Friday, April 30, 2021

The Last Fight, Ambushed


"Better slow it down Harry, I think our escort sees something they don't like." Major Alphonse Josephson, commanding the 1st Battalion of the 26th Infantry sat up straighter in the jeep's front seat. His driver, Cpl. Harry Somers, was slowing the jeep as the M8 Greyhound to their front had come nearly to a complete stop.

They were on the outskirts of a little Czech village which Josephson couldn't find on his map. He turned to his radioman, Sgt. Bill Wilkinson, sitting in the back of the jeep. "See if you can't get regiment on the horn, I think we took a wrong turn..."

A loud explosion interrupted the Major as the lead Greyhound had started to roll forward again, right over a German Teller mine. The back of the armored car was engulfed in flames and the crew was starting to bail out of the vehicle. German machine gun fire from a building further into the village cut down one of the men before he could jump off, the others scrambled into a nearby building.

"Come on guys, we're a sitting duck." Josephson yelled as Somers tried to maneuver the jeep to head back the way they had come up, but the other escorting Greyhound behind them was blocking the way.

The sound of a heavy round passing close by made all three men duck their heads. Somers was looking for an opportunity to turn the jeep and he saw the round glance off the turret of the M8 behind them. That glancing blow made the driver of the Greyhound back into a barn beside the road. It gave Somers the opportunity he was looking for.

He spun the jeep through a 180 degree turn and was nearly clear when the Greyhound lurched into the road again, blocking the jeep's escape route.

From the back of the jeep Sgt. Wilkinson yelled, "We need to get out of this f**king jeep!"

Looking back over his shoulder, Josephson saw why.

Schwere Panzerspähwagen¹ (5cm) Puma Sd.Kfz.234/2

The enemy vehicle fired again, hitting the surviving Greyhound in the front, just below the turret. The vehicle kept rolling into the field beside the road. It was starting to burn, no one got out.

Josephson was leading his two men into a small building, it looked like a shop of some kind, when the German vehicle fired again, hitting the jeep. Wilkinson groaned, "There goes our ride."

"Sir, I'm getting something over the radio, it's breaking up pretty badly, but it sounds like Major Josephson's radioman, Bill Wilkinson." Cpl. Jacob Winters was listening intently, trying to get a better signal. "Sounds like they were ambushed!"

2nd Lt. Mitch Hornsby was at the company CP with just a few of the other company men, Cpt. Stephen Hernandez was out with a platoon-sized patrol, exploring the valley and the hill across from their position. "Can you get the Cap'n on the radio?"

"They're out there moving quietly, Cap'n said not to call them as their radio would be off unless they needed something." Winters answered.

"Damn it. Where's Top?"

"Over on the right flank, checking in with 3rd Platoon."

"Shit! Cline, go round up everybody, leave the cooks and their helpers here. Tell  S/Sgt Santos that he's going to have to mind the store for now. Ramsay, go fire up the halftrack with the .50 mounted on top!"

Cpl. Glenn Cline and T/5 Leo Ramsey hastened out the door of the small house to grab the men who were available, which amounted to the company messengers, the captain's bugler, and the company orderly.

While ten men in a halftrack wasn't much of a rescue mission, it was all they had. 1st Platoon was on the patrol with Cpt. Hernandez, so after a brief conversation over the radio with the 2nd and 3rd Platoon leaders, 1st Lt. Nate Paddock and 2nd Lt. Bob Poole, the consensus was that Hornsby really had no other choice.

As they were loading up, 1st Lt. Herman Jacobsen, commanding Weapons Platoon walked up. "What's going on Pebs?"

Hornsby winced at the new nickname, even the shorter version sounded odd, then he explained the situation, Jacobsen yelled for his platoon sergeant, S/Sgt. Walt Copeland, who hustled over.

"Unload one of our vehicles and have Ernie Rodgers, Muñoz, Barrett, Garza, and Rose load up for a field trip. I'm sending those guys with you Pebs, all right? Garza and Rose are both B.A.R. men, give you a little extra firepower."

"Hey, the more the merrier." Hornsby nodded as Cpl. Cline came up to let them know they were ready to roll. Within minutes, the little two vehicle convoy rolled out of Charlie Company's bivouac to attempt to rescue their battalion commander.

"How bad is it Sir?" Somers was bleeding from a wound in his lower abdomen, it hurt like Hell.

Josephson and Wilkinson had bandaged Somers up as best they could, he'd caught a ricochet from that damn German machine gun a few houses down the road.

"It's stopped bleeding Harry. Should I give him some morphine Sir? I have a couple of syrettes." Wilkinson asked.

"No, I'm okay, don't knock me out with that stuff, you might need my carbine." Somers protested.

"If you can handle it, okay, no morphine. But if it gets to be too much, let me know." Maj. Josephson said, patting Somers on the shoulder.

