Saturday, May 1, 2021

The Last Fight, Death Has No Favorites

(Source - Pg 419)

Maj. Alphonse Josephson knelt down next to Cpl. Harry Somers, "How are you doing Harry?"

"It hurts a bit Sir, not too bad, but I won't be running any races in the near future." Somers answered with a grin. "Hey Sir, what happened to the crew of the lead armored car?"

Josephson sat back on his heels, "Damn, in all the excitement, I forgot about them. Bill, do you know?"

"Nobody got out of that." Wilkinson gestured towards the M8 Greyhound which had rolled off the road after being hit. The vehicle was still burning fitfully. "I think maybe a couple of guys got out of the lead car, they might have ducked into the next building up. I don't know for sure."

Josephson thought about it for a few minutes. If there were guys still alive from the first car, he had to find out. He made a decision.

"Bill, keep an eye on things." Then he ducked into the shadows at the front of the shop.

"Major, where the Hell are you going?" He watched to see if the Germans would react.


Cpl. Ted Llewelyn winced as he bumped his arm against the table he had upended and taken cover behind. He'd managed to burn his arm in the flames from his armored car's engine after jumping from the vehicle after it had backed over a mine. He had seen Pvt. Ernie Bishop, his driver, scream as he had tried to get out of the vehicle, a German machine gun up the street had chopped him down.

Pvt. Will Ricci, the radio operator, had also been hit but had made it into the building with Llewelyn, and Pfc. Earl Mancini, the gunner. They'd bandaged Ricci up as best as the could, but the kid was in and out of consciousness. He'd been hit in the upper chest and it didn't look good.

"Whaddaya think Earl, do we make a run for it?" he asked his gunner.

"We'd have to leave Will, I ain't doin' that Ted." Mancini shook his head, he wasn't leaving his buddy Will behind. "He's a paisan Ted, we're from the same neighborhood in Brooklyn."

Before Mancini could continue, the door to the inn slammed open and a voice hissed, "Hold your fire, it's me, Josephson."

"F**k Major, I coulda shot ya!" In truth Llewelyn had nearly pissed himself when Josephson had charged in.

"Glad you didn't." He looked around, in the dim light from the burning vehicles outside. He saw the wounded man, "Is he okay?"

"Not really Sir. He's hit pretty bad." Llewelyn answered. Then, "Are you by yourself Sir?"

"No, my radioman and my driver are next door, just down the street. Driver's hit, but he should be okay."

"The Krauts didn't shoot at you when you went outside?" Llewelyn asked.

"No, not sure why, maybe they can't see this side of the street so well." Josephson had to figure out what to do next, two wounded men and no transport. On the other hand, battalion would have realized he was overdue, maybe a rescue mission was already on the way.

Stay put, or get out. That was the question.

Down the street the Germans weren't sure what to do either. Especially after one of their number had found a radio in the house where they were set up. He had gotten it working after a fashion. As Gerd Weber had played with the box, it was an expensive one, it matched the rest of the building, he realized that someone important lived in this place. Someone with the money to afford such a nice radio.

The signal cut out, then came back, he moved the dial just a bit, and the signal held. He heard funereal music, then the somber voice of the announcer, a German announcer. As the signal started to fade again, he heard one thing, "Der Führer ist tot.¹"

He tried to regain the signal, no luck, lots of hissing and static, then it failed completely.

Weber sat there for a moment, Hitler, dead? That seemed to changed everything in his mind. Hauptmann Schuler was upstairs, he had been roaring drunk most of the day, now he was passed out. Gefreiter Huber was the senior man after the captain, he should tell him that the Führer was dead. What did this mean? He wasn't sure.

"The Führer is dead? How do you know that?" Wilhelm Huber was a rat faced little man from the slums of Hamburg. He looked mean and nasty, and in truth, was actually worse than he looked.

"I picked up a signal on that radio downstairs in the parlor. It had to have been from the Deutschlandsender, it sounded authentic. What do we do now Willi?" Weber wanted the man to make a decision. Even though he thought that unlikely, he had to try.

"We'll wait for Hauptmann Schuler to wake up, he'll know what to do." Huber said.

"What to do about what?" Horst Schmelling and Walter Grüber had come into the room. Since the machine gun had run out of ammunition, they'd been left with little to do except look out the windows, in case the Americans showed themselves again. Every one in the building assumed that the Americans had all been killed or driven off.

"Hitler is dead." Weber blurted out.

"You don't know that!" Huber shouted at him.

"Well, that changes things doesn't it?" Grüber announced. "Must be the war is over then, for Hitler to be dead, the Reds must have Berlin. I say we head back to Germany and surrender to the Amis."

