Tuesday, February 16, 2021

News From Home...


The 5th Company had been ordered to head for Euskirchen from Bonn. However, they couldn't go by rail, the Allied Air Forces had bombed the railyards at Euskirchen and for the moment nothing was going into or out of that town by rail. So they would travel by road, at night. There was little point in attempting a move during the daylight hours, even with the bad weather which was typical at this time of year, all it took was a break in that weather and the Allied Jabos would be in the air and killing anything moving on the roads.

"That's the bigger question, Herr Major, do we have enough fuel to move the vehicles we have from here to Euskirchen, that's roughly 35 kilometers. Given the stop and go nature of a convoy on these roads, in this weather, we might not even make it in one night!" Leutnant Manfred Sauer, commanding the 5th Company, was discussing the unit's impending move.

"Manfred, battalion staff is, oddly enough, at full strength, I have to move 154 men and 45 vehicles over those same roads. With your company and Herman Schmitz's company that's another 300 men and close to 80 vehicles. That's a long column, probably close to a kilometer if we march bumper to bumper, which we shouldn't. My quartermaster has the fuel, I'm worried about keeping the sub-units together so that, if we have to, we can go straight into battle at the end of the march." Major Jürgen von Lüttwitz, commanding the 2nd Battalion of the 8th Panzergrenadier Regiment, shook his head as he checked his orders.

Von Lüttwitz continued, "It was easier as infantry, we simply formed up by platoons and marched. Now?" 

"Rougher on the feet though, Sir." Sauer commented.

"True, but you have to admit, the logistics were far simpler."

"At least there are no horses to take care of, I still remember Falaise, the dead and dying horses, their death throes affected me greatly. I can still hear the screams of the men and the horses in my nightmares." Sauer took a deep breath, then said, "Sorry, Sir, I'm not sure where that came from, it's been a long time since then, but in my nightmares, it was yesterday."

"Yes, the horses, they don't understand why we fight wars, they go where they are told and do what we ask of them, for the most part. I too remember seeing the dead teams in the road, along the road, everywhere. It saddened me, so we are relieved of that at least. I'm still not used to commanding a motorized unit, but I have a good staff." von Lüttwitz checked his watch, then said, "Officers' call at 1900, bring your platoon leaders. My staff should have all this sorted out by then, we're supposed to move the day after tomorrow. I think regiment keeps delaying things hoping we can get rail transport to Euskirchen. But between you and me, that's not going to happen."

"Sir, most of my vehicles have a coat of whitewash on them, but I've got the men cutting branches and things to tie on and break up the outline of the vehicles. A white vehicle doesn't stand out in a field of snow, as long as it didn't move. On a muddy road, it will stand out, so..." Sauer shook his head, as an infantryman he could hide in a ditch, or dig a hole, but a vehicle, how does one hide an 8 ton vehicle?

"I know, Manfred, camouflage them as best you can, I want to stick to the roads, if we go across fields, with the snow on the ground the tracks will lead the Jabos right to us. We saw that in the Ardennes, I don't want to repeat that mistake."

"Certainly, Sir, 1900 then." Sauer snapped a salute and headed back to his company. He was not looking forward to this move.

Motorcycles, Kettenkrads, cars, trucks, and multiple halftracks to take the men to Euskirchen and then into battle. At least, Sauer thought, we have twelve anti-aircraft vehicles, each mounting triple 1.5 cm or 2 cm machine guns, the M.G. 151. The smaller version didn't pack as big a punch as the 2 cm guns, but both were useful against air and ground targets.

SdKfz 251/21 Drilling¹ anti-aircraft vehicle.

From what the Spieß had told him, there was even an armor piercing round available for the gun. He'd have to check the ammunition loadouts for them, after all he "owned" six of the beasts. He'd have to ask the commander of his 4th Platoon what the loadout was. He also needed to check the weapons mounted, hopefully the battalion fielded twelve of the same variant, otherwise ammunition supply could be difficult.

Along with the need to provide the various ammunition types for the men's individual weapons, from submachine guns to rifles, there were at least three different calibers of bullet! Fortunately he had an experienced Weapons Sergeant to help him keep track of that.

Being a platoon commander was one thing, but to command a company? Sauer almost wished he was a simple Landser² again, just following orders and bitching about Army life. What Opa might have called the "good old days." He wondered how his old sergeant, Köhler, was faring as a POW. He had written Opa's wife but had yet to hear anything in return. Which worried him.

