Wednesday, September 27, 2023

The Hill - Old Adversaries

Their job to blast Communist-held positions in Defilade, troops of Heavy Mortar Co., 32nd Regiment, 7th Division, move into position in a pass between Punggi and Tanyang, Korea. 8 January 1951. Korea. Signal Corps Photo #8A/FEC-51-787 (Elkins)
Ducking his head to get through the low opening to 3rd Platoon's CP, 1Sgt Hernandez looked around and saw who he was looking for, "Afternoon, L.T., got some mail for you guys."

1st Lieutenant Mike Masterson looked up from the novel he was reading, "Hey Stephen. Mail? Damn that's nice, the guys were starting to think the Army had forgotten where we were."

Handing over the sack, Hernandez looked out of the observation slit down towards the Chinese lines, "Cap'n thinks they'll hit us tonight."

Masterson nodded, "Yep, I think the same. I checked to make sure we're tied in with Charlie and that the guys have deep enough holes. I got a feeling it's going to be really chilly tonight."

"Yup, battalion thinks it'll get well below zero."


"You guys have enough grenades? We have a shitload at the company CP if ya need more."

"I won't say no to more. I also had the MG teams strip all the tracer from their belts, no sense telling the Chicoms where our heavy weapons are."

"I know the guys like to know where their rounds are going, but yeah, it's telling the baddies, 'We're here, shoot us here.' At night the grenade is your friend."

"Gimme a couple of guys to go back and get some more grenades. Is your new guy available? Sauer I think Nate said his name was."

"Yeah, I'll get him. Moses, Jacobs, head over to Company, Top says they have spare grenades, bring us back as many as you can carry. Tommy, head down to 2nd Squad, tell Freddy to come up to the CP."

As the men detailed set off on their tasks, Masterson turned to Hernandez again, "Sauer says you and Nate captured him and his outfit near the end of the war."

"Yeah, that's what Nate said. We had a Kraut battalion, about company strength by then, surrender to us. Their Skipper said he was tired of fighting for Hitler and so were his men. It took a while to make it happen, but they surrendered to us. Saved a few lives on both sides that day."

"Would you recognize Sauer if he was there?"

"Dunno, Mike. It was five years ago, there was a bunch of Germans we processed that day. I remember their commander, and one or two of their other officers. So maybe, or more likely, it depends."

"I get ya, ah, here's the man himself. Come on in Freddy."

The man who entered the bunker had a hard-bitten look about him, like he'd seen way too many things in his life, not many of them pleasant. Hernandez recognized him immediately from that day back in '45. He'd never caught the man's name, but he remembered that one German lieutenant with the German battalion commander. Guys like this were hard to forget.

Hernandez stood up, "Herr Leutnant."

Sauer looked confused at first, who was this sergeant speaking to him in German. Then his face tightened up, he knew this man. Sauer stood to attention.

"Herr Hauptmann, it's good to see you again. We're on the same side this time."

"I'm a 1st Sergeant now, cutbacks after the war you know. What's your name again, I don't recall ..."

"Sauer, Manfred Sauer. The guys call me Freddy, I'm very American now."

Hernandez noticed only a slight accent, "How long have you been in the States?"

Sauer thought a moment, "Three years, we were released from the POW camp in the middle of 1947. I went home to Saxony, there was nothing there for me. So I managed to come here, well, to the United States early in 1948. I got here, to Korea, just a couple of weeks ago."

Hernandez nodded, then spoke, "Where are my manners, I'm Stephen, Stephen Hernandez. I figured you'd be all done with war. You guys saw some real shit. I remember you had the Frozen Meat medal on your tunic, how long were you in Russia?"

Sauer remembered the cold, and the death, "Too long, Sergeant, far too long."

The two men sat in quiet for a few moments, then Masterson cleared his throat, "I need to check the lines again, you don't need to wait for me, Stephen. Freddy, go ahead and keep an eye on the radio while I'm gone, okay?"

"Roger that, L.T." Sauer nodded at his platoon leader.

"Your English is really good, Manfred. You don't mind if I call you Manfred, do you?"

Sauer grinned, which startled Hernandez, Sauer's face lit up and the years seemed to fall away from his weather-worn face. "You outranked me in the last war Sergeant, you outrank me in this one as well, you can call me whatever you like. As long as it isn't 'Freddy,' that name is easy for the guys so I tolerate it, don't really like it much."

Hernandez smiled, "Call me Stephen, we're pretty informal around the Company. If battalion visits we get a bit more formal, but in the field, we go by first names, mostly. That okay with you, Manfred."

"You sound almost German the way you pronounce that."

"I was born in Spain, we moved to the States when I was a kid. We still speak Spanish at home, so I guess I have a knack for languages. I still can't get over how good your English is."

