Chapter 12 - North Reich - Robert Conroy

North Reich - Robert Conroy (2012)

Chapter 12

FDR was shocked when he saw the damage to the Capitol and other places where bombs had exploded. Even though it was slight, it was a grievous insult to the United States. The craters in the parks and fields around the Capitol and the White House had left scars that were more emotional than logical. The Pentagon had been hit as well, but he would not be crossing the Potomac to see that damage. The Secret Service was nervous enough about this foray. The president was riding in an armored limousine and was bracketed by soldiers in trucks and police on motorcycles.

Roosevelt pounded the seat in front of him in anger. The United States had again been hit by a sneak attack, this time by the arrogant and murderous Germans. Already a previously reluctant Congress was clamoring for war. Gone totally was the reluctance to fight a two front war. The attack by Germany was perceived as being in the same league as Pearl Harbor had been, perhaps even more so since the American mainland had been struck. Hawaii, after all, was just a territory and not one of the forty-eight states or even the District of Columbia. This attack, therefore, was different. The president hoped that his limited foreknowledge of the German plans would not become known until long after he was dead.

General Marshall and Admiral King were squeezed into the limo with the president. Marshall glared at the black scar on the Capitol building. “We estimate fifty bombers dropped a total of a hundred tons of bombs. As far as bombing raids go, it is trivial. The damage was minimal and only a half dozen people were killed and another score or so injured.”

“Much ado about nothing,” FDR said, “unless, of course you were one of the casualties, and that the attack started a war.”

He could not bring himself to say that it was a war he desperately wanted if the Nazi scourge was ever going to be halted before it took over the world. Just yesterday, representatives of a Jewish group informed him that almost all the Jews in Europe had been murdered. They said that the largest concentration of Jews in the world was in the United States. It reinforced the fact that the Nazis were bloody monsters that had to be destroyed.

Marshall continued. “We confirmed that fourteen of the bombers were shot down along with a dozen of their escorts who turned back well before Washington. Obviously they didn’t have enough fuel. We’ve even taken a handful of prisoners who appear to be cooperating and giving us a lot of useful information.”

Roosevelt was surprised that they would cooperate. Marshall actually smiled. “A couple of them were glad to be free of Hitler and the war, while some of the others wanted to brag about what they knew and how superior the Reich was. One of my officers helped matters by convincing them that if they didn’t talk, they would be taken to a camp run by Jewish guards. He added that the first thing that would happen to them would be their forced circumcision.”

Roosevelt laughed softly. It felt good. “And you’re certain no German forces remain on our side of the border?”

“There are no major German forces in the United States,” said Marshall, carefully choosing his words. “The FBI is rounding up every German national or domestic Nazi they can find. We will doubtless pick up the innocent with the guilty, but we can straighten that out later.”

“What about their embassy?” the president asked.

“Cordoned off by troops, along with Italy’s,” Marshall answered. Mussolini had followed Hitler’s lead and declared war on the U.S. “We assume they’ve already done the same with our people in Berlin and Rome. We will arrange to exchange them as soon as it is feasible. What we don’t know, however, is how many embassy personnel escaped and how many other potential German saboteurs are still out there. J. Edgar Hoover can say all he wants about the FBI rounding up hundreds of Germans, but the truth is that we won’t know who we might have missed until and if they strike.”

All three men remembered the declaration by the FBI’s Clyde Tolson that every German would be rounded up. It had seemed to be absurd bragging at the time, and nothing had happened to change their minds.

“The navy’s not been inactive either,” King added proudly. “We have four confirmed U-boat sinkings and the possibility of three more. We are planning a task force that will interdict shipping between Europe and Canada. We will blockade the port of Halifax and, after eliminating the U-boats off our coast, work our way towards the east and Europe.

Roosevelt smiled. “Excellent. And I know how much it means to both of you to be able to finally hit the bastards. Has Admiral Vian asked to take his warships out?”

“Yes. He is a combative man. I admire him even though he is a Brit.”

