Thursday, February 11, 2021

One Too Many Guys & The Panzergrenadiers


"S/Sgt Wilson, uh, I've got 18 empty slots, and we've got 19 new guys. What gives?" 2nd Lt. Stephen Hernandez, commanding 2nd Platoon had two lists, one in each hand, the two didn't match up.

S/Sgt Jack Wilson, platoon sergeant, came over and looked over the lieutenant's shoulder. After a minute he noticed the problem, "We moved Chapman up as acting squad leader when we made up the roster before we left the line. For some reason his squad showed thirteen guys, not twelve, somehow we added a rifleman slot."

Pausing for a moment Wilson had a thought, "Can we keep the extra guy L.T.? We could move Gammell back to platoon headquarters as a sniper and..."

"Negative Jack, Stump says the kid is a natural leader, he stays assistant squad leader for now. Hey, Judd Maxwell's machine team lost two men at the crossroads, we can assign our spare guy to him. Make sense?"

"They didn't send replacements for the MG team?" Wilson asked. After he thought about it for a second, he realized that although Weapons Platoon was down six men, he hadn't seen any replacements come in for 2nd Lt. Herman Jacobsen's platoon.

"Nope, Weapons received no replacements, 2nd Lt. Jacobsen is hopping mad about that. Who's the extra guy?"

Wilson scanned his list and answered, "Pvt. Hawkins, Allan Hawkins. Yo, Hawkins, come here!"

Hawkins separated himself from the other replacements, all of whom had assignments. He was starting to wonder why he was here. He saw that a lieutenant was talking with the platoon sergeant, so he saluted. "I'm Hawkins. Sir."

Wilson looked like he was about to tear a strip off the kid, Hernandez placed a hand on Wilson's arm and said, "No need to salute at the front Private, unless you want to see the guy you're saluting get killed."

"Sir? I wouldn't want..."

"It's okay Private, just don't salute when you're close to the front. If you're with us, you're close to the front. Now, do you know anything about machine guns?" Hernandez asked.

"You mean like the .30 cal, Lieutenant? I fired one in basic, also had to carry ammo for one during a day long field exercise. Stuff is heavy."

Wilson laughed and said, "Outstanding, we got a replacement who's qualified!"

"Sir?" Hawkins looked from the sergeant to the lieutenant, obviously confused.

"You're going to Weapons Platoon, specifically the 1st Light Machine Gun Squad under Sgt. Judd Maxwell. You're in luck though, they're attached to 2nd Platoon, so you won't have that far to walk. Come on, I'll take you over. I need to talk to their lieutenant anyway."


"Where on Earth did you manage to find a keg of beer, Spieß?" Major von Lüttwitz laughed as he drank from the stein, one of the many that Hauptfeldwebel Klaus-Peter Keller had managed to provide.

"It's best that you don't ask, Herr Major. Some military secrets are best kept unter vier Augen¹." Keller laid his right index finger alongside his nose as he said that.

Leutnant Manfred Sauer set his stein on the table and said, "You know the Russians say that two people can keep a secret, as long as one of them is dead!"

The three men laughed heartily, von Lüttwitz realized that it had been a very long time since he'd seen Manfred Sauer so relaxed. Happy even.

"So, Herr Major, what's this I hear that we're going to be Panzergrenadiere² now?" Sauer wondered where the army was going to get the vehicles and the fuel to do this.

"Yes, Manfred. Officially you are now the commander of the 5th Company, 2nd Battalion, of the 8th Panzergrenadier Regiment, 3rd Panzergrenadier Division. I, your humble servant, will command that 2nd Battalion of which your company is a part. Though rather than three battalions, this regiment only has two, both, I might add, are understrength. The good news is that we will be getting halftracks, the bad news is that your company will not have a 3rd nor a 4th platoon." von Lüttwitz explained. Sauer noticed that von Lüttwitz was starting to slur his words. "The battalion as a whole will only have two companies, not three."

"Interesting. Sir, if I might suggest it, we should retire, let the men blow off some steam. The NCOs will make sure they don't kill each other, or damage the building. Spieß, if you would be so kind to send those tables of organization and equipment to my quarters." Sauer reached for the documents which Keller was passing to him.

"I'm not drunk, Manfred." von Lüttwitz protested.

