Crushed beneath iron boots
July 28th, 1917
Military Cable from Forward Operating Post 56 to Gen Douglas Haig
GAMMA SECTOR HIT BY ENEMY ATTACK. 2ND OLYMPIAN SAYSQUACK LOST. 1700 CASUALTIES INCLUDING ALL OFFICERS KIA. USE OF FLYING UNICORN BRIGADE AND TITANIUM GIANTS CONFIRMED.
Excerpt from Metallhelden Rosten Nie (Metal Heroes Never Rust) by Dieter Haas translated into English by Jordan Smith
At first, our presence was a state secret, but then, after the Second Battle of the Bärenvolk (Saysquack), everyone knew who the Titan-Giganten (Titanium Giants) were. Specifically, I served in the 4th Bavarian Titan-Giganten Battalion, also known as “Ludwig’s Stompers” after my commander, who liked to smash everything that skittered by him with his iron boots.
As you can probably see from pictures, the Titans were 30 meters tall, with arms about five meters long and legs twice that. In each arm were two Maxim guns, flame-thrower, poison-gas jets and one Howitzer, each of which were loaded, sighted and operated by a single gunner housed in the arm, using an automatic ammunition feeding system.
As a pilot and engineer, I did most of the work inside of the Titanium Giant. I was responsible to make the torso and legs move at the command of the navigator, while the two gunners handled the flame-throwers, howitzers and machine guns. It was my job to ensure that pneumatic pressure was high enough inside each of the giant’s limbs to keep it operational at all times. I did this by monitoring fuel, oil and air intakes and internal tank pressures. Simultaneously, I managed the gyroscopes that moved the arms and legs of the giant. It was a job that required constant concentration. If anything was out of balance for even a second, the giant could lose pressure and topple over, or become immobilized on the battlefield and become vulnerable to enemy attack.
The working conditions inside the Titanium Giants were oppressive. The heat from the engines was so overpowering that even the navigator had to work in his undershorts. Usually, the enemy was targeting us with everything they had. Our armor plating was far too thick for them to penetrate. All we could hear was the sound of all the explosions and metal grinding on metal; it was deafening in there. The inside compartments were dimly lit. To see the outside of the giant, the navigator and I each had a periscope, one for the midsection of the beast and one for the head. It was still very difficult to tell by sight how it was moving and I mostly went by the feel of it — that and frantic orders shouted back and forth between myself and the navigator through the speaking tubes.
The inside of the giants was not spacious, as people might think. Most of the space was taken up by ammunition, engine parts, cables, pipes or fuel, so conditions were quite cramped. People say it was very similar to a U-boat, but even tighter. Part of the reason why I was chosen for my special duties was because I was so skinny. In fact, the stories about us being fed starvation rations so that we fit inside the machine are all true. But we were given extra leave, bonus pay, and better food for our families.
The Mk II Titan-Giganten were notoriously difficult to control. We were in several battles where the enemy tried to surrender but we could not accept it because the machines kept moving after we applied the brakes. At a military parade, several people got squashed for similar reasons, and so we quickly became exempt from parade duty. The Titan-Giganten were very slow compared to the wheeled vehicles, but they could easily outrun anything on legs, except a horse at full gallop, with a maximum speed of 25 kilometers per hour.
They were not used after the Third Battle of the Bärenvolk because the British developed their own Titans, which were twice the size of ours, and it was felt that it would not be worth the expense to continue competing with them for the battlefield advantage. Though it was a closely-held secret, after the war, one of the chief designers of the Titans told me that each one cost over one-hundred million marks to construct, not including the cost of operating and maintaining it.
July 28th, 1917
Report from Oberleutnant (First Lieutenant) Sebastian Kaufman, Navigator, 4th Bavarian Titan-Giganten Battalion to Oberst (Colonel) Neuman X Corp Special Command Battle Group
Sir, I am a navigator on a Titan-Giganten team. I was present at Verbrande Molen, Flanders at the Second Battle of the Bärenvolk. What I witnessed was a catastrophe and a stain on the honor of the German Army. Here, we set a trap for the Bärenvolk by building a hidden trench topped with rotten plywood and sending a few dozen infantrymen to provoke them to attack and pursue. After the Bärenvolk crossed the trench to our side of No Man’s Land, we detonated charges along the top of the plywood to prevent them from returning to their side. The trench was too wide and steep to cross, and lined with sharpened sticks on the sides and bottom. Thus, there was no escape for them.
Once they were trapped, our infantrymen quickly returned to their trenches and out came three Titan-Giganten backed by the Mounted and Flying Unicorn Brigades. From the air, they wreaked havoc by sniping at the Bärenvolk with armor-piercing rounds that penetrated their shields, and by swooping down and biting them. The mounted unicorns charged them directly in full-frontal assaults, breaking up their formations and scattering them. Meanwhile, we in the Titan-Giganten lobbed artillery shells at them, plumes of fire, poison gas and machine gun rounds.
They were backed by a pursuit squadron of fighter planes that harried us, but other than temporarily disabling some of our navigation equipment, the Vickers guns of their air support could do nothing to us and were no help at all to their doomed comrades.
It was only a few minutes before they were completely routed, but they were trapped on our side of the trench we created like pigs in a slaughterhouse. It was then that I saw several groups of survivors throw down their weapons, raise their arms and wave a white flag. The other Titans continued as if they had seen nothing and crushed them beneath their iron boots. Then, several more groups waved a white flag. When the other Titans made no move to cease fire, I ordered my pilot to intervene, but he refused my order, saying he did not want to interfere.
In the final group I saw was a higher-ranking officer — possibly the battalion commander — and several Bärenvolk taking refuge in a shell crater. The Bärenvolk had thrown away their weapons and raised their arms but the officer still had his pistol. He stood up defiantly and shot at the Titan approaching them. Then the Titan fired an artillery shell at them and it was over. There was not a single survivor.
This was unnecessary and unlawful and I believe it should be reported to a war crimes tribunal for further investigation. Not only did our use of unconventional weapons overpower the enemy, their attempts to surrender were rebuffed on numerous occasions during the battle. I respectfully submit to you that this is not the way of the German Army, or of men.
July 28th, 1917
Letter from Effie Browntrout to her husband Major Horace S. Browntrout. Dunkirk, France. Unsent.
Something terrible has happened to Branwell. I can feel it in my bones. Please find him. I need to speak to him immediately. Pull whatever strings you must to arrange some leave for him — even just a day or two. I need to have him near me and know that this strange dream was nothing more than that.
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