Chapter 15 - North Reich - Robert Conroy

North Reich - Robert Conroy (2012)

Chapter 15

In the White House map room, FDR was feeling the frustrations that were angering the entire nation. The American people felt that Germany had to be punished for her insolent and brutal attack on the U.S. mainland, so why wasn’t it happening?

He turned his wheelchair so he could confront Admiral King and General Marshall. “Gentlemen, I am catching grief and hell from my friends as well as my enemies in congress. I am being crucified in newspapers, magazines and on the radio for what they feel is our dilatory response to Hitler’s aggression. Everyone wants to know the same thing - when are we going to drive the Nazis out of Canada?”

Neither man was fazed by the outburst. Marshall spoke first. “I’m sure you don’t want me to remind you of all the times we were rebuffed when we wanted to do something about Germany and her intentions.”

FDR jammed a fresh cigarette in his holder. “Of course, not,” he replied sullenly. “I am well aware of the limitations imposed on me by a fickle congress and by the fact that I didn’t push them hard enough. History will judge me harshly for that. That said, what the devil can we do about the damned krauts?”

It was King’s turn. “We are already blockading Halifax and the only ships coming in are empty ones that will return to England with food as per our informal agreement. We are planning to attack and take Halifax itself, but that will not occur for a while, if at all. Simply put, we don’t need to take the place, only isolate it.”

“Well then, admiral, what about their so-called relief force?” the president asked.

“Intelligence says it’s beginning to form. We detect no great enthusiasm for it from either the German, French, or Italian navies. Even without help from the Royal Navy, I am confident that we can handle them.”

Roosevelt nodded. “And what are you going to do about Germans on the Great Lakes?”

King continued. “Mr. President, we are reluctant to send warships up the St. Lawrence because they would have to run a gauntlet several hundred miles long and would be subject to artillery and bombing in a narrow confine that would restrict maneuver. However we are sending anti-submarine bombers over the lakes and we are also arming smaller civilian craft. With enough of each, we will overwhelm and kill all the German ships. It’s only a matter of time.”

FDR snorted. “Time, gentlemen, is something nobody is giving me. General Marshall, what is the army going to do, and I do mean Patton? Hasn’t he been sitting there outside Windsor long enough?”

Marshall kept his face impassive. “Patton will move against the first line of German defenses in a few days, a week at the most. He now has one armored division that is fully equipped with two hundred and fifty Sherman tanks. Attacking on a narrow front, supported by planes and artillery, and along with two infantry divisions, they should bloody the Germans and push them back.”

“But not bloody far enough,” FDR muttered. “Hitler is broadcasting that he has super-weapons that he will use against us. Does he?”

“Nothing we don’t know about and nothing that can do great damage,” Marshall said. “Their basic super-weapon will be their Vengeance rockets that can be launched from Ontario and reach New York. Assuming, that is, that they have any in the first place. They might cause terror, but they won’t win the war. Nor will new tanks or new airplanes. They just won’t have enough of them to tip the scales.”

“The same holds true for their new or upgraded U-boats,” said King, “But what about our own super-weapons?”

Roosevelt quickly thought about the latest report from New Mexico and the monster bomb that was under development. “It will be at least a year,” he said with a sigh. “We will have to fight this and future battles with the weapons and brave men at our disposal.”

Heinrich Stahl had bought a 1938 two-door Chevrolet. With gas rationing on the horizon, the owner had been glad to sell it and he had gotten it for a song. Now he had transportation that was not shackled to the bus service, but could also use it for surveillance. If rationing came, he would have to do something creative, like stealing ration coupons or siphoning gas. He wasn’t worried. His time fighting the Russians had made him a skilled forager. His plan was to do as much damage as possible and then make it back to Canada and the security of the North Reich. The car was innocuous and, if he drove it around carefully and didn’t do something to make others suspicious of him, he could again hide in plain sight.

He had just come from an evening of talking with two of his lieutenants. They had met at a fairly crowded restaurant that had served execrable food that, combined with poor service, would have made him angry if it wasn’t for the fact that plans were coming along.

