THE campaign to reconquer Northern France may have paused on that fine autumn day when he and Pvt. George Glade had dropped off some artillery shells designated for a special target, and were picking their way in their jeep along a forest path from the gun site, pulling an empty trailer, crunching the colorful leaves beneath their wheels, and in this forest came upon a field of mushrooms, enormous, like elephant ears, freshly sprung-up. He laughed at Glade who had never tasted a mushroom. He was not sure of the species, whether it was poisonous, but loaded the trailer with them, brim-full, a hundred pounds perhaps, covering them with a tarpaulin, thinking the while of the Dad back home who might be just now with the daybreak pacing some greensward of Chicago hunting the mushroom.
They drove back to camp and went among the villagers, asking whether these were good. "The best!" they exclaimed. Some of the troops were uneasy; it was like offering them snails; an American officer is expected to be a very ordinary person with ordinary tastes. Let them learn! So the gourmets among the troop feasted upon them and he gave a vast quantity to the villagers who had their most memorable treat in a long time!
Yet depression falls upon the Company's mood as Autumn advances into Winter. The slowdown is gradual, not some shocking crash into a wall of fire. It's almost like the normal human response to the seasonal withering of the world, but it rises from a higher level of wholesale despondency. By September 15 practically all of France except Alsace and Lorraine has been freed; three months later, in mid-December, a pocket of Germans still holds out around Colmar and Mulhouse in Southern Alsace, and Northern Lorraine -- where the Combat Propaganda Team bivouacs -- is still in enemy hands. The moment when victory could have been grasped passed unbeknownst at some point.
Where was our Lieutenant's outfit then? No one recalls. Epinal, perhaps, a modest city already foggy in the gloaming of fall. It was even before this point, however, that he was disgusted with the order to cut back on gasoline consumption, because it was so obviously a tactic, yes, a logistical tactic of war, that should have been in force from the first inkling that the Germans would break and close up to the North. Now it was too late to push on through, not really, but, given the deficient energy of Allied movements generally, a gas shortage could conveniently be claimed. For lack of gasoline and all that subtends from it, Eisenhower brought Patton's Army to a halt on September 22.
Alfred claims not to understand the delays, but of course cannot ask penetrating questions. The Rhine is to be grasped and held along its length, from Holland to Switzerland, why? Where are the countless engineer battalions each of which could build a bridge? Could not at least one Cassino-type, or Hamburg-like, bombardment by aircraft be directed at a beach-head across the Rhine and maintained until there would be a sterile zone of several kilometers upon which a large air-drop and infantry crossing could be established? Yes, this can be tried, but later. After all, there is a horde of enemy to be defeated and pushed back before the several points on the Rhine can be reached where, according to theory, proper crossings ought be made.
Who decided that there should be another six innings of war to liberate France, overwhelm Germany, and organize the occupation? Though his indignation might subside, he was continuously irritated at the growing inaction. It was as if this dinosaur, heedless of its purpose and brainless, swelled itself up to a glossy weighty mass of millions of men and machines stretching like a mighty monster from the flower beds of Holland to the meadows of the Alps and slumped into its winter hibernation. Himself he is not at all ready to doze off. Nor are the Soviets; they are going hell's bells in deepening winter.
Words are found to explain why the front lines are hardening with the frosts on the ground. He examines his own G3 and G2 overlays that contain less and less of fresh movement, more and more of unit numbers and names. Logistics are the greedy preoccupation of the Seventh Army. The same with the other great armies of the Western Front. They are less agitated by the slowdown than by rapid advances; shouldn't it be the other way around? One should be grim on the attack, anxious upon a halting.
What is happening, he asks the Maps Clerk at Army Headquarters, and also Colonel Parry, his calm and methodical boss at Army HQ. He hardly ever exchanges a word with Colonel Quinn, Army G-2, who occupies another tent or room, the ultimate commander of the G-2 zoo, which consists of CIC, OSS, POW Interrogation, Signals Codes, enemy documents analysis, operations intelligence, and censorship, besides Combat Propaganda.
The Exec spends more time with Major Ogden who numbers among his other duties the censorship of his mail (that revealed hardly a sign of intervention, however, so cautious was the Exec), and must know him better than anybody but never mentions what of his words he has read. Ogden sat on his camp stool by his folding table, in the collapsible tent of Colonel Parry, round-faced, pleasant, a westerner, Utah, probably a Mormon, quiet-talking, twinkly blue-eyed, uncritical or at least suppressed, glad to oblige, but the Exec had little to ask for. Except the big question: why are we here and not there? To which they can respond less imaginatively than himself. The complacency is such that he half-believes the strategy of consolidation and finds himself writing to his wife that the War is taking longer in order to gather all forces together before attacking, a strategy sure to save many lives.
The Chiefs of G-2, of Artillery, and the others let the propaganda Team alone, exceptionally, happily. The Team reports in writing each week on operations, daily on personnel; also, the Exec conveys orally stories of interest, that there are pleased German customers for their propaganda leaflets, or some bit of news about local French politics, or a prisoner's interview protocol that is remarkably informative from a political standpoint. Then some small talk. Mess Sergeant Williams meanwhile picks up rations at the Army HQ Ration Dump. Sergeant Roger Villeneuve, Company Clerk, or PFC Connie Wilson, his assistant, picks up the mail. The Lieutenant forms his opinion of what if anything is happening along the Western Front, and of the seemingly ever-active Eastern Front.
He has lost interest in the Italian Front. He has exchanged a letter with Clara, has heard from John Reynor that Gianni's mission across the line failed, nothing from "D Section." But then, soldiers do not write horizontally, they write vertically, to home. He hears what he wants to hear from visitors of the Mediterranean Theater; there are enough of them. There is no front in the Pacific Theater for the Yanks to speak of, just a lot of islands and at the moment the great air-sea battles. He barely notices the miserable actions taking place on the Burmese-Indian frontier and inside China. He listens to the sounds of the Great Beast of the West slipping sighing into the rut, and hears respectfully its explanations for the slowdown, which might as well have been growls, grunts and squeaks. "Pausing to regroup and reorganize." "The Germans are bringing in troops from the East (an inexhaustible source of troops, to read the G2 reports)." "The Germans are setting up new divisions from the last of their manpower, " and presumably we are waiting for them to do so -- to commit new divisions against us? "They cannot last much longer under the immense air bombardments; Hamburg is a ruin." "We have to rebuild the harbors." "Our armored spearheads are short of gas and ammunition." "Our supply lines are too long." "Difficult terrain is being encountered in the Ardennes forests, the Vosges mountains, and the great barrier of the River Rhine." "The enemy resistance is stiffening as they prepare to defend the territory of the Homeland for the first time." No one would dare mention it publicly, but with the end in sight and the Soviet forces making excellent progress, why not leave it up to them to defeat the Reich? Sit back and wait for the vaunted Soviet Winter Offensive. (Never mind the vaunted Allied Winter Offensive.)
Once the great drive has slowed, it becomes self-slowing; thousands, myriads, a million men begin to think, "Well, how lucky that I have come this far intact; I'm going to let the others push a little; I'm not going to press matters if SHAEF is not pressing." It is true, SHAEF was all too ready to enjoy the feeling of a steady ride for a few months. If Patton had been in charge instead of Eisenhower and Bradley -- would the mighty monster have been spurred by the glossy-booted conquistador to continue its rampage? Probably so, the Exec believes. However, since feelings against Patton are strong, and his own General Patch is well-liked, he can make only the mildest of insinuations.
So SHAEF is snug and the troops are making themselves more comfortable. The propaganda trade is booming, because all of the Allied artillery is at the Front, more is arriving all the time, and more and more of the enemy units are being identified for mental massage. It is obvious to Alfred that his Army is continually being reinforced. New unit designations appear on the G3 overlays daily. He passes them on the road, or meets them. He speaks to the men when they are locked in a jam or at a tent where the Red Cross is giving out coffee and doughnuts, silly people, as if the troops were starving refugees. It's about the only way a dog-face can exchange a few words with an American broad; the French colonial troops forthrightly bring their own whores.
