Disclaimer: Hogan's Heroes meets The Rat Patrol. If wishes could come true, I'd own all of them. Not making a penny.
Saving Troy's Bacon Raid
A/N: Thanks, texaslass2000, for giving me a great title to the story!
Chapter 1 Stalag 13
It was morning, and it was roll call. The men of Barracks 2 were lined up on the parade ground ready to be counted by the tall, paunchy sergeant of the guard. Sgt. Hans Schultz went through his numbers three times, but he was still having trouble making them add up. He came up with the same count each time. Nineteen. Three too many. Chilled to the bone, those three men, who had been hiding behind the delousing station all night, had slipped into formation as soon as they saw the other men lining up. They were looking for the man who led the Traveler's Aid Society, Col. Robert Hogan, of the U.S. Army Air Corps.
"Col. Hogan, there are three men over. Don't tell me the prisoners are trying to break into camp?"
"Here comes Klink. Make your report, Schultz."
Schultz turned. There was his monocle-wearing commanding officer emerging from his office, one hand thrust behind him, a riding crop under his arm, and his head a foot beyond his feet as he strode leaning forward.
"Repoooort!" he yelled in his usual way.
Schultz winced, thinking how was he going to tell Col. Klink about the excess men from Barracks 2? One might not be noticed, but three?
"All present and accounted for, sir!"
"That's the boy," whispered Carter, leaning forward in line to speak over Newkirk's shoulder.
"Oh, boy, will I be in for it if he discovers the extra men. Col. Hogan, please say they'll be gone by tonight's roll call?"
Before speaking, Hogan watched Klink preparing to make another one of his long speeches. His frozen prisoners were stamping about, shifting positions, clapping their hands against their upper arms and blowing on their reddened fingers, all in an attempt to stay warm.
"Our illustrious Luftwaffe …," began Klink, and that was where Hogan usually tuned him out.
He looked down the line at the three 'new' men. They had not yet been processed as prisoners of war, making them officially non-existent. Their superiors at Command HQ must have instructed them on the ins and outs of Stalag 13, for slipping into the camp under the roller-shade barbed wire, the panel that went up and down with a light push or pull, they had specifically joined the men of Barracks 2 at roll call. Were they intending to turn themselves over to Hogan for his help?
All wearing gray-green coveralls and leather flight jackets, the new prisoners were spinning about the most, trying to keep warm. Watching them twirl and spin, Hogan wondered, where had they come from, the desert?
"Bloody cold, I'd say!" murmured one. "Where do they get all of this snow?"
"They saved it just for us," whispered another, who had a matchstick in his mouth, his favorite chew toy.
The blond private next to him smacked his arms across his chest and then blew on his hands. "We had to leave the warm sands of Libya for this?" he asked.
"Remember, we've come to find Tr—"
Here the Englishman was cut off as Klink began to wrap up his litany of Luftwaffe wins for the week. It was only a once in a week speech, but none of the Allied prisoners looked forward to it.
"And I say again, the illustrious Luftwaffe will win this war for Germany. Dismisssssed!"
With that, Klink turned on his heel and pranced back into his office, taking the three steps at a rapid pace in the knowledge that a glass of schnapps waited for him.
"Blimey!" yelled Cpl. Newkirk, in a blue uniform and blue cap. "I've heard better speeches in the old movies just before the hangman tightens the noose!"
"Col. Hogan, take your men back inside the barracks immediately," said Schultz, watching as the three new men, one extremely tall and dark-haired under his green cap, another reddish-haired with a matchstick in his mouth, and the third one blond wearing small wire glasses, turned and filed into Barracks 2 in the wake of the regular prisoners. "And, Col. Hogan, remember," he began, stopping the senior officer of the prisoners with a chubby hand, "I don't want to have to not count these men again. Verstehen Sie?" Do you understand?
"Got it, Schultz. The three extra men will be gone by suppertime." Hogan swung back. "Tomorrow morning at the latest."
Saying this, Hogan, a man of medium height with a crush cap and a dark brown bomber's jacket, gave the slip to the rotund sergeant of the guard and entered the barracks himself, immediately seeking out his new 'guests.'
