Chapter 9 - North Reich - Robert Conroy

North Reich - Robert Conroy (2012)

Chapter 9

General George C. Marshall was his usual expressionless self as he sat across from President Roosevelt. For his part, the president was, as always, uncomfortable in the presence of his senior army commander. Marshall was a man who intimidated almost everyone.

“Mr. President, I would like you to reconsider my request.”

How many times had the man asked and how many times have I turned him down, FDR wondered. The denial was Marshall’s own fault for doing such a splendid job in Washington as the army’s chief of staff.

“No, general, I cannot spare you. I don’t think I would sleep well if you weren’t here to guide me. I understand fully just how much you want a field command, but I need you here. We are still at war with the Japanese and we need you to coordinate and control those efforts as well as the likely coming war with Germany. You nominated Eisenhower to command the forces arrayed against the Nazis and we are both confident that he will do a fine job.”

Marshall knew he was whipped. His dream of leading an army in battle would not be fulfilled. He’d held a staff position in France during the first war, and performed brilliantly, but he’d never held a combat command and it ate at him.

Marshall, of course, totally agreed with Roosevelt’s assessment of Eisenhower. Ike might not be a great strategist, but his skills as an administrator and facilitator would prove invaluable. Not only would he have to deal with his own subordinates, but he would have to mollify the Canadians while their country was destroyed by a war that was none of their choosing. When the fighting began, it was more than likely that the British would also come into the fray. In particular, the Royal Navy ships now in the Chesapeake and elsewhere were commanded by the dashing and charismatic Admiral Sir Philip Vian, a man who also craved action. Vian was a fighting admiral and Marshall thought that would mean a lot with King. Marshall’s own sources told him that the Brits were chomping at the bit to storm out of their sanctuaries and take on the German U-boats.

Ironically, his own secretary of state disagreed. He felt that the potential food situation would keep the Brits on the sidelines until they felt it was safe. We shall see, the president thought.

The two men reviewed the command structure. Along the St. Clair and Detroit Rivers, Lieutenant General George S. Patton commanded the U.S. Third army which consisted of two corps of two divisions each. They were located inland from the city of Detroit and both the St. Clair and Detroit rivers and would not move into position until and if the Germans attacked. Both FDR and Marshall knew they might be excoriated by future historians for not moving preemptively. But an early move would tip off the Germans who would likely cancel their operations and wait for another and more propitious day. Such would result in even more American casualties. No, it was better to bite the bullet and wait for April 2.

A similar situation waited on the Buffalo-Niagara line. There the American Fifth Army, consisting of three corps of two divisions each, was commanded by Lieutenant General Lloyd Fredendall. Marshall was a strong supporter of Fredendall and was confident that he would do splendidly in battle with the Nazis. Marshall admitted that had heard the rumors that Fredendall was a swaggering braggart, but so was Patton. Even if one of his chosen commanders failed, there were others waiting in the wings, and those included people like Omar Bradley and Lucian Truscott.

FDR looked thoughtful. “Ten divisions will not be enough to conquer Canada, will it?”

Marshall stifled a grimace. How many times had they been over this point? The president had been very forgetful lately. The stress of his office must be getting to him. He hoped it wasn’t some other health-related problem. The nation needed FDR’s calming strength even though he sometimes drove Marshall crazy.

“No sir, but it should be more than enough to stifle a large German raid. We will need at least one more army group to properly invade and conquer Canada when the time comes. Those troops will begin to arrive as soon as war is declared.”

This point did not make the president happy. He’d gone to congress after the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor and rallied a nation. But would he be able to do it a second time? Wouldn’t the public wonder just how he could have been hoodwinked again? Yes, he’d get his war declared, but his reputation might just wind up in tatters if it was found out that he knew that the Germans would attack on April second and did nothing to head it off.

The expansion of the army in the American northeast would have one pleasant side effect. Dwight Eisenhower would soon be in command of the largest American army in the nation’s history, far eclipsing that commanded in the Pacific by the very annoying Douglas MacArthur. He wondered if MacArthur might want to return stateside and take over Ike’s forces. FDR decided that he would not allow that to happen. MacArthur was wrapping up the liberation of the Philippines. He’d declared victory even though more than fifty thousand Japanese soldiers were still active in the islands. No, he did not want MacArthur taking over and proclaiming he’d won with a German army still on North American soil.

