Setting: Western front, WWII
Summary: Four German soldiers, during the last months of Second World War, fight desperately to survive against advancing Allied forces on the Western front, whist some begin to question their own loyalty to the fatherland and the Führer…
Notes: There may be some factual errors in this chapter, because I do not all that much about the Battle of Aachen.
October 14th, 1944
The beleaguered defenders of the small Aachen building sat and stood around the second floor room, exhausted. A temporary calm had swept over the area, giving the Germans some time to rest. Jochen and Reinhard remained quiet, whilst the other soldier smoked a single, hand rolled cigarette. Nehaus reached over to his tobacco-smoking companion, and was offered a cigarette. Quietly, he accepted, and received a light. Whilst he exhaled the first puff of smoke, the Oberleutnant his two new allies intensely.
"You two," finally said the commanding officer.
Jochen and Reinhard's heads jerked up to meet the eyes of Nehaus.
"What division are you two from?"
Reinhard was the first to speak, "We are members of the Third Panzer division, Oberleutnant. May I ask what division you yourself are from?"
The Oberleutnant pointed to his collar, where the familiar insignia of two lightning bolts shaped like S's indicated that he was a member of the elite SS, Hitler's elite army.
"Waffen SS Kampfgruppen."
The two friends nodded in unison. The other German soldier, armed with a Panzerschreck, began to look around anxiously for more rockets, yet none were left.
"The rockets are gone. If anymore Shermans come by, we are dead." He noted to himself quietly, although the others heard.
Nehaus spoke, "We must get back to headquarters and re-supply."
"There is no way we will survive down there!" said a shocked Jochen.
"We are going down there, und das ist letzt!"
Managing to hide his frustration, Jochen answered, "Jawohl, herr Oberleutnant."
The four soldiers picked up their weapons, and checked the ammunition. As Reinhard checked his rifle ammunition, he glanced towards the window, catching site of the MG-42.
"Oberleutnant, what are we to do with the machine gun?"
The machine gun sat motionless on the window cell, it's two slain gunners sprawled around on the floor around it.
"Check how much ammunition it has." Replied Nehaus.
Reinhard set his rifle down onto the ground softly, and lifted himself up. He quickly, but silently, walked over to the MG-42, whilst his comrade's eyes were upon him. The Wehrmacht soldier picked up the belt of golden bullets, and began to count them in his head. Reinhard had excelled in Mathematics when he attended school, so he was done counting within six seconds.
"There are forty-two bullets, Oberleutnant."
His superior officer was quiet for a moment, but then spoke, "We are not going to abandon such a magnificent weapon. You two shall take it."
Shocked looks swept across Jochen and Reinhard's faces, but they were not going to question an SS officer with a temper. Slinging their rifles onto their backs, they moved towards the window and disassembled the MG-42.
"Wait," called Nehaus, "One moment. First we must have a look at the map."
Oberleutnant Nehaus reached into his dark trenchcoat, and pulled out a rather large map. Placing it on the ground, the other three gathered around.
"We are somewhere in this area," said Nehaus, pointing to the North-Eastern part of the map, "and from what intelligence I gathered earlier, we should be here."
The leader of the German troops pointed one strong finger about three inches from where he had indicated their location.
"This is the Third Panzer Division's HQ. Although, as you can tell, it is quite far, we must get there at all costs. Without being re-supplied, the Amis will overrun us with ease."
The room fell deafly silent again. The three subordinates knew there was no other way to go. After giving it some long thoughts about it, Reinhard and Jochen moved over back to the window-cell to retrieve mounted machine gun from it's nest.
The gun was rather heavy, especially with the bipod. To even out the weight, Reinhard held the gun with his hand at the trigger, whilst Jochen rested it on his shoulder.
Nehaus wrapped the submachine gun's strap around his shoulder, and gave the hand signal for the others to follow him. In a shaky line, Oberleutnant Nehaus led the soldiers down the stairs, slowly, wary of American fire. They reached the bottom of the stairs rather quickly, and Nehaus stopped the line. Peeking around the corner to make sure no enemy soldiers were around, the Oberleutnant grasped his MP40 with a gloved iron grip. No Americans were near, at least to his knowledge, but the leader of the German squad was wary of his surroundings.
Third in line, Jochen also kept a sturdy grip on the large gun rested on his shoulder. The city of Aachen was thousands of years old, with the majority of it's buildings being ancient and heavily fortified structures. Seeing as these were so heavily built, they were capable of withstanding most shelling, so the young German felt slightly safer within walls such as these. As a cold wind blew through the doorway, it chilled Jochen almost to the extent that he'd drop the Machine Gun. But luckily, his strength came through, still keeping the gun steadily on his shoulder.
