Thursday, May 13, 2021

Tired

(Left Right)

Seriously, I am.

Went up to New Hampshire for Mothers Day, which was awesome as I haven't seen my Mom or my two brothers since Christmas of 2019. That part was awesome.

The get up early on Saturday, drive 150 miles, then do the same on Sunday, left me rather wrung out. It's also been a very busy week at work. Testing stuff, getting ready to go West to test more stuff in the July/August time frame.

Sleep has been hard to find. And the bloody taxes are in the offing. Ah well, I'll sleep when I'm dead. Maybe...

As to that pending trip, sure hope you're going to be in town Tuna as I'll be in your AO for a week or three. You as well Big Sox Fan. And any other denizens of that fine town. You who dwell there know whereof I speak.

It's been a while since I've been here, and I need to, a pilgrimage of a certain kind dontcha know.

Anyhoo, might also get the chance to see two of the progeny and some of the grand-progeny. OTOH, I'll be at sea for a few days as well.

There ya go, a puzzle to be figured out...


In the bad news department...

 I have a favorite English muffin, it's made by these folks. The very best English muffin I have ever had (it's a personal preference mind you) and I've been unable to score any for a few weeks. So today, while at my local grocery store, whilst on a muffin quest, I encountered the manager of said emporium who inquired as to my needing assistance.

"Why yes my good fellow, where, pray tell, are the Vermont Bread English muffins?"

"Oh dear," sayeth he, "I'm afraid they've gone out of business, rather suddenly."

Stunned beyond measure, I staggered from the store. Bereft of my favorite muffin, apparently forever.

"Adieu sweet muffin, I shall remember thee, for as long as the jam lasts, and the toaster shall toast, you shall not be forgotten."

Sigh...



Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Prelude

Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor
William Halsall 

It is difficult to say what the New World looked like before the arrival of large numbers of Europeans. It was not the pristine Eden beloved of so many writers, no place populated by the human species has ever been so, except perhaps the original Garden. We know how that turned out.

Our species is clever, adaptable, curious, and often loving and caring. We are also extraordinarily violent when the mood strikes us. This will be a story of two alien cultures, clashing in the forests and farm fields of that corner of the United States now known as New England. Of course, as warfare and other forms of human endeavor are not easily contained, the story will spill into New York, Pennsylvania, and Canada.

The goal is to tell a story involving characters drawn from four main groups of people. First, of course, were the people who lived in the northeast of what we now know as the United States and the southeastern part of Canada (Quebec) when the Europeans arrived in the area of which two main groups stand out: the Wyandot (Huron) and the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois). Then there were the Europeans: those from England and from France. While the Dutch were in possession of the New Netherlands (what we know as parts of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut), though I don't foresee any of the main characters being from that colony, it could happen. 

No, I haven't forgotten the Abenaki, the Micmac, the Pennacook, the Pequot, the Mohegan, the Nauset, the Narragansett, the Nipmuc, the Woronoco, and the Wampanoag - or any of the other tribes from the region I now inhabit. How could I, many of the place names here came from the language of those peoples. While I don't envisage any of the main characters being from those peoples, you never know what The Muse will decide.

The following wars were fought in this area from 1609 until 1783:
  • Beaver Wars 1609-1701
  • Pequot War 1636-38
  • Kieft's War 1643–45
  • Peach Tree War 1655
  • Esopus Wars 1659–63
  • King Philip's War 1675–78
  • Dummer's War 1722–25
  • French and Indian War 1754–63
  • American Revolutionary War 1775–83
It was a bloody time. I hope to portray the peoples of that time accurately and objectively. I have ancestors in three of the four camps, Haudenosaunee, French, and the "English" (which I use as a generic term for the colonists from Great Britain).

Research is ongoing (I even have a pretty good source for Indian names) and I'm still cogitating on plot lines. One of the characters will have descendants who return to the Old World and fight under Napoléon. Which would, of course, lead into a book on the Napoleonic wars. Am I being too ambitious? Maybe, only time will tell. I'm still thinking of a prequel and a sequel to the just finished book (for which I still need a title, feel free to suggest one in the comments). I have lots of ideas, I only need the time to make them happen.

Be prepared to travel back with me to the days when the frontier was not far from Boston and the people on that frontier had harsh lives.

Here's a taste:

Europeans had been visiting what is now New England for at least a century prior to the
landing of the Pilgrims in 1620, drawn there by the plentiful amounts of fish along the coast. The English and French fishermen were shorter than the natives, dressed in strange garb and were generally unbearably dirty, many having never had a bath in their entire lives, as opposed to the natives, who were scrupulously clean. The natives found the newcomers often surprisingly incompetent at what seemed to them like basic tasks, but they also made useful and beautiful goods such as copper kettles, glittering colored glass and steel knives and hatchets. Moreover, they were willing to exchange these goods for furs that the natives looked upon as cheap and useful only for blankets.

On March 22, 1621, a Native American delegation walked through what is now southern
New England to meet with a group of foreigners who had taken over a recently deserted Indian settlement. The party was led by Massasoit, the sachem of the Wampanoag confederation, a loose coalition of several dozen villages that controlled most of southeastern Massachusetts. Accompanying him was Samoset, sachem of an allied group to the north, and Tisquantum, a distrusted captive, whom Massasoit had brought along as an interpreter.

Massasoit was an able politician, but he faced a thorny dilemma. About five years
before, most of his subjects had died as a result of contacting European diseases. Whole villages had been depopulated. Adding to this disaster was the fact that the Wampanoag’s longtime enemies, the Narragansett alliance to the west, had been spared because of a lack of contact with the Europeans. As a result, Massasoit believed that it was just a matter of time before their enemies would realize their weakness and overrun them. The only solution he saw was to court the Europeans and form an alliance with them. This alliance between the Wampanoag and the English colonists marked a crucial moment in American history. (PDF)

That bit about many of Massasoit's subjects having succumbed to disease? According to one source I've read, the coast for 200 miles and 40 miles inland had been scourged by diseases brought by European fishermen.

A once vibrant set of communities brought low by disease.

Damn.

What a setting for a story!



Tuesday, May 11, 2021

In the New World

Fort Carillon¹
(Source)

THREE HUNDRED YEARS ago, before the authors of the Declaration of Independence were even born, the American frontier was not out west but much closer to the Atlantic coast, in places like western Massachusetts and what is now Maine and New Hampshire.

At the time, this was a harsh, unsettled land full of Indians, who, along with their French Canadian allies, aggressively contested– often preemptively–any hint of westward expansion by English colonists.

For their protection, many colonial villages formed militias. But settlements along New England's frontier required more than your average able-bodied men. They needed especially strong, fierce men who could muster quickly and take the fight to the enemy.

This need for elite forces spawned the creation of small units that became known as "snowshoe men." They patrolled the frontier, protecting settlements from attacks. They operated in all types of weather and conditions. This included winter campaigns, which were conducted on snowshoes, and the name stuck.

