(stands for: Fouled up beyond all recognition)
This is the sequel to the story SNAFU (situation normal all fouled up) in which the MI agents, Boswell and Garrett are first introduced. Let's just say their interaction with Colonel Hogan was a bit unpleasant. I strongly suggest that if you have not read SNAFU, please do so. It is only seven chapters and if you read it, this story will make a lot more sense.
"Colonel? We have an urgent message from London." Kinch had just come up through the bunk entrance and interrupted a not-so-scintillating game of dominoes.
"Thanks." Hogan read the piece of paper and gave it a once over. "Hmmm. It looks like we're getting some important company."
"How's that, sir?" Carter asked as he shuffled the tiles.
"Two agents. It's been arranged for them to be sent here as prisoners. We are to give them cooperation and whatever they need to complete their mission." Since the invasion, missions were constantly being adjusted, more prisoners were being captured and processed, and Hogan's team was working harder than ever. They were constantly on their toes. "Whatever it is, it's got to be top secret for them to go to such lengths."
"How will we know who they are? We're getting new prisoners in here almost daily," Kinch reminded Hogan. "London didn't send a recognition code."
Hogan reread the message. "You're right Kinch. Notify London we acknowledge the orders but we need a recognition signal. Scramble the message."
Kinch went back down below and shortly thereafter, returned. "Colonel. London says no code is necessary. We'll know."
One week earlier
Todd Boswell and Mitch Garrett, who were now assigned to the OSS, were receiving a briefing that was giving both of them a sinking feeling in the pit of their stomachs. They waited for their department head to finish his instructions and impatiently pointed out a few of the initial problems that they could foresee with the plan.
"With all due respect, sir," Boswell began. "We've already been seen by the Kommandant of the stalag and if he recognizes us, well," Boswell drew his hand across his neck.
"Not to mention blowing Hogan's operation, as well," Garrett added helpfully.
"Gentlemen. Klink has, on numerous occasions, not even recognized his own prisoners disguised as various German agents. I'm sure you two can come up with appropriate disguises."
Both agents' moods deflated.
"There's another thing, sir." Garrett was loath to bring this up, but he drew upon his nerve and started to explain. "Colonel Hogan. He won't be too happy to see us again, to say the least."
"I know about your past history, gentlemen." The director had been briefed as well. "We are taking that under consideration. Colonel Hogan's methods may be a bit unorthodox. But, he's a good soldier. He follows the chain of command. This mission is too important. You'll work together. Is that clear?" He waited for his agents' affirmative responses and then dismissed them.
"I got a real bad feeling about this," Boswell murmured to his partner, as they left the building.
"Take a number," Garrett replied, as he contemplated updating his will.
Several groups of new prisoners arrived over the next few days, but none of them appeared to be the agents Hogan were expecting. His staff was kept busy vetting the new arrivals, as well as rescuing airmen who were shot down on the nightly raids. Three days after receiving the message, a truck pulled into the compound. Alerted by prisoners milling around outside, Hogan and Kinch moseyed closer to Klink's office, and waited.
As the doors opened and the prisoners left the truck, Hogan, at first, could not believe what he was seeing.
"Kinch, tell me I'm not seeing what I think I'm seeing."
Kinch, who was trying not to stare, finally found his voice. "Is that…?"
"Moe and Larry," Hogan whispered. He then looked up at the sky. "What did I do to deserve this? "
"Do you think Klink will recognize them?" Kinch was still dumbfounded, and also ready to start evacuating as soon as Hogan ordered it.
Hogan got a better look at the two men, who were deliberately trying not to make eye contact. It was clear to him who they were, but on a closer look, they were disguised. Their hair color was different. One was wearing glasses and their uniforms were sized too big in order to make them appear thinner.
"Klink didn't recognize Carter dressed as a Gestapo agent, a doctor or Hitler," Hogan recalled. "I doubt he'll remember these two. But," he continued. "I'm heading in."
Kinch started to laugh.
