2003 Papa Bear Awards - Second Place
Best Original Character - Vogel
2003 Papa Bear Awards - Nominated
2003 Papa Bear Awards - Nominated
Best Overall Story
This effort was designed to be a direct prequel to our first story, End Game. In this story, we hope to explain how Hoganís small ĎTravelerís Aide Societyí seen early in the series became the extensive sabotage/espionage operation seen in our story End Game. We again do not make any claims on the original Hoganís Heroes characters. All other characters are ours. But again, those characters are free for anyone to use, if you so choose. (We still have the Tender Loving Care requirement for Toby. He again appears somewhere in Mind Games)
Be forewarned. This effort is very dark and contains Holocaust references and is very violent in places. Strong language is used as well. Our rating would be PG-13.
Fierce fighting continued in WWII Europe. With the first bombing raids by American forces on German soil at Wilhelmshaven and the German forces surrendering at Stalingrad, it appeared that maybe the tide would turn in favor of the Allied Forces. But word of heavy losses being taken at the Kasserine Pass in North Africa was a deep blow to the Allied offensive.
Hammelburg, Germany, Prisoner of War Camp, Stalag 13,
Barracks Two, Senior POW Officerís Quarters, February 20, 1943, 0600 Hours
Colonel Robert Hogan sat at his desk agonizing over how because of his inability to make the Ďtoughí decision; he may lose 200 of his men to an outbreak of pneumonia. He had made the decision with his heart, not his head. Up until that point, he had thought of his short time here at Stalag 13 as a game. He and his men had played the Krauts in this camp like patsies. They had created a ĎTravelers Aid Societyí here, where they had, at present, moved hundreds of escaped POWs and downed Allied pilots back to London. Hogan had asked the men at Stalag 13 to stay with him to continue that work. They had all agreed. Now 200 men may die because of him.
The first real test of my command here and I couldnít handle it. The rest of the men in camp have been barely cordial to me since I made that decision, the wrong one from their perspective. Theyíve been doing their jobs, but I can see the anger in their eyes. Today is the last day when the 200 men will be treated with antibiotics. There will be nothing left. If I had made the right decision, I may have been able to save one third of them. But it would have meant denying the other two thirds any medication at all for the last 10 days. I just couldnít do that. I had ordered Sergeant Wilson to spread the medication out to all 200 men in smaller doses. I was counting on London to supply us with the additional medication, but a severe blizzard hit the Hammelburg area hard, over two feet of snow on the ground. London couldnít and still canít get any planes through and even if they did, there would be no way for us to make a pick-up with all the snow. Not one of those men afflicted has made any significant improvement on the smaller dose. Now with none, it will only be a matter of time before the deaths begin. London couldnít promise anything for another five days. And we would still need to get the supplies into camp without the Krauts noticing.
It could have been worse, I guess. The illness could have gotten to epidemic proportions. The rest of us were saved a similar fate because Kommandant Klink, of all people, had been able to get the first round of antibiotics here in time to stop the spread. Since then, heís tried to obtain more, but has been hitting a brick wall, either the powers that be will not supply more, or they canít get it here either with the snow. He hasnít confided in me, which was the case. Iíd always known Klink wasnít cut from the Nazi mold, but I hadnít expected him to work as hard as he has in trying to save my men. He had even left the decision of the disposition of antibiotics to me. As much as I regret that now, I realize that he could have taken control of the situation and not given me any option.
Hoganís thoughts were interrupted by a knock on his door. "Come," he said.
Sergeant Wilson opened the door and asked, "Can I talk to you sir?"
"Of course, Sergeant. What is it?" Hogan asked, not really wanting to know. As Wilson closed the door behind him, Hoganís stomach knotted and his heart began to ache. He knew Wilson was not here to give him Ďgoodí news. Wilson and his volunteers had been working non-stop trying to save the lives of the 200 ill men in camp. Hogan couldnít imagine what the effect his decision was having on them. Wilson, at least, hadnít been giving him dirty looks for the last 10 days. He seemed to understand what it took for Hogan to make the decision that he made. It actually would have been Wilsonís responsibility to decide which third would have been saved. Hogan would have had to rely on Wilsonís more extensive medical knowledge to make that decision. How could I have asked him to do that?
"Sir, I wanted you to know that the last of the antibiotics were administered this morning. None of the men have made any significant improvement. If Londonís timetable of five days holds, we will lose a lot of these men, sir." Wilson noticed the Colonel look away. "Iím sorry sir, but there is another decision to be made. Kommandant Klink will have to be involved in the decision too. But I wanted to discuss it with you first."
Hogan looked back at Wilson, terrified at having to make another decision regarding these men. "What decision?"
Wilson tried to keep eye contact with the Colonel, but had noticed that the officer was not dealing well with this situation. Iím just going to have to say this flat out; there is no other way. As Wilson looked away he said, "Iím sorry sir, but if we do get the expected death rate, we need to find a way to dispose of the bodies. There will be too many to store for any length of time and I honestly donít believe that the German government would be willing to transport their bodies back to their respective countries. I also donít think that that would be a solution anyway sir. The cause of death, as well as any chance of biological warfare, would prevent most countries from accepting the bodies back. Burning the bodies would seem to be the only viable solution sir." There I said it. Wilson again tried to make eye contact with his commanding officer. Hogan appeared composed, but Wilson could tell that the decision to burn the bodies was the last decision Hogan had ever expected to make.
Oh God, no. -- "Okay Sergeant, you are correct, of course. I will approach the Kommandant later today to have someplace set up for that." Hogan sighed heavily and continued, "Is there anything else Wilson?" Please say no.
"No sir," said Wilson, hoping that he had someway to make this easier on Colonel Hogan. But there just wasnít anything that he could say or do that would help.
"You and your men have done an incredible job, Wilson. Iím so very sorry that this had to end this way. I will make my daily visit to the wards in just a little while. I want to explain my decision to those that can still understand. I owe them that much. Dismissed Sergeant," Hogan said as grief started to overwhelm him.
"Sir, Iím sorry, but the men already know the decision you made. It was impossible for me to keep that from them. I know that the rest of the men in camp are angry and despondent over your decision. But, you should know that the men Iíve been treating want to thank you for giving them the extra chance at survival," Wilson said. "They are not blaming you for this, sir."
They want to thank me? Hogan felt on the verge of a breakdown. "Thank you for letting me know that Sergeant. You can go now," he said quickly, hoping Wilson would leave just as quickly.
"Yes sir," Wilson said as he left Hoganís quarters. He noticed how his commanding officer was having a real hard time coping with all this. He had gotten the message that the Colonel wanted to be left alone.
Hogan had managed to hold it together until Wilson left. But as soon as the door closed, overwhelming grief surged to the surface. He held his head in his hands as tears spilled down his face. He couldnít breathe. His body was shaking. He hoped that this feeling would pass soon. He sat quietly trying to regain his composure for sometime. What kind of Commander am I? -- Unable to make the tough decisions. -- Falling apart like a baby. -- I want to crawl under a rock and never come out. -- These men deserve someone who can lead them properly. -- I will never be able to regain their trust. Hogan paused and took a deep breath. But first we need to get through this crisis. Hogan got up from his desk and decided to head to Kommandant Klinkís office to discuss the disposition of the bodies. He would then make his rounds of the sick ward. He would do what he could to comfort the men. He would then have to face the rest of the men in camp.
He also needed to touch base with Kinch, Newkirk and LeBeau. They had been babysitting all the stranded escaped POWs and pilots in the tunnels below Stalag 13. The snow had brought their operation to a standstill. There were stranded Ďmovingí Allied personnel in many locations along the route to London. Any that could, had returned here. There was also quite a number that had already been on their way here. The Ďmovingí personnel in camp had all been kept quarantined in the tunnels for their own safety. I need to get this show back on the road. It will take time, but Iím not going to lose this operation.
Stalag 13, Kommandantís Office, February 20, 1943, 0730 Hours
Colonel Hogan had traipsed across the compound. The wind was howling and sending the snow blowing into drifts. It was still impossible to keep a clear path anywhere. When he got to the porch of the Kommandantís office, he was covered in snow. He shook it off before entering the outer office. Corporal Langenscheidt had replaced Helga, as she was still stranded at her apartment in Hammelburg due to the snow.
"What can I do for you Colonel Hogan?" asked Langenscheidt, politely.
"Corporal, I have something important to discuss with Colonel Klink. It canít wait," stated Colonel Hogan emphatically.
"Of course, Colonel. Let me announce you," Langenscheidt replied nervously as he got up quickly in response to the implied Ďorderí. He knocked on the Kommandantís door. He then opened it and announced the American Colonelís wish to speak with the Kommandant.
Hogan heard Klink say ĎSend him iní. Langenscheidt turned and indicated with his hand that Hogan could enter the Kommandantís office. Hogan entered the office and came to stand directly in front of the Kommandantís desk. He stood quietly until the Kommandant looked up from his paperwork. Hogan said, "Colonel Klink, I need to talk to you about something very important. Itís something very hard for me, but I can not make a decision without your permission to proceed."
Kommandant Klink was surprised at Hoganís demeanor. Hogan looked despondent, yet determined. Klink had never seen the man that way before. He, of course, knew the situation in the camp. He was well aware that today was the day the antibiotics would run out. "What is it that you need my permission for Colonel?" asked Colonel Klink.
Show no weakness here Hogan. "Itís time for me to admit that I can do nothing more for the 200 ill men under my command. The last of the antibiotics were administered this morning. It will only be a short time until their deaths begin to overwhelm this camp. Sergeant Wilson approached me this morning with the only possible solution to the mounting body count. He recommends burning the bodies of the dead, as he feels that is the only viable solution when you factor in the number of fatalities in the short period of time," Hogan stated evenly. "I need your permission to proceed and I also will need a location that could be used for this purpose." Hogan stood quietly awaiting the Kommandantís response.
Colonel Klink was taken aback by Hogan forthright statement. "Colonel Hogan. Iím sorry that we have to have this conversation. I had hoped to find a solution to this problem before it got to this point. You have my permission to proceed. I would recommend the area outside camp behind the delousing station. You have my permission to choose the men you need to complete this task. They will be allowed free access to that area. I will of course have to post guards in and around the site, until the process is complete."
Hogan said looking directly into the Kommandantís eyes, "Thank you Kommandant, I will keep you informed of the situation." He then offered a quick salute to the German Colonel.
Kommandant Klink responded in kind and watched stunned as Hogan left his office. He realized, for the first time, that Hogan had stopped using the offensive Ďflipping the birdí salute he had used since arriving here at Stalag 13. While this new salute was still not what he would consider a precise military salute, it was quite an improvement from the one Hogan had been using. Klink had taken to not looking at the American Colonel when he first came in his office. He had preferred not responding to the offensive salute rather than taking Hogan to task over it. Itís just very sad that it took this situation to bring about that change in Hogan.
Hogan had again made the snow-laden trek across the compound. He entered Barrack Nineteen. There were 100 patients here and another 100 in Barrack Twenty. He was made to put a makeshift mask over his nose and mouth as a precaution against contracting the illness. Hogan decided to continue with the same routine greeting that he had used since this began. But, today he was going to tell each man that he was sorry. He also wanted to make notes for any of them wishing to send a message to loved ones at home. There were many men that he couldnít even offer this small thing. Some of these men were suffering from high fevers and some from delirium as a result of the high fevers. He just sat with them quietly for a few minutes offering only the touch of a hand.
Hogan had been at it for hours when he finally came to the one patient that somehow always caused his stomach to knot up in pain. Sergeant Andrew Carter. Carter was one of the sicker men; he had been unconscious for the better part of the last five days. I canít help but feel like Iím loosing a son in Carter. Poor Andrew always seemed to need help. This time, I canít help him. God, Iíve only got a little more than 10 years on Carter, but he always seemed so much more innocent than any of the others here. God, Iím so sorry Andrew. Please forgive me. Hogan sat quietly with him for some minutes before finishing his rounds.
Before heading back to his barracks, Hogan found Wilson and told him that Klink had agreed to the disposition of the bodies, as well as having given them the area behind the delousing station to use. Hogan had left the specifics with Wilson to deal with. It would have to be someone closely involved coordinating this effort. Hogan would have to go now and explain everything to the rest of the men in camp. He glanced back at his men, and he felt his stomach twist. I canít imagine watching their bodies burn, but I guess I deserve that for failing them all so miserably.
Stalag 13, Barracks Two, Colonel Hoganís Quarters, February 20, 1943, 1800 Hours
Hogan normally would have held an assembly of all the men, but with all the snow even roll call was being done inside on a barrack-by-barrack basis. So he asked only for the Barrackís Commanders to assemble in Barracks Two. He told them what to expect next in regards to their fellow POWs. He went over what the plans were, when the deaths began. He told them that they would each need to assign a detail of volunteers to help Sergeant Wilson with whatever it was he needed. He then asked them to express his sorrow to the men in each barracks. He told them he hoped that eventually they would understand that he had made the only decision he could have made. The Barrackís Commanders had all left barracks two quietly, barely acknowledging Hoganís presence as they left.
Hogan had started back to his office, when Sergeant Kinchloe stopped him by putting a hand on his shoulder. Hogan turned to find himself face to face with Kinch, Newkirk and LeBeau. "What can I do for you gentlemen? Are our guests in the tunnels okay? Is there something wrong?" Hogan asked, not knowing what they might have wanted. Each of them had been giving him the cold shoulder as well, and had only conversed with him when it pertained to camp business. They had each already given him an update, earlier in the day, on the status of the stranded Allied servicemen. Everything had been all right then. The POWs and pilots, while not happy, seemed to be dealing with the situation.
"No sir, nothing is wrong. Our guests are fine," Kinch replied. He glanced at both Newkirk and LeBeau before continuing. "Colonel Hogan, we wanted to apologize to you sir. Our behavior recently has been way out of line. As has most everyone elseís in camp. Weíve all been taking our fears and frustration with this situation out on you, without trying to understand your position or your feelings. We are sorry that we ended up making this situation even more difficult for you. It was Sergeant Wilson who finally made us realize what we had been doing. He forced us to evaluate what our decisions would have been, had we been in your position. We came to the conclusion that we would have made the same decision that you made, sir. So we hope that you can accept our apology," Kinch stated.
Hogan let out the breath he had been holding. He eyes were threatening to fill with tears. He said, "Apology accepted. I will really need your support if Iím to regain the menís trust. --Thanks fellas." Hogan reached out and shook Kinchís hand and then he patted Newkirk on the shoulder. He turned to LeBeau and gave his neck a squeeze. "But just so you know where I stand, Iím worried that I may have to close this operation down. If the men feel they canít trust me, this operation will not survive. The only other option would be for me to be replaced as your commanding officer. But I donít know how viable a solution that would be given the past history of Stalag 13." Hogan paused. He couldnít look into the three faces anymore. All he could concentrate on was how there was one face missing. Iím so sorry Andrew. "So, if youíll excuse me, gentlemen." Hogan turned and entered his quarters. He sat down at his desk. He held his head in his hands, again on the verge of a breakdown. Maybe a replacement would be best. These men donít deserve a commander who spends most of his time wallowing in a puddle of his own tears.
Hogan woke with a start. He had fallen asleep at his desk. He didnít even remember being that tired. He glanced at his watch. It had only been 30 minutes since he returned to his office after talking to his men. An urgent knock on his door brought Hogan out of his thoughts. He realized that he must have been woken by a previous knock but had never even registered it. He heard Kinch call his name. "Come," he said.
Kinch opened the door, almost bursting in on Hoganís Ďcomeí. He had a huge smile plastered on his face. "Colonel Hogan, London can send a plane tonight! We should expect a drop at midnight!" Kinch said barely able to contain his excitement.
Hogan was going to have to burst his bubble. "Kinch, with the high winds, London shouldnít be sending out any planes. Who sent that message anyway? Even if they could send a plane, we still have no way of making the pick-up. The area is still snowed in. It would take days to get to it." This is awful; to get everyoneís hopes up, then to have them crushed when the medication still didnít get here in enough time.
"Sir, the last bomber crew that got through to London, the one lead by Captain Marshall, you remember them, donít you? Well they were being debriefed when they heard of our situation. They volunteered to make the drop sir. They said they would drop it right in the middle of camp if thatís what you wanted sir." Kinch was beside himself. "They are waiting on your answer sir."
Kinchís enthusiasm was invigorating, Hogan thought for a moment. How can I get the medication into camp without having to fight the two feet of snow on the ground? Not to mention, the sticky matter of not getting caught by the Krauts. I just hope Captain Marshall and his crew know what theyíre doing. Flying in this weather could be a death sentence. - However -- if theyíre willing to drop the medication directly into the compound -- Hmmm.
"Kinch," Hogan said smiling conspiratorially and throwing an arm around the other manís shoulder. "Hereís what weíll do. Tell London to translate any writing on the boxes and medication into German. Have the stuff dropped using German parachutes. The stuff can land directly in the compound that way. Iíll have to convince Klink that it was through his efforts that the German High Command prepared this medication drop for us."
