Disclaimer: Hogan's Heroes is owned by Bing Crosby, Productions. No copyright infringement is intended.
This is an alternative ending to "Out the Front Gates." This is not, I repeat, not the official version.
Please read the "Out the Front Gates" first and then get some Kleenex.
Note to readers: This story originally ended after the first scene. It was written while I was in the middle of working on "Out the Front Gates." I actually jotted it down to see if my writing could become more descriptive. I toyed with posting the short version, but after the great response I got after posting "Out the Front Gates", I decided against it. But, I did send it to several people, and they encouraged me to expand the story. So, I did. And then they encouraged me to expand the story…again. So, I did. So, here it is. Warning. It's a tear-jerker.
Warning: Character death.
Newkirk, LeBeau, Carter, Kinchloe and then Hogan walked out of the Stalag through the front gates. They never looked back.
Ten minutes later, from a safe distance, they heard the explosions. The medic riding with them jumped. None of the five former prisoners moved a muscle. None of the five former prisoners made a comment. It was over.
The truck taking them to the airfield started moving. The medic suggested they lay down, as the ride to the airfield could take about an hour. "It's slow going," he said. "The road is torn up and we have checkpoints."
The five men took him up on his offer and quickly fell asleep. He could see they were exhausted and that their C.O. was obviously still sick. He had heard him arguing several times with the camp medic. What was his name? Oh, yeah, Wilson. Wilson had wanted the Colonel evacuated with the first group of soldiers, but the Colonel refused. He wasn't surprised. Officers. He had heard good things about this one, but why did he have to be so stubborn?
About a half-hour into the ride, the medic heard a noise. He signaled for the driver to stop and then he listened again. Shit. "How far are we from the field?"
"About half an hour, maybe."
Oh, God. He moved over to the stretcher. The rest of the men were still fast asleep. He grabbed his stethoscope and placed it on the man's chest. The rattling was obvious. That was the noise he heard. Immediately, he realized his patient, and that's what he now was, was not asleep but unconscious. Grabbing a portable oxygen tank, he placed the mask over his patient's face, begging him to keep breathing. He prepared a dose of penicillin and shot it into the arm and then started an IV. The rattling continued. Finally the breathing seemed under control and the patient slipped back into an uneasy sleep. But now sweat had broken out on his face and he began to shake. The medic grabbed his hand and held on. "Hang on, we're almost there." The rattling started again and his breaths became shallower. The medic began to whisper in his patient's ear. He held on to his hand and the man squeezed back, hard. "I'm here, hang on." Please. The other four men slept on, oblivious to their comrade's distress. There was nothing the medic could do about it. To wake them up, he'd have to leave his patient, and he wouldn't do that. Not now. He didn't want to yell or make noise. He just hung on to the hand. It seemed like an eternity, but it was only ten minutes. He continued talking quietly into the man's ear. Slowly the grip on his hand began to ease ever so slightly and the breathing slowed. The hand then relaxed. The medic gently put it down and checked for a pulse. Nothing. He stared and the tears started flowing down his face. How would he tell the other men their commanding officer had died on the way out of Germany? He had no idea.
The change in motion as the truck arrived at the airfield woke up the four sleeping men. They stirred and stumbled off of the cots and stretchers where they had collapsed an hour before. They yawned, stretched, and worked out the kinks, and then in unison stopped and looked.
The medic had stayed next to Hogan for the rest of the trip. He had removed the IV and placed that along with the oxygen mask on the side. Using a cloth, he gently wiped the sweat off his patient's face and made him look presentable.
"Colonel? We're here." Kinch headed towards the cot. Hogan looked fast asleep. Noticing the oxygen mask, he glanced at the medic.
"He's…he had a problem, on the trip. I tried…he stopped breathing…I did everything I could…I'm sorry."
The men looked at the medic, uncomprehending.
"He's sick? Is he asleep?" Carter said in a frightened voice.
The medic took a deep breath. "I'm sorry. He's dead. In his sleep…I did everything I could." He stepped aside.
The driver of the truck had come around to the back and opened up the doors. The plane waiting to take the last five prisoners out of Germany had landed and was waiting.
Kinch stood frozen. LeBeau, still not believing what he had heard, went over to the Colonel and grabbed his hand. "Colonel? Nous sommes ici. Please." He gently shook the body.
Carter and Newkirk came forward together.
"I told Wilson, we'd take care of him." Carter said. He then collapsed on the floor as sobs overtook his body. Newkirk held the sergeant as he himself tried to control his grief.
The medic jumped off the back of the truck and told the now confused driver and crew of the plane to prepare to transport a casualty. They then stepped back and allowed the four men time to come to terms with what had happened.
The four former prisoners carried the stretcher holding the body of their Commanding Officer on to the transport plane. No one spoke to each other on the short trip to France. They were all lost in their own thoughts. Occasionally, one would wipe the tears streaming down his face. Another would try to stifle a sob. How would they tell hundreds of liberated prisoners and their medic that their Commanding Officer had died on the way out of Germany? They had no idea.
Lucky Strike camp near LeHavre, France.
The C-47 transport made a picture perfect landing in France on a sunny afternoon in late April, 1945. The pilot had radioed ahead and requested an ambulance which was already waiting on the tarmac, ready to transport the four remaining Stalag 13 prisoners to the camp hospital for a medical check-up. The four prisoners exited the plane. Carter was tightly holding on to Hogan's crush cap and bomber jacket. Another truck had pulled up alongside the ambulance. Two soldiers jumped out the back and entered the plane. They then carefully carried Hogan's now covered body to their truck and stowed the stretcher in the back.
"Wait. Please." Kinch said before they could close the doors. "Will we get to see him again? I mean, some of the men, from the camp. They may want to…"
"We'll arrange it, Sergeant. Someone will let you know."
Kinch nodded and joined LeBeau, Carter and Newkirk as they watched the truck drive away. They then took a short silent ride to the camp hospital, which was located in tents situated alongside the runways. Wilson, the camp medic, was waiting in a tent housing the sick prisoners evacuated from Stalag 13 and eagerly watched for the ambulance to arrive. Seeing the truck approach, he left the tent and impatiently waited. Several other prisoners had been visiting the tent, and they joined him.
Carter, still clasping the jacket and cap, exited first. LeBeau followed, then Newkirk and Kinch. Wilson, confused, looked and then immediately knew something was wrong. Standing next to him were the team's main back-up men, Olsen and Baker. They also immediately sensed it.
Wilson stepped forward with a questioning look. He was afraid to speak, but finally managed to ask, "Where's the Colonel?"
Carter's tears wouldn't hold and he walked right past the three men and entered the tent. Newkirk went after him.
