Disclaimer: I do not own anything but the original characters and this story. This is a labor of love and not for profit.
A New POW arrives at the camp and everything is turned upside down. The Boys in Barracks Two don't know what to make of the situation. The Germans are just as confused. Just when Hogan thinks things might be settling down, things take a sudden twist and all hell breaks loose.
This story is dedicated to my daughter.
July 28, 1944
Chapter 1: The Arrival
Hier stehe ich, ich kann nicht anders. Gott helfe mir. Amen!*
Colonel Hogan leaned against Barrack 2 and was only half listening to the mock spat between Carter and Newkirk over the correct way to wash and fold socks. Carter was doing the all the washing and Newkirk, most of the commentary. Just then a staff car followed by a truck came in through the gate and stopped in front of the Kommandantur. General Burkhalter got out of the car, followed closely by Major Hochstetter. Colonel Kink scurried out of his office to greet the new arrivals. From where they were standing Hogan and his men could not hear what was being said. Hogan began to think of reasons for him, or one of his men, to move in closer without alerting the Germans.
"Gee sir, what do you think brings Burkhalter and Hochstetter here in the same car? It's not like they like each other's company or anything." mused Carter.
Before Hogan could respond, several SS soldiers got out of the truck and began yelling orders. From where they were standing, the Heroes' view of all of the activity across the compound was blocked. Hogan was about to order Newkirk to try to get closer when the guards appeared with a prisoner and dragged him to where the three German officers were standing. Hogan, Newkirk and Carter were surprised to see the prisoner was not only shackled but also had a burlap bag pulled over his head.
General Burkhalter turned and went into the Kommandantur, followed by Hochstetter and a visibly upset Klink. The German guards started to pull the prisoner up the steps. The prisoner, who was already unsteady on his feet due to a pronounced limp and blinded by the hood, fell. One of the guards shouted at the prisoner and when the prisoner could not get to his feet quickly enough, the guard hit him in the middle of his back with the rifle butt before pulling him to his feet and into Klink's office.
Newkirk turned to say something to Hogan but he was already moving towards the Kommandantur at a brisk pace. His jaw was clenched so tight his teeth hurt; his body taunt with rage. Schultz hurried to meet Hogan halfway across the compound.
"Please Colonel Hogan don't be angry." Schultz pleaded. "This is not the Kommandant's fault. He is upset too."
Hogan just looked at Schultz too angry to speak. He knew that Schultz was a kind gentle soul who could never brutalize anyone but right now all he saw was just another filthy kraut.
"Move." He ground out.
"Please Colonel Hogan," Shultz pleaded, "if you get the General and the Major angry, they will take the prisoner somewhere else. Maybe back to Gestapo headquarters or worse. I don't think I would be able to sleep another night if that were to happen."
Hogan looked at Schultz for a moment. "What do you know, Schultz?"
"I can not tell you. You will find out when you get in there anyway. Please Colonel Hogan," Schultz whined, "be good and let the prisoner stay."
Hogan said nothing as he stepped passed Schultz and walked into Klink's outer office. Hilda was sitting at her desk and Hogan saw fear etched on her face before she quickly looked away. He stood for a moment looking at the name on the door trying to get some control over his anger. He could imagine what the prisoner must have gone though, remembering his own painful and humiliating encounters with the Gestapo. He shook the images from his mind and took a deep breath trying to prepare himself for whatever was happening on the other side of the door.
Hogan walked into Klink's office with only the briefest of knocks. There he found, Hochsetter standing at the far side of the room with General Burkhalter sitting in a chair near the door and the prisoner, still hooded and shackled, stood between them. Klink sat behind his desk, looking as it he was about to be sick. Klink turned his head to look in the opposite direction as to where Hogan was standing and began to chew on his thumb nail. This seemed to amuse Hochstetter. He smirked at Klink and looked very pleased with himself. Burkhalter, who looked bored with the whole situation, turned slightly to glance at Hogan. "Hogan, we have a new POW for you."
"Can someone explain to me why a POW is being treated in such a fashion? This is a violation of the Geneva Convention!" Hogan replied struggling to keep his temper under control.
"Watch your tongue, Hogan. You have a new POW only because I wish for you to have one. If I had my way, we would make a trade and be done with it but due to the certain circumstances that is not yet possible. So, Hogan, this becomes Klink and your little problem. If this is too much trouble for you, I am sure Hochsetter would find pleasure in having authority over the POW again."
"Hochsetter grinned at the POW, "Ja, Hogan. Let me take control of this prisoner."
Klink made a small whimpering sound but otherwise remained silent. A chill went down Hogan's spine. The last thing he wanted was for any allied solider to have to answer to the Gestapo. "So who is the new guest of this little resort?"