The snowshoe men were the nation's first commandos. They were rangers decades before Rogers' Rangers gained fame during the French and Indian War.

They were minutemen long before the colonial Minutemen reaped renown early into the Revolutionary War. (Source)


I am a New Englander, born and bred. I grew up on tales of the French and Indian War and the Revolutionary War. Many of the events from those wars took place within a day's travel of where I grew up.

King Philip's War, which preceded both of those wars, mostly took place within an hour's travel of where I live now. I drive to work on a road named for the leader of the Wampanoag who fought against the colonists. (Metacom Avenue, Metacom was King Philip's Wampanoag name.)

A comment from Comrade Misfit the other day sent me down an interesting path, that excerpt above about the Snowshoe Men. That article also taught me that one of the oldest units in the United States Army traces their lineage to those very men - 

The 181st Infantry Regiment was organized 13 December 1636 in the Massachusetts Militia from existing train bands (i.e. local militia companies) as the North Regiment. Redesignated 7 September 1643 as the Middlesex Regiment. Expanded 13 October 1680 to form the 1st (or Lower) Middlesex Regiment and the 2nd (or Upper) Middlesex Regiment (consisting of companies from Concord, Bedford, Sudbury, Marlborough, Chelmsford, Billerica, Groton, Acton, Lancaster, and Dunstable) (1st Middlesex Regiment – hereafter separate lineage (182nd Infantry Regiment). (Source)

Long story short, the next book will cover the period stretching roughly from the Pequot War to the American Revolution. I started this tale, some time ago, here's an excerpt:

The Beginning...

Just audible over the burbling of the small brook there was a cry. Not the sort of noise made by a four legged animal. It was a human sound. A cry of terror.

And of pain.

Weeish looked at me for a moment, eyebrow cocked.

A quick nod from me and we headed towards the sound.

Cautiously.

A musket shot, another scream, we were close.

Staying under cover we drew near, in time to see the last of the whites fall to the ground, his musket still in his hand, the long arrow protruding from his chest signifying that his hair would be decorating a lodge pole before nightfall.

Weeish and I stayed under cover, there was nothing we could do for the small party of men who even now were being plundered of whatever useful items their conquerors might make use of.

The Onandowagas moved off, exultant as they headed back for their village. They now had muskets and powder. Fine knives of steel and heavy wool clothing to cover themselves in winter. It was a good kill. (You can read the whole thing here.)

I covered some of that war (with a wee bit of fiction as well) in this post. It's a fascinating period of history, but I want to go back further, when the Indian nations were more powerful and the contest for North America was a bit more even.

While researching this topic I learned other things which I hadn't known before. I'll try to convey this in my latest endeavor. Not sure when I'm going to start but I'm thinking soon. It seems that I've been bitten by the writing bug and I can't stop now.

Hopefully this is a good thing...



¹ Carillon is the original French name of the fort. The British renamed it Ticonderoga. I've been there a few times, need to go back. One very bloody battle was fought there in the French and Indian War.

Monday, May 10, 2021

A little good news

 A belated "Happy Mother's Day" to all our readers that fall into that category...You know who you are!

 Our Mother's Day started with Mass. 6 consecutive weeks of going to Mass is doing wonders for my morale.  I'd put the attendance level at the Early Service at about 300. That number has been steadily increasing weekly since the 100 person limit was lifted on Easter.  Most of the congregation wore masks, but even that number has been decreasing lately.  I see a lot of people wearing one only while they walk in the church, go to communion and walk out. I have adopted that modus operandi myself.  

DIL took Mrs J and I out for brunch at a local bistro after Mass. I thought it humorous that the host at the bistro was masked as well as our waitress, but none of the chef's were, so....Theater!

But, progress towards normalcy still.

Had an entertaining week, week before last.  I'd had my quarterly "how ya doin'" with my GP Doc recently. 

Yes, Beans, my weight has gone down a bit, my A1C is also down (6.8 now), my BP is about the same although I have to concentrate a bit harder on calming thoughts immediately prior to it being taken nowadays. 

Before we got to the "less fun" portions of the exam, he asked if I had any concerns.  I reminded him of our talk on a previous visit about my wrists going numb and said I was ready for the next step, so he scheduled me for a consult with a neurologist.  He then asked if there was anything else.  I did mention that I was having a hard time lately remembering simple things.  Like if I had told Mrs J something or not. Or where I had left my phone.  Nothing earth shattering, just very frustrating.  And with a history of you know what in my family, frankly a little scary.

So, he said, good news, the next step in that diagnosis is to visit  a neurologist, so...two birds with one stone.

I meet with the Doctor (who might have been 20 or so, dam...I'm getting old), and he asks what are you here for?  I ask him if he wants the known problem first or the one I'm most concerned about?

"Let's start with the concern".  So I explain my CRS (Yes, Beans,  Can't Remember S**T!) issues.  After a bit of discussion he administers a verbal memory test which I passed with flying colors.  He said that it was normal to experience short term memory loss as a person ages.  They're called "Senior Moments". He also said that folks that actually have early onset Alzheimer's or dementia very rarely realize they have a problem.  Since I did, I was most likely ok but said he'd advise my GP to keep an eye on it.

At that point, my BP was pretty well back to normal. 

He then addressed the Carpal Tunnel problem saying I'd have to have a test done to diagnose if I had it and how progressed it was.  Having had this done once before about 10 years ago, I asked if this "Test" involved electricity.  My BP shot back up when he said yes.

Two days later I'm back in the office and previous Doctor's brother (the MD thing runs in the family, their Father started the practice and is still there) will be administering it.  After strapping me into a chair, attaching a couple of electrodes to either side of my forehead and putting my feet in a bucket of water, he cackles loudly and throws the switch that starts the test.

Ok,  maybe not that last part.

But suffice it to say, I'm no longer a fan of Thomas Edison (or whomever discovered modern electricity).  The test took about an hour but, for some reason, seemed much longer.  Suffice it to say, it's probably a good thing they didn't check my BP at any point during the test.  I went home and treated myself to a well deserved nap.

I returned a couple of days later to be told by the first Doctor that I have a moderate case of Carpal Tunnel syndrome.  Which will only get worse as I get older, if I don't get it fixed now.  They're not orthopedic surgeons, so they refer me to another doctor.  I have that consult this week.  This guy did both my knees and I'm still able to walk, so I should be ok.  

I've never been able to walk on my hands before, but maybe now.....

Speaking of walks, Mrs J and I are out for a walk earlier this week with the Dogs (Prepping for our trip to Palo Duro Canyon the end of the Month), when I happened to look up at the clouds overhead.

Mammatus Cloud

Growing up, I had been taught that this was a pretty good indicator of a possible tornado.  Going through Pilot Training, I learned that that was generally untrue as this formation is caused by descending cold air.  That having been said, the aviation wisdom was to not fly under them as this thing can dump some very large hail.  Hitting one of those while traveling at hundreds of MPH's....can be detrimental.  In either case, Mrs J and I RTB'd at a rapid rate.

