Welcome to Stalag 13
2005 Papa Bear Awards - Third Place
2005 Papa Bear Awards - Nominated
Best Original Character - Lieutenant Mark “Baby Bear” Bailey
2005 Papa Bear Awards - First Place
Best Portrayal of a Canon Character - Colonel Robert Hogan
2005 Papa Bear Awards - Second Place
Best Overall Story
2007 Papa Bear Awards - Third Place
Lifetime Getaway Award
A New Arrival
“What’s all the fuss about over
there?” asked Peter Newkirk, RAF Corporal, gesturing towards the office of the
Stalag Luft 13
“Looks like a big deal,” commented Newkirk’s French companion, Corporal Louis Le Beau. “But then, it does not take a lot to get Klink’s all worked up.” Still, Le Beau strained to see inside the car, and to perhaps overhear a bit of the conversation.
The General handed Klink a large folder, then gestured for the men to go into Klink’s office. The staffer who had opened the General’s door worked his way over to the other side of the car, opened the rear door, and pulled out the person still inside. The dark haired man looked worse for wear, his United States Army Air Corps uniform and jacket sloppily draped over his slightly swaying body. His brown crush cap was propped on his head in a way that made an observer think it would fly away in the slightest breeze, but as the man was handcuffed — at least two links too tightly — he seemed in no hurry to adjust it. The German prodded the American towards the office, and, head down, the prisoner obeyed wordlessly, without looking around him.
Le Beau and Newkirk exchanged looks. “A new prisoner,” Le Beau said.
“Yeah, and no senior officer to look after ’im,” Newkirk cursed. “Not that Hayes was ever any good at that. Wonder who ’e is.”
“Shall we clean the Kommandant’s office?” asked Le Beau.
“Not yet,” Newkirk answered. “It’d be too obvious. We’d better tell Kinch. With a Kraut General making the delivery, I have a feeling this is a show we don’t want to miss.”
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“Klink, this man is being assigned to Stalag 13 under your command. To be quite frank his interrogation at Durchgangslager der Luftwaffe was less than successful. But as they feel they have gathered all the information they are going to at present, they are passing him on to you. You have his file. I suggest you read it so you understand what type of man you are dealing with.”
“Ja, General Burkhalter,” Klink said, eyeing the thick folder he was holding. “It’s quite a big record.”
“He was at Durchgangslager der Luftwaffe for forty-five days, Klink. His powers of resistance are quite strong. Fortunately we already knew a bit about him; he was among our most-wanted, and General Biedenbender received great accolades from the Fuhrer for this capture.”
“Don’t you mean Colonel Biedenbender, the flying ace with nearly one hundred victories under his belt?” Klink asked.
“Yes, that is exactly who I mean.”
“Ah.” Klink looked at the subdued man being pushed before him with a different eye. How important was this one flyer, that an officer’s career could soar with his capture?
“You are to continue interrogating the prisoner, Klink. You will find notes in the file about what we are looking for. I will be calling regularly to check on any information you may receive.” General Albert Burkhalter motioned for the guard with him to remove the prisoner’s handcuffs, but even with more freedom of movement the man now stood unmoving. Burkhalter raised his right hand in salute. “Heil Hitler.”
Klink responded in kind, then sat
at his desk as Burkhalter left, to study the file before him. “Robert E Hogan,
“Colonel Hogan, I can see that you have had quite an eventful stay with our interrogators,” Klink began. Hogan remained silent. Klink waited, then tried a different approach. “I am Colonel Wilhelm Klink, Kommandant of Stalag 13. It is my responsibility to look after you for the remainder of the war. It is also my responsibility to question you regarding your exploits in the air.” More silence. Could this man even hear him?
“Colonel Hogan—” A knock on the door interrupted his attempts to draw out the prisoner. “Yes, what is it?”
The door opened and a large man in German uniform entered the room. “Yes, what do you want, Schultz; can’t you see I am busy with a new prisoner?”
“Jawohl, Herr Kommandant. The men are requesting to be present, in light of the lack of a senior officer to oversee his interment interview.” The Sergeant of the Guards stepped aside to reveal a tall black man in fatigues. “Sergeant James Kinchloe, Herr Kommandant.”
“I see no reason for this intrusion,” Klink said, waving him away.
“Begging your pardon, Colonel, but as we have no senior officer at present, we felt someone should be here with the new prisoner,” Kinchloe said, trying to study the new arrival. Hm, a bit shaky, won’t look at me….
“That is very noble of you, Sergeant, but I am sure I have things well under control without your help.”
“With all due respect, sir, it is the right of every prisoner to have someone by his side when he is questioned.”
“I am not questioning this man, Sergeant, and you are hindering the procedure more than necessary. As you can no doubt see, this man is in need of rest, and you are delaying that by your presence. Information will be passed on to the men in due course. Please leave me to my work.”
Defeated, and now being ignored, Kinchloe stepped out of the room. Schultz remained. “Herr Kommandant,” he said, “would you like me to take the prisoner to the barracks?”
Klink studied his new charge. Hogan remained motionless, unseeing and unhearing. Where is your mind, Colonel Hogan? Klink suspected he would be awake for most of the night reading the file on this man whose single loss brought joy to the highest ranking officers of the Third Reich. “Colonel Hogan,” Klink said, “you will find that I am a determined task master, but I am also a fair one. You will be treated here according to the Geneva Convention. We have much to talk about, but obviously now is not the time. We do not have officers’ quarters here, as this is an enlisted man’s camp. But we do have a separate room that will be put aside for you inside Barracks Two. Congratulations, Colonel. You are now the senior Prisoner of War officer in this camp. Your duties as such will be explained to you tomorrow. Right now, you are in need of some necessities. Sergeant Schultz here will provide you with a blanket and a footlocker. You will be, by policy, strip-searched and taken to the delousing station for treatment before being taken to your quarters. The routine of prison life will bring you some comfort in your defeat, Colonel Hogan. Roll call has already been completed for the day; you will be called at first light tomorrow.”
“I don’t have lice,” mumbled Hogan almost inaudibly.
“What did you say, Colonel?” asked Klink.
“I said I don’t have lice!” Hogan shouted. His dark eyes flashed with an anger that Klink had rarely seen in any man. Hogan’s breathing was heavy and belied his earlier demeanor that seemed to indicate that he had taken in nothing being said around him. His eyes, his face, dared Klink to humiliate him further, warned Klink that this man was no ordinary POW. While he was quite obviously still recovering from injuries sustained either when being shot down or in the interrogation that followed his capture, Hogan’s strength was clearly being preserved for the moments he deemed necessary.
What kind of man can do this? Klink wondered. “I am sorry, Colonel Hogan, all prisoners must visit the delousing station. We will talk tomorrow. Dismissed.”
Schultz opened the door to Klink’s office, and Hogan, now walking with a more determined gait, walked out.
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“Well?” asked Newkirk.
“Klink threw me out,” Kinchloe said, frustrated.
“He threw you out?” echoed Le Beau in disgust.
“Yep. But I managed to get a good look at him. We’ve got an officer. A Colonel. And he’s been treated pretty bad from the look of him. Unsteady on his feet, has that glazed look in his eyes. I think there’s an infected cut on his forehead. Might be other things I couldn’t see. Don’t know what they’re planning to do with him.”
“Well whatever it is, they’re in no hurry to tell us,” Newkirk said. “Poor blighter. The last couple of weeks have probably been a blur to ’im.”
“We’ll probably get a proper introduction at morning roll call,” Kinchloe said. “In the meantime, all we can do is try and find out more about him.”
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“And this is your new home.” Schultz opened the door to Barracks Two a couple of hours later, unannounced. The men in the common room as one turned their attention to the person accompanying him. Dressed in German work clothes and carrying a blanket, was the man they had seen arrive in the camp earlier in the day. He looked around the room mutely, only briefly letting his eyes stop to rest on anything or anyone. On closer inspection, the man looked pale and strained, tired beyond measure, struggling just to stay standing. The men saw a pain set deep in his half-closed, anxious eyes and could not decide what had put it there: physical pain, or mental distress, or both.
“This is Colonel Robert Hogan,” Schultz announced. “He will be moving into this barracks.”
The men remained quiet, unsure what to say. What had they wanted someone to say when they had arrived? None of it seemed appropriate now.
Thankfully Schultz kept up his banter about the camp, the men, and the new routine Hogan would be part of. He went further into the building and opened the door to a little room that held a double bunk and a desk. “This will be your room, Colonel Hogan,” he said, putting the prisoner’s Air Corps clothes and jacket that he had been carrying on the bottom bunk. “Here is your uniform. You will need to wash it. But… at the moment there is no extra soap. We are out of Red Cross packages. You are free until tomorrow. The Kommandant says if you are hungry you can get something from the mess hall if they have anything left, since you missed dinner.”
Hogan went into the room and stared at the bunk as the other residents of Barracks Two crowded into the doorway. He put his blanket down and turned to the Sergeant of the Guard. “Thank you,” Hogan said, his voice weak.
“The boys here will take care of you,” Schultz said, with a gentleness that always stirred the prisoners when they heard it. “You just ask them if you need anything.”
Hogan nodded, letting out a sigh that seemed to speak the burdens of the world, and Schultz left him alone. “He needs to be seen by the medic,” Schultz said confidentially to the others when he got to the main door of the barracks.
“Why has he not already gone, Schultz?” asked Le Beau.
“I think he is too tired. I did not want to push him any more.” He indicated his wrists. “His handcuffs were too tight. I think they cut his wrists.”
“We’ll see that he gets there, Schultz.”
“The Kommandant will explain everything tomorrow,” Schultz said.
“About what?” asked Newkirk.
“I do not know,” the guard answered. “He just looked at Colonel Hogan’s file and shook his head. I do not know what that means.”
The men thanked Schultz and he left for the evening. Newkirk was the first to notice that Hogan had not come out of his new quarters, and poked his head inside. Hogan was standing, apparently at a loss, in the middle of the room. “You look done in, mate. Why don’t you lie down?”
Hogan looked at him uncomfortably. “We’re not allowed to lie down until it’s dark.”
Newkirk remembered that rule from his own interment in the Dulag Luft, and shook his head. “Doesn’t apply here, gov’nor. You can lie down whenever you want. And you look like you need to before you fall down.”
Hogan appeared to consider the change, then asked, “Are you sure the guard won’t get angry?”
Newkirk was filled with what he could only describe as pity. A man so cowed that he wouldn’t lie down despite obvious exhaustion was either a man who had been mentally weak to start with, or a man who had been put through hell. Newkirk instinctively doubted it was the former. “No, gov’nor; ’e won’t mind.” He came inside and faced the new arrival. “Peter Newkirk, RAF,” he introduced himself. “Ruddy Awful Fortune, that is, or I wouldn’t be here.” He smiled hopefully. Hogan nodded but said nothing, prompting the Corporal to continue. He patted the mattress. “Not much to write home about,” he said lightly. “Two inches thick, full of wood chips…goes down to about a half an inch when you’re lying down. Still, it’s better than lying on the bunk without it.” Hogan nodded again. Newkirk smiled encouragingly when he thought he saw some life come back into the Colonel’s eyes. “And it’s always good for when we need fuel for the stove!”
Hogan smiled briefly. “Thanks,” he said again.
“Come on out when you’re ready,” Newkirk invited. “We’re a rowdy bunch but you’ll find we don’t bite…that is, unless we’re really hungry.”
Hogan nodded and tested out the mattress as Newkirk departed, and despite his anxiety fell into a deep sleep, punctuated with vivid nightmares, which he shared with no one.
Colonel Klink grabbed his cup of cocoa and settled onto his bed, armed with the file he had been handed when Colonel Hogan arrived. Through the evening he had stayed in his office, trying to ignore the thick dossier, as there was other work to be done. But his curiosity had gotten the better of him, and on this warm night, he finally surrendered to his inquisitiveness and let the monthly reports slide long enough to immerse himself in this airman’s career.
Apparently there was a lot they already knew about this Colonel Robert E. Hogan, even without him telling them. He had been Commander of the 504th Bomber Squadron. Countless successful missions responsible for the destruction of an equal number of key German military installations and strategic bases had been executed under his command. Both hated and admired by the leaders of the Third Reich, his exploits as an American Flying Ace had been legendary, and his tactics studied in great detail, until he was finally downed by a Luftwaffe Colonel, whose long-wanted victory was rewarded with a promotion and a commendation from the Fuhrer himself. Blind luck, Klink thought, with a pang of envy. If this Hogan was what he seemed to be, Biedenbender would have had to have been a psychic, or the luckiest man alive.
Klink flipped through some of the routine forms. The Arrival Report Form was blank, except for Hogan’s full name, rank, and serial number. The outline of his interrogation at Oberusal was telling on its own: forty-five days, interrogations twice a day, for a total of ninety sessions. Sarcasm in the face of threats of punishment. The feeling that the prisoner was the one doing the observation, instead of the other way around…. Was that what he had been doing in Klink’s office earlier today? Klink didn’t think so; there would have to be more.
Ten days in solitary confinement. An overheated cell. Starvation rations. No Red Cross luxuries—necessities. More aggressive attempts to gain tactical information; still nothing from Hogan.
Klink sipped the cocoa he had let grow cold beside him. What kind of man are you? he wondered. Klink turned to another section of the file, labeled Hohemark. This hospital was only used for airmen who were seriously injured, wasn’t it? There was no listing on the official report of major injuries, but this seemed to be a completely separate document, not originally intended to be put with the rest of the file. Most of the medical jargon made no sense to Klink, but as he read and re-read the pages, he understood that at the very least Hogan had actually been quite seriously wounded. He was kept drugged and only semi-aware of his surroundings for more than a week. Pages and pages of medical reports on his progress after surgical procedures that Klink could only vaguely understand had been included, leading him to believe that had the doctors not intervened, no prisoner would have arrived at Stalag 13 today. So the Germans saved your life, Klink thought. And for what good end?
Klink shuddered at the next document, as the word Gestapo appeared. So, Hogan had been interrogated by them already, and lived to tell the tale. With a reluctant eye that was unwillingly drawn to the page before him, Klink noted that according to the dates listed, Hogan had undergone four days of torture by the State Secret Police. His hands went cold when he read the final entry in the Gestapo records: “Flogging will begin at 1800 tomorrow. Doctor Weinzaphel will be in attendance.” Doctor in attendance…only required when more than thirty strokes are to be delivered…to pronounce the death they expect to follow….
Another report followed, indicating a second trip back to Hohemark. Only brief mention was made of the cruelty Hogan would have suffered at the hands of the Gestapo in his final days at Durchgangslager de Luftwaffe. At the hospital came stress tests, sleep deprivation tests, tests to determine when delusions and hallucinations would take over and torment a man’s mind, comparisons with a British subject undergoing similar study. Resistance would have been useless in his weakened condition, but still the report indicated that Hogan was strapped to the table for examination and two days of experimental mescaline drug therapy, resulting in excitability, loss of self control, hallucinations, seizures. Still nothing but a bit of personal information from the American. Klink shook his head in horror. So the Germans were both your saviors and your tormenters, yes, Hogan? The American had been used as a guinea pig, a laboratory animal to help German soldiers excel and improve. Klink felt he ought to be pleased that his people were trying to learn from specimens as obviously strong and healthy as this Colonel Hogan. But he couldn’t help somehow feeling sick inside instead. Klink wanted to continue but found he could not read any more, as his brain concocted images of Hogan’s confinement in Oberusal and the Hohemark. He left his cocoa unfinished and settled in for an uneasy night’s sleep, knowing he had to face this man tomorrow.
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“Roll call! Roll call! Raus raus raus raus raus! Everybody up! Come on, up, up, up, up, up!”
Schultz’s booming voice pierced the early morning air in Barracks Two. The prisoners rolled, grumbling, out of bed, bleary-eyed, wondering why they had to start such a monotonous day so early. “Hey, Schultz, why don’t you ask the Kommandant to move roll call back an hour or so?” Kinchloe said. “We can stay up later instead.”
“Jolly joker,” muttered the guard, waving them out the door. “How is Colonel Hogan doing?” he asked as the Frenchman passed.
“I have not seen him yet,” Le Beau answered. “I will check on him, eh?”
Schultz waved the man away and continued to call loudly for the others to speed things up. Le Beau knocked quietly on Hogan’s closed door and then entered. Hogan was sitting on his bunk, bent forward, his arm clutching his right side, head down, eyes closed. To Le Beau, Hogan looked as though he was trying to get the strength to stand. “Colonel?” he said gently.
Hogan looked up but didn’t answer. He looks more tired than he did last night, Le Beau thought. Did your memories keep you awake, Colonel? “Roll call, Colonel. We have to be outside.”
Hogan nodded, then took a deep breath and started to stand. The exertion obviously tired him, and he leaned on the upper bunk as he put on his crush cap.
“We are supposed to take you to the medic after roll call, Colonel,” Le Beau said, thinking this might help Hogan cope with the morning activities.
“No doctors,” Hogan answered. His eyes flashed for the briefest moment.
“Just the camp medic, Sergeant Wilson,” Le Beau said soothingly. “I am Corporal Louis Le Beau. I have been here for huit mois—eight months. He shrugged. “It’s not much, this place,” he said, indicating their surroundings, “but it’s…well, who am I to say. It’s a toilet. But it’s our toilet, and we look after it, and each other. Come on, let’s go to roll call. I have some extra soap we can use to get your uniform clean later on so you don’t have to look like a Kraut all the time. I am little—I don’t use as much soap as the others,” he said with a smile.
Hogan gave him a weak smile in return. “Thanks, Corporal.” He glanced at his uniform on the bunk, then at what he was wearing, and shook his head. “Sorry I’m…a bit awkward.”
“We all were at first, Colonel. You’ll catch on. Come on, let’s go.”
The air hummed with small talk as the men came into formation outside Barracks Two. Though some of them had seen Hogan before, the men were anticipating the explanation of his presence in the camp from Klink. Anything different to talk about was welcome, even if it was other people. And in some cases, it would give them something to write about in their YMCA diaries other than “Potatoes and grass soup…again.”
Hogan took in what was happening
around him. He had gotten used to roll call at Wetzlar transition camp, but
these men seemed to have adjusted to life here in a way that he could not yet
comprehend, even joking with the guard Schultz as he counted them. “Ein,
zwei, drei, vier, fünf, sechs, sieben…”
Hogan kept his eyes ahead, watching the office of the
Klink strutted out of his office, his monocle firmly in place in front of his left eye, a riding crop shoved under his arm and gripped till he was white-knuckled. His fur-lined jacket seemed out of place on this warm morning, though he let it flap in the breeze created by his movement. His hat was cockily perched on his head. “Re-porrrrrrrrt!” he bellowed, stopping in front of the men.
“Herr Kommandant, all prisoners present and accounted for,” Schultz announced.
“Yeah—for today,” laughed one of the men out loud.
The group broke up into fits of laughter. Hogan did not join in. Klink’s face turned red and he was shaking when he said, “Enough!” The men slowly quieted down, and Klink addressed them sharply. “Gentlemen, you have a new senior Prisoner of War officer. As you may know, Colonel Robert Hogan was brought here yesterday. You will now channel your requests and complaints, few though they should be, through him. Now, gentlemen,” Klink continued smoothly, “Colonel Hogan’s capture represents yet another example of German superiority. Please use him as a reminder that the war is, for all intents and purposes, over for you, and that it will soon be over for the Allies when the Third Reich claims a glorious victory.”
Klink smiled broadly. The laughter in his eyes seemed to enrage Hogan, who said loudly, “The only thing my capture represents, Colonel Klink, is that it took four of your planes to shoot me down. I wouldn’t be so quick to use me as a recruiting poster for The Hitler Youth if I were you.”
The men surrounding him hooted and cheered. Hogan glanced at them and raised his chin defiantly at Klink, whose face was darkening with embarrassment and a sense of loss of control over the morning formation. “We will see, Hogan,” Klink said crisply. “You are to see the camp medic this morning and then report to me. Dismissed.” He turned on his heel and quickly walked away.
Newkirk came up beside Hogan as the men broke formation. “That was bloody brilliant,” he smiled. “If Klink’d turned any redder we could’ve used his face to make tomato soup!”
“Did it really take four planes to get you, Colonel?” asked Le Beau.
“Yeah,” said Hogan, suddenly distracted by memories.
“What about your men?” asked Kinchloe carefully.
Hogan shook his head, his mind no
longer in the prison camp, but up in the skies over
Schultz stopped him. “No, no, no, Colonel Hogan. You must go see the medic this morning. Kommandant Klink’s orders.” He tried to turn Hogan around toward the medical building.
Hogan pushed his hands away with a swift, sharp movement. “Get your hands off me,” he hissed. Kinchloe, Le Beau, and Newkirk watched with interest. “Don’t you ever touch me again.”
Schultz recoiled, hurt. Hogan didn’t notice. But just as suddenly as Hogan’s anger had flared, it subsided. “Sorry,” he mumbled, eyeing Schultz’s rifle. “You just surprised me, that’s all.”
Schultz nodded almost sagely. “I did not mean to startle you, Colonel Hogan,” he said in a low voice. “But you need to be looked at; you know you are not well.”
“I’ll get there, Sergeant, I’ll get there,” Hogan said, with a voice that told the guard he had no intention of doing that any time soon.
“I’m sorry, Colonel Hogan. You must go there now.”
Hogan looked at Schultz as if to protest, then shrugged and followed the guard’s urgings to accompany him to the medical barrack. Newkirk, Kinchloe, and Le Beau exchanged silent looks. Life was certainly going to be different at camp, now that Hogan had arrived.
The First Day
“Colonel Hogan, I presume. Sergeant Joe Wilson.” The fresh-faced soldier extended his hand. As Hogan reached out and accepted it, the medical officer drew in a breath. “Ooh, that looks pretty raw,” he said, turning over Hogan’s arm to reveal red, swollen, broken skin at the wrist.
Hogan grimaced and tried to draw
his hand back, but
Hogan reluctantly brought up his other arm. Emotionlessly he said, “The handcuffs were too tight.”
“They were a bit numb yesterday, but they’re okay now. It’s okay,” he insisted, almost urgently. “I don’t need anything done to me.”
“Of course you do; they’re
already starting to get infected,”
“Um, look, Sergeant, if it’s all the same to you I’d rather skip it.”
Hogan complied, keeping his eyes
locked on the wall across from him.
Hogan didn’t stir. “I don’t remember.”
“Were you hurt when you were hit
by the Jerries?” Hogan nodded vaguely. “Did you get these injuries from being
shot down? Or from your stay at the Dulag?”
Hogan flinched at his touch. “I don’t remember.”
