SS Hampton Sr. Ed. Stephen Morgan
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December, 1941, and fresh Siberian troops from the Soviet Far East have launched savage counter-attacks against the German invaders. The Eastern Front is torn open with German units driven back, overwhelmed, or isolated. An exhausted Waffen SS infantry platoon outside of Moscow needs to know what the Siberians, hidden in a dark forest before them, are up to. A small patrol is sent into the snowy, otherworldly forest…
A little more than a dozen snow encrusted German soldiers, remnants of a once strong motorized infantry platoon, grimly surveyed their surroundings. The frozen winter sun cast a feeble light across their outpost on a small rise overlooking a snowy road that bordered the forest before Moscow. Above them gray clouds painted with broad pastel strokes of reds, yellows, and purples drifted across the twilight sky.
"The sun's going down," Josef Frank said to no one in particular as he adjusted his leather “Y” straps on which to attach his field gear. He carefully checked his 9mm MP 38 submachine gun. In the savage cold their weapons and ammunition were scraped clean of lubricating oils because the oils froze and jammed the weapons. Even then, successful operation was no guarantee. His weapon sometimes fired only one to two rounds at a time. Then he checked the leather magazine pouches fastened to his belt—three magazines, thirty rounds per magazine, ninety rounds, and one “potato masher” stick grenade tucked in his belt. That was all he had left to face the fresh Siberian troops lurking somewhere within the dark forest before them—the last barrier that hid the suburbs of Moscow.
He glanced at the gaunt men wrapped in all manner of clothing to protect themselves against the painful cold. In that snowy otherwordly environment, it was sometimes hard to remember that he was an SS-Unterscharführer, a sergeant and a squad leader, in a much decimated Waffen SS motorized infantry battalion. All that was left of his platoon was gathered on the rise—an MG-34 gunner and his assistant, a trio of riflemen, a light mortar manned by two soldiers, and a pair of soldiers with a Panzerbusche 39 anti-tank rifle. Plus, he and his squad of three surviving soldiers who would soon creep into the forest to see what the Siberians were doing.
Their ground was no more than twenty feet higher than the surrounding terrain, and though it gave them a good overview, they were also sitting ducks. Low moans and an occasional cry came from among the scores of dirty white forms sprawled on the snowy slopes of their small rise of land. The shapeless forms trailed from the shadowed edges of the vast forest…