"Kinch, LeBeau?" Wilson asked again. "Where's the Colonel?"
"He, he didn't make it." Kinch looked down at the ground.
"Kinch, what do you mean he didn't make it?" Olsen started to panic. "There was fighting? Where is he?"
"No. There was no fighting." This time LeBeau spoke. "He got sick again. On the truck. In his sleep. The medic tried to help, but he stopped breathing. And we were all sleeping." LeBeau was now in shock. "I have to go look after Carter. He needs my help," he said mechanically. LeBeau walked past the three men and entered the tent.
Kinch couldn't look at Wilson. He knew the medic would be overwhelmed with guilt. Keeping his head down, he too entered the tent.
"No. I don't believe it. He was doing better. I checked before I left." Wilson looked at Olsen and Baker. "There were medics still there. It doesn't make sense. I checked."
"Joe, Joe!" Olsen was still reeling, but Baker finally came to his senses. "We have to go in. The other men in there…they don't know. Come on." Baker and then Olsen gently guided the distraught medic into the tent.
Carter and the others had been taken into an enclosed area to be checked over by medical personnel. The doctor had expected to find five tired and perhaps hungry ex-POWs, who needed to be quickly examined and cleared, or maybe ordered to rest overnight. Instead, he found four men suffering from emotional shock. Wilson, Olsen and Baker made their way around the enclosure and exchanged a quick glance with the doctor, who took one look at the medic and sat him down in a chair.
The examining room took up a small space in a front corner of the hospital. There were two tables set up for patients. Carter and Newkirk both hung off the edge of one, while LeBeau sat on the other. Kinch had found a chair and sat, his elbows on his knees, his head in his hands. The doctor had not even started to examine them. He just quietly asked what had happened. The four men had not even noticed the nurse that was standing by, ready to assist. The doctor motioned for the nurse to come over and quietly told her to call the chaplain on duty. He then looked at the waiting men and finally spoke the words they needed to hear.
"There was nothing you could have done. It can happen. And if he had made it here, there probably wasn't anything we could have done, either."
The ex-prisoners recovering in that particular hospital tent were now talking amongst themselves. Only a few were near enough to the door to realize that someone was missing. The speculation was now running in overdrive when the chaplain entered the tent. Now the soldiers began to sit up and take notice. The nurses on duty tried to calm the patients down as they watched the chaplain walk into the enclosure.
It was a private who was resting in one of the beds near the door that remembered who was missing when the four men walked in several minutes earlier.
"Lieutenant?" He quietly and nervously called for his nurse. She quickly came over. "Please, tell us what's wrong. It's the Colonel, isn't it? He's not here."
"I'll check." She walked away and motioned for the doctor, who had stepped aside to make room for the chaplain. The doctor quickly explained what had happened. "The boys need to be told something, Doctor. They're beginning to realize something is wrong." The nurse was concerned for her patients.
And so it was that the ex-prisoners who were recovering in that particular hospital tent were the first ones told of their commander's death. Another chaplain was called in and he quietly moved from bed to bed, informing each man individually, letting the news sink in.
The rest of the ex-prisoners, close to 900 men, remained oblivious. They were currently being housed and under a form of quarantine in a corner of the Lucky Strike Camp, not far from the hospital. The team from military intelligence sent to debrief the men had decided to wait for Colonel Hogan and his staff to arrive before starting the procedure. Several officers, instrumental in handling London's end of the clandestine operation, had flown in as soon as the camp was liberated. Having been informed of the news when the plane had landed, they were now speeding towards the hospital.
General Butler told his driver to stop his car outside the camp morgue. He ordered the driver to wait, then he and Colonel Wembley stepped out and entered the building. The Lieutenant on duty stood at attention and asked if he could be of assistance.
"I understand a POW was recently brought in from the airfield? We'd like to see the body."
"Colonel Hogan, Sir?"
"This way, Sir."
The Lieutenant brought the two officers into a back area and pointed to a table. "We'll be moving him shortly, Sir."
"Thank you, Lieutenant."
Butler removed the sheet. He and Wembley looked for several moments. "What a damn waste."
Wembley commented. "What now, General?"
"We start debriefing the staff, but not today. Tomorrow. The rest…notify MI to begin. Let's get the boys home."
The four members of Hogan's main team, plus Wilson, Baker and Olsen, still sat in the examining area, not sure of what to do next. They had suddenly lost the ability to make a decision. The doctor decided to forgo their physicals, figuring if need be he could grab them another time. What needed to be done was the hard task of notifying the rest of the men from the camp, and settling in the men for the evening. He called over an orderly, briefed him, and requested that he show the four men to the quarters that had already been set up for them. He knew their gear and personal belongings had already been delivered. They meekly followed the soldier to a jeep and took a quick, quiet ride over to a housing area. The orderly mentioned that the prisoners were being housed in several large hangers on the outskirts of the airfield. He pointed out the mess hall and other important buildings, then waited.
"We, uh, need to let the others know." Kinch was the first one to speak.
The other three nodded.
"I can take you over to the hangers if you like. I think the chaplains are headed over there."
General Butler and Colonel Wembley had missed seeing the men at the hospital, so they, along with Wilson, Baker and Olsen, headed for the hangers, as well. Fortunately, they all met up with Kinch and the others before anyone could enter the first building.
"This is General Butler." Wembley made the introductions. He had never met any of the men in person, but they had all spoken over the radio.
"Gentlemen, I can't tell you how sorry I am." The men muttered a thank-you. "Do you want me to make the announcement?"
"No, sir," Kinch replied. "I think we should do it. Let's go." They entered the hanger.
"Hey they're here!" The soldiers saw the men make the entrance and they started gathering around. "How was the explosion, Carter? Anything left? Did you see the nurses? When can we get out of here? Ten-shun!" A barracks chief finally noticed that a General was in the building.
Kinch knew he had to make the announcement. As second in command, it was his duty. He looked at the crowd of close to 300 men and decided he needed to stand on a chair to be heard.
"Can I have your attention? Please. I have some news." The men quieted down and looked at the Sergeant expectantly. "Thank you. I have some news." He looked down at his three buddies who offered him silent encouragement.
"Colonel Hogan…he…um…Colonel Hogan, well you all know he had been sick, before you left camp. He, well, he passed away on the truck on the way to the airfield. He didn't make it." Kinch choked on the last words, jumped off the chair and sat down.
Not a sound could be heard in the building as the men attempted to digest the news and make sense of the tragedy. How could their C.O., who had risked his life every day for three years, die on his way out of camp? The same announcement was then repeated twice more until finally all of Stalag 13's prisoners had been informed.
Butler and Wembley informed the men that their debriefing would start the next day.
