Friday, April 9, 2021

Children of the Reich


"I hate this shit L.T." Sgt. Enrique Cruz muttered to his platoon leader, 1st Lt. Stephen Hernandez, as he prepared to lead his squad into the little village of Kalefeld. The place looked deserted, no white bed sheets hanging from windows indicating the Krauts were quitting, in fact most of the windows were closed. Which could mean anything.

They had captured villages with the white bedding draped everywhere with no resistance.  Though C Company hadn't experienced it yet, there were stories making the rounds of villages and towns giving every indication of surrender, only to harbor some nest of fanatics determined to die for Hitler and the Nazis.

This place looked like a ghost town, no sign of life anywhere. Hernandez looked over towards Cpl. John Andrews' light machine gun (LMG) squad, raising his hand as he did so. Andrews waved back, indicating that they were ready to cover Cruz' squad as they advanced.

Cruz got up on one knee, looked to his left at his assistant squad leader, Cpl. John Chapman, and pointed towards the town, which prompted the rest of 2nd Squad to begin advancing slowly, hunched over, leaning forward as if into a stiff wind. None of the men knew what to expect.

Hermann Bosch was thirteen years old, Wolf Bergmann was twelve, little Hans Dortmund was barely eleven. The three Hitler Youth had been left behind with a single MG 26(t) machine gun and five 30-round magazines with which to defend the village. Bosch did have a pistol, a Sauer 38H with a single magazine, but as the SS-Hauptsturmführer¹ who had given it to him said, "If you need this, you've already lost the battle." Bosch wondered if the SS man expected Bosch to kill himself rather than surrender.

"Hermann, I have to pee." Dortmund had just turned eleven and he still behaved like a little boy.

Bosch sighed then said, "Quickly, and try not to drink so much water next time. What if the Americans come while you're peeing?"

Dortmund scurried out of the second floor room and ran downstairs to relieve himself in the backyard off of the kitchen. As he did so, Bosch leaned forward to peer out of the broken window slat which gave him a view of the entrance to the small village from the west.

What he saw raised the hair on the back of his neck, Americans!

Cruz signaled Chapman to check out the building to the left, as Chapman took his section in that direction a window shutter on the building directly to Cruz' front swung open. At first Cruz thought that perhaps the wind had blown it open, then he realized, the air was calm today.

Dortmund came back upstairs, stomping his feet on the stairs as he did so. It amused him to hear his footsteps echo through the empty house. Bosch turned to warn the boy to be quiet, but Bergmann ruined everything by pushing the window shutter open. Before Bosch could react, Bergmann was firing the gun.

Sgt. Cruz felt like he'd been hit in the chest with a baseball bat. He fell backwards and found himself staring at the sky. He tried to move but his body wasn't responding. What was happening to him?

Pvt. Darrell Little, the gunner in Andrews' LMG squad, shifted his aim as soon as the shutter banged open. He was late pulling the trigger and watched aghast as Sgt. Cruz went down. He fired and saw that his rounds were impacting under the window, so he adjusted his aim up and into the open window where he had a glimpse of what appeared to be a young boy.

Dortmund screamed as he watched Bosch crumple to the floor, most of his face gone and his chest torn open from taking a full burst of machine gun fire.

Bergmann tried to swing the gun towards where the American fire had come from, but the weapon was heavy enough that he struggled with it for a second. His head snapped to the left and he joined Bosch on the floor in another spreading pool of blood.

Pvt. Leon Higgins was with Cpl Chapman and had seen the Germans in the upstairs window too late to prevent them from firing. He snapped off three quick rounds from his rifle as he saw a head pop up in the opening. He heard a scream, the second scream he'd heard now that he thought about it, then the gun stopped firing.

He, Chapman, and Pvt. Ronnie Williamson dashed to the door into the building from where the fire had originated. Chapman covered the entrance as Williamson kicked the door open. Higgins primed a grenade and threw it into the room, after the explosion, the three men entered cautiously. There was no one downstairs.

Chapman paused, his eyes locked onto a nearby staircase, "Do you guys hear that?"

"Yeah," Williamson answered first, "sounds like a kid crying."

Chapman looked at Higgins, then at the stairs, Higgins nodded and covered the stairs as Chapman advanced cautiously up the steps.

There was a landing halfway up the stairs, Chapman paused there and waved Higgins up. Once the two men were on the landing, Chapman moved up again.