“Colonel, how long were you held
before you were brought here?”
Hogan turned haunted, tired eyes
Hogan looked back at the wall.
After what seemed like a day’s silence, he spoke as though from a distance.
Tearing his eyes away from the
pictures in his brain, Hogan concentrated on fastidiously buttoning his shirt.
Hogan nodded and silently
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“As the camp’s new senior POW officer, Colonel Hogan, I will expect to develop a good working relationship with you. That means you will have to show me the respect that I am due as the Kommandant of Stalag 13, and as your warden, so to speak.”
Hogan stood only half-listening to Klink. His weariness was starting to bear down on him heavily, and he was not interested in being told by any German that he was about to have more responsibilities, or that he was going to have to pretend to play nice with a Kraut. “Hogan, are you listening to me?” asked Klink.
Hogan nodded absently.
“Hogan, you are the person to whom the men will turn if they have issues that need to be addressed. I will expect things to be run quite differently than they have been since your predecessor left us some time ago.” Hogan’s curiosity was briefly piqued, but he chose to remain silent. “Your outburst in the compound earlier was not the type of behavior I will expect from you in the future.”
Hogan’s eyes came up to meet Klink’s. They are cold, thought Klink. Or is it lifeless?
“I won’t be paraded like some prize poodle at a dog show,” Hogan said evenly. There was something in Hogan’s tone that told Klink he was being warned by his new prisoner.
“I am not in the habit of parading prisoners,” Klink said.
“No?” Hogan countered. The ice in his eyes started to burn. “Then what was that ‘glorious victory’ garbage all about? You’ve got us, Klink. You’ve got our bodies. We can’t do any harm to your precious Fatherland. But you won’t get our spirits. And it would be my earnest suggestion to you that you give up trying. Because I’ll certainly be telling the men that they can’t be broken by the likes of you.” Hogan stopped. “No matter what you do to us,” he added quietly.
Klink was given pause. He was beginning to see what the Durchgangslager der Luftwaffe had had to deal with when Hogan was first questioned. This man was strong. Though Klink knew Hogan was suffering, if not physically then certainly mentally, the American remained steadfast and resolved. His respect for the prisoner went up several notches. But there was still a job to be done, and it was his responsibility to do it. “Hogan,” he began, with a tone of voice that spoke of reconciliation, “I try to run a peaceful prison camp. I am willing to work with you to ensure your men get through this war with as little danger to them as possible.”
“But I must follow orders. And one of those orders is to continue your interrogation here at Stalag 13. I will question you later today, once you have had a chance to get used to your surroundings. Report back here at fifteen hundred hours.” Did this man just flinch? Klink asked himself, thinking he saw a flicker of movement from Hogan. But now the man was still. Does he think I will do the same as the Gestapo? “Go back to the barracks, meet your new men, explore your new environment. But I warn you, Colonel Hogan, stay away from the warning fence. Cross it and you will be shot on sight. Dismissed.”
Hogan nodded again, spent. Unsure whether to salute and not caring, he turned and left the office, where Schultz was again waiting to accompany him. “My personal escort?” Hogan sighed.
“For your own safety, Colonel Hogan,” said Schultz with a tolerant smile. “You don’t know where you are not allowed to go.” Hogan nodded. “Where would you like to go next?”
“The barracks, I think, Sergeant.”
Hogan walked in silence, Schultz keeping in step with him. “Colonel Hogan, you will have to go back to see the Kommandant this afternoon?” Schultz ventured at last.
“Yep,” Hogan replied, shoving his hands in his pockets, squinting in the bright sun.
Schultz pointed at the barracks. “There, Colonel Hogan.” He opened the door and let Hogan in first. “Kommandant Klink will have to ask you questions.”
“I know,” Hogan said, facing the guard to avoid the eyes of the men that were on him as he entered.
“Please, Colonel Hogan, tell him what he needs to know.”
“Why should I do that?” asked Hogan.
“So you don’t have to face the Gestapo again.”
Hogan didn’t think to ask how the Sergeant knew he had already done that, and didn’t know how to answer. Instead he said, “I’m really tired. Think I’ll get some sack time. Thanks for the escort service.”
“I will be back for you at fifteen hundred hours.” Schultz smiled encouragingly and nodded as Hogan passed him and went into his quarters, shutting the door behind him. The other men of the barracks then crowded around the portly guard and started questioning him all at once.
“What’s going on? What happened at Klink’s office? Come on, Schultz, what’s the story?” they fired at him.
“I know nothing,” Schultz insisted with dignity.
“Come on, Schultz, you must know something; you’ve been with ’im all morning. Give us a break,” Newkirk pleaded.
“Yeah, who is this guy? Where does he come from?” asked Le Beau.
“He’s not talking to us, Schultz, and you know that’s not good for morale,” Kinchloe wheedled. “We have to have a good relationship with our commanding officer.” He thought, then added sincerely, “And it’s not very good for him either.”
“I tell you, I know nothing,”
Schultz repeated. “All I know is that he was shot down over
“Well that’s more than we know,” Kinchloe said.
“Wait a minute, Schultzie, that was more than two months ago. Where’d they take ’im?” Newkirk asked.
“The Durchgangslager der Luftwaffe, same as you.”
“But it still doesn’t add up,” Kinchloe persisted. “We were only held at the Dulag for a few days at most before going to Wetzlar.”
“He was held for forty-five days before being sent to the hospital at Hohemark.” Schultz stopped, thinking perhaps he had revealed too much of the results of his own eavesdropping. “But you did not hear that from me.”
Le Beau nodded in disgust. “No wonder he is sleeping so much. They probably tortured him to get information.”
“But they did not get any,” Schultz said, almost proud of the human endurance. “Only name, rank, and serial number. He is to continue being questioned by the Kommandant here in camp.”
“Why the heavy duty interrogation, Schultz?” asked Kinchloe.
“That I do not know. But I hear he was some big-shot flyer and they want to know everything.”
“Everything?” echoed Newkirk.
Yes, that’s right: everything.” He looked at the men, who had slowly encircled him till he felt quite unable to escape himself. “But, I know nothing.” He backed out toward the door against their protests. “I will be back for him this afternoon. If you want to know anything else, you will have to get it from him yourself!” And he was gone.
The men headed outside. “Well, that’s just charmin’,” Newkirk commented to no one in particular.
“Forty-five days,” Kinchloe breathed, shaking his head. “I wonder what he knows.”
“Allied strategy, no doubt,” responded Le Beau. “He was a bomb group commander.”
“But there are lots of those,” Kinchloe countered. “I wonder what makes him so special.”
Newkirk shrugged and glanced back toward the room where Hogan had retreated. “I wonder if we’ll ever find out.”
A Friendly Game
Hogan emerged slowly, like an old man, from his quarters several hours later. Newkirk was shuffling cards at the main table of the common room and noticed but didn’t get up. “’Ave a good sleep, gov’nor?” he asked nonchalantly.
Hogan rubbed his face to try to wipe off the just-woken-up look that adorned it and staggered, still uncoordinated, over to the Englishman. “What time is it?” he asked.
“About ’alf two. You’ve been in there about four hours. Trying to make up for lost time?” He motioned for Hogan to join him at the table.
“Something like that,” Hogan answered, still standing. “Any coffee going around here?”
“Sure, gov’nor. Red Cross packages were delivered last week; there’s still some left.” He got up and moved past Hogan to the small stove in the middle of the room. He picked up a cup, blew into it to remove anything that might have fallen or crawled in since it was last used, and then poured some brew from the nearby pot. “Can’t say you’re going to find it the best you’ve ever ’ad,” Newkirk warned, handing the cup to Hogan. “But it gets us through.”
“Thanks,” Hogan said, sitting.
Newkirk came back to the table and picked up his cards. Absentmindedly, he started dealing a hand for himself and Hogan. “Not very talkative, are you, mate?” he ventured.
Hogan shrugged as he took a sip of coffee. “Not much to say.” Swallowing, he said, “First coffee I’ve had in a long time. It’s not so bad. Or maybe I’m just desperate.” He offered Newkirk a grin to show he was trying to be sociable, but it didn’t last long.
Maybe you are, Newkirk thought. “Five card stud. Aces high, deuces wild,” he said. “You ’aven’t got a Red Cross package yet so you won’t have much to bet with…how about we just make this a friendly game? An exchange of information, maybe, eh?”
Hogan slowly picked up the cards before him, suspicious. “What kind of exchange?”
“Well, you know what’s going on outside the fence; I know what’s going on inside. That’ll be the ante. We’ll just chat. All right, mate? No pressure.”
“All right,” Hogan said, not quite at ease. He looked at his hand. “I’ll take two,” he said, tossing down his discards.
“Dealer takes three. How do you see it?”
Hogan shuffled a couple of his cards around, then said, “Yeah, okay. I’d be betting if I could.”
“We’ll start easy, eh?” Newkirk said. “Who’s winning the war?”
“The Allies,” Hogan said.
“That was too automatic. I mean, who’s really winning?”
“The Allies,” Hogan insisted. “We had Midway, we’ll get
“Okay, all right, don’t get touchy, gov’nor; we don’t hear much here.”
“It’s all right. I’ll see your Allied victory…ask away.”
“What’s life like here?”
“Bloody boring. In the six months I’ve been here, there’s been not much to do but read, play cards, sleep, and then try to forget the book you read so you can read it again. I just got me first letter from home last week. Takes awhile for the mail to find you when you’re first a POW. Be prepared for that yourself, gov’nor; it’s nothing personal; they just can’t find you for awhile.”
“Mail.” Hogan gave a short, humorless laugh. “Haven’t seen that in months anyway.”
“And I’ll raise you—ask something else.”
“How does your family find out where you are?”
“War Department will tell ’em, when they know. Krauts are supposed to list everyone, rules of war and all that I guess.” He looked at Hogan, who seemed to still be drinking all this in, frowning. “Thinking about your wife, Colonel?”
“There’s no wife. I’m worried about my parents.”
Newkirk nodded. “They’ll find out you’re safe. Now that you’re assigned they’ll know. Now ask something else; that was still part of the first bet.”
“What’s Klink like?”
Newkirk chuckled. “Ah, now that’s a question and a half; you’d better have a good hand, mate. The man’s fairly simple to understand. He works on two emotions: greed and fear. On the one hand, he likes to call himself the Iron Eagle, talks up big about the glorious Fatherland and the uselessness of the war for the Allies, like a bloody propaganda sheet.”
“Yeah, I gathered that this morning.”
“You handled that nicely, sir, if I do say so myself.” A brief smile flitted across Hogan’s lips. “On the other hand, one word from the bleedin’ Gestapo or any brass and the man’s a quivering mass of jelly.”
Hogan’s smile disappeared. “Understandable,” he said shortly.
Newkirk noticed the change in Hogan’s demeanor and decided to probe a bit. “Know a bit about them yourself, do you?” he asked carefully.
Hogan averted his gaze. “A little,” he said.
“Look, Colonel, I’m gonna lay it out on the line here. You don’t have to tell us anything, but we’ve all had some pretty horrible experiences, and it’s good to have the support of people who have gone through the same thing.” As he spoke he noticed Hogan’s face transforming from a mask of emotionlessness, to a disturbed, haunted visage that was reliving a past both frightening and unforgettable. “Schultz told us you were shot down a long time ago,” Newkirk said. “Where have you been all this time?”
Hogan laughed shakily, still not looking at Newkirk. “I haven’t said I’m meeting your bet yet.”
“Your choice,” Newkirk shrugged.
“I was shot down over
Hogan paused, staring past a bunk at something only he could see. “And afterwards?” Newkirk prompted softly.
“I think I got hit by flak on the way down. Can’t remember. It’s all a bit fuzzy. I think I was in a hospital for awhile…but I couldn’t move, I didn’t have any control…. And then I was taken to the Dulag….” Hogan stopped. “They wanted me to talk about Allied tactics, numbers, formations. I didn’t. Then they called in the Gestapo to help convince me.”
Newkirk swallowed hard, feeling shaky himself at the thought. “Sorry, gov’nor,” he said.
“I don’t know how long… I was taken back to the hospital, I think. But this time, they tried other things. I remember them saying they were doing experiments. Experiments on me.” Newkirk nearly choked on his coffee. “But I was tied down, I couldn’t do anything to stop it. I don’t even know if I said anything. I keep trying to remember. But I can’t.” Suddenly, Hogan looked directly at Newkirk and abruptly replaced his mask. “Then they sent me to Wetzlar, and then I came here.”
“I can’t meet that, Colonel. I have nothing to say,” Newkirk barely whispered. He stared at his ace-high straight, then put the cards face down on the table. “I fold.”
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
“I suppose you are wondering why I asked you here today, Colonel Hogan.”
Klink was circling Hogan in his office. Like a vulture, the American thought. Hogan stood at almost erect attention, looking straight ahead like a soldier at inspection. “Not really,” he said. “You said you’re going to interrogate me.”
“Are you not frightened, Hogan?” asked Klink. “After all, I am the camp’s highest ranking officer, the Kommandant.”
“Should I be?” Hogan asked.
Klink’s firm demeanor suddenly disappeared. “Quite frankly, Hogan, no.” Klink went to the back of his desk. He put his hand on the thick folder that he had been reading again today. “I have your file here from your capture and your stay at the Durchgangslager der Luftwaffe.” Hogan remained still, refusing to drop his eyes to the dossier. “It made for some fascinating reading, Colonel. You are quite a stubborn man.”
“If you mean I wasn’t going to commit treason, then I guess your description is accurate.”
“Colonel Hogan, I have the greatest respect for our interrogators at the Durchgangslager. But when they and even the Gestapo couldn’t get more than spite from you I was most impressed with you as well, I admit.” Hogan blinked but said nothing. “Colonel Hogan, it is my job to continue to try to get information from you. You would be well served to give it to me, who can make your life easier, than to have to face the possibility of more time with the Gestapo, or at the Hohemark.”
That last word had an impact on Hogan the American didn’t expect. He felt the blood drain from his face and tried to stop the trembling he was sure was visible. Believing his prisoner was about to collapse, Klink came around the desk and guided Hogan to a chair. Unthinking, Hogan accepted his help. His mouth dry, Hogan managed to croak, “Not there.”
Klink felt a momentary twinge of compassion for his prisoner. If the mere mention of a place could have this effect on the man, then every horror Klink had imagined while reading could certainly have been accurate. “Colonel Hogan, it doesn’t have to be like that,” Klink said. Trying a different tack, he said, “We know about Goldilocks, Colonel.”
“What do you know about her?” Hogan snapped. “What does that file say I told them?” He stood up suddenly, forcing Klink to either move or be run down. “What did I say?”
“That report is classified, Colonel Hogan,” Klink said. His eyes hold so much pain, Klink thought. Not remembering must be torture. “You said nothing, Colonel. Even when drugged they could only surmise that Goldilocks was the name of your plane.” Hogan visibly relaxed. “Don’t you see, Colonel Hogan? That is what I am saying: If you don’t talk, they may take you back and try stronger methods to loosen your tongue. If I can tell them you confessed to me, you won’t have to fear that any longer. You will be left alone.”
Hogan reflected on Klink’s offer in silence. “I appreciate what you’re trying to do, Kommandant,” he said finally. “If you’re really trying to help me and this isn’t just some Nazi trick to get me to talk.” Klink was taken aback but on second thought realized how Hogan could believe that. “But I think I’ll just have to take my chances. They’ve gotten all they’re going to from me. But if it makes you feel better, you can keep asking.”
Klink shook his head and returned to the safe haven behind his desk. “I will have to continue, Hogan. Personally, I don’t think I will get anywhere. I can only hope to nag you into submission.” Hogan smiled weakly. “I can see why the Third Reich was so interested in you, Colonel Hogan. You are a fine military man and I respect that. I only hope you can live with your decision.”
“I can only hope the Third Reich will allow me to,” Hogan replied.
Klink dismissed him immediately thereafter.
Every Officer’s Duty
“Why aren’t you joining in the game, Kinchloe?” asked Hogan. The two were leaning up against the wall of Barracks Two a couple of weeks later, watching a football game in progress. In the late afternoon sun, the men were working themselves into quite a lather, expending their energy to try and forget their mundane existence, at least for awhile.
“Thought I’d take a break today, Colonel,” the black Sergeant answered. “Every time I play the ball goes over the wires.”
Hogan squinted to see the barbed wire glimmering in the sun, twelve feet high and watched by armed guards. “What happens then—forfeit?” he asked.
“If we ask nicely the guards’ll let us go outside the fence to get it. With their machine guns aimed at the back of our heads the whole time, of course.”
“Real sports,” Hogan retorted. He watched in silence for a minute or two longer, then said, “Thanks for all your help the last couple of weeks. I know I wasn’t the most sociable person in the world when I first arrived.”
Kinchloe shrugged. “You had your reasons, Colonel. We understood. By the way, sir, call me Kinch; everyone else does.”
“Thanks,” Hogan said. “At least I’ve gotten to meet most of the men. Been listening to some pretty big problems. Sounds like there’s been no one to sound off to in awhile.”
“There hasn’t. Not since Captain Hayes left.” Kinch paused, then changed the subject. “Feel like you’re getting into the routine here now?” asked Kinch.
Hogan nodded. “Takes some getting
used to. But I think I’ve slept more in the last two weeks than I have in the
last two years. And if
“Well, you had it pretty rough before you got here, Colonel; he just wants to make sure you’re all put back together again.”
Hogan had known that what he told Newkirk that first day would spread around the rest of the camp, and he preferred to have the details circulate that way, instead of him having to face countless pairs of curious eyes, or worse, having to tell the story of his capture over and over again. That was something he would just as soon put way behind him, if he could. He could only hope that his instincts about Newkirk had been right, and that some of the story had been left out of his re-telling. In what he perceived to be his own weakness that day, Hogan had told the Corporal more than he had intended, and had, indeed, exposed more of his own self than he would have liked. “He’s done his job,” was all Hogan said now.
Hogan observed with interest as the football bounced its way between a small guardrail fence and a double barbed wire perimeter fence. From the guard tower above, a man was singled out, and slowly walked past the first fence to get the errant ball. The guard in the tower turned fully toward the man, with his back away from the fence behind him. Then his attention was brought back inside the camp as the prisoner returned to the unsecured area, and everyone visibly relaxed.
“You fellas have a Camp Escape Committee around here?” Hogan asked casually.
Kinch looked at Hogan. “Sure, Colonel. But it’s been dormant for awhile, since Captain Hayes…” Kinch trailed off, not willing to continue.
“I’ve been hearing a lot about the famous Captain Hayes,” Hogan said. “What’s the story, Kinch? Where is he?”
Kinch studied the ball game. “Hayes was never really part of the team. Always a head above the rest of us, you know? I think he resented being shot down, and he never got over it. It showed in the way he treated us, the way he talked to us. Always put his own interests ahead of his men… it made for a pretty uncomfortable existence.”
“Abusing the privilege of rank,” Hogan said.
“And we all knew it,” Kinch said. “Anyway, one night he just… disappeared.”
“Escaped. Went over the wire. Didn’t consult the Escape Committee or anything. Just left us to fend for ourselves.”
Hogan raised an eyebrow.
“He got recaptured the next day. It got worse and worse for us here. Increased guards, low morale. Hayes wouldn’t give up. He tried again, and again, said it’s every officer’s duty to try and escape. But he put all of us at risk, involved us without our even being aware of it. Eventually, he was stopped-- permanently. He didn’t have a lot of friends here, but it was still a bit of a shock. That was about three months ago.”
Hogan exhaled loudly. “And since then no one’s tried?” he asked.
“Just haven’t had the heart, I guess.”
“After listening to that story, I can see why,” Hogan acknowledged. “He handled it badly, I’ll admit, but no one deserves that.” He paused. “What would it take to get that committee in gear again?”
Kinch studied Hogan carefully. “Probably one successful escape. One good swipe at the Germans. This camp’s never had one.”
Hogan considered, his eyes focused on the game. They both watched in silence as the prisoners tackled one poor soul to the ground before he gave up the ball. “I’m tired, Kinch,” Hogan said. “I don’t want to be questioned any more.” He turned to Kinch. “Let’s get that committee active again. Soon.”
Kinch nodded. He knew Klink was
still at Hogan twice a day, every day. And while he was aware that Klink’s
methods weren’t harsh, he also knew that the continuing interrogation would
have to be a constant reminder to Hogan of what he had already suffered, and
what he could face at any time if the higher-ups weren’t happy with Klink’s
progress. The brief bits that Newkirk had shared were enough to give Kinch
nightmares. And then there were the rumors of what
“The committee seems at a loss at the moment. New blood might bring new ideas.” Kinch paused. “How would you do it?”
“I need a little more time to study it… but it seems like our dear Mr. Kraut up there leaves a great big gap behind him when that ball goes over the fence. He’s got those guns and his eyes trained completely in the opposite direction.”
Kinch’s eyes widened. “Are you suggesting a daytime escape?” he asked, astounded.
“One hop over that fence…using the tower as a ladder…and you’re free.”
“It’s a twelve foot drop!”
“A bit of shouting from the boys would cover the noise.”
“And what about the broken leg you’d get from the fall?”
“Kinch,” Hogan said, patting him on the shoulder, “didn’t they teach you how to drop and roll in parachuting training?” And he walked off toward the players, to join in the game.
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
“I think ’e’s slipped a gear,” Newkirk declared. “A daytime escape?”
“That’s what he said. Right over the fence.” Kinch relayed the conversation with Le Beau and Newkirk later in the day, while Hogan was again in an interrogation session with Klink.
“Well good luck to ’im,” Newkirk said. “I’d like to get out, but I think that gives me too high a chance of being shot!”
“And the timing is bad,” Le Beau put in. “We are supposed to be getting the last of our transmitter from the Underground soon. If he escapes, the security around the camp is going to be worse than ever. How will we get the parts in without being noticed?”
Kinch nodded. “Well, he hasn’t really said anything yet. He just wants the committee to be resurrected. Maybe he’s just talking out of his hat. But we’ll have to delay any escapes until we get our last shipment.”
“We will have to tell him,” Le Beau said. “Can we trust him?” Le Beau thought fleetingly of Captain Hayes. How betrayed he had felt when the officer had abandoned them without warning. Was Hogan saying he wanted to do the same thing?
“I think we can,” Newkirk said. Le Beau’s eyes didn’t lose their anxiety. “Louis,” he said gently, “Hayes was different. He was only out for himself. Didn’t care about any of us. A spoiled prat who didn’t think any of us was worthy of ’im. Colonel Hogan’s different. He’s been good to us so far, treats us all the same. But you know what the Krauts have done to him. We’ve got to get him out of here or he’ll go mad. If they don’t take him out and shoot him first.”
