Friday, May 6, 2022

Hide and Seek

Fahnenjunker-Unteroffizier Jürgen von Lüttwitz was in temporary command of 3rd Platoon. Leutnant Fritz Acker would survive his wound but he would not be returning for a number of weeks. As the army was pushing replacements to the units in the forefront of attacking the remaining French forces south of Paris, not to mention the Maginot Line, 3rd Platoon would be understrength for the near future.

Rather than having forty-eight men, he had to make do with thirty-three. While his own 2nd Squad, being led by Obergefreiter Sepp Wittman in Jürgen's absence, was at full strength with ten men. Bernd Osterfeld's old squad, the 1st, only had five men, Osterfeld was in hospital so 1st Squad was being led by a corporal, Gefreiter Max Fleischmann. 3rd Squad, under Obergefreiter Herbert Schimmelpfennig, had seven men, 4th Squad had four men, essentially a machine gun team with two riflemen in support. The senior private in that squad, Hans Grüneberg, led the survivors.

His platoon was lucky in that they still had their mortar section, of three men, along with three of the four messengers they were supposed to have. He had no platoon sergeant for the moment, that man had been killed the day before Leutnant Acker had been hit. The platoon still had significant firepower, having all four of their MG 34 machine guns, manned by experienced men.

"Tell me again Uffz why we're hunting stray Frenchmen?" Sepp Wittman asked as he studied the roadside.

"One of our tank units thought they saw something along this road while they were on the move towards Rouen four days ago. The next day a sentry was found not far from there with his throat cut. Apparently the Feldgendarmerie had information from a French farmer that a small group of French stragglers had come this way." Jürgen answered.

"I'm sure that French farmer had to be persuaded to give up that information. And not gently I'd imagine." Wittman offered.

"If it makes you feel any better, the farmer did survive his questioning. I'm sure he hates us even more now." Jürgen shook his head at the thought. The Kettenhunde¹ never seemed to learn.

They had gotten past the small town of Pavilly, Podbielski reckoned they had less than thirty kilometers to go before they reached their destination. But it was obvious to him that the Germans were actively searching for parties like his. He was still angry with Klaudiusz Mierzejewski, who had killed a German sentry with his knife.

He hadn't been aware of that until the sun had come up after they had passed the small German truck depot. The right sleeve of Mierzejewski's tunic was stained with blood, a lot of blood. Podbielski had sent two men, Mierzejewski and Dziadosz to scout the depot. He was stunned that they had actually killed one of the Germans.

"Was it absolutely necessary?" he had asked Mierzejewski. Sitting behind him, out of Mierzejewski's sight, was Dziadosz, who had shaken his head and mouthed the word "no."

"He was a Niemiec, of course it was necessary. Shouldn't they all die for what they did to our homeland?" Mierzejewski had grumbled.

"So you think the Niemcy will just let that go? 'Oh look, one of our men has been killed, I wonder how that happened? Too bad.' Are you a f**king idiot Klaudiusz?" Podbielski was furious, not with the death of the Niemcy, he understood that, but with Mierzejewski for not thinking the consequences of his actions all the way through.

"Have you noticed that there are more patrols on the roads? Do you think it coincidence that their spotter aircraft seem to be covering most of the countryside. You may have killed us with your actions. Think next time!" Podbielski had almost screamed that last part, which might have given away their position, he had barely managed to tone it down to a loud hiss.

Mierzejewski shrugged. Which infuriated Podbielski even more. The man was from the far east of Poland, damned near in Belorussia, he spoke Russian, often he acted more Russian than Polish. Podbielski would have to keep an eye on this one.

The day was growing hotter, most of the men had hung their helmets on their ammo pouches and were wearing their soft caps, or no caps at all. Jürgen knew the men were tiring of this task. So far they'd gone fifteen kilometers and seen nothing but other patrols and the occasional Fieseler Storch fly overhead.

"Is that artillery fire I hear in the distance Uffz?" Sepp had good hearing, though they had to be at least twenty kilometers from where the 7th and 5th Panzer Divisions had trapped a British division, the artillery fire was becoming louder.

"Sounds like the Tommies are taking a pounding, Sepp. Better them than us." A week ago they had endured a French artillery strike on their position. It had been accurate and sustained enough that the platoon had lost twelve men. It was not an experience Jürgen cared to repeat any time soon.

"Hey Uffz! Panzers coming!" One of the men near the tail of the column shouted.

Jürgen nearly panicked, then he realized that had they been enemy tanks, the man would have said so. It had been Kurt Winckel who had shouted, the man was an old hand. Turning he looked back, sure enough, it was a platoon of PzKw 38(t)s. As they drew closer, he actually recognized the man commanding the lead tank.

"Hey Hoffmeister, you haven't been court-martialed yet?" Jürgen yelled with a grin.

The tank rolled to a stop and Willi Hoffmeister climbed down from his turret, "Jesus, don't you f**king Landsers know the war is over?"

Jürgen nodded to the northwest and said, "That artillery fire seems to indicate otherwise."

"Oh that, we've got the Tommy 51st Division pinned against the coast, the Luftwaffe has actually managed to drive off the Royal Navy. The artillery boys are trying to persuade the Tommies to quit. Tough bastards but they won't last. What are you boys doing out here?"

Jürgen lifted his helmet off then mopped the sweat from his hair with his hand. "Searching for French stragglers. Someone murdered a sentry a couple of nights ago. Command is pissed off, we're supposed to track them down. You?"

