The Arrival of Corporal Louis LeBeau
Certain miscellaneous items of personal information about
the Hogan’s Heroes character LeBeau (ex. His serial number) have been taken
from actual episodes of the TV series. Special
thanks to Vegas_iwish of the Larry Hovis Oasis in Yahoo!Clubs for some of the
background historical details regarding World War II France.
Rémy, France 1940
A small group of five airmen of the Free French military forces were huddled together in the basement of a small country restaurant owned by a member of the French Resistance. They were about to form a hideout campaign among themselves and their air unit. They had all broken the oath imposed on them by the Vichy government - an oath not to take up arms against the Germans. This oath also entailed the right to not be captured and held by Germans. They had been on parole from France’s surrender to Hitler’s forces and were ready to break their parole away from the authority of the Vichy regime. They had all resented Marshal Pétain’s surrender to the Germans after having enlisted in the regular French army before the forming of the Maginot Line – France’s foremost geographic stronghold of French Resistance operations. The men were all clean-cut, fair-skinned, disciplined, patriotic, and came from different parts of France and came from mostly different backgrounds in general. There was Colonel Phillipe Monier, their commanding officer, a lanky 43 year-old Frenchman from Lyons who was energetic and well-liked and had a particular interest in doing his part for the war effort by following in his father’s footsteps, for his father had fought with the French against the Germans in World War I. For that reason, Phillipe had joined the military during peacetime in 1923. Under his command on the bomber was a stocky 28 year-old sergeant named François Délard from Annecy, a handsome but rather quiet and reserved type who was surprisingly never squeamish about combat or facing the enemy up close. During basic training, he once startled his fellow officers by hiding behind a tree and suddenly shouting in German to test their reaction in the event of capture. Upon Hitler’s invasion of France, Délard was about to get married in a beautiful cathedral in Paris when he was called off to war - a circumstance he took as an abrupt interference with his personal life. When he first met the others in his unit, he told the story of how his fiancée Hélène had to wait almost six years before they got engaged because her parents wanted her to become a nun. Hitler’s march into Paris literally disrupted Délard’s wedding plans, which had to be postponed until he was able to have a military wedding at where the air unit was stationed, a location he did not prefer for his wedding. His anger about it was primarily what drove him to advance to the rank of sergeant. A Swiss friend of his who had attended the wedding joked that how he handled these circumstances the way he did was “typical French motivation”. Then there was 22 year-old Private Pierre Fouchet, a strapping, plain-faced young farmer from Lot who reportedly was famous in his village for raising the healthiest hogs in the province for several years before the war. Of all the men in the unit, he was the one who had the most difficulty adjusting to a military environment and routine, but never faltered in his efforts as a new soldier in an air unit. There was Private Alain Beurel, an adventurous and sophisticated 26 year-old Parisian who found the French call to war to be in his case an escape from mundane city life and a chance to learn new and fascinating skills not typically found in urban civilian culture. He came from a wealthy family in Paris and he learned English while living in England for three years before the war. He grew up with friends who took him on boating trips at the famed grand, bustling port of Marseilles, where he developed a love for pleasure sailing, and up until the war, everyone who knew him believed if he would ever join the military he would join the navy. Upon the German invasion, on a whim and for no apparent reason, he ironically chose the army air corps instead of the navy. He often talked about his plan to migrate to America after the war if he survives it.
Then there was a petite, diminutive 33 year-old corporal named Louis LeBeau. One of twelve children in a family from Epernay, he was a cultured and artsy type who during his boyhood was by all accounts the ideal archetype of a French boy in a typical French village – outwardly creative, hard-working, fun-loving and usually well-behaved with his parents and other adults. During his boyhood his favorite subjects of study in school were history and English. He also loved to draw and paint, but only in his spare time and not necessarily with a desire to become a painter. As an occasional, more adventure-oriented hobby, his father Maurice took him on big game hunting trips in Africa. This was a great treat for little Louis and very much considered a reward for good behavior and hard work in school. When he was 13 years old his family had moved to Paris, where young Louis became an apprentice chef after becoming immediately intrigued by the fine art of French cuisine so famously perfected and promoted in the legendary capital city. This fine art instantaneously became his passion. By the time he turned 14, his apprenticeship was completed and he was officially allowed to cook in one of the finest restaurants in Paris. Visitors at the restaurant who sampled his amazing culinary creations and then met him were astounded that a chef could cook with such finesse at such a young age. His incredible skill made him many admiring acquaintances, which included upper-class gentry and foreign travelers, some of them much older than him. They would also be intrigued by his vibrant and very engaging personality when they conversed with him socially upon complimenting him on his gourmet expertise. Young lady guests who politely complimented him on his cooking were the ones who most appreciated his unique, elfish smile, his almost-flamboyant wit, and youthful enigmatic aura of hospitality that was inexplicably light-hearted and far from snobbish. He was definitely a distinguished presence among so many older chefs who provided Paris with their art. With his young age, quirky and indescribably cute manner, and short stature of 5’3, he was seen as a loveable curiosity amidst the other chefs of Paris, and he approved of it thoroughly. No one told him that he happened to be the youngest professional chef in Paris, but his admirers were more likely to hint or otherwise openly let him know that he was very possibly one of the best. In 1930, the LeBeau family had started their own café, its proprietor the head of the family, Maurice. Louis was immediately its official chef after years of cooking in an upscale restaurant where no members of his family were working along with him. He felt a sense of comfort to finally be a part of a business operation run by his very own family, and was pleased that his grandparents often came to lend a helping hand with light cleaning duties during the busiest times at the café. Of all the elders in the LeBeau family, his grandmother on his mother’s side was the most active for her age, and in splendid physical shape with, interestingly, figure measurements of 36-24-36. In the spring of 1934, Louis married a charming, mild-mannered Frenchwoman named Babette Louvois, who he went to school with when he was a young boy in Epernay. They saw each other as simply friends during their childhood but when her family moved to Paris in 1933 for very important economic reasons, she would come to the café just to see Louis and after just a few months of her visits, they both realized they had fallen in love with each other. She was mesmerized by his rather boyish facial features, his expressive brown eyes, how his coal-black hair was cut very close to his head as if to draw attention to his ears, his emotional sensitivity, and of course, his incredible talent for cooking. He found himself irresistibly drawn to her dainty-yet-soulful beauty that reminded him of women in many famous French paintings, particularly the Grecian women in neo-classical paintings by Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres. She was also one of the kindest and most considerate people he had ever known. She was also very practical and sensible, like him. They decided that they should wait until at least three years after what came to be known as the Great Depression was over with before having their first child.