"Colonel, Kommandant Klink will see right through that!" Kinch protested.
"Donít worry about Klink. Just go convince London," Hogan said. "The searchlights should be enough to allow the bomber crew to zero in on us."
"Yes sir," Kinch replied. He left Hoganís quarters shaking his head. I canít believe the Colonel thought of a way to make this work. It still depends on if the bomber crew can actually fly this far in this weather. And if they can actually find the camp. And if they can drop the chutes so that they actually land inside the wire. Thatís a lot of ifs. And if that all works properly Colonel Hogan will still have to convince the Kommandant that the medication came from Klinkís efforts. Other than that, weíre all dead. Shot as spies.
Hogan heaved a great sigh after Kinch left his quarters to pass along his idea to London. Ok, smart-ass. Now that youíve thought of that brilliant plan, just how the Hell do you expect to pull it off? Maybe London should just drop your replacement right along with that medication. I donít have a clue as to what to do next! It is going to have to be the best snow job Iíve ever done. Academy Award time, I hope. If I can pull this off, those men across the Compound might just make it. If I donít, that mass grave behind the delousing station just got a whole lot bigger. Hogan looked at his watch. Five hours till show time.
Stalag 13, Barracks Two, February 20, 1943, 2330 Hours
Everyone was in their respective bunks. Colonel Hogan was in his quarters. The tension was palatable. Outwardly, it had to seem like every other night. No lights on, everyone sleeping. But the waiting was unbearable. Everyone could hear the Colonel pacing in his darkened room.
"What time is it now?" Newkirk whispered into the tense silence of the barracks.
"Itís 11:30," Olsen replied making a huffing noise, "ten minutes later than when you asked before!"
"Thatís enough," Kinch said. "Letís not get into that again. Settle down, we have to make this look good. The better we play our parts, the easier it will be for the Colonel with Klink. And the sooner the medication can be distributed. LeBeau, are you ready to go and get Shultz?"
"Oui. On such a cold and windy night, he wonít be able to resist some hot coffee and fresh apple strudel," LeBeau replied softly.
"Good. I hope this works," Newkirk said thinking about the empty bunk below him. Poor Andrew. He should be here. He should be saying something stupid. We should all be teasing him. It always seemed to break the tension, before.
"It will," Kinch replied, positive. "It has to."
The barracks continued to wait in silence.
"Go LeBeau," Olsen said softly. "Itís ten of."
"Oui. Iím on my way," LeBeau replied jumping down from his bunk. He bundled into his coat and scarf and carefully exited the barracks, both to allow the minimum of heat to escape and to carefully time his exit to the searchlight patterns.
Five minutes later, LeBeau re-entered the barracks along with Shultz. "This is so nice of you Cockroach!" Shultz said, sitting at the table.
"Shh, Shultz. You have to be quiet. We donít want to wake Colonel Hogan. Things havenít been the same around here since, well you know...." LeBeau said sighing. He opened the stove door to provide some dim light. He then poured a cup of coffee for the guard.
"Ja. I understand. I just wish that there was more that could be done," Shultz replied in his version of a whisper, which still wasnít a whisper.
"Whatís all the noise about? You should all be in bed," Hogan stated annoyed as he exited his quarters into the main barracks only to glare at Shultz sitting at the table. "Are you here to get us in trouble Shultz?"
"Donít be angry, Colonel Hogan. I just came in to get some coffee. It is cold outside tonight," Shultz replied. He had watched as the Campís prisoners suffered from the pneumonia outbreak. He had also seen that Colonel Hoganís men were giving him a very rough time over the decisions he had had to make. They were still obeying his orders, but definitely not with their former spirit and enthusiasm. The morale of the Camp hasnít been so low since before Colonel Hogan was sent here. "Why donít you join me in a cup of coffee, Colonel?"
Hogan sighed, "Sorry Shultz, I didnít mean to jump down your throat. I will join you in that cup of coffee. I canít sleep anyway." He poured his own cup of coffee and took a seat across from Shultz.
Normally LeBeau would have jumped at getting the Colonel his coffee. Shultz did not miss the fact that LeBeau hadnít even made the smallest effort to pour Colonel Hogan a cup of coffee. They all must be very angry at their commanding officer. Itís such a shame. Colonel Hogan had managed to bring the prisoners here back from the brink of despair and in the process, uniting them into a cohesive unit. To see that disappear will be very sad.
"Whatís the latest weather report, Shultz?" Hogan asked, trying to make small talk.
"Weíre expecting more snow," Shultz replied. "Tomorrow or the next day. At least another six inches."
Hoganís ears finally detected the sounds of an RAF plane. Damn, they made it! "Did you hear that?" he asked.
"Sounds like a plane," Shultz replied nonchalantly.
"Itís flying awfully low," Hogan said, getting up to go to the door. By the time he got to the door the alarm was sounding and the dogs had just been released. "Shultz, you better get out there," Hogan said. "It sounds important."
"Ja. Ja," Shultz replied, finishing the coffee in his cup hurriedly. Shultz headed for the door and noticed Colonel Hogan following him. "Where are you going, Colonel Hogan?"
"With you Shultz," Hogan said supportive. "You might need some backup."
Shultz didnít have time to respond to Colonel Hogan. He heard Klink yelling for him, so he quickly exited the barracks. Colonel Hogan followed closely behind him. Well, I can at least hide behind the big fella if the others start shooting.
"Shultz! Shultz!" Klink bellowed into the night. Where was that idiot?
"Jawohl, Herr Kommandant," Shultz replied, appearing out of the darkness at Klinkís side. Hogan joined him a moment later.
"Whatís going on Kommandant?" Hogan asked excitedly. He needed to start right in on Klink and never let up, "Was it an air raid? I didnít hear any explosions. -- Wow, look a parachute -- Whatís in those boxes?" Hogan gingerly took several steps in that direction. Okay good. No bullets yet.
"Colonel Hogan it is after dark, you are not supposed to be out here!" Klink yelled. How does this man always seem to be where heís not supposed to be?
"Who could sleep with all this commotion? Besides, Iím Shultzís backup," Hogan replied, making it to the boxes. Even better. Not dead yet. He bent down to read the inscription. "Excuse me Kommandant. Can you read what this says? It looks like itís written in German." Medizinisches Verbrauchsgut, Thank God.
"German?" Klink repeated, his curiosity overwhelming his indignation at Hogan. Klink walked over to where Hogan stood. He bent down and read the first box. Medizinisches Verbrauchsgut.
"Medical Supplies," Klink read in disbelief. How did this get here?
"You didnít tell me this was coming, Kommandant!" Hogan said delighted, his heart pounding. He ripped open the first box; it was full of the desperately needed drug. "This was very kind of you sir, to arrange an air drop of this medication with the roads being closed and all."
"I didnít Ö" Klink began perplexed, as he stood up again.
"Shultz," Hogan ordered, cutting Klink off before he could think. "Go, get Sergeant Wilson in barracks four. He should begin to administer this right away."
"Jawohl! Colonel Hogan," Shultz replied, leaving immediately.
Hogan shot to his feet and reached out and shook the Kommandantís hand. "Thank you so much, sir. This is just unbelievable. I wish you had told me this was coming, I could have told the men."
Klink stood still, in shock for one brief moment. He had no idea where these boxes had come from. He had been told in no uncertain terms that afternoon that they would get no more medication. But it was here. It had to have come from Berlin. "Um, yes. Well. Youíre welcome, Colonel Hogan. I was unsure right up until this moment whether it would come. I didnít tell you, as I didnít want to get your hopes up."
"Well, thank you again sir," Hogan replied. "I understand completely." Wilson and five men from barracks four arrived at that moment. Hogan gestured toward the boxes and Wilson immediately set about moving them. "Colonel, do we have your permission to administer this now?"
"What? Oh yes, of course. Shultz see that they have access to the compound for the rest of the night," Klink ordered.
"Jawohl!" Shultz replied. He glanced at Colonel Hogan smiling. Hogan returned the smile.
"Excuse me sir," Hogan said, turning to the Kommandant. "I need to help my men. Again, thank you so very much. I donít know how to repay you for this." Hogan began to walk away but he had to turn back when he heard Klink call his name. Donít panic. He wanted to faint. He wouldnít be able to deal with getting caught. Not now.
"Colonel Hogan," Klink said again, trying to get the Americanís attention.
"Yes sir, Iím sorry sir," Hogan replied, panicked. Calm down.
"I hope that this will turn the tide for your men," Klink said sympathetically, before he returned to his warm quarters.
"Thank you sir," Hogan replied with a huge sigh of relief. Damn. It worked! We actually pulled this one off. Letís just hope that the stuff has come in time. -- Thank you Captain Marshall! -- I hope you and your crew make it safely back to London. I owe you one.
Stalag 13, Sick Wards, February 21, 1943, 0330 Hours
Wilson was taking a break, and watching the activity in the barrack nineteen ward. There has been a mad rush of activity since the medication was delivered. All of the patients have been given the necessary medication, in higher doses than the norm. I have explained to Colonel Hogan that I will cut it back, but that I want to try and jump-start the healing process a little. It has been an hour since everyone was inoculated. Itís now a waiting game again. It will be some time before any improvement is seen.
Wilson saw Colonel Hogan return from barracks twenty. I need to get Colonel Hogan to leave the wards. He has helped with anything he could during the rush. Now heís been shifting his time between wards just standing around, watching and waiting. Heís not doing himself or my volunteers any good. Heís making everyone nervous.
Wilson approached Colonel Hogan, who was leaning against one of the bunks. "Sir. I have a request. Can I speak to you privately?"
"Certainly," Hogan said, moving out of earshot of anyone in the ward. "What is it, Wilson? Something wrong?"
"No sir. Um. Donít be angry sir. But I need you to leave the wards. You are making everyone nervous by hovering. I sincerely thank you for helping during the rush. But now, you donít need to be here. It will be some time before we know anything, and you should get some sleep. I really donít need you to fall flat on your face, sir," Wilson said straightforwardly. Oh, heís going to kill me! Wilson noticed Hoganís eyes flash with anger, but almost immediately the anger dissipated. Whew.
"Okay Wilson, youíre trying to tell me something, right?" The Colonel tried to infuse some humor. "Like, Colonel Hogan youíre a pest. Go away. Is that it Wilson?"
"Something like that sir," Wilson responded with a grin.
"Point well taken," Hogan said smiling. "Iím going, please keep me informed. Okay?"
"Always Colonel always," Wilson replied. He watched the Colonel until he exited barracks nineteen, and then he resumed his own vigil.
Stalag 13, Colonel Hoganís Quarters, February 24, 1943, 1000 Hours
We finally got word this morning that Captain Marshall and his crew made it back safely to London. From what London told us, they had a few scary moments as they flew low over Stalag13. But they managed to hold it together. I sent along our thanks.
Things here are looking up as well. We got the first sure signs of our patientsí improvement yesterday. There were small but wide-ranging improvements depending on the stage of the illness that each was at. Anything from regaining consciousness, to a drop in temperature. But it now looks promising. What a relief. I feel like I can breathe again. I feel like my heart was released from some vice, that had clamped down hard on it. Iíve even managed to get through the last few days without falling apart and crying like a baby.
I still have to deal with the status of this operation. At present, weíre still snowed in, but things are getting better. We never got that snow that Shultz had mentioned and the temperature has gone up enough to start a thaw. It will still be a number of days before we can move anyone. There is also still the unresolved issue of regaining my menís trust. Admittedly the men in camp have been a lot more open and friendly. The worst of the tension seems to have dissipated. But, I still need to make a decision as to what will be best for this operation. If the men canít trust me in the next crisis, it may cost more than the 200 lives almost lost this time.
Hogan heard a commotion in the main barracks. It had only lasted a few moments, so he decided to ignore it. He then heard a knock at his door. "Come," he said. I guess I wonít be able to ignore it.
Kinch stuck his head in and asked, "Would you mind coming into the main barracks sir?"
"Sure Kinch, whatís the matter?" Hogan asked as he headed through his office door. He then saw that all the barracks commanders had converged on barracks two. I guess Iíll get my answer soon. "What can I do for you gentleman?" Hogan said formally.
"Sir," Kinch started. "This gathering is not about what you can do for us." Kinch paused, pulling a piece of paper from his pocket. "I wanted to get this right sir." He took a deep breath. "We are here, as a group, representing all the POWs at Stalag 13. We are here to reaffirm our decisions to stay here at Stalag 13, under your command, to keep the Travelerís Aide Society in operation. We know that the events of the past month have left this operation on shaky ground. We admit to being the reason for this instability. We hope that you can overlook our transgressions, so that we can continue this operation together. We do not want anyone else to lead us in this endeavor. You have our complete trust sir," Kinch finished looking back up from the paper.
Hogan was floored. "Thank you gentlemen. I appreciate your support. More than you could know. But, we need to meet somewhere in the middle, in assessing the reason for this operationís present instability. Weíve been learning this operation by the seat of our pants. Weíve had too. Too often, weíve treated this operation like a game. Iím a major culprit in this regard. I want you to know, that I will no longer treat this operation as a game. It just got a lot more personal. I hope that I can fulfill your trust in me," Hogan finished.
There were many sighs of relief heard. The men visibly relaxed, tension dropping away. They began talking and laughing excitedly among themselves. It was good to hear, thought Hogan. As the barracks leaders dispersed, some saluted Colonel Hogan and some just shook his hand. Kinch offered Hogan the piece of paper with the hand-written note. Hogan took it, folded it neatly and placed it in his inside breast pocket. I might just have to frame this.
Rohrmoos, Germany, Village Market, Augsburger Strasse, February 28, 1943, 1020 Hours
Edgar Ohms along with his boyhood friend Dieter Wirth had begun a small resistance group in the Rohrmoos area. Edgar was a fit, wiry man, in his early forties, who owned the village butcher shop. Dieter, a portly balding bachelor also in his early forties, owned the small village market. Their small group only consisted of Dieter, Edgar and his wife Berta along with their two children; 14-year-old Georg and Anja who was only 10. The other resistance groups knew them only by the name of ĎWarbler.í Up until now their small group had mainly gathered information that they then passed along to ĎAlbatrossí, their contact in Munich. Three weeks ago Albatross had contacted Dieter to ask that Warbler accomplish a much more complicated assignment. This morning he had gone to the market to pick up things for his wife Berta and also to pick up the mission plans from Dieter. With the advent of a fierce winter storm, Dieter had not received any information until late last night. The storm had closed everything down for over fifty miles, and had dumped almost two and a half feet of snow in the area. Finally, almost three weeks from the initial contact, Dieter had all the information they needed to complete their assignment.
Edgar had just given the bag containing the groceries to his son Georg to carry. Dieter had slipped the information into the bag. Georg, knowing that the bag contained their assignment, had taken the bag and quickly left the store, heading for their home above his fatherís butcher shop. Edgar chatted with Dieter, giving Georg time to get out of the store. No one would look twice at a teenage boy carrying groceries. After a few minutes Dieter escorted his friend to the door. They wished each other good day and Edgar began to walk away.
Suddenly the SS converged on them from all directions. "Halt!" A SS Major called out after Edgar.
Edgar glanced backwards, panicked and began to run. Machine gun fire cut him down in the street. Another member of the SS squad fired into the store where Dieter had retreated.
"Search everywhere," Major Manfred Eckold ordered. The SS squad leader entered the store, stepping over the bullet-riddled body of its former owner. "The radio is here somewhere."
"Jawohl, Major Eckold," Private Tieg replied, immediately starting the search. Major Eckold will stand for nothing less than finding the radio.
Rohrmoos, Germany, Butcher Shop, Bahnhofstrasse, February 28, 1943, 1030 Hours
Georg had almost made it across the Village Square and to the butcher shop when the SS arrived. He had heard the gunfire and had turned in time to see his father gunned down. His father hadnít gotten up. Georg hurried into the shop.
"What is it, what is happening?" Berta demanded of her son, her eyes seeking the reassuring appearance of her husband.
"The SS," Georg replied his voice cracking. He was shaking and terrified. He had never seen anyone killed before. Papaís body had jumped at each bullet impact. It was horrible. When he was with his friends, and they talked of the War and the Glorious Third Reich, no one had ever described it like this. "They shot Papa, heís not moving."
"Oh no!" Berta replied, horrified. Somehow she had always thought that they would not be caught. They would pass along information, and their lives would go on much as they had before. Neither she nor Edgar had been able to support the Fuher or his policies. Becoming a resistance cell had seemed to be the best solution. Now Edgar was dead, and she was alone. No, not quite alone, she reminded herself as she looked into the terrified eyes of her son. She pushed all thoughts aside in the interest of getting her children out of danger. Once the SS identified Edgar they would be coming here. "Quickly, get the packed bag from the hall closet. Put it in the car."