Shortly thereafter, this happened.


Which went on for a few hours. Finally...


I think this was what the Neurologist used to power his test equipment

The next morning we set out to see if anything was damaged.


Our two stock ponds were full,  they had been bone dry before the storm and had been since the first week in May 2019.  What is it about that week, T-storms and the Hill Country?




Apparently, grass grows well when well watered?  Who knew?

Peace out, y'all!

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Now What?

(Source)

Okay, so I've written a book.

Well, most of a book, there is still a lot of editing to do, patching things together, smoothing out the rough edges and the like. But in reality, the hard part is over. The story has been told, perhaps I should say, the first part of the story. While the story is by no means finished, it's enough for now.

This writing thing is hard work. Not the writing itself (though that's hard enough) but the emotional investment in the story. I've literally lost sleep over the fates of the characters in the book. I've also lost sleep by waking in the middle of the night after some interesting plot line has silently slipped into my dreams. Kinda weird.

So really the question is, "What's next?"

I can't go back to regular blogging, there's too much in the world which angers me beyond rational thought. I started writing to get away from all that.


At first this was to be a short series leading up to D-Day. I had done these little fictional series before to coincide with some date in American military history (and one series covered an incident which occurred on the Eastern Front in 1941) but this was the first time it lasted for nearly an entire year.

While I am glad to have finished, I'm already getting the urge to start another long series. I daresay the characters in the first book need to have their stories continued into the post war period and beyond. After all the 26th Infantry Regiment (in which Hernandez, Paddock, Gammell, et al served) provided the guards for the Nuremburg War Crimes Trials. I'm sure there's a story there.

Some of the men want to stay in the army, Korea is not too far down the road, and after that is Vietnam. A number of WWII vets served in both of those conflicts. There's a story there as well.

As to the Pacific Theater, wow...  No one from this story is going to have to fight the Japanese. But I have been reading an awful lot on the Pacific lately, Ian Toll's great series was devoured over the past couple of months, and now I'm reading Implacable Foes: War in the Pacific, 1944-1945 by Waldo Heinrichs and Marc Gallicchio. Which is heavy going at times but covers MacArthur's South West Pacific Area Command very well. (Toll's trilogy was mostly about the Navy.)

Then there are E.B. Potter's biographies of Nimitz and Halsey that were given to me by reader (and friend in the real world) Old Guns not so long ago. They are on deck and won't read themselves, so I might be ready to do a Pacific Theater series at some point in the near future.

I'm also kicking around the idea of something dealing with The French and Indian War, the American Revolution, and the Napoleonic Wars. All are areas I have read a lot about (and done a little bit of reenacting about as well, as an artilleryman). The Great Tragedy of 1861 - 1865 (what I'll call it today, you know what I mean), is also a candidate for a novel, I'm just worried that doing it as a series on the blog might engender too much controversy. To hear some folks, you'd think that war ended not that long ago!


So yes, I have a few ideas to continue this writing thing, I haven't committed to anything yet. One thing I was always told was to "write what you know about," well, I know a lot of things, some even well enough to write about. But I will entertain suggestions from you, my editors, er, I mean readers. (Though truth be told I'm sure I've had some good suggestions over the life of this series.)

So feel free to chime in on what your ideas are in the comments. I need to let my brain rest for a couple of days...


Saturday, May 8, 2021

Epilogue

Generalfeldmarschall Wilhelm Keitel¹ signs the German surrender terms in Berlin 8 May 1945.
This was Germany's second surrender.
US Army Photo

Sgt. Charlie Gammell sat on a bench just outside the small Czech inn's front entrance. All day long he had watched streams of refugees, both military and civilian, passing by on the road. He turned to Pvt. Ross Flowers and said, "I dunno Posey, it feels like the war's over, but it feels strange, do you know what I mean?"

"Sure Sarge, the Japs are still fighting, the war here is over, but it ain't really over. Not until the Japs quit. Do you think we'll get sent to the Pacific?" Flowers voice had an edge to it, there was fear in that voice, and not a little anger.

"I really don't know. But it feels like we did our bit, doesn't seem fair that we'd have to go fight the Japs after beating the Germans. Let someone else do that, I mean, what the Hell have those guys been doing out there anyway?" Gammell wanted nothing more than to go home, he'd seen enough death, he'd done enough killing. If and when he got back to Vermont, he swore he'd never leave again.


Cpt. Stephen Hernandez was sitting in his makeshift office, they'd set the Company CP up inside a barn and walled off one corner with blankets to give him a semi-private corner. As he sat there he heard someone clear his throat just outside.

"Enter."

It was his XO, 2nd Lt. Mitch Hornsby. "Sir, your platoon leaders request your presence next door in the farmhouse."

Hernandez grabbed his cap and nodded, "Paperwork is done for now, I'm sure the next batch is inbound as we speak."

"It's on my desk Sir, I looked it over, more Army bullshit which can wait until tomorrow. Some shoe clerk back in the States probably needs to know how many bullets we've fired since D-Day." Hornsby said with a grin.

Hernandez returned the grin with a smile, "If you say so Pebbles. Let's go."


1st Lt. Nathan Paddock, West Point, Class of 1944, was waiting with his fellow officers: 1st Lieutenants Nathaniel Gonzales and Herman Jacobsen, and 2nd Lieutenants Bob Poole and Brad Woodstock. Poole and Woodstock had been sergeants not that long ago, as had their company commander himself, Cpt. Hernandez, who entered the room wondering what was afoot.

On the kitchen table was a bottle, Paddock stood up and handed Hernandez a glass of liquid, the other officers already had a glass. Hornsby was handed a glass by Bob Poole. Paddock raised his glass, as did the others, and said, "To the fallen."

As each man drank from his glass, each tried to remember the men who had died, the men who had been wounded badly enough to be sent home, those they had served with but whose places were now filled by other men. Paddock shook his head, some of their faces were already hard to remember clearly.

Hernandez had been surprised when he took a sip and tasted Calvados. He wondered which of the men had managed to save a bottle of the famous, some said infamous, Norman apple brandy. It brought back memories, some good, some bad. He was even more surprised when he felt his eyes starting to well up with tears.

As he looked from man to man, he realized that he wasn't the only one having trouble controlling his emotions. The other men were tearing up as well. Hernandez took another sip, then said, "Thank you gentlemen, I've never had a better set of comrades."

"To you, and to the men who survived."


VE-Day and Afterwards

VE-Day was the day that the war in Europe officially ended.  Amongst U.S. soldiers serving in Czechoslovakia, the day was one of mixed emotions.  There was relief that the war in Europe had finally ended.  There was apprehension as many of these soldiers were scheduled to redeploy to the Pacific Theater for the invasion of the Japanese Home Islands.  There were concerns that some of the German soldiers would continue to fight; either from ignorance of the German surrender or outright defiance.  There was a somber remembrance of comrades killed in battle.