Meanwhile, back in Chicago, the infant proceeds regardless. Her mother heralds that a tooth has appeared:
She bit me today and for the first time drew blood, and I looked in her mouth, and there was a little edge of white peeping up, as crooked as can be. I am putting nickels in an empty milk carton, starting tomorrow, to pay for the braces she will undoubtedly wear ten years hence, even as her mother did, otherwise known as the Blight of 86th St. in the old days.
Jane Hess and I spent a pleasant day. I met her down at the bank building where I was distributing leaflets and she helped and then we went home for lunch. Kathy was the best publicity the Democrats could possibly get, because of the sign on her buggy (My Momma is going to vote for Roosevelt) and the way she stood up in her buggy and yelled for an hour straight. I don't mean crying either. She just hollers out of sheer exuberance, a kind of protracted "Hi!". Anyway, Jane and I sat around and talked all afternoon. John is in Holland with a tank company and she's naturally pretty edgy about it, although she doesn't say it or dramatize her woe as much as little Liz Evers, who surprisingly enough has proved to be the most desperate of all the war wives I know, from point of view of feeling terrible consistently. I think that is because she has been the most sheltered of the girls I know, a veritable tender little flower compared to such worldly hussies as Jane or J. Kelly or I. Despite the swankness and apparent sophistication of being brought up on the continent, I don't think anything beats a good public high and co-ed college social life, with access to a big city, for hardening one's intellectual and moral arteries, so to speak. And a little of that toughness helps. Anyway, Jane left and then I went to Laura Bergquist's for dinner, where I had a terrible argument with Jane Cates, another war wife except her husband isn't overseas where he pines to be. He was being trained to be a member of a French interrogating team at Ritchie before he got re-assigned to the infantry, the reason being that (she says) Eisenhower doesn't want any more specialists. I said, that's perfectly reasonable, if you spend a lot of money and time and good red blood getting a man to the front he should be a fighting man also. But no she said any old dope can be an infantryman, etc. etc. Well, you get the drift. I'll have you know I spoke with great authority about t.o.s combat teams, etc. etc., of which I know absolutely nothing. But I am your wife and somehow the glory seeps through, lighting up my red (says the laundryman) hair like a halo, making me unpopular as hell with my friends.
Practically at the same time, though, he is telling her that he wished he were in the Navy.
It has cleared up today after raining all yesterday and this morning. There is enough work to keep one busy and enough to do with one's leisure time, but everything is petty, inconceivably so when one thinks how large this war will look in history. But it's as important as the little figures who participate in it are unimportant. That's the fate of modern man - to do things bigger & better yet to decrease his own stature by the same stroke.
This country is pretty dull, too. Nothing so grand to liberate as Rome or Paris or lovely mountains - just ugly products of the machine civilization and some ragged old farms that never had a chance under any economy, free or otherwise.
In the next war, perish the very thought a thousand times, I'm going to join the navy. They really never suffer a war. Imagine a warm shower, a shot of whiskey and a good clean bed always on hand. A ship's laundry, easy chairs, etc. ad infinitum. The poor damned infantry. I don't think anyone can know what a war is who hasn't spent some time in an army on the ground, from headquarters down. Anything else is a picnic. No wonder that armies have always been the sources of new ideas, contagions of all sorts, mental as well as physical. I'm sure I've learned a great deal more about everything than if I had been in the navy. But I'm tired of wandering through the circles of purgatory. Every new idea hurts - as some pragmatist pointed out some time ago - I'm tired of hurting - and having the GI's too, without proper toilet facilities. Several of us have a mild dysentery at the moment and I think you can imagine how miserable it is to get up in the middle of a freezing night to use a stinking damp latrine a hundred muddy yards away. No fine ship's drainage system, no clean food & dining room. There is absolutely no comparison, nor with civilian life either, God bless it.
The new American troops have not had much training; or some vital functions are absent from their training. They are not very good: what in the hell have they been doing all this time? They are no match for even the bad divisions of the enemy, not yet at least, but there are a lot of them and they are physically in good shape; they probably believed that they would never get up front in time to see combat; now they are hoping that the tempo of war would slow down until they feel ready to die.
The proportion of small-armored soldiers, those who take most of the casualties, actually is diminishing in proportion to the total men in uniform. The American Army is over-specialized and over-manned. With headquarters the size of thinned-out divisions. Every little inspiration of a Washington Congressman finds someone detailed to look after it, like a medal for Joe Glotzi from the 6th Congressional District -- the officers can parcel out mutually their own medals. Grave-digging companies leaning on their shovels. Visitors by the thousands eating off the rationed board. There are millions of people under arms or working upon the war or living in the romance of others at war, who find war comfortable, are at minimal risk, and do not want it to end. On paper and in fact, millions of uniformed men in the various theaters of operations are permitted to make the same demands on the Army that a combat unit makes while in combat, more or less, which is owing to a great pretense, a myth, bucked up by the Press, Congress, and Home Front.
His Team keeps getting new personnel and many visitors (official and unofficial, with and without orders), yet it has almost no losses by enemy action, disease, accidents, and home leave. ("Home leave" does not exist; only First Sergeant Annunziata gets it, but it is really because he was wounded and mentally becoming quite irascible.) Here comes Lt. Chester Oseieki. A cheerful sort, lean, chummy, affable, untrained by any visible standard for anything except perhaps in basic infantry processes. Who knows where he came from? Perhaps as Major Roos sits in his corner sucking his bottle, he thinks of sending pleas for reinforcements to the rear echelons.
The Team has a fantastic Table of Organization. This TO, made in Washington and Algiers, calls for the most complicated, specialized over-equipped aggregate of supernumeraries in the whole Army, not excluding the Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Forces (SHAEF). Fortunately only half the requests are shoved upon the Team. Our Lieutenant, while still such, is filling a Lieutenant-Colonel's slot. The Commanding Officer of the Company is supposed to be a Chicken Colonel. Actually since Alfred is doing Roos's job for him, he is an Acting Colonel; lest you scoff at this, consult the proverb that says the First Sergeant runs the Battery, that's four levels below the Captain, who is supposed to be managing the Battery.
Tom Crowell likes the phrase, "C'est la fucking guerre!" and says it whenever some unexpected nuisance occurs, daily that is. It has become a theme of the American troops. "Our mission is to take Hill 231." "We have to be out of here and at Betzelheim with our guns lined up by 1430 hours." "This has got to be printed and fired before 1900 hours tomorrow." The higher the level of command the more godlike and imbecilic the order. This is supposed to display firmness and clarity. Its impossibility is buried in Caesarean myth: "Veni, vedi, vici." "Seize all enemy positions to the Rhine!" "Search and destroy the enemy strongpoints between Mt. Kerouac and the Moser River." "Clear the Colmar Pocket of the enemy!" "What? When? Unbelievable!" "Yes. C'est la fucking guerre!"
Lt. Oseieki is supposed to be a liaison officer for leaflet operations, and therefore the Exec hands him over to Johnny Anspacher, not without misgivings. Like Roos himself, the officer is supernumerary, so far as the Exec is concerned. He'd rather return him to base for credit, for he engages in conduct distrusted by Alfred: he starts cultivating buddies among the enlisted men. What is he going to do for these guys? -- feed their egos and that's it, but they have just about the best egos around unless, like Connie Wilson and Lennie Cook, something happened to them in infancy and they are psychically crippled. His conduct seems good, democratic, egalitarian, friendly, considerate -- but the Exec recognize in it dangers of incompetency, inferiority complex, inability to command, and a few other salient defects of an officer. Living close, talking much, a group becomes a democracy and overrules command; decisions require some isolation for planning, sanctions, self-defense, and evaluation.
But how can you resist such a sweet guy? However, he takes a driver, gets in a jeep to call on a French division, the roads are slippery, he drives too fast (this after the Exec told him, just a few days before, Steve, you drive recklessly, watch out!), and he skids off the mountain road breaking his arms and legs and throwing his driver for a loop (he had insisted upon driving). The Exec was so angry he would not visit him in the hospital, leaving the decent gesture to Lt. Anspacher. He never sees him again; that was the end of his war.
