Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Panzer 413 - Death From Above

Captain Horace Miller of the 513th Fighter Squadron had his cockpit heat on full blast. After growing up in Florida, attending college at Georgia Tech, and then training to fly in the heat of the Arizona desert, he just couldn't tolerate cold weather. Sure, he'd been stationed in wet, rainy England, then France, but that cold was nothing like what he was experiencing on this cold December day in Belgium.

Christmas had brought the welcome present of clear skies over the rolling hills of the Ardennes. Now he and his flight of four P-47 Thunderbolts were out hunting after a long week of frustration at the fog, snow, and freezing rain and, more importantly, the reports of American units falling back before the Germans. Reports of atrocities as well. The Krauts had come boiling out of their defenses with a taste for blood on the 16th of December.

Now it was payback time!

Google Maps
MSgt Dixon's engineers had planted mines on the road outside Brisy, right past a curve in the road. The hope was that a big German tank would hit a mine and shed a track leaving it broadside to Mac Peterson's Sherman. To top things off, Dixon had a bazooka team in a small stand of trees near the road. Dangerously near.

Near Brisy, Belgium
Google Street View
The newest addition to the platoon, Kurt Müller's Tiger 421, was about to round the curve in the road when Willi heard the bang. He reflexively ducked down in his turret as he saw dirt and pavement jump into the air, and 421's left track slither off the road wheels.

Before he could think even further, a streak from his left front slammed into the turret of Müller's tank, right at the turret ring. He saw Müller crumple just as a flash blew open all the hatches on 421. Moments later the driver and bow gunner tried to climb out of their hatches. Only the bow gunner made it.

They couldn't go forward, just as he turned to signal 414 to back up, thinking they'd try to cut across the fields, his bow gunner barked over the intercom -

"Infantry 11 o'clock!"

Followed by the ripping roar of Panzerschütze Peter Schmidt's MG 34. Still crouching in his turret, Willi's eyes followed the tracer rounds spitting from Schmidt's MG. There! Men trying to get back up the hill.

Willi saw the long tube carried by one man swing towards his own tank, realizing at the last second that it was an Ami anti-tank weapon. At the same moment Schmidt's MG tracers went through the man, leaving him to crumple to the snowy ground. The other two men managed to make their escape.

"SHIT!" MSgt Dixon screamed as he saw the German tank open up on his guys. He saw Sal, the man with the bazooka, go down hard. Billy and Sam were running hard to get back up the hill.

Mac's tank turret cranked over to take the second Tiger under fire. Just as the gun was about to be laid on target, the big Kraut tank backed around the corner. Turning to Dixon he screamed -

"Sar'nt Dixon! Get your guys moving, we'll wait for what's left of your bazooka team, but you guys gotta hightail it out of here! We'll be right behind you!"

As Mac climbed out of his turret to man his .50 caliber machine gun, he kept his eyes riveted to where he figured the Germans would move. If it was him he'd head up the hill into the fields to his left, the Krauts' right, but those Tigers are slow. He'll probably head to his left, down the slope.

As he watched, the two survivors of the bazooka team scrambled aboard Tennessee Whiskey.

One of them, Corporal Billy Estes, said, "Climb back in Sarge, I'll man the fifty. Those Kraut bastards killed Sal!"

Mac climbed back in and ordered Louis to start backing up the hill, when they got to the top they'd face front and run like crazy!

Willi's tank ground off the road to the left, into the fields. At that moment he heard a loud pulsating roar coming from ahead of him. As he ducked and looked up, two Ami Jabos* blew past them, very low, and very fast.

Captain Miller saw the lone Sherman backing up the hill as fast as it would go as his element flew up the road to Brisy. At the last minute he saw a smoking vehicle at the bend in the road, gotta be German, he thought as he pulled his stick back, easing in rudder to pull a graceful climbing turn to go back around.

When they were in position, he radioed his wingman, Jack Curtis, to keep his eyes peeled, he was betting there were Krauts in the fields near the road.

"Copy." his wingman responded, then, "Tanks. Two o'clock low!"

"Got them! Watch my six!" Miller's big aircraft smoothly lowered its nose as its pilot lined up on the burning tank in the road. There, in the field, TWO EFFING TIGERS!