"Sgt. Moffitt," said one, extending his hand. Hogan took it uncertainly, wondering how much trouble this man and his two younger companions were going to be. "Pleased to make your acquaintance," said the uncommonly tall fellow.
"Bloody heck, old man," said their resident Brit, Peter Newkirk. "You've got a turn of phrase there! I expect next you'll want a cuppa!"
"Tea would be nice," said the soft-voiced Anglo, "but I wouldn't want to put you out any."
"Get some water boiling, LeBeau," said Hogan, "I know how these Brits love their morning tea."
The diminutive French airman grabbed a pot of previously boiled water for the Red Cross packages' powdered coffee ration and set it back on the single burner of the stove. With a charming smile, Sgt. Jack Moffitt watched Cpl. LeBeau start the proceedings, then his smile faded.
"I say, are you reboiling that water?"
"Yeah, we had it for coffee this morning! What's wrong with that?"
"It's never a good idea to reboil the water in the same pot. It gives it a metallic taste."
Newkirk snorted. "I'm British, and I didn't know that."
"Quite," said Moffitt, meaning "I'm sure you, as a Cockney, don't know how to brew up a good pot of tea," though this part he didn't say.
Hogan had gone into his own office and returned with a tin of tea and a metal, multi-holed contraption with a tiny chain and hook at the end of it.
"Look!" exclaimed Carter, an American Tech Sergeant from Bull Frog, North Dakota. "A little colander!"
"Where'd you get that?" asked a tall, well-built staff sergeant nicknamed Kinch, short for Kinchloe.
"Got it about a month ago in a Red Cross package. I was saving it up for a special occasion with Helga."
He handed the works to LeBeau, who opened the tin with a kitchen knife and then got a small spoon, taking out just one teaspoonful of dried tea and putting it into the tea basket.
"This is right, isn't it?" he asked the newcomer. "One spoonful for each cup?"
"Quite! I'm surprised you knew that."
"Why, because I'm French?"
"That might have something to do with it."
When the water was ready to pour—Moffitt noticed it was the same old water in the same old pot—LeBeau poured it over the tea basket which he had placed in a ceramic cup.
"We don't have a teapot," he said. "I hope this'll do."
"It'll have to," said the Anglo. He took the cup, then looked at his watch. While the others waited around, looking testy after two minutes, he gave it an extra minute and then removed the basket by its little chain, handing it back to LeBeau.
As the Brit sipped the tea, closing his eyes on the aroma and letting the warm liquid slip down his throat, LeBeau held onto the basket, raising it with a confused look until Hogan took it and the tin back to his room, dumping out the leaves in a wastebasket.
Hogan reappeared in a New York minute and, with a crooked finger, signaled for the three new men to come into his office. Hitch looked at Tully. Tully looked at Moffitt, who shrugged and led the way.
"I want to know who you men are," said Hogan without preamble. "You just can't come sneaking into camp any time you feel like it."
"We're with the Long Range Desert Group," said the tea-drinker.
"Oh, that tells me a lot!"
"It's a desert recon and raiding unit—commandos, if you like—attached to the British 8th Army in Libya."
Moffitt took a sip of his tea, delicious even if it had been made with 'old' water.
"That's in North Africa, isn't it?"
Pleased with the colonel's grasp of geography, he nodded and cried, "Without a doubt!"
Hitch and Tully looked at one another—both privates knew where this was going.
"Then, why—if it's not too much to ask—are you here, a few miles outside of Hammelburg?"
"We were given special permission to seek our leader, Sgt. Sam Troy. He was separated in a raid on a convoy, captured by Hauptmann Dietrich—you don't know him—and from the transit camp at Tobruk flown here. That's what our intelligence says, at any rate."
Hogan smiled. "So you just up stakes and come here to our little camp, hoping to find this Sgt. Troy?"
"That's about the gist of it, Colonel."
"How do you know he's here?"
"He may not be actually … here, sir. He may be in Hammelburg, at Gestapo Headquarters. A Major Hochstetter met him at the Frankfort Airport, sixty miles from Hammelburg. My intelligence source—actually the local Hammelburg newspaper—stated that this major is the top Gestapo agent there."