Alfred does not see much of the French Army, not even their propaganda detachment, but deals with them through Lieutenants Jacques Pregre and Jacques Villanave (later to be Captained for nothing whatsoever), and their mixed aggregation, French pieds noirs, Algerian, Tunisian, Spanish, Moroccan, Corsican and Continental French, all under his command. Back of these stands a mistily forming political and propaganda intelligence section of the First French Army, minus the American know-how, technical apparatus and organization for direct delivery of messages to the Germans. They are in the midst of the struggle to determine what role the communist, military, and liberal Resistance shall play in the new order of affairs. They are bent upon the uncovering and punishment of collaborators among the French; the political mess of the next generation is beginning. They relieve the Americans of the task of sorting out the pro-Nazi French.
An Algiers acquaintance, the nearest to a professional soldier- propagandist among them, has been sent in from Algiers, Captain Fernand Auberjonois. However, the leader of the group is Quick-Colonel André Malraux. Alfred does not get to meet him, but has read parts of his book, Man's Hope, and knows him to be an outstanding novelist. Malraux is obviously up to something more than defeating the Germans. He would be welcome to come visit the Americans; he might learn a few tricks; but he doesn't come. The Exec would like to talk about literature and philosophy with him: Malraux and Arthur Koestler and Ignazio Silone have much to tell him; he feels the romance of their struggles -- personal, party, national, worldwide in scope -- carried on in the bowels of revolutions. But a combination of pride and principles keep the Lieutenant from approaching Malraux. And as for the rest of the tribe they have little to say. Except -- but it is too early to hear the beginnings of a love story -- except for Simone Thomas.
But, wait, stay, I must pause! For here comes an unnecessary whole level of command! It is called the Sixth Army Group. General Devers bosses it. It sets up by the beautiful spas of Vittel,and receives copies of the Seventh Army Team reports and sends visitors to the Team. It speaks to them formally from on high through "Psychological Warfare Section, " G-2, Sixth Army Group. Nice guys: a Major Shields shows up, cheerful, happy to be where he is and to know of the fine combat aggregation which the theory of military hierarchy lets him believe to be his command responsibility. Jim Clark, tiring now after being around so long and of a certain age, ineffable still, goes to join him there, so they work up a cozy group, and they stare right through Roos, who stares through everybody anyhow, which is important, for the Exec gets no backlash at speaking on behalf of the Seventh Army Team; they tolerate Roos as the Army suffers its myriad incompetents until they have done most of their damage, and then are gotten rid of too late, like Colonel Hazeltine of the U.S. Cavalry, who, it will be recalled, was summarily removed from his post as Chief of Psychological Warfare in the Mediterranean Theater as a Christmas present to Alfred the year before.
Roos was to stay some months longer but his modus vivendi with De Grazia developed nicely and before the winter set in he is drinking quietly in his successive rooms (the Exec always gives him the best spot to lay his head), while the Exec and Wallenberg and Crowell and Headquarters Sergeant Roger Villaneuve and the First Sergeant and the others carry on effectively. When First Sergeant Mike Annunziata's wounds and memories got to his head and he became too surly despite his beautiful Michelangelo face, and was wafted homewards, First Sergeant Taubert comes in out of nowhere. He is good, he handles Roos well, respectfully. He is Danish- American, too, like Roos, a big swarthy version as Roos is a middle- sized platinum blonde.
The feeling against the Commander is general. The Exec and the other officers do not go about singing his praises, nor are some of the other ranks reticent in criticizing. It may originate with Clark or Shields at the Sixth Army Group, or perhaps in anonymous letters from the Team, that a Colonel from the Inspector General's Office of the Army should show up one day in the Village of Herimenil. He circulates, interviewing soldiers and officers about their Company and especially their Commander. The Exec realizes that the critical interview is to be with himself. What is he to do? Worse than anything the Army hates disloyalty. Moreover, it smacks of insubordination. Criticism is prima facie proof of insubordination and disloyalty. Criticism from the second in command is almost always fatal -- to the Second in Command.
The Exec says that there are no serious problems with the Company, that the Major is a heavy drinker but generally keeps to himself and is certainly no mad bull. There is nothing good to say about him, however. The Exec would like to recommend getting rid of him, but the least that would happen is that the Army would get rid of both of them. Anyhow, that's the way Alfred figures it. Perhaps he is mistaken. The Inspector General departs. There is no further word about the matter.
And here come even more visitors. As in Africa, in Sicily, in Italy, so in France and then in Germany. The Team is an attractive outfit. They are in close touch with the Front and at the same time not as misanthropic and exposed to mishaps as the infantry. They eat well, mostly with the same rations as the infantry, but better prepared and with more skillful scrounging in outside markets. They have mobility and know everything that is going on, from the German side, the Americans side, locally, along the Front and from the enemy and Soviet radio and press. Earl Pittman and his assistant are manning the radio monitoring truck continuously. Tom Crowell's printing trucks are converting electric power into word-power with interminable click-clacking. Harold Adams has no business as a civilian taking on the over-the-lines amplifiers and the half-track armored reconnaissance vehicle that is used to get the equipment forward and to protect the orators, and to get them in and out expeditiously. He is a sweet guy. The Exec feels sorry when he learns that Harold's wife has decided to divorce him. The guy is seriously downcast; he drinks and talks incessently.
Their frontline one kilowatt radio broadcasting station is not far away, and, as the war ends, the radio operation closes down and joins the main team at "Schloss de Grazia." Its chief is Captain Weldon Hogie, a tall, blond, taciturn Minnesota engineer who was an original member of the First Mobile Radio Broadcasting Company. He lands his mobile station soon after the successful assault on the Riviera. He then follows Seventh Army Headquarters as it moves North and not far behind the larger psychological warfare team to which he related, at first to Grenoble and then on up in stages to Germany. Some 260 days with 4,370 hours of transmission are achieved. Its effects are hard to measure. They must mostly be presumed. The enemy cannot surrender with a radio message in their hand, as they might with a leaflet. Unquestionably there is an audience, a silent and of course fearful one, whether civilian or enemy soldiers. And when, for instance, as the war ends and the team is broadcasting from Weileim, their radio station of the Seventh Army becomes the principal local voice booming into the Munich region, granted that its 1kw is a modest successor to the wrecked 100k Munich station. This operation peaks what has been a useful function all along, assisting in the reorganization of newly occupied areas where the radio broadcasting facility has been damaged or is non-existent, or is dependent upon a station still in enemy hands. It depends, too, upon a stable front situation; it's not as simple to move around as a tow truck. But it's a cute technology. Like the other equipment, the fast little printing presses. Too, the mobile hear-all monitor van.
Also the half-track amplifiers, for it must be said that this armored vehicle is useful for approaching the point of broadcast to the enemy, but then it has to be hidden and the amplifiers toted up to the auditory location, and there abandoned until the operation is over, because it is usually subjected to small-arms and cannon fire. A cheap small amplifier would be just as effective; no matter if it had to be abandoned. It would cost only as much as a few cannon shells. But it should be stocked in some quantity, like the shells, say at least a score per army. And divisions should be encouraged to employ them on their own initiative, by means of recordings and even broadcasts live by German-speaking Americans, who are always to be found.
In addition, there is Fred Faas, the photographer, who shows up on November 5 and is harbored. Then a Britisher is assigned for a while, Lt. Crossman, whose big brother is an acquaintance from Africa now with SHAEF, Dick Crossman. (We know even then that he is destined for high office in some future Labour Party Government and has picked up the name "Doublecrossman" already, thanks to his many enemies in politics and military affairs -- the English public school boys like to coin these naughty nicknames for each other.) Sociability, news, nothing much else. They carry away ideas, stories, scuttlebutt from the scene of action.
Lt. Col. Culligan comes in, he who had been top military administrator in Rome after the Liberation and is now with the Sixth Army Group HQ. Culligan had been an entrepreneur; he had, still owns, a company that he describes to the curious Exec. The company matches quickly people from all around the country and of every skill with emergency jobs -- a guy who can work a telegraph while holding his breath under water is needed for testing an underseas installation, that sort of thing -- a glorified operation later represented more mundanely by the Kelly Girl or by what are called "head-hunters."
