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Friday, January 27th 2017, 9:41am

That's a neat touch, nice work.


Friday, January 27th 2017, 3:32pm

That's a neat touch, nice work.

Thanks; I have a few more of those 'Top Fives' written up for use over the next year or so (as I hurry to catch up to the present).


Friday, January 27th 2017, 3:34pm

Araucania Region, Chile - September, 1946
There was one week between the end of Paul Eitzen's basic training and the start of the NCO course, during which Paul remained in the now-empty barracks. Without its crowd of conscript-recruits, the training camp felt particularly empty and lifeless, with little to do. The two other recruits who, like Paul, had been selected for NCO training had used their leave time to rush home for visits to their family, leaving Paul alone.

On the second day, the old German drill sergeant noted Paul as he swept up the mess hall, a make-work task he'd assigned himself to keep busy. "What are you doing, Eitzen?"

"Cleaning the mess hall, Sergeant Gerber!" Paul replied.

"I can see that. I mean, what are you still doing in camp? Why haven't you taken leave to see your family?"

"I have no family, sir," Paul said, explaining his situation. The old sergeant frowned. "I understand. Come to dinner tonight. Let me give you the address. Eighteen hundred hours."

Sitting down that night at the dinner table, Paul decided he'd never felt more awkward. In his own home, the old Prussian sergeant was mild-mannered and convivial, never uttering a swear word or shouting an insult. Gerber's wife, Frantziska, was an ethnic Basque and an excellent cook, being aided in the kitchen by their youngest daughter, Catalina.

"Papa must like you," Catalina said to Paul as she carried food from the kitchen. "He doesn't usually invite recruits over to dinner!"

Sergeant Gerber frowned and said nothing, but turned up the radio. Paul, uncertain of what to say, also remained silent and thought about Rose Niesen, the fiancee he'd buried next to the church in the old Bolivian commune. Had it really been two years?

Catalina was leaving soon for the University of Concepción, with plans to become a schoolteacher, like her mother and one of her elder sisters - of which, Paul learned, there were four. Frantziska Gerber piped up. "And they're all married! Now we just need to find a nice boy for Catalina." The daughter blushed.

After dinner, Paul joined Sergeant Gerber in the rocking chairs on the porch, listening to El Sonido on the radio. "Did I hear you were a Mennonite?" he abruptly asked, switching to German.

"A bad one, I guess," Paul said. "If I was a good one, I wouldn't have joined the Army."

"Pacifist, ja?"

"I used to be. I... am not sure I believe that any more, or even if I actually ever believed it at all. Maybe I just thought that way because of how I was raised... it just leaves good people at the mercy of those more violent than themselves. I think there should be a better middle way. What do you think, sir?"

Gerber chuckled. "You ask an old soldier this question? But I have thought about it. I think you are right." He remained quiet for a few minutes. "It requires a moral nation to produce a moral army."

"Do you think that is possible?"

Gerber waved towards the distant military barracks visible from his porch. "If I didn't, then I shouldn't be training all these boys, should I?"


Friday, January 27th 2017, 3:35pm

Monday, October 21, 1946
Citing failures of leadership and inter-branch cooperation, the Cosena (National Security Council) ordered a reorganization of duties, roles, and management of the nation's air-defense establishment. A report to Congress earlier this year cited the poor overall state of the Chilean air-defense network, with the exceptions of the Arica region (managed by the Air Force) and the region around Concepcion (which was organized by the Chilean Navy). While the Chilean Navy was an early and active user of early-warning dradis, the land-based air defense units have fallen significantly behind the regional standard.

Thursday, October 24, 1946
The University of Valparaiso's UDV-7, a 210-in reflecting telescope, is commissioned at Llano de Chajnantor Observatory.

Thursday, November 7, 1946
The Sociedad Industrial de San Fernando has reportedly opened a discussion with the firm of Mercedes Benz regarding the manufacture of the 'Unimog' farm vehicle. SISF has a high degree of experience with the local manufacture of vehicles, building construction equipment in concert with German manufacturer Maschinenfabrik Gebrüder Hamm AG. The 'Unimog', built with off-the-shelf parts, is designed for use primarily in the agricultural sector, where its high ground clearance and good ride over all terrain make it useful. Another potential user is the Chilean military, which is interested in evaluating the vehicle for light cargo-carrying roles.

