Friday, February 25, 2022

The Trap is Sprung

They had hiked back up the mountain and were at the spot on the trail which Hildur had suggested was a good place for a trap for the German tanks.

"Arne Olafsen drove his tractor up here in 1937, he had the only tractor in the entire valley and he was so proud of it. Imagine his chagrin when he brought it up here one day and the road slid out from under his pride and joy, dumping him in the gully and breaking his leg." Hildur explained with a giggle as she remembered the scene.

"What happened to the tractor Bestemor?" Sander Stohl asked. Before Hildur could tell the rest of the story, Bjørn Mikkelsen answered, the hunter had a broad smile on his face.

"Ah, it was a sight to see, Halvard Bronstad brought his team of horses up and they pulled Arne's tractor out of the ditch. Arne was livid, couldn't believe his new toy had to be rescued by an old fashioned team of horses."

The lieutenant cleared his throat and said, "Uh, I hate to break up this story time, but I think I see what Hildur has in mind. Gather around men, and Bestemor of course."

Hildur nodded and pointed at the right side of the road, it was apparent that melting snow runoff had undercut the road already. She explained that if they dug it out a bit more, they could count on the tank's weight to collapse that side. Then, with luck, the tank would slide down into the gully, maybe even tip over.

"Um, there were two tanks Bestemor ..." Magnus Belland pointed out.

"And do you think this path is wide enough for it to get by the stuck tank, or the collapsed road if we're really lucky?"

Henriksen said, "She's right Magnus, they'll be stuck here. And Farmer Bronstad won't be along to pull the tanks out. Right, Bestemor?"

After the laughter died down, Magnus asked, "It's one thing to stop the tanks, how do we kill them. We don't have any cannon."

"No," Hildur answered as she began to rummage through her rucksack, "but I have these." She had pulled out two bottles of Aquavit and proudly showed them to the men.

"So are we to get the Germans drunk, Bestemor?" Lars Torvik asked with a grin.

Hildur shot Torvik a withering look, but before she could chastise him, Henriksen said two words, "Molotov cocktails."

Hildur smiled and said, "Oh, you're such a smart boy."

The two small tanks clattered up the track, Oberfeldwebel Hartknoch and a platoon of thirty-four men escorting them.

From the small village in the valley, the Spieß had spotted a party of uniformed Norwegians higher up, one of the men had noticed a farming trail which led that way, so Lang had ordered Hartknoch and a platoon of his choosing to head that way and attempt to capture the enemy soldiers.

"You can kill as many as you like, Kurt, but bring me at least one prisoner. We need to head back to the coast and report back to battalion. Resistance has been light in this area but we need to know whether the Norwegians have nothing in these hills, or if they're hiding a surprise for us."

Hartknoch had chosen the platoon Jürgen belonged to, he was very impressed with the young officer candidate and wanted to get him some more experience. He knew that von Lüttwitz was scheduled to return to Germany and rejoin his parent division. Before May according to the orders. He had wondered why, but now they had a mission to fulfill.

The young lieutenant commanding the two tanks was a Leutnant out of Nordrhein-Westfalen, some obscure town called Heinsberg.¹ The man now leaned over from his turret and shouted at Hartknoch, "Send one of your Landsers² up ahead, Oberfeldwebel, I don't like the look of this path, it's barely a goat track!"

"Zu befehl, Herr Leutnant!³"

Hartknoch sent two men up ahead, "One of you keep your head up and watch for those Norwegians, Hell, they've probably run off already, but it doesn't hurt to be careful. The other check the road condition, make sure there are no spots which might mire the tanks, Klar?"

"Jawohl Herr Oberfeldwebel, zu befehl!"

"Here they come Magnus, I'll throw my cocktail at the first tank, you take the second. Aim for the engine deck, those little bastards will burn if the fire gets inside the engine compartment." Henriksen was ready to light the makeshift wicks they'd made up from one of the men's shirttails. Not too soon or the Germans might notice.

He looked down and noticed that his hands were shaking. Now that they were just waiting, he realized that he was absolutely terrified. "I wonder if all men feel this?" he muttered.

"Sir?" Belland asked.

"Nothing, Magnus, nothing."

The young German examining the road noticed nothing out of the ordinary. Had he been familiar with driving a vehicle, he might have noticed the dip on the side of the road. As he hadn't walked on it, he didn't notice the softness of the ground either. Like most people, he saw what he expected to see, a dirt path through low lying brush and trees.

He might have heard the striking of a match as well, had not the sound of the tank engines growling behind him drowned out that sound.

"Damn it Norbert, keep the panzer on the track!" Leutnant Wilhelm Starker might be forgiven for thinking that his driver was not paying attention, focused as the tank commander was on surveying the surrounding terrain, which was too closed in for his tastes.

