Friday, March 19, 2021

An Old Friend

National Archives

Sgt. Ted Collier, C Company's supply sergeant, came into the CP carrying a case of K Rations, for some reason Cpt. Palminteri loved the damned things. "Hey Skipper, you'll never believe what's out front."

Palminteri sighed and said, "Collier, how many times have I told you not to call me 'Skipper'?"

"Oh yeah, sorry Sir, but like I was saying..."

"Ted, your mouth is always running, get to the point would ya?" Palminteri said that with a grin. He liked his supply sergeant, but the man was one step above a pirate.

"There's an L.T. out front with two Kraut prisoners. One's a sergeant of some kind, the other looks like he should be in grammar school. The L.T. says he knows you so he brought you a couple of presents. I guess he means the Krauts."

Palminteri picked up his helmet and his carbine and said, "Says he knows me, huh? Well, I guess I need to see this for myself. Stow those rations under my cot, let's have a looksee."

When they stepped outside, sure enough, two Germans were sitting on the bench out front. Standing to one side, his back to Palminteri was a lieutenant, something about him seemed oddly familiar.

"Whaddaya got there lieutenant?" Palminteri asked the lieutenant's back.

That man said, "Sarge, cover these two guys for me, would ya?"

Collier unslung his Garand and said, "Sure lieutenant."

The lieutenant turned and said, "Miss me Cap'n?"

It was 1st Lt. Nathan Paddock.


Leutnant Manfred Sauer and Hauptfeldwebel Klaus-Peter Keller were both looking at the company's disbursing officer, Unteroffizier Hans Berthold. Berthold's arm was in a cast, he'd broken it badly two days ago. He should have been evacuated to the rear, but he refused to go.

"Herr Leutnant, if I go back, I may never get to rejoin the company again. Behind the front, everyone has gone insane, you haven't seen it, I have. The GFP and the SD are running wild, stringing up anyone they suspect of being away from their unit without orders." Berthold explained.

Keller pointed out, "You're wounded, that's obvious, and..."

"You don't understand Spieß, a gunshot wound is one thing, a broken arm, could be self-inflicted."

"But the Sani has the forms which..."

"The forms he has are out of date, we have new ones supposedly coming in, I'd be arrested in a second with those old forms."

"How do you feel about surrendering?" Sauer asked out of the blue.

"Sir...?"

"I know you Hans, you're not a fanatic, you're an accountant in civilian life, yes?" Sauer pointed out.

"Yes but..."

"You've done a fine job with the company, but frankly we have two choices, surrender, or die. Do you wish to die, Hans?"

"Certainly not Sir, but..." Sauer knew that Berthold had a pretty wife back in Rendsburg, a town in Schleswig-Holstein on the Kiel canal, he also knew that that wife was pregnant with their first child.

"I need you to go on a special mission for me. You'll be going with Grenadier Finkel." Sauer nodded towards Finkel who was waiting nearby. Finkel looked sixteen but was actually twenty-two. He was one of the company's marksmen and was a deadly shot with his scoped G 43 rifle. But he was also sick of the war. He had had a letter from his parents, both of them were terrified that he was going to be killed, he was their only son.

"Finkel, huh?" Berthold said, "Good man. He wants to surrender too?"

Now that Berthold seemed convinced, he was thinking that he might actually survive to see his wife again, he listened as Sauer brought Finkel over and briefed Berthold on the plan.


"What the Hell are you doing here Nate?" Palminteri said as he engulfed Paddock in a bear hug. "I thought you found some cushy job in the rear so you could be with your gal, what was her name, oh yeah, Beth, a nurse right?"

Palminteri's heart sank when he saw a cloud pass over Paddock's face.

"You're thinking of Beth McGee, she was Stephen Hernandez' lady friend. Edith Parsons, is my lady, they're both Army nurses, well, Beth was, but..."

"Ah Jesus Nate, did something..."

