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
London, England, Fieldstone US Army Airbase,
Hanger Bay Six,
May 12, 1945, 2030 Hours
It had been an hour since Kinch, Carter, LeBeau and Newkirk had been escorted back to the hanger deck and assigned places to sleep. It hadn’t taken long for everyone to notice that Colonel Hogan wasn’t with them. Almost everyone began approaching and asking of his condition. Kinch decided to make an announcement and told everyone that the Colonel was pushed up the ladder for a complete physical. As everyone became quiet, Kinch tried to tell them that it was just the residual weight loss that the doctors were worried about. But no one was buying that story, so they all just took Kinch’s word and waited themselves for the Colonel’s return.
Just an hour and a half later…
Ballister showed Hogan to hanger bay six. “There should be an empty cot in here for you, Colonel. Try to get some rest. I’ll see you in the morning.”
“Thanks,” Hogan replied as he opened the door and entered the hanger. It was one large room. There were 20 rows of cots. One assumed each row had 125 cots in them. 2500 men. The whole population of Stalag 13 was housed in this one massive building. His entrance didn’t go unnoticed.
“The Colonel’s here!” someone yelled out and suddenly he was surrounded by many of his men.
“Whoa, fellas! Give a guy a break. Everything is ok. I need to go back there for 0800. They’re going to run some more tests. This is nothing that I didn’t expect. Everything is going to be okay,” Hogan said to his men with a smile. “Go on now. Go back to bed. But first, does anyone know where there’s an empty cot in this room?!”
Kinch appeared at his side. “It’s this way, Colonel.”
Hogan followed Kinch to his cot as the men in the room settled back down. Hogan plopped onto the cot, kicked off his shoes, and was asleep before they hit the floor.
London, England, Fieldstone US Army Airbase,
May 12, 1945, 2200 Hours
Rodney Ballister pounded on Colonel Wright’s door. There wasn’t a light on in the house, obviously Steve and his wife Carol had already gone to bed. After what seemed an eternity the porch light went on and Steve came to the door, his robe tied around his waist.
“Rodney!” Steve Wright said surprised. “What are you doing here at this hour?”
“I need to talk with you. Can I come in?” Ballister said.
“Sure. Come in.” Steve opened the door and led the way into the sitting room. “What’s the problem?”
“Your orders were to inform you of any serious problems we encountered. I just finished a full physical exam on the Senior Officer, Colonel Hogan,” Rodney said shaking his head.
“Is there something really wrong, Rodney? I know he didn’t look good when he arrived, but he seemed okay,” Steve asked.
“The nurses reported that the Colonel was drastically underweight. That’s enough to warrant an immediate full exam. From my examination, it appears that Colonel Hogan has recently been beaten to within an inch of his life. He is lucky to be recovering at all. His injuries were fairly extensive. How he is still alive and walking is beyond me. But he is definitely in the worst physical condition of the entire group,” Ballister reported.
“Did he tell you how it happened, Rodney?” Steve demanded appalled.
“No, he refused,” Ballister replied. “I didn’t push it, he’s been through enough.”
“Damn. I knew Rob Hogan before he was shot down. When I found out this morning that he was the Senior Officer, I couldn’t believe that Rob would have stayed as a POW for three years. The man had never been easily manipulated. He got what he wanted, when he wanted it. I thought it would have taken a compelling reason to make him stay put.” Steve swallowed. “Do you think this was an isolated occurrence?”
“I don’t know. I will be taking x-rays at 0800 tomorrow. The pictures will show any indication of prior injuries,” Ballister said. “But it wouldn’t surprise me that this man was continuously punished for any infraction of his men, and perhaps even threatened with punishment as security against attempted escapes.”
“Don’t go jumping to any conclusions until you take those pictures. I’ll talk to the Colonel in the morning and see if he’ll tell me anything. In the meantime I’ll inform General Creighton. When he contacts headquarters in the morning anyway, he can report this then,” Wright offered. “Inform me what you discover, Doctor.”
“Yes, sir,” Ballister replied standing to leave.
“Good night Rodney,” Wright replied. Damn. If what Rodney believes is true, Rob has lived through three years of absolute hell. Wright headed back to his bedroom, knowing that sleep was going to be a long time coming for him tonight.
London, England, Fieldstone US Army Airbase,
Outside Hanger Bay Six,
May 13, 1945, 0630 Hours
Colonel Wright had called General Creighton first thing after revelry was blown at dawn. He had told the General of his late night visit from Doctor Ballister and what was feared and that they would know for certain later on today. Steve glanced out his office window, noticing that many of the former POWs were already sitting around outside hanger bay six. Hogan must be awake, by now. Maybe I can speak with him before he sees Rodney again.
Steve left his office, and walked across the road heading toward the door to the hanger. As he approached the door three of the men who were sitting around jumped up and blocked his path. “Can we help you with something, Colonel?” Lieutenant Jenkins asked.
“No thank you. I was just going to speak with Colonel Hogan,” Wright replied moving to go past the men.
“Oh. Excuse me, sir. The Colonel is sleeping right now. If you care to wait, he’ll be up by 0745,” the same man replied.
Wright noticed that there were now significantly more men between him and the door.
“I need to speak with him now. Stand aside, Lieutenant,” Wright ordered.
“We can’t do that, sir. Our standing orders have been if the Colonel’s sleeping, then we are to let him sleep. I’m sorry, sir. You will have to wait,” the same man replied again.
“This is preposterous!” Wright exclaimed. “I order you to all stand aside.”
“Impossible. We can not let you pass,” the Lieutenant, who had initiated all this, said.
Wright noticed the man was not the least bit nervous about facing down a superior officer.
Luckily just inside the hanger…
Colonel Hogan had reached the door in time to over hear his men telling Colonel Wright about the standing order not to wake him. Kinch’s order. They’ll never give up coddling me. He decided that he’d better break it up before everyone got court-martialed. He opened the door only to find ten of his men blocking the entrance. “What is going on out here?” Hogan asked yawning and trying to look like he’d just been awakened.
His men immediately moved out of his way.
“Colonel Hogan. Your men refused me entrance to the hanger. This is completely unacceptable. I need to talk with you,” Wright said angry.
“Oh.” Hogan paused and turned to Jenkins who was standing nearest to Colonel Wright. “Lieutenant Jenkins. You mean to tell me, that you didn’t explain my standing order to the Colonel?” Hogan asked commandingly and saw the smiles appear on the faces of his men that were standing behind Colonel Wright.
“Yes, sir. I tried. He was very insistent. I’m sorry our discussion woke you, sir,” Jenkins replied knowing that as angry as Hogan sounded, he was not angry. He was playing along, as that order had never been Hogan’s. It was Kinch’s.
“Thank you, Lieutenant… for trying,” Hogan turned to Wright. “So. Colonel Wright. Was there some part of ‘don’t wake me up’, that you didn’t understand?” Hogan said rather incredulous.
Wright was flabbergasted, never expecting this confrontation. And he couldn’t think of a response.
Hogan sighed. “All right, Colonel. I’m awake now. What did you want?”
“Can I speak with you in private, Colonel Hogan?” Wright replied very annoyed. “Would you accompany me to my office.”
“We’ll need to make a detour through the chow line. I haven’t eaten yet,” Hogan replied starting off in that direction.
Wright stood for a moment totally astonished and then caught up with the other officer quickly. “Uh. Of course. It’s this way. Do you mind if we talk on the way?”
“No. Go ahead,” Hogan replied amused, wanting to have some fun before letting Steve off the hook.