"Dieter put the mission plans in the bag," Georg replied, catching his motherís urgency. He was old enough to understand that they were all in danger now.
"Bring the groceries too, then. Iíll get Anja. Hurry!" Berta said, running up the stairs to get her daughter. Anja was in her bedroom playing, "Come on, we need to leave now," Berta told the girl, grabbing up her daughterís coat.
"Why Mama?" Anja asked, standing.
"Because we must," Berta replied, taking Anja by the hand. "I will explain later, now we must hurry."
Berta saw both children settled in the backseat of the car and began the short drive towards Dachau. But Anja wasnít to be put off forever.
"Why did we have to leave so quickly?" Anja Ohms, a pretty, 10 year old girl with a spattering of freckles across her nose with intelligent blue eyes and fair brown hair asked from the back seat of the family car.
"Because the SS will search for us now," her older brother Georg said from the seat beside her. Their mother had them in the car and was driving south. "Mama is doing what Papa planned."
"Thatís right, dear," Berta replied from the front seat, her voice steady. She had her children to think of, she couldnít dwell on what had happened to her husband. Not now and perhaps not for a long time to come. "Remember what we told you? That, what Papa and I were doing was the right thing to do. The Nazis think it is wrong. They will now hunt us down and kill us, like they did to Papa and Dieter. We have to leave."
"Lotte says that the Gestapo and the SS are protecting us from our enemies. Why did they shoot Papa?" Anja asked. She was still too young to understand. Both Berta and Edgar had talked with her a lot about keeping secrets from her friends, their parents and the rest of the family.
Georg made a rude noise. "Protecting their interests is more like it."
"Georg," Berta cautioned. "Anja, the Gestapo and the SS are not the true police. The true police have been dismantled to support the Fuher. The Fuher created the Gestapo and the SS. Their laws are not something that your father and I could support. That is why we have worked so hard to oppose them."
"Where are we going now?" Anja asked frightened and confused.
"A safe place that I know," Berta replied. She was taking them to a safe house in Dachau. "We will be alright."
Dachau, Germany, Friedenstrasse, February 28, 1943, 1145 Hours
The address was a small house on the outskirts of the town; it seemed to be part of a small riding stable. Berta hurried up the front walkway and knocked on the door.
"May I help you?" An elderly woman asked from behind her.
Berta whirled around, startled. "Um, yes. I was looking for directions to Mockingbird Lane. Would you know the way?"
The elderly woman replied, "Yes I do, itís two miles to the east as the crow flies."
Berta relaxed and supplied the last part of the code. "I thought crows only flew to the west in winter?"
The elderly woman then smiled and introduced herself. "Welcome, Iím Frieda Voigt. Come inside dear."
"Iím Berta Ohms, my two children are with me as well," she said distracted. "We may have been followed here. We should get rid of the car as quickly as possible."
"Come inside. Iíll take care of it," Frieda replied.
Berta gestured to the children and they immediately got out of the car. Georg brought the bag with him, while Anja carried the groceries. Berta, Georg and Anja entered the house following Frau Voigt through the front porch into a small living room. The room was cozy and on every surface there were trophies. It seemed that the stable had been very successful at one point.
"Sit down, Iíll be right back," Frieda told them, leaving the living room through the kitchen.
Berta rummaged through the grocery sack and came up with the papers Dieter had given them. She read over them quickly, frowning.
"What is it, Mama?" Georg asked. He had been watching his mother intently since they had arrived.
"Papa and Dieter were to meet someone. We will not be able to continue with this mission alone," Berta replied, "But I donít know how to find help."
Frieda was back a few moments later. "My husband Otto will get rid of the car. He will be back soon."
"Thank you, Frau Voigt." Berta paused an idea forming, perhaps these people could help, not only by getting her and the children to a place of safety, but also somehow getting the mission accomplished as well. "My husband and his partner were just killed by the SS in Rohrmoos," Berta said her voice steady. She would show no weakness in front of the other woman and her own children. "They will be looking for us next. We shouldnít stay, we will only endanger you and your husband."
"Nonsense, it is what we are here to do. We will do our best to help you," Frieda told the younger woman, smiling reassuringly at the two children. "What is that?" Frieda asked indicating the papers Berta held.
"It was to be our next mission. Weíre Warbler," Berta replied with a sigh. "From what I understand this is a very important mission. Can you contact Albatross in Munich? We must tell them what has happened and that I am unable to carry through with these plans. Itís imperative that we find someone else to continue with this mission."
"No, Iím afraid we canít help you in that regard, we have no radio here. I donít know who Albatross is. Our main function is to help move people out of Germany. Maybe when Otto returns he will have an idea," Frieda replied.
When Otto returned, Frieda explained what had happened. "We must move you very quickly then," Otto replied. "As to what to do with your mission, I am not sure. We cannot help you. Frieda and I are old, and we do what we can. However, as you are moved down the chain you will get to a place that has radio contact with London. Perhaps once there, you can get word out."
"How long will that be?" Berta asked worried and scared.
Otto shrugged. "I am not really sure. We only know the next stop. Itís safer that way."
"I guess that will have to do then," Berta replied with a sigh.
Stalag 13, Kommandantís Office, March 1, 1943, 1100 hours
Colonel Klink had returned to his office from roll call very angry. There had still been no sign of the escaped prisoner, Corporal Louis LeBeau. He had had men searching the surrounding area all night.
It wasnít until an hour ago that the Frenchman -- What was is that Shultz called him? Cockroach -- had surrendered to his guards on the road from Hammelburg. The guards said that it appeared the Frenchman was heading back toward camp. Strange. Colonel Klink had sent the Corporal directly to the cooler upon his return. He had just sent Sergeant Shultz to get Colonel Hogan. He wanted the Senior POW Officer brought to his office, immediately.
I just canít understand it, thought the Kommandant. With many of the POWs in camp still recovering from pneumonia, the camp had actually settled into a calm routine. That was, until this crazy escape attempt by the Frenchman. Klink had hoped that the camp would not return to the mayhem that existed prior to the outbreak. Since my appointment here as Kommandant, not one of the POWs in Stalag 13 had ever successfully escaped. Even after -- Whatís the count now? -- 200 attempts. And most of those attempts have occurred since Colonel Hoganís arrival six months ago. He had hoped that Colonel Hogan had finally come to his senses and would keep his men under control. But now that didnít seem to be the case. What more can I do to stop these escape attempts?
Stalag 13, Colonel Hoganís Quarters, March 1, 1943, 1100 Hours
Sergeant Shultz knocked before he entered Colonel Hoganís quarters. Shultz indicated that the Kommandant wanted to see the American Colonel immediately. Shultz told Colonel Hogan that Kommandant Klink had looked ready to blow a gasket. Hogan had already been expecting this summons to the Kommandantís office. One of his men had tried to Ďescapeí last evening. Corporal Louis LeBeauís escape attempt had been a smoke screen, as they needed to start sending out the stranded servicemen a few at a time. LeBeauís escape was meant to create enough covering tracks through the snow, so that the trail of Ďmovingí prisoners would not be noticed. LeBeau had kept the guards and dogs busy all night. He had been re-captured earlier this morning and placed in solitary confinement. But, there were now enough footprints in the snow to cover the trail of a retreating army. Good job LeBeau.
This had been the first escape attempt in over a month. The movement of Allied servicemen needed to restart more quietly than ever before. Hogan and his men had been using very brazen techniques as smoke screens. It had kept the Kommandant and the guards here at Stalag 13 way off-balance. It had been like playing chess, with Klink and Shultz as the pawns. Hogan had taken pleasure in keeping them at stalemate.
Hogan now realized that it would be less stressful on his men, if their guests were moved more quietly. It had been so quiet over the past month that even Kommandant Klink and his men had relaxed their vigilance. It made Hogan feel that he should continue with a more practical smoke screen regimen from now on. Corporal LeBeauís escape last night had been a necessity. But Hogan also wanted it to look like the POWs hadnít been entirely cowed by the outbreak of pneumonia. He still had to keep them guessing.
Hogan followed Shultz into the Kommandantís outer office. "Colonel Hogan, please wait here, I will announce you," Sergeant Shultz said.
"Okay Shultz," Hogan answered, taking a seat in the chair closest to the door. When Shultz entered the Kommandantís office, Hogan got up and approached Helga, the very attractive blonde that manned the secretaryís desk in the outer office. As Hogan reached the desk, he took her hand in his and gently kissed it. He looked longingly into her eyes; she practically melted in his presence. This was generally when he could get any information he wanted from her.
While Hogan was gently flirting in the outer office, Kommandant Klink looked up from his desk as Shultz entered his office closing the door behind him. Shultz moved to stand directly in front of the Kommandantís desk. He gave the Kommandant a crisp military salute. "Sergeant Shultz, reporting as ordered. Colonel Hogan is waiting in the outer office as you requested Kommandant," he said.
Klink responded in kind to the salute. "Show him in Sergeant," Klink said returning his gaze to the papers on his desk.
"Jawohl Herr Kommandant," Shultz said. He then opened the office door and called "Colonel Hogan, the Kommandant will see you now." Shultz noticed with some embarrassment that the American Colonel was again flirting with Helga. Colonel Hogan quickly kissed Helga on the cheek and turned toward Shultz with a guilty smirk. Shultz couldnít help but smile at the American Colonel. The man was so outrageous, thought Shultz.
Helgaís gentle laughter could be heard as Hogan entered the Kommandantís office.
Hogan saluted the German Colonel. "You wanted to see me sir?" he asked innocently.
Looking up from the papers on his desk, Kommandant Klink responded in kind. "Yes, Colonel Hogan. I did. As Iím sure you know by now, your Corporal LeBeau has been re-captured by my men. I have sentenced him to 30 days in the cooler, without privileges." Klink paused to take a breath. "That is all, dismissed." Klink turned his attention back to the papers on his desk. That was meant to be the end of the conversation.
"But, Kommandant. That doesnít seem very fair under the circumstances," Hogan said quickly.
The Kommandant sighed. It looks as if things were going to return to the way they had been. Dealing with Colonel Hogan had never been easy. "What circumstances Hogan? And I donít want any of your double talk," Klink said evenly. Hogan was at it again. There will be some crazy excuse, like LeBeau was just out picking mushrooms for some silly celebration. Hogan will tell me that LeBeau had planned on coming back to camp until my men started chasing him. Incredible, Iím even starting to come up with them before Hogan does!
Hogan replied, smiling innocently. "Well sir, itís my fault really. I had wanted to thank you properly for all that you did for my men during the pneumonia outbreak. I had asked for a volunteer to go into Hammelburg. Corporal LeBeau agreed to go into town to pick up a gift for you, sir." Hoganís facial expression turned distressed and he said, "I donít know if he even got the chance to get the gift, before your men re-captured him."
Willhelm Klink just stared dumbfounded at Colonel Hogan. "Hogan, you canít honestly expect me to believe that you sent LeBeau into town to get a present for me?" he asked disbelievingly.
"Sir, the lives of my men mean everything to me. I just wanted to show my gratitude to you," Hogan said putting himself on the offensive. He turned to Shultz. "Shultz, go get LeBeau from the cooler, that way we can see if he was able to get Colonel Klink his present."
"Jawohl, Colonel Hogan," replied Shultz. He saluted Colonel Hogan and headed for the door.
"Shultz!" bellowed Kommandant Klink. "I give the orders around here, not Colonel Hogan." He glared dangerously at both men. "Is that understood?"
"Of course Colonel, I overstepped my boundaries. Iím sorry," said Colonel Hogan, apologetically. He again turned to Shultz. "Disregard that order, Shultz. I guess Colonel Klink doesnít want the gift."
"Jawohl, Colonel Hogan," replied Shultz. He returned to his original position beside the American Officer.
Kommandant Klink was still glaring as Hogan returned his gaze and said, "Kommandant, I just hope you will take my responsibility for this situation into consideration when assessing Corporal LeBeauís punishment. He went into town on my behalf. He doesnít deserve 30 days in the cooler without privileges."
"Enough Colonel Hogan!" Colonel Klink said frustrated. This man was impossible. "Shultz go get Corporal LeBeau. Bring him here. If he does have this Ďgiftí with him, which I seriously doubt. I may reconsider my judgment. If he does not, he will serve his 30-day sentence. And you Colonel Hogan, will be confined to your barracks for two weeks, without privileges."
Colonel Hogan appeared somewhat dispirited as Sergeant Shultz left to retrieve Corporal LeBeau. Colonel Klink indicated that Hogan should sit and wait. As Hogan sat, he removed his cap and placed it so it hung lopsidedly on the spike of the Kommandantís WWI pikelhaube that was prominently displayed on the desk. Kommandant Klink removed the cap immediately and handed it back to Hogan who shrugged apologetically and placed it elsewhere on the desk.
"Colonel Hogan," Klink began, rising to pace around the office. "I had thought that over the past month or so, you and your men had finally come to the conclusion that escaping from Stalag 13 was impossible. Things had been running smoothly here. I canít have it getting out of control again. You need to control your men, Colonel Hogan. I canít continue this game with you any longer. Up until now, Iíve been very lenient. But it is well within my rights, to shoot any prisoner found escaping. If I need to resort to that, I will. Is that understood Colonel?"
Hogan answered quietly, "Perfectly Kommandant." He and his men were definitely going to have to play this game closer to the vest from now on. Klink looked like he just might carry through with his threat. Colonel Hogan hadnít realized how far he had pushed Kommandant Klink with his crazy activity. He had always been able to use the Kommandantís naivete to his advantage. He now had to be more careful not to push Klink too far.
Just then Sergeant Shultz entered the office followed by Corporal LeBeau. Colonel Hogan leaped from where he was sitting. He grabbed the Corporal looking him up and down. "Are you all right LeBeau? They didnít hurt you, did they? I know how Shultz can be when heís riled." Hogan glanced at Shultz, who had a Ďwho me?í expression on his face. His distraction seemed to have worked. Thanks to a few lessons from Newkirk, he had just palmed the Ďgiftí off to LeBeau. Neither Klink nor Shultz seemed to notice. Damn, this would have been easier if LeBeau had taken the watch with him. But if he had gotten captured before getting the chance to have spent time in town this morning, the whole thing could have blown up in our faces.
Klink said, looking weary now. "Alright Colonel, Corporal LeBeau is fine. Letís get on with this. LeBeau, Colonel Hogan tells me, he sent you into Hammelburg to pick up a gift for me. Is that true? Do you have the gift with you?"
LeBeau replied, "Yes Kommandant, that is true. I have the gift right here." He pulled the box, the one the Colonel just put there, from his pocket. He handed it to Kommandant Klink.
Klink looked completely flabbergasted as he opened the box. Inside the box was what appeared to be a very expensive watch. Sergeant Shultz came up to the Kommandant and admired the watch as well, saying "Kommandant that is beautiful!" Turning to Hogan and LeBeau, Shultz said, "That was very nice of you, Colonel Hogan!"
"Thanks Shultz," said Hogan still watching Klink for a reaction. Hopefully this wonít backfire.
Klink began shaking his head negatively and said, "I donít know how you did this Hogan." He paused for a long moment, appearing deep in thought. "You are both free to return to your normal activities. Your punishments have been rescinded. Dismissed." Hogan is such an enigma, just when I think I have his game figured out, the rules change.
"Thank you, Kommandant," both Hogan and LeBeau said together. They offered Colonel Klink a hasty salute and left the office as quickly as possible.
That was incredible. Klink thought, staring at his closed office door. Amazing in fact. Hogan had actually sent a man into town for a gift. For me. Wait, a minute. How did LeBeau get out of Camp? For that matter, why would LeBeau agree to do that errand? He was free, we hadnít found a trace of him, and he could have escaped. Why didnít he? Hogan had such control over the men in Camp. It was absolutely unbelievable to see, and he had to admire it. Enemy or not, Hogan was a charismatic leader.
Stalag 13, Barracks Two, March 1, 1943, 1400 hours
Hogan had assembled all the barracks commanders for a meeting. He still had men recovering from pneumonia. He would let them know what was going on later today when he made his daily visit. He had called the meeting to explain all the changes he was going to make regarding their operation.
"Good morning gentlemen. Iíve called this meeting to discuss some major changes in our operation. We can no longer afford to be as brazen about our smoke screen tactics. I canít promise that all the crazy activity will stop, but I donít think we have to go out of our way anymore to create it. What we do need to do is to expand our tunnel network. We will no longer have one man escape and be replaced by a moving prisoner or any other type of prisoner swap. Everything will be done more subtlety. All these men will have to stay in the tunnels. They will be brought in and released through the tunnel system as a general rule. So we need to create better living areas for them. I want each of you to think of ways to restructure this operation, to make it more fluid. Talk to your men. Any of you that had been dealing extensively with our Ďstrandedí guests, I want your opinions as to what would have made their lengthy stay with us better and more easily manageable. I want to hear everything you have to say, no matter how trivial. Thanks Gentlemen, thatís all. Dismissed."
