Stalag 13

Day 8 (Afternoon)

 

Colonel Hogan and his men got their second look at the sun that day at the noontime roll call. It would be short lived though. Once Schultz finished the count and reported to the Kommandant that all were present and accounted for the prisoners were then dismissed. There was no speech, no words of wisdom from Klink. Hogan was disappointed. After being cooped up in the barracks all morning, Klink's rambling would have given them all a few minutes to enjoy the outside, despite the cold November air. But the sun was bright and there was something rejuvenating about crisp air and sunshine upon the cheeks.

 

But they would get no more of it. Schultz shooed them back inside and the barracks door was closed. Hogan let out a sigh and turned to LeBeau who stood at the woodstove, a pot of water just starting to boil.

 

"What's for lunch, Louie?"

 

"Soup, Colonel. But instead of just bullion I've sent Carter over to the kitchen to collect some beef and vegetables."

 

Hogan nodded. "Sounds good. It's a good day for soup."

 

"Oui, the German winter is coming..." LeBeau rubbed his hands together in emphasis.

 

Again, Hogan thought. And the war was still going on. And another Thanksgiving and another Christmas would probably be spent at Stalag 13. Hogan tried not to think about that and instead looked at his watch. He figured Major Miller to be half way through his trip by now.

 

"Game of twenty-one, guv'nor?" Newkirk asked, noting Hogan's restlessness. He held the cards up in invitation. "To pass the time..."

 

Before Hogan could answer, the bunk that concealed the entrance to the tunnel suddenly clattered open. This got everyone's attention, as there wasn't supposed to be anyone down there to begin with. Kinch, being closest to the bunk, looked down to see what was going on. Staring back up at him was Maurice Dubois.**

 

"Colonel Hogan," the French airman said.

 

Hogan was already beside Kinch. "Dubois, what are you doing down there?"

 

"Colonel, I must speak with you. Urgently."

 

"Watch the door fellas," Hogan said. He stepped onto the ladder and climbed down into the tunnel.  When he stepped off the last rung, the ladder swept back up and the bunk closed.

 

Hogan turned to Dubois. "What's going on?"

 

"Colonel, the Underground in Düsseldorf have gone into radio silence. The Gestapo are heavily patrolling the area and are asking questions about your bandleader and the youths..." Maurice reached into his coat and pulled out two photographs. "They are passing these around as well." He handed them to Hogan. "One of Brandeis Fritz's sentries got these and he drove to Hammelburg to let us know, to tell you."

 

Hogan looked at the photos and nodded. "I figured they would pass pictures of him around. But why in Düsseldorf? I thought those two boys put the Gestapo on the trail towards Grevenbroich."

 

"They did and they did well. The Gestapo found their own truck burned to the ground, just as they were supposed to. But Hochstetter.....he's not concentrating his search to the south only. Gestapo activity has picked up both south, and north of Düsseldorf."

 

"How far north?"

 

"We don't know for sure, but it looks like the SS is part of the search too. I would not be surprised if Hochstetter has spread his net out all the way to the coast."

 

Hogan paled. "The SS??"

 

Dubois nodded.

 

"And we have no way to warn them..."

 

"Non. When Fritz is in route, he can not be reached. And if he should try to contact any of his troop in Düsseldorf right now, he will receive no response."

 

Hogan looked at his watch. He then turned and walked to one of the walls of the tunnel where a pull down map of Germany was available. He studied it a moment and Dubois came up beside the Colonel to look too.

 

"They could be anywhere, mon Colonel."

 

"I know. But maybe we can decoy the Gestapo and the SS away from the north. Give the hound dogs a different scent to follow for awhile, giving Fritz a clearer passage to Wilhelmshaven."

 

Dubois nodded. "We could report false sightings and set up a trail heading south."

 

"That should work. We better move quickly, as we don't know how far north Hochstetter's net has been cast."

 

Bersenbruck, Germany

 

Two hours, and one flat tire later, Fritz's sedan sat slumped to the right at the side of a dirt road just ten miles from Bersenbruck. Miller and Fritz both got out of the car to inspect the tire. Fritz wasn't too concerned; after all they had a spare. He went about taking the spare from the trunk along with the jack and the appropriate tools he would need. It wasn't until he attempted to remove the flat tire from the car that he started to show a little worry.

 

"Let me try," Miller offered. But the bandleader couldn't get the lug nut loose either. After a few failed attempts, he looked at Fritz. 

 

"I think we're going to be here for awhile..."

