Genesis

Summary: How it all started...(Because I hate an unanswered question.)

Acknowledgement: "The White Cliff's of Dover" (Lyrics Nat Burton, music Walter Kent); "Goodnight, My Love" (Lyrics: Mack Gordon Music: Harry Revel); "Lilli Marlene" (Poem by Hans Leip; Music Norbert Schultze; English lyrics Tommie Connor).

Special Thanks: To my two new online friends, Zoey and Kathleen, HH writers extraordinaire and beta-readers first class! Any errors or problems are entirely the fault of the author and not these two wonderful ladies.

Disclaimer: Hogan's Heroes is owned by Paramount, Viacom and others; this is an original story that does not intend to infringe on their copyright. Feedback is welcome!

Copyright April 2001

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Genesis By Syl Francis

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"We few, we happy few, we band of brothers..." (Henry V)

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[Friday 30 OCT 1942//1800hrs Zulu]

Headquarters, 531st Bomb Group, 8th Air Force

Northhamptonshire, England

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"General Duncan, you can't be serious!"

"I'm always serious, Colonel Hogan. You know as well as I do that this is long overdue." Duncan spoke mildly. "Robert, you've flown close to fifty missions. You know what that means."

Hogan's usually mild-mannered demeanor darkened. His dark, handsome looks were that of a recruiting poster. He glared at his Group Commander with disbelieving eyes. "You're grounding me? You called me into your office to tell me that? This is the big surprise?"

"No, Robert," Duncan replied evenly. "I called you in here to tell you that I've recommended you for your first star and the Distinguished Flying Cross."

Hogan crossed his arms in anger, unable to believe what he was hearing. His dark eyes smoldered, obviously fighting a losing battle with his temper.

"You mean that you're gonna stick a new medal on my chest, a star on my collar, and then tell me that I have to fly a desk for the rest of the war? Thanks, but no thanks!"

"Robert, you've flown over fifty missions. That's twice the usual twenty-five allowed by regulations. I've kept you on flight status longer than any other officer, because you're the best squadron commander I have. And you're the most highly decorated combat pilot in the Group, not to mention the entire Wing! Hell, the whole Army Air Corps--!"

"Oh, come on, sir! That's an exaggeration. I have it on very good authority that John Wayne's decorations are a lot higher!"

Duncan grinned. His best squadron commander had the most uncanny way of diffusing a tense moment with an innocuous comment. Most Group Command and Staff meetings ended with Hogan cracking some silly one-liner that invariably broke everybody up.

Hogan glared pensively at his Commanding Officer.

"General, you know that this a load of hogwash! Am I supposed to sit safe behind a desk while everybody else takes the risks? I can't do that, sir! I won't!"

Duncan stiffened at the junior officer's insubordination. He snapped a pencil he'd been holding in half, the only sign that Hogan's anger had affected him.

"Col. Hogan, I needn't remind you whom you're addressing, do I?" Duncan and Hogan held each other's eyes for a moment longer. Finally, both men relented.

Hogan nodded reluctantly. "Begging the General's pardon. I was out of line, sir."

"No, Robert. You have every right to be upset." Duncan opened the lower drawer of his massive executive desk and pulled out a bottle of Scotch whiskey. He looked questioningly at Hogan, who gave a curt nod. Pouring them each a drink, Duncan handed a shot glass to the highly decorated, highly irate officer standing before him.

"A toast, sir," Hogan said, a sardonic glint in his eye. "To the Army Air Corps! The only organization in the world that 'rewards' its successful pilots by grounding them!"

Matching Hogan's ironic expression, Duncan clinked his glass against the junior officer's. They both took a deep gulp from their drinks.

Sighing deeply, Duncan glanced over to Hogan and gave him a rueful grin. "You and I may not agree with the Corps' practice, Robert. And should we ever start running low on trained crews and pilots, the Corps will be forced to put a stop to it. But you're as aware as I am of the statistics--the more missions a crew flies, the greater the chances of their not returning home. And the chances increase with each mission after twenty-five."