"Scheiße!" Willi yelled as he closed his hatch. He heard and felt the enemy rounds smack into his turret as the Jabo walked his fire across Willi's tank and no doubt onto Schäfer's 414 just behind them.

413 suffered nothing more than some scratched paint and a few gouges in the tough Krupp steel of the turret roof. Schäfer wasn't as lucky. Through the rear vision blocks in his turret cupola, Willi could see that the Jabo had damaged Schäfer's tank, smoke was starting to issue from the back deck of 414, just above the engine.

On the radio, Willi screamed "Hans! Get out, your engine's on fire!"

As he watched Schäfer's crew bail out of their crippled tank, Willi wondered what to do next. Two more dead Tigers, the sky was clear, the Amis were airborne, and the roads just weren't safe.

What else could go wrong?

SS-Hauptsturmführer Kurt Langanke was lying by a roadside somewhere northwest of  Rettigny. His legs were badly burned but he was lucky to be alive, as far as he knew, the rest of his crew were dead.

The attack by rocket firing Jabos had been quick and deadly, his column of Panthers, halftracks loaded with Panzergrenadiers, and a single platoon of older Panzerkampfwagen IVs had been caught in the open.

Two flights of what had to be British Typhoons had attacked at their leisure. Langanke's sole Flakpanzer had been damaged two miles to the rear and he had nothing else to protect his column from air attack.

Painfully he sat up, he could see his own tank burning furiously, he must have been blown out of the turret when the ammunition cooked off, behind his tank was a second Panther, minus its turret. The rest of his column was nowhere in sight.

Turning painfully, he guessed the rest of his boys had made it into the trees ahead. He couldn't see them, on the other hand he saw no more Allied aircraft either. Looking back towards the farm they had passed moments ago, he saw two figures walking down the road towards him.

Thank God, Langanke thought, maybe they can help me.

Pierre Dumont and his son René saw the German sitting in the road. He appeared to be badly hurt, the legs of his trousers were still smoldering, and there was a lot of blood on the man's face.

In French, the man asked for help, could they perhaps treat his wounds, he asked. Pierre turned to his son and told him to bring something to bind the man's wounds, winking as he did so.

Pierre found a discarded canteen near one of the burned out halftracks, there were dead Germans all around it. He also found a German pistol, checked that it was loaded, then he chambered a round, then pocketed the heavy Walther. Pierre remembered his service in the Belgian Army in the Great War, he knew how to use a pistol.

Walking back to the German, he handed the man the canteen. Turning towards his farm, he could see René returning.

Langanke drank the water gratefully, he used some of it to clean his face, noting that his hand came away bloody. He must have hit his head when he was thrown from the tank, he didn't remember. Looking back towards the forest, he didn't see any of his men. He wondered if perhaps they thought him dead.

Speaking rapidly in the local dialect, René told his father -

"Papa, Monsieur Gervais is at the house. He says the Germans are shooting people all through Belgium. It's terrible, isn't it Papa?"

Nodding slowly, Pierre agreed that it was indeed terrible. He knew that it was probably those SS bastards. The Boche in World War I had been bad enough, now these SS people, truly monsters.

"Go back to the house, boy. I'll be along shortly."

As he watched his son run back to the house, Pierre had noticed the uniform under the wounded German's white snow jacket. An SS man!

Langanke used the old, stained linen which the farmer had handed to him to bind up his head wound, causing his jacket to fall open. He pulled his collar closed for two reasons - it was cold and he didn't wish to advertise that he was in the SS. Especially as he was alone with this Belgian peasant.

"Do you have anything to eat old man?" Langanke asked the farmer in his German-accented French.

"No, I do not, you filthy Boche bastard. But I do have this ..."

Langanke couldn't believe this man's arrogance and stupidity, who did he think he was dealing with? But the barrel of the Walther P 38 was steady, and aimed at his face.

"Now look here old fellow, just run along, my men will be returning soon. Oh, and give me that pistol, it is the property of the Third Reich!"

Pausing only momentarily, Pierre lowered the pistol from the man's face. Then pulled the trigger, firing a single round into the SS man's chest. The man blinked, then tried to reach for his own pistol.

So Pierre shot him again.

Langanke was cold, colder than he had ever been before, colder than in Russia. He felt like he'd had the wind knocked out of him. He was trying very hard to take a breath, the stupid Belgian peasant had actually shot him.

