Two Missions for the Price of One
2005 Papa Bear Awards - Nominated
Best Challenge - 200th Mission Challenge
2005 Papa Bear Awards - Nominated
Best Portrayal of a Canon Character - Vladimir "Sam" Minsk
2005 Papa Bear Awards - Third Place
Best Overall Story
2007 Papa Bear Awards - Nominated
Lifetime Getaway Award
Whatever happened to Vladimir Minsk, the Russian POW that was only in the pilot episode? This is an attempt to tell the story of Vladimir’s exodus from Stalag 13. “Sam”, as his bunkmates call him, comes from a long line of tailors in Moscow. So what happens to make Vladimir leave camp? I guess you’ll have to read to find out!
This story takes place before, during and after the episode The Witness, which features Marya and a Russian rocket scientist named Zagoskin. The events that take place during the episode time frame will be those that occur “behind the scenes” and are not part of the televised episode. At various points, to help with continuity, portions of the episode will be summarized.
This story is also a response to the 200th mission challenge issued by Lauren (von Oboe) on the Hogan’s Heroes SmartGroups list.
One final note, I have included much information in the author’s notes at the end of the story, including a Russian dictionary to explain the words and phrases used. In places where the Russian characters are speaking together, the dialog should be assumed to be completely in Russian. It is presented here mostly in English as an aid to the reader.
Many, many thanks to those that beta read this story: Patti, Marg, Linda and Kathy M. They did a great job of telling me how bad my grammar, punctuation and use of tenses was. Also many thanks to my wife, who put up with all my questions about the Russian language, culture, characterizations and questions about her family during the Great Patriotic War.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Stalag 13, Barracks 2,
September 2, 1943, 0030 hours
Kinch climbed out of the tunnel over the bunk into the barracks. He touched the switch to close the tunnel entrance quietly, trying not to wake his bunkmates. He winced as it made a loud creak as the bunk was sliding into place.
“Kinch, is that you? Anything happening?” a yawning Newkirk asked quietly.
“No. Everything is quiet right now. Baker is minding the store tonight,” Kinch said. “I didn’t wake you coming up, did I?”
“No mate, not at all. I’m so used to working this late that I am having some trouble getting to sleep,” Newkirk replied.
Almost simultaneously, LeBeau and Carter both said “Me too.”
Kinch padded over to his bunk and climbed in. “It seems we’re all in the same boat. I think my sleep pattern will be changed for a long time after this war is finally over. We tend to do all our work at night,” he said. He paused and then continued, “At least I have to do my work at night. You all are lucky that you can take some daylight missions dressed as German soldiers.”
Kinch thought about the irony of being in such a diverse group, Americans, English, French and even a Russian, yet still being excluded from some of the activities that the group must perform. He quickly pushed that thought aside. No, not in this group, he thought. They treat me as an equal. It’s the Germans that have a problem with the color of my skin, not my friends here.
Kinch’s thoughts were interrupted as Vladimir Minsk, the lone Russian POW in camp, asked in his heavy Russian accent, “Is Klink still out?”
“Yes Sam, he is,” Kinch replied, stifling a yawn. Colonel Hogan had hung the nickname of Sam on Vladimir when he had first come to the camp, and the rest of the gang had picked it up. “He called Gruber earlier and said Schultz would be driving him back in the morning.”
LeBeau stretched and then rolled on his side. “I wonder if this means that he’ll come back with his monocle smashed by that barmaid again?” he asked, getting a chuckle from the rest of the men.
“Good old Casanova Klink! I’d lay odds on that happening,” Newkirk said.
“And I know better than to take them!” Kinch countered. “Anyway, it should be a quiet night. Maybe we can get some rest for a change. We’ve been going at it pretty hard lately.”
“I wonder just how many missions we’ve completed since we started,” said Carter, not expecting an answer.
“Well Carter, since you asked,” Kinch began, “I think I can tell you. I have been keeping track of things since we first started.” Even in the dark, Kinch could almost see the raised eyebrows of his compatriots. “No, I’m not keeping any details. That would be a foolish thing to do.” A collective sigh escaped from the men as Kinch continued, “But by my count, we have completed one hundred and ninety-eight missions.”
“One hundred and ninety-eight?” Vladimir gasped. “Bozhe moi!”
“You took the words right out of my mouth, mate,” Newkirk said. “Blimey, ain’t we been busy little bees! I didn’t think there were that many things to blow up around here.”
“It’s not just the sabotage,” said Kinch. “I’ve been counting everything, the intelligence gathering, escapes and all those Germans that we’ve wrapped up and delivered to London.”
“But Kinch,” countered LeBeau, “we’ve helped a lot more than two hundred fliers get back to London.”
Kinch chuckled. “I didn’t count individuals. When we sent a group out together, that was one mission, no matter how many fliers we sent out. Remember the twenty men we sent out from Stalag 9?”
LeBeau bristled. “How can I forget? I still wish the Colonel had let me punch Braden and Mills in the nose! They almost blew our whole operation.”
“Shhh! Calm down LeBeau!” said Carter. “You don’t want to wake up the whole camp, do you?”
Kinch broke in before things got too loud, “Anyway, I only counted that as one mission.”
“Does the Colonel know how many we’ve done?” Vladimir asked.
Kinch thought for a second, “No, I don’t think so. I don’t think he really counts the individual missions. I think there’s only one number he cares about – and that’s zero, as in zero failed missions.”
“I think we should do something special for mission two hundred,” Newkirk said, getting excited at the thought.
“Newkirk, remember the trouble that we got in when we wanted to give him a birthday present?” Carter asked. “Do you really want to go through something like that again?”
“Aw come on Carter, that won’t happen again,” Newkirk shot back. “Besides, we have some time to think about it, so we won’t make the same mistake again.”
“Well I don’t know about all of you,” yawned LeBeau, “but I am going to try to get some sleep. Good night.”
The sound of several “Good nights” and a lone “Spokoyna noche” echoed through the barracks as the other men replied and settled in their bunks to sleep.
Vladimir leaned over the edge of his top bunk to whisper to Kinch in the bunk below. “Ivan, I heard what you were saying before.” Vladimir liked to call Kinch by his Russian sounding first name since they’d become better friends. “Do you resent having to be extra careful during any daylight missions outside of camp?” he asked his friend.
The question startled Kinch. It was something he hadn’t thought about before. “Sam, I don’t know,” he said, after a short pause. Kinch continued, “That’s a complicated question. Yes, I feel some resentment at not being able to do those things, but it’s not resentment towards Colonel Hogan for not including me.”
“I don’t follow you. If you feel resentment, then who is it towards?” asked Vladimir.
“The very people and ideas we are fighting with all our activities,” Kinch responded. “I know, and the Colonel knows, that neither Baker nor I could ever pass for a German soldier in broad daylight. So we get the short straw when it comes to those types of activities. Besides, there are plenty of ways to help out those missions back here – minding the switchboard, impersonating Germans on the phone, making sure that the guards don’t discover anyone missing. So it’s not as if we aren’t contributing to the cause.”
“I see what you are saying,” Vladimir said. “But as it is, the rest of you take more of the dangerous chances than I do, while I am sitting here working on clothes for the escaping fliers. I sometimes have the thought that all of you might resent the fact that I am not, how you would say…” Vladimir paused, trying to find the right English words. “…tugging my portion of the cargo. After all, I am not usually involved in the activities outside of the camp either.”
The strange phrase puzzled Kinch for a second. “Oh, you mean pulling your share of the load. No Sam, don’t think that way. I know for a fact that the rest of the guys think of you as one of the gang. We all have our roles that we can play, and we are all in this together. And I don’t think that Colonel Hogan excludes you from the outside activities for any reason other than your safety. We’ve all heard how bad the German soldiers have treated the Russians.”
Kinch’s words sent a shiver through Vladimir’s body. He knew very well how the Germans treat Russians. He had experienced the cruelty first hand after being captured. That mistreatment was not only reserved for the Russian army. He’d also seen the burnt out villages in the occupied areas as he was transported back to Germany after being captured. It was a small miracle that he happened to be sent here to Stalag 13 instead of to a Gestapo run camp.
“I guess you’re right Ivan,” sighed Vladimir. “It still bothers me sometimes. I keep getting the feeling that I am not doing all I can in the defense of my rodina.”
“Sam, you know that all of us together are doing more to hurt the Krauts here than if we were all back with our units,” Kinch said.
“Da, that’s true,” replied Vladimir. He sensed that this was turning into a long conversation. Not wanting to keep his friend awake, he changed the subject. “Have we really completed almost two hundred missions?”
“That’s the nearest I can figure,” Kinch whispered back.
“It’s pretty impressive that we could pull off all that sitting here right under the Germans noses,” Vladimir said.
Kinch smiled, it was pretty impressive and he had had his doubts in the beginning if they could pull it off. “It is, isn’t it? But we’ll not get any credit for anything we’ve done.” Kinch switched to his best Klink impersonation, “After all, we’re just prisoners in the toughest POW camp in all of Germany. Not one prisoner has ever escaped.”
“Da, da, not one escape. Hundreds yes, but not just one!” Vladimir replied.
Kinch laughed. Vladimir’s sense of humor had definitely improved since he’d been in this camp. Vladimir continued, “But as Schultzie would say, ‘I know nothing!!’ Spokoyne noche Ivan. Sorry for keeping you awake.”
“Nichevo – don’t worry about it. Spokoyne noche, my friend”, Kinch replied.
* * * * * * *
Kinch lay back on his bunk and stretched his hands behind his head. Poor Sam, I do know how he feels sometimes. I know that everyone considers him one of the gang, but sometimes I can see their uneasiness around him. He comes from a completely different background than any of us, didn't know much English when he got here, and even had a hard time joking around with everyone. I’m sure that even now he feels a little excluded because of all that.
Kinch sighed. Exclusion, I can definitely relate to that. I remember growing up in Detroit and being treated differently because of my skin color. Of course it wasn't as bad for me as it was for my father, growing up in the south. But as it was, it hurt being treated as inferior just because I was Colored. But here in this camp, nobody treats me any different, especially Colonel Hogan. We all depend on each other, no matter whether they are British, French, American, Irish, Scottish, Colored, Jewish and even the Germans in the underground. Those things make no difference here in this camp.
But Sam is the only Russian in the camp, which makes it hard for him to find someone to relate to, like Baker and I can. I remember what it felt like before Baker arrived in camp. But Sam’s is starting to come around. He and I have our little chess games, which has helped some. I’ve been able to help him with his English, and he’s teaching me Russian. He was able to teach Peter something about tailoring, and Peter was pretty good to begin with. And I still remember the day when Sam taught Louis how to make borscht and Louis had called it ‘beet soup’. Kinch laughed softly to himself. Sam really showed his emerging sense of humor then when he asked Louis if he could refer to a quiche as scrambled eggs!
Kinch rolled onto his side to get comfortable. He drifted off to sleep dreaming of eating steaming hot borscht and a nice fluffy quiche Lorraine.
* * * * * * *
Vladimir settled back in his bunk. Perhaps Ivan is right. I shouldn’t get all worked up about these feelings. He’s also right about not getting any credit for the work we are doing here. Credit? Ha! I’ll be looked at with suspicion when I get back to Moscow. Colonel Hogan, Louis, Peter, Andrew, Ivan, and Richard – they’ll all go home to their families after the war and try to put their life together. Me? I might just be sent to a gulag for being a prisoner of war and not trying to escape. Vladimir let out a tired sigh. And what of my family? Natasha - dearest Natashenka. Will they take it out on you and little Sashenka just because I am choosing to fight the war here instead of on the front lines? Yes, I am a prisoner of war, but I am here voluntarily. Unlike most of my Comrades in German captivity I do have a choice. If I really wanted to escape back to Russia, I’m sure Colonel Hogan could arrange it. But am I a coward for wanting to stay here and fight the Germans in this way?
Vladimir rolled over again. Sleep was eluding him. Almost two hundred missions! True, I haven’t been a major part of many of them, mostly fashioning German clothing or uniforms out of old blankets. I can understand Kinch having to be careful during the daylight. But I wonder if the Colonel really knows just how dangerous it is for me, as Kinch suggested. Maybe that’s why I am left in camp so often. No, he probably doesn’t really know how quickly I’d be executed if I was caught. The Germans treat us Russians like we were dogs. No, not true. They treat us as if we were dog excrement. They probably wouldn’t execute me right away. Eti svini, they wouldn’t make it that easy for me. An involuntary shudder went through his body. But I am here in this camp, and I am doing more to fight the Germans than I could if I were anywhere else. And everyone here treats me no different than anyone else. Colonel Hogan really does care about all of us. I think he would rather something happen to him than to any of his men. He is quite the opposite of what I am used to seeing in a commander. We Russians could learn a lot from a man like that – leading through respect rather than by terror.
As Vladimir was finally drifting off to sleep, he thought of when he first arrived here at Stalag 13 …
Stalag 13, Kommandant’s Office
Vladimir stood at attention in front of the Kommandant’s desk. Behind the desk stood a tall German officer with no hair, adjusting his monocle to look at the papers he was holding. Beside Vladimir, an American Colonel stood impatiently.
“Come on Kommandant, hurry up,” the American Colonel said. “We’ve got escapes to plan.”
The bald German looked up sharply. Vladimir looked at the German, waiting for him to come around to the front of the desk to discipline the American. He was surprised when it didn’t happen. “Colonel Hogan, your attempt at humor is wasted on me. You know I don’t have a sense of humor about those things,” the German said.
Colonel Hogan laughed. “Oh I don’t know, Kommandant. We think you’re pretty funny. We laugh at you all the time!”
“That’s enough! I will do the questioning in my own way, if you don’t mind,” said the Kommandant. He turned to Vladimir, speaking in English. “I am Colonel Wilhelm Klink, and you are now in the toughest POW camp in all of Germany. We have not had a single successful escape, so I urge you not to get any ideas.”
Vladimir had a hard time following everything that was said, since he did not understand English too well. He glanced out of the corner of his eyes at the American Colonel and noticed that he was rolling his eyes as the Kommandant was speaking. He snapped back to attention as he realized that the Kommandant had asked him a question.
“I asked you, what is your name?” the Kommandant asked again testily.
Vladimir glanced at Colonel Hogan, who nodded to him. “My name is Vladimir Ivanovich Minsky, of the Red Army,” he said in heavily accented broken English, bracing for what he was sure would come next. What did come next was not at all what he expected.
Upon hearing the new prisoner speak, Colonel Klink’s eyes popped open, dropping his monocle on his desk. “A Russian?” he said is a shocked voice. Vladimir felt the American Colonel studying him closely as the Kommandant turned to him. “Colonel Hogan, would you mind telling me how a Russian army soldier happens to be standing here as a prisoner in a Luft Stalag with an American jacket on?”
“Kommandant, you know as much as I do,” Colonel Hogan replied.
Vladimir cleared his throat. The other two men looked at him. “I speak English not good, but I explain,” he said.
“Yes, please do,” replied the Kommandant.
“I was in truck with many other Russian prisoners. We taken to, how you say, work prison,” Vladimir said. He paused for confirmation of the correct term.
Kommandant Klink nodded. “Yes, yes, a labor camp. Go on,” he said impatiently.
Vladimir continued. “Suddenly, air raid started. Bombs exploded around. Everyone in truck begins to get afraid, and the guards become nervous. I make up mind to jump from truck to chance escape. Right after I jump and hit ground, bomb hit truck and exploded it. I look back and see it on fire, destroyed. Nobody alive from there,” he said. Vladimir paused, trying to collect himself to continue.
“That doesn’t explain the American jacket, or why you are here,” the Kommandant said.
Vladimir was nervous. He had a sense of dread, thinking of what would happen when he finished the story. Not only the German would be angry, but the American would too. “True. Please, I continue. I look around, not knowing what to do next, or where to go. Suddenly, parachutes come from sky with American pilots from the air raid. One land close to me, and I see that he not alive. Since the German guards take our coats before we get in truck, I start getting cold. So I take the dead American’s coat.” Vladimir turned to Colonel Hogan. “I’m sorry, Colonel. I hope you not mad because I took American coat,” he said.
Colonel Hogan looked surprised. “No apology necessary. The Germans were wrong for taking your coat from you. It’s cold and you could have frozen to death,” he said to Vladimir. “These Germans are not very nice people.”
Kommandant Klink stomped his foot on the floor. “Colonel Hogan, that’s quite enough out of you,” he said, raising his voice. Turning to Vladimir, he continued. “So that explains the jacket, how did you get here?” he asked.
Vladimir shifted uneasily. “After wearing coat, I start walking. More parachutes coming down with more men. German patrol came by and put us all in truck to bring here. Nobody ask me questions until now, and I keep my mouth shut. Nobody know I not American,” he said.
Colonel Klink sat down. “A Russian here in camp? We can’t have that. There are no other Russians here at Stalag 13. I need to call Berlin and see what to do,” he said.
Vladimir feared the worst, but before he could say anything, Colonel Hogan spoke up. “Why can’t he stay here? Are you afraid you can’t handle him? After all, it’s not his fault that you Germans made a mistake to bring him here.”
Kommandant Klink looked at Colonel Hogan. “Colonel Hogan, may I remind you that you are a prisoner and I am running this camp.”
Colonel Hogan slapped Vladimir on his back, shocking the Russian. “You know, I keep forgetting that,” he said, looking at Vladimir. He was very shocked by this American Colonel’s attitude.
Kommandant Klink stood again. “Hooooogaaaaan,” he said in a low voice. “You know I can’t keep him here. I have to put his name on the records, and once I do, the Gestapo will be here poking around.” Vladimir became very scared at the mention of the Gestapo.
“Why would they come here? To investigate an American flyer named Sam Minsk?” Colonel Hogan said to the Kommandant.
Kommandant Klink was shocked. “You think I should falsify my records and lie?” he asked incredulously.
Hogan seemed at ease. Vladimir noticed that he seemed to be taking charge of things. “Kommandant, you know that the Gestapo will never believe this story about how he got here. They will figure that you need some more exposure to Russians and next thing you know, you’re on the express to Moscow.” Vladimir noticed that the Kommandant seemed to wither at this statement.
“Do you think they would really do that?” he asked timidly.
“Come on, Kommandant,” Colonel Hogan replied. “You know that they are jealous of your record. They want you out of the way. You’re making them look bad.”
Kommandant Klink paused, looking thoughtful. “Sam Minsk, American,” he said. Then he looked at Colonel Hogan. “Hogan, this is Sam Minsk, of the United States Army Air Corps. He’s a new prisoner here. He will be put into your barracks. It is your responsibility to see that he causes no trouble. Diiiiis-missed!”
Colonel Hogan saluted the Kommandant. Vladimir noticed that it was a sloppy salute, one that would get him severely reprimanded in the Red army. Colonel Hogan turned to Vladimir. “Come with me, Sam. I’ll show you to your new home,” he said.
Vladimir followed Colonel Hogan out of the office. He was confused by what just happened. The Kommandant of this camp did not beat him, mistreat him or yell at him. In fact, he actually treated him very politely. And it looked like the American Colonel got exactly what he wanted. What kind of camp is this? Germans who are not brutal, Americans who can get whatever they want from the Kommandant, but no escapes. Ever? How could this be?
The two men entered the barracks. Vladimir looked around at the sparse quarters. He noticed men wearing uniforms for various countries. That surprised him even more. He had thought the different nationalities would be segregated. Then he noticed a large German sitting at the table eating something.
“Come on, Schultz,” Colonel Hogan said to the large man. “It’s time for you to go. You don’t want Kommandant Klink to see you in here.”
“Colonel Hogan, I don’t think you care what Kommandant Klink thinks,” the portly German replied.
Colonel Hogan started to help the guard out of his seat. “You’re right, Schultz. Do you want to know the real reason we want you to go?” he asked.
“Colonel Hogan – no. Don’t tell me! I want to know nooothing!” the guard said as he headed towards the door.
Colonel Hogan turned to Vladimir. “That’s Schultz. Don’t worry about him, he’s harmless,” the Colonel said. Vladimir nodded and suddenly felt the attention of every person in the barracks focus on him. He again felt nervous. How would the rest of the men react to him? He was still wearing the American jacket, so he was sure that nobody could tell he was Russian.
Colonel Hogan addressed his men. “Men, this is Vladimir Minsky, of the Russian army. He doesn’t understand English that well, so please be patient with him.” He waited a second to allow the murmurs from his men subside. “He was captured after the truck he was riding in with other Russian prisoners was caught in an air raid. The truck was destroyed, killing all of the Germans in it.” At this, the men in the barracks let out a loud cheer.
“All right, quiet down,” said Colonel Hogan. “Unfortunately, the Russian prisoners were also killed except for Vladimir here.” The men were suddenly very quiet. Colonel Hogan continued. “After that, it seems that one or more of our planes were hit because parachutes started dropping around him. One of the pilots was already dead, and Vladimir here borrowed his jacket, since the Germans so kindly confiscated his before shipping him off to a labor camp.”
Vladimir tensed, unsure as to how the men would handle this bit of news. He was a bit surprised as he heard a reply in an accent that he could barely understand. “Bloody Krauts, stealin’ a man’s coat in this weather!” At this comment, Vladimir relaxed. It seemed as if the men accepted the Colonel’s explanation.
Colonel Hogan raised his hands in the air. “All right, Newkirk, quiet down,” he said. The men were quiet. “So here he is in camp. But, Kommandant Klink has him listed on the roles as Sam Minsk, an American flyer,” the Colonel said. Vladimir looked around at the quizzical looks on the men’s faces. “Fearless Klink was afraid that the Gestapo would pay him a visit if he listed Vladimir as Russian under his real name, so Sam here will be bunking with us,” the Colonel explained, purposefully stressing the different names so that his men understood. Hogan turned to a tall man with the darkest skin Vladimir had ever seen. “Kinch, make sure he gets all settled and introduced to everyone.”
“Sure Colonel,” the black man replied. He turned to Vladimir and said, “My name is Ivan James Kinchloe, but everyone calls me Kinch. Would you like to be called Vladimir or Sam?” He seemed to be purposefully speaking slowly so that Vladimir could understand him.
Ivan? Vladimir was a little puzzled. “It matters not to me, either Sam or Vladimir. But excuse please, you said your name is Ivan? You don’t look Russian,” Vladimir said cautiously.
Kinch laughed. “No, I’m far from being Russian! My parents named me Ivan, but I always went by James growing up,” Kinch explained. “It was hard enough being Colored, let alone going through life as Ivan.” Seeing the confused look on Vladimir’s face, Kinch explained further. “You see, in my country, there are some people who don’t like me because of the color of my skin. Those kinds of people make life rough for us. Having an uncommon name would make it even worse.”
Vladimir nodded. Kinch took him over to a set of bunks, explaining that the top one would be his. “I’ll be in the bottom bunk here,” Kinch explained. Kinch then introduced Vladimir to the men in the barracks. The one who made the comment about the Germans stealing his coats was an Englishman named Newkirk. The short Frenchman named LeBeau handed Vladimir a cup of coffee.
After the round of introductions, Kinch led Vladimir back to his bunk. “Why don’t you rest a while? You must be worn out after your ordeal,” Kinch said to him.
Vladimir didn’t understand the phrase. “Excuse please, Kinch, worn out? What does that mean?” he asked.
Kinch apologized. “I’m sorry, Sam. I forgot that you don’t understand English that well. I meant that you must be tired,” Kinch said. Vladimir nodded his understanding. “Do you play chess? I heard that Russians like to play chess,” Kinch asked. Vladimir nodded again. “Good. I’ll tell you what. While we play chess, I’ll help you with your English if you’ll teach me some Russian. Deal?” Kinch said as he thrust his hand out towards Vladimir.
It took Vladimir a moment to understand what Kinch meant, but then he reached out and clasped the black man’s hand in a handshake. “Deal,” he said to a smiling Kinch.
For the next couple of weeks, Vladimir kept mostly to himself. While not sensing hostility from the other men in the barracks, he did sense some apprehension and cautiousness around him. It was almost as if they were afraid of him, or afraid of him finding out something that they didn’t think he should know. He and Kinch had their daily chess games, sometimes even playing several games. While Kinch wasn’t a bad player, Vladimir hadn’t lost a game yet. Kinch was true to his word, and was teaching Vladimir more about English while they played. Kinch also was very interested in learning Russian, which surprised Vladimir.
But all the while, Vladimir was watching everything going on around him. He found it strange that nobody was talking about trying to escape. It seemed that all the men wanted to stay in this camp, rather than return to their units and fight the war. He couldn’t understand it. He kept watching, waiting for his opportunity. He wasn’t about to stay in this camp longer than he had to. He wanted to return to his unit and fight the Germans who had invaded his country, not sit around here doing nothing.
One morning, Vladimir decided he would ask Kinch about escaping during their morning chess game. After the pieces were all set up, Vladimir started to move his pawn and said, “Kinch, I am watching things since I got here.”
Kinch looked up at him quickly. “What do you mean?” he asked his friend as he made his own first move.
Vladimir thought for a second before moving a second pawn. “It looks that in this camp, the Kommandant is not too strict leader, and the guard, Schultz, allows you get away with anything you want. All he says is ‘I see nothing’ or ‘I know nothing’ and goes away. And I have heard no talk about escape since coming here. Is it because people don’t want to talk near me, or is everybody afraid of fighting in the war?” Vladimir paused to study the move Kinch made while he was talking, and then continued speaking. “I would like go back to my tovarishy at front line and fight the Germans again. I feel like traitor sitting here while my country is being invaded.”
Kinch kept his attention on the board while deciding how best to answer. Vladimir didn’t know the reason for Kinch’s silence. “I’m sorry, Kinch. I did not mean to overstep my friendship to say that you here are cowards for not escaping,” he said.
Kinch looked up at the worry in Vladimir’s face. “No, Sam, no need to apologize,” he said. “I was just concentrating on the game before trying to answer.” He made his next move, taking one of Vladimir’s pawns.
While Vladimir looked over the board to decide his next move, Kinch cleared his throat and began to speak. “Sam, this is a very unique camp. As far as enemies go, you couldn’t do much better than Klink and Schultz. Nobody in this camp is tortured or beaten. We are in a prison, but not treated like animals. Oh, Klink may bellow every now and then. But Colonel Hogan can usually calm him down.”
Vladimir had made his move and left Kinch to ponder the new position he had placed him in. “This is another thing; Colonel Hogan treats you men like he is one of you. In my army, commander would have more discipline,” he said.
Kinch frowned at the board. It seemed that he was in a precarious position on the chessboard, and also off the chessboard with Vladimir’s questions. “Colonel Hogan is the best. He does treat us all with respect, and because of that, we respect him as a leader probably more than if he would be more distant or disciplined,” Kinch said as he made what he felt was almost a hopeless move.
Vladimir was about to make his next move when he felt LeBeau standing beside him watching the game. “Kinch, your goose is cooked!” said the French Corporal. Hearing this, Vladimir started to get up. “Kinch, your meal ready; we continue game later.”
Both Kinch and LeBeau broke out in laughter. Kinch reached out to touch Vladimir’s sleeve, and then seeing the look of confusion and hurt on the Russian’s face said, “Sam, wait. Sit back down. We are not laughing at you, and LeBeau was not talking about my meal.”
“I not understand,” Vladimir said. “I know that Louis here is cook, and he’s telling you that goose is ready.”
“What he meant by that phrase was that I am about to lose this game and have no hope of preventing that,” Kinch replied with a big smile. Vladimir sat down, feeling relieved. He noticed that when Kinch gave LeBeau a glance, the Frenchman nodded slightly. Then for some reason, Kinch glanced over at Newkirk, who also nodded. Vladimir suddenly felt uncomfortable again, unsure what was going on around him.
Kinch stood up from the table. “Sam, I think it’s time you and I go have a talk with Colonel Hogan. Come on.” Vladimir got up slowly, feeling very nervous. What was this talk about? Did he see something or say something he should not have? He didn’t think he did. He followed the American to the Colonel’s door and inside the room once they had been given permission to enter.
“Colonel, Sam here has been telling me how he wants to escape and go back to his unit to fight and not stay here in this camp just doing nothing,” Kinch said to his superior.
Colonel Hogan looked over at Vladimir. Vladimir wondered what would come next. “So, you don’t want to sit here doing nothing? How would you like to be doing something to fight the war right here from this camp?” the Colonel asked Vladimir.
Vladimir was shocked. “Fight from camp? Colonel, maybe I misunderstand you. My English is still not so good, even though Kinch is teaching me,” he said.
The Colonel chuckled. “No, you heard right. Fight the Germans right here from this camp. You see this is not an ordinary prisoner of war camp. There has never been a successful escape from this camp, at least not that the Germans know about,” he said. Vladimir felt his mouth open in astonishment. “Yes,” the Colonel continued. “All of us are here voluntarily. We help Allied flyers that get shot down escape the country by getting to them before the Germans do. We then get them to England through the German underground. When we aren’t too busy doing that, we dabble in a little sabotage and intelligence. Basically, we do anything to hinder the German war effort and help the Allies.”
