A/N: I don't own Hogan's Heroes and I don't get paid for this; it is truly a labor of love.
This is a story that harks back to 96 Hubbles' speed-writing challenge earlier this year. It didn't get written in time for the challenge, but Hubbles did suggest that the first lines she provided for the challenge could be used in a later story. So here goes!
First line is from The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Some lines of dialogue from "Hogan Gives a Birthday Party" are included in the story.
In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since.
"Ernst," he told me, "You shouldn't try to be so clever. Sometimes you are too clever for your own good."
How could one be too clever, I often wondered; my cleverness was what enabled me to achieve the position I enjoy today. On second thought, though, as my present position is not precisely enviable, perhaps I should rephrase that.
Up until an hour ago, my position had been enviable indeed. I was the pride of the Luftwaffe as the commander of Kampfgeschwader 4. We had laid waste to Rotterdam, Coventry, and much of London. We had helped to conquer the Low Countries and France, and we had brought England to her knees.
And I had been personally responsible for the downfall and capture of the notorious American pilot, Colonel Robert Hogan. The bomb group he commanded had been particularly annoying to the High Command, and so I was assigned the task of neutralizing him.
I used the strategy that had proved so successful in dealing with my highly competitive peers at military school and in the Luftwaffe: study one's opponent carefully, discover his weaknesses, and use those weaknesses against him by anticipating his every move.
So I studied Colonel Hogan. I voraciously read each intelligence report that had the faintest whiff of reference to him, particularly the ones from the radio reception centers that monitored all Allied radio traffic.
I discovered that he had been attached to the RAF, and I knew when he first took command of the 504th Bomb Group of the Eighth Air Force.
I found out that he had taken no part in the celebrated July 4th combined British-American bombing run, but instead, the following week, carried out the bombing of the submarine pens at Bremerhaven. I observed that he took care to change formation on each sortie, and although he frequently took the lead plane, sometimes he did not. His targets were chosen with care, but the timing of each mission was always apparently at random.
But eventually I was able to detect a pattern in the good Colonel's over-elaborate planning. And when he led a formation over Hamburg in late July, I was ready. The rest of his squadron was allowed to proceed with only token interference, but I had a bevy of ME-109s concentrate on Hogan's plane. Naturally there was no escape for him, and when he bailed out safely, I arranged to have him captured and isolated from his crew immediately.
He was taken to Dulag Luft at Oberursel, as all Allied airmen were, and I planned to interrogate him there. But German efficiency being what it is, he was transferred within a fortnight to the famous Luftstalag 13 near Hammelburg, and thus I was denied the opportunity.
However, I did meet with the officer who had conducted his initial interrogation: one Major Duerr.
"Slippery as an eel," was Duerr's opinion of Colonel Hogan.
"What do you mean?" I asked. I knew these interrogators were a slippery bunch themselves; it seemed odd for one of them to describe a subject in this way.
Duerr shrugged. "Only that I found myself telling him all about me...things I haven't even told my own wife."
I hadn't the slightest interest in Major Duerr's peccadilloes. "But what did he tell you?" I pressed. "Did he talk?"
"Ja, he talked," said Duerr, who was more than a little disgruntled. "Oh, how he talked! But never about himself. Or his unit. Or the war in general, except to recommend that we surrender."
Well, it didn't matter. We had information enough on the man and his activities. I dismissed Major Duerr and pondered my next move. Thanks to my clever plan that had succeeded in neutralizing the famous Colonel Hogan, I was being promoted to general, and would need to be in Berlin within a few days.
But I decided that Colonel Hogan still bore watching, even though he was now a resident of the toughest POW camp in all of Germany. And this precaution was justified: about nine months after his capture, I received word that a scientific test comparing Luftwaffe personnel to Allied airmen was to take place at Luftstalag 13.
Naturally, I was suspicious; I was certain that the wily Colonel Hogan had not spent the past nine months idly. This had all the hallmarks of an extremely convoluted plan, the type in which he specialized, and no doubt was designed to help him escape.
Let him plan, I thought. It would be all the sweeter when I bested him yet again.
So I took a bomber crew with me to Luftstalag 13 to take part in Colonel Klink's so-called research project. And I finally met Colonel Robert Hogan face to face.
It gave me great pleasure to acquaint him with the circumstances of the downing of his plane, and I had the satisfaction of seeing his eyes narrow in consternation when I assured him that he had no secrets from me. I didn't bother to conceal my smile of triumph—how Hogan glowered at that!—and we parted company for the moment.
