis come in this snowstorm?" Grenadier Ulrich Kleinheisterkamp was straining to see into the forest. The snow was falling heavily at the moment but it had been off and on all day.

"How would I know Ulrich? Do I look like a weather forecaster or a strategist?" Grenadier Rudi Hahn, the gunner, was looking over the barrel of their MG 42. Theirs was an older bunker and was basically a concrete shell. It was cold and the trees grew in close to the firing slit. Whether that was by design or sloppy placement of the bunker, Hahn didn't know, he was one of the older men in the squad, nearly 19-years of age.

"If the two of you keep chattering, I'll shoot you myself." Gruff old Stabsgefreiter Edgar Pöge, came into the firing chamber from the sleeping area. He was all of forty-three years old, had done his stint in the army after the end of the Great War, in the Reichswehr, the rump military allowed to Germany by the Versailles Treaty. He had been lucky to do a tour in the Army, slots were limited as were jobs in the Weimar Republic.

When Germany had invaded Poland he had a comfortable slot in the quartermaster corps, far behind the lines in Dresden. But as more and more men were being fed into the abattoir that was the Eastern Front, he could no longer avoid service at the front and in late 1942 he had been with the Sixth Army, in Stalingrad.

Pöge only had two fingers and a thumb on his left hand, a Soviet grenade had taken the other two in the struggle to seize a Soviet apartment building not far from the Volga River. Notwithstanding his crippled left hand, he considered himself lucky. He had been on the last flight taking wounded out.

Now he was at the front again, neither his age nor his disability were enough to keep him in the rear. Now he was an assistant squad leader, his squad leader was all of twenty-five years old, but Unterfeldwebel Karl-Heinz Landau was an old hand, he'd seen every campaign since Poland, been wounded twice, had both the Iron Cross First and Second Class and had a Tank Destruction Badge for single-handedly destroying a Soviet T-34 near Kharkov.

The way Landau told the story, it had been an accident. He'd been ordered up to the line with a Panzerknacker and he'd turned the corner of this one rubble filled street to find a T-34 parked right in front of him. The Russian crew was looking the other way. He'd attached the thing to the tank, pulled the fuse then ran like Hell. His sergeant had seen the whole thing and Landau got his tank killer badge.

Landau played down his experiences in Russia, but Pöge knew the type, a competent soldier who just did his job. A job Landau was very good at.

Pöge looked at the two Grünschnabeln¹ and said, "Keep your eyes open boys, and your mouths shut. This snow is letting up. Pray for night, the Amis won't come at night. At least I hope they won't."


Sgt. Melvin Katz raised a hand, the men stopped, dropped slowly to a crouch and turned their gazes to cover their assigned sectors. Katz thought that his new kids learned pretty quickly, better than some of the new recruits they'd received before the Hürtgen. Probably why the Army had sent them to college in the first place.

Turning he looked for Pvt. Scott Caldwell, the new guy was carrying a bazooka and Katz wanted him near in case they needed to crack a bunker. He nodded at the kid, who nodded back and clutched his stove pipe a little tighter, the kid was obviously nervous. Hell, Katz thought to himself, I'm nervous!

The snow was stopping, at least he thought it was it was hard to tell inside the woods. Snow would continue to trickle down off the branches even after it had stopped falling. But he could see a brightness in the sky, perhaps the sun would come out. But in these woods, it was hard to tell.

Katz felt a hand on his shoulder, he knew it was his acting assistant squad leader, Pfc. Bogdan Nowak. Katz got along well with his fellow European, Katz himself had been born in Austria, but being Jewish his family had fled Austria well before the Anschluss, his father had seen the writing on the wall.

Nowak had been born in Poland but his family had emigrated to the United States when his father had received an offer of sponsorship to work in a factory in a small town in Vermont. A number of other Poles lived there, including his Uncle Karol.

Though young, Nowak was a natural soldier, when 2nd Lt. Stephen Hernandez had realized that Katz's squad didn't have an assistant squad leader, and there were no "spare" corporals in the platoon, Katz had suggested Nowak.

"The kid's smart as a whip L.T., picks up things fast. I swear, he's a natural soldier, lives to kill Germans. He and his buddy Bill Zielinski are both good troops. Let's give Nowak a chance, if he works out, I'll recommend him for corporal." Katz had explained to his lieutenant. Hernandez had agreed, now here they were.

Katz looked at Nowak, who leaned forward and murmured in his sergeant's ear, "There are Germans around, Sarge, I can smell 'em."

Katz nodded, he didn't notice any "smell" but he knew what Nowak meant, he couldn't smell the Germans literally, but it made sense that they were close to where they must be. The terrain itself argued that there should be a defensive line right about here, Katz thought.

Katz signaled for the men to take a knee and have a good look at what they were seeing. Something didn't feel right. As he thought about it, maybe Nowak could smell the Germans, you never knew with the Poles.