“You are partisans?” Vladimir asked incredulously.
Colonel Hogan smiled. “No, we prefer to think of ourselves as prisoners of war who would get bored without a few diversions to keep us busy,” he told Vladimir.
“But if you doing all this from here, why I don’t see anything since I am here?” asked Vladimir.
Kinch spoke up. “Well Sam, you said you were watching things that were going on since you got here,” he said. Vladimir nodded. “And you didn’t notice anything, right?” Vladimir shook his head. “You see, we have a system in place to keep operating even if we can’t do it from our barracks. Normally we use it if we expect that the Germans have planted a spy among us.”
Vladimir’s eyes grew big. “You thought I was German spy?” he asked incredulously.
Both Kinch and Hogan laughed. “No,” said Colonel Hogan. “We just weren’t sure how you would react to our activities. I asked Kinch to let me know when he and the other men thought you were ready to be told.” Colonel Hogan paused, and smiled at Vladimir. “We would like to know if you would like to join our little band of merry men.”
Vladimir didn’t understand the last phrase, and looked over to Kinch for help. “I’ll explain the reference in that phrase later,” Kinch said. “The Colonel just wants to know if you would like to stay here and join us in our activities, or if you still would like to escape.”
“You mean I can escape if I want to?” Vladimir asked. “What about no escapes from here? Klink will get angry.”
“We can arrange that, if you really want to go,” replied the Colonel. “We’ll just get Klink to transfer you to another camp.” Vladimir felt himself grow pale, but the Colonel continued his statement. “And then when you are on the way, the truck will mysteriously be taken by a band of underground spies. You will be on your way to England, Klink will still have his perfect record, and the Germans will be looking for a local underground group that stole one of their trucks.”
Many thoughts floated through Vladimir’s head. “England? But Colonel, I want to go back to Russia,” he said.
Colonel Hogan sat down at his desk, motioning for the other two men to be seated. “I know, Vladimir. But we don’t have any connections to get you there. You would have to go to England first, and then they can try to get you the rest of the way.” He paused, seeing that Vladimir was lost in thought. “Or you could stay here and help us from here.”
Vladimir looked at the Colonel. He was serious. He really did want Vladimir to stay. “But how can I help?” he asked.
Kinch smiled. It looked like Vladimir was starting to think about the idea. Colonel Hogan responded to the question with one of his own. “Well, what can you do? Can you speak German?” He paused, seeing Vladimir shake his head no. “Okay, what did you do before the war?”
“For generations, my family always make clothing in Moscow. I did that before war started,” he said.
Colonel Hogan looked at Kinch, smiling. “Vladimir, do you think you could make civilian clothes out of old blankets?” he asked. Vladimir noticed that even though his men had been calling him Sam, the Colonel still always called him Vladimir.
“Da – I mean yes, that would not be problem,” he responded.
“Good!” said the Colonel. “So, do you want to stay here and fight the war? Because you don’t know any German, you’ll probably have to stay in camp and help out at this end, but that is just as important as the things we have to do outside of camp.”
“But how you get out of camp?” Vladimir asked.
The Colonel paused before answering. “You will find out, as long as you are staying here. If you are going to escape, I don’t want you to know any more than necessary. You understand the security reasons, don’t you?” Vladimir nodded.
Kinch spoke up. “Sam, stay. Please. I need someone around here that can beat me at chess.” Kinch smiled at Vladimir.
Vladimir laughed. “Then I say, answer is yes,” he said smiling.
Colonel Hogan looked pleased. “Great! Kinch can show you around, and you’ll get the answer to how we get in and out of the camp when we need to. I suspect that you’ll find out some other surprising things as well!” the Colonel said.
Kinch moved to open the door. Newkirk and LeBeau both fell into the room, looking embarrassed. Newkirk stammered, “Um, we were just passing by and though we would drop in.” Newkirk then looked at Kinch and Colonel Hogan. “Well?” he asked.
Kinch laughed. “Quit eavesdropping you two! He’s in the group,” he told the other two men. Vladimir found himself the object of several congratulations as they left the Colonel’s office.
Stalag 13, Barracks 2,
September 2, 1943, 0600 hours
The harsh ringing of the roll call bell roused Vladimir from his sleep. At that moment, Schultz entered the barracks. “Roll call! Everybody raus raus! Come on cockroach, get out of bed.”
Vladimir climbed out of his bunk and headed out to formation with the rest of the men. Another day in Stalag 13 had begun.
Stalag 13, Outside of Barracks 2,
September 2, 1943, 1530 hours
Colonel Hogan sat on a bench outside the barracks, with his arms folded across his chest and hat tilted forward covering his eyes, leaning back against the barracks wall to soak up some of the afternoon sun. Newkirk was washing out a few of his dirty socks, taking advantage of the lack of activity. Carter was perched on the bare dirt, attempting to educate Newkirk to the finer points of the game of baseball.
Carter drew a diamond shape in the dirt with his finger. “Okay, Newkirk, this is called a baseball diamond,” he said. “It’s got bases at all corners. Here’s first base, then second base, then third base. Right here is home plate.”
“Carter, why isn’t it called home base?” Newkirk asked.
“I don’t know,” responded Carter. “It’s just called home plate.”
“Do you eat off of it?” asked Newkirk
“No, you don’t eat off of it,” replied Carter. “Why would you even say that?”
“Well if you don’t eat off of it, it shouldn’t be called a plate,” Newkirk retorted. “It should be called home base. All of the other things are called bases.”
Colonel Hogan lifted his hat up and looked at Newkirk and Carter. “Just what are you two talking about?” he asked.
“I’m trying to teach Newkirk about baseball, Colonel,” Carter responded. “He doesn’t know how to play the game.”
Hogan looked over at Newkirk and was greeted by the face of innocence. Newkirk gave the Colonel an almost imperceptible wink and then said, “That’s right, Colonel. I don’t know anything about the game at all.”
Hogan smiled to himself. Something was going on, but he didn’t know what. The Colonel knew very well that Newkirk knew how to play baseball, because he explained it to him himself, before Carter had been stationed at Stalag 13. “I see,” is all he said in response, and he pulled his hat back down over his eyes.
Carter and Newkirk went back to their baseball discussion. “All right, so it’s home plate.” Newkirk said. “But why is first base over here?” he asked.
Carter sighed. “Because that’s where it is. First base is here,” he said pointing at the spot in the dirt. “Second base is here, and third base is over here.”
“But that’s backwards!” Newkirk exclaimed. “You are going counter-clockwise with your numbers. First should be over here,” he said pointing at the spot in the dirt where Carter had indicated third base.
Hogan smiled inwardly. Ah, baseball, the American pastime. I remember following the games every summer growing up. It was hard to be the only Red Sox fan among all my friends. I took some unmerciful teasing from those Yankee fans. But I wasn’t about to change. The Red Sox were my favorite team, just like they were my father’s favorite. I still remember the time he took me all the way to Boston from Bridgeport to see the Red Sox play in Fenway Park. It was a nice sunny July day with not a cloud in the sky. The grass on the field was freshly cut. The Red Sox were not any good in those days, ever since they sold “the Babe” to the Yankees, but we didn’t care. It was still baseball, and it was still our Red Sox team! I remember that year well. That was the year that the Red Sox traded for Baby Doll Jacobson, from the St. Louis Browns. Not an exceptional player, but who can forget a player with a name of Baby Doll! Hogan pictured the veteran at the plate. When the ball was pitched everyone in the stands rose from their seats cheering. At the crack of the bat, Baby Doll took off and … jumped on a motorcycle and rode towards third base! The ball was rolling around in the outfield, and the outfielders were driving around in cars to try to catch up with the ball. What the…? Hogan jerked awake and realized that he had dozed off. He was surprised when he heard what Carter and Newkirk were arguing about.
“I can’t help it that you English drive on the wrong side of the road!” Carter exclaimed.
Newkirk had stopped his washing. “No, Carter, we drive on the right side of the road. You drive on the wrong side of the road in America,” he said.
“No. You drive on the left side, not the right side,” Carter said stubbornly.
Hogan was irritated, being woken from his nice dream of a day long ago. “All right, hold it down!” he said loudly. Carter and Newkirk stopped. “You two are like children! You start talking about baseball and you end up arguing about who drives on the right side of the road?”
“Well we do drive on the right side of the road Colonel!” Cater exclaimed.
“Carter!” Hogan said in his most parental tone of voice.
Carter looked at the ground, feeling just like he did when being reprimanded by his father. “Sorry, Colonel,” he said.
“Yeah, sorry sir. We just got carried away,” Newkirk chimed in. He saw motion out of the corner of his eyes and glanced in the direction of the main gate. “Colonel, look’s like we’ve got company,” he said pointing at the car entering the camp.
Colonel Hogan looked over. “Kraut General. I wonder who it is?” he said.
“Hey, there’s a woman in the car with him,” Carter noticed.
Instant recognition flooded Colonel Hogan’s mind. “Uh-oh, it’s that crazy Russian, Marya,” he said. “Brace yourselves boys, we could have some trouble here.”
The three men watched the car come to a stop in front of the Kommandant’s office. Klink was in the doorway, swaggering out to meet his important guest. The General emerged from the car, and looked around the camp. He spied Hogan and glared over for a second. Marya followed the General out of the car. She spied Hogan immediately, and much to his embarrassment, she blew him a kiss and waved. They watched the pair follow Klink into his office.
“Come on,” Colonel Hogan said. “We better listen in on this.”
Colonel Hogan entered the barracks, followed by Newkirk and Carter. Kinch looked up from his chess game he was having with Vladimir. He knew something was happening by the purposeful strides his Colonel was taking. “What’s going on, Colonel?” he asked.
“Kraut General just came in. That crazy Russian Marya is with him,” Hogan replied. He ignored LeBeau’s swooning at the mention of the Russian’s name. “Kinch, get out the coffeepot and let’s listen. Vladimir, watch the door in case Schultz gets too nosy.”
Kinch and Vladimir both rose from the table with a “Yes, Colonel” response. Kinch followed Colonel Hogan into his office while Vladimir went to the door and opened it a crack to look out.
Vladimir stood by the cracked door, looking out into the compound in case one of the guards happened by. I wonder what that Russian woman is doing here. Whenever she shows up, we end up having trouble. I’m glad that she doesn’t know I’m in this camp. The Colonel says that she claims to be White Guard, but I think she’s got to be an NKVD agent. If she is NKVD, I don’t want her to know that I am here. Vladimir shivered as he thought about the NKVD. The NKVD had a habit of making things, and people, disappear overnight … literally. Vladimir sighed. I hope her visit is short. And I hope even more that nothing comes of her visit here, but somehow I have a bad feeling about this.
Vladimir heard the bunk rattle behind him, and turned to see Baker emerge from the tunnel.
“What’s going on, Sam?” Baker asked when he saw Vladimir guarding the door.
“A General is in Klink’s office,” Vladimir replied. “And that Russian Marya is here with the General.”
“Uh-oh,” said Baker. “That usually makes for an interesting time.”
Vladimir heard the door to Colonel Hogan’s office open and shut. He and Baker turned to see Carter coming out. Vladimir took another look out the cracked door and saw that Schultz was heading in their direction.
“I came out to see if anyone was coming,” said Carter.
“Yes,” replied Vladimir. “Schultz is on his way right now.”
“Thanks. I’ll go tell the Colonel,” Carter replied and turned to go back to the Colonel’s office.
Vladimir closed the door, and he and Baker scrambled out of the way before Schultz could arrive at the barracks. Colonel Hogan emerged from his office, walking towards the door. He arrived just as Schultz opened the door.
“Colonel Hogan!” Schultz shouted.
“Yes?” Colonel Hogan replied.
“Oh, Colonel Hogan,” Schultz said. “You are wanted immediately in the office of Kommandant Klink by order of General von Rauscher.”
* * * * * * *
Colonel Hogan went to Klink’s office to meet with General von Rauscher and Marya. It seemed that the Colonel was selected to be a witness to a new super weapon that would win the war for Germany. After witnessing the event, he would be sent back home to the United States to inform the Allies of what had happened. The General had also let Colonel Hogan know that Marya more than hinted of Hogan’s involvement in the many sabotage activities around the area. Hogan was instructed to pack his things and be ready to leave camp for the testing facility.
* * * * * * *
Colonel Hogan had packed his things and said goodbye to his men in his office. He emerged to say goodbye to Baker and Vladimir, who had remained in the outer barracks area. He was dismayed to find that Marya had come to the barracks with Schultz. Kinch followed Hogan from the office and watched him walk over to Baker. He looked around to find Vladimir. He was standing over by his bunk and Marya was walking determinedly in his direction.
“You are a member of Colonel Hogan’s team?” she asked. It was more of a statement than a question.
“Yes,” Vladimir said.
Maria raised her eyebrows when she noticed Vladimir’s accent.
“You have an American jacket on, but your uniform underneath does not match,” she said suspiciously.
Vladimir looked down at his uniform. He was still wearing his Red Army uniform with the American flyer’s jacket that he had taken before arriving at Stalag 13. He looked back at Marya and said nothing.
“Vy Russki?” Marya asked, switching to Russian.
After a moment’s hesitation, he answered, “Da.”
Kinch edged closer to hear what was being said. Marya’s is speaking to Sam in Russian. I wonder if that’s because she doesn’t want anyone else to understand. Sam has been teaching me, but I am far from fluent. Hopefully I can at least get an idea what they are saying.
Marya continued her questions. “Kak vas zavut?” she asked.
“Vladimir Ivanovich Minsky,” he responded.
“So what are you doing here in this prison camp?” Marya asked.
Vladimir almost snorted. “I was captured. I am a prisoner. Where else would I be?” he responded sarcastically.
“You will not speak to me in that manner,” she replied harshly. “Do you understand who I am?”
Vladimir felt shaken at the harshness of her response. He had suspected that she was a member of the Narodnyi Komissariat Vnutrennikh Del, the NKVD, before. But now he was sure of it. “Da, Tovarish …,” Vladimir replied meekly, unsure how he should address Marya.
“You may call me Marya,” she said.
“Da, Marya,” he responded meekly. “I believe I know what organization you belong to.”
Marya nodded. “Why haven’t you escaped back to Russia to fight the Germans again?” she asked.
Vladimir straightened himself defiantly. “I am fighting the Germans, right here with Colonel Hogan,” he said.
“You are helping other countries instead of your own rodina?” Marya asked incredulously.
“No,” he responded. “I am fighting the Germans, our common enemy.”
Carter had moved next to Kinch. “I wonder what are they saying Kinch?” he asked.
Kinch turned to Carter. “Quiet, I need to hear this,” he replied. Kinch then turned his attention back to the conversation.
Marya was incensed. “Predatel – Traitor!” she fumed.
Vladimir had to struggle to keep his voice down. ‘Nyet!” he said strongly. “I help weaken the Germans, which helps Russia!”
“While you sit here safe in this camp, your fellow countrymen are dying in battle,” Marya said venomously.
Vladimir knew it was useless, and even dangerous to argue, but he felt compelled to continue. “I don’t just sit here! What I am doing helps shorten the war, and end the killing!”
“That is irrelevant,” Marya countered. “You sit here in Germany while Russians die at home.”
By this time, Hogan had said goodbye to Baker and ventured over next to Kinch. “Can you understand what they’re saying?” he asked.
“A little Colonel,” Kinch responded. He then motioned for his Colonel to be quiet so he could continue listening. The pair of Russians was unaware that they had attracted an audience.
“Izvinite Tovarish Marya,” Vladimir said. “How is it different from what you are doing here?”
“Silence!” Marya hissed. “It is my duty to find predately, such as yourself, outside of my country.”
Vladimir shivered as he realized what she had just told him. “Then you are …” he started to say.
“Da, I am Smert’
Shpionam,” she said.
“This is my duty. You are a soldier; it is not your duty!”
The mention of the Smersh was an unexpected blow. NKVD was bad enough, but the Smersh were even more dangerous. “My duty is to help my rodina,” Vladimir said, his voice wavering a little.
“Your duty is to do what you are told to do!” she yelled back. Just then, Marya became aware that everyone in the barracks was staring at her and Vladimir. “Hogan, darling,” she said in English, regaining her composure. “Just give me a couple of minutes to talk to my fellow Russian here.”
Hogan nodded. “Go ahead, I’m not going anywhere,” he said wryly. He turned to Kinch. “Kinch, keep an ear on this and try to catch what they are saying,” he said. “I don’t trust Marya at all.” Kinch nodded and Hogan moved everyone away, leaving him to continue eavesdropping.
Marya took a breath, trying to compose herself a little more. It wouldn’t do to have Hogan, or worse, General von Rauscher, see her as anything except the charming Russian that she wanted them to see. “Tell me, do you have someone back in Russia waiting for you to come home, Vladimir Ivanovich?” she asked nicely, switching back to Russian.
Vladimir felt himself go cold. Leave my family out of this! Maybe I should tell her a lie. I have no family, so you’ll have to do whatever you want to me. No, that would be bad. They have ways of getting the truth, and if they find that you lie to them once, they assume everything is a lie. That would be worse. “Da, I have a wife and son in Moscow,” he responded.
Marya smiled. Vladimir visibly flinched – it was not a friendly smile. “It would be a shame if something were to happen to them because you didn’t leave this camp and return to Russia to fight,” she said to Vladimir.
With those words, Vladimir’s heart sank. “But Tovarish Marya, what will happen to them?” he asked. His heart was pounding in his chest. No, no, no! This cannot happen!
Marya’s smile never wavered, but her eyes grew ice cold as she stared at Vladimir. “You do as you are told, or you will find out,” she said.
“But I am needed here!” he said. “Colonel Hogan says so.”
Marya felt her composure slipping a little. “You take orders from an American instead of Narodnyi Komissariat Vnutrennikh Del now?” she asked.
Vladimir hung his head in defeat. He knew he had lost this argument. He knew that he could never have won this argument to begin with. “Nyet, Tovarish Marya,” he said with a sigh.
“Then you do as you are ordered,” she said. “Or your semya will pay the price.” With that, Marya turned towards Hogan, once again assuming the persona of the charming Marya that was her cover. “Hogan darling,” she said. “We must go now. It is not good to keep General von Rauscher waiting. The sooner we go, the sooner we can be together.”
“Some incentive,” Hogan muttered to himself. “I have to say goodbye to my men. Why don’t you and Schultz wait outside? I’ll be there in a second.” Hogan walked over to Vladimir, offering his hand. “Vladimir, I enjoyed working with you here.”
Vladimir shook the Colonel’s hand. “I thank you, Colonel Hogan, for the opportunity,” he said.
“You take care of yourself … Sam,” Colonel Hogan said with a big smile.
Vladimir smiled back. “Good luck to you to sir. Do svedanya,” he said. He watched Colonel Hogan open the door of the barracks and step outside, shutting the door behind him. Good luck Colonel Hogan. Good luck to me too. If I stay here, I put my family in danger. If I escape, I put this whole mission in danger. And now Colonel Hogan is going away, most likely for good. I cannot put my family in danger, but I just cannot escape from here and jeopardize my friends’ lives. Vladimir sighed to himself. At times like this, I almost wish I wouldn’t have jumped from that truck right before it was blown up.
* * * * * * *
Colonel Hogan was taken from the camp to the rocket facility. Once there, he found out that he was supposed to witness the sinking of the British ship The Duke of York by a modified V2 rocket that would search it out wherever it was. The modifications to the rocket were made by a Russian scientist. Hogan also found out that the test was the next night at midnight. Major Hochstetter then arrived to take over security and was none too pleased to see Colonel Hogan there.
The next day, Hogan found out that Marya’s real mission was to get the Russian scientist back to Russia. He then formulated a plan to sabotage the rocket in addition to getting the scientist back to Russia. Hogan gave Marya a message for her to radio back to his men in camp.
* * * * * * *
Stalag 13, Barracks 2,
September 3, 1943, 1300 hours
The camp had taken on a somber mood since the Colonel had left camp the day before. Klink and Schultz had also gone, to provide security until Hogan was sent back home. The camp was quiet, almost too quiet, as if waiting for a storm to strike.
The mood was especially tense among Hogan’s men. They had made the arrangements to execute the Colonel’s last order to fold up the operation if something went wrong. Now they had nothing to do but wait. Baker and Kinch had taken turns manning the radio and monitoring the camp switchboard so that they would not be surprised. Secretly, each man hoped that a message would come through from the Colonel that things were fine and he would be returning to camp soon.
It was Kinch’s turn in the radio room, and Vladimir had taken the chessboard down to keep him company while they waited.
Kinch stared across the chessboard at his friend. Sam was really shaken by his conversation with Marya. It’s really bothering him even though he hasn’t said anything about it. His game is really off today. They traded a couple more moves.
“Sam, is there something bothering you?” he asked.
Vladimir looked up from the board, jolted from his thoughts. “What do you mean?” he asked.
Kinch moved his rook. “Checkmate,” he said. “That’s what I mean. Sam, what’s bothering you? Is it Marya?”
Vladimir looked down at the chessboard again and nodded. “Da,” he responded.
Kinch keep looking at his friend. “So what is it?” he asked. “I know that she called you a traitor and I heard her ask you about your family.” Vladimir looked up quickly at Kinch. Kinch noticed this and smiled. “Remember, you’ve been teaching me Russian. And this is a time when it came in handy. So did she threaten you?”
Vladimir nodded again. “Ivan,” he said. “Marya is Narodnyi Komissariat Vnutrennikh Del.” He saw Kinch’s puzzlement and continued. “They are the NKVD, the Soviet secret police.”
Kinch nodded, but still looked puzzled. “Colonel Hogan said she claimed to be a White Russian,” he said.
Vladimir shook his head. “That must be what she tells the Germans to be able to move around so freely,” he replied. “What’s more, she’s in the Smert’ Shpionam, also known as Smersh, which is a part of the secret police that is even more dangerous. She did call me a traitor, and she did threaten to harm my family if I didn’t escape from this camp and return to Russia to fight the Germans.”
“But Sam, you are fighting the Germans here!” Kinch responded.
Vladimir shrugged. “I know, I tried to tell her,” he said. “But she didn’t want to hear that.”
“So who cares,” Kinch replied. “Stay here. What can she do? She’s in Germany too.”
Vladimir sunk in his chair. “No Kinch,” he said. “It’s not that simple. They have the power to make people disappear. When they make threats, you must listen to them. You must not say or do anything that can give them cause. I know. I’ve seen it.”
“What happened?” Kinch asked.
“Well, it happened about six years ago,” Vladimir said. “It was a time when many people disappeared. My wife and I were just married and were living in the kommunalka with my parents, my babushka, and my older sister and her husband and my two nephews.”
Kinch gasped. “That many people in one flat?” he asked incredulously.
“Da,” Vladimir replied. “We all shared a room and shared a kitchen and bathroom with eight other flats. One day, one of the neighbor families was sitting in the kitchen during their evening meal. I overheard the father of the family say something bad about Stalin to his wife, who agreed with him. Two nights later, they came in the middle of the night. The NKVD took them all away that night. We never heard what happened to them. Several days later, another family was moved into the flat.”
Kinch was appalled. “They took them away just for saying something? How did they find out about it?” he asked.
“Every kommunalka would have informers,” Vladimir replied. “You had to be careful what you said and what you did. I have even heard of wives turning in their husbands.”
Kinch shook his head in disbelief. “I can’t imagine living like that,” he said. My father told me stories of when he was growing up. He had to be very careful about what he said or did around the white folks. He told me stories about the lynch mobs that would hunt down poor Colored people. It doesn’t sound so different from what Sam is telling me now. “Marya threatened to have your family taken away?” he asked his friend.
“She threatened, but would not tell me what would happen.” Vladimir replied. “I must assume the worst. And now I don’t know what to do. I cannot let anything happen to my family. I would rather face Gestapo punishment myself rather than let that happen. But I also feel that we are really making a difference here. And I cannot just escape and jeopardize the operation or the lives of all of you, my friends here.”
Kinch reached across the table and rested his hand on his friend’s forearm. “Sam … Vladimir, my friend,” he said. “Whatever we can do for you, we will. All of us.”
“Thank you Ivan,” Vladimir said. “That means a lot to me. But I don’t think I have much choice. Part of me wishes that we would have to shut down our operations, so I do not have to make this decision. If I leave here, I feel that I am not finishing my job. If I stay here, my family will pay the price.”
Just then, the radio crackled to life. Kinch grabbed his headset and a pencil to take a message. Kinch looked at Vladimir and nodded. The message was from Colonel Hogan.
* * * * * * *
With nothing better to do, Baker and LeBeau sat at the table playing cards. Carter had decided to continue Newkirk’s baseball lessons, much to the Englishman’s dismay.
“All right Newkirk,” Carter said. “The pitcher throws the ball and the batter tries to hit it with the bat.”
Newkirk rolled his eyes. “Andrew, do we have to do this again?”
“Yes,” replied Carter. “You want to learn about baseball, don’t you?” Newkirk opened his mouth to reply, but Carter didn’t wait for a response. “Now, if the batter hits the ball and makes it to first base, that’s a single.”
“I could go for that right about now,” Newkirk said with a sigh.
“What?” Carter asked.
“A nice single-malt scotch whiskey,” Newkirk replied.
Next to Newkirk at the table, Baker threw his cards on the table. “Gin!” he said to LeBeau.
“That too,” responded Newkirk. “A nice gin and tonic would hit the spot.” The two men started laughing, with LeBeau joining in. Carter looked at the other men with annoyance.
“Newkirk!” cried Carter. “Can we concentrate on baseball now?”
“I’d rather not,” replied Newkirk.
“But Newkirk, the camp baseball championship game is a couple days away,” said Carter. “Don’t you want to know how to play when you watch me pitch?”
Newkirk sighed. “Carter,” he said. “Now doesn’t seem like a very good time to talk about baseball. The Colonel is gone and may not come back and we might have to close up shop here and leave soon too.” Baker and LeBeau both nodded their agreement.
Carter grew animated. “Come on guys!” he said loudly. “We can’t give up like this! The Colonel will be back. He’ll find a way to ruin the German plans and come back to camp to continue our jobs here. He always finds a way. We won’t be going anywhere until we finish our job here. Sitting around feeling bad isn’t going to help anything!”
Newkirk was surprised. He hadn’t seen his friend this worked up in quite a while. He opened his mouth to try to calm Carter down, but before he could say anything Baker spoke up. “Calm down Carter,” Baker said. “We’re all upset about the situation. And you heard the conversation in Klink’s office – the General knows about our activities. We just have to face the fact that it might really be the end of the operation this time.”
Before Carter could respond, the men heard the bunk rattle open, and Kinch climbed out of the hole followed by Vladimir. Kinch had a piece of paper in his hand as he moved over to the men sitting at the table. “What’s wrong, Kinch?” Baker asked.
“We got a message from Colonel Hogan,” Kinch replied.
Carter gave the others an ‘I told you so’ look. “What does it say?” he asked Kinch.
Kinch sat down at the table and accepted a cup of coffee that Vladimir handed to him. Vladimir refilled the others’ cups as Kinch began to fill them in on the Colonel’s message.
“It turns out that the Germans have a Russian rocket scientist who has been working on a weapon that will hunt out specific targets and destroy them, without advanced knowledge of the target’s location,” Kinch said. A murmur went through the group of men sitting at the table. Kinch continued. “The Colonel is supposed to witness the launch of the rocket and then tell the Allies that the rocket hit what was targeted. And it seems that Marya is here to make sure the Russian scientist is sent back to Russia.”
“See, I knew she was on our side,” LeBeau said.
“Oh Louis, be quiet,” Newkirk responded. “Go ahead Kinch. Tell us the rest. Is the Colonel coming back to camp?”
“I don’t know, Newkirk,” Kinch replied. “The Colonel wants to sabotage the rocket. The snag is that Hochstetter showed up and has taken over security of the rocket. So Colonel Hogan wants us to meet him at 2100 hours, dressed in Gestapo uniforms. We should bring along an officers uniform for the Colonel. He needs me to work on the rocket itself, so Baker, you’ll have to stay here and man the radio.” Baker nodded. “And Sam,” Kinch continued. “Since the Gestapo is there, I don’t think it would be a good idea for you to come along.”
Vladimir at first thought to protest. What better way to show this Marya that he was really taking risks and fighting for his rodina than to go on a dangerous mission where the Gestapo was present? But then he realized that he could not trust Marya, and she might turn him in and jeopardize the mission. So he just nodded back at Kinch.
“Newkirk, are we set for uniforms?” Kinch asked.
Newkirk nodded. “We should be all set. I think we have what we need.”
