The Quest for Private Beurel
The name of the kommandant of Stalag 9 was taken from an actual Hogan’s
Heroes episode entitled “Klink’s Old Flame”.
The late Saturday afternoon was sunny in Luft Stalag 13, with the sound of prisoners engaging in outdoor recreational activities. The men from Barracks 4 and 5 were playing volleyball, the men from Barracks 6 and 7 were playing a simple game of catch with a baseball and baseball glove, the small few of men from Barracks 8 were tossing horseshoes, and the men from Barracks 1 and 2 were playing relay tennis. In the game of tennis, Barracks 2’s newly formed espionage and sabotage team Colonel Robert Hogan, Sergeant Andrew Carter, Corporal Peter Newkirk, and Sergeant James Kinchloe were missing the Frenchman of their unit, Corporal Louis LeBeau. LeBeau was alone inside the barracks, standing near the window, leaning against the wooden wall. He was thinking about what life was like in Paris and how it contrasted to the environment and daily experience as a prisoner of war in Stalag 13. Still, he felt a part of something special as someone who was now officially settled into Hogan’s secret team for the war effort. Instantaneously, the sentimental Frenchman suddenly felt a rush of harsh realization that his Resistance compatriot and fellow French prisoner of Stalag 13, Private Alain Beurel had been transferred around the same time as Carter’s arrival. He was aware that it happened, but the intrigue and excitement of becoming one of Hogan’s select group of men chosen for covert operations had overshadowed the full impact of losing his friend and fellow countryman at the time he noticed Beurel was no longer there.
LeBeau was fully aware since the time of his arrival that he was the only Frenchman in Barracks 2. He accepted that, but never had a chance to meet other French captives at Stalag 13. He wondered if the feeling would be different if his other closest military associates of the French Resistance, Colonel Monier, Sergeant Délard, and Private Fouchet would have been taken to the same stalag as he and Beurel. Monier, while the Resistance unit was staying in a safehouse in France, had been called off to go alone to Germany to join an unknown secret spy operation. Fouchet had been taken to Stalag 8, and Délard had been taken to Stalag 17. LeBeau wondered if being one of Hogan’s Heroes would have had any affect on his relationship with the other Allied Frenchmen with whom he was sent to Germany had they also been sent to Stalag 13 with him and Beurel, even if not housed all together in the same barracks. He assessed that, at least theoretically, Hogan’s inner sanctum would be practically off limits to any outside group of prisoners at the camp. He noticed that when Hogan gathered him, Carter, Newkirk, and Kinch together for discussion about espionage and sabotage plans for the Underground, no one else in the barracks, including prisoners from other barracks, was permitted to join in without Hogan’s consent. According to how the group had been organized in the first place, the right to join in a meeting of Hogan’s small clique was strictly the result of Hogan’s request for help outside the small group, and even then the other men in Barracks 2 were usually not needed in a direct way. As far as LeBeau knew, the other prisoners in Barracks 2 were merely aware of the whole physical apparatus of Hogan’s plans. Hogan had enlisted their help in the construction of it all, but not necessarily to result in their involvement in the secret activities of Hogan and his Heroes. Out of the corner of his eye, LeBeau often caught a glimpse of the other prisoners on their bunks, silently watching in awe. After the completion of the setup of Hogan’s outlets for the war effort, the other men in Barracks 2 were decidedly very quiet and keeping to themselves. This meant that LeBeau’s fellow French Resistance captives would have been left out of Hogan’s fascinating plans for his select group. LeBeau wondered if Monier, Délard, Fouchet, and in this case, Beurel too would have resented the “loss” of their creative, efficient corporal to Hogan’s patriotic agenda. All things considered, he assumed they would have become jealous of LeBeau’s truly valiant position of being one of Hogan’s specially appointed crew. As proud Frenchmen in military service for their country become “ordinary” stalag captives, they probably would have risked the desire to alienate LeBeau, envious of his unique privilege of exciting adventure and sense of freedom it entailed while still being a prisoner of war.
The Germans of the Luftwaffe’s stalag network knew that French prisoners were usually recognizable by their military-style berets and France insignia patches sewn onto sleeves of their uniforms. From observances around in camp during the first few days since his and Beurel’s arrival at Stalag 13, LeBeau managed to notice that there was one other prisoner that was identifiable as French, and that was his fellow Resistance compatriot Private Beurel. But LeBeau was so attentive to Beurel as the “other” Frenchman there that he failed to notice if there were any others there prior to their arrival. He never forgot that Beurel was assigned to Barracks 7, which to LeBeau seemed so far away from Barracks 2. From the time he was immersed into the cooperative alliance of Hogan, Carter, Newkirk, and Kinch, he was all but completely distracted from his association with Beurel. The one thing that kept LeBeau from telling Beurel about his recruitment into Hogan’s team was the concern that Beurel would fear for him for taking risks considered unusual for a prisoner of war in a stalag. Successfully escaping from a stalag to leave there for good was simply over with once the risk was taken, whereas sneaking in and out of a stalag on a routine basis increased the risk based on frequency.
