sexta-feira, 17 de setembro de 2010

Character Series nº 4 - Ernst Jünger


(Part III)

I have a bad feeling that JF is out there wishing to kick my ass real bad, since I placed this post without giving his outstanding post the proper amount of exposure.
I am sorry JF.
You know Friday is the day for the Character Series post and you also know that I NEVER miss a deadline.
(The Bad Life)

Les Eparges, May, 1915: EJ considered this to be his first real battle. He had been shelled at before by artillery, but this one was, at least in his mind, the one that counted, due to its intensity.
And this was what you could call, a “business-as-usual” battle, in World War I terms. EJ noticed the lines of blood-soaked wounded soldiers, streaming for the rear; sensed the disorganization and lack of purpose of the movements of his unit, up to a point, at least; the “savage pouncing dance” of the enemy artillery, as he calls it; the feeling of helplessness of being the targeted without the ability to respond, while being chased by lightnings and crushing air pressure.

And then it happened. EJ received his first wound in combat (in his left thigh). Right then he threw his haversack and, losing his head (these are his words) he barged through other wounded soldiers out of the trench he was in and started to run more or less aimlessly, until the loss of blood caused him to collapse. Later, he had the good luck of being discovered by stretcher-bearers and taken to the rear.

There was one thing that surprised him: he did not see a single live opponent in his first battle. Not a good start, some may say.
After two weeks in the Hospital, EJ was back on his feet and on his way to upgrade his rank to ensign and proceeded back to the front, with a new job in hand.

This was the first time EJ’s meat met the bullet. It would not be the last, as you will soon notice. Mind you, I will only be mentioning his most relevant encounters with the bullet and the steel shrapnel.

His next hit came during the Battle of the Somme, while his unit was stationed in the Village of Combles, on a more or less restful mood, in the month of August, 1916. A few artillery rounds landed nearby, reminding all of them that there was such thing as “rest” near the front line, and EJ was one of the lucky few who got a piece of shrapnel, this time in his left calf.
A “ticket home”, was the immediate diagnosis of his medical expert friends (as any good veteran prouds himself to be). And back he went to the Hospital. But this guy did not seem to know the meaning of the word “home”.
Therefore, thirty days later, EJ returned to his regiment, now stationed at Deuxnouds for some R & R, and soon to return to the Somme.
He also returned to a new job, this time as a scouting officer, leader of a scout troop.

His new job did not prove very fortunate for his health, though. In November that same year EJ was again hit, this time in both his legs, by a snipers bullet.
He was given a fresh ticket back to the Hospital, where, by the way, he did not stay very long, once again. Two weeks later this guy was back in the front, but since he could not march properly, he was once again given a new job, this time as an observation officer for the artillery.

In December that year someone thought all those wounds deserved some kind of reward, and gave him the Iron Cross First Class.
Most guys would be wary of putting their skin back on the line, after such regular and unfortunate contacts with red-hot steel. However, EJ was not one of those guys.
That’s the reason why, by August 1917 near the town of Gits, EJ was receiving another reminder: a wound in his shoulder, while doing his job as a Lieutenant commanding a Company. This time he did not even bother to check into the Hospital.

In early December 1917 EJ found himself leading his Company in a daring assault at enemy trenches, in the Siegfried Line, near Baralle, during the battle of Cambrai. Eventually, two holes in his steel helmet signalled a brushed skull. But there was more to come, in the form of splinters from an exploding bullet in the forehead.
Did EJ bother to sign into the Hospital? No way. This was his fifth double-wounding, which he healed during his Christmas leave.

The Knight’s Cross of the House of Hohenzollern was sent to him at home, during his leave, a more than deserved reward for his combat actions, since the wounds this guy received did not came from standing idly by, watching events unfold before his eyes.

Enough of this. I think you get my point by now.

By the end of the war his tally stood at fourteen hits, of which five were bullets, two shell splinters, one shrapnel ball, four hand grenade splinters and two bullet splinters – not counting trifles (as he calls them...) such as ricochets and grazes.
In September 1918 EJ was receiving the “Blue Max”, Prussia’s highest military decoration (the Order Pour le Merite), at the age of 23 – the youngest soldier ever to receive this award.

What is interesting about this Character? Among other things, his ability to overcome the morbid fear of death that often assaults the multiple wounded soldier and the ability to do his job even after seeing many of his friends maimed and killed – a true trademark of the German soldier.

Do not take this guy to be some kind of super-hero – at least I did not. EJ speaks frankly about the teeth chattering feelings he recurrently had and of the heightened awareness of the hunter mixed with the terror of the quarry he felt, and so forth.
Fear and doubt were there, but he somehow managed to overcome them to do his job, which apparently he managed to do well for about 4 years with respect and without hate for his opponents – not a very common occurrence in war, and a savage one at that.

By the way: this guy was 102 years old when he died…

This is the end of another interesting story in this wonderful weekly Series!
And who will be the one to guess the name of my next Character? Let ME guess: nobody!
However this time I am cutting your excuses short, since I will be giving such information about the next Character as never before has been seen on this Series.
The initials of his name are “J”, “R” and “M”; his business was the Vietnam War (circa  1971) and he was from the good old USA.

Now what?

PC