Unfortunately, Louis and Babette LeBeau noticed that instead of enjoying the fruits of a smooth recovery from the ghastly economic sufferings of the 1930’s, In April of 1940, France faced surrender when Germany’s Adolph Hitler marched into Paris with his army of the National Socialist Party. They were disappointed that the reality of this would require them to wait a little longer before starting a family of their own. Babette heard about this German army’s immediate plans on evacuating all Jews out of France and she decided to join a small group of women who organized themselves to hide Jewish children in a church. She had a woman friend who was a Hungarian Jew living in Paris, and her children were one of the first who were hidden. The tender-hearted Babette was sickened by the thought of innocent little children who happened to be Jewish being included among those despised and killed by the Nazis. Unfortunately, the women underestimated the deplorable tactics of the Nazis, who were in the process of searching out members of the race considered the most inferior by this political party, and Babette and three other French women were soon discovered during a raid. When the news reached Louis, he was absolutely mortified to learn that one of the women who were shot by a member of what was called the SS was Babette. She was caught hiding the children, who were immediately taken away to what was reported to be dreadful Nazi-controlled camps intended to lead to their death. Louis never knew that she was shot for audaciously resisting an order to turn herself in to a sort of Nazi police force called the Gestapo. For all he knew, Babette was shot in cold blood for nothing more than the simple act of protecting defenseless young innocents. Had he been there to see it, he would have been completely stunned by her uncharacteristic bout of audacity, which some other people probably would have called stupidity, but not him. All the same, he was disgusted that a Nazi man would go so far as to kill a woman, and a Frenchwoman at that. It was disturbing enough that female Jews were not exempt from the terrible Nazi prerogative for anti-Semitic murder. Being a proudly chivalrous Frenchman by nature, LeBeau just could not conceive this case of German male disregard for the fairer sex. Just as much as any other patriotic Frenchman, he strongly disapproved of the Nazi propaganda and especially Hitler’s invasion of beautiful France. Even more than before, he thought of the enemy Germans as utterly despicable to the core.
An undeniable romantic, he sulked in despair and misery for a few days to the point where he almost lost interest in his cooking. Almost. Then soon one Saturday morning while he awoke out of bed something in him snapped. Without no hesitation whatsoever he decided to join the military forces of the Free French. By immediate political affiliation, he became a partisan upon the surrender of Marshal Pétain and advent of the French Resistance. He planned to tell his family the very next day. He ceremoniously announced it to them. The only disadvantage his parents thought of was the possibility that Louis’s talents would be stymied in the drab world of army cooking rather than his beloved art of more elaborate civilian fare. But then they considered the possibility of his cooking becoming so famous in the military that he would be given a chance to become the personal chef of a high-ranking French military official or dignitary, perhaps even General Charles DeGaulle himself, a general they would soon discover to have the makings of a fine leader for their country in peacetime. Gilles Courboisier, a longtime friend of the family and fellow expert chef was contacted to replace LeBeau in the family café until the end of the war. Louis had complete confidence in the old man, who in the early stages of his apprenticeship years ago had taught him the basics of traditional French cuisine for high-class dining establishments. At the café, Louis cooked what was declared his final wartime culinary creation as a civilian. He did it at a special private goodbye party for him, who everyone there saw was officially about to go off to war. Louis’s father Maurice said his goodbye with the intuitive comment that his son might, just might find himself in some kind of position of being able to cook fancy meals especially for just a small few very close army friends, free of charge, while serving his country as a soldier in this war – a comment that would later turn out to have been a prophetic one.
As a new private in the Resistance forces under General De Gaulle, rather than joining the ground commandos, he had decided to join the Free French air corps specifically for the thrill of flying a Lancaster bomber in England, but because of an admitted case of claustrophobia he all but rejected the training of tail gunner. He was slightly nervous about that particular duty, but was willing to do it if it meant making him a more effective airman to shoot down German planes. He decided that he was willing to crawl into any closed-in spaces if it meant doing something good for the war effort against Nazi Germany. Despite his short stature, he felt perfectly capable and healthy enough to be a good airman for his beloved France. His serial number was 19176546. He was truly happy to have this chance to personally “get back at the Germans” in this respectable manner of serving his country in the process. It was a principle that motivated him during basic training, usually during air maneuvers. He was also delighted to discover that the dexterity and mental quickness he had developed when big game hunting during his boyhood with his father had carried over into his skill in flying a bomber. Combined with the fury over the tragic and unjust murder of his wife, this amplification of skill enhanced what he already acquired in conventional combat training and as it turned out, it was a level of skill that soon enabled him to advance to the rank of corporal in an exceptionally short period of time. He smiled proudly as the corporal stripe was sewn onto the rank patch on the upper part of the sleeve of his light khaki army shirt, directly beneath the insignia of France. Inside, he felt this new step into army life was a world away from his daily routine as a civilian chef in Paris. Because of his uniform, his physical appearance even felt like something from another world. Accustomed to simple white professional chef attire for years during work in civilian life, wearing a uniform of the Free French air corps felt very different and very wonderful to him. There was something about the taupe-brown jacket bearing the insignia of France on the sleeve and the standard dark red military beret and scarf that made him feel strangely empowered, almost like a new person in a new life. The taupe-brown leather boots and leather gloves to match the jacket almost made him feel physically stronger than he actually was. The full uniform gave him a comfortable sense of belonging to all others in the Free French air corps, and ultimately belonging to France. There was an indescribable mystique to both the uniform and the sense of belonging and purpose it represented.
His ability to make friends in his unit was no less comfortable for him. When he was promoted to the rank of corporal, his fellow servicemen in his unit that evening treated him to a party to celebrate – which was in this case a very French excuse to celebrate, because LeBeau by all intents and purposes had advanced in rank for France, not merely on account of any desire for personal prestige or to impress his family and friends back home. It was so alike when he completed his apprenticeship and advanced to the title of professional chef, yet so different from it. Sergeant Délard insisted that the chef to be hired to prepare the festive civilian delicacies for the party should not be Chef LeBeau himself. To the surprise of everyone invited, the sight of the fine gourmet creations served at his celebration did not cause LeBeau to break down and cry in a state of homesickness from his gladly productive kitchen of Café LeBeau that had been a part of his joy and contentment for so long in Paris. They knew how emotional he was in general. LeBeau’s army friends present at the party theorized that it was the wine that numbed any potential pining for his esteemed, hospitable trade. He even critiqued a dessert in front of everyone, comparing it to his signature crème broulée that so many people complimented him on for years at his café. Private Fouchet half-jokingly commented that he noticed that, for an abundantly skilled Parisian chef, Corporal LeBeau managed to tolerate a very boring military diet of simplistic, much more “humble” food concoctions quite well. The nature of typical army meals, shameful by French standards and pathetically bland particularly to the true French palate, were the only reason LeBeau since his enlistment never volunteered to work in mess duty, or KP, as it was known in the American military. LeBeau’s declining of the offer for him to do army-style cooking was an instance of famous classic French pride in action, and perhaps would be viewed as a form of Gallic snobbery by some foreigners who do not understand the ways and philosophies of the renowned culture. In his first letter to his parents, he assured them that army life would never cause him to lose touch with his background and gourmet expertise, and that his refusal to cook mundane, painfully ordinary army meals is very much a part of this. He reminded them that with the advent of wartime rationing of certain foods on the market, meals of luxury would be well appreciated when the war ends. And he added that plenty of these foods as well as his fabulous talent would be needed for various celebrations among France’s people should she attain victory over the Germans.