Tuesday, November 12, 1946
The Belgian cruiser King Albert arrived at the port of Talcahuano today, beginning a three-day port call that marks the first time a Belgian naval ship has visited Chile. During a reception hosted aboard our heavy cruiser BACh Constitucion, the officers of the King Albert were presented with a set of decorative corvos (Chilean fighting knives).

Tuesday, December 10, 1946
The film El Diamante de Maharajá, which opened in July to good reviews, has gained the distinction of being the most popular film shown in Chile this year. The film has also been distributed to and proven popular in other South American cinemas.


Tuesday, January 31st 2017, 4:52pm

Araucania Region, Chile - October, 1946
"Radios are the work of the devil!" Paul Eitzen growled, poking through the insides of the hand-cranked backpack set. Chilean NCOs were expected to be capable of using and maintaining the company-level or vehicle-mounted radios, which required a basic understanding of electronics.

"It's like learning basic truck maintenance all over again," Paul continued, speaking to his fellow trainee, Martin González.

"Only with tinier parts that break and get lost in the dirt," González agreed with a grin. Despite his words, he was already well-trained in radio use, as he'd spent the prior year with the fire-direction unit of a towed artillery battalion, and had a firm grasp of radio basics.

Paul's struggle with radios dampened his hopes of getting posted to a signals company after graduating from NCO school, as Sergeant Gerber had recommended - relatively easy work that was rewarding for the technically inclined. Unfortunately, despite the training, Paul found he was still behind most of his peers when it came to technical knowledge.

While Paul tightened the last of the wing nuts on the radio cover, a truck rumbled up and stopped. "Okay, take five," the lieutenant in charge of the afternoon training shouted. "Mail call!"

The bag of mail was broken open. "Bustamante! Romero... Parma... Bustamante, your mother wrote you again? Doesn't she have anything better to do? Olivares... González! Eitzen."

"Is that from the girl you've been writing?" González asked, as Paul opened up the letter.

"Yes, Catalina," Paul replied. He'd started writing her, and she'd replied. "She's at the University of Concepción. And working evenings at the telephone exchange."

"Nice," González said. "You have a photo?"

"Uh, no," Paul answered.

"Must not be serious yet, then," González joked, slapping Paul's shoulder in good humor.

"All right, that's enough for now," the lieutenant shouted. "Let's get back to these radios..."


Thursday, February 2nd 2017, 4:10pm

Potosi, Chilean-Bolivian Special Administrative Region - December, 1946
Alongside graduation from NCO School came certain privileges, including pay and a week of leave. Paul used some of his leave to visit Catalina in Concepción before boarding the train, bound once again for Potosi and the north. He'd been surprised by his assignment: as he still wasn't a Chilean citizen, he'd been told to expect a posting back to the Territoriales, the locally-recruited troops who protected the Special Administrative Region. Instead, Paul had been posted to the A Battalion of 3rd Reinforced Regiment, one of the regular Chilean Army units that backed up the Territoriales garrisoning Potosi.

It suited Paul just fine; after all, Jaime was still at the Potosi Caserne, having been assigned to one of the Territoriales units based there.

The battalion's executive officer skimmed Paul's orders. "Can you ride a motorcycle, Eitzen?" he asked without preamble.

"Yes sir, but I'm not very skilled," Paul replied. It was true; he'd had to ride one in NCO training. He hadn't crashed, which was better than some of the trainees; but half an hour of riding experience had only served to terrify him.

"That's not a particular problem," the officer replied dismissively, taking out a sheet of paper and scribbling an extended note on it. "Have this taken to the typist outside and written up."

"Yes sir!"

Paul waited until he was outside to read the orders. Cabo Primero Eitzen is hereby assigned to Headquarters Platoon, 3rd Company, A Battalion, 3rd Reinforced Regiment as dispatch rider.