"Scheiße!" Norbert Helm barked as he felt the right side track lose its grip on the gravel. He tried, in vain, to recover but it was too late. The edge of the track was collapsing, and in his effort to prevent the tank from sliding off the road, the right track snapped and slithered off its rollers.

Before Starker could react, he felt something hot just behind him. As he turned, the bottle smashed on the engine deck and splashed fire over the back of the tank. Some of it sloshed up onto the turret and caught Starker's black panzer jacket on fire.

Hartknoch saw it all as if it had been filmed in slow motion. Flaming bottles of liquid shattering on first one tank, and then the other. Feldwebel Braunschweig's tank was hit on the turret, Braunschweig's screams as his tunic and hair began to burn unnerved him completely. But within seconds he recovered himself and bellowed, "ACTION LEFT! DEPLOY!"

As the men moved, Hartknoch turned to look for von Lüttwitz and his machine gun team, good lad, they're already deploying to cover the back door. Hartknoch watched as one of von Lüttwitz's men slumped to the road, hit by rifle fire. But within seconds, the MG 34 was returning fire.

Lars Torvik and Martin Sundheim had been concealed further down the hill, they had let the Germans pass up the road before they began to follow. Their job was to open fire on the Germans and sow confusion when the tanks were hit. Henriksen's idea was to make the Germans think they were surrounded.

Sundheim watched helplessly as Torvik coughed up blood and tried to speak. Though they had both opened fire, and seen one of the Germans go down, Sundheim was still shocked at the speed with which the Germans had set up their gun and returned fire. Before they could take cover, Torvik had been hit. From what Sundheim could see, he'd been hit by at least two bullets, maybe more. There was so much blood.

Bjørn Mikkelsen had managed to hit at least two Germans, one man who had been trying to crawl out of one of the burning tanks, as well as the man trying to help him escape the fiery steel coffin. Mikkelsen had no regrets, if the Germans wanted a safe life, they should have stayed in their own country.

He thought it best to fall back now, in accordance with Henriksen's plan, confuse the Germans, wreck their tanks, then get away as fast as they could. "Hit and run, Bjørn, it's all we can do for King and Country now."

As he slipped through the brush, he glimpsed a German shouting and pointing. "Hhmm, probably someone important," he muttered. He aimed, he fired, then grunted with satisfaction when he saw the man fall, a spray of arterial blood in the air to mark the bullet's passing.

Gradually the shooting stopped, Jürgen looked around, he saw Hartknoch crawling towards him, one leg dragging uselessly behind him, a trail of blood darkening the road. "I think they're gone Bubi, Feldwebel Mutschler is down, pretty sure he's dead. Both of the tanks are f**ked and my leg is ruined. You're in command now ..." with those words Hartknoch passed out.

"Hans, tie off the Oberfeldwebel's leg before he bleeds to death, Walther, keep your eyes on our rear, if anything twitches, hose it down. Michael ..." Jürgen remembered then that Michael Müller was most certainly dead, hit early in the short action, he hadn't moved since. Still, Jürgen checked, no pulse, Michael's eyes were glassy and focused on nothing at all.

"Damn it!"

Henriksen took stock of the cost of his little act of defiance to the Germans. Lars Torvik had died while Sundheim had been dragging him to cover. Hildur had received a slight wound in her arm, she had already checked it and said, "I've had worse."

But Magnus Belland was dead. His sergeant had exposed himself one too many times while directing the fire of the small band. A lucky German shot had hit him high on the inside of his  right thigh severing his femoral artery, though Henriksen had tried to staunch the blood, both men knew that Belland was a dead man.

"It's all right, Morten, the luck of the draw. Some men survive wars, some, in fact many, don't. Tell my parents I was killed instantly ..."

Drawing a deep breath, Belland squeezed Henriksen's hand, "Ah, it's getting colder now, isn't it ..." then he died.

As they retreated into the hills once more, tears streaked his face. Hildur came up to him as they hiked and took his arm, "Life is hard my son, make the Germans pay, that's what you can do. That's all you can do." She squeezed Henriksen's arm, then moved along to speak to the other men. They were all from the same area, they all knew each other. Friends had been lost this day.

They all knew that it was not over, far from it.

¹ I lived less than five miles from Heinsberg during my tour in Germany.
² Slang term for an infantryman. (German)
³ At your command Lieutenant. (German)


  1. Opp, Norge! Which sounds much better in Norwegian. Somehow, Up, Norway doesn't sound quite right.

    1. Things always sound better in their native tongue.

  2. Shame about emptying those bottles but you need to be clear-headed when in tossing distance from the enemy. Another good reading post Sarge.

