Thursday, September 15, 2022

The Beast Awakens

"Jürgen, wake up!"

Von Lüttwitz opened his eyes, it felt like he had slept for only a few minutes. He was drowsy and it took him a moment longer than usual to awaken. When he had his wits about him, he looked up into the concerned face of Sepp Wittmann.

"What, what is it?" He got up on one elbow, looked around, noticed that the men were frantically getting their gear on.

"The Russki Panzer is moving, Chef, it's headed our way!"


"Yes, at least a company."

"Damn it, get the machine gun ..."

"Already in place, Leutnant Acker wants us right here. We also have the MG teams from 1st and 3rd Squads, Acker is going to try and flank the Russians with the riflemen from the other squads, drive them onto our MGs."

As von Lüttwitz grabbed his rifle, he wondered exactly what he was supposed to do about the Panzer, the infantry didn't worry him all that much. "Did the engineers ever show?"

"They're with a team from 2nd Platoon, off to our left somewhere. They did lay some anti-tank mines this morning, that should at least slow that KV¹ down."

Shaking his head, von Lüttwitz got his bearings, then joined his squad's MG team. He noted that Acker had placed the other two MG teams well out to either flank, giving the impression that their line was longer than a squad would normally cover. Make the Russians think there were three squads on line, with perhaps a fourth in reserve. It was standard practice after all.

"See anything Leon?" von Lüttwitz asked his MG team leader.

"Not yet Chef, but listen, do you hear that?"

Von Lüttwitz listened, he heard it then, the "Oorah!" cry of advancing Russian infantry and underlying that, the squeal of steel tracks and the rumbling of a heavy engine.

Combat engineers Unteroffizier Axel Jahnke and Oberschütze Niklas Kratochwil were making their way slowly closer to the road. The infantry lieutenant, whose name they didn't catch, wanted them to kill the enemy Panzer working its way forward. They could only get close enough to use their weapon if someone stripped the Soviet infantry away from supporting the vehicle.

"Can you see anything Axel?" Kratochwil was anxious as Hell, who wouldn't be, carrying a 36 kilogram flamethrower on one's back, not to mention the 12 liters of flaming oil it carried!

"No ... Wait, there's the infantry, and there's the f**king KV. Come on you infantry Schweine², do your jobs!" He said, glancing back at the rear.

No sooner had Jahnke said that when both men heard the guttural rattle of MG 34 fire. Jahnke chanced a glance in the direction where he'd seen the Russian infantry, "Yes! The bastards have gone to ground. That KV is coming on naked and ashamed!"

The two engineers crawled forward until they were barely concealed by a small hummock not ten meters from the road. The enemy tank would pass close by if it kept coming. Which it did.

Von Lüttwitz watched as the Russian tank came down the road, it halted briefly, as if waiting for the infantry to follow. As the area near the tank was being hit by three MGs, the Russian infantry stayed concealed. But it was inevitable that someone would jump up to urge them forward.

It was almost anti-climactic when a young Russian officer jumped up, waving his pistol in the air in his right hand, his left hand pointing towards the German lines.

"Hold your fire! Let the bastards get into the open again!" von Lüttwitz bellowed. The MG 34s fell silent, then the Russian infantry seemed to spring from the ground and with their cry of "Oorah!" began to run forward.

When they were level with the KV, the tank started rolling forward again, after traveling roughly five meters, the right track rolled over one of the hastily planted mines.

Young Leytenánt Viktor Borisovich Usilov had rejoiced at the silence of the German machine guns. Due to his youth and inexperience, he assumed that the hated Fascists must be few in number and would withdraw as his seventy-five men advanced.

As he started to pass the KV-1, he was enveloped in a cloud of dirt, smoke, and debris. The explosion of the mine flung him into the tall grass off the road as if he were a child's plaything.

The concussion of the explosion had deafened him, it had also done irreparable damage to his internal organs. He lay there for a long moment, trying to understand what had just happened.

The cuts and abrasions from the debris stung, but he hardly noticed it, there was a great ache throughout his body and he struggled to breathe.

Then, without a word, he died.

Kratochwil activated his FmW 35³ as he rose up on one knee, the tank was out of reach, but he assumed that it was also out of action. The infantry nearby were almost on top of their position, so it was run or fight.