He was curious about why Beurel was transferred to Stalag 9, but this time he suddenly felt he had to find out why Beurel was transferred. He was not informed of what usually leads to a prisoner transfer in the Luftwaffe stalag network, and knew little more than the fact that prisoner transfers were administered by the camp kommandant, with obvious agreement of the kommandant of the camp of destination, including for cases of a prisoner exchange.
Hogan walked into the barracks, holding a tennis racket. He walked straight to LeBeau near the window, approaching him, noticing the look on LeBeau’s face – an expression of sorry exasperation as he looked at him.
“Hey LeBeau, why don’t ya come out and join us for a game of
tennis? As you probably know, tennis originated in your country.
The Barracks two team is on a losing streak right now and Kinch said it
would add a nice touch to our game if our Frenchman came in and helped win
“Oui, I know tennis came from France, but, you see, colonel, I’ve,
I’ve been thinking about my friend from my air unit, you know, the one who
arrived here with me and was assigned to Barracks seven.
He’s from Paris, from a rather fine family in Parisian social circles,
and speaks good English from when he lived in England for three years.
He would like to go to America someday.
From what he told me he got along fine and could communicate well with
the American prisoners in Barracks seven. Before
Private Olsen left camp and Carter arrived, the last time I spoke to Private
Beurel we were on work detail washing Kommandant Klink’s staff car in the
motor pool. Schultz let me sneak over to where the men from Barracks
seven were working so I could talk to him for a few minutes, you know, someone
to talk to in my language. I guess
the big ole’ Kraut remembered my apple strudel from the night before, so he
gave me a little privilege for the next day’s work duty.”
“Ah, so that’s why you left for a few minutes when we were rinsing
down the car.”
“Ouai. You and the guys
probably thought I was leaving the motor pool to go to the latrine.” LeBeau gave a childlike snicker then quickly returned to his
serious tone. “He was talking
about the guys in Barracks seven. He
said there are no other Frenchmen in there, just like with me in here.
He told me about an American corporal who practiced his high school
French with him almost every night before lights out, and a few other things
about how the others in Barracks seven got captured, you know, typical stalag
prisoner social talk, ordinary things, nothing of serious importance.
Nothing about plans to escape or anything like that.
He told me he missed our commanding officer, Colonel Monier, our colonel
from when we first joined the Resistance. He
also said he wished our Sergeant Délard and Private Fouchet was with us here.
But he didn’t tell me he was about to be transferred.
Maybe at the time I talked to him he didn’t know.
I can’t help but think the plan to transfer him to another stalag was
intended to take him by surprise.”
“Remember? It happened
around the time right after Carter first arrived here. I told you that all I found out at the time was that the camp
he was sent to is Stalag nine, and that’s just because Kommandant Klink
happened to announce it during roll call when Sergeant Schultz and everyone from
Barracks seven noticed their Frenchman was missing. Me being the senior POW officer here I’m the one who heard
from a Barracks seven prisoner that Private Beurel was missing but none of the
prisoners learned why he was transferred. Kommandant
Klink wouldn’t tell them. And of
course, I wasn’t about to keep it a secret from you.
By the way, Louis, just out of curiosity, Louis, did you happen to tell
Beurel about our secret operations, ya know, our tunnels and everything?”
LeBeau suddenly felt as though he wasn’t sure how Hogan would react if he said yes. Glancing with his head to the side, quickly tucking in his bottom lip and then pivoting his gaze from the floor back to Hogan, he decided just to tell him the truth and admit why.
“No. I didn’t want to
cause him to worry about me while I’m outside camp helping you, Newkirk,
Carter, and Kinch. I wasn’t ready
to let him know. Knowing him, he
probably would wish the guys in Barracks seven had a secret spy operation too.
Maybe even become jealous of me about how I’m here in Barracks two
under your command in activities other than ordinary everyday camp work and
recreation. He once told me, and
the others in my French Resistance unit that the main reason he decided to
enlist in the military is for the adventure of it, and to get a chance to learn
and practice rather unconventional skills for the war effort.
Colonel Hogan, I was wondering if you, uhh, eh bien, you could, peut-être,
I mean, perhaps you could do me a favor and find out why he was sent away to
Stalag nine, and then, uhh, maybe you and the guys could plan something to get
him back, somehow, somehow, colonel. I’ll
come into Kommandant Klink’s office with you if you need me to. ”
Hogan cocked his head to the side, wondering if the little Frenchman already had a plan of his own in mind to try to get his friend back. It didn’t take much for Hogan to have learned that, to his undeniable appreciation, LeBeau was a quick thinker, and that LeBeau was the type who if he really wanted something he would not hesitate to ask, even if it would merely be permission for him to do something on his own in order to get it.