Captain Galitzine, handsome and humane, somehow detaches himself and even gets back to England to get married, but then returns like an eel to the Sargasso Sea, very much alive and smiling. He has smashing pictures of the High Society wedding and articles from the Press.
Captain Beaudry of the Canadian Army is another free spirit, and he, too, becomes loosely assigned, perhaps because he is an uncommon Francophone in a largely Anglophone volunteer army. No one would think of asking anything of him but a favor, which he is delighted to do. Next to the drunk hung on with Captain Charlton in Naples, De Grazia's worst binge occurs the night Beaudry takes him to a French outfit with which he has connected near Epinal; it has a great chef and good wine; they make the most of it, and afterwards talk and drink till dawn back at Al's bivouac. Beaudry is reporting to someone, somewhere, the Exec forgets, in vino amnesia. Beaudry is a dare-devil and the Exec pulls out of a couple of his proposed expeditions, pleading larger responsibilities. Beaudry describes a little hotel in Paris and Julie, a French girl so beautiful that Alfred has to write home promptly in order to dispel the notion of the trip for the moment. He is sorely tempted.
Then he does go to Paris with Beaudry for two days -- hardly time to say hello all around. Julie is there at Madame Heller's little hotel, but a) isn't all that beautiful, b) is either menstruating or sick. So back he goes -- remarkable how little he allows himself in the way of leave -- especially when you think of how easily he gets it: it is not really called leave -- he writes a pass, ordering himself to talk to this one or that one, to pick up this or that piece of equipment or set of reports, to deliver something or the other, all destined to end the war sooner -- asks Roos to sign it, puts various stamps on it for Seventh Army Headquarters over at Headquarters itself, and now it looks almost as impressive as the aforementioned Passierschein leaflet that is disseminated among the German troops in large numbers, that one that guarantees them safe conduct through the lines and decent treatment -- nothing so nice as Paris, of course.
He has visited Herz, though, and whoever else is around; the liberation flush is almost gone. He is embarrassed and annoyed by the large banner flung across the Champs Elysee, exclaiming in huge letters, "Hart, Schaffner and Marx Employees of Paris Welcome Their Liberators!" (Which Army Historian S.L.A.Marshall, writing about Liberation Day much later on, relishes to say was shot down by a French gunner the next day; either Marshall is mistaken or it was re-erected.)
Once again he will catch the Paris itch, in the wintertime, and will go with Tom Crowell and Earl Pittman, staying at Madame Heller's hotel again, where they put on a big drunk with three prostitutes, waving goodbye to them from across the subway platforms as dawn strikes La Madeleine. A couple of days later Tom is downcast; he has caught the clap. They exchange a few sour jokes. Fortunately modern medicine, penicillin and all of that, rids him of the gonorrhea promptly; in respect to Madame Heller, it must be said that Tom had refused the escort of a plain-looking woman, insisting upon the better-looking one, who was reluctant to go along; as he recovers he lectures about beauty being only skin-deep.
The people of Alsace and Lorraine regard the Americans as liberators, and, on the whole prefer the French to the Germans, especially so long as the French are democratic and on the winning side; they have had enough of the Nazi Party, disastrous War, and appeals to their Germanic origins. Heeding their town crier, the villagers turn out in goodly numbers for a dance with the Americans; the mothers watch with keen interest; the men appear indifferent but steadily drink down the three barrels of beer the Yanks have bought ($10 for one barrel came indirectly from De Grazia's Chicago Addison Street neighborhood association); the boards resound with cheerful, heavy-footed jumping. At first it's jazz Americain, but then an authentic accordionist appears and the polkas and waltzes blare out through the Company loudspeakers. Hardly a sexual orgy. But the cowsheds shiver their timbers.
Private Cook -- the same of the fatal shooting -- has his own private stock. She is a pretty girl whom the Exec had glimpsed a couple of times; he heard that she had followed one of the soldiers up from Lyon. Private Cook disappears with a two-ton truck one afternoon and a blizzard comes raging in. They worry. No truck, no Cook. A vehicle and two men are sent to the rescue in another truck. All return well. Cook was stuck in the drifts.
The Exec is angry:the killing was in his mind, and the truck could have been cannibalized, and the rescue truck was endangered. He determines that there will be a Court Martial: Cook has gone too far. He is given a fair trial, and the maximum punishment of thirty days confinement in a Company cell by a unanimous panel of two officers and an enlisted man. This means finding a private unpleasant space for him now, and for when they move. He is kept in a stairwell most of the time. He is brought his meals. The men can visit him. He has no duties. He emerges from confinement smiling and good-natured, as ever, always ready to help when called upon. "Sir," says one of his most affectionate soldiers, a private from Boston, "I thought you were a great guy, but I have to tell you that I am very disappointed in you and have changed my mind about you." "Sorry to hear that," says the Exec.
The complications of the romance have not finished. Second Lieutenant Hardbill approaches the Exec. "Sir, I would like the permission of the Commanding Officer in order to get married." So the Army rules state. But who would be prepared for the stunning news? "Married?" exclaims the Exec, "but how? Where would you find a girl?" He looks incredulously at the small erect North Carolinian, handsome, always serious, his chin and cheek traversed by a slash scar. "I have known her for a while." Her name? "Lucille." The same Lucille who -- the same Lucille? "Yes Sir." "But you know, Hardbill, that she has been around the company, has had relations with Private Cook and, well, you know." "Yes, sir, I know." "Well..., if you love her, I shouldn't want to stand in your way. Good luck." "Thank you." "Don't mention it... Why don't you take three days leave and maybe George can go along as a driver to watch the car." The Exec tells Major Roos about it. "Disgusting, don't you think?" Roos says, curling his lip, but signs the permission.
How soldiers manage to fall in love and keep up the affair -- when the front is stable -- well, yes --but when the front is fluid -- will always be a ticklish mystery. It can happen anywhere. Wasn't it thus that Moses wandering in exile beat up a ruffian, helped a girl to draw water from a well, and married her in short order? Even in a small Company, secrets are born, and they are kept by their little networks. What seems to be important often is not whether others know the secret, but whether a certain person or group -- the Commander, the officers, the First Sergeant, the Orderly, the Technician Second Class named Joe, does not learn it.
Generally the American soldiers speak and probably think the less of sexuality the longer they are in action. The response of the soldiers to the seductive flirtations and dancing in the occasional movies that come in and are shown are more subdued than they are in the Stateside camps. There occurs a letdown in sexuality. A small group are pledged to women back home and keep the faith, others don't feel the urge, some are afraid of the troubles and disease and ugliness of the situations in prospect. The Exec takes it for granted that a normal proportion of the soldiers and officers masturbate but is incurious about it, and never comes upon instances; the Company usually occupies a large space and the men are spread out and have their own recesses of privacy. There is an actual diminution of testicular activity, also.
He has not come upon overt homosexuality, but a warmth bordering upon it, as the strong devoted affection Sergeant Villaneuve, the Chief Clerk, displays quietly toward Private Connie Wilson, his assistant. Not even an emulation of the traits usually assigned to gay types, such as Major Greenlees would put on, but what the British condone, would make Americans angry. A libidinal, unexpressed, and unexercised homosexuality emerges from the shared dangerous and deprived associations among the men; this would vary with the expectation of immediate danger and is therefore found much more among the risking-killing units than the safer ones. Direct combat brings the soldiers to embrace one another psychologically, profoundly, to become attached by the fear-fight, masochistic-sadistic aggression against the enemy. Combat makes blood-brothers of them, in more ways than one.
Martin Herz, oldest friend of the global horror show, returns to visit once, twice, thrice, lean, black-haired, hawk-nosed, soft brown eyes turned fierce, speaking crisply but dispassionately like a Prussian staff officer. He comes to sniff the Front and refresh himself from his labors at SHEAF where he is now chief leaflet writer and soon becomes a Major. His operation there has become gigantic. A full bomber squadron operating out of England has been assigned to leaflet operations. More of the same: one does not know why they do not go in for noisemakers, shriekers, boomers, and more exotic forms of printed material. Might as well scare the next generation of Germans to death; but, by now, most have been evacuated to the countryside, this is known from prisoner interrogations. Most of the casualties of the bombers are friendly impressed foreign workers, afterwards to be counted not at all or as German-inflicted (which, indirectly, they are).
