So....My Tank Corps in Prussia...

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So....My Tank Corps in Prussia...

Postby Commissar D, the Evil » Sat Sep 09, 2006 12:44 am

An odd thing. The Guards Tank Corps, my Tank Corps, was advancing into Prussia. It was cold that winter, but the artillery prep had done its job and the white-uniformed tank-riders clung to the hand-holds or warmed themselves over the engine grills as my personal T-34/85 speeded along a smooth Prussian road.

No opposition, just dead trenches at right angles to the road, collapsed and black-blistered by our heavy artillery. A gentle snow fell as we laagered for the night, waiting for fuel and reinforcements.
Our job was simply to "poke the hole" for the second echelon to advance through. But our artillery had accomplished that by itself and, in the absence of armor or bunkers to engage, we felt quite....lonely, even isolated within the enemy's territory. Really we expected much more from the "lair of the beast". We expected to fight for our lives but were instead confronted with emptiness and the stillness that signified a dead land.
Whomever lived here once--and we had never really encountered German civilians--had long fled. The neat country houses were empty, although the doors were locked, much to our amusement. Really, we expected much more, and our soldierly expectations were greeted with silence.
Odd how, before the advance, we had all expected to die in the most horrible manner imaginable. Now our expectations were set upon chasing geese and chickens or prying open the larders of abandoned farmsteads. We found liquor, not much, mostly beer and cognac, but enough for the night.
By morning, the comrades were in fine fetter, eager to refuel and get on with the war. Our supply trucks, for the first time in human memory, arrived at dawn and my tankists began the arduous job of transfering fuel from 50 liter drums by hand-pump into our fuel tanks.

Joking and brandishing bottles of liberated schnapps, our tank-riders took their places on the engine decks and around the turret as we refueled.
It still snowed lightly, but by Russian standards, the weather was hardly unbearable, just a crisp and chilly nuisance.
I lit a cigarette and stood in the turret of my tank, thinking--or rather dreaming--of reaching the sea and ending this campaign. Berlin only mattered to me, not these empty farm houses and certainly not their former occupants or their fleeing army. This was, in my mind, a diversion to the real effort, the fight for Berlin and the inevitable decision of the war.

I knew that my men felt the same. You could tell it by their jokes and their disdain for what looked to be a rabbit chase.

Impatiently, I shouted at the tankists to hurry and complete the refueling.
The soldiers on the tank joined in with hoots and jeers at the men doing the real work.

And then I heard it--"Tam!" "Tam!" "Tam!"--"Tam!" "Tam!" "Tam!" "Tam!"--the sound of a sledge hammer hitting the tank's armor over and over again.

Pure instinct and training took over--I dropped down into the turret, slamming and locking the hatch behind me. The drumbeat of fire continued as Alexei slowly traversed the turret and searched for a target.
"Where?" I demanded, cursing silently. But in the seconds that elapsed, Alexei and myself had both burst into a freezing sweat and neither of us could see a target through either my small vision slits or his gun sight.

And then the drumming against our armor stopped.

"Twenty millimeter?" Alexei half-asked and half-asserted.
I nodded, but we swung the turret around again for certainty's sake. Obviously we had been spotted by a fascist reconnaisance unit. It didn't cheer us that someone on their side was still willing to fight and it certainly unnerved us that they had fired when it was convenient to them!

I admit that it took moments for my conscious mind to reassert my feeling of safety. Probably it would have taken more time--as I had become more cautious over the years--had not a droplet of blood seeped through the hatch and fell upon my shoulder.

Angrily, I threw the hatch open. Our tanks were painted in white camouflage at that time and a 20mm round made only a small impression upon the turret of a T-34. Really just a tiny perfectly round indentation.

But my tank was no longer a thinly whitewashed green. My tank was bright red in that shade of red that only blood shows upon the snow. And there were absolutely those little round, harmless impressions on the armor, but these were barely noticeable amid the severed limbs, chunks of flesh and brain matter and bits and fragments of bone splattered against the turret and hull of the tank.

Twelve good men had died outside of the armor, minced and diced like beef steaks against a chopping block.

You could never have explained or described such a scene to me, had I not witnessed it. A 20mm round simply disintegrated a human being, even if it bounced off of our armor. No one standing or sitting on the tank remained in one piece--there was barely enough of our tank-riders left to fill the two buckets we routinely attached to the rear towing shackles of our tank for water and meals.

