23 Jun 2014

“A Man Under Authority”

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Left: Standartenführer Joachim Peiper commanding 1st SS Panzer Regiment during WWII; Right: Peiper, aged 61, shortly before his murder in 1976.

For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.

–Matthew 8:9.

Reid Mitchell is a resident of New Orleans and author of a book on the history of Mardi Gras. He is best known as a Civil War historian. Mitchell taught American Studies at the University of Hong Kong as a Visiting Fulbright Professor during the 2005 academic year.

His only novel, A Man Under Authority, now out-of-print, was published in paperback by a small press publisher in 1997.

The man under authority is an aged, never specifically identified by name or nationality, Colonel (clearly directly modeled on Joachim Peiper), living in poverty in retirement in a former enemy country, eking out a modest living with translations.

The Colonel receives a letter (written, with characteristic American arrogance or linguistic ineptitude, in English) offering him a highly remunerative job as technical advisor to a film crew making a movie about his most famous battle, a battle in which he unsuccessfully led an armored assault force attempting to make a strategic breakthrough behind enemy lines.

Not unappreciative of the irony and implicit humiliation of his position, the elderly Colonel accepts the assignment, hoping to use the money to give a little pleasure to his wife.

Mitchell’s novel depicts the Colonel’s last campaign as another final desperate attempt, this time with self-awareness and the maintenance of personal dignity, rather than the Meuse River and the Allied fuel reserves, as his unreachable goal, with the infirmities of age, modern Philistinism, and his own historical status as the defeated as his adversaries.

Arriving at the production site, the Colonel finds that the film crew are using the same chateau, now a hotel, which had been his own headquarters during the famous operation. But the choice highest tower room in the oldest part of the castle this time belongs to the female director, not to him. His role, this time, will not be that of commander, but that of curiosity, ornamental credential, and bemused spectator. Nonetheless, the Colonel finds himself able to maintain his Stoicism and even, on occasion, to employ his long-disused habit of command.

8 Feedbacks on "“A Man Under Authority”"


Who gives a sh*t about a “novel” that has anything to do with Peiper?

The “novel” should include the massacre of over a hundred surrendered U.S. troops from the 285th Field Artillery Observation Battalion who were gunned down by Pieper’s SS Panzer soldaten in Malmedy.

Work that into the “novel” and then you can also work in that he should have been hanged in 1945.

But all Nazi murdering bastards eventually pay the price, and he was paid by someone with quite a long memory. He roasted to death in the flames of his own house twenty two years too late.

Someone pass me tissue, I think there’s a tear in my eye.


Fascinating! If anyone’s interested, Patrick Agte’s biography of Peiper is terrific. Agte’s research into the Malmedy massacre is particularly fascinating. Also, Michael Reynold’s “Devil’s Adjutant” is a great read.


No worries. The Americans massacred so many German POWs in response that Patton himself expressed fear that the murders could not be hidden from the press.


Yeah, Roger that, Funk-

But then again, nobody’s writing glorifying novels about the GI’s who paid back those Nazi assh*les, are they?

Jesus H. Christ, could we stop with the glorification of an SS butcher who couldn’t have cared any less when those guys were massacred.

He should have dropped at the end of a rope. You know it. I know it. Let’s stop the crap already.

Margot Burns

Aw woodgy woodgy woo. Somebody drags in the Great Malmedy Massacree, right on cue. Why don’t you continue the narrative, and tell us how the “confessions” of the Peiper group were extracted under torture and threats of murder?


Why even bother with confessions or torture?

Have you a wall and a squad automatic weapon?


Peiper dutifully accepted command responsibility, but there is no actual reason to believe that he ordered or authorized the Malmedy Massacre. In any event, the protagonist of the novel is never actually identified. His military career and life situation merely seems to resemble Peiper’s. One is under no obligation to read the book as some kind of defense of Peiper. It’s just a work of fiction, depicting an imaginary hero attempting to deal stoically with poverty, exile, defeat, disgrace, and old age.


Hey, it’s your ball and your yard JDZ.

Nevertheless, maybe the better novel might be the story around the aggrieved family member who never forgot the atrocity in Belgium (not a single Nazi was executed or in prison ten years after the event) and paid ol’ Joachim and his “command responsibility” back, by burning his house down around his murdering ass.

Just a thought.

Dan Kurt

I’m certain SCULLMAN never served in the military unless it was in an Arab one.

Dan Kurt


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