Once Upon a Time: The Last Laugh
Linda Groundwater


One of a series of five stories about how the Heroes ended up at Stalag 13

 

 

 

1 January 1947

 

My darling,

 

You might wonder why I'm not calling you by name. Well the answer is you don't exist yet, and if you're reading this and you're not someone I would call ďmy darling,Ē then bloody well put it down.

 

Iíll tell you the truth, my love: I got drunk last night. So drunk I almost forgot where I was and started calling me best American mate here ďColonel,Ē because I was so sure I was back at Stalag 13. For a little while I was pathetically happy, a frightening thought since my state of mind existed because I thought I was back in a German Prisoner of War camp. When I finally came back to Earth, I figured I owed it to whoever comes after me to understand what it is I got out of the camp, and how I got into it in the first place.

 

Colonel Robert Hogan, Louis Le Beau, Andrew Carter, and James KinchloeóKinchóbecame more like my family than anyone Iíd ever known before. Youíd never seen such a bunch of misfits. I mean we just didnít belong together, you know? An American flying aceóa bloody officer, no lessóthe man should have given up the ghost when he was shot down and captured. Thereís a whole story there, but itís not my place to tell, really. I had no use for officers, absolutely none, and then Colonel Hogan came around and made me sit up and take notice. Saw all the mess that was olí Newkirk and quite happily accepted me into his circle. Not that I asked to be there, mind you, but the govínor just draws people in. And he organized some of the most incredible stunts youíve ever heard of, and more than a handful that you havenít. But thatís something I canít talk about. Yet.

 

Louis Le BeauÖ bloody Frenchman, never thought Iíd be worried about the French, but this little mate just drove himself into my heart. ImagineóPeter Newkirk, caring about another person. But I did, you know; I cared about him, and about the Colonel. And about CarteróI canít tell you here the things that Carter did that scared me to death and worried me about him. Letís just say heís not your average chemist. But if Iím ever allowed to tell everything, Iíll put a postscript on this letter about three pages longóall about him! Kinch amazes me, and though weíre like chalk and cheese, we somehow managed to get along most of the time. A brilliant man, Kinch, if he would just let me have me own way more often and stop getting in the way with his bloody flawless logic! But then, I think that was the Colonelís plan all along, though heíll never say so.

 

Anyway, Iím veering off the subject here, probably a result of last nightís imbibing that has done nothing to make this piece of paper sit still for me while I write. What I wanted to do was explain how I got where I was so later on I can tell you what I did there, and what I learned there.

 

It all started out as a bloody joke. We were watching what was happening in Europe, but I was too busy dodging the coppers and me dadís wrath to take it very seriously. After all, that was all the way across the bloody English Channel, wasnít it? What was happening to me was much closer to home, and I was ducking out as much as I could. Iím not making excuses for not being worldlier, mind you. When I look back now on the signs I missed and how people like me are the ones who let Hitler march his merry way across Europe I could cry. But my sense of self-preservation forced me to consider myself a higher priority than a bunch of Czechs and Poles and whoever living so far away from me. Men were being called up, but so far I had escaped that. Maybe itís because I was the youngest son, who knows. But I was too busy to go anyway.

 

But then Hitlerís troops invaded France, and I knew we were for it then. England had to be bloody next in line, didnít it? I got called up, France fell, and then of a sudden there I wasóin the Battle of Britain. I had been trained for a few weeks and then I was up in the air. I suppose I should be grateful: at least I wasnít on the ground being shot at, I thought. Yeah, fat bloody dealónow I was up in the air being shot at! So if my plane got hit I had a pretty long drop! We lost a lot of men over those two months. And in the meantime that bloody nut brain Hitler had ordered the Luftwaffe to bomb London! And he did, and my house was a mess. Lights out, blacked out windows, poor Nan didnít know what to do with herself. Having to be cooped up with Dad at all hours of the day and night, with me sister Louise scared to death to come out of her room most of the time. I wasnít even there to take her mind off things with a few magic tricks or amusing anecdotes. Mum didnít know how lucky she had it to already be dead so she didnít have to face Dad when he was forced sober because he couldnít get out for two or three days to find whatever poison he needed to keep him half oblivious and in a half-good temper.