"Herr Leutnant?" One of Sauer's radiomen was standing in front of him.

"What is it Christof?"

Grenadier Christof Schmidt took a deep breath and said, "The Americans and the British, they've destroyed Dresden."

That took a moment to register, surely Schmidt was exaggerating. "You mean the city was bombed, right? Surely it hasn't been destroyed?"

"According to the Propaganda Ministry, the center of the city has been completely destroyed, 200,000 people dead, many thousands more still unaccounted for, it sounds to me, begging the Leutnant's pardon, like the city has been destroyed. Isn't the Major from Dresden?"

"Yes, he is, how many of the men know of this?" Sauer was concerned for the men's morale, many of whom were Saxons. Sauer himself had a certain fondness for Dresden, he'd once had an encounter with a pretty young college student there in August of 1939. He often wondered what had become of lovely, blonde Margarethe. Now he had to wonder if she was even still alive.

"Keep this news quiet for now Schmidt, I don't want to worry the men from that area."

"They know, Sir. Word spreads fast, Dr. Goebbels himself is making this big news, he claims that the enemy wants to destroy all of Germany, this is a perfect example." Schmidt seemed almost offended that Sauer would not want the men to know.

"All right, see if you can find out more, I'll talk to the Major. Now go, run along, remember, Lügen haben kurze Beine!³ We should learn more before we lose our minds over this."

Here they were, about to go into battle, now this. As if the men didn't have enough to worry about. He was starting to realize that all of Germany was now a battlefield, there was no front, there was no rear. Even the civilians back home were suffering. He was starting to understand why the Poles hated the Germans so much. Not to mention the Belgians, the Dutch, the French, the Russians, Hell, most of Europe had good reason to hate the Reich.

"Scheiße!" Sauer hissed under his breath, "Dieser verdammte Krieg!4"

¹ Triplet
² German slang for an infantryman
³ Lies have short legs! (Source)
4This damned war!

Link to all of The Chant's fiction.


  1. Another great installment, Sarge! Gotta feel for Sauer and Ko. They've been played by Goebbels for years, bled and died for the ineptitude of mediocre (in many cases) people and their country is being destroyed behind them. The only luck they will have is that they will be conquered by the U.S. Army if they truly are lucky. I'd like to see Von L and Sauer interviewed by Esteban and Jack at the end of the shooting.
    Boat Guy

  2. How long until the lack of oil stops everything, raw materials to the manufacturing sites, then out into the pipeline to the fronts.....the German people are reaping the harvest they sown in the early thirties. Hope juvat and family can keep warm and suffer little damage from Mother Nature along with so many millions of others.

    1. I remember in Albert Speers book - as the Minister of Armaments, he did a miraculous job of keeping Germany humming as it was being destroyed. But he said in 1944, if we had kept up the attacks on their refineries, the war would have been over 6 months earlier.

    2. Nylon12 - It's 1945, things are starting to fall apart.

    3. William - Germany wasn't really "humming" in 1945. Also, as far as Germany is concerned, what refineries? They had those in Rumania, along with oil.

    4. (Don McCollor)...they had lost Romania...and the Allies were dropping more tons o bobs on the synfuel refineries than the tons of fuel they were producing....

    5. (Don McCollor)...Sorry. Went back to correct "o" to of and "bobs" to "bombs" and brushed the "enter" key instead...

    6. It was all understandable. I know what it's like to have a keyboard hate me.

  3. I wonder when a big machine gun is known as a "cannon"? Our aircraft have 20 mm cannons but the Germans had a 2 cm machine gun.

    I would imagine that the news of Dresden s[read like wildfire. Personally I thought it was unnecessary and even sickening. I wonder if Arthur Harris was motivated as much by tactics as revenge? Didn't Hitler want to firebomb London?

    The Description of Hamburg seemed like Hell on earth - but Hamburg was a major shipping center.

    1. News didn't really spread fast in Nazi Germany. Spreading rumors could get you killed, also travel was very restricted. Schmitz got the word because as a radioman he hears things from other radiomen.

    2. The switch from machine gun to auto-cannon is right about the 20mm/2cm mark. It all depends. Technically, the 25mm on the M2/M3 Bradley is a machine gun, but they call it a cannon.

