Prologue: The Revolt of the Afrika Korps.
The German Revolution was unlike most other civil wars. Perhaps it is true what they say about German mindset. They were a people who obeyed their government in any form. So it was quite surreal to watch the German people tear each other's throats out at such an unprecedented scale. The war within the war had severely damaged the national psyche until the German general staff restored order as well as the restoration of their new Emperor, Louis Ferdinand -Or Kaiser Ferdinand as he was later known as; to a throne that people of the last war had feared so much.
All recorded history states that on February 10th, 1943. Generaloberst Heinz Guderian fired the first shots of the German Revolution. In the aftermath of the disaster in Stalingrad Adolf Hitler, in a state of shock that everything went so wrong in his adventure in Southern Russia, had retreated away from the Wolf's Lair, to his private home the Eagles Nest to brood and to mourn for his first decisive loss of the war. It was decided that the total failure in Stalingrad would serve as the pretext to change. The concept that an entire German Army revolted after being forced to die for a city that held dubious strategic wealth would offer great sympathy to the plight of the usurping Wehrmacht.
Of course, that was what we had thought it was. It wasn't until July 22nd, 1943 that the true reasons to the revolution had come to the surface. A rebellion incited by orphaned race that called themselves quarians. Their intentions far less than noble than the modern German state is willing to admit, though they had really no choice in the matter. The quarians offered many men who would have been destined for the hangman's rope or prison a second chance. Turning away such an offer would have meant certain doom for their nation.
Which brings us back to the topic at hand.
Though Guderian's attack is the official beginning of hostility been the two warring factions, it was by no means the first attack. That is the common and perhaps understandable misconception. There was an incident in December 14th 1942 worth mentioning, with bringing to the light, was really one of the first actions of the Heer against the SS. This incident ended with the first two causalities of the revolution and had cemented the legacy of Erwin Rommel.
I should know. I was there. It had been my second encounter with that smug, magnificent son of a bitch.
The whistling of mortar fire forced the Englishman known as David Sterling to duck his head and dive for cover underneath a dead Lorrie. It was hard to believe that he had found himself in this situation. Malta, a fortress island that had stood for so long under British dominance, was on the verge of collapse.
Incomprehensible was not a word to describe how Sterling felt. To think that it was only three weeks to find him in this situation.
Malta, unlike what many had thought, was done very carefully. The landing was not like Crete. It was done with a significant more subterfuge on the part of the Axis. Gozo and Comino Islands had fallen in the first three days to a surprise landing made by Italian parachutists from the Folgore brigade. They captured the docks of Sennant and Xlendi. It wasn't long before the first Kreigsmarine and Regia Marina barges and transports arrived from the built up forces in Libya and Egypt. Before they knew it, tens of thousands of Germans and Italians had invaded the northern islands. The resistance against the attack was mostly token, the build-up and defence was devoted to the main island.
At first he and the rest of the garrison command wasn't sure what the hell the Germans and Italians had to gain from taking a strategically unimportant section. That was when they spotted him, Erwin Rommel landed on Gozo, surrounded by his fellow commanders including one of which that was an unwelcoming sight.
It was Josef 'Sepp' Dietrich, the infamous head of the 1st SS Liebstandarte Division.
His presence meant only one thing. Rommel had taken the poison pill and accepted the political army of the Reich into his theatre. Well it did not matter, according the heads in England. Malta was to be defended at all cost. Malta was the last stronghold tying Germany and Italy up from mounting their campaign across the Suez Canal.
But that had been a week ago. Rommel and his men had dug into the island and simply sat there and waited. For two weeks they waited, built up large attacking force and instead of doing what Rommel did best: Attacking, they instead sat there and waited. No one was sure way they had done so. Perhaps to strain the nerves back home, make the defenders overconfident that Malta was impenetrable to anything the great Desert Fox could throw at them.
Then it happened.
A roar erupted over the island fortress one night at midnight, a strange electrical disturbance. One moment he was sitting under a light writing a letter home, the next the light bulb was dead, as was every single device that required electricity to work; and he meant everything: light bulbs, wiring, radio transmitters, radar towers, and engines in the tanks, jeeps, Lorries and aircraft... It was all completely fried and no one had a bloody clue how such a queer occurrence could happen, and yet just across the short ferry ride to Gozo, everything the Germans had worked still.
