It had been three months since Captain John McGraw had miraculously escaped from his stalag and returned to England. Now flying with a new crew; he was too consumed by the day-to-day stress of staying alive to wonder about his time in Stalag 13 and the complaints he had made about its Senior POW Officer.
This evening, his squadron was briefed on a new assignment. Their targets were industrial sites located in the area surrounding the small city of Hammelburg. The squadron was dutifully made aware of the coordinates of a POW camp nearby in order to avoid any Allied casualties.
"Ain't that the camp you were in, Captain?" McGraw's new navigator had heard about the German SNAFU and the Captain's later transfer to an officer's camp.
"Yup, that's the one." A brief thought crossed McGraw's mind and he radioed the squadron leader to warn the rest of the planes that the camp was small and would not be easily spotted. It was during this particular sortie, that Captain John McGraw's short run of good luck would now come to an end. For the second time, he found himself floating down to earth in his parachute, praying for his life and the lives of his crew and wondering where he would end up this time.
"Looks like only one plane took a hit." Carter, Newkirk and LeBeau were on the air raid watch outside the camp perimeter that evening. They counted the parachutes coming down and scrambled to try and rescue as many fliers as they could before they were captured by the patrols.
Out of the crew of six, two had luckily landed close enough to the camp and the three men quickly headed for the wooded area where the chutes had come down. McGraw's gunner had been caught in a tree and was frantically trying to free himself, while the Captain had successfully landed on the ground. Unfortunately, he had caught some flak and was bleeding heavily from wounds in his leg.
LeBeau and Newkirk went to assist the gunner, while Carter headed towards the wounded captain. Hurt and unsure of where he was, McGraw reached for his pistol and pointed it at the man coming towards him.
Carter was, of course, unfazed. This happened constantly. "Easy. I'm here to help you. I'm American. Put yours down and I'll put mine down." For some reason, McGraw believed him and dropped the pistol; then in a fleeting moment, thought that through the camouflage paint, the man looked familiar.
"You hurt, Captain?"
McGraw nodded. "Leg."
"Let's have a look." Carter took out a handkerchief and tied it around the wound. "You think you can stand, Sir? We can't stay here or the Krauts will find us."
"Yeah, I think so."
Carter helped McGraw up and the two of them started moving towards the tunnel entrance, as Newkirk, LeBeau and the gunner caught up.
"Who are you guys?" The gunner asked.
"Just call us the traveler's aid society," LeBeau cracked as they neared the entrance.
"Careful," Carter warned. "Watch the searchlights, get down!" They waited until it was clear and then opened the stump. LeBeau volunteered to go in first to fetch the medic, and the rest followed. They helped McGraw down the ladder and got him into a chair. It was once he was settled, that Newkirk noticed the Captain's tag on his flight suit and realized the man looked familiar.
"Captain? Were you shot down before and sent to a POW camp near Hammelburg?"
Grimacing, McGraw replied, "About six months ago."
"I thought you looked familiar. 'Ey, Andrew, we 'ave a repeater!"
"Gee, that's a first! Boy. Bad luck. Sorry, Sir."
"Excuse me," the gunner interrupted. "Where are we?"
"Under Stalag 13." LeBeau replied. "Wilson's on his way."
"What?" McGraw thought for sure he had heard wrong.
"How many we get?" Hogan had been in the radio room and had suddenly appeared.
"Only two of six tonight, Sir. The rest were picked up," Newkirk answered.
"We can't save everybody." Hogan said quietly. "Good job, guys."
"You mean to tell me we're under a prison camp? Fantastic." The gunner started looking around in astonishment. "You do this often?" He asked.
"As often as we can," Carter replied. "Plus sabotage."
"Carter is too modest," Newkirk said. "We've sent home hundreds of fliers. Escapees as well."
"Sabotage?" McGraw began to look a little pale.
Hogan stared at McGraw. "You look familiar."
"Captain McGraw, Colonel. I was here about six months ago and then I got switched out."
The name and face rang a bell. "You escaped from seven?" Hogan asked.
"Yes, Sir." McGraw said hesitantly.
"Well, you're a little luckier this time. We'll get the two of you papers and civilian clothes, and get you out. Probably be a few days." He had noticed McGraw's injury. "Anyone call the medic?" Hogan asked.
"He's coming." LeBeau replied.
"Good. He'll take care of the leg."
Carter was explaining to McGraw the strange circumstances surrounding the captain's first visit to Stalag 13. "Well, we had to make sure you weren't a plant. Then, by the time we had you cleared, you got transferred out. Normally, we would have ambushed the truck or done something, but I think there was bad weather and maneuvers in the area. Sorry you had to go through that, Sir. But then you escaped and, uh, got shot down again." Carter suddenly stopped talking.