A member of the OSS (Organization of Special Services), a well-known branch of the Resistance, was organizing a hideout plan for the air squadron. Safehouses were installed in various territories from different checkpoints both north and south of the Maginot Line and the five were to be sent to one located in Nazi-occupied territory, primarily in order that while in hiding they may help the OSS in Resistance activities more directly while not in combat. Monier, LeBeau, Délard, Fouchet, and Beurel had found a reliable safehouse. During breakfast with their host and hostess, a Monsieur and Madame Véloux, the five men were amused to learn a popular wartime slang term for the Germans, “le Bosch”. Among the vernacular of the Free French, it was an angry little tidbit of jargon that was just as popular as the “jive talk” of American culture’s young swing music fans, or “jitterbugs”, as they were often called. LeBeau picked it up the word ”Bosch” immediately, and never forgot it. Madame and Monsieur Véloux next taught them that this slang word translated into English is “the Krauts”. As a simple important feature of their position of hiding, Monier, LeBeau, Délard, Fouchet, and Beurel were each given an outfit of dark-colored civilian clothing. LeBeau was given a custom-made civilian outfit of a dark blue jacket with tan leather trimming above the breast, matching dark blue trousers, and dark blue cap – a smart-looking example of typical Frenchmen’s fashions from the previous decade. Slightly out of style, LeBeau thought, but at least its color was good for nighttime hiding.
During the entire year of 1941, the five French airmen were deeply immersed into the clandestine routine of typical Resistance fighters in hiding – residing in the safehouse, each under an assumed name lest any outside contacts be Nazi spies. By the last month of that year, they were informed of the news of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, which meant the Americans were about to enter the war, and no longer only those American troops sent to Europe prior to the attack. Appropriately, an OSS agent named Jean-Paul Lanouère was in charge of the Resistance activities coming in and out of the safehouse. Upon contact from an OSS collegue of Lanouère, Colonel Monier was the first to be transferred to Germany under the strange circumstances of a special operations assignment with another French air unit that contacted him via the Underground. According to a secret message sent to the safehouse, “they needed another colonel of the Free French regime” – whoever “they” were. For reasons unbeknownst to the other men, Monier was not permitted to bring along any of the men from his air squadron. The four Frenchmen of the Lanouère safehouse had just lost their commanding officer, and LeBeau instantly felt a sinking feeling that he and his fellow remaining airmen were about to be transferred to Germany – AXIS territory, for the first time since his enlistment. As a member of the Allied military forces, LeBeau had known all along that the safehouse was not intended to hold them for the entire war, and that they would eventually have to leave and serve in enemy territory.
Daily life in hiding was relatively uneventful until the following spring season, when LeBeau, Délard, Fouchet, and Beurel received a message from a French contact in London telling them they have to leave France and join a special group of agents in Frankfurt, where they were to become part of a special spy network of the OSS situated there in enemy territory. This spy network, according to the message, was an elite branch of the OSS that called for select Free French military servicemen who were not commandos. The four men left early one Thursday morning to an uncertain feeling but a sense of anticipated excitement. By train, they traveled to the easternmost region of France – Alsace and Lorraine, and crossed the border.
Frankfurt, Germany 1942
While traveling on foot in their civilian clothing, carrying suitcases containing the military uniforms and minor personal effects, the four men followed the message’s instructions to go to an abandoned farmhouse bearing a certain description. It was a farmhouse that once belonged to a Jewish family who apparently had been taken away from their humble property. They approached the door, and found three men in plain clothes there to greet them, but not in a kindly manner. One of the men, a middle-aged man in a gray suit abruptly asked for their names, ranks, and serial numbers. The third man stood staring at their suitcases, as if their suitcases were an important part of the encounter. The four Resistance fighters nervously announced themselves accordingly, but LeBeau felt that there was something about this that did not seem proper. Perplexed and stunned, LeBeau, Délard, Fouchet and Beurel were ordered to change into their military uniforms at once. Their personal effects were taken away from them with the exception of harmless photographs and small sentimental souvenirs from home, which were put into the pockets of their military uniforms. It was plain to see that the three men who had been waiting for them might as well be Germans. LeBeau was incensed.
« Je vais retourner ces vêtements à chez Lanouère, à sa
porte, avec une note qui dit que vous êtes des prisonniers de guerre en
Allemagne. Vous n’auriez pas
besoin de les porter. Vos tenues
militaires suffiraient. » (trans. « I am going to
return these clothes to the Lanouère home, at his door, with a note that says
that you are prisoners of war in Germany. You
will not need to wear them. Your
military uniforms will suffice. »
Délard: “Mais, pourquoi?” (trans.= “But, why?”)
Man in gray:
“Parce que nous
travaillons pour les Allemands. Vous
avez de la chance que nous ne sommes pas Gestapo. Nous sommes un peu plus gentils avec vous, vous soldats de la
Résistance.” (trans.= “Because we work for the Germans.
You are lucky that we are not Gestapo.
We are a little more gentle with you, you soldiers of the Resistance.”
Vous êtes des collaborateurs! Ah! C’est un truc! Un truc affreux!” (trans.=
You! You are collaborators! Ah! This is a trick! An awful trick!”
Private Fouchet stood in silence, with an upset expression on his face instead of words to say in response to this unpleasant surprise. LeBeau saw that each of the three men had brought a German military guard to make sure LeBeau, Délard, Fouchet, and Beurel would not attempt escape from this carefully contrived trap. In an inner fit of anger LeBeau contemplated shouting to his friends to bolt out the door and swiftly run away but then he noticed that the German guard was armed, and then he looked at Fouchet and saw that he too noticed it, so no one was about to attempt to run. Besides, the thought occurred to them that they were reminded to consider themselves lucky that they were not about to be shot by these men for taking action against the Third Reich. The four French compatriots of the Resistance had fallen into the hands of a crew of Nazi collaborators who had found out by espionage that they were one of Colonel Monier’s men who were in hiding. It wasn’t long before LeBeau figured out that one of the contacts visiting the Lanouère safehouse back in France was not a contact, but a Nazi collaborator undercover. It was a person whose identity remained unknown to Lanouère and his three hiding guests. The pro-German scheme had placed a phony invitation for the four French Resistance fighters to join a special OSS spy team in Germany – a team that for all they knew didn’t even exist. They had been tricked with sickening simplicity, and equally as sickening to the proudly patriotic LeBeau was the obvious reality that a few French were Nazi collaborators.
They were taken to a small, designated building in Hamburg, located only two blocks away from Gestapo headquarters. There they stood in an office there where newly captured Allied troops face martial arrest for treason against the Third Reich and are formally declared prisoners of war and informed of their rights and limitations as negotiated by the Geneva Convention – a well-known committee in neutral Switzerland set up for the establishment of negotiations pertaining to prisoner of war life in Nazi-occupied Europe. It was understood that the captures of Sergeant Délard, Corporal LeBeau, Private Fouchet, and Private Beurel were of a non-combat situation. They were informed that the Geneva Convention consisted of officials from both sides of the war. For the four detained airmen, the each copy of the document was typed in French for them. When it was LeBeau’s turn to report himself, he gave his name, rank, and serial number that were recorded in the document that officially declared him a prisoner of war and presented a list of rights and limitations. He was asked to read over the document carefully and sign it. He read about compulsory work detail, recreational privileges, and the right to receive Red Cross packages. He did not yet feel like a prisoner of war, even though he heard the words and saw the declaration in print. A French language copy of the document was to be mailed to Monsieur and Madame LeBeau back in Paris in order to notify them that their son had been captured and taken to a prisoner of war camp in Germany. Louis read in his list of rights that family members, wives, and friends have the right to know. Verification of which camp he was to be sent to was also stated. Immediately told, he was to be held in Luft Stalag13 located in an area just outside Hammelburg. To his dismay, LeBeau found that Sergeant Délard was assigned to another camp – Luft Stalag 17, where he was told many captive French airmen were already at. Private Fouchet was assigned to Stalag 8. However, LeBeau was relieved to hear that Private Beurel was assigned to Stalag 13 with him. LeBeau thought to himself at least he would have one fellow countryman from his air unit to keep him company in the camp. Before being escorted out of the building, the four men were informed that their papers would be sent to the commanders of the stalags to which they were assigned, and would be kept there as prisoner records.