Martin is more technocratic about the whole business than Alfred. He is doing a job for which he is well-suited and is well-recognized, promoted and decorated; he lives in a fine hotel in Paris with private bath, with complete laundry and other services furnished, excellent board and a bar at prices far less than he can afford. He is unmarried. Indeed the only reason you can see for his not wanting the war to go on and on is his basically responsible and generous spirit; he hates war in principle, and detests human stupidity, which manifests itself so openly and completely in war; he hates the Nazis but feels an almost maternal affection for the ordinary German soldier, of whom he has seen many, not trying to kill him, but worn-out and docile as newly taken prisoners of war usually are. He wants Alfred to get back home along with all the other soldiers, too. So he works very hard, at least four times as hard as he might get away with.
He is happier than the Exec when the Exec is at last promoted to Captain. "Congratulations on th'promotion," he writes, apologetically, "somewhat belated, to be sure, but nonetheless sincere," and blames the Algiers mafiosi for delaying the orders. But now de Grazia is twice promoted to Captain. What happens is that Colonel Quinn, Seventh Army G-2, decides that the promotion process has dragged on too long, and short-cuts the Algiers Headquarters that was formally the parent organization of the Exec. He puts him up through Seventh Army HQ and the matter is promptly attended to. But meanwhile Algiers has gotten around to promoting him too, and these orders work their way up through Sixth Army Group. So he has two sets of promotion orders, and should there and then have coined another identity and sent himself home on leave while remaining ostensibly in the theater of operations. He is advised by G- 2 that unfortunately two Captaincies do not add up to one Majority and to adopt as his date of promotion the earlier of the two, November 17.
The Exec has become stony hard on the "German problem." When Martin Herz arrives one day, only to leave the next day at dawn, they talk until two in the morning, according to one of his letters, "about what to do with the Germans."
It will be immensely difficult. I can't see our several nations agreeing together on social planning on a scale they have individually been incapable of doing in their own countries. If we don't even teach American children American government and democracy properly, it is difficult to see how we can teach the children and adults of Germany the immutable principles of democracy. Anyone knows that historical examples are very weak in teaching people democracy and yet we are determined not to treat the Germans as democratic equals. One way out might be to abandon all pretext of being severe with them and forget about the war. That is not only impossibly impractical but also serves as a confession to the Germans of our own weakness and their own justified conduct under Hitler. The other extreme of a brutal oppression over a period of years is likewise impossible, because it is a vicious circle and requires constantly increasing stringent disciplining. I am myself in favor of executing offhand all of the Gestapo, the SS, the Parachute Corps, the General Staff and the State hierarchy, despite the fact that five or ten per cent may be "innocent." But there is your root and there is your example. Then, despite the fact that everyone shares a little guilt, treat the rest of the population as in a certain sense victims and as being capable of creating a democracy with our help, abandoning all severely repressive measures.
Herz will not accept the plan, but he has none of his own, and, after returning to Paris and thinking it over for a while, he writes Alfred that he agrees with it. Since Alfred repeats this idea time after time in correspondence and conversation, he must have developed confidence and assurance with it. Something approaching it actually occurred, except, as will be recalled, the punitive actions taken were transformed into the forms of trial and punishment under international law in an attempt to make law. (This is not to object to the making of such law, but to recall, also, that the American Government under Truman then embarked upon a program of crystallizing "sovereignty" of national states: sovereign states and a world law are a contradiction.)
The would-be executioner of a quarter-million Nazi bastards does not sleep much on the same night because "the landlady's little girl has a little black kitten which is put out at night and which cries loudly."
Last night I took her in, but she clamored just as loudly in my room and wouldn't let us talk in peace. I thought she might be hungry and started to look through my musette bag for some crumbs when I found myself face to face with a little mouse with large eyes and a long tail. He hopped nimbly under the bed leaving a partially chewed up Hershey bar, one that you had sent me and which I was conserving and the nibbled portion of which I turned over to the kitten who devoured it and went to sleep by the stove. She was all right until about six in this morning, when she climbed up the bed and started stomping on me, so I threw her out.
With Herz gone, he talks to Lt. Hans Wallenberg. The two should be closer; they are, in fact, together almost daily, but Hans is not witty, nor imaginative, very Prussian-like indeed, a small dumpy man with a deep bark. Businesslike, serious, he regards the Exec as cavalier, even reproaches him once for spending too much time with Tom Crowell, the low-brow cheerful printer. Hans lives in a dingy room a couple of doors down the one street of the Lorraine Village where they bivouac. He catches the flu and the Exec visits him, taking him an article just received, written by Brother Sebastian on the propaganda values buried (but discoverable) in Shostakovich's "Leningrad Symphony."
Alfred cogitates aloud before his friend, with ideas that would be useless to offer to Tom Crowell, or anybody else in the Company, for that matter. That great artists need to communicate with the masses when great events are at hand; that the objective analyst cannot be creative. He feels that Hans is not the most creative of propagandists, no Goebbels he, the Nazi being a genius of the highest order, none the less for being diabolic.
Alfred sees in music a form of expression whose symbols and devices can be shown readily to diverge from or coincide with the understanding and sympathy of the auditors, but where greatness in modern times more than ever cannot be achieved because of the huge gap between the artist and the common man. He would like to admire James Joyce highly, to take an instance from literature, but cannot because Joyce speaks to a very few people, which disqualifies him from greatness to Alfred's mind. He really believes, that others, and perhaps even himself, can bridge this gap, can be both profoundly expressive and at the same time popular. This is a myth, a dream, really, because he can scarcely name great artists who are popular, or great scientists, analysts, that is, who are popular, never mind whether they are good men.
Both he and Hans read as much as anyone else in the Company. His latest favorite has been Sassoon's Memoirs of an Infantry Officer: "I find it the finest book I've ever read on war on the level it's pitched at. It's much better than Remarque [All Quiet on the Western Front], for example." Hans is reading the letters of Frederick the Great and quotes from them, showing them to the Exec; how apparent in them is the deep-rooted German sense of duty. There are even startling parallels to Hitler's evident present thinking to be found in Frederick's thoughts at a particularly rough time in his career, when about to give up to the coalition of nations fighting him, but hangs on, and suddenly finds reprieve with the death of the Russian Empress.
Some weeks later, the second highest Nazi, Dr. Joseph Goebbels, adverts exactly to the drama that struck Wallenberg and was related to de Grazia. The very last days of The Reich arrive. Hitler moves about the rooms of his bunker, demented, deteriorating physically, demanding the impossible of everyone, accusing them all of cowardice, incompetence, and treason. Goebbels, who had been told by astrologers to expect a last-moment reversal of fortune, is reading Carlyle's biography of Frederick the Great. He phones Hitler, exclaiming excitedly: My Führer, I am reading how the Emperor Frederick seemed to be losing everything, and was determined upon suicide, when just on the brink, by a great stroke of luck, the Russian Empress died, and Prussia lived, and now -- get this, My Fuhrer, President Roosevelt has just died, and we shall win!
Alfred and Wallenberg, and, too, Herz, Mann, Habe, Langendorf, and those who come to visit, are continually struggling for a logical, just, practical policy toward the Germans. There is a lot of cursing and railing at the foe from the Army and the home press and population: these men are more knowing and experienced and thoughtful -- you might think that they would reach a consensus. They do not. The arguments drift off into drunkenness, their work at hand, departures, trivia.
The Exec, beholden to his educational masters at the University, tries to be as precise as possible. How separate the population from the elite; how re-educate them. Yet who are we to re-educate the most educated people in the world? Well, they have terrible flaws: what are they, where lodged in their mind and their society? It is an impossible problem and yet there must be a policy and the young officers, operational, at the nodes of action, have as much to say as anybody, and what the generals say, and what Churchill and Roosevelt and the oppressed peoples say, is to some degree what these young men say, because they are opinion leaders, and also they have some control over the apparatus of propaganda, the press, radio and film, and the selection of the crucial second-level liberators and occupiers.
