Saturday, April 24, 2021

The End is Near

(Source)

1st Lt. Nathan Paddock sat in the cab of the well-worn GMC deuce-and-a-half and marveled at the long columns of German prisoners marching down the autobahn's median strip. On either side of the defeated Germans roared the mechanized might of the United States Army heading in the opposite direction.

"Kinda nice to see those bastards disarmed and defeated, ain't it L.T.?" Sgt. Woody Sherman was grinning and waving at the prisoners. He was driving the truck which held the men of the platoon headquarters, the other three squads had their own trucks and were following behind.

"It's nice to know that we don't have to fight those guys any more. Word has it that the Germans are giving up in droves now. There may be some holdouts in Czechoslovakia, which is probably why we're headed there." Paddock said.

"I'm glad to get out of those damn forests. I tell ya L.T., when I get out of the Army, I'm moving someplace flat with no trees at all." Sherman shook his head, then continued, "How about you L.T.? What are you going to do after the war?"

Paddock looked at his platoon guide, "I'll think about that when the war's actually over, Woody."

"Damn, I hope they don't send us to the Pacific, Sir."

"You and me both Woody, you and me both."


Patton's Third Army was scouring the Czech-German border, but Eisenhower was worried about the reports of the Nazi Alpine Redoubt in southern Bavaria. He wanted Patton's army to close on that area. So the 1st Infantry Division was headed south to relieve one of Patton's divisions.

Cpt. Hernandez was in a jeep driven by his first sergeant, Mort Saeger. Riding in the back was his radioman, Cpl Jacob Winters. He wasn't sure what to make of this Alpine Redoubt, earlier intelligence had indicated that the Harz Mountains were intended to be a fortress area. That had fizzled when the Big Red One had gone through. Even still, eleven men of Charlie Company didn't make it out of the Harz.

One lieutenant relieved of command, the company commander himself, his predecessor Cpt. Tony Palminteri, was a psychiatric casualty. Then there were the wounded and the dead, four of the former, five of the latter.

Hernandez was somewhat depressed about that, nine of his men wounded or killed within days of the end of the war. He prayed to God that there would be no more.


Oberfeldwebel Jürgen Holzmann trudged wearily along, placing one foot in front of the other, concentrating on the back of the man in front of him, something he'd been doing for many years. For Holzmann was an infantryman, he had gone into France on foot, just as his father and uncles had. He had marched into Russia, then had retreated on foot from France. The Panzers got all the glory, the infantry still did most of the dying.

They definitely did all of the walking!

He looked around, watching the American vehicles roaring by on either side, tanks, trucks, the small open-topped cars he'd been told were called jeeps. There were hundreds of vehicles. It was no wonder to Holzmann that they had lost the war. The leadership had to have been insane thinking that they could take on the world. They urge us to fight on, yet where are they?


Sgt. Melvin Katz stared morosely out to the side of the road. He had been watching the long columns for a while, then the reports of the concentration camps that he had read would fill his head. How could a civilized nation like Germany do such a thing?

Although his father had seen the writing on the wall and had managed to get his immediate family out of Austria prior to the Anschluß and prior to the Nazis, he knew that he still had cousins in Austria. He couldn't help wondering if they had wound up in the camps. Were they even still alive?

One thought filled Katz' mind, this could never be allowed to happen again.


Though Sgt. Charlie Gammell was a combat veteran and now led his own squad, he had trouble remembering that he was just 18-years old. He should have been back on his father's dairy farm back in Vermont. Hunting in the fall, fishing in the summer, helping his grandfather with the maple sugaring in the spring. Gammell couldn't help but feel that his youth had been stolen from him.

He had really looked at himself in the mirror the night before as he had shaved. His eyes had bags under them, he had crow's feet at the corners of those eyes, he looked ten years older than he actually was. He felt much, much older than that physically.

The strain of combat, of sleeping in the rough, usually outside, tended to age a fellow. Gammell couldn't really remember what life had been like before he'd joined Charlie Company. He wondered how many of the men he'd met at the Repple Depple were still alive.

His goal now was to stay alive and to keep his men alive. It struck him that with the influx of all the new replacements, he was no longer the youngest man in the squad.


As the men of Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry head towards Czechoslovakia, the men of Major Jürgen von Lüttwitz and Leutnant Manfred Sauer still languish in the improvised POW enclosures near where they had gone into captivity.

The food was slightly better, the men had built better shelters, and as the weather improved the sickness rates were down. Even still, there were one or two men a week who succumbed to the poor conditions, sickness, and poorly healed wounds.