Kinch smiled at the men. “All right boys,” he said. “This could be our last mission, so let’s make it a good one. Sam, you and Baker be ready in case you have to shut things down here. You two don’t take any chances and stick around here too long if things go wrong.” Vladimir and Baker both nodded their agreement. “All right, so let’s get to it!” Kinch said.
* * * * * * *
The men left the camp and met Colonel Hogan. Hochstetter’s men were lured away from the rocket to be replaced by Hogan’s men. During the diversion, Kinch sabotaged the rocket, setting it to explode on the launch pad rather than take off. The men then returned to camp, leaving Hogan to watch the fireworks.
* * * * * * *
Stalag 13, Tunnels under the camp,
September 3, 1943, 2330 hours
Vladimir watched as the men came down through the tree stump entrance to the tunnels. Kinch was the last man through, and closed the tunnel entrance.
“How did it go?” asked Vladimir.
“Piece of pie,” replied Carter.
Newkirk reached over and gave Carter a swat on the head. “How many times do I have to tell you,” he said. “It’s piece of cake!”
“I keep forgetting,” said Carter. “Besides, I like pie better.” Newkirk rolled his eyes and started to say something.
Kinch stepped in before the camp Laurel and Hardy could get going again. “Everything went smoothly,” he said. “The launch is set for midnight, and the Colonel wasn’t sure what would happen after that.”
“What does that mean?” asked Baker, just coming over from the radio room.
Kinch tried not to show his worry. “With Hochstetter there, there will be some fireworks in addition to the rocket when it blows up,” he replied. “The Colonel will try to work things so that Marya and the scientist can get away and he would be sent back to camp. But he said that if we hear that he’s not coming back, or that something else happened to him, we’re to shut down the operation and get out.”
“I sure hope we don’t have to do that,” said Carter.
“You an’ me both, mate,” answered Newkirk. “That would mean the Colonel is in a mess.”
“Anyway,” started Kinch. “We need to monitor the radio and switchboard to see what comes in. Baker, can you take the first shift? I want to get out of this uniform.”
“Sure Kinch,” replied Baker and headed back towards the radio room.
The men headed off to get out of the Gestapo uniforms they were wearing. Kinch stopped beside Vladimir on his way out. “How are you doing, my friend?” he asked.
“Scared, Kinch,” Vladimir replied. “Marya scares me. I’ve always been scared of what the Germans might do to me, but she can do much more.”
“I don’t understand,” said Kinch.
Vladimir sighed. “You see, unless the Germans take Moscow, they can’t do anything to my family,” he said. “But she has that power. She can harm my family, and I would rather die myself than have anything happen to them.”
Kinch looked at his worried friend. This whole situation is tearing him up. Damn that Marya! How dare she do this to him! “Sam, if there’s anything I can do, all you have to do is ask,” he said.
“Spasibo, Kinch,” Vladimir replied. “You’d best get out of that uniform. You look out of place in that …” Vladimir paused, trying to remember the proper phrase, “… clown suit.”
Kinch smiled broadly. “Yes sir!” he said, laughing as he walked off to change into his regular clothes.
* * * * * * *
The rocket exploded on the launch pad as Hogan planned. Hochstetter, true to form, threatend everyone by yelling “Heads will roll.” Colonel Hogan calmly manipulated him into allowing Zagoskin, the Russian rocket scientist, escape back to Russia to do to their rocket program what he had just done to the German program. Hochstetter then ordered Klink to take Hogan back to Stalag 13.
* * * * * * *
September 4, 1943, 0100 hours
There were no lights on in the barracks, but the men inside could not sleep. They were waiting. Waiting to hear what had happened at the launch site. Each man lost in his own thoughts. The only sounds that could be heard were the normal nighttime camp sounds; the occasional footsteps of the guards patrolling the compound, the occasional whimper from the kennels, and the tiny scampering sounds of the mice running around the floor.
Suddenly a new sound jolted the men up out of their bunks. The bunk covering the tunnel entrance rose up and Baker emerged from below. “Guys, it’s all over,” he whispered. “Schultz just phoned Gruber and said that they were all on their way back. The Colonel will be with them.”
A muffled cheer arose from the men. “Did he say what happened to the rocket?” asked LeBeau.
Baker nudged the side of the bunk, sending the bed sliding back down to cover the hole in the floor. “No,” he replied. “He just said they were on their way back. I guess we’ll find out what happened when the Colonel gets here.”
“Guys, back in your bunks,” whispered Carter, looking through the cracked barracks door into the compound. “Langenscheidt is heading this way!” There was a scramble as the men jumped back into their bunks.
The door opened and Corporal Langenscheidt entered the barracks. “Hello?” he asked cautiously. “Is anyone awake?”
“What is it Corporal?” Newkirk asked through a phony yawn.
“I just thought you would like to know that the Kommandant is on his way back to camp,” the German guard replied.
“Wonderful. The bald eagle of Stalag 13 returns,” Newkirk replied sarcastically. “You woke us up to tell us that?”
“Colonel Hogan is coming with him,” Langenscheidt responded. “I thought you might want to be awake when he gets here. But please, do not turn on the lights. I do not want to get in trouble with the Kommandant.”
“Okay, we won’t,” Kinch said to the guard. “And thanks for telling us.”
“Guten nacht,” said the guard as he left the barracks and closed the door behind him.
* * * * * * *
The staff car entered the compound and drove to a halt outside of the Kommandant’s quarters. Colonel Hogan emerged from the car stretching his arms in the air. The tension of the last couple days was lifted and he could finally relax. Klink got out and told Schultz to take the car to the motor pool, then turned to Hogan. “Colonel Hogan, it’s all over.”
“Yes it is. You know, Colonel, I have to admit, you Germans really know how to put on a good show,” he said smiling. “I really enjoyed the fireworks!”
Klink glared at the American. “It’s that Russian woman,” Klink said tiredly. “Every time she shows up, strange things happen.”
Colonel Hogan laughed. “Colonel, you don’t know the half of it!” he said.
Klink scowled. “Hogan, diiiiiis-missed!” he said and turned to walk into his quarters.
Colonel Hogan chuckled to himself. He started walking towards his barracks. From a distance, he saw that one of the windows was opened, and he knew that his men had been watching for him. He smiled, thinking of the times his parents would wait up for him to return from a date.
When Hogan entered the barracks, he was greeted with congratulations from the men waiting by the door. “All right, hold it down a second,” he said. “It’s not over yet. The rocket is destroyed, but we still have to get Zagoskin back to Russia somehow.”
“But where is he now, mon Colonel,” LeBeau asked. “Is Marya still with him?”
“Yes, Marya is still with him,” Hogan replied. “Both of them are on their way to camp. We’ll get him some German civilian clothes and then Marya will deliver him to her contacts tomorrow night. Kinch, Newkirk?”
“Yes?” both men responded together.
“I need the two of you to go out through the tunnel to meet them. Rendezvous point is the old barn a mile down the Hammelburg road. Get going now. I’d like you there first, just in case. Stay out of sight until you see them and can make sure that they weren’t followed,” he instructed the men.
“Right, Colonel,” Kinch replied.
“Colonel Hogan?” Vladimir asked.
“What is it, Vladimir?” Hogan responded.
“Would it be all right if I went with Kinch instead of Newkirk?” he asked. “Since Zagoskin is Russian, it might ease any worries he has if another Russian was there to meet him. It sounds like he’s been through a lot lately.”
Hogan wasn’t sure this was a good idea. He remembered the confrontation between Vladimir and Marya a couple days ago. “Well, I don’t know,” he said.
Kinch saw the determination on his friend’s face. He knew that Vladimir wanted to show Marya that he really was a part of this team, and would accept the risks. He turned to Hogan and said, “Sam is right, Colonel. I think it would be best if he went to the rendezvous.”
Hogan looked at Kinch. Their eyes met and Kinch gave an almost imperceptible nod. He still had his doubts, but he trusted Kinch’s judgment. “All right, Kinch, you and Vladimir will go. Now everyone go and get things ready down below for our guests. They’ll be staying one night.” One night with Marya in this camp is one night too many! “Kinch, come in my office for a minute so we can go over things again.”
Everyone left to take care of his assigned duties. When Hogan and Kinch were alone inside the Colonel’s office, Hogan turned to Kinch. “Kinch, are you sure about this?” he asked.
Kinch nodded. “Yes, Colonel,” he replied. “I think it would be best if he went this time.”
“Why?” Hogan asked. “Does this have to do with Marya?” Kinch nodded. “What was their conversation about the other day? It got pretty heated at times,” Hogan said.
Kinch sighed. “Yes, it did,” he said. “Marya is an NKVD agent.”
Hogan nodded. “That’s what I always figured,” he said.
Kinch looked at the floor and continued. “Well, she pretty much called him a traitor for staying here as a prisoner instead of trying to get back to Russia.” Kinch looked and saw a glimmer of anger starting to rise in his Colonel’s eyes. “He tried to explain that what we are doing is actually helping the war effort against the Germans, but she didn’t listen to his arguments.”
Hogan waited a second before responding. “And so you think that sending Vladimir on this would change her mind?” he asked.
“I’m not sure,” Kinch replied. “But I can see that Sam thinks it might help, and I saw that he was determined not to be left behind on this.”
“Okay,” said Hogan. “As long as you think there won’t be any trouble. You two head out as soon as you are ready.”
Hogan turned away, thinking that the conversation was over. Kinch cleared his throat. “Um Colonel,” he said. “There’s one more thing.”
Hogan turned around. “What?” he asked.
Kinch paused. I wonder if I should be telling the Colonel that Marya ordered Sam to escape. He’s not going to like it. I don’t think Sam will like it either – he should probably tell the Colonel himself. But I think the Colonel deserves to know because it affects all of us here. Maybe I should talk to Sam first. “Nothing Colonel,” he said. “I’ll tell you when we come back. I’d better get changed if Sam and I are to make it to the rendezvous in time.”
Hogan was skeptical. Something was bothering Kinch, and it showed. He was sure that it had something to do with Vladimir and Marya, but he didn’t want to pry into things right now. “You two get going,” he said to Kinch. “Hopefully you’ll be back before morning roll call.” For a few moments after Kinch left the room, Hogan stared at the doorway. The information that Kinch passed on disturbed him. Damn! Every time that Russian comes around, she stirs up something. I can’t have her upsetting one of my men … no, two of my men. I’ve never seen Kinch this worked up about anything. He’s not telling me something; I’m going to have to talk to him when they get back. I’m also going to have a little talk with Marya before she leaves. Hogan sighed as he stepped out of his office and headed for the tunnel to check on the preparations for their visitors.
Abandoned Barn, 1 mile from Stalag 13
September 4, 1943, 0330 hours
Kinch and Vladimir, clad in black clothes, crouched in the woods at the edge of the clearing. They had already searched the barn and the surrounding woods to make sure the coast was clear. Each man carried a pistol, though they hoped they didn’t have to use it. Pistols were no match for German machine guns. So now they waited.
Since they had nothing better to do while they waited, Kinch decided it was time he had a talk with his friend. “Sam, why did you volunteer to come out here with me?” he whispered.
Vladimir looked at his friend. “Like I told Colonel Hogan, Zagoskin has been through a lot and it would help ease any worries to have another Russian around,” he replied.
“Sam, this is me you are talking to, not Colonel Hogan,” Kinch said quietly. “I know you are here to show Marya that you are not just sitting in camp cowering from the fear of being hurt.”
Vladimir sighed. “You are right, Ivan,” he said. “I should know not to try to keep things from you. You know me too well.” Vladimir paused, and sighed again. “It’s just not fair for her to threaten me when she doesn’t know the whole story of what I do.”
“No, it’s not,” Kinch replied. “What do you plan to do?”
Vladimir paused before answering. “I don’t want to give up on the work we are doing here,” he said. “But I cannot allow any harm to come to my family.”
The men were quiet for a few moments, their ears intent on any sudden sounds of movement in the woods. “You should tell Colonel Hogan the whole story,” Kinch told his friend. “He will understand your dilemma, and may even be able to help.”
“How can he help?” Vladimir asked. “Marya will not listen to him. She will not listen to anyone.”
“I don’t know, my friend,” Kinch replied. “But the Colonel has always found a way to make things turn out right.”
Before Vladimir could respond, they heard some rustling in the woods and some muffled voices. “That’s Russian,” Vladimir said. “They are here.”
“Let’s see what they do,” Kinch said. “We’ll let them go into the barn and then wait out here a minute to see if anyone else shows up.”
They watched Marya and Zagoskin emerge into the clearing near the barn. They stopped and looked around. After a short conversation, the two Russians headed for the barn and went inside slowly. Kinch and Vladimir waited, listening for the sounds of any pursuers. After a minute’s wait, they eased out into the clearing and headed towards the barn themselves, their guns drawn.
Kinch quietly opened the door. The two Russians in the barn were waiting in the shadows. Marya stepped forward when she recognized Kinch.
we’re here. Now what?” she asked, walking towards Kinch.
Vladimir stepped into the barn and shut the door. “The coast is clear, but we shouldn’t stick around here for long,” he said to Kinch.
Marya stopped and looked at Vladimir. “You?” she asked. “What are you doing here?”
Vladimir stared at Marya, trying to control the anger rising within him. “I am here to escort you and Tovarish Zagoskin back to camp,” he said.
Marya’s glare was cold. “So the little timid mouse comes out of his little safe hole in the ground into the dangerous world after all,” she said sarcastically.
Vladimir tensed, his anger almost reaching the boiling point. Kinch put his hand on his friend’s shoulder. “No Sam,” he said quietly. “Let it go.”
At that moment, Zagoskin walked over to the group. “We go where?” he asked.
“We’re going to take you back to Stalag 13 with us to stay for today,” Kinch replied. “Then you and Marya will leave again after dark and begin your journey back to Russia.”
Marya looked at Vladimir. “And you?” she asked in Russian. “What will you do when the night comes?”
Vladimir’s grip tightened on his gun. I’ll be killing you if you do not keep quiet. “Tovarish Marya,” he said. “I will be doing what I feel is the best way to defeat the Germans.” He stared at her with all the hatred he felt at the moment.
Marya stared back, a little surprised. “That’s mighty brave talk for someone with a family back in Moscow.”
Vladimir’s mind flashed with rage. He started to raise the gun towards Marya. “Suka!!” he said through clenched teeth. Kinch reached out to grab his arm.
“Hvatit!”, he yelled. “Enough!” Zagoskin jumped back, startled by the sudden outburst. Marya looked at Kinch sharply. He smiled at her. “Yes Marya, he has been teaching me Russian. I’m not fluent, but I know exactly what you have been saying to him. And if it wouldn’t jeopardize this mission, I would let him do what he was intending to do.”
Marya looked at Vladimir’s gun, now pointing to the ground. Then she looked at Vladimir, who was glaring at her with more hatred than she had seen from anybody in all her years as an agent. Then she looked back at Kinch, studying the tall black man closely. She sensed a quiet confidence in him and knew that this was a man that did not give his friendship freely. She suppressed a shiver, knowing that Kinch meant what he had said – he would have let Vladimir kill her right then and there if they didn’t have a job to do. She looked back at Vladimir, who was still glaring at her. That was not the look of a timid little mouse.
For the first time in a long time, Marya felt like she did not have control of her situation.
“Now Marya,” Kinch said. “We are going to take you both back to camp. We’ll let Colonel Hogan deal with this. If you have any issues with Vladimir, you take them up with him then and there. We do not have time to do it here and now.” He turned to Zagoskin. “Are you ready?” he asked the Russian. Zagoskin nodded, still looking a bit startled. “Then let’s go,” he said, and started for the door.
* * * * * * *
Kinch was leading the group through the woods, taking the shortcut back to camp. Marya and Zagoskin followed, with Vladimir bringing up the rear. Kinch stopped abruptly, holding his hands up for the others to be still. Vladimir scanned the woods to try to locate what Kinch was listening for. They both saw the movement at the same time. “Get down!” Kinch whispered. “There’s a patrol coming.”
Instantly Kinch moved to protect Zagoskin. Vladimir grabbed Marya’s arm and tugged her to the ground.
“Do not touch me!” she protested.
“Zatknis!” Vladimir growled. “And be still.”
Marya lay still on the ground, looking in Vladimir’s direction. She did not like being spoken to so rudely. She watched him scan the woods, gun drawn ready to fire if necessary. No, this was not the look of a timid little mouse. Marya started to think that maybe she had misjudged Vladimir.
The sharp cracking of the underbrush brought Marya’s attention back to the situation at hand. She saw the patrol heading in their direction – four men in Gestapo uniforms. Even though she had been in dangerous situations before, a tinge of fear surged through her.
Vladimir watched the patrol advance through the woods. He also kept an eye on Marya; unsure whether she would be stupid enough to jeopardize their position. As the Gestapo men moved closer to him, it seemed for one scary moment that they were looking and walking right towards them. Suddenly there was a rustling in the underbrush next to Vladimir. The patrol stopped and searched for the source of the sound. Vladimir held his breath and his heart pounded in his chest. He aimed his pistol at the closest Gestapo man, waiting for the action to start.
Suddenly the source of the disturbance appeared. A raccoon ambled out of the brush into a small clear area between the Gestapo and the four allies. The Gestapo guards relaxed when they saw the raccoon. They laughed and talked as they headed out through the woods towards the Hammelburg road.
After the patrol was out of sight, the four of them waited on the ground until they were sure that the Gestapo men wouldn’t come back. Kinch got up and helped Zagoskin to his feet. Marya watched Vladimir stand. Then he surprised her by extending his hand to help her to her feet.
“Spasibo,” she said, looking at him.
Seeing her surprise, Vladimir laughed. “Do not be surprised, Tovarish Marya,” he said. “I am a lot different from what you think.”
Marya nodded. “I see that,” she said. “I’m beginning to think that I may have misjudged you.”
Vladimir laughed. “I never thought I would live to see the day when I would hear a Smersh agent admit making a mistake.”
A small smile appeared on Marya’s face. “Enjoy it, Vladimir Ivanovich. It will probably be the only time you hear it.” She laughed sarcastically to herself. Normally, if she would make a mistake, the person was not around to hear her admit it, she thought.
Kinch turned to the group. “Okay, let’s go,” he said. “We’ve got to be back in camp before roll call.”
The small group resumed their course through the woods, heading back to Stalag 13.
Stalag 13, Tunnels under the camp,
September 4, 1943, 0545 hours
Colonel Hogan met the group when they returned. The moment Marya saw him she was back in character. “Hogan, darling,” she cooed. “Did you miss me?”
Hogan grimaced. “Like I miss a toothache,” he replied.
Marya laughed. “You do not need to play hard to get with me Hogan,” she said. “Is my little French one here?”
Hogan sighed. “Not now Marya,” he answered. “We have roll call in fifteen minutes.” He turned to Kinch and Vladimir. “How did it go?” he asked. “Did you have any problems?”
“Only one Colonel,” Vladimir responded.
“There were two actually,” Kinch corrected. Vladimir glanced at Kinch. “We ran into a Gestapo patrol in the woods on the way back. They seemed to be looking for something, or someone,” said Kinch.
“Oh boy,” Hogan replied. “That’s all we need. What was the other problem?”
Kinch nodded towards Vladimir and Marya. “The one that I was telling you about before leaving,” he said. “We almost had some real trouble.”
Hogan looked from Vladimir to Marya. “We need to have a little talk Marya,” he said.
“But of course, Hogan darling,” she cooed. “Anything for you.”
Vladimir cleared his throat. “Excuse me Colonel,” he said. “But please, this is between Marya and me. I’d like to take care of it.”
“Sam, are you sure?” Kinch asked.
“Ivan … Vanya, please,” Vladimir said. “I’d like to handle this myself.”
Marya watched the interplay between the two friends. She noticed that Vladimir referred to Kinch by the more familiar Vanya rather than Ivan, though it still amused her that the other men, Kinch included, still referred to him as Sam.
“Colonel Hogan,” she said briskly, with none of the cooing of her normal personality. Hogan was a bit surprised at her sudden change of demeanor. “If this is about what I think it’s about, then there is no longer anything to worry about. Tovarish Vladimir and I have worked things out. There is no longer an issue.”
Vladimir stared in disbelief at Marya, unsure if he had heard her correctly. She looked back at him and smiled. “Your job is where you feel you are most useful. You are a part of this team here,” she said to him in Russian.
Hogan looked at the pair with confusion. He didn’t know what had happened to cause the problem, or what had happened to solve the problem, or even what the problem was. And what was worse, he didn’t understand what Marya just said to Vladimir. Kinch smiled broadly, having understood what had just taken place.
Newkirk popped is head down the tunnel entrance. “Five minutes to roll call, Colonel,” he said.
“Thanks Newkirk,” Hogan replied. “Kinch, Vladimir – you two better get cleaned up and get upstairs.” Turning to Marya he said, “We’re going to try to get you out of here tonight. Make sure Zagoskin is comfortable. Someone will be back down here after roll call.”
Slipping back into character, Marya responded, “Hogan darling, make sure you send down my little French friend.”
Hogan rolled his eyes. “Oh brother!” he said.
Stalag 13, Barracks 2,
September 4, 1943, 1000 hours
The morning had gone smoothly. After roll call, Vladimir went back into the tunnels to tend to Zagoskin and talk to Marya. He had to make sure they had proper German civilian clothes for their journey home.
Colonel Hogan was in Klink’s office, trying to see if he could find out if Klink knew the Gestapo was patrolling the woods in the area.
Kinch sat at the table in the barracks playing a game of solitaire. While he dealt the cards, he listened to Carter and Newkirk at the table beside him.
“Okay Newkirk,” said Carter, “Let’s try this again. Who’s playing first base?”
Newkirk looked at Kinch for some help, but Kinch just shrugged. “What? I thought we were talking about second base now,” said a confused Newkirk.
Carter shook his head impatiently. “No, no, no, we haven’t got first base down yet. Now who’s playing first?”
Newkirk sighed, “I don’t know.”
The barracks door opened and Colonel Hogan stepped in. “Hi guys! What’s going on?”
Kinch could barely hide the smirk on his face. “Hi, Colonel. Carter is trying to teach Newkirk what a double play is.”
“Ah, the old Tinkers-to-Evers-to-Chance,” replied the Colonel, expecting everyone to understand the famous baseball reference.
Looking a bit confused, Carter replied, “Sir? What team do they play on in the camp baseball league?”
“Never mind, Carter, just forget I said anything,” muttered the Colonel.
Shrugging off the interruption, Carter continued, “C’mon, Newkirk, you’re not even trying.”
“It’s not my fault that baseball is so complicated!” exclaimed Newkirk. “Why can’t it be easy to understand, like cricket?”
Hogan stifled a laugh. “Cricket? Easy to understand? That’s like saying Klink is a violin virtuoso!” He saw a fleeting look of indignation on Newkirk’s face, so he quickly changed the subject and turned his attention back to Carter. “So, Carter, the camp baseball league championship game is tomorrow and you’re pitching, right?” Carter nodded. “Do you think the Red Sox will beat the Yankees?” he asked.
Kinch looked up from his cards. “Um, Colonel, it’s the Indians playing the Yankees. The Red Sox are out of it.” He felt a little uncomfortable correcting his commanding officer.
Kinch started to say more, but Carter interrupted, “That’s right, Colonel, you know the Red Sox haven’t won anything in months, ever since they traded their best player to the Yankees for some extra Red Cross packages.”
“Oh yeah, that’s right,” Hogan remembered. “What’s his name? Bill? Bruce?”
“No, his name is Bob,” corrected Carter.
“Yeah, that’s him, Corporal Bob Roth,” the Colonel said. “He still plays for the Yankees, right? Isn’t he the one that keeps hitting the home runs out of the camp into the woods? Klink is getting tired of Schultz having to gather all of our baseballs up for us.”
“Old Klink’s just mad because Hochstetter is poking his nose around here again,” LeBeau said, bringing the coffeepot over from the stove.
“After what happened last night, I can’t blame him a bit!” Newkirk said excitedly. He was happy that the conversation was no longer about baseball.
Hogan sensed that Newkirk was glad the subject of the conversation had changed. “I’ll have to admit, I was a bit surprised when Hochstetter let Zagoskin escape back to Russia. Anyway, once we get him out of here tonight, there’s nothing going on for a while except the baseball game tomorrow. This mission will be over, so let’s forget about old Hochstetter.” Then with a quick glance at Newkirk and a twinkle in his eye, he turned to Carter and asked “Carter, how’s your arm feel? You’re pitching for the Indians, right?”
“You got it boy! Um, sir”, said Carter. “It’s going to be a good game too!”
“Yea, good for the Yankees!” teased LeBeau. “I can see it now, Little Deer Who Throws Straight and True pitching for the Indians. We’d better tell Schultz to stand in the woods and be ready to chase all the home run balls that Corporal Roth will hit off Carter!”
“Hey, that’s not fair, LeBeau! I don’t see you out there playing!” cried Carter.
“Of course not! Baseball? Never! Now if it was a football game tomorrow, that would be different.”
“Football?” asked Carter. “You don’t look big enough to play football, LeBeau.”
“Um, Carter, I think he’s talking about what we call soccer,” Kinch corrected.
“Oh,” said Carter. “I see.” But he didn’t see what was so fun about kicking a ball around to try to get it into a big net. Baseball was a more exciting game. “Newkirk, are we ever going to finish this baseball lesson?”
Rolling his eyes, Newkirk moaned, “Aw Carter, do we ‘ave to?”
“Yes. You’re going to learn it if it kills me!” said Carter.
LeBeau leaned over and whispered into Newkirk’s ear. “Now there’s an idea.”
“Okay tell me, who’s playing first base?” continued Carter.
“What? We’re back at first base? I thought we skipped to second base,” said Newkirk looking tired. “We’re never going to get to home base!”
“Home plate, Newkirk. It’s home plate,” corrected Hogan.
“No. We didn’t skip anything. We’ll get to what’s at second base next. Now who’s on first?” asked Carter again.
Newkirk sighed, “I don’t know.”
“Newkirk come on, at least try!” cried an exasperated Carter.
“I think this is where I came in,” muttered Hogan as he got up and headed to his office.
“You know, you two would make a great comedy team,” chided LeBeau. “Who’s on first? What’s on second? I don’t know!” he mocked.
“Be quiet, Louis. The only position you could play would be shortstop!” exclaimed Newkirk.
At the doorway to his office, Hogan stopped and turned back to his men. “Newkirk, I think you finally got it!” Then he shut his office door, leaving his men laughing.
At that moment, Baker rushed into the barracks, out of breath. “Hochstetter just pulled into camp and is heading for Klink’s office. He doesn’t look happy,” he told the men at the table.
“Hochstetter never looks happy,” Newkirk replied. “I think he was born with that scowl on his face. The Colonel is in his office. Come on.”
Newkirk led the way to Colonel Hogan’s office and knocked on the door. When the Colonel said for them to come in, he opened it and everyone filed in. Colonel Hogan looked at the group of men filing into his office. The looks on their face told him that something was happening, and it probably wasn’t good. “What is it?” he asked.
Baker had caught his breath by then, and started to tell the Colonel what he had told the others just seconds before. “Colonel, Hochstetter just arrived and is heading to Klink’s office,” Baker explained. “He doesn’t look too happy.”
“Hochstetter never looks happy,” Hogan replied. “I think he was born with that scowl on his face.” Carter snickered when he heard Hogan say the same thing that Newkirk had said just a moment before. “He’s probably all worked up about that rocket exploding. He’s probably going to threaten Klink a little to have some fun,” Hogan said.
Baker shook his head. “No, Colonel,” he said. “This time he really looks angry.”
Colonel Hogan sighed. Here we go again. There’s never a moment to relax. It’s always one thing after another, and when Hochstetter is involved, it’s usually a few things at once. “All right, I’d better get over there so that Klink doesn’t get browbeaten too much,” he said to his men. “You might as well listen in, the comedy team of Hochstetter and Klink is always good for a few laughs.” He stood, grabbed his jacket and left the room while Kinch was busy getting out the coffeepot.
Stalag 13, Kommandant’s Office,
September 4, 1943, 1015 hours
Major Hochstetter burst through the door to Klink’s office. Klink looked up startled from the paperwork on his desk. Seeing Major Hochstetter, he stood up smiling. “Major Hochstetter, what a pleasant surprise,” he said.
“A surprise, yes,” said Hochstetter. “But my visits here are never pleasant Klink.”
The smile immediately left Klink’s face. “No, not pleasant at all,” he said groveling to the Gestapo officer.
“Klink!” Hochstetter bellowed. “Sit down and shut up. We have a couple of little problems to discuss.”
Immediately Klink sat back down in his chair, nodding his head. “Oh yes sir,” Klink groveled again. “If I can be of any help to you, all you have to do is ask.”
The major growled. “Shut up Klink! I do not ask, I order.”
Klink began nodding his head. “Yes sir, I understand,” he said, still groveling.
