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.


  1. Replies
    1. War is sad every day. 'Tis the nature of the beast.

  2. Replies
    1. I too thought it was pretty neat.

    2. That was interesting. I am sure the first were improvised much like the hedgerow cutters put on tanks in the immediate follow-up to the Normandy invasion.

    3. Be interesting to dig into that a little more. After all, an Army travels on its stomach. (Attributed to both Frederick the Great and Napoléon.)

  3. Yup, I need to file this one away. I suppose it's good to remember that those that would like to completely destroy us are still human beings. I tend to lump folks into groups. Learned that from my history studies, I guess.

    Good story. I heard there were episodes kinda like this in Desert 1.

    1. One of the points of this whole exercise has been to demonstrate that there are decent human beings on both sides.

      Only some individuals want to destroy, most just follow the herd without really thinking about it. If we think, then evil leaders can get no purchase.

    2. Which points to the crucial role of the "fourth estate" those who provide "information" or who are supposed to do so. Given that huge swaths of our media have been caught red-handed deliberately misinforming us, the task of having material upon which to think is a challenging one.
      So many of the people one encounters these days have been so thoroughly indoctrinated in these lies, I'm not sure there's any hope.
      Boat Guy

    3. BTW another really good installment Sarge. Only rookies snipe from trees though. The guys might have treated Erich differently had he killed somebody.

    4. BG #1 - Unless people wake up, and fairly soon, the system will collapse, as it did in Venezuela. Then all bets are off.

    5. BG #2 - Lots of snipers in WWII fired from trees. Not everyone performing the role of a sniper was trained as a sniper. Erich was given a scoped rifle and told to go harass the enemy on the autobahn, best vantage point was a tree, some distance from the road. Though I didn't specify the distance in this episode, in my mind he was firing from some 500 yards away. He definitely wasn't trained in the role, most weren't, especially in the closing stages of the war.

      But yeah, had he killed someone, they probably would have kept firing even after he fell from his perch.

    6. Sarge, those of us who are awake (as opposed to "woke") have been so for quite some time. While those who get it are welcome whenever reality intrudes on them, I'm pretty sure the sides are largely drawn.
      Sorta like someone griping about ammo prices and availability now. Shoulda been buying long ago.
      " for those who understand, no explanation is necessary; for those who don't, no explanation is possible"
      Boat Guy

    7. That all depends on your definition of "awake." What can a person do, start shooting up gov't offices? Go full Antifa? I'm tired of people calling for some sort of revolution. No lines have been drawn except in extreme cases, the majority aren't keen on paying more for gas, or listening to the inept, corrupt fool who is now the President, but they're not ready to go into the streets and start shedding blood. Call for revolution? No thank you, revolutions eat their young, always have (with damned few exceptions) and always will. Ride it out, this too shall pass.

      No more politics here. I'm sick of it.

    8. Certainly NOT calling for it, Sarge.

    9. Good, I know too many who are, from the safety of their basements, hiding behind a keyboard, completely anonymous.

    10. Dunno as to the extent of my anonymity; no gulag account to be sure, but there's a modest "body of work" out there. Nobody that I know is calling for it, (and I have no truck with those who would) but the signs increasingly point to it happening. Every day that it doesn't is a gift.
      Boat Guy

    11. (Don McCollor)...There is an account in the Pacific of a Japanese sniper in a palm tree who was resistant to counterfire (and dangerous when trying to employ it). Finally, one disgusted old Marine sergeant used a machine gun under cover from the sniper and sawed through the base of the tree with it...

    12. BG - There are those who speak of it, as if it's a desirable thing. It's not, but sometimes, "in the course of human events..."

    13. Don - Cut the tree down with an MG...

      I like it.

    14. You wrote "No more politics here. I'm sick of it" earlier in this comment thread, which always gives me pause. I don't write much but when I do it is usually with a heavily political bent. If the Chant should be a politics free zone, I will abide by your wishes. But I won't be able to spell you as much!