FDR nodded appreciatively. “Let him prepare, but don’t let him go off half-cocked. Hold him on a short leash for the time being. Tomorrow, the secretary of state and I will be commencing a number of interesting conversations with countries like Brazil and Argentina and others in our hemisphere who have been smiling at Hitler. We shall inform them that their best interests lie with the United States and not with Germany. If they prove reluctant, they will pay with the lives of their sailors and the crews of their merchant ships. All gloves are off, gentlemen.”

They drove past a crowd of soldiers and civilian onlookers who cheered and applauded.

Across the street, Heinrich Stahl watched in stunned disbelief as the President of the United States and his chief admiral and general drove slowly by him and no more than fifty feet away. If he’d had a gun or, better, a hand grenade, he could have changed the course of history like Gavrilo Princep had done in 1914 when the Archduke of Austria’s car had suddenly appeared before him in Sarajevo. Princep had murdered the archduke and set the world on the road to two bloody world wars.

Stahl, however, had left the embassy without any weapons. If he’d been stopped, the fact that he was unarmed would likely mean nothing more than his forced return to the embassy or wherever the personnel were interned. Carrying a weapon, however, might make the police more curious and he didn’t want that at this time. Stahl had decided to use his network of operatives to help him disappear. He could not help the Reich while behind bars.

He listened to people talking and tried to gauge their anger. Curiously, they seemed more outraged by this minor attack on Washington than by the more major one at Pearl Harbor. He determined that it did not bode well for Germany if the Americans could sustain their fury. Therefore, he and the men who remained free from the FBI’s clutches had a job to do.

Sam Lambert and Mike Bradford watched as uniformed Toronto police cordoned off the German headquarters in Toronto. They nodded amiably to those officers they recognized and some they didn’t. Even though they were in plain clothes, they knew they stood out like a pair of sore thumbs.

“Why are we protecting the pricks?” Bradford snarled. “We should be killing them and the fucking Black Shirts.”

“Can’t argue, but nothing’s going to happen until Ottawa decides whether or not we’re at war with Germany, America, or nobody. Let’s face it. Canada’s going to be a pawn in whatever happens, and we’re going to be front and center in the fighting. At some point, U.S. troops are going to pour across the border and there will be killing right where we’re standing.”

Bradford didn’t argue with that assessment. If the Yanks were serious about fighting Germany - and how could they not be? - it would entail a serious effort to expel the Germans, and that could leave Canadian cities in smoking ruins.

“Have you heard anything from our friends down south?”

Lambert shook his head. There had been no contact with the OSS since the death of the agent called Sandman. He thought that American operatives were working in the area, but they had not made contact either with him or the little thief, Tinker. Maybe that would change with the United States officially at war with Hitler.

Several trucks pulled up and dozens of Black Shirts jumped out. Lambert was mildly surprised to see that they were armed with guns. Who the hell authorized that, he wondered. Ottawa, probably. Mackenzie King had made no pronouncement regarding Canada’s official role in the developing conflict except to say that all Canada hoped the fighting would end and that peace would prevail. Fat, fucking chance, Lambert thought. We’re in it up to our asses.

More Black Shirts arrived and passed through the police lines, forming their own cordon. It was clear that German property would be protected by those Canadians who actively supported Germany.

“I wonder how our brothers feel now?” Bradford asked.

He was referring to those cops who either hated Jews or thought the Nazis had the right idea about how to run a country. He was confident that few had given thought to the possibility of fighting the U.S. Army in the streets of Toronto or American paratroopers in the fields outside the city. Even the Black Shirts usually cocky grins seemed a little stressed and brittle. Had they signed on for a war, or had they just wanted to bully people, drink, and get laid? Neither cop thought the Black Shirts were brave enough to fight.

Alicia hummed happily to herself as she was driven back to Camp Washington. If the two soldiers up front had any idea why she was purring, they prudently kept it to themselves. After driving to the Downing’s house and letting the dog out, she and Tom had cleaned the mud off her uniform. Of course, that entailed her taking it off along with everything else she’d been wearing and he’d happily reciprocated. Fortunately, the only real damage to her clothing was tears in her cotton stockings and she always carried a spare in her purse.

