Volume 3, Chapter 28
1:20 PM on May 27, 1940. The weather displayed a calmer attitude. The skies were populated with a few but imposing clouds. Hanging majestically above the skies near the city of Kortrijk, Belgium.
Muller stood in front of his armored command car, binoculars in hand. Peering at the Belgian defenses arranged in front of him.
“Is this the last one?” Muller muttered in an almost exasperated tone. From last night up till now, his troops have broken through dozens of Belgian defenses. Fortunately, it seems this is the last one.
These Belgians are really something. It’s ridiculous to think that they could set up at least twenty lines of defense in just a region fifty kilometers deep. When the reconnaissance aircraft came back with images of their defenses, it genuinely seems like those of the last war. The battlefield has changed much since 1916, did they really think that these outdated trenches and barbed wire could stop the German Army of today? These fragile defenses simply could not withstand the trampling of the tanks or the bombardment from the skies. Besides consuming time and being an annoyance, they were basically useless.
Muller was also stumped when the Belgians didn’t even seem to set up anti-tank obstacles. Perhaps at most, they set some obstacles at road junctions. But did they not realize that tanks can travel off-roads? They dug dozens of kilometers of infantry trenches, but could not dig even a slightly standard anti-tank trench. The first anti-tank trenches they did encounter, they mistook them for shallow irrigation channels. If it were not for the machine gun bunker and the two layers of barbed wire placed behind it, they would have never noticed. All this left Muller in awe, muttering to himself, “Perhaps after we conquer them, we need to teach them some regarding the current state of warfare.”
Furthermore, they dug impressively long trenches but never had enough troops to man them. During some of the previous “battles”, they found that sometimes there was only one company defending a length one hundred meters long. Those Belgians must be the most overconfident people on the planet. Did they really think that a Belgian soldier, squatting in the trenches can easily kill a dozen German soldiers?
Granted, their firepower is not something to take lightly. For some reason, the Belgians had a surprising amount of machine guns and artillery. Causing quite a bit of trouble for the infantry. The downside for the Belgians being that they cannot sustain the rate of consumption for their weapons. Hence, during the “battles” they shot their heavy weapons for about ten minutes, then abruptly stopped. During the beginning, the Germans were under the assumption that the enemy was conserving ammunition. However, once they took over the positions, they found the artillery shells completed used up. Leaving their worry unfounded.
The 7th Panzer Division was rushing through the middle while the 1st Infantry Division protected its left flank. The 3rd Division had the right flank, however, it was also tasked with the prisoners. Besides capturing the artillery and materials, their additional job was escorting the more than three thousand surrendered Belgian soldiers.
Currently, it seems the soldiers of the 3rd Division were quite happy getting the easy job. The radio chatter was filled with the 3rd Division soldiers bragging about their pleasant lives. Although, there would occasionally be some talk about not having the share in the glory of the fight. But this was limited to only some of the infantry regiments.
The artillery teams also had a fun time. Being the 3rd Division’s light artillery unit, they were assigned to provide support for the 7th Division. Within half a day, what seemed like a sea of empty casings littered the ground.
Muller, on the other hand, was glad that the Belgians lacked a weapon to counter his tanks. On multiple occasions, reports have come about the Belgian’s old anti-tank guns ricocheting off the tank’s armor. Their anti-tank mines, although enough to blow the tracks, could not penetrate the floor. Even then, those mines were seldom encountered and posed no viable threat to the tanks.
Leaving the Belgian infantry to fight against these steel beasts in any way they can. During this morning’s push, he saw some brave soldiers jump out of their trenches holding grenades or burning bottles. Of course, they were torn to pieces by the tank’s machine gun.
Although the tactics employed by the Belgians would make any sensible commander shake his head, Muller was still impacted by their impressive bravery. Their attitude of fighting for a sliver of hope, touched some of the other commanders.
“This line of defense seems to be the same previous ones. Should we continue with our old method, commander? An officer asked beside him.
“No, no you’re not thinking about it in the right mindset. This line of defense is their last in the region. They have nothing behind this. This will surely be the toughest to defeat, I’ve also wondered if they have anything hidden up their sleeves. Look at the Belgian soldiers in the trenches, they don’t seem to be panicked at our arrival.”
Muller paused and then laughed.
“Haha, so that’s why they’re so calm. Look behind their positions at the edge of the woods.”
The officer took up his pair of binoculars.
“I don’t see anything.”
“Look more carefully.”
“What? There does seem to be something. What is that? Artillery? I think I see a barrel.”
“It’s a tank.” Muller said with certainty. “Belgian tank units. It seems that it was the only armored division they have. Oh, no, well judging from the number of troops, it might only be an armored battalion. It would seem that the Belgian divided their armored divisions and evenly distributed the tanks across the defensive lines.
No wonder why the intelligence reports said that the armored divisions suddenly disappeared. Anyhow, we cannot delay. General Reinhardt had given us little time to work with. If this that position is not taken then it could endanger our flanks. We’ll use the simplest method. Begin the assault.”
Muller turned and jumped into his command car, putting on his headphones and microphones. Looking at the reference map, he started to issue orders.
Other the other side of the battlefield was Colonel Leto, commander of this Belgian defensive lines. His hands clutching his binoculars.
