Grevenbroich, Germany

November, 1944

Day 8

 

 

When the dawn started to break over the horizon, the skeletal remains of a burned out Gestapo truck were found just a few miles outside of Grevenbroich, a town fifteen miles southwest of Düsseldorf.  The truck, left at the side of a road that saw little traffic and had nary a house nearby, had apparently burned unnoticed during the night. By the time it was discovered by the Gestapo, it was nothing more than a smoldering hunk of metal, whatever smoke was still lifting from it blended in with the surrounding morning fog.

 

Major Hochstetter stood in the road, watching as his men combed through the remains of the truck. The search dogs sniffed around the area, but were losing focus and he could hear the frustrated commands from the handlers. It had been a long night and a fresh team of dogs, and soldiers, would have to be called in.

 

Hochstetter himself was tired too but he wouldn't admit it. The discovery of the truck bolstered him, when most would have figured the trail to be cold at this point. He knew there were only two directions Major Miller could be headed. South, to Switzerland or possibly France, or north to the sea. Hochstetter also knew that the location of this truck and its destroyed state was an attempt to throw him off the trail. But he knew better, and with the resources of the Gestapo at his disposal he would search south towards Switzerland, France and north to the sea. There was no other direction the American could have gone.

 

Considering his new plan of action, Hochstetter was about to call off the search dogs and order everyone back to Düsseldorf, when one of the soldiers searching the truck, came over to him.

 

"Herr Major..." He held in his hand what looked to be brass buttons, four of them. Hochstetter picked one up and studied it. It was not like any buttons used on German uniforms.

 

"Hmmm...." Hochstetter pondered.

 

"We found what looks like the remains of an HJ uniform as well. But there does not seem to be any human remains in the truck..."

 

"Nein, and there would not be," Hochstetter said. "The American has abandoned his uniform, possibly for civilian attire." He put the button back in the soldier’s hand. "Tell Hauptmann Slieger to call off the search dogs and have everyone meet back in Düsseldorf.  I have an idea of which direction the American may be heading and we will assemble new search teams for the task."

 

"Jawohl, Major." The soldier saluted and turned sharply to pass on the orders.

 

 

Soligen, Germany

 

In the same early dawn light and rolling fog that was covering Grevenbroich, two inconspicuous black sedans drove deliberately down the empty dirt road leading to Wilhelmina's vast farmstead. The two cars drove up the drive to the farmstead and headed directly toward the large barn, driving around to the backside of the building.

 

Fritz and Emery were waiting. There was little exchange of small talk, just the exchange of vehicle keys. The two men then went into the barn with Fritz and Emery. The large barn doors were opened and the two men drove away in Fritz's panel truck.

 

With the arrival of the two cars, Wilhelmina led everyone from the house to the barn, where they would be divided up between Fritz and Emery. She packed extra rations of food and water, knowing they would not have the opportunity or the time to stop and eat anywhere along the way, and these were placed in the trunks of each vehicle. The group was then divided up between Emery and Fritz. Avril, Johann, Oskar and Roderick would travel with Emery. Ahren, Adler, Erik and Major Miller would travel with Fritz.

 

Major Miller sported his new moustache, and different comb but Emery had decided against any other kind of makeup. Touch ups would have to be done frequently and it would just be too much of a hassle. As it was, Miller was hardly recognizable, especially once he removed his glasses. The moustache, which got a giggle from the kids, was, however, turning out to be a little irritating to him. He poked at it, not quite trusting that the darn thing was going to stay put and he glanced at Fritz and Emery. "This thing's going to drive me nuts."

 

The two men chuckled. "Leave it alone," Emery said. "It just takes some getting used to."

 

"Hmm," Miller agreed. "Hopefully I won't sneeze the wrong way."

 

The goodbyes to Wilhelmina were kept short. The boys piled into the cars but Major Miller hesitated. He looked at Wilhelmina.

 

"Remember," she said. "Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."

