This Game was written in response to a challenge offered on the Hogan's Heroes Smartgroups list by Lauren (The Oboe One). It takes place early in Papa Bear's operation and tells the story of how Sergeant Andrew Carter first arrived at Luft Stalag 13, after having originally been a prisoner at Luft Stalag 5. For reference, see Hogan's Heroes Episode # 16 called "Anchors Away, Men of Stalag 13", first aired 12/31/1965, written by Jack H. Robinson and David Chandler. We again do not make any claims on the original Hogan's Heroes' characters. All other characters are ours. But again, those characters are free for anyone to use, if you so choose.
Our many thanks go out to Lauren, Bianca, Kits and Yvonne for beta-ing this effort. Thanks so much for your help!
Our rating for this story would be PG-13. Contains strong language, violence, and allusions to sexual activity.
Game Double Play
The spirit of a living person, which has exactly the same physical appearance as that person."Seeing your doppelganger is said to be a sign that your death is imminent."
Definition comes from Cambridge International Dictionary of English
See also Dead Ringer, Replica, Spitting Image, and Twin.
Heathrow, England, Stonebridge US Army Base,
Office of Colonel Keith Cummings, Commander of the 591st Bomber Squadron,
November 20, 1942 0815 Hours
Colonel Keith Cummings sat in his office along with his friend -- and copilot -- Major Jerry Rhodes. Both men were quietly contemplating the discharge paperwork scattered on the top of the Colonel's desk. They'd be losing a good man today. One of their own crew was heading home -- healthy and all in one piece.
Generally under those circumstances, they would be happy for their comrade. But this time it's very different, thought Colonel Cummings. There will be no real happy family reunion for Carter on his return home. The young man from Forbush Corner, North Dakota was being given a hardship discharge. His only son Jason -- all of only five years old -- was terribly ill. And the doctors in the states weren't giving the boy much chance for survival. It appeared that even with his discharge granted, Lieutenant Philip Carter might only get a short time to spend with his son before the end.
The Colonel glanced up at his companion in silent question. What can that possibly feel like? To lose a son? And one so young? And you not being more than a boy yourself? Keith saw no answer in his friend's eyes. And honestly, hadn't really expected to, as neither of them was married, nor had any prospects. Both men were steadfastly married to their military careers. That is all that has ever really mattered. And now especially, with this bloody war raging. Hell. It was bad enough to leave parents and siblings behind. I don't think I could handle the thought of having left a wife and child behind… and then to have this kind of thing happen to your only child. It's just not fair.
Both men were startled out of their reverie by a knock on the office door. It was a knock that they were expecting, but a knock that startled them nonetheless. "Come," Colonel Cummings said too quickly as he took a deep breath and tried to regain an air of military decorum. Other than that, he wouldn't know how to deal with his young officer.
Lieutenant Philip Carter entered the Colonel's office with a long practiced efficiency, and came quickly to attention. Saluting he said, "Reporting as ordered sir – sirs," he continued nodding his apology at Major Rhodes. "Excuse me Major," he said also trying to keep to military decorum, for he already knew what this summons was about. I just hope they don't ask too many questions. I don't think I'll be able to hold it together if they do. I just want to get this conversation over with. And I hope and pray that Command has come through with my discharge. I need to get home. I need to see my boy before it's too late.
"No apology necessary Carter," Major Rhodes acknowledged quickly nodding in return, but also realizing that everyone in the room was now trying hard not to make direct eye contact with one another.
"Have a seat Carter," Cummings began quietly. "I'm sure you know what this is all about." The Colonel paused and shook his head. "I'm sorry Phil. I had hoped to keep this whole thing quiet until I could give you your answer. But it's a small base and word gets around. I hope for your sake, people have been supportive."
"Yes sir. Thank you sir," Carter said seating himself and trying hard not to blurt out the only question on his mind. What did they say? Instead he blurted out, "Everyone has been great."
"Well I guess there's no need to keep you in suspense," the Colonel began as he stood and folded the paperwork in front of him back into its envelope. "You're going home Lieutenant," he continued while handing the young man the paperwork across the desk. "I'm just awfully sorry that it couldn't be under better circumstances."
Philip Carter sagged in his chair, almost not believing what the Colonel had said. But there in his hands were his orders. Jason, I'm coming home son. Please hold on. I love you. Carter took a deep breath and pulled his thoughts back to his present situation. "Thank you Colonel Cummings. Major Rhodes. You don't know what this means to me." Carter stood up to attention and saluted both men. "It's been an honor and a privilege serving with you both. Under any other circumstance, I would not have asked for this discharge. I would have willingly continued to fight this war by your sides."
Colonel Cummings never returned Carter's salute. Instead he came around the desk to take Carter's hand in his. "I have no doubt about that Phil. Your skill as a navigator has been an incredible asset to me. But it's time that you take care of that little boy of yours." Cummings pumped Carter's hand hard. "Your replacement should be here within the next seventy-two hours. Then you'll be on your way home. Good luck Phil."
"Thank you Colonel," was all Philip could say before Major Rhodes also approached and quietly took his hand in his, pumping hard.
Quickly though it became increasingly clear that no one had anything more to say, so Colonel Cummings interjected quietly with, "You may go Lieutenant."
"Yes sir. Thank you sir," Philip said turning hastily, and gratefully leaving the office before the awkward silence could continue. Philip started to wander aimlessly down the hall back toward his quarters, relief and sorrow clashing in his heart. But before he had gotten too far, Major Rhodes caught up to him from behind, and stopped him with a firmly placed hand on his shoulder.
"Hey Phil. Keith and I almost forgot," Jerry offered as he reached into his uniform jacket's pocket and removed a bulging envelope. "This is for you and your family. We took up a collection. We all hoped you could use the money to help defray the cost of some of those medical bills. Okay?"Philip just stood and stared at the envelope.
"Take it," the Major ordered and shoved the envelope into the young man's hands. "But, you have to promise me that you will take good care of that little boy," Jerry said patting Phil on the shoulder. "Everything will work out. I just know it will," he assured and made his way back down the hallway, leaving the young father to his thoughts.
Gochsheim, Germany, Luft Stalag 5,
Senior POW Officer's Quarters, Barracks Five,
November 20, 1942, 1030 hours
Captain Jeffrey Malone, the new Senior POW Officer of Luft Stalag 5, sat in rapt concentration at the small desk in his office. He had, after what seemed like two very long months, finally gained the trust of the POWs in this camp. It had been a hard row to hoe, as he had learned quickly that most of the POWs in camp were certain that their former Senior POW Officer, a Colonel Tighe Wentworth, had willingly become an informant for the Kommandant of Stalag 5, one Major Norbert Vogel.
Jeff Malone shook his head in disgust at the thought of someone actually caving in to the Nazi Kommandant. He had never, from the first moment he had laid eyes on him, even remotely trusted Major Norbert Vogel. The man, even beyond the threat of being the enemy, had continuously rubbed him the wrong way. But Malone had so far managed to stay, if not on the man's good side, at least not on the man's bad side. I'll just have to be very careful. But one thing is for certain… Vogel will never get me to fall into his trap. I'd die first.
As for Wentworth, no one was even really sure why he did what he did. But it hadn't taken long for suspicion to grow, as too much evidence had begun to point in his direction. At first, the POWs only noticed small things being lost to the Germans. And any of it could have been attributed to nosey guards or just mistakes made by the POWs themselves. But the final straw came the night of a large-scale escape attempt. Things had been planned out meticulously for ten POWs to escape together. But those men never made it beyond the small pond east of camp.
There was no doubt that the poor bastards were set-up. Fifty or so yards beyond the wire, all ten were brutally machine-gunned down by a waiting patrol. Then adding even more insult to injury, Kommandant Vogel ordered their bodies returned to camp and burned in full view of the entire POW population. The POWs had been made to stand in formation for hours that night, until there was nothing of the bodies left, except ashes.
At that point, most of the POWs needed no more proof, as their mostly un-voiced suspicions were confirmed, especially after watching Wentworth leave camp with Kommandant Vogel that very same night – with nothing ever being explained. Was he dead? Or just paid off with his freedom? According to the POWs, either was a distinct possibility. But even with that, some POWs still didn't want to believe Wentworth a traitor. Some held to their conviction that he was just punished in retaliation for the escape attempt.
Hell. Even after I arrived, it was easy to see that the fear and the uncertainty still had the men edgy. No one really trusted anyone any more. And that made it hell for me, as gaining the men's trust has not been easy. And not surprisingly, there hasn't been even one escape attempt from here, since those ten men were killed. But now it will be different. Things are truly going well, or at least as well as can be expected from a POW's perspective. We can now get on with the business of being POWs – escaping. And this time the men will get out safely. Or my name's not Jeffrey Malone, Special Effects Wizard Extraordinaire.
Jeffrey Malone had been an 'up and coming' motion picture special effects artist before enlisting, working on such movies as the Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind. He had learned -- from the masters -- how to create the illusions that worked so well in those movies. He was sure that his knowledge would come in handy in camouflaging the escapes of his men from this hellhole. At least I plan to make sure that it does.
But even Jeff Malone knew that if he was going to actually pull any of this off, he needed more than just his determination. He was just flat-out relieved that he finally had the POWs' trust, as he now had a more rounded view of how things worked at Stalag 5. The men had been very resourceful, even under the watchful and traitorous eyes of their former Senior POW Officer. They clearly had a few of the German guards willingly on their side, whether through a little blackmail or because those men distrusted Kommandant Vogel as much as the POWs did.
In any case, from what I've seen, those guards have gone way too far to turn back now. Which can only make life here better for us. And it certainly helps that I now feel more confident in the contacts made with the local underground. Our 'civilian friend' Strauss Leiber, who works in the POW mess hall, has said and done all the things that London briefed me on when contacting the underground. But what has convinced me of his honesty even more… has been the look in his eyes as we meet across the chow line everyday -- for two months now. You can't fake sincerity for that long. So if the men are going to have a real chance of getting out, I am going to have to trust him and his compatriots. I really have no other choice. And with both Doohan and Neilson ready to go, we'll know one way or another… on the 24th.
I just hope I'm not wrong.
A knock on the door to his quarters interrupted Malone's contemplations. "Come in…" he said glancing at his watch and realizing before the door opened whom his visitor was going to be, "…Carter."
"Mornin' Captain," Sergeant Andrew Carter said exuberantly. "Sorry, but it's that time again sir. Hopefully this will only have to last for another week or two. Your leg should be completely healed by then," Carter said as he began setting out all the clean bandages and medication without even looking at Captain Malone.
Malone did nothing but stand from the desk, remove his trousers, and plop himself down on the bottom bunk with a sigh. "You're sure you're not stretching this out a bit too much Carter. Huh?" Malone asked in a slightly scolding tone. "Ken Stephens has been avoiding me for the last week. Won't even give me the time of day. Did you scare him away? He's the bloody doctor you know…"
Andrew looked up into his commanding officer's eyes, "How can you ask me that sir? You, Captain Stephens and I, all discussed your treatment when you arrived here. You heard everything I did sir. I certainly can turn over your care to the doctor if you want me to sir," Carter said defensively and putting on one of his best-dejected looks. But he knew full well that he had his Captain right where he wanted him. Jeffrey Malone would never consider replacing him at this point.
"No Carter, it's all right," Malone submitted. "How about we compromise though. One more week of this… but no more?" he asked in a polite hopeful tone, because Jeffrey Malone knew that he owed Sergeant Andrew Carter his life. The shy young kid from Bull Frog North Dakota had saved his ass, by pulling him from the burning hulk of their bomber after it crashed. The others in his crew had either died, bailed, or fled. All except for Andrew Carter. Who before that day, Malone would have bet good money on, would have been the first one to run.
But it didn't happen that way.
Carter had stayed with Malone, doing what he could to treat the Captain's badly injured leg, all the while trying to keep them hidden from German patrols. The kid just never gave up. But as hard as Carter tried, Malone had been sure it was a lost cause, as he had not been able to move his leg, never mind do any serious traveling. Malone had even tried to force Carter to leave him behind, but that attempt had proved fruitless.
So, not surprisingly, it had only taken a few days before they were both captured. And then quickly separated. It wasn't until almost two weeks later that Captain Malone found himself the new Senior POW Officer at Luft Stalag 5, and once again, under the care of his self proclaimed caregiver, Sergeant Andrew Carter. He hadn't yet gotten up the gumption to tell the kid to knock it off and that he was fine.
"Um. Well," Carter began sheepishly. "I guess that will be okay sir," Andrew agreed knowing that the Captain's leg was actually quite well healed already. It was just that without the Captain to take care of, he would have to actually start making his own way in this POW camp. He'd been able to keep himself absorbed in Captain Malone's healthcare with no one questioning him about it. It had kept the terror in his heart -- which had surfaced during those first couple weeks after being captured -- from crushing him. He knew that he had yet to really face what it meant to live as a POW. And he had hoped that he'd never have to face it. But now it looked like that was all he had to look forward too.
"Great," agreed Jeff Malone as he settled back on the bunk and let Carter remove the old dressing, clean the wound and re-bandage his leg. I owe you one kid. I had hoped that you'd be one of the first ones out of this hellhole after the escapes started again. This is really no place for a young kid like you. You just don't have the killer instincts needed to survive here. You need to be back on that farm in Bull Frog North Dakota.
But, I'm really sorry. That's just not the way it's gonna be. Not with the escape committees' new agreed upon rules for selecting our willing escapees. You just don't meet the 'urgent need' criteria. Although, your name could still come up in the lottery, except I noticed that you didn't volunteer your name.
I wonder why?
Well someday kid. Someday somehow, whether you like it or not… I promise, to at the very least, start you on your way home and out of this dung heap. I owe you that much.
Hamburg, Germany, Wedding of Marie Vogel to Major Gustav Krueger,
At the family home of Colonel Frederick Vogel and Major Norbert Vogel,
November 20, 1942, 12:00pm
Major Norbert Vogel arrived at his family's home with just enough time to exchange pleasantries with his mother Miranda and his younger sister Marie before her wedding ceremony began. He had only attended on the insistence of his mother -- and the tears of his sister. As it was, he had not been home in quite a long time. His relationship with his father Detlev, as well as his twin brother Frederick, was not pleasant. To say the least.
Norbert's original intent for the day was to come, make an appearance, and leave quickly after the ceremony. He had hoped not to waste time communicating with either his father or his twin. But he soon realized that that was not to be the way of things. As the ceremony ended, he saw that together both his father and brother were already heading in his direction, which he knew did not bode well for an easy retreat. Both men were wearing the smug and dangerous smiles Norbert had always known to fear growing up.
I will now have to listen to my father tell of the glories achieved by my brother, thought Norbert. Never in my life have I even had a chance to make my father proud of me. He has only ever accepted Frederick as his first-born son. My arrival was a surprise, and to him, almost a sign of disgrace. I know he has never forgiven my mother for her part in diluting the pure Prussian blood of his first-born son. I've always known that if the doctors had ever confirmed Frederick and I as identical twins…I would never have made it home from the hospital all those many years ago.
As it is, the only thing that saved me was a mother's love for her children and a promise never to show favor to me. Frederick was to be the only heir to the Vogel legacy. Norbert couldn't help but glance down at the deep scar in palm of his left hand. His father, not trusting the doctors, had made certain that Norbert would never be mistaken for Frederick. He had burnt a deep brand in Norbert's hand the day the twins were brought home from the hospital.
My existence has always meant nothing. And continues to mean nothing, at least to him.
And so it is, that I have lived my life. And so it is, that my twin brother believes all the lies told to him. And so it has always been, that I have never willingly turned my back on my twin. Doppelganger or not, I have no doubt that my existence would now only be a fleeting memory in my mother's eyes.
"Ah Brother," Frederick said with a pretentious smile as he strode proudly beside their father, his chest puffed with an absurd pomposity, as if trying to match their father's natural imposing stature. "You are looking well. It's been far too long," he said with mock pleasantry, putting a hand to his brother's shoulder.
"Father. Frederick," Norbert greeted coldly with a slight nod, but couldn't help but notice that his brother now wore the insignia of a Gestapo Colonel. It has to have been a fairly recent promotion. As word always drifted his way of his brother's accomplishments, regardless of how hard he tried to avoid knowing such things. So Norbert continued the game the three always played when guests were in their home. "I see that congratulations are in order, Herr Colonel. You must be proud Father," he said as politely malevolent as possible.
"Ja. Your brother's star is rising fast Norbert. This promotion puts him as Gestapo Commander of the Hammelburg Township and the surrounding area," Gestapo Colonel Detlev Vogel said beaming with absolute pride in the one son to have followed so closely in his footsteps. "It was a proud…" he started.
"And what of you Norbert?" asked Frederick quickly, although never having intended to interrupt his father. When his father made no comment, he continued snidely. "I see it's still Major," Frederick said emphasizing his brother's lesser rank. "When will the illustrious Luftwaffe ever learn that your career has stagnated in that cesspool of a Stalag? After… what is it now? Two long years as Kommandant? And no prospects, I hear." Frederick smirked degradingly as he saw the anger flare in his twin brother's eyes.
"You have no need to worry for me Brother," Norbert began contemptuous. "You will soon see my star rise to heights that you could only dream of." Norbert hadn't intended to say anything, but seeing his brother's insidious grin, he couldn't help but boast. For he knew that if his newest plan came to fruition -- And everything seemed to be coming together quite nicely – that he could return and make both his father and brother choke on their words. "I look forward to seeing both your faces as I become the one to bring ultimate glory to the Vogel family."
Norbert turned quickly then to escape the gathering, as he could no longer stomach the sight of his brother's face, or his father's face for that matter. Though, he was rather pleased with himself that he was able to leave both men a little speechless by his quick departure. But that feeling did not last, for as he made his away across the room to the exit, he heard both men's abhorrent laughter.
I will show them both. Very soon glory will be mine for the taking.
Heathrow, England, Stonebridge US Army Base,
Runway #2, at the hatch of the bomber known as "Lady Grace",
November 21, 1942 2015 Hours
Colonel Keith Cummings stood in his usual spot in front of his bomber, affectionately known as 'Gracie'. It had become a ritual to address his men prior to the boarding of their planes. He had done this for each and every mission undertaken so far. It was really not a briefing per se, but more of a good luck charm. He always felt better if he could look into the eyes of his men before they headed off into danger. He needed to see that his men were ready, and he wanted them to see his confidence in them. So far, they'd been very lucky and this little ritual had indeed worked -- like a charm. His squadron had the highest morale of any other and the best 'return' rate at Stonebridge. He would never think of changing their routine now.