"If he's in Gestapo hands, especially Major Hochstetter's, then he is in trouble." Hogan looked away and grimaced.
"Do you know the major, sir?"
"We've had a few run-ins. His bite is about as bad as his bark, and he does bark loud."
"Then is there any hope of finding Sgt. Troy?" Worried, Moffitt set his mug of tea down on Hogan's desk.
"There may be some hope. By the way, how did you three get here? It's over a thousand miles from the Mediterranean!"
"Well, we drove the jeeps to Benghazi, then took a cargo plane across the Mediterranean. After that, we stole some Italian uniforms—I was a captain—and made our way through Italy by truck until we reached the Alps, and—"
"Hold it right there, Sgt. Moffitt. This war'll be over before you finish. I believe you haven't introduced me to your friends."
"No, my mistake in manners, sir. The young chap here with the grin is Pvt. Mark Hitchcock. The one with the stick of wood between his teeth is Pvt. Tully Pettigrew. They're our drivers in Libya."
"Drivers. You need drivers?" Hogan was aghast that grown men—commandos even—needed someone to drive them around.
"Of the jeeps, sir. We use two jeeps to attack enemy convoys and to escort our own. The jeeps get us from here to there."
"Yeah, when they don't break down," said a discouraged-sounding Hitch.
"That last breakdown wasn't all on me, Hitch," Tully said.
"You said you got all the sand out of the motor."
"That was before the sandstorm came up."
"And that's how we lost the Sarge. He went looking for Moffitt who had gotten lost looking for water and Dietrich picked him up."
"Do they always talk as though they're the only ones in the room?" asked Hogan, marveling at how well he and Sgt. Moffitt had been forgotten.
"They spend a lot of time in the jeeps waiting while Troy and I decide on a course of action. I think in the desert, it's easy to forget that there are big cities and towns in the world where other people live."
"So they talk to themselves?"
"How do we bring them back—a rap on the head?"
Moffitt laughed a high, tinkly kind of laugh, actually more of snicker than a real guffaw.
"And do you do a lot of laughing in the desert, Sergeant?"
"It helps pass the time on long hauls. The desert is very big. Not as many towns. Or … or—"
"I think you have what they've got," said Hogan, good-humoredly. "But I won't name it."
TSgt. Carter, a thin-faced young man in gray-green coveralls and a brown, fleece-lined flight jacket, very reminiscent of what the three desert commandos were wearing, suddenly stuck his head in the door. "Schultz is coming, Colonel!"
"C'mon, one of you sit down on the bunk. Grab one of my magazines and act like you're reading it." Moffitt's eyebrow went up. Of course he'd be reading it! He'd read anything with words! "You other two, sit on the locker there and act like you belong here."
The three Rats of the famed North African Rat Patrol sat down in their assigned places. Moffitt picked up the magazine and began to flip pages. One page in particular caught his eye and when Hitch looked over at it, Moffitt slammed the magazine shut in a hurry.
"Not for young eyes, I'm afraid," he said to the stupefied Hitch.
"What was it?" murmured Tully.
"A pin-up. The only thing Moffitt doesn't 'read.'"
Tully giggled a little and then quieted down as the pear-shaped German sergeant of roll-call fame pre-emptively entered the colonel's office and bunk-room.
"Those men—what are they doing here?" he asked, noticing the faces that he had only seen once—at roll call that day. "Why is that one trying to steal the magazine out of the tall one's hands?"
"They're just in from the desert, Schultz, and they don't realize they've got company."
"Oh, I see. Well, no, Col. Hogan, I really don't see. Actually, I came to tell you that Commandant Klink wants to see you in his office right away!"
"What does the Iron Eagle want now?"
"Major Hochstetter is going to favor us with a visit tomorrow." Here, all the Rats turned their heads and looked at one another. Moffitt even took his eyes off that certain 'page' again. "He wants to talk to you about hiding any radios you might have made."
"Oh, alright," sighed Hogan. "Never a dull moment. I'll be with you in a minute, Schultz. Please wait outside."
