OPERATION BACON AND EGGS
Advanced Field Storage Depot REINHARDSHOFEN, August 13th
Major Fitzi sipped hot coffee for the first time in days. What passed for coffee from the MRE packages and now C-Rations didn’t deserve the name, and a battlefield full of thermal viewers and IR sights made even sterno stoves dangerous. Lukewarm coffee heated on vehicle engine grates occasionally laced with schnapps or chocolate had been the order of the day, and without real heat, mostly eaten like lumpy stew. The FSD was still setting up but the kitchen was already cooking breakfast. You had to admire the loggies – they had their priorities straight. Even a port-a-jon for his morning constitutional. After a week of catholes, something memorable. Bacon and eggs – even powdered eggs – had him positively salivating. Even if the cooks screwed it up, he had his stash of Tabasco.
He had climbed to the second floor of a large farm storage building for a moment of quiet reflection. The fog gave a sensation of isolation that was as much phantasy as anything else. While they waited for breakfast, the unit was doing PM Checks and Services on its remaining vehicles. A battery of M109s, or perhaps a detached platoon, from Corps Artillery was firing missions to the northeast, into Hof Corridor. The M109s obviously had been doing this for some time, running a rough race track north of R32, stopping at prerecorded firing positions. Craters marked where the Soviets had tried to get lucky in counterbattery fire. The Task Force was essentially in the north side of the Donau Valley, technically astride the Corps boundary. Fitzi half expected some German Feld Polizei team to show up and order him and the Field Depot north of the boundary.
Two weeks ago he had been commander of Team Baker-7/6th Infantry, part of Task Force 7/6th with 15 M1 tanks and 37 M113s, 12 ITVs and 2 Vulcans. Just over 270 infantry men. His own share had been 5 M1 tanks, 2 ITVs, 14 M113s. On call fire support from 6 M109s. And holding in his hand leave papers and orders to return to CONUS for CAS-Cubed followed by a short tour at Fort Benning on the faculty. Life was good. Change of command ceremony next day, outprocessing, a wake-up and the Land of the Big PX. His new Beemer was already afloat.
Mobilization. M Day turned out to be D-3. The Colonel decided not to change horses in mid-stream, so to speak. Fitzi ended up keeping the company and his replacement ended up as Assistant S3-Ground, a fanciful position intended to keep a string on the FANG until things settled down.
Things didn’t settle down. The FANG and the S3 had been KIA when their M577 ate a big chunk of what people thought was a KH23 missile fired by a Frogfoot at one of their Vulcans on D-Day. The Vulcan had survived but the M113 next to it had been lifted bodily off the roadway by the 500-kg warhead. The S3 Air had gotten Fitzi’s company and Fitzi, the senior company commander remaining with the task force, had assumed duties as S3, keeping a wary watch on the skies. The battalion was involved in one brief flare-up after another over the past 8 days. The Soviets kept coming from all directions, and when not attacking themselves, threw in Czechs and some East Germans for good measure.
They had given a good account of themselves, and the Forward Line Own Troops had swayed back and forth in the Hof Sector. But the cost was appalling. Fifteen M1 tanks had been joined by the other two motor pool queens from their company, and later one from the 701st Heavy Maintenance Battalion’s float, still painted CONUS green. Now 1st Lieutenant Gridley (DOR 6 August) Class of ’84 commanded 6 Abrams Tanks where Company C, 3-35th Armor had been before. Delta Company was still running around north of here with ten tracks left, attacked to 1-37th. Perhaps 60 effectives. Two days ago, that would have been the CO and S1’s concern. The CO’s fighting track had hit one of the scatterable long-delay mines on D+2 and the CO took some frag, and the wound had turned bad. He was evacuated finally yesterday morning. The S1 and XO had gone to look for the Brigade Trains the night before with a dozen empty supply trucks and not come back. That left Fitzi in command, and last night the Brigade XO flew in in a slick with the skids literally touching the high grass, jumped out, and pinned two subdued major’s leaves to Fitzi’s BDU blouse over top of his railroad tracks. The ceremony had taken all of five minutes, and the Brigade XO had quipped, “Don’t bother to count property.” It wasn’t hard, as in addition to the 6 Abrams the entire battalion, less absent Delta Dogs, numbered just 13 M113s, 6 ITVs, 2 scout M113s, and just over 100 men – out of a touch under 800 on M-Day.
There was still some hope the XO would show up with ten truckloads of supplies, ideally including a Class VI ration. Fitzi still believed in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, too.
A step on the landing of the farm building alerted Fitzi to the presence of another, he turned. A young female specialist from the Field Depot Staff was holding a mess tin full of eggs and bacon. “Sorry to intrude, Major. Your SMAJ said you wouldn’t eat if not prodded, and said to tell you there’s plenty for everybody.
It was a Kodak moment. A waitress in the old WWII helmet still used by support troops, wearing the old style field gear, with an M16 slung over her left shoulder. Six days of intermittent combat and a day long drive to get here meant that he had about as much interest in a dalliance as a Hereford steer. But a feminine voice was like a bucket of water in his face, a stern reminder of what they fought for, and at the same time clear indication that Task Force 7-6 was in the land of the Living REMF. He mumbled thanks and turned away to look out the window to the north, where the M109 shells were creating cool rings in the fog. The specialist cleared her throat, and said, “Is that the new German tank I’ve heard about, the Tiger?”
Fitzi shoveled in another mouthful of the eggs and stung his fingertips on greasy bacon. After swallowing, he answered, “No they call them Leopards, Specialist. Tigers were from the last war.” He stepped over to the eastern opening, probably for moving bales of hay. His heart stopped and the fork stopped in mid movement. He swallowed hard. The dome-shaped turret was distinctive. A brief ray of the sun caught the distinctive marking of the Deutchtes Volksarmee. Then the fog swirled again.
Fitzi cleared his throat. “Go tell your Captain to get all his people out of here, fast, Specialist. Run up the side of that hill to the north. Down the other side. Run!”
“I thought they were Germans? On our side?”
“They are Germans, but they aren’t on our side. Move it, Specialist.”
Fitzi ran to the window on the east side of the building. What was left of the battalion command group was parked in the farmyard, all of which was asphalted. He yelled at the top of his voice. “Boots and Saddles! Action east; hasty ambush drill! 5 minutes, max. Bloody nose ambush! Get those howitzers clued in, we’re going to need them!” At that moment the female specialist exploded out of the farm building at a run, one hand holding down the steel pot, and the other holding on to the rifle sling.
He went back to the east window. How far, he thought. How many. Oh well, at least I’ll die having talked to a female and with a full stomach. Fitzi went back to the eggs while his unit exploded into action. By the time his vehicles were moving forward, he could see more dark, circular shadows in the swirling fog. When the howitzers finally got the word, and stopped shooting, he could hear the engines. He improved on the time finishing the eggs and coffee, savoring the last bit of bacon.