When dealing with one of the world’s more horrible murdering dictators, armies will try just about anything to take them down. Adolf Hitler seemed to be one of those dictators who just couldn’t be taken down. He even flaunted it in the face of his enemies, sending it across the airways, that he was still alive, even after they tried to kill him again. July 21, 1944, was one of those times when Adolf Hitler took to the airwaves to announce that the attempt on his life has failed and that “accounts will be settled.” Not only was Hitler good at dodging a bullet, but he was arrogant too.
On this particular day, Hitler had survived the bomb that was meant to take his life. He didn’t get off unscathed, however. Hitler suffered punctured eardrums, some burns and minor wounds, but nothing that would keep him from regaining control of the government and finding the rebels. In fact, it only took a mere 11½ hours, to put down the coup d’etat, that was supposed to accompany the planned assassination of Hitler. In Berlin, Army Major Otto Remer, believed to be apolitical by the conspirators and willing to carry out any orders given him, was told that the Fuhrer was dead and that he, Remer, was to arrest Joseph Goebbels, Minister of Propaganda. But Goebbels had news for Remer. Hitler was alive. He proved it, by getting him on the phone, because the rebels had forgotten to cut the phone lines. Hitler immediately gave Remer direct orders to put down any army rebellion and to follow only his orders or those of Goebbels or Himmler. Remer obeyed and let Goebbels go. The SS then snapped into action, arriving in Berlin, which was now in chaos, just in time to convince many high German officers to remain loyal to Hitler.
What followed forth rebels was hideous. Arrests, torture sessions, executions, and suicides were the order of the day. Count Claus von Stauffenberg, was the man who actually planted the explosive in the room with Hitler. He had insisted to his co-conspirators that “the explosion was as if a 15 millimeter shell had hit. No one in that room can still be alive.” But it was Stauffenberg who would not be alive for much longer. He was shot dead the very day of the attempt by a pro-Hitler officer. There was no trial, and no second chance given. The plot was completely demolished.
Then, Hitler set out to restore calm and confidence to the German civilian population. At 1am on July 21, Hitler’s voice broke through the radio airwaves: “I am unhurt and well…. A very small clique of ambitious, irresponsible…and stupid officers had concocted a plot to eliminate me… It is a gang of criminal elements which will be destroyed without mercy. I therefore give orders now that no military authority…is to obey orders from this crew of usurpers… This time we shall settle account with them in the manner to which we National Socialists are accustomed.” The attempt on his life was over, and Hitler would live…to die another day.
My grandfather used to build dams in his younger days. He worked on Kortez Dam, Alcova Dam, and Pathfinder Dam. On many of these jobs, he was a supervisor, but that did not mean that my grandfather was afraid to get in there and work with the men. He hated to make the men work overtime. He felt like after a long day, his men needed to be home with their families.
Another thing my grandfather felt strongly about was not procratinating. He felt like the work needed to be done at work and on time. Still, he understood that not every job can be finished in one day. One particular day, after sending his men home for the day, grandpa was walking past the area where the men had been working. It was a ditch and there was so little left to do on it. So Grandpa made a split second decision, grabbed a shovel, and went to work to finish the ditch. He was working alone…something you really were not supposed to do, when his supervisor came along. He was checking the site one last time before he left for the day.
My grandfather didn’t know his supervisor was there, but it was a good thing that he was. I’m sure they were both horrified at the thought of what might have happened had the supervisor not been there. As he walked up on the ditch, he noticed that the sides of the ditch were giving way. He immediately yelled, “Jump George!!” My grandfather did as he was told, and the dirt collapsed around him, but his face was not covered, because he had followed orders.
In today’s world, so many people challenge orders. People don’t like being ordered around, especially an order like that, but my grandfather had been in the service…where orders were given and followed, immediately and without question. My grandfather jumped as ordered, and it saved his life. I’m sure the rule against working in a ditch alone took on a whole new meaning for my grandfather, who just wanted to put the men a little ahead of schedule the next day. And I’m sure he never did that again. Just as I am sure he was very grateful to the man who saved his life…as am I.