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Heinrich505

Stalingrad - Decent into Hell

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This is an AAR of sorts, using the Stalingrad mods so graciously provided to the community - all credit to the creators.  I thought it would be interesting to tell a story during one of the campaign battles.  The whole AAR is essentially a spoiler, so if you are planning to play the campaign, you might want to read this after you play the second battle.

And so, we turn to Stalingrad in November 1942.  The Russians are still holding out in places although much of the city is taken.  The battle begins.

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Initial Assault

 

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The men are anxious.  It is November and the Russian Winter is about to fall on them.  It was below freezing this morning when the Russians came at them.  They’ve been moving slowly through this cursed city of Stalingrad since September, watching their comrades cut apart, dying or being rushed away to hospital. 

They fought off a Russian attack earlier in the morning.  The enemy came at them in force and were quickly cut to pieces by accurate mortar fire and heavy machine guns.  But now the word comes through the lines – Counterattack. 

Officers and Feldwebels assure the men that the enemy is damaged and bleeding.  Now is the time to strike!  All the men can see is about 140 meters of open ground to dash across.  The spires of Gorki Theatre loom menacingly across the expanse.  The wind is blowing away from them so they can’t smell the dead…yet.

Casualties have been mounting ever since they fought their way through the suburbs.  Now the enemy will die in droves just to protect this ghastly pile of stone, rubble, and blood.  Many feel they are staring into the mouth of the abyss.

The squad leaders get the word – move forward slowly and in small groups.  They pass on the word, some barking angrily at the men, some giving quiet orders to move out.  Small groups of men wearily slip over the rubble and move forward, weapons gripped tightly.  Their squad leaders ease forwards as well, pointing the men towards landmarks.  They all anticipate that shot that will leave them dead in the ruins.

 

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Hauptmann Haas has an excellent vantage point.  He watches as the men move forward, tentatively.  The battlefield is quiet.  The Russians are holding fire.  He feels the tension tightening up his gut – it is always like this on the attack.  With a sickening feeling, he wonders what the days casualties will look like.  He keeps this to himself.  It is defeatist thinking; he can’t let on to the men about his worries.

Now he hears the roar of artillery.  Smoke rounds land all around Gorki Theatre.  In the distance to the right he can see some men silhouetted against the building smoke screen.  They must have moved very quickly.

The Oberst held back information about the smoke screen from the lower ranks, thinking the men would not move out aggressively if they knew smoke was coming.  He thought the men would just wait in the trenches until the smoke screen formed.  He wanted small groups of men moving out into the open to reveal enemy firing positions before the smoke fell.  But the enemy is not cooperating.  They held their fire.

 

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The initial squads are momentarily surprised by the sound of their own artillery dropping so close.  They go to ground fast, but then squad leaders see the smoke.  There is a welcome roar from the men – they didn’t expect a smoke screen but now their chances of survival have just gone up considerably.

The smoke does present a complication though.  The men on the right flank were being directed towards the far buildings.  Now they can’t see them, and their Feldwebel is not about to order them to rush blindly through the smoke and risk outrunning the protection.

The cry goes out, echoed through the smoke…To the theatre Männer, Schnell, Schnell!!!

The men need no further encouragement.  They break off their straight ahead flank movement and rush for the confines of the theatre.

 

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The second wave watches in amazement as their comrades advance.  There has been no fire from the Russians.  What is going on? they wonder. 

A new replacement blurts out nervously that perhaps the Russians have pulled out and left the field to them.  Two veterans give him withering looks of disapproval and he quickly sets to wiping an imaginary spot of dirt off the bolt of his weapon, instantly sorry he ever said anything.

Then “Der Alte,” the Old One, quietly growls “The Russians are there.  Bet your life on it, Junge.  They never retreat.  They kill or die.  You had best do the same.” 

The replacement shivers involuntarily.  Der Alte is always right about this sort of thing.  He might not play the card game Skat very well, but he lived through the First War and he has survived this long through the second.  On the rare occasions when he speaks, everyone, even the Leutnant, listens.

Now the word comes down.  Everyone is to rush the distance and hold up in the theatre.  No stopping, no slowing down.  If the Russians start shooting, keep going.  The replacement finds himself having trouble swallowing – his mouth is suddenly dry. 

Then the Leutnant is up and over the trench edge, yelling GO GO GO!  As one they all leap out of the cover of the trench and start their dash.  They are panting and breathing hard, hearts pounding with the rush of adrenaline and fear.  The replacement trips and falls but no one sees him in the dirt.  They are all running as fast as they can.  The replacement is up in a flash, the embarrassment of falling forgotten, sprinting and catching up fast.

 

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The men on the left flank look across the battlefield just before the second wave starts their sprint.  They are wishing they had the benefit of the smoke for their advance. 

 

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Vossen peers out from his perch on the left flank.  No smoke for them.  His movements are slow and deliberate, never fast.  He has been a sniper for quite a while now.  He is the first one the enemy shoots for, once discovered.  He has lived this long because he is very good at his craft, very good at not getting discovered. 

He can see the assault squads moving forward in the shadow of one of the ruined high rise buildings.  He has his eye on the three story building facing him directly.  It has a perfect line of sight for any advancing troops.  That is where I would set up, he thinks. 

He stays back in the shadows, slowly easing himself out for a view.  He will wait for his assault squads to move and watch for any enemy fire.  They will give themselves up to him and he will make them pay. 

 

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The men have now made it to the safety of the Gorki Theatre.  It was quite a dash, but no one was shot and everyone is laying in the rubble, catching their breath.  The smoke is still heavy, masking the men in the rooms just beyond them.

The Russians have not fired a single shot during their dash.  They can hear gunshots though.  It is coming from the left flank.  Bad for them, the men think.  They take comfort in the pulsing exhaust coming from the light tank just outside their building.

Tanks are good for two main reasons.  They provide good cover fire, and they are bullet magnets.  If the enemy is shooting at the tanks, they aren’t shooting at the infantry.  Yes, this is a good thing.

 

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The men bunch up in the safety of the walls.  Squad leaders now strain their eyes, peering through the smoke to try and make out possible enemy positions.  One man keeps eyes to the rear.  The damn Russkies are so sneaky that they hide in the rubble and then back-shoot when they get the chance. 

