Several short first-person accounts by panzer division soldiers from the first phase of the 1940 French campaign.
“They are Cardon-Lloyd-Tanks”, gunner Roland calls, “I have them in the sights! Stop!” A jolt goes through the waggon. Hardly has the panzer stopped when the first shells already race at the enemy. They are right on target. A huge jet of flame shoots out of the enemy tank. A mortal hit! “The next”, jubilates the reserve driver. The reliable gunner Roland was always on the ball; he has already sighted and his cannon already spits the lethal charge against the second tank. Again a jet of flame. It is also out of commission!
On the same momement the sustained fire of their own point panzer rattles, which had remained back a bit with a gun jam. Here gunner Müller performs a masterpiece. His fire salvo already pierces the armor of the third opponent. Flames emerge from the tank and swiftly spread, devouring it.
Three enemy tanks destroyed in a few minutes! That is a respectable success.
The scout troop drives at high speed behind the last two fleeing tanks into the town. The first vehicle has already turned along a street curve in the town when a hard jolt tosses the crew together. The panzer stops.
“Back, back!” The driver shouts with a horrified voice. An armored Polish train stands in the middle of the rail crossing that the scout troop had crossed barely an hour ago unmolested. Tank after tank rolls down the loading ramp and infantry jumps out of the cars. On the last car, Polish artillerymen swiftly aim the barrel of a huge rail gun at both German panzers.
Fast as lightning, the panzer commander has grasped the surprisingly situation. “Off, off, Heini, backward! March!” he roars at the top of his lungs. Only the greatest speed can now save everyone’s life.
And it works, as always. Both panzers are already rolling away in reverse gear. They are too fast for the artillerymen of the rail gun. The first shot released from the huge gun races high over our heads into the town.
At high speed both panzers cross the little town where it is suddenly teaming with Poles. From all sides rifle and machine-gun bullets pelt the armour like peas. But the trip is not to be stopped. The Poles have not yet had time to build a barrier.
Outside the town, by one of the last houses, a machine-gun salvo strikes the first panzer so unluckily that the tires are hit. Again, minutes of gravest danger. The outer cover from the first vehicle’s front wheel twirls in the air a few times and comes to a stop on the road. A jolt to the right – will the panzer tip over at this high speed? Thank God, no! At an angle and driving only on wheel-rims, it continues on its way. Just out of this mess! In the highest gear, they pass between the two still burning Polish tanks knocked out earlier. But the road is a dead end! Ahead is the demolished second bridge, to the left extends swampy terrain, and the river flows in a wide bend in the direction of Zabinka. The scout troop is boxed in.
The only escape is a narrow path leading to the right of the demolished bridge to a hill where three houses stand. “Scout Schulz encircled!” the radio message goes to the detachment. “Abandon vehicles, blow them up, break through!” the commander’s order comes back. But it is not that far yet. The weapons are still not jammed and the panzers can drive. Both machine-guns are taken out and put into position, both panzer commanders grab machine-pistols and the drivers arm themselves.
The hope the scout troop’s route has gone unnoticed is unfortunately proven wrong. From the town eight machine-gun squads of Polish infantry swarm out toward the hill; tank after tank appears on the road. The situation is hopeless.
Now explosive charges are indeed placed under the vehicles and the most important items removed from them. The enemy infantry approaches in short leaps toward the hill, closer and closer. Both machine-guns fire for all they are worth. Many an attacker does not get up again for the next leap, but what can two machine-guns achieve against eight! When the Poles have worked their way to within 500 meters, both gunners demand more ammunition. But the ammunition has been almost all shot up. The last full drum already lies next to them. A break out in the direction of the river has now become impossible.
In the greatest need, a call for help now goes out to the detachment: “Request artillery fire on hill one kilometer southwest of Zabinka.” Meanwhile, the Pole draws ever nearer. The last drum is loaded. Firing is now only possible at the most certain targets. The advancing enemy is already clearly distinguishable. Still 300 meters…still 250 meters…
The radio man calmly does his duty, sitting at the equipment like a training exercise and transmitting one cry for help after another to the detachment. Only now and again does he open the hatch and ask: “How far are they now?”
The ammunition runs out. There can only be a few rounds left in the drum. At the last moment the first artillery shell flies, happily greeted by the men. Just in front of the hill the shell bores into the earth and rips it apart with a numbing boom. “Fire is too far!” goes the radio message to the detachment. The next shells already strike right in the middle of the attacking Poles. In the secure feeling of no longer being alone, the scout troop commander directs the artillery fire over the radio: “Shells are well-placed!” – “Shift fire to the right!” So flash the radio signals to the detachment.
Two hundred meters in front of the hill, the attack by the Poles collapses under the artillery fire. For a little while they remain at that point, then they slowly pull back. A whistle is blown from the locomotive of the armored train and the enemy withdraws eastward in headlong flight. A few minutes later the train steams off in the direction of Brest-Litowsk.