This story chronicles what we felt were the last days of WWII in
Luft Stalag 13. The major historical events
that we wrote about actually happened, though admittedly we took certain
liberties on how they happened. The familiar Hogan’s Heroes characters aren’t
ours; the rest are. But they are free
to use if you so wish. (Our only requirement here is that you do not use Toby
unless you treat his character with tender loving care! He represents an
important aspect of, or insight into, the authors’ lives.) Hint… There will be a test later… Who is
Only two hours after the Colonel went to bed…
Kinch received some disturbing information through Hogan’s many underground contacts that the Colonel would want to hear. Kinch had actually confirmed the information with London as well. And London had been reluctant to confirm it. I can understand why. It certainly didn’t look good for the Allies, especially not good for the American forces.
Kinch knocked on the Colonel’s door. When he heard the ‘come’, he entered quietly saying, “Sorry to wake you, Colonel. I have some disturbing news that I thought you might want to hear. I didn’t think it could wait.”
Hogan, who had still been lying on his back, swung his legs out onto the floor and sat up. “What news, Kinch?” he asked.
Kinch closed the door behind him and said, “Colonel, I got word of two separate incidents regarding the capture and or treatment of German POWs by American Forces. The information came in from the underground first. I confirmed it with London to be sure. London wasn’t too happy about confirming it, but they didn’t deny it either. So I’m fairly certain the information has to be true. It’s bad, sir.” Kinch paused, not sure whether to let the Colonel read the news, or if he should just tell him.
Hogan noticed that Kinch wasn’t reacting well to telling him the news. He asked quietly, “What happened, Kinch? Is it really that bad?”
“Sorry, sir,” Kinch replied. “The first incident occurred in late March, while American troops were transporting, by train, German POWs to two new detainment camps in France. 127 German POWs died from heatstroke and asphyxiation. They had been left in sealed railcars and the weather had been very warm. There were reports of hearing the POWs yelling for help and being ignored by their American guards.”
Hogan looked up solemnly at Kinch. “And the second incident?” he asked. We are supposed to be the good guys? How could this happen?
“The second incident was just recently, sir, when American forces liberated a concentration camp in Northern Germany. The reports say that the Germans had surrendered the camp. The American soldiers then forced all the guards, officers, and Kommandant to form ranks. A number of machine-guns were positioned and the German prisoners executed. There were no survivors,” Kinch reported.
Hogan wanted to throw-up. He had always steeled himself against hearing the atrocities committed by Hitler’s Nazis. He wasn’t ready to believe that his fellow countryman could be guilty of the same. “Is that all, Kinch?” Hogan asked. Isn’t that enough.
“Yes, sir,” said Kinch. Both men were quiet for a long moment, neither making eye contact. Kinch started to leave, assuming that since Hogan hadn’t said anything, he probably wanted to be alone to digest this information.
Hogan ran his hands through his hair, looked up at Kinch and said faltering, “What am I supposed to do now?” Hogan embarrassed quickly glanced away from Kinch. Pull it together man. You’re the one in charge here.
“Sir?” asked Kinch confused, as he had never heard the Colonel so indecisive before. The man had come up with the craziest schemes almost without batting an eye. Kinch didn’t know what to say to him now.
After another long moment of silence…
Hogan said more confidently, “Sorry, Kinch. I’m worried that I can’t trust the Allies to properly care for my German POWs. I’m not sure what to do. I promised Klink that I would keep his men safe.” Hogan paused. “Can you picture either Klink or Schultz suffocating in a sealed train car? Or for that matter, facing a loaded machine-gun?” he asked rhetorically shaking his head. “Kinch, round up Carter, LeBeau and Newkirk. Tell them what has happened. Come back here immediately. Don’t say anything to anyone else about this. Understood?”
“Yes, sir. Right away, sir,” Kinch acknowledged and disappeared out the office door.
Hogan had a plan, but he wanted his men’s opinions before he went through with it. Normally he wouldn’t have to ask. They generally agreed with his assessment. This time though, he wanted a consensus, because what he had in mind went totally against any and all regulations. He hoped he could convince them. If not, he would do what he had too and turn over the prisoners to the Allied liberation force.
Kinch, Carter, LeBeau, and Newkirk entered his office about ten minutes later…
By the look on their faces, Kinch had indeed told them what had happened. “Gentlemen, I’m in a quandary. I don’t trust the American Forces to take care of our prisoners. More specifically, our own Stalag 13 guards, if I turn them over. I have no qualms about handing over Goering and Burkhalter. I’m not sure about the Germans from Camp 19. I will talk to Major Boynton about them.”
He paused. “What I am going to propose is something I will not do unless everyone in this room agrees. It’s totally against regulations, and it’s possible we could have a repeat incident from this morning.” Before he could continue, everyone began talking at the same time.
Carter said sighing, “Sir, can’t we just let them go?”
LeBeau jumped in, “I don’t want to think of poor Schultzie that way, sir. I can get enough civilian clothes ready.”
Newkirk chimed in as well, “The paperwork would be easy, Colonel. A snap. Done in no time at all.”
Hogan smiled broadly at his men. They can read me like a book. “Kinch, what do you think?” Everyone turned and stared at Kinch.
“I won’t be the last holdout, Colonel. Let’s do it,” replied Kinch.
“You’re all sure? You want to do this?” asked Hogan. “We could be in for a fight with the others in camp. I just want you to be sure.”
“Excuse me, Colonel. But who are you trying to convince, us or yourself?” asked Newkirk. “We’re behind you, sir. Most of the Stalag 13 guards aren’t even old enough to know what ‘war’ means. The rest are harmless old men. Poor Klink and Schultz wouldn’t stand a minute with the ‘real’ enemy. They were all very instrumental, whether they knew it or not, in our success here, sir. I can’t see myself letting something bad happen to ‘em.”
Everyone seemed in agreement.
“Kinch, have Major Boynton come see me at 1800 Hours. I want to find out what I can about the Camp 19 officers, before we do anything else. Keep this quiet for now. Check to make sure we can have enough supplies available to move the guards as fast as possible. Do it discreetly, until I’m ready to inform everyone of our plans,” ordered Hogan.
“Yes, sir,” they replied together and headed for the door.
Hogan laid back down on his bunk. God, I hope I’m doing the right thing.
Luft Stalag 13, Compound,
April 21, 1945, 1800 Hours
Hogan, having just finished dinner, was on his way back to his quarters where he was expecting to meet with Major Boynton. He wanted to find out how the new POWs were fairing, although he really needed to know what he was to do with the Camp 19 Kommandant, officers and guards. The guards here, at Stalag 13, have never been dangerous. They need more protection than the POWs. But, Camp 19 might be a different story. Hogan wanted to hear about their treatment from the horse’s mouth, per se.
But before Hogan got too far…
He was startled when confronted with a large group of his men, standing in ranks outside the mess hall. Not again?
“Sir,” Captain Jeffrey Duncan from Barracks Sixteen said as he came forward and saluted. All the others stood ramrod straight, at attention. “We’re here to apologize for our actions earlier today. We were way out of line. It won’t happen again, sir. We will support your decision regarding Reischsmarschall Goering,” Duncan said awkwardly.
“Very good, Captain,” Hogan replied returning the salute. “I accept your apology. I understand everyone’s emotional reaction toward this man. He is certainly not my favorite human being.” That is, if he even qualifies as one. “But it is my responsibility to see that he is treated fairly and turned over to the proper authorities. Dismissed.” Hogan stood for a moment watching the men disperse, and then he continued on his way back to his quarters.
Meanwhile back at Barracks Two…
Major Boynton had arrived a few minutes early. When he entered the barracks it was empty, except for a lone man seated at the table. The man turned as he entered and Boynton straightened immediately. “General, sir! Excuse me, sir. Colonel Hogan asked me to meet him here, sir.”
“Certainly, have a seat, Major. I’m sure Hogan will be back shortly. Are you settling in okay?” Birmingham asked, trying to put the man at ease.
“Yes, sir,” Boynton replied gingerly as he sat himself at the table. Hogan had told them during their briefing that there was a General in camp as an observer from London, but that the final authority in the camp was still Hogan’s.
Hogan entered the barracks, noticing Birmingham and Boynton sitting at the table together. The Major stood quickly, came to attention and saluted. “At ease, Major,” said Hogan returning the salute.
“Yes, sir,” replied the Major as he returned to parade rest with his hands behind his back, legs spread slightly apart.
“I meant, relax, Major. Let’s go on into my quarters. This was meant as a casual conversation,” Hogan said.
“Of course, sir,” said the Major following Hogan into the small room off the main barracks.
“Have a seat, Major,” Hogan said gesturing toward the bottom bunk as he sat on the stool by the desk. “How are your men doing, Major? Any problems or concerns?” he asked trying to ignore that the Major was still at attention even though he was sitting.
“No, sir, everything is fine. Most of the men are still a little shell-shocked to find themselves with the freedom they have here,” replied the Major. “Some of us have been POWs for a long time, sir. It’s a little disconcerting to suddenly find yourself without the fear of retribution.” The Major sighed and then continued, “I guess that sounds fairly cowardly, sir. I apologize.”
“No apology necessary, Major. My men and I have been POWs for three years. I understand your fears. We had just been lucky enough to end up in a camp where the Kommandant and Sergeant of the Guard were not cut out of the Nazi mold. Their neutrality helped us start our operation here,” Hogan replied.
“It’s quite the operation, sir,” Boynton said. “Though it appears from your injuries, that the take over of this Stalag was not without cost?”
“Actually, the takeover went very well. No one was injured. My injuries are from an altercation with the Gestapo three weeks ago,” Hogan replied still not wanting to discuss the entire truth about that evening, but if it made Boynton feel more comfortable he was willing to answer some questions.
“I’m sorry, sir. I didn’t mean to pry,” Boynton said having seen the closed look appear on Hogan’s face. If the man’s face still looked like it did after three weeks, he wouldn’t ask any more questions. He had seen enough men after altercations with the Gestapo to know what Hogan had been through.
“It’s quite all right, Major,” said Hogan evenly, but then quickly changed the subject. “There was something else I needed to talk to you about.”
“Sir?” asked Boynton.
“I need to make a decision as to the disposition of the German prisoners being held in this camp. I have three men in the cooler, two of whom, I plan on turning over to the liberation forces, to face charges of war crimes. The last man there is your Major Kalb. I need you to give me an honest assessment of his treatment of POWs. I would also like to know what you can tell me about the 25 guards that were there with you at Camp 19,” Hogan said evenly, hoping that he wouldn’t hear anything horrendous, but he noticed the Major’s demeanor change when he had mentioned Major Kalb. It was making him steel himself for something he didn’t want to hear.
“Colonel Hogan. I will attempt to give you a fair assessment. But to be honest, if you took Major Kalb and his goons out and blew them all away, I wouldn’t be that upset, sir.” Boynton paused and took a deep breath. “Camp 19 was made up of prisoners from two separate camps. The men with me were trucked to Camp 19. We had no problems. The men from the other camp were made to march almost continuously for five days, before they arrived at Camp 19. Major Kalb and his goons arrived with them. During those five days, rations were withheld, and the men were only given four hours of sleep and hardly any rest periods. I was told that at the end of each day, Major Kalb and his men would roundup any of the POWs that appeared to be faltering, restrain them, and then line them up for the other POWs to see. Those Bastards would use the POWs as target practice, sir. The POWs never knew what was going to happen, either the guards would fire madly and death would be quick or the guards would fire random shots and death would never seem to come.”
Major Boynton fell silent and sighed. “The final tally was 32 dead, sir.”
“I’m sorry, Major,” said Hogan. 32 dead. “But that gives me the answers I was looking for.” Hogan paused and then said, “Major. If your men need anything, just let me know. The only consolation I can offer is that we’re closing in on the end of this bloody war. I promise you, Major. That I’ll do my best to see that every Allied POW in this camp makes it back to London safely.”
“Thank you, sir,” said the Major coming to attention and saluting.
Hogan didn’t return the salute, but instead offered his hand to the Major. “Like I said, Major Boynton. I’ll do the best I can.”
Boynton at first just stared at the proffered hand. After a minute, he grasped the Colonel’s hand firmly. “Thank you, sir. I know you will.” He turned on his heel and left.
Hogan paused to give Boynton some time to leave the barracks and then he headed out of his office, but his anger started to reach a crescendo. Now I think I’ll go talk to that bastard Major Kalb.
General Birmingham was still sitting there when Hogan entered the main barracks. “How did that go, Rob?” Kyle asked noticing that Hogan was livid. He probably won’t even talk to me. We haven’t seen eye to eye since I got here and after that little altercation the other night…
“Not good, Kyle. Not good at all. I now have 26 more Germans that I need to charge with war crimes. No, make that 25. Because one of them is never going to make it to his trial, if I have anything to do with it,” Hogan said flatly heading for the barrack’s door. “If anyone’s looking for me, I’ll be ‘interviewing’ the Kommandant of Camp 19, Major Kalb.”
“Whoa. Hey, Rob,” Kyle said, jumping up, and trying to beat Hogan to the door. He managed to step in front of Hogan and block his exit. “Maybe you should hold off on that ‘interview’ for a little while,” Kyle said seeing himself in Hogan for the first time. He didn’t like what he saw. Hogan looked angry enough to carry through with his threat.
“Get out of my way, Kyle,” said Hogan angrily and quite ready to grab Kyle and push him aside again.
“Not this time, Rob. Let’s go into your office. You need to calm down before you go anywhere,” said Kyle. “Come on Rob. Listen to me for once. You’ve been on edge lately. Let’s go talk before you explode and do something you’ll regret,” said Kyle standing his ground.
Hogan was breathing heavy and his eyes were showing rage, but he finally settled down. “Maybe you are right Kyle,” Hogan said quickly turning to head back to his office.
As the General closed the door behind him he asked of the man’s back, “So, are you going to tell me what’s going on? You’ve been wound so tight the past couple of days. I’m worried about you,” Kyle said sympathetically.
Hogan turned to Kyle and said, “Damn it, Kyle. Kalb made half those men from Camp 19 march for five days without rations or rest. His guards would execute any stragglers who couldn’t keep up! On a daily basis!”
Oh my God. “And you were going to what when you talked to him? Kill him? Huh?” asked Kyle, not used to being the voice of reason when he talked to Hogan. Even in their days together as pilots, Hogan was always the more reasonable one. “And don’t tell me, that his actions are the only thing that has got you distraught. Something else must have happened. What was it?” asked Kyle.
Hogan just stared at Kyle for a long moment and then sat heavily on his bunk. “What was it? Maybe it was that two of my men almost got themselves killed this morning? Or was it that I was attacked and spit on by the Reischsmarschall? Or maybe that I was almost killed by an angry mob,” Hogan said sarcastically. “Then hearing about this bastard Kalb and his goon squad. What do you think, Kyle? Is that enough maybe?” asked Hogan pointedly trying to get the upper hand, so he wouldn’t have to tell Kyle about the American atrocities as well.
“Okay whoa now,” said Kyle. “I get it. You’ve had a bad day. You, of course, realize that that is not an excuse to take out Major Kalb. Right?” Kyle asked, wanting desperately to say something to break the tension. An idea struck, and he glared at Hogan suspiciously. “Look what you’ve done to me, Rob!” he accused. “I’m starting to talk like you! You are usually the sane one. I’m usually the one to fly off the handle.”
Hogan relaxed suddenly. “My God. You’re right, Kyle! I can’t let myself be dragged farther into your abyss!” he smirked, looking directly at Kyle, with most of the tension between them dropping away. “Thanks, Kyle. You saved me from myself,” Hogan said quietly.
“You’re welcome. So are you going to tell me what it was that set you off?” asked Kyle.
“Get out of my office, Kyle,” Hogan said evenly.
“So, there is something else. Give it up, Rob. I am not leaving until I know. Especially, since it sent you over the edge, it probably isn’t going to be good for the men here. Right?” asked Kyle.
Hogan paused and gave Kyle a look of defiance, but knew that he needed to explain this situation. “All right, General. I was going to talk to everyone tomorrow. You have to realize that my mind is made up here. So what I’m going to tell you will happen. Nothing is going to make me change my mind. Do we have an understanding?” Hogan asked deadly serious.
“Colonel. I will agree to nothing until you explain to me what’s going on,” Birmingham said just as serious.
Hogan looked at Kyle directly. “Goering, Burkhalter and his man, along with Kalb and his men, will be handed over to the Allied forces as planned. I will level the charges against them myself. But, I plan to release the Germans that were stationed here at Stalag 13, including the Kommandant and Sergeant of the Guard, before the Allied forces arrive.”
“You can’t do that, Hogan! It’s against every rule in the book,” protested Birmingham.
“So is letting 127 German POWs die in a sealed railcar. So is executing every German soldier in a concentration camp after they surrendered,” said Hogan evenly. “Forget the Nazi atrocities General, the Americans are working on their own.” Hogan paused and saw Kyle’s facial expression change. Hogan asked accusingly, “Did you know about these things, Kyle?”
“I had heard the reports, Rob,” responded Kyle quietly.
“Damn it, Kyle. We are supposed to be the good guys, the ones standing up for what is right. How can anyone trust us, if we are doing the same things as those we are fighting against?” asked Hogan. “I will not allow even the remote chance that any such atrocity will happen to my POWs. The guards at Stalag 13 are just young boys or old men. You’ve seen them by now. They aren’t soldiers. They were all assigned to the easiest posting, here at Stalag 13, where there had never been a successful escape. Their naivety was the only thing keeping us in business. I won’t see them all massacred.”
“Rob. I’m sure those were isolated incidents. It won’t happen again,” Kyle said.
“Now you are being naïve, General. This war was full of people who believed ‘it won’t happen’,” Hogan said quietly.
“Rob. War is hell and bad things happen. I know we’ve never seen eye-to-eye. But you’ve changed. I just don’t understand you anymore,” Kyle said softly.
Kyle watched as Hogan stood and went to his open window, and looked out quietly for a long moment. To Kyle’s mind, Hogan looked as if he was dredging up some long ago memory, one that had been carefully suppressed.
Hogan turned back to Kyle, distressed. “Listen, Kyle. Just be glad that you never will understand what it means to be a POW.” Hogan paused trying to find the right words to convince Kyle that what he was going to do was the right thing to do. “When I was first captured, that night in Hamburg, we were thrown onto a train and never told where we were heading. They had jammed as many men as possible into the railcars. We were locked in for four days without rations. Not everyone on the train survived. I happened to be the only officer on my railcar. The men were all looking to me for guidance. I could only stare into their frightened faces. I tried to keep everyone calm, but since I was just as frightened as they were, it didn’t do much good.”
Hogan paused again, as those long ago fears came rushing to the surface. “Damn it. To think of all those people being entombed in that railcar...” He paused shaking his head. “It brought it way too close to home, Kyle. It could have just as easily been those men and me. I will not take the chance of that happening to the men stationed here at Stalag 13.” Hogan stopped his explanation, turned away, and went to the window again.
Kyle had listened quietly to Hogan’s story. And he had watched, as Hogan was barely able to contain the fear that those long ago memories invoked. “Rob. I don’t know what to say. I can’t fathom the feeling you’ve described. But you survived it and then you created this whole operation soon after you arrived. London has been very impressed with Papa Bear’s abilities. Since my arrival here, I have been amazed at what you’ve been able to accomplish. Things appear to have gone well for you here.”
Hogan turned back to Birmingham. “You just don’t get it, Kyle. Do you?” Hogan accused. “So. You think we’ve had a cakewalk here. You have to realize that we could never be anything but prisoners. We had no choice. Any extra supplies were only for the ‘moving’ prisoners. You’ve been here for a few days. You’ve seen the conditions, the lice, the fleas, and the rats. Not to mention the food. And Stalag 13 is better than all the other POW camps out there. But keep in mind, that all POW camps combined are still better than any of the other types of camps, be it labor or concentration camps.”
Hogan pointed a finger at directly at Birmingham. “But still, you try keeping 2000 men healthy and sane in a place like this before you pass judgment. Between the sheer boredom of long hours with nothing to do and the sheer terror that at any moment the SS or Gestapo would label you unnecessary, life here was not easy. There were food shortages, and if we were lucky we had hot water once a week. Mostly we struggled to stay clean with cold water and home made soap.”
Hogan paused and looked at the floor. “Then there were the illnesses. There were many a bought of dysentery, which caused some major weight loss for men who couldn’t afford it. I would have to negotiate for additional food for them. In the leanest times, generally we all took turns giving up a few meals, so the sick could eat. I also almost lost over 200 guys to pneumonia one winter. They had to be quarantined and separated from the rest of us. There wasn’t much medication to be found. Kommandant Klink did the best he could, trying to find some. The only thing that saved us was being able to contact London. Other than that I’d have probably lost one third of this camp to illness alone, over the past three years.”
Hogan looked up directly at the General. “Kyle. My men and I have been teetering on the edge of an abyss ever since we arrived. There was never anything easy about it. We had some control over events within camp, only because Klink allowed it. But at any time an outside force could have shattered our little world. And in terms of our ‘operation’, it was an all or nothing proposition. We learned as we went along, no one here was trained for this type of duty. Either the job was done right, or we were all dead men. There was never any middle ground,” said Hogan. “We’d been lucky, very lucky until...” Hogan’s voice faltered, indicating that something was left unsaid.
“Until?” asked Kyle, having noticed that Hogan deliberately stopped his explanation.
“Until everything almost came to a crashing halt, three weeks ago,” Hogan said sighing.
“Was that when you had that ‘conversation’ with the Gestapo Major?” asked Kyle.
“Yeah. The Gestapo Major and I had long been acquaintances. He knew I was the Senior POW Officer here at Stalag 13. The Major had always suspected me of being a spy and a saboteur. We had, up until then, been able to keep a few steps ahead of him.”
Hogan paused, trying to summarize the worst night of his life. “Two others and I had gone to meet with the underground. It was to be our last meeting before the final plans were to go into effect. Fortunately, the civilian members of the underground had already left. My men and I were waiting a few minutes to let them get in the clear before leaving. Unfortunately for us, the Gestapo had gotten wind of our gathering and stormed the meeting place. I took a bullet during our retreat. My men brought me back here to do what we always did… confuse the issue. I had hoped the Major hadn’t gotten a good look at me, but that wasn’t to be. It did take the Major a little time, but he finally put two and two together.”
“Why didn’t you just…” Kyle asked being interrupted by Hogan’s lethal stare.
“Run?” Hogan asked appalled. “Kyle. Is that what you’re asking me? Why didn’t I run?”
Kyle didn’t respond. He’d almost said the wrong thing again.
Hogan continued coldly, “The life of every man in this camp would have been forfeit. As the saying goes, there had never been a successful escape from Stalag 13. We were POWs, not saboteurs. It was our best cover story. We’d always been able to throw the Krauts off the track by being back in camp almost before anything happened. The Gestapo had, up until that point, never been able to prove anything. Even when they did suspect something, I’d always been able to double-talk my way out of most encounters. This time though, the bullet wound was a little obvious and the Major had been looking right at me, when I was hit. I could only hope that I could convince him and Kommandant Klink that I had only escaped and not admit to underground activities.” Hogan paused and looked away from Kyle.
Kyle wasn’t sure what to say. He noticed Hogan trying to give him an unemotional account of that evening. And it wasn’t working. Kyle decided not to respond and let Hogan continue at his own pace.
Hogan turned back and continued, “So after we returned to camp, all we could do was wait. My men understood, explicitly, that if something should happen to me, they were to continue with the final missions. They were ready. They could handle it without me.” Or you. “The Major and his goons showed up about two hours after we had made it back to camp. They worked me over good, to the point where I had been lapsing in and out of consciousness. I wasn’t even sure of the things I might have said to them. The last thing I remember was the Major saying he had no more use for me. That’s when I felt the muzzle of his revolver being pressed to my head.”
Kyle noticed a shiver of dread from Hogan as he described the encounter. Obviously it must have been a bluff. Hogan is still alive. Kyle remained silent waiting for Hogan to continue.
Hogan said, “The gun went off.”
Oh God, thought Kyle.
“I’m only alive today, because Kommandant Klink had relieved the Gestapo Major of his weapon as it discharged. Klink then forced him to leave, by telling the Major, that he hadn’t proven my involvement in the underground, and that that only made me an escaped prisoner, under his jurisdiction. That’s when I passed out. I was unconsciousness for the better part of three days. Kommandant Klink had called for a doctor, and allowed me to recover in his quarters. He never pursued any further action against my men or me for escaping.”
Hogan again paused. “You see Kyle, as a POW camp Kommandant, Klink didn’t have to interfere with the interrogation. The standard punishment in most POW camps for being an escaped prisoner was death. Klink chose to stop it. He confided in me after the takeover that he was worried that the Major’s next step would be to take out his wrath on the rest of the POWs in camp. He said he couldn’t let that happen. I owe him one, Kyle, not only for my life, but also for those of my men. I promised him that I would keep both him and his men safe. I intend to do just that. End of story.”
Kyle was quiet for a long time. “All right. So say I agree with you. How can you legitimately make the decision to send some of the Germans with the Allied troops and others not?” asked Kyle.
“Like I said before, Kyle… no one here at Stalag 13 is remotely guilty of war crimes. They just happened to be living in the wrong country when the war started. They were doing what they had to, to survive. As to the others, they spent most of this war inflicting pain, suffering and death on innocent victims,” Hogan said quietly. “I will not trust the Allied forces with them either. I was going to ask for volunteers who could make sure those men arrived at their destination safely.”
“Rob. I will stand behind your decision. I’m out of my depth here. It was easier for me to think of all Germans as vicious predators. You know. Everything black and white. The good guys versus the bad guys. You’ve made me see all the shades of gray. I now understand what a heavy burden this has been for you. I just never had to think about it this way before.”
Kyle became quiet, lost in thought. “You realize that the only way to guarantee the safety of the Germans being turned over, would be the intimidation factor. You can’t send a bunch of Privates and Corporals to stand against the commander of the Allied force.”
“What do you have in mind, Kyle?” asked Hogan.
Kyle came to attention, actually saluted and said, “Sir. I volunteer to see those prisoners to their final destination safely.”
Hogan didn’t return the salute; instead he took hold of Kyle’s shoulder and said, “Thanks, Kyle. But, I want you to look me in the eye and promise me you will keep them safe.”
Kyle finished the salute, and then smirked sarcastically saying, “You don’t trust me?” But before Hogan responded, Kyle reached out to shake Hogan’s hand and looked Hogan straight in the eye saying, “I promise. I will do whatever I need to, to get those prisoners to their final destination safely.”
Hogan reached out and took Kyle’s hand. “I appreciate your help, Kyle. It’s important to me that there is no mess up. Once they get to where they are going, it’s up to the War Crimes Commission to decide their fate. But until that time, those men are my responsibility.”
Kyle said, “I do understand, Rob. You don’t have to worry. Honestly.” Kyle noticed Hogan visibly relax. He knew Rob had been extremely tense, but was amazed to see the extent. Hogan looked as if he might pass out as he sat heavily on his bunk.
“Good. Now all I have to do is get 2000+ other people to agree that I’m doing the right thing,” Hogan said sighing heavily. He sat quietly for a minute. Kyle could see the ‘command’ mask slip back into place. Hogan then said, “I do need to talk to Major Kalb. I might as well do that now.” He rose and headed for the door. Glancing back at Kyle he asked, “Coming?”
Kyle looked surprised. “Why? Are you afraid you need a backup?”
Hogan replied, “No. But when or if Major Kalb gives me any grief. I want to make sure he knows how lucky he was that there was someone else in the room with me.”
“Okay. I get it… good cop/bad cop. By all means… Let’s go,” Kyle responded.
Both men exited Hogan’s quarters and headed for the cooler.
Later that Evening,
Luft Stalag 13, Colonel Hogan’s Quarters,
April 21, 1945, 2100 Hours
The doctor had just left after seeing the Colonel to bed. The new schedule for Hogan’s medications was for 0900 Hours and 2100 Hours. Hogan was glad that he could actually try sleeping through the night. Not that he was really going to sleep the whole time, but at least he knew he didn’t have to be awake at a specific time.