The waitress had been a sullen and sweaty Negress and he was certain that the restaurant’s owners were Jews. America truly was a mongrel country. Not even in France, which he considered an ethnic sewer, had he seen so many diverse races and nationalities. People who had been in America for generations had no memory of their forebears. Nor were they concerned. They had lost their heritage and that included a number of people with German last names.

Like a fool, he’d once had sex with a Negro woman in hopes that it would be exciting and savage and evocative of Africa. Only after did he find that she was from Philadelphia and didn’t even know where Africa was. Worse, she’d been a wretched fuck.

Many of the ethnic minorities he’d seen in America had fled from their homelands and in fear of the SS. They hoped they’d found safety and sanctuary in the United States. Too bad they were going to be bitterly disappointed when the Reich’s ultimate victory over the U.S. occurred. They would provide more fuel for the furnaces, he thought happily.

As always, he drove carefully and slowly past his house to see if anything was obviously amiss. He had put pieces of paper in the two doorways and looked to see if they had been disturbed.

Shit. The one to the side door was missing. Well, what did that mean? Had someone gone snooping in his house or had the damned thing simply fallen out?

After checking for a surveillance vehicle and not finding one, he parked the car halfway down the street and walked to the house next door to his. An older couple lived there and they went to sleep early and slept soundly. They didn’t have a dog whose yipping might attract attention from inside.

Stahl entered his neighbor’s back yard, moved with the caution and skill that had kept him alive in Russia. He paused at the chicken wire fence that separated the two yards. He crouched and waited and saw a light flickering inside. It was either a match or a small flashlight. When the light moved to the front of the house, he jumped the fence and scurried to the side door. It had been jimmied and was slightly ajar.

He already knew that it didn’t squeak, so he pushed it open and crawled inside. He already regretted not having a gun on him, but that would have been disastrous if he’d been stopped or questioned for anything.

As quietly as possible, Stahl opened a kitchen drawer and took out a long-bladed knife he’d used the night before to cut up a cut of roast beef. He could hear the intruder making small noises in his bedroom and that angered him. He was now reasonably certain that it was a simple burglary and there was no one from the FBI to fear. As he got closer to his bedroom doorway, he could hear a man’s voice humming. It sounded like a black man and that further infuriated him. That someone from an inferior race was rummaging through his personal possessions with his dirty black hands made him red with anger.

“Nigger!” he shouted and lunged at the small black man who jumped up, a look of shock and horror on his face.

Stahl plunged the knife into the burglar’s throat, jammed it and twisted it. The black man tried to grab at the blade, but Stahl kept jabbing and sawing. Blood gushed out, covering both men. The burglar sagged to the floor and lay still. Shaking violently, Stahl checked for a pulse and found none. He took a number of deep breaths and steadied himself.

Now what? Call the police? No, absolutely not. They might stumble onto something incriminating. Or they might recognize him as someone missing from the embassy roster. There hadn’t been time to disguise himself by growing a mustache or gaining weight or even dying his hair. No, it was time to go.

First he went to the bathroom and cleaned the blood off his hands. Then he emptied his closet of all his clothes and personal possessions. There weren’t that many.

Next, he dragged the corpse into the closet. He guessed the burglar’s age at about sixteen. Too bad for him, he thought. It was also too bad that the boy likely had a family who would miss him, and maybe he had friends who’d known what he was going to do this night and were waiting for him to bring loot that they could turn into cash.

Stahl showered quickly and changed into fresh clothes. He packed everything he had into a suitcase. This time he did stick his favorite Luger in his belt in case the boy’s friends showed up. He took a wet towel and wiped fingerprints off everything he could think of. Too bad there was nothing he could do about what looked like gallons of blood congealing darkly on the floor.

He took his possessions and put them in the trunk of the car. He would leave quietly. With only a little luck, it might be days before the body was discovered and that would likely only be because of the stench. He’d closed the windows which might further delay discovery, although whoever finally came in would be in for an awful surprise.

He laughed harshly. Who knew that niggers had so much blood?

“Out kind of late, aren’t you?”