Major Hochstetter leaned on Klink’s desk, glaring at the Kommandant. “I’m looking for that Russian lady and the Russian scientist.”
Klink’s eyes grew big. “You mean the ones you let escape back to Russia?” he asked.
“Bah!” screamed the Major. “Klink, I order you to patrol the woods outside …” At that moment, the door burst open and Colonel Hogan entered the room. “Klink, what is this man doing here,” Major Hochstetter growled through clenched teeth.
Klink looked over at Hogan. “Yes, Colonel Hogan, what are you doing here?” he asked.
Colonel Hogan looked at the two men and tried to look as surprised as possible. “I’m sorry, Kommandant,” he said. “I didn’t know you had company.” He looked at the Gestapo Major. “It’s nice of you to stop by for a friendly visit, Major,” he said to Hochstetter.
Hochstetter clenched his teeth tighter. “What is this man doing here?” he growled again.
“You are dismissed, Colonel Hogan,” Klink said. “Major Hochstetter is here on official business. He’s looking for the two Russians from the experimental rocket test.”
Colonel Hogan looked at the Major. “Oh, the ones you let escape?” he asked.
Major Hochstetter exploded. “WHAT IS THIS MAN DOING HERE!” he screamed.
“I just came over to remind the Kommandant that the camp baseball championship game is tomorrow,” Hogan said. “But don’t let me interrupt.”
Major Hochstetter let out a low rumble. “Klink, I order you to patrol the woods outside the camp and look for those Russians,” he said.
“But Major Hochstetter, why would they be around Stalag 13?” Klink protested.
Hochstetter looked directly at Colonel Hogan. “Strange things happen around this camp, Klink,” he said. “I have a feeling that they will turn up in this area.” He watched Hogan for a response. Hogan stared back at the Major with a bland look of amusement.
Klink continued to protest. “I resent the implication that Stalag 13 is responsible for anything strange happening,” he said.
Major Hochstetter smiled. “Resent it all you want,” he said. “Just make sure the woods around the camp are patrolled, or you might become Colonel Hogan’s bunkmate.”
Klink started to respond, but thought better of it and kept his mouth shut. Major Hochstetter reached into his jacket pocket, removing a small notebook. He opened it, glanced at the page and then looked back at Klink. “Our second little problem is this, Klink,” he said. “You have a Russian prisoner here, a Vladimir Ivanovich Minsky. You will turn him over to me.”
Colonel Hogan’s blood went cold. Damn! How did Hochstetter find out about Vladimir? This is not good at all. I can’t let Hochstetter take Vladimir from this camp. But how am I going to prevent that at the moment? Colonel Hogan was startled out of his thoughts by Klink’s voice.
“But Major Hochstetter,” Klink began.
Hochstetter cut him off. “Klink, I will send two of my men with a truck at 2100 hours tonight,” he said. “They will have orders to bring back a prisoner. It is up to you, Klink, to decide whether it will be a Russian prisoner or a German Kommandant.”
Klink just looked at Major Hochstetter without saying anything. Moving away from the wall he was leaning against, Colonel Hogan moved towards the Gestapo Major. “Major Hochstetter, I must protest,” Hogan said.
Major Hochstetter smiled again. It was a humorless smile that froze the Colonel in his tracks. “Go ahead and protest, Hogan,” he said. “If you’d like, you can protest all the way to my headquarters with your Russian ally. Maybe I’ll be able to discover the truth about all the strange things that happen in this area.”
Colonel Hogan clenched his fists, but did not say anything in response.
Major Hochstetter laughed. “What’s the matter, Colonel?” he asked. “I’ve never known you not to have an insolent comeback.”
Colonel Hogan stayed silent. Major Hochstetter laughed again. “2100 hours, Klink,” he said as he walked towards the office door. As he opened the door, he turned back towards Hogan. “Think about it Hogan. The more the merrier,” he said laughing as he slammed the door.
Hogan looked at Klink sitting behind his desk. The Kommandant was frowning, staring at the papers on his desk. “Colonel Klink, you’re not going to let him get away with this, are you?” he asked.
Klink looked up at Hogan, still wearing the frown. “Colonel Hogan,” he said in a monotone. “There is no choice. Schultz will come to the barracks in two hours for the Russian prisoner. You will have until then to say your goodbyes. He will spend the rest of the day in the cooler until Hochstetter’s men arrive to pick him up.” Klink gave Hogan a sloppy salute. “Dismissed, Colonel,” he said as he resumed staring at the papers on his desk.
“But Colonel,” Hogan began. Klink showed no sign of hearing the words. Colonel Hogan turned and left the office.
Stalag 13, Barracks 2,
September 4, 1943, 1045 hours
When Colonel Hogan entered the barracks, he saw his men standing outside of his office door. He looked from man to man, studying the worried look on each of their faces. When he got to Kinch, he stopped. Kinch was staring at him with a determined look on his face.
“We’re not going to let Hochstetter take him, are we, Colonel?” Kinch asked.
Hogan shook his head. “Not if I can help it,” he said. “I just can’t figure out how Hochstetter knew Vladimir was here.”
“Klink?” asked Newkirk.
Hogan shook his head again. “No, I don’t think it was Klink,” he replied. “He was as shocked as I was when Hochstetter read Vladimir’s name.”
“Could Hochstetter have planted a spy in here?” asked Carter.
“It’s possible,” Hogan said. “But we haven’t had any new prisoners arrive in a while. So if Hochstetter does have a spy in here, he’s been busy for a while.”
“What can we do to stop him from taking Sam?” LeBeau asked.
Hogan sighed and walked over to the stove to pour a cup of coffee. “I don’t know,” he said, sipping the strong liquid. Rob old boy, if there’s ever a time to pull a rabbit out of your hat, now’s the time to do it. Think! What can we do to get Hochstetter out of our hair and leave Vladimir alone? He took another sip of the coffee and sighed again. His next chore was not going to be easy. “Where’s Vladimir now?” he asked his men.
Kinch spoke up. “He’s in the tunnel with Marya and Zagoskin,” he said. “I’ll go and let him know what’s happened.” He started towards the tunnel.
As Kinch passed, Hogan put his hand on his shoulder, stopping him. “No Kinch,” he said. “There are some responsibilities that belong on the commander’s shoulders, and this is one of them. I’ll tell him. But I think you all should be there too. We have to figure out what we’re going to do to help our friend out of this mess.” He smiled at his men when he noticed that all of them were nodding their heads with a determined look on their faces. This team will stick together. Whatever Hochstetter has in store for Vladimir, he’s going to have to deal with all of us as well.
* * * * * * *
The men followed Hogan down the bunk entrance to the tunnel and into the larger room where the Russians had been staying. The three Russians looked at the men as they entered the room.
“Hogan, darling. When do we get out of camp?” Marya asked. “This damp tunnel is so depressing.”
“I don’t know,” Hogan replied. “We’ve got some complications. Hochstetter has ordered Klink to patrol the woods around the camp looking for you and Zagoskin.”
Vladimir frowned. “Why would he think they would come here?” he asked. “The route to Russia from the rocket facility is a totally different direction.”
Hogan shrugged. “He’s suspicious of this camp, as usual,” he replied. “And we’ve certainly given him every reason to be.” Hogan paused, thinking how best to tell Vladimir about the more serious complication. “But that’s the least of our worries at the moment.”
“What do you mean, Colonel?” Vladimir responded.
“Somehow, Hochstetter found out that there is a Russian prisoner in this camp by the name of Vladimir Ivanovich Minsky,” Hogan said slowly. As he said it, he noticed that Marya’s head jerked around to look at him, and then quickly looked away.
Hogan cleared his throat before continuing. “And he’s ordered Klink to turn you over to him tonight,” he said. “I’m sorry, Vladimir, but in two hours, Schultz will be by to take you to the cooler to wait for Hochstetter’s men.”
Vladimir was silent. He stared at Colonel Hogan blankly. Then his gaze shifted over to the rest of the men. After a moment, he said, “I’ll die before I let them take me away.”
“We’ll not let it come to that,” Kinch said as he stood next to Vladimir. “We’ll figure out something to do to prevent this.”
Vladimir didn’t hear his friend speak. His mind was swirling with confusion. He thought back to when he was captured; the beatings by the SS men, starving for days before being given a small piece of moldy bread and some dirty drinking water. He remembered the sounds of the screams from the other cells, where the SS were torturing his fellow Comrades. He remembered the American bombs dropping when he was being transported deeper into Germany – for more torture and punishment. Yes, he thought, death would be much better than the treatment that Hochstetter would give him.
Vladimir’s thoughts were interrupted by Hogan’s voice. The Colonel had his back to the rest of the group; his armed folded. He was thinking out loud. “I still don’t understand how Hochstetter knew Vladimir was here,” he said. “It was too specific – he knew his name, not just that there was a Russian prisoner.”
Marya spoke up. “I told him,” she said as she looked over at Vladimir. Vladimir met her eyes, and saw a pained expression as she made her admission. He immediately knew that she was sorry for what she had done. He felt an unlikely sense of satisfaction that he had finally proved to the Smersh agent that he was not the coward that she had thought he was.
When Hogan heard what Marya said, he stopped and turned. “YOU WHAT?” he yelled.
“I told him back at the rocket facility,” she said. “I’m sorry, Vladimir.”
“You’re sorry?” mocked an angry Hogan. “Is that all you can say? You’re sorry?”
Marya finally met Hogan’s angry stare. “What would you have me say, Colonel Hogan?” she asked. “At the time, I had the impression that Tovarish Vladimir was a predatel – a traitor - and a coward, content to spend the war safely away from the heavy fighting. It is my job to take care of predately.”
“And so now you have changed your opinion of him?” Hogan asked, the sarcasm dripping from his voice.
Marya nodded. “Yes Colonel Hogan, I have,” she replied. Turning to Vladimir, she said, “I am truly sorry Tovarish Vladimir.” Vladimir saw the hurt in her eyes and knew that she meant it. He also understood why she had done what she did.
During the exchange between Marya and Hogan, Kinch was staring at the Russian woman, his anger growing with each second that passed. Finally he exploded. “HOW DARE YOU!” he screamed. “Do you know what you have done? What gives you the right to condemn a person to the treatment that Hochstetter will dish out?” Everyone in the room was staring at Kinch. The normally calm sergeant was livid. Nobody had seen him act like this.
Marya met his gaze. Outwardly she remained calm, but she flinched internally at the intensity she saw in Kinch’s eyes. “I am a Smersh agent,” she said. “That gives me the right to take care of Russians who betray their rodina or fail to defend it.” She said the words, but they rang hollow in her ears. She knew she had made a big mistake this time.
“And this time, your traitor turns out not to be what you thought,” Kinch said angrily. “And all you have to say is ‘I’m sorry’ like that will solve everything. But it doesn’t solve ANYTHING.” Kinch took a step towards Marya. It took a split second for Hogan to notice that Kinch was moving towards Marya, and less than that to understand what he meant to do.
Before Hogan could move, he saw Vladimir step in front of Kinch. “Nyet Vanya,” Vladimir said to his friend. “Nyevozvratnoye proshloye – It’s done and it can’t be taken back. There’s nothing to be gained by being angry at the moment.”
Kinch was breathing heavily, his eyes blazing with fury. He was pushing against Vladimir, still trying to get to Marya. “Vanya,” Vladimir said again. “Back in the barn, I wanted to do the same as you do now. You stopped me then, and I’m stopping you now. It’s the right thing.”
Kinch blinked, trying to regain the focus in his eyesight. “But Sam, she told Hochstetter about you,” Kinch said.
Vladimir looked at his friend. “Kinch, I know. But I also know why she did it,” he said. Then Vladimir surprised himself. “I would have probably done the same thing in her shoes,” he said, loud enough for all in the room to hear. Vladimir noticed that Marya was staring at him in surprise.
Kinch was also surprised. “Sam, you can’t be serious,” he said.
Vladimir nodded. “Vanya, you have learned my language well,” he said. “That was easy for me to teach you. But I can’t teach you the Russian heritage and culture.” Vladimir knew that he was talking to everyone in the room, but he focused on his friend Kinch. If anyone needed to understand the situation, it was Kinch. “There is no greater crime than being a traitor to the Rodina. Smersh agents are supposed to eliminate traitors who managed to leave Russia. Marya was doing her job.”
“But …” Kinch started to say.
Vladimir cut him off. “Nyet Vanya,” Vladimir said. “It is no longer a question of why it was done. It is now a question of what will we do about it. I have no desire to go through what Hochstetter would want to do.” Vladimir paused, then taking a deep breath, he continued, “I have always been ready to die during this fight, ever since my country was invaded. I do not wish to die, and I am very scared of dying. But I am even more afraid of the slow, painful death inflicted by the Gestapo.” He paused again, and smiled at his friend. “So now let’s turn our energy towards what will be for me, the most important mission of the war.” Vladimir looked over at Marya and said, “All of us.”
Kinch managed to smile back at his friend. He knew that Vladimir was right. Being angry wouldn’t help them figure out a way to keep Hochstetter from taking Vladimir away.
Finally Colonel Hogan spoke up. “Vladimir is right,” he said. “We’ve got to come up with a plan for this.”
Vladimir cleared his throat. “Colonel,” he said. “When I first got here and wanted to escape, you said that it could be arranged for me to be transferred to another camp.”
Colonel Hogan nodded. “Yes, but it’s a little late for that now,” he said.
“No, Colonel,” Vladimir replied, shaking his head. “Major Hochstetter is my transfer. Let his men take me out of the camp. The other part of that plan was to arrange for the truck to be intercepted on the way to the other camp,” he said, knowing Colonel Hogan would understand the implied meaning.
Colonel Hogan grinned. “Yes, that’s it,” he said snapping his fingers. “We’ll stop the truck, get you out and bring you back here into the tunnels.”
“But Colonel, we’re dealing with the Gestapo here,” said Newkirk. “It’s not going to be as simple as dealing with Klink’s guards.”
“I know Newkirk,” Hogan replied. “But Hochstetter said that only two guards were being sent with the truck. We just have to be convincing enough to get them to stop the truck and then we can overpower them.”
Since the tension in the room was easing, Marya felt she could speak up. “Would you dress up as Gestapo yourselves?” she asked.
“No,” Hogan replied. “Even better.”
“Abwher, Colonel?” Kinch asked.
“Why not?” Hogan responded. “It worked once before. Hochstetter seems to be intimidated by the Abwher, and probably won’t check up on things.”
“Hochstetter is already suspicious of you Colonel,” Kinch replied. “Wouldn’t he assume that you were responsible and come here to check?”
“I wouldn’t put it past him,” Hogan said. “We’ll just have to make sure we give ourselves enough time to get back here and in our bunks before he can get here.” He turned to Vladimir. “I guess you’ll be heading back to Russia after all,” he said, with a glance over at Marya.
“Yes, it does look like I have no choice in the matter now,” Vladimir replied. The men started to file out of the room, confident that they had the beginning of a plan to help their friend, and ready to start implementing it. Now it was time to map out the details of the plan.
“Colonel Hogan,” Marya said. The men stopped and Colonel Hogan looked back at Marya. “I’m going along with you when you intercept the truck.”
Hogan shook his head. “No,” he said. “I think you’ve done enough. We have to do this because of you.”
“And that is why I am going along with you,” she said insistently.
“Marya,” Hogan said, “We are going as an Abwher squad. I don’t think they have any Russians in Abwher.”
“Don’t be so sure of that, Hogan darling,” Marya cooed, slipping into her persona briefly. Then she laughed. “You might be surprised. Anyway, I can help you. You say that Hochstetter is intimidated by the Abwher, but don’t think that he would check with them once he finds out Tovarish Vladimir was taken. Are you sure about that?” she asked.
“He might check,” Hogan responded warily. “What are you getting at?”
“Two things,” she said. “First, you need a way to stop the truck, no?”
“We need a way to stop the truck, yes,” Hogan responded. He was wondering where this was leading and wishing that Marya would hurry up and get to the point.
“What better way to stop a truck than a woman stranded alone on a dark road with a broken automobile?” she said.
“I can think of several,” Hogan replied, though he did have to admit to himself that this was a good way. “But the Gestapo guards might be suspicious of that. It will be late at night.”
“This is true,” she replied. “But I’m confident that a truck driven by men will stop for me.” She smiled at Hogan, and slipping back into character said, “You know what I mean, Hogan darling?”
Colonel Hogan rolled his eyes. “Oh brother,” he sighed. “Yes, I know what you mean, and it might work. But what if it doesn’t?”
Marya smiled again. “How can it fail when the car will be blocking the road? They will have to stop and help me move it so they can pass,” she said.
“OK, so they stop and we take Vladimir,” Hogan said, thinking. “Explain to me what a woman would be doing with an Abwher squad.”
“That is the second thing. Hochstetter will check up,” she said. Then seeing Hogan’s skeptical look, she continued, “This is too important for him. So we have to make sure that when he does call to check up, he calls the right person and hears the right thing.”
At this point Carter spoke up. “Hey Colonel, maybe we could contact …” he started to say. He was silenced by a quick shake of the head from Colonel Hogan.
Marya laughed again. “Ah, you know someone in Abwher,” she said. “Let me guess, would it be a Major Teppel?”
Hogan looked surprised. “Major who?” he asked, trying to look as if he didn’t know the name.
“Come now Hogan darling,” Marya said. “You know Major Teppel, he took several of you to Berlin for ‘interrogation’ not so long ago.” She laughed. “As I said Hogan, you might be surprised. We know about Teppel, and we are pretty sure he knows about our man too. But if I can send one radio message, we can be covered. We just make sure the Gestapo guards know that we were sent by Major Kurt Wagner so that Hochstetter will call him.”
Hogan was surprised. So the Russians have a spy in Abwher too. I’ll have to pass that information along to London and make sure that our friend Major Teppel knows. “What would your man Wagner tell Major Hochstetter when he called? How would Abwher know that the Gestapo was picking him up from Stalag 13 at that time?” Hogan asked.
“Wagner is very good Colonel,” Marya said. “He will make sure that Hochstetter believes that either there is a spy among his men, or his office is bugged. And then at the proper time, Wagner will regretfully inform Major Hochstetter that the Russian prisoner was shot while trying to escape from the truck on the way back to Berlin. He will also be able to explain a woman in Abwher if necessary.”
Hogan rubbed his chin in thought. “It just might work,” he said. “But there’s still the issue of Hochstetter thinking that you would be headed to Stalag 13. If you are seen by his men when we stop the truck, Hochstetter would immediately suspect that was you.”
Marya smiled again. “One more radio message, and Major Hochstetter will get the idea that the Russian known as Marya and the Russian rocket scientist Zagoskin are in the vicinity of Leipzig and appear to be heading east.”
“And the source of this information will be credible to Hochstetter?” Hogan asked, barely hiding his amazement.
Marya just looked at Hogan, smiling. “As I said Colonel, you would be surprised,” she said after a moment.
“But how would someone from Leipzig know to call Hochstetter about you?” he asked.
“The Gestapo in Leipzig will stop and question a pair of suspicious people, apparently Russians, who are carrying a travel authorization signed by Major Hochstetter,” she said. “They will call him to confirm the authorization.”
Colonel Hogan’s eyes grew wide. “But …” he started to say.
Marya pulled a slip of paper from a pocket and waved it at Hogan. “He gave them to us before we left. In fact, I think he is trying to find us so that he can retrieve the authorizations that have his signature on them before someone else stops us and finds them,” she said.
Colonel Hogan started pacing and muttering to himself. His men had seen this before. He was going over all the pros and cons of the idea, letting it work itself out in his mind. He needed to be satisfied that things would work out before going ahead with this plan. After a few minutes, he stopped in front of Vladimir. “Vladimir, you are the one with the most at risk in this,” he said. “This plan is better than any other one I can think of, and we haven’t yet worked out all of the little details, but I’m leaving it up to you to decide.”
Vladimir thought for a second before answering. “Colonel Hogan, you may think it strange that I say this after what has happened, but I trust Tovarish Marya on this,” he said. Then he looked around the room at the men he had been his friends for the past year and a half. “And I have all the confidence in the world in this little band of merry men.” He smiled. “Yes Colonel, I think we should go with this plan.”
The room was buzzing with excitement now that the decision had been made. It even seemed like the tension that had been directed towards Marya had eased since Vladimir had given her his vote of confidence. After a few seconds, Colonel Hogan spoke up. “There are a couple of important things,” he said, getting everyone’s attention. “First, Hochstetter will still come here after he finds out Vladimir has been taken from his men. He might not be able to check with Marya’s Abwher contact until tomorrow. So we need to be prepared for that. He’ll be madder than hell and want to rip the camp apart, so we need to make sure nothing can be found. LeBeau, you take care of that. Spread the word that everyone must be on good behavior tonight.” LeBeau nodded his acknowledgement.
Hogan continued working on the checklist he had in his mind. “Newkirk, we’ll need Abwher uniforms. We still have the ones we used before, right?”
“Yes sir,” Newkirk said. “How many will we need?”
Hogan thought a second. “Four. One officer and three enlisted, for you, Carter and LeBeau.” Hogan saw Kinch begin to protest. “Kinch will be keeping out of sight, ready to take care of the truck if we can’t stop it. He doesn’t need a uniform.” Hogan paused and looked over at Marya. “And Marya, you’re fine the way you are.”
“But of course I am darling,” she purred back, raising a laugh from the men.
Hogan continued on, ignoring her comment. “Carter,” Hogan said, looking at the American sergeant. “We’ll need guns and ammunition. Round up enough for all of us” Carter nodded somberly. Even though he was in a war, and it was his friend’s life, he hated the thought of having to kill another person.
“Baker, assist Marya with her radio transmissions,” Hogan continued. “Marya, we’ll want your man Wagner to be ready with his story tomorrow. He may need to respond tonight if Hochstetter is insistent enough, but I think he’ll concentrate on this camp tonight since he already suspects me of every act of sabotage that’s been committed since the dawn of time. And make sure that Hochstetter gets his call informing him that you and Zagoskin were seen in the area of Leipzig tonight. The call needs to be around the time his men will leave for camp.” Marya and Baker both signaled their acknowledgement. “And Baker, you’re going to have to stay here and mind the store tonight and let us know when they leave camp with Vladimir. And get in touch Oskar. We’ll need a civilian vehicle left at rendezvous point C, and have someone report it stolen by a woman around 2100 hours this evening.”
Then Hogan turned to Kinch and Vladimir. “Kinch, you see to it that Vladimir is ready to go when Schultz comes by. We don’t have a lot of time before then, so make the best of it.” Hogan smiled and met Kinch’s eye. Kinch gave a small nod of thanks when he recognized that his Colonel was giving him the opportunity to spend as much time with Vladimir as possible.
Hogan stopped and took a deep breath. “There,” he said. “Only a few more small details left. And tomorrow we’ll have to figure out how to get our three Russian travelers out of camp.” He looked at Zagoskin, who was sitting off to the side. In all the excitement that had been happening, everyone seemed to have forgotten that the original mission was to return him to Russia. The scientist looked a little dazed and confused by everything that had been going on around him. “Don’t worry, that part is easy,” he said to the Russian scientist, smiling. “We’ve done this many times.”
Stalag 13, Barracks 2,
September 4, 1943, 1400 hours
Klink had been keeping to himself in his office ever since Hochstetter’s visit in the morning. Colonel Hogan had tried to see him, but Helga told him that he had locked the office door and didn’t want to be disturbed. When Schultz arrived to escort Vladimir to the cooler, Klink was with him.
“I’m surprised to see you here, Kommandant,” Hogan said. Then he noticed the disheveled appearance of the German Colonel. “You look like you’ve been through a washing machine wringer.”
Klink nodded absently. “I’m just here to make sure there are no problems,” he said.
As Vladimir moved towards Schultz, he stopped and shook hands will all the men. Even though they knew otherwise, everyone made it look as if Vladimir was leaving for good. Finally, Vladimir stood in front of the Kommandant.
“I’m ready now, sir,” he said pensively.
Colonel Hogan stepped forward. “Colonel, request permission to accompany you to the cooler and stay with Vladimir for a while,” he said to the Kommandant.
“Request denied, Colonel Hogan,” Klink replied.
Colonel Hogan was shocked. “But Kommandant, I protest!” he said forcefully.
Colonel Klink sighed and looked resigned. “Frankly Hogan, I don’t care,” he responded to the amazement of the American. “You’ve had your chance to say goodbye.”
Colonel Hogan was incensed. He had not expected the Kommandant to forbid him from visiting. Vladimir needed to know some of the last minute details of the plan so that he could be prepared when the ambush came. “It’s bad enough that you allow Major Hochstetter to kidnap your prisoners,” he blurted out.
Klink’s eyes snapped. “That’s quite enough!” he said forcefully. “I do not allow, as you so eloquently put it, Major Hochstetter to take my prisoner by choice, Colonel. Maybe in your army you can disobey orders and get away with few harsh penalties. But in Germany, disobedience to the Gestapo invites serious consequences.”
Colonel Hogan was too stunned to reply. He had not seen Klink this upset in quite a while.
“Do you think I don’t know how Major Hochstetter treats his prisoners? Do you think I don’t know how some Germans want to treat Russians? Do you think I’m that ignorant Colonel Hogan? Do you know what would happen if the Gestapo found out that I had falsified his record in the camp files to hide the fact that I have a Russian prisoner?”
Hogan felt his face redden at the rebuke. It was difficult for him to be reprimanded in front of his men.
Having released much of his pent up anger and frustration, the Kommandant softened his tone. “I am truly very sorry that I must release Vladimir to Major Hochstetter’s men. But I have no other choice, and believe me, I have been trying to find one all morning.”
So that’s why he had locked himself in his office all morning. He really didn’t want this to happen. Hogan had recovered enough to speak. I’m sorry, Kommandant,” he said. “I didn’t realize …”
Klink stopped him. “No Hogan, you probably didn’t realize that I am a human being and do have regrets about some of the actions I must take,” he said.
Hogan cringed at the rebuke. He knew it was true. I rarely stop to think about how you feel as the result of my actions. As long as I can get what I want, it doesn’t matter to me. But this is one of my men we’re talking about, and no matter how bad you feel about turning him over to the Gestapo, it’s going to bother me more. Sorry Kommandant, there will be no sympathy from me today.
The Kommandant continued, “You cannot see him before Major Hochstetter’s men arrive, however you have permission to ignore lights out tonight to say goodbye as he leaves,” he said. “But you’ll have to remain by the barracks and will not be able to speak to him.”
“You’re all heart, Kommandant,” Hogan said sarcastically. He stared at Klink for a few seconds then shook his head. “No thank you,” he said. “I don’t think anyone here wants to witness that.” Not to mention the fact that I will be out of camp waiting for those goons to drive by. You may feel resigned to thinking that you have no choice, but I am not going to let this happen.
Everyone stood in the barracks doorway watching as Vladimir walked along with the two Germans towards the cooler.
Stalag 13, Tunnels under the camp,
September 4, 1943, 1410 hours
Hogan was staring at the map of the area around the camp, studying the location where they would stop the truck. Right here at the fork in the road near the camp. One road leads to Hammelburg and the other leads to the main road to Berlin. We can stop the truck at the fork, and then be seen taking the road towards Berlin. If we make the Gestapo men walk to Hammelburg, we should have plenty of time to get back to camp before Hochstetter finds out.
Hogan was studying the map so intently that he did not hear Marya enter the small room in the tunnel. He was startled when she spoke.
“You have found the place for the ambush?” she asked.
He nodded and pointed to the location on the map. Marya studied the map quickly, noticing the fork and the directions in which the roads led. “Yes, a very good choice,” she said. “If we head towards the Berlin road, it would lend credence to our story.” Hogan was impressed at how quickly she had worked that out.
Marya kept looking at the map for a moment. “This is a lot of effort because of my mistake,” she said without looking up.
Hogan looked at her. He knew that he shouldn’t feel sympathetic towards her. It was her mistake that caused this, and one of the men who had been on his team for over a year could pay for this mistake with his life. Yet he felt sincerity in her actions. She wanted to help rescue Vladimir. “Yes it is,” he finally said. “And this mistake can be fatal if we cannot pull this off.”
Marya moved away from the map table and stared at the tunnel wall. “In my job, mistakes are usually fatal, either for someone else or, …” she gave a humorless laugh, “or for me. After which I suppose I won’t make any more mistakes.”
She turned back to Hogan. “But usually the victim of these mistakes would not have the kind of friends that can help correct the mistake,” she said. “This is one mistake that I feel I need to correct.”
Hogan nodded. After a short pause, he said, “You’ll just have to stop making mistakes,” he said.
Marya laughed. “In this job you sometimes have to follow orders, Hogan,” she said. “Even when you know it would be a mistake. The consequences of not following orders …” She trailed off, leaving the sentence unfinished, though Hogan thought he knew what the consequences were.
“So you want to correct this mistake to ease your conscience,” Hogan said.
