Sunday, July 31, 2022

The Great Wave

葛飾 北斎¹
There are things which lie beyond our control and often lie beyond our understanding. For me, the sea is one of those things.

I've flown over the Atlantic more than once, over the Pacific more times than I care to remember. Looking down from altitude and all one can see (provided there are no clouds) is an unbroken expanse of a dark blueish-gray which stretches forever. It's best not to think about what would happen should your aircraft wind up down there. (Yes, yes, I know the odds of surviving a crash, but what if?"

Flying over the Rockies in the dead of winter gives me the same sensation, but at least there you can see the occasional sign of humanity, a road, perhaps even a cluster of buildings. Over the sea, if the air is clear enough, you can see a ripple-effect, not a flat surface. For there are waves there, marching from one horizon to another. (I did once see the wake of a ship while flying over the Pacific, pretty cool, but it did give me pause as to just how far away from land those sailors were.)

I have truly been to sea only three times in my life (I don't count the ferry ride from Point Judith to Block Island, if it's not foggy you're in sight of land the entire way.) Once on a cruise ship (Boston to Bermuda and back), twice on aircraft carriers: USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), out of Norfolk, and USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) , out of San Diego. All three times I was out of sight of land on very large ships.

Truth be told, riding the carriers was fun, Family and Friends Day Cruises are supposed to be like that. The hangar deck is packed with things to do and, best of all, free food. There were activities up on the flight deck, a mini-air show both times, and one could keep pretty busy the whole time.

Coming back from the cruise on Ike, The Nuke and Your Humble Scribe stood by one of the openings into the hangar deck and watched the ship speeding along. As my daughter mentioned, "I think the captain is in a hurry to get home." Those very big ships go very, very fast when they want to.

Heading out of San Diego on the USS Ronald Reagan, I was actually on the flight deck, going out and coming back. As we cleared Point Loma, you could feel the ocean lifting that big gray warship. (When she's fully loaded the sensation isn't as pronounced. We put out with less than the full crew and the air wing was ashore.)

Now the cruise ship was a different matter entirely. We were two days at sea going out, then two days coming back. On the way out, we hit a storm, 2o to 30 foot seas, the wind was over 50 knots as I recall. The ship we were on was Norwegian Majesty, a "small" cruise ship as such things go, had to be to fit through the Town Cut to get into St. George's Harbor (see below). She was less than 700 feet long. Pretty big, but the sea is bigger.

The red circle is the Town Cut, our ship was small enough to pass through there.
The blue circle is where we tied up.
I learned Saturday that this ship is still in service, though with a different cruise line, and is now named Louis Majesty. (Hhmm, I've heard it ain't good to rename a ship, not without going through the proper rituals anyway.)

The Missus Herself was seasick throughout the storm, stayed in her rack and tried to sleep. I weathered the whole thing pretty well. And yes, I'm inordinately proud of that. The kids are all good sailors as well, though LUSH does get a bit queasy riding in the car. (And NOT while flying off the boat and then trapping back aboard? They're different I guess ...)

Anyhoo, not too many months after we had gone through a storm, Norwegian (er, Louis) Majesty hit another storm, those folks weren't so lucky -

I've been in that forward lounge, very nice view, but when the sea wants in, it gets in.

I remember having a lot of time to myself on that cruise while at sea. I loved to stand by the rail and just watch the ocean. She has many moods and is always a thing of sheer beauty.

But never turn your back on her, respect her always.

Hhmm, I should like to do another cruise, but can I convince The Missus Herself? We shall see.

¹ The Great Wave off Kanagawa (Kanagawa-oki Nami Ura) by Katsushika Hokusai

Saturday, July 30, 2022

It Ain't Over Till It's Over¹

U.S. Navy Photo
So on this penultimate day of July, in the Year of Our Lord Two-Thousand and Twenty-Two, I am once again gob smacked by how quickly time flies.

How is it possible that a slow day at work seems to stretch forever, yet a slow day at home passes in the blink of an eye?

It seems like only yesterday that I walked down the pier in Sandy Eggo for probably the very last time, glancing back on the ship seen in the middle in the opening photo, wondering if I would ever walk her decks again.

I remember the day well, a gray ship set upon waters which in the sun appeared to be made of burnished steel, while in the distance the haze made everything take on a gray and white sheen. The sun burned down while to the east the sky was a pale blue set above the parched hills of southern California.

Little did I know that a fellow I used to work with, a person I considered a friend, was dying that very day. Taken before his time as they say.

Life is ephemeral, lasting no longer than the dew in the morning sun. Glistening, shining, then it's gone. Or so it seems as I age.

Not sure why the melancholy is on me today (Friday as I write, well, you know the rest) but it is.

My son and his tribe are visiting, he approaches 43, he works too much, he has too much stress laid upon him (so I think) but financially he is doing well. In my own chosen field of computers, he is what we call a super star. A Rachmaninoff of the computer keyboard, he has a brilliance which I could never attain.