Olsen and Baker rejoined the four men back in their tent. The chaplain who had assisted them in the hospital knocked on the flap and waited for an invitation to enter. "I was asked to come over here by the General. We need to arrange for a funeral or memorial service before the men start heading out."
"He'd want to go home." Carter said quietly. "Can they do that?" He looked up at the Chaplain, who nodded.
"Graves registration can probably arrange something. So should we plan for a memorial service?"
The men nodded.
"I'll get on it. I've already spoken with your camp chaplain. He'll be by later to speak with you to discuss arrangements, then."
"Nothing fancy," Newkirk spoke up. "E wouldn't have wanted anything fancy."
"No, I can understand that. Listen, if you need anything, anything at all, the MP's know where to find me." The chaplain left the tent.
Kinch looked at Baker. "Can I talk to you outside?"
"Sure." The two radiomen left the tent and found a place to sit.
"I was wondering something." Kinch did not quite know how to put this. "Who you bunking with?"
"Olsen, Wilson, the rest of the guys from the Barracks. They put us in tents when we got here. I guess since our debriefing was going to take a lot longer. I think that's what they said."
"I'm not following you, Kinch."
"I figured as soon as we got here, things would go back to the way they were. Understand?"
Baker spoke quietly. "When we got here, a quartermaster told us all where to go. He was okay, you know? Remember the first day, after you and the Colonel had that meeting in Klink's office?"
God, it seemed ages ago, Kinch thought. "Yeah."
"The Colonel came back to the barracks. He had me contact London on the radio and they patched him into this camp. I don't know who he spoke with, but I heard a bit of what he said."
"What he'd say, Rich?"
Tears had now started to form in the radioman's eyes. "He said, 'I will personally see to it that anyone who even thinks of separating any one of my men will be miserable for the rest of the war.'"
Kinch didn't respond. He just got up and walked back into the tent.
"We need to get these back with the Colonel's things." Kinch had noticed the cap and jacket that were hanging over a chair.
"I can take you over there, I know where it is." Olsen had been in the camp for less than 48 hours and, true to form, had already discovered every nook and cranny and places he shouldn't have been. The six men filed out and headed over to the area that housed graves registration and the morgue.
"E'd want to be buried in these," Newkirk noted. "Not his dress uniform."
The same Lieutenant that had assisted the General was still on duty. He took the jacket and cap and reassured the men that he would take care of their wishes. "We think the dress uniform should be sent to his family. It 'as all the gov'nor's medals on there." Newkirk had nothing else to say and looked at the other men for help. They too were quiet and some began to shift uncomfortably.
"Would you like to see the body?" The Lieutenant asked. He brought them back into a private area and left them alone to say their final good-byes. Kinch carefully pulled back the sheet as the men crowded around the table. Hogan looked peaceful and surprisingly younger than his 40 years. His hair had been carefully combed and the sweat had been wiped off his face. It took every ounce of personal strength for each man not to audibly cry again in front of their comrades, but the holding back of silent tears was not as easy. They just streamed down their faces.
Wilson, now totally devastated and racked with guilt, started to wander aimlessly around the huge complex. He suddenly backtracked and made his way to graves registration, where he took a deep breath and gathered up the courage to enter the morgue set up to handle deaths in their area of the camp. Unfortunately, as he had discovered upon arriving, graves registration was a busy place. Unlike Stalag 13, many POW's showed up at the camp in critical condition, emaciated, ridden with disease and suffering from abuse.
He entered the room alone and immediately realized that the other men had been there, for the Colonel's jacket and cap were resting on top of the sheet covering his body. He swallowed hard and pulled back the cover, grasping Hogan's left hand, he bent his head and prayed for forgiveness.
Robert Hogan had a relationship with Joe Wilson unlike any other man in camp. Wilson was one of the few men who would stand up to Hogan's stubbornness and was also one of the few men who could match the officer's dry wit. Hogan been initially reluctant at first to get too close to the men who handled most of the operations. It was Wilson who helped Hogan understand how to strike and keep that delicate balance between friend and commanding officer in such a dangerous situation. Wilson also slowly cultivated Hogan's relationship with Kinch, Hogan's second in command.
Both men had been unexpectedly thrown into a command situation for which they had not been trained. Hogan had been a decorated pilot and had commanded a large group of airmen, but he was not quite prepared initially for leading 900 men trapped in a non-active role. Wilson had been a field medic who now found himself running a general practice clinic with few supplies and 900 male patients, most of whom had not passed the age of twenty-five. He supervised a small staff and trained promising personnel in first aid. And Hogan, seizing the opportunity he was given, turned over the day-to-day mundane camp operations to others and formed his traveler's aide society.
Both men were also older than the majority of prisoners, and that too fomented a special bond between them. It didn't matter that Hogan was a career officer, or that Wilson, seeing the handwriting on the wall in the late '30's had volunteered for service. What mattered was a mutual unspoken understanding of their place in the world and how they helped each other cope with it.
And there was one more thing, and as this realization hit the medic as he looked for the last time at a man he had accepted as a younger brother, he began to sob uncontrollably. He was the only allied soldier in camp who had the authority to countermand Hogan's orders and he had not done so. Despite what the doctor had said, and despite the fact that intellectually he knew there was no way to prevent what had happened, his heart told him otherwise.
LeBeau tried to convince Carter to get something to eat, but the sergeant refused. All he wanted now was to be left alone. The two trudged back to their tent and Carter said nothing, he just flopped on the first cot that he came to and rolled over. LeBeau, who now could barely remember that, only days before, he had been annoying his friends in camp with his humming and puttering, waited a moment and then walked over to Carter's cot.
"Andrew?" He gently shook him.
Carter rolled onto his back. "Louis, please leave me alone."
"Non. You've barely said anything since we landed. I'm… I'm worried."
"What do you expect me to say?"
"I don't know," LeBeau admitted. He wished Newkirk was there. Newkirk was closer to the American. But nevertheless, LeBeau was protective of the youngest team member and he felt he needed to do something to help.
LeBeau was no stranger to death. He had of course lost family members due to natural causes, but the war had hardened him. The Frenchman had witnessed his countrymen dying while fighting the Germans, more times than he could count. Unlike many of the others in Stalag 13, death had been up close and personal, before he ever set foot in a plane. The Nazi invasion had seen to that. He had lost close friends and then members of his unit and then instead of avenging their sacrifice, he'd gotten caught and ended up in a prison camp. His hatred of the Boche would have consumed him, he was sure of it, until the day the American colonel had mysteriously shown up in the camp.
LeBeau was one of a group of prisoners who had been in camp the longest. His cooking talents had earned him special favors from Schultz, the sergeant in charge of the guards. Barracks two was a bit bigger and had a good location and LeBeau was moved there as a reward. It was while he was cooking another one of the strudels that he used for bribes, that the new senior POW officer walked in, escorted by Schultz.