With the armed German soldier who brought them to the office, they were next taken to a supply station not far from the headquarters from which they just came. It was a supply station that was set up by order of the Geneva Convention to provide new prisoners of war with a small amount of certain basic provisions courtesy of the Red Cross, namely two items of warm civilian clothing and one ration of plain, taupe-colored long underwear, both to be worn for cold weather seasons at the camp. This was meant to help compensate for whatever poor source of heating in the barracks the new prisoners were about to face. The four airmen stood over a pile of simple, wool crew-neck sweaters. Délard selected a brown and a black one. Fouchet selected a gray one and a blue one. Beurel selected a brown one and a green one. LeBeau selected a red one. The second one he selected was a blue one for when the red one is being washed or in case he loses the red one, but the red one was clearly his favorite. Sergeant Délard suggested that LeBeau, Fouchet, and Beurel make a hole in one of the sleeves of their sweaters so as to show the France insignia on their shirts underneath, purely to identify them as French as they wear them. They took a pair of scissors and made the holes. The pair of scissors was made available with a tape measure in case alterations had to be made to any of the provided clothing. They put on their sweaters over their military shirts and under their uniform jackets, carrying under their arms their second ones folded up in their long underwear. As they walked out with their modest parcel of clothing, they recognized that the long underwear was sufficient to be worn as pajamas.
It was then time for them to board the prisoner of war train destined for the stalags. This train had started their route from different parts of enemy territory, where there had been Nazi troops awaiting the downing of Allied bombers in order to make the capture. Combat areas were not the only places where Nazis were waiting to capture grounded Allied airmen. Safehouses that were discovered and reported to the Gestapo were also game for the acquisition of Allied troops to be taken away to the stalags. The train’s five boxcars carried Allied captives for five stops. Five stops at five stalags were scheduled. The first was for Stalag 5, the second for Stalag 8, the third for Stalag 11, the fourth for Stalag 13, and the fifth for Stalag 17. LeBeau, Délard, Fouchet, and Beurel were now aware that they were not alone in this excursion to German-controlled captivity.
LeBeau, Fouchet, and Beurel were immediately separated from their sergeant, who was led inside the fifth boxcar reserved for captives to be taken to Stalag 17, and the remaining four Frenchmen were left for loading, but obviously not with their sergeant Délard. LeBeau suspected that this was because the German guard on the train wanted to see to it that French privates and corporals be deprived of their own unit’s commanding officers in the stalag in order to make escape more difficult. He believed this to be how the Nazis hate the French more than they hate the other nationalities of Allies, maybe even second only to their hatred of the Jews. Could Hitler’s “German supremacy” following be jealous of French success in the arts? Could it be that deep down the Nazis fear France’s historic achievements? LeBeau certainly thought so. He had heard stories of German ridicule of the French in this time of war. He heard about a Nazi philosophy that compared to the German army, the French forces are weak because the French are less disciplined and are a weaker people genetically, and that French sentimentality and the French schools of thought worsen this weakness and appear pathetic against the German proclivity toward exceptional military prowess. He wished he could somehow attain a chance to help refute this philosophy in a way while being held captive as a prisoner of war. Little did he realize that his wish would soon come true.
As he sat staring around him, he noticed by the uniforms surrounding him that he and Beurel were the only French in the boxcar. The others were British, American, and Canadian airmen. The non-French airmen he was seated around were definitely English-speaking men who began to converse among themselves. What they were was a small group of four dark-haired men who were seated near each other according to the fact that they were all headed for the same stalag. It was the same stalag as he was headed to – Stalag 13. They were three American and one British. Like LeBeau, they had volunteered for the Underground, and were still considered volunteers in the event of being captured and sent to a Luft Stalag. The condition of being prisoners of war was not to diminish their status as Underground volunteers. The highest in rank was a confident and fearless-looking American colonel bearing the name of Robert E. Hogan on a small patch on the front of his dark brown leather bomber jacket. The next were the next in rank, a mustached sergeant he noticed as a Negro, or “colored” as he learned Americans called it. He had no bomber jacket with his name on it but announced himself as James Kinchloe. However, he told the others with him that he preferred to be called just Kinch, like his friends back in the States did since he was a boy. He was wearing a basic uniform in a shade of green typical of American army attire, with a simple khaki brown cap. He sounded very intelligent and soft-spoken, and from the way he and Hogan related to each other in the conversation he was in the same unit, under Hogan’s command. The other American seated with them was a younger man, a Private Olsen, who was also in Hogan’s air unit. He was slow to introduce himself due to his state of shock that he was headed for a prisoner of war camp. He was wearing an American airmen’s jacket of murky dark gray with a layer of white wool on the collar and on the sides of his cap. The British man was a corporal of the Royal Air Force who was distinguished-looking sitting with the three Americans. His name was Peter Newkirk and he had a slightly tanned, ruddy face with short sideburns next to his ears and wore a blue uniform with a matching wedge cap.
LeBeau’s eyes turned back to Hogan. He was not only the highest-ranking American there, but he also evoked a quiet sense of self-assuredness that seemed to automatically personify the courageous all-American military man. His face had sharp features and piercing eyes and he not at all seemed upset or stunned to be a newly captured prisoner of war. This man Hogan’s demeanor was so relaxed that it was as if he had been expecting to be captured by the Germans all along, even before his plane was shot down. Though LeBeau did not yet learn about Hogan’s accomplishments or how he became a colonel prior to his capture, there was something about Hogan that reminded him of the great American men throughout history he used to learn about in school. Hogan reminded him of George Washington in particular. Such was his first impression of this calm, straight-faced colonel of the United States Army Air Corps. There would soon be much more about him for the little Frenchman to be amazed by.