"Etwas², Edgar?" Unterfeldwebel Landau came in to the fighting compartment and glanced out of the vision slit. It was lighter out, but there was still snow filtering down through the trees. Visibility down the slight slope was terrible, the Amis could practically walk right up to the muzzle of their machine gun before they'd spot them.

"Nothing, Kalle. It's quiet, it's awfully pretty though, isn't it?" Stabsgefreiter Pöge sounded almost wistful as he said that.

"Pretty goddamned cold, I'll give you that. I swear Russia was warmer." Landau groused, there was something about this wet cold that just went right through him.

Pöge cocked an eyebrow and looked hard at his squad leader, "You think this is cold?"

Landau started to respond when Rudi Hahn said, "Herr Unterfeldwebel, there's something out there."

Pvt. Luther Thomas raised himself up from the ground, his ass was soaked from the snow and it felt like he was going to freeze if he didn't shift position. As he did so, he saw something through the trees ahead, somehow a darker shadow than should be there. Then he realized what he was seeing, it was a bunker.

"Chris, I see a Kraut bunker." Thomas whispered to the B.A.R. man, Pfc. Chris McWhorter, the man he was the assistant to, which really meant he humped his own rifle, his own ammo, and extra magazines for the B.A.R. which McWhorter carried.

"What? Get your ass down, Luther." McWhorter hissed at his assistant.

"SCHEIßE!! AMERIKANER!!" Rudi Hahn screamed as he racked the bolt back on his machine gun and proceeded to open fire at a vague shape in the forest, a shape which hadn't been there a moment ago.

Thomas crumpled to the ground, his chest a bloody ruin after being hit by two rounds from the German machine gun. McWhorter went to ground and rolled to his left, looking for the source of the incoming fire, there, a flash! McWhorter opened fire, trying to suppress the German gun.

Kleinheisterkamp screamed as chips of concrete flew into his eyes. He fell back from the gun and tried to get the flakes out of his eyes, they stung like mad! The Americans had returned fire very quickly. When Kleinheisterkamp fell back, the belt going into the gun twisted, causing it to feed incorrectly, jamming the weapon.

"Shit, shit, shit!" Hahn popped the feed tray open, he pulled the belt up and began to reseat it when another burst of American fire hit around the bunker's vision slit, one round came through and tore the helmet from Hahn's head, knocking him senseless.

The other men of the squad were coming into the firing compartment now, one or two of the men were firing their rifles blindly into the forest. Landau pulled Hahn out of the way, the kid looked stunned but still alive, he set the belt back into the feed and slapped the feed tray closed, racking the bolt back he looked for a target.

"F**k, f**k, f**k!! Sarge, did you spot it?!!" McWhorter screamed as he changed the magazine in the B.A.R.

"Yeah, I got it! You okay?" Katz yelled back. The squad had gone prone as soon as they heard the characteristic snarl of a German machine gun followed by the bark of McWhorter's B.A.R., only McWhorter had fired.

"I'm okay, Luther is down, he's hit bad!"

Sgt. Katz had seen the flash from the German machine gun in his peripheral vision, what he'd really noticed was the dust coming off of something in the forest when McWhorter had returned fire. That's when he'd seen the bunker's vision slit.

"Caldwell, where's my stovepipe!!?" he'd yelled, he knew Caldwell was close.

"Right here, Sarge. Damn it, I wet my f**king pants!" Katz heard the new man answer, he was close on Katz's right side.

"Don't worry about that, did you see where that fire came from?"

"I dunno Sarge, it all happened so fast."

"Get your ass up here, stay low, hug the f**king ground kid!"

"Cease fire, cease fire!! You boys are shooting at air!" Landau managed to get his rookies to stop shooting at shadows long enough so that the air cleared inside the bunker. He was hunched over the gun, searching for targets. One of the new kids was on the belt, ready to feed it.

"Stay calm boys, looks like the Amis have come to visit. Edgar, how are Hahn and Kleinheisterkamp?"

"Rudi's okay, just rattled, but he's going to need a new helmet! Ulrich, can you see?" Pöge asked the assistant gunner as he noticed that the kid was blinking his eyes and looking around.

"My eyes sting, Herr Stabsgefreiter, but I can see, just concrete dust. The water helped." During the brief blaze of fire, Kleinheisterkamp had used water from his canteen to try and wash his eyes out, fortunately the liquid in his canteen wasn't frozen.

"Edgar, take the riflemen outside, try to flank the Americans, I don't think there are that many of..."

As Unterfeldwebel Landau said that, a 2.5 inch bazooka round slammed into the bunker, just above the machine gun. One of the riflemen, Grenadier Reinhard Rader, spun away from the vision slit, his right arm bloody. His screams filled the bunker.

Landau looked up, he had ducked his head just in time, "Damn it, the gun is trashed. Everyone out, I'm not waiting for another shot from that American antitank weapon!"