After his men assembled, Colonel Cummings would give a pep talk to his pilots and their crewmen. He was a very dynamic speaker and could always rally his men quickly. And then with his men suitably charged and ready, he would end by pumping them up once more with a "Give 'em Hell!".
Always adding a silent "God speed", Cummings would then watch as his men scattered quickly to get their planes ready for their newest mission, which tonight would take them all the way to Gochsheim, Germany and their target… a newly constructed rocket factory.Although, after tonight's assembly broke rank…
Colonel Keith Cummings caught sight of his navigator Philip Carter, as the young man sprinted passed him for the Lady Grace. Or tried to, that is. "And what the hell are you doing here Lieutenant?" reprimanded Colonel Cummings as he grabbed the young man by his flight jacket, stopping the Lieutenant in his tracks.
"My replacement doesn't arrive until morning sir," Carter replied out of breath. "You guys can't go up without a qualified navigator. I'm going with you."
"You most certainly are not," Cummings retorted angrily. "You've been relieved of duty Lieutenant. I won't have you risk your life on your last day here. Your son needs you. Return to your quarters Mister. Now." Cummings watched somewhat relieved as the young man nodded and turned away, seemingly to head back to the base housing.
Sorry Phil, but all you need to worry about now is that little boy of yours. With one less life to worry about, Colonel Keith Cummings set his mind back on the business at hand. Quickly he boarded the Lady Grace, fully consumed by their newest mission.
But unbeknownst to Colonel Cummings…
Philip Carter did not return to his quarters. He had stopped his retreat and now stood concealed behind one of the fueling trucks, keeping a determined eye on the bomber Lady Grace. The young Lieutenant, with his decision made, knew that he had only a short time to make his move, but was sure that once ensconced in the bomber's hanger bay, he could hide until it was too late to call back any of the bombers. He would then make his appearance and take his rightful place along side the men he had fought with for so long.
Philip Carter knew that he couldn't just let these men fly off without him. He just couldn't leave them short handed. I know Jensen is a good navigator, but… I need to be there. Just this one last time. Then with a clear heart, he knew that he could head home to his family.
Gochsheim, Germany, Luft Stalag 5, Barracks Five,
November 21, 1942, 2145 hours
Captain Jeffrey Malone was awakened by the sounds of much commotion in the Stalag's compound. He reached the door of barracks five quickly after retrieving Corporal Kevin Kastner – his 'ace in the hole' German translator. A rather groggy Kastner, along with his Captain, peeked out just in time to see the arrival of Luftwaffe General Manheim Shtarker and his aide. Both POWs strained to listen in as Captain Horst Funfstuck, Major Norbert Vogel's second in command, staggered surprised from his quarters to greet the visitors.
Captain Malone could only listen as Kastner began repeating in a whisper the words being spoken by the German contingent in the compound. Jeff Malone knew very little German, although his grasp of the language was improving daily with Kastner's help. But it didn't take knowing the language for him to see that General Shtarker terrified the Kommandant's adjutant.
And with good reason. He's not the friendliest soul I've ever met. Not even close.
And so out in the compound…
Funfstuck had come to attention anxiously after he reached the General, "Good evening General Shtarker. Kommandant Vogel will be with you in just a minute. Can I help you with anything sir?" he asked his voice rising in question apprehensively.
"I will wait on your Kommandant. See to it that he knows I'm here," the General replied loudly and turned away from the Captain as if he was an insignificant bug.
"Jawhol Herr General," Funfstuck replied and rushed toward the Kommandant's office, only to stop half way there when Major Norbert Vogel made his appearance, strutting like the proverbial male peacock to greet the General and his aide.
"Good evening Herr General," Vogel began haughtily. "The time for glory is at hand, I see."
"That it is Major," Shtarker began with an evil smile as he approached Kommandant Vogel and put a hand on his shoulder. "Glory will be ours for sure this night," he continued more cocksure than anyone should have the right to. "All is in preparation for a glorious victory in the skies over Gochsheim. No one will be able to deny neither the power of the new anti-aircraft guns nor the superior firepower of our planes and pilots. Our illustrious Luftwaffe will confront the American bomber squadron from the ground and the air. We are poised, and ready, to annihilate the approaching squadron. It will be quite the blow to the Allied offensive."
"I have no doubt of that Herr General," Major Vogel said almost greedily. "I would expect nothing less from you and your troops. It is why I had confided in you first."
"And you will be given the thanks that is your due when this night is over… Colonel," Shtarker offered seductively. "None of my associates will be able to deny you anything. Tonight they will see first hand the result of our hard work. But I admit that I'm still impressed that your 'plant' actually came through for us. He has certainly performed admirably. Our victory is assured. We already have had word from him, as well as from other agents in England, that the squadron is on its way."
"Ja. Colonel Wentworth had always shown that he would do anything to obtain his freedom," Vogel purred distracted when an unexpected physical yearning surged through him, as he thought of Stalag 5's former Senior POW Officer. Wentworth had indeed performed admirably. Norbert smirked inwardly remembering the night that the American had paid the final price for his freedom. He had relished in the feeling he had after seeing the look in Wentworth's subservient eyes -- that of prey when a predator was ready to strike. It had sent a feeling of such power surging through his veins. It was like nothing he had ever felt before, because prior to that night, Norbert had only known what it felt like to be as the prey – to his father, as the predator.
Quickly, Norbert shook that unwelcomed memory from his mind. It no longer matters, for tonight will be my crowning glory. I will enjoy seeing those spineless Americans try to flee in fear. And not succeed. What I would give to see their faces as they to fall prey to this unparalleled deception. And what I would give to see my father drop dead of envy.
"So to make this official," the General started loudly after realizing that the Major had become distracted. When the Major regained his composure, the General turned over some official looking paperwork to him. "I'm here to commandeer some of your soldiers as I need men on the ground to round up any of those American airmen unlucky enough to be alive after our victory."And then back inside Barracks Five…
"That asshole Wentworth!" Kastner almost shouted after the conversation in the compound went silent. "We were right! He was the traitor! All the disrupted plans. All the lies! And then those poor bastards… all ten men died because of him! And now this!"
"Whoa Corporal," Captain Malone said trying to calm the young man down, but continued with an order when it looked like the Corporal was going to forget where he was and what he was doing, "That's enough. Quiet down."
Jeff Malone knew there really was nothing else he could say. He was just as angry as the Corporal, but nothing he could do now was ever going to change a thing. The Captain patted the young man on the shoulder after the kid fell silent, "Listen Kevin. I understand your feelings, but right now there's just nothing we can do about Wentworth. Okay? Just go back to bed," Malone said softly, but then added. "That's an order."
He watched until Kevin returned to his bunk, and then turned his attention back to the compound. That bastard Wentworth, Captain Malone thought furiously as he watched Vogel roundup as many men as he could to follow the General's lead. Jeff Malone could only watch impotently as Shtarker, Vogel and a good many of the guards left the confines of Stalag 5's compound -- in their pursuit of glory -- spelling what he feared would be the slaughter of the American bomber squadron.
I only wish there was some way I could warn those poor bastards. But there's nothing I can do from here. Nothing at all.
Gochsheim, Germany, In the skies over the New Rocket Factory,
November 22, 1942, 0030 hours
Philip Carter sat almost frozen at his navigator's station as explosions ripped through the skies around the squadron of American bombers and fighters. Six of their eleven bombers had already been obliterated as well as ten of their fighter escort having also been wiped out. All completely destroyed, practically disintegrating in mid-air. They had obviously been set up, and were caught completely off-guard by a huge battery emplacement fortified with an incredible display of some new type of anti-aircraft gun, protecting what turned out to be a completely defunct factory in Gochsheim.
But just now… an eerie silence had taken over as those anti-aircraft guns suddenly fell silent. Why? Philip Carter asked himself as he sat listening intently through his earpiece to the commands being given to the rest of the squadron by Colonel Cummings. The Colonel was ordering everyone to fall back and head for home. But as the squadron began its vector for home all Philip heard through the radio static were additional blasts of gunfire and explosions. But this time those noises were accompanied by yells of May Day as what was left of the 591st squadron was confronted by a massive Luftwaffe air strike that had just completely cut them off from their pre-ordained course home. Now only pandemonium reigned, as they were inexorably outnumbered.
With most of their fighter escort wiped out, and more of their bombers taking massive hits, Carter knew it didn't look good for what was left of the 591st. But he could still hear the calm command tones coming from Lady Grace's cockpit, trying to control the panic of the other pilots. If anyone can get us out of this, it's Colonel Cummings. I'm sure of it. But even as that thought came to mind… gunfire, shattering glass, and the sound of tearing metal ripped through his earphones. And almost immediately 'Gracie' went into a nosedive. And what was once the calm voice of his commanding officer -- was now only static.
Panic turned into adrenalin for the Lieutenant when he realized that he might be the only one left on the Lady Grace of command rank. He turned and quickly ordered the rest of the crew to abandon Gracie. He saw their panicked unsure faces, but he loudly reiterated his command. As he saw a few of the faces acknowledge his command prerogative, he headed quickly for the cockpit hoping to pull Gracie out of her nosedive long enough for the men to jump. As he reached the cockpit though, he realized that Gracie had already begun to level off. But his relief turned to shock and sadness as he took in the conditions of Gracie's command crew.
Major Rhodes was already dead. His body riddled with bullets and almost sheered in two by the metal and shattered glass that had come from the gaping hole on his side of the cockpit. Colonel Cummings was only in slightly better shape, having taken several hits himself. But he was still alive and had even now just managed to get Gracie back on her feet. But it didn't take much for Philip Carter to see that his commander was not long for this world. The man now sat gripping Lady Grace's steering column -- as if for dear life.
Oh damn. I need to do something. I can't leave him here like this. "Colonel," Carter said. "C'mon let's go. We need to get out of here. Let me help you," Carter went to pull the officer up and out of his seat, hoping to somehow get him out of the plane. He knew that he'd probably need to carry him or at least stay with him until he got the man's parachute open. But as he grabbed onto the man's torso, he heard a yelp of pain that he hoped he'd never hear again.
"No!" hollered Colonel Cummings, holding even more tightly to the plane's steering column. "Let go of me Carter!" he panted. "There isn't much time. I'll hold Gracie steady… for as long as I can," he gasped through clenched teeth. "Get everyone out. That's an order," he said almost begging.
"But," Carter began.
"No goddamn buts Phil," Cummings blurted out in agony. "You weren't even supposed to be here. Get out now. Remember you are in charge of Gracie's crew. Take care of those guys. Now go!" he shouted and then choked as blood welled in his throat and ran from the corner of his mouth.
Philip took his hands off his commanding officer's jacket, just as the man's body began to shake uncontrollably. All he could see in the man's eyes was pain, but surprisingly they were still tempered with the same commitment he had always seen there.
"Watch for it Phil," the Colonel whispered as a strange calmness settled over his features. "I'm going to take this little lady and shove her down the throats of those Nazi bastards and their battery emplacement."
"Give em' Hell Colonel," Philip said resting a hand on the man's shoulder before quickly making his way to the back of the plane. He was the last one there. The others had all jumped on his order. He took one last anguished look back at the cockpit and then jumped from the plane. As he parachuted to the ground… he got to watch with some satisfaction as Colonel Keith Cummings managed to do what he said he was going to. Gracie went out in a blaze of glory, taking out a decent section of that battery emplacement.
Then astonished, Philip watched as the only two remaining bombers that he could see, in rapid succession, made the same crazy last-ditch effort. They had caught the Germans completely by surprise. The guns never even had time to come back on-line to defend the battalion on the ground. I guess they were expecting the air strike to finish us off. Phil shook his head sadly, but with some measure of pride, as he could now easily see that the force of the three B-29 bombers -- with their mostly unspent payloads -- had almost leveled the battery emplacement as they exploded on impact. He couldn't help but wonder though, whether those other pilots had heard Colonel Cummings's last words.
You brave, crazy, bastards. God speed gentlemen. You'll never be forgotten.
As Philip Carter finally hit the ground, he was again confronted with the fact that the entire squadron had been betrayed somehow. He hadn't even gotten a chance to get his parachute off before a German was in his face demanding his surrender.
Gochsheim, Germany, Luft Stalag 5, Kommandant's Office,November 22, 1942, 0115 hours
Captain Horst Funfstuck had sat for almost a half-hour listening to the sounds of battle raging over the abandoned Volkswagen Factory just on the other side of town. The recent relocation of that factory to the newer Volkswagen plant in Wolfsburg had played well into the hands of General Shtarker and Major Vogel. It had given them an arena for their deception. Clearly, a victory for the Fatherland was assured, if Horst could believe all that he'd overheard from both men in the past few months.
But for Funfstuck it would always be a hollow victory, one based on threats, lies, treason, deceit and sexual misconduct. Funfstuck knew that Major Vogel's only objective in life was to attain a position of absolute glory. And that he had done and would continue to do, whatever he had to, to achieve that goal.
Horst had gratefully never actually been involved in the plans surrounding tonight's deception. He had continued to feign ignorance in this, as he did in all things pertaining to Major Norbert Vogel's extracurricular activities. And even though Funfstuck had let it seem so to everyone, he most certainly was not oblivious to the way things worked at Stalag Five under the auspices of his commanding officer. He had made it his business to know everybody else's business… albeit clandestinely. Horst was quite aware of everything that went on, maybe even more so than any other German in camp, including the Kommandant. From the deceptions used by the POWs to gain favors from the guards, to the warped and evil agenda of his commanding officer.
The present situation, being a prime example of that, Funfstuck thought shaking his head in disgust at the depths that Major Vogel had sunk in his pursuit of glory. But Captain Horst Funfstuck knew, that until such a time that Major Norbert Vogel attained his goal, it was far safer for him to pretend ignorance of all that happened at Stalag Five. It had not taken him long to realize that Major Norbert Vogel was a man never to be trusted. And he had always suspected that his life depended on his ignorance. But what a trove of knowledge one can obtain by playing the innocent! I have a newfound understanding of the proverb -- 'The meek shall inherit the earth.' It's such an interesting perspective, to look up at those who would think you harmless, and know that it's they who are being duped.
Funfstuck could only look forward to the day that he'd put his ignorance behind him. And even though he couldn't stomach the actions of neither General Manheim Shtarker nor Major Norbert Vogel. He did hope that tonight's victory would indeed free him from the Major's scrutiny. And again if he could believe all that he had overheard, he suspected the Major would get his much desired promotion and move on, and if Horst could maintain a hold onto his one objective, leave him as the Kommandant of Stalag Five.
Because Funfstuck knew that even though he had perfected his ignorance, Major Norbert Vogel could never deny his ability to run the Stalag in his absence. Horst knew that his military record was exceptional and completely unblemished. The Major has nothing to fault me for. I'm sure of it. So I can only hope that, very soon, my own pursuit of glory can begin.
But assuredly, it will be more of a glory than what Major Vogel has aspired too, and one that I could proudly tell my grandchildren of.
The sound of silence broke into Funfstuck's musings. There had been so much noise with the battle being fought only a short distance away, that the silence seemed almost deafening. The Captain knew that he was now to expect the remnants of the American squadron, as well as any wounded from the battery emplacement. The plan was for all of them to be brought back to Stalag Five.
Although… he had been assured that he need not expect too much activity. There wasn't to be much left of the American squadron and very few, if any, injuries to the Germans at the factory. But Funfstuck had made sure that the infirmary was ready to deal with any eventuality. And he was certain that his men could easily contain the captured American airmen in the compound until things got sorted out. He had willingly done his duty to his commanding officer, well before retiring to the Kommandant's office to wait for word of the victory.
So it was though, that Funfstuck sat in momentary shock after receiving the first distress call from the battery emplacement. Things there had gone horribly wrong. All he could make out from the frantic call was that the battalion was almost decimated. Very many lives lost. And too many wounded to be easily assessed.
This isn't the way it was suppose to work! Funfstuck thought anxiously. But before he could commiserate too much more, his military training reasserted itself. As his first duty in this crisis, he contacted the nearest medical aid battalions and directed them to the Volkswagen Factory. The German Captain then quickly exited the Kommandant's office, and assigned many of his own remaining guards, and the small medical staff he had on hand, to the rescue detail and sent them immediately to the battery emplacement as well.
As his next logical step, Funfstuck would make more room at Stalag 5 for the very many wounded, dying, or dead German soldiers that would soon inundate his Stalag. He now expected to have to move POWs, maybe doubling, or even tripling up on some barracks to make a place for all the wounded, as the infirmary was just not large enough to deal with a debacle of this degree.
But the Captain also realized that he would need to make room for the incoming airmen, some of who could be injured as well. He decided to confine the captured American airmen in the cooler building, as holding them in the compound would be impossible while dealing with the rescue effort. As for the wounded in their ranks… his only recourse was to leave them in the hands of the POWs own physician, as honor demanded that he not abandon any of the wounded, even if the enemy. But he would do no more than that, for his own countrymen, first and foremost, deserved the best medical care available.
It was at that moment though, that Funfstuck came to realize that the whole issue of what to do with the captured airmen might soon be mute. He was sure that the Americans unlucky enough to be caught, would probably not live long enough to make it back to camp. Certainly not after word of the massacre at the Volkswagen Factory reached the ears of Sergeant Fritz Webber, the man in charge of capturing the American airmen. Funfstuck knew that those prisoners would have been better off dying in battle than being left in the care of the volatile and unpredictable German Sergeant.
Fritz Webber was one of Major Norbert Vogel's minions and Funfstuck knew the man would relish in the vengeful murders of those he and his men had captured. The Sergeant had certainly demonstrated his twisted personality to Funfstuck enough in the past. Horst remembered quite clearly watching the grin on the man's face as he sadistically poured gasoline over the dead bodies of ten POWs -- and lit them on fire -- after he and his squad had 'ambushed' them as they tried to escape from Stalag Five.
Funfstuck shook his head in disgust as his own sensibilities quickly replaced the churning in his gut as he tried to forget the events of that night. Horst Funfstuck did not believe in cold-blooded murder. There had been no need for what happened that night. A captured prisoner was a captured prisoner and should be treated according to the rules defined in the Geneva Convention. In this, Horst knew that he was unlike his commanding officer, and quite proud of that fact.