Duncan walked up to Hogan and placed a fatherly hand on the younger officer's shoulder. "Robert, you know that it's time for you to be rotated out of combat. You've served your crew and the Air Corps faithfully and well. To ask you to keep going out--"

"But I want to keep flying! Nobody's forcing me to--!"

Hogan didn't finish his sentence. He didn't have to. A light seemed to go out of his eyes. A look of profound sadness quickly overtook him. Walking back to the window, he looked for his B-17 Flying Fortress.

As easygoing as Hogan usually appeared, Duncan knew that he had an inner core of steel. Duncan couldn't remember the veteran officer losing his cool before. Except perhaps when he lost a crewman. Hogan didn't easily take losing a man.

"Who'll take over the squadron?" Hogan asked.

"Major Zapinski. He'll be promoted after this mission."

Hogan nodded. Zapinski was his executive officer, a hard worker, and a topnotch pilot. He, himself, had recommended Zapinski for promotion to the next grade and for his own command. I just hadn't considered that the squadron he'd be taking over would be mine, he told himself.

"He's a good man," he said simply. Straightening his shoulders, Hogan turned and walked to the windows overlooking the vast airfield of Northhamptonshire, England. The 504th Bomb Squadron, part of the 531st Bomb Group, was lined up neatly, nose-to-tail, wingtip-to-wingtip, on the runway. The unit would be deploying within the next three hours for yet another massive night drop.

Hogan had come to Gen. Duncan's office for his mission brief and had been surprised that the Group Operations Officer (S-3) was not there. Now he knew. The general had wished to drop his own little bomb in private.

The veteran pilot's dark, restless eyes searched the field for his plane. He easily spotted her in her in takeoff position--the lead. He smiled a bit wistfully at her nosecone, which sported the familiar image of 'Goldilocks,' a bathing suit-clad, blonde bombshell--who came fully loaded, as his crew would say.

In Hogan's eyes, his Flying Fortress was much more than just a plane. She was his lifeline home. As long as he loved her and treated her gently, 'Goldilocks' would get him home to Connecticut and his family.

In his most private musings, Hogan thought of Goldilocks with the same deep passion as that of a beautiful lover. He grinned rakishly. Or at least of a beautiful woman who comes 'fully loaded,' he added to himself.

In fact, for as long as Hogan had been flying Goldilocks in the European Theater of Operations (ETO), there had been no other woman whom he considered lovelier--with the possible exception of his mother.

He clasped his hands tightly behind his back. And now the general wants to ground me, he thought bleakly. Hogan recalled his previous missions over the course of a year. First flying as a neutral observer with the RAF. Then when the US officially entered the war, flying bombing raids over occupied Europe.

Now, as the Allies prepared for the eventual push into Europe--at least two years away, his whole existence had been punctuated with one dangerous mission across the English Channel after another.

He sadly reflected how over the course of time, his command had lost three crews --Lt. Tripper's plane over Antwerp; Lt. Costello's over Bremerhaven; and the last one--Lt. Maddox--less than a week ago, over Hamburg.

Today, looking out at the home of the 504th 'Black Knights' Bomb Squadron, Hogan's nerve-wracking bomb run over Hamburg seemed almost unreal. He thought about the flak. So heavy I could've gotten out and walked on it. He recalled the Messerschmitts--They were everywhere!--With almost free control of the skies, because the 504th was beyond Allied fighter escort range.

The squadron successfully held its tight box formation through almost the entire ordeal. When suddenly, the German fighters overran Lt. Maddox's plane. Maddox and his crew were recent replacements flying their first combat mission. They were in the 'tail-end Charlie' position, which was reserved for rookie crews.

Still inexperienced, Maddox allowed himself to be successfully separated from the box formation, and next thing Hogan knew, Maddox's B-17 was gone, a bright fireball in its place.

The ME-109s must have gotten a direct hit to the plane's still fully loaded bomb bay. Hogan closed his eyes at the memory.

And we didn't even take out the target, he thought fiercely.

