|Traduit en français|
THE assault ship is British, and the cabin, which contains bunks, gear and tea mugs, lodges for the nonce three officers. Captain Foster of His Majesty's "Lancaster Foot" is still looking like an old hound dog, although his winter of dysentery along the Rapido River has long past. The third man is a stranger, a lieutenant of the Third American Infantry Division on his first voyage into the unknown. Then there is Lt. Alfred de Grazia, AUS, apparently in fine fettle, splashing himself sloppily from the two pots of hot bath water brought him by an Indian steward. That's the British: blah food but good personal service.
The sea breeze cools the sense of mid-August. He dresses comfortably in the cotton uniform he had brought along in violation of orders. He had collected a lot of cigarettes, four cartons more than prescribed, and brought them along, too. A list of what must and might be carried had been issued from on high; all else was to be left behind. No gas mask: "That's something, Foster, what?" He would have in any event mailed off the thick pack of letters from home. He stuffed them into the wooden cigar box he had acquired in Sardinia. Several he kept to represent his beloved until the next mail should arrive, if ever. He wondered whether he should have brought along the lovely 12-gauge shotgun he had confiscated but had left behind for an illusory safe-keeping. He hefted everything he had to carry, including his tommy-gun and 45-calibre sidearm, plus a German Walther 38-cal automatic, each with its special heavy packets of ammunition, jumped up and down a few times and folded in a couple of more cotton things and several indestructible English chocolate bars; hot woolens made his tender skin itch. He figured that if things got tough, he could dump the extras, but, if not, they could boost life's pleasure-pain ratio.
Calm seas, with many streams from many ships of different forms: he studied them through his binoculars and wished he might see them from the air. Hardly any friendly planes in the sky: they were probably routed off the flanks to preserve them from Friendly Fire. No signs of an enemy at sea or in the air. Two years earlier a quarter of the Allied Fleet would have been blown from the water. Now they sail through the Straits of Bonifacio between Sardinia and Corsica, where once they would have been clobbered from both sides.
Word passes that they have been joined by an equally large fleet from Africa. He is not sure where they'll go ashore; it would be near a resort village called St. Tropez. Doesn't matter much. So long as it's not heavily defended. It'll be largely a matter of luck as in Normandy, one beach blasted, another abandoned quickly.
The lounge is crowded with officers all day and night, smoky, blacked out. He has finished the Turgenev novel in his bunk. He writes a long letter to his wife on deck. It carries slight overtones of a finale, appropriate to the circumstances. He plays chess with Captain Foster, his old friend. He has just come to know his Team commander, a Major Erik Roos. Roos is a blonde civil engineer in his thirties with an unbecoming down-turned mouth. The Lieutenant is to be his Executive Officer; they have only a half-dozen going in on the first wave, but a hundred more men and thirty vehicles will arrive to join them over the next two weeks -- if all goes well. Then more later.
This is Roos' first experience of close-in warfare. Nor has he education or experience in propaganda or public opinion or psychology. Nor of Germany; he had worked once in the Middle East; he speaks Danish. He had been sent up from Africa for the expedition; Mike Bessie, an American civilian who had been a book editor, a dark skinny little guy, pleasant enough, together with a British counterpart, had chosen Roos from the PWB pool, and put him in charge of the operation. The team had not trained at Naples; Roos hardly spoke at all, and could hardly impart such knowledge as he conceivably possessed. There was no use asking him about anything. What is more shocking, or should be, is that the Lieutenant and the Captain are neither surprised nor indignant. Being badly commanded is ordinary in the US army, whether infantry or intelligence, and you might as well throw in the British Army on the balance.
The night of the Fourteenth of August, 1944, before landing, the saloon is jammed with officers. He and Foster are hunched over their tiny chessboard room, breathing befouled air, concentrating fiercely, for they are well-matched, both poor players. All of a sudden the ship's guns blast into action and as by a word of command, the officers stampede from the lounge. The chess players lift their heads and slowly return from the game to awareness. They look about the empty room. They've lost their moment to panic. An ineffectual air raid apparently -- lucky if nobody is clipped by Friendly Flack while out on deck. Since there is nowhere to go, the officers straggle back in abashedly.
They are up at dawn; amidst heavy firing, they are served breakfast.They clutch their packs and guns and go out on deck where the early light has the shore well in sight, no batteries firing from it, a calm surf, a fine prospect. Puffs of smoke appear where the shore is being struck by naval gunfire. The landings begin at eight o'clock, the first assault boats motoring in without immediate opposition, striking no mines. His group watches for a signal to disembark from their loading master, the particular one who has them on his list. The sun is well out before they jump into the landing craft and go ashore. They trot up the beach, over rocks, through brush, always following a path marked by the sappers, hastening because of the lines of men converging upon their path from the beach. After a mile or so, the line becomes a fan as the soldiers go off into their own units at their assembly points.
Since his mission is not to seize terrain from the enemy, he leads the group in search of a billet. No civilians are to be seen; they are off the roads, hiding back of the coast in the hills. They find a partially destroyed villa. A cursory inspection detects no booby traps: "Remember Catania," he thinks. They take it over. The furnishings are largely gone. The water and light do not function. The garden is overgrown. They could do better, but a colonel might come along and turn them out of a luxury dwelling at this point, or a whole company might descend upon them. They no sooner settle in than their two jeeps and drivers arrive. Several sleep in, several outside.
There is no telling if the enemy is still about, they may have assembled to attack the beachhead from somewhere out yonder. He takes a jeep and goes in search of an operations intelligence officer, some S2 of a task force or battalion, who may have heard some news from the flanks and ahead. There is little for them to do, they discover. The Germans are retiring generally and are not waiting for messages inviting their surrender or exhorting retreat. There are reconnaissance units out searching for them, picking up contact, cornering them. The Lieutenant picks up souvenirs that the Germans have left behind, a fur-lined pack from the Russian campaigns, a flat canteen that he considers superior in design to his rounded one. They had left in a hurry, probably as soon as the first shells from the boats began to come in.
Their conquerors are eating K-rations, with some C-rations thrown in. There is little food to be seized or scrounged. General Washington's surprise crossing of the Delaware River at Trenton found Hessian tables laden with a Christmas banquet. Here, five generations later, everybody eats badly. It will take a while for the better grade of ration to come ashore, and he'll be gone by then. He walks Foster down to the beach road and says good-bye; the Lancastrian hitch-hikes on an armored weapons carrier; he is going to work the Eastern end of the Front, over by Italy.
The night is not too noisy: the artillery has already moved beyond its position and the enemy has withdrawn his pieces. Not the distant sounds, but the passing vehicles and men going this way and that, to and from the beaches, disturbs your sleep. Major Roos awakens him; I hear noises from the garden, go see if it's the enemy, he orders. No use arguing: he puts on his boots and takes a walk outside, sees nothing and pisses in the starlight. Nothing to worry about, Major, maybe some of our men looking for a place to sleep.
The next day the Lieutenant takes off by himself to drum up trade and to make observations. The pattern for future activity is set. Roos is a homebody. He likes to be by himself in a corner. The Lieutenant does not think much about the reasons for this, not yet. He is making himself at home in France and keeping up with the front, which presents an intriguing panorama, kaleidoscopic, because it changes so much with every shake of the hour-glass. He is looking for a place to plunge in and do a job. "Make yourself useful," is his mission.
