Devil's Guard, by George Robert Elford

Possibly the world's most popular inclination, the impulse to export your suffering to another seems to be near-universal. Not confined to any race, sex, or age category, the impulse to cause pain appears to well up from deep inside human beings. This is mysterious, because no one seems to enjoy pain when it is inflicted on them. Go figure.

Devil's Guard, by George Robert Elford

Postby admin » Fri Jan 12, 2018 3:00 am

Devil's Guard
by George Robert Elford
© 1971 by George Robert Elford

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CONDEMNED TO DEATH FOR THE BLOODBATHS OF WORLD WAR II, THEY SERVED THEIR SENTENCE -- ON THE KILLING FIELDS OF VIETNAM.
The fascinating, true story of the French Foreign Legion's Nazi battalion


BOMB FOR BOMB, BULLET FOR BULLET, MURDER FOR MURDER...

To my dear Canadian friend, Roy Cooke


In 1954 the French were trying to fight the Viet Minh with armored convoys and isolated garrisons. But "the war against guerrillas," says the man who calls himself Hans Josef Wagemueller, "is not a war of airplanes and tanks. It is a war of wits."

And, as fought by "Wagemueller" and his comrades in the French Foreign Legion's Nazi battalion, it was also a war of terror. It was a war in which bamboo land mines were countered by booby traps that combined Teutonic precision with primal bloodlust. A war where one side fought with children and the other slaughtered them. A war where every soldier—German, French, or Vietnamese— prayed to die without torture...and to be buried with his body in one piece.


PUBLISHER'S NOTE

This book is being published to provide the reading public with a clear insight into the mind and personality of an unregenerate Nazi, to show the dehumanization of men in war, and to illustrate the ironies and hypocrisies to which men are driven in defense of their actions.

The publication of this book in no way indicates that the publisher agrees with or condones the points of view it expresses.

South, cruel south, Dreary nights and days, Green, rolling green,
Where Death rides on the trails.
You're weary? Carry on!
Until the bitter end,
You are Devil's Guard,
The Battalion of the Damned.

-- A LEGION MARCHING SONG


Table of Contents:

INTRODUCTION
FOREWORD
1. UNCONDITIONAL SURRENDER
2. THE TARNISHED FATHERLAND
3. THE BATTALION OF THE DAMNED
4. "THE CONVOY MUST GET THROUGH!"
5. OPERATION "TRIANGLE"
6. HUMANE AND INHUMANE INTERLUDES
7. THE MAN-HAO INCIDENT
8. RAID INTO CHINA
9. THE END OF A GARRISON
10. WITH BAYONETS AND ARSENIC
11. AMBUSHED
12. DIALOGUE WITH AN AGITATOR
13. THOSE INNOCENT NONCOMBATANTS
14. ACTION AND VENGEANCE
15. MOVE QUIETLY—KILL QUICKLY!
16. THE LITTLE TRAITORS
17. THE RED HIGHWAY (OPERATION "DELUGE")
18. THE LAST BATTLE (OPERATION "FIREFLY")
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Re: Devil's Guard, by George Robert Elford

Postby admin » Fri Jan 12, 2018 3:25 am

INTRODUCTION

Working in the Far East as a zoologist I met many interesting people and, occasionally, a few truly extraordinary individuals. One of them was the real author of this manuscript: Hans Josef Wagemueller, the one time SS partisan-jaeger—guerrilla hunter—who later became an officer of the French Foreign Legion in Indochina, now known as Vietnam. We met in a bar in the capital city of a small Asian nation of which he is now a citizen. He was interested in my anesthetic rifle equipment, which I was using to immobilize wild animals for scientific research.

"I used to be a hunter myself," he said to me with a smile I will never forget. "I was a kopfjaeger—a 'head-hunter' as you would say in English. You hunt elephants, rhinos, tigers. I hunted the most agile of all beasts— man! You see, my adversaries were by no means any less ferocious than their counterparts in the animal world. My game could think, reason, and shoot back. The majority of them were what we now call the Vietcong. They posed as gallant freedom fighters, the redeemers of poor people. We used to call them 'the mechanized hordes of a space-age Genghis Khan.' If there was a spark of truth in the Hitlerian credo about the existence of superior and inferior races, we met the real subhumans in Indochina. They tortured and killed for the sheer pleasure of causing pain and seeing blood. They fought like a pack of rabid rats, and we treated them accordingly. We negotiated with none of them, and accepted no surrender by those who were guilty of the most horrible crimes that man or devil can conceive. We spoke to them in the only language they understood—the machine gun."

The life story of Hans Josef Wagemueller is a long and unbroken record of perpetual fighting. He fought against the partisans in Russia during World War II; he spent over five years in French Indochina, fighting against what he described as "the same enemy wearing a different uniform." When that was over, he moved into a small Asian country to train its token, archaic army in the intricacies of modern warfare and the use of modern weapons. "I have managed to turn a horde of primitive, superstitious, and undisciplined warriors into a crack division of daring soldiers," he stated with pride. "You could incorporate them in any European army without further drilling."

The head of state where he now lives has granted him citizenship. The local university has bestowed upon him the title Honorary Professor of Military Sciences. He is now Hindu by religion and has a local name. At the age of sixty-four, he is still going strong. His day begins with rigorous physical exercises. Target shooting is still his favorite pastime, and his steely blue eyes are still deadly accurate when looking through the gunsight.

When the United States became entangled in the Vietnam conflict, Hans Josef Wagemueller offered his experience to the American High Command in a long letter that remained unanswered.

"I probably made a mistake by having written a somewhat haughty and in a way maybe a bit lecturing letter," he said. "But our own long and unbroken record of victories against the same enemy in the same land was still fresh in my memory, and the unnecessary death of every American soldier, every debacle that could have been avoided, hurt me deeply. I could not think of the Vietnam war in any way except that it was my own war. Those GI's scouted the same jungle trails where we had trekked for many years. Many of them had to die where we survived. Somehow it was an inner compulsion to regard them as comrades-in-arms. And you know what? I am not surprised that young Americans are tearing up their draft cards and refusing to go to Vietnam. To take young college boys out of their super civilized surroundings and cast them into the primitive jungles of Asia is nothing but murder. Sheer murder. Only experts, highly skilled and experienced antiguerrilla fighters, can survive in the jungles of Asia. It takes at least a year of constant fighting before a recruit turns into an expert."

After that evening together—which left me shaken and sleepless for the rest of the night—I asked Wagemueller if he would tell me his entire story. He obliged by talking into the microphone of a tape recorder for eighteen consecutive days. I have merely altered some of his technical military phraseology for the sake of better understanding. This is a true document with nothing essentially changed except the names. Wagemueller obliged me to keep his true identity, as well as that of all the others, undisclosed.

"I am requesting this not because of my being a war criminal. I have told you the true story. I can give you my word of honor on it. I still consider myself a German officer and a German officer will keep his word of honor no matter what. But I have an eighty-seven-year-old mother whom I would never expose to endless inquiries by the authorities and by the press. And there are certain people mentioned in my story who are still living in my hometown near the Swiss frontier and who helped many other fugitive German officers to avoid prison and prosecution after the war. I do not know who the other fugitives may have been, but what I do know is that there were close to two thousand comrades in distress who left Germany the way I did in 1945. The escape route was extremely well organized and it is quite possible that some important Nazis used it too.

"Another important consideration is that I should not embarrass certain high officials of my adopted country who have been helping me ever since my arrival here. Besides," he added with a smile, "I was not very popular with the Chinese People's Army—and China is not very far from here."

He wants his share of the author's royalty to go to the widows and orphans of those Americans who fell in Vietnam. "I have all I need for the rest of my life. I want no money, only justice to German officers and soldiers who were correct to the core, yet had to share the disgrace of a few. And I want to show the enemy stripped of its mask of gallantry and heroic myth."

I have refrained from adding any comment of my own. It is up to the reader to form his own judgment, as it is up to history to pass the final mandate upon him, his companions, and their deeds.

GEORGE ROBERT ELFORD

1971
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Re: Devil's Guard, by George Robert Elford

Postby admin » Fri Jan 12, 2018 3:28 am

FOREWORD

I have seen many deadly landscapes, from the Pripet swamps in Russia to the jungles of Vietnam. Unfortunately most of what I saw was seen only through a gunsight, with no time to enjoy the scenery. I was a kopfjaeger —"headhunter," as our comrades of the Wehrmacht used to call us. We were a special task force of the Waffen SS—the "fighting SS"—which had nothing to do with concentration camps, deportations, or the extermination of European Jewry. Personally I never believed that the Jews could or ever would become a menace to Germany and I hated no people, not even the enemy. I never believed in German domination of the world but I did believe that Germany needed lebensraum. It was also my conviction that Communism should be destroyed while still in its cradle. If my beliefs should be called "Nazism," then I was indeed a Nazi and I still am.

During the Second World War my task was to frustrate guerrilla attacks and suppress insurgency in our vital rear areas and around communication centers, seldom farther than fifty miles from the front lines. Regardless of age or sex, captured guerrillas were, as a rule, executed. I was never interested in their race or religion and tolerated no outrage against prisoners. My orders were to hang them, but I permitted the brave ones to die a soldier's death, facing the firing squad. During five long years we executed over one thousand guerrillas. If there were Jews among them, we shot them too—but without any religious prejudice.

I have not stayed away from Germany because of my crimes but because I have no desire to behold what they call Germany today—a land of bowing Jawohl Johanns who can only repeat "yes, sir" or "da, tovarich" in either American or Russian servitude. The present German Army is only a shadowy midget of its former self. The old 'Wehrmacht needed neither foreign advisers nor protectors. It is a fact that we have lost two offensive wars, fighting alone against the World. But I doubt that the Wehrmacht would have lost a defensive war had the frontiers of the Fatherland been invaded from the outside.

Once our German engineers built the best fighting aircraft in the world, and I believe that we can still build the best if given a chance. Instead we must use Starfighters in which the young German airmen are obliged to fly kamikaze missions. About eighty of them have already crashed without having been shot at. Germany is obliged to purchase foreign rubbish; tanks, for instance, many of which are probably inferior to our wartime Tigers and Panthers. Our formidable NATO allies will not permit German industry to produce equipment for the army. Our best brains are siphoned away by foreign countries because our government will not pay them the wages they deserve. Should another war come, Germany will be expected to stand by her allies, who are, nevertheless, still scared of the Teutons, and any proposal for a German rearmament remains anathema for them. Our Western allies have yet to realize that the map of the world has changed. Now the nations of all continents may choose between only two camps. Any thought of neutrality between those two camps is nothing but self-delusion that will crumble under the first serious pressure from the outside.

Fortunately the East German regime fares no better. The Russians, too, would think twice before giving the People's Army any sophisticated weapon. But the Volksarmee has an ideology to follow and it certainly does not have draft dodgers.

I spent five years in Indochina, fighting the same enemy that I had fought in Russia, wearing another uniform. I know well the marauders of Ho Chi Minh. We fought them and routed them a hundred times, in the mountains, in the jungles, in the swamps. We beat them at their own game. We never regarded the terrorists as demigods or specters who could not be destroyed. After our years in Russia we could put up with hardship and misery. When we arrived in Indochina we were not beginners.' When we moved into Communist- dominated territories, there was soon peace. Sometimes it was the peace of the bayonet, sometimes the peace of a cemetery. But it was peace. Not even a lizard would dare to move. If history records any French victory in Indochina, it was won either by the French paratroops, who were magnificent fighters, or by us Germans.

The war in Indochina was not lost on the battlefield but in Paris. The Americans are losing the same war in Paris —right now. Paris and Geneva . . . the only battlefields where the Western world has suffered debacles, and where the Western world will always lose.

It is, of course, nonsense to say that the American Army cannot defeat the guerrillas in Vietnam by force of arms. After all the American fighting men defeated Japan. The jungles and swamps of Guadalcanal or Okinawa offered no easier going than, for instance, the Mekong delta. Besides, what army in military history was more effective in jungle fighting than the Imperial Japanese Army?

But now American generals are compelled to fight world opinion instead of the Vietcong. History will only repeat itself. At the beginning of the Second World War the German generals were free to plan and conduct their own battles and they won every battle on every front. Then Hitler took command and everything was lost. When General MacArthur was permitted to act to the best of his abilities, the world saw a marvelous landing at Inchon and the North Korean rout. But when he had to obey orders coming from ten thousand miles away, American soldiers had to sacrifice their lives for no gains whatever.

C'est la guerre!

HANS JOSEF WAGEMUELLER
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Re: Devil's Guard, by George Robert Elford

Postby admin » Fri Jan 12, 2018 3:44 am

Part 1 of 2

1. UNCONDITIONAL SURRENDER

The news of the German capitulation reached us by radio deep in the Czechoslovakian mountains, east of Liberec. We had been up there for almost a month, holding an important pass, waiting for the Russians to come. But as the days went by, nothing disturbed our positions and even the local partisans refrained from engaging us in a major skirmish. Unusual stillness blanketed the peaks and the valleys—the sort of sullen tranquility that, instead of relaxing the mind, only charges it with tension. Strange as it may be, after five years of war and hundreds of engagements with the enemy, both regulars and insurgents, we were in no condition to bear the quiet of peace. Of all the natural human functions which we had once possessed we seemed to have retained only those that were important for our immediate survival: to eat, to sleep, to watch the woods—and to pull the trigger.

None of us doubted that the end was near. Berlin had fallen and Hitler was dead. Military communications had long since broken down, but we could still listen to the foreign broadcasts, including those of the victorious Allies. And we knew that our saga would not end with the capitulation of the Wehrmacht; that there would be no going home for the tired warriors of the vanquished army. We would not be demobilized but outlawed. The Allies had not fought only to win a military victory. Their main objective was revenge.

The last dispatch which we had received from Prague eight days before had ordered us to hold our positions until further orders—orders that never came. Small groups of haggard German soldiers came instead. Unshaven and hollow-eyed troops who had once belonged to every imaginable service in the Wehrmacht—the SS, the Luftwaffe, and the SD (Security Service). Among them were the surviving members of a decimated motorized infantry brigade, a Luftwaffe service group, a panzer squadron left with only two serviceable tanks; there were also five trucks of a one-time supply battalion and a platoon of field gendarmes. The remnants of an Alpenjaeger battalion had survived the retreat all the way from the Caucasus to end up with us, near Liberec. We were all waiting for a last sensible order, the order to evacuate Czechoslovakia and return into Germany. The order to cease hostilities came instead.

For us, deep in hostile territory, the news of the armistice sounded like a sentence of death. We had no one to surrender to except the Czech guerrillas or the militia, neither of which recognized military conventions or honor. Up to the very end we expected to be ordered back to Germany before the weapons were laid down. We could expect no quarter from the partisans—-we had killed too many of them. As a matter of fact we could expect no prisoner-of-war treatment from the Red Army either. The truck drivers of the supply battalion might be pardoned but not the Waffen SS, the archenemy. In a sense we felt betrayed. Had we known in advance that we were to be abandoned to our fate, we would have withdrawn despite our orders to stay. We had taken more than a soldier's share of the war and no one could have accused us of cowardice.

For five long years we had given up everything: our homes, our families, our work, our future. We thought of nothing but the Fatherland. Now the Fatherland was nothing but a cemetery. It was time to think of our own future and whether our beloved ones had survived the holocaust wrought by the Superfortresses during the last two years of the war.

Our headquarters had ordered us: "Stay where you are and hold the pass." Then our headquarters returned to Germany. Like the Roman sentry who had stood his guard while Vesuvius buried Pompeii, we too remained soldiers to the bitter end.

We had survived the greatest war in history, but if we were to survive peace, the most bloodthirsty peace in history, we had to reach the American lines two hundred miles away. Not because we thought much of American chivalry but at least Americans were Anglo-Saxons, civilized and Christian in their own way. Around us in the valley were only the Mongolian hordes, the Tatars of a mechanized Genghis Khan—Stalin. I had the notion that it was only a choice between being clubbed to death by cavemen or submitting to a more civilized way of execution.

To reach Bavaria and the American lines we had to cross the Soviet-controlled Elbe. We were still confident of our own strength. We had survived more hell than could possibly wait for us on the way home. German soldiers do not succumb easily. We could be defeated but never crushed.

All day long Captain Ruell of the artillery had been trying to reach the headquarters of Field Marshal Schoerner. No one acknowledged his signals but finally he did manage to contact General Headquarters at Flensburg. I was standing close to him and saw his face turn ashen. When he lowered his earphones he was shaking in every limb and could barely form his words as he spoke: "It's the end. . . . The Wehrmacht is surrendering on all fronts. . . . Keitel has already signed the armistice. . . . Unconditional surrender." He wiped his face and accepted the cigarette which I lighted for him. "The Fatherland is finished," he muttered, staring into the distant valley with vacant eyes. "What now?"

Suddenly it dawned on us why the Russians had refrained from forcing the pass. The Soviet commander had known that the war was about to end, and he did not feel like sacrificing his troops only minutes before twelve o'clock. But he was aware of our presence in the neighborhood. Within six hours after the official announcement of the German capitulation, Soviet PO-2's appeared overhead. Circling our positions the planes dropped a multitude of leaflets announcing the armistice. We were requested to lay down our weapons and descend into the valley under a flag of truce. "German Officers and Soldiers," the leaflets read, "if you obey the instructions of the Red Army commander you shall be well treated, you will receive food and medical care due to prisoners of war, according to the articles of the Geneva Convention. Destruction of war material and equipment is strictly prohibited. The local German Commander shall be responsible for the orderly surrender of his troops."

Had our plight not been so bitterly serious we could have sneered at the Russians quoting the Geneva Convention, something the Kremlin had neither signed nor acknowledged. The Red Army could indeed promise us anything under the articles of the Convention; it was not bound by its clauses.

The following morning our sentries spotted a Soviet scout car as it labored uphill on the winding road to our positions. From its mudguard fluttered a large white flag of truce. I ordered my troopers to hold their fire, and called a platoon for lineup. Everyone was shaved and properly dressed. I wanted to receive the Soviet officers with due respect. I was astonished to see the car stop three hundred yards short of our first roadblock, and, instead of sending forward parliamentaries, the enemy began to deliver a message through loudspeakers.

"Officers and soldiers of the German Wehrmacht. . . . The Soviet High Command knows that there are Nazi fanatics and war criminals among you who might try to prevent your accepting the terms of armistice and consequently your return home. Disarm the SS and SD criminals and hand them over to the Soviet authority. Officers and soldiers of the Wehrmacht. . . . Disarm the SS and SD criminals. You will be generously rewarded and allowed to return home to your families."

"The filthy liars!" Untersturmfuhrer Eisner sneered, watching the Russian group through his binoculars. "They will be allowed to return home! That is a good joke."

It was amusing to note how little the enemy knew the German soldier. After having fought us for so many' years, the Soviet High Command should have known better. Cowardice or treason was never the trade of the German soldier. Nor was naivete. They had called us "Fascist criminals" or "Nazi dogs" ever since "Operation Barbarossa." In the past they had made no distinction between the various services. Wehrmacht, SS, or Luftwaffe had always been the same to Stalin, yet now he was endeavoring to turn the Wehrmacht against the SS and vice versa.

The loudspeakers blared again. Eisner pulled himself to attention. "Herr Obersturmfuhrer, I request permission to open warning fire."

"No! Nothing of the sort, gentlemen," Colonel Stein-metz, the commanding officer of the small motorized infantry group protested. "We shouldn't fire at parliamentaries."

"Parliamentaries, Herr Oberst?" Eisner exclaimed with a bitter smile. "They are sheltering behind the flag of truce to deliver Communist propaganda."

"Even so," the colonel insisted. "We may request them to withdraw but we should not open fire."

Being an officer of the Wehrmacht, Colonel Steinmetz had no authority over the SS. He was, however, a meticulously pedantic officer and much our senior both in rank and age. I did not feel like entering into futile arguments, especially in front of the ranks. Trying to avoid the slightest offensive quality in my voice I reminded him that I was in charge of the pass and all the troops therein. Even so the colonel stiffened at my remark and said, "I am aware of your command. Herr Obersturmfuhrer, and I hope you will handle the situation with the responsibility of a commander."

The Russian loudspeakers kept blaring. Eisner shrugged and began to observe the enemy again. I exchanged glances with Erich Schulze and saw defiance in his eyes. Both men had been my comrades for many years. Bernard Eisner had been my right hand since 1942. He was a cool and hard fighter. Having been well-to-do landowners, Eisner's father and elder brother had been beaten to death by a Communist mob during the short-lived "proletarian revolution" after the First World War. It was Bernard's conviction that no Communist on earth should be left alive. Schulze, who had joined my battalion in 1943, was rather hotheaded but always polite and considerate.

A few steps from where we stood two young troopers sat behind a heavy machine gun, which they kept trained on the Soviet scout car. Their faces were tense but lacking emotion, as though they were statues or a part of the gun. Both were young, only nineteen years old. Drafted in 1944, they had not experienced the real trials of the war.

I asked for a loudspeaker and addressed the Russians:

"This is the German commander speaking. We have not received an official confirmation of the armistice and we will hold our positions until such confirmation can be obtained. I request the Soviet commander to furnish an authentic document related to the question of armistice. I also request that, in the meantime, the Soviet propaganda unit refrain from using the flag of truce for communicating subversive propaganda. I request that the Soviet propaganda unit withdraw from our positions within five minutes. After five minutes I shall no longer consider them immune to hostilities."

"German officers and soldiers. . . . Disarm the SS and SD criminals and hand them over to the Soviet authority.

You shall be generously rewarded and allowed to return home."

"I request that the Soviet propaganda unit refrain from using the flag of truce for communicating subversive propaganda," I repeated. There was a pause; then the loudspeakers blared once more. "German officers and soldiers. .. . Disarm the SS and SD criminals. , .."

I ordered, "Fire!"

The scout car burst into flames, then exploded. When the smoke and dust settled we saw two Red army men scurrying down the road. "That should fix them for the time being," Eisner remarked, lighting a cigarette. "Bullets are the only language they understand."

An hour later a squadron of Stormoviks dived out of the clouds with the intention of strafing and bombing our positions. To reach us, however, the planes had to come in level between a cluster of high cliffs, then drop sharply over the small plateau which we occupied. The Russian pilots flew well, but they had bad luck. I had deployed eight 88's and ten heavy MG's to cover that narrow corridor and our gunners were experienced men. Within a few minutes five of the • planes had been shot down. Trailing smoke two more had escaped toward the valley and a third one had banked straight into a three-hundred-foot rock and exploded, fuel, bombs, ammunition and all. At that point the four remaining planes had given up and departed without having fired a shot. We spotted two Soviet pilots parachuting downward. One of them hit a cliff, slipped his chute, and tumbled to his death at the bottom of a ravine. The other one, a young lieutenant, landed right on one of our trucks. He was made prisoner.

"Zdrastvuite, tovarich!" Captain Ruell, who spoke impeccable Russian, greeted our astonished visitor.

My men searched the pilot. I looked into his identification book but handed it back to him. And when Schulze gave me the officer's Tokarev automatic, I only removed the bullets and returned his gun as well. He was so surprised at my unexpected behavior that his chin dropped. He tried to smile but he could not. He only managed to draw his lips in a paralytic grin.

"The war is over," he muttered. "No more shooting," he added after a moment, imitating the sound of a submachine gun. "No tatatata." His face showed so much terror that we could not help smiling. He must have been told that Germans were man-eaters.

"No more tatatata, eh?" Erich Schulze chuckled, mocking the Russian.

The pilot nodded quickly. "Da, da. . . . No more war."

Schulze poked him in the belly. "No more war but a minute before you wanted to bomb the daylight out of us here."

"la, ja," the Russian repeated, his eyes glued to Schulze's SS lapel.

Erich poked him gently again, and the Russian paled.

"Leave him alone," Captain Ruell interposed. "You are scaring the shit out of him."

"Sure," Eisner added, "and we don't have many extra pants up here, Erich."

The captain spoke to the pilot briefly and his presence seemed to lessen the Russian's fear. "Don't let the SS shoot me, officer," he pleaded. "I have been flying for only eight months, and I want to go home to Mother."

"We have been fighting for five years. Imagine how much we would like to return home," Captain Ruell replied with a bitter smile.

"Don't let the SS shoot me. .. ."

"The SS won't shoot you."

Schulze offered the Russian a cigarette. "Here, smoke! It will do you good."

"Thanks." The pilot grinned, taking the cigarette with shaking fingers.

Erich opened his canteen, gulped some rum, then wiped the canteen on his sleeve and offered it to the pilot. "Here, tovarich. .. . Drink good SS vodka."

Realizing that his life was not in danger the Russian relaxed.

"Our commander says that you don't want to surrender," he said, shifting his eyes from face to face as though seeking our approval for what he was saying. "You must surrender. . . . There are two divisions in the valley; forty tanks and heavy artillery are expected to come in a day or two."

"Tovarich, you have already told us enough for a court-martial," Schulze exclaimed, slapping the pilot on the back.

"You shouldn't tell the enemy what you have or don't have." Captain Ruell interpreted for him.

"I only said that heavy artillery is on the way."

"Who cares?" Eisner shrugged. "There is a mountain between your artillery and us."

"The mountain will not help you." The Russian shook his head. He turned and pointed toward a ridge five miles to the southeast. "The artillery is going up there."

"Nonsense!" I said. "There is no road."

"There is a road," Captain Ruell interposed, "right up to hill Five-O-Six. We had four Bofors there in early March."

Looking at the map I realized that Captain Ruell was right and what the Russian pilot was saying had a ring of truth. Should the Soviet commander mount some heavy artillery on that hill, he could indeed shell our plateau by direct fire.

