“…not a perfect soldier, but a good man.”
That quote is in reference to Captain America/Steve Rogers, but I find that it fits Dietrich’s character incredibly well. He may not always agree with the Nazi mindset (okay, he never agrees with it) but he’ll still work through the twisted morals of his superiors to serve his country to the best of his ability…and at the same time, never sacrificing his own ideals for the sake of convenience or even safety. There was one episode (‘Truce At Aburah’, which I’ll be discussing further a little later on) where a superior officer threatened to send a report to Berlin (a report that would probably get him pulled down in the ranks, if not executed) if Dietrich didn’t break a truce he had with the Rat Patrol (they’d agreed to a truce so that they could save a little girl out of a well), and Dietrich doesn’t budge. His attitude is basically “do what you want, I’m not moving on this one”. Because innocent civilians are more important than some crazy dude’s rantings. And that’s just one example.
“I don’t want them to change me…Turn me into some kind of monster that I’m not….I keep wishing I could think of a way to…to show them that they don’t own me. That I’m more than just a piece in their game.”
*all the Hunger Games fangirls burst into tears*
Again, it’s not specifically from The Rat Patrol, but this quote…this quote so fits Dietrich. It’s something he could’ve said. I’m sure it’s something he thought on more than one occasion. Like the time when he’s ordered to go find a certain kid, put a Star of David on him, drag him in to Nazi HQ, and send him off to a concentration camp. (from ‘Death Do Us Part’ – overall, the episode is probably my least favorite, but Dietrich is amazing in that one) He doesn’t want to disobey a direct order, but the entire thing is wrong, and he knows it. Consider…
German officer hands Dietrich his orders.
Dietrich reads over the paper and sighs heavily.
Dietrich: “So far we have been able to abstain from this sort of thing in the Africa campaign.”
German officer glares at him.
German officer: “What are you trying to tell me?”
Dietrich: “Merely that I want to register my objection to this.”
German officer: “Are you sure you can afford to?”
Dietrich: “I can’t afford not to!”
Dramatic music. Hitch, Tully, and Moffitt look at each other. Dietrich salutes and leaves.
Oh wow. Ohhhhhh wow.
DO YOU SEE WHAT I MEAN?
(plus, when he went to get the boy, he was so close to breaking down…it was horrible)
Or in ‘Decoy Raid’ when a half-insane SS officer (hmm…there seems to be a theme going here) who I believe potentially has the authority to demote Dietrich, won’t keep his side of a bargain (a member of the RP – in this case, Moffitt – in exchange for a desperately needed medical nurse) and Dietrich practically loses it with him. Flat-out yelling at a guy who’s crazy enough to kill him. Dietrich rarely looses his cool, but in this case, he feels that the capture of the nurse was partly his fault and if he doesn’t get her back to the village she was taken from, an epidemic will break out. So, he’s too frustrated to care anymore. (that SS guy was a jerk, btw)
“As a member of the SS, you are supposed to have a sense of honour. As you recall, we concluded the bargain…for heaven’s sake, man, think of your sanity as a human being!”
(if you want to watch a good Dietrich-centric episode, ‘Decoy Raid’ is the one to go to, just so you know)
I’m 99.99999999999 percent certain that the writers for this show based Dietrich off of Rommel. Besides the obvious similarities in their gear/stance/etc, there’s the similarities in their characters as well. Both were honourable men, who didn’t always agree with the Nazi mindset, but still stayed true to their country. Plus, I recently read a book about WWII which stated that Rommel gained the respect of both the Allies and the Germans, and I think that within the little pocket of the North African campaign, Dietrich did that too. He obeys orders, but he’s also fair when it comes to prisoners, civilians, and truces. And let me go a little further and say that Dietrich probably met Rommel….
OKAY I CAN’T BE CALM ABOUT THIS ANYMORE. THIS IS MY FAVORITE IN-UNIVERSE HEADCANON AND I HAVE TO RANT A LITTLE BIT. IT’S BASICALLY CANON. Because what about all those times that Dietrich has failed a mission? (don’t get me started…I might cry) And failed it in a big way, I might add. Despite what Hogan’s Heroes may tell you, not all Nazis are idiots (although the guy in the tag scene from ‘Touch-And-Go’ was pretty stupid). Dietrich would probably have been shot because of all those botched missions, right? BUT HERE’S WHERE THE HEADCANON COMES IN. Maybe early on in his North African career, Dietrich met Rommel. And Rommel was really impressed with him, so he invited Dietrich to join him for dinner and they became friends and Rommel fields all of Dietrich’s reports and that’s why Dietrich hasn’t gotten pulled from the ranks or shot. And every so often, Dietrich has dinner with Rommel and they discuss strategy and how the war’s going and Dietrich always feels cheered up after those visits.
One reason that headcanon is my favorite is because Dietrich always seems so lonely. He’s only twenty-five, he has a huge burden of responsibility on his shoulders, and he doesn’t have a good team behind him (the way Troy does) because the Rat Patrol almost always kill off his men. So I’ll bet that eventually he doesn’t allow himself to get close to anyone because they always end up dying, and he’s always the last man standing, and the burden of guilt and loneliness would be too much if he let himself be friends with anyone. There have been a few episodes where things worked out. ‘Moment Of Truce’ for one, since everyone survived (including cute bubble-gum boy – Heine) and ‘Touch-And-Go’ (which I love because it actually shows Dietrich working with his men…pretty epic). But on the other end of the spectrum, there’s ‘Truce At Aburah’ where every. single. one. of his men dies. After they’d had a little characterization as well. Which was so heartbreaking. I literally can’t. His expression when he realizes he’s the last one standing. I just. No.