Munich, Germany, SS Headquarters, March 3, 1943, 1320 Hours
SS General Stefan Geist leaned back in his office chair. On the desk before him, there was a folder containing five pieces of paper. The first page listed a name and address here in Munich. This man reportedly operated an underground radio. The next page was a photograph of the man listed on the first page. That man was dead. The third and fourth pages contained details of the manís life. Who he had associated with and places he had frequented. The fifth page in the folder contained the names of two men who were known to live in Rohrmoos, a small village not more than 10 miles from here. All three men were suspected of operating a resistance cell from the Munich area.
"Come," Geist called out at the knock on his door. He let the papers fall back onto his desk. He knew what they said by heart.
"Heil Hitler," the man who entered said, clicking his heals, coming to attention and reached his arm to its full extension.
"Yes, Heil Hitler," replied General Geist, also saluting but not quite as enthusiastically. "Major Eckold. What have you discovered?" Geist asked, impatiently.
"The man here in Munich, Rubin Tope is dead. We found the radio hidden under some loose boards in his attic. On first inspection, it appeared that Tope left no papers behind, though we are reasonably sure his code name was Albatross. We will continue to search his apartment. My men and I have today, just returned from Rohrmoos. We located another radio hidden behind the wall of Dieter Wirthís apartment. Wirth owned the Rohrmoos Village store. When we arrived Wirth was with our third suspect Edgar Ohms. Both Ohms and Wirth tried to run, forcing my men to shoot them. Both are dead. We are searching for Ohmsís wife and two children now," Major Eckold reported to his superior, nervously.
"The woman has escaped you then?" Geist asked, his voice cold and mocking.
"Yes sir," Major Eckold replied. "But not for long. She will be found."
"What else have you discovered?" Geist asked.
"Nothing else of consequence, sir," Major Eckold replied. "Ohms was the village butcher. Nothing was found in a search of his shop or apartment. No one questioned could tell us anything pointing us in another direction. But, we are sure that Tope, Wirth and Ohms were working together. We also know there is at least one other contact, but so far that person has eluded us."
"I want results Major, not excuses. Is that understood?" Geist continued not waiting for an answer, "Keep me informed. Dismissed."
"Jawohl Herr General," Major Eckold acknowledged and gratefully left Geistís office. General Geist was never one to take failure lightly. And he had failed in this mission miserably. Three of the suspects were dead, and no new leads were apparent. Yet.
Well, well, well, Geist thought. This could get very interesting as the hands are played out. Where were the rest of Albatrossís contacts? Are there truly any others? If so, will they show themselves? What do they know? What steps should be taken from here?
Wurzburg, Germany, Haugerglacisstrasse, March 3, 1943, 2340 Hours
Berta hugged Anja close to her as the car they were hidden in came to a stop. They had been stopped four times since leaving Nurnberg. Each time though, the car was passed through the checkpoint. This was the third night of being moved along this underground chain. Never had she felt so vulnerable. Discovery could come at any time. It was exhausting. Georg was holding up well under the pressure, but he was withdrawn. Anja barely spoke any more. She was frightened and there was little Berta could do to comfort her. She still had no idea how much further they must travel. At each stop in the chain, she was told that Ďmaybeí the next stop would be the one with radio contact. But no one knew for sure. It was so very frustrating, and time was running out. There was only a week left before the last mission that Warbler was responsible for, was to be accomplished. She very much wanted to complete this final mission; it would give some meaning to the deaths of both Dieter and her husband.
"Okay," Boris Weidner said softly. "It is time to move inside now."
Georg got out of the car first and Anja followed. Berta stood slowly her legs cramping from their long time folded beneath her. They had been hidden in the car for almost four hours. She followed her children and Boris into the dark house. When they entered, there was a carefully shielded light on in the kitchen of the home and there were two women there. On the table there were four mugs of hot cider.
"Thank you Boris," Hanna Nehaus said. Hanna was an elderly woman, who appeared to be in her late sixties. The other woman in the kitchen was slightly younger.
"My pleasure, Hanna. These folk are Berta, Georg and Anja Ohms. They need to be moved quickly, the SS is searching for them," Boris replied. He then turned to Berta. "Hanna and Lydia will take it from here. Good luck."
"Thank you Boris," Berta said with a smile for the man. He had risked a great deal taking them so far. "I will remember your kindness always."
Boris smiled back and slipped out of the house.
"He will return to Nurnberg now," Hanna said. "Come. Sit down. There is hot cider here. Lydia will fix you something to eat."
"Thank you," Berta said. She watched as Georg and Anja both took a mug of cider and sat at the table. "I must get a message to London, you are not perchance the place in this chain that has contact with London by radio?"
Hanna shook her head. "No, I am sorry. We do not have a radio here. Boris calls us on the telephone. However," Hanna added at the disappointed look on the younger womanís face. "I believe that there just might be a radio in Hammelburg. It is your next stop."
"How soon can we leave?" Berta asked immediately, her spirits rising. Maybe she could get the message out before it was too late.
"Our brother, Rolf, will take you to Hammelburg in the morning with his daily delivery of newspapers. He will go to the Deutsches Tagespost (tm) offices for the papers at 4 am. After the truck is loaded he always comes here, we give him his lunch. We will hide you in the truck while it is here. He will make sure you get to the correct place in Hammelburg. You have some time, relax if you can. Eat, get the children to sleep," Hanna replied.
Lydia put several plates and a casserole on the table. "Please help yourself. There is plenty."
"Thank you. Everyone has been so generous and kind," Berta replied.
"We do what we can," Hanna replied thinking to herself. How horrible the times have become that even my own countrymen have to run and hide. Up to this point, the only people weíve moved along have been allied servicemen. Never have we had to hide children.
Wurzburg, Germany, Haugerglacisstrasse, March 4, 1943, 0445 Hours
Lydia knocked on the spare bedroomís door before opening it slowly and said, "Berta. Come it is time to go." She hoped that the family had gotten some rest. They still had a ways to go.
Berta answered, instantly awake. "I will wake the children. Weíll be right out."
Lydia nodded and left Berta to get the children ready.
Berta, Georg and Anja went downstairs and into the kitchen where a big, muscular man stood drinking a cup of coffee. "Hello, Iím Rolf Nehaus," the man said. He was in his fifties and completely bald. "Are you almost ready? We can go as soon as you have been hidden in the truck. The journey will only take about two hours."
"We are ready," Berta replied. She checked to be sure the mission papers were still in her coat pocket. They had had to leave everything else behind when they had left Ingolstadt on the first night after leaving Dachau.
Hammelburg, Germany, Warenhaus, Dalbergstrasse, March 4, 1943, 0630 Hours
Heinrich Berger threw open the heavy storeroom door to the loading dock behind his general store. Rolf Nehaus was here with the daily delivery of the Deutsches Tagespost. "Guten Morgen, Rolf. How are your sisters?"
"Lydia has been feeling poorly," Rolf replied, supplying the code phrase to let Heinrich know he had someone hidden in the truck.
"Oh, that is too bad. Her back again?" Heinrich asked.
"Yes. Sheís been doing too much again. Hanna and I try to get her to slow down," Rolf said, backing the truck up to the back of the store.
"Well give her my best," Heinrich replied, opening the door to the back of the truck. Rolf was soon beside him. Together the two men unloaded the truck of the papers that Heinrich sold.
"Hurry, go into the back room of the store," Heinrich said removing the second tarp that covered the papers in the back of the truck. He was surprised when a girl of about ten was the first person he saw. Up till this delivery they had only seen allied serviceman. An older boy followed the girl, and finally a woman crawled from behind the stacked newspapers.
"Thank you, Rolf. Tell Hanna and Lydia that I said hello. Good luck with the rest of your deliveries," Heinrich said.
"I will pass along your regards, Heinrich. See you tomorrow morning," Rolf replied, swinging into his truck to continue with his rounds.
Heinrich closed and locked the back door of the store and turned to face his three guests. "Welcome to Hammelburg. I am Heinrich Berger. How is it that you and your children are being moved along this chain?"
"I am Berta Ohms, these are my children, Georg and Anja. The SS shot my husband along with his partner. We operated a small resistance organization in Rohrmoos. I knew of a safe house in Dachau, and now we are here. The SS is searching for us. Please, I must contact London. Is there a radio here? Our group is supposed to complete a mission but we can no longer do it. It is a very important mission and time is of the essence now," Berta replied.
"Youíve come to the right place then," Heinrich replied. "You have one more small move to make, no more than three miles. Very shortly a man will come in for his morning paper. He will move you to your next destination then. Once there, you will find the help that you need."
"Danke schon!" Berta replied, relieved. Perhaps it was not too late and the mission could be salvaged.
"Try to make yourself comfortable. The Tierarzt will be here shortly," Heinrich said, entering the front of his store to open up.
"The vet?" Berta repeated, exchanging a look with Georg.
"They must know what they are doing, Mama," Georg said with a shrug. "They have gotten us this far."
"Yes. Let us hope that our luck continues," Berta replied.
Several minutes later they heard Heinrich talking with another man. "Rolfís been here already this morning. He tells me that Lydiaís back is troubling her again."
"That woman will have to learn to take it easy," Oskar Schnitzer replied, knowing that he would be delivering yet another person to Stalag 13ís Travelerís Aide Society. He was glad that this process was running smoothly again. It had been awful seeing how despondent the men at Stalag 13 became, as more and more of their comrades fell ill. It was a lucky thing for those men that they had Colonel Hogan on their side. Without him, they would never have had Londonís support and the majority of the prisoners in that camp might have died. "Thanks for the paper, Heinrich. Iíll be seeing you tomorrow."
"Here are a few cigars to keep you company. Have a good day, Oskar," Heinrich replied, handing the vet three cigars, one for each person hiding in his back room.
"Thanks, Heinrich. Iíll enjoy these. See you tomorrow." Oskar left the store and headed for his truck, knowing there would be three people coming from Heinrich this morning. The route was getting more popular.
Heinrich hurried out back. "Come, we must move quickly now." He opened the back door, gesturing Berta forward. "The Tierarztís truck is parked in the alley. He will be at the door of the truck. Simply go down the alley and get in. Good luck."
"Thank you. Come, children." Berta took Anja by the hand and the three of them left the store and walked down the alley. An older man stood by the truck in question. He looked at her in surprise, but opened the door. She and the two children climbed in. Immediately several friendly German Shepherd Dogs greeted them.
"They will not hurt you," Oskar reassured, closing the door.
He moved to the front of the truck and drove to Stalag 13.
Stalag 13, Dog Kennel, March 4, 1943, 0800 Hours
Schnitzer parked his truck next to the dog kennel. As he got out he noticed everyone in their normal places for his visit. If he took his handkerchief out and blew his nose, they would know he had someone for them. If they had someone for him, they would come over immediately to distract the guards. Today it appeared that he was the only one with a delivery. He blew his nose as he stood beside his truck.
Shultz came over followed inconspicuously by Newkirk. LeBeau went immediately to the back of the truck.
"Hey Shultzie. Howís the war today?" Schnitzer asked.
"So, so," said Shultz. "Anything happening in town today?" He asked.
"Tonight Bertha Bomgartten and her all girl orchestra are playing at the Haus Brau," Schnitzer replied doing his part to keep Shultz occupied while his truck was emptied. "I hear they are very friendly to the boys in uniform, eh Shultzie!" Schnitzer said, elbowing Shultz in the stomach and displaying a wicked grin. As Newkirk walked away he knew the coast was clear and he moved to change the dogs.
"Oh, Bertha Bomgartten and her all girl orchestra. Oh I would love to see that!" Shultz said.
"Perhaps Colonel Klink will give you a pass," Schnitzer said, opening the truck to change the dogs one by one.
"Huh! I doubt it," Schultz replied, watching Schnitzer work.
Schnitzer finished up. "Well, Shultzie. Iíll see you tomorrow."
"Auf weidershun," Shultz replied, returning to his duties.
Stalag 13, Dog Kennel, Schnitzerís Truck, March 4, 1943, 0800 Hours
Berta, Georg and Anja were sitting way to the back of the truck. They had not dared move. Berta had heard what appeared to be a German soldier talking to the Tierarzt. They had passed the truck through some checkpoint. The truck came to a halt and the driver turned off the engine. Berta had no idea where they were. The dogs seemed to know though. Very strange, she thought. Again she heard voices, but before she could make out anything the back door to the truck was opened quietly. A man indicated for them to quietly exit the truck. She saw the look of surprise on his face when he realized it was a woman and two children.
Berta exited the truck. She couldnít believe what she saw. It looked like a prison. She and the children were hustled into large dog kennel and made to climb down a ladder under a doghouse. It had happened so quickly, she hadnít had time to register anything. When she turned from the ladder, a large black man in a uniform spoke to her in English. She indicated she did not speak English, and he immediately changed his tactic and spoke German.
"Good morning. Welcome to Stalag 13. Iím Sergeant Ivan Kinchloe. Please relax, make yourself comfortable. We can get you something to eat and a change of clothes. Our commanding officer, Colonel Robert Hogan will be here soon. He will explain everything too you," said the Sergeant. Oh boy, what do we do with a woman and two children?
"Sergeant, Iím Berta Ohms and these are my children Georg and Anja. We have some very important information that needs to reach London. The SS in Rohrmoos killed my husband and his partner. We were a small group of resistance fighters. Our code name was Warbler. There is an important mission we were to have completed, but there was no way for my children and I to do so. We need help. We need to contact London and tell them of our inability to carry out this mission. Please say you have contact with London," Berta pleaded.
"We are in contact with London. We can get your message to them. Wait here. I will go get Colonel Hogan. He will know what to do," Kinch said reassuringly.
Kinch headed down the tunnel towards barracks two. Colonel Hogan definitely needed to talk to this family. Kinch got almost to the ladder under barracks two when he saw Colonel Hoganís feet appear on the ladder. Hogan reached the floor, straightened his bomber jacket and turned to head in the direction of the dog kennels. He almost walked into Kinch. "Wow sorry sir," said Kinch. "Colonel you need to talk to our guests."
"Yeah, LeBeau told me. A woman and two children," he said shaking his head. "How did they get into the chain?"
"Well sir. You should talk to her, but sheís says she was part of a small resistance unit. Her husband and his partner were both killed by the SS. She says she needs to talk to London about a mission they can no longer accomplish," Kinch explained. "They donít speak English sir."
"Okay Iíll go talk to her. No English, huh? That probably means we wonít be moving them to London. Hopefully London has an alternate location available," Hogan said as he headed toward the dog kennels.
He came around the bend and saw their three guests. The woman was very striking and probably in her early forties. There was a boy no older than fifteen and a girl of about nine. They certainly looked like theyíd been through hell. Hogan began in German, "Good Morning, Frau Ohms. Iím Colonel Robert Hogan. Senior Officer here at Stalag 13." Hogan reached out and shook her hand. "And these are your children?"
"Yes, my son Georg, my daughter Anja," Berta said indicating the children.
"Hello Georg," Hogan said reaching out to shake the boyís hand. Georg grasped his hand but remained quiet. Hogan turned to Anja. "Hello Anja," he said again reaching out to take her hand. Anja backed away, refusing to acknowledge him. Hogan acted as if he didnít notice. "Well Frau Ohms, it appears we have some things to discuss." Hogan led her to the nearest chair. "Please sit, make yourself comfortable. Now tell me whatís going on."
Berta began, "We have some very important information that needs to reach London. We were a small group of resistance fighters, code named Warbler. Our main objective was usually passing information along. But we had been assigned an important mission. My husband and his partner were killed as we got the final mission plans. My son had been able to retrieve the plans. There is no way for my children and I to complete this mission. We need to contact London and tell them of our inability to carry out this mission."
"Iím sorry about your husband and his friend. We certainly can contact London for you. If you will let me see the plans, I can send a message within the hour," Hogan assured her. "Iím sure London can make alternate plans."
"Thank you Colonel Hogan. We were hoping that someone could take on this mission. It would at least make Edgar and Dieterís deaths have some meaning," Berta said as she handed him the mission plans. "We were so worried that we would not be able to contact London. Weíve been traveling for almost four days, making one stop after another. No one knew which stop would be the one that could help us. I understand the need for secrecy, but it could have been disastrous if the mission had needed to come off sooner."
"I understand. At this point, the resistance is very disorganized. There are very small cells working throughout the area, but they have no real central management. It has been working. Weíve been able to move many Allied servicemen back to London through the chain. Itís just not an efficient use of time," Hogan said sympathetically as he started to look over the plans.
"I can certainly see why you and your children wouldnít be able to pull this off. You certainly donít look like an SS Colonel and I donít think your son could be an SS Major. The mission seems to be an exchange of information. But it looks as if your contact is going to offer some very strategic military information," Hogan said, as he was reading the papers. "Well, Frau Ohms. If you follow me, we can get this message on its way." Hogan used his hand to point in the direction of the radio room. Berta started on in that direction, her two children were not far behind. "Your children can stay here and relax. They are safe," Hogan said, trying to reassure her.