Overnight the situation has radicalized, no thanks to him. They are now as deep into France as Naples from Salerno, Messina from Syracuse. In the beginning, there were these four to six great convoys converging off Corsica, one from the heel of Italy at Taranto, another south of Naples (that's the Lieutenant and company) and the Salerno area (so therefore really two), then a couple out of Africa, and some boats and a large airborne armada from Corsica. They land in five main bodies, Alpha in two branches, on the peninsula of San Tropez, his own being closest to town; and then all along the Coast. Map 13.0 shows the large scene, and where they were within two days. On Alpha's right flank are Delta, Camel (split into three) and Rosie, close to Cannes. On the left flank, Romeo goes ashore at Cap Negre. Airborne troops drop near them by Saint Tropez and inland at Le Muy. The Twelfth Tactical Air Force is operating out of Corsica and Sardinia; some flights are running out of Foggia, a long ways off. For lack of target, their planes are not much in evidence along the beaches of Alpha. Franco-American Special Forces tackle some coast artillery positions only to find that they are dummy emplacements. So much for the perspicacity of aerial observation prior to the invasion.
Confronting the Seventh Army with its several divisions and task forces, American and French, is the Nineteenth German Army, a shapeless conglomerate which has a number of elements stretched out between Toulouse in the West and the Italian frontier in the East. The Allied Forces advancing into France from the West have emerged from the Normandy beachheads and are engorging large sectors to the East; they do not threaten in the next several weeks to sweep East across France, for they are driving northeast in a giant envelopment strategy, designed to liberate Paris, crush the main German armies in France and drive toward the industrial Ruhr. For the time being and in the minds of its soldiers, the Seventh United States Army is fighting its own isolated war.
The Germans knew they were coming.The 19th German Army Group of Southern France was headquartered at the marvelous medieval Papal city of Avignon, up the Rhone River from Marseilles. There, General Wiese, Commanding, was told on August 11 that an armada was heading in his general direction and that it might strike the Italian Coast around Genoa or the Riviera-to-Toulon area. He received gratefully an order that transferred the 11th Armored Division over to him from the Toulouse region. His other troops included seven divisions of infantry, most of which are under strength; one was made up largely of disemployed Luftwaffe personnel. Since a large number of units had been engaged in coastal defense they had to spike and abandon their cannon, leaving the troops merely with small arms. The Germans had far too much territory to cover and could not resist strongly at any point, not in the beginning.
Formally, at first, they did not appear determined upon the logical tactic, which would be to get out of southern France as quickly and neatly as possible, suffering only the losses demanded to prevent their total capitulation. This tactic called for a quick retreat North, where they might join their retreating comrades from the West to set up a line of resistance across France, anchored upon Lyon. Some troops, at least a division of them could escape easily into Italy. closing the mountain hatches behind them. But the Fuhrer hated retreats and would not approve of an immediate turning of tail.
The whole movement from Southwestern France should have been initiated even before the landings. A week and more was lost, enough of a delay to make a fully successful retreat and defense impossible. When the orders did go out, they were reasonable enough: The Nineteenth Army will converge from all sides upon the Rhone Valley. It will then proceed up the Valley. It will pause on the way to Lyon at seven phases of resistance, starting with a line at the Durance River. The Order of August 18 commands a general withdrawal, to begin on the evening of the 21st of August, with one division covering their Riviera flank, and a second the Eastern Alpine foothills. Their right flank (facing to the Mediterranean Sea) will be pulled in and assist in the defense of Marseilles and Toulon, where some help can be expected from French Vichy forces. The 11th Panzer Division will protect the reassembly and withdrawal.
But it took the 11th Panzer a week to get to the Rhone and cross it. The Lieutenant could watch its progress on the G-2 maps that he studied when he visited Advance Headquarters of the Seventh Army. The 11PD had to suffer continual air attacks. Many a repair job was necessitated by the wear and tear of the trip, too. It would have taken them longer and cost them more if the Twelfth Tactical Air Force had been able to destroy all bridges in the Division's path. It tried but failed. Too, a strong uprising of the French resistance might have interposed delays; it did not occur.
Various hearty messages had been beamed out to the French resistance fighters, and they were encouraged to harass the German columns. French units of the underground did spring into action. Much of the effort went into subjugating Vichy police and troop units and chasing down individuals. Still one must wonder whether the résistants or partisans or maquisards did not serve to galvanize the Germans into hurrying up their assembly, into pulling themselves together. An unforeseen disadvantage, unspoken, unmentioned, unconsidered even by G-2 and G-3 analysts, Counterintelligence, OSS squads, and combat propagandists, who were so enthused over helping the partisans, even by Our Hero, was this: that the Germans as individuals become terrified at falling into the hands of armed partisans, so that the large number of desertions and straggling that one might expect from demoralized, too young and too old, under- equipped and under-fed soldiers scattered over a large area and now thrown together, ill -controlled by the SS military police, beset by the Americans, did not ensue. They preferred to take their chances on the long haul to the Heimat, even if they had to walk and be shot at by enemy planes and artillery along the way. The strong German togetherness trait, raised to a peak in its armed forces, was now reinforced by the fear of being killed if they turned themselves in or let themselves be captured by anyone save an American soldier. Even then, of course, the fear of being butchered remained, but it was less. An obstacle in psychological operations against the Germans was that they would like to surrender only in a group, but, once in a group, they acquired a high morale against surrender.
In July, heeding the call to arms from London, a large group of French maquisards took up positions in the Vercors region, South of Grenoble, intending to fortify a redoubt and hold it against the Germans until ultimately contacted by friendly forces. It was not to be. A German parachute battalion was dropped and, with the local German troops, disabled the uprising and killed 2000 French. Of this incident, the Lieutenant will be writing to his wife:
They marched from one village to another, burning them to the ground and massacring the inhabitants, men, women and children. They raped and looted in that strange, twisted German conviction that orderly and complete brutality is a part of permanent government. The empty houses, walls that point with jagged, black fingers at the blue sky and green mountains, and rows of graves are all that is left. Many of the young men were hiding in the mountains at the time and they are some of the people who have to say what to do with the Germans.
The Vercors area lies between two of the four major routes from the East to the Rhone that the German 11PD and the American 36 ID and Task Force Butler would be fighting over. If the uprising had been delayed for a month, the resistants would have been better supplied and reinforced, and in turn have encouraged the American troops to stronger efforts to cut off the Germans in retreat.
In August, the civil population of Charol, on the Front of the River Roublion, did rise up against a column of Armored Engineers of the 11th Panzer Division and inflict serious losses upon them. In this case they were cheered by having already made contact with the Americans moving down from the Route Napoleon.
Besides their sporadic independent operations, the partisans supplied many recruits to the two French divisions of what now became Army B under French General de Lattre de Tassigny; the budding Army was at first attached to the American Seventh Army, to whose Headquarters -- the G-2 section, under Colonel Quinn and his Assistant, Colonel Parry -- Our Man from Psychological Operations reported. The French, apart from commando units, landed after the Americans, and, as we catch up with the Lieutenant, are hastening toward Toulon and Marseilles, the large port cities to the west; nearly all sea-going traffic would be directed to them as soon as possible. The French troops were the colonial divisions, Moroccan and Algerian, our friends from Italy, with numbers of Europeans among them and leading them.
The Lieutenant understands that he can have little control in respect to the French people. They have long expected liberation. The Vichy supporters and militia have run away; rarely, they snipe or defend some strongpoint briefly until killed. Everybody else is more than cooperative. Whatever problems and opportunities they might present in the way of communications and propaganda are to be handled by the French themselves. Exceptionally, George Rehm of his team has now landed and goes East to the Cote d'Azur to start up a newspaper.
A mixed lot of French patriots, partisans, ex-officials and military officers begin a cantankerous caterwauling over public policies and media controls that will never end. Half their time is taken up with explaining who they are to each other and why they should be in charge of this or that installation and policy.
