by George R. Elford

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The personal account of a guerrilla fighter in the French Foreign Legion, reveals the Nazi Battalion's inhumanities to Indochinese villagers.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780440120148
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 11/15/1972
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 236,872
Product dimensions: 4.20(w) x 6.90(h) x 0.90(d)

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The news of the German capitulation reached us by radio deep in the Czechoslovakian mountains, east of Liberec. We had been up there for almost a month, holding an important pass, waiting for the Russians to come. But as the days went by, nothing disturbed our positions and even the local partisans refrained from engaging us in a major skirmish. Unusual stillness blanketed the peaks and the valleys—the sort of sullen tranquility that, instead of relaxing the mind, only charges it with tension. Strange as it may be, after five years of war and hundreds of engagements with the enemy, both regulars and insurgents, we were in no condition to bear the quiet of peace. Of all the natural human functions which we had once possessed we seemed to have retained only those that were important for our immediate survival: to eat, to sleep, to watch the woods—and to pull the trigger.
None of us doubted that the end was near. Berlin had fallen and Hitler was dead. Military communications had long since broken down, but we could still listen to the foreign broadcasts, including those of the victorious Allies. And we knew that our saga would not end with the capitulation of the Wehrmacht; that there would be no going home for the tired warriors of the vanquished army. We would not be demobilized but outlawed. The Allies had not fought only to win a military victory. Their main objective was revenge.
The last dispatch which we had received from Prague eight days before had ordered us to hold our positions until further orders—orders that never came. Small groups of haggard German soldiers came instead. Unshaven and hollow-eyed troops who had once belonged to every imaginable service in the Wehrmacht—the SS, the Luftwaffe, and the SD (Security Service). Among them were the surviving members of a decimated motorized infantry brigade, a Luftwaffe service group, a panzer squadron left with only two serviceable tanks; there were also five trucks of a one-time supply battalion and a platoon of field gendarmes. The remnants of an Alpenjaeger battalion had survived the retreat all the way from the Caucasus to end up with us, near Liberec. We were all waiting for a last sensible order, the order to evacuate Czechoslovakia and return into Germany. The order to cease hostilities came instead.
For us, deep in hostile territory, the news of the armistice sounded like a sentence of death. We had no one to surrender to except the Czech guerrillas or the militia, neither of which recognized military conventions or honor. Up to the very end we expected to be ordered back to Germany before the weapons were laid down. We could expect no quarter from the partisans—we had killed too many of them. As a matter of fact we could expect no prisoner-of-war treatment from the Red Army either. The truck drivers of the supply battalion might be pardoned but not the Waffen SS, the archenemy. In a sense we felt betrayed. Had we known in advance that we were to be abandoned to our fate, we would have withdrawn despite our orders to stay. We had taken more than a soldier’s share of the war and no one could have accused us of cowardice.
For five long years we had given up everything: our homes, our families, our work, our future. We thought of nothing but the Fatherland. Now the Fatherland was nothing but a cemetery. It was time to think of our own future and whether our beloved ones had survived the holocaust wrought by the Superfortresses during the last two years of the war.
Our headquarters had ordered us: “Stay where you are and hold the pass.” Then our headquarters returned to Germany. Like the Roman sentry who had stood his guard while Vesuvius buried Pompeii, we too remained soldiers to the bitter end.
We had survived the greatest war in history, but if we were to survive peace, the most bloodthirsty peace in history, we had to reach the American lines two hundred miles away. Not because we thought much of American chivalry but at least Americans were Anglo-Saxons, civilized and Christian in their own way. Around us in the valley were only the Mongolian hordes, the Tatars of a mechanized Genghis Khan—Stalin. I had the notion that it was only a choice between being clubbed to death by cavemen or submitting to a more civilized way of execution.
To reach Bavaria and the American lines we had to cross the Soviet-controlled Elbe. We were still confident of our own strength. We had survived more hell than could possibly wait for us on the way home. German soldiers do not succumb easily. We could be defeated but never crushed.