 

But Nan was always cheering for me. She sent me letters and fruitcakes, all sorts of things that I of course had to share with me mates on the base. There were some good fellas there, too, and they shared their stuff with me. At times I was at pains to find something nice to say about the food they shared in return for Nanís gourmet feasts, but you never knew when something scrumptious was just around the corner, so you smiled and nodded and forced some of those inedible bombs down your throat in the hope that the next time thereíd be something to make the stomach pains worth it in the long run. Blimey, I swear some of those wives and girlfriends started working for the Germans, because I thought I recognized some of those same lumps of coal served at mess hall before I started reaping the benefit of Le Beauís culinary expertise.

 

I was part of a crew of three onboard a Bristol Blenheim IF, a nice little plane if you can get hold of one, and in any case something to keep the wind off your face. It could travel at great speedócruising at about two hundred miles per houróand travel over eleven hundred miles before starting to flutter from lack of fuel. At first we were sent out for daytime fighting, but that was rather hazardous to my health, I must say, and after a few rounds of that the brass was smart enough to figure out that we needed to stick to heading out at night. We even had radar fitted into our plane, which was a brand new thing back then before it started becoming all the rage it is now.

 

Anyway, I was in charge of the ventral pack of four .303 machine guns that were fitted onto the plane, and it was a job, let me tell you. We patrolled a lot, and when we wandered into enemy territory it could be quiet as a church sometimes. But all of a sudden, the bleeding Krautsíd sneak up on us and it was non-stop action till the end. Having that radar fitted was one of the best things that ever happened to us, but Iíd still come home with blisters on me hands from grabbing onto those machine guns for dear life. The vibrations near shook me out of the plane, but at least I was alive and on top of the world every time we brought down one of those Nazi bastards.

 

Of course it wasnít to end that way. Eventually we were shot down, and later on I learned that of me, ďJumboĒ Clancy and Roger Milne, I was the only one to survive. I was also to find out that there were others of our squadron shot down that night, too, but it didnít help me then. It was night time and the sky was alight with the flames of dying planes on both sides, and flak was everywhere. I was somewhere near the coast of Germany, and I was sure I was over the water. My parachute would have been more of a blessing if I could have seen the bloody thing well enough to pull the rip cord without grappling around like a panicked idiot for what felt like a full ten minutes but which must have been only ninety seconds after I started freefall.

 

I landed in the water, plunging in feet first like a knife neatly slicing through butter. The impact was alarming, since the water came up out of nowhere. I felt my head go under, but the parachute stopped me from going too far down, and never a strong swimmer, at least I knew I was relatively unharmed and I could unleash my harness and keep myself afloat. When I broke the surface I started the task immediately, but the bloody parachute wouldnít have it, and I ended up swearing at it before it finally let go and I could concentrate on keeping my head above water.

 

I donít know if the patrols were watching me as I fell or if it was my cursing that gave me away, but it wasnít long before I was targeted by a spotlight that left me completely blinded. My wonder about whether the spotter was friend or foe was answered when someone called out ďHande hoch!Ē I understood only a little bit of German, and I nearly laughed at the absurdity of the orderóhands up? When Iím trying not to drown? Poor blighter must have gotten his combat training from old war movies. There was no way I could put my hands up right then, unless he wanted to come and fish me out with a net. I struggled along in the water and ignored the poor sod, and after a couple more ludicrous orders, he figured out that I wasnít going to obey him and resigned himself to pulling me out of the drink.

 

I found myself dragged into a small boat, almost like a dinghy, really, and left lying on the floor of it. I was shivering so much I was making the boat shake, and someone threw a blanket at me, which was immediately soaked and not a whole lot of help, although it was better than nothing. I felt about three times my normal weight, thanks to the water that my clothes had absorbed, and I was more than a little unsteady from the whole experience, I donít mind telling you.