Berta stopped and looked fearfully at Colonel Hogan. She knew that the Colonel was probably right, but being separated from her children was not something she or they could handle right now. "Would it be alright, if they came along?" Of all the places theyíd been to in the last few days, this place bothered her the most. She realized now that she and her children were in a German POW camp. Everyone she had seen since arriving was an Allied service man. All she could think about was the number of German soldiers just overhead. It terrified her. But, these men are acting as if thatís not a problem. How amazing.
"Thatís quite alright, they came come. I just thought theyíd be more comfortable here," Hogan said having read the fear in their faces. Iím sure just few days ago, finding themselves hiding underground at a German POW Camp, would never have been a consideration. This canít be easy for them. "Itís just this way," Hogan said heading off in the direction of the radio room.
Berta followed the Colonel to his radio room. The black officer that greeted them earlier was already seated at the radio. At this point all she and her children could do was sit and watch quietly. Colonel Hogan had gone back to conversing in English with his officer.
"Okay Kinch, who are we this month? I can never keep track. Mama Bear, Papa Bear or Goldilocks? I wish weíd just stick with one code name," Hogan said annoyed. Bureaucrats.
"Itís March. Weíre Papa Bear," replied Kinch with a grin. The Colonel has always hated monthly code name switches. He didnít think it made any sense. We go through this same ritual every month.
Hogan picked up the transmitter. Papa Bear to Mama Bear. Come in Mama Bear. Urgent. Warbler mission is in jeopardy. Can no longer continue, agents killed. Unable to contact Albatross for contingency plan. Remaining members of Warbler here, women and children. Need safe haven. Papa Bear request location for move."
Kinch got the signal that the message was received. "They will get back to us sir," said Kinch.
Hogan nodded and turned to the Ohms family. Again speaking in German he told them, "London has gotten the message. Iím sure everything will be fine. Iím sure they will come up with a contingency plan for your mission. We are just waiting for them to give us your final destination. Since weíve never moved German civilians before, we will need to move you and your children on a different path than the one to London. It should just be a few minutes to get confirmation."
"Thank you Colonel. It is quite a relief to finally get that message to London," Berta replied with a sigh.
It took almost 45 minutes before the signal from London came in. Berta and her family had sat quietly waiting. Colonel Hogan had excused himself with an errand but had returned just a few minutes ago. The Sergeant who took the message, looked astonished. Colonel Hogan looked very angry. Berta and her children watched him begin to pace back and forth, loudly expressing his distaste with something. Something London said, one would have to assume. Her children got very nervous. On top of the Colonel yelling, he was also yelling in a different language. It made it seem all the worse.
"Colonel Hogan," Berta said as loudly as possible to get his attention. When he turned to look at her she said, "You are frightening my children. And me. Itís very unnerving to watch someone yelling in a different language. Especially when you know itís you they are yelling about. Please stop, we didnít mean to be this much trouble."
Berta saw his expression soften. He started to approach them. Her children immediately flinched and tried to use their mother as a shield. The Colonel noticed and stopped his approach. He actually backed off saying, "Iím sorry Frau Ohms, Georg, Anja. Itís not your fault. We have your final destination. We will get you new papers, new clothes. Basically new identities, so you can continue living your lives in safety elsewhere in Germany," Hogan said trying to be reassuring, but he could see it wasnít working.
"Then what were you yelling about?" asked Berta still nervous. The Colonel was now trying to be nice, but she could still sense his anger.
"London just plopped your mission unceremoniously into my lap. It seems they have also lost contact with Albatross. So you definitely had a leak somewhere. Now, my men and I are responsible for your mission. London just conveniently forgot that we live in a POW camp and that traipsing 200 miles back and forth across the country side isnít something we do everyday," Hogan said, his voice getting heated. "Not to mentioned weíve never done anything like this before! We move POWs and downed pilots. Thatís it. Thatís our job. Period. End of story." He noticed he had scared the family once again. This time he went to the other side of the tunnel and leaned against the wall. "There I go again. Iím sorry. I didnít mean to frighten you. Everything will be fine. You may have to stay a couple of days, but we will get you out of here to a safe place. If youíll excuse me," Hogan said as he started to head back to his quarters. Then in English he said, "Kinch, Iím going to need a staff meeting in one-hour, you, Newkirk, LeBeau and Wilson. Okay?"
"Yes sir," replied Kinch. After the Colonel left, he turned and addressed the Ohms. "Iím sorry, the Colonel been under a lot of stress lately. Iím sure he didnít mean to frighten you. If you come with me, I can get you someplace to sleep, some food and a change of clothes." We need to come up with someplace private for this family. We still have fifteen servicemen in the tunnels waiting to move and reservations for another ten POWs by next week. Iím sure the Ohms would feel much more comfortable with some privacy. We can use the section of tunnel beyond the dog kennels. We had started digging for the cooler, but we can hold off on that. Iíll have LeBeau work on setting that area up for the Ohms.
Berta and her children followed the Sergeant. But, she had to know, "Sergeant, will your Colonel really not follow through with his orders. If so, I think you should let London know." She didnít understand the dynamics here, but the Colonel had appeared to be quite ready to forsake the mission.
"Frau Ohms," Kinch said with a smirk. "Colonel Hogan has never disobeyed an order. He may not always like the order and he will complain loudly about it. What you didnít understand is that he has already asked me to set up a staff meeting for one hour. If I know Colonel Hogan, he will have a plan all worked out by then. A plan that will get the information as well as still keeping this operation up and running."
"Oh," said Berta. This is the strangest place.
Stalag 13, Colonel Hoganís Quarters, March 4, 1943, 1100 Hours
How can London ask us to do this? A meeting thatís 200 miles away. Itís going to take a full day or more to get there with the snow. Probably a full day for the meeting. Weíll be there on the pretense of inspecting some internment camp. Dachau, I think it was. Another maybe two days back. That could be up to 5 days out of camp. Thatís impossible. Thereís no excuse that could keep any of us out of camp for 5 days. Not even one Klink would fall for. It certainly qualifies as enough of a reason to be Ďshot while escapingí. It also doesnít leave me with much choice of who to send. Kinch and I are the only ones fluent enough in German to even remotely pass muster. Sorry Kinch, but you donít quite fit the Aryan type. This also means I need to find a member of the underground to help. Thereís supposed to be two of us, a SS Colonel and SS Major. On top of it, we are probably walking into a trap. There were already three dead agents involved in this. Not to mention that Iíve never done anything like this before. Iíve had no training in espionage. We learned our own operation, as it stands, by the seat of our pants. This mission doesnít give me much leeway, either they believe Iím a Colonel in the SS or weíre dead. Can I pull it off? I really donít know.
Hogan glanced at his watch. He almost immediately heard the expected knock on the door. "Come," he said. Kinch, Wilson, LeBeau and Newkirk entered and closed the door behind them. "Well gentleman, weíve just been asked by London to pull off a mission thatís 200 miles from here."
"What? Thatís crazy," said Newkirk. "They canít be serious. Nobody can be gone that long."
"Oui," said LeBeau. "How do they expect us to do that? Donít they know we are in a POW camp?"
"Itís impossible," said Wilson. "Klink would have the head of anyone gone for that long!"
Kinch chimed in, "So Colonel. What do we need to do?" He got the dirtiest looks from the other three men.
The Colonel just smirked. "Am I that transparent Kinch?" asked Hogan rhetorically. "Listen guys, this will be a tough one. But I think I have a plan that will get me out of camp for the time needed and also get me back in with a decent excuse. You guys are going to have to provide me with the most elaborate smoke screen weíve ever used. We are going to have to get Berger, Schlick, Schnitzer and Freiling involved on the outside. One of them will have to accompany me. I need a person fluent in German, who also knows the area. Iíll need a guide or Iíll be lost."
Hogan paused. "There is the distinct possibility that we will not return from this mission. Three agents involved in this have already been killed. I have a plan that should deflect any investigation into Stalag 13, if we are killed. We wonít be carrying any identifying information on us, other than for the false paper work. So nobody should be looking here for us. It will be necessary for some additional smoke screen activity from this end as well to make it work. -- If we donít make it back -- I would hope that you men would continue our work here. But if the heat gets too bad, pack it up and get out. Okay?" Hogan implored.
Hoganís men all started talking at once, trying to convince him that what he had planned was foolhardy at best. Hogan just let them rant. He stayed quiet and tried to display a look of confidence. Soon, one by one, they settled. Newkirk, LeBeau and Wilson all shot Kinch a look. A look that said, the Colonelís nuts. Kinch swallowed hard and said, "Weíre behind you Colonel. Weíll do whatever is necessary."
"Thanks fellas. Now letís get to the specifics," Hogan stated excitedly, now that the decision was made. Wow, what a rush! Espionage may be the way to go -- If you survive, stupid -- Oh yeah, good point.
Stalag 13, Tunnel under Barracks Two, March 5, 1943, 1100 Hours
Heinrich Berger had just arrived at Stalag 13. He had slipped quietly into the emergency tunnel entrance. Hogan and his men were expecting Ďsomeoneí at 1100 hours. Oskar Schnitzer had returned to town earlier that morning, after changing the dogs, with the request from Colonel Hogan for a guide to help with a mission in Dachau. Berger was the only one who could legitimately be away for up to a week. His wife often took over the operations of the store. It would not look at all suspicious and the movement of Allied servicemen could still continue.
Hogan was surprised to see that Heinrich Berger was the one to volunteer. He had expected Hermann Schlick. Of the four underground men that worked closely with his operation, Hogan knew that it was either going to be Schlick or Berger that would volunteer. Doc Freiling and Doc Schnitzer were both too old to pass muster. As SS that is. Hogan knew that Schlick could have easily carried off the ĎSS Majorí that they needed. Hogan had only met him twice, but remembered Schlick as a huge, solidly built man, in his mid forties. He owned the Haus Brau restaurant in Hammelburg. He had always come across, tough as nails. That wasnít to say that Berger couldnít carry off the SS Major. He was a tall good-looking man in his late 40ís and very well built. It just always seem to Hogan that the man was just Ďtoo niceí. Iím sure itís because Schlick couldnít leave work for that length of time, but it would have made me feel less guilty about involving a civilian in this. Schlick was a bachelor with no family. Berger was married, although Iím unsure whether he has any children.
"Berger, good to see you again," Colonel Hogan said extending his hand. "Thanks for volunteering, I know this could be dangerous. I want to make sure you understand the chance you are taking. I will not think less of you if you choose not to continue."
Berger reached out and took hold of the Colonelís hand, "We are in a dangerous business, Colonel. We do what we must." Berger reached into his pocket and pulled out a bottle of pills. "A present from Dr. Freiling. He says to take twelve a day, two every four hours. It will induce symptoms of fever, sweating and nausea. He said you can increase it by one tablet every four hours, but no more."
"Thanks, letís hope it works or weíre all up the creek without a paddle," Hogan said pocketing the bottle of pills. "If you follow me, weíll get your picture for the paperwork weíll need, then you can head back home. Do you think youíll have any problems finding the SS staff car and uniforms?" Hogan asked as they both proceeded down the tunnel.
"No Colonel, it should not be a problem. I know someone that works for the local SS detachment. The uniforms will not be an issue. I also know some of your less than Ďupstandingí citizens who would just relish stealing an SS staff car. Everything will be ready for you," Berger said.
"Good. Thanks. Iíll leave you in the capable hands Sergeant Kinchloe then," Hogan said as they approached Kinch, who was ready to take the storekeeperís picture for his new identification papers. "Iíll see you on the ninth, sometime after 6:30 am, on the north road. Iím sorry I canít be more specific, convincing Kommandant Klink may take some time. Donít stick around past 8:00am, though."
"It will be fine Colonel, I plan on having car trouble. And that isnít out of the ordinary for my beat up old car," Berger said with a smirk. "By the way, Dr Freiling said you will be feeling pretty awful by the ninth. But, he promised the antidote would be ready for you when we all meet. Good luck Colonel."
"Same to you. See you then," Hogan said. He returned to his quarters, where he took the first dose of medication that Dr. Freiling had supplied. Itís time to start the charade. I hope the information this contact has, is worth all this trouble. And I hope something hasnít caused Doc Freiling to switch sides. Iíd hate to wake up dead in four days. Now youíre not even making sense. Maybe the drugs are already working. God, I hope I can pull this off.
Stalag 13, Colonel Hoganís Quarters, March 6, 1943, 1000 hours
The last few days have been a welcome diversion for the men in camp. More and more of the men recovering from pneumonia are being released. Only those that were the sickest remain, but even they are chomping at the bit to get out of the sick wards. Good thing too, there isnít much more penicillin to go around. Iíve still been making my rounds and will continue to do so until the eighth. The men already know that Iíll be heading out for a mission in Dachau on the ninth. Iím just glad to be able to see them all healthy before I leave.
Iíve had almost six doses of the medication that Doc Freiling prescribed. My stomach is starting to flip-flop. Even though I donít feel faint or feverish, I donít feel like eating. But, I realize I need to eat. I canít look sickly at Dachau. I need to be an SS Colonel. -- Today will be quiet, Iíll be laying low -- The real test of my acting ability will start tomorrow. The fact that there is very little penicillin will be a plus in my escape. It lends credence to what we have to tell the Kommandant.
We still have yet to move the Ohms family. They need to get to Heidelberg. Thatís quite the haul. We wanted to wait until the weather is better. From what weíve heard, a good portion of this trek would be on foot. The children just wouldnít make it. I donít know whether they will leave before I do. But theyíll be in good hands. Kinch wonít let anything bad happen to them.
Stalag 13, Colonel Hoganís Quarters, March 7, 1943, 1200 hours
Today Iím starting to feel awful, no fever. But Iím starting to feel faint and I ache all over. Itís still too early to pull the big finale. This afternoonís performance is just Act One. Supposedly, Iíve spent the morning in bed. I went back to sleep after the morning roll call. Which is just not like me. We want to make Shultz nervous.
"Here he comes, make it good," says Kinch, peeking out the barracks door. Shultz was heading their way to order the noon roll call. The men needed to make sure Shultz knew that Colonel Hogan wasnít acting up-to-par.
"Raus. Raus. Roll Call. Roll Call," Shultz yelled as he entered barracks two.
"Hey did you guys notice that Colonel Hogan went back to sleep after roll call this morning. That isnít like him," Newkirk said as he past Shultz at the door. "Do you think thereís something wrong?"
Shultzís head popped up at that.
"No, thereís nothing wrong, heís just been under a lot of stress lately, not sleeping. Heís probably just tired," Kinch replied as he passed Shultz at the door. "But we should keep and eye on him."
Shultz was listening intently now.
"Thatís it, he must be tired, he was still sleeping a few minutes ago," Lebeau added, as he passed Shultz at the door.
Shultz had watched everyone leave the barracks for roll call. Only Colonel Hogan had yet to come out of his quarters. Shultz decided to go get the Colonel and announce roll call in person. I hope nothing is wrong. Shultz never made it to the door before it opened and Colonel Hogan emerged. He was yawning, but didnít appear ill, though he was walking stiff.
"Hey Shultz. Do you have any pull with the Kommandant to get us new mattresses? I feel like Iíve been sleeping on concrete for the last couple days," Hogan said as he exited the barracks.
Stalag 13, Barracks Two, March 7, 1943, 1800 hours
This eveningís performance will be Act Two. Thereís quite the game of poker being played in the main barracks. Shultz is also playing. Iím going to break it up. Iím going to lose my temper. It seems that I have an incredible headache. Which I do by the way. This stuff from Doc Freiling, is really working. My stomach is in knots, I feel faint and Iím sure that my temperature has gone up.
"Okay, what the hellís going on out here?" Hogan yelled as he entered the main barracks. "You guys need to settle down. Stop the damn poker game! I want it quiet out here. Do you understand?" Hogan didnít even wait for an answer. He stormed back into his quarters and slammed the door.
There were very many "Yes sirs" and "Sorry sirs" to the Colonelís back as the men cleared the barracks of any evidence of a poker game.
"Boy what was that all about?" Carter asked. "Geez, I just get out of the hospital tonight and he doesnít even let us play poker. Do you think everythingís okay?"
Shultz exited the barracks very quietly. He didnít understand what was happening. But he would have to tell Kommandant Klink that Colonel Hogan was acting strange. He would wait until tomorrow morning. Maybe things would go back to normal.
Hogan re-emerged from his quarters after he was given the all clear. "Do you think he took the bait? We need him to tell Klink."
"You really scared him tonight Colonel. I think we can count on him saying something tomorrow," answered Newkirk.
