Epikeia: the virtue by which one rightly judges that obeying a law will not in a particular case lead to the good intended because of circumstances unforeseen by the lawmaker. Legislators in framing laws attend to what commonly happens. In some unusual situations, following the law will lead not to justice but injustice and be injurious to the common good.
Author's note: I started this back in April. Then I hit hell week, then finals week, then LSAT prep. Thanks to Suzanne of Dragon's Breath for the beta and to the HH list members for help with Hobson's article. This was fueled by one to many media ethics/journalism/copyediting classes. Enjoy.
Disclaimer: If I owned Hogan's Heroes, I would not have to work in retail. I have to work in retail. Therefore, I do not own Hogan's Heroes. (Sorry. Too much formal logic.)
This could be the story of the century, yet I don't dare write it.
It could give an inconceivable boost to America's morale, yet it would do unspeakable harm to the Allied intelligence network.
It could make my career, even earn me a Pulitzer Prize, yet it would end the lives of hundreds of brave soldiers.
I became a war correspondent for the glory, and I don't try to pretend otherwise. However, this doesn't mean I don't take my responsibilities seriously. People have a right to know what is going on with the war. The members of the voting public are effectively the rulers of the United States, and they can't vote responsibly without all of the pertinent information. It is the duty of the newspapers and reporters to provide that information.1
If I happen to benefit from doing that duty, so be it.
I didn't know what to expect at first. The privations, the danger, those were typical. Most British citizens had experienced both on a daily basis for years. I wasn't surprised that many of the enlisted wanted to speak with me. I never had difficulty gathering information; people just like to talk to me. That's part of the reason I became a journalist in the first place. Mostly, they wanted their names in print to assure their families that they were alive and relatively safe.
What I didn't anticipate was the hostility and mistrust a lot of officers seemed to feel towards the press corps. They won't let us near anything sensitive, and by the time the censors are done with our reports, there's hardly anything left. While some of there paranoia is understandable because the enemy undoubtedly monitors our broadcast media, but I'd like to think we are responsible enough to not print troop movements.
On the other hand, there are some things they sensor that the public deserves to know that would not jeopardize our troops. For example, a friend and fellow war correspondent just transferred from the Pacific to Europe because he managed to annoy the Powers that Be. The company he followed managed to capture a Japanese soldier alive and penned him in the middle of the compound. The Allied soldiers spent several days tormenting the man, tossing him cans of food but nothing with which to open them, then laughing when he attempted to open them with his teeth.2 This story would not have jeopardized anything, but my friend was barred from the Pacific theater for trying to print it.
Because of my relative inexperience and my propensity for annoying the brass, I was assigned to one of the many airwings operating out of England. There is relatively little classified information and there are always bombings to write about. I thought I could live with that; I was close to the pilots and aircrews, and they have what is arguably the most exciting role in the war.
Unfortunately, the support crews (or REMFs as those who do the fighting so eloquently put it) do not share in the glory. I interviewed almost every pilot and flight crew on the base, but their descriptions were often lacking in detail and frequently were not quotable.
While I worked in relative safety, needing only to dodge the occasional strafing run, I lost print space to those who were closer to the action.
It took weeks, but I finally convinced the base CO to let me ride along on one of the raids. It started as everything I could have hoped for. Despite the fact I was on what was essentially a milk run, actually making a bombing run gave me a much better perspective from which to write—which could only make my articles better.
When the German fighters found us, I could barely stop myself from grabbing a pen and pad. I probably would have, had the plane not been moving unexpectedly. I didn't think bombers were supposed to be able to maneuver like that.
Unfortunately, the krauts proved that bombers can't out maneuver fighters. We took a direct hit on the cockpit. In that moment, the trip went from being an adventure to a serious mission. I don't know if the shot was from another plane or an antiaircraft gunner on the ground, but the result was unmistakable. I think the pilot and copilot were killed instantly. All I remember is one of the other crewmembers shoving me out the door of the plane while I desperately tried to remember the emergency lecture I was given before leaving the base. I don't remember pulling the ripcord, but the lack of chutes around me told me I was the only one to make it to the ground alive.
I thought I was dead. I hurt my ankle badly enough in the landing that I would not be running from any German patrols, and I would not have the protection of a military rank and the Geneva Convention if the caught me. I thought that if I was lucky, the regular soldiers would only shoot me as a spy, not turn me over to the Gestapo. Death seemed inevitable.
I certainly did not expect to be found by allied soldiers, and I certainly never dreamed that they'd lead me to a tunnel hidden in a tree trunk, especially one that led to the "toughest POW camp in all of Germany."
The moment I saw those tunnels, I recognized the story potential, so I wasted no time in getting them to talk to me. One young sergeant was particularly helpful.
The picture they painted of their operation in those first few minutes boggled my mind. They rescue downed fliers, collect "music boxes" for distribution, conduct espionage and sabotage activities, and all from a POW camp. I was there and I am not certain I believe it.
And then the officer stuck his nose in. He had been fine before that, even offering a bit more information about the operation. I thought he was one of the understanding ones. His indulgence did not last long. As soon as I mentioned the story I planned to write, he clammed up and ordered his men not to talk to me. I don't understand him. I introduced myself as a correspondent. Did he think I would keep the information to myself?
