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Subject: Those Wow! moments - not in a wargame but in real life rss

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Confusion Under Fire
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There have been a few threads recently about the narrative in wargames and which games produce a good narrative, one of these threads can be found here;
https://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/28371429#28371429

This got me thinking that I have read several accounts of true events during a battle where they were so incredulous that if they happened in a wargame it might be frowned upon as being unrealistic.

Lets hear your true stories which make you smile just because they are so incredible.

Here are a couple to start with;

A German Kubelwagen was rushing to the scene of a downed fighter plane, while driving through a small town a man ran out in front of the onrushing car almost knocked to the ground, the German hailed abuse at the man before speeding off, too interested in arriving at the scene they failed to notice the man they almost knocked down was the fleeing pilot still wearing his flying jacket.

Next time your dice fail you miserably on your CRT think of the following story.

...Outside they hear some machinegun fire. They run outside and see a Paratrooper emptying the whole magazine from his Sten gun into a leafy tree — branches, twigs and leaves are flying in all directions. The soldier runs out of bullets.
Silence.
Then, a German voice calls out timidly from within the tree.
The branches rustle as a pair of booted German legs swing down. The heel of one of them has been shot off.
A young bespectacled GERMAN SOLDIER, maybe in his late teens, drops down to the ground, face white with fear and his hands up in the air in a gesture of surrender.
Some of the Paratroopers start giggling and joking that **** couldn't hit a barn door. **** just looks at his Sten gun in amazement. The German Soldier starts laughing too and points to his boot, raising it to show that the heel is barely hanging on by a thread.
The Paratroopers lead their German prisoner across the field towards the now moving column of men as they march up the road.

This last story - thanks goes to 'Wolfy 262' on the WW2 People's War website.

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Jim F
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A couple spring to mind.

1. The British company about to commence an attack on a German position to be interrupted by a family going for a walk with their dog right between the two positions. Well, it was a sunny Sunday afternoon.

2. The German soldier dressed as a nun hiding in a tree calling down fire on the British positions during Operation Blackcock. This was a second hand story, but reported at the time,(and I know there are other of Germans dressed as nuns - it's not just a 'Dads Army' thing).
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Nick West
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A para squad near Arnhem Bridge during Operation Market was taking shelter in a house cellar whilst under heavy artillery fire. As it intensified the senior NCO shouted, "Hold on, this can't last much longer, lads! They're throwing everything but the kitchen sink at us..."

At that moment part of the floor above gave way, and a kitchen sink fell into their midst. The artillery fire ceased.

As the dust settled, one trooper said quietly, "Bloody hell, Sarge, I know we're surrounded but I didn't think they could bloody hear us."
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Neill
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A story from one of my all time favourite books - Fitzroy Maclean's Eastern Approaches. Fitzroy was one of the original SAS guys, and has some marvellous stories from his time in North Africa. My favourite starts as Maclean heads back to the harbour they'd landed at to clear any evidence that they'd been there.

"This time, as I started to crawl through the hole in the wire, I suddenly sound myself staring into the face of an Ascari from Italian Somaliland. Standing over me he grunted menacingly and pointed his bayonet at the pit of my stomach. I felt at a distinct disadvantage. It seemed a more intractable problem than we had hitherto encountered.

Infusing as much irritation into my voice as I could muster I asked him (in Italian) what he wanted; but he only answered 'Non parlare Italiano' and went on prodding me with a bayonet. This gave me an opening. 'Non parlare Italiano?' I yelled, working myself into a fury. 'None parlare Italiano!! And you a Caporale!!' And I pointed to the stripe on his sleeve. This seemed to shake him. Trying to give as a good a representation as I could of an angry Italian officer, I continued to shout and gesticulate. It was too much for him. With an expression of injured dignity, he turned and walked away, leaving us to continue."

Just after this story two Italian sentries fell in behind them and marched along with them. Fitzroy marched back to their headquarters, demanded to speak to their commanding officer, and proceeded to berate him for the poor security in the town. He admits to laying it on thick when he said to the captain that for all the Italians knew, they might be British soldiers planting high explosives! They then marched off with no Italians in tow.

tl;dr: Fitzroy Maclean, on an SAS mission in North Africa, bluffs his way out of danger by pretending to be an angry Italian officer.
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Tim Korchnoi
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My favorite is the captured T-34 at Kursk the Germans used to grab a key bridgehead. They put one T-34 at the head of their column and in the darkness advanced right through the Russian lines going right past Soviet armored columns among other formations. Then, suddenly, as one author described it "as if the tank suddenly felt its patriotic duty" it stopped. The Germans pushed it off the road and kept advancing and still were not challenged by any Russians. Only when it was too late did someone notice but by then the bridgehead had been secured.

