Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Für Sie ist der Krieg vorbei...


"I don't like it Sarge, ya know the old thing in movies about it being 'too quiet'? That's what we got here, too quiet. Where are all the Krauts?" Pvt. Manny Conrad was new, not real new, but new enough that combat was still something that excited him rather than scared him. He would learn.

Sgt. Melvin Katz turned to look at Conrad, "The war is winding down Conrad, not all of the Germans want to keep fighting. You saw that POW cage down by Obersdorf? The enemy is starting to quit in droves. Not a guy here and a guy there, Hell, they're quitting by platoons and companies now."

"So, ya think they've all run off?" Pvt. Brad Peterson, another of the new men, asked.

"Could be, according to Cap'n Palminteri, a lot of German units are trying to avoid the pocket we're trying to close around the Ruhr." Katz explained, then he saw his point man, Pfc. Alex Boone signal. Something was up.

"Whaddaya got Boone?" Katz asked the question but what Boone had seen was obvious. It was a recently vacated German defensive position. The trench looked recent, the Germans had even left behind various odd bits of equipment, a machine gun tripod, a couple of entrenching tools, there was even a helmet sitting next to one fighting position.

"Are you thinking what I'm thinking Sarge?" Boone asked.

"Yup, let's get the Cap'n up here."

Cpt. Tony Palminteri, accompanied by his radioman Cpl. Jacob Winters, came jogging up the trail along with one of his company messengers and, oddly enough, the company mess sergeant, S/Sgt Preston Santos, who was carrying a German Panzerfaust.

As the captain and his radioman went up to talk with 1st Lt. Stephen Hernandez of 2nd Platoon, S/Sgt Santos waited with Pvt. Timmy Bell, the messenger. There were a few guys from 2nd Platoon standing nearby and one, Sgt. Woody Sherman the 2nd Platoon guide couldn't help but laugh.

"Hey Sarn't Santos, you hunting for tanks? Gonna make tank soup tonight?" The men in the area had a quiet laugh over that. Santos didn't find it amusing.

"Hey Woody, f**k you! I wanted to get up here, see what you guys are always bitching about. Looks pretty tame to me." Santos looked around, this was the closest he'd been to the front line since joining the Army. Palminteri brought him along as he was tired of the man's constant whining about not seeing any action.

"But really Sarge? A Kraut Panzerfaust?" Pvt. Ignacio Cortez had a look of utter amazement on his face, "We're in the woods, Krauts are running out of fuel, besides, where's your rifle?"

"Hey, piss off cabrón. I'll carry whatever weapon I want." Santos was starting to get worked up, see if he cooked anything special for these bastards ever again.

"Man Sarge, take it easy. We just don't want the best cook in the Army gettin' killed, okay?" Cortez backed off, Santos was a good cook, no sense pissing him off.

Sherman chimed in, "Hey guys, knock it off, the Cap'n and the L.T. are coming back."

"Sure looks like the Krauts left in a hurry, Stephen. Or they might be trying to suck us into a trap. There aren't a lot of woods in this area, but they're pretty thick here. It would be a good place for the Germans to fall back a ways, hoping we'll come charging after them. Besides which, division is pulling out of the line. We're supposed to be moving out to shore up the sides of the big hole 3rd Herd has punched in the line. 8th Division is sliding over to cover where we were. I don't wanna get hung up in these woods while the rest of the outfit is chasing defeated Krauts." Palminteri was leery about going too deep into these woods, it would be tougher pulling back when they got the call to rejoin their parent division.

1st Lt. Hernandez agreed with his boss, though there wasn't much underbrush in this forest, it was a pretty extensive wood, and it was a good spot to get ambushed. Lots of small ravines and hollows, plenty of places to hide a machine gun team, or a sniper.

"Whatever you wanna do Cap, I'm agreeable. This war is getting to the point where it's going to end any day now, I'd rather not get any of my guys killed for nothing. Besides..."

Hernandez was interrupted by a whistle from behind him, towards where the scout element was. He turned and saw his platoon sergeant, S/Sgt Jack Wilson, signal that the enemy was in sight.

Privates Guy Morse and Herman Bridges, men in Sgt. Enrique Cruz's 2nd Squad, were positioned on the right of the abandoned German position. Their assistant squad leader, Cpl. John Chapman, had left them there for just a few minutes while he went to check the other position which was on the very end of C Company's line. Beyond that point there was nothing but woods. C Company was in a small salient in the line.

"Hey Morse, did you see that?"

"See what?" Guy Morse lifted his head up a bit, sure enough, there was something over there. "Okay, now I see something. Something moving."

Both men settled in and trained their rifles in the direction of where they thought they had seen movement. Both men were on edge, both their sergeant and the corporal had told them to sing out if they saw anything, but neither man had yet to be in a real firefight, both were leaning towards 'shoot first, ask questions later.'

Unteroffizier Jens Voigt was studying the Americans through his field glasses. There was quite a bit of activity to his front, he saw one man who had to be an officer so he knew that it was an American platoon at least, maybe even a full company. He could see occasional movement off to either flank of what he thought was a recently abandoned German position.

"You two know what to do, right?"

Grenadier Werner Siegmund answered, "Sure, we step into the open, in front of a bunch of well-armed Americans, we wave this white rag and pray they don't shoot at us. Right?"

"Someone needs to explain to me why I'm going with Werner." Grenadier Eberhard Schottenstein, the younger of the two Schottenstein brothers in Voigt's squad, had never been shy in voicing his opinions. Voigt wondered how the man had managed to survive as long as he had.