“Are you saying that it is our duty to leave the camp without a senior officer again?”
“I’m saying that if anyone deserves a chance to get out, it’s Hogan. And he should be able to count on us for help.”
Le Beau looked at Kinch for direction. Kinch was silent in his own thoughts. “We’ll have to lay it on the line,” he said finally. “I don’t think he’ll betray us.” Le Beau still looked unconvinced. “He was tortured by the Gestapo and didn’t talk. Klink can hardly be as frightening to him.”
“You have a point,” Le Beau conceded. “I guess we can trust him.”
The barracks door opened and Hogan walked in. Without speaking he went to the stove, picked up a cup, and poured himself a serving of old coffee. He took a sip, then rejected the rest. The trio watched, now used to the mood Hogan would be in after yet another grilling. Hogan sighed and rubbed his temples, then headed for his office. “I’ve gotta lie down for awhile,” he said, stopping at the door.
“Sure, Colonel,” Le Beau said. “We’ll wake you up in time for mess.”
Hogan nodded and slipped into his room, closing the door behind him.
Newkirk shook his head. “We’ve gotta get him out of here.”
What’s Good For The Soul
“You’ve got a what?”
“A transmitter coming in from the local Underground,” Kinch repeated. “It’s due here any day.”
Hogan’s jaw dropped when Kinch told him about the arrangement the prisoners had with the local Underground. “So, bit by bit, you guys have been building a radio?” Hogan shook his head. “Amazing. Where—how—?”
Kinch smiled and nodded his head. “I know, it seems impossible, doesn’t it? But the locals have been great. The local vet, Oskar Schnitzer—he comes in and changes the guard dogs every day. And when he comes, sometimes he happens to slip us something we need: food, medicine…lately parts. We only have the transmitter left, and that’s coming in the next few days…we hope.”
Hogan nodded. “How long has this been going on?”
“Since just before Hayes flew the coop. One day a dog got away from Schnitzer. The men were terrified, thought the thing was going to tear them apart. That is till we noticed that the animal was trying to play with us. Turns out Schnitzer has trained the dogs to get used to the Allied uniforms; he’s encountered a few escapees in his time. And he was none too anxious to get them back to the Germans.”
Hogan shook his head. “Good man,” he said, as a smile crossed his lips. “So where’s the rest of the radio?” he asked. “I don’t see anything here.”
“Ah…but there’s more,” Kinch smiled. He led Hogan over to the bunks near the far window of the common room and banged twice on the wood on the side of the upper berth. Suddenly, the bottom mattress and its support rose up, revealing a ladder and a gaping hole underneath it.
Hogan was astonished. “That’s—that’s—” he spluttered.
“The beginning of a tunnel. We’ve been working on it for a long time,” Kinch said, pleased with Hogan’s stunned reaction. “Hey, Newkirk,” Kinch called down into the hole.
Hogan’s eyes widened when he saw the RAF Corporal poke his head out from below. “Yeah, Kinch?—Oh, hello, gov’nor. Getting the tour at last, are you? Come on down.”
Hogan looked at Kinch, then took to the ladder to follow Newkirk down into the dimness. “I’m speechless!” he admitted, looking around him. There, over in the corner, was a table and chair, and what appeared to be most of a two-way radio set up. Wires led up from one of the boxes and through to the barracks floor. Hogan pointed. “Where does this go to?”
“Out into the compound. Our aerial is above Klink’s office.” Kinch pointed to a lever on the wall. “Pump that and the flagpole goes up…and so does our signal. Only when we want it to. That’s the plan, anyway. When the rest of the stuff comes.”
“This is incredible,” Hogan breathed. He started walking. “How far does this go?” he asked.
“Not as far as we’d like it to,” Newkirk said, chagrined. “We don’t know where to put the rest of the dirt. We’ve been sneaking it out a little at a time. But it takes too long, and we’re running out of excuses.”
Hogan nodded. Newkirk shot a look at Kinch. His mind’s ticking over, he was trying to tell the Sergeant. Kinch nodded. Newkirk smiled, fascinated, as he watched Hogan pace the small area and study the radio equipment.
“Y’know, Stalag 13 isn’t very welcoming to newcomers,” Hogan said casually.
Newkirk frowned his misunderstanding. “Sir?”
“When I got here I couldn’t help but notice a distinct lack of color,” Hogan continued. “No, not very welcoming at all.” He continued pacing slowly, then stopped and looked at the two men. “What this camp needs is a beautification committee. A group of men willing to put in the hard yards, to make this camp a home away from home.” Kinch and Newkirk exchanged concerned looks. “A group of men who don’t mind getting their hands dirty,” Hogan continued, now with obvious relish. “Who get a real joy out of moving the earth. Especially if they’re moving it from a tunnel… to somewhere that no one will think it’s out of place.”
Light dawned on Newkirk and Kinch at the same time. Newkirk’s worried face melted into a smile. “Gov’nor, that’s brilliant.” He laughed as Hogan took a mock bow. “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
“So this is another reason we’ve been happy to leave escapes on hold for awhile. We want to get this stuff in place so we can make it easier for everyone in the future,” Kinch said.
Hogan nodded. “Understood.” He sighed wistfully, then got a faraway look in his eyes but said nothing. Suddenly, Hogan snapped back to reality. “I’ve gotta go see Klink this morning about the lights in Barracks Three and the faulty shower taps. That’ll make a total of three visits to the Kommandant today.” He smiled grimly and shook his head as he once again surveyed his surroundings. “Amazing,” he said. “Just amazing. Thanks for showing me all this,” he said. Kinch and Newkirk just nodded. “We won’t let it go to waste.”
He hopped back up the ladder with a little less spring in his step than he had come down with. Kinch started to follow. Turning to Newkirk behind him, he said, “Let’s get the Escape Committee together tonight.”
“Shall we tell Colonel Hogan?”
“Not yet. I’d like to propose something first without him there. I have a feeling he’d put up a fight, and I don’t think he can take that yet.”
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
Colonel Klink stood on the steps outside his office, smiling broadly. A small group of prisoners was determinedly digging and sorting, rearranging small boulders and clearing a patch of the compound in front of Barracks Three. Flowers would be planted there, as soon as Schultz returned from the nearby village with some blossoms. “I am very pleased that the men are taking an interest in your Camp Beautification Committee, Colonel,” Klink said to Hogan, who was observing the proceedings beside him.
“Well, sir, the men had a talk, and they’ve decided they have to take pride in their surroundings,” Hogan said cheerfully. He nodded at Newkirk, who had just appeared from behind Barracks Two with a wheelbarrow full of dirt and was spreading it evenly around the work area. “And after all, some of these men will have nothing to go back to after the war. They need to learn some new skills. Horticulture is the way to go, sir.”
“Everyone has a sweetheart, sir. Flowers are always needed, always wanted, always loved.”
Klink sighed contentedly and nodded.
“Speaking of which, Kommandant: the men would like permission to plant around all the barracks as time goes on.”
“All the barracks?”
“And maybe around your office and the guards’ quarters, too, sir. After all, we want to be like a family. And one family can’t live in splendor while another lives in a slum.”
Klink frowned at the idea of being the family with the unattractive home. Still… “Don’t you think that is taking things a little too far?” he asked.
“Oh, no, sir. Gardening is good for the soul, sir. And we want your home to be as beautiful as ours.” And just as useful in taking some of the dirt from the tunnel.
“I must say, Hogan, I am impressed,” Klink said, nodding his approval. “Permission granted; you may let this committee dig wherever it likes around the camp.”
Hogan smiled to himself. “We were hoping you’d say that, sir.”
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
“So how are we going?” Hogan asked.
“Well, sir, in the last week and a half we’ve managed to get the tunnel dug almost to the fence line.” Newkirk smiled as he reported their progress. He just couldn’t believe anyone could pull this off. And now here was Hogan, twisting Klink around his little finger, and they were doing things they could only have imagined before. “That’s more than twice as far as we’ve gotten in the last four months.”
“That’s fantastic,” Hogan said, shaking his head. “You guys have done great work.”
“It’s been fairly easy, considering we’re doing it right in front of Klink’s face,” Kinch grinned.
“Well, that does have its distinct advantages,” Hogan chuckled. “Klink thinks we’re learning a trade for after the war is over. He’s sure we’re all going to go home and open greenhouses.” The men laughed. “Listen, you’re doing a great job. Keep it up. The first time somebody uses this tunnel, you’ll be prouder than you’ve ever been in your life.”
Le Beau looked at the others, who nodded. “Mon Colonel, we would like you to be the first to use it,” he said quietly.
Hogan turned to Le Beau, still caught up in his previous train of thought. But his face went serious when he realized what had been said. “What’s that?” he asked, looking from one man to the next, and back again to Le Beau.
“The Escape Committee took a vote on it and decided they want you to be the first one out once the tunnel is finished,” Le Beau said.
“But—but why?” Hogan asked. “There must be dozens of men who’ve been waiting for months. Why me?”
Newkirk cleared his throat and spoke up. “Well, sir,” he started hesitantly, “to be honest we don’t like the way you came in ’ere. The Krauts went too far.” Hogan tried to see Newkirk’s eyes, but the Corporal wasn’t ready to meet his look yet. “They humiliated you. They hurt you. And let’s face it, gov’nor, they haven’t given up yet, have they? Klink’s still at you every day—”
“I can handle Klink,” Hogan interrupted, dumbstruck by the proposition being presented. Some of these men had been here for months, some more than a year—and yet they were offering him the chance to get away?
“Yeah, but it’s not just Klink, is it?” Newkirk rejoined.
“Colonel, we see the look in your eyes whenever some big brass comes to visit the camp,” Le Beau said. “You are never quite sure if they are coming for you. We are all scared, Colonel. But none of us has to live with that. We want you to go. It will give us some pride back.”
“I don’t know what to say,” Hogan said.
“We also think that of all the men here at the moment, you’re probably the one most likely to be able to pull it off,” Kinch said, knowing that Hogan was going to need some convincing. “Remember when I told you the men had lost heart? Well I wasn’t making it up, sir—it’s true. None of them thinks he can do it, even though they’ve all been pretty excited with this tunnel thing happening. They need someone to show them, Colonel. To do it first and remind them it can be done.”
Hogan shook his head in disbelief. “What about the radio?” he asked, trying to think clearly, a difficult task with his head spinning as it was now.
“Delayed,” Kinch said. “Schnitzer told us today—the bit we needed was smashed on its way in. They’re waiting for another one, but we don’t know how long that will take. It could be days, it could be months. We want to help, Colonel. And we want to say thanks.”
Hogan looked away.
“Oui, Colonel, to say thank you,” Le Beau repeated. “For giving us something to hope for again.”
“For reminding us about the kind of men we can be,” Newkirk added.
“The kind of men you are,” Hogan said, his voice carrying more emotion than he cared to show. He looked at the three before him. “I’ve never met anyone like you men before.”
Happy to break the heavy emotion in the room, Newkirk said, “Then you can consider yourself lucky up till now, gov’nor!”
They all laughed. “Thank you,” Hogan said, feeling the words were most inadequate. He cleared his throat. “I’d better go for my next cross-examination,” he said. And standing up, he quickly left the barracks, before anyone could see the tears in his eyes.
“I thought two interrogations a day were more than enough, Kommandant. Can’t this wait until this afternoon’s fiasco?”
“I’m sorry, Hogan, but I thought you might want to know right away that the Gestapo wants to speak with you again.”
Hogan felt his heart fall down and splash into his stomach, making him nauseous. When Schultz had unexpectedly called him to Klink’s office a week later, Hogan had been certain that the Kommandant had wanted no more than to wax ineloquent—again—about the changes the men were making to the camp since Hogan’s arrival. He had even started to get somewhat comfortable in Klink’s presence, and to see him as a somewhat awkward ally—someone who would keep up the appearance of following orders from Berlin, but who would keep him out of harm’s way, if not for Hogan’s sake, then for his own conscience. Now, that idea came crashing down with one dreaded word.
“The Gestapo?” Hogan repeated. Klink nodded. “What did you tell them?”
“I told them the truth: that I have been questioning you every day since you arrived over a month ago, but that you have not given me any information that I could pass on to Berlin.”
“I wouldn’t go that far; I gave you that lovely recipe for New England clam chowder,” Hogan quipped, his mind still reeling.
Klink shook his fist in frustration. “Hogan, you know very well what Headquarters is looking for. They think I haven’t been tough enough, and they are sending a man in to question you tomorrow.”
“Why are you warning me?”
“Because I don’t want you to do anything foolish when he arrives. There has never been a successful escape from Stalag 13, Colonel Hogan. I don’t want you to try; you will only be thwarted and possibly shot.”
“So you think I’d rather get hauled off to Gestapo Headquarters to be shot instead?” Hogan snapped.
“Of course not, Hogan,” Klink answered seriously. “But I also cannot let you escape. I am simply warning you so you can prepare yourself.”
“Thanks; I’ll get the medic to start wrapping some bandages,” Hogan said angrily.
Klink shivered. “Never mind that,” he answered, his voice reflecting his frustration. “You will be here at fourteen hundred hours tomorrow.” He stopped to add quickly, “But you don’t know that, you understand?”
“Perfectly,” Hogan replied, barely able to control his anger.
“Very well. Dismissed.” Klink waved him out.
Hogan didn’t bother to salute; he could barely see Klink any more anyway through the haze of confused emotions flashing before him. He rejected Schultz’s attempts to make small talk as he strode back to the barracks, and swept past his men and straight into his quarters when he returned, leaving no chance for discussion.
The prisoners looked at each other, then at Schultz, who shrugged. “What’s going on, Schultz?” asked Kinch.
“I know nothing,” Schultz said.
“Come on, Schultz; you brought him to the Kommandant’s office; what did ol’ Bald Eagle want?” Newkirk pressed.
“I was not involved in their meeting; the Kommandant ordered me to leave the office.”
Le Beau sidled up to the guard. “Oh, by the way, Schultz,” he said smoothly, “I was planning to make a lovely crepe suzette tonight. I was thinking you might want some.”
Schultz’s eyes had closed and he was swaying slightly as he smiled at the thought of one of Le Beau’s culinary delights sliding gracefully, willingly, down his eager throat. “Oh, yes, Le Beau, yes, that would be wonderful, danke!”
Le Beau’s voice grew cold. “Then you’d better give us some information or it’s potato soup from the camp kitchen for you.”
Schultz frowned petulantly. “I told you; I do not know what Kommandant Klink told Colonel Hogan. All I know is that the Kommandant received a call from Gestapo Headquarters in Hammelburg, and when he got off the phone he ordered me to bring Colonel Hogan to his office.”
Newkirk’s eyes widened. “Gestapo, Schultz?”
“Ja. They will be here tomorrow. And you know how nervous they make the Kommandant.”
“For someone who knows nothing, Schultz, you’re a virtual fount of information,” Kinch remarked.
“I am?” Schultz asked.
“You sure are; thanks, Schultz,” Kinch said, now trying to shuffle the Sergeant out of the barracks.
“Yeah, thanks, Schultzie,” Newkirk said, also trying to rid them of the guard.
“Go on, Schultz; I cannot cook if you are standing over my shoulder,” Le Beau said, adding the coup de gras. Schultz left as quickly as possible.
“Gestapo,” Kinch muttered when they were alone.
“Sounds like they’re coming back for Colonel Hogan,” Newkirk concluded.
“Do you think so?” Le Beau said, still doubtful.
“Why else would the Colonel act the way he did when he came back?” Kinch asked.
Le Beau nodded. “Poor Colonel.” He looked at Hogan’s closed door. “What can we do?”
“Too bad the blasted tunnel isn’t finished yet; we could get him outta here tonight,” Newkirk lamented.
“Let’s get the Escape Committee together,” Kinch suggested. “We need to have an emergency meeting.”
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
Hogan stopped pacing long enough to respond to the knock on his door. “Come in,” he called, then resumed treading his well-worn path, thinking, worrying, plotting.
“Colonel, can I have a word?” Kinch asked, stepping hesitantly into Hogan’s office.
Hogan paused. “Sure, Kinch, what is it?” he asked. But he couldn’t stop his feet, driven by his racing mind, and he started pacing again.
“Colonel Hogan, we know the Gestapo is coming back,” Kinch began, clearing his throat.
Hogan stopped dead in his tracks. “Who told you that?—Schultz, I suppose,” he said.
Kinch nodded. “He wasn’t good with details, but we gather they’re coming to get you.”
Hogan nodded. “You add one and one together very well,” he said grimly. “Klink wanted to warn me so I wouldn’t do anything stupid before they get here.”
“Like try to escape?”
“Exactly.” Hogan started pacing again. “I feel like a caged animal heading for the slaughter. I almost wish he’d let them surprise me. I just keep trying to think of a way out of it.”
Kinch felt a pang of sympathy for his commanding officer. Hogan couldn’t stop moving; his arms were crossing and uncrossing, his fists clenching and unclenching, his feet walking that path back and forth across his room, his brow furrowing and unfurrowing, his eyes probing every corner of his office, as though searching for some solution in the dark, hidden spots. He is a caged animal, Kinch thought. He’s absolutely frantic with fear. “Do you think you can talk your way out of it, Colonel?” he asked.
“They knew about me when they took me down, Kinch; they know I was given security clearance to hear a lot of things they’d love to know. The only talking they want to hear is every bit of information I’m not willing to give. They know their—methods—didn’t work the last time. What are they going to try this time?” Hogan had stopped pacing while he spoke, and now tiredly sank onto his bunk. The realization had hit him: the Gestapo knew that torturing Hogan had brought no answers when he was at the Dulag Luft; so what would they do now when he refused to divulge Allied secrets—kill him? He shook his head. “I can’t give them anything, Kinch,” he said, shaking his head. “I just can’t.”
“Maybe you won’t have to, Colonel,” Kinch said quietly. Hogan just shook his head regretfully. “Colonel, the Escape Committee just had a meeting; we want to get you out of here today.”
Hogan looked up. “But the tunnel’s not finished, Kinch, and the transmitter’s not here,” he said.
“We’ll manage,” Kinch insisted. “So we can’t use the tunnel—we’ll use the plan you came up with a few weeks ago: we’ll get you out over the fence.”
“In the daylight?” Hogan asked.
“Yes, sir. We’ve got it all planned out. We distract the guard in the tower with the ball, you get over the fence and away.”
“But that puts you in danger if the guards catch on!” Hogan said, now finding holes in the plan that he thought was so plausible until he saw the tunnel, until he had gotten to know the men of Stalag 13, until he came to feel a protectiveness toward them that came from sharing a trying situation against a common enemy.
“It’s a chance we’re willing to take, Colonel. All escapes involve risk.” Kinch smiled. “Come on, sir, think of it. It’ll be a real boost to the men’s morale.”
Hogan considered, his mind still wildly concocting and rejecting plans. “Do they really want to try this?” he asked, unbelieving.
“Absolutely, sir,” Kinch answered. “The vote was unanimous. What do you say?”
Hogan tried to steady his breathing, which he suddenly realized was completely out of control, and nodded. “If you’re sure…”
Hogan paused, then looked Kinch straight in the eye, trying to convey everything from a confidence that he didn’t feel, to a gratitude that he did. “Then we’ll do it.”
“Disssssss-missed!” Colonel Klink turned on his heel after the day’s final roll call and headed back to his office.
“Are you ready, Colonel?” asked Le Beau in a low voice as the men dispersed.
“I think so,” Hogan answered, his eyes still making a steady scan of the compound.
Newkirk pulled in close and casually pulled out a cigarette. “Have you got the money?” he asked under his breath as he lit it.
Hogan nodded, thinking of the wad of German cash the prisoners had managed to smuggle into camp over time, and which they had given without hesitation to him.
“The boys are ready, Colonel,” said Kinch, breaking from a crowd of men who had started loud rallying near the guards’ tower. A game of football was forming, teams being chosen and boundaries set.
“Are they sure they want to go through with this?” Hogan asked again. The tightness in his chest forced him to concentrate on his breathing. His heart was pounding so hard he was sure it would break through his ribs any minute. Now that the moment had arrived he was nervous, not certain at all about this plan the men were betting on for his sake. There was surely a more than even chance that the whole thing would fail, that he would be shot, and that the men would be punished for trying to help him.
Kinch nodded. “They’re sure.”
Hogan swallowed his Adam’s apple for the third time since roll call. “Okay.”
“Good luck, Colonel,” Newkirk said, extending his hand.
Hogan took it. “Thanks,” he said, hoping to convey everything he felt with that one word, yet knowing words were inadequate in light of the risk so many were taking.
Le Beau put his hand on top of Newkirk’s and Hogan’s. “Bonne chance; we will pray for you.” He squeezed the hands under his.
“Thanks for everything, Colonel.” Kinch added his hand, its mass covering the others, joining them all momentarily. The feeling of unity ran like a lightning bolt through them—they had all become so close over the last few weeks. Splitting up now was like losing a member of the family.
Hogan looked from one man to the other. “I won’t forget you fellas,” he said hoarsely.
“C’mon, gov’nor; we’ve got to get moving or we’ll run out of time,” Newkirk finally said.
The men broke up and Le Beau headed toward the gaming area, calling loudly for a game of football, and why could those pushy Americans not relinquish the ball to a little Frenchman? Kinch shook his head, smiling, gave Hogan a pat on the arm in a final farewell, and ran off after him, “defending” Le Beau against the loud onslaught that met his comment. Hogan and Newkirk started walking toward the area near the guard’s tower in silence. All eyes scanning for guards and anyone’s undue attention, the pair paused when they got to within fifteen yards of the fence. Newkirk signaled to another prisoner who was strategically placed on the opposite side of the tower, and then turned to Hogan.
“You know what to do,” he said. “When you get out, hide out in the woods till you’re sure no one’s looking. Then head along the Hammelburg road. We’ll tell Schnitzer what’s going on when he comes to change the dogs tonight, and he’ll pick you up. Watch for his truck. He’ll get you to other members of the Underground. They’ll hide you, do up some papers for you, give you some clothes, and get you out. It’ll work, gov’nor. I know it will.” Hogan nodded. “Good luck, sir. It’s been a privilege to serve with someone as stubborn as you.”
“I was about to say the same,” Hogan said.
Hogan and Newkirk shook hands, then Newkirk gave him a quick nod and headed out into the open area. “Hey, who’s side are you on, anyway?” he shouted to a burly Corporal, who seemed to be hogging the ball.
The ruckus started, with at least a dozen men running and throwing and shouting. Hogan slowly made his way to the shadows, watching. He kept checking the guard tower; no one had noticed him. He stepped very carefully over the guard rail and into the warning area, then waited.