Another story that comes to mind is from the Siege of Malta where the knights were running out of fresh water and suddenly, miraculously, a spring appeared in the basement of a building saving the defenders.

And there are a few stories from the Battle of the Bulge that I read a long tie ago (high school IIRC) that always stuck with me.
1. The big crowd civilians that were saved in a basement when a German artillery shell penetrated the ceiling but failed to go off.
2. The lone GI with a MG and bazooka that held up a whole German company by blocking a bend in a key road. He held them up for around an hour before they killed him.
3. A lone GI stalking German tanks in a village (St. Vith?) in the darkness with a bazooka knocking out a dozen tanks before being detected and killed.
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Jim F
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notquitekarpov wrote:
A para squad near Arnhem Bridge during Operation Market was taking shelter in a house cellar whilst under heavy artillery fire. As it intensified the senior NCO shouted, "Hold on, this can't last much longer, lads! They're throwing everything but the kitchen sink at us..."

At that moment part of the floor above gave way, and a kitchen sink fell into their midst. The artillery fire ceased.

As the dust settled, one trooper said quietly, "Bloody hell, Sarge, I know we're surrounded but I didn't think they could bloody hear us."


Mention of Arnhem reminds me of the story of the paratrooper and Dutch nurse who were caught in flagrante delicto in a cupboard in St Elizabeth Hospital, while the battle raged around them. They were returned to the duties they should have been undertaking.
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John McLintock
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This story was told by the officer in question in a BBC documentary I watched years ago.

A British infantry platoon is advancing through Normandy at the height of summer. A private approaches the platoon commander and complains to him that the PIAT that he's carrying is too heavy. "Just sling it, then," replies the officer. Sometime later, the platoon are held up by a German position which includes an AFV. The officer calls for the PIAT. The PIAT man appears and announces that he's thrown the PIAT away. "You threw it away?" exclaims the officer. "Yes sir, you told me to sling it," replies the hapless soldier.

Telling the story all those years later, the former officer explained that he realised that there was nothing he could do in the face of such blind obedience.
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Wayne Hansen
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I'm going to need citations and references for all of these stories. The kitchen sink one?? Come on.
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Paul C
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wtjBatman wrote:
I'm going to need citations and references for all of these stories. The kitchen sink one?? Come on.

As the actual colour of Panzer Grau or wartime US Army Olive Drab is still contended, I fear you are being a little optimistic expecting compelling evidence in support of soldiers' tales
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Lance McMillan
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STORY #1:
In a history of Napoleon's 1812 invasion of Russia that I read, there was a story from the Battle of Smolensk where a single Russian hussar, hidden in a small grove of trees on the far side of a stream, kept an entire regiment of French troops pinned down with fire from his carbine. Every time the French would form up to rush the ford the hussar would shoot a couple of them and they'd dive back into cover; counter-fire against the hussar was ineffective (he'd just hide behind the trees until the French shooting would stop). Apparently this went on for a couple hours, until finally the French brought up a battery of cannons and blew the grove apart (presumably killing the hussar in the process).

STORY #2 (a personal anecdote):
In 1992, I was the Executive Officer aboard USS JUNEAU (LPD-10) while that ship participated in Operation RESTORE HOPE (famine relief in Somalia). During the nights leading up to the 09 December landings, our ship would sneak in close to shore after dark to put our embarked SEAL Team ashore to conduct clandestine hydrographic surveys to find a suitable beach to land the Marines. These were kind of tense experiences because we'd be about a mile offshore and could regularly see explosions and lines of tracers arcing up over the city: Mogadishu was emphatically not a peaceful place. It's important to appreciate this background situation to put the rest of the story in context...

So on the night of 09 December we again moved in close to shore, this time to execute the actual landing. The ship was at General Quarters and we were treating this operation in all respects as if it was going to be an opposed beach assault. The plan was for the SEALs go in first, to mark the approach lanes with infrared strobes to help guide the Marine AAVs in the initial landing wave to the correct beach.

The Captain and I are on the ship's bridge, staring at the beach through our binoculars and checking our watches every few seconds, waiting to get a code-word transmission from the SEALs confirming that they're ashore. Suddenly, about a minute after their expected landing time, we see a bright searchlight turn on right at beach center, followed by a series of flashes. To us on the ship, it looked like the SEALs had walked right out of the surf and into an ambush!

