|A Captured Mauser
Author: Mauser-KAR98K PM
A tale of a young German in the final week of the Battle for Stalingrad with his rifle. You won't look at your old war rifles the same way after this.Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Adventure - Words: 3,297 - Reviews: 16 - Favs: 19 - Follows: 2 - Updated: 09-14-09 - Published: 03-28-07 - Status: Complete - id: 3463294
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
I've gone back over this wonderfully reviewed story of mine, and I hope given it one last walk through. I took out somethings, clarified sections, and added some detail here and there. I really aimed to keep the paragraphs flowing and kept with the main ideas.
I did my best to keep the story itself unchanged, keeping the emotional impact I first placed in it over two years ago. So for some of you that have come back to reread this, nothing has really changed but only the presentation. I still hope though that you all enjoy this time around as you did the first.
For all you new comers, I drew up this story many years ago after looking at my own Mauser KAR98K rifle and just wondered what it had seen. Most people either buy these old war relics for collecting, shooting, or just as a war trophy. Me, I got this for my high school graduation, and now I take in these old history teachers and treat them as such. You can really grasp how history was made just by attempting to feel what the soldier experienced behind the sights. You can't take in the fear with this , and imagining, to me, doesn't even come close to touching it. But at least a glimpse down the sights could give us a valued glimpse of life and war.
A Captured Mauser
Stalingrad, Russia; January 24, 1943
The half-track creaked and moaned as it lumbered through the broken, snow covered streets, pitching and rolling as if it were teetering over a narrow ridge of a jagged mountain. What had once been a beautiful city of industry for the Russians, the Germans brought their blitzkrieg and their thousand year Reich to the cobblestone streets and buildings of Stalingrad, blasting them to the four winds with every ounce of high explosives from their shells and bombs. The huddled masses of what was left of the factories and stores looked more like eviscerated skeletons, their steel and concrete guts spilled over on the streets which the metal tracks of the Sdkfz 251 personnel carrier trampled over, neither without mercy sorrow.
Being surrounded was not his idea of war; neither was the idea of fighting in the harsh formidable cold. Entranced with what he had on, his green tunic over two layers of shirts, matching trousers weren't much to battle the harsh elements. A belt and a tattered Y-strap held his two ammunition pouches, bread bag, and bayonet just above his stomach, buckled with the Wehrmacht's shield. His hob-nail boots showed more history than his uniform: scars that littered over the leather, speckles of mud and blood, even oil was splattered like freckles that reminded him of his own pale, weary face. With each passing victory and retreat, more and more marks were added from the tussle of war. He could feel the weight outside and in.
He had no rank to speak of anymore. With hardly any staff to hold the ranks together, he was now a sergeant, but felt like a mere soldier, all thanks to the Russian Red Army. He had medals: an Iron Cross for one, plus a wound badge that he received from the opening shots of the pitched battle. But he never wore them. With the Russian snipers being top notch at their deadly art, he didn't want to be confused as an officer and be killed for the confusion. And even if he did wear them, he was sure the Iron Cross would be sticking to his throat by now from the fringed air.
But for his present thoughts; he swore if he ever survived this, he wanted to go to the man who ever designed this monstrosity that he was riding in and shoot him with his Mauser carbine his hands were occupied with holding steady in front of him.
The bastard could've at least put a roof and a heater in this thing, the young German complained to himself.
Straying his stare to the long and shivering faces of the four other men with him, he felt comforted by their detached looks that he shared in feeling. He didn't know them nor did he care to. He had lost many friends to the Russian's and Hitler's never-ending taste for victory. The only thing that gave him comfort was his rifle: a Mauser KAR98K that was forged in 1939 and put together in Berlin; someplace where he wanted to be at an instant. His parents had a nice vacation house in the countryside not to far from the capital, and he longed for the warm fire and peace of it.
The half-track grinned to a halt, rattling the occupants inside, and the young German away from his blissful musings. Some stood up to look over the armored sides of the grey beast while he just sat on the cold bench, clutching his rifle as of it were keeping him warm. Suddenly, his trembling trance was shattered as the rear twin doors screeched open, exposing an officer at the foot of the entrance. He wasn't hard to miss; he had a heavy, grey winter coat on.
"Out, all of you!" he ordered with a throaty voice, his cream, jagged face solid with hidden rage wanting to escape.
The young German and the rest scrambled to their cold feet as fast as they could manage, making their way out of the half-track and on to the snow covered, debris littered ground. They all stood at a trembling attention, holding their rifles in their right hands by their sides. The sky looked sick; grey clouds mixed with black smoke raced through the air as the harsh winds carried them over the battered city that bore Stalin's name.
"Orders from the Fuhrer himself," the officer pronounced, still holding his pride as he spoke, "hold the city to the last man." His reconnoitered eyes swept over them, seeing victory over the coming wasted lives. "For that we intend to do. The 6th Army shall make the Fuhrer proud."
The boys heart sank further from hope.
