That afternoon, several things happened that would change the operations at Stalag 13, forever, or least until the war ended.
The first occasion occurred when the engineers finally broke through to Barracks two and rigged the bunk entrance. This unfortunately meant that for the rest of the war, poor Kinch would never get any sleep. However, it did make it a lot easier to come and go from the tunnels. In addition, the tree stump pegged as an emergency tunnel entrance and exit was finally hollowed-out, completed, and christened with termite spray. (3) This made it a heck of a lot easier to come and go from camp. The last important item on that afternoon's agenda concerned Lieutenant Carter.
Hogan called Carter into his office. "You wanted to see me, Colonel?"
"Yes, sit down. We have a pick-up time for you, since you're well enough to leave now. Schnitzer will be here in two days." Hogan was choked up. He really was going to miss the kid.
Carter was beginning to choke up. He really was going to miss the Colonel.
"Yes, Sir. I'll be ready. Um, thanks for everything, Colonel." Carter whipped up a perfect salute and turned to leave the office.
Carter turned around. "Yes, Sir?"
"You've been a big help around here. We won't forget what you did for us."
"Thanks, Colonel. You should have enough dynamite left to blow up a few more bridges or maybe derail a train."
Later that day:
Newkirk, LeBeau, Kinch and Carter were sitting around the table in the common room discussing Carter's experiences at Stalag 5 and going over the successful mission of the night before. The three permanent residents of Stalag 13 were also giving Carter a much-needed pep talk. He was, obviously, a little nervous about continuing with his escape plan across Germany, although the prospect of being the first official escapee to use the emergency tunnel was exciting.
Kinch had all of the statistics in his head. "Ninety-eight percent of our escapees make it to the coast with no problem."
"That's true," LeBeau added, trying to be helpful. "Only a few are recaptured. If they're enlisted men, they usually end up back here."
"You'll be fine, mate. Bad luck can't happen twice." Newkirk was in the process of fixing the civilian suit Carter had been wearing. Unfortunately, the jacket and shirt had been torn when the poor Lieutenant was shot.
"I wonder what'll happen to me after I get to England." Carter mused.
"They'll check you out. Ask what base you flew out of, who your buddies were, questions like that," Kinch responded. "Just to make sure you're who you say you are. Then you'll probably be debriefed, given a short leave and reassigned, I guess."
Carter mumbled, "I'd much rather work with explosives." His face lit up. An absolutely crazy idea had just popped into his head. Crazy wasn't the word for it; insane was more like it!
"I could stay here. Help you guys out. Get a real sabotage operation started."
Newkirk looked like he had just seen an alien. "Are you nuts?"
"You're crazy," said LeBeau.
"That sounds a little insane to me, "added Kinch. "Why would you want to be stuck here for the rest of the war?"
Carter's mind was racing. "Well, first of all, you're stuck here voluntarily, aren't you? I mean, you guys could leave if you wanted. Second, I wouldn't have to stay here for the duration, I could just help get the operation rolling, and then the Colonel could think of something and get me out. Right?"
"Well, it's not that simple." Kinch was used to explaining this conundrum to other soldiers. "We have to keep Klink's no escape record intact. We've had some guys, the ones who are trouble or who really don't want to work on the operation, transferred out to other stalags, just to get them out of here."
LeBeau chuckled. "Of course, they never make it to the other stalag."
Kinch continued. "But, it still means forging orders and arranging raids on the trucks. It's risky."
"I don't know," Carter said. "I just think I could contribute more if I was here, that's all."
Carter's bubble had seemed to burst. He got up, excused himself and used the newly opened bunk entrance to head down into the tunnels.
Kinch, Newkirk and LeBeau watched him leave and then stared at each other.
"Well, doesn't that beat all," was all Newkirk could think of to say.
"I think we should talk to Colonel Hogan about this." Kinch was concerned. It wouldn't do to have a depressed Lieutenant taking part in a clandestine escape across Germany; that could be dangerous. No, what was he thinking? Carter was a soldier; an officer for crying out loud! Once he was out, his training would take over and he would make it. Yeah, he would make it.