“Partly,” Marya replied. “But also because Tovarish Vladimir is a good man, and can continue to help Russia fight this war.”
“What will happen to Vladimir once he leaves Stalag 13?” he asked her. “I’ve heard that Russian prisoners are not regarded kindly once they make it back.” Then he added quickly “If they make it back.”
“Don’t worry Colonel,” she replied. “Like you, I am good at what I do. I have a great many connections and will make sure that his work here is recognized.”
Hogan paused. A great many connections – in Abwher, in the Gestapo, and it so seems also back in Russia. She must be a more formidable agent than I originally gave her credit for. “So how is it that you can waltz around Germany in the middle of this war?” he finally asked. “You’re obviously Russian, and you don’t try to hide it. I would think that the Germans wouldn’t trust you.”
Marya chuckled. “I may speak English with an accent, Hogan” she said. “But I speak German flawlessly and have been operating in this country since before Hitler was in power.” Seeing Hogan’s surprise, she continued with a sarcastic tone in her voice, “White Russian in exile, wanting to topple the dreaded Communist regime that stole my county from the Tsars.” She stopped and shook her head. “Believe me, Colonel; I would be dead by now if the story were not credible.”
They were both silent for several moments. “I’ve noticed something else,” he said finally. “You seem to slip in and out of some sort of …” he said, pausing to find the right word. “Personality,” he finally said.
Marya turned to Hogan, wearing a seductive smile on her face. “You mean this, Hogan darling,” she said demurely, walking over to stand next to Hogan.
“Yeah, that’s the one. It reminds me of a dog in heat,” he said with a smirk.
Marya let out a loud laugh. “It should not surprise you to know that I have orders to seduce and sleep with anyone necessary to accomplish my missions,” she said.
“What a tough assignment,” Hogan said sarcastically.
Marya felt an involuntary shudder move down her spine as she remembered some of her encounters. “Yes, Hogan, it sometimes is,” she said in a serious tone.
When she said it, Hogan realized what an unpleasant assignment it could be. He was not adverse to a little seduction of the female agents that had crossed his path since he had been at Stalag 13. And let’s not forget the German civilians, such as Helga and Hilda. Neither of them fell into the category of unpleasant to look at. But then he tried imagining what it would be like if London would order him to seduce someone like Gertrude Linkmeyer. Could he follow through with that? He cringed inwardly thinking that a firing squad would be a better form of punishment.
Marya was watching Hogan as he was thinking. She saw a little wince and laughed. “I see you understand,” she said.
Hogan nodded. “Yes, I can see where it wouldn’t always be pleasant,” he said. “But now what happens after you leave here? Hochstetter would still love to get hold of you. Would it be safe for you to continue operating?”
“It should be safe,” she replied. “Major Wagner will continue to operate. But if pressed by Hochstetter, I am sure that your man Teppel will back him in his story. As I said before, we believe that Teppel knows about Wagner and I think he would be willing to corroborate his story.”
“But we are also prepared if things get out of hand,” she continued. “Major Kurt Wagner in the Abwher can have a fatal accident which would prevent further investigation as to why he sent a squad here.” She saw Hogan’s alarmed glance and continued, “The man will not be killed, only reassigned. It is only the identity that must perish. An agent such as him is too valuable to lose, although none of us are indispensable,” she said smiling grimly.
Hogan smiled back at her. “Yes, I am also aware of that,” he said.
“And as for Hochstetter,” she continued. “I am friendly with men higher up than him,” she said, putting special emphasis on the word ‘friendly,’ and Hogan knew what that implied. “He is not as big a fish as he thinks he is in this German ocean. I can handle him.” She then slipped back into her seductive persona. “And then Hogan darling, we can have many more missions together,” she cooed, wrapping her arms around the surprised American Colonel. “We could become very close.”
Hogan squirmed. “All in the line of duty, I’ll bet,” Hogan responded, struggling against and finally breaking free of her grasp.
Marya laughed and started to leave the room. At the entrance, she stopped and turned to face Hogan. “Hogan darling,” she said seductively. “With you it would be personal. Very personal.” She smiled as she left Hogan standing in the room.
* * * * * * *
Colonel Hogan was still staring at the map a few minutes later when his men arrived. The small room in the tunnel was cramped with everyone inside it. He showed them the spot where the ambush would take place and filled them in on the details of the plan.
When he was sure that they all knew the details, he said, “All right men, it’s almost show time. Kinch, head over to the cooler and fill Vladimir in on the details he needs to know. If I know Klink, he’s probably keeping him in the solitary confinement cell.” Hogan paused, with a twinkle in his eye. “And Kinch … no need to hurry back. We have the time.”
Kinch smiled. “Yes sir!” he said.
As Kinch walked away, Hogan continued, “The rest of you, you know what you have to do. No slip-ups tonight, boys. There’s a lot at stake!” he said.
With that, everyone scattered to perform the preparations that each was assigned. Each man wanted to make sure that this mission went perfectly.
Stalag 13, Solitary confinement cell,
September 4, 1943, 1420 hours
Kinch slowly pushed open the block that covered the entrance to the tunnel from the solitary confinement cell in the cooler. When he poked his head inside, he noticed that Vladimir had been expecting him. Vladimir had his ear to the door and was holding his hand up for Kinch to wait where he was. After a moment, he motioned that it was safe for Kinch to come into the cell. Kinch crawled through the opening and stood up. He left the tunnel entrance open in case he had to make a quick exit.
Vladimir stepped away from the door and walked over to Kinch. “Privyet, Ivan,” he whispered. With the guards outside the door, both men knew that they would have to talk in whispers or risk being overheard.
“Privyet, Sam,” Kinch responded quietly. “I came to fill you in on the plans for tonight, so that you are prepared.” Vladimir nodded and Kinch proceeded to tell him the plans for the ambush.
When he was finished, Kinch looked at his friend. He could see the worry wearing away at Vladimir. His friend looked tired, scared and resigned to what might happen to him. “Are you ready?” he asked.
Vladimir shrugged. “I am as ready as I will ever be,” he responded. “I’m worried about everything that can go wrong. I don’t want to see any of you get hurt.”
“None of us are looking to get hurt, but we cannot let you be taken back to Hochstetter,” Kinch said. “And I think I speak for everyone when I say that we’ll do whatever it takes to make sure that happens.” Kinch paused for a moment, and then continued, “Even Marya seems to be prepared to risk everything on this rescue.”
Vladimir smiled a wry smile. “Atonement for misjudging me,” Vladimir said. “Kinch, do not underestimate the contribution she can make to help. She works for a very resourceful organization.”
Kinch nodded. “After some of her surprises in the planning, I can believe it,” Kinch replied. “She seems to have a lot of connections.”
“Da,” Vladimir replied. “I wouldn’t be surprised if she wouldn’t have tried to use me as one of those connections for information in the future, had I stayed in camp.”
Kinch hadn’t thought of that. I wonder what kind of information she could get from our operation that she couldn’t get elsewhere. It’s not like we are privy to the German General Staff in Berlin. But then again, we do pass information along to London, and they may not be sharing with the Russians. Kinch realized he had been silent for a few moments and finally said, “So what will you do after tonight?”
Vladimir sighed. “I have to leave the camp now,” he replied. Then he said with a small chuckle, “Unless I want to live in the tunnels like a mole for the rest of the war.”
Kinch smiled. He was glad that Vladimir could still make jokes. “I feel like I live in the tunnels sometimes,” he said. Vladimir stifled a laugh as Kinch continued, “Do you know what you’ll do after you leave camp?”
Vladimir shrugged again. “I will be at the mercy of others,” he replied. “My government is not known to look too kindly towards prisoners of war. They feel that you should fight to the death rather than be captured.”
“But you still want to fight,” Kinch replied. It was more of a statement than a question.
Vladimir slowly nodded his head. “Yes, I do,” he said. He paused, trying to think of how to phrase what he wanted to say without offending his friend. “I think that it is hard for Americans to fully understand. You are here, fighting and yes, dying, in this war. But it is different for you. For me, and for Louis, this is more than just a war. This is a fight for our homeland. These barbarians have invaded our countries. If America loses the war, you’ve just lost a war. If my country loses the war, or France loses the war, we’ve lost our country. So it is the duty of every Russian to defend their rodina.”
Kinch thought about what his friend had just said. Finally, he said, “Intellectually, I can see what you are saying. But you are right, I do not fully understand what it’s like to have my country invaded.” He paused, thinking. Finally, he said, “I suppose that if I was fighting an enemy that had invaded my country, I would do whatever I could to defeat that enemy.”
Vladimir nodded. “And you would look very unkindly towards those that either collaborated or treated the situation with indifference or cowardice,” he said.
That thought had not occurred to Kinch. How would he treat a fellow American who wouldn’t fight to defend the United States against a foreign invader? “Do you think that you will be allowed to return to a unit on the front lines on the Eastern Front?” Kinch asked his friend.
“I don’t know,” Vladimir replied. “But I doubt it.”
Kinch couldn’t keep the look of surprise from his face. “Why do you doubt it?” he asked.
Vladimir gave a half-hearted shrug. “As I said, I will be at the mercy of others,” he said. “I could simply be shot because I was captured and spent over a year in a prison camp without attempting to escape.”
Kinch was flabbergasted. “But you stayed here for a reason, and we have hindered the German war effort greatly with what we’ve done,” he countered.
“I know that, and you know that,” Vladimir replied. “But those making the decisions back in Moscow might not believe the truth.” He paused, wondering if the decision makers in the Kremlin actually knew of the operation at Stalag 13. Marya had been involved with Colonel Hogan before, and surely she reported the information to her superiors. “On the other hand,” he continued. “I could be sent to the Gulag as punishment, which is almost as bad.” Vladimir stopped and thought about that. It was not a pleasant alternative to spend several years in the Siberian wasteland in a work camp.
Kinch shook his head. “Doesn’t sound like either option is very pleasant,” he said.
“Nyet. But if I am really lucky, I suppose they can keep me in the military in a support role nowhere near the front,” Vladimir responded. “That would be the best case I could hope for.”
“Let’s hope for the best case then,” Kinch replied.
“Da,” Vladimir said. He looked at Kinch for a second and said, “Vanya, if they are not successful in stopping the truck, please do whatever you can to destroy it.”
Kinch was shocked at the request. “But Sam … Volodya, you will be in that truck,” he said, using the more familiar form of Vladimir’s name for one of the few times since he learned it. “We will be there to get you out of the truck, not to blow it and you to millions of pieces.”
Vladimir kept looking at Kinch. “Yes I know,” he replied. “But if something goes wrong, it is better that I be millions of little pieces than alive and in Gestapo hands.”
Kinch shook his head. “Better to be alive and free than dead,” he said firmly.
Vladimir sighed. “Vanya, if I am kept by the Gestapo, you will have an almost impossible time getting me out,” he said. Seeing Kinch start to reply, he cut him off. “This will not be like the other times. You must trust me on this. I know first hand how those animals treat those of us who they refer to as sub-human.”
Kinch looked back at Vladimir. “Then we will just make sure that you are not kept by the Gestapo,” he said finally.
The two men were silent for several moments. Then Kinch looked over at Vladimir and smiled. “Since we have a few more hours with nothing to do, would you care for a game of chess?” he asked.
Vladimir smiled back. “Da,” he replied.
Vladimir was not surprised when Kinch reached back into the tunnel entrance and pulled out the chess set. He knew Kinch had planned to play a game all along.
As they set up the board on the stone that was the cover to the tunnel entrance, both men were thinking that this would probably be the last game they would share together.
Stalag 13, Barracks 2, Colonel Hogan’s Office
September 4, 1943, 1900 hours
Everyone was already gathered in Colonel Hogan’s office when Kinch opened the door and entered. Kinch looked at everyone and nodded his head. “Sam is ready,” he said. “I’ve filled him in on the details of the plan.”
“Very good,” said Hogan. “Now does everyone know what they are supposed to do?” Everyone nodded as Hogan looked from man to man. He looked at Marya last. “This plan hinges on your people being convincing. Is everything ready?”
Marya smiled briefly before slipping back into her seductive persona. “You still do not trust me, Hogan Darling,” she cooed.
Hogan felt the anger rise in him. He tried to avoid getting too flustered. Tonight was too important for him to be distracted. He opened his mouth to say something to Marya, but before he could speak, she cut him off.
“It is humor, Colonel,” she said. “Being too tense leads to mistakes, and mistakes lead to unsuccessful missions.”
“Exactly,” Hogan responded. “And since we don’t want that to happen, let’s quit playing around and go over this. We don’t have much time.”
Marya looked at the Colonel. Deciding that it would be best not to push him too far, she shrugged slightly. “Hogan, I have been doing this kind of work since before you dreamed up this little operation here,” she said, returning to a normal tone of voice. “I know what is at stake, and I know what I am doing.”
Marya’s tone of voice was neutral, but the rebuke was clear to everyone in the room. For the second time that day, Hogan had been chastised in front of his men. He took a deep breath and let it out. Calmly he said, “All right, let’s start again. Marya, are your people ready with their parts of this operation?”
Marya smiled broadly. “That’s better, Colonel,” she said and then nodded. “Yes, they are ready. Major Wagner, in Berlin, will be ready whenever Hochstetter tries to get in touch. Leipzig will be calling him somewhere around 2100 hours to ask about the travel authorizations with his signature on them.”
A thought came to Hogan. “What if Hochstetter orders them to detain you for him?” he asked. “We never thought of that earlier.”
Marya laughed. “Hogan Darling,” she said teasingly. “I told you, I know what I am doing. You never thought of that earlier, but I did. That was worked out when I communicated with Leipzig. Remember, Colonel, Hochstetter is a small fish. This will not be a problem.”
Hogan was not really convinced of that, but she seemed sure of herself, so he let it go for the moment.
Before Hogan could continue, Marya turned to Baker and said, “Starting at 2130 hours, there will be a message sent on this frequency.” She pulled a scrap of paper from a pocket and handed it to him. “It will be repeated at five minute intervals for thirty minutes. The message will be a single word, either ja or nein. When we get back, I will need to know which word was broadcast.”
Hogan looked puzzled. “Why?” he asked. “What’s this message for?”
“Simple,” she replied. “If the word is nein, then I will have to make a call to one of the big fish to scare away the little fish,” she said. Seeing the puzzled look on Hogan’s face deepen, she continued, “Certain fish do not like to have their lady friends harassed by a small local Gestapo fish, Hogan.”
“Oh, I see,” he said with realization. “If Hochstetter presses Leipzig about you, you have somebody that will press back.”
Marya placed a finger on the side of her nose and looked at Hogan suggestively. “All this and brains too,” she said laughing.
Hogan flushed. Sensing that this was starting to get out of hand, he quickly tried to steer things back to the preparations. “All right, Marya is ready,” he said. Newkirk snorted as he tried hard not to laugh. Marya and LeBeau didn’t even try and were laughing hysterically. Hogan looked around at everyone. Baker was grinning broadly. Even Kinch was trying to suppress a smile. Carter was looking around trying to figure out what was so funny. Then Hogan realized what he just said, and became even more embarrassed. “Come on fellas, you know what I mean,” he said.
The laughs started to die down as everyone in the room nodded. Hogan sighed. Sometimes it’s not easy to be the leader. Maybe Marya was right; this little joke here seems to have loosened up the men. I would rather have had it be at someone else’s expense though. Then Hogan smiled. “All right, now that we’ve all had our fun, let’s continue. As I said, Marya is all set,” he said, looking at Marya and daring her to make another joke. Her face showed nothing, but Hogan could see a twinkle in her eyes.
“Newkirk?” Hogan asked, looking at the Englishman who was still trying to regain his composure.
“Yes, sir,” Newkirk replied. “The uniforms are ready. I even grabbed the masks that we used the last time.”
“Good thinking,” Hogan answered. “Carter, how are we set for armament?”
Carter’s eyes lit up as he started talking about the weapons. “Boy, are we all set,” Carter said enthusiastically, then realized whom he was talking to. “Um, sir,” he added. “Automatic weapons all around. And I was able to find us a few potato mashers in case we need them.”
Hogan blinked. “Um, thanks Carter,” he said. “But we’re trying to stop the truck, not blow it all to pieces.”
When the Colonel said that, Kinch remembered Vladimir’s request in the cooler. He thought about telling him, but decided that it would be best to keep it to himself. That was one option that Kinch did not want to even consider.
Kinch’s thoughts were interrupted when he heard Colonel Hogan speak again. “LeBeau, is everything ready in camp?”
LeBeau nodded. “All the barracks are ready if Hochstetter decides to pay us a visit.”
Hogan smiled. “Good, good,” he said. “Baker, you’ll be here with the handi-talkie. We’ll still be within the mile range for us to use those. We’ll call you when the truck passes us so that you’ll know when to expect them. Radio us back when they leave the camp with Vladimir.”
“Right, Colonel,” Baker replied.
Hogan was satisfied. His men were good, and he was confident that they would pull this off. More important, he could tell that they were also confident that they would pull it off.
“It looks like we’re all ready then,” he said to them all. “One last thing and this is very important. The truck must be stopped. Shoot the tires out if you have to, but whatever it takes, stop that truck.” Everyone nodded. “We want to Germans to make it back to town to tell Hochstetter who took Vladimir,” he continued, pausing to take a breath. “But if something starts, they are expendable, and Vladimir is not.”
The room was silent. After a few moments, Hogan said, “All right, let’s go.” At that, everyone went to leave the office. The show was about to begin.
Hammelburg, Police Headquarters,
September 4, 1943, 2110 hours
Johann Mueller, who owned the shoemaker shop in Hammelburg, walked down the street towards police headquarters. He was to report seeing his car being stolen as he was coming out of the Hofbrau a few minutes ago. He smiled to himself. In reality, Oskar had taken his car earlier in the evening and left it somewhere for Papa Bear to use. He didn’t know what the car was to be used for, and didn’t much care. He knew Papa Bear always had a good reason for the things he did, and tonight he didn’t have to know anything about it.
He stopped in front of police headquarters, going over his story in his mind. He really had just come out of the Hofbrau, so that part was true. There were no people around when he came out, so the story about his car being stolen at that point could not be disputed. The other part was to make sure to say that he saw a woman driving the car away. That part confused him. But, he told himself, Papa Bear has his reasons, and he knows what he is doing.
Taking a deep breath to calm his nerves, he started up the steps into the building, where he proceeded to tell the police about his car.
Hammelburg, Gestapo Headquarters,
September 4, 1943, 2115 hours
Major Wolfgang Hochstetter sat at his desk, going through a list of suspected underground agents. Actually, the list contained people he suspected as members of the underground, and others that he just didn’t like. There was one name he would love to add to the list, for both reasons … Colonel Robert Hogan.
“The most dangerous man in all of Germany,” he muttered to himself. “And he’s protected as a prisoner of war. If only I could get something on him, he would lose that protection, and I can treat him as the spy that I know he is.”
The phone rang sharply. Hochstetter glared at it, as if he was mad at the interruption. He picked up the receiver. “Hallo,” he said sharply. “Major Hochstetter here. Heil Hitler!”
“Heil Hitler, Major,” said a voice in the receiver. Hochstetter heard static on the line, so he knew this was not a local call. “This is Major Josef Freitag from Gestapo headquarters in Leipzig.”
“Yes Major, what can I do for you?” he asked.
“I called to confirm the validity of a couple of travel authorizations that bear your signature,” the voice said. Hochstetter sat up in his chair with anticipation that it was the Russians he had been looking for. The voice continued, “We picked up a man and a woman who seem to be Russian and they had the papers on them. Is it your signature on the papers Major?”
“Well yes, it is my signature, but …” he said. Before he could say anything else, the voice on the phone cut him off.
“Good, since you vouch for their authenticity, we’ll let them go on their way. I’ll not trouble you further. Guten abend, Major.”
Hochstetter heard the phone link click before he could tell Major Freitag to wait. He looked at the receiver for a second and then slammed it back down. “Bah!” he screamed.
He thought about the situation for a moment. He could call back and have them hold the Russians for him. He could send a couple of men to pick them up. That would stop them from traveling around the country with authorizations that he had signed himself.
He picked up the phone. “Get me Gestapo headquarters in Leipzig,” he told the switchboard operator. “I want to talk to Major Freitag.” He returned the receiver back to its cradle to wait for the connection.
In a moment, his phone rang. He picked it up and heard it ring over the line. After a couple of rings, it was picked up. “Hallo, Major Freitag here. Heil Hitler!” the voice said.
“Heil Hitler!” Hochstetter repeated. “Major Freitag, this is Major Hochstetter again.”
“Yes Major, you’ve answered my question to my satisfaction and we have let the Russians go on their way. Is there anything else I can do for you?” the voice said with a slight tone of irritation.
“Well yes,” Hochstetter said. “You cut me off before I could finish answering your question. Those Russians are suspected in an incident of sabotage in this area. I wanted you to detain them for me to pick up.”
The voice was silent for a moment. “So you are telling me that the Russians, who you gave travel authorization to, are suspected saboteurs?”
Hochstetter heard the sarcasm in the statement. “Yes, but when I gave them the authorization, they were not suspects.” Hochstetter winced. He knew how bad that explanation sounded.
“I see,” said the voice on the phone. The line was silent for a time. Then the voice continued, “Are you in the habit of giving travel authorizations to Russians, Major? You are aware that we are fighting the Russians.”
“Yes, I am aware of that,” Hochstetter stammered.
“So what is it you want from me, Major?” the voice asked.
Hochstetter was starting to get angry at the sarcastic tone of Major Freitag. “Send some men out to detain them again. They must not have gone far yet. I will send some men to pick them up,” he said with frustration in his voice.
The voice was silent, which made Hochstetter angrier. “I want to make sure I have this straight, for my daily reports to Berlin,” the voice said calmly. “You want me to detain two people, who seem to be Russian, carrying travel authorizations admittedly signed by you, whom you now suspect of sabotage.” The voice was silent again. “Is that correct, Major Hochstetter?”
Hochstetter realized that if a report like that ever made it to Berlin, life would get difficult for him. The thought made him even angrier. “No Major,” he said through clenched teeth. “Never mind, I will deal with this myself. I am sorry to have bothered you.”
“Not at all, Major,” said the voice. “But if I could give you some advice, in the future, you should be more careful about who you give travel authorizations to. Guten abend, Major.” The line clicked dead.
Hochstetter was incensed at the nerve of that Major, and of the situation. He slammed the receiver down and muttered, “Scheisse!”
So he knew now that the Russians were in Leipzig and no longer near Hammelburg. Maybe they will make it to Russia, he thought. Or maybe they won’t. That thought made him feel a little better.
September 4, 1943, 2115 hours
Hogan’s group was hidden in the woods by the fork in the road waiting for the truck to go by. “Now remember everyone, we speak only in German,” Hogan told the group. “We want them to think we are Abwher.” Everyone nodded their understanding. “And no names or ranks,” he added.
The car was hidden on the other road where it would not be seen. In a moment, a German truck slowly lumbered past. As soon as the truck went by, Hogan motioned to LeBeau to radio Baker and let him know.
LeBeau picked up the handi-talkie. “Little Bo Peep, this is Little Red Riding Hood. Come in please. Over,” he said into the device.
Static crackled from the speaker. “Little Red Riding Hood, this is Little Bo Peep. Go ahead. Over.”
LeBeau spoke again, “Little Bo Peep, the Big Bad Wolf is on his way. Over,”
More static crackled from the speaker. “Roger. Over and out.”
LeBeau pushed the antenna back into place and went to join the others. There was nothing to do now but wait.
Hammelburg, Gestapo Headquarters,
September 4, 1943, 2120 hours
Major Hochstetter was still fuming. He was angry that he did not get the two Russians that he had foolishly let go. “But I’ll soon have the Russian that Klink was trying to hide in his camp,” he said to himself. The thought pleased him. “And he’ll pay for the embarrassment and frustrations that his fellow countrymen have caused me.”
The phone on his desk rang. He picked up the receiver. “Hallo,” he said. “Major Hochstetter here. Heil Hitler!”
“Heil Hitler, Major,” the voice on the line said. “This is Luetnant Heidrick at police headquarters.”
“Guten abend, Luetnant,” Hochstetter said, recognizing the voice. “What can I do for you this evening?”
“We just had a report of a car stolen a few minutes ago outside of the Hofbrau. I just wanted to let you know, in case it turns out to be related to any other suspicious activities you are looking into. The owner saw the thief drive away. He says that it was a woman diving.”
“Danka, Luetnant,” Hochstetter said. “Heil Hitler!”
“Heil Hitler!” the voice said. Then the line clicked dead.
Hochstetter put the receiver back in its cradle and shook his head. “No, it couldn’t be. I just talked to the Gestapo in Leipzig and she was up there,” he muttered to himself. “She couldn’t be in two places at once.”
But Major Hochstetter was still bothered by the thought.
Stalag 13, Barracks 2,
September 4, 1943, 2120 hours
Baker was looking through the periscope built into the sink by the outside wall of the barrack when the Gestapo truck pulled into the compound. He saw the guards at the gate point over to the cooler, and the truck headed in that direction. By the time the truck had stopped, Klink had come out of his office and was heading towards the cooler.
Klink stopped to talk to the Gestapo guards as the got out of the truck. Hochstetter was true to his word; there were two guards. One of the guards reached into the back of the truck and took something out from the inside of the truck. Baker couldn’t tell what it was, but he noticed that Klink became very animated when he saw it. After a few minutes of talking and gesturing, Klink turned and walked into the cooler with the guards following him.
Baker looked at his watch – 2125. Marya’s contact would start broadcasting his message in five minutes. After several minutes, Baker saw Vladimir emerge from the cooler followed by the Gestapo guards. The guards had their guns pointed at Vladimir’s back, and Baker then saw what Klink was so animated about. They had put Vladimir in chains. He had cuffs around his wrists and ankles with chains connecting each cuff together.
When they got to the truck, the guards prodded Vladimir with their guns, indicating for him to climb into the truck. With the chains around his limbs, Vladimir could not manage the climb. This made the guards prod him a little more forcefully. Klink was waving his arms frantically and Baker could tell that he was yelling at the guards. Finally, Klink motioned to Schultz, who was standing nearby and Schultz walked over and helped Vladimir into the truck. One of the Gestapo guards climbed in behind him while the other went around the truck and got in behind the wheel.
The truck started to move towards the gate. Klink returned Schultz’s salute and turned to walk towards his quarters. He didn’t look like a very happy Kommandant.
Baker picked up the handi-talkie. “Little Red Riding Hood, this is Little Bo Peep. Over,” he said.
After a second, he heard the receiver crackle. “Little Bo Peep, this is Little Red Riding Hood. Go ahead. Over.”
“The lamb has been taken by two, repeat two Big Bad Wolves - One in the front, one in the rear. The little lamb is in shackles. Over,” Baker said into the mouthpiece.
* * * * * * *
LeBeau couldn’t believe what he just heard. “Little Bo Peep, please repeat that last sentence. Over,” he said.
“Little Red Riding Hood, I said the lamb is in shackles. Over,” Baker’s voice said through the receiver.
“Thank you, Little Bo Peep. Over and out,” LeBeau replied and turned off the receiver. As he put the radio down, he looked over at Colonel Hogan and said, “Filthy bosche pigs!”
Hogan looked at the little Frenchman. “Easy, LeBeau,” he said. “We don’t have the time to get worked up about it now.”
Hogan motioned over to Carter to get the car moved into place. Kinch was already in position, slightly down the road in case they could not stop the truck for some reason. “All right, Marya,” he said. “It’s time to get down there and stop the truck. We’ll be in the woods on both sides of the road. When the truck stops, we’ll be ready. Try to get the driver out of the truck, it will make it easier.”
Marya nodded and headed towards the car that was now blocking the road before the turnoff towards the Berlin road. Marya could see that the truck would have no choice but to stop. So her main task would be to get the driver out of the truck to help her with the car. If she was lucky, she might be able to manage getting both guards out to help her push the car out of the way.
Everyone was now in position. Off in the distance, Hogan could hear a vehicle slowly coming towards them on the road. It’s show time, he thought to himself.
Stalag 13, Tunnels under the camp,
September 4, 1943, 2145 hours
Baker had the headset on and the radio tuned to the frequency that Marya had given him. He heard the radio crackle, and he started to transcribe the Morse code that he heard being broadcast. It consisted of a single word, being transmitted repeatedly. After fifteen repetitions, the transmission stopped.
Baker smiled as he looked at the fifteen words on the paper in his hand.
September 4, 1943, 2145 hours
The German truck ambled up the road towards the car blocking the way. Marya stood beside the car, waving a flashlight to catch the driver’s attention. Marya made no move as the truck stopped in front of Marya, bathing her in the dim light of the headlights.
“Was ist los? Move that car,” the driver snarled from the truck.