They were marched through the streets, passing bodies of bombed out tanks and vehicles, cold of life, somehow became infused with the buildings and land. And the stench from it all was horrific for the young German. The smell of expended gun-powder, human extremities, and rotting corpses that happened to be right next to burning fires, which quickened the decaying process, it all lingered heavily in the cold, dry air.
The officer lead the way, holding his MP-40 at a relaxed port arms as he half marched through the city. As they were coldly navigated through the torn city, the young German checked his ammo pouches on his belt: he only had ten rounds, and five more already loaded into his rifle. Supplies were low, if not none existent. The Russians had seized the only vital airfield to the west of them, and the last Heinkle 111 flew out only two days before. Now with the German 6th Army completely surrounded, it was only a matter of time before they either surrendered or were wiped out under Hitler's suicidal orders.
They stopped at a small man-made hill; a small pile of rocks that didn't stretch no more than few meters across the snow covered street.
This is what we are fighting to defend; a pile of rocks that has no military value?
The harsh reality beckoned him to cry, but he held onto his emotions, fearing that he would get yelled at by the officer in front of the others; shamming him even further.
"You are to man and defend this section at all costs. Retreating is considered desertion and deserters will be shot. Hiel Hitler!" the officer shouted, throwing his left arm up to give the Nazi Party's salute.
The others returned it, but for the young German, the pride that he had for it vanished long ago.
We're just a small pebble in a raging river, giving the Russians more target practice and hatred to kill Hitler. Good for them.
They waited for what felt like half an hour on their bellies. Sharp edges of the rocks below him along with the snow punched through his tunic and made him squirm for better comfort. He found it, but he was afraid that it was more of numbness setting in from the cold than him finding a spot on the small incline of cover.
A silhouette suddenly appeared over the foggy horizon down the long, daunting street, then another. His heart began to pump faster as more and more appeared through the haze.
"Sights to 200 meters!" shouted the officer.
The young German pushed his opened rear sight up one notch, pinching the locking tabs in as he slide it up to the number two spot on the ladder. He took careful aim as he stiffened his grip around the brown laminated stock before he squeezed the heavy trigger. The rifle jumped in his hands, the concussion from the blast and the report threw his vision off from his target. Blinking, forcing back the mild head-ache, he regained his sight picture; the man he had aimed at was slumped over in the street...dead.
He quickly pulled the bolt back on the rifle, producing its distinctive metallic and mechanical sound as he chambered another round into the breach. With a quick aim, he yanked back on the trigger, dropping another Russian soldier across the frigid void. It wasn't until the ringing in his ears subsided some that he heard his comrades beside him had already opened up at the advancing Russian tide.
Chambering another round in, he was about to take aim at another soldier, but he forced to slide down the rocks as the enemy returned heavy fire with their submachine guns and Mosin Naget rifles and carbines. Bullets hissed and popped all around him; one finding its mark on a fellow German soldier to his right. The jacketed 7.62mm bullet landed right in the man's throat, severing vital arteries that showered his life's elixir onto the young German. Within seconds from the hit and the combination of shock and the cold, he was dead.
Shoving his emotions down that nearly drained him of courage, the young German placed his rear sight back to the hundred meter mark and took steady aim at another assaulting Russian. He was fighting now to survive. With a hard kick and the sight of his enemy's red blood staining the Russian's white smock, it signified the end of the communist's life.
Hot brass from the officer's MP-40 showered the young German and another soldier beside him as the nine-millimeter rounds perforated two enemy soldiers up ahead. He brushed the hot metallic casings off as he welcomed their warmth. With the deafening sound of the sub-machinegun fresh in his ears, the boy fired his last two rounds almost blindly, only slaying one Russian down in his wake of desperation and the haze of his vision. Reloading his weapon with a five round stripper clip through the top, he began to shoot wildly at anything that moved.
Another well placed round found a fellow German soldier far down the line to his left, cutting the man's life short in an instant. Screams echoed over the cracks from their rifles as the Russians gave out their rallying cries to kill the Fascist. Fear instilled the young German as he loaded another stripper clip full of rounds down into the magazine...it was his last one. He cowered even lower behind the rocks as he took down another Russian with his Mauser rifle.
But his action was countered when a bullet fatally ripped through the air, slamming through the head of his comrade who laid between him and the officer. Blood, bone, and grey matter lathered him, steaming in the air as the warm tissue met the cold winter Russian air. He returned fire and dropped the Russian that killed his fellow soldier. At first he thought the white puff was rifle fire from the Russian, but he instantly saw the white cotton fabric floating in the air where the Russian had once stood.
As he fired two more rounds down the street, not one finding their mark, he noticed one of his comrades climbed up from the rocks and started running away for his life. That idea was beckoning the young German, burning brightly in his overwhelmed mind. When he fired off his forth round, he was about to jump to his feet and do the same. But as he turned over onto his back he saw the officer turn his MP-40 around and fired at the fleeing man. The nine-millimeter bullets cut him down instantly in the back, his body thrown down to the white snow that soon turned red from his draining life.
