Wednesday, March 24, 2021

The Plan


"Herr Leutnant?" Hauptfeldwebel Klaus-Peter Keller leaned his head through the doorway as he spoke. He could see that Leutnant Sauer was busy, but what he had to tell him couldn't wait.

Sauer put the pen down he had been using to write up a report of the preceding day's activities, the war might be lost but the paperwork never ended, and looked up at his company sergeant major, the Spieß. "What is it, Klaus-Peter? Can't it wait?"

"No Sir, it cannot. We have a serious problem. The 3rd Platoon commander is here with his 2nd Squad leader. Seems that two of his men ran off, they were hanged by the Kettenhunde." Keller motioned for three men to come into Sauer's makeshift office. Unteroffizier Michael Böhm, commander of the 3rd Platoon, and Gefreiter Wilhelm Ziegler, the leader of that platoon's 2nd Squad came in, followed by a third man, a grenadier.

"Böhm, Ziegler," Sauer nodded brusquely at the two men then asked, "Who is this?" gesturing at the grenadier.

"Herr Leutnant, this is Grenadier Jochen Wagner, he went to relieve the sentry on the Hauptstrasse and no one was there. When he checked the duty roster at that post, he noted that Grenadier Jürgen Jäger was supposed to relieve Grenadier Steffen Krämer at 0400, when he reported this, and I looked around their bivouac, neither man was present. Ziegler is his squad leader. The two missing men are from his squad." Böhm nodded at Wagner.

"Sir, like the Unteroffizier said, when I went to take over the post the man who was supposed to be there was not, the man he relieved was also not there. So I reported this to Gefreiter Ziegler." Wagner seemed nervous, thinking that he could be in serious trouble.

"Böhm, how do you know your men were executed by the Feldgendarmerie?" Sauer asked.

"Sir, as my squad is responsible for the main road into town, the Feldgendarmerie came to the post there. I was with Wagner and Ziegler when the Feldgendarmerie came in a Kübelwagen, two men, one a Hauptmann the other an Oberfeldwebel. They asked me if I knew where the 5th Company of the 2nd Battalion was, I told them I was part of that unit. Then they handed me this..." Böhm handed over an official looking document to Sauer.

Sauer read for a few seconds, then handed the document to Keller, "Log this in, put it in the Company records. It's the official notice of the court-martial and execution of Grenadiers Jürgen Jäger and Steffen Krämer. Officially they were deserters. I'm sure the trial was brief, as in 'Where are your travel papers? Oh, you have none, guilty of desertion, that tree there looks sufficient.' Then those two were hauled kicking and screaming into the air. No doubt with the proper signage on their chests indicating their crime."

"Gentlemen, let me speak with young Wagner here for a moment." The other men all left, leaving Wagner alone in the room with Sauer.

"What's your name Grenadier?"

"Wagner, Jochen, Grenadier, Dienstnummer¹..." Wagner began but Sauer interrupted him.

"At ease, sit down Jochen, cigarette?" Sauer offered his own cigarette case as he gestured to the only other chair in the small room.

"Thank you Herr Leutnant!" Wagner answered formally, snapping his heels together before sitting down, at attention of course.

"Relax, I need to ask you a question. The men Jäger and Krämer, did you know them well?" Sauer sat on the other side of the table serving as his desk and lit a cigarette as well, he wanted Wagner relaxed. Hard to do, he remembered from the time when he had been a very junior enlisted man.

"Well, we had been in the same platoon, 4th Platoon, back when we had our Drillings,² but they were in another crew. I didn't like those men, all of them had been Hitler Youth. Begging the Leutnant's pardon, but I was raised Catholic, my parents didn't like the National Socialists. I had to join the Hitler Youth but was never enthusiastic about it. But Jäger and Krämer? They would have gone into the Waffen SS if they hadn't been drafted into the Luftwaffe first." Wagner was loosening up, he had heard that the Leutnant was a decent man, not a fanatic, in fact, some of the men were rather proud that their company commander had once been like them, a lowly private soldier.