Captain Heinrich Stahl waited nervously and wished he was back in the German embassy. The park bench was cold and damp, and he was uncomfortable with the White House in view across the street. It was a reminder that the United States was an undeclared enemy of Germany and he might soon be interned as a prisoner for a very long while. He thought that people were watching him and that police and Secret Service would soon run out and arrest him. They wouldn’t, of course. It was just his imagination running wild. And, even if he was questioned, he still had diplomatic immunity.

That it was raining lightly didn’t improve his mood. At least he hadn’t had to sit there all day to ensure that this particular bench was available for this rendezvous. He’d given that dubious honor to a very junior staffer who was now in the embassy trying to warm up with some Schnapps. Stahl was almost certain the meeting would be a waste of time, but almost certain was not absolutely certain.

He shivered and wondered how many FBI agents were watching him. He turned as a well-dressed and educated looking middle-aged man carrying a bag lunch approached cautiously. “May I sit here?” he said. “It’s a wonderful view of the White House.”

“Of course, it’s as pretty as a postcard.”

The banal dialog identified each to the other. “As I stated in my letter, I have a proposition for you,” the older man said after he settled himself and looked around.

They all do, Stahl thought. “First, who are you and why should I listen to you?”

The poor fool looked surprised and Stahl couldn’t help but be amazed at the man’s naiveté. Didn’t he expect to be interrogated? Of course he already knew who the man was, but Stahl would never let on.

“Sir, I am a scientist working for an intelligence gathering operation outside Washington in a place called Camp Washington. We have many secrets and I would like to trade a very important one for a way out of the United States.”

Stahl decided to be firm. Despite an arrogant and calm façade, the man’s hands were shaking. He was so frightened that he might be bullied into giving away more information than he’d planned.


“I am in trouble, woman trouble. A young lady, an Italian no less, is going to claim that I am the father of her bastard child and that will destroy my reputation as a scientist at Camp Washington, as well as gravely angering my wife. She can be very vile at times. My life here will have no purpose or meaning; therefore, I would like to return to Europe.”

Stahl had a hard time not laughing. The sanctimonious old fart had used his cock instead of his brain. “Are you the child’s father?”

“I don’t believe that’s important,” the man said stiffly, confirming the fact that he was.

“Then what’s your name?”

“Langford Morris, Ph.D., and I’ve been working on breaking Germany’s codes.”

Another one, Stahl thought. Perhaps he’ll also claim to have invented an anti-gravity machine. “I presume you’re going to tell me that German codes have been compromised, broken, and that the Americans know all our secrets.”

“I am. I will even tell you that the Americans know that you will attack on April second.”

“First of all, Dr. Langford, far too many people suspect that April second will be the day of the attack, which means that it isn’t that much of a secret. It is entirely likely that the Americans have already gotten the information and are trying to decide if it is true. Since they appear to have done nothing about it, there is little likelihood that they believe their good fortune, if indeed it is true.”

Stahl stood and laughed harshly. “And as to your laughable assertion that the Americans have broken our codes, let me assure you that they have not. Our codes have so many millions of variables that they cannot be deciphered by our enemies, as you doubtless know, although I am also certain that they are trying very hard to do so. Let them. They will accomplish nothing other than to waste their time.”

Langford looked at Stahl in disbelief. “I assure you I am telling the truth.”

“Doctor, you are a liar and a fraud. I am not going to go to any effort to get you out of the United States so you can escape your responsibilities. Good day, sir.”

Stahl walked briskly back to his car and the short drive to the embassy. It was a shame he had to suffer fools, but it was part of the job. With Langford put in his place, Stahl was content that he could spend the rest of his time preparing for war.

Across the park and sitting cozily on another bench across from Stahl and Langford, Captain Art Baldwin of the Pentagon Provost Marshal’s office sat with Alicia Cutter. Even though she’d only seen him a couple of times, her job was to positively identify Langford. Although she didn’t think Langford would have recognized her, she covered her blond hair with a dark wig and covered it all with a scarf. Never take a chance, Baldwin had said and she agreed. His arm was around her shoulders and her head rested on his. To the world they were just another pair of lovers finding a private moment.

Instead, they were listening to the conversation between Stahl and Langford that was being broadcast from a microphone under the bench the two men occupied. Their conversation was being transcribed on a wire recorder, and a couple of stenographers were taking down the dialog.

“I think we can get up now,” Alicia said. Baldwin was married but it seemed that he was enjoying the situation a little more than was necessary. He was cute, but not as cute as Tom Grant.

“Darn,” Baldwin said with an unrepentant grin.