This mixture of emotions was typified in the reaction of Staff Sergeant William Laird of the 5th Field Artillery Battalion.  “We were in position east of Cheb and it felt like the best day in the world. I had survived,” Laird later recalled.  “The last few days before VE Day and after VE Day were high tension days because we had to break contact with the enemy and we were never sure that they had ‘got the word.’”

For Technical Corporal John Maney of the 17th Field Artillery Observation Battalion, VE-Day was a huge relief not only because the war in Europe ended but also because he, like many other long-serving veterans of the European Campaign, was not slated to redeploy to the Pacific Theater.  “On VE Day I was in Susice and we were looking forward to going home. By then we knew we weren’t going to Japan,” he later recalled. “We each had enough points to get to go home and not be occupational troops either.”

Many U.S. soldiers were too busy to celebrate the end of the war in Europe.  “1st Division Headquarters was in Cheb (Eger) on VE Day,” recalled the division’s G-5 (Civil Affairs) Officer Lt. Col Thomas Lancer.   “There was no celebration! We began to receive a great number of R.A.M.P.’s (Repatriated Allied Military Personnel), ie. freed p.o.w.’s.”

At 1700 on the afternoon of VE-Day, the 26th Infantry Regiment held a church service in honor of the occasion.  At least two of the old soldiers from each company were present.   The regimental commander Col. Francis J. Murdoch, Jr. reviewed the regiment’s long combat history from Oran to Czechoslovakia.  Taps was played in honor of the regiment’s deceased members.

The 8th of May was also a day that many U.S. soldiers encountered the horrors of the Third Reich’s racial genocide.   Soldiers of CCA 9th Armored Division and the 1st Infantry Division liberated Zwodau and Falkenau an der Eger, two sub-camps of the notorious Flossenbürg Concentration Camp liberated earlier by the 90th Infantry Division.   Falkenau an der Eger held sixty prisoners.  Zwodau held between 900 and 1,000 women prisoners.  The latter had been set up by the German S.S. in March 1944 as a slave labor camp to produce air force equipment.  The U.S. soldiers provided desperately needed food and medical care for the starving prisoners.

CCA 9th Armored Division’s stay in north-western Czechoslovakia was brief.   For the next week, CCA processed tens of thousands of surrendering German soldiers and civilians, then rejoined its parent division back in Germany.

After the German surrender, the 1st Infantry Division was busily engaged in maintaining road blocks and control points, processing surrendering German soldiers and civilians, and guarding camps that held these German prisoners.  With the massive flood of Germans fleeing the Soviet Army, this was a huge task for the Big Red One soldiers.   A few days after VE-Day, the division set up a huge concentration area for surrendered German soldiers outside Cheb.  Late on 11 May, the soldiers of the 7th Field Artillery Battalion were assigned to provide security for a section of the concentration area.  Each day, one of the firing batteries augmented by personnel from Headquarters and Service Batteries guarded the battalion’s assigned sector.  Meanwhile the other firing batteries remained on alert in case needed.

The 745th Tank Battalion’s companies remained attached to the infantry regiments until 17 May.  During this time, they performed occupation and security duties alongside their infantry counter-parts.  On 17 May, the companies were relieved of their assignments to the infantry regiments and the battalion was re-assembled south-east of Cheb.  The battalion was assigned to guard a sector of the division’s concentration area for German prisoners.  The companies performed guard duties on a rotating basis for the remainder of their time in Czechoslovakia. (Source)
 
 
World War II in Europe was over.

(Source for the following...)

As part of II Corps, the division landed in Oran, Algeria on 8 November 1942 as part of Operation Torch, the Allied invasion of French North Africa. Elements of the division then took part in combat at Maktar, Tebourba, Medjez el Bab, the Battle of Kasserine Pass (where American forces were pushed back), and Gafsa. It then led the Allied assault in brutal fighting at El Guettar, Béja, and Mateur. The 1st Infantry Division was in combat in the Tunisian Campaign from 21 January 1943 to 9 May 1943, helping secure Tunisia. The campaign ended just days later, with the surrender of almost 250,000 Axis soldiers. After months of nearly continuous fighting, the division had a short rest before training for the next operation.

In July 1943, the division took part in the Allied invasion of Sicily, codenamed Operation Husky, still under the command of Major General Allen. Lieutenant General George S. Patton, commanding the U.S. Seventh Army, specifically requested the division as part of his forces for the invasion of Sicily. It was still assigned to the II Corps. In Sicily the 1st Division saw heavy action when making amphibious landings opposed by Italian and German tanks at the Battle of Gela. The 1st Division then moved up through the center of Sicily, slogging it out through the mountains along with the 45th Infantry Division. In these mountains, the division saw some of the heaviest fighting in the entire Sicilian campaign at the Battle of Troina; some units losing more than half their strength in assaulting the mountain town. On 7 August 1943, Major General Allen was relieved of his command by Lieutenant General Omar Bradley, then commanding the II Corps. Allen was replaced by Major General Clarence R. Huebner who was, like Allen, a decorated veteran of World War I who had served with the 1st Infantry Division throughout the war.

When that campaign was over, the division returned to England, arriving there on 5 November 1943 to prepare for the eventual invasion of Normandy. The 1st Infantry Division and one regimental combat team from the 29th Infantry Division comprised the first wave of troops that assaulted German Army defenses on Omaha Beach on D-Day. The division had to run 300 yards to get to the bluffs, with some of the division's units suffering 30 percent casualties in the first hour of the assault, and secured Formigny and Caumont in the beachhead by the end of the day. The division followed up the Saint-Lô break-through with an attack on Marigny, 27 July 1944.

The division then drove across France in a continuous offensive. It took large numbers of prisoners during the Battle of the Mons Pocket, and reached the German border at Aachen in September. The division laid siege to Aachen, taking the city after a direct assault on 21 October 1944. The 1st Division then attacked east of Aachen through the Hürtgen Forest, driving to the Ruhr, and was moved to a rear area 7 December 1944 for refitting and rest following 6 months of combat. When the German Wacht Am Rhein offensive (commonly called the Battle of the Bulge) was launched on 16 December 1944, the division was quickly moved to the Ardennes front. Fighting continuously from 17 December 1944 to 28 January 1945, the division helped to blunt and reverse the German offensive. Thereupon, the division, now commanded by Major General Clift Andrus, attacked and again breached the Siegfried Line, fought across the Ruhr, 23 February 1945, and drove on to the Rhine, crossing at the Remagen bridgehead, 15–16 March. The division broke out of the bridgehead, took part in the encirclement of the Ruhr Pocket, captured Paderborn, pushed through the Harz Mountains, and was in Czechoslovakia, fighting at Kynšperk nad Ohří, Prameny, and Mnichov (Domažlice District) when the war in Europe ended. Sixteen members of the division were awarded the Medal of Honor during World War II. 