Hogan, being one to analyze the reasoning behind any large-scale requests from his team, looked at him quizzically.
“But suppose we do get him back.
How do you think he’d react if he ever finds out about our special
operation here in Barracks two. Do
you think he would accept your position with me without resenting the fact that
he cannot join in with us?”
Hogan, for a split second, thought about how glad he was that his English was not too complicated for LeBeau to understand. Hogan would never take for granted how well LeBeau spoke and understood English.
LeBeau took this question as what it sounded like – a test of how much he knows his friend Beurel.
When you first introduced us to your setup under the barracks I remember
you told me, Carter, Newkirk, and Kinch that we are not to tell about our secret
operations to other prisoners here unless absolutely necessary, especially for a
mission. Mon colonel, if we manage to bring him back I won’t tell
him about our secret operations without your sayso.”
Hogan reached over and patted LeBeau on the shoulder, where the hole in his red sweater showed his France military insignia. LeBeau gave him a humble, unassuming smile.
“Thank you, Louis. I
appreciate that. I’ll just go
back out and tell the guys you don’t feel like playing tennis right now.”
After he watched Hogan walk out and close the door behind him, deep down inside, LeBeau felt as though he just made a deal with Hogan for the first time. Though not necessarily the way Hogan saw it, LeBeau felt as though the deal was that if he promised not to tell Beurel about the special Underground activities based under Barracks 2 without permission, Hogan promised to set up a mission to help him bring Beurel back to Stalag 13, which would be a special personal favor for LeBeau more than their typical espionage or sabotage assignment for the Allies. At first, and under normal circumstances, LeBeau would have been worried that this would be asking too much of Hogan and the others when the intended purpose would be to serve his attachment to his friend and fellow countryman rather than serve as a mission for the Allied war effort. The idea that Beurel could eventually serve in one of Hogan’s missions, even if indirectly, did not yet occur to LeBeau. He was clearly not ready to bring up that idea to Hogan, even with the possibility that Beurel would offer to volunteer to help Hogan and the others in a mission as a way of saying thanks for bringing him back to the company of his Resistance friend LeBeau. Finding out why Beurel was taken away from Stalag 13 to begin with would be the first step, most likely by sneaking into Kommandant Klink’s office and retrieving prisoner records that would tell why French prisoner Private Alain Beurel was transferred, and even find out if it was a prisoner exchange, in which case someone else was brought from Stalag 9 to Stalag 13 to replace him in Barracks 7.
The following afternoon, Hogan brought LeBeau to Kommandant Klink’s office. This was the first time LeBeau had ever been there, and was curious to see what the inside of the office looked like. It was an ordinary looking place except for, to his shock, a pretty blonde secretary typing on a typewriter. LeBeau was dumbstruck to find a vision of feminine beauty working in such a drab, unglamorous place like a prisoner-of-war camp. To LeBeau she introduced herself as Kommandant Klink’s secretary, and her name was Helga. Her hair was in braids and she was wearing civilian clothing, with no swastika armband to ruin her air of charm and innocence. Hogan pulled from the left pocket of his pants a pair of precious silk stockings and handed them to her. She treated it as no unexpected surprise, but almost as if it was a normal routine for him to bring her gifts. She smiled gratefully and thanked him in her German accent. LeBeau simply smiled at her, but with the way she was staring at Hogan with a gaze of pure enchantment he recognized that it would do him no good to flirt with the pretty young lady, not even with his thoroughly endearing French accent. He saw the way she winked at Hogan, and then she kissed him like a wife. Then she opened the door to Klink’s office and saw them in.
Upon his presence in Klink’s office, LeBeau pulled off his beret and clutched it in his hands. He almost didn’t recognize the tall German colonel without his officer’s cap and overcoat. Hogan started with the standard form of a request representing one of the men in his barracks. He explained that LeBeau would like to find out why his friend from his French Resistance unit was transferred, and the request was that the prisoner record for Private Alain Beurel be shown to reveal the purpose for dismissal from Stalag 13.
“Mon kommandant, no one told
me why he was transferred. Not even Sergeant Schultz.
You didn’t tell him.”
Klink pressed his lips together in a somewhat silly scowl and glared out of his monocle with a suspicious look on his face, pretending to wonder why the reason for Beurel’s transfer seemed so important to the little Frenchman, who, as far as Klink was concerned, could do nothing about it anyway.
“And why, may I ask, do you want to know?
It won’t do you any good to find out.
What do you plan on doing? Trying
to escape so you can bring him back here? I’ll
have you know there has never been a successful escape from Stalag thirteen.”
Hogan smirked at LeBeau with a look on his face that told him Klink looks silly when he’s paranoid, and LeBeau figured out that meant Klink thinks that just because they’re making this simple request means they want to somehow defy camp regulations by protesting against the actions of the kommandant – which in this case was a simple action considered harmless by the Luft stalag network.