Sauer grinned again, "I had a good life in Iowa, made some good friends. Your farmers aren't much different than the ones I grew up around in Saxony. I was trying to get a pig farm going when the Communists attacked Korea, things were slow, so I enlisted. I saw Communism in Russia, I hate it, so I will fight it as long as I am able."

"Pig farmer, eh? Our neighbors in Colorado raised pigs, not for market, just to eat. Is that what you did before the war?"

"Yes, my grandfather owned the farm, my mother and I worked it. My father was killed in the first war. After my release from the camp, I went home. Goddamned Russians everywhere, the farm was now a collective, my grandfather had died near the end of the war, old age. My mother ..."

Sauer took a deep breath, "Had been raped and murdered by the Soviets. There was nothing left for me in Germany."

Hernandez looked at Sauer for a long moment, then he stood up, "I've gotta get back to the Company CP, glad you're with us Manfred. Stay alive, okay?"

Sauer nodded, "You as well, Stephen. Keep your head down tonight, those bastards are coming up the hill after dark, I can feel it in my gut."

Hernandez slapped Sauer on the shoulder, "Hals und-beinbruch, Leutnant. Bis morgen.¹"

Sauer nodded, "Gleichfalls, Herr Hauptman, bis morgen.²"

After Hernandez left, Moses and Jacobs returned to the bunker, each had a rucksack with grenades,

"D'ya know where the Lieutenant wants these, Freddy?" Moses asked.

Sauer stood, "Yeah, distribute them equally among the squads. L.T. has me watching the radio, so deliver these grenades, then come back here."

"Sir." Jacobs said as the two men departed.

After leaving the bunker, Moses shot Jacobs a look, "Bob, you just called a buck-ass private, 'Sir,' what's up with that?"

Jacobs looked back at the bunker, "I dunno Jackie, guy seems like an officer, ya know? Guy in 1st squad says Freddy was a Kraut officer back in Dubya Dubya Two."

"No shit?"

"No shit. Now let's get this shit delivered so we can get back inside the bunker, it's starting to get colder."

Both men saw the sun heading down to the horizon, neither man was looking forward to the night.

¹ Break a leg, Lieutenant. See you in the morning.
² You as well, Captain, see you in the morning.


  1. Heckuva place for a reunion, some frozen hill in Korea. It's just entering Fall around here and now I can feel the cold reading these posts Sarge, good writing.

    1. Started the day at 45° - was in the high 80s a couple of weeks ago - so yes, autumn has arrived in New England. No doubt summer will pop in here and there for a day or so until mid-October. But I think we won't be going to the beach any time soon!

    2. Only 86 right now here in east central Florida. Definitely the start of fall!

    3. Downright pleasant for this time of year. How's the humidity?

  2. What an odd thing, for adversaries in one war to work together in another. It is not something we think of now as much I suppose, as the division lines seem far deeper.

    One wonders if there were many men like Sauer, who ended up leaving simply because there was nothing left and nothing to rebuild towards.

    1. There must have been thousands, it's why the Soviets put up the Wall.

    2. Look up "Lodge Act" which allowed men such as Sauer to enlist. Many of them went into Special Forces when they were formed in Lenggriess and Bad Tolz in Bavaria. It was said that English was about fifth of languages spoken in early 10th SFG(A) formations. A number of those guys would fight - and die - in Vietnam fighting communists. Many crossed the "frontier" the soviets had erected.
      Boat Guy

    3. Web search the ARSOF "America's Legionaires" article part two and you'll find the Army regs that our friend Manfred enlisted under. He would not have been a Lodge Act enlistee

    4. BG #1 - Sauer wouldn't be eligible under the Lodge-Philbin Act of 1950. Germans weren't eligible.

    5. BG #1 - The article you mention is here. That article also mentions the Army Regulations which allowed the enlistment of émigré aliens.

    6. Sarge - Thousands? Tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, those that could drive did so, those that could walk, did so.

      And then the curtain fell.

      And then the Soviets tried to cut off 'Free' Berlin, which did not go so well for them. Berlin Airlift, very important. Lots of new East Germans saw the airplanes and heard the stories and tried to get the hell out.

    7. My Dad was part of the occupation forces in Berlin, he was there for the Airlift. Kind of a tense time, to say the least.

    8. The French Foreign Legion was loaded with Wehrmacht in the years after world war twice. Lots of their marching songs are German... At least that's what I remember....

    9. Lot of 'em went to Indochina as well!

  3. One is starting to feel the cold starting to creep in.

    1. And to think I complained when it got down to 15 degrees here. Of course I didn't have clothes for that. But then again, the first winter in Korea most soldiers didn't have the winter garb for Korea, so...

    2. It seems to be a trait of most armies that they won't need winter clothing ...

      Until they do.