 

I wanted to put up a fight, any kind of fight, but Iím no idiot, and land was nowhere in sight. Where was I supposed to go if I did manage to get away? Itís times like this that I always thought it would be nice to have super powers so I could just fly away to safety.

 

I canít remember an awful lot about the trip back to land. Thinking back, Iím sure itís because I was in a state of shock. I wasnít hurt, I feel thankful about that, although my legs were kind of sore for some reason, and later on I was treated for a couple of minor burns that I hadnít noticed before, thanks to adrenaline. I nearly blessed myself when I saw how slight they wereóI had heard horror stories back at the base about men who had suffered horrific burns and were in agony for ages trying to recover physically from experiences that they would never recover from mentally. I donít remember even thinking when we were heading back to the shore. All I can remember is the cold and guns and the voices. I didnít understand a lot of German then, and everything they said sounded rough and scratchy, like the blanket they gave me. I donít remember fear. But then that didnít really kick in until later.

 

We seemed to travel for an awfully long time after we got back on dry land. I was loaded onto a truck and a guard sat in the back with me, his trusty rifle ever at the ready. It struck me then, and it still amazes me, that the person sitting there with his weapon aimed at me, who was sitting huddled in the corner trying to warm myself up, looked about the age of Cousin Arthurófifteen. He was a boy, playing soldiers, not a young man facing the reality of war. I wonder if he was as scared as he looked. I think he was.

 

God knows what the kid had been taught about the enemy. Maybe that we were coming to invade his homeland, that we were out to take over the world and make it safe for democracy and tea and crumpets. But I didnít have conquering in mind that night, I can promise you that. And at that moment, that fifteen year old was as frightening to me as anything else could have been, if for no other reason than I wasnít sure he knew exactly how to use that rifle he was holding, and who knew that it wouldnít accidentally go off and blow my head off or some other important part of my anatomy?

 

I think it was just a couple of hours before dawn when we finally reached what I later found out was the Dulag Luft. Thatís the processing place for all Allied flyers who are shot down, in a place called Frankfurt-on-Main. Outside the building, there was a huge red and black and white Nazi flag with that ugly swastika glaring out at me, and I was marched up the stone steps and into the building as though I was on bleeding parade, even though there was no one there to watch us, not even guards outside the building. And I wasnít appreciating the walk with my sore legs, either. I came that close to telling them to take their ruddy marching orders andÖ well, I didnít, and I suppose I wasnít all that close to doing it, either. To be honest, I was too tired and wet and scared to do much more than whatever they told me to do, and that wasnít much except get up the stairs, get in my cell, and wait.

 

I didnít realize how exhausted I was until I sat down on that piece of thin material that was supposed to pass as a mattress. About two minutes later I was dead to the world, and if World War Two had been over right then and there, I probably would have said they had to wait till morning for me to celebrate, because I was not going to move unless you stuck a cattle prod up me backside. In any case, I donít know how long it was till they came and got me, but I woke up feeling like Iíd slept for a month, and my wet clothes had stuck to my body, and now even with a thin little blanket I was cold and miserable. I was shivering and my teeth were chattering, but no one offered me any dry clothes or extra blankets or anything warm to drink like Nanís great Earl Grey tea. One big olí Bruno did offer me a prod in the kidneys with the barrel of his rifle, though, and that was enough for me at that time. I moved.

 

I was taken into an office with a big desk and a high-backed chair, and no one in it but me and the bloke with the rifle. I was kept that way for awhile, and I was so cold that I was actually beginning to wish I could be back in that dark bloody cell again so I could at least pull that horrible blanket around me for a bit of warmth. While I was waiting, I realized that I hadnít eaten anything since before we took off the night before and hunger was starting to scrape the lining of my stomach. I had swallowed a fair amount of seawater when I bailed out, too, and I was very thirsty. I debated asking the man with the gun if I could have some of the water sitting in the pitcher behind the desk, but in the end I think I decided it wasnít worth it, and besides, he might not have been able to understand me when I spoke through my chattering teeth.