As they entered the mess hall, Wright brought up the only thing he was willing to discuss in the open, “I was informed by Major Campbell, the head of security here, that your men have set up a 24-hour rotation to guard that cargo you brought in. They won’t let the security here do their job. They have continuously denied any inspection of the cargo by my men.”
“And that’s a problem, Colonel Wright?” Hogan questioned while dishing up some cereal. “I did tell Sergeant Marlow that he was in charge, so that’s not unexpected. My men are very capable Colonel. I’m sure if Sergeant Marlow needed your men’s help, he would have asked.”
“That’s not the point, Hogan. You are not their final authority any longer. You and your men are back in the regular military now. You all have to adhere to the proper chain of command,” Wright said becoming livid.
Hogan shrugged. “From where I sit, Colonel, my men are doing exactly that. They are doing their jobs and doing them well.” Hogan paused then said evenly, “I will defend their actions.”
“You and your men don’t have jobs any longer, Colonel. You’ve been POWs for Christ sake!” Wright exploded.
“What is that supposed to mean, Colonel?” Hogan replied annoyed with Wright. He couldn’t tell him what they were really doing, nor could he explain what exactly was in that cargo he’d brought back with him. But he could have a great deal of fun by confusing the guy. “From my perspective they haven’t done anything wrong. If you have a problem, you’ve got it with me. My men are only responding to my orders, whether directly or indirectly.”
“How can someone respond to an indirect order?” Wright asked exasperated. “What the Hell does that mean?”
Hogan actually smiled and decided to let Steve off the hook. “Look, Steve. I’ve been with these guys for a long time. We’ve been through a lot together. Don’t give them any grief. The only way we’ve stayed alive was to learn non-verbal communication. My men take their jobs seriously. I told Sergeant Marlow yesterday he was in charge of that cargo. Therefore, until I say something different, he’s in charge of that cargo. What he needs, he has the authority to demand from the other men. In terms of not being allowed in the hanger this morning, I told my men when I got back last night that I had an appointment with the doctor this morning at 0800. They took that to mean that I needed to be awake at 0755, not before, unless I woke up on my own.”
“I don’t get this, Rob. You guys were POWs. What the hell was so important that you and your men had to take your jobs seriously? What jobs?” Wright demanded and then he paused. Something just isn’t right here. “Admittedly your men weren’t what we were expecting from POWs. We’ve been hearing horror stories about how POWs were treated. According to Doctor Ballister you are the only man in your group that fits that description.”
Hogan sighed, rising to stack his empty plate and make a hasty retreat. “So. A lot has changed in three years then. Whatever happened to doctor/patient confidentiality? If you’ll excuse me, Colonel.” Hogan walked away glancing at his watch. He had enough time to go and check with Sergeant Marlow about their cargo before going to see Ballister.
Wright stared after Hogan in total shock…
What the Hell just happened? Hogan only arrived here yesterday, and yet he seems to hold more control of this base than I do! My men are being denied access to storage. I’m being denied access to Hanger Bay Six. And he just walked away from me. I didn’t even get a chance to ask him what I had gone to see him about in the first place! I need to tell General Creighton about this before he makes his phone call to headquarters.
London, England, Fieldstone US Army Airbase,
General Creighton’s Office,
May 13, 1945, 0730 Hours
Colonel Wright arrived in General Creighton’s office and began complaining about the POWs, especially the Senior Officer. The POWs had apparently taken charge of the cargo they had brought with them from Germany, not allowing any access whatsoever to it by any base personnel. Wright also complained that Hogan’s men had denied him access to hanger bay six on the excuse that Hogan was asleep. Then when Hogan had come outside, he had dressed down Wright, and not his men. Hogan had been obstinate and contrary since the moment he arrived. His first actions off the plane were to ignore the base personnel and immediately report to his men. He then argued about the cargo, until his men had control. Even the doctor said the man had controlled most of their conversation too. Then he just did the same thing to Wright.
The man is impossible. He certainly doesn’t seem like the cowed POW that Ballister is purporting him to be, thought Wright.
General Creighton was now very concerned after listening to Colonel Wright’s tirade. Hogan had been here less than 24 hours and already the former POW had his staff officers uneasy. The General had never expected the man to be so difficult. As he sat contemplating the Senior POW Officer, his phone rang. He picked it up and his secretary told him that General Simpson from Headquarters was on the line.
“What is the news, General Creighton? Has everyone arrived safely?” Simpson asked with no preamble.
“Yes, sir. Everyone is accounted for. There are some very minor injuries to several people. Most are in good to decent shape. There is only one whose condition warrants concern, the Senior Officer, Colonel Hogan,” Creighton reported.
“How is he?” Simpson asked concerned. Finally I will learn the extent of Hogan’s injuries.
“Apparently he had been shot and subjected to a vicious beating, six weeks ago. The injuries he suffered were extensive, but he has made a reasonable recovery. Doctor Ballister expects to do some follow-up surgery with the Colonel. The doctor seems to think that it won’t be too drastic, and that the Colonel should recover completely. But, sir, the doctor is very concerned that this beating wasn’t a one-time event. The doctor will be able to determine more this morning after some tests,” Creighton reported. “As Colonel Hogan is the only POW with significant injuries, we think he may have taken the brunt of any punishment dealt in that camp.”
“Did Colonel Hogan tell you that, General?” Simpson asked dubiously. As far as I know, that dreadful incident with the Gestapo is the only time something like that occurred. Hogan was in my office for a briefing, just six months ago. He had looked healthy enough then, these men are just jumping to conclusions.
“No, sir. Colonel Hogan has refused to discuss how he received his injuries,” Creighton replied.
“Well, General. If that’s the case, your men can do whatever follow-up Hogan submits to. Other than that the Colonel’s injuries are not to be discussed further. Is that clear General?” Simpson ordered.
“Of course, sir,” Creighton replied quietly. “Sir. We do have another issue with the POWs.”
“And that is?” Simpson asked, not at all surprised.
“Sir. In the less than twenty-four hours that he’s been here, Colonel Hogan seems to have made my staff very uneasy. He’s been stubborn and contrary, acting like he’s in command here. His men have commandeered the hanger where we stored the cargo that he brought back with him. They will not let any base personnel within shouting distance of it. And earlier today, Hogan’s men had denied us entry into the hanger they are being housed in, on the pretense that Colonel Hogan was sleeping. When my officer complained to Colonel Hogan, the Colonel told him that his men were only doing their jobs. We don’t know how we should respond, General,” Creighton replied.
Simpson chuckled inwardly, imagining what it would be like if Hogan had been at the base for three years, never mind 24 hours. “Well General. You should know now, that Colonel Hogan has my full authority to do what he pleases. Anything he wants, he gets. Is that understood, General?”
“Yes, sir, but… but,” stammered General Creighton, as that was not the reply he had been expecting. No one on his staff had said anything to Hogan about his conduct, out of respect for what he and his men had apparently been through. But he knew Colonel Wright would only bend so far before Hogan would be facing charges.
“No buts General. My order stands,” Simpson stated adamantly. “When will I be able to see Colonel Hogan and his men?”
“You want to personally meet Hogan and his men, sir?” Creighton questioned, taken aback by Simpson total acceptance of Hogan’s antics.
“That’s what I said, General. Is there a problem with that?” Simpson asked.
“No, sir. At last report, Doctor Ballister believes that he will be able to lift the quarantine around these men tomorrow morning. There are still a lot of men to be seen, but the men are in good shape,” Creighton replied.
