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Old 03-07-2015, 07:26 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: Auberry, CA
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The next....

1220 Hours: East German 9th Panzer Division, La Bianca, Texas

Colonel Albert Schliecher stood outside his command post. What had been the little town's community center was now his headquarters, and the Colonel shook his head. So it has come to this, he thought. He'd taken command of the division after the General had gone forward to rally the 22nd Panzer Regiment, and the General's command vehicle had taken a missile from an American A-10. Now, his division was at barely 50% strength in armor, but a little more in terms of personnel. But it was obvious that he'd have to fight with what he had, and right now, another delaying action was needed. Two of the three Panzer regiments in the division were at half strength, and the 9th Motor-Rifle Regiment was in the same position, but the 23rd Panzer Regiment was in much worse shape. This time, he knew, he'd have to sacrifice a unit to ensure the survival of the rest of the division. Something like this, you didn't handle over the phone, so after talking with his chief of staff, Schleicher went to the 23rd's laager.

There, he found a reinforced panzer battalion, made up of survivors from all three battalions, with a motor-rifle company mounted in old BTR-60s. At least the tanks were still T-72s, the Colonel thought. A lieutenant conducted him to the regiment's command vehicle, where Major Hans-Georg Below was waiting. “Comrade Major,”

Below stood to attention, “Comrade Colonel, what brings you to the 23rd?”

“I have a mission for you, and it's likely going to be your last. I need the 23rd to become the divisional rearguard,” Schliecher said.

Below paused. This, he knew, meant that his regiment, or correctly, what remained of it, would be sacrificed. “Comrade Colonel, you do know what that means?”

“I do. But the battle group is falling back, and I need you to hold off the Americans for at least an hour. Maybe more, if you can.”

Major Below went to his map. “Comrade Colonel, I'd rather go out in one final attack, than this. You're asking me to hold off the American 31st Mechanized Division with just a single battalion's worth of men and equipment.”

“Are you questioning the order, Major?” Schleicher said, with an ominous tone of voice.

“No, Comrade Colonel. I'd rather make one final attack, than fight a rearguard,” Below said, pointing at the map.

“Just hold the town for an hour. No more. After that, you can withdraw,” the divisional commander said.

“Those of us who are still alive, that is.” Below said.

Schliecher knew it. It wasn't likely that there'd be anyone left to withdraw, but he had no choice, His orders from General Metzler were clear: the 9th Panzers had to withdraw, and if that meant sacrifice of a unit to preserve the bulk of the division, so be it. Still...”If it looks like you're going to be overrun, you have the authority to withdraw. I can't put that in writing, but..” He turned to the Regiment's Political Officer. “So that you both know. The Regiment's commander, or the senior surviving officer, has the authority to withdraw if the situation becomes untenable. Do I make myself clear?”

Both Below and his Political Officer understood. “You do, Comrade Colonel,” both of them said.

“All right, then. Good luck.” Schliecher said, with the rumble of artillery fire getting closer. That meant the other two panzer regiments, and the 9th MRR, were in trouble, and they'd be pulling back soon. Climbing back into his command vehicle, he wondered, are those leaflets the Americans have been dropping true? Did NATO really reform, and drive east? Can those photographs of West Germans and our own people shaking hands in Berlin be true, or are they faked somehow? Those thoughts filled his mind as he returned to divisional headquarters. Shaking them from his mind, Schleicher gave the orders for the rest of the division to fall back.

1300 Hours: San Benito Municipal Airport, San Benito, Texas

Captain Ivan Gorovets looked around the small office in the hangar. By the fact that he was the senior surviving pilot, he was in command of the 377th Ground Attack Regiment. Regiment, he snorted, what regiment? Eight surviving Su-25s, plus a half-dozen too badly shot up to fly again, and now being used as decoys. Lovely. Right now, he had more pilots than planes, and plenty of munitions, but fuel was a problem. And they want me to support the 4th GTA when the time comes? How, pray tell, is that possible? Right now, his pilots were in another office, trying to sleep. General Petrov himself had called, pulling the 377th out of combat to get ready for what was going to be their final battle. And what do we do when we're out of planes, Gorovets had asked the General. And Petrov had no answer.

He was interrupted by Senior Lieutenant Alexi Morzik. He'd been with the Regiment for over a year, and had the Gold Star for bringing an Su-25 back with major battle damage during the fighting in Corpus Christi. “Comrade Captain, There's an An-12 orbiting overhead.”

“What?” Gorovets asked. “This field's too small. What's he doing?”

“I'm not sure, Comrade Captain. You'd better come and see for yourself.”

The two officers, along with several of the other pilots, as well as ground staff, came out to watch. Sure enough, an An-12 transport was circling overhead, with two MiG-29s escorting it. Then the plane turned to the east, before making a run on the field from about five hundred meters' altitude. “If he's dropping reinforcements, they're jumping into a real fire,” one of the other pilots observed.

Gorovets thought about that, If that Party stooge was still around, that pilot would be in trouble. At least the Americans took care of that, for the Zampolit had been killed in an air attack a few days earlier. Then he saw it. “Parachutes. Large ones.”

It was obvious: this was a supply drop. Gorovets turned to the other officers, “Let's go see what we've got.”