The Americans from the Army Headquarters on down are singularly unconcerned about who is running this part of France, now that they have liberated it. The Lieutenant, for instance, realizes that he would have a hard time taking over the Marseilles and Toulon media, even had he the personnel to go in, arrest, purge, appoint new staff, program the outlets and commence emissions. The task might have been delegated to the French command explicitly, with some representation of the Americans for surveillance, counsel and material help. Information control was quite unplanned.
The front and the occupied territory are expanding crazily. The French troops settle around the two cities for ten days of siege. The three American divisions are among the best, perhaps better than any that have landed in the North of France for they have engaged in one or more amphibious invasions and were loaded with the experiences of Italy: the Third heads up the Rhone Valley; the 45th moves up through the Luberon to Apt and beyond;the 36th goes up the Route Napoleon toward Grenoble. Then there is a task force that closes to the Italian border, and another that is formed of various units, given the name of Task Force Butler after its Commander, and sent up the Route Napoleon alongside the 36th Division specially to intercept the German retreat up the Rhone.
Matters were going poorly for the Germans, but General Weise knew just what to do. He had been deprived of the division that he thought would resist on his left flank, at the Riviera. He found that the second division that he had in that area was being poked to bits, what with being spread out all the way from Italy in a crescent around the coastal mountains and the foothills of the Alps, the Basses Alpes. And he saw that the 36th Division was marching -- nay, driving -- at a bewildering pace up the Route Napoleon. So he ordered the 11th Panzer Division, even while maintaining its front to the South against the Third and Forty-fifth American Divisions, to send four Battle groups to cork up the four river valleys that lead toward the Rhone and through which Task Force Butler must push, if it will emerge upon the Rhone and cut off the line of retreat of the 19th Army.
The principal site to be controlled is the town of Montelimar, where hills on the East and West narrow the Rhone Valley and provide commanding heights. Through Montelimar, which is located on the East Bank of the Rhone, run the main railroad line from Southern to Northern France, and the Main Highway #7 that runs from the South and East to Lyons. An important, if secondary, North-South highway #86 runs along the West bank of the Rhone. Heavy German traffic to the North starts up immediately along all three routes, and American planes are busily engaged in its destruction. The shoulders of the routes are soon looking messy.
Only one week after landing, after poking around Draguignan and Gap, the Lieutenant is cruising into the beautiful mountain city of Grenoble, its buildings undestroyed, its people joyful, the French resistants very much in evidence. How many miles from the sea has he come? Three hundred, more or less, plus two hundred zigging and zagging. The Americans are overwhelmed by the hospitality of the town; it is a little Roma. He trades cigarettes for perfume to send home. His soldiers have already arranged a party for the night of the liberation with a gang from the University. The evening holds great promise.
However, no sooner does he arrive and hear these glad tidings, than he learns, too, that Major Roos is urgently concerned to find him. The Major is swollen with an important mission. There has come a request from Corps headquarters for help: What kind? I don't know. When? Now, right away. Where? Find the Corps. Where is it? I don't know. It's getting dark. Roos tightens his lips, their sour curl is gone: look, orders are orders, this is an order! The Lieutenant looks hard at the guy. He is crazy. He cannot discuss a problem. He
has never been out in the dark.
Still, despite the almost hopeless nature of the mission, the Lieutenant is pleased to hear from Corps, that they believed something was urgently needed. Of course, the matter is up to the Propaganda Team to decide; it knows better than Corps whether it could be done or not; the sad fact is that no one in the Army from General Patch down knows anything about this kind of military action and therefore, unless it is to be so stupid as to be criminal, a perceived action needs to be framed as a request, not an order. As an order, as Major Roos would have it, this was absurd, yet the Exec did not regard the idea as ridiculous as such. Moreover, he was the only one in the Army who could undertake the peculiar mission, Lt. Johnny Anspacher had arrived, but he was a novice.
It is uniquely his, this kind of work. He drives about in complete darkness over quite unknown roads, through uncertain lines of enemy and friends (who cannot be relied upon to recognize you), trailing behind him a load of messages for the enemy, having in mind finding a corps headquarters that has been on the move, who would tell him where some divisional artillery might be located, and what the problem is, for the purpose then of proceeding to find a battery of artillery that is set up and targeted to do the job. It would not do, for instance, to shoot the stuff at the 11th Panzer, which has high morale, is standing and holding, and is concentrated in small groups; the cannon had to be pointed at the retreating enemy mass.
So he drives along. He has hardly ever asked himself whether the Enemy would kill him if they caught him. Nor did he ever wonder whether bashfulness of some of his company back in Algiers to move up to the Front were due to such a feeling; he considered them as mere ordinary goldbricks. His was a straight military task, one might argue, but the SS police had peculiar notions of what constituted the military; in Russia they (and the whole Wehrmacht, in fact), were under orders, obeyed with alacrity, to kill (or starve to death) any political personnel they came across, any communist party workers, as well as the usual legions of Jews, Gypsies, partisans, and others who simply weren't lucky enough to get out of their way. He knew enough of this to be warned, but somehow, though he always thought he might be killed, he never thought he'd be captured. Strange, since he worked so closely to enemy prisoners of war.
At any rate, he is enough of a soldier, or a simpleton, or rash enough, to try to carry out the Corps idea. If someone out there is intelligent enough to think of what should be done in this case, the Lieutenant was going to try to help him, instead of driving off around the bend of the road and going to sleep for the night. He thinks of Old Hank, the locomotive engineer in the folk song, who leapt from his engine as it headed toward the broken bridge, singing:
Oh I may have shirked my duty,
but I've got a sweet patooty,
who would rather have me home,
He often thinks of old songs and old jazz while driving, but not of the popular hits. He heads West across the mountains. He does find Advance Corps HQ. He discovers what the problem is: The main task of the Seventh Army is to capture or destroy the Nineteenth German Army, amounting to about 150,000 men. An excellent chance to do just this is electrifying the summer air of the Command Post of Corps. They know as well as the Enemy that, with the 36th Division well above and in control of the Route Napoleon, the whole lot of Germans must pass up through the Rhone Valley. The Americans are trying to shove motorized infantry, armor and artillery through the narrow hilly roads that lead out, like rungs of a ladder, from the North-South Route Napoleon that they control to positions where they can command by fire and capture by assault the North- South roads of the other leg of the ladder, especially where one of the rungs reaches the beautiful little city of Montelimar. There, hills on both sides fashion a gap lending itself to closure. If the Americans can plug the gap, 150,000 Germans will be out of the War, casualties if they try to get through, prisoners if they don't. Task Force Butler and the 36th Division, in part, are moving with speedily, or with painful slowness, depending upon how you see them, to shut off the escape routes. Their orders are clear and concise; no commanders could have orders more telegraphic.
On the 21st, at a Seventh Army briefing, Task Force Butler is commanded to turn West off the Route Napoleon and seize the heights Northeast of Montelimar; following this up, VI Corps orders a full Infantry Regiment of 36th Division and most of the 36th's two battalions of 155 millimeter heavy guns to reinforce TF Butler: blocking the Valley of the Rhone is your primary mission!
Still, all is not going well. As the Lieutenant would tell you, Clausewitz says (On War) that the principles are simple, but the details are difficult. General Lucian Truscott, commanding Corps, does not seem to have much confidence in his 36th Division or Task Force Butler, which is, after all, mostly a chip off the old 36th block. The General is issuing commands on the Battalion level! For instance, on August 22, he is ordering the 36th Division Commander to get the 977th and 141th Artillery Battalions into positions in which they can fire on Montelimar and the roads to the South of it. At some point, some bright junior officer on the Commanding General's Staff must have remembered the Italian experience and said "What we need is some surrender leaflets dropped on the roads so we can get more Krauts to surrender. Where do we get hold of some of that shit?"