"What's so funny?"
"Their rank, Colonel. They're privates."
Hogan paused for a moment and grinned. "Sergeant, it's time for little taste of basic training!"
"You're truly evil, sir."
"I know." Hogan chuckled.
"Excuse me, Kommandant, Colonel Hogan is here." Hilda glanced at the two new prisoners now standing somewhat at attention in front of Klink's desk. She recognized them immediately, but gave no indication that she had seen them before, since Hogan had winked at her.
Klink was so busy processing prisoners lately that he had begun to disburse with his usual speeches and left it to his staff and Hogan to show the prisoners the ropes.
"Colonel Hogan. Privates Garrett and Boswell. You two; this is your senior POW officer."
"Stand at attention, Private!" Hogan barked at Garrett, who was slightly slouching. "This is still a military outfit."
"Yes, sir," Garrett mumbled.
Hogan walked up to the two men. "Where is your salute, soldier?"
"Sorry, Colonel, sir." Boswell saluted as Klink, utterly shocked at Hogan's behavior, stood there, momentarily frozen. Hogan was usually pretty easygoing and, unless a new prisoner was obviously a behavior problem, he was cordial to the new arrivals.
"Colonel Hogan. Do you know these two?" Klink asked.
"Oh, no, sir. Things are just getting slack around here. Have to keep things under control." Hogan grabbed the chair, sat down and plopped his feet on Klink's desk. "Sit down, sir."
Klink, still confused, sat down. Hogan sat up straight, leaned in and spoke softly. "Between you and me, sir, us officers – we've got to keep these enlisted men on their toes, if you know what I mean." Klink didn't notice that Hogan had deftly removed a cigar from his humidor.
Boswell and Garrett, who were now seething, saw everything. Hogan caught Boswell rolling his eyes.
"Something disturbing you, Private Boswell?"
"No, sir!" Boswell shouted.
Garrett unsuccessfully held back a laugh.
"Drop and give me twenty!" Hogan ordered.
"Colonel Hogan. These prisoners, they need to be processed." Klink was now so befuddled, he couldn't remember if they had been assigned to a barracks.
Hogan pointed to Garrett and then the ground. "Twenty! Sorry, sir. Tell you what. You've got a lot on your plate. I'll deal with it."
That was fine with Klink. He glanced at his records, stammered Barracks 5 and 11, and dismissed the men. Hogan, who was trying not to laugh, pulled Garrett up by his collar.
"Let's move." He turned and offered Klink a true salute. "Thank you, sir. Come on, double-time! Hup, two, three…"
Prisoners and guards stared in amazement as the two privates left the Kommandanteur, and then ran double-time towards Barracks two. Hogan, playing drill sergeant, was right behind them and was clearly enjoying every moment of their distress. A group of men playing volleyball stopped their game, midstream, to watch.
"That's odd," a corporal commented.
"Wonder what those guys did?" Another quipped.
"Must've been something pretty bad," another man noted, "to have Colonel Hogan barking at them like that."
"I reckon this must be the first time I've ever seen Colonel Hogan run inside the camp, I mean," the server holding the ball, said.
They watched until Hogan, Boswell and Garrett disappeared into the barracks and then returned to their game. The men in the barracks had no clue or idea who the prisoners were, just that they were on the way. Kinch, who had seen them, returned to the barracks, but steadfastly refused to divulge any information, except to reassure them that Colonel Crittenden was not involved. So when the two agents, who were now out of breath, followed Hogan into the barracks, most of the men were temporarily dumbstruck. Within seconds, those that had been involved with Hogan's rescue after he was held by Garrett and Boswell, and the rest, who had all seen the military intelligence agents in the tunnel, recognized them. Their reaction was as Hogan had anticipated.
"Leave it to the army to send these two blokes out here again," Newkirk complained angrily.
"Thought you would have been fired," LeBeau muttered.