 

Eventually, the door opened and a smartly dressed officer came into the room and started talking to me like an old friend. I was wise to him straight off, of course, and when he tried to make it sound like he was me Uncle Harvey, I just quoted my name, rank, and serial number. At first he seemed amused by this, but when he started asking more questions and I wouldnít wear it, he started to get cranky and mentioned a few things he could have done to me that would make a jump out of an airplane sound like a walk in Hyde Park. Still, I didnít answer him, partly because I didnít have the answers he wanted, and partly because there was no way I was going to tell a Kraut anything, after the way they treated Jolly Old England.

 

I think this is a good place to defend myself a bit. Almost anyone will tell you, myself included, that I was often among the first in our little group at the Stalag to knock back the idea of anything dangerous. Iím not just talking about escapes, but I canít go into details with you at the momentóhopefully Iíll get to do that in a couple of years. But I mean if anything seemed riskyóand almost everything did when you consider that we were a bunch of prisoners surrounded by about eighty armed guards and twelve-foot barbed wire fencesóI would usually feel the need to lodge a protest. Mind you, I was always outvoted, and sometimes there was no vote involved: the Colonel would just fix me with one of those bloody stares and I was a goner. But I think itís important that you know that the protest was mostly just done out of habit. You know, to be the Devilís Advocate. If no one pointed out the other side of an issue, how would anyone know it had been taken into account? I should have known better, though, and eventually I did: Colonel Hogan had always already thought of everything. And he always had his men in mind whenever he made a decision. I guess itís why in the end, I knew that the govínor was a man worth respecting, unlike most officers I encountered, and when he said ďJump,Ē all I said was ďHow high?Ē I knew I didnít have to question him. Still, it was self-preservation in the beginning, stemming from way back when at home, and that was a hard habit to break. Thank God I did, though, because otherwise I would have gone stir crazy cooling my heels in a prison camp for more than three years. Someday youíll understand.

 

Anyway, I was sitting in that ruddy office for about two hours, and the German officer never seemed to notice or care that I was soggy and shivering in front of him. He never touched me, though I almost wished he had because it would have brought some feeling back into my face. I was starting to go a bit numb, and I was definitely not concentrating on anything he was saying, which was probably a lot of inane threats and propaganda for the Third Reich anyway. When I was released from there, I was taken back to my cell and finally given a change of clothes. It wasnít RAF issue, but I didnít care. It was dry and warm and I couldnít get into the things fast enough. Someone had done a half decent job picking my size, but the pants were a bit too short and I felt like I was standing by the shore waiting for high tide since I could see my ankles without having to tug up me hems. And the shoes were a little big, but that was okay because it left more room for the huge socks. I remember that the left sock had a hole in the big toe, and after awhile that really irritated me because the material kept cutting into my foot between the big toe and the one beside it and I rarely had a chance to adjust it.

 

After that I was given some bread and cheese, and nothing ever tasted so good. I had been starving, as I said, and I had to fight the urge not to wolf all the food down at once and take it slowly, since I didnít know when my next meal was coming. I gulped down all the water, though, and when I dared to ask for more, the guard even got me some. Maybe he was having a good day. In any case I felt satisfied and a little more hopeful after that.

 

A short time later I was taken to another room where someone put a piece of paper and pencil in front of me, and I was told to fill out the form as best I could so they could inform my unit and my family of my safety. It all sounded well and good, but if you thought I was going to tell the Krauts my Nanís address, youíre crazier than I am. Where and when I was born, my trade, my payóall information they werenít going to get from me. When was I shot down? Well there was no point in hiding that from them, since they already knew, so I just wrote ďyesterday,Ē then filled in my name, rank, and serial number, scribbled ďGod Save The King!Ē across the bottom, and signed the form ďCorporal Peter Newkirk, Esquire.Ē Take that, Hitler!