“Now! Throw it here! Now!” he heard someone yell.
That was the signal. Hogan’s muscles tensed; for a moment he wondered if he would be able to move when the time came. He hugged the furthest tower pole, concealing himself as much as he could. Then the ball became visible, flying gracefully over the guard rail on the opposite side, landing only a couple of feet away from the barbed wire fence. He saw a man on the ground point to himself as though to make sure that he was the one being identified, then he very slowly strolled to the area out of bounds where the ball was waiting.
No one looked at Hogan; he knew it was time to go. And, pulling himself up and along the pole, he managed to use the support beams like a ladder until he got to the top. He looked around quickly, feeling like this short maneuver had taken far too long. But when he looked he could only see the Corporal tossing the ball back into the open area of the camp, and almost imperceptibly nodding in Hogan’s direction. “Come on, you guys, you can do better than that! Let’s beat those RAF pansies!” he yelled.
The shouting that ensued was yet another signal to the others, who started screaming and brawling almost immediately. Hogan knew he had no time to waste and, putting his parachuting training into practice, made the leap over the fence to the hard ground below. The landing jolted him, and for a moment he felt all his old injuries coming to life again, as well as a sudden excruciating stab to his right shoulder. But without the luxury of time to recover from the drop, he picked himself up and clumsily ran for the cover of the woods as fast as he could manage, while the voices of the shouting men faded from his ears.
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
“Schnitzer’ll be here soon,” Newkirk remarked to no one in particular.
“Yep,” answered Kinch.
“Wonder how the Colonel is.”
“Well we didn’t hear any shooting; that’s always a good sign.”
“Did you see him leave?”
“I didn’t look. Didn’t want to take a chance that someone would notice.”
“Me neither. I hope he makes it.”
“Schnitzer will be here soon,” Newkirk said again. “He’ll look after the gov’nor.”
“If he makes it that far.”
“He will, Louis. If anyone will make it, he will.”
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
“Get away from this area, now—away, away!” Schultz ordered, a bit more enthusiastically than the prisoners were used to. He was waving them away from the dog pen with his rifle. “You are not to come near the dogs! Away! Schnell!”
“What is the problem, Schultzie?” asked Le Beau, annoyed. “You know we like to see the new killer animals when they are brought in; why can’t we stay?” He resisted being pushed out of the way by Schultz’s weapon.
“No one is allowed to be near Herr Schnitzer when he comes with the dogs tonight, or any other time! Now bewegen Sie sich!”
“Okay, okay,” Le Beau responded, arms crossed and frown firmly in place. “But see what kind of goodies you get from now on,” he said.
“But, Le Beau, it is not my fault,” Schultz pleaded. “The Kommandant has ordered me to keep everyone away. He says Herr Schnitzer is getting too friendly with the prisoners. I am just a soldier, Le Beau, I am only following orders. Now please go back to the barracks like a good cockroach…please, Le Beau.” Le Beau considered, his eyebrows still meeting in the middle of his forehead. “And maybe you can make some wiener schnitzel, bitte? When I come later for lights out, it might be ready?”
pigs might be flying over
“Ham is nice,” Schultz pondered, as he watched Le Beau retreat. He snapped to attention as he saw Klink approach and the dog truck pull through the gate. “Herr Kommandant, the men have been sent back to the barracks as ordered, sir.”
“Very good, Schultz.”
Schnitzer got out of his truck and approached the two Germans. “What is this about, Herr Oberst?” Schnitzer asked, surprised, as Klink came to meet him.
“Herr Schnitzer, it has come to my attention that the dogs seem to be much less attentive recently. Have you been continuing their training?” Klink asked.
“Ja, of course, Herr Oberst,” Schnitzer responded. “They receive proper training as the guard dogs they are.”
“Herr Schnitzer, I regret to say that you are most likely going to be replaced as our dog handler. We have noticed a change in the animals’ demeanor. And as you have no other dogs—”
“Are you doubting my loyalty as a German citizen, Herr Oberst Klink?” asked Schnitzer.
“Of course not, Herr Schnitzer. Perhaps you are just too friendly—these dogs need to be vicious. Our prisoners could try to escape at any time, and the dogs must be prepared to hunt them down. You have become too close to the prisoners, I fear. You must not see them as simple men, mein Herr. They are desperate. But there has never been a successful escape from Stalag 13, and there never will be if I can help it.” Schnitzer’s eyes took on a hurt look. “I do not wish you any difficulties, Herr Schnitzer. Until my final decision is made on whether to replace you, you will have no contact at all with the prisoners.”
“Of course, Herr Oberst,” Schnitzer replied.
Klink turned to Schultz. “Schultz, see that Herr Schnitzer has no trouble getting the animals changed. Then see that his truck gets out of camp undisturbed.”
“Jawohl, Herr Kommandant,” Schultz responded, saluting.
Klink returned the salute and, scowling—he hated to make the elderly veterinarian’s life more difficult, but he couldn’t have his dogs practically licking the prisoners in front of General Burkhalter—he returned to his office, to prepare for tomorrow’s visit by the Gestapo.
A Change Of Plans
Desperate for a drink of water, Hogan ran his tongue along his dry lips again and swallowed hard. He had been on the run for the better part of three hours, and his body was aching for rest, but he didn’t dare stop. Trudging through the woods, he wiped a sleeve across his brow and scanned the area again. No patrols. No vehicles. No running water. Through the trees he could see the sun completing its descent beyond the hills. Schnitzer usually went to Stalag 13 at the end of the day; he should be coming along the road soon. Zigzagging across the terrain, always looking around him for signs of pursuit, Hogan was sure he had missed Schnitzer on his way toward the camp; he was hoping he wasn’t too late to meet the veterinarian on his way back. Still, he considered, the other prisoners would have informed Schnitzer of Hogan’s situation, and the old man would surely be on the lookout for him.
The pulling pain in his shoulder peaked suddenly, stopping Hogan in his tracks. The escape, while successful, had aggravated old wounds that he had nearly succeeded in forgetting, at least while he was awake; unfortunately, his dreams—nightmares, really—always refreshed his memory. Alone, he could permit himself to groan aloud as he massaged the sore area under his rib cage. Then he tried to flex his shoulder muscles, but he could feel a stiffening and a sharp, hot throbbing that told him a massage and compress would be well received. In your dreams, he said to himself, cradling his now weak, almost useless arm desperately.
Hogan looked around for a place where he could pause but remain hidden. Spying a downed tree from where he could still see the road, he lowered himself onto the trunk and sagged wearily. Stalag 13 was beginning to look good: four walls and a roof; food; water; companionship. I must be delirious, he thought. His mind drifted to the men who had helped him get out. I won’t let you down, fellas. I’ll make you proud.
Sudden noises nearby drove Hogan firmly into reality, and he swiftly and silently took cover in some shrubbery that backed onto a large tree near the road. There was Schnitzer’s truck. Hogan found himself smiling at the sight of the rickety vehicle, and made to reveal himself when another sound brought an abrupt halt to his plan.
“Halt! Stoppen Sie diesen Wagen!” Two German soldiers suddenly emerged from the other side of the road. One put his hand out to stop the truck while the other approached the driver. Hogan drew back, a cold sweat all at once drenching him. How had he not seen them before? Were there others?
“Was ist das Ziel Ihrer Reise?” Hogan strained to hear what the old man was being asked. The German he had learned when he was assigned to the RAF helped him make some sense of it—apparently the soldiers wanted to know where Schnitzer was headed. He couldn’t hear the answer, just the next order: “Oeffnen Sie den Wagen.” Open the truck.
Hogan watched tensely as Schnitzer got out of his vehicle and went to the back doors. “Ich kuemmere mich um die Wachhunde im Stalag 13,” Schnitzer explained, as dogs unseen to Hogan started barking and jumping, visibly rocking the truck.
You sure do look after those dogs, Hogan thought. Nicely enough so they don’t attack the prisoners. He couldn’t help but smile when he saw the German soldier back away from the vehicle and indicate that opening the truck was no longer necessary.
The soldiers watched Schnitzer get back into his truck and then they gestured for him to continue up the road. Hogan watched in disbelief as Schnitzer disappeared from sight. You can’t! he thought desperately. What about my ride out of here? A new fear gripped Hogan as he realized that the appearance of the two German soldiers had now changed his plans dramatically. Schnitzer was gone, and Hogan knew he wouldn’t blame the man if he didn’t double back to find him. All he could do now was wait until the Germans moved on, then continue following the Hammelburg road on his own, and maybe catch Schnitzer tomorrow. If Hogan managed to survive the night with no contacts, with no water, and with almost no hope.
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
“No contact with Schnitzer any more,” Le Beau said, still angry.
“That means Colonel Hogan’s out there alone. No one but us knows he’s there,” Newkirk declared.
“And if he encounters the wrong kind of civilian—” Kinch began.
“He’ll be back faster than you can say ‘Jack Rabbit,’” Newkirk finished.
“If they do not beat him to death first,” Le Beau said, shuddering at the memory of some of the stories he had been told. German civilians could be worse to Allied soldiers than the military.
“So what can we do?” Newkirk asked, hoping the only answer he could think of was wrong.
It wasn’t. “Nothing,” Kinch said regretfully. “All we can do is keep our fingers crossed. And that hardly seems like enough.”
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
Hogan stood up and very carefully stretched his cramped muscles, trying not to antagonize his wildly aching shoulder or his throbbing abdomen. More uncertain than he could remember in a long time, he had stayed crouched under the cover of those bushes for more than an hour, watching as the patrol stopped every vehicle and demanded, “Ihre Papiere, bitte.” Eventually the pair of Germans disappeared into the woods across the road, and Hogan felt safe enough to move.
So thirsty. Got to get water. Driven first by fear, Hogan nonetheless knew that one of the keys to survival was water, and so he reluctantly continued following the road toward Hammelburg. Now with no light, Hogan was forced to travel more closely to the clearing than he preferred. He shivered slightly. With the sun had gone the warmth of the day, and he pulled his jacket closer around his body, and turned up the collar around his neck. Please let Schnitzer come back.
Another forty-five minutes of walking and Hogan was nearly exhausted. Without food or water and not as fully recovered as he had thought, the trek was playing on him, and he desperately wanted to stop. But he refused to give in to his body’s demands, and moved along. A short time later he was rewarded for his persistence; a large hole in the dirt road was holding water from a recent rainfall. Taking a quick look around him, Hogan came out into the open and gratefully, almost joyously, threw some of the water on his face. He rubbed it onto his neck, and then after only a moment’s consideration, cupped some in his hands and drank greedily. The relief to his parched throat acted like a tonic for his mood, and Hogan resumed his journey with an almost giddy cheerfulness. If only he could find a place to safely wait out the night, he thought, he might almost be able to make it.
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
The signs on the buildings were of course all in German, and yet Hogan found himself cursing them as he arrived at a small village further along the road. A little cluster of houses, a building that Hogan surmised was a pub, and a couple of other businesses were sitting neatly before him, fronting onto a quaint and deserted road. It was much later now, and Hogan’s eagerness after the respite of the water had now abandoned him. He had resigned himself to the idea that Schnitzer was obviously not coming back; it was too dangerous with the patrols on the road to take a chance on being caught with an escaped prisoner. Every sound, real or imagined, had startled him, and his nerves were now so on edge that he fleetingly wondered if he was starting to lose his grasp on reality.
Observing the area from the woods, Hogan debated coming out into the open. He wanted to think that he could depend on the innate goodness in people to help him—but a reality check reminded him that these people were Germans, the enemy. And he had heard enough about how civilians were sometimes quite eager to abuse Allied soldiers if caught—sometimes nearly to the point of death—before they turned the poor soul in to the German military authorities. Hogan winced as his injuries flared up momentarily, protesting the long ordeal and the lack of rest. Maybe if you’re already nearly there they’ll take pity on you instead?
His eyes scanned the area for a safe place to move to. He spied an alley between the pub and the house beside it and decided to take a chance. Continually scanning the area around him, Hogan ran stealthily to the edge of the first structure, then stopped in the shadows and looked around. So far satisfied that he was undetected, he crouched down low, ignoring his body’s objections, and crept swiftly to the alleyway. Pausing to regroup, he took in his surroundings and wiped his sweat-drenched face. Light came from further down the alley behind the buildings. He edged his way toward the light, and was surprised to see a dog pen there, holding at least half a dozen German shepherds.
Hogan ducked back quickly, grateful the animals had apparently not yet spotted him. But the discovery triggered another idea in his mind, and he continued to investigate his surroundings. Looking a bit further afield, Hogan’s suspicions were confirmed when he saw Schnitzer’s truck parked past the pens. He worked his way back up the alley to the front of the building, and tried to look through a window without being seen. Light came from within the house, but Hogan could see no one inside. He strained to listen, and could hear faintly what sounded like a piano, and a young, female voice, followed by a deeper, older voice.
Hogan debated whether to take a chance on knocking at the door. On the one hand, if this were Schnitzer’s home, surely Hogan would be welcomed. On the other, if he was wrong, or Schnitzer was with someone who was unaware of his Underground activities, he could be putting the old man in danger. Hogan leaned back against the building and closed his eyes. He was tired of arguing with himself, he was tired of this escape, and he was just plain bone-tired, period. He finally decided that the safest plan of action would be to wait at Schnitzer’s truck until the morning, and present himself to the man when he came out to look after the dogs. With that in mind, Hogan moved cautiously back towards the rear of the building.
This will be tricky, Hogan thought, noting that he would have to pass the dog pen to get to the relative safety of the truck. Hogan worked out the path least likely to attract the animals’ attention, and started. He was about ten feet from the back of the vehicle when a light suddenly came on in the yard. Hogan dove for cover and rolled under the carriage of the truck, hoping that he had not been spotted. The dogs went wild for a moment but were quickly quieted by a familiar voice. Schnitzer, Hogan realized.
“Wer ist es?” came a voice.
Damn, he’d been seen. Hogan stayed quiet, gasping at the pain the sudden collision with the ground had delivered to his shoulder and his torso. He tried to keep his breathing silent, sure that even that noise would be heard across the yard. But it was getting harder; Hogan was starting to feel light-headed from fatigue, fear, and discomfort, and he was hot, so hot, though inside he was actually shivering with the strain. He gave in and awkwardly unzipped his jacket. How long had it been since he left the camp?
“Zeigen Sie sich. Ich kann die Hunde loslassen!”
Hogan caught the gist of the demand—come out or the dogs will find you. He had no doubt that was true. And so he decided that since he was going to reveal himself to the veterinarian anyway, there was no point in antagonizing him, so he crawled out from underneath the truck and stood, swaying slightly, in the semi-darkness. “Herr Schnitzer,” Hogan began. Damn, he hurt just about everywhere. Could they speed this along?
“Was ist los? Wer sind Sie?” The voice was suspicious, hesitant.
“I’m Colonel Hogan, Herr Schnitzer. A prisoner from Stalag 13. The men told you to look for me, but you must have been surprised by the patrols tonight.” Please. Please, we’re so close to a place to sit down….
Schnitzer came out further into the yard. “Stalag 13?” he repeated.
“Yes, mein Herr. We’ve met before at camp.” Hogan’s eyes darted around the yard. We shouldn’t be talking out here in the open….
Schnitzer advanced even more. Hogan wasn’t sure how to take the man’s response. His shoulder was hurting more now than it had since he left the camp, and a new dizziness was making it hard to see Schnitzer clearly in the dim light.
The older man came to stand face to face with Hogan, and studied the American’s face closely. Nodding, he looked Hogan up and down, and raised an eyebrow when his eyes reached Hogan’s torso. “Sie sind verletzt?”
Hogan looked down and was surprised to see blood seeping through his shirt. He nodded numbly, and finally succumbed to his weakness, falling into Schnitzer’s arms and the comfort of oblivion.
The Key To Hope
“So you see, Colonel, I did not know about your escape at all.”
Hogan was sitting propped up on an old sofa in Schnitzer’s living room, gratefully sipping the warm drink he had been given. After Schnitzer had managed to get the American inside his house, he had tended his injuries as best he could, and then coaxed him gently back to consciousness. When Hogan awakened, Schnitzer attributed the flyer’s sudden collapse to a combination of his injuries, exhaustion, shock, and lack of fluids, and insisted Hogan take the tea and the stew offered by his pretty granddaughter, Greta. Now, feeling more in the present and in control, Hogan listened with concern as Schnitzer related his story of the night’s events.
Hogan frowned. “That means you won’t be able to get them the rest of the transmitter,” Hogan concluded, nodding his thanks as Greta forced another biscuit into his hands. You must eat, her grandfather had said to the American. She would make sure he did.
“That is another unfortunate thing, Colonel Hogan. You see, I had the part they needed with me when I went to the camp tonight. I was intending to give it to them when I changed the dogs. It arrived today. And now…”
“What? You have it?” Hogan’s tea splashed over the rim of his cup as he gave a sudden start. “You mean you’ve got the rest of the transmitter?”
“Yes, Herr Colonel,” Schnitzer confirmed, nodding. “The soldiers did not see it when they stopped the truck.” He got up and went to a teapot sitting decoratively on a shelf on the far wall. He took the teapot down and reached inside, pulling out a small panel connected to some wires. He turned, smiling, to Hogan. “You see, it is quite small. I was easily able to conceal it.”
Hogan struggled to sit without causing himself discomfort and reached out for the precious component. Schnitzer came quickly and put his hand on Hogan’s left shoulder to keep him still, and handed him the part. Hogan turned it over in his hands, amazed. “That’s all it takes,” he said respectfully. “That’s the key to everything.” The key to hope for the prisoners at Stalag 13.
“And now, it is wasted. I will not be able to get it to them.” Schnitzer sighed, then made a visible attempt to lift his mood. “But at least we have you, young man. We must get you back to the Allies. You still need medical attention; there was torn flesh in your side, and I fear you have a separated right shoulder. I am afraid veterinary medicine is inadequate for humans—though often the four-legged patients are easier to handle.” He smiled.
Hogan frowned, deep in thought, still staring at the panel. “So what’s going to happen to this now?” he asked, handing the part back to Schnitzer.
The older man considered the component in his hands, then slipped it easily back into its hiding spot. Greta took the teapot from him and put it up on the top shelf. “If mein Großvater gets caught with this, we can be brought before the authorities,” she said to Hogan. “It is forbidden to have radio transmitters of any sort.”
Schnitzer shrugged. “I try to keep my family out of these activities,” he said. “But my Greta, she wants to be involved, and I cannot stop her.” He smiled indulgently at the young lady before him.
Hogan looked at her with curious eyes. The girl could be no more than twenty, yet she was willing to risk everything to help fight the Third Reich, to help give hope to the Allies. He could not ask them to do more for him. “Your help has been invaluable. I know the men at Stalag 13 have been counting on you for a long time; they are grateful,” he said. “You take a great risk.”
“And so do you,” Schnitzer said, coming to sit in a chair again beside Hogan. He shook his head. “Your story astounds me—a daylight escape, in front of the guards. Daring.”
“Desperate,” Hogan corrected. Greta came to sit beside Hogan on the sofa, making no attempt to hide the fact that she was studying him closely. “The men wanted me out as soon as possible—the Gestapo is coming tomorrow to talk with me, and they wanted to give me as long a head start as we could manage.”
“The Gestapo!” breathed Greta. “Why do they want to talk with you, Herr Oberst?”
“That’s a long story,” Hogan said, not caring to dwell on the issue. “Let’s just say they weren’t happy with what they got the last time we met.”
Schnitzer nodded solemnly. “So you are indeed a hunted man, Herr Colonel. Or so you will be, as soon as they realize you are gone.”
“I guess you could say that,” Hogan agreed grimly. He winced as he brought a hand up to his sore shoulder.
“You have pain, Herr Oberst?” Greta asked, her eyes concerned.
Hogan nodded. “A little,” he lied, trying not to meet her eye. “It’ll be fine.” He tried to rise but found it difficult; how easily one’s body rebelled against action when it was finally getting the rest it demanded! “You’ve done more than enough for me,” he managed, and, using the arm of the sofa as a prop, he stood up. “I thank you,” he said. He took a step forward, then swayed into Schnitzer’s waiting arms again.
“Sit, Herr Colonel,” the old man said, helping Hogan back down onto the sofa. “Where do you think you will go tonight?”
“I can’t let you take any more risks for me,” Hogan said, catching his breath. “You said it yourself—they already think you’re too friendly with the enemy. If they catch me with you, you’ll both be in great danger.”
“That is a choice that we make, Colonel,” Schnitzer said. “We are well aware of the risk.” Hogan nodded. “Now, Colonel—my medicine is for animals. All I have to offer humans for pain is brandy. Will you take some?” Schnitzer offered.
“Thank you, Herr Schnitzer, Fraulein Schnitzer,” Hogan said weakly. He downed the offered glass in one hit. “I don’t know how to repay you.”
“Defeat the German Army, Herr Oberst,” said Greta. “That will be enough.”
“Tomorrow I will take you to one
of our contacts in the Underground. He will then take you out of
Hogan nodded, tired and hurting. But his eyes drifted back up to the teapot on the shelf, with its priceless gift inside. I can’t let that go to waste. The men need it. Then he allowed himself to be guided by the kind people around him, and gratefully sank into the pillow and mattress offered, for once too tired even to dream.
The Wheels Are Turning
“You are up early this morning, Herr Oberst.”
Hogan turned, surprised, to see Greta standing behind him in the living room. He had been lost in thought, staring up at the teapot on the top shelf, and had not heard her approach. “Couldn’t sleep,” he answered briefly.
“Too anxious,” she speculated.
“A bit.” Hogan didn’t want to admit it was the pain in his shoulder and side that had woken him from a restless slumber a couple of hours before dawn. Unable to get back to sleep, he had simply tossed and turned, trying to stifle his anguished moans, until it became impossible to remain lying in bed any longer, and eventually he consciously focused his thoughts on the transmitter part sitting in the living room, where he wandered in search of a distraction.
“Großvater will look after you,” Greta said. Hogan nodded, then looked back up at the teapot. “You are thinking of the radio,” she said after a long silence.
Hogan was surprised yet again when Greta suddenly handed him a glass filled with brandy. “Drink,” she said.
Hogan just stared at her questioningly.
“I also couldn’t sleep last night,” she said matter-of-factly. “And my room is adjacent to yours.”
Hogan nodded, uncomfortable with the idea that someone had heard his private suffering, and took the offering. Too early in the day for this, he thought fleetingly, then downed the drink appreciatively, feeling the liquid burn hot down his throat. “Thanks,” he said hoarsely.