Hogan grinned, "Letís hope so." He approached Carter grinning. He hadnít had a chance to say anything to him yet. Carter had been released just prior to the beginning of Act Two. Hogan reached out his hand to shake Carterís and said, "Welcome back Andrew. Weíve missed you. You didnít seem to miss a beat, though. Good work." Hogan took his other hand and rubbed it on Carterís head saying, "You can play poker anytime, Okay."
"Thanks Colonel!" Carter answered with a big grin.
Stalag 13, Barracks Two, March 8, 1943, 0530 hours
Shultz was nervous this morning. He hoped Colonel Hogan was feeling better. If not, he would need to let Kommandant Klink know. He opened the door to barracks two and yelled "Raus. Raus. Roll Call. Roll Call," directly into Colonel Hogan face. He was standing right inside the door. Shultz gulped back his next round of "Raus. Raus. Roll Call. Roll Call."
Act Three. "We get the bloody picture Sergeant. You donít need to yell. Weíve been doing this every morning since we arrived. We know the routine," Hogan said, glad that Shultzís gun was never loaded. He was the first one out the door. All the other men followed, each shrugging at Shultz apologetically.
I guess I will need to tell Kommandant Klink. I wonder whatís wrong? Shultz thought. After roll call, Shultz headed right into Kommandant Klinkís office.
As Hogan watched Shultz head for Klinkís office he thought, Iíll need to past muster with Klink as soon as he summons me to his office. I need him to believe that Iím just tired. Too much stress. Iíll apologize to Shultz. Then Iíll head back to my quarters. Actually, that sounds like a great idea. I really feel rotten today. My palms are all sweaty, I feel faint, Iím definitely not hungry, and I have a weird clammy feeling all over. Iím going to up the dose today as well. That way, tomorrow morningís finale should bring it home.
Stalag 13, Kommandantís Quarters, March 8, 1943, 0630 hours
Act Four. Shultz was escorting a very unhappy Colonel Hogan to the Kommandantís office. Neither man said a word. Shultz went into the office first and announced Colonel Hogan. Hogan followed fairly close behind, virtually not waiting for permission to enter. "You wanted to see me Kommandant?" Hogan asked irritated. He saluted rather shoddily even for the Ďnewí salute.
Amazing, another side of Colonel Hogan Iíve never seen, belligerent. "Yes, Colonel Hogan. Shultz tells me youíve been out of sorts lately. He also tells me that you have been rather ill mannered in your dealings with him recently. I canít allow that to happen Colonel Hogan. You are expected to treat my men with respect. Even your demeanor this morning leaves something to be desired. You are to wait until you are given permission to enter this office. Barging in is not acceptable. Have I made myself clear, Colonel Hogan?" Klink stated evenly.
"Perfectly clear sir," Hogan said sharply, coming to attention. Hogan actually felt himself getting angry. He had no clue where the anger was coming from.
"Good, I am willing to let this go this time. But I require an explanation and an apology for your behavior. If that is not forthcoming, you will be confined to your barracks for two weeks without privileges. -- Well Colonel Hogan?" demanded Klink.
Okay Hogan settle. You started this. You have no right to take this personally. Hogan sighed and tried to look regretful. "Iím sorry Kommandant. Iím sorry Shultz. I have no explanation, other than the past month has been very stressful for me. I havenít had much sleep. I donít really think Iíve dealt with what the deaths of my men would have meant to me. I probably deserve any punishment you want to hand out Kommandant. But, I do apologize," Hogan said contritely.
"Thank you Colonel Hogan. Apology accepted. Just donít let it happen again or I will not give you this chance next time," Klink said. "Dismissed. Shultz escort Colonel Hogan back to his barracks."
Stalag 13, Barracks Two, March 9, 1943, 0530 hours
This morning Shultz opened the door slowly to barracks two and checked to see that Colonel Hogan was not standing there. He wasnít. Shultz announced roll call, "Raus everyone, Raus. Roll Call. Roll Call."
The men of barracks two filed out the door rather quietly this morning. Some were saying "Good Morning" to Shultz; others were glancing sheepishly at Colonel Hoganís door and exiting the barracks in silence. Today though, Colonel Hogan did not come out of his quarters. Shultz had waited an extra couple of minutes. Even Colonel Hoganís men were getting nervous. Finally Shultz headed for the Colonelís quarters. Kinch, LeBeau, Newkirk and Carter had come back into the barracks and followed him.
"Colonel Hogan," Shultz said knocking on his door. "Colonel Hogan," Shultz said again knocking louder and opening the door. "Colonel Hogan, wake up," Shultz said going over and shaking the Colonel who was asleep on the bottom bunk. Thatís odd, Shultz thought. Colonel Hogan never sleeps on the bottom bunk. "Colonel Hogan," he said again shaking the American.
By this time, the other four men had barged into their commanderís office. "Whatís the matter, Shultz?" Kinch asked.
"I canít wake him," said Shultz, nervously.
Kinch was there immediately checking the Colonelís pulse. "Heís alive, but heís got a high fever. Newkirk, get Wilson now!" Newkirk barely acknowledge Kinchís order and was out the door immediately.
Newkirk actually almost ran right into Kommandant Klink who was heading in the door to find out what all the commotion was about. "Whatís going on here, Shultz? Why are these prisoners not at roll call? And where is Colonel Hogan?"
"Sir, Colonel Hogan is unconscious, I havenít been able to rouse him. Weíve called for Sergeant Wilson," Shultz replied rather panicked.
"What?" Klink yelled. "That is ridiculous! I talked to him just yesterday." Whatís going on? -- I must admit that Colonel Hogan was acting Ďnot rightí yesterday.
Sergeant Wilson interrupted Klinkís thoughts as he came running through the door to Hoganís quarters. "Everybody out! If this is what I think it is, everyone out!" Everyone backed out of Hoganís office, leaving Wilson alone with Hogan. "Are you okay, sir? You actually look like hell."
"Iím fine, I do feel like Hell, but Iím fine. Letís get this show on the road," Hogan replied in a whisper.
"Will do Colonel," said Wilson, also whispering.
Wilson exited the Colonelís quarters, to where Klink was waiting in the outer barracks. "Kommandant, I really need to talk to you. Itís important sir."
"Go ahead, Sergeant Wilson," the Kommandant said warily, not knowing what to expect.
"Colonel Hogan has contracted pneumonia sir. His body must have been fighting it for the last few days. It has hit him hard sir. Heís already got a high fever; the delirium is soon to come. Sir, we donít have enough medication in camp to even start to treat another epidemic, not to mention Colonel Hogan. I recommend moving Colonel Hogan to the hospital sir. That way they can keep him isolated. There are too many men in camp that wonít survive another bought of this sir. I beseech you sir, please move Colonel Hogan out of camp. Barracks two will have to be quarantined as well. No one else seems to be showing symptoms. The faster we get the Colonel out of here, the better," Wilson pleaded.
Kommandant Klink was shocked. How could this happen? He was quiet for a long moment.
"Kommandant, please," Wilson pleaded. "Colonel Hogan needs to be moved from here. Can you imagine how he would feel if he caused another epidemic here in camp? Please sir."
"Okay Wilson," Klink said, coming to a decision. "Shultz. You, Corporal Langenscheidt and Sergeant Wilson will transport Colonel Hogan to the hospital in Wurzburg immediately. Barracks Two is now under quarantine."
"I need help to move him. Cover your faces with something," Wilson said. "Everyone else that doesnít belong in barracks two needs to leave. Now!"
Kinch, LeBeau, and Newkirk went to help move the Colonel. Shultz had gone to get Langenscheidt and the truck.
Hoganís men gently carried him to the truck where Shultz had already put a stretcher. Colonel Hogan seemed very restless. He was muttering incoherently. "The delirium stage," said Wilson as he got in the back of the truck.
Shultz climbed in back with him, Langenscheidt was going to drive. Almost immediately they were driving out of the gate toward the nearest hospital, 30 miles away.
Road between Stalag 13 and Hammelburg, Germany, March 9, 1943, 0620 Hours
Wilson glanced worriedly at Colonel Hoganís still form as the man moaned and shifted as the truck went over a particularly jolting bump. Hogan was now perspiring at an alarming rate. If it werenít for the fact that he knew Hogan was not really sick, he would be very alarmed. Hogan looked dreadfully ill. The Colonel made a gagging noise and Wilson immediately rolled him onto his side. Hogan heaved weakly.
"We have to get to the hospital quickly," Wilson said to Shultz who had passed him a handkerchief to clean Hoganís chin of bile. Damn, this stuff the underground doctor had put Hogan on to simulate the needed symptoms worked well! He only hoped Hogan would be able to make his rendezvous with Berger.
"Ja," Shultz agreed watching the pale, sweaty form with apprehension. Colonel Hogan had always struck him as the indestructible kind. To see him this way was very unsettling.
Wilson glanced out the back of the truck; he could tell they were almost at the contact point. He reached out to touch Hogan on the forehead, apparently to assess his fever, but in reality to give Hogan the cue to begin his deception.
Hogan was instantly awake and yelling incoherently, giving every indication he was deep in some delirium. He shoved Wilson violently aside, coincidentally knocking Shultz over in the process. Hogan, his eyes fever bright, wrestled Shultzís rifle away from him and as the truck slowed to crawl up the steep hill leading up to the paved road into Hammelburg, he dropped to the ground outside and ran into the woods.
Well he tried to run anyway. The woods were still thick with at least a foot of snow. He waded forward determinedly. He had to make the next road over where Berger was to be waiting with a car. Unfortunately, he was leaving a very clear and easily followed trail. He abandoned the rifle about a half-mile from where heíd left the truck. The last thing he wanted was for Klink to inform the Gestapo that he was an ill, escaped, and armed prisoner. He came to the next road and jogged south to where Berger was to be waiting. He noticed that his passing on the road was impossible to determine. He hoped that his pursuers would believe that theyíd lost him on the road.
"Colonel," Berger said stepping from the car to open the trunk, relieved to see his passenger finally arrive. He had been waiting for almost thirty minutes, as heíd been early for the rendezvous. There had been no way to determine when Hogan would make it, and he hadnít wanted to leave the American stranded.
"Good to see you, Berger," Hogan said, leaning against the car breathing heavily. Normally this much activity would not have any effect on him, but Freiling was correct in his warning that heíd feel lousy by now. He had heaved up his last two meals, and he wasnít planning on eating this morning. Heíd also just heaved in the truck, the motion and bumps had been enough to set off his nausea. "Are we all ready to go?"
"Ja. Though Iím afraid it will not be very comfortableÖ" Berger said eyeing the small trunk of his battered old car with a wince at the thought of the tall American folded inside.
"Canít be helped," Hogan said with a sigh. "You canít be seen leaving the area with another man. Not when they will be searching for me in full force within an hour." Hogan sat on the carís bumper and folded his long, wiry body into the very cramped space available.
"You must move just a little further inside," Berger encouraged, trying to latch the trunk over the American Colonel.
"Youíre trying to kill me," Hogan protested, but somehow he managed to push himself further against the back seat. The trunk latched firmly over him, and he was left in cramped darkness. He heard the car door slam and felt it start up. He winced when Berger drove over the first bump. He was going to be lucky if he would ever be able to move again!
Road between Stalag 13 and Hammelburg, Germany, March 9, 1943, 0625 Hours
"Stop the truck! Stop the truck!" Shultz yelled to Langenscheidt who was driving.
"Was ist los?" The Corporal asked, slamming on the breaks and peering into the back of the truck. He gaped in amazement taking in Shultz and the prisoner Wilson, in a tangle on the floorboards of the truck.
"Shultz!" Wilson said, getting to his feet and turning to help the heavy set guard to his feet. "Weíve got to find Colonel Hogan. He doesnít know what heís doing. He could hurt himself!"
"Colonel Hogan has escaped," Shultz said to Langenscheidt.
"I thought he was ill, Sergeant?" Langenscheidt asked for a moment not understanding.
"He is ill!" Wilson replied anxiously. "Heís delirious."
"Ja ja. Colonel Hogan was burning up with fever," Shultz informed the other guard. "Heís got my rifle, but he canít have gotten very far. He was yelling something about punishing the little green men. He wasnít making much sense."
Shultz, Langenscheidt and Wilson spent the better part of an hour trying to locate Colonel Hogan. They had easily trailed him through the woods, finding Shultzís rifle abandoned in the snow about a half-mile from the truck. Hoganís trail wove through the woods, sometimes going in a complete circle. He was obviously very delusional. But they lost the trail when he had come out on the North road. Theyíd split up, but neither Shultz nor Langenscheidt had found a place where the American had gone back into the woods.
"We should get back to camp and report this," Shultz finally sighed. "Weíre not going to find him this way."
"We canít give up, Shultz!" Wilson protested. He had had to stay with Shultz; Shultz hadnít let him search for Colonel Hogan by himself. The German guard wasnít going to have another prisoner escape! "Heís delusional. He could die of exposure, four feet from shelter and never know it!"
"I know," Shultz replied. "But if we report it, Kommandant Klink can assign many guards to the search. We will have a much better chance of locating him."
Hammelburg, Germany, Bergerís Barn, March 9, 1943, 0705 Hours
Oh God, Hogan thought as the car he was hidden in came to another stop. This was the second since starting out. I hope this isnít another checkpoint. Iím definitely not going to make it much further. My whole body is one big cramp, and my stomach still hasnít settled from the bout of nausea in the truck. -- Thank God -- The carís been turned off. Perhaps weíve arrived at Bergerís home. He heard the car door slam and was praying that the trunk would be opened next. I need air.
"You can come out now, Colonel Hogan," Berger said, opening the trunk. He had pulled his car into the barn. He didnít keep stock any longer; and the barn was mostly used for storage now. He wanted to make sure that there was no way that anyone would see Hogan emerge from the trunk, even though his house was set far back off the road and he had no neighbors close by. He had parked his car next to the SS staff car that his acquaintance had 'acquiredí three days ago. He also confirmed that the similarly Ďacquiredí SS uniforms were hanging on one of the unused stall doors, left there by his wife Olga after she had cleaned and pressed them. Berger heard Colonel Hogan groan. He turned to see the American roll out of the trunk onto the ground. "Are you ok?" Berger asked very concerned.
"That is definitely not my idea of traveling first class," Hogan said, sitting up. Too quickly. Bad idea Hogan, he thought as his nausea again overwhelmed him. He leaned over and heaved. The fourth time this morning, such a fun way to escape!
"So, Colonel Hogan," Doctor Oskar Freiling said, showing no compassion. Crazy American, making himself sick. "Not feeling very well are we?" He had been waiting in the barn for the two men to arrive. It was the start of his involvement in the crazy scheme. And I agreed to go along with it. Am I just as crazy?
"No, Iím not feeling very well at the moment. What the Hell did you give me?" Hogan asked, climbing weakly to his feet. I think the manís getting a kick out of this.
"You definitely donít want to know." If this werenít such a dangerous thing these men were attempting, the look on the American Colonelís face would be laughable. "But you will probably be glad to know that I have your Ďcureí with me. Give it an hour or so and you should be feeling much better," Freiling told the American Officer.
"Whenever youíre ready, Doc," Hogan replied gratefully.
"Roll up your sleeve, Iíll give you a shot now. Iím also going to send along a couple of pills for you to take tonight. That should clear up all of your remaining symptoms," Freiling ordered, bending down to retrieve his bag from where it sat on the ground.
Hogan stripped off his shirt, he had to change anyway. "There," Freiling said giving him the shot. He then reminded the Colonel. "When youíre on the way back, start taking the other pills again. That way youíll be Ďillí when you return here. The medication will work faster on an empty stomach, but do not starve yourself. Missing one or two meals as you resume taking the pills would be sufficient." I shouldnít have said that, the man has probably not kept anything down for the last full day. And now, he probably wonít eat until he returns. Stubborn American. He looks to be in good condition, but I know that the camp rations are not sufficient to rebuild quickly what he will lose in the next few days. Over time, he will be fine. I just feel that I will be to blame if the man really gets sick because of this. Letís hope that doesnít happen.
"Got it. Thanks Doc," Hogan replied, pulling on the new shirt. He saw that Berger had already completely changed. Hogan quickly followed suit. Soon the two of them stood dressed as SS Officers. Hogan pulled their new identifications from the bag that had been sent earlier from Stalag 13. "Here you go, Berger. Youíre now Sigmund Bottner. An SS Major. Iím Rupert Haefner. An SS Colonel. Weíre both on detached assignment in Berlin reporting to General Viktor Von Steinle. We are to attend a meeting and help conduct an inspection of the Internment Camp in Dachau. As far as I know, this is a Camp for political prisoners. I donít expect to find it any different than Stalag 13. We should be in and out fairly quickly. Unless this is a trap."
"What are the odds this is a trap, Colonel?" Berger asked. He knew that already, Hogan had been very clear on the briefing heíd received.
"High," Hogan replied. "Three agents have already been killed over this meeting. London wants us to carry through with it though. They felt the risk was acceptable."