Wilkinson was now at the window, trying to get a look down the road. "That Kraut armored car has vanished."

"Probably went to cover, with all the aircraft passing by, he's probably afraid of being a target. Thing is, this area is supposed to be behind our lines. The flyboys might not go after him. Thank God they don't know that or they'd blast us out of here."

A burst of machine gun fire walked down the road and grazed the corner of their building.

"I don't think we're in the Krauts' direct line of fire. I don't know what they're shooting at." Josephson said with some exasperation, "Did you get through on the radio, Bill?"

"Maybe Sir, it sounded like Winters over at C Company, don't know if they got the message though." Wilkinson went to the back of the shop and was looking out the windows at the back of the building.

"We're in luck, this building backs up on a sheer hill, walls on both sides, for the Krauts to get behind us they'd have to be acrobats. With buildings to either side, we should be good, as long as that damned armored car stays away." Wilkinson reported.

"Good, it's gonna be dark soon. I want to try and get out of here when that happens. I'm betting that armored car won't wait long to come get us once it gets dark enough. If he's still around that is." Josephson checked his watch. This was going to be touch and go.

"Jesus L.T., which fork do we take?" Ramsey was driving the halftrack, Hornsby was sitting up just behind him in the crew compartment. The front passenger's seat was occupied by Pfc. Santos Clarke who had had some training on the .50 caliber machine gun mounted over the passenger's seat.

M3A1 Halftrack

Ramsey glanced back at the map the lieutenant was holding, he saw the fork, he managed to suppress his surprise that the lieutenant could actually read a map.

"You know Sir, that left fork heads up to where the regimental CP is supposed to be, the right fork is probably the way they went. Leads down into Indian country I think." Ramsey explained, pointing at the map.

"Yup, I think so too." Hornsby walked to the rear of the crew compartment and yelled back at Cpl. Rodgers in the WC-51. "We're gonna go right, whaddaya think?"

Rodgers had come to the same conclusion as Ramsey, "I think that's the wrong way to go if you wanna avoid Krauts..."

"Yup, so that's the way the Major went." Hornsby nodded, "Let's move out, it's gonna be dark soon. I don't wanna be out here for some Hitler Youth with a Panzerfaust to pick off." Hornsby waved the little convoy forward.

The crew of the German armored car had indeed gone to cover. The sight of so many Jabos flying past made the car commander very nervous. He'd managed to confer with the Hauptmann holed up in the village inn with a single MG 34, guy's name was Schuler he thought.

"The man was drunk out of his mind Willi." Oberfeldwebel Kurt Schonheim confided in his gunner, Obergefreiter Willi Krüger. "I saw one extra box of ammunition, I think that's all he's got, and he was pissing bullets down the street like nobody's business. Der Mann ist verrückt!²"

"So Kurt, why are we sticking around? Will we wait until a Sherman comes along and blows us all to Hell? We've got enough petrol to go maybe a hundred kilometers. I say we get the Hell out of here."

"And go where Willi?" Oberpanzerschütze Heinz Lessing piped up from his driver's position. "Trundle down to Prague and meet the Russians? Head north and meet the Russians?"

Panzerschütze Hans Dollmann was walking up to the armored car buttoning his fly, he had dismounted to answer a call of nature. He only caught the last part of the conversation. "What are you lot on about now?"

As Dollmann climbed into his position, Lessing told him, "Willi wants to go for a drive, he thinks the Amis will be coming with a Sherman!"

"Don't laugh Heinz, we're no match for a tank. Waiting here is asking for trouble."

"It'll be dark soon, I say we head north to Adorf. If we make it, we can surrender to the Amis. If we stay here, they see the burning scout cars and the wrecked command car and I think they shoot first, then maybe let those of us still alive surrender. Maybe." Willi made a good case for leaving.

After a quiet moment while the crew thought about their options, Schonheim said, "Unless anyone really wants to stay and fight, we're leaving at dark. All right?"

"Sounds good to me, you have any problems with that Hans?" Lessing wanted to know.

"No, I like the idea."

Schonheim looked at his men, "It's settled then. We move when it's dark."

¹ Heavy Armored Car
² The man is crazy.

Link to all of the Chant's fiction.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Why Are We Still Fighting?


Grenadier Friedrich Holzmeyer watched from his concealed position as another American column rolled past him on the road some 50 meters away. The road led to Eger¹ and the Americans were heading there in full force. He glanced over at Gefreiter Max Hoffmann, his corporal looked even more astonished than Holzmeyer felt.

They had just watched a column pass by led by an armored car, loaded with infantry, with multiple tanks, halftracks, and the ubiquitous little jeeps. They had also seen flights of American aircraft passing overhead nearly all day. Holzmeyer couldn't believe the equipment the Americans had available.