"No Sir, you are not, however even the stupidest staff officer can see that you are exhausted. How is your arm, by the way, if you don't mind me asking?"

"The regimental surgeon says I should have a couple of months off to rest and recuperate, he says I'm not as young as I used to be, broken arms take time to heal."


"The surgeon also said that that was out of the question, because, and do you know what he said?" von Lüttwitz raised his nearly empty stein.

"What did the surgeon say, Herr Major?" Keller asked.

"Don't you know there is a war on?" With that von Lüttwitz nearly doubled over with laughter. Gathering himself, he turned to Sauer, "Perhaps I am a bit, tipsy, Manfred. Let's leave the Spieß to deal with the men. We should retire. After all..."

"Yes Sir, I have heard that there is a war on, not far from here either, as I understand it." Sauer chuckled as he said that.

The two men stepped into the street, the rubble had been cleared from this section of the city just that morning. Overhead they could hear the drone of Allied bombers, on their way to the very heart of the Reich.

"Where do you suppose they are going, Manfred?" von Lüttwitz looked to the sky as he pulled his gloves on.

"Probably the Ruhr, perhaps Berlin, someplace where our women and children are sleeping in a bomb shelter, waiting to die." Sauer sounded angry and upset. His mood had changed, hearing the bombers made him remember that there was indeed, a war on.

"No one is safe, my dear Manfred. We Germans are all at the Front these days."

"God help us, Sir."

"Regardless of what our belt buckles say, I doubt God even gives us a thought these days

WWII German Army Belt Buckle


¹ Literally "under four eyes," meaning between two people.
² Literally "armored grenadiers," in the U.S. Army these troops were known as armored infantry. Germans armored divisions had these type troops, usually mounted in either trucks or halftracks. Early in the war the Wehrmacht had a number of motorized infantry divisions which were converted to Panzergrenadier Divisions. These units were similar to the Panzer Divisions but instead of tanks they had assault guns.
³ Literally "God with us" - An old Prussian heraldic phrase derived from Matthew 1:23 -

Siehe, eine Jungfrau wird schwanger sein und einen Sohn gebären, und sie werden seinen Namen Immanuel heißen", das ist verdolmetscht: Gott mit uns.

Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

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  1. Gott mit Uns was old battlecry of Teutonic Order. Kinda bad omen considering how they ended...

    1. Ah, the Teutonic Order, they're still around, headquartered in Vienna according to Wikipedia.

    2. It is a charitable organization now. I have been to their chapel there. Very worth the visit.

    3. It's original mission was protecting pilgrims traveling to the Holy Land. Not sure when they got mixed up with conquering "heathens" in Eastern Europe.

    4. Well, that part where the Holy Lands were lost and the Byzantines told the Europeans to "Copulate Elsewhere" and suddenly you have this organization of fighting men and a huge support structure and now what are you going to do with them and those 'Rus' jerks and the oncoming Mongol Hordes and some Proto Poles and Czecks and such...

      Yeah, it's how you get the end of the Templars because the King of France doesn't want to pay his bill, and other cute things.

      Only, really, the Knights of Malta stayed in the fight, simply because the Islamics kept not leaving them alone.

      (This is a gross over-simplification of a very difficult issue and totally leaves out that the focus of the Spanish orders shifting from focusing on 'Duh Holy Lands, derrrr...' to 'Spanish Reconquista' was a deciding, but long-term part of why the SpanRecon was successful and I could go on and on and on and (Hurk!))

    5. I would think a post should cover it. When you feel up to it.

      It's a thought.

    6. Long story short, after deciding crusades arent going as planned circa 1200 Teutonic Knights first landed in Hungary, but got kicked out rapidly by local king who had right premonition about better not having professional soldiers crossed with relgious fanatics on his soil. Poland was doing its own version of feudal partitioning back then, so one of the princelings, noted for his lack of intelligence hired Teutons to fight off some raiders from neoghbouring Prussia (1226). Teutons went to getting rid of Prussians with such efficiency and zeal that in less than hundred years there were none left to fight (1287), so they moved to fight Lithuanians next door. Then Teutons were hired again to help defend Polish-owned Pomeranian city of Gdansk (later Danzig and again Gdansk) against Count of Brandenburg. Instead of protecting the city, Teutons massacred the inhabitants and took whole province for themselves (1308). Circa hundred years of intermittent warfare later, after Lithuanians christianized, and went on to form alliance with Poles, Teutonic order lost his raison d'etre totally, as it was bordering no heathens. They tried to keep on pillaging around despite this, but got into drubbing of epic proportions at Grunwald/Tannenberg (1410). Some shrewd diplomacy and imregnable castle capital of Marienburg/Malbork saved their collective bacon for the moment but by 1450s their own, moslty German subjects were rebelling, wanting to join Poland where taxes were much less severe, and King actually had to convene parliaments to pass major laws. 13 years war (1453-66) ended their military might forever, and brought Danzig back to Poland as semi-sovereign Hanzeatic city. By 1520s last Grand Master decided to turn Lutheran and become prince paying tribute to Poland-Lithuanian commonwealth, Hins family name was Hihenzollern... and the story of his dynasty is much longer and larger affair.