“C’mon, colonel, Beurel
was his friend in his Resistance unit before he was captured.
All he wants to know is why he was sent out to another stalag.”
LeBeau, suddenly feeling that facing Kommandant Klink for the first time would not be a terribly humbling experience, decided to add to the request, as if to enhance it in a way.
“What is it, mon kommandant, did he do something wrong?
And how would a transfer out of this camp and into another be worse than
just sending him to the cooler for whatever it is he did against prisoner
LeBeau was suddenly amazed at his own linguistic accuracy in English while communicating face-to-face with the kommandant of the entire stalag for the first time. LeBeau could feel anger rising up within him, but not without a desire to reason with him.
“Yeah, usually when a prisoner here does something wrong you send
him to the cooler, he comes out later and it’s all over with.
What did Beurel do that led to his transfer?”
LeBeau in an instant gave in to a sudden desire to try to make a deal with Klink, just as Hogan allowed LeBeau the opportunity to make a deal with him. Klink, after all, was Hogan’s equal in rank, while Hogan, as the senior POW officer, was automatically the mediator for his men, and more often than not, the men in Barracks 2. And LeBeau didn’t mind that he had to go through his reliable American colonel in order to make a deal with Kommandant Klink. In the face of challenge, LeBeau felt a surge of French pride - French pride that was enhanced by years of praise as an expert chef. It surfaced into unexpected courage about to be expressed in words. Familiar with LeBeau’s personality, Hogan was none too surprised to witness it.
“Mon kommandant, with all due respect, monsieur, you seem to forget
that I can cook gourmet delicacies for your visitors here at the stalag.
It’s only by Hogan’s consideration that you have the privilege to ask
me to cook for you on occasion for that. Hogan
made the deal with you in regards to the use of my cooking skills here at camp,
and I agreed to be a part of it, so you should at least comply with this
Klink, oblivious to the cultural implications of this retort, squinted down on his monocle and winced in almost boyish defiance. He wasn’t ready for a haughty overture from this Frenchman who stood only 5’3 in height. Klink realized that interacting with Corporal LeBeau was not the same as interacting with Colonel Hogan. Klink felt the temptation to make an example of LeBeau as a way of defending what he perceived as an attack on his pride while mistaking the prisoner’s negotiation for insubordination.
“Corporal, are you saying that if I don’t let you know the reason for
Private Beurel’s transfer then you refuse to cook for my guests?”
LeBeau took this as a direct refusal to comply with the request.
“Yes! Bring out your prisoner records and show me the part that tells
why he was transferred!”
“Don’t you give me orders, you little cockroach!”, shaking his
forefinger up and down, “Request denied! Diiiiiiiiiismiiiiiiiiiiisssed!”
LeBeau almost felt like laughing at the way the German kommandant shook his finger up and down like some kind of puppet in a children’s puppet show, but then he scoffed at the immaturity of how the kommandant just called him a cockroach. The deliberately contemptible name Klink just called him would be Klink’s official nickname for LeBeau, and one that would be occasionally used in an oddly kidding way by the big, bumbling sergeant of the guard, Sergeant Schultz.
LeBeau turned and looked at Hogan as if to say “What is it with this Kraut ?!”, who seemed strangely amused at this confrontation. Hogan saw LeBeau’s feisty side, and for the very first time. He sort of enjoyed seeing it, but without showing that he enjoyed it.
Both the denial of LeBeau’s request and the new nickname “cockroach” were Klink’s way of showing that he looks down on short, feisty Frenchmen, almost as an openly immature gesture concerning the Nazi-bred impression that “The French may cook well but they can’t fight well.” It dawned on LeBeau that Hogan alone with Klink probably would have been better, or at least LeBeau should have kept his mouth shut, with his typical old-fashioned Gallic pride restrained for the duration of the visit to the office. He realized that Hogan could have either charmed the kommandant or tricked him into giving him Beurel’s record to see. LeBeau regretted being so outspoken while facing Kommandant Klink for the first time. Hogan, LeBeau correctly thought, had a way with Klink that no other prisoner at Stalag 13 could match. Back in the barracks, Hogan said not to worry. He explained that Carter could sneak into Klink’s office overnight and smuggle Beurel’s prisoner record. That night, two hours after lights out, Hogan, LeBeau, and Carter were together in their conveniently fashioned room under the barracks, a below ground meeting room that showcased a branch-off of tunnels. Newkirk was on the ground level in the barracks, playing cards with Kinch. Carter dressed himself in an outfit of black clothing and blackened his face with soot from the stove. He looked like a night burglar, and it was the usual clothing for when Hogan, Carter, Newkirk, LeBeau and Kinch needed to get past the guards outside in the dark or hide behind bushes while on missions in the night. LeBeau patted Carter on the shoulder, wishing him good luck as he crept into the tunnel that led to Kommandant Klink’s office. Carter came back seven minutes later with the prisoner document of Private Beurel’s record.