They talk unceasingly of the key ideas, argue them, these men in the age group between 24 and 34, in the grades from Sergeant to Major. The issues are unconditional surrender; war criminals; reparations; the new constitution of Germany; the treatment of collaborators in the rest of Europe -- the Fascists of Italy and everywhere, the Petainists, the millions of crushed souls and wicked ones and turn-coats; the support of Governments in Exile of Eastern Europe that had fled West and their reconciliation with the Communist Governments installed by the advancing Soviet forces. His ideas take shape on each of these points, as the troops suffer the worst winter in memory of Alsace and Lorraine.
Corrupted by the anticipated and actual work of the military censor, and deprived of reference to intimate affairs that he would not let himself confess, great letters are not to be expected, but he persists in writing at a gallop. Not so Jill. And fortunately hers are not censored. There are a great many of them, sent at the rate of three a week, averaging over five hundred words, arriving less regularly, sometimes several at once, sometimes not at all for two weeks. He saves them all and explains to her:
I've studied and sorted your letters I've received since being in France and they make quite a book. Do my letters amount to so much too? They must, I guess. I must have said `I love you' a thousand times, still it's no more than the number of kisses you used to get in a single day, or will get. And the thousandth one didn't seem repetitive at all.
All their epistolary jabber swells into a substantial outflow. The whole body of letters, extending for more than three years of military separation, all told, will ultimately approach a million words.
He has other correspondents, parents, brothers -- the two young ones growing up and readying themselves for military service by means of unashamed loafing, his older brother already in the Office of Strategic Services -- Bill Steinbrecher, kept out of uniform by medical disability, Mike Holmes, out of Eton, now an Ensign in the Royal Navy and anticipating convoy duty, Bill Evers, hoping to translate his new Captaincy into a Company Command in the next Pacific island romp, and his former professors, Earl Johnson, L.D.White, Harold Gosnell, together with a score of others. He is far and away the luckiest man at mail-call.
His letters to Jill unconsciously follow a formula. They tell of the outstanding non-censorable events of battle and campaigning and the men around him; they recite the foodstuffs of the day; they report other personal communications; they comment on the world scene, especially the general strategy of the War; they review briefly the books and articles he has been reading; they describe the weather; they profess his love and intense desire to return home. He declaims viciously against the liberties that civilians enjoy, mindless of the need for civil rights; perhaps he would have shut down the nation into a prison for the duration; soldiers cannot be trusted with liberty, especially in wartime. The more obvious the fact that the War is being won mainly by the civilian workers and abstaining civil population, the more he snarls at them, calling them "spoiled children;" "While I must struggle for a crumb of freedom, they want icing on their cake." (He is commenting on labor unrest, complaints against travel restrictions, and the like). His letters almost always notify her which of her letters have been received.
The Presidential elections get an early vote out of him by absentee ballot. It is scarcely an informed vote, except for the top of the ballot, where he chooses Roosevelt over Dewey. He violates the secrecy of the ballot for Jill,
I shall undoubtedly vote in a half-informed fashion, and against the candidates you've gotten laboriously to know. What can I do? I can't wait now for you to answer this letter with a filled-out sample ballot. Therefore I must take the fateful step without your helping hand. Since you are my only darling wife, I'll tell all. I have just scratched the ballot for our true and good F.D.Roosevelt, and nice, conscientious Truman, for Lucas [for U.S.Senator] because he still votes right and Lyons is no good at all, for Courtney [for Governor] because Green has been a drab failure, for Hunter, Barrett, Vicars, Merritt and Johnson because without his own party in office the governor can't do a thing, and inactivity and internal squabbling is worse than a Republican slate any time. I know nothing about the candidates for Clerk of the Supreme Court [of Illinois] save that the office shouldn't be elective, but Cassie gets my vote to keep perhaps a little more the Supreme Court from paying too much attention to nefarious interests antagonistic to mob rule. The University Trustees are Republican for my money to keep the party in power from having an opening wedge into the educational system. Emily [Douglas] gets my vote senz' altro. Govier and Rowan also tally with me. After that, everything becomes dark. Berman gets three from me [Illinois has a unique partial proportional representation by allowing voters to lump their vote in selecting among several candidates for a State Legislature's Assembly District] (Lee is a jerk), and all the rest are Republican save Szumnarski. Do you still love me and are we pals?
As the Front stabilizes and the propaganda shells fire unceasingly, he borrows from the main Army ammunition dump a crew of three men and brings them to live with his own men under Sergeant Becker, in a kind of cave. For them it is a holiday from the wretched discipline of the battalion; their rations improve; they set their own routines. He writes of them:
Yesterday I spent an interesting, otherwise unoccupied hour at our ammo dump conversing with Sgt. Galloway, one of the widely divergent souls I have assigned to me. He is, as Jim (Clark) suggested when he saw him while accompanying me on an inspection, a `colored gentleman.' That is, he is smooth and has "been around." He lived strangely enough only about a mile from us in Chicago, just the other side of Washington Park. We had an interesting talk about the neighborhood, mostly just repeating the names of streets and other mundane items which become important to the exile. He used to be a cook on a Pullman, which fixes very well his wide experience and savoir faire. Among other things, we got around to talking about politics. He is a Roosevelt man and said that most of the Pullman workers were also. The most intriguing idea for me came when in a discussion of how the colored people, according to a story he told, voted Republican whenever anyone mentioned Lincoln. He then went on to say that he heard someone say sometime that Lincoln only freed the slaves in order to win the war. Now, the significance in my mind is that he, and men like him, independent, proud, and competent workers, unconsciously and consciously dislike the idea of crediting Lincoln with freeing the slaves, because it presumes that they were an inert mass and that some omnipotent white man waved his wand and they were free. Galloway thought that, though he was cautious in expressing the idea, the negroes would have been freed by the forces of history apart from the desires of any white benevolence societies or philanthropists. The principle behind his attitude I find very striking, and I am now almost convinced that the whole propaganda of the Lincoln myth is a bad thing for the negro and among the more intelligent of them is actually a subtle insult.
The Exec, it happened, had worked up a study of the life of Lincoln shortly before entering the Army; the thesis figured well enough. When Thanksgiving Day arrived, he consulted with his soldiers and they invited the group to join the whole Company for the day of feasting. For the moment it may have constituted the only racially integrated unit in the Seventh Army.
At a point in the festivities, the Exec had a word aside with his racist barometer, unreconstructed Southerner Pfc Connie Wilson, who in a surprising moment of enlightenment says, "I think it's a good idea, Sir, to have niggrahs over to eat with us." Than as an afterthought, "You know, Sir, I have come around to thinking that the niggrahs are all right. I have changed my mind." The Exec was pleased; he had made a convert. But Connie is hesitating and then explains his further brainstorm, "It's the Jews, Sir, I know now, they are the problem." Here! In such a company as ours, how can it be? The Exec was mentally flattened one more time by the intricate, patterned messiness of the human mind and soul. Sweet, neat, dutiful Connie the Clerk: he was prejudiced against every possible subject, French, Italians -- especially Sicilians, the worst of them, he could be overheard to argue when drunk, that would include his own beloved Captain, stretching the point a little. He dared not spill out his hatred for all Yankees as such.
Enlisted men are allowed to choose, if they wish, which of their officers will censor their mail. Most did not bother to do so and the Exec ended up censoring some of their mail and dumping the rest upon Lt. Anspacher. It was a dull job. The lives of the soldiers are richer than is apparent in their letters, which are almost always brief, unadorned, laconic messages. In 820 days he does not read a beautiful full letter. He can only commend an occasional phrase; a rare outcropping of lines of profound love or yearning or suffering or despair. Some express themselves well orally. They can sing a popular tune with clever or moving lines. Scribbling original messages conveying true feelings and their environment is beyond them, even on politics. Elections, Dewey or Roosevelt -- hardly a word in the
letters, little enough arguing otherwise.