This amazes the men, because the Russian will open fire with no possible escape route, with only one purpose – to die taking as many Germans with them as they can.  This way of thinking is so foreign to the men.  The enemy would rather die than surrender.

 

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One squad leader eases himself up to the gaping windows, peering down the rubbled street.  The dead city is sucking them in deeper, deep into the Hell it has become.  Will any of them come out of this alive? he wonders.  The streets beckon, urging the men on to their deaths, canyons of perfect ambushes.

And now the enemy starts shooting.  They are in many hiding places, and their fire is fierce.  The distance is close, barely 30 meters for this particular wide street.  The side streets are even narrower.

The men answer with coordinated fire.  Squad leaders and Feldwebels direct their fire.  The Russians have so many submachine guns that their volume of fire is prodigious.  The Germans answer with streams of MG 34 machine gun fire, backed up with accurate rifle fire.  They are proud veterans of the 71st, the Cloverleaf division.  They know their craft and they get down to business.

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Looking forward to the AAR. Perfect timing for this time of the year. I know it should not matter. But it's cool anyway.

Kevin

PS Congrats on the 1000 posts! 

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Follow Up and Flank Attacks

 

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The tank commander eases up through the smoke screen.  His firepower is needed to reduce the enemy strongpoints.  A guard still watches the rear from a second story window, always waiting for the Russian to emerge from a pile of rubble and attack from the rear.

 

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Vossen watches as the assault squads move cautiously forward on the left flank.  Gunfire erupts from the East Block, just where he expected it to happen.  Two men are down – was one of them Steckelberg? He likes Steckelberg.

Vossen takes careful aim where he saw the gun flashes.  There is at least a machine gun on the second floor.  He waits and when the flashes start again, he fires right at them. 

He won’t know if he hit anyone unless the rate of fire becomes less.  His peripheral vision picks up movement and he sees the men dragging their wounded back to work on them.  Verdammt Arschlöscher he breathes as he smoothly manipulates the bolt. 

Now he catches a glimpse of movement through his scope – the enemy is moving their heavy machine gun.  He has a target.  Smooth trigger pull…the weapon bucks against his shoulder, just an extension of his whole self.  He imagines he hears the scream, but the gout of blood from behind the gun screen is no imagination, a momentary glimpse of wet glistening spray seen through his scope.  He has “touched” one of them.  The enemy fire from that position decreases noticeably. 

 

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Hammerstein hears the screams of German troops through the burned out shells of the buildings.  He had been working his men up on the other side, supporting the left flank, but now he knows they have to cut through and try to flank.  He runs fast through the rubble, taking daring chances of running into an ambush, his men pounding through the rubble right behind him. 

He feels momentary comfort, knowing his men have such total trust in his judgement.  They are making so much noise, stumbling and falling through the broken pieces of what was once a nice apartment building, that any nearby enemy troops would be drawn to them in a shot.  Still, he has to take the chance and his men trust his judgement.

They crawl up onto a pile of rubble and now they have a vantage point.  He opens fire and hears his MG gunner open fire moments later.  They hose down the corner of the enemy position, hoping to cover Steckelberg’s men until they can recover and join in with covering fire.

 

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The Oberst cannot see what is happening in the battle any more.  The smoke has obscured any traces of movement.  He has to trust that his officers are taking over for him.  His radio operator has contact with several of the HQ units, but reports are garbled. 

There is strong enemy fire reportedly coming from the street across from the theatre.  This was to be expected.  There are no units working their way up the right flank.  This was not expected.  They apparently curled inwards and are holed up in the theatre as well.

Still, reports are coming back that their firepower is needed right where they are, and any further movement on the right flank would have met strong enemy machine gun fire, without any benefit of the smoke screen.

Word from the left flank is grim.  He hears that Leutnant Model is down, along with Squad Leader Steckelberg.  Casualties are mounting on the left flank.  He orders the tank on the left side to reverse course and provide the left flank with a base of firepower.  It is all he can do.  There are no reserves.  He ordered them all forward on the dash across the center.

 

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The men are firing intermittently now.  There is reduced fire coming from across the wide street.  Their firepower is winning the battle here. 

Leutnant Kramer is agitated and uneasy, impatient for action.  He is calling out orders left and right, pointing to this man or that man and giving him instructions. 

This is not how it is done.  The Leutnant gives his Feldwebels orders, and the Feldwebels designate the men for the task.  But it appears to the men that the Leutnant is looking for decorations; certainly he is hunting for an eisernes Kreuz. 

Several men are directly ordered to assault across the street.  Their Feldwebel stands beside them, helpless to intervene but glaring daggers at the Leutnant.

Suddenly Hauptmann Haas is there, his quiet presence immediately calming the men.  They wonder why that is so, but every time the Hauptmann shows on scene, things get better for the men.  They look at him with gratitude in their eyes.  

The Hauptmann’s medal, the German Kreuz in gold, shines on the breast of his uniform.  They know it is for acts of continuous bravery in combat.  The veterans respect this award even more than the Knights Cross, because they know it is earned through combat down in the trenches, with them.  This officer is not afraid to be shot at or get dirty.  They respect that more than anything else.   

The Hauptmann belays Leutnant Kramer’s orders and asks the Leutnant to reconnoiter upstairs to report to him any further enemy positions.  Kramer gives him a quick salute and hurries for the stairs. 

Hauptmann Haas silently berates Kramer for the salute.  If he lives through this battle, he will take the Leutnant aside and speak with him about this...again.  Officers are being told to disguise their uniforms and not encourage salutes from the men, because so many of them are being shot by Russian snipers.

He wonders for a moment if Kramer is doing this on purpose – if he gets shot, then Kramer takes over for him.  Then he dismisses this idea, because he himself is not following regulations.  He is wearing his officer’s cap instead of a helmet.  This makes him an even bigger target than just receiving a salute.

If the Oberst saw him like this…well, next time he will heed his Funker’s advice.  His radio operator was giving him dark and disapproving looks in the trench.  He makes another mental note to wear the brain bucket next time.

Hauptmann Haas now speaks quietly with several Feldwebels.  They are told that a team must rush the street and ferret out any enemy positions in the buildings facing them.  The decision is left to them.