Impressed with this interesting group of fellow Allied airmen, for a few minutes he listened to their fast-paced English, with Corporal Newkirk displaying a prominently different accent from that of the American men with him. LeBeau felt confident that his English was good enough for him to at least become friends with these four men – an idea he thought of when considering the possibility that they may be assigned to the same barracks at the stalag. No less importantly, he felt confident that he understood English well enough to follow Hogan’s orders, especially if they would be housed together. He remembered how well he learned English in school when he was a boy, and practiced it when an occasional English-speaking guest at the Café LeBeau would ask for him and compliment him on his cooking in English. He especially enjoyed it when young, pretty English-speaking lady visitors, mostly American and British tourists in Paris, would practice their French with him, and they often smiled coyly as they complimented him on his cooking in his language. To his delight, he had found that being complimented on his English by these same visitors had a definite charm to it. His very nasal voice would become high-pitched when in a state of agitation or excitement and also when he was stressing words. Though he was not born in Paris, his schmaltzy dialect had become characteristically Parisian, as if by osmosis from the effects of his enculturation into Paris life from his earlier years. He went ahead and introduced himself to the four men, exchanging brief and trivial cordials of greetings. Hogan told him he was from Bridgeport, Connecticut. LeBeau told them what part of France he was from and how he got captured, and what he did for a living before joining the army. They understood his English perfectly. He told them English was one of his favorite subjects in school. He left it at that and allowed them to continue their conversation. He decided he did not want to tell them more details about him or create a social bond with them unless he happened to find himself in their direct presence on a daily basis in the camp.
These moments of pleasantness were interrupted by the reality that the train had instantly come to a halt – the signal that announced the first stop. They could faintly hear a German voice shouting “Raus! Raus!”, calling for the captives in boxcar 1 to step out. LeBeau shifted in his seat, folding his arms tightly. The stillness of boxcar 4 was felt and all conversation immediately stopped as LeBeau and his fellow captives waited four minutes in absolute silence. The four minutes allowed for time for a roll call of the unloaded men and for them to fall in line for their entrance into the camp, the stalag’s sergeant of the guard at the gate to bring them in. They knew there were armed guards there to make sure no one would take off from the stop and run away into the nearby woods. The train continued on for another twenty-two minutes before its next stop – the stop at Stalag 8. The same voice called out for the captives in boxcar 2 to step out. In sadness, LeBeau thought of Fouchet stepping out. Another four minutes went by. The train continued on for the stop at Stalag 11. This time, the voice sounded louder to the captives in boxcar 4. The conversation among the captives in boxcar 4 diminished as everyone in it at the same time realized that it would not be long now. The next four-minute stop of the train came and went. The train continued on for just a few more minutes before the stop for Stalag 13. When the train came to a halt, LeBeau squirmed and everyone in the boxcar froze, everyone except Colonel Hogan.
“All right, fellas. This is it.” announced Hogan, just seconds before the German guard on the train slid open the door and shouted his abrupt order for them to unload themselves out of the boxcar.
Everyone else was too startled to pay attention to how amazingly calm he was.
LeBeau suddenly thought of how his commanding officer Délard was in the next boxcar headed for the last stop on the route – Stalag 17. He wondered if he would ever hear from him again. He tried not to think about it. He felt a sense of loss by the very fact that Délard was not assigned to Stalag 13 with him and Beurel. They didn’t even have a chance to say goodbye. The captives’ names were called instantly as they watched the train stand still before them, and LeBeau could not help but stare at the next boxcar, wondering what was to become of his sergeant about to spend his days and nights in another stalag. LeBeau and Beurel watched as the train pulled away, off into the distance.
They then had their first roll call inside the camp. This was how they were first introduced to the stalag’s rotund sergeant of the guard, who, at least to LeBeau, appeared more like a fat Bavarian grandpa than a military member of Hitler’s Third Reich. The sergeant had a tiny gray mustache and his name was Hans Schultz, and despite his bellowing voice to the new prisoners at the stalag, there was something about him that was phenomenally tender that surfaced from deep down beneath the imposing uniform with the helmet. Intuition told LeBeau that this particular German officer was not going to be the terrible kind envisioned by all new captives, and certainly not the typical Nazi guard like the one who unloaded the captives from the train. At this point in time, they were both oblivious to the possibility that Schultz would take an almost childlike fondness to the petite French corporal for something. LeBeau was simply not yet aware of what that something would be. The possibility that this particular German guard would actually become discreetly on the kindly side with him, and the other prisoners, for that matter, somehow did not seem so unthinkable. The new prisoners were taken to the de-lousing station, and then another roll call to assign them to their barracks, for each according to no particular order of rank or division of the Allied forces. The stalag had ten barracks. The last three were completely vacant even after the end of the barracks assignment, and the filling up of the first five was about to be completed by the addition of these new arrivals. Barracks 6 and 7 were half-occupied and had some room to spare for future captives. LeBeau was pleasantly surprised to find that he was assigned to the same barracks as his new acquaintances from the train ride - Hogan, Kinch, Olsen, and Newkirk. Barracks 2 was to be their quarters. However, he was dismayed to find that his fellow French airman from his unit, Private Beurel was assigned to Barracks 7, which for LeBeau seemed so far away from Barracks 2. Barracks 2 was already half-occupied, making Hogan, LeBeau, Newkirk, Kinch, and Olsen to be the ones who comprise the remaining occupancy. As he looked around at the barbed wire fencing that symbolized tall barriers from his active combat duty on the Front, it was at this moment that he officially really felt like a prisoner of war. It seemed a world away from usual military duty, and he felt like an eagle with broken wings, suddenly helpless and disabled for further service for France, but that feeling would not remain for much longer.
Then it was time for the new prisoners to meet their kommandant. Not one of the new prisoners had to be fluent in German to figure out that the word kommandant means commander. LeBeau sized him up within seconds. He had a hawk-like nose and was bald except for graying black hair above his ears and behind, he wore a monocle on his eye, and somehow seemed like an inherently flimsy example of a colonel in the German military – a judgment of him that, by witness of the men in LeBeau’s new unit, would soon be just as well established by Hogan, the German kommandant’s equal in rank and senior prisoner of war officer. Strangely not intimidated by this German colonel, LeBeau detected a kind of goofy, dopey air about him despite the outward display of authority he so profusely intended to convey. There was something mildly comforting about it, and it seemed to deter at least half the arrogance expected from a man in his position. The kommandant’s name was Wilhelm Klink, who was originally with the 410th Bomber Group of the Luftwaffe – the German air force under Hitler. With a struggling cold-fish demeanor that seemed to strain itself to come across to the new prisoners, Klink was not such a fearsome personage to LeBeau as he previously imagined the commander of Stalag 13 to be. And the Frenchman was about to discover that neither would this kommandant be to the other Allied prisoners in Barracks 2.
For the first few days, the others would notice that LeBeau had unconsciously developed his own quiet physical demonstration of his annoyance about being a prisoner of war. During every roll call of the men in Barracks 2 he would appear the most fidgety as he stood, shifting from side to side with his arms folded tightly around his torso, sometimes grimacing. Newkirk at once rationalized that this must be “a very French way” of silently expressing annoyance. It soon became a habit that made him stand out, along with being the shortest prisoner in the roll call line-up.