Horst quickly came to a decision, even though it could prove to be his downfall if Major Vogel ever found out that he was about to undermine his orders. Funfstuck rounded up men that he could trust to stand their ground with Webber, and also return the POWs to camp safely. He just hoped that they would be in time to forestall any sadistic revenge on Webber's part. And even though it appeared that the Americans had indeed killed many of his countrymen at the factory, Funfstuck knew that the only reason the whole scenario happened in the first place was because of the reprehensible quest for glory of Major Vogel and General Shtarker. They are as much at fault in this, as anyone. Maybe even more so.
As the Captain watched many more of his men leave the Stalag, he allowed himself a fleeting thought as to the condition of his commanding officer. I wonder. Would he be among the injured? Or maybe among the dead? And if so, what could that mean for me? Maybe my quest for glory can begin even sooner than I had ever thought.
But before Horst Funfstuck's greedy musings enveloped him any further, he paused in disgust and anger -- at himself. He would not think of his path to glory now, as his commitment to duty -- and honor -- would always come first. As it should, always.
Gochsheim, Germany, Woods surrounding the abandoned Volkswagen Factory,
November 22, 1942, 0130 hours
Philip Carter had not gotten much of a chance to even think before a huge German Corporal had him by the scruff of his bomber jacket's collar and was forcing him to walk ahead of him. Philip had wanted to give a good fight, but the German was huge, outweighing him by what had to be close to 50 pounds, not to mention that the pistol the German had pointed at his temple wasn't giving him much of an opportunity to do anything.
And the fact that Philip was scared to death didn't help either.
Soon though, the Lieutenant was marched into a clearing and thrown unceremoniously to the ground, landing heavily on others from his squadron, attested to by the number of 'oofs' he heard. But eerily no one said anything more, so Philip followed suit by keeping his mouth shut and scrambling to a sitting position on the closest unoccupied patch of ground.
After settling in, he squinted in the darkness trying to count how many others had been captured. Only 10? Is that it? Maybe some got away? Before he could actually face what 'only 10' might truly mean, a hand was placed on his shoulder from behind.
"You injured Lieutenant?" whispered who Philip knew was Captain Dennis White. Carter could easily tell that the Captain was trying to keep the conversation as quiet as possible, although obviously unable to keep his concern to himself.
"No sir," Philip whispered as he glanced anxiously back into the face of the Captain. "Is this everyone sir?" he asked in anguished fear of hearing the answer.
"Right now. That's not for you to think about Lieutenant," the Captain barked -- quietly. "Understand? Keep your eyes front. And no more talking," he ordered sternly, trying not to answer Philip's question, just hoping the kid would just follow orders as his life could depend on it.
Philip got the message, but was relieved for the re-assuring squeeze of his shoulder before the Captain removed his hand. So the only thing Philip could do, along with the other captured airmen that is, was sit quietly and watch the coming and goings of the Germans, and sadly only the occasional appearance of another captured airman or two.
Philip, with his own heart pounding, concentrated on the breathing of those men cloistered around him. Most he could tell were as frightened as he was, as their breathing was very fast and erratic. But he couldn't help but hear someone groaning in agony. Oh God, someone is hurt really bad. Philip tried hard not to concentrate on whom those sounds might be coming from, as he knew everyone in the squadron. He could only hope that anyone near that soldier was doing what he could to comfort him.
But now, what had him the most unnerved was the labored breathing of Captain White from just behind him. When Philip first sat down, he was sure that the Captain had been breathing normally. Or maybe I was just to scared to notice. Now the man seemed to be in a lot of pain, but obviously trying to keep that fact quiet from those around him. Hell I wish I could do something, but the one thing I know for sure about the Captain is that he wouldn't accept help, especially not in a situation where others would be looking to him for guidance.
I just hope he's going to be all right.
A feeling of helplessness began to overwhelm Philip. He knew that he couldn't do anything but continue to sit silently along with what was left of his squadron. But for him, the sounds of that silence were echoing in his soul. How many men died tonight? And for what? A defunct factory? How many more of us may still? None of us are really safe. Especially not after Colonel Cummings and the others deliberately crashed their bombers into that battery emplacement. I wonder who else here even knows that happened? Or even if the Germans here know that yet?
I wonder what might happen when they find out? Maybe we'd all be better off making a run for it.
Or maybe not, Philip thought as he watched a number of German soldiers return from searching the woods, which had to mean that there really wasn't much left of the 591st. Philip glanced around at his comrades once more. There weren't more than 15 men along side him now. Out of almost 125? He still hoped that some had gotten away, but he knew in his heart that that wasn't the case. He hated to admit to himself that the squadron had been truly decimated.
Over 100 gone, for no good reason. Somehow knowing that, it hurt even more. I could almost understand dying in a fair fight, but not because of some dirty rotten underhanded…
Philip's angry musings were interrupted by another group of German soldiers who had just arrived in the area. By their demeanor, and the look on the face of their superior officer when they made their – quite obviously very anxious – report, Philip knew that he'd get the answer to his previously unvoiced question… very soon.
Philip glanced quickly at his companions again; sensing instantly that they all knew something had just changed. He wished he could tell them all that he knew, to prepare them for what was most likely to come. But he again saw in their faces what he'd always seen there, something that had always kept him going when things got tough… the commitment to duty and honor that Colonel Cumming had always inspired. He could sense, even through their fear, that they were ready to give everything to this cause, as Colonel Cumming and the others of their squadron already had. And Philip knew he would willingly lay down his life along side these men.
So Philip just sat quietly waiting for the inevitable, only allowing himself one regret… that of not being able to make it home to see his son Jason. But I guess now we'll get to meet in a different reality. I'll be waiting for you son.
Gochsheim, Germany, Luft Stalag 5, Barracks Five,
November 22, 1942, 0200 hours
The tension in barracks five was beyond comprehension. Many of the POWs sat stunned. No one even spoke. It had been almost thirty minutes since the firefight had stopped and only fifteen minutes since Captain Malone was removed unceremoniously from the barracks. Everyone was on pins and needles, as they had been given no explanation for Malone's removal from the barracks.
But neither was there the expected pompous boasting from their German captors about a glorious victory for the Fatherland either. Granted at this point, the POWs were not supposed to know what happened. And at that, only those in barracks five had any real knowledge of the events leading to the massacre that was to have taken place in the skies over Gochsheim.
But it was memories of the last time they had seen their former Senior Officer be removed from camp had now eclipsed all else in their minds. This time though, there was no differing of opinion. This time, they were all worried that the Captain was being singled out for retaliation because of something horrendous that had just happened. And they could only wait helplessly until they found out what that was. Even peeking outside wasn't an option, as all the doors and windows to the barracks had been barred just prior to Captain Malone's removal. Their true fear was that yet again they would be left in the dark and would never know what happened to Captain Malone. And they all knew that his disappearance didn't bode well for the POWs in this Stalag. They again would have no one to trust.
But for one POW, it seemed even worse.
Andrew Carter sat huddled on his bunk; sure that his world was to come crashing down on him, if something happened to Captain Malone. The Captain's arrival had been his only saving grace since being interned as a POW. He remembered his first two weeks here, like they were yesterday. With no Senior Officer, and only poor Doc Stephens trying desperately to hold the place together, things at Stalag Five were chaotic and dangerous. No one had spoken to him, or make that, hardly spoken to him. He was an outsider, and no one here at the time was willing to trust outsiders.
Andrew hadn't even tried to make friends at the beginning. He had feared nearly all of the men he'd come in contact with. Most were hardened souls, not willing to give of themselves. Others, he came to realize, were just as frightened as he was. But after Captain Malone arrived – it had taken time certainly – but Carter's fears, not to mention those of the other POWs, had since almost evaporated. But right now, those feelings had come back and were almost crushing him. Carter could only imagine what it was doing to the others around him.
The overbearing silence continued unabated for many more minutes. Andrew's head began pounding like the beat of a kettledrum. All he could hear was the hammering in his head competing with the heavy breathing of his fellow POWs. It was almost at the point where Andrew's whole world started to spin that the door to barracks five opened and Captain Malone was ushered back in, and the door quickly closed and barred behind him.
At first everyone just stared at Jeff Malone, not believing that he could be standing in their presence. Malone was quick to size up the anxiety in the room. "Well what do you know? I've just returned from seeing the Wizard," he said jovially trying to break the tension. "Anyone want to welcome me -- and Toto too, of course -- back to the farm?"
One, two, three beats later… still nothing.
"How about I make that an order! Attention!" Malone bellowed in his best command tone.
As if a damn burst, everyone started talking at once. Granted no one actually came to attention, but that wasn't the point anyway. Malone could only smile inwardly though when he heard a, "When is he ever gonna learn that we aren't in Kansas anymore." He was now surer than ever that he had made headway with these men. He could see the compassion in their eyes. Granted they were still scared, but he could easily sense the trust and camaraderie that he had spent the last two months building.
"Whoa guys!" Malone yelled above the growing noise, trying to get everyone's attention. "First. Everyone calm down. I'm fine," Malone offered and then his demeanor turned serious as the noise level decreased. "We have a lot to discuss. Something's just not right here in our little paradise, but I haven't figured out exactly what. And Funfstuck wasn't all that forthcoming with information. But would you guys believe that the Nazi Bastard actually speaks English!"
After an outburst of expletives directed at Funfstuck's deception, everyone began to settle down for a second time. But it was Andrew Carter, who was the first to say something as he approached at his Captain. "What happened sir?"
Malone put a hand on his young Sergeant's shoulder and looking him in the eye said quietly, "I really don't know." He glanced up at the rest of the men and took a deep breath. "Funfstuck was pretty closed mouthed, but the fact that what little he did say, was said in English, shocked the hell out of me. The man was anxious. He used my life as a bargaining chip against a POW uprising, as he went about moving some of the men out of their barracks and doubled them up with others. Together we emptied three barracks while he kept a gun pointed at my head."
"That Bastard. He didn't say what for," Corporal Kastner interjected.
"All I can gather is that our flyboys didn't go down without a fight," Malone supposed. "And I couldn't help but notice that even more Germans had disappeared from camp. More than likely that was the reason for the barring of all the windows and doors. But certainly none of the Germans were acting as if they had won a huge victory. Quite the opposite actually, they were acting as if they were responding to an emergency. And I can't even say that I was all that worried about Funfstuck really taking me out. His threat was just a means to an end. Although, I am glad no one pushed the issue."
"What do you think happened?" asked Lieutenant Dan Carson, Malone's unofficial second in command. "What about the squadron?"
"I can only hope that they trounced the bloody Nazi Bastards. Maybe they found out about Wentworth's treachery and were ready for the German's ambush," Malone said wishing for the best. "It would serve Vogel and Shtarker right… to die in their own malicious trap. But, I just really don't know what happened. And again Funfstuck didn't say much."
Malone made his way to the center table and sat down heavily. "All I can say… is that we'll have to wait and see. Any captured surviving airmen were supposed to be brought here. Maybe we'll find out more then." Malone removed his cap and ran both hands through his hair and sighed deeply. "But honestly, I think the best we can hope for, is that they gave as good as they got."
The men quickly took that to mean that their Captain had nothing else to add. Each man slowly returned to his bunk. And the waiting game began all over again.
Gochsheim, Germany, Traveling on the road from the Volkswagen Factory to Luft Stalag 5
November 22, 1942, 0215 hours
Philip Carter found himself sitting on the floor of a German half-ton truck, with the unconscious Captain White's head cradled in his lap. The Captain had passed out, and almost into Philip's arms, as he stood before being transferred to the truck. Philip had been shocked to see the condition of the Captain's right arm. It didn't take much to realize that the pain from the Captain's mangled arm was finally more than the man could handle. Philip was surprised that he had actually stayed alert for as long as he did. All Philip could do now was make sure the tourniquet that the Captain had fastened to his upper arm stayed tight. It was easily the only thing keeping the man from bleeding to death.
Not far from Philip, also on the floor of the truck, was Major John Craig with Billy Gaines's head resting in his lap. Billy was the one that Philip had heard moaning in agony soon after being captured. He could see that the young Private had taken a belly full of shrapnel, most likely catching flack after he had jumped from his bomber. Billy had been the mechanic on Major Craig's plane ever since he first arrived at Heathrow, just two months earlier. The Major and the young man had hit it off right away. As it turned out both men had family ties to the small world of 'comic book' publishing.
Philip could only watch sadly as the Major tried his damndest to contain the bleeding from Billy's gut. To Philip's mind, neither his charge nor Major Craig's, had much of a chance to survive. Both men had been without medical care since they'd been injured more than an hour ago. It just didn't look promising.
Philip eyes strayed to take in the other airmen who were huddled together on the sideboards, clearly trying to offer as much room as possible to the two most seriously wounded of their group. But then again, Philip mused, how any of us are alive and in this truck heading for 'God knows where' is beyond my comprehension. By all rights we should be dead. A shiver ran down Philip's spine as he remembered how close they had all come to being bullet-ridden corpses. Only split second timing on the part of a German Lieutenant and his squad had saved them. And I still really don't understand why they bothered.
But the confrontation had been an eye opener. Having two Germans square off in front of the POWs was a shock to say the least. Everything had happened so fast that Philip wasn't sure if he or any of his comrades would ever clearly remember what happened, now that it was over. All any of them had been concentrating on was the German Sergeant who had command of the detail that captured them. Clearly enraged, after having gotten the report of what happened the battery emplacement, the German had retrieved a machine gun, cocked it, and started to approach the captured POWs.
His intentions were crystal clear.
It was then though, that things became pretty hazy. As the POWs realized what the German was going to do, panic set in. But more of the panic of trapped animals, when the end was in sight and you could do nothing to prevent it. But at the same time pride and anger welled from deep within their souls, eclipsing that panic. It was as if the POWs were stoically daring the German to do his worst, which in the long run, they knew, would allow them join their fallen comrades. Not the worst way to go. But still, the POWs feelings were so jumbled, as terror, anger, pride and contentment clashed, that the sudden appearance of a truck had shocked everyone… including the Germans in the area, who also had their eye glued to the German Sergeant.
There was much shouting and horn blowing as the truck came to a stop in between the German Sergeant and the POWs. Almost immediately, a contingent of soldiers from the truck disembarked and formed rank in front of the POWs, while their leader immediately went on an absolute tirade, berating the German Sergeant. Between the truck and the German squad, the POWs could not see their confrontation. Though after some loud angry shouting in German, as well as the cocking of machine guns from those standing in front of the POWs, things quieted. At that point, it became obvious to the POWs that they were being protected, and not threatened. But the tension was still running too high for any to let their guard down.
Within just a few minutes though, the German Sergeant and a small squad of men left the area. The German Lieutenant and his men quickly took over, and began to organize the POWs for their trek to Stalag Five. To everyone's surprise the German Lieutenant had addressed the group in English before beginning the transfer. He told the POWs where they were going and had made sure that they knew that their wounded would be taken care of.
Granted, it was rather an abrupt speech, thought Philip.
But the German had kept his word so far, and what was left of the American squadron, found themselves huddled together – and alive – on a truck, heading somewhere…
Gochsheim, Germany, Luft Stalag 5, Kommandant's Office,November 22, 1942, 1030 hours
Horst Funfstuck stood staring mesmerized out the window of the Kommandant's office. The camp stood deadly quiet. Nothing was moving. All the POWs were still in lock-down. And a lot of his own men, who had been returning slowly from the rescue attempt at the Volkswagen Factory, were being allowed to rest. Even the few captured airmen had been easily dealt with after they arrived hours ago.
But as Funfstuck's eyes scanned the three barracks that he had emptied last night for the in-coming wounded German soldiers, his heart sank. He had expected his camp to be a hotbed of activity, and inundated with injured. He had been expecting certainly a sad, but also a proud time for this camp, with him being able to show those in power that he could handle a crisis well. But instead those three barracks remained empty. Not a single soldier was being treated there.
The quiet of the camp had been eating away at the Captain's soul, ever since the truth of what had happened at the factory had become increasingly evident during the night. He had made a number of calls, after it appeared no wounded were coming his way, making sure that the aid battalions knew that Stalag Five was available as a place to care for the soldiers. On each call though, he was told the same thing. The medical aid battalions had the situation under control, as the number of wounded was few compared to the number of dead or missing.
There was no need to use the Stalag for anything.
Funfstuck's men had given him even more details, as they reported in from the factory. The injured that could talk, were telling of three American bombers having crashed into the battery. It took Funfstuck even longer to find out that the bombers hadn't just crashed, but were flown deliberately at the battery emplacement. Those who told their stories had said that until then a victory was assured, as the battalion on the ground as well as the Luftwaffe air strike, had indeed annihilated most of the approaching squadron. No one had ever anticipated that the pilots of those last three bombers would even get a chance to do such a thing, as their own planes were barely limping along when they made their kamikaze runs at the battery.
Eighty-two wounded, two hundred and fifty-nine confirmed dead and still close to one hundred and seventy-three missing. And at this point… all of them were presumed dead. Funfstuck shook his head sadly. He had certainly missed an opportunity to show off his abilities, but that paled when dealing with the real numbers being reported from the Volkswagen Factory.
Over 400 dead… including Major Norbert Vogel.
Funfstuck had received confirmation of his commanding officer's death almost two hours ago. The Major had supposedly been pulled from a bunker alive soon after the incident, but according to the report had died from his injuries just a short time later. The report said that he had been crushed under falling debris, as well as having been burnt on over 75% of his body. He had not been expected to survive.
Death was certainly a blessing then, for living like that would be like dying everyday.
When the Captain thought of all of the others of his countrymen that had died, or would suffer needlessly, from last night's debacle, his own German pride had surged to the forefront. He had wanted to blame the Americans for those many deaths. Even so, he had to fight the urge to take revenge on those airmen in his charge, and fight especially hard as the numbers of dead steadily rose throughout the evening. But as the morning sun rose, he thanked his mother for her compassion, as he had grown up holding on to her principles, even in the turmoil that had become the Third Reich. He knew in his mind, body and soul, that Major Vogel and General Shtarker were to blame for all that went on last night.
And that they had seriously underestimated the resolve of Americans who were faced with certain death.
Funfstuck's gaze turned toward the cooler building. Even those few surviving airmen had shown the same resolve. According to his man, Lieutenant Hans Walburg, their determined stance, even as Sergeant Webber was making his way to cut them down where they sat trapped, had astonished him. Funfstuck, though not as gullible as he realized Major Vogel was in regard to Americans, had to admit to himself that he'd have to be more careful in his dealings with those men who had just become his POWs. The finality of their tactics had even surprised him.