Von Lüttwitz had remarked to Sauer one day that he was proud that the men he had led into captivity all still lived, not one man had died. Unlike some units, the men of the 2nd Battalion of the 8th Panzergrenadier Regiment looked after each other. As comrades should.


In six days Adolf Hitler will kill himself in his bunker beneath the city of Berlin as the impact of Russian artillery shells fall nearer and nearer.

In two weeks, the Germans will surrender.





Link to all of the Chant's fiction.

56 comments:

  1. “Never again”... among the truly incomprehensible things to me is always those that deny the Holocaust happened. In spite of physical evidence and photographs and survivor stories. And it has not even been 100 years.

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    1. Never underestimate the stupidity of Homo Sapiens, take the Flat Earthers for example. The men of First Battalion still face the possibility of death or being wounded from hardcore holdouts.

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    2. We see a lot of the same phenomenon going on today in the US with so many becoming so tribal, hating those that are 'not like them,' and being willing to 'sacrifice' others for the 'greater good' . Remember that the Nazis were socialists at their core and even many otherwise good people just stood by, refused to see what was really happening within their country and let the madness get too much power. I pray we will short circuit that trend!

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    3. Yet the Nazis were pikers compared to the soviets and the chinese communists as far as sheer numbers go. Having been to Dachau ( on a "perfect" day, gray, cold and sleeting) I will attest that those places are still horrible. I can imagine everything but the smell that our people encountered.
      Boat Guy

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    4. TB - People can be willfully stupid. We see it every day.

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    5. Nylon12 - Yup, on all counts.

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    6. Tom - Divide and concur, it's what the Left is doing.

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    7. BG - The Reds had longer to pile up their body counts.

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    8. We need to remember the Nazis were socialists, true. We should also remember the elites, the business owners, the banks, the press, etc. willingly, even gleefully, partnered with them.

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    9. That they did, kinda like now.

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    10. Ayup. Kinda like now.

      Be less white. And other new corporate phrases. Watch TV and look at the 'racial' makeup of the actors and actresses. Watch the same with tv shows and movies.

      The powers-that-be are working very hard to dehumanize a huge segment of our population. The huge segment that is the most productive, that pays the most taxes, that does the least (in proportion and overall number) of violent crimes.

      Something wrong there...

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    11. A lot of something wrong there if you ask me.

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    12. I guess the good news is nobody has every tried to genocide a majority, let alone a majority that was so well aware of it and armed to the teeth.

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    13. There's always a first time. It won't go well for them and may inadvertently solve the problem.
      BG

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  2. As I was reading this I thought of the Nazis; most of whom chose a cowardly way out. And to think Heinrich Himmler tried to pass himself off as a little civilian.

    ————

    A sentence that might be reworded?

    Though Sgt. Charlie Gammell was a combat veteran, though he now led his own squad, he had trouble remembering that he was just 18-years old.”

    Though Sgt. Charlie Gammell was a combat veteran and now led his own squad, he had trouble remembering that he was just 18-years old.

    No wonder English is so hard to learn.

    wound and wound.


    You have to wonder why Hitler declared war on America after Pearl Harbor. The Americans were is divided about joining Britain as the division is today although not as acrimonious. Hitler did Roosevelt a favor.

    Picture captures it pretty well and was probably based on the scene from the TV movie Patton where you’re just seeing miles of Germans marching in the middle of the autobahn.

    Think how many 18-year-olds grew up in combat and how so many today worry about “micro aggression“

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    1. Yup, that flows better.

      The scene in the movie was based on reality, that's what you meant, right?

      We seem to be raising a generation of simpletons.

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    2. Hitler declared war on the US for many reasons, not the least for the same reason Germany joined Austria back in WWI, alliances.

      Factor in, well, we were perceived as pussies (pusillanimous - weak, shifty, useless, floppy) - which we were under FDR's leadership and under Woodrow Wilson's remaining bureaucratic system.

      And, well, Hitler drank his own koolaid and started believing his own bullscat. Like a drug dealer who starts using his/her/its own product. Never drink the koolaid, never use your own drugs, never fully buy-in to your own pr...

      As to the Wokest Generation, we are now seeing the effects of two generations of people not told to go play outside until the street lights come on, who have been taught by all the draft dodging leftist from Vietnam and later, who have never run over 50 blocks during Halloween collecting candy from strangers, who have never been really punished, whose world has been so sanitized that anything is stressful.

