Chapter 10 - North Reich - Robert Conroy

North Reich - Robert Conroy (2012)

Chapter 10

Alicia hadn’t wanted to go to the ladies room with her friend Rosemary Poole any more than she’d wanted to have dinner with her and her date. But they had run into each other while waiting for a table at the crowded restaurant and she had little choice.

Now, instead of a quiet and intimate dinner for two, she and Tom were stuck in an unwelcome foursome. At least it got them a table earlier than other couples who were stuck waiting in line. Rosemary also was a WAC lieutenant who supervised clerks at Camp Washington, and her boyfriend was an overweight and self-important quartermaster captain named Stan. “The army runs on its belly,” he’d said, “and we aim to keep that belly full.” Tom rolled his eyes at that conceit while Alicia stifled a giggle.

Alicia wondered where it was written that women had to be accompanied to the john in the first place. Two guys never went together. They’d get arrested and probably beaten up if they did.

The two women sat alone in front of the mirrors and Rosemary added more lipstick than was necessary. Alicia thought it would soon be smeared all over Rosemary’s and Stan’s faces if not other parts of their bodies. It was a reminder that she should keep her own to a minimum unless they wanted to look like clowns by the end of the evening.

She and Tom had signaled each other that it was time to leave. This evening they would have a modicum of privacy. They would be dog-sitting at Colonel Downing’s place while they went to some retirement function for an over-the-hill major at Fort Meade. The colonel and Missy wouldn’t be home until about midnight. They could stay all night if they wished, although Missy insisted that they would have to be in separate rooms. Alicia wondered how firm that rule was.

Rosemary sighed as she placed her lipstick in her purse. “Is Tom as sex-crazed as Stan?”

The blunt question surprised and amused her. “I don’t know. Just how crazed is Stan?”

“We’ve got to do it every time we go out. If we don’t screw, he wants me to interesting things with my mouth. Ever do that? No, I guess you quiet types never have. As the old saying goes, don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it. At least no one ever got pregnant from doing it.”

“I’ll think about it,” Alicia said. At least she knew that the proper term was fellatio.

“Seriously, Alicia, don’t go prudish on me. I know I’m not the best looking girl in the world. I’m not anywhere near you in the looks department, so I can’t be choosy. If Stan wants it, he’s going to get it. Besides, we could all be dead in a very short time and that especially means all these great guys could be in a grave somewhere. I do not want to become an old woman without having experienced life and love and, yeah, I complain about him, but I do love Stanley. And since I do love him, I don’t mind doing whatever he wants.” She giggled, “Actually, I’ve kinda grown to like it.”

Alicia wondered if Aggie Fanelli had ever thought of that. Probably not, she decided. After all, Alicia hadn’t been certain what fellatio was until she went to college, and that was not the term her friends used. She’d told her roommates that she would never ever do such a thing. They’d asked what if she truly loved the guy, and she did admit to wondering. She laughed to herself thinking how proud her parents would be of the truly liberal education she was getting both in college and as an officer in the army.

So far she and Tom hadn’t gone any farther than some high school type petting. Although very pleasurable, it was frustrating for both of them. Privacy was the problem. They’d even gone to a place where a lot of young couples made out in cars, but they’d been chased off by unsympathetic city cops. What really hurt was when one cop told them they were too old for that crap. Enough, they would go to the Downings’ and dog sit.

An hour later, she and Tom were seated on a couch in the Downing’s finished basement. The old Labrador they were ostensibly sitting was asleep in the colonel’s bedroom, snoring and farting. Alicia lay across his chest and his arms were around her. They’d kissed several times, each with increasing passion, and Alicia called a halt to catch her breath and maybe her control.

Tom kissed her ear. “Do you think we should get married?”

The question did not surprise her. Things happened quickly in wartime when there was no time to spare. She’d been giving a lot of thought to the possibility of spending four or five decades with Tom and liked the idea. She also realized they could be together for a much shorter period of time because of the war. Did she want to be a war widow? No. Did she want to spend the rest of her life wondering at what might have been? No.

“I don’t want to be a war widow,” she said sadly.

“All joking aside, I don’t want that either. But I’d at least like there to be some time for us together, rather than nothing at all. Nothing’s certain in this life. If we waited until the war was over, we might be very old, and then get hit by lightning, and that would be a terrible waste.”