"Luftwaffe? So they started life in the anti-aircraft business, eh?"

"Yes Sir, the Luftwaffe..." Wagner began, but Sauer stopped him.

"Yes Jochen, they did to be more politically aware, I know. Tell me, how many true believers do we have in the company? Would you know?" Sauer was taking a chance on this, but he thought he could trust Wagner to a certain extent. Especially when he noted that the boy still wore a crucifix under his tunic. He had glimpsed it when Wagner had leaned forward to stub out his cigarette. No Nazi would wear a symbol of the Church.

"I don't know everyone Sir, but not many, not anymore anyway." Wagner offered.

"I'm sure the enthusiasm has waned since we started to lose the war." Sauer probed.

"Lose the war, Sir?" Wagner took a deep breath, then threw caution to the winds, "the war was lost when the Amis broke through in Normandy. Except for brief pauses, we've been running ever since."

"Yes, that we have. Dismissed Jochen." Sauer watched as Wagner got up and turned to leave, then Sauer added, "No need to let everyone know about our little chat, yes?"

"Of course not, Sir."

Major Jürgen von Lüttwitz was sitting, deep in thought, waiting for the key people in the battalion to file in and find a place to sit. They were in a semi-destroyed Gasthaus, one wall was gone, parts of the roof were missing, but the building contained the largest room in the village so this was where the battalion headquarters was, at least for the moment.

Von Lüttwitz had had a messenger visit him just before dawn. The messenger relayed the news that the division was planning on falling back to the Ruhrgebiet, 8th Panzergrenadier Regiment, with its component battalions, was expected to step off the next day. There were, allegedly, trains standing by to haul the men and their remaining vehicles to the north.

Time was running out for him to make his move. He didn't want to see any more of his men die. He'd had enough of that. He looked up, everyone was seated, waiting on him to begin, he looked at Leutnant Sauer. Sauer nodded, so von Lüttwitz began to speak.

"As you know, the war is irretrievably lost, even though the idiots in Berlin refuse to recognize that. Our upper leaders here in the field also refuse to see the truth. We are defeated. All that remains is for more of Germany to be destroyed and for more Germans to die meaningless deaths. Not to mention the cost to the Amis and the Tommies, I don't think they will be very forgiving at losing men to defeat an army which refuses to lay down its arms. Thoughts gentlemen?"

Sauer spoke, "You all know my thoughts on this. You may not know that we sent two men into the American lines to be captured on purpose, so that we could relay a message to the Americans indicating our desire to cease the killing and surrender. We have received an answer from the Amis this very morning."

Von Lüttwitz looked at Sauer, this was news to him, Sauer explained, "The message came while you were with the messenger from Regiment. I won't give details on how we received the message, other than to say that a very brave villager came across the lines to deliver it, he returned to the Amis after he left his message."

"We have instructions?" von Lüttwitz asked.

"Yes Sir. Now as we all know, many villages have been hanging out white sheets, clothing, whatever they can find to indicate that the villagers give up, it also means, usually, that there are no soldiers remaining in the village. Obviously the Americans have been very cautious, the SS have used the white flags to lure the Amis in, then ambushed them."

"SS bastards!" One of the platoon commanders, Feldwebel Klaus Haasen, muttered under his breath.

Sauer nodded, "The American commander knows of this, he has communicated the idea that we hang a large national flag out of an upper story of the town hall. As if we intend to fight to the end. That's the signal. We hold our positions and wait. That's all there is to it, but..."

"What if someone decides to open fire?" Unteroffizier Thorben Haas, commander of the 2nd Platoon asked, "Are we ready to shoot some of our own to save the rest?"

Leutnant Ralf Heinrich, commanding the three armored vehicles attached to the battalion, spoke up, "I think we have identified the few diehards among us already. Two of them tried to report our plan to the authorities, who didn't believe them and hanged them as deserters. We spread the word of that among the men, most were happy to see the end of those two. Three men were not, they will be sent to Regiment tonight with orders to secure our places in the trains heading for Düsseldorf. It conveniently gets them out of the way. I think this plan will work."