Captain Alfred de Grazia has felt also that he must end the year 1944 with a reckoning. He therefore elaborates a message to all of the Seventh Army Artillery Personnel concerning propaganda operations. Not every 24-year old is permitted to address an Army like General George Washington, but strange powers dropped upon youthful soldiers in World War II, and it goes to show that he didn't spend all of his time scrounging for food and drink and writing home. (George Washington, incidentally, delivered himself of a voluminous personal correspondence while conducting the Revolutionary forces in the War of Independence.) So, hang on as long as you wish:
Subject: Artillery leaflet Operations against the Enemy
To: All Artillery Personnel
1. General. This memorandum is published for the information of all artillery personnel and especially for those artillery units which have not been fully informed on the subject of propaganda by leaflet shells before assuming their posts of combat. [These new outfits are arriving continuously and no one thought to train them in all the time they were hanging around in the States and Britain.] The purpose of American leaflet propaganda is to diminish the will of the enemy to resist our forces...etc., etc.
The number of 105mm smoke shells, base-ejecting -- R1QLA - which are converted each week and fired as leaflet shells has averaged 1000 for the Seventh Army. Though calculations of the results of the various types of shell on the enemy are impossible to make exactly, it is expected that they do their proportionate share of damaging the enemy's resistance. The number of shells used.. depends upon 1) the total supply of ammunition, 2) the availability of transport priorities, 3) the total number of enemy troops facing our troops, 4) the availability of good targets.., 5) the number of firing batteries.. in position, 6) the vulnerability of the enemy to propaganda at the particular time... [He cites, as an example, that a large number of troops may be in range who are demoralized and easy victims of propaganda but our advance may be too rapid for artillery to be drawn up in firing position before the situation dissolves -- but all of this rests anyhow on the efficient organization of the total system to begin with. He goes on to describe the general and the special types of leaflet, the fancy "Surrender Pass" designed to bolster the psychology of any surrender tendency and the leaflet poignantly directed at a special injustice or misery of a targeted unit.]
2. Initial Arrangements for Fire. [Here a tedious iteration of the hierarchy underlying the operation occurs.] Leaflet shells are fired by army order, corps order or divisional order. They are also fired by verbal arrangement with PWB ... etc, etc. [Counting the hierarchies and the exceptions to using the hierarchy under different conditions -- when speed is sought, when phones are down, when somebody gets a good idea (but he had better be sure of it!), there must be fifty sets of circumstances and methods of triggering the descent of a shower of paper upon the hapless enemy. It is all part of the eternal struggle in the army between centralization and extreme decentralization down to the mouth of the cannon.]
3. Firing. A Provisional Firing Table follows: [Here he goes into the appropriate settings and the numbers of leaflets that are set to spew forth at the proper height above the enemy. The Table will never be but provisional, still he would not dare call it less than that. There should be an experimental battery in Fort Sill, Oklahoma, firing test rounds.]
4. Reports of Firing. [He has prepared a form to be filled out upon firing, and sent in to him, recording any unusual events and also the circumstances of the enemy before the event.] Leaflet shell fire may be observed in the same manner as high explosive, especially air-burst, and smoke shells... With a light breeze, if the leaflets leave the shell at the height of 300 to 400 feet, the area covered by the leaflets is approximately 150 yards in diameter, below the point of burst. With a cross-wind from 12 to 15 miles per hour, the leaflets reach the ground approximately 500 yards from a point below the burst. The area of coverage does not vary appreciably with the velocity of the wind. [He should have offered a prize to the best cannoneers; ordinary firing does not take into account such winds; the weapon should be aimed 500 yards short of the target and 180 degrees against the wind direction.]... Once grounded the leaflet may be read easily [despite crinkling or wetness]. The most economical terrain for leaflet coverage is flat wooded country. Targets in mountains are most difficult to reach, and in open, bare country, the leaflets blow along the ground from the point of impact.
5. Results. [He ends with an exhortation to the troops: granting that the contents of the messages are all-important and will have some effects, which he describes, the diligence, cooperation, and skills of the artillerymen are vital to the accomplishment of the mission.]
With that, he signs off, "By Order of the Commanding Officer, Captain Alfred de Grazia, CAC, AUS", hoping for the best. The problems are many, and subjects of written complaints, reports, and expostulations over field telephones, in themselves the generators of numerous misunderstandings, even misfirings. Trucks cannot find the propaganda shell dump, or they arrive there without knowing what they came to get. When nothing can be done, as when a tank runs over 50 packs of explosive powder or a leaflet intended for the Second Mountain Division is shot at the SS, there is the customary cursing, black humor, alcohol, and a turning to other tasks and pleasures.
He had arranged for record keeping beginning in early October for the first time -- an historic First! -- and therefore we know that by December 10, 20 leaflets had been produced and fired all or in part. Each shell case was stencilled with the title of its contents, the converted shell, its metal base screwed back tight, double-tested. It was rare that a base piece and the paper wads ejected in a muzzle- blast, which was dangerous (hopefully, over the enemy, the pieces would clobber somebody). The shell fuses were not completely reliable, at the longer ranges especially. Artillery units sometimes failed to pick up their allocations. Sometimes they fired excessively, at other times under-firing out of fear or uncertainty or ignorance. (An enemy divisional front would typically require 100 shells, and about 250 propaganda shells would communicate with them in the course of a week.) An unfortunate general condition prevailed: when psychological conditions for firing were best, targeting conditions were worst.
The editorial policies that the Team settled upon were initiated mostly on the Italian Front and fully developed in France, so that there was nothing at all new when finally, as the War was nearing its end, on February 7, 1945, Commanding General Robert McClure of the Supreme Command, PWD, SHAEF, issued general orders to follow certain policies. I summarize them:
No direct appeals for desertion. Carry always some reference to decent treatment as prisoners. Don't say prisoners are sent overseas. Say prisoners will be repatriated "as soon as possible after the war." Suppress all names or indicators of deserters. Use only the fancy "official" surrender pass or safe conduct guarantee. Do not disparage the enemy to his face. Do not boast of our valor. Reiteration is no fault; don't strain for variety. Do not answer German propaganda directly. Stay off of larger political agitation. Tie in news of operations consistent with the news as announced by SHAEF. Tell no untruths (except in the rare special black operations where the identity of some party of the enemy is pretended).
All of this had for a year and more been part of the operational code of Al and Company of the Eighth, Fifth and Seventh Armies. Consider, if you will for a moment: the Frontpost newsletter has been fired regularly all this time at the enemy; it is factually accurate, unemotional, unabusive; it was more accurate and objective than most American and other Allied newspapers and magazines sold and read by the civilian millions of the homelands. The soldier propagandists feel that they cannot afford to lie; the journalists around the world and their editors at home feel that they cannot afford to tell the truth. Even when they are winning!
But isn't that a sign of a well-working Army: when the Commanders issue orders that are already in effect? Just as Al writes his wife proudly that he spends only an hour and a half per day administering the Company; a man would be an incompetent meddler to put in a long day at it. I would not argue that Alfred might be a better Commander if he reached out to do certain new things, which I have mentioned and will continue to bring up -- things that hardly any officer got around to doing, it is only fair to say, like running a book club, or insisting that everyone be trained to do the jobs of several others, in case of need, or daily equipment inspection, or instituting voluntary services for needy civilians, or arranging visits to historic sites, or getting men to write home more often. Come to think of it, much of this is being done in one way or another. Lieutenant Johnny Anspacher has a decent knack for it.
The Germans are doing very little frontline propaganda. Captured directives, however, show that the flood of Allied propaganda annoys the leadership all the way up to the Command and General Staff, and field commanders are urged to prohibit any circulation of the leaflets and to devote resources to replying in kind. They rely upon rockets, patrols, left-behinds, reconnaissance plane drops, and civilian carriers to distribute an undistinguished set of messages. Anti- semitism is a persistent theme, also slackers on the Home Front. Nor does the theme of useless sacrifice of troops by dumb leaders escape their attention. "Where is my Daddy this Christmas?" asks a rocket fired leaflet of its Third Division targets. The 45th Division gets one reciting its losses from Sicily onwards, assuring them of their good
chance to die in the mud for the war-mongers and profiteers who contrived to stay home, and ending in a clever P.O.W. appeal: "Your buddies are glad to be out of the mud. They are sure to return home safe and sound. You still have a long way to go. Keep alive if you can. For remember, you are still wanted... for Japan!" (Query: isn't this admitting that Germany will surrender?) They do a lot of humble boasting: "You are not finding the German soldier such an easy foe to overcome, are you?" And "What is the German soldier doing? He fights like a lion for every yard of ground!" (This is too much! The surviving landser is painfully cynical: he calls the Iron Cross the "Frozen-flesh cross," a phrase from Russia.) Letters from Americans in Prisoner-of-War camps are reproduced, also sad letters removed from the pockets of dead men.