Marya took several steps to the side to better speak to the driver. “I cannot. It will not start,” she said in flawless German. “I was trying to turn around to go back to Hammelburg and the car stopped.”
“That is not my problem,” the guard said. “The car is blocking our way and it must be moved.”
Hogan watched the exchange, ready to make his move when the opportunity presented itself. Though he couldn’t see the rest of his men, he knew that they were doing the same. Come on Marya; make the driver get out of the truck. It will be hard to do this with them in the truck. He was breathing easy, though it was hard with the mask over his face. He was glad Newkirk thought of the masks. He didn’t think it really was necessary, but he didn’t want any possibility of recognition to make Hochstetter more suspicious of him.
Marya had moved another step closer to the driver’s door of the truck. “If I could move it myself, I would have,” Marya said to the driver. “If you could help me move it to the side of the road, you can be on your way.”
A voice from the back of the truck called out, “Hans, was ist los? Why are we stopped?”
The driver didn’t respond immediately. Marya took another step closer to the truck. She was now even with the driver door, but out of the way if he decided to open the door quickly. “If you have another person to help, we can get the car moved easily,” Marya prompted again. “I don’t want to keep you from your business.”
Hogan smiled to himself. Nice touch. Getting both guards out of the truck will make things even easier.
The driver thought about it for a second and then called out to the back of the truck. “Just a helpless fraulein with a stalled car, Franz,” he yelled, getting out of the truck. “Is the prisoner secure so that you can come help me move it?”
The voice from the back of the truck called out again. “Ja, he won’t go anywhere.” In a moment, the guard named Franz was climbing out of the back of the truck and walking towards Hans and Marya.
The guards then moved to the back of the car and started to move it. The guard from the rear of the truck had not set down his weapon, having instead slung it over his back. Hogan could not see a weapon on the other guard. Good, only one weapon to deal with. Maybe this will be easy. Marya hadn’t moved, and was still standing by the driver door of the truck, but Hogan noticed a pistol in her hand where one hadn’t been before.
As the guards moved the car, Hogan and the other men moved quietly out of the woods. When the car was almost completely out of the way, Hogan nodded to Carter and started walking quietly towards Hans and Franz, with Marya tagging alongside and Newkirk and LeBeau behind. As they walked, Hogan could hear the sound of air escaping from the rear tire of the truck as Carter slashed the tire.
At the sound, both guards started to turn around, Franz trying to retrieve his weapon from over his shoulder. They turned to find four weapons pointed at them.
“Drop your weapons on the ground,” Marya said calmly. “No sudden moves, or you will die.”
Hans immediately thrust his hands in the air. “My weapon is in the truck,” he said as Franz took his rifle and placed it on the ground in front of him. Then Franz put his hands in the air as Hans had done.
Hogan motioned to Newkirk and LeBeau and they advanced towards the Germans. Just then, the sound of another tire losing air was heard. In a second Carter came around the truck with his weapon drawn and approached Hogan and Marya. LeBeau picked up the rifle from the ground and put it into the car. Then he and Newkirk checked the Germans for other weapons.
“Did you check on the prisoner?” Hogan asked Carter.
“He’s in the back, but he’s chained to the truck,” Carter replied. “We’ll need the keys from them to release him,” Carter said, motioning towards the Germans.
“Who are you?” Hans asked. “And what do you want from us?”
Hogan looked over at the Gestapo man. Before answering, he told Carter, “Check the truck. Take any weapons and put them in the car.” Carter walked over to the truck and opened the door.
Hogan turned back to the Germans, who were still standing with their hands in the air. “We are from Abwher,” he said. “We don’t want anything from you. We just want your prisoner.”
“Why do you want him? He’s only a lousy Russian,” Hans replied.
Hogan waved his gun in an idle manner. “We in the Abwher do not question Berlin,” he said. “When Major Kurt Wagner gives us orders, we follow them.”
Now Franz decided to speak. “But Major Hochstetter won’t like this,” he said.
Hogan shrugged. “What does that matter to me?” he asked in reply.
“But what will we tell him?” Franz asked.
“Tell him whatever you want,” Hogan replied. He was starting to enjoy this, but he knew that they should hurry up and return to camp. The longer they stayed here, the more chance someone could pass by and interfere. “Now, may I have the keys for the prisoner?” he asked. “Or will I have to try to take them by force?”
Franz immediately brought one hand down towards one of his pockets. Almost as quickly, he froze as every gun was pointed at him. Hogan shook his head at the German. “Nein,” he said. “You tell us where they are, and we’ll get them.”
“In my left pocket,” Franz said. His voice was shaking slightly. Hogan looked at him in the dim moonlight. He couldn’t be very old, and it seemed that this was the first time that he didn’t have the upper hand in a confrontation. I suppose that being in the Gestapo meant that not many people would stand up to you.
Newkirk stepped forward and reached into his pocket, extracting a set of keys.
“Release the prisoner from the truck,” Hogan told him. Newkirk walked towards the back of the truck, and Hogan noticed that Kinch had walked up unnoticed on the other side of the car behind the Germans. “Once we extract the prisoner from your truck, we will be on our way.”
“But you have flattened our tires,” Hans said. “How will we get back to town?”
Hogan smiled beneath his mask, though the Germans couldn’t see it. “It seems that you have two legs,” he said. “I think the most obvious way would be to walk.” Beside him, he heard Marya snort while trying to stifle a laugh.
* * * * * * *
Newkirk walked towards the back of the truck, fumbling with the keys. When he reached the back, he looked in and saw Vladimir sitting chained to a ring in the truck bed.
Newkirk climbed into the truck, pulling down his mask so that Vladimir could see him smiling. When he got to Vladimir, he whispered, “I’ll have out unlocked in a second, Sam.” He then tried the keys until one of them unlocked the chain attached to the truck. “Now one of these others will unlock the shackles,” he told Vladimir.
“It might look better if you leave those on me when you take me away,” Vladimir whispered back.
Newkirk nodded. “You’re right,” he whispered. “So let’s go.” Newkirk put his mask back on while heading to the back of the truck. He jumped out, and helped Vladimir out of the truck.
As they rounded the truck, Newkirk moved behind Vladimir with his gun pointed at his back. “Here he is, sir,” Newkirk said as Hogan turned around to look. “Do it here or wait until later?” he asked.
It took Hogan a split second to realize what Newkirk was suggesting, and he played along with it. “Not here,” he said. “It’s easier to move him if he can still walk.” Hogan turned his attention back to the Germans by the car. By this time, Kinch had gotten into the drivers seat of the car, out of view of the Gestapo guards.
“Are you going to shoot him?” Hans asked. He seemed surprised.
“He is none of your concern now,” Hogan replied. “And I think it is time for you to start walking back to town.” As if to emphasize his point, he unlocked the safety on his gun, making a loud click.
Kinch started the car as the Germans began walking down the road towards town. Newkirk helped Vladimir into the back seat of the car while the rest of them piled in. Once everyone was in, Kinch drove the car through the fork down the other road.
Newkirk was unlocking the shackles that Vladimir had on. “There we go,” he said as the last latch clicked open.
Vladimir rubbed his raw wrists with a handkerchief from his pocked and smiled. “Thank you,” he said to Newkirk. He looked at the handkerchief and noticed a few blood smears on it.
“Leave the chains in the car with the guns that we took from the guards,” Hogan said. “Kinch, this is far enough. Pull over to the side of the road and let’s leave the car here. They will think that we had another vehicle waiting.”
Kinch pulled over to the side of the road. Everyone got out of the car.
“Colonel,” Vladimir said, “now is the time when you must shoot me.”
Everyone stopped dead in his tracks. Colonel Hogan was speechless. He couldn’t believe what he just heard.
Marya started laughing. “He’s right, Hogan darling,” she purred. “We are still close enough that the Gestapo guards will hear the gunshots.” She paused, waiting to see if Hogan understood. When he said nothing, she continued. “After all, you implied back at the truck that you would do it later. This will give the impression that you followed through on that when we transferred to our other vehicle.”
Marya was still smiling. Suddenly it dawned on Hogan what they were saying. But before he could say anything, Marya fired four shots into the air from her pistol. The spent cartridges went flying into the road.
Carter immediately went to pick up the cartridges. “Carter, leave them there,” Hogan said, stopping him. “If they find them, they will be more likely to believe the story.”
Vladimir took out the handkerchief and also threw it on the ground. “This will also help,” he said. “It has blood stains on it. Those bastards put the shackles on so tight that they cut my wrists.”
“All right, let’s get back to camp,” Hogan said looking around at their surroundings. “We’re not out of the woods yet.” Everyone laughed, as they started off through the woods towards camp, careful not to leave a trail that could be followed.
Stalag 13, Barracks 2,
September 4, 1943, 2300 hours
Baker was waiting in the tunnel by the tree stump entrance when they returned to camp. Vladimir was the first one to climb down the wooden ladder into the tunnel. Baker stuck out his hand and said, “Welcome back, Sam.”
Vladimir took his hand and shook it. “Thank you,” he said smiling.
As the rest of the group came down through the entrance, the tunnel became more and more crowded. Colonel Hogan was the last one to enter. When he had closed the tree stump entrance and climbed down the ladder, Baker spoke up. “Obviously I don’t have to ask how things went,” he said.
Hogan had a broad grin on his face. “No, it’s fairly obvious,” he said, looking at Vladimir. “Were there any problems here, Baker?”
Baker shook his head. “No, it was pretty quiet,” he said. “Klink didn’t look very happy when they took Vladimir out of camp, and he went to his quarters right after that. I checked with Zagoskin just a few minutes ago, and he’s asleep.”
Marya spoke up, “Did the message come through on the radio?” she asked Baker.
Baker nodded and handed her the paper that had the transcribed message on it. “Here is the message, word for word,” he said.
Marya took the paper and read it. A big smile appeared on her face, and she handed the paper to Hogan. He read the paper, seeing the word ‘ja’ over and over, and looked up. “So this means that Hochstetter bought the Leipzig story?” he asked.
“Probably,” she said. “But the report of a woman involved in Tovarish Vladimir’s kidnapping, along with the stolen car, will confuse him. Maybe that will keep him off-guard enough until we are gone.”
“Speaking of Hochstetter,” Hogan said, “I think we’d better get ourselves up above and in our bunks in case he comes storming in here.” He paused, and looked at Vladimir. “Welcome back home, Vladimir,” he said smiling.
Vladimir smiled and said, “Thank you.” Then he looked around at everyone in the room. “Thank you all,” he said.
“All right, everyone get cleaned up and get upstairs,” Hogan said, clapping his hands together. “Vladimir, you and Marya better wake up Zagoskin and be prepared. If things turn bad, I want you to be ready to make a run for it out the emergency tunnel.”
“Yes Colonel,” Vladimir replied. Hogan left to change back into his regular uniform and get upstairs.
Vladimir and Marya were alone in the tunnel now while everyone else scrambled to get back to their bunks. “Spasibo, Tovarish Marya,” Vladimir said.
Marya shook her head. “Please, do not thank me,” she said. “I was the one who got you into this mess.”
“True,” he replied. “But you did not have to do as much as you did to get me back.”
“Yes I did, Tovarish Vladimir,” she said. She didn’t say anything more, but simply looked at Vladimir with no expression on her face.
Vladimir looked at Marya. There was something in her eyes that he had a hard time distinguishing. He thought it was a flash of compassion and warmth was peeking out from behind the normally calculating gaze. Finally he nodded. “Da, you are right,” he said. “You did.” He sighed. “But now that I am back here in camp, I cannot stay. I must go back to Russia, but what am I going back to?” he asked.
“Your family,” Marya responded.
“That is not what I mean, Tovarish Marya,” he said. “I think you know what I am talking about.”
Marya nodded. “Da,” she said. “We will talk about that later, Tovarish Vladimir. Right now we should go awaken Zagoskin and get ready ourselves.”
Vladimir followed Marya through the tunnels to the nook where Zagoskin had been staying. He wondered what she meant when she said they would talk later. There was nothing in her voice to indicate whether it would be good or bad, so he couldn’t tell.
Hammelburg, Gestapo Headquarters,
September 5, 1943, 0045 hours
Major Hochstetter had not listened to the entire story of the ambush before he flew into a rage. Now he was pacing the floor, yelling like a crazed animal. Hans and Franz stood at attention in front of the Major’s desk, afraid to move.
“And you just let them take him away?” Hochstetter yelled.
“But sir, we were outnumbered,” Franz stammered.
“You are cowards,” Hochstetter screamed at him. “You should not have stopped to begin with.”
This time it was Hans that answered. “The car was completely blocking the road,” he said apprehensively. “There was no way around it.”
“Bah!” yelled the enraged Major. “That is no excuse!”
“But Major, it was the Abwher,” Hans said. “They said they had orders from a Major Kurt Wagner in Berlin.”
“Their orders mean nothing to me!” Hochstetter ranted. He paused, panting for a few moments. “And what did these Abwher kidnappers look like?” he asked.
“We can’t say,” Franz said. He saw Hochstetter’s face start to redden and before the Major could explode, he quickly added, “They were wearing masks.”
“All but the woman,” added Hans.
Major Hochstetter wheeled around to look at Hans. “Woman? What woman?” he asked.
“The woman that was by the car when we drove up,” Hans said. “She was the only one we saw until we started to move the car out of the way.”
“What did she look like?” he demanded. Hans gave him the description of Marya. Major Hochstetter’s mind was working. No, it can’t be. I got a call from Leipzig saying that they had her up there? I even called back, so I know the call came from Leipzig. But this woman sounds like that Russian woman. Hochstetter’s thoughts were interrupted as Franz spoke again.
“They flattened the tires of the truck and made us walk back to town,” Franz said. “They were going to shoot the prisoner right there, but put him in the car and drove away towards the Berlin road instead.”
“And then we heard several shots from that direction as we were walking,” Hans added.
Hochstetter nodded absentmindedly, only half listening to the two guards explain. “Yes, yes,” he said, waving his hand dismissively. “This is too suspicious,” he said to no one in particular.
“Sir?” said Hans.
“They knew where you would be, and when you would be there,” Hochstetter said. “They also knew that you were carrying a prisoner. How?”
“Sir, I don’t know,” said Hans.
“No, I don’t expect you to,” Hochstetter growled. “You are a fool for letting this happen. Now shut up and let me think.” Hans took the rebuke silently and stared at the floor.
“So this so-called Abwher squad knew the details of this prisoner transport,” he muttered. “The only place they could have gotten that information is from Stalag 13.”
Hans and Franz looked at each other. They had heard Hochstetter rant before about Stalag 13 and the American Colonel Hogan. Franz rolled his eyes. Here we go again, his eyes seemed to say.
Hochstetter stopped pacing in front of the pair. “You say they claimed to have orders from someone?” he asked.
Hans nodded. “Ja, a Major Kurt Wagner,” he responded.
Hochstetter walked around behind his desk. “Well, we can check with Abwher headquarters in Berlin to verify that,” he said, sitting in his chair. “I suspect that there is no Major Kurt Wagner in Abwher and this story is completely false.” He picked up the phone and barked into the handset, “Get me Abwher headquarters in Berlin.” He hung up the handset.
In a moment, the phone rang. Hochstetter picked up the handset and heard the rings over the wire. After several rings, the line clicked and he heard “Hallo.”
“Hallo,” he said. “Is this Abwher headquarters?”
“Who wants to know?” the voice asked dryly.
“This is Major Hochstetter from the Hammelburg Gestapo,” Hochstetter said.
“Good evening, Major,” the voice said. “Or I should say good morning, Major. What can I do for you?”
“Is this Abwher headquarters,” Hochstetter asked again.
“You called me, Major,” the voice said. “It is a little late to be making phone calls if you are not sure where you are calling.”
Major Hochstetter fumed. “I assume that this is Abwher headquarters then,” he said. The voice on the line was silent. Hochstetter continued, “I would like to speak to a Major Kurt Wagner.”
The line crackled with static. “Any particular Major Kurt Wagner, or will any one do?” the voice asked.
Hochstetter was speechless for a second. Before he could respond, the voice on the phone continued, “I am a Major Kurt Wagner, Major Hochstetter. Will I do or should I try to find another one for you to talk to?”
“Are you trying to be funny, Major?” Hochstetter asked through clenched teeth.
Major Wagner laughed over the wire. “It’s just my way of suffering fools,” he said.
“I did not call to be insulted, Major Wagner,” Hochstetter said, barely able to keep the anger from his voice.
“Then maybe you can enlighten me as to the reason why you did call,” Major Wagner said calmly. Hochstetter imagined that the man at the other end of the phone line was smiling as he said that.
“We had an incident with one of our prisoners tonight,” Hochstetter said.
“How nice for you,” Major Wagner said.
Hochstetter ignored the comment and kept talking. “And I was wondering if you would be able to shed some light on things,” he finished.
Major Wagner was silent for a moment, the phone line crackled occasionally with static. “Major Hochstetter, the Abwher is not in the habit of shedding light on things. If you have specific questions, then I suggest that you ask them. If not, then …” Major Wagner let the sentence hang.
Now it was Hochstetter’s turn to be silent. He wanted to tell the Abwher man just what he thought, but he realized that it would not get him the information he needed. “Very well,” he said finally. “This evening when we were transporting a prisoner from Stalag 13 to our headquarters here in Hammelburg, a group claiming to be from the Abwher stopped the truck and took the prisoner. They mentioned your name to my guards.”
The phone line was silent, except for the occasional pops and clicks of the long distance connection.
“Well?” Hochstetter asked testily.
“Well what, Major?” Wagner asked. “I’m still waiting for your question.”
“Do you know anything about this, Major Wagner?” Hochstetter asked.
“Yes Major, I do,” Wagner replied calmly. He was silent again.
Hochstetter waited. When Wagner did not continue, he asked, “And?”
Wagner’s chuckle traveled over the phone line. “And what, Major? You asked if I knew anything about it. I answered your question,” he said.
Hochstetter was getting impatient. “One of the people who stopped the truck was a woman,” Hochstetter said.
“I know that also,” Wagner said.
“A woman whose description is amazingly similar to a Russian woman we are looking for,” Hochstetter countered.
“Ah,” Wagner said. “You would be referring to the White Russian woman named Marya, to whom you provided signed travel documents, along with a Russian rocket scientist who engineered an unsuccessful weapons experiment recently.”
Hochstetter exploded. He was tired of the game Major Wagner was playing. “How do you know this and why did you take my prisoner?” he screamed into the phone. Hans and Franz, who were still standing at attention in front of Hochstetter’s desk, jumped at the fury of the Major.
The phone line was silent.
“I demand to know,” Hochstetter screamed, even louder than before. “How did you get your information?”
“Major Hochstetter, who are you to demand anything from me?” Wagner asked calmly.
“This is the Gestapo you are talking to,” Hochstetter fumed.
“And you are talking to the Abwher, Major,” Wagner replied. “The Abwher deals in intelligence, and does not reveal the sources of that information. You might not understand that, Major Hochstetter, because we both know the Gestapo is not known for its intelligence.”
The insult was not lost on Hochstetter. “I’m warning you …” Hochstetter growled.
Major Wagner cut him off, “No Major, I am warning you,” he said with a dangerous tightness in his voice. “Do not interfere with the activities of the Abwher. A person who allows a Russian scientist who no doubt sabotaged a highly secret and highly valuable rocket experiment to roam free around Germany with a valid travel authorization is already on very shaky ground,” Wagner paused to let the statement sink in.
Hochstetter was silent. He knew the Major was right; Berlin would question that omission from his report. General von Rauscher was the only one mentioned when Hochstetter reported the failure of the test.
“Do I make myself clear, Major?” Wagner asked, his calm voice returning.
“Ja Major, quite clear,” Hochstetter replied tersely.
“Good. The prisoner is no longer your responsibility,” Wagner said. Then he let out a small chuckle, “And I can assure you, Major, this Russian will not be given travel papers and allowed to escape. Heil Hitler, Major Hochstetter.” The line clicked as Major Wagner hung up the phone.
Hochstetter put down the handset. Yes, it is quite clear to me. Somehow Major Wagner knew of my mistake with the Russian scientist. And somehow he knew that I had planned to take the Russian prisoner, Minksy, from Stalag 13. What isn’t clear is how he is getting the information. Could there be an Abwher spy in the Hammelburg Gestapo headquarters? Listening devices? Phone taps? There could be no other explanation, except … Stalag 13 was the only other place where people knew the information that leaked. But who at Stalag 13 would be connected to the Abwher? Hogan? I know Hogan is the cause of the sabotage in the area, but cannot connect him to it yet. He shouldn’t be connected to the Abwher. Klink? Klink is a bumbling idiot.
“Major, are we dismissed?” Hans asked.
Hochstetter looked up at the two guards still standing at attention, intending to motion them away. Yes, I will check this building. The leak could have come from here. But I think it’s time to pay a visit to Stalag 13 to see what I can find at this time of night. The woman tonight sounded like the Russian woman, but everything else indicates that it could not be her. I must find out for sure.
Hochstetter finally spoke to the men. “I want a squad of men and a truck ready in ten minutes. We’re going to pay a visit to Stalag 13,” he said. “But first we will pay a visit to the place where you were stopped and see if we can find anything incriminating. And find some tires for the disabled truck, too.”
Hans and Franz clicked their heels and replied, ”Jawohl, Major!” They turned and left the room.
Major Hochstetter rubbed his hands together. Yes, let’s see if we can find anything incriminating that leads back to Stalag 13. For the first time tonight, he actually felt like smiling.
September 5, 1943, 0145 hours
Hans drove the truck along the Hammelburg road towards Stalag 13. When he reached the disabled truck, he stopped. “This is where they stopped us, Major,” he said.
Hochstetter got out of the truck with a flashlight to look around. “Put those tires in the back of the disabled truck,” he told his men. “We’ll take care of it on the way back to town.”
Hochstetter saw the evidence by the side of the road where the Abwher men had stayed hidden, waiting for the truck, but he did not see anything that might have belonged to the waiting men.
Hochstetter got back in the truck. “Go that way,” he said, pointing down the road leading away from Stalag 13. “I want to see if we can see anything down there.” Hans started the truck and turned down the road that Hochstetter had indicated.
They hadn’t traveled far when they saw the abandoned car in the dim headlights of the truck. “Stop right here,” Hochstetter told Hans, who stopped the truck. Then he called to the back of the truck. “Everybody out of the truck, and be wary of a trap.”
As Hochstetter got out of the truck, the men from the back were jumping out of the truck with their weapons ready, scanning the woods along the side of the road. Hochstetter walked carefully up to the car, with Hans beside him.
“That’s the car that stopped us, sir,” Hans said.
Hochstetter opened the door and pointed the flashlight at the interior. In the back seat, he saw the two guns that his guards had surrendered. He also saw the shackles that were put on the prisoner before he was taken from Stalag 13. He motioned to Hans to pick everything up.
“Major Hochstetter,” Franz said from the road. “Over here.”
Hochstetter turned around and saw Franz picking something white off the road. He walked over. Franz looked at it before handing it to Hochstetter. “It’s a handkerchief,” Franz said. “And it looks like it has blood on it.”
Hochstetter shined the flashlight on the cloth. “Yes, I see,” he said. “It’s probably from the prisoner.” He pointed the light at the ground, scanning the road surface. The light reflected off several shiny objects and Hochstetter pointed. “What’s this?” he asked.
Franz bent down and picked up the object, and another beside it. As Hochstetter moved the light around, Franz picked up two more objects as the flashlight illuminated them. They searched for more objects, not finding anything more.
Franz stood and came back to Hochstetter, holding out his hand. Hochstetter looked at the objects. “Empty casings,” he said. “Looks like they are from a Luger.” He took them from Franz and put them in his pocket.
“What do you think, Major Hochstetter?” Franz asked.
“They could have had another car waiting here,” he said thoughtfully, looking down the road where they would have driven away. Yes, they could have had another car waiting. Or, it could have been someone from around this area, leaving the car here before heading back to their hiding place … possibly Stalag 13. If it were Hogan and his men, they would have walked off through the woods back to camp.
Hochstetter looked around. “I wonder if there is any evidence that they walked off through the woods,” he said to no one in particular.
“No sir,” Hans said. “Not that we can see.”
Hochstetter thought for a few moments. “Everyone back in the truck,” he yelled at the men. “It’s time to pay a visit to our neighborhood Stalag.”
September 5, 1943, 0230 hours
Hochstetter stormed into camp unannounced. The moment the truck came through the gate, it stopped and all the men got out. Hochstetter ordered two guards to stay at the main gate to prevent anyone from entering or leaving the camp. He motioned for Hans and Franz to come with him and sent the rest to patrol the woods outside of the camp.
He then started towards Barracks 2, where he knew that Hogan and his men were housed. He had reached the door, opened it and turned on the lights to much protest from the occupants by the time that Klink had caught up with him.
“Major Hochstetter,” an annoyed Klink said. “What is the meaning of this?”
“Klink, out of my way,” Hochstetter ordered. “I’m going to tear this camp apart tonight.”
“Major Hochstetter!” Klink started to protest.
Hochstetter motioned for him to keep quiet. “My men were stopped not far from this camp tonight by people claiming to be from Abwher,” Hochstetter said. “And the Russian prisoner was taken away. We found the car that they used abandoned nearby as well.”
“You mean you let another Russian escape?” Klink asked.
Hochstetter glared at the Kommandant. “No Klink,” he said. “This one was taken, and I am going to find him. And, I am going to find that Russian woman too!”
At that moment, Hogan came out from his office, rubbing his eyes. He had heard the last of what Hochstetter had told Klink, but didn’t let on. “All right, what’s going on here?” he asked. “You know the rules, lights out means lights out.” He looked around, and acted as if he just noticed the Germans in the room for the first time. “Kommandant, Major Hochstetter. What are you two doing here?”
“Major Hochstetter is looking for Vladimir,” Klink said. “It seems that the Abwher stopped the truck before it got back to town and took Vladimir away.”
“Major Hochstetter, did you lose another Russian?” Hogan smirked.
Hochstetter growled and turned to his men. “Search every inch of this place,” he shouted. “Find anything incriminating against Colonel Hogan and his men. Start with Hogan’s office.”
Klink looked shocked, “Major Hochstetter, I must protest!” he said.
“You do that Klink,” Hochstetter replied. “And while you are doing that, I will be searching.” Hochstetter turned to Hogan. “Colonel Hogan, where were you this evening, around the time my men took this Russian out of this camp?”
Klink started to protest. “Major, I must remind you that no one has ever …”
“Klink!” Hochstetter bellowed. “Shut up.” He turned back to Hogan again. “Well Hogan?”
“I was right here with my men,” Hogan replied. “Where else would I be?”
“You could have been on the Hammelburg road with that Russian woman taking the Russian prisoner from my guards,” Hochstetter said.
Hogan laughed. “You really do have a good imagination, Major,” he said.
Hans and Franz came out of Hogan’s office and shook their heads at Major Hochstetter. “Search out here,” Hochstetter demanded. He looked at Schultz, standing near the door. “You count the prisoners and see if they are all here,” he told Schultz. “Or if there is one extra,” he added.
Hogan looked around the barracks. He noticed that Newkirk had moved to sit on the bunk that served as the tunnel entrance. Good move Newkirk. We don’t want them to get too thorough in their search and find things they shouldn’t.
Hans and Franz went through the barracks, pulling mattresses off the bunks and looking underneath. Schultz was counting the prisoners, who were doing their best to confuse the poor sergeant.
When Hans came to the bunk that Newkirk was sitting on, he ordered him up. “You, move,” he said angrily. “I am going to look here now.”
Newkirk smiled. “I’d rather you didn’t,” he said.
Major Hochstetter saw what was going on and came over. “And why don’t you want to get up from that bunk?” he asked. “Are you possibly hiding something there that you don’t want me to find?”
“It’s rather personal, Major Hochstetter,” Newkirk said softly.
Hochstetter motioned for Hans to remove Newkirk. Hans grabbed his arm and yanked him off the bunk.
Both Klink and Hogan reacted simultaneously. “Major Hochstetter!” the both yelled.
Hochstetter ignored the protest and pulled the mattress from the bunk. Under the mattress, he saw some paper and picked it up. “What is this?” he asked. He looked at the paper and saw a pinup poster of Betty Grable.
Hogan peered over his shoulder at the poster. “I’ve been in this place for so long that I can’t be sure, but I think that’s what they call a woman, Major Hochstetter,” Hogan said smiling.
Schultz looked at the poster. “Yes, that’s what it is, it’s a woman,” he said. The men in the barracks laughed.
“I know that,” Hochstetter shouted. “What is this doing under the bunk?”
Newkirk stepped forward. “Pardon me Major,” he said, wringing his hat in his hands. “You see, the Kommandant won’t let us have the real thing in here, so I wanted to keep a picture so that I wouldn’t forget what one looked like when the war is over.”
Hochstetter looked at the Englander in surprise. “Bah!” he yelled.