The comparison testing the next day went off without a hitch, of course. I am quite sure no one was surprised when the superiority of the German airman was proven once again.
Hogan had to admit as much when we gathered in Kommandant Klink's office after the testing. But his false air of humility did not fool me; oh, no. And when he invited me and Klink to his barracks for a meal, I knew precisely what his plan was.
I tapped my temple significantly. "You forget, Colonel Hogan, I am inside your head. You plan to overpower us in the barracks, use me as a hostage, and then steal the plane to escape!"
Hogan tried to deny this, of course, but once he saw my patent disbelief he hung his head in defeat. "I guess you hate me for it, sir."
I am a magnanimous man, so I took pity on the poor fellow. And I also wanted to gloat some more. So I invited him to dinner in Klink's quarters instead, reminding Hogan that it was his birthday.
"You're fantastic, sir," he said, with an annoyed look at me.
Dinner, which was served by Sergeant Schultz, was quite good, and the presence of the lovely Fräulein Hilda added to the pleasure of the occasion. We all chatted about inconsequential things, and then Hogan said with an overly casual manner, "You are leaving tomorrow, aren't you, General?"
That Hogan, he would never learn! I knew immediately that he had formulated a new plan, so of course I acted promptly, and with decision.
"I shall leave for Berlin tonight," I declared, enjoying Hogan's discomfiture as I spoke. I told Klink to summon Schultz into the room, and I gave a few terse instructions. "Tell my men to get aboard the plane, dismiss the guards, and have the crew prepare to take off."
"It shall be done, Herr General," said Schultz.
As Hogan got up to leave, I forestalled him. "I hope I haven't spoiled your birthday party."
"You are a devil," he said bitterly.
I smiled once more, well pleased. "I try."
It was a short drive in the moonlight to the airfield, and I took my leave of the charming Fräulein Hilda, who had been gracious enough to accompany me. I apologized for having to depart so suddenly, and she gave me a warm smile.
"Au revoir, Herr General."
I kissed her hand, and got out of the car. As I strolled toward the waiting Heinkel, I reflected complacently on my enjoyable little stay at Luftstalag 13.
The tests had gone well (as expected), I had enjoyed good food and drink (not as expected, but Klink undoubtedly had black market connections), and I was never averse to spending time with a beautiful young woman such as Fräulein Hilda (and she was quite obviously far from averse to spending time with me).
But of course, the main reason I had come to Luftstalag 13 was to meet the man I had brought low. And despite Hogan's best efforts to manipulate me to his advantage, I had successfully outwitted him at every turn! I allowed myself a triumphant little smile as I climbed aboard the plane.
Belatedly I realized that the two crew members who assisted me to board were not familiar to me.
"Was?" I said, and I struggled uselessly as the two hauled me on board.
The larger of the two wrestled me to the floor of the compartment, and as my face was pushed against the rough surface I heard him say in English, "All secure here, Colonel!"
Colonel? I had a sinking feeling that I knew exactly which Colonel he was speaking to.
The ruffians bound me hand and foot, and all I could do was fume as the plane roared down the airstrip and rose into the air. After about twenty minutes, other men dressed in Luftwaffe flight gear came into the compartment, and as they all began to don parachutes I recognized them as Colonel Hogan's men, the ones who had participated in the comparison testing. And for some reason that fat Sergeant Schultz from Luftstalag 13 was there as well!
I must be hallucinating, I told myself.
But no. The men were all congratulating each other on how they had used the plane—my plane!—to bomb the refinery at Stuttheim. Not a hallucination, then; I felt quite certain that my well-disciplined mind would never play that sort of trick on me.
Of course it was Colonel Hogan who had pulled off the coup of kidnapping me, stealing my Heinkel, and using the plane to bomb the refinery. But how could this be? I had studied him so carefully, had anticipated his every move!
Every move but one, apparently.
At this point Hogan joined the men crowded into the fuselage, and to my utter amazement I realized that they were all about to bail out…over Germany! And I was forced to admit that I did not know Hogan at all.
Then Hogan had the temerity to ask me to wish him a happy birthday!
"You are a devil," I said bitterly.
He stood there in the open hatch, leaning slightly against the wind, and his smile was satirical.
"I try," he said, and then he was gone.
I leaned my head against the wall of the compartment and groaned over what I had thought was my cleverness, so superior to Hogan's in every way. Closing my eyes, I thought once more about my father's advice from my boyhood. And I finally came to a conclusion that I should have arrived at long ago.
Vater knows best.