Wednesday, February 17, 2021

A Close Call

Sd.Kfz.10/5 Self-Propelled AAA
Bundesarchiv

Major von Lüttwitz had divided his battalion into four sections, his 1st and 2nd Companies constituted two of the sections, his battalion staff along with elements of the battalion's Heavy Weapons Company made up the third section and the bulk of his Supply Company made up the fourth section.

Nearly at the last minute von Lüttwitz's battalion received a full weapons company and the supply company called for in the table of organization and equipment for an armored Panzergrenadier battalion. Though he was missing one company, the headquarters staff of the division (3rd Panzergrenadier Division) had informed him via motorcycle messenger that his 7th Company was still in transit from Bonn. (Weapons Company was numbered as the 8th Company of the battalion.

(Source)

Now not only did the battalion have six anti-aircraft halftracks organic to the Panzergrenadier companies, but the 8th (Heavy) Company had twelve more anti-aircraft vehicles assigned, the same type of self-propelled anti-aircraft vehicles he had had in his short lived Kampfgruppe.

He had kept one half-platoon of the Sd.Kfz. 10/5s with his command group and the other half-platoon (six vehicles per half-platoon) with the Supply Company. He had ordered the company commanders to maintain an interval of at least a kilometer between their section and the next. Sauer's 5th Company was in the lead, somewhere up ahead.

As it began to get lighter, he had the vehicles move to the side of the road and camouflaged as best as the men could. Snow was shoveled up to the wheel rims, branches (and more snow) were piled on top of the existing camouflage. He hoped that from the air an Allied pilot would not notice anything amiss.

As he lit a cigar, he had started smoking again, he looked at his men, scurrying to get their jobs done before daylight, though it was overcast, the cloud ceiling was higher than he liked, the Jabos could still get under it. Battalion command was no picnic he was learning.

He exhaled, then threw the cigar away, they weren't very good. As he did so he saw his adjutant coming up to him, it still startled him that his old Spieß, Hauptfeldwebel Klaus-Peter Keller, was still with Sauer's company. Sauer had tried to convince Keller to move up to battalion, but he now rated an adjutant, not a Spieß. It was all a bit jarring.

Oberleutnant Hermann Schulze came up and handed von Lüttwitz a sheet of paper. "Fuel is good, I'd like more but who wouldn't. The men have been fed and seem to be in good spirits, though I have to tell you Sir, the men from Saxony are angry. You're from Dresden, yes?"

"I am Hermann, most of my family moved to my uncle's farm near Reinsberg, those who did not are in the Army and aren't really from anywhere any more. So, to answer your unspoken question, as far as I know I lost no family in the bombing. I'm sure I lost people I knew growing up, but again, who isn't losing friends and acquaintances these days?" von Lüttwitz shook his head, it was war. He'd seen what the Luftwaffe had done to Warsaw, why should a German city be any different?

He realized that the war was making him callous, but he didn't really care.

"Anything else, Hermann?"

"Yes Sir, a motorcycle messenger came in, apparently 5th Company fought off an airstrike this morning, right at dawn."

"Fought off? Do we have any details?"

"Two Spitfires flew past, it looked as if they hadn't spotted Leutnant Sauer's column. Then they came back around. Sauer's anti-aircraft guns were ready for them. According to the message, they shot them both down. They captured one of the pilots."

"Really?"

"Yes Sir, Leutnant Sauer had to intervene to stop one of his men from killing the prisoner. One of the new men, a transfer from the Kriegsmarine¹, apparently the man is from Dresden."

"Very well, is the messenger still here?"

"Yes Sir."

Major von Lüttwitz tore a sheet of paper from the notebook he kept in his map case and wrote out a short message. "Have the messenger take this back to Sauer, I want that prisoner escorted back to Euskirchen. Alive."

"Yes Sir."


Leutnant Manfred Sauer read the message and chuckled. He looked over at the Spieß and handed him the message. Keller also chuckled, "Does the Major think we might kill and eat the Englishman?"

The Englishman in question was sitting nearby, under guard, being patched up by the Sanitäter, Unteroffizier Peter Krause. The man had received a nasty gash on his head when he'd managed to crash land his aircraft in a nearby field. He was still woozy from the crash.