As he toppled onto his side, still conscious, he saw the Belgian walking away, pausing only to throw the pistol off into the snow in the field by the road. Langanke was tired, perhaps...

No, I need to stay awake, I need ...

Kurt Langanke lay quivering, but just for a moment, then he went still forever. The war never returned to this small corner of Belgium, the remainder of Langanke's unit were destroyed in early January, only 15 men survived the war out of the nearly 500 that had crossed into Belgium on the morning of the 16th of December, 1944.

Langanke's body was found in the spring of 1945. When the Americans had plowed the roads, his body had been shoved into a drift beside the road to Brisy. His death was but a small payment for the many Belgian civilians murdered by the SS during Hitler's last offensive in the West. Not to mention the many prisoners of war they murdered as well.

A small payment indeed.

Belgian civilians killed by German units during the Ardennes offensive.

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Panzer 413 - Somewhere North of Bastogne, in the Ardennes (31 Dec 17)

Christmas Eve, 1944. Mac Peterson remembered where he was just four years ago. High school, he was a senior. His last Christmas at home with the family. The war was looming ever larger in Europe, and dangerous rumblings were coming from the Pacific.

Dad had fought in World War I, had been gassed in the Argonne Forest but had survived, Late at night he could hear his old man coughing, knew that he was suffering. At Christmas dinner, Mac's dad had taken him aside.

"Son, I know we're going to get into this war, sooner rather than later. Your grades aren't good enough to go to college. I'd recommend working for a couple of years, then go to school. Make something of yourself, well, that's what I'd say if I didn't think we'd be getting into this fight. So, when high school is finished, enlist, get in early, you'll make sergeant, like I did."

"Gee Dad, I was thinking of asking Marilyn..."

"There is no time for that Malcolm. After the war will do, just wait, don't make that girl a widow."

So he'd enlisted right out of high school. Went through tank school and was just finishing that up when the news of Pearl Harbor had come in. The Army had grown fast after that. Fast enough that Mac had made staff sergeant so quick that all the old hands just shook their heads and wondered how a young kid like him would handle things.

He'd handled things pretty well, from North Africa to Normandy. He'd seen a lot, too much really. Now he was here in this frozen forest wondering what the morrow would bring. Looking up he saw clear skies, maybe this foul weather would break and they'd get air support again.

Willi climbed down from 413, the letter from home in his pocket. He'd read it over and over again. His family was alive!

They had been out in the countryside, visiting his Uncle Klaus' farm. A chance to eat fresh vegetables and drink real milk couldn't be passed up. He had wondered, why the hell had the local office reported his family dead. The letter also explained that.

"When we arrived back at home son, the whole block was gone, our flat, the neighbors' flats, all gone. The Tommies and Amis destroyed our whole neighborhood. The authorities thought we were dead under the rubble. We're going back to your uncle's place outside Moosinning. Write us there."

Willi had a spring in his step as he walked over to Panzer 414. He needed to see what they needed in the way of supplies. They were running low on everything, except ammunition. They'd only seen the Amis a couple of times, hardly any ammo had been expended dealing with the Ami Shermans. Things were death traps.

MSgt Ted Dixon was walking towards Mac as he was about to climb up into his tank. The MSgt looked angry. Then again, Master Sergeants always looked angry.

"What's up Master Sarn't?" Mac asked, hoping it didn't involve his crew.

"One of our 63s broke an axle, it's not going any further. I can move the equipment over to the other, but the guys need a ride. You got room?" MSgt Dixon asked, with a look on his face suggesting that it wasn't really a request.

Dodge WC-63 Weapons Carrier
"It's gonna be cold riding on the back deck. They need to know that when the shooting starts they'll be sitting ducks, but yeah, we can make do." Heck, it won't be me hanging out there in the breeze, Mac thought. But still, a shiver ran through him, he'd seen infantrymen swept off the back of a tank in Normandy by a Kraut quad-20 mounted on a tank chassis.

Wirbelwind, Quad-20mm Flakpanzer
Sure, the tank had made short work of that flak wagon, but the infantry were slaughtered by that beast. While he'd rather not have to worry about the engineers riding on the back, he really had no choice in the matter.

"Yeah, we can do that MSgt. When do you guys wanna get back on the road?" Mac asked.