 

Düsseldorf, Germany

 

Within the same two hours, the Underground in Hammelburg had sent coded messages out to other operatives south of Düsseldorf with the instructions to report false sightings of Major Miller and the kids. Those reports were now finding their way to Hochstetter's attention.

 

The Gestapo Major almost thought he had picked up the trail, but he would wait until he had more definite proof before shuffling his search teams around. Definite proof to the contrary, however, came a little while later, when two reported sightings crossed his desk from district commanders. Hochstetter looked them over and found the details were nothing different from the few reports he had received all ready. He was about to place them aside when something prompted him to look at them again. This time he noticed an inconsistency. The time of the sighting from one town was twenty minutes earlier than the sighting reported in another town. And Hochstetter knew the travel distance between the two towns was over forty minutes.

 

"The Underground...." Hochstetter concluded out loud, speaking the word like it was vile. There was no other explanation. He knew Miller had to be getting help from the Underground in his escape and it was logical that the resistance fighters would try to persuade the search away from the direction Miller was going. The deflection would have worked except the Underground had gotten sloppy.

 

All in all, it proved one thing for certain. Major Miller and those kids were not heading south.

 

Hochstetter picked up his telephone. It was time to start shuffling things around.

 

 

Military Checkpoint, north of Hamm, Germany

 

Meanwhile, at a checkpoint Fritz and Miller had passed through three hours earlier, two Gestapo officers were questioning the two military guards. Yes, the soldiers had seen a black Gestapo sedan with two adults and three youths in the back. It was the only Gestapo car to pass so far that day. They recalled the names of the two Gestapo officers in the car. They told that the driver had done all of the talking. They described as best they could what both the driver and the passenger looked like. The soldiers were then handed the two photos of Glenn Miller.

 

The soldiers paused. They concentrated on the civilian photograph. It was hard to tell, they explained. The passenger, the Gestapo Captain, did not wear glasses and had a mustache. It was possible it was the same man, but they were not for certain.

 

The two questioning Gestapo officers nodded in understanding and thanked the soldiers for their help. As the officers walked back to their car, they glanced at one another. The soldiers may not have been certain, but they were. The American had passed this way.

 

 

Bersenbruck, Germany

 

Thirty minutes after Fritz's sedan pulled up lame with a flat tire, Emery arrived at the checkpoint just north of the town of Bersenbruck. The small clearing, located off a dirt road, was empty. Emery tried to hide his concern, but the kids knew something was wrong.

 

"Where are the others?" Roderick asked.

 

Emery shook his head. "I don't know..."  He looked through the windshield out at the clearing and to the road. Fritz was supposed to arrive at every checkpoint first. There was the chance that Fritz could have been held up by something. A road damaged from bombing that they hadn't been aware of. Or mechanical trouble. Emery tried to keep his thoughts more along those lines and looked at his watch. He would wait a few minutes.

 

 

Düsseldorf, Germany

 

The situation room Hochstetter had set up at Gestapo Headquarters was a buzz with activity. More reports were still coming in from the southern district commanders, which Hochstetter pretty much ignored. The northern district commanders were reporting that they were shifting their efforts per Hochstetter's instructions and were making contact with the military commanders and checkpoint guards in their areas.

 

While Fritz and Miller were losing minutes due to the flat tire, the two Gestapo officers had investigated what the two checkpoint guards had told them. They verified that there had been no escape from any of the surrounding work camps near Hamm, that the two names the supposed Gestapo officers had used were false and that no Gestapo officers within the region were known by any such names. They also verified that no youths had been turned in to the Gestapo either in Hamm or in the next town of Ahlen.

 

A report was put together quickly and forwarded by wire to Major Hochstetter in Düsseldorf. Marked top priority, it was delivered to him at once.

 

"Herr Major," the currier said, coming to stand at attention and holding the report out to Hochstetter. "Top priority from Hamm, sir."

 

Hochstetter took the report and read it quickly. His expression flashed briefly with elation and he turned to the map that was still spread out on the table. He picked out the town of Hamm, checked the time table in the report, looked at his watch and made a ballpark guess at which towns they would be near after three hours. He frowned. They would be in the heart of the oil country, assuming they had made it that far. A popular target for the Allied bombers, there were few passable roads in that region and only the main road way to the town of Clappenburg was kept in repair. From there they could either go east, toward Bremen and eventually north to Bremerhaven, or keep going directly north to Oldenburg and eventually to Wilhelmshaven.

 

Hochstetter grabbed a pad of paper and a pen and listed the towns he would call special alerts to. The alerts would cover a fifteen mile radius around each town, effectively putting a Gestapo weaved blanket over the entire north west corner of Germany.