She took the glass back and smiled gently. “You can hide many things, Herr Oberst,” she said. “I believe you are a very clever man. But the eyes never lie, and that is where you carry your pain.”
Hogan could think of nothing to say and averted his eyes. After a moment he changed the subject. “I’m sorry your grandfather’s involvement with the Allies is putting him in such a bad position at the moment.”
Greta shrugged. “Großvater is a stubborn man with fine ideals. He will do what he feels best.”
“That’s very heroic,” Hogan said sincerely. “I can’t thank the two of you enough for your help last night.”
“Any chance to strike a blow to the Third Reich is welcome, Herr Oberst,” Greta replied.
“I don’t mean to sound ungrateful,” Hogan said, “But I’m going to have to ask your grandfather to do one more thing for me. It may benefit a lot of people, including him.”
Greta looked at Hogan, not with anger, but with curiosity. Hogan went over the idea one last time in his mind, then launched into the telling, before he changed his mind.
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
“Call out the dogs! Schultz, get the guards and start a patrol at once!”
“Jawohl, Herr Kommandant!”
The prisoners watched as the Germans scrambled after morning roll call. Schultz had nearly fainted when he realized that Hogan was not among the assembled men, and Klink was practically apoplectic. The Kommandant’s demands to know when Hogan had gone missing were met with confused and innocent looks, neither of which Klink was willing to believe. “Guards! Start your search immediately! Diiiis-misssssed!” he shouted.
My perfect record of no escapes will not be broken, Hogan, Klink thought, almost frightened at the idea of losing the protection that this accomplishment afforded him. It would be better if I find you, rather than the Gestapo. With me at least you have a chance to survive.
“Do you think the gov’nor’s made it to the Underground?” Newkirk asked under his breath as they observed the frantic proceedings.
“Impossible to tell, Newkirk,” Kinch answered. “We can only hope for the best.”
“But even then, we may never know, may we?” asked Le Beau.
“No, Louis,” Newkirk agreed, staring at the barbed wire fence, remembering Hogan’s promise: I won’t forget you. “We may never know.” But I’ll wonder for the rest of my life.
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
“You’re not going to believe this!” Newkirk exclaimed, bursting into Barracks Two at dusk.
“What is it, Peter?” asked Kinch, looking up from the book he was apparently only pretending to read. He had tried to divert his attention away from the business around camp after the morning search had been organized and failed. First it had been a game of basketball, where all the shots missed by a mile. Then, when the Gestapo officers had shown up and the shouting about Hogan’s escape could be heard all over camp, it had been fervent work on the flower beds that Hogan had planned before his unceremonious departure. Now, with the day nearly over, it was the book. Thirty minutes after he had first picked it up and he was still on page seven. Somehow he suspected his mind wasn’t on the written words.
“I’m seeing it with my own eyes, but I can’t believe it meself!”
“What is it, Pierre?” asked Le Beau more insistently.
“Schnitzer’s just pulled in—and he’s got Colonel Hogan with him!”
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
“Colonel Hogan, where have you been?” Klink demanded, exasperated but relieved to have his no-escape record miraculously restored.
“This man came to me early today,
Kommandant,” Schnitzer said, pointing to Hogan. “He said he had escaped from
Stalag 13 and was hoping I would help him get out of
Klink waved his fist under Hogan’s lowered, unshaven face. “Hogan, I warned you not to try anything foolish. Do you have any idea what your irresponsible actions meant to this camp? The Gestapo were crawling through this camp this afternoon and in the woods all around this area, looking for you! Didn’t you know you would naturally be captured? What do you have to say for yourself?”
Hogan’s features reflected a look of defeat. “That’s the last time I trust a lousy Kraut,” he said bitterly.
Klink raised his eyebrows, surprised at the acrimony in Hogan’s voice. He turned to Schnitzer. “Herr Schnitzer, your devotion to the Fatherland is to be commended. I hereby rescind my previous decision to replace you; you may go about your business as usual, with my thanks, and, I am sure, the thanks of the Fuhrer.”
Hogan stole a sideways glance at Schnitzer at the words. “Thank you, Herr Kommandant,” Schnitzer replied. “I assure you I have nothing but the Third Reich’s interests in mind each and every day.”
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
“C’mon, Schultz, let us see what is going on!” Le Beau was protesting. The guard was keeping the inhabitants of Barracks Two firmly inside their quarters, as per the standing order of Klink. But he was finding it hard to resist the persistence of the three men pushing him now.
“I cannot, Le Beau. The Kommandant said all prisoners are to be kept away from Herr Schnitzer when he changes the dogs.”
“But look, Schultz; he’s got Colonel Hogan there. Surely we have a right to see what’s going on.” Newkirk strained to see past Schultz’s bulk.
“You will know what I know, and that is nothing,” Schultz replied.
“Not if we can help it,” Newkirk declared, and he pushed Kinch and Le Beau ahead of him out past Schultz and into the yard, leaving the Sergeant blustering in the doorway.
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
“Very well; accompany Colonel Hogan back to Barracks Two, and see that the medic attends him,” Klink said to Schultz, who had followed the errant prisoners as they burst across the compound. He turned to Hogan, his voice angry and bothered. “And when he is through with you, you will come to my office to receive your punishment.” He turned on his heel and stormed back towards his office.
“Colonel—what happened? How come you’re back?” Newkirk couldn’t help but ask, even with Schultz close by.
“Don’t ask questions,” Hogan said
shortly. “Just get
“I will go, Colonel,” Le Beau said, and, sharing his worried look with the others, he took off across the camp.
“Was it bad, Colonel?” Newkirk asked in a low voice. “We couldn’t tell Schnitzer; Klink had us locked up in the barracks.”
“Don’t worry about it. Just get
Kinch and Newkirk tried to help support Hogan as he headed for the barracks, but he refused their solicitousness, and, throwing a look of loathing at Schnitzer which stunned Schultz, he made the slow journey back alone.
“Colonel Hogan, let me help you with your—”
“Never mind that; you have to get
this off,” Hogan interrupted
Kinch, Le Beau, and Newkirk had
“Take it off,” Hogan ordered, insistent.
Hogan occasionally flinched but
said nothing as
“Is that what I think it is?” Kinch asked, barely daring to breathe, much less speak.
Hogan nodded wearily. “And the frequencies and the codes,” he said.
Kinch came slowly forward and picked up the precious transmitter part and the envelope. “Is that why you came back?” he asked.
Hogan considered before answering. “Schnitzer said he had it, but he couldn’t get it to you. This way it got into camp.”
“But it means you’re trapped again, gov’nor,” Newkirk said, disbelieving.
Hogan lay down on the bunk, biting back a groan. “Too many people were depending on it to have it disappear.” He closed his eyes. “I didn’t sleep much last night,” he said. “Let me sleep.”
Kinch, Le Beau and Newkirk
exchanged glances with Wilson, who nodded them out of the room. Then
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
Kinch fitted the small, precious part into the rest of the radio down in the tunnel while Le Beau looked on. “There, that should do it,” Kinch said. “All we have to do now is test it out with the frequencies Colonel Hogan brought back and we’ll be rolling.” He stood back and examined his handiwork, contemplating how it had been made possible.
Le Beau’s brow furrowed as he considered Hogan’s return. “He could have escaped, Kinch. He could have been gone. Why did he come back?”
“You heard what he said, Louis,” Kinch said. He screwed the lid tightly back onto the radio casing. “We were all counting on this radio. He didn’t want to let us down.”
“But Schnitzer would have gotten him out—he would have been free!”
Kinch nodded. “He must have his reasons, Louis. I can’t even begin to guess what they are. All I know is, if he hadn’t brought this part, Schnitzer wouldn’t have been able to, and there would be an awful lot of disappointed men here.”
“And now Schnitzer’s job is safe, too.”
“So we can still contact the Underground. Another Colonel Hogan miracle,” Kinch agreed. He looked at Le Beau. “It’s quite a sacrifice, Louis. Let’s make sure we don’t waste it.”
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
“I warned you, Colonel Hogan. I
told you not to try to escape! You behaved foolishly, and just at the time when
I told you that you would be in the most jeopardy if you did!” Klink shook his
head. “Well, your little escapade served its purpose, at least for now—it put
off the Gestapo for a little while. But they were very angry, Hogan; I expect
they’ll be back. And very soon.” Klink stopped long enough to scoff. “Thinking
you could get a loyal German citizen like Herr
Schnitzer to help you get out of
Schultz appeared a little too quickly from the other side of Klink’s office door. “Jawohl, Herr Kommandant!” he said, standing smartly at attention.
“Take Colonel Hogan to the cooler. He is to spend the next seven days there, thinking about his unwise attempt to escape from this escape-proof prison camp. No visitations except for the medic.”
“Jawohl, Herr Kommandant.” Schultz stood back and opened the door. “Colonel Hogan—if you please,” he said, gesturing to the exit.
Hogan’s eyes darkened as he turned to the guard. Glaring back at Klink, he thought of where he could have been spending the next seven days if he had continued on his flight. He felt the muscles in his jaw tense, but he fought back the urge to tell Klink exactly how un-escape proof Stalag 13 was, and walked out.
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
Blinking excessively as his eyes adjusted to the light, Hogan emerged from his little cell a week later looking much as he did when he first arrived at the camp so many weeks ago. In need of a shave, not very well fed, and still sore and stiff, he rubbed his eyes and nodded to Schultz as the guard left his side to attend to other duties. The once overpowering pain from his separated shoulder had receded to a duller but persistent background ache, thanks to many visits from an indefatigable Wilson, who had treated it with cold compresses as often as he could manage to get access to the Colonel. And the wounds in Hogan’s side, which had been fairly minor but aggravated by his actions outside the camp—and by the rough undressing that followed his return—were also healing well.
Hogan had said little to
“Thought you’d be out soon.” Newkirk’s voice penetrated Hogan’s inner thoughts as he reached Barracks Two. Hogan looked and saw the Corporal in the shadows, leaning on the barracks wall. “We have something to show you,” he said.
Hogan said nothing, feeling strangely out of practice about communicating, and nodded mutely. Newkirk left his observation spot and led Hogan inside, where Le Beau was waiting at the table in the common room.
“Watch the door,” Newkirk said to him.
“Oui,” Le Beau agreed. The little Frenchman struggled with words, unsure what to say to Hogan standing before him. Over the last week, the consequences of Hogan’s decision to come back to them had sunk deep into his mind, and deeper into his heart. Captain Hayes had abandoned them, had not cared about anyone but himself; this had hurt Le Beau very deeply, and aside from his very close companions here, he had lost faith in man’s ability to think of others before himself. But Hogan’s return symbolized quite the opposite—he had had the chance to escape from Nazi Germany. But he knew that the others left behind would lose their chance to do the same if someone didn’t act. And so he chose to give them all an equal opportunity, by bringing back the one thing they needed in order to get it. And in the process he’d lost that chance himself. Le Beau’s passionate French soul found this loyalty noble, and overwhelming. “Welcome back, Colonel,” was all he managed to say.
Hogan nodded. Newkirk banged on the side of the bunk that led to the tunnel as Le Beau took up his observation post. He gestured for Hogan to precede him down the ladder. Hogan did so, favoring his sore shoulder, to find Kinch fiddling at the radio box.
“Colonel Hogan, welcome back,” Kinch said without humor.
Hogan appreciated not being treated like the all was right with the world. “Thanks,” he finally said.
“We’ve been pretty busy in the last week, Colonel. The radio transmitter is all set up, and the wiring to the antenna is completed. Communication is as close as this switch,” Kinch said, indicating a small lever near his hand.
“Does it work?” Hogan asked.
“In theory, yes,” he answered. “We haven’t tried it out yet. The men agreed they wanted you to be the first one on the air, so to speak. We don’t want to try this during the day, so we hoped you might be up to trying it out tonight. That way the antenna over Klink’s office can go up hopefully unnoticed.”
“And there’s more, gov’nor,” Newkirk added. Hogan looked questioningly at the obvious enthusiasm on the man’s face. “Take a look at this.”
He led Hogan down the tunnel the men had been working on before he left Stalag 13. But Hogan realized now that he was walking much farther than he ever had before. “How far does this go?” he asked in wonderment when they reached the end, where a small group of men were still digging.
“You are now standing at the barbed wire fence near the guard tower,” Newkirk announced proudly. Hogan stared at him, astonished. “We got ambitious once you came back with the radio transmitter,” Newkirk explained. He shifted from one foot to the other, uncomfortable expressing his feelings and those of the others. “We wanted you to have a chance to get out again soon. Y’know, as a way of saying thank you. We thought the least we owed you was a chance to go out by the tourist route.” He offered up a sheepish smile.
Hogan’s eyes softened and for a moment the tiredness left them. “I couldn’t live with myself if I’d left knowing you weren’t going to have a chance.”
“And we couldn’t live with ourselves if we didn’t say thank you,” Newkirk replied.
A silence descended that left them both feeling awkward. Hogan cleared his throat, then said, “We’ll try out the radio tonight.”
Relieved, too, at the break in
emotion, Newkirk told him, “We told Schnitzer last night to make sure
Hogan raised his eyebrows. “You got near Schnitzer?” he asked.
“Well, since the old man brought
you back, he’s Klink’s best friend. Old Bald Eagle thinks Schnitzer is the most
loyal citizen in
“Not to mention that his escape-proof prison camp record is now intact,” Hogan added.
“For now,” Newkirk said with a laugh.
Hogan stood staring at the headsets Kinch was holding out to him, almost afraid to take them. He looked from one man to the other, waiting for some insistence that now was the time. “Colonel?” Kinch prompted again.
Hogan flexed his fingers and took the offering, putting them on his head and nodding to Kinch to start the transmission. Le Beau stood tensely nearby, with Newkirk upstairs watching for the antenna to go up, and others on the lookout for any unwanted German intrusions. Kinch flicked a switch and started pumping the lever on the wall. Newkirk signaled that all as well at the flagpole above Klink’s office, then left another prisoner in charge of Jerry-spotting and joined the others downstairs.
Kinch nodded as the radio hummed, then started tapping out a message using code from the notes Hogan had brought back to camp strapped to his body. The nervous anticipation in the tunnel was almost physical as they waited for a reply. A few seconds that felt like a few hours passed, and Kinch started writing frantically as the machine near his hand came to life. The others looked at each other with hope in their eyes, and watched his hand move across the paper as if their stares were making it happen. Kinch finally nodded and looked up. “Recognition code accepted, Colonel.” He handed Hogan the clipboard with the paper he had been writing on. “Use this code to identify yourself.”
Hogan looked at the paper and frowned. Glancing at the men around him, Hogan took a deep breath and leaned down toward the microphone on the table. “This is Goldilocks, repeat, Goldilocks,” he said, his voice reflecting a sudden unhappiness that bewildered Le Beau and Newkirk. “Calling Mama Bear. Do you read?”
A silence followed, Hogan straining to listen, his face a picture of concentration. Suddenly he straightened, obviously hearing something back. A slight smile crossed his face. “It’s good to hear your voice, too.” He nodded towards the men and listened. “Yes, the first bed is too hard here,” he answered, shrugging at the others. They grinned.
A long silence from Hogan
followed, during which Hogan’s face lost its lightness. “Yes, I’d like to know,
sir,” he said at last. His voice had steeled itself, and he stopped looking at
the men around him. “I see,” he said soon, his voice strangled. “And Bailey?”
Another pause. “
Kinch quickly transcribed what he was being told, then confirmed another communication for the following evening. Specifics of their set up would be sent via their code instead of by voice tomorrow morning, for security. Kinch then signed off, shut the radio down, and looked at Le Beau and Newkirk. “They want to know what kind of plan we’ve got going here,” he said. “We’re to contact again tomorrow night. Same frequency, different code to be transmitted in the morning.” He looked over toward Hogan, who was still frowning in his own thoughts. “I volunteer to man the radio when the time comes, Colonel.”
“Fine, fine.” Hogan nodded inattentively. Pulling himself together, he briefly looked to his men. “This is good for everyone, fellas. Nice work.” He looked like he wanted to say more, but did not. Instead, he gestured futilely up the ladder. “I’m tired—I’m gonna hit the sack.”
“Good night, Colonel,” Le Beau said, worried. He and Newkirk looked at Kinch when Hogan disappeared. “He is unhappy,” Le Beau observed.
“He just found out what happened to the crew of his plane,” Kinch said.
“Obviously not very good news,” surmised Newkirk.
“I don’t know. But I do know that Goldilocks is the name of the plane he was shot down in.” Kinch shook his head. “It was probably meant as a mark of respect. But all it’s bound to do is bring back some bad memories.”
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
Four dead. Three missing. Three in prison camps. Hogan went through his crew members’ faces in his mind. Images of their final moments in the sky flashed through like fleeting ghosts. Come on, damn it, pull up! There must have been something he could have done, must have been some trick he could have pulled out of his sleeve. He was the Commander of the bomb group; the crew had been counting on him. But in the end he could think of nothing, and even now the whole traumatic experience was still a blur in his mind, an indistinct mixture of frantic shouting, of overwhelming heat, of devastating fear.
Four dead. Three missing. Hogan rolled over on his bunk, wincing as he thoughtlessly put pressure on his sore shoulder. Four dead. Three missing. He pinched the bridge of his nose to stave off a tension headache he could feel starting between his eyes. Four dead. Three missing. He thought of the men he had left down in the tunnel tonight. Three in prison camps.
I’m sorry, fellas, he said to his downed Goldilocks crew. I let you down. But I won’t let it happen again. These guys will get out. I’ll make sure of it.
Hogan’s mental anguish combined with his physical pain to keep him awake for a long time after the transmission. When he did fall asleep, it was to a confusion of names, faces, doubts and fears, that haunted his dreams till the morning.
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
“Colonel Hogan, sir?” Kinch waited for a minute, looking at the officer lying eyes closed on his bunk, then shrugged and turned to leave his quarters.
“What is it, Kinch?” came Hogan’s tired voice.
Kinch turned back to see Hogan
still lying with his eyes shut. “Sorry to wake you, Colonel. I just got off the
Hogan opened his eyes and sat up with a heavy sigh. “You didn’t wake me; I was just trying to escape for awhile.” Running his hand through his hair, he asked, “What’s the score?”
Hogan stood up and started straightening his clothes. “They didn’t need to know that,” he said shortly.
Kinch shrugged. “All due respect, Colonel; what you did was worthy of note. It was a big sacrifice.”
Hogan’s nightmares flashed through his mind. “Men have made bigger ones,” he said. Kinch nodded and turned to go. Hogan made to follow him out, then stopped. “Kinch—”
The Sergeant turned back to Hogan. “Thanks for all your hard work.”
Kinch offered Hogan a slight smile and nodded. “Don’t want to waste the chance you gave us, Colonel.” He paused, wanting to broach another subject but hesitant to dredge up old wounds. “Sorry about… your men, sir.”
“Guess I was one of the lucky ones,” Hogan said quietly. “Remind me to be grateful next time I sound off.”
“No one would be game to at that point, sir. Maybe later on.”
Hogan laughed and came out to join the others.
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
“Colonel—we’ve done it. The tunnel’s coming up in the woods outside the camp.”
Hogan looked up from the book he was seeing through and stared at Newkirk. “You’re kidding!” he said.
“No, sir, I’m certainly not!” Newkirk answered, with a cocky pride in his voice that accompanied a similar smile. “Come on down, sir—we want you to see it.”
Hogan dropped the book and followed, suddenly realizing it was the first time he’d felt eager and pleased about something in months. With their Underground contacts safe, the completion of the tunnel meant the men could start planning escapes again. And when he was satisfied all was going smoothly, he could take part in one again himself.
And get back in the sky. He thought of his old crew and swallowed hard. You fellas won’t have died in vain.
Newkirk, Le Beau, and Kinch stood uncomfortably in the common room of the barracks, shifting feet, looking from one thing to another, waiting. Tonight’s radio contact with London had gone off as planned, and all seemed right with the world for a few moments, until Hogan’s facial expression had changed to match the incredulous, slightly angry voice that practically shouted, “What?” back down the line. His outburst had surprised the others, who were waiting to glean more details from Hogan’s responses, but all the Colonel said after that was, “You must be out of your mind!” and, more calmly after a very long silence, “I don’t know; I’ll have to think about it.” Then he signed off curtly, again leaving Kinch to the planning of another contact, and, with only a cursory glance at his subordinates, quickly made tracks up the ladder to the barracks.
“What was that all about?” asked Newkirk.
“I don’t know,” Kinch answered. “But it doesn’t seem like the Colonel to talk like that to his superiors. He was speaking to General Butler!”
“Well, whatever the fine General said obviously didn’t go down too well.”
So the trio ascended the ladder,
and found Hogan pacing the barracks, rubbing his right shoulder. Le Beau made a
mental note to make sure
“They must be crazy,” Hogan finally muttered, still pacing. A few more steps, then: “How do they expect me to pull that off?”
Newkirk could have sworn the floor was wearing out where Hogan was walking. He had rarely seen the American so worked up, and was getting worried. What would make a man like Hogan say his superior officer was out of his mind?
Hogan suddenly stopped pacing and
looked at the men as though seeing them for the first time. His hand dropped
from his shoulder. “
“Bloody nice of them, isn’t it?” Newkirk said. “What a shame you happen to be in a prison camp.” Le Beau muttered his agreement. Kinch just nodded and gave a slight chuckle.
“Yeah, well that’s just it; they’re perfectly happy for me to stay right here,” Hogan said.
Le Beau suddenly understood.
Hogan was upset because
“That’s not it,” Hogan said, shaking his head, though he appreciated Le Beau’s attempt to comfort him. “They don’t want me to try to get out. They want me to stay here for the duration—on purpose.”
The others all started talking at once. Finally, Kinch’s words got through. “What do they want you to do, Colonel?”
“They want—” He looked around at
the empty barracks, still wondering if all the bugs that had been planted by
the Germans had been found as they thought. But they swept the barracks every
day, including just this morning, and nothing had been discovered. So, trusting
the work the men had done, he resumed. “They want me to head an operation from
here. Intelligence. Sabotage. Channeling escaped prisoners to the Underground
for passage out of
“It sounds like they want a bleedin’ branch office!” Newkirk declared.
“It sounds like they want the impossible,” Hogan corrected him. “There are too many random factors.”
“They must think you can do it, or they would not ask, Colonel,” Le Beau said cautiously.
“Of course that would mean that I couldn’t escape from this hell hole either,” Hogan added. He stopped, for a moment thinking of the escape he had managed to pull off. He had been free….