“Excellent. Though I had hoped to be able to meet with Hogan sooner than that. You will need to arrange for him to call me today as soon as possible,” Simpson ordered.
“Yes, sir. He will be occupied for most of the morning at least, General,” Creighton replied totally surprised by the request. “I will see to it that he does call you when he is released from the hospital.”
“Very good. I will leave orders for that call to be put through immediately. You are to make sure I’m interrupted for that call,” Simpson said. “I’ll be arriving at 1200 Hours tomorrow. At that time I will want a private meeting set up with Colonel Hogan. My staff will be joining me, as well as a number of other Allied Command personnel. They will be arriving at 1300. I expect a full assembly of your base. Please have Colonel Hogan’s men front and center. We will be bringing a transport with us to relieve Colonel Hogan of his cargo. I will also need to commandeer about 20 offices for an indeterminate amount of time. Colonel Hogan and his men will need to be debriefed before we can rotate them out and home,” Simpson ordered.
“A full assembly, sir?” Creighton asked. “Is there something I should know, sir?”
“A full assembly, General. And I believe you will understand everything tomorrow,” Simpson replied.
“Yes, sir. We’ll be ready for you.” Creighton hung up his phone and turned to Colonel Wright, with a look of incredulity.
“What did the General say?” Wright asked wearily.
“Colonel Wright, from this point on, Colonel Hogan has been given General Simpson’s full authority to do as he pleases. He wants a full base assembly tomorrow at 1300 Hours. He said that everything would be made clear at that point. Can you let the men know of the assembly? General Simpson wanted Hogan’s men, front and center of the assembly,” General Creighton said. “Also clear out 20 offices, Allied High Command will be using them to debrief the POWs.”
“Yes, sir,” Wright answered as he left the office. What the hell is going on here?
London, England, Fieldstone US Army Airbase,
May 13, 1945, 0755 Hours
Colonel Ballister was told that Colonel Hogan was waiting for him in exam room ten. As he entered the exam room though, he found Colonel Hogan in a passionate embrace with Beth Newton, one of the civilian nurses on staff. He stood quietly for a moment, and then cleared his throat when it looked like their embrace would continue forever.
Finally, Hogan broke the embrace and said breathless, “Maybe we continue this at another time Beth?” His heart was pounding and his pulse was racing, as he never expected to have the physical and emotional reaction to Beth that he was now having. Actually he had never expected to see her… ever again. Now all he wanted to do was to hold her in his arms, as if nothing else mattered.
“Anytime, Rob. Anytime at all,” Beth replied, trembling with anticipation and just as breathless. I haven’t seen that man in three years, and he still can make me weak in the knees. Hogan and Beth had been seeing each other before he had disappeared three years ago. When Beth saw him this morning, she was shocked at how thin he was, but Rob had immediately turned on the charm. The next thing Beth knew, she was in Rob’s arms, and felt that she was exactly where she should be.
“Beth, can you excuse us for a minute. I need to talk to Doctor Ballister alone,” Hogan asked quietly, still overwhelmed by the passionate embrace.
“Of course, Rob,” she said smiling, slowly leaving the exam room, her eyes still locked on Rob’s as she closed the door behind her.
After Hogan watched that door close behind Beth, he was finally able to regain enough of his composure, so that when he turned to Ballister his entire demeanor had changed. Laying into the doctor he confronted, “What the hell happened to doctor/patient confidentiality, Ballister? I don’t appreciate having your commanding officer confront me about my condition.”
Ballister had actually stood his ground, but only because Colonel Hogan had him so mystified. He is such an enigma. “Colonel. My orders were to inform Colonel Wright of anything out of the ordinary. At first, the extraordinary thing was that your men were all in decent shape. It’s sad to say, but too many POWs have returned home in deplorable condition. We had expected the same of your men. We were relieved when that wasn’t the case, but then you showed up in my office last night.” Ballister indicated Hogan with a wave of his hand. “Your report said that there was no retaliation from the German soldiers in your camp. I’m sorry Colonel. It’s quite obvious, that you’ve been subjected to a brutal beating, not to mention being shot. I told Colonel Wright that I was afraid that that beating was not the only one. I was to confirm that with the x-rays today. They will tell me if you had older similar injuries,” Ballister said accusingly.
Hogan was still angry, but tried to understand the doctor’s perspective. What would I think in this situation? Probably the same. “Well Colonel. I can assure you that that incident was a one-time event. My report stands as is, the guards at Stalag 13 were not responsible.” He paused. “So let’s get on with the x-rays. You’ll find nothing that I didn’t explain to you last night.”
“Okay, Colonel. This way,” Ballister said.
Close to an hour later…
“We’ll know the results in a couple of hours, Colonel,” Ballister explained. “I’ll let you know if the expected surgery is necessary. But as I said, I still think you will need surgery, even if it is to restructure the cheekbone. We’re all set here. You can go get some rest, Colonel.”
As Hogan started to leave the exam room, Ballister said quietly, “Colonel Hogan.” When Hogan turned back Ballister continued, “I want you to know, that I didn’t mean to press you on what happened. I was worried that if what I had thought, was indeed true, that you would need more than medical help to cope with the after effects.” Ballister paused. “Regardless of what those x-rays show, Colonel. If you ever need someone to talk too, I will guarantee you your doctor/patient confidentiality.”
Hogan nodded at Ballister and left the exam room and caught a glimpse of Beth sitting at the nursing station. He approached quietly, kissed her on the cheek, and left the building without another word.
Although as Hogan traversed the base on his way back to Hanger Bay Six…
He was stopped by a group of five officers, all of who came to attention, and saluted smartly. One came forward saying, “Colonel Hogan. I’m sure you don’t remember us, but we’ve all at one time or another been processed through Stalag 13. When we had heard that you and your men were being transferred here. We wanted to make sure we got to say thank you in person.”
“Well, gentlemen. I don’t know what to say.” Hogan reached out and shook the hand of each man. “You’re welcome. I’m glad we were there to help. By the way… how did you five find each other? It was not supposed to get around.”
“Oh Colonel, you didn’t have to worry. Everyone’s story was the same. We were rescued by German civilians and sent along an underground network. Not once was it ever mentioned that a POW camp was involved, but by saying that our rescues were something straight out a fairy tale was how the connection was made. We’ve all kept your secret, sir,” the officer replied.
“Then I have as much reason to thank you. If you had given up any information, the lives of my men and I would have been forfeit.” Hogan came to attention and saluted the five men. “Please keep in mind, that it’s still a secret, gentlemen.”
From just across the compound…
Colonel Wright, looking out his office window, noticed that five of his pilots had stopped and were talking to Colonel Hogan. He watched as each shook his hand, had a short conversation and quickly dispersed after saluting Hogan. He’s even winning over my men. What is it with this guy?
London, England, Fieldstone US Army Airbase,
General Creighton’s Office,
May 13, 1945, 1030 Hours
Creighton noted the look of frustration on the faces of his staff. “Has Colonel Hogan managed to make you guys that uncomfortable?”
“I just don’t understand Hogan, General,” said Ballister. “One minute, he’s in my office, telling me, very seriously about some massive trauma that he’s lived through. Then this morning, I found him locked in an intimate embrace with one of the nurses. If I hadn’t interrupted, God knows how far it would have gone. Then when he finally turned away from the nurse, he lambasted me for telling you and Colonel Wright about his condition. I can’t figure him out. And now he and his men have ‘free reign’ over this base. I just don’t get it, General. These men were POWs, but you wouldn’t know it from their actions.”