 

 

Bersenbruck, Germany

 

With the flat tire finally changed, Major Miller gathered up the car jack and the busted tire into the trunk of the car, while Fritz finished securing the lug nuts on the fresh tire. Once that was complete, Fritz gathered up his tools quickly and hurried to the back of the car, tossing the tools into the trunk with a clang. Major Miller slammed the trunk lid down and the two men got back into the car. Between Miller and Fritz it had taken forty-five minutes to change the flat tire and now they were in race to make it to the coast. And as Fritz threw the transmission into gear and the car sped forward, he knew this was a race he couldn't afford to lose...

 

Just north of Bersenbruck, Emery stood outside of his car and looked at his watch for the hundredth time. He had been waiting almost fifteen minutes and if he was to make it to the coast by night fall he could wait no longer. With a heavy sigh, he turned and opened the door, stepping into the car.

 

"We are leaving?" Roderick asked.

 

Emery turned to the four concerned faces in the back seat. "We can not wait any longer," he explained gently. "If we are to get to Wilhelmshaven by tonight, we must go now."

 

"But...the others? What if something has happened to them?"

 

"I pray nothing has happened to them," Emery said. "But even if something has, we must continue on. It is not safe for us to remain in one place for too long." Emery turned back forward and started the car. As he pulled back onto the road, the four kids in back all turned to look out the back window hoping to see the other black car in the distance.

 

 

Stalag 13

 

A little after three in the afternoon, General Burkhalter's staff car arrived, unannounced, through the gates of Stalag 13. Noting the General's arrival, Hogan and his men gathered in his quarters around the coffee pot to listen in.

 

"Major Hochstetter reports that he believes Major Miller is somewhere in the area of Clappenburg," Burkhalter said, after sitting down.

 

"Clappenburg? There's not much up that way, other than the oil fields which have been bombed to ---"

 

Burkhalter cleared his throat. "Yes, it is a popular target for the Allied planes. Major Hochstetter has assured me that he should have the American captured within the next few hours. There are more Gestapo and SS men in the area than in all of Berlin right now."

 

Klink gulped. That's a lot...  "Uh, General....is Major Hochstetter's order to shoot the escaped prisoner still in effect?"

 

"Of course! Why wouldn't it be? The Fuehrer is most upset by the events that took place at the radio station with the Propaganda Ministry's broadcast. The American has insulted the youth of Germany and all loyal Germans. If Major Hochstetter had not issued the order, the Fuehrer would have!"

 

That's what I'm afraid of. "Of course," Klink concurred.

 

"You have taken measures to punish the prisoners who were part of the insult, ja?"

 

"Yes, Herr General. They have been confined to barracks for the next 30 days. All privileges revoked."

 

"Why not the cooler, Klink?"

 

Klink looked up at Burkhalter and shook a little under the General's scrutinizing glare. "Uh, well, Herr General, because the men did not attempt to escape during the chaotic moments with the fire, when they most certainly had the opportunity to do so."

 

"Hrmph," Burkhalter scoffed. "You are too lenient, Klink. However, once Major Hochstetter has captured the American I will see to it that your prisoners be witness to the execution." The General stood up from his chair. "They will learn the price for insulting Germany and her youth."

 

Hogan yanked the plug out of the coffee pot, not wanting to hear any more. The room was quiet, only for a moment, then Carter looked at the Colonel directly.

 

"Colonel, we have to do something. Something."

 

"Oui! I can't stand sitting here, waiting for the worst!"

 

"What can we do?" Hogan said, looking at his men. "We don't know where they are. We can't contact them. Fritz can't contact his troop in Düsseldorf, they're still on radio silence. We tried decoying the Gestapo and the SS away from the north but obviously that didn't work." Hogan paused. "I don't like sitting here waiting for the worst either, LeBeau....but..." Hogan let his words drift, hating to admit that there was little they could do. More than that, he hated the feeling of helplessness that enveloped him. This just wasn't supposed to be!

 

"What if we went to Clappenburg?" Carter wondered. "Set up our own decoy there."

 

"How 'r you going to get five Allied POW's into Clappenburg with all those Gestapo and SS troops around?" Newkirk asked. "It's a bloody hornet's nest up there."

 

"Well, we wouldn't be in uniform...."

 

"Even in civilian clothes they would be checking us out," Hogan said. "We would have to have the best damn forged papers we could get. Besides that, how do we ensure we get there before Miller does? How do we even know Fritz is heading to Clappenburg? The northern escape route changes every time he takes somebody up that way."