Huber swung his MP 40 toward the two men, before he could say another word, Schmelling shot him in the face. Huber pitched backwards and lay very still.

"Anyone else want to keep fighting?" Schmelling asked.

2nd Lt. Mitch Hornsby and his small detachment were close to the village where they hoped the Major might be still alive. The wrecked M8s and the burning jeep didn't fill him with optimism. He halted the halftrack and had the men dismount.

"Leo, you stay with the track, Santos, you stay on the gun. Anything stirs from the area past that burning M8, you let 'em have it." Hornsby was ready to designate his fire and maneuver groups, just like they'd taught him at Benning.

"Which M8 Sir?" Pfc. Santos Clarke asked, he wanted to be sure, he saw two burning M8s.

"The one in front of the burning jeep, that has to be the Major's jeep, I don't see any bodies in or around it, so I'm assuming they're holed up in one of those buildings." Hornsby explained.

Then to Cpl. Glenn Cline he said, "Cpl. Cline, you take McDaniel, Samson, and Magruder, and one of the B.A.R. men..." he looked at Pvt. Bryan Garza, who said, "I'm Garza Sir."

"Right, you take McDaniel, Samson, Magruder, and Garza. Keep to the left of the road, stay in the shadows as best as you can. Cpl. Rodgers, you, Roberson, Bell, and the rest of your guys are with me. We'll go down the right, check out the first building, then the next."


The two corporals looked at each other, both knew how green Hornsby was, but everything he had done so far made sense.

"Let's do this." Cpl. Cline said.

Hauptmann Manfred Schuler had been aroused from his stupor by the sound of a gunshot. He sat up quickly, and groaned. His head was throbbing from a massive hangover. He looked around, there on the floor was a bottle. He rolled over to it, there was a little left. He drank it down. It helped, a little.

He moved gingerly as he arose from the floor where he had been sprawled. He picked up his StG 44, looked around, but couldn't find his cap. Damn it. He thought that he had better go check out what his men were doing.

He heard shouts from downstairs as he poked his head into the room where the MG 34 was positioned. No one there. That's odd, he thought. Then he remembered, there was no more ammo for the gun.

A door slammed downstairs, he backed up against the wall near the staircase and waited. There was no more sound from below. Then he heard a flurry of gunshots out in the street. The Americans!

He eased his way downstairs and saw the rat faced corporal, what was his name? Oh yes, Huber from Hamburg, he wondered who had shot him. Huber was slumped against the wall, blood still dripping from his head. He was quite dead.

He looked out the window, he saw one of his men sprawled in the road. He couldn't make out who it was. He heard shouting from up the street. American voices. Now what should he do, he was alone. Then he saw a piece of paper with writing on it, pinned to Huber's chest. He went over and looked at it.

"Hitler ist tot, du Idiot, wir gehen.²" He balled the paper up and threw it to the floor, he muttered the word, "Cowards," then stepped to the door.

"Hey lieutenant! It's me, Josephson!"

Hornsby nearly jumped out of his skin at the shout from the shadows. After his B.A.R. man, Pvt. Glenn Rose, had shot at a few Germans running from a building, he'd hit one of them, everyone was a little on edge.

Hornsby went to a knee and turned in the direction of the shout, his carbine ready. Behind him he heard Cpl. Winters say, "Don't shoot L.T., it's the Major."

"Come out, hands where I can see 'em Sir." Hornsby growled, what if the Krauts had taken the Major prisoner?

The door opened, Josephson came out, hands in the air, but with a firm grip on his carbine. "Better watch that end of town Lieutenant, that's where the Krauts hit us from, you don't have a bazooka do you?"

"No Sir, armor?"

"A single armored car with a nasty looking cannon in a turret."

"Ah, a Puma." Hornsby offered, before the Major could speak again, Hornsby sent Pvt. Albert Samson to make contact with Cpl. Rodgers.

"The survivors of one of the M8s are in the next building, come with me. We've got wounded, you did bring a vehicle, right?" Josephson asked.

"Two Sir, an M3A1 and a WC-51. Cline, have the WC-51 come up."

Cline trotted back to the vehicles, he was going to have Ramsey bring the track up as well. They didn't have anything to take out a tank, but the .50 might give an armored car something to think about.

Schuler was angry, he now recognized the man down in the street, it was Grüber. He racked back the bolt on his weapon and decided to go out fighting. With Hitler dead, there was no point in going on. He wouldn't shoot himself though, he'd let the Amis do that. Maybe he could take one or two with him.

Josephson was standing outside the inn where the M8 crew had been sheltering, he was heartened to hear that Ricci was still alive. "Let's wrap this up Lieutenant, we need to get out of here while it's still dark. I don't know if there are any other Krauts around, but..." 

