Summary: Set in WWII trench war, a private writes to his love.
EDIT: Okay, I made a mistake. In this story, I cited the example of the famous the Maginot Line but the detail which I didn't pay much attention to (and shame on me, really) was the fact that trench warfare—although totally not obsolete during WWII—was in fact, very different from WWI. Many thanks to Lynn K. Hollander for correctly pointing it out. But I've made the correction. So...yay!
It has been three months since we've heard from each other. I promised to write often so that I'd not be the reason for you to shed your precious pearls but forgive me my dear. For this wretch has failed to keep his promise—the most important vow that only the miserable would bring himself to break. But what to do? The past three months have been such active for each one of us. Active, burdened and oh so stressful.
Three months ago, by the order of Der Fuehrer(2), our battalion had been moved to the French front where there was a strong concentration of the Allied forces. We were to push through their resistance and take hold of France. That was the plan then. And here we are, still facing strong bouts of power which hasn't diminished yet...no, not in the least.
We thought our technology was advanced. Too much for them to match. However, we were proven wrong. Sharply, especially after that devastating campaign in Normandy in which, they gloriously showed that they are equally equipped...maybe not in terms of machinery but in terms of something far greater than that. Their sheer willpower is amazing! I guess this is what happens when you're driven up to the wall. You fight. Teeth and claws—whatever it be, you fight hard.
Of course, our side is not the one to give up so easily. They have their reason and we have ours. I'm not saying, our cause is the noblest of them all. Not saying, anything but either. But when it comes down to the choice of a glorious defeat or a shameful retreat, the choice is obvious.
Do not say a word Grace, but I'm tired. I don't want to fight anymore. I want to escape from this atrocity.
Every day, I wake up to the sound of gunfire or a grenade going off or that of a man shrieking in cold-blooded agony. Each day, an ominous mist of gunpowder surrounds the once clear sky. The grounds littered with bodies of men—some known, most unknown—of friends and foes, sons and brothers, husbands and fathers. It is a sight not to be seen.
It makes the firmest to break and when he does, it wrenches my heart. For those are not the tears of a coward. Those are the tears of one who has seen so much, done so much and has hands tainted with the horrid stain that will never leave him no matter how many times he scrapes of his palm.
Life in this horrid environment is becoming unbearable. To the point that every time I close my eyes, I fear of what I'll see when I open them. The morbid surroundings provide safety but also offer uncertainty. Be sure, one who leaves might not come back. If he does—before he's supposed to, you shoot him. The army is no place for the feeble-hearted. If he succeeds, you join him. Enter the trench of your enemy. If you survive the dangerously booby-trapped enclosure, you thank God and move on. If the booby trap brushes against you, you move on. If you stay behind frozen with fear, then you'll be left behind.
The army is no place for a coward.
You'll never know how deeply tarnished my hands are with bloods of those who thought of retreating...just for the sake of wanting to see his family again after he went back to his home. How old were most of them? Eighteen? Nineteen? Twenty? Most would call them cowards.
To me, they were just human.
I've repented relentlessly for what this war has made me do. Nights bring me wallows and nightmares. I hear them; I hear them all—their screams and their agony flashing before my eyes. All the blood and the gore. All eyes which flashed fear just the moment before their last, faces of those I've lost and those I've taken away.
Day breaks and the first thing I feel is pain from my leg where a bullet scar adorns it. No, do not worry my love. It is minor and has been taken care of.
But pain is good.
Pain is real.
I feel real.
It is the sole reminder that I'm still alive and that I must live. I've left behind my life back in the gentleness of our little town in Quedlinburg(3). And that I must return no matter what.
I don't know how long this madness will last. I pray, not long enough. Too many has died, so many more still will. The loss of lives is just not worth it.
Big words for a Private but honest nonetheless.
But enough of this depressing subject. How are you and your parents? Are mother and father well? And Wilhelm? Has he been guarding the sheep well? I should hope so. I miss him. All of you.
I must end my letter here. We are summoned again by the Major. I'll write as soon as I can.
Eagerly waiting for your sweet reminder,
(1) German for Miss
(2) The Leader. Reference to Adolf Hitler.
(3) Spared in part from the ravages of World War II, this town in the Harz Mountains still evokes the Middle Ages with its 1,600 half-timbered buildings, more than any other town in the country. Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. (Reference- www . frommers destinations / germany / 0224020855 . html)