All day long Captain Ruell of the artillery had been trying to reach the headquarters of Field Marshal Schoerner. No one acknowledged his signals but finally he did manage to contact General Headquarters at Flensburg. I was standing close to him and saw his face turn ashen. When he lowered his earphones he was shaking in every limb and could barely form his words as he spoke: “It’s the end…. The Wehrmacht is surrendering on all fronts…. Keitel has already signed the armistice…. Unconditional surrender.” He wiped his face and accepted the cigarette which I lighted for him. “The Fatherland is finished,” he muttered, staring into the distant valley with vacant eyes. “What now?”
Suddenly it dawned on us why the Russians had refrained from forcing the pass. The Soviet commander had known that the war was about to end, and he did not feel like sacrificing his troops only minutes before twelve o’clock. But he was aware of our presence in the neighborhood. Within six hours after the official announcement of the German capitulation, Soviet PO-2’s appeared overhead. Circling our positions the planes dropped a multitude of leaflets announcing the armistice. We were requested to lay down our weapons and descend into the valley under a flag of truce. “German Officers and Soldiers,” the leaflets read, “if you obey the instructions of the Red Army commander you shall be well treated, you will receive food and medical care due to prisoners of war, according to the articles of the Geneva Convention. Destruction of war material and equipment is strictly prohibited. The local German Commander shall be responsible for the orderly surrender of his troops.”
Had our plight not been so bitterly serious we could have sneered at the Russians quoting the Geneva Convention, something the Kremlin had neither signed nor acknowledged. The Red Army could indeed promise us anything under the articles of the Convention; it was not bound by its clauses.
The following morning our sentries spotted a Soviet scout car as it labored uphill on the winding road to our positions. From its mudguard fluttered a large white flag of truce. I ordered my troopers to hold their fire, and called a platoon for lineup. Everyone was shaved and properly dressed. I wanted to receive the Soviet officers with due respect. I was astonished to see the car stop three hundred yards short of our first roadblock, and, instead of sending forward parliamentaries, the enemy began to deliver a message through loudspeakers.
“Officers and soldiers of the German Wehrmacht…. The Soviet High Command knows that there are Nazi fanatics and war criminals among you who might try to prevent your accepting the terms of armistice and consequently your return home. Disarm the SS and SD criminals and hand them over to the Soviet authority. Officers and soldiers of the Wehrmacht…. Disarm the SS and SD criminals. You will be generously rewarded and allowed to return home to your families.”
“The filthy liars!” Unterstürmführer Eisner sneered, watching the Russian group through his binoculars. “They will be allowed to return home! That is a good joke.”
It was amusing to note how little the enemy knew the German soldier. After having fought us for so many years, the Soviet High Command should have known better. Cowardice or treason was never the trade of the German soldier. Nor was naïveté. They had called us “Fascist criminals” or “Nazi dogs” ever since “Operation Barbarossa.” In the past they had made no distinction between the various services. Wehrmacht, SS, or Luftwaffe had always been the same to Stalin, yet now he was endeavoring to turn the Wehrmacht against the SS and vice versa.
The loudspeakers blared again. Eisner pulled himself to attention. “Herr Obersturmführer, I request permission to open warning fire.”
“No! Nothing of the sort, gentlemen,” Colonel Steinmetz, the commanding officer of the small motorized infantry group protested. “We shouldn’t fire at parliamentaries.”
“Parliamentaries, Herr Oberst?” Eisner exclaimed with a bitter smile. “They are sheltering behind the flag of truce to deliver Communist propaganda.”
“Even so,” the colonel insisted. “We may request them to withdraw but we should not open fire.”
Being an officer of the Wehrmacht, Colonel Steinmetz had no authority over the SS. He was, however, a meticulously pedantic officer and much our senior both in rank and age. I did not feel like entering into futile arguments, especially in front of the ranks. Trying to avoid the slightest offensive quality in my voice I reminded him that I was in charge of the pass and all the troops therein. Even so the colonel stiffened at my remark and said, “I am aware of your command, Herr Obersturmführer, and I hope you will handle the situation with the responsibility of a commander.”