At the top of the stairs and to the left, Chapman saw a small figure sitting on the floor. It was a Hitler Youth kid, uniform and everything, sitting on the floor and sobbing. Chapman kept him covered with his rifle as he examined the rest of the room past the kid, two dead bodies, also Hitler Youth. What a mess.

Doc Milbury was working frantically on Sgt. Cruz. As he did so, Pvt. Marc Grant was holding Cruz' hand telling him, over and over, "Hang in there, Sarge, it ain't that bad." But Milbury knew better, he was surprised that Cruz was still alive. Two bullets had hit him in the chest, both, as near as he could tell, were still in there.

1st Lt. Hernandez sent Katz' 1st Squad up past the building where the German machine gun had been. Gammell's 3rd Squad was checking an alleyway to the right. He was waiting next to Milbury. He and Cruz locked eyes for a moment as Milbury worked on the badly wounded sergeant. Cruz tried to say something, then his eyes went blank.

"Shit!" Milbury slammed down the bloody dressing he had in his hand.

Hernandez heard someone crying as he knelt next to Cruz' body. He'd had his radioman report that they had "One KIA, one POW." Cpt. Palminteri was sending up a jeep to collect the prisoner and the casualty. Now he looked up to see a young boy in a Hitler Youth uniform, his face streaked with tears, hands on his head, being led out of the building at gunpoint.

The kid stumbled when he saw the other Americans and he was then roughly prodded in the back. "Keep moving you little Nazi f**k!" Higgins said as he poked the kid with the muzzle of his rifle again.

"Take it easy Higgins, he's just a kid." Chapman said, which caused Higgins to stop and turn.

"Yea, a Nazi f**king kid who killed our sergeant."

"At ease, Private." Hernandez walked over and looked at the kid. Looking around, he saw Sgt. Melvin Katz was nearby, "Cat, come over here."

Sgt. Katz came up, looked at Hernandez who nodded at the kid.

After a long exchange in German, Katz told the lieutenant how the SS had left these three boys to defend Kalefeld. As that conversation was going on, Cpt. Palminteri arrived in his jeep.

Cpt. Palminteri dismounted from the jeep and joined Hernandez. He saw who the dead man was and it shook him, he couldn't afford to lose experienced sergeants. "Damn. Cruz was a good man. Is this the prisoner? He's just a kid." Palminteri said as he gestured at the boy.

"Yes Sir, but he and two of his buddies killed Sgt. Cruz." Hernandez responded.

"There are more? I thought your radioman said one POW."

"The other two are upstairs, dead." Hernandez pointed towards where the machine gun had been.

"Damn it, yesterday old men, today young boys. What are the Krauts going to defend the next village with? Old ladies and girls?" Palminteri spat in the dirt then turned to his driver and said, "Load 'em up." Then to Hernandez, "Push on through this burg, I'll take the prisoner and Sgt. Cruz to the rear. Tough break, Stephen."

Hernandez simply nodded as he turned to get the platoon on the move again. Just another shitty day in a horrible war.

¹ SS Captain.

Link to all of the Chant's fiction.


  1. Replies
    1. It happens to those who lead from the front. Sucks, but reality often does.

  2. Polish boy and girl scouts went en masse into resistance. They served mostly as inconscipious couriers, medics or in distribution of Underground leaflets... Were we much better than Germans sending kids to war?

    1. Ah, but they were fighting for freedom, a far more worthy cause.

    2. Fighting the invaders is as old as time and how it looks later depends on who won.

    3. Audrey Hepburn worked for the Dutch resistance, carrying messages in her shoe while riding a bicycle. The Nazis wouldn't suspect a young girl to be in the resistance.

      Much more story to be told but the wiki entry alone should impress...
      I feel so totally inadequate compared to those young heroes.

    5. The times made them what they were. You'd be surprised what you can do when push comes to shove.

      Brave kids though.

  3. damn it. I should not be as invested in these characters as I find myself.

    1. It means I'm doing this right, if you don't care about the characters, why read the story?

      (And you've boosted my morale...)

      Believe me, it's gut-wrenching for the author as well.

  4. Shanked by your muse again.


    1. She seems to like doing that...

    2. Nah, she just knows it ain't all happy rainbows in war, and the good guys get killed too. She's a realist.

  5. Using back button repeats the post, don't do that.


    1. I've seen that before, now we know the cause.

      Thanks for that public service announcement Spin!