So for now, Hogan just laid in bed, revisiting the last few hours in his head…
He and Kyle had gone to see Major Kalb. The procedure was the same now for all prisoners. The guards entered first, followed shortly after by the Colonel and in this case, the General. To their surprise… the Major had been horrified, almost hysterical, when they entered his cell. His body was racked with fear. He trembled uncontrollably. By the time Hogan and Birmingham completed their entrance, the Major had urinated and defecated himself. Hogan had given him a look of revulsion and repeated the standard “prisoner” speech.
As both officers started to leave, the Major collapsed and began throwing up uncontrollably. A cesspool of human waste. Disgusted, Hogan had ordered his men to take Kalb to the delousing station, make him strip, hose him down and get him some clean clothes. He also told them that Kalb would alone, be the one to clean up his cell. Goddam pathetic bastard can dish it out, but can’t take it. Hogan then had left the cell followed closely by Birmingham.
Hogan had also touched base with Kinch, Newkirk, Carter and LeBeau. He had asked Kinch to re-arrange the meeting scheduled for 0900 Hours tomorrow. It was to have been about the food rationing and camp morale. But the camp dynamics may change after he announced his plans for the Stalag 13 guards. Newkirk, Carter, and LeBeau had finished the inventory of the food supplies. There was enough food for one month’s time, if the present two meals a day rationing went unaltered. They also checked into the supplies needed to release the guards. Everything was in order. It would take 24 hours to ‘move’ all 62 men.
All Hogan had to do now was convince the civilians, as well as his men, that the Stalag 13 officers should be allowed to go free. He would talk to each group separately in the morning, instead of having the camp meeting. Once he made it clear to them, he would tell Kommandant Kink and Schultz. He could be virtually ready to release the men by the noon roll call tomorrow. That way his men could easily separate the Stalag 13 guards from the Camp 19 guards as the Camp 19 guards were captured together and assigned roll call positions together.
Kyle entered the office interrupting Hogan’s thoughts....
He hauled himself to the upper bunk and said, “I’m going to try and get some shut eye before you. You snore too much.” With that he turned toward the wall and was asleep almost immediately.
“Good night to you too,” said Hogan sarcastically, leaning his head back and closing his eyes, hoping sleep would come soon. It did come, maybe not as soon as he would have liked. But sleep did come.
Luft Stalag 13, Barracks Two,
April 22, 1945, 0500 Hours
Hogan had slept until he heard others in the barracks moving around. He looked at his watch. 0430 Hours. He got up, turned the light on, and noticed that Kyle was already gone. Amazing, everyone’s up early. He dressed quickly and entered the main barracks. As he opened his door, the men in Barracks Two cheered. What the hell’s going on?
Kinch came forward with a hand written note.
Hogan took the proffered note and read it aloud, “April 22, 1945. 0230 Hours. Berlin has fallen. The Allied forces have complete control of the Capital. Hitler has gone into hiding. Other officers flee country. The end is in sight.” Hogan stared for a long moment at the note in his hand. When he looked up, all his men were grinning from ear to ear. Hogan smiled back, but not a full grin. One that said there is still too much war left to celebrate. “Does the rest of the camp know?” he asked quietly.
Kinch replied earnestly, “No, sir. I just couldn’t keep it a secret from the guys in this barracks.”
“Okay, Kinch. Thanks. I will announce this after roll call. Have the civilians assemble for this news. Pass the word that the men should stay in formation. Then, could you round up the team leaders for me? After I talk to them, I will need to speak to the civilian leaders too,” ordered Hogan all business.
“Yes, sir,” Kinch replied. He had hoped the Colonel would be excited about the news, but his reaction was one of trepidation. Kinch understood Hogan’s frame of mind. So many things could still go wrong. The Colonel is just not willing to let his guard down.
“I’m going to tell Kommandant Klink and Schultz this news now. I don’t want to add insult to injury when I announce it after roll call. I want to give them the chance to walk away, instead of getting inundated with the men’s reaction.”
Hogan then left Barracks Two, heading to Klink’s quarters…
“Kommandant Klink,” Hogan called as he entered the Kommandant’s quarters, not immediately seeing the German Colonel. Although he nodded acknowledging Schultz who was sitting at the table.
Klink entered from the bedroom, not completely dressed yet. “What is it Colonel?” asked Klink noticing Hogan looked rather uncomfortable.
“Kommandant Wilhelm Klink. Sergeant Hans Schultz,” Hogan began formally. “I wanted to let you know that I have gotten official confirmation of the fall of Berlin. As of 0230 Hours this morning, Allied forces had gained complete control of the Capital. Hitler has gone into hiding and many others on his staff have disappeared.” Hogan paused taking a deep breath. “I wanted you both to know before roll call, as I plan on telling my men before we break the assembly. I won’t require either of you to stay during the announcement. You may return here to your quarters.”
“Thank you, Colonel Hogan. Your consideration of our feelings is most appreciated, but this was not unexpected news. Our country will have many atrocities to answer for.” Klink paused and took a deep breath. “Though it’s still disheartening to realize that the country you’ve known all your life, whether it was good, bad or indifferent will no longer exist in its present state.” Klink glanced at Schultz with an unspoken question.
“Colonel. We will both stay during your announcement. Your men have the right to celebrate. Even at our expense. We both, Schultz and I, feel that it’s about time that we stop hiding from this war. We need to face the consequences our actions -- and our inactions. The most appropriate place to start would be here with your men.”
“As you wish, gentlemen,” Hogan said as he turned and left. Incredible. His respect for the two men was steadily growing. He would never have thought they could handle this just a month ago. Now he was amazed. When all the leaders of their country were running, the two least likely soldiers were standing their ground, regardless of their fate.
By the time he reached the compound the men were starting to assemble. He heard the ‘raus, ‘raus of the guards and walked over and took his place in line. The camp assembled quickly. It seemed that Kinch’s warning about staying in formation had them all curious. Klink and Schultz arrived and quickly went through their paces. As Klink finished receiving his report, Schultz returned to his side. Both men stood at attention facing the assembled POWs, their faces unreadable. Hogan was impressed again. There was always the chance that this situation could turn bad for the two men. They will be standing virtually unprotected in the compound. Hogan hoped his men wouldn’t turn against them.
Hogan stepped forward, almost to where Klink and Schultz were standing, trying to be a buffer zone between his men the two Germans. He turned and faced his men. His announcement brought about a number of reactions. The most obvious reaction was the cheering, the hooting and hollering, and slapping each other on the back. Some of the men were very quiet, almost like they couldn’t believe the news. Some made distasteful gestures and yelled obscenities in the direction of the Germans. Hogan was going to let it play out till its natural conclusion, unless something forced his hand. He didn’t see the mob mentality again, and was glad. After a number of minutes, the POWs gradually noticed that their commanding officer wasn’t sharing in the revelry. They slowly re-assembled and became quiet.
Once control was re-established…
Hogan began, “Gentleman. I want you to realize that even though that news was something we’ve all been waiting a long time for. We still have work to do here. This war is far from over. I don’t want anyone to underestimate the danger that is still looming. Dismissed.” Hogan turned to face Klink and Schultz. Saluting he said, “Dismissed.”
Klink and Schultz returned the salute and headed to their quarters.
Hogan spent the next three hours talking with his staff, the barrack’s leaders, Major Boynton, as well as the leaders of the German civilians. He informed them of his decision to release the Stalag 13 POWs, as well as his decision to turn over the Camp 19 guards and their guests in the cooler to the American forces, with a security escort. He explained the recent atrocities committed by the American forces. He told of his desire to avoid any chance at all, that his Stalag 13 POWs would be subjected to anything similar.
They all seemed to understand Hogan’s desire to protect the Germans of Stalag 13. Many of the POWs had been moved via railcar when first captured. All could imagine what it would have been like to die as those 127 German POWs had. Hogan made it clear, that once the POWs were released, he would give them the option of staying or leaving. If anyone chose to stay, they would be housed with German civilians and supplied with the proper clothes and identity papers. Those that chose to leave would do so via the long-standing process. They would get clothes, identity papers, food, and maps. But, they would be on their own to do and go where they wished.
All in all it had gone much better than expected. Hogan had left it up to the barrack’s leaders and the civilian leaders to inform their people on what he planned to do. He had ordered that they should inform him, by 1000 Hours, of any person who was not willing to go along with his decision. Hogan needed to quell any dissention in his own ranks before he spoke with both Klink and Schultz. He wanted to separate the Stalag 13 German POWs, from the Camp 19 POWs at the noon roll call.
Hogan had returned to his barracks to wait on the reports. Doc Freiling had followed quietly from the meeting, as it was time for the Colonel’s morning check up. As they entered Hogan’s quarters, Hogan turned to face the doctor and said, “Do you think I’m doing the right thing, Doc?”
The doctor was taken aback, as he wasn’t ready for the Colonel’s question. Hogan hardly ever questioned his own decisions. “You are doing what you feel is necessary. Not everyone will agree, but we’ve given our word to you that we will follow your decision.”
“Thanks, Doc,” said Hogan.
The doctor’s exam was quick this morning. He administered the medication, and checked the Colonel’s vision. Nothing had changed with his vision, but Hogan noticed that the doctor had given up on the pain tolerance maneuvers. Thank God. When the doctor finished, both men exited his quarters.
As expected, Hogan saw a number of the barracks leaders all ready with their reports. “Gentleman. Why don’t we start with the bad news, first? Is there anyone who will make trouble?”
No one answered.
“Good. That’s what I needed to know. I’ll wait here for the rest of the reports. As soon as I get the all clear, I’ll talk to Klink and Schultz. Then I will want the guards separated. Newkirk, I need you to be in charge of the German POWs. I don’t trust the Camp 19 German POWs. Take whatever precautions you need. Once the guards are separated, Kommandant Klink and myself will address Stalag 13 guards. Have them fall in, in front of the Kommandant’s office.”
“Yes, sir,” said Newkirk.
Hogan then sat with a cup of coffee, waiting on the last reports from the different barracks leaders and civilians. Finally, he looked at his watch…1010 Hours. The only report outstanding was that of Major Boynton and his men. Everyone else had agreed to go with Hogan’s decision. He rose and headed for the door, not real happy that he would have to look for Major Boynton.
But he never made it to the door.
Boynton came rushing headlong into the barracks, almost crashing into Hogan. “I’m sorry, sir. I had a little difficulty with my men, sir,” Boynton said out of breath and trying to come to attention. “Everything is fine now, sir. My men will stand by your decision, sir.” He managed to finally compose himself and salute.
Hogan returned the salute asking, “Are you sure, Major?” He took a hard look at the Major’s face. It appeared that the Major was going to have quite the shiner by the next morning.
“Yes, sir, Colonel Hogan. Everything will be fine,” replied Boynton resolutely, hoping the Colonel didn’t call him on the soon-to-be black eye. It was an already resolved issue, between he and his men.
“Thank you, Major. Dismissed,” said Hogan. Good man. Hogan was very glad that Boynton was willing to do all the hard work for him. He had no reason to distrust the Major. If any group was to give Hogan grief about the German POW release, he had expected it to be the Camp 19 Allied POWs. But that appears to be a moot issue now. I wonder what the other guy looks like?
“Yes, sir,” said Boynton starting to leave. He could now better understand the loyalty that Hogan’s men show for him. The man knew which lines to cross and which ones not to cross. You can’t say that of too many officers.
Hogan spoke to the men left in the barracks. “Wait for my orders, gentlemen. We now have time before the noon roll call. I’ll be with Kommandant Klink and Sergeant Schultz.” He headed out the door, glancing across the compound. Business as usual. Good.
He entered the Kommandant’s quarters to find Klink and Schultz at the table talking. “Excuse me, gentleman. I need to talk to you both about something important.” Hogan indicated that they should probably make themselves more comfortable on the living room furniture.
All three men moved to the living area.
“What is it that you want to talk about, Colonel?” asked Klink as he sat in the armchair.
“Well gentlemen. I have what I hope will be good news for you and the other Stalag 13 personnel. As of today, I will be releasing you and your men. This offer is not being extended to any non-Stalag 13 personnel. The rest of the German POWs in camp will all be turned over to the Allied liberation forces and charged with war crimes. For any of your men who choose to leave, there will be no repercussions. But they will leave here as German civilians. It will be safer for everyone. My men and I will supply all the necessary clothes, identity papers, money, maps and food to start your people on their way. The best estimate I have is that all 62 of you can be processed and moved out of camp in the next 24 hours. I will also offer this camp as a refuge for any of your men, who do not want to leave, but they will need to continue to sit out this war as German civilians. They will be quartered with the other civilians. So. What do you say gentlemen?” asked Hogan.
Klink and Schultz were dumfounded. Klink looked at Hogan askance. Hogan appeared to be enjoying their surprise. “This has to be a cruel joke, Hogan. You can’t be serious. This is against all the rules of engagement. What could you possibly gain from releasing us? -- Of course -- Shot while escaping -- That’s it, isn’t it, Hogan? To ease that food shortage we discussed. I thought I could trust you,” demanded Klink getting up and walking away from Hogan.
“Colonel. You can trust me. You have to trust me. This is the only way I can keep my word to you. If you and your men are still in this camp dressed as members of the German military when the liberating forces arrive, I can not guarantee your safety,” Hogan replied earnestly and followed the Colonel across the room.
Klink turned to find Hogan right behind him. “Why, Hogan?” Klink protested surprised. “Explain to me why!”
Hogan looked right into Klink’s eyes. “You have to know that the liberating force that will arrive here is going to be American. Sadly, I have to confess that the American forces have failed miserably in their treatment of German POWs.” Hogan sighed. “There have been two recent incidents that I know of. The first was where 127 German POWs died in a sealed railcar of asphyxiation and heat exhaustion. The second was after the liberation of a concentration camp in Northern Germany. All the German military personnel stationed there were executed. And this was after they had surrendered. I do not want a repeat performance of either incident for the personnel stationed at Stalag 13,” Hogan told them.
Klink continued to hold Hogan’s gaze. This was not the meek Kommandant of old, but a man standing at the crossroads. “Hogan. The men that I have assigned here are old men and young boys. They are of no possible danger to anyone. As I’m sure you realize.” Klink paused. “Can I really trust you, Hogan?”
“How can I make you believe me?” Hogan asked. “Look, Colonel. I’ve told you everything that is going on around us. There is nothing else I can tell you. Your men do not have to leave this camp, but they do have to give up their military identities. If you work with me, every one of your men will be identifiable only as civilians. They will be safer that way. This goes for you and Schultz too,” Hogan stated determinedly.
Klink sighed, hoping that he could really trust the American Colonel. “All right, Hogan. For the sake of my men, I will agree to your terms. But I will not run from this, Hogan. Much as I regret it now,” Klink said. “I am a member of the German military.”
Schultz stood and came forward to where both men were. “I will not run either. I will stand with Kommandant Klink as a member of the German military.”
“Thank you, Schultz,” said Klink. “What is our next step, Colonel Hogan?”
Hogan sighed. I need to convince these two men that they are really in danger, but at least we can start processing the rest of the men first. “We need to separate your men from the Camp 19 guards. Your men will be made to assemble in front of your office. You and I will let them know what’s happening. Once that’s accomplished, my men are very proficient in the “movement” of POWs. Your men will be brought into the tunnels and the process will begin. They will have the time they need to choose whether to stay or go. We will not push either way, but everyone will be assigned a civilian identity,” explained Hogan.
“Very well Hogan,” said Colonel Klink with a questioning look. Tunnels? “Did I hear you say that you could ‘process’ 62 men in 24 hours?” Meaning that you what? Change their identities, their clothes. And you ‘move’ them? Where?”
Hogan gave the Colonel a look of culpability. “I guess, Colonel Klink, this is where I get brutally honest with you. I’ve already told you that I am the leader of the underground in this area. I gained complete control of the existing underground within six months of my arrival. From that point on, the underground would only sabotage the targets my men and I approved. Our headquarters in London assigned a lot of targets, but I had full authority to do anything I deemed necessary. We were charged with putting a monkey wrench into any plans the German government might have had in using this area as a military stronghold. I’m not proud of everything I’ve done, too many innocent lives were lost, but we did accomplish what we set out to do.”
Hogan paused and looked away from Klink and Schultz. When he returned his gaze, he continued, “What I hadn’t yet told you of our operation was actually the most important part. It’s also the only part that I can legitimately say I’m proud of. I’m sorry, but you need to know that we’ve been using Stalag 13 as a ‘transfer’ station. We’ve moved, ‘processed’ if you will, hundreds and hundreds of Allied soldiers, as well as any other ‘lost sheep’ we ran across. We were charged with getting all these people out of Germany and back to London. I’m sorry, but again to be brutally honest, Colonel. All the Allied POWs here in Stalag 13 are volunteers. To insure the safety of our operation, none of us were allowed to escape. We couldn’t bring unwanted attention to Stalag 13. Our duty was to stay put and move as many people as we could.”
Hogan paused; sure that Klink wouldn’t take this well. “Hence ‘there has never been a successful escape from Stalag 13’ was true only because I never allowed it. My men and I choreographed all of the ‘unsuccessful’ escape attempts. They were all meant as distractions for one mission or another,” Hogan said.
Hogan was unsure of whether telling Klink the truth was the right thing to do. The man certainly now had enough reasons not to trust him. But honesty is now the only thing he had to offer the Kommandant. “I will show you our operation here. You and your men will be safe, if you can bring yourself to trust me. -- Colonel, you said it yourself; your men stationed here are of no danger to anyone. I cannot see myself handing them over to what I consider an unsecured situation. Neither you nor your men deserve that.” More brutal honesty. “I’m sorry, Colonel, but whether you want to know this or not.” Hogan paused.
How do you tell someone that unbeknownst to them, they’ve been aiding and abetting the enemy?
“My men and I owe a lot of our success to you and your men. Your neutrality was what allowed us to be in business. -- I am very sorry, Colonel. -- I had never expected that I would have to tell you any of this. I can’t imagine what you must think of my men and me. I’m just trying to be honest with you. I truly want to give your men any chance I can. Please don’t let your feelings toward me, blind you to the safety of your men,” Hogan pleaded. “Please don’t.”
Klink had stood quietly during Hogan’s description of his ‘operation.’ He then turned and walked away from the American Colonel. How could I have been so blind? Thinking back now, he remembered all the crazy stunts Hogan and his men pulled. Klink had always thought that Hogan was just playing the fool to maintain some semblance of control within the camp. He now realized how ineffectual he had been as a Kommandant. Hogan and his men had played him for a fool for over three years. Should that really surprise me? I admittedly kept my head in the sand, so as not to be too involved. Hogan was just the right man to take advantage of that. He just admitted as much.
Klink slowly turned back to his American counterpart. “Colonel Hogan. It seems that you have had more control over this camp than me from the very beginning. I always assumed that all your posturing and crazy activity was meant to keep your men in camp alive and healthy. And since I never had any real intentions to harm any of you, it was easier for me to let you continue. I never even considered an ulterior motive on your part. You played the part of a prisoner well Hogan. Again as an officer, I commend you on your abilities.” He paused and sighed.
“Since your takeover, I had imagined that you had run a small operation, where you would give orders to the civilian underground and they would carry the missions out. It didn’t seem to hurt my pride too much. But now, this operation of yours sounds very complex. I guess it is time for me to swallow any self-respect I have left and admit to being a coward and a fool.” Klink took a deep breath. “I will allow my men to be ‘processed’, Colonel, as long as you offer them the choice that you promised.” Klink then turn to Schultz and said, “Schultz. I will not hold you to your promise. If you want to leave, I will understand.” Klink returned his gaze to Hogan. “As for me, Colonel Hogan. I will face your American liberation force. If that meeting does bring about my death, then so be it. I can’t even pretend that there is a place out there for me now.”
Schultz immediately replied, “Colonel Klink, I will stand by my promise to you. I bear the same responsibility you do.”
Hogan interrupted, “Colonel Klink. You told me a week ago that you had made your choice. You made your choice not to interfere with my plans. You certainly made that choice three weeks ago when you saved my life. You just admitted to me that you never had any intentions of harming the POWs in this camp. That choice was made a long time ago, probably before I even came here.” Hogan then turned to Schultz. “And Schultz. Your choice was evident as soon as I met you.” Hogan paused.
“You both have nothing to be responsible for. You both were trying to do the right thing in the midst of this insanity called a war. I commend you both on your humanity,” Hogan said resolutely. Before anyone could respond Hogan said, “Okay, Colonel. I’m going to give the order for your men to be separated out at the noon roll call. 30 minutes from now. I will return then and we can get this show on the road.”
Hogan left the office quickly, before either man got to think too much.
That man is such an enigma. “I hope I can trust him,” Klink thought out loud.
“Something tells me that you can, Kommandant. Something tells me that you can,” said Schultz quietly.
Luft Stalag 13, Compound,
April 22, 1945, 1200 Hours
The noon roll was called. All POWs assembled, be they Allies or German. Hogan announced to his men that they no longer needed to be ‘Germans’. He didn’t want any accidents if the Allies should arrive and see ‘Germans’ guarding the perimeters. Hogan would assign snipers and lookouts, but no more German uniforms. He was also going to call and end to the roll calls except for the Camp 19 German POWs.
There was a happy roar throughout the assembly.
Hogan told them that if it appeared an assembly was necessary, there would be a bell rung. He then signaled for Newkirk to separate the prisoners. There were an additional 10 ‘German’ guards in the German POW compound. They had spread out around the Camp 19 German POWs. Almost immediately, the additional guards closed in on the Camp 19 POWs. They forced them all to lay flat on their stomachs, face in the dirt and hands behind their heads.
Newkirk then had the other ‘German’ guards herd the Stalag 13 POWs out of their compound and march them to in front of the Kommandant’s office. As soon as the German POW compound was secured, the Camp 19 German POWs were allowed to reassemble. Hogan had Kommandant Klink address his assembled men first. Klink went over the whole scenario and was quite convincing. Hogan could tell that most of Klink’s men would be happy with a way out, even though lot of the young boys looked completely lost.
Hogan addressed them quickly when Klink finished. He told them what they should expect next. And then called an end to roll call. Almost immediately, his men were there to show the Stalag 13 guards where they needed to go. They were split up into five groups of twelve. Small group by small group then disappeared in different directions and would be processed in different orders to conserve time. Some would get papers first, some clothing. On and on until they were finished. If all went well these men could make their decisions by noon tomorrow.
Klink and Schultz, who were standing next to Hogan, looked worried as they watched their men disappear in different directions. Of course it depended on what their first stop was, as to which direction they headed.
“They will be fine, gentlemen. Each of the five groups will be processed in a different order to conserve time,” Hogan assured them. “I can give you a tour if you like, Colonel. It will be a little tight in some places. Sorry, Schultz. Colonel, if you please?” Hogan indicated with a sweeping hand movement, that he wanted the Colonel to follow him to Barracks Two. “You will be able to see your men.”
“Lead the way, Colonel Hogan,” said Klink very nervous. It is very hard to trust, when you have spent what seems like a lifetime, not trusting. He followed Hogan to his barracks. There were a number of Hogan’s men already there. Most seemed skeptical about the presence of their former Kommandant, but no one questioned Hogan.
Hogan lead Klink to a bunk against the farthest left hand wall from the barrack’s door. He paused at the bunk, staring at it for a long moment. Looking back at Colonel Klink he said, “Sorry, Kommandant. This is awkward for me. We’ve spent over three years trying to keep this a secret. I didn’t expect it to bother me when I said I would show you our operation.” Hogan paused again and then acquiesced, “Well. Here goes nothing.”
Hogan turned and whacked the side of the bunk with his hand, exposing a tunnel entrance. “This way, Colonel,” said Hogan indicating the ladder at the tunnel entrance.
A tunnel in Barracks Two? Klink asked himself. How many times did we have this barracks searched? It was right in front of us. Unbelievable. He followed Hogan down the ladder. As he turned from the ladder, he was astonished as he realized that the area in which he was standing was some kind of hub. Tunnels went off in almost every direction. “How did you?” Klink stammered. “How did you do this?”
Hogan had already started down one of the tunnels, but turned back to see the stunned look on the Kommandant’s face. “I’m sorry, Colonel. This is probably just as awkward for you as it is for me,” Hogan offered. “We had our first tunnel within two weeks of my arrival. It took us a year to complete the entire tunnel system. We’ve added supplementary tunnel offshoots and storage areas over time. There are six miles of tunnels that crisscross the compound as well as spread out in different directions into the woods. There are five separate entrances scattered through the woods, all strategically made to look like tree stumps. There are many entrances from within the compound as well, including the cooler, the guard’s quarters, the water tower, and the kennel. Most barracks have their own entrances as well,” Hogan continued to explain. “If you follow me, you’ll be able to see your men.” Hogan headed off into one of the tunnels.
Klink followed completely flabbergasted. As he walked, he noticed the extent of Hogan’s operation. Hogan had continued with a running commentary. He saw a radio room and a map room. He saw a place where they appeared to be making counterfeit money. Then another place where they had many civilians’ clothes, as well as German uniforms stored, all different branches of the service and various ranks. Then another place where they appeared to have munitions stored.
Klink got to see all of his men. They all appeared just as dumbfounded. Some were being fitted for civilian clothes, some getting their pictures taken for identification purposes; some others were getting a shave and a less military haircut. Remarkable! Hogan had me out maneuvered from day one.
As they completed a long circuit of the tunnels, Hogan stopped and faced the Kommandant. “That’s pretty much it, Colonel. Most of the other passages lead to the outside tunnel entrances.”
“Well, Colonel Hogan,” Klink said shaking his head. “I still feel like a fool.” Klink paused and looked at Hogan. Nodding graciously he said, “But like a fool, that was out maneuvered by a military genius.”
Hogan nodded in return accepting that as a compliment and then he said, “I couldn’t have done any of it alone. My men are all very good at what they do.” Hogan paused. “Shall we go?” Hogan indicated a different ladder from the one they had originally climbed down. Hogan started to climb the ladder. When he got to the top, he had to remove what looked like some kind of locking device and then he pushed something aside.
Klink saw what looked like the inside of a building. When Klink got to the top, he almost fell off the ladder. Hogan had to grab him by the arm. My quarters! Unbelievable! Schultz had been sitting on the couch and had almost jumped out of his skin, when the wood stove moved and Hogan appeared. Klink exited the tunnel and went to sit on the couch. Schultz collapsed back onto the couch as well.
“Colonel Klink. Sergeant Schultz. My offer still stands for the both of you. It could be very dangerous for you to remain here as German military. You both will not be held accountable for anything. I will not level charges against either of you. Please reconsider your decisions,” Hogan asked. “If you want to change your minds, just let me know.” Hogan turned and headed for the door.
“Hogan, wait,” said Klink determinedly. “You don’t understand. I will not run. Too many of my countrymen are running. I need to be held accountable for my inaction. If others like myself had taken our heads out of the sand, we might have been able to stop Hitler. As it is too many people have died from our inaction.”
“Sorry, Colonel. I will not press charges,” said Hogan. “You will need to find some other way to be accountable,” Hogan said evenly. “Good day, gentleman.” Hogan left Klink’s quarters angry. Klink had never shown such a stubborn streak. He didn’t know how he was going to convince Klink and Schultz that what they were doing was a waste, not to mention possibly deadly. They’d both be better off working in the civilian sector, helping to rebuild, instead of rotting in some jail somewhere.
Hogan entered the compound, wanting to take a turn around camp to see what was happening, hoping that it would change his mood. His attention was immediately drawn to the south side of the compound where the volleyball net was set up. Major Killian was there with about thirty children. Hogan smiled. That reminds me. I need to talk with Killian about setting up a volleyball competition to keep people occupied while we all wait for the end of this endless war. He started across the compound, and spoke to many of the people as he passed them. Gratefully, their spirits were still high from the earlier announcement that Berlin had fallen.
“Major, may I have a word with you?” Hogan called out as he approached the crowd of children clustered around the net.
“Certainly, Colonel. Johann keep serving it like I showed you,” Killian said to a boy about 12. The boy nodded and Killian walked over to Hogan’s side. “Yes, sir?”
“Major. How would you like to organize a little volleyball tournament for the whole camp to participate in?” Hogan asked. “It’s going to be important to keep everyone occupied while we sit here waiting for the end of this war. So how about it?”
Killian grinned. “That sounds like a great idea, Colonel. I’ll get right on it.”