 

"Well, it wouldn't matter if Major Miller was there or not because we could set up a decoy that would take the heat off of wherever he is," Carter said.


"Assuming the Gestapo or the SS hadn't found him by the time we got there," Kinch said. "It takes a good day's worth of traveling to get north. We would have to go by rail if we were going to make any good time, but even then that only cuts the travel time in half. Major Miller could be captured and executed by the time we got there."

Carter sighed. They couldn't be this helpless, he thought. They just couldn't!

 


Clappenburg, Germany

 

While the heroes were feeling helpless at Stalag 13, Emery was just west Clappenburg eyeing a road block from the crest of a hill. From the distance, he couldn’t tell if it was a Gestapo roadblock or otherwise and in all honesty he wasn’t that particular. He looked at the time on his watch and glanced in the mirror at the kids in back. They had been quiet since Bersenbruck and expectedly so. His own thoughts occasionally tripped along the side of the worst case scenario. If Fritz and Major Miller along with the rest of the kids had already been captured, then there was no mistaking that the Gestapo and anybody helping them would be looking very closely at any cars with any number of youths in it.

 

Emery picked up his map and traced another road. Although he would lose about ten minutes taking a longer route, he would lose the same amount of time, if not more, by trying to bluff his way through the roadblock. He placed his map down and backed the sedan up, turned around and headed back the other way to pick up the other road.

 

A little over thirty minutes later, on another route just east of Clappenburg, Fritz slowed the sedan at a military checkpoint. Miller, his glasses removed, handed his Soldbuch to Fritz. The two checkpoint guards assumed positions no different than had been seen at previous checkpoints.

 

"Heil Hitler," Fritz intoned, bringing his hand up in a casual salute. He handed the Soldbuchs to the waiting soldier.

 

The soldier looked at each Soldbuch and peered into the car, looking at each man. He glanced in the back seat at the three boys. "Wer sind die Jugend?" the soldier asked, still retaining the Soldbuchs. Who are the youths, Major?

 

Fritz gave his same answer, that the boys were delinquents escaped from a nearby work camp, found by a farmer and being taken to the nearest Gestapo office.

 

The soldier merely nodded, still studying the Soldbuchs. "Würden Sie aus dem Auto heraus treten, Major?" the soldier asked, casually opening the driver door. Would you step out of the car, Major?

 

Fritz felt a thousand little pins prickling at him. He hid his discomfort and glared at the soldier. "Was ist die Bedeutung von diesem?" What is the meaning of this?

 

"Aus dem Auto heraus bitte." Out of the car, please. The soldier looked at Fritz and then further into the car at Major Miller. "Sie außerdem, Hauptmann Maynard." You as well, Captain Maynard.

Miller had been so busy paying attention to Fritz and the first soldier he didn't notice the second soldier had moved from the barricade to the passenger door. The door now popped open. Miller turned and looked up at the blurred face of the soldier. He then glanced back at Fritz, feeling those same pins. Fritz was already stepping out of the car. Miller did the same.

 

"Sie beantworteten nicht meine Frage, Soldaten," Fritz said. "Was ist die Bedeutung von diesem?" You did not answer my question, soldier. What is the meaning of this?

 

The first soldier ignored Fritz and looked across at the roof of the car at his comrade standing with Miller. "Guten Tag, Herr Hauptmann. Wie heißen Sie?"

 

Fritz gulped. Damn! "Um was sind Sie bitten seinen Namen?" he demanded. "Sie haben das Soldbuch, Sie kennen seinen Namen. Dieses ist lächerlich!" What are you asking his name for? You have the Soldbuch, you know his name. This is ridiculous!

 

"Ja, aber kennt er seinen Namen?" the soldier glared back at Fritz. "Spricht er deutsch?" Yes, but does he know his name? Does he know German?

 

The second soldier poked the business end of his rifle into Miller's right shoulder. He repeated the question. "Wie heißen Sie?"

 

"Maynard," Miller answered. He had picked up the word 'name' in Fritz's rebuke and knew the word 'sie' was 'you.' They were asking his name. More than that, they were acting as though they knew he was going to lie to them. "Claus Maynard." Miller looked back and forth between the two blurred soldiers. I wish I could see!

 

"Woher Kommen Sie, Claus Maynard?"  Where are you from, Claus Maynard?

 

You want to see Miller? I'll tell you what you're seeing. You're seeing your cover about to be blown!

 

Fritz was seeing the same thing. The soldiers were more than just suspicious. They knew who they had. And Fritz knew that Miller didn't know enough German to understand what was being asked of him, nor to be able to reply. They would not be able to talk their way out of this.

