Time for another letter home from Cletus. This week he talks about fighting a Panzerspahkompanie and learning to speak Russian.
Dear Ma & Pa,
Hope everyone back home is doing ok, me and the Prof are both fine. I got another letter from you this week. It seemed kinda thick and I was worried it was bad news. So I was real pleased when I seen that it was some photographs that you'd sent. It sure was good to see you all again, made me feel like I was back home for a while.
Seeing as how it looks like I'm gonna be with these Russkies for awhile the Prof decided to try and teach me how to speak some Russkie. The tank crews is helping me out some too. I thought I was getting the hang of it so I decided to try it out on the Russkie Captain. He comes round to check on the Prof every morning and to tell him what they need him to do that day. I wanted to say 'Good Morning' to him and that part was easy. I also wanted to say that I was proud to be fighting with his unit and looked forward to pushing the Nazis back into the sea. The Russkies is always taking like that, they sure do hate them Nazis. I got out the dictionary the Prof gave me and sort of got the words down on paper. The Prof wasn't about so I got some of the Russkie tankers to help me say it right. I read it out and told 'em what I was trying to say and they told me some of it was wrong and told me what to say word by word kinda like remembering a poem.
I decided to speak to the Captain the next morning so I said the phrase over and over so I'd get it right. Next morning I was pretty sure I'd remembered it right and waited for the Captain to come round. There was a bunch of the guys who'd helped me hanging around. I thought they was there to see if'n I said it right. Anyways the Russkie Captain comes round and asks for the Prof and I says my phrase to him. Well he looked at me like I was touched. Then all the fellers burst out laughin' and the Prof comes out to see what's goin' on. Turns out the Russkie tankers thought it'd be real funny to teach me the wrong phrase. Seems I'd told the Captain that I thought he was real attractive and that I'd sure like to go to a dance with him some time. Boy I sure felt dumb. Lucky for me the Captain wern't mad, leastways not with me. But he tore into the Russkie tankers real hard, guess he didn't 'preciate being made the butt of a joke.
We saw more action this week but things didn't go too well. We'd been ordered to try and take this village and it's river crossing. But when we arrived the Nazis was already there. Our tanks were strung out over the countryside so we only had one platoon ready for action. We tried to hold some houses on our side of the river as well as the road we needed to get back to our lines. The Captain took some of the KV's to probe the river crossing but they came under artillery fire and then we saw some Tigers crossing the river to threaten our flank. We did a bit of long range shooting without much happening. The Prof was trying to direct the rest of our tanks onto our position when a bunch of Puma armoured cars appears on our right flank. Fearing that we'd get cut off from our lines the Captain started to move back from the village. Then our other platoon arrived on the Nazis right flank and started to try and take the river crossing from behind. But them Nazis wern't having none of that and raced them Pumas round our rear to cut us off. They sure was fast little suckers and surprised the heck out of us moving so quick. The Prof started to call in our Sturmis but more Pumas kept showing up. The Prof managed to call in the Sturmis to finish off the first group of Pumas but the next group hid in some woods where they couldn't be seen. With our route back to our lines in danger of being cut the Captain ordered us to pull back.
We got back to camp ok be we was beat and just hit the sack. Seems like no matter what we do, win or lose, things don't change. It's just one fight after another and it starts to get to you after a while. Food don't taste like much of anything, you're on edge all the time and sometimes you wake up in the middle of the night scared to death, certain that there's someone nearby who wants to kill you. It ain't no way to live but there don't seem no end to it, lessun you get killed. The Generals and their big plans don't mean much to us at the front. Taking some ground don't mean didly if it costs you a friend. It's got so we ain't fighting for freedom or apple pie no more, we're just trying to stay alive. I know it sounds bad but all I'm trying to do these days is keep me and the Prof safe and that's getting harder all the time.
Your loving Son,
A report on the battle Cletus refers to can be found here.