Josephson paused when he heard someone shouting, it sounded like someone yelling "Heil Hitler," over and over again. He looked down the street and saw a man staggering along, he was doing the shouting.

Josephson was bringing his carbine around when the staggering man opened fire.

Pfc. Santos Clarke saw the muzzle flash from the area the lieutenant had told him to keep an eye on, just past the M8 in front of the burning jeep. He didn't hesitate but aimed the big .50 caliber machine gun towards where the flash had come from and pressed the butterfly trigger.

The tracers reached through the night and tore Hauptmann Manfred Schuler, late of Panzergrenadier Division Großdeutschland. to red ruin, tossing his body to the ground as if he had been no more substantial than a bag of rags.

"Ah shit! Lieutenant come quick!!"

Hornsby ran towards where the shout had come from, it was Pvt. Matt McDaniel, the company bugler, he was kneeling next to a man lying on the street. Hornsby suddenly had a bad feeling.

There, on the ground, was Major Alphonse Jeffrey Josephson, Tex to his friends, still alive, but barely.

"Ah Jesus, I NEED A HAND HERE, THE MAJOR'S DOWN." Hornsby bellowed in his best parade ground voice. Then he felt a hand on his arm. It was the Major.

"No hurry Mitch, I'm not going anywhere." The Major coughed and blood came from his mouth.

Hornsby found his flashlight, checked that the red lens was still set, then turned it on, playing it over the Major. He saw at least three bullet wounds, one in the upper chest, two in the abdomen. Hornsby was amazed that Josephson was still alive. But he knew the Major didn't have much time left. He took the Major's hand.

"Hang in there Sir, we'll have you back to the battalion aid station in no time, no time at all."

Josephson felt the pressure of Hornsby gripping his hand. It felt, comforting. But he knew he didn't have long. He could no longer feel his legs and a vast coldness seemed to be seeping up from his belly and spreading to the rest of his body.

He thought he heard the lieutenant say something, but it wasn't clear. He was having trouble hearing and his eyesight seemed to be fading. Then he heard his wife's voice, he saw his little son, smiling. So he smiled back.

"L.T.! L.T.!"

Hornsby felt someone shaking his shoulder, he was looking at his battalion commander, he was still holding his hand. Something felt, he wasn't sure, something felt off. Why was the Major smiling?

Cpl. Jacob Winters shook the lieutenant again. "Come on Sir, we've got to go, the Major is dead. We need to load him in the track and get out of here."

Winters had tears streaming down his face. At one point in time he had been Josephson's radioman, back when the Major had commanded Charlie Company. Winters felt as if he'd lost his own father.

It was a long, quiet ride back to C Company's bivouac. Each man alone with his thoughts. Cpl. Winters sat next to Maj. Josephson's body on the way back.

Hornsby sat behind the driver of the M3A1, occasionally looking back at the body of the Major, now wrapped in a poncho and lying in the center aisle of the crew compartment. It was the most miserable he had felt in his entire life.

What was Cpt. Hernandez going to say?

The Russian troops marching to meet up with the Americans along the demarcation line didn't even spare a glance at the wrecked German armored car in the ditch on the road to Prague. One man did spit in the direction of the car when he saw that one of its crew was leaning halfway out of the turret. Hard to tell if it was actually a human corpse it was so badly burned.

The man, from an area of Russia which had suffered Nazi occupation, muttered, "Проклятые фашисты³," as his unit marched past.

In the dark Oberpanzerschütze Heinz Lessing had taken a wrong turn, rather than heading towards Adorf, they were on the road to Prague.

They had been making good time, the other men were sleeping at their positions, but just before dawn Oberfeldwebel Kurt Schonheim, the vehicle commander, had awakened. He stretched himself, he felt numb and sore in too many places, then reached for his map case.

"Pull over up here Heinz, I need to get our bearings."

The big Puma had pulled off the road, next to a drainage ditch. Panzerschütze Hans Dollmann woke up and groaned, "Where are we Heinz?"

"I don't know, Kurt's checking the map now."

"Please don't tell me we're lost." Obergefreiter Willi Krüger, the Puma's gunner, woke up shortly after they had rolled to stop.

"Well, we're not lost, but I'm not sure where we are exactly. I think we may have taken a wrong turn somewhere but..."

"Scheiße! Heinz, head for those farm buildings to our left, enemy Jabo!"

Ilyushin Il-2 Sturmovik

Junior Lieutenant Dmitry Borisovich Konyakov was already lined up on the eight-wheeled German scout car when it began to roll forward.