"She's dead Cap'n. Killed in a Kraut air raid while she was in London at some conference. Miles from the front, miles from the fighting, she still gets killed." Paddock's voice was low, there was a lot of pain in that voice. "Hernandez doesn't know yet, that's the other reason I'm here. To tell him."

"Man, I'm sorry Nate, but what's the real reason you're here?"

"I'm your new XO, I'm here to help you kill Krauts." Paddock was abrupt in his tone, as if to say, you can send me back, but I won't stay.

"Okay, okay. Now tell me about these two birds." Palminteri gestured at the two Germans.

"Now that's a story, can we go inside, the Kraut on the left speaks English. The one who looks like a kid, he's one dangerous son of a bitch, but it seems both of them are tired of the war. As are their battalion and company commanders." Paddock nodded his head at the German in the cast.

Once inside the CP, Palminteri looked at the English speaking German, "So, you speak English."

"Yes Captain, I do. I am Unteroffizier Hans Berthold, I was an accountant before the war for a firm which did extensive business in the United States. I have traveled to Boston, New York, and even Washington DC before the war. I am my company's Rechnungsführer, or disbursing officer." Berthold explained.

He continued, nodding at the younger man with him. "This man is Grenadier Kurt Finkel. We belong to the 5th Company, 2nd Battalion, of the 8th Panzergrenadier Regiment. Our battalion commander wants to finish this. He would very much like to surrender our entire unit."

"An entire battalion?" Palminteri's eyes went wide at that.

"We are really the size of a weak company, we have lost heavily since Köln, which I believe you refer to as Cologne. Most of us know that the war is lost, we stand a good chance of being killed to the last man before our leaders see the futility of continuing the war. It is time to end this." Berthold paused, then said, "Would you accept our surrender, if we can figure out a way to arrange it amidst this ongoing insanity?"

Palminteri's first thought was how good that would look on his record, might even make major from it, but he could also save lives. That would be fewer Krauts they'd have to fight in the long term.

"Yeah, I need to talk to my commanding officer, but I think he'll go for it. Winters!" He yelled out into the connecting room.

Cpl. Jacob Winters, C Company Communication Sergeant, popped his head in, "Sir?"

"Get on the horn to battalion, tell Major Josephson to come here fast as he can. We've got a surprise for him." Palminteri was excited about this.

"Surprise?"

"Ask him if he'd like to accept the surrender of a Kraut Panzergrenadier battalion."

"Seriously Sir?"

"Seriously, hop to it!"

"On it Sir!"

"Nate?" Paddock kept looking at the door.

"Sir, I have to find Stephen."

"2nd Platoon is down the street, turn left out the door, two streets down. Tell Stephen I'm awfully sorry."

"I will Sir. You figure out how to make that surrender happen. I'll gladly do the paperwork." Paddock set off to tell his successor the terrible news of Cpt. McGee's death.


Nate Paddock, when he had commanded 2nd Platoon, had written many letters to tell people he didn't know about the deaths of their loved ones. This would be the first time he would be telling someone he knew, and respected, of a death. The death of a lovely woman who deserved far better than this.

He did not think that there were many millions for whom the same could be said, but not one of them was as close a friend as Captain Beth McGee had been.

He wondered when it might be appropriate to tell the world of his proposal to Edith, and her acceptance. Conditional upon the end of the war.

Would this damned war ever end?

There were days when he felt it would last forever.

Like today.




Link to all of the Chant's fiction.

86 comments:

  1. Wow. I am wondering how they’re going to affect the surrender without anybody getting hurt or killed.

    Even those two Germans going back could be found by the wrong people and hung.

    So did they have suggestions or they’re going to have to brave it back to their unit? Might be even more dangerous trying to get back.

    The German major has a dilemma. How to move his unit without arousing suspicion

    I was going to say this before but I think it’s pretty clever how are help develop your storylines.