 

Never having been captured before, I didnít know what the normal set up was, and I didnít know how long theyíd be keeping me here before sending me on to the transition camp at Wetzlar or a normal Stalag Luft. There were two other people in the cell I was finally brought back to, one Frenchman and another Englishman. Corporal Andre Villiers and Sergeant John Dickson had been shot down in the last few days and were also waiting to be transferred. Dickson looked okay, but Villiers looked like he had been roughed up a bit. I didnít think I should ask him whether he got that black eye and cut lip from being shot down and captured, or from someone here at the Dulag, and he never told me, so I never found out. Dickson was pretty chatty, said he was out on maneuvers when the Jerries shot down his reconnaissance plane and he was out on his own for a bit longer than he would have liked. We didnít share much information, though, because you never knew if the Germans were listening on the other side of the wall, and after only a couple of hours, it seemed, you became savvy enough even to think that perhaps someone being too chatty was actually a plant in the cell to get you to talk. So we stuck mainly to the weather in England and the Battle of Britain, and, just for good measure, said a few nasty things about the enemy so if they were listening they got quite an earful.

 

Villiers was pulled out of the cell just before midday, and judging by the fight he put up on the way, I think he knew that he was headed for trouble. I didnít see him again for two days, and when I did he looked pretty bad. Shattered, mentally and physically. He must have really made them mad, although it didnít take much to do that. Dickson and I tried to help him by letting him have the least thin bunk and making sure he stayed warm and his cuts didnít touch the dirty floor. But that hardly seemed like enough, and after two more days, he was taken from the cell and we never saw him again. I like to think they took him off to the hospital or finally sent him off to Wetzlar, but I canít say Iím really confident about that, and someday I may actually write to the French government to ask about him. Right now I donít really want to know yet.

 

As for me, they left me alone for a day and then made up a new rule: no sitting down during the day. From sun-up to sundown, it was standing room only, no leaning, no squatting, no bending. Just standing. Now if I was at the Palladium doing a magic show or performing some amazing feat before thousands of mesmerized fans, that wouldnít be a problem. But I didnít have any of me trick cards with me, and besides my legs were still a bit sore and I was dizzy from lack of food, and staying on my feet for twelve hours was about as good a torture as they could have come up with for me. I tried pacing a little bit at first, but that was just as bad as standing still and it made me dizzier so I stopped that. Dickson wasnít even in the room with me any more to pass the time, so I had nothing to occupy my thoughts except a gnawing hunger, cramping legs, and fear. Eventually I decided that if I was going to stand here all day, I would try to make the most of it, so I worked on my ďact,Ē going through a repertoire of stories and songs fit for the King. Once, when I was feeling the hunger so badly that my stomach actually ached, I started singing all the louder, and when I reached the absolute climax of ďA Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square,Ē the guard opened the door as if he was checking that I hadnít had a fit or something, and when I simply looked back at him and kept singing, he shook his head like I was a poor, misguided fellow, and then locked the door again. The blighter didnít realize how lucky he was to get a free show like that. A fellaíd have to pay good money nowadays to get a song and dance routine of like quality.

 

I donít know if it was part of the dayís plan or just to shut me up, but shortly after the guard checked on me, someone brought me more food. I wasnít allowed to sit down to eat it, but I didnít care, as the sight of something to eat took my mind off my sore legs and I ate the watery soup and the stale bread like it was a feast. After that I decided against launching into ďThe Beer Barrel Polka,Ē which, looking back, was probably a good thing for both the Krauts and for me, as it was never one of my better pieces. I went back to standing in the middle of the room and gave an oration, did imitations of Churchill and Bogart and even Charlie Chaplin, although there was no one in the room with me to watch that one. I must have sounded insane, but it was a way of surviving, and I was going to hang onto hope for as long as I could.