Four hours later the Lieutenant shows up pulling a load of the shit in a trailer. At this point it's the "shit of Divine Uranus," gold, the signature of Eisenhower on the insignia of SHAEF. The Germans are promised heaven if they surrender, that is, safety, food, and ultimate return home. The packs of paper are gift-wrapped in glowing bronze shell cases with explosive heads and fuses with timers set for air- bursting at 1000 yards or whatever the artillery observer gives as the grid of the road where these Germans are trudging stolidly along, just now under cover of a night that they wish would last as long as the years of darkness covering the Jews in Exodus from Egypt, whose descendants even at this moment are being rounded up and killed by the masters of these same cattle who are tramping dustily up the three roads of the Rhone Valley.
The few rounds of shells he carried should have been many more, so that every artillery battery of the Seventh Army wherever it was would have a hundred -- a score on hand, the rest allocated to it at the ammunition dump. The propaganda shortage is not nearly the main shortage, which is of trucks and truckers. Anticipating fierce combat in breaking out from the beaches, the Allied logisticians had provided a great deal of ammunition at the expense of trucks to haul it. In one of the letters to Jill, it is written, "we are moving too fast for anything, including the human frame. The group that are really winning this campaign are the truck drivers, white and colored. They are worked beyond all reasonable standard of endurance.." He specifies gas and rations as being short, but strangely the very surplus of ammunition on the shores meant a shortage of shells at the front, for lack of the trucks to get them there. In one place, a 36th Division battery ceases to fire upon the retreating Germans and is useless against counterattack because it lacks ammunition. Perhaps after the Italian campaigns, where ammunition seemed in infinite supply, the Americans are firing hastily and wastefully.
If all had been well prepared, the retreating Germans, including those elements that turned to counterattack in order to protect the withdrawal, would be treated to thousands of several different leaflets along the right of way dropped by air and shot from cannon; they would hear loudspeakers advising them to surrender. These capabilities would be present had the propaganda command been fully experienced and seriously planning, instead of quarreling and quibbling, in Algiers and Naples.
Too, combat unit officers and their generals (gung-ho, to show they are mensch) are usually thinking in terms of explosives. Or yet, inasmuch as many infantrymen would rather not personally blast their fellow-men, and considering the limited number of assignments a combat commander can shift them to -- for assisting the small true "killer- group" -- a detail of one or several men could be formed in a company to specialize in capture. They would be trained when in reserve and on the job.
The Lieutenant knows better than anybody what made an enemy surrender. The soldier who is close to surrendering because of hostile fire or injury or demoralization faces a terrifying decision. He is threatened with death on the spot by his next in command, or after arrest and trial by his own commanders, and he is likely to be shot as he tries to give up, whether by accident from the enemy who shoots on sight without understanding his intention to give up, or by an enemy who would rather kill than capture, especially if given an easy target and a crowded agenda. In a way, deserting or surrendering is like dying, or, even more, like suicide. Hence the enemy has to know how to surrender as well as being convinced to surrender, and friendly troops have to know how to accept a surrender. So these leaflets he is carrying bear not only solemn assurances of decent treatment, under the signature of the highest Allied authority and are stamped with iconography of authority, but also describe on their reverse side the technique of surrendering, including the use of a white rag and of the proper words, along with the removal of the helmet, and so on. Part of his job is to insinuate as casually as possible to his fellow-soldiers how to go about picking up prisoners: surely the veterans know how, but the replacements, usually a third of the Army in battle, are most nervous in going about the business.
There are always doubts about one's mission, beyond the ordinary doubts trying to crowd into the mind, if one is special and an innovator. What makes him move through these strange mountains and dark roads is a conviction not so much that he can save enemy lives (for there is a lot of opposition to saving enemy lives ) but that he can take a number of the enemy out of action, and even if he gets rid of one enemy soldier -- never mind that he might catch a hundred of them -- he would justify his bit of this immense war in terms of what many years later came to be called "costs-benefits analysis," and "more bang for the buck." He is one of a million Americans, British and other troops who have managed to land upon the continental shores in Italy and France, and as of this point in time all together they have managed to dispose of 400,000 of the enemy, within the year following the invasion of Sicily and the Italian surrender; that would be an average of 0.4 per man. Actually, with the Luftwaffe counting for very little all of this time, Allied troops in France, subject to the risks -- small or large -- of combat, numbered perhaps 300,000 divisional personnel plus 50,000 in air crews. That is, the truer average in combat would be one-to-one. Whatever the ratio, he felt that he had already far exceeded it.
It was hard to measure who disposed of whom, of course: few men recognized directly whom they were killing or even if they were killing anyone. Was he engaged in killing or not killing when his own infantrymen shot enemy soldiers led to attempt surrender, or when his leaflets were used to entice Germans out of their holes in order to strike them with an airburst of shrapnel? This would occur sometimes even though he might advise against such tactics, which were generally forbidden, when an incident would arise, and even though the Geneva Conventions bound the warring armies to take prisoners and treat them decently, and even though expediency reinforced mercy; for the enemy would cease to place any faith whatsoever in the American propaganda, denying what it said on all subjects, aside from when and how to surrender, and, furthermore, the enemy would fight to the end, with devastating results.
He drives into the falling night, to when two tiny slits of light become his guides to the road ahead, following the Route Napoleon down to Die. The hundreds of tracked vehicles, trucks and cannon moving on it are grinding up the pavement of the narrow highway. He takes the right-hand fork when he reaches Die, and the road is less and less travelled as it approaches the area of Montelimar. He asks of several murky figures and knows he has not arrived. At last he comes upon an outpost, manned by a major with a 50-calibre machinegun. They exchange greetings.
The Major awaits, wide-awake, impatient, for the light of dawn. He can then resume his slaughter. He has a piece of the road in his sights. He knows that hundreds of Germans are even now, especially now, pushing along the road. Come dawn, he will repeat his act of the evening before. He sees a column of Germans straggle into range and he opens fire, killing and wounding a number. He is protected by the forest; he moves his weapon then, before a panzer self- propelled cannon can draw a bead on him or an enemy party can get by his soldiers who are covering him. It is actually a machine gunner's job that he is doing and the Lieutenant is a little surprised at it. Either he is a dedicated killer or he has to do it himself in order to get the job done. Officers in the American army frequently do the work of their enlisted men, not only because of the tradition of equality, and because they are more skilled, but also because in situations of danger their morale is higher than that of the men. In any given platoon, company, regiment, division, army, only a small minority do the effective work. It doesn't matter whether one is speaking of killing or paper-work. But isn't it the same in all groups?
The Lieutenant feels sorry for the exhausted Germans plodding along, under the hammering of the heavy lead slugs of this beefy exultant type, as if they were pigs moving down the corridor of an abattoir. But it is the way in which most of the death and maiming of war occurs. Soldiers are caught in a barrage and killed and maimed. They are helplessly trapped and destroyed. Their boat sinks and they are drowned. Most of the rotten glorification of war is based upon the obscenely false idea of chivalrous men facing one another with similar weapons and expecting a decision that will be based upon courage and skill at arms. That this is all false, he has long known; it's the fallacy of the ass of Fred Faas. Fred still couldn't sit down without a twinge. Even if war were as it is faked to be, it would still be as morally wrong to kill under idealized tournament conditions as to kill with the typical treacherous advantages of real battle situations.