“Good. Spread the tournament out. Don’t bunch it all up. We don’t know how long we’re going to be here, and not everyone is in good physical condition. I don’t want a lot of injuries. And don’t forget the kids, they need something too,” Hogan said.
“Don’t worry, sir. I’ll have a schedule ready by tomorrow, sir,” Killian replied.
“Good. I’ll leave this with you then,” Hogan said relieved. One less thing to worry about.
“Yes, sir,” Killian replied turning back to the children.
Hogan headed off in the direction of the former German NCO barracks to check on the status of the injured in camp. He entered the barracks and was glad that Doctor Freiling was still there. And he was relieved to see that there were only the two injured commandos left in here. He waited patiently until Freiling was done checking on his patients.
“Colonel,” Freiling said coming over to the American Officer. “Did you need something of me?”
“Just to speak with you. How are they?” Hogan asked indicating the two men.
“They’ll be fine, Colonel. They still need bed rest, but they’re over the worst of it now,” Freiling replied.
“Good. Can you take a walk with me?” Hogan asked.
“Certainly,” Freiling agreed gathering his things up, putting them back in his bag and following Hogan back into the compound.
“I know,” Hogan began as they walked off toward the perimeter wire, “That you’ve become the unofficial spokesperson for the civilians here. I realize that when you and the rest of your countrymen came into camp, it was to be a short-term thing. It was just going to be until the Allied forces had passed by the area. What I want to know now is, has anyone changed their minds about returning to their homes and wants instead to leave Germany all together.”
“Where would we go?” Freiling asked perplexed.
“London initially. From there wherever you’d like,” Hogan replied as a matter of fact.
Freiling was quiet for a moment, looking out into the forest that surrounded the camp. “We are Germans, Colonel. We have fought hard to preserve our country, not for Hitler but from him. I don’t believe anyone would want to leave. We have much work ahead of us to rebuild. But,” he said smiling, “I will extend your offer.”
“Good that’s all I can ask.” Hogan paused. “What is to happen with the orphans in camp?”
“We’ve had some discussion about them, Colonel,” Freiling replied. “Some of us are willing to take one or two in. But it will not be easy. Sister Mary Nelson wants to keep the children together until things are more settled. There are many siblings among them, and she wants them to stay together as well. We had not come up with a plan yet. Did you have any ideas, Colonel?”
Hogan replied cautiously as an idea struck. “I have one,” he said thinking about a certain toy maker he may be able to persuade to help. “A lot will depend on the next several days. But in any case, I will make sure all 24 will stay together for the Sister. If need be, I’ll take them to London with me. Of course, that may not be the best solution, as I’m sure London has its share of orphans after this bloody mess.”
“Colonel. We will do what we need to. Those children are our responsibility. It’s their future we were fighting for. We won’t be leaving any of them out in the cold,” Freiling promised.
“Thanks, Doctor. I’ll keep you posted. Please let me know of anyone who wishes to leave Germany,” Hogan said. “Will I see you at 2100 doctor?”
“You certainly will. You can’t get away from me that easily,” Freiling replied sarcastically.
“I’ve given up trying, Doctor,” Hogan replied with a smirk. “I’ve given up trying.”
Hogan parted company with the doctor. Now. How am I going to get Schultz to help? He has that big toy factory. Germany’s largest. Isn’t that what he said? Maybe he could spare some space for the orphans. He’s the one who tried to knock Klink and I out of our guilt trips with thoughts of rebuilding this country for the children. All I need to do is convince him. -- Hopefully the factory is still standing. Schultz never gave us any indication that anything had happened to it. As he headed to his barracks, he noticed Klink and Schultz in the compound. They were watching as Hogan’s men were striking a tent under Kinch’s direction.
Kinch noticed the Colonel and quickly headed in his direction to explain the appearance of the tent. “Sorry, sir. I took the liberty of striking the tent. I knew you wanted the Stalag 13 guards kept away from the Camp 19 German POWs. It wasn’t until I remembered that any decisions the guards would make about leaving wouldn’t be until tomorrow that I realized they had no place to sleep tonight. There isn’t enough room in the recreation hall for all 60 men,” reported Kinch. “I informed Kommandant Klink and Schultz already. I hope I didn’t overstep by boundaries?”
“No. Good work, Kinch. Thanks. I must be slipping. I never even thought about it. That’s why I have you guys backing me up. Right?” Hogan asked.
“Right. No problem, Colonel,” replied Kinch.
Hogan nodded at Kinch, and then glanced back at Klink and Schultz. They were talking to some of their men, who were already back in the compound. Hopefully, Klink can ease this transition for his men – But Hell. I still need to make Klink believe he can repay his debt some other way. -- Whoa. Slow down Hogan -- You still need to convince Schultz as well. Wow. Manipulation is a hard habit to break after three years. I know I should let them make their own decisions, but they are hell-bent on making the wrong ones.
Hogan headed back to his quarters, needing time alone to think. If Kyle’s there, I’ll just pull rank and kick him out. Thankfully wasn’t necessary. He plunked himself down on his bunk, laid back and stared at the rungs of the top bunk. I’ve been spending so much time worrying about getting through this war. I’ve yet to think about what I wanted to do when it was over. Of course up until a few days ago I had nothing to look forward too. -- After all the sabotage and the lost lives. I feel like Klink. I need to repay my debt to this society. I need to help them rebuild their lives. -- How? -- What can I do?
Hogan lay contemplating his future for a long time, when an idea finally became apparent. He would need to call in a lot of favors, but there were enough high mucky-mucks that owed their lives to his operation. He was sure he could get what he wanted. It might also allow him to have something for Klink to do. He would start calling those favors in tomorrow. Manipulation? Blackmail? It doesn’t matter, if it can help me repay my debt to this society.
With his decision made, Hogan decided to get some sleep and dozed off quickly.
Luft Stalag 13, Barrack Two,
April 22, 1945, 1800 Hours
Hogan woke to a lot of commotion coming from the main barracks. Exiting his office he found Major Killian trying to pick the 15 men for the intra-barracks volleyball tournament. Everybody was talking at once and everyone had their own opinion of their proficiency at volleyball.
Killian noticed Hogan coming from his quarters and said, “Sorry, Colonel. I didn’t expect so much fuss. I didn’t mean to wake you.”
“Not a problem, Major,” said Hogan. It’s just nice to see his men letting off some steam. “So who are the men to represent Barracks Two?” Hogan asked.
“Sir,” Killian said. “It looks as if we’ll have to have tryouts to find the tournament players. I think I’ll need two to three days of tryouts, then the tournament can begin.”
“Great, Major. I look forward to watching.” Hogan nodded his thanks to Killian. The tryouts will give everyone a shot at playing. Then we can get on with the serious games. By that time, the men will have invested enough time and energy, so they will need to see for themselves who the victors are.
Hogan turned to Kinch. “Kinch, I’m going to get something to eat. When I return I want to talk to you, LeBeau, Carter and Newkirk. Give me a hour.”
“Yes, sir, Colonel,” replied Kinch.
Hogan exited the barracks and headed for the mess hall. He noticed that Klink and Schultz were still in the compound with the Stalag 13 guards. Hogan went over to see how things were going. “Excuse me, gentlemen. Have your men made any decisions yet?” asked Hogan.
“Good evening, Colonel,” Klink replied. “I’ve talked to all the men. There are 15 young men who wish to stay. They have no families and nowhere to go. The rest have chosen to leave.” Klink paused and looked directly at Hogan. “Do they still have your guarantee of safe passage, Colonel Hogan?”
“They do, Kommandant. They will be allowed to leave in groups of two and three, so they aren’t too obvious. They can start as early as tomorrow morning,” Hogan said. “I can only guarantee safe passage out those gates, Kommandant. The rest is up to them, but the identification papers and money supplied to them have a proven track record of success. Like I said, my men are very good at what they do. Your men will still be safer out in the countryside as civilians than staying here as German military.”
“Very well, Colonel. I will talk to them all again before they leave. Can you guarantee the safety of the 15 young men who want to stay?” asked Klink. “They are worried for fear of retribution.”
“Colonel. They have nothing to worry about.” Hogan assured. “All the people in camp have agreed to this ‘release’. They will not go back on their word to me. The 15 young men will be moved into the recreation hall tomorrow.”
“Thank you, Colonel Hogan. I will let them know,” Klink said.
“Then I will see you in the morning, Colonel. I will help you see your men off. Good evening, gentlemen,” said Hogan.
Hogan walked toward the mess hall. He would get something to eat and then he would have to explain his plans to his men at the meeting. This war is really coming to an end. I never expected the day to come, when I would give the command to leave this place. But it’s looming so close we need to be prepared.
Luft Stalag 13, Barrack Two,
April 22, 1945, 1900 Hours
Hogan entered Barracks Two and noticed that his men were already waiting on him. “In my quarters, gentleman please,” Hogan said as he walked to his quarters, his men following right behind. Hogan hadn’t planned this meeting and he could tell that his men were a little on edge thinking something was wrong. As he entered his quarters, Hogan noticed that Kyle was there. “You are out of here, Kyle. This is a private meeting,” Hogan said making a quick hitchhiking motion over his shoulder.
“Yes, sir,” Kyle said as he left the office.
When the door closed behind Birmingham, Hogan turned to his men and smiled slightly. “Relax, gentleman. Everything is fine. First, I wanted you to know that I never thought this moment would come. The war seemed so endless. Of course more recently, I honestly didn’t think I was going to make it to this moment. But, here we are.”
Hogan paused and grinned broadly. “I called this meeting as the first in a series of --’end of war’ -- planning sessions. We still have a lot to do and we need to keep our wits about us. But, this bloody war is coming to an end. Congratulations, gentlemen. You’ve done exceptional work here.”
An outburst of cheers emanated from his men along with some backslapping and bear hugs. Hogan withstood a couple of bear hugs, until his men realized what they just did to their still injured commanding officer. They immediately went into panic mode and apologized. “Whoa. Calm down, guys. I’m fine. Believe me, it was worth it. Nothing could detract from this moment.” He reached out and shook each man’s hand.
When everyone settled down, Hogan addressed his men more seriously. “I want you all to know, that as of tomorrow I will be contacting London. My goal is to have every man in this camp promoted at least one grade. The men here the longest with us, I will push for a two grade promotion. And for you four men, I’m expecting a three grade promotion,” Hogan said. “I may have to call in a lot of favors. But I honestly don’t expect that I’ll have too many problems getting what I want.”
Hogan noticed some of his men look away.
He responded, “I realize, gentleman, that some of you were not planning to continue in the military after this war. I will work at making these promotions stand, so that at the very least you can resign your commissions with the upgrades. For anyone of you who plan on staying in the military, I will certainly assist in getting you a posting you deserve.”
Hogan’s men all looked at him, somewhat sadly. All seemingly with the same thought appearing on their faces. My God this is really the end. “Thank you, sirs,” were all that that was heard.
“You are welcome. I guess we should get down to business then,” Hogan said trying to change the subject quickly. He would miss these men when they parted company. They’d come to mean a lot to him.
Hogan noticed his four men exchange glances. Then Kinch said, “Excuse me Colonel. What are your plans? If you don’t mind us asking?”
“No I don’t mind. I’ve only just made up my mind this afternoon. I finally came to the realization that I actually could make a choice. I will accept the promotions handed to me, but I will not accept them until my return to England. My reluctance to accept was because the promotions were unnecessary to our continued operation here. And also, because of when they were handed to me, my mental and emotional state made me believe that London only promoted me, ‘posthumously’. I had refused to look at the sealed orders that came with the stars, until General Birmingham forced the issue.” Hogan paused then smiled slightly. “It seems that I’ve been a General for close to three years, with the promotion to a two-star General, a year and a half ago. London didn’t want to disrupt our operation. So I was going to be told at the end of our POW experience.”
Hogan’s men shook his hand to congratulate him in turn.
“Thank you, gentlemen,” Hogan said quietly. “I guess, I should tell you that in addition to accepting the promotions, my plan is to return here, to Germany. Of course, that’s only if I can convince the Allied High Command. Word has it that Germany will be split into 4 military zones, with the US controlling the southern most section. I plan on lobbying heavily for the position of Military Governor of the US controlled zone. Of course, it will mean calling in some of those same favors I mentioned. I have a need to help these people rebuild their lives, especially since I’ve spent three years ordering the destruction of a good part of southern Germany. It’s just something I feel I need to do.”
“Blimey! You never do anything the easy way, Colonel,” said Newkirk. He paused and then offered quietly, “These people will be lucky to have you in their court, sir.” The others then jumped in with their support for Hogan’s decision.
“Thanks, guys. Let’s just hope that Allied High Command feels the same way,” replied Hogan. “Well let us get this meeting started, we have lots to do. First, it appears that 45 of Klink’s men are leaving. The other 15 will be staying. My assumption, at this point, is that most of these are the youngest of Klink’s men. Klink said they have no families or places to go. They will need to be quartered with the civilians. Any foreseeable problems?”
Kinch reported, “No, sir. 15 is doable. It shouldn’t take more than an hour to add the beds.”
“Good. I’ve also talked to Doc Freiling. He believes that all the German civilians in camp will want to remain in Germany. I’ve asked him to make sure as we would need a contingency plan to bring anyone who wishes to leave to London. I will see him in a couple of hours to confirm this,” Hogan said. “I will let you know if we need to make any additional plans.”
“Another problem is that both Klink and Schultz are hell-bent on turning themselves into the American Forces coming to liberate this camp. As you know, neither man could handle being incarcerated by the ‘regular’ army. Both feel they need to be held accountable for their inaction during this war. I want to provide both men with something essential to do, so they can feel they’ve repaid their debt.”
Hogan paused looking intently at his men.
“I was hoping to offer Klink a civilian liaison position in the military government. I will lobby for that, even if I do not get the Military Governorship position. I haven’t told him that yet. I’m not sure how I’m going to tell him. But I think he would do well in a civilian capacity where the fear of death didn’t hang over his head everyday,” Hogan offered.
“And there is an additional issue. There are 24 orphans, a nun, as well as 15 of Klink’s guards who have no place to go. But, I do have an idea.” Hogan paused. “Schultz, just recently, gave Klink and I a dressing down about rebuilding this country for the children. I want to convince Schultz to take all the children and the other young men with him. He owns that huge toy factory. I’m sure he can put them up for a while,” Hogan said, almost in question and waiting on his men’s opinions.
They only offered up their agreement.
“Okay, gentlemen. I will talk to them both, sometime in the next few days. I appreciate your support in this matter,” replied Hogan.
Hogan paused and then smiled. “We do have one more topic of discussion. We need to come up with a plan to implode all the tunnels for the day we leave Stalag 13. I don’t want large explosions, just something to collapse them. We can’t leave any evidence behind. And since we won’t be taking any of the equipment, maybe we can give the equipment to the underground. Carter can you handle this?” asked Hogan.
“With pleasure, Colonel,” said Carter smiling broadly.
There were smiles all around.
“Good,” said Hogan returning the infectious smile. “Dismissed.”
Hogan watched as his men left. He had originally hoped that he could convince them all to come work for him, but quickly realized that wasn’t to be. He had always expected that LeBeau and Newkirk would resign from the military, as they both had other more worldly talents and ambitions. He had always imagined LeBeau as the head chef of his own extravagant French restaurant. That hot-tempered little Frenchman will do well for himself. And Newkirk is either going to end up in jail, or the proud owner of a pub. I’m betting on the pub. And I suppose if I was ever looking for some side-action, he would know where to find it.
As for Carter, Hogan wasn’t too sure what he was going to do. He knew that if he asked Carter to come work for him, the kid probably would out of loyalty. I’m not going to push. Carter might just be happier at home in Bullfrog ND, than here in Germany. Although I’m not sure how happy Bullfrog, ND will be with Carter on the loose. I have visions of him as a chemistry teacher. Though how long the chemistry lab will last, will be the all-important question.
Kinch was a different story altogether. Hogan had worked the closest with Kinch and considered him a good friend. What I hadn’t remembered until Kyle showed up, that is, was that the world outside Stalag 13 wouldn’t accept a black man as readily. As a Captain in the army, Kinch could do well. In the civilian sector, Hogan wasn’t too sure. Hogan hoped he could convince Kinch to stay and work with him. But Kinch deserves his own command. And if that’s what he wants, I’ll work hard at getting it for him.
Luft Stalag 13, Outside Barracks Two,
April 22, 1945, 2000 Hours
Kinch, Newkirk, LeBeau and Carter left Colonel Hogan’s quarters and headed outside Barracks Two. They stood quietly for a few minutes. “Has anyone actually thought about what they were going to do after the war?” Kinch asked. “What if those promotions come through? Will it change anyone’s mind?”
LeBeau answered, “Right now. I feel like I will be deserting Colonel Hogan, if I do not stay in the military. I’m sure he would be willing to continue our working relationship. But he’s not asking. Honestly though, I do not want to continue in the military. I want to go back to Paris, open a restaurant, and work on a family. I appreciate Colonel Hogan’s offer of a promotion, but I think that regardless of what happens, I will not re-enlist.”
“I’m with you, Louis. Working with Colonel Hogan was an incredible experience. But, I just don’t see the military being my future,” said Newkirk. “I want to go back to London and my family. Maybe open a pub. I’m not sure, but taking orders from officers won’t be part of my life anymore.”
“Don’t any of you feel like Colonel Hogan? Needing to help rebuild this country? It was my incendiaries that did most of the damage,” stated Carter sadly. He paused and looked away from the others. “But, it sure would be nice to go home and forget this whole experience.”
Kinch had been quiet while the other three discussed their ideas, as he wasn’t at all sure what he was going to do. He had forgotten what the non-military lifestyle was like. Race relations in the US weren’t all that great. He wasn’t sure what he would do if he left the service. Race had never meant anything to Colonel Hogan and the men here at Stalag 13. It had taken that encounter with General Birmingham to remind him of what the outside world was like. He could legitimately request a permanent position with Colonel Hogan. But Colonel Hogan was also offering him a three-grade up-grade that would make him a Captain. He could have his own command, but it would certainly be in the segregated army.
“Kinch,” Newkirk asked when Kinch didn’t immediately volunteer his opinion. “What are your plans?”
Kinch replied part of his decision made, “I’ll be staying in the military. If the upgrade comes through, I might be able to get my own command. But, I feel I can’t let Colonel Hogan do what he’s planning on his own. He’s been very good to me. I owe him.”
LeBeau asked, “Do you guys think the Colonel can pull off his newest scheme?”
“After three years, you’re questioning his ability, LeBeau?” Newkirk asked with a grin. “That man could convince God that the Devil was just misunderstood!”
Everyone enjoyed a few good laughs at their commanding officer’s expense. Their conversation lingered on the crazy schemes that the Colonel had cooked up to make this operation a success. Not to mention, that the man had been able to keep them all alive with the wildest activities. They all owed him a lot, but they knew he would never ask them for anything once this operation was over.
Luft Stalag 13, Colonel Hogan’s Quarters,
April 22, 1945, 2100 Hours
Doc Freiling entered Hogan’s quarters after knocking. Hogan had been resting, but was already standing to meet the doctor as he entered. “Good evening, Doc,” said Hogan. “Do you have any news from the other civilians?”
“Good evening, Colonel. Everyone is content to stay here in Germany. Like I said. We have lots of work to do,” the doctor assured.
“Okay, Doc. No pressure from me. I just wanted to make sure I covered all the bases,” Hogan answered.
“You are a good man, Colonel. I’ll be sad to see you go when this is over,” the doctor replied extending his hand to Hogan.
Hogan grasped the doctor’s hand firmly. “The feeling is mutual, Doctor. I don’t know how to express my gratitude to you. You saved my life and you have been an indispensable part of our operation.” Hogan realized that if his plans all came to fruition, he would indeed probably be seeing a lot of the doctor, but he wasn’t going to inform the civilian contingent, until he was sure.
“Colonel. I do have something we need to discuss before your return to London.” The doctor pulled out a folded sheet of paper from his pocket. “It’s important that you bring this note with you. You need to give it to the doctors in London. It explains your injuries in complete detail.”
The doctor paused and looked away from Hogan. “I’m sorry, Colonel. There is something that I had made no mention of to you. The thought of getting to this point in time was still unimaginable. So. I didn’t want to burden you with it.” The doctor slowly returned his gaze and looked at Hogan.
Hogan’s face had gone white as a sheet and his whole body had tensed. He didn’t respond at all, appearing somewhat in shock.
“Oh God, Colonel Hogan,” Freiling said quickly. “I’m sorry. It’s nothing that can’t be dealt with easily with a better equipped hospital.” Freiling put his hand on Hogan’s shoulder. “Listen to me, son,” he said. “I’m just concerned that if it was a bone chip that caused the infection in the first place, it may be necessary to remove it. Also they may need to do some reconstructive surgery, but mostly I want them to make sure there are no other fragments. Leaving them there could cause problems in the future.” The doctor didn’t feel Hogan relax under his grasp. He gave the Colonel a shake and said pointedly, “You are not going to die, son. Do you understand me? You are not going to die. It’s just something that you can’t ignore forever. The sooner it’s dealt with the better.” It took a long moment, but Doctor Freiling finally felt Hogan’s body shiver and then relax.
“You don’t make it easy for a guy. Do you, Doc?” Hogan said nervously, and honestly not believing that he could cope with more surgery.
“Then we’re even, Colonel. You didn’t make it easy for your old country doctor either,” Freiling responded. He took his hand and gave Hogan’s neck a squeeze and patted the man on the shoulder before he removed his hand altogether. He hoped that he could trust Hogan to take care of himself. The man is so stubborn.
“Touché, Doc. Touché,” Hogan said with a small smile, and finally took the paper from the doctor and put it in his jacket pocket. “I promise. I’ll have it taken care of,” Hogan assured and took the doctor’s hand in his and said, “Thanks again.”
“Okay,” said Doc Freiling. “Let’s get this exam over with.” Freiling gave Hogan his medication and checked his vision. Hogan’s vision had improved a little, but not enough to warrant removing the eye patch. The doctor continued to grill his patient about eating, but Freiling had noticed no more substantial weight loss from Hogan. Of course, he isn’t eating well, but he is surviving. When he finished his exam he said, “Good night, Colonel. I’ll see you in the morning. Get some sleep.”
“Good night, Doc,” said Hogan heading for his bunk after watching the doctor leave. God I’m tired. He quickly drifted off to sleep, never even hearing Kyle enter later that evening.
Luft Stalag 13, Compound,
April 23, 1945, 0700 Hours
Kommandant Klink and his men had assembled early. Hogan had gone out to support the decisions of those who were to leave. He had all his lookouts and snipers assemble in the compound. They were to place their weapons on the ground as additional proof that Hogan was going to keep his promise. Hogan then stood in the background as Klink said his final good-byes to his men. As ordered, they all left the camp in twos and threes. The whole process took about 45 minutes. Hogan’s men were sent back to their posts. And Klink never said anything to Hogan, but had only saluted him before returning to his quarters.
Hogan returned to his own quarters to wait for his morning visit from the doctor, figuring he would lie down for an hour or so. Not surprisingly, when he arrived, Kyle was still sleeping, so Hogan plunked himself down quietly on the bottom bunk. He couldn’t help but wonder what Klink was feeling now. How would I have felt if it was my men that had just left? I’d be miserable. But it is the safest way.
Hogan heard Kyle stir, “You up, Kyle?”
“Yeah. Yeah. Who can sleep? You even think too loud,” Kyle complained.
“Do I really make you that uncomfortable, Kyle?” Hogan asked. “I can always get you new sleeping quarters.”
“It’s all right, Rob. It’s just me,” Kyle admitted. “You’ve been so intense lately, that anytime I’m around you, whether you’re talking to me or not, I know you’re there. This ‘new’ you is hard for me to get used too. I still remember you as a carefree pilot and bachelor extraordinaire.”
“Those days are long gone, Kyle,” Hogan replied with a sigh. “It hasn’t been the same since I was captured.”
“Rob. I can’t believe that you’re not still a ladies’ man. How about that time back in London when I fixed you up with Karen’s friend Beth Newton? She was quite smitten with you as I recall,” Kyle said lying back on his bunk.
“Sorry to disappoint you, Kyle. There has not been a lot of call for that particular talent here,” Hogan said evenly. God. I haven’t thought about Beth in such a long time. I had tried never to get too involved in a relationship, especially knowing that the war is so unpredictable. But I found myself falling in love with Beth. Then after I was captured and knew I wasn’t leaving here any time soon, I had written her that ‘goodbye’ letter. It just wouldn’t have been fair to keep her hanging. I never did receive a response to my letter. I guess I wasn’t really expecting one. “By the way, how are Karen and your family? You have two girls, right?” Hogan asked trying to keep his feelings for Beth at bay.
“Actually there are three now. Karen had Lizabeth just before I moved them out of London to Manchester. They moved to my folk’s house to get away from all the bombing. London has taken a beating,” Kyle replied shaking his head. “I try to see them every month. It’s hard, them being so far away, but they are safer there. How about you? Your brothers, sister and parents?”
“The mail is unreliable here. Nothing has come in or gone out for the past eight months. The last thing I heard was that my parents were fine, still living in Bridgeport CT. My sister Susan married her childhood sweetheart Ed. They have a baby boy, Stephen, who will be two years in July. And just last year, Joe was assigned to the Pentagon as a Colonel in Intelligence.” Hogan paused and took a deep breath. He tried not to think too much about his youngest brother. “Last word on John was that he had been shot down over the Pacific and listed as MIA.”
“God, Rob, I’m sorry to hear that,” Kyle said. Wow. Eight months with no word whatsoever from the outside. “It must be brutal to be so out of touch. I can’t imagine what it took for you to stay here.”
“We had a job to do here, Kyle,” Hogan stated unequivocally.
“Yeah. I understand that,” Kyle replied just as explicit.
They were interrupted by a knock on the door. “That will be the Doc,” Hogan said matter of factly.
Kyle swung out of bed. “I am out of here then.” Kyle opened the door and admitted the doctor. “He’s all yours, Doc,” he said and closed the door behind him.
For Hogan, nothing had changed much since last night, the bruises were fading and the pain from his ribs was manageable now. The worst he was left with was the patch over his eye, but even that he’d grown accustomed to. The thing that scared him the most now was the thought of submitting to more surgery. While he knew intellectually that it would be done with anesthesia, his last memory of how painful surgery actually was would stay with him forever.
After the examination…
Hogan left his quarters and collected Kinch on his way to the radio room. He was ready to send his requests to Allied Headquarters. “Kinch,” Hogan said writing rapidly on a piece of paper. “Send this message to London. Address it to all of the Allied Command Personnel.”
“All of them, Colonel?” Kinch asked.
“Yeah. We’ve got men here from every country at war with Hitler’s Third Reich. They all have to be notified of my request,” Hogan clarified.
Kinch read the message and grinned. “You’re going to be creating quite a stir there, sir.”
“Let’s hope so, Kinch. They need to be shaken up a bit,” Hogan said with a grin of amusement.
Kinch nodded and sent off Hogan’s message.
Papa Bear to Mama Bear. Submission of long range plans to follow. Request airlift of POWs from camp after liberation. Papa Bear will confirm. Urgent cargo to be moved. 2500 men to be moved, with small number of wounded, no life threatening injuries. Request promotions for the 2000 personnel assigned to Papa Bear. List will be hand carried by Papa Bear. Multiple grade promotions expected for most. Papa Bear requests new assignment. Position expected. Future Military Governor US Controlled Zone, Germany. Standing by. Papa Bear.
London, England, Allied High Command,
April 23, 1945, 1000 Hours
Colonel Joseph Hogan and his staff from the Pentagon had arrived late last night in London from Washington DC. He and his staff were assigned the duty of debriefing all covert operators that would be soon returning from Germany. Some of these operators had been in deep cover for long periods of time. For security reasons, as well as to protect the lives of these men and women, the real names of these operators were only known to very few here in London at Allied High Command. Anywhere else, they were only addressed with their Code Names.
He and his men would need to familiarize themselves with the status of these people before they returned. It was not uncommon for some to have switched allegiances during their long time undercover. He and his men were charged with ferreting those operators out and then those operators would be tried for treason. It was not a job Colonel Hogan was looking forward too, but it was a necessary evil.