Then I thought I could learn more from his men. Sure, Hogan ordered them not to talk to me, but I've always gotten along well with the enlisted men, and there's always one or two who will disobey orders—in this case, possibly the boyish sergeant. I figured there would be plenty of opportunities to interview someone, after all, the colonel mentioned that it would be a few days until they could ship me to England, and Hogan couldn't be around all of the time.
I was wrong. I learned absolutely nothing during the three days I spent in those tunnels. I couldn't even get a single man to tell me his name. This was inconceivable to me. I do not have this problem! Surely one of the men would be ticked enough at his CO to say something!
In hindsight, I figure Hogan deliberately limited access to me to those men he was certain would not indulge my natural curiosity. While the POW camp above must have held hundreds, if not thousands of men, I only saw about thirty. In addition, only two interacted with me, an American negro sergeant and a Brit corporal. They seemed to have been tasked by Hogan to keep an eye on me, and a more closed-mouthed pair of individuals I have never met.
The time passed extremely slowly. I was sequestered in a branch tunnel "for my own safety," because "the less I know, the less I can reveal if captured." This was clearly a load of bullshit. I knew I was at Stalag 13. I don't see why they would not let me wander the camp. They said the krauts might realize I wasn't a prisoner, but if they missed this operation, I'm not sure they'd notice an Allied army at the gates. Damn Hogan. Does he have something against free press?
I think they were thrilled to get rid of me once my ankle had healed enough that I could leave. Hogan and the Brit corporal lead me through the maze of tunnels to a particular ladder and told me to climb up. I think they took a perverse pleasure in my fear when I emerged in a pen filled with trained, deadly German shepherds, obviously there to guard the prisoners.
I barely had time to articulate my fears before I was unceremoniously shoved into the back of a veterinarian's van that contained still more of the animals. The vet assured me they were friendly, but I am still not convinced. I'm surprised I made it to his premises alive. He had a small room—away from the dogs, thank god—where I could wait for the next link in the chain to pick me up.
The next leg of my journey was made in the dog food supplier's truck. While I wasn't constantly in fear for my life—more than is normal for an American behind German lines, at any rate—this truck smelled much worse.
All in all, it took me about a week to cover the relatively short distance to the coast. Usually I spent my days being transported from safe house to safe house and my nights crammed into some small hiding place that the Gestapo would hopefully overlook if they raided.
I was puzzled by the schedule; I thought I would be moved at night and hidden during the day. One of the few English-speaking underground members explained that they worked my transportation into their normal daily schedules, and the Gestapo are suspicious of anyone who moves about at night, even in areas that do not have a curfew.
Thankfully, Hogan obviously hadn't told these people not to talk to me. The English speakers were more than willing to answer my questions. They wouldn't give me any specifics—the whos and the hows—in case I was captured, but they were usually willing to give me the whys.
What I found odd, however, is that they did not want me to give them any information. One elderly couple explained that they knew the names of those they received transients from and where they sent the transients to, but they did not want to know any more. I blame this on the Gestapo.
I even managed to glean information from the crew of the sub that picked me up on that godforsaken stretch of beach. The Brit in charge wouldn't give me much, but some of the "other ranks" as they call them, filled me in. This was apparently not the first run they'd made to pick up "Papa Bear's cubs," but I couldn't get anyone to give me an exact number.
The entire chain to England seemed to be organized and efficient, but Hogan's aka Papa Bear's cell seemed to be the most ambitious. I can only speculate as to the number of downed flyers they've moved along this path, but I'd guess at least a hundred.
I was informed upon my arrival in England by no lesser person than a two-star general that the very existence of Hogan's operation is classified, top secret, need-to-know. Even the high command only knows that there is an efficient underground unit in that part of Germany, not who runs it or from where it is run.
He told me in no uncertain terms that I was not to print a word about Hogan or Stalag 13.
My foray with the bomber squadron gave me an even greater appreciation for the risks associated with the job than I thought it would. I never dreamed I would be forced to parachute out of a crashing plane, only to be rescued by POWs and sent back to England by the efforts of German civilians.
This leaves me with the dilemma I mentioned earlier. My experiences gave me enough information to write one hell of an article.
The public has a right to know what is going on in the war in order to make informed decisions, and this knowledge would undoubtedly raise civilian morale, yet making this information public could endanger the lives of those still in Germany. Though I dislike the man, I don't want Hogan or his men to come to harm.
The military is committed to keeping this information from becoming public. The law has been handed down from on high that the very existence of Papa Bear is to be known only to a few. Not even the High Command knows the specifics.
Perhaps that is my solution. I can write the story and inform the public, but not include anything that would help the Germans should they happen upon it. I'll leave out names entirely.
I can see the story now…
security reasons I cannot tell you the exact location. The request
was no names please, but somewhere in Germany an American officer is
operating a sabotage and rescue unit from of all places, a POW camp.
These men saved my life. For me they are among the unsung heroes of
1Lifted almost verbatim from my Media Ethics/journalism/copyediting professor's lectures
2 The war correspondent is my own invention, but the story about the Japanese prisoner is true. It happened where my great uncle was stationed.
3 Lifted directly from the episode "No Names Please."
What the war correspondents went through is partially Hobson's ego and partially extrapolated from http/www dot bbc dot co dot uk/dna/ww2/A3618551 and http/www dot private-art dot com/scrapbook/pyle/gallery.html