Thomas Wictor

The Book that Doesn’t Exist

I wrote Flamethrower Troops of World War I: the Central and Allied Powers in a kind of mania that mirrored the elation I felt after my interviews with Gene Simmons and Scott Thunes were published in Bass Player. The sky’s the limit, baby!

Alas, it was not to be. Both my flamethrower books were ignored or openly derided. Why? Because they challenge long-held notions and because I have no pedigree. Also, there was no real effort made to market any of my military-history books. This one, for example, was never once sold on eBay. Right up to this very moment, I get e-mails from people expressing shock and joy at the publication of books that are now over three years old. None of the societies, organizations, or Websites I submitted to my publisher three times have ever heard of my books. For all practical purposes, this book doesn’t exist.

Even so, I’m glad I wrote Flamethrower Troops of World War I. During the research phase, I met the Russian colonel, who’s become a close friend. I also had the satisfaction of putting into print information that none of the so-called experts out there had ever published.

This second volume of the Military Tetralogy adds to the knowledge contained in German Flamethrower Pioneers of World War I. I learned things I didn’t know when I wrote the first book. The fourth volume—Assault Troops of World War I: the Central, Allied, and Neutral Powers—has yet to be written, but it’s close to fruition. It will add to the knowledge bank in that I discovered the World War I flamethrower troops of Sweden, Spain, and the Netherlands. I have photos of them too.

The Swedish flamethrower sapper looks like an idiot, I’m afraid. For some reason the Swedes adopted a light blue uniform and dark blue tricornered hat. On second thought, maybe it wasn’t an idiotic idea. If a guy in a light blue uniform and tricornered hat came at you, the last thing you’d expect would be that he’d unleash a jet of burning oil. Am I right?

I’ll finish the Military Tetralogy and move on to fiction and at least two more memoirs. This book has a special place in my heart, since it got such shabby treatment. It deserved better. My intention in writing it was only to impart new information. That seems to be an unforgivable crime in some circles.

A learned man came to me once.
He said, “I know the way—come.”
And I was overjoyed at this.
Together we hastened.
Soon, too soon, were we
Where my eyes were useless,
And I knew not the ways of my feet.
I clung to the hand of my friend;
But at last he cried, “I am lost.”

—Stephen Crane

Despite what you’ve just read, I can honestly say that I’m no longer angry at the community of military historians. I’m a little sad and disappointed, but I now recognize the limitations of those who populate the milieu. Among military historians knowledge has become proprietary. What you say and write is part of your identity.

Asking military historians to consider new ideas is asking them to commit a kind of suicide. That’s why I’ve moved on to a different readership. I’ll complete the fourth volume in the tetralogy, but I’ll do it for myself and the two dozen people who appreciate my work in the field.

I can name them all. In fact, I will. Thank you Brett, Mikhail, Simon 1, Thierry, Marco, Mesut, Gaetano, Ventsi, Rolf, Jack, Maurice, Mike, Marshall, Antonio, Sam, Julien, Simon 2, Stanislaw, Robert, Simon 3, David, Joe, Donald, Jean-Claude, Chris, Gregg, and Ricardo.

Look at that! It’s actually twenty-seven people. Never undersell yourself.