The naval, artillery bombardments and aerial bombing commenced unopposed to the blinded garrison, but everyone held on, they did their best to fight blind with zero air cover. By morning, most of the garrison's heavy weaponry had been smashed and the first of the invasion barges and captured ferries approached.
It would be five days of heavy fighting before John Sterling, the last of his SAS regiment, four battered Malta brigades and a handful of scattered royal marine units took refuge in the last bastion of defence on the Maltese island, Fort St. Angelo, bringing livestock to tow in what remained of the British Artillery and munitions that they could salvage from the encroaching Afrika Korps. It was almost as though they had returned to the days of medieval Europe. It wasn't long after that, that the frightened people of Malta tried to seek sanctuary. The best that Sterling could do was to hide them in the Church and just under the fortress in sewers. There he left a platoon of local militia and several marines to keep that tunnel safe.
Pulling himself up from his cover at the renewed light mortar fire, David Sterling grabbed his Bren gun and headed back the winding stairs to the top of the great walls where the rest of his men stood guard, shooting at everyone they could see.
"Sah! Armoured cars are on the approach!" a marine called to him from the watch tower. "We got a STuG Self-Propelled gun a few hundred meters behind them and moving fast on us!"
"Get that six pounder up to the opening in the front wall!" Sterling commanded right away as he ducked a renewed Machine gun fire that chipped away at the walls they hid behind. "We'll see if we can lure them."
Several of the soldiers obliged the Colonel. Another Maltese corporal dropped down beside him, his eyes wide, his face covered in grim.
"I can count five, maybe six MG-42 nests set up in the adjacent buildings! My squad tried dislodging them-"
The screaming wail of a Stuka dive bomber blared overhead. Above them was a pair of them, aiming at the courtyard of the vast fortress and at the walls defending against the attacks. Sterling and the rest of his men scrambled to get out of the way as the two ground attack fighters hit their positions with cannon fire. Several of the defender was torn to pieces by the heavy round meant to kill tanks, not infantry.
The four 40mm Bofors guns targeted at the Stuka's, tearing apart one of the planes and scaring off the other. It gave Sterling a moment to roll over and push the torso off his arm and got back up onto his feet. Coughing, he listened to the moans of several of the Malta militia, wounded terribly. Gripping his side, the Colonel turned away.
"Get a medic out here, the rest of you back into positions!"
There were few Wop military units that gave Sterling pause. The Bersalieri were one of those rare units. Amidst the mediocrity that was the Italian Royal Army stood quite possibly the most impressive and flamboyant group of fighter's Sterling had fought coming from south of Germany. They didn't back down, they didn't retreat. They pressed the attack or stood their ground until they were relieved.
Sterling bolted towards the private who made the claim and looked over the side of the wall. Sure enough there were men clad in black uniforms, wide brim sandy helmets with trailing cock feathers planted into the side. He would have thought they looked queer had he not known that appearances were deceptive.
Carcano and Beretta fire erupted around their position, catching several of his men. Sterling responded back with his Bren, along with the rest of the western walls defenders. It was enough fire to kill several of them, but it wasn't enough to slow them down. Before they knew it, the Italians had reached the wall and were hurling hand grenade over the fortress walls in a means to supreme the English.
An explosion rocketed against the side of the wall, shaking where Sterling stood to fight. He looked over and saw the turretless StuG taking pot shots at front of the fortress in an attempt to crack the defences. The tank was hit twice in quick succession by the six pounder. It shrugged off the first blow, the second hit was much more devastating, smashing the vehicles track off, thereby immobilizing the gun on tracks.
Just as a third shot was to be taken, a platoon of Afrika Korps appeared from around the cover of the buildings surrounding the Fortress, firing and killing the three men AT crew. They surrounded the tank and forced the English defenders to duck while they evacuated the crew and retreated back to their cover under protection of the MG-42 gun nests providing cover.
Suddenly the wall underneath Sterling exploded inwards where the Bersaleiri had been. Sterling could only assume that they had been carrying some sort of shaped charges. It was only a matter of moments before through the smoke came two dozen screaming Italians, laying fire on the anti-aircraft guns and killing the crews before turning back to fight the men on the wall.
Slamming in a fresh magazine, Sterling and his men unloaded on the Italians, who dove for cover as they shot in every direction. With fire coming from inside the perimeter, the English defenders were now ensnared on both sides. Shooting down two of the elite soldiers, Sterling primed a hand grenade and hit the group with the deafening explosion.
