Hunting the Hun

While not used very much today since it is an insult, ‘Hun’ as a derogatory reference to Germans, was in common usage in the Allied armies. The term refers to barbarian tribes of German ancestry who constantly attacked the frontiers of the Roman Empire.

16 April 1945. Infantrymen of the 255th Infantry Regiment move down a street in Waldenburg to hunt out the Hun after a recent raid by 63rd Division.

Obviously the caption dates from the time and presumably was written by the photographer, 2d Lt. Jacob Harris, Army of the United States or AUS.

Only regular army officers who were graduates of the USMA at West Point were commissioned into the regular army. Hence, the wording, US Army at the end of their names designated their special status. Other men without military experience who were called to the colors and given 90 days of training as officers (hence the expression of the era, ‘ninety day wonders’) were commissioned into the Army of the United States and not the US Army. It was a critical distinction at the time.

In memoirs by front-line US soldiers who fought in the last months and weeks of the war such as the men above, there was an intense sense of rage that the Germans would not stop fighting. Clearly they were beaten. RAF Bomber Command, US 8th Air Force, and US 11th Air Force had flattened Germany. Large numbers of German troops had already surrendered yet others fought on.

No one wants to be the last soldier to die in a war and certainly none of the men above did although it is probable that one or more were killed in the last few weeks.

After the formal surrender of Nazi Germany on 8 May 1945, a German officer was asked by an American interrogator why they had kept on fighting when the war was clearly lost. “Because no one told us to stop,” the officer replied.

[Image courtesy of Wikipedia.]

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Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website: http://charlesmccain.com/

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