 

"We won't," he said. "Thank you again for all you've done."

 

Wilhelmina nodded. "Go," she said gently.

 

Major Miller turned slowly, put his grey fedora hat on and walked to the passenger door of Fritz's car. He was the last one to get in. The two cars then started and Emery pulled out of the barn first. Through the back window of both cars, the young boys waved to Wilhelmina. She waved back, until the two cars were at the end of the drive and turning onto the road. As they disappeared into the early morning fog, Wilhelmina pulled the large barn doors shut. 

 

 

Stalag 13

 

After the morning roll call, Hogan and his men returned their barracks. LeBeau made up a list of items he needed from the kitchen and the canteen and sent one of the other prisoners from the barracks out to get them. Although confined to barracks, LeBeau would not let his comrades go hungry. He actually greeted the upcoming thirty day stay in the barracks with reprieve, as he would not have to be subjected to the bland German food of the prison camp. Instead, he could make the simple, and better tasting, French dishes and they would be better fed in the next thirty days than the rest of the camp.

 

Kinch, meanwhile, was checking in with the Underground. Colonel Hogan stood right next to Kinch as the coded message came through. Kinch was scribbling quickly on his note pad and when the Underground finished transmitting he transmitted a quick acknowledgement and then looked at Colonel Hogan.

 

"We don't have to worry about those two kids we saw last night." Kinch looked at the message he scribbled. "They couldn't make the trip but provided diversion. Led the hunting dogs to another trail... Grevenbroich."  He handed the pad of paper to the Colonel.

 

Hogan looked at it and nodded, relieved. "That's good," he said. "I had my doubts though. Thought for sure they had balked at making the trip and were going to lead the Gestapo straight to Major Miller." Hogan paused. "Do we know why they didn't go?"

 

Kinch shook his head. "The Underground didn't elaborate. But we do know that Major Miller made it out of Düsseldorf and to Soligen, and should be on his way north right now."

 

Hogan nodded and handed the pad back to Kinch. He then looked at his watch. "He should make to Wilhelmshaven by tonight, in time to meet up with Goldilocks." Hogan paused again and looked at Kinch. "Grevenbroich, that's southwest of Düsseldorf isn't it?"

 

"Yeah."

 

"Hochstetter is going to figure Miller went in one of two directions. South to France, or north to the coast. That diversion those two kids provided should make Hochstetter think Miller's heading toward France and he'll concentrate his search that way. That should give Fritz and Emery clear sailing to the coast."

 

"What if Hochstetter figures out they're heading to the coast?"

 

"If the diversion in Grevenbroich lasts long enough, it should be too late for Hochstetter to catch up once he figures it out. All the same though, the Underground should keep an eye on Hochstetter. We've all known him too long to know that he never does what we think he's going to do."

 

 

Remscheid, Germany

 

From Soligen the two black sedans headed east on different, yet parallel, routes toward Remscheid, literally the next town over.  From there they would continue eastward, gradually looping around at Werdohl to head north. This route was chosen in order to avoid the congestion of the cluster of cities between Düsseldorf, Essen, Bochum and Herne. The more populated the cities and surrounding towns, the more checkpoints one had to pass through and the more chance there was of being found out.

 

The two cars traveled parallel to also avoid the chance of being found out. The plan was that for every so many miles, the two cars would meet up as a check to make sure the others were all okay and then split up again until the next meeting point.

 

Fritz explained this all to Major Miller as they drove on through the fog heading toward Remscheid.

 

"Do you expect we'll run into much trouble?" Miller asked.

 

"I will be honest with you Herr Miller, I always expect to run into trouble." Fritz glanced at the bandleader and smiled. "That is how I have been able to be successful at what I do."

 

Miller chuckled softly and nodded. "Always assume the worst. Then there are never any surprises."

 

"Ja. I would like to think that having done this so much that I should expect less trouble. But no two escapes are truly the same. Therefore, each escape is always like it's the very first time I have done this." Fritz chuckled. "Of course, I have learned many lessons from these many escapes. But each one always has something new that I haven't encountered before."