It worked, but not in the way that Sterling and the defenders wanted it to do. The Italians pulled out of the courtyard but had bolted inside the nearest doors inside of the Fortress and had simply vanished. Sterling narrowed his eyes and glanced back to his men. On one hand they had infiltrated the last bastion of defence. On the other hand, he could not let anymore Jerries or Wops through the defences. He had to move a Vickers machine gun to where the Berasleiri had attack, further stretching out his defences.
"JESUS CHRIST, THREE TIGERS APPROACHING!"
Any focus he had on the small group of soldiers who broke through was gone. They had stopped those god forsaken behemoths.
"Mackenzie, take a squad and find them! Eriksson, you and your chaps get down there on the Bofors. They're the only thing keeping the Luftwaffe from shoving a pineapple up our asses!" Sterling laid down the new orders as he reloaded his Bren with the last few magazines he had left. "The rest of you, find anything bigger than a rifle get back to work! We have to stop those tanks!"
God help him, he should have personally chased those Italians...
If I knew then what I had known now about the Italian infiltrators, I would have went too personally to deal with them. The Tigers were simply laying down a new line for the Afrika Korps to dig into. It was one of those moments in which history could have been changed forever. Hunting them down would have resulted in a significantly safer world. For one of those men dressed in an Italian uniform wasn't a man that should have survived the war.
With the recent and brutal fascist uprising in Vietnam occurring as I write, which can be directly laid at the feet of two ex-Nazis. I should have done my duty and hunted down the disguised Hauptsturmfuhrer Otto Skorzeny: The future most dangerous man on Earth.
"Crazy, godforsaken Germans, why is it when we tell them that an assault on this place would be too costly do they go ahead and do it anyways? Eight good men dead to open a single fucking door."
Sottotenente Luca Calabrese ignored Carporal Amoretto's grumblings and winced slightly as the much taller, mensur scarred Austrian stamped past the Italians gathered around. He dropped his helmet and pulled on his brimmed forage cap, his strange rifle, more exotic than Luca had ever seen before raised and ready to fight as he pressed on. Luca turned back to his men and waved them to follow their German commander.
The giant paused and turned back to the footsteps approaching. He dug into his harness and pulled out what looked like an unarmed S-mine. The man bent down and laid the mine near the edge of the corridor. He tugged a line from his belt, attaching it to firing pin. He carefully rolled it along to the other side of the hallway.
"Hauptsturmführer?" The Sottotenente wondered as the SS captain stood back up from his place.
Otto Skorzeny grinned grimly at the Italian.
"We're being followed, I'm handling them." He simply informed them. "Keep going, we have a deadline to hit and no time to deal with a fire fight."
Luca stood there briefly before following Skorzeny down the pathway. It was one thing to plant a minefield, it was quite another to set up a booby trap. The Sottotenente could not help but think this Austrian to be quite possibly the biggest bastard he had ever met.
To speak to you plainly, I have to give the SS their dues despite the more monstrous claims after the war. They were terrifying in ways the SAS could only dream to be. There was always a curiosity how these men could act with unparalleled brutality that made our actions look like boy scouts.
In truth, it was actually so ingenious in its simplicity. Essentially, the men in the field were told by the men in command that they were absolved of any crime, any sin. They were simply following orders. That statement had opened Pandora's box, giving the SS free reign to sharpen their abilities to a level of fanaticism that modern combat has never seen before or since, with an exception to the military of Japan during the island hopping campaign and eventual Operation Downfall.
There is something be said about the 1st SS Liebstandatre in particular. They were considered the Praetorian Guard of the new Reich's Fuhrer. Considered the best of the Waffen-SS, they had failed Hitler in the winter of 1941 and as a result, he had ordered to strip their emblems that bore his name. This battle was their first since the reformation of the division, the survivors, ardent and fanatical for the restoration of their twisted sense of honour.
I had spent three years fighting the Germans in a variety of units, across two continents. I have great respect for the men of the Afrika Korps. They were tough, tenacious and professional war makers lead by the last chivalrous man in Europe. However, the Waffen-SS were baptized in the wars of the eastern front. They somehow managed to find a way to fight dirtier than we could ever dream. They were the first Germans that truly made me fear for my life.
They were the first Germans I have ever hated.
The Afrika Korps were certainly annoyed. It did not matter. Those desert dogs could barely keep these Englishmen pinned.