"Achtung! This is your new senior POW officer, Colonel Hogan!" The barracks was half empty at the time, but the men readily scrambled and came to attention. Hogan, who actually looked dead on his feet, muttered an at ease. LeBeau quickly ran over to the stove and removed the pan. As the aroma of fresh strudel filled the room, Schultz's eyes never left the corporal or the pan.
Glancing at the Colonel, who stood there mesmerized by the ritual, LeBeau placed the tray of strudel on the table.
Schultz cleared his throat. "LeBeau?"
The corporal shrugged, placed a portion on a plate, covered it and brought it within reach of the sergeant, and pulled it away.
"How about skipping roll call for us tonight, Schultz? Tell Klink we're all here. Give the colonel a chance to rest. Comprends?"
"Cockroach, I can't."
"Sure you can." LeBeau placed the plate under Schultz's nose.
Schultz grabbed the plate. "I'll see what I can do. Colonel Hogan, the Kommandant will see you in his office tomorrow morning after roll call. No monkey business," he warned the rest of the barracks.
Hogan, who had not said a word throughout this entire exchange, walked over to the table, grabbed a chair and sat down.
"Do you make anything besides strudel, Corporal?"
"Coffee?" LeBeau replied. "Oh, pardon-moi, Colonel. Do you want a cup?"
Another prisoner offered, "He's the only one who can make a decent pot, sir. When anyone else does it, it tastes like mud."
LeBeau poured Hogan a cup and offered him a piece of the strudel.
"You have the guard well-trained." He observed.
"Well." LeBeau answered. "Schultz is not hard. You can see what he wants from looking at him!"
Several of the men laughed.
"Uh huh. Talents like that should not go to waste," Hogan commented.
LeBeau observed the officer. It appeared he had perked up a bit and was now thinking. Someone would later say the wheels were turning in his head.
Within weeks, Hogan had discovered that LeBeau was also able to work with the dogs, and he was able to help the Frenchman channel his anger and use his talents to begin his operation and continue to fight. And now the man who had given him something to live for, in fact probably saved his life, because LeBeau realized he would have probably done something stupid and gotten killed in the process, that man was dead. His eyes watering, LeBeau attempted one more time to get Carter to let it out. "Andrew? I need to talk." He said hesitantly. "Please?"
Carter rolled over and sat up on the edge of the cot. After those last horrible minutes on the truck, the sergeant had managed to go through the rest of that day in a robot-like manner. His mind had gone completely blank as he followed along with the rest of the team, going where they went, doing what they or others ordered. He held onto the Colonel's cap and bomber jacket as a child would clutch a security blanket, not truly believing that it was time to let go. And now, as the impact of the day's events finally hit, he was so afraid that he was about to lose it, like a child, he purposely turned away from those who needed his support and now needed to support him.
"I'm sorry Louis," he finally said. "I didn't mean to ignore you."
"That's okay." LeBeau understood. They were all having a tough time and were handling it in their own way.
"I keep hoping that I'll wake up and it will all be a bad dream, you know?"
"Oui. That's normal, I think."
Carter got up off the cot and walked over to the stack of boxes that had been placed in the tent. "I guess I have to go through this stuff now; the papers we saved. He was going to go over them with the generals at the debriefing. We went through them together, you know, in the office, back at camp."
"We can all help with that." LeBeau assured him. "You don't have to do it alone."
Carter silently acknowledged the offer. "You know, Louis, I never thought I'd actually stay the whole time. I always figured eventually I'd leave or screw-up and somehow get kicked out."
"I felt the same sometimes. Once I had the chance." Louis had almost left to go fight with the Free French, but changed his mind. "But I couldn't." LeBeau didn't think Carter had heard him. The sergeant was beginning to ramble.
"Not even when I got that letter."
"You weren't even supposed to stay in the first place," Louis reminded him.
Carter had originally landed at Stalag 13 as an escapee from Stalag five and never left. He volunteered to stay and work on the sabotage end that was just getting started. Hogan was thrilled to have his expertise on hand and when his acting ability was discovered, he became indispensable.
Carter was different from the rest of the team in several ways. Kinch, LeBeau and Newkirk were older and had grown up in cities. Being more experienced, they, particularly LeBeau and Newkirk, barely tolerated officers, while Carter had always been taught to respect authority. Carter had more formal education than the two Europeans, but he never flaunted it. The other three men had all suffered before and during the war, and although he often joined in the good-natured grousing about officers they engaged in, Carter had come to worship his commanding officer. Not that he had put the man on a pedestal, but on the other hand, he had never met anyone like him, either. Hogan may have been a career officer who would throw his rank around when necessary, but he was fair. He was cocky and flippant, but likable. Smart, but willing to listen to other's ideas and Carter had never met anyone who could think on his feet as quickly as Hogan could. He showed appreciation for the men's work, but was not condescending and most important, he was human. Carter had seen the Colonel lose his temper, he'd seen him show fear although he doubted he would have admitted it, and boy, was he stubborn. He knew the Colonel had a sensitive side. He was protective of the female agents they came across and although he had kept his private life hidden, Carter knew Hogan was close to his family.
And with that thought the sergeant let out a soft whimper. Louis jumped. "Andrew? You all right? You were lost there for a minute."
"I was just thinking about," he stopped and looked at his friend. "The Colonel's family, Oh, man." And with that, Carter began to cry. He curled up in a ball on the cot and let Louis hold him until the tears stopped.
Newkirk felt empty. He had returned to the tent after seeing Hogan's body and for some reason he couldn't face his mates. Realizing he needed time to himself, the corporal mentioned he was going for a walk. Where he would end up in the sprawling complex was unclear. He didn't care. Simply the process of putting one foot in front of the other was hard enough. After half an hour of meandering through various sections, Newkirk came across a Red Cross tent. Hearing British accents, he decided to go in, maybe grab a cup of tea. A Red Cross worker immediately approached the corporal, steered him to a table and sat him down.
"Can I get you a cuppa, corporal?"
"Yes. Please." Newkirk immediately placed her accent. He observed her as she walked over to the urn and prepared the hot drink. She was, he thought, in her late twenties. She returned with a cup as well as a plate of pastries.
"Here, it looks like you haven't had a thing to eat all day."
"I haven't.," He mumbled. "Thanks."
She waited a moment, and then introduced herself. "I'm Sandra."
"Peter," he replied. "You're from Liverpool."
She nodded. "London, East End?" She guessed.
"Right." Newkirk broke off a piece of a bun and put it in his mouth.