“Now tell me again why we didn’t involve the FBI.”
“Because it’s an army problem and there will be an army solution. Also, what was being discussed is top secret and the FBI has a tendency to leak things to the press, especially if it makes the bureau look good. The last thing we need is for some cheesy columnist like Walter Winchell telling the world that we’re trying to break Germany’s sacred codes.”

“So, have we broken their codes or not?”

“How would I know - you’re the one who works there. So what is happening at Camp Washington?”

“Well, I’m not important enough to know secrets, although I think it’s highly unlikely we’ve broken any major codes. I do know that we are working hard on it, but what that German said about millions of variables is correct. Even if we should somehow manage to translate a coded message it might be months after the fact and be totally useless by that time. Langford was trying to feather his nest. What is going to happen to him?”

They’d walked to a staff car. Baldwin opened the doors and they both got in. “I think he’ll be warned and watched. His career is effectively over, although he won’t be arrested or charged with anything. Nobody will want any possible publicity. When we play the recording for him, he’ll probably crap.”

Alicia smiled warmly. “I’d love to be there to see that. Please make sure that he acknowledges his paternity and pays Aggie’s bills. She’s now in a home for unwed mothers and, when the baby is delivered, she’ll be discharged from the army. It won’t be honorable, which doesn’t seem fair, but maybe it’s the best thing.”

“Nothing’s ever fair, lieutenant, especially in the army. You did do the right thing with this Langford creep. Now you can go back to your major and tell him what a great day you had.”

“Thanks. What will happen to Stahl?”

“Probably nothing, although I’d like to see him sent home. I think he’s up to no good. However, he did refuse Langford’s proposal and he does have diplomatic immunity. Yeah, we could send him back to Germany and then they’d send one of ours back here in a diplomatic tit for tat. Nah, this Stahl guy will get to stay, at least for the time being.

Admiral Sir Philip Vian stood on the bridge of his flagship, the battleship King George V. It was the second ship named after Britain’s beloved king. Unlike American ships where the bridge was enclosed, Royal Navy warships were open to the wind and Vian liked that. At least he liked it most of the time, he thought with a smile as he recalled some frigid days in the North Atlantic.

The battleship, Vian reluctantly admitted, was as obsolescent as the British Empire. The Americans had bigger and mightier battleships, as did what remained of the Royal Navy after being bled by the German navy, the Kriegsmarine.

The fifty-nine year old Vian had chosen the King George V because he liked the ship and her history. She had been instrumental in the sinking of the German super battleship, the Bismarck, in May of 1941. Even though she displaced forty-two thousand tons, the King George V was slightly under-gunned with only ten fourteen-inch cannon. Most modern battleships carried sixteen-inch guns and many of the older ones carried fifteen-inchers. Vian wasn’t concerned since it was highly unlikely that she’d be fighting other battleships. Germany’s fleet of capital ships consisted entirely of the admittedly mighty Tirpitz and two much smaller battleships, the Scharnhorst and the Gneisnau. No, the battleship was now the escort to the carrier, not the other way around.

He was sadly confident that no battleship would be named after King George VI, the current monarch, no matter how beloved he was. Vian was certain that the Royal Navy would build no more of the giant battlewagons.

Vian wanted to fight and the long months of waiting in the Chesapeake for war between the U.S. and Germany to break out had been hell on his nerves. He understood the American position and appreciated the fact that the Yanks had provided shelter and succor for his ships and their crews. He further understood that it would have been awkward at best for the United States to have permitted the Royal Navy ships to steam to the Pacific to fight the Japanese, even though both nations were at war with them. At one time, the Royal Navy’s presence would have been welcome, but the Americans appeared to have the Japanese navy well in hand. Of course, his handful of aircraft carriers would have acquitted themselves well against Japanese suicide planes because of their armored decks. That armor, however, weighted down the carriers, which meant they carried fewer planes than the American ships.

When war came, if it ever came he thought angrily, the carriers, escorted by battleships and cruisers would seek out and destroy the growing horde of German U-boats.

However, the situation was changing. Tonight’s dinner on Vian’s flagship would be a very significant signal of that. Admiral Ernest King, Chief of Naval Operations, would be his guest at dinner tonight. Tall, lean, abrasive, hard-drinking, womanizing, and rude, King appreciated the danger Germany presented. Despite the rage King felt by the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, he’d come to see Hitler as the ultimate enemy. Japan would be defeated soon, although the Japanese seemed to be hell bent on committing national suicide before they did and dragging the United States into a monumental bloodbath.