"The Major said two men, you and Siegmund, that makes two. It's supposed to look like you two want to surrender, one guy might look like a trap, more than two they might misconstrue as a ruse. At least that's what I think, I didn't ask the Major, 'why two?' So is that sufficient reason Schottenstein?" Voigt figured that the younger Schottenstein took up most of his time in the squad, the other men were content to do as they were told. This man always wanted to know why.

"If you don't want to go Eberhard, I'll do it." Grenadier Ernst Schottenstein, the older Schottenstein by three years, looked at his brother, then at his sergeant.

"Do you think I'm a coward Ernst?"

"Jesus, stop asking questions, go, or don't go, I don't care."

Voigt stepped in, "Enough! Ernst, you go, Eberhard, stay."

Pvt. Bridges saw them first, two Germans, he didn't notice what they were carrying, he didn't notice them begin to raise their hands. He pushed the safety on his M1 forward, settled himself, then squeezed the trigger.

Pvt. Morse had seen the white flag, as Bridges fired, Morse leaned over to knock the rifle away. It was too late, "What the f**k did you do, Herm?"

The shot spun Schottenstein around and he went down hard. Siegmund froze after he had thrust the white rag on a stick out in front of him, as if to ward off any further fire from the American lines.

Schottenstein the younger immediately moved forward as if to return fire. Voigt turned and punched the man as hard as he could in the face. He immediately regretted that as he felt something in his hand snap. But Schottenstein the younger was knocked out cold, which had been Voigt's intent.

Major von Lüttwitz was nearby, along with Leutnants Sauer and Heinrich, he had his clerk with him, a man who spoke English, Obergefreiter Adolph Storch who had been a journalist before the war. Von Lüttwitz nodded at Storch, who immediately began yelling in English.

"Don't shoot! We wish to surrender! Don't shoot!"

Cpt. Palminteri was bellowing "Hold your fire!" from the center of the line, 1st Lt. Hernandez and Sgt. Katz moved quickly down the line to 2nd Squad's position. When he saw what had happened, Hernandez yelled for a medic. Doc Milbury was there almost before Hernandez had stopped yelling.

"Let's go!" Hernandez said, jumping out of the trench.

"Damn it L.T., we can do this, you should stay here!" Sgt. Katz figured that the lieutenant didn't need to expose himself, but the man was already moving. So Katz followed.

Unteroffizier Peter Krause was by Schottenstein's side almost before the report of Bridge's rifle had faded away. Schottenstein was ashen and trembling. He'd been hit high in the chest, Krause was worried about lung involvement as he cut Schottenstein's tunic and shirt away. Cleaning the area around the hole, Krause looked for any bubbling or frothing, nothing, just a lot of blood oozing from the wound.

Krause looked up, startled when another pair of hands began to help him, it was an American Sani, what they called a 'medic' as he recalled. As the two men stabilized Schottenstein. Krause felt a hand on his shoulder, then heard, "Wir wollen helfen¹." He looked up to see an American soldier, it struck him as odd that the man spoke perfect Viennese German.

Hernandez and Katz had left their weapons behind, which Katz had thought insane, but if the L.T. thought it safe, who was he to argue? Katz saw a man, a major from his shoulder boards step out from behind two other men.

Von Lüttwitz stepped out from behind Oberfeldwebel Georg Eichmann and Obergefreiter Adolph Storch and introduced himself to the American officer.

"Guten Tag Herr Oberleutnant, ich bin Major Jürgen von Lüttwitz, Kommandeur des 2. Bataillons, 8. Panzergrenadier-Regiment. Und Sie sind?²" the German officer snapped a salute, then extended his hand.

After a pause to hear Katz's translation, Hernandez spoke, "I am 1st Lieutenant Stephen Hernandez, commanding the 2nd Platoon of the 2nd Battalion, 26th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division, United States Army. What can I do for you Sir?"

"Ich möchte meine Einheit ergeben. Der Krieg ist verloren, es wäre kriminell zu erwarten, daß meine Männer für nichts sterben.³" Von Lüttwitz waited, deep in his heart he didn't feel like he was doing anything wrong, yet if word got out of his actions this day, his family would pay the price. In blood.

Moments later he heard the American enlisted man speaking, it took him a moment to realize that the American lieutenant was walking away, was his surrender being rejected?

"I'm sorry Unteroffizier, I wasn't listening. I seem to be lost in my thoughts."

"Understandable Herr Major, my lieutenant has gone to collect our company commander, he feels that it would be inappropriate for him to accept your surrender while his superior is present on the field."

"Very good Unteroffizier. By the way, your German is excellent, did you learn it in Vienna?"

"Yes Sir, I am from Vienna. My family left before the Nazis came."

'Thank you for your assistance, Unteroffizier." von Lüttwitz said no more as he saw the American lieutenant approaching with another officer, a captain he believed. The man was missing a piece of his left ear and his face was badly scarred. The man stopped in front of von Lüttwitz, came to attention and saluted.

"Major. I am the commander of C Company, Captain Anthony Palminteri. Are you the same Major von Lüttwitz who wanted to surrender a few days ago?" Katz translated.

Von Lüttwitz returned the salute and indicated that he was, indeed the same major. He also inquired about the health of the two men he had sent to the Americans to convey his intentions, he purposely didn't mention their names.

"Sergeant Berthold and Grenadier Finkel are in fine fettle. They were turned over to our military police and delivered to a POW camp in Belgium, I believe. I doubt they'll be transported further because, as you well know, this war is nearly over. If we shipped them to North America, we'd just have to ship them back in a few months. So, you wish to surrender your battalion I understand?" Again Katz translated.

"Yes Captain, that is correct, what is left of my battalion." With that he undid his belt buckle and handed his belt, holster, and pistol over to Palminteri.