The others looked away, uncomfortable. It was every prisoner’s dream—his right—to try and escape. When under Allied command, a flyer could get time between missions to let his guard down, or a furlough to release some of the stress. But in a prison camp, there was no letting down his guard, no stress release. It was being under the nose and control of the enemy twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. For a man who had already given up freedom once voluntarily, the idea of his imprisonment being reinforced for the rest of the war seemed like a cruelty.
Newkirk shook his head slowly. “It’s an awful lot to ask, gov’nor,” he said.
Hogan lowered his troubled eyes and absentmindedly started massaging his shoulder again. “Too many wild cards,” he muttered, as though the men were no longer in the room. He started pacing again, deep in thought. “Too many unknowns.”
Kinch stepped forward hesitantly. “Why don’t you go to bed, Colonel? It will all seem clearer in the morning.” He looked to the others for backup.
“Oui, Colonel. Things will look different tomorrow.” Le Beau shrugged when Hogan did not respond.
Finally Hogan looked at the men again. “I can’t see them looking any differently than they do now,” he said simply. “They’re crazy. It won’t work.” He grabbed a cup and shakily poured himself some old, bitter coffee. “I’ll be in my quarters, pretending to sleep.”
The others exchanged looks as
Hogan retreated, and Le Beau left to find
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
Breathing easier after
You’re nuts, Hogan chided himself as he felt his resistance to the
idea faltering. What kind of idiot thinks
he can outwit the Germans right under their noses? He sat up and took a
swig of coffee but didn’t taste it. Still,
Klink might be easily led; he doesn’t seem too keen on letting
“Problem solved,” he said aloud. “One man can’t do it. Game over.” And, somehow not quite satisfied, he took advantage of the numbness of his shoulder, lay down again, and closed his eyes.
What Profit To A Man?
rolled around and Hogan remained locked away in his
quarters. His sole appearance had been for morning roll call, when he had made
only superficial conversation with the others, never mentioning the outrageous
Le Beau decided that even thinking men had to eat, and so, plate of goodies as tempting as he could manage from their Red Cross packages in hand, he boldly knocked on Hogan’s door.
“Come,” he heard, and swallowing his fleeting doubt, he entered.
Hogan was sitting at his desk, brow furrowed, some papers scattered across it, others crumpled and tossed aside, a book perched on the edge, open to a page Le Beau couldn’t make out. Hogan was writing furiously, concentrating. Le Beau waited.
“What is it?” Hogan asked, not stopping. When Le Beau didn’t answer right away, Hogan paused and looked up. “Sorry, Louis, I wasn’t paying attention,” he said, putting his pencil down. “What can I do for you?”
Le Beau noticed that Hogan’s face reflected what was becoming a regular tiredness and worry. Though he did his best to hide it, Hogan was feeling the burden of a command he had not asked for, and was now being forced to consider one he did not think was even plausible. But he was obviously resigned to making the best of it, which Le Beau appreciated more than almost anything else Hogan could do. “You must eat, Colonel. You skipped breakfast.” He offered the plate.
Hogan smiled appreciatively. “Thanks, Louis. Been too pre-occupied to eat.”
Le Beau put the plate on the desk
but Hogan did not touch it. Le Beau glanced at the book and realized it was the
Bible. Hogan had circled a passage on its worn pages: For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and lose
his own soul? “You are thinking about what
Hogan nodded, then looked back at the paperwork on his desk. “No matter how I dissect it, it just doesn’t seem possible. It would have to involve too many people. There would be too many random factors, too many things out of our control. Too many people could get hurt. Or worse.” He shook his head, frustrated.
Le Beau waited, experience telling him that if he said nothing, Hogan might continue.
“We’d have to make sure that Klink stayed in command—and he’s not all that brilliant in the first place. But if it were going to have a chance at success, he’d be the key. I can get around him, wear him down, make him believe my stories…. But how do you keep a man so destined for the Russian front in power?—You keep this camp escape-free. And who wants to do that? The Escape Committee is full of fellas who would love to see the back of this place. And I can’t say I blame them.” Hogan sighed. Considering I’m one of them.
Le Beau just nodded.
“We’d need a much more
sophisticated set-up than we have here. We’d need more tunnels; we’d need
storage areas for ammunition and other supplies; we’d need more radio
equipment; we’d need maps. We’d need to know enough German to be convincing if
necessary. We’d need to know we have steady and reliable contact with the
Underground. And with
Le Beau considered for a moment. “It sounds like you are willing to do it yourself, Colonel.”
Hogan stopped, surprised. “I…guess I am,” he agreed. “God knows why. I’d like to get out of here as much as the next guy. But the chance to pay the Krauts back…I don’t know, maybe it’s too tempting.”
Le Beau nodded understanding. “I don’t think you would have trouble getting others to see it your way, Colonel,” Le Beau said. “The men trust you.”
“But trusting me doesn’t mean they would want to stay here forever. How could we do it? I’m sure having Klink here is one of the keys. We have to protect him at all costs,” Hogan mused, then snapped his fingers. “We could tell the men that the camp is about to become escape-proof, then offer them the chance to get out before it goes into effect.”
“But won’t that ruin Klink’s record right away?” asked Le Beau.
“Not if we get them transferred to another Stalag first. They could get out of here, and escape from there. No one’s the wiser. As for safety, we’d only tell people what they need to know. No one directly involved with an operation would know anything except that the rule is ‘No Escapes.’ Any newcomers who wander in would have the choice to either be involved…or transferred.”
“That light is shining in your eyes again, Colonel,” Le Beau said, pleased.
Hogan grinned. “Scary, isn’t it?”
“It is good to see. I was starting to worry about you.” Le Beau pointed to the plate. “Now eat.” Hogan sighed dramatically and picked up a sandwich. “Colonel Hogan, if you decide to do this, I will stay with you.”
Hogan stopped chewing and
considered Le Beau. The Frenchman had never been one of many words, but Hogan
had always sensed and appreciated a support and friendship from the man. This
declaration of comradeship would not have been easily given. Hogan nodded
respectfully. “It would mean you couldn’t go back to
“I can go back there when we are all free.” Le Beau shrugged. “And if I
change my mind, you can always have me transferred, non?” Hogan nodded. “Then I will work for you, Colonel. One man in
“I don’t doubt it for a second, Le Beau.” Hogan held out a hand, which Le Beau gripped tightly. “Thanks.”
“Eat,” Le Beau suddenly ordered again, retracting his hand, hoping the physical movement would cover the emotions he was feeling starting to overcome him. Had he really just volunteered to stay here for as long as it took?
“Okay, okay, I’ll eat,” Hogan said lightly. “Then I’ll burn all these notes. That’s the first thing we’re going to have to learn—how to cover our tracks. Tell Newkirk to make sure the stove is burning bright.”
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
“I just can’t believe he’s considering it!” Newkirk remarked a little while later, as Le Beau related his conversation with Hogan.
“He thinks we may be able to make a difference to the war effort. It is a way to help, isn’t it?” Le Beau asked.
“But from here?” Newkirk asked, gesturing as he watched men crossing the compound in the cold sun.
“Oui, where better to defeat them than in their midst?” Le Beau countered.
“It’s insane,” Newkirk said.
“C’est possible,” Le Beau conceded. “But if he says yes, mon ami, then I am with him.” He shrugged. “He has already accomplished what we thought was impossible.”
“You can say that again,” Kinch agreed. “That tunnel is unbelievable. I keep walking the length of it just to make sure it’s real. And the radio—well, it sure wasn’t going to happen if he hadn’t come back in. And gotten Schnitzer back on Klink’s good side.”
“Sure, but what about escaping? Who hasn’t dreamed of getting out of here?” Newkirk argued.
“We all have, Peter,” Kinch said. “But this is a chance to keep fighting, too… and to make it more personal.” He nodded at the others. “I’m game,” he said.
“Me, too,” Le Beau added.
They both looked at Newkirk. The RAF man shifted uncomfortably. “I’m not rushing into any decisions,” he said.
“I’m sure the Colonel would not want you to,” said Le Beau. “Of course, you might like Stalag 5 better than you like it here, if you decide not to help.”
“I just might, at that. I’ll let you know when I decide.”
Hogan came back into the barracks slowly after evening roll call, contemplating the compound around him, seeming to sum up the barbed wire, the guards, the dogs, the life they were forced to live under the watchful eyes of the enemy. He looked as though he were going to turn in, and even started to gesture good night to the men, when he stopped, still deep in thought, and turned to the others.
“How do you mean, Colonel?” asked Kinch.
“When are we due to talk with
“I want to try something—something small. Something we can do with what we have—just the radio, the tunnel, and the flashlight Newkirk stole from Corporal Langenscheidt one night while he was tied up with the poker game.”
“Now, gov’nor, ‘stole’ is such a harsh word!” Newkirk protested lightly.
“Well, helped yourself to, then,” Hogan grinned. “In any case, he couldn’t report it missing because a guard isn’t supposed to be playing poker with the prisoners in the first place.”
“Pleased to be of service, sir,” Newkirk said with mock modesty.
“What kind of job are you thinking of, Colonel?” asked Le Beau.
“Whatever suits—what intrigues me most is the idea of helping prisoners get out of here. I’m all for intelligence and blowing up bridges… but if some of our guys are out there on the run, I’d like to get them to safety as quickly as possible.” Hogan paused, remembering. “It’s not much fun being out there on your own. It’s frightening. And at this time of year it’s easier to freeze overnight as well.”
“We’ll have to make contact with the Underground to get someone out, Colonel,” Kinch said.
“We’ll have a chat with Herr Schnitzer when he comes in to change the dogs tomorrow. Schultz tries to keep me away from him; thinks I’m furious with him for turning me in. So it’ll have to be one of you guys. Newkirk, can you handle it?”
“I think so, sir,” Newkirk replied, hesitantly.
“Le Beau, you run diversion; Schultz is easy enough to distract when you and your cooking are around.”
“Kinch, when we talk to
Kinch chuckled, then stopped when he contemplated what Hogan might be saying to his superiors. “Sure, Colonel.”
“Colonel,” started Newkirk, uncertainly, “don’t you want to get out of here? You’ve already tasted freedom once; don’t you want to try again?”
Hogan thought for a minute before answering. He saw confusion, mixed with a bit of disappointment, in Newkirk’s face. And if he wasn’t mistaken he even saw a bit of fear. “Of course I want to get out. I want to get back in the sky—I want to make sure my crew didn’t die for nothing.” He stopped, still upset about the loss of his men. “You know, I was scared to death out there. When I was shot down and when I had escaped. On unfamiliar terrain, knowing I was being hunted down—you fellas went through the same thing.” They nodded, uncomfortable, their own memories willing themselves to the fore. “Three of my men are missing. It haunts me that they were probably stalked to their deaths by those Nazi bastards. How different would it have been if they had suddenly found themselves in friendly hands instead? Maybe this would be a way to tell them thank you…and sorry.” Hogan’s voice had grown quieter over the course of his discourse, and now he stood, staring at his hands. “Anyway, that’s—what’s been going through my mind. I know it’s probably insane, but…what if we could pull it off? What if we could?”
The others remained quiet for a few moments, still lost in their own past. Newkirk spoke first, kicking an invisible piece of dirt on the floor. “We lost a couple of fellas when we were shot down, too,” he mumbled. “I guess it would be good to pull one over on the Krauts,” he added grudgingly.
“Every logical part of my brain is saying this is crazy, Colonel,” said Kinch. He shook his head, amused at himself. “But every other part of me says it’s worth a shot. I’m going to stop listening to my brain.”
“Oui, and I owe it to my beloved
Hogan nodded. “Okay,” he said quietly, gratefully, still almost speechless when he faced men of such high caliber. “There’s an awful lot of stuff to work out. Let’s see if we can make this work.”
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
Hogan came out of the tunnel, flushed and irritated. Kinch had left him to his own devices when General Butler got on the air, gesturing for Newkirk and Le Beau to follow him back up the ladder. They tried not to listen as they heard murmuring turn into a full-fledged argument before calmness reigned again. Kinch shook his head, bemused. Only Hogan could get away with back-answering a General. Then again, he thought, considering what Allied High Command was asking of him, perhaps Hogan was justified in letting off some steam first.
“The Underground reports there’s
to be an escape attempt from Stalag 9 tomorrow night,” Hogan said, betraying
none of the wide range of emotions he had expressed downstairs. “
Newkirk nodded. “So that’s the test run?” he asked.
“Looks like it,” Hogan said. “When they get out they won’t have any place to go; it’d be dangerous for the Underground to try to find them in the woods. They’ve been told to head toward Stalag 13; then it’s up to us.”
“Sounds intriguing,” Kinch said.
“This could become a routine for us,” Hogan agreed. “But I don’t want these first guys to be dead guinea pigs; we’ll have to get it right.”
“So by the time we do it ourselves, it’ll be perfect,” Newkirk grinned.
Hogan smiled. “Right.”
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
“You’re all clear on the plan?”
“Colonel, no offense, sir, but we went through it four times this afternoon and twice before roll call. If we aren’t clear on it now, we’re nitwits!”
“You’re right, you’re right,” Hogan said, closing his eyes and rubbing his forehead. “I’m just...”
“Anxious?” Kinch finished. Hogan nodded, resigned. “Don’t worry, Colonel; we’re all nervous. But the plan is good. We’ll be fine.”
“We’ll see,” Hogan answered, as he went back into the barracks.
“He is remembering,” Le Beau guessed.
“Why wouldn’t he?” Newkirk said. “I just can’t believe he came back the first time—now he’s looking at leaving and coming back again.”
“I don’t know; it all still sounds a bit too bloody impossible,” Newkirk said. “One mistake and you’re shot by the Germans. At least the way we are now, we can stay out of their way… or close to Schultz, anyway.”
“D’accord,” Le Beau agreed. “But I still think it’s worth trying. I can’t help but like the idea of working right under their noses. They are too blind to anyone but themselves.”
“We’d better get inside,” Kinch said. “There’s a lot to do before bed check. And then, we’ve got no time to waste… and no time for doubts.”
Out They Go
Hogan waited until Schultz closed the door to the barracks, then quickly peeled off the bathrobe he had borrowed from Newkirk, revealing the darkest clothes he could scrounge from the others. A nod to Le Beau, and the Corporal pulled a can of black shoe polish out from under his mattress, while Kinch tapped the side of the bunk to make his way down into the tunnel. Newkirk pulled off the blanket that had been covering him and jumped down from his bunk, fully dressed in dark clothing. He reached up, grabbed the flashlight from under his own mattress, and waved it to show Hogan that he was ready for action.
Schultz had lingered longer in the barracks than Hogan would have liked, so the Colonel felt a strong sense of urgency to take action while they waited for Kinch to emerge from below. Le Beau came and started painting his commander’s face with some of the shoe polish, to make it harder to be spotted outside the camp. When he was done, Hogan took the can and started doing the same to Newkirk, so deep in his thoughts that the RAF officer had to pull Hogan’s hand away before he rubbed off some of his skin.
Speaking was kept to a minimum, as the others in the barracks, already in agreement with the plans, tensely watched the preparation. One of the prisoners, Olsen, kept watch in case any Germans headed back their way. Le Beau busied himself sorting some of the clothing that they had gathered from the other barracks to share with the escapees, and then with getting together ingredients to make some warm, nourishing food for them as well. Hogan paced, occasionally looking down toward the tunnel, but never daring to actually go down there. Newkirk finally stopped the walking by putting a hand on Hogan’s arm. Hogan merely looked at him, as though seeking reassurances, and as Newkirk offered them silently, Hogan nodded, then started crossing and uncrossing his arms, and eventually resumed pacing.
Le Beau was about to go and physically hold Hogan still when Kinch’s head appeared from the tunnel. Hogan stopped dead in his tracks. “They’ve gone, Colonel. The Underground reports that four men broke out of Stalag 9 about thirty minutes ago. They’re heading in our direction, but of course they won’t know exactly where they’re going, so we’re going to have to get them.”
“Right.” He looked at Le Beau. “Louis, make sure we have enough food for four men, and clean clothing, too.”
“Kinch, do we have medical supplies?”
“A few things here and there,
Hogan silently thanked Heaven again for the blessings of a cold compress. “Any one of these men might not be in good shape. See that we’ve got blankets, bandages, everything ready.”
“Newkirk—” he turned to the Englishman beside him.
“Are you ready for a taste of the outside?”
Newkirk took a deep breath and looked at this officer, this man whom he somehow couldn’t fathom, but whom he somehow had learned to trust. “More than ever, Colonel,” he said.
“Okay. Let’s bring them in.”
Hogan led Newkirk to the bunk, then turned to those staying behind. “You know the plan. If we don’t come back in the next two hours, you make sure you close up everything, and I mean everything. We can’t let the Krauts get near this tunnel, and no one’s going to do anything stupid like trying to come out and find us. Clear?” Reluctant agreement greeted his order. “Meanwhile it’s lights out before you draw attention to yourselves. Just keep a single light burning. If the Krauts complain, tell them Olsen’s afraid of the dark.” The men laughed softly at Hogan’s attempt at lightness. He turned to Newkirk. “Let’s go.”
“Back in a tick, mates,” Newkirk said, trying to sound hopeful as he followed Hogan down into the tunnel. “I’ll bring you back some grass from the free side of the fence.”
“Bonne chance,” Le Beau almost whispered. “Come back safe.”
When Newkirk hopped off the bottom rung of the ladder, he was already several paces behind Hogan, who was moving steadily down toward the darkness. “Hang about, Colonel; you’re going to need the light,” Newkirk said, taking several quick steps and turning on the flashlight. “Never knew you were so light on your feet,” he said.
“Sprinter in high school,” Hogan quipped.
They moved silently down the passageway, their footsteps and their breathing the only sounds penetrating the overwhelming stillness. Hogan tried to scan the tunnel in the dim light. If we pull this off, the first thing we’re going to have to do is get more light down here. This is just creepy. He started to walk hunched over after awhile, as the ceiling of the tunnel got lower. And if I’m gonna be using this exit all the time, we’re going to have to accept that I’m taller than this—otherwise Wilson’s going to have to become a chiropractor, too.
The fact that their breathing was becoming more labored told Hogan that they were much farther down the tunnel than he could measure in the darkness. And we’ll need proper ventilation. “We’ll be there soon,” he whispered to Newkirk.
Newkirk aimed his flashlight’s beams ahead of them. “We’re there, gov’nor,” he said, indicating a higher and more open area about twenty feet away. “There’s the ladder. We’re outside the camp.”
Hogan stopped to gather his thoughts before continuing. Or was it to steel his nerves? “Where does this come out?” he asked, knowing he had asked this before.
“Under a pile of branches and rubbish about thirty yards outside the fence, sir. The searchlights can still see us there. We’ll need to time our departure carefully.”
“Right,” Hogan said.
The two of them stood for a
minute, unmoving, both contemplating the enormity of what they were about to
do. With no weapons, and no way of knowing what was waiting for them on the
other side, they were quite possibly going to head straight into trouble. Now
was the time to back out. Now was the time to refuse to try and pull off this
crazy stunt. Now was the time to tell
“You still game?” Hogan asked softly.
Newkirk nodded. “Wild horses couldn’t stop me, gov’nor,” he said.
“Then let’s do it.” Hogan fleetingly savored the ability to stand fully erect again as he approached the ladder. Then, with a final look back down the tunnel, he climbed up towards the surface. A couple of wide planks were supporting a large patch of earth that had been painstakingly dug up and then placed loosely back onto the ground. Hogan gently moved one, then tentatively lifted the edge of the turf and pushed it away. A rush of cold night air swept over him, and he breathed in deeply, filling his lungs with the freshness. Only as the coolness dried the sweat on his face did Hogan realize how tense he had been all along. With an encouraging glance towards Newkirk, he pushed his head through the opening and into the darkness.
Quickly getting his bearings, Hogan ducked as the camp searchlight swept the area. When he was sure it was past, he pulled himself completely out of the tunnel and onto the ground, darting for cover behind a large, nearby tree stump. A few seconds passed and then Newkirk’s head appeared from below. Hogan gestured for the Corporal to join him, and the pair of them stayed unmoving in that spot for a full minute, their flashlight switched off, their senses on full alert. Hogan then covered the tunnel exit with the planks and the turf, making it look as undisturbed as possible, and the two of them disappeared into the darkness of the trees.
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
“Kinch, stop pacing, you are getting as bad as Colonel Hogan.”
Le Beau turned his back on the radio man and resumed stirring the pot on the stove, unable to take any more of people whose nervous energy involved walking like they were in a box with a red hot floor.
“Sorry, Louis; I guess he’s rubbed off on me. They’ve been gone over thirty minutes. How do you think it’s going?”
“I am not thinking about it,” Le Beau lied, as he continued stirring. “I am making this food for the prisoners, and that is all I am worried about.”
“So why have you been stirring it for the last fifteen minutes? There must be a hole in the bottom of the pot by now.”
Le Beau’s spoon stopped moving.
“Okay, okay, so I am worried about them, too,” he admitted guiltily. He turned
to Kinch. “But they will be okay, Kinch. The Colonel knows what he is doing—and
“Listen to that thunder—we’re going to have a doozy of a storm. Let’s hope they get back before it hits. Better make sure we’ve got enough warm food for all of them, just in case. Olsen, help me get more blankets and dry clothes downstairs. It never hurts to be prepared.”
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
“No sign yet, Colonel. What do you think it means?” Newkirk dared to whisper. The two of them had been scanning the area for almost an hour, moving close to the Hammelburg road, then back into the woods, trying to get sight of the escapees. So far nothing, except an increasing wind and some thunder that told Hogan they were going to have a tough go of it if something didn’t happen soon.
“Maybe they’re going out of their way to make sure the Krauts can’t figure out where they’re headed,” Hogan guessed. “Or maybe they’re lost.”
“Or re-captured,” Newkirk conjectured.
Hogan sighed. “We can’t rule that out. But let’s give them a bit more time. They could have had some trouble with the Krauts. That’s not unheard of. I’d hate to head back with these guys still out here somewhere, looking for us.”
“What do we do, then?”
“Let’s head up the Hammelburg road and see if we can find them. But quietly; the last thing we want is to meet up with a patrol.”
The two of them pushed through the woods, making note of landmarks they could easily find even in the darkness. Only twice did Newkirk dare to switch on their flashlight, when an area was so dark that they worried they might be injured by stumbling into a trench or a hole if they tried to travel without a full picture of their surroundings. Eventually they came to a clearing, where they could see the road but remain protected by the night. They crouched behind a large tree trunk and surveyed the vicinity.
“No one here, sir,” Newkirk said. “Everything quiet.”
“I wonder,” Hogan mused, looking around. “No patrols… they wouldn’t bother being quiet. Newkirk, give me the flashlight for a second.”