It is a lesson well learned and not soon to be forgotten.
Funfstuck caught sight of Lieutenant Walburg as he left the infirmary and headed toward the Kommandant's office. The wounded airmen had been interned there after they arrived, along with the POWs own physician Captain Stephens and a few others he'd chosen to aid in caring for those men. Funfstuck had thought better of his idea to treat the wounded airmen in the cooler. His original worry that treating the wounded there would infringe on space needed for wounded Germans had proved pointless. He was now glad that he had decided to have them treated in the infirmary. Tensions had been high enough with the airmen as it was, and he suspected that having their companions seeing and hearing everything that was going on would only cause more problems.
The Captain backed away from the window and returned to stand by the desk when he heard the Lieutenant enter the outer office. He soon heard the expected knock at the door. "Come," he said in German.
"Lieutenant Walburg reporting sir," the younger man said in clipped proper German as he saluted his superior officer and closed the office door behind him.
Funfstuck returned the salute and replied, "Report Lieutenant." He moved to sit down in the Kommandant's chair before the Lieutenant could continue. As he sat though, he realized suddenly, that it was now his chair. At least for the time being.
"Sir. First we only have two-thirds of our duty staff available to us. Many are still helping with the recovery effort at the factory. And of those that have returned, most are off duty," Walburg reported succinctly. "So we are short-handed, but I'm still worried for the barracks that have been doubled sir. I wouldn't want overcrowding to cause even more tension there. As it is now obvious, that we will not need the space. I would suggest moving those POWs back, sir."
"Very well Walburg," Funfstuck agreed. "Use Captain Malone as a fail safe against any uprising. It worked well last night. The Captain was very cooperative. Although the gun held to his head may have been a major factor in that."
"Jawohl Herr Captain," Walburg replied.
"What is the status of the captured airmen? You have done what I've asked?" the Captain inquired in his best command tone, but knowing full well that the Lieutenant was very efficient, and would not have returned here without having done his duty.
"Ja. Ja," the young officer replied. "There were 16 airmen captured in all. Two officers, one a Major. The other is a Captain, who along with a Private constitutes the wounded among the airmen. All the others are grade Lieutenant or under. I've questioned all of them except for the two wounded. And as you ordered sir, I only collected name, rank, and serial number."
"Very good," Funfstuck praised. "The next step will be delousing, and then release into the prison proper. But remember… enlisted men only. The Major will stay confined and if need be, the injured Captain as well. But before you do anything, I want to talk to Captain Malone. After you move our POWs back into their barracks, escort the Captain here."
Then feeling the need to end any more discussion, Funfstuck continued with a, "Dismissed."
"Jawohl Herr Captain," Walburg repeated, but stood quietly as he was not finished with his report and was not quite sure how to broach that to his new commanding officer.
"Anything further Lieutenant?" asked Funfstuck as he acknowledged the questioning stare of his officer.
"Ja Captain," Walburg began. "Two requests from Captain Stephens. For help in treating the wounded airmen."
"Of course Walburg," Funfstuck offered, feeling uncomfortable that he had not even considered asking. "What condition are they in?"
"Both men have been treated for their injuries sir. Or I should say that both men have had some rudimentary surgery to stop the bleeding from their injuries. Both men in my opinion are in very bad shape Captain," the Lieutenant reported. "I would be surprised if either man survives. But the Doctor is requesting blood donors. He feels that replenishing the men's lost blood would do well to ward of shock and help them recover."
"And you don't agree?" Funfstuck confronted, but only because he was actually interested in hearing the young man's opinion. Horst Funfstuck finally realized that he and his young officer now actually had the freedom to express those opinions.
The Lieutenant swallowed hard, but somehow felt that he could stand his ground and continue with his thoughts without fear of reprisal. "No sir. I don't. I see nothing to gain from those men suffering even more… before the inevitable."
"You are a pragmatist Lieutenant," the Captain accused in a flippant, but certainly not a dangerous tone. "Yesterday I would have agreed with you. But today, I see a new breed of men occupying my Stalag. Men who push until they can no longer push. Find the Doctor his blood donors. If those two men survive this, I will have learned even more about the enemy. Maybe even more than I should care too know."
"Jawohl Captain," the Lieutenant said taking the slight reprimand in stride. He turned to leave but was stopped by a question from his commanding officer.
"You said the Doctor had two requests?" asked Funfstuck.
"I'm sorry sir. Yes he did," Walburg began. "To ensure that the Captain had even a remote chance of survival, it was necessary for the Doctor to amputate the man's right arm at the shoulder. He respectfully requested a private place to either burn or bury the arm… out of sight of the camp population."
"Granted," Funfstuck said quietly. "Burning would be the most expedient, as the ground has been frozen of late. You will personally help him take care of that Lieutenant."
"Of course sir," Walburg replied, making his exit from the new Kommandant's presence, but thanking the powers that be, for the changes that were sure to take place at Stalag Five under Funfstuck's leadership. For he knew that if Major Vogel still commanded, both he, his squad, and Captain Funfstuck would be dead along side those captured airmen for what they did last night. Major Vogel was not known for either his compassion or his understanding.
Now I just have to find a way to stay out of Sergeant Webber's way, thought Walburg as he closed the door to the Kommandant's office behind him.
Gochsheim, Germany, Luft Stalag 5, Cooler Building,
November 22, 1942, 1200 hours
Major John Craig sat quietly surrounded by what was left of the 591st bomber squadron. Actually the men had been split up into four different cells, but all were within eyesight of one another. It had taken him a number of hours to actually realized that he and he alone was the only officer left in their small group, and that these me were counting on him for guidance. He was mortified by his complete disregard of the men who he knew were his primary responsibility. It should have been the first thing that he had thought of. But so much has happened, so many have died, and so few are left. God. And I was so consumed with Billy that I let these men fend for themselves.
Craig tried to make it up to them during the interrogations earlier that morning, but found he had nothing he could fight for. The German who conducted the interrogations just asked for name, rank and serial number. Nothing else. The man even had food supplied for them. Only bread and water. But it was something. The only thing that Craig had confronted the German about was the condition of their wounded. And the German offered that they were being cared for. Not a lot of information. But yet… it was something.
But, that was almost three hours ago.
Since then, it had been quiet… just the new POWs left by themselves. Craig had tried to give support to those around them. And surprisingly they had responded in kind. It was almost as if they had all been preoccupied, and had all needed some time wrapped up in themselves. Craig knew there really wasn't much he could say or do to make things any easier for them. They all had to deal with the deaths of close friends and comrades, and now what certainly looked like a rather bleak future. But hopefully more of a future than what we were facing last night – trapped in that clearing.
So Craig decided that quiet seemed more the order of the day.
Until that is, the Major heard the heavy door to the cooler building open and close. He stood quickly, followed by his companions, and made his way to the cell's door, just as the German who had conducted the interrogations escorted an American Captain into the area.
"Major John Craig," the German Lieutenant said abruptly. "Captain Jeffrey Malone, Senior POW Officer."
Malone saluted the Major saying, "Sorry to meet you and your men under these circumstances sir."
"Likewise Captain," the Major responded also saluting. But quickly he lowered his hand and extended it through the bars of the cell. The Captain responded in kind with a firm handshake.
The German interrupted, speaking directly to Captain Malone. "You have 15 minutes Captain. That is all…" he began but stopped as he caught sight of a POW standing just behind Major Craig. He regained his composure quickly and continued, "That is all the time the Kommandant will allow." With that the German disappeared, but not without a second look at that POW.
Malone's heart almost skipped a beat as he himself looked into the face of the POW. Goddamn. He looks just like Carter? Wow this could get interesting. Two Carters? It just figures that I was standing with 'our' Carter when Walburg came to get me. He most certainly just made the connection. "Don't worry Major," he said quickly seeing the anxious gaze shared by the Major and his Lieutenant. "It's just that the Lieutenant here, looks uncannily like one of my own men. I'm sure it will be fine," Malone comforted trying to forestall any undue alarm, but he honestly didn't know what to expect from Funfstuck for this look-alike.
Hell if it was Vogel… Well let's just be glad that it's not, because these men probably wouldn't even be here now.
"I have some good and bad news from our Kommandant Major," Malone continued. "Your men will be released shortly, after delousing, into the prison proper. Luft Stalag 5 is their home from this point on. But I'm sorry Major. You won't be released with them. You will remain confined here, until you can be transferred to another facility. I don't know where you'll be going. It just seems that our Kommandant appears content with me as Senior POW Officer."
A huge outburst from some very angry and anxious POWs was all that was heard next, as they tried to defend their comrade. It was almost deafening, but Malone stood quietly through the expected tumult. He hadn't expected anything less. The noise died down as the Major held up his hand, signaling for them to stop.
"Captain," Craig began after a deep breath. "I had hoped to stay with my men. Maybe we can work something out. I won't step on your toes. Do you think you could talk to the Kommandant for me?" the Major asked knowing full well by the look on the Captain's face that it had been pointless to ask.
"Listen Major," Malone sighed. "I understand. I really do. But the one thing you all need to learn as POWs… is that the Nazis do whatever the hell they like. And there isn't a thing you can do about it. I'm sorry. You'll be moving on. That's all there is to it."
Major Craig turned and walked to the opposite side of the cell. His world had just come apart for a second time in less than twelve hours. He didn't know how he would face being a POW without the men he had fought side by side with. They'd all almost become like family. Turning back toward Captain Malone he sighed. "You will take good care of these guys Captain."
"Of course Major," Malone replied. "I promise to do the best I can. But honestly, things have changed drastically here since last night. You guys managed to drop your farmhouse on our Wicked Witch of the East. I'm just hoping you didn't leave me to deal with the Wicked Witch of the West."
All Malone got was completely dumbfounded stares from those in the cooler building. Finally it was the Major that said, "Huh?"
"You do know what happened last night, don't you?" Malone asked, actually not sure he had the whole story either. But he had been surprised at what Funfstuck had admitted too. Granted he did have to explain his new 'position' to the Senior POW Officer. I'm still surprised that he told me as much as he did.
Major Craig nodded his head in his cellmate's direction. "Carter here… was one of the last to bail. He told us that he'd seen our squadron leader and two others deliberately crash their bombers into the battery emplacement. I guess… we all assumed that they were able to take out some of those Nazi bastards. A little final justice, for ambushing us in the first place."
Hell. He really is a Carter. "Well," Malone offered. "Those pilots took out more than just 'some'. As many as four hundred is what I heard today. And one of them was 'our' beloved Kommandant, nice guy that he was – the bastard. But in taking him out, you left me with the unknown. I haven't had a chance to figure out 'our new' Kommandant yet. But I will. I will. Your guys will be fine Major. Really."
"Thanks Captain," Craig replied. "One more thing. Have you heard anything of the wounded that were with us? The German that just left wasn't that forthcoming with information."
"At this point, I haven't been in to see them myself," Malone explained. "The Kommandant told me what he knew. I'm sorry. It really doesn't look good." Malone saw the distraught faces of the men standing around. He wanted to say something to make it easier on them, but there just wasn't any way to do that. "The Captain is in only slightly better shape than the Private, but from what I was told, my camp physician had to amputate the Captain's right arm. As for the Private, he had lost lots of blood, and had taken a belly full of shrapnel. My physician has treated both men. The doc's a good guy. He'll do the best that he can for them. But it's just a waiting game at this point. I'm sorry that's all I…"
Malone's explanation was cut off by the sound of the cooler door opening and the appearance Lieutenant Walburg. "Auchtung," yelled the German Lieutenant, as he came to attention and let Kommandant Funfstuck pass by him.
All but Captain Malone and Major Craig came to attention as the German Captain approached. Both American officers stood their ground, certainly not challenging the German officer, but not offering anything more than a mild acknowledgement of his presence. Funfstuck didn't seem to notice one way or another, as his eyes were immediately glued to the American Lieutenant standing behind Major Craig.
"Here Lieutenant," he ordered, motioning the soldier to the front of the cell. "Uncanny," Funfstuck continued shaking his head in wonder. He slowly turned toward Captain Malone, a sarcastic grin enveloping his features. "You would have so enjoyed getting this look-alike past my men and me. Am I right Captain? What games you could have played, huh?"
"I'm sure, I don't know what you mean Kommandant," Malone said innocently, but couldn't stop the hairs on the back of his neck from rising.
"Oh don't play the innocent Captain," Funfstuck accused. "As you will find out, I know more about you than you can ever imagine. I know how your mind works… inside and out. Surprised? You would never have succeeded in playing this doppelganger against me."
The German Captain paused with a smirk and then turned back toward the entrance to the cooler. "Bringt ihn hierher," he yelled loudly. Almost immediately two German soldiers appeared and shoved Sergeant Andrew Carter to in front of where the German Captain was standing.
Captain Malone had to restrain himself from trying to help Carter and could only watch as his young Sergeant worked at regaining his balance, standing straight, and coming to attention. Malone also couldn't help but hear the sharp intake of breath that had emanated from the Lieutenant in the cell. That more than anything told him that these two men knew each other, and knew each other well. Malone's heart ached, as he watched Andrew glance at where that noise had come from and actually take in the face of the man staring back at him through the bars.
"Ph…," Carter started to say, but quickly decided that saying nothing… might be a better idea. He closed his mouth and turned his head away and stared blankly forward.
"So," Funfstuck began looking between the two Americans. "There is more here than meets the eye." Could they be brothers? "Hmm. No matter," the German Captain said nonchalantly, as his decision regarding these men had already been made. He turned and addressed his men abruptly with a sweep of his hand toward Sergeant Carter, "Nun geht schon. Er wird tatowiert!"
As the two Germans went to retrieve Andrew, Captain Malone sensing a finality in the German Captain's tone, threw himself between the guards and Carter. "What the hell are you planning Funfstuck," he yelled. "He hasn't done anything." Malone quickly found himself shoved up against cell bars with a rifle pressed lengthwise against his throat. His heart began pounding hard, his pulse racing, and his breathing came in rasps, as the rifle remained pressed quite heavily on his airway.
"Well," Funfstuck said reaching for the rifle at Malone's throat as a signal for his man to release the pressure. "Realize quickly Captain. That this is now my game. And for today at least, we stand at checkmate. Sergeant Carter will be tattooed," he said as he grabbed Carter's left hand and twisted it so Malone could see the back. "To make identification simpler. You should just be glad that that is all I'm going to do. But be forewarned Captain. You try playing any games at all, however insignificant, using these two men and they will suffer dire consequences." Funfstuck paused and again turned to his men, "Nun geht schon. Er wird tatowiert."
After watching his men escort the American Sergeant from the cooler, Funfstuck turned back to his Senior POW Officer. "Captain Malone, Lieutenant Walburg will be releasing all of the POWs after seeing to these men," Funfstuck said using his hand to indicate the POWs in the cells. "I expect no problems from you or your men today Captain. I know you know that we are short-handed. But also know, that tired-overworked soldiers make trigger-happy soldiers. And accidents happen."
Funfstuck turned quickly and left the cooler building without another word.
Gochsheim, Germany, Luft Stalag 5, Barracks Five, Senior POW Officer's Quarters,
November 22, 1942, 1730 hours
Captain Malone was lying on the bottom bunk in his quarters, staring up at the wooden slats of the top bunk. He had returned to his quarters some time ago, after making his rounds to each barracks. He had wanted to make sure that all the men had dealt okay with the lockdown. It had been close to thirteen hours for all of them. And some barracks were even doubled up for part of that time. With no food, no water, barred doors and windows. Having to piss and shit in makeshift latrines.
Malone knew that it would take a toll, but he had come away proud of the men in this camp. There were certainly those that didn't handle the confinement well, but just as many others were there for those men to lean on. If one thing good can come out of a place like this, it's that you learn to face your fears. And realize that nothing again will ever be as bad.
We just have to pull together and wait for this bloody war to end.
Forcing his own fears into oblivion, Captain Malone sat up on the bunk, knowing that he had to get back to business. All throughout his tour of the barracks, he kept running into members of the escape committee. All were anxious about the upcoming escape planned for less than 48 hours from now. He'd talked to Doohan and Neilson and both men still wanted out -- regardless of the risk. And the escape committee, although anxious, would still offer a 'GO' for the escape, if Malone agreed.
But with all that had happened, Malone was thinking about putting the kybosh on it. At least, until things settle down. And even though the committee was formed as a team, Malone still had final authority if he thought the situation too dangerous. And right now, he just wasn't sure what to expect from Funfstuck. But then again…what constitutes too dangerous? Now might just be the best time. Funfstuck is still disorganized. But Hell, he's not the person I thought I knew him to be. I'm afraid that he's one step ahead of me.
Almost like he knows what I'm gonna do next. It's spooky.
"Jeff," Doctor Ken Stephens called from outside the officer's door.
"Come on in Ken," Malone replied at first thankful for the interruption, but then realized that the physician probably didn't have good news for him. "What is it Ken?" Malone asked quietly, knowing that he'd avoided talking to the doctor all day, not wanting to know any more bad news about two wounded airmen. "I would prefer good news, if you had any…"
"Sorry Jeff," Stephens said sadly. "Although at this point, it's not hopeless yet."
"So, what are we looking at in terms of those two men?" Malone asked steeling himself for the answer.
"As for the young Private, Gaines. Hell I don't really know," the doctor said sadly. "He's pretty tough to have made it this far. But there are so many things that could still go wrong. Infection. Bleeders, that I didn't get. Hell, the kid almost lost half his stomach." Ken Stephens turned away from his commanding officer, not wanting the man to see his own anguish.
Malone stood and offered a hand on Ken's shoulder, knowing that the doctor had spent the better part of the night and most of the day treating those two men. "Hell Ken. You did what you could. Don't take it so hard. Without you, he didn't have a chance."
"Thanks," Stephens sighed. "It's just that the kid's so young. Can't be twenty, if he's a day. All I can see looking at him is my kid brother's face. It just hurts that young kids have to suffer because of this war."
Not knowing what else to say, Malone changed the subject to the doctor's other patient. "What about the Captain? White isn't it?"