  3. Excellent post Sarge!
    A "small action"...except to those involved and their loved ones. Being part of a local cell means feeling losses more intensly.
    Boat Guy

    1. Yes, everyone knows everyone else, it certainly is personal.

  4. Tightly written Sarge. And yes, all guerilla warfare ends up becoming personnel.

    As a side note, the writing reflects exactly what good training will do: even under surprise attack, the Germans quickly set up the MG and start returning fire (I have to admit as I read along, how continually amazed I am at its effectiveness).

    1. Training helps you react automatically, German small unit training was very good.

  5. It's crazy how quickly the Germans were able to get their squad machine guns in action.

    There's something out on the webs about most of the US casualties on D-Day on one beach was caused directly by one man with an MG-42. He had up to 60 ammo and barrel carriers, but one man caused over 2,000 casualties.

    Hit and Run is no fun when they Hit and Run back.

    1. The German machine guns (the MG 34 and MG 42) were among the most effective weapons in WWII in my opinion. They were also handled well.

    2. The -34 is a beautiful piece; machined steel elegance. The -42 is everything a GPMG should be and nothing it should not be.
      Boat Guy

  6. Good story!
    I had to look up Molotov cocktail...
    >>The name "Molotov cocktail" was coined by the Finns during the Winter War, called Molotovin koktaili in Finnish. The name was a pejorative reference to Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov, who was one of the architects of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact signed in late August 1939.<<

  7. Oh, Lord, I'm old---I can't imagine someone having to look up what a Molotov cocktail is (no offense intended to Rob--until you know, you don't know).
    A gentle correction, Sarge:
    "the right side track lose it's grip on the gravel." The apostrophe is unnecessary.
    A good part of the tale, action, suspense, and it's touching in places. Bravo Zulu!
    --Tennessee Budd

    1. It was the history, you knew the Finns coined the term? I didn't.

    2. Yeah, I've discovered that the Molotov cocktail recipe isn't as common as I thought.

      Fixed it, don't know how many times I put that apostrophe in "its" when it's not needed. (See what I did there? 😏)

    3. Rob - to be fair, not everyone knows where the name came from.

    4. Nice!
      Might serve as a self-reminder, too. When it comes to an apostrophe, it's not necessary unless its word is a contraction of "it is", or the possessive of a proper name. Well, hell, that doesn't work either: " the tank's tread" is correct; "the tread lost it's grip" is not. Maybe "it" is an outlier? No, I can think of others.
      Ours is a confusing language, with odd rules. I've found that German is very difficult; never did learn to speak it, although I understand some word. I've also heard it said that English is one of the hardest languages to learn, unless it's a cradle language; its forms seem inconsistent.
      Damn, I did it too. I reckon it's like the Justice said about obscenity--"I know it when I see it".
      --Tennessee Budd

    5. Ooops, "some words", not "some word". Well, sometimes with spoken German, I DO only understand some word, & the rest is lost to me. I should proofread my posts.

    6. TB #1 - English is hard, I found spoken German to be far simpler than English, at least spelling follows hard and fast rules.

    7. TB #2 - For me I find that English is hard, typing is even harder! 😁

    8. This rather lengthy article goes into depth on the "intricacies" of the English language.

    9. As a Spanish native speaker, I'd say English is not that complicated to learn, perhaps because it is present in one way or another in our every day lives. I like it because it is very versatile in the ways you can use it and make it make sense.
      I'm trying to learn German and that is a complicated one, I see the similarities with English but with some rules closer to Spanish rules, so in my head sometimes it turns into a spaghetti of words and rules.

    10. Now that you mention it, English is pretty versatile. My wife, a native Korean speaker, didn't think it was that easy, when we lived in Germany, she decided that having two languages was enough! (German is fairly tricky when it comes to anything other than everyday conversation. Lots of rules, but one thing I learned about the Germans is that while they like the idea of rules, they don't always like following the rules.)

  8. Here's a song about a German soldier's wife during WWII.
    Sung by Maddy Prior of Steeleye span.

    1. Wow, I've never heard that one, poignant!

    2. You can learn a lot of history from Steeleye Span.
      Go to YouTube and search their repertoire for "Montrose" (English Civil War), "Gone to America" (colonial Virginia), "Cam Ye Or' From France" Jacobite era, and more that I can't dredge up from memory at 2330 on a Saturday.

  9. As I read this, I couldn't help but think about the Ukrainians and what will hopefully be a strong resistance against the Russkies. Molotov Cocktails, guerilla warfare, IEDs, and 41 million fighters repelling the invaders.

    1. Let's hope Putin bit off more than he can chew.


Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)
Can't be nice, go somewhere else...

NOTE: Comments on posts over 5 days old go into moderation, automatically.