The flaming oil reached out and torched three men who were bunched together. Jahnke was firing with his MP 40 and knocked down a number of Russians before one of the Russians, an old sergeant who had learned his trade in the Czar's army, turned and shot down Kratochwil.

Before Jahnke could return fire, von Lüttwitz's machine guns opened fire once more, as did the single gun that Leutnant Acker had taken with him. His assault group had managed to get partially behind the Russian left flank.

The last thing Jahnke saw was the Russians seemingly disappear into the earth, as if swallowed up by the soil of Mother Russia.

The Russians were starting to return fire, it was wild at first but soon forced Acker's detachment to seek cover. A Russian machine gun began working over the area where Acker's men had gone to ground.

"Fall back, fall back!" Acker bellowed.

The Germans managed to break contact, but only because von Lüttwitz had maneuvered one of his machine guns to a position where it was enfilading the Russians.

They could neither advance, nor retreat. But neither could the Germans.

Acker's platoon had regrouped, they had lost four men in the skirmish with the Russians, the two engineers were unaccounted for, Acker assumed they had gone to ground, or had been killed.

"Jürgen, that KV is immobilized, but still in action. Fortunately he can't see us here."

"I had 1st Squad's MG 34 move up to cover the KV, if they try to repair it, we'll know. I told them not to fire unless they absolutely had to."

"Sehr gut, Jürgen. This plan certainly went to Hell, didn't it?"

"Moltke was right, Herr Leutnant."


"He said, 'Kein Operationsplan reicht mit einiger Sicherheit über das erste Zusammentreffen mit der feindlichen Hauptmacht hinaus.'⁴ Right? We just proved that, didn't we?"

"You never cease to amaze me Jürgen. Ah, here's the Hauptmann."

Both men turned to their company commander, who was furious.

"The Gottverdammte swine in the rear refused to send any help, battalion is convinced the Luftwaffe reports must be true. There can't be a Gottverdammte Soviet Panzer out there. What were our losses?"

Acker answered, "I lost four men, one dead, the other three wounded, only two of whom we managed to get to safety, the Sani is treating them now. Niehaus is going out with three men as soon as it's dark to try and recover the dead man and the wounded man, hopefully he lives that long. The engineers never came back."

"We saw them light off the FmW 35, saw a few Russians burning, but it looked to me as if the Russians killed them both. Can't really say, but ..."

Busch sighed and said, "Yeah, nobody takes flamethrower men prisoner."

"Now what Herr Hauptmann?"

"We go with the original plan, after the sun sets we'll move up. We'll drive the infantry off, then close with the Panzer. We can kill it if we get in close."

Acker and von Lüttwitz both looked dubious.

Busch just gave them a grim look and said, "Trust me."

¹ A reference to the Russian tank, a KV-1 (Kliment Voroshilov was an Army commissar, the tank was named for him.)
² Pigs
³ Flammenwerfer 35, German flamethrower model 35.
⁴ No plan of operations extends with any degree of certainty beyond the first encounter with the main enemy force.


  1. Acker answered, I lost four......missing a " perhaps? Good tempo Sarge, wondering what the captain will pull out of his hat.

    1. Good catch! Fixed it.

      I'm wondering what the captain's plan is myself. Could go sideways in a hurry!

  2. Things that end with the words "Trust me" never seem to work out that well in real life.

    Good writing Sarge. I essentially hunkered down in my chair as the bullets were flying.

  3. A flamethrower, I didn't think of that.

    1. Used a lot by German Sturmpioniere (assault engineers, which is the proper term for German combat engineers in WW2.)

    2. Perfect way to flush out bunker crews, and immobilised tank is basically a bunker. Marines also made extensive use of flamethrowers in Pacific. British and US combat engineer units were using them extensively in breaking thru Siegfried line too.

    3. Flamethowers are better on the delivering than receiving end, certainly; but not much fun for anyone. Still, they are just the ticket in some instances. I'm one of the Marine memoirs I read, a young lady got crosswise with the Gunny who was gonna assign him a flamethrower. The Marine looked at that as a death sentence.
      A friend has a great meme; " This is a flammenwerfer, it werfs flammen"
      Boat Guy

    4. Damn gulag!!! A "young LAD"!!!.

    5. Paweł - You still need to get fairly close to be effective, 25 to 30 meters is the effective range of the FmW 35.

    6. BG - I love that, "it werfs flammen."

    7. BG - Ah, I thought you were commenting on the young Gyrene's manhood!


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