"Will you be destroying your vehicles Leutnant?" Sauer asked that question, though he was ready to quit the fight, he had no desire to assist the Americans. Letting the two Panthers and the StuG fall into enemy hands was not an option.

"Yes Manfred, we will be positioned on the northern edge of the village, covering the sector facing the German lines. If anyone tries to approach we fire at them, to warn them off. The timing is going to be tight. We will not kill our fellow Germans, well, unless they are Feldgendarmerie, SS, SD, or GFP. Them I would relish shooting at. When the Americans arrive, we detonate charges to destroy our vehicles. It breaks my heart, but I won't see them in the hands of the enemy." Heinrich sighed, looked at the floor, then looked at the assembly and spoke one last thing, "I don't like this, but my men and I know the war is lost. We want to live, perhaps rebuild Germany some day. I don't know, but my wife Ilse writes me that things are bad on the home front. If the war continues much longer, who knows what will happen?"

Oberfeldwebel Georg Eichmann, the acting battalion sergeant major, spoke up, "Do we know anything about these Americans, are we surrendering to combat soldiers? I don't wish to surrender to clerks and cooks, not if I don't have to."

"They are the 1st Battalion of the 26th Infantry Regiment, part of their 1st Infantry Division, they wear a red numeral one on a green shield on their shoulder. We have faced them before, in the Hürtgen, in the Ardennes, at the Battle of the Crossroads, and again at Kreuzau. They are a crack division, one of the Amis' best. As good as, if not better than, our own Großdeutschland division." von Lüttwitz answered.

"So it's settled then. When do we do this?" Hauptfeldwebel Klaus-Peter Keller, 5th Company's Spieß asked.

"Tomorrow at dawn we put the Nazi flag out, then we wait. Spieß, I want all of the MG 34s and MG 42s collected tonight, delivered to battalion headquarters, the story is that the weapons folks are going to inspect and service them according to an order received from Army Group B, ordered by Generalfeldmarschall Model himself in preparation for our heroic defense of the Ruhrgebiet. That should keep anyone from getting too trigger happy. The Amis hear one of our machine guns, they don't ask questions, they call in artillery. Stress to your men that any sign of resistance and we will all be wiped out. The note from the American commander was clear on that." von Lüttwitz scanned the room one last time.

"If there are no questions, that is all. I will be making the rounds throughout the night, talking to the men, and to you. We make this work or we all will probably die. If the Amis don't kill us, our own side will. Hals- und Beinbruch, meine Herren!³"

As the others left to return to their units, von Lüttwitz murmured to his two lieutenants, "Manfred, Ralf, stay behind, I have some last minute details to cover."


The officers and sergeants of the 2nd Battalion, 8th Panzergrenadier Regiment faced a long night, and a very uncertain future.

For them the war would soon be over, one way or another...

¹ Service number
² Sd.Kfz. 251/21, a halftrack mounting three 2 cm cannon.
³ Break a leg, gentlemen. That is, good luck.

Link to all of the Chant's fiction.


  1. Sounds like it just might work.

    1. Hope so. Hope the three hardcases don't take any allies with them as they go to their fates.
      Great photos, hope they can be used in the book.
      Boat Guy

    2. William - “The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men, / Gang aft agley,”

    3. BG - As you may well imagine, the road ahead is fraught with peril.

  2. That first photo......there's somebody who's seen the elephant, too many times. Fingers crossed for the Major to pull this off, going to be a loooonng day until the next post Sarge.

    1. That's definitely a picture of someone who's either broken or about to break. Not a 1000 meter stare, more like a 1000 kilometer stare.

      I've seen that look before, when I was working at the Not Criminally Sentenced Due to Being Mentally Insane NOT-Prison.

    2. Pretty common expression among combat vets after too many days on the line. Which for WWII Germans was pretty much 24/7/365.

  3. "The Amis hear one of our machine guns, they don't ask questions, they call in artillery."
    And an airstrike!

    As said above. Waiting for the next post.