I'm a grunt, I'm the fellow in the trenches, marching forward, day by day, with no thoughts of glory or great riches, just getting the job done as best as I know how.

I did well in my efforts aboard USS Michael Monsoor (DDG 1001), assisting in bringing a new capability to life. I was part of a brilliant team: active duty Navy, contractors from multiple companies, and even a few government employees who actually took their jobs very seriously. It was a team effort and I am proud to have been a part of it.

But all that is winding down. Truth be told I'm getting a little long in the tooth to be going up and down ladders, jumping over knee-knockers, and working a ten to twelve hour day while doing all that. Even if it is only a couple of weeks at a time.

But for a time I reveled in all that. I will miss it, just as I still miss the Air Force on some days. We move on until we can't move any more.

I can still move, but ah, the past, it is shiny in my memory, probably more so than the actual reality of the thing, but nevertheless something to hold on to in my twilight years.

For now the sun is still shining, it's not autumn yet, and to steal  a line from Robert Frost -

But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep.

Guess we'll keep on trucking ...

¹ Thanks for that one, Yogi Berra.

Friday, July 29, 2022

Day Two of the Drought

Albert Goodwin's painting Apocalypse (1903)
Once again I find myself with a lack of time to do any creative writing of the sort which has been entertaining you, my devoted readers, yes, you two, up there in the corner, for the past year or so.

Fortunately a three day weekend is in the offing (starting today as you read this, tomorrow as I write this) so I will probably find the time to continue my early World War Two in Europe saga. A story which I started as a means to cover the British characters introduced in my D-Day to VE Day book (working title Almost a Lifetime for those of you who remember such things). While I've done a bit of that, I've also created a whole bunch of new characters: Poles, Frenchmen, Finns, Russians, Norwegians, new Brits, etc. So yeah, I've gone a bit off track. (Probably we'll be meeting Italians and Greeks at some point in time, it was a big war.)

Thing is I like writing, a lot. It gives my creative urges an outlet and I feel that I'm pretty good at it. When I can't do it, I get frustrated, like I've let down the side. One of the things I'm looking forward to after I retire from the current job is having more time to write. Among other things as I've lots of hobbies and the paying gig gets in the way of that.

Of course, the paying gig gives me the money needed for the hobbies. Vicious cycle, neh?

So there it is, another Sarge fiction-less Friday.

Sorry ...

Thursday, July 28, 2022


Doctor's appointment in the AM, family in town, never got a chance to write on Wednesday.

I'll try and do better next time.

Sometimes real life taps ya on the shoulder and asks, "Hey, what about me?"

That's when I must down tools and play nicely with others.

Be seeing you ...

Wednesday, July 27, 2022


Oscar Olson heard voices outside of the small shed he was sheltering in on the outskirts of Litenhavn. They were speaking Norwegian, but one of the voices had an odd accent. So Olson burrowed deeper into the pile of old fishing nets and tarps that he was hiding under.

His broken left arm ached badly, though the German medic had splinted it and given him a sling, the arm hadn't been set or treated in any other way. From what little Norwegian the medic knew, Olson had understood that his arm wasn't bad, perhaps simply a greenstick fracture. But still and all, it ached badly.

The voices went away, Olson had the impression that the Germans were searching for him. When the attack had started, the Germans who had been outside the room he was locked in at the small fisheries office in town had left, in a hurry. After they left and during the commotion, Olson had managed to kick the door open. It had been secured with just a simple hasp.

He had managed to avoid being spotted as he made his way to the edge of the village. He had come across a number of sheds used for storage, not far from the forest to the south of the village. He had decided to hole up in one of them and wait for nightfall.

His old comrades were all dead, the death of his close friend Jakob Torvik particularly bothered him, the two men had grown up together. Despair made him want to quit and surrender to the Germans again, but common sense told him that he needed to get as far from the Germans as possible. Being attacked again might tend to make them even more bloodthirsty then they normally were.

Lars Fretheim was getting tired of speaking German, it felt harsh in his mouth, not like the tones of his native Norwegian, but speak it he must, only a couple of these Germans spoke enough Norwegian to make themselves intelligible. Krausse was one of them, Fretheim welcomed the opportunity to speak in his native tongue.

"My dear Oberleutnant Krausse, most of these sheds are used for winter storage. Lighter sails for the boats, some of the fishermen keep their old nets in these sheds, hoping that during the winter they'll have time to repair them. But since the ..." Fretheim stopped, he realized he might have overstepped.

"Since the invasion? Since we Germans arrived to protect you from a British invasion? Is that what you were trying to say Herr Fretheim? Don't worry, I admire honesty. We wouldn't have you shot for such a thing." Krausse noticed that Fretheim went rather pale at the mention of people getting shot. He regretted making the jibe, but in truth, he really didn't like this man, this "quisling" as people called the Norwegian collaborators.

"Um, yes, since your army landed to drive the English and French invaders out, yes, not everyone in Norway understands the political realities of our modern world."