“Ballister is right, General. Hogan and his men are loose cannons, as all the stuff we talked about this morning can attest. They have no respect for authority. I can’t understand what the big brass would be doing here. Maybe some public relations coup, these men returning together from one of the only POW camps to remain intact. Come to think of it, that’s probably it. These men were at Stalag 13, it was purported to be the toughest POW camp in all of Germany. No one had ever successfully escaped from that camp,” said Colonel Wright.
“Then they’ve had it rough, Colonel. Maybe they’re all just letting off some steam,” Creighton said. “Ballister, you said you didn’t find any evidence of continued abuse of the Senior POW Officer. Maybe the threat was always there and the men were loyal enough to Colonel Hogan not to try and escape. It would explain the loyalty we’ve seen.”
“Possibly, General, but these guys don’t act like any POW that I’ve ever heard of,” Ballister replied shaking his head.
“Yes. I’ve noticed. I had actually thought it strange that General Simpson needed to debrief all these men, before they are sent home. I don’t remember that being standard procedure for all POWs. Maybe there is something else going on. Stalag 13 was in the Hammelburg area right?” Creighton observed.
“Yes, sir,” answered Colonel Wright.
“Isn’t that the area where the underground network was most concentrated? The agent, Papa Bear had supposedly run his operation from there. And if even half of the propaganda about Papa Bear is true, it seems to me that there would have been escapes from that Luft Stalag. But then again, as we discussed these men are very loyal, they may not have tried,” Creighton pondered.
Colonel Ballister interjected. “If the underground network was that extensive in that area, do you think that Hogan and his men were involved with the underground? Or maybe they just have information that the brass want to know.”
“Well, I guess we’ll find out very soon. I’ve ordered Colonel Hogan to join us at this meeting, to make his call to General Simpson. After that I’ll see what he will tell me. Irregardless I can’t let his behavior continue to disrupt the normal functioning of this base,” said Creighton.
From just down the hall…
Colonel Hogan wended his way to General Creighton’s office after receiving a rather abrupt summons. He imagined that Wright and Ballister had already given the General an earful about his conduct since arriving. He knew that he had given the officers on this base some grief, but it was all done to keep the officers off-balance. Same old story, but instead of Germans, it’s the Allies this time. Will it ever stop?
Colonel Wright and Colonel Ballister were indeed already in General Creighton’s office when Hogan arrived. “Colonel Robert Hogan. Reporting as ordered, sir,” he said saluting.
Creighton returned the salute. “Have a seat, Colonel Hogan.”
Hogan took the seat closest to him. “Thank you, sir. Don’t mind if I do.” He sat casually, crossing his legs. “What can I do for you, General?” Hogan asked innocently.
Creighton said, “First, Hogan. I want you to know that I received a call earlier this morning from General Simpson at Allied High Command. He will be here tomorrow at 1200 Hours. He wants to meet with you privately. At 1300 Hours there will be a full base assembly. General Simpson requested that your men assemble in front of my base personnel. He made no mention to us for the reason for the assembly, but we are to expect a number of high-ranking personnel from Allied High Command. He also made it clear to me that you and your men are to have free access to anything you need. We are not to deny any of your requests. Also he was going to have a transport take over all that cargo.”
“Thank you, General. I’ll let my men know. Is that all, sir?” Hogan asked innocently, getting up as if to leave. He started to turn from Creighton and headed for the door.
“No, Colonel Hogan. You are expected to contact General Simpson,” Creighton replied, taken aback that Hogan had the gaul to get up and leave without getting his reply first. “I’ve taken the liberty of having my secretary place your call.”
“Why thank you, General. That makes it very convenient. May I take it here then?” Hogan said wondering if these men should be present while he talked to Simpson for the first time.
The phone rang and Creighton picked it up. “General Simpson for you, Colonel,” he said handing off the phone to Hogan.
“Good morning, General,” Hogan said. “Is there something I can do for you?”
“First off. Welcome in from the cold, Hogan,” Simpson said relieved to actually hear the agent’s voice. He had imagined many horrible things over the past six-weeks.
“Thank you, sir,” Hogan replied. “It is good to be back on friendly soil.”
Simpson laughed a little. “At least you don’t have to get back for roll-call this time.”
“There is a lot to be said for that, General,” Hogan agreed.
“So you’re not alone there, are you?” Simpson asked.
“No, sir,” Hogan replied.
“It’s okay. I wanted to talk to you now, because I received several complaints from the powers that be at the base regarding you, this morning. It seems you have been accused of conduct unbecoming an officer. You seem to have a lack of respect for authority. You are obstinate and contrary. Your men also have been accused of not abiding by the proper chain of command. Not to mention that you’re making them completely nuts. They have no clue how to respond to your rebelliousness,” Simpson told Hogan with a chuckle. “And you’ve only been there 24 hours! I really feel bad for the Kommandant of Stalag 13. He had to deal with you and your men for more than three years!”
“Should I take that as a compliment, sir? You have to realize that it will be a hard habit to break,” Hogan replied with a grin. “But General, you should know it took almost a week to get this to this point at Stalag 13. I guess I’ve gotten better with practice.”
Simpson laughed outright. “Hogan, you are impossible. It was a damned good thing you were on our side! But I want you to know that you don’t have to play that game any longer. Tomorrow when I arrive I intend to publicly announce your operation. It will no longer be a secret, and you and your men will get the recognition that you all deserve. The base officials will know tomorrow. So to save me from bailing you out of the guard house tomorrow morning, you may tell them today if you so choose.”
“Everything?” Hogan asked astonished. Never had he thought that Allied High Command would declassify his operation. “Are you sure?”
“Everything, Hogan. You can explain your operation, but no specifics,” Simpson ordered.
“Yes, sir. I really can’t believe this, General. It will certainly make it easier on my men. They won’t have to pretend any longer. Thank you very much, sir,” Hogan said gratefully.
“You’re welcome, Hogan. You deserve it. And so do your men. Without Papa Bear I doubt we would have won the war,” Simpson said honestly.
“We were just doing our jobs, General,” Hogan replied modestly. “Anyone else in our position would have done the same, sir.”
“I doubt that, Hogan. No one else would have the gumption to take on the entire German War Machine from a POW camp… and succeed,” Simpson replied.
“It wouldn’t have been possible without my men, sir. But thank you,” Hogan replied.
“Well. That’s all what I wanted to say to you. Take it easy and get some rest. I’ll see you tomorrow at noon,” Simpson said.
“Yes, sir,” Hogan replied.
“By the way,” said Simpson. “Congratulations.”
“Congratulations?” Hogan asked.
“Yes, congratulations, General Robert Hogan. It won’t be a secret tomorrow. Get used to it. Besides those promotions have been in effect for a long time. Don’t hesitate in pulling rank at the base, if you need too,” Simpson replied.
“Yes, sir. Thank you. I’ll see you tomorrow then,” Hogan replied and hung up the phone with a relieved expression on his face. He sighed and sat back down in the chair behind him.
Creighton and his men had sat quietly listening to Hogan’s one-sided conversation. It’s very apparent that General Simpson wasn’t dressing Hogan down for his conduct! Hogan and his men seemed to be being congratulated for some unspecified reason. And Hogan appears to be relieved. I wonder what he just got away with?
Hogan suddenly stood, and offered a salute to Creighton. “Thank you for letting me use the phone. I’ll be on my way now. Good day, gentlemen.” Hogan started towards the door, wanting to see what their reaction was going to be. If I can get out of here without telling them, I’m going to.