Feldwebel Anselm turns and gives the nod to his scout team, Gojowy and Fischer.  In turn they look at one another and nod – they knew it was coming.

Gojowy wears the stripes.  Their squad leader fell in the earlier Russian attack.  He had to take over.  He and Fischer are highly experienced.  They were both Foresters before the war and they are expert hunters.  While their earlier experience was working through forests, they have both excelled in adapting to working their way through folds in the rubble and easing quietly through burned out city buildings. 

Gojowy wears the Nahkampfspange, the Close Combat Clasp in gold, meaning he’s been involved in 50+ battles involving close infantry combat.  He is highly respected for this award.

 

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The Hauptmann comes over to speak quietly with Gojowy and Fischer, while they adjust their equipment and prepare for what could likely be a dash into a hail of bullets.  He offers them some quiet words of encouragement, but tells them not to start their rush until they are ready.  He then orders the rest of the men to target possible enemy positions and provide covering fire on his order. 

Gojowy and Fischer peer out from a broken window.  Their view is not very promising, but it is “only” thirty meters.  Fischer smiles and tells Gojowy it shouldn’t be much more than a walk in the park.  It is a quiet joke the two of them share in particularly grim moments like this.

 

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Hauptmann Haas orders the gunfire to begin.  Gojowy looks to the Hauptmann, and receives a gentle nod.  Gojowy looks at Fischer and smiles, then tells Fischer to “catch me if you can.”  He is out the door, heart in his mouth, and he hears the clatter of Fischer’s boots right behind him.  Fischer pants “I’m gaining on you” and Gojowy smiles despite the insanely dangerous situation.

 

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There is still no gunfire from the Russians.  A sheet of flame is coming from the German positions, so this must be keeping the Russkies’ heads down.  They are almost to cover, blood pumping through their heads so hard that they can hardly hear the gunfire roaring over their heads.  Legs pump hard and fast.  At any moment shots will ring out, ending their lives amidst the dirt, rubble, and carnage of this dying city.

 

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And…they have made it.  Unbelievable.  They scan the destroyed interior of the building they have run up against.  It had enemy gunfire coming from it earlier.  They look for bodies.  Must be on the upper floors, unless they all fled to safety. 

It takes a few moments for them to regain their physiology, to slow their heartbeats, and take careful stock of the cavernous interior of this store front.  Gojowy peers quickly at his watch and is amazed to see that they have only been in action for about fifteen minutes.

 

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Gojowy gives the signal, pumping his arm up and down fast.  The Hauptmann sees this and immediately orders an assault squad forward.  The men were waiting for this, and now they stream across the wide open street, again partially covered from the MG 34 positions on the upper floors.

The Hauptmann realizes that he is holding his breath as the men dash across the street.  The enemy again does not fire – either they are dead or they are expecting to ambush when his men rush into the buildings.  He hopes it is the former.

 

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Obergefreiter Schüpe sees the squads rushing across the street on the right side unmolested, so he makes a spot decision to rush his men across on the left side.  He doesn’t clear this with the Hauptmann – he doesn’t have to.  He makes a command decision based on the tactical situation that presents itself.

His men instantly react to his order to rush, and several get out the door before him.  He usually leads the charge, as befits his rank, but he was caught off guard by the enthusiasm of his men.  Despite the covering fire, one Russian takes a chance, winding up with a grenade.

 

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Schüpe doesn’t see the grenade as it flies from the second floor.  In fact, no one in the stream of men sees death coming for them.

 

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Schüpe runs right into the deadly blast.  He never felt a thing.  He dies fast in the filth and rubble of this evil city.

 

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The man directly behind Schüpe is splashed with blood and gore from the body of his squad leader, but he never misses a beat and sprints right through the bloody carnage that once was his friend. 

 

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He is only nicked by some of the deadly shrapnel.  His squad leader saved his life and never knew it.  Such is the capriciousness of war.

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Central Assault and Clean-Up

 

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The Oberst hears a scream from the sky.  He knew that Stukas were in the area.  He didn’t know if they would assist.  Now that his men are already closely engaged, he doesn’t want the Stukas.  “Get the Verdammt Luftwaffe on the line,” he orders his Funker.  “Tell them to back…”  He never finishes the sentence as his words are overwhelmed by an enormous blast.  Several buildings disappear in a gigantic explosion. 

“Were any of my men in that?” he wonders aloud.  Now he hears his radio man screaming into the headset to HQ, telling them that the Stukas are hitting their men.  He has a sinking feeling that he is too late. 

 

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The Stukas are usually cheered by the men.  But, not when they are so damned close.  The tankers feel their vehicle rocked by the incredible force of the blast.  They can’t imagine anyone surviving that gout of flame.  They had suppressed some Russian machine gunners in that area – surely those are gone after this.

 

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Rheinhart’s men rush the second floor of the building where the grenade was thrown.  Hampel has taken over his squad from his dead friend Schüpe and their orders were to secure the first floor.  He reorganizes his men and they search for Russians on the first floor while Rheinhart leads his men up the stairs to the second floor.

Rheinhart himself is first up the stairs, where he surprises a Russian tending to wounded comrades. 

 

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Rheinhart kneels and takes out the Russian soldier with several rifle shots.  It is vengeance for Schüpe.  The Russian dies atop the wounded man he was tending.  Rheinhart and his men clear the next floors.  All the Russians are dead, dying, or gone.

 

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Steckelberg is not dead.  He is wounded and bleeding, but he is very much alive.  He leads the remains of his assault squad on the left flank into the five story work hall, known as the East Block.  There was no fire coming from this building earlier.  He has a bad feeling about the place.  It is too quiet.

Brandt eases Steckelberg aside.  He can see his squad leader is laboring and not as alert, from blood loss.  Brandt takes the lead, quietly heading up the stairs.  They have entered the building from the adjacent one, slipping through a large hole in one of the main walls.

They are silent – their squad leader has trained them well.  They’ve tied loose equipment tight, so there is no jangle of metal gas mask cans or water bottles. 

Brandt steps up the stairs, one at a time, gently putting weight on each step, making sure there is no wood creaking to give away his approach.  It all pays off – he sees a Russian, maybe an officer, peering through binoculars out the rear of the building on the second floor.

 

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Brandt takes careful aim, and then rips off two shots, manipulating the bolt smoothly for each shot.  They are both torso shots, ripping through the body of the Russian.  The enemy goes down fast. 