"Kinch, Kinch!" LeBeau noticed that the Sergeant was lost in thought. "We agree. We should talk to the Colonel."
The three waited a short time for Hogan to return to the Barracks. They immediately cornered him as soon as he entered the hut.
"Colonel? We need to speak with you privately, Sir."
"Sure, Kinch." He led them into his office and closed the door. "All right. What's on your minds?"
"It's about Carter, Sir."
The three men relayed the gist of the conversation that they had shared with the Lieutenant. Hogan took it all in.
Pacing back and forth, Hogan thought and mulled, and mulled and thought. He would stop and almost say something, his men staring at him expectantly. And then, his thoughts would stop in their tracks, and he would continue his pacing.
"I can't ask anyone to do that," he finally said. "Give up his freedom; spending god-knows how long in this hell-hole."
His triumvirate replied in unison, "Yes, Sir."
"And anyway, he's a Lieutenant. He can't stay here. They'll ship him out to an officer's camp."
"And if we start leaving camp to blow things up on a regular basis; well, the odds are we'll eventually get caught and that will mean the firing squad."
"And if things go well, we'll have to get London involved, and they'll start wanting more and more and they'll never be satisfied."
"And the Underground and civilians; I mean, there could be reprisals. All that sabotage in one area. Who knows what the Gestapo will do?"
Hogan stopped his pacing. "All right, we'll do it. Get Carter up here."
Carter left the tunnels and walked over to the Colonel's office feeling like he was headed for a meeting with his old Vice Principal. He knocked, waited for the invitation and opened the door. Hogan was standing by his bunk, while Newkirk, Kinch and LeBeau were seated around the table.
"Come in Lieutenant, have a seat." Hogan pulled up a chair. "I understand you've offered your services to us on a more permanent basis."
Carter was miffed. He had thought he had spoken to the three enlisted men in confidence. He turned to Newkirk and said, "I thought we were having a private conversation, Corporal." He looked back and forth at Kinch and LeBeau and then back to Newkirk. "The three of you sort of made it clear that my plans were out-of-reach."
"I'm sorry, Sir" said Newkirk in a low voice. "We were just worried about you, that's all."
Hogan stepped in. "There's no need to apologize, Newkirk. Carter, my men were doing the right thing. Anything that threatens the safety of our mission, or one of my men, including you, needs to be brought to my attention. Conversely, anything that may help our mission also needs to be brought to my attention."
"Lieutenant, I've thought about your proposal. It's doable. But do you actually have any clue as to what you're getting yourself into?"
"I was at another prison camp, Colonel. One's just like another, I guess."
Hogan ran his hand through his meticulously groomed head of hair.
"This isn't just another prison camp. You've seen what we do here. Look," Hogan pulled up another chair and sat down, "We're stationed here by choice. Everyone here is a volunteer, and is liable to get shot if we have a slip-up. And if we start heading out to pull off more sabotage, those chances will increase. Are you willing to take that risk?"Hogan stopped talking and looked at Carter.
Carter looked at the Colonel and stole a glance at the three other men seated at the table. He had no second thoughts. "Yes, Sir. I'm willing to take that risk."
Hogan smiled, and Newkirk, Kinch and LeBeau were ecstatic.
"Hang on." Hogan halted the celebratory congratulations. "We need to come up with a plan on how to get Carter permanently infiltrated into the camp."
That evening, Hogan put his plan in motion. But first he needed a volunteer.
"Barracks meeting, on the double." Bunks emptied as the men scrambled to follow Kinch's orders. Those lollygagging outside were quickly dragged back into the hut. Everyone settled down and became quiet, and then all eyes turned to Hogan.
"I need a volunteer to escape."
The men looked at each other, hoping that someone would take the bait. They all knew that one of them would be pegged as the unfortunate soul to go under the wire. Past "escapees" were forced to get caught, spend time in the cooler, (until Hogan got them out by sweet-talking the Kommandant), and possibly get shot by an overenthusiastic guard, just to inflate Klink's ego.