Colonel Joseph Hogan and his staff had gone over the covert operations records kept at the Pentagon. He might not know the names of these operators, but their deeds were always reported. Some of these operators were instrumental in bringing the Third Reich to its knees in some parts of Germany. He was looking forward to talking to these people. There was one agent, in particular, known as Papa Bear, that he couldn’t wait to meet. From what he understood, this agent almost single handedly disrupted the German War Effort from deep behind enemy lines. But of course, he would have to be impartial and treat all of them as suspects first.
On a more personal note, he was hoping to find out more information about the movement of POWs and expected that he would be able to find out more information from the people here at Allied Headquarters. His older brother Rob had been held as a POW in Germany for more than three years, after his plane had been shot down. His family hadn’t heard anything from Rob in the last eight months. Any letters his family had sent had been returned unopened. With all the reports coming in from camps being liberated, he was worried he would never see his brother again. He had promised his parents that he would find out what had happened to Rob. Of the three boys in his family, all of whom had entered the military, Rob was the only one unaccounted for. Their younger brother John had been sent home eight months ago, with an honorable medical discharge. His plane had been shot down over the Pacific, but he had been rescued. He had sustained some serious spinal injuries, but had almost completely recovered from them. It is just hard to believe that of the three of us, Rob might be the one not to come home. He’s always had such a love of life and adventure.
After first arriving at Headquarters…
Colonel Joseph Hogan waited for his escort to General Simpson’s office. Simpson was the American General in charge of the communication’s network that had kept tabs on all these operators. He would be meeting with Simpson first, and then be introduced to the General’s Russian, English, and French counterparts. Once the formalities were over, he and his men could get on with their jobs. They would be assigned offices here within the Allied High Command building as soon as Hogan completed the necessary formalities.
A Major Kimmel soon met him at the building’s entrance.
Colonel Joseph Hogan noticed a strange double take on the part of Major Kimmel when he first arrived. It seemed innocent enough and the man had recovered nicely and saluted quickly.
“Good morning, Colonel Hogan. It’s a pleasure to meet you. General Simpson is expecting you,” said Kimmel. “If you would follow me, sir?” Oh my God! The man is almost the spitting image of Colonel Robert Hogan. He has to be his brother! Papa Bear’s brother!?
As they approached General Simpson’s office, Major Kimmel stepped out in front saying, “Let me announce you, Colonel Hogan. It will be just a minute.” Kimmel had to tell General Simpson about their guest, before the General had the same reaction he did. It was still important to keep the identities of the operators a secret. It just might be very difficult in this case, but he would let the General decide what should be done.
After having prepared the General for his guest, Kimmel exited the office to find Colonel Joseph Hogan being accosted by two other officers. Both were congratulating him on his safe return to England. They must have over heard me use his name. Damn.
Of course, poor Colonel Joseph Hogan appeared puzzled, but accepted the congratulations with dignity.
Major Kimmel interjected, “Excuse me, gentlemen. This is Colonel Joseph Hogan. He just arrived today from Washington DC.” Kimmel had tried to put a small emphasis on the Colonel’s first name, hoping to convey his message to the other two officers. It worked, almost immediately they excused themselves.
“This way, Colonel Hogan,” said Kimmel, indicating the General’s office.
“Of course,” said Colonel Joseph Hogan. He looked after the two men who had just made their escape and shook his head in confusion. Just a case of mistaken identity I guess. He then followed Major Kimmel into General Simpson’s office. Coming to attention and saluting he said, “Colonel Joseph Hogan. Reporting for duty, sir.”
“At ease Colonel Hogan. Please sit down. Make yourself comfortable. We have a lot to discuss,” said the General. Oh boy, do we have a lot to discuss. “How was your flight, Colonel? Are your men settling in?” Simpson had been told the name of his new officer, but had never expected it to be a member of Robert Hogan’s family. Of course, the Pentagon would not have known the connection.
“Yes, sir. Everything went well. We are eager to start working. My men are awaiting their office assignments as we speak,” Joseph Hogan replied.
“Good. Good. So tell me, Colonel Hogan. How are things on the home front?” the General asked as a pleasantry, knowing full well though that he needed to confirm this Colonel’s identity. If this Colonel Hogan was indeed Papa Bear’s brother, he couldn’t be the one to debrief Papa Bear and his men. And even if this man turns out to be unrelated to Papa Bear somehow, Simpson would still probably have to tell this Colonel Hogan the truth anyway, before the man got any more crazy looks from the General’s staff. But before he even got a response to his original question, there was a knock at the door.
“Come,” said the General.
Major Kimmel entered. “I’m sorry, General, but we have received a rather extraordinary communiqué from Papa Bear.” Kimmel just shook his head. “I know we usually don’t come to you with his requests, but he has made this request of all the command personal here at Allied High Command. And this one I believe, sir, is his most notable to date.” Kimmel sighed and handed the note to General Simpson trying to avoid any eye contact with Colonel Hogan.
Simpson was quiet for a long moment as he read the request from Papa Bear. He sighed and said, “Boy. I’m so glad Papa Bear was on our side. That man would have been a menace to the Allied War Effort. Major, please contact the other officers that Papa Bear sent this request to. Set up a meeting for as soon as possible today. I cannot make this decision on my own,” sighed the General.
“Yes, sir. Right away, sir,” said Major Kimmel quickly and exited the office.
Colonel Joseph Hogan was taken aback. “Is there something I need to know about this Papa Bear General? Both you and Major Kimmel seemed very apprehensive about his request. From what I had understood, Papa Bear is an exceptional operative.”
“Oh, Colonel Hogan,” the General said with a guilty smirk. “It is Joe, isn’t it? Can I call you Joe?” Simpson smiled and shook his head. “You don’t know the half of it.” How can I tell this man that his brother is the most ingenious spy we have, but also the most eccentric as well?
“Yes, sir, you can call me Joe. I’m sorry, sir. I’m so confused right now. One minute ago, you seemed anxious. Now you appear to be amused. What’s going on?” asked Joseph Hogan.
“It’s a long story Colonel Hogan,” the General began. “But before I tell it to you though… you need to confirm something for me. Do you have a brother, a Colonel Robert Hogan? And has this brother been a POW at Stalag 13 for the last three years?”
“Yes, General. My brother’s name is Robert and he was, at least until we lost contact with him, the Senior POW Officer at Stalag 13. Do you know his status, General? We haven’t heard from him for eight months,” Joseph Hogan explained nervously. What would Allied High Command know about my brother?
“Don’t worry, Joe, your brother is fine. He had sustained some serious injuries recently, but if this request is any indication, he has indeed recovered. I’m sorry for all the funny looks you’ve gotten this morning. You look a lot like your brother, you know. He’s been here at Allied Headquarters a few times in the last three years. You see Colonel… your brother, Colonel Robert Hogan, also goes by the name Papa Bear.”
Joseph Hogan just stared, unfocused, at the General, not saying anything. Papa Bear? Oh my God! Rob is alive! Rob is a spy? Rob has been here at Allied Headquarters? How can that be? Rob is in a prison camp. What the hell is going on?
“Joe,” said Simpson trying to get his attention. “Colonel Hogan, attention!”
Joseph Hogan’s gaze snapped back to focus on the General.
“So, Joe. Do you want to hear a long story, a sort of fairy tale, about a Papa Bear?” the General asked with a grin. All he got from Joe was an affirmative headshake. The General spent the next hour giving Joe a rundown on his bother’s operation. Joe would occasionally ask questions, but mostly he listened quietly. “So can you see now,” the General finally said, “why your brother could have been a menace, if he was working for the other side?”
“I’m sorry, General. I haven’t grasped all of this yet. Speaking as his brother, I’m just glad he’s alive and I can let my family know that. Other than that, this is just too much for me to handle. For all we knew, he was a just a normal POW for Christ sake,” said Joe bewildered. “Rob was never trained as an intelligence officer, he was a pilot.”
“His lack of covert training was never an issue. His methods have been truly unorthodox. He set up the whole operation himself. It was really ingenious. Who would have thought that an underground operation could be run from a POW camp? It’s also probably why he was never caught.” -- Well, make that almost never -- “Nobody could predict what he was going to do from one minute to the next. He has kept everyone on their toes for over three years. The Germans, the Allies, and even his own men I would wager,” Simpson said.
“From everything I’ve read about Papa Bear in the past year… I would believe that. I just can’t believe that I’ve been reading about my brother all this time,” Joe said shaking his head in disbelief. “All this about him running a covert operation from a POW camp is just incredible.”
“Is this going to be a problem for you? You will not be responsible for debriefing him. I’ll do that,” Simpson asked.
“No, sir. It won’t be a problem,” Joe Hogan said quickly. “Putting aside my relationship to Papa Bear for the moment, General. You must realize that you’ve created a monster. You said that he’s pretty much had free reign. His requests were never questioned. Just filled. Now he wants to be the Military Governor of what will eventually be the US controlled zone in Germany. He expects promotions for the 2000 men in camp with him and he’s demanding an airlift for all of his men back to London. That’s not the way a covert operator should be posturing.”
“Ordinarily I would agree with you, Colonel,” the General said amused. “Honestly, we have all, at one time or another, been skeptical about your brother’s sanity over the past three years. One of the craziest requests he ever made, was for a pizza recipe from a pizzeria in Newark NJ. We had a four way call, from Stalag 13 to a submarine to Allied Headquarters to Newark NJ. Your brother got his pizza recipe and the Allies gained a new spy in Italy supplying us with German troop movements. After that, we gave up worrying about his requests. He came through for us every time.”
The General paused looking directly at Colonel Joseph Hogan. “Your brother is an exceptional officer, Joe. He has managed to keep 2000 men working together and alive in difficult circumstances. He has literally confounded the German Military Machine right from under their noses. And they never caught on.” The General paused. “I won’t be surprised that after this meeting today, your brother will indeed be granted his requests.”
“That’s astounding, General. I couldn’t be prouder or more impressed with my big brother.” -- Military Governor? -- “I’m just still surprised that he can call up the Allied High Command and make demands,” Joseph Hogan replied shaking his head.
“Oh. The one thing I didn’t mention to you Joe was that your brother now outranks most of the command personnel here at Allied Headquarters. He has yet to officially accept the promotions, although today’s request makes me believe that he is leaning in that direction. Joe, your brother Rob is now a two-star General. And if the rumor mill is correct, a third star will be coming his way soon. He can pretty much demand what he wants,” General Simpson explained.
“Oh,” was all Joe could say. Rob you’re going to be a three-star General? Incredible. So much for us worrying about you wasting away in a POW camp! God. Please. Please take care of yourself. It’s almost over.
General Simpson had left Joseph Hogan to his thoughts.
Joe never noticed the General leave the room. He finally looked up as the General returned to the office. “I’m sorry General. Please excuse my behavior. I should be getting back to my men.” Joseph Hogan stood and saluted.
The General returned the salute. “That meeting will be held here in one hour Colonel. You are welcome to attend. It will be easier to explain your presence to everyone at once.”
“Yes, sir. I’ll be there, General,” replied Joseph Hogan.
Almost three hours later…
Colonel Joseph Hogan was walking back to his office after the meeting had adjourned. That meeting was simply the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen. All the principles arrived. Generals one and all. Joe was introduced to each one in turn. They all took seats and General Simpson read the list of Papa Bear’s demands. They voted promptly, unanimously granting Rob everything he wanted. It was simply amazing. The meeting then turned into a reminiscence hour, with most of the men in the room each having a story about Papa Bear for him.
My brother is a lunatic! The things that I just heard are literally unbelievable. More like stories you’d hear in the pub after a few rounds, than factual accounts of espionage operations. None of what they told me has been in the reports. If that room hadn’t been full of half the Generals in the Allied High Command, I wouldn’t have believed one word of it. Rob has always had a silver tongue, able to talk himself out of anything. But this is more than double-talking out of a date with two girls in one night! What Rob was doing is very dangerous, and he’d taken 2,000 men along for the ride. But he’s obviously been very successful. Those Generals at the meeting were ready to give him everything he’d asked for, and more.
Joe arrived back at his office and spent some time organizing, still thinking about what he’d learned about his brother. He still couldn’t fathom all that Rob had been doing. How did you get away with it big brother? I guess that it really doesn’t matter. I’m just relieved that you’re alive and coming home.
Joe’s thoughts were interrupted when he heard a knock on his door. “Come in,” he called out looking up. “General, sir. Come in.” Joe saluted trying to remember the General’s name. He knew the man had been at the meeting in Simpson’s office. “I’m sorry, sir. After all of the people I was introduced to, I can’t quite remember your name. Is it Barton?”
“Good afternoon, Colonel,” the General said. “Yes it’s Barton. Aloysius Barton.”
“What can I do for you, sir?” Joe asked gesturing the General to his side chair after he’d removed the papers stacked there.
Barton sat down. “Colonel. I came here to offer a more personal impression of your brother’s operation. Are you interested?”
“Yes, sir. You know Rob, General?” Joe asked surprised.
Barton laughed. “In a manner of speaking, yes. When I first met him, it was not what I would consider an amicable way to start any relationship. You see, Colonel, about a year ago my plane was shot down. I was captured and transferred to a POW camp for ‘safe keeping’. It was quite a propaganda coup for the Germans, capturing the commanding General of all daylight bombing. At the time, I was not privy to the identity of any of our underground agents. I knew them only by their code names. The POW camp I was brought to was Stalag 13. ‘The most secure spot in all of Germany.’ At least that was the rumor. I wasn’t there an hour before the Kommandant of the camp entered my cell followed by an American Colonel.”
Barton shook his head in rueful recollection. “The first thing out of your brother’s mouth was an accusation that I wasn’t General Barton. In hindsight now I know that his intentions were to procure my release from that maximum-security cell and into the prison proper. Unfortunately, I didn’t understand that, and I dressed him down pretty hard. In my opinion, he appeared to be in collusion with his German captors. There had never been a successful escape from that camp and the Kommandant called your brother ‘understanding and cooperative.’ I called him a coward, a traitor and a disgrace to his uniform. Then I told the Kommandant that I never wanted to see him again. The German was only too happy to oblige and the two of them left.”
Joe Hogan interrupted, “If I know my brother, General. He wouldn’t have been too happy about that.”
“Your brother had no choice but to take the verbal abuse. There was no chance for him to say anything further. There were too many guards around me. All he could have done was to give me that initial hint, and I was too blind and pigheaded to see it.” Barton sighed. “From that point on, no one else approached me until almost two days later. A General Burkhalter from the German General’s Staff came to tell me that I was being exchange for Field Marshall von Heinke. The funny part was that von Heinke was the one coming to take propaganda photos of me with my plane. It seemed strange to me that von Heinke had been the one captured by British Commandos and taken back to London. When I was released from my cell the next morning and waited for my transport to the exchange location, a British Corporal approached me. He started telling me a story about Goldilocks and the Three Bears. He told me that Hogan was like Papa Bear to the men in the camp, the father figure that they all looked up to.”
Barton shook his head in amazement still. “I couldn’t believe my ears. I realized then that Hogan was Papa Bear and I owed my release to him. The Kommandant arrived and sent the Corporal on his way. I watched him cross the prison yard and noticed that Hogan was leaning against a building, surrounded by several other men. I did the only thing I could. I called for his attention and saluted him. He came to attention and returned it. I was then taken to an airstrip where a RAF plane waited for me. It wasn’t until I arrived back in London that I learned that HQ didn’t have the foggiest idea how I was released. Papa Bear had told them to send a plane for me and they did. HQ knew nothing about von Heinke or any exchange. Your brother had masterminded the whole exchange from that prison camp. How he did it I’m still not sure. But he’s a genius and I owe him my life.”
Joe found himself staring at the General in disbelief. It took him a moment to realize the General was through. “I find this whole thing utterly unbelievable. Thank you for taking the time to tell me your story. I’m glad that you were able to get out of Germany, sir,” Joe said still a little shell-shocked.
“I am as well. I fully intend to speak with your brother when he returns to London. However, in case I don’t get a chance, can you just tell him thank you from me? I know from the reports that I’ve read after my return that I was just one in a long line of escapes orchestrated by Papa Bear. I want him to know, regardless of what I said to him in that cell, that I applaud his efforts,” Barton said.
“Thank you, sir. I will make sure to tell him,” Joe replied.
“Good. Thank you.” Barton rose and left the office.
My big brother is a certifiable nut! How the hell did you orchestrate an exchange of Generals? Did you really kidnap a German Field Marshall in the middle of Germany? How did you convince the man he wasn’t in Germany any more? For that matter how did you convince the German General Staff of that?! Do I even want to know? Probably not.
London, England, Allied High Command,
Office of Colonel Joseph Hogan,
April 23, 1945, 1400 Hours
Joe Hogan looked up from his desk when someone knocked on his door. “Come in.” He stood hurriedly saluting. “General I wasn’t expecting you.”
Simpson returned the officer’s salute and gestured for him to sit down again. “Hogan. I wanted to know if you wanted to include a personal message in my response to your brother.”
“Thank you, sir. I would very much like to do that. Rob doesn’t know our brother John is alive and home. The last we were able to tell him was that John was MIA,” Joe replied grateful.
“We’ll have to code it, but I think we can manage to convey the message. Anything else?” Simpson asked.
“Yes, sir. Tell him everyone else is fine. Anything else can wait till he returns to London,” Joe replied.
“Very good. Would you like to accompany me to the radio room so you can assure we get the message right?” Simpson offered.
“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir,” Joe replied standing again to accompany the General.
The two of them walked into the radio room, two floors above Joseph Hogan’s office. Simpson wrote on a piece of paper and handed it to Joe. “Sound okay to you?”
Joe read the paper and nodded. “Yes. I’m sure he’ll understand that. Thank you very much.”
“Send this out immediately to Papa Bear, Lieutenant Patterson,” Simpson ordered handing the message to the radio operator.
“Yes, sir,” Patterson replied immediately coding and sending the message out.
Mama Bear to Papa Bear. Airlift of personnel and cargo approved, awaiting your word on implementation. Personnel promotions approved, awaiting your list of grade increases. Papa Bear’s new assignment approved. Will discuss details of appointment upon arrival. Message to Papa Bear. Brother Joseph here, Brother John home, all is well. Mama Bear out.
Luft Stalag 13, Tunnel under Barracks Two,
In the Radio Room,
April 23, 1945, 1400 Hours
Kinch acknowledged the message, not believing what he’d heard. The Colonel is going to be so relieved. Kinch knew that the Colonel had tried not to think about his last letter from home. The news of his brother being MIA had been a hard blow. Kinch folded the message from London and stuck it in his pocket to bring to the Colonel, when he saw Corporal Duncan from Barracks Six walk by.
“Duncan. Can you go up to get the Colonel? Ask him to come down here to see me,” Kinch asked.
“Sure, Kinch,” Duncan replied immediately changing direction to climb the ladder leading up to Barracks Two.
Within a few minutes…
“What’s up, Kinch?” Hogan asked as he came into the radio room.
“I just got this from London. I thought you might want to read it down here,” Kinch said handing the paper off to Hogan.
Hogan read the message, grinning with each approval received. As he read the final message to Papa Bear his face grew still. Squeezing his eyes shut, he read it again. The words stayed the same. John is okay. Thank God! The nine long months of not knowing are over. -- What the Hell was Joe doing in London? -- How does he know that I’m Papa Bear? -- Well I guess I’ll know soon enough. “Thanks, Kinch. Would you acknowledge that for me and send along my thanks?”
“Sure thing, Colonel. I’m glad your brother made it,” Kinch replied.
“Me too,” Hogan replied relieved, and watched as Kinch send out the message. After Kinch was finished with the message, Hogan said. “Kinch, please let the men know of the promotion orders. Do not be specific, just that everyone assigned to our operation will be getting a promotion. Also you can tell them that we have a confirmed ride home when the liberation Army passes us. No mention is to be made of my appointment to Military Governor. I need to tell Klink, Schultz, and the underground first. That appointment will have more effect on them than anyone else. I’m going to talk to Klink and Schultz now. Can you just let Doc Freiling know I will be by shortly with news? Have him gather the underground leaders together.”
“Yes, sir,” said Kinch.
Luft Stalag 13, Kommandant’s Quarters,
April 23, 1945, 1445 Hours
Hogan found both Klink and Schultz sitting in the living area, not talking. “Good afternoon, gentlemen,” Hogan said. “It’s important that we talk. I have a proposition to offer you both.”
Klink looked up bewildered and asked, “What kind of proposition ,Colonel?”
“Yes. What kind of proposition?” asked Schultz with a sense of relief, knowing that Colonel Hogan would come up with something to bring about a solution to his and Colonel Klink’s predicament.
“You’re both aware that I am not going to press charges against either of you. I want you to realize that I understand your need to be held accountable. I respect both of you for standing up for what you believe, especially when others in your country are running,” Hogan said straightforwardly. “But I feel that rotting away in some jail is not the best way for either of you to help your countrymen rebuild.”
“Hogan. Will you continue to manipulate us until the end?” Klink asked frustrated.
“Listen, Colonel. I’m sorry,” Hogan said quietly. “But, I haven’t lied to you since the takeover. -- After the war, I will be in a position where I could use your help. I’ll be returning to Germany. I told you before, that I’m not proud of everything I’ve done here. I also feel that I need to repay a debt to this society. Word has come from the Allied High Command that Germany will be split into 4 military zones. One each controlled by Russia, France, England and the United States. I have lobbied the Allied High Command for a position in the Military Government. My confirmation as Military Governor of the US controlled zone came today. I want to offer you a position as a civilian liaison to the Military Government. We can work together to rebuild your country.”
“That’s impressive, Colonel,” Klink said unbelieving. “Military Governor -- And you want me to help you? -- Please Hogan. No more jokes. What did you really come here for?”
“Colonel Klink. I am not lying to you,” Hogan said angrily. “I’m offering you a chance to help your countrymen and still remain a free man. If you still want to throw your life away, then so be it.”
Hogan turned his back to Klink and faced Schultz. “I need your help, Schultz. I’ve been thinking about that day you told Colonel Klink and I that the future is for the children. Do you really believe that? If so, I have a problem that I think you can help me with. Interested?”
“What problem, Colonel?” Schultz asked avoiding eye contact with Colonel Klink who was angrily staring at Hogan’s back.
“I have 24 orphans -- the 15 young men from Stalag 13 -- and a nun. All of who have no place to go after we evacuate this camp. I would like you to take them with you. I was hoping you could supply them with shelter in your family’s toy factory. I need for you to use part of your factory as an orphanage. As Military Governor, I can support you, financially. Sadly, my expectation is that your orphanage will continue to grow. I’m sure there are very many children without homes. Can I depend on you, Schultz?”
Schultz looked past Colonel Hogan into Colonel Klink’s face. When he returned his gaze to Hogan he said, “Yes, Colonel, you can. I can easily do as you ask.”
“Thanks, Schultz. We can work out the specifics in the next few days. I need to let the civilians know that you have agreed to take care of the youngsters.” Hogan reached out and for the first time offered his hand to Schultz in friendship, honestly.
Schultz returned the handshake.
Hogan headed for the door and was just about ready to leave, when he heard his name. Klink has hopefully come around to my way of thinking. Hogan turned and said “Yes, Colonel? What can I do for you?”
“Hogan. Are you serious about wanting my help?” Klink asked perplexed. “Why? Surely there are many other people more qualified.”
“Listen, Colonel,” Hogan began in earnest. “I spent three years in your Stalag. In all that time, not once did you forsake the camp for your own benefit. You were able to keep the Stalag running through some lean times. That’s the person I want to help me. There is much planning to do, to bring about the restoration of your country. Can I count on you?”
After a long moment Klink answered, “Yes, Colonel, you can.”
“Fantastic,” said Hogan again extending his hand in friendship. Klink returned the handshake. “Again. We can work out the specifics in the next few days.”
Hogan headed for the door again and stopped. Turning back to both men he said, “You both should be fitted for civilians clothes and papers. When you’re ready just come to Barracks Two.” Hogan paused thinking. “That reminds me – Schultz, your family is in Heidelberg, correct?” Schultz nodded. “Good, you and your family should be all set. Colonel Klink, you once mentioned your family was in Leipzig. Is that still the case?”
“Yes,” said Klink evenly.
“Colonel. I suggest that once the liberation Army has passed this camp, you return to Leipzig and move your family back here. Leipzig will be in the Russian controlled zone. Your family would be better off in any of the other Allied controlled zones. You should have time, before the final authority is leveled.”
Klink nodded. “And what of you, Colonel? How can we be sure you will return?” Klink asked.
“I can only offer you my word, Colonel. I expect that I will return in two to three months,” Hogan said. “My appointment to Military Governor has been confirmed. But I need to return to London. I will need to run through a gambit of debriefings, as well as assisting my men with their reintroduction to life outside Stalag 13. The only thing that will hamper my return will be if I require more surgery. Doc Freiling is concerned that additional bone fragments, from the facial fractures, could cause more problems for me in the future.” Meeting the German Colonel’s eyes he said, “I will be back, Colonel. I have the same need, as you, to be accountable for my actions.”
Hogan opened the door and said as he left, “We’ll talk again. Right now, I need to talk to the civilian underground. Good day, gentlemen.”
Hogan headed over to the civilian compound…
Doc Freiling saw him coming and signaled for the other men to assemble. When Hogan reached them, they all entered the Recreation Hall together. “Good afternoon, gentlemen. I have something important I need to discuss with you. First of all, I wanted to let you know that I plan on returning to Germany after the war. I will expect to continue working closely with each of you. This time though, to help you rebuild. You see. Word has come from the Allied High Command that Germany will be split into 4 military zones. One each controlled by Russia, France, England, and the United States. I just received confirmation of my appointment to Military Governor of the US controlled zone.
Hogan paused, hoping that his next statement wouldn’t cause an uproar. “I also want you to know that I’ve promised Kommandant Klink a civilian position in the military government.” Hogan waited a beat, to see what the assembled men would say. Nothing. Good. I’ve also found a place where the orphans with Sister Mary Nelson, as well as the young guards from Stalag 13, can go. Sergeant Schultz has agreed to use part of his family’s toy factory as an orphanage. He will open it to all children that need a refuge.”
Hogan looked around at the assembled faces. They all appeared rather subdued. “Is there something wrong, gentlemen?” Hogan asked.
Doc Freiling looked around at the faces of his fellow civilians, “Colonel, forgive us. But in your succinct way, you just told us that everything we’ve fought for is gone. We wanted to bring Germany together, not have it split into pieces.” He sighed. “Though I guess we should be lucky that anything will be left at all. I believe, that I say for all of us, Colonel, that your appointment to Military Governor will help ease the transition of our country. We’ve learned to trust your judgment, and we will continue to do so.”
“Thank you. Could you please spread the word to Sister Mary Nelson, as well as the young men from Stalag 13? We can work out the specifics in the next few days. Good day, gentlemen,” Hogan replied.
Hogan left the recreation hall and re-entered the compound. Word must have gotten around. The POWs were very loud and rowdy. As he traversed the compound, he received many a salute, as well as lots of smiles. It’s good to see. We still have a way to go, but the end is in sight. Thank God. He also noticed a rather fierce game of volleyball being played. He would have to talk to Killian. He had hoped not to deal with any additional injuries to his men. As he approached though, he couldn’t help but notice that all the men were having a great time. I guess I won’t interfere. Their morale is more important than any worry of a sports injury.
Hogan entered Barracks Two and found Kinch, LeBeau, Newkirk, and Carter. They appear to have been waiting for him. “What’s up, guys? Is there a problem?” Hogan asked noticing a little apprehension from the four men.
“No problem, Colonel. We wanted to thank you personally for the promotions. -- And well -- We’ve all had time to think about the plans we have for after the war. We wanted to tell you, so you can know where we stand, sir,” Kinch said formally.
“Of course, gentleman. Relax. This doesn’t have to be anything so formal. I may be the Senior Officer here, but I feel you guys have become like family to me. I would love to hear what you have planned.” LeBeau - French restaurant, Newkirk - pub, Carter - chemistry teacher, Kinch - military. I guess I’ll see if I was right.
Kinch began first. “I will be staying in the military, Colonel. I believe it’s the best decision for me at this time.” Kinch saluted. Hogan returned the salute, and indicted to Kinch that he would recommend him for any posting he desired. Hogan turned to look at the additional three men, not knowing who was to go next.