Casualties
  • Total battle casualties: 20,659 (15,374 in Europe, 5,285 in North Africa and Sicily)
  • Killed in action: 3,616 (2,713 in Europe, 903 in North Africa and Sicily)
  • Wounded in action: 15,208 (11,527 in Europe, 3,681 in North Africa and Sicily)
  • Missing in action: 499 (329 in Europe, 170 in North Africa and Sicily)
  • Prisoner of war: 1,336 (805 in Europe, 531 in North Africa and Sicily)
  • Days of Combat: 443
Awards and Prisoners taken
 
Distinguished Unit Citations:
  • Company K, 18th Infantry Regiment, for action in combat on 23 March 1943 (War Department General Order No. 60, 1944)
  • 32nd Field Artillery Battalion, for action in combat from 21-24 March 1943 (War Department General Order No. 66, 1945)
  • 2nd Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, for action in combat on 23 April 1943 (War Department General Order No. 4, 1945)
  • 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, for action in combat from 29-30 April 1943 (War Department General Order No. 60, 1944)
  • 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, for action in combat from 10-13 July 1943 (War Department General Order No. 60, 1944)
  • 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, for action in combat from 10-14 July 1943 (War Department General Order No. 60, 1944)
  • Cannon Company, 16th Infantry Regiment, for action in combat from 11-13 July 1943 (War Department General Order No. 60, 1944)
  • 16th Infantry Regiment, for action in combat on 6 June 1944 (War Department General Order No. 73, 1944)
  • 18th Infantry Regiment, for action in combat from 6-16 June 1944 (War Department General Order No. 14, 1945)
  • 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, for action in combat from 13-22 September 1944 (War Department General Order No. 42, 1945)
  • 18th Infantry Regiment, for action in combat from 8-10 October 1944 (War Department General Order No. 42, 1945)
  • 3rd Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, for action in combat from 8-19 October 1944 (War Department General Order No. 30, 1945)
  • Companies G and L, 16th Infantry Regiment, for action in combat from 15-17 October 1944 (War Department General Order No. 14, 1945)
  • 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, for action in combat from 16-19 November 1944 (War Department General Order No. 120, 1946)
  • 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, for action in combat from 18-26 November 1944 (War Department General Order No. 120, 1946)
  • 3rd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, for action in combat from 16-26 November 1944 (War Department General Order No. 120, 1946)
  • Company F, 18th Infantry Regiment, for action in combat on 2 February 1945 (War Department General Order No. 29, 1946)

Individual Awards: 

  • Medal of Honor: 16
  • Distinguished Service Cross: 131
  • Legion of Merit: 16
  • Silver Star: 4,258
  • Soldiers Medal: 100
  • Bronze Star: 12,568
  • Air Medal: 65
Prisoners Taken:
 
188,382


May their glory never fade.




¹ Found guilty on multiple counts (war crimes, etc.) by the Nuremberg Tribunal, Wilhelm Keitel was hanged on 16 October 1946.

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Friday, May 7, 2021

The Final Days, Part Two

Bundesarchiv

"Cap'n Hernandez! Sir!" Cpl. Jake Winters was trying to get his company commander's attention, he had battalion on the radio and they were adamant, "Whatever he's doing, have him drop it and get on the horn, NOW!" Winters realized he was talking directly to Cpt. Jack Walker, the acting commander of 1st Battalion.

Hernandez had been talking with 1st Platoon's commander, 1st Lt. Nathaniel Gonzales, they were discussing whether or not to call in artillery on a suspected German position just ahead. The division was advancing to the outskirts of Karlovy Vary. While opposition was starting to fade, there were still small pockets of Germans who wanted to fight.

Hernandez spun on his heel and, uncharacteristically, barked at his radioman, "Damn it, Winters! Can't you see I'm f**king busy?" In the captain's defense, he had had virtually no sleep over the past 48 hours. Still, Winters flinched.

Hernandez saw that and immediately regretted his outburst, reaching for the radio handset he put a hand on Winters shoulder and said, "Sorry Jake, that was uncalled for." Then he spoke into the radio, "Charlie Leader here."

Hernandez listened for a few minutes, occasionally he would interject a "Yes Sir" or an "Understood Sir" into the conversation, mostly he listened. Winters heard a barked "Out" from the handset as Hernandez handed it back to him. The captain looked very thoughtful for a few seconds, then he looked at Winters.

"Radio all the platoons. We're to stand down. Defensive actions only, it seems the Krauts surrendered this morning. It's finally over..."


Oberstleutnant¹ Werner von Kleist was walking at the head of a column of approximately 2,000 Germans, a mixture of soldiers and civilians. The Red Army was advancing quickly into western Czechoslovakia, he did not wish to be a prisoner of the Soviets.

He had started to move west with the remnants of his regiment, roughly 500 men. As the march continued, more and more civilians joined the column. He had talked briefly with one of the civilian leaders, the man's family had lived in the region for generations. He was understandably distraught with having to leave his homeland.

"Herr Oberstleutnant, my family has lived in the Sudetenland since 1650, my ancestors served the Hapsburgs against Napoléon, I myself served the Emperor Franz-Joseph on the Italian front in the last war. Now my Czech neighbors are talking revenge. Revenge for what? I did nothing to them!"

"I know Opa, the world has gone insane. My family lands are in Prussia and have been overrun by the Red Army. I had a letter from a friend who said that the rape and the looting by the Red Army is out of control. Which is why I'm taking the remnants of my regiment west, to surrender to the Americans."

"Will they take us in? Can we expect mercy from the Americans?" The older man wanted to know.

"I don't know Opa, better them than the Reds I think."


1st Lt. Nate Paddock's 2nd Platoon was manning a roadblock on the Cheb - Karlovy Vary road. The men had been stunned by the sheer number of refugees on the road. Sgt. Melvin Katz was running the checkpoint because of his language skills, most of the refugees were Sudeten Germans.

Pfc. Bogdan Nowak walked up to the sergeant and said, "It looks like most of western Czechoslovakia is walking this way." Nowak was fluent in Polish, German, Russian, and English and, as it turned out, could have simple conversations in Czech. So he was a good man to have on the roadblock as well.

"Yes, I think you're right. Then there are those guys as well." Katz said this while pointing with his chin towards a bedraggled looking group of German POWs, soldiers who had dumped their weapons and joined the flock of refugees. As the columns passed, the men manning the road block pulled the soldiers aside.

"Wow, look at that." Nowak pointed down the road, where coming around a bend there was a battalion-sized group of German soldiers marching in formation. Their uniforms were dirty and worn, but their military discipline was still strong. Behind them was another group of civilian refugees.

"I wonder where Germany is going to put all of these people." Katz wondered aloud.

"They should have thought of that before starting a war." Nowak grumbled.


Oberstleutnant von Kleist had his sergeants form the men in columns of four by company. The men fell in naturally, most had been in the Army for at least two years, the younger ones followed the examples set by their sergeants and corporals. Once they had formed it was only natural that they marched in step.

The civilians fell back to follow the battalion into the American lines. Von Kleist wondered if they would be met by machine gun fire, then he saw the group of German soldiers off the side of the road. He felt confident that his men would be taken prisoner.