    3. That kind of cold, the below zero cold is different.
      Good story.. no, GREAT story!

  4. The photo, 32-7th, was my dad's unit but he didn't get there until 1952.

  5. Maybe ole Manfred perfected his American English with a 'sleeping dictionary'.

    1. A really good way to learn a language. 😎

    2. Ganz Richtig! Ich hatte eine lange-haare worterbuch! Her English improved as well; girl passed her boards for English, whereas my DLPT only got to 3/3.

  6. Powerful stuff. Good blend...belay that...GREAT blend of emotion, bonding, and tension. In that brief encounter I can FEEL the comradeship of Sauer and Hernandez. Shared memories, shared experiences, mutual respect. Be a heck of a thing to follow into post-war civilian life. You need to treat Muse to some roast goose and a double helping of apple strudel with vanilla sauce.

    Re the Lodge Act:

    1. That's what I wanted to convey, guess I was reasonably successful. Thanks, Joe.

    2. Very successful in my opinion. Especially the valediction. The type of exchange that happens only with people who share a close bond.

  7. There are those, no matter what rank, have an aura of command about them. Like Kelly in "Kelly's Heroes." And our man Sauer.

    Good on you for touching on the huge war-crimes committed by the Soviets. The rape and murder of great numbers of German women and children by the Soviets was and is a stain that not many have bothered to point out. I know, Nazis blah blah blah. But what the Soviets did, well, horrid. Back to pre-medieval levels of horrid. Dark ending for a dark war. Bleh.

    On the other hand, Sauer and lots of other Germans did come to America and did become good citizens. And some even entered our armed forces.

    Though a lot from a certain branch of the German military entered into the Foreign Legion. Funny that Legionnaires were actively recruiting at prisoner collection points and prison camps. I guess anything was better than dealing with the Russians and the people out for vengeance. Good opportunity to get a new life, or a new death.

    1. A lot of former Waffen SS troopers were in the Legion after the war. They knew that they needed to get out of town any way they could. The organizations used to spirit SS and other Nazis out of Europe were mostly for the big shots, the little fish getting, as always, screwed. The Legion was one method of escape.

    2. " I know, Nazis blah blah blah. But what the Soviets did, well, horrid. Back to pre-medieval levels of horrid. "

      Well, the communists were "anti-fascist." Unfortunately people forget that the Antifaschistische Aktion were just Stalinist bully boys, as corrupt and violent as the Sturmabteilung. Communist, any of the various flavors of socialist, including national socialist, and fascist are just different faces of the same totalitarian die. Only real difference is the color of the uniform.

    3. Bingo! You win the Internets today.

    4. Stalin made Hitler look like a piker!

  8. ANY ONE can become an American. That is one thing that I do like about this country. People coming here to become Americans are welcomed. No matter how long I live in Japan, I'll never be Japanese. I really did like that conversation between Sauer and Hernandez. I ran into a for real astronaut when I was getting a new SIDA badge. We talked for a good ninety minutes. His bearing demanded respect. It was natural. I can believe Sauer has that in metric tonnes.

    1. Felt that way living in Korea. Every new American adds something special and unique to the American experience. I really love that.

  9. Absolutely love this story thanks for writing it.

  10. Where I see Sauer going:

    A. KIA/WIA. Not optimal, but c'est la guerre

    B. Battlefield commission or promotion to senior NCO. Does twenty years in the Army. At least one tour as an adviser to the newly-formed Bundeswehr. A tour or two with MAC-V. Retires as a major.

    C. Battlefield commission or promotion to senior NCO. Offered a commission in 1955 as a senior officer upon the formation of the Bundeswehr. Retires in 1975-80 as a senior general. Asked to be the Defence Minister during unification.

    1. Food for thought!

      (Hhmm, my Muse just got this faraway look in her eyes.)

      The formation of the Bundeswehr isn't far from my thoughts. I wonder what Herr von Lüttwitz is up to these days? (Yes, we will find out.)

    2. I could see Herr von Lüttwitz as a West German Defence Minister. I don't think he'd like the job, but he'd take it out of a sense of duty.

    3. No doubt he'd be good at it too. He probably would piss some people off, I can see that as well.

  11. Hey Old AFSarge;

    Excellent Story, It was really neat seeing the old timers, almost brought chills down my spine. You gonna bring any others over? A lot of WWII veterans went to Korea.

  12. I tell you, I am a sucker for well developed characters with stories that continue on. I love it that Sauer made it in Korea. Keep it coming.

    Daddy Hawk

  13. Oh my. Such a reunion. I've had some a tiny little like that, acknowledge, accept, turn and crunch the now-other side. We were competitive DJs, same time slot, different stations, battle royale until a politition attacked a DJ from a third station; both (different guy) dated the same girl, her little sister got in trouble, we were not having ANY of that for her; Marine and Army join to rescue a sailor ... that crucible of shared experience can create great, sudden bondings. Some of them last, some don't.

    Great twist to the story!


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.