LeBeau came forward. “Colonel Hogan. I will not be re-enlisting, sir. I want to return to Paris and become a chef. Maybe open my own restaurant. Start a family.” LeBeau also saluted. Hogan return the salute and told LeBeau that he’d better be invited to opening night of that restaurant. Hogan became silent, waiting.
Newkirk came forward next. “Colonel. My plans are similar to LeBeau’s. I will not be re-enlisting. I want to go back to London, spend time with my family. Maybe take some back pay and open a Pub.” Hogan told Newkirk not to open his Pub the same day as LeBeau’s restaurant. He expected to be there opening night as well. Newkirk saluted and Hogan returned it. Hogan then turned to Carter.
Carter said sheepishly, “Colonel Hogan. I will be returning to the States. I had planned to work towards a teaching degree in chemistry. I think I would be better suited to teaching or maybe working in the field of research, than any additional military posting.” Hogan indicated he was expecting soon to see Carter’s name in print, the designer of some new technology. He told him, not to forget the little people when that happened. Carter then saluted and Hogan returned it.
The four men were quiet, waiting for a response from Hogan. “Well gentleman. I wish you all the best of luck. I never expected to be having mixed emotions about the end of this war. I know we are all relieved that it’s almost over. But that means, once we walk out those gates, the friendships we’ve made here can never be the same. No one else is ever going to understand or believe what we did here. For that reason, I’m sorry to see this end. I certainly will never disregard the contributions that each of you made to the success of this operation. But I do expect that you will be as successful in your future endeavors as we were here. If I can help you in any way, do not hesitate to ask.” Whoa Hogan... keep your emotions in-check. Hogan reached out and shook each man’s hand and then headed into his quarters.
“Oh bloody hell,” said Newkirk as he plunked down at the table.
“You can say that again,” said Carter as he sat on his bunk.
“Oui. Oui,” agreed LeBeau as he sat on the bunk next to Carter.
“Come on, guys. I’m sure the Colonel is happy for us. He wouldn’t want to keep us from our futures,” Kinch said.
“Yeah, sure. That’s easy for you to say. You’re the only one staying in the family business,” Carter said rather glum. Everyone looked at Carter dumbfounded. For once, he had made some sense. It just finally started to hit home. The Colonel was right; they had become a family. And in just a few weeks, everything that they had known for over three years would no longer exist.
Luft Stalag 13, Kommandant’s Office,
April 26, 1945, 1000 Hours
Hogan had spent the better part of the last two days, creating promotion orders by using the POWs Stalag 13 paperwork. He’d only made it through half of the POWs. It would take another two days to finish. Other than that, he had spent the last two days tying up loose ends.
Doc Freiling had stopped in earlier this morning, announcing that today was the end of his check-ups and the end of the medication. The Doc had also told him to continue to wear the eye patch, but that he would agree to let him remove it when he was on his way back to London. Hogan’s vision was now merely blurry, certainly not the kaleidoscope of lights that he had experienced previously. He was still encountering difficulty with sleeping, but that was not a concern unless it continued for several nights. He had thanked the doctor, relieved that he was no longer required to allow the doctor to poke, prod and lecture him.
The POWs had stripped the tunnels of anything usable and had distributed the materials to the civilians in camp. The only thing still functioning in the tunnels now was the radio. Kinch would dismantle that on the last day. The rest of the camp was being given the same treatment, Carter wasn’t sure the buildings would survive the tunnels being blown. Anything remotely usable somewhere else was being removed.
There was also a team of men retrieving all of the various items, which had been retrieved from the Gestapo headquarters bombing, which had been stored for safekeeping. Those items were being returned to their previous owners. Along with those items were the things that they had picked up in their three years of operation. Hogan would personally turn over the gold bars that had been stolen back from the Germans after the Nazi’s had stolen them from France. There were many other things being packaged up to be turned over to London as well. After three years they had quite a haul of booty. He was going to have to be careful how he explained how they had acquired some of these things.
Klink had been given new civilian identity papers. He was going to head to Leipzig for his family, as soon as the liberation Army passed. He had tried to contact them via the phone, but was not able to make contact. The plan was for him to take one of the trucks from camp and move as much stuff as possible from his family’s home. Doc Freiling offered him and his family a place to stay during the transition.
Schultz had been able to contact his family. They had seemed amenable to anything that Schultz had asked. His plan was also to leave as soon as the liberation Army passed by. Everyone going with him had been supplied with civilian paperwork. He was going to need two trucks and supplies. Sergeant Marlow was working to get that stuff ready.
The local civilian contingent would move out on the same day. They would be allowed to use the trucks, but the trucks would have to be returned so his men could have transportation to the nearest airfield. It was only expected to take a short period of time to move the civilians. The underground group, Canary, was offered the Stalag 13 staff car to get them back where they belonged.
Hogan also needed to get rid of the Germans heading to the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal. Birmingham and Killian would lead that troop, but he still needed to touch base with Major Tonioli. He wanted Major Tonioli and his men to assist in the move, since they were supposed to ‘officially’ capture Goering.
Then all that would be left would be evacuating Stalag 13 and imploding the tunnels.
As Hogan’s thoughts focused on the last day…
Kinch entered the Kommandant’s office and asked, “Colonel, can I talk to you please?”
“Sure, Kinch. What can I do for you?” Hogan asked.
“I have a problem, sir. I’ve been thinking about my next posting. As I see it I don’t have much choice. I expect the posting will be to the segregated force. It would certainly be a command of my own. But I know I will feel somewhat restricted. I had not ever felt that race was an issue under your command. But in that posting, it will be all that I know. I will find it very hard to deal with,” Kinch said.
“I’ve had the same thoughts myself, but I didn’t want to influence your decision in any way. You certainly deserve a command of your own. You’ve proven that to me, many many times. I know I’ve pushed most of the men here beyond what I should have legitimately expected. And that goes doubly for you. If you want me to, I will put you in for a command position, not within the segregated forces. And I will stand behind that recommendation.”
Hogan paused and looked away from Kinch. When he returned his gaze he said, “On a more selfish note, there will always be a position for you with me. I would relish the chance to continue our working relationship. But that position will only make you my aide. You deserve much more than that.”
“Thank you, Colonel. I was hoping you would offer me a position. I put a lot of thought into both possible command positions you mentioned. In either case, race would always be an issue. I would prefer to work in a position where my abilities outweigh my racial background. I already know that’s true under your command. I would gladly accept a posting with you, sir,” Kinch admitted.
“Then it’s decided then. Thanks, Kinch. I’d be proud to have you as my aide. But, you have to promise me, that when the day comes and you want to move on, you let me know. I don’t ever want to hold you back. Agreed?” Hogan said extending his hand to Kinch.
“Agreed,” answered Kinch grasping Hogan’s hand in return.
“Great. So now that that’s decided… how about helping your commanding officer wade through this paperwork?” asked Hogan.
“Sure, Colonel. You don’t waste anytime, do you?” Kinch asked with a grin as he sat down with Hogan and helped him organize the balance of the paperwork.
London, England, Allied Headquarters,
General Simpson’s Office,
May 1, 1945, 0800 Hours
General Simpson had received official confirmation of the massacre of SS soldiers at the concentration camp, Dachau, late last night. These were the troops that were to liberate the POWs at Stalag 13. He would have to let Hogan know. Hogan had a lot of German civilians as well as some VIP German prisoners in camp with him. If Simpson knew one thing about Hogan, it was that he would not take kindly to these troops moving in and taking over. Hogan took his duty seriously and would not want any trigger-happy soldiers in his camp.
“Major Kimmel,” ordered Simpson. “Relay this message to Papa Bear.” Simpson handed Kimmel a piece of paper with a scribbled message.
Mama Bear to Papa Bear. The US 7th Army was responsible for the massacre of SS soldiers at concentration camp, Dachau, on April 30th. These are the troops expected to liberate Stalag 13. The projected arrival at Stalag 13 is 7 to 10 days. Take any and all precautions to ensure safety of your German guests. Will relay message to US 7th Army that Stalag 13 is secure and that their orders will come from you. Mama Bear out.
“Then. Send this message to Colonel Triplet, US 7th Army, Company A,” Simpson ordered handing over another piece of paper.
Allied High Command to Triplet, Colonel, Commander Company A. There is a POW camp located outside small town of Hammelburg Germany, 2500 POWs. Stalag 13 has remained intact. POWs have gained control of camp. They are awaiting your forces. Senior POW Officer relayed that the camp is secure. Upon your arrival, you are to obey orders of Senior POW Officer. This is not open to interpretation. Senior POW Officer has final authority. Allied High Command out.
“Yes, sir. Right away, sir,” Kimmel replied, starting to leave but turned back questioning, “Do you really think Stalag 13 is in danger, General?”
“I just don’t know, Major,” said Simpson shaking his head. “I just don’t know. But at least Hogan will know now and can take precautions. Let’s just hope that Hogan can come up with one more crazy scheme to deal with the approaching forces.”
“Yes, sir. Let’s hope,” Kimmel replied and left the office.
Luft Stalag 13, Compound,
May 1, 1945, 1000 Hours
Hogan had called a camp assembly for this morning, after having received word of Adolph Hitler and Eva Braun’s suicides late last night. He wanted to let everyone know, but wasn’t sure what their reactions would be. He was certainly not upset that that maniacal monster was no longer on this earth. But Hitler had gotten to take the easy way out. Hogan would have enjoyed seeing him sweat under the scrutiny of the War Crimes Tribunal.
Right before the assembly, though, Hogan had received some more disturbing news about the treatment of German POWs by American troops. The US 7th Army had just liberated the concentration camp Dachau two days earlier. They had also massacred the SS guards in the camp after they had surrendered. Why more Goddamn death? Hogan now had a bigger problem, because it was indeed the US 7th Army that was due to liberate Stalag 13. Hogan knew he would have to take extreme measures to keep everyone safe.
He reported the news to the assembly. Their reactions to Hitler’s suicide were what he expected, mixed cheers and jeers. He then repeated the news of the US 7th Army tragedy and re-iterated that he would not let anything like that happen here. Hogan promised to let everyone know more specific details when the time came.
London, England, Fieldstone US Army Airbase,
Command Center Board Room,
May 2, 1945, 1000 Hours
Fieldstone’s Commanding General, Douglas Creighton was meeting with his command staff, as well as officers in charge of the medical facility. He had received word from Allied High Command that his base should expect an influx of 2500 POWs very soon. His cargo planes would be sent in two shifts, over two days, to retrieve these POWs from a prison camp in Hammelburg Germany. The rescue operation would need to happen immediately following the US 7th Army’s liberation of the camp, which was expected in the next couple of weeks. This was one of the only POW camps that had remained intact. Most others had been disbanded and the POWs forced to march for long periods of time until they just happen to run into an Allied patrol. He had heard horror stories about the health conditions of these POWs, very many requiring a lot of medical help. Poor bastards.
Creighton was determined to make sure Fieldstone was prepared for this many men all at once. “So ladies and gentlemen. That’s the story. Are we prepared to handle this many POWs, many of whom could be in very poor condition?” Creighton asked.
His second in command, Colonel Stephen Wright replied, “In terms of housing, feeding, clothing and delousing, we can handle it. My men will clear out a hanger deck of planes. The men will have to sleep on cots, sir, but we have plenty of room. We have enough personnel to confirm the identities all these men. We have enough food to feed them and enough clothing as well.”
Colonel Rodney Ballister, the head of the Medical Division interjected, “General. You said there would be two shifts, six planes returning the first day and five additional the next day. The first ten planes will carry the majority of the POWs. The last cargo plane will carry our security force, as well as the Senior POW Officer and his staff. Is that true?” Ballister asked.
“Yes, Colonel,” replied the General. “Is there a problem?”
“No, sir. I just wanted some information about the scheduled return of these planes. I need to know how much time we have between each one. Each plane holds around 250 men. Correct?” Ballister asked.
Major Michael Sears, the Flight Squadron Commander replied, “Colonel. The information that I received from Allied High Command said that we’ve been ordered to land at an airfield in Wurzburg, Germany. This airfield is 30 miles from the POW camp. The Senior POW Officer has informed Allied High Command that he will be able to move five truckloads of men at a time to the airfield. The five truckloads will only be able to carry enough men for one cargo plane. So there will be eleven round trip truckloads between the camp and the airfield. I was informed that the last cargo plane to leave would also be carrying some very important cargo. Once it arrives at the airbase, the cargo is to be secured until a team of officers from Allied High Command comes to retrieve it. But, in answer to your question, the total estimated time between flights would be 2-3 hours.”
“Does that give you enough time, Ballister?” asked Creighton.
“I hope so, sir. But we need to discuss procedure,” Ballister responded.
“Go ahead, Colonel,” said Creighton.
“Yes, sir. For the most seriously injured men, they should be immediately transferred to the base hospital. We will have a triage area set up. I will have, as many people as I can pull double shifts, sir. I just don’t know what to expect, sir,” Ballister said.
“Very good, Colonel. We need to be ready for the worst-case scenario. I’m sure the heaviest influx of seriously injured will come first. I can’t imagine the Senior POW Officer not transferring them first. -- Continue Colonel,” Creighton said.
Ballister continued, “For any ‘mobile’ POW, the first step in the process should be identification then delousing. I recommend burning all POW clothing. They can then be given new clothes and then moved to the hospital triage area. Is that going to be a problem Colonel Wright? Can you handle the destruction of the clothing as well?”
“No problem, Colonel Ballister. We can handle it,” replied Colonel Wright.
“Great. Thanks, Colonel,” Ballister said. “Once at the hospital, I will have a large staff available to measure height, weight, temperature and all other vital signs. We will need to collect blood, urine and stool samples as well as administering a tuberculoses test. My staff and I also feel that each man should also be given a tetanus shot as well as a dose of antibiotics as a preventative. We feel, that this process will help us separate out those that need the most medical care. At that point, a more thorough physical will need to take place, but will be done in order of need. So while we conduct the full medical exams, the men could get something to eat, and get some rest.
“Is that acceptable, Colonel Wright?” asked Creighton.
“Yes, sir, General. I don’t expect too much trouble. We have a lot of setup work to do. But, most everything should be ready for these men when they arrive,” answered Wright.
Ballister interjected, “General. Except for the full medical exams, I think we can handle 250 in the 2+ hours, we have between planes.”
Major Michael Sears also piped in. “General. My men are ready as well. I don’t foresee any problems. With the security force at the airfield, we should be able to be in and out quickly.”
“Very good, Gentlemen. Let’s bring them home. Dismissed,” Creighton ordered.
“Yes, sir,” replied the three officers in unison, as they got up to leave.
Luft Stalag 13, Compound,
May 5, 1945, 1300 Hours
Hogan sat, leaning against the side of the barracks, in the bright afternoon sunshine. Though he still wore the eye patch, the rest of his injuries had faded to annoying twinges easily ignored. Occasionally he glanced across the compound. There was a lively volleyball game going on between the children in the camp. Many of his men and the civilians in camp were coaching the game from the sidelines. Many of the children, too young to play in the formal volleyball game, were playing tag between the prison barracks. They were all making a happy roar. When this game was over, the net would be raised and the adults would begin their game. It was all part of the activities he was sponsoring to keep everyone occupied while they waited for the Allied forces to come and officially liberate the camp. He smiled. The Inter-Barracks-Age Volleyball Tournament is a huge success. Still the waiting is hard.
The last report he had received, two days ago, placed the US 7th Army merely 60 miles from the camp. He expected they were not meeting up with too much opposition and would be advancing rapidly. So far as he knew London had relayed to the commander that this camp was secured. He thought they would arrive within a few days. He wanted everyone in camp out of sight when they arrived. These were the men that had liberated Dachau. What they’d done there was something he didn’t want repeated here.
And just yesterday there had been a long column of men marching by. They were the remains of some German division or other. Everyone in camp had watched them pass warily. But they weren’t interested in a prison camp, nor did they apparently notice that there wasn’t a German guard in sight. Hogan had let them pass, as they weren’t heading toward the front, but away from the action. Apparently they were retreating and he was willing to let them go by. Had they been heading the other way, he would have had to come up with a way to stop them.
Hogan glanced back to the middle of the compound in time to see the final point of the children’s game. Many of the young men playing were former camp guards here. They had nowhere to go and had not left the camp. Hogan hoped that when the time came and they all abandoned Stalag 13, there would be places for all of the displaced children he had here. It was going to be a tall order, but he hoped Schultz would be able to carry through the plans he had. If anyone is capable of taking care of all of these kids and finding them homes, it will be our big hearted, toy maker from Heidelberg.
As Hogan continued to watch, some of the adults made sure the kids had water and were walking around to cool off. The compound grew more crowded as people came out from their quarters. Today’s game was between barrack twelve and twenty. It promised to be a lively match, both teams had defeated three other barracks and the winner would face barrack one tomorrow. The Semi-Finals. He wondered what he was going to do if the finals took place and they were still here. Waiting. Well I’ll just have to think of something else to occupy the population.
Hogan leaned back again against the barrack’s wall, not really interested in watching the game. He just wanted to catch a nap in the sun. Since he’d given up on taking the sedatives his sleep had been sporadic. Some nights he was simply unable to sleep, and others he slept like a log. Last night had been one of the sleepless ones. He now had a headache, but he was sure it was from being overtired, as it certainly didn’t feel like the pounding he’d experienced with the infection and its resulting hematoma. Still if it doesn’t go away, I’ll have to tell the Doc.
From across the compound…
Newkirk was watching the game with interest. When the Colonel had suggested the organized tournament he had instantly created a book for it. And the betting was fierce. People were enthusiastically supporting the tourny. He stood to make some serious cash. The men were betting money now, the end was so near and most of the camp population had been here for a long time. The back pay they were all due would be a nice tidy sum of money. Besides there was nothing left in camp to be bet, everything was now in the camp stores for the good of everyone. The action of the game caused him to look across the compound and he frowned when he noticed the Colonel, apparently asleep on the bench outside of the barracks. That’s odd. I’ve never known the Colonel to do that.
Newkirk turned to Kinch who was standing next to him. “Is he okay?” he asked very concerned nodding his chin towards the Colonel.
“I think so,” Kinch replied.
Newkirk glared at Kinch. Hogan had tried to keep everyone in the dark regarding his medical condition, and now, even with the doctor’s assurance that the Colonel was out of danger, the fear still remained.
“No really, Newkirk,” Kinch said after Newkirk shot him a look. “The Doc stopped his sedatives, and is weaning him off of the other medications. I think he’s simply having some trouble adjusting. It’s a pleasant day today. There’s nothing really to do. He’s just taking a nap in the sun.”
“Okay, mate. I believe you,” Newkirk replied. “It’s just…”
“I know, Peter,” Kinch replied. “He scared me too.”
Luft Stalag 13, Barracks Two,
May 6, 1945, 1300 Hours
Major Tonioli looked up from the seat he had taken while visiting his two wounded men still in the camp infirmary. Doctor Freiling was a fine doctor, and had worked hard at ensuring their recoveries. They were both going to be fine, but due to space limitations they were allowed to stay where they were.
“Major,” Sergeant Carter said coming into the room. “Colonel Hogan wants to speak with you. Do you have a moment?”
“Certainly, Sergeant,” Tonioli replied rising. “Peterson. Miller. Take it easy. I’ll be back later.”
“Yes, sir,” the two wounded men replied.
Tonioli followed the young Sergeant across the prison compound to Barracks Two. He again was absolutely amazed at what the men here, prisoners all, had created right in the middle of Germany, well behind enemy lines for most of the war. He had talked with many men here and had the utmost respect for the Colonel Hogan. It was such an incredible idea and the operation was nothing short of fantastic.
“The Colonel’s in his office,” Carter told him opening the door to the barracks. “He’s expecting you. Go on in.”
Tonioli rapped on the door with his knuckles, as he opened the door. “Colonel Hogan. You wanted to see me, sir?”
Hogan turned from his open window. “Yes, Major. Please take a seat.”
Tonioli sat on the stool at the officer’s desk.
“I wanted to tell you what I have planned for the Reischsmarschall. Since you and your men were dropped to secure Goering, I want you to say that you had indeed captured the man. The operation here at Stalag 13 and my role in it must remain a secret. The story will be that London, knowing we were secure, ordered you to come here to imprison him in our cooler. You were to remain here until the occupying force passed us by,” Hogan instructed.
“Are you sure, Colonel?” Tonioli questioned. “You should receive credit for your accomplishments here.”
“Major, as POWs, there should have been no way that we could have captured Reischsmarschall Goering. That was your job and one that you accomplished. Besides Major, the people that count know what we did here. It’s enough,” Hogan replied.
“If that’s the way you want it, Colonel, I will do as you say,” replied Major Tonioli.
“Good. General Birmingham and Major Killian will go along with you and your men as escorts for the 29 German prisoners. You should have no problems ensuring their safe arrival to your destination,” Hogan said offering his hand. “Good luck, Major.”
Tonioli shook the hand offered. “Thank you, sir. It’s been an inspiration being here.”
After the Major left, Hogan stood looking at his closed door. This war is really ending. We’re almost there. Just have to hold on a little longer.
Luft Stalag 13, Barracks Two,
May 7, 1945, 2322 Hours
Hogan had gone to bed over an hour before, but Kinch had just received a message that the Colonel needed to know about. Kinch knocked on the Colonel’s door and entered even though he had not received an answer. Hogan’s room was dark, so Kinch turned on the light, which immediately woke General Birmingham.
“What is it?” Birmingham asked blinking in the sudden light, leaning up on one elbow in the top bunk.
“Message from London for the Colonel,” Kinch replied bending over to wake Hogan.
“What?” Hogan asked waking slowly to Kinch’s light touch. “What’s the matter?”
“Message from London,” Kinch said handing out the very important blue slip of paper. If Hogan didn’t want it, he was going to take it home and frame it on his wall.
Hogan took the paper and angled it into the light to read. My God. It’s really over! Hogan looked up and caught Kinch’s eyes and grinned. “Finally! I was beginning to think we were caught in an endless loop and this would never come.”
“What’s it say?” Birmingham demanded leaning over to look at Hogan.
“The Armistice has been signed. All German forces will unconditionally surrender tomorrow morning at 0800,” Hogan said grinning. “The war will officially be over tomorrow morning.”
“Exactly,” Hogan replied. “Kinch, I’ll tell this barracks now. I’ll tell the rest of the camp tomorrow. We’ll call an assembly and celebrate at 0800.”
Kinch grinned broadly and waited for Hogan to dress. Kyle followed them out of the office and into the barracks proper.
“May I have everyone’s attention please,” Hogan said entering the barracks. Many of the men were already asleep, but it didn’t take long before everyone was awake and listening. “Kinch just received word from London. Gentlemen. The day we’ve all fought so hard for is upon us. As of 0800 tomorrow all German National forces will unconditionally surrender. The war is over. Now we need only wait for the US 7th Army to pass us.”
The barracks rang with excited and relieved cheers. LeBeau and Newkirk put several bottles of champagne on the table and all the cups they had. Soon everyone held a splash of champagne.
Hogan raised his glass high. “Gentlemen. You did a damned fine job. Thank you.”
“Salud,” the men echoed.
Kinch raised his glass. “Sir. I speak for all of us. We couldn’t have done this without you. So truthfully the thanks are ours. You gave all of us hope when we shouldn’t have had any. For more than three years we’ve been here, fighting with you, and following your lead. You did a damned fine job ,sir. We just helped out.”
“Exactly,” LeBeau echoed to the enthusiastic response from the men.
Hogan, his eyes damp, thanked the men again and drank the rest of his champagne. What a group of men I have here!
The men broke into smaller groups, each trying to out due the other on what they’d do as soon as they got back to London.
“I’m going to take you all ‘round the ole’ town mates,” Newkirk was telling the Colonel, LeBeau, Carter and Kinch. “We’ll do the whole thing. I know some dames who’ll be just pleased as punch to show us all a great time!”
“Sure an’ when we’re done there. We’ll go to Paris!” LeBeau replied his eyes wide with excitement as he described the city to his friends.
“Sounds great, fellas,” Hogan said finally. God, I’m tired. “I’m going back to bed. You guys make the plans. We’ll do them when we get back to London.”
Newkirk stared after Hogan. “What’s the matter?” he demanded of Kinch. “‘e should be dancing in the aisle.”
Kinch sighed thinking of the packet of papers Doc Freiling had given him. “He still needs surgery, Peter,” Kinch replied. “All the antibiotics did was buy him time.”
“What!” Carter protested his voice breaking. “The Doc said he was out of danger!”
“He is Andrew. He’s not in danger of suddenly dying, but the underlying cause is still present. It could flare up again, and he’d be back at square one. The surgery he needs is more reconstructive. It should involve removing any floating bone fragments that caused his initial difficulties, and then he should be fine.”
“Why didn’t you tell us?” LeBeau demanded. “We thought he was going to be fine.”
“He will be fine. But he doesn’t want anyone to know,” Kinch told his friends. “Not even me. I only know because the Doc gave me a copy of the medical report he wrote for the Colonel to take to London with him. The Doc was concerned that the Colonel would not disclose all of his medical difficulties, so I have a copy as well. The Colonel doesn’t know that I have it either. You all know how stubborn he’s been over this whole thing. It’s a back-up plan to ensure he gets the proper care in London.”
Luft Stalag 13, Barracks two,
May 8, 1945, 0800 Hours
The assembly bell rang at five minutes before eight. Hogan stood in the compound waiting, along with his entire staff, as well as Klink and Schultz. The two men had taken the news of Germany’s surrender well. They’d had over a week since the fall of Berlin to prepare for it. It had been only a matter of time until the news came.
Hogan let everyone settle in. The silence was complete. The attention of every person in camp was on him.
“As of 0800 today, one minute from now, all German National forces will unconditionally surrender. The war is over,” Hogan proclaimed.
The camp went insane. Complete pandemonium reigned for most of the morning. Hogan did nothing to quell the celebrations. They had all earned the right to run amok for a few hours. He did however go to the cooler and inform his three prisoners that Germany had surrendered and they’d gone from being POWs to war criminals.
Luft Stalag 13, Barracks Two,
May 8, 1945, 1615 Hours
“They’re about ten miles from here,” reported Heinrich Dieter, a farmer that held property just outside of Hammelburg. “Young Pieter saw them coming from the ridge. He ran back to the house and we packed up and came here, per your orders, Colonel. They didn’t see us and we brought what we had left. I figured that that army would eat my remaining stock anyway. It might as well feed us.”
“Good. We appreciate it, Heinrich,” Hogan replied. “Make your family as comfortable as possible. I don’t imagine you will have to stay here for too long.”
“Thank you, Colonel,” Heinrich replied leaving the barracks and heading towards the large building where all of his fellow civilian underground members were being housed. The Stalag was as bad as he thought it was going to be, but he knew that his family was safer here, than at home facing an invading army. His respect for the American Colonel rose to higher levels upon seeing what he and his men had lived in for the past three years. He didn’t know if he would have been able to stay here voluntarily, when there was an easy, dependable route out of the country.
After having watched Heinrich Dieter leave…
Hogan turned to Kinch and said, “All right, Kinch. That means our forces will probably be here tomorrow. We’ll call assembly tonight. I want to talk to the whole camp.”
“What time?” Kinch asked.
Hogan looked at his watch. “Sound the bell in a half-hour. I’ll go now and talk with Klink and Schultz,” he replied rising.
“I’ll have Newkirk sound the bell,” Kinch replied grinning. The end is almost here! I can’t believe that soon we will be returning to England, and ultimately home.
Hogan nodded and headed over to the Kommandant’s quarters. As he walked across the compound he was glad to see the afternoon’s volleyball game had ended. There was only one game left in the series, the finals. Hopefully, if tomorrow went smoothly, the afternoon game could take place as scheduled. And perhaps, with the food Heinrich brought with him he could host a feast in celebration, of both the volleyball championship winners and the end of their long internment here at Stalag 13. He smiled to himself. Some folks will say that I knew when the Allies would arrive, and had timed the volleyball tournament to coincide. But really it was just a happy accident.
He knocked on Klink’s door, entering when he heard a slightly muffled, “Come in.”
“Who won the game?” Hogan asked as he entered Klink’s quarters.
Klink smiled. “Barracks twelve. This was a great idea you had to keep the camp occupied.”
“The last three weeks, would have been almost impossible to get through without something for everyone to be involved in,” Hogan replied with a smile. “But the wait is over. I believe that the Allies will be here tomorrow. I just had a farmer come in to report the troops were ten miles from Hammelburg. They’ll get to us, before the town.”