Schultz, opening his mouth as if about to protest, shook his head instead and went out to the stove. He was sure to get a cup of coffee for his trouble, but found the pot empty. No more hot water. Not even one cup left in the pot! He didn't know it, but he could thank Sgt. Moffitt and his tea-drinking habit for that.
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"We have ways of making you talk, Sgt. Troy," said Major Hochstetter in a nasally voice. "Where is the base of your desert patrol units?"
Troy folded his hands, but left the two index fingers up. These he placed on his lips and focused his eyes on a particular board in the floor with an odd, blackish stain on it. Blood? How it been left for show, or was it freshly spilled? Troy had no way of knowing. At least it wasn't his, not yet.
While he was musing, Major Hochstetter prattled on.
"I won't ask you again. Did you know where the extra Allied petrol dumps are?"
Troy looked up at him, pulling his fingers away, said, "Samuel T. Troy, Sergeant, 12-457-893."
"Bah!" shouted the interrogator. It wasn't for the first time that afternoon, Troy noted.
"You may wonder why I'm questioning you about the desert, when we are in Germany."
Troy said nothing, but resumed his stare at the blood stain on the floor. He was tired.
Six days ago, he had left Dietrich's base at al-Gadir for the transit camp at Tobruk, where he spent three days in a solitary hut, a windowless bake-oven. Then aboard a bucket of bolts smelling rankly of petrol, he flew to Frankfort, Germany. After two days holed up there, he was put on a train to Hammelburg, wherever it was, all of these travels solely on bread and water. It was too much, even for him. He had thought he had the stamina of an elephant. Now he realized he was but mortal man.
Hochstetter's harsh drone snapped him back to reality.
"It's because you, Sgt. Troy, have become well-known in those parts of Libya that we control. The letter the commandant of the Tobruk dulag sent with you informed me what an unholy terror you desert rats are."
He sighed—again. "Sgt. Troy. Serial number—damn! What is it? I've said it so many times today I can't remember. Ah, yes. 12-457-893."
"I think I could recite it backward," said Hochstetter, looking like he had just swallowed an eel. A slimy one. "I've heard it so many times today."
Troy looked up at him, a slight grin creasing his face.
"Take the prisoner out! Put him in cell number 12. That's the one with a rat hole in the wall. You should find yourself in good company," said the weasely man.
Troy couldn't help himself. He was tired, bruised all over, and still wearing the same sandy clothes from the desert, but he laughed outright, shaking his head as he stood up.
Then a dizzy spell washed over him and he put a hand to his forehead. He was ready to cave. He had to fight to hold it together as he followed Hochstetter's guards out of the office.
Back in his cell—
White dust still clung to his arms and shirt. As he brushed it off, watching it powder the floor at his feet, his eye turned wistful.
It all seemed like yesterday. Hell, it almost was yesterday.
Libya. How he missed those days! Hopscotching over the sand, the fifty blazing away, Hitch in his red kepi trying not to hit another bump and swallow his gum. Moffitt, on the other side of the half-tracks, raining fire upon the Germans with his own .50 caliber machine gun, Tully driving in circles to keep the enemy's bullets from hitting Doc.
He didn't think Dietrich would sell him out like that, not even with a superior breathing down his neck, but he guessed the German captain had run out of excuses to let him go free. Maybe his, Troy's, number had just come up and he had to face the music.
This Hochstetter fellow, all in black, head to toe, had threatened him with facing something else—the firing squad.
"I'll put you up against a wall south-facing, in case you're homesick for Libya, and shoot you there!"
Homesick. Which he was, in a way.
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"So you came to us, thinking we could help you rescue Sgt. Troy. He must be a lucky man, to have such friends as you three," said Hogan, barely able to contain his amusement.
"What's so funny?" asked Tully.
Now they were all sitting at the table in the outer room of the barracks. Newkirk was dealing cards. Tully already owed him fifty dollars and had no visible means to pay it, except for some copper coins he had discovered in the pockets of his stolen Italian uniform. When he had ditched the uniform for the Allied coveralls and flight jacket, which the three Rats had liberated from three dead parachutists they had discovered on their trek through the Dolomites, he had kept the coins as souvenirs. He put these on the table to satisfy his wager and Newkirk had a field day making fun of them.