"First thing in the morning Sergeant, let the boys sleep. After all, tomorrow's Christmas." Dixon began to walk back, then stopped and turned.

"By the way, thanks Mac. You and your boys have been a big help. Won't forget it."

"Just doin' our job, Master Sarn't, just doin' our job." Mac said with a grin.

MSgt Dixon laughed and shook his head, maybe these tank jockeys weren't so bad after all!

Willi was shaken out of a sound sleep by his platoon leader, Hauptfeldwebel Kurt Müller.

"Frohe Weihnachten¹ Willi!" Müller said with a grin, handing Willi a cup of some hot beverage. "Drink! It's real coffee, we took it from the Amis!"

Willi took a sip, it was good. It had been months since he'd had real coffee.

Smiling he raised his cup to Müller, "Ja, Merry Christmas Chef! I suppose this isn't a social call?"

"Nein, you guessed correctly. In the morning, we'll be joined by a company of Panthers. While that's the good news, the bad news is that they're Scheißkopf SS bastards. But you didn't hear me say that, nah?"

"No Chef, I don't like those bastards either, but a company of Panthers is nice to have. Any idea when we'll join up with the rest of the battalion?"

Hauptfeldwebel Müller pulled his map from his pocket and opened it up.

"We're here, Brisy, not far from Houffalize. Word has it that the rest of the battalion captured some fuel at Houffalize, we join them there, then we hit Bastogne. Word has it that we have the Amis surrounded there."

"What about the SS?" Willi wondered.

"We're not waiting for them, supposedly they're still behind us, Rettigny I believe. Probably looting the village and terrorizing the villagers."

"Be careful Chef. The Gestapo has informers everywhere."

"Tsk, what will they do? Make me join the Army?" Hauptfeldwebel Müller scoffed.

"You know better Chef, you know of the punishment battalions. Are you in that much of a hurry to return to Russia? Only this time as a Landser², not a Panzerführer³!" Willi looked around, always nervous when Müller expressed his anti-Nazi sympathies. He shared those sympathies but it was dangerous to express such things.

"Don't worry so much Willi! I know I can trust you. Now be ready to move out in about an hour. We need to take advantage of the darkness, I fear the weather is about to clear." 

With that, Hauptfeldwebel Kurt Müller headed back to his own vehicle. Panzer 421 was a Tiger taken from 2nd Platoon, whose commander had lost his nerve. Along with the rest of his platoon, bogged down in the Our River when the bridge they were crossing had collapsed.

This would not be the first Christmas he had spent in combat, hopefully though, it would be the last.

As they moved out, Mac looked up from his map. Looked like it was going to be a clear day, cold, but clear.

I could really use a P-47 or two on call, sure could. Mac had a good feeling today.

Maybe it would be a Merry Christmas. But not for the Germans.

Why don't they just quit? Mac asked himself for the hundredth time. As he thought about it though, would he quit if somebody was invading the United States?  Hhmm, best not to think on that too much.

Just keep killing them until they quit, it's what they pay me for.

"It's what they pay all of us for." Mac said to the T-5 standing next to his hatch.

"Huh?" Asked the puzzled engineer.

"Nuthin' pal, nuthin' at all, just hang on buddy, it's gonna be a long day ..."


¹ Merry Christmas
² Landser, a common foot soldier.
³ Panzerführer, literally "armor leader," colloquially speaking, a tank commander.

Monday, January 29, 2024


 All y'all campers will be happy to know that the weather the past week is decidedly better than the week prior.  The sky was generally clear, the wind had died down (gusts to 40mph is exciting for the horses) and the temps were much more moderate, right around freezing for the low and we even had a 70+ degree day.  Whoop! 

Single digit temperatures and juvat just don't get along.  While in Kunsan ROK, I learned the saying that "you can always add more clothing when it's cold, but, at some point, you have to stop taking off clothing when it's hot". But I still prefer Texas' Summers to Winters.

 Especially, the sunsets. 

We had our usual dinner with LJW and Miss B last Wednesday and Mrs. J noticed something interesting.  Miss B is starting to look a bit like her Daddy.  You be the judge.

Her Dad.

Yeah, I know, but that's a picture of a 40 year old picture.  Sue me!

Came across another interesting picture which I hadn't remembered.