    1. What comes across in a lot of the accounts of this stage of the war, particularly from a British perspective, was that how exasperated the British were by the refusal of many German units to surrender. Max Hastings comments on the tendency of the British at this stage of the war to use overwhelming fire superiority rather than maneuvering around obstacles. One account tells of British units being held up by German forces in a wood. The Germans were invited to surrender, they didn't. The result was a massive artillery barrage, air strike and as a finale the use of Churchill flamethrower tanks. When they moved on there was nothing left of the wood (and occupants) but glowing embers. Hastings gets a bit sniffy about the reluctance of the British infantry to attack at this stage of the war but I would say that it was obvious the war was won by this stage and no one wants to be the last soldier killed. Interestingly artillery was the one allied arm of service that the Germans recognized as superior to anything they had.

    2. The British Army was also running out of infantry. The generals were loathe to sacrifice more men, the troops themselves no doubt thought it "unsporting" of the Huns to keep fighting when the outcome was no longer really in doubt.

      Sir Max wasn't there, he might have felt different if he'd been on the sharp edge.

    3. WW1 cast a long institutional shadow.

  4. I'm sure your muse will throw in a couple of surprises - I just hope they are not fatal for 'our' Germans, or our 1AD men. Nice way to ramp up tension again, Sarge!

    1. I can barely wait to see what happens next, my Muse, fickle thing that she is.

  5. And I'm sitting here thinking about what could screw this up for them- another unit rolling through their area, some Feldgendarmerie in another wagon passing under that Nazi flag, etc. Good luck von Lüttwitz, you're gonna need it.

    1. There is much that could go wrong, and probably will!

  6. Goosebumps! I've got goosebumps!!

  7. Now is the time to be truly the few hours before the plan takes effect. Anything can go wrong...and usually does. I hope the best for the Major, Sauer and the men who have truly seen to many elephants in their time.

    1. I'm kinda nervous about the whole thing myself!

  8. Hey Old AFSarge;

    The Die is cast, it will roll what it may. Made me proud for you to describe my old division that way "They are the 1st Battalion of the 26th Infantry Regiment, part of their 1st Infantry Division, they wear a red numeral one on a green shield on their shoulder. We have faced them before, in the Hürtgen, in the Ardennes, at the Battle of the Crossroads, and again at Kreuzau. They are a crack division, one of the Amis' best. As good as, if not better than, our own Großdeutschland division." von Lüttwitz answered. "No Mission Too Difficult, No Sacrifice Too Great, Duty First!". Now I am on Pins and Needles, Good Going

    1. There's many a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip...

      The Big Red One has always been a damned good outfit.

    2. As they say, "If you're going to be one you might as well be a Big Red One!". Larry K

  9. That has to be hard to do...

  10. Am still wondering if our two Kettelhunde will show up to join our Germans. It would be nice, but you can't save everyone. Just saving the few remaining of Herr Major's command will be difficult at best.

    Smart sending the MGs off, though removing and hiding the firing pins or some other critical part would have worked, until, well, like in "Aliens" the personally held backups appear. So, yeah, getting the MGs out of the way... And having the loyal NCOs remove the firing mechanisms from all the panzerfausts and collecting grenades for 'preparation for shipping' and such.

    You do write quite good cliffhangers.


    It will definitely be interesting to see if any of the soldiers get tied up or beat into submission by their squad mates.

  11. Fingers crossed for an honorable surrender.

  12. Sarge, I would swear you sit back and chuckle as finish these and post them, knowing we will be manning the keyboards early for the update.

    (He says, impatiently clicking his fingers on the keyboard...)

    1. Well, I have to confess, I do enjoy throwing the occasional curve ball...

  13. Still catching up. Sleep or read? Can't... stop... reading... And I like my sleep....

    >> come into the Sauer's makeshift office

    --> come into the letuenant's makeshift office
    --> come into Sauer's makeshift office

    1. D'oh, I think I was halfway between those two phrases and fell right in the middle. That is, I botched it completely.

      Fixed it. Good eye!


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