    7. Wow, from the Teutonic Order to the Hohenzollerns, great synopsis Paweł!

    8. Thanks Pawel! What a concise history! Thank you!

      That said, a blog post would be more than welcome.

  2. Joking and laughing in the face of privation and death. That seems to be the anti catch 22 way of dealing with the stress. You can't get away from it, so you enjoy what you can when you can...

    Well, we may be a bit more familiar with the Reich in the coming months und years. I read that this appears to be the Machtergreifung we are in now. Not sure when the night of long knives is, but history is starting to rhyme, out loud. No need to wonder now why they have been chasing "fascists" all over... Confession by accusation... May God have mercy.

    1. Yup, we've already had our Reichstag fire. Funny how the big corporations, then and now, are quick to fall into line. Can't interrupt the profit flow now can we?

      We shall see.

    2. It will be interesting to see who the Night of the Long Knives II happens to.

    3. I think they're dumb enough to do it to themselves.

    4. The Long Knives are coming out for the BoweLMovement and pAntifa already. The new reich is already moving against the street level leaders and allowing the various local and state justice departments to go heavy handed towards the actual rioters, at the same time the new reich is working very hard to hunt down all the new marranos and such. (Yeah, mixing metaphors and such, so what, I'm already on at least three lists... so I don't expect to get whacked by the Context Nazis before some other Nazis come for me.) (And, yes, Nazis. The new reich is showing all the signs of being national socialist in both the German and Spanish and Argentinian flavors, with a side of Italian Fascism. Haven't yet seen signs of Imperial Japan yet, well, maybe by some of the tech companies...)

    5. It's going to suck for somebody.

  3. Even worse than being an 'extra' is wondering if that means your pay records went missing...

    As to our Germans, very Teutonic of them. Can't fix anything, might as well have a beer, live for the moment, we're all going to die anyways. Very Germanic, no?

    As horrible as the Western Front was, must have been even more horrible to know one's loved ones were at such a high risk of death from above, especially once word of Dresden leaked out come February 13th through 15th, 1945. They've already seen or heard about the rubblization of Aachen, but the three day firebombing of Dresden was, short of an atomic bomb, just unbelievable even in early 1945. The level of spite and anger by the Allies to do that to a city was just a tad bit overkill. And horrible. And I still think we (the Allies) may have gone too far, but I wasn't there so I can't really judge, since it was a valid target with lots of infrastructure and rail yards and such and also an opportunity to send one hell of a message to the Germans that 'the war is over, best go ahead and quit now or this will continue.' And Dresden was definitely in everyone's mind as to what the Western Allies could do - Fire From Above, versus just plain killing and raping from the Eastern side.

    War is complicated...

    1. To my way of thinking, Dresden was a war crime. Period, full stop. Can't be equated with Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

    2. OldAFSarge, you are an immaculate (or nearly so) historian of WW II. After reading this reply about Dresden, I was a little taken aback as up to this time in the War, fire bombing was one tool in the effort to get the other side to surrender. The V-1 and V-2 of the Germans was a similar weapon as they because they were inaccurate were indiscriminate of their targets; and as to the Amerika bombers the Germans were working on at this time to target cities such as New York and Washington D.C., they would have been indiscriminate in their targeting, dropping bombs just to prove they could reach our side of the Atlantic. The U.S. was still about 5 months from the Trinity Test of the first nuclear bomb at the time of the initial Dresden bombing. So why would you classify Dresden as a war crime? This question probably stems from my lack of WW2 history other than what I received in K-12, university, AF officer education and just a little collateral reading. Could you recommend some tomes that would give me a better overall understanding of WW II including some of the controversies for the Allies?