    You find a historical picture and give life to the characters.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks William, it's going to be interesting. (At least I hope so!)

      Delete
    2. Still have to deal with the fanatics in the ranks, on both sides.

      Which I am sure Hernandez will be in about 10 seconds after Paddock finds him.

      Delete
    3. Disagree. Hernandez might hate some more, but he's a Platoon Commander; he has men he's responsible for, thus he doesn't have the liberty of losing his shit. Everything I've "seen" of him tells me he'll put his people first.
      Boat Guy

      Delete
    4. Boat Guy pays attention. 😁

      Delete
    5. Yeah, Hernandez has his stuff together, but even the staunchest person has their breaking point. I mean, he's an officer now, so fraternization is 'legal' and the war is almost over and this happens? I hope he keeps it under control.

      Delete
  2. Would Berthold have brought an oral proposition, that if the Americans are willing to accept the surrender, von Luttwitz will bring his men over at this point, after seeing three green flares?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Brilliant use of the photo, by the way.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Concur on the photo. Notice that the Amis are well armed ( who wouldn't be with the three weapons shown?) But they are not jocked-up for combat and the town seems intact.
      Boat Guy

      Delete
    2. Looks like the strap of a bandolier on the guy with the M1, that'd be prudent; a Garand loaded with a half dozen more reloads should sort things out if they get unexpectedly spicy.
      Boat Guy

      Delete
    3. StB - Yes, when I found that photo, it triggered an idea. (Which is what usually happens.)

      Delete
    4. BG #1 - They are actually men from an armored division, so they're not equipped like infantry. (I do believe they're wearing coveralls under their jackets.)

      Delete
    5. BG #2 - Yes, that's a bandolier with spare clips. I see lots of pictures of guys with those. Could to have the spare ammo, bad to have to carry the extra weight. But they're probably tankers so they can stow all that on their "rides."

      Delete
    6. I've seen that in other photos, when the soldier isn't in ground slog/ground assault mode. Sometimes just slinging the bandolier belt around the shoulder was more comfortable than hooking it up correctly. All well and good, until shooting happens.

      Delete
    7. The bandolier was designed and produced to be worn that was as opposed to a Rifle belt. It's an easy matter to loop one on the stacking swivel so you can just "grab and go".
      Infantry would typically have a full rifle belt and then sling a couple of bandoliers. Ammo is good. More ammo is better.
      Boat Guy

      Delete
    8. There are two times where having too much ammo is a bad thing:

      1) You're on fire.

      2) You're swimming.

      Delete
    9. Dad taught me a disarming technique that would give me that carbine in a split second. Poor discipline as I see it. Too close to use the long arm. If it's off safe, the guy not paying attention would get a carbine round in a kidney, and a butt stroke goes to guy that gave me the rifle. His gloves are basically an oiled pig. Dad had some of those rabbit fur lined slicksters. That kind of lollygagging scares me.

      The broken wing kills that scenario, as does the desire to quit and live on the kid's face. He's at home on his front porch in his mind. I'd imagine there are only a few odd thousand GI's hanging around as well.



      Delete
    10. Dad taught me how to handle being captured by the enemy, which is a nasty blow to the knee and then the crotch and and and.

      But, yes, the Germans are done.

      Delete
    11. That works if there's only one of them...

      Delete
    12. STxAR - Those two Germans are done, they have no fight left in 'em.

      Delete
  4. One cares hope this can be accomplished. Be kind,Muse.
    Great to see Nate back. Capt McGee could have been killed by a vengeance weapon; the V2's were especially destructive.
    I once had to present the flag from a friend's casket to his widow, a woman who worked for me and had recently been commissioned. Hadn't thought of that day in quite some time.
    Boat Guy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "dare hope". Damn spell check
      BG

      Delete
    2. Yes, Cpt. McGee was killed by a V2 attack. Nate doesn't know that.

      That last bit, that would have tore me up inside.