Carter just stood there with his mouth hanging open, while Baker chided Kinch for keeping the secret. Olsen got off his bunk, walked deliberately close to the pair, glared and then walked away.
"Colonel, I suppose you have a good explanation for our little boot camp demonstration," Boswell demanded.
Hogan looked him in the eye. "Explanation? Well, it's like this… No. No, I have no explanation." He grinned, grabbed a chair and sat down. "LeBeau? How are we set for bribes? I want these two to skip the normal processing. Klink's up to his neck in new prisoners, plus I kind of confused him, so he let them out a little quickly."
LeBeau walked over to a shelf, and checked the contents. "Leftover beef stroganoff, Colonel. Bribing Schultz shouldn't be a problem."
"Good," Hogan remarked. "Tell Schultz these two are being processed without his help. Now, why are you here?"
"You've had your fun, Colonel Hogan," Boswell retorted, "But we're here on serious business." He motioned towards the bunk entrance. "We need to talk privately, sir."
Hogan noted the seriousness of the agent's voice. "You two can come into my office. It's clean." Standing up, he motioned for the two to follow, leaving the rest of the men in the barracks wondering what was going on.
Garrett was the first to talk. "I suppose you're wondering why we came into camp this way, instead of meeting outside."
"The thought had crossed my mind." Hogan had a witty retort ready, but wisely decided to hold back. "We've met agents before, after they dropped in. You took quite a risk coming in this way, you know. There are a lot of levels to go through, before…"
Garrett stopped him. "We're able to bypass some of them. I won't say how, but headquarters decided that we needed a base, and this camp was safe. We have no idea how long we'll need to be here, and it's better than constantly switching safe houses."
"When you need to get out…" Hogan added.
Boswell nodded. "At Stalag 13 that could be arranged."
"Good enough." Hogan was aware that the two agents had nothing on them. All information was in their heads. "I take it there's more and that somehow we're involved."
"Correct, Colonel." Boswell leaned forward. "You're a rescue and sabotage operation. We and other members of the OSS have been working on the mother of all rescue operations."
"Yeah, I've been going nonstop since the invasion," Hogan replied.
Boswell let that sink in for a moment. "Colonel, there are 500 men trapped behind enemy lines in Yugoslavia. The partisans are helping to hide them, but we were working on a way to get them out of there." (1)
"500?" Hogan not been informed of the situation. "But, we're nowhere near Yugoslavia," he pointed out.
"We were covering all the bases. Right now this is in the planning stages. Originally, our office thought that, since you have experience in this sort of thing, they would pull us out of Italy and decided to send us in this direction just in case."
"Man." Hogan ran his fingers through his hair. "They better not expect them all to come through here. LeBeau can't cook for 500."
The two agents couldn't tell if Hogan was joking or actually serious; thinking that his operation would somehow be involved.
"Actually," Garrett, who sounded disappointed, said. "They then told us to drop out of this mission and called us back to England. We were told to still come here. Apparently, there's something out there that is just as important."
(1) Operation Halyard. 1944. I discovered this operation over the summer while doing research for this story. I was hoping to find a real good reason for Barrett and Boswell to return to the area. This story was so unbelievable and fit in so well with Hogan's operation that I wanted to at least mention it. But, unfortunately, like Hogan said. "We're nowhere near Yugoslavia." Operation Halyard was a mission launched by OSS agents stationed in Italy with help from a Serbian general. They successfully rescued 500 airmen who were shot down during air raids on Yugoslavian oil fields. The airmen were being hidden by partisans, peasants, and farmers behind enemy lines. The rescue teams built an airstrip right under German noses, and flew them all out on C-47s. For political reasons, this operation was kept secret by Britain, the U.S. and the Yugoslavian gov't. for many years. There is a terrific book out that describes the operation. The Forgotten 500: The Untold Story of the Men Who Risked All for the Greatest Rescue Mission of World War II, by Gregory A. Freemen. The author also has a website. Perhaps another HH author out there can find a way to get the "heroes" involved.