"Nice shot Caldwell, reload, reload!"

Pfc. Alexander Boone was carrying the spare ammo for the bazooka, Caldwell had shown him how to load the thing, he was slow, but he yelled, "Up" after a few long seconds.

Caldwell fired at what he thought was the bunker's vision slit, in reality it was a band of darker paint meant to draw the attention of an assailant from the actual vision slit. But he missed entirely and the round sailed high and into the distance.

"Damn it." Katz swore as he checked Thomas, the man was dead.

"Boone, help me drag Thomas, everybody fall back to the head of the trail!"

The American squad, having fulfilled their mission of discovering the German line, fell back, dragging the body of Pvt. Luther Thomas.

"Where is Hönigswald?" Landau was checking on his squad, Rudi Hahn would need medical attention for a concussion, Grenadier Reinhard Rader would probably lose an arm, the debris from the hit on the bunker and fragments from the American rocket had shredded his right arm. When they had evacuated the bunker, Landau and Pöge had climbed onto the roof of the bunker, and narrowly missed being hit by another American bazooka rocket. Pöge had noticed the back blast from the weapon.

Pöge had brought his machine pistol up to fire, but Landau had shoved it down. "Too far, Edgar. You'll never hit them. Look, they're retiring. Looks like we killed one of them."

Rejoining the remainder of the squad, Landau had noticed that one of his men was missing.

"He's still inside, Herr Unterfeldwebel." Grenadier Waldemar Lindner had seen Hönigswald drop to the floor of the bunker but in the confusion assumed that he was okay.

"Rudi, can you hear me?" Landau asked his dazed looking gunner.

"Ja, what happened?"

"You got knocked on the head. Can you help Rader back to the main line? He needs a Sani, so do you."

"Uh, sure, okay, I think so."

"I'll get us there, Herr Unterfeldwebel, I can still walk." Grenadier Reinhard Rader had his mangled arm in a makeshift sling, one of his mates had tied off his arm above the elbow, the bleeding seemed under control.

"Good. Tell Feldwebel Hase what happened, do we hold, or do we fall back? Klar?"

"Yes, yes, I can do that. Come on Rudi, I'll lead you back."

With that the two men shuffled down the trail.

Landau and Pöge went back into the bunker and discovered that Hönigswald was indeed still in the bunker, quite dead. A piece of steel had hit him in the forehead. They moved him outside and tried to repair their damaged machine gun, it was no use. The armorer could probably patch it up, but they couldn't.

"What do we do now, Herr Unterfeldwebel?" Stabsgefreiter Pöge asked.

"We put Hönigswald's corpse outside, then we wait. For orders, or for the Americans, whichever comes first."

"You found the bunker line I take it?" 2nd Lt. Hernandez was angry, he'd lost another man for no good reason. He unfolded his map and handed it to Sgt. Katz.

"Yeah, L.T., right here, about where you might expect, but I don't think it's the main line."

"Neither do I. I think it's further on, but we'll find out tomorrow. Get your men fed. Sorry about Thomas."

"Yeah, me too. Kid stood up, he should know better by now."

"I get it Cat, we're all tired. We'll talk in an hour, as soon as it's dark."

"Okay Sir."

The snow began to fall again. 2nd Lt. Hernandez looked at his map again, then over at the poncho-wrapped corpse of another man from his platoon. The cost was starting to get to him.

A lot.

¹ Greenhorns
² Anything?

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Friday, January 29, 2021

Into The Siegfried Line

U.S. Army Photo

"More f**king pillboxes. Are you shitting me Sarge?"

Pvt. Warren Pratt was one of the new guys and he was listening to  Pfc. Chris McWhorter complain to their squad leader, Sgt. Melvin Katz. The conversation was making him uneasy to say the least.

"Look Mac, what can I tell you? I know we went up against part of these defenses back in November. Then we got shifted south, then the Krauts attacked in the Ardennes, now we're pushing them back through the Siegfried Line again. What can I say? We fight the Krauts where they stand. They're standing here."

"Uh, isn't it good that we have tanks with us?" Pvt. Pratt thought that gave them advantage, but what did he know, combat was new to him. The other day marked the first dead man he'd ever seen. It wasn't a pretty sight.

"Look, new guy, why dontcha just..."

"Stow it McWhorter, Pratt has a point. The rest of you guys, gather 'round." Sgt. Katz waited as the men moved in closer. Then he continued.

"Pratt's right, we've got tanks for close in fire support and to keep Kraut armor off our backs. But they ain't a panacea..."

"Sarge, what's a pa-na-see-ya?" Pvt. Luther Thomas wasn't the best educated, nor well-read of the men in 2nd Platoon, but a few of the other men nodded their heads as well, as if to say, "We don't understand either."

"It's pronounced 'pa-na-see-uh," it means a remedy for anything, a one-size-fits-all to any problem." Pvt. Pratt, who had been studying electrical engineering at MIT when his class was called to the colors, jumped in.