Hauptmann Schuler had posted them here to observe traffic, he wanted to move further south as the American 1st Infantry Division had moved into their area. That unit was patrolling aggressively and Schuler wanted to move to an area with fewer Americans. But to do so, they had to cross this road.

Traffic had been fairly heavy ever since they had taken up their position shortly before sunrise. They had had to move in while it was still dark, otherwise they might not have gotten this close to the road.

The traffic on the road cleared, Holzmeyer knew that it would only be a short time before the next column rolled through. He risked standing up to look further up the road and sure enough, another column was approaching, this one led by a tank.

Hauptmann Manfred Schuler was looking through his map case, whatever was south of the road he wanted to cross wasn't covered by any of the maps he had available. As they were on their own, he couldn't exactly get some higher authority to issue him more maps, he was the higher authority in this area. As far as he knew, they might be the only organized German combat unit around.

He had sent his senior sergeant out the night before to reconnoiter a position which was now held by a new unit. He had hoped to discover who those new people were, so he had sent out a patrol to grab a prisoner, all that had happened was that he had lost his senior sergeant and three good men.

After spending the better part of the morning observing the new Amis across the way, one of the men had recognized the unit patch of the American 1st Infantry Division, a very good unit. Rather than stay in the valley and harass them, the Americans were harassing his men. In the late afternoon an American patrol had ambushed one of his patrols. Five more of his men lost to him, three dead, two taken prisoner.

So he'd made the decision to move south, away from this new threat.

"He says that he and his buddy here are from a makeshift platoon of stragglers and survivors from other units." Sgt. Melvin Katz turned to explain to Cpt. Stephen Hernandez.

"Probably the same bunch we caught coming up the hill the other night." Hernandez postulated.

"Actually yes, he mentioned that. Says the unit's senior sergeant was leading that patrol. His captain was pretty upset to find out that we'd spotted them and eliminated them."

"Ask him how many men they've got, any heavy weapons..."

"Already did Sir, he figures there's maybe forty men left, they have a single MG 34 but they're running low on ammunition for that. Most of the troops have submachine guns and assault rifles, three or four K98ks, but that's it. No mortars and, as he put it, damned few grenades."

"Does he have any idea what his captain's plan is?"

Katz turned to the man and they spoke in German for a few minutes.

"He says that he's not sure, but he heard one of the corporals mention moving south. They have a couple of guys watching the main road to Cheb. The number of convoys we have running up and down that road will make it hard to cross. Says the guys watching the road are supposed to figure out the best time to get across."

"This guy is pretty cooperative, any idea why?"

After another conversation in German, Katz answered, "He says that a quite a few of the guys in the unit are real fanatics, hard core believers, he just wants to go home, he's sick of the war. He knows the war is lost, can't figure why the others want to keep fighting."

"Huh, he probably answered his own question, the fanatics won't quit, not until they're dead I suppose." Hernandez shook his head, "Thanks Cat, I need to come up with a plan of our own, try and nail those fanatics before they get the chance to hurt our guys."

Three more men were waiting to join Holzmeyer and Hoffmann near the road. They were another hundred meters away, out of sight of the road. During a lull in the nearly constant traffic the three moved up.

Grenadier Ernst Schumann spoke first, "Hauptmann Schuler wants us to set up a roadblock."

Hoffmann, as the senior man on scene, shook his head. "The Hauptmann can get stuffed. We set up a roadblock and we all die. The Amis have halftracks with four of their 12.7 mm machine guns mounted on them, there seems to be one with every convoy."

Grenadier Horst Walder offered, "What the captain wants, he should get."

Hoffmann looked at the third newcomer, an actual Waffen SS soldier. "So Max, what do you think of this plan to kill ourselves?"

Sturmmann Max Bader shook his head, "F**k that." Then he stood up and moved towards the road.

Holzmeyer could see another column approaching, this one led by another armored car. That vehicle began to slow as the crew spotted Bader walking onto the road.

"Son of a..." Schumann, one of the few men to have a K98k, worked his bolt and chambered a round. As he began to aim at Bader, Hoffman brought the pistol grip of his MP 40 down on  Schumann's head, knocking him silly.

"Bader is right, f**k this."

Bader had thrown his StG 44 into the brush before reaching the road. His helmet followed. As he stood in the road, he raised his open hands as high as he could reach. He was demoralized, exhausted, and hungry. He had been asking himself for the past few weeks, 'Why are we still fighting? What is it we're fighting for?"

Unable to answer his own questions, he had resolved to give himself up at the first opportunity. He was surprised that Schumann hadn't shot him in the back, dirty little Nazi that he was. Bader was Volksdeutsch, having been born not all that far from here. By birth he was a Czech citizen, but his family had been rabidly anti-Czech and pro-German. His ancestry was German going back to the 14th Century.