Dinner with King was intended to present Vian’s wishes and hopes that, when war started, America would support the Royal Navy’s sorties out into the Atlantic. It galled Vian to admit it, but the Royal Navy was totally dependent on American good will for food, fuel, and even ammunition.

He was also concerned that the still-functioning government in London would order him to stay put so as not to upset the Germans and cause them to retaliate.

Vian was reasonably confident that he could win over the crusty Anglophobic admiral. He had a secret weapon with which to charm the irascible King - liquor. It was served on Royal Navy ships.

Now all he had to do was convince London to turn him loose when the time came.

Deputy sheriff Wally Curran hated squatters. Since the Depression, they’d been a bloody damn nuisance. He sympathized with the fact that many of them had lost homes and jobs, but that didn’t mean they could go around taking over other people’s property. It was stealing, no matter how you sugar-coated it. Thus, when the report of a bunch of strangers hunkered down at a hunting cabin came in he decided to check it out.

The county’s five year old Chevy patrol car creaked and banged down the rutted dirt road like something important was going to fall off, making Curran realize that he might have made a mistake. He was just too old for this kind of shit. He’d been retired for several years when he was asked to fill in for one of the younger guys who’d been called to active duty in the army. Curran was as patriotic as the next man, so how could he refuse? He was too old to serve in the army, but he could take the place of a man who could. Hell, if his old boss, Sheriff Charley Canfield could serve, so could he, although in a different manner.

The phoned-in report said that a small group of men had taken over a hunting cabin about ten miles from where he was when he got the report. Since it wasn’t hunting season for anything, it meant that they could be poachers. Under any circumstances, it was highly unlikely that the men had a right to be in that cabin. There was a slight possibility that the owners, a family who lived in New Jersey, had loaned out the cabin to some men for a week of drinking and card-playing away from work and wives, but he thought that was unlikely. However, if the guys were indeed legit, he’d tell them to enjoy themselves and drive on.

Curran had given thought to asking for backup, but the department was short-staffed and, what the hell, if he couldn’t scare a handful of drifters into leaving someone else’s premises, he didn’t deserve a badge. His real concern was that the squad car would break down leaving him in the woods until he could be rescued by other deputies who would laugh their asses off at his predicament. Well, his radio worked and headquarters knew where he was. It would be embarrassing, but not a disaster.

At least the roads had been plowed, he thought. The latest round of snow blown in from Lake Erie had been pushed to the sides of the roads. He turned off the main road and drove up a gravel driveway to the small white wooden cabin. A battered pickup truck was parked a few yards away from the building. A couple of men got up and looked at him. They didn’t seem too concerned, which surprised Curran. Now, where were the others? The report said there were at least four men.

Curran got out awkwardly. His hip was killing him. “Okay, boys, who are you and what’re you doing here?”

The two men looked at each other and said nothing. Curran began to get angry. He did not like smartasses giving him the silent treatment. “Enough. Now answer my question.”

Two other men, each carrying military style rifles that Curran recognized as Mausers entered from the woods to his left. The first two men seemed relieved, while Curran began to feel decidedly uncomfortable. Damn it, maybe he should have radioed in for backup and just sat tight until it arrived.

Curran stared at one man who was being deferred to by the others while shifting his hand towards the holstered revolver at his side. “Who gave you authority to be here?” he asked.

“I gave it to myself,” the man said in accented English as he swung his rifle and fired. The bullet hit Curran in the chest, knocking him on his back. The pain was intense and he couldn’t breathe. His vision began to fade.

“I’m sorry,” the shooter said coldly. “You are brave but very foolish. This will make it faster.” The shooter stood over him and fired again, this time into Curran’s skull.

The leader of the group calmly lowered his rifle and spoke in German to his men. “Drag him far into the woods. Then drive that car into the woods as well. It’s time to pack up and leave. He will be missed and other policemen will be here before long. Now move.”

“A thought, captain,” said the oldest of the three other men.

Captain Albers smiled tolerantly. He and Sergeant Gorbach went back a long ways, even to the frozen suburbs of Moscow where Albers had lost a couple of toes to frostbite. “I have never been able to stop you from speaking your thoughts, sergeant.”

“Then may I suggest stripping the policeman’s body and dumping the corpse in the woods a few miles from here. I would also suggest putting the uniform and the car someplace where we can find them. Who knows, both might come in handy.”

Albers nodded agreement. A local police car and a uniformed driver might just prove useful.