Krausse reflected on that, true, he barely understood them himself. What he understood was that the Reich needed Swedish ore, and the English wanted to stop the flow of that. Ah, he thought, the English, always meddling on the Continent. If the French weren't so weak, they would probably stand against the English themselves!

The voices moved on, carefully Olson moved out from under the smelly pile of old canvas and netting. He could tell through the many gaps in the walls of that shed that night was approaching. Only then would he move out and attempt to reach the hunting lodge further inland. He knew people there.

As night wrapped its dark arms around the Norwegian coast, Olson headed out. He knew that the Germans didn't patrol inland, only along the coast. That was one of the things that his late commander, Quartermaster-Sergeant Wilkes had planned to exploit. Hit the Germans from inland, then steal a boat and head for England. But the ambush of the two Germans in their little car had happened instead. Wilkes had been surprised at the quickness and violence of the German response.

All Olson knew is that his friends were all dead now. Perhaps he should think of getting to England. His friends at the lodge might be able to help him.

Oskar Olson, "Ollie" to his friends, was not done fighting. Not by a long shot. The Germans would pay, or he hoped they would, things looked very bleak at the moment.

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

The Raid

Gefreiter Hermann Bauer looked up as Unteroffizier Georg Schülze entered the small building where they were keeping the captured Norwegian. Schülze tried to close the door as quickly as he could, but the arctic air got in anyway, along with a lot of snow.

"Still coming down, Uffz?" Bauer said with a grin.

"I'm starting to think it will never end. How's our prisoner?"

"Won't say a word other than his name and what I assume is his Dienstgrad.¹"

"We've done some checking, Oskar Olson is indeed a member of the Norwegian Army. He was wearing a uniform when he was captured, ja?" Schülze had been with Oberleutnant Krausse when the lieutenant had talked on the phone with someone in Oslo who had access to Norwegian government records.

"Most of the men that the Gebirgsjäger ran to ground were wearing uniforms, or parts of uniforms. I wonder how the Englishman and the two Frenchmen happened to be this far south." Schülze continued as he took off his greatcoat.

"A Royal Marine and two Chasseurs Alpin,² I'm betting they were cut off when their main force evacuated and worked their way south, probably looking for a boat to get back to England." Bauer had given this some thought.

"Makes sense. According to Oberleutnant Krausse, the SD would like a word or two with our prisoner."

Bauer stopped as he was donning his greatcoat, "What would those bastards want with him?"

"Well, two of their men were killed by this bunch he was with, supposedly. No direct proof of that in my book, but there was just the one partisan group. They were tracked from the scene, so to speak."

"Always the cop aren't you, Uffz? What's the Oberleutnant say about that?"

"Once a cop, always a cop. Krausse says that the SD are welcome to come talk to the man, but we're not to turn him over to them."

"Who argues with the SD and what if they send the Gestapo?" Bauer argued. He agreed with Krausse but he wasn't sticking his neck out for a Norgie prisoner.

"Well, we will wait and see ..."

A large explosion down by the waterfront made both men jump.

"What the Hell ..." Schülze was a bit confused, he had never seen combat, Bauer had.

"Hear that? That's a British Bren gun."

Premierløitnant Morten Henriksen had used a German torch to guide the commandos in. There were just he and Menig Martin Sundheim left, the reservists had gone home, Bestemor Hildur taking one of them in, the hunter had left as well.

"There they are!" Sundheim pointed, sure enough there was a rather large, sleek-looking power boat with what appeared to be torpedo tubes mounted on either side.

The boat was gliding in to the small cove just north of Litenhavn. As it got near the shore, one of the men aboard tossed a line which Sundheim caught and made fast to a small tree.

"Welcome to Norway, gentlemen!" Henriksen offered in his very best English, which wasn't all that great, but the man who jumped ashore mumbled something which was neither English nor Norwegian.

Henriksen was puzzled, the man wore a British uniform and ...

"Polski!" the big man announced as he thumped his chest. He disappeared down the path quickly.

"Don't mind him Leftenant, I have a number of Poles in my unit. That was Private Mierzejewski, a man of few words but one Hell of a fighter. I'm Mosier by the way, Oswald Mosier."

Henriksen raised an eyebrow when he heard that name.

A corporal jumped off the boat as Mosier deployed the rest of his men.

"It's Mosier, Sir, not 'Mosley.' You're thinking of that fascist bastard no doubt³. Well, we've got a few quislings on our side as well. He ain't one of 'em. Now, where's this fish factory Winnie wants blown up?"

It took Henriksen a minute to realize that the British soldier, a corporal from what he could see, had spoken to him in very good Norwegian. These English were so full of surprises!

"ALARM! Englische kommandos!" Schütze Matthias Scheidel dropped to one knee as he brought his rifle up. He should have taken cover first he realized after he fired, and missed.

The big man running towards him didn't miss.

Mierzejewski grabbed the German rifle and threw it into the harbor, he didn't bother checking the man, he was obviously dead from what Mierzejewski could see. He covered the rest of the men as they moved into position.