General Burkhalter made a small movement with his hand and Major Hochstetter removed the hood from the POW's head. Hogan's jaw literally dropped open and for one of the few times in his life, he was utterly speechless. Standing before him was a woman.
Hogan figured she was in her mid to late twenties. Her red hair was cut so close to her head that the hairs stood out like a bottle brush. He couldn't see her eyes because her head was down and she was staring at the floor. Her uniform showed her rank as 1st Lieutenantand she had medical insignia. What little he could see of her face showed several bruises and a split lip. There were dark circles under her eyes and Hogan noticed she was trembling.
"You've gotta' be kidding. What is she doing here?" Hogan asked incredulously.
"The same question can be asked of you Hogan." The general replied. The General made another motion with his hand and Klink opened the file and began to read from it.
"This is LieutenantVersie Elizabeth Cumba of the 813th Medical Air Evacuation Squadron. She is a Flight Nurse and part of a crew that was shot down on June 12th. She was wounded and spent a week in the hospital recovering. From there she went to the Frankfort Dulag Luft. She was transferred to the Gestapo for further questioning and then transported here."
"Let me guess, she fell down….alot." replied Hogan.
"The Gestapo had to ensure she was who she claimed. It's not everyday that women fall from the skies in Germany. We had to assess the origin of our good fortune." Hochstetter smirked as he moved closer to Lieutenant Cumba.
Hochstetter smiled as he stroked her face with the black gloves he had in his hand. "I am sorry we didn't have time to get to know each other better." purred the Major. "I envy you Hogan. I am told she is very friendly and accommodating. Perhaps you have some extra chocolate from your Red Cross packages. I am sure you and the Lieutenantcan reach some sort of agreement." Hochstetter said as eyes roamed down the front of the flight nurse's uniform.
Hogan took a step towards Hochstetter but stopped when General Burkhalter rose from his chair and turned towards Hochstetter. "Ma-jor Hochstetter! Please try and conduct yourself as an officer of the Third Reich or do I need to make a call to Berlin?"
Hochstetter ground his teeth and looked directly at the General. For a moment Hogan was sure there was to be a major confutation between the two strong willed officers. After a moment Hochstetter backed down and said "That will not be necessary, General."
"Good," replied the General "then our business here is complete." He turned towards the door and Klink jumped to his feet giving the General a salute, which was ignored. "Are you coming Major, or do you plan to walk back to town?"
"Jawohl Herr General, I am coming." Hochstetter said as he stalked from the room fuming.
Klink and Hogan were left alone with the terrified woman. Klink slowly sat back down in his chair and put his head in his hands clearly exhausted. The meeting with the General and the Gestapo Major seemed to have taken all his strength. To Hogan he looked as if someone had extracted all his bones and just left a bag of skin. After a moment, Klink seemed to gather himself together and sat up straighter, calling out for Schultz.
"Jawohl, Herr Kommandant." Schultz said as he entered the office, giving Klink a formal salute while at the same time trying to take a peek at the prisoner.
"Schultz," Klink replied in a tired voice, "please remove the prisoner's restrains."
Schultz began to shake his head and mutter under his breath about how a lady is suppose to be treated. "Schultz for once do as you are commanded without comment and then leave." Klink replied wearily.
"Jawohl Herr Kommandant" Schultz said as he finished removing the restraints. After casting Hogan a brief glance, he left the office.
"Now Lieutenant, please have a seat." Klink motioned to the chair General Burkhalter had just vacated. LieutenantCumba remained standing, unmoving and silent. Klink looked at Hogan with an unspoken please. Hogan walked over to the Lieutenant and gently helped her to the chair. She sat but her eyes remained glued to the floor.
"Lieutenant," Kink said firmly but gently, "please have the curtsey of looking at me when I speak to you."
Kink looked at the file and then back at her. She was now looking directly at him, expressionless. Hogan was standing next to the chair and put his hand on her shoulder in an attempt to give her some reassurance. He removed it when he felt her become even tenser.
"I will inform the Red Cross of your capture, is there anyone you wish notified?"
"Name, rank and serial number, solider, that is all you are required to give." Hogan replied with his eyes never leaving Klink's face.
"Hogan, don't make this more difficult than it has to be. I know you are angry, as am I, but we are going to have to make the best of the situation. The Third Reich has no facilities to accommodate an American female POW. She is here because we are a small camp and the General feels she would be safer here than a larger camp. I will continue to attempt to get her repatriated, as she has no business here. Until that time, I need your cooperation to ensure her safety."
"From you Krauts, you mean." snapped Hogan.
