Friday, 23 April 2010

DiD ~ Battle of Stalingrad 1942 : Major Erwin König

He isn't dead, and do you know why? Because I haven't killed him yet.
~ Major Konig to Sacha.

Field Marshall Paulus: My army is not designed for this kind of fighting. Yesterday, yet again I had to promote 25 sergeants to replace the officers shot down by the sharpshooters. Those snipers are demoralizing my people. This city is no more than a heap of ruins, but the Fuhrer's persisting. We should trust the fuhrer's instinct, he always managed to lead us to victory. We shall be at home for Christmas. How are you going to go about finding this young Russian?

Major König: I'll fix it so that he's the one who finds me.

At last, Herr König arrived. Not from Berlin but Hong Kong. Produced by DiD, Major Erwin König is based on the 2001 movie, Enemy at the Gates starring Jude Law and Ed Harris as the legendary Russian sniper Vasily Zaytsev and German numero uno marksman Erwin König respectively. The movie is based on David L. Robbins' 1999 fictional novel, War of the Rats, and drew its inspiration from William L. Craig's 1973 non fiction work, Enemy at the Gates : The Battle of Stalingrad, which referenced Zaytsev's mentioning of a three days duel against a lone German sniper during the Battle of Stalingrad in hia memoir, Notes of a Sniper. An interesting fact is does König really exists? Zaytsev referenced him as Herr Koning, based on the documents retrieved from the sniper's body. More confusingly, Zaytsev supposedly referred to König as a SS Standartenführer (equivalent to a colonel ranking) named Heinz Thorvald in his earlier memoirs. However, no sniper was ever recorded to hold such a high ranking, and no SS divisions fought in Stalingrad. Also, most German snipers were deployed as lone wolf, rather than in group. Other than the question on his existence, König was supposedly the head of the Wehrmacht sniper school in Zossen and specially assigned to the Eastern Front on the savage fighting in Stalingrad to kill Zaytsev. The Soviet war records supposedly used both names, whether they are one and the same person, or different, or probably a fabrication of Soviet propaganda to boost the troops morale remain to be seen. In the movie, König was portrayed as a ruthless Bavarian aristocrat, highly skilled sniper, whom was killed in the Stalingrad train station by Zaytsev after Zaytsev's comrade Danilov (Joseph Fiennes) sacrificed his own life to lure König out in order for Zaytsev to deliver a single shot through the German sniper's left eye. As for the quality of the figure, as usual of DiD, it comes pack with metal badges, weapons and nice fabric for uniforms and field gear. Head sculpt likeness is quite close to the real deal, but I always felt that when it comes to DiD's head sculpt, the depiction on the box looks somehow much nicer. Sniper always possessed some sort of mystique to me personally. Like a lone wolf seeking out its prey by hiding and blending in onto their surroundings. According to Wiki, the snipers were universally employed throughout the warfare in history. The term itself was first used in 1824 in the sense of word "sharpshooter". It further added that even before firearms were invented, elite marksman had been around to halt or even assassinate important individuals and officers. During the Second Boer War, the Scottish Highland regiment, the Lovat Scouts, was the first British sniper unit which earned high praise for its effectiveness. In World War I, the Imperial Germany army deployed specialised marksmen armed with scope rifles to pick off enemy soldiers showing their heads out of the trenches. In World War II, it was the Soviet Union which trained specialised marksmen and organised them alongside regular troops to increase their effectiveness. Following this, Germany re-established their sniper schools and re-introduced them onto the front line. Armed with high quality scope, efficient field gears and excellent sniping skills and knowledge, they inflicted numerous casualties amongst the Allies, most notably during the Normandy campaign. Germany's sniper doctrine would eventually be applied by other nations after the war. Selected, historically famous snipers include Russian Zaytsev (WWII ~ Battle of Stalingrad) and Lyudmila Pavlichenko (the most successful female sniper in history ~ WWII, Battle of Odessa and Battle of Sevastopol), Germany's Matthäus Hetzenauer and Josef Allerberger (WWII ~ Eastern Front), China's Zhang Taofang (張桃芳- whom earned the record of most kills without using a magnifying scope ~ Korean War), Australian Billy Sing aka The Assassin of Gallipoli (WWI ~ The Gallipoli Campaign) , Finnish Simo Häyhä aka The White Death (WWII ~ The Winter War, held record for the most kills in any war) and American Carlos Hathcock (held previous record (for 35 years) for the longest distance kill at 2250 m ~ Vietnam War).