For three wonderful hours the two of them had gamboled about the house, enjoying and exploring each other’s bodies. Her only regret was that she hadn’t brought her violin and been able to serenade Tom. Next time, she assured herself. She had already decided to keep a change of clothes at the Downing’s and one violin wouldn’t take up much space. Besides, if she found herself with time on her hands and Tom wasn’t free, she could practice without annoying the other women who shared her quarters. Missy had already told her it was all right, and the colonel did what he was told.

Alicia’s only question was whether she should tell her friend Rosemary about her adventures. She decided not to. Rosie was a friend, but Alicia could not take the chance that she was a gossip. Still, she longed to tell someone other than Tom just how wonderful sex was with someone you love, and that included using ones lips and tongue on various parts of each other’s bodies that were usually off limits. My, my, how far she had come. Or fallen, she thought with another soft giggle.

She looked out the car window. Crowds of the curious were still about, checking out the damage. There had been fires in civilian sections of the city, but these, Tom had told her, doubtless resulted in shots being fired in the air, missing as most of them did, and falling down wherever they wished. Miraculously, nobody had been killed and only a handful injured.

Colonel Downing thought it likely that she would receive a commendation for both saving and capturing the German airman. While lying in bed, Tom said he was getting jealous of her military career. She reminded him that she hadn’t tried to swim Lake Erie. They’d laughed and she’d rolled on top of him and guided him inside her.

She stiffened. Who was that? Traffic was heavy and the car was moving slowly. She knew that man, but from where? He was on the sidewalk only a few feet away. She remembered. It was the German from the embassy she’d seen talking to the erstwhile traitor, Professor Morris, but what was he doing walking the streets of Washington? Weren’t they all supposed to be interned, virtual prisoners?

She told her driver to stop, which he did, ignoring the horns blaring behind them. She got out and looked for the German who had vanished. Now she had doubts. Was it really the German or just somebody who looked like him? Either the colonel or Tom would check it out, although she was not going to break into another Pentagon meeting with her suspicions. No, she would leave a message.

She curled up again and began remembering anew their carnal adventures. Yes, they would get married and damn soon.

The men and crew of the Walker Simpson, an American transport, were thrilled to have made it through the icy St. Lawrence River and the Welland Canal before the fighting had started. If they’d still been in the Welland, which ran though Canada, it was likely they’d been stopped even though their cargo was a miscellany of items from England and France. The cargo even included several hundred cases of Scotch whisky and French wines. These might just become worth their weight in gold if North America was cut off from Europe.

Even though they’d gotten safely to Lake Erie, the skipper was nervous. He’d heard rumors that there might be German submarines on Lake Erie. Certainly, there were subs on Lake Ontario which ran directly to the ocean.

The captain ordered extra lookouts, although he had no idea what he’d do if they spotted a sub besides radio for help and pray. He’d run the crew through several emergency drills and they all understood that the danger was real. They might be drills today, but they could be the real thing in an instant.

Even with additional eyes, no one spotted the white trail in the water in the fading light. The torpedo hit the middle of the Walker Simpson, just below the bridge, blowing the instantly dead and dismembered captain into the sky. The Simpson’s back was broken and she split into two almost equal halves. The stern sank quickly while the bow stayed afloat, giving the men on that half enough time to get rafts and a lifeboat into the cold waters. Of the crew of thirty, eight survived, although three were injured.

As they climbed or were pulled into the lifeboat, several of them saw the silhouette of the German sub outlined against the sky. One of the men had been in the navy during the first war, and understood that U-boats liked to attack their prey while on the surface and at night.

The senior surviving officer was the first mate. It was he who decided that all survivors should go in the lifeboat and huddle for warmth, and that the dead that bobbed about them would be put in the rafts. Even though they weren’t on the trackless ocean, Lake Erie was still very large and no one could see the shore. How long, they wondered, before they were rescued. Even though it was coming on spring, the weather was still cold and the water was deadly frigid.