LeBeau, in his red sweater with his dark red beret and scarf, grabbed the paper, skimmed down the information about the name, rank, serial number, date of capture, assigned barracks, and miscellaneous minor details, with his eager eyes fixed on the reason for transfer to another camp. To LeBeau’s dismay, the document was typed in German. With a quick, reassuring smile, Carter quickly handed over the English and French language translations of the record, which were made available by order of the Geneva Convention. LeBeau read the one typed in French and then calmly handed over to Hogan and Carter the English translation. The reason for Private Beurel’s transfer to another stalag was because of “suspected intelligence information passed on to an outside contact from the French Underground.” It included an order from Colonel Klink’s commanding officer, General Burkhalter to have this prisoner transferred to another stalag due to “insufficient quality of the inspection of the prisoner as a member of the French Resistance”. In other words, during routine inspection, Kommandant Klink had failed to pay special attention to the Frenchman of Barracks 7, which, as Hogan recognized, was just another fault for Burkhalter to criticize Klink about, and Burkhalter simply decided to have Beurel sent to a camp that is run by a stricter, more discerning kommandant. According to the document, Stalag 9 was head by a Kommandant Kleinschmidt. Also according to the document, the French prisoner from Stalag 9 who filled Beurel’s place in Barracks 7 was a Corporal Pierre Véloux – someone who LeBeau never happened to encounter at the camp since the absence of Beurel there.
It was clear that the mission to bring back Private Beurel would involve sneaking into another stalag. To Hogan, this was an entirely new kind of mission, since he had never before led a mission of his special spy team into another stalag, and he assumed it would be the only mission that would happen to involve reversing a prisoner exchange. The first step would be what to do about the French corporal who replaced Beurel in Barracks 7 of Stalag 13. But that would be trivial in comparison to how they should sneak a prisoner out of another stalag and still have the replacement prisoner accounted for. As Carter pointed out in discussion of the plan, fake documents would help. As LeBeau listened attentively, each of Hogan’s other men contributed impromptu suggestions. According to the plan developed by Hogan, to Kommandant Klienschmidt’s discovery, Private Beurel would simply “disappear” from Stalag 9, only for the camp to see the return of Corporal Véloux, who would have a fake prisoner document put into the files of Kommandant Klienschmidt’s office making the information appear as though the prisoner exchange never happened. Carter was put in charge of the technicalities of the mission, which included the transport details and how to avoid being caught by the Stalag 9 guards and Kommandant Klienschmidt. Newkirk was put in charge of creating the fake prisoner records, identical to the original except without any notation of a prisoner exchange, which the guys all knew would completely baffle the kommandant. He was also to sneak the document into the kommandant’s office and place it in the collection of prisoner records safe and sound. Kinch brought up the idea that the same documentation tactics should be done for Beurel’s record for his return to Stalag 13. Kinch’s task was to locate the escape tunnel provided by Stalag 9’s secret escape committee, which, like in most other Luft stalags, was a somewhat formalized operation for most prisoners about to embark on any escape attempt, successful or not. Appropriately, LeBeau’s task in the mission was to identify Beurel once Hogan and the men find out which barracks he was assigned to, and then safely and discreetly accompany him back to Stalag 13. LeBeau turned and looked at Kinch, and then Carter, then Newkirk, and then Hogan, excited by the fascinating details of the plan all put together to make for and safe and effective mission. He also didn’t mind that his part happened to be the easiest, but he figured that to be how this particular mission was clearly considered Hogan’s special favor for him.
“I wish I could see the look on Klink’s face when he sees Beurel’s
prisoner record back in his files, with nothing to explain it.
That’ll show him to deprive me of information about my friend from the
The group disbanded from the wooden table and LeBeau grinned like a little boy on Christmas morning, feeling a tremendous sense of satisfaction that the mission was even possible, and Hogan, Newkirk, Carter, and Kinch could all see it. He was also flattered that, for the first time, they were about to go on a mission for him, just for him. Grinning with his lips pressed together and his arms folded across his chest, LeBeau took the pleasure of thinking about what wonderful thing he should do for them to express his thanks; an exceptionally fancy dinner of his absolute finest French cooking – one that would take Hogan and the others entirely by surprise and be a truly unforgettable meal. With Kinch’s radio apparatus and using Hogan’s code name Papa Bear, LeBeau made secret arrangements in advance to get the delectable ingredients off the Black Market, all first class, as if for a surprise birthday party for General Charles DeGaulle himself. He decided to also include with the meal a chance for Beurel to get to know Hogan, Newkirk, Carter, and Kinch on a purely social basis.
