Herman Bottcher, Summa Cum Laude

                                    By Sgt. John Rossen

 

How far is it, please

From Landsberg, Germany

(Which the Red Army took

                        this morning)

To a six-foot-plot

Of the lush soil of Leyte Isle?

How far from Southern California

To Aragon and Castile?

            We were there at the command

                        Post

            On a hill near Caspe

            When the CO asked for volunteers

            Hardly a chance in ten to

                        make it, he said

            And you and Jim Ruskin stepped forward

How far from that blood-soaked Caspe road

That gulley of death at Pandols

Those shell-torn vineyards before Gandesa

Those waters of the Ebro in July 38

And Sierre Caballs in September –

From these how far

To a foxhole facing Buna Mission?

            At the bivouac near Falset

            Gathered round an evening

                        campfire

            You gave us a political pep-talk

            Speaking of German anti-Nazis

            And the world-struggle against

                        the Fascist beast

            What you said filled minds and

                        hearts

            With the iron solidarity of

                        humankind

Herman Bottcher reckoned the distances

                        well

And his is an “A” forever and ever

In the subject of anti-Fascist

                        Geometry

The Graduation Exercise

Went off with a bang

And he was the Honor Student of

                        the Class

Graduating suddenly

With the speed of shrapnel from a

                        Jap mortar

At dawn of the last day of 1944)

            When word of Munich reached us

            Some cursed bitterly

            And flung down their rifles

            Many sank to the ground

            As for you, Butch

            Only the muscles around mouth

                        and eyes

            Tightened and set

            And more grimly did you bend

            Over the pistol you were cleaning

Yes, he passed his exam with flying colors;

Now comes the test for us the living

The Final Exam for us the undergrads

Two billion students in a hundred million classrooms,

Located in many places on the face of the Earth

As for instance in the bitter cold of the Oder and Rhine Valleys

And in the stinking heart of jungle islands

In the ruins of Stalingrad and Warsaw

And in the fine drawing rooms of Park Avenue

And could not one go so far as to say

There are classrooms, too, on Pennsylvania Avenue

On Downing Street, and in the Kremlin Square?)

            We heard you say once to a frightened Spanish youngster

            “A real anti-Fascist must know how to die when necessary”

            You were a real anti-Fascist, Butch

            And you knew how to die when it became necessary.

 Here’s the problem:

Compute the distance, militarily and politically

Using the formula of Teheran)

From Manila to Madrid

Strasbourg to Stockholm

Brussels to Buenos Aires

Bern to Bombay

Palestine to Puerto Rico

            *          *          *          *

When the Graduation Day comes

For all of humanity

And all the distance have been rightly reckoned

It would be well remembered

What a great teacher of Geometry

Was the anti-Fascist Herman Bottcher.

 

 

Camp Luna, New Mexico.

16 September 1945

 

 

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