“As always, an excellent idea, sergeant. I think it might be at least a couple of hours before the local police either miss this man or can even come out here.”

Albers gave quick orders to disassemble their priceless radio and load everything else, uniforms and weapons, into the truck. His men were all veterans and they moved with swift efficiency. Within minutes they were driving down the road with the squad car following. The half-naked body of the unfortunate Deputy Curran was in the trunk. Gorbach had even shoveled dirt and snow over where the policeman had bled onto the ground. With a little luck, other policemen might think that their comrade hadn’t even been the cabin. That would buy them some time and they didn’t need all that much to disappear into the woods.

Albers had four other teams in the area awaiting final orders, and he would join with one of them and await the day they were turned loose on the Americans.

General Heinz Guderian eagerly accepted the invitation to meet with von Arnim for dinner at his headquarters. He’d been out in the field inspecting troops and trying to stay out of von Arnim’s way while he prepared for the coming battles. It wasn’t easy. Guderian had a large number of suggestions he hoped he’d be able to make. He had to admit, however, that von Arnim had done a solid, professional job of preparing his growing army for the monumental task ahead.

Von Arnim greeted him cordially and, after an excellent dinner featuring the quality of steak long since unavailable in Germany, the two men sat across from each other on large leather chairs. A fire burned in a fireplace as they enjoyed their brandies.

Von Arnim spoke first. “Tell me, in your opinion approximately how many people know the attack will take place on April second?”

“Of necessity, dozens, perhaps more. The closer we get to the target date the number will grow and grow. It has to. Our men have to be prepared.”

“Yes, and that number will begin to include junior officers and enlisted men until practically the whole army will know the secret. And if they know it, the Americans will surely find out if they haven’t done so already.”

“But will they know or merely suspect?” Guderian asked. “Apparently the Americans had some warning of the attack on Pearl Harbor and chose to ignore the possibility. Stalin had some foreknowledge of our attack on the Soviet Union in 1941, but he too ignored it. Both countries chose to adhere to their preconceived notions and the results were disastrous. Will the Americans act on their suspicions and attack preemptively? I certainly would. However, they will not.”

Von Arnim laughed. “As would any reasonable man. The Americans are not always reasonable, however. Their military and political focus is on the destruction of Japan. Based on intelligence from our embassy in Washington, the American government wishes that any German problem will go away. I agree that they will not move preemptively. It goes against their absurd sense of morality.”

“Even so, you are not comfortable, are you?”

“No, I am not. Do you recall when I said that the time for the attacks could not be changed? Well, I didn’t quite tell the truth. The Fuhrer gave me some latitude in the matter. While I could not attack any later than April second if I wished to retain my rank and my head, I could accelerate the timetable. Today is Tuesday, the twenty-first of March. We will attack on Saturday, the twenty-fifth, only four more days from now.”

Guderian lifted his glass in salute. “Excellent. Now, how many of your men know of the new date?”

Von Arnim grinned in satisfaction. “Counting you, less than a score and all of them are sworn to secrecy. All commands have been ready in all aspects for several days and all have been told to commence hostilities at or after midnight on hearing the code word. The word, by the way, is Grendel, the name of the monster from Beowulf.” He sighed happily, “I always liked that tale.”

“As do I,” said Guderian. He was pleased. The April second date had been bandied around just a little too much for his comfort. The Americans had a phrase - Loose Lips Sink Ships - and he felt that loose lips also destroyed tanks and killed soldiers.

“Of course, not everyone will get the word,” added von Arnim. “In particular, I doubt if the men we’ve planted deep in the United States will all get the message of the change. They will begin their war on April second or any time after the twenty-fifth of March when they realize it has commenced. Who knows, staggering our efforts might just be more effective.”

“What about Neumann, the Gestapo, and the Black Shirts?”

“The Gestapo will recover. Neumann will be angry for a while, but my orders come directly from Adolf Hitler. He will not question them. As to his Black Shirt Brigade, they can all rot in hell for all I care.”

Wally and Jed Munro let their men stretch and get ready. There was a full squad of Black Shirts with them, and they were excited at finally being let off the leash. For too long they felt they hadn’t been permitted to hurt either the enemies of the Reich or those Canadians who hated the Black Shirts. The racially mongrel population of Toronto had begun to make fun of them because of their inactivity, and that was intolerable. They’d even lost a few of the brawls that had taken place. The Munro’s were beginning to lose both heart and manpower as several of the Black Shirts simply quit.