"Heh, the same. My loader thought he saw something off in the trees, a few nights later a sentry gets killed, next thing you know the Kettenhunde are beating the bush for saboteurs and terrorists. Seen anything?"

"Nothing. Probably a fool's errand but you know the saying ..."

"Befehle sind befehle!²" both men said at once, laughing.

Jean-Yves was watching the Germans very carefully. Two men were standing by a tank, laughing from the looks of it. It burned deep inside that these men should come to his country, burn, kill, and destroy, and from the looks of it have a wonderful time doing so.

He laid his sights on the man in the black uniform. As he thought about squeezing the trigger, Podbielski laid a hand on his shoulder.

"Don't do it Jan-Iwo, you would kill at least one German, but all of us would die. We must wait until we can be in a proper unit again, then, and only then, can we bring the war to the damned Niemcy. We must be smart."

Jean-Yves lowered his rifle and sighed. "They shouldn't be laughing while my country dies, sierżancie, it isn't right."

"They did worse things in my country laddie, killing civilians, men, women, children, it didn't matter to them. We are not even human in their eyes. Someday they will pay."

"But not this day. Come on, we must move deeper into the forest, Mariusz claims that he can smell the sea. One more night, perhaps two, he says, and we can start looking for a boat." Podbielski turned and slipped quietly into the dark of the forest.

Jean-Yves took one last look, whispering "Your day will come, you pigs. You will pay."

Then he followed his sergeant into the forest.

¹ Chained dogs, German military slang for the military police because of the gorget, suspended from a chain, they wore while on duty.
² Orders are orders! (German)


  1. As I read the first section where they are talking of their losses I had to remember that this is very early in the war, replacements shouldn't be a problem yet.
    The other thing I thought about was this part of history (as others have mentioned). I grew up in the American school system, after Dunkirk France was done and the Battle for Britain's air war started.
    I appreciate the lesson!

    1. Replacements are always a problem. War uses men up far faster than the plans of peacetime anticipate.

  2. Very good. But ... "His was still angry with Klaudiusz..." should be "He was..."

    Sometimes no action is the best action, no? Stabby stabby with the sentries is, as you pointed out, not exactly stealthy.

    1. Fixed it.

      Sometimes discretion IS the better part of valor.

  3. Between the "new" Pole and the far eastern Pole, Podbielski might have his hands full. Tension is ramping up Sarge, well done.

  4. The "new" Pole is an asset; mostly cool headed and a great shot. The far eastern Pole seems to be letting his brutal side get to the best of him; his lack of thought and discipline indeed make him a liability.
    Agree about the tension; good plot, Sarge.
    Boat Guy

  5. Great writing. Congratulations!

    Two minor points:
    It's "a Niemiec" (one German) and "two Niemcy" (two Germans).
    And: "Befehl ist Befehl!" - Literally: An order is an order.

    1. Fixed the "Niemiec" as opposed to "Niemcy."

      As to the latter, I meant to say "Orders are orders," I believe it's correct as written "Befehl sind Befehl."

    2. Thank you for fixing that! As to the orders, that would be: "Orders are Orders" - "Befehle sind Befehle". Trust me, I'm a compatriot of v. Lüttwitz.

    3. Ah! Vielen Dank! (My spoken German is rather sloppy, which shows up from time to time in the way I write it down. 🤔)

  6. Sarge, one of the large differences between younger me and less young me is considering the consequences - all of them - before taking an action. Long term strategic thinking is not something we seem to teach a lot of - maybe we never did.

    1. I think that applies to most people. With age comes wisdom, provided one lives long enough!

  7. Have to wonder how much scrutiny senior private Hans Grüneberg's ancestory received prior to being inducted into the Heer?

    1. It's not necessarily a Jewish name. I knew a Grüneberg in Germany.

    2. I agree as I know some resident German "berg's" as well. But given the zealots in the Geheime Staatspolizei, I imagine any of a list of surnames were given, at least, a cursory check during those times.

  8. Someday ... but not this day.

    One of those Rules to live by. (As opposed to the "rules" of so-called society.) Let it go, let it go, let it go, until waiting is filled.

    1. Patience is still a virtue.

    2. ...Another two maxims: "Act in haste, repent at leisure" and "Revenge is a dish best served cold"...

    3. I had a DI who said ... served frozen.

    4. ...With repenting, I remember a story from the 1920's or so of a rich young American who traveled to Paris to be married. On his wedding night he had a tiff with his new bride, stormed out, and (inspired by alcohol) made a grand gesture of enlisting in the French Foreign Legion. Diplomatic and political pressure did not extract him from his five-year term of service. I can just picture him plodding along sweating in a wool uniform with a heavy pack under the hot Algerian sun while reciting to himself "I was a fool. What a fool I was"...

  9. I recently has some excess time on my hands (story to follow) and decided to spend it on Google Earth. I suspect our host has also. Veulettes-sur-Mer, is indeed a village and only 8 kilometers from Dieppe. It is also 35 miles from the Forêt Domaniale de Roumare. Which at combat speed is only a 4 minute trip. On foot, and having to remain out of sight and quiet, however....

    So, well done my friend, I applaud the homework you've put into the story. Additionally, the exercise was useful as my mental picture of where they were in France was way off. Mental GPS has been updated.

    1. Some information I will give you, the rest I leave to your fertile imaginations or your ability to do research.

      You've done well, Pilgrim.


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