"Very well, Major. For you, the war is over. Have your men come out and stack their arms over there." he indicated an open space which was now covered by one of the company's .30 caliber machine guns, placed so that the Germans would notice. Then Palminteri withdrew the Major's pistol from its holster and handed it and the belt back to von Lüttwitz. After removing the magazine and clearing the weapon, Palminteri handed the pistol back to von Lüttwitz.

Von Lüttwitz blushed and said, "Danke, Hauptmann." He then turned and nodded to his lieutenants and his sergeant major who went back to get the men into formation and march them into captivity. Then he asked, nodding at Schottenstein, "How is he?" Which he asked in passable English.

Palminteri looked over at Doc Milbury who nodded and said, "He will live."

Krause looked at von Lüttwitz and said something in German. Palminteri looked at Katz, who translated, "The Major's medic says that the man will live but will need lots of surgery to repair his shoulder. Apparently the bullet went right through without hitting the lung, but it shattered the man's scapula upon exit. He is lucky to be alive."

Palminteri nodded, then turned to the German officers and beckoned them to join their men.

Major Jürgen von Lüttwitz stood by the side of the trail and watched as the 137 survivors of the 2nd Battalion, 8th Panzergrenadiers marched past in excellent order. The men stacked their weapons as ordered and went into captivity, their heads held high, their pride intact.

Yet von Lüttwitz felt a deep sorrow at the fate of the many men he had served with and those he had commanded over the years since the war began on the 1st of September, 1939. Many of them would never return home. Some had found graves in Poland, others in France, in North Africa, in Russia, and some here in Germany in these last days of the war.

But these men, these men he had brought through the fire, they would live to see home again. No matter what form that took, they would live. Perhaps to rebuild Germany from the ashes, a better Germany. He could only hope.

As the last man went by, Leutnant Manfred Sauer joined him. The two men had crossed France together with a small band of their fellow Saxons after the debacle of the Falaise pocket. He had seen Sauer rise from a simple grenadier to a fine officer and leader. He considered the man a friend, a true friend.

Sauer broke the silence, "Shall we go Sir?"

"Yes, my old friend. Let us see to our men."

¹ We're here to help.
² Hello Lieutenant, I am Major Jürgen von Lüttwitz, Commander of the 2nd Battalion, 8th Panzer Grenadier Regiment. And you are?
³ I want to surrender my unit. The war is lost, it would be criminal to expect my men to die for nothing.

Link to all of the Chant's fiction

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Night Train to Wuppertal - End of the Line


Leutnant Sauer sat down heavily in the officers' car, he set his cap on the table, then accepted the glass of brandy from Major von Lüttwitz. "These aren't the proper glasses you know, Herr Major. Even a pig farmer from Saxony knows that much." He grinned as he said that, he wasn't quite sure where the humor had come from, there was nothing about their current situation that was humorous.

Von Lüttwitz nodded, then said, "Tell me again, as best as you can remember what happened. I'm a little hazy on the details."

"Well, after the Jabo passed over us, and we heard the explosion, I had the men form a skirmish line to either side of the tracks. When we emerged from the woods, we saw a road which joined the tracks at a bridge, There were a number of trucks, perhaps two squads of SS men, and a number of slave laborers. There were two dead men in the road, one with a German officer standing over him. My first thought was that the German had shot the man."

"Did he?"

"Yes, one man had been killed by the SS man, the other man had been killed by the strafing attack, which had also destroyed one of the trucks. I started to talk to the officer, an SS Obersturmbannführer who berated me, which certainly angered some of my men. Then one of the laborers made a break for it, one of the guards shot him. That's when our men opened fire."

"Do you think it was intentional? Our men firing on the SS?" von Lüttwitz studied the liquid in his glass as he asked that, he thought he knew the answer, but he wanted Sauer's opinion.

"Yes, I believe it was intentional. The men are very keyed up from events of the past few days. They know the war is over, I believe they will kill anyone they see as a threat to their surviving the war. No matter what uniform they wear." Sauer took a long sip, then set the glass down.

"If it were up to me, I'd abandon this train, blow the train up, and head back towards the American lines. This area may see an increase in SS forces when they realize that their bridge repair crew isn't coming back. They'll figure that the air attack allowed the prisoners to get away, after overpowering their guards in the confusion. But I think remaining in the area may pose the sort of questions we aren't really prepared to answer. They will also, no doubt, solicit our help in recovering the prisoners."

Von Lüttwitz thought for a moment then said, "I agree. Let's get the sergeants and brief them, then we'll get the men off the train. What do we do about the Reichsbahn men, the engineer, the fireman, and the two brakemen? I'd rather not have to drag them along, I'd also rather not have to kill them."

"Let me talk to the engineer, he seems a decent sort, they're his crew, he can probably persuade them to do the 'right' thing." Sauer said.

"I'm sure he realizes that there aren't many options." von Lüttwitz pointed out.

"He's seems like an intelligent man."

Rolf Schneider sat in the locomotive, wondering what was going on. He'd seen some of the troops head down the line after seeing an explosion ahead. They had returned but had told him nothing. He figured that the little bridge over the Agger had been damaged and the Allied Jabo had attacked the repair crew. Can't work on a bridge at night without lights, Schneider thought. Lights attract Jabos. He wondered what genius had sent a crew out at night. Move at night, work in the daylight under camouflage netting, Schneider mused to himself. One didn't need to be f**king Clausewitz to figure that one out.

"Karl, go down and check on the brakemen. I don't want them sleeping, or drinking themselves to sleep, we might have to move at a moments notice." Schneider said to his fireman.

Karl Zweigart stirred himself from where he had been sitting, "I'll take care of it Rolf. The silly bastards are probably potted already. They're Poles you know, can't trust 'em."