They piled into two UAZ jeeps and drove to where some of the supplies had been dropped. Some was clearly food, packed into pallets. Others were medical supplies. And one was a rubberized fuel bladder, full of jet fuel. “All right, turn the food and medicine over to the supply point for distribution. But the jet fuel's for us. And call up the Air Force Liaison for 4th Guards Tank Army: we've got the fuel, and can give you a few more sorties.”

The supply drops were but a drop in the bucket. General Petrov reported as such to Alekseyev. Several of the supply planes had been shot down, while others had misdropped. But most of what was needed had landed in the right place, but like at Stalingrad, it wasn't enough. At least the supply aircraft, after making their runs, had come into Brownsville International to pick up wounded and others earmarked for evacuation. Only one incident marred things: a pair of F-14s had gotten into the transport stream and downed three An-26s and a pair of escorting MiGs. But, as Petrov had also warned Alekseyev, things like that were bound to increase.

1320 Hours: East German 23rd Panzer Regiment: La Bianca, Texas

Major Below climbed into his T-72, knowing full well it was for the last time. Though he would have preferred to mount one final attack, holding the Americans here meant that the bulk of the 9th Panzer Division would get away. He'd briefed his subordinates, and impressed on them the need to delay the Americans for as long as possible, but also emphasized what Colonel Schleicher had told him: if the position became untenable, they were authorized to withdraw. And that meant even if it was a platoon commander who made that decision, so be it.

Even the civilians knew something was happening. Though the East Germans had not gone out of their way to antagonize the locals, some had been forced to work on the defenses. But you didn't need any military experience to realize that the East Germans were expecting a fight, and those civilians who could took shelter in their basements and storm cellars. Those who didn't have such shelters of their own were taken in by their friends and neighbors. And so the town of La Bianca got ready for the fight that was coming.

Below had only a battalion-plus sized force of tanks, and a motor-rifle company in BTR-60Ps-the open-topped version of the venerable APC. His artillery was the dependable 2S1 152-mm, and at least he had two batteries. One battery, though, was set up to give direct fire, and the other battery was ready to give general support. Now, he thought as he surveyed the field, where are they?

The Americans had noticed his preparations and made some of their own. The 31st Mechanized Division's 2nd Brigade led the attack, and the brigade commander decided on forgoing the usual artillery preparation, and called in the Air Force to take out the East German guns, and as many tanks as possible. And the A-10s, which went by various nicknames in the Soviet Bloc forces, came down on the town.

Explosions sounded in the background, as Below soon heard. He got on the radio to his commanders, and was told A-10s were about. The 23rd had lost nearly all of its air defense vehicles, and only a pair of ZSU-23-4s were left. Those two vehicles didn't survive the first minute, as they were taken out, and the A-10s systematically destroyed Below's artillery. Then, Below saw a sight that chilled him: M-60A4 tanks and Bradley IFVs approaching his front. Then American artillery laid down a pattern of White Phosphorous in front of him, and the smoke blinded the East German tank crews and the infantry's Sagger missile teams. But it didn't blind the American tankers, who had thermal sights, and they began firing.

Tank after tank exploded, before Below could give the order to fire. Then his motor-rifle company commander called in, “Anna One, they're behind us!”

“Say again, Sara One. Say again?” Below responded.

“Anna One, they've come around the flanks. Armor and infantry vehicles are in the town itself. There's a tank not twenty meters....” A boom was heard, then silence. Below knew the motor-rifle company had been overrun. He knew it was over, but he wouldn't surrender, and retreat was out of the question. “All Anna elements, this is Anna One. Advance!”

The remnants of the 23rd Panzer Regiment moved out of their positions and went forward. There, they met a battalion task force from the 2nd Brigade, 31st Infantry Division (Mechanized). It was all over in less than two minutes. At the cost of two tanks disabled by T-72s, and one Bradley destroyed, the remaining tanks of the 23rd Panzer Regiment were destroyed. Instead of the hour Colonel Schleicher wanted, it had lasted fifteen minutes. And Major Below was not among the few East German survivors.

1355 Hours: South Padre Island, Texas.

On the Boiky, Captain Lieutenant Vassily Abramov surveyed his ship. He'd been left in command of the destroyer after he'd been run aground, and Captain Romonov had taken the bulk of the crew ashore. In normal times, he was the ship's gunnery officer, but now, he was technically the captain. The only remaining crew aboard, apart from the gunners on both the 57-mm quad mounts forward and the twin 30-mm mounts amidships, were some engineering staff to give power to the guns. They had plenty of ammunition for both, and as for food, they had enough to last a while. Some of the cooks had volunteered to stay aboard, and when they were not providing soup, tea, and bread to the gunners, were more than willing to hump ammunition if the magazine hoists lost power.

Senior Lieutenant Maxim Kurasov came to the new commanding officer, “Some tea, Comrade Captain?”

Abramov took the cup. “You know, Maxim, I wish you didn't have to call me that.”

“I know, but technically, you are the new captain.” Kurasov reminded his superior officer.

“Yes, but this isn't what I had in mind for my first command,” Abramov said. “How long do you think we'll last here?”

“Not that long, but look at the bright side, Comrade Captain,” said Kurasov.

“Oh, there is a bright side?”

“Yes, Comrade Captain. At least when the end comes, we don't have to swim very far.” Kurasov said.

Abramov looked at him as if he'd suddenly grown two heads and four arms. Then he realized the man was right. “Then we join the infantry,” Abramov said, nodding. “Happy thought.”
Treat everyone you meet with kindness and respect, but always have a plan to kill them.

Old USMC Adage
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