We gave the Russian a hearty meal and allowed him to leave. He was immensely happy and promised to do everything for us should we meet again after surrendering. "Food, vodka, cigarettes, Kamerad. My name is Fjodr Andrejevich. I will tell our commander that you are good soldiers and should be well treated."

"Sure you will," Eisner growled, watching the Russian leave. "You just tell your commander and you will be shot before the sun is down as a bloody Fascist yourself."

The pilot walked away slowly, turning back every now and then as though still expecting a bullet in the back. Having passed our last roadblock it must have occurred to him that he was still alive and unhurt, and he began to race downhill as I had never seen a man run. Eisner was not very enthusiastic about the Russian's departure.

"He saw everything we have up here," he remarked with barely concealed disapproval in his voice.

"We had no choice but to let him go," Colonel Steinmetz challenged him sharply. "The war is over, Herr Untersturmfuhrer."

"Not for me, Herr Oberst," Eisner replied quietly. "For me the war will be over when I greet my wife and two sons for the first time since August 1943, and it isn't over for the Russian either. He came here flying not the white flag but a fighter bomber."

"I haven't seen my family since June 1943," the colonel remarked.

I drew Eisner aside. "You should not worry about the Ivan," I told him with an air of confidence. "What can he tell? That we have men, weapons, tanks, and artillery? The more he tells the less eager they will be to come up here." I put an arm around his shoulder. "Bernard, we've killed so many Russians. We can surely afford to let one individual go."

He grinned. "I have read somewhere what the American settlers used to say about the Indians, Hans. The only good Indian is a dead Indian. I think that is also true of the Bolsheviks."

"Maybe the pilot was not a Bolshevik?"

"Maybe he wasn't—yet. But if you ask me, Hans, I can tell you that anyone who is working for Stalin is game for me." He lit a cigarette, offered me one, then went on. "I know that we are defeated and that there will be no Fatherland to speak of for a long time to come. For all we know the Allies might break up the Reich into fifty little principalities, just as it was five hundred years ago. We scare them stiff, even without weapons, even in defeat. But I cannot suffer the thought of having been defeated by a rotten, primitive, lice-ridden Communist mob. I know that no conqueror in history was ever soft on the conquered enemy. We might survive the American and the British but never the Soviet. Stalin won't be satisfied with what he may loot now. He will not only take his booty, but he will try to take our very souls, our thoughts, our national identity. I know them. I've been their prisoner. It was for only five days but even then they tried to turn me into a bloody traitor. The Russians are mind snatchers, Hans. They will not only rape our women, they will also turn them into Communists afterwards. Stalin knows how to do it and now he will have all the time on earth. He is going to increase the pressure inch by inch. I could gun down anyone who is helping Stalin."

"You would have quite a few people to gun down, Bernard. Starting with the British and finishing with the Americans. They have not only helped Stalin, but also brought him back from his deathbed and made him a giant."

"Stalin will be most obliged to his bourgeois allies," Eisner sneered. "Just wait and see how Stalin will pay for the American convoys. Give him a couple of years. Mister Churchill and Mister Truman are going to enjoy a few sleepless nights for Mister Roosevelt's folly."

"That won't help us much now, Bernard!"

"I guess not," he agreed- After a brief pause he added, "If you decide to surrender, Hans, just let me have a gun and a couple of grenades. I will find my way home."

"You won't be alone." I gave him a reassuring tap. "I don't feel like hanging in the main square of Liberec, either."

"I don't feel like submitting myself to what comes between the surrender and the hanging," he added with a sarcastic chuckle.

Early in the afternoon the PO-2's returned, but we did not fire on the flimsy canvas planes which carried no weapons. The Russians had sent us another load of leaflets, among them newspaper cuttings announcing the armistice, and photocopies of the protocol bearing the signature of General Field Marshal Keitel. Again we were requested to lay down our weapons and evacuate into the valley under the flag of truce.

"This is it!" Colonel Steinmetz spoke quietly as he crumpled the Soviet leaflet between his fingers. "This is it!" And as though providing an example, he unbuckled the belt which supported his holster, swung it once, and tossed the belt on a flat slab of stone. I expected nothing else from Colonel Steinmetz. He was a meticulously correct officer, a cavalier of the old school who would always keep to the letter of the service code. He could see no other solution but to comply with that last order of the German High Command, or what was left of it. Moving like automatons, his three hundred officers and men began to file past our sullen group, the troops casting their rifles and sidearms onto the mounting pile. But the artillery, the small panzer detachment, and the Alpenjaegers kept their weapons, and, with a skill born of habit, the SS took over the vacated positions.

"I am sorry," Colonel Steinmetz said quietly, and I noticed that his eyes were filled. "I cannot do anything else."

"There is no longer a high command, Herr Oberst, and the Fuehrer is dead. You are no longer bound by your oath of allegiance," I reminded him.

He smiled tiredly. "If we wanted to disobey orders we should have done it a long time ago," he said. "Right after Stalingrad. And not on the front but in Berlin."

"You mean a successful twentieth of July, Herr Oberst?"

"No," he shook his head. "I think what Stauffenberg did was the gravest act of cowardice. If he was so sure of doing the right thing, he should have stood up, pulled his gun, shot Hitler, and taken the consequences. But I don't believe in murdering superior officers. The Fuehrer should have been declared unfit to lead the nation and, removed. Had Rommel or Guderian taken command of the Reich, we might have won—if not the war, at least an honorable peace."

"It is either too late or still too early to discuss the Fuehrer's leadership, don't you think, Colonel Steinmetz?"

"You are right. Now all we can do is hoist the white flag."

"We have no white flags, Herr Oberst," Captain Ruell remarked with sarcasm. "White flags were never standard equipment in the Wehrmacht."

The colonel nodded understandingly. "I know it is painful, Herr Hauptmann, but if we refuse to surrender, the Russians may treat us like we treated their guerrillas."

"Are you expecting anything else from the Soviet, Herr Oberst?" Eisner asked.

"The war is over. There is no reason for more brutalities," said the colonel. He turned toward me. "What do you intend to do?"

I suggested that we should try to reach Bavaria, two hundred miles away, but the colonel only smiled at my idea. "By now, the Russian divisions are probably streaming toward the line of demarcation," he said. "All the roads and bridges will be occupied by the Russians and precisely opposite the American lines you will find most of their troops. Stalin does not trust either Churchill or Truman. He has exterminated his own general staff. Do you think he would trust Eisenhower or Montgomery? The days of 'our heroic Western Allies' are over for Stalin. In a few weeks' time the Western Allies will be called bourgeois, decadent, imperialist, and Stalin will deploy a million troops on the western frontiers of his conquest. Besides," he added after a pause, "you should not expect much from the Americans, Herr Obersturmfuhrer. I have heard many of their broadcasts."

"So have we," Eisner remarked.

"Then you should know about their intentions. A prisoner is always a prisoner. The conqueror is always right and the vanquished is always wrong!"

"We have no intention of surrendering, Herr Oberst, neither here nor in Bavaria," I said softly.

"Are you planning to go on fighting?"

"If necessary . . . and until we arrive at some safe place."

"Where, for instance?"

"Spain, South America . .. the devil knows."

"You should not count on Franco. Franco is all alone now and they might put pressure on him soon. With Hitler and Mussolini dead, Stalin will never tolerate the existence of Franco, the last strong leader in western Europe. Stalin knows that he will be able to push around everyone but Franco. He will regard Spain as a potential birthplace, or rather a place of resurrection, for the Nazi phoenix. And to reach South America you will need good papers and plenty of money. But, to speak of more immediate problems, do you have enough food to reach Bavaria? I know you have enough weapons but your trip might take two months over the mountains, and I presume that is the way you intend to go. Man cannot live on bullets."

"We have enough food for two weeks. One can always find something to eat. It is getting on to summer now," I said. "There are villages and farms even in the mountains."

He shook his head disapprovingly. "Are you planning to raid the farms and villages? Will you shoot people if they refuse to accommodate you?"

"If it is a matter of survival, Colonel Steinmetz . . ." Eisner said before I could answer. He left the sentence unfinished for a moment, then added, "Have you ever seen a humane war?"

"It will no longer be an act of war but common banditry," the colonel stated frankly. "Of course you still have the power to do it but you won't be able to do it in silence. The Czechs will know about you. The Russians will know about you and your destination. The news of your coming might reach Bavaria before you do."

"And we might have an American reception committee waiting for us at the frontier. This is what you wanted to say, Herr Oberst?" I interposed.

"Precisely!" said he. "And if up 'til now you haven't committed something the Allies may call a war crime, you had better not furnish them with any evidence now!"

"Herr Oberst," I spoke to him softly but firmly, "if we do reach Bavaria, nothing will stop us from getting further. Neither the Americans, nor the devil himself. We have given up many things a man would never willingly part with, and we are ready to give up more, even our lives. But not our right to return home. On that single item we will never compromise."

"I wish I was as young as you are," Colonel Steinmetz spoke resignedly. "But I am tired, Herr Obersturmfuhrer ... so very tired."

Despite the old soldier's pessimism I felt that somehow we had a fair chance of getting through, saving at least our bare lives. The prospect of being hanged by the guerrillas, or at best carted off to a Siberian death camp, did not appeal to me at all. The colonel might survive. He might even return home one day. The SS could entertain no illusions about the future. No Soviet commander would lift a finger to protect us. Should their Czech allies decide to get even with us, the Russians would quickly forget about their Geneva Convention pledge for humane treatment. For seven years the Czechs had been waiting for this day, and I could not blame them either. In 1944 alone we had killed over three thousand of their guerrillas.

"We should travel high up in the mountains, avoiding contact with the enemy. We have excellent maps of the areas involved, and if necessary we can fight our way through a Soviet brigade."

"With a few hundred men?" the colonel asked skeptically.

"We have at least a hundred light machine guns, Colonel Steinmetz," Eisner interposed. "We can put out so much fire that the Ivans will think a division is coming."

"For how long?"

"Hell, we can play hide-and-seek in the woods until the Day of Judgment, Herr Oberst!" Schulze exulted. "We should at least try! To surrender here is sheer suicide. What have we got to lose? One may commit suicide at any time."

Bernard Eisner and Captain Ruell were of the same opinion.

"We have mountains and woods all the way to Bavaria," Ruell said. "I am quite sure that every one of us has been through similar trips a dozen times in the past."

The colonel shook his head slowly. "Hiding in the forest? Sneaking in the night like a pack of wolves . . . stealing or robbing food at gunpoint, shooting people if they resist? No, gentlemen, I have been a soldier all my life and I shall finish it all like a soldier, obeying the orders of those who are entitled to give them."

"The Soviet commander down in the valley, for instance?" Eisner remarked bitterly. The colonel frowned. "I am talking of General Field Marshal Keitel and Grand Admiral Doenitz," he said.

"Keitel and Doenitz have no idea what a dreck we are in, Herr Oberst."

"I guess not," he agreed. "They have eighty million other Germans to worry about now. We are only a few hundred. We are not so important, gentlemen. We are neither heroes nor martyrs. We are only a part of the statistics. The death of a single individual may be very sad. When a hundred die they call it a tragedy, but when ten million perish, it is only statistics. I still believe in discipline, even in defeat. And we are defeated."

"The only trouble is that I still cannot feel that I am licked," Schulze remarked with a grin, tapping the stock of his machine gun. "Not while I still have this thing. But I would like to see the Ivan who comes to tell me all about it."

"Shut up, Erich!" I snapped curtly and he froze with a brisk "Jawohl." "This isn't the right time for wisecracking!"

I turned to the colonel. "Herr Oberst, I am convinced that you will have a better chance if you surrender to the Americans."

"I have already advised you not to expect too much from the Americans, Herr Obersturmfuhrer. All that is going to happen from now on was agreed upon by the victors a long time ago. But I concede," he added with a smile, "that an American jail might be somewhat more civilized than those of Stalin's. Stalin would kill a million Germans cheerfully. The Americans will meticulously prove that they are doing the just and legal thing. On doomsday morning they will give you a nice breakfast, a shave, a bath, and should it be your last wish, they might give you a perfumed pink rope to hang on. But the end will be the same."

I spoke to the rest of the troopers, telling the men frankly that Colonel Steinmetz's decision was the only correct one, as far as the military code goes. But the German Army had ceased to exist and therefore I no longer considered them my subordinates but only my comrades in peril who had the right to speak for themselves. As for myself, I stated, I would leave for Bavaria!

The artillery platoons, the panzer crew, the Alpenjaegers decided to follow the SS rather than surrender. "You might be a bunch of sons of bitches," Captain Ruell said smiling, "but you seldom fail. I am with you!" The motorized infantry and the supply group were for Colonel Steinmetz.

The colonel shook hands with us and I saw anguish in his face as he spoke in a choked voice. "I can understand you. It is going to be hard on the SS. The victors have already decided that you are nothing but killers, including your truck drivers and mess cooks. I wish you a safe arrival, but be prudent and do not make it harder on yourself than it already is, Herr Obersturmfuhrer."

With a gently ironic smile he handed me his golden cigarette case, his watch, and a letter. "Take care of these for me," he asked quietly. "Give them to my wife—if she is still alive and if you can ever find her."

"I will do it, Herr Oberst."

His officers and the men followed the colonel's example and began to distribute their valuables among those who were to stay. "The Ivans would take everything anyway," some of them remarked with a shrug. In exchange we gave them our spare shirts and underwear, some food, cigarettes, and most of our medical supplies. Then Colonel Steinmetz assembled his troops. We saluted each other and they departed.

We could hear them for a long time as they marched down the winding road singing: the colonel, six officers and NCO's under an improvised flag of truce, a bed-sheet. Behind them two hundred and seventy men. Beaten but not broken. The men were singing.

Two miles down the road, around a lonely farmhouse at watch were the Russians and a battalion of militia with six tanks and a dozen howitzers. In the valley near the village we could observe more Red army troops.

The beloved old tunes began to fade in the distant valley where the road turned into the woods as it followed the -course of a small creek. The singing was abruptly drowned in the sharp staccato of a dozen machine guns.

Explosions in rapid succession shook the cliffs, echoing and reechoing between the peaks, and we saw fire and smoke rising beyond the bend. It lasted for less than five minutes. The howitzers and machine guns fell silent. We heard the sporadic reports of rifles, then everything was still.

Standing on a boulder, overlooking the valley, Captain Ruell lowered his field glasses and slowly raised his hand for a salute. Tears were flowing freely from his eyes, down his cheeks and onto his Iron Cross. I saw Schulze bowing his head, covering his face in his hands. Only Eisner stood erect, staring into the valley, his face like that of a bronze statue. My own vision blurred. My stomach knotted. I turned toward my men wanting to say something but my words would not form. I felt an attack of nausea. But Eisner spoke for me.

"There is the Soviet truce for you, men. I know easier ways to commit harakiri!"

Three PO-2's rose from the fields and came droning over the hills. We dispersed, taking cover, and resolved not to reveal ourselves no matter what the enemy might do. Flying a slow merry-go-round, the flimsy planes began to circle the pass and came in low over the trees. Working the dials of our wireless. Captain Ruell quickly tuned in on the Russian wavelength. He translated for us the amusing conversation between the squadron leader and a command post somewhere in the valley.

"Igor, Igor . . . Here's Znamia . . . ponemaies? There are no more Germans up here," the pilot reported. "You got them all!"

"Znamia, Znamia! None of the ones here belonged to the SS. We examined all the bodies. Fjodr Andrejevich says the SS Commander and his two officers are not among the dead! Znamia, Znamia! . . . Take another look!"

Fjodr Andrejevich, ,the Russian pilot whom we permitted to leave. Cigarettes, food, vodka. Eisner must have read my thoughts, for he remarked quietly, "What did I tell you, Hans?"

"The positions are empty!" the pilot reported. "I can see the gun emplacements and two tanks. Znamia, Znamia! If there were more troops here they must have withdrawn into the woods."

"Igor! Igor! Try to locate them. .. . Ponemaies?"
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Re: Devil's Guard, by George Robert Elford

Postby admin » Fri Jan 12, 2018 3:44 am

Part 2 of 2

Fifteen minutes later the PO-2's left and soon afterwards we spotted Soviet infantry moving up the road, two companies with three tanks to lead the way. Their progress was slow, for a dozen yards ahead of the tanks a group of demolition men moved on foot searching for mines. We allowed them to proceed up to the fifth bend below the pass where the road narrowed to traverse a small bridge between the rising cliffs. The demolition squad spent over an hour looking for mines or hidden electric wires around the place but neither the bridge nor the road around it had been mined. Our engineers had had a better idea. They had enlarged a natural cave on the precipitous slope and stuffed nearly two tons of high explosives in the crevasse.

Observing the enemy through his binoculars, Bernard Eisner slowly raised his hand. A few yards from where he stood a young trooper sat, his hand gripping the plunger of the electric detonator, his eyes fixed on Eisner's hand. From down below came coarse Russian yells. The leading tank lurched forward. The enemy was moving across the bridge.

Eisner's hand came down.

"Los!"

There was an instant of total silence, as though the charge had misfired, then earth began to rumble. The rocks seemed to rise; stone and wood exploded from a billowing mass of flames and gray smoke. The tanks stopped. The infantry scattered, taking shelter—or what they thought was shelter. High above the road a cluster of cliffs tilted, hung at a crazy angle for a second, then began to tumble down. A cascade of earth, stone, and shredded pine roared from above to carry tanks, cars, and troops into the abyss below. One car and some fifty Red army men escaped the landslide and now clung to a short stretch of road that had turned into a flat, cover-less platform, a jutting precipice with no way to escape except by parachutes. We waited until the smoke and the dust settled, then opened up on the survivors with two 88's. Direct fire with fragmentation shells, at three hundred yards. Only eight shells were fired. There were no survivors.

"I guess this is the end of World War Two," Erich Schulze remarked when our guns fell silent.

"Sure!" said Eisner pointing toward the debris down below. "Down there are the first casualties of World War Three!"

We stripped off our rank badges, army insignias and emblems; tore up our identity papers and pay books; burned everything including our letters from home. The Panther tanks and the guns went over the precipice. They were faithful companions and they had served us well. None of them should fall into enemy hands.

Ammunition for the rifles, machine guns, and submachine guns had been distributed equally among the men. We had more than enough bullets and grenades. Each man could carry five spare mags and a hundred loose bullets along with six grenades. Our supply of cheese, bacon, margarine, and other food stores had been likewise distributed. Water was no problem. There were plenty of creeks and streams in the mountains.

We were about three miles away when the Stormoviks came buzzing over the plateau. This time they could fly the corridor unpunished. The planes bombed and gunned our vacant positions for an hour without a break. When some of them departed, others came, and their uncontested attack was delivered with true Communist zeal and determination. The action would surely be remembered by Soviet war historians as a great Russian victory.

Seven weeks of hard trekking followed. We kept in the mountains, moving mainly at night, resting in remote ravines or in caves when we came upon some large enough to accommodate us. Only in the caves could we light small fires to boil coffee or to warm up our canned meat and vegetables. There was no need to warn the men about eating sparingly. Our self-imposed ration was one meal per day.

Every day we spotted swarms of PO-2's as they flew reconnaissance over the woods, sometimes passing overhead at treetop level. Fortunately we could always hear them coming from miles away and had time to scatter and camouflage. We strapped green twigs around ourselves and onto our helmets and we looked more like moving bushes than men. When a trooper froze, no one could spot him from twenty yards.

After about a week the planes stopped worrying us.

The Russians had given up the futile idea of detecting us from the air. Instead they endeavored to block every bridge and every pass in our way, compelling us to choose the most impossible trails for our grueling journey. When we could cover five miles in one night, we considered it good going. It was a trying cat-and-mouse game. Death was away only in time but never in measurable distance.

The enemy had never really known where we were and with the element of surprise preserved, we were strong enough to challenge a battalion of Russians. We could have pierced their roadblocks but the action would have given away our presence in a specific area and also our direction. By avoiding contact we kept the Russian commander in suspense. He could only guess which part of the map we were heading for. We wanted to preserve the element of surprise for the most perilous part of our trip: the crossing of the Elbe. Therefore I decided to bypass the enemy roadblocks and stick to the paths of the mountain goats. Erich Schulze, who was born and had grown up in the Alps, and some Austrian Alpine Rangers were of immense help to us.

In a small clearing, not very far from our trail, we came upon a dilapidated hunting lodge. Eisner spotted two Red army trucks parked under the trees—a most unwelcome sight. A pair of CMC's could transport eighty men, and there was no way of bypassing the place except by making a twentymile detour. I decided to wait and see whether it was only a coincidence or a trap in the making. Then suddenly we heard the thud of axes and trees falling. The enemy was only cutting wood!

We wanted to lie low until the Russians departed but fate decided otherwise. Escorted by a dozen Red army men, a small group of German prisoners emerged from the woods. Pushing and pulling at the heavy logs, the men tried to lift their burden onto the trucks. As the prisoners strained the Russians amused themselves with filthy oaths and laughter. Some of them were kicking the men as they struggled past their grinning guards.

Schulze suddenly swore, "Gottverdammte noch'mal . . . look over there!" He exclaimed and handed me his binoculars. "They are officers!"

I could distinguish two officers among the working prisoners. They were the ones the Russians seemed to abuse.

the most. "The taller one is a captain," Eisner announced. "The other one I can't tell."

"What shall we do about the poor devils?" Schulze queried. "We cannot sit here and look on."

I glanced at my men, deployed along the forest's edge. Filthy, unshaven, and worn as they were, I could see on their faces that they would have resented inactivity. "I am all for freeing them," I said briskly, answering their silent question. "But if we still want to reach Bavaria, we should stage a pretty good diversion afterwards."

For some days we had been moving northwest, making a beeline for a small German town, Sebnitz, where we hoped our people could help us< in our trip across the Elbe. We could not liberate the prisoners without killing the Russians and consequently revealing our presence to the enemy, the very thing I was trying to avoid all the way. A line drawn on the map between the pass which we had evacuated and the small clearing down below would inevitably point at the border near Sebnitz. I turned the problem over and over in my mind but it seemed more hopeless at every new angle.

Captain Ruell found the only feasible solution.

"We wanted to move toward Sebnitz," he began excitedly, motioning us to have a look at the map. "Having hit the Russians here, we will probably have all night before the enemy sends someone up to investigate. We are about . . . here!" He placed his finger on the map, then looked up. "After liberating the prisoners we should turn south. Away from Sebnitz and the German frontier. Here is a small village. We could make it by midnight. We need some civilian clothes anyway. I don't think our folks at home will have many clothes left. A quick raid on the village might confuse the Russians, especially if we grab every Czech identity paper we come across."

"Czech papers!" Schulze exclaimed. "What for?"

Ruell grinned. "The Russians might conclude that we are heading inland, toward Austria. Otherwise why should we collect Czech papers?"

"I think it is a good idea, Herr Hauptmann," a young lieutenant of the Austrian Alpenjaegers remarked cheerfully. "Austria is precisely the place we would like to" go. After the raid we might as well keep going south."

"And run into a Soviet blocking party," Eisner grunted.

"You had better stick with us, taking the longer way but arriving safely."

"After the raid on the village we should double back toward the north and cross the border at Sebnitz," Captain Ruell concluded.

"So be it!" Eisner stated and I agreed. Captain Ruell's plan seemed as feasible as any we might conceive.

By five o'clock in the afternoon both trucks were loaded and the prisoners had been lined up for head count. There were twenty-three of them, escorted by twelve Russians. Schulze deployed three sharpshooters for each Red army man. "Drop them with a single bullet, otherwise some of the prisoners may get hurt."

"Don't worry," one of the troopers remarked. "At two hundred yards we could hit a field mouse between the eyes."

Schulze waited until the prisoners had climbed aboard the trucks. Standing in a small group the Russians watched them with their submachine guns ready.

"Fire!" said Schulze.

Thirty-six rifles fired a single volley. The bewildered prisoners threw themselves flat thinking that they were about to be killed. But our sharpshooters had aimed well. There was no return fire.

Our liberated comrades, as we soon learned, had been captured five days before the capitulation. The majority were officers. The captain, whose rank Eisner had recognized, was the former commanding officer of a signal battalion. He had naively believed that the Soviet commander would react chivalrously to his protest against compelling captive officers to remove roadblocks, fill antitank ditches, and perform other manual labor. The Soviet officer in charge, whose name Captain Waller never learned, had been quite drunk at the time, and having booted the "Fascist dogs" from his presence, he had ordered his troops to strip the "Gerrnanski" officers of their rank badges and insignias. Then roaring with drunken laughter he yelled: "Now you are no longer officers but ordinary ranks, .. . . tvoy maty!" Captain Waller and Lieutenant Mayer were, however, permitted to retain their badges "to serve as an example" of what happens to complaining Fascist officers. "Now you go and cut wood, we need telephone poles." The Soviet officer swore. "You destroyed all the telephone poles. . . . Now you are going to make new ones from here to Moscow."

"You are lucky, Herr Hauptmann, that we came by here," I said after our mutual introduction.

"You were more lucky that you could come by here at all," he replied with a smile. "There's no prisoner-of-war treatment for the SS, Herr Obersturmfuhrer. I saw with my own eyes how the Russkis lined up and machine-gunned four hundred of your men into the Vistula."

"They did that, eh?" Eisner grunted.

"Not the officers, mind you," the captain added. "The officers are to be tried and hanged. It was all agreed upon between the Americans and Stalin." He uttered a short sardonical snort. "And that will be about the only Soviet-American agreement Stalin will keep! You had better watch out."

"They won't get us, Herr Hauptmann ... at least not alive," I stated, more resolved than ever to reach Bavaria. "Not me, that's sure!"

Schulze nodded, lifting his gun. "First they'll have to take my toy away."