Now they were looking forward to both revenge and fun. They had parked down the dirt road and behind some trees so they could not be seen from the two story Victorian house located in a rural area just outside the city boundaries of Toronto. The house was the home of Steve and Sherry Piper, brother and sister, and they were suspected of printing and disseminating anti-Nazi propaganda. Neumann wanted them shut down, but he didn’t want the Gestapo directly involved, not after the uproar surrounding the ship taking the Jews to Germany. The Munros still didn’t understand all the concern about a bunch of kikes on a boat.

Jed nudged Wally and grinned wickedly. “Brother and sister? Hell, I’ll bet they’re doing each other.”

Several of the others heard and laughed. Yes, it would be good to kick the Jew lovers until they squealed. They knew little about the Pipers except that she was thirty and he was in his mid-twenties and that they were both single. If Neumann wanted them punished, that was fine with the Black Shirts. Hell, maybe they actually were doing each other.

Neither of the Munro brothers was a stranger to incest and molestation. Their father had abused them until they were old enough to strike back at him and make it stick. They didn’t mourn when he fell into a sewage pond on the Don River that was so filthy that no one wanted to go in and rescue him. When somebody finally did pull him out, he was dead. No big loss, they thought.

Wally gave a signal and the dozen men charged the house. A sledgehammer crumpled the front door and they surged in, yelling and brandishing baseball bats and clubs. Only the two Munros carried guns. Neumann wanted no killing unless it couldn’t be avoided.

The Pipers were in their kitchen and, sure enough, there was a small printing press and a stack of paper. “What the hell’s going on here,” snapped Steve Piper in a show of bravado that was cut short by a punch to the gut. It doubled him over and he puked his guts all over the floor. The sister screamed and another stomach punch shut her up as well.

While the Pipers lay on the floor and writhed in pain, Wally saw to it that their hands and feet were bound tightly. The other men carried the press outside and systematically smashed it.

“She’s not that pretty,” said Jed. “But it is pussy.”

Wally disagreed. Even though scared, she was attractive enough and had a decent figure. He wondered if she really was fucking her brother.

Wally began to beat the brother while his sister moaned and begged him to stop. Neumann had taught him well, so his blows were designed to cause agony rather than break bones or cripple. Tomorrow, Wally thought happily, Steve Piper would be a wreck who’d be bleeding and pissing blood for weeks, and whose face would be so swollen not even his mother would recognize him. But he would be alive and the message would be delivered - fuck with the Black Shirts and this is what happens.

“Enough,” Wally said. He grabbed Sherry Piper and dragged her into a first floor bedroom. He threw her on the bed and, while Jed held her down, cut off her clothes with his razor-sharp hunting knife. She screamed in anger and pain when he raped her and then it was Jed’s turn.

When the brothers were through, they let the others in their crew have their turns, “Only once each,” Jed admonished them with a smirk, “we don’t want her dead.” Only a couple of the Shirts took them up on the offer. The woman was too bloody.

They finished their evening by breaking everything in the house. They untied both Pipers and left them to console each other. The Black Shirts, satisfied and sated, went back to their trucks. Wally and Jed looked forward to a pleasant evening of beer and discussions of what they’d accomplished.

Wally was just getting in the passenger side of his truck when a shot rang out. One of his men howled and fell to the ground, grabbing his thigh where blood began to gush out. A second shot and a bullet ricochet off the truck. “Down,” Wally yelled and no one needed urging. Where the hell had the shots come from?

Shit. A line of men could be seen in the moonlight crossing the field towards them and it looked they all had rifles. A couple of them knelt and fired. Another Black Shirt fell - a bullet had ripped through his skull. Damn it, Wally thought, why hadn’t Neumann let them carry more weapons? He pulled out his pistol and fired a couple of shots in the general direction of his attackers. They paused and it was enough. The Munros got their ragged and bloodied caravan on the road and headed back towards the safety of Toronto. Both brothers were mad. Instead of teaching the Pipers and others like them a lesson, it looked like the Black Shirts had been the ones whipped. Sure they had beaten and fucked the Pipers, but one of Wally’s men was dead and another was likely going to die since they couldn’t stop the bleeding from his leg.

FDR looked in dismay at the brief one page report from Camp Washington. “When did we get this?”

“It arrived at Camp Washington a couple of days ago,” General Marshall admitted. “It didn’t seem too important at first, just a change in a schedule, so it wasn’t pushed to the front of the line until someone recognized its significance. Still, we have plenty of time to do something if that’s what you desire.”