Sergeant Bartosz Podbielski dropped into position next to Mierzejewski, "You will be the death of me yet, Klaudiusz. I told you to wait!"

"Just the one man Sierżant Podbielski, I thought that speed was of the essence."

Slapping him on the shoulder, Podbielski got up and ran over towards the warehouse they were to destroy. The charges were already  planted and Corporal Winston was already signaling the men to fall back.

As the first charge went off, the end of the warehouse over the water collapsed. Flames sprang up as at least one barrel of fish oil was breached by the explosion. At the same time Winston heard the distinctive rattle of a German MG 34.

"Damn it, get back to the boat lads, Podbielski find the Leftenant!"

Winston's section of four men began to walk backwards, firing as they went. Winston didn't realize it but the Germans he was firing at had heard the sound of a Thompson once before, which caused them to take cover rather than direct the fire of their machine gun against the commandos on the dock. The last time they had heard that sound, four of their own had died.

"Verdammte Scheiße!" Krausse yelled out as he heard firing break out down at the waterfront. At that moment Schülze burst in.

"I've sent the duty section down to respond, Englishmen from the look of their uniforms. They've destroyed the warehouse and seem to be withdrawing."

"Yes. damned commandos, I'm trying to get ahold of the Navy detachment further south. The Tommies had to have come by boat, if the Navy can get one of their Schnellbooten to sea they can intercept those men. They probably came in a fishing boat and ..."

Schütze Richard Heitz, a native of Kiel, burst into the room, "Uffz, sorry, Herr Leutnant, there are two destroyers just outside the fjord! British from the look of them!"

"Damn it, will nothing go right this day!"

The commandos were underway with only a single casualty, Klaudiusz Mierzejewski had been hit in the buttocks by a stray round. He was furious.

"Now everyone will say I was shot while running away!"

"But Klaudiusz, you were. It's no shame, our job is to hit the Niemcy, then run away." Podbielski tried to console the big man.

Private Juliusz Dziadosz chimed in, "If you didn't have such a big arse Klaudiusz, the niemiecki bastard might have missed!"

That gave the men a laugh, even Mierzejewski had to admit it was funny, if only his arse didn't hurt so bad!

"Just the one casualty?" Krausse asked.

"Ja, Scheidel, a good kid. Another thing Herr Oberleutnant ..."


"In all the excitement, our prisoner got away."

"He couldn't have gone too far ..."

"He's vanished, he may have gone with the commandos, who knows? We'll check any leads, but I think he's gone."

Krausse sat for a moment, then picked up the phone again. "I'll let the SD know that the man they wanted to talk with was killed in the English raid. Spare them a trip, spare us some embarrassment."

"What if they want to see the body?"

"I'll tell them they're welcome to dredge the fjord ..."

Schülze nodded, "Very wise, Herr Oberleutnant. Remind me never to play cards with you."

¹ Rank, literally "service grade" (German)
² Literally "Alpine Hunters", the French mountain infantry. (French)
³ Oswald Mosley led the British Union of Fascists.
⁴ Fast Boat (German) German version of the PT boat.

Monday, July 25, 2022

Bellisima Bambina! *

 Well, it's been a pretty roller coastery week.  The good news is I'm a Grandfather again as of 2 PM on the 21st. The even better news is that Mom and Daughter are doing well.  The downside is she was born early and is VERY tiny.  

 However, the Doctors are very happy with LJD's** progress.   In fact, I just got a text from Mom and Dad, who are at the hospital visiting saying that they actually got to touch her knee.  She curled her hand in response.  Stimulus and Response is good!

 The NICU***, was an interesting place to visit.  They only allowed two people at a time to visit a given baby.  So, I waited my turn.  The first picture was taken when Little Juvat and I got in there.  The plastic bags in the picture were to 1) keep her warm and 2) minimize contact with anything bad that might be in the air. 
The Blue Light is a preventative action to protect her from Jaundice.  That was started later that evening.  As a further preventative measure,  I had to scrub down pretty hard and wear a sterilized surgery frock in order to be allowed to enter.  I was good with all that.

Given her progress over the last three days, they've decided to take her off of "small baby protocol". Not knowing what that meant, I googled it and read this article. Talk about dodging a bullet.  Dad and Mom were told that the staff will check on her every 3 hours instead of every 6, and touch her to stimulate her, and they're putting her on breast milk.  Which I take it is a good sign.

She'll be in the NICU for an, as yet, undetermined amount of time and no, they won't give me a "guess".  I'm assuming it will be based on catching up to the capabilities of a full term baby.  She's not there yet, but she responded to a touch from her Mom.  I'm good with that.

Still a long way to go, but Thank You Lord!  And thank all y'all for your thoughts and prayers.  


*Beautiful Baby Girl  

** Little Juvat's Daughter, Beans.  I know you and acronyms!😉 GD2 just didn't ring my bell.

***Beans told me last week that NICU stands for Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

Sunday, July 24, 2022

The Hill

Unteroffizier Helmut Schmidt found where his lieutenant was sleeping and woke him up.