Stahl wheeled at the sound of the voice. It was a cop. Without thinking, he pulled his pistol and fired twice. Both bullets struck the man in the chest, killing him before his expression had a chance to register shock.

Stahl swore. Despite all his training and combat experience, he had panicked. Perhaps he could have talked or joked his way out. After all, he lived there, didn’t he? Damn it. The shots had sounded like a cannon and lights were going on in the neighborhood. He jumped into his car and drove away. This time he kept himself under control. He kept the lights off and drove slowly. He had shot a burglar and killed a cop. The FBI would be involved very shortly and his picture would be all over the place. He would have to find another place and it would have to be with his men where he could hide and not be recognized.

He pounded the steering wheel. Damn it to hell, he raged.

Terry Romano had been given a new bomber and a new crew. He’d also been sent to a totally new location, Buffalo, New York. His primary job was to seek out and destroy German submarines known to be hunting in the Great Lakes. A second chore was to destroy the nasty German E-boats that also prowled the waters of Lakes Erie and Ontario and threatened any invasion of Ontario by American forces. He still wanted that fifth sub kill so he could call himself an ace, although the people he now worked with were impressed that he’d gotten four of the Hun bastards. If he couldn’t get a sub, however, he’d be perfectly content with an E-boat.

After being shot down and rescued, he’d spent a couple of days in the hospital convincing the doctors that a crack on the skull was nothing to worry about. While they agreed that Italians had exceptionally thick skulls, they still made him wait. This was followed by reports, discussions, and the seemingly endless filling of forms. The worst part of his life was the writing of letters to the relatives of his dead crewmen. He’d gone over the incident a hundred times and could find nothing that he’d done wrong. Of course he could have done better, but that was hindsight. How was he supposed to know that the Nazis were adding more guns to their subs? Still, he had to fight the urge to say, sorry, but your son or brother or husband is dead because I fucked up. Since he’d grown up Catholic, he’d gone and talked to a priest who’d told him that he had indeed done his best and that war was the end of innocence. The padre hadn’t said anything Tony hadn’t heard or thought before, but it had proved surprisingly comforting.

He’d written several letters to Nancy O’Connor back in Baltimore and she’d written back. He’d told her of his sadness and she’d seemed to know just the right thing to say. He found himself thinking more and more of her freckles and her red hair and the feel of her body against his.

“Shouldn’t we turn back?”

It was his new co-pilot, complaining again that they were too close to the German side of Lake Ontario. Didn’t the silly goose understand that you had to look for Nazis in their evil lairs? If the men of the Vampire II didn’t do that, they might as well be flying as tourists on a TWA DC-3.

But the kid had a point. The Canadian coast was coming up quickly and it really was time to head back. Before he could give the order, the B24 shuddered and convulsed. Again there were screams as bullets ripped through the fuselage. A dark shadow passed by and then another one. They’d been jumped by a pair of ME109s. Tony had been so fixated on looking down that he and his inexperienced crew had forgotten to look up.

A quick count told him that all of his men were alive, although a couple of them were hurt. More important, two of his four engines were out and one was burning. He cut the fuel and solved that problem. Steering was worse than mushy and he was now over Ontario with little chance of getting back to Buffalo.

“They’re coming back,” his bombardier said.

“No shit,” Tony said angrily. Damn it to hell, he was just about to lose another plane.

“Bail out,” he ordered. “Abandon ship.”

“What are you going to do?” his co-pilot asked.

“Try and distract them. I don’t know if they shoot guys in parachutes or not, but let me try and pull them away from you.”

He got no argument from his men who quickly jumped out. Tony couldn’t see the chutes open but he thought everyone made it. A few moments later, the German fighters attacked again, their bullets tearing through the dying but largely empty plane. Tony felt he was going to lose what little control he still had. Enough, he thought.