“Tomorrow,” Klink repeated swallowing hard, still nervous about what he and Hogan had concocted. Hogan had kept nothing from him, including what this invading force had done at the last camp they had liberated.
“You can still change your mind,” Hogan told Klink. “I certainly won’t think any less of you or Schultz. You still retain the option to leave this camp.”
“No. I’ve made my choice, as has Schultz. We will see this to the end,” Klink replied. “I will no longer run and hide. Not from myself, and certainly not from my responsibilities.”
Hogan nodded, not expecting Klink to leave at this late date, but he had felt he should give the man one last chance to change his mind. “The bell should ring for assembly shortly. I plan on informing the camp of the imminent arrival of the Allied Forces.”
Klink rose and stated evenly, “I assume you will be taking some precautions.”
“Yes. I am fairly certain that the commander of this force is aware that Stalag 13 is secure. We asked London to relay that information, but I do have some measures in mind to keep everyone in camp as safe as I can,” Hogan replied, shaking his head. “I can’t believe I have to take these measures to protect my people from my own ‘friendly’ forces.”
“You should be thankful, Colonel, that these measures to be taken are not the norm. In the German army you could never trust anyone. That was a normal fact of life,” Klink replied.
“I know, Colonel, but I just don’t understand it,” Hogan replied as the bell went to ringing, calling for the assembly. “That’s it. Colonel, after you.”
Klink gave him a slight smile and shrugging on a light jacket led the way outside. All the men hurried to their places. This was the third assembly called since the fall of Berlin when Hogan had released some of his German prisoners. They had all been told to obey the summons should Hogan need to inform the camp of any new developments.
Hogan gave everyone a few moments to settle into place. “Thanks for falling in. The latest news is the Allied liberating force should arrive here tomorrow. The last report put them ten miles from Hammelburg, seven miles from us.” The camp exploded into bedlam as the population celebrated what would be the end of Stalag 13’s existence. Hogan allowed several minutes to go by before he held up his hands to quell the celebration.
Finally silence reigned again and Hogan continued, “Yes. This is actually the end for us. But we must remember what these men did at Dachau. I don’t want a repeat performance here. The next time the assembly bell rings you are all to return to your quarters immediately. No one will be in the compound tomorrow when the Allies arrive. The German POWs are to be confined to their quarters, starting after their morning roll call. I don’t want any accidents.”
Hogan paused glancing around the compound and the varied population the camp supported now. His gaze lingered on some of the littlest children, standing next to their parents. “If everything goes smoothly tomorrow, the finals will take place as scheduled in the afternoon. May the best team win! After assembly I want to meet with my staff and Sergeant Hart. Dismissed.”
Hogan led the way into Barracks Two and motioned the assembled men to take a seat around the table. “Kinch I want four men on gate duty along with the four of you. When the force arrives, Kinch, LeBeau, Newkirk and Carter will meet them at the gate. You will allow the commander of the force and two of his aides to enter the camp on foot and unarmed. If the commander gives you problems, I will come out and enforce that order myself. You will bring them to Klink’s office where myself, Kyle, Killian and Tonioli will be waiting,” he ordered.
Then Hogan turned to Sergeant Hart. Hart had led the team of snipers outside of camp during the take over. The man knew about all sorts of places nearby that could be utilized by a stationary sentry to cover the entire area. “Sergeant Hart, I want you to take a team of men outside the wire tomorrow beginning at 0500 to watch for them. I want to know before they get here, that they’re on the road. Have your men watch for advanced scouts. Nobody gets by. Radio the camp with an estimated time of arrival so that we’ll be ready for them.”
“Yes, sir,” Hart replied. “Will do.”
“Good. Does anyone have any questions?” Hogan asked.
His men shook their heads.
“All right then. I’m going over to the cooler to inform our three prisoners that their ride leaves tomorrow.”
On the Road outside of Town,
May 8, 1945, 1900 Hours
Colonel William Triplet, the commander of Company A, part of the US 7th Army, glanced at his watch. They hadn’t gone ten miles today. Wurzburg had required a lot of time. He had to leave a squad in charge of the city. They had to chase down several German officers who were organizing the cities defenses. It hadn’t really taken long to secure the city, but it had delayed their advance by almost a full day. After they had secured Wurzburg they had been notified that as of 0800 this morning the German Forces had unconditionally surrendered. The war was over. Now they only needed to push through the country to Berlin. They were now approaching the Hammelburg area. He was looking forward to this, there was a POW camp outside of Hammelburg and he was anxious to reach it and free those men. After Dachau and the horror they had found there, he was afraid that the POW camp would have been kept in the same conditions. But two days out from Dachau they had been notified that this camp, Luft Stalag 13, was secure and the men there just waiting for the front lines to go by them. London had also ordered him to follow the instructions given by the Senior POW Officer in that camp. He wasn’t exactly sure what that really meant, but he figured he’d find that out soon enough.
Triplet grabbed the roll bar in front of him as the jeep he was riding in plowed through a massive rut in the road. It looked like a partially repaired shell hole. “Keep this bucket on the road, Sergeant,” he demanded.
“I’m trying, sir. The road is badly damaged,” Sergeant Steve Henney replied struggling with the wheel.
Finally they reached a smoother part of road. Triplet looked back, his force was strung out for over a mile on the road behind him. They had less than two hours of daylight left. “We should be hooking up with our scouts shortly, Sergeant. Keep an eye out for them.”
“Yes, sir,” Henney replied.
A mile down the road Henney stopped the jeep when two figures stepped into the road. They were his men, a Captain John Sullivan and Lieutenant Peter Stoner.
“How does it look, Captain?” Colonel Triplet asked the leader of his scout team.
“Looks good. We’re in the clear for five miles around. We’re ten miles out from Hammelburg, sir,” Sullivan reported.
“Did you find the POW camp we were told to look out for?” Triplet asked.
“No, sir. It’s mostly farm country here. We think that the camp is hidden in the hills,” Sullivan reported. “I have two men searching for it.”
“Very good, Captain. Did you locate a good place for us to bivouac for the night?” Triplet asked.
“There’s a field about a mile from here. It’s fallow land. Probably belongs to the farmer who lived about two clicks from here. There doesn’t appear to be anyone living there now though,” Sullivan replied.
“Good, Captain. There didn’t happen to be some livestock we could liberate for the stew pots?” Triplet asked looking forward to something fresh. The rations were getting tiring.
“No, sir. There doesn’t appear to be anything left. The place looked well ransacked,” Sullivan replied.
“All right then. Lead the way,” Triplet ordered disappointed.
On the Hammelburg Road,
May 9, 1945, 0730 Hours
“The camp is about a mile down a dirt road off of this one,” Captain Sullivan reported. “It looks deserted though.”
“We were told the camp was secured,” Triplet protested. “Are you sure, Captain?”
“My men reported no activity at all. They did hear a bell being rung, but that could have come from somewhere else. The camp is completely devoid of life. No one at all in sight,” Sullivan reported.
“Well we might as well go and check it out,” Triplet ordered. “Perhaps something happened after they reported to London they were secure. This area was firmly in German hands until the Armistice was signed. I felt it was odd that this camp reported itself secure.”
Just ten minutes later…
Triplet sighed, as Company A approached the closed barbed wire gates of the prison. It looked much like the camp structure of Dachau, only this was a POW camp. Perhaps friends of his, or that of his men had been held here. He could only pray that what went on at Dachau had not happened here. He couldn’t face seeing corpses stacked like firewood again. When his jeep finally came to a stop, he was surprised when eight men appeared at the gates. He wondered where they’d been hiding.
“Who is in charge of this force?” a Negro Staff Sergeant asked.
“I am,” Triplet replied. “Colonel William Triplet of Company A of the Seventh Army.”
“What are your orders regarding this camp, Colonel?” Kinch asked.
“We’ve received word that you’re secure and waiting for us,” Triplet replied still not seeing another soul in camp besides these eight men.
“That is correct, Colonel,” Kinch confirmed. “Our orders are to let you and two of your aides into camp. You are to enter on foot and unarmed.”
“I don’t understand. Who gave these orders, Sergeant?!” Triplet demanded. I’ll be damned if I’m gonna enter a potentially dangerous situation unarmed!
“General Robert Hogan. The Senior POW Officer here,” Kinch replied. “So Colonel. Choose your two men and follow us.”
“Sir!” Major Kenneth Dunn protested. “You can’t seriously consider doing that!”
“We were told to follow the instructions given here Major,” Triplet reminded his executive officer. “We speculated on exactly what that would entail, though I didn’t expect to be told to walk in there unarmed.”
“We’re secure,” Kinch pointed out to the Colonel.
“But these orders are insane!” Dunn continued to protest, ignoring the Negro Sergeant. “How do we know they’re telling the truth? We could be walking right into a trap.”
“The war is over,” Triplet pointed out.
“Yes, sir,” Dunn agreed. “But do they know that, sir?”
“Yes,” Kinch replied. “We do realize the war is over. As I said, we’re secure here. Make up your mind Colonel. We don’t really have all day.”
“Major. You and Captain Sullivan are with me,” Triplet ordered getting out of the jeep, unbuckling his side arm. “Captain Graham. You’re in charge while I’m gone.”
“Yes, sir,” Graham replied. “What are your orders?”
“Sit tight. Don’t do anything unless you’re absolutely sure of the situation. Whoever this General Hogan is, he’s being very cautious about our presence here. I don’t know why, but stay on your toes,” Triplet ordered.
“Yes, sir,” Graham acknowledged.
Triplet, Dunn and Sullivan approached the barbed wire gates. One of the eight men swung open one side to admit them. The gate was secured behind them. They were searched. Triplet glowered at the Sergeant.
“This way, gentlemen,” Kinch said ignoring the irritated look Colonel Triplet shot him. He led the way across the yard towards one of the larger buildings.
Triplet didn’t say anything as three of the men flanked them with one bringing up the year. Four men stayed at the gates. For some reason, they weren’t taking any chances. They climbed the few steps to the building, entering directly into a vacant office, and passing through it into another office where several men waited. Seated behind the desk was a two-star American General, standing to either side of him was a one-star General and a Major, off to one side stood another Major.
“Colonel William Triplet, sir,” Kinch said preceding the men into the office. “Commander in charge of Company A of the Seventh Army. Colonel. General Robert Hogan.”
The General at the desk looked a little worse for wear. He wore an eye patch and Triplet could see what appeared to be the remains of bruises on his face. His face overall was gaunt. Triplet moved to the front of the desk and offered the superior officer a salute.
“At ease, Colonel,” Hogan said standing to return the salute and quickly introduced the officers in the room with him. “This is General Birmingham, Majors Killian and Tonioli.”
“What is going on here, sir?” Triplet asked, never expecting to be confronted with two Generals, certainly not a 2-star. Most Generals were exchanged as a matter of course.
“This camp is secure and has been since the Russians engaged Berlin. I have several prisoners here for you to officially take charge of. After that formality, I want you and your force to move on. General Birmingham, Majors Killian and Tonioli will move the prisoners to their destination. You may send some of your own staff with them if you feel it is necessary, but General Birmingham will be in charge of the detail,” Hogan said.
“Begging your pardon, sir, I don’t understand your attitude. I expected that the men in this camp would be happy to see us,” Triplet said somewhat confused.
“Colonel, we are delighted to see what you represent. Once you pass us, we’re free to go home. I have London standing by to airlift my men and I out of here. What I don’t like is what you’ve already done. I know what some of your men did at Dachau,” Hogan replied bluntly.
Triplet shivered. “You weren’t there, General. You didn’t see that place.”
“No,” Hogan agreed. “I was not present with your invading force. I, however, have been there while it was still functioning. I know what you found there, but that doesn’t change anything. You and your men will not be allowed the opportunity to repeat your actions here.”
“Is there a reason that we should?” Triplet asked. “What my men and I saw, well it pushed several of the men over the edge. It was horrible.”
“Colonel. The war was about stopping Hitler’s dominion of the world. His hold on Germany and its occupied countries was nothing short of barbaric. I understand your reaction, but to me you and your men descended to the depths of deprivation commonly practiced in Nazi Germany. It’s what I’ve spent the last five years fighting against. I can’t understand how you let yourselves get to that point,” Hogan replied seating himself again at Klink’s desk. “And in answer to your earlier question, no there is no reason for you to repeat your actions. This camp is secure, the Germans who remain here are prisoners, and will be accorded the rights of prisoners.”
“You seem awful sure of your facts, sir,” Triplet replied irritated.
“I am very sure,” Hogan replied. “So, Colonel. Here is a list of prisoners who I will be turning over to you.”
Triplet reached out and took the proffered piece of paper. He scanned the names figuring that the men listed would be the Kommandant and guards of this camp. His jaw dropped as he read the bottom two names. “You have Reischsmarschall Goering and a General from the German General Staff here!?”
“Yes. They are both being held in this camp’s cooler. They’ve been guests here for a few weeks now. Major Tonioli was dropped along with a commando team to capture the Reischsmarschall. Once they had secured the man, London told them to come here to keep him safe. London knew we were already secure here. It was the best place to keep him. Burkhalter arrived here a few days after our take over, and we captured him to keep ourselves safe. Burkhalter was the commanding General for this camp. He came here often,” Hogan explained. “All told you are to officially take charge of 29 men.”
“But Goering!” Triplet repeated totally amazed. “The man responsible for Dachau!”
“And other camps equally as vile,” Hogan agreed. “General Birmingham will see to it that all of these prisoners reach their trial alive. There will be no vigilante justice practiced here.”
“The man should be taken out and shot,” Triplet said with conviction.
“Perhaps. But neither of us have the authority to do such a thing,” Hogan replied calmly, thinking to himself that the Colonel was kind to refer to the Reischsmarschall as a man, when he didn’t think that Goering even qualified as a human being. “The war crimes tribunal has been set up in Nuremberg. It is to there that General Birmingham and his men will see the 29 prisoners.”
“You appear to have things well in hand here,” Triplet said finally.
“Yes, Colonel. I do,” Hogan agreed. “One of your officers will be escorted back to your men at the gate. Sergeant Carter and Corporal LeBeau will escort your man,” gesturing to his two men. “Your men are to stand down. You, Colonel Triplet, will come with me. I’ll have my men transfer the prisoners to the two trucks we’ll use. The trucks have been gassed and serviced and are ready to go out. We’ve been sitting here waiting for your arrival for three weeks.”
Triplet sent Captain Sullivan back to report to Captain Graham and followed the 2-star General outside. The prison yard was still devoid of any life. “Where is everyone?” Triplet asked the strange quiet of the camp getting to him.
“Everyone is holed up in the barracks,” Hogan replied. “I told you. I would allow no deviations to my plans. You and your men will move on after you are finished here.”
“General. I hope you don’t mind that I ask to see your camp. After the last several camps we’ve liberated, I need to see that your men are alive. I’ve seen too many instances where the bodies were stacked too damned high,” Triplet said, hoping the General was going to take that request well.
Hogan sighed. He could understand the Colonel’s reluctance to take him at his word. If it had been him, he would have asked for the same thing. Dachau at the end was probably hideous. While it was still functioning as a concentration camp it had been horrible, with the end so near he was sure most of the camp was put to death.
“All right Colonel. I understand why you’ve asked that. I’ll give you a tour. While I will not show you the entire camp, you will see that the men here are alive and mostly healthy,” Hogan replied and spent time showing the Colonel through three different barracks.
Triplet was reassured when he was shown through the camp’s barracks. They were crowded with men, but the men were alive and in decent shape. Many had cheered, excited to see him. That had relieved him even more than the General’s reassurances. These men were happy to see him, but were obeying the orders of their commander. That I can understand.
Once back in the compound Hogan said, “I hope that satisfied you. I’ll release the prisoners to you, then you and your men can leave the camp.”
“I was hoping for a safe place to bivouac tonight, and maybe a meal that hasn’t come from a ration packet,” Triplet protested.
“That won’t be here, Colonel,” Hogan replied. “The Armistice has been signed, effective yesterday morning at 0800. You shouldn’t have any difficulties. As to your rations, you’re lucky to have ‘em. I’m feeding close to 3,000 on vermin infested, nearly spoiled food.”
As they approached the cooler building…
Kinch, who had preceded the officers to the cooler, opened the gate of the chain link fence that surrounded the building. The men assigned to guard their prisoners opened the door to the building and met them.
“Major Tonioli. Gather your men and bring the two trucks here,” Hogan ordered.
“Yes, sir,” Tonioli replied saluting and then turned to go to the motor pool. His men were waiting there. Within moments he was back with his original team of seven commandos, the three wounded, from his team, would return to London with Hogan. There would be 10 of them to guard the prisoners, including himself, General Birmingham and Major Tonioli.
“Kinch. Bring the three prisoners out here. Leave the Reischsmarschall till last,” Hogan ordered.
“Yes, sir,” Kinch replied entering the cooler with seven men from the trucks, along with the cooler guards. Hogan had ordered three men per prisoner. The prisoners would be shackled, and locked in place once seated in the trucks. He wanted no mistakes made.
Major Kalb almost needed to be carried from his cell. The man was really a pathetic example of humanity. General Burkhalter walked to the truck with some dignity. He’d lost weight during his month in the cooler. Reischsmarschall Goering struggled in his chains, shouting obscenities.
After a particularly vile sentence Hogan walked over, motioning for the guards to hold him tighter. “One more word from you and I will order you gagged for the journey,” Hogan informed the prisoner in German. “Understand?”
Goering spat at him, shouting incoherently.
“Gag him,” Hogan ordered still in German. The guards holding Goering maintained their position while two more men approached and affixed the gag to the prisoner. “You were warned, Reischsmarschall,” Hogan said, turning to Birmingham. “You really should have someone with you who understands German Kyle. As you can see, I had warned him to quiet down. He did not comply, so I had him gagged. I told him that it was for the entire journey. That, of course, is entirely up to you. He has a very foul mouth on him,” Hogan said.
Birmingham replied, “Don’t worry. We’ll make do. It’s only three days to Nuremberg anyway.”
“As you wish. I’m willing to send a volunteer along who speaks German,” Hogan offered again.
Kyle had already turned his offer down once, feeling that all of Hogan’s men deserved to return to England as soon as possible. “No thanks, Rob. As I said, we’ll make do,” Birmingham replied. “Major Killian. Why don’t you see to the comfort of the rest of our ‘guests’.”
“Yes, sir,” Killian replied motioning for the cooler guards to help him and the seven commandos load the Camp 19 prisoners from the German compound. The loading went uneventful, and very shortly all of the prisoners were secured in the trucks.
“Your men are ready to go. Just like that?” Triplet asked amazed.
“As I said earlier, Colonel. We’ve been sitting here for awhile waiting for you, plenty of time to organize this exodus of our prisoners,” Hogan replied. “Are you sending anyone along with my escort?”
“Yes, sir. I’ll assign three men to your transport,” Triplet replied.
“Do you have a man you can send that understands and speaks German?” Hogan asked. “The Reischsmarschall is a very opinionated bastard, and doesn’t speak English willingly.”
“Yes, sir. I believe I can assign a man who speaks German,” Triplet replied. “Permission to leave the camp to see to this?”
“Go ahead. Kinch, you’re his escort. Take Newkirk with you,” Hogan ordered.
“Yes, sir,” Kinch replied motioning for Triplet to precede them. “Colonel. After you.”
Hogan turned back to Birmingham, offering his hand saying, “I guess this is it, Kyle. It isn’t likely we’ll run into each other again any time soon.”
Birmingham shook the offered hand. “You’re probably right, Rob. I won’t say I’ll miss the accommodations, but I want you to know that I admire greatly what you’ve forged here. I couldn’t have done this. You’ve earned those two stars you’re wearing today. Wear them proudly.”
“Thank you, Kyle. Though I didn’t do anything someone else in my position wouldn’t have done,” Hogan protested.
“Robert Hogan. I don’t understand you. You created this. You are Papa Bear. Who else would have thought of staying in this pigsty to help others? I’ve been here long enough to realize who was firmly in control here. Your men would follow you anywhere, even with you being half-dead and beaten to a pulp. Hell, even the German guards in this camp accorded you more respect than I’ve seen from some of our Allied troops to their own commanders. You have every right to be proud of your accomplishments here. Your ability to hold onto your beliefs only proves your humanity and courage,” Kyle Birmingham said. He’d learned the lesson that Rob had tried to teach him. There were no black and white sides to anything. Everything was a shade of gray and one had to find a comfortable niche. It was why he was now escorting two truckloads of German prisoners to their trials.
Hogan ducked his head embarrassed. He didn’t feel he’d done anything that someone else couldn’t have done given the same situation. “Thanks, Kyle.”
“We’re all set to go,” Killian said as he and Tonioli came over to where the two Generals stood saying goodbye.
“Excellent,” Hogan replied turning to face the three men. “Gentlemen. I wish you all a safe journey.”
The three of them straightened and saluted.
“Rob. I hope your return to civilization is uneventful. Take care of yourself,” Birmingham said.
“Thanks, Kyle. I will,” Hogan replied.
Colonel Triplet returned at that point with three men. “These men are Lieutenants Peter Lapuc, Michael Walsh and Corporal Allan Smith. Corporal Smith speaks German. I’ve briefed them.”
“Good. Welcome gentlemen. Let’s get on the road then,” Birmingham ordered. “Corporal, if you would please ride in the first truck it would be appreciated.”
Birmingham saluted Hogan again after the rest of the men had found places in the trucks.
“God speed, Kyle,” Hogan said returning the salute and watched as Birmingham got in the truck and the two trucks left the camp. “Colonel. I don’t want to keep you. You’ve an appointment with destiny in Berlin.”
Triplet also straightened, saluted and then left camp taking his invading force on down the road.
Hogan nodded towards LeBeau and Carter and both men headed toward the mess hall to finish preparing the feast for later on. With the food that Dieter had brought with him, they would all have a decent meal tonight. Tomorrow would see a return to the tasteless and formless slop that they’d been eating for weeks now. But, just a few more days and they would all leave Stalag 13 for good. 39 men are gone, just a little less than 2700 more to go.
Hogan stood watching as the last of the trucks disappeared in the direction of Hammelburg. When the last of them were gone Hogan turned to Newkirk and Kinch who were standing next to him. “Newkirk. Sound the all clear. We’ve got a game to host and a feast to prepare. Inform the men the game will commence at 1500 Hours. Kinch. Radio London. Find out when we can begin the airlift to get everyone home.”
“Yes, sir!” both men enthusiastically replied moving off in different directions.
London, England, Allied High Command,
May 9, 1945, 1300 Hours
Papa Bear to Mama Bear. Company A, Seventh Army, Colonel William Triplet, commanding, passed through our sector this morning at 0730. Colonel Triplet officially charged with the capture of Reischsmarschall Hermann Goering, General Albert Burkhalter, Major Otto Kalb and 26 other German military personnel. General Kyle Birmingham assigned to escort the prisoners to Nuremberg Germany to face the War Crimes Tribunals. Request date and time of requested airlift of all personnel and cargo. Standing by. Papa Bear.
General Simpson read the message that was handed to him by Major Kimmel. “Major. Let’s bring them home. Inform Papa Bear that we’ll send the first squadron, from Fieldstone, for 0800 Hours, May 11th. We should have everyone back in London by the 12th. Let them know that we’ll confirm the men’s identities on the runway. They will be getting new uniforms. Then we’ll make sure everyone gets the medical assistance they need. Once we’ve got the roster created we’ll send the men to base housing, as well as supply them with a decent meal. Then we can begin debriefing them.”
“Yes, sir,” Kimmel replied. “I’ll send that out right away.”
“Also. Inform Colonel Joseph Hogan that the first planes will land on the 11th,” General Simpson continued.
“Yes, sir,” Kimmel acknowledged leaving the general’s office. Damn. This is almost over. Papa Bear and his men are the last major members of London’s web of agents to come back.
London, England, Allied Headquarters,
Office of Colonel Joseph Hogan,
May 9, 1945, 1330 Hours
Joseph Hogan watched Major Kimmel as he left his office after telling him that his brother Rob and his men would be returning starting the 11th of May. That is certainly most welcome news. But if I know my brother, Rob will be the last too leave, which will get him to London on the 12th. Joe was told that there would be a medical quarantine at the airbase. How long… depended on the condition of the POWs. After that, Joe would be able to see his brother.
Joe had been keeping busy with a heavy load of debriefings, since his arrival on the 23rd of April. After the shock of that first day, he had settled in nicely. He had tried to keep his mind on business, but it was difficult when all he really wanted to do was see his brother. Joe couldn’t believe that he hadn’t seen Rob for close to four and half years, after adding up all his flight time as well as the time in the POW camp. Joe couldn’t wait to see him.
Luckily, Joe had been able to get through to his family in the States. Joe had told them that Rob was alive, but still being held in Germany. He couldn’t tell them much more than that, but ‘alive’ covered the most important question they had. He told them as soon as Rob was safely in London, he would contact them again.
Joe sat quietly contemplating what he would say to his big brother when he saw him. Most assuredly a great big bear hug is in order. I’ll have to tell him about John. I’ll have to tell him about little Stephen. Hell I should bring the pictures I have with me. Rob even missed Sue’s wedding, and Mom and Dad’s 40th wedding anniversary. There is just so much stuff I need to say to him.
Stay safe Rob. There’s only three more days to go.
London, England, Fieldstone US Army Airbase,
General Creighton’s Office,
May 9, 1945, 1400 Hours
Colonel Stephen Wright was in the General’s office when the official word came in to rescue the POWs. It’s about time. His preparations had been ready for days now. As soon as that first plane lands at 1200 Hours on the 11th, his men could hit the ground running and get these men settled.
Allied High Command said that according to the Senior Officer, the POWs were in decent condition. He was glad to hear that, as that should make this process go faster. The sooner they get all the medical stuff out of the way, the quicker those men can relax, get something to eat, and get some sleep.
Elsewhere on base, Hanger Bay Twelve…
Major Michael Sears had just gotten final confirmation of his orders to pick up the POWs. They had a departure time of 0500 Hours on the 11th, which would put them on the ground in Wurzburg by 0800 Hours. The Senior POW Officer said that he, along with his first group of POWs, would be waiting for them when they arrived. He had asked that some of the security troops take over driving the trucks, because he didn’t want his men over-worked. And also that he just couldn’t ask any of his men to turn around and come back to camp, when they were that close to a ride home. The Senior POW Officer would then return with the trucks to camp, supplying the directions and would be the last to leave the camp, with his staff, when the time came.
Major Sears’ men were now on full alert. He would be leading 6 cargo planes for the first day and the same crews, less one, would be returning the next day. There only are 5 planes necessary for the second day of this mission: He checked their flight schedule.
Day 1 departure London 5:00 am, arrival Germany 8:00am - MPs
Day 1 1st departure Germany 9:00am, arrival London 12:00pm - POWs
Day 1 2nd departure Germany 11:00am, arrival London 2:00pm - POWs
Day 1 3rd. departure Germany 1:00pm, arrival London 4:00pm - POWs
Day 1 4th departure Germany 3:00pm, arrival London 6:00pm - POWs
Day 1 5th departure Germany 4:00pm, arrival London 8:00pm - POWs
Day 1 6th departure Germany 7:00pm, arrival London 10:00pm - POWs
Day 2 departure London 5:00 am, arrival Germany 8:00am - EMPTY
Day 2 1st departure Germany 9:00 am, arrival London 12:00pm - POWs
Day 2 2nd departure Germany 11:00 am, arrival London 2:00pm - POWs
Day 2 3rd. departure Germany 1:00 pm, arrival London 4:00pm - POWs
Day 2 4th departure Germany 3:00 pm, arrival London 6:00pm - POWs
Day 2 5th departure Germany 4:00 pm, arrival London 8:00pm - POWs, MPs Cargo
Still elsewhere on base, the Medical Facility…
Colonel Rodney Ballister was just getting off the phone with General Creighton. He was to expect his first POWs here at Fieldstone by 1200 Hours on the 11th. General Creighton had gotten word that most of these POWs were relatively healthy. No major life threatening issues. A few were recovering from gunshot wounds, but recovering was the all-important word.