This put fire in the young German's eyes as he turned his rifle towards the officer. "You son of a bitch!"
And he jabbed the barrel of his rifle in the chest cavity of the officer and squeezed the trigger for the last time. The muzzle blast split the officer's chest open almost at the seams as the eight-millimeter bullet ripped through his back. Without a shutter from the quivering nerves, the officer laid lifeless on the ground, steam floating from his wounds.
The young German pulled back the bolt to his Mauser and pushed it forward, but it didn't go any further. He looked down at the breach and his heart sank as he gazed at the magazine catch...it was empty. Discarding his rifle, he picked up the officer's MP-40, and staying low behind the rock, hammered out the last rounds in the stick magazine down the street, causing some of the Russian's to either spring for cover, or dive to ground. When the bolt slammed forward on an empty chamber, the German dropped the weapon and dodged his way down the street, out of the ruined city.
He stumbled through the snow as he somehow made his way west into the country side. Ever step became harder as his joints began to stiffen from the harsh cold. He was shivering uncontrollably, his arms crunched around his chest as he fought to stay warm. When his shakes became too harsh, it sent him to the frozen tundra ground. He didn't feel his knees hit the earth for they were so numb. His teeth rattled, his chapped lips shivered as he looked up at the profane grey sky. Black smoke filtered in and out of his sight, looking like waving black hair in the very dim sunlight.
He missed home at that instant. He longed for his parents and their warm house. But he knew he was never going to see it. He whimpered out his last and final prayer as winter began to take hold of his conscience. His last act of defiance came when he threw his helmet to the four winds, casting his allegiance to a madman away as he did. His heart rate slowed as the cold took him in. At one point he didn't feel pain for his nerves had frozen to his brief delight. Soon, hypothermia took its cold and demented course, his heart beats ebbed to a deathly halt as he closed his eyes for the last time.
A green canvas truck slowed to a halt near the rock pile where a small band of Germans had called a defensive post mere minuets ago. Several well clothed Russian men jumped out of the back of the truck and started sifting through the discarded weapons and pockets of the dead. One of the weapons they came across was an empty Mauser carbine, its bolt still pulled back. They tossed the rifle in the back as if it were trash. Soon, they moved the bodies over to the side of the street that would feed the stray dogs of war, and to make way for their army's last push to cast the Germans out of Joseph Stalin's city.
Months past as the rifle was sent to an armory behind the lines. There it was stripped down completely, its serial number electric penciled all over its parts as they were put to storage. For years it laid scattered in boxes, dormant from the acts of war, staying cold without firing cartridges to warm the barrel and breach, it's pieces like a broken family, never seeing each other.
Until Mother Russian collapsed under Her own weight.
"How much for the Mauser?" a man asked. He stood over a large glass display case that showed the latest pistol models. But all he was concerned about was the laminated stock of a Mauser KAR98K.
"Two-fifty, sir." replied the gruff looking man across the counter.
"Wow...that's cheap?" the man replied, his face betraying his surprise.
"Yep, Russian's are finding capitalism very well these days."
"What do you mean?" asked the man with an odd look.
"Well," fumbled the salesman, taking the rifle down from the rake, "these were captured during the war by the Russians. From what I hear, this one was taken during the Battle of Stalingrad. From my research, this could have come from the 6th German Army." he stated. "Anyways, when the Curtain came down, the Russian's started needing money and all. Well, they found these captured weapons in storage bunkers, so, they had them put back together and sold to us Americans and whoever else wanted them. If you look here," –He pointed to the top of the breach– "They put an 'X' in the middle between the year and factory code to show that it is their little war trophy."
"Spoils of war, eh?'" the gentlemen remarked.
"You got it. So, will you be taking home a Mauser today, sir?" asked the salesman.
The tall slender man twitched his lips before he nodded. "Yea, I'll take it. What the hell, 'ya know. Might turn it into a hunting rifle."
"Okay, need you to fill out this form here, and need to see you driver's license."
The man placed the rifle in the back seat of his car. As he drove home, he thought hard whether to just put a scope of the rifle and change out the current stock to a Monte Carlo. For a few miles and stop lights he changed his mind completely and decided to leave the rifle as it was. The rifle looked immaculate, and the nostalgia of it being in a major battle with the small dings in the stock to prove it strengthen is decision.
And it was when he got home that he showed the Mauser to his teenage son and explained what the man at the gun-shop had told him that he was happy with what he bought. He watched as his young son looked it over with wide, wonder filled eyes, gazing and studying the markings, scratches, and dings of the weapon. He wondered at the thought of what the rifle probably had seen, but came to a conclusion that it was probably given up in surrender.
But what he never fathomed, that if the rifle could speak through its cold steel and aging wood, it would tell a of a young German, not much older than the young boy he held it now, and about the last desperate hours of a life.