He staggered to the open hatch, looked down at the ground thousands of feet below and had the sickening realization that he could be dead in a couple of minutes if his chute didn’t open, or if he slammed into the plane’s fuselage, or if the kraut shot him. He hoped his death would be painless. He jumped into the ferocious wind, counted to ten and pulled the cord. It opened and he whimpered a thank you to a God he’d been beginning to doubt. The German fighters weren’t interested in him. They followed the bomber as it began a spiral and then crashed into the ground.

As he neared the earth, he saw vehicles coming down a nearby dirt road. They looked military. He took out his pistol and dropped it. He was not even going to try and fight his way out of this mess.

Tony landed and heard his ankle snap. Waves of red-hot pain roared up his leg and he blacked out. When he came to, he was on a cot in a tent. A German officer looked down on him dispassionately and informed him that he was a prisoner of war and would be treated in accordance with the Geneva Convention.

“Where are you going to take me?” he managed to ask, even though he was losing control of his tongue. He’d been given some morphine and he was slipping off to sleepy-land.

The German laughed harshly. “There’s a prison camp outside Toronto. Even though it’s run by the SS and the Gestapo, I’m sure they’ll treat you with the respect you deserve.”

SS? Gestapo? Oh shit, he thought as the drug finally took over.

Grant and others from Truscott’s staff were in trenches about twenty miles east of Detroit. The Germans were two miles away and their defense line ran from a few miles east of Sarnia on the St. Clair River and Lake Huron and down to Chatham just north of the Lake Erie coast. The Germans had dug deeply in and it was understood that other defensive lines were being built a few miles beyond that. It was clearly understood that piercing this line would be the first of many, a fact that totally infuriated General Patton who wanted a war of maneuver, not a series of set piece battles that consisted of attacks on fortified positions.

The night before, Patton had angrily informed Ike and Truscott that bloody, set-piece battles of attrition would ultimately wear down the Nazis, but that the price in American dead and wounded would be enormous.

“That kind of fighting is what cost the British control of North Africa,” he raged. “We have to pry the krauts loose and get them on the run. We can’t do it with airborne troops, not just yet, but we can do it with bombers.”

Tom had been in the far corner of the room and understood the problem with using paratroops. The two airborne divisions the army had didn’t have armor or heavy artillery. When the time came, their job would be to upset and destroy enemy communications and logistics, holding on until the American heavy forces arrived. Trouble was, nobody could guarantee if and when relief would show up. Therefore, the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions would have to sit and wait. They were not happy either.

Tom also thought Patton was too disparaging of British tactics. From what he’d read, the battle of attrition they’d lost had been pushed on them and was not what they’d wanted. Regardless, the swastika now flew over the cities of Alexandria and Cairo, and the Suez Canal was German.

Patton would attack with one armored division and one infantry. These would be followed up by two more infantry divisions who would exploit the breach made by the initial assault. Patton had wanted at least one more armored division, but the transition from the M3 tanks to the M4 was taking longer than anybody expected.

Patton had grinned at his small congregation. “We’ll make do with what we have. We’ve been hitting them with artillery for days now, and we are now going to pound the crap out of them with bombers. I’ve laid on two hundred B17s and another two hundred P47s to escort them and paste whoever’s left standing.”

Truscott hadn’t been so certain. “You’re counting heavily on two things: first that the bombers can hit the target effectively and, second, that the Germans will even be where you expect. If we were so easily able to spot their trench line, maybe it’s because they wanted us to see it and hit the wrong spot.”

That had sobered Patton, but only for a moment. “Lucian, you know as well as I do that nothing’s certain in this world, but I am confident that we can hit them and hurt them and push them back. Will we open them up? Probably not, and maybe not the next time or the time after that, but, sooner or later, they will have to crack and then break. They don’t have a choice. Ultimately the Nazi bastards will be overwhelmed. And if they should happen to collapse today, we’ll be ready to chase them all the way to Toronto.”

On cue the bombers appeared overhead, the roar of their engines interrupting their conversation. They’d been staged from the Wayne County Airport that was near the Michigan city of Romulus and the Willow Run facility. The men looked up eagerly as the planes continued on from the west and towards the German lines. Colored smoke flares had been ignited to show the air force just where the American lines ended.