Somehow the rest of the squadron made it safely home. But at what cost? A plane and its ten-man crew gone! One moment they were there--joking, fighting, swearing, praying--the next instant they were gone!

Hogan thought of the youthful pilot and his crew. They'd just completed their crew training at Moses Lake, and had arrived in England less than a month ago. Hogan recalled Maddox's cocky attitude and his eagerness to see combat. He suddenly felt tired.

Ten men...little more than schoolboys. How many more letters home will I be forced to write? he thought. How many more mothers will I have to inform that they'll never see their son again?

Hogan felt his shoulders slumping at the overwhelming feeling of despair that coursed through him.

And after this next mission, I'll be sitting flat on my butt for the rest of the war! How will I face the squadron when I tell them?

He stood staring out at the flight line for a few moments longer, lost in his thoughts. Finally, shaking himself back to the job at hand, Hogan straightened his shoulders and faced Duncan.

"What are my orders, sir?"

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[Saturday 31 OCT 1942//0200hrs Zulu]

South, southwest of Hamburg, Germany

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The 504th Bomb Squadron approached the target from the south. They came in low, just out of range of the German air defense batteries. The bright flares from the continuous bombardment of anti-aircraft fire, blazing just below them, turned the night sky into day.

"Looks like a Fourth of July fireworks display, eh, Colonel?" Lt. Harris spoke from his position in the copilot's seat.

"Some Fourth of the July!" Hogan replied, not taking his eyes off the instruments. "The Roman candles are aimed at the audience--deliberately!"

"I'd like to get my hands on the desk jockey who recommended we approach from 10,000 feet!" Harris growled. "I can almost touch the treetops!"

Hogan grinned slightly at Harris' exaggeration.

"The so-called 'desk jockey' happens to be our beloved Commanding General, Harris. Look at the bright side. This way, if we go down and your chute doesn't open, you won't have as far to fall."

"Thanks, sir. That sure makes me makes feel better," Harris said sourly. Hogan flashed him one of his patented devilish grins, and then became all business.

"Black Knight Leader to Black Knight Squadron," Hogan radioed. "ETA to target, four minutes. Acknowledge."

The rest of the squadron immediately radioed acknowledgement. One bold subordinate irreverently answered with, "Baby Bear to Goldilocks. Acknowledge--ETA to target, two minutes." The sound of suppressed twitters from the rest of the squadron rang in Hogan's headset.

Harris' shoulders shook in silent laughter. Hogan grimaced slightly, but then grinned wolfishly. He knew how to play this game.

"Goldilocks to Baby Bear. Major Zapinski, report to me after we return to base. Acknowledge."

There was a slight pause, followed by a nervous throat being cleared.

Hogan allowed himself a small smile.  Despite being second in command, Zapinski was not above pulling a prank on his C.O. Knowing he'd been caught red-handed, the Squadron Executive Officer returned to proper radio protocol and readily acknowledged his identity.

"Black Knight Two to Black Knight Leader. Acknowledged."

Hogan decided that for that round of much-needed levity, he'd buy his X.O. a drink when they got back. He switched to intercom. "Pilot to Bombardier. Heads up, Lt. Stevens. ETA to target, two minutes!"

"Bombardier to Pilot. Acknowledged. ETA to target--two minutes."

As he expertly piloted the aircraft, Hogan kept a wary eye on the increasingly heavy flak erupting just below him. Soon those Jerry triple-A gunners are gonna find our range and we'll be sitting ducks, he observed grimly. What was the general thinking? he asked himself, echoing Harris' earlier complaint.

Hogan knew that the 504th was to approach from a 10,000-foot ceiling, which was well below the B-17s maximum cruising altitude of 35,000 feet. The low approach increased the danger to the planes from the air defense batteries as they neared the target and dropped their payloads. However, according to Operations, it also increased the chance of 'optimal penetration' of the target, which was housed in an underground, steel-reinforced concrete complex.