"I expected nothing else," Eisner fumed. "Now comes the great carnage . . . the revenge, gentlemen. There is going to be such a bloodbath in the Fatherland that all the SS ever did will look like a solemn church ceremony in comparison. .. ."

"You may thank Himmler," Waller said. "To kill the Jews was a great folly, my friends. He could have gotten away with anything but the Jews. . . . The Jews are a world power, but not those wretched bastards whom Himmler was busy exterminating around the clock. These had done nothing and would never have done anything against the Reich. Nevertheless their ghosts are returning now, many of them wearing the conqueror's uniform or the judge's stola."

"But what have we got to do with the whole bloody affair?" Schulze cried. "I was hunting partisans in the Gottverdammte Russian swamps and in the forests of Belgorod. They should hang the 'Einsatzkommandos' or the Gestapo. It was their lousy job to kill Jews, not mine. Are we responsible for what those loafers did?"

"Don't ask me, ask Stalin!"

"What does Stalin care about the Jews? He always regarded them as rotten capitalists. Most of the Ukrainian Jews were rounded up and executed by the Ukraine Militia."

"What the hell are you arguing about!" Eisner snapped. "Himmler did kill the Jews, didn't he? Now the world needs a scapegoat and it is the SS. Whether we pulled the trigger or just threw a ring about a village while the militia or the Gestapo rounded them up, it is one and the same thing for them. It was all because of the SS. We murdered everybody in sight, looted the corpses, and are now returning home loaded with stolen Jewish gold. We are the Scourge of God, the Devil Incarnate, the Teutons. They are murdering right now a million German prisoners in Siberia, maybe not by shooting—Stalin simply starves them to death. But is there any difference? All right . . . we gunned down a hundred hostages. They take a group of army officers from a prison camp, give them a mock trial, then hang them. It is one and the same treatment as far as I am concerned. I know that the SS destroyed Lidice. I have not been there, but if they did it—they had a reason. Why did the SS level that particular place? Why not the other ten thousand? Maybe it was because of the assassination of Heydrich, maybe it wasn't, but there must have been a reason for it. They say the killers of Heydrich were Czech commandos from England, who dropped by chutes. Why did they go hide in Lidice? They should have stood up, fought, and gone down fighting— the brave paratroopers. No one would have associated them with the Czechs in Lidice. And what if the SS destroyed Lidice? Was it an overkill? How about Hamburg which the Allied bombers demolished, killing eighty thousand civilians in a couple of hours? How about Dresden and the hundred thousand civilian dead there? Just before the war's end. . . . Because their execution was done by bombs and not by machine guns should we call the Allies saints? Goddamit all," he swore, wiping the sweat from his forehead, "all that kept us alive was the thought of surviving and returning home. If we still have homes to return to," he went on. "Now everyone is telling us that we are going to hang. It is enough to drive you mad."

"I am sorry," Captain Waller said apologetically. "I did not want to upset you. Especially not after what you did for us. But I thought you had better know the truth instead of falling into a trap at home."

"Just let them come and try to trap me," Eisner fumed.

"I haven't killed an American yet but I don't think they are tougher than the Ivans—and I sure as hell killed a lot of the Ivans."

"That's enough for now!" I interposed authoritatively. "We have more urgent things to do than talk about postwar politics. How about moving on?"

"A good idea," Captain Ruell agreed. "But before we leave let me booby-trap those CMC's. It may help the Ivans to get downhill the shorter way." The troops laughed.

I knew their nerves were strained to the breaking point and each individual was a potential time bomb that might explode at any moment. My men were not killers at large, yet they already felt hunted, outlawed. They were brave soldiers bled white defending the Fatherland. The majority of them had been called up to the SS just like others had been called up to the various other services and put into uniforms. We were Nazis, to be sure, but who was not a Nazi in Hitler's Third Reich? No one could hold any position in the Reich without becoming a Nazi. And if someone held any position in the Reich, his son volunteered for the SS—the "Elite Guard." Others volunteered because it was known to be an honor to serve in the SS. Besides, the uniforms were better, the food, the pay, and the treatment were better, leaves were more frequent. But no one had volunteered because he was told, "Join the SS and you- may kill Jews, or guard concentration camps." I would never deny that the SS was probably the most brutal fighting force ever conceived in the history of warfare. We were tough, maybe even fanatics. We were scared of nothing and no one. We were brought up to be brave. Our brutality was only iron discipline and an uncompromising belief in the Fatherland.

We had been taught and drilled to execute orders and had I been given the order to shoot Jews, gypsies, or prisoners of war, I would have executed that order just as I would have shot deer if ordered to do so. If that is a crime, they should hang every soldier in the world who wouldn't pull his gun and shoot his superior officer through the head whenever he feels like disobeying an order. But my orders were to insure the safety of supply trains, to keep a forest around a vital bridge free from enemy infiltrators, or to track down partisans after an attack against a garrison. And that is exactly what I did!

When I was ordered to take hostages, I took hostages, ten of whom were to be shot for every German soldier murdered by the guerrillas. When the guerrillas stabbed a German sentry in the back or threw a grenade into a staff car, a given number of hostages were executed. Their names had been made known to the population in advance. The partisans had always known that if they committed murder, we would retaliate.

The partisans would never tell a German soldier in advance that he was going to be killed. We did tell the guerrillas that if they killed a German soldier, Pjotr or Andrei would die! We gave them a chance, but they gave us none. Who was then the more guilty? Who did actually kill those hostages? Were the partisans innocent? They were as innocent as the lever of a guillotine. The lever does not kill. It only releases the blade!

As soon as darkness fell, we moved on to execute Captain Ruell's plan. We found a fairly wide dirt road that ran through the forest and, following a small advance guard, made good progress. Having arrived at the village about midnight we quickly deployed along the forest line, and I sent out a reconnaissance party with Schulze in charge. Schulze reported that there were no Soviet troops in the vicinity, only a group of Czech militia billeting in the ancient stone mansion of the local fire service. A captured Wehrmacht troop carrier stood in the archway but he saw no sentries and the place looked ripe for the taking. I selected ninety men to form three groups with Schulze, Eisner, and myself in command. The rest of the troops were to stay behind under the command of Captain Ruell. I told him that should any trouble develop he was not to interfere but should move northward according to our original plan.

Skirting the fields we moved into the village with so many dogs barking that they should have wakened the dead. "Don't shoot except in the utmost emergency," I told my men. "If you have to kill, use your bayonets. And if you must use your bayonets, don't miss!"

"And if you see a window lit up, occupy the house!" Eisner added. "Seize everyone you find awake."

To my great relief I discovered that the battle of Stalingrad would not have disturbed the militiamen whom we found all boozed up and sleeping it off happily on a dozen bare mattresses strewn about the wooden floor. "They haven't got a worry on earth," a young trooper beside me remarked as we quietly removed the militia's weapons. "I sure wouldn't mind being one of them. Boy, to be able to sleep like that."

With the militiamen disarmed, the occupation of the village was only a matter of routine. My troops did not wait for instructions. They knew how to go about their business swiftly and with the skill of veterans. One detachment cut the telephone wires; two platoons left to cover the roads with MG's; four men seized the belfry—an important precautionary measure for a church bell can be a very effective instrument if someone wants to raise the country for miles around. The wires of the air-raid sirens in front of the church were also cut.

Breaking up into groups of five men each we searched every house, confiscated civilian clothes, food, and personal papers and caused great consternation among the people. Some of them spoke German and were told we were Austrians on the way home, terribly sorry for the inconvenience but we needed their papers to survive the trip across Czechoslovakia. I knew that the nearest Soviet commander would be informed before dawn.

At last on German soil—at the Elbe but still on the wrong side. A battered old farmhouse stood on the edge of the woods with the burned shell of a Tiger visible among the ruins of a barn. Children were playing around the dead tank and smoke rose from the chimney. We kept the place under observation for several hours but spotted no Russians. Schulze decided to visit the farm at dusk. He returned with the farmer, Hans Schroll, a war cripple; a short, lean, embittered man in his early fifties hobbling on a pair of crutches.

"I shall try to help you," he said, his face showing great concern. "But keep in the woods, for heaven's sake. The Russkis are visiting us every day and one never knows when they might show up."

"Life must be hard on you people," Captain Ruell remarked sympathetically.

"Hard?" Schroll exclaimed with a short laugh. "Life here is nothing but assault, robbery, rape, and murder. I am the only man here for miles around. A half of a man," he added bitterly.

"No, Herr Schroll," Schulze shook his head, placing a hand gently on the man's stump. "I think you are more than a man."

"The Russkis herded away the entire male population," Schroll went on. "They wouldn't take me because of my leg. Nowadays you may call yourself lucky for having lost a leg and a female is safe only if she is seven months pregnant or seven years old."

He sat with us for a while and from his embittered words we could form our first impression of our tarnished Fatherland. A Wehrmacht battalion was still fighting on a ridge half a mile away when the invaders had raped Schroll wife for the first time.

"One of them held a gun to my head," the farmer said. "He threatened to shoot me if I moved. I couldn't have moved much even without a gun at my head, could I? They were the front-line mob. Finally a major came yelling, trying to send the bastards out to fight. Do you know what happened to the major? They just grabbed him, took his pistol, and kicked him in the ass ... kicked him right through the door. ..."

''How is it now?" I asked wearily.

"Na ja." He smiled resignedly. "The occupation troops are more polite. They are taking me and the children out of the room when they come to visit my wife."

"Don't say—"

"Jawohl, Kameraden. The German homes have become Red army whorehouses. But we should not condemn our wives and daughters. It is all our fault. We should have fought better. Fought like the Japanese with their suicide pilots and human torpedoes. We did not kill enough Russians."

Schroll told us about the pontoon bridge at Pirna. Four T-34's and several machine gun emplacements covered its approaches. "No Germans are allowed to cross the bridge without a special pass," Schroll said. "You will never make it across there, but I can give you a boat."

The boat was a leaky one and could carry only eight men at the most. We had to wait in the forest until the farmer had managed to patch it up. He left it at a prearranged place, driven ashore and camouflaged under the riverside shrubs. In it we found five loaves of dark bread, a sack of homemade biscuits, and two bottles of schnapps. There was also a note: Glueck auf!—Good Luck!

Only a thin slice of bread and a small gulp of brandy for each man but it had been our first slice of bread for weeks and the brandy felt good. So did the small note of Hans Schroll—a great man in a great desert.

Only the clothes and the weapons were ferried across the river. The men had to swim as it would have taken too long, making it very risky. Nine of them never made it.

We pushed on toward the American zone. Four times we ran into Soviet patrols or Czech militia. We had to kill them in order to survive. The enemy troops were getting thicker every day, but the closer we came to Bavaria the more resolved we became to arrive there. We no longer cared to bypass the roadblocks or the enemy camps but attacked them, pouring lead as if we had an inexhaustible supply of ammunition. We were only forty-two men when we finally reached Bavaria at Wunsiedel. Three hundred and seventeen of our comrades had fallen so that we might arrive home.

Three miles from the border we encountered our first American patrol: a jeepload of young men led by a lieutenant. Clean, neatly dressed, and obviously well fed, they were sitting around the jeep with a mounted MG having dinner. Dinner with a record player in the grass blaring the "Stuka Lied," the lively march of the German dive bombers.

We had the Americans like sitting ducks, but I saw no reason for killing them the way we had killed every Russian who blocked our way. I decided to pay them a visit, alone and unarmed.

Leaving Eisner, Schulze, and an NCO to watch the development, I left the shrubbery and walked up to the group. The soldiers stared at me with astonishment and reached for their guns. The lieutenant turned off the record player. He was a handsome young man of about thirty, tall and blond, just like some of us Teutons. He wore sunglasses which he removed to have a better look at me.

"I see you are having quite a picnic here, Lieutenant," I spoke to him nonchalantly, gesturing toward their rifles that almost poked me in the belly. "You don't want to shoot me, do you? The war is over."

"Who the hell are you?" he blurted out glancing at his men, then back toward me. "What are you doing here?" I thought God bless my mother who had always insisted that I should learn English.

"What could a German do in his own country?" I asked him in return. "I am on my way home."

"Who are you?"

"Only a German officer. Coming home from far away."

"How come you speak English so well?"

"We are quite civilized people, Lieutenant. As you see, some of us can even speak English."

I noticed that they were completely taken aback by my sudden appearance and for some time the officer seemed at loss as to what to say or do.

"Are you carrying any weapon?" he asked finally.

"Only a pocketknife."

"Hand it over!" he ordered me briskly. I knew he said that only to say something. I handed him my knife and he motioned his men to frisk me. The result set him at ease. He offered me a cigarette, lighted one for himself, then taking a notebook from the jeep he began to rattle off a number of questions.

"Your name, rank, and unit?"

"Hans Josef Wagemueller," I obliged. "Obersturmfuhrer, twenty-first special partisanjaeger commando."

"What's that?" a freckled, lanky soldier interposed.

"Guerrilla hunter," the lieutenant explained and I bowed slightly. "That's right."

"Your last combat station?"

"Liberec, Czechoslovakia."

"Have you killed any Americans?" a squat little corporal cut in.

I smiled. "If there were any American troops serving in the Red army, then I sure as hell did."

The lieutenant made a quick, impatient gesture. "He said he was in Czechoslovakia," he said to the corporal.

"Wehrmacht or the SS?" he now demanded to know. I could barely conceal my amusement. Only the SS had Obersturmfuhrers. The Wehrmacht had lieutenants. I shrugged.

"Wehrmacht, SS, Luftwaffe—what's the difference?"

"There's a helluva difference, buddy," he snapped. "The Wehrmacht and the Luftwaffe go home but we hang them SS cutthroats good and high." He extended his hand. "Show me your pay book."

"I haven't got any."

"How come?"

"Well, I just figured that our paymaster's office might be closed for a while, so I threw my pay book away."

He frowned. "You like jokes, don't you?" he remarked curtly and turned to the squat little corporal who wore a pair of horn-rimmed glasses. "Joe, you had better call headquarters."

"I wouldn't do that if I were you, Lieutenant," I suggested mildly and lifted a protesting hand toward their guns, which were coming up once more. "Please do not threaten me. At this very moment there are at least a dozen rifles pointing at you. My men are expert marksmen and they are a bit nervous. I don't want to see you killed—unless in self-defense."

The soldiers paled visibly. The lieutenant ran his tongue over his lips but his confusion did not last long. My troops began to emerge from the woods with their guns providing the necessary dramatic undertone. Their chins dropped, then their weapons. The lieutenant began to unbuckle his holster but I stopped him.

"Oh, never mind your gun, Lieutenant. We don't want to shoot at each other. The war is over."

We took them, jeep, guns, and record player back into the woods. "Nicht schiessen, Kamerad," squat little Joe muttered in broken German. "Don't shoot."

Somewhat bitterly I acknowledged that even the SS cutthroats could quickly turn into comrades when the business end of the submachine gun had turned the other way. The face of the lieutenant revealed sheer agony. He must have thought that we were going to kill them right then and there. I motioned the Americans to sit down on a fallen log and told them briefly about the surrender of Colonel Steinmetz and our odyssey across Czechoslovakia. They seemed impressed.

"Are you telling me that the Russians just gunned them down under a flag of truce?" the lieutenant asked. "It is a helluva way of treating prisoners of war."

"Indeed, Lieutenant?" I queried him sharply. "Do you consider hanging more sophisticated?"

"We aren't going to hang anyone without a fair trial," he protested.

"Can you call a trial of the vanquished by his victors a fair trial, Lieutenant? I presume you will be holding your fair trials in some neutral country to ensure their fairness ... in Geneva, for instance. We had been listening to your broadcasts and know your intentions about the so-called war criminals. A new class of the doomed; everyone who served in the SS now belongs. ... If you speak of the Jew-haters or those who preferred to guard concentration camps instead of fighting the Red army, you might make a point. But do you know that on Hitler's order every German soldier serving in the rear was free to choose front-line duty. And if a man demanded to be sent forward, his commanding officer had no right to turn him down. Do you think we front-line soldiers did not sneer at the swine who wanted to survive the war by flaying Jews a thousand miles from the trenches? I was an officer of the SS, Lieutenant, and I was fighting terrorists whose mere shadows would have sent you screaming into the nearest mental institution. They were not concentration camp inmates but armed insurgents who spat on all the game rules. Now just tell me, you immaculate American lieutenant, what will you do to guerrillas captured in your rear, wearing civilian clothes, guerrillas who blow up bridges, derail trains, stab your buddies in the back, or toss hand grenades into your officer's mess? Won't you hang them, Lieutenant?"

"But the SS ... during the Ardennes offensive...." *I've heard of them, Lieutenant," I cut him short. "Some bastards murdered a group of American prisoners at Malmedy. If it is true, then hunt them down. Hang them for all I care. But then go and hang some of your fellow Americans who gunned down German prisoners with their hands in the air. Just look around a bit and you will find them too. You shouldn't play the holy man here. You had your Chicago and AI Capone long before the SS was born. In the meantime, you had better remember that among us were thousands of enlisted men, ordinary people who had been drafted and put into SS uniforms. Or do you think they should have protested against their uniforms? How about the SS tank drivers, the signal men, the artillerists? Would you consider them war criminals? Would you hang them all, American lieutenant?"

"They will be examined . . . each individual," the lieutenant stated feebly.

"Sure, Lieutenant, every one of them. A half a million individuals or more."

A long pause followed. I knew that my violent outburst would be of little use but it made me feel better to have set the record straight for at least five American servicemen. Again they appeared ill at ease.

"What are you ... up to now?" the lieutenant finally asked. He spoke hesitantly, as though fearing to hear my answer. I knew what he was thinking.

"We are up to—home, I hope." I told him.

"You will never make it. We have roadblocks at every village. Every bridge is guarded by the MP's and Germans need passes to travel from one place to another."

"The Russians had roadblocks too, Lieutenant," I answered firmly. "They couldn't stop us."

He stepped to the jeep and withdrew a carton of Camels, trying to smile. "Do you want some cigarettes?"

"You don't have to bribe us, Lieutenant."

"We have plenty."

"So I have heard. You Americans seem to have plenty of nearly everything— except common sense and political wisdom. You keep your cigarettes. We have come a long way without smoking."

His face clouded. My refusal sent him back to his former worries about their immediate future. "What do you intend to do with us?" he asked hesitantly.

"It depends. I hope you understand that you could be of great peril to us with your jeep and radio. Having come this far, we wouldn't like the idea of ending up in one of your jails, waiting for the rope."

"We won't give you away!" he said quickly. "Honestly we won't!" The others nodded in consent.

"That, Lieutenant, we will have to make pretty sure of!"

He paled again and ran a nervous hand over his face. "You aren't going to shoot us, are you?"

Then squat little Joe said in a shaky voice, "You have just disassociated yourself from the war criminals. You want to go home, you said. Hell, man, so do I."

I took Schulze and Eisner aside to discuss our next move. We agreed that it was about time to break up. A couple of men together might have a better chance to get some papers and make it home. If we stuck together sooner or later it would have come to fighting the Americans too, which I wanted to avoid.

Our low-keyed conversation only increased the consternation among the Americans and they could not stand our whispering for long.

"Listen, officer!" the lieutenant exclaimed, stepping forward. "We will not hinder you in getting home. You have taken our weapons and having been a soldier you surely know that I cannot return to base and report to my commanding officer that we were disarmed by a group of stray Germans. I could lose my rank for that."

"You may have a point there, Lieutenant," I conceded.

He seemed relieved. "Why shouldn't we call it quits?" he insisted. "You let us go and we saw nothing of you."

We stood for a while facing one another, then on a sudden impulse I motioned him to follow me. I walked to the edge of the woods. Pointing inward to the forest line about two miles away, I handed him my binoculars. "There is a wooden tower there," I said. "A shooting stand for deer hunters."

"I can see it," said he.

"We shall leave your weapons in that tower, so that you won't lose your shoulder bars, Lieutenant. Is it a deal?"

"It's a deal!"

I ordered my men to remove the jeep's distributor cap and some wires of their radio set. "I am afraid that you will have to walk all the way there and back, Lieutenant. We will leave the parts with your guns. And don't walk too fast."

I gave them a brief salute and we began to move. I was a dozen paces from the jeep when the lieutenant suddenly called.

"Officer!"

I turned.

"Keep away from the highways and don't go toward Bayreuth," he yelled. "The commander of counterintelligence there is a Jewish major whose entire family was killed by the SS in Poland."
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Re: Devil's Guard, by George Robert Elford

Postby admin » Fri Jan 12, 2018 3:51 am

2. THE TARNISHED FATHERLAND

We ate our last supper together in an abandoned stone quarry near Cham, in the Bavarian forest. Some of the men were talking in low subdued voices, discussing the pros and cons of their long trip home to the various parts of the battered Fatherland. Men who had lived in Bavaria or in the Schwaben could be more optimistic than those who were to traverse the entire country if they wanted to rejoin their families in Hamburg or in Aachen. None of us could anticipate what might come on the way or what to expect at home. Whether there was a home at all or a family to embrace.

The thought that we were dispersing lay heavily on everyone's mind. Together we had come a long way and together we felt strong. Now with our weapons at the bottom of a pond, wearing civilian clothes after so many years, we felt defenseless and exposed.

I gave them my last advice. No more than two men together, I told them, and remember that you are supposed to be Czech refugees looking for brothers, sisters, and friends in Germany. Should someone shout an unexpected command at you in German, do not freeze but keep on going. Or just look around confused. Forget that you un-de/stand German. Not many Americans will speak Czech. You will have a fair chance of getting away with it. Behave innocently and submerge among the people, I told them. The peasants will always help you but you should beware of the cities where the occupation troops are probably quartered. There might be many turncoats who would betray you for a tin of beef or a loaf of bread.

Whenever you see a chance disguise yourselves by pretending to be engaged in some peaceful activity. Carry a shovel or a log on your shoulder and cut across the fields. The enemy will think that you belong to the next farm. Get hold of a wheelbarrow, load it with hay or manure, and never mind if it stinks to high heavens. The more it stinks the less eager the Americans will be to embrace you. They are clean boys. You should never try to get hold of a vehicle but you may thumb a ride on an American army truck. A genuine Czech refugee would do it.

And should you find life impossible, come to Konstanz, my hometown. It is on the Swiss frontier. We shall have people there to help you. I gave them my address.

I was the only one among them who could be sure of still having a home. Konstanz had never been bombed and its lucky inhabitants had suffered less hardship throughout the war. It was located only a few dozen yards from the Swiss town of Kreuzlingen, and the frontier actually ran across the center of a built-up area which, from the air, appeared a single, undivided unit. Konstanz was one of the very few German communities which never experienced blackouts. Throughout the war the city had been kept fully illuminated just like the nearby Swiss towns and villages, to confuse the enemy bombers.

The sun had dipped beyond the horizon. Our farewell was a brief one. We shook hands and those who had known each other for years embraced. "Glueck auf! . . . Good luck!" When dusk set in, the men began to leave singly or in twos and threes; one after another they melted into the woods, the darkness. I embraced Eisner and Erich Schulze. They had a long way to go to Frankfurt and to Miinster. "You have my address," I reminded them. "My people can always tell you where to look for me." I knew they were still carrying their parabellums, and cautioned them to be careful.

"Don't worry, Hans." Eisner gave me a quick, reassuring squeeze. "We will arrive home, if only for an hour. We will get through."

A few minutes later I was alone, a fugitive in my own country.

I sat on a tree stump for a long time studying the map of the route I was to take and tried to memorize it as best I could. Then I tore up the map for it bore many markings related to our trip across Czechoslovakia. I decided to follow roughly the course of the Naab river, cross the Danube at Regensburg if possible, then continue toward Augsburg where I had some relatives—provided, of course, that they were still alive and around.

Such "ifs" had become constant companions of every homecoming German soldier. If I can cross the river. . . . If I can take that road. ... If I arrive home. ... If they are still alive. ... If ... if ... if. ...

The man sat on a small boulder overhanging the water's edge. He was a tall dark man maybe in his late twenties but his bushy moustache and beard prevented me from guessing his age exactly. He wore Tyrolean leder-hosen and a high-necked pullover; an old hat was pushed high on his forehead. Puffing away at a curved clay pipe, he seemed to concentrate on a floating cork that supported the line of his improvised fishing rod, a long cane. Beside him rested a wicker basket with six small Karpfen, some of them still wiggling. He was perfectly hidden in the riverside meadow and had I not decided to have a quick wash-up, I would have bypassed the place where he sat without ever noticing him.

"I see you are having luck," I spoke to him. He glanced up. His eyes measured me for a while, then he gestured me to sit down.

"Pfirstenhammer's the name." He gave me a casual hand.

"Hans Wagemueller," said I. "Just call me Hans."

"Likewise," he nodded, "just call me Karl. Are you coming from far?"

"Quite far."

"You hungry?"

"I wouldn't mind having some fried fish for a change, Karl."

"You may have all you want. I am sick of it. Do you have any bread?"

"Only some biscuits. But I have some margarine."

"Splendid!" he exclaimed, taking the small container from me. He tossed it into the air and caught it with one hand, playfully. "Where are you coming from, Hans?"

"Past Liberec, Czechoslovakia . . . some two hundred and fifty miles from here."

"Fighting all the way?"

"On and off. It took us almost eight weeks to get here."

He nodded. "I reckon the Munich-Prague express isn't running yet. Where are you going from here?"

"To Konstanz, on the Boden See. Say, you aren't from the Gestapo, are you?"

"Not lucky me." He laughed, tugging at his fishing rod. "But you had better watch your steps, Hans. The Americans are hunting for the SS all over the place."

"Who told you that I was with the SS?"

"Who else would have come back all the way from Liberec? Only a bloody SS or a paratrooper. I have been walking since March."

"From where?"

"From Poznan, Poland."

"I know the place, been through there twice."