      Example. Watching a show called "Nightwatch" about police and EMS in New Orleans. Some lady was at a casino and the door of the one-armed-bandit (slot machine) fell on her knee. No blood, no swelling, no outward sign of trauma, and she was carrying on like her leg was ripped off by a chipper-shredder and has to be 'transported' to the hospital. (Wife and I turn to each other and say "Insurance Scam in 3... 2... 1...)

      Normal people, those raised in less-woke times, well, even now amongst the non-woke, bang something hard, oh, blood, some tissue damage, eh, clean-assess-bandage and go on. That's how normal people should act.

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    3. Things are far from "normal" in this day and age.

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  3. This is a good synopsis of the men we've come to know. I've needed to read this. Gives me a point to march to every morning... Much like Holzmann.

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    1. I wanted to refresh what some of the main characters were all about.

      One foot after another, it's how one gets through.

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    2. Sitting in the back of transport, looking at the legions of surrendered, surrounded by the Arsenal of Democracy (really the Arsenal of the Republic) would give one time to ponder and contemplate. Which is never good in a situation full of armed, highly keyed up and wired people. There's a reason the proper way to stand down a unit for a long leave is pull them off the line, put them in a camp to shower, fix their equipment and issue new uniforms and stuff, do administrative bullscat for a day or so, let the tension wind down before releasing them on the surrounding population.

      Gotta wonder how many of those contemplating GIs started getting itchy trigger fingers while watching the Germans march to camps. And how many got beat down by their squadmates (and how many actually shot Germans or themselves...)

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    3. Looking at it another way: the people you've been fighting since D-Day decide to quit, while you still have to fight those who haven't packed it in. Resentment? I'll bet there was a lot.

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  4. I often forget about the Pacific and Japan when I read about the last days in the European war, there was still a lot of blood to be spilled.
    To finish the nazis in Europe only to load on a troop ship heading for the invasion of the Japanese homeland...

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    1. I knew many veterans who understood that Hiroshima and Nagasaki probably saved their lives. Also, and no Leftist will ever agree with this, those two bombs saved countless Japanese lives.

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    2. Those bombs saved so many people, not the least saved the Japanese people from extermination.

      My dad got to tour a lot of the prepared defensive sites, that in 1953, were still being discovered and deactivated. Post war analysis determined that our casualty figures for the invasion of Japan were woefully underestimated.

      I've posted before that a friend of mine took a Japanese spear class from a little old lady, who at 13yoa was trained and in charge of a 'squad' of children to use metal and bamboo spears to kill American soldiers.

      Yeah, those two bombs save so many.

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    3. The estimates I've read for Operation Downfall put civilian casualties at 3,000,000 to 5,000,000. Men at my Dad's VFW Post (7041, Vista CA) all said that was low the few times I heard them talk about it. One said something like, "Image how passed off those men in the 3rd and 4th waves would be when they were landing and had to wade through the dead and wounded of the first 2 waves." Most of the guys at that Post, including my dad, quite literally dodged a bullet because of those bombs.

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    4. I'd put the casualties in the 30 to 50 million range.

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    5. We still haven't exhausted the supply of purple hearts contracted for Operations Olympic and Downfall. They knew it was going to be awful.

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    6. After our experiences on Saipan and Okinawa, where there were a number of Japanese civilians, not to mention the kamikaze attacks, casualties would have been huge.

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    7. Those bombs did more than save lives; they made lives like mine possible. My Dad was an Infantryman; the Nagasaki bomb was his 18th birthday present. He was studying Japanese until he turned 18 and could be sent to combat - in that case either OLYMPIC or CORONET.
      Boat Guy

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    8. My Dad ended WWII in the Army Air Corps in India. He said the news of the two bombs was the best news he heard while in the service.

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    9. BG - Without the bombs my father would have wound up invading Japan, not occupying Berlin. So yes, my existence as well.

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    10. I have read that the Purple Hearts that are given out, or were until recently, are all surplus from WWII and the planned invasion of Japan. They made over 1,000,000 of them in preparation. Thank god they were not used.

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  5. Whew, what a ride. Next you'll have our American boys pull into a German town and be treated like, well, people. Which happened a lot. Some resentment, but many Germans took the attitude of 'life goes on.'

    And thanks for checking in with our Germans. The conditions in the camps did improve as quickly as they could. Just, well, given so many surrendering so quickly, it was hard to deal with the numbers. We saw the same thing in the Gulf War and the Invasion of Iraq. Whole units surrendering in such numbers that the troops couldn't handle it and nobody was really prepared for it.

    And you are right. Unit cohesiveness, even in a prison camp, can mean the difference between life and death. Which is why smart camp leaders, both within and without the wire, encouraged the formation of ad-hoc units, be they barracks or blocks, and got the prisoners assigned jobs to keep them busy as quickly as possible. At the least, the job of watching out for the injured, or to building facilities.