“Wait, Colonel Hogan. What the Hell’s going on?” Creighton demanded. “I will not let you walk out of here without telling me what that was all about.”
Both Wright and Ballister had stood to block Hogan’s way out of the office. Hogan sighed and turned back to face Creighton. If I can’t walk out of here without explaining to them, I’m going to have some fun doing it my way. “Well gentleman. My conversation with General Simpson was very enlightening. He told me that you accused me of conduct unbecoming an officer. It seems that I have a total lack of respect for authority as well as being obstinate and contrary. You have accused my men of not abiding by the proper chain of command.” Hogan paused enjoying the looks on their faces. “I want you to know that I don’t appreciate you going over my head like that. If you had a problem with my men and I, you should have come to me directly.”
“Colonel Hogan. You are back in the real military now. I don’t know what you’re used to, but we do things here by the book here. I do not intend to sit here and take abuse from a junior officer,” Creighton pointed out angrily.
An uncontrolled surge of euphoria hit Hogan and he laughed out loud. Ha! Junior Officer! Should I tell them? I can’t believe I can actually admit to what we’ve been doing. My men will be ecstatic. Wow, three years of stress, gone. Really gone. Hogan noticed that a very angry Colonel Wright had made a move in his direction. Hogan held up his hand to stop Wright’s approach. Still smiling he said, “Whoa, Steve. I’m sorry, gentlemen. Really I am. Give me a moment. I’ll explain everything. You just don’t understand what that phone call will mean to my men.” And me!
Hogan took a deep breath, composed himself, and again sat back down in his chair. “As General Simpson just pointed out to me. I don’t have to play games any longer. But it’s a very hard habit to break. It’s the only way my men and I survived for the past three years.”
“What do you mean?” Creighton demanded motioning for Wright to back off. Colonel Hogan is a certifiable nut!
This explanation will take some time. “Well gentleman,” Hogan began. “First of all. I should explain something to you. So, as not to continue our relationship on the wrong foot, you need to know that I out-rank all three of you. I’ve been a two-star General for 1-½ years. This will be publicly acknowledged at the assembly tomorrow. As to my men and I, we never thought we could publicly acknowledge our operation. But, General Simpson just gave me permission to tell you about what my men and I have been doing. We’ve been working undercover as an intelligence unit for the past 43 months. My code name was Papa Bear. General Simpson will also be publicly acknowledging our operation tomorrow as well.”
Hogan grinned when he saw their three astonished faces.
“I want to thank you all for putting up with some frustrations in the past 24 hours. My men and I still have one more duty to perform here. That cargo is very important and must remain safe. My men were never going to allow anyone near it, regardless of the pressure from you. Since our cover story was ‘returning POWs’, we had to work together to keep you off balance, so that our true intentions would not be disclosed. It’s one of the things we do best. Up until five minutes ago, our operation was top secret, never to be disclosed. We never thought we would be able to tell you or anyone else for that matter. The more confused and annoyed we made you, the less likely you were to find out exactly what we were doing,” Hogan explained.
“You were Papa Bear?” Creighton repeated. “How the hell did you do that? Captain Smithers reported that you had indeed come from a POW camp!”
“Stalag 13 was our base of operations. We were POWs, General. All of us. We were captured and sent to Stalag 13 as POWs. Once there we worked out a plan to take advantage of the unique situation we found ourselves in. I’m sure you heard all of the propaganda that was released surrounding Stalag 13. That it was the toughest POW camp in all of Germany. It never had a successful escape. That was only because I didn’t allow escapes from the men stationed at Stalag 13. Our job was to move other escaped prisoners back to England. We sent 2,492 Allied flyers home, we rescued 873 civilians, and we helped 1,802 defectors out of Germany. It was an extremely busy 1,289 days,” Hogan explained. “We also doubled as an espionage and sabotage unit as well, doing what we could to undermine the German War Effort.”
“That’s unbelievable, Hogan,” said Creighton unsure of whether to believe this guy or not. Why would he lie? Confirmation is just a phone call away.
Wright and Ballister sat in stunned silence, not sure how to respond at all.
Hogan continued, “You’ll all be glad to know, that once we’ve turned that cargo over to Allied High Command safely, things will settle down. My men and I are not rebels, gentlemen. It’s just that we’ve had to live under some very stressful situations for over three years. To survive, we had to be creative, free thinkers. My men had all volunteered to stay with me. I’ve given them a lot of leeway. But, I can assure you that from tomorrow on, you shouldn’t expect any more problems from us.”
Hogan paused and then continued with a smirk, “Although gentlemen, trying to wake me up may still be a problem. Since my injuries, my men have taken to coddling their Senior Officer.” Hogan smiled. “I apologize for their zeal this morning. I probably shouldn’t have gone along with that charade. I myself have been fighting their coddling for weeks. But it was worth seeing the look on their faces when I gave in and supported their decision to stand up to you, Colonel Wright.”
“You seem to have a unique relationship with your men, Hogan. I envy you that ease of interaction,” Wright said. “I never even caught a glimpse of your conspiracy this morning. It truly appeared that the order had come from you.”
“Believe me. That ‘unique relationship’ was the only thing that stood between life and death for us,” said Hogan.
“Colonel Hogan. I’m sorry, General Hogan,” said Ballister. “Are you willing to tell us how you were injured? From what you told us, you seemed to have a lot of control over Stalag 13. You keep reiterating that the guards there were not responsible. What happened?” Ballister noticed the closed look that came over Hogan’s face. That was probably the wrong question to ask.
Creighton interjected having also seen the closed look on Hogan’s face, “Ballister. You’ve overstepped your boundary. General Hogan doesn’t have to answer that.”
“That’s all right, General Creighton. I’ll answer his question.” Hogan stood and walked to the other side of the room and stood quietly for a moment. Finally he turned and faced the doctor. “You really know how to put a damper on things, Ballister,” Hogan said quietly. “My injuries were a result of a firefight with the Gestapo as well as a subsequent interrogation on the very same evening. I don’t know what you have heard about Gestapo interrogation techniques, gentlemen. But I had to assume my life was forfeit at that point.” Hogan paused, taking a deep breath. “My butt was pulled from the fire, literally seconds before I would have been silenced for good with a bullet to the head.” Hogan paused again and turned away from the three men. He took a deep breath and sighed heavily. When he turned back he said. “I’m sorry.” Again he sighed. “That was the closest we ever came to blowing the whole operation, but luckily they garnered no proof from the interrogation.”
“I’m sorry,” said Ballister exchanging a sickened glance with the other two officers in the room. He wanted to throw-up. He was the only one, other than Hogan, that knew the extent of Hogan’s injuries. The report he had made to the other two had been just a quick summary. Having actually examined Hogan gave him a different perspective. Hogan’s one tough bastard to have survived all that.
“Well it’s over. My men and I survived relatively unscathed. We accomplished what we set out to do. We arrived home safely. And now we can even tell our family and friends that we were not merely by-standers for three years. Our families will know we made a difference to the outcome of this war.” He paused and scanned the faces of the three men. “If you don’t mind, gentlemen, I need to let my men know that we are now truly free.”
The three men didn’t know how to respond, so Hogan got up and left without another word.
London, England, Fieldstone US Army Airbase,
Hanger Bay Six,
May 13, 1945, 2400 Hours
Hogan had just crashed on the cot assigned to him. What a day. After that meeting this morning, he had informed his men of the impending visit of the brass from Allied High Command. He told them that they no longer had to keep their parts in the war a secret. They all were excited and wanted to celebrate. Immediately, a search for the nearest liquor began. They were told that the medical staff had forbidden any of the POWs from alcoholic consumption until all medical exams were completed. Needless to say that didn’t go over well. It wasn’t until 2000 Hours after returning from seeing Beth Newton again, after her duty shift, that Hogan had noticed his men had holed themselves up in hanger bay six.
