Hey, Readers. As you all know, I’ve been keeping pretty busy writing. I thought today I’d release another snippet of what we’ve been working on- an alternate history. Here goes…
Brilon-Wald, Germany. End of June, 1955.
Jochen supposed he should be happy with what had been accomplished so far, rather than being angry that he and his boys were manifestly failing to keep the Reds from encroaching further into Germany. It was the evening of another lousy day at the front; rain dripped from his peaked cap and ran down his neck.
The major action a week earlier by Kassel had started off so well, then things had gone south for the Allies. Their armored thrust had gone into the shoulder of the Red salient ten kilometers along Route Seven, and then very powerful Soviet blocking forces had been encountered, along with belt upon belt of hastily laid anti-tank mines.
Before their own penetration was pinched off, Corps had decided to head northwest and hold onto Highway 44. They were partially successful, Jochen’s presence in Brilon-Wald testified to that fact. It could also be, he thought, that the Reds are behind us and no-one has bothered to tell me. In which case they had deep problems.
He decided to do the smart thing, which was to focus on what he could control, and not worry about what the higher ups were doing. Today his plan was to ambush the attacking Soviets on road 251 northbound, to sting them and frustrate their advance toward Brilon.
The residents of Brilon-Wald, the town along the Korbacher Street, had been less than thrilled when Jochen and his men showed up. In fact, they had run like hell. The sight of his company’s panzers were a sure sign that the front had arrived, and there were plenty of veterans around to spread the word that you really didn’t want to be around when the lead begins to fly.
Jochen had at least sent Hänke into the house to check for any stay-behinds when he decided to use a favorite trick. He drove through the back of the residence, and used the façade as cover for his tank. It was pretty decent rough camouflage in an ambush such as this. He had a clear view through a window of the intersection of the 251, the railroad tracks, and the L743 that ran off into the woods on the right.
It was as good of a place as any to jump the Reds. His company dominated the approach into Brilon-Wald; they were guaranteed to stack up bad guys when they came around the bend to the front.
And that was part of the problem, he reflected. He had come to really love the M-60 over the past week of combat. It didn’t burn when hit, it was powerful, and the gun was unbelievably accurate and hard-hitting. No, the problem was its ammunition consumption. There were so many Red tanks, and so few of his own. Even though the Red fire-control systems must be scheisse, their main guns were powerful. And if they hit… well, it was curtains if they hit square. From his original fifteen Main Battle Tanks, eleven remained. His company’s performance had been phenomenal, but he couldn’t replace those four missing crews.
The Reds could, and they did. Jochen had no idea how many smoldering wrecks 2ndCompany had left in their wake, but it was a lot. And today there would be even more, he was sure.
Jochen heard a familiar shriek; it was inbound artillery. Jochen thought it would fall short, and it did. He didn’t bother to button up. He kept scanning the road ahead with his Steiners. Intel had it that their latest customers were elements of the 25thTank Division, mixed in with Czech motor-rifle units.
What will they do this time, he thought. There was only one good way north, and that was the 251 leading into Brilon. Jochen’s company held the road, it was really a question of how badly the Russians wanted it. If they wanted it, Jochen was prepared to give it to them. But they would have to pay a price. He smiled his patented cold smile. 2ndCompany was prepared to do a leapfrogging break-contact drill all the way to the north of town, they would make the Russians bleed rivers. Also, there was a company of Panzergrenadiere just north of his current position, they had made themselves at home in the houses and forests hereabouts.
Brilon-Wald was not going to be cheap.
Artillery started to fall around him; the Russians were probing. Jochen remained where he was, standing in his turret, binoculars in hand. To catch the prey, he thought, one had to wait like a hunter. Both sides wanted the same thing; for someone’s nerves to break, for the prey to flee and catch the eye. That’s when the real killing began.
Boosfeld spotted movement along the road to the south. He lifted his binoculars slowly while shading the lenses. He felt the old surge of the blood, the taste of iron. There they were- BTR scout cars, coming slowly. They would surely sense they were being watched, he thought. They would also pick up on the lack of civilians in the streets if they had any experience at all.
He had four tanks in his forward position, counting himself. No one fired. This did not surprise him; he had been very specific that he would initiate the ambush. The BTRs came to a halt; their little turrets swiveled back and forth. Jochen controlled his breathing, he willed the scout cars to go away and call in their big brothers for an“easy”march toward Brilon proper.
He heard the stutter of a machine gun from the forest to his west. Jochen saw the rounds hit the dirt all around the BTRs, a tracer bounced harmlessly off of their armored plate. Who was the idiot of an infantryman who pulled the trigger, he thought. If that soldier lived through today, Jochen promised himself he would have his hide. The BTRs returned fire with their 12.7mm DShK machineguns, then they turned around and ran.
