Tuesday, February 23, 2021

After the Battle of Kreuzau...


Sgt. Doug Harrell's tank, Misfit II, was positioned not far from the disabled Box o' Nuts. He had two of his crew helping Sgt. Ken Boyd's wounded, Pfc. Lawrence Bradley, Pvt. Cody O'Neal, Pvt. Anthony Potter, over to his tank. Word had come down that they were moving out, the same message brought the glad news that the Krauts were falling back willy-nilly.

Harrell dismounted to talk with Boyd, "You don't wanna torch her, Ken?"

Boyd had debated the idea of destroying his tank so that the Germans couldn't haul it off and use it. But seeing as how they were retreating, he had decided to leave Box o' Nuts intact. "Nah, Doug, replace that transmission, seal the hole in the front, she'll be as good as new. No point setting her on fire, there's no one around but us. Krauts are high-tailing it east."

"How are your guys?" Harrell had to ask, Boyd's driver, Pfc. Larry Bradley, looked pretty bad, he was soaked with blood from the waist down and in a great deal of pain. The assistant driver, Pvt. Anthony Potter, was also in considerable pain, he couldn't walk on his own and his left leg was barely attached.

"Potter and Bradley need a doc, quick, we stopped the bleeding, but..."

"O'Neal looks pretty beat up."

"Yeah, he took a steel splinter in the arm, and another in the leg when the transmission got hit. He's a tough guy, I told him to milk it for all it's worth. Who wants to die at this stage of the game?"

"I hear ya. Okay, the wounded are loaded up, let's get out of here."

5th Company had fallen back nearly seven kilometers, to the vicinity of Vettweiß. Leutnant Manfred Sauer had ordered a halt in order to collect the fragments of his company. There were a large number of stragglers who hadn't made the rendezvous. Only three vehicles from 3rd (Heavy) Platoon had survived the fight outside Kreuzau. The platoon leader's 251¹ had survived but, one of the mortar carriers and one of the cannon-armed halftracks had been destroyed with most of their crews.

While the platoon leader's vehicle had made it out, the platoon leader had not. Oberfeldwebel Ernst Mayer had been badly wounded in the American artillery barrage and had died soon after Leutnant Sauer had arrived on scene to determine why that portion of his two-pronged attack on Kreuzau had not moved.

Unteroffizier Jens Voigt now commanded 3rd (Heavy) Platoon, he and four corporals were all that remained of the unit's NCOs. He had made a list of casualties for his platoon: nine dead, four wounded. Sauer had been surprised that the dead had outnumbered the wounded by so many, Voigt had explained that most of the men were in their vehicles when the Ami artillery had saturated the area. The men who survived from a destroyed vehicle were always wounded and were, in most cases, extremely lucky to have survived at all.

"Unteroffizier, what of the Drillings assigned to support your unit, there were two, yes?"

"Jawohl, Herr Leutnant. One came back with us, the other, Unteroffizier Hartmann's vehicle, was destroyed by a direct hit. None of the crew survived." Voigt looked at the ground for a moment, Hartmann had been a good friend and comrade. The shock of seeing his friend's vehicle come apart like a toy stepped on by a giant was still with him.

"Has Feldwebel Haasen's platoon reported in? I saw at least two of his vehicles hit. One by artillery, the other, I think, by tank fire coming from the town." Voigt needed a drink, a stiff one.

"Yes Voigt, he lost two vehicles. He has seven dead and one wounded man as well. The Sani says the wounded man is going to be okay. Minor burns, he was lucky to be away from his 251 when it was hit." Sauer dismissed Voight, told him to report to the Sanitäter. He had a nasty looking cut on one cheek, the man didn't seem to notice that he had been injured.


S/Sgt Jack Wilson was walking towards 2nd Lt. Stephen Hernandez' Kübelwagen, seemed like the L.T. loved the damned thing. It bugged Wilson that his boss didn't have a proper Jeep. Ah well, if the Army wanted his platoon commander to have a Jeep, they would have issued him one.

