Wednesday, April 21, 2021

A Breather


"You wanted to see me Sir?" 2nd Lt. Bob Poole had been summoned to the company commander's makeshift office which was situated in an old barn not far from Charlie Company's latest battle with the retreating Germans.

"How's Kincaid working out for ya?" Cpt. Stephen Hernandez was still trying to get to know as many of the new officers and senior sergeants as he could. April had been a rough month for the company so far, and it wasn't over yet.

"He's a good man I think. The kids like him, he seems to know his shit, but until I get to see him in action, I can't really judge the guy. D'ya know what I mean Cap'n?" Poole was still getting used to being an officer, Hernandez probably was as well. Hell, it wasn't that long ago that both men were platoon sergeants!

"Yeah, tough to gauge a soldier's worth before you've seen him in combat. But the reason I wanted to see you is that we'll be moving again, this time to the south. The fighting here in the Harz is wrapping up. Division wants us to hang tight, our regiment is officially in reserve for now. A guy I know at regiment says that we're going to be headed south, to Czechoslovakia if you can believe it. But for now we're the division reserve until the boys in the 16th and the 18th finish mopping up resistance in this area."

"Good to know Sir, but why aren't the other platoon leaders here?" Poole was worried that perhaps he'd done something wrong. He wasn't just a new officer, and though he'd been Damien Lott's platoon sergeant, he was new to leading a platoon. He still felt somewhat responsible for Lott being relieved by Palminteri. That situation, so he had heard, was being looked at, regiment was concerned that Palminteri's later mental breakdown may have influenced his earlier decision to relieve Lott. Lord knows they were all under stress, but the Captain had been really stressed when he'd fired Lott.

Hernandez coughed to get Poole's attention.

"Sorry Sir, I was thinking about Lieutenant Lott." Poole snapped back to the present.

"Yeah, from what I understand, regiment is reviewing his relief. If he is exonerated, he won't come back to us. He'll go to one of the other regiments, probably the 18th, they've taken some serious losses in lieutenants and sergeants."

"Yeah, wouldn't look good him coming back here, but he wasn't a bad officer, he just f**ked up that one time." Poole sat up in his chair and leaned forward, as if he was about to make a point.

Hernandez held a hand up to stop Poole, "I know Bob, I know, we lost men because Damian didn't have the armor leading the way. Yesterday we had the armor up front and we still lost men. Cap'n Palminteri maybe shouldn't have relieved Damian, but he did, so Lott's reputation is shot in C Company, Hell, probably the whole battalion as well. I don't know."

Poole sat back in his seat and sighed, "If the f**king Krauts would just quit."

"Yeah, and if my uncle had tits he'd be my aunt."

"L.T., I've got four replacements for 2nd Squad: Jacques, Weiss, Gustafson, and Worthington. These guys are green as grass L.T., I don't even think they shave yet." S/Sgt Jack Wilson gestured over his shoulder with his thumb.

"Maybe we should divvy these guys up between the other squads? Chapman's got six green recruits in his squad, half of his guys."

"Yeah, but he's also got two pretty smart guys in O'Neal and Grant, college boys as I recall. Besides which, Cap'n says he's gonna keep 2nd Squad back as the Company reserve. Also, we're not going anywhere just yet. Looks like we'll be in this little village for a couple more days." Paddock stepped outside to see the new guys.

Damn, they look young, he thought.

Rumbling down the main street of the little village, tank after tank rolled by. Interspersed with those tanks were trucks towing artillery, trucks loaded with infantry, and the occasional jeep or staff car. The 26th Infantry Regiment was on the move, for now the 1st Battalion's Charlie Company would be in reserve. Someone at division had decided that a single company was enough of a reserve for now.

As the new men watched, a long column of halftracks carrying infantrymen passed by, from the catcalls of the men in the tracks, the new men realized that they stood out like sore thumbs in their clean uniforms and new equipment.

Pvt. Herschel Weiss said, "I feel like I should go roll in a mud puddle or something, just so I don't stick out as much." He heard a voice behind him.

"Don't worry kid, you'll get dirty soon enough. Provided you live that long. I'm your platoon sergeant, S/Sgt Wilson. Follow me, I'll take you to your new home. You're all in 2nd Squad, your squad leader is Sgt. Chapman, don't let the name fool you, he's a Cajun from the bayous. Don't get him excited or you won't be able to understand a word he says."

Pvt. Ed Jacques spoke up, in heavily accented English, "Bon! Un homme from da' bayou. Laissez le bon temps rouler!¹"

"Hhmm, you and Sgt. Chapman should get along just fine. At least when he's yelling at you, you'll be able to understand what he's saying. The rest of you don't worry, Sgt. Chapman does speak English. Sort of. Come on, let's go."

Charlie Company gets a breather, one they need, but the war rumbles on to the East. Die hard SS and Wehrmacht units continue to fight on, the SS for their twisted ideology, the Wehrmacht for their homes.

Men will continue to die right up to the end.

On both sides.

¹ Let the good times roll.

Link to all of the Chant's fiction.


  1. Sarge, the comment about the new recruits looking younger and younger was not only true then. Even now (or at least back in the days when I was still in the office), I would see the new employees - fresh out of college or fresh from their post-doc programs - and think "man, they are letting them out younger and younger".

    Sadly of course, that was not the case. The graduation age is generally still the same. I am the one who is older.

    Perhaps I will go roll about in a little more mud to appear to fit in...

    1. When I went to the SUBBASE down in Groton a few years back (cough, cough 2001) there was a class of sailors graduating from sub school. Looked to me like they were graduating from middle school. My daughter pointed out that of course they looked young because I was, ya know, OLD.

      Heh, roll in the mud, well played.

  2. Lott's still screwed. He was ordered to advance when the armor gets there, not before. That little difference makes a difference. Now, the powers that be may decide to give Lott a pass on it, but it's still a mark on his record. It's one thing if he did everything right and still lost men, but that not following orders thing... Unless he's a West Point graduate and the WP officers gather round and cover for him. There was and is a lot of that going around.

    Captain P? If he survives cracking up with all he's lost, he can still be rehabilitated if he and Big Army want to stay together.

    And the dying continued...

  3. OK! OK! I had to look up die hard, diehard, die-hard. I use Wikipedia; gave up using the alternates a long time ago (and I didn't bring my 20+ volume set of the OED down here - yet. Thinking of possibly using it as a room divider). Now I'm more confused than ever.

    1. Didn't think that word would cause such a fuss...


  4. Hmm, I'm going to have to find that Lott story. I must have missed it a while back.


    2. I generally check out anything you've highlighted (even if I think I may have been there before). I check out the (sources) on the photos, and most links people put in their comments. I have an insatiable curiosity about this stuff. Probably still trying to sort through the deeper meanings from the stories dad used to tell around the campfire, over a few Budweisers. Some pretty horrific shit, but a lot more, too. Some of the most spectacular acts of humanity seem to come about as a direct result of war and conflict. Some pretty entertaining ridiculousness during the down time, as well. Blowing off steam, and waking up just starting to steam off the 'Jerry cans full of Red Vino' from the night (or days) before.

    3. Those kinds of memories help sustain a lot of vets. Remembering the good times helps.


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Can't be nice, go somewhere else...

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