Destroying the target--according to the Germans a 'milk processing plant,' but to US Intelligence a parabellum munitions factory--was vital to the war effort. Moreover, since the last time they'd tried to knock out the target they'd failed and lost a plane, the 504th was determined to succeed at all costs.

"Pilot to Bombardier. Target approaching. You have control."

"Bombardier to Pilot. Roger. I have control."

As the B-17 approached a target, the pilot always turned control of the aircraft over to the bombardier. While, Hogan still did the actual flying, Lt. Stevens ordered minor adjustments to ensure the best approach through the Pilot Directional Indicator (PDI).

The PDI transmitted the desired course changes to Hogan via his instrument panel, and Hogan in turn called out the course adjustments to the rest of the squadron. The pilots adjusted their approach accordingly.

"Starboard two degrees," Hogan intoned, making the necessary adjustments.

"Roger. Steering starboard two degrees," came the response over Hogan's headset. The PDI sent two more minor adjustments. Within seconds, Hogan heard the words that signaled control had been returned to him.

"Bombs away!" Stevens called. "Flying straight and true."

Hogan watched the long, steady line of 5000-lb bombs as they streamed steadily to their target. A few moments later, Stevens shouted, "Bingo! Look at her go! That was for Lt. Maddox and his crew!"

Ten thousand feet below, the ground erupted in a series of bright plumes. Several powerful explosions suddenly mushroomed upwardly, hung momentarily as if looking over the city of Hamburg, and then collapsed back. Fires broke out everywhere, and soon the winds whipped them up into a violent firestorm.

If there were anything left of the underground complex, it probably wouldn't be of much use to the German war machine. As for anything left alive down there--Hogan preferred not think about it. This was war, after all. And war was Hell.

Hogan turned and gave Lt. Harris a thumbs-up sign. "That's a keeper, gentlemen!" he said over the ship's intercom system. "Pilot to Bombardier. You did your usual outstanding job, Lt. Stevens!"

"Bombardier to Pilot. Don't thank me, sir! You're the one who kept this ol' bucket steady!"

Smiling, Hogan responded in mock severity, "Be careful who you call an 'old bucket' around here, lieutenant!" As he spoke, Hogan reached up and caressed the bulkhead immediately above him. "Goldilocks' a lady and deserves to be treated like one!"

"You're right, sir!" Stevens hastily replied. "Goldilocks knows she's the only girl for me!"

"And don't you forget it!" Hogan winked at Harris, who grinned back. "Let's head home, boys. Pilot to Navigator. I hope you've already plotted our return trip, Lt. Schmidt. And this time--make sure your map gets us all the way across the Channel!"

"Navigator to Pilot." Schmidt's good-natured voice came over the intercom. "I'll do my best, sir!" He was the best navigator in the 504th and a pretty good nose gunner, too. Hogan was happy to have him as part of his crew.

"Hear that, gentleman? 'Wrong-way' Schmidt guarantees us a safe flight home. Drinks are on him!" The intercom resounded with raucous cheering.

"Thanks, L.T.!" someone yelled. Hogan recognized the voice as PFC Harper, the right waist gunner.

"What if he tries to land us in the drink again?" That came from Sgt. Dixon, the tail gunner.

"Aw, can it, you clowns!" Schmidt called out in mock annoyance. "The C.O. said the drinks were on me. He just didn't tell you that you had to bring your Mae West--just in case." The navigator's response was greeted with loud boos.

Turning to Harris, Hogan said, "Take over, Lieutenant. But be gentle with her."

"You don't need to worry about that, sir," Harris reassured him, taking the controls. "I'll treat her like a real lady!"

The next instant, the plane shook violently. A hit! Within moments, a loud explosion rocked the cockpit, and Hogan felt the plane shudder from nose to tail. He immediately grabbed the controls back.

"We're hit!" he yelled over the intercom. "Pilot to crew! We've taken a hit. Everybody--report!"

One by one, his men reported in, all except two--Lts. Stevens and Schmidt. As the crew reported, the plane took several more hits.

"Pilot to Bombardier! Stevens! Report! Navigator--report! Lt. Schmidt!"