"Man's a sergeant pilot, isn't he?" Keller observed.

"I suppose he is, have one of the messengers deliver him back to Euskirchen, send a man with him to make sure he doesn't try to escape, in fact, take my Kübelwagen. We're not going anywhere until nightfall."

"It shall be done." Keller nodded then left to get that task done.

Sauer lit a cigarette and looked out into the fields where the two Englishmen had fallen. One to his death, the other to an uncertain captivity. It had all happened so fast...


The two aircraft had been flying along the road, at about a thousand feet and offset out over the fields. The vehicles were all well camouflaged and the men stayed under cover. The anti-aircraft gunners were tracking the enemy aircraft, just in case. Then some of the camouflage had fallen off. Sauer saw that and saw the trailing of the two aircraft dip his aircraft's nose,  as if he had temporarily lost control. Obviously he had seen something which startled him.

The two aircraft had accelerated out of sight, but you could still hear their engines as they faded. Then the sound began to grow, they were coming back!

The lead aircraft was coming straight down the road, at speed, but he flew into a wall of 2 cm cannon fire. A sharp bang could be heard from the engine, then the plane had turned abruptly to the left, shearing off part of his wingman's vertical stabilizer as it did so. Seconds later, the dying Spitfire slammed into the snowy field, exploding and sending aircraft and pilot to a fiery death.

The wingman had tried desperately to gain altitude, but his bird was hurt too badly. The men had actually cheered when the Englishman had managed a wheels-up landing. Sauer and three of his men had piled into his Kübelwagen and drove out to the wreck. They got there just as the pilot climbed out, hands high.

One of Sauer's new men, damned if he could remember the fellow's name, had advanced on the pilot and struck the man in the face with his fist. Then he had stepped back, it seemed obvious that he intended to kill the man.

"Pull that trigger Grenadier, and you're next!" Sauer had bellowed as he drew his sidearm. "Unteroffizier Burkhard, place that man under arrest!"

Sauer had relieved the man of his weapon, the soldier had muttered something about English murderers and Dresden. Sauer told him, sharply, to hold his tongue or face summary justice, here and now. "We do NOT kill prisoners, we are NOT the SS!"

As the man was led away, more of the company had come out to see the wreckage, Sauer offered the pilot a cigarette, which the man took, his hands were shaking badly. Sauer had to light it for him.

"Sprechen sie Deutsch?²" Sauer asked him. The man shook his head and then he asked Sauer, "English?"

"A little," Sauer said. Though in truth that about exhausted his command of the English language.

Through gestures and the few words of English some of the men knew, they convinced the pilot that they weren't going to harm him, but he would be transported to the rear. Once he was there, Sauer had no idea what would happen to the man. Euskirchen had suffered its own share of bombing over the past few months.


Before the car began its trip to Euskirchen, Sauer had told the men taking the pilot there to turn him over to the Army if possible. Not to the field police but the detachment at what was left of the train station. Most of them were reservists, not front line troops, perhaps not as keen for blood. He didn't know what would become of the Englishman, but his blood would not be on Sauer's hands.

Sauer found himself thanking God that he was not that Englishman, now was not a good time to be an Allied pilot shot down over Germany.

One heard things, horrible things.

War...





¹ German Navy
² Do you speak German?

Link to all of The Chant's fiction.

32 comments:

  1. Having been almost continually pounded by Allied air for a very long time now may not have been enough to convince the most fanatical, brainwashed zealots, but even those, upon hearing of Dresden should by now be waking up to the fact that the Reich is losing, and the eventual end credits have already been written.
    Gotta suck, believing you are invincible, and finding out that you are, after all, merely mortal.

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    1. Between the bombing of Dresden, the constant flow of fresh bodies away from the cities and the trickle of broken bodies returning, and the very annoying habit of the RAF to interrupt any state news-broadcasts or speeches with carefully timed air attacks by Mosquitos, the people were getting the message.

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    2. You had to be pretty isolated to be out of that loop.

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  2. I hope the Kubel makes a round trip!

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    1. Be funny if the Kubel ran into an Ami patrol that didn't shoot the scheisse of of them. A giant lethal game of Red Rover, so to speak.

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  3. One lucky Spitfire pilot surviving a mid-air collision, crash landing and capture by angry troops....back at the Spit's airfield they're posting two MIAs.