    The end-of-war phase was always so weird to me. A transitionary period where people are still 'at war' but many of the 'post-war' issues are already cropping up (like civilians, housing, rebuilding yada yada.)

    Can't even imagine the strain of trying to suddenly go from war-fighter to civilian. Like Gammell. Will he give up hunting? Will he be able to go back to the farm? Or will he just put the uniform away and go back to his 'normal' life?

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    1. Being mentally at war, while those around you go back to their regular lives, not having seen (and done) what you did. It's no wonder to me that many veterans had (have) trouble going back to the civilian world.

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    2. What is so surprising is that so many did and do go back to the civie world with few issues.

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    3. Beans - PTSD is a sneaky bastard. Many who have come back from wars and conflicts have managed to suppress the symptoms for varying periods of time. Staying busy with the many aspects of making a living for self and family can be a very effective suppressant. It is quite common for veterans who have shown no outward signs of PTSD for many years to have escalating symptoms in their later lives. Kids grow up and move out, head off to college and whatnot, leaving the parents, or single parent (worse yet!) without much of the daily responsibilities they have known for many years. Retirement too can cause similar "free time" problems. When the mind is not constantly kept on its' toes with immediate tasks, there is much more time for reflection. That is when those long suppressed memories rise up, especially in dreams, to once again terrorize the victim. It's all the more acute in it's effects, because it comes with the added confusion of, "Why is this happening now? Am I losing my mind?" Shrinks foolishly try to push the narrative that it's good therapy to talk about it. That is not my experience. Talking about it is just all the more disturbing. Better to find new ways to get busy, to once again push all that crap back into the deep, dark recesses, where it belongs, and get on with a productive life. When the know it all "psych professional" says, "Maybe we should try cognitive something or other therapy", it's time to duck and run. "You have little bits and pieces of memory hiding here and there, and what we need to do is draw it all out and deal with it." Um, no, that is the single best way to drive the insanity to an even new level. I prefer to maintain, as I have for many years, lots of little locked cabinets, where I keep the shit locked up, thank you very much. I post at the doorways to these locked spaces attentive sentries, who respond to attempts to unleash the bad guys with newer memories, thoughts, feelings and responsibilities, that I reinforce every chance I get. Triggers there are many, that try to reintroduce the feelings of helpless terror, and the best way to deal with it is to avoid, deflect and deny those situations. Mental tools of avoidance and denial are not, in this type of situation, a bad thing.
      I'm not a mental health therapist, but I haven't found anyone else more qualified to find ways to deal with my issues. Maybe this kind of response won't work for somebody else, but it seems to work for me.

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    4. Patrick - Yup, yup, and yup.

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  6. Hey AFSarge;

    Patrick is on to something, You need good memories to keep the bad ones at bay. When I was going though bad times, after Ford shut down, and I was scratching for a job and the first couple years at my present employer were rough times and the bad experiences threaten to overwhelm me combines with my experiences in the Gulf it pushed my good memories almost out and I found myself spiraling down into a dark place. It ain't a fun experience and God forbid I never go down that road again. That Pic you used in the header pretty much explained the end of the war for the Germans. Very appropriate.

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    1. "Accentuate the positive..." is a good plan; but you occasionally need someone to remind you of it. Always watch out for your Brothers and Sisters. .
      Boat Guy

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  7. My son, the Medic, started suffering from PTSD. He recognized it, with the support of his wife, faced it, used the resources the Army provided, and got it under control. He once told me the biggest problem with PTSD is denial.

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    1. Can't deny a threat, have to face it. One way or the other.

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  8. It's good to hear that the Army now has resources to help in dealing with PTSD. It's long overdue! As to the aspect of denial, I think I concur...to a point. Depends on what it is you're in denial of... If you deny that it is a problem, that's bad. If you deny it access to the rest of your life, I think that is good. Shutting the bad shit in cupboards, with sentries posted, is a good thing, but shoving it off to the side, with no plan to deal with its' eventual resurgence, is bad. PTSD doesn't go away. It hides in forgotten corners, and sneaks out when you least expect it. Denial of its' potential for trauma, later in life,is not good. My advice would be to tell your son, the Medic, to make long terms plans for dealing with these issues.

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    1. Denying that it's a problem, something the military did for a long time.

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  9. Do not give in to the demons within. Almost 20 vets a day commit suicide everyday. Some wounds can not be seen only experienced.

    Spin

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  10. Forgot the "Chant" rule, don't use the back button.

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