He couldn't be drafted into the Wehrmacht as he wasn't a German citizen, but he had volunteered for the Waffen SS. He felt he had no choice, those who supported the Germans had privileges, those who didn't, suffered. Sometimes that lack of support cost them their lives. The lives of one's family could be forfeit as well.

Two years fighting the Russians made him regret the day the English and French had signed the Sudetenland over to Hitler. Now he no longer cared if he lived or died. He was sick to death of this war.

Sgt. Ken Nord was watching the German in the road as if his life depended on it, which maybe it did. He was ready to open fire if the Kraut even sneezed. He had the Greyhound behind him watching the trees away from the road, if this was an ambush, it would come from there. The right side of the road sloped up to a ridge and it was open terrain, no place to hide.

Nord knew a few words in German, his grandfather had emigrated to the States from Hamburg. So he yelled at the German to ask what he was doing. The German answered in oddly accented German which Nord had trouble understanding. That's when his driver, Dan Netolický², born and raised in Prague, yelled something at the German.

After a lengthy conversation, in what Nord assumed was Czech, Netolický said, "Guy grew up around here, said there's more Krauts over in the woods that want to surrender. Can he tell them to come out?"

"Hell, why not? Easiest capture we've ever made, but cover 'em, any of 'em acts up, I'll mow down the lot of 'em." As Nord spoke he swung the big .50 cal in the direction of the woods.

"Bader says the Amis want us to surrender." Holzmeyer was one of the few who could understand Bader's accent.

"Yes, I got that." Gefreiter Hoffmann was debating his choices, he was also starting to wonder if he'd hit Schumann too hard, the man was still unconscious.

Walder chimed in, "This isn't right, we have orders."

Holzmeyer just looked at him, the kid was maybe 18, if that. He'd been in the military since last fall and hadn't seen much action, he'd been an anti-aircraft gunner at Zwickau to the north. He and his mates had fled when the Americans overran the place. Which is how he wound up wandering the woods with Schuler's group.

"Well, I guess we're outnumbered." Walder said, as he tossed his MP 40 aside and stood up.

The rest of the men followed suit, discarding their weapons and helmets. Walder and Hoffmann dragged the limp form of Schumann between them, he was starting to come around.

Infantry from one of the lead halftracks had come up to take charge of the prisoners. They had their medic treating the semi-conscious German.

"Man, who cracked this guy on the head? I think his skull is fractured."

Hoffmann explained what had happened to Nord, who said to the medic, "F**ker was gonna shoot the SS guy who was trying to surrender, so this guy," he nodded at Hoffman, "clocked him."

"Damn, well I guess if you wanna play rough...," the medic stood up and pointed to two of the infantrymen watching, "Smitty, Jackson, grab a stretcher off the track, let's get this guy to the battalion aid station. He's pretty bad off."

"Will he live?" Hoffmann asked Nord.

"I don't know, you hit him pretty hard."

"Scheiße." Hoffmann muttered.

"Hey, if you hadn't slugged him, he'd have shot the SS guy, then we'd have opened up on you." Nord gestured at the vehicles nearby, all of which mounted machine guns, "Do you think you would have survived?"

Hoffmann looked around, then said, "I think not."

"That's right pal, now run along, we gotta get moving."

M8 Greyhound

¹ The German name for the town of Cheb in Czechoslovakia (modern day Czechia).
² A rough pronunciation of that name is "Net-oh-lits-key."

Link to all of the Chant's fiction.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021


South of Aš, Karlovy Vary¹ Region, Czechoslovakia

"Mitch I want you to go around to the platoons, check that the men are settling in. Take Sgt. Collier with you, he can help the platoon leaders get their supply requisitions in. I don't know how long we're going to be here. The company commander from the 97th Infantry Division that we replaced says that the Germans in the area are still fairly aggressive. Make sure the platoons get their defensive assignments squared away and have the platoon leaders plan for reconnaissance patrolling for the next few days. I don't want to take any unnecessary chances but we're not going to just lay back and wait for the war to end. It's coming soon enough." Cpt. Stephen Hernandez looked at his XO, 2nd Lt. Mitch Hornsby was about as green as he could be, but was shaping up to be a thorough fellow, good with details.

"Sir, any chance I might be able to go out on a patrol?" Hornsby expected to be told no, but he also wanted to let the captain know that he wasn't afraid to take his chances with everybody else.

"Yeah, probably, but as an observer only. The sergeants know their jobs, you don't. But yup, it's a good way to learn the ropes. I'll set something up with Nate, he's our most experienced platoon leader, Hell, if he hadn't been wounded back in Belgium, he'd probably be the company commander now."