Moral or immoral, he likes to think of himself as a warrior, however, and therefore admits to the need and occasional usefulness of battle under such circumstances. Too, he would behave like the Major. Indeed, he wonders whether he should stay for the duck- shoot. But time is passing, no second heavy machine gun is handy, and the Major appears in no mood to share his luck. The Major, whose face is obscured by the darkness, does allow some idea of where the nearest artillery piece is located, by recalling its muzzle flash. The Lieutenant circles around and finds it.
The gunners are mostly glad to have a human contact and are willing to fire the leaflet shells at dawn. Yes, they will get several shells to their sister howitzers as well. They were pulled out of Cassino for the Provence operation; they have had experience with propaganda operations. They like the thought of talking to the Germans, so to speak. His jeep drives bumping onto the gun site and they unload the shells.
Then the Lieutenant steers off into the damp gloom, with a twinge of mourning and nostalgia in parting from the little squad tending its piece, isolated in the dark green forest, so tiny a part of the world- wide scene of war, serious small voices receding into the blackness. This small feeling impinging upon comraderie, repeated hundreds of times, this too is a cause for the recurrence of war. It covers senseless warfare with balm and bandage of brotherly love. Absurd, yes; true, yes. "I should have stayed for the action," he thinks, as he crawls up the road like a snail. But they have a forward observer who should be able to tell them if the firing works. It would have been better to drive in the daytime, too. Or would it?
What happens in the end? During the eight days of the Montelimar Battle, the cannon of the Seventh Army units of the East, not counting the Third Division and Forty-fifth Division who came firing up the roads from the South, shoot off 7000 rounds a day upon the Germans along the Rhone Valley roads and at the units of the 11PD defending them. His 35 rounds of leaflets in the battle of Montelimar amounted to 1/1500th of the 54,000 rounds that were fired by the cannon of the 36th Division and Task Force Butler and he was 1/60,000th of the total manpower engaged (counting the aviation troops) or 1/30,000 of just the American combat troops alone. To the artillery fire must be added the small arms ammunition, the machine guns, the mortars, the automatic rifles, rifles and handguns (practically none), but emphatically the bombings and firings of the Twelfth Tactical Air Force that rattled off an abundance of machine gun ammunition and at the same time dropped 851 tons of bombs upon communication facilities and 953 tons on troops.
Notwithstanding, three bridges over the Rhone were partially maintained until the last Germans had escaped to the North. At times, wreckage rather than artillery and small arms fire blocked the route of the escaping Germans. And of the advancing Americans of the Third Division! For the Germans blew up on the road whatever could not carry them farther. Viewing the approach of the Americans to the South of Montelimar, the German rearguard on August 29 barred their route by an assemblage in three files of the wrecks of 500 trucks and cars, and of metal junk galore.
The 11th Panzer Division did its job well. Despite a flash flood that made the Drome River almost impassable for a day, and despite repeated, if half-hearted attacks, from the hilly flanks to the East by the much better armed and more numerous American forces, they were able to withdraw without surrendering a single unit as such, and furthermore, before they pulled out their own last element, had protected the withdrawal of most of the rag-tag Nineteenth Army, perhaps as many as two-thirds of the total, the remaining third having fallen into the hands of the Americans and French.
There were some bitter complaints from German infantry commanders whose troops had legged it for seven hundred kilometers from the coastal defenses to the final line established across Northern France. They felt that they had been contemptuously abandoned by the 11th Panzer Division. But on the whole the Germans could claim victorious retreat.
And the Americans might have asked themselves, once more, why they did not pursue the enemy vigorously, why they retreated from the high ground that they had first taken in several places over the Rhone Valley, why they had tended to let air power and artillery take on the total job while the infantry stood by like lazy male lions waiting for an easy kill.
He gets back to Grenoble. The party of the students and his team was enjoyable, says Anspacher; Roos did not attend. Tant pis. He gets some sleep. He is roused up by Captain Galitzine (Prince Yurka Galitzine, had Czardom not perished) of British Intelligence, who has joined the team. Alfred is his friend from Italy, the favorite American of "D Section," and Yurka says: I have just been to a trial of some Vichy militiamen, they didn't get much of a trial, they're just young kids. The maquisards have them in hand. They're going to shoot them. This morning! Galitzine is disturbed, almost as if the Royal Family of the Czar is being gunned down. Well, says the Lieutenant, the least we can do is go take a look.
The event is pure Hollywood. But all too real! It takes place in a grand square with a convenient great wall that will catch the most errant bullet from a firing squad. A large patriotic crowd has assembled, buzzing with excitement. The lorries drive up with the condemned. They are ordered to stand against the wall. They are indeed young; what could these teen-agers have known about what they were doing, what they stood for; were they being executed for being of the militia that had as a corporate group committed so many crimes, or for being criminal as individuals? If the latter, then individual trials and varying sentences might have been called for. So they represent the militia and the deeds and the principles of the Petain government and as such they would die. A couple of them are smiling, others put on a brave face, one is crying.
An American soldier, a red Indian, is staggering drunk and is impressed by the dense crowd to the point where he thinks he must keep it in order during the ceremonies. So he moves about shouting commands, which the crowd takes in good humor, since he makes no effort to force their compliance. To the Lieutenant, when he encounters him, and quite ignoring Captain Galitzine's more resplendent outfit, he casts a stiff salute, and, with grave concern and respect says, "Lieutenant, Sir, you have to be careful here, now, but don't you worry, we'll keep them under control."
The shots ring out, the men slump drearily to the ground. The officer in charge gives a couple of them the coup de grace with his hand-gun. The crowd disperses. The Lieutenant leaves Yurka, walks thoughtfully and somberly about, then goes find someone with a large bottle of Chanel #5 perfume to exchange for one of the cartons of the cigarettes that he had carried ashore. It is for Jill.
The troops are moving north and northeast, away from Provence. Tentacles move West to contact the Americans of Patton's Third Army. The Lieutenant heads back South to check the situation of Toulon and Marseilles. The cities are still under siege, heavily penetrated. The French divisions are converging upon them in several columns from several points. They cannot hold out much longer. Scattered resistance. He writes to Jill about a French intelligence officer he carried with him, and of another action:
Lt.Samarselli didn't sleep all last night. It is his first night in France in three years and he was too excited to sleep. The French are that way now, not too excited not to fight, but almost. The other day I was with a French battery that was set up near Toulon. We had just captured the ground they were emplaced on, and there was a full scale celebration going on in the middle of the battle. There were several farm houses and the families and soldiers were eating in shifts at a great table outside under a tree. The wine was drunk as fast as it hit the table and the rations were spread all over the place, with bowls of fresh tomatoes and fried potatoes here and there. With one hand they were fighting the war and with the other they were celebrating the liberation of France. The cannon were set up hardly ten yards away and went booming off over the heads of the celebrants all the time. The captain of the battery would snatch himself a glass of wine and a handful of pommes frites and dash over to his CP a few yards away to give the order to fire. This kept up for hours, well into the darkness. The guns kept hammering away at the bedeviled Germans who were fruitlessly counterattacking, old diners would get up and fresh ones would take their place. The black-as-tar Senegalese sweated, swung their trucks around, and fed up the ammunition, grinning broadly and almost dancing while they worked, in their enthusiastic excitement. A forest fire on a nearby hill lit up the sky as it darkened and the volleys of the howitzers flashed brighter and brighter. The vineyards were coated with dust, many of the grapes crushed under the great wheels and trampling feet. But no one cared - - they were French feet and French wheels. The French were liberating themselves.