 

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As Brandt pulls off his shots, he hears Messer scream in pain and topple over. 

Where did the shot come from? he wonders.  The ceiling above them has numerous gaps and holes.  It must have come from the ceiling directly above Messer.

 

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Brandt ducks as many Russian soldiers now reveal their positions.  The one that must have shot Messer is quickly relocating away from that area.  Smooth, thinks Brandt.  That is what I would have done.

 

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Brandt rises up and draws a bead on the moving Russian.  He tracks him and fells him with a single shot.  The Russian drops without a sound.  Brandt doesn’t know if the enemy is playing dead or really out of the fight, but there are many more moving around and he doesn’t have time to waste on possibilities.

 

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Koll now lines up on one of the Russian soldiers, just visible through a gap in the ceiling.  He fires and hits as Brant cycles another round into his weapon and fires up the stairs.  His target makes a loud grunt and drops.  Brandt can see the blood pooling on the floor to the side of the body.

 

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Koll shouts a warning, Vorsicht!!!  Brandt knows it must be from above.  There is no time to react.  He knows they are all dead men.

 

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Brandt starts moving fast, towards the stairwell in front of him.  Out of the corner of his eye he sees Koll, streaking like lightning up the stairwell to his right.  He feels the shot that misses him.  Close is all he gives himself the time to think. 

He barely hears the scream of pain behind him.  His adrenaline is flowing faster than ever before.  It is affecting his hearing as some of his senses start to shut down to counter the possible danger.  His eyesight seems to be sharper than ever though.  

Who was it back there?  Dahl?  Becker?

He pounds up the stairs and glimpses Koll doing the same thing, on the companion stairway.  What horror are they rushing up into?  It must be certain death.

 

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Brandt makes it up the stairs in time to see Koll firing his rifle point blank into the gut of a Russian soldier.  He knows Koll has that part of the floor covered, so he quickly sweeps the rest of the floor.  There are only dead or dying Soviet soldiers.  He has no pity for them. 

One Russian looks up at him as blood pumps out of his chest wound.  His face is grey as death approaches quickly.

Brandt yells in his face, “Why don’t you just give up?  WHY???  What is worth dying for in this Hellhole?”

The Russian closes his eyes and quietly dies.

Brandt is breathing heavily, as is Koll.  They give themselves just a moment to recover, and then they rush down the stairs to tend to the wounded.  Steckelberg is already trying to stem the bleeding from Dahl’s shoulder wound.

“The building is ours,” he announces to Steckelberg.  But at what cost? he quietly thinks to himself.

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Push to the Warehouses and Second Objectives

 

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Leutnant Kramer has tried to take charge of the center assault group.  He wants to push the men towards the next objective, known as the South Warehouses.

Instead, Hauptmann Hoffmann orders Kramer to call in a mortar strike on the Meat Processing Plant.  Kramer bristles at this, knowing he is being shunted to the side, but he bites his lip and gives the Hauptmann a crisp Ja Wohl! Herr Hauptmann.  He pulls aside his radioman and starts angrily calling in the coordinates.

Hoffmann orders several units forwards through adjoining buildings, intending to have them form up a fire group in a burned out three story building that should serve as a good spring board towards the warehouses.

The scouts, Gojowy and Fischer, are the forward elements and they lead the way.  They ease into the building, first quietly clearing the ground level, then working their way slowly up to the second floor.  They are good, very good, and from the second floor they can also clear the third floor, carefully and silently peering through the gaps in the ceiling and up the stairs.

Fischer gives Gojowy a look of caution.  He mutters something about this being a very bad place.  Gojowy has always trusted Fischer’s intuition, and he turns to give hand signals to the other units to hold up.  He feels it now, an overwhelming sense of dread.  Every time he has felt this, it was time to get the hell out fast.

Apparently their caution is not in keeping with Hoffmann’s timetable.  The Hauptmann has been constantly looking at his watch and believes they need to pick up the pace on their attack.  Things have been going fairly well for his area of attack.

Feldwebel Blauvert sees Gojowy giving warning signs.  He stops his men in the lee of the building and looks back to the window where the Hauptmann is watching.   The Hauptmann impatiently waves him forward.  He turns and rushes into the building, despite Gojowy’s warning. 

Von Blücher and Zall rush along with them, lugging their MG 34.  They’ve been told to set up fast on the third floor when Gojowy clears it.  Eight men rush into the building and then pound up the stairs fast, with von Blücher and Zall bulling past everyone and rushing to the third floor.

Blauvert and his men push past Gojowy and Fischer, taking up positions against the blown out windows.  Gojowy and Fischer had been laying back from the windows, as they were going to spend some time watching the building across from them for possible enemy movement.  Fischer gives Gojowy a look of dread…

…and the world explodes!!!

Hauptmann Hoffmann sees the Meat Packing Plant and the building closest to his “jumping off” point suddenly flare up with tracers and automatic weapons.

Gojowy and Fischer hear agonized screams and are sprayed with fountains of blood as Blauvert’s men are literally ripped apart by concentrated Russian fire.  The second floor becomes worse than a slaughterhouse – all that movement on the floor and Blauvert’s men taking up positions around the gaping windows drew down the attention of the hidden Russians.

Gojowy and Fischer act on instinct alone.  In one fell movement they literally throw themselves down the stairs behind them.  Bruised and partially dazed, they are safe on the ground floor, for now.

Von Blücher and Zall see the horror open up in front of them, realize they are next, and they race down the stairs, still carrying the MG 34.  There is so much blood on the second floor that they both slip and fall through the stairway opening, landing on the ground floor besides Gojowy and Fischer.  That is all that saves them from becoming casualties as well.

In one minute there are five men dead or horribly wounded.  Teichert is the sole survivor, protected from the hail of gunfire by the bodies of what used to be his living, breathing friends, just seconds before.  He is covered with gore and manages to slide down the bloody stairs to lie quietly besides von Blücher and the others.

The Hauptmann stares in horror at the carnage – his mouth frozen open with words he cannot speak.  His HQ unit stare accusingly at him.  He cannot look them in the eyes.