Their blood, that of simple, common soldiers ran in rivelets over our engine compartment and down our sloped hull or simply pooled in convenient spots or stained unevenly the sides of the turret. It was a scene from a nightmare, red on white on green in rivetting shades that none of us survivors forgot or ever spoke about again.

That was my introduction to the Prussian campaign. A single Nazi reconnaisance vehicle--probably some sort of armored car we could have destroyed at ease with our tank--had caught us in the open, refueling and off-guard. That day I had not paid the price for my unit's, indeed my own, laxness. Others had paid and their blood stains would remain on the tank until the campaign was over and until the tank itself went up in flames from a panzerfaust in Danzig.

I and my crew escaped alive from that event as well, but I never, ever, regretted the loss of that tank.

Best,
~D, the EviL
Last edited by Commissar D, the Evil on Fri Feb 29, 2008 11:08 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Postby Tom Houlihan » Sat Sep 09, 2006 1:37 am

Nice, David. Interesting perspective. Much like real life, it's quite often not the individual who is lax, or makes a mistake that gets hurt. More often than not, it's those around him.
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Postby Alex Coles » Sat Sep 09, 2006 3:04 am

Interesting. This looks good.
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Postby Commissar D, the Evil » Sat Sep 09, 2006 5:04 am

Just wait until you read Ulrich's story of this event.......

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Postby Alex Coles » Sat Sep 09, 2006 5:08 am

Ulrich V of Würrttemburg? :D
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Postby Commissar D, the Evil » Fri Sep 15, 2006 10:14 pm

Ulrich shivered in the open top of his armored car. The snow fell lightly and he had tossed open the wire cage that formed the top of his wagon's turret. The wire screen was only there for protection against grenades, not for any other reason and, considering their situation, it was more a nuisance than anything else.
Ulrich's duty was simply to shadow and report the latest Russian advance into Prussia. "Simply" was a bit of an understatement. His heavy, eight-wheeled armored car was tasked with maintaining contact with the Russians, while remaining itself unseen, as neither its armor nor its gunpower were sufficent to do anything against them.
The wire-screened, open-topped turret held the vehicle's armament--a 20mm cannon and an MG-42, both totally useless against any of the two score of T-34's they tracked. Really, the wagon's most usefull weapons were its radios, not its guns. The radios kept his commanders informed about the Russians, so that they could plan some sort of defense--but that itself was an issue that Ulrich was reluctant to dwell upon. Although he realized he suffered from the average soldier's inability to "see" beyond that which he could literally "see", it did not strike him likely, at this stage of events, that any "defense" could be organized.
His division, he knew, was burned out at its core. An eggshell of a division, with a few tanks and armored cars as its shell and a few hundred exhausted, decimated landsers at its center. In the meantime, the Russians drove forward in endless lines and columns of tanks, trucks and infantry.
His job was to stay in the distance, as concealed as possible, and simply track the Red Army as it seared its way through Prussia. The smoke from its advance was more substantial than the resistance his shattered division could offer.
But awareness only served as a curse to Ulrich, who had fought this war for four years in worse weather and under worse conditions. At least he was still mounted and his armored car was capabe of running. He had, in the years past, been reduced to the position of an ordinary and despised infantryman, slogging through snow drifts to escape encirclement or fighting desperate little fights over frozen farmhouses when he had lost his wagon. So, in a sense he counted himself as lucky. As hard as he had become, as hard as he had endured, he was aware that there were always levels of suffering below him that he feared he might not be able to endure.
His fingers were a bit stiff from the cold but he found the strength to focus his binoculars on the enemy. These binoculars were a gift from his wife, bought before the war and for, of all things, bird-watching. As it happened, they were superior to any others--because of their pre-war construction--that could be found as standard issue on the front. Of all the things in his kit, he valued them the most. As a scout, they had saved his life often enough that he would abandon the wagon before he would abandon them.
Oddly, they were almost too refined for his present task. Keeping track of the Red Army did not require precision instruments. A blind man could track them by the smell of burning German homes and the stink of markhova, the crude tobacco they smoked.
In fact, Ulrich used the binoculars to keep count of the doors of German homes the Russians broke down. One part of him realized that this count was madness, brought about by the stress of a losing war, while another part of his brain considered this task to be perfectly acceptable and a logical part of his duty.
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Postby Tom Houlihan » Fri Sep 15, 2006 10:43 pm