Then he turns his wheels toward Marseilles and takes up a main road into the city. Halfway in he notices some skirmishing ahead. He parks behind a wall and ventures along the street. Snipers -- some guys never give up -- especially when they are convinced, with some reason, that they will be killed; this is better; you die in a duel; like the Lieutenant says, it's more of the ideal war. The Lieutenant espies a bookstore. It is open. He enters and browses. He comes upon a book that he has never heard of, in his own field, Théorie des Opinions Publiques, by a scholar he has never heard of, named Jean Stoetzel; it was published in Paris only the year before, employs American sources profusely, almost as if there were no chasm of war splitting the scholarly world. It handles the material with a competent theoretical system, too, and the Lieutenant recognizes promptly that it is superior to any American work in this regard. He pays for it with Allied francs that the proprietor accepts with pleasure.
The firing has stopped. He weaves his jeep through the debris of the Old Harbor. Most places that are not damaged are open for business. A barber shop, what a luxury! He gets a haircut, shampoo and shave. No charge, says the Proprietor. You are the first American to arrive. He walks about the breakwater, it is quiet out there, the sea is calm and dark blue. A pretty flame-headed freckled girl, full-bodied in a tight white dress, is also walking about, and responds smiling to his greeting. She is a nurse and is from Corsica. He talks with her for a while as he peers through his binoculars at the half-demolished old city. He feels he must move on, takes her name, should he ever be back, and drives North. He never returns.
The American Lieutenant is most eager for the mobile presses and loud speakers of the combat propaganda unit to arrive. There may be opportunities at any moment to catch up with a group of Germans and persuade them, if they will not surrender, to resist less and to hit the road to Heimat. The cheery Old New York blarney face of Tom Crowell does not poke out of a truck window until September 9, by which time the Montelimar bottle has emptied itself of Germans. It is early, but not early enough.
The French army is dressed American, equipped American, and has acquired some American habits, which very often are nothing but practices that the American army learned from the French from 1776 to 1918. Until now it has been mostly Muslim in the ranks but increasing numbers of continental French are being enlisted, especially from the forces of the resistance. Their leadership is first class down to the sous-officiers and their morale is excellent, being especially obvious and noteworthy and commendable on the assault when most troops want to drag their feet, naturally. They will incorporate all types of people and their ranks swell.
Seventh Army Headquarters lets the French HQ attach a small platoon of men and two officers to the American Combat Propaganda Team and the Executive Officer has the responsibility for employing them. The two officers are Jacques Pregre and Jacques Villanave. The enlisted men work under Corporal Francois Bernard, who hails from Paris and handles the boys well. They are supplied by the American company, are under its orders, but let alone to do their job. Principally they drive around gathering political intelligence and using a loud speaker truck to inform and control the population. Their connection for liaison is the French Army B G-2 section and principally André Malraux, who has recently joined up following upon a brief experience in the Resistance.
One morning a month later, the Lieutenant is eating breakfast at the small field desk he carries with him, when he hears a shot and the thud of a falling body. He springs out of the room into the hallway and finds Corporal Bernard prone gushing blood from the neck. Who did it, he shouts, grab the son of a bitch! He imagined a fight and shooting. Top Sgt. Annunziata follows behind him, muttering disgustedly, for Christ's sake, take it easy. The Lieutenant lifts Bernard, stuffing a first aid pad someone has handed him into the wound, calling out to get a stretcher and a half-ton truck, and gagging on his breakfast of greasy fried bacon and powdered eggs now acting up worse than usual. Enter others, Pvt. Cook in hand, a befuddled look upon his usually silly mug. It was accidental. Cook was unloading his 45-cal. automatic after coming off guard duty and accidentally pulled the trigger, exploding a bullet that pierced one wall, struck the Corporal, and buried itself in the wall above where Our Man was sitting.
They rush him to the field hospital, but his spinal cord and brain are ripped up, and in a few minutes he expires. The several soldiers huddle a few feet away. The Exec assumes that he is Catholic, recalls vaguely the sign of the cross, and mumbles a few words of improvised prayer; some proper words should go with him, he believes, and an officer should administer last rites. The Americans are humiliated that one of their number should commit the accident, rather than the less skilled French.
A couple of days later Johnny Anspacher wanted to know whether the Exec was going to the funeral -- the Corporal's Mother would be there, crossing France through the newly connected Allied armies. He was surprised; he thought all the dead were promptly laid into a hole and covered with dirt, given a GI cross plus identification for possible reburial. He had no heart for it and asked Johnny to cover for him while he took off for the woods; she believed her son killed in action; so he was, like many another case of amicide.
The Exec was furious with Cook, an amiable sociopathic fool, and he brought the case to the Army Provost Marshal who fixed the charge as "negligent discharge of firearms" and sent it back for company level trial and punishment. That's not much. They decided to let it go. The idiot was liked by his comrades.
For many weeks, the reduction of the German resistance in the Belfort Gap and Alsace was a problem of the French troops. The Lieutenant, who had considered the French masters of the sharp, savage relentless attack, now could wonder. Were they reluctant to shoot up France? Were they not so dashing when the composition of their infantry had fewer of the sacrificial Africans? Were they learning American habits? Did they long to stay alive for the Victory celebration, now near at hand? Were they preoccupied with quarreling amongst themselves about who was guilty for the Fall of France, who was author of the resurgence of France, who would control France now?
The Combat Propaganda Team did its bit to help the French army in their efforts to break through the Belfort Gap, the most difficult part of the operation, extending into winter, skirting Switzerland, and cutting through the Vosges Mountains into Alsace, where the German army began to resist the Allied advance more stubbornly. A number of them were trapped with their backs to Switzerland and the Swiss did not want to take them. A special leaflet operation was prepared for them, with the usual accent on how to surrender.
The procedure here, now that the First French Army had been created, under the general supervision of U.S. Seventh Army and ultimately Sixth Army Group, was for somebody to get the idea of the need (which occurred through the two Jacques being in liaison with the French forces at the Gap), and hustling the need to the Team; the Team had the means of drawing up the propaganda message, printing it in large numbers rapidly, and loading it into shells for the French forces' American howitzers -- then finally, of supervising the cannon firing.
The operation was deemed a success and the two Jacques, who were looking for an American medal, no doubt, arranged with the First French Army (Army B's new name) to give a couple of Croix de Guerre's to Roos and the Exec. Whether this ever came about is uncertain. Months later, special orders of the French Army were supposed to have contained the commendations, and, when informed by the two Jacques that such was the case, Major Roos promptly pinned the medal on himself, urging the Exec to do likewise, which he did, but with a lingering suspicion that was never set to rest, that some kind of a deal had been cut to which he would not want to be party.
The French divisions are also experiencing a new foe, an anti-communist army composed of Cossacks, deserters, traitors, and ideological opponents of the Soviet Stalinist regime. They are softer targets and there is no problem getting intelligence material from the first prisoners and the media translated into Russian and printed in the cyrillic alphabet to fire upon them and distribute by patrol. The Soviet defectors when they are reached are told that they will not be turned over to the mercies of the Soviet Government, which the French, more casual than the Americans, let themselves say.
Actually Roosevelt and Churchill acceded to Stalin's demand that all Soviet Citizens except some thousands of Armenians be returned to the USSR following the surrender of Germany. But the French enlist some of the fresh prisoners here; they are treated as French soldiers.