Now, in retrospect, for those of you who saw this whole undertaking go down on live TV back in the States, you know this was the international press corps assembled on the beach to record the event. Basically, some brilliant public affairs wonk back at 5th Fleet headquarters thought it would be a great opportunity to show our boys in action and arranged to fly in about 50 reporters to Mogadishu the night of the landing. Problem is, that genius never bothered to tell anyone in the amphibious task force that he was going to do that: we still thought this was a covert/secret operation headed into dangerously volatile urban environment.

Anyway, back on the bridge of JUNEAU, the searchlight by the beach turns on and the barrage of flashbulbs goes off (which looks remarkably like small arms fire from a mile offshore), and the Captain turns to the phone talker beside him and says, "Tell mount 25-1 to standby to take that searchlight under suppressive fire!"

There's a brief pause before I interrupt: "Sir, let's call the SEAL Team leader and confirm he needs support before we open up. They may have the situation already under control."

The Captain nods and the crisis passes. I suspect Dan Rather and the other reporters still have no idea how close they came to getting hosed down with 25mm shells...
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Confusion Under Fire
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Lancer4321 wrote:



The Captain nods and the crisis passes. I suspect Dan Rather and the other reporters still have no idea how close they came to getting hosed down with 25mm shells...


I wonder who would of reported that?
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Lance McMillan
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whatambush wrote:
...who would of reported that?


If Hollywood has taught us anything, it's that there are always survivors who will live to tell the story...
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Jason Cawley
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From the US ww2 medal of honor citations comes my favorite of this sort, which is straight out of a sergeant rock comic book. A lieutenant of recon is fighting in the battle of the bulge, it is nightime, and his unit is under attack by superior German forces including armor. He gets his men to the other side of a narrow gorge spanned by a low stone bridge, with the Germans in hot pursuit. He turns, himself, covering his men’s withdrawal, just as a German tank comes barreling across the bridge.

According to the citation, he stepped into the open with just his tommy gun and let fly, capping the tank driver whose hatch was open to help him steer across the narrow bridge in the dark. The tank swerves, busts through the low retaining wall, off the bridge, and plunges twenty feet into the stream below.

It is the only recorded MOH for taking out a tank with a submachinegun on record. (I found it in the course of exhaustively text searching the MOH citations for all instances of US infantry KOing German armor...)

The above was from memory. It was Sicily not the Bulge, actually. David C. Waybur was his name. Basically remembered it right - tommy gun, tank fell off bridge, the lot.
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Jack
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wtjBatman wrote:
I'm going to need citations and references for all of these stories. The kitchen sink one?? Come on.


It's the stove, not the sink (I remembered it as sink also)but it's recounted in Cornelius Ryan's A Bridge Too Far. My hard copy is packed away somewhere, but in the Kindle version it is page 695.1. It reads-

There were other moments of humor equally memorable.  As the afternoon wore on, battalion headquarters was heavily bombarded and caught fire.  Father Egan went down to the cellar to see the wounded.  “Well, Padre,” said Sergeant Jack Spratt, who was regarded as the battalion comic, “they’re throwing everything at us but the kitchen stove.”  He had barely said the words when the building suffered another direct hit.  “The ceiling fell in, showering us with dirt and plaster.  When we picked ourselves up, there right in front of us was a kitchen stove.” Spratt looked at it and shook his head.  “I knew the bastards were close,” he said, “but I didn’t believe they could hear us talking.”
.
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Adam D.
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I distinctly remember reading a move review of A Bridge Too Far, and a sneering writer dismissing the scene where James Caan rescues a guy in a jeep as unrealistic.

Funny coincidence, was just reading the part in Out of America where the author was talking about the Marines arrival on the beach in Mogadishu.
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I think it was in The Longest Winter - the story of several GIs from the 99th ID - perhaps the contingent at Schnee Eifel/Losheim Gap...

one of the Americans in a bunker with several others, being overrun - took two bullets to the face and lived.

My apologies for not remembering his name, but the description of his attack and the following situation he endured (capture, evacuation to rear lines, minimal medical care, etc) was quite memorable.

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Nick West
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wtjBatman wrote:
I'm going to need citations and references for all of these stories. The kitchen sink one?? Come on.


I'll have to find my copy for the exact reference, but the story is retold in Cornelius Ryan's "A Bridge Too Far".

Oh, I see I have been ninja-ed ninja! Thanks, and apologies for not remembering the story exactly.
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Jason Cawley
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Neill - there are lots of good stories of officers just talking their way through things in the middle of a war. Rommel tells some Romanians in 1916 that catch him and a few of his men dead to rights that the war is over, there has been an armistice, and ends up getting 50 men to surrender to him.