"Cat, I hate to do this to you but I want you to take the first patrol out. You've got one new guy, Charlie has five, and John has seven." 1st Lt. Nate Paddock said to Sgt. Melvin Katz. He was about to continue when Sgt. Katz interrupted him.

"L.T. how about I take a couple of the new guys from each of the other squads, give 'em some field experience? We keep hearing that the war's almost over, but it seems no one told the Krauts. There's still a few who want to mix it up."

"That's not a bad idea, work it out with Charlie and John. First thing in the morning, tonight we'll lay low, get a feel for things."

"You got it Sir."

"I can't make out the unit patch on these new people. They look experienced though, not like some bunch of Grünschnabel²." Feldwebel Klaus Müller was watching intently through his field glasses as the new unit across the valley was settling into the positions recently occupied by men of Patton's 97th Infantry Division. Müller was not unhappy to see the 97th pull out. Tough bastards they were.

"Perhaps we should probe these new boys tonight, see what they're made of, see who they are. Remember those 106th boys in the Ardennes? Green as grass, we captured a lot of them." Hauptmann Manfred Schuler chuckled at the memory of that. Back when he still believed that they could still win the war.

He had no such illusions now. He commanded a rag tag group of fifty survivors from multiple units, only Müller was familiar to him, they had served together in the 18th Volksgrenadier Division, then the 26th Volksgrenadier Division until that unit had surrendered in the Harz Mountains only a couple of weeks before. One thing he could say about the men he commanded now, none of them were new to combat, all had served since at least 1941. These men knew how to fight.

"I'll put together a raiding group, we'll try to snatch a prisoner."

The company was settling in for the night, 1st Lt. Herm Jacobsen had his two light machine gun teams positioned to sweep the entire company frontage, his mortar teams were positioned further back. They'd laid out their aiming posts and were ready to lay down a blanket of high explosive on anyone approaching from the east. They had a supply of illumination rounds to hand as well.

The platoon leaders had laid out a few surprises of their own in front of their positions. Oddly enough it had been the XO, Hornsby who had suggested a few tricks to surprise any unwary Germans coming up the gentle slope from the forest which was roughly 300 yards out. The 97th had chosen their positions well, the men of Charlie Company were suitably impressed.

Müller was leading the small party, Hauptmann Schuler had wanted to go, but Müller had convinced him that it wasn't an officer's job to lead raiding parties.

"I'm taking Kleinschmidt, Backus, and Dorfmann, any more than that and we would make more noise than I care for. Those three guys were in the East, survived that, then survived Falaise and the Ardennes. Old hands, they're perfect for this sort of job." Müller had explained when Schuler had wanted to send more men.

"All right then Klaus, try to grab a prisoner, in quick and out quick. I want to see who we're up against." Schuler wanted to go, he hadn't fired his weapon for a week now, he felt useless. The Reich might yet fall, but not because of him!

"You hear that?" Pvt. Roberto Griffith leaned closer to the edge of the machine gun team's fighting position.

Pfc. Lyle Bonner leaned out, he heard something, a rustling noise coming from down the hill. Then he heard it, a distinct rattle, pebbles in a can.

Griffith was already on the field phone to the mortarmen.

The raiding party froze when Gefreiter Herbert Kleinschmidt brushed against a strand of wire. The rattling scared the heck out of him, "What the Hell was that?" he wondered. Then he saw the tin cans hanging from the wire. It was a distinctive sound, it was an unnatural sound, and at night it carried.

Müller thought about going to ground, but movement attracted the eye, if they remained motionless for a few more seconds, they should be able to continue. Then he heard a dull thunk, the sound of a mortar round. He winced and hoped it was just harassing fire meant to discourage anyone thinking about coming up the slope to the American position.

He groaned inwardly as the round popped overhead and a parachute flare began to swing from side to side. His hand was out, signaling "No one move." In the grotesque shadows, which flickered as the flare swayed under its parachute, he hoped that his group would go unnoticed.

Cpl. Dwayne Pearson, Pfc. Logan Adkins, and Pvt. Sidney Harrington had been awakened as soon as the mortar crews had been alerted. Pearson was watching the slope, it was hard to make anything out clearly, but, there! Shapes which didn't belong. He nudged the gun a couple of degrees to the left, then hissed, "Fire..."

The tracer rounds came from the left, Grenadier Horst Backus shuddered as the rounds tore through him, he dropped to the ground, lifeless. Grenadier Norbert Dorfmann's instinct was to drop to the ground, but instead he brought his StG 44 up to his shoulder and returned fire. The muzzle flash from his weapon brought immediate retribution from the right of the enemy position.

Dorfmann backpedaled as the rounds from the second machine gun exploded his chest, knocking him down, killing him.

Kleinschmidt turned to run just as the parachute flare burned out. Müller tried to grab him and pull him down to the ground but he was too late. Kleinschmidt had gone perhaps five meters when a second parachute flare illuminated the slope.