    3. Purposely targeting civilians was and is a war crime. Dresden was more a direct attack on the civilian population of Dresden as an attempt to make D an example for the rest of Germany.

      What sells Dresden as a war crime is the main industrial areas and the rail yards weren't targeted for the firestorms. There was no 'gee, it'a all cottage industry so bomb the houses' excuse.

      A simplification of a very complex issue, but, yeah, war crime. But that's okay as we won so we didn't commit any crimes, right?

    4. BillB - Much has been made of strategic bombing in WWII, it's alleged effectiveness and the amount of money and lives spent on it. Was it effective? The Luftwaffe demonstrated that it was completely ineffective against the British. The British demonstrated that it was nearly completely ineffective against the Germans. The RAF's area bombing killed lots of civilians, had little to no impact on German war production. The USAAF's daylight raids were somewhat more effective as they actually tried to limit their bombing to industrial and military targets. The real impact of the USAAF's raids was that it brought the Luftwaffe up, where they could be destroyed, and they were.

      Fire bombing to get someone to surrender proved ineffective over and over again, in reality it pissed off the people being bombed more than it disheartened them. We could have firebombed Japan until there were no buildings left and they would have continued fighting. The atomic bombs did not convince the Japanese military to quit but it did convince the Emperor to quit. That in itself was a near-run thing.

      The Germans did not quit until Soviet soldiers occupied the city of Berlin after killing all who resisted.

      In that light bombing Dresden was unnecessary and had little effect on the war's outcome. Killing for killing's sake, which is really what RAF Bomber Command was all about, is a war crime.

      John Kenneth Galbraith (one of the directors of the United States Strategic Bombing Survey) wrote: "The incredible cruelty of the attack on Dresden when the war had already been won—and the death of children, women, and civilians—that was extremely weighty and of no avail". I agree.

      Some things in war are necessary, Dresden was not.

    5. Beans - You have the right of it.

    6. Maybe I am more barbarian than some, but Dresden never bothered me much. My goto retort for "atom bomb bad" is "so you don't know about Dresden and Tokio." The complete and utter disregard for the conquered came back on the population that allowed the government to exist. Might just be my weasel way of getting around the issue, I'm not sure.

      I did not know until today: Churchill rebuked Bomber Harris for Dresden and Potsdam; Harris had a list of targets that would help the Russian advance, and Dresden was on that list; There was supposedly German armor transiting through there during that time.

      I struggle at times to see history as "a foreign country where nothing is done there as it is here", to not look at it through my 2021 viewpoint. So, after watching his own civilians targeted by V1, V2, and night bombings, was Harris wrong in attacking the enemy cities? What kind of intel did thay have? I know they didn't have guidance capabilities like we do now. Carpet bombing was a thing back then. This is a briar patch in my mind, it always has been.

    7. STxAR - I get that. But the deliberate targeting of civilians is defined as a war crime. The Germans did it, we did it, the British did it, doesn't matter who "started the war," Dresden (and half a hundred other places) was a war crime. By definition.

    8. Do not forget that the Communists did it as well. They were equally as indiscriminate as to who they raped and murdered as they advanced.

  4. (Don McColloe)...In the book 'The Destruction of Dresden', a weather plane had radioed back that Dresden was in the clear, no flak, no fighters...One civilian was within 100 yards of where the first Pathfinder target indicators came down, and he knew what was coming...Overhead, the Master Bomber circled, telling the Pathfinders where to drop target indicators and telling the incoming planes of the bomber stream where to bomb...The crews could see the fires crossing the English Channel...In the words of the novel 'A Canticle for Leibowitz'..."It was a troubled night, a night that belonged to Lucifer"...

  5. The "Managerial retreat" to allow the line staff to stretch their mouths and their thoughts without "management" present. I am very familiar with the concept, although I met others that do not understand it. When I was a wee manufacturing tech, there were things we would talk about we would never mention in front of a manager. A good manger - officer too, I suppose - knows when to conduct a strategic retreat.

    1. At an Air Force Dining In, the Wing Commander would typically depart "early" (a concept for which there are a number of definitions). Once he (or she) had left, the uniform jackets came off and the party took off.


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

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