Thursday, May 6, 2021

The Last Offensive, Day Two

Near Březová, Karlovy Vary Region, Czechoslovakia

"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.

Link to all of the Chant's fiction.


  1. Those artillery shells are being hauled a loooong way, yet better to use them than tanks and men. For millions and millions it's "The Soviets are coming, the Soviets are coming!"......apologies to the Mirisch Corporation.

    1. "Emergency, everybody to get from street!"

      That Mirisch Corporation? 😁

  2. Replies
    1. Yup, an American rifle company at this point had a mortar section with three mortar squads, each equipped with a 60mm mortar.

    2. Company Commanders personal artillery!

  3. These after action reports are pretty neat. I like that touch. This is where my buddy's dad fought. He was in Patton's army. Right out front. He told me once how Patton earned his nickname old Blood and Guts.... "Our blood, his guts."

    1. They give the story context, very important context to my way of thinking.

  4. Very much a sense of fait accompli at this point. Everything falls apart slowly...until it falls apart very quickly.

  5. I wonder what the rest of the checks felt about the Sudetenland checks after the war

    1. Nearly all of the Germans were forcibly expelled. That's what they thought of them. (The Sudetenland was 75 to 100% German.)

  6. "company's organic mortars began to"

    Modern use not likely to match the time. "Organic" is a recent high use word.
    Likely same for "embedded". I suspect it would have been our or company mortar
    or light artillery team.

    Pop was a 84rd Btn CMD 4.2 man. He likely would have said "our mortar guys".


    1. Good point, changed it to read "the company's mortar section."

  7. one might get the impression (from many sources) that the Sudetens were all fanatical, diehard Germans whereas I, as a kid, been given to understand that many Sudeten Germans still considered themselves subjects of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and, in fact, (fluently) spoke in addition to their own German dialect, Hungarian, Polish, as well as the several Bohemian-Slovak dialects and some, believe it or not, Yiddish.

    1. Like people everywhere, the number of fanatics was probably small. But enough so that everyone suffered.

  8. The PAK 43 was a monster of an anti-tank gun. Very powerful but, in comparison to even the PAK 40 75mm anti-tank gun, just friggin huge. And thus it was hard to hide, and hard to hide it's service vehicles. The issue affected/affects any anti-tank gun that was/is powerful enough to punch trough current armored (either then or now) and was one of the many many reasons for the invention of both tank destroyers (if it's big, put it's own wheels/tracks on it and let it carry it's own ammo) and anti-tank rocket stuff, with a side weirdness of recoilless rifles for a while (before they became bad-think, and then became good think with the Carl Gustav...)

    Thus, our Americans were able to spot the gun before the gun spotted them. Good thing that the armored didn't lead first.

    And, good for the Germans, coming under fire from a distance and having the ammo explode (presumably the registration rounds told them it was over and allowed most or all of them to run out of the destruction area before being killed) gave them the ability to surrender. If they had, instead, been a line of infantry with MGs and been in close contact with the Americans, it would not have gone so well for them. Like talked about in yesterday's episode and comments, no surrender for the hard cores.

    Good episode. Looking forward to the next few ones to see how the whole 'national surrender' thingy plays out. It's something that almost no movie or book really covers well, at least from my experience. Come to think of it, only "The Big Red One" ever covered the final surrender from the front line perspective. Hmmm... And our Boys are from TBRO. Hmmmmm......

    1. The writer/director of that film (Samuel Fuller) was there, in Czechoslovakia, as an infantryman in the 16th Infantry Regiment of the 1st ID. I was today years old when I learned that.

    2. (Don McCollor)...The recoilless rifle does have its drawbacks: Smooth bore, eats propellent, short range, and when fired the back blast lets everyone know just where you are. But light weight, no recoil (but if the projectile stuck in the barrel, the gun departed with it). But the infantry could now carry heavy artillery (kind of like a super-bazooka)...

    3. Better than nothing, that's for sure!

  9. Followed the link at "...before they were forced to leave", and read to the end of the article. Then I had to scroll to the beginning to get more of the history of the region. Then I had to hop over to the associated article on Carpathian Germans. Absolutely fascinating! Gotta love Wikipedia! Thanks for leading me "down the rabbit hole" once again, Sarge!

    1. Well, if I'm chasing those rabbits...

      There's a lot of little known history out there, somebody cared enough to write it down, so I'll read it.

  10. Totally off point---that's me today on many levels---but I keep forgetting to say how much I enjoy your current header/picture thingy. I know it's May, and you will most likely be changing it to something else, but before ya do, I just wanted to say "Hey! I really like that one!!"
    So I did

  11. Hey AFSarge;

    it is interesting to actually "Read" in "Living History" the history of my division, You bring the AAR to life and that is a talent. I always wanted to go to Plzen and see how far we went, just to say "I was there" but one day I will go and check it out.

    1. It's good to walk the ground where our predecessors fought and sometimes gave that last full measure.

    2. Vicksburg was so scary I was almost in shock. The second time was better, I knew what I was gonna see... Until I saw the unknowns... About 12,000 of them. I'd like to go to Corinth and see where my gggrandpappy was captured someday.


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