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.

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  1. Panzerfausts were nasty and effective. Predecessor to the RPG, shaped charge and all. Thank goodness they were short range, but still took a heavy toll.

    1. Very ingenious design, and the evolution of the 'faust from test introduction to the latest version, which looks surprisingly like the RPG, is interesting.

      I think it's more parallel evolution than outright copying, the later versions of the PF looking like early versions of the RPG, but then again, the Soviets copied everything good they could get their hands on (oh, like, say, a B-29...)

    2. I have no doubt that the Soviets copied (and improved) the Panzerfaust. The RPG is still in use today.

  2. Maybe an edit, "ain't got no top... they have to bail over the side" should be aint' got no door?

    Dumas is a town in north west Texas. We call it Doom-us. Seems the mayor there had a nice convertible he parked out on the street. Nice day, top down, when a cow hauler comes roaring through. When cows ride in trucks the motion and the diesel exhaust would make them sick. They'd get "scour", that specially flavored runny poop smeared all down the sides of the trailers. As the truck whips around the corner, that stuff sloshed out and covered / filled the car.

    I don't mind the smell at all, and like skunk, it's brings back memories of good times. I used to worry about this a bit. Wasn't sure why I liked that, but who knows. Now, when the hide truck was in front, holy crap. Or when the carcass truck was full and heading to the rendering plant, I'd find any other place to be. No word strong enough for those old gut wagons...

    1. Actually the German halftracks did have a door at the rear, just like the M3s. With a canvas top the troops couldn't go over the side in an emergency, the Germans didn't have that canvas top. Maybe I didn't write it all that well.

    2. Welp, maybe my caffeine count was below posting minimums... ;) This is usually a third cup read, today was a one cupper...

    3. SdKfz 251s were not lacking in the back door department!

  3. Those pictures just make me feel the cold, Sarge.

    I cannot imagine riding in a halftrack in Winter was at all delightful.

    1. I chose the pictures to help illustrate just how cold and nasty it was. Looks like I succeeded there.

    2. Just as bad riding in the back of a truck with no cover... Still beats riding on a tank with absolutely no cover.

    3. The sidewalls on a halftrack are higher, that's better than a truck.

      But yeah, riding on the back of a tank screams "Kill me!"

  4. Yup. more great pics, and all of them make it even colder. Good episode. Looks like your muse is immune to whatever ails you.

  5. After yesterday, I went scrounging... Seems the cover was preferred in 'safe' areas as it kept most of the environmental garbage, like leaves, rain, snow etc out. But, yep, like you said, pretty standard tactics were to roll it up and hang it off the side when getting near the front. Of course, that required experienced operators to do the "We need to take the top down, NOW!" thing.

    In a similar vein, I've seen the 250/251s with a cover in 'rear' areas, but never where things were supposed to be feisty. Could not find anywhere where they came with one, though, considering how thorough the Germans were, I would not be surprised if they had a 'shipping cover' and standing rules to remove the cover anywhere near the front.

    Of course, this is all not considering either troops penchant for 'losing' unessential stuff, turning a unit march into a trail of flotsam and jetsam.

    And, yes, I agree. Pictures make cold. Brrrrr...

    1. I did some digging, no combat photos of Sdkfz 250/251s with covers. Saw some modelers version of those with covers. The post-war Czech copies of the Hanomag, those I've seen with covers.

  6. Having ridden in the back of a five-ton a time or two in all weather, I can somewhat appreciate having canvas covers. Thing is, no one was shooting at us, afraid I'da been bitching about not being able to see, either.
    P'raps Lt. Hernandez is about to get a lesson about "caring" for the troops too much. I'd have thought savvy as he is he'd have come down on caution over slight "comfort". Course they do have the .50's to suppress -and a Ma Deuce can DO some serious suppressing.
    Boat Guy

    1. Covers are good if there is precipitation of the non-steel variety. If the bullets and shells are flying, sitting in a truck, covered or uncovered, is a good way to die!

      Hernandez is good at what he does, but he ain't perfect. We shall see.


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