This is interesting, on different levels. Please keep it up!
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Postby Commissar D, the Evil » Fri Sep 15, 2006 11:22 pm

His three crewmen slept during the night after the Russian tank spearhead had formed a circle around and encamped by a farmhouse. Ulrich himself dozed off during the cold night--half the secret of being a soldier was knowing when to sleep and when not to. It was perfectly clear that the Russians weren't going anywhere that night, they were far to busy drinking looted booze and cooking looted food to consider a night advance.
Still, duty demanded that he wake up on occasion and scan them with his trusted binoculars "just in case". But his comrades snored through that night, in their exhaustion, and he couldn't bring himself to blame them for their lapse in discipline.
Not after a one hundred kilometer retreat in Prussia. Not after being thrust forward again and again to scout, while the division itself had been shoved bodily backwards again and again by the enemy.
Ulrich tried his best not to contemplate what was happening. He had fought in the ring around Leningrad once and now he was on German soil. It was not an easiy acceptable turn of events, to say the least.
And he knew the Russians. He knew that they were, by all turns, barbarians and capable of cruelties his countrymen could not imagine. "You do not know the Russians unless you have fought them", he had written his wife earlier in the war.
While Prussia was far from his native Bavaria and the countryfolk spoke with an accent he detested and lived interspersed amongst grand manors that he detested even more, they were still Germans. They were his people, not the enemy who had somehow emerged from wooden shacks and piles of horse manure to kill him.
By morning he was nursing a mild headache from thinking and worrying about the situation while his crew slept. if this continued--and there seemed little hope that it would stop--he and his crew would end up dead or swimming in the Baltic. They would never become prisoners of the Russians, of course. That thought was simply to horrific to contemplate, even if the alternative was a shallow grave in Prussia.
Besides, he thought, when did the Russians take prisoners beyond the time it took to torture or shoot them?
Ulrich had simply seen too much of Russia for him to be the calm professional his mind told himself he remained. He had seen his own Division commit indescribable acts in Russia--had himself once forced an aged Russian couple out into the snows of a Siberian winter to give his crew a warm billet for the night. But these acts, in his mind paled before the systematic and unrestrained animalism of the Red Army.
During the retreat, he had seen through his binoculars, German women raped and crucified to barn doors. It was not a sight anything in Russia had prepared him for and had, in fact, reduced him to counting doors, as if recreating in his imagination those innocent victims with their bleeding hands and feet nailed to those same doors.
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Postby Jan-Hendrik » Fri Sep 15, 2006 11:55 pm

Great 8) :up:

Please give us the pleasure and continue :!:

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Postby Commissar D, the Evil » Sat Sep 16, 2006 12:00 am