"You should have robbed a rich man while you were at it, Tully, me friend."
"We were more intent on staying alive," said Moffitt, holding another cup of tea and leaning against Newkirk's bunk to the left of the door.
Hogan appeared from 'down below,' followed by Kinch. When Kinch had come out of the bunk—Moffitt's eyes widening, though he had seen them go in—he hit it twice with his fingertips and the opening disappeared. To German eyes now, it was just a bunk.
"I've been in contact with the Underground in Hammelburg," said Hogan. "By radio, in case you're wondering, Moffitt, and I know you were."
"It's what he always does, wonder about things," remarked Hitch, suddenly burying his head in his coffee as Moffitt struck the back of his kepi.
"They say there's a new prisoner at Gestapo Headquarters, but they don't know who he is. One of my contacts there is a cleaning lady. She'll try to get more information."
"Our whole mission to rescue Troy rests on the delicate shoulders of a charwoman!" exclaimed Moffitt. "How do we manage to have such luck?"
"This lady's highly skilled in espionage, Sergeant," said Hogan. "You couldn't ask for a better spy."
"Yes, but can she clean, also?"
"I think the man's ruddy mad, I do, what?" said Newkirk, chortling along with the rest of the barracks. "Can she clean? That's a good one. Right up there wi' a bullet in the back, that one is. Oh, luvly!"
Moffitt himself laughed, hoping they knew he was just pulling their collective leg.
"I say, a little humor does break up a party," said their tall guest. "Tully, Hitch, it's time to hit the sack, if there is one. Big day tomorrow. We'll get to meet this major—what's his name?"
"Hochstetter," came the resounding chorus.
"Yeah, boy," said Carter, who was sitting at Tully's side—the losing side of the table. "That's him."
Moffitt and his companions were given blankets and taken downstairs into the tunnel system under the camp. A couple of cots, with a lantern, a jug of water and three cups awaited them.
"What a maze!" exclaimed the Brit, looking goggle-eyed at the various off-shoots.
"Yeah," said Tully, "I could lose a whole still in here. The revenuers would never find it."
"But what about the Germans?" asked Hitch. "Be something if they find us before we find Troy."
"I guess then we'd all have personal interviews with this Hochstetter," said Moffitt, just then lying down and finding that the cot was on the narrow side as well as a half-foot short. His feet dangled over the edge. "What comfort!" he said, but meant just the opposite.
"Can't wait for breakfast," said Tully, also lying down now and swishing his matchstick back and forth.
"Yeah, they serve a good meal around here," said Hitch, taking off his boots. The others had gone to 'cot' with theirs on. "That French guy sure makes a good stew."
"I found his warm apple strudel delicious," said Moffitt, trying to arrange his blanket without falling off the cot. "Now get some sleep, both of you!"
"Night, Sarge," said Hitch and Tully together.
"Don't call me Sarge."
"Right, Doc," they chorused.
Up above, Hogan and his own men had a little pow-wow. They were sharing some late night coffee and the last of the apple strudel—LeBeau had made two pans.
"These guys are crackers," said Newkirk, always ready with an apt word or phrase. "They expect to waltz right in to Gestapo headquarters and say, "Give me Troy," or something to that effect."
"I wouldn't say they were crackers, Newkirk," said Carter. "Bonkers, maybe. But crackers is too strong a word."
"Well, what do you bleedin' call it, Carter, when you hear that they've traipsed all the way from North Africa wearing Italian uniforms and skipping from country to country on a few coppers?"
"I say, they've got spunk, I would."
"Well, they're a headache for me," said Hogan. "I want to help them. But if this Troy fellow is locked up as tight as I think he is, he'll be murder to get out."
"Don't say murder, Colonel," said Kinch. "We don't want to jinx him."
"We don't even know 'im!" exclaimed LeBeau. "I say we leave him in Hochstetter's jail and concentrate on sending these jokers back to the sands of Egypt."
"Libya," offered Carter. "They said they come from Libya."
LeBeau waved a spoon at Carter and then came over to the table, taking a seat with his own steaming hot cup of coffee.