Sgt. Katz looked at Pratt for a moment, then said, "Exactly. We're heading into the woods up ahead, ya know the Krauts probably have that next crossroads zeroed. Battalion wants us to go into the woods and try and flank any Krauts guarding the crossroads."

"And tanks can't go where infantry can..." McWhorter finished for his sergeant.

"Yeah, pretty much. Grab as much extra ammo as ya can, leave your packs and extra gear on the tracks, we're going in light."

"Are we gonna be out long, Sarge?" Pfc. Bogdan Nowak asked as he tugged at the collar of his bulky overcoat.

"No, dump your overcoats, good idea Bogdan, we need to move light and move fast."

S/Sgt Jack Wilson came up to the group as the men were dumping their extra gear and overcoats into their halftrack. "Hey Cat, we've got a bazooka if you want it."

"Sure, where'd you find that?"

"It was stowed on our track when we got it, we've got five rounds for it as well."

"Yeah, we'll take it. Any of you guys train on the bazooka?" Katz asked his squad.

Pvt. Scott Caldwell raised his hand, "I did Sarge, got to fire a few practice rounds as well."

"Great, go with S/Sgt. Wilson, Boone you go with him, you can hump the ammo for the tube. Take something to carry the bazooka rounds in."

As those two men set off, Katz looked at the rest of his squad, "All right guys, let's go see the lieutenant."

Unterfeldwebel Karl-Heinz Landau of Major Jürgen von Lüttwitz's 3rd Platoon was leading his squad up the rough path to where the map showed a bunker. As far as anyone knew the position was unmanned and had probably been unmanned since early December. Now the 18th Volksgrenadiers were taking over the defenses in this area and von Lüttwitz's company had been assigned this sector of the line.

Battalion wanted the bulk of the company kept back in the second line, Landau's squad was to provide early warning of any American attacks, the company could then counterattack once the American main thrust could be identified. In the rear, the other men were discussing the mission.

"I understand the tactic, Sir, but I don't like the idea of hanging our men out on the line like that. Hell, Kalle's¹ men are just kids, I don't think most of them even shave yet." Feldwebel Adolf Hase commanded von Lüttwitz's 3rd Platoon, the only platoon in the company which wasn't automatic-weapon heavy. Most of the men carried the K98k rifle.

"You worry too much Häschen,² they've got a bunker and a field phone. Set up the MG and they can pin any attackers while we maneuver." Leutnant Otto Brückner, commanding the 2nd (Storm) Platoon, offered.

"It's the Ami artillery that bothers me, Herr Leutnant. You know the f**king Amis, they hit a rough spot, they call in their big guns. They won't come at us man to man." Hase had a low opinion of the Americans, he had come from the Eastern Front.

"The Amis aren't stupid enough to rush our machine guns, doesn't mean they're cowards. Bastards are smart." Leutnant Manfred Sauer had come over to loan his spare camouflage jacket to Hase, they were of similar builds.

"Smart enough to call down artillery at the drop of a hat, I don't like the idea of my boys being pinned down in some concrete tomb!"

"Those are the orders Häschen, we bash our heels together and bark 'zu befehl³!' You know the drill." Leutnant Brückner ended the discussion. "Have the rest of your platoon ready, all right?"

"I suppose so, Herr Leutnant." Hase nodded and thanked Sauer for the loan of the padded camouflage jacket. It was an older version, mouse gray on one side and white on the other. For the current snowy conditions it would be more than adequate. He rolled up what was left of his moth-holed greatcoat and strapped it to his pack.

"You're keeping that rag?" Obergefreiter Adolph Storch, one of the platoon messengers, asked incredulously as he watched his platoon leader.

"Why not Dolfo? Waste not, want not. Besides, Sauer might want this coat back at some point. It's a loan, not a gift. Now enough chatter, we need to move up to the second line of bunkers."

Two groups of soldiers, one American, one German, both with a number of new replacements were moving up where they would meet in battle. This would be the third time that the Americans of 2nd Platoon of Charlie Company would meet the men under Jürgen von Lüttwitz's command.

They had fought each other in the Hürtgen, 2nd Platoon coming away the loser in that one. Then they had met again in the snowy hills outside Wirtzfeld in Belgium, 2nd Platoon had scored decisively in that contest, being a critical component in the destruction of Kampfgruppe (mot) von Lüttwitz.

Now they would meet in another forest, this one again part of the German Westwall, what the Americans called the Siegfried Line. If the Americans broke through here, it was on to the Rhine.

The Germans knew they had to make a stand. But many of them were beginning to question their cause, was it worth dying for Hitler and his cronies? Many thought that the war was lost, but they were fighting for their homes.

Surely, that had to matter.