Morning came and the Russian supply trucks moved up. Ulrich's armored car with its pitiful armament was covered in a fine layer of light snow and nestled amongst the tall trees, nearly invisible to anyone a few meters off.
He saw the Russians unload their fuel supply and grasped their weakness. At the same time, he caught sight of their grinning faces as the the infantry mounted the tanks and smelled their insufferable confidance in the air with the same clarity that he could smell the dying fires of their breakfast.
It was that confidance that, that arrogant stench of invincibility that stuck in his throat.
"Dieter, how's our backside", Ulrich said quietly over the intercom.
The heavy armored car had, for its job as a scout, two steering wheeels, one in front and one in back. Dieter operated the rear steering wheel.
"We're clear", Dieter said softly, "say the word and I'll pull us further into the trees, no problem..."
Ulrich nudged the gunner, Hans, who sat beside him, seperated only by the breech of the 20mm gun. "Should we kill some Russkies now?" Ulrich whispered.
Hans strecthed his neck and took a good look around for the sake of safety. Dueling with T-34s was not normally an acceptable and never a healthy occupation for a scout car. Hans had arched an eyebrow in curiosity when Ulrich asked the question.
"They're refueling", Ulrich reassured him. "Look at them, fat, still drunk and healthy."
Hans peered at the Russian encampment, counting the tanks and trucks.
An experienced gunner, he finally replied, "Two or three magazines, no more."
Ulrich nodded. Each magazine carried ten rounds of 20mm shells. That was less than a minute of firing at maximum rate. They couldn't kill a tank, but they coud kill anything else in range.
"Sight in on those fat bastards on the lead T-34s engine deck , then hit the fuel if you can--just f***king kill as many of the scum as possible."
Hans cooly adjusted his gunsight. Ulrich watched eagerly as his gunner traversed the the turret be hand and adjusted the 20 mm's elevation.
With a slight nod, Hans indicated that he was ready.
Ulrich gave the order to fire.
"Pam! Pam! Pam! Pam! Pam! Pam! Pam! Pam! Pam! Pam!"
The magazine ejected, Ulrich fed the gun another one, Hans continued to fire and Ulrich fed the gun again.
"Now Dieter!" Ulrich shouted into the intercom. The big armored car backed up slowly, creeping back into the forest like a cat and apparently still undetected by the enemy.
Beneath their gunsights, the landscape had literally turned blood red as, in an instant, the big 20mm rounds minced the Soviet tank-riders and set afire several of the fuel trucks.
Unmolested, the armored car loped away into the trees, the recoil from its gun having shaken off the thin layer of snow that formerly covered it, and leaving red ruin in its wake....
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Postby Commissar D, the Evil » Sun Sep 17, 2006 4:49 pm

"Now those guys are really pis*ed", Max Hansen remarked dryly. He sat in the forest on his haunches, watching the Russians slowly pull themselves together. A clump came out of cover by the farmhouse, individuals picked themselves up out of the reddened snow--the Commander of the lead tank was screaming hoarsely at the remnants of the tank-riders. His own tank was drenched in blood, so soaked in it that it dripped from the hull and it's engine deck was covered by dismembered corpses that he was demanding be cleared away.

Hansen scanned the forest to his right. He couldn't make out a trace of activity, although he was now certain, from the trajectory of the fire, that friendly forces lurked there. He, himself, had a bare platoon of thirty "leftovers" sheltering themselves in the snow and under the broad branches of the trees.

Some part of him was seriously amused by the slaughter, if only because they had been slaughtered already and it seemed...just...that the Russians share the same fate.
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Postby Tom Houlihan » Sun Sep 17, 2006 5:04 pm

Nice seque back to Heroes!
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Postby Commissar D, the Evil » Sun Sep 17, 2006 5:07 pm

What's a war story without a few Forum Heroes Tom? :D :D :D

Very Best,
David
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Postby M.H. » Sun Sep 17, 2006 5:28 pm

YEAH!

Great story David!

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Postby Commissar D, the Evil » Sun Sep 17, 2006 5:31 pm

Arajs had his moment of grim joy watching the stricken Russians before crawling back to the remnant of his Lativian S.S. detachment. The Russians had had ill-luck, Arajs thought as he slid across the ice, but their own luck had been much worse.
One of his troopers, Janis, bit hard on a stick placed between his teeth to keep from screaming. There was no help for him, he suffered from a belly wound and the rest of them were too tired to carry him any more.

Arajs dug an automatic pistol out of his blouse and placed it firmly in Janis' right hand. "Don't use this until we're clear", he whispered, looking for a glint of understanding in Janis' eyes, which rolled under his eyelids during the successive waves of pain.

Finally Janis nodded affirmatively and Arajs crawled back to Hansen.

The Russian clamp had closed too quickly for the Latvians to reach their homeland. Now the German Army they "belonged" to was caught in a trap on the Courland Peninsula and Latvia itself was lost. Arajs had few illusions as to what his fate and, more importantly, that of his men would eventually be when the Red Army ultimately defeated the Germans.

But that was, in his straightforward mind, a future worry. For now, they were simply, once again, cut off from friendly forces and trekking their way "home".

Hansen's unshaven face was almost a thing of beauty. Hansen had become the "lucky charm" of the Latvian unit--the German who was too stubborn to die when he should have....

"North", was all that Hansen said. "Who ever is over there on our side isn't strong enough to help us and as soon as the Russkies are back on their tanks, they'll come for us."

Arajs nodded and slid back to get the men moving. North, he thought, and as long as they lived, another chance to kill Russians.
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