Hogan was laughing. “Well Major, it looks like you found your woman after all!” he said.
“This?” Hochstetter said. “I have no use for this!”
“If you don’t want it, Major Hochstetter, could I have it?” Schultz asked.
Hochstetter threw the posted on the floor and started walking towards the door. He motioned for his men to follow. “Come with me,” he said. “We’re going to search the other barracks.”
“Schultz,” Klink said. “Go with the Major and make sure there is no trouble. I am going to call General Burkhalter about this.”
Hogan stepped up to Klink. “Request permission to accompany Schultz. I want to make sure my men are not harmed.”
Klink nodded dismissively. “Yes, yes,” he said. “Go ahead.” Then he turned and left the barracks, heading to his office to make his phone call.
Hogan looked at his men and motioned for them to stay put, but to be ready. Then he and Schultz hurried out of the barracks to catch up with Major Hochstetter.
Stalag 13, Barracks 2
September 5, 1943, 0430 hours
Hogan was back in his barracks, sitting at the table with his men. Hochstetter had searched the camp and found nothing. The frustrated Major had gone back to Hammelburg, but left his men patrolling the woods outside of the camp.
“So what will we do now, Colonel?” Kinch asked. “With Hochstetter’s goons in the woods, we can’t use the tunnel to get the Russians out of the camp.”
“I know, Kinch,” Hogan replied. “We’ll have to find some other way.”
“Could they stay down there until things calm down?” LeBeau asked, bringing over the coffee pot from the stove.
“The longer they are here, the more dangerous it gets,” Hogan replied, pouring coffee into his cup. “And besides, Marya says that she has to get Zagoskin back to Moscow soon.”
“So we have a real sticky wicket here,” Newkirk said.
Hogan nodded. “And it seems to be getting stickier all the time,” he said.
Carter yawned. “I’m going to bed, Colonel,” he said. “I’m dog tired and I have to pitch in the baseball game tomorrow.”
“You mean today,” Kinch corrected.
Before Carter could respond, Hogan slapped his hand on the table. “That’s it!” he said. “Carter, what a great idea!” Carter looked confused.
The men at the table jumped when Hogan slapped the table. Like Carter, they were all half asleep too. “What is it, Colonel?” Kinch asked.
“Tomorrow is the day when Oskar comes to change the dogs,” Hogan replied. “We’ll send them out in the truck.”
“But he comes at 1400 hours tomorrow,” LeBeau said. “It’s daylight then. It will be hard to get them into the truck.”
“I know,” he said. “We need a diversion to get everyone’s attention away from the kennel.”
“What kind of diversion?” Kinch asked.
“Carter came up with the answer to that one as well,” Hogan said.
“I did?” Carter asked, still confused.
“Yes,” Hogan replied. “The baseball game is tomorrow. That will be our diversion. Carter, I want to see you and that player from the opposing team, Corporal Roth, at 1200 hours to go over the plan.”
“What plan?” Newkirk asked.
“I’ll go over it at 1200 hours,” Hogan replied. “Right now, everyone get some sleep, we’ve got a long day tomorrow.” Hogan looked at Kinch. “Kinch, come with me. I’m going to inform Vladimir and Marya about the plan. I need you to try to get in touch with Oskar and let him know that he’ll have three extra packages tomorrow.”
“Right, Colonel,” Kinch replied, as he followed Hogan to the tunnel entrance.
Hammelburg, Gestapo Headquarters,
September 5, 1943, 0600 hours
Major Hochstetter had just returned to his office. It had taken a while to fix the tires on the disabled truck. As he sat down, the phone rang. “Hallo,” he said. “Major Hochstetter here. Heil Hitler!”
”Heil Hitler, Major. This is Major Wagner in Berlin,” the calm voice said.
Hochstetter was annoyed. Major Wagner was the last person he wanted to talk to at this moment. Actually, he didn’t want to talk to anybody at this moment. “Did you call back to insult me again, Major?” he asked testily.
A laugh came through the phone line. “While that would amuse me for a little while, Major, I do like to have a little bit of a challenge every once and a while.” Wagner said.
Hochstetter muttered something under his breath. Wagner laughed again. “Major, while I can understand your frustration, I assure you that my parents were legitimately married when I was born.”
“Major Wagner, I do not have time for this small talk. Did you call for any special reason?” Hochstetter said.
“Yes I did, Major,” Wagner said. “I just called to inform you that I just received the report from the team that accepted delivery of the prisoner from Stalag 13.”
“You mean that stole the prisoner from me, don’t you Major?” Hochstetter queried.
“Let’s not quibble over terms,” Wagner said. “I just thought you might want to know that the report indicated that the prisoner was killed while trying to escape.”
“Is the report credible?” Hochstetter asked.
“I trust my men, Major,” Wagner replied. “And my women. Of course it is credible.”
“I was told that your men wanted to shoot the prisoner as soon as they took him,” Hochstetter said. “I found empty shell casings from a Luger and a bloody handkerchief near the car your men abandoned. I also found the shackles from the prisoner in the car.”
“It is hard to escape wearing shackles, Major,” Wagner said.
“Are you sure he was killed trying to escape?” Hochstetter asked.
Wagner made a dismissive sound. “It really doesn’t matter to me one way or another,” Wagner said. “It just means that there is one less person to make trouble in this country. Until we meet again, Major Hochstetter. Heil Hitler.”
The line went dead before Hochstetter could reply. Yes, Major Wagner. Until we meet again. Next time I might decide that you are too much trouble and do something about you.
Stalag 13, Tunnels under the camp,
September 5, 1943, 0900 hours
Marya sat with Vladimir and Zagoskin in the small room of the tunnel system under the camp where they had been staying while everything had been happening. Marya was briefing the two on the escape plan to get back to Russia.
“Hogan says we will be leaving camp this afternoon in the dog truck,” Marya said. Vladimir nodded, familiar with the procedure.
“Won’t the dogs in the truck attack us?” Zagoskin asked.
Vladimir shook his head. “Nyet,” he said. “Oskar trains the dogs to be hostile towards the Germans, but not to attack the prisoners.”
Zagoskin looked at him in surprise. “But wouldn’t the Germans catch on after a while?” he asked.
Vladimir shook his head again. “Nyet,” he replied. “The guards don’t want to go near the dogs if possible, and we know the commands to have the dogs growl and bark at us when necessary.”
Zagoskin shook his head in disbelief. “Unbelievable,” he whispered.
Vladimir turned his attention to Marya. “What happens after we leave camp?” he asked her.
“We will leave Oskar’s house as soon as possible,” she said. “The longer we are there, the more danger he is in. I don’t want to take a chance of Hochstetter finding out about his connection to Stalag 13.”
Vladimir nodded. “Da,” he said. “That would be bad for Colonel Hogan’s operation.”
Marya looked at Vladimir. “Colonel Hogan’s operation?” she said. “Not ‘our’ operation?”
Vladimir looked at her. “Nyet,” he said. “I am no longer a part of this operation now.”
Marya met his gaze, but couldn’t hold it. She looked away quickly. “Once we leave Oskar’s house, we will go to a safe house where we can stay indefinitely. I must find the best way to travel back to Moscow. We might have to travel far north or far south to get across the front. If we are lucky, there will be an area of the front where there is little or no fighting and we can cross there.”
“So it will not be an easy journey,” Vladimir said. It was not a question, for he knew that it would be difficult. The statement was made more for the benefit of Zagoskin.
Marya nodded. “Da,” she replied. “It will be difficult at times.” She looked at Zagoskin. “Do you think you can handle it?”
Zagoskin nodded. “Da,” he responded. “Whatever it takes to get back home. Ever since the Germans captured me and forced me to work on their rocket program, I was ready to go back home.”
The room was silent for a moment, the three Russians looking at one another. Finally, Marya looked at Vladimir. “What about you, are you ready to go back home?” she asked.
Vladimir looked back, silent for a moment while thinking of how to respond. Many conflicting feelings swirled through his head. He held her gaze as he finally spoke. “Da, Tovarish Marya,” he said. “I will be glad to see home again, although I was also glad to be here in this camp with Colonel Hogan and his men.”
Marya nodded, but remained silent. She knew what his statement implied. He would not be leaving the camp if it weren’t for her.
“My only worry is what will happen with me once I return,” he continued. “I know that returning prisoners are not thought well of.”
Marya smiled. The smile surprised Vladimir, as it seemed genuine. “Prisoners that accept their captivity are not thought well of,” she said to him. “But those that resist, and continue to fight or cause the enemy harm, are commended.”
“But Tovarish Marya, I have been here for a long time,” he said. “And this camp has had no successful escapes. No one in Moscow would believe that I did not accept my captivity.”
“They would if someone provided a credible account of your activities while in this camp,” she said.
Vladimir eyed her curiously, “Would you be that someone?” he asked.
Marya nodded. “Da,” she said. “When we return, I will report that you have been in this camp, assisting the infamous Papa Bear in his operation. Since I have had dealings with Papa Bear before, they are aware that I am familiar with his operation. My account will be believed.”
“Spasibo, Tovarish,” he said. “But if I might ask, why would you do this for me. Not two days ago, you would have me killed.”
Marya shrugged. “When I first challenged you, I saw the fear in your eyes,” she said. “But I also saw a glimmer of defiance. When you did not challenge me that first time, I took it to mean that you were weak.”
Vladimir was silent. Marya seemed to be willing to talk, and he did not want to interrupt.
“That is when I mentioned you to Hochstetter,” she continued. “When you and Kinch arrived to escort Zagoskin and me to the camp, I realized my mistake. You were ready to kill me then. This is not the sign of a weak man.”
Vladimir nodded. “I would have killed you then, if it were not for Kinch,” he said. “For myself, I am not afraid. But you threatened my family, and that I cannot allow.”
“This is why I brought your family into this,” she said. “It is a good indication of the character of a person. You defend your rodina and you defend your family. And …” she paused for a moment collecting her thoughts before continuing. “You do so deep in the heart of the enemy’s homeland, in an improbable scenario that would mean instant death if discovered.” She stopped and looked at Vladimir, smiling broadly. “And this is what I will report, and why I will recommend that you be allowed to continue this kind of work.”
Vladimir was shocked. “Continue this kind of work?” he asked. “Where?”
Marya shrugged again. “It is not up to me to decide,” she said. “I operate within Germany because I speak fluent German and have a plausible cover story having been in Germany years before the war began. For you, it could be a place like Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, The Ukraine or even Czechoslovakia or Yugoslavia. Do you think you could learn any of the languages?”
Vladimir nodded. “The Slavic languages should be easy to learn to speak,” he said. “I already know some Polish. The writing takes a while to get used to, with the different alphabet.”
“Da,” she said. “Many Slavic languages are similar to Russian and others similar to Polish. They are not hard to learn.”
“So this is what I will do?” he asked.
“It is not for me to say,” she said. “It is what I will recommend, if it is what you would like to do.” She paused, smiling again. “After you visit your family, of course!”
Vladimir smiled. “That is definitely something I want to do!” he responded. “As for the other, I am Russian. I must defend my rodina in the best way possible. I am not much of a soldier, but I have been doing this with Colonel Hogan since I have been here. If it is decided that this is the best way for me to help my country, then this is what I will do.”
“That is what I expected you to say,” Marya said. “A weak man would have said otherwise.” She paused and looked from Zagoskin to Vladimir, noticing the civilian clothes that Vladimir had tailored. “I see that you are all dressed for the journey.”
“Da, and a nice fit as well,” Zagoskin said nodding towards Vladimir.
“Spasibo,” Vladimir responded. “But Tovarish Marya, what about papers?”
“Zagoskin and I will be fine with Hochstetter’s travel papers until we get to the safe house,” she replied. “Colonel Hogan is having similar papers made for you, though I don’t think we will need them. Once we get to the safe house, we will get new identities and papers.”
Vladimir nodded. “It seems that we are all set,” he said. “I guess there’s nothing left to do but to wait until Oskar delivers the dogs.”
Stalag 13, Tunnels under the camp,
September 5, 1943, 1030 hours
Vladimir poked his head into the radio room, hoping to find Kinch there. The sergeant was sitting in front of the radio with his headset on, writing something on a piece of paper. He glanced up and noticed Vladimir in the doorway, and motioned him into the room.
Vladimir waited while Kinch tapped out a response to the message in Morse code. When he was finished, he removed his headset and turned the radio off.
“Hello, Sam,” Kinch said. “That was Oskar confirming the pickup plans for this afternoon. Did you get the forged travel authorization that I made up for you?”
Vladimir nodded. “Da, we are all ready to go,” he replied.
Kinch looked down at the desk in front of him. “You know, this isn’t how I pictured us saying goodbye,” he said. “I thought we would be leaving camp as the Allies liberated it, yelling, screaming, and slapping each other on the back with promises of future reunions.”
“I know,” Vladimir answered quietly. “Part of me feels as if I am leaving a job not completed.”
“But you are going home to your family now,” Kinch said, looking at his friend. “You should be happy.”
“I am happy about that,” Vladimir said. “But I am also leaving a family here, and I am sad about that.”
The men were silent for a moment, each man lost in their own thoughts. Finally Kinch cleared his throat and said, “Do you know what awaits you back in Russia?”
Vladimir shrugged. “That really depends on others,” he replied. “But it seems that I will have Marya’s recommendation that I continue to do this sort of work in other parts of German controlled territory, where I could blend in with the native population.”
Kinch looked at Vladimir, his eyes wide. “You’re joking,” he said.
Vladimir shook his head. “Nyet, it is the truth,” he responded. “She thinks that I can make a difference there, and will recommend this to those in Moscow.”
“Do you think her recommendation will be accepted?” Kinch asked.
“It might,” Vladimir replied. “She is operating here in Germany, and knows how the Soviet network operates. You saw the connections that she had available in planning our little rescue operation – Gestapo in Leipzig, Abwher in Berlin. If she was important enough to pull in that kind of support on short notice, then her recommendation may actually be the decision.”
Silence returned to the room. Neither man could think of anything to say.
“Who knows,” Vladimir said. “If I am doing that kind of work, we may have occasion to meet again before the war is over.”
Kinch smiled. “A collaborative mission between the east and west Allies,” he said. “Germany wouldn’t stand a chance!”
Vladimir laughed and then was silent for a moment. Finally, he said, “Spasibo druzhishe,” he said.
Kinch looked back, confused. “Thanks for what?” he asked.
“For making this place welcome for me at the beginning,” he said. When Kinch made a dismissive gesture, he added, “No, it is true. At the beginning, I think the others were a little afraid to interact with me because I was different. When they saw how you and I were interacting, they were able to open up as well. I wouldn’t have wanted to stay with this operation without that.”
Kinch didn’t know what to say. He looked back at his Russian friend in silence, and then smiled. “Nichevo,” he said, extending his hand towards Vladimir.
Vladimir smiled as they shook hands.
Stalag 13, Barracks 2, Colonel Hogan’s Office,
September 5, 1943, 1200 hours
The men were gathered in Colonel Hogan’s office to discuss the plan for the diversion. Corporal Bob Roth had come as Hogan had requested.
“What we are looking for is something that will draw all the guards’ attention away from the kennel while Oskar is here,” Hogan said. “That’s when the transfer will take place. And since we have a ballgame this afternoon, we can make use of that.”
“But what kind of diversion would the ballgame be?” Corporal Roth asked. “The Germans never pay attention to our games.”
“That’s true,” Hogan agreed. “So we are going to make it so interesting that they can’t help but watching.”
“How?” Carter asked.
Colonel Hogan described his idea, making sure that both Carter and Roth knew exactly what to do and when it should be done.
When he finished, he looked at Corporal Roth and asked, “Do you think you can do it?”
Roth nodded. “Yes Colonel,” he said.
Hogan looked at Carter. “How about you?” he asked.
Carter also nodded. “Piece of pie,” he said. He saw Newkirk reach out to smack him on the head and he quickly corrected himself. “I mean, piece of cake, sir.”
“Good,” Hogan said. “The truck will shield most of the kennel area, which just leaves the guard that will be near the truck. It’s usually Schultz, so it shouldn’t be too hard to distract him.” Everyone around the table laughed. “The only other place that is vulnerable is right outside of Klink’s office.”
Hogan finished talking and looked around at the men. He smiled and said “Take me out to the ballgame, fellows!”
Hammelburg, Gestapo Headquarters,
September 5, 1943, 1300 hours
Hochstetter had just gotten off the phone with Hans, who was still at Stalag 13. They had found nothing in the woods around the camp but were continuing the search.
The phone rang, and Hochstetter picked up the receiver. “Hallo,” he said. “Major Hochstetter here. Heil Hitler!”
“Heil Hitler, Major. This is General Burkhalter,” said the voice over the line.
“Hallo, General,” Hochstetter said. “What can I do for you?”
“You can start by leaving Stalag 13 alone,” was the icy reply.
“General, I can assure you that I have good reason for …” Hochstetter started to say.
Burkhalter interrupted him. “I know all about the Russian scientist and the White Russian woman,” he said sternly.
“Then you know …” Hochstetter blurt out.
Burkhalter interrupted again. “What I know is that I received a call from Klink early this morning,” he said. “And you know how much I hate speaking with Klink.”
“Yes General,” Hochstetter replied.
“So you understand my irritation,” Burkhalter said.
“Ja, Klink is very irritating,” Hochstetter agreed.
“And so when he tells me that you are tearing the barracks apart in the middle of the night and leaving Gestapo personnel in camp to harass and intimidate everybody, I get even more irritated,” Burkhalter said.
“But General,” Hochstetter started again.
“Major, shut up,” Burkhalter said in his calmest voice. Hochstetter was silent.
“I was in a staff meeting this morning with Herr Himmler and mentioned my irritation,” Burkhalter said and then waited for a response. When Hochstetter stayed silent, he continued, “So you will remove your men from Stalag 13 and leave Klink alone, or the next phone call you receive will be from him. Do I make myself clear?”
“Ja, General,” Hochstetter managed to say.
“Good. I will phone Klink this evening. If you do not remove your men soon, I will be irritated again. Heil Hitler, Major.” The link clicked as Burkhalter hung up his phone.
Hochstetter let out a low growl as he hung up his receiver. “Someday Klink will pay for all of this,” he muttered to himself. “And if I can find the evidence, Hogan will pay dearly for all he’s done.” He smiled to himself, “Yes, heads will roll at Stalag 13.”
Stalag 13, Tunnels under the camp,
September 5, 1943, 1330 hours
Vladimir looked at the men who had assembled in the cramped tunnel area. This is it. In just a little while, I will climb up through the doghouse, into Oskar’s truck and ride away from this camp. Tomorrow I will no longer be part of this team, no, part of this family here in Stalag 13.
Hogan cleared his throat as if to say something. Everyone turned their attention to him, but he remained silent for a few moments more. Finally, he spoke. “All right, you know the plan,” he said. “When Oskar pounds on the doghouse, it’s safe to come out.”
Vladimir nodded. He noticed that Hogan was speaking to him rather than Marya. She seemed to be deferring control of this portion of the escape to him. He wasn’t sure if this was because, as a member of Colonel Hogan’s team, he knew the procedure better than she did, or if this were a test to see how well he would do.
“I know the procedure, Colonel,” he said. “We’ll come out of the doghouse, one at a time, and Oskar will shepherd us to the truck.” Hogan nodded, smiling at Vladimir’s choice of words. “Marya will go first, then Zagoskin, and I will follow last,” Vladimir said.
“Right,” Hogan said. “Oskar will keep you hidden at his place today, and tonight you can start your journey home.”
Vladimir nodded. “As Carter would say,” he said. “It’s a piece of pie.” He was smiling as everyone laughed. He noticed that Carter was flushing with embarrassment and he smiled broader.
Vladimir extended his hand towards Carter. “Good luck in your game today, Andrew,” he said.
Carter took the hand and said “Thanks Sam. Good luck to you too.”
After Vladimir accepted handshakes from Newkirk, LeBeau and Baker, Colonel Hogan stepped up. “Have a safe journey home, Vladimir,” he said.
Vladimir looked back at him. “Thank you, Colonel Hogan,” he replied. “And thank you for inviting me to be a part of your, as you called it, little band of merry men. It meant a lot to me and made me feel like I was making a difference. I hope I did make a difference to the group.”
Hogan smiled and nodded. “Most definitely,” he said. He reached into his pocket and pulled something out. “And now, since our little bird is leaving the nest, I think it’s time to make sure he has his wings.” Hogan stepped forward and pinned something on Vladimir’s collar. “Sam Minsk, I hereby appoint you as an honorary member of the United States Army Air Corps.” He stepped back and gave Vladimir a salute fit for a general.
Everyone in the tunnel started clapping as Vladimir looked at the item on his collar. Colonel Hogan had given Vladimir his pilot’s wings. Vladimir looked up at the Colonel and returned the salute. “Thank you Colonel,” he said, his voice rough with emotion. “I will wear these with pride remembering my service here in Stalag 13.”
When the applause from the men died out, Vladimir turned and looked at Kinch. Kinch was smiling, but Vladimir could see the sadness in his eyes.
“I have an urge to say something corny,” Kinch said. “Like parting is such sweet sorrow.”
Vladimir smiled. “That is from that English playwright, Shakespeare, I think,” he said.
Kinch nodded. “From Romeo and Juliet,” he said.
Vladimir started laughing. “I do not think I want to know which of us is Juliet,” he said. The men in the room started laughing too.
“That is not even close to what I meant,” Kinch said.
“Ah, I wish I could tell if you are blushing,” Vladimir said, still smiling. “But I know what you are trying to say.”
Kinch extended his hand towards Vladimir. “Do svedanya, Volodya,” he said.
Vladimir looked at Kinch’s hand and shook his head a little. Then he embraced his friend. “Paka, Vanya,” he said.
Vladimir stepped back, looked at everyone in the room and said,” And now, as our beloved Kommandant would say …” He tried his best to imitate Klink. “Diiiiiiis-missed! Hmmph!” He shook his fist the way Klink did.
Everyone in the room laughed.
Stalag 13, Camp compound,
September 5, 1943, 1400 hours
Hogan was leaning against the barracks with his arms folded, watching the baseball players warming up for their championship game. They would warm up until Oskar’s truck arrived at the camp, and then they would start their game.
Kinch was standing beside Hogan, looking around at the players and the prisoners who were there to watch the game, and at the guards. LeBeau had positioned himself so that he could distract the guard that would watch Oskar unload the dogs. Kinch was not surprised to see that Schultz would be that guard. Baker and Newkirk were mingling with the prisoners watching the game, letting them know what they were supposed to do once the diversion started.
“Do you think it will work?” Kinch asked. He knew what the answer would be, but it felt better to ask, and to hear Colonel Hogan’s answer.
“It should,” Hogan replied. “Carter and Roth know what to do, and Vladimir knows the drill with Oskar’s truck.”
Kinch nodded. “It should go smoothly,” he said. “Once the diversion starts, the guards’ attention will be distracted and from their positions, would not notice the activity at the kennels.”
“The only spot I am concerned about is in front of Klink’s office,” Hogan said. “If he comes out to see what is going on and looks over at the kennels, he’ll see everything.”
Kinch grinned. “That’s why you are standing here, right?” Kinch asked. “To distract his attention and keep him from spoiling our fun.”
Hogan chuckled. “We’ve done this before, haven’t we?” he mused.
Kinch laughed. “Many times!” he said.
The men were silent again, watching the players toss baseballs around. They looked bored and ready to start the game. But they knew what they were supposed to do, even if they didn’t know why they were supposed to do it.
“Here he comes, Colonel,” Kinch said, nodding his head towards the main gate.
Hogan looked over at the ball players. They had noticed the truck’s arrival and were moving into position, ready to start their game. He noticed Carter on the pitcher’s mound, looking over at him and waiting for the signal to start.
Hogan watched the truck drive through the main gain, unchecked as usual, and head towards the kennels. When Oskar had positioned the truck by the kennel gates, as he usually did, Hogan removed his hat, smoothed his hair and put the hat back on his head.
* * * * * * *
Carter stood on the pitcher’s mound waiting. They had seen the truck enter the camp and head for the kennels, so all the players moved into their positions. Corporal Bob Roth stood at home plate, bat in hand, and waited for Carter to pitch.
When the truck stopped, Carter saw Hogan remove his hat, smooth his hair and put the hat back on his head. There’s the signal. It’s time to start. If there’s ever a time when I need to make a perfect pitch, this is it. Carter nodded, signaling to Corporal Roth that he was about to start. He took a deep breath, went into his windup, and threw the ball towards home plate … and hit Corporal Roth right in the rear end.
Carter stood on the pitcher’s mound waiting. He saw Corporal Roth turn towards him, throw his bat down on the ground and start running towards him.
“You hit me!” Roth yelled as he ran. “I’ll teach you to hit me with the ball!”
Carter braced himself. He knew that this was the diversion, and Roth was supposed to pretend to be angry and start a fight. But the look on the Corporal’s face was so real that for a moment, Carter thought that Roth might have forgotten that it wasn’t supposed to be a real fight.
When Roth reached Carter, be got him in a big bear hug and whispered in his ear, “Let’s make this look good.”
As the two men struggled, the other players scrambled towards the two men. Some of the spectators, urged by Newkirk and Baker, also ran onto the field towards the fight.
* * * * * * *
Hogan watched the tangle of men in the middle of the ball field. He saw Newkirk and Baker were urging some of the spectators to join the fight, and hoped that they had the sense to let them know that this was supposed to be an act.
LeBeau had started to usher Schultz away from the truck when the fight started. The portly sergeant was running towards the ball field as fast as he could, which, Hogan noticed, wasn’t really that fast.
Hogan glanced around at all of the guards. Their attention was turned to the mass of prisoners within the compound, alert to possibility of the trouble escalating.
“So far so good,” he commented to Kinch.
Kinch nodded. “Oskar’s going in,” he said.
Hogan looked over towards the kennel. From where he was standing, he could see the doghouse that served as the entrance to the tunnels. He saw Oskar enter the kennel with a dog, release it and pound on the doghouse. The veterinarian then grabbed one of the dogs that he was going to take back, and waited by the doghouse. It had been raised, and Hogan saw Marya step out, close the doghouse entrance and walk briskly beside Oskar and the dog to the truck and enter the back.
Kinch poked the Colonel with his elbow. “It looks like it’s your turn, Colonel,” he said looked over towards Klink’s office. The Kommandant was just stepping out of the door, looking in the direction of the commotion.
“Well, here goes,” Hogan said, pushing away from the barracks and walking towards the ball field. “Kommandant Klink!” he yelled, motioning the German Colonel over to him as he walked. The Kommandant started walking towards Hogan without even a glance at the kennel area. Kinch smiled. Yes, so far, so good!
* * * * * * *
Vladimir was standing with Marya and Zagoskin by the ladder leading up to the doghouse. He looked at Zagoskin, who had been quiet for a while. “Are you going to be all right?” he asked Zagoskin.
Zagoskin nodded “Da,” he replied. “This is just a bit unusual for me.”
“It is for me too,” Vladimir responded. “Normally I am helping people escape, not escaping with them.”
Marya was about to say something when a pounding on the doghouse above them startled them.
“That’s the signal,” Vladimir said. “Marya, climb up and out. Oskar will be waiting.”
Marya nodded and climbed the ladder, lifting the doghouse entrance and shutting it behind her as she climbed out.
“When Oskar pounds again, you go out,” Vladimir said to Zagoskin. Zagoskin nodded and climbed a little ways up the ladder. The pounding came again, and Zagoskin lifted the doghouse, climbed out and shut the entrance again.
Vladimir was alone. He knew that in a few seconds he would be climbing out of Stalag 13 for the last time. This place had been his home for more than a year. He had made good friends here, and he had helped make a lot of trouble for the Germans. He would miss this place.
The pounding startled Vladimir from his thoughts. Without taking another look behind him, he climbed the ladder, lifted the doghouse and climbed out of the tunnel.
* * * * * * *
Kinch stood by the barracks, watching the kennel area. Zagoskin emerged from the tunnel, and like Marya before him, walked briskly beside Oskar to the back of the truck.
Oskar went back into the kennel with the last dog, released it, pounded on the doghouse and grabbed another dog to return. The doghouse entrance opened up and Kinch saw Vladimir emerge.
Vladimir looked quickly around the camp and spotted Kinch. They stood looking at each other for a second, and then Vladimir gave a small wave and walked to the truck with Oskar. Kinch watched his friend climb into the back of the truck and close the doors.
Kinch stared at the truck for a second as Oskar walked to the driver’s door to get in. Goodbye, my friend.
Kinch looked over at where Colonel Hogan and the Kommandant had been standing. He saw Hogan glance back at him, and he nodded to indicate that the transfer was complete.
* * * * * * *
Hogan was standing beside Klink in the middle of the compound. The Kommandant was frantically waving his riding crop and stomping his feet.