"Filthy, isn't it? I was already on the POW train. Headed for the Ukraine."

"And?"

"I had seen the Ukraine before and wasn't particularly keen to visit Josip's paradise again. I did what a good paratrooper is expected to do. 1 jumped. Right off the moving train, and not only myself but the whole bunch of us.

"Wait!" he exclaimed suddenly, jerking at the cane. "I think we've got one more." He flung the fish ashore, coiled the line onto a bit of wood, then tucked it into his pocket. "We have enough for two. Let's collect some twigs."

"Do you have a pot or something?"

"What for? We'll just rub the fish in your margarine and fry them over the fire. It will do."

"It will do for me, Karl. I haven't eaten anything warm for weeks, except for an occasional soup."

The fish was quite tasty. Satisfied, I stretched out in the soft grass. Karl handed me the cask.

"Go ahead," he said, lighting his pipe. "I can always get more. Do you smoke?"

"Cigarettes—but I haven't got any."

"Too bad," said he, "we can take turns with my pipe."

Once again silence prevailed for a while, then I asked, "What's the nearest town here?"

"Ingolstadt," he replied pointing a thumb upstream. "Or what is left of it. We should cross the Danube there."

"I tried it at Regensburg but there was a barrier with the MP checking everyone."

Karl nodded. "I know. I tried it myself five days ago. They seem to collect everyone who might be a soldier in disguise."

"Are papers of any help?"

"It all depends on the papers," Karl said with a shrug. "The MP's have the habit of carting off people and doing the questioning inside a camp. It might take a couple of months to have your turn at explaining but they have time. They are here to stay."

"They cannot stay forever."

"I didn't say they would. Eventually they'll mock up some sort of anti- Nazi, democratic government whose only obligation will be to say 'yessir' to the Allies and 'Schweinhund' to their German brothers. Besides, Stalin will never give up an inch of what he has gained. That is certain. The Fatherland is kaput . . . finished." He paused for a moment, then added, "What papers do you have?"

"Czech papers."

"You might get away with it, provided you can speak Czech."

"I can speak about fifty and a half words in Czech."

"Tough on you, Hans. The MP's carry little books with the most important words of a dozen languages listed in them. You are lucky to have come as far as this."

"How about you?"

"I am from Breslau, Silesia, and I can speak Polish like the vicar at a Warsaw sermon. Besides I have a Polish DP card."

"What's that?"

"Refugee card which the Allies are giving to all genuine Nazi victims and refugees in Germany."

That was something new to me. "How did you get one?"

"I hit a Pole over the head for it," Karl said flatly. "Na ja, life is difficult, Hans. The Pole can always get himself another one."

"I was born in Dresden."

"Now it's a town on the map only. But it's the same in Hamburg, Dusseldorf, Mannheim, and scores of other cities. We have had it good and proper, but at least the Americans and the British have some discipline. The Tatars of Stalin have none. In the Soviet Zone the Black Plague is at large, Hans. The Ivans are free to do as they please. And I can tell you they are worse than the Gestapo. Life is an endless nightmare over there."

"Do you still have a family in Breslau?"

"I had," he replied and his face darkened. "My mother and elder sister are dead and the younger one is now with relatives in Hannover. My father was a captain in the infantry. The Russians caught him near Orsha. He was forced to climb a tree at minus twenty centigrade and shout 'Heil Hitler' until he froze to death."

I was sorry for having reminded him of something so tragic. Placing my hand on his shoulder, I muttered something awkward about the war and its victims but Karl only shook his head slowly and said with a bitter smile: "My mother and sister did not die because of the war, Hans. The Russians raped them, then shot them. My younger sister was only thirteen and her escape was nothing but a miracle."

"I am sorry, Karl—"

"Never mind, Hans. It is something I should remember as long as there are Communists on earth. I don't think we have finished with them yet. When another round . comes, we will be wiser."

"Where are you heading now?"

Karl shrugged. "Who knows? Only one thing is sure, that we cannot stay in Germany. It would be like being a deer during the hunting season. But this hunting season will last for years. There's going to be lots of hangings around here, Hans."

"That might concern me but not you," I exclaimed. "No one is going to hang paratroopers as war criminals."

"Don't be so naive." Pfirstenhammer uttered a short laugh. "Everybody is going to hang. The SS is only on the top of the list of the guests. The generals are going to hang because they won victories but were imprudent enough to lose the war. The Luftwaffe will hang because it bombed Coventry to smithereens—a war crime; the Kriegsmarine for having torpedoed ships, the Medical Corps because they nursed vicious Nazis back to life, and Hitler's cook will hang because he did not poison the Fuehrer in 1939. Everyone contributed to Hitler's crimes, Hans. We are like a big manufacturing company where the board of directors are holding the stocks. Joint responsibility and no bankruptcy court."

"They cannot hang or jail two-thirds of Germany."

"They won't have to." Karl glanced at me, rubbing his hands. "In a year's time they will have lots of loyal German patriots to do the dirty work for them, Hans. Every country has her traitors. Why should we be an exception? Some Nazis will surely slip through the great sieve and they are going to be the real screamers who demand justice, denazification, and democracy. Wait until the shock waves abate. You will see twenty million anti-Nazis and ten million devoted resistance fighters chanting 'yessir' whenever an American corporal snaps his fingers. They are going to be more anti-Nazi than the chief rabbi of Jerusalem."

"You no longer believe in our country, do you, Karl?" I asked him slowly, accepting his pipe.

"Our country?" He repeated my question, pursing his lips. He let the sentence hang.

"Karl," I spoke after a while, "would you care to come along with me?"

"To Konstanz?" he said. "It is in the French Zone."

"Is it an advantage or a disadvantage?"

"I guess it is good enough there. The French are probably too lazy to hunt. Besides when they do hunt they prefer to hunt for girls."

"Are you coming along?" I urged him.

"Konstanz is on my way."

We swam the Danube that evening and walked halfway to Augsburg. We walked during the nights and slept through the days. Abandoned bunkers, ruins, tanks, burned-out trucks, and remote farmhouses gave us shelter. By luck, prudence, but mostly due to our people's goodwill, we managed to evade occasional pursuers and avoid controls. Sometimes the peasants, many of them women and children, would lead us from farm to farm and from forest to forest. One young farmer, an army veteran both of whose arms had been amputated, escorted us safely past Landsberg, where the U.S. Army was maintaining a huge prison for arrested Nazis. As a result the whole area was especially heavily guarded and patrolled.

"I am celebrating tonight," he said before we parted. "You were my number two hundred!" He had escorted two hundred German fugitives safely past Landsberg. A twelve-kilometer trip for no payment whatsoever, except for thanks.

Peasants told us that the Americans were raiding the villages too, but they could always see them coming and had time to usher the fugitives into the fields or the woods. In the cities it was different, for the hunters could come without warning. They "would seal off a street, then comb the area house by house, room after room, from the cellar to the attic. Using trained dogs, the MP's would even search the ruins. Many traitors were helping them. "In the village we have no traitors," a farmer said proudly. "We would know about them right away." It was a comforting thought that the victors had not yet succeeded in corrupting our rural folk.

I decided not to look for my relatives in Augsburg. "We are making good progress in the woods. Why risk everything by entering a town?" Karl said and I agreed with him. We continued across the fields and into the forests. We beheld many scenes of utter debacle but met no one who condemned the Fuehrer.

"You cannot stay here, son," my father sobbed into my ear as he embraced me, still unable to believe that I had returned. "We have two officers living in your room, and they usually come in before midnight. One of them is quite friendly, but his companion, a captain, is full of hatred. He would arrest you the moment he saw you."

"You will be safer in Switzerland and you will be close to us," my mother said, wiping away her tears. "You should go to see Josef Weber. He will help you across."

"The old U-boat skipper? I am glad to hear that he is back."

"He has been asking about you ever since he returned."

We stayed only long enough to shave and wash up. My mother brought in two of my old suits, one of them for Karl.

"It might be a little short for him," she excused herself, "but it is still better than the one he has on." She packed a small suitcase with clothes and some sandwiches. "I know it is not much, Hans, but food is so difficult to get."

"You shouldn't worry about us, Mother."

She slipped a small leather pouch into my hand which felt hard and heavy for its size. "I am giving you some of my jewelry and your father's gold coins," she said.

"There is no need—"

"Yes, there is," she cut me short. "We don't need them, Hans. It's going to be a long time before German women wear jewels again."

I knew how my father loved to collect coins but now he insisted on my taking them. "I knew they'd come handy one day, Hans—this seems to be the day." I handed him the colonel's gold watch, the cigarette case, and the letter, and asked my father to try to locate Steinmetz's wife later on, when life became more consolidated.

A short embrace, a last kiss, a quick "take care of yourself," and we left as quietly as we had come.

"I am glad your folks are all right," Karl remarked as we skirted the town along the lake. "Where are we going now?"

I had known Josef Weber since my childhood, when he used to be the skipper of a ferryboat between Friedrichshafen and Romanshorn on the Swiss side. In 1941 he was commissioned in the navy and when I met him during a leave in 1943, he was a U-boat commander. Weber was a short, powerfully built man with an aggressive chin, steely blue eyes, and a small reddish beard.

"Welcome aboard," he beamed as he embraced me after such a long time. "Glad to see you back and all in one piece." He shook hands with Karl. "You want to jump the lake. A-wise decision. Especially on your part, Hans," he said, stressing his words significantly.

"That's what I've been hearing all the way home."

"It is the truth!"

"Dammit, skipper—I wasn't out to shoot Jews!"

"I believe you but it might take a long time to convince the Allies, Junge." He went to the other room and returned with some jackets and ties. From a drawer he took a small camera.

"Change your ties and jackets," he commanded briskly. "I am going to take your pictures for your new papers and we wouldn't want them to look too recent." We changed and he took our pictures.

"Make yourselves comfortable," Weber spoke, putting on his hat. "You will find some drinks and glasses in that cabinet. I shall return in about an hour. The windows are properly shaded but should anyone come, do not open the door, just put out the candles and wait. If the visitors seem to insist on entering, they are the French. Now come with me."

He led us into a small chamber and showed us a trapdoor that matched the flooring perfectly and could not be spotted unless pointed out. "In case of any trouble, you go down there and wait for my call."

"Are you expecting any trouble, Herr Weber?" Karl asked.

"I am expecting trouble twenty-four hours a day," Weber replied casually. "It goes with the job. Down in the cellar you will find another exit. It is concealed behind an old cabinet and it leads to the lake."

"You've got a private Fuehrerbunker here, Captain?" Karl remarked jokingly when we had returned to the living room.

"And a better one than the Fuehrer had," Weber con-ceded. "My bunker has safety valves." From his desk he lifted up a small model of a powerful speedboat. "At the end of that corridor behind the cabinet there is the lake and a grown-up sister of this baby here. She can do seventy kilometers per hour."

It- was past midnight when the one-time U-boat commander returned. He was not alone. The stem-looking, middle-aged, silver-haired man who accompanied him shook hands with us but did not introduce himself. After a few words of mutual courtesy, he took a small green notebook from his pocket and spoke to us crisply and without preliminaries.

"State your rank, serial number, division, and last station, please." We told him and he made some notes. He questioned us for some time, then exchanged glances with Weber and nodded. "It will do!"

He handed us two long yellow envelopes. They contained Swiss birth certificates, identity cards, and other related documents. "You will also find there five hundred Swiss francs, along with an address. Herr Weber will take you across the lake and you will report at the given ad-dress as soon as possible. Good luck!"

He left immediately afterwards.

"I guess you are all set up," Weber remarked with a grin as we examined our new papers. They were perfect. "Skipper," I told him, "if you weren't here and I didn't know you, I would think we had just passed a Gestapo interview. Who was that gentleman?"

"You should not be inquisitive, Hans," was his only answer.

The given address turned out to be a small Renaissance villa near Zurich. On the polished oak door was a brass plate: H.M. Dipl. Engineer. A little white-haired old lady opened the door for us. "The Herr Engineer isn't home yet but please come in. We are expecting him at any moment now." She did not even ask who we were or why we were coming. Nor did Herr Engineer later. He merely drove us to a magnificent mansion overlooking the lake. "Pension Particuliere" an inscription read.

"You will be staying here for a while," he informed us. "Room and board are all paid for but you may give small tips."

"Who is paying for all this?" Karl blurted out.

"Why should you care?" our host snapped. We had noticed the moment he spoke to us that he was a born Swiss.

The madam of the establishment, a tall, energetic woman in her mid-fifties, was no more talkative than the Hen-Engineer had been. She wore a long pearl necklace with a golden butterfly glinting above her small breasts. Playing with the necklace she said, "You will find many other gentlemen here, some of them coming, others leaving. None of them staying for very long and none of them paying much attention to names and stories. You have had a difficult time, so now relax. Walk in the city, play tennis in our park or chess in the library, but ask no questions. And something else," she added as the maid came in to take us upstairs, "if you have cameras, please deposit them with our clerk. You are not allowed to take pictures within our establishment. I hope you understand." We understood.

Three weeks later, Eisner and Schulze arrived. They had gone through the same routine. "My kids are dead. A bomb hit their school last April," Bernard stated. "My wife is the whore of an American sergeant."

"There is a two-hundred-foot pond where my home used to be," Erich said. "My family is listed as 'missing' since December forty-five. They seem to be missing all right." He glanced about the magnificent reception hall. "What about this joint here, Hans?"

"It's the Prinz Albert Strasse turned into a chess club," Karl remarked before I could answer. His reference to the former Gestapo center in Berlin made us smile. "You enjoy life and ask no questions," he went on. "Be glad that you were accepted in the family. You'll meet many dignified, middle-aged gentlemen at the breakfast table. We don't know who they are but they weren't sergeants in the Wehrmacht, that is sure."

"I see," Schulze nodded. "We'll try to abide by the rules."

"I am afraid that you will have to leave Switzerland," the police officer in civilian dress informed us. "We are under strong diplomatic pressure. Our authorities might be willing to overlook transit passengers from Germany but they are not happy about your documentary arrangements." I had already noticed that many of the "guests" had departed during the past ten days.

"When are we supposed to leave and to where?" Eisner wanted to know.

"There is no need for you to panic," the officer replied with quiet benevolence. "Let us say ... in twenty days?" Then he added reassuringly, "Your papers are still good for any country except Switzerland. The world is large."

"You know what?" said Eisner after the police officer departed. "I have the notion that someone somewhere is holding this entire Swiss outfit at bayonet point. And hang me if it isn't the Gestapo!"

"The Gestapo is dead as a doornail," Schulze snorted.

"Dead, my aunt Josephine. You won't see any of those guys hanged. I wonder if the boss of your Josef Weber back in Konstanz was one of them. His face seemed familiar enough to me but I can't put my finger on him."

"Who cares?" I asked.
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Re: Devil's Guard, by George Robert Elford

Postby admin » Fri Jan 12, 2018 4:15 am

3. THE BATTALION OF THE DAMNED

The old vaulted gate with the Tricolor fluttering overhead was open and inviting. At last, at the end of an odyssey across half of war-torn Europe, we were safely hidden—or so we thought. In a way we were indeed safe, but far from being hidden. Our bogus passports, identity cards, and birth certificates would not fool the French for long. Our meticulously prepared cover stories had been accepted, but only in the spirit of the Foreign Legion's ancient tradition: Ask no questions about a man's background, one is always fit enough to die. The short farewell speech of Major Jacques Barbier had made that quite clear.

"Your papers say that you are coming from Holland, Poland, Switzerland, and only God knows from where else. You should not think that we have swallowed all this German sauerkraut. You are nothing but Nazi canaille —all of you. Professional killers who just cannot stop shooting or who prefer a bullet to the rope. In Indochina you may do some more killing and receive all the bullets you want. Whether you perish or survive is of little importance to us. You belong to this army. You are wearing its uniform. But remember, we have no illusions about your allegiance to the Tricolor. All you've wanted was to cheat the hangman and you've succeeded, at least for the time being. But you should not be too overjoyed, for death is going to be your constant companion in Indochina."

The departure of the Japanese from Indochina had created a dangerous vacuum there which the postwar French Army could not readily fill. The British forces were about to quit, and the veteran troops of General de Gaulle were needed at home to prevent anarchy and a threatening Communist takeover in Paris. The prewar colonial army had been much humiliated by the Japanese and its survivors had but one desire left: to return home as fast as possible. If the colonial empire was to be preserved, France urgently needed a large number of skilled fighting men. The Foreign Legion had welcomed everyone willing to serve under the Tricolor—including the onetime "Nazi canaille."

Life was hard for the escaped German veterans. Soldiers of a defeated army seldom fare well, especially when they have no homes to return to. Relentless persecution and prolonged confinement was the share of those who had thrown themselves at the mercy of the victors. Interrogations, degradations, denazification trials . . . Vae victis! . . . "Woe to the vanquished!" The victors had even coined a new definition to outlaw the former nuclei of the German military might: "War Criminals." No victor in history had ever hanged defeated enemy generals, not even Attila the Hun or the Visigoths. The Allied revenge resembled the medieval auto-da-fe of the Holy Inquisition, brought forward into the twentieth century. Every general or staff officer, every functionary automatically fell under this damning definition. Every officer who had served in the SS, whether in the Dachau death camp or in the "Viking SS Panzer" division, had been judged en masse and denounced as a criminal. In the Allied occupation zones a hunt was on to put the SS behind bars or on the gallows. The French had better ideas. They would offer an arrested SS officer a choice: Join the Foreign Legion or be hanged!

France could not afford to ignore a rich well from which experienced veterans had been flowing ever since the day of the armistice. They required little training and even less explanation about their coming jobs. They could learn soon enough the few dozen French words of military importance.

Guns speak only one language.

After a few months in our new uniforms we no longer cared what the French may or may not have known about our past. It was becoming difficult to pretend military ignorance and play the stupid recruit, when we could have given a real Kriegspiel to our sergeants and corporals and shown them how to properly handle army hardware. We were seasoned veterans of countless battles and whatever the French were trying to teach us seemed utterly ridiculous to me. Erich Schulze, for instance, had won the Iron Cross twice in four years for his sharp-shooting in Russia. He had enlisted in the Legion with the bogus papers of a Swiss clerk from the city electric board of Zurich. At the beginning of our new careers we were still careful to avoid any conflict between our filed background stories and our practical military behavior and always feigned the awkwardness that a greenhorn should display. "For God's sake don't try to perform here," we warned Schulze on our first shooting exercise. "You are supposed to be a Swiss clerk and not Wilhelm Tell."

"Oh, damn it all," Erich snapped, grabbing his rifle. "Few people are playing more army games than the Swiss. Every month they are probably shooting more bullets than the Sixth Army ever fired in the battle of Stalingrad. How long are we going to play the amateur? Do you think the French will kick you out because you hit the mark? At three hundred yards I could not miss that blasted board, not even if I wanted to." And without batting an eye he proceeded to put his bullets through the bull's-eye.

"What did you do in civilian life?" Sergeant Maurier queried Schulze.

"In the civilian life, Sergeant? I was in the army tool."

"Which army?" (As if he did not know.)

"The wrong one!" Erich grunted.

Maurier grinned. "I hate your guts, you German bastards," he commented. It was Maurier's pet expression while talking to us. He seemed to use that term even when he wanted to say "well done" or something similar. He must have found immense pleasure in showering us with insulting remarks and acid comments but I cannot really recall his ever having been deliberately mean or unjust. He just hated Germans, and made sure that we always kept that in mind. We were not in love with the French either. Our union was not even a marriage of convenience. It was a shotgun marriage.

Christmas was only five days away when we were sent to practice with heavy machine guns. Firing from eight hundred yards, Bernard Eisner shot his moving target, a mock-up troop carrier, to bits. Watching the display through his binoculars, Sergeant Maurier only grunted a quiet "I hate your guts, you German bastards." He spat and spoke to Eisner. "What were you doing before signing up?"

"Poultry farming!" Bernard replied, snapping- home a fresh magazine.

"I hate your guts," Maurier complimented him again, "but you can shoot It is no wonder that the Allies could not kill you all. I would like to see you shooting it out with the Viet Minh . . . the man-eaters." He chuckled. "Do you know what those yellow apes are shooting with? Poisoned arrows! You get it and the Holy Ghost cannot save you. You are dead in fifteen minutes. For you it might take a bit longer for you are tough. You should have bitten the dust a long time ago but are still around . . . merde!" He spat again. "How I hate your guts, you goddamned German bastards. .. . Rompez!"

He walked away toward a small mound where he had been directing the target practice. As the sergeant moved, Eisner's machine gun slowly arched after him. Bernard's lips were set in a thin line and I saw murder in his eyes.

"Don't shoot, you idiot!" Schulze yelled jumping forward. "Bernard is going to blast Maurier" flashed through my mind. The next instant the fifty-caliber gun was blazing away, spitting a hail of tracers, mercifully past the mound but barely twenty inches from the slightly protruding belly of Sergeant Maurier. The edges of his tunic flipped violently under the tremendous pressure of air as the heavy slugs tore past him. Let it be said to his credit the sergeant did not duck, only paled and stood petrified. The bullets hit a small pine far out in the field, cutting it neatly in half. Eisner rose. He walked to the broken pine, brought it back, and stuck it into the soft earth in front of Maurier.

"Christmas is coming, Sergeant Maurier. The day of love. I know you have a large family to support on a small income. Here is a Christmas tree for your kids. . . . You don't have to buy one!"

Never again would Sergeant Maurier call us German bastards.

Oran, Colomb-Bechar in the African desert . . . one can't say that the soldiers of the Foreign Legion have not received the most grueling training that army recruits could ever experience. The combat readiness of the Legionnaires surely matched the standard of any front line German troops during the war. But one should remember that the majority of the recruits were already experienced veterans when they signed up.

For months we did nothing but train eight to ten hours every day. In a way it was quite understandable. In the desert there was nothing else to do and our corporals and sergeants would rather conduct field exercises than bore themselves to death sweating in the hot oppressive barracks. It never occurred to any staff officer that training in the desert would do little good to troops destined to serve in Madagascar, the Congo, or Indochina. I have to admit that the French were not entirely prejudiced, for even the most hardened German-hater in the High Command would probably agree that a former German officer should know a. great deal more about warfare than, for instance, a North African corporal. Promotion of German veterans on merit was not entirely out of question and before long we were sub-officers ourselves.

We were quite enthusiastic about leaving Africa for Indochina. For most of us the Far East meant only a wonderful pleasure trip at the state's expense: golden pagodas, exotic girls, ample shade against the ever-blazing sun, and maybe diamonds scattered about jungle ravines ready to be collected. Fighting? What could a few thousand wretched rebels do against the cream of the army? We might be compelled to fight a few rapid police actions but no one expected real fights. Besides, who was scared of real fights? We had survived a hundred of them. A couple of forays into the hills, and the rest would be only sightseeing. The sarcastic remark of Major Barbier, "Death will be your constant companion in Indochina," scared no one. The good major obviously hated Germans so immensely that he found pleasure in trying to intimidate us. As for Sergeant Maurier and his "savages with their poisoned arrows," Maurier was an old windbag who considered himself a veteran although the only peril he had ever faced, as Eisner put it, was probably chronic indigestion due to lack of exercise. We knew that he had sat for seven months in the Maginot Line near Strasbourg, fifty feet underground, and then spent the rest of the war in a prison camp in Saxony.

The French have never been famous "housekeepers," but their Indochina household was indeed the most confused political, military, economic, and social mess a colonial power could possibly get itself into. Communism had little to do with the situation. It was a pure, twenty-four-carat French mess! In all my years there I could never really figure out what the French wanted or did not want to do and how they were planning to handle any of the alternatives. In the North it was different. For all his faults. Ho Chi Minh was keeping order, the sort of order the Soviet GPU maintained after the Russian Revolution. Nevertheless it was order. Dead men have no complaints, and when someone is being gently tickled with a bayonet and told to cheer, one cheers! The population of the South was divided among a dozen political parties, religious sects, chiefs and chieftains. Every one of them had a different view on every issue—different aims and modus operandi—but all were corrupt to the core. Each party had its private army composed of common bandits, smugglers, and similar ruffians, often numbering as many as twenty thousand men. They would fight with or against one another or against the French authority. In reality these political groups were nothing but an Oriental version of the Sicilian Mafia, the overlords of city, vice, prostitution, and dope trade. It often happened that a private army would team up with the French for a couple of months to fight the guerrillas or a group of rival rebels. Then they would switch sides and assist the Viet Minh in exterminating a French garrison. They were not driven by any political consideration and fought only to share the spoils. The supreme leader of such an army often sat in a Saigon nightclub and exchanged merry toasts with a French general whose troops were being slaughtered at that very moment only fifty miles away. A few weeks later the same outfit might rejoin the French and be welcomed instead of disarmed, tried, and hanged. It was a total chaos which no orderly German mind could ever hope to comprehend, let alone consent to.

Germans can suffer much hardship but never chaos. Sometimes we felt like grabbing a couple of machine guns to clean out the city, moving from bar to bar, from villa to villa, and from whorehouse to whorehouse, starting with the local police chief, then continuing with such exalted party leaders as Diem and his cabinet—the whole rotten system that turned the country into a quagmire which swallowed up money, material, and men. It was a relief when we were sent out to fight in the jungle. The foul stink of corruption and utter impotence that hung over Saigon was choking us. We celebrated the invasion of the North as the first real action the French had undertaken in Indochina. But unfortunately (and once again) the easy victory was not followed up by the political and social measures that were essential and could have consolidated the French conquest. Instead of cleaning house the French only added a few more garbage dumps to the already existing ones.

Viet Tri, a small village north of Hanoi, had become the headquarters of the Legion. The only benefit that we received from the invasion of the North was that Hanoi seemed less infested with the red ants that pestered our lives in the South. We were still intermixed with troops of every race and creed, the majority of whom were entirely at a loss in the kind of war we were obliged to fight.