After Zweigart had left, Schneider had to chuckle, Karl was a Rhinelander, he considered everybody living east of Berlin to be a Pole. Therefore untrustworthy and pig-headed. He had an even lower opinion of Bavarians. Schneider wondered what Zweigart would think if he could have heard the opinions people had in the east about Rhinelanders!

He looked towards the car right behind the tender, the nice one which had the officers and senior sergeants aboard, he noticed that Saxon lieutenant, what was his name, oh yes, Sauer, was heading his way. He leaned out into the night.

"Problem, Herr Leutnant?"

"Perhaps, Herr Lokomotivführer.¹"

Sauer briefed the engineer on what had happened and what they were planning to do now.

"Blow up my train?" Schneider looked like he was about to go into shock.

"It's that or you wait here and explain to the SS where my battalion has got to, they'll be wanting help rounding up their lost laborers. They might also be a bit angry over the killing of the men who were guarding those laborers."

Schneider thought for a brief moment, then said, "All right, after all, it's not my train anyway, it belongs to the Reichsbahn."

"What about your crew?" Sauer asked.

"The fireman's a Rhinelander, Hell, he can probably walk home from here. The two brakemen, Lichnowsky and Jursitzky, are both from Silesia, more Polish than German, I think they'll go along. I'm pretty sure Lichnowsky's a Red anyway, he hates Nazis."

"All right, we'll stay here for the day, rig the train, then as soon as it's dark we'll head out." Sauer looked at Schneider again, "We're trusting you with our lives. I hope you won't take it personal if I leave a couple of my men to keep an eye on things?"

Schneider returned the look, "I'm trusting you with mine. Go ahead and leave a babysitter or two, we'll be ready."

As the sun began to dip below the horizon, Grenadiers Peter Meyer and Kurt Finkel returned to the rail siding where the train was sitting. They had been watching the bridge site all day, taking turns, one man sleeping, the other keeping watch through his rifle scope. Both men were officially classed as snipers, though neither had trained at any of the various sniper schools which had been set up in late 1943. Both were superb shots and had been issued with the scoped version of the German semi-automatic rifle, the G 43.

Meyer reported to Major von Lüttwitz, "Two men on a motorcycle-side car combination came by this morning and had a look around. They left fairly quickly."

"Were they Feldgendarmerie?" von Lüttwitz asked.

"Could be, they had the look. But I didn't see them wearing gorgets." Meyer answered.

"The look?"

Finkel chimed in, "They were wearing those special issue motorcycle coats, they were Heer², not SS. I don't know, Herr Major, they had, as Peter said, that look, I can't describe it..."

"They looked like police, not soldiers." von Lüttwitz suggested.

"Exactly, Sir."

"All right, get something to eat, we're moving soon."

"We're lucky that we had some explosives, Herr Leutnant." Hauptfeldwebel Klaus-Peter Keller explained to Sauer as the lieutenant watched two of the men, miners in civilian life, complete the preparations for wrecking the train. They would blow up the locomotive and burn the cars. The hope was that if anyone investigated, they would assume the same Jabo which had killed the bridge crew had also killed the train.

"I'm sure 'luck' had nothing to do with it, Klaus-Peter." Sauer grinned.

"My boys are good at finding things, that's all." Keller confessed.

Those 'boys,' Grenadiers Arne Hartmann and Andreas Hoffmann, were indeed good at finding things, just now they were finished wiring the explosives they had liberated from a supply depot belonging to an engineering unit.

"We're ready Spieß, light this and we've got an hour, more or less." Hartmann reported.

"More or less?" Sauer asked with some concern.

"I don't know how long this fuse has been stored, nor how it was stored. Too wet, too dry, affects the burn rate. Andreas and I tested a short length, it burned according to the specifications, but you never know Sir."

"Understood. Give us fifteen minutes, then light it."

As the battalion moved out, Obergrenadier Michael Lingenfelter reported in, his squad, led by Unteroffizier Jens Voigt, was on point, a half mile or so ahead of the main body.

"Anything Michael?" Sauer asked.

"Nothing Sir. We've had men up to a mile out in front, everything is quiet. We did speak to one of the few locals remaining in the area. Most of our troops withdrew two days ago. He doesn't know why the Amis haven't pushed ahead yet."

Von Lüttwitz had his map out, "We made radio contact with division earlier today, the Amis are over the river in force, but they advanced east, then hooked to the north. The Tommies have crossed the Rhine in force as well. I'm no general, but my guess is that the Allies are looking to surround the Army Group in the Ruhr. If that happens..."

"Game over." Sauer finished the sentence for his commander.

The small red circle is the approximate position of von Lüttwitz's battalion.
The yellow circle is where the German 3rd Panzergrenadier Division and the U.S. 1st Infantry Division are operating.

Sauer looked at the map, then pointed to the area between Bad Berleburg and Winterburg. "Why not move east, Herr Major? The shoulder of the Ami penetration is bound to be not as strong as the base where 3rd Panzergrenadiers are now."

"They might also tend to be more trigger happy as well, Manfred." Leutnant Ralf Heinrich pointed out. The man still looked sad that they'd had to leave behind his two Panthers and the StuG IV, but there was no way to get them off of the flatcars they were loaded on. Besides which, the armor would have made them a bigger target.

"I agree, Manfred. We move south, if anyone asks, we are rejoining our unit. If no one asks, we try and slip through the lines and find their 1st Division, again. I know it's risky, but we don't have the mobility to head east. At least by going south, the Kettenhunde won't suspect us." von Lüttwitz shook his head, he knew their odds of making it were slim.

"You hope." Sauer said.

"Hope is about all we have left, Manfred."

"A little luck might go a long way as well, Herr Major." Heinrich offered.