Newkirk handed over the light and watched as Hogan let off a Morse code in beams to the darkness before them. They waited, tense. Nothing. Hogan tried again. This time they were met with a rustling sound from the bushes across the road. Hogan pulled himself and Newkirk further into the shadows and watched as three figures emerged hesitantly, and headed in their direction. Hogan put a finger to his lips, hoping Newkirk could see this silent order, and stood stock still as the trio came within a few feet of them.
The sound of trampled branches and a curse that sounded anything but German met their ears. Hogan nodded to Newkirk but kept their flashlight turned off. “They’ll call us heroes in fifty year’s time,” Hogan heard someone whisper loudly.
“I’d rather that be ten years,” Hogan answered, tapping Newkirk’s arm. He turned on the flashlight and they headed toward the voices.
“You think we will be alive then?” another voice said.
Hogan smiled. “We’d better be; I made reservations at my favorite restaurant.” Suddenly they were standing right next to the escapees. Hogan switched off the flashlight and handed it to Newkirk. “You’re the guys from Stalag 9?” he asked.
“Sure are. You’ve got someplace for us to go?”
“A prison camp? Are you nuts?” asked one of the faceless voices.
“Look, I don’t make the rules; I just follow them. We’ve got it all worked out. You just have to sneak back into camp with us.”
“Into a prison camp?” asked the first voice.
“Sure it’s a bit unorthodox,” Newkirk admitted. “But why not make life a little interesting, eh? This way,” he said, aiming the light ahead of them for a moment.
“I thought there were supposed to be four of you,” Hogan said.
“There were, but we had a bit of trouble. That’s why we’ve taken so long getting here. Palmer got caught. Patrols have been hunting for us. But we had a good head start; I think we gave them the slip.”
“Yeah, well, there’s no guarantee. Let’s get outta here before we find out you’re wrong. Newkirk, kill that light.”
“Here comes the rain,” Hogan observed, as he felt a large drop land on his cheek. “At least that will make it harder for the dogs to track you. Let’s get a move on. I’d hate to ruin your good shirt, Newkirk.”
“And after I spent all day washing and pressing it!”
“Anything, Kinch? Anything?”
Kinch hadn’t even finished climbing all the way out of the tunnel when Le Beau started interrogating him. Tapping the side of the bunk and watching the cover come down, he turned to the Frenchman, shaking his head. “Nothing, Louis. Not a sign.”
It was Le Beau’s turn to pace. “It has been almost two hours, Kinch. They have been gone too long! What do you think happened to them?”
“Nothing,” Kinch said, hoping that if he said it, it might be true. “They probably just got tied up. Maybe the guys from Stalag 9 were hurt and they need more time to get them back here.”
“Look at the weather—it has been pouring for almost half an hour. Where can they be, Kinch?”
“I don’t know,” Kinch answered, his voice a bit sharper than he had expected. “We still have another fifteen minutes. Then we’ll have to do what the Colonel said and close everything down for the night. If there have been problems, we can’t afford for everyone to get caught.”
“Kinch—the Colonel…Newkirk…” Le Beau couldn’t finish what he was thinking.
“I know, Louis, I know,” Kinch replied. “Try not to think that way. We’ll find out when we find out.”
He moved towards the stove, looking in yet another pot from Le Beau’s incessant cooking session, listening to the heavy rain, straining for the slightest noise that would tell them everything was okay. But no matter how much he wanted to hear it, no sound came.
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
Hogan motioned for Newkirk and the other prisoners to lay low as they approached the exit to the tunnel. He breathed in the scent of fresh dirt as the rain pelted his body and ran down his face. He wiped away some of the water, a wasted effort as more rain immediately impaired his vision again. Hogan dropped his face to the ground as the search lights pierced the sheets of rain, then slowly crept forward to the pile of underbrush and branches and turf they had laid on the way out. Moving aside enough of it for a man to squeeze through, he urged them over with a wide wave of his arm. “Come on,” he whispered loudly to the first man, whose face, like the others’, was obscured by the darkness and the weather. “You first. Watch your step; there’s a ladder there to help you. Don’t move till we’re all down there.” Hogan wondered if the man was relieved that no one could see his fear; only the man’s shivering gave anything away, and even that he could attribute to the cold, wet night they were traveling in.
Hogan guided each man down, stopping their movement when the lights from the guard tower swept past them again, or when sounds distorted by the weather made him cautious. Finally Newkirk came up beside him, and he sent the Corporal down with the flashlight, then followed him. He replaced the planks and the turf as best he could, then hopped down to the tunnel floor.
The sound of the rain on the earth above combined with the darkness made for an eerie atmosphere as the men headed down the tunnel aided only by a single beam of light. Still feeling compelled to speak in a hushed voice, Hogan said, “Okay, is anybody hurt? I haven’t heard any complaints yet, but if you’ve got a problem, now’s the time to speak up.”
The escapees murmured that they
were fine. Someone sneezed in the dimness. “You’re traveling in the rainy
season. You should ask for your money back,” Hogan said. Anxious snickers
greeted his attempt to relax the men. Hogan stopped walking. “Look, you’re safe
now,” he said, a bit louder. “The Krauts don’t know about this tunnel, and
we’ve got contacts with the Underground who are going to help you get out of
Even in the darkness, Hogan could feel the men relax. Newkirk continued to lead the way, with Hogan bringing up the rear. Finally they reached the radio desk and the end of the line. Newkirk held up a hand in the slim light, asking for silence. Hogan moved forward and the pair of them listened carefully. Finally Hogan nodded, and Newkirk took a couple of steps up the ladder and knocked on the ceiling.
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
The sound coming from under the bunk startled Le Beau into dropping the lid to his pot. He headed for the tunnel entrance, but Kinch, though further away, still beat the Frenchman to it. Pressing the hidden spring, Kinch held his breath as the bottom mattress rose up, then breathed out loud and smiled broadly as he pulled Newkirk into the room.
“Thank God you guys are back!” he said, as Le Beau grabbed a towel and a blanket and handed them to Newkirk. The three bewildered men from Stalag 9 emerged, still dripping, and then Hogan came and closed the tunnel entrance. “What took you so long?”
“They had some trouble. And we had a bit of a shower,” Hogan answered, gratefully accepting the towel Le Beau offered him. He rubbed the last of the polish off his face and then his hair. “Now, sorry, let’s get acquainted. We were in too much of a rush in the dark to even get your names. I’m Colonel Ho—”
Hogan stopped as he looked at the prisoners for the first time. Thunderstruck, he let his towel fall around his shoulders. Could it be?
The prisoners, who’d been surveying their surroundings, turned their attention to Hogan when he stopped mid-sentence. One of the men came forward hesitantly, studying Hogan as though not quite sure he was real.
“Papa?” he asked, stunned.
Hogan’s men looked at each other, unsure what was going on.
“Bailey?” Hogan said softly, not daring to believe it.
Hogan suddenly gave a shout and a laugh, and pulled the flyer into a bear hug. The man returned it vigorously, joyously. “I should have known you’d be involved in something this crazy, Papa,” he said as they parted.
Hogan shook his head, still unable to take it all in. “They told me you were MIA. I thought you’d—I mean, I never thought I’d—” Try as he might, Hogan found he couldn’t wipe the broad, childlike smile off his face. “And you let me treat you with kid gloves. That’s not likely to happen again!” He turned to his men. “Fellas, this is Lieutenant Mark Bailey, one of the best navigators the US Army Air Corps ever had, and a general pain in the backside.”
Kinch, Newkirk, and Le Beau exchanged looks of disbelief, and happiness for their commanding officer. Bailey took a swipe at Hogan with his towel. Hogan ducked away and continued smiling. “You were no walk in the park yourself,” Bailey retorted. He paused and looked at Hogan more carefully. Then, suddenly serious, his voice quiet, he said, “They told us you’d been broken by the Gestapo, and then killed. They showed us papers they said you’d signed before your execution. I didn’t want to believe it, Papa.”
“Good,” Hogan said, the smile leaving his face. “They asked me for a lot… and they were pretty insistent, I’ll admit. But they didn’t get very far.” He shrugged, then forced on a disarming grin. “I’m stubborn like that.”
Bailey smiled. “That’s an understatement.” The barracks went uncomfortably silent for a moment, then the Lieutenant said, “Sorry, I’ve uh—forgotten my manners. This is Corporal Richard Troy, RAF, and Captain Eddie Killian, US Army Air Corps.”
“I recognize the uniform. Welcome to Stalag 13, fellas,” Hogan said.
The pair thanked him, and
continued to look around them in amazement. “This is a real POW camp?”
“Yep. Barbed wire, Kraut soldiers, the whole nine yards,” Hogan answered
“You’d all better get changed before you come down with pneumonia,” Le Beau urged. “Then you can sit down and have something warm to eat. I have made some lovely soup.”
“Quite a night this has turned out to be,” Newkirk observed. “Oh, and that taste of the outside I promised you, Louis?” he began.
“Yes?” Le Beau asked.
Newkirk shook his wet clothing until he got Le Beau nicely damp. Le Beau protested as he covered his ladle to protect the food. “I never thought I’d want to see the inside of this dump again…but I changed my mind for awhile tonight.” The others laughed. “Do me a favor next time I volunteer for anything outside, would you? Shoot me?”
“Kraut coming!” shouted Olsen, who had resumed his watch when the men came out of the tunnel.
“Quick, back in the tunnel,” Hogan said, pushing the escapees back toward the bunk and opening the hatch. Le Beau covered up his soup, Newkirk dove for cover under his blankets, and Hogan threw on the robe Kinch tossed at him as the bottom bunk slid back into place. Abandoned towels were kicked underneath nearby bunks, and Le Beau, Kinch and the others hopped back into bed.
Suddenly the door opened and Schultz appeared, dripping wet and looking unhappy. “Colonel Hogan, you know it is lights out. Why are you still up?”
“Couldn’t sleep, Schultz, thought I’d just…think for awhile.”
“Think?” Schultz repeated, uncertain as to whether he should believe Hogan or not. “Do you have to have a light on to think?” he asked.
“Sure; makes everything clearer, Schultz,” Hogan said. “And uh…I might want to write something down.”
“But you might wake up the others,” Schultz persisted. “That is not very nice.”
A groan of protest came from under Newkirk’s blanket. “Blimey, keep it down, would ya, Schultz? Anyone’d think we’re up partying all night.”
“Sorry, Newkirk,” grumbled Schultz. He took a closer look at Hogan. “Colonel Hogan, you are all wet,” he said.
Hogan took only a moment to respond. “I was looking out the window when it started raining. Takes ages for my hair to dry when it’s this humid,” he said, nodding.
Schultz nodded with him, knowing it didn’t sound right but unable to think of an argument. “Go to sleep, Colonel Hogan. I need the rest.”
“G’night, Schultz,” Hogan said, guiding him out the door.
“Good night, Colonel Hogan.” And, mumbling, Schultz headed back into the rain.
When they were sure he was gone, Le Beau hopped out of bed and tapped on the side of the upper berth. “It’s okay now,” he called out to the men below. The trio climbed back up.
“Gee, that was close,” Bailey said.
“It’s not that bad; Schultz is pretty harmless for a German,” Newkirk said.
“Do you guys make a habit of this?” asked Killian, as Le Beau handed him a dry shirt and started peeling off the one that had attached itself to the man’s body.
“No, you’re our first guests,” Hogan replied. He took off the robe, shivering. Newkirk climbed out of his bunk and grabbed some dry clothes. “You’d better get changed; I’ll meet you out here in a minute.” Hogan knocked Bailey happily on the arm, shooting him a still-incredulous look before heading to his room.
As Hogan’s door shut, the others got into new clothes while Le Beau served the hot food. “So, qu’est-ce c’est ‘Papa’?” Le Beau asked, putting the bowls down around the table.
“What?” Bailey asked, not
understanding. “Oh—sorry, I didn’t think to call him anything else. We always
called Colonel Hogan ‘Papa’ when we were flying. After all, Goldilocks was his plane. He was the boss.
“Ah, well, your porridge will stay in your bowl until you’re ready for it, I promise,” Kinch quipped.
“Yeah, no one else’d go near Le Beau’s cooking,” Newkirk joked.
A stray wet towel slapped Newkirk in the face, accompanied by a lighthearted stream of French invectives.
“Nope—not me. Captured almost
immediately, unfortunately.” Bailey pulled on a pair of dry socks and then sat
at the table where
“Well they very nearly did kill him,” Newkirk admitted quietly. “But they never got a word out of ’im, I can guarantee you that.”
“So what’s the go here, anyway?” spoke up Killian. “If you guys got out of camp, why didn’t you stay out—I mean, why didn’t you keep running?”
“It’s a long story,” Hogan said, emerging from his quarters dressed in a dry uniform. He sneezed, then rubbed his tired eyes; Le Beau handed him a cup of coffee and sat him in front of a bowl of steaming soup.
“Eat, Colonel,” Le Beau said. “Get warm.”
“You fellas will have to sack out in the tunnel, I’m afraid,” Hogan said, massaging his shoulder. “It’s not quite a four-star hotel, but it’ll do till we get you out. There’ll be plenty of blankets, and we’ll get you a lamp.” Hogan paused, rubbed his temples, and then stood up. “Sorry, fellas; I’ve had it. I’m going to get a couple of hours’ shut eye before roll call. You should all do the same. We’ll talk in the morning. Kinch, can you make sure these guys are all set up?”
“Okay, good night, then.” He squeezed Bailey’s shoulder, then looked like he was going to say something, but didn’t. With a nod to the others, he slipped back into his room.
Bailey looked at the others, bewildered. Le Beau answered his questioning look. “It has been a long journey for the Colonel. He will be more like himself tomorrow.”
Bailey nodded and turned back to his soup. I wonder if the man they know is the man I knew…or did the Gestapo change that, Papa?
A Papa - Baby Talk
Hogan gave in the next morning
and dropped in on
Momentarily bolstered by the blissful lack of feeling in his injured shoulder, Hogan set his mind to the task at hand. There were three prisoners sitting in stir in the tunnel underneath the barracks who had to be gotten out. Last night’s adventure had exposed some problems with the tunnel, with their methods, and with their supplies, or lack thereof. Klink had to be kept off balance and unaware—That might not be terribly hard, Hogan thought wryly—and then of course there was the matter of keeping the other prisoners happy while these men from Stalag 9 were sent through ahead of them.
Bailey’s unexpected appearance had knocked Hogan for a six last night. He had grieved deeply over the loss of his crew, but had not truly accepted their fate. Still, seeing Bailey was like seeing a ghost, and Hogan’s relief had been almost physical, his joy palpable, still consuming him in a way that he would normally have considered excessive, had it not related to his Baby Bear—his closest comrade, his innocent, the man who had trusted his judgment more than anyone he could remember before then. His status as MIA had been heartrending to Hogan, who could only imagine what fate had befallen Bailey, in enemy territory, hunted, frightened, alone, without Papa Bear there to look after him…or any of the others. You can’t even remember what happened to you, never mind where they ended up, he reminded himself grimly. Did you fail them, when they needed you?
And then, of course, there was the biggest question of all: did last night’s mission convince Hogan to give up his own hopes for freedom? Was this small success enough to persuade him to throw away any chance of escape for himself—and any man who chose to help him—and continue working for the Allies in a way that would be incredibly rewarding—but equally dangerous?
Hogan decided to put aside that
question as he tapped the side of the bunk that led to the tunnel. He descended
carefully, only to be met by Bailey, Killian, and
“Sorry I haven’t been able to get down here before now, fellas,” Hogan began. “Did Le Beau feed you?”
“Sure, Colonel. We’ve been
treated real good,” Killian said.
“Well, we’ve got plans to use the
Underground to get you out of
“This is all pretty radical,
Colonel,” put in
“Let’s just say we’ve had a bit of help. And all the fellas have worked pretty hard.” Hogan glanced down the tunnel. “It’s safe upstairs for the moment; the guys outside know to give us a warning if the Krauts come by. Why don’t you head upstairs so you don’t feel so much like groundhogs?”
“Thanks, Colonel,” Killian said.
Hogan nodded and watched him and
Bailey offered Hogan a slight smile. “To be honest, Papa, I’m still taking it all in. I don’t quite understand how all of this works.”
“Neither do any of the rest of us,” Hogan answered. He gestured for Bailey to pull up a chair from the radio desk, as he grabbed one up against the tunnel wall. “But you’ll be out soon.”
Bailey stayed quiet. Hogan got the feeling he was being studied. “What’s on your mind, Mark?”
Bailey shrugged, surveying his surroundings. “This is all pretty amazing stuff, Papa,” he said.
“Yep. But that’s not what you’re thinking about.”
Bailey gave a short, rueful smile. “You always did know us, didn’t you?”
“That’s why I’m the Papa Bear, remember?”
“Yeah.” Bailey smiled again. Then, staring into space, the smile faded. “They’re gone, Papa. There’s only us and Ingram and Kovacs left.”
Hogan felt a knife stab his chest. “I know.”
“It was so bad, Papa, so bad.
“I know,” Hogan interrupted, as the knife twisted.
“And then when they told us you’d cracked—”
“Did you think I would?” Hogan asked, finding it hard to breathe.
“No, Papa, honest. They showed us this letter—said you’d signed it and that it was a complete confession. But it was in German and I didn’t think you’d sign it even if you were dying. And then they said—” Bailey stopped. “Well, then they said they’d killed you, Papa. They described it, detail for detail. And they said you were in so much pain…. that it had been a mercy killing.”
Hogan was suffocating. “It would have been,” he admitted. He shifted uncomfortably. “Let’s just forget that, okay?” he suggested, trying to surface for air. “I’m here and you’re here, and somewhere out there are Ingram and Kovacs. We owe it to the others to rise above it.”
Bailey nodded. “We’ve gotta get out of here, Papa,” he said in a voice not much louder than a whisper.
For a moment Hogan saw the fear, the insecurity that made Bailey his Baby Bear, in need of protection and reassurance. Hogan took back some of his command strength. “You will,” he said, certain.
Bailey seemed to gather some boldness from his old commanding officer’s conviction, and nodded as though to convince himself. But there were more questions, so many more questions….
“Allied High Command would like us to expand this little travel agency,” Hogan said. Bailey’s eyes questioned him. “They want me to make getting guys like you out of here a specialty. With a little bit of espionage along the way, and a bit of intelligence work thrown in for good measure. What do you think of that as a tribute?”
Bailey stared at Hogan, wide-eyed. “You mean be assigned here? In a POW camp?”
Hogan nodded. “Yep. Stay right here, and win the war right under their noses.”
“That’s insane! Whose idea was that?”
“Let’s just say that General Butler was all in favor of it when he realized I was here.”
“But that would mean you couldn’t
go back to
Hogan chuckled, trying to make light of it. “Do you think he’s trying to tell me something?”
Bailey scowled. “How could they ask you to do that?” he fumed. “You belong in the air. You belong someplace where guys can look up to you and learn from you. You were the best flyer I’d ever known—I’d never seen anyone with the ability to pull off the impossible the way you could.” Bailey stood up and paced angrily. “It’s rotten, Papa—rotten—to ask you to give up flying. Not to mention that any time a Kraut decides he’s had enough of you, he can just send you off to your death.”
Hogan’s mind briefly remembered Klink’s warning that the Gestapo wasn’t quite finished with him yet. “You make it sound so enticing,” he quipped, uncomfortable with how close Bailey was coming to his own feelings. Then again, Bailey had been his Baby Bear for many reasons.
“I’m not kidding, Papa; this is just wrong.” Bailey stopped and looked at Hogan. “You can’t let them do this to you.”
Hogan shrugged. He didn’t like being so noncommittal. But there were so many thoughts going through his mind at present that he didn’t think he could form words to express any of them, even if he could see them clearly. Bailey again studied his commander. This man had indeed changed. The old Papa Bear would be growling by now at the unfairness of the proposal; this man was almost resigned to it. It made Bailey angry. But mainly it saddened him. “What have they done to you?” he asked, sitting down again.
Hogan didn’t answer right away.
He closed his eyes, starting to feel lightheaded with the emotions racing
through him. “I can probably do more here personally to end the war—to help our
guys—than I ever could in the air,” Hogan said, as though working out the issue
aloud. He opened his eyes and looked at Bailey. “I’ll tell you, it felt great
last night when we got you safely down into the tunnel. And it’ll feel even
better when we get you out of
“To our unit.” Now it was Bailey’s turn to contemplate. Was Hogan
really thinking about doing this? “Is it true that you got out of here, but you
came back?” he asked. Hogan shrugged, feeling his shoulder start to twitch
again. “You could have gotten out of
“Watch it, Lieutenant.”
Bailey waited for the smile that normally accompanied a warning like that. It didn’t come. “I mean, I don’t know if I could have ever come back to a hellhole like this on purpose—Colonel,” he amended.
Hogan shifted position in his chair to put off replying. “Sometimes you have to do the insane to avoid going crazy.” With guilt.
Bailey considered for a moment. “Don’t
punish yourself for what happened to us, Papa,” Bailey entreated him. “No one’s
to blame but the Krauts.” Hogan didn’t answer. Bailey continued. “Look: you’ve
done more than anyone could ask of you—you gave the men of this camp more to
hope for than they ever could have before—you
came back, for God’s sake!” Bailey leaned forward to try and see into the
eyes Hogan wasn’t raising to him. “Come
with us, Papa,” he said in a fervent whisper. “Forget this crazy scheme of
Hogan could only stare, the conflicting emotions overwhelming him. “I’ve got some work to do,” he said hoarsely, standing up. “Go on up while you can; you’ll be out of here soon enough.”
Dancing Around The Issue
“The men want to have a dance in the Rec Hall tomorrow night, Kommandant,” Hogan said to Klink later that day. “They’re feeling the need to rumba.”
“Rumba?” echoed Klink, bewildered. “Colonel Hogan, there are no women here to—rumba—with.”
“Well I admit it’s pretty hard,
considering we don’t even have any Xavier Cugat records… but we’re willing to
use our imaginations, sir. Do you happen to have a copy of ‘I’ve Got a Gal in
“Hogan,” Klink said through
gritted teeth. “You are getting far too comfortable here. You should remember
that you are a prisoner and still of great interest to
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Hogan asked, his stomach tightening.
“It means, Colonel Hogan, that the next time the Gestapo wants to speak with you, I won’t be as generous as to give you forewarning. That backfired badly on me the last time. I will not be made a fool of again.”
You will if I can help it, Hogan thought. “I understand, Kommandant. But all my men want now is to relieve their boredom. They want to dance, and it’s good exercise. And we’re supposed to have exercise periods. According to the Geneva Convention—”
Klink held up a hand to stop him. “Please, Colonel Hogan—all you do is quote the Geneva Convention to me.”
