"Enemy Ace: War Idyll": ===Chapter One===
- I'll always be a soldier, even to the end of days.
- -- Enemy Ace
Appearing in "Enemy Ace: War Idyll"
- Enemy Ace (Flashback and main story) (Dies)
- Edward Mannock (Flashback and main story)
- Black Wolf (Flashback only)
- Schmidt (Flashback only)
- Weiss (Flashback only)
- Kraus (Flashback only)
- Hughes (Dies in flashback)
- Krazy (Dies in flashback)
- Fokker Dr.I
- Sopwith Camel
Synopsis for "Enemy Ace: War Idyll"
All men must die but it is given to few to die for their country. - Epitaph, 1915, to Colonel Breakspear, in Henley Church
November 1969, an elderly and infirm Hans von Hammer is visited by journalist Edward Mannock, who has come to write an in-depth profile on the greatest ace of World War I. Von Hammer makes a note to Mannock that he is a soldier like him by judging his eyes. A look he has seen before. Von Hammer is also not left unaware of worldly events, as he turns on his television set which shows news about the My Lai Massacre.
Von Hammer begins his interview by recalling a butcher named Ernst Brechtman. When Hans was young he visited Brechtman's slaughterhouse and watched him kill lambs. He then realized that the butcher was content with his job while being indifferent to his grisly job. Hans had envied Brechtman's indifference, but at the same he was glad he never become indifferent. When the war started, Hans felt it was his duty to serve his county; however, much of his personal feelings troubled him. He ensured that his squadron run efficiently, and making the men in his charge prepared to meet the enemy and destroy them; he stressed that if they didn't kill, then they would surely die.
Throughout the war Hans felt weighed by the deaths of his charges and did not even felt the need for avenging them, as he saw vengeance being inappropriate. He refused to celebrate his victories with his peers and neither making any close friendship with them. The only peer he ever has is a black wolf that he used to hunt alongside in the nearby woods.
Hans and Mannock ends their interview and make plans to meet again tomorrow.
But there may yet be a development in our understanding of the unspeakable wretchedness of our human life and perhaps all this is leading us to it; so much calamity—as though a new dawn were seeking distance and space for their unfolding. - Rainer Maria Rilke/1914
Mannock and Hans watch the news of a man immolating himself in protest to the Vietnam War. Hans had known about self-immolation since it was first reported in 1963 but wonder why would they do it. Mannock answers that it is because "the world has finally gone mad." Hans sardonically reply that the madness happened a long time ago—"After two-thousand years of mass, we've got as far as poison gas." Still, Hans wonders how humanity never come to their senses by now. Mannock cynically elaborate that humanity couldn't because they get "propagandist crap" from the minute they are born to their first day in country, and being told what's right and proper and no one's there to argue. This lead to Mannock asking Hans what he believed in fighting in the war. Hans answers that he believed in honor.
Hans then relates his tale on Christmas Eve in 1917, where he and his squadron were shot down over the Somme. Hans survived the crash and found himself lying in shell hole surrounded by barb wires. However, Hans stops his story as Mannock's visiting hours are over. He decide to continue tomorrow, but the next time it will be outside as Hans has grown tired of being in his bedroom.
Black and hideous to me, the tragedy that gathers, and I'm sick beyond cure to have lived on to see it. The tide that bore us along was then all the while moving to this as its grand Niagara - yet what a blessing we didn't know it. It seems to me to undo everything, everything that was ours, in the most horrible retroactive way - but I avert my face from the monstrous scene. - Henry James, to Rhoda Broughton/1914
Mannock comes in late to his visit with Hans before admitting to the veteran that he is not a journalist and that he is not working for any magazine. He doesn't know why he is here. Hans knows why as Mannock have something to tell him, something that he have done and holding it inside him for a very long time.
Mannock wearily tells his story in which he had served as a tunnel rat in Củ Chi, where he was tasked in locating and destroying tunnel complexes held by the Viet Cong. One such mission left him as the sole survivor of his unit and became trapped in the tunnels surrounded by the dead of his men and enemies. When he reached the surface, he found himself digging through a mass grave of Vietnamese casualties before he was accidentally shot by his own soldiers. Mannock spent ten months recuperating at a base hospital in America, but left traumatized from remembering the bodies and the death. But what affected him the most is that he let his fellow tunnel rat, Hughes, to die in his place by diving behind him as a human shield when the Viet Cong ambushed them, and now extremely guilty he wished it should have been him.