“But what do we desire?” Roosevelt said slowly.

It was difficult for him to speak at times like this and he was feeling the weight of the world on his shoulders. The stress of an unprecedented three presidential terms and the thought of a fourth one were preying on his mind. Worse, were the decisions he would have to make. The message on his desk seemed to stare back at him, daring him to do something.

“Can you confirm it?”

“As well as we can confirm anything,” Marshall said. “The message is from Keitel and is directed only to von Arnim.”

Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel was head of the OKW, Germany’s supreme military command. It was understood that he was a puppet for Hitler and that anything coming from Keitel came from the Fuhrer.

Roosevelt wheeled his chair so he could look out the window of the Oval Office. The trees were beginning to come to life. Another day and it would have been beautiful.

“So the bastards are going to attack a week early, damn them. Yet you still recommend we do nothing about it, general?”

Marshall looked at the president. His features were iron. The president was trying to shift responsibility and he didn’t blame him. Still, they both knew that the ultimate decision would be Roosevelt’s.

“I do. If we do anything now to prepare for an earlier attack, the Germans might find out and then they’ll know that we have broken their codes and are reading their messages. If that happens, they will change them and we will be in the dark for God knows how long. We must keep our secret no matter how painful it might be. Just remember Coventry, sir.”

More than five hundred English civilians had been killed in Coventry during a German bombing raid in November, 1940. The English had foreknowledge of the raid yet had let it take place. They could not run the risk of divulging the fact that they had broken Germany’s codes, the same codes that Americans and British were reading at Camp Washington. Hundreds had died in Coventry, but how many thousands had survived and how many more would survive because the secret was kept?

The devil, Roosevelt thought. Did it matter very much if the attack took place on April 2 or March 25? The commitment had already been made. The United States had to be seen as being attacked and absorbing the first blow. He hoped to God that his terrible secret wouldn’t come out, until, at least, after the fall elections. He didn’t want a fourth term, but who else could lead the nation? Henry Wallace? Dear God no. His vice president was a complete ass.

He wadded the piece of paper and threw it in the trash. “I never received any such message, general. And God help us all.”

Major Charley Canfield laughed, itself a rarity in these stressful days. “Well, look what the cat dragged in. I must admit you look a hell of a lot better than you did the first time I laid eyes on you, what with your pecker all frozen and blue.”

“As the saying goes, I clean up well.”

He and Tom shook hands and the two men sat down. The each took a cup of the viscous tar that passed for army coffee. They were in a tent that served as Canfield’s office.

“So what is a spy from the Pentagon doing up here?” Canfield asked, just a little cautiously.

“Spying,” Tom responded facetiously. “Seriously, several of us are up here just trying to get a feel for the situation. Even General Truscott is having a sit down with your man Fredendall.”

Canfield rolled his eyes. “I wish Truscott well.”

“Really?” Tom and others had heard a lot of rumors about the general.

“Fredendall is, well, a truly unique individual. He’s digging in and waiting for a massive German assault. He’s turned his headquarters into a citadel defended by a whole battalion.”

Tom was surprised. “Didn’t he get the word that we consider it very unlikely that the Nazis will do anything but launch raids?”

“Let’s just say he talks a good fight but it looks like he’s actually very cautious. If the Germans do attack in any strength, we’ll have a hell of a time getting to them because of the way he’s got the army dug in. Mine is just about the only unit with any mobility and that’s because we’ve got all those radar units to protect and that ain’t going too well either.”

“Why is that?”

“Because our orders are to keep patrolling the roads and stay out of the woods. Even though I lost one of my civilian cops to possible Nazis doesn’t get those orders changed. We don’t have enough men to search the woods, or that’s what I was told. Bullshit if you ask me.”

Canfield went on to explain how a replacement deputy went missing and how his body was subsequently found when somebody noticed a flock of crows congregating a little ways off the road and got curious.

“Deputy Curran’s body was a mess. He’d been shot twice and the birds and animals had been feeding on him for a while. Back at the place he’d gone to check, one of my brighter cops brought a dog that sniffed out what might be blood that had been covered by dirt. He sent a bag of the dirt to the local high school so that one of the science teachers could examine it and see if it actually was blood. It was and it was even Curran’s blood type. Curran’s uniform and squad car are missing, too. Curran was an old fart who’d retired and came back to serve. I want to kill the bastards who killed him.”

“Christ,” said Tom. “Even a blind man could see where either would be hugely useful to any saboteurs.”

“Now it’s my turn. Just how good are the rumors that April second is the day?”