      Delete
    3. Yup, I figured that, auto-correct is evil. (Also not very bright...)

      Delete
    4. There's a goodly bit of "evil...not very bright" going around these days.
      Yeah, dunno why that event came up. Not fun, but got it done.
      BG

      Delete
  5. What an extreme Good News-Bad News event.
    One more whipsaw event in a series of whipsaws.
    Frank

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm trying to keep you all on a roller coaster. It seems to be working.

      Delete
  6. How does Paddock know Grenadier Finkel is a "dangerous son of a bitch"? His prowess with the G 43 is not something that he or Berthold would likely (or wisely) share with their "captors", as it would potentially lead to a desire by them for retribution. For someone who studies and reads people well, he may well have the look of a dangerous man, but that would be an assumption, and Nate stated it more as a known fact. Was Finkel carrying the rifle? Again, not a good idea. Even so, the scope might give him the look of being formidable, but that too would be an assumption.
    Not sure if you had a plan for somewhere to go with this, or if you just inadvertently painted yourself into a bit of a corner.
    I suppose Finkel could be a "known man", but there would kinda have to be a back story there, as well.
    Doncha hate it when people nitpic yer shit, Sarge?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We'll learn more of Finkel, I'm sure.

      Paddock knows dangerous men, he's commanded them in the field. And yes, Finkel handed over his rifle when he surrendered. Paddock could tell that the soldier knew how to use it by the way he handled the weapon. Sure, Paddock made some assumptions, but they're good ones.

      I love it when you guys spot a hole (which I then have to fill, sigh...). Sometimes a subplot will go places, sometimes it won't. But I liked the look of the kid in the picture, looks young, but his uniform is in good shape, he's wearing it properly and he looks somewhat pissed about being a POW. Thought it might make a good subplot.

      Delete
    2. Seeing how the guy moves, and how he scopes out the land while moving, would both give out strong hints.
      And, for lack of a better word, Paddock may be able to pick up on the vibes being put out as well. Sometimes nonverbal communication is critical.
      Frank

      Delete
    3. German snipers had a patch worn on the sleeve, but I think that required formal schooling and designation, not just skills and finding the right weapons (as was the case with the late and lamented Stump). That might have only been on dress uniforms, but Paddock's instincts and observation skills certainly could have pegged the kid as dangerous.
      JB

      Delete
    4. All Paddock has to do is compare Finkel with Gammell. There's a certain feel around snipers, like they're overly aware of everything. They don't have a lot of wasted movement, except for the eyes.

      So, a very still soldier, with eagle eyes and a well-kept sniper rig? Dangerous.

      And by this time Paddock has acquired that sense of knowing that's managed to keep him alive so far.

      I mean, you ever been around someone who just you know could wipe the room? It's usually not the loud-mouth, but the quiet guy who's assessing everyone around them.

      You get the same feeling around very competent swordsmen.

      Happened one time when I took my wife to the hair salon. While waiting for her a guy walked in who was escorting his wife. My spidey sense went off and then shut down almost immediately. Why? Well, I detected 'armed man' then an 'operator' of high caliber' and then I looked really closely and it was Massad Ayoub. Why he was in Gainesville I have no idea, but it was.

      You get it at real martial arts tourneys. There's the guys who have the belt and the swagger, then there's the real fighters who you know if they took the constraints off would leave a pile of broken bodies in their wakes.

      Dangerous people can sense other dangerous people. Paddock is rather a dangerous man after his race and slog across France to Germany.

      Delete
    5. This vignet is why the book is going to be so good. OAFS will be able to flesh out the Ami's initial encounter with these two and Paddock's (?) interrogation. Same with the plan Herr Major hatched to get us here. CAN'T WAIT.

      Delete
    6. Thomas - There will be fleshing out, as you say, even if it's just to make all these episodes have a smoother flow.