They had come up with a plan they had annexed the local city archives and discovered an old line of sewers running underneath the old fortress that the English had garrisoned. First one to the seen, Sepp Dietrich had overruled the Afrika Korps Major and handed command to the subterranean raid to him, Untersturmführer Otto Günsche, leading a twenty man assault team consisting of flamethrowers and the newly issued STG-43. The weapons were beautiful, the envy of the Afrika Korps.
As they made the approach, it did not take long before Bullets smashed the walls of the sewer, forcing Günsche and his team to duck down. The gunshots did not mask the screams of panic. The Lieutenant paid it no mind as he turned to his men, a grenade in his hand only long enough to be thrown around the cover.
"Cover the flamethrowers!" He screamed at the battlegroup. "Hit them with fire!"
The two flamethrower wielding soldiers glanced to one another; the grenade exploded and bought them a moment to rush the position. Simultaneous they fired, torching every living being within a hundred feet of their nozzles. Still moving, the men fired again, the screams of the unarmed not halting their burning petrol and tar assault on them. They screamed so violently that Günsche could imagine the fighting men above them could have heard what was occurring just below them.
Ignoring that feeling he got when he did something he probably should not have done, he ordered the rest of his unit to follow the flamethrowers advance. They ignored the screaming and the still moving bodies and continued, up the winding stairs until finally they reached the top levels, the flame throwers hitting each level just to be certain.
The door suddenly flew open, making Günsche and his men to duck and take aim. A white handkerchief stuck out at first and then a man disguised as an Italian stood there. Günsche stood up as Hauptsturmführer Otto Skorzeny standing there, his STG-43 resting on his shoulders.
"It took you long enough" The Commando muttered. "The Italians went to harass the English, the rest of the Afrika Korps have broken through..."
Skorzeny trailed off as he noticed the unique camouflage and then the runic on their lapels, and finally the smoke of the flamethrower fires burning from where they came from.
"I should have guessed."
Slapping the Hauptsturmführer's shoulder, Günsche lead his unit past the commando and into the courtyard. It was there turn to make the English suffer.
I had only been captured once before in the war, trapped in the 8th Army pocket with General Alexander. Thinking about it made me wish that if I were to surrender, it would have been to honourable men. Rommel and his Afrika Korps might have been here, but the tone was significantly grimmer. For started The Afrika Korps appeared much more subdued, like they answered to the SS now.
The SS pushed their weight around and started doing odd things. Most notably rounding up prisoners of wars and civilians for inspection and tagging as potential future problems. I have little doubt the the true intentions of the SS were to follow their Technocrat and supervisor, Adolf Eichmann's intention of sending us to Europe to a fate worse than just simple death.
The battle was lost. The island was on the verge of collapsing. St. Angelo lost the Afrika Korps interest and they moved on, pressing their attack against the rest of the capital. In all, maybe two hundred of the original four hundred survived. Of the fifty SAS men he had, ten were left.
Coughing, David found himself slammed against the wall alongside the rest of his SAS, separated from the regular infantry. Next to them were the civilians, panicked and frightened all of them begging their captures for clemency; Clemency that just wasn't coming.
"Herr Eichmann, the fort is clean, no one else to bring to you."
"Good, Günsche. Take the regular infantry prisoners back to the rest of the Korps. I have reports of resistance in the southern regions of the islands. Link up with your division; we'll handle it from here."
Nodding, the SS platoon escorted the marines and the Maltese soldiers back to the prisoner rally point, leaving Eichmann with a dozen SS men and twenty or so Afrika Korps men watching the scene unfold after being left to guard what was left St. Angelo Fortress.
As the last of the prisoners cleared the ruins, the man known as Eichmann turned back and approached them.
"I am Obersturmbannführer Adolf Eichmann, personal representative of Reichsführer Himmler to this area."
Eichmann strolled up the line of prisoners placed in front of the wall. He stopped in front of the commandos and arched his brow.
"For sake of legality, I am to inform you that as decreed by the Führer under the Commando Order, you are to be executed for your involvement in sabotage against the Reich." He informed the soldiers. He turned to the civilians and added. "The rest of you have been summarily convicted of partisan activity, you will be executed as well."
The civilians screamed out. They could not believe what they had heard, that they were to be murdered for simply for seeking shelter. The feeling of rage burned a hole through Sterling's stomach. Cowards, Nazi fucking cowards; Although his anger was devoted to the Nazis, his loathing was focused on himself. He should have told the civilians to keep running. He had condemned them.
He turned his head to the Afrika Korps gathered around. They looked unwilling to stop this insanity. They were not the trigger men, the SS were. They wanted nothing, absolutely nothing to do with this.
