THE SATURDAY EVENING POST 13 Qll o E EN MCHESE Captured French Cannons Guarded by German Soldiers di Burial of German Soldiers With dWilitary Honors IWANT, first-off, to try to visualize him as I saw him back yonder, last August, in Belgium. He is a German common soldier—he is the German common soldier; and for purposes of convenience I label him Johann Schmidt, private. I do not mean to glorify him or to idealize him or to disparage him. I mean to try to make a fair and honest likeness of him. Since mine is a neutral country, I should prefer to draw a composite portrait which would sum up the characteristics of the soldiers of several of the countries 'at war; but that I concede to be an impossible thing for me to do. My picture would contain so many acutely' jarring contradictions it would lose resemblance to anybody. Besides, through sheer chance, I was mainly thrown into contact with the German soldier rather than with the Belgian or the French or the British soldier. I saw the Belgian in the field for a flash of time only—a flash to be measured by hours rather than days. Afterward I saw him frequently, but as a prisoner; and being a prisoner alters a soldier in all his ordinary perspectives. I saw the Frenchman at a distance, across a battle line; or else I saw him as a prisoner too. I saw the Englishman at drill on the home ground, or in the home hospital, wounded, or in the hands of his enemy, disarmed and downcast. I had no extended opportunity of studying him in camp or in action. I saw the German soldier, however, engaged in every possible employment a soldier is called on to follow in time of war; and, seeing him so, I came to know him pretty well, as I believe. Peoples Unchanged by War TRUE, there was a linguistic gap between us to be bridged. He thought and spoke in one tongue and I in another, but by constant association through a term of weeks and months I was able, I think, to learn something of the man inclosed within the shapeless gray uniform, and to know him as a human unit rather than as a colorless cog in a mighty mechanism. Or, at least, I flatter myself that such was the case. It is strange how the mere fact of a nation's being at war warps the normal conception of the normal noncombatant in another nation regarding the people of the nation that is at war. Many times since I returned from Europe I have heard a person of more than ordinary intelligence say to me in effect: "What sort of people are the Germans?" It was as though the Germans had been a mysterious and peculiar race buried in some remote back corner of the planet, of whom the world at large had never heard until this war thrust them forward out of their aloofness into a conspicuous place before the eyes of their fellow creatures. It is stated that there are between seven and ten million persons of German birth in this country at present—say there are seven millions. Well, then, those seven million people are of a piece with the seventy millions who remain in Germany. All of them—the seven millions and the seventy—share the same instincts, the same desires, the same impulses. So far as my limited observation goes, war, as a physical circumstance, does not in the least transform a race of people out of themselves into something else. They retain all their inherited and natural and national characteristics; it is merely that those characteristics are welded and tempered to a greater hardness and a greater ERVEN 20 COMB fineness and a greater firmness in the forges of war. What is best in them becomes better; what is worst in them becomes yet worse. The German at war—the German in Germany—is in his essentials the same German who reads this weekly, who lives in your town and mine, who is our neighbor or our friend or our kinsman, or ourself. He has become neither a demigod nor a demon. Assuredly he is not all good; certainly he is not all bad. His nature has undergone no chemical change, and his passions are what they have always been, except that for the time being they have, let us say, been pointed and accentuated—that's all. And undoubtedly this is true of the other races that to-day feel directly the same fires which burn in him. In the very essence of things this must be true. So much briefly for the psychological background. The physical settings of the picture may be sketched in with equal rapidity. There is a street in a Belgian town just over the frontier from Germany—a small, dun-colored, rather unpicturesque Belgian town. Some of its inhabitants, the more timorous ones, have run away. The doors of their abandoned houses gape emptily; and across the nearest threshold, belike, is a litter of paltry belongings caught up in the panic of flight and at the last moment dropped for something else—which, in turn, will probably also be abandoned by the roadside. Those stouter-hearted souls who dared remain when word came that the Allemaine were coming flutter about distractedly in an aimless, useless