Ken Stephens sighed and pulled his thoughts away from his young patient. "Yeah. I think he's actually gonna be okay. If you consider no longer having your right arm, okay." Ken looked up and forestalled the words that he could see forming on Malone's lips. "Yeah, I know without me…" Ken said shaking his head. "He's doing okay. You see… removing his arm, removed his 'trauma'. He's now just got to recover from the surgery. Still not a simple task, but I think White has a better chance than poor Gaines."
"So. Say White does make it," Malone asked. "What happens to him? Does Funfstuck transfer him? Can he get along without that arm? How much care is he gonna need?"
"Hell Jeff," Ken offered. "White's gonna be a mess, physically and emotionally. But there maybe a saving grace for him. The Geneva Convention calls for the repatriation of invalids who've lost a limb. Anything more than a foot or a hand I think it said. But the problem is Funfstuck. Do you think he'd go for that? Young Gaines doesn't have a chance in hell for repatriation. If he survives, he's stuck with us. But White… maybe."
"I don't know Ken. Funfstuck's got me all discombobulated. One minute he's supplying aid to wounded POWs. The next he's having poor Andrew tattooed," the Captain sighed. "You did check on the kid for me, right?" Malone asked quickly, worried about his young friend.
"Yeah," Stephens confirmed. "Believe it or not, Funfstuck had him returned to my care after he was tattooed." The doctor shook his head sadly, thinking about the pain he had seen in young Carter's face. "He'll be hurting for a few days Jeff. Tattoos on the back of the hand are always very painful. But he's lucky… Funfstuck only had a medium-sized X tattooed. It could have been a lot worse."
"He's gonna be okay though?" Malone asked anxiously.
At Stephen's affirmative nod, Malone returned to his previous train of thought. "Well, I guess… the only good thing is that Funfstuck is obviously not quite the psychotic Vogel was. But he still worries me. I'm not sure how far I can push."
"Well, I guess we have time yet," Ken offered to ease his friend's worries, but only caused himself more despair. "Hell both men may still die. And the whole subject will be mute."
"Hey Ken listen. You're doing the best you can. That's all any of us can do. Just keep me…" Malone started to say to Stephens, but was interrupted by another knock on his door. "Come," he said.
Andrew Carter practically threw himself through the Captain's door when he heard the officer respond, "Captain Malone!" he almost bellowed. "I need to talk to you sir. Oh sorry Doctor," Andrew said quickly after making eye contact with Captain Stephens. He came to attention. And though almost shaking with anticipation, said nothing more, as he really didn't want the doctor to hear what he had to say. He had a favor to ask of Captain Malone, and would prefer getting his answer in private.
The Doctor could easily sense Carter's mood. He knew the kid still only really trusted Captain Malone. "All right, I'm leaving Sergeant. Make sure you come see me tomorrow and I'll take another look at your hand. Or if you need any more pain meds… let me know." With that, and seeing the quick nod of acceptance from Carter, he bid Captain Malone a silent farewell and left the office.
"What is it Carter?" Malone asked nervously. "Are you okay? Did the guards roughhouse you? What about your hand? Is it okay?"
"No Captain, I'm fine. Really," Carter explained, taking a quick glance at the painful blood red & black swollen X on back of his left hand, but knew he didn't have the time to concentrate on that now. "It's just that I have a really big favor to ask of you. It's not for me though, it's for my cousin Philip. Had I told you yet that he was my cousin? Well anyway. I came to ask if you'd help him escape. As soon as possible, if you could. Maybe even with Doohan and Neilson. I know you can convince the committee sir. It's very important. And I know Philip would never ask you. So I'm asking. Please sir? Can you?"
"Whoa Carter," Malone said to stall the anxious Sergeant. "It's not that easy. Others have been here a long time. I can't just push him to the head of the line. It's just not fair."
"Please sir," Carter begged. "Philip just told me that last night would have been his last mission sir. He was to be on his way home today. He'd been discharged sir."
"I'm sorry Carter," Malone offered. "That's just not enough. He'll have to sit out this war with the rest of us. Or he can always put his name in the lottery." Malone watched as Carter's whole body just dropped onto the bottom bunk in his office. "Are you all right Carter?" Malone asked kneeling down on the floor in front of him, almost afraid that the kid was going to faint.
"I'm sorry sir," Carter whispered. "I just know Philip wouldn't want everyone to know the truth. I thought I could convince you without having to explain."
Malone sighed. "Oh Hell Carter. What didn't you want to explain?" he asked suspecting he wanted to hear this even less than he had wanted to hear Ken's report about the wounded airmen.
Malone listened as Carter spoke softly, but deliberately, telling him all about his nephew Jason, and his cousin's already approved hardship discharge, and most especially that Jason wasn't expected to live much longer. When he finished, Malone put a hand on Carter's shoulder and said, "Let me see what I can do. I can't make promises though. The committee still has to vote to approve it."
Guess that answers my dilemma of whether or not to go ahead with the escape, Malone thought watching his young Sergeant leave and committing himself to help Carter with the only thing the kid had asked of him since they'd been shot down. And he saved my life.
Gochsheim, Germany, Luft Stalag 5, Compound,
November 23, 1942, 1030 hours
Captain Malone watched from along side his thirteen new POWs, as they stood at solemn attention observing the transfer of one of their own, Major John Craig, from the cooler to the back of a waiting truck. Funfstuck hadn't wasted any time in finding the Major a new home, far away from Luft Stalag Five. An Officer's camp – Colditz. Supposedly the ultimate in high security prisons.
Malone had found out earlier in the day from Funfstuck where the Major was headed. He had wanted to get in and talk to the man again before he left, but that hadn't been possible. So he just passed the word onto those POWs standing around him now. It was their idea to see the Major off. All he had done was try to offer a little support. Not that it was really gonna help.
The Captain told them that of all the places the Major could have been sent, he had gotten the lesser of the two worst evils. Malone made sure they all understood that 'not' ending up at Luft Stalag Thirteen -- where no one had ever escaped -- was a blessing, because escaping from Colditz was still a known possibility.
Hell. I've always been curious about what kind of place Stalag Thirteen was, and now as a POW myself, I'm even more curious… Is the Kommandant a ruthless psychotic bastard like Vogel had been, or maybe the Senior POW Officer is a stooge being paid off for his treason, like Wentworth had been. Here's hoping for the ruthless psychotic bastard. Other than that, the men interned there are nothing more than corpses. They probably just don't know it yet.
Malone was startled from his thoughts as the group of thirteen men came to attention as one. He saw the Major give a final glance in their direction before being forced onto the truck. Jeff Malone was impressed. The man looked to be taking the transfer well. Granted it might just be for show, but there was a glint in the Major's eye that hadn't been there the day before. Malone just hoped that spirit would carry him through the rest of the war.
After the truck carrying the Major had left, the attentions of those POWs were drawn to another of their small group. Lieutenant Philip Carter. The escape committee had approved the Lieutenant's escape. He, Doohan, and Neilson would be on their way home by the next afternoon. The others wanted to take a quick opportunity to say goodbye, figuring that while they were bunched together and having said goodbye to the Major, that it wouldn't be as noticeable.
Malone had been surprised by the support the Lieutenant had gotten when he had told those of his comrades that he was leaving. Malone went on the assumption that those men had already given the kid their blessings before that 'final' mission. And that this was just an extension of that camaraderie.
Gochsheim, Germany, Luft Stalag 5, Compound,
November 23 1942, 1200 hours
Philip Carter had seen neither hide nor hair of his younger cousin Andrew since he'd taken off in a rush, after they'd talked the evening before. But it had also been so crazy for Philip since then, between trying to figure out the layout of the camp, as well as just commiserating with the other members of his squadron, that he thought he'd just lost track of Andrew. He had felt guilty about having ignored his cousin until fairly close to lights-out. That was when Philip had been told by his barracks commander, a Lieutenant Christian, that he'd been given the go ahead to escape by Captain Malone and the camp's escape committee.
Philip had just stood almost dumbfounded as the man explained the whole scenario, as well as explaining how the whole opportunity had been laid at his feet. It was then that Philip realized that Andrew had probably been trying to avoid him all evening. Probably ever since he rushed off and told Captain Malone all about Jason, and my discharge. After I had asked him not too.
Philip had spent the rest of the night guilt ridden, after realizing that he'd probably be escaping in someone else's place. He had not wanted to do that to any of the men that had been there longer. So, after spending a long sleepless night, he'd gone to see Captain Malone to explain his feelings. The Captain assured Philip that he'd qualified for this chance and that all the members of the escape committee had voted on it unanimously.
Now, after talking to the Captain and giving himself sometime to digest the whirlwind that his life had been recently, Philip went on a search for his cousin… to thank him for his chance at freedom. Philip found Andrew almost huddled in a ball on the ground behind the delousing station, where he sat cradling his left wrist in his right hand and staring at the still red/black-swollen tattoo. "There you are Andy," Philip said nonchalantly, trying to control his own anguished guilt over Andrew's tattoo. "Hell I thought you deserted me." Philip put his hand on his cousin's shoulder and plopped down beside him, pretty much not giving Andrew even a remote chance of moving.
Andrew looked up distraught into his cousin's eyes. "Oh Phil. I'm so sorry. I know you didn't want me to say anything. But I had too."
"Hey. Whoa Andy," Phil comforted. "It's okay. Really," Phil started but paused shaking his head. "Hell. I'm not mad at you. You've given me a chance to get home and see Jason. Without you, I would never have told anyone." Philip gave Andrew's neck a squeeze. "Thanks, really."
Andrew looked hard into his cousin's eyes. He'd always been able to tell if his cousin was lying to him. And he knew that the reverse was also true. But Andrew saw nothing to make him believe that his cousin was angry with him. "Phil," Andrew started but then stopped in mid thought.
"What?" Phil asked seeing a myriad of emotions cross his cousin's face.
Andrew shook his head and took a deep breath trying to pull together what he wanted to say. "Phil. Do me a favor. Don't get caught. Okay? Just promise me you won't get caught," Andrew pleaded as he stood up and turned to face his cousin who had remained seated. "Hell. Don't answer that. You just get home to see Jason. And you tell him that his 'Uncle' Andy loves him." Andrew turned quickly away from his cousin, not wanting him to see the tears.
Philip got up; his own eyes haunted by many mixed emotions. He put a comforting arm around Andrew's shoulders. "He'll know that Andy. I wouldn't have it any other way. And he'll know you're the reason I made it home to him." Phil pulled Andrew around to face him. "But you have to promise me that you will take care of yourself. Don't do anything foolish. And keep your head down. God willing, Jason will be waiting for his 'uncle' to come home. But if not, there are still a lot of us that would expect nothing less from you Andy. Or maybe I should say, Little Deer. Huh?"
A sad smile appeared on Andrew's face, "I'll do my best."
"Good," Philip scolded. "I'm holding you to that promise. Because I certainly don't want to have to deal with Angry Rabbit, especially after having to explain to him why I left you behind, in the first place." Phil had let that comment slip -- trying to tease his younger cousin -- about his other very protective cousin. But as soon as he said it, he realized that it just hadn't come out that way. He could only sigh as guilt welled from down deep. When they were younger, he'd always felt as Andrew's protector. And when he wasn't around, Philip knew that Angry Rabbit would always be there to ride herd on the kid. But now Philip was confronted with the fact that neither of them could be here for him now. Andy would be on his own. And in more danger than he ever had been.
Without another word, he gave Andrew's shoulder a squeeze and his cap a tussle, as he had always done to get them through an awkward moment. Andrew just took it in stride and both men headed back toward the camp proper in silence.
Actually, neither man trusted himself to say anything more.
Gochsheim, Germany, Luft Stalag 5, Compound,
November 24, 1942, 0830 hours
Lieutenant Dan Carson was walking slowly across the compound after leaving the POW mess hall. He had just finished breakfast, but more than that, he had just confirmed with their contact, Strauss Leiber, that the upcoming escape for that afternoon was still a 'GO' from the underground's perspective. All seemed to be going as planned. So, Carson's orders from Captain Malone now had him confirming with the German in charge of the guard's laundry detail today, that things were all set there as well.
Corporal Herbert Wacht was one of their 'friendly' Germans, and had proven it many times. The young kid, who couldn't have been more than 17, just wanted out of the war. He had dreams of making it big in the United States of America some day. On those streets paved with gold. The young German was fascinated with everything American, but most assuredly with the glitz of Hollywood movies, and even more fascinated with those movies where beautiful girls abound.
It had been relatively easy for Corporal Kastner to exploit that weakness and wheedle information out of the young hormone raging male. Kastner had noticed Wacht always checking out the pin-up of Lana Turner that he kept by his bunk. At first, Kastner connected with the young Corporal by showing him the many other pin-ups he had gotten from home, but the triumphant moment came when he gave Wachts a pin-up of Marilyn Monroe for himself.
But even with that, it had taken a few months before any firm trust had been established. Acceptance of one another had been tentative, and any concessions made, small. But the concessions were there. And amazingly, right now, the situation had managed to grow into a full-fledged love affair, especially after Wachts found out that Captain Malone actually worked in the motion picture industry. The German couldn't help out more if he tried. Wachts hoped that Malone's 'promise' to introduce him to all the 'right' people in Hollywood, would come true some day.
Starry-eyed innocent, Carson thought as continued on his way across the compound toward the German's laundry collection point in the motor pool. Contact with Wacht was to be just a simple nod. But Carlson was still a little worried, as this was the first time the young German was being asked to help with something 'big'. Always before the POWs only had him listen to conversations or maybe just pick up extra supplies for them. To his credit though, Wacht had yet to disappoint, and Malone had given the go-ahead to use him for this endeavor. Wacht's job today would be to get the three POWs into the back of the laundry truck without being seen. It should work well, as his duty station today was as the lone security guard for the laundry truck's time in camp.
After that, the POWs would be in the hands of the underground, thought Carlson as he reached the motor pool and casually glanced through the gates and saw the confirmation on the young German's face. It still didn't ease his worry, but he'd come to trust Captain Malone, so he would not question his orders at this point. Carlson knew that Malone himself had already asked himself all the 'what ifs' that were possible in this situation.
So the escape is a go. No turning back now.
The last thing on Carlson's agenda was to round up the three escaping POWs, as Captain Malone wanted to give the men a firm send-off and a personal goodbye.
Gochsheim, Germany, Luft Stalag 5, Barracks Five, Senior POW Officer's Quarters,
November 24, 1942, 0945 hours
"So Gentlemen," Malone began addressing the three men who would be making the first escape attempt from Stalag 5 in months. Reaching out and taking each man's hand in his he said, "This is it. I want to wish each of you luck. And thank you for your willingness to take on this escape." Malone looked up into the eyes of the three men standing almost at attention in his small quarters. He only got nods of acceptance. It seemed that as much as these three men were willing to take on this escape, there was still much fear in their demeanor as anything else.
Captain Malone continued quickly when it appeared that no one was going to respond to his statement, "Well. We all have to trust that the underground can indeed get you through to London. I know we have all been briefed about getting in touch with the underground. I can only tell you that I feel that we've made a good contact in Strauss Leiber. But beyond that, I have no clue as what is in store for you. And for that, I'm very sorry. So if any of you have second thoughts…" Malone fell silent as his own fears for them surged to the surface.
"If I may Captain," Lieutenant Michael Doohan interrupted after seeing the distress written all over of his commanding officer's face. "We," he began but did not continue before glancing at his companions, almost asking their permission to continue with his thoughts, "have only talked briefly sir. But if it weren't for all the work you've done, we wouldn't have this shot at getting home. For that chance we can only thank you."
Doohan paused and continued with unwavering resolve, "We won't be changing our minds sir."
After getting an even more determined verbal agreement from the other two men, Malone looked deep into the eyes of the men standing in front of him, and couldn't be more proud of the three young men that he was sending into the unknown. "Thank you gentleman. So this escape is a go then. I have a favor to ask of you though. I guess I could make it an order, but what I'm going to ask of you is something that will ease my mind and could help me in planning other escapes from here. So, I'm asking for, and not ordering, your help."
"What do you need us to do Captain?" Lieutenant Philip Carter asked, committed to doing whatever he could to help others get out of this hellhole. He was still harboring too much guilt for being allowed to leave before any of the others who had been here longer, even after getting Malone's assurances.
"I would like to know that the escape route to London is a safe one," Malone explained. "I know it's a secret and should be kept so. But I thought I could ask that when each of you makes it to London, that you send a letter to me here at Stalag Five."
Malone put up his hand forestalling the questions he saw in the men's eyes.
"Let me explain first," he continued. "I've spent a lot of time thinking this through. I'd like to assign each of you a different name and number. And ask that your letter to me uses both that name and number in the text. That way I'd know who the letter was from. That way, I could be sure that sending out more men through the chain, would have a chance of success."
Malone paused trying to see if the three men understood what he was trying to say. He still saw some confusion, so by way of additional explanation he continued, "You don't have to say anything specific in the text. Treat the letter as something you'd write from home to a loved-one."
Malone smirked, "Of course. I guess it all depends on if you think I'd qualify as a loved-one."
The three men laughed in return, and some of the tension slipped away, even if only for a short moment. Each soldier then readily agreed to take his or her assigned name and number. And after another round of handshakes and thanks from Captain Malone, the three men left the officer's quarters to make final preparations for their escape -- in just under three hours.
Gochsheim, Germany, Luft Stalag 5, Kommandant's Office,
November 24, 1942, 1900 hours
Captain Horst Funfstuck found himself standing and staring into the smug, but determined face of his Senior POW Officer. It had been an hour since the evening roll call when Funfstuck was informed of three missing POWs. And just minutes since Lieutenant Walburg had returned with a report as to the progress of the search for those missing POWs. His men had found nary a trace of the three men. It was as if they had just disappeared.
Funfstuck had had Captain Malone standing at attention in his office since this whole incident began. He had planned to make the man stand there until he could no longer stand, but his frustration level with the Captain's demeanor was getting the best of him. Funfstuck knew that Malone would never admit to anything and would gladly stand defiant or die, depending on the whim of his Kommandant.
"We will find those men Captain. Be sure of it," Funfstuck threatened as he circled behind the American, who made no move to adjust to Funfstuck's position. "And when we do, it will not go easy on them. But realize Captain, that for any escape attempt… things will not go well for those left behind either." Funfstuck quickly came back around to face his Senior Officer, easily catching the anger that had flared within the man's eyes, but was surprised once again when the American was able to hold back on any outward show of emotion.
"Walburg," Funfstuck said staring into Malone's face, but speaking loudly enough to get his officer's attention in the next room.
