Monday, July 14, 2014

Chapter 8 - Battle And Retreat: Part 2 - 10,000 German Corpses

Korzybski: A Biography (Free Online Edition)
Copyright © 2014 (2011) by Bruce I. Kodish 
All rights reserved. Copyright material may be quoted verbatim without need for permission from or payment to the copyright holder, provided that attribution is clearly given and that the material quoted is reasonably brief in extent.

As the last Russian army men out of Plock, Korzybski and Zorowski almost got shot by their own men as they straggled back across the Russian line. They rode to meet Captain Wolkoff, from their intelligence unit, who was staying at the home of a landowner whom Korzybski knew. Korzybski usually took orders directly from Colonel Terechoff, but in Terechoff’s absence he had to take orders from Wolkoff, his superior. After the two men briefed the Captain, whose fine dinner they had disturbed by their arrival, he presented them with some news that confirmed Korzybski's judgement of him as incompetent. Wolkoff had forgotten to give important orders to some people working for the unit in Plock. Korzybski and Zorowski would have to return there to give the orders. Since the Germans probably now had control of the city, this mission seemed suicidal to Alfred. But he could only say “Yes, sir” and proceed to ride off again with Zorowski, who borrowed another horse from the landowner, since his own animal had injured a leg.

The two approached the town with trepidation, their rifles ready, but reached the center of town without finding any evidence of a German presence. After carrying out Wolkoff's orders, they found their favorite restaurant, had a nice dinner, and went back to the hotel where they had stayed before and got a good night’s sleep. They got up early—still no sign of the Germans. As they started their ride out, they looked across the Vistula and saw a squadron of Death’s Head Hussars, an elite Prussian bodyguard cavalry unit noted for its ruthlessness. Alfred and Zorowski couldn’t resist. They hid their horses behind a house and commenced
firing across the river at the Hussars. They dropped about ten of the Hussars but the whole squadron fired back, lightly wounding both of them. Alfred got struck in the knee; "nothing serious", he recalled. As they escaped, Alfred realized the stupidity of their 'heroism' since the Germans could easily have blamed the civilian inhabitants of Plock for their actions.
Officers and Men of the Kaiser's Famous Death's-Head Hussars
Prussian Death's Head Hussar Busby Hat (Pelzmutze)

On the way back to their own side, Zorowski’s horse took an unexpected detour and came to a stop in front of a country house. The horse would not budge and Zurowski and Korzybski had to pull the horse by the bridle and whip it from behind to get it going again. Afterwards, they again had to get through the line of Russian sentries who had bayonets raised and rifles aimed—"Are you German spies?", etc. When they finally reached Captain Wolkoff, they reported. Then Korzybski asked the landowner, “What in the hell is wrong with your horse?” The man replied that a girlfriend of his lived at the house where the horse had stopped. The horse had gotten used to staying there for hours waiting for its owner inside. (2)

After the Russian retreat from Plock, a furious battle ensued as the Germans advanced and the Russians engaged in rearguard action. The Germans paid dearly for every mile they advanced. Korzybski did his part to make them pay. Gathering information where he could, he went to a cellar where another intelligence officer had set up an office with a field telephone. Alfred went to say hello to the man who—with his ear to an earphone—put his finger up to his mouth to indicate to Alfred to shut up. He motioned for Alfred to come over, gave him another earphone, and pushed a pad and pencil towards him. The officer gestured for Alfred to listen and write. As Korzybski described it:

Somehow the telephone lines on ground—a shell probably did it—the telephone lines of the Russian General Staff with the German General Staff got crossed. And what the officer was listening to was the orders of the General Staff of Germany directing the battle. Priceless stuff...So I was listening to the orders of German headquarters and writing them down on a pad, and listening, writing down, using my hand to call orderlies, send to headquarters immediate news… It was a very bloody battle, very bloody…We were in the midst of it. And because we knew…the orders of the General Staff of Germany how they directed the battle, we counteracted immediately. The result—10,000 [German] corpses. (3)

You may download a pdf of all of the book's reference notes (including a note on primary source material and abbreviations used) from the link labeled Notes on the Contents page. The pdf of the Bibliography, linked on the Contents page contains full information on referenced books and articles. 
2. Korzybski 1947, pp. 120–123. 

3. Ibid., pp. 109–110.

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