 

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Hauptmann Haas and his HQ unit ease down the side street, intending to come into the Meat Processing Plant from the opposite side from where Hoffmann is located.  Faulk leads the way, radio set and all.  Haas is always impressed at how much his HQ tries to take care of him.

They also have a tank for support.  Haas is amazed at how daring the tank commander is.  It is so easy for the Russians to attack armor in the city.  His men speed up a bit to cover the tank from flank attack.

 

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Uldall and Das Biest are working their way down the left flank now.  They lost Hans earlier, cut down by Russians on their approach to the East Block.  It is just the two of them now, and a tank that is tagging along.

Why Uldall is doing this, he really can’t say.  He is the last squad leader uninjured, from the left flank attack group.  Steckelberg is staying behind in the East Block, as he is really too wounded to continue.

Uldall got this weird feeling of invincibility about 10 minutes ago, and now he finds himself part of a two man wrecking crew that is dashing from cover to cover, still working their way towards their second and last objective, the Southeast Corner.

As to his partner, he only knows him as The Beast.  Perhaps it is because he came from a farm.  Maybe it is because he is huge and never loses a fight. 

Someone said that it took seven of the Feld Gendarmerie to wear him out when he started a fight at one of the brothels set up behind the lines a year or so ago.  Rumor is the “Chain Dogs” gave him the title The Beast.  Uldall is glad to have The Beast on his side.

They dance down the street, dashing from rubble pile to rubble pile.  The tank commander is leapfrogging with them, so they cover the tank, and then the tank covers them.

 

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Uldall sees The Beast stop fast and motion quickly and urgently to the right.  They heard gunfire from the next street over as they were advancing.  Now The Beast has seen a threat. 

Uldall drops and eases up to look into the building through a shattered window.  Now he sees the threat.  It is a Russian soldier, but his back is to them, evidently the recipient of the gunfire from the next street over.

 

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There is no hesitation in Uldall’s movements.  He quickly jams the barrel of the MG 34 he is lugging through the window and pulls the trigger, riding the kick to keep the rounds on target.  He is now glad that he made everyone, including himself, train on the machine gun so that any of them could pick it up and hit what they were shooting at.

There is a golden cascade of spend shell casings flying from the weapon as the Russian is cut to pieces. 

Uldall gives The Beast a wave, thanking him for spotting the threat so quickly.

 

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The advance continues on the next street over from Uldall.  A second assault squad rushes down the opposite side of the street from Hauptmann Haas.  The dead body of Squad Leader Schüpe lies unattended in the rubble.  Graves Registration might come by to break the identity disk in half and remove the body.  Might…

 

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Rounds suddenly erupt from two locations along the street.  Squads caught in the open rush for cover in the nearby buildings.  Hauptmann Haas and his HQ unit duck into cover, keeping their eyes out for enemies who would attack the tank.

The tank commander sees a Russian on the upper floor of the nearby building and he has his crew open up on that floor, to suppress the enemy and give his infantry brothers the chance to gain cover.  Some are running into the ground floor of the very building he his suppressing.

At the same time, fire comes from in front of the tank, out of the building that faces his bow.  The radio operator immediately opens fire on the hidden Russian.

 

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Teichert manages to slip back upstairs to try and mend his wounded comrades.  Hoffmann’s HQ unit managed to direct fire against both the Meat Processing Plant and the enemy positions across from the “jumping off” building, possibly reducing them.  Only sporadic fire has some from them since then.

Hoffmann also busied himself by calling in smoke from the mortars, trying to save face among the men by protecting them with a strong smoke screen.  This came too late for yet another assault squad that tried to move up on the opposite side of the building.

Feldwebel Schuell worked his way up from the right flank buildings and provided covering fire so that others could tend to the wounded outside the building.  Teichert continues his lonely task, breaking identity disks in half and comforting his wounded friends. 

To Teichert’s left, the Meat Processing Plant can be seen through the eyeless windows. 

Leutnant Kramer was not able to stand by and be a spectator any longer.  He and his HQ dashed through the smoke screen and into the building adjacent to the Meat Processing Plant.  They made it alive with 5 rifle rounds, two grenades, and a single round in Kramer’s pistol.  His radio operator is sure Kramer has lost his mind. 

 

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Gojowy and Fischer find themselves rushing from the charnel house into a dense smoke screen, heading towards the location of the enemy fire that ripped apart the men on the second floor.  They move forward quickly, but not recklessly.  They are deliberate in their actions, stopping from time to time to listen for signs of the enemy.  They are hunting – it is what they do best.

 

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The two men slip silently into the skeleton of what was once a warehouse.  They instantly fan out, moving across the rubble but never making a sound.  They are like whispering death, but they don’t find any enemy soldiers.  The enemy has faded away into the smoke screen.  Just as well, Gojowy thinks to himself.

Now they scan the buildings across from them for any enemy movement.

 

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Hauptmann Haas checks his ammunition supply.  He strips out several rounds from his last magazine and shares them with his second.  The two of them now have four pistol rounds each.  The radio man, Faulk, only has eight rounds left for his rifle.  There isn’t much they are going to be able to do with what they have left, Haas thinks to himself ruefully.

The tank across the street finished off the Russian that was hiding inside the building, and now it idles, waiting for the next leap up the street, or the next Russian to open fire.

Haas tells the men that they will have to advance and try to scavenge more ammunition.  They are in dire straits, with nothing much to defend themselves with.

 

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Keller is actually in the Meat Processing Plant.  He and his men rushed in there when they were fired upon from the third floor as well as from down the side street.  He lost one man earlier, and Eichler is wounded, but otherwise, they are in pretty good shape.  They have plenty of ammunition.

Keller has his men fire down the street for a few minutes.  There is a tank right at the corner a block away, and that quieted any enemy fire from the floors above, but he is sure the Russians are still up there.  It is time to find out.

Eichler slaps Keller on the shoulder and points.  A German soldier is rushing from cover, assaulting into the next block.  Keller mutters that it must be one of Gefreiter Wolf’s boys.  A shot rings out from above, but it misses the running soldier.  The lucky soldier is seen in the upper right corner of the picture.

That confirms it.  Keller knows the enemy is still holed up on the floors above him.

“Come on Landsers,” he whispers.  “You wanna live forever?”

The men laugh quietly at this familiar joke.  They grip their weapons tighter and get ready for the rush.  Adrenaline is already flowing through their systems.   