Walburg entered to see a face-off between the two officers. "Herr Kommandant?" he asked confused.
"Have the men continue the search for those POWs until morning," Funfstuck ordered in English, never breaking eye contact with his American counterpart. "Captain Malone is to spend the next five days in solitary confinement. In the cooler. Not his quarters. The remaining POWs' privileges have been revoked until further notice. And rations are to be cut in half."
Malone almost protested, but was able to hold his tongue. He still didn't know how far to push Funfstuck. But again realized that the man was not the psychotic Vogel had been, or he and half the prison population would probably be dead by now. So he decided to weather this storm -- for the time being. Plus the fact that he knew if things had gone as planned… Funfstuck would never find those men.
Funfstuck was even more frustrated as Malone's features clearly stayed smug. He turned to Lieutenant Walburg and barked, "Take him." He watched as his young Lieutenant went to the door and opened it, clearly waiting on the American Captain. Funfstuck watched as Captain Malone saluted crisply and held it, clearly waiting on the German Captain. Funfstuck returned the salute slowly and offered a perfunctory, "You're dismissed Captain."
After watching the retreat of his Senior POW officer, Funfstuck sat heavily in his desk chair. All his plans could be ruined. He'd only had command of the Stalag for barely three days at this point and now had to inform Berlin that three POWs had escaped. He had hoped his only communication with Berlin would be pleasant in nature. He expected to receive his orders as new Kommandant of Stalag Five soon, as he'd certainly spent the last few days putting that idea in the heads of the powers that be. But now he realized that his career could be over.
All because of that smug American.
Funfstuck glanced at all the paperwork scattered on his desk. He had worked hard for the past few days with plans for re-organizing his Stalag. The first thing on his agenda was to staff the camp with those German soldiers loyal to him, ridding himself of Major Vogel's minions, as well as, any of those guards that he knew were a little too friendly with the prisoners. So much of the paperwork is already filled out. It would have been only a matter of time until Berlin approved these transfers, and this camp would have been mine and mine alone. But now, I just don't know what to expect.
Funfstuck honestly thought he'd have time before he would have had to deal with the POWs as a threat to his position as Kommandant. Even though he had never underestimated Captain Malone, he hadn't thought any of the others would have had the gumption to mount an escape so soon after Major Vogel's demise, even on the Captain's orders. I just can't believe how quickly Malone has taken advantage of my command here. After only three days? It should have been impossible. I know we were short handed, but I had made sure the guards were not overworked and that all duty stations had been manned adequately. Not one guard ever saw a thing. There's no obvious escape route and apparently no trail to follow. This escape had to have been planned well in advance.
Ahh. So, maybe this escape should go on Major Vogel's record. And not mine. Ha. How do I convince Berlin of that? No matter. I will most certainly find a way.
But first, I will make sure that Captain Malone can never get the better of me again. While he's indisposed…I will dismantle everything that he has wrought here. I need to keep him at a disadvantage. At least, until I can organize this Stalag to suit my own quest for glory. He will regret what he tried to do today. However successful it might still turn out to be.
Funfstuck leaned back in his chair, a smug smile enveloping his features, as he thought about all that he would do to tip the scale in his favor.
Hamburg, Germany, Family home of Detlev and Miranda Vogel,
Parents of Colonel Frederick Vogel and Marie Vogel-Krueger,
November 26, 1942, 12:00pm
Marie Vogel, along with her brother Frederick, had just returned to their parent's home from their brother Norbert's memorial service. She and her brother had attended the services in place of both their mother Miranda and their father Detlev. Their mother had fallen ill after hearing of Norbert's death and their father had refused to leave her side. And at first, Marie hadn't been sure whether Frederick would even attend, but he had agreed to come only after hearing of his mother's illness. Marie suspected that Frederick knew that their mother would have wanted him there in her stead.
At least, that was the story Marie and Frederick told the other guests attending the service that morning. The real story for their parent's conspicuous absence was a long-standing hidden family secret that no one in their small, and now even smaller immediate family ever talked of openly -- even to each other. It had always been much safer in the Vogel household to ignore that secret, as well as doing anything they could to keep it hidden.
Marie had left her brother in the company of their father after entering the house. She had gone immediately to her parent's bedroom to check on her mother. She now sat quietly by her mother's bedside, holding on to her hand. It had been almost three days since her mother had become ill. But what worried Marie most, was that her mother had continued to remain unresponsive during that whole time, and still even now showed no signs of improving. Marie honestly hoped that her presence could ease some of her mother's pain, as she knew nothing more would be done to help.
Because if the truth were to be told… it was Detlev who had beaten his wife into unconsciousness after being informed of Norbert's death. Marie knew that her father had always blamed his wife for Norbert's very existence. Something that he was sure would one day bring disgrace to our family. He always made a point of telling us that his agreeing to let Norbert live all those years ago had been a moment of blind weakness on his part and misplaced affection for our Mother.
And now he has his proof. Norbert died at least partially responsible for the tragedy at the Gochsheim installation where it appears now that hundreds of German soldiers, as well as Norbert himself, had lost their lives.
Detlev then had only his wife Miranda to blame for disgracing the Vogel family. Marie knew though, that her father would have used any excuse, as she had seen her mother live through too many of these beatings – for lesser reasons. But this time, it had been very different. Her father's rage had reached an unprecedented level. This was the first time her mother had ever lost consciousness. Marie wanted to do more, but knew that taking her mother to a hospital was out of the question. Her father would not stand for it, knowing full well that others would find out his secret.
And Marie knew, that even she could end up as her mother had, if she opposed her father. And she wasn't sure that she could count on her brother Frederick to support her if she tried, as he had even more to lose in opposing their father. So Marie had done what little she could by cleaning and bandaging her mother's wounds. And now only offering the comfort of her touch. She knew that her father, in his world of denial, truly expected his wife to recover from her 'illness' and life would go on much the same for them.
Although some moments later…
Marie was startled as the sound of a fight began in the other room. Frederick and their father were actually arguing. She had never known Frederick to stand his ground with Detlev. But surprisingly he was now confronting their father over his treatment of their mother. Marie sat too terrified to move, expecting that she would likely be the only Vogel child left alive, if the argument persisted too much longer. But all she did was continue to listen while the argument remained a verbal sparring match.
It wasn't until she heard the start of a physical struggle that she jumped from her place by her mother's bed. Oh Lord. Someone will end up dead. And I fear that it will be Frederick, and not Father. Frederick is no match for him. Father could easily squash Frederick like a bug.
"Father. Come quickly," she yelled through the bedroom door hoping to stop the fight before it got worse. "It's Mother. I think she is coming around." She paused, waiting to see if her words got through to either man. "Please come Father," she yelled even louder.Silence then permeated the Vogel household…
"Leave here Frederick," Marie finally heard Detlev command angrily, as if he expected it to end the entire argument. And it did, for all Marie heard then was the front door to their parent's home slam shut. Her father appeared quickly at the bedroom door and went directly to his wife's prone form. He sat ever so gently on the bed beside her and began to brush her hair from her face and caress her cheeks, taking care not to touch her bruises. "Miranda," he began softly. "My wife. My love. Please come back to me. I need you so."
When Detlev got no response, his whole body tensed and he turned quickly toward Marie who had backed away from her father, almost to the bedroom door. "You lied. How dare you? There has been no change," he yelled in such an anguished tone, that Marie almost forgot it was her father that had brought this all on by himself. "Leave here Marie," he commanded of her, again sure that it would end any more discussion.
But Marie was too terrified to leave her mother alone with her father. All her common sense fled. "I will stay Father," she stated evenly. "Mother needs to be cared for." Marie stared deep into her father's eyes hoping to force him to accept her declaration. But it was to no avail. And she panicked, throwing herself back against the bedroom door when her father stood angrily and crossed the room to confront her.
"You will go!" Detlev yelled as he swung his hand at his daughter, only to hit the door jam by her head, but with a force that seemed to shake the whole house. "I can care for your mother. Go! I've had enough of you and your brother today!"
Marie turned quickly and escaped the room before her father got any more enraged. But before she left the house, her common sense again left her. Still very worried for her mother, she quietly headed back to the bedroom and peeked through the door, only to see her father by his wife's side, kissing and caressing her seductively, as a lover in the throes of passion might.
It almost sickened her.
So confused was Marie, and not really knowing what to feel or do any more, that she just ran from the house. Her last thought… a wish that her mother would die, so that she could finally be at peace.
Hammelburg, Germany, The Stohr Winery, Cellar
November 28, 1942, 2200 hours
Sergeant Frank Neilson and Lieutenant Philip Carter were lying on the dirt floor of the wine cellar where they'd been hiding for the last 24 hours -- give or take. It had been four days since they and Lieutenant Michael Doohan had made their escape from Stalag 5 -- in the back of a laundry truck. They had spent the next three harrowing days traipsing across the German countryside -- in any manner, shape, or form –making many stops along the way, before arriving at this winery.
At each of those stops, their only communication with their benefactors had been handwritten notes -- in English -- with abrupt instructions. Admittedly, it had neatly circumvented the obvious language barrier, but what it hadn't done was enable them to ask any questions. They felt like pawns in someone else's game, only moving when and where 'someone else' determined, their lives resting entirely with 'someone else'. Someone else, who before then would have been considered the enemy. The whole scenario was a hard pill to swallow for the three men, but they knew that if this escape chain did work, many others would be able to follow it out of Germany. For that – and for the chance to return to their families – they had felt that it was worth facing the unknown.
So it was then, when they'd arrived at the winery late yesterday, they'd been prepared for another note. But the woman who met them spoke French-accented English. She introduced herself only as Tiger, explaining to them that the next leg of their journey was to be taken solo. Each man in turn, over the next three nights, would move to the next stop in the chain. Tiger made sure they realized that their long journey was not over, but that the next step was a turning point in their getting home.
For the three escaping POWs, it had been a relief to be able to talk to someone who spoke English, even if she didn't really say too much. But one thing had been made very clear. If captured, the less they knew the better. Too many lives were at stake beyond their own. Too many people were living and working in Germany everyday, trying hard to maintain this deception.
The three men quickly realized that long after they made it home, the people of this underground would still be working to save others, while in constant danger of their lives, and just fighting to survive. Silently each man promised to keep this particular secret… to the grave if necessary.
Very soon after, on that same night, it had become time for the first of them to make their move. Much discussion started on whom would be the first to go. But before the discussion got out of hand, Tiger decided it for them. They would simply draw straws. She gave them no other option. Michael Doohan had drawn the shortest straw, with Philip Carter pulling the next size, which left Frank Neilson with the longest one.
Mike Doohan then left in the company of Tiger without much fanfare, only giving a quiet goodbye to his companions. Both Philip and Frank whiled away the many long hours after Mike left, with the only thing they could do… talking, or more accurately, soul searching. They told each other about their hopes and dreams, as well as about their families and friends.
Surprisingly, the time spent together in the cellar had created an unexpected bond between the two men that they hadn't felt during their whole trip to the winery. Philip had never really been told why both Mike and Frank were given the option to leave Stalag 5 first. He'd been told of the escape committee's rules, either urgent need or lottery winner. But he never broached the subject with either of his companions, before spending time alone with Frank that is.
According to Frank, Mike had indeed won the lottery. But Frank admitted sadly that he'd been voted an 'urgent need' release. Frank had told Philip that he'd received word, almost two months ago, that his wife Joan, was killed in an automobile accident, which left his two young children, Mark and Brenda, in the care of some family friends. Frank wanted to be home to take care of them, as he was all the family they had left.
It was only after Frank's admission that Philip offered up his own family's story. And the bond between the two men grew even deeper, as a mutual understanding of what being a father entailed, brought them closer together than they would have ever thought.
So as the time drew near…
Philip and Frank waited quietly for Tiger's return. Soon Philip would be making his move along the chain, leaving Frank alone to sit out another 24 hours in the wine cellar. It actually wasn't long until they heard the creaky door at the top of the narrow stone steps leading down into the cellar. Philip rose to his feet and stretched his tightened and sore muscles, knowing that it was now his time to go. Frank followed suit, if only to say goodbye, properly.
"Good evening," Tiger said politely to her guests. "It's time Lieutenant," she continued all business, as she came face to face with both men.
Philip nodded at Tiger, but turned to take Frank's hand in his. "Good luck Frank. You take care now, you hear."
"You too Phil," Frank replied. "I hope everything works out at home," he whispered and then watched Tiger and Phil start to walk away.
A shiver ran down Frank's spine as the two disappeared up the stairs. He had never liked being left alone. But he knew that he had no other choice. So he sat back down, leaned against the cellar wall, and removed a tattered picture of his children from his uniform's breast pocket. Now, he only had the memory of their faces to keep him company until his turn came to leave this place.
And so, just outside the winery…
Philip followed Tiger quietly across a courtyard and out into the vineyards. He was surprised at her present demeanor, as before she had played the hostess for them, getting them plenty of food and drink. Basically doing anything she could to make them comfortable while they waited in the wine cellar. But now, she had the look of a predator, slipping stealthily though the woods, making no sounds, and only motioning for him to stay close. After a short time, she stopped. So abruptly though, that Philip almost ran into her.
"We're here," Tiger said softly as she turned back, quickly putting her hands up to stop Philip's headlong rush.
"Here? Where's here?" Philip asked confused. We are in the middle of a bleepin' forest!
"Here… is your next stop Lieutenant. You will be met very soon by another contact. All you need to do is sit right here -- behind this bush," Tiger explained using hand gestures and pointing to a spot on the ground.
"What? You gotta be kidding? After all this sneaking around… you want me to hide behind a bush? Out in the open?! In the middle of nowhere?!" Philip exclaimed angry and frightened all at the same time.
Tiger flashed him a reassuring smile, her teeth gleaming in the moonlight. "Yes. Believe it or not Lieutenant… this place is the safest you've been since escaping from Stalag 5. Trust me," she said as she placed a comforting hand on his shoulder. "Just wait here. Someone will be along soon." Tiger looked directly into his eyes, and made sure that he really understood that she was about to leave him alone. "I have to go now. Stay put," she said slowly. And then with her job done, Tiger disappeared back the way they had come.
Philip could only sink to the ground in utter bewilderment. He just couldn't believe he was sitting on his duff waiting for a German patrol to just scoop him up, not to mention probably shoot him. He had a burning desire to run for safety elsewhere. He controlled that urge, but only just barely.
Several minutes went by before he thought he heard 'something'. The noise kept getting louder and louder. He heard more rustling in the trees. To his mind, the sounds were coming straight at him. Again he thought he should flee, but before he got up the nerve to do so, he was bowled over by a running man.
As they finally managed to disentangle themselves from each other, Philip heard the man say, in American-accented English no less, "Well. You're right where you're supposed to be Lieutenant…"
Heathrow, England, Stonebridge US Army Base, Office of General Chad Wentworth,
Commanding General of Stonebridge US Army Base, Father to Colonel Tighe Wentworth,November 29, 1942 1100 Hours
General Chad Wentworth sat in an alcoholic haze after his fourth shot of straight Bourbon since General Michael Simpson, Head of Covert Operations, had left him alone in his office -- not more than 30 minutes ago. Michael Simpson had left a report with Wentworth that he had been expecting, and had even demanded getting. But more than even that, it was a report that Chad Wentworth was dreading and in some ways wished would never have made it to his desk.
Oh Lord. It all happened so quickly. In just over a week. What kind of father am I?
Chad knew that the report, which he had yet to open, detailed the investigation into his son's traitorous role, that caused the deaths of almost the entire 591st bomber squadron and its fighter escort. My own men. Those poor bastards. Not one of them returned to Stonebridge that night. Almost all were killed, some captured, and still some are unaccounted for. But even at this point, the details were still sketchy and the Germans hadn't been forthcoming with much information, as they had had their own problems that night. Thanks to those brave men, who fought with indomitable spirit until the end.
What was clear from that night though, was that the Germans had lost over 400 men – almost a complete battalion, and word had it, quite a few VIPs – after the complete destruction of their battery emplacement and new-fangled anti-aircraft guns. And that was many more than were lost from the 591st. Which constitutes an Allied victory, of sorts.
"Here's to you gentlemen," Wentworth said aloud and stood unsteadily to his feet after pouring himself another round of Bourbon. Holding up his glass he continued, "I'm sorry I failed you all so miserably. I hope you can forgive me. But you need to know that I couldn't be more proud of all of you. You died showing those Nazi bastards what Americans are made of. Bravo gentleman, bravo." Chad practically inhaled his fifth shot of Bourbon and fell back into his seat.
I had always hoped that my son would be half the man that you all proved yourselves to be. But that was not how it turned out. He betrayed you. He betrayed me. And he betrayed his country. Chad slowly raised his eyes to the ceiling of his office questioningly. But for what Tighe? For what?
General Wentworth could only shake his head in regret. I'm so sorry Tighe. I guess I shouldn't pass judgment. I realize now that I'm truly no better than you. I betrayed my men as well. All because I trusted you -- my son -- beyond all reason, and forced the decision that had those men on their way to face that Nazi death trap.
Chad covered his eyes with his hands as tears spilled down his face. He sat motionless for a long moment until he got the gumption up to open the report on his desk. He had asked for 'definitive' proof that his son's flight from justice had ended. At first glance, he couldn't believe how incompetent his son had been. Tighe had left a trail a mile wide for agents to follow after fleeing England. Travel papers. Money being deposited -- in his name -- in a Swiss bank. And even more proof implicating him had been just as obvious to see. It was almost as if the Germans had betrayed Tighe in return. I guess that shouldn't really surprise me. But I still want to know why Tighe? What ever possessed you to betray everything you had ever known?
Sadly, the General knew that he'd never get his answer. Chad again shook his head despondently and opened a smaller envelope that had been placed in the report. He knew that the 'definitive' proof he had asked for was contained within. Four pictures fell out of the envelope, scattering haphazardly on the top of his desk. Each one showed a different angle of his son's lifeless body. Michael Simpson's covert operators are quite proficient, Chad thought as his whole body began to shake with grief, remorse, and anger. The pictures clearly showed that a single bullet to the head had killed Tighe where he slept. Alone in a Stockholm hotel.
I'm so sorry Tighe. I really do love you son. But it's over now. You can't betray anyone anymore. Chad sighed deeply, knowing that it was now time for him to make his own decision. He poured himself another shot of Bourbon, and gulped it down quickly. I can no longer trust my own judgment. I can no longer send more men into combat. I have no right to expect them to trust me after I had betrayed their comrades. It's time to make sure that I can no longer betray anyone anymore either.