As the column approached the roadblock, von Kleist ordered the men to halt. He then walked up to the roadblock and noted that there was a sergeant on duty. He stopped, came to attention, saluted, and then in broken English indicated his desire to surrender.

He was somewhat surprised when the American soldier answered in perfect Viennese German.


Sgt. Katz was bemused at the idea of a lieutenant colonel saluting him, but he came to attention, returned the salute, and said, "Der Krieg ist vorbei, Oberstleutnant, Ihre Armee hat sich heute Morgen kapitulieren. Sie sind jetzt Kriegsgefangene der 1. Infanteriedivision der US-Armee.²"

"Ich verstehe Unteroffizier, wo wollen Sie meine Männer?³" von Kleist expected to be pointed to the roadside, but he had 500 men, surely they wouldn't fit.

Katz thought about it for a moment. As he was trying to figure out where to put a battalion of German POWs, Cpt. Hernandez and 1st Lt. Paddock joined him. After he explained what was going on, Paddock decided, with Hernandez' concurrence, that Katz' squad would escort the German soldiers back to regiment, where a proper POW cage was being set up.

Pointing to the bedraggled lot sitting off to the side Hernandez said, "Have this colonel take those guys with him."

Katz explained this to von Kleist who immediately detailed two of his sergeants to have those other men fall in behind his men.


Hauptfeldwebel Martin Benfeldt had been in the army nearly twenty years, like most professional non-commissioned officers, he despised disorder and sloppiness. The men sitting in dejection at the roadside were stunned into motion at Benfeldt's first words.

"ON YOUR FEET YOU DISGUSTING RABBLE!! YOU CALL YOURSELVES SOLDIERS? GO, GO, GO, FALL IN OVER THERE BEHIND THOSE REAL SOLDIERS!! MOVE, MOVE, MOVE!!!"

As these men fell in behind von Kleist's, their own sergeants chivvied them into formation, which pleased Benfeldt immensely. Shortly thereafter, von Kleist gave the order to march.

And as they marched down the road, the men began to sing...



A little flower blooms on the heath,
And it's called: Erika.
Hot with a hundred thousand small bees
Swarming around it, Erika,
For her heart is full of sweetness –
Delicate fragrance wafts from her flowery dress.
A little flower blooms on the heath,
And it's called: Erika.
 
There's a little maid back home,
And she's called: Erika.
This girl is my true little treasure
And my happiness, Erika.
When the heath turns a purplish colour,
I greet her singing this song.
A little flower blooms on the heath,
And it's called: Erika.
 
A little flower also blooms in my room,
And it's called: Erika.
Already at first light and at sundown
It looks at me, the Erika.
And then it seems to me as if it speaks aloud:
"Do you also think of your little bride?
At home, a girl is weeping for you
And she's called: Erika."

Erika, as it's known in German - heather in English.
We had this in our garden in Germany, I miss that garden.

(Source)


Hernandez and Paddock watched the Germans marching down the road to captivity and an uncertain future. Their heads were held high and every man was singing at the top of his lungs. Hernandez looked at Paddock and said, "I hope we never have to fight those bastards again. Defeated and they still look like soldiers."

"Amen to that Cap'n. Amen to that." Paddock nodded, the Krauts had nearly killed him, had killed men serving under him, had killed friends of his, but he understood. It was war. Perhaps in the future they should send the politicians out to fight their own battles.

If only...


The 7th of May 1945

After authorizing Patton to advance to the Karlovy Vary – Plzen – Ceske Budejovice line, General Eisenhower sent a message to the Soviet High Command informing them that he was considering an advance beyond that line to the west bank of the Vltava (Moldau) River.  This storied river flows north through the heartland of Bohemia and Prague before joining the Elbe River in Germany.

The following day on 5 May 1945, the Soviet High Command strenuously objected to Eisenhower’s proposal, as doing so would enable Patton’s army to liberate as least part of the Czechoslovak capital.  With German resistance melting away before the Americans and Czechs partisans rising up against the Germans in Prague and numerous towns, Third U.S. Army could easily have reached Prague before the Soviets.  As the Soviets were intent on imposing a Communist government in the post-war Czechoslovakia, the U.S. Army could not be permitted to liberate Prague.  Accordingly, they prevailed upon Eisenhower to halt Patton at the Karlovy Vary – Plzen – Ceske Budejovice line.

In responding to Eisenhower’s proposal, the Soviets falsely claimed a quid pro quo with Denmark. They insisted that they had allowed Eisenhower’s forces to liberate Denmark earlier that week.  The fact was Field Marshall Sir Bernard Montgomery’s 21st Army Group had successfully raced the Soviets to the Baltic Sea and thus prevented the Soviets from seizing Denmark.  Even with Czech partisans in Prague desperately crying out for American help via radio and courier, Eisenhower would not permit Third Army to advance any farther east.

On the morning of 7 May, Third U.S. Army was well positioned to resume the advance on Prague.  In the north, CCA 9th Armored Division was just a few miles west of Karlovy Vary.  In the center, 16th Armored Division had liberated Plzen and pushed several miles east.  The 4th Armored Division had similarly advanced beyond the restraining line.  In the south, the 5th Infantry Division was west of Ceske Budejovice.  More importantly, only scattered organized resistance was being encountered.   Rather, torrents of German soldiers and civilians were rushing westward to surrender to the Americans and thus escape being captured by the Soviets.  That morning, many of Third Army’s units resumed their advance up to the restraining line.  The orders to halt the eastward advance did not reach many of the units until late morning of 7 May.

On the morning of 7 May 1945, the units of 1st Infantry Division and its attached Combat Command A, 9th Armored Division resumed their attacks eastward.  Their attacks had not proceeded far when word was received to halt.  In mid-morning, CCA was ordered to halt just short of Karlovy Vary.

Later that morning, the 1st Infantry Division and other Third U.S. Army units received the official word from General Eisenhower’s headquarters informing them the German High Command had surrendered early in the morning of 7 May.  The provisions of the surrender agreement would take effect at 0001 on 9 May 1945.  All offensive operations were to cease immediately.

Also that morning, senior leaders of the German XII Corps surrendered not once but twice to the combined 1st Infantry Division / CCA 9th Armored Division force.  In the first surrender ceremony, Major Henry T. Mortimer and Captain Cecil Roberts of CCA and a major from the 1st Infantry Division accepted the surrender of General Herbert Osterkamp and his corps at his headquarters with Captain Roberts formally accepting Osterkamp’s sword.