She shifted so they could kiss more comfortably, which they did. She sighed as he unbuttoned the demure collar of her dress and gently slipped his hand down and inside her bra. She’d only recently begun letting him do this, and it was as far as she’d ever gone with a man. She loved the way he caressed her breasts and nipples. She wanted him to go farther, but should they?

Tom slipped his other hand under her dress and above her knee. With girdle, garters, stockings, and panties, she thought he was going to be challenged by a terrible obstacle course, but she decided she’d let him do whatever he wished. Correction, whatever she wished, and right now she wanted him to go a lot farther.

A flash of light played across the basement window. The Downings were home. Shit, she thought as they got up, straightened their clothing and went upstairs. She hoped Tom’s erection would recede before somebody else noticed.

“You’d both be better off staying here tonight,” the colonel said as he threw his cap on the kitchen table. “They closed down the party and MPs are all over the place, checking IDs and generally making a nuisance of themselves. I don’t know if this is some kind of drill or something has happened to stir them up, but it took me an hour to get here. Tomorrow’s Saturday and, Tom, I will want you at the Pentagon first thing in the morning. Alicia, you’ll be better off waiting here as well. Missy can provide you with something to sleep in.”

They both agreed and Missy gave them separate rooms at the end of the hallway. Tom couldn’t help but notice that the colonel and his wife slept at the other end. He wondered what would happen if he made the short trip to Alicia’s bedroom? Would she have the door locked? Damn, that would be disappointing. But would she unlock it for him? He stripped down to his skivvies and slipped under the covers. He didn’t know what to do. Maybe he’d come up with a brilliant idea after thinking about it for a while. More likely he wouldn’t. This was not the type of tactical maneuver they discussed in the army’s advanced training courses for officers.

He caught the slightest hint of sound and motion. The doorknob was turning. He held his breath as the door opened and Alicia slipped in. She was wearing a nightgown that barely came to mid-thigh and was probably Missy’s. The cloth was very thin and he could see the outline of her nipples and pubic hair against it. She smiled tentatively.

“You don’t mind, do you?”

“Of course not,” he managed to whisper.

She slid in beside him and they kissed passionately, then ferociously. In an instant both his skivvies and her nightgown were on the floor and their arms and legs were entwined.

“I think we’ve both waited too long for this,” she said, “and you’re right, we could all be dead tomorrow.”

“Or we could be married next week,” he said as his hands caressed the moist softness between her thighs. She giggled softly and returned the favor, stroking him.

When he entered her, she bit his shoulder to keep from crying out and awakening the Downings. It wouldn’t have mattered. Both the colonel and Missy were awake and laughing softly. Missy had checked and seen that Alicia’s door was open.

“How many times do you think they’ll do it tonight?” Missy asked. There had been no MPs checking IDs and there was no real reason for Tom to go to the office in the morning. The retirement party had been a complete bore and they’d decided on this strategy while driving home.

“I’d say eight or ten. Just like our first night.”

“Dreamer,” she said as her hand slid down his belly. “Do you think you could manage once tonight before you go off to war in the morning?”

The stinging blow landed on Koenig’s face with startling suddenness. He recoiled and instinctively began to react to defend himself. Then he got hold of his senses just as the second slap snapped his head around.

“Bastard,” screamed Neumann. His eyes were wide with rage and spittle ran down from his mouth. “You fucking bastard.”

Koenig stepped far enough away so that he was out of range of another swing of Neumann’s arm. He would say nothing. He would endure whatever the Gestapo commander decided was punishment for Koenig’s delivering unwelcome news. Neumann still had the power of life and death over him and even the unwelcome news Koenig had delivered hadn’t changed that.

“Whose idea was it and who decided to keep everything a secret from me? Was it von Arnim or was it Guderian? Damn it, it was probably both of them, wasn’t it, Koenig?”

Koenig said nothing. He hoped that Neumann’s rage would play itself out fairly soon. He could endure the pain with ease, but the shame of being slapped like a child by a cretin like Neumann was something he could only take for so long. He had been one of the few privy to the change and that was only because he now worked so closely with General Guderian. And, despite the physical punishment, he quietly enjoyed Neumann being put in his place. The military would run the war, not the damned Gestapo.

Neumann sat behind his desk and breathed deeply. “You just told me that the war would begin in a few hours, not another week as was planned. Did your generals give any thought as to how I am to contact my people? While some might be ready to move, most are probably enjoying a last Saturday night by getting drunk.”

Koenig agreed but said nothing like that. “I would like to leave now. Do you have a response to the message?”