The first mate said they should stay close by the floating portion of the ruin. If it sank, they would begin to row their way towards Ohio. In the meantime, they hoped that the wreck was far easier to spot than a lifeboat. All of them wondered if the radio operator, among the dead in the stern half, had managed to get off any kind of SOS.

They were not spotted until the dawn and by a PBY operating out of Cleveland. The radio operator had indeed gotten off a quick SOS before dying. It didn’t say what ship or where but it was enough to start a search.

News that at least one U-boat was operating in the western Great Lakes stunned the American planners in Washington, along with the crews and owners of the ships that plied the Great Lakes. Nothing was safe.

Three days after the assault on the radar line, Colonel Charley Canfield and his battalion found themselves dug in along the coast to the east of the now shattered line at the point where the Niagara River entered into Lake Ontario. They were far from alone. Other units were converging on the area, and scores of anti-aircraft guns poked at the empty sky. The radar towers were being repaired and replacement crews had been assigned. To Canfield it seemed apparent that the advantage held by the Nazis would be short lived.

The only thing that bothered him was why they were bothering to dig in as deeply as they were. Dubinski had the same thought. “What the hell are we doing making a fortress here? It ain’t as if the krauts are going to invade. They’re going to have a hard enough time hanging onto what they have in Canada once we get our act together. This is too much like that Maginot line in France for my taste.”

“No argument,” muttered Canfield. The work they were doing was resulting in bunkers made of sandbags and steel beams. Machine guns, anti-tank guns, and rifle pits pointed in all directions. Their position would be enormously strong and easy to defend, but from what? Yes, they were at war with Germany and yes there were Germans across the river, but it was common knowledge that the Nazis didn’t have the landing craft needed to cross the river and didn’t have the manpower to hold any land they seized.

Canfield shrugged. “The orders come from General Fredendall and I don’t like arguing with generals.”

Like all of his men he’d much rather be at home and not on the front lines, no matter how safe the bunker might make him. The construction was so obvious the bunkers might also be targets for the Luftwaffe. No, Canfield would much rather be at home with his wife who would probably tell him that joining the National Guard had been a bad idea. At his age, he could have avoided the war altogether.

Air raid sirens began to scream. Men swore, grabbed their helmets and ran for cover. Canfield and Dubinski had been outside and away from the bunker. They quickly decided it was too far away, so cover in this case meant hiding in a slit trench. Anti-aircraft guns began to fire and he looked up. A flight of German HE111 bombers moved with deceptive slowness across the sky. These were the same type of craft the Germans had used to bomb Washington. Smaller planes, fighters, flew with them.

“They’re bombing us,” Dubinski said in disbelief.

The two men hugged the bottom of their trench as the bombs struck around them, making the earth quiver and deafening them. Only faintly did Canfield hear the sound of cheering. He pulled his face from the dirt and looked up at the sky. The precise German formation was breaking up as other small planes darted in and out of the bomber stream.

“Just look at that, chief, I mean colonel. Those are our planes.”

Canfield’s hearing was slowly returning. Yes, American fighters were ripping the Germans. As he watched, a Heinkel blew apart, sending pieces of plane and crew towards the ground.

The brawl in the sky didn’t last long. Burning and damaged planes tumbled while others tried to disengage. More and more American fighters arrived, and the German forces turned back towards Canada with a swarm of American fighters on their tail.

Dubinski and Canfield got out of the trench, shook the dirt off their uniforms, and headed back to their bunker. There was just one problem - it wasn’t there anymore. A bomb had struck the top, penetrated, and exploded, leaving a smoking crater where their so-called safe bunker had been. He called for the two men he’d left behind and they sheepishly emerged from another trench. They’d apparently taken his absence as an opportunity to go outside and get some fresh air. He wouldn’t yell at them. He’d done the same thing.