Sgt. Charlie Gammell was wide awake now. He was upstairs in a small farmhouse, well back from the window but with a good view of the center of the American position all the way down to the forest. He thought he saw movement so he swung his scoped Springfield in that direction.

"Got ya," he murmured.

Kleinschmidt grunted as an American round hit him high in the back. He collapsed immediately, the bullet had nicked his spinal cord. He wondered why he couldn't feel anything from the neck down. He could see from the corner of his left eye that Müller was trying to pull him into cover. He wished he could help.

Gammell saw his target go down hard. He continued to observe that spot, sure enough, he saw an arm reach out to the man he'd just shot. The guy must still be alive, but he wasn't going anywhere, no sense wasting another bullet on him.

But the helper? He was fair game.

Kleinschmidt was watching as Müller's helmet came off his head. Something wet splashed against his face. He then knew that Müller wouldn't be helping anyone ever again.

He couldn't move, he couldn't do a thing. Except wait, for whatever fate had in store for him.

In the morning 2nd Lt. Hornsby was with Gammell's squad, checking the aftermath of the skirmish in the night. Cpt. Hernandez had come out as well.

They found the dead Germans, four of them, clustered all within a few yards of each other. Gammell saw that he'd hit one of them just below his collar line, probably paralyzed him, he thought. The guy nearby, a sergeant, had been hit squarely in the back of the head. His helmet was a few feet away, a hole through the back of it.

Pvt. Fred Walter walked over to the helmet, he thought it would make a nice souvenir. However, once he picked it up and looked inside, he quickly dropped it, then he puked up his breakfast.

"Yeah, bad idea Fred." Cpl. Franklin Barnett chided him. "Anyway, never pick Kraut stuff up when it's laying around, the Germans like to booby trap that stuff, knowing we like souvenirs."

After Hernandez organized a detail to take the bodies up to the road, he took Hornsby aside. "Nice trick with the cans and the pebbles XO. Where'd you get that idea?"

"One of the instructors at OCS³ was at the 'Canal, said the Japanese were really good at sneaking around at night, infiltrating their positions. So one of the guys had the idea to string cans up with wire, with pebbles in them. You brush the wire, you rattle the pebbles. I guess it worked, huh?" Hornsby was pleasantly surprised with his contribution to the war effort, even more so with the praise from Hernandez.

"Yup, worked damn well, didn't it Mort." He called out to 1st Sgt. Saeger who was passing by. Saeger gave 2nd Lt. Hornsby a thumbs up and called out.

"Nice one Pebbles!"

Hornsby looked at Hernandez and whispered, "Pebbles?"

Hernandez laughed and said, "Sounds like you got a nickname XO, like it?"

"Not really."

"Well then, it'll probably stick. Don't fight it, I don't even have a nickname, you do. I'm kinda jealous."


"Sure enough. Pebbles."

¹ Asch, in German. The region itself is Karlsbad in German.
² Greenhorns.
³ Officer Candidate School, the one for the infantry was (and still is) at Fort Benning, Georgia.

Link to all of the Chant's fiction.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

The Sniper


It was a beautiful spring day, not a cloud in the sky. As he looked around, Cpt. Stephen Hernandez could almost be forgiven for entertaining the thought that the war was almost over. Being the man that he was though, he was still on high alert. There had been reports of shots being fired at military convoys passing along the autobahn to points further south.

Disgruntled civilians? Bypassed enemy troops? One rumor even had a band of deserters in the area dealing in stolen military supplies. The most far-fetched rumor had that band of deserters being comprised of multiple nationalities, including Germans!

Hernandez had pickets out along the column of Charlie Company's parked vehicles, men whose job it was to keep an eye on the surrounding terrain, to spot trouble before it happened. This had been yet another stop on the company's long trip from the Harz Mountains down to the Czech border. While it wasn't a leisurely journey by any means, it had given the men time to unwind and recover from the stresses of their recent experiences.

Pfc. Gilbert Herman was checking the status of the company's lunch. Nothing fancy,  just sandwiches and, miracle of miracles, hot soup. The men hadn't had a hot meal in some time, but Cap'n Hernandez had told S/Sgt Santos to fire up the gas ranges as this stop would be a long one, at least six hours.

As Herman checked the kitchen equipment he heard an odd ping. As if someone had hit one of the big metal pots lined up behind the truck with a rock. Turning to investigate he heard the distinctive sound of a distant rifle report.


T/4 Roman Scott was checking the soup, chicken with what the Army claimed were lentils, when he heard Pfc. Herman yelling about something. He couldn't quite make it out over the hissing of the three gas ranges inside the truck. When he saw Herman take cover, he dove off the back of the truck.