Little J (VERY little) and I were having a nap after a long 14 sortie week and squeezing squadron scheduling in where I could.  Mrs J's been holding this over my head for 40 years or so.  Haven't had a nap since.

As can be seen from this photo of my Grandson and I.  Only one of us is sleeping.

But the flying schedule wasn't always nose to the grindstone and such, occasionally there was some fun involved.

The picture was taken by my wife and that's me in the jet.  We're deploying somewhere as there's a baggage pod on the left inboard pylon.  I suspect we were on a deployment to Red Flag.  We were part of the Rapid Deployment Force that Mr. Reagan had had developed to handle things in the Mid-East.  Suffice it to say we spent a lot of time at Red Flag getting as much pseudo-combat training as possible.  It might also have been the first stage of our deployment from Moody AFB in GA to Kwang-Ju AB ROK  Three hops,   Moody to Hickam HI, a one day rest from a 14 hour strapped in flight.  Then Hickam to Kadena Japan, an 18 hour flight, then a 1.5 hour flight to Kwangju.  

Yes, Beans, my lower posterior anatomy was quite sore after that.

Next assignment was Holloman AFB where I taught new pilot training graduates how to be a fighter pilot, and Little J was born (and his first picture was taken above).  Good assignment, lots of flying, flew with a lot of actually Great Fighter Pilots (as opposed to those that only thought they were great).  Ed Rasimus was my instructor there while I went through the IP training course.  One of my heroes.

Another was Col Jim Cox, AKA "Vegas".  I have a fond place in my heart for this man, although he isn't with us any more.  I was his IP for conversion to the AT-38.  Suffice it to say that I learned more from him than he did from me.  Story Here (I was pretty sure I'd also run a follow up, but can't find it in the vault. Change 1: Found it)

In any case, when time came up for reassignment, my assignment officer told me that because I was married to an Air Force Officer, in order to have an assignment with her I'd have to go back to flying the F-4.  I was disappointed, but, I did want to be assigned with my wife.  Vegas came walking in to my office later that day and asked what jet I got.  I told him.  He said, and I quote, "Captain, get out of your desk, I have a phone call to make."  I started to leave, but he told me to stay.  He dialed and when answered, he said "Dave, Vegas here.  Do you still subscribe to the policy that pilots here that graduate in the top half of their group, get the new jets?  Even if they're married to another military officer?  You do?  Then why the **** (he actually used the "F" word, I was impressed), is my #1 officer getting an F-4.  I've got a retainment problem and this isn't going to help.  I want him in an Eagle now!" and slams down the phone.  

I'd have stayed in regardless at that point.  There were still Leaders in the Air Force not pencil pushers.

An hour later, he calls me into his office.  "Juvat, you've been assigned to 18TFW at Kadena in the Eagle with your wife!"

Vegas in South East Asia.  Those are actual bombs on the jet, meant to be dropped in anger.   Source

I would have followed him through the fires of hell after that.

Got there after Eagle conversion and eventually made it to Assistant Operations Officer (third ranking person in the squadron command).  That gave me some leeway in taking on some of the fun missions.  Because I'd flown F-4's and AT-38's, both two seat jets,  I was given an F-15D (a two seat model).  

Couldn't have cared less.  I was flying Eagles and one of them had my name on the canopy rail.  One of the strangest missions I flew was a public relations ride.  An AF photographer from Randolph AFB, San Antonio was sent to visit us and take pictures of the F-15 in Action.  The sergeant had said he'd received approval for the mission from the Air Force Recruiting Command's commanding general.

He asked us to do some formation work and so on.  I would be responsible for getting him into position for the shot.  Sounded like fun.

"You all ready to go?"

Little did I know.

Both this and the following pictures were taken by the Sergeant on the ride.

I mean, what could be wrong with that?


The letter below the picture is from the photographer saying that our Assistant Director of Operations politely asked the sergeant not to use the above photo.  I think I've got the only copy.

But, it was fun!

This picture might have had something to do with it.  The two aircraft photos are of my Dad flying the F-86 in the slot.  (The guy directly behind the lead aircraft.)  That would be San Francisco and the Golden Gate they're flying over.  A happier, more Military Friendly time.  

Both sets of pictures are directly in front of my desk.  I look at them frequently and dream of what once was.

Peace out y'all.