With his decision made, General Chad Wentworth, Commanding General of Stonebridge US Army Base, reached for the pistol that had been sitting on his desk ever since Michael Simpson left. He slowly put the gun to his head and pulled the trigger.
Gochsheim, Germany, Luft Stalag 5, Cooler Building,November 29, 1942, 1330 hours
Captain Malone, sitting in his cell, and waiting on his release after five days in solitary, felt that he should have weathered the fallout of Funfstuck's tirade better. But as his captivity wore on, his worry for his men enveloped him. He'd not been able to sleep at all. He'd eaten for survival sake, but his appetite wasn't what it should be. He'd felt his skin crawl with every sound that he couldn't make out. Sometimes even his heart would beat so hard that it was all he would hear.
He'd had a hard time trying to keep paranoia at bay. So hard a time, that now with his release only a short time away, he almost didn't want to be released. He was terrified that he'd find the dead bodies of all his men lying scattered all over the compound. I know I'm being irrational, but I just can't shake this creepy feeling.
Just a short time later…
As Captain Malone exited the cooler, he tried to hurry across the compound, wanting to make sure that his men had weathered the storm 'Funfstuck' better than he had, but his eyes began to sting and water heavily as the bright sun of midday played havoc with his vision that had only seen the muted light of the cooler for five full days. He felt almost blinded and had to stop to shield his eyes before even trying to make his way across the compound.
Captain Stephens, who had already been waiting for his commanding officer, was immediately at his side. "You okay Jeff? Here let me help," he said taking the man by the arm and began guiding him across the compound.
"I will be," Malone assured. "What's been happening?" he asked as he finally focused in on the camp physician's face. The only problem… was that he didn't like what he saw. "What's the matter?" Malone demanded as all his irrational fears returned and sent a shiver of dread down his spine.
"Umm," Stephens began.
"Don't umm me Ken," Malone yelled. "What the hell happened?"
"Come on Jeff," Ken said trying to distract. "Funfstuck's watching. Let's go back to the barracks. I'll tell you everything. But just so you know. It isn't good."
Stephens began to herd his commanding officer toward barracks five, but Malone wouldn't have it. He pulled his arm from the doctor's grip and began searching the compound. "Where's Carson?" he asked quickly. "If you won't tell me, he will."
Ken Stephen's grabbed his companion hard by the front of his uniform. "Listen to me," he yelled into Malone's face. "I said it was bad, didn't I? Carson isn't here anymore! He can't tell you a thing!"
"What?!" Malone bellowed angry, confused… and scared.
"Just come with me," Stephens demanded. "I'll explain, but not in front of the German peanut gallery." Stephens pushed Malone toward barracks five, this time without giving an inch for any dissention. After pushing the Senior POW Officer through the door of barracks five and forcing him to plunk down at the center table he said, "Now just wait, before you start in."
Malone was hyperventilating, but held off on a tirade that was threatening to explode from within. "What!?" was all he said, but couldn't help but glancing around at the faces in barracks five. He noticed that some faces were missing.
"Jeff. Captain," Stephens began. "Funfstuck's been on the warpath. He's transferred out six POWs in the past three days. Carson, Kastner, Christian, Davis, Monroe and Krenshaw. They're gone Jeff," Stephens said sadly. "And hell. We have no idea if Funfstuck is finished yet."
Malone sat quietly, a little shell-shocked. Those six men had become some of his most trusted staff. How could Funfstuck know that? The Bastard. "Transferred right? Not…," Malone began but couldn't finish that thought.
"Transferred Jeff," Stephens assured. "Carson, Davis, and Monroe were headed for Stalag Two. Kastner, Christian, and Krenshaw were sent to Stalag Seven."
"Did Funfstuck say anything?" Malone asked dejected.
"The only thing I overheard was Funfstuck telling Walburg that he was 'evening the playing field'," Ken explained. "Hell Jeff, the whole camp is on edge. Everyone knows who might be next on Funfstuck's hit list. Yours truly included," Stephens said placing his own hand on his chest.
Malone stood quickly and headed for the door. "Well he's gonna hear about this from me," he spouted angrily, not really sure what he was going to accomplish in confronting Funfstuck. But he was just angry enough to try it anyway. The thought that Funfstuck might put a bullet in his head just angered him even more.
Although, as he opened the barracks door Malone hadn't been ready for the two machine guns that blocked his exit. He was quickly forced back into the room by two neanderthal German guards, who held their weapons trained unwaveringly at him. Funfstuck and Walburg made a casual entrance, following closely behind the two brutish guards.
"So Captain," Funfstuck began haughtily. "I see you've been made aware of the changes that have taken place in the last few days. I am sorry that they don't meet with your approval."
"What's the meaning of all this Funfstuck?" Malone asked angry.
"Honestly Captain," Funfstuck replied. "I don't need to explain my actions to you. But I thought, as a courtesy, I would. You see Captain. What I said to you in the cooler the other day was not a lie. I know you inside and out." Funfstuck walked up to Malone and stared him in the face. "I've worked hard learning everything I could about the POWs in this camp. I'm sure you were surprised by my list of transfers. Yes?"
Funfstuck paused waiting for any response, but got none. "Nothing to say Captain. Why am I not surprised? So I reiterate once again Captain… this is now my game. You might have scored the first few points, with the escape of those three POWs. But from now on… the ball will be in my court and I will control the serve. Ha," the Kommandant laughed enamored with his own sense of humor.
Malone stood quietly seething, as he had no recourse. And at this point dared not make the man angry. Who knows what he might do next.
"Oh yes," Funfstuck said softly, but with an edge that made Malone want to throw up. "There is one more adjustment to the POW compliment that needs to be made." Funfstuck waved his two guards in Andrew Carters's direction. "Bringt ihn hierher," Funfstuck spouted in German, and watched in earnest as the expression on the American Captain's face dissolved into agony.
Malone was going to protest, but Funfstuck had actually drawn a pistol and now had it pointed at the Senior POW Officer. "We're you going to say something Captain?" Funfstuck asked in a sickly polite tone. "No? Good." Funfstuck walked over to where Andrew stood and pointed the pistol haphazardly at the Sergeant. "I had also made you a promise that day in the cooler Captain. Do you remember what that promise was?"
Funfstuck again paused and watched as the painful memory came back to Malone. "I see that you do. But just so there's no misunderstanding… I said that if you ever played games with this man or his doppelganger that they would suffer for your actions."
Funfstuck gripped the gun in his hand tighter and pointed it firmly at the young American. "But as it is now, I only have one man to fulfill my promise to you with." Begrudgingly, Funfstuck took a moment to look into the face of the American Sergeant. He had wanted to savior this moment of pure unadulterated power, but as the sheer terror became evident on the young man's face, Funfstuck's own principles resurfaced unexpectedly. He sighed and relinquished his grip on the pistol, slowly putting it away.
Having stopped his persecution, Funfstuck turned to face Malone, and got back to the business at hand. "I guess you've found me out in one thing Captain. I'm not Major Vogel," he stated as if that answered a myriad of questions. "But I did make a promise to you and I will stick by that. Sergeant Carter is being transferred to Luft Stalag 13. Since I was incapable of holding onto his doppelganger, I plan to make sure that this man stays a prisoner of the Third Reich for the duration of this war," Funfstuck offered seeing immediately that those in the room had heard the growing propaganda surrounding what was becoming known as the 'toughest POW camp in all of Germany'. Then, without further comment, Funfstuck waved his men out of the barracks.
Malone tried to follow the group out into the compound but was stopped at the door to his barracks. He was allowed to keep the door open and watch the transfer of his young Sergeant to a waiting truck. Malone caught Carter's eye as he was helped into the back. He only mouthed an "I'm so sorry", as there was no time for anything else.
Malone, guilt seizing his heart, stood mesmerized at the door to the barracks until the truck had gone out of sight, he then turned back to see the worried faces of the men left in his barracks. He honestly would have preferred to curl up in a ball and die, but he knew that there was no time for that. Too much needed to happened now. He just couldn't cave under to Funfstuck's victory. He was still responsible for the lives of the POWs in this camp.
I can't balk now, Malone thought as he returned to the center table and sat heavily. "Okay. Well," he began after rubbing his face with both hands. "What else has been going on?"
At first no one answered, but soon most realized that the Captain was trying reign in everyone's fear with the call to duty. Captain Stephens was the first to plunk himself down by Malone's side. "Hell Jeff," he began. "I haven't figured out Funfstuck yet, but as much as I want to hate the bastard. He's also done some good by us."
"Huh? What do you mean?" Malone asked, although still distracted with his owns thoughts about their new Kommandant. Damn it. I don't understand this Funfstuck. What is it that makes this guy tick? He could have easily taken out poor Carter, but he didn't. Okay… not that sending him to that hellhole was really any different that shooting him outright. But hell, you know… it is different. The man actually 'put away' his pistol after seeing the fear in Carter's face. What does that really tell me about the bastard? That maybe he isn't quite the bastard that he's purporting himself to be…
"Well first," Stephens began louder that he probably should have, but he needed to break through Malone's pensive stare. "He put Sergeant Webber and his motley crew on kennel duty. "They have no more direct contact with the POWs. And word has it that they'll all be out of here soon. Funfstuck is working on their transfers."
Malone just nodded, not wanting to comment until he sorted out his own feelings about Funfstuck. But when he overheard an 'I feel bad for the bloody dogs', he couldn't help but smirk inwardly. "Anything else?" he finally asked.
"Would you like to hear more good news or more bad?" Stephens asked sarcastically.
"Let's go for the good new first," Malone stated with a sigh.
"Funfstuck has put in the paperwork for Captain White's repatriation," Stephens said with some sense of relief. "I know that for sure, because Funfstuck needed to know when he'd be ready to travel. I told him in about a week."
"That's good," Malone said relieved for one patient, but was afraid to broach his next question about the second, "How's Gaines?"
"He's still in rough shape," the doctor reported, not offering much in the way of good news. "He drifts in and out of consciousness. But the fact that he's made it this far. It's a positive sign."
"Okay thanks Ken," Malone offered. "So does that now leaves us with only bad news."
"Yeah," Stephens began. " Sorry. In addition to losing our 'unfriendly Germans', we've lost our 'friendly Germans' as well. Funfstuck has reassigned Wacht, Hertz, and Mueller as his personal slaves. We haven't been able to get near them. He's been working them so hard, that they almost drop dead each night. But again word has it they'll be leaving us soon."
"Goddamn," Malone stated. "Funfstuck is now four steps ahead of me. How the hell could he have known all that? I guess though, he just told me he'd been duping us from the beginning. Tell me he hasn't picked up on Strauss Leiber or the laundry truck?" Malone asked looking for something to latch onto.
"Nothing has been said or done to any of the civilians yet Jeff," Stephens offered. "So maybe not?"
Captain Malone acknowledged Stephens with another nod and a quiet, "I guess will just have to be more careful from now on." Then he got up and headed quietly for his quarters. Before closing the office door behind him, he turned back to those POWs staring desperately at him. "It's going to be okay guys," Malone offered confidently. "We might be down by a number of runs, but I've always been one to bet on the underdog."
He smiled, in what he knew was a vain attempt to inspire some good feelings. "We'll regroup guys. It can only get better from here on out. Hell, you know… tomorrow is always another day," Malone said offering every cliché he could think of, and then quickly closed the door behind him.
As Malone threw himself onto his bunk, he tried to push his thoughts away from the loss just suffered at the Funfstuck's hands and set his mind on the future, becoming determined to match Funfstuck run for run in this new game. And even more determined to make sure that Funfstuck would never know what hit him, when he and his men regrouped enough to put his own game back into play.
Hammelburg, Germany, Gestapo Headquarters,
Office of the new Area Commander, Colonel Frederick Vogel,
November 30, 1942, 1030 Hours
Colonel Frederick Vogel sat at the desk in his new office. He would have hoped that his first few days here in Hammelburg as the new Area Commander would have been spent on more important and fulfilling tasks. But with his brother's memorial and his mother's illness, he was now days behind in his work. His men had been working hard in his absence though, compiling all the reports that he had requested. All those reports now sat piled high on his desk. He needed to wade through them and get a feel for Hammelburg and the surrounding towns before making his presence known.
And feared, thought Vogel with an evil smirk. He was determined to quickly make his mark in this town. His expectation was to be here only a short time before he would move on to an even bigger and better posting. No one will ever be able to deny my abilities. And I will allow no deterrents in my path to glory.
Always before, Frederick Vogel had been posted away from the action, having been part of a few small and fairly diverse Gestapo detachments. And he knew that his father had controlled a lot of his destiny until just recently. But now he could prove himself far beyond his father's expectations, as he knew that his own accomplishments had prompted this promotion. His father had nothing to do with this assignment.
And now, my father will no longer be able to control my life, Frederick contemplated greedily. Then without warning, once again, he felt the weight of his father's hand upon his shoulder. Guilt now forced the events of the past week back to the forefront. His brother's death. His mother's illness. And his first ever physical argument with his father. He absent-mindedly stroked his chin as the sting of his father's fist returned full-fold. He, for the first time ever, had a clearer understanding of all that his mother had endured… for so very many years.
Frederick also understood that he was just damned lucky that his father had held back, because he could have easily ended up in the hospital with a broken jaw or something even worse. What an impression that would have made on my new command. Frederick admitted to himself that it had only been his newfound determination that had even remotely prompted him to confront his father about the way he had almost beaten his mother to death after hearing of Norbert's death. But once again, I backed down from him. Why do I fear him so?
Frederick came to the conclusion that it was not fear for himself, but fear for his mother that had kept him always under his father's thumb. Yet just the other day, I walked out, leaving her to his unbridled temper. And I'm sure even Marie was no match for his anger that day. What kind of children are we? To leave our mother vulnerable to our father's fury.
Frederick shook his head in disgust at himself as he realized that he had pushed his mother from his thoughts after leaving his parent's home that day, only allowing thoughts of his own glory to keep him entertained. I haven't even called Father or Marie to ask of Mother's condition. Actually Frederick knew that he could not contact his father as he expected that their relationship was over for good, most especially after their argument that day. But he was also ashamed that he had not tried to contact his sister, even if just to get a quick update on their mother. Frederick had selfishly assumed that not getting word of another memorial service was at least a good sign. What should I do now? I guess I should call. At least make an effort.
As Frederick sat quietly contemplating his next move, he found himself unexpectedly saved that decision, when in answer to his un-voiced question, the telephone rang and his aide announced that his mother, Miranda, was on the phone. "Mother," Frederick began relieved in more ways than one. "You are feeling better. That is very good to know."
"Ja," Miranda Vogel answered her son in slow and soft tones. "I am well. Don't you worry. Your father has taken good care of me. It was comforting to wake with him by my side."
Frederick paused, no longer knowing how to respond to his mother's total acceptance of her husband, especially after what he had just done to her. But he realized that his mother had always come to his father's side, being the dutiful wife, never questioning, forever loving and supporting him. It has been that way -- always. It was just that this time his father's behavior had angered Frederick, as it had never done before. And he could not contain that anger any longer.
"Mother," Frederick berated. "How can you ignore what Father has done? You were not responsible for Norbert's disgrace. Norbert made his own mistakes and deserved his fate. Yet Father blames you, and then to do what he did to you. I…" Frederick stopped in mid-sentence not able to voice more of his concern. Never had the family been allowed to speak of his father's misconduct and he still found it difficult to confront his mother.
"That is enough Frederick," Miranda commanded, her voice unsteady. "You just don't understand. You don't know the disappointment Detlev felt in Norbert. He was distraught with grief and anger when he heard the news of his son's death. But you have to realize that your father was also right. And had been correct, all along, about Norbert. Your brother disgraced our family. So it is… from now on, that Norbert is no longer a member of this family and we will not speak of him."
Miranda paused sighing and trying to retain her composure. "And as for me," she continued. "I have continually defied your father with my support of Norbert for all these years. It was a grave mistake, for which I have now made amends."
Frederick almost growled into the phone in frustration and anger, "You don't really believe that, do you?" There was a long pause on the other end of the phone. So long a pause that Frederick repeated angrily, "Do you?"
"Please understand," Miranda began almost in tears, her breath coming in rasps. "It is all that I can believe. I have no other choice. Your father is my life. I would be nowhere without him. He loves me. I know it. And I will support him -- always."
This time it was Frederick's time to pause speechless.
"Do you understand Frederick?" asked his mother anguished. "It is important for me to know that you understand."
Frederick gave in to his mother, even if he could not completely agree. "Of course," Frederick replied. "I understand. I will accept what you feel is your fate. But you have to know that Father and I argued. I'm afraid that you will no longer be able to speak my name in front of him either."
"Both you and Marie hurt your father deeply," Miranda began accusingly. "Neither of you should have forced an argument that day. First you. And then Marie. You should have known your father was plagued with grief and sorrow. It was time to let him be."
"But," Frederick began only to be silenced by his mother's additional reprimand.
"Stop Frederick," his mother had said quickly, out of breath. "All will be better when you call Detlev to apologize. Your sister has already done so and they have made their peace. You will do so after we bid farewell. And things will go back to the way they were," Miranda demanded as if there was to be no question.
"I have nothing to apologize for," Frederick almost yelled, his anger and frustration just pounding in his chest.
"That is enough Frederick!" his mother yelled with all her strength, but could only continue sorrowfully, "Son. Please. You are all I have left. Marie now has her life with Gustav. He is a good man. And I know she will find happiness there." Miranda fell silent, trying to fight the tears of uncertainty and worry that even Marie's arranged marriage brought her.
Miranda tried hard to catch her breath, but was not successful. So with her breathing still erratic she continued, "There is one more thing that I can believe in Frederick. And that is, that someday, when you reach the pinnacle of glory… it will be that your glory far exceeds that of your father's. Only then Frederick. Only then, will I find true and lasting peace. But I need you in my life. Do not forsake me. Please make an apology. I beg of you."
Again Frederick could not say no to his mother, "As you wish. And I promise you that true and lasting peace will be yours someday."
"You make a mother proud Frederick," Miranda replied. "Please call your father now. He is at Gestapo Headquarters this morning. Do not tell him I talked to you. Your apology has to seem as it came from you."