¹ Informal version of Karl-Heinz.
² Hase's last name is the German word for "rabbit." Häschen means bunny, it's also a slang term for "bimbo."
³ At your command.

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Thursday, January 28, 2021


U.S. Army Photo

The column was halted just where the road curved to the east. There was an open field and on the other side of that field was Germany. Over there was forest, thick forest and the road went into the trees where the Reich began. It made the hairs on the back of Sgt. Stump Gentile's neck stand up. The lead tank rolled to a stop as he wondered what the L.T. had in mind. Gentile didn't like the look of this at all.

Gentile dismounted from the halftrack his squad was riding, they were the second vehicle in the column, right behind the lead Sherman.

"Fellas, let's get this damned tarp off, I don't like being enclosed like this. Joe, keep the .50 trained on those woods, anything moves, hammer it."

As the men rolled up the canvas which covered the back of the halftrack, Gentile moved forward to the lead tank. He could see the tank commander, Sgt. Bob Horner using his field glasses to check the tree line. Gentile went to the front of the tank, Horner's driver waved him aboard.

"Staying warm in there Ernie?" Gentile asked as he went up the tank's glacis, Horner's driver, Cpl. Ernest Tyler, gave Gentile the finger, then grinned.

Gentile guffawed, they had got to know the tankers before they'd moved out. Good guys, though Gentile didn't envy them their jobs. Being wrapped in a steel box with little visibility didn't appeal to him. He preferred a hole in the ground with overhead cover!

"I dunno Stump. It looks quiet, but you know that don't mean shit, right?" Horner lowered his field glasses, gnawing on his lower lip, he said, "I don't like it, not at all. Could be a whole goddamned Panzer division in there."

Gentile laughed and said, "I hear ya Bob, but where would the Krauts get the gas to move a whole Panzer division up here what with the air slaughtering the dumb bastards if they so much as move. How many knocked out Kraut tanks have we seen today?"

Horner shrugged, "Yeah, the air killed a lot of 'em, but I still don't like this. Hang on a sec."

Horner dropped down into his hatch, probably to get out of the wind, and talked on the radio for a few minutes. "I hear ya Woody, but damn if it don't look like a trap to me. Goddamned woods could be full o' Krauts. Yeah, hang on Woody."

Popping up out of the hatch, Horner said, "Your L.T. is coming up, Woody wants us to keep moving, but, well ya know how I feel about that."

"Yeah, I hear ya Bob. There's my L.T. now, lemme see what he has in mind."

Gentile climbed down off the tank and met 2nd Lt. Stephen Hernandez at the rear of the vehicle.

"Sir? Any ideas? I don't like the looks of things."

Hernandez had studied the tree line from farther down the column, he did so again. "I don't see anything suspicious, but that alone makes me suspicious. I'm tempted to call in arty on the position, but it might f**k the road up."

"That it might L.T., I just had an idea, want a suggestion?"

"Sure Stump, what do ya got?"

"We spread out on line, tanks to the front, tracks behind them but offset to let the .50s fire down between the tanks. Then we go Hell for leather across that field, firing every damned thing we've got."

Hernandez looked at Gentile for a moment, "If you'd suggested that two months ago, I'd figure you for a crazy man, but Hell, the Krauts seem to be running faster than we can scoop 'em up or kill 'em. Might be worth a shot, S2 thinks they're all running for the Rhine anyway."

Sixteen year old Peter Schubert had a death grip on the short tube of the stubby Panzerfaust he was holding. He had never been so scared in his entire life. Next to him in his foxhole was seventeen year old Hans Winkmann, who had his head down and was crying. They were boys thrust into a man's world and were woefully unprepared for what they were facing.

"Hans, stop crying, if the sergeant hears you..."

Winkmann shook himself, then looked over the lip of the foxhole. They were positioned just inside the tree line, looking across a snow covered field at a group of American tanks and halftracks. "What are they waiting for Peter? Why don't they attack?"

Winkmann swept a gloved hand over his face, smearing the dirt on his face with his tears. He was literally shaking. His rifle was an older model from the First World War and was in dire need of cleaning. He knew that if Feldwebel Klaussen saw it, he'd have a fit. He wondered if it would even fire if he pulled the trigger. "I am so scared Peter, I don't want to die," was all he could say.

Both boys could do nothing but wait. Their world was out of control and neither boy could do anything about it, except follow orders and pray that somehow they didn't get killed.

It took some few minutes to brief the plan, such as it was, and then for the tanks and halftracks to move into position. Thanks to the cold, the fields were frozen underneath the snow so the vehicles had a firm footing for the advance.

All of the halftracks had their canvas covers rolled up and stowed, the men in the back were ready for whatever awaited them on the other side of the field. Not a few prayers were said as the men waited for the signal.

With a roar, all five tanks began firing into the tree line. The first two volleys were high explosive, the third volley was white phosphorus. The idea was to drive any Germans present into cover with the high explosive, then blind them with the white phosphorus. Then the advance began.

