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

to all of the Chant's fiction.


  1. To someone with morals war can be abhorrent. Of course that can be influenced if your side started the war also.

    1. My country does things today (yesterday too) that I have no say on, things I don't agree with. Until that last election I could say my vote counted, but I watched what happened with the counting on that one.
      Still, I'm an American and I'm judged as such... that's just how it is.

      The Germans in this WW2 story will always be Germans from WW2.

    2. Yes Nylon, war is abhorrent; but it is not the most abhorrent thing...
      Boat Guy

  2. "...we try to stay moral men, we try to keep our honor, I don't have an answer... " We fight for our homes now, it's all we have left."

    Welcome to the 21st century....

  3. Sometimes it seems like you have a lot of honorable men fighting in wars that were started by self-serving snakes.

    1. Always thus, since the first records of war.

      Trojan War? Started by a whiny self-serving snake of a woman and a whiny self-serving snake of a man-boy and it just escalated.

      Heck, the Bible is full of good men dying because of self-serving snakes. King David was a good boy who turned into a self-serving snake, and sent a good man to die so he could swive the man's wife.

      And then there's... well, not enough electrons in the world to catalogue the SSSess...

    2. Frank - I would wager that that is true of all wars.

    3. I rather liked the short story where two countries had governments gearing up to fight each other; so the respective armies captured their own politicians, placed them together in an arena, gave them machetes, and told them to go at it.

  4. Hey Ild AFSarge;

    To keep your morals is the hope of all Soldiers, it helps you survive the moral ambiguities of War. If you tried to do the right thing by the rules of war and your conscience it is easier to deal with what you had to do and deal with yourself after it is over. I wrestled a bit after I returned from the Gulf in 1991, but I knew that I did everything by the rules of war and we acted in a ethical manner as much as possible. It made it easier to retain our honor and dignity knowing we did the right thing. I didn't hate the average Iraqi soldier, I dealt with them as POW's during the war and afterwards, I had no animosity toward them, we were soldiers. Now the Republican Guard was a different animal, they were the ones that were brutal toward the Kuwaiti's and that is the reason they were hammered so hard by us besides having the better training and equipment. Excellent Post as always.

  5. Dangit, I messed up your name...

    1. Eh, reads like Ild Englishe...

    2. MrG - No worries, perhaps you were thinking of the Iliad when you were typing. 🙄

  6. Bad time to be a railroader, what with the Amis and Tommies blowing up track and train day and night. Jabos during the day, Mosquitoes at night. Nothing was safe.

    To top it off, the silly Heer having an accidental discharge or two and the train becoming lighter...

    Good story.

    Now to see what happens next week. Dang cliffhangers over a weekend...

    1. I had to get a train into the story. One of my favorite movies is the Burt Lancaster film The Train, some really evocative scenes in that film. I watched it again not that long ago, still think it's brilliant. So yes, we have a train in the story. Which might give you an idea of where I'm going over the next couple of days.

    2. You're going to railroad us, aren't you?

    3. So, Army Training it is.

      That is a great movie.

    4. John - "Army training, Sir!"

      It is indeed.

    5. This could be the best WW2 book in history.... But it doesn't have mom, a truck, prison or getting drunk...

      I was drunk the day my mom got out of prison..... And I went to pick her up in the rain!!!!
      But before I could get to the station in my pickup truck, she got perforated near a danged old train!!!!
      And I hang around as long as you will let me...... ♫♫ "Ach du lieber"... Or is is "Ach, du Scheiße!"

      Apologies to you and David Allen Cole, but I just couldn't help myself....
      I'm here all week....

    6. Pretty sure the surname is Coe.

    7. (Don McCollor)...The Brits and the OSS developed a train sabotage device called "Casey Jones" that was magnetically held by an axle bearing, and would detonate a little after the light suddenly changed (like going into a tunnel). Taking advantage of the German mentality, it was authoritatively stenciled "Official Rail Movement Control Device. Do Not Remove Without Authorization"...

    8. STxAR - Are you conflating WW2 books with country and western songs? 😁😉

    9. BG - I'll take you word for it, I had to look it up. (He ain't in the Foo Fighters, that's all I know...)

    10. Don - Now that sounds very German.

      Offizielles Gerät zur Steuerung der Schienenbewegung, Nicht ohne Genehmigung entfernen!

    11. (Don McCollor)... Danke schon [supposed to be an umlaut] (had to translate it. My German is fifty years old and learned in high school)...

    12. No... You said you had to have a train it the story, and that spurred an song memory, and it just seemed to fit... As I said.... my apologies.... but that would make it the BEST WW2 story ever written.... much like the song....

      BG... of course you are correct. I'm a DOT, dumb ol' Texan... I can fouled up a railroad with a rubber mallet, just ask my dad (on the other side). One of his favorite things to tell me.

    13. STxAR - Oh, I'll take the compliment, any day.

      Moms and prisons? I could maybe work that in, but it's Germany in 1945, might be a pretty dark story...

    14. Too bad the surrender went off the rails for Sauer and von Luttwitz. I hope they keep their train of thought and get it back on track.

  7. A the beginninkg.

    "Grenadier Michael Wagner's eyes went wide when he realized what was happening, his fellow soldiers

    Grenadier Michael Wagner's eyes went wide when he realized what was happening. His fellow soldiers

    1. Yup, better flow. I also added the word "too" in front of "busy."

      Good suggestion William!

  8. Another WWII train movie sprang to mind, not nearly as good as the Lancaster one; "von Ryan's Express" with Sinatra.
    Glad von L gets to let his hair down a bit but he (and Manfred) are gonna need to be sharp in the coming hours and days.
    Boat Guy

    1. Ah, good one, I like that one too, as an action movie.

  9. War conflates and confuses everything. One wonders if, in the future, one would read of "those Americans" the way we read of others today.


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