Grant stared through his binoculars and saw the bomb bay doors open and strings of bombs start tumbling down. In short order, they impacted around the German fortifications, sending up huge debris clouds and making the ground shake.

Another wave of bombers followed the first and Tom had the feeling that the bombs were falling closer to where they were watching. When the third wave hit, he and the others were certain of it. The bombers were unloading early and the attack was creeping back to where they were watching.

“Down,” Patton screamed. Everyone hugged the earth as the explosions drew closer.

“Call off the fucking bombers,” Truscott yelled. Tom heard someone trying desperately to get through to the air force.

Bombs exploded all around them. The concussions lifted them off the ground and slammed them back down. The explosions were deafening. Tom heard screams and realized it was his voice. I don’t want to die, he kept thinking.

The bombing stopped as suddenly as it had begun. Tom staggered to his feet. Patton had a cut on his cheek and his right arm hung limply. Truscott appeared dazed but unhurt. Tom checked himself. He had a bloody nose and there was a ringing in his ears.

A young lieutenant rushed up to Patton and said, “Let me get you to a hospital.”

Patton shook his head angrily. “No goddamn hospital. Get the attack going right now and just like we planned.”

Truscott grabbed Patton’s arm. “George, we just bombed our own men. Some of our boys must have been killed or wounded.”

“Don’t you think I know that? All the more reason to attack. We can’t let them die in vain. The first bombs must have damaged the kraut lines. The German shits who survived are doubtless laughing their asses off at us and won’t be expecting the rest of the army to come charging right at them.”

Grant’s head was still buzzing as he turned his binoculars to the scores of Sherman tanks heading towards the Germans. Overhead, P47s streaked in strafing and dropping their own bombs, this time accurately since they were flying lower. Patton let out a whoop and jumped into his jeep. He waited for the combat vehicles and fighters to clear the area and ordered his driver forward.

Truscott and one of his key aides found another jeep, while Tom and Bryce found another. “Why the hell did they drop short?” Tom snapped at the air force major.

Bryce grimaced. “It’s the way they’re trained. The lead bomber drops on target and the rest unload when they seem him do it. Inevitably, the bombs creep back. Since the target would be obscured by the first bombs, nobody knows a much better way of doing it and don’t suggest bombing north-south instead of east-west because that would make the bombers fly over a lot of enemy turf full of people who’d be shooting at them, and then try to hit a thin ribbon of fortifications from high altitude. Any way you look at it, most bombs are going to miss. We just should have had our troops and us farther back.”

And, Grant thought, I almost got killed because Patton and Truscott wanted to be close to the action. Worse, American troops poised to jump off and attack what they hoped would be dazed and confused Germans were now hurt and confused themselves.

They had to drive more slowly the closer they got to the German lines. It was quickly apparent that a goodly number of Germans had survived the bombing, which was another lesson. Machine gun and anti-tank fire sliced through American infantry and a number of American tanks went up in flames. Tom stopped and they jumped into a bomb crater.

“Please don’t tell me we’re going to retreat,” Bryce said. “That would be a sin after all our boys went through. And where the hell are the generals?”

A quick look confirmed that Patton and Truscott were a little in front of them and a hundred yards to their left. Another tank exploded and someone yelled that the place was mined. Grant and Bryce looked around their crater and wondered if they were lying on a mine.

They slithered up and carefully crawled back to their jeep. They slowly drove forward, conscious that mines could be just under the earth. They passed several broken Sherman tanks that were burning furiously. The stench coming from them told them that not all the crew had made it outside. More bodies lay on the ground, and most were American.

Finally, they were through the German line. In the distance, they could see other enemy vehicles pulling back, while anti-tank and machine guns covered them. This German defensive position had been taken, but at what cost? How many GIs had been killed or wounded by their own planes, and how many others had fallen while taking a thin line of bunkers and machine gun nests? Worse, when the Germans had pulled back, they had taken most of their equipment with them for use at the next site.

As if to taunt them, well-hidden German artillery opened fire, again driving them to the ground. “How far is it from Detroit to Toronto?” Bryce asked.