"I can get a telegram out for you if you'd like." She assumed the corporal had just arrived. He was probably from the camp that was liberated several days ago, but he appeared traumatized. She guessed something had happened and proceeded slowly.
Newkirk's face brightened for a moment. He had totally forgotten about notifying his family that he was in France.
"Here, wait a bit." Sandra got up and retrieved a small clipboard and returned to the table. "Something short, just to let them know you're safe?"
Newkirk gave her the information and then mechanically continued eating.
"Where were you being held, Peter?"
"I'm surprised you found us," she answered. "I heard the lot of you was supposed to stay together, over by the airfield."
He nodded. "It's for debriefing. It's classified," he added.
"I see. You must have been one of the last ones out then?" she asked.
Newkirk, his eyes glistening, again nodded.
She decided to pry a little bit more. "Someone close to you didn't make it?"
Peter looked down at his mug. He started moving his fingers over the rim.
Sandra waited patiently. Sometimes it took some time, but eventually most of the prisoners would let it out. Better than keeping it all bottled up inside, she had been told.
A few moments later, Peter looked up and simply stated, "Our C.O."
"I see." She was curious as to the circumstances but didn't press it. Instead, she attempted to get the corporal to talk about the person. Gently, she asked his name.
"'E was a colonel. Colonel Hogan. I should be heading back," Newkirk said. "I shouldn't 'ave left the compound."
"I'll walk you back, corporal." Newkirk didn't respond, but didn't protest.
It was now past dusk and the huge complex had not quieted down. Soldiers were now returning from the mess halls and making their way towards their tents or the numerous recreation buildings. Newkirk and Sandra kept to the side of the pathway as they headed towards the hangars.
"What was he like, Peter? Your C.O."
"Got every single one of us out. 900 men. Didn't lose a single one."
Sander was shocked. "That's quite an accomplishment. How long did you know him?"
"Just over three years," Newkirk replied. "'E was a pilot. Got shot down and somehow ended up at our stinkin' NCO camp." To this day, Newkirk had no idea how Hogan had ended up at Stalag 13. The colonel never talked about it or what had happened to him after he had been captured. The prisoners had learned not to ask. All they knew was he was shot down during a raid over Hamburg and had shown up at the camp about a month later.
"So he was in charge of all the prisoners, then?"
You could say he was in charge of the camp." Newkirk let out a small laugh. "'E 'ad the Kommandant, that's like the warden," he explained, "Wrapped around 'is little finger, 'e did."
Within weeks, the colonel had organized a more elaborate plan for completing the tunnels and had discovered the remarkable weaknesses in the camp design. Within days, he figured out how to manipulate Klink.
Newkirk then went back to the day he first met Hogan. The Brit was entertaining a group of younger soldiers with some card tricks out on the compound. Schultz was there as well, he recalled. Hogan had come over and was silently observing. The presence of such a high ranking officer slightly rattled the corporal, but he managed to complete the trick and gladly drunk in the applause.
Hogan followed the corporal as he started to make his way across the compound towards the barracks he shared with other British prisoners.
"What else can you do, corporal?"
"Anyone else here?"
"Well?" Hogan waited.
"I 'ave what you call magic fingers. I can pick a pocket and the person will never know. See?" Newkirk expertly grabbed Hogan's wallet. He held it out. Hogan grinned.
"I'll take that. And what else?"
"Safe cracking, accents. I'm a mimic." He started to imitate Churchill and then expertly switched to German . "I 'ad a booking once in London."
"Where did you learn German?" Hogan lowered his voice.
"From another prisoner that's bilingual. We set up classes in secret. Thought it would be useful when we get out of 'ere."
Newkirk found himself transferred to Barracks two, where he joined an assortment of prisoners with unusual talents. It was shortly after that, when they rigged the fencing and reached the woods with their first completed tunnel, that Hogan had actually gone out and brought back a downed pilot. He had already discovered the dog handler's sympathies and that's how the rescue operation was born. And Newkirk had stayed till the bitter end.
Sandra sensed the corporal was perhaps reminiscing. She waited patiently for him to speak again.
"'E didn't have to stay. 'E had his chances to leave." Realizing he had divulged too much, Newkirk stopped talking.
"Sounds like Colonel Hogan was a good officer," she commented, "Although, being the only one in camp, he had to be."
"I suppose." Newkirk thought back. Hogan wasn't a saint. None of them were. He could be impetuous and stubborn. He used his rank when he needed to. And his over-planning. Newkirk let loose a small grin as he recalled the famous balloon incident. Of all the cockeyed schemes the colonel had come up with, that had to be the looniest and one of the most dangerous as well. No one dared to refuse to play along and miraculously they pulled it off. But Hogan had also put their safety above his, no matter what, even at the very end.
Newkirk was positive Hogan's own stubbornness and loyalty killed him at the end.
"'E should've left." Newkirk looked at the Red Cross worker. "'E insisted on staying. 'E wouldn't leave until everyone was out."
Sandra sensed the corporal was ready. She steered him to a bench where they sat down. "Can you tell me what happened, Peter?"
Newkirk looked down at his hands and began to explain. "'E was sick. A lot of us were by the end. 'E kept going. We thought 'e was better. Even our medic caved in and let him stay. And then," Newkirk stopped.
"We were sleeping. The four of us. His team on the truck. We was sleeping on the truck on the way out." Newkirk started to sob. Sandra put her hands around him.
"He died on the truck, didn't he?" She understood. The corporal had not only lost a respected C. O., but he was suffering from guilt. In between sobs, Newkirk told what happened. After several minutes, he quieted down.
"Miss, I think I should get back to me mates."
"All right." They walked back to Newkirk's tent.
"Peter, I need to get back, this is a restricted area," she explained. "I'll be on duty tomorrow, at the same place, if you need anything." She smiled.
He wiped his eyes with his sleeve, thanked her, and headed into the tent.
After walking Baker and Olsen back to their tent, Kinch went in search of Wilson. He was concerned about the medic's state of mind. He finally found Wilson in the mess hall, seated at a table, staring at a cup of coffee.
"Hey." Kinch said.
"You eaten anything since breakfast?" Wilson asked.
"Go get something."
Kinch walked over to the line, grabbed a sandwich and returned to the table.
"Here you can have this. I haven't touched it." Wilson slid the coffee mug over.
Kinch started to eat the sandwich. He didn't even look to see what kind it was.
"You were all over at the morgue." Wilson said. "I saw the jacket."
"It was in our tent. Carter was holding onto it." Kinch started running his fingers over the rim of the mug. "We figured he should be buried in it. The cap, too. Better than the dress uniform."
Wilson agreed. The two men stayed silent until Kinch finished the sandwich.
Kinch finally spoke. "I have to plan the service, Joe. I don't know what to do. And then there's the debriefing tomorrow."