The soldiers finally made out onto the street, and whilst the ancient street itself was rather calm, rounds and shells could be heard off in the distance. The tiny column moved cautiously down the rubble-strewn road, or at least what was left of it. As they reached the end of the allegedly safe street, Oberleutnant Nehaus jerked his hand up into the air. His three subordinates stopped simultaneously, only moving to lean again the building parallel to them.
Silently, the soldier with the anti-tank weapon, said, "Ober-"
Nehaus quickly cut him off, "Shh!"
He began to move his head around the corner, to take a quick look. His eyes scanned the area for a couple seconds, but did not see anything out of the ordinary. Nehaus pulled his head back, and just stared at the ground, listening attentively, but heard nothing but the far-off sound of shells exploding. Oberleutnant Nehaus then gave the order to move again. Just as before, they moved with their heads down, and headed for a burnt out building across the street, with large pieces of rubble thrown out in front.
Jochen, with the MG on his shoulder, began to buckle once again as they darted towards the building. Luckily, as before on the stairs, he pulled through.
After mere seconds of moving from their former cover, they had reached the burnt out building. Silently, Nehaus ordered his three soldiers to take up positions behind the dirt and wreckage. Although puzzled as to why, they carried out the Oberleutnant's orders. Reinhard and Jochen had set up the machine gun on small mound, whilst the Panzerschreck armed SS soldier took cover just inside the building. This position was quite advantageous to this soldier, more so than Jochen and Reinhard's. Making sure that they were all prepared and in place, Nehaus was the last one to take cover, moving over to the anti-tank soldier.
Quietly, Jochen, who was feeding the belt of ammunition to Reinhard, said, "Why is he doing this? There aren't any Amis around!"
The young soldier was about to find out. As he looked forward, he could see four American soldiers advancing stealthily along the road, trying their best to stay as far as possible to the sidewalk. They don't even see us, thought Reinhard.
Inside the building, Nehaus turned to his comrade and spoke, "Udo, don't fire on them. Let the two with the machine gun get them."
Udo, the fourth soldier, and armed with a Panzerschreck, replied, "Even if I wanted to, Oberleutnant, there are no more rockets."
Nehaus nodded slightly in despair.
The soldiers all waited still, focused intensely on their enemies, much like an alligator allowing it's prey to get as close as possible before sealing it's fate.
Thoughts raced through Nehaus's mind.
Not even forty feet now…but we must let them get closer.
The Americans scoured the destroyed street intensely with their eyes, eagerly not wanting to be caught with their pants down. All seemed to be going according to Nehaus's plan, until one of the Americans caught a glimpse of something.
"What's that?" he said quietly, referring to the sun glinting off of the German machine gun.
He made a gesture to the gun, and at that moment, hell was unleashed onto the Americans. The MG-42, although low on ammo, completely ripped it's foes to shreds. Within a second, three of the Americans had been gunned down, while the other dove for cover behind a nearby car. Seeing a faint trail of blood leading up to the car, the Oberleutnant could tell that the Ami was hit. He stuck his hand over to Udo, who in turn handed him a grenade. Nehaus unscrewed the bottom of it, and with one great throw, the explosive was on its way. Three seconds passed, and an explosion erupted from behind the car.
The eerie still returned to the four soldiers. Jochen quickly turned his vision to the machine gun that he was feeding.
"How many are left?" asked Reinhard suddenly.
Jochen counted the stained bronze ammunition quickly, and then responded, "Only fourteen."
His companion clenched his teeth, and then turned to face Oberleutnant Nehaus at the window.
"Hold position, Oberleutnant?"
"Yes, wait for a minute."
Whilst this intensely long minute passed, the soldiers again checked their firearms. Reinhard shook his head in frustration, knowing that there was no need to carry around the machine gun with so few bullets. Knowing it would soon be out of ammunition, he moved his arm back slowly and grabbed his rifle, slung lazily over his arm. Reinhard cocked the bolt open, and inserted a five-bullet clip. With a slight clicking sound, it moved into place, and he snapped the bolt back into position. The young soldier rested it next to the MG-42, and grasped the sweaty grip of the machine gun once again.
Yet another thirty seconds passed, and the Oberleutnant finally gave the order to move. They packed up quickly, and within seconds, they were moving cautiously to the end of the block, marked by the ruins of what was once an apartment building. Not too far away, they could hear the terrible sounds of battle once more; men screaming, shells exploding, and the like.
