France: A Rat Patrol Story. Captain Dietrich' story continues.
February 1944: Capt. Hans Dietrich had forgotten how much Field Marshal Erwin Rommel could walk in a single day. Rommel traveled everywhere. He was on an inspection tour of the West Wall defenses prior to assuming command of Army Group B.
He was everywhere, talking to his men, taking notes, and recommending changes. Dietrich was part of this as well. Making his own recommendations where he thought they would matter.
By the end of the inspection tour. Even Rommel was exhausted. As they rode back to their headquarters. The two officers had very little to say, Dietrich was working on his notes and recommendations, while Rommel was taking in the countryside. "The scenery is quite peaceful in France, Herr Field Marshal." Dietrich said
Rommel looked around the countryside. "A lot different then North Africa."
Dietrich replied "Yes sir, more pleasant than Russia as well."
"True." Rommel said Thinking for a brief moment "You know, Von Rundstedt wants to hold the panzers back from the coast. Tackle the allies inland. But I want to hit them as they storm ashore, while they are trying to keep from drowning."
Dietrich listened, but did not reply. He looked to his commander with a tired sad look, his expectations were not as high as his commander's.
Rommel noticed this "Hans, speak." He said
"What would you have me say, Herr Field Marshal." Dietrich replied
"The truth of course." Rommel said "Even I need the truth, now and then."
Dietrich glanced to the driver. Rommel understood, he told the driver "Pull over Heinz, and wait for us."
As the can pulled to the side of the road. Both officers dismounted and walked away from the car. After a bit, Rommel said. "What do you truly believe, Hans?"
Dietrich looked around the countryside for a long moment, trying to gather his thoughts. "You know sir. When we were here four years ago. I thought we were invincible. That the world was ours for the taking." Rommel smiled grimly "It almost was ours."
"And then in the desert, we swept all before us. Certainly we lost battles, but we also won them as well.' Dietrich smiled briefly "Remember when we finally captured Tobruk Sir?"
"Yes" Rommel said "Old Churchill was apoplectic they said." Looking at his field Marshal's baton "That's when Hitler gave me this. I always said that I would have rather had an extra panzer division."
"And if that extra division had been ours. The Suez Canal would have been ours as well." Dietrich finished
"Then, the retreat in the desert, losing the Africa Corps, and Russia." Dietrich looked away from Rommel "I saw things out there that would sicken you. If you only knew sir."
Rommel replied sharply. "I do know, Hans." Dietrich turned back startled. "You know, Sir?"
"Of course I know!" Rommel said "And other things that would shock the world and sicken it."
"They why do we go on!" Dietrich shouted "Why are we being led down the path to hell, by this madman!"
"We're not for much longer." Rommel replied "When the Allies land the group in Berlin will act. Our goal will be to hold here in the west until a new government can be put in place."
Rommel continued "Then we will turn the army to the east and beat the Russian.' Looking to Dietrich "You see even our western opponents know that Stalin is a bigger danger than Hitler."
Dietrich seemed skeptical. "There are a lot of things that need to happen in a precise order for this to work, sir"
"That is true." Rommel said then looking to Dietrich. "But we Germans are a very precise people." Rommel smiled "Come we have a lot to do, and not much time left to do it in." Glancing down the road "Poor Heinz must be having a stroke by now. We will meet with Von Rundstedt in the morning about the panzers."
Dietrich said "Yes, Herr Field Marshal. The two officers drove into the night.
Rommel was correct. Germans were very precise. Unfortunately the Germans on the other side of the equation were precise as well. The Gestapo and the SS were staring to put pieces together and closing in.
To be continued.