“Well, Kommandant, it’s my job to make sure the men are treated in a manner that respects their status as prisoners of war. And we’re entitled to some entertainment as well as exercise.”
“Very well, Hogan; you can have your dance tomorrow night. But it will end at twenty-two hundred hours, you understand? Everyone is to be back in the barracks by twenty-two hundred thirty, and your men will clean up the hall the next morning. There will be no chance for any escapes, Colonel Hogan. I am posting extra guards outside the gates and inside the camp. All prisoners will be escorted throughout the compound. Understood?”
“Certainly, Kommandant.” Hogan smiled. “You’re all heart, sir,” he said, placing his crush cap back on his head and saluting. “I’ll tell the men. Of course, you’re invited, Kommandant. After all, some of these fellas are still just pups—they’ll need a chaperone.”
“Dismissed, Hogan,” Klink waved him away.
“And a dance partner!” Hogan finished, as Klink insisted on his dismissal again. Good, Hogan thought as he left the office. Just the distraction we need to get the men from Stalag 9 out of here.
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
“So that’s the plan,” Hogan said
to his men, gathered around him in the common room. Killian,
“Do you think this will really work, Colonel?” asked Killian. “I mean it seems pretty far-fetched.”
“Everything about this has been far-fetched,” countered
“That’s the spirit,” Newkirk commended him.
“If anyone is going to pull this off, it’s going to be Colonel Hogan,” Bailey declared.
Hogan smiled, grateful for
Bailey’s unwavering support. “Thanks, Bailey,” he said. He turned to the other
escapees. “You guys are right—this is an insane plan. But it’s the only one
we’ve got. Once that party’s in full swing and we think it’s safe, you’ll be
heading out. There’ll be Underground agents waiting in a safe place near the tunnel
exit with recognition codes. They’ll get you out of the area and out of
“But how are you going to distract the guards? They’re expecting you all to be at the party,” Killian persisted.
“Leave that to me. You just be ready to go. Don’t forget to pack your toothbrush.”
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
Hogan did his best to keep warm while he hovered outside the Recreation Hall near the guards. A heavy, biting wind was blowing, and he was tempted to keep his head tucked down into his jacket. But if he did, he wouldn’t be able to see what he needed to see for tonight’s escape plan. The record player in the hall was blaring Die Goldene Sieben’s Weil der D-Zugfnhrer heute Hochzeit macht, much to the fright of Klink, who came over to remind Schultz that this piece of music was now banned as per order of Propaganda Minister Goebbel. “What’s the chance of him coming to our little high school dance, Kommandant?” asked Hogan, stamping his feet against the cold, when the Kommandant came by for the second time.
“I don’t know, and I don’t want to know,” Klink said. “That record should be burned!”
“I didn’t want to destroy it, sir; we got it from your private collection.” Klink looked around quickly, to make sure no one else had overheard that he was holding verboten materials. “Besides, if we had a copy of Chattanooga Choo Choo, or Green Eyes, we wouldn’t have to play this stuff,” Hogan insisted.
The record faded out. Hogan looked briefly inside the hall at the crowd of men. Newkirk nodded toward the American officer, then put on another record that caused Klink to look at Hogan in disbelief. “I’m in the Mood for Love?” he said, shaking his head.
“I admit it’s a little unorthodox, sir, but we don’t have anything else. And the men are desperate for entertainment, sir.”
Schultz had started humming to himself, and was swaying back and forth in time with the music. “Schultz, shut up,” Klink ordered. The guard stopped. “Why aren’t you inside with your men, Colonel Hogan? It is nearly time to end this little gathering of yours.”
“To be honest, Kommandant, I’m not much of a dance man myself. I just thought it would be something different for the men. You know, to distract them from the fact that the Allies aren’t really doing very well.” Hogan glanced inside again. It’s now or never. Le Beau made his way close to the exit and nodded. “Perhaps you’d like to—”
“No, Hogan, I am not interested in joining in with the revelry of the prisoners,” Klink interrupted. “Besides, I do a terrible two-step.”
“Oh, well that’s easy, sir.” Hogan came across to take Klink’s hands. “If you can do the waltz, you can dance almost anything! Now, first you move your right foot back—”
Hogan paused, but didn’t let go. “Oh, sorry, sir—perhaps you’d rather dance with someone else. Schultz, how about you?”
Things started moving so fast, Klink didn’t have a chance to protest. “Here, let me hold your rifle—there you go,” he said, turning Schultz to face the Kommandant. “Then you have to put your arm around his waist—no, like this,” Hogan persisted, maneuvering Schultz’s arms and pulling the two Germans away from the door. “Whoops!—Better watch it there, it’s a bit slippery, Schultz!”
Hogan shot a fast look back to the door of the Rec Hall. Le Beau was gone. Daring a fleeting look into the compound, he saw Le Beau stealthily making his way back toward Barracks Two. As he was still a couple of buildings away, Hogan continued the instruction, until Klink finally got hold of himself long enough to break away from the Sergeant of the Guard and shake himself free of Hogan’s determined teaching. “That’s enough!” he blustered. Hogan, seeing Le Beau shut the door to Barracks Two behind him, gave up instantly. Klink snatched the rifle Hogan was holding and shoved it back into the guard’s hands. “Schultz, take your rifle.” Schultz gave Hogan a disappointed look. “Hogan, this is the last dance you will have for quite some time. Schultz, make sure that the prisoners are returned to their barracks immediately following this party, then call down the extra guards from the perimeter.”
“Jawohl, Herr Kommandant,” Schultz replied, trying his best to look soldierly as the strains of You and I reached his ears.
“Hogan, you and your men will clean up this mess first thing after roll call in the morning,” Klink said.
“Of course, Kommandant,” Hogan said, then he turned toward Barracks Two.
“Where are you going, Colonel Hogan?” Klink asked.
Hogan turned back, drawing his jacket in closer. “We never did get any rumba music.” He shrugged. “It just wasn’t the same. Good night, Kommandant.”
Klink looked at Schultz, bewildered by his senior POW officer, then returned Hogan’s offered salute. “Good night, Hogan.”
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
Using the kerosene lamp from the
common room, Hogan quickly made his way down the tunnel to meet Bailey,
“We thought you weren’t going to make it in time, Colonel,” Le Beau said, his face darkened with polish.
“I nearly didn’t. Klink’s right:
he does a terrible two-step.” He turned toward the men from Stalag 9. “Now, you
know what’s happening? We’re gonna take you upstairs. About a hundred yards
down the road there’s a truck waiting with a couple of Underground agents
inside. They’ll get you to a safe house tonight, and then they’ll get you out
“Sure, Colonel,” Bailey said.
“Thanks for everything, Colonel
“Just get home safely,” Hogan answered. “Le Beau, have you got the recognition code?”
“Okay—then up you go. And be careful.”
Le Beau took the lead, heading up the ladder with the flashlight. He tried pushing aside the planks, but found they wouldn’t budge. “Colonel—the boards are stuck—they must have frozen in the cold weather.”
Killian gestured for Le Beau to come down. “Let me up there; I’ll give it a push.”
“Careful,” Hogan warned. “If they move too fast and there’s a Kraut nearby, the first thing you’ll see is a rifle barrel pointed towards your face.”
“I’ll be gentle as a kitten, Colonel,” Killian answered. The others watched tensely as Killian worked the planks. Eventually, grudgingly, one gave in, and Killian moved it back and forth. “There we go—all set,” he said, looking down at the others.
“Okay, come down—we’ll let Le Beau go out first.”
Killian dropped to the floor of the tunnel. “Thanks, Colonel Hogan,” he said, extending his hand.
Hogan took it. “You’re welcome. Let’s not see you again, okay?”
Killian grinned and turned to follow Le Beau, who was waiting to push the plank out.
“Colonel Hogan, it’s been a
“Pleasure’s all ours.” He looked up as Bailey came to stand before him. “Come on, Le Beau—get moving.”
Le Beau carefully and silently shifted the board out of the way, exposing only his head and surveying his surroundings. Eventually he climbed all the way out, and gestured for the others to follow.
“You’d better get a move on,
too,” Hogan said to Bailey, as he watched
Bailey looked intently at his former commander, as though debating what to do. Finally, he urged earnestly, “Come with us, Papa.”
Hogan shook his head. “There’s
room for three—you, Killian, and
“I’m sure they could squeeze you in,” Bailey insisted. “You don’t belong here. You’ve done your part, more than your part. You deserve to come.”
“I can’t,” Hogan said quietly.
“You’re letting them break you,” Bailey said. Hogan stood silently. “You’re letting the bastards win.” Hogan didn’t meet his eyes. “Listen, I don’t know everything, Papa, but we were told a bit about what happened to you after we lost Goldilocks. What happened at the Dulag.”
Hogan closed his eyes and inhaled deeply. “That’s not something you need to know about,” he said.
“Sure it is—because they crushed you. They cowed you so you wouldn’t fight back. You just sit and accept your fate now. That’s not the Papa Bear I knew. The one I knew would be fighting like hell against the Germans and wouldn’t give up till the Nazis were obliterated.”
“I am fighting back,” said Hogan, his eyes suddenly flashing. “Don’t
you think getting you out of here is fighting?” Bailey furrowed his brow
questioningly. “You said it yourself—I belong someplace where guys can learn
from me. Headquarters is asking me to make this
that place. Sure, I could escape. I could fly a few missions, earn my points,
and get the hell out of the service and back home. And I’d love it. But one day over
Bailey was wounded. That Papa
Bear might not fly again was a shock to him. And that he seemed to be
considering this suicidal assignment was insane. Hogan noticed his look, and
added softly, “Look, I know it sounds nuts. I don’t know if I’m going to stay
yet. But it’s something I have to consider. And I can’t consider it if I’m running
Le Beau’s head appeared from above. He took in the intensity of the two men and remained silent.
Neither man noticed him. “They haven’t gotten the best of me, I promise,” Hogan said in a quiet voice.
Bailey nodded. “Okay,” he said, grief still toying with his voice. He looked at Hogan. “I’m glad what we heard while we were at the Dulag was wrong.”
“So am I.”
Bailey suddenly surged forward and grabbed Hogan in a bear hug. Surprised but overwhelmed, Hogan returned the embrace, swallowing hard to keep his own emotions in check. “Promise me you’ll always be Papa Bear,” Bailey managed.
Hogan released him. “I will,” he whispered. “I promise you I will.”
The pair stood regarding each other in silence. Le Beau cleared his throat and said gently, “Colonel, the Underground will be waiting.”
Bailey straightened suddenly, stood at attention, and offered Hogan one of his finest, crispest salutes. Hogan pulled himself together and returned the mark of respect, then relaxed only slightly and said, “I’ll get word to you. Now get going.”
Bailey nodded and started up the ladder to Le Beau. Hogan turned and quickly disappeared back down the tunnel.
Kinch opened the door to Hogan’s office when he heard the Colonel’s faint voice from the other side. Expecting him to be in bed, he was surprised when his eyes finally fell on Hogan sitting at his desk, his head resting on his arms. “Colonel?”
“What is it?” Hogan asked, not moving.
“We just got word from
Hogan lifted his head and looked at Kinch, a slight smile creasing the corners of his eyes. He’s reached his limit, Kinch thought instantly. “Good. Thanks, Kinch.”
Kinch studied Hogan’s bruised face guiltily. “Sir, the Gestapo’s gone. Why don’t you get some sleep?” he suggested.
Hogan rubbed his eyes, being careful to avoid a tender cut above his right eyebrow. “Nice of them to drop in, wasn’t it?” he quipped tiredly. “You’ve gotta admit, they sure know how to liven up a party.”
“Sorry we didn’t have any
warning, Colonel.” Kinch, Newkirk and Le Beau had been sure Hogan would now
settle in to life at Stalag 13 with relative ease, when the Gestapo had arrived
during morning roll call and dragged him out of formation. Though he’d said
nothing, the look of panic in his eyes had been unmistakable beneath his
outwardly calm demeanor. After several hours in Klink’s office, and after a
“quiet talk” with the Gestapo officer and his guards in the cooler, Hogan had
been returned to Barracks Two, exhausted, doubled over, and nursing some cuts
and bruises that one didn’t normally acquire during the course of polite
conversation. Saying nothing to the others, he had disappeared into his room
and shut the door. That had been an hour ago, before worry and word from
“Well, Klink did say he wasn’t going to tell me anything this time around—just in case I tried to escape again.” Hogan shrugged, then leaned back stiffly in his chair and looked seriously at Kinch. “Little did they know what we pulled off last night. And what we’ll keep pulling off.”
Kinch was amazed as Hogan launched into a commentary of his ideas, as though they were already decided. “But first we have to get some things straightened out. Like that tunnel exit. Last night, Le Beau couldn’t get the plank to move; it’s too susceptible to the weather. There’s an old tree stump near the planks that we could use instead; we’ll have to hollow it out and hinge it so it can be opened and then shut without anyone noticing it’s not like every other tree in the woods.” Hogan stopped short and winced as he put a hand to his sore abdomen. “And we’ll have to dig a tunnel that leads to the cooler,” he added, frowning at his recollection of the interrogation he had undergone that day. “No one should be stuck in there alone.”
Kinch nodded. I suppose getting Wilson would be out of the
question, he said to himself. Still, he kept his worried eyes on Hogan’s
face and tried. “Sir, we should get
“Maybe later,” Hogan said, grimacing as he stood up slowly. “Right now there’s too much to do.”
Kinch moved aside to let Hogan
pass into the common room. “Colonel—are you saying that you’re going to accept
Hogan didn’t answer. He went to the stove and picked up a cup and the coffee pot, aware of the eyes of the others on him.
“Colonel,” Le Beau said softly, “we did a good thing last night, getting those men out.” Bailey’s last words to Le Beau as they left had been, “Take care of Papa, okay?” Le Beau, touched by the closeness of the two men, had given his promise. And now, looking at his senior officer, he knew that it wouldn’t be an easy job, but it would be one that he would be honored to do.
“Wouldn’t mind taking up an offer like that meself,” Newkirk said lightly, trying to raise the mood in the room.
Hogan turned around and glanced at the others, almost unwilling to meet their eyes for long. “I wouldn’t either,” he said. Le Beau, Kinch, and Newkirk exchanged glances. Somehow, even though they were anxious to get out of camp, they had admitted in private conversations that it would be a challenge and a thrill to undermine the German war effort in such a unique way. But they couldn’t force Hogan to do it—and they weren’t even absolutely certain they wanted him to.
“Kinch, can you call the Escape Committee together for a meeting tonight?” Hogan asked.
“Sure, Colonel,” Kinch answered.
“What are you going to tell them, Colonel?” asked Newkirk.
“First of all, I want to thank them for helping the guys from Stalag 9 get out. It was a big risk, and they all came through.” He paused. “Then I’m going to ask if they want to keep on doing it.”
Hogan continued slowly,
deliberately. “If you fellas are still willing to give it a go—and if
Hogan was dizzy from the idea—or was it the ordeal he had already been through that day? In either case he felt himself feeling weaker than he wanted to, and sat down, elbow on the table, shielding his eyes with his hand.
The paleness in Hogan’s face
didn’t escape the others. Le Beau said, “Colonel, I will go get
“Not necessary,” Hogan replied without any real protest.
“You’ve been through enough today, Colonel,” Kinch said. “We have to look after our new boss.”
“Our Papa Bear!” Newkirk added with an encouraging smile.
Hogan stopped when he heard his
flying name and looked at the others. “Okay.” He looked at Kinch. “We’ll have
“Sure, Colonel,” Kinch said, nodding toward Le Beau to get moving. “We’ll do that after the meeting.” He drew Hogan up from the table and guided him back to his room. Newkirk raised an eyebrow when Hogan didn’t seem to protest or even notice. But the officer’s mind seemed to be somewhere else, too preoccupied to notice his actions now.
Hogan turned back to Newkirk, forcing Kinch to stop. “I haven’t even asked you fellas if you still want to do this—I mean, if I’m presuming—”
Newkirk took in the exhaustion on Hogan’s face, a reminder to himself that the sacrifice Hogan was asking for from the other prisoners was one that he himself was making. The pull to go home was so strong, so very strong. The chance to escape was staring him straight in the face, and yet he was feeling pressure from the others to give it up. No, let’s face it, he thought, it’s pressure from yourself. You know you want to get the Krauts. “No, gov’nor,” he said aloud. “You’re not presuming. We want to do it—I mean, at least I know I do,” he amended.
Hogan nodded absently and let
Kinch escort him to his bunk to wait for
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
“‘You will assist escaping prisoners, cooperate with all friendly forces, and use every means to harass and injure the enemy.’” Hogan read from the clipboard Kinch handed him from his scribbling by the radio the next evening. “Those are our orders,” he said, handing the board back to Kinch and looking at the others. “Everything else is up to us.”
“That’s it?” Newkirk said, amazed. “Don’t they have specific jobs for us?”
“Nope,” Hogan said. “They’re going to leave it up to us to know what to do—for the most part. And give us jobs to do when they need us to. They’re going to be counting on us to pass on sensitive military information and troop movements whenever possible. And we’ll have to rendezvous with agents and the Underground to get a lot of this stuff.”
“And how are they expecting us to do that?” Le Beau asked.
“Kinch?” Hogan prompted.
“I’ve got a list the Colonel made up of the things we’re going to need—maps, German uniforms, civilian clothes, weapons, ammunition; you name it, he’s asking for it. Over the next couple of months, the Underground will smuggle some of it in.”
“In the meantime we’re going to count on drops by Allied planes to get us started,” Hogan continued. “We’ll have to go out of camp to pick up the stuff, and bring it back in. And we’re going to be pretty busy…extending our tunnel network. We’re going to need access to just about every place in camp—the supply huts, the other barracks, even Klink’s quarters.”
“Only fifteen men have requested transfers to other prison camps, Colonel,” Kinch put in. “The rest of them are ready to do whatever it takes.”
Hogan nodded. “Those fifteen men will be transferred with the proviso that they tell no one what we’re up to. We can’t afford for anything to be traced back to us. The rest of the men have agreed to keep our little secret. We’re going to tell the prisoners as little as possible. No point in handing out information that could be dragged out of them in a weak moment by some persuasive Gestapo officer.” Hogan paused, feeling the results of the Germans’ “persuasive” methods vaguely throbbing all over his body. “We’re putting out a call for experts of all sorts—tailors, forgers, explosives experts, anyone with any kind of talent we can put to good use. But we’ll only use them when we have to—we’re going to have to count on a small core group of men to carry the load.”
Hogan stopped. “You fellas became my support group by default. I want you to know that you can feel free to join those fifteen men at any time. This is strictly volunteer. No one would think the lesser of you, including me.”
The men all lowered their eyes as Hogan tried to read their thoughts and intentions, and for a moment no one spoke. Finally, Le Beau said, “I promised Lieutenant Bailey I would look after you. I cannot do that if I am somewhere else, Colonel.”
“No one else knows how to run this radio the way I do,” Kinch said to Hogan. “Last time you used it, it took me half an hour to get all the switches back the right way.”
“I can’t go back to
Hogan nodded, taking in the
devotion of the men around him. “Thanks, fellas.” He turned to Kinch. “Kinch,
Kinch tapped a few times to send some code through. “Yes, Colonel. They’re waiting for your final answer.”
“Tell them that they’ve got their branch office,” he said. “And make sure they pass on a message to Bailey, that Papa Bear will be in command.”
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
“What’s this all about, Schultz?” Hogan asked, as he stepped into the antechamber leading to Klink’s office three weeks later.
“There is a new prisoner, Colonel Hogan,” Schultz said. “And as senior prisoner of war, you are to be in attendance for his interview with the Kommandant.” Schultz paused before opening the door to Klink’s office. “Oh and by the way, Colonel Hogan, I am very pleased with the flowers your men have planted outside the guards’ barracks. Lilies have always been my favorites!”
Hogan grinned broadly. “My pleasure, Schultz.” The more flower beds you get, the more tunnels we get. “And thanks for getting us those extra lamps, too. Can’t imagine who would have stolen them—are you sure they haven’t shown up anywhere else in camp?”
“Nowhere, Colonel Hogan. The Kommandant was most displeased about getting you more. But he said you told him something about the Geneva Convention…”
Hogan just grinned and strode past Schultz into the office. A young man in a slightly battered dark jacket and off-white fur collar was standing in front of Klink’s desk, his head bowed as though ashamed of himself. Hogan’s face immediately lost its cheeky expression, and he stood beside the man in a gesture of support. “Kommandant, you’re bringing this man into camp?”
“Yes, Hogan,” Klink responded. “As a matter of fact, he’s being assigned to your barracks.” Klink looked at the young man. “Sergeant, your days as a flyer are over. You are now a prisoner of the Third Reich.”
“Don’t worry,” Hogan said to the wide-eyed soldier. “The Thousand Year Reich only has a few months to go if the Allies have anything to say about it. Who’d have thought a millennium could pass so quickly?”
Klink shook his fist in frustration. “Hogan…..”
“Oh, and by the way, Colonel, the men are requesting more blankets. Some of ours have disappeared along with the lamps.” Hogan chuckled. “Anyone’d think someone’s hoarding things in a tunnel or something!”
The new prisoner seemed shocked at Hogan’s flippancy. Klink only made a gesture of futile irritation and ordered Hogan out. “And take Schultz with you!” he bellowed.
Hogan led the way out of the office, and, with Schultz lagging behind, he started chatting with the man beside him. “I’m afraid our Colonel Klink’s not much of a host,” Hogan said light-heartedly. He turned to the man with real concern for his well-being. It seemed like only yesterday that Hogan himself had been escorted through the camp for the first time. But then, there had been no one but Schultz to show him the ropes. “I’m Colonel Robert Hogan, senior POW officer.”
“Sergeant Andrew Carter,” the young man said.
“Any hobbies, Carter?” asked Hogan.
“Gee, well, I used to like playing with my chemistry set at home,” he answered, a childlike innocence suddenly lighting up his face. “But I kept blowing things up, so my folks made me stop…for awhile.”
Hogan smiled broadly and put his arm around Carter’s shoulders. “Well, Sergeant, let me tell you about Stalag 13. We run things a little differently around here. You might even get to indulge your hobby, if you play your cards right, and no one would be upset if you had a little accident….”
Text and original characters copyright 2004 by Linda Groundwater
This copyright covers only original material and characters, and in no way intends to infringe upon the privileges of the holders of the copyrights, trademarks, or other legal rights, for the Hogan's Heroes universe.