He pulled the trigger and the rounds from his two 23mm cannon destroyed the car. As he flew past he saw it roll into a ditch beside the road.

It was burning fiercely as his aircraft continued on.

Lunch was waiting at the airfield.

¹ The Leader is dead. - Hitler committed suicide on the 30th of April.
² Hitler is dead you idiot, we're leaving.
³ "Goddamned fascists. (Proklyatyye fashisty.)

Link to all of the Chant's fiction.


  1. Aw......geeez.....good writing to get a reader invested in Sarge.

  2. This is intolerable. It ain't over till it's over. Good story, but heart breaking...

    nazi vs red: seems to me to be a question of who tells who what to do. But the other differences are mostly academic. The spitter is not that different from the roasted crew.

    1. "nazi vs red"
      Just two faces of the same totalitarian die. Not a clipped groat's worth of difference between them.

    2. STxAR - A tough decision to make in the story line.

    3. and Poland was trapped in the middle between two maniac dictators, both of whom despised the nation and the state...

    4. It took a while for the Poles to throw those shackles off, but they did.

    5. Soviets changed death sentence for a nation for lifetime of prison, but there are no prisons you can not eventually escape given time and determination...

    6. And the Czech, we fought hard to take part of it only to hand it back to that murdering bastid Stalin.

    7. Patton was furious when he heard he had to hand over those Czech towns to Soviets...

  3. Tex is with his family now. Apropos.

  4. " be running any marathons in the near"

    Should more like >running any races<.

    Running marathons is a more recent coloquial than running races
    which would have been more likely.


    1. Yup, changed it. Marathons were not common at the time.

    2. And if you did run a proper Marathon, you should do it mostly naked and then die a few minutes after crossing the finish line...

    3. You know, the original Marathon? From Marathon beach to Athens. Runner ran it, passed the message, died?

      Kind of like the Real Oedipus Complex is you are removed from your mother, leave town, come back in 16-18 years, kill the evil despot, marry the queen, father children with her, and then, when you find out she's your mother, you poke your eyes out with her clasp pins...

      Modern people get everything wrong!

    4. Um, I was politely trying to hint that you were a tad, perhaps a bit, um, off-topic?

      But yes, I knew that.

  5. Hey Old AFSarge;

    Got Misty for a second...The Bill ain't over until it is over. Another excellent Post.

    1. Now comes the mad scramble by everyone in the East to get away from the Russians. Which means columns of civilians shot up and all the evils the Nazis visited upon the Russians comes back.

      I wonder how many German soldiers died to allow their fellow citizens to try to escape to the Western powers?

    2. That's been going on since the Red Army crossed the pre-war Soviet border.

  6. Nice handling of all of it, from the drunken hauptman to the fanatic getting fragged by his own side to, well, machine guns aren't very discriminatory weapons, are they (except maybe in the hands of someone like Carlos Hathcock.)

    The Germans were smart to try to bug out instead of surrendering. Though I wonder why they didn't bug out a back door or window rather than the one facing the street? Something about European architecture?

    And the XO finally gets to see the gritty nastiness of combat. Sucks, but at least he's alive. Unlike our Major.

    It's all over now, except the killing and the dying.

    Can't imagine the men ordered into combat knowing Hitler was dead and the whole thing was basically over. Must have been weird in a sick, bad, Lovecraftian way...

    And now the Nazi hunting begins as the rats start fleeing Germany en masse.

    1. Village backed up onto a very steep hillside. No real access out the back.

  7. I clicked on the " source ", of the photo of the guys with the carbines, and a book downloaded! Thank you!

    1. A lot of good photos in there. Thank Beans, he pointed me to it.

    2. The 'Green' books are probably the best reference to US Army actions in all theaters. The authors don't candy-coat any mistakes at all.

      A tad... dry sometimes, but excellent. They cover the prep, all the prep, for a campaign, cover the campaign, and then cover the aftermath of the campaign and all the things they learned or didn't learn.

    3. It is indeed, dry reading at times.

  8. So I start off my morning looking to see what's next in the story...rapidly wishing you had a hankie alert symbol...very good story Sir!! Glad to see the XO is making good decisions, based off other folks teachings, but was paying attention at least.

    1. He's trying very hard to be a good soldier and a good officer. So far, so good.

      Glad you're enjoying the story, it does get bumpy from time to time. This was a hard one to write. I grow too attached I think.

  9. Darn it Sarge. I leave you alone for one day for travel and come back to this...

    It is odd - we have become so accustomed to long term actions (Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan) that I wonder if "over" has the meaning that it once did.

    1. For some it's never truly "over." But yes, I know exactly what you mean.


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

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