The platoon had moved north from Kreuzau and was now bivouacked outside Niederau, waiting for the rest of Charlie Company to cross the Roer and join them, their five halftracks had come over that morning. The pontoon bridge they had used was now jammed with traffic from an armored division hurrying to the Rhine River.

Hernandez looked up and saw his platoon sergeant, he knew that Wilson had the casualty list with him. Time to tally up the cost.

"How bad is it, Top?"

"Three killed in action, nine wounded, and six missing. Judd Maxwell's .30 cal team was hit hard, Krauts dropped a mortar round damned near right on top of them. Judd's dead, Weber and Hawkins are wounded, they've been evacuated to a battalion aid station, not ours, they're still on the wrong side of the river. Two men missing from Judd's team - Pacheco and Manderson. Don't hold out too much hope for them, there may not be enough of them left to identify the bodies."

"Judd's dead?" Hernandez knew that Sgt. Maxwell's .30 cal MG team had been attached to 2nd Platoon since before he'd joined the platoon. Maxwell was a good man, he would be missed. "How did Weber and Hawkins get out?"

"Judd sent 'em back after they both got hit by a near miss, fragments tore up Weber's right arm pretty bad, Hawkins wasn't as bad, but bad enough that he needed treatment. As those two guys withdrew to the rear, they heard another incoming shell, so they jumped into a crater."

"That round killed Judd?" Hernandez asked.

"Yes Sir, probably Pacheco and Manderson too, Pacheco was on the gun right next to Judd, Manderson was handling the belt."

"Shit. I guess I better go talk to Herm, he'll want to know about his guys." 2nd Lt. Herman Jacobsen was a friend, commander of Weapons Platoon, the platoon Maxwell's machine gun team belonged to, Hernandez hated having to tell Jacobsen the news, but it would be better if it came from him.

"Anything else, Top?"

"Yes Sir, we lost one tank, Boyd's tank. S/Sgt Woodstock says it's reparable."

"What about Boyd's crew?"

"Three wounded, but they'll live, two of 'em are going home. Million dollar wounds."

"It's one thing to survive, Top, it's quite another to go through life crippled."

"Yeah, I get that L.T., but they're alive. Boyd's driver, Cpl. Jon Riggs, he's probably going to lose a leg, maybe two. Doc wasn't sure."

"Shit." Was all 2nd Lt. Hernandez had to say.

"Pvt. Rudy Stanley from 2nd Squad and Pvt. Juan Estrada from 3rd Squad are dead, Stanley was near the edge of the Kraut mortar attack, a shell dropped near the foxhole he and Pvt. Kurt Perkins were occupying. Perkins was wounded, Doc says he'll be okay. Rudy was unlucky as Hell, shell fragment just under his helmet, killed him instantly." Wilson consulted his list, he knew these men, he felt terrible discussing their deaths and injuries like this, but hey, it's why the Army paid him more.

"3rd Squad had two other wounded, Pvt. Robert Dumas, he and Flowers killed a StuG just before he got hit and Pvt. Randall Phillips has a nasty gash on his left forearm, he's already back on duty."

"Scotty Caldwell in 1st Squad caught a mortar fragment, but Doc says he'll be okay." Wilson continued.

"Where did Scotty get hit?" Hernandez asked out of curiosity.

"In the ass, they were shifting position, him and Pvt. Javier Gomez, after the round hit, Caldwell couldn't see Javi, we're pretty sure he's dead, we just haven't found a body."

"Privates Eric Allen, 1st Squad, Wayne McBride, 2nd Squad, and Kenneth Webb, also 2nd Squad, are all missing. No one has seen them since the attack started." Wilson looked up from his list, this business sickened him.

