Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Next Moves...

(Source)

Leutnant Manfred Sauer watched as the men of 5th Company boarded the train that would take them north to the Düren area. Rumors were rife within the battalion that they were going to be reassigned to a new division. No one knew anything for sure. With the Army's losses, divisions were being disbanded or reformed nearly every week.

He had been to see Major von Lüttwitz the day before, the actual commander of 5th Company was still recuperating from a broken arm. For the moment, until he was recovered enough for field duty, the Major was assigned to the battalion staff.

Sauer was acting commander of 5th Company, they had successfully withdrawn from what the men were now calling the Battle of the Crossroads. It was something, he supposed, if men had to die in battle, the battle should at least have a name.

The battle had been fought on the road between  Losheimergraben in Belgium and Frauenkron in Germany. An obscure little place, an old farmhouse with a single outbuilding was the only thing of note there. But the loss of twenty men hurt, he understood the troops need for some name to remember it by.

Now they were being pulled out to plug another hole somewhere. In some division's manpower charts and in some division's leaky front line. Sauer supposed it could be far worse, he had talked with the battalion Ic¹, the situation in the East could best be summed up as a complete disaster, here in the West, it was just a disaster.

He and von Lüttwitz had shared a bottle of Calvados, which had somehow made it to Germany during the retreat, and had talked deep into the night. Sauer could tell that the Major could not wait to get back to the company. As von Lüttwitz had told him, "I miss the men, I love those boys. My duty now, as I see it, is to keep as many of them alive as I can. Until somehow the higher ups wake up to the fact, not the supposition, but the fact, that the war is lost."

Sauer shook his head as the last of the men boarded the train, one glance at the Spieß, who nodded, and he climbed aboard himself. He had no idea what the future held, other than defeat and death.

To what purpose, he had to wonder...


2nd Lt. Stephen Hernandez and S/Sgt Jack Wilson were sitting in the ruined farmhouse near the crossroads which they had recovered after the Germans had abandoned the place. Both men were extremely hungover, Wilson had had a bottle of Irish whiskey he'd managed to liberate from somewhere, the two men had finished the entire bottle.

Upon recovering their old positions, they had also recovered the bodies of twenty American G.I.s, some had been killed by their own artillery, the Germans had set up an aid station in the now completely destroyed farm building which stood not far from the crossroads. There had been five badly wounded American soldiers in the building when the unwanted barrage had landed.

"So Jack, the tankers never did go up that road, did they?" Hernandez asked as he lit a cigarette.

"No Sir, the lieutenant commanding the two platoons told Tex to go f**k himself, there was no way he was leading his tanks up a narrow road, into thick woods with no infantry." Wilson chuckled as he said that.

"What did Major Josephson have to say about that?" Hernandez asked, eyes wide.

"He laughed, according to Mort Saeger, said that that's what he told regiment but they ordered the tanks to go in anyway. So he told the lieutenant, 'Wait a half hour, then radio me that you met heavy resistance, Hell, tell me you ran into a Tiger,' that should satisfy regiment."

"Wow, good man that Major Josephson." Hernandez remarked.

"Yes Sir, when he first took over the company, we all thought he was a prick. And ya know what? He is. But he takes care of his men. That's all the men care about." Wilson sighed, then continued, "I heard that it's another stint in reserve for us? Hopefully?"

"According to the Cap'n that's a fact. Platoon's got less than thirty men, we need replacements and I sure could use some time off the line."

"Yup, the men can definitely use a break. What's next d'ya think?"

"I've been told we're reverting to VII Corps, we go north, cross the Roer near Düren, then we push for the Rhine. Then I guess it's on to Berlin, provided the Krauts don't smarten up and surrender."

"It could happen L.T., did ya see those POWs yesterday? Poor bastards look and smell like shit. None of 'em looks unhappy to be out of it." Wilson looked around, seeing no one nearby he said, "I say f**k 'em, kill 'em before they surrender. You saw what the bastards did in Belgium, same as me."