He received no response.

"Pilot to Signals! Sgt. Kinchloe, check the nosecone. Stevens and Schmidt aren't responding."

"Signals to Pilot! Roger."

Meanwhile, the 504th Bomb Squadron was under massive anti-aircraft fire. The air defense batteries had finally found the squadron's range and were now saturating them with a deadly barrage.

The flak was thick and heavy, exploding in bright flashes all around Hogan's squadron. His own plane was taking a severe battering. In the past few minutes, Hogan felt the plane lurch and reel from hit after hit. Still, the B-17 was an incredible workhorse. On at least four occasions, the crew had made it back home with part of the fuselage shot off.

A couple of times, Hogan even managed to bring her in with only one engine and no landing gear. It was little wonder that the crew had the utmost faith in their C.O.

"Signals to Pilot! Sir, the nose took a direct hit! Both Lt. Stevens and Lt. Schmidt are gone."

Hogan felt a cold hand grip his insides. Stevens and Schmidt weren't the first men he'd lost, nor would they be the last; nevertheless, Hogan felt a little piece of himself die with the young officers. Swallowing painfully, he nodded, and opening his mouth to acknowledge the report, he found himself unable to get the words out.

"Signals to Pilot." Kinchloe's insistent voice sounded strained. "Col. Hogan, did you copy?"

Harris worriedly watched as his Commanding Officer, usually so cool under fire, struggled to regain his bearing.

"Copilot to Signals," Harris answered. "We copy, Kinch."

At this point, one of their starboard engines took a direct hit. The next instant, they lost the second starboard engine and their hydraulics. Hogan and Harris struggled desperately to hold the bomber steady, but they were quickly forced to fall out of the Squadron box formation.

"Black Knight Leader to Black Knight Two! We've lost two engines and hydraulics. We can't maintain our position. Take over, Black Knight Two!"

A slight pause greeted his order.

"Black Knight Leader, this is Black Knight Two." Maj. Zapinski's voice sounded coolly professional. "Acknowledged. I'll get them home, Goldilocks. Godspeed."

Hogan smiled slightly at Zapinski's irreverence, but he had complete faith that if anyone could get the 504th home, it was his X.O. "Thank you, Baby Bear," Hogan replied.

As soon as the plane began to lag behind the Squadron's protective shield, a large band of German fighters fell on the crippled plane like a wolf pack.

"Messerschmitts!" Hogan shouted. "Pilot to crew! Look alive, guys! Or we may not be alive much longer! Harris--! We've gotta hold her steady or we'll lose her!" His crew's excited voices provided a steady stream of traffic over the intercom as the plane limped along.

"Bogey at nine o'clock!"

"I see him--!"

"Bogey at six o'clock--!"

"--at twelve o'clock--!"

"Too many! Too many!"

Even with both Hogan and Harris trying to keep the plane steady, without hydraulics and short two engines--not to mention with what seemed the entire German Luftwaffe gunning for them--it was a lost cause. Soon, Hogan had to prepare the men for the order they all dreaded.

"Pilot to crew! We're losing altitude. This is it, men. I'm gonna try to keep her steady until we're over the forest north of Hamburg. Be ready to abandon ship when I give the order. Acknowledge."

"I got him! Tail gunner to Pilot! I got one! I got--!" Dixon suddenly screamed in agony.

"Pilot to Tail gunner! Dixon! Come in!" No answer. Another one, Hogan thought bleakly.

"Left waist gunner to Pilot!" Harper's voice cut in triumphantly. "Scratch another Jerry!"

"Harper!" Olsen's excited voice shouted. "Bogey at three! Watch it!"

They were receiving a battering, but were refusing to go down without a fight. However, it was no use.

"Harper! Two o'clock, buddy!" Olsen warned. "Uh-oh! Got one on my nine o'clock! Take that, ya Nazi Rat! I got him! Harper, I got him!" Olsen's triumphant voice changed to one filled with pain. "Harper! Aw, no-ooo...!"