“Schultz!” he screamed. “Make them stop! Make them stop!” Schultz was in no position to do that, having been knocked to the ground by the group of prisoners.
Hogan kept looking back at Kinch, waiting for the sign that the transfer was complete, and the diversion could be stopped. So far, Kinch had not given the signal.
“Colonel Hogan, these are your men,” Klink said. “Make them stop this nonsense!”
“What, this?” Hogan responded. “They’re just having a little bit of good, clean fun.”
“You call this fun?” Klink asked.
“Of course, Kommandant,” Hogan said. “It’s just a baseball game.”
“A baseball game? It looks more like a wrestling match,” Klink said.
Hogan glanced at Kinch again, and Kinch nodded. That meant that everyone had gotten into the truck, so it was time for Hogan to stop the melee.
“I guess you are right, Kommandant,” he said to Klink. He raised his voice and yelled towards the ball field, “All right, that’s enough. Break it up!”
Newkirk and Baker nodded and started circulating around the mass of prisoners, telling them it was time to stop. Slowly the mass of men started to break apart, and the yelling that had been coming from the ball field subsided.
Hogan watched Oskar’s truck pull away from the kennel and head for the main gate. While looking at the main gate, he saw another truck entering the camp. It was Hochstetter. Hogan held his breath for a second. He wasn’t sure if Hochstetter would stop Oskar’s truck and want to search it.
He was relieved when the trucks simply passed each other and Oskar headed out down the road away from camp. So long Vladimir! I hope we can meet again after all of this madness is over.
* * * * * * *
Hochstetter’s truck pulled up next to Klink and Hogan. Hochstetter got out of the truck, looking at the ball field where things were getting back to normal. “What is this?” he asked gruffly.
“It’s the camp baseball league championship game, Major,” Hogan replied. “Why don’t you join us and watch the game?”
“I’d rather not,” Hochstetter muttered under his breath. “Klink, I am here on business,” he said out loud.
“What is it now, Major?” Klink asked wearily. “Haven’t you bothered us enough?”
“No, I don’t think I have,” Hochstetter said slowly and savagely. “But apparently General Burkhalter does. He has requested that I leave Stalag 13 alone, so I am here to take my men back to town.”
“Giving up Major?” Hogan asked cheerily.
“No, Hogan, I am not giving up,” Hochstetter growled. “But it seems that I no longer need to look for the Russian prisoner that Kommandant Klink was hiding here in camp.”
“Major Hochstetter, I find that remark very disagreeable!” Klink exclaimed.
“Klink, I find you very disagreeable,” Hochstetter replied. “But it seems the Abwher has taken care of things for me. I have a report that the Russian prisoner was shot while trying to escape from the Abwher.”
Hogan noticed the genuine look of shock that appeared on Klink’s face. “That is terrible,” he said.
“The only thing terrible about it is that I didn’t get to do it,” Hochstetter said.
“You’re all heart, Major,” Hogan said icily. If you had, Major Hochstetter, I would personally tear your head off. But happily, you did not get your chance, and Vladimir is now on his way back home. Score one for the good guys, Major!
“I’m warning you, Hogan,” Hochstetter said through clenched teeth. “One day you will slip and I will catch you, and then it will be your turn.” Hogan grinned broadly at the Major.
“Major Hochstetter, I do not like you talking to my prisoners like that,” Klink protested.
“And I’m warning you, Klink,” Hochstetter growled again. “When I catch him, not only will his head roll, but your head will roll!” Hochstetter turned and walked towards the main gate to gather his men together.
“I do not like that man,” Klink said.
“Kommandant, for once we are on the same side,” Hogan responded.
Klink turned to look at Hogan with a sad expression on his face. “Colonel Hogan, I am sorry about Vladimir,” he said softly.
Hogan looked back at Klink, studying him for a moment. “Yes Kommandant, I believe you really are,” he said. “Thank you.”
Klink nodded before turning and walking slowly back to his office. Hogan stared after him as he walked away. If I could tell you that Vladimir is still alive, I would. But since I can’t do it without telling you how I know, you will just have to keep on believing the worst.
* * * * * * *
Kinch walked slowly towards where Colonel Hogan was standing. He had watched Klink walk slowly away from him, leaving Hogan to stare after him without moving.
“What was that about?” he asked when he had reached Hogan.
“Hochstetter is taking his men back to town,” Hogan said. “He reported to Klink that Vladimir was shot by the Abwher while trying to escape.”
“Poor Sam,” Kinch said smiling.
Hogan smiled back. “I’m glad this adventure is over,” he said. “But it will feel a little different without Vladimir in camp. How are you feeling?”
“Melancholic,” Kinch replied. “I am glad this is over, and I am very happy that Sam is getting a chance to go home. But I also think it will feel different with him not in camp.”
Hogan put his hand on Kinch’s shoulder. “Everything changes,” he said. “And someday, hopefully soon, we will all be going our separate ways when we leave the camp.”
Kinch didn’t say anything. He simply looked off towards the main gate, where moments earlier, Oskar’s truck had driven away. Finally he nodded. “You’re right, sir,” he said.
“Now, let’s see what we can do about getting this baseball game started,” Hogan said. The two men walked towards the ball field.
Stalag 13, Camp compound,
September 5, 1943, 1725 hours
“Strike three!” yelled the umpire.
Carter stood motionless on the pitchers mound, staring at home plate. It took a moment to register what had just happened. Then he threw his glove into the air and started jumping up and down. I did it! I struck out Bob Roth! I won the championship! In a moment, he was surrounded by his teammates wanting to congratulate him. They picked him up and carried him off the field on their shoulders as if he had won the war single-handedly.
They put him down near where Colonel Hogan and the rest of his barrack-mates were standing. He accepted congratulations from all of them with a smile that threatened to split his face in two.
Newkirk stepped up, slapped him on the back and said, “You did it! In the bottom of the ninth inning, ahead by only one run, the bases loaded, two outs, a full count on the best hitter in camp, who only needed to get a hit to win the game … and you struck him out!”
Carter stared at Newkirk with his mouth opened in amazement. “Newkirk,” he said finally. “You finally got it right! I must have taught you better than I thought!”
Newkirk stood there with his silly smile. “Carter, I have to tell you …” he said, and trailed off.
“What?” Cater asked.
“I already knew how to play baseball,” he said. “Colonel Hogan and Kinch taught me about it before you got to camp.”
“But,” Carter started. “But, if you already knew how to play, how come you got it all wrong when I was trying to teach you?”
The silly smile was back on Newkirk’s face. “I did it to keep you from thinking about the game and getting too nervous. Congratulations, champ!”
Carter smiled. “Thanks,” he said. “For everything!”
At that moment, Corporal Roth came up to the group. He stepped over to Carter, extending his hand. Carter shook it.
“You did it Carter,” Roth said. “That was some really fine pitching today.”
“Thanks,” Carter replied. “I can’t believe I struck you out!”
Roth laughed. “Me neither,” he said. “I thought for sure that I could get a hit to win the game, but I guess today was your day.”
Carter couldn’t reply. He didn’t know what to say to Corporal Roth or any of the men who were still coming up to him and offering their congratulations. I did it! I won the championship!
Stalag 13, Barracks 2,
September 6, 1943, 0030 hours
Kinch climbed out of the tunnel over the bunk into the barracks. He touched the switch to close the tunnel entrance quietly, trying not to wake his bunkmates. He winced as it made a loud creak as the bunk was sliding into place.
“No need to be quiet,” Newkirk said. “None of us are sleeping.”
“I wasn’t sure,” Kinch replied.
“After all that has happened today, none of us are tired,” Baker said.
“And I don’t think Carter will sleep for a week!” Newkirk said, laughing. The other men laughed softly.
“So we did it,” LeBeau said. “We managed to get Zagoskin and Sam out of camp without any trouble.”
“Are you balmy?” Newkirk asked. “Without any trouble?”
“OK, so we had a little trouble,” LeBeau agreed. “But we still did it!”
Kinch smiled, though he was still sorry that Vladimir had to leave camp.
“Well that was mission one hundred ninety-nine,” Baker said, as the door to Colonel Hogan’s office opened and the Colonel came into the room. “I wonder what kind of mission we’ll have for number two hundred,” Baker continued.
“What’s this about mission number two hundred?” Hogan asked.
Kinch told him about his unofficial count of the missions they had completed, and that they had just completed their one hundred ninety-ninth mission getting the Russians out of camp.
“Oh, and Colonel, I just received a message from Oskar,” Kinch said. “He said that the birds have flown the coop and are migrating east.”
Colonel Hogan smiled. “Now that is also good news,” he said. “But Kinch, I think you have your numbers wrong.”
“Colonel?” Kinch questioned.
“We helped rescue Zagoskin and sabotage the rocket research, correct?” he asked his men. They all agreed.
“That was mission one hundred ninety-nine,” he said. “And we also rescued our friend Vladimir from Hochstetter, correct?” There was agreement again from the men.
“And that was mission two hundred,” he said.
“But Colonel, I’ve always counted multiple people escaping at the same time as a single mission,” Kinch said.
“Kinch, forget the fact that I am a Colonel, and in charge of this little band of merry men,” he said jokingly. He smiled and thought of Vladimir as he used that phrase to describe his operation. “When you think back to everything we have done here, wouldn’t you rather have the two hundredth mission be something special?”
“Yes,” Kinch agreed.
“Now, can you think of anything more special, short of ending this war, than sending Vladimir home?” Hogan asked, smiling.
Kinch smiled broadly. “No sir, I can’t!” he said. The rest of the men agreed.
The door to the barracks opened and Schultz hurried into the room. “Colonel Hogan?” he asked.
“Yea Schultz, what is it?” Hogan replied.
“You should not be making noise at this time of night,” Schultz said. “Kommandant Klink will be angry!”
“Why is that, Schultz?” Hogan responded. “Is he afraid of missing his beauty sleep?”
“You know the rules, lights out means you go to sleep,” Schultz said.
“I thought it meant that the movie was about to start, Schultz,” Carter chimed in.
“Jolly joker,” Schultz replied. Then somberly he added, “I am sorry to hear what happened to Sam, I mean Vladimir, Colonel Hogan. He was a nice man, never causing any trouble. You must all be very sad.”
“Not really Schultz,” Hogan replied.
“How can you say that?” Schultz asked, then immediately thought of something. “Wait a minute, you know something, Colonel Hogan.”
“I hope so, Schultz,” Hogan replied. “If I knew nothing, I would be just like you.”
“Ja, make jokes. You know what I mean,” Schultz responded. “You know something about Vladimir. I demand that you tell me what it is!”
“All right, Schultz,” Hogan said calmly, with a hint of humor in his voice. “Do you really want to know?”
“On second thought, no,” Schultz replied.
“I really will tell you, Schultz,” Hogan said. “I don’t want you to feel like we would be hiding anything from you.”
“I think it is best if I know nothing. Whenever you know something and tell me, something unpleasant happens to me,” Schultz said. “No, I’d rather know nothing.”
“All right, suit yourself,” Hogan said. “I won’t tell you. That way you can always say, …” Hogan paused before continuing. When he spoke again, everyone in the barracks joined him in saying, “I know nothing, nooothing!”
Schultz turned and walked towards the door. “Jolly joker,” he said. “You all are jolly jokers.” When he got to the door, he turned towards Colonel Hogan. Hogan could see a small hint of a smile on the sergeant’s face in the dim light of the dark barracks as he spoke. “I know nothing, Colonel Hogan,” he said. “But if I did know something, I would wish the prisoner Vladimir the best of luck in getting to where he is going.” Schultz turned and walked out the door, shutting it softly behind him when he left.
Hogan stared at the door for a moment. It was Carter who finally spoke, summing it up for all of them. “Well I’ll be darned, Colonel,” he said. “Schultz really does know something.”
Suburban Detroit Michigan, Residence of Ivan James Kinchloe,
January 18, 1993
“And that is how Vladimir came to leave Stalag 13,” Ivan Kinchloe said to the man sitting across from him. They were sitting in chairs next to the fireplace in Kinch’s home, the fire casting warmth over them to counter the frosty snow of the Michigan winter. Kinch regarded the man sitting across from him thoughtfully. It’s been fifty years, but I swear that I am looking at the spitting image of Vladimir. His grandson sure does have the family resemblance.
Ivan Alexandrovich Minsky was Vladimir’s grandson. He had come from Russia to visit with Kinch. Ivan looked at Kinch, trying to imagine him fifty years younger, when his grandfather had last seen him. “That was a fascinating story,” he said to Kinch. “Dyedushka told us many tales of your missions while he was in the prison camp, but never told us how he came to leave. We only knew that he had left before the war ended. I must say that we didn’t believe half of the stories he told us. It seemed too amazing to be true.”
The men were speaking in Russian. Vladimir had taught Kinch the language when they were both in Stalag 13, and Kinch had studied further and become fluent after the war ended. He enjoyed the opportunity to practice the language again, especially while reminiscing about his Russian friend.
Kinch nodded as he took a sip of his tea. “Some of the stories are pretty unbelievable,” he said. “In a way, it doesn’t surprise me that he never told you. That was a very difficult moment for Sam, I mean your dyedushka.”
Ivan smiled. “Da, he did tell us that you had called him Sam,” he said. “Sam Minsk, United States Army Air Corps,” he recited in English. He chuckled at the memory of his dyedushka reciting those lines to him. “During the tense days of the Cold War, he would remind us that he was an honorary member of dreaded American military, which made him our enemy.”
Kinch laughed. “I see he didn’t lose his sense of humor!” he said.
“Nyet,” Ivan replied. “His humor was with him until the end. It’s been almost twenty years since he passed away, but sitting here talking with you has made me feel as if he is in the room with us.”
Kinch sighed. “So true,” he said. “It’s been a lot longer for me. I regret that we were not able to stay in touch after the war.”
Ivan nodded. “I know that he was saddened by that as well,” he told Kinch.
“The day he left camp was the last time saw him, with the exception of a mission near the end of the war,” Kinch said. “We did have some occasional contact on other missions before the war ended, but I had hoped that it would not be the last I saw of him.”
“I know he thought highly of his fellow prisoners, especially you,” Ivan told Kinch. “The time he spent at Stalag 13 was a turning point in his life.”
Kinch leaned forward slightly in his chair. “I did try to use some of my military connections to find out what happened to Sam after the war. I know what he did during the war after he left camp. And I was able to find out that he retired with many honors, including being awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union. Quite an honor for him,” he said.
Ivan chuckled. “Da, it was quite an honor,” he responded. “Dyedushka was able to retire from the military and reopen his tailor shop, serving the highest Soviet officials, including the General Secretary.”
“He kept his tailoring skills sharp while at Stalag 13. Although I can assume that when making a suit for the General Secretary, he used better material than an old army blanket!” Kinch said with a smile.
Ivan laughed. “I would assume so,” he replied. “But I wouldn’t put it past him to have tried it!” Both men laughed.
Ivan contemplated the tea in his cup for a moment, and then looked at Kinch again. “Mr. Kinchloe,” he began.
Kinch interrupted. “Kinch, please,” he said.
“Kinch,” Ivan continued. “The main reason I came here to see you was to deliver this,” he said. He took a yellowed envelope from his pocket. “Dyedushka wrote this letter shortly before he died and left it to be delivered to you whenever possible.” Ivan handed the envelope to Kinch.
Kinch looked at the envelope in his hands, a flood of memories washing over him. He looked up at Ivan.
“It’s been seventeen years,” Ivan said. “Minsky postal express, at your service - a model of Soviet efficiency.” Ivan smiled broadly.
Kinch couldn’t help laughing. Neither man said anything for several moments.
“I can leave if you would like to read in private,” Ivan finally said.
“Nyet,” Kinch responded, shaking his head. “Please stay.” Kinch fumbled to open the envelope, his hands trembling slightly. Why am I nervous? Is it because of a letter from my dear friend – no, a letter from the grave? Ivan James, get a hold of yourself! You’re too old for this. Kinch finally extracted the letter from the envelope and unfolded the paper. He started reading the Russian handwriting.
May 12, 1975
Privyet druzhishe Vanya,
It has been 30 years since the end of the Great Patriotic War. 30 years! It has been more than that since I have had the pleasure of a chess game with you. I do hope that you have continued to play the game. I do so miss the games we enjoyed.
The recent celebrations here in Moscow for the 30th anniversary of the end of the war evoked a great many remembrances in me. Once again I was in Stalag 13, fighting the war with you, Andrew, Louis, Peter, Richard and Colonel Hogan. When I think back to what might have happened to me if I had not been lucky enough to find myself at Stalag 13, I consider myself blessed.
It sounds morbid to consider a war that killed millions upon millions of people a happy time, but all of you with me there in camp taught me something. Colonel Hogan taught me that you could lead men better through respect rather than fear. Andrew taught me that there could be simple genius in naivety. Louis taught me the strength in patriotism and the love of your homeland means that you never give up. Peter taught me the magic of humor to keep your sanity. And from the stories that both you and Richard told me, I learned the value of strength of character; that standing tall against people who hated you because you were different was the best way to fight back. All of this, and all of you, made me a stronger person, one who was able to return to my family when the fighting was over instead of being one of the many casualties of war. I have all of you to thank for my long life and large family.
But most of all, from you druzhishe, I learned the value of friendship. When I arrived at Stalag 13, I was scared, alone and did not know enough of any language to communicate well with anybody. You became a friend, looked after me, and taught me English. You listened. You cared. You became a true friend, because you wanted to and not because you had to. It is to you that I owe the most. When I was feeling my lowest, you knew what to say and when not to say anything. You stuck up for me when you thought I needed it most. Of all my memories of the past, these are my most cherished ones.
I write this with a trembling hand, partly from emotion and partly from age. Father Time has caught up with me, and my days on this earth are drawing to a close. Please forgive the ramblings of a tired old man. My fondest wish would be to deliver this letter to you personally, and enjoy one more game of chess. But I fear that it is not to be - our friendship is a victim of government ideology. I will leave this letter with my family in the hopes that someone will be able to locate you and deliver it.
Ivan James Kinchloe, druzhishe, you are like a brother to me. I wish you a long happy life filled with many happy memories. It would please me if our friendship was one of those happy memories. It is with great sadness that I tell you goodbye.
Sam Minsk, United States Army Air Corps, retired
Pinned to the paper below the name were the pilot’s wings that Colonel Hogan had given to Vladimir when he left camp. A caption written below the wings said:
Every time I looked at these, I thought of all of you from Stalag 13, my friends and comrades.
As Kinch finished reading, the words on the page blurred. He took out a handkerchief and dabbed his eyes. “Have you read this?” he asked Ivan.
Ivan shook his head. “Nyet,” he said. “It’s been sealed since dyedushka wrote it, and we wished to respect his privacy.”
Kinch looked at the letter again. Sam, my friend, your memory is with me always. The clink of china startled him and he looked up at Ivan, who was placing his cup on the table beside him.
As Ivan looked at Kinch, he leaned forward in his chair. “Does the letter say anything about me?” he asked curiously.
Kinch shook his head, a little confused by the question.
Ivan smiled a broad smile. “Then I think there is something else you should know,” he said. Kinch looked puzzled and Ivan’s smile grew broader. “My name. How do you think I came by my name?” he asked Kinch.
Kinch shrugged. “Vladimir’s father was named Ivan, so I assume you were named after him,” he said.
Ivan shook his head and laughed. Then he pointed his finger at Kinch. “You,” he said.
Kinch felt his jaw drop.
“My father named me after Ivan James Kinchloe, his father’s dear friend. My father, Alexander, listened to dyedushka telling his stories and was convinced that it was mainly because of you that dyedushka made it through the war to return home to him,” said Ivan.
Kinch shook his head in disbelief. “Surely you are joking,” he said.
“Nyet,” said Ivan. “It’s the truth.”
Kinch didn’t know what to say. “I don’t believe it,” he muttered in English.
Ivan smiled again. “One more thing,” he said. Kinch looked at him. “I don’t know if you still play, and I know I do not have the skill of dyedushka, but it would be a great honor to play a game of chess with you.”
Kinch smiled. “Da,” he said. “It would be a pleasure.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Russian Life and Culture
Much of my knowledge of the Russian language, dialog and attitudes used in the story was obtained from my resident Russian culture expert. My wife was born and raised in Ukraine when it was the Soviet Union. She left in the mid 1990’s to come to the United States, after the fall of the Soviet Union and the birth of an independent Ukraine. She related the experiences of her relatives who were alive during the Great Patriotic War, as WWII is known to the Russian culture, as they were related to her.
Since her relatives were residents of the Ukraine during that period of time, their attitudes and biases might be a little different than someone from Moscow or Leningrad (St. Petersburg). Stalin was not very kind to the Ukrainian people, though he was not kind to many different ethnicities during his rule.
The tale of Vladimir’s living conditions reflects Soviet communal living in the kommunalka. For a very good article about what it was like to live in a communal flat, see http://projects.is.asu.edu/pipermail/hpn/2000-February/000072.html.
I have tried to depict Vladimir’s, and Marya’s, Russian aspect as true to life as possible. Their aspect is a combination of what was related to me, what I have read and what literary privilege was necessary to fit them into this work of fiction.
The Russian command hierarchy was not known to be kind to soldiers who were POWs. It was expected to fight to the death rather than be captured, and if you were captured, you were considered a traitor. Families of the captured soldiers were often sent to the gulag as punishment. Stalin’s own son, Jacob, was captured by the Germans and rather than bargain with them to obtain his return, Stalin sent his son’s family to the gulag to show that he put the nation’s interests above his family’s.
A good Russian POW account can be found at http://web.isp.cz/jcrane/IP/IPTchoroeva.html - this is an interview with an ex-Soviet POW.
My wife’s grandfather was also captured during the war, during the battle of Stalingrad. When the Red Army retook the city, he was released, malnourished and almost dead. After being nursed back to health in the hospital (by the woman who would later become his wife) he was lucky enough to avoid being shipped to a gulag for being captured by the enemy. However, he was never again allowed to fight at the front line, being relegated to the reserves and back line support duties, such as recruiting and training.
Even the Russian civilians were sometimes treated harshly. When the Red Army would take back territory, the people living in the area were many times looked at as traitors and collaborators. In many instances, the Russian soldiers were even more brutal to the civilians than the Germans were, raping women – young and old alike – and taking anything that they wanted.
A Russian will have 3 names, a first name followed by a patronymic and then a surname.
The first name is the given name. It can have many forms indicating varying degrees of relationship or familiarity or even emotions. There are forms to show endearment or intimacy (as husband/wife) and also a form that would be used as an impolite address, or also displeasure or parental scolding.
The patronymic is a name that is derived from the paternal first name by adding ovich/evich (son of) for males and ovna/evna (daughter of) for females.
For females, the surname takes on a feminine ending, usually by adding an a/aya to the male version of the surname.
The polite/formal form of address for adults is the first name followed by the patronymic. When addressing a child, friend or family member, the first name, or any of its derivatives would be used.
Vladimir, his wife and his son would have the following names:
Vladimir Ivanovich Minsky – Shortened form would be Volodya or Vova and his wife would refer to him as Volodenka or Vovochka. The impolite form of the name would be Volodka or Vovan.
Natalya Antonovna Minskaya – Nickname would be Natasha or Nata and Vladimir would call her Natashenka. The impolite form of the name would be Natashka.
Alexander Vladimirovich Minsky – Nickname would be Sasha and the more affectionate form would be Sashenka. When he misbehaves, his parents would refer to him as Sashka.
There is a very descriptive web page at http://learningrussian.com/name.htm, but be warned, the page does contain some Cyrillic text which will appear as gibberish if you do not have the proper encoding set up in your browser.
There is one other note about Vladimir’s last name. I have taken the liberty of changing his last name from Minsk to Minsky. The latter name is a more realistic Russian name. He will still be referred to as Minsk in the story. And since you have just read the reason for the name change, you understand why!
The other interesting factoid from the episode is that the Russian rocket scientist says that his name is Illyich Igor Zagoskin. From the information I have just mentioned, we can see that this is not correct. The order of names here is the patronymic followed by the first name and surname. Illyich is the patronymic form of the name Illya.
Russian Language and Dictionary
There are several ways to transliterate Russian from the Cyrillic alphabet to the Roman alphabet. I have tried to follow the Library of Congress simplified transliteration system for all Russian words and phrases used in this text, though I have deviated a little from them at times in order to help pronunciation. There is a good web page at http://www.du.edu/langlit/russian/alpha.htm with this information.
Of course, from Hogan’s Russian lesson in the episode Movies Are Your Best Escape, we know that da means “yes”, and nyet means “no”. Hogan also tells us that tovarish means “friend”. While this is a more formal meaning, it would mostly be used in place of Comrade, or “fellow sufferer”. A more personal term for friend would be the word drug (with the ‘u’ pronounced as in the English word ‘boot’, or it could also be transliterated as droog). The word tovarishy is the plural form, and would be used to refer to a group of comrades. (Just a note: I believe that the episode showed the word spelled as tovarich. However, the end sound of the word is not ‘ch’ as in church, it is pronounced ‘sh’ as in ship. Most transliterations will use the ‘sh’ rather than the ‘ch’ spelling.)
When you see a word that contains a superscript ‘y’, it means that there is a soft ‘y’ sound added after the consonant. For instance, privyet. In the Russian spelling, there is no letter corresponding to the ‘y’ – it would literally be transliterated as privet. But when pronouncing the word, it would be said like privyet, though the ‘y’ sound would not be as pronounced as it is in English.
bozhe moi – An exclamation meaning My God!
rodina – Motherland, Mother Russia.
spokoyne noche – Literally, calm night. This phrase is used to mean good night.
nichevo – It’s nothing, don’t worry about it, no worries mate.
eti svini – An insult referring to a group of people – “Those swine”.
Vy Russki? – Are you Russian?
Kak vas zavut? – What is your name?
predatel – Traitor, the plural is predately.
izvinite – Excuse me
semya - Family
do svedanya – Goodbye
kommunalka – A communal flat, called this during the Soviet era.
babushka – Grandmother
spasibo – Thank you
suka – Euphemism for “female dog” (i.e., bitch!)
hvatit – That’s enough!
zatknis – A very rude form of Shut up. It would be the equivalent of “Shut the f*&% up!”
Nyevozvratnoye proshloye – A phrase meaning “Unreturned past.” A close English idiom equivalent is “water under the bridge.”
paka – Informal form of goodbye
dyedushka – Grandfather
privyet – Hello
druzhishe – A dear friend
Story Timeline vs. History
I have set this story in the fall of 1943, mainly for the purpose of fitting it into the 200th mission timeframe. The rocket in the episode is supposed to be a “standard V2 rocket”, as Hogan calls it. In reality, the V2 did not enter full production and use until the fall of 1944, even though the first successful flight was in 1942. Therefore, Hogan should not really know much about the V2 at the time of this story. However, setting the story later in the war, in my opinion, wouldn’t really hold true to the 200th mission, assuming that our little band of Heroes was a busy bunch!
There is a very good website with V2 rocket information at http://www.v2rocket.com/.
Soviet Secret Police – NKVD
The Narodnyi Komissariat Vnutrennikh Del, or NKVD, was the name for the Soviet secret, or political, police during the Great Patriotic War. The name translates to Peoples Commisariat for Internal Affairs. It was this body that was later transformed into the KGB.
There are many sites out there with information on the NKVD. The following is a partial list:
In this story, I have made Marya a member of the NKVD. While this was not explicitly stated in any of the episodes she was in, it seemed pretty obvious. I believe there was a claim she made that she was a White Russian, and I have used that as her “cover” to allow her to freely roam around Germany. In addition, I have made her a member of the Smert’ Shpionam , or Smersh. This name translates as “Death to Spies”. This is the arm of the NKVD that performed the most dastardly deeds of the NKVD. Initially it was formed to secure the rear of the active Red Army on the front, to prevent any Red Army soldier from retreating or leaving the front. It grew into an organ for terrorizing and punishing minority nationalities within the Soviet Union as well as in occupied German territory, for executing purges within the NKVD itself, and to hunt down various “enemies of the people” outside of the USSR. In short, these are the nasty ones of the bunch!
I figured that if Marya were involved in the kind of activity in Germany as depicted in the show, then she would be a member of this group of the NKVD. One other thing you’ll notice is that the “Hogan, darling” façade slips at times in this story. I decided that if she were really NKVD/Smersh then she would be pretty ruthless if she had to be, and would also be a good actress to assume roles necessary to complete her assignments.
I apologize if this portrayal ruined anyone’s image of her. However, you will have noticed that she turns out not to be so bad after all.
For more information the Smersh, see the following website:
I have placed a raccoon in the story to provide some woodland suspense. Raccoons are not native to Germany. They were imported in the early 1900’s to fur farms. Before the war, some of them had either escaped or been let loose from the farms and began to expand.
More information can be found on the following webpage:
Text and original characters copyright 2004 by Jeff Evans
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.