In the secret planning room of Hogan and his Heroes, Hogan brought out a complete map of all the locations of the stalags in German-occupied territory and presented it to the group, holding a pencil to point to secret escape routes set up by the Underground. Carter wrote down notes of directions from Stalag 13 to Stalag 9. They discussed the specifics of bringing Corporal Véloux to Stalag 9 while retrieving Private Beurel in the process. It was now time to start the preliminary action of the mission – to meet Véloux and talk him into being a part of the mission and consequently returning to Stalag 9, with a little help from Hogan’s men. It was now more important than ever for LeBeau to seek out and meet the Frenchman who replaced Beurel.
The next day, as ordered by Hogan, LeBeau planned his own way of bringing Véloux, who he never met, into the mission. He would write a note in French and sneak into Barracks 7. The note would tell him to after lights out, sneak outside behind the barracks and go to the unoccupied Barracks 9 to meet Corporal Louis LeBeau and the camp’s American senior POW officer Colonel Robert Hogan, who would be waiting for him inside after coming from the underground tunnel that led to Barracks 2. The note was placed in one of the bunks. The following evening, LeBeau brought Hogan to help convince Véloux to take part in the plan and agree to return to Stalag 9. Véloux was a dark-haired, rather ordinary-looking and quiet type who was dressed in the same kind of uniform as LeBeau’s and was happy to meet up close Stalag 13’s senior POW officer as well as Barracks 2’s Frenchman LeBeau. LeBeau, in French, explained what Hogan’s plan was and to keep the plan secret from everyone except Hogan, LeBeau, and Beurel. Véloux complied with the request, almost in embarrassment that he and LeBeau never got to meet each other before. For a Frenchman, it seemed to Hogan, this unfamiliar corporal seemed rather humble and soft-spoken. LeBeau gladly translated for Hogan the comments and questions Véloux couldn’t say in English.
That night after lights out, in accordance with Hogan’s instructions, LeBeau helped Véloux sneak out of Barracks 7 and go to Barracks 9 to make his way through the underground tunnel and join Hogan and the group under Barracks 2. LeBeau could already feel the excitement and anticipation of the mission. With flashlights and notes handy, Hogan, the guys, and Véloux crept together through the tunnel to the outside of the camp. Newkirk kept the phony prisoner records tucked inside the jacket of his uniform. They made their way to the road to the nearest train depot, where a civilian freight train with farm supplies stopped when the conductor saw a light signal from Hogan’s flashlight. The stop of the train at the designated time was prearranged by Carter’s part of the plan, by arrangement with one of Hogan’s Underground contacts prior to that evening by way of Kinch’s radio. The six men sat huddled together in a boxcar of hay for the ride to the vicinity of Stalag 9, located southwest of Dusseldorf, the nearest burg in the vicinity of Stalag 13. With vivid detail, LeBeau remembered his train ride to Stalag 13 – the ride that followed his capture by the Germans, and this ride to Stalag 9 reminded him very much like a part of the capture ride except this time it was the opposite route. When the train reached the stop at the vicinity, the men got off and followed the notes taken from the map of the stalags, which accurately led them through the woods to reach Stalag 9 on foot. The lights of the guard towers could be seen from the trail in the nearby woods - a trail apparently created for escapes from the stalag. From the information Kinch gathered and wrote down on paper, the escape tunnel of Stalag 9 was located at the north end of the camp, where the tunnel opening was available for them. Kinch quietly announced that the tunnel leads to Barracks 6, strategically located in the exact middle of the barracks compound. The men quickly turned off their flashlights so as not to be seen by the guards. The lights from the guard towers and kommandant’s office were all that was left to provide lighting in the quiet night. Since there was no escape scheduled for that night, the lanterns were not lit so the six men had to use their flashlights to guide them through the tunnel. When Hogan reached the tunnel’s end, he silently entered up from the floor in the corner of the barracks latrine. The corner was covered by five large water buckets, which toppled on their sides when the men came up from the tunnel. The noise of the toppling quickly awoke the sleeping men of Barracks 6. Hogan immediately prepared to announce himself quietly and explain what he and his group of men were there for. LeBeau, Newkirk, Carter, Kinch, and Véloux were standing silently behind him. An American sergeant named Jack Milward recognized the group as Allied airmen who have apparently snuck into camp by means of the escape tunnel.
“Colonel Robert Hogan. American. Five
hundred ‘n forth Bomber Division. We’re
from Stalag thirteen and we’re here to reverse a prisoner exchange of two
French Resistance men, Private Alain Beurel with the original one who was here
before him, Corporal Pierre Véloux. We’re
not escaped prisoners but we’re on a mission.
We’ll leave here and return to our home stalag as soon as we locate
Private Beurel. We need to know what barracks he’s in so we can make the
“Oh, yeah, one of the Frenchies here.
I know which one you mean. He
speaks English real well, and when he first arrived here he was talking about
how he was held at Stalag thirteen first before being transferred here.
He said when he was captured by the Germans he was taken to Stalag
thirteen with a French friend from his Resistance unit
– a Corporal Louis something-or-other.”
“C’est moi. I’m
Corporal Louis LeBeau. Beurel was
transferred here without my knowledge of why.
