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.


  1. Be careful, guys! Good luck, I hope you make it to the Americans!

    1. With a little over a month left to the end, there's a lot which could go sideways.

    2. Yes, an A26 could catch a glimpse of what looked like German infantry headed for American lines.

  2. I second that! Hopefully they make it safely to the Americans!

    - Victor

    1. They have to watch their backs with their own side as well.

  3. Still some very capable and resourceful men in this well-led unit. Scrounging, demo and marksmanship are always valuable. Glad they're headed towards the 26th Infantry.
    Vaya con Dios
    Boat Guy


  4. There is a mental tension when I start reading each post.

    I'm glad I could relax at the end of this one.

    But I'm still mighty wary of the future.

    I will resume crossing my fingers after I push the "Publish" button.

    Thank you and keep up the good work.

    1. The tension is intentional, so I guess I'm doing a good job. 😁

  5. Like John fingers will be crossed, good thing some yardwork was done yesterday since holding a rake would be difficult. Those 2nd Battalion lads have a hike to do. Your Muse likes tension Sarge.

  6. Ought "blow the train up, and had back towards the American lines" read "blow the train up, and head back towards the American lines"?

  7. Hey Old AFSarge;

    I am just brainstorming, but don't German Tanks have the pivotsteer like our tanks and tracks do? Have them pivot 90 degrees on the railcars and they can probable roll off depending if there is room for them to rotate 90 degrees in place depending on the height and terrain around the flatcars. There is some risk to the operation, but it would be better to have the armor as backup rather than leave it on the train? Just a thought. Your Muse is on a roll...

    1. Actually, German tanks did not have pivot steer (or neutral steer as I've also seen it referred to). So that wouldn't be an option.

      But given the rather flat terrain in that area, they couldn't really drive them off either. Besides which, I think the lads realize that having armor makes you conspicuous. As much as the Panzertruppen hate walking, they hate dying more.

    2. That's a long way to fall down, over 6', and rail beds are usually sloped and ballasted up at least another 2', so, generally, pivot steering and dropping off is counter-indicated for the continued use of the vehicle. It can be done, but... If they were at a freight depot, maybe.

    3. Offloading the tracks might also look suspicious. Not that things wouldn't anyway. Hopefully the bad people are occupied elsewhere.
      Boat Guy

    4. Another consideration right there.

  8. Why do I get the strange feeling that either Lt Sauet or Major Von Luttiz will not survive this.

    1. But many, if not most, of us are hoping for just that to happen. These are good men, deserving of a good end. Not the way to bet perhaps but that's why it's called "hope".
      Boat Guy

    2. They do deserve a good end, but then again, so do many others who didn't get that. My Muse, as you may have noticed, can be fickle.

  9. Why do I have the Monkeys' song "Last train to Clarkesville" running through my head now, after reading the title? Weird...

    And... "Schneider wandered what Zweigart..." should read "Schneider wondered what Zweigart..." Unless Schneider's mind wandered. I wonder.

    Excellent story. Though most steam engineers I have met all seem to have formed a romantic attachment of some sorts with their wards, I mean with their engines. Of course, having the engine blown up from above or the rather hard-faced soldiers around said engine might change even the most enamored steam-jockey's mind.

    Very good story. They finally said the German equivalent of "Screw It!" and are actively seeking escape. I wonder how many units actually did this?

    And... a cliff-hanger...

    1. D'oh! Fixed it. (My mind might have wandered while wondering...)

      Schneider does love his ride, but he loves his life more.

    2. Well, sometimes when my Muse is running my fingers, she tends to get a tad excited and speeds up and letters get garbled or dropped, so...

  10. Scrounging is a highly valuable and very under-rated skill.

    I cannot imagine having to consider "your" side as big or bigger a threat than those you are fighting.

    1. It's kind of the state our current military is in. Insiders are more dangerous to the American Fighting Man right now than even Jihadis.

    2. TB - Having an accomplished scrounge in a unit is a very good thing.

    3. Beans - Not sure things have gone that far yet.

      On the gripping hand, did you see that the newly appointed Zampolit for SOCOM is being investigated for his Tweets prior to his appointment? (What they really need to look at are the ass-clowns who thought that that appointment was a good idea.)

    4. That SOB is perfect for the job; he posted a Photoshop photo of Hitler and used it to "compare" to President Trump. I'm pretty sure our current masters saw that as a positive.
      Boat Guy

    5. Boat Guy,

      Gee, you'd think that they'd have done that before hiring the piece of excrement. After all, they're doing that to officer candidated, SpecForce candidated, downgrading people for tattoos and so forth and so on...

  11. Well done - I wasn't expecting this!


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

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