Subsequent to Capt. Robert’s acceptance of that German corps’s surrender, Gen.Osterkamp surrendered his XII Corps again.  This time, Gen. Osterkamp surrendered his corps to Brigadier General George A. Taylor, the Assistant Commander of the U.S. 1st Infantry Division. Also present were Major Mortimer, Brig. Gen. Thomas Harrold - commander of CCA, 9th Armored, and several other 1st Infantry Division officers. Under interrogation, Osterkamp revealed that his corps had only about 2,200 soldiers in its three depleted divisions, and that altogether there were some 17,000 Germans in his area of responsibility. There was some difference of opinion over the exact terms of the German surrender but Gen. Taylor quickly prevailed. With little choice, Osterkamp accepted Taylor’s precise terms and surrendered his corps for the second time. (Source)



¹ Lieutenant colonel
² The war is over, Lieutenant Colonel, your army surrendered this morning. You are now prisoners of the US Army's 1st Infantry Division.
³ I understand, sergeant, where do you want my men?

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Thursday, May 6, 2021

The Last Offensive, Day Two

Near Březová, Karlovy Vary Region, Czechoslovakia
(Source)

"Do you see it?" S/Sgt Jack Wilson asked as he adjusted his field glasses to try and get a better look. But it sure looked to him like an anti-tank gun, a German anti-tank gun.

"Yup, right where the field curves back into the trees then back out again. Damn, that might be an 88!" 1st Lt. Nate Paddock responded.

Wilson studied the gun for a few more seconds, then said, "Yup, Pak 43 from the size of the gun. Damn." Wilson nodded to Cpl. John Myerson who got on the radio back to the tankers. No point in bringing them up with that big gun covering the road.

"Call it in John." Paddock said as he continued to watch the German gun.

Moments later, rounds from the company's mortar section began to land in the vicinity of the German position. Myerson had them dialed in pretty quickly and 2nd Platoon's command team was rewarded with secondary explosions from the area of the gun as a mortar round found the enemy's ammunition supply.

"Cease fire, target destroyed." Myerson radioed the mortar section leader, Sgt. Marshall Vega.

"Well look at that would ya..." Wilson muttered as a number of Germans came out of the trees, hands in the air.


After the prisoners had been escorted to the rear, the platoon had to move off the road as tanks and trucks from 9th Armored were advancing through. Cpt. Stephen Hernandez had come up to the forward position and was explaining to his platoon leaders that the 1st had been ordered to hold their current position until the 9th Armored Division had passed through, then the Big Red One would continue their advance towards Karlovy Vary.

"So did those Krauts put up any kind of resistance?" Hernandez asked Paddock, gesturing at the Germans marching down the road to the rear.

"We didn't give them the chance Cap'n. Once we spotted the AT gun we called for the mortars to work them over. That's all it took. After the ammo for the gun cooked off, they couldn't quit fast enough."

"Maybe the bastards are starting to see the light." 3rd Platoon's commander 2nd Lt. Bob Poole had growled.


Little Emma Patzel was watching her grandparents, Emil and Petra, as the two adults packed the family's belongings into two suitcases. Emma's mother had gone to the bakery to see if there was anything available. Provisions had been hard to come by lately.

"Oma, Opa¹ why are you packing? Are we going on a trip? Can we visit Prag² again?" Emma was seven years old and had been living with her grandparents since her father had gone into the Army. She dreamt of her papa coming home again some day. She didn't know that he had been captured at Stalingrad. No one knew if he was alive or dead.

"No little one, we're not going to Prag, we have to go to Germany now. It will be like a vacation. So go get your things, we'll leave when Mama comes home." Petra Patzel told her granddaughter.

She and Emil had argued into the night over leaving, Emil was worried that once the Nazis were defeated, the Czechs would drive them all out, if not murder them outright. He had also heard that the Russians were coming. The Americans were here now, but he wasn't exactly convinced that the Amis would stay. If the Russians came, they would stay. It's what Communists did.

Emil Patzel felt it was best to leave now, before they were forced to leave.


Pvt. Albert Samson had just returned to the CP after taking the mail over to 1st Platoon. He was sitting having a smoke when 1st Sgt. Mort Saeger came in.

"So Top, what's the deal with the Czechs around here? All the other places we've liberated the people were real happy to see us, these guys act like it's the end of the world!" Samson was confused, he had said "hello" to a pretty girl at the bakery and she had muttered something rude in German as she had hastily brushed past him.

Saeger paused for a moment, though he was busy, he needed to let the men know that this part of Czechoslovakia was more German than Czech. "Well Pvt. Samson, most of the people around here are German. Germany took over this area from Czechoslovakia in 1938 when the British gave it to Hitler."

"Churchill gave it to Hitler?" Samson exclaimed.

"No, no, no. Churchill wasn't the Prime Minister at the time, that was a guy named Chamberlain." Saeger explained.

"But why would he give part of one country to another country?" Samson was still confused.

"It's a long story, but people in this area have spoken German for a long time, they consider themselves Germans. So that was Hitler's argument, if they're mostly German, they should be part of Germany. Get it?"

"Yeah okay Top, it kinda makes sense."

"Well, the American southwest, you're from Arizona right, has a lot of Mexican folks. Do we let Mexico have those parts?"

Samson looked confused for a moment, then he said, "Okay, I see your point, kind of. It's pretty confusing isn't it?"

"Yeah Private, it is. European politics has always been complicated. But remember, we're still in enemy country here. So be careful, make sure your buddies know that too. Cap'n is gonna brief us later, so you're the first to know."

"Other than you Top." Samson pointed out.

"Private, I'm a First Sergeant, we're supposed to know everything before anyone else."

"Even the Captain?"

"Sometimes even the Cap'n." Saeger said with a grin.


The 6th of May 1945

Patton’s infantry divisions made considerable progress in their attacks on 5 May.  Now it was the turn of his armored divisions.   CCA of the 9th Armored Division was ordered to pass through the forward positions of the 1st Infantry Division and attack eastward to Karlovy Vary.   In V Corps’s center, the 16th Armored Division was to pass through the 2nd and 97th Infantry Division and liberate the city of Plzen.  Further south, the 4th Armored Division was to pass through the 90th and 5th Infantry Division and attack to the north-east towards Prague.  The infantry divisions would then follow to consolidate the gains and mop up any bypassed resistance.

Early on the morning of 6 May, CCA 9th Armored Division passed through the forward positions of the 1st Infantry Division and attacked east.  At several locations, the German forces put up resistance with anti-tank guns and infantry.  CCA’s Task Force Engeman routed these forces, but suffered the loss of two light tanks and several casualties; including a tank driver who was killed.

German resistance to the 1st Infantry Division’s advances was sporadic.  In many places, the Germans put up strong resistance.  The 1st Infantry Division lost several of its soldiers killed, including 2ndLt Elton Barker of the 16th Infantry Regiment.  East of Drenice, stubborn German defenders held up the advance until being cleared out by tanks and tank destroyers.  The attack of the 16th Infantry Regiment was preceded by a preparatory bombardment by the 7th Field Artillery Battalion.  As the 16th Infantry attacked eastward, the 7th Field Artillery displaced forward twice to better support the infantry.  The battalion expended a total of 81 rounds against German positions.  Near the village of Schongrub, German soldiers attempted to oppose the advance of the 26th Infantry Regiment.  Supported by tanks, elements of the regiment overcame the resistance, killing two, wounding two more and capturing twelve Germans.   In other areas, German resistance was negligible or non-existent.  The entire 655th Engineer Brigade with 1,500 men surrendered to the division.  At the town of Kynzvart, five hundred Germans were captured.