The kommandant of our camp refused to tell me, but my friends helped me
find out. We’d like to make the exchange and put his prisoner record back into
the Kommandant Klienschmidt’s office. My
friend Corporal Newkirk here has made a prisoner record to put into the office
of our kommandant as well. The
documentation is all ready. Monsieur,
I need to know what barracks he’s in. Stalag
nine will have Corporal Véloux back. Gentlemen, do any of you know what barracks he’s in?”
An American private sitting on one of the top bunks across the room from Milward said Beurel was in Barracks 5, which, conveniently, was right nextdoor. The private said he happened to know from seeing Beurel and saying bonjour to him every morning while lining up for roll call. LeBeau thanked the men with a quick “merci” and Hogan, LeBeau, Newkirk, Carter, Kinch, and Véloux each borrowed a black blanket for cover outside while sneaking quietly into Barracks 5, so they could blend into the dark of the night without being spotted by any of the guards. They entered Barracks 5, which was silent with sleeping prisoners. As planned, it was LeBeau’s job to go to each bunk and use his flashlight to identify which prisoner is Beurel. At a bottom bunk, LeBeau recognized Beurel by his face, and with utter delight to see him again. LeBeau awoke him with several nudges on the shoulder and Beurel’s eyes widened, absolutely startled to find his short, lively friend from their French Resistance unit. LeBeau squeaked with glee and they kissed each other on both cheeks in the customary French manner. Hogan and the others watched silently as LeBeau whispered to Beurel in fast-paced French, explaining what he was doing there and why. It was now time for Véloux to take off his uniform and crawl into Beurel’s bunk with his long underwear on, and for Beurel to put on his uniform.
As Hogan and the others waited quietly in the barracks, it was now time for Newkirk’s task to put on his blanket with it covering his head and sneak into the kommandant’s office and place the phony prisoner record in the files. LeBeau wished him good luck and Newkirk crept quietly out into the compound, his back hunched over under his blanket. As the rest of the group waited patiently, LeBeau felt the need to say a word of thanks to the Stalag 13 Frenchman he never had a chance to meet until that night.
“Je n’avais jamais le
plaisir de vous connaître à Stalag treize.
Vous êtes très généreux à retourner à Stalag neuf pour mon ami. Je vous en remercie, Monsieur Véloux.” (trans.-
“I never had the pleasure of knowing you at Stalag thirteen.
You are very generous to return to Stalag nine for my friend. I thank you for this, Mister Véloux.”)
By the light of Hogan’s flashlight, they shook hands the French way, with one gentle jerk of the forearm instead of the more vigorous American way. The prisoners of Barracks 5 at rest in their bunks were now only half-asleep from the sounds of the unfamiliar visitors, and continued to allow Hogan and his men to go about their business without interrupting.
Newkirk crept quietly back into the barracks, and the others were relieved to see he had successfully snuck the papers into Kommandant Klienschmidt’s office without being caught. Newkirk explained that the light on outside the office had guided him to get there without getting lost or confused amongst the rows of barracks, which meant he didn’t need to go by the light of his flashlight which would have risked being seen by the guards from atop the guard towers. He added that the black blanket definitely helped too. The men crept back outside to go back into Barracks 6, and returned there to give back the blankets and leave the camp through the underground escape tunnel. Once back outside the stalag, it was time for them to meet one of Hogan’s Underground contacts to take them back to Stalag 13. Carter’s task of arranging transport both to and from Stalag 9 had been carried out, each at a designated time to ensure safe and timely arrivals according to their schedule, which, of course, provided that the mission would be finished before the next morning’s roll call. Their designated time to meet an anonymous contact disguised as an ordinary local farmer had arrived at the designated place – the clearing of the woods they had come from, where his farm truck was to be parked off the side of the road, not far from where they got off from the train. The contact waited in the truck as the group came out of the woods and toward the road. They each got into the truck and sat together as it drove off, heading to a drop-off point at the road outside Stalag 13. When the truck reached the drop-off point, they got off, thanked the contact, and headed toward Stalag 13’s tree stump tunnel entrance, and back into Barracks 2.
The final part of the mission was for Newkirk to secretly deliver to Klink’s office the phony document of Beurel’s prisoner record.
Newkirk does it immediately by going through the tunnel that leads to Klink’s
office, then the document will be ready in the file cabinet by morning’s roll
call. That way if Sergeant
Schultz’s prisoner list still has Véloux’s name on it for the roll call of
Barracks seven, Schultz would report it only for Klink to find that Beurel’s
record is still there, making it look like the Barracks seven roll call list
needs to be updated accordingly.”
