1.) German invasion of France in May of 1940 - Sturmpionier Sergeant Walter Rubarth was in the vanguard of the German army which had crashed through the Ardennes and looked to cross the Meuse at Sedan and break out. The first attempts to cross the river are unsuccessful. Time is critical as the French are bound to reinforce the area. Rubarth’s small boat is the only one to get across the river. With a squad he clears out French pillboxes and creates a bridgehead which the German army exploits to break out;
2.) Stalingrad – With the Red Army’s backs to the Volga, Sergeant Yakov Pavlov and a small unit occupy No. 61 Penzenskaya Street. Preventing a German line of advance Pavlov holds the “White House” against constant German attacks, day and night, for 58 days. The Germans see them as “not men, but cast-iron creatures”; and,
3.) Champagne Front in July of 1918 – With the Frency army uncertain when the Germans will launch an offensive Sergeant Joseph Darnand, with a small raiding party, is sent to infiltrate the German lines and bring back prisoners and intelligence. Penetrating past the first two German lines he returns with 24 prisoners and documentation showing the timing of the German attack. The Frency armies are withdrawn 4 kilometres and the intense German barrage falls upon empty trenches and what terms out to be the last major German offensive fails.
I was reminded of The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell in which major results can come from small actions at the right moment. The stories demonstrate why successful armies have large numbers of effective sergeants and lieutenants. When the bullets are flying armies are led by sergeants not generals. Excellent. (Dec. 10/09)