At least, that was what he thought. A boy stepped forward from his unit. He looked no order than eighteen, his uniform looked clean. He moved past his fellow desert soldiers and most surprisingly did something Sterling had not expected, nor apparently any of the other Germans.
"Herr Obersturmbannführer, I cannot allow you to do that."
The boy's words caught the SS off guard. The riflemen looked to one another, Eichmann stood there. His eyes simply stared blankly at the boy who stood there weaponless. Swallowing the dry knot in his throat, Sterling glanced over to the Heer soldiers watching their comrade standing there protecting the condemned. They were glancing to one another and whispering. The leader stood there, simply watching it as he appeared to debate what to do.
The boy's breath suddenly went shallow, as though he was fighting all his training that taught him not to disobey a superior officer's order, even if they weren't in the same service. His eyes darted to his brother, asking for help, for validation that he was not receiving.
"We don't execute prisoners, Herr Hauptmann." He addressed his commander. "It's not how we do things. We especially don't start killing civilians. They did nothing but hide in the monastery from us. That does not warrant a death sentence!"
"Fuck them!" One of the Afrika Korps men shouted out. "The English killed my parents in Kiel, they killed my Grandfather in the Somme."
"Your Grandfather fought in a war and Goering started terror bombing the English." The boy tried to reason with the dissenting soldier. "This is on our watch! We're better than allowing completely unjustified murder to occur!"
His words made the rest of the Heer soldiers glance to one another, they rung true to them.
"I might shed some tears for the civilians, but the SAS are bastards that deserve what they get! No better than the terrorists in Russia!" Another soldier called out, less sure than the first voice.
"They wear a uniform, which makes them prisoners under Geneva Convention guidelines!" The soldier cried out as though he was the lone voice of reason. "Have they been executing their prisoners en mass? I doubt it very much."
Sterling winced; The SAS's hands were certainly not clean.
"Herr Obersturmbannführer, I'm begging you. This is not right, not right in the slightest." The kid spoke once more to the SS leader. "We don't kill them simply for being an enemy. Surely you understand that."
Still Eichmann did not appear moved, but the Hauptmann certainly did. He stepped forward, past his men and joined the teenager, his expression hard and resigned that he had just voluntarily stepped in front of a firing line.
"The Gerfeiter is right." The Hauptmann rumbled out to the staring Obersturmbannführer. "Dealing slaughter in the name of your ideology might work for you out in Russia, but it doesn't here. We don't fight this war with the same sort of hate you hold!"
The actions of the Hauptmann were like a dam bursting. More and more the Afrika Korps troops shouted and tried to get their point across, all of them falling into line in front of the English prisoners, even the ones bitter in feelings to the English. All of them protecting meant they had fought not an hour ago with their lives. Sterling had to fight back the urge to tear up.
If the situation had been in reverse, he doubted very much he would have done the same. Eichmann held up his hand, unmoved by the gesture, but still willing to talk to them. The Heer calmed their collective rage to a simmer.
"May I have a chance to respond to your concerns?" Eichmann requested with an extremely polite tone offered to the angered men.
Glancing back to his men, The Hauptmann nodded his head. Eichmann merely smiled respectfully. He gestured to the original German teen that stood there and turned to one of the SS riflemen.
"Oberscharführer, shoot that man."
The SS rifleman responded by raising his rifle to the boy and blowing a gaping wound through the boy. The soldiers roared out in furious rage. The Hauptmann dropped to his knees and clutched the boy's chest, his jacket pressed into the wound to save him. The rest of the soldiers pushed back, forcing the SS to take good ten or so steps back.
It was too late, much too late. The kid died before his comrades eyes. The Hauptmann's eyes were filled with tears, whether it was due to grief or righteous anger, Sterling could not guess. Closing the boy's eyes and wiping his own, The Hauptmann stood up. Eichmann stood there impassively, his eyes scanning all of the soldiers standing before him.
"His fate is your fate if you do not fall in line." Eichmann warned them all. "You do not answer to some higher power; you do not answer to your Rommel. When I am here, I am the one in charge. The Fuhrer has decreed that commandos and civilians that have purposely resisted are to be shot. If you do not fall in line and follow His will, not only will you pay for disobedience, but so shall your family."
The threats did nothing to pacify the Afrika Korps. All of them were looking for blood.
"You swore an Oath to the Fuhrer, to the party!" Eichmann suddenly shouted at the near revolting desert troops.