Wilson looked at his watch. "It's been about, what, 5 hours since you got here? Here's what I would do. Go back to the tent and stay there. You'll need each other tonight. Worry about the rest of the stuff tomorrow." He stood up. "That's what I'm doing."
"You all right, Joe?" Kinch asked with concern.
"I'm going over everything in my head, over and over. What did I miss? Was there anything I should have done?" He shook his head. "It's not helping, but…" Wilson shrugged.
"We're all doing the same thing. If you had seen us on that truck," Kinch recalled the scene. "Look, I'll walk you back. Olsen, Baker, the rest, they're taking it hard."
"Yeah, I should get back." Wilson was sharing their tent with the rest of the residents of Barracks two.
Kinch dropped Wilson off and headed home. Although Wilson had advised putting off plans for the service until the next day, the sergeant still had the task on his mind.
"Kinch. Have a minute?" Hogan popped his head out of his office. He had been catching up on paperwork. There had been a lull in the action and the barracks was empty. Kinch had just come up from the tunnels, where he had been fiddling with the equipment.
"Not doing anything at the moment." He smiled. The two men had a tendency to be a little less formal when they were alone.
Kinch walked into Hogan's office.
"Close the door." Hogan looked a bit uncomfortable and Kinch wondered what was going on. He waited patiently for the colonel to speak.
"Look, I hate to bring this up, but after what happened last week..."
"Last week? You mean with LeBeau?"
"Yeah." The Frenchman had been shot; grazed, actually. And it scared the dickens out of every one. Up until then, the unit had miraculously escaped injury.
"Yeah, with LeBeau. We've been lucky, really lucky." Hogan said.
"I know," Kinch replied.
"I need to tell you something." And Hogan proceeded to sit Kinch down and go over the what ifs. Now, Kinch already knew the evacuation plans and the codes. The team knew how long to wait before leaving if one of them was captured. They knew where the cyanide was hidden and they all knew the priority was the safety of the rest of the prisoners. But they never had gone over the personal details.
That afternoon, Hogan showed Kinch a hiding place he didn't know existed. In addition to vital information about the operation, the colonel had hidden personal items. Family pictures, letters, children's drawings, homemade gifts. Kinch never asked why Hogan had been so secretive. He assumed he had his reasons.
"Look, if something happens, can you see that this all gets back home?"
"And my dress uniform. I hate wearing that, you know. But my mother," Hogan laughed. "She loves it. Send that, too."
"Nothing fancy." Hogan stopped talking and said. "Well?"
"Yes sir," Kinch said quietly. What else could he say?
"Good!" Hogan sprung up. "Glad that's over with. Hate dealing with it, but it's got to be done." He changed the subject. "Radio working?"
Kinch answered, "Gave it a bit of a tweak."
"Want to toss a baseball?" Hogan's eyes twinkled. "Too nice outside to stay in here."
"Yes, I would love to!"
Kinch stopped on his way back to the tent. He recalled the conversation as if it were yesterday. Hogan had opened the secret compartment several days ago and after burning the documents, he pulled out some of his family pictures and the drawings from his niece and nephews and shown them around. He then carefully packed them in his footlocker, along with his first set of wings, and his dress uniform. The locker was now down in grave's registration. Suddenly, Kinch had an idea on how to handle the service. Although his eyes were now tearing, he smiled to himself as he entered the tent.
Newkirk had returned from his walk and looked up at Kinch as he entered. "You okay, buddy?" Kinch asked.
"Cleared me 'ed," Newkirk replied. LeBeau and Carter had fallen asleep, but woke up when the tent flap opened. For the first time in hours, the four men were now alone, together.
"I've been thinking about tomorrow," Kinch said.
"The service." Newkirk stated.
The men had informed the camp chaplain that the Colonel wouldn't have wanted anything fancy, but they knew they had to come up with something. The chaplain let them know it was all right to think about it and that he would check back with them sometime the next day. All they knew was that because they were all still quarantined and that the operation at Stalag 13 was still strictly classified, the service would be closed to all outside personnel.
"I had a talk with the Colonel a little while back," Kinch explained. "He wanted to talk about, well, what if. You know. I know he figured something could happen on a mission or in the camp and he wanted to make sure some things would be taken care of."
"Like what?" Carter asked.
"He had a secret hiding place. I didn't even know it was there. The stuff is in his footlocker. He packed it the other day. Remember, he showed us those drawings."
The men recalled the pictures.
"He asked me to make sure the stuff got sent back."
"What else, Kinch?"
"His wings, his dress uniform." Kinch let out a small laugh. "He hated it! You know? He said his mom loved the way he looked in it. You know, he actually said nothing fancy."
"And that was it. Then he popped up and asked if I wanted to toss a baseball around. Just like that."
"I think you should tell that story, Kinch. At the service." Carter suggested. "It says a lot."
"Yeah, I was thinking about it. You guys got anything? Louis?"
"We met over strudel."
"With Schultz? I remember you telling me that."
"The gov'nor and I met over a card trick. In the compound." Newkirk looked at Carter. "Andrew, you got something?"
Carter shook his head. "I can't."
"You don't have to get up there," Kinch reassured him.
"I should," Carter replied. He started thinking. "You know the Colonel put some pictures in his footlocker. We were going through all of the photographs back in his office the other day. We found one of the group. He told me to take it, but I said he should have it. There was another from when the USO girls were in camp, and you two and the Colonel dressed as women."
"He kept that?" Newkirk asked.
"Yeah. I wonder what he did with it?"
"Probably in the footlocker with the other stuff."
"That's going on to his parents," Kinch finished the thought.
The men mulled that over.
"Nothing we can do about that now," Kinch added. He asked Carter if he wanted to bring up the photos.
"No." He couldn't think about that afternoon. It was too painful.
"Talk about you, Andrew," LeBeau suggested.
"Oui. You stayed when you were all set to go."
"After Mary Jane…?"
"No, remember we talked about that earlier. When you first came. I know you said you never thought you would stay the whole time, but you first had to make the decision to stay in the beginning.
"He's right Andrew." Kinch prodded him. "Why?"
"I don't know. I never thought about it. I guess I just did. No, I didn't. I had to. There was something there. I felt it. The feeling that it was right." Carter had been pacing and now stopped and sat down. "Inspiration, I guess."
Newkirk slapped him on the back. "Can you explain that at the service? That's really good."
"I'll try, I guess."
"Well we have something at least," Kinch finally said. The other three murmured their agreement. Then they looked at each other, knowing they had to face tomorrow, but for now they all felt lost. A feeling being shared throughout the rest of their unit, housed in a small area of the camp.
"I need to go through these documents with the General tomorrow," Carter reminded himself out loud.