      Delete
  7. Another use of a photo to illustrate your wordsmithing, excellent (uttered in Monte Burns voice). Seconding Boat Guy last V1 and V2 attacks were March 28 and 27 respectively on England. Nice change of pace with no combat losses for the boys Sarge save for a non-combatant buying the farm.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I did want to illustrate the fact that in WWII, everywhere was the front line.

      One could be sipping a cup of tea in London (or Berlin, or Tokyo or Moscow), then BLAM! Oblivion.

      Delete
    2. In the book the splendid and the vile, Erik Larson goes in the great deal about how life in London went on despite the bombing. It centers around the blitz and there was one night club that people still frequented they ended up getting a direct hit killing hundreds.

      What got me was that many people had a “tomorrow we die attitude“ and they lived it up.

      Delete
    3. Something we should think about for the times we live in. The Brits in WWII didn't live in fear, why are we?

      Delete
    4. That attitude is something we Americans never really got overall. It was kinda of the attitude on the American Frontier, live hard and play hard, but we as a country only touched distance death. Now during the Civil War of Northern Aggression and a Thousand other Names, yeah, especially in the South. Live hard, play hard, die hard.

      Delete
    5. Aye. Now more and more of our countrymen would gladly trade freedom for apparent "safety." This past year (cough cough).

      Delete
    6. Beans - You saw it in the Northeast during the time leading up to the French and Indian War. Death was literally everywhere on the frontier. There was no "distance death" there. But yeah, live hard, play hard. Don't worry about the things you cannot change.

      Delete
  8. Have to ask - was the story line on Beth in any way, shape, or form inspired by the episode in the TV series 'Combat', where Sgt "Chip" Saunders is in a town currently behind the front line, no Germans, no shelling, nothing....and a local gal is dancing around excited and happy about being freed from German occupation? Sgt. Saunders is watching her dance around, full of a joy of life, when she steps on a mine and goes boom.
    Frank

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No it wasn't, at last not consciously, I did watch that show as a kid. So it may be a long lost memory which my subconscious used to influence this story.

      I also discovered that YouTube has full episodes of Combat!, which I intend to revisit.

      Delete
    2. Damn, Sarge! Hadta put that out there didn't ya? Now I'm hooked! I probably haven't watched an episode since... shit, I can't even guess, but it's been several decades anyhow. I forgot (or never realized back then) how they incorporated real combat footage into the episodes.

      Delete
    3. That's one of the things I liked about that show.

      Delete
    4. Those Combat! shows are also on the H&I TV network, around here they run Black Sheep Squadron, then Combat!, Rat Patrol and finish with 12 O"Clock High one night of the week.

      Delete
    5. Combat! is (or was) available on DVD
      BG

      Delete
  9. Oh, man ... the pull gets stronger and stronger even as you're building toward the end of the war. I hope you'll press on to the discovery of the camps and (if accurate) Occupation duty for the 1st ID. There's a lot of meat on those bones, too. A phenomenal labor of love, Sarge!

    ReplyDelete
  10. I don't know how to safely allow a large number of armed and dangerous combat veterans to surrender. But I bet I'm going to find out.

    I think I'd do it the same way I learned to put somebody in cuffs at FLETC but writ large and repeat.

    As was said, may you muse find some mercy, but life isn't usually like that.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My guess is it is easier when the "armed and dangerous combat vets" WANT to surrender. They know if they don't there is almost 100% certainty of being shot and dying, or being hung by their own side for imagined slights.
      Never been in a shooting war, but after several years, I'm guessing, most folks are ready to be done with it and return to "normal".

      Delete
    2. John - It will be tricky. But yeah, most of the Germans in von Lüttwitz' battalion are ready for things to be over.

      Delete
    3. Suz - Yes, most of them are ready to end it.

      I can think of another place where people yearn for a return to "normal."

      Delete
    4. It's easy. First the Surrendering have to make sure they're safe from their own side, then they just lay down their arms, stand up with their hands up, and walk forward, led by their leader.