Klink gave a small sigh, "No Hogan, from ALL the men, yours included." Hogan opened his mouth to protest and Klink held up his hand. "All the men Hogan, both your men and mine are under a great deal of stress, far from home and lonely. Men under these conditions do things they never would consider under normal circumstances. No, the three of us need to come up with a viable plan."
"What do you suggest, Colonel?" Hogan said letting go of some of the hostility he felt. Klink was trying and he needed to meet him half way.
"Article 41 of The Geneva Convention, states male and female prisoners must have separate living quarters from male prisoners. Therefore prisoner is to be housed in the cooler." Hogan was about to protest again when Klink raised his hand to stop Hogan from speaking. "This is only a place where she sleeps. During the day she will be out in the compound. This is a situation we have never had to deal with before and we are working without any guidelines. You do know what will happen to her if we cannot work this out?"
Hogan didn't like the idea of the Lieutenant having to sleep in the cooler but he could see the Kommandant's point of view. The cooler was better than the Gestapo any day of the week.
"Since she is a nurse, Article 31 of the Convention states medical personnel can only do medical work so I am putting her to work in the infirmary, if she is willing." Klink continued. "I am planning to have Sgt Schultz and Corporal Langenscheidt escort her around the camp. I think both of them can be trusted not to bother the Lieutenant and are the least threatening of the guards. Of course, since they have other duties I am suggesting one or two of your men to "fill in" as it were. Not Sgt Wilson, since he will be working with her in the infirmary and will be making any barracks calls. Who would you suggest?"
Hogan thought for a moment about his men and who would be appropriate. "How about Sergeant Carter, Kommandant?"
"Hmm… Ja good choice Hogan." Klink turned his attention to the new POW. "It says here that you have a southern accent. Are you from the American Southland?" Klink asked.
Cumba glanced at Hogan, who nodded. "Yes sir." she answered.
Klink nodded in acknowledgement. Looking at Hogan he continued, "Is any of your men from that area Hogan? She might feel more comfortable with someone of a similar background."
Hogan though for a moment and then snapped his fingers, "Private Jackson. He is from Georgia. He's 19, just a kid really, but should be ok."
Klink nodded and agreed. He then looked at Lieutenant Cumba who had remained silent. "Is that agreeable to you Lieutenant?"
"Yes sir." she responded.
Klink looked at her for a moment before continuing. "Lieutenant, I have many failings but being an abuser of women is not one of them."
For the first time since entering the office, Hogan smiled. "The Kommandant is telling the truth, he does have a lot of faults."
"Hogan…" Klink attempted to give him a stern look.
Hogan smiled again, "But he is also right in that he doesn't take advantage of women. No matter what you have been through, you are safe here."
"I will call for Fräulein Hilda and Schultz to take her to the showers and delousing station. Klink continued. "Then I want Sgt Wilson to take a look at her injuries. I will also order extra blankets for the cooler and have supply issue her a Red Cross package. Understand this Hogan, I expect your men to be on their best behavior. No whistling, cat calls or other demeaning behavior is to be directed at this prisoner. She is to be treated as an officer and a lady. She is restricted from the barracks unless she is medically required to be there and then only with my permission and a guard. Understood?"
Hogan replied in the affirmative while Cumba just nodded that she understood the order.
Klink continued, "I will post a standing order that any of my men who attempt to abuse the Lieutenantin any way will have a one way ticket to the Russian Front. Any of your men caught being inappropriate with this officer will find themselves in the cooler on bread and water. Am I making myself clear?'
"Yes you do Kommadant and that is one order I will support 100%." Hogan said. Turning to the Lieutenant, Hogan attempted to lessen her fears. "Don't worry; once you settle in, you'll be like one of the boys."
Lieutenant Cumba gave a small sad smile to Colonel Hogan. "That's Cum-bee, Sir" replied the Lieutenant in a small voice.
"Pardon me?" replied Klink.
"My name sir, it's pronounced Cum-bee not Cum-bah."
"Noted," replied Klink "When you're finished with Sgt Wilson, Sgt Schultz will see if there is anything left in the kitchen for you to eat. Dismissed."
Cumba stood and saluted Klink. Hogan held the door open as Cumba limped into the outer office to the awaiting Schultz and Hilda.
The inspiration behind Lt Cumba is 2nd Lt Reba Whittle, who was an Army Flight Nurse. Her plane was shot down over France in Sept 1944 and she was sent to Stalag 9c where she worked in the infirmary until repatriated four months later. Lt Cumba is a complete figment of my imagination in no way bears any resemblance to the courageous Lt Whittle.
*Here I stand, I cannot do differently. God help me. Amen!" ~~Martin Luther