The roar of the fifties firing from the halftracks and the tanks themselves was deafening. The men on the guns in the halftracks were screaming as they fired. Those observing from the back of the halftracks caught glimpses of tracer fire licking into the woods, starting small fires here and there which went unnoticed amidst the smoke and larger fires started by the tank guns.

When they were fifty yards from the tree line, the infantry climbed out of the backs of the halftracks and advanced, firing from the hip. Each man screaming to relieve the tension and to bolster his own morale. The tanks continued to fire HE into the woods. One of the tank commanders later swore that he could hear the Germans screaming in agony over the explosions.

The first high explosive round had hit the sergeant's position. So the men in the trees were rendered leaderless almost immediately. Hans Winkmann stood up and threw his rifle into the woods and began to run. He got two steps before he was cut down by the American machine gun fire.

Peter Schubert, having nothing but his Panzerfaust, stayed in the bottom of the foxhole, curled into a tight ball around his weapon. He didn't know what to do.

Eventually the fire slackened, then ceased. All he could hear was the ringing in his own ears. All else was strangely muffled. He could feel the earth shaking and he sensed that it was a tank approaching. He had been near the big vehicles during his very brief training and knew how heavy they were and how they could make the ground shake.

Cautiously, he peeked over the lip of his foxhole, there, not twenty meters away was one of the big green Ami tanks, its turret slowly slewing down the line of the forest, searching for targets. It was then that Schubert remembered his training.

He flipped the sight up, them armed the weapon, taking a deep breath, Schubert raised himself onto his knees. Miraculously, no one noticed him as he aimed his weapon. He depressed the firing lever and saw the warhead leap from the tube.

"F**k!! Panzerfaust!!" Sgt. Doug Harrell saw the kid at the last minute, too late to stop him firing at Sgt. Otto Walls' tank. Riding on the back deck of his deck, he swung his .50 cal to where he had seen the Kraut pop up and fire. He caught a glimpse of someone in a Kraut uniform being tossed like a ragdoll out of the hole he had been in. Nailed him!

"Anybody hurt?" Hernandez asked as he walked up to where the tankers were examining the vehicle which had been hit by the Panzerfaust.

"Nah, we're good but the tank is a mess." Sgt. Walls was angry, the left side drive sprocket was trashed and the track itself had been badly torn up. But they were lucky, the round hadn't penetrated the interior.

His bow gunner, Pvt. Johnny Prince, swore that the Krauts owed him a new set of drawers. "Damn it Sarge, I crapped myself when that thing hit!"

After discussing the situation with S/Sgt Woodstock, they wouldn't wait for Walls' tank to be repaired, they didn't have a spare drive sprocket to swap out. So now they were down to four tanks and five halftracks.

"What about the Krauts? How many were there?" Woodstock had asked.

"Stump?" Hernandez asked Gentile.

"We checked, fifteen men, mostly kids with old rifles and Panzerfausts. One kinda old looking sergeant we found dead in his foxhole along with a radio operator. Looks like we caught 'em with their pants down." It had sickened Gentile when he saw the German dead, young boys mostly.

"All right, let's mount up and move on. Diego, I want your track in the lead as we go through this stretch of woods, okay? Let's move!"

2nd Platoon, Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment of the Big Red One was back in Germany. This time to stay.

Link to all of The Chant's fiction.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Moving Up

U.S. Army Signal Corps Photo

"Okay, Top, we've got five M3s, we'll put the platoon HQ in one, the MG team in another, then each squad gets their own. The one with the MG team will only have five guys aboard so all the extra gear can go in that one." 2nd Lt. Stephen Hernandez was trying to keep his face covered to no avail, the wind was blowing the snow every which way.

"I hate these swirling winds, L.T., can't seem to keep the snow out of my face no matter which way I turn. Do we have guys who know how to drive these beasts?" S/Sgt Jack Wilson asked.

"It drives just like a truck, Jack. No problem." Hernandez answered then briefed his platoon sergeant on the plan of attack.

"So, we're pushing east, there will be a tank in the lead, then a halftrack, tank, halftrack, etc. Woodstock will be the second tank in the column, Horner will be in the lead. If they see anything that looks dangerous, we'll dismount a squad to check things out ahead of the tanks. If needs be, we'll all dismount and walk next to the tanks. Pick a good man to drive each M3 and have another man on the track's .50 cal. That gives us only ten men on foot per squad, but having those fifties to back us up, I feel pretty good about that." 

Wilson was looking at Hernandez' map and asked, "We plan on pushing up this little river, the Kyll?" He pronounced it the American way as 'kill.'

"Yup, S2 says one of the Kraut units that hit us came up that way back in December. Air says that the road is in good shape. We get to play by another lake if we get into Germany deep enough. See here, the Kronenburger See, looks like another artificial lake." Hernandez chuckled then added, "Too bad we keep going to the lake in winter, right?"