      It's all very confusing. Like a plane that's a fighter but with bombs so shouldn't it be a fighter-bomber? But the P-47 and P-51 are listed as fighters. Even though the -47 bombed a heck of a lot of things and the -51 was even used in a ground attack way.

      Very confusing. But then again, it's the Military.

    3. Everything now is transformational...

      Which means nothing works and is expensive as Hell.

    4. Why is the m242 a "machine gun"? I woulda thought it was either a chain gun (because of its operational principles) or an autocannon (because it fires explody-things).

    5. Hey Beans, don't forget the A36. The P-51 that was ground attack. I wonder if it did any air to air?

    6. Technically the P-51 and P-47 were classified as "pursuit" aircraft.

    7. Sarge - IIRC Speer was talking. With all the bombing there was a time when he was able to still keep German industry going, but it certainly wasn't in 1945.

      Beans - maybe a machine gun becomes a cannon both at 20 mm and if it uses explosive shells? A 20mm (ours) dwarfs a .50 caliber, which isn't small.

      Sarge I had forgotten about the A36 Mustang - just like the F5 Lightning, which was the recce version of the P-38.

    8. Meant to say talking about 1944...

  4. "Yes, he has, how many of the men know of this?" Maybe yes, he is??

    That is a bleak picture you paint there. Sauer just read the writing on the wall. the vise is getting tighter and the jaws are getting closer together... I cannot imagine his position.... And I hope I don't find myself in it...

    1. The fall of Nazi Germany has always been a fascinating period of history for me. Read about what was going on in the East, truly horrible as the Soviets begin to make the Germans pay for the invasion in 1941.

    2. I didn't realize how encompassinkg the Nazis were to German society. Then I saw a program with James May describe the history of the "Voklswagen", which started life as the KDF Wagon. The Kdf Ministry had cruise liners, even this huge complex which never opened before the war.


  5. Ah, heck. The bombing of Dresden, was it the 'wind out of the sails' moment? We shall see.

    Hope Herr Major's family is okay.

    Good story, really gets into the confusion of command and movement. The correct way, of course, would be to start moving the smaller units now, ahead of schedule, so that you don't have an 80 unit road train. Smaller packets means each can move faster, farther. Ideal is about 15-20 vehicles max.

    Hope Herr Major figures out what to do before he hears the news.

    1. It all depends on what you expect to find along the way and what to expect once you get there.

  6. I suspect the Herr Major had great plans which worked great until the troops met the enemy, as the enemy gets a say in all plans also. It just takes a bit longer for their input to be inputted...or something...

    Do hope juvet and company are back on the grid again...he and Mrs J certainly don't need busted pipes in that brand new pretty home of theirs. No power and no generator--ugh!!

    1. Ah yes, great plans, we all make them...

      I haven't heard from Juvat, I'm sure he's still having power issues, lots of places in Texas are having those.

      Pray for Texas.

  7. Hey Old AFSarge;

    Another great installment, I recall at the end of the war when a German Unit fought their way out of an encirclement in the "East Zone" and helped civilians escape to the west where the Americans were then surrendered to the Americans as a fighting unit. I recall the General was well respected by his men and they fought against impassible odds against the Soviets to get to the American zone. Do you remember the story? It would be a good ending for this saga. I was digging into the story and still researching it.

    1. Lots of instances of that.

      Depending on where they were trying to surrender (and the type of unit it was), some of those units were refused by the Western Allies and forced to surrender to the Soviets.

    2. Some years ago there was a great book I read, whose title I have forgot. But it dealt with the fighting and pressure as the Soviets were coming in. And there were some heroic bottles of German units trying to get the civilians out.

      It was a deliberate act of terror by the Soviets to drive all the Germans out of pressure and re-settle it.

      It was during this time that the worlds greatest maritime disaster occured.

      The Wilhelm Gustlaff, a KdF luxury liner, was used to help evacuations.

      A Soviet sub torpedoed her with 9000-10000 men women and children drowning in the icy Baltic.

    3. Ugh. This voice transcription seems to look good until I hit send. But of course it isn’t pressure, but Prussia.

    4. As soon as you mentioned the Gustloff I knew what you meant.

      But there was a lot of pressure on the Germans in Prussia...🙄

  8. "Yes, the horses, they don't understand why we fight wars, they go where they are told and do what we ask of them, for the most part."

    This, in so many ways, speaks volumes, not just about war, but often life in general. Thanks Sarge.

    1. The horses, they serve valiantly, not knowing why.


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