Hernandez looked into the distance, "I hear ya Jack, but we aren't going to stoop to their level. Not now, not ever. We clear on that?"

Wilson sighed again, "I guess so, L.T., you're the boss."

"Right-oh, now let's go find some food, I doubt I could keep it down but my stomach thinks my throat's been cut." Hernandez stood, Wilson did as well. The two men went in search of something to eat.

The war could wait.

For now.






¹ Equivalent to a U.S. Army S-2, battalion intelligence officer.

Link to all of The Chant's fiction.

36 comments:

  1. So...5th Kompanie and 2nd Plt. both headed up to Duren...
    You're doin a great job Sarge! Impressive research and character development. I've grown to care about these good men who doubtless existed, perhaps with different names. It had to be awful, to fight on when the end is so clear. Each loss now a waste.
    Boat Guy

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    1. I agree with him. You really "feel" for the characters in this story...on both sides. The Germans are doing their duty and wondering how long...the Americans are doing their duty and wondering the same thing, how long.

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    2. The unspoken question in every man's mind, "Will I make it?"

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  2. Being whittled away at, men and equipment, and in an almost constant state of retreat has to suck pretty bad. Had to be especially true for those who had made such tremendous advances initially.
    Many's the time that I've considered adjustments in strategies which quite possibly could have resulted in the Nazis ruling the world. Just a little less overconfidence and insanity. But then, sane people don't generally set out to conquer the world, do they?

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    1. Your last point is something that many "What if" writers gloss over.

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    2. @Patrick D: Have you ever looked at a map of the world? Any chance of winning another world war was gone in 1933 with the (btw fully legal) election of Hitler as Germany's head of state. The man was a stark raving mad megalomaniac, utterly devoid of reason or perspective. He *had* to start a war in September 1939 because Germany would have been totally broke in November 1939. Hitler's rearmament policy and build-up of the Wehrmacht was financed through long-term credits; and those credits became due.
      I recommend two books -- and the conclusion of both books is the same: there was NO chance EVER of Germany winning this war.
      1. "What If?: Military Historians Imagine What Might Have Been" by Robert Cowley et al.
      2. "If the Allies Had Fallen: Sixty Alternate Scenarios of World War II" by Dennis E. Showalter

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    3. Any kind of German victory pretty much hinges on 'don't feed your army to the Russian winter'.

      Kieran Gillen's Uber is a fairly grim fictional take on WW2 centering around the Germans discovering a way to manufacture superhuman troops (and I do mean -superhuman- -- the 'battleship' class of superhuman is nigh-unkillable save by other superhumans), and it still has a bit of a plot hole in that the German manpower well was running dry.

      That being said, the Nazis having access to guys immune to bullets who can kill you by staring at you funny is pretty nightmarish.

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    4. Yeah, that would be a bit disconcerting.

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  3. Setting the stage with a brief respite for both sides. Thanks for all the effort you've put into this Sarge, first site I check each morning after the eyes get uncrossed upon waking up.

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  4. Boat Guy read my mind. I've grown to like these good men. And Hernandez and I use the same phrase for hungry...

    I guess that's when duty really comes into play. It's not ending well for anyone, but your duty still remains. Man.... I wouldn't want to be on anything with wheels when the Jugs were flying. Rockets, bombs and 8x50's...

    I saw a bit of a documentary yesterday about the amount of deaths per country each year of the war. 1944 to 1945 were bloody. I knew some of the numbers but the bar graphs helped me get the scale of it. The Germans were pretty efficient at killing Russians. We didn't lose as many in the PTO as I thought. The Poles lost about 16% of their total population, thats close to 1 in 6. And the documentary was slanted against the US (no big surprise).

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    1. When the fighting becomes increasingly desperate, casualties tend to grow in proportion.

      In the "olden times," casualties on both sides (in a day long battle) were pretty even until one side broke and tried to flee, that's when the defeated lost most of their killed and wounded.

      The fighting in late '44 and into 1945 was nasty.