The guerrilla movement expanded. Engagements became more frequent and we suffered heavy losses. Mixed troops can never fight well. Men with different experience, stamina, and temperament can only hinder each other. Once we were deployed around a small settlement west of Hanoi, where, according to intelligence reports, a guerrilla attack was expected within a few hours. Bernard Eisner had sent three African Legionnaires by jeep a few miles uproad. Their assignment was to keep a trail under observation. Suddenly we saw the jeep racing back, burning its tires in a cloud of dust. If its crew had fired they would have overtaken their own bullets.

"They are coming!" the men shouted as the vehicle skidded to a screaming halt "We have to move into the woods."

"How many are they?" Eisner wanted to know.

"A thousand!" the North African corporal cried.

Bernard only lit a cigarette and asked for a cup of coffee, remarking, "If there are only a hundred, we will chew them up for breakfast."

"I said a thousand!" The corporal corrected what he thought was a misunderstanding.

"I heard you," Eisner reassured him. "But if you saw a thousand, there are only a hundred or even less."

Eisner was right. We deployed along the road and wiped out the Viet Minh detachment of seventy men. Had we not been there, the North Africans would have evacuated the important road junction and a convoy coming along the road an hour later would have been shot up.

We spent most of our time trying to prop up the faltering platoons or rescuing those whose positions were overrun by the guerrillas. "The eternal German duty," Eisner called it. Steadying a faltering ally, the Rumanians and Hungarians in Russia, the Italians in Africa, the French in Indochina. It was always the same story.

The Viet Minh soon realized on which section to concentrate an attack. They would seldom attack where we deployed. The effectiveness of the opposing fire alone had provided them the essential information as to where the hated Germans were. The enemy avoided us and concentrated on the Africans. But once they managed to break through a wavering flank we could do little about stemming the tide.

In the spring of 1948 we received a new commander. He was a short stocky man with a narrow Clark Gable moustache, dark hair and eyes; a tough, realistic officer who was willing to listen to the advice of experts, even if those experts happened to be ex-Nazi officers. To Colonel Simon Houssong, military service and political issues were two different things. Four days after he took charge of the brigade he called Eisner and me into his office.

"Sit down, gentlemen," he addressed us in a stern but friendly manner. "My name is Colonel Simon Houssong. I am in charge here. I have examined some reports on a few of your achievements in Indochina and I think we will get along together. I am not particularly fond of Nazis but I'm a soldier who fought you in fair combat during the war and I can appreciate soldierly valor. As you probably know by now, you were accepted by the Legion and brought to Indochina to die. You refused to succumb where hundreds of others had perished. I know that you have been sent to accomplish nearly impossible tasks, yet you have survived and returned. From now on we will plan and work within reason and as a team. What you were and what you may have done before joining the Legion is of no importance to me. Now we are only Europeans trying to stem an eastern tidal wave which threatens to bury my country and your country alike. Should the Communists win here, they will spread death and destruction elsewhere, even in Europe. We are in the same boat now and we will have to forget about the past."

We had a long informal talk about the general situation. The colonel seemed impressed by some of our suggestions. Soon our meeting looked more like a conference of general staff officers, rather than one of subordinates listening to their superior officer. The colonel ordered sandwiches and drinks. He addressed us as "Gentlemen" all the time. It was truly refreshing. After the first hour together we began to regard Houssong as shipwrecked sailors might regard a faraway lighthouse.

"I have not much sympathy for Nazis and particularly none for the SS," he repeated. "But I have seen the SS in action—military action I mean," he added with a smile. "Fight with the same zeal and we will get along fine." He went on. "What you have told me makes sense. The Viet Minh do follow Soviet and Chinese guerrilla strategy and tactics. From what you have told me I gather that you could counter them more effectively if given a chance. After all you have known them for a long time." From his desk he took a folder and handed me a thin, typewritten manuscript. "It is a translation of some of Mao Tse-tung's concepts on guerrilla warfare. I am sure you will find most of it familiar from your experience in Russia, but adapted to local conditions. Study the material and bring it back when you are through with it. In the meantime I shall endeavor to concentrate you in a single fighting unit composed only of Germans. Should I succeed, I will see to it that you regain your former ranks."

He shook hands with us, the first French officer to do so. We were not only overwhelmed but almost cried like children. "You do that, man colonel, and we will see that you are the most decorated officer in Indochina," I said with enthusiasm before he dismissed us.

"I am not doing it either for decoration or for your benefit," Colonel Houssong answered quietly but firmly, "I am doing it for France. France should not suffer another defeat—especially not from the hands of Stone-Age savages. Were it for the good of France, I would ally myself with the Devil himself. I don't want to see Red flags flying either in Indochina or from the Eiffel Tower in Paris."

The Viet Minh was not a newcomer in Indochina. They were not a postwar phenomenon as many people may think. The movement was born in the Chinese town of Tienshui, in 1941, with the aim of fighting the Japanese invaders in order to earn the right to self-determination after the war. The leader of the movement was a hardened professional Communist, Ho Chi Minh, who enjoyed the full support of the Allies. American weapons, advisers, and even commando troops had been placed at Ho's disposal during the war, and the Viet Minh had fought the Japanese with resolution and bravery. After Japan's defeat British forces occupied the southern half of the country but soon ceded power and administration to the former French - colonial overlords. Ho Chi Minh felt betrayed, and rightly so. His Viet Minh had not fought the Japanese so that the French could return. When he realized that the Allies were not even willing to talk with him about independence, he dissolved the Communist party and called every Indochinese patriot to gather under the flag of liberation. "Come to us, regardless of your political beliefs or social status," Ho Chi Minh proclaimed. And the people came.

The French reinstituted the corrupt and morally weak emperor Bao Dai, and this move widened the breach between the French and the Indochinese people. Yet there was still a chance to prevent a general war. In August 1945, the unpopular emperor resigned, handing over his powers to Ho Chi Minh, who then established a popular government in the North, composed not only of Communists but incorporating the leaders of various political factions and religious sects. A hundred thousand people gathered on Hanoi's main square to celebrate the birth of the Vietnam Democratic Republic. Strange as it may be now, Ho's guests of honor were not Soviet commissars but United States officers who appeared entirely satisfied with the state of affairs in the North.

Ho Chi Minh had to overcome immense difficulties. The Potsdam conference had partitioned Indochina into two occupation areas and Ho could harbor little hope for uniting the South with the North. After the first general elections in 1946, the Vietnamese parliament still included some of the openly anti-Communist political parties, but the Communists had already taken control of every key position. Elected as the first President of the Republic, Ho Chi Minh assumed dictatorial powers and was free to manage the nation's affairs the way he deemed fit. As a rule, no Communist government tolerates any opposition for long and Ho, too, chose the path of all Communist dictators. He began to liquidate his former non-Communist allies. He still wanted to preserve peace, especially with France, and was even ready to make concessions, promising that he would keep the independent Indochina within the French Commonwealth. But General de Gaulle, the hero of France and head of the government, was fully resolved to restore France to her former glory. The abandonment of an inch of French territory was out of the question. When the Fontainebleau conference ended in failure, Ho's guerrillas began to attack remote French garrisons. General Valluy decided to deliver a lasting lesson to the Communists and (certainly with the consent of the French Government) ordered a massive bombardment of Haiphong. The strike resulted in over 4,000 civilian casualties. Nguyen Giap needed only a few weeks to assemble his guerrillas and retaliate in kind by exterminating a dozen garrisons in the South. The Foreign Legion invaded the North. Ho Chi Minh withdrew into China and the Viet Minh moved into the hills, their former and familiar battlegrounds.

The Indochina war never really had a start and one has to admit that the Viet Minh were not the only ones to be blamed for the general conflagration. British and American political ignorance and senile strategy, along with French arrogance, were even more responsible for the outbreak of the "war without an end," as we used to call it But it was the usual Communist sadism and inhumane brutality that turned the war into massacre and Indochina into a giant slaughterhouse where the opposing forces did not fight so much as butcher each other, with no mercy given or expected.

I was there at the beginning and I know that it was not the French who started the atrocities and what one may rightly call genocide. Genocide is a Communist specialty. Even Hitler's extermination camps were modeled after Stalin's death camps in Siberia. The GPU existed long before the Gestapo was conceived by the Nazis; Ho Chi Minh and Nguyen Giap had been attending the Soviet schools of subversion and murder long before the chimneys of Auschwitz began to smoke.

A curious interlude. . . .

Accompanied by Colonel Houssong and his aide, Lieutenant Derosier, two stern-looking civilians drove up to our barracks. Their visit was a short one but when they departed, Karl Stahnke was taken along with all his possessions. Tough for him, we thought. Stahnke had been a Gestapo agent during the war, the only one among us that we knew of. His life had been an enigma, even in the Legion. Stahnke never talked about his past. Except for some vivid descriptions of the various tortures the "Organization" used to employ, he said nothing of himself. "I was with the Gestapo," he stated flatly and that was that.

Stahnke could not have been a very bright agent, for few clever Gestapo agents were ever caught and prosecuted after the war. Maybe a couple of the lower-ranking bullies, but not the sophisticated experts. The Gestapo men had excellent papers and good connections at home and abroad, in many countries, including those of the victorious Allies. They could safely approach any of their wartime "associates," among them many influential people on whom the Gestapo was holding some compromising files. Eisner was convinced that our former Zurich refugee, the Herr Engineer, the madam, and maybe a few of the higher-ranking Canton officials and police officers had been, in one way or the other, under pressure from the German Gestapo. The fingers of the Gestapo had been very long and God knows what files may have been kept on our Swiss "friends." The Swiss were always good businessmen who would seldom do something for nothing. Stahnke must have been quite inept if his only escape route was the French Foreign Legion.

"That's the last we will see of Stahnke," Eisner remarked. "He should never have come along in the first place. The Deuxieme Bureau has him cold. Why, he even worked in France!"

But Eisner was wrong. We met Karl Stahnke a few months later in, of all places, a Hanoi bar! He was wearing a clean white tropical suit, had plenty of money, and looked quite drunk.

"Merde alors, kameraden," he greeted us cordially, shaking hands, slapping shoulders, pulling over some more chairs. "Don't look at me as if I were a ghost. . . . Sit down. How are you doing?"

"How are you doing, Karl?" Schulze countered. "We thought you had had it."

"Had it? What?"

"With the Deuxieme Bureau."

"Oh, you are talking about those boys," he boomed. He rose. Drawing his chest full of air he fingered the lapels of his expensive suit. "What do you say to this, eh?"

"Don't tell me that you have only been discharged," Eisner said.

"Discharged? It is not that easy to get out of the Legion." He downed his beer and ordered a round for everyone. "No, fellows. Old Uncle Stahnke is doing his familiar and beloved job. They had a dozen captured terrorists at Hue who seemed to know much but wanted to talk little. The French thought that with my experience I might be of better use."

"Hell, man!" Schulze blurted. "Are you telling us that the French know all about your Gestapo business and let you get away with it?"

"I have no idea what the French may know or may not know," Stahnke exploded. "But they sure as hell know something, otherwise they would never have taken me to Hue. Boys," he chuckled, "they have everything that belongs to the trade at Hue. Only the Fuehrer's picture is missing from the walls."

"How about the Frenchmen you worked over in Calais, Karl?"

Stahnke uttered a short derisive snort. "Frenchmen? For the guys I am working with, they weren't Frenchmen but bloody Communists."

"Don't say!"

"And don't you be naive." Stahnke laughed. "Le Grand Chef has a complete list of the fellows I used to entertain at Calais. Do you know what was his comment? 'You've saved us a lot of work and plenty of bullets, Stahnke.' That's what he said. 'Now you make the Commies talk.'"

"Did you make them talk?"

Stahnke laughed drunkenly. "No one has ever refused to talk to good old Uncle Stahnke. I had a very fruitful panel discussion with the Communists the French were holding at Hue. I mean it was fruitful for me. One of the toughs had been at the Agitprop school in Russia. Was he ever stubborn! It took me six hours of convincing to make him sing. But it was entirely his fault. I told him at the very beginning, 'Your game is up so you had better tell Uncle Stahnke everything he wants to know. You will have a quick, painless death. You won't feel a thing.

If you keep your mouth shut, your death is going to be a long, endless cry of agony.' Do you think he appreciated my offer? Like hell he did. He made me work all night, but when I was through with him he sang all the same. He sang like a nightingale, even though I was squeezing his bloody balls with a nutcracker. Then all of a sudden he broke free and came at me with a glowing steel rod which he grabbed from the fire. I had to shoot him in the head."

Stahnke emptied his glass and looked around. "Boys, you had better get ready. Soon there'll be plenty trouble here. The Legion Etrangere will need every German bastard—otherwise the world may wake up one morning to see the hammer and sickle flying from every damned pole from Hanoi to London and from Stockholm to Rome."

Karl Stahnke was well informed both on the coming trouble and the Legion's need for German bastards. In the summer of 1948, all former German troops were carefully screened (this time properly, with a bespectacled French captain quoting the various details of our real backgrounds, from a bulging pile of green, yellow, and red files) and interrogated again. One-time paratroopers, partisan hunters, Brandenburgers, field gendarmes, mountaineers, commandos, Wehrmacht, and SS, were all regrouped into a new battalion. The battalion consisted of about nine hundred men forming three companies. Its future existence or nonexistence was of little Importance to the French High Command. We became a sort of special task force which was to be given minimum support yet expected to accomplish the impossible. The North Africans nicknamed us "The Kamikaze Battalion" and the men would greet us with raised fists crying, "Banzaaai!" Colonel Houssong succeeded in concentrating us in a single fighting unit and even "recovered" some of our former ranks. More he could not do for us. For Paris and the French High Command we were the battalion of the damned. So we set out to earn their respect.
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Re: Devil's Guard, by George Robert Elford

Postby admin » Fri Jan 12, 2018 4:16 am

4. "THE CONVOY MUST GET THROUGH!"

Some North African and other mixed troops of the Foreign Legion were magnificent soldiers, incredibly brave in the attack and tenacious in the defense. What they lacked was proper food and medical care, ample ammunition, timely reinforcements; but most of all they lacked the knowledge of how to combat insurgents. They had been given comprehensive training in conventional combat strategy and tactics in the North African deserts and the barren, rocky mountains such as the Atlas. Then they had been sent to Indochina to wage an unconventional war in the jungles and swamps of a country that was totally alien to them. They had fought bravely and suffered fifty percent casualties. The survivors were regrouped, attacked again, and once more their ranks were decimated by the Viet Minh. They could man a fort or a distant stronghold purely on the defensive, but in the jungles the North African troops were useless. To them the impenetrable green sea of bamboo and lianas seemed utterly hostile, full of unexpected traps, tigers, scorpions, venomous snakes, diseases, and other invisible enemies —among them human enemies whom they could not see, let alone destroy.

With us it was different. We could and did adapt to our new environment and I enforced our new "rules of the game" with vigorous discipline. Being on the average far more intelligent, the former German veterans could put up with more misery yet suffer less than the other troops suffered. I have never regarded my men as only subordinates but as my veteran German comrades in peril. Officers and ranks had been calling each other by Christian names but our intimacy never jeopardized common discipline. When it came to military discipline the otherwise casual "Hello, Hans" or "Damn you, Karl" quickly turned into a "Jawohl, Herr Oberleutnant" or "Yes, sir!"

We used to talk things over and my men understood the importance of keeping themselves clean, healthy, and fit for action. We boiled or purified our drinking water, even in the most adverse circumstances. When we could not do so, we suffered from thirst. Except for climbing steep mountains, one can always move on and make another step forward. The capabilities of a healthy human body are virtually unlimited. One can always go without water for two days even in a land of extreme humidity. In my battalion everyone duly consumed his daily ration of vitamin pills that more often than not we had to purchase from private pharmacists at our own expense. On the road our principal nourishment was rice, sometimes curried, sometimes only boiled, and dried fish, or whatever the jungle could provide. We had purchased large quantities of camphor and menthol creams from which excellent mosquito and leech repellents could be prepared. We had learned that in Russia. Every one of us carried a small mosquito net, good enough to cover one's face and hands while resting in a swamp or near rice paddies after dark. In order to keep fit, sufficient rest was of paramount importance in Indochina. Men with swollen eyes and legs covered with festering sores, men devoid of sleep and tormented by belly cramps could not be expected to fight and defeat the Viet Minh. After the day's march and no matter how worn they may have been, my men had to remove their boots, dry them if wet, clean them inside and outside, and grease the leather to keep the footwear watertight. Also all the weapons had to be cleaned and oiled every evening.

Sometime in 1948 or 1949 I got hold of a book written by a British officer named Spencer Chapman, who had spent several years in the jungles of Malaya leading local guerrillas against the Japanese. His book, The Jungle Is Neutral, I regarded as an alphabet on guerrilla warfare or, for all that, antiguerrilla warfare. For the benefit of my men I held regular daily seminars citing important information from Chapman's book. We used many of the British officer's ruses, such as booby traps hidden in hollow sections of bamboo, with outstanding results. From his descriptions we also learned much about the ideology and psychology of the Communist guerrillas. This gallant officer and former foe forged many "German" victories in Indochina and also saved the lives of many of my men. His book became a sort of Holy Writ on jungle war in my battalion, and in my opinion it was superior to Mao Tse-tung's concepts, the Holy Writ of the Viet Minh. With a couple of field commanders like Spencer Chapman the Foreign Legion would have defeated the Viet Minh in a year.

All the same we also studied Mao's writings on guerrilla warfare and managed to turn many of his ruses against his own Indochinese henchmen. Old Ho Chi Minh must have had a few sleepless nights because of our activities. We always paid off the guerrillas in kind: bomb for bomb, bullet for bullet, murder for murder.

They did not like it.

We defeated the Communists at their own game but never as regulars versus insurgents, rather as guerrillas against guerrillas. War against guerrillas in the jungle is not a war of airplanes and tanks. It is a war of wits.

We introduced ourselves to the Communist chief of staff, Nguyen Giap, in the North, near the Chinese frontier where one of his rugged battalions besieged a small French garrison thirty-two miles from Cao Bang. The garrison consisted of a stockade with blockhouses defended by about one hundred and twenty Legionnaires. The fort had been built by the Japanese, then modernized by the French to guard the road between Cao Bang and Bac Kan farther to the South.

The guerrillas, about six hundred strong, surrounded the stockade and kept it under constant fire from the neighboring woods and hills. The Viet Minh battalion commander, who learned his trade in Mao's militia, decided to extort a quick victory before reinforcements could move in. He lined up forty French prisoners two hundred yards from the palisade, in plain sight of the fort, then sent a message that he was going to execute one prisoner every five minutes until the commander of the fort, a young" French lieutenant, decided to surrender. When the period of grace was over, the Viet Minh proceeded with the executions in a most horrible fashion, obviously with the aim of intimidating the garrison. They chopped off first the right then the left arm of the prisoners, broke their legs with iron bars and finally shot the men in the head one after another—at five-minute intervals.

After the sadistic butchery of ten prisoners the guerrilla commander graciously granted one hour for the French to decide whether they wanted to witness the massacre of ten more prisoners. The mental torment of the lieutenant must have been shattering; he had arrived in Indochina only a few months before, and it was his first real experience with the Viet Minh. As he told us later he had never dreamed that something like this could ever happen in the twentieth century.

The lieutenant's troops were aghast. Several of the Legionnaires in the stockade suffered a nervous breakdown and began to sob like children; one man went berserk and had to be locked up—but that was precisely what the Viet Minh commander had hoped to accomplish by his medieval butchery.

I was on a foray in the vicinity with only one hundred men when I received the order to assist the garrison "by all available means." By the time we managed to establish radio contact, fifteen of the prisoners had already been executed by the terrorists, and the lieutenant was on the verge of raising the white flag. When he learned that we were only one hundred, he almost cried in desperation. "There are more than six hundred terrorists in the woods. You will be slaughtered the moment they spot you," he said. I implored him to hold on.

Knowing that a direct assault on the enemy would be futile, I decided to pull a desperate coup. Instead of rushing to- the aid of the fort, we descended on the nearest villages, which were almost devoid of male population. We knew where the men were!

The headman was led forward in the first village. There was no time to waste. "Point out the family of the Communist commander and name all those whose men folk are assaulting the stockade!" Eisner snapped without preliminaries. The man would not tell. Eisner repeated the question with his gun against the man's temple. He waited for a moment then pulled the trigger. "Bring here three of his kids!" he commanded his troopers, and, as the boys were gathered, their mother ran forward screaming, trying to break the ring of steel. "I will tell you!" she cried. "I will tell you!"

Fifteen minutes later we were on the way toward the stockade, herding over a hundred Viet Minh relatives, the wives and children of the terrorists in front of the column. One of the hostages I sent ahead to the guerrilla commander with the demand that unless he surrendered, their relatives would be executed at five-minute intervals.

I was resolved to show the enemy that terror, brutality, and cold-blooded murder were not their monopoly, a Communist privilege, and that at least my battalion was ready to pay them tit for tat. They understood no other language.

Taking position on a dominant hill about three hundred yards from the enemy, we lined up the guerrilla relatives in plain sight on the edge of a precipice. The Viet Minh commander did not seem to care much for his own family, but his companions did. The shooting around the stockade stopped abruptly; there was a frozen silence, then we heard savage yells and arguments; the enemy camp exploded in a bloody mutiny. The terrorists whose families we were holding began to kill their own superiors and commissars, along with everyone else who wanted to fight on. Then they surrendered.

Our action saved the lives of twenty-four French prisoners and relieved the fort. The hostages were allowed to return home, but all the guerrillas who had surrendered to us were executed on the riverside and their bodies were thrown into the water.

Never in the past had the Viet Minh experienced a similar rebuff, not even under the Japanese. Our swift and stiff action had its effect. For weeks afterwards the terrorists lay low and when we moved into a village there was silence. When we asked questions they were answered without hesitation. The guerrillas held back, measuring us, contemplating, trying to determine the best way to oppose us.

They did not appreciate our kind of warfare.

We were ordered to escort a convoy of trucks with supplies for a beleaguered North African garrison near Tuyen Quang, a hundred and twenty miles from Hanoi. It was the sort of action which ordinary regulars could call a "kamikaze sortie," because in those days to convoy a train of heavy vehicles across Viet Minh-controlled territory could rightly be called a suicide mission. The vehicles had to traverse jungles and valleys with a visibility of fifteen yards on either side; they had to pass a hundred places where a few hidden mines and machine guns could blow everything to smithereens. The French had already tried to rush a convoy through the same route. It had been destroyed by the guerrillas at a jungle section marked in our operational maps as Point 206.

"The convoy must get through," said Colonel Houssong. "Should the guerrillas blast you, we may write off an entire brigade along with a dozen relatively loyal villages."

We had a conference over the maps and aerial photos of the area, but from whichever angle I surveyed the situation, the project appeared grim. I discussed the mission with my officers and we came up with a feasible plan. Since I could not well present our plan to Colonel Houssong, I only stated that I could guarantee the arrival of the convoy only if I was to have a free hand to do the job by whatever means I saw fit.

"Do it, then," Colonel Houssong consented, giving us carte blanche. "The convoy must get through. And not only five trucks but the whole convoy."

I said, "We will take the whole convoy through, mon colonel—or we will never return."

Forward!

At a steady fifteen miles per hour, sometimes even slower. We sat on the leading tank, Schulze and I, surveying the jungle. Behind us came an armored troop carrier but it transported only four soldiers.

The rest of the passengers were civilians. Following the troop carrier came, under the command of Bernard Eisner, a half-track with four mounted loudspeakers. Behind the half-track a column of sixteen trucks loaded with ammunition, food, and other supplies. On the crates more civilians: the families of the local Viet Minh. Many of them we knew by name. They had not been harmed, and we had tried to comfort them with food and water. Of course they were crying, lamenting, but so were all those women and children whose breadwinner had been executed by the terrorists for no worse offense than a refusal to join them.

"The convoy must get through!" the colonel had said. We were resolved to take it through. We were also resolved to stay alive in the process—two hundred men against more than a thousand enemy in the area. The enemy was holding all the trump cards, save for one strong ace that we were holding— their families!

Ahead of us lay the jungle, and traversing the jungle, a dirt road. On either side dense underbrush, a treacherous green sea of weeds that had swallowed up many convoys and many men. When we entered the first Communist-controlled village, we had found only old people, women, and children at home. Every man of military age —husbands, fathers, brothers, and sons—had been absent. We had known where they were—not very far away. A large army convoy represented plenty of booty for the guerrillas. When they saw us coming, they had grabbed their weapons and had withdrawn into the woods.

My earphone crackled. Eisner was reporting: "We shall be at point two-o-six in five minutes."

Point 206, where only ten days ago the guerrillas had exterminated another convoy, blowing up twelve trucks and killing ninety men. Afterwards the enemy had withdrawn into the jungle, taking everything that could be removed. The "Paras" went to search the villages but could find no trace of either guerrillas or of the stolen army hardware. Of course the Paras had known only too well where the culprits were; at home in their villages, tending the fields, milking cattle, or carting vegetables to the markets of Hanoi. The stolen goods and the guerrilla weapons had been safely hidden to be used another day.

Searching the villages would never do much good. The Viet Minh had known better than to leave incriminating evidence lying about. The French High Command had been frustrated. The generals could not order the arrest of the entire male population of a dozen villages and cart them off for investigation.

Point 206, "Massacre Valley," as the Paratroops had called the place. Eisner's loudspeakers came to life, calling the hidden terrorist leaders.