And it was only a couple days ago that I realized that the reason he hesitated for so long before agreeing to the truce wasn’t because he didn’t want to rescue the girl. It was because he knew only too well how truces usually end (how missions in general usually end, for that matter) and he didn’t want to endanger his men. But in the end, he agreed to the truce because ‘maybe we can save this little girl and maybe things will go well this time’. AND THEN THEY DON’T AND IT’S UTTERLY HEARTBREAKING. On a side note, I do love the little bits of interaction/protectiveness/commanding-officer thing we get between Dietrich and his men. Like in ‘Touch-And-Go’ when they’re discussing what to do (at different times in the episode) or in ‘Moment Of Truce’ when Dietrich says “Don’t give orders to my men!” when Troy tells them ‘stop shooting at what they can’t see’. You can see just how much he wants to keep them safe (well, as safe as he can during times of war) and that makes the whole thing so much worse.
One thing I haven’t really discussed in this post is Dietrich’s frenemyship with the Rat Patrol (but especially Troy). It’s really-it’s just one of the most epic things ever. From the moment in ‘Chase Of Fire’ where they did the whole ‘glare-at-each-other-as-the-jeeps-ride-off-into-the-sunset’ thing to where Troy nearly fatally shot Dietrich in the very last episode of the series (‘Kill At Koorlea’), there’s this awesomely dysfunctional frenemyship that I find incredibly awesome. The truce episodes are the best for showcasing the whole thing (although anytime Dietrich captures any of them is also good) and of all of those, ‘Chain Of Death’ is my favorite. Short summary: Troy and Dietrich are captured by Arab slave traders and chained together. (with a very long, very heavy chain…what were those Arabs thinking?) They manage to escape, and have to work together (with the chain between them) to get back to civilization. There are so many epic things in this episode that I couldn’t begin to list them all, but a few of my favorites (i.e., the ones that illustrate Troy and Dietrich’s relationship to each other) are as follows…
- Dietrich deferring to Troy’s hair-brained schemes because they actually do work most of the time.
- Their [fake] slug-fest. (looked pretty real to me, though)
- Nearly killing each other with the chain until they decide to work together. (basically this whole show)
- Dietrich goes unconscious and Troy drags him under some shade before concocting a ‘let’s-get-out-of-this-chain’ plan.
- And the tag scene.
I don’t think any of the Rats are even close to being friends with Dietrich, but they respect him and trust him, at least to some extent. And that’s more than they give any other German guy (and quite a few Allied ones, as well). I don’t think they’d kill him (or he’d kill one of them) but they’re still enemies. Occasional allies, yes. Friends, no. There was that one time where Dietrich saved Moffitt’s life by getting him a live blood donor. Or when Dietrich saved Moffitt from court martial. Or when Dietrich shot that crazy SS guy in ‘Decoy Raid’ before he could shoot Moffitt. (um, wow…I’m getting a theme here) But there’ve also been times where he’s clearly angry/frustrated with the whole lot of them. Or sometimes, more specifically, Troy.
Dietrich rarely loses him temper enough to start shouting, but there have been a few times. Annnd they usually have something to do with Troy. In ‘Boomerang Raid’ he and Troy actually started fighting (like, fists flying fighting) which never happens. In ‘Tug Of War’ (another insanely good Dietrich episode) he starts yelling at Troy, mainly because Troy refuses to give him some information (and if Troy doesn’t give him the information, he [Troy, not Dietrich] will be hung). I think he was frustrated in that episode, yes, but he was also worried because Troy had gotten himself into a very dangerous position and he couldn’t do anything about it. OH AND IN THAT SCENE HE STARTS LAUGHING BUT IT’S THE SADDEST, MOST BITTER LAUGH YOU’LL EVER HERE AND I’M ALMOST POSITIVE IT WAS A ‘If you don’t laugh, you’ll cry’ SITUATION. FEEEEEEEEEEEEELS.
Dietrich: “Sergeant, can’t you get it through your head that unless you tell me where you disposed of the microfilm, you are going to be hanged tomorrow!”
Troy: “I saw that possibility.”
Dietrich: “You don’t believe it?”
Troy: “I believe it.”
Dietrich: “Then face facts, man! You cannot possibly deliver that film to the Allies. So the very thing you are throwing your life away for is worthless.”
Troy: “Then why do you want it so badly, Captain?”
Dietrich: “Because, Sergeant, an exposure of classified information rattling under my nose is very uncomfortable to me.”
Troy: “That’s your problem, Captain.”
And the iconic episode where Dietrich pulls off and slugs Troy. Knocks him right out. But I don’t blame him that time (it was from ‘Trial By Fire’, btw) because Troy tripped him up, Dietrich was frustrated with all of his stupid tricks, and it just built up and built up until he just…punched Troy out. AND in that same episode, Troy pulls a gun on him and tells Dietrich to call the guard (so that he can kill the guard) and Dietrich hesitates for the longest time. BECAUSE HE DIDN’T WANT THE GUARD TO DIE. MAYBE HE KNEW THAT GUARD. JUST-I’m done. I’m 24601% done.
There are some happy Dietrich moments as well, and I’ll close of this [super-long] post with listing a few of them.
- the above gif. (‘Darers Go First’)
- when he tries to make sure a little girl gets her doll back in ‘Trial By Fire’.
- eating cinnamon rolls.
- being happy when he sends Troy/jeeps packing. (happened once, in one episode, ‘David And Goliath’, I believe)
- WHEN HE SPEAKS ARABIC IN ‘CHAIN OF DEATH’. He’s actually really mad when he does that, but it was so epic that I had to include it here.
What are your thoughts on Dietrich? (if you’ve seen the show, that is…if you haven’t get to Youtube post-haste!)