"Yeah, and I left my ice skates back home. When do you want to start, Sir?"

"One hour and we roll. Make it happen, Top!"


"So explain to me again what I'm supposed to do with a bicycle out here, Herr Leutnant?" Hauptfeldwebel Klaus-Peter Keller was less than amused with their position in the rough terrain outside Prüm.

"Leave the bicycles tied to the outside of the big wagon, if we throw them away we'll either find a need for them, or some quartermaster will want to know what we did with them. The wagons will be staying down in the village at any rate." Leutnant Sauer was consulting the list of new equipment Keller had handed him.

"There are quite a few Panzerfausts listed here. I guess the boys will have to carry those."

Major von Lüttwitz came up at that point and said, "We have perhaps three per squad. If we run into Ami tanks they're better than nothing."

"I'd still rather have a Panzerschreck or two!" Even as Sauer said it, he knew they were lucky to get the Panzerfausts. The one shot, short range weapons were very effective against tanks, if one had the courage to get in very close without getting shot down in the process.

"Yes, but we get what the Army gives us, times are hard all over, or hadn't you heard, Manfred?" The Major said that with a sardonic chuckle.

"Yes, you'd think we were losing the war or something." Sauer said with a snarl. The remark caused all three men to look over their shoulders, some things were best left unsaid.


"We lucked out getting tracks with covers!" Pvt. George Haskell had to yell to be heard over the engine noise and the wind.

"Well, don't get too comfortable kid, I get nervous riding under canvas like this, can't see anything." Pvt. Frank Genovese had volunteered to man the .50 cal, sure he'd be up in the wind, but at least he could see.

Genovese had flipped a coin with Pvt. Joe Gray to see who got the .50, Gray had won. At the last stop he had offered Genovese the chance to switch places, Sgt. Gentile had told him to man the gun and shut up.

"You're lucky I don't pull the top, if we get hit, it's everybody out the back door. Kraut halftracks ain't go no top. If they get in trouble, everyone goes over the side. But the L.T. wants you guys to stay warm. Bless his heart, but I don't like it." Gentile had learned long ago to do what the boss wanted, unless it was stupid.

Hey, dumb ass, pop your head up here, want to see a Kraut tank?" Pvt. Gray yelled back into the vehicle. Pvt. Robert Dumas was sitting just behind the .50.

"I told ya, it's pronounced 'doo mah,' ya f**king comedian." Dumas climbed up beside Gray, though it was rather tight.

There beside the road was a burnt out Pzkw IV, Dumas could see into the driver's hatch. Which contained the shriveled blackened corpse of the tank's driver.

"Damn! Poor bastards!" Dumas said as the M3 drove past the wrecked tank.

Climbing back inside the vehicle, Dumas began to understand why the Sarge didn't like the cover over the back.

Link to all of The Chant's fiction.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

More Grist for the Mill of Combat


"We have movement orders, Manfred!" Major von Lüttwitz came out of the small Gasthaus and waved his 1st platoon commander over from where he had been talking with the supply officer.

"Not East I hope." Leutnant Manfred Sauer had been in the East, he didn't really want to go back, though truth be told, the Eastern Front was getting closer to the Reich each day. Though the news was tightly controlled, Army rumor had it that the Red Army had launched their big offensive, what was left of the German armies in the east were getting torn to pieces. Only the winter slowed the Russians.

For all the talk of that army's prowess in the winter, that climate was friend to no man.

"No, southwest to Olzheim, northeast of Prüm, the 18th Volksgrenadiers, our new division is fighting to hold back the Amis to the west of there."

"Now that the SS have been pulled back for use in the East?" Sauer noted.

"Precisely. Now as to our readiness?"

"We're at full strength for a Grenadier Company, the same strength our man Koch had on the 16th of December, 119 men all told. Many automatic weapons, but we move on foot." Sauer explained.

"We have the normal complement of wagons and infantry carts?" von Lüttwitz was rather hoping that he didn't get a horse. He mistrusted the beasts.

"Yessir, also four bicycles. One for the Spieß, one for the Sani, one for the paymaster, and one for the equipment officer."

"What? I don't get one?" von Lüttwitz said, jokingly.

"Ah, no Sir. But I do believe that Unteroffizier Sauer has managed to find a Kübelwagen for your use, which he has graciously offered to drive for you."

"Another Sauer? A Saxon?"

"No Sir, damn the bad luck, he's a Berliner."

"Ah, I see. I'm going down to the train station, apparently we leave tomorrow night, earlier if the weather is bad. Which is a good bet." von Lüttwitz gestured to the low clouds and the gently falling snow, "At least we won't be marching in this cold!"

U.S. Army Photo

"All right, hold it up right here. Take five, smoke 'em if ya got 'em, don't wander off!" S/Sgt Jack Wilson had fifteen new men for the platoon and its attached machine gun team. All privates, good looking kids, seems most of them had been in some college program the Army had created, now they needed riflemen, so the college boys were now riflemen.