"Commissar Thiu Xhan . . . Commissar Thiu Xhan. Your wife, Lha, is asking you not to attack the convoy. . . . Your children, only ten, eight, seven, and five want to live and grow up. Can you hear us, Commissar Thiu Xhan? . . . Your wife and children are riding on truck number four. They will be released unharmed when we arrive at our destination...."

Forward!

At a steady fifteen miles per hour. The road disappeared around a bend. As though we were riding inside a tunnel of creepers, frontal visibility was fifty yards; to the left or to the right—nil. The turret hatch of our tank was open with Schulze and I riding astride; our closest companions were three Viet Minh prisoners; two of them former propagandists, the third one a Viet Minh company leader. We had fastened them to the turret. The prisoners belonged to the same terrorist outfit which we expected to encounter on the road to Yen Bay.

We rode in plain sight. It was like a game of poker between professional gamblers on either side of the table. But our table was two hundred square miles of jungle. The stakes: three hundred lives. We were playing out a strong ace which our partners had not taken into consideration.

The loudspeakers blared constantly.

"Manh Ghiu . . . Manh Ghiu . . . Think of your wife and children, traveling in the second truck. They are safe as long as you hold your fire."

The convoy must get through!

In those days the guerrilla setup was somewhat different. Viet Minh units which terrorized a district did not come from any other part of the country but operated within a twenty-to-fifty-mile circle around their own villages. We based our plans on that very fact. Entering the first hostile locality we had rounded up all the guerrilla relatives and loaded them on to our vehicles, then we rested for fifteen minutes, giving time for the Viet Minh runners to spread the news.

The convoy rolled and the loudspeakers blared, calling every known or suspected guerrilla by his name.

"Huo Tanh . . . Huo Tanh . . . Your wife and three children, Sue, Tan, and Minh, are begging you not to shoot at the convoy. They are traveling in the number seven truck-----"


"Pam Phu from Nguyen . . . Pam Phu from Nguyen ... At this very moment you may be sighting a machine gun.

. . . Shoot well, Pam Phu, for your father Hanh and wife , Shiri are with us in the troop carrier!"

The convoy must get through. We will take it through!

"Ming Ghue . . . Ming Ghue ... we don't know where you are but we do know where your sons are, Ming Ghue. . . . They are riding in truck number six! Are you going to kill them, Ming Ghue? Then fire your gun. . . . Fire your gun and they will all die. Can you hear us, Ming Ghue?"

Forward!

Another bend. Behind the bend a dozen large logs blocked the road—the usual terrorist preparation for ambush. The convoy stopped. It was now or never.

With the engines cut, silence fell on the stationary vehicles. I could hear the sharp clicks as my men bolted home cartridges. I could hear my heart throbbing.

We took no cover. One should display confidence in a battle of nerves. No shooting yet. ... A woman was speaking through the loudspeakers. Her faltering voice was choked with emotion and fear. .

"Commissar Thiu . . . Thiu my husband . . . There are eighty women and fifty children in this convoy, among them our own children. . . . We were not harmed and the soldiers gave us food. They will release us near Yen Bay. ... If you fire on the convoy, you will shoot us too. ..."

Five minutes went by, yet no attack came. Our ace was holding good. It was a very mean card, but in a very mean war one cannot play the fair gentleman or one will perish. The convoy will arrive. Not only five trucks but the whole convoy. There will be rewards. I could already imagine the headlines of L'Humanite in Paris: "SS killers at large in Indochina, slaughtering innocent civilians." The living hostages will be "slaughtered civilians" in Paris and in the leftist press. And, of course, they were innocent. Always innocent, even while blazing away with mortars or machine guns. Those who shot poisoned arrows into the backs of the sentries or the guerrilla wives who had once tried to plant cholera-infected human refuse into the wells of a garrison—they, too, had been innocent The Communists are always innocent.

The roadblock had to be removed.

"Commissar Thiu . . . Can you hear us Commissar Thiu? We are going to remove your roadblock. . . . Our men will carry no weapons and if you kill them, we shall consider it cold-blooded murder. For every one of them killed, three of your own will pay with their lives. We are not North Africans, Commissar Thiu. We are Germans! You have surely heard of us in the Soviet schools. You have never met us before but you will soon find out that we are not beginners. We were fighting Communist marauders long before you learned how to load a rifle. We shall give you bomb for bomb, bullet for bullet, and murder for murder. ... Do you hear us, Commissar Thiu? We are removing your roadblock and we are moving on...."

Karl Pfirstenhammer and twenty men began to work on the logs, roping them to the tank one by one. The engine roared and the logs moved. Fifteen minutes later the road was clear. We had won the first round.

Forward!

The valley widened and we came upon the charred skeletons of the vehicles of another convoy. We passed the graves of those who had traveled in them.

More woods—more bends. No one could tell what might be waiting for us beyond a bend. Our tank churned around the bend.

Halt!

A lone guerrilla was standing on the road waving a white flag. For a second time the convoy stopped bumper to bumper. The guerrilla spoke fluent French. "You cannot move on," he said, his face full of hatred. "The road is mined. We had no time to remove the mines."

I glanced at Erich Schulze. He began to laugh, loudly, hysterically. "Wonderful," he mumbled, dropping from the turret. He leaned with his head against the armor shaking with laughter. "Hans, you have pulled this one all right. . . . Don't ever tell it in Hanoi or they'll call you the bloodiest liar who ever lived."

I walked up to the guerrilla. He was a young man, maybe thirty years old, wearing a gray canvas overall and a pair of French army boots. His bearing told me that he was of some rank. We stood for a while sizing up each other. I could see no fear in his eyes, only hatred, defiance, fanaticism— the well-known symptoms of the "Red Malady."

They had mined the road but had changed their minds.

"We need thirty minutes to free the road," said he and the muscles in his face twitched. The man was nervous, outplayed, frustrated.

"Tres bien, man ami," I replied quietly. "Do it fast." I jerked a thumb toward our three captive guerrillas prominently roped to the turret of the tank. "Your comrades are not very comfortable up there and we have yet a long way to go."

"It will be your last ride, you swine!" he sneered, his eyes ablaze with savage courage. "We will skin you alive for this!"

"You may swear as much as you like, mon ami," I shrugged. "You are holding a flag of truce."

"Yes!" Schulze interposed, stepping to the guerrilla. "Would you mind putting it down for a moment? Just long enough for me to smash your face, you little yellow ape, you jungle midget. We have eaten bigger boys than you are for breakfast in Russia."

"Hold it, Erich!"

The guerrilla fixed his eyes on me.

"You are in charge here?"

"It could be___"

"You have my wife and children with you."

"Most unfortunate."

"I want to see them."

"At your beautiful little town of Yen Bay—let us hope."

"I want to see them now!"

"If you wish to surrender," I suggested, lighting a cigarette, "you may even join them on the truck. The ride is free."

He spat contemptuously, barely missing my boots. A tough one!

"I shall never surrender," he hissed, his voice full of malice. "I shall see you all dead and rotting in the jungle."

"The Russians wanted the same and they had a great deal more bullets than what you have, mon ami," Schulze sneered. "And they were the masters. You are only little apprentices. That little." He showed it with his open fingers. "If you want to see us dead, you will have to kill us nine times over."

Standing in the bend we could see a dozen camouflaged men working on the road further down, digging up mines, filling ditches, removing more logs.

"Where is your esteemed Commissar Thiu?" I spoke to the terrorist. 'This is a good time for mutual introduction. I would like to see him."

"You will see him soon enough," said he. "Thiu always inspects the enemy corpses!"

A witty one as well.

Schulze stepped right up to him. The frail form of the five-foot Viet Minh seemed to shrink even more against the background of Erich's muscular shoulders and six-foot-two-inch frame.

"Your Thiu spent a long time in Russia, learning the Communist ways of setting the world afire." He spoke slowly but his voice was a long spell of threats. "You will soon learn that we have also attended some classes in Russia. Thiu won't be the first Red commissar whom we have hanged."

"That I can believe," the guerrilla sneered, pursing his lips in contempt. "Using women and children to shield your tanks. Great fighters are you—you Germans! The French must really be hard up to have needed you here to fight their wars."

Schulze smiled. "You don't like our kind of warfare, do you? But you will see more of it, worse than what you are seeing now. The days of your hideand- seek games with the Legion are over. You may have played your killing games with the apprentices, my friend, but now the professors are coming, the experts. Do you know what the Russians used to call us? The headhunters! That's right. And we know the rules of all your games. We have played them before a thousand times against those who taught you. You may run into the jungle when you see us coming but beware when you see us leaving, for you may find no village to go back to."

There was a yell, and the guerrillas vanished from the road.

The emissary glanced at his watch. It appeared an expensive one, probably taken from the wrist of a French officer. "You may start in ten minutes," he said. "We shall let you pass here. We have no choice. You leave our people at Yen Bay."

"Don't worry, friend. We always keep our part of a bargain."

He snapped. "Don't call me a friend. It is an insult!"

"I will remind you of that when we meet another day," I replied.

"I hope we will meet." '

"So do we."

We drove on and reached the next village without trouble. There we released some of our hostages and took new ones. Knowing the Viet Minh, I doubted if they would care much about a dozen strange civilians from a distant village. I decided to keep our involuntary cargo up-to-date all the way.

It was getting toward noon and the sun began to blaze in earnest. Riding abreast the tank turret, the three Viet Minh chieftains really suffered. Schulze released them during our rest in the village and gave them food and water. One of the guerrillas, the former company leader, had had enough. Having come from the neighborhood, the man appeared increasingly distressed when the time came to get on the road again. While he was being escorted back to the tank, he told his guard that he wanted to speak to Schulze (Erich had comforted him with a few cigarettes during the morning ride). "I want to talk to your commander," he whispered. "I must see him alone."

"So be it," Schulze nodded without demanding an explanation. We had heard similar requests before. When a guerrilla decided to say something it always had to be in private. I walked a few dozen yards into the jungle and Erich brought the man over.

"What's up, Tan Hwan?" I spoke to the man without preliminaries.

He glanced around nervously, making sure that we were well out of sight and hearing; then he said with great urgency in his voice, "You cannot go on this road to Yen Bay. . . ." He broke off abruptly as though still not quite decided how much to tell. "It is ... it is...."

I offered him a cigarette. "What is wrong with the road, Tan Hwan?"

"Everybody will die. You, the women, the children."

"The others have not been hurt."

I was becoming a bit impatient with his long prologue before getting to the point. "What is it, then?" I snapped. "Say what you want to say."

He said, "Lieutenant ... I have been studying in France. I am an engineer—"

"To the point, Tan Hwan!" I cut in sharply. "I am not curious about your life story."

"I've decided to quit this senseless war," he went on quickly. "I want to see my country free but not at such a price. Intelligent people do not shoot at each other. They talk. This is becoming more and more senseless, more and more out of hand."

"We did not start it, Tan Hwan," Schulze interposed. "And if you are an engineer, you should be intelligent enough to know that if the French really wanted to fight, no Viet Minh could ever defeat them. What do you want to tell us about the road?"

"Will you set me free?"

"Do you want to change sides?" I asked him somewhat skeptically.

"I don't want to change sides. I want to save those women and children, and your lives as well. Then I want to get away from it all."

"Turn around!" I commanded briskly.

He obeyed, turning slowly—a puzzled look, mixed with anxiety, on his face. Taking my knife I cut away the ropes around his wrists.

"Now, suppose you tell us about the road."

"Bamboo bombs!" he exclaimed. "Hundreds of them ... only ten miles from here. Do you have a map?"

Schulze opened his map case for the former guerrilla leader.

"Here!" Tan Hwan pointed out a section of woods. "Right here, near the streams. You can never pass."

"By now the guerrilla commander knows that we took hostages."

"Kly wouldn't care. He was educated in China and for him only the Party matters. If you blow up on the bombs, he will display the corpses of the women and children as though they were massacred deliberately by you."

"I see___"

So it was to be bamboo bombs, I thought. I had seen a few of those devilish native inventions: a ball of bamboo leaves packed solid under a netting of wire, filled with high explosive or grenades and hundreds of short, sharpened bamboo fragments, stakes with their points frequently poisoned. Fitted with a primer to act on pressure, or by trip wire, the football-size bombs could easily mow down a platoon. Also, since they were green, it was almost impossible to spot them against the foliage.

"Many of the bombs are suspended from the trees," Tan Hwan explained. "If they fall on the trucks, they will kill everyone."

"How do you know so much about them?"

He paused, wiped his perspiring face, then said, "I designed them, Lieutenant The whole trap, and many others before."

"You must have killed quite a few Frenchmen, Tan Hwan."

"I know," he admitted. "I saw them dying. They died horribly."

He asked for another cigarette. Schulze gave him a whole pack. The man broke four matches trying to light his cigarette.

"Is there an ambush in the making as well?" Erich asked.

"No, not immediately. The men are farther up in the hills. But they could not remove the bombs anyway. The Viet Minh will attack only after the bombs have exploded. I know a bypass," Tan Hwan added after a pause. "Will you still set me free?"

"You are free! I am going to give you a pass to Hanoi."

"I don't want to go to Hanoi. I am going to Saigon. No one knows me there."

"Where is your family?"

"I have no family. The Japanese killed them."

"We will get you to Saigon, Tan Hwan."

We had to cover up his sudden defection, and I knew the best way of doing it. I told Schulze to escort Tan Hwan farther down the road where he could board the tank without being seen by his companions or the civilians. I drew my revolver. "Now yell!" I told him. "Yell as loud as you can . . . Long live Ho Chi Minh . . . Down with the French colonialists." As he yelled, I fired five bullets into the woods. "Now you won't have to be afraid of any Viet Minh revenge, Tan Hwan," I told him as I reloaded my gun. "Cheer up! You have just been executed. Old Ho might even give you a posthumous medal."

"Come!" Erich urged him and the two walked down the road. I returned to the convoy. The two other guerrillas had already been returned to the tank turret. I ordered them removed to truck eleven.

They had seen us marching off with Tan Hwan, had heard the yells and the five shots. Now they saw me returning without their companion. "You shot him!" one of the captives yelled at me. "You killed him in cold blood. . . . Remember this day, officer. . . . Remember this day." The man cursed all the way back along the convoy, lamenting the fate of the "martyred" Tan Hwan.

Mounting the tank, I called Pfirstenhammer in the troop carrier. "Karl, you stay put with the convoy for about five minutes, then follow us."

"O.K., Hans!"

Driving on with the tank we picked up Schulze and Tan Hwan. Similar tricks had worked well in occupied Russia where we used to "execute" a large number of turncoats every day, especially for the benefit of their families still living in the shadow of Stalin and the secret police.

Forward!

Tan Hwan was as good as his word. He showed us the bypass, a cleverly arranged diversion through a dry, shallow ravine. But we could not leave that deadly booby-trapped section of road behind for other troops to fall into. Tan Hwan had already mentioned that the guerrilla camp was farther up in the hills and that the enemy was waiting for the explosions before attacking the convoy.

It did not take long for us to prepare a counter-trap. Leaving the convoy in the sheltered ravine we hauled ten large gasoline drums and a few ammo cases onto the road. At a safe distance, Riedl parked two trucks at awkward angles, one of them with its front wheels in a ditch, with its doors and windows wide open. The vehicles appeared to be broken down and abandoned. The tank was driven partly off the road, its turret turned around with the gun pointing against a tree barely five feet from the muzzle. Around the tank and the vehicles we planted a few oily rags and dumped some diesel oil on the ground.

Not far from the trap a narrow footpath ran up towards the hills, the path of the terrorists. "They should be coming down on that path," Tan Hwan explained. "When they hear the explosions, they won't be long. There is no other way for them to come."

Taking a hundred men from the convoy we proceeded to establish a ring of steel about the place. Schulze and thirty headhunters took care of the path. Pfirstenhammer, with two platoons carrying light machine guns and flamethrowers, went down the road to seal the escape route toward Yen Bay. Eisner and forty men deployed on the far side of the "abandoned" vehicles, between the road and the ravine. Riedl remained in charge of the convoy and I stayed in the tank with Tan Hwan, the driver, and the two gunners.

I called to my companions in German. We never spoke French on the wireless. Everyone was ready.

Eisner fired a short burst into the gasoline drums. They burst into flame and began to explode, setting off the ammo crates; in a matter of seconds the place looked like hell, with thick black smoke rising above the woods. Ten minutes later Schulze radioed: "They are coming, Hans!" "Let them pass!"

I signaled to Eisner, who thereupon sent a couple of men to set fire to the rags which had been scattered near the vehicles. The scene was indeed very realistic. Everything on the road seemed to be afire. "They are passing now," Schulze reported again. "About two hundred of them."

"Hold your fire, Erich," I warned him. "It is damned difficult," he replied in a subdued voice. "We could kick them in the ass."

I closed the turret hatch down to a few inches to permit observation and soon saw the first batch of guerrillas spilling from the bushes, swarming onto the road. "Xung! Phong!" they screamed. "Forward! Kill!" The "dead" tank suddenly came to life. Backing onto the road, we began to fire pointblank into the terrified mob. Eisner and his machine gunners began to play their own music and from the trail Schulze closed in with guns blazing. We had the enemy in the bag.

On the road a few dozen terrorists had already fallen, others had dropped beside the road, wounded or dying. Realizing that they had run into a trap, the guerrilla commander wanted to withdraw but bumped into Schulze's outfit. Turning toward the ravine, they were beaten back by Eisner's machine gunners. On the road, Pfirstenhammer's platoon was pushing them back with MG's and flamethrowers spitting fifty-foot flames. It was massacre.

The enemy had only one way to flee—through the booby-trapped patch of forest, a bit of real estate which I cheerfully permitted them to have. About seventy of the survivors now began to throw away their weapons. We stopped firing at them but kept the flamethrowers working, pushing the demoralized mob farther back on the road, step by step into their own trap with the bamboo bombs and God knows what else. They would either run or get roasted.

The trap did the rest. A quarter of an hour later we could still hear explosions and death cries coming from the woods.

Climbing from the turret, I heard a sudden blast inside the tank. Dropping back inside I saw Tan Hwan falling from his seat, blood oozing from his head. Somehow he had gotten hold of our driver's gun and had shot himself in a moment of anguish. He was our only casualty.

The convoy arrived at its destination. Not only a few trucks but the whole convoy. The Viet Minh had begun to know us in the way we wanted them to know our battalion.

Bomb for bomb! Bullet for bullet! Murder for murder!

They had enjoyed many years of unpunished rampaging. We were resolved to put an end to it. We were determined to make their lives a prolonged cry of agony.

We succeeded.
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Re: Devil's Guard, by George Robert Elford

Postby admin » Fri Jan 12, 2018 4:16 am

5. OPERATION "TRIANGLE"

Colonel Simon Houssong was a calm and considerate officer who seldom lost his temper. But the extermination of a battalion under the command of Captain Arnold Lorilleaux must have hurt him deeply. Apart from having been a much-decorated officer of the Second World War, the unfortunate captain had also been a brother-in-law of the colonel.

It was well after midnight when he sent a corporal to request my immediate attendance. "The colonel is in his office," the corporal informed me. "He hasn't left his desk tonight, except to get another bottle. He's been drinking all evening."

I was already in bed but dressed quickly and hurried over to our headquarters. In the corridor I ran into Lieutenant Derosier, Colonel Houssong's ADC. Derosier was carrying a small tray of coijee. "Here!" he said, handing me the tray. "Take it to him. Maybe he will listen to you."

"What's wrong with the colonel?"

Derosier shrugged. "Lorilleaux!" he said. "The old man just can't digest the news yet."

I entered the office and closed the door behind me. Stripped to his undershirt, Colonel Houssong was standing at the open window with his forehead resting against the mosquito netting. He was holding an almost empty bottle of Calvados and the room was strewn with papers and broken glass. Slipping the tray onto the desk, I reported. "First Lieutenant Hans Wagemueller, at your request, mon colonel." He turned slowly and came toward me, wiping his face with a towel. Taking another gulp from the bottle, he tossed it into the waste basket.

"First Lieutenant Hans Wagemueller," he repeated with a hint of mockery in his voice. "Sit down, Wagemueller . , . Sturmfuhrer Wagemueller, the Lord High Executioner of the Waffen SS . . . or the French Foreign Legion . . . It does not matter which, does it?"

"Would you like some coffee, mon colonel?"

"To hell with your coffee," he roared, pushing the tray aside and spilling coffee over his desk. "Leave it!" he stopped me when I jumped to rescue some of his papers. "We have a far greater mess to worry about." He paused for a moment, then dropped behind his desk, turned on the fan and looked at me with his eyes drawn. "Do you know why I called you?"

"Out, mon colonel."

"You go and put those bloody bastards to rot, Wagemueller," he breathed with hatred in every word. "The whole village . . . they were all feasting over the corpses of Lorilleaux and his men." His fist came down heavily on the table. "Seven hundred and twelve men, Wagemueller. All dead! You go and get those bastards who killed Arnold. . . . "Give them a first-class SS treatment. Spare nothing and no one except babes in their cribs. If this is the kind of enemy you were fighting in Russia, then many of your SS buddies were hanged quite innocently. I fought you in the Ardennes, at the Meuse, in North Africa, but now I am beginning to think that I may have fought the wrong enemy all the time."

"Mon colonel—"

"Shut up, Wagemueller! Those poor devils must be buried and the murderers put to rot. I know what you wanted to say. I will leave it to you how to go about it. You will manage it somehow. You always do."

"Do you want prisoners, mon colonel?"

"To hell with them!"

"Oui, mon colonel!"

It was an order I could appreciate: "I will leave it to you how to go about it." In my opinion it was the only sort of order a field commander in Indochina could act upon with responsibility and return with results. After studying the maps and aerial photos it took us less than three hours to prepare "Operation Triangle," one of our most successful raids on a Viet Minh stronghold. Every local landmark on our operational maps was given a German code name. The target village, a heavily fortified terrorist stronghold deep in the mountains (now in Laos), was renamed "Altdorf." Similarly we referred to Hanoi only as "Hansastadt" and to Saigon as "Schwaben." The river which we were to cross, the Nam Ou, we called "Schelde." The expedition was to be an extended one, over two hundred miles, with the last stage of it to be covered on foot.

The enemy was aware of our coming. For three days we had been advancing on the open road, following the tracks of the unfortunate French battalion. Air reconnaissance reported that the plank bridge across the river was still intact, as I suspected it would be. Why should the terrorists demolish a bridge across which Captain Lorilleaux and his seven hundred men had so conveniently marched into oblivion? The Viet Minh invitation had been left open for us too. Intelligence estimated the number of guerrillas in and around the village at more than a thousand men.

Had there not been seven hundred bodies beyond that plank bridge, I could have laughed at the guerrilla's naivete. The Viet Minh, in fact, always planned with a certain amount of naivete, seldom conceiving a plan of great complexity. Even today, the Vietcong guerrillas are only repeating the well-worn ruses of the Viet Minh, their forerunners. It was never guerrilla ingenuity but only French ignorance that fostered spectacular terrorist coups. Superior weapons mean little in the jungle and superiority in numbers could also be an unimportant factor. A thousand tough experts may cause more damage to the enemy, spread more terror, destroy more of their ranks than a division of green recruits can. My head-hunters had often destroyed Viet Minh detachments three times their number, accomplishing more with their bayonets than other units of the Legion ever accomplished with artillery.

The bridge was intact, open and inviting. The only thing missing was a placard saying "Please cross." On the way toward the river we collected ample evidence of the persistent terrorist surveillance we had been subjected to from sunrise to dusk. As a rule, we trusted no one and considered every native Indochinese a potential enemy, unless half of his or her family had been executed by the Viet Minh. From their ranks we selected our few but trusted guides. They had been truly loyal to us and we respected them highly. We had some routine precautionary measures that we always took, "the rules of survival." If we passed by some rice paddies, for instance, where a few dozen peasants were at work, Eisner would give the word: "Abwehrmannschaft abtreten!" and six of our sharpshooters would quietly drop into the roadside underbrush, carrying telescopic rifles with silencers attached— a formidable weapon against guerrillas. The column would march on as though nothing had happened. Sometimes, and as soon as the army was out of sight, some peasants would turn into armed terrorists, taking off after the column head over heels. Our sharpshooters would drop them before they reached the jungle.

It was also one of our tricks to pass a Viet Minh-controlled village without bothering a soul. The column would vanish into the hills, except for the sharpshooters, who would drop back to cover every exit. In ninety percent of all cases, Viet Minh messengers or even groups of guerrillas would emerge from the village and depart in a hurry. The silencer-equipped guns were excellent for dropping them quickly and quietly. Indeed, our marksmen were capable of hitting a dozen terrorists within a few seconds, starting invariably with the last man in a line or group. Erich Schulze had once eliminated five running guerrillas, repeating aloud, "Mitte-mittemitte- mitte-mitte"—"Center-center . . . ," pulling the trigger at each word which corresponded with one shot per second. We had used the same ruse in occupied Russia and invariably it worked.

Nevertheless we could not have possibly eliminated all the Viet Minh observers. Some vital information, however, we would never let them learn: our exact strength, equipment, and combat order. Where the enemy observed only three hundred men carrying light weapons, in reality there were seven hundred troops equipped with mortars, machine guns, flamethrowers, and two 4 CM rifles.

For three days we had been advancing in a fashion which we called the Frachtzug—Goods Train—for it was a slow but very effective process. Group One, code named ATA, with myself in command, was the only force the Communists had been allowed to see. We moved openly during the day but never covered more than ten to fifteen miles and always camped down for the night. We set up what was in reality only a decoy camp, for as soon as darkness fell most of our force would quietly evacuate the camp to deploy on the flanks.