"Is it up for a vote, Colonel," asked Kinch, "whether we help them or not, or is this your decision?"
"We'll wait and see what the Underground finds out about where he's being held. Meeting over. Now, let's play cards!"
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It was early evening. Troy had been back in his cell for a few hours, getting some much needed sleep. However, he woke, startled, when the big wooden door opened and in stepped two men, a stranger and the Gestapo major. The first man, a doctor, pulled out a stethoscope and listened to his heart. He looked under his eyelids and tapped his stomach. Through rents in his clothes, he found that the prisoner had unhealed sores. His face, which must have once been burnished to a nut-brown by the desert sun, was now pale and very dry, with cavernous shadows under the eyes.
Without quite knowing what his normal weight was, the doctor assumed, correctly, that since his capture the prisoner had quickly lost weight and was also severely dehydrated.
Dr. Becker swung around to the black-clothed Hochstetter and fixed him with a serious eye. "This man is very ill, Major. If he doesn't get medical attention soon, I can't vouch for his chances."
Considering the doctor's words for a half-second, Hochstetter grumbled, "Do what you can for him here, Doctor. I don't want him to leave this cell unless it is to come to my office."
"I'll set up an IV of fluids, but he needs some nursing care. And a shower. He's started to develop a rash on his arms and legs. It would be best if I treat him at my infirmary in Hammelburg."
"From what I've been told about this man's capacity for escape, it seems unwise to move him out of a locked-tight cell."
"As you wish. I'll send for one of my orderlies to bring the necessary things here. You know, Major Hochstetter, we may be at war, but we don't have to act like barbarians in the way we treat our prisoners."
"Doctor, this man is a commando. As such, I have the right to take him outside at this minute and shoot him. Anything less than that, and he should count himself very lucky."
Becker grimaced to hear that, but he had to admit, commandos such as the man shivering on the cot before him were keeping Germany from its ultimate victory in the war. He should be eliminated as soon as possible in that case, but Becker knew that if it came to pulling a trigger on a patient he was treating, he couldn't do it.
For his part in all this, Troy felt like an object. No one had used his name. Or asked him anything. He could have told them his head hurt, his heart beat too fast, he was dog-tired—and the room kept spinning. He had listened to the whole conversation between the doctor and the major, but only caught one word—Kommando. Did that mean he was going to face that firing squad after all?
It might have been preferable to a slow death at the hands of Major Hochstetter with his brutal interrogation tactics.
"One more thing," said the doctor. "He needs warmer clothes. This cell's too cold for what he has on." Troy watched his lips move, and heard the sounds he made, but he might as well have been speaking Cantonese for all he understood of it. "Will you see to that, Major?"
"Since they're still sandy, he might want to keep them for old times' sake." Hochstetter laughed at his own joke. "Come, Doctor, I'll show you the way out."
Without another word or even a glance at his patient, Becker replaced the bell-end of his stethoscope in his jacket pocket, grabbed his bag, and followed Hochstetter out.
With time on his hands now, and sleep eluding his aching body, Troy thought of the other members of his unit. Moffitt. Tully. Hitch. Where were they now? Had he been replaced yet? Was Moffitt now in charge?
Originally, the Englishman had been only a professor-type, not a commando. But with some on the job training and behind the scenes coaching from Troy himself, Sgt. Moffitt had matured into a highly dependable soldier. His tactical skills, his shooting, his instincts for avoiding danger and his ability to work with the team had all improved. If Troy had to tell how he felt about his second-in-command, he'd say he was truly proud of Moffitt's progress, and of the man himself.
An orderly came later that night, sent by the doctor, Troy guessed, and took him to the showers, then helped him, as he was very woozy, to put on some fresh clothes. Denim shirt and pants, standard prisoner wear. He kept his 'sandy' desert boots.
Then the kind young man, Aryan-blond and blue-eyed but possessed of a noticeably gentle soul, settled the patient down for the night and hooked up an IV.
Dr. Becker had instructed him to stay with the prisoner, but as there was no room in the cell for another occupant, he washed up and went to the guards' station to find a chair there. Composing himself to get a little sleep, he woke every now and then to check on his patient. Dr. Becker had taught him that skill.