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Reinforcements arrive. Some are older, but many are even younger than Paul and his schoolmates. When Kropp calls them "infants," Paul agrees. He and Kropp strut around feeling like "stone-age veterans." It's been a few days since the big feast, and everyone is astonished when Katczinsky ("Kat") produces a tub of beef and bean stew. He patiently teaches the new recruits the proper etiquette-payment next time with a cigar or chew of tobacco-but lets his friends off free, "of course." Paul recalls admiringly how Kat can stroll off and find hot bread, horse meat, and even salt and a frying pan in the midst of desolation. His masterpiece was four boxes of lobster, although his friends, admittedly, would rather have had a good steak.
It's a pleasant, drowsy day. Kropp has washed his socks and spreads them out to dry. Kat and Paul lean up against the sunny side of the hut. In the air there's a smell of tar and summer and sweaty feet. The men's rest period is, for us, like a bridge between the results of battle and actual battle. We saw the results in Chapters 1 and 2- more food for some, death for others. But we know of slaughter only by hearsay; Kemmerich died a comparatively clean death. We have yet to experience shelling, gassing, and butchery; they will come in Chapter 4. This chapter, meanwhile, gives us more background on Paul's classmates and friends, and lets us see and hear infantry soldiers at rest. What kinds of things do such men talk about? What do you think you would talk about in their situation?
Kat wants to talk about saluting. Tjaden failed to salute a major, so they've all been practicing, and Kat can't get it out of his head. He maintains their side is losing the war because they salute too well. Kropp, the thinker, begins to argue with him. Meanwhile they bet a bottle of beer on the outcome of an airfight going on far above them. For the attention they pay, you would think those were toy planes battling up there, but the man who will die is flesh and blood.
Kropp and Kat begin to argue about the management of war. Kat wants to drop all the saluting and military drill and adopt the principle in a piece of verse he knows: If everyone got the same grub and pay, "the war would be over and done in a day." The more philosophical Kropp, riled up as always about injustice, argues that war ought to be run like a festival, with such things as tickets and bands. The main event would be the generals and ministers of the two countries, dressed in swimsuits and armed with clubs, slugging it out in an arena. The winning side would be the one whose leaders survived. To Kropp that sounds a whole lot more fair than the situation they're in, where the wrong people do the fighting. (Maybe Remarque didn't intend his book to be an accusation, but it gets harder and harder to say that it does not indict the blindness of early 20th-century world leaders.)
The heat reminds Paul of the training camp barracks, with heat shimmering over the square. In hindsight the cool rooms seem inviting.
Meanwhile the German plane above them has been shot down and plummets headlong in streamers of smoke. It is Kropp who bet on that plane. Talk turns to reminiscences of Corporal Himmelstoss and basic training. Earlier, Paul had observed that little men cause much of the pain in this world. They are so much more energetic and uncompromising than the big fellows. Kantorek was small, and so is Himmelstoss. Kat observes that power always corrupts officers, especially those who were insignificant (little?) in civilian life. Kropp suggests that discipline really is necessary, but Kat shoots back that the kind of discipline taught in boot camp is practically criminal. Boys learn to drill and salute, and then think they know how to survive at the front!
At this point Tjaden, his face red with excitement, rushes up with news-Himmelstoss is joining their unit! Tjaden has special reason to hate the man: Himmelstoss put him and another bedwetter in the same set of bunks so they would disgust and "cure" each other. Since neither could help himself, one always ended up sleeping on the cold floor. Meanwhile Haie Westhus, the peat-digger, ambles over, sits down, and winks at Paul. Paul recalls how Tjaden, Westhus, Kropp, and he himself "squared accounts" with Himmelstoss the night before they left for the front. They ambushed him with a bedsheet as he left his favorite pub and gleefully-though anonymously-gave him a royal beating. Himmelstoss ought to have been pleased, Paul comments ironically, at how well the "young heroes" had learned his cruel methods!
NOTE: AIR POWER
Balloons were used for reconnaissance and observation by French forces in Italy in 1859 and by Union forces during the American Civil War. Paul later mentions their use in World War I as well. By 1914, successful models had demonstrated the feasibility of motor-driven airplanes, but it was the war itself that provided motivation for research and development of aircraft. At the beginning of the war Germany established its superiority in the air. The Fokker monoplane, with a fixed machine gun that could fire forward through the propeller blades, inspired Allied efforts. Developments and counter- developments followed, pushing the Allies ahead, and led to formation flying, aerial dogfights, and aerial bombing of enemy lines of communication and ammunition depots. Later in the novel-toward the end of the war-Paul mentions flyers making a game of pursuing individual soldiers. Still, during World War I, planes were employed mostly in support of ground forces. Development of air forces as a separate military branch followed World War I as the military capabilities of aircraft became more evident.