That was all it took.
"Oh FUCK the Fuhrer!" One of the men behind the Hauptmann roared out.
Then it happened. The Afrika Korps unit rushed the SS's. Eichmann's men managed to hit one of them with a stray bullet but with so little space between each other the Wehrmacht solders hit the political soldiers hard. Fists were flying as the two factions attacked one another as though it had been a pub brawl between Drunk Irish and Scotsmen.
Sterling turned back to his men, all of them looking gleeful at the sight.
"Come on, you lot!" Was all he had to say.
Simple words got the exhausted SAS men. They would not kill them all just yet. A fist fight would get the blood pumping.
Sterling dived in hit one of the fleeing SS men. The soldier struck out and hit Sterling in the jaw harder than David had expected. Still the giant shrugged off the attack. Faintly Sterling could tell who this was. It was the one who had shot the boy. David wrapped his hands around the executioner's neck. He looked up and found the Hauptmann of the unit had rushed to his side. He grinned slightly at the Englishman as his hands turned to fists, which mashed the SS soldier's face up pretty badly.
"WHAT IN THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE!"
The entire fight froze, the civilians froze. Even men like Eichmann and Sterling froze. Storming through the ruins of the fortress walls was Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, the Desert Fox himself, Behind him, several of his Heer adjutants.
His presence brought a great relief to Sterling, as it did to the rest of the prisoners. He would save them all! It was in his nature not to let men like Eichmann get away with things such as this. At least that was what he figured. Regardless, it was amusing to watch his fellow civilian Britons look on Rommel in the same sort of way Churchill had in his address to parliament, with great fanfare.
The leader of the Afrika Korps detachment stood up, the Hauptmann bruising and bloody.
"Herr Generalfeldmarschall! My man, Hegelin stood up against a summary execution; we joined in protesting the execution of these people." The Hauptmann informed his commander. "This pig ordered this idiot to shoot Hagelin for standing up to him."
Turning his eyes from the SS rifleman being gestured to by the captain, Rommel turned his attention to the one known as Adolf Eichmann. He stood there, impassive, as though he had not done a thing wrong in his own twisted morality. The soldier had disobeyed, so Eichmann ordered him put down like a disobedient dog.
Eichmann looked close to speaking, but before he could, Rommel unholstered his sidearm and without a moment's hesitation. Simply shot the Obersturmbannführer clean through the throat, causing the SAS men to jump back startled and the civilians cry out.
Eichmann fell to the ground, his eyes wide, his face pale as he clutched his throat, his legs kicking in the air as blood pooled out from his mouth. Rommel did not call for a medic. He stood there, his pistol lowered to his side as he watched the man writhe and twitch. He paid no mind to the impressed look David Sterling had, or the shouts of joy the Afrika Korps troops roared out. He simply stood there watching as the man bled out before his eyes.
Eichmann emitted a low, rasping death rattle, his life leaving his eyes.
Sterling listened to Rommel exhale unsteadily, his first sign of regret. The Desert Fox dropped his pistol near the body of the SS colonel and turned away, pulling his peaked cap off his head and running his hands through his thinning hair.
"I don't think I should have done that..." The Field Marshal mused as though it wasn't obvious.
God save his soul, Sterling could not help himself, he suddenly howled out into a fit of laughter at Rommel's plain spoken reproach. Rommel turned his head to the laughing Englishman and narrowed his eyes, instantly silencing the commando, who felt terrible. It was a terrible time to laugh.
Turning away, Rommel glanced to the shocked SS execution squad and then to his men, adding. "Disarm them... get the civilians out of here."
The soldiers obliged, some disarmed the SS, and the others gently moved through the crowd and pulled the civilians out of the POW. To Sterling's amazement, there was no fight to the Afrika Korps actions. They had seen how close to death they could have been in the hands of the SS. To any sane man, the Afrika Korps protecting them was something not to fight.
Exhaling as the civilians left, Sterling stepped forward. He leaned down and collected Rommel's pistol, a fine piece of machinery. He looked back up and found a dozen Karabiner rifles pointing at him and Rommel's eyes solely focused on him. Keeping the pistol at his side, Sterling turned back to his men, their hands in the air.
"I guess I got lucky, grabbed his gun before he could stop me." Sterling spoke as though he was defending himself. "I had to shoot him, Field Marshal."