"I'm not getting any younger, here." Hogan noticed the unenthusiastic response. "Fine, then. We'll have to draw straws."
All the participants in the lottery grudgingly picked out their straw. Sighs of relief were heard throughout the room as each man realized they had dodged the bullet. Finally, Corporal Evans was the man left holding the shortest implement. He took a deep breath and came to terms with his fate.
"I'm ready, Sir. When do you want me to go under?"
"Oh, you're not going under the wire Evans," replied Hogan. "You'll be leaving us for good… in two days. You get to use the emergency tunnel."
Evans looked at him in confusion.
"You're going home," continued Hogan. "Carter's replacing you. He's our new demolitions man. But we still have to keep the count the same."
It took several seconds for this bit of information to sink in. Of course, once it had, the rest of the men in the barracks all started talking at once. Suddenly, Hogan had more volunteers than he knew what to do with.
The men shut up.
"No one volunteered. Evans drew the straw. He's going." Hogan looked at the stunned corporal. "Unless he'd rather stay, and then we'll do it all over again."
"Um, no Sir. I'm okay with it."
"Good man." And with that, Hogan filled the barracks in on their latest caper.
"Carter, I'm afraid if you want to stay here, you'll have to take a demotion. Trade your bars for stripes." Hogan was filling everyone in on his plan.
"That's a ruddy shame," said Newkirk.
"Too bad," added LeBeau.
"Wait." Hogan said. "I have this all figured out. We'll need a new uniform, and new tags. I'll get Helga to replace Evan's file with a new one that will have Carter's info on it. He's been here for, let's see, five months."
"But, Sir," Carter was beginning to get a little concerned at the complexity of the plan, particularly since it revolved around him; his whereabouts and his rank.
"My parents know I'm a Lieutenant, Sir. All of my letters were addressed to me that way."
"Already been taken care of." Hogan had been on the radio with London earlier and had easily convinced his contact to handle Carter's situation. London was more than happy to oblige in exchange for the expansion into sabotage. "London's handling it. Don't worry."
And London did handle it.
The Red Cross was somehow notified that Carter had been transferred to Stalag 13. This information dutifully got passed on to Carter's family. Unfortunately, and the army was really, really sorry about this, some SNAFU occurred with Carter's records and he was now listed as a Sergeant. Carter's family was politely asked to address his mail to "Sergeant" Andrew Carter at Stalag 13 until the SNAFU could be corrected. Well, of course, all Carter's family and friends really cared about was if their boy was safe; and besides, he was still receiving his Lieutenant's pay, so they readily complied with the army's request.
And with that little bit of paperwork and bureaucracy accomplished, Carter was now ready to take his place among the other enlisted men of Barracks Two.
"Hold still or you'll get pricked." Newkirk was struggling to fit Carter with a new uniform. The Lieutenant was as antsy as a child on Christmas morning. He never kept still. "There you go. What do you think?"
"Fits fine," Carter replied.
"Right, then." Newkirk, as usual, was proud of his quick handiwork. "Go on upstairs - let the Colonel have a look. Don't forget your tags."
Carter went up through the bunk entrance and found Hogan and Kinch sitting around the common room table.
"Sir, what do you think?"
"Not bad," Hogan answered. "Let me have a look at those tags."
Carter handed him the set and watched as Hogan examined them thoroughly. He then handed them over to Kinch who did the same.
Kinch handed the tags back to Carter. "The metal shop did a great job on these, Colonel."
"Remind me to give them a treat, Kinch." Hogan held out his hand. "Carter, I'll take your old tags."
Carter somewhat reluctantly handed over his old dog tags to his new C.O. He put the new tags around his neck and let out a small sigh.
"All right, Carter, you have now been officially demoted to Sergeant."
The next morning, Evans slipped into the tunnels and Carter took his place on line during roll call. Earlier, Evan's footlocker and bunk area were transformed. His bunk now became Carter's. Evan's personal items were removed, and other mementos and goods scrounged from other prisoners were placed in the locker. Guards occasionally inspected the lockers for contraband, and nothing could be left in there that looked suspicious.