Group Two, ROTKAPCHEN, and Group Three, PER-SIL, each consisted of two hundred and fifty men. They were strictly stationary during the hours of daylight and remained camouflaged in the jungle. While ATA was advancing, the two other groups rested. ROTKAPCHEN and PERSIL moved only at night, sometimes toward a predetermined assembly point, sometimes by simply "riding the beam," the radio beeps transmitted regularly by Group One. For a short time we had tried using dogs to guide troops at night but the Viet Minh soon killed them off by leaving poisoned bits of meat along the trails. We never succeeded in training the dogs not to snatch food from the ground.

By dawn, Group Two and Group Three would arrive at the place where Group One had spent the night. Dispersing and taking cover before sunrise, the troops would settle down for another day while ATA penetrated deeper and deeper into the hills in plain sight of the enemy, Group One—the decoy.

Helmut Riedl, a one-time Brandenburger, was in charge of ROTKAPCHEN. Riedl was a tall blond Prussian, a tough and resourceful fighter who spoke little but did lots of shooting. During the war he had fought in Yugoslavia and in Greece, then spent two more years in Italy. Riedl had lost his wife and children during an air raid on Erfurt in 1943. After his tragic loss he did not care about being killed, which is probably why he had survived without receiving more than a few superficial wounds.

In the spring of 1944, the Americans overran the small Italian village from which Riedl was directing the fire of an artillery battery a few miles away. With Shermans and half-tracks swarming on the main square, Helmut coolly remained and continued to radio trajectories from the tower. When the artillery commander asked him by wireless the target concentration of enemy trucks in the area, Riedl cast a glance at the motorized multitude down below the belfry and replied flatly, "Fire on me." He survived that and received the Iron Cross for it. He wore the medal proudly in Indochina, something most of my men did, wearing their Wehrmacht badges, battle insignias, SS emblems, Marine daggers, belts, and the like. Almost everyone had kept a souvenir from the grand old days of glory. Those old relics seemed to inspire them, or to reinforce their superstitious belief in survival. Before embarking on a particularly perilous mission, they would often say jokingly: "Good luck and fight well. Old Adolf is watching you."

Leading PERSIL, Karl Pfirstenhammer was a veteran headhunter who would take an order and execute it, never looking for an excuse, never lamenting about difficulties. When an especially dangerous mission had to be carried out, Karl would never order any of his men to do the job; instead he would say, "There are some rats in that tunnel. We'll have to smoke them out. Who is coming with me?"

We had our own codes in German, a definite advantage over the Viet Minh. The enemy intelligence had often broken the French Army code (or rather the Chinese or Russian experts had done the job for them). Another important rule we always observed: In order to communicate with a sister unit only two miles away, we never used short-range walkie-talkies but only high-powered transmitters with a range of several hundred miles. In the early fifties the Viet Minh and especially their Chinese patrons possessed some electronic devices, among them the wireless range finder. Tuning in on our short-range sets, the enemy could have deduced that somewhere within a radius of a few miles there was another hostile group to be considered. By using a powerful set to call troops barely three miles away, we could frustrate the enemy experts. And even if the Viet Minh did have the means of breaking a code in German (a very doubtful proposition), what could they have learned from a message which we had for instance transmitted before the big attack in Operation Triangle?

"ATTENTION WAR GAMES: ATA-ROTKAPCHEN-PERSIL. DIRECTION CROCODILE! SAUNA AT SCHELDE FOUR AGAINST ALTDORF TRIANGLE IN EFFECT. BIG WHEEL! TURNING FIVE TIMES UNDER YELLOW STARS."

In our code "sauna" indicated river crossing. "Crocodile" was the plank bridge. "Big wheel" translated into complete encirclement, "five times" meant five o'clock with the attack to begin upon yellow lights.

We reached the river on schedule, in the early evening hours. We saw nothing of the enemy but that was expected. The Viet Minh wanted to say "good-night" to us on the other side of the bridge and farther inland. The enemy had, of course, observed the arrival of Group One but all details had been obscured by the advancing darkness. Of Groups Two and Three they knew nothing, at least so we hoped. When it was dark enough, I split Group One: Bernard Eisner took charge of two hundred men who were to cross the bridge at dawn and advance "dutifully" into the guerrilla trap, a steep ravine two miles from the river. The "Suicide Commando," as Eisner remarked not entirely without reason. But by dawn, my hundred men and our two other groups would have deployed in the hills around Altdorf behind the enemy. Riedl and Pfirstenhammer were to cross the river five miles upstream from the bridge. My hundred men from ATA would ford the river three miles below the bridge and Eisner was to hold the guerrillas' attention on the center group.

The complete encirclement of the enemy before the actual attack commenced had always been our principal tactical aim. The guerrillas dreaded nothing more than having their rear blasted and occupied. They were brave men, capable of standing up to severe punishment, but only as long as they knew that their escape routes were open. The moment their "emergency exits" had been bolted shut, their ranks crumbled into something that resembled a panicky mob, not a fighting force.

Timing was of the utmost importance. We had to reach our positions around the village by dawn. Otherwise, Eisner and his two hundred men would have little chance of surviving a major Viet Minh drive in the valley. The diversion at the village itself should coincide with Eisner's crossing the bridge. "Just keep going in third gear," Bernard said to me before we parted, "or the lightning will sure hit the latrine here!"

Leaving them at the bridge, I led my men downstream to a point where it was shallow enough to ford. We crossed and took to the hills immediately, following a narrow depression that we had discovered on an old, wartime Japanese map. Strangely enough this very important ravine had been missing from every contemporary French map of the area. More than once we discovered the superiority of vintage Japanese Army maps; they were more detailed and more correct. They gave us valuable data on sources of drinking water, possible river crossings, areas frequently foggy, cliffs dominating a particular area, abandoned hamlets, ruins, and so on. Thickly or sparsely foliaged forest had also been carefully marked. Thanks to the meticulously precise Japanese cartographers we covered ten miles in about six hours over a very difficult terrain.

There was good order in Japan—as there used to be in Germany. The French housekeeping was nothing but a giant whorehouse from maps to machine guns. Nothing ever functioned properly. Not even the Water closets.

Apart from large rocky sections which delayed us every now and then, we were able to push forward in a relatively straight line and at good speed over the spongy soil, formed by the fallen leaves. The machine guns, rifles, flamethrowers, light mortars, and ammo cases weighed heavily on my men, and to avoid wearing them out, I allowed five-minute rests for every fifteen minutes of climbing.

About an hour after we had crossed the river the moon appeared through the drifting clouds and made our uphill journey much easier. Sometimes we struck open sections where we had to keep to the shadows of the trees, skirting the clearings. No one was permitted to speak except in whispers, but by imitating the clicking sound of the gecko lizards, our advance guard had at times informed us that everything appeared clear. To signal danger, we imitated the call of the jungle owl.

Some three miles from the river the forest ended abruptly and we found ourselves on the edge of an open slope leading up to the crest of Hill 124, our first objective. According to the aerial photos, Hill 124 dominated the valley in which Captain Lorilleaux and his battalion had been slaughtered to the last man. We took possession of the crest and left behind a platoon under the command of Corporal Karl Stolz. We pushed on toward our second and third objectives, Hills 125 and 126. The guns and ammo seemed to have doubled in weight and I felt sorry for Riedl's group, struggling somewhere in the opposite hills. They were transporting the heaviest MG's and the dismantled 4 CM rifles along with the shells.

Another two miles and we arrived at the crest of Hill 125. A few dim lights of the distant village could be seen. The valley, where over a thousand Viet Minh must have been waiting for us to come across the bridge, lay in darkness. The night was warm and we perspired profusely as we labored higher and higher on the slope. We kept carefully on the far side of the crest, so that we could not be spotted as a long line of dark shapes, moving against the background of the moonlit skies. I called a brief halt and scanned the silvery panorama down below through binoculars. I wished that I had a way of knowing how Pfirstenhammer and Riedl were progressing some five miles away on the far side of the valley. And I missed Erich Schulze, who had been wounded slightly in the hip the week before and had been confined to his bed for another week.

Leaving thirty men with MG's and mortars behind, I took my remaining fifty troops to Hill 126, which rose eight hundred feet above the village half a mile away. It was 3 A.M. and there was perceptible lightening of the eastern horizon. The moon hung low above the hills and I could just make out a number of long thatched buildings and huts. Beyond the village lay another chain of undulating hills, densely forested with gentle downward slopes into the valley and the settlement. I could see the dim, whitish ribbon of the narrow road that ran through the village toward Neua in the west.

Having deployed my men on the hill, I sent fifteen men to link up with a similar patrol from Group Two to sever the road to Neua a mile beyond the village. Shortly after four o'clock the patrols established contact. Encirclement was complete. Riedl and Pfirstenhammer were in control of Hills 127 and 128 on the far side of the valley. At 4:25 A.M., Eisner sent a radio message. He was across the bridge and under intense enemy fire.

Then everything began to run with the precision of good clockwork. Our yellow Very lights were instantly answered from every hill, and it began to rain fire and steel. We opened up on the village with everything we had. Where only moments before utter silence prevailed now hundreds of projectiles, mortar shells, and incendiaries were shrieking downward, blasting the road, the huts, the water tanks, turning wood and bamboo into a sea of rising flames. There were about two hundred huts in the village and every one of them seemed to become the focal point of intermittent lines of converging tracers. , We could see knots of people as they emerged from the huts, running in every direction in the futile hope of finding a way out of the sudden holocaust. Six minutes later, Eisner called again. The guerrillas were falling back in the valley.

"Now it's beginning to look like the blitzkrieg in Poland," Bernard remarked. "But in the nick of time, Hans!"

I could sense sadness in his voice. "What's wrong?" I asked.

"We lost thirty-two men," he replied quietly.

It was a heavy loss.

Dawn came slowly like the gradual illumination of a stage in the darkness; a repulsive stage with bodies sprawling on the streets, in the doorways, even out in the fields. The survivors ran amuck amidst the bursting shells and flickering tracers, only to be mowed down a few seconds later. From the valley, massive groups of the withdrawing Viet Minh began to emerge. Shooting in every direction, the enemy was moving toward the village. There were over a thousand of them, still armed, still fighting but already doomed. They had no place to withdraw, and encirclement had always been a German specialty. Under the cover of machine guns and flamethrowers, Pfirstenhammer's platoons were entering the village, burning and blasting everything that still stood. The sun rose higher, sending its first rays into the valley from which came cries of agony and frustration; yells, curses, and explosions echoed back and forth between the cliffs. About two hundred guerrillas had tried to storm Hill 125, which was defended by only twenty troopers. But those twenty had twelve machine guns. Pivoting their guns from left to right, then back again, the platoon took a terrible toll among the exposed enemy.

Once again Eisner called. He had found the badly decomposed and horribly mutilated corpses of at least four hundred French troops strewn all over the valley, hanging disemboweled from the trees, the rocks. Many of the corpses were headless and castrated. The heads had been neatly arranged along the road like a row of macabre milestones. Only they indicated yards, not miles—only yards! This was to be the terrorist reception for us!

The mortars and the two 4 CM rifles were turned on the guerrillas now milling in the narrow depression, seeking a way out of the deadly trap. The acrid fumes of cordite hung heavily over the woods, and as the machine guns chattered I could see a dozen men pitching from the rocks, rolling down the slope, dead or dying. Men with legs or arms shot to shreds or with their clothes on fire were tumbling down on top of those who had fallen before. Under the cover of the MG's and the flamethrowers Pfirstenhammer began to advance. Moving from rock to rock, from crevasse to crevasse, his troopers were burning everything and everyone. Descending slowly on the eastern slope, Riedl's detachment sealed the trap.

Dominating every hill, we proceeded systematically to exterminate the guerrillas. We spared only small children and women. Everybody taller than four feet was gunned down or burned to ashes. Our aim was not to cause casualties but to exterminate; gaining territory was of little importance to us. We could not hold an inch of land for any length of time. The destruction of the enemy manpower was our principal aim. We gunned down every man in sight regardless of whether he carried a weapon or not. They all belonged to the same snake pit. And if they were among the guerrillas we shot down twelve-year-old boys, too. We regarded them as the terrorists of the coming years. The golden reserve of Ho Chi Minh!

The battle lasted for about three hours. The surviving four hundred Viet Minh, most of them wounded, finally surrendered. They should have known better. About a hundred of them, captured by Pfirstenhammer higher up in the hills, were taken to a jutting precipice and cast down one after another. "They aren't worth the bullets," Karl commented.

The captured company commanders, propagandists, commissars, and platoon leaders who were directly responsible for the massacre and mutilation of the French battalion were executed by what Eisner called "shooting to bits." The victim's fingers were shot away one by one. His nose and ears followed; then slugs were fired into their kneecaps and feet. Throughout the process no vital organ was hit and the guerrilla leader was left to die by bleeding.

It was not a senseless act of brutality. It was tit for tat. We wanted to plant such terror in their hearts that they would run, head over heels, when they heard us coming.

Sparing but fifty of the prisoners, we lined them all up against the rocks, facing a dozen MG's. We neither could nor wanted to handle prisoners. We needed the fifty men to gather the corpses of our dead comrades, who were then buried with full military honors. Forty-eight Germans from our own ranks found their final rest in a common grave, over which we blasted thousands of tons of rocks to prevent the enemy from exhuming the bodies.

After the burial we executed the rest of the prisoners except for a single individual. We needed him for sending a message to the Viet Minh High Command. "Go and tell Giap that he had better study the Geneva Convention about the treatment of prisoners," I told the guerrilla. "Unless he behaves in the future he will receive similar treatment in every filthy village he has."

We could find nothing of the corpse of Captain Arnold Lorilleaux.

Walking through the smoking ruins of the Red village, I suddenly remembered Schulze's words to the guerrilla emissary on the road to Yen Bay: "You may run into the jungle when you see us coming, but beware when you see us leaving. You may find no village to return to."

After this incident, the Viet Minh placed a reward of 25,000 piasters for the capture of any German of my group. I enjoyed the honor of being valued at 200,000 piasters, with a distinctive "dead or alive" allowance. Afterward Schulze and Eisner would often remark teasingly, "Hans, before we quit the Legion, your price will surely be above a million. We shall bump you off and sell your guts to Ho Chi Minh. Would you kindly remind us-----"

Schulze, Eisner, Pfirstenhammer, and Riedl had to be content with a meager 50,000 piasters per head, "An insulting undervaluation," as Karl put it. "We'll have to work harder to boost the price," he remarked wryly.
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Re: Devil's Guard, by George Robert Elford

Postby admin » Fri Jan 12, 2018 4:27 am

6. HUMANE AND INHUMANE INTERLUDES

On patrol duty along the Hanoi-Lang Son railway line. Eighty miles there, eighty miles back. Under ordinary circumstances a return trip would not take longer than four hours. We were on the road for the sixth consecutive day, mercifully on the way back and still in one piece. Along the line and at every crossing small bunkers dotted the landscape. Strong platoons patrolled their respective sections. The dominant elevations along the line had been fortified, the forest line cut back to deprive the enemy of cover. At a few particularly vulnerable sections coils of barbed wire stretched for miles. The barren strip of land that bordered the line had been proclaimed off limits to civilians, and unauthorized persons were shot without warning. Large posters in French and in three local tongues warned the population not to trespass in the restricted areas. Legitimate crossings were permitted only at the army checkpoints near a bunker or fortified guardhouse.

The trouble was that a large percentage of the population could not read. Many fatal incidents occurred when old people or children tried to traverse the tracks and were gunned down from a hidden observation post. The guards were jittery. Pulling the trigger was their natural reaction to anything that moved within the restricted area, especially after dusk. All the same, the Viet Minh had managed to blast the line several times and at places miles apart. They had occasionally derailed a train as well.

The road along the tracks was also a principal guerrilla target. Hardly a week went by without a few army vehicles exploding somewhere between Bac Ninh and Lang Son. In order to frustrate the enemy snipers, who preferred to operate at night, our vehicles carried a pair of decoys apart from the standard headlights. The decoys were mounted on thirteen-foot-long steel pipes that we attached to the mudguards as soon as darkness fell. They traveled well ahead of the vehicle, and the first guerrilla salvo would invariably go wild because it was aimed behind the fake headlights where the terrorists thought the engine and the driving compartment should be. The decoys gave us time to switch off all lights and disperse; along the road before the snipers could correct their aim.

The vehicles kept thirty yards apart with an old GMC; truck leading the way, followed by two jeeps with; mounted MG's, a light armored car, and two troop carriers. We fitted the front of the CMC with a pair of' heavy steel wheels, in line with the front tires but nine feet ahead. The wheels could be raised or lowered on their hinged mounts by the front pulley. They were ordinary--nary transmission wheels which used to drive the machinery of an old mill; heavy enough to detonate pres-; sure mines yet sufficiently solid not to break easily but; rather to lift upward should a charge explode under them. Curved steel plates an inch thick shielded the driving compartment and the tires from fragments. The windshield of the GMC was reinforced with wire mesh and the sides of the truck protected by additional plating. Defense against command-detonated mines was not easy but such mines were also less frequent. We devised a primitive contraption, a sort of narrow-bladed, sturdy hoe which the GMC dragged along the roadside to pick up: the wires of such command-detonated mines. A swivel socket with springs prevented the hoe from breaking when it caught a root or a stone.

Naturally we submitted a report on all our workable "inventions," many of them old tricks that worked well in Russia and similarly in Indochina. None of them was, ever appreciated, let alone introduced. Our generals were still firmly convinced that the military academy at Saint Cyr had bestowed upon them all the knowledge one; should have about warfare and the descendants of Napoleon should not borrow ideas from the ranks, and especially not from the Germans.

Unfortunately, the last two generals known to have taken part in perilous patrol missions in enemy territory were Rommel and Patton—both now dead. The French generals conducted the war the way they would have conducted it in the forests of France or in the Sahara desert. The jungles of Indochina made no impression on them. They were refined, cultured, and dignified men who; knew by heart every significant work on warfare except: Mao's doctrine of guerrilla wars. No French officer with-dignity would even touch Mao. For them the jungle meant only a sort of overgrown Bois de Boulogne, and guerrilla warfare was only guerrilla warfare.

The woman who waved down our jeep was standing on the roadside shading her eyes from the searchlight. She wore a shabby workman's overall fastened with a thin belt around her waist and crude rubber sandals. A small paper bag lay beside her in the grass. When I stopped she walked up to the jeep and wiping the loose hair from her forehead she said hesitantly, "Excuse me, officer, are you going to Hanoi?" She spoke educated French but her voice sounded weary.

"Yes, we are." I nodded, eyeing her with mixed feelings.

"May I come with you? I am very tired."

I looked at Riedl and he said in German, "She isn't Veronica Lake but let her come. I will check her bag."


"Do you carry any weapon?" I asked her, feeling a little awkward the moment I spoke.

"Me?" she exclaimed with wide open eyes. Then she shook her head and replied with a smile, "Oh, no, monsieur. I am not fighting the French Army." Her last words caught my attention for native Indochinese would have said "Legion," not French Army. I helped her aboard.

"Thank you," she said, "may I put my bag in the rear?"

Riedl took her bag and glanced into it. "I hope you don't mind, but we have certain regulations." The girl did not mind.

"Thank you very much," she repeated. I gave the word to move on.

For some time there was silence between us. She was probably a middle-class refugee, I thought, remembering her cultured French. We were accustomed to natives trying to thumb a ride and had our orders not to pick up anyone. There were too many pitfalls; not only the wartime Japanese but the Viet Minh, too, had its kamikaze squads. We had just heard of a young terrorist who had been given a ride on an ammo truck—gross negligence on the part of the guard. The passenger had been a quiet little boy who told a sad story about his family having been tortured and executed by the Communists in Cambodia, and about his long way across the jungle^ He had said that he wanted to join the army and avenge the death of his family. The troops had been impressed; they had given him food, money, and friendly advice.

When they reached the middle of a vital bridge, the passenger had suddenly pulled a pair of grenades, and, before the terrified troopers could do anything, he had dropped them into a narrow gap between the ammunition crates. Shrieking "Death to the French colonialists," he had dived into the river. An instant later the truck exploded, destroying the bridge and a company of infantry moving alongside on the narrow gangway.

"Have you come far?" I asked the girl finally, to break the silence.

She did not turn but answered tiredly, "Yes, I have come a long way."

No, she was not a country girl, I concluded. She could have been anywhere between twenty-five and thirty, and she was slender, almost fragile, despite the odd-looking overalls she wore. She looked childishly underdeveloped and was not very talkative.

"Where are you going?" Riedl inquired after a while.

"To Hanoi," she replied, "if you will take me that far."

"Have you been in Hanoi before?"

"Once—a long time ago," she said with a persistent melancholy in her voice.

My cigarette was burning away and I reached for the ashtray. "Please don't put it out," she exclaimed, reaching for it.

"I am sorry," I said somewhat puzzled, offering her my cigarette case and lighter. "I should have asked you if you wanted a cigarette."

She accepted a cigarette. When she lighted it, I caught a glimpse of her hands. They were very small and slender but rough with broken fingernails and some scars of old cuts and bruises. They seemed to be the hands of a manual worker yet she was in no shape to do heavy labor. There was something strange about her. Her cultured way of talking contrasted with her appearance.

She inhaled the smoke deeply, then leaned back, resting her head on the back of the seat. "My name is Hans and my friend is Helmut." I got over the formalities.

"My name is Lin," she said. "You are not Frenchmen, are you?"

"No, Lin—we are Germans," I conceded, surprised.

"I have noticed that from your accent."

"Indeed?" "

"Uhm____"

"But you are not a native here either!"

"I am Chinese," she stated.

"Sure, Lin. And if you are Chinese then we are Papuans."

Riedl turned on his flashlight and calmly began to examine the girl's face. Lin certainly possessed some Chinese features, especially her dark almond eyes but her face lacked the strong cheekbones, the roundness so common among Chinese women. Despite the poor light I could see that her face was heart-shaped and her skin almost white.

"My father was British," she admitted finally. "I was born in Hong Kong."

"Hong Kong is not China but England," I remarked. "But still I cannot see how you happen to be on the road between Lang Son and Hanoi."

"Is it so important?" she asked.

"Quite important. For your information, you happened to be walking along a restricted area where the sentries shoot at anything that moves after sundown."

"I must have been lucky," said she.

"Rather!"

She sighed. "My story is a long one."

"We have a long way to go."

She shifted her eyes toward me. "Are you the people the Chinese militia calls 'Yang-Kou-Ce'—the White-Faced Devils?"

"Maybe, Lin." I shrugged. "We are not very popular with the Chinese militia."

"I know that," she stated firmly.

"How do you know that, Lin?"

"I am coming from China."

"Without a visa, I presume."

"I've been in a prison camp of the militia." She added tiredly, "For over a year."

"How come?" Riedl cut in.

"They did not ask me whether I wanted to go. I was a prisoner of war, I suppose."

"Did you fight them or something?"

"Me?" She turned sharply. "How old do you think I am?"

I cast a glance at her, pushed the horn twice to signal halt, then pulled up to the roadside and switched on the small map light. Behind us the armored car ground to a halt. Leaning from the turret, Karl yelled, "Anything wrong, Hans?"

"Everything's under control, Karl!" I shouted back. "Just a short break."

"This is a helluva place to have your break," he growled, sweeping an arm about the dark hills which loomed on either side of the road.

"We are overheating," Riedl advised him.

"No wonder with such a cutie riding along," Karl remarked in German. The men in the troop carrier laughed.

I turned the flexible lamp toward the girl. She kept looking at me without a tremor in her eyes. Only her brows arched slightly, as if questioning me on their own. Her lips, slightly apart, revealed small, pearl-like teeth. I surveyed Lin's face almost minutely but found myself as confused as ever regarding her age. I saw wrinkles in the corners of her eyes, which seemed alien there, parasitic. Her face was frail, her eyes dark and bright. The meager rations in the Chinese camp had had their effects. In some ways she appeared only a child, then older again a moment later. Her dark hair hung loosely about her shoulders in waveless strands; she looked uncared-for indeed. Yet I had the feeling that once she must have been very pretty. The bow of her mouth was perfect. She had a prim little mouth, the sort which could relax in a bewitching smile or a kissable quirk. Properly dressed and cared for, she should have been attractive.

My eyes relaxed on her lips and I saw them curving down in a wry smile. Then she sighed and turned away. "I know it is hard to believe but I will be eighteen in September," she announced quietly. My kindest estimate would have been that she was twenty-five.

I switched off the lamp and started the engine. For some time Lin sat staring into the darkness. "You don't believe me, do you?" she spoke finally.

"Why should you lie to me, Lin?"

"I have no reason to lie to anyone!"

She fascinated me. It might have been that quiet, persistent resignation in her voice, her sadness, her way of talking. I sensed some mystery beyond her enigmatic smile and wanted to know more about her.

It was past nine when we arrived at the outskirts of the city. I pulled up and asked Riedl to take over the jeep. "I am taking Lin to eat something," I told him in German. I helped the girl to the pavement. Riedl slipped behind the wheel and handed the girl her bag.

"What's in it, Lin?" I asked, reaching for the bag.

She handed it to me with a smile. "Just a few old clothes. No bombs."

"Nothing valuable?"

"Nothing at all."

I threw the bag into the open field. "Why did you do it?" she asked me. "I might need them."

"Let me take care of what you need, Lin," I said matter-of-factly and turned to Helmut. "I will be back by six."


"Take care, Hans!"

"I will, don't worry."

I took a cab to Ba Dinh square, then we walked until I found the shops I wanted. Half an hour later Lin had a lovely, light-blue "Ao Dai" and a pair of matching shoes.

"Are you satisfied?" I asked and she blushed.

"Satisfied? I don't really know what to say."

"What have you eaten today?"

"Not very much," she admitted reluctantly. "I wouldn't mind a sandwich or something."

I took her to a small restaurant. At the entrance she stopped and asked me with concern, "Won't I embarrass you?"