There was silence as the ragtag and battle fatigued SAS troopers glanced at one another wearily at the statement offered by their commander. Rommel narrowed his eyes, himself apparently surprised.
"Yeah... you had to do what you had to do... Good shot, Sah." A cheery sounding Scotsmen named McClellan called out to Sterling first. It wasn't long after him that the rest of the unit murmured in agreement that it was clearly Sterling, who gunned down the piece of shit lying at their feet.
Sterling turned properly away from the cheering and back to Rommel, he had ordered his men to lower their rifles. His expression was an odd... it was thoughtful... almost gracious by the gesture his adversary was doing. The taller, bearded Englishman stepped closer to the older man. Silently, he stretched the butt of the Walther out to the Field Marshall, who took it from him.
"There will be an outgoing supply trawler at the dock. Try not to take the crew with you..." Rommel informed the slightly swaying Sterling in a dead tone. He paused and added. "I trust that you will know what a Trawler looks like... anything bigger and I'll have the Kreigsmarine on my backside from now until my death."
The cheering subsided. Sterling widened his eyes as he wondered if he had misheard the Rommel's statement.
"You...You'd let us go?"
Rommel stood there for a good moment before finally; he nodded his head in confirmation.
"You're all marked men now. There is now an order demanding summary executions for commandos." The Field Marshall warned the gathered survivors. "Even if I captured you and gave my word, I can't protect you either now... So I see no other choice than to let you go. Perhaps we could strike a deal. Redirect your special skills to the SS in Egypt and I'll let you leave... You should take these men with you."
He gestured to the disarmed group of SS men their hands over their head with Kar 98K rifles shoved in their faces. Sterling tried not to smile grimly. Perhaps he could request the Germans to bayonet the fuckers.
"I think we could do something like that." Sterling conceded to the field Marshall. Wiping blood off his mouth, he added. "What if my superiors question them and they tell?"
Rommel turned away, his arms behind his back as he seemed to have thought about what the Englishman had said to him. He coughed into his handkerchief and turned back, half frowning, half smirking as he raised his eyebrow.
"I can see your English newspapers now." Rommel mused as he approached the SAS men. "The Desert Fox gunned down an SS colonel after the Afrika Korp's protects a hundred civilians and servicemen of the British Empire from murderous Nazis, then allowed a crack unit of Tommy commandos an opportunity to escape. I could always use more good publicity."
The slight smile vanished completely. Rommel's eyes hardened at the younger Englishman.
"Do not make me regret this, or I'll unleash the wrath of God onto all of you."
Glancing back to his men and the civilians being escorted back out of the fortress and in the hands of the Afrika Korps, the Commando nodded. As much as he considered the Desert Fox an enemy, he would oblige his offer. Regretting it, he offered his hand to the Field Marshall, who shook it.
With their business concluded, the field marshal left, tucking his sidearm back into his holster and stepping over the dead Adolf Eichmann, leaving behind him a stunned group of SAS men watching several Afrika Korps men fight back tears as they lifted up the body of Gefrieiter Hegelin and carried him off for repatriation, back to Germany if it was possible. Like a true hero.
Field Marshal Erwin Rommel died a few days ago, September 12th, 1973. As I write this I am sitting here watching his funeral precession on the television. I don't think I have ever been this drunk in my life.
In his life, I felt nothing but nothing but antagonism for the Desert Fox. He was the one man I wanted to kill the most, and I had several chances to do so, yet I could not have brought myself to do so. Not for a lack willingness. I strangled forty men and did not lose a single iota of sleep over that. It always astounds me to what a man is capable of when he granted a recess from adhering to the law in order to inflict as much damage to the foe as he can.
In his death, Erwin Rommel reminded me that in times of war, one mustn't have to lose his honour to win it. Such a lesson had fallen on deaf ears. With him gone, I wonder if his teachings will fade. That war can be fought and won without hatred. I look on him now as one of the men I wish I could be half as strong as.
In 1963, there was the first ceremony in Tel Aviv for the Righteous Among The Nations. He had ultimately saved a thousand Jews on Malta, and much later, stopped the 1st SS from burning the Palestinian mandate to the ground. He was to be honoured, but Rommel had flat out refused the recognition.
I always wondered why he did that.
All I know for certain is that he was a better man than I.
Pacing his room, Erwin Rommel left his sidearm on his dresser, his hand working through his hair.