Despite his initial frustration about being held in a prisoner of war camp, LeBeau then remembered that now he was under the command and guidance of Colonel Hogan, and wondered if it would feel any different to answer to the American colonel than it was to answer to Sergeant Délard. He missed his French commanding officer from his air corps unit, but was curious and fascinated at the idea of Hogan being his new leader, even if only in a stalag. One Tuesday night in the barracks, he was on his bunk - the top bunk, lying on his stomach, staring with his chin resting on his folded arms. He was staring at his dark red beret and scarf he placed on a trunk on the floor. The light in the barracks caused the beret and scarf to appear burgundy-colored – the color of wine he used to serve with many a fine dinner he prepared at the café back home. This caused something in him to snap. After days of tolerating the typical stalag meals without even thinking about it, it now dawned on him that he was in a place where the most meager and disturbingly primitive meals were being forced upon the prisoners – cabbage, cabbage soup, potatoes, plain water, sometimes rolls of plain, low-grade German bread without butter, and little else other than whatever was to come in Red Cross packages. Temporary rations of white bread with precious wartime butter were to be reserved as an occasional reward for the most obedient, hard-working prisoners and for those who would do any special favors asked of the kommandant. If he was deprived of the opportunity to cook fine cuisine while at his air base, it was worse for him at a POW camp. The effect was so painful he jumped off his bunk and without a second thought went to the wooden table where Hogan and Newkirk were playing cards and tugged Hogan by the sleeve and demanded they attempt escape, or at least help him escape.
LeBeau: “Mon colonel! Je ne peux pas, euhh, I cannot continue on here without doing what I love most! What good is the sporting compound for me?! And playing cards! What good are all the recreational privileges for me if I cannot be a gourmet chef here and take you away from this awful routine of cabbages and potatoes?! I was born to cook! And certainly not this pig slop they feed us here! I want to cook you, Newkirk, Kinchloe, and Olsen the kinds of meals I was born to cook! Ooohhhh, these Bosch! First they take away my freedom and now they don’t realize they have taken me away from –“
Louis, easy. I know you told us on
the train that being a chef was your pride and joy as a civilian.
Now first thing tomorrow morning after roll call I can go into Kommandant
Klink’s office and request special gourmet cooking privileges just for you.
It’s the provisions of certain foods from the Germans I’m not sure
about. But I’ll think of
LeBeau: “Merci, mon colonel. I know you will.” Hogan chuckled politely at the clue that one of LeBeau’s most endearing characteristics would be his occasional broken French.
LeBeau was calmed by these words from his new American commanding officer. It was the first thing Hogan would do for LeBeau as a new friend since they arrived. The next morning, Hogan came back from Klink’s office and explained the response.
the kommandant denied your request for foods for special gourmet cooking in the
barracks. He said it wouldn’t be
fair to the prisoners outside our unit. He
said if other prisoners found out, they’d come complaining in jealousy that we
would enjoy such fine delicacies while the others in the camp continue to put up
with the standard rations of what the Germans here provide us with.
He told me to tell you he would allow you to practice your fine culinary
skill only for him, but not on a daily basis, and only upon his request.
He said he’d appreciate a good French chef for entertaining his
visitors from the war front, and for his special occasions such as parties.
Uh, now Louis, before you start protesting that you don’t want to be
just a chef for the Krauts, I was thinking on the way back, if we’re
gonna sample your skill as regular meals in here, we’ll have to establish a
connection with someone outside the camp, and you’d be able to have fine foods
snuck in here for you to cook as often as you like. I’ll talk it over with Newkirk.
He can hide it and sneak it into the camp. For times when the supply from
the outside contact runs low, I can bribe Schultz into bringing in foods from
the outside from the nearest civilian market. But be willing to cook a few morsels for Schultz in return
every now and then. I heard he has
a special fondness for apple strudel. The
other day during cleaning detail I overheard him telling it to another prisoner
when they started talking about foods they miss from their civilian life. I
trust Newkirk will be sneaky enough and good enough at hiding things.
Remember? On the train he
told us he was a magician before he joined the RAF.
Here he can still be that magician.”
LeBeau nodded, gleaming at the idea that Hogan was willing to do such a risky thing for him to make him happy. LeBeau was amazed at Hogan’s thoughtfulness and sense of resourcefulness. It was plain for LeBeau to see that Hogan wanted to be more than just the guy with the highest rank in this unit. Much more.
A mere two nights later, the little French corporal was thrilled speechless when the crafty Englishman unveiled his first secret delivery of fancy foodstuffs for LeBeau’s creative pleasure. There were steaks purchased off the German Black Market, fish, flour for baking, eggs, onions, seasonings, butter and sugar from the German Black Market, sauces, and various vegetables. That evening he was ecstatic as he prepared his first dinner for his new friends Hogan, Newkirk, Kinch, and Olsen. The gourmet French dinner was taken as a wondrous oddity in a place like a stalag barracks but nonetheless well appreciated. Hogan, Newkirk, Kinch, and Olsen were joyfully flabbergasted to experience it, and Olsen remarked that it was like something out of a beautiful dream. The main course was Châteaubriand – a famous French recipe for choice steak, named after a famous Frenchman from the 18th century. LeBeau made sure to save a few of the steaks and the remaining supply, protected from spoilage in a special ice trunk in the cooking unit of the barracks. It felt good to be LeBeau the chef again, not only LeBeau the corporal.
The next morning after roll call, Newkirk approached LeBeau with a straw-colored burlap bag in his hand.
before lights out last night Colonel Hogan told me to do this for you.
To help make you feel more at home.”
Newkirk handed him the bag. LeBeau untied the string on it and reached in. He pulled out a folded-up white apron and chef’s hat. He unfolded it, grinning and tickled pink.
sewed it after lights out, in the latrine, by the light of me ole’ lantern.
It’s made from an old bed sheet that was washed and ironed last
LeBeau put on the chef’s hat, which ballooned into a mushroom-like puff from the back of his head. The hat fit amazingly well considering Newkirk did not take LeBeau’s head measurement. Newkirk was told to leave the gift a surprise until that morning. It was truly a piece of home for LeBeau. He thanked Newkirk and assured him that he would wear the hat and apron every time he cooks. Newkirk’s sewing would come in handy for a great deal more than just making a gift for his French companion. LeBeau didn’t know it yet, but he would soon join the talented Englishman in certain “tailoring duties” by order of Hogan.
There was a part of the stalag’s grounds that LeBeau found quite peculiar. He glanced at the guard dog kennel where there were, appropriately for a German stalag, German shepards. What he found peculiar about it was the fact that the guards expected all of these dogs to be mean at all times and probably thought they could never be made into nice, gentle animals for the prisoners. The dogs were the only animals in the camp. After all, dogs are man’s best friend - an American cliché that LeBeau learned from someone when he used to play with a dog on a friend’s farm back home in Epernay. He wanted to make friends with the dogs, to pet them and play with them as part of daytime recreation. He remembered he had a way with animals when he was a little boy, and he wanted something to bring back memories of this. He felt that he never lost his touch with any domestic or farm animal to take a liking to him. He imagined he was about to develop a reputation among his fellow prisoners as a great sentimentalist, which he didn’t find anything wrong with. He decided to approach Schultz, the one guard who seemed most likely to grant a request to play with at least one of the dogs, and gladly willing to do it under the watchful eyes of the guards. Schultz, himself a sentimentalist of sorts, kindly complied with the request. When LeBeau asked him to please not tell the kommandant, the big sergeant replied in a hearty bellow “Don’t worry, LeBeau. I see nnnnnothing!” This wasn’t going to be the last time Schultz would “see nnnnnothing” with a prisoner in Hogan’s unit, or Hogan himself, for that matter.