 

The sun was starting to burn off some of the fog when Fritz and Miller reached their first checkpoint. Miller removed his glasses and slipped them into the inside pocket of his overcoat, seeing nothing now but a blur out the front windshield.

 

Fritz slowed the car as he approached the barricade and one of the two soldiers came over from the guard hut. He paused a moment to look into the car, looking at Fritz, Miller and the three kids in the backseat. He then looked back at Fritz. "Heil Hitler. Papier?"

 

"Heil Hiltler..." Fritz said blandly. Miller handed his Soldbuch to Fritz who handed both Soldbuchs to the soldier. The soldier looked at Miller's first and peered into the car comparing the man sitting in the passenger seat to the photo in the Soldbuch. Satisfied with the identity, the soldier then gave Fritz the once over. With the identity check completed, the Soldbuch's were handed back.

 

"Danke, Major, Hauptmann." The soldier gestured to the kids in the back seat. "Hitler Jugendrekruten?" he asked with a smirk. Hitler Youth recruits?

 

"Nein. Delinquents, entgangen von einem Arbeit Lager nahe Opladen. Ein Landwirt fand sie in seinem Stall gestern Abend. Wir nehmen sie zu den Gestapo Headquarters in aufgehoben zu werden und Remscheid, zurück zu dem Lager genommen worden." No. Delinquents, escaped from a work camp near Opladen. A farmer found them in his barn last night. We are taking them to Gestapo headquarters in Remscheid to be picked up and taken back to the camp."

 

The soldier nodded. "Die ist eine Schande," he said. "Die Armee benötigt mehr Soldaten."  That's a shame. The army needs more soldiers.  He waved to his comrade to lift the barricade.

 

Fritz gave a shrug. "Es gibt immer possibility das." There's always that possibility.

 

The soldier smiled and gave a salute. "Heil Hitler."

 

Fritz raises his hand up. "Heil Hitler..." The car moved forward past the barricade.

 

Once they were out of sight of the checkpoint, Miller dug out his glasses and put them back on. "What the hell was all that?"

 

Fritz chuckled. "Merely using our cover. That the kids here had escaped from a work camp near Opladen and were found locally and that we are taking them to Gestapo headquarters to be picked up and taken back to camp."

 

"You know I thought of something. What if some soldier at some checkpoint tries to talk to me?"

 

"They won't."

 

"You sure?"

 

Fritz nodded. "I will be doing all of the speaking as I am the ranking officer between the two of us. There would be no need for them to speak to you."

 

Miller gave a quiet sigh of relief. "Good. By the way, I think you should get a promotion. Then they can ignore me all together."

 

Fritz laughed.

 

 

Gestapo Headquarters

Düsseldorf, Germany

 

 

Major Hochstetter and several of his soldiers were gathered in a situation room at Gestapo Headquarters, a map of Germany and its remaining western occupied territories spread out on a table. The time was a little after eight in the morning, and all of the troops except Hochstetter were fresh men. Yet out of all them, Hochstetter seemed to have the most energy. There was a short open discussion on the possible direction the escapees could have taken and during this Hochstetter paced around the room. 

 

"They must be heading south," one Gestapo agent said. He pointed to Grevenbroich on the map. "They could follow the West Wall, possibly to find a weak place and enter into France at Alsace-Lorraine, or they could go directly to Switzerland."

 

"Or," Hochstetter said, "they could pivot and head north to the sea."

 

"Back through Düsseldorf?"

 

"Nein...probably these roads through the less populated areas." Hochstetter circled to the front of the table and pointed on the map, tracing a route eastward around the populated areas of Düsseldorf and it's surrounding towns and swinging north, a route nearly identical to the one Fritz and Emery were using. "Every one of us in this room knows there are only two directions the American and the delinquent youths could be heading. This is why I propose concentrating the search in both directions. South, along the West Wall down to Alsace-Lorraine and to the Swiss border, the other north, to the port towns and along the coast.