 “Oh, and will someone please bandage up Eichler?  He is looking a little pale.”

 

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And then they are moving, fast but not too fast.  They are amazingly quiet though, sifting through the second floor with typical German efficiency.

It is then that Schultz spots the Russian – he is aiming his rifle out the window to try and snipe Wolf’s troops and he doesn’t see the threat from the stairs.  Schultz fires twice and the Russian is down.  The men rush the third floor but there are no other soldiers up here.

They are panting with exertion but they are smiling the smiles of men who faced death and survived, yet again.

 

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Keller hears the tank revving its engine and he and the men ease up to the windows.  They see the tank making the corner and then firing at one of the buildings down the narrow street.  They open fire on the same target.

Keller notices that gunfire is coming from the building across the street, where Wolf and his boys were dashing.  There is a huge pile of dead Russian soldiers in the street.  Keller doesn’t know who got them.  Maybe it was the tank.  Maybe it was Wolf’s lads.  He knows for sure that the dead Russians don’t care.

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End Game

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Fricke and his assault squad take up positions in the building that caused so much trouble for Blauvert.  He is joined there by Oberfeldwebel Kruge.  They spot enemy soldiers across the street hiding in a blown up building.  These must have been some of the ones who ripped up Blauvert and his men.

Kruge directs their fire and one Russian is cut down.  His comrades then cut and run for better cover. 

Fricke finds a dead Russian machine gunner on the second floor of the building they are in.

 

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For the past few minutes, Uldall and The Beast have been holed up in the building just across the street from their last objective.  Through hand signals, Uldall has gotten the tank commander to repeatedly fire on the building.  There has been no return fire for about 5 minutes now, and Uldall is cranking up the courage to charge into the building.

It is just the two of them, and Uldall has the MG 34.  This is not much firepower to try and assault a building that might be full of Russians, but things have been fairly quiet.  He can hope that all the occupants are dead.

The Beast says something unintelligible and points out the side window.  Uldall sees Bunning and Troessel. 

Where did they come from?  They were back at the East Block about 10 minutes ago.  Damn, Steckelberg must have sent them forward looking for him.  Then they saw the tank and figured things were going well, so they moved up faster.

Uldall wants to wait just a few more minutes before rushing the building.  He wants the tank to fire on it some more. He waves at Bunning to hold back.

Bunning keeps on coming at a fast charge.  He has Troessel toting the machine gun right behind him.  They dash into the building.

Uldall shouts at them and starts to launch himself to follow them.  His arm is caught by The Beast and he is roughly yanked back to the ground.  He looks into The Beast’s face and sees caution.  “We wait and watch” is all he says.  Something about the tone of The Beast’s voice makes him stay silent, and he turns to watch the building across the street, staring at the open door frame leading into the darkness that just swallowed his friends.

 

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Uldall hears Troessel’s shout of alarm.  Dammit, there are still Russians inside the building.  He gives a quick glance at The Beast and sees him nod, as if acknowledging Uldall’s thoughts.  He looks back at the building and feels sick.

Bunning turns quickly when he hears Troessel, seeing the big machine gun elevating towards an opening in the ceiling.  The room is close and cluttered.  He hears movement upstairs.  They have charged into a nest of them. 

 

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With sick realization, Bunning and Troessel spot many Russians on the second floor.  They begin the fight for their lives and hope doesn’t have a chance to enter their thoughts.  It is kill or be killed – survival instincts take over.

 

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Troessel rips a burst off from the MG and hears a scream from upstairs.  He doesn’t hear a Russian SMG opening up on him.  He never sees the shots that take him down.  There is no time to scream.  It is simply light out.  One moment he was there and the next he is no longer.

Bunning has time to shout “Nooooooo” as he opens up with his rifle.  He is badly outgunned as his comrade falls with the machine gun.  The tide has turned but there is nothing left to do but run the bolt back and feed the next round into his rifle.

 

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Troessel limply falls to his side as Bunning rips round after round up the stairs.  He thinks he can actually hear the kling of SMG rounds ringing off the ceiling above him as enemy bullets rip up wood and furniture all around him.  Why hasn’t he been hit yet? 

 

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Bunning thinks he hears the thud of another body upstairs.  He is busy running the bolt back to load the next round.

 

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Then he is suddenly punched to the ground.  He knows it must be rounds.  He has never been shot before but he has heard what it is supposed to feel like.

His arms no longer work and he watches in slow motion as his rifle falls from his hands.  He can do nothing to prevent this.  The room tilts sideways and now he is looking at the wall.  He feels a wetness beneath his uniform and a pain that is so intense that he cannot even scream. 

Am I dying?  Will anyone find me?  Mein Gott, please don’t let the rats get me before I die. 

He hears scrabbling around on the ceiling above.  It must be the Russians.  He wonders if they will come downstairs and finish him off.  Part of him hopes they do – he cannot imagine a horror greater than having rats start chewing on his face while he lies helpless, unable to stop them.

He forces himself to think about home, his parents, the small garden in the back yard, a girlfriend that will never see him again…and he passes out.

 

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The Feldwebel is urging the men on, but they are tired and sick of fighting.  They have lost so many men now that assault squads are more or less two to three men, always one carrying the machine gun, their only equalizer to the Russian subguns.

Teichert has finished mending the fallen comrades from his squad and he is there with the others, holding the MG 34 that was carried by his close friend, Stahl.  Tears have run down his grimy face, streaking through the dirt.  His face is set in hard anger.

The replacement sees all this.  He has stayed as close to Der Alte as possible.  If anyone is going to survive in this Hell, it will be Der Alte, and the replacement is hedging his bets by attaching his star to that man.

The tank that has attached itself to them is just outside their warehouse.  It has been firing constantly down the street at a Russian strongpoint.  Fire from that position caused one of their casualties but he is being patched up.

The replacement feels the clotted blood around his neck and shoulder.  He was grazed by a Russian round when they charged madly after the two scouts, rushing through the smoke.  The Russians fired blindly into the smoke and they got him.  He didn’t yell out.  He just kept running.

Der Alte now roars out, “Feldwebel Kruge, we will give you one more warehouse – the one across the street.  And then, we are done for the day.”