"Yes Mother," he replied reluctantly acquiescing.
Frederick hung up the phone and steeled himself to make the call to his father. He immediately had his aide contact Gestapo Headquarters in Hamburg, before he could change his mind. He was going to make this a quick conversation as he truly had nothing else to say to his father and he suspected his father would have nothing else to say to him.
Not surprisingly, Frederick was right. The phone called ended almost as soon as it began. Frederick apologized. Detlev accepted. And both men quickly made excuses to end any further discussion. I know that that will be the last ever said about the matter. And life for my mother will now go on as before. For better or worse, as they always say.
After hanging up the phone, Gestapo Colonel Frederick Vogel forced all thoughts of his family from his mind. He would, from now on, keep any of those feelings at bay, as he had too much work to do. His pursuit of glory would be the only thing he would concentrate on. And ironically, he would use all that his father taught him to achieve his goal. My father will eventually see my greatness exceed his. And then I will find a way to remove my mother from her tormentor. It will be such a fitting end. To see my father routed by his own teachings.
So with his determination firmly back in place, the new Gestapo Area Commander went to work. He searched the piles on his desk for the one report he had been most interested in, that of the Luft Stalag in Hammelburg. It would be his first direct exposure to the enemy. All his life, he had been taught of the weak and cowardly men that made up the armies of the Allied Forces. Not that I completely believe all that was taught to me. Because I know that propaganda is an impressive and necessary tool in controlling the civilian population.
And one that is used quite extensively in the Third Reich.
But even so, Colonel Frederick Vogel was eagerly looking forward to meeting the enemy face to face. He couldn't wait to make his own assessment of these men, even if they were only POWS. Clearly the most wretched examples of manhood. And a dismal waste of our precious resources.
Hammelburg, Germany, Luft Stalag 13, Compound,
November 30, 1942, 1200 Hours
Corporal Peter Newkirk stood leaning nonchalantly against barracks two. Colonel Hogan had assigned him the job of meeting and greeting the new prisoner transferring in this morning. Usually it was a job that the Colonel took unto himself, but he had been distracted this morning, as Kommandant Klink was on the warpath. There was a new Gestapo Area Commander assigned to Hammelburg and Klink wanted the Stalag to be in tiptop condition in case the man ever decided to make an inspection. So he had Colonel Hogan running ragged all over camp this morning, helping him conduct his own inspection.
So it was that Peter Newkirk was now just watching the gates of Stalag 13 for the truck to arrive from the train station. Shultz, Langenscheidt, and two others had gone to meet the train about an hour ago. He didn't have to wait long until he saw the truck pull up in front of the Kommandant's office. Newkirk continued to observe quietly from the sidelines until the shackled prisoner was helped from the back of the truck. His heart sank though as he immediately recognized the prisoner. Damn. This isn't good. Colonel Hogan is not going to be happy. I wonder what the hell happened. The kid looks to be okay though. Maybe a little worse for wear, but no apparent injuries. At least that's a good sign. Let's just hope he didn't spill the beans. But I guess we'd all be dead by now, if he had.
Newkirk snapped of his funk and approached the 'new' prisoner's position behind the truck. "Hey Shultzie," he said politely to the big German Staff Sergeant. "I'll take care of him. Colonel Hogan and the Kommandant are off inspectin'," Newkirk offered trying to avoid eye contact with the new prisoner. He did not want Shultz to see anything that would make him suspicious. And Newkirk knew that if he appeared to know their new arrival, that Shultz would indeed get suspicious.
"Ja. Ja Newkirk," Shultz replied hurriedly. "He's to be billeted with you in barracks two anyway. The Kommandant told me that he wants to see him later today. Make sure Colonel Hogan knows that," Shultz demanded hastily and quickly indicated to one of the other guards to release the shackles. Then all four Germans left the 'new' prisoner in the care of Corporal Peter Newkirk.
Newkirk stood quietly until there was no one in earshot and then confronted their new arrival. "Bloody hell Carter. What happened to you? Are you all right? Where did they catch you? What about the others? Did someone betray us? Colonel Hogan will need to know." Newkirk spouted that whole litany so quickly that he had to pause and take a deep breath. So he decided to wait for some kind of response, but got nothing but a very confused blank stare from his companion.
"Oh Hell. Did they drug you? Do you remember anything that happened?" Newkirk said assuming that the worst had indeed occurred. "Those bloody bastards. Come on. The Colonel will know what to do," Newkirk assured and went to grab onto his companion's arm to lead him to barrack two.
Suddenly the new prisoner pulled away with shock and confusion plastered all over his face. He backed quickly away from the crazy Englishman. "Get away from me," he said holding up his hands, as his anger began to eclipse any fear. "I have no idea who the heck you are buddy. And how did you know my name, anyway?"
Those Nazi bastards, Newkirk thought as he realized that the man might really not remember… He tried to calm the kid down without ever really looking at him. "Whoa. I'm sorry Lieutenant," he offered deciding that the best option at this point was just to stick to military decorum. He didn't need Carter making any more of a scene in the compound. "Let's just head inside the barracks Lieutenant. The Senior POW Officer will explain everything to you." This time he didn't grab for the man's jacket, but only used his arm to point in the direction of barracks two.
Newkirk's new charge stood his ground and continued to glare angrily at him. "Lieutenant?" he said shaking his head. "You need to brush up on your military ranks Corporal. I'm a Sergeant," he said rather sarcastically, but decided to head off in the indicated direction, hoping beyond hope that the Senior POW Officer here wasn't as crazy as this English Corporal.
Oh bloody hell. What is going on? Newkirk thought after finally really seeing the man's rank insignia. Carter left here in civilian clothes. He would never have gotten a chance to change. And changing into an American's uniform would have been a fairly stupid thing to do. Oh hell, who is this then?
"Excuse me Sergeant," Newkirk said after catching up and cutting off the new prisoner before he reached barracks two. He smiled an innocent smile. "Hey. I'm really sorry mate. You just reminded me of someone. My mistake. The Colonel will have my head if you rat on me. Can we make peace here?" Newkirk asked extending his hand, and then continued when the other man's gaze softened. "So, I guess we weren't properly introduced. I'm Corporal Peter Newkirk."
It took a beat, but the American Sergeant's demeanor eased considerably. Mistakes he could understand. Finally he grasped the English Corporal's hand. "Sergeant Andrew Carter."
Andrew Carter? Not Philip Carter. Oh, Colonel Hogan is probably going to kill me. I can just hear him now…'You do know Newkirk, that what we're doing here has to remain a bloody secret! Right?' Oh brother. First with one Carter, now with another. I have to say something though. Because this is just crazy. Everyone is going to immediately start calling this guy Lieutenant Carter.
"Hey Sergeant. Can I ask you something?" Newkirk continued.
The young Sergeant just nodded warily.
"You wouldn't happen to know a Lieutenant Philip Carter… would you?" Newkirk asked sheepishly and was not really sure that he wanted to know the answer. But Newkirk watched astounded as that question practically had the young Sergeant jump out of his skin.
"Philip?!" Carter exclaimed. "You know Philip?! How!? Is he here!? Is he all right!? Oh my God! He can't be here! I thought he'd be on his way home by now! Please tell me that he's okay!" Andrew grabbed onto the English Corporal by the front of his uniform and pulled him almost face to face with him. "Tell me!"
"Whoa. Whoa Sergeant. Calm down. Last we knew… he was fine," Newkirk assured as he patted the anxious young man on the shoulder and pulled his uniform from this Carter's grasp. "You look just like him you know. You could be twins. It just took me by surprise." Newkirk paused. "You're not twins, are you?"
Andrew Carter finally took a deep breath and smiled but only slightly. "No. We're actually first cousins on my father's side. Although he has always been like a big brother to me," Andrew admitted as old memories just surged to the surface. "Being look-alikes always made family get togethers a lot of fun. We were forever pulling pranks. I remember once when Uncle Joe thought that…" Andrew stopped in mid-thought and looked up into Newkirk's eyes almost pleading, "You did say Philip was okay… right?"
"I'm sorry," Newkirk started to explain, "I said… the last we knew." Newkirk just sighed shaking his head, as he realized that this explanation wasn't for him to give to their unsuspecting new comrade. "You know what Sergeant… you really need to talk to the Senior POW Officer, Colonel Robert Hogan. Come with me. The Colonel will explain everything, and I do mean everything." Newkirk sighed again and led his companion in the direction of barracks two.
But probably only after he strangles me, Newkirk sighed to himself.Postscript Some months later…
Sergeant Andrew Carter gave a silent yelp of joy as he read the letter that he had just received from his cousin Philip back home in the States. His nephew Jason was going to be all right. The boy still had a long road to recovery, but the staff of Children's Hospital in Boston had successfully – and miraculously, according to most -- removed the brain tumor that had almost ended his young life. Jason, at this point, still had some residual physical disabilities resulting from the tumor and surgery. But for Philip and his wife Stephanie… that was almost a blessing. They felt they could now deal with anything, as long as Jason was alive.
Andrew knew that Philip would never openly express in his letter what he really wanted to say to him and the other men at Stalag 13, not to mention to the men of Stalag 5 as well. But Andrew could easily read through the lines. And he couldn't be happier for his cousin. And he was sure Philip would go to the grave before ever giving away the secret life of the POW's at Luft Stalag 13.
Andrew quietly folded the letter back into its envelope and looked up to take in the men of barracks two. He knew that what he and these men were doing now was even more dangerous than what these same men were doing when Philip past through this little 'operation' of Colonel Hogan's, but he realized how different his view of being a POW was now than it was when he was first captured and interned at Luft Stalag 5.
It's certainly more dangerous now, but I feel more in control, more sure that I can make a difference. At Stalag 5, I had just felt lost. But that was no one's fault but my own. What I really should do is thank Captain Malone. For me and for Philip. I wouldn't be here now and Phil would never have made it home to see Jason without him.
And I'm glad I get to keep tabs on the Captain, even if he can't possibly know that I am. It's good to know that the occasional man passing through here from Stalag 5 can't say enough good things about him. I just hope that someday we will get to meet again, even if it's just to ease the guilt I saw written on his face, that day, when I was transferred to what was becoming known as 'the toughest POW Camp in Germany'.The End
Author's Note One… Children's HospitalHere are some interesting milestones, achieved at the Children's Hospital in Boston MA, that could relate to our Hogan's Heroes' Timeline Children's Hospital Boston
1869 Children's Hospital Boston opens as a 20-bed facility at 9 Rutland Street in Boston's South End.
Sixty-nine patients are treated during the first year.
1903 Children's becomes a teaching hospital after formalizing its ties with Harvard Medical School.
1914 One of the first independent physical therapy departments in the country is organized.
1920 Dr. William Ladd devises procedures for correcting various congenital defects such as intestinal
1922 Dr. James L. Gamble analyzes the composition of body fluids and develops a methodology for
intravenous feeding that saves the lives of thousands of infants at risk of dehydration from
1930 The Polio Rehabilitation and Neurology clinics are created and, with Harvard Medical School,
the Cardiac and Infantile Paralysis clinics are established.
1938 The world's first successful surgical procedure to correct a congenital cardiovascular defect is
performed by Dr. Robert Gross.
1946 Dr. Louis Diamond describes Rh disease, a condition resulting from incompatibility of a baby's blood with the mother's, and develops a transfusion procedure that replaces blood of a newborn affected by Rh disease.
1947 Dr. Sidney Farber is responsible for the first successful pediatric remission of acute leukemia.
1949 Dr. John F. Enders and his colleagues successfully culture the poliovirus.
Author's Note Two… Volkswagen.
Here are some fascinating, as well as, very disturbing facts about the role played by the automotive industry in WWII Nazi Germany. And more specifically about the role played by the Volkswagen Company.
Volkswagen's History in WWII Nazi Germany
Hitler delighted in the famous Volkswagen Beetle design that was introduced in the late 1930's. He became one of the first to take one for a ride and it is said that Hitler became a patron of the Volkswagen Company. So that when World War II began, and the German workers went off to fight, Volkswagen executives asked the Nazi Government to replace them with thousands of foreign laborers. The Nazis obliged by forcing very many Polish and Russian into slave labor.
Volkswagen, which is headquartered in central Germany, in a city now known as Wolfsburg, was the factory that used the highest percentage of forced labor during World War II. According to Therkel Straede, a Danish Historian, "Volkswagen was a leader in terms of getting slave labor … [and] more than half of the Polish and Russian forced laborers at Volkswagen, were women."
At the time of the enforced labor, some of these women were pregnant. And still others became pregnant over the course of time. The Nazis ordered that children's homes be set up to keep the foreigners' babies separate from German babies, as well as being kept apart from their mothers, which allowed no interruption to a mother's work schedule. Therkel Straede continued by saying that sadly, "They [the children's homes] didn't conceive of these babies as human beings. They were considered sub-human. These children were not of any value…"
The above was paraphrased from the article, Volkswagen's Wartime Travesty, listed below. We have chosen to end the account at this point, as the story points to another dark chapter in the annals of WWII Nazi Germany, as well as that of the Volkswagen Company itself. But if you are interested in the full narrative, please refer to the URLs listed below:
"Volkswagen's Wartime Travesty" and "Volkswagen's History of Forced Labour"
Author's Note Three… Repatriation
The section below was excerpted from an article describing decisions made at an Annex to Geneva Convention. If you are interested in the full narrative please use the link provided.Articles of the Geneva Conventions
Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of WarAnnex to the Convention
Section II: Special Principles for Direct Repatriation or Hospitalization in a Neutral Country.
There shall be repatriated:
1. All prisoners of war who, as the result of organic injuries, have the following impairments, actual or functional: loss of a member, paralysis, articular or other defects, provided that the loss is at least a foot or a hand, or is equivalent to the loss of a foot or a hand;
2. All wounded or injured prisoners of war whose condition is such that it renders them invalids whose cure, within a period of one year, cannot be anticipated from a medical standpoint;
3. All the sick whose condition is such that it renders them invalids whose cure, within a period of one year, can not be anticipated from a medical standpoint…
Author's Note Four… Colditz: 'Oflag IV'
During World War II, Allied Officers from Australia, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, France, Great Britain, India, Canada, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Poland, Serbia, South Africa and the USA were imprisoned in the Old Castle. Built on Rock high above the town overlooking the Mulde Valley in Saxony, the building appeared the ideal place for a High Security Prison. However, between 1939 and 1945 there were over 300 escape attempts from 'Oflag IV' (Officers Camp IVC, Colditz).
Author's Note Five… on a lighter note:
The exploits of the characters Private Billy Gaines and Major John Craig, as portrayed in our story, are a complete work of fiction. We had only hoped, in writing our story, to give those characters a happy ending. And in doing so, we found a future for them that seemed very promising!
BiographyWilliam M. Gaines
Creator of MAD Magazine
Gaines was born on March 1, 1922, in New York.
Gaines joined the Army Air Corps in 1942 after failing out of the Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute.
When WWII was over he began co-editing Picture Stories from Science for his father's company EC Comics. After his father died, Gaines inherited EC Comics in 1947 while studying at NYU to become a teacher. In 1950, he subsequently changed the name of EC Comics from Educational Comics to Entertaining Comics. This new line of comics featured themes of science fiction, crime, horror, and humor. Gaines' staff included many talented artists of the time and an editorial staff of Harvey Kurtzman, Al Feldstein, and Johnny Craig.
Gaines was the publisher of the comics and also played a large role along with Feldstein in creating the plots. In 1954, EC Comics was bombarded with negative publicity due to leading psychologists, especially Fredrick Wertham, linking juvenile delinquency to comics. Wertham published 'Seduction of the Innocent' which dealt with juvenile delinquency and comics.
Gaines defended all comics by attending a Senate hearing and saying, "The truth is that delinquency is the product of the real environment in which the child lives and not of the fiction he reads." In spite of his efforts, six states passed anti-comic legislation, and comics had to be approved before they could be sold to the public.
This caused Gaines to focus solely on MAD magazine, which began in 1952 as a comic that mocked other comic titles. When MAD became a magazine, besides mocking comics it had also featured photographs, movies, television, literature, and advertising. It didn't take long for the advertisers to get tired of being made fun of, so Gaines decided MAD could do without them so it became an add-less magazine.
In 1956, Kurtzman left MAD after a dispute with Gaines over money and rights. It was after that that Gaines and Feldstein quickly took the magazine to new heights, selling over 2 million copies per issue. In 1960, Gaines sold MAD to Premier Publications but remained the publisher. In 1972, Gaines' biography was published in a book called The Mad World of William M. Gaines.
Gaines died on June 3, 1992.
The biography above is on the true life of William M. Gaines, following his discharge from the service, after WWII. We adopted the history we found for the real William M. Gaines and his partner Johnny Craig and used their names in our story for pure enjoyment only. We make no assumptions on the real William M. Gaines's tour of duty in the US Army Air Corps. Nor do even know if Johnny Craig ever served in the Armed Forces
Author's Note Six… for all you movie buffs
Hopefully needless to say, but… our character, Captain Jeffrey Malone, is a fictional character. As far as we know, no one named Jeff Malone ever worked as a special effects artist on either Gone with The Wind or The Wizard of OZ. Inclusion of that facet of our character's 'career' was added for enjoyment only.
But as a point of interest… both The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind were released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in the year 1939. Victor Flemming was given the overall directing nod for both movies. Although each film had its share of problems with directors, and both movies had at least two other directors, either credited or not.
For more information on these classic movies, use the links provided below to the Internet Movie Database.
And finally, Author's Note Seven… Andrew Carter's Tattoo
As a point of interest for all you observant Hogan's Heroes fans… you probably already know that Sergeant Andrew Carter always wore gloves in the series. The reason for that was because Larry Hovis, the actor who played Sergeant Carter, refused to remove his wedding band, so gloves were used to hide the ring in close–up shots.
In writing this story, we thought that we could use the 'tattoo' as the reason that Andrew Carter wore gloves when he reached Stalag 13. But although we indeed fit in Andrew getting the tattoo, we never fit in his decision to wear gloves to cover the tattoo. Oops!
Sorry for the plethora of Author's Notes. But we had fun 'researching' ideas for this story.
And we do hope you enjoyed our explanation for how, our lovable Sergeant Andrew Carter and the look-alike Lieutenant Carter from the pilot episode, both ended up at Stalag 13. Both characters of course having been portrayed expertly by Larry Hovis.
Thanks for reading!
Patti and Marg