Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Glimpse of a Stark Future

"How much more of this do they expect us to do?" Obergefreiter Sepp Wittman knelt on the ground, though the weather was brisk, he was sweating profusely. The unit was in the middle of yet another field exercise.

Fahnenjunker-Unterfeldwebel Jürgen von Lüttwitz, paused next to his assistant squad leader and pointed, "That next hill, we go up, over, and on the other side is a road."

"Where we'll be met by LKWs to take us back to our bivouac?" Wittman asked hopefully.

"Of course not Mensch," Jürgen mopped his brow with the small towel he kept wrapped around his neck before continuing, "there we will pitch our little squad shelters, spend a restful night beneath the stars, while we take turns with 1st Squad patrolling the perimeter."

As soon as he said that, it began to rain.

Wittman shook his head, "So much for sleeping under the stars."

"Oh, I assure you, the stars are still up there, you need to look on the bright side Sepp ..."

"What, that we're not in Africa, or heading east to Poland? You've heard the rumors."

Jürgen gestured at Sepp to keep his voice down, "Africa is no rumor, the Wehrmachtbericht¹ has announced that General Rommel is in Africa this very moment, sent to rescue our valiant Italian allies."

"Rommel, all by himself?" Sepp asked in a scoffing tone.

"Why no, he has a light division and a Panzer division to help."

"The Tommies must be shaking in their boots." Sepp laughed.

"I doubt that, they don't have the French tied around their necks this time." Jürgen had little regard for the French Army, though he had to admit, many of the French soldiers, when well led, were excellent material. Fortunately for the Germans, they had been anything but well-led in last year's campaign.

"Think we'll be sent there?" Sepp asked.

"It's a side show, the next big deal will be in the east. Mark my words." Jürgen had heard the rumors, he'd talked to a couple of other officer candidates at the little officer's course regiment had put them through just after Christmas.

Pausing in his thoughts, Jürgen turned to Sepp, "Ever read Mein Kampf?"

"Why would I, it's all political isn't it?"

"The Führer spells out his plans in there. He hates the Communists, believe me, we shall be going at the Reds hammer and tongs before the year is out."

Sepp shook his head, "Russia, I've been there you know."

Jürgen didn't know that. Apparently Sepp Wittman had been a salesman for an agricultural firm before being drafted in early 1939.

"Yup, toured the Ukraine, visited Moscow and Leningrad. Leningrad is pretty enough, but the Ukraine and the southern steppes, they stretch on forever. Don't you think the Führer has studied his history? Charles XII, Napoléon, both failed, Russia is huge."

"What about the First War, they quit, we beat them?" Jürgen knew his history as well as Sepp.

"Ah, but the Bolsheviks wanted to quit the war so that they could take over from the Czar and the nobility, they were busy in their rear areas fighting each other. They had to quit to establish their so-called 'Soviet Paradise,' right?" Sepp countered.

"A quick campaign, defeat their armies on the frontiers, they should collapse like a house of cards." Jürgen actually believed the Nazi propaganda he'd read about the unpopularity of Soviet rule.

"We shall see Herr Unterfeldwebel, we shall see."

Shortly thereafter they both heard the platoon leader's whistle, time to march. Jürgen's squad got to their feet, all groaning.

"Come on ladies! Over the hill then we can rest!" Jürgen bellowed out.

One of the men shook his head, "You'd think he was already an officer." A sharp glance from Obergefreiter Wittman silenced any further complaints.

A man in 3rd Squad began to sing, no doubt at the prompting of his squad leader. Soon the 3rd Platoon was stepping out smartly to the Westerwaldlied.

If only the men could have looked into the future.

¹ "Armed Forces Report," A daily mass media report put out by the high command. Much propaganda spiced with some actual news.


  1. A dialog of Wittman and Jürgen about the conditions swirling around the state of the German offensives against The World. Nicely inserted here Sarge. They’re doing field exercises in the German motherland right?
    As you say if future vision could be so clear as hindsight (without our leaders rewriting our hindsight vision) so much grief and sorrow could be avoided.
    Except for the part about “rewriting hindsight” there is nothing wrong with what I wrote there. I’m still interested where your muse is taking us and I’m letting you know you’re always going into my brain along with my day’s first jolt of caffeine.


    1. They are members of the 223. Infanterie-Division which was on occupation duty in the Bordeaux region of France until late 1941, when they boarded trains for the Eastern Front. Right now they have it easy.

    2. I clicked on the "source" button under the header photo, that was neat! How long did it take you to fine that spot?
      That's the Bordeaux region? I'd always pictured the Bordeaux region covered with grapes (like Sonoma & Napa counties in Calif).

