Though Himmelstoss is an authority figure during the war, during peacetime he was a postman. He's the stereotype of an insecure man in a world of NBA all-stars. His character is the prototype of a man who would do anything to feel power. It is with these deep-seated feelings of weakness that Himmelstoss uses his authority to try and humiliate the troops he is supposed to train. His lessons are not those of a tough drill sergeant trying to save men's lives in battle – rather, they are about a man trying to exude power where he naturally has none.
The men feel his weakness of character and disrespect him, but he explodes, trying to win respect through emotional cruelties and brutalities. We witness this process in many shades during the story, but then he's moved to the Front. At the Front, uniforms mean little; gut instinct and skill for staying alive mean a lot. When he first experiences a bombardment, Himmelstoss hides in a corner of the dugout, terrified. Paul pulls him out of hiding, calling him all kinds of names. Himmelstoss's greatest deed is that he carries a deeply wounded Haie to the triage area. After that, the soldiers begin to ease up on Himmelstoss, for he goes to work in the kitchen and offers them extra food and delicacies in the form of sugar and butter.