 

I must say I wasnít treated terribly badly at the Dulag. Other than not being allowed to sit down and not having a lot of food or water, they didnít ask much of me. I was pulled out of my cell every day and brought back to the room where the neatly dressed officer would ask me the same questions: What unit was I with? Where did I come from? What was my job? Where was my family? Every day I refused to answer, but I never got hit over it. And one day when my legs were particularly tired and I was singing my lungs out, I could swear I heard that officer at the door. I should have charged him admission.

 

Eventually I was shipped over to the transition camp at Wetzlar, and I finally got the treatment I had expected and feared all along. The Captain in charge there was a small, psychopath of a man, whose idea of keeping order was to keep us all on our toesóliterally. If I thought standing all day at the Dulag was bad, I was in for a shock. This blighter kept us not only walking and standing, but working. Hard work, too: digging, pushing rocks around, building huts and repairing barracksóback-breaking stuff that yours truly was never meant to do. We got up at four in the morning and didnít get to go back to our lice-ridden beds till after sunset. And when we were rationed out some meager soup made from water and rutabaga, I could barely stay awake long enough to remove the crawlies from it before I gulped it down and fell asleep till the next day. I donít know why I was picked to be part of that work group; certainly not everyone had to do this. But I made the most of it, using the voice God gave me to start the boys singing and get their minds off what was going on. It made me a hero of sorts at the camp, but I didnít do it for them. To be perfectly honest, I did it for myself. Singing songs from home made me miss it just a little less, and I learned a few new tunes in the process, that I used while at my permanent camp during the next three and a half years.

 

One thing I havenít really talked about is roll call. Roll call was a very tedious process, mainly because the guards couldnít seem to count properly. I learned German numbers really quickly, and I soon discovered it was a real treat to watch the Krauts stumble over each other if they were saying ďsebenĒ and you said ďdrei.Ē This usually got them confused enough to start over again, and by the time Captain Happiness came out to receive the report, the guards had counted us two or three times, but never came up with the same total. The prisoners, of course, did not feel compelled to help the poor sods by standing still, and most of the time one or two of us would move from the already-counted end of the line to the still-to-be-counted end, and back again later when someone else showed up to confirm the count. This served to boost our morale no end, although it did mean we ended up standing outside in formation for sometimes up to four hours. We never ever did this when it got too cold, but somehow they still couldnít get the count right and we would stand there till we thought our noses and our ears would fall off.

 

Most of the men at Wetzlar were pretty scared, since being there meant you had no permanent home yet and you were never sure if someone was going to come back for you to take you back to the Dulag, or worse, throw you in a camp with a sadistic Kommandant who would treat you even worse than you were being treated now. I tried not to think about it. After all, I was just a small part of a Blenheim crew; I didnít have any sensitive information, and I wasnít in such fantastic physical shape that the Krauts would want me for much more than a laughing stock. Sure, Iíd started out a as a pretty fine physical specimen, but after a prolonged time without regular meals and a good nightís sleep I was no Mr. Universe, thatís for certain. Iíd lost a fair amount of weight and my skin had lost some of its normal healthy colour, replaced instead by a pale complexion that did not complement my baby blue eyes. It took me about a month of Le Beauís good cooking to get that backóthough if you ever tell him that I loved his culinary creations, Iíll deny it.

 

We were supposed to be able to get mail and Red Cross packages while we were at the camp, but the whole idea was laughable. You were wet behind the ears when you first got there, and some men were still shell-shocked from their bail-out or their stay at the Dulag to do much more than walk around like zombies. A couple of prisoners spent their days in tears, moaning and carrying on like they were at the bleeding Wailing Wall. At first I thought it was a bit of a bad show, really; after all, I was taking this like a man, I thought. But one night I had a dream about home that mixed with pictures of what was happening here, and the next day I walked around in such a daze and so full of grief that I didnít think those poor blokes were so feeble any more, and I wanted to get right down on my knees and join them, even if it meant I got the lashings that went with it. I guess those other fellas just had more dreams than I did, and a lot worse memories. Either that or they had a lot more to lose.