Sunday, January 28, 2024

Panzer 413 - Hell Is Cold (23 Dec 17)

MSgt Ted Dixon was not a man to be rushed. His guys were wiring the bridge on the road which led to Limerlé, the tanker he'd picked up in Gouvy said that the Krauts had already gone down that road, so why bother blowing the bridge?

"Well, we're on this side, they're on the other. While this is a pretty small creek, no bridge will slow the Krauts down won't it? Keeping them away from our own precious selves. I like that, don't you?"

The tanker just shook his head and walked back to his tank. He didn't understand combat engineers, thought they were all nuts.

The tanker was Mac Peterson, he'd lost track of how many days they'd been running around these Belgian woods and hills. One moment cozy in barracks, the next on the road with Tom Friedman to meet up with replacements who'd been sent forward already. And wasn't that just like the freaking Army?

Now Tom and his crew were dead, not 50 yards to their front, still in their burned out tank, not far from the wreck of the Tiger Boston Beans had killed. Their youngest crewman, Private Herring had wondered why he smelled burned meat when they'd driven past the two wrecks. Wondered out loud until Louis Clark, their tank's driver had told him to shut the Hell up. The kid would learn.

Damn replacements.

As he grabbed the main gun and climbed up to the turret, he saw the engineer waving at him. Looks like they were ready to move out. Hooking up to the intercom, Mac ordered Louis to turn Tennessee Whiskey around and follow the engineers. Bob Norwood was already cranking the turret around to face over the back deck of the tank. Just to discourage anyone coming up the road behind them. Only Krauts were back there.

As they moved out, the wind kicked up and the snow started up again. Mac thought, if I survive this damn war, I'm moving to someplace where they don't know what snow is!

Pierre Marchand stood in the doorway of his home and watched as the German officer climbed down from his tank. Pierre hated les Boches, he had been a young man in the 1914 war, too young for the army, but old enough to remember the Germans. They had had his maternal grandfather and two of his cousins shot. To encourage the rest of the village to cooperate with them.

"Old man! Have you seen the Americans? How many men? Tanks?"

Of course the pig spoke in German, why did les Boches always think that everyone in this part of Belgium spoke German. All the German speakers were over in St. Vith, here they were all good Walloons, not Huns.

Kurt Langanke looked at the Belgian standing in front of him with frustration. Did these stupid peasants always have to act like they knew nothing? Maybe the clod didn't speak German. So...

"Vieil homme, avez-vous vu les Américains?"

"Avez-vous vu des chars, de l'infanterie, combien?

"Can you speak at all you bloody clod?"


As the Boche talked to him in his terrible French, Pierre had a sudden chill. When the man's white camouflage coat collar fell open, he could see the SS-runes on the man's uniform. An SS-man, Pierre didn't feel good about this. He better tell him about the tank and the trucks, three weren't there? Maybe twenty men?

"Un char, trois camions, peut-être 20 hommes, commandant.³"

Pierre was shaking now, he hoped the German thought it was from the cold. Go, just go, fight your war somewhere else, he thought.

The Hauptsturmführer thought for a moment. Seemed plausible, if the Ami had had a stronger force then they might have stood their ground. He'd been seeing signs of American panic for two days now. Abandoned vehicles and equipment, even overcoats and rifles thrown off in their hurry to run away. Harrumph, he'd run these bastards to ground, they would have to stand and fight sometime.

"Merci, mon vieux³." Kurt turned on his heel to remount his Panther, the old fellow was harmless. Maybe even simple. Chap had been shivering like a newborn colt.

Climbing into the turret he ordered his tank forward and pumped his fist in the air. As he did so, he saw that the snow was harder now.


As the column of tanks rolled by, Pierre counted 11 of them, they were followed by halftracks packed with infantry. Grimacing at the Germans as they rolled by, they were laughing and mocking him, one even threw a snowball at him.

Pierre shook his fist and yelled the only German he knew, "Scheißkopf!"

For that, an SS Sergeant riding in one of the halftracks shot Pierre Marchand down in the street, right in front of his home.

The Belgian wasn't really that old, he was only forty-two, but he wouldn't see forty-three.

Oberfeldwebel Willi Hoffmeister was frustrated, his old comrade, Otto Krämer had just come back from talking with the company commander. They wanted him and Becker in 414 to travel back up the road they just came down, then over to Rettigny, where there was rumored to be more fuel. They'd be accompanied by two halftracks of Panzergrenadiers.

