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Sunday, April 3, 2011

Erich Hartmann

It's funny how my brain works, like a html document with many hyperlinks, it just flys off to faraway places at the slightest provocation, you may say more than half of my classroom hours were wasted that way.  As I was posting the Boxer Rebellion picture on my previous post, I just couldn't wipe the image of this Boxer kid off my mind, I'm hyperlinked to many years ago when I was a teen in Vancouver, BC.

I stumbled on the biography of Erich Hartmann in the library, it was probably the first book in English I read from cover to cover for entertainment. I went to a Chinese language school in Hong Kong and my English has always been poor, so at that time reading an entire book in one sitting was unthinkable.  Erich Hartmann was a Nazi fighter pilot with the most victories, 352 confirmed kills. In aerial combat, 5 kills would make you an "ace" and Hartmann was the ace of aces (e.g. Chuck Yeager had 11.5 kills). I was hooked when I saw how he stalked the enemy, how he got within 20 meters, so close that the windshield of his Bf-109 was completely blocked by the victim's aircraft. I knew then I'd be happy to trade my own life for the next few seconds of puling the trigger and flying through the debris.

I don't reveal my secret feelings to others much less on a blog, I suspected some other boys might have the same secret violent nature until video games came along, apparently, every male shares the same fantasy! Look at the young Boxer, he might be canon fodder, but at the moment he's happy, intoxicated by the adventure, the joyful thought of killing and being killed.

I remember Erich Hartmann not only because he was aces' ace, he was also a men's man. I re-read his biography a little bit online and my memory was quite good, the part about surrendering to the Russians by choice to stay with his men is still moving. He witnessed the relentless raping of German women and was accused of war crimes, after he was released from Russian Gulag 10 years later, he said this about the Russians:
"One thing I've learned is this: Never allow yourself to hate a people because of the actions of a few. Hatred and bigotry destroyed my nation, and millions died. I would hope that most people did not hate Germans because of the Nazis, or Americans because of slaves. Never hate, it only eats you alive. Keep an open mind and always look for the good in people. You may be surprised at what you find.”

In real life, I am a nerd and I believe all wars are immoral, however, the word warrior has a positive connotation in every culture I know.

I have to include some pictures:
Hartmann was born in 1922, first 6 years of Hartmann's life was spent in Changsha 長沙, his father was a German doctor in China. Erich is next to the Chinese boy.

How do you go from this 

to this?

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