"Certainly, but neither of those things is something we can count on." von Lüttwitz said.

Sauer looked at his fellow officers, "Then?"

"We march. South." von Lüttwitz concluded.

"Zu befehl, Herr Major³." Both lieutenants answered as one.

¹ A Reichsbahn rank equivalent to a senior sergeant (Stabsfeldwebel), literally "locomotive leader"
² German Army
³ At your command, Major.

Link to all of the Chant's fiction.

Monday, March 29, 2021

In which I declare Victory!

 It's been a long war!

No, Beans, I'm not talking about Sarge's serial war novel, fabulous though it is.

I'm talking about what I affectionately refer to as "Operation Everyone move one house clockwise".

The operation began its first phase on March 5, 2020 with site preparation for the new house.

This was followed shortly thereafter by "The Feast of the Sainted Slab Pourers".

This phase of the operation, like most military operations, did not end, but was "Declared" over on 30 Sep 2020 when Mrs J and I signed 2,765,412 documents and wrote an enormous check.  Upon handing said check to the High Priestess of Entitlement, she proclaimed that Phase 2 could now commence.

At 0800 1 Oct 2020, an elite special forces unit, operating under the pseudonym "Affordable Movers" arrived on target.  By lunch, they had departed and most of our material things were "in" the new house.

Phase 3 of the operation began at that point.  Mrs J was in command of this operation.  I was in charge of heavy lifting, hanging artifacts on walls, moving said artifacts to a more suitable position (per Mrs J's order countermanding my poor location judgement), and moving "for the time being" things into the attic.  

Where they will be discovered some time in the distant future by some archaeologist who will, no doubt, gain much notoriety for the find.

While this phase was ongoing (and still is), phase 4 of the operation commenced.

The refurbishing of our old house. Which was "supposed" to be, merely ripping out the carpet and tile and replacing it with snap in vinyl flooring.

The ripping part went smoothly, until one of the workers stepped through the floor.

Oplan Phase 4 was then rewritten to include repairing the floor understructure, cabinets and then the vinyl.  

At that point, Phase 5 of the Operation came into play, the Special Operations Team, operating under the same code name, returned to the OpArea and conducted a quick upload and offload of my sister's material goods.

Given that she'd been living in a 640 sq ft cottage on our property, this was a relatively easy phase.  In a stroke of genius, she set up her bed in one of what had been Little Juvat's room.  She then set up her sewing and quilting equipment in the former master bedroom.  I'm a little jealous of the space she now has to go about her hobbies.

In any case, Phase 6 was delayed for about a month due to "Icemageddon". the Valentine's Day winter storm that shut down Texas (there are still a few outlying dwellings without power.  We were lucky in that our power was restored within 5 days, I've got friends that were out for 2-3 weeks and had to move into a hotel in town.)

The storm caused considerable damage to the water supply to our old house as well as the Guest House and my Sister's old house.  All thing's being fair in Love and Contracting, I resorted to a diabolic scheme to get priority with the plumber.

Which, surprisingly, worked!

Now, Phase 6 had a hard end date of March 26 which was when DIL and dog Tex would be returning from overseas to quarantine before returning to a different overseas location. 

March 19th, after cleaning and throwing away several loads of old broken stuff, the living room and bedroom looked like this.

Monday the 22nd, the bed, but not the mattress had arrived. 

That evening, I'm looking through the Oplan for timing considerations.  I recheck DIL's flight itinerary and discover her arrival date is the 25th not the 26th. Somebody had made a mistake in entering it on the calendar!  I'm not naming names, but it wasn't me.  But the plan' execution now shifts into overdrive.

We had purchased this couch from a young couple who were moving into a smaller apartment. It had been in our garage until this point.  Unfortunately, the special ops folks were not available for this phase. Mrs J and yours truly managed the task, later assisted by Motrin. 

Tuesday, the mattress and the rug arrived.  UPS/FedEx LOVE us!

Wednesday, Mrs J spends organizing the kitchen area.

Thursday, we load up some of MBD and SIL's stuff that we'd discovered during phase 2/3 of the plan, and head to Houston.  A bit of excitement in Austin with two pickup trucks engaging in a little high speed road rage in our vicinity added a large shot of adrenalin to my system to combat the fatigue.

After dropping the stuff off and having an enjoyable lunch with MBD and SIL, we're off to Bush International.  
Very shortly thereafter......

Even Tex is happy to be back in the USA (and was even happier to be let out of his carrier).

The following day, we had a hilariously happy trip to the local grocery store.  Mrs J and I had a relatively short shopping list, so I suggested she stay with DIL and assist her with locating stuff while I did our shopping.

Shortly thereafter, I rendezvous with them after completing my circuit of the store.  They were on Aisle 2.

I had to chuckle, remembering a similar episode when I returned from my remote assignment to Kunsan.  

So, it's been a long 13 Months.  I am declaring Victory in OPlan Everybody move one house clockwise.  There, as Sarge will no doubt include in his saga, still will be some "mopping up" operations to accomplish, but I'm going to take some time off and maybe even take a nap.

Lucky Dogs!

Peace out, y'all!

Sunday, March 28, 2021

I Missed It


So yeah, been doing this blogging thing for nine years now, nine years as of the 22nd of March. Which, if you look at a calendar, is not today. Nope, I missed the anniversary of the founding of this here blog nine years (and six days) ago.

I was going to give you another episode of the ongoing tale of World War II, but when I called the office of my Muse, there was no answer. So I went to the Muse's office, found this...


So yeah, I'm having a bit of writer's block and, as is clear, the Muse will be of no help. Of course, she did put in a lot of overtime this past week. So...

Anyhoo, Happy Ninth Blogoversary to us, couldn't have done it without all you folks reading it.