2nd Lt. Stephen Hernandez came out of the Charlie Company CP where Cpt. Palminteri had informed him of the new replacements. He was surprised that his platoon sergeant had already collected the new men.

"These the new guys, Top?" Hernandez asked.

"Yessir, they just came in, fresh off the truck I guess you could say."

"So you guys got pulled out of ASTP¹ to be here, huh?"

When no one answered, the lieutenant pointed at the smallest replacement and said, "Cat got your tongue soldier?"

Pvt. William Zerbst was used to being singled out for his small stature. "Yes Sir, Army pulled us out of school because of our infantry losses here in the ETO."

Hernandez raised an eyebrow at the kid's answer, "Okay, S/Sgt Wilson will take you to your assigned squads, uh, Hammond and Smith?"

Two of the replacements answered with "Sir" and each raised a hand.

"You're going to Sgt. Judd Maxwell's light machine gun team. Hope college taught ya how to lug ammunition cans around."

Pvt. Charles Hammond started to answer, but Pvt. Herbert Smith gave him an elbow and said, "Not exactly, Sir. But we can figure it out I suppose."

Hernandez pulled Wilson aside where the replacements couldn't hear him, "These guys sound like a bunch of wiseacres Jack, keep an eye on 'em."

"You got it, Sir."

Turning to the new men, Wilson barked out, "All right college boys, let's get you settled in!"

Cpt. Palminteri stepped out of the CP and lit a cigarette, "Go easy on the new boys, Stephen. Army told them they were going to be specialists, not gravel agitators. So they might be a bit disgruntled. From what battalion says, these guys are all pretty smart, much smarter than your average draftee."

2nd Lt. Hernandez nodded, then said, "Well, we'll see how they hold up in a firefight. So I guess we're back up to strength now, on paper anyway."

Cpt. Palminteri pulled a folded up sheet of paper from inside his field jacket, studied it and said, "Yup, you should have fifty-three men under you now. That includes Doc and the five guys in the MG team."

"Nice. When are we moving out again?" Hernandez hated sitting around, he knew it gave the Germans time to dig in, he hated digging them out once they put down roots.

"Tomorrow morning. I've managed to get some halftracks for you guys. So you won't need to ride on the tanks tomorrow. They're on loan, so don't lose any of 'em if you can help it."

"I'll try, Cap'n, but ya know the Germans won't cooperate."

"Yeah, I get that. Push the bastards, but don't go crazy out there. This war has to end soon." Cpt. Palminteri said as he looked towards the east and Germany.

"Anybody tell the Krauts that?" Hernandez wanted to know.

¹ Army Specialized Training Program (Reference)

Link to all of The Chant's fiction.

Monday, January 25, 2021

Train Wreck



With the discovery of water damage in our old house a couple of weeks ago, OPLAN "Move one house clockwise" seemed to be inexorably headed towards the situation in the above photo. As more demolition occurred on the house, more and different areas were affected.  Finally, we believed all had been discovered and  remedial repairs commenced.

Unfortunately, that meant extensive areas of the underflooring had to be removed and replaced.

This small hole, which was thought to be easily patched, turned out to be the equivalent of a black hole.
The above hole was in the corner in the right edge of the picture

"Was the Black Hole satisfied at this point, juvat?"

"No Beans, you optimist you, it was not"

Looking at the underside of the cabinet from the opening in front revealed more good news.

Oh, well, we were thinking about replacing the cabinetry at some point anyways.   So after a long 4 days....

/The Living Room hole was fixed.  (Bottom picture is taken from the other side of the hole than the top.)

As was the bedroom, which butted up against the main bath.

As to the kitchen?

The floor installers should begin working as scheduled this morning and all the areas of the house that deal with water, have new plywood subflooring.  

Crisis handled.  All it takes is good minions and a metric crap-ton of moola.

Whilst taking a break and catching my breath from raking the Guest House's yard and replanting grass, I happened to be sitting in the garage (Mrs J has a thing about me walking into the house with muddy shoes.)  I stretched a bit and was looking up at the ceiling, when I re-remembered that the construction foreman had left a opening there (Covered with a removable piece of plywood, Beans).  No ladder attached, so I broke out the step ladder, pushed aside the board and took a gander.

Looks like I've found a better storage place than what I'd been discussing in last week's post.  Rafters I can easily access, so the Winch idea will most likely work (Moltke's dictum is still a factor).  The fact that it doesn't have a built in ladder shouldn't be a big factor as I think stuff stored here will only be accessed once or twice a year.  

We'll see.

On a historical note, Mrs J kept track of all the airport codes for all the places we visited last year and had them put on a T-shirt for me to wear.  

Hysterical, no?

Peace out, all y'all!

Train Wreck averted!