An alternative (mis) interpretation.

Name : Leon Thorvald.

Age : 43.

Rank : Major and head trainer of the Zossen Wehrmacht Sniper School.

Std. armaments : Kar. 98k w/ telescopic sight.

Current status : Deceased (KIA).

Leon Thorvald is an aristocrat whose grandfather is a Junker, a member of the landed nobility of Prussia and eastern Germany. Thorvald was assigned to the Eastern Front during WWI, where he emerged as the most successful German sniper with a confirmed kills of 335 Russian troops. During the interbellum, Germany subsequently dropped their specialized sniper units. Thorvald was eventually re-assigned as the head of the Wehrmacht sniper training school in Zossen after the rise of the Nazi party. During the Battle of Stalingrad, the effectiveness of Soviet snipers and the amount of casualties they inflicted upon the German army forced the Wehrmacht to re-instate the deployment of snipers. Thorvald was specially chosen and sent to Stalingrad with the sole mission to eliminate Vladimir Zaytsev, the elusive number one Soviet sniper. Thorvald accepted the assignment due to a personal reason. His only son had been killed in Stalingrad by a sniper. Anguished, he was determined to avenge his son's death. Thorvald departed from Berlin to Warsaw, whereby he joined a captain from 808th Propagandakompanie, Markus von Stauffenberg in an armoured train to Stalingrad. The armoured train also incidentally carried Dora, a 80 cm K (E) railway siege gun intended for installation onto the Landkreuzer P 1500 Monster super heavy tank as well as the newly developed personal panzer armour, the "Wolfpeltz" for the 1st and 2nd Company of the SS Heavy Panzer Battalion 101. Arrived on the western bank of the Volga, Field Marshall Frederich Paulus of the Sixth Army briefed Thorvald at the Ostheer HQ in the massive GUM state department store in the city center about the grim situation they were facing on the front line. Josef Stalin had decided to concentrate all available troops and armours onto the defence of Stalingrad. The Germans were being slowly grind to bits by the intense and atritious warfare within the ruins of the city that borne the namesake of their enemy leader. Tanks were rendered almost useless as mobility within the bombed out city was hindered by rubbles up to nine meters high at times. The Soviet Army's snipers took advantage of this senario to inflict countless casualties upon the German troops sent into the city as well as halting their advances. Paulus called this Rattenkrieg or Rat War. Thorvald immediately went to carry out his assignment, tracking deep into the no-man's land, where he immmediately killed Ludmilla, Anton and Koulikov, three of the best snipers active on the frontline beside Zaytsev. Employing un-conventional sniper tactics like non-relocation and using mannequins to draw out their firing positions, Thorvald also had an uncanny instinct to help him lured out enemy snipers. He noted in his diary of the grim situation facing both armies from each side. He controversially commented on how he observed some Soviet troops cannibalised the remains of their fallen comrades, as well as being shot by their own commanders if they were to take a step backwards from the front line. Thorvald was also highly critical of the SS torture methods, and sees it as pointless. He befriended a 13 year old Russian boy who worked as a cobbler for the Germans in return for food, Sacha Filipov. Sacha knew Zaytsev personally, and this information delighted Thorvald and began to seek out more informations about Zaytsev from Sacha, by offering him chocolates, an item which was impossible to find during those times. Later the news of Zaytsev was dead began to circulate, due to the confiscation of Zaytsev's diary from a Werhmacht deserter whom was rummaging through piles of dead Soviet soldiers for valuebles, leading to Paulus dismissing Thorvald and ordered him to fly back to Berlin immediately as Paulus deemed Thorvald duty as completed. Thorvald refused to believe Zaytsev was dead and refused to back down, leading to Paulus confiscating Thorvald's dog tag as he didn't want the sniper to be identified in case he were killed. Thorvald also surrendered his son's War Merit cross to Paulus, requesting him to pass it to his wife in Berlin. After being injured on his left hand from a shot inflicted by Zaytsev in a trap specially set up for the Russian, Thorvald began to suspect, and later discovered, that Sacha was a double agent working for a Soviet political officer named Danilov. Feeling betrayed, he interrogated Sacha and after coldly apologizing to him, Thorvald hung him from a post at the Stalingrad train station, where he successfully lured Zaytsev out for a final three days climatic duel to the death.

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