But yes, last year's post marking this occasion was way better, I recommend it to you. It's the whole writer's block thing, ya know.

Be back Tuesday with another episode, I have some binge watching to do...

Ozark, for those who need to know. (You know who you are.)

Yes, I'm a slacker.

It's what I do...

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Night Train to Wuppertal - The Intruder

Scene from The Train
Flying Officer Nigel Williams turned to his navigator, "Jimmie, are you picking up anything on the box?"

Pilot Officer James "Jimmie" Macallum answered almost immediately, "Skies are clear Nigel, no Jerries in the air. I'm betting they're further north, bombers are heading for Hamburg again tonight. Everything should be well to our north."

Williams looked out of the cockpit again, the ground was only intermittently visible, heavy fog in the area made their night sortie against what remained of the German rail network look like a wasted trip.

"Weather boffins said that the wind should pick up and clear this mess out, something about a cold front moving through." Macallum anticipated the aircraft commander's complaint about the ground fog in the area. As Macallum looked out, he thought he could make out higher terrain starting to become visible.

Maybe they would get lucky tonight.

The train was pulled over at a siding, the signals ahead, according to the engineer, indicated that they needed to get off the main track. He had no idea why, "Like you Major, I follow orders. But let me check the line shack, it's possible the phone which should be there, might still be there. It might even work!"

Major Jürgen von Lüttwitz climbed down from the locomotive and began to walk back along the tracks. Once he was clear of the noise of the locomotive, he could hear an aircraft overhead, somewhere above the fog.

"One of ours do you think?" Leutnants Manfred Sauer and Ralf Heinrich were standing by the tracks as well, breathing the cool night air.

"Probably a Tommy." von Lüttwitz answered. "What makes you think the Luftwaffe has any aircraft left?"

Heinrich was looking up, listening, the way he was staring it was as if he thought his vision might penetrate the fog which blanketed the area. Then he spoke, "The wind is picking up."

The other two officers said nothing, but Sauer sensed that the air was moving. What that might do to the fog, he didn't care to think about. Not with an RAF night intruder overhead. There were no Allied bombers overhead, so an RAF night fighter would be well out of position. Sauer marveled that the Allies had so much equipment that they could send aircraft over the Continent just to hunt what was left of the Reichsbahn.

Von Lüttwitz saw the engineer coming down the track, checking the cars as he did so. "Was there a phone?"

The engineer, a man named Rolf Schneider, looked surprised, "Yes, it even worked. Seems they are working on a bridge ahead that was damaged in a raid earlier this week. Unfortunately, we will probably be stuck here until tomorrow night. On the fortunate side of the ledger, the trees here should prevent Jabos from seeing us during the day. Should..."

Sauer looked at von Lüttwitz then suggested, "We could cut branches and the like, camouflage the train?"

Heinrich said, "We'll help you with that, we've gotten pretty good at camouflaging a tank to look like a haystack, a train shouldn't be that much more difficult. Just a question of scale really."

Von Lüttwitz nodded and gestured that the two lieutenants should make that happen. He drew out his cigarette case and noticed he only had three left. He lit one. The engineer was still there, so he offered a cigarette to that man.

"No thank you sir, I have my pipe. I need to continue my checks while we are stopped." With that he continued down the line.

Williams banked his Mossie around and returned to a northwesterly heading, according to Macallum, there was a rail line down there in that fog. Which, he happily observed, was starting to clear as the wind picked up. Macallum had also warned him to be aware of that, the wind would push them off course and further into Germany if they weren't careful.

Williams thought back to the stories his uncle had told him of the Great War. Uncle Peter had been an observer in the Royal Flying Corps, the RFC, flying missions along the front lines from 1917 until the end of the war. Of course, in 1918 the RFC changed it's name to the Royal Air Force and had combined the RFC and the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) into one organization.

"Ye've got to watch those winds laddie, they blow from the west, always wanting to push ye deeper into Hun-land. Some days they blow hard enough so that yer ground speed drops down to 50 or so. Fighting headwinds when ye're low on petrol and maybe have some damage is no fun, that I can tell ye laddie. Home is a long ways off on days like that."

Williams remembered his uncle fondly, he barely remembered his father. Williams had been born in 1914, the summer before the war began. He remembered his father coming home on leave from the front, Williams' earliest memory was of his father bouncing him on his knee when he was three. He couldn't remember his father's face, he'd seen pictures of him, of course, but the man himself was but a vague shape in his memory.

Uncle Peter had helped raise him when his father had been killed in action in October of 1918. Scarcely two weeks before the Armistice. It was because of his mother's brother that he'd joined the RAF after university in 1938. Sadly Uncle Peter had finally been killed by the Germans in 1941, not at the front, but in his bed during a Luftwaffe raid.

Williams didn't hate the Germans, he despised them.

He was brought out of his reverie when Macallum said, "Nigel, up ahead, I can see train tracks, the fog is moving on.

SS-Obersturmbannführer Herbert Möller sat in the cab of the lead truck in the small convoy, the road was in ill-repair and his driver seemed to hit every hole in the road. "Damn it Wolfgang, must you hit every pothole?"

"Sorry Sir, the headlights are just enough to let me see the road, I can't see the potholes until it's too late." As he said that, the beat-up Opel Blitz hit yet another pothole, jarring the two men in the cab and the squad of SS men in the back.

"I think that's the bridge up ahead Wolfgang, slow down!"

SS-Schütze Wolfgang Hahn braked until the Opel came to a full stop, Möller jumped out, barking at Hahn to "stay put." He could hear the other SS men jumping from the truck and bellowing at the laborers in the other three trucks to dismount.