"We'll all do it together," Kinch said. "I think we should get some sleep."
The four men trooped in together to see General Butler and Colonel Wembley the next morning. Butler had expected only Carter and raised an eyebrow, but said nothing. Wembley finally invited them to sit down and spoke.
"In light of what's happened, we're going to have to reevaluate how to handle the debriefing. But our first priority is to release the rank and file."
"We'll need more names," Butler added. "Who else was really involved? We'll need to speak with those men personally. I assume you can provide us with that information?"
"Yes sir." As Hogan's second in command, Kinch was chosen the designated speaker for the group.
"Good. The sooner we can pull them in, the quicker the rest of the men can be processed. Here's how it's going to work."
Kinch, Carter, LeBeau and Newkirk spent the rest of the morning working closely with Wembley. The documents were quickly packed up for shipment back to London. Although many of the prisoners had been down in the tunnels, digging, or working with forgeries or metals, the command was mostly interested in the men who participated in sabotage and rescues. The men pulled out were the rest of Barracks two, Wilson, the barracks chiefs and several engineers. Interviews were conducted with them over the next several days. The rest the prisoners were processed after signing an agreement not to reveal anything about the operation. Now they had to wait for a troop ship.
Hogan had planned on continuing on to London, but now the men on his main team would be making the trip. But first, they had to get through the memorial service.
After a few words from the camp chaplain, Carter nervously took the stage. "Some of you may not know this," he began, "but I didn't start out at Stalag 13. You see, I got myself out of Stalag five and headed towards Hammelburg, like I was told. I was picked up by the traveler's aide society, as Colonel Hogan liked to call it, and, well, I was supposed to be sent out in a few days. Obviously that didn't happen. You see, I had the chance to talk with Colonel Hogan for a while down in the tunnels. I don't remember what we talked about really. Different things I guess, but I mentioned something about explosives. Back then, the sabotage was a hit or miss kind of thing. Mainly, the underground was doing it, you know. Well, he, the Colonel, got this look in his eyes and the next thing I knew I was helping out with a small job and then I never left. I could have, in the beginning, anytime. I mean I wasn't there officially. But I didn't. There was something that made me want to stay. And all of you, all of us saw it. We could've left. Sure, you could say it was too risky to leave, or what would be left? But I don't think that was it. Sometimes a man is followed blindly for the wrong reasons. That's why we're here, isn't it? But a man who does not set out to be followed, will inspire the right kind of loyalty. Loyalty that will inspire 900 prisoners to stay locked up in a prison camp when they could've left. The loyalty that convinced all of you to risk your lives every day for a cause. I don't know if Colonel Hogan ever realized it or understood that, but then, those types of men usually don't see themselves like that do they?" Carter stopped at that point. Feeling he could no longer continue, he left the stage.
LeBeau, Wilson and Newkirk said a few words and then Kinch walked up to finish the service. He was having a rough time. For two days, he had managed to hold himself together. As much for the other guys as for himself. He was unsure if he would be able to finish this. After taking a breath, he recalled his conversation with the Colonel and how he'd saved and hidden away the pictures and other personal items. "It's important to realize an officer is also a man, a person who is more than a commanding officer, a man that came with a life and a family back home. Thinking back, it was hard to realize that, because like it or not, he was always looking out for us and every one of you. I know you were his first priority and look, you all made it." That was all Kinch had to say. He quickly left the podium and went back to his seat. It was at that point that he finally let the tears fall.
General Butler dismissed the men and within a week, most of them boarded a troop ship. Hogan's casket, as well as those of other POWs from others camps that did not survive, were on the same ship. Kinch, Carter, LeBeau and Newkirk were taken to London and then finally released. They would later meet up with some of the other residents of Stalag 13 again at their C.O's memorial service in Arlington, several months later.
It was here that they discovered the man who had spoken so little about his private life had a family. Parents, a married sister. A niece and two nephews. Cousins. Former classmates from West Point were also in attendance, as were soldiers and civilians representing various nationalities. It was several months after the end of the war and now the secrets of Stalag 13 were slowly leaking out.
Wilhelm Klink and his guards were fortunate in that the battalion that liberated Stalag 13 was made up of soldiers who had not seen any of the other camps, so that when it came time to transport the German prisoners, they were treated reasonably well. Klink found himself a prisoner in a huge facility overflowing with recently captured German soldiers. However, Colonel Hogan had been true to his word, and the former Kommandant was briefly questioned, and then basically left alone. After the war, Klink was eventually returned to Germany and found himself a victim of the housing shortage. However, he was able to quickly secure a position as a translator with the occupation forces in Frankfurt, where he shared a home with his brother's family and his mother.
A letter was waiting for him when he arrived home one evening.
"Who is it from Wilhelm?" His family was curious, because the handwriting appeared feminine.
The letter was postmarked in Hammelburg. "Oh, it's from my former secretary, Hilda." Klink was relieved to see she had survived the final days. He began to read.
17 September, 1945
I wanted to send you this letter to let you know that I am safe. Both my family and I made it through the last days with no injuries and a home, so we are most grateful. I hope you and your family are also well. The Americans eventually took over the old Gestapo headquarters and they kindly helped me locate your new address. You may be interested in knowing that there is virtually nothing left of the Stalag. The buildings were all destroyed after the prisoners left.
There is another reason why I am sending you this letter, Kommandant, and unfortunately it is to inform you of some sad news. I was recently told by a reliable source, that Colonel Hogan did not make it home. As you may recall, he had been ill during the final days before liberation. Although he improved, he suffered a relapse and apparently passed away on the truck leaving camp that was to take him to the airfield. I do know that his men were with him at the time and hopefully that offered some comfort. I was terribly shocked by this news and I did ask for confirmation from the officers at the American headquarters.
I do recall that one time you confided in me that you thought that if you and Colonel Hogan had not been enemies, that perhaps you might have been friends. Perhaps he felt the same.
Please forgive my forwardness in contacting you, but I thought that you would have liked to have known.
"Wilhelm, something wrong? In the letter. Bad news?"
Klink had not said a word. He just collapsed on the sofa.
"What, Mother?" He looked up and saw the concern on his mother's face. "Yes. It's from my former secretary. Do you remember the senior POW officer I told you about?"
"Colonel Hogan?" His mother had heard numerous stories and had seen the American's photo.
"He's dead." Klink was stunned. He couldn't believe it. Not even killed in action, but died on the truck on his way out of the country. It was so ironic it seemed unreal.
"I'm sorry, Wilhelm." His mother knew her son had respected the American officer. "Was he killed in the fighting? I thought the fighting was over and he would have left the camp."
"No, Mother. He was sick." One of countless millions. Another casualty of the damn war.