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Devil's Guard 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
lawmarine32 More than 1 year ago
Although the nazi SS committed many atrocities in world war two and were responsible for perhaps the most disgusting and heinous act ever perpetrated against humanity, in their ranks were many professional warriors who were fighting as honorable soldiers. War by definition is an often overly cruel endeavor that will result in many tragic endings. I found this book to be very well written, albeit gruesome in its description of the acts of war, it was also very honest. The fact that a professional warrior could foresee the future failing of the present conflict, but also be smart enough to know that others too would fail in the future, as a result of the command structures refusal to adapt new strategies to fight communism in the jungle was amazing. Perhaps we as a society should not judge an entire army but the individuals who make up an army.
Phridum More than 1 year ago
I happened across a copy of this book while processing out of STA from another who was processing out of Recon. On his recommendation, I began reading when I had the time available to finish it. And read it in one sitting I did.

It's been argued whether this book came about in the manner which the story and author purport or if it is in a similar vein as Goldman's "The Princess Bride". I do not have a full enough grasp of the history of Indochina/Vietnam, the SS, the Foreign Legion, or weaponry to determine the consistency of the timeline, but some details ring a bit hollow. Minor discrepencies in choices the author made for his storytelling lead me to believe that this is nearly fully a work of fiction.

But what a work of fiction it is! What may look like a simple historical novel loosely tying events and situations together into a plausible course, I believe is really an emulation of Heinlein's "Starship Troopers". Whereas Heinlein wrote a novel to flesh out thoughts on civic duty and accountability, Elford is using "Devil's Guard" to flesh out his thoughts on leadership, honor, and justice.

Having "fought in the trenches" against insurgency myself, I believe that Elford could not have done a better job illustrating the way troopers feel about the wars they are fighting if he had interviewed my team and compatriots for his research. This novel, along with "Band of Brothers", "Secret Commandos", and "Trigger Men" is about as close to understanding the mind of a infantryman as your going to get without being one yourself.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The story of former SS PartizanJager who escaped the Red Army by walking almost 400km to the demarkation line in the midle of the Germany at the end of the WW2, escaped to France, joined the Foreign Legion, led a pure German Legion in the war for Indochina with Viethmin, won uncountless battles and retired to an Asia state where he was (and maybe still is) teaching modern walfare. Read the true story about a man, who used tactics that defeaded a almost invicible oponent.
jeremiahstover on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was a fun read. Since publication the historical veracity of the author has been called into question.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A great read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great insight to a forgotten piece of history.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
True story of great soldiers
GuyDH More than 1 year ago
Incredibly interesting book. You will not regret this purchase.
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This is the best book depicting the French and Indo Chineese war following WW II with graffic detail describing the German participation with in the Foreign Leagion after being "rescued" from the brutalities in their home country after the Russion occupation. Not for the feint of heart or those that have problems with graffic depiction of the violence incurred. This book is found in non-fiction; I am not an expert in the field of this war but what I have been able dig up sems to make me believe the validity of the book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book purports to be a barely edited transcription of '18 days' of continuous tape-recorded narrative by Elford (a zoologist working somewhere in Southeast Asia) of a former Waffen-SS non-commissioned officer, encountered by the 'editor' in a local bar. Unfortunately, the 'Devil's Guard' is just a bad novel. There are too many historical anachronisms for this tale to even vaguely approximate a factual recounting. For example, the author refers to a French encampent at Dien Bien Phu, which places at least half of the action on or after March, 1954. As the defeat was not mentioned, it was before May, 1954 and as there was no reference to the battle, it's got to be before November, 1954. Within a page or so (in the Hailer Publishing edition, anyhow), our protagonist mentions working with a British military man who 'fought in the Malayan Emergency for 3 years': the Emergency was declared in 1948 and ended in 1960. In order for there to be an encampment at Dien Bien Phu and for the British soldier to have fought for 3 years, the action had to have taken place in a very short time span in early 1954. This seems to contradict the chronology, as the narrator and his pals were former SS who left Europe in 1945 and joined the FFL around 1946. There was absolutely nothing in the story to suggest they were fighting for over 7 years at the time these references were made. Elsewhere, Wagemueller mentions '5 years' of Indochinese service. During the 'debate' between the Communist cadre, Kwang and a member of Wagemueller's unit, Stalin is spoken of as a living contemporary. As Stalin died in 1953, a French base at Dien Bien Phu would not have existed at that time. Another glaring anachronism was introduced by Kwang's remark that Mao had been in power in China for 'two years'. That would place the date of their mid-novel activities in 1951. Clearly, given these gross chronologic flaws in the context of exquisitely detailed recollections of other activities, this book is a work of fiction, not an historical accounting. Additionally, noted authorities on the French Foreign Legion, such as Bernard Fall, do not describe a unit comprised of German nationals, exclusively, much less one that was all former SS. Finally, none of the massacres nor any of the French FFL officers named appear to have existed. Aside from these major flaws, the approach to 'counter-terrorism' espoused by Wagemueller, the putative principal of this yarn, was just that used to such worthless effect in the USSR. By thoroughly alienating the civilian population, the Wehrmacht was left without 'native' allies and without indigenous support. A much more effective approach was outlined by David Galula in his seminal work, 'Counterinsurgency Warfare'. If you are looking for a comic book or cartoonish tale, this might be for you. If an historical account is your object, look elsewhere.