Attached to support the Big Red One’s three infantry regiments, many of the 634th Tank Destroyer Battalion and 745th Tank Battalion’s scattered platoons fought firefights against German soldiers still intent on resisting.  1st Platoon, A Company, 745th Tank Battalion and a team from the 16th Infantry Regiment ran into determined German resistance in the village of Klinghart.  A civilian hit one of the U.S. tanks with a Panzerfaust.  Despite the heavy small arms fire, Klinghart was ultimately secured.

Throughout the day, Czech civilians greeted the American soldiers joyously.  In the city of Plzen, thousands of civilians turned out to celebrate their liberation from the Germans by the 16th Armored Division, even in the midst of periodic fighting from diehard German resistance.   For many veteran American soldiers, the experiences were reminiscent of those in France the preceding summer.  Fighting as they were in the Sudetenland border region, the 1st Infantry Division did not enjoy such scenes of exuberant Czechs welcoming their liberators.  Instead, they dealt with German soldiers and sullen Sudeten Germans. (Source)


¹ Grandma, Grandpa.
² The German name for Prague.

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Wednesday, May 5, 2021

The Last Offensive, Day One

US Army Signal Corps Photo

"Good to see you again Brad!" Cpt. Stephen Hernandez said as he reached up to shake 2nd Lt. Brad Woodstock's hand. Woodstock was sitting in the turret of his new tank, in fact his entire platoon had been re-equipped with the 76mm gunned M4A3 (76) W HVSS version of the venerable Sherman. (Also known as the M4A3E8, or Easy Eight.)

"Great to see you too Sir!"

"Hey, it's Stephen okay? Not Sir. I see your entire platoon got new rides! No Pershings?"

"Ain't enough to go around I guess, these Easy Eights are pretty nice. I wish we'd had them earlier in the war, some of my buddies might still be around."

"So you went with a new name for the tank?"

"Yeah, I loved the name Catamount, but Big Cat fits this one better. Only Doug Harrell kept the old tank's name, he went with Misfit III. He's not real imaginative I guess."

Hernandez checked his watch, "We're moving out in 30 minutes. We're on foot so I'll have two platoons right behind you. It's 1st Platoon's turn to be on point, Nathaniel ain't happy about it, but it's his turn."

"Sounds like a plan, we're ready to roll." Woodstock threw a salute at Hernandez and said, "See you on the other side!"

(Source)

Sgt. Hugo Westfield in his tank "Bad Boys" was leading the platoon on the left flank of the echelon right formation. When he saw Gonzales' infantry go to ground, he knew something was up. When the phone on the back of the tank buzzed, he picked up.

"Yeah, what's up? I can't see..."

At that moment the turret rang like a church bell as an anti-tank round from a German scout car glanced off the side.

"Jesus Sarge, that was no 50mm!" gunner Cpl. Bert Meyers yelled out. Then pressing his face back to the sight, he yelled again, "I got him!" He then stomped on the cannon's floor trigger and screamed,  "On the way!"

The 76mm cannon barked and some 600 yards away a German SdKfz 234/4 blew apart.

At the rear of the tank, 1st Platoon's platoon sergeant, S/Sgt Jeff Kilcannon, yelled into the phone, "Okay, you got one! There's another one about 50 yards to the left!"

Before "Bad Boys" could engage again, Sgt. Brad Winkler's "Big Boozer" had destroyed the second armored car, this one a SdKfz 234/3 with the short barreled 75mm cannon.

While the tanks were destroying the light armor opposing Charlie Company's advance, 1st Lt. Gonzales was calling in artillery. Within moments, American artillery rounds came whistling overhead and began impacting in the small woodlot where an ad hoc company of NCO training school instructors and students had dug in.

Very few prisoners were taken.

Hernandez had told his men, "Take no chances, if it's armed, kill it. If it's running away, kill it. The only ones I'll spare are those with their hands in the air the moment we show up. If they wanna shoot first, then try to quit, cut 'em down. We're all going home boys, take no chances."

Charlie Company reaped a grim harvest that day.

The Third Reich has three days to live...


The 5th of May 1945

Third U.S. Army’s commander General George S. Patton Jr. had been clamoring for permission to drive eastward with the intention of liberating western Czechoslovakia from Nazi control.   In the early evening of 4 May 1945, he finally got the approval from Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower for an advance to the line running Karlovy Vary – Plzen – Ceske Budejovice.  He was also to be prepared to advance further east upon orders from Eisenhower.   To bolster his offensive, V Corps of First U.S. Army was transferred to Third Army that same day.  Third Army now had four corps totaling over 540,000 soldiers with which to advance simultaneously east into western Czechoslovakia and south-east into Austria.

On the morning of 5 May, Patton’s XII Corps and V Corps attacked eastward with their infantry divisions to open up routes for the armored divisions to follow.    Combat Command A (CCA) of the 9th Armored Division was attached to the 1st Infantry Division for a drive east from the vicinity of Cheb with Karlovy Vary being the objective.  The remainder of the 9th Armored Division was kept in reserve.  The 1st Infantry Division advanced up to 14 kilometers on a front 48 kilometers wide and experienced some of the heaviest fighting of the liberation in the mountainous areas around Cheb.  1st and 2nd Battalions of the 18th Infantry Regiment were able to reach their objectives but 3rd Battalion encountered more determined resistance which delayed them from attaining their objectives until the early hours of 6 May.  Numerous well defended road blocks were encountered and overcome.  B Company, 745th Tank Battalion and soldiers of the 18th Infantry struck and overcame a determined group of Germans who were entrenched on the high ground north of Drenice.  Nevertheless, casualties for the regiment that day were surprisingly light:  1 officer and 23 enlisted men wounded.  The 7th Field Artillery Battalion fired just one mission that day, expending 23 rounds on a group of enemy soldiers late in the afternoon.  Since German artillery fire was negligible, the 17th Field Artillery Observation Battalion was used for rear area security and to transport captured Germans to prisoner of war enclosures.

That day, 3rd Platoon, B Company, 634th Tank Destroyer Battalion and 3rd Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment ran into strong German resistance.   At a range between fifty and one hundred yards, the platoon’s M10 tank destroyers fired off all of their 3-inch high explosive ammunition plus a large quantity of fifty-caliber machine gun ammunition.  Four machine gun positions had to be physically run over by the U.S. tank destroyers to subdue them.  One of the U.S. M-10s was hit by a German Panzerfaust anti-tank rocket and set on fire.  The vehicle’s crew quickly extinguished the fire and the M-10 suffered only minor damage. When it was over, the platoon destroyed 12 machine guns, killed fifty of the enemy and wounded numerous others. (Source)


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