"Herr Oberleutnant, I went up the hill with one of my men, we found something. How good is that map of yours?" Schmidt was impatient, but knew to take his time, this could be important.

Krausse sat up, rubbed his eyes, then reached for his map case. "It's a good map, Norwegian forestry service printed, better than our issue maps, at least for the amount of detail."

Krausse handed his map to Schmidt, who immediately showed it to a Gefreiter by the name of Odo Möller, an Austrian as Krausse recalled.

Möller nodded then said to his sergeant, "That must be it." Turning to Krausse, the man said, "We found a cave Herr Oberleutnant. If I was a betting man, I'd say that our partisans are there."

Rousselot shook Wilkes' shoulder, he hated to wake the man, but ...

"Chef, les Boches sont là.¹"

"À quelle distance?²"

Rousselot shrugged, "Five hundred meters and they're climbing up the hill. They must know about the cave."

Wilkes threw off the German greatcoat he was using as a blanket, "Get the lads up, come with me Gilles."

Moments later Wilkes was looking down the slope through his field glasses. He'd been disgusted to see that one of the lenses had cracked, but it was clear enough that the mountain infantry were coming on, dispersed nicely, four squads, which Wilkes knew meant that his single Bren gun was up against four German MG 34 machine guns.

But they had to move, he did not.

Krausse paused in his climb, he could have sworn he saw the glint of glass up where the cave should be, one advantage he would have was that the partisans would have the sun in their faces as soon as the sun got up high enough.

He waved Unteroffizier Stoltze over, "Set up your MG here, rifles deployed to ... Well, you know the drill Klaus. We're going to maneuver around your boys as the base element."


Schmidt reported in, "You're my reserve," turning to his platoon sergeant he said, "Wolf, you stay here and coordinate, commit the reserve as necessary. Don't reinforce failure, exploit success. Of course if the attack goes completely to shit, cover us as we fall back."

"Gerd, your boys take the left, the map shows a slight depression leading up to above the cave, use it to mask your movement." Unterfeldwebel Peters nodded, he got his men moving immediately.

Now the hard part, Krausse thought. "Johannes."

Unteroffizier Johannes Dessauer moved up closer to his officer. His squad was short handed, Gotthard was in his squad, three more of his men had accompanied the truck taking Gotthard to the hospital. Counting himself, he had six men, but he still had his MG 34.

"Herr Oberleutnant?"

"Your men will come with me, we're going to move up on the right flank and lay down fire on the cave mouth. We want the partisans to concentrate on worrying about us, klar?"

"Ja, we shoot, we move, then shoot again, lots of noise in the hope they don't notice Gerd and his clowns playing in the snow." That drew a chuckle from the group, Peters and Dessauer were as close as brothers, and just as competitive.

Krausse, still grinning, said, "Let's go."

"I only see one group moving, to our left. There's still a bunch of them along that slight dip to the right of those pine trees. Do you see?" Torvik was concerned as he saw fewer Germans than he expected. Then he had a thought.


"What is it Jakob?"

Pointing off to the right, Torvik said, "If I recall correctly, there's a depression which runs up the slope to our right, not real deep, but deep enough to conceal a small party. It runs right up the hill and ends just above the cave, offset to our right."

Wilkes spent a long moment thinking, then he said, "Take Wien, get near the top of that depression and engage anyone coming up." He started to remove his webbing.

"With two rifles? We're going to ..."

Wilkes handed Torvik his own weapon, an American Thompson submachine gun. "I've only got the two magazines besides the one in the gun, but it's better than a rifle. Choose your shots man."

Torvik hefted the weapon, it had a fifty round drum magazine, with the two spares he felt he had plenty of ammunition. Had he ever been in a real firefight, he wouldn't have felt so confident.

"I shall put it to good use."

Torvik and Wien left the shelter of the cave. Wilkes drew his dispatch case out, he wrote up a few lines then turned to Oskar Olson. "Ollie."


"Go out the way Torvik did, follow the depression up the hill to where it ends, then head to the nearest town, I want you to get word out. We're all probably going to die here, but ..."

"No sir. I ran when the Nazis landed, I run no more."

"Now look here lad ..."

"I'm sorry Quartermaster Sergeant, I will not leave. If I must, I will die here. With you and the others."

Wilkes looked at the man for just a moment, then sighed. "Bloody fool. Very well, get back to your post."

Peters heard the roar of at least two MG 34s not long after his squad began to climb up the dip leading up the hill. They were nicely concealed from any observers in the cave, but the going was slow. Very slippery under foot and one man had nearly sprained an ankle already.

They were making good time, Peters kept taking cautious glances towards the cave, he could see that the partisans were returning fire back down the hill, so far they weren't paying much attention to their right flank, which was good.

Unfortunately, due to their efforts to be quiet and to maintain their footing on the slippery rocks underneath the snow, no one noticed the Norwegian higher up the hill, also in the depression but behind a boulder.

