By William Green
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They have the same impersonal, alert expressions, the same calm, deliberate, precise gestures, the same air of unsmiling equanimity. They reveal the same indifference to everything that is unconnected with their work. It occurs to me that perhaps the peculiarly technical character of this war is leaving its mark on the combatants. Rather than soldiers intent on fighting they look like artisans at work, like mechanics busying themselves about a complex, delicate machine. They bend over a machine-gun and press the trigger, they manipulate the gleaming breech-plug of a field-gun, they grasp the double handle of an anti-aircraft weapon with the same delicate gaucherie, or rather with the same rude dexterity, as they reveal when they tighten a nut, or when, with the palm of the hand, or merely with two fingers, they control the vibrations of a cylinder, the play of a large screw, the pressure of a valve.
The wounded have that tight-lipped, slightly angry air of workmen injured in an industrial accident. Their discipline has about it the same flexibility and informality as the discipline maintained by a gang of workmen. Their esprit de corps is an esprit d'équipe, a team spirit, and at the same time it as an esprit de métier. They are bound to their unit by the same bonds of loyalty and affection as unite a team of factory-hands to their machine, a team of electricians to their dynamo, a team of artisans to their lathe, to their boiler, to their rolling-mill.
It is a proclamation by the Government announcing that Horia Sima and the other legionary leaders have been condemned to forced labour. The men stand motionless in front of the poster, as if they were looking at a picture. The thought occurs to me that perhaps they cannot read. Their eyes are expressionless, their faces blank: no, they cannot read. Then, suddenly, one of the soldiers laughs, and the others begin to talk among themselves. They talk of the prices paid by the Government for requisitioned cattle, they talk of the impending war.