Ballister knew to expect men who were undernourished and pathetically thin. He just hoped that when their German captors left camp, they hadn’t taken it out on the POWs. According to the Senior POW Officer, that hadn’t been the case.
General Creighton still did not want to relax the medical emergency status until they could see for themselves that these men were okay. Ballister whole-heartedly agreed. His people would be ready for anything. It would be a pleasant surprise if these men were in decent shape.
Luft Stalag 13, Tunnel under Barracks Two,
May 9, 1945, 1430 Hours
Kinch handed Hogan the clipboard with the message he’d just decoded from London.
“Not till the 11th. Hmm,” Hogan said a little disappointed. Another two or three days in this dump. Oh well. We’ve stood it this long, a few more days isn’t going to kill any of us. “Acknowledge this, Kinch. I’ll inform the first group of men when they’re leaving tonight at the feast,” Hogan looked at his watch. “It’s almost time for the final game. I imagine all of our civilian guests will be leaving us tomorrow.”
“Yes, sir,” Kinch replied already tapping at his key.
Hogan exited the barracks and made his way across the compound. The sun was shinning, and it was really a beautiful day. The net was already in place and many people were already around the area, jostling for good places to view the action. Tantalizing aromas were coming from the mess hall promising of delights yet to come. It was the first time in his memory that the aromas coming from that building smelled like food.
Hogan glanced at his watch, still ten minutes before the game started. He walked over towards the game area, thinking about what he was going to say when he started this game.
At 1500, he walked to the center of the court and held up his hand for quiet. “Good afternoon, folks. I wanted to take the time here to talk to everyone, because after the game we’re going to be enjoying a fine meal. And no one would want to listen to me while there’s real food to be had!”
The camp laughed.
“This is the last game in the series, it’s also the last full day here for some of us. All of our civilian friends will be leaving tomorrow.”
Hogan paused as the camp erupted into cheers and applause.
“We started these games as a way to pass the time as we sat here waiting for this day to arrive. This is truly the end. We’ve all worked so hard to get here, and lost many of our friends and family along the way. I’m proud to have known all of you, your convictions and beliefs have made this operation a success. We did a good job here. Thank you, one and all!”
The camp again erupted into rowdy cheers.
When they quieted again Hogan continued, “May the best team win! Let the game begin!”
The game lasted almost two hours…
And the camp was loud and supportive, but finally it was team 20 who came out on top, winning the final game by only two points. Hogan had watched the game with interest, not necessarily the play, but the population. For those two hours everyone forgot where he or she was. The game was the only thing they were thinking of. It had turned out to be a great way to occupy the camp. He was glad to see that everyone could enjoy the game and relax. The tension they had all lived under for years at a time was finally over with.
And then after the feast…
Hogan walked around the compound alone as the camp was slowly going to sleep. I can’t believe this is the end. -- The end of the war. -- The end of being a POW -- The end of my command. -- No more lies to tell. -- No more death and destruction. This is the end of the only existence I’ve known for over three years. I could quit, resign, and go home. No one would blame me. But I can’t. I have to come back here and help to rebuild. Build where before all I’ve done was destroy.
Luft Stalag 13, Colonel Hogan’s Quarters,
May 10, 1945, 0700 Hours
Kinch knocked on the Colonel’s door, a little surprised that the Colonel hadn’t yet come out this morning. At Hogan’s ‘come’, Kinch opened the door. “Colonel. The first of the trucks will be leaving in an hour,” Kinch reported.
Hogan was dressed, but seated at his desk writing. Looking up he said, “Thanks, Kinch. How many trucks are scheduled to leave at that time?”
“The three trucks bringing the locals back home, and Canary will be leaving with the staff car,” Kinch replied. “Klink said he’d be leaving about 0900 and Schultz and his two trucks will be leaving then as well. The first three trucks should be back in camp by 1400.”
“Okay. Let’s go on over and see how things are going and say our good-byes,” Hogan said standing and grabbing his cap.
Many of his men were helping the civilians pack and get organized. There were six men assigned to ferry the locals back to their homes. Hogan and Kinch mingled with the crowd. Hogan made sure he spoke to everyone, including the children. They had all been in camp almost a month and he had spent time with all of them at one point or another. He had reiterated to them, that he still planned on returning and that he expected to see them all again in a few months time.
Doc Freiling was the last man he approached.
“Well, son. I guess this is goodbye then,” Freiling said reaching out to shake the American’s hand firmly.
“No. It’s only auf Wiedersehen. I’m coming back,” Hogan replied pulling the older man into a bear hug. “I’ll see you soon. There is too much work to be done here.”
Freiling smiled broadly, thumping Hogan on the back. “Ja. That is true.”
Hogan released him. “Thanks, Doc. For everything.”
“You’re welcome, Colonel. Or is that perhaps… General?” Freiling asked a grin tugging at his lips.
“Perhaps it will be General the next time you see me. But I would be happier if you called me son,” Hogan replied with a broad smile.
“Then I will,” Freiling said pleased. He turned to get into the truck behind him, paused and turned back to Hogan. “You will see a doctor in London. Won’t you?”
“You never give up. Do you, Doc?” Hogan asked with a sigh.
“Nein. Never. I want a full accounting when next you and I meet,” Freiling replied with a wicked grin.
Hogan patted his breast pocket. “I’m carrying your notes with me. I promise that I will give them to the doctor in London.”
“Gut. Auf Wiedersehen then,” Freiling replied raising his hand in parting.
Hogan waved along with the rest of his men as the three trucks left the camp. 80 more gone from camp. A little less than 2600 people to go. Hogan stood in the compound till he couldn’t see the trucks any longer, then he turned back to the activity behind him. In a little less than an hour, Klink and Schultz will also be leaving. Once they’re gone the only people that will be left in the camp are my men and the Camp 19 POWs.
Schultz detached himself from supervising the loading of the trucks to go with him. “Can I speak with you Colonel Hogan?”
“Certainly, Schultz. Here or somewhere more private?” Hogan replied immediately. Somehow during the past few weeks he had not had much time to speak with Schultz.
“Somewhere private would be appreciated, Colonel,” Schultz replied.
Hogan led the way to his office and closed the door to his quarters as he followed the old guard into the room. “What is it, Schultz?” Hogan asked seating himself on his bunk, and leaving the stool for the bigger man.
“I wanted to take the time to explain myself to you, Colonel Hogan. I know that Colonel Klink has already told you of his choices. But I have not shared mine with you. It was too difficult to say in front of him. I don’t know if he would ever forgive me, should he discover the truth.”
Schultz paused and shook his head. “I knew what you were doing here. It could have made a huge difference had I ever reported your activities,” Schultz began and then sighed deeply. “Colonel. I am an old man. Perhaps not in years, as I am only 55, but in experience. I fought in the trenches in the first war and when I returned home I took over my father’s business, a toy factory. Even then the company was large and well respected. We had money. We had influence, in our town, in our country and even the surrounding countries as well. But the unrest within Germany never eased between the two wars. It got progressively worse. Then Hitler came into power and I watched as whole families disappeared over night. I was afraid, so quietly my wife and I began to gather children from those at the greatest risk. I provided shelter and food. My factory was large and situated on its own property, fenced all around with many outbuildings. It was not difficult, at first. I provided jobs for others, who would have been taken as vagrants. My brother Franz also worked in the factory as a toy designer and he helped as well. We were very successful until the unthinkable happened, and I was drafted again.”
Schultz was quiet for a long moment. “The factory was seized by the government and they converted it to make guns. Franz and my family hastily moved as many as they could and continued to work towards saving our country one person at a time. Franz was not drafted as he lost a hand to an accident as a child. I was posted here and overall it was a lucky posting for me. I had enough of war and bloodshed to last a lifetime already. Here I could be safe and pass the war in peace. No one would look twice at me, and my relationship to the company. My family should be overlooked, even though the Gestapo was suspicious of them. I was careful to draw no attention to myself.”
“Then I came here,” Hogan said softly, his respect for Schultz had gone up immeasurably.
“Ja. Then you came here, with your crazy monkey business,” Schultz began sarcastically. “Should you have been discovered, it could have been the death of my family and me as well. I did what I could. Therefore I saw nothing and knew nothing. You were fighting against Hitler in another fashion altogether. In a way I was not capable of. But I helped in any way I could. Therefore I ‘unknowingly’ carried messages for you. I ignored everything that happened here. You kept me safe and I kept you safe.” Schultz sighed again, he looked like he’d aged five years during his story.
“I’m sorry, Schultz. I had no idea I was putting so much at risk,” Hogan apologized. “I knew there was a way out for German civilians in Heidelberg. We even provided aide occasionally to them. I didn’t know it was your family.”
“No. Neither did I know that the aide that they got sometimes was from you. I would thank you for that. Many times if it wasn’t for your contacts they would have been caught,” Schultz replied.
“It was a dangerous business we were in, Schultz. No matter the side of the coin you were operating on. Moving an Allied soldier behind enemy lines was equally as dangerous as moving ‘an enemy of the state’. Either way if caught you were dead,” Hogan said softly. “But that is over with now. You can go home with a light heart, Schultz. Take care of your family. Rebuild your business and find homes for your orphans.”
“Yes I will. I will continue to work at saving my country one person at a time. Always will I take in another child. This task you have given me is not so difficult, and perhaps one I should have taken upon myself, but I had initially thought to be held accountable for my inaction.” Schultz shook his head and offered his hand to the younger man. “Colonel, thank you, for everything you have done.”
Hogan stood and accepted Schultz’s hand. “You’re welcome, Schultz, and thank you.”
“Hans, Colonel. The war is over. Call me, Hans,” Schultz replied.
“Then you must call me Rob, Hans,” Hogan replied in turn.
Schultz smiled broadly. “With the utmost pleasure … Rob.” Schultz looked at his watch. “Well the time has come.”
“Yes,” Hogan replied. “I’ll see you off.” The two men left Barracks Two.
Klink had been waiting for Hogan and Schultz beside the truck he was taking. As Hogan and Schultz both approached him, Klink smiled at both men. “I’ve already spoken with many of your men, Colonel. I was waiting for you and Schultz.”
Hogan returned the smile easily, as the awkwardness that had been between them was finally gone. Klink trusted Hogan now, sure where the American stood. And Hogan admired the stand that Klink had been prepared to make and was looking forward to their future relationship. Once Klink stopped hiding, he became a remarkable man with a very well developed sense of responsibility. Schultz -- while never a soldier -- is a man dedicated to his country, not Hitler and his cronies, but to Germany as a culture and to those who called it home. It has been a remarkable six-weeks. These two men are certainly full of surprises. Just when I thought I knew everything about them, they changed into men I am glad to call friends.
“Colonel. I hope you have a safe journey and can find your family,” Hogan said.
“I hope that as well, Colonel. I will try to return to Hammelburg as soon as possible,” Klink replied.
“Doc Freiling will know when to expect my return,” Hogan replied. “I expect it won’t be much before August.”
“No matter, we will do what we’ve discussed in your absence. You will find the work in progress when you do arrive back in Hammelburg.” Klink assured him holding out his hand. “Colonel, holding you prisoner has been a unique experience.”
Hogan laughed and returned the handshake. “Being your prisoner was a strange way to spend the war. Good luck ,Colonel Wilhelm Klink.”
“And you as well, Colonel Robert Hogan,” Klink offered finishing the handshake. “Hans, good luck to you. You have a difficult job ahead of you.”
Schultz smiled. “I don’t know, Wilhelm. It appears what you will be doing will be equally as hard. I love children, so we will manage somehow. I hope that you will find all is well in Leipzig.”
“I hope so as well, Hans. Well good luck. Keep in touch,” Klink replied shaking Schultz’s hand as well.
“Ja. Let me know when you return to Hammelburg,” Schultz said. “Good luck, Herr Kommandant.”
Klink waved at the men standing around and got into the truck Hogan had given him and drove out the gates of Stalag 13 for the very last time. I bet when I return to Hammelburg that Stalag 13 would no longer be standing. It would be like Hogan to destroy any evidence of what this place had become.
After Klink had driven from sight, Schultz and Hogan moved back to where Schultz’s contingent waited, already packed into the two truck they’d be taking. “Thanks again, Colonel. Um. Rob,” Schultz said.
Hogan grinned. “As I said before you are welcome…. Hans.”
“Good luck, Schultzie!” LeBeau said coming forward to wish the former guard good luck. “I’ll send you some strudel sometime. If you’re ever in Paris look me up. I hope to be starting a restaurant there.”
“Ah. Wunderbar. I will come just for that, cockroach!” Schultz replied with a happy grin.
“Yeah. Good luck, Schultzie,” Newkirk chimed in. “Take good care of little Gretchen.” Gretchen was the youngest girl Schultz was taking with him. She was only four, and had the whole camp around her finger. She was adorable.
“Little Gretchen will be fine, Newkirk. They all will be,” Schultz assured them.
“Yeah. I just bet they will be. Good luck, Schultz,” Carter said.
“Schultz,” Kinch said the last to come forward. “Good luck.”
“Kinch. It is good you are going with the Colonel. He needs someone to look after him,” Schultz said with a serious expression on his face. “You will see that he is taken care of?”
“You can bet on that,” Kinch replied. “The Doc and I have all the bases covered. The Colonel will be seen to, whether he wants to be or not.”
“Gut. Then I can leave with a light heart. Good bye, everyone!” Schultz called out getting into his truck. He nodded to the young man who was driving and the trucks rolled out of the gates, with all of the prisoners lining the way shouting and waving.
Hogan watched as the last two trucks carrying the civilians left the camp. That’s the last of the Germans. Now it is just my men. Two more days and all of this will be a memory.
Wurzburg, Germany, Airfield,
May 11, 1945, 0720 Hours
Hogan accompanied the first group of men to the airfield. He had wanted to see his men off, and make sure that he was there to deal with any problems that came up. And not wanting to appear to be too ill to the incoming personnel, he had removed his eye patch before he had left his quarters. The patch was in his pocket, just in case, but he was not experiencing any difficulties. And he had already informed London that he would be drafting some of the MPs being sent for security purposes to drive the trucks back to camp, as he just wasn’t willing ask his any of his men to return to camp with their ride home so very close.
Hogan had been appalled at the level of destruction that existed in the countryside. He hadn’t been outside of Stalag 13 or even the Hammelburg area in close to three months. And as the six trucks pulled through the deserted gates at the airfield in Wurzburg, he couldn’t help but notice that the airfield was also in horrible disarray. “I guess we should have sent an advance team out,” Hogan said to Sergeant Marlow who was driving the truck. “I hope there’s a usable runway.”
“We’ll find one,” Marlow replied, as he parked his truck as close as possible to the nearest runway. It had pieces of some German plane or another scattered everywhere on this end of the runway.
“Messerschmitts,” Hogan identified adding, “Gustoff, one of our contacts out here, reported at one point there were six strips out of this field. Let’s split up. We’ll pick the least damaged one and pitch the debris off. We’ve got almost forty minutes till the planes arrive.”
The men spread out over the field…
It was quickly determined that the best runway would be the far northeast runway. It had a couple of craters in it, but the debris was merely scattered sporadically and could be easily removed. They didn’t have time to repair the runway but hopefully with a few well-placed flags they could alert the pilots of the craters presence. The last thing Hogan wanted… was to have the planes sent for them crash while they were trying to land.
At 0800 Hogan thought the runway was usable and ordered his men back to the trucks. Now they merely had to wait. At the head of the usable runway Hogan had ordered a white ‘X’ drawn with sheets from the deserted nearby barracks. The sheets were weighted down with anything handy. He hoped that would be enough information for the lead pilot to choose the correct strip.
Hogan looked over his men. They were all clustered around him waiting for the planes to come. He took a deep breath. While this wasn’t really goodbye, he’d see them all tomorrow, it was goodbye in the sense that what they had done here in Germany was over with. “Well, fellas,” he said getting the attention of all of his men instantly. “I hope you are all very proud of what we’ve done here. We’ve done good work here. I realize how hard it was for you to stay behind, as we helped so many other Allied flyers go home. LeBeau gave me the official count last night. We sent 2,492 Allied flyers home, we rescued 873 civilians, and we helped 1,802 defectors out of the country. It was an extremely busy 1,289 days. I want to thank each and every one of you for volunteering to stay, for your company and for all of your efforts. Without each and every one of you I doubt that we would have been as successful. I could not have done this alone. Together we made Stalag 13 what it was. Thank you.” Hogan drew himself up to his full height and saluted his men. He had tears in his eyes. He was so damned proud of these men!
Almost immediately they heard the sounds of airplanes zeroing in on their position. Hogan, along with the rest of the men moved back behind the parked trucks to give the large planes room to maneuver. The squadron circled the field and aligned themselves to the selected runway. As they made their final approach each plane dipped their wings. Soon the six planes were lined up on the runway. Hogan led his men towards the lead plane. As they approached Hogan told Sergeant Marlow to form the men up behind him, while they waited for the men on the planes to come out.
The hatch of the lead plane opened and a full complement of MPs got out. The MPs fanned out creating a security screen. When that was accomplished two more men came out and approached Hogan and his men.
“Major Michael Sears. Colonel,” Sears said offering a salute to the man standing at the head of the men he assumed they were here to airlift to London.
“Major,” Hogan replied returning the others salute. “Colonel Robert Hogan and the first compliment of men from Luft Stalag 13 in Hammelburg. Welcome to Germany, Major.” Hogan offered his hand to the Major. “We’re very glad to see you.”
“Colonel Hogan,” Sears said shaking the others hand. Damn. The Colonel looks like hell. His face is gaunt and his jacket is several sizes too large. “This is Captain John Smithers, in charge of our security detail. He and his men will stay and guard the planes while your men are being ferried to the airfield. We understand it’s a 60 mile journey round trip.”
“68 miles to be exact, Major,” Hogan replied. “I had asked for some MPs to drive these trucks back to camp?”
“Yes, sir,” Captain Smithers replied. “I have already assigned six men to that detail. They’ll need directions.”
“I’ll be returning to camp with them, Captain. I will be the last man to leave Stalag 13. For the very last trip back to camp you will have to send 30 additional men with them. I have a lot of cargo to be moved and loaded onto the plane to take with us back to London,” Hogan informed them.
“Yes, sir,” Smithers replied wondering what kind of cargo a POW could have. “I’ll come back to the camp with the 30 men.”
“Thank you. Are we all set then gentlemen? Are we ready to get the first group in the air?” Hogan wondered.
“Yes, sir. Right away. We’ll be loading my plane, the others will stay here,” Sears replied. “Do any of your men need assistance?”
“No,, Major. They’re all going to get on that plane under their own steam,” Hogan replied with a grin. When he had suggested that they let the rescue personnel help with the wounded, his men had informed him categorically that they would not need any outside help. They would look after their own.
“All right then,” the Major agreed very surprised, knowing that he would be taking the sickest of the men back with him. He had expected that at least one man would have to be carried to the plane. They had packed blankets and stretchers for just such an eventuality. It was amazing that they would not be needed.
Hogan turned back to his men, still neatly standing in rank. “That’s it then, fellas. The bus is leaving!”
The men cheered and then very orderly, one at a time, came forward to personally say goodbye to Hogan. Hogan was very surprised, as he had expected them all to dash for the plane, but he was willing to go along with what they wanted. He shook each man’s hand, calling him by name while wishing him luck. Sears stood by his side, amazed at this display of solidarity.
After all 250 men had shaken the Colonel’s hand, Hogan turned to Major Sears. “Take good care of them, Major,” Hogan said his voice breaking. Clearing his throat he continued, “We’ve been through a lot together.” Damn. This is harder than I ever imagined it could be. It’s finally over. These men who I have lived with, fought with and almost died with are now free men. Their lives are no longer tied down to their commitment to making Stalag 13 a successful operation. Their lives no longer depend upon me. I don’t have to come up with one more rabbit out of the hat, or an even crazier scheme to save the day. I am free as well.
“I will, Colonel. Don’t you worry. I’ll see you tomorrow,” Sears said again saluting the Colonel.
Hogan backed off the runway to where the trucks were parked. He stood there, watching the plane taxi to the head of the runway, take off and finally when he couldn’t see it any longer he turned to Captain Smithers who stood beside him. “Who’s coming back with me, Captain?”
“These six men, Colonel,” Smithers replied gesturing to the nearest six men, who had been waiting patiently while the Colonel’s attention had been focused intently on watching the first plane leave.
“Good. Let’s get started back then,” Hogan replied suddenly very weary. He felt he could sleep for a week, but knew he had another five groups of men to see off today, followed by the last five tomorrow, as well as the very last plane full of cargo, the remainder of the rescue personnel, and his staff. It is going to be a very long two days.
Hogan gestured for the drivers to get in the trucks, swinging into the lead truck himself. “Well Corporal, let’s get a move on.”
“Yes, sir,” the Corporal replied, starting the truck.
London, England, Fieldstone US Army Airbase,
May 11, 1945, 1145 Hours
There was such anticipation in the air. Many people were just hanging around waiting for the first plane to arrive. Reports from the flight crew said that there were four people on the plane listed as recovering from gunshot wounds and/or serious broken bones, but in their opinion, those POWs seemed to be better off than the few listed as having only minor injuries, some fractured wrists and ankles and twisted knees. One had to assume that the minor injuries had occurred more recently, but no one was admitting as to how those injuries occurred.
At 1205 Hours, the first cargo plane came to a stop in front of hanger bay six. The pilot announced that the cargo door would be opening and to stand back. Colonel Hogan had assigned two barracks leaders to head each planeload. Sergeant Matthews and Sergeant Marlow called everyone to their feet. They were going to walk off this plane under their own power. There were already people assigned from this group to deal with the injured. Colonel Hogan had tried to convince them to let the staff of the base help with the injured, but one look at the faces of his men, told him that his men were too proud to accept help for that. They would take care of their own until the last possible minute. Colonel Hogan had just smiled.
All 250 men disembarked the plane and formed ranks. The base staff was very quiet, not sure how to react to these men at first. Most has assumed they would be a ragtag bunch of soldiers. That definitely wasn’t the case. They certainly looked tired, thin and relieved to be home, but definitely not what the base commanders had been expecting.
Sergeant Marlow and Sergeant Matthews reported to Colonel Wright. They came to attention and saluted saying “Sergeant Matthews. Sergeant Marlow. Reporting, sir. We had been given command of this contingent, until our arrival. Our orders are now to turn this contingent over to you, sir.”
Colonel Wright returned the salute, addressing the two men in front of him. “Gentleman, I’m Colonel Stephen Wright, Base Commander. I will gladly accept command of your contingent.” Looking past the two Sergeants and into the faces of the other POWs, he said, “Welcome home, gentlemen!”
The 250 POWs erupted into thunderous cheers…
Colonel Wright let it run its course. When the roar finally quieted, he explained the identification and medical procedures they would all need to follow. As Wright dismissed the assembly, his teams went into action. Amazing, I’m looking forward to meeting the Senior POW Officer. He’s done a remarkable job keeping these men healthy and working as a team.
Major Michael Sears approached Colonel Wright to report in. “Major Sears, reporting, sir. All went according to plan, sir. Very smooth transition.”
“Very good, Major,” Wright offered. “I’m suitably impressed with these men. Did you get to meet the Senior POW Officer?”
“Yes, sir. The Senior POW Officer is a Colonel Robert Hogan, US Army Air Corp,” reported Sears. “He certainly has the respect of his men, sir, it was quite obvious even for the short time I was at the airfield.”
“Colonel Robert Hogan, huh?” Wright said distracted. Rob Hogan? I thought he had been killed in a raid over Hamburg. Wow, that was three years ago. He’s been cooped up in a POW camp for this whole time? “You said his men are very loyal to him, Major?”
“More than I ever would’ve expected, sir,” answered Major Sears sheepishly, and pausing. “I meant no disrespect, sir. I just didn’t think that POWs would have even cared, one way or another. But as you can see, they aren’t quite what we had expected.”
“Indeed. Thank you Major. That’s all,” Wright said.
Major Sears saluted and headed for his plane.
Colonel Wright stood quietly after the Major had left. I’m definitely going to have to talk to Rob Hogan. I wonder? I can’t see him rotting away in a prison camp. He’s been in the Hammelburg area for three years? And there was a major underground operation in that area? No it can’t be. These guys are just POWs.
London, England, Fieldstone US Army Airbase,
May 11, 1945, 1345 Hours
Colonel Wright noticed that there were still quite a lot of people hanging around waiting for the next planeload. I guess it will be that way until all these men come home. He glanced over by the hanger deck where the former POWs were being housed. As he watched, those men started to assemble in front of the hanger building. They formed ranks and waited. For their comrades… remarkable!
The second plane arrived at 1410 Hours. Those POWs disembarked the same way, orderly, under their own power. This time it was a Major Boynton and a Lieutenant Riley that turned command over to him. He again welcomed the men home, and the expected outburst occurred. This time though the already processed former POWs joined in. He then explained the transition process and the POWs were released. I guess this will be the same routine for all eleven planes.
Wright had noticed though, for the first time, that the POWs command dynamics were all wrong. Two Sergeants presented the first group to him, but as time had passed, he had noticed multiple Lieutenants and a Captain in their ranks. A Major and a Lieutenant presented the second group and there had been at least one Captain in their ranks, as well. Interesting. I will definitely need to talk to Rob Hogan.
London, England, Fieldstone US Army Airbase,
May 11, 1945, 2300 Hours
Colonel Wright had just received his final report of the evening from Colonel Rodney Ballister, who told him that the medics had kept up fairly well all day and that most of the POWs were now only waiting on their full physicals. Ballister thought that his medics would be through with the triage of the last planeload by 0100 Hours. Ballister would then order his medics to call it a night, as the whole process was going to begin again in the morning.
When Ballister had finished, Colonel Wright headed back to his quarters. What a day. All six planes had made it back safely. We now have 1500 former POWs. And he’d been right; the same scene played itself out each time. Only now the runway was getting really crowded. Almost every former POW assembled for each plane, only those in the middle of some examination had missed the planes.
It’s amazing! Most of the reports of other POWs being released have had horror stories attached to them. It really is a different story with these men. Sure, they are all undernourished and they all look like they’ve been under a lot of stress, which is fairly normal for the situation they’ve been in. It’s just that I have never seen such a cohesive unit before, POW or not. Everyone is looking out for everyone else.
Wright was truly surprised at this group of men, especially since this group was made up of men from many countries. He’d have to hand it to Robert Hogan. However Rob has manage, he has kept these men working together, alive, and sane in a difficult situation.
Luft Stalag 13, Compound,
May 12, 1945, 1345 Hours
Major Sears had returned with the planes early this morning, and sent along a report with the truck drivers that all of yesterday’s planes had arrived safely. And so far today, the ferry between Stalag 13 and the airfield had gone smoothly. Each group of men had wanted to individually say goodbye to Hogan and his staff. It had been a very emotional two days for everyone. But now, there was only one mission left to carry out for Hogan and his men. Once the last truckloads of POWs were gone, the five of them would complete the wiring of the camp. All that would need to be done then was to wait for the trucks return, have the cargo loaded, and implode the tunnels.
And finally head to Wurzburg for their own ride home…
Hogan, Kinch, Newkirk, Carter and LeBeau stood near the front gates watching as that last group of men was about to leave for Wurzburg, and ultimately back to London. The trucks drove out of camp, leaving the five of them alone in a suddenly empty, forlorn Stalag 13.
“Well, fellas,” Hogan said with a grin, after the last truck disappeared from view. “We’ve got approximately three hours left in the old dungeon. We all know what we need to do, let’s get to work checking our sections. We’ll meet back here at the cargo when we’re done, we still need to wait for the trucks to get back here and the cargo to be loaded.”
Hogan received four very happy grins and the five men parted company at the gate, each going in a different direction.
Kinch entered the tunnels under Barracks Two. Earlier this morning he had dismantled the radio, so that on their way to Wurzburg they could stop at Schnitzer’s and drop the pieces off. Perhaps the German Vet would be able to find them a new home. As he strode through the tunnel system though, he found himself looking over his shoulder. Damn it’s spooky down here. I don’t understand it. I’ve been in the tunnels alone plenty of times. Why is it so different now that only five men occupied the camp? I’ll be glad when this job is done and I’m topside again! It is so weird to think of leaving Stalag 13. The war is over, and yet being here at Stalag 13 I have never felt so alive. So needed. It is going to be a hard feeling to give up. Sure I am going to continue my working relationship with Hogan, but it will never be the same again. Kinch hunched his shoulders and continued checking the explosives already in place. Carter and his team had been busy wiring the place for the last week. Now only major parts of the chain reaction needed to be placed, then it was simply a matter of setting the charges off. Kinch continued on his way as he still had many more miles of tunnels to check. Carter was doing the tunnels on the other side of camp.