T/5 Phil Sharpe saw Scott dive off the back of the truck and into the drainage ditch running alongside the autobahn, he noticed that his buddy Gil was there too. He began to run in that direction when something hit him low on the left side, just above the hip. That side of his body from the waist down went numb almost immediately.

Hernandez was trying to get things sorted out, so far all he knew was that the column was taking sniper fire from the northeast. His Weapons Platoon commander, 1st Lt. Herman Jacobsen, already had his machine gun crews laying down suppressive fire in the suspected direction of the incoming fire. In addition, 1st Lt. Nathaniel Gonzales had 1st Platoon heading in that direction.

For the moment Hernandez really couldn't do more than report what was going on to battalion and wait as the situation developed. His platoon leaders seemed to have things well in hand, sometimes you had to know when to let your subordinates do their jobs.

Scott and Herman had managed to drag Sharpe into the drainage ditch with them. They had the impression that they weren't being shot at anymore, but no one was going to poke their heads up to test that theory.

Sharpe's wound was messy, so both Scott and Herman were yelling for a medic. Pvt. Dwayne Hood of 1st Platoon was closest and he was there within minutes.

"You're gonna be okay buddy." Hood reassured Sharpe as he treated the man's wound. A bullet had gone completely through the muscle just above Sharpe's left hip, painful but not life threatening. "Million dollar wound buddy, you're going home."

Sharpe smiled through the pain when he heard that.

Sgt. Rudy Taylor's squad was close by when they heard a rifle shot close by, not aimed at them thankfully.

"I see him Sarge." hissed Pfc. Lorenzo Copeland, the squad's grenadier. He had his rifle up and the other men in the squad also aimed in that general direction, but only one other man, Pvt. Don Sheppard, could actually see the German sniper who was up in a tall pine.

Copeland and Sheppard fired nearly simultaneously. As did most of the men in the squad.

Sgt. Taylor had his men fan out and check for other Germans in the area as he and Copeland stared up at the German who was now hanging from the improvised rope harness he had used to secure himself to the tree.

"I ain't thrilled about climbing up there Sarge, but..." Copeland began.

Pfc. Nick Richards slung his rifle and said, "I got this Sarge," then proceeded to climb the tree, "I'll cut the sumbitch down."

"Damn, Nick climbs like a monkey." Copeland said as he watched the young soldier scramble up the tree as if born to it.

Richards reached the dangling German who, surprisingly, was still alive. He'd been hit at least three times as far as Richards could tell but the man was still breathing and was groaning in pain.

"Hey Sarge, the f**ker is still alive!" 

"You're shittin' me..."

"Nope, he's still breathing, looks like he's hit pretty bad. What do you want me to do?"

Taylor thought for a minute, then yelled back up, "SS or Army?"

"Looks like Army to me Sarge."

"Damn, hold on."

Richards was looking at the German, as he did so, he muttered, "Gee buddy, you're all f**ked up." When the German spoke, Richards nearly fell out of the tree.

"Yes, I'm really f**ked up..." the German tried to shift his position, one of the ropes was cutting into his shoulder.

"Hang on." Richards reached out and moved the man's arm slightly, easing the pressure from the rope.

"Thanks pal." The German had a coughing fit.

"How is it you speak English?" Richards asked.

"I was born in Milwaukee lived there until I was ten. Then my parents moved us back to Germany in '33, where they had emigrated from before I was born."


"Papa couldn't find a job in Wisconsin, my uncle had a company, promised Papa..." the German passed out.

"Sarge! What are we gonna do?" Richards yelled down.

"Leave him, we gotta get back. Cap'n wants everybody to get some hot chow before we hit the road again." Sgt. Taylor yelled up. "Come on down. There ain't nuthin' we can do for him."

"But he's still alive!"

"What are you a Kraut-lover now?" Copeland asked.

The German woke up, coughed and said, "You should go, I'm dying anyway."

"What's your name buddy?"

"Erich, Erich Wisner. Thanks for givin' a shit." The German's eyes fluttered, he was fighting to stay awake.

"I'm Nick, Nick Richards. You want some water or something?"

"Water would be nice, bleeding makes you thirsty I guess."

Richards opened his canteen and offered it to the German, who shook his head, "Can't feel my arms or legs anymore, could you?" he asked, nodding at the canteen.

Richards lifted the canteen, Wisner took a drink. Smiled, whispered, "Thanks Nick..."

"Erich, Erich..."

Richards sat there for a moment, when he looked down, most of the squad was headed back, only Pvt. Shannon Townsend was waiting for him. He reached out and patted the German on the shoulder, muttered, "Rest in peace Erich," then climbed back down the tree.

"What was that all about?" Townsend asked once Richards was back on the ground.

"Guy was from Milwaukee, parents were from Germany, they moved back here in '33 when he was ten. Man, guy spoke American English and everything."

