Thursday, February 22, 2024

Need a Lift?

Gefreiter Georg Hansel was trying to keep up with his fellow crewmen, but his head was aching something fierce. Eventually he slipped on a patch of ice and fell to the roadway, his MP 40 clattering as it skidded away from him.

Feldwebel Fritz Weber was to Hansel's front, he turned when he heard Hansel's weapon hit the ground, he gasped as he saw his loader down on his knees, the bandage on his head leaking blood.

"Hold up guys, Georg is all messed up."

Oberfeldwebel Willi Hoffmeister turned to his two other men, Feldwebel Horst Krebs and Panzerschütze Peter Schmidt, and quietly ordered them, "Horst, Peter, keep an eye out," as he hustled back to his downed man.

Weber had his own first aid kit out and was rebandaging Hansel's wound, as he finished he looked up at Hoffmeister, "Wound is worse than we thought, Chef, looks like he opened up the artery over his left eye. He needs to get this stitched up."

Before Hoffmeister could say anything, Weber took Hansel's left hand and told him, "Keep your hand pressed down right here, tight. The blood loss has made you woozy. Chef, he can't walk far, are we near anything? A town, anything?"

As if in answer to Weber's question, the men heard an engine, it sounded like a Kübelwagen. Hoffmeister barked at Krebs and Schmidt, "Cover!" as he scrambled to get off the road.

Weber joined him, dragging Hansel with him. "Scheiße, I left his weapon in the road."

Gefreiter Robert Langhoff, Robby to his friends, was carefully nursing his ailing Kübelwagen down yet another icy road. He had managed to fulfill the mission that Hauptfeldwebel Otto Krämer, Fourth Company's Spieß¹ had given him that morning.

"Robby, there are two disabled Tigers near this road junction," the Spieß had said as he jabbed his finger at the map, "go there and grab any spare parts you can. We have one Panzer left but it's in sad shape. The workshop boys say they can fix it but they need this."

Langhoff looked at the drawing the Spieß presented to him. "Ah, might be dicey, Spieß, that thing is on the side of the engine, might be hard to get to."

"There should be spares in the turret bustle, I don't expect you to disassemble the whole vehicle."

When Krämer saw Langhoff grinning, he nearly struck the man, "You push things sometimes, Gefreiter!"

Langhoff smiled as he remembered the look on Krämer's face, then his smile dropped as he saw a discarded MP 40 in the road, next to a glistening puddle of fresh blood.

He applied the brakes and reached for his StG 44, something was amiss, he'd been down this road in the morning, it hadn't snowed, no one had been on this road that he knew of, what was a discarded weapon doing there? And what was up with the fresh blood?

He nearly had a heart attack when a soldier in a filthy white snow suit stepped into the road, his MP 40 aimed at Langhoff's chest.

"Damn it, Robby, what are you doing out here all by yourself?"

Langhoff relaxed when he saw the face of Willi Hoffmeister, a Panzer commander in 4th Company.

"I might ask you the same, Herr Oberfeldwebel, and where's your beast?"

"Gun smashed up, out of fuel, and about six kilometers back that way," he pointed down the road from whence Langhoff had come from.

"413, right?"

Hoffmeister gave him a puzzled look, then Langhoff explained, "Der Spieß sent me down there to scrounge parts from two Tigers outside the village. One was a complete wreck, the interior burned to a crisp. Your beast, 413, was nearly intact, well, except for the gun. I pulled some parts from the bustle. Want a lift? Der Spieß might have a new ride for you, he has a busted up Tiger and no crew to man it. Oh, we could drive it off, but no one knows how to fight her."

"If it's busted up ..." Hoffmeister began.

"With the parts I scrounged, she'll be good as new by nightfall. Hop in."

The five men from Panzer 413 squeezed into the small car and off they went.

We might be able to get into the fight after all, Hoffmeister mused. Then it struck him, was he ready for all that right away?

Was his crew?

"We shall see," he muttered.

"What?" Langhoff shouted over at him, "I can barely hear you."

Hoffmeister grinned, damned Langhoff was irrepressible, a noted "comedian" in the 4th Company.

"Do you know how to load an 8.8 gun?" Hoffmeister shouted at him.

"Huh, what? Why?"

"My loader is kinda banged up, we might need some help. Worse comes to worst, we can stick you on the bow MG, Schmidt here," he said nodding to the back of the car, "went to the Panzerschule so he knows how to load the gun."

"I was a gunner back in '41, on a Panzer III, I can load the gun alright." Langhoff began to wonder what he was getting himself in to.

"Ah, an experienced man," Hoffmeister laughed and slapped Langhoff on the shoulder, "we'll get you the Iron Cross yet."

Langhoff shook his head, well, might be safer on the roads in a Panzer, he'd seen enough cars and trucks littering the highways to know they weren't safe in an air attack.

"Don't do me any favors, Herr Oberfeldwebel."

"I won't lad, I won't, but maybe I can get you home alive?"

"That works for me." Langhoff admitted.

Their new Panzer, turret number 11, which Weber had painted over with some white wash and a crude "413" roughed in with a burnt piece of wood as a brush, was quickly brought back into service with the parts Langhoff had scrounged. As the engine roared to life, Der Spieß had "organized" enough fuel to fill 413's fuel tank, Hoffmeister leaned out of his hatch to hear the Spieß yelling at him.

"Head east down this road until you get to this crossroads," pointing at Hoffmeister's map, "then turn east and you should pick up the road to Heckhuscheid, that's our rally point. Don't dawdle and don't travel the roads by day, the Amis have more birds in the air than the entire Luftwaffe ever fielded in the East."

Krämer tossed a salute at Hoffmeister then climbed off 413. Sliding back into his cupola, Hoffmeister yelled out, "Take us home, Horst!"

"Which way, Chef?" Weber said with a grin.

"East my boy, east!"

¹ German term for a First Sergeant/Sergeant Major, literally means "Spear."


  1. Hey! The gangs all back! On the road again! ............ :)

    1. Just can't wait to get on the road again ... 😎

  2. "Take us home.." 5 months to go ...

  3. The camaraderie. .. stirs memories of long ago. No, I don't want to go back. I shouldn't want to. Well told, Sarge.

  4. Soon to be making music with their friends.

    If you're wondering what you got yourself into you're already hip deep in manure.

  5. "we'll get you on Iron Cross yet."?
    "we'll get you an Iron Cross yet."?
    typo, perhaps?
    your friendly grammar (Opa?) Nazi

    1. Typo and brain fart all at the same time, supposed to have said "the Iron Cross."

      Danke, Opa!

  6. Always good to be picked up rather than rely on shank's mare. Especially in the cold.

    So this is where the quaint custom of how many frat boys can fit in a Volkswagon started.

  7. I occasionally remember seeing a Kübelwagen in real life. Such fragile looking conveyances.

    1. They were tougher than they looked. Did you see the real thing, or the one they called the "Thing"? (1970s)


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