| The War That Came Early |
POD: July 20, 1936;
Relevant POD: September 29, 1938
|Appearance(s):|| Hitler's War|
|Type of Appearance:||Direct POV|
|Date of Birth:||20th century|
|Date of Death:||1942|
|Cause of Death:||Shot in the head|
|Military Branch:||Wehrmacht (World War II)|
Willi Dernen (d. 1942) was a German infantryman during the Second World War. Like most of his unit, he was from Breslau in eastern Germany. He took part in the German drive toward Paris, under the command of Corporal "Awful" Arno Baatz.
Willi fought against the Allied counter-offensives alongside his friend Wolfgang Storch. In 1939, when two SS men came looking for Storch, Dernen stalled them and then tipped his friend off, allowing Storch to escape and surrender to Czechoslovakian Army-in-Exile soldiers Vaclav Jezek and Benjamin Halévy. Baatz correctly deduced that Dernen was connected to Storch's disappearance but Dernen fervently denied this, claiming Storch had been killed in a French artillery barrage that day.
After sniper Helmut Fegelein's death at the hands of Jezek, replacement sniper Marcus Puttkamer quickly befriended Dernen and offered to make him his assistant, even getting him a special sniper rifle. Dernen quickly became proficient at sniping, downing several Frenchmen despite Jezek killing his mentor. By the end of 1939, Dernen resolved to dispose of Jezek himself.
Despite a brief period of cat-and-mouse, Dernen never killed Jezek, before the war took an unexpected turn. In mid-1940, the Hess Agreement resulted in Britain and France allying themselves with Germany against the Soviet Union. Dernen's unit was sent east, and Dernen spent the next two years there, where he befriended new squad member Adam Pfaff. A thoughtful quartermaster issued him with a sniper rifle, and Dernen was able to put the sniping skills he'd learned to good use.
Dernen briefly took over leadership of Baatz' squad when the latter suffered an arm wound in 1941. Not long after, France withdrew from its alliance with Germany and the French contingent in Russia made a fighting withdrawal to the Soviet lines. Dernen's unit was adjacent to the French and during the resulting combat Dernen killed several French soldiers, including Luc Harcourt.
Baatz returned to his squad in early 1942, much to the dismay of Dernen and his squadmates. Not long after, during a Soviet tank assault, Dernen was shot in the head by a Soviet soldier and died instantly.