There was one particular dog that was immediately drawn to him - one of the first to take to the little Frenchman. Schultz told him his name is Bizmarck. With some help from bones left over from the steaks he had cooked the night before, the dogs had officially befriended LeBeau, almost as if they were his very own. Trained to have a keen sense of smell, one of the dogs sniffed the scent of meat coming from his red sweater, which he was wearing under the jacket of his uniform. LeBeau took off the jacket to let him sniff the sweater. The dog detected dried sauce on the elbow of the same sleeve that had the hole cut on it. LeBeau thought he must have accidentally brushed his elbow into it when he was busy at the stove in the barracks. The dog started licking it, and suddenly started chewing the elbow of the sweater until his teeth had torn a hole in it. LeBeau tried to push the dog’s head away, but it was too late. The dog was obviously hungry, because it was almost feeding time for them. The dog spit out the piece of red cloth, happy that at least he had a taste of something delicious that is never in their chow. Now LeBeau had two holes in a sleeve of his red sweater. For no particular reason, he wasn’t motivated to sew up the hole on the elbow. The hole would remain. No matter. He believed he was probably the first prisoner in Stalag 13 ever to successfully try to make friends with “Kraut” dogs trained to attack any escape attempt. This would soon become something that would come in handy for Hogan and the others in his unit.
Three months of ordinary prisoner of war living came and went. Almost every night during that time, LeBeau had been hearing strange noises late at night after lights out. They sounded like the men in the barracks were working on some kind of secret project underneath the floor. He didn’t even know there was a lower floor to the barracks. He would later discover that during the first month after their arrival at Stalag 13 the lower floor was dug down from a trap door under a lower bunk – all secretly and quietly so that LeBeau and Newkirk could get their proper sleep. The “crew” to do the work was Hogan, Kinch, and Olsen in addition to the help of four others in the barracks. These four others, who LeBeau barely knew the names of, had volunteered even without being as closely associated with Hogan as LeBeau, Newkirk, Kinch and Olsen. Almost every night, LeBeau and Newkirk were the two in Hogan’s unit who were left to sleep while the crew worked for approximately two and a half hours under the floor. From the sound of it, Hogan was giving most of the orders down below. The coffee pot was full of coffee for them to keep them awake, and the crew would quietly creep up onto the ground floor after their work time and get an honest good night sleep for the remainder of the still. At first, those in the crew who felt the need to catch up on their sleep took naps during the recreation time in the camp, but the excitement of what it was they were doing soon enabled them to physically get accustomed to the routine without sacrificing their daytime energies. Neither LeBeau nor Newkirk bothered to ask Hogan about what these other men were doing late at night under the barracks floor. And Hogan decided not to tell the two corporals until a time he felt would be appropriate, which they gladly accepted. One Friday evening after dinner, LeBeau and Newkirk were not surprised to discover that what the crew was doing down there was building a secret tunnel – a full-functioning escape route! From the first night they heard the faint noises coming from under the floor, they had a hunch that it was for an escape tunnel. In fact, they noticed that with each night, the noises sounded more and more distant, which meant the crew was making progress. What they didn’t know at the time was that the secret tunnel would lead to different various places, not just to one spot outside the camp. There was one branch of the tunnel that led to the floor of Klink’s office, another that led to the floor of Klink’s quarters, another that led to the unoccupied Barracks 9, one that led to the bottom of an oil barrel outside the barracks across from Klink’s office, and one that led to the bottom of the guard dog house. The branch route that led to a spot outside the camp was one that led to the bottom of a large tree stump – a tree stump large enough for a man to climb up from the inside of. Hogan told them he drew up a map of the prospective routes from the first week of their arrival and then worked from there. LeBeau and Newkirk were amazed at Hogan’s analytical skills for measuring the direction and distance of tunnel branches to be constructed to the intended destinations. LeBeau thought to himself that one simple escape route to the outside of camp would not have required such mental skill. The whole project was obviously for more than just escaping out of camp. By the time the tunnel routes had reached their completion, Hogan decided to call a meeting with Newkirk and LeBeau after dinner the following evening. He decided it was time for him to explain to them why his crew constructed extra routes branching from the main tunnel.
Hogan: “You two probably thought we were just
building a simple escape route, something very typical of what other prisoners
in other stalags are doing. Well,
I’m sure you both had some thoughts of escape from the day you arrived here,
and you probably thought I’m about to lead you and the others here into a plan
to escape from here for good. When
I reported to Klink in his office for the first time, he told me there has never
been a successful escape from Stalag thirteen since this camp took in its first
arrival of captives. It was
considered a warning from him – something he takes pride in and must maintain
for when he answers to General Burkhalter, his superior officer who put him in
charge of this camp. When I first
got here, I was doing some thinking, and I decided that instead of escaping,
both of you, Kinch, and Olsen could get together and form an espionage and
sabotage team under my command and direction for the duration of the war.
I’ve been thinking it through and daydreaming about it since I decided
not to just merely lead an escape and end it there.
At first, I wanted to plan for us all to escape like what’s probably
going on in other camps. But then,
um, a light came on in my head. There’s
something about the idea of just escaping out of here that just seems, well,
ordinary. I decided for us to be
way above ordinary prisoners of war. We
should be, by all accounts, volunteers for the Underground, all while being held
in this camp.”
LeBeau: “But Colonel, how did you and Newkirk
manage to bring in those special foods for me to cook before you started the
tunnel? You managed to get that parcel for me above ground.”
had Schultz bring it in. Ya know
that work detail we had at that farm outside the camp the morning after you told
me you wanted to cook for us? Well, instead of extra rations of ordinary stalag
food as payment for my work there, Schultz bought that food from the local
market and gave it to Newkirk to sneak in from the guards’ quarters to the
barracks. Then when Newkirk
smuggled in that fine Bavarian ham last week, that was from when I bribed
Schultz with the chocolate bars that came in my first Red Cross package. He’s
like a little boy when it comes to that kind of thing. I
was giving some thought to that too.”
LeBeau suddenly felt an inkling of possibility that this Sergeant Schultz would actually help life at Stalag 13 become at least moderately bearable – the only “Kraut” he would actually become slightly friendly with.
LeBeau: “So now that the tunnels are built,
the food can be brought in from underground.”
Hogan: “Ah, mon ami, fine foods for your
cooking aren’t gonna be all that can be brought in from underground.”
LeBeau chuckled at Hogan’s humor blended in with news of his exciting plan for the use of the tunnels. Hogan could see that the little Frenchman was smiling eagerly, ready for more.
Hogan: “While Olsen and the others were busy
with the tunnel routes, Kinch was building a makeshift radio system soon before
we established contact with an Allied connection. He got the parts and wiring
from old broken down electrical equipment from the motor pool.
Kinch snuck in to get it and bring it down below.
If it weren’t for his electronics construction skill from his civilian
trade, and the parts from the motor pool, I would have had to wait until the
tunnels are built and look for someone to bring us a complete radio apparatus
from outside of camp. We’ll be
able to receive intelligence information not only from outside the camp, but
also as outgoing information to different divisions of the Allied command.
By the time Kinch was finished with his project, he showed me that we
could even transmit signals to Allied connections in other stalags.
Kinch said that with a few more tricks with the frequency ranges, he’ll
soon be able to receive and send messages to submarines, planes, and he also
told me it would be a good idea to get a hold of a telegraph for Morse code.