The convoy consisted of five trucks, the one in the lead contained SS men, the middle three were packed with slave laborers, the last truck contained more SS men. Each truck towed a trailer with tools or other equipment needed for bridge repair, such as an air compressor and an electrical generator.

Möller had been a civil engineer before the war, now he commanded twenty-seven SS men and fifty-two slave laborers. His job was to keep what was left of the rail network in western Germany in some state of usability, that job grew harder everyday. His laborers were all men from the east, Russians, Poles, Czechs, and Slovaks. Only one or two of them spoke German, but he had one Pole who spoke multiple languages. Though still a slave laborer, Möller had made him a foreman and ensured the man received more rations than the rest.

As the guards got the men in motion, Möller inspected the small bridge. As he used his flashlight to inspect the damage, he was oblivious to the fact that the fog had lifted and that his light could be seen for miles from the air in the darkened countryside.

"I see it Jimmie, a column of trucks on the dirt road paralleling the tracks, looks like a bridge. Repair crew? Which is probably why some idiot is flashing that torch all over." Williams was lining up to possibly strafe the small truck convoy, it wasn't much of a target but it was all they'd seen all night. As their fuel state was starting to be a concern, he thought, "One pass, then it's home to bed!"

As Möller continued to inspect the bridge, his men were hustling the laborers over to be put to work where needed. They were making enough noise to wake the dead, he thought. "Silence you idiots! A man can't think with all that racket."

As the chatter died down, Möller heard the rising tone of an engine, an aircraft engine!

Williams aimed at the last truck in the line, he would walk his cannon rounds up the road and try to destroy as many vehicles as possible. As he triggered his guns, saw the first rounds impacting all around the truck he had aimed at, then he heard Macallum yell.

"Those look like prisoners Nigel, pull off!"

As his aircraft flashed past the site, he caught a glimpse of men with rifles and other men wearing prisoner garb in the flickering light of a burning truck. No doubt a party of slave laborers.

"Damn it!" Williams grunted as he pulled up and to the left. He had hit at least two trucks, Macallum had confirmed that, but he was hoping that he'd only hit the guards, and not the guarded.

Möller was furious, the enemy aircraft had come out of nowhere and destroyed three of his trucks, the other two would require repair before they could be used. What was worse, his foreman, Jerzy Wiśniewski was lying dead in the road, most of his upper torso shredded by what must have been a 2 cm cannon. Now how was he going to get the rest of this rabble to do their jobs?

Sauer had two squads with him, the 1st and 2nd from his 1st Platoon, these men had been with him the longest and he trusted them. When they had heard the enemy Jabo pass overhead, then heard the thumping of cannon fire, then seen and heard an explosion not that far from the train, von Lüttwitz had ordered him to discover what was going on and to provide assistance as needed.

"Voigt, Klassen, skirmish line, heads up, we don't know what's going on up ahead!"

As his men fanned out Sauer saw a burning truck in the road and a number of men clustering around a body in the road. Then he heard the crack of a pistol shot and another man crumpled to the ground. What the Hell is going on here?

As they got closer, Sauer recognized the uniforms of the Germans, SS, no, Totenkopf! Bloody thugs and murderers! He could see one man, an officer, with his pistol drawn, standing over the man he had just killed.

"Well, would any more of you swine like to shirk your duties, pick up those tools! Move!" Möller was screaming at one of the laborers, a Russian from Leningrad, the man didn't understand a word of what the fat German was yelling at him.

"Obersturmbannführer, none of these men speak German, they can't understand you!" One of the other Totenkopf men pointed out to his infuriated commander.

"They're all swine! Lazy bastards!"

Then Möller saw a line of soldiers advancing on the scene, German soldiers.

"Ah, more men! I need them, you there, Leutnant, do you have anyone who speaks Russian or Czech?"

Sauer looked in amazement at the fat SS officer. "Sir, we're a combat unit, on our way to Wuppertal, what's going on here?"

Möller snorted in frustration, "We're here to fix the bridge you idiot. Does it look like we're on a picnic?"

At that moment, one of the laborers made a break for the darkness away from the road. One of the Totenkopf men shot him, as if it were nothing. Then all Hell broke loose.

Sauer's two squads, almost as if on command, opened fire on the SS men. Within seconds, most of them were on the ground, dead or badly wounded. Four men knelt with their hands in the air, shocked that their fellow Germans had opened fire on them.

Sauer was shaken, perhaps he should have expected it, knowing the mood of his men. But still to watch his men open fire and kill the SS men stunned him. Then he was snapped out of his mood by a low growl.

"You will hang for this Leutnant, so will your men." Möller decided to assert his authority. He had been dealing with swine for the entire war, he know how to handle them. The lieutenant standing in front of him turned and stared at him.

"Not so cocky now are you..."

The pistol had seemed to go off of its own accord. Sauer's arm was still outstretched, the pistol still aimed at where the fat SS officer's head had been. The look of surprise on that man's face when Sauer had squeezed the trigger had been almost amusing. But death was never amusing, not even when it was deserved.

Sauer looked at his men, they had already killed the remaining SS men. The laborers were ransacking the trucks for whatever they needed to survive. Some stripped the dead of their uniforms. Sauer heard a blood-curdling scream from the lead truck. Perhaps an SS survivor?

As the laborers ran off into the dark, one man walked up to Sauer, wearing a ripped SS tunic, saluted and said, "Děkuji pane!¹" Then he too had disappeared into the night.

"Well, I guess we're outlaws now, Herr Leutnant." Unteroffizier Jochen Klassen had come up to stand next to Sauer.

Sauer shook his head, "What else could we have done, Jochen?"

"Very little Sir, by the way, that prisoner thanked you, in Czech."