Kruge knows not to argue with Der Alte.  “Deal,” he shouts, a smile creasing the dirt on his face.  “Männer…rally to Der Alte!”

Suddenly there is a collective roar.  The replacement is roaring too, not knowing what he is yelling.  Der Alte scrambles to his feet and everyone follows.  Some are firing their weapons at the warehouse that is just barely 25 meters across the street. 

The replacement charges ahead, overcome with the excitement of the charge.  He hears Russian weapons firing, and he thinks he fires his rifle too.  He sees the broad back of Der Alte right in front of him and he stays close.  He tries to fire again but the trigger won’t pull.  He is confused, but he keeps on running.  Damn jammed rifle.

A grey-green tide rushes across the street and into the warehouse, led by Der Alte and the replacement, with Kruge bringing up the rest of the charge, herding the other men forward.  The replacement sees Klaus scream and clutch at his chest as a hail of Russian machine gun bullets rip through the warehouse and into their charge.

The replacement instinctively drops to the floor, broken glass and plaster everywhere.  Concrete dust is kicked up in fountains as the Russian machine gunner desperately sprays the interior of the warehouse. 

The replacement is panicked.  Where are the enemy?  Why can’t I see them?  The threat, where the Hell is it?   He wants to fire his rifle at the enemy but he has no idea where they are – besides, it is jammed.  He is about to jump up and run back…this is just insane madness…they are all going to die here and never have a chance to fight back…

 

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“GRENADE!” roars Der Alte.   He has reached his empty hand back right into the replacement’s face. 

Instantly the replacement knows what Der Alte wants.  His panic is quelled as his training kicks in.  He rips a grenade from where he tucked it under his belt and slaps the handle into Der Alte’s hand.  He has already partially unscrewed the cap, so it can be removed quicker and the arming cord pulled.

Der Alte never looks back.  He has the target in sight and he expertly removes the cap, arming the grenade and then cocking his arm back to throw it through the rear window of the warehouse.

 

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The grenade flies gently out the window and towards a two-man Russian MG team.  The replacement buries his face into the dirt and rubble, making himself small behind his helmet and waiting for the shrapnel that might blow back at them. 

 

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The grenade goes off…the screams of the Russians pierce the sudden stillness.  Then silence, rolling over them like a runaway train.  It sounds so foreign, so unreal. 

“You’ve got your building, Feldwebel Kruge,” announces Der Alte.  “Now, where is the Schnapps?”

Kruge is still grinning.  “Danke, Til,” he replies.  “Let me see what I can rustle up.”

Kruge is the only one who is allowed to use Der Alte’s first name.  They go way back.  The replacement has never heard Der Alte called anything else until just now.

The replacement is starting to sit up.  He is panting with exertion, wondering if he will ever catch his breath, wondering just how he managed to survive so far.  Adrenaline is still pounding in his head, and he is just now aware that his fellow comrades are laughing and pounding each other on the back.  Surviving combat is a wonderful thing.  Being alive is a wonderful thing.

He looks down at his rifle and sees the bolt is back.  It didn’t jam after all.  He was pulling the trigger and nothing was happening but that was because in all the confusion he had not run the bolt forward to feed another round into the chamber.  What a dummkopf he is. 

He looks up with horror.  Has anyone noticed this? he wonders.

Der Alte is sitting beside him, looking right at his rifle.  The replacement is horror-struck.  Such a critical mistake – he could have cost lives, including his own.  What will Der Alte say?

The man quietly reaches over, covers the bolt with his hand, and then gently draws the bolt forward feeding a round into the chamber.  No one sees this.  They are all busy yelling and congratulating one another at surviving the battle.

He says “Junge, we make a grenadier out of you yet.”  He is smiling at the replacement, and then he nods and winks.  He says nothing about the bolt.  “Maybe I teach you to play cards as well as me!”

This brings a roar from the men nearby, and then the replacement is being pounded on the back and congratulated.  He realizes that he has been allowed to cross some invisible line by the men around him, especially Der Alte.  He will follow that man through the burning fires of Hell, if need be.

 

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Hauptmann Haas now has a rifle.  He and his HQ had to crawl out into the courtyard to get rifles and ammunition from the dead.  He tries not to think about the dead man whose rifle he now carries.  The man was clinging to the rifle so tightly, even in death.  Haas had to pry the man’s bloody fingers off the weapon.

Haas knows that the men are about at their limit.  Almost all the objectives have been taken.  The men can only do so much.  Then they will have to stop.  He moves forward into the Meat Processing Plant.

 

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Uldall has been watching the building 12 meters to his front.  There have been no sounds from there since Bunning and Troessel charged in.  The tank has fired some more into the building.  He has no idea if it had any effect. 

He converses quietly with The Beast.  They will have to charge in, but they need a plan.  He decides they will take the ground floor, find cover, and see if they can take care of Bunning and Troessel.  The Beast nods in agreement.

Suddenly they hear shouting from two buildings down.  He recognizes the troopers from Wolf’s assault squad.  Wolf’s men are assaulting the building from the far side.  They are rushing two men into the building at a time, in classical assault fashion.

“Now!” he shouts, and The Beast grunts affirmative.  They both leap up, but instead of rushing through the open door in front of them, which beckons like a maw of death, they run across the face of the building to enter from the same side as Wolf’s men.

 

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Two men rush into the building in front of Uldall and The Beast.  Uldall recognizes them.  It is Links und Rechts.  Left and Right.  Wolf calls them that because they are always together, but one is always on the left and the other on the right.  They are a team, inseparable, like twins.

Uldall sees them run past the fallen bodies of Bunning and Troessel.  They are hell bent for the stairs.  Wolf must have assigned them to clear the second floor.  Just as well, since Uldall and The Beast will cover the ground floor.

 

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Uldall hears sudden cries in Russian.  Upstairs!  The Russians are still alive and kicking in this bloody building.  Dammit, he thinks.  Why don’t they just die or leave?

Links and Rechts disappear up the stairs – they are silent.  They already know what each other will do once they get up the stairs.  The Russians are calling out to one another. 

 

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Rechts takes out a Russian at the top of the stairs that he blundered into.  It is all close range, no misses here.  He practically jams the rifle into the Russian’s chest and pulls the trigger.  The man screams as the German rifle round tears into him. 