Klink told me when I first reported to him as the senior POW one of the
things he told me is that he gets occasional visits from General Burkhalter and
various other officials of the Third Reich right in his office.
He told me so that I would know when he is not to be disturbed.
Kinch thought up an idea to receive audible messages from a wiretap
system he set up to go into the range of the inside of Klink’s office.
He wants to put the wiring in from the tunnel branch that leads to
Klink’s office and attach it to the wall.
I told him there’s a portrait of Hitler there he could use to cover it
The two intrigued corporals reacted each in their own native lingo.
LeBeau: “Sacre chats!” (trans. “Holy cats!”)
also made a spyglass out of a metal pipe to emerge up from that oil barrel, so
we know who’s arrived to go see Kommandant Klink. That way we know when to listen in on their conversations.
Kinch recommended we use the coffee pot, which we will gladly refrain
from making coffee with. Kinch designed the inside of it as a listening device
attached to the wiring that goes down into the tunnel in the barracks and into
the wall of Klink’s office. We’ll
get another coffee pot for its, ya know, purposes intended.”
Hogan showed them around the entire secret system, which included the pole of the Nazi flag above the barracks. To the amazement of LeBeau and Newkirk, the top of the flagpole is where Kinch set up a radio antenna to transmit and receive signals to and from the camp. That flagpole was to be the antenna. Hogan wanted to use it when he heard word that a German munitions train was en route where Hogan and his men could stop it, and he thought the best way to stop it, for just an example, was to get someone to demolish munitions supplies, or maybe even the train track for the route.
They were about to meet their demolition man. In a mission where Olsen had to leave the camp and be transferred to another stalag, the prisoner was immediately replaced by a lanky American sergeant named Andrew Carter – who rather than came by train like the others, was led by a contact en route to Stalag 13 and snuck into the tunnel the exact night of Olsen’s departure. Sergeant Carter came from Stalag 12, where at the time of the exchange he was considered just another random escaped prisoner. Carter was dressed exactly like Olsen except that his jacket was speckled with small white scrapings caused by wear and tear. To Klink, Hogan explained Olsen’s absence, which had eventually been noticed during the next morning’s roll call, by simply letting Klink know Private Olsen had been transferred and replaced by a new American captive airman assigned to his unit. Carter was with the 182nd bomber group and had been captured under similar circumstances as Hogan, Kinch, and Olsen, except just a couple of months before. Originally from Indiana, he was raised as a corn-fed country boy with a chemistry hobby that amazed friends and neighbors, and before the war studied to be a pharmacist. Upon introducing himself to the group in the proper fashion, Carter originally had plans to be a part of an escape with his new POW unit, but Hogan sat him down in the barracks and explained what the unit is really trying to do rather than simply escape for good or spend their stay in the camp merely sitting out the rest of the war. Like he did for LeBeau, Newkirk, Kinch, and Olsen, Hogan asked Carter to promise not to attempt a permanent escape or as a prisoner appear suspicious to the Germans. Hogan pointed out that to attempt escape under his command would be considered desertion as a volunteer for the Underground. As the others had done, Carter agreed with the utmost sincerity. Carter told them about his special talent, pyrotechnical and chemical engineering. He talked about how he used it underground when attempting an escape from Stalag 12 but was caught by guards in the nick of time before running into the woods. Carter told about how he underwent the typical punishment in the stalags, a stint in the cooler – a holding cell for the prisoners being punished. A stay in the cooler usually ranged from five days to sixty days, depending on the offense. Carter spent sixty days in the cooler – the usual penalty for an escape attempt before stalag escape attempts were no longer tolerated as merely mischievous recreation. The more harsh kommandants were known to shoot the detained escapists after that. Hogan then imagined that a new tunnel route to the inside of Stalag 13’s cooler would be a good idea, just in case. Hogan simply told him to think of their intelligence and sabotage activities as a series of little escapes as opposed to one big escape. Carter was happy with that. LeBeau had a good feeling about Carter after learning about what he could do in Hogan’s unit. After Hogan, LeBeau was the first member of the unit to see Carter’s miniature laboratory he set up very soon after his arrival. Through one of his Allied contacts outside of camp, Hogan had provided various chemicals to be smuggled in through the main tunnel route as well as a complete set of Bunsen burners, flasks, glass tubes, and measuring devices for liquid substances. This was Kinch’s first order for munitions supplies he placed by his radio system. Explosives were about to be Carter’s ongoing trademark creation and contribution in Hogan’s unit.
Now enlisted as more than just the unit’s expert cook, the astounded LeBeau was given his first crash course in spy tactics especially fit for him, courtesy of Colonel Hogan. Hogan appreciated to hear from LeBeau that he became skilled in mental and physical quickness not only from his combat training but also when he used to go big game hunting with his father. LeBeau’s first experience of direct use of one of the tunnels was to receive the delivery of the dark blue outfit of civilian clothing he wore while in hiding in occupied France, kindly brought to him secretly by Jean-Paul Lanouère – the OSS agent from the safehouse in Rémy. The night before, Hogan had contacted Lanouère when LeBeau gave him the address of the residence, which he had memorized from when he stayed at the house with Monier, Délard, Fouchet, and Beurel. Hogan decided it would be nice for LeBeau to have the ensemble again to wear for the missions where he is to wear civilian clothing, or “civvies” as the Americans called them.
The Frenchman’s jaw dropped in amazement when he discovered that Hogan had set up a small room under the barracks where the unit could be schooled in all necessary espionage and sabotage plans. The group was to take them as they come. A variety of opportunities were left to the imagination. Some instigated by German intelligence via Klink’s office, some instigated by other sources. A detailed map of the stalag, a map of the surrounding areas, and a map of the entire Luft stalag network were drawn up. The maps were to be the usual focal point of Hogan’s little “classroom”. Blueprints of the tunnel routes were kept there as well. LeBeau felt a sense of intrigue such as he never felt since he first started his training as a chef. This was different, and bigger to him. There was something about it that made it even more intriguing than his enlistment into the Free French Forces. Now that he was part of a very special team of prisoners in action for the war effort, as a member of the French Resistance, he now felt exceptional and unique rather than simply one of many from France. He also felt a warm, cozy sense of belonging to this very special unit in Barracks 2 – a feeling that came in handy for him emotionally when he learned that that his Free French compatriot Private Beurel had been transferred to Stalag 9 just a few days after Carter’s arrival. LeBeau was disappointed that Beurel was no longer there at Stalag 13, but immensely glad to be a part of a small but phenomenally powerful group of Allied POWs serving as volunteers for the Underground. The secrecy and thrill of accomplishing great patriotic feats with Hogan, Newkirk, Carter, and Kinch was truly something special for LeBeau, and it sealed his closeness to them and their closeness to each other almost spontaneously, and not a moment too late. Without a shadow of a doubt, he felt a tremendous sense of trust in the four men – a trust that would never end. It was a wonderful feeling for him also to learn that they had a great deal of trust in him too. He was confident, empowered, eager, and ready to embark on whatever various adventures for the war effort Hogan would enforce during their stay at Stalag 13. Corporal Louis LeBeau of the French Resistance had officially become one of Hogan’s Heroes.
Text and original characters copyright by Carolyn Waller
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.