 

"Dieses ist lächerlich!" Fritz said. "Er ist von Bonn, es hat Recht im Soldbuch." This is ridiculous! He is from Bonn, it is right in the Soldbuch.

 

“Wir möchten, damit er uns das erklärt,” the first soldier said. “Hauptmann Maynard, sie sind mit dem Gestapo gewesen, wie lang?” We would like for him to tell us that. Captain Maynard, how long have you been with the Gestapo?"

 

It's no use Fritz, they've got us pegged.... Miller appeared to think about his answer for a moment and then suddenly he grabbed the second soldier's rifle, pushing it away from his shoulder and swung out a good swift kick to the shin. The soldier howled on impact and one hand let go of the rifle, immediately reaching down to his bruised leg. Miller kept a hold on the rifle, yanked it from the soldier’s single handed grasp and followed up by swinging the butt end of it into the soldier's stomach, knocking the wind out of him. A second hit sent the soldier to the ground.

 

Fritz had reacted within a split second of Miller's sudden move. The first soldier had looked quick when his comrade had howled in pain and then was suddenly in a struggle with Fritz for his rifle. The three boys spilled out of the back of the car to help in subduing the soldiers. Adler and Ahren gave some help to Fritz, while Erik stood with Miller, who had the second soldier well situated. Miller didn’t have to see much to know the soldier was within point blank range of the rifle.

 

Ahren pulled the rifle from the first solider and Fritz and Adler forced the soldier over the hood the car, pulling his arms behind him. Fritz held the soldier down and spoke quickly in German to Adler, telling him to retrieve the rope from the trunk of the car. They would tie the soldiers to the post of the barricade. Ahren took a position in front of the car and kept the rifle trained on the first soldier. Out of the corner of his eye he could see Miller, Erik and the second soldier.

 

Adler retrieved the rope and returned to the front of the car. The first soldier's hands were tied behind his back and he was left face down on the hood for a moment, under Ahrens watchful eye, while Fritz and Adler came to the second soldier and tied his hands behind him.

 

"Up," Fritz commanded. He and Adler hauled the second soldier to his feet and marched him over to the side of the road, near the post that held the wooded barricade. Ahren poked the rifle he held into the ribs of the first soldier and ordered him to move.

 

Miller disengaged his aim of the rifle and dug out his glasses so he could see what the heck was going on. At that point he realized his heart was racing and he stepped back to place a steady hand on the open passenger door. The two soldiers were seated at the base of the post and situated back to back, the post between them. Fritz went to work, wrapping the remaining of the rope around the two, securing them to the post. With the last knot tied, Fritz stood back and looked at Major Miller, his expression a cross between a grin and a scolding look.

 

"I am not sure if I should thank you or curse you!"

 

Miller nodded. "It was the damn stupidest thing I could have done, I know."

 

"But it worked," Ahren said.

 

"Yes, but it just as easily could have not," Fritz said. "All of us could have been shot!"

 

"You are to be shot," the first of the two soldiers said in English, startling Fritz and Miller. They looked at him and he sneered up at them.  "The Gestapo and the SS are looking for you." He looked at Miller. "Especially you. And when they find you, they will shoot you."

 

Miller stared at the soldier and then turned slowly to look at Fritz. The bandleader paled at the decree and Fritz too gulped at the prospect.

 

"Let's get out of here..." Fritz said.

 

Since the sedan was already equipped with two guns in the trunk, the two rifles were tossed into the woods. The Soldbuchs were picked up off the ground and the sedan then pulled away, kicking back a fine cloud of dust to the two tied soldiers.

 

Miller pulled his mustache off. "What do we do now?" he asked. "Where do we go?"

 

"The nearest safe house is in Garrel, only a few miles from here. From there we will have to....rethink our route." Fritz paused and took his eyes of the road briefly, glancing at the American in the passenger seat. "Herr Miller, I--"

 

Miller held a hand up. "Don't say it. Just do the best you can, Fritz. My fate is in the hands of God anyway."

 

"Then God help me," Fritz said. "I made a promise that I would see to it you return safely to England. And that is exactly what I intend to do..."

 

Day 8 - Evening

 

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Notes

** "Nights in Shining Armor" ep. 70 and is "Is General Hammerschlag Burning?" ep. 73. I've only seen the "Nights" episode, but I dug his character and thought it appropriate to use him in this story. Although the time period of this story France is liberated, I figure Dubois to still be helping the Underground, possibly now working in Belgium, but occasionally crossing into Germany.