"Dead in the barrage, prisoners, deserters, any thoughts on that, Top?" Hernandez hated the not knowing when a man went missing, he couldn't believe anyone in 2nd Platoon would run. But then again, some of them had run at the crossroads. Every man had his limits, sometimes a fellow's courage just ran out.

"No idea, L.T., Stump wants to take a patrol back to Kreuzau, see if he can find them and the other guys who went missing. Their buddies are pretty sure they're dead. Those Kraut AA halftracks were laying down some pretty good heat at one point. Twenty millimeter tends to tear a body apart."

"Okay, tell Stump to take one of the halftracks and his squad, check it out, I want to know, so do the men I suppose." Hernandez was tempted to go himself, but he knew he needed to stay with the bulk of the unit.

"Roger that, Sir, on it. Can I...?" Wilson began.

"No, you may not, Sgt. Gentile can handle it, you're a platoon sergeant now, Jack, not a squad leader."

"Yes Sir, sorry."

"Carry on Staff Sergeant."

Recognizing that his commander was in a bad state, Wilson left to get Gentile's patrol on the road.

All told, the Battle of Kreuzau² was a minor affair, no great issues were decided. A small American unit found a way over a river, a small German unit attempted to push them back over that river. Events elsewhere overshadowed the fighting around Kreuzau, but for fifty-six men, eighteen American and thirty-eight German, their lives were either changed forever, or ended in the small town of Kreuzau and in the nearby fields and forests.

The casualties:

Pvt. Rudy Stanley, KIA
Pvt. Juan Estrada, KIA
Sgt. Judd Maxwell, KIA
Pvt. Scott Caldwell, WIA
Pvt. Kurt Perkins, WIA
Pvt. Robert Dumas, WIA
Pvt. Randall Phillips, WIA
Pfc. Jim Weber, WIA
Pvt. Allan Hawkins, WIA
Cpl. Jon Riggs, WIA
Pvt. Cody O'Neal, WIA
Pvt. Anthony Potter, WIA
Pvt. Javier Gomez, MIA
Pvt. Eric Allen, MIA
Pvt. Wayne McBride, MIA
Pvt. Kenneth Webb, MIA
Pvt. Steve Pacheco, MIA
Pvt. Troy Manderson, MIA

Obergefreiter Heinz Leonhart, KIA
Grenadier Erhard Fleischhacker, KIA
Grenadier Alfons Hartig, KIA
Gefreiter Walther Wolfram, KIA
Grenadier Kurt Baier, KIA
Grenadier Sigfried Schimmelpfennig, KIA
Grenadier Siegfried Ritter, KIA
Oberfeldwebel Ernst Mayer, KIA
Unteroffizier Hans König, KIA
Grenadier Niels Hahn, KIA
Grenadier Markus Neumann, KIA
Gefreiter Werner Gantzmann, KIA
Unteroffizier Jörg Keller, KIA
Grenadier Tim Wolff, KIA
Grenadier Christoph Groß, KIA
Gefreiter Fritz Schäfer, KIA
Unteroffizier Marcus Hartmann, KIA
Obergefreiter Lukas Berger, KIA
Grenadier Klaus Krause, KIA
Grenadier Daniel Hoffmann, KIA
Panzeroberkanonier Hubert Hering, KIA
Gefreiter Viktor Hanneman, KIA
Gefreiter Leo Grasshoff, KIA
Panzeroberkanonier Bodo Baumer, KIA
Panzerkanonier Michael Günther, KIA
Grenadier Hans Egner, WIA
Grenadier Paul Kaiser, WIA
Grenadier Ernst Berger, WIA
Grenadier Karsten Horn, WIA
Grenadier Patrick Albrecht, WIA
Obergefreiter Anton Krausse, WIA
Gefreiter August Koch, WIA
Grenadier Klaus-Peter Kühn, MIA
Grenadier Jochen Wagner, MIA
Grenadier Lukas Meier, MIA
Gefreiter Hans Scholz, MIA
Grenadier Tobias Stein, MIA
Grenadier Markus Jung, MIA

Some gave all...