 

"I want to coordinate with the regional commanders for the Gestapo and the SS in the search areas and use road blocks, checkpoints, and for them to question townspeople in the various towns where the Underground presence is strong. There is no doubt the American is being assisted. I also want to coordinate with the Army, as they too have checkpoints and road blocks that the American might try to pass through." Hochstetter paused and picked up a folder that was on the edge of the table. He pulled out two photographs of Glenn Miller, one civilian, one military and put them atop the map. "We have determined that Herr Miller has abandoned his uniform and is more than likely in civilian attire. It is also possible that he is disguised in other ways somehow, be it a wig, moustache, beard, what have you. I am having duplicates of both of these photos made up and I want them distributed to every Gestapo, SS and Army soldier in the search areas."

 

Hochstetter paused as the two photos were passed around the table. "Herr Miller does not speak much German, therefore he has to be traveling with someone from the Underground and it will be the person from the Underground that is doing all of the talking. I want every checkpoint guard, Gestapo, SS or Army to be on the look out for any groups trying to pass through that consist of several youths, in civilian attire, perhaps being passed as Hitler Youth recruits, delinquents, captured Underground members or as escapees from work camps, and one or more adults, who may be posing as Gestapo, Army or as Hitler Youth elders. I want the checkpoint guards to thoroughly check all identification papers and to thoroughly question any and all adults." Hochstetter snorted. "Herr Miller's lack of understanding of the German tongue will be spotted immediately.

 

"Remember also, this man has escaped from the custody of the Gestapo. He also is responsible for the humiliating events that took place at the Düsseldorf Radio Station yesterday, ruining the Propaganda Ministry's broadcast to the youth of Germany. As such, the American has incurred the wrath of our Fuehrer, who was listening at the time and has been made aware of what took place."

 

"Then your order still stands?" another Gestapo soldier asked.

 

Hochstetter nodded. "It does. Make sure that is passed on to the regional Gestapo commanders and Army division commanders." Hochstetter looked at the faces that surrounded the table and spoke evenly. "The American will not get away with what he has done..."

 

 

Munster, Germany

 

After three and half hours of driving, and passing through four loosely guarded checkpoints, Fritz pulled the sedan off to the side of the road to wait for Emery. They were just south of the town of Munster and nearly at the half way mark of the trip. The somewhat laize-faire interest of the checkpoint guards they had met up with thus far indicated at least one of two things; that word of Major Miller's escape had not spread yet, or any word of the escape was spreading slowly. Certainly news and orders issued would take longest to reach those soldiers who manned the checkpoints and outposts that were out in the sticks. This was why Fritz stuck to the back roads as much as he could, traveling on any main roadways only when there was no back road that sufficed.

 

For his part, Major Miller had kept an eye on the horizon and spoke to the boys in back, in an effort to keep their thoughts off the fact that they were all on the run from the Gestapo. The boys asked Miller what life was like back in America, what he did when he was their age and so forth. What was uncanny was that the countryside they had driven through thus far, with the corn stalks dead in the fields, the occasional farmstead with animals roaming in pastures and the dirt roads, all reminded Major Miller of the Middle America he'd grown up in, between Iowa and Colorado. Somewhere back there was a fifteen-year-old kid, trombone in hand, going off by himself for hours blowing on that horn, in between school and chores. 

 

Miller chuckled to himself, thinking back as he stood outside of the car, smoking a cigarette. Sometimes it seemed like so long ago, other times it seemed like it was just yesterday.

 

Miller’s thoughts returned to the present when Emery arrived, and he too reported that he had passed through checkpoints without any problem. Although both Fritz and Emery were grateful for the good fortune thus far, they knew better than to take anything for granted. After a very quick conference and a check of the map, the two sedans were back on the road again. They would meet again not far from the small town Bersenbruck.

 

Or so they hoped.

 

Day 8 - Afternoon .