“A little more than five hundred miles,” Tom answered.

“Christ, Tom, this is going to be a long damned war.”

Canfield looked up from the stack of papers on his desk and glared at Sergeant Dubinski. “Why the hell didn’t you just shoot the little bastard and throw his ass in the lake?”

With that, the scrawny young man in handcuffs standing beside Dubinski started to cry. The sergeant slapped him on the ear, “Shut up you little fucking coward.” Canfield was not going to shoot the foolish boy, nor was Dubinski really going to hurt him. What they really wanted to do was get through to the young soldier and make him realize just how close he’d been to getting hanged for desertion.

Canfield glared at the private. “Tell me, Private Hipple, just how the hell did you think you could get away with deserting? You didn’t even get twenty miles before the MPs picked you up, did you?”

Hipple gulped. “No sir.”

“That’s right,” Canfield continued, “and I’ll bet they were real nice and polite while they kicked the crap out of you weren’t they, which means you have no complaints about the way you were treated, do you?”

Hipple’s face was bruised and both his eyes were blackened, and his ribs were bruised which made breathing difficult. “No sir,” he managed.

“So why the hell did you do it?”

“I wanted to get home, sir.”

“Where’s home son?” Canfield already knew the answer. He had Hipple’s personnel file on his desk.

“Texas, sir. We live on a farm in Hudspeth County and that’s in way west Texas, sir.”

Dubinski snickered. “Ain’t anything much farther west than Hudspeth County. And I’ll be there ain’t nothing in Hudspeth County worth coming home to, is there Hipple, unless, of course, you’re partial to rattlesnakes and lizards?”

Hipple glared back but quickly looked at the floor. “It’s my home and it’s a place where people talk like me and don’t tease me because they think I talk funny. Back home they don’t make fun of me because I don’t know much ‘cause they don’t know nothing either. They also don’t have all this goddamn snow.”

The boy was lonely, Canfield had long ago realized, and homesick to boot. Hipple was twenty years old and had been drafted out of Texas and then sent to upper New York as a filler for the regiment that was trying to get to full strength. Since most of the men were from upper New York, he’d been the odd duck from the first day. He’d arrived several months prior and had been doing what they’d all been doing, train, train, and train some more.

“I was going to come back, sir. I just wanted to see my people. I ain’t heard from them in a long while.”

“Why didn’t you write them a letter or maybe even phone?”

Hipple turned away. “We don’t got no phone anywhere near and none of my people can write.”

Canfield looked at Dubinski who shrugged. The kid was likely telling the truth. “It’s your lucky day, Hipple, I am not going to hang your ass. I cannot bust you to private because you already are one. However, I can see to it that it’ll be an eternity before you get promoted and you will be performing every shit detail we have until we get into combat, at which point you will be allowed to redeem yourself. You will also be watched like a hawk and if you should make a move to get off base, I will make sure that everyone on guard duty knows they have my permission to shoot your worthless ass back to Hudspeth County in far west asshole Texas. You understand?”

Hipple gulped, “Yes sir.”

“Now get the hell out of here before I change my mind.”

Hipple ran like he was on fire. Canfield waved Dubinski to a chair. “Why the hell didn’t the army keep him in Texas?”

“Beats me, chief. Don’t forget, there’s the right way, the wrong way, and the army way.”

“Tell me about it.”

“Hipple can read and write, sort of, but otherwise he’s a social illiterate. Hell, he never saw indoor plumbing until he got drafted. He figured out what toilets and urinals were for, but never realized you had to flush the things to get rid of the piss and shit. Maybe he thought the tooth fairy did it. His so-called buddies rode him hard because of that piece of ignorance along with other stuff.”

“Does he have any useful skills?”

“I hear he’s real good with horses and mules.”


“He’s bragged that he’s a dead shot and can hit anything he can see.”

Canfield was intrigued. “Kindly check that out. If he’s as good as he thinks he is, maybe we’ve got ourselves a designated shooter when the time comes.”

Canfield stood and walked outside. Dubinski followed. Canfield waved at the sea of tents surrounding them