“Damn,” said Dubinski. “We need better quality control with our bunker-building. That could have been us real easy.”

“In which case, Mrs. Canfield would start dating again. Damn it to hell.”

Captain William Landry, twenty-five, loved the army and really loved being a U. S. Army Ranger. He was an aggressive young man even though he was only five foot-six and whip thin, and he always strived for excellence. He’d pushed himself through both airborne and ranger schools and graduated from both with very high marks.

What he didn’t like was hanging on to a raft and half swimming in a wide, cold river while dragging a bag of equipment that he would need when he reached the other side. If he’d wanted to swim at night in water so cold his nuts were screaming, he’d have joined the navy.

Worse was the fact that he would be killed if he or any of the dozen men with him were spotted. Worse than that, the damn river had a strong current that was sweeping him well south of his planned landing site. He would land on the German side of the St. Clair River, but nowhere near his destination. Shit-fuck, he thought. Leave it to the army to forget about the strength of river currents. He would not fight the current. That was a sure way to exhaustion and death. He let it take him south and hoped his men understood. The river was less than a mile wide, nothing for a strong swimmer and they were all strong swimmers, but the cold and the current were magnifying the distance and sapping their strength.

Finally his feet touched the muddy bottom and he slowly moved towards the land. If the Germans had outposts along the riverbank, he was dead. Intelligence said they didn’t but these were the same people who hadn’t told them about the current.

He crawled forward onto dry land. He was aware of others coming along behind him. There was no sign of life in front of him. Luck was with them. There were no Germans along this stretch of the river, although there was a full German infantry brigade quartered in the area.

“One man missing,” whispered Sergeant Glover. “Laughton.”

Landry nodded sadly. He could not dwell on it. Maybe Laughton would get lucky and hit land somewhere else, or maybe he’d be swept downriver and die of exposure. It was out of his hands. He had a job to do.

They opened their bags and slipped into what they hoped would pass for German uniform tunics in the bad light. The same held true for the M3 .45 caliber submachine guns they carried that were commonly referred to as ‘grease guns.’ In the dark they had a passing resemblance to German weapons.

They would not skulk or hide. That was another sure way to attract attention. With bravado he didn’t feel, Landry led his men through the streets of Sarnia and onto the approaches of the Blue Water Bridge, passing several tent cities where Wehrmacht units slept soundly. Landry shook his head. Didn’t they know there was a war on? He wondered how many Canadians were looking at his squad and were totally unaware that their lives were about to change dramatically.

The Blue Water Bridge had been built in 1938 and had two lanes of traffic along with sidewalks for the brave who wanted to walk across. It carried heavy truck and car traffic to and from the U.S. and Canada.

It was also wired for demolition.

Landry and his men marched boldly up to what he’d been told was the German engineers’ headquarters on the bridge. Intelligence, this time probably through the OSS, said that the engineers in charge of blowing up the bridge waited with their hands on the plunger that would send the cantilever truss bride into the deep, cold St. Clair River. Similar situations awaited Americans if they tried to cross over the Ambassador Bridge or through the tunnels further downriver at Detroit. The Blue Water Bridge had been chosen for assault because it was roughly sixty miles from the Detroit crossings and it was hoped that the enemy troops there might not be as attentive.

As they approached the German’s building, Landry signaled and two pairs of his men peeled off and ducked under the bridge. Their job was to look for wires and cut them.

A guard finally noticed them. He’d been looking in the wrong direction. He turned and, seeing an officer, snapped to attention. Landry’s sergeant went right up to the man and jammed a knife into his throat. The rangers ran to the building, kicked the door open and stabbed the three men inside. Landry grabbed the detonator that would have destroyed the bridge and ripped out the wires.

Jesus, he thought, have we actually gone and done it?

He gave an order and a flare raced into the sky. Now the German troops near the bridge were alert. Landry heard shouting and then gunfire. His men returned fire and continued to rip out detonator cord and toss dynamite into sticks into the river

“I sure as hell hope the cavalry’s coming,” muttered Sergeant Foley as the shooting intensified.