¹ The 251 was the German Sd.Kfz. 251 halftrack
² I should fess up here and say that the Battle of Kreuzau exists only in my imagination. It represents the many small actions which together made up the conflict we remember as World War II.

Link to all of The Chant's fiction.


  1. Then your "imagination" honors those men who fought actions like this, Sarge. Your writing brings to us the lives of these men, and men like them who fought, suffered and died in an important war; even if in an "unimportant" action.
    Boat Guy

    1. Thanks Boat Guy!

      That's one of my goals, honor those who fought in that war. Of course, the other is to tell a good story.

    2. You've succeeded in both counts, Sarge.

  2. Is there actually a town by that name?

    1. Indeed there is, on the Roer River south of Düren.

  3. Well said BG......almost 300,00 killed in combat during the war, another 112,00 died from other causes, 670,000 wounded and 30,000 MIA. Your story-telling adds depth to those numbers Sarge.

    1. I've never liked raw numbers and statistics, it covers up the fact that real people made up those numbers. Light casualties aren't, if you're one of them. Or the family of one of them.

    2. ...or the guy next to him in a foxhole. Or one of his others brothers in arms.

  4. I was thinking, driving a KubelWagen could be hazardous to your health when approaching different American units.

    Just saw a fascinating history on Volkswagen presented by James may of Top Gear.

    All those Germans that were saving and making deposits for a 900 Mark Volkswagen ended up paying for the factory that made Kubelwagens and Schwimmwagens.

    I would imagine by this point everyone knew the war was in it’s end game and it sure would suck to be seriously injured or killed.

    1. Using any sort of enemy equipment could be hazardous, which is why the Americans would paint a big white star on the stuff they used from the other side. The Germans would paint a big "Balkankreuz" on captured equipment.

    2. I saw one documentary about the VW that basically stated that Hitler et al had squandered all the money elsewhere and no Germans were ever going to get their car. And the economy right before Poland was about to tank hard. So Hitler et al did the whole 'Short Victorious War' thingy in order to attempt to prop up the German economy.

      Seems to have worked, sometime around 1955 or so...

      By early '45, anything that didn't have a big white star on it was subject to intensive air inspection, often with .50BMG. That scene out of "Kelly's Heroes" where Kelly's guys get their vehicles shot up comes to mind.

    3. Someone else mentioned that about the German economy.

      Flyers aren't always particular about who they bomb and/or strafe. Because from the air, everything looks like a target!

  5. Boat Guy nailed it. Bravo Zulu BG! I look at their high school pictures and they looked older than I remember our seniors looking. I finally realized they had survived the Depression. They had suffered much already, and were toughened by it. I hate to agree with folks I regard as evil, but we ARE decadent and soft now. So soft, I really wonder if we have what it takes as a nation anymore. Good we rise to meet this level of service? Man, I really wonder...

    1. Not all of us are decadent and soft. Some of those "decadent and soft" kids could be turned into fine soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen with the right training. The real problem is that many of our so-called "leaders" are either decadent and soft or are out and out traitors. Many are a combination of both.

    2. They certainly won't be getting that training except for, well, exceptions, Sarge. Even USMC is run by SJW's now; one has only to look at what happened to Col Kate Gennaro a few years back for an example.
      Boat Guy

    3. Again, it's the leadership which is to blame, but you're right, the way things are now, it's not possible.

    4. Nice to know someone was fighting for higher standards. Did not know about Col. Germano. Now I do. Thanks, Boat Guy, for introducing me to yet another great American.

    5. There are no bad regiments...

      ...only bad colonels. - Napoléon I

    6. Or in the case of Col Gennaro, nasty indoctrinated Lt's stabbing her in the back.

    7. Sorry ...Beans has the correct spelling.

    8. BG #1 - "Woke" LTs, can't stand the woke, if they're officers. it's even worse.

    9. BG #2 - Yes, I discovered that after swearing at Google's search engine for a good ten minutes. Went to Bing, which asked me if I meant "Germano."