Hogan had opened the door to the hanger and was immediately assaulted with the wafting scent of alcohol. He barely made it in the door before a glass of ‘something’ was shoved in his hand. He willingly joined in the festivities, but was also glad he had told Creighton that he wouldn’t have any more problems with his men ‘after’ tomorrow. He learned that Newkirk located the ‘still’ that the enlisted men had on the base. He and several others had ‘liberated’ it, as well as enough ingredients, for the evening. How the liberation occurred, Hogan was not privy too. He was just glad his men could let off some steam. From what he could tell, no one was inebriated. They were just relaxed and were enjoying each other’s company.
Hogan had also gotten word earlier this afternoon from Doctor Ballister that he would require surgery, but that it would indeed be more reconstructive. He said because the cheekbone was crushed, the German doctor was right to worry about more bone fragments, but he said that with the proper surgical situation, it would be a fairly standard procedure. The surgery could even wait for things to settle down. That was a relief. And worth another round of drinks according to Newkirk!
London, England, Fieldstone US Army Airbase,
May 14, 1945, 1200 Hours
Hogan was now waiting patiently for General Simpson to show up. This whole thing is really coming to an end. All that had to happen was the transfer of cargo and his men would no longer have any more duties to perform. They could then relax and enjoy their freedom. He had informed Sergeant Marlow about the transport and that he was to allow the members of the transport to move the cargo. He also retrieved his briefcase from where Marlow had it safely stored. Along with the promotion orders for his men, the briefcase contained the cargo manifest, as well as his own promotion orders and stars. He had brought it all with him.
From just down the hall…
General Simpson and Colonel Joseph Hogan arrived together from Allied High Command. General Simpson had asked sympathetically, if Joe could let him and his brother get business out of the way first, because Rob Hogan didn’t know that his brother was going to be here today. This way Simpson explained, he and Hogan could get work out of the way, and then Rob and Joe could enjoy their time together before the assembly.
Colonel Wright, who had met them, said that Colonel Hogan was already waiting for the General. When Wright had then been introduced to Colonel Joseph Hogan, it hadn’t taken much to see the resemblance. Wright quickly escorted the two men to the office where Colonel Robert Hogan waited.
Joseph Hogan now stood in the hallway outside the office to which they were escorted, leaning against the wall, with his stomach in knots. Just inside that room is my brother, who I haven’t seen for 4 ½ years. Simpson told me when I arrived in London that Rob had been seriously injured recently. And just this morning Simpson clarified those injuries to be that of a gunshot wound on top of a savage beating from a Gestapo interrogation. Simpson warned me that Rob was severely underweight. But, the good news is that he was indeed recovering and everything is going to be fine. I just can’t let myself react to his condition. I have to remember the important thing right now is that Rob is alive and nothing else really matters.
Meanwhile inside the office…
Colonel Hogan had come to attention and saluted, General Simpson. “Colonel Robert Hogan, reporting, sir.”
Simpson returned the salute and said, “Okay give it a rest, Hogan. We both know by the time I leave here today you will outrank me.” Smiling broadly, he extended his hand. “Welcome back, Hogan.” Damn. I can see why the doctor was worried, Hogan looks like hell.
“Thank you, sir. It’s good to be back,” Hogan said with a smile and returning the handshake. Simpson’s a two-star General. I’ll outrank him? He must mean we’ll be of equal rank.
“Do you have your promotion orders and stars with you, Hogan?” asked Simpson.
Hogan opened his briefcase. “You mean these?” Hogan said as he handed them to General Simpson with a smirk. “My men deserve a mention as well, General. I will not accept my promotions without theirs.” He handed the briefcase over to Simpson. “All the paperwork needed for those promotions are in here. Also, I have a manifest of the cargo we brought back with us.”
“Hogan. As promised… your men will get the promotions you requested. I will announce them today as well.” Simpson took the proffered briefcase and removed the cargo manifest. “So. What did you bring back with you?” Simpson read the manifest and his jaw dropped open. He shook his head in amazement. “No wonder you wouldn’t let anyone near it. Incredible, Hogan. One point five million in gold bars absconded from the Gestapo after they raided the Bank of France. Fifteen original paintings from the Louvre by the likes of Monet and Van Gogh also liberated from the Gestapo.” The list went on. “It seems that almost every country at war with Hitler owes you and your men. Whether it was for the safe return of their soldiers or the return of priceless artifacts.”
“We did the best we could,” Hogan said.
“Don’t be modest, Hogan. You and your men have done the world an incredible service,” Simpson said looking at his watch.
“General. You might want to know that the gold bars have been painted like bricks,” Hogan pointed out. “So don’t let their appearance fool you.”
“Bricks. Should I ask why they look like bricks?” Simpson asked.
“They were masquerading as a brick staircase for the last year and a half,” Hogan told him.
“A staircase. You used 1.5 million dollars in gold bars to build a staircase,” Simpson repeated. “Tell me why I’m not surprised,” he questioned of the ceiling shaking his head incredulously. “Well. I think we’re done for now.
“One more thing, General,” said Hogan. “Have you gotten word from General Birmingham about the transfer of prisoners?”
“Oh yes. Kyle reported that all prisoners arrived safely. They will be held in Nuremberg indefinitely. The War Crimes Commission has already begun its investigation, but it’s going to take some time. Kyle wanted me to ask you something though. He asked and I quote ‘Who won?’, but he gave no further clarification. Do you know what he meant by that, Hogan?” asked Simpson.
Hogan smirked and said, “Yes, General. I do. The next time you talk to him, tell him Barracks Twenty, score 34-32.”
“Okay Hogan. Do I want to know what that’s all about?” Simpson glanced at his watch. 1220 Hours. “No I guess I don’t, but I will tell him.” Barracks twenty, score 34-32. “I’m going to get the transport started on the movement of that cargo, as I want all your men present at the assembly.”
Simpson started to leave.
“I’ll go with you, General,” Hogan said starting to follow.
“No, Hogan. You won’t,” General Simpson ordered in his best command tone. “There’s someone outside who’d like to speak with you.” Simpson opened the door. “Robert Hogan may I present Joseph Hogan.” General Simpson left quietly at that point. Not that they even noticed.
Joe Hogan entered the room.
“Joe!” Hogan said shocked and excited, and grabbed Joe into a bear hug.
“Hello, Rob,” Joe said nervously returning the hug. Oh my God! He’s so thin.
After a brief moment, Rob let go and began to pace around the room, asking every question he needed an answer too. Three years of carefully worded letters just hadn’t been enough. “What the hell are you doing in London, Joe? - Oh my God that’s right, you’re a Colonel in intelligence now. Congratulations! -- How’s John? Is he really ok? What happened? -- Mom and Dad they’re ok? -- They had their 40th anniversary last year. How was that? -- Susan married Ed. I’m happy for them. How’s the baby? -- Oh, are you still dating Pamela? -- Hey, do Mom and Dad still have Toby? He’s got to be almost 12 now. That’s old for a lab.”
Hogan had spouted his questions almost non-stop and it seemed he was going to continue for some time, until Joe took a hold of his shoulders to get his attention. “Rob. Rob. Take it easy,” Joe pleaded. Rob is wound tighter than a coiled spring. “Everyone is okay. We have plenty of time to catch up now. I promise I will answer all of your questions.”