Neumann smiled wickedly. “Tell them that if this operation fails, they will be in Dachau or some other lovely place for the rest of their lives if they are lucky. As for you, I can see that my discomfiture pleases you. If you are lucky you will be hanged by your neck with piano wire around your throat and with your toes barely grazing the ground so that death is both agonizing and extended. Now get the hell out of here.”

Colonel Downing had been wrong. Instead of a quiet Saturday afternoon and evening, the various staffs had been quietly assembled in the Pentagon. Something called Operation Lexington was about to commence. Everyone was puzzled since nobody had ever heard of Operation Lexington. It was nearly midnight when a white-faced General Truscott assembled them in a conference room.

“Gentlemen,” we now have serious reason to believe that the Germans will attack tonight and not next week. OSS observers and others have seen the Luftwaffe preparing large numbers of planes for what looks like an assault. They’ve never done that before and it can only mean that they are serious. The Germans are also moving battalion sized units towards the Detroit area and larger units have begun moving towards the Buffalo-Niagara area.”

There was murmuring and swearing before Truscott silenced them. “I know there is the very slight possibility that this is either some ill-conceived maneuver or even a test to see how we respond, but we don’t think do. I’ve sent out an alert and I hope everyone’s notified in time to make a difference. Of course, it’s Saturday night which means it’ll take some time to get everyone assembled.”

“You may have a little more time than you think, colonel,” said Air Force Major Fred Bryce, suddenly serious. It was no times for jokes or banter. “The Germans would be utter fools to attack before dawn.”

“Why?” asked Truscott.

Bryce laughed sardonically. “Sir, one of the air force’s dirty little secrets is that most pilots can’t find their asses in the dark without a flashlight, and the Krauts would be flying blind over totally unfamiliar territory. We know that some German pilots couldn’t find London at night, and that a number of British pilots couldn’t find Berlin. Ergo, sir, they are simply not going to find a target without solid visual recognition. They might have spies setting up radio beacons that will lead them to a city but they would still be a long ways from a specific target within that city. Like the Japs did at Pearl Harbor, they will wait for first light.”

“Pilots will have to wait,” Grant said, “but not necessarily saboteurs. They could be starting out right now.”

Private Louie Marks was cold and annoyed. Only a month out of basic training, he was even more disillusioned with the army than he had been when he’d been drafted and sent to work with a bunch of idiots. Worse, being so low on the military pecking order meant he had to pull guard duty on a Saturday night when all the other guys were in Buffalo having a good time. His only consolation was that there weren’t all that many places in Buffalo where a guy could have a good time.

There was only a skeleton crew at the radar site, although they were alert and nervous. Some message had come through saying they should be doubly careful. Sure, Louie thought. As if Germans were going to come running through the woods. Still, it would be nice if there were more than a handful of men left to guard the radar site.

He and that handful of men were led - if that was the word, he snickered - by a very young second lieutenant named Norton. Like Marks, Norton was alleged to be a radar expert and could read the squiggles on a screen that maybe meant something. Louie was still trying to figure those things out.

Oh hark, he thought sarcastically, lights were coming down yonder road. He signaled to the lieutenant and took his rifle off his shoulder. Hey, he realized, the lead vehicle was a cop car and that made him feel a whole lot better. Somebody was using his head and sending in reinforcements. As it approached the gate that Louie was allegedly guarding, the cop car turned on its revolving red light just before stopping by the gate.

A police officer got out. “Open this gate, son,” the cop said. He seemed to have an accent. “This is important.”

Lieutenant Norton showed up in time to hear the cop’s demand. A couple of trucks were behind the cop car and they were filled with men in uniform, probably more cops, Louis thought. Norton gave the order to unlock and open the gate and the three vehicles swept in. Men tumbled out of the trucks and Louie noticed that those weren’t cop uniforms. Christ, they were Germans.

He tried to swing his rifle but was too slow. The cop had a revolver in his hand and fired it twice, hitting Louie in the head. Lieutenant Norton started to say something but he was cut down as well, but he didn’t die as quickly. He moaned and screamed.

The German soldiers fanned out, entering the control building as well as the barracks and little mess hall. Automatic weapons fire rang out as the small number of soldiers and technicians was cut down. Hand grenades were tossed through windows and explosions and screams followed. In another couple of minutes, all wires to the outside world had been cut and demolition charges were set around the base of the vital towers. Moments later, the girders were shattered by dynamite and the towers fell on their sides with a crash that made the Germans cheer.