The four soldiers halted slowly, taking cover behind one of the only remaining walls of the building. At the head of his men, Nehaus took a quick glance around the corner. Although he was a man of incredible bravery, even the strongest of us feel fear. The SS officer's fears were realized when he looked around the corner. A hundred meters or so away from their position were three American M10 heavy tanks. Although he could not see them off hand, Nehaus knew that a column like that was bound to have infantry along with them.
Nehaus thought, They just keep coming, don't they…
The Oberleutnant turned his head over his shoulder to look at his soldiers, dirtied and quivering slightly from the cold. He said nothing, but rather gave hand signs to signal what lay ahead. He then pointed to Reinhard and Jochen, and gave them a sign to go set up the MG-42 in a small roadside slit trench, a couple feet behind them. He then turned to Udo, who, whilst out of ammunition for the anti-tank gun, still had a handgun in his holster. The young, blonde haired soldier was ordered into the trench as well. Nehaus himself moved into a narrow alleyway behind the trench. Nehaus knew that there was absolutely no way they would have a chance against these Americans.
The other three knew it as well. Every second, every heartbeat, everything took an eternity. For the soldiers, it was simply waiting to die, and nothing else. Fear hung over them like a storm cloud.
Reinhard, with a shaky, fearful hand grabbed the small wooden cross dangling from his neck.
Bitte gott, bitte. I am asking for a miracle. Please let us get out of this…please let me get out of this.
Instead of hiding it under his tunic, he let the old crucifix dangle in the front of his green trench coat.
The moment he let go of the cross, Reinhard spotted a long green cylinder poking out from the corner; the main cannon of one of the American tanks. All sound fell silent, except for the sound of tank treads crunching over rubble.
The Germans prepared for the worst. They dared not to blink. They were nervous, but prepared to die defending the Fatherland.
As the first M10 of the column made a turn around the corner, something unexpected happened. To the astonishment of everyone, and shell, fired from the street, but a location unknown to the four soldiers. Nehaus's mouth gaped open from shock. Rolling down from the opposite side of the street were a pair of Tiger tanks, followed closely by an APC.
Every couple of seconds, one of the tanks would fire a shell. Most of the time the shells hit or came quite close, with these metal behemoths being confined to such a narrow battlefield. The Tiger tanks pressed on towards the American tanks, whilst they began to back up. More shells were exchanged, and flames erupted from the hatch of an M10. Burning tankers made their way out of the flame filled hatch, writhing in agony as the fire burned their flesh away. The survivors were quickly picked off by machine gun fire from the Tigers.
The other two tanks tried their best to keep retreating, although the German tanks' assault proved too much for them. They were both destroyed within a minute of each other. The American infantry took cover whereever they could, but most turned and simply ran for their dear lives.
Reinhard, along with his three other companions, were completely stunned. Thankful, but stunned. They watched attentively as the APC made it's way down their street, stopping not too far away from them. A German soldier poked his head topside, and caught a glimpse of the Germans huddled together in the trench. All four of the soldiers saw this, and watched as his head disappeared back into the APC. Moments later, a loud creaking sound erupted as the same soldier jumped out of the APC carefully.
"You in the trench! Get in!"
Nehaus was wary to let his soldiers go, due to the fact that the Tigers were still busy mopping up the rest of the American soldiers on the adjacent street.
"Pack up the Machine Gun," he said to Reinhard and Jochen, "and get to that transport."
The two didn't need to be asked again. The MG-42 was quickly packed up, and they made a bolt towards the APC. Nehaus and Udo watched as they hopped in the back, and they quickly followed. As the SS officer jumped into the back, the soldier who had appeared topside climbed aboard as well. He grabbed a handle on the door, and with a thud, the bullet-proof door was sealed.
Covered in sweat and caked with mud, Nehaus asked his rescuers, "Where is this APC headed?"
The young soldier, his dirty blonde hair also splashed with mud spat onto the ground before replying.
"Third Panzer Division HQ."
Reinhard, upon hearing this, looked at the low metal ceiling of the APC, and quietly said, "Gott sie dank…gott sie dank."
Waffen SS Kampfgruppen – A Nazi SS divison
Panzerschreck – German anti-tank rocket
"und das ist letzt" (German) – And that is final
Oberleutnant (German) –Head Lieutenant
"Jawohl, herr Oberleutnant." (German) – Yes sir (or indeed, it's a military answer), Lieutenant.
M10 Tank – American heavy tank
Tiger Tank – German heavy tank. It was one of, if the not the, strongest tank of the war
APC – Armoured Personnel Carrier