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Old July 24, 2004, 04:32 PM   #9
4V50 Gary
Join Date: November 2, 1998
Location: Colorado
Posts: 19,302
El gato (the cat)

Now, most of you who are into sniping have read Major Hesketh Pritchard's book, Sniping in France. Pritchard was but one British officer and is the best known because of the book. If you recall, there's a chapter entitled "The Cat", in which he discusses how they spotted a cat and determined that German officers had a bunker there. Here's another cat storyfrom a letter by another WW I Sniping officer to the boys back at home:

"The ordinary German soldier is a good fellow at bottom - a brave man, doing his duty as a good soldier. I think I see more of him than most, for, unknown to him, I am so constantly watching him, with a first-class telescope. The other day from a high point of view, not 800 yards off, I saw one leave the trench and run out to rescue a cat which was straying in our direction. Of course the cat knew better and wanted to join the British, but Fritz - you must put yourself in Fritz's place - thought it was far better to be a German cat, and so he risked being shot to save the animal. But it was stupid of Fritz all the same, for he showed us in so doing a yellow strip down his trousers enabling us to tell what regiment he belonged to.

"Yes, I see them doing all sorts of things - laughing and talking. Three days ago we had a fall of snow, and we saw them snowballing each other in the rear of their trenches. Well, well, the pity is that we should all be bombing and shooting each other instead of snowballing, all because that awful Kaiser is an ambitious blackguard, and he and his inner circle of Huns have so misled and misguided the wonderful Bosche nation that they now seem almost past praying for. So then we have got to fight, and fight with ever nerve. There can be no excuse for any able-bodied man now. It is a matter of life and death still, but we have not got to hate or despise."

We see several lessons here that are relevant today. First, the duty of the sniper is to observe and report information. The officer observed but didn't shoot. Second, he was devoid of all emotions of hatred. Sniping to him was a science and not an art. There was no room to become emotionally involved in his work. While he could empathize with the German soldier and didn't hate him personally, he knew he still had a duty to perform.
Vigilantibus et non dormientibus jura subveniunt. Molon Labe!
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