  6. I'm at a loss for words - I knew things wouldn't be rainbows and unicorns, but Cruz?? Scheisse...

  7. Damn! That one hurt! - Barry

  8. Sgt Cruz, and Prince Phillip, on the same day!

    1. Um...

      Fictional guy versus real guy...

    2. You made Sgt Cruz pretty real, Sarge.
      Phillip lived a long life.
      Boat Guy

    3. Thanks BG.

      The Duke of Edinburgh did live a long life, a full one as well.

  9. Aw, man.

    But that's war. Beats stepping on a mine a day after the surrender, or any of the other many random ways to die in "Post" War Europe.

    All it takes is a second of distraction, even a millisecond of distraction, to get you killed. And that's what happened. Instead of jumping for cover when they saw the shutter move, they all stood there. It happens. And there may be a reason for it, combat fatigue. Just too many days on the line. Every time they've been set up for some week or more time off, something comes up. Even the best can't operate at 100% all of the time, and our boys have been, since the breakout in France, on the tip of the spear almost every day.

    That wears on even the best.

    It sucks, but it is what it is. People die.

    Still sucks.

    Kidney punch your Muse for us.

  10. In Max Hasting's book, Downfall, he was saying in the closing months the Hitler Youth were among the most fanatical.

  11. Replies
    1. The reality of war.

      If I didn't depict that...

  12. Hey Old AFSarge;

    Well Damm, not expecting that...Your Muse shanked us. I know people die, it is War and it sucks, but this close to the end too. I was wonder ing if you were going to bring in the HJ or not. You didn't disappoint. Good Story.

    1. A guy I served with married a German woman; she told us she joined the BDM because they "got more to eat".
      Boat Guy

    2. That wouldn't surprise, join up, get the good stuff, be part of the "in" crowd.

      No doubt it still works that way.

    3. @maried Boat Guy/

      Speaking of guys who married German women, our C-Flight CO in the fighter sq. I was assigned to in the UK in early 70s married a German National when serving a previous tour in USAFE as a 1st Louie. As a child in WW II retreating in a convoy she had been strafed by the good ole USAF and suffered serious wounds. She obviously didn't hold it against America or the USAF by virtue of marrying an American fighter-pilot. Funny, matter of fact, Reggie was one of the most pro-American Germans I've ever met period, let alone considering what happened to her..

    4. whaaa? sorry Boat Guy, don't know how that got up there during my edit & worse, didn't notice to boot. (: Chalk it up to a "senior moment" I guess..

    5. Not to worry, virgil. I married well (this time).

    6. Virgil - Been there, done that. (More and more...)

  13. I cannot imagine what that would do to a person, on either side. I am reasonably sure it would haunt me for the rest of my life.

    And yet, we gleefully engage in all sorts of forms of games and entertainment which essentially glorify scenes like this, without the actual gore and horror. We are rather a people most damned.

  14. "They're just kids!" says the "old man" of 20 or 22. Like it or not humanity sends in "kids" to bear the brunt of the fighting. Those who survive become the "old men" at the age of 25 to 30, maybe even younger, that then help other "kids" become the next "old men."

    I really like the way you, in just a few sentences, give us the full spectrum of emotion, from the compassion, and confusion, of "he's just a kid." to the contempt of ""Yea, a Nazi f**king kid who killed our sergeant." who would just as soon dump his magazine into the kid.

  15. "Bosch did have a pistol, a Sauer 38H with a single magazine, but as the SS-Hauptsturmführer¹ who had given it to him said, "If you need this, you've already lost the battle." Bosch wondered if the SS man expected Bosch to kill himself rather than surrender."

    The good Hauptsturmführer knew he was just buying time with the lives of the kids. Let his men get another hour or two down the road, maybe even buy half a day with the lives of 3 kids. Who knows? Maybe that would be enough time to gather enough men, to find a good spot, and stop the Amis long enough for a larger counter attack. By buying time with the lives of his men.

    The horrid economics of the battlefield.

    1. Yes, you see things clearly Joe.

    2. I try, Sarge, I try.

      I never was in the service. Grew up hanging out at my Dad's VFW Post, some WWI vets, lots of WWII USMC. In high school, this was before Saigon fell, I was talking with one of Dad's friends about maybe joining. Guy had been a major in the Marines. He said, "Don't." and explained why. And why he had resigned his commission rather than do another tour in Viet Nam.

      So I grew up hearing the stories. Mostly when they didn't know anyone was listening.

    3. I had a similar experience as a youth.


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

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