Rob took a deep breath and smiled sheepishly saying, “I’m sorry, Joe. Your being here was completely unexpected. It is very good to see you. You look great.” Rob reached out and hugged his brother again.
Joe returned the embrace saying, “Thanks. Okay. Let’s see. -- Mom and Dad are doing fine, still in CT. They’re getting older, though. This whole thing has been hard on them. -- John was rescued soon after his plane was shot down. He suffered some spinal injuries, but he’s okay now. Still walking with a cane, but he’s expected to recover completely. He’s at home with Mom and Dad. Sue and Ed live nearby. They’ve been great, helping with John’s recovery. They are very happy together and little Stephen is adorable. As for me, I’ve been assigned to General Simpson to help with covert operator debriefings. And Pamela, well we broke up six months ago. Then there’s Toby, and he’s still hanging in there.”
“I’m glad. I hadn’t heard anything at all for eight months. I can’t wait to see everyone. I’m going to try and make a quick visit home before my new assignment,” said Rob. “Before that happens, though. I am going to need some surgery, and God forbid I show up at home without putting weight back on.” Rob had said that rather nonchalantly as he didn’t know if Joe knew anything else about his condition. I certainly can’t hide the weight loss.
Joe stepped in front of his older brother and took hold of Rob’s shoulders again. He looked Rob directly in the eyes and said, “General Simpson told me what happened to you. Are you okay? You look like hell, you know,” Joe said very concerned. Rob looked even worse than he had imagined. And I’d imagined something horrible.
Rob glanced away from Joe’s scrutiny. When he returned his gaze he said, “Listen, Joe. I’m okay. Really. It’s over,” Rob replied, trying to lighten up his reply, but did not want to lie to his younger brother. “But I wouldn’t recommend getting shot and almost beaten to death in the same night. It really puts a damper on the evening.”
“How can you make a joke about this, Rob?!” Joe asked distressed.
“It’s just easier for me that way, Joe,” Rob replied looking his younger brother in the eye. “It’s just easier.” Rob paused and took deep breath. “Can we get past this? It’s over,” Rob pleaded trying to change the subject, not wanting Joe to have to deal with his emotional baggage.
“Okay. Okay,” said Joe acquiescing. I guess Rob will talk when he’s ready. I won’t push anymore. “But I do have a question that has been bothering me since I arrived in London,” stated Joe with a slight grin.
“What question?” asked Rob skeptically, noticing that his brother’s demeanor had changed quickly. I’m glad Joe’s changed the subject. But now he’s grinning? Why?
“How did my big brother -- Colonel Robert Hogan, the hot shot pilot, turn into -- Papa Bear, the super spy? I’ve spent a year and a half at the Pentagon studying the exploits of many underground agents, so I could be ready to debrief them on their return. Papa Bear had the most impeccable reputation. -- But, once I arrived in London and they told me that you were Papa Bear. I’ve had every high mucky-muck at Allied High Command tell me some of the most incredible, as well as some of the most insane stories I have ever heard. And they were all about you and your men. None of what they told me had ever made it to the reports at the Pentagon.”
“Oh,” Rob replied relieved that he could now actually tell Joe about his little secret. “You answered your own question, Joe. I was a pilot and all of the other men in camp with me were flyers. We had no training in the art of intelligence. We just fell into a situation where we knew we could help. We had no conception of how a spy ring worked. We did learned quickly, however. We found out that we were most successful at confusing the German Military machine. Our saving grace turned out to be that we had always acted as cowed POWs who never were able to successfully escape from our Luft Stalag. As a side effect of that, it seemed that almost every top-secret weapon of the German Military machine showed up for testing at our Luft Stalag. Not to mention, that a lot of very highly classified meetings were held there as well. Stalag 13 was, in the opinion of our Germans captors, the most secure facility they had. So they used our Luft Stalag often. And we were able to take advantage of their gullibility. Every time.”
Hogan paused in his explanation. It could take days to explain everything. He looked at his watch. “Okay enough for now. We have to go. It’s almost 1300. No rest for the weary. Come on, little brother. Duty calls.”
“Lead the way,” Joe said, following Rob out of the office and noticing four men walking down the hall in their direction. He assumed they were Rob’s men, as they were all dressed in the same flight suits.
As they reached the four men Rob said, “Joe. I want you to meet the men responsible for keeping me alive and sane for the last three years.” He smiled and indicated each man. “Ivan Kinchloe, Andrew Carter, Louis LeBeau and Peter Newkirk. Guys. This is my brother Joe.”
All five men exchanged pleasantries.
“Oh, Colonel,” said LeBeau swooning. “You need to know that the ‘love’ of my life is here at the base. She arrived with the Russian General from Allied High Command. Beautiful mon-a-me! She has already fallen into my arms.” LeBeau then closed his eyes, and wrapped his arms around his imaginary ‘love’.
“Yeah, Colonel. And now she’s looking for you,” stated Kinch, giving LeBeau a humoring sideways glance.
“Marya. Marya is here? What the hell is she doing here?” Hogan blurted out nervously as he tried to ignore LeBeau.
Joe had watched the exchange between his brother and his men. LeBeau seemed smitten with whoever this Marya was. Rob just seemed uneasy. But before Joe could ask anything, a tall Russian woman entered the building, heading straight for them. His brother Rob looked a little panicked.
“Hogan Darling!” she said loudly in a strong Russian accent and grabbed Rob by the shoulders. “You look terrible! Kiss me, Hogan!” She enveloped Hogan in a huge embrace and they kissed, -- and kissed, -- and kissed. The embrace continued endlessly.
Joe thought it odd that Rob didn’t seem to be fighting it -- at all -- he actually seemed to be enjoying it. Strange. Joe glanced at his brother’s men. They all seemed to be amused, even LeBeau. Although, LeBeau did have a scowl on his face.
Marya was the one to finally end the embrace with Rob. She turned to LeBeau saying, “My small one.” She kissed him on the forehead. The scowl on LeBeau’s face disappeared. Returning her attention to Hogan, Marya said, “So Hogan! What happened to you, my once strong and handsome man?” she asked patting Hogan’s chest and shoulders.
Hogan just scowled. “It’s a long story, Marya. What I want to know is. What the hell are you doing in London?” Rob asked annoyed. “What are you up too?” he accused.
“Why does one have to be ‘up to something’, my dear Hogan?” Marya asked.
“Because, Marya… you are always up to something.” Hogan stated matter of factly.
“You still do not trust me! -- After all this time! -- The war is over, my dear, Hogan! -- I’m here with General Vladimir Chechenkoff. He’s here for the ceremony to honor you and your men. I just wanted to see you one more time. We worked together well Hogan, you and I. And of course, you too, my small one.” Marya leaned over and pinched LeBeau’s cheek.
LeBeau again swooned. “I believe her, mon Colonel.”
Hogan gave LeBeau a look of long suffering, but said to Marya, “Yeah, that’s true. We did put a few cogs in the wheels of the German War Machine together.” Hogan then reached for Marya’s hand and gallantly kissed it, but couldn’t help notice the time on his watch. “We better join the assembly,” he said skirting what appeared to be another attempt by Marya to embrace him.
Marya threw up her hands in frustration, but found as she lowered them, that LeBeau was there for the embrace. She continued the embrace with LeBeau, as everyone followed Hogan out onto the runway. As they exited the building, everyone went their separate ways, taking up their proper positions for the assembly.