"Acceptable for who?" Berger asked wryly.
"The big brass that are sitting on their laurels in London," Hogan replied. "But if this is on the level, weíre supposed to be picking up some very important strategic military information."
"That somehow makes this all worthwhile," Berger said with a grin.
"Good, letís get this show on the road then. Where is your wife, Olga?" Hogan asked.
"She is watching the store while we are gone," Berger replied. "Dr. Freiling is actually here on the pretense of Ďtreatingí me for a nasty cold. He came today, and heíll be back again on the day we return. That way my absence from the store is explained. The Doc has something to make me Ďillí as well, when we return."
"Well Iím sorry I missed meeting your wife," Hogan said, glancing suspiciously at Freiling, but addressing Berger. "But, Iím sure you will absolutely love whatever the Doc gives you, Berger," Hogan said with a grin. "The pills heís got me on are delightful."
Berger shook his head. "I can tell. You still look a little green around the gills."
"Thanks for the compliment," Hogan replied to Berger. Then he turned to Doctor Freiling, "Doc, you know what to do if we donít return here, or you donít hear from us, by midnight on the 12th?"
"Ja, all is in readiness," Freiling agreed. "Everyone is to believe that Berger found you trespassing in his barn. You both struggled, knocking over the kerosene lantern that Berger had brought into the barn as a light. In your delirious state Colonel Hogan, you killed Berger, but then you perished as the fire in the barn raged out of control. All that we need to do is bring two dead bodies here, and dress them in your clothes and set the barn on fire. Iíll be taking care of that."
"Where will the bodies come from?" Hogan asked, evenly.
"Unfortunately, with the War, dead bodies are not that hard to come by," Freiling replied with a sigh for the enormous waste of it all. "The fire will be made sufficient enough to destroy any incriminating evidence."
Hogan saw a look of shared sadness between Doc Freiling and Berger. He didnít understand it, but thought it best not to comment on it. "Okay then," Hogan said heading for the car. Berger joined him, again taking the driverís seat. Hogan got in the back seat, so it appeared more true to form. Superior officers did not generally ride in the front seat with their drivers. Berger started the car and they began the long drive to Dachau.
Stalag 13, Kommandantís Office, March 9, 1943, 0800 Hours
"Shultz, you idiot! How could you lose Colonel Hogan?!" Klink demanded. The three men that had removed Colonel Hogan from Camp not more than two hours ago stood in his office, with the report that Hogan had disappeared.
"He took us by surprise, Herr Kommandant," Shultz replied. "He was lying there, then he wasnít. He was shouting incoherently. He is very ill, Herr Kommandant."
"Yes, sir. Shultz is right," Wilson offered. "Colonel Hogan is running a very high fever. He was delusional, sir. He certainly wasnít aware of what he was doing. We really need to find him, Herr Kommandant. He could easily die of exposure."
"Shultz, assign a detail. Search everywhere. Find Hogan quickly," Klink ordered. "Tell your men that Hogan is ill. They should try to re-capture him first, but that he should be considered dangerous. Tell them to take no unnecessary risk. They have my permission to shoot to kill if they have to."
"Jawohl," Shultz replied, gesturing Langenscheidt and Wilson out of the office.
I hope Colonel Hogan can pull this one off. If heís killed, either as an escaping prisoner or during this insane mission, weíll be back at square one. The prisoners without a leader, quite possibly returning to the chaos that existed before. I donít want to see that again. No. Please God. No. Wilson thought as he trudged back across the Compound to Barracks Three. Heíd have to get into the tunnel to report to Kinch what had happened. Kinch and the men in Barracks two should be under quarantine now, with no access from outside being allowed, except once a day by their Barracks guard.
On the Road between Hammelburg and Dachau Germany, March 9, 1943, 1000 Hours
Colonel Hogan sat looking out the window of the car. This was his first daylight look at the German countryside. All of his bombing missions had been nighttime raids, and the few times he had been out of Camp had also been at night. This Country was beautiful! The hills, mountains in some cases, all covered in sparkling white. The quaint Old World villages that Berger drove through where the Cathedrals towered over the smaller whitewashed Tudor style houses. The snow sparkled on the rooftops and dazzled the eyes in the fields and country lanes. They had passed through a few bigger towns and the architecture of the old buildings was exquisite.
"You have a beautiful Country, Berger," Hogan said, breaking the silence in the car.
"Why thank you, Colonel," Berger replied pleased that the American could see the beauty around them, even through the hatred of the War. "It is especially beautiful in the spring time, with the edelweiss blooming."
"I bet that would be a sight to see," Hogan replied. "Probably like the Cherry Blossoms in Washington."
"Is that where you are from, Colonel?" Berger asked curious. No one in the town knew anything personal about the American Colonel.
"No. Iím from Bridgeport, Connecticut. Thatís about four hours from Washington. But I was stationed at the Pentagon for a couple of years. I lived in DC then," Hogan replied.
"What is Bridgeport like?" Berger asked curious.
"Um, itís a pretty good sized town. My father is a pediatrician there. We grew up in the house next to his clinic," Hogan replied.
"We, Colonel?" Berger asked to keep the American talking.
"Yeah, my two brothers, sister and I. Iím the oldest," Hogan replied, for once opening up. "I went to West Point right out of High School, my brother Joe followed me there a year later. John joined the Navy; heís flying fighters off an aircraft carrier in the Pacific somewhere. My sister, Sue, is a nurse, she was to have married last October."
"I didnít know you came from such a large family, Colonel," Berger replied. "Olga and I have two sons. They are both grown and gone. Ruben is at sea, and Viktor is working in a factory in Gerolzhofen."
"I didnít know you had children," Hogan replied surprised.
"Ja. As I said, grown and gone. Olga and I ran the store, content in our world. Then Hitler came, and we were no longer content. It is why we do what we do now. Neither of my sons knows what their mother and I do. It is safer that way," Berger replied.
"Iím sorry. That must be lonely for you both," Hogan replied.
"Perhaps, at times. But we have each other. What of you, Colonel? You are alone in that Camp," Berger inquired, turning the car onto a more traveled road.
"Not really alone. There are the other men there with me," Hogan pointed out dryly.
"Yes. But they are not family," Berger corrected.
"No. Not family," Hogan agreed quiet for a long moment. Then he continued. "My family was notified that I was MIA back in October when I was shot down. From what I understand the Red Cross should have notified them of my whereabouts by now. Though, I havenít heard from anyone. Iím sure it has been hard for them, as I was shot down a week before my sister was to marry. So far as I know, the two letters that Iíve been allowed to send have not reached them."
Berger swallowed hard in the front seat. God, I didnít know that. This American and the other men in that Prison on the outskirts of my town lived in their own private world. Contact from outside and their homes was few and far between. I am only just realizing what a sacrifice that these men had volunteered to take by staying behind and helping others back to London. They have put their entire lives on hold. "Iím sorry, Colonel. I did not know," he finally said, just to break the silence that had fallen in the car.
"No apology is necessary. It is not your fault," Hogan replied with a shrug. "You get used to it."
"Have you a girl at home, Colonel?" Berger asked.
"No. I was dating someone in London. But thatís over with now. Klink isnít in the habit of giving prisoners weekend passes to London," Hogan said with a caustic grin.
"No, I would guess that he doesnít," Berger agreed. This time he let the silence in the car continue. Just what can I say after that? I think I have just realized something else that hadnít occurred to me before now. No matter what Colonel Hogan and the other men seemed capable of doing, they were still prisoners. Colonel Hogan has to be an inspiration to his men for them to stay willingly incarcerated at Stalag 13. It must be hard to look out through those barbwire fences day after day, their friends and families so very far away.
Munich, Germany, SS Headquarters, March 9, 1943, 1230 Hours
Major Karl Bruer was waiting on the return of General Stefan Geist. The General had taken an early lunch at the small restaurant just down the street. The Major had received some important information from Major Manfred Eckold who was investigating the resistance cell they had disrupted in Munich and Rohrmoos. Bruer knew that the General had taken a special interest in this case. The General was due back in the office very soon. I know he will find this information worthy of note. Major Bruer waited anxiously until the General made his appearance.
General Geist returned from lunch a few minutes later. He could tell by his aideís demeanor that he had some information for him. "What is it, Bruer?" asked Geist of his aide.
"Sir, I just received word from Major Eckold in Dachau. They have located what they believe to be the car used by the Ohms family to flee Rohrmoos. It was found in a ravine, three miles from Dachau. The car had been made to look like it had exploded on impact, after an accident. But, Major Eckold is certain that there was no one in the car when it exploded. He says he has found undeniable evidence that it was indeed the vehicle used by the Ohms family," Bruer said excitedly. "They are closing in on them sir."
"Yes. Yes Bruer," Geist said. "It certainly seems that way. Itís interesting that the Ohms family has headed toward Dachau. I wonder. Are there enough members of this underground cell, that we will indeed have some willing to run the gauntlet we have laid?" asked Geist intrigued.
"We wonít be certain until tomorrow, sir. If the underground has been tempted, they will have two men appear for that meeting at the Dachau Camp," Bruer said eagerly.
"Yes, I guess we need only wait," General Geist said. He really didnít expect anyone to show up at Dachau. With three agents already dead, they would be on a foolís errand if they did.
Stalag 13, Kommandantís Office, March 9, 1943, 1830 Hours
Klink sighed as the last of the search teams checked in with him. It was now full dark and Colonel Hogan had been outside for almost 12 hours. Unless the man, in his delirium, had managed to find shelter he was probably already dead. Todayís temperature had hovered around -7C or around 19F, either way it was well below freezing and the wind had howled for the better part of the afternoon, creating blizzard like conditions with the snow already on the ground. The warming trend they had seen for the past week was a pleasant memory today. The weather forecast was for a return of warmer temperatures with Thursday approaching a balmy 12C or 53F. But that was two days from now, and if Hogan wasnít found alive by then, he wasnít going to be. Klink sighed again. He still held out a faint hope that Hogan had managed to find shelter for himself, but it was a faint hope. He reached out his hand for the telephone. Regulations clearly stated at this point he had to call in the Gestapo; Hogan had been gone too long. 12 hours was the most he could search for an escapee from his Camp without informing the area Gestapo unit that he had a man missing. Unfortunately for Colonel Hogan the new area Gestapo commander, Colonel Vogel, was known for his ruthlessness. Should he locate Colonel Hogan, Hogan would no longer be ill, he would be dead. In Vogelís own words the only way he liked his enemy was dead.
"Let me speak with Colonel Vogel," Klink said when the phone was answered. "Yes, this is Colonel Klink from Stalag 13."
"What is it Klink?" Vogel snarled into the phone. He had very little use for the POW Camp Kommandant.
"I have a man missing. Heís been gone since 8 oíclock this morning," Klink began.
"What! Why didnít you inform this office immediately!" Vogel protested.
"Regulations clearly state I may search for my own prisoners for 12 hours without informing the Gestapo. I have done so. Colonel Hogan is a very sick man; he was being transported to the hospital. He has pneumonia. He became delusional and managed to fall out of the truck transporting him," Klink informed the Gestapo Colonel. "My men were able to trail him for quite some time through the area, but they lost him about four miles out of Hammelburg, along the North Road."
"Hogan. Colonel Hogan is the escaped prisoner!?" Vogel said completely surprised. He had made it a point to learn a lot about his new command, and that included learning about the POW Camps within his jurisdiction. Colonel Robert Hogan was the senior POW officer in Stalag 13. His dossier was quite interesting reading. Unfortunately, Hogan was Ďuntouchableí in his prison camp. If he could re-capture Hogan, he didnít have to return him to Klink. And he could find out the truth about what exactly Hogan was doing.
"Yes, but I donít believe he escaped on purpose. Like I said, Hoganís very ill. He doesnít know what heís doing Major," Klink pointed out. He was well aware that Vogel had very little use for Hogan, and knew that Hogan would be in trouble should Vogel recapture him.
"How do you know he was sick with pneumonia?" Vogel asked. "It could just be a ploy to get out of camp where he could easily escape, which he apparently has."
"Major, almost the entire prison population of Stalag 13 came down with pneumonia a month ago. Berlin provided medical supplies and the prisoners recovered. Colonel Hogan contracted the disease yesterday and we were making every effort to remove him from Camp before another epidemic swept through. As I said, Colonel Hogan is quite ill," Klink replied. He actually would be almost happy that this was indeed another Hoganisque ploy. That would mean Hogan was alive somewhere and not frozen solid at the bottom of some ravine.
"Alright then. My men will search the town for him. I will come to Stalag 13 now for your report, and proof that Colonel Hogan is indeed ill as you say," Vogel replied, slamming down the phone.
Stalag 13, Kommandantís Office, March 9, 1943, 1920 Hours
"What is your name?" Vogel demanded of the prisoner standing before him.
"Wilson, Edgar T, Sergeant. 0-648637," Wilson replied to the Gestapo Major. He had been summoned to Klinkís office and was now being questioned by the Gestapo over Colonel Hoganís Ďillnessí. Now it was not merely the Colonelís life on the line, but every prisoner here at Stalag 13.
"What is your position here at Stalag 13, Sergeant?" Vogel continued his interrogation.
"I am the Campís Medic," Wilson replied.
"The Senior POW Officer is Colonel Hogan, is it not?" Vogel continued.
"Yes sir," Wilson replied.
"What was his condition when he was removed from Camp this morning?" Vogel inquired.
"He was running a temperature of 103, Major. He was unconscious," Wilson replied.
"Yet a man, running such a high fever, managed to Ďfallí out of the truck transporting him and elude all pursuit for the past 12 hours?" Vogel purred sure he had caught the prisoner in a lie.
"Yes sir. Colonel Hogan became delusional shortly before he fell from the truck. It is not uncommon with the illness he had contracted. We had 200 such cases of this disease in the last month," Wilson replied evenly.
"How long does such delusions last, Sergeant?" Vogel questioned.
"It varies, sir. Anywhere from one to six hours. After that, if the fever is not brought down, the patient becomes comatose," Wilson replied.
"Klink," Vogel said turning suddenly to Kommandant Klink who had stood to one side during Vogelís interrogation of the prisoner Wilson. "You are quite certain that Colonel Hogan was this ill?"
"Yes," Klink replied. "I examined him personally before I ordered him removed from Camp. He was perspiring heavily and quite unresponsive. He looked like the other sick prisoners we had here last month. There was no medication available to treat him, nor did Stalag 13 need another outbreak of this disease."
"Alright. I will have my men search the town. As he is contagious, their orders will be shoot to kill. If we find him, he will not return here," Vogel said, standing. "I will inform you of my results. Heil Hitler."
"Heil Hitler," Klink replied, seeing the Major out of his office. When Vogel had left he turned back to Sergeant Wilson. "You may go."
"You wonít stop looking for the Colonel, will you sir?" Wilson asked, playing the part Hogan had wanted. "He could be lying within feet of shelter and not know it!"
"I have men still searching," Klink replied. "But you know as well as I do, if Colonel Hogan is without shelter through the night, he will be dead by morning."
Wilson sighed and dropped his gaze. "Yes sir. I am aware of that," He replied softly. "We just want to know one way or another. Colonel Hogan means a lot to us, sir."
"I understand," Klink replied. "If we can find him, we will. Dismissed."
"Yes sir," Wilson said, saluting the Kommandant and leaving the office. He headed directly for the tunnel in Barracks Three, so he could report to Kinch.
Stalag 13, Tunnel, March 9, 1943, 2200 Hours
Kinch removed his headset and hung it on its nail. He stared at the clipboard for a moment, shaking his head while his stomach dropped. He felt sick. London had informed them that still another of Albatrossí contacts had gone missing. They had wanted to call off the whole meeting. Kinch had told them that Hogan had left that morning, and there was no way to get in contact with them.
Damn. Hogan and Berger are walking right into a trap. What will I do if Colonel Hogan doesnít make it back? That will make me in charge. Can I hold the men together like he has? Or will it go back to the chaos before we were captured and brought here? Hogan wants us to continue this operation. The men are committed to Colonel Hogan - will that same commitment apply to me? And what will happen when another senior officer is brought here? This operation is Colonel Hoganís. I donít believe another officer could ever fill the Colonelís shoes. I donít even know if I can.
Munich, Germany, Bayerischer Hof Hotel, March 10, 1943, 0530 Hours
Heinrich Berger was lying awake in bed. He hadnít slept all night. All he could concentrate on was how today he might die. He had, of course, volunteered for this mission along side the American Colonel. But until you come face to face with your mortality, it isnít real. He would continue of course, this mission was far too important for the Allied forces. He would do the best he could and stand by the American Colonel. Berger was amazed at Colonel Hoganís resolve. He had yet to show any vulnerability. His confidence was inspiring.