Carter had entered the tunnel system from Klink’s old quarters. He was responsible for what had been his domain, the lab where he’d made so many explosive packs, the storeroom behind it where his supplies had been stacked along with much of the equipment Newkirk had been responsible for. As he worked setting the final charges he began to feel jumpy as well. Must be the empty feeling the old place has. It is strange to know that within a very few hours my life at Stalag 13 will be over. Here I found a niche that I was very good at. That is an accomplishment I’ll remember forever. It is not something that too many people will agree on. I’ve always been such a klutz and an idiot. But to the men here and especially to the Colonel, I have been an indispensable member of the team. I wonder if I can capture that feeling again when I’m teaching? Can I really be a teacher? Carter continued on with his duties, setting explosives almost absentmindedly. After three years he could place charges in his sleep. He was sure he had on more than one occasion.
LeBeau wandered around the camp above ground, as he was responsible for the charges set at the entrances to the tunnel system from within the camp. The plan called for all of the tunnel system to be collapsed. The Colonel didn’t want one square yard of tunnel to survive the implosion, as he was worried about the tunnels collapsing, on their own, and perhaps hurting someone in the future. As LeBeau walked in and out of the various buildings he was surprised at the vacillating feelings he was having. I thought I’d be glad to get out of this pigsty, the lousy food and the cramped, cold quarters. But instead I’m sad to see this end. Never before had I had such an impact on anything. I’ve been a chef ever since I can remember. I’ve always loved to cook. But here, here I literally cooked our way into many a secret, high-level meeting. Many times if it wasn’t for my culinary skills we would not have been able to obtain any information at all. Once I leave here, I will still be a chef. Not for the defense of one’s country and personal pride, but instead I will be cooking merely for the enjoyment of food. It is funny. The Colonel wrought his forces well here. We are all such a team. Each man to his own personal strength, while the Colonel led the way.
Newkirk was the only one of them outside the wire. He had been given the responsibility of all of the outside entrances of the tunnels. The woods were pleasant and it was actually a lovely early afternoon in May. The sun was shinning, the birds were singing. Many a time he had been out here when the reverse was true. When the snow was thick on the ground, and the wind whistling through his jacket. He almost jumped out of his skin when a stepped on a branch creating a loud crack. He instantly froze in place. Bloody ‘ell! Force of habit old man. He continued on his way with a sheepish grin. There was no reason to skulk through the woods; there were no patrols to elude. But that thought set him to thinking. This is it, the end. In a few short hours I will walk out the front gate of Stalag 13 a free man. I’ve changed a lot being here. Before I was drafted I had my short stage career and the odd stint as a front man in some scheme or another. If I hadn’t been drafted, winding up here, I would probably be in prison for real. I was heading for a fall. It was easier making money working the schemes than finding another spot for my stage show. Then I arrived here, and the Colonel wanted to set up this insane scheme. The daring of it still has the power to take my breath away. Who else would have thought of such a scheme, and gotten away with it for over three years?! I know my other more worldly talents have been indispensable for Hogan. Picking locks, forging, pick pocketing. He even had me teaching classes. Imagine setting up an apprenticeship for pick pocketing! Here I learned what the consequences for those actions could have been. I didn’t like being a prisoner, nor do I intend ever to be one again. I stayed because I gave my word to Hogan. Nothing else would have kept me here. For that matter, that was another thing that has changed. My word is my bond. Hogan taught me that as well. Before a promise made was meant to be broken. Here a broken promise meant someone’s death, perhaps even my own. I’m going to have quite a lot of back pay coming, especially if those promotions Hogan promised come through. I should have enough to open a pub with a poolroom, and a couple of card games. That will be all I will allow myself to run on the more shady side of my character. I’m going to run straight an’ narrow. Build a life me mum will be proud of. Build one I’ll be proud of. Build one I won’t be ashamed to tell the guys at our reunions!
Hogan stood in his quarters for what he knew was going to be the very last time. The room was the same as it had been for the past three plus years. He was bringing nothing here home with him. There was nothing here he wanted to keep. He was here only to pick up the briefcase containing the paperwork that he and Kinch had completed. He picked up the case from his desk and stood for a moment, before heading out. This is it. The end. The end of three and a half years. 43 months. 1,289 days. My life will soon not be defined by barbed wire fences. When we leave here today this place will no longer exist. I’ve seen the amount of explosives. Carter has laid enough to ensure that not only will the tunnels be filled in, but the camp itself will be reduced to rubble. I didn’t protest because truthfully I want to blow the place sky high. This dump will be relegated to memory. There is no place for it any longer. It would have been a better world altogether if there had never been a reason to build it. But that had not been the case. The war left scars everywhere. The countryside is devastated, an entire race nearly wiped out, an entire generation, worldwide, of young men gone, and children’s happy childhoods replaced by memories of horror and evil. Hogan sighed, closing the door to his quarters and exiting Barracks Two for the very last time. He headed across the compound to Klink’s office to check to make sure he had everything he needed from there. The scars I have collected over the last three years will stay with me always, they may fade to be barely recognizable, but the memories will be with me forever. At some point I will have to face those memories and deal with them. The orders I’ve given that resulted in countless German civilian and military deaths. The plans that haven’t gone quite as planned and had to be hastily revised, costing a higher price tag in needless death. The memories of visiting Dachau. Learning what was done there, and walking away, doing nothing to end it. The memories of Hochstetter and the beating, and the nightmares I’m sure to deal with. Hogan searched Klink’s office, making sure nothing vital was left behind. He pocketed the remaining cigars in the humidor on the desk. He tucked another full box that he found in the file drawer inside his briefcase. They were fine cigars. There was no reason to blow them up. He found several more papers he thought he might need, then he went through the safe that he had had Newkirk open last week. Yes, he had everything he needed from here. He exited the building and headed for the crates stacked at the front gate. All he had to do now was wait for his men to return from the final wiring of the camp. He took a seat on one of the crates, stretching his legs out to rest comfortably on another crate and leaned back to enjoy the warm spring sunshine while he waited.
One by one the other men came out to join him…
LeBeau had finished first, followed by Newkirk. Finally Carter and Kinch approached, coming from opposite directions. “The charges are all set,” Carter replied. “I’ve wired the whole thing into five boxes on the hill over there.” Carter pointed off to the south. The direction they would have to drive off in. “Once we’re ready, I’ll just need to connect the final wires and then the plungers, and the whole place goes up.”
“Five boxes?” Hogan asked. “Why so many?”
Carter smiled sheepishly. “I thought maybe we’d all like to, well you know, blow up the place. So there’s one for each of us.” Carter was rewarded with the grins of delight from his friends, and even the Colonel seemed pleased.
“That was very thoughtful of you, Andrew!” Newkirk replied slapping him on the back.
“Good job, Carter,” Hogan replied with a grin of his own. I was right. Carter is planning on wholesale destruction.
“What time do you think the trucks will be back?” LeBeau asked glancing at his watch, now that all the jobs were done he was anxious to be gone from here.
“Another ten minutes, at least,” Kinch replied.
“Take a seat, gentlemen,” Hogan said gesturing to the various crates stacked around. “This is the last time we will all be able sit on a few million dollars worth of stuff.”
Newkirk grinned. “Yeah your kids will ask you what did you do during the war, Daddy? And you’ll be able to tell him truthfully that you’ve sat on a staircase worth 1.5 million dollars!”
“Or better yet,” Kinch said. “You’ll tell the kids that the mess hall was decorated with ‘copies’ of famous paintings that you can visit in the Louvre.”
The group of them laughed, as they had certainly done many bizarre things during the operation here.
“Of course. You all realize that we can’t say anything to anyone about what we did here,” Hogan cautioned them. “Not even your family, or these figurative kids you all of a sudden have, Newkirk.”
“We know mon, Colonel,” LeBeau replied with a sigh echoed by the other men. “It’s a secret. We’ll keep it. But it will be good for a few laughs when we get together again!”
“Yeah. No one would believe it any how,” Carter said.
They fell into a comfortable silence. But before long though…
Carter, Newkirk, LeBeau and Kinch all began to address the Colonel at the same time.
Hogan glanced amused between his men. “What?”
“Go ahead, Carter,” said Newkirk.
“No. You can go, Newkirk,” said Carter.
“Kinch, did you say something?” LeBeau asked.
“You guys are horrible. What is it?” Hogan asked breaking up what was quickly turning into a rapid passing of the buck. They all wanted to say something. He could almost guess what was coming.
“Well, Colonel. Um,” Kinch began. “Well. What we all wanted to say is...”
LeBeau broke in. “We all wanted to say thank you, sir. You’ve given us all a chance to make a difference in this war, instead of merely being by-standers. We are all very proud to be members of Papa Bear’s organization. Mon Dieu! I can’t say this properly! Even if we can’t speak of this once we walk out those gates, we will always remember what we’ve done here with pride. No one will be able to take our memories away. We wanted you to know, that you were the reason we all stayed here. Your passion, for fighting for what was right, rubbed off on the rest of us. We wouldn’t have missed it for the world.”
There were nods of agreement all around.
“Thanks, fellas. We worked well together over the years. I’m proud of all of you. I’m proud of what we were able to do here. While I’m not sorry to see this place go up in smoke. I will be sorry that we will no longer be working together as a unit,” Hogan said.
Hogan shook each man’s hand, pulling each into a great hug. It was the end. It was fitting. These four men meant more to Hogan than anyone else ever had. No matter where life took them, he knew should he ever need anything, these four would come if he called. And he was sure that they all knew the reverse was true. I will do anything, anytime for any of them.
The trucks returned from Wurzburg at that precise moment…
Captain Smithers was in the lead truck. He noticed the congratulatory hand shakes and hugs between the Colonel and his staff as the trucks entered the compound. He could imagine how they felt. Free men at long last. It has to be overwhelming. When the trucks stopped, his men immediately exited the trucks and formed ranks. Captain Smithers approached Colonel Hogan. “Is this the cargo, Colonel Hogan?” Smithers asked.
“That’s all of it, Captain. It should fit in three trucks. Your men can begin loading the trucks immediately,” said Colonel Hogan. “One thing more, Captain, the cargo is very fragile and top secret. You will not allow your men to inspect the cargo. That order comes directly from the Allied High Command. Is that understood?”
“Of course, Colonel. Not a problem,” Smithers agreed. What the hell could they have?
“Also, Captain, when the trucks are loaded, you and your men will return immediately to the airfield. My men and I have one more duty to perform here. We’ll follow you within an hour,” Colonel Hogan said.
“Colonel. That goes against my orders. I am not supposed to leave anyone behind here. I was to make sure that the place was cleared out on our last trip. I’m sorry, but you will have to come with us,” Smithers replied.
“Listen Smithers. Your orders come from your direct superior. My orders come from the Allied High Command. Do you really want me to explain to Allied High Command that you didn’t let me perform my last duty here? Huh?” Hogan countered. “We will be right behind you. We have one thing more to do.”
“All right,” Smithers said rather unhappy.
Smithers turned to his men and ordered them to pack the trucks. Hogan and his men supervised.
It took almost 45 minutes to load the trucks…
Smithers approached Hogan as the last of his men had boarded the trucks. “Colonel. Are you sure you need to stay? I can have my men take care of what needs to be done.”
“No thank you ,Captain. We have our orders. We’ll be right behind you,” Hogan said.
“Okay,Colonel. We’ll expect you soon.” Smithers turned and boarded the lead truck.
The cargo had indeed filled three of the trucks. The fourth carried the MP’s. The last truck would be theirs. The five men watched as the four trucks drove out of sight.
“Carter. What kind of leeway do we have? Where should we park the truck?” asked Hogan.
“Sir. We should be fine if we park the truck over that hill to the south. It’s only a couple hundred yards to the detonators,” replied Carter.
“Okay. This is it. Let’s go!” Hogan said excitedly.
The five men bolted for the truck. Kinch and Hogan got in the front, the others jumped in back. It took only 15 minutes before Carter was connecting the detonators and plungers to the five boxes.
“Ready, Colonel!” Carter said.
They each took up a position at one of the plungers. “So. Do we do this together or one at a time?” asked Hogan.
“Together,” everyone else replied excitedly.
“Carter, if you please?” Hogan said allowing Carter to give the order.
“Right, Colonel. Let’s do it on the count of three. Everyone.” Carter received nods from everyone. “One. -- Two. -- Three!”
They all hit the plungers at the same time. Carter had wired the camp as a series of chain reactions. They stood, cheered, and slapped each other on the back, watching the cascading effect, as building after building collapsed from the underground explosions. But, only too soon the explosions were over and their excited cheering came to an end. The five men stood quietly, somewhat captivated by the fact that Stalag 13 -- their home -- their base of operations -- everything they’ve known for over three years -- was reduced to rubble.
It bothered them, more than they ever would have imagined. Quietly, Hogan signaled for them to get back in the truck. They drove away from, what was left of Stalag 13, in silence.
London, England, Fieldstone US Army Airbase,
Colonel Wright’s Office,
May 12, 1945, 1930 Hours
Colonel Wright was looking out his office door, which lead onto the runway. He stood there pondering all that had happened during the day. Four of the five planes had already returned. The last was due within the hour. Again, he was impressed. These men continued to show that they were a cohesive unit. More and more men had been gathering for each plane. They would stand respectfully, at attention, until the ‘welcome home’, then loud raucous cheering would occur. It was now almost deafening. But these men deserved to let off some steam.
Colonel Ballister had reported in earlier in the day that he was also amazed. Most of these men had no obvious injuries or ailments. That could change, of course, when all the testing was done. But in terms of their captivity, he unknowingly had agreed with Colonel Wright’s own assessment. That undernourishment and stress seem to be the biggest issues.
The Colonel, still looking out his door, noticed that General Creighton had arrived. Wright quickly joined General Creighton on the runway. This was the first time the General had made an appearance. He had not wanted to make everyone nervous, if he was hovering around. But, he did want to be here to meet the Senior POW Officer, a Colonel Robert Hogan. From what Colonel Wright had told him of these POWs, this Colonel Hogan was the reason they were as healthy as they were.
As the General waited, he looked around noticing all the former POWs starting to gather. Colonel Wright had told him that they had been assembling for each plane. It was an impressive sight, as the approximately 2500 men formed ranks and came to attention. These men would be standing off to the left of the cargo door. He and Colonel Wright would approach the plane from directly in front of the cargo door, as Hogan and his men exited.
Just a short time later…
The last plane came to a halt in front of the former POWs’ hanger deck. The cargo door opened and Hogan and four other men emerged. Almost immediately, the assembled POWs started a raucous cheer. Five very distinct ‘hoorahs’ rang out. As Hogan and his men hit the runway, they spun on their heels to approach the assembled POWs. The five men came to attention and saluted. As one, all the assembled POWs returned their salute.
Hogan then came forward to inspect his men. They are being so serious. He had an ear-to-ear grin as he walked down the row of men, away from the assembled base officials. As he turned and headed back, that command bearing came into play, but he could see the amusement on his men’s faces. I can play the military game too. As Hogan approached the assembly’s midway point, he turned to face his men and said, “Well gentlemen. I’m extremely impressed. I wouldn’t have known you. You clean-up really well.”
The assembled POWs broke into loud cheers and laughter…
Colonel Wright was a little annoyed that Hogan ignored them and went to his men first and apologized to General Creighton, though Creighton didn’t appear upset. Wright was saying, “What did he just say to his men? Did I hear it correctly? That seems like a rather uncalled for statement.”
Creighton responded, “Relax, Colonel. Whatever you might think of that statement. It seemed to have had the desired effect.”
Colonel Hogan tore him and his staff away from the carrying-on and approached the base officials. Almost immediately, the rest of his men noticed, quieted down, and came to attention. As Hogan reached the officers, he said saluting, “Colonel Robert Hogan, US Army Air Corp, Senior POW Officer, Stalag 13. Reporting, sir.”
General Creighton and Colonel Wright both returned the salute. The General reached out to shake Hogan’s hand. “Welcome home, Colonel Hogan. I’m General Creighton, Fieldstone’s Commanding General. This is Colonel Stephen Wright, my second in command.”
“Thank you, General,” Hogan said and turned to the Colonel, extending his hand. “Hello Steve, it’s been a long time.”
The Colonel grasped his hand. “It certainly has. Welcome back, Rob.”
“Thanks,” said Hogan as he turned back to the General “I would like to introduce my staff, sir.” He indicated each man. “Sergeant Ivan Kinchloe, Sergeant Andrew Carter, Corporal Louis LeBeau, and Corporal Peter Newkirk.” Each man had come to attention and saluted the General.
The General returned each salute. “Again. Welcome home, gentlemen,” Creighton said. “I would like to talk to you and you staff sometime, Colonel, but I believe you and your men are needed elsewhere.”
His staff officers are Corporals and Sergeants? Colonel Wright stepped up and told the five men of the procedures they would need to follow.
Before he finished Hogan said, “Excuse me, Colonel Wright. But before I go anywhere, I have one more duty and that is to see to the safe storage of the cargo contained on that plane. I will need some of your men to help unload it, then I need to inspect the storage facility,” Hogan said evenly.
“Colonel. My men can handle the cargo. You don’t have to be involved,” Wright said. He had noticed that of all the POWs that returned, Hogan appeared to be the one in the worst condition. He was way too thin, and his face looked very gaunt. A strong wind looked like it would bowl him over. He almost looks like if you gave him the opportunity to sleep for a month, he would. So that’s the toll taking care of these men has had on him.
“Sorry, Colonel,” Hogan countered. “I will not leave the transfer of that cargo to just anyone. It’s imperative that it gets safely stored.”
Two of Hogan’s men, Sergeant’s Marlow and Matthews, came forward quickly and interrupted. “Colonel Hogan. We can handle the transfer of cargo, sir. Why don’t you take the time to get on with the base procedures,” said Matthews sheepishly, with Marlow nodding his agreement.
Hogan turned quickly toward his men, wanting to tell them to mind their own business, but when he saw their faces, his mood softened. He realized that just the thought of yet another examination was making him anxious. I shouldn’t take it out on them. “Okay, gentlemen. Colonel. Sergeant’s Marlow and Matthews will supervise the storage of the cargo. My men and I will submit to your procedures.” Oh bloody hell, as Newkirk would say.
“Very good, Colonel. This way please,” Wright said, having noticed the interplay between Hogan and his men. Hogan was about to jump down their throats but caught himself in time. It had looked to him like Hogan’s men were eager to have their reluctant commanding officer seen by a medic. So my assumption was right, that Hogan is more ill than he will let on.
Before Hogan followed the Colonel he said, “Sergeant Marlow. There is a briefcase on the plane. It contains the personnel papers from Stalag 13. I’m leaving those in your hands for now. Do not misplace them. Is that understood Sergeant?”
“Yes, sir. Perfectly, sir,” Marlow said smiling. I will never lose those papers. The Colonel had spent four days going through all that paperwork to assign promotions to the men who had volunteered to stay and run the underground operation with him.
“We’re all yours, Colonel Wright,” Hogan said as he followed the Colonel. The first step was identity confirmation. They all had to show their dog tags, and give more identifying information, like birth date and place. When that was complete, they were handed new flight suits, and directed to the delousing station. They were told that their uniforms would be burned, but that they could keep any insignia.
Hogan and his men were then allowed to take nice hot showers, not long enough, but nice hot ones, nonetheless. The five of them dressed in the clothes provided… the clean cloth felt nice against their skins. Once dressed, they walked across the road to the base hospital. There, each of them was weighed, measured and had blood, urine and stool samples taken. They were given a TB test and a couple of shots. The nurse told them they were for tetanus and a shot of antibiotics. They were then asked to wait in the makeshift cafeteria, where coffee, and sandwiches were provided.
“Help yourself,” Sister Healey told them and left quickly in search of the doctor Rodney Ballister. I need to find the doctor. I’m very concerned about the American Colonel. He is drastically underweight. He’s in the worst condition of any of the POWs. He weighed in at only 135 pounds. The nurses had some problems drawing blood and giving him his shots. I think he needs to be pushed to the head of the line for his medical exam.
“Wow food,” Carter said excitedly after the nurse had vacated the cafeteria.
“Really, Andrew. You have such a grasp of the obvious,” Newkirk replied while the others just rolled their eyes, each with a sandwich in hand.
“Colonel. Try one of these,” Carter said trying to hand the Colonel a sandwich, as Hogan was the only one who hadn’t immediately picked one up.
“What?” Hogan asked focusing on Carter. “What’s the matter?”
“Have a sandwich, sir,” Carter repeated. “They’re really good.”
“Thanks, Carter,” Hogan replied taking the sandwich distracted as he was thinking about the brief exam they had just been given. 135 pounds. I weigh 135 pounds. I knew I had lost weight. But how could it be more than 30 pounds from when I was captured? Admittedly, most was dropped in the last six weeks, but I just can’t believe that I only weigh 135 pounds. I haven’t weighed 135 pounds since I was in high school.
Kinch exchanged glances with Carter, Newkirk, and LeBeau. The Colonel hadn’t even bit into the sandwich that Carter had given him. “Colonel. Are you okay?” Kinch asked.
Hogan looked at Kinch, startled to find he had a sandwich in his hand. “I’m sorry. What?”
“Are you okay?” Kinch repeated.
“Yeah. I was just thinking. I saw what I weighed. It really shook me up. I’ve lost more than 30 pounds,” Hogan replied putting the sandwich back on the table.
“We know,” Kinch replied. “It’s why we’ve been so worried about you. You don’t make taking care of you easy you know.”
“Yeah. You’re as stubborn as a bleeding mule,” Newkirk chimed in.
“I’m sorry. But I really didn’t have much choice in the matter,” Hogan replied with a sigh.
“But now you do,” LeBeau pointed out.
“You’ve got us all home safely. You should use this time to recover completely,” Kinch added pulling a piece of paper from his pocket and handed it off to Hogan.
Hogan glared. Freiling! “And he thought American’s were stubborn! When did he give that to you, Kinch? Do you all have one too?”
“No, sir,” Newkirk quickly replied. “But Kinch told us.”
“Fine!” Hogan said throwing up his hands. “That man…”
“Saved your life,” the four of them chimed in together.
Hogan gaped. “Yeah. You’re right. He did.” He was quiet for a moment and then reached into his own pocket. “Well I happen to have my own copy of that right here. I did promise the Doc I’d hand it in, and I do intend to do just that.” Even if it means more surgery. “You guys can stop worrying. Doc said that this should be cleared up easily,” Hogan said indicating the right side of his face. “Just a little more surgery.” He paused and tried to lighten up the moment, not wanting to dwell on this any more than they did. “Let’s hope this time you won’t have to assist. Doc assured me that these folks would be able use anesthesia.”
Doctor Ballister arrived at the door to the cafeteria along with Sister Healey to overhear the last part of the men’s conversation. Sister Healey gasped beside him when she heard the Colonel talk about surgery without anesthesia.
The five men turned at the noise, noticing for the first time they weren’t alone any longer. “I’m Doctor Rodney Ballister,” the doctor said coming into the room. “You must be Colonel Hogan?”
Somewhat annoyed that they had been eaves dropped on Hogan replied, “Yes. I was the last time I checked.”
“Sister Healey told me that she was concerned about your excessive weight loss and recommended to me that you should have a physical exam immediately. So if you’ll come with me we can do that,” Ballister said indicating that Hogan should follow him. “The four of you can go on back to the quarters arranged. Sister Healey can show you.”
The four men didn’t look like they were going to move…
“Go on, guys,” Hogan said quietly. “I’ll see you all later.”
“Colonel?” Kinch questioned.
“I promise to be a good boy,” Hogan replied with a slight grin.
“Okay. Come on guys. We’ll see you later, Colonel,” Kinch replied leaving with Sister Healey.
“This way, Colonel,” Ballister led the way to an exam room. After he closed the door behind his patient he said, “I have to apologize but I did overhear you and your men talking. Is there something that you need to tell me?”
Hogan sighed and then asked, pulling Freiling’s note from his pocket, “Can you read German, Doctor?”
“What? No. Of course not,” Ballister answered.
Hogan said, “I had hoped not to be the one to read this to you, Doctor.” He paused taking a deep breath. “Oh well. I guess instead of trying to find someone else to translate this for you, at this hour, I will tell you what it says. I’ve spent the last six weeks under care of a doctor, recovering from multiple concurrent injuries from a single incident. A gunshot wound, five broken ribs, multiple fractures to the skull, a concussion, severe headaches, a punctured lung, abdominal injuries and severe bruising. I was unconscious for the first three days after the incident. For the following three weeks, there was no medication of any kind available to aid in the healing process. I’m happy to report that all of those injuries, save one, are mostly healed. The excessive weight loss stopped three weeks ago, however the camp was rationed and I was unable to gain any of it back.”
Hogan paused and then continued, “Three weeks ago, it was discovered that I was suffering complications resulting from the fractures to the skull. A severe infection and hematoma developed behind my right eye. In the doctor’s opinion, it was cause by a stray bone fragment. Also, during this period, I had lost the vision in my right eye for several days. But fortunately, it was at this point that we discovered a source of penicillin. After many days of heavy, frequent doses, the infection and hematoma subsided. As the days passed, my vision returned slowly and I was able to distinguish light and shadows. My vision at this point is much improved, although it is still blurry.” Hogan paused. “The doctor was worried that bone fragments might still be present and would need to be removed. So. Colonel Ballister. That’s where you come in.”
“Well. Colonel Hogan.” Ballister paused. “Um. Given your injuries, I would say you’re now doing remarkably well. How were you injured, Colonel?”
“Sorry, Colonel. I don’t want to discuss it. You can treat me without knowing how… or even why,” Hogan replied unwilling to go into all of that now, as having just told the doctor the list of his injuries had brought back too many memories, telling of the beating would only make matters worse.
“Okay, Colonel. You don’t have to talk about it. We’ll do a full physical tonight and I’ll order some x-rays tomorrow to see where we stand. Okay?” Ballister asked.
“Let’s get this over with,” Hogan replied resigned and started to remove his flight suit.
“I do have one more question for you, Colonel,” Ballister said a little apprehensively.
“Yes?” Hogan asked pausing and looking at the doctor askance.
“When I overhead you talking to your men, you mentioned something about anesthesia?” Ballister did not want to believe what that comment might have meant.
“Oh yeah. You do have that here. Don’t you?” Hogan asked somewhat sarcastically.
“Of course we do. I don’t understand, Colonel,” Ballister replied bewildered.
“Good. I’ve had surgery twice during the last six weeks. Neither time was anesthesia available. I had hoped to never repeat that experience again,” Hogan replied.
Oh my God! This man has been through Hell. He’s lucky to still be alive after all of that. He reported to us that the Germans had not retaliated against their prisoners. It appears hat perhaps it was only the Senior POW Officer who had taken the brunt of any retaliation. “Don’t worry, Colonel. We do have that here. We’ll take good care of you.”
“I’m glad to hear that,” Hogan replied stripping of his flight suit.
After Doctor Ballister had finished the exam on his patient…
He realized that the Colonel had not left out one single injury. All were still very apparent, though mostly healed. The surgery performed was crude and would scar. It had obviously been done in a hurry, though he had to admit, with some apparent skill. The facial fractures were only visible upon close examination. It certainly appeared that surgery would be necessary, as the cheekbone on the right side of the Colonel’s face appeared to be crushed and poorly healed. “Okay Colonel. We’re done for tonight. The x-rays scheduled for tomorrow will give us a clearer picture. You need to come back here for 0800. After I’ve taken a look, we’ll see where we have to go from there.”
“Okay, Doctor. I’ll be here,” Hogan replied dressing again.
“I’ll show you where we’ve got quarters for you,” Ballister said. “You’re in the hanger that we’ve converted for your men. Sorry that we couldn’t provide you with your own room.”
“Doc. I’ve lived on top of those men for the last three years. It really doesn’t matter to me. In fact, I would prefer to stay with them. Lead the way,” Hogan replied.
End of Third Quarter
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