Joe Hogan bemused, hung back at the building’s exit. There’s got to be a fascinating story surrounding that Marya. I will have to ask Rob about her. Heh. Why should another fascinating story involving my brother surprise me?
London, England, Fieldstone US Army Airbase,
May 14, 1945, 1220 Hours
General Simpson had left the two Hogan brothers to have their reunion. Hogan looks like hell, but is still his sarcastic self. That had been good to hear. And the look on Hogan’s face when his brother entered the room was priceless. I’m glad I got to see it.
General Creighton had met Simpson as he exited the building, wanting to show General Simpson around, but Simpson wanted to make sure the movement of cargo was underway. So, Creighton fell into step beside him.
“We’re all set, General. How many people are we expecting?” Creighton asked.
“No more than a dozen or so,” Simpson replied. “They should be arriving shortly. These men and women will represent every Allied force brought to bear against the Third Reich.”
“Hogan explained quickly what was going on. But this whole thing has been highly irregular,” Creighton said.
Simpson laughed. “General. When it comes to Colonel Robert Hogan and his men, ‘highly irregular’ is standard operating procedure.”
“If you say so, General,” Creighton said giving in.
“I say so,” Simpson said as he rounded the corner to the hanger where Hogan’s cargo was stored. “Major Stanford!”
“Yes, sir,” Stanford replied coming over to Simpson and Creighton.
“Major. You have very delicate and important cargo here. Handle with care,” Simpson said handing off the manifest to his Major.
“Yes, sir. Sergeant Marlow informed me of that as well,” Stanford replied. “We will take good care of it.”
“Did Sergeant Marlow also inform you the gold was colored like bricks?” Simpson asked.
“Yes, sir. Everything is under control here. I have a full detail of MPs here. We’ll be safely underway in an hour,” Stanford replied.
“Very good. Carry on, Major,” Simpson replied.
“Gold, General?” Creighton asked. “Colored like bricks, General?” What had these guys been up to?
“Yes gold. Colonel Hogan and his men have returned with a delightful array of merchandise from Germany. Shall we go and inspect the assembly now?” Simpson asked enjoying the look of confusion on the other’s face. Simpson headed off to runway three where the assembly would take place.
Creighton followed him.
London, England, Fieldstone US Army Airbase,
Staging Area, Runway #3,
May 14, 1945, 1230 Hours
General Simpson stood on the dais overlooking the runway. The entire base was lined up in front of it. Robert Hogan and his men occupied the center rank, surrounded by the base personnel. On the dais with him stood a highly decorated group of men and women, representing every member country of the Allied forces. They had come here to publicly acknowledge the work of the agent known as Papa Bear and the men who had helped him. There was no reason to hide the truth any longer. Besides Papa Bear had demanded that every one of his men be promoted at least one grade. No one would believe that the Allied High Command would promote any man who had sat in a POW camp for three years. It could be a very difficult situation for any man to explain to a superior.
General Creighton acknowledged the assembly of his men and introduced General Simpson. Creighton returned to sit with his staff officers along side the assembled dignitaries. Simpson began to speak, “Good afternoon, ladies and gentleman. I am sure you are all wondering why this assembly has been called. Well I will try to explain. Recently this base performed an airlift of personnel from a POW camp in the middle of Germany. Those men are standing with us now. Let us take this opportunity to welcome these men back to friendly soil.”
Simpson paused as the entire assembly cheered…
After order was restored he continued, “There is another reason why we are here, however. I am sure you’ve all heard of the underground agent, code name Papa Bear. You’ve all been briefed on the ways to get in contact with the underground should you be shot down. Over the years, there has been a lot of conjecture on just whom Papa Bear was or even if Papa Bear existed at all. Most believed Papa Bear to be propaganda dreamed up by Allied intelligence. I came here today to announce categorically that Papa Bear does exist. He and his men have operated the most successful, and highly unorthodox, underground operation in the history of organized warfare. And they did it all from a POW camp in the middle of Germany.” There was soft buzz through out the assembly. “I’m sure that there are a few individuals out there who have personally met Papa Bear and who owe their freedom to him and his men.”
Simpson paused again when he saw the look of understanding dawn across a lot of faces…
“This assembly is being held to thank and publicly acknowledge all that Papa Bear and his men have done for the Allied war effort. If Papa Bear and his men hadn’t stayed in Germany and operated deep behind enemy lines, we just might have lost this war. Their contributions to the Allied War Effort are immeasurable. Not only did they rescue and return our Allied personnel, but they also undermined the German War Effort at every opportunity. If you haven’t figured it out by now, Papa Bear has been on your base for the last 24-hours. Colonel Robert Hogan is Papa Bear. His men are all volunteers who stayed in Germany to ensure the success of his operation. Bravo gentlemen! Bravo and welcome home!”
The assembly cheered. The POWs from Stalag 13 went wild. Hogan had told them that their operation was now no longer going to be kept a secret. They had never dreamed that they would be able to openly talk about what they had done as POWs. General Simpson stood waiting for quiet, though his face held a smile. Finally, Robert Hogan held up a hand to quiet his men. His men quieted down almost immediately and returned to standing at attention. The quiet spread from the center out until the assembly once again was orderly.
“There is yet another duty that my colleagues and I are here for. Colonel Robert Hogan. If you please?” Simpson asked with a gesture to compel the Colonel to the dais. Hogan, embarrassed at the public accolade, walked slowly to the General’s side. Simpson still facing Hogan said, “Colonel Hogan. I wanted your men to know that you have put them all in for promotions.” Simpson turned to face the assembly. “Colonel Hogan just handed me all of the paperwork for determining those promotions. You will all receive confirmation within the month. These promotions will be retroactive to the date you volunteered to become one of Hogan’s Heroes.”
Simpson had to pause again when the POWs went wild. These men had certainly earned the right to be rambunctious. Finally quiet was restored for the third time, and he was able to continue. “Unbeknownst to Colonel Robert Hogan, until very recently, he had received two promotions during his tenure as Papa Bear. The first General’s star came three months into his internment at Stalag 13. The second star came a year and a half ago.” Simpson held up the case that Hogan had just returned to him. “Before I present these to you Colonel Hogan, you need to know that you have received another promotion. Your third star arrived in my office just this week. Colonel Robert Hogan. It is my pleasure to reward the one man responsible for creating Papa Bear’s underground organization. Congratulations. Major General Robert Hogan, sir!”
The assembly cheered. Hogan’s men could barely contain themselves. They continuously hooted and hollered. The assembled dignitaries rose and congratulated the new three-star General, Robert Hogan. General Simpson approached Robert Hogan, followed closely by his two staff officers. All three saluted and shook Hogan’s hand to congratulate him. When Hogan had turned to face the assembly, his men finally quieted.
“Ladies and Gentlemen. This is very awkward for me. My men and I had resigned ourselves to the fact that no one would ever know the extent of our operation in Germany. We never started the operation for the accolades. Now though. I’m glad that my men will get the recognition they deserve. They have sacrificed over three years of their lives to fight for a cause they believed in.” Hogan paused. “I keep saying ‘my men’ and that’s wrong. Each of these men assembled here, volunteered to stay and work with me to help bring about the end of Hitler’s Third Reich. It’s to each individual that I owe my thanks. Without them, Papa Bear would not have existed. Thank you, gentlemen.”
Author’s Note One:
As promised… Quiz Question: Who is Toby?
Answer: Toby is Colonel Hogan’s parent’s twelve-year-old black Labrador Retriever.
Thanks for reading!
Patti and Marg
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