frenzy, fascinated by the prospect of the sight they are about to witness, yet fearful of the result of the visitation on their village and themselves. They suggest a coopful of distressed and alarmed barnyard fowls. It is a most chickenlike flurry, and a strange manifestation on the part of men and women who, as all the world now knows, possess their share and more than their share of grit and fortitude. Round the nearest turn in the crooked street rides a single man on horseback, a cavalryman in dusty gray. At sight of him the road clears itself magically. There is a shriek or two, a confused babble of lesser outcries, a clatter of sabots on the flags, a slamming of many doors—and, behold, the man on horseback rides alone! He comes on slowly and steadily, his horse checked down to an amble, his carbine unshipped from its sheath and held at a threatening angle, ready for instant use. His pose bespeaks a certain menacing preparedness for whatever may befall. He is probably the poorest life-insurance risk in the world, and he knows it. At any moment an enemy he cannot see may pot him from behind a hedge or a shutter. So he is organized, at the bare suggestion of a hostile move, to shoot, and to shoot to kill. Afterward—if he lives until afterward—he may use the torch too; but first he shoots. For the facilitation of our purposes we choose to assume that in this particular village no daring villager raises an armed hand against this lone horseman. So the scout rides on; other scouts, on horseback, on motorcycles, or on bicycles, follow close behind him, and presently the invading column is pouring through that town, and the natives, half forgetting their fright, are clustering in the doorways to watch a show the like of which they never saw before. What they see is a myriad-legged gray centipede which wriggles its way on past them unendingly. It moves in perfect unison and alignment. Each section of it, each joint in the weaving gray worm, is exactly like each corresponding segment a mile back or a dozen miles back. The burdened backs of the human atoms that make up this monster earwig bend, all at the same angle. Their legs scissor back and forth in harmony, and at each clip of the living shears cut off exactly so much of the yellow road— no more and no less, but just so much. The blankets might all have been rolled by the same pair of hands—no, by the same machine; the block-tin drinking cups dangle at the same angle; the many-strapped bullhide knapsacks perch at the same slope between the shoulders of their wearers. ./1 Typical Specimen From the Ranks THERE is something unearthly and unhuman about the mechanical precision of the whole thing; something cosmic and planetic about its steady onward surge. It is the irresistible force going to meet the immovable body; and as it waits for the crash, and the results of that crash, the world at large, like the smaller world of this Belgian village, gapes wide eyed, open eared, mute with apprehension, quivering with nervous forebodings of the impending shock. That, remember, was early August of 1914. From the ranks of an infantry company we pick out our sample specimen, to wit: Johann Schmidt, musketeer; in other words, Private John Smith, the average man. Since he had not yet been directly under fire, he is to that extent a new soldier; but we cannot rightly call him a green soldier. Strictly speaking, Germany had no green soldiers among the millions of troops she set in motion at the first moment of mobilization. Every man of those millions had done his stint of military service; every man of them who was in the reserves had been kept fit and smart by annual periods of active drill and evolution. When the call to the colors came, every man of them—the soldier in barracks or camp, the bookkeeper at his desk, the clerk behind the counter, the professor in his classroom—knew exactly what he had to do and how he was to set about doing it. I recall what a young German art dealer told me last spring as we sat together at dinner in his apartments above his place of business on Fifth Avenue, in the city of New York. His age, I should say, was twenty-eight or twentynine, which meant that he had concluded his two years in the standing army of his country some seven or eight years before. " I belong," he told me, " to a reserve regiment of infantry. For emergency purposes that regiment has its rendezvous, as you might say, at a certain fortress not very far from my native city of Cologne. Assume that to-morrow the order to mobilize comes; assume, also, that I am somewhere in Germany at the time. It is my duty to start instantly for the mobilization headquarters of my regiment. If I have in my pocket money with which to pay my railroad carriage fare, so much the better. If I have no money I have only to show any railroad official my papers and I am conveyed to my destination as rapidly as steam can take me there.
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