"Secure the fuel Willi, we are starting to be desperately short of that item."

"Verstanden. And after that?"

"Head north, you see here on the map? Take that road down to Houffalize. The rest of the battalion should be there by now."

"Houffalize? I thought we were headed to Bastogne?"

"There's an American tank force in that area, they're threatening our flank and the flank of 6th Panzerarmee. Our Tigers should make short work of them. Then Major Lange will tell us what's next."

Sighing, Willi compared Otto's map to his, he marked Rettigny, the road there, then the road north, then to Houffalize.

Google Maps
Mac stood on his seat looking down the road, the engineer's jeep was just around the bend in the road, apparently they were setting some mines, both on the road, on the verge, and on the trees beside the road. As the terrain was rising here, the engineer sergeant thought it would be a good spot to slow the Kraut advance in this sector.

Google Streetview
Mac looked around, decided that when the engineers were done, he'd back up a hundred yards or so and wait. If the Krauts made it through the mines, maybe he'd toss a few rounds their way, get their attention, make them deploy, then Tennessee Whiskey would scoot.

Well, we'll see, he thought.

Langanke was in his turret, trying to stay warm, looking at his map, trying to concentrate. He didn't remember being this tired in Russia, maybe it was the circumstances, the odd "last chance" feeling of this whole offensive. He heard a loud bang behind him, what the...

The Panther behind his had rolled over a mine, Langanke could see that the track was damaged, that's when he noticed the wires running into the trees along the road.

Waving frantically he tried to get the column to halt, too much interference on the radio made it hard to communicate between tanks, sometimes the old fashioned ways were still effective. He heard another bang, looked up to see a tree falling onto the road directly over the turret of the third vehicle in line. His second in command's Panther.

Looks like the Amis were fighting back

Damn it, the damned American engineers!

Mac heard the explosions, ha, that'll teach 'em, he thought.

"Jim, Bob, you boys ready?"

"Got AP up the spout boss," Jim Sherwood answered.

"Sighted in on the bend in road Mac, we're ready." Gunner Bob Norwood chimed in.

Mac settled lower in the turret, no sense being a target just yet.

Langanke had sent one of his halftracks forward, told the sergeant in charge to scout further down the road while they sorted themselves out here. It was slow work but they managed to get one vehicle clear of the hastily planted mine field.

SS-Hauptscharführer Manfred Weber had a man on the hood of the halftrack to watch for possible mines and booby traps. He had the rest of the men ready to jump out and deploy should they run into anything.

Well, they did run into something. Something Weber wasn't ready for. This was no simple Belgian peasant to be gunned down.

Mac barked, "Fire!" as the Kraut halftrack rolled around the bend in the road.

The shot bored straight into the driver's compartment of the vehicle, the vehicle slewed to a stop as Jerry Herring opened up with his bow machine gun at the Germans trying to bail out of the stricken vehicle.

His first burst killed the man on the hood, then it killed Weber, as Herring, in his inexperience, let the gun rise from the recoil. He quickly adjusted though and clipped one of the Krauts trying to scramble into the woods alongside the road.

It all ended rather quickly as Tennessee Whiskey fired a high explosive round into the disabled halftrack. Which pretty much finished the battle.

Mac ordered Louis to move out. It would be a while before that halftrack could be moved!

As Langanke's Panther moved out, he was expecting to see his men ahead, engaging American engineers. He wasn't prepared to see his halftrack destroyed and apparently most of its squad dead, scattered around the vehicle or still in the vehicle.

Again, the damn Ami engineers had delayed his column. At this rate they wouldn't make it to Houffalize before morning.

"Put out sentries, we'll lager here for the night!"

And again it was starting to snow.

As for Panzer 413, Willi's Tiger was waiting for his own engineers to fix a damaged bridge to his front. They'd be lucky to get to Rettigny tonight.

He tugged his collar tight and sat back into his turret. He noticed the snow.

And wondered if any of his family still lived.


¹ "Old man, have you seen the Americans?"
“Have you seen tanks, infantry, how many?”
² One tank, three trucks, maybe 20 men, commander.
³ Thank you, old one.
 Hauptscharführer, senior platoon sergeant.