They had done their jobs, Jochen thought. Now the Reds knew Brilon-Wald was defended, they just didn’t know by what. He thought some more. Perhaps that stupid kid with the machine gun had done him a favor- it could be that the Soviets would assume that the village was held with light infantry forces. He shrugged. Time would tell, and it probably wouldn’t be a lot of time, either.
He was right. Fifteen minutes later, he saw soldiers on foot come around the bend along the road, and there were probably others pushed into the forests to his left and right. The soldiers that he could see were coming on in dashes, they would sprint and hit the ground while others ran by. When the others hit the ground, the ones lying down would get up and run. The Reds had learned, he thought. No human wave attacks with the bone-chilling chant of UHRAAH like the last war. This movement technique was far more effective.
As he watched, he heard the sound of incoming to his front, a round detonated on the far side of the bend. Must be friendly artillery, he thought. Half a minute later, another round landed between the advancing Red infantry and his position. Jochen recognized a fire bracket when he saw one, and he could tell that a 155 battery must have gotten this call for fire. The next round, he knew, would be right on top of the poor bastards to his front. It was, and it was followed by a series of explosions that rattled Jochen’s teeth.
After a few minutes, the explosions stopped. None of the Red footmen had approached Jochen’s position, and he started to wonder if the Soviets would try their luck somewhere else. Then he heard the distant roar of diesels. The Reds were pushing tanks forward at high speed; they must have decided that Brilon-Wald was held by infantry. According to Jochen’s thinking, they would push forward, accept losses and mix in with the Panzergrenadiere position. This would neutralize the friendly artillery.
Jochen saw the lead tank. He noted that it was an older design, and not the latest armor. He pressed his lips together. One thing that had not changed from the last war was that the Russians were cold-blooded bastards. That old tank was clearly pushed out there to draw fire, while the Soviet commander kept the good stuff for higher priority tasks. Behind the lead tank was an armored personnel carrier, a BMP. They were moving fast, they would pass Jochen’s trigger point, the intersection, soon.
He knew what he would do, it came to him in an instant. More tanks and APCs came around the bend, this could be the spearhead of a battalion-sized push. The more, the merrier, Jochen thought. He allowed the old tank to pass the intersection, and then the BMP. The panzergrenadiere opened fire with their anti-tank weapons, the BMP was hit and started to burn fiercely. The lead tank, the T-55 type, stopped and fired wildly in the direction of the German infantry. At the intersection, the rest of the column had to slam on their brakes. This was the moment Jochen had waited on, there was a brand-new T-72 parked on the southern side. He spoke once, briefly, into the company net, and then to his gunner.
“Initiating.” A pause.“Target, tank. Get the T-72 on the other side of the intersection.”
Seconds later, Jochen’s gunner turned the T-72 into a flaming wreck; his other tanks opened up and methodically began to dispatch the Soviet armor like so many chickens. The Russians tried to scatter and return fire, Jochen watched as a Soviet tank tried to escape via the railway bed.
“Gunner, why don’t you hit our railroader, there.”
That Russian died, too. Jochen knew that this fight was his. And then it all went to hell.
Jochen heard a screaming noise followed by an explosion and a clang, much like the world’s biggest church bell. He looked over at what he knew was the tank on his right flank, Leutenant Strohmeyer. He saw greasy black smoke, and heard booms as his ammo cooked off.
He scanned the remains of the Soviet armor to his front; had one of the tanks gotten off a lucky shot? As he watched, one of his tanks fired and another BMP died. There were no other threats in sight.
Then he heard a roar like a buzz saw in the air, followed by a sound much like bullets striking a steel target at the range. To his rear, he heard another explosion and he knew in his gut what was going on. It had been exactly what it sounded like- except the bullets had been monstrous 30mm armor-piercing slugs.
There was a Sturmovik out there, or a pair of them. He scanned the sky, but he saw nothing. He placed a call.
“All Lehr Two elements. Air attack!” As he placed the call, he felt the old horrified, completely helpless feeling from the last war, when this sort of thing had been far too common. To make matters worse, the incoming artillery started to really pick up, and he spotted more tanks coming around the bend. The lead Soviet tank was a T-72, and it was firing as it moved. So were the tanks behind it.
This, thought Jochen, was a losing proposition. He placed a call on the company net.
“First platoon, leapfrog per SOP to the rear. Second platoon, support.”
If he stayed in place, he knew that he and his company would die. It was risky to move, breaking contact was always difficult, at best. Moving targets would make things hard on the Frogfoot that was out there, however, and it would buy him time. Night was coming, and 2ndCompany might live to fight another day if he did this just right. He started to play his losing hand masterfully, but part of him was boiling.
By daylight, Brilon-Wald would be in Soviet hands, and another chunk of Germany would have fallen. He couldn’t stop the Red Army; he could only delay them.
The delay was paid in lives.