    15. I enjoy your posts, it's when the politics enters the comments on the fiction posts. A little it tolerable, sometimes it's just too much. Today was a bad day.

      The Chant is not politics-free, I want my historical fiction to be free of modern day politics.

    16. Ok, I understand that. Thanks.

  4. Dumbass. Stupid Dumbass.

    Knows the war is basically over.

    Speaks American English.

    Yet still snipes an American column.

    No friggin sympathy from me. And, yeah, I'da left him hanging.

    At this point of the war, any active resistance is to be met with full deadly force. Anything less is to endanger one's troops and other Germans.

    Dumb Ass.

    Seriously. Absolutely no sympathy.

    1. To further expound... "Hey, Erich, take this rifle and go snipe the Amis on the Autobahn."

      "Okay, Boss." Goes over hill, keeps going, tosses rifle, wanders into the Ami camp... "Hey, what's for lunch?"

      Anything else at this time, well, dumb ass.

    2. Oh yeah, run or otherwise avoid doing it, then we kill your whole family. The average grunt may not know that the State no longer has that power.

      Would you take that chance?

    3. Or another scenario, the Chicom PLA is overrunning the US (literally, not their stooges), do you snipe or do you bend the knee?

      The choices are never all that clear in war time.

    4. "Stupid" from our perspective, but a trifle ethnocentric.

    5. Raised by German parents, you're going to think like a German.

    6. Got back to the "old country" just in time to fall prey to Baldur von Shirach

    7. I understand the hatred for the SS, and the question whether he was regular army or SS, but a sniper's not too well liked either. He probably got treated better than snipers actually did.

    8. They weren't popular guys, that's for sure.

    9. The "trade" is a decidedly unpopular one unless they're on your team...and even then...
      A competent bad-guy sniper is a bad thing indeed. Hard on morale.

    10. War is Hell, snipers turn up the heat.

  5. I remember reading of an American column that came under fire from a German sniper, up in a huge pine tree. Unfortunately for the German, one of the vehicles was an M16. It just ran it's guns up and down the tree.

  6. Replies
    1. Ah well...

      At the age of ten you don't get to choose where to live. Mutti and Vati say "Back to Deutschland" - you go.

  7. My parents knew a man who almost became an Erich. Carl was born in Germany and his parents came over here in the late 20s.

    When he was 18 they thought he should get a German education so they send him back in the late 30s.

    When Hitler invaded Poland, the Nazis closed all of the border on the western side and Carl was in a dilemma.

    He was on the verge of being drafted and he decided to take a train eastward to get to Vladavostock and hopefully catch a ship home.

    And all he had to barter it was a case of vodka.

    That’s how he managed to eat all the way across the Soviet Union. .

    He became a restaurant interior designer and was very successful.

    Lived in Newport Beach.

    Amazing the twists and turns in life so small that can be so profound.

    1. Those twists and turns never cease to amaze me.

  8. The threat to family could (and can) be very real. Observe any major dictatorship today and you will find that it is not you alone that are impacted, but your family as well (to be fair, even in the "free" West, when their is a lawsuit and there is not enough to go after, they might drag the family in too).

    How many are willing to sacrifice their family? Thankfully, most of us do not have to make that decision.

    1. Another aspect of most dictatorships is the desire to have at least one member of every family be loyal to the State. If you have one, you can control them all.

  9. Poor Erich. drew the short straw in so many ways.

    family leaves Germany in '23 since post-war weimar is going to sh1t.
    10 years later, they head out of the frying pan of the great depression into the fire of burning books and hateful ideology.
    10 year old kid, back in .de just as the nazis come to power? he didn't have a chance. or a choice, really.

    thanks for another thought-provoking and sobering installment.

    1. The human element is often forgotten in wartime. I try to bring that out.

      The enemy looks just like us, given different circumstances, they could be our neighbors, rather than our foes.


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