 

In any case, most of us were in no shape to argue about our lack of Red Cross packages, and on the rare occasion when they did appear, there were never enough to go around, so the Krauts would keep them, saying they didnít want to start trouble in the ranks by giving to some and not to others. If you ask me, it was just a nice excuse to keep the goodies all for themselves. We certainly didnít get to see the stuff, no matter how many times they said they were going to keep the parcels in a safe place until there was enough for everyone. How could there be enough for everyone, when prisoners kept coming and going? As for mail, by the time we got enough strength together to write, we were shipped out, and we had to wait even longer for anything to reach us. I didnít get anything from Nan or Louise till about a month after Iíd been moved, which for me meant about two full months with no contact from home, and even then all the news was out of date, and the letters were full of holes and black lines, so all I could get out of Nanís first letter was: ďYour father is _____, which is more than I can say for your sister. Every time he hears a _____, he says Ď_____ that German _____, and God bless _____!íĒ I felt like I was playing a game of Hangman where I had to fill in all the missing bits or get hung at the gallows!

 

Well, my dearest, this has turned into quite a narrative, and not always a very pleasant one at that. I suppose when youíre talking about being shot at, fished out of freezing water, and thrown in jail while forced to endure the humiliations that so many prisoners did, then itís bound to get a bit melancholy. But as our fellow Englishman Charles Dickens once said, ďIt was the best of times, it was the worst of times.Ē I had never been so scared in my life before then, but Iíve sure been a lot more scared since then. A lot of water has passed under the bridge, and Iíve done a lot of growing up. In some ways I think Iíve grown old. I donít do as many magic tricks any more, and even though I still sing, I donít sing the old songs quite the same wayóI had a real need for those songs back then; they gave me a lot of hope when I thought I was losing it all. But now, most of those songs bring back memories that I would often rather forget, or at least move to the back of my mind for awhile.

 

I saw the worst of mankind during my time behind those barbed wire fences, both from the Germans and from the people who were supposed to be on our side. Some of the stuff I saw would make your skin crawl, but as I sit here, having a bit of hair of the dog, as it were, those things are starting to fade into the background for a time, and you donít need to hear about them, not yet anyway.

 

One thing I did learn is that bad and good are not determined by the type of uniform you wear, even though I used to think so, like every other naÔve kid who ever walked the earthócowboys and Indians; black hats and white hats: good versus evil was always clearly marked. But it didnít happen like that in Germany. I have some pretty good memories of mankind, too: men joining together against a common enemy. Trying desperately to triumph over their fears. Trying to simply survive from day to day so they could get back home. I found myself with four new brothers by the end of the war, and I tell you, love, I wouldnít trade them for all the tea in China, even if it meant having to go back to that Hell on earth. What we created was special, and all five of us know it. And so I suppose thatís what I got out of this second ďWar To End All WarsĒ: a family.

 

Happy New Year, my dear one. I am still slightly tight after last night, and today I am planning to call the Colonel, Carter, Kinch, and Le Beau, and tell them how much I love them. Theyíll laugh and tell me Iím drunk. And theyíll be right, but Iíll still love them.

 

War is Hell. But brothers are forever.

 

Love,

 

Peter

 

PSóIím not allowed to talk about what I did in the war yet. But I want you to know that being shot down wasnít the end of olí Peter Newkirk. I thought it was, but it was really only the beginning. Had I known then what I know now, I might not have been so scared when I was at the Dulag and at Wetzlar. And I would have laughed out loud when they told me that I was going to Stalag 13.

 


Text and original characters copyright 2004 by Linda Groundwater

This copyright covers only  original material and characters, and in no way intends to infringe upon the privileges of the holders of the copyrights, trademarks, or other legal rights, for the Hogan's Heroes universe.