Wilkes had told him about the weapon's tendency to lift up when fired, but it still surprised him when he pulled the trigger. Only the first three rounds had had any effect out of his first burst. But where there had been a German climbing towards them only moments ago, there was now only a bleeding corpse.

His second burst was far more accurate.

Peters knew he was badly wounded, he could see that his point man, Hermann Oberfeld, was down and unmoving. From the amount of blood spattered over the snow, he had to assume that Hermann was dead.

He looked down, Gefreiter Adolf Bern was on his back, his eyes glassy and staring at nothing, so he too was dead.

"Anyone there?" he managed to gasp out, though it hurt to move, even to speak.

"F**king Norgies up ahead, Hans is down, Herbert is hit bad, and I shit myself."

Peters recognized the voice of his machine gunner, Kurt Wittmann.

"Can you get the gun set up?"

"Gun is f**cked, Gerd. Feed tray took a hit. It's rifles or we throw rocks at them." Wittmann was foul tempered at the best of times, which these were most certainly not.

"You hit at least ..."

"Get your head down, Thore!" Torvik yelled out as Wien came up into a crouch to look down the slope.

Too late, a German rifle bullet slammed into Wien's forehead, killing him instantly.

Wittman worked the bolt on Hans Klinker's K98k, poor bastard would have no further use for it. "Got you, you Norgie f**k!" He had indeed hit a man who had popped up to look down the slope. Rookie mistake, Wittmann thought to himself.

"Hey Gerd, you got any grenades?"


Realizing that Peters was either dead or unconscious, Wittmann turned to the two men who were still with him. Jürgen Wolters and Rolf Schwimmbach. "Jürgen, Rolfie, mit mir!³" Without checking to see if they followed, Wittmann threw himself to his left, up and out of the depression.

Krausse had a feeling that his attack was bogging down. Machine gun fire from the cave had been sparse, but effective. Dessauer was dead, two of his remaining men were down. He couldn't tell if they were dead or alive. His attack from the right flank was stalled.

He had heard a brief flurry of fire from over Peters' way, but nothing since. He grabbed one of the three healthy men left out of Dessauer's squad.

"Norbert, stay here. Put some fire on that cave entrance. You've still got the 34, so you're still in business. Don't try to move up, I need to go back down and bring up the reserve."

"I think Feldwebel Burkhalter is already using them Herr Oberleutnant." Schütze Max Hummel pointed down the slope.

Krausse could see Stoltze's and Schmidt's squads on the move. Their two machine guns were in action, laying down a torrent of fire as Burkhalter maneuvered the men up the slope, deftly making use of the dips in the ground and the sparse concealment provided by a few stands of low brush on the hill.

"Okay, Norbert, I'm staying with you, let's get that MG into action."

Wilkes ducked as another burst of MG fire, this time from his left, hissed overhead and into the roof of the cave. One of the Frenchmen, Piaget, had already been killed by a ricochet off one of the rocks near the cave mouth. His friend Rousselot was firing steadily down the hill, swearing vengeance for his friend each time he pulled the trigger.

Suddenly the Bren gun went silent. He heard "Shit, shit, shit," in Norwegian, followed by, "The damned thing is jammed!"

Wilkes said a small prayer and thought briefly of England, well, he had no time for that. He needed to get that Bren back up!

Torvik was bleeding from a gash on his face where a rock chip had been carved off from his boulder. He loaded his last magazine, he knew that he had wasted most of his ammunition, but the Germans weren't moving, not that he could see.

He'd seen someone jump out of the dip and had loosed a burst in that direction, he could see the man's feet dangling over the side of the dip. He'd almost made it.

As he watched, he fired a short burst down the hill, just to keep their heads down. Then he heard something above him, he turned.

"Drite ...⁴"

Wittman jumped into the depression after shooting the Norwegian with the submachine gun.

"Norgie bastard."

Turning to Wolters he said, "Where's Schwimmbach?"

"Dead. This prick shot him." Wolters nudged the dead Norwegian with his boot.

"Scheiße. You stay here, keep your eyes peeled. I'm going to go down and see if anyone is still alive. I should have joined the f**king Navy like my brother." Still cursing, Wittmann headed down the slope.

Burkhalter nodded and three men stood and tossed armed grenades into the cave. As soon as the explosions occurred, Burkhalter was up, chanting, "Lauf, lauf, lauf, Männer!⁵"

Oskar Olson's ears were still ringing when he saw the first shapes emerge from the smoke and dust hanging in the air at the mouth of the cave. His left arm was bent at a strange angle and he couldn't move it. His rifle was some two meters away, there was no way he could reach it in time.

Then he saw the British Quartermaster-Sergeant stand and open fire with his Webley revolver. One of the Germans hissed and dropped to his knees, the other five Germans all fired at once, driving Wilkes back and to the ground.

Burkhalter got to his feet, the bullet from the partisan's pistol had scored a gouge across his outer left thigh. It stung like Hell, but was only a minor wound. The Sani was already fussing over him.