The German Brandenbergers specialised in infiltrating enemy lines in foreign uniforms. In one case in southern Russia in the fall of 1942, a Brandenberg column took command of a whole battalion of retreating Russians, led them to the town that was their own objective, and used bringing them in as a reason to get briefed on the town’s defenses. The Brandenberger officer got put in charge of a part of the defense as well as knowing the whole plan, and used it to sow confusion when the German army arrived and deliver the place.

British SAS and SBS forces pulled similar things in Greece, sometimes posing as German officers and ordering Italians and local police around. All those Force 10 from Navarone type movies have nothing on what they really pulled off.
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As I've recently been re-reading his autobiography, so I'd have to say the wartime career achievements of Hans Rudel (stuka pilot in WWII).

In brief:
Survived over 2,500 missions;
Shot down more than 20 times (with one detailed escape defying belief in itself);
Sunk a battleship (also 2 cruisers and a destroyer);
Was an ace (credited with 9 aircraft shot down);
Destroyed over 500 tanks;
Destroyed over 2000 other ground targets (trucks et al);
Was so highly decorated that he was the only one to receive Germany's highest award (Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds); and
Survived the war virtually intact (one leg amputated below the knee).

No wargame (or any game) can include a unit anything like that: it would be much too 'unrealistic'.
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During one of his cavalry raids Jeb Stuart captured a Federal telegraph station. He had a message sent to Washington DC complaining about the poor quality of the mules that the Confederates were seizing from the Union army.
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Nick West
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Quaama wrote:

Survived the war virtually intact (one leg amputated below the knee).


Call me sniffy if you like, but I wouldn't exactly describe having one leg amputated below the knee as "virtually intact"!

One joint of a finger perhaps? Some scars maybe? But half a leg!? Obviously YMMV - hardcore.
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James Webb
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One of my favourite stories is detailed in the book On the Front Line: True World War I Stories, which is an excellent collection of eye-witness accounts gathered in the 1930s.

I'm recalling it from memory, so some of the details might be a bit vague.

Basically, a British soldier and an officer were in a barrage balloon that got hit and started to rapidly descend. The only thing to do in that situation was bail out, which the officer did. The soldier followed by diving head first out of the basket. As he did so, his parachute (which was only secured around his waist) slipped down until it was around his legs. When he opened the chute it got caught around the cable of the barrage balloon, and he hung there, upside down, above the battlefield for a few moments before his chute untangled itself and he began to fall.

Unfortunately, the chute was twisted beyond repair and he plummeted towards the ground, eventually crashing straight into the open chute of his officer. The chute collapsed, both men got tangled together and began falling to their death.

"I'm sorry, sir," said the soldier, and in typical British fashion the officer replied, "That's all right, old chap. I don't suppose you could have found somewhere else to land though."

Thankfully, the officer's chute refilled and opened again, and the two men hit the ground hard enough to be knocked unconscious but they both survived.

Although few of the book's accounts are as dramatic as that, most of them are fantastic and well worth reading.

(As an aside, there's some great humour in there too, such as the writer who says that he and his friends didn't dare ever stand up in their trench because of the accuracy of German snipers, but every now and then a General would come to their trench and walk up and down in his red cap, in full view of the German trench, without ever even being shot at. The writer said that he didn't think the Germans would ever shoot a British General for fear that his successor might do something unexpected.)
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Told to me by a Canadian veteran of the landing in Sicily:

He was a Sgt commanding a Bofors AA gun that for the landing had been packed into a truck, which in turn was loaded into a landing craft. As they approached the beach he noticed defensive MG fire to his front, so he gestured to the coxswain to swerve toward a rocky patch on the flank. There they landed without opposition, but the truck had difficulty negotiating the rocks. He and his crew put their personal weapons in the truck, so they could push it ahead.

Straining forward and concentrating on the task of shifting the truck, he suddenly noticed that they were surrounded by armed Italian soldiers, who then offered to help push!
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Paul
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notquitekarpov wrote:
Quaama wrote:

Survived the war virtually intact (one leg amputated below the knee).


Call me sniffy if you like, but I wouldn't exactly describe having one leg amputated below the knee as "virtually intact"!

One joint of a finger perhaps? Some scars maybe? But half a leg!? Obviously YMMV - hardcore.


I don't think I'd like it too much but it didn't seem to bother Hans Rudel greatly as he was back flying one and a half months later!
Douglas Bader (who wrote the Foreword to Rudel's book) lost both his legs pre-war and had a distinguished wartime career in the RAF. Bader was a bit of a problem for the Germans as a POW (too many escape attempts despite having two artificial legs) so he was sent to Colditz for the rest of the war.
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Dave W
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When Patrick O'Brian's wrote the Aubrey–Maturin series of books, he conducted extensive research into historical accounts, and brought those true stories into the books.
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