Horst checks everything for the third time in an hour. The machine gun is loaded and pointing down the valley. Ammunition cases are stacked where the loader can get them, the satchel of grenades open at his feet with the handles facing upward, as specified in the regulations. He checks his belt to make sure his knife and pistol are in their proper places. He reties his boots.
The Obersoldat loafs against the sandbags, his face creased in amusement as he smokes. “You are too nervous, Horst. You must relax. Have a cigarette.” He proffers his pack.
Horst uneasily leans to take one. “I just wish to be ready,” he says, lighting it. “I learned that in the Hitler Youth. Be Prepared was our motto.”
The Obersoldat gestures at the overcast sky. “Did you not hear the planes last night as they flew over? Even in best days of the Reich we never had so many. And those are just their paratroopers. I am certain that Rommel’s beaches are crawling with Americans and British by now. Hundreds of thousands of them, all armed to the teeth, all lusting to festoon their bayonets with good German intestines.” He gives the young soldier a weary grin. “No amount of preparation will change the facts. I saw this enough times in Russia.”
“Still, Herr Ober, it is wise to have a plan. To be ready.”
“Certainly. Ready yourself all you like. Have at it. But I am going to sit and smoke and gaze on this lovely country as though this was my last day on earth, because chances are good that it will be.” He draws on his cigarette, blows out a volume of blue smoke. “Everybody has a plan until the shooting starts.”
This story is to honor June 6th, 1944. While we hear much about the Americans and British, very little is told from the German side. Field Marshal Rommel, who commanded the Normandy defense, had fallen out of favor with German high command. They were convinced the main Allied invasion would come far to the north, across the Pas de Calais; Rommel’s insistence in fortifying the Normandy coast was foolish and unnecessary. As a consequence, the bulk of his troops were either young soldiers with no experience or veterans wounded in other campaigns and called back to service. Obersoldat is a German rank that carries no authority other than experience.