Chapter XVI – Operation Hammer Sickle Part IV
Countries played by humans: UK, France, Soviet Union, Germany, Italy, Japan
Recap: Operation Hammer Sickle, the German revenge on the West, has just started with an attack on Morbash. Also, three paratroop divisions have landed behind the enemy lines. This is do or die. If Germany fails to throw the Allies back, they will be stuck in a stagnant 2-front war that is likely to be their doom.
December 1st, 1939
::When the red light was lit and the first trooper jumped out from the JU-52 transport Lucas felt tension build as a knot in his stomach. The fly-in had been all smooth and they even saw explosions from ground combat far below across that thin silver line that was the Rhine. When it was Lucas Bauers turn, he jumped without hesitation. They’d been told there would be no enemies in the area and it was all quiet as he slowly descended in his chute. It was a beautiful landscape that opened up under his feet. It could almost have been home. He saw a lot of people there on the ground and watched for weapons. The wind was gentle, but it was damn cold and he was rattling his teeth before he landed. He was afraid of the grass going hard from freezing but it was alright. Lukas made a perfect landing and quickly assembled his chute.::
Village in St Wendel.
::Lucas was greeted by a lot of happy Germans and started to really enjoy his first combat jump. It was even better than training were an angry officer awaited you on ground and had comments about your landing. Here, he was a hero. It was a good move to become a soldier. The suddenly, Martin came running and collected Lucas as he was in the middle of kissing a woman that was a little too old for him, but eager as few. ::
- The Führer would cry from fury if he saw you now, Lucas. Götterdämmerung! Don’t you hear the gunfire? There’s French over there and they’re attacking!
::As Lucas pushed the red-cheeked mother of three away, he lifted his head and listened. Jesus wept! It was true. He could hear the distant explosions from mortar fire. They left the civilians and rushed away, gathering up Kleine Tobias and the others. Two men were missing but that was to be expected. They ended up with a man from another company as well.::
::The French troopers had come from the province of Trier, passing through a little village on northern St Wendel and across a bridge. A couple of companies had already made it to the “Wendel-side” when the paras landed and it quickly came to sharp combat. The French soldiers still had the bridge head when Lucas platoon arrived. The French had mortars, machine guns and snipers in the village which made it nasty to go too close. The bridge itself soon came under similar fire from the German paras which made it extremely difficult from French troops to move there. As the French on the bridge-head were surrounded by fields, it was difficult for the still disorganized paratroopers to mount a powerfull enough attack to dislodge them. Instead, they took position up on a hill over watching the bridge-head and from there they poured all kinds of disaster over their enemies.::
::Lucas and his mates came running in threw the mortar fire and found a ditch from were they to their fire positions. Martin had been hit by shrapnel, but it was just a small one and he had tied a cloth around the wound. Another mate had wrenched his ankle in the landing and the pain started to reach through his first eagerness now and he leaned back in the ditch and groaned. Lucas fired away a couple of rounds against an abandoned truck next to the bridge, but it was so far away he didn’t know if he hit. There was actually not much he could do except being prepared for an attack. For now, this was all a mortar duel until either side mustered the initiative to attack or pull back.::
December 2nd-3rd, 1939
It surprised the German leadership that the French retreated from Neunkirchen before Morbach. Neunkirchen was not threatened. The French troops there had been successful in keeping the Germans east of the Rhine River, and a lot of the Third Reich’s soldiers had died trying to cross. Now, the French retreated in good order.
24 hours later the defenders in Morbach gave up and retreated, in a lot worse conditions than in Neunkirchen. Now, a rough week after the launch of Operation Hammer Sickle, the Axis had opened up all the way to the Maginot Line. It was a very successful start.
In the north, were the Allies were strong and had perfect defensive positions, the Germans had launched attacks to tie them up, in the face of really bad odds. It was a costly strategy, but it made it difficult for the Allies to react in a smooth and flexible way to the sudden threat. The Allies realized this and retreated from their northernmost province, probably nervous about the prospect of being cut off.
December 5th, 1939
It was quite hard going in St Wendel. The 2nd paratroopers had been thrown into combat the minute they landed in some disarray. They had very good defensive lands but the French was still more numerous. Still, after a week of battle they hadn’t yet any real problem with keeping the French on the other side of the river.