"Do they have an effect on our troops?" De Grazia is occasionally asked, never with fear or concern, generally with the attitude that the Germans are wasting their time. Sure, he says: there is always somebody around who can be discouraged by a sympathetic communication to the point of giving up earlier than necessary. "Winning can cause more damage to combativeness than losing." The idea is not too difficult for combat soldiers to comprehend. The idea should go unexpressed, however, tabooed back of the lines. Although quite a few Americans are taken prisoner, the universal vocalized supposition is that they surrendered to save their lives -- which covers an extended gamut of judgements.
The Germans rigged up balloons made of oiled paper, 11 meters in
diameter, which, when inflated with about 22 cubic meters of hydrogen gas could lift up and carry over into French-held territory, much of it Alsatian, about 40 pounds of leaflets. The leaflets are in bundles; no mechanisms are used to bring the balloons down to earth or to scatter them about. They depend entirely upon vagrant breezes for their direction and traverse. Conceivably they land when the gas is leaked out, or when shot down by an agent who then circulates the leaflets, or more likely by an Allied soldier. They are couched in English and French, not in German, though doubtless the people who would be most inclined to obey instructions and further the adventure would be German-speaking Alsatians of the more rural type.
On November 23, after having reached the Rhine first of all at Rosenau, the French make a dash for Strasbourg and liberate it. Everyone is pleased. The city has emerged well, stately, well-washed, its fat buildings ready for Peace. The Exec, delighted with the sight of the French troops exhibiting their wonted verve, does a bit of shopping, pâté de foie gras, the best in the world, of course, cans of it, fresh, too; the cans are gifts for Ann and Paul Oppenheim in San Francisco, no one would better appreciate them. On the way back home -- home is where the cows moo and the chickens run along the streets --he takes a shower at a G.I. roadside facility, and hands around the pâté for the cocktail hour.
As I said, the Front stagnates. Should I now say "What is war Really like?" Is this the time to tell it? But I have already done so and of course have still more to say, because everyone except the rational people on both sides, numbering a baker's dozen, are sure that it must last much longer and if they believe so, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, and it does last longer than it should. To repeat, for most of those who are likely to be killed, wounded, captured, War is usually a going and coming and sitting, then abrupt deadly events ordered by leaders, friend or foe, spiced besidestimes by murderous skirmishing, stepping on or running upon a land mine, catching a few surprise shells or an aircraft incursion, or an individual or collective accident -- the literal meaning of "casualty" is "mishap or accident" -- including especially one's own planes, shells, mortars, small arms. Time elapsed here among the grave risks is short, a few minutes, an hour; a bombardment for days is rare. The greatest number of casualties are brought on by forces and people one doesn't see. Rarely according to plan. Often in consequence of being forced against one's will. A large number of deaths are legal and illegal murders -- the difference being that the legal deals with helpless, fleeing, unaware enemies, the illegal with men disposed of while trying to surrender or in custody. Battle and war are aimed at profiting from the greatest advantage, imposing the greatest inequalities, the unfairest tricks. It has only a little to do with hunting and almost nothing to do with competitive sports. It is fear and sadism, and these are hidden in the countless cases surrounding the "legitimate" casualties of war and overlain by thick layers of myth and amnesia. But why go on? You know it all.
When the Seventh Army artillery gets within range, a 155 mm cannon is driven up to fire leaflets upon Karlsruhe, across the Rhine and miles away. See here, it proclaims, the heart of the Reich is in reach of our cannon; stop your foolish resistance. It is a little premature, four months early, like the leaflet that announced to the enemy that their troops at Cassino would be trapped via the Allied landings at Anzio. Still, it feels good.
But now there is Hitler's Ardennes Offensive to contend with, beginning on December 16. Captain de Grazia drives back to Army HQ at Saverne every day to follow the news carefully on the Army HQ map. He refuses to believe it can be as serious as it is taken to be -- here again is that conflict of feelings: when thousands of men are falling, the very fact of casualties stamps events as monumental; never mind that there is no ultimate sense to the enemy's strategy. He is confident from the beginning that Hitler has thrown all he has into this crazy attack that cannot last long. The enemy is attacking forces several times its size. If the Allies had been less complacent and unexpectant, and more aggressive, the German attack could hardly have been launched. Where will it break down? Eisenhower casts division upon division into the fray. True, in woods and hills and sleet, air power dwindles to little effect. Also, Allied communications are a mess; divisions are overcrowding and stumbling about while isolated units, as large as a division in the case of the 101st Airborne, can become isolated.
Let the enemy in, our undergrade strategist thinks, and then they cannot get out, what with all the forces that the Allies can bring to bear upon Northern and Southern flanks. Indeed, Montgomery is told to hold up everything else and dig into the Northern flank of the enemy. Patton's Third Army is ordered to attack the Bulge from the Southeast. The Seventh Army is told to lengthen its lines to cover Patton's rear and flank. It does so. The Captain moves his Company to a new village by the German border in Lorraine. Snow is deep over everything. The village is deathly still. Christmas comes and all seems well. At the dump the soldiers set up a small Christmas tree, decorate it with insignia, tinsel, bits of glass, and they group with him when he comes to photograph themselves around the bar and tree, a family portrait.
The week is dismal but the Germans are retreating out of the Ardennes Bulge, not by any means trapped. Closer to home, G-2 warns that an attack against the Seventh Army is being prepared. Another absurdity: why would Hitler destroy his few resources in attack, knowing that every time he reinforces and attacks in the West, or even resists more stubbornly, the Soviet troops speed up on the road to Berlin? The Captain and his cohorts cannot send this in a message to the Germans, because of their top leaders' promises to the Russians; but the Nazi leaders, and the Wehrmacht Generals: must they not see the plain truth and save something of their country?
There were steps the Team could have taken. They -- Wallenberg was the key player here -- could have despatched a message to the German troops huddling for the foolish attack: "See here. We know that you are trying to get ready to attack us. We are ready. What are you waiting for? Whatever your personal qualities, this is madness. The odds against you are enormous. Hold off. Take it easy. Survive." As I said, there wasn't the imagination for this kind of propaganda. Instead, the Exec became involved in two typically play-safe ploys. The first was a leaflet printed and distributed to American soldiers, not German, with a headline "...if you should be captured" and telling them that, with the Luftwaffe reconnaissance gone, the enemy had to extract intelligence from prisoners, and you know a lot that he wants to get out of you, so "in case you're that unfortunate" to be captured, remember that he can get nothing from you but your name, rank and serial number. Practically a license to surrender readily. This was the brain-child of G-2 Counter-intelligence.
A second request came out of G-2 for a leaflet to be fired into enemy territory, civilian as well as military, warning them to give no information to the enemy -- this in case the enemy returned -- lest they be considered as spies later on and dealt with accordingly. The Exec reacted negatively to the proposal: if people were to be informers, they would be now alerted to the need for keeping their activities secret. The project was dropped.
The New Year stomps in for the Team on white snow by black night, with a feast and boisterous inebriety. Like the Hessians at Trenton they are. Thick snowflakes are piling upon the village and its host of vehicles. The Captain, well-oiled, tucks himself into his bedding roll. The deadly nonsense of the Ardennes attack -- the very idea of crashing through the Allied lines to the sea, the exaggerated accounts of Nazi successes, and the inevitable collapsing of the Bulge -- makes it all the more ludicrous that the depleted foe should launch itself upon the well-led, well-supplied, confident American Seventh Army. But it does. In the first hours of the Year 1945.