"Mein Gott Hans, stop fussing, I'm alright. Any one else hit?"

Everyone else was okay, then one of his men, Norbert Greibner, sang out, "We've got a live one back here!"

The Germans had patched Olson up and had then shoved him roughly out of the cave, forcing him to kneel in the snow. One of the mountain infantrymen stood behind him, the barrel of his rifle pressed in between Olson's shoulder blades.

The Germans were not happy, they had lost a number of men in their attack up the hill. Where there had been forty men in the morning, now there were only thirty-one still alive, some of them wounded as well.

Krausse looked at his platoon sergeant, whose left leg sported a bandage. "What's the damage, Wolf?"

"Nine dead, including Peters and Dessauer. Seven wounded, three bad enough that they'll probably be invalided out."

Krausse gestured at Burkhalter's leg, "How bad?"

"A scratch, it stings but I've cut myself shaving worse than that."

"Just the one prisoner?"

"Yes, a Norwegian. One of the dead up in the cave was wearing bits of British kit, he's the arsehole who shot me. It would've been nice to take him alive, but the men had their blood up, so the Brit was gunned down. The Norgie? He's just a kid, I doubt he knows anything worthwhile." Burkhalter finished his report.

Krausse nodded, "All right, let's get loaded up. Back to Litenhavn and report this mess. I doubt Oslo will be happy."

¹ Chief, the Boches are here. (French)
² How far? (French)
³ With me! (German)
⁴ Crap (Norwegian)
⁵ Run, run, run, men! (German)

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Into the Woods


"Yes, around this forest," Krausse leaned in to point at the map that Unteroffizier Schülze was holding, "yes, there near Olafsongård. Is that a town?" he asked, looking at Lars Fretheim.

"No, that just means Olafson's farm. Pier Olafson and his family did try farming up there, but the soil was too rocky. Now it's just some ruins. No farm, just a name for a spot on the map."

Krausse nodded, then he turned to his platoon sergeant, "Wolf, get the men together," turning to Schülze he asked, "do you need any of my men to help you keep things under control here?"

Schülze chuckled, "Not really, Herr Oberleutnant, all of the excitement around here is twenty kilometers or more away."

Krausse frowned, "Are you forgetting your man Becker?"

Schülze turned red, "No Sir, of course not. But I don't expect a commando raid to seize or destroy anything we have here. I'm still convinced they were here seeking intelligence, Becker simply got in their way. Now my men patrol in pairs, never standing in one place for long, but constantly moving. We won't make that mistake again."

Krausse nodded, "Good, I think I'll need all of my men when we head up to Olafson's farm. Herr Fretheim, you'll be coming with us, yes?"

It was Fretheim's turn to blush, he sputtered, "Uh, certainly, I mean I'm not sure why you need ..."

"Excellent, go put on your best boots and dress warmly. Do you have a sleeping bag?" Krausse was enjoying the Nasjonal Samling man's discomfort. He had no patience with traitors of any stripe, even those assisting the Reich.

Gilles Rousselot and Armand Piaget tended to go on missions together as they only spoke French, having a Norwegian along would just confuse things as none of the Norwegians spoke French. Only Quartermaster-Sergeant Wilkes spoke multiple languages.

The two men had gone down lower in the hills after the German aircraft had passed overhead the day before. Wilkes was worried that their ambush of the two Germans four days ago had been a very bad idea. But the men were restless, they were starting to chafe at just hiding from the Nazis. So Wilkes had consented to the ambush.

While it had been satisfying to kill the two Nazis, it had stirred up a hornet's nest. A truckload of Gebirgsjäger had been reported at the hunting lodge, which was still open for business, but only for Germans and quislings apparently. Two members of the small staff were still loyal to King Haakon, they passed information along when they could.

He now knew that the Germans were looking for the killers of their two men, not surprising but he hadn't expected Gebirgsjäger, a most unpleasant surprise. The small commando raid on Litenhavn had brought those troops to the area.

Wilkes had shaken his head at the time, "Bloody fish oil, who knew the Nazis would need such a thing. No doubt Winnie¹ wants it all destroyed."

"Hé regarde ..." Piaget nudged Rousselot. Down towards the beginning of the steep sided valley there was a cloud of snow moving. Piaget knew there was a road there.

Rousselot used Wilkes' field glasses, after a few minutes the snow settled, revealing a German truck. Then another, both loaded with infantry who were climbing down from the vehicles.

"That's the end of the paved road, yes?" Piaget asked.

"Oui, that's it. They probably drove up from the coast. There's no doubt, they're hunting. For us! Let's get back. Set the trap first."

After a few long moments, Piaget was nervous, even though the Germans were at least three kilometers away, they were too close for just the two of them, the two men scrambled down into the gully leading back to the forest. It was a gamble using the gully, but it was hard to spot from any distance. It did, at the least, keep them out of sight and out of the open.