      Google used to have a superb search engine, not so much these days.

    10. I hope you are right OAFS: "Some of those "decadent and soft" kids could be turned into fine soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen with the right training". My favorite combat medic told me of the thin bones and nonexistent muscles of many recruits in 2009-2011 time frame. Seems the rough, out side play we were blessed with were necessary for strong bones and muscles. And they were snapping arms and legs like twigs in basic. That is time that can't be recovered I think. I remember reading that 50% of the draftees and recruits in WW2 were 4F due to malnutrition... Time was lost and unrecoverable...

      I heard complaints this week about "my house was 50 degrees last week!! I nearly froze!!!" My reply was disgust. I don't heat my room in winter or cool it in the summer. My old Boy Scout manual encouraged that. It still works for me... so far. My room was about 15 most mornings last week. I slept like a baby under a couple blankets and a bedsheet. I draw the line at cold showers... I can't abide that!!!! Seems we do everything we can to soften our surroundings and insulate ourselves from reality... I'm trying to push that off as far as I can. I don't want to be found wanting when it counts.

    11. The training would take longer, that's for sure. But it's still doable, we wouldn't be training Navy SEALS, just riflemen.

    12. Why would Google want you to find out about the socially unacceptable Col. Germano? I left Google back in 2008 when I discovered it only linked to very-pro dem articles and only did hit pieces on the repub candidates.

  6. Every time...the wind gets taken from me and I am breathless after reading these segments. And now you tell me you made the entire thing up? You sir are an artist of the highest caliber. I do not believe I could even consider coming up with that many names and ranks and.....well hell, everything.

    1. Well, the Internet has a number of name generators, both for English/American and German names. There is some work involved as the names tend to be modern (certain names would NOT have been common in the early '40s, in the U.S. or Germany) so I have to tweak things a bit. The Internet also has a lot of information regarding Tables of Organization and Equipment which also specify the range of ranks certain positions would have, at least on paper. So I get big assists from those sources.

      I do spend a lot of time tinkering with the rosters of both the U.S. and German units, something that you'll probably never see but which I enjoy doing. It does help keep the background straight, it's something I wish I'd started doing back in June of last year. I take an unnatural pleasure in TO&Es and rosters.

      It makes all that background work worth it when I read comments like yours, Coffee Man. Thanks!

    2. Roster tinkering may come from all that time playing PanzerBlitz in your youth.......:)

  7. Still loving it! Can't wait for Kindle Unlimited version.

    1. As Manuel told Mr. Fawlty, "Eventually..."

      Thanks LtFuzz. (Or Quad D as Juvat likes to say.)

  8. One quibble. In your sentence that goes... "...tell Stump to take one of the halftracks his squad," are you missing something from between 'halftrack' and 'his squad'?

    Other than that, the somber death and casualty lists are... somber. The dying continued widescale up to the point or so of surrender. Then just small stupid deaths. Sigh.

    Great story. The collapse of the German line must have been interesting in a 'horror movie' way to witness. Or be part of.

    1. Not a quibble, it's an error, call a spade a spade. Fixed it, good catch.

      Yeah, would not want to be a part of that collapse.

  9. Oh my goodness! I just looked up Kubelwagen. There were 35 variants made. I hope it was not as rickety as the 1960's Volkswagens. My friend's father had one. It was...well, fortunately we never got in an accident.

    A thousand battles in a thousand locales, with only the survivors or their kin to mourn their passing.

  10. Hey AFSarge;

    Another Awesome Post, I save your blog for last.

  11. Do you know what the process was for notifying German families of their dear after the war ended?

    1. That's a really good question. Now I need to know.

      If I can find the information, I'll work that into the story.

    2. I knew what you meant, though "dear" kinda fits if you know what I mean.


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