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    1. Well, he hasn't made it to the POW camp yet.

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    2. And knowing roughly where the two Spits were patrolling will make a follow-up reconnaissance-in-force with the missing pilots squadron a good possibility.

      Unless the tricky Sauer does some neat concealment of the two birds forthwith and quickly.

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    3. Not necessarily, often pilots were given carte blanche to beat up things they saw going from Point A to Point B. If they went missing somewhere in that area, tough to know where. What mission might they have been on? Who knows?

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    4. Agreed, Sarge, They'd probably have a 40-50 mile section of road to cover and attack. Assuming they patrolled at 300K, or 5 miles a minute, that's 8-10 minutes. But, if hit ant they turned away, now you're squaring the search area. And pieces of wreckage from a mid-air tend to float apart, it's not just a smoking hole in the ground.

      On a separate note, First day above freezing since last Thursday. Made it to 37 wonderful degrees, snow is mostly all gone, roads are back in good condition and most importantly, Electricity and Water is back on (or at least has been for about 8 hours). Going to get back into the teens tonight according to the forecast, but tomorrow's high is forecast for the mid-40's and 60's and 70's over the weekend.

      As you might have guessed, I have a subject for Monday's post.

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    5. Welcome back!

      Glad to hear you're coming out of the deep freeze and have rejoined!

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    6. (Don MxCollor)...Juvat, Welcome back!!!....

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  4. Man, those unit icons look like they were lifted straight out of Panzer General. Now there's a game I haven't thought of in years, and which I now suddenly have the urge to get up and running again...

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    1. I've been lamenting my Squad Leader games that went missing when the in-laws who were visiting for two weeks moved their #1 son in while wife and I were at work. Many neat things gone...

      Eh, well, not like I have the room for all that now. But still...

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  5. The German's Replacement System made so much more sense than the US system. Of course, by late '44 and in '45, instead of slotting in a few replacements the Germans were slotting in whole companies of fresh newbies, lambs to the slaughter.

    You're building up quite the tension there with the Germans and the Americans both making turns to go north and not meeting yet.

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    1. I'm not sure that I'm looking forward to that encounter.

      You know it's going to happen.

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  6. Ok, sometimes you just see weird things. Is the German in the turret too small? (appears to be normal in proportion to turret) Or is the big buffalo-gorilla on the trailer behind him freakishly huuuge? I know this isn't up to the normal historical discussions going on here, but damn... just look at the difference in the sizes of their heads. Guy in back has to be at least 6-8 ft behind guy in turret. Looks like they couldn't even find a helmet to fit that enormous melon. Talk about a master race... I now return you to the normal thought provoking banter we all read the comments for.

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    1. Having owned one of those quilted camo parkas, I would venture to say it is his apparel that inflates his size. Old Guns

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    2. Look at his lower trouser leg. It looks like overalls.

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    3. Old Guns - Still is a big fella!

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    4. Maybe the Wehrmacht didn't make trousers that big...

      We know the Luftwaffe did!

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  7. Sarge, it always gives me a jolt when I read about comings and goings from Bonn. I am old enough to remember it as the capital of West Germany; one forgets it was just another city once upon a time.

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    1. I've been there a couple of times, it was still the seat of the government until 1999 I think. Then all of the functions were moved to Berlin. There was a lot of resentment outside of Germany about moving the capital back to Berlin.

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  8. The thought occurred to me as to why I like most of those German characters - they were (are) men of honor.

    A typo or 2?

    "... I'd like more but who wouldn't the men have been fed " Reading it again after who wouldn't - a hyphen perhaps?


    "He'd seen what the Luftwaffe had done to Warsaw, why should a German city be any different."

    A question mark after different? Although I understand it is more of a statement so perhaps not.

    One thing I came to learn - among bomber crew shot down it was a very real prospect of getting killed on the ground by angry recipients.

    In the Vietnam War in Laos very few - a handful - of those shot down were ever accounted for. More than a few in Vietnam.

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    1. Good eye, grammatical errors, er, I mean typos, have been corrected.

      There were men of honor on both sides, one of my goals was to show that. I also need to show that there were dishonorable men on both sides.

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Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)
Can't be nice, go somewhere else...

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