Top positive review
Military Philosophy in Action
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on June 25, 2007
Watch on the Rhine (2005) is a standalone novel in the Legacy of the Aldenata universe, following Hell's Faire in the Posleen War subseries. Unlike the prior volumes, this novel takes place in France, Germany and Poland, with most of the action occurring along the Rhine River.
When the Posleen started landing on Earth, the German Chancellor considered the state of the Federal Republic's military forces and foresaw disaster. Germany had not fought in any war since World War II and all the veterans of that conflict were very old. Of course, the Galactic rejuvenation technology could restore anyone living or recently dead to perfect health, but who had the requisite experience?
In this novel, the Germans rejuvenated every man they had, including the men of the Waffen SS, despite great objections from every political spectrum except the Neo-Nazis. In most cases, these men -- and they were ALL males -- were not the deathcamp guards of many horror stories, but the grunts who had served at Stalingrad and other battlefields throughout Europe. Some were heroes by any standard, but most were just soldiers who had served the Fatherland faithfully for over a decade.
Lieutenant General Muhlenkampf was a battle machine. He had lived for war. The Waffen SS had given him an opportunity to use his talents to the fullest extent. Now he has been rejuvenated, placed in command of the new German SS Korps, and charged with resisting the expected Posleen invasion. His Korps is not alone in this mission, but they have the most experience and the best trained recruits.
Colonel Hans Brasche had been a junior officer during World War II. Although he had been Waffen SS, he had avoided the deathcamps. Now he is charged with training the new soldiers. General Muhlenkampf has trusted Hans with this great responsibility and he will do his duty to his last breath.
Sergeant Major Helmut Krueger had also been Waffen SS during the Second World War, but he had spent considerable time as a deathcamp guard. He had fond memories of gypsy, Jew and other girls in the women's camps where the guards spent their spare time. The girls would do anything a man wanted for a few trinkets.
Gunter-- the chancellor's aide -- is a Green. The very thought of SS men in uniform is abhorrent to him. Even the threat of alien Posleen grazing on the German people doesn't deter him from spreading the word to his fellow Greens of this great atrocity. The Darhel Tir provides as much support as he can.
Dieter Schultz is an eighteen year old volunteer in the newly formed SS Korps training center. He hates the training and his trainers -- particularly Sergeant Krueger -- but he is determined to do his best. Then the Greens have a nonviolent demonstration that clubs down the camp commandant. Schultz and his fellow trainees get a chance to apply their training in a very realistic exercise.
In this story, the invasion is every bit as bad as expected. The Posleen overwhelm most of France and Poland and converge on Germany. Many civilians are overrun and eaten. Many soldiers flee from the enemy and are eaten. Some hold their positions as long as possible and fall back to previously prepared fortifications. Still, the Posleens are winning and eating every body available.
The German engineers develop new weapons and rush them into production. Then they go back and develop better weapons and hope to have them ready for use before being overrun. One Tiger IIIB prototype is produced and the plans are transmitted back to the Scandinavian Sub-Urbs, but no more will be available for at least another year. Its builders decide to field test it, potting Posleen aerial vehicles and troops as they appear.
This story is more about the mystique of soldiering than about the war itself. The Waffen SS has gotten a bad name due to a few of its troops and officers. Yet most of the Waffen SS were among the best soldiers in the world. The French government -- who had nothing good to say about them publicly -- still preferentially recruited them for the Foreign Legion over even former French soldiers. The war against the Viet Minh was often fought by German speaking troops.
This work reflects the conservative slant of the authors, but I doubt that many military men/women are liberals. The US military is still composed primarily of conservatives, especially since the draft was abolished. Unfortunately, the effects of that decision have reduced the moderate elements in the US military. Now more of the command elements of all armed forces come from the service academies than in the past.
This scenario is probably more pessimistic than reasonable. Technical objections about nuclear weapons, air superiority and other subjects are relevant, but problematical. Moreover, the machinations of the Darhels are not the only aspects of the psywar in Europe.
Certain elements of the European populace are incapable of facing the realities of an alien invasion. Unlike the Americans in the War of the Worlds broadcast incident, the Europeans seem to deny the possibility of any such threat. OTOH, a similar denial process occurred in the American populace prior to World War II over the German threat. FDR is hated by some people even today because he happened to be right about Hitler.
BTW, many liberals in the US seem to be denying the possibility of any threat from Islamic terrorists. Plug in "alien Posleens" for "Islamic terrorists" and you have the basic premise of this story. Even official word of millions of aliens would be ignored by some people as "just another government scare tactic". Of course, the government DOES use scare tactics, but so do other groups. Sometimes they are true!
Highly recommended for Ringo & Kratman fans and for anyone else who enjoys tales of alien invasions, military tactics and light romance.
-Arthur W. Jordin