"But he's a Kraut, well, was a Kraut."

"Yeah, I get it."

As the two men began the hike back to the road, Richards turned back and looked at the dead German one last time. Wondering if the guy's father had found a job in the States, maybe they would have known each other or something.

"The world is a f**ked up place sometimes, ya know that Shannon?"

"I guess so, but better him than us."

"Yeah, I suppose so."

Link to a interesting article on U.S. Army kitchen trucks in WWII.
Link to all of the Chant's fiction.

Monday, April 26, 2021

It ain't over til it's over!*

Yesterday was the fourth Sunday that the attendance limit on Church has been lifted in Texas and our Archdiocese.  Easter Sunday was the first, and it was pretty full as we arrived a little less than half an hour early and were in the overflow room in the Church Hall.  Each Sunday since, we've been in the actual Church, which is good.  Watching Mass on video doesn't convey the same feel as actually being in the church, if you know what I mean.

I've noticed a few things about the subsequent Sundays though.  Subtle things.  First, there are more people showing up each week.  That's good.  It's good to see folks that you recognize, but don't really "know".  It's one step in a return to some semblance of normalcy.  Another thing is that because more people are showing up, the 6' rule, while still in effect, is....well, lets just say, interpretation of 6' is stretched a bit (maybe shrunk is a better word).  

Another rule that's still in effect is the requirement to wear a mask.  I had been using the type of mask I use in the woodshop.  It's pretty effective at keeping things out of my nose and throat, I figured it would be better than most things I've seen people wearing to protect them from the Chinese Military manufactured Virus.  However, I realize that wearing it continually for an hour was causing symptoms that I recognized from Altitude Chamber rides back in the day on flying status.  Those of you who experienced the chamber know I'm talking about Hypoxia or Oxygen Starvation.  So, I went with a light weight gaiter for Mass.  

My thought here was I don't want some paranoid nutcase to start screaming at me during Mass because I don't have a mask on. So, I'm going to the least level compliant with the rules.  It is the Lord's House and I don't want to cause a scene.  However, the distance between the front door and the mask being on or off (depending on Pre-Mass or Post-Mass) can be measured in Microns.

Yesterday, I noticed additional indications that these "rules" are eroding.  Several people, maybe 5 or 6, didn't wear a mask at all.  Others wore it into Church, let it hang during the service, put it on for Communion and the exit and took it off completely at the door.

I think this is a very good sign, people are subtly just saying "No".  And, face it, who's going to enforce it?

The Police?  After that verdict last week and the brouhaha over the shooting of the would be murderer, I give it 6 weeks before most Police Forces are at 50% strength.  Who, in their right minds, would stay when any attempt to enforce the law can result in jail time for you?  

Since it's highly unlikely that reduced Police numbers and rule changes on engaging will cause a subsequent reduction in violent crimes , maybe the Police will start arresting people for not wearing a mask just to keep their numbers up.  Besides, I don't think it will be the Really Good Officers that stay, if you know what I mean.

God help us then as I think that will be the tipping point.  

So, given all that, Mrs J and I returned home, where I spent the morning taking my frustrations out on a large number of weeds that had taken root (literally) during the great Lawn Mower Hiatus.  I had tried to mow them into oblivion with the push mower, but they were too many and actually stopped the blade.  Not wishing to work any harder than necessary, I took the liberty of watering the ground thoroughly the night before.  This seemed to work as the shovel (my weed execution weapon of choice...I had no other) went significantly deeper than it had before.  The weeds were easier to remove.  Not "easy" by any stretch, but "easier".

While I'm engaging in said activity, I heard a buzzing sound.  I looked up and what do I see?

I know, I'm not Cecil B. DeMille, but I don't usually garden with  a high end camera.  On Sarge's Blog payroll, I'm lucky to afford a cell phone.  At one point, the two ship, actually rolled in on me.  Pulled off, and up into a barrel roll.  Unfortunately, the phones auto focus was going bonkers at that point and what should have been a glorious piece of filmography was a total blur.  "I coulda been a Contender" **

It also proved the flying saying "It's better to be down here wishing you were up there, than vice versa" is completely untrue, at least at this moment.

Given that acceptable progress has been made at weed genocide with a little aerial entertainment thrown in, I think I will sign off and follow the lead of the truly wise ones on this plot of land.
Head to the barn

And join Annie

and Cooper

And Mooshka and Mouseka Or Mouseka and Mooshka

And Oskar

And Schmedly

And take a nap dreaming of Peace on Earth while flying!

Peace out y'all!

Update: Ask and ye shall receive, Mark!

*Yogi Berra

**Marlon Brando "On the Waterfront" 1954...I wasn't born yet, but somebody on this blog was!  He's.....Old!