      Really.

      Very surprisingly simple. So simple it takes one a-hole to copulate it up by being either nervous or devious.

      There are lots and lots and lots of examples by this time in Europe of whole unit surrenders.

      It's ensuring that no anuses are going to copulate it up that is hard. One of the first ways is to send scouts with the proposition. Which Herr Major has done. And sending a leader-class individual with a danger-class person is a 'good faith' gesture.

      And Sauer is a pig farmer. One thing pig farmers know how to do is culling the (more) dangerous pigs out from the rest. And then remembering there is no such thing as a truly undangerous pig, well, until they've been slaughtered, that is.

      Delete
  11. My commission on giving you ideas is gonna be HUGE! Muhahahaha. I can finally afford that non-extremely knock-off stick of gum, and I can buy the just-off-brand variety! Whoooo!

    Seriously, glad we all here at the Chant! can help your muse.

    As in this stage of the game things were tricky. Especially with the Germans. You have ones that are jus SOBs of the highest variety, ones driven to despair due to the loss of family and friends from Allied bombings or German secret police, and ones that are just driven mad by the madness or by the indoctrinations.

    Very much looking forward to seeing what happens. Please let it go according to plan.

    And it didn't have to be an air-raid or a V weapon that got McGee, directly. Could have been an undetected UXB, as Londoners were dealing with those for years after the War. I seem to remember them finding a big German bomb in the Thames within the last 10 years or so.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Paddock was told (probably by Edith) that Beth died in an air raid. Could have been either a V1 or a V2. We may never know.

      Delete
  12. One comment about air raids - as late as 1945 small-scale air raids by jet bombers (yes, apart from Me-262, Germans did field some true jet bombers like Arado-234
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arado_Ar_234
    and of course true to Hitler's "revenge weapons" obsession, they have been used to bomb London along V-1 and V-2 attacks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yup, Hitler sent aircraft over England as late as '45. To little or no effect.

      Delete
  13. A series to look forward to. Sir Antony Beevor, Sir Ridley Scott and Steven Knight are working on a series provisionally called 'Roads To Freedom' that will deal with with last year of the war based on the perspectives of the ordinary people who were involved in the war. Interestingly Sir Antony said he got the best accounts of the war from women, as they weren't interested in embellishing what they had done.
    Retired

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've read two of Sir Antony's books already, have two more on the stack. Love his work.

      Delete
  14. Yes, it's going to be interesting. If any of those fanatics get wind of what's going to happen Sauer is likely to get shot in the back. Or if any stray Americans aren't in on it, they'll start shooting in the whole thing will fall apart. I'm looking forward to how you work this out.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's going to be touch and go...

      Or it might be as simple as, "Oh, there you are. Ready to surrender? Yes? Come on in."

      Delete
    2. Somebody might ATTEMPT to shoot Sauer in the back. Dude's survived a lot of war and grew up raising hogs, a critter you don't turn your back on. My money's on Manfred.
      Boat Guy

      Delete
    3. Attempt being the operative word...

      Delete
  15. *and the whole thing will fall apart, not in.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I had to read that twice, wouldn't have seen the error if you hadn't mentioned it. 😁

      Delete
    2. Yeah, it was pretty minor, but the CDO in me couldn't stand it. CDO is like OCD but it's in alphabetical order like it's supposed to be.

      Delete
  16. This will wind up as a trilogy.
    Volume One: France. The Big Red One's war in France, and von Luttwitzes escape.
    Volume Two: The Forests. Hurtgen, and the Bulge
    Volume Three: Closure January to July 1945. ( at least get everyone started home )

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well it sorta is now, right?

      Delete
    2. Volume Three may well have some folks get orders to units in the Pacific Theater of Operations.

      Delete
  17. Wow, kind of good news all around. Now to find out if it holds...

    ReplyDelete

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

NOTE: Comments on posts over 5 days old go into moderation, automatically.