Links breaks…left, of course, heading across the second floor, looking for enemy targets.  It is dark in here, and very hard to make out the enemy.  His eyes are slowly adjusting from the bright sunlight outside to the gloom on the second floor.

 

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Rechts sees the enemy first and lets out a warning shout.  Links hears it and starts to spin – it is too late.  Links takes several Russian SMG rounds to the side.

 

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The Russian keeps firing at Links as he falls.  Rechts hears a stifled cry as Links falls.  He feels pain as if he too has been shot, so closely do the two feel for each other.  His shot misses as he tries to line up on the Russian.

 

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Then the Russian bulls past Rechts, jumping down the stairs in two bounds and seeking an escape on the ground floor.  Through a window he sees more Germans rushing for the building.  He hears German cries of surprise as he runs down the hall on the first floor.

Uldall hears Rechts scream from the second floor and knows something bad has happened.  Rechts now yells that the Russian is on the first floor.

 

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Uldall spins to the sound of boots pounding across rubble and shattered timber.  “Beast!” he yells, in warning.  The Beast was checking rooms towards the back of the ground floor.  The Russian stops in the corner of the room, trapped between Uldall inside and the rest of Wolf’s assault squad locking down the outside.

 

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Uldall can see the Russian now.  He seems to have frozen himself by the side door, for some reason.  Uldall can make out details on the man.  Time seems to suspend itself, crawling by so slowly. 

He sees the medical plaster across the man’s face.  It covers one of the man’s eyes.  He sees the wild look in the man’s other eye, the contorted expression on his face, like that of a trapped beast that is trying to escape but knows that it can’t.  Is there also resignation on his face?  Has he realized that his life is over?

Uldall also sees the medal pinned to the man’s tunic.  This is a brave man, honored by his superiors.

 

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The Beast is turning to the attack now, and he roars “SHOOT!” to Uldall.  Uldall is snapped out of his momentary trance and drops the hammer on the Russian.

 

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Uldall pumps round after round into the Russian.  His blood lust is finally up – he is remembering Bunning and Troessel and all the others.  He is aware of the perfect arc of gold casings flying from the ejection port of the machine gun.  The Russian is disintegrated as the rounds tear his flesh apart. 

 

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The deed is done.  Both Uldall and The Beast cry out “Sani,” at the same time, echoed by Rechts from the top of the stairs as he tries to save Links. 

They are all calling for the Medics.

Uldall drops his machine gun and starts to work feverishly at stemming the blood flow from his friends. 

“Give me a hand here Beast…I think we can save him.”

 

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Hauptmann Haas receives word from a runner down the street that the last objective has been taken.  Faulk, his radio funker, relays this message to the Oberst. 

Faulk then gently says, “About your helmet, Herr Hauptmann…”  He lets the rest of the sentence trail away.  Haas looks him in the eyes and nods.  “Yes, Faulk, as soon as you can.”  He can see relief in the man’s eyes.  Why do they care so much for my safety? he wonders to himself. 

Faulk smiles and says he thinks he has located one that will substitute for the time being.  Then he hurries off to fetch it.

Hauptmann Haas just shakes his head.  He feels the trail of dried blood down the side of his head where he was nicked around the ear by a close round.  The blood has congealed around his neck and collar.  If Faulk had noticed this wound he would probably have me tied on a stretcher and heading for the aid station by now, thinks Haas.

The casualty reports are coming in now.  So many killed and wounded.  Many of the wounded will not survive the day.  So many letters to write.  He can delegate this to the Spieß, the senior Feldwebel, but he prefers not to. 

The proud Cloverleaf Division is being bled white.  He wonders how many more will have to die in this horror show, this city of death. 

Faulk calls out.  “Herr Hauptmann, the Oberst on the line.  He wants to discuss consolidation of our lines.”  “I’ll be right there,” he replies.  “Get Leutnant Kramer.  We have to get ready for the Russian counterattack.”

 

The war goes on.

 

Heinrich505

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Kevinkin,

  Yes, November is particularly appropriate for this.  I am just finishing up Death of the Leaping Horseman by Jason Marks.  It sort of inspired me to put this together.  I was trying to catch so much of the claustrophobic horror that Stalingrad entailed.  And, I wanted to showcase the mod a bit, as it is really an amazing labor of love.

  Hope you like it.

Heinrich505

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NPye and IanL,

Thank-you for the kind words.  Always appreciated.

It is amazing how well this game lends itself to telling stories.  The battle is the story - I just fill in the gaps here and there. 

Stalingrad hooked me ever since I read a paperback by Theodore Plievier entitled Stalingrad, way back when I was young.  My father had it way up on a high shelf, obviously trying to keep me from getting to it - too graphic for the times.  I had to climb up on the dresser to reach it and read it secretly when he wasn't home.

Heinrich505 

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Abdolmartin,

  Glad you enjoyed it.  It took a while to put together and I was hoping it would be well received.  Sometimes people tire if the story is too long.

  The Beast and Uldall got tired of waiting for any medical personnel to arrive.  The Beast threw Bunning over his shoulder and the two of them rushed him back to a medical field unit.  A doctor took over from there and the two of them were not allowed to wait and find out if he would survive.  They had to return to their unit.  His wounds were pretty grave so it is likely he didn't make it.

  Thanks for the kind words.  It would have been twice as long if I had added all the details that I wanted to include. :D

 

Heinrich505 

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2 hours ago, Erwin said:

Wonderful images.  Wish there a computer game of this we could play.

Its a Mod for RT download the Stalingrad mod and play, these are screen shots from a playable campaign.

 

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Bulletpoint,

  Glad you liked it. 

  Nah, no fascination with death.  Just a story teller.  I post screen shots of flamethrowers in action too.  Doesn't mean I am fascinated with fire.  :D

  The fact that it is about Stalingrad means that death is an integral part.

Heinrich505

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Dragonwynn,

  Thanks for the encouragement.  Always appreciated.  Once I got immersed in the story, it took quite a while to get through it.  Sometimes these battles take on a life of their own and you get really drawn in.

  I don't see familiar names in the 3rd battle set-up, for the tank rescue.  Is this a different unit?  Is the group from battle 2 resting?

  Then again, a lot of the squad leaders fell in action so maybe new squad leaders have been assigned. 

Heinrich505

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