People do not seem to appreciate the delicate balance of fierceness and gentleness that a man can have.

For example, a German Captain of a battle ship at the beginning of WWII was charged with disrupting shipping in the South Atlantic and sailed forth to do so.  He sank nine British merchant ships without killing any of the sailors on the doomed vessels.

He would give the vessels opportunity to surrender and board his ship before sinking the merchant ships.   Way cool.

The captain of this vessel was Hans Langsdorff.  His ship was engaged by three British war ships and he successfully severly damaged the British vessel Exeter and then did not pursue and sink it, because he would prefer to save a life than take it.  His own vessel was damaged and he retreatred to a port in Uruguay.  He was also under orders to not let his ship fall into enemy hands.

After being given shelter for a couple of days, he had to enter hostile waters where he was led to believe that he was heavily out numbered by the waiting British war ships.  He sailed out of port and just before entering international waters, provided for the evacuation of his crew and scuttled the ship.  

He provided for the safety of his men, the committed suicide over where his ship was sunk, so as to preserve his military honor.  He was buried in a German portion of a cemetary in Argentina and was honored by both sides for his conduct in battle.

War is often a very useless thing and accomplishes little.  This comic comes to mind, one of my favorites where Calvin asks his dad: “How do soldiers killing each other solve the world’s problems?”.  The short answer is that it doesn’t really but it is often better than the alternative.

Hans Langsdorff understood both the futility of war and the sanctity of life.  He did his level best to follow his orders while preserving life when he could.  This is an example I think we can all learn from.

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