Albers grinned. The attack had been a complete success. Better, he had improved on the idea of using a police car as a decoy. It had been child’s plan to steal several more vehicles and dress them up as police cars. Now they were attacking the other towers with what Albers presumed would also be complete success. In a few moments they would be checking in to confirm the fact. The Americans along the Niagara front were blind. The Luftwaffe would pour through the gap and attack with impunity.

Dick Morowski knew he wasn’t the smartest man in the world, but he did understand the irony. For the past several years, the massive Ford Motor Company facility at River Rouge, Michigan, had been working day and night filling the orders for the military. Tens of thousands of workers were making more than he was, but he didn’t resent it. During the pits of the Depression he’d had a job with what everyone referred to as “Fords” while those tens of thousands stood in lines waiting for a handout, or maybe they sold apples on street corners.

What goes around comes around, he thought. He did think it was especially ironic that the American military was hinting that they had more than enough of the vehicles that Ford was making and were going to cut back on orders. That meant that the smug workers and even smugger management would have their hours cut down, maybe even have their jobs eliminated. Some of the workers were already grousing that they should have a union, but they all knew that Henry Ford would kill to keep the UAW away. While the UAW had pledged no strikes while the country was at war, Ford’s chief goon, Harry Bennett, wasn’t taking chances.

There was another rumor and in this one the car companies would be allowed to start making civilian vehicles, and that hadn’t happened since shortly after Pearl Harbor.

Hence, Dick Morowski not only had a job, but carried a gun. He was not in charge of all security at River Rouge, but he did have a crew of thirty and many of them also carried guns. Dick had spent several years as a Detroit cop before being let go for being too hard on some of the scum he dealt with. Luckily, he’d found a home with Bennett’s private army. Soon he would retire with a pension from Ford and some money from Social Security. It wouldn’t be much, but it would cover beer and cigarettes.

The phone rang, jarring him back to alertness. He was alone in the guard room. “What is it?” he asked harshly. He quickly re-thought his rough answer. His troops knew better than to trouble him over something trivial.

“Chief, a whole shitload of small boats is coming up the river and they’re full of people with guns.”

Morowski thought quickly. They were either pricks from the UAW or Germans from Windsor. His first thought was the UAW, but coming up the Rouge River wasn’t something they normally did. The union wanted publicity. Hey, maybe they wanted to seize the plant. Good luck, he thought, it was as large as some cities.

“I’ll be right there,” he said and slammed down the phone. He got in one of the last Fords made for civilian use and drove to the Rouge River. Yep, there were a number of boats and men were pouring out of them and running around the factory compound. Worse, they were armed. These weren’t union fucks, he realized, these were fucking Germans.

Two other guards joined him. “What do we do?” one asked.

Morowski was about to admit he didn’t know when one of the Germans took a shot at him. The German missed, but the bullet smacked into a metal pipe behind him. He thought briefly about pulling his revolver and firing back, but quickly changed his mind. He was an overage and overweight ex-cop, not a soldier.

“What we do now is run,” he said. They got into the car and drove back to the guard shack where he called the Dearborn Police along with making a call to Henry Ford’s stark gray stone mansion at Fair Lane where he left another message. As he did this, he heard explosions and realized what the Germans were up to. They were going to blow up the River Rouge complex.

Christ, he thought, there were people working in the complex. Not many this Saturday night, just a few hundred, but they needed to be warned. He hit the switch that activated the fire alarm and sirens began to wail. Workers poured out of the buildings, looked around and saw smoke coming from the river. Morowski got in his car and drove around, yelling at the men to get the hell out of the Rouge complex. In short order, they got the message and streamed out. Despite that, he heard the sounds of gunfire and wondered just who had decided to be a hero? Then he realized that in sounding the fire alarm he might have sent men back to fight a fire and caused them to confront the German army.


Edward Jeffries was the forty-five year old mayor of the prosperous, dynamic, and growing city of Detroit. He felt that he had a future that would propel him to higher office. He had just attended a quiet and private dinner followed by lengthy card games, cigars, and good booze with political friends in a suite at the elegant twenty-two story Leland Hotel. It was located on Bagley Street in downtown Detroit. He had decided that his very long night should come to a close when his attention was drawn to the sounds of sirens and what might have been gunfire.

The mayor raced outside in time to see a column of strange vehicles roaring up Woodward Avenue towards the north. He grabbed a bewildered cop by the arm, belatedly realizing that the cop had drawn his pistol. “What the hell’s going on?”