Hogan jumped in immediately. "Pilot to Right waist gunner! Report!"

Olsen didn't immediately reply, and Hogan was about to send Kinchloe to investigate when the gunner finally answered. "Right waist gunner to Pilot. Harper took a hit, sir. He's dead."

And another.

Just a few moments later, Hogan finally gave the order.

"Pilot to crew! Abandon ship! Repeat! Abandon ship! Escape and evasion procedures are in effect. Remember...if captured, give only name, rank, and serial number. Good luck, gentlemen!" He nodded at Harris, shaking hands in farewell.

"Good luck, Harris."

"Yes, sir. Thank you, sir. Sir--?" The young officer hesitated momentarily, his eyes expressing the words he was unable to say.

"See you on the ground, lieutenant!" Hogan promised. "And don't forget--it's your turn to bring the wine and cheese."

Harris smiled gratefully, and nodded.

"Yes, sir," he whispered raggedly. At that moment, a Messerschmitt flew almost directly towards the cockpit, spraying them with lead. The Plexiglas shattered into a thousand pieces, with Harris taking the brunt of the attack. He was thrown against Hogan, shielding his C.O. from the deadly fusillade.

As his co-pilot slammed into him, Hogan felt him jerk spasmodically as he was riddled by enemy bullets. Within seconds the German fighter was gone, but not before he had taken the young officer's life. Struggling to maintain the controls with one hand, Hogan held onto Harris' lifeless body with the other. He could feel the young pilot's still-warm blood seeping into his flight suit.

Carefully, Hogan placed Harris' still form on the co-pilot's seat. Combating against his raging emotions, he set his jaw and got back to the business of saving the lives of the rest of his crew.

His insides growing numb, he ensured that his remaining men safely jumped, before finally beginning the climb to the forward escape hatch. As he made his way down the short ladder to the open hatch below, Hogan could feel his heart ache.

Five men gone--just like that! Stevens, Schmidt, Harris, Dixon and Harper. He didn't have the time to mourn their loss. He knew that it would hit later. Running his hand one last time along the cold, metal bulkhead, Hogan said his last farewells to 'Goldilocks.'

"So long, babe. I'll never forget you," and leaped into the black skies over enemy territory.

As the cold night air assaulted his face, Hogan became aware of the pungent smell of burning cordite. Enjoying the momentary feeling of freefall, he realized that his eyes were closed. Opening them, he became aware of the distance to the ground, and the shells exploding all around him. The usually coolheaded Hogan experienced a brief, heart-stopping panic attack, coupled with a strong urge to jump right back into the cockpit.

He pulled the ripcord, and was immediately jerked back, his parachute billowing overhead. Hogan took several deep, ragged breaths, chuckling shakily. From his vantage point at the top of the world, he felt strangely separated from the fires burning below and the flak exploding around him.

Was there ever a time when death and destruction weren't a part of my life? he wondered.

He searched the night sky for Goldilocks. In the distance, he caught sight of her, trailing fire and smoke, and watched regretfully as she lost her battle with gravity and spiraled into the rugged, wooded hills below.

"We took quite a few of 'em with us, didn't we, babe?"

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He suddenly found himself in the trees and braced for a rough landing. He wasn't disappointed. Crashing through the thick foliage, he struck a tree trunk with his shoulder, bounced crazily and then slammed against a thick branch. Finally, bruised, battered, and barely conscious, he came to an abrupt halt--dangling ten feet in the air.

In the sudden stillness, the sounds of pursuit could be heard in the distance. The pitch-black of night was broken periodically by the erratic sweep of searchlights. The sounds seeped into his consciousness, and finally galvanized him into action.

Hogan took out his Army knife and quickly cut through his shoulder harness. Within seconds he was on the ground and limping at a stumbling run. Stopping to get his bearings after a few minutes of a reckless, headlong dash, he found the North Star and started heading in a direction that took him away from the fast approaching German patrol.

"Great," he muttered. "A thousand grid squares, and I land in Kraut central."

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End of Part 1