A ranger screamed and fell, clutching his belly. Blood and intestines tumbled out. A second ranger fell and Sergeant Foley took a bullet in the face, ripping off his jaw. He screamed and fell backwards. Landry and the others tore off their fake German uniforms. If they were caught in enemy uniforms, they’d be shot. This way they might just be kept as prisoners. If not, they would die as Americans.

Heavy machine gun fire pierced the air and cannon boomed. Landry grinned as the first American tank rumbled by. It was quickly followed by a score of others with infantry desperately running along the sidewalks that led into Canada. More 75mm tank guns fired into where the Germans were bivouacked. Men could be seen running in panic from the sudden assault. Landry wondered just what the good people of Sarnia were thinking. The United States hadn’t invaded Canada since the War of 1812, and back then it was to fight the British. Now it was to fight the Germans. Poor Canadians were always in the middle.

However, we did it, thought Landry as he looked on the bodies of his companions and the ruined face of Sergeant Foley. Hell of a price, though.

FDR was livid. “Just who the hell gave this Patton fellow orders to invade Canada?”

General Marshall returned his glare. “May I remind you, sir, that we are at war and a good commander doesn’t need orders to attack the enemy when the opportunity arises. Or did you think that the Germans would simply up and leave Ontario without our doing anything? And by the way, you should recall that Patton is one of our best and most aggressive generals. I think the American public is going to be thrilled at his actions.”

Roosevelt recoiled from Marshall’s anger. “Of course,” he managed. “I would just like to be kept informed.”

“So would I, sir,” said Marshall with a wan smile. “General Patton seems to feel it is easier to ask forgiveness than permission.”

“Seems to me I’ve heard that before,” Roosevelt said, acknowledging that whatever rift between them had just been healed.

They were in the White House Map Room. “May I assume that Patton will sweep down the river and clear out the Germans?”

“Indirectly, yes. Apparently he has decided to try and cut off the Germans and is heading towards Chatham, or even a place farther east along the Lake Erie shore.”

FDR looked at the map of Canada and saw a possible choke point near Chatham. “That would be wonderful indeed. Especially since Herr Hitler is as angry about the attack on Sarnia as I once was. Ultra says that he has ordered von Arnim to hold Windsor at all costs. Fortress Windsor, he calls it. If he insists on that, we stand a chance of bagging a large number of Germans.”

Marshall shook his head. “That won’t happen, sir. We believe the Germans are already withdrawing from the river line. We believe they will form a defensive line around London, Ontario, after reinforcing the divisions pulling back from Windsor.”

“Hitler will be furious,” said Roosevelt, “but he will soon have other things to occupy him.”

Marshall nodded and almost smiled. Ultra intercepts had also informed them that the Nazis spring offensive against the reduced Soviet Union would begin in a matter of days. Should they warn the Russians? Of course not. That would give the Soviets knowledge of Ultra. Besides, he rationalized, the Reds probably knew about it already.

FDR sighed. “I suppose I will have to talk to their hideous Ambassador Gromyko, though. I will let him know that we are allies once again and that Lend Lease will begin flowing just as soon as possible.”

Marshall was silent. Didn’t the president know that there were no good routes into what remained of the Soviet Union? The Russians had retreated so far east that there were no ports that could handle a good sized freighter and, besides, it was all subject to attack from German air and naval units. No, the only way to the Soviet Union was by land through Iran and then north. It would take months to set up the route and it would take weeks for each truck to make it to a destination.

Perhaps when Japan surrendered they could send supplies by rail from Vladivostok. Unfortunately, that Russian port lay right in the Sea of Japan and was threatened by Japanese forces in Manchuria; some were only a few miles away.

For all intents, Lend-Lease shipments were not a viable option. Still, Gromyko would want results yesterday and would blame delays on America’s capitalist distrust, even hate, of the Soviet Union. Marshall quietly wondered if his German counterparts had similar problems.