Leto had participated in the previous great war and had a long history of fighting against the Germans. He was one of the few senior officers that agreed to the new post. Early on, as the war escalated among Belgium’s neighbor, Germany, he started to prepare for the possibility of another conflict. He was a good infantry commander, albeit incredibly stubborn. He began to devise ways for the infantry to counter armored units and specifically tanks.
Before the war officially broke out between the countries, Leto noted the tough combat effectiveness of the German Panzer units. As a result, he immediately warned the military command of the need for immediate anti-tank armaments and fortifications between the borders of the two countries. By the time command approved of his plan, the Germans broke through the Ardennes and past the border. Within only an hour the border defenses were made obsolete.
As the Germans quickly advanced, the Belgian forces were continually beaten and forced back. Then finally with the help of the British, they managed the stabilize the front. If the Germans really placed even more tanks in Belgium, then no amount of British support will stop the tide.
Fast forward to the current situation, the German tanks were stopped opposite his position in a tense stalemate.
“It will be very difficult for our forces to resist a full attack by the enemy. The most that can be done is to fight to the last man, create chaos in both forces, and damage their morale. At the very least, we can delay until reinforcements arrive.
The soldiers here must be sacrificed for the rest of the line to survive. If the Germans break through here then the entire line will collapse and it would be too late to organize another one. Unless the British can create another defensive line, there is nothing keeping the Germans from breaking right through.
But will this tactic really make a difference? Those Germans only took half a day to break through thirty-two defensive positions. Ah, it ridiculous how rampant they can run about, crashing past trenches as they see fit.”
He complained in front of his dozens of commanders. His voice still somewhat regretful regarding how quickly defeat came.
“Well, thinking about it too much will be no use. Defense alone will never subdue such a strong offense. However, a surprise attack may be able to disrupt their plans. The Germans and their past victories may have made them overconfident, a surprise attack may bring some surprising results. Well, that is all.” Leto made up his mind and made his way to the forward command post.
The sudden shelling took Muller off guard. He would have never expected the Belgians to first the first shot. Due to his negligence, his armored vehicle was struck by the residue flames. Covering the entire front of the car with a violent fire. Luckily Muller had withdrawn back into the car and tightly closed the hatch before the shell struck.
“All tanks, retreat. Retreat outside of the enemy’s firing range. Mortars, return fire!” Muller yelled into his microphone.
The entire row of tanks began to change to reverse gear almost simultaneously. Causing some brief chaos before they all slowly retreated backwards. Although making a U-turn may have been faster, no one was willing to expose their fragile engine to the enemy.
“Report losses!” When the tanks retreated to their positions, Muller asked. “Who is injured?”
He was most afraid of his troops dying because of his negligence. How could he have forgotten that the enemy has large caliber artillery.
“Reporting. Besides a tank whose engine was hit by shrapnel, the losses were limited to external damage.” A tank company commander reported.
“The enemy’s tanks began moving.” A sharp-eyed tank captain shouted.
“Is that so?” Muller carefully peeped out of his hatch towards the enemy positions.
Sure enough, through the smoke, Muller could see the Belgian tanks charging out of the woods. The engine smoke spewing behind them.
“AMC 35? Why is it this model?”
From Muller’s headphones came the 25th Panzer Regiment’s commander, Lieutenant Colonel Harron.”
“What about these tanks?” Muller asked as he had no idea regarding French tanks.
“It’s garbage, leave it to us.” Harron answered confidently.
“Oh well, anyways prepare for the assault. Use the special maneuver, let’s show them a bit of our power.” Muller said. He was still depressed by the fact that the enemy caught him off guard, making him even more determined to retaliate.
“Understood, Colonel Muller. We await your order.”
Muller shouted at the microphone. “Listen here! The Belgian Army has finally formed a worthy line of defense before us. We have vowed to tear any enemies that stand before our General Reinhardt. This is the best chance to express our loyalty. Men, let us give the Belgians another taste of our Cerberus Corps! Deploy in Cerberus Formation! Start assault!”
The moment Muller’s assault command was issued, all of the German artillery began to fire as shells began to descend towards the Belgian positions. Falling like rain, the defenses soon looked like a sea of flames and explosions.
Those AMC 35 tanks and their 25mm armor had no chance against the Panzer 38t’s. All those that rushed into the center of the field were lit like torches.
Then the German tanks suddenly split into two teams. Forming two wings that approached the enemy, unhindered by the Belgian’s ferocious fire. As the Belgian artillery focused on the two wings, the German artillery continued to blast the Belgian trenches to smithereens. Then a group of tanks charged down the center between the two wings, followed by a large number of German infantry.
If someone was watching this from the skies, it would look like the German assault formation was like a fierce three-headed dog. The three heads being the tanks and the body, being the mass of infantry that followed behind. It’s teeth ready to sink into the depths of the Belgian lines.
[Side Note: I’ve been reading this series called: “King of the German Mercenaries“. It’s a series that just so happens to be set in Germany but in during the reign of Maximilian I. The MC was a dude that took the body of a penniless wandering knight. (so far) The series features Swiss mercenaries and French Knights and all sorts of cool stuff. I’m only on chapter 4 but it seems like a good series. Might pick it up after I read the entire 372 chapters.]