::After the first day of mortar exchanges, the French made a night-time assult up the hill in a true world war one style. It was chaotic and scary. You didn’t know how many they were, where they were and how determined they were. Lucas and his friends still held the same ditch where they had been sitting very closely under blankets to keep warm. Now they fired away in the dark and aimed at every muzzle flash they saw. When lights were shot up in the air, hell broke lose until it turned black again. The French lost fate after a while and returned. When dawn came they realized theat quite few men on each side had died.::
:: During lunch the next day, their company was relieved by another company and move away. Apparently, the division commander, major general Schaal, tried to get his troops in some kind of order after the jump. When leaving the ditch Kleine Tobias was shot in the head by a French sniper and died then and there in a pool of blood. It was quite terrifying. One second laughing at their replacement and the next second dead. In a quite bad mood they were marched off to another sector along the river and took up guard duty there.::
::It was a good spot above a slight slope towards the river, amongst the tree-line. They dug trenches and camouflaged them with branches, twigs and mosses. Then followed a few quite calm days. They had a company HQ some hundred meters into the woods and as not much happened they could alternate so a few men could kick back at the HQ and take it easy. All the time, they heard the battle continue around the village.::
::The fourth day, they replaced the company that had replaced them by the village. The whole place was full of craters. The French still held a little bit of ground east of the bridge. A German day-time push had been met by massive small arms fire from the village had consequently had been cancelled. The French had not tried any more attack here, but during the night, news came that the French attacked across another bridge further west and had made some initial progress. As it was believed that the French had moved away forces from the village opposite them, and news had come of German reinforcements by two infantry divisions, a counter-attack was initiated during the first grey morning hours.::
::Lucas crawled along the muddy and semi-frozen ground towards the bridge along with two entire companies. After the five days of shelling, the ground was full of suitable holes to use for cover. The pulse was already quite high within him, but he felt excitement too. If intel were right, they only faced a spread out, half sleeping company of the other side. It would be so nice to flush them out. The left side of the bridge, however, had fallen down, so it was just a thin corridor over to the other side. It would be a hellish run. It was quite impressive how so many creeping men could be so quiet. I was clear night who showed the first coppery signs of dawn. In front of Lucas, his squad leader had stopped and made the sign of laying low, and so they did. As, he was laying there, he felt the cold slowly creeping up from the ground, through his soaked uniform pants, starting to chill him. Minutes ticked away, feeling like hours. Some men from another platoon would go first. Lucas saw then moving towards the bridge in a crouch. Then came a few gun shots from the other side, tearing the night time silence apart in a dreadful way. A few seconds later, he heart the muffled, short sound from their own mortars firing away. Pah – pah – pah – pah…::
- For the Fürer!
::It was the company leader screaming, and the call was taken up by all the men like a wild roar of battle-rage. Lucas Bauer pushed himself up from the ground, yelling madly and as he charged at the bridge, his men all around him, the mortar shells hit the village, just on the other side of the river, giving bright colors to the black-and-white dawn. The counter-attack had commenced. The French would be kicked out of St Wendel!::
December 7th, 1939
The magnitude of Operation Hammer Sickle must have been realized by the Allies by now. Their holdings in occupied Germany just crumbled. The French took the most casualties. The Brits fought tighter and preferred to retreat in good order. They gave up the north with a rather low death-toll. The casualties of the Wehrmacht were higher here due to the both terrains and fortresses. Still, Germany gained ground by the hours and in Trier, more than one full French army corps was pounded by two brand new German panzer divisions . The “Hammer”-part of the great German winter offensive seemed more and more a triumph.
December 8th, 1939
The German advance into Soviet land obviously succeeded in making STAVKA real nervous. The Russian troops who previously tried to dislodge the Italians now moved north eastwards to answer to what they perceived as a German threat. No such threat existed though as the 1st Panzer had the orders do dig in but fall back the minute they ended up in a situation they could not easily handle.
::Noice and light discipline was firm here in the newly conquered lands. A majority of the units fighting beside them taking the province had pulled back to German (Polish) soil, so they were not too many Germans in this hostile land. Behind a thin line of scouts were a more powerful line of camouflaged panzers and behind that were company HQs and reserves. Here, it was ok to have a smoke if you were sitting in certain areas and it was the closest to pleasure the men had. Heinrich, Bobby and a few men from panzer crews in the platoon had a few hours off and smoked, ate and chatted away. As no big fires were allowed they were all dressed in heavy winter clothing with some added blankets around their shoulders. Some had Russian winter hats on, but they were only used in safe areas as the risk of getting shot by mistake otherwise was big. This “safe area” was a few logs in an open square around an empty fuel drum with a few burning billets in. The logs were surrounded by a frame of pine branches made like a high fence, blocking cigarette light and the muffled talking. The land was covered in snow and the temperature was a couple of degrees below freezing. Still, being in Soviet made the soldiers proud and the mood around the drum, emitting a weak warm light onto the soldiers pale faces, was high – in a cautious way.::
December 10th-14th, 1939
During half a week in the middle of December, the Axis won several important battles against the Allies. It was obvious – they had already been knocked out of balance and even if it was impossible to catch any enemies in pockets, it was not possible for the enemies to stop their backwards tumble. Initially, Germany had sustained the highest losses in a few battles, but now as the operation was in motion, the Allies bled the most.
The paratroopers excelled by killing the most enemies in relation to losses. In St Wendel, that was a 2,5 French for every German. In the city of Saarbrücken, it was almost 9 French for every dead Japanese paratrooper, which was extraordinary. A Japanese machine-gunner claimed to have killed over 50 enemies during the two weeks of battle.
December 17th, 1939
The attack on Bitburg was the first real challenge in the last week or so. The defending troops here were well dug in among a system of bunkers made of cement and steel. They also had light tanks at their disposal. Still, in the face of the well coordinated German attack, the Allied situation did not look too bright. Their whole defense seemed to crumble in the face of the fascist charge.