“As good as anything. In Washington, there are more rumors than there are people, but April the second seems to be the consensus. Endeavors like starting a war take a lot of time and planning and coordination, and that involves letting people in on the secret. And that, of course means people talk.”

Canfield shook his head in disbelief. “So they talk and we listen? Great. Any chance of us good guys launching a first strike to knock them on their fucking keesters?”

“The chances of that are zero. If we hit first, then we’re the bad guys, just like the Japs were at Pearl Harbor.”

“Not even if it saves lives? American lives? Jesus wept, what a way to run a war.”

Tom shrugged. “I’m just the messenger, not the message. These things are always decided way above my pay grade.”

“Could it be because somebody wants to run for a fourth term?”

“Nothing would surprise me. I know a nice young lady who likes me. She used to be a schoolteacher before she became a WAC officer and, even though some Canadian Nazis tried to kill her, she thinks it would be terrible to strike first. Oh yeah, she also feels that FDR would be making a big mistake to run again.”

Canfield had heard the story of the attack and was impressed. He’d also read a report saying that Grant had been involved in the freeing of the Jews from the Beaufort. Grant and his girlfriend, he thought, seemed to get around. “She’s probably right on both counts. She’s also probably too good for you.”

“I just hope she never finds out.”

Tom checked his watch and stood. A C47 would be taking off from Buffalo for Washington in an hour. Truscott would be on board and, if the general was on time, the plane would not wait for any lowly major who wasn’t there. Tom had made one trip from Buffalo where he’d had to scramble and didn’t want a second. He told Canfield to use the remainder of the coffee to repair the local roads. It was time to go and he would be on the plane before Truscott showed up.

As he drove off, Tom could not help but wonder if everything was being done. Why weren’t American soldiers being used to chase down what were probably Nazis instead of digging in against an attack that wasn’t going to come? It didn’t make sense. Was Fredendall going to sit back and be a punching bag when he could be out scouring the woods for the bad guys?

On a happier note, he had more than a week to grab some time with Alicia.

The rivalry between army intelligence and the OSS was intense, almost as intense as that between the army and the navy, and despite what the president had done to calm the troubled waters. General Marshall hated the necessity of speaking with OSS head Wild Bill Donovan, but he buried his pride. Nothing less than American blood was at stake.

The two men met in a small room at the venerable Hay Adams Hotel where each had ostensibly gone for lunch with others. As neutral sites went, it was a good one and nothing the media or other rumor mongers would notice.

At first, Donovan was shocked, then hurt, that his friend Roosevelt would cut him out of the loop regarding the change of the date for the German attack. However, he calmed quickly.

“Obviously, you want something from me,” he said to Marshall.

“I want an excuse to alert my troops at the last minute in order to save lives while still keeping the secret of Ultra. Is there anything your people have discovered that would help? Have there been any significant troop movements, anything? I cannot abide the thought of our troops being attacked without at least having a chance to get to their weapons. I don’t want anything like Pearl Harbor. Even an excuse that would give us a few minutes and not give away our secrets would save countless lives. And, by the way, I know I am speaking for Admiral King as well.”

Marshall laughed harshly and continued. “I’ve even gone so far as to issue another War Warning, but that was several weeks ago. Human nature being what it is I’m sure that many are beginning to think that any threat is fading and that life will go back to normal. Of course, I did make sure every unit got it and hammered home the fact that it applied to everyone, no matter how far they might be from the Canadian border. To the best of my ability, there will be none of that it can’t happen to me mentality.”

“I rather think that attitude disappeared after Pearl Harbor. However, I’ll do what I can,” Donovan said softly. He shared Marshall’s anguish at the thought of defenseless Americans being slaughtered. “We have people monitoring airfields and army emplacements. Right now, we see nothing; however, that could change in a heartbeat. Do you agree that any initial attack will come from the air?”

“I do, although I also believe that follow-up attacks will come from ground forces and saboteurs. German submarines will, of course, do their own evil work.”

“Good. We will focus on watching the Luftwaffe. Right now, major German army and tank units are still well away from the border, but emplacements to hold them have been built just inside Canada. Right now, they are empty, but they could be filled with soldiers and tanks in very short order.”

“Give me anything that would legitimize an alert.”

“You’ll have it as soon as I do. We will agree on a code word. Why don’t we use the word ‘Lexington’ in honor of the Revolutionary War battle?”


Donovan smiled. “Now, would you like to know what we think the Russians are up to?”