Patrols who scout out and test the enemy positions are good media for distributing propaganda. They leave their literature and the enemy patrol finds it. However, a returning enemy patrol is not likely to admit that it has been collecting enemy propaganda. American soldiers, protected, you might say, by the First Amendment, save German leaflets as they would postage stamps. One series, which his fellows called the "Sam Series," caricatures a Jewish war profiteer named Sam who is having enjoyable rendezvous with "Bob's girl friend" while poor Bob is slogging away in the mud. They were distributed by plane and patrol or left behind when retreating from a position.
With perhaps too ready a contempt for the enemy's rhetoric, and too much confidence in the proper attitudes of their troops, the Team dismissed their effect. Never were the troops, in all the action from Africa to Germany, warned against harkening to Nazi propaganda: it was just as well. The Germans, by contrast, had strict rules for dealing with enemy arguments and punishing their circulation in any form; there was no sign that the landser resented such suppression; given everything else in the way of constraint, this was small enough; from a command standpoint, the censorship was effective because it kept discussion of the tabooed subjects of losing the War, desertion and Gefangenschaft to a minimum.
The fall weather joins the Seventh Army's northward drives. The Exec bivouacs his company far enough back to light fires. It is only September 8 when he writes Jill, apparently from the Belfort area:
Now that we are in the mountains a good deal, I shall certainly be precipitated into the chills, for the coming of fall is obvious. It is already field jacket time and the nights are two-blankets cold. The rains have been coming in spurts and I have been good and wet a couple of times already. A week or so may tell whether we will spend any more winters in a campaign or whether we shall be at least warmly billeted for the duration overseas. The country is very beautiful... There are magnificent slopes everywhere, the kind that run throughout Northern Italy, Switzerland, and Austria, too. At the present, the mountains and valleys are green and brown, and the clouds are blue and grey. There are mists and clouds that sweep in and out of the gaps, now filming the sun, now letting it through to make the green of the fields brilliant. There are many forests of small pine and tree-shaded highways that curve smoothly around the sides of the mountain. The people are all working. There is very little damage and they are very optimistic about the country's future. The Germans were generally disliked though they behaved better in most of the country than they behaved in any other part of Europe...
Then he adds: " There are strange and ghastly exceptions," and describes the Vercors massacres.
There is little to fear from German aircraft. The fires are needed not only for warmth but for cooking. The Americans waited too long to take the needed steps; now the swift advances of Patton's Third "Panzer" Army on their left flank have been halted by a shortage of gasoline. Some is flown in, but substantial amounts must come in from the western and southern ports, and from adjoining armies. The Lieutenant is scandalized to hear what has happened. How can our leaders have waited so long before cutting back on the distribution of gas and the unloading of less useful supplies? Sometimes he wonders whether the generals, indeed the top echelons of the total war machine, unless they are special types like Patton, temperamentally and rationally do not want to end their experience of war. On the one hand, as at Verdun, Stalingrad, and, yes, Cassino, the generals will throw their human material into the slaughter compulsively and obsessively. Like crazy poker-faced gamblers they will up the ante. The justification is the enemy's doing the same; generals tend to act like their counterpart foes.
At other times, they will withhold contact, wait for more than enough of everything to engage, and indulge all kinds of wasteful practices in a world where logistics should be, if not the dictator of action, the most respected of counsellors. The Lieutenant engages in useless speculation of how all units should be ordered to reduce their gasoline consumption by half, and to cut back on all fresh and heavy rations. Further, they should be forbidden any movement unessential to battle. No unit headquarters should be moved until further notice, only its advance HQ. He wonders whether there are enough horses and mules left to pull wagons of fuel up forward. He remembers, at Cassino in the winter, the startling sight of Italian pack trains of mules laboring up and down the mountainsides; nobody would ever have thought that the American army would once again be back to mules. He frets over their losing days, weeks, even months, in ending the war, by letting the German armies get to the Rhine without close pursuit all the way. The gasoline shortage is the main cause.
Actually, you may add this to the failure of the Seventh Army to close the trap upon the 19th German Army at Montelimar and have most of the explanation of why the war lasted into 1945 at great cost all around, at the cost of losing a voice in the immediate settlement of a government upon Poland, Hungary, and East Germany, at the cost of a million and more Jewish and other prisoners' lives in the death camps. But no one, repeat, no one is saying these things within the broad scope and confidential mass of information and intelligence pouring into the bivouac of the Combat Propaganda Company from the radio systems of the world, the army intelligence sources, and the populations, prisoners, refugees whom the friendly troops are overtaking. The War in the Pacific aside, a large issue can be raised over the total conduct of the war on the part of the top leaders and their subordinates, whenever these latter were given the right to make strategic decisions. It is not a job for the lieutenant; he is powerless even to obtain the captaincy that had been recommended a year earlier by Colonel Hall, Chief of Military Personnel back at AFHQ in Algiers.
Anyhow he is much less critical of the great strategy -- unconditional surrender, Yalta, the aerial bombings of cities, the points of invasion, the handling of the Nazi mass murders and dislocations, and even of unimaginative propaganda policies than I would give you to believe here. He had to be, or he would not have endured so far so good.
The issue is still troubling, whether the top Allied Command, including the heads of state, was not immersed in a logistical mass, a bureaucratic system, flapping to the surface for air on occasion to ejaculate decisions before subsiding. Before and after the war, the top command was immune to fundamental political criticism, as if their method of conducting warfare were not political. This is choice idiocy. Yet not even Jewish leaders perceived keenly that the delays in bringing the war to an end, which contributed so greatly to the total distress and slaughter, were inordinate and avoidable.
It is highly doubtful that the Lieutenant had made a proper correlation of events, or knew of the half of them; the same might be said of his comrades, several of them Jews with access to all that he might know. With respect to the genocide of the Jews, the twisted Nazi logic and the events that were determined by it went generally as follows:
1. The job of extirpation of the German and Austrian Jews was nearly completed and remnants had been moved East as the attack on the Soviet Union was launched in June of 1941. Many thousands had saved themselves by flight abroad. The euthanasia campaign against the mentally ill and the old and disabled was carried out on Germans in Germany actively in 1941. Many Jews were being rounded up in France and elsewhere. The Big Rationalization that married Genocide to Total War was not quite born. Total War, including the redeployment, resettling, and moving of hordes of people was in itself a favorite and early Nazi concept. Not yet Total Murder.
Our Lieutenant knew this and had assimilated its meaning. That is why he was so anti-Nazi and pro-War. He had been well-grounded in the origins of Nazism and chauvinistic fascism in its several forms; his professors and fellow-students at the University of Chicago had seen to this. He had spoken at length to German and Austrian refugees. He knew nearly as much as any well-informed and anxious Jew, and much more than the average politician and citizen or general officer.
2. By the Fall of the first year of the German offensive against the Soviet Union all of the genocidal elements of the Nazi vision and apparatus were coming together and becoming dominant politically and militarily. In the Fall of 1941 and the year 1942, immense massacres were conducted by the SS forces; they had the extensive help of native anti-semites in Poland, Lithuania, Yugoslavia, Latvia, the Ukraine and other conquered Soviet regions, anti-"Jew-Bolsheviks", impressed laborers and prisoners, and often even the German Army. Soviet prisoners were frequently butchered or put into camps and starved. Over half a million of the more than one million Soviet prisoners of the first campaigns died within a year. That the Nazis, with popular German support, waged Total War in fact, and against whole peoples physically, was known to him and his circle of friends and in the civilian and Army milieus where he found himself during this year, the year which saw terrible warfare in Eastern Europe and the beginning of the equally Total War of the Pacific with Japan. At the end of 1942, the British Government, speaking through Anthony Eden, began finally to describe and denounce publicly the accelerating destruction visited by the Nazis upon the Jewish people. It was tardy. Worse, almost no change in policies, nor speed-up in the War, occurred.