"You speak Czech?"

"A little. You should get back to the train Sir. I'm sure the Major will want to know what happened. You go ahead, Jens and I will tidy things up here, make it look like these guys were hit by a Jabo. Which some of them were..."

Sauer headed back, they truly were outlaws now. He certainly hoped von Lüttwitz knew what to do next, he certainly had no idea. He had just murdered a man, not his first, but the killing was getting too easy.

Far too easy.

¹ Czech for "Thank you Sir."

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Friday, March 26, 2021

Only the Dead...

U.S. Army Signal Corps Photo

Grenadier Michael Wagner's eyes went wide when he realized what was happening. His fellow soldiers, Grenadiers Robert Otto and Andre Lang, were oblivious to what was going on. They were too busy sharing the bottle of wine which Leutnant Manfred Sauer had given the trio after their "mission" the night before.

The three men were from the area around Köln, all were vocal in their support of the National Socialists, and for those two reasons, Sauer had sent them out to "find a train." As their platoon leader had put it, "Those three are dumb enough to buy that story." Apparently so were the drunken SS men who picked them up, and actually found a train for the battalion!

The plan to surrender to the Americans had gone completely awry, thanks to the "helpful" SS men - the three Nazis had been returned and now the battalion was loaded on a train bound for Wuppertal. It had been the last straw for Sauer, he had not wanted to kill anyone, let alone fellow Germans, in order to end the war for the battalion. Now there was no choice. With the exception of Wagner, Otto, and Lang, the battalion, to a man, was ready to quit. Only these three men thought that the war was still winnable, they believed everything that came out of Goebbels' mouth, they had to go.

One short burst from Sauer's StG 44 knocked the three men to the ground where they stood at the back of the officers' car. As the train had yet to move out, Sauer stepped forward and made sure of the three Nazis. One round each finished the job.

As Sauer safed his weapon, Unterfeldwebel Alexander Münch, the company's armorer stepped into view along with six other men from company headquarters. Sauer was surprised, to say the least.

"Herr Leutnant, you should probably go forward and tell the Reichsbahn men that we were testing a repaired weapon and that there's no cause for alarm. I'll see to things here." As he finished, Münch turned and nodded to his men, who immediately began to pick up the three dead bodies.

As Sauer moved to the front of the train, von Lüttwitz leaned from an open window of the car, "It is done?"

"Yes Sir, perhaps I should have chosen a quieter way? But it's done."

"I already told the train personnel not to be concerned with the weapons discharge, they couldn't care less it seems. They want to get moving soon, they're terrified of Allied aircraft, even at night."

"Can't say I blame them." Sauer turned to go back and speak with Münch, who he met coming forward.

"Unterfeldwebel, perhaps I should..."

Münch grinned and said, "We disposed of the Hitlerites, we stripped them of everything, clothing, identity disks, equipment, everything. There should be no problem if anyone ever finds the corpses."

"Hitlerites? You sound like a Communist, Alex." Sauer meant it as a joke.

"I'm from the Wedding district in Berlin, Herr Leutnant.  There's a reason it was known as Red Wedding. I'm no Communist, but my parents were. My father died at Blutmai, my mother spent six months in prison. I'm no Communist but I hate the Nazis with every fiber of my being. The Brownshirts murdered my mother in 1935, for her political beliefs."

Sauer hadn't known this about his Waffenunteroffizier,¹ "I had no idea Alex. So you have no problems with..."

"With murdering Nazis? No Sir, wasn't the first time, I doubt it will be the last. The boys believe in you and the Major. I'd say we'd follow you through Hell, but that's what we're doing now, isn't it?" Münch headed back to his railcar.

"What was it that made you suspicious S/Sgt Poole?" Cpt. Tony Palminteri was standing in the village square of the town where he had hoped to bag an entire Kraut battalion. C Company had occupied the town and had reported that to regiment, now they were awaiting further orders.

"I wasn't sure at first Cap'n, then when it was all over, I noticed that big Kraut flag again." S/Sgt Bob Poole nodded at the flag which was still hanging from the upper storeys of the town hall. Palminteri turned to look at it as well.

"Well, I'll be damned." Palminteri said.

"You see it too, don't you Sir?"

"Yup, the Iron Cross is supposed to be at the top, not the bottom. That German Major left us a clue, didn't he?"

"He sure did Sir. He sure did."

"Manfred, did you know that I left a letter with Becker, to give to the American commander when they took the town?" von Lüttwitz took a sip of the cognac they'd found in the car. "Good stuff, by the way. I'd rather have Calvados though."

Sauer looked up, "You left them a letter?"

"Yes, I wanted to let the Amis know what happened, that it wasn't a trick. Just in case..."

"You're a clever man Jürgen, remind me never to play cards with you."

"We have fought their 1st Division since Normandy. I talked to the Ic about a week ago, he says that we've been facing their 26th Infantry Regiment since Kreuzau. I believe we met them in the Hürtgen and the Ardennes as well. Warriors, honorable men I think. I want them to think the same of us. We fight for our homes now, it's all we have left."

"What about when we were winning?" Sauer felt bitter about that. He felt somewhat guilty wanting to quit now, now that they were losing the war.

"I know, that bothers me as well. But what else could we have done? We obey orders we try to stay moral men, we try to keep our honor, I don't have an answer Manfred." von Lüttwitz looked morosely into his glass of cognac, then finished it.

"That was rhetorical Herr Major."

"I know, we shall have much to answer for when the war is over Manfred. Perhaps they will shoot us all. There are many who deserve it."

"To those who have seen the end of war." Sauer finished his cognac.

Von Lüttwitz nodded and said, "Yes, my old friend, here's to the dead..."

¹ Armorer NCO

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