He could believe what he had done. The first time in years he killed a man in war and it was mid-level SS man who was apparent confidant to Reinhard Heydrich. Sure he had thoroughly dealt with the situation. It would be a week before Rommel would have to report Eichmann's death. He would take him to Egypt and blow his corpse up in a minefield or something. Anything looked better than him getting shot in the throat for doing his duties, no matter how grim they were.
Sitting in the corner of the room was the quarian he had come to know over the past few months Admiral Utala'Falan. Her eyes followed his every movement as he nearly burned a hole through the floor he was treading on. He paid her no mind; naturally, his thoughts were too clouded in his own actions. Sure they were justified. The man had ordered a summary execution of one of his men, simply for standing up in what was right. But should anyone find out than that would be it. He would be court marshalled, his career over, his life forfeit, as would his wife and son's.
Taking a breath, Erwin finally met the gaze of the Admiral. Utala stood up and stepped closer to him. Her eyes to focused on the sidearm briefly before turning back to the pacing, temperamental fifty year old tactical savant.
"It was a foolish thing to do, to kill Eichmann like that." He growled. "I have jeopardized the plans. Rundstedt will have my head for what I have done."
Falan reached out and touched his shoulder, but it was brushed off quickly as Rommel continued to pace, his head lowered in deep contemplation.
"It will be kept quiet. The unit of SS soldiers have been taken by the Englishman, everything is fine. All they will know is you shot that bastard in defence of others and not about some great scheme we're a part of." Utala reassured the brooding military man. She paused and then added. "Besides, you read his profile. You know what he was doing to the civilians; you know what he intended to do to those commandos."
But Rommel was not about to listen to something so reasonable.
"That does not excuse my action actions, Admiral. He should have stood trial and been hung. I gave him the quickest way out." He complained, looking furious with the situation. "Death at my hands is much to honourable an end for the likes of him."
As he passed by her again, Utala reached out and grabbed the human by his forearm. He stopped pacing and turned to her.
"I'm proud of you." She admitted to him.
Rommel simply stared at her, his head tilted off to the side. He looked close to telling her that he thought she was spewing bullshit.
"You show your regrets, but you did what was right." She whispered, elaborating for his benefit. "You used your heart... It's a first I have seen..."
She trailed off and looked at him helplessly. Rommel could only snort in a fashion that told her he was almost amused by her genuine praise.
"You make me sound heartless." Rommel laughed humourlessly "Like this is my first good deed."
Falan only shook her head.
"You are in a position of command during war, It is expected that one must use his head, not his heart." Utala soothed his brooding pessimism. "This display... the way you stood up to a monster... it was... It was ... impressive."
Once more Rommel was on the verge of reminding the quarian that the only reason he did something was because of the death of the rifleman. In all likelihood he probably wouldn't have retaliated like he had done if it was just the civilians and Sterling being marched off to possible execution. It made him sound like a terrible person, but he was a part of a conspiracy now. A Field Marshall in a conspiracy that wasn't ready to begin had to understand that a few must die to save the rest.
But his reasons no matter how much he downplayed his actions wasn't getting through to Utala. She looked at him strangely, her eyes glancing back and forth as she inspected him as she stepped closer to approach the field marshal. She stopped, only inches away from the only slightly taller man. She was breathing strange as her eyes, it was shallow. It was as though she was forgetting occasionally to breath.
Rommel arched his brow only slightly as he watched the Admiral bite her lip.
Strange fingers wrapped around the belt of his uniform she stepped closer still. Rommel glanced quizzically at her until finally, her lips touched against his for the briefest of seconds. It did not take much longer than that for Utala to realize what she had done. Her eyes widened, her lips dragged back from his as she let go of him, her eyes wide and confused as to why she would do such a thing.
Rubbing her neck, Utala gave off a high, nervous laugh.
"I... I should not have done that."
Without waiting for the slightly stunned Rommel, This wasn't exactly his first moment of infidelity by any means. But certainly a first with someone he considered a colleague. Of course he wasn't yet factoring in that she wasn't even human, which was the most drastic oddity about this situation.
The embarrassed woman froze in place and turned to face the man standing there with his arms behind his back, his mouth turned up into a smile for the first time in a very long time. He had just executed a future war criminal and found himself in someone affection, even if that someone wasn't exactly his wife.
"Next time you find yourself kissing me, do me a favour and dress a little more feminine." The Desert Fox requested of the female. "It's my prerogative not to have to kiss those dressed like my own soldiers."
The expression on the Admirals face silently told him that if he did not want to be disembowelled, he would not make such a comment like that ever again to her.