3. From 1942 through 1944, massacres by the hundreds occurred throughout Eastern Europe except Hungary and Rumania. In Yugoslavia, fanatic Croatian Catholics, the Ustachis, given an independent State, brutally disposed of over half a million Serbians, including all Jews who could be found. Camps were constructed to hold Jews and others. Great numbers of deaths by starvation and disease occurred. The brutality, rape, torture and hardships affecting 50,000,000 of those alive and those to die go beyond the record for any other historical epoch. The black-uniformed Nazis and those they set loose had the equivalent effect of the Black Death of the plagues that killed a third of Europe in the Fourteenth Century; they were worse by being flesh and blood, wolves of fellow humans.
Did Our Hero learn of all this? No, only part of it. The media were full of "real war" between uniformed combatants, and had no major interest in following the "human rights violations" intensely and continually. East European ethnic exterminations were remote from everyday life in the army camps throughout the States, and displaced by the widespread attention lent to the Pacific War against Japan.
4. The middle of 1944 witnessed landings in Normandy, Russian victories, the German officers' July 20 attempt to kill Hitler, the defection of Rumania, and abundant absolute evidence of the approaching extermination of Jews when the SS heavily pressured the Hungarians to round up half a million Jews. Then on July 24, 1944 the Majdanek Concentration Camp was liberated before the SS could remove all prisoners and raze it as they had intended to do. (They exhibited a consistent pattern of attempts to hide genocidal operations up to the very end.)
Between August 1944 and January 1945, the population of German work camps and extermination camps rose by 200,000 to over 700,000, despite high death rates. Millions of foreign workers were in Germany, living miserably and under threat of extermination.
The Seventh Army Combat Propaganda Team knew little of the vast cauldron of torture and death that Germany, and Central and Eastern Europe had become. They only knew that it was very bad.
By a strange contradiction and irony, this unit that could have been used to advise the Seventh Army on morale was used strictly against the enemy. Its officers, unlike the Army command, did not believe that American soldiers got their morale from Red Cross doughnut stands by the roadside and Betty Grable movies. Nor, and here is a misfortune, it did not believe that morale came from ideal convictions concerning the War and the Nazi horrors far away. It is hard to believe that this very team, or, better yet, something that should have been coming out of the Army Morale Division, that was mainly justifying soldiers' fears by careful research and putting on vaudeville to divert them, could not have mounted a propaganda campaign among the troops with just enough effect to have cut off the Germans at Montelimar and gotten the Army to all points of the Upper Rhine by October.
The idea that American troops would have been insulted by, degraded by, dictated to by propaganda ("information"), or that the job was well left to a jolly troop newspaper like the Stars and Stripes, may be emphatically denied. American troops, more than the German troops, needed continuous "education' and encouragement to do their job. The achievement of high morale was not a function of newspaper reporters asking soldiers questions designed to expose how tough their personal conditions were and how pitiable.
The Lieutenant could be scored high in knowledge and indignation, high in wish to "do something about it all," but was as powerless as any general officer or U.S. Senator to push against the inertia of the system that had grown up for winning the War. So he lived an ordinary soldier's life for the most part, as I tell it here, with much more personal freedom and awareness of what was happening; there was no stimulation of the morale factor among the American troops, and only had such been called for would the Lieutenant have been spurred into greater action. He was always wary of being characterized as a trouble-maker, although that is what he wanted to be and sometimes was.
5. Between January of 1945 and the capture of Berlin four months later, 200,000 camp inmates were brought within the borders of the Reich. Most of these were killed or died. They were brought in a) to hide them, b) to keep them hostage and ransom them , c) to kill them, and d) to use them as workers. The Nazi mind was seeking desperately a way to escape or, barring that, a way to bring down the world with their own destruction. The Nazis' early terrorist slogan turned upon the Nazi mind: "Better a terrible end than an endless terror!"
As the Seventh and Third Armies joined in a solid front moving North across France, and only a pocket of resistance remained in Southern Alsace after the liberation of Strasbourg (the Lieutenant had already entered Alsace in September), Nazi killings were at peak and a million people were being driven into Germany. At least 150,000 lives a month would be saved for every month by which the War might be shortened. Were the War to end before the end of the year 1944, as many as a million souls would be saved. Not included would be the saved lives, otherwise to be lost, from among the friendly and hostile armies engaged, including the American armies in Europe and the Pacific, the hundreds of thousands of civilian lives saved (from aerial bombing, as well as on the ground, as in the bombings, largely useless, that devastated Berlin and Dresden -- said to be the most beautiful city of Central Europe). The atomic bomb might not have been rushed to completion or might not have been dropped.
Could so much of the disaster that actually occurred really be traced back and laid to the frequently uninspired and incompetent political and military leadership of the Allies? There was some indication that such was the case in this soldier's taste of war that trailed back to the initial landings in Africa and included delays all along the line in the timing of invasions and the giving of battle. And perhaps even back to the delay in inducting him into the Armed Forces, the transfers about, the largely useless training that he shared with twelve million other soldiers.
There were numerous psychological facets to this hippopotamatic military behavior. To complicate problems at the top, to give excuses, too, for all manner of timidity and delay and logistical excess were a cavernous and maddening echo of the egalitarian slogan: "Not one of our boys shall be sacrificed unnecessarily." The British recalled the Somme and Verdun, the Americans: Mom. An obsessive inflation of the word "unnecessary" led often to inactivity and indecisiveness.
The thoughts, no less than the feet, of a soldier often stink, so one could imagine two additional reasons for the generals and politicians of the West not to exert themselves over reports of the destruction of Jewry in the East. Jews had disappeared from the West of Europe, hence no vivid emergency was close at hand; the Nazis had thoughtfully murdered their Western victims in walking columns, trains, and gas ovens elsewhere. Moreover, importantly, Western high conservatives, industrialists, and military officers consciously and unconsciously identified Jews with Bolshevism just as did the Nazis, and were therefore bewildered and turned off by the news and mental pictures that arose from it.
Can even also this be possible: that they had to have reasons to be conducting this World War that were quite sufficient in themselves? That is, they would prefer not to introduce the problem of a lot of strange Jews being driven into camps and killed. The more the Jews who were murdered, one ought to reason, the more the Allied elite could and should in all conscience justify the War. But, not wishing to justify a War to save the Jews, they would suppress considerations and evidence of a veritable holocaust.
Moreover, psychologically, they would avoid taking any steps to establish its occurrence, extent, and significance. Thereupon they could rest upon their strongly preferred rationale for the War: Nazi aims to conquer the World, attacks on kindred democracies, and aggressive attacks by the Axis powers against the United States of America. All of these things the Lieutenant remarked upon from the beginning of the War to the End. His data bank was enriched, also, when he came to be invited by a grateful Army Orientation Officer to stop off whenever he could and talk to combat troops in reserve or in rest camp, crouched on their cannon and carriers or sprawled on the floors in a half-ruined factory, where he could sense how tenuous was the men's commitment to the Great War as the focus of life's ideals. To venture that they were at war to protect anyone from extermination but Themselves, construed personally, and suspiciously, would be foolhardy It would also be deluding oneself to think that their experience of war had enhanced their taste for it.
To all of this, as I confessed, the Lieutenant had his back half- turned. He knew more than he needed to know and infinitely more than he had the power to act upon. He could even sympathize with a helpless Landser prisoner, who claimed to know nothing of large affairs, who was loyal to Der Führer, and who interpreted the crashing down of his moral and physical world as no more than the maddening din of American artillery bursts.
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