The cop looked confused. “I’m not certain. Somebody said that Germans have come through the tunnel and others over the bridge. I guess that means we’re at war.”

The mayor ran the few blocks to where he could see the road that led to the tunnel entrance. Several cars were on fire and there were bodies on the sidewalk. One of the bodies was smoldering. He felt horrified and sickened.

Several more vehicles emerged from the tunnel entrance and Jeffries stepped out into the street to get a better look. A machine gun mounted on top of one fired and a dozen bullets ripped through his body, nearly cutting him in half. As life faded, he wondered just how his beloved city was ever going to recover from the beating it was taking.

“Canfield, when was the last time you heard from the radar stations?”

Canfield winced. Even though the radio reception made the colonel’s voice sound tinny, the anger and frustration came though clearly. The colonel knew damn well that the stations were supposed to check in with brigade and not Canfield’s battalion and were to do so every hour.

“I haven’t talked to anyone in a couple of hours, and I’m assuming you haven’t either.”

“You’re right. I sent a plane up and they can’t even find the towers in the dark and the snow, although they did spot a couple of fires burning.”

“Colonel, I think that means that the krauts have struck.”

“Agreed, Charley, now get your ass down the road and find out for certain.”

With that the colonel abruptly signed off. Canfield gathered his officers and called for a company of infantry in jeeps and trucks to be ready in five minutes. Since it was the middle of the night and so many men were off post, it took more like half an hour to get the caravan moving.

Canfield’s ad hoc column consisted of twelve trucks stuffed with bewildered and confused GIs carrying their Garand rifles, and followed by a handful jeeps. Other than some .30 caliber machine guns mounted on the jeeps, he had nothing resembling heavy weapons. If the Germans were out in force, his company strength unit would be cut to pieces.

Normally, he would have moved slowly and sent out patrols, but his orders had been succinct. He was to find out what had happened to the radar stations and speed was essential. If the column got shot up, the survivors were to press on.

Canfield decided his best bet was to leapfrog. One platoon would turn into the first radar station area while the rest of the company continued down the dirt road to the other sites. He would take the first one.

Leading two jeeps and three trucks, they turned down the access road, stopping just short of the gate to the radar station compound, or at least where it once had been. The gate was open and off its hinges. A couple of bodies lay nearby. One young soldier was clearly dead, but a lieutenant was breathing but unconscious. It was nearing dawn and they could see fairly clearly. The place looked destroyed and abandoned. The control building was a smoldering wreck and the radar towers lay on their sides like dead animals. The worst part was the sick-sweet stench of burned flesh. He’d smelled it first at house fires when he’d been working as a cop. Canfield had a sergeant radio in a brief report confirming their worst suspicions.

“I’ll bet you they’ve all cleared out,” Dubinski said as he looked around nervously. “You want I should take some men around the back of the place?”

“Do it.” Dubinski nodded and took a squad on a patrol around the back of the compound. Canfield ordered those men not involved in the probably hopeless but necessary task of checking the burned buildings for survivors to stand down and be careful not to shoot their own side.

A short while later, Dubinski returned with four men in tow. Two of them were wounded but all were conscious and angry. Their senior man was a buck sergeant with a bandage around his head.

“Fuckers jumped us. We were on the lookout when they rode up to the gate, bold as brass, and led by a cop car. Hell, we thought it was more help, maybe even relief, so we relaxed. But then they shot the lieutenant and the kid at the gate and roared in, shooting everything in sight. Me, I got lucky. I had just gone off duty and gone out back for a smoke when the shit hit the fan.”

Canfield had no doubt what his other units would find - just more of the same. Still, they would confirm the obvious. He would leave a squad to protect the survivors and would call in for medical assistance. His men could stop looking for survivors in the burned ruins. He mentally kicked himself for not having brought ambulances with him, but he didn’t have any immediately available and his orders precluded waiting.

Now it was really getting light out. “I think the Germans have long since cleared out,” Canfield said. “They probably had small boats stashed along the shore and are halfway to Toronto by now.”

“Wouldn’t surprise me at all,” Dubinski said. “Be downright dumb to hang around and wait for us to show up, and I don’t think the Nazis are dumb.”

No they are not, Canfield thought. He froze as he heard the sound of airplane engines. A few moments later, a long, ribbon of what they quickly identified as German aircraft began flying over them, all heading south. Intuitively, he knew that several other streams of enemy planes were also crossing over the U.S. border and heading to their targets.

“Bastards,” Dubinski screamed, “you fucking bastards!”