An Alternative History Affair
Vengeance be thy Name
After the death of my former commanding officer, I felt a sense….an emotion that was explainable at that time. I was a young. I thought of myself as a man, but I was seven months past 17 years of age. It was October 3rd, 1918. The trees around us had ceased their function, similar to how we had ceased to be victors. I was new to the place. I was new to the unit, only had been transferred to the front less than two weeks ago.
I first met Einswald after getting to the headquarters. Him and I were both young. At the age of 22, he found himself captain of company that had been decimated over previous weeks by the American offensive. I was the company’s third second lieutenant in as many weeks. Upon hearing that, my gut sank quite low. I had an eerie feeling that I would not survive my time in the forest. The veterans of the unit took to calling me the weekly special.
My time in the Argonne Forest forever changed my perception of war. I had thought of war as fun. My grandfather said I was naïve, war is nothing to desire. My father reinforced those thoughts, but he had never seen combat like grandpa at Sedan. My eldest brother Anton had nearly been killed multiple times in the same war I was fighting, though every time escaping with just an injury. He’s been hurt four times, one for every year I jokingly tease him in my letters. My other brother, Josef has also seen war but has escaped unscathed from serious harm. Their words of warning did not heed my ambition to willingly serve the Kaiser.
On my first day, I survived as an artillery shell landed right next to me; luckily it was a dud, though my trousers were a bit soaked. On the second day, I distinctly heard two bullets whiz past my boyish blonde covered head. The third morning consisted of our own artillery waking us up at three in the morning, a rather ungodly time. On the fourth day, nothing much happened except four of the veterans reminded me I still had three days to meet my expiration. On the fifth day, one of the patrols I led overnight brought back five American prisoners. I recollect firing my rifle, but I don’t remember hitting anything.
The sixth day was silent, and the majority of the day talking to Captain Einswald. I vividly remember those hours, but unbeknownst to us, they would be his last. We talked of home, of our plans within the army after the inevitable defeat. Einswald wanted to continue on his military career, while…I’m not sure what I wanted to do after that point. On the seventh day we awoke to another artillery bombardment. I was halfway between the front line and the headquarters at the time I was forced to the ground by the cry of artillery. I watched helplessly as three shells landed close to company headquarters.
I collected myself, unconcerned about my personal safety as I ran towards headquarters. I…I…could not enter when I arrived. There simply was no building, but rather a pile of rubble with corpses strewn around. Hustling through the debris and corpses, I found a ghostly Einswald. Deep down my brain told me he was dead, but my emotions screamed out hoping against all hope to bring him back to life. I kneeled over him for what felt like hours, crying loudly. It was the first time I had loss somebody that had I truly grown attached to in such a short time.
What really felt like hours was not more than five minutes before other soldiers from the rear gathered around company headquarters. As the crowd began to climb in numbers I was brought back to reality – the enemy had to be attacking the trenches. The bombardment today was larger than the previous one. I raced with my rifle towards the front, almost forgetting my helmet at the scene. I ran. I ran faster than I ever thought possible.
I arrived at the frontline trench, and noticed the Americans were already in retreat. There was no hesitation in me, I ran forward, leaping over the barricades and into no man’s land. I spotted a retreating soldier and slid feet first into a firing position. Within seconds the victim fell face first into the ground. While pulling the bolt I spotted my second target and felled another. Followed by another, then a fourth, and a fifth. I put in another clip and fired off another five shots, hitting three of my targets. I reached for another clip, my third. Then my fourth and while reaching for my fifth I felt a terrible force against my helmet.
I woke up the next morning at a newly established company headquarters, my head hurt like hell, though I could not feel any blood with my hands. I later learned that one of the veterans who had called me the weekly special raced out to my position, dancing and darting through incoming fire to drag me to safety. I ran into him after the war and he said that under normal circumstances he wouldn’t have saved an officer, but I had shown behavior worthy of being saved.
With Hausser’s death, I tried to repress my thoughts about vengeance. But over the past few days they have grown too much. I demand retribution, even if it is not against those who have directly caused the death. I will not be taking a rifle to the fight, for I doubt I could fell eleven men again. Aboard one of the trains that carried us to our stationing ground in southern France was a new design of panzer, a more standardized version compared to our long list of variants. This new tank design was a replacement for the magnificent Panther and Tiger that had been valiantly holding the line against the Soviets and Allies.
To avenge Hausser’s death, I planned to commandeer one of the thirteen E-50 Standardpanzer’s that were scheduled to spearhead our offensive.