We spent most of last night in the hotelís lounge, where the Colonel entertained a lovely young lady. He had tried to set me up with another young lady, but I declined. I had at first been put off by the Colonelís behavior, but I soon realized again that the younger man had indeed sacrificed a lot to remain at Stalag 13. In our relatively short acquaintance, Iíve only seen the Colonel in person twice. And that was very early on, when we first began our Ďrelationshipí. Other than that the Colonel has remained in camp as a buffer to keep the Kommandant and Sergeant of the guard confused. I realized that I couldnít begrudge a young man some small pleasures, especially if they could be his last. I was then surprised when he called it an evening at 10:00pm. It was amazing. The American went from playboy to officer in a blink of an eye. He and I retired to our room, and we spent the next hour going over our story. As I think back on it now. Those small pleasures that I was so concerned aboutÖ They consisted of only a beer, some dancing, and some innocent flirtation. He never even ate dinner. He reminded me that he needed to look as ill as possible when he returned to Hammelburg. I was again amazed. He had the whole operation in his head, and now, I donít even want to get out of bed this morning.
Colonel Hogan was also lying in his bed, wide-awake. Oh I donít want to get out of bed this morning. Thereís something not fair about this, he thought ruefully. I finally get to sleep in a real bed, with real sheets, and real pillows, and real blankets. And I canít sleep! There has to be some law against this. I know. Iíll lodge a complaint with the protecting power. -- Okay Hogan, come back to earth. -- Why? -- Because you have work to do! - Oh yeah, says you and what army! - Okay smart-ass. Face it. This could be it, the end. -- I wish I could be certain of what we are getting ourselves into today. I really have a bad feeling about this. And to top it all off, Iíve corralled a civilian into this with me. What was I thinking? Berger has actually been handling this well, even without any military background to fall back on. Though, Iím not sure he appreciated my diversionary tactics last night. I hope we can pull this off. -- Okay, time to get up and get this show on the road.
Dachau, Germany, Dachau Concentration Camp, March 10, 1945, 0845 Hours
"This is it, Berger. Good Luck." Hogan reached out from the back seat and patted Bergerís shoulder. Berger just grasped Hoganís hand, giving a quick squeeze and then let go. As their car drew closer to the camp, Hogan realized that Dachau was not going to be what he had anticipated. He first noticed that the barbwire encircling the camp was electrified. Also there was a huge gully dug out around the entire length of the camp. The guard towers appeared to be similar to how they appeared at Stalag 13. The camp itself was about the size of two football fields long and one wide. A sign above the front gate read ĎArbeit Macht Freií (Work makes one free). But what made his stomach turn was seeing a group of prisoners by the barbwire. How can children be political prisoners?
Berger drove the car up and parked it outside the main gate. There looked to be no other entrance for vehicles. As soon as they stopped, two SS soldiers approached the vehicle. "Heil Hitler. Papers please," one of them said.
Both Major Bottner and Colonel Haefner responded in kind as they exited their vehicle and presented their papers. "Iím Colonel Rupert Haefner and this is my aide Major Sigmund Bottner," Colonel Haefner said. "We are expected Sergeant."
After a moment, the Sergeant said, "Everything appears in order Colonel Haefner. I will escort you and Major Bottner to see General Stefan Geist. He told us to expect you. This way," said the Sergeant.
They followed the Sergeant through the main gate and into what looked like an office building. Their escort had brought them directly into a conference room. "Wait here, the General will be with you shortly," the soldier said and left. Colonel Haefner, appearing over confident, removed his gloves and overcoat. Bottner followed suit. Both made themselves comfortable by taking the chance to sit at the table in the center of the room. We might be being watched, act like you belong here, Haefner thought.
The Sergeant of the guard went to inform General Geist that his additional staff had arrived. The General was in the main Administration offices with the Kommandant, Ulrick Meshner and the campís second in command, Franz Becker, as well as the Generalís own aide, Major Karl Bruer. "General Geist, sir. Your additional staff, Colonel Rupert Haefner and Major Sigmund Bottner have arrived sir. They are waiting for you in the main conference room," the Sergeant reported.
"Thank you Sergeant. I had not expected them so soon. They had reported car trouble on the way through Nuremberg. They must have been able to resolve that problem without too much difficulty. Resourcefulness, it bodes well for our working relationship." Fools! The Allies must be desperate. "Well gentleman, should we go meet my new staff? That way we can get this inspection tour underway and get out of your hair," the General said.
"Yes sir," said Kommandant Ulrick Meshner. "We are honored to have you here sir. We have much to show you. Our doctors have made much progress with their research. Iím sure the General will be pleased." The Kommandant puffed with pride, as he led the General and his aide to the conference room.
"Looking forward to it Kommandant," replied General Geist. "I have heard only good things about your work here." And thatís why Iím hoping that after today, camps like Dachau will no longer be a secret. The Allies will know the truth and hopefully soon we will begin to dismantle them and wipe men like you of the face of this earth.
Both Colonel Haefner and Major Bottner jumped to their feet as the door to the conference room opened. "Heil Hitler," they said together with their arms fully extended.
"Heil Hitler," Geist and the others responded in kind.
"Iím Colonel Rupert Haefner, General Geist. This is my aide, Major Sigmund Bottner," Haefner said as he and Bottner both came to attention, with heels clicking and a slight head tilt.
"A pleasure Colonel, Major. This is the Kommandant of Dachau, Ulrick Meshner. His second in command, Franz Becker. And my aide, Major Karl Bruer," the General introduced. Haefner and Bottner acknowledged the other three officers with the same respect. Those officers responded in kind. "Well now that we have gotten the formalities out of the way. I hear your journey from Berlin did not go as smoothly as expected gentlemen," Geist said addressing his new staff.
The first part of the code, thought Hogan. From an SS General? This doesnít look good. "The first part of our trip was uneventful sir. Our troubles began in Nuremberg. Isnít that right Bottner?" asked Haefner.
"Yes sir, the engine blew on the vehicle we were driving. Luckily we were able to borrow one from the local SS detachment," answered Bottner supplying his part of the code. Our contact is an SS General?! Oh no.
"Very good gentlemen. Iím very glad that we didnít have to cancel this inspection tour. With my present schedule, it would have been hard to fit it in," Geist said supplying the final piece of code. I see the uncertainty in your eyes gentleman. You will get the information promised you, plus more than you ever could have imagined.
For the next six hours, the Kommandant of Dachau proudly showed his visitors around.
They saw everything.
The prisoners, 12000 men, woman and children, appearing emaciated, sickly and some half dead.
All crammed into only 34 barracks.
The brutal beating of a prisoner for what seemed to be a minor infraction of the rules.
The hanging of another prisoner, selected at random, to instill terror.
The Ďsuicideí of a prisoner who spat at one of his captors.
His final moments, standing defiant.
The Kommandant pulling his revolver and putting a bullet in his head.
The suicide of another prisoner who threw himself onto the electrified barbwire.
The crematorium where bullet-ridden bodies were stacked outside the ovens.
The result of an extermination order of the newest prisoners that had arrived from another camp.
SS guards searching for and removing gold fillings from the mouths of the dead.
The covered carts filled with more bodies of the dead being moved to a mass grave on the outskirts of town.
The crematorium couldnít handle the overload.
The stench of death that permeated the entire camp.
The new gas chamber, according to the Kommandant, which had yet to be used.
The hospital wards where some horrific medical research was being performed.
The unwilling subjects, who had no recourse but to submit.
Never knowing when death might come.
They saw everything.
At the conclusion of the tour, while returning to the conference room General Geist praised the Kommandant and his men for the work being done at Dachau. He told them that Berlin would hear of their progress. Then he asked that the Kommandant and his second in command give his staff some privacy, so that they could wind up the paper work for this inspection. The four officers were left alone.
Geist turned and address his new staff, "Now you have seen what goes on here. You can have the military information promised, but you need to promise me that you will spread the word to the Allied forces that places like Dachau exist. These places need to be dismantled. It is impossible to do within the Third Reich, as not many actually know this is happening and even those who know, have been threatened with death if they breath a word of it. Will you do this, Colonel Haefner?" asked Geist assessing the younger man. ĎColonel Haefnerí has the correct military bearing. He was able to keep his emotions in-check. But, heís much too young and healthy to have been released from active duty in the Third Reich. Heís either a defector or a deserter.
Colonel Haefner had been rendered nearly speechless all day. It hadnít been an issue because Kommandant Meshner never stopped talking. It had allowed him to keep his composure during the inspection tour. All he could say to the General now was, "We will do what you ask General."
"And what of you, Bottner?" asked the General who was also giving Bottner the once over. ĎMajor Bottnerí wears his emotions on his sleeve. He has handled himself well, but had Kommandant Meshner not been so busy showing off Dachau, he might have noticed that Major Bottner was not really the SS type.
"I will also do what you ask General," Bottner replied. He had been watching Colonel Haefner all day, trying to gauge his own responses by Haefnerís reactions. The man never flinched. How could he have seen what we saw today and not react?
"Good. Then I believe we can part company. This is for you," Geist said as he passed an envelope to Colonel Haefner that was given to him by Major Bruer. "It contains information on the deployment of German forces in North Africa. It contains what is expected to be Germanyís long-range plans for that area. It should help the Allies considerably in their campaign to gain control of that region."
Colonel Haefner took the proffered envelope saying, "General, I canít say when Iíve hated a mission more. But we will pass everything weíve learned here along." Colonel Haefner and Major Bottner excused themselves and headed for their vehicle. They were to return to Munich, while the General and his aide continued their tour of camps in the area. That was the excuse anyway.
Stalag 13, Barracks Two, March 10, 1943, 0900 Hours
"Shultz, has the search turned up anything?" Kinch asked the guard hopefully during his morning inspection of the barracks. They were still under quarantine status, but Shultz as their barracks guard had to come in once a day to ensure that they were all present, and no one had become ill.
Shultz shook his head sadly. "Nein. The Kommandant has said he will only search until the guard changes today at 1600. If the Colonel is not found by then, he probably wonít be. The whole town has been alerted, I am sure someone would report him if he were seen."
"Klink canít give up!" Newkirk protested.
"What choice does he have?" Shultz replied, his heart heavy. The old Stalag would be a far different place without the vibrant presence of the American Officer. He just hoped that it would not degenerate into the near anarchy that had been here before Colonel Hogan had been interned here. The prisoners had reacted very badly to the death of their former senior officer. But Colonel Hogan had managed to mold the prisoners into a cohesive unit. It had been inspiring to watch. "You all know how sick the Colonel is, if he has no shelter he is probably already dead."
Shultzís statement was met with a barracks full of glum faces. Shultz started to leave the barracks, but turned back. "Oh I almost forgot." Shultz pulled out a bunch of letters from his pocket. "Mail call," Shultz said and began calling out the names of a few men. There was some happy commotion. Thatís good to see, thought Shultz. He went to call out the name on the last letter, but he stopped short. He put the letter back in his pocket. Oh no, Colonel Hogan finally gets a letter from home. After all this time and now itís probably too late. How sad for his family. Shultz started to leave the barracks.
Kinch had seen the look on Shultzís face as he went to read the name on the last letter. "Shultz," he said before the guard got to the door. "Who was that for?" Kinch asked, but instinctively knew.
"No one. I picked up the wrong letter," Shultz said, but the guilt was written all over his face.
"Come on Shultz. It was for Colonel Hogan, wasnít it? Let me have it Shultz. If Colonel Hogan doesnít make it, Iíll respond to the letter for him. His family deserves to know what happened. Come on Shultz," Kinch said sadly, holding out his hand. Shultz handed Kinch the letter and left the barracks in silence. He turned and barred the door from the outside, effectively locking the men inside. The Barracks was under quarantine and in this way no one could come out, and no one could enter accidentally.
Kinch turned back to the other men, holding Hoganís long awaited letter in his hand. "Iíll just leave this on his desk. Heíll be back to read it himself. If not, his family will just have to wait a few more days for the bad news."
"Donít say that, Kinch. The Govínrís gonna be fine. Where would they be now?" Newkirk said.
"They should have arrived at their destination," Kinch replied. "If what London reported to me last night is correct, Shultz may very well be right. The Colonel and Berger could already be dead."
"And if Londonís wrong?" Carter asked hopefully.
"Then we should expect to hear from them sometime early tomorrow morning," Kinch replied. After a moment he turned and headed for the Colonelís quarters.
Hammelburg, Germany, Gestapo Headquarters, March 10, 1943, 1400 Hours
Captain Pieter Schotz stood nervously before his superior, Colonel Frederick Vogel. "The men have found no trace of the American Colonel in the town. They have searched everywhere. None in Hammelburg have reported seeing the prisoner, nor could we locate him hiding within the town."
"You are certain that you have searched everywhere?" Vogel demanded.
"Jawhol. I do not believe the escaped prisoner is anywhere in Hammelburg. Would you like the men to search the outlying areas?" Schotz asked.
"Search the homesteads within two miles of the town. Klink reported that his men have covered the area outside of that. If he is indeed as ill as he was reported to be, it appears that the American has perished in the woods somewhere. Perhaps his body will be found in the spring. Have the men complete the search of the outlying areas and then weíll call off the search and list Colonel Hogan as deceased," Vogel ordered.
"Jawhol. As you wish," Captain Schotz replied, saluting his superior and leaving the office quickly. He was glad that the prisoner they searched for was purported to be this ill, if they did not locate him Vogel would not hold the failure against his record.
Traveling from Dachau to Hammelburg, Germany March 10, 1945, 1500 Hours
Hogan was riding in the back seat of their Ďacquiredí SS vehicle and Berger was again driving. They had left Dachau about an hour ago. Their plan was to drive straight through to Hammelburg without stopping. Neither man had said a word since leaving Dachau. Berger had kept an eye on the American Colonel through the rearview mirror. Berger saw that Hogan had taken more of the medication Dr Freiling had given him. Then Berger watched him spend some time examining the documents containing the information about German troop movements. Other than that the man sat quietly, hardly moving. Berger was glad that Hogan could not see his face. His tears had almost continually fallen since they left Dachau.
How can a place like Dachau exist? A place of mass murder, of torture, of brutality, of evil. A place created by my own countryman. A place used to kill my own countryman. A place to kill anyone who does not conform. How can people not know this is happening? We must do something. Something more than just reporting this. But what can we do? Berger again glanced at the American Colonel. What are you thinking Colonel? What are you feeling? I need to know.
Hogan had noticed that Berger had been watching him. I wish he would stop watching me. What does he want from me? Does he expect me to come up with a way to stop the madness at Dachau? And at other camps? How can places like Dachau exist? And what about Stalag 13? How close have we come to ĎDachauí at Stalag 13 and not known it? How far have I pushed and never even seen the possibility of ĎDachauí at Stalag 13? How can I ask my men to continue doing what weíre doing when there is the possibility of Stalag 13 turning into a ĎDachauí? What will it take to make Wilhelm Klink into an Ulrick Meshner? How can people not know this is happening? How can I do nothing about ĎDachauí? There must be something I can do.
Both men continued in silence for a long while. Berger had continually kept an eye on Colonel Hogan. Even though Berger had not worked closely with the American before, all the members of the underground with whom Hoganís men had contact, knew of Hoganís Ďin campí exploits. The man was a genius. Heíd created all that he had right under the German guardís noses. Berger had never been privy to seeing the manís thought process, but knew he was known for Ďthinking on his feetí. Berger kept watching, waiting for the American to come up with something they could do about Dachau and other places like it. But Berger finally realized, after the long silence, that what he was hoping for would probably never come. How can one man solve that problem? Berger stopped watching the American Colonel. It was not fair to heap that much responsibility on one man.
Hogan finally realized how paralyzed with fear heíd been since this day began. Worried about all that he couldnít do. There was so much more uncertainty now. How easily their little operation could come crashing down on them. How this war can never be considered a game again. I have to realize that my men and I probably can do nothing about Dachau, except inform Allied High Command. This situation would take much more than my men and I could ever do to resolve it. We donít know how widespread it is. Iíve heard horrible stories from some of the other POWs about treatment at other POW camps, but their experiences have never come close to what I saw today. I realize now how easy weíve had it at Stalag 13. And thatís only because Kommandant Klink and Sergeant Shultz arenít Ulrick Meshner. They both still retain some compassion for humanity. Otherwise my men and I would be dead by now. I realize that Klink never had to even look for those antibiotics. Especially now, since seeing the government sanctioned executions, and beatings, and torture at Dachau. -- Nazi Bastards. - I know now, that we need to expand our work at Stalag13. We need to work towards making this war end one day earlier. We need to work at undermining the German War Effort at any turn, no matter what it might take, no matter the cost. No holds barred. No Fear. Not anymore. Not after today.
"Berger, pull over. We need to talk," said Colonel Hogan determined. Berger looked into the rear view mirror. This is the Colonel Hogan Iíve been waiting to see. Berger stopped the car and Hogan got into the front seat. They continued their long drive home, but they no longer rode in silence. They both had a purpose.
To be continued
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.