"Shall I wait here with the trucks, Herr Oberleutnant?" Fretheim asked, "After all, just go straight up to that clump of trees on that ridge, and you should be able to see the ruins of the farm buildings."

"Wolf, put Herr Fretheim behind 1st Squad." Without another word  Krausse began to move. He was sick enough of Fretheim's whining that he was regretting bringing the man along, but he was the only one who knew the area and was at least semi-willing to help.

Feldwebel Burkhalter took ahold of Fretheim's sleeve and said, "Come with me. Now." His tone of voice chilled Fretheim even more than the arctic air swirling around them.

"How many?" was all Wilkes said.

"A platoon, no more, but still, that's forty men, give or take." Rousselot answered.

Wilkes' shoulders sagged, "Come on then lads, we need to move further into the mountains."

"The cave?" one of the Norwegians asked.

"Ja Ollie, the cave." Oskar Olson simply nodded. Then he turned and said, "Jakob, you know what to do?"

"Ja, selvfølgelig³, set the traps then move north, make my path obvious enough but not too obvious. Lead them away from here and from your path up the mountain."

"Be careful, Jakob." Olson said to the man he had known since they were both children.

"I will Ollie, I still have two children to live for, but ..."

"I will, Jakob, I'll see to the boys, in case, well, you know."

"I'll see you in a few hours, now go, Wilkes is getting antsy."

As Wilkes led his party up the mountain, the men heard an explosion in the distance.

Schütze Wilhelm Gotthard lay shrieking in the blood-stained snow, Gefreiter Hans Müller, the Sanitäter, was trying to get Gotthard to lay still.

Gotthard's left foot was mangled, barely attached to the end of his leg. He had stepped on a small mine, not meant to kill but to incapacitate. It had worked exactly as designed.

Krausse was furious, he looked at Gotthard's squad leader who shook his head, everyone knew that Gotthard was impetuous, now he would probably lose his leg because of it.

"Wolf, detail a stretcher party to take him back to the trucks. Damn it, sorry, use one of the trucks to get him to Tårnbyen, there's a hospital there, isn't that right Fretheim?"

"Yes, Herr Oberleutnant, I could show them the way."

Krausse looked at Fretheim, "Very well, you will help carry Gotthard down, then guide my men to the hospital. F**k this up and I will track you down and the end result won't be pleasant. Understood?"

Fretheim knew that Krausse meant every word he said, but he had no intent to not do the man's bidding. It would get him out of the mountains and someplace warm. Gotthard's health didn't concern him, only his own.

Krausse's platoon found the Norwegian camp about an hour before nightfall. Burkhalter had found another trap at the entrance to the low-slung building nearly buried in the snow and had disabled it.

"The rest of the place is clear Herr Oberleutnant." Burkhalter detailed Schmidt's squad to check around the vicinity for paths away from the building, Schmidt himself reported back within minutes.

"There's an obvious path leading north, one man as far as I can tell. Just up the slope there's a rocky ledge which leads up the mountain, if it was me ..."

"Ja Harald, that's the path I'd use as well, the northern set of tracks is obviously meant to be a ruse." Burkhalter turned as he heard the lieutenant come into the low building.

"It's snowing again, we'll camp here, don't touch anything without inspecting it carefully first. No doubt the partisans may have left more traps. If the snow isn't too heavy, we can head up the mountain at first light. Until then, get some sleep, Gerd!" he called out to another of his squad leaders.

"Herr Oberleutnant?"

"Your boys have the first watch, cover all four sides and try to stay out of the weather as best you can. Rotate your men in and out of the building, in four hours, turn it over to Stoltze's squad."

Both Klaus Stoltze and Gerd Peters nodded, it was understood that Schmidt's boys would be up last. The Gebirgsjäger settled in for a long night.

Jakob Torvik rejoined Wilkes and the others well after midnight. The cave was dark, dank, and very cold, but it was better than being out in the driving snow.

"How bad is it?" Wilkes asked Torvik.

"It will pass probably by mid-morning. The Germans didn't fall for our little trick, nor did they set off any more traps. I think they'll follow us up the stone walkway when the storm stops."

Wilkes sighed, then asked, "How many rounds do we have for the Bren?"

Thore Wien answered, "Eight magazines, we can hurt those Germans. They'll have no support this high up and they will have to come straight in."

"Right then, lads, get some sleep. Ollie, I'll wake you at two, I'll take the first watch. Get some sleep the rest of you, in the morning we make our stand, there is no other option."

The small band made their preparations. Some would be awake all night, worrying, some would sleep fitfully. All knew that by this time tomorrow, they could all be dead. But they would take as many Germans with them as they could.

Olson muttered, "Gud bevare kongen.⁴ We who are about to ..."

"No Ollie, the Germans are going to die, not us."

Olson nodded and said, "If the Lord wills it, yes."

¹ Sir Winston Churchill.
² "Hey, look ..." (French)
³ "Yes, of course," (Norwegian)
⁴ God save the King. (Norwegian)