Horses were not an option because the Wehrmacht ate them.

(2015)

Being dull, I spend a lot of time that could be spent watching the Weather Channel instead watching (or listening, actually) to lectures online. Science and history, for the most part. Arcane, big words, hopelessly obscure, badly rendered power points, that kind of thing. On the Weather Channel the meteorologist babe had legs to die for, but on my computer a guy was going on about the Wehrmacht. I kept listening. He said it was a mess, that Wehrmacht, nothing like you see on Combat! In 1942 their reconnaissance units had run out of motorcycles–those nifty sidecar things Vic Morrow is always ducking from on Combat!–because the motors had all frozen, seized, and self-destructed in the Russian winter. Horses were not an option because the Wehrmacht ate them. So they gave the reconnaissance units bicycles. Bicycles. Blitzkrieg with a low carbon bootprint.

The lecturer, Dr. Robert Citino, is a smartass (“cheeky” doesn’t quite cut it) who is one of America’s leading experts on things German and military, apparently. A fascinating talker. The perfect blend of details and anecdotes, the personal and the whole picture. He knows his scheiss, and he’s funny as hell, too. Weird even:
“….my book on the Russian campaign in 1942, which I will attempt to explain without the use of maps–I will ask several people in the front row to come up and pretend to be various terrain features, if you wouldn’t mind….”

The room full of cadets laughs nervously. Especially the plebes.

It turns out that the German generals weren’t as smart as their uniforms. Flipping through the comments below the video, his describing the Wehrmacht command as often stupid is not going over well. And we’re not even talking Wehrmacht involvement in war crimes, he adds. That’s another lecture. Actually I just saw another lecture on just that. The lecturer, Dr. Geoffrey Megargee, a tad cheeky himself, was an expert on the Holocaust on the Eastern Front. Einsatzgruppen, etc. Army involvement in genocidal war crimes was pervasive, he said. The Nuremberg Trials found commanders-in-chief Keitel and Jodl guilty of crimes against humanity, but could have carried those war crimes trials down to dozens of army and even corps level commanders too. And hanged them all, he added. It was a startling afterthought, and off topic–he was discussing the German general staff–but it was obvious even in this purely academic setting how much he hated Nazis. You don’t hang the people you love. The YouTube Neo-Nazis hated him back.

And now the Nazis really hate this funny Wehrmacht expert guy too. Amazing how many Nazis there are on YouTube. Apparently Dr. Citino is a Jew loving stooge. Or is a Jew himself. He’s Italian someone pointed out. He’s from Cleveland, but his people came from Sicily. Then he’s a race traitor too, a Nazi added. Another pointed out that Italians were not Aryans, and stabbed the Reich in the back. Others jumped in, trashing all things Nazi. A strange sort of alternative reality melee erupts, refighting the war in catty comments. Meanwhile the professor is saying how a magazine asked him to list the ten best German generals on World War Two. It was kind of absurd, he said, like picking out the ten best heavy metal guitar players. More laughter. This time the plebes join in. Apparently air guitar is not a West Point hazing ritual.

Later I’m in the car and flip on the radio and it’s Highway Star by Deep Purple. Richie Blackmore is laying out his solo with heavy metal perfection. Erich Von Manstein, I think to myself, definitely.
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