    3. When my research indicated that the 223rd was in the Bordeaux region during this time frame, I just went to the satellite view on Google maps, turned on Street View, found a rural spot and checked it, when I found one I liked (it didn't take long) I took a screenshot, applied a grey-scale filter from MS Windows Photo App and bingo! (I do the filter to make the photo look old.)

    4. Sarge- Your photo selections are always perfectly in tune with the story. Well done!

    5. Great job! Thanks for the explanation.

    6. Rob, I "drove" a few miles down that road and found the grapes you were thinking off. While I'm sure the whole region isn't grapes, they aren't far.

    7. As Borepatch mentioned in his comment, the area where the photo was taken is a park. No agriculture allowed, I'm sure.

      The Bordeaux region has some very good wines. AMHIK

    8. Crusty Old TV Tech here. Before I checked out the source attribution, I could have sworn that picture was taken somewhere north of Fredricksburg! Kudos again to your Muse for a proper setting for the little chat to set the table for later...

  2. Probably just as well they (and we) can't look into the future.
    One can however, know history and study trends. Pray that we are better informed than Jurgen is at this point.
    Boat Guy

    1. Well, his government lies to him. And ours? Not seeing a lot of difference at this point in time. And I'm an optimist ...

  3. Hey Old AFSarge;

    The sad thing is that if the Germans had treated the Ukrainians well when they invaded, they would have had allies, but Hitler and the SD treated the Ukrainians like "untenmenchen" and forced them to like Stalin. Funny that.

    1. It wouldn't have fit the Nazi narrative, so it couldn't happen. Then again, a number of Ukrainians did become auxiliaries. Heck, look up the "Vlasov Army," Russians who volunteered with the Germans to fight Stalin. (No, it didn't go well for them after the war.)

      It was a bizarre war in the East, lots of ideology interrupted from time to time by outbreaks of common sense.

  4. Oddly enough Sarge, in reading this morning the lesson from Robert Greene's The 48 Laws of Power was "Plan All The Way To The End". Lots of things are started that never reach completion because they are never fully thought out and planned; the Eastern Front was one of them. Historically speaking, it would seem to be something to be grateful for in the overall historical pictures (what would have happened if Hitler never went East, and concentrated on Western Europe makes for interesting alternate histories), although the human cost for what did happen was truly awful.

    1. Oh, the Germans had a plan for the conquest of the USSR, it's just that the Russians didn't cooperate, the enemy always gets a vote.

      Of course, their plan under-estimated the strength of the Red Army, over-estimated their own capabilities, and under-estimated the time it would take to reach their various phase lines.

      Going into Greece and Yugoslavia also delayed the start of Operation Barbarossa to late-June, if they had jumped off in May, they might have actually taken Moscow. Unlike 1812, taking Moscow might have actually crippled the USSR's ability to continue the war.

      No plan survives contact with the enemy. (Or reality for that matter!)

  5. Huh. The picture is from a park right outside the French city of Cahors. There's a nifty red wine from there - very dark, very heavy. It used to be quite a good buy but likely now is a bit spendy. Quite good on a winter's night with cassoulet.

    1. Nice! I chose the park because it's fairly rural but near Bordeaux, where the 223rd is stationed.

  6. I often wonder what the German armor troops that trained in Russia before the war thought of going back into Russia.

    1. From my reading Panzerschule Kama ran from roughly 1929 to 1933. Less than 50 officers were trained there as I understand things. So there would not have been many tankers who had been there rolling over the border in June of 1941, no, or very few, enlisted trained at Kama. Most of those were also fairly senior officers. The school was more for development purposes (of German tank designs) than for training tankers.

      The place was for the Germans to develop designs and theories away from the prying eyes of the West. They did train in motorized warfare in Germany using mockups. Their experience in Poland is where they really learned what they were doing right and what they were doing wrong. (In 1939 the national insignia on the tanks was a white cross, or what the Poles called the "aim point." Those were painted with a darker interior cross before going into France. Live and learn!)

  7. Haunting. Makes me imagine that in 80 years time some blogger will write of the events of 2022, "If only the men could have looked into the future." Very good stuff as always.

    1. Something I actually lose sleep over, things could go horribly wrong if we're not careful.

      Thanks Shaun!

    2. It keeps me awake at night, too. Does anyone in government have old clothes to wear? I can't be this innocent at my age!

    3. Our current batch of politicians are venal, corrupt, and not all that bright. Both parties and any number of so-called independents.


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