If any question why we died Tell them - because our fathers lied. - Rudyard Kiping/1915 On learning that his son John had vanished on the western front.
After being consoled by Hans, Mannock explains that he went to visit Hughes' family and told them that Hughes was a brave man who died like "a real soldier." He never told them of being the reason for Hughes' death, but couldn't stand to tell them the truth that could hurt them any more than they already were. Hans states that everybody needs something to justify death to make it less hard to bear. But Hans believed that it is wrong for Mannock to take the burden of Hugh's death because if he had not died, then he would surely have died later. Some men are marked for death while others have no choice but to survive.
Hans continues where he left off of his story. After he was shot down, he was left unconscious for hours before awaking to the sound of artillery. By the time the artillery stopped, poison gas start to seep into the battlefield. Hans quickly used the plume on his headgear as a makeshift gas mask, but his skin exposed to the gas. A French soldier suddenly stumble into Hans in which he quickly subdues him with his knife and grabbing his gas mask for himself. The Frenchman gags from inhaling the gas and Hans quickly ends the man's suffering. Hans was too stunned, having taking life with his own hands but up close than in the skies.
Hans remained there with the poilu until daylight just as the fighting has resume. He makes a run across no man's land before falling into a mass grave. Surprisingly he finds a living English soldier buried underneath the corpses but he is left blinded by the gas, and therefore he cannot see Hans as his enemy. Hans carries the Englishman away from the corpses to a shell hole but could do nothing to save the Englishman, who is badly wounded and is slowly dying. Hans could only console by giving him a cigarette to smoke. After the Englishman died, Hans realized how his war in the skies was sterile and in comfortable illusions compare to the true horrors of war he now witnessed first hand. Von Hammer's rumination is broken by the complete silence on no man's land as the gunfire had stopped.
Despite all my hatred and aversion for war, I should not have like to have missed the memory of those first days. As never before, thousands and thousands felt what they should have felt in peacetime—that they belong together. - Stefan Zweig/1914
Hans was drawn to the incredible sight of soldiers from both sides across the trenches exiting from their positions and suddenly mingling with each other as they celebrate and sing on no man's land. Initially, Hans thought the men are celebrating that the war is over, but quickly learned that everyone is calling a truce to celebrate Christmas. Englishmen, Germans, and Frenchmen pass tins of rum, and souvenirs were exchanged. Hans spoke for a time with a English soldier, who shows him a photograph of his wife and son. Hans soon walked back to the body of the Frenchman he killed, away from the curious celebration that he felt he doesn't belong. Mainly because he never endured the same hardships these men had. But on that field of death and introspection, his faith in humanity was renewed.
Hans explains to Mannock that there is no secret of how to cope with the trauma and guilt. Because each person experiences war personally and separately. They see differently, and remember differently. Hans is still living with what he witnessed and what he did as it was fifty years ago. He tells Mannock that he must find something to displace the horror and sustain him. Hans' vocation is flight: flying in the skies made him felt alive and free even when all else had failed. Mannock takes Hans' advice to heart by truly writing his article on the Enemy Ace.
Everything visible has again been thrown into the tumultuous abyss to be melted down. The past is relinquished, the future shudders, the present lacks foundations, but the hearts, should not they have the power to soar and hover among the mighty clouds? - Rainer Maria Rilke/1914
Hans and Mannock meet outside to watch the birds. The latter shows Hans the article that he had finished and want to give it to him before leaving. But Hans tells him that he won't have the time to read it. Instead he gives Mannock his manuscript that he kept for many years when he didn't have anyone to tell his story.
After giving his manuscript to Mannock, Hans start telling about a dream he had. A dream of dying. In his dream he wakes up on a battlefield under the cover of night where he is met by the angel of death. Sometimes he thinks the angel looks like his comrades and other times his enemies. Right then he turns around to see all the men who died at his hands, and for the first time he is afraid. Afraid to stand with them, to join in their silent vigil. Then night suddenly turn to day, and he sees the vast, cloudless skies with a solitary golden sun. Hans find himself drawn to the sun's light, which reveal to be the valkyrie, coming to take him. By then Hans finally know what he is: a soldier as he always be "even to the end of days." These are Hans' final words as he peacefully dies while starring into the vast skies.
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