"Embarrass me? Why?"

"I am ... not very ... clean."

"They have a ladies' room and we have time."

Lin took her time but when she returned a good half an hour later, she looked much younger indeed and she was beautiful. "'Do I look a bit more acceptable?" she asked turning on her heels childishly.

"Acceptable, Lin? You look smashing!"

"Thank you, Lieutenant," she bowed, casting a deep level look at me. I reached for her hand and she accepted my hand gayly. "Let's go."

The bar was almost deserted. I led Lin to a secluded table in a quiet corner. "Please, Hans," she addressed me by my first name for the first time. "Some sandwiches will be fine—for me, of course."

"You should have a proper meal."

I ordered curried chicken with rice, salad, fruit salad, some wine, and coffee. Lin glanced around with face flushed and eyes gleaming. "It is so heartening to be among people."

The waiter came, placing a bottle of wine on the table. He filled our glasses. Lin unbuttoned the uppermost part of her tunic and showed me a small crucifix on a thin silver necklace, apparently very old. "An old missionary sister gave it to me in the brick works where we used to work," she explained. "She told me that this little cross brought her father back from the Boer War, her husband from Flanders Field, and their son from the Second World War. She gave it to me in the belief that it would show me to freedom."

"And it seems it did. . . . Where have you been in China, Lin?"

"Near Kweiping."

"I am glad you weren't somewhere in the Sinkiang."

She shook her head slowly. "I don't think I would ever have returned from there."

"Was it hard?"

"They were savages!" she burst forth. "You have been a soldier for many years, Hans, but I don't think that you have seen so many dead people in your life as I have seen in two years. The militia just kept moving from village to village, holding trials, sentencing people to death—sometimes two hundred people in half an hour___"

The waiter returned and I was glad for his timely appearance. I felt that our conversation had begun to slip toward painful remembrances and I did not want to upset the girl. When the waiter finally left, I saw Lin was staring at her plate. "Anything wrong, Lin?" She raised her face. Her eyes were filled and she was trying hard to fight back her tears. I placed my hand gently over hers. "What is the matter?"

"Nothing." She shook her head. "Only . . . you see, I haven't seen a table like this for such a long time and. . .." Her lips curled down and quivered.

"Then why don't you carry on?" I suggested softly.

Lin ate like one who hasn't really eaten for years. She seemed at a loss and couldn't decide what to take first. She touched everything, mixed up salt and sugar, slipped her fork, and almost upset the wine. Then she glanced up and her cheeks reddened. "I ... I have forgotten how to eat properly. . . ."

"Take your time, Lin."

A second wave of color flushed her face.

"I am embarrassing you."

"You do nothing of the sort."

When Lin finished her meal with a long, deep sigh of satisfaction there was not much left on the table. "Would you like a drink now?" I asked, reaching for the bottle.

"I might try."

"Cheer up a little, Lin. . . . Things will be better from now on."

As we drank the wine, I looked at her. In the strong light she seemed much younger than before. I knew that she was from a decent family, and I wanted to know more about her past. I had already made up my mind about her immediate future. I would take her to the only possible place I could think of, Colonel Houssong's house. I was certain he wouldn't object. Later on we might contact the British Consul. After all, Lin had been born in Hong Kong and her father was British. She did not tell me where her family was. I suspected that her parents were dead, but her father ought to have relatives somewhere.

I excused myself and went to the phone. Colonel Houssong listened to my story without interruption, then asked me to hold the line. I knew he was consulting with his wife. They had a sixteen-year-old daughter, Yvette, and a fifteen-year-old son, Jacques. Madame Houssong, I knew, was generous to charities, and she was spending much of her spare time and household savings on refugees.

The phone clicked, and I again heard the colonel's well-known, throaty voice. "Well, bring her over, Wagemueller," he said. He could not refrain from adding teasingly: "Your humanitarian aspirations are truly overwhelming. You should have joined the Salvation Army instead of the Waffen SS."

"Oui, mon colonel. ... It might have been a better idea."

I returned to the table and sat down. "Lin, you are coming with me."

"With you?" she exclaimed. "Where to?"

"To some place where you can sleep."

She blushed. I gave her a mysterious look and her eyes widened.

"I ... I cannot do that," she muttered, barely audible. "I... please. .. ."

"I hope you are not afraid of me, Lin?"

"Still. . . ." She lighted a cigarette nervously, then averting her eyes she asked, "Are you ... living alone?"

I laughed. "I am not taking you to my place or to a cheap hotel, if that's what you are thinking, Lin." Instantly she seemed relieved. "I am taking you to a very nice family where you will find a girl of your age and a temporary home. Then we shall see what we can do about your getting a British passport."

"I am so sorry. . . ."

"1 understand you, Lin. Don't worry."

The colonel's family was waiting for us. They all eyed Lin with sympathy as she sat on the edge of a chair twisting her hands. She looked like a frightened little bird. "Please, excuse me." She was finding it hard to form her words. "I really ... I did not want to disturb you. . . . If only I could stay for the rest of the night...."

"Of course you will stay!" Madame Houssong reassured her cheerfully. "We have enough rooms."

Yvette stepped forward. "I am Yvette," she said reaching for Lin's hand. "Do you really come from China?"

"Yes, Yvette."

"It must have been awful. . . ."

"It was hell" Lin exclaimed. The surprise in Yvette's face dissolved in a warm smile. She embraced Lin lightly and I saw her parents exchanging glances. "Now you will be all right, cherie," she said softly. "You will stay with us."

Lin made a swift half-turn, raising her hand to her eyes. Her shoulders quivered under the sudden strain of emotions which she tried to control.

"Let her relax!" Madame Houssong ushered Yvette aside.

The colonel interposed. "Why don't we go into the salon?"

Lin turned. "Please, I feel ... so filthy. . . ." she muttered. Her voice trailed off and her cheeks flushed.

"Do you want a bath?" Yvette asked.

"I would like it very much," Lin replied, her face now ablaze. She felt embarrassed, but Madame Houssong came to her rescue. She called the maid and ordered her to prepare a bath for Lin. The maid took the girl to the bathroom and we sat down. The colonel prepared drinks and questioned me briefly about our trip. Then Yvette turned to me.

"How old is Lin?"

"She will be eighteen in September."

Yvette turned on her heels and disappeared into the other room. When she returned her face was flushed with excitement and she was carrying a pile of clothes which she cheerfully dumped onto the couch. "I think we can give these to Lin," she explained. "I really don't need them and we are about the same size." Her generous offer warmed my heart and I noticed a smile of approval on her mother's face. "Tomorrow I will buy her a pair of nice shoes."

"Have you any money?" the colonel asked nonchalantly.

"I have my savings."

"I thought you wanted to buy a stereo set."

"Well," Yvette sighed, lifting and dropping her shoulders, "poor Lin needs more important things now."

When Lin reappeared, we all looked at her astonished. Her cheeks were pink, the weariness in her eyes was gone, and with her hair washed, dried, and tightened with a blue ribbon, her face was transformed. All the hardness had vanished from her features and she looked younger than Yvette. Her legs were beautifully shaped and the light summer dress that Yvette had given her made her look even more slender. I could have encircled her waist between my hands.

After coffee, Lin began talking about her life—and soon our cheerfulness was gone.. The air in the room seemed to grow heavier and heavier.

"We used to live near Hankow beside a wonderful lake," Lin began. "My father built a cottage there. He was an architect. They were building a hospital at Hankow. My father's name was Carver, John Carver. My mother was from China. She was the best mother, good and beautiful like an angel. I was their only child and they loved me more than anything on earth. My mother used to call me 'my little blue sky.' They bought me the best of everything and every summer we went to the sea near Shanghai. When the Communists approached Hankow my father refused to evacuate. He did not want to give up everything he had been working for. He wanted to finish the hospital and said that not even the Communists would prevent him from building a hospital for their own people.

"When the siege came he took me to a friend of his, a missionary doctor who lived in a small Christian colony with his wife, also a doctor. My parents thought I'd be safer at the missionary station. There were only teachers, priests, nurses, and doctors caring for old people and children. They did not think of themselves, only of me. My father decided to stay in the partly finished hospital. There were already hundreds of crates of expensive surgical equipment stored in the cellars, gifts from the American and British people. He was afraid that the ignorant soldiers might loot the containers or destroy the machines. My father was sure that once he spoke to the Communist commander, he would be permitted to continue with his work. How wrong my poor father was... ."

She sighed deeply and her eyes clouded. "The fathers and sisters at the missionary station worked night and day. More and more people were brought in, most of them wounded. Many of them had to sleep in the open and the doctors operated on a table in the yard. I have seen so much suffering—and as the front came nearer and nearer. . . ." She broke off again, lifting her hand to her eyes nervously. Madame Houssong urged her not to continue if she felt tired. But Lin only shook her head. "Oh, no, if I won't make you tired. . . ."

Colonel Houssong then shook his head.

"One morning a couple of wounded soldiers came and told us that the Communist army had already occupied the hospital compound for three hours but had been driven out again. Of my parents they knew nothing. When they told me that, I just picked up my little doll and ran out of the station. I ran like a maniac all the way. I did not hear the explosions or the bullets, I did not see the burning houses. I just ran, jumping over debris, broken furniture, and deep craters—many of them full with corpses."

Lin flushed and her breasts heaved; her breath came in little gasps but she went on bravely. "I found our housekeeper standing at the gate of the hospital. I noticed immediately that he was wearing my father's leather jacket, but I did not pay much attention to it. I was glad to see him alive and grasped his hand. 'Huang, I am so glad to see you. Where are my parents? How are they? Please. . . .' He pulled away from me and acted so strangely cool, so hostile. But my thoughts were with my parents. 'Please,' I cried, 'where are they?' He pointed toward the main building. 'You will find them in there,' he said and smiled. But his smile frightened me. I could not imagine what was wrong with him. I rushed toward the main building and as I entered I saw ... I saw my father ... in a pool of blood. . . . When I fell on him, he was icy cold . . . then my mother . . . she lay in a nearby room with bullet holes in her breasts . .. and, and...."

She could not continue. Her words faded into a stream of tears. Her frail body shook as she buried her face in her hands. Madame Houssong rushed to her and caught her in her arms, herself crying. Yvette was weeping too and the colonel covered his face, shaking his head slowly. "Don't talk, cherie," I heard Madame Houssong speak to Lin gently. "We have heard enough for tonight."

Lin, with her eyes closed, her tears rolling freely, grabbed Madame Houssong's hand and pressed her face against it. "I must ... I must tell. You are so good to me ... I could never tell anyone how much I was hurt."

Lin had to tell us the rest of her story. We could not stop her. She talked as if she wanted to cast away those tragic memories forever. "When I left the hospital, I saw Huang talking to some strange soldiers. They were the Communists. I still cannot imagine why he had turned so hostile. We were always good to him. When his son was ill, my father drove them all the way to Shanghai, to the hospital. We gave them food, clothes, toys for his children. But then I saw he was wearing a big red star—like the ones the Communists wore. I tried to run away but the soldiers caught me and . . . dragged me ... into . . ." She began to weep again. "I ... I cannot tell you what they did to me . . . until I was pushed into a wagon with many other people. . . . They took us to a camp, and we had to work in a brick factory three miles away. We walked there and back, every day. By the end of the year over a hundred of us had died. Our huts were cold and wet and the food was something we could chew and swallow but it was not food. They always told us that if we worked well we would be taken into better barracks in another camp with good food. We worked like animals to gain admittance to that other camp but they never moved us. We were taken out to bury people whom they had shot. There were thousands of people executed every week. . . . Then one night a big storm came and the wind wrecked the watch towers and a part of the fence. I fled." She glanced at me. "I walked for two weeks eating only what I could find, then I crossed the border and walked .. . until the cars came."

Daybreak was showing through the slightly opened shutters when at last Lin fell silent.

"You had better get some sleep now," Madame Houssong said. "Come, cherie— and try to put those things forever out of your mind."

Lin rose and looked at me deeply. "Thank you," she said. "Thank you...."

Lin's story had a truly happy ending. Colonel Houssong wrote a long report on her to the British Consul, who in turn forwarded the data to a competent authority in Hong Kong. Three weeks later Lin received her British passport and a letter stating that a search to find her father's relatives in England was under way.

During the next two months we saw each other often; I took her out to a dinner or to dance and became rather attached to her. I think she too felt the same way. "What's bothering you, Hans?" she asked one evening after a long and passionate kiss. "Something's wrong?"

I only embraced her again and held her close. There was plenty wrong, I thought. She was only eighteen. I was thirty-six and still a "death candidate." When Lin was born, I was already entering the army. We were far apart both in time and in space. It was painful but also a relief when her uncle came flying down a week before her birthday. He was a jovial, middleaged English businessman who was completely overjoyed at having found his niece after three years of gloom. He had been informed of John Carver's death in Communist China and Lin was listed as "missing," probably dead too.

"If you ever need anything, or if you ever come to England, please do not fail to call me," he said before their plane departed for Singapore and from there to London. He handed me a small envelope and we shook hands. I embraced Lin and she kissed me openly. Her eyes were filled as she whispered, "Please write me soon. ... Write always."

"C'est la vie," Colonel Houssong said quietly as the plane started to take off. "Had it not turned out so well, we would have adopted Lin .. . but it is better this way."

In the envelope I found a very nice letter of appreciation and a check for five hundred pounds. A small card with Lin's letter read: "I love you ... I love you ... I love you."

The cruel war went on.

Near Hoa Binh we discovered the mutilated corpses of two German Legionnaires. Both men had been disemboweled and castrated, with their private parts cut away and placed in their hands. A macabre Viet Minh joke.

Two days later we captured the four terrorists responsible for the murder and mutilation. They were stripped, and a thin cord was fastened around their private parts with the other end tied to the jeep. The vehicle was driven at a speed that the prisoners could pace by easy running and so avoid having their testicles torn from their bodies. In such fashion we brought them to the dead Legionnaires, about two miles down the road. Then the driver shifted gears and accelerated. The jeep sprang forward and the prisoners tumbled. Screaming in agony they rolled in the dust. We bayoneted them as they lay bleeding. The score was settled.

Bomb for bomb! Bullet for bullet! Murder for murder!

We were never particularly soft toward captured terrorists but for murder and mutilation we retaliated with the most brutal third degree that man or devil could conceive. Among them were methods learned from Karl Stahnke. The one-time Gestapo agent and our former companion had entertained us with stories of their use during our long sea voyage from Oran to Indochina. Stahnke used to call his methods "educational exercises." All of them sounded incredibly uncivilized and inhumane but every one of them worked. After what Stahnke had told us, we understood why our former State Secret Police could invariably obtain all the information it wanted to gather. But has there ever been an unsuccessful secret police in history? No one had ever refused to sign the "statement" for the French Deuxieme Bureau. In the dictionary of the secret police such words as "failure," "blunder," or "innocent" are seldom present. All secret police prefer results and they do not willingly admit failures. How the Soviet GPU or NKVD handle their prisoners is well known. The brutality of the Gestapo had been featured in countless publications. But I have also spoken to a former German POW who had to submit to the entire range of CIC third degree, and the Americans proved themselves not much gentler than their so much publicized Nazi or Red counterparts had been.

The POW was not beaten and he was burned only occasionally with cigarette butts. But he was kept chained to a hot radiator, naked of course, for ninety-six hours in such manner that he could neither sit nor bend. On the second day his ankles began to swell. At the end of the ordeal they were swollen to the size of grapefruits and he could not flex a muscle. During that ninety-six hours, he was given very spicy food and only one small cup of water per day. Installed twenty inches from his ears a pair of loudspeakers kept blaring distorted music without a break. Occasionally the music stopped and he could hear the desperate screams and pleas of a German woman, coming from a nearby cell; she was obviously being tortured and abused in the most brutal fashion. Every now and then a CIC agent would enter the POW's cell to inform him about the mental or physical state of his wife confined next door. The agent also made a few acid remarks related to the woman's private parts or sexual behavior. The prisoner could often overhear the tormentors calling the woman "Sigrid," which was indeed the name of his wife. Only months later did he learn that his wife had been at home all the time and no one had ever questioned her about anything. There had been no woman at all in the next cell and the brutal torture scenes had been only cleverly recorded sequences. The cruel ruse had caused the prisoner weeks of mental anguish and in order to save his wife from further "torments," he confessed to everything the American Counter-intelligence wanted him to confess to.

Who knows how many "war criminals" went to the gallows because their "confessions" had been obtained in a similar fashion. Sometimes a man is ready to die if his death will save the lives of his loved ones.

The Americans proved that results can be obtained without beating a prisoner into an insensible pulp of swollen flesh. Instead of squeezing a prisoner's balls, they would squeeze his soul. Some American parents should see what their clean-cut sons are doing in some CIC interrogation chambers. But whatever they do, it is done behind yard-thick concrete walls and steel doors. No books were ever printed about the American Counter-intelligence except maybe a few glamorous adventure stories in the tradition of James Bond.

To dictate his statement, the naked POW was taken upstairs and made to stand at the wall while the two CIC investigators and an extremely pretty American secretary took down his confession, smoked cigarettes, and drank coffee. A few months later the man managed to escape and beat his pursuers to the Foreign Legion. He was serving in my battalion.

The only people I cannot picture committing similar brutalities were the British. But the MI-2 or the MI-5 had all the time on earth to investigate and conclude an affair. (Besides, their clients could always count on at least half an hour of relaxation daily, during the fifteen minute tea breaks, which no Britisher would ever forego unless the room were on fire.) There were scores of Germans among us who had been imprisoned by the British military in Germany. A few of them did receive a couple of kicks in the ass just to remind them that they were "bloody-goddamn Nazi bastards" but no one had been mistreated. Brutality and British temperament just do not seem to go together.

In a captured Viet Minh village we unmasked a long-sought terrorist, "Hai Si," a corporal. His name was Trang Ghi Muong and he was responsible for the massacre of eight French prisoners and a German comrade. We were always mad enough when we came across the bodies of French comrades, but the discovery of a German corpse, minus nose, ears, tongue, and testicles always sent us "off our rockers." The moment Muong was identified I knew that there were more terrorists whom we did not personally know, but who were, nevertheless, responsible for similar atrocities by the Viet Minh in the area.

The presence of a guerrilla battalion less than ten miles from the village prevented us from embarking on a complicated investigation, so we had to resort to some of Karl Stahnke's methods. We wanted to wipe out as many terrorists as possible before leaving the locality. Certain that the captive terrorists could tell us all the names we wanted, I decided to give Muong the well-deserved Third Degree.

He was stripped. A naked man always feels inferior and more defenseless in the presence of persons fully clothed. Especially Orientals, who are, by nature, shy about exposure. Whenever someone had to be "worked over," he was first stripped.

"Well, Muong, this is the end of the road for you," Sergeant Schenk remarked, pushing the prisoner through the cloth-covered entrance of a vacant hut. "In you go . . . and whether you will come out again depends on you." The prisoner staggered inside and stood blinking in the semidarkness, his hands covering his loins protectively and his eyes flitting back and forth among Karl, Eisner, and Krebitz.

"Can't you at least say 'chieu ho'? when you come visiting?" Sergeant Krebitz bellowed, greeting the terrorist with a stinging, openhanded blow which sent the man reeling against Pfirstenhammer who was still busy rolling up his shirt-sleeves. The two crashed into the mud wall, with the naked Viet Minh embracing Karl.

"Watch out, Karl! He is about to rape you," Eisner chuckled.

Pushing the prisoner away, Karl drew his right knee up, feinting a kick. As the man doubled up instinctively, Karl's fist lashed out. With a cry of anguish, Muong went flying back toward Krebitz, who in turn dispatched him to Eisner. Bracing his back against the wall, Eisner received the prisoner with his boot lifted high. A powerful kick returned the terrorist to Karl's feet. For some time the ball game continued without causing the delinquent any serious injury; only the corner of his mouth split and his nose began to bleed profusely. Sergeant Schenk, too, had joined the game and though the terrorist did not understand a word of what was being yelled at him in German, the men entertained themselves with filthy oaths and wisecracks just to keep up spirit: Finally the prisoner tumbled and fell on the hard ground and remained folded up with his hands protecting his loins and his head between his knees. Schenk grabbed Muong by the hair and pulled him to his feet.

Whack!

Crashing into the straw-and-mud wall with an impact that almost brought the roof down, Muong dropped again and sat moaning. Krebitz kicked a low stool to the center of the room. "Stand up!" he commanded, pushing the sobbing wretch toward the stool. "You may be sitting a lot after we break your legs. ... On the stool!"

Trembling and already half paralyzed with fear, the man climbed onto the stool. "Which one of you is a Dang Vien?" Eisner shouted. "Who is the Agitprop secretary?" Karl cut in, stepping closer and swinging his belt. "Who is your commissar, Muong? . . . Who is the resident cadre of the Lao Dong?"

Wielding four-foot-long bamboo clubs Krebitz and Schenk began to hammer away at the terrorist. Eisner drew his bayonet and held its point gently against Muong's belly. "Steady, steady. . . . Watch out which way you jump."

"Mercy . .. mercy. .. ."

"Sure, Muong . . . You've given plenty of mercy to the Legionnaires, haven't you?"

More beating followed, then more questions.

"Who is your commissar?"

"Who are the Dang Vien?"

"Who participated in the July massacre at Bo Hac?" "Where is the Lao Dong agitator? . . . Who is the resident cadre?"

Eisner grabbed him by his hair. "Are you going to sing, or do you prefer some more beating?"

"Sing!" Sergeant Schenk yelled. "Sing 'Father Ho is a filthy swine.'"

His cane came crashing down on Muong's buttock, leaving an inch-wide red strip of burning flesh. "Sing!"

Sergeant Krebitz jerked the terrorist around. "You had better start talking, my friend, or your ass will soon look as red as a First of May parade in Moscow."

"Father Ho is a filthy swine," Schenk repeated.

"Pull his beard and he will cry." Pfirstenhammer improvised a rhyme. The quartet broke into laughter. Muong tumbled from the stool but was dragged back onto it instantly.

"Steady!" Eisner pushed his bayonet between Muong's thighs. "If you keep jumping, you will lose your balls, Liebchen."

The guerrilla cried out in pain. "Don't howl, only sing," Karl urged him. "Sing!" He smashed the guerrilla in the nose. Muong fell from the stool with blood splattered all over his face and chest. He screamed. As he slipped from the stool the bayonet slashed him between the thighs.

"I told you to keep steady," Eisner snapped. "What will you do if you lose your pecker?"

"Yes . . . Father Ho is going to be mad at you, Muong." Schenk chuckled. "He needs lots of little Viet Minh. In the future, that is if you have a future, Muong, no girl will look at you. So you had better wise up."

"I have nothing to tell you," the guerrilla sobbed." "Nothing."

The joking stopped and the real work began. Calling in a couple of troopers, the terrorist was bound and beaten again while questions were shouted from every direction. "Where are your weapons? . . . Where is the rice for the section? ... Where are the tunnels?"

"Aren't you going to talk?"

"Haven't you had enough?"

After fifteen minutes of intensive beating the man fainted. A bucket of water was thrown over him; the quartet waited a while, then resumed the treatment. The resistance of the terrorist was truly astonishing. Ever since the "going over" started, except for screams and moans, he had uttered not a syllable.

"Merde!" Pfirstenhammer swore. "Does he feel no pain?"

"Maybe he is a fakir," Krebitz suggested.

The beating continued. Suddenly Muong emptied his bowels and began to urinate. Schenk drew aside swearing. The guerrilla's face was a swollen, contorted mass of battered flesh. Eisner brought in a pair of pliers and shoved it into Muong's face.

"Look here, you canaille, either you talk now or I am going to yank your teeth out one by one, squash your balls, then break every bone in your fingers. You can still recover from what you have gotten up till now, but by the time we are through with you, you will be crippled for life."

"If you talk, I will set you free," I interposed, allowing the prisoner a ray of hope to survive, an important tactical move. By then-, Muong was all set to die and thought we were going to kill him whether he talked or not.

"You... will... let me ... go?" he muttered.

"I will let you go," I repeated firmly.

He was ready to talk. In short, high-pitched, hysterical gasps his words came. Eisner rose and put away the pliers. "Give him something to drink," he told Schenk, and taking a bar of soap from his kit, he began to wash his hands. The smell of blood, urine, and excreta in the hut became overwhelming. The rag cover of the door was flung back and Riedl appeared.

"Phoooi," he exclaimed twisting his nose. "It stinks in here. How can you stand it?" Turning to Eisner he asked, "How's the dirty work coming along?"

"Shut up and get out of here!" Bernard snapped. "Someone has to do this. Be glad it's not you."

Riedl grinned. "I am glad. I never saw so many shitty bastards in my life." Holding his nose mockingly, he turned and left for the open.

"Get some more water and call in a few villagers to wash up the wretch." I gestured toward the guerrilla.

"What for?" Schenk queried. "We can shoot him shit and all."

"We are not going to shoot him," I said quietly.

"My good God, Hans, you are getting soft."

"We made a bargain with him which I intend to keep. . . . Besides, he is a brave man, Victor. How long do you think you would have stood up to what he was getting?"

"Me? I would have pissed you between the eyes in the first five minutes," he replied. "I am a small, weak creature ... very delicate and—"

Karl gave Schenk a friendly kick in the bottom. "You would have given us away all right."

"Given you away?" Schenk cried. "I not only would have told them everything but would have helped them to put the rope around your neck, Karl."

"Set him free!" I ordered the troopers as we left the hut. "After what he told us he won't be playing the liberating hero much longer. The Viet Minh will kill him."

We rounded up the party members and the Viet Minh activists whom Muong had named, some twenty men altogether. We bayoneted them in a small ravine behind the village.

The cruel war continued.
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