"It's OK." McGraw winced.
"That's it. Done." Wilson put the final touch on the bandage. "Not too bad, but take it easy. You lost some blood."
"The sub can pick them up in three days." Hogan had come back into the room.
"Colonel?" McGraw was attempting to get over his shock and finally found his voice. "All the tunnels? How come…?"
"We don't escape?" Hogan finished his sentence for him. He was used to the question. "We're stationed here."
That explains the no-escape policy, McGraw realized. "No escapes and Klink keeps his job. Right?"
"That's about the size of it." Hogan replied. "You catch on quick."
McGraw suddenly began to feel sick. "I think I may need to lie down."
"Here." Hogan helped the Captain over to a cot. "We've got to go up top and get some rest before roll call in…" Hogan looked at his watch. "4 hours."
McGraw and the gunner were left on their own in the now deserted tunnel. The gunner quickly fell asleep, but McGraw's aching leg kept him awake. In addition, his mind was reeling. How far had his complaints about Hogan gone? Were they quickly squelched by a higher up? They must've been. The Colonel was still here, obviously. Did the Colonel know? No, he couldn't, could he?
The poor, unlucky Captain felt so low, stupid and embarrassed, that he couldn't sleep. But then, it wasn't his fault. After all, the operation had been kept a secret from him. No, he still felt like a toad.
Two days later, the fliers were handed off to the Underground, passed through several safe houses and eventually returned to England. They were debriefed at a different location and left with specific instructions not to breathe a word of how they were rescued or face dire consequences.
Eventually, McGraw's conscience and curiosity got the better of him and he touched base with Major Harrelson. Without explaining why, he asked what had happened with the investigation of Stalag 13's Senior POW.
"I have no idea what happened to that information, but if you want, I'll look into it." A few days later, Harrelson briefed McGraw on what he had found. "Well, I gave it to Colonel Ryan. He took it to General Agee. Agee took it to military intelligence." Harrelson explained.
When McGraw tried to locate General Agee, he was told that the General had been sent to a less desirable location. When he approached military intelligence, he ran into a brick wall. Whoever had been working with the general had also mysteriously been transferred. McGraw may have been unlucky, but he did have common sense. He stopped his investigation and returned to his base before he too found himself sent God knows where.
Hogan had unexpectedly been called to attend an important meeting in London. The risks involved were monumental, but Allied command and his control agents felt they were worth removing Papa Bear from his den for a short while. He assumed correctly that the imminent invasion would be the topic and Hogan accepted another seemingly impossible assignment; divert a bunch of high-level German Generals during the landings. (1)
While Hogan was at headquarters, he insisted on a quick private meeting with General Butler. Still hopping mad over the breach of security during the "Incident," as he and the boys liked to call it, Hogan was determined to finally get his anger off his chest and give someone a piece of his mind, face to face.
"I want to meet with this Hodges fellow." Hogan was seated across from Butler's desk. He had already played with the General's paperweights, checked out the humidor, (he actually thought Klink's was nicer), and when the General stepped out, helped himself to a glass of whatever was in the carafe that was on top of the General's bookcase. "…And whoever it was that gave Hodges the Underground contact information that he passed on to Moe and Larry."
"Moe and Larry? Hogan, that's uncalled for," Butler barked.
"Sorry, Boswell and Garrett. You see, General, not only was our operation compromised, but I have civilian agents working with us that are in precarious positions. We work together and we trust each other." Hogan put an emphasis on the word trust.
"You can't meet with Hodges. He's been transferred." Lucky for him, Butler thought.
"Same. And the person in HQ that gave out the contact information is now working in…"
"The Tower of London?"
"Very funny. You know, Colonel, I'm not Klink. I suggest you remember that." Butler sat back and gave Hogan a stern look. "No, he's been transferred to an air base, somewhere in Scotland."
Hogan laughed. "Nicely done, Sir."
"We weren't too happy, either." Butler stood up. "Hogan, I want to see you back here in one piece, when the war is over. Your men, as well."
"The feeling is mutual, Sir. Am I dismissed? I have a plot to hatch."
"Yes. And Colonel? Good luck. If everything goes well, I expect to see you by Christmas." (2)
Hogan left the General's office and returned to Stalag 13, where he and his men played their part in the Allied invasion of Europe. Boswell and Garrett, who were just doing their jobs, received a reprimand for not properly conducting their own investigation. However, they continued their work for Military Intelligence, but made sure, for the time being, that they stayed away from Papa Bear's jurisdiction. No one ever discovered who had originally started the chain of events that led to the "Incident," and with the war entering its final year, the memories of the "Incident," faded away.
(1) "D-Day at Stalag 13"
(2) Well, we all know that didn't happen. See Battle of the Bulge.