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    2. By '44, we had our stuff together in the Pacific. Though losses tended to be concentrated on individual units, rather than randoms. Though the losses crept up and leapt up once we actually started taking Japanese islands like Iwo and Saipan.

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    3. Yup, things were really nasty on those islands.

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  5. Somehow, liquor always finds a away to appear, even in the most trying of circumstances.

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  6. "Only" three months left to VE Day - but lots of suffering remain for both sides, even though the outcome is pretty certain to all

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    1. All that remains seems to be counting the bodies.

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    2. At the WW1 museum in KC there is a plaque that talks about the American 300+ dead that happened between the announcement at 0530 that the war was over at 1100 and when 1100 came around.
      Some commanders just couldn't stop

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  7. Artillery is a very unforgiving thing. Sadly.

    So rest and refit for both sets of our boys and then north to their next encounter. Got it.

    Nice handling of the 'next day's' events by giving it to us as dialog. Excellent. Very good.

    And, yeah, 3 more months of this...

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    1. It's going to go from slog to terror over and over until May.

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  8. Look at that photo closely. The men standing dead center in the frame appear ghost-like. Does that exposure portend their fate...?

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  9. I have often wondered if we had entered Berlin before the Russians, would the Germans have fought so fanatically? The Russians lost. IIRC, 200,000 taking Berlin. I know a lot of Germans were rushing west to surrender to the British or Americans rather than the Russians.

    On WW1, that book I read - which concentrated on the 6 hours between the signing of the Armistice and the official cessation of hostilities, something like 10,000 died. Inexplicably to me there were some Generals who ordered attacks right up to 11:00, but there was at last one American Division commander who decided he would have his men just remain in the trenches, and he expected to be court martialed which never happened. The last man to die in WW1 was IIRC an American, at 10:59.

    More were killed in the 8th AAF than all the Marines in the Pacific. That fact surprised me.

    That would suck knowing you are losing but had to fight on anyway. The Confederates must have felt the same way after Gettysburg.

    And of the 5 fictional wounded Americans killed in the German aid station - I remember being told in basic training of an unbelievable percentage of people killed by "friendly fire", mostly by artillery.

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    1. Artillery doesn't care who (or what) it lands on, it's an equal opportunity killer.

      The whole "what if we had decided to go for Berlin" is very interesting. Hard to say what might have happened.

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  10. Hey AFSarge;

    The Germans called the Soviet monument in the Tiergarden in Berlin of their war dead to capture Berlin, "The Tomb of the unknown Rapist". The war in the East was vicious, only worse was the war in the Pacific, that one was fought with no quarters given because the Japanese don't surrender and the Americans wouldn't surrender after the Bataan Death march where the Japanese bayonetted starving American Soldiers for sport. It was Nasty, that one. I Honestly think that the Germans would have fought not as hard if we had gone to Berlin vs the Soviets. I do recall that the German Generals thought that war wasn't going to start until 1945, and sure they were rearming, but the Heer wasn't finished in 1939 and the German Navy had just gotten started, sure they had U-boats, but they didn't have capital ships enough to challenge the Royal Navy and the Germans had started building an Aircraft Carrier.

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    1. I've heard that name for the monument before!

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  11. With a freshly broken arm, von Luttwitz's war is over. He stands a good chance of survival. Good!

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    1. Don't count those chickens just yet...

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    2. Yeah...greenstick fracture; painful and dangerous but not immediately debilitating, Jurgen may not be able to just leave Manfred and Kompanie to their fate. Precisely because he's a good and honorable man. Exactly the kind Germany will need after the war...
      Boat Guy

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  12. Soviets were at that moment almost knocking on the door to Berlin, not far from where I live...
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vistula%E2%80%93Oder_Offensive#Advance_of_1st_Belorussian_Front
    also note that for the people still in the likes of Auschwitz, Ravensbruck or Stutthof Soviets were authenthic liberators, even if they ended up setting own dictatorship...

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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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