And also that morning, another one of Carter's hidden talents came bubbling to the surface.
The fifteen residents of Barracks two shuffled sleepily out the door to assemble for morning roll call. Schultz had become so used to matching names with faces that he no longer needed to look at his clipboard. Every man had his own spot and he, being an astute soldier, would notice if someone was out-of-place. The fact that occasionally, a prisoner's features might change, did not escape him, but as long as he had fifteen men standing outside the barracks, he was satisfied.
Schultz dutifully made his way down the line. He happily noticed that Olsen was taking up his usual place in the back row. Continuing his count, he made his way down the front row, right to left as usual. This morning the men attempted to throw him off; by complaining, broadcasting a running commentary, and tossing out random numbers. Schultz, as usual, was undaunted. If he got thrown off, he would start all over again. Nine, Ten, Eleven… Schultz stopped at number twelve. It occurred to him that something was not quite right. For, standing in Corporal Evans spot, was another person. He was sure of it. He knew what Evans looked like. After all, Evans had been in camp for at least six months. No, this definitely was not Evans. Now, Olsen disappearing and reappearing was something he was used to, but this…
"Something wrong, Schultz?" Hogan asked innocently.
"Colonel Hogan. This man is not Evans."
"This man. Number twelve. That is supposed to be Evans. But, as you can clearly see. That is not Evans. Colonel Hoooggaann!"
Hogan stepped out of the line and walked over to where Schultz was standing. He looked at Carter and then back at Schultz.
"You know, Schultz, you're right. That's not Evans, that's Carter."
"That's always been Carter, Schultz."
"Yeah, Schultz," added LeBeau. "Where have you been?"
"Need glasses, Schultzie?" asked Newkirk.
"I'm hurt." Carter pouted. "Gosh, I've been here five months already and you forgot what I look like." The rest of the men silently applauded his acting ability.
Schultz's head whipped back and forth between the men in line and Hogan. His brain was beginning to ache. Not only was someone other than Olsen missing, but the soldier taking the man's place looked vaguely familiar.
"No, Colonel Hogan. You see," he showed him the clipboard. "It says here, Evans is supposed to be number twelve in line. Now you tell me he's not here, he's Carter. Colonel Hogan , if Evans has escaped, I must report it to the Kommandant."
"Schultz," Hogan put his arms around the portly guard's shoulders,"No one's escaped. You need to count fifteen men; we have fifteen men. Your clipboard's wrong. There never was an Evans. Check the records in Klink's office," he said conspiratorially as he pulled out a large chocolate bar with almonds.
Schultz followed the bar with his eyes. He just knew where this was going. If he went down to the Kommandant's office and checked the records, he was sure he would find records for Carter and no records for Evans. He had learned enough about Colonel Hogan to believe him when he made such a suggestion. He sighed. There was no use. Besides, as Hogan said, he came to count fifteen men and that's what he had found. He retreated and went back to the beginning of the line to count again: one, two, three, four…eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, and fifteen. Schultz stopped momentarily to swipe the chocolate bar out of Hogan's hand.
Schultz then dutifully reported to Kommandant Klink that all prisoners were present and accounted for. The men returned to their barracks, waited for a moment, then they all started talking at once.
"Great job, Carter," said Hogan. "I didn't know you could act."
"I guess we've got to think on our feet in this business, Colonel. Is Schultz always that easy to fool?"
LeBeau laughed. "We've got him eating out of our hand."
"And now the games begin." Hogan tapped the bunk entrance to the tunnel and headed down below. Kinch followed behind him. "Gentlemen, let's see what London has in store for us next."
Tune in next week when our heroes discover they can all speak fluent German and that Carter is a natural at impersonating out of control German officers.
This episode is dedicated to actors Stewart Moss (Olsen) and Jon Cedar (Langenscheidt); those unsung heroes of Stalag 13. They both deserved more screen time.
3. To prevent further tragedy as noted in another tale on this site.