Heidelberg, May, 1946
Hans Schultz frequently read the Stars and Stripes he often found lying around town. Today, he managed to find several issues that had been left on a café table in the center of the city. He had some time to kill before he needed to return to his recently reopened factory. After ordering a coffee and strudel, he settled down and began leafing through the papers.
A blurb on one of the inside pages quickly caught his attention. It was a listing of military men recently awarded the Medal of Honor and one name stood out. Colonel Robert E. Hogan.
Colonel Hogan! Schultz was not surprised. He knew more about the "monkey business" in camp than he had let on. He often wondered how many people Hogan and his boys had smuggled out of Germany. A word next to Hogan's name confused him. He could not translate it. "Posthumous." There was an American seated at the next table and Schultz approached him.
"Excuse me, Sir, could you please tell me what this means?" He pointed to the word next to Hogan's name.
"That? That means after death."
The man noticed Schultz's confused expression.
"Here. This Colonel must have been killed in the war, but he did something really special. He'd have to, to get this award."
"Killed?" He was not killed. That definitely was not correct. Schultz did not want to let it be known that he had been a prison guard. He thanked the gentleman and sat down at his table. He then changed his mind. No longer hungry, he left his food on the table, but took the paper with him, now determined to find out what had happened.
Schultz was not the only German to see the notice in the paper. Klink had also seen it while at work. The word posthumous did not confuse him. He knew what it meant and he already knew about Hogan's death. What he could not figure out was why Hogan had been awarded the medal. He pondered this for several days and then finally got up the nerve to go to his supervisor. "He was my senor POW officer."
"Well, what did he do before he was captured? Do you know?"
"Yes. Commander, 504th Bomber Group."
"That may have something to do with it. I'll ask around and see what I can find out." Klink's supervisor quickly found more than he had bargained for and had no idea how to break the news to the former prison Kommandant.
Carter and Olsen had traveled to Washington to be present at the ceremony and were warmly welcomed by Hogan's family.
"It doesn't seem right that the rest of the guys aren't here, Andrew." The two men were trying to avoid the reporters.
Carter had a vacant expression on his face. He was recalling the horrible day, just over a year ago. "What? Oh, right. I think the Colonel would have been embarrassed by this, don't you?"
Olsen agreed. "You know, I never thought we'd be declassified so fast. Too many leaks, I guess."
"Bound to happen. Nine hundred men, all those fliers we rescued, and that damn reporter, Hobson." Carter noticed some members of the press were heading towards Hogan's parents. "Come on, Brian. They need a break."
Klink's supervisor in the occupation office decided the best solution was to play it straight. He took the information he had discovered and informed the former Kommandant of what he knew. The operation was now out in the open and while not all details had been revealed, it was enough to know that the former Kommandant had been duped. Otherwise he wouldn't have asked. Although, the American couldn't help but wonder… He handed Klink a short report.
Klink showed no reaction, thanked the man for his time and assistance, and then left the office. Returning to his desk, he took a seat and reread the report.
'At tremendous risk to himself and his men, Colonel Robert E Hogan initiated and commanded a sabotage, espionage and rescue unit operating clandestinely from a POW camp located in the heart of Germany. Over three years, the unit rescued over seven hundred downed fliers, escaped prisoners, defectors and Jewish refugees, who, with the help of the underground, made it to Allied territory. In addition, the unit carried out numerous sabotage and espionage operations, which are still classified. Because of this work, it is believed that countless lives may have been saved and that the unit may have helped to shorten the war in Europe.'
The information was actually too much for Klink to digest at once. So he put it aside and went back to work. A short while later, his nerves began to eat away at his stomach and thoughts began to overwhelm his synapses. What if word got out that he had been Kommandant? Nazis had been purged and the country was now facing trials and repercussions, but there were still loyal members of the Third Reich hidden throughout Germany and the world, for that matter. He was beginning to be frightened for his life, not to mention his reputation.
His reputation! Now that was a joke. He had easily found work due to his reputation as a respected but humane prison warden. Well he wasn't the only one fooled. What about that idiot General Burkhalter? He kept throwing opportunities right into Hogan's lap. And the guards? Bribed, probably.
Hogan had played him like a violin. And then Klink thought back to everything that had happened in the camp while the Colonel was in charge. No successful escapes. On whose orders? Hogan's obviously. Trips into town. Dinners with generals. Repairs on the car that never seemed to work. And he had fallen for it. Or had he?
And now Klink fell right into the trap that Hogan had set for him years ago. For, although the war was over, Klink had not changed. He was not as frightened or as fawning with his superiors as he once was, for he was now working for a beneficent bureaucracy, but he still possessed a sizable ego. He sat at his desk and began to convince himself that he had willingly assisted the American Colonel with his operation by looking the other way.
A co-worker approached the desk, interrupting his thoughts. "Wilhelm, there's a visitor downstairs that wishes to see you. Says he was a guard at your camp. Your Sergeant at Arms?"
Schultz? Klink wondered what he was doing here. He had not seen the Sergeant since they were repatriated months ago. He hurried downstairs. Schultz looked the same, except now he was dressed in a business suit.
"Schultz, what brings you to Frankfurt?"
"Information, Kommandant. I thought since you worked for the Americans, you might know something about this." He handed Klink the clipping from the Stars and Stripes.
Klink sighed and then offered Schultz a seat on a bench in the lobby. "Yes, I saw the same notice. The Medal of Honor. He was…"
Schultz interrupted. "No, not that. I know about that. I'm sorry Kommandant. What happened to Colonel Hogan?"
"Oh, he died on the truck as they were leaving camp. He never made it to the plane. He was with…"
"My boys?" Schultz wiped his eyes.
"This is terrible, just terrible." Schultz looked down at the ground. He was crying.
"Another casualty of this awful war." Klink waited a moment, then handed him the report. "Schultz, did you know about this?"
"Not all. Some. More than some. A lot."
Not surprised, Klink asked about the rest of the guards.
"Langenscheidt knew quite a bit. Some of the guards looked the other way. They knew which ones. They even had the dogs trained." Schultz let out a small laugh. "Kommandant, I don't think Colonel Hogan ever meant for you to find out what really happened. I think he would have told you, otherwise, after the camp was liberated." The former guard stood up. "Kommandant, I would like to send a letter to his family. Is there any way you can help me do that?"
Klink nodded and escorted the guard upstairs. "Here, Schultz, if you send it to this address, they will forward it to his family, I'm sure."
"Thank you, Kommandant." They shook hands and, as Schultz headed out the door, he turned and left Klink with a last thought. "Kommandant, don't think of what Colonel Hogan did to you. Think of what he did for others. Think of what he did for Europe."