Newkirk agreed, and LeBeau understood. Newkirk at once followed through with the final part of the mission by going into Klink’s office by way of the tunnel that leads to the inside of it, placing the phony record into the file cabinet and returning back, just as he did at Stalag 9. He returned back into the underground meeting room under the barracks, where Hogan, LeBeau, Carter, Newkirk, Kinch, and Beurel were waiting and ready to sneak Beurel into Barracks 7 for the morning’s roll call. Now that Beurel was back, LeBeau thought, they could occasionally visit each other at night by arranging for LeBeau to go through the tunnel that leads to the unoccupied Barracks 10 and sneak into Barracks 7, where he could bring Beurel to Barracks 2 for an excellent gourmet meal with Hogan and the other Heroes. In French, he reassured Beurel of his plan to see each other at camp whenever possible, and usually during non-mission nights, unless otherwise requested by Hogan. Beurel figured out the obvious fact that his fellow POW from their French Resistance unit was a part of a secret mission team headed by the stalag’s senior POW officer Colonel Hogan. There was no hiding it from Beurel. LeBeau was happy to see that Beurel showed no signs of jealousy. LeBeau went to Hogan with Beurel and they met together with the agreement that Beurel keep their espionage and sabotage mission system secret from the other prisoners outside Barracks 2, for it was not necessary for every prisoner in the stalag to be aware of their senior POW’s special operation. After all, Hogan and his guys have discovered that Nazi informers visit the camp on certain occasions, some posing as new captives, such as in their first mission that included Carter’s arrival right after Hogan and his close-knit unit first got established as an Allied spy team at Stalag 13. Hogan explained this clearly to the French private, and Beurel gladly complied. Beurel explained the details of what led to Burkhalter’s order for him to be transferred. He told about how Burkhalter found French Resistance intelligence contact information on paper while inspecting Klink’s collection of Barracks 7 prisoner mail to be sent out, and it happened to be written in French, where Burkhalter figured out that Beurel was the only Frenchman in Barracks 7. Beurel said he now learned that if he wanted to establish intelligence contacts from the Underground it would be safer to do it through Hogan and his guys, with Kinch’s radio rather than the less-secure way of prisoner mail. LeBeau very quietly snuck him back into Barracks 7, where the prisoners of that barracks would awake in the morning surprised to find him replacing Corporal Véloux, back there on the top bunk, just like before the prisoner transfer ordered by Burkhalter.
The next morning at roll call, Hogan, LeBeau, Carter, Newkirk, and Kinch all looked at each other snickering after hearing Kommandant Klink’s shouting his usual “Reeepoooooooooort!!” like an obnoxious rooster at dawn. They were imagining what the look on his face will be like when he finds out Beurel has returned to Stalag 13 with his prisoner record to verify it while the roll call list says Véloux is still there. They were wishing they could see the look on Schultz’s face when calling off the names of the Barracks 7 and notice the absence of Corporal Véloux but the presence of Private Beurel. They could faintly hear it all the way from the outside of Barracks 2 when Klink was scolding Schultz for sloppy attention to the roll call checklist. At the end of roll call, Schultz strolled over to Hogan with a pudgy, perplexed look on his face.
Hogan: “Aw, whatza matter, Schultz? You look like one of the guard dogs ate a slice of strudel that LeBeau made especially for you.”
“Hogan, Klink just called me a dumkopft.
He asked me why the roll call checklist says we have a Barracks seven
prisoner who’s not supposed to be there but is, and the
checklist does not have this prisoner but says it does.
Oh, Hogan, it’s so confusing. And
he blamed me for the mistake.”
As LeBeau stood outside a few feet away from Hogan and Schultz, he could no longer resist. He just had to be a part of the fun of seeing Schultz’s childlike confusion about the “mistake”. He tossed his dark red scarf across his left shoulder, folded his arms tightly, and approached Schultz with a playful, cheerful smile.
“Why don’t you go and ask Klink to check the records, big fella?
I’m sure it must be a mistake and it’s not your fault.”
LeBeau, with the forefinger of his gloved hand pointing on the fat German sergeant’s belly urged him to go to Kommandant Klink’s office.
“Go on, Schultzie. You
didn’t do anything wrong. You’ll
Sure enough, Schultz returned out of the office a few minutes later to let Hogan and LeBeau know that Klink is just as confused as he is, and exactly as Hogan and the guys had planned, Klink could offer no logical explanation and he dropped the issue. Schultz said Klink told him he was sorry for blaming him and simply made the correction on the roll call checklist, changing the name from Corporal Pierre Véloux to Private Alain Beurel. General Burkhalter would never find out, and the secret reverse of his prisoner exchange would go completely unnoticed by him during his visits to Stalag 13.
LeBeau smiled and right behind Hogan walked back to Barracks 2, elated with joy that the mission had been accomplished, perfectly as planned, with no slip-ups. It was a mission that had been set up as a special favor for him. The following evening, LeBeau treated Hogan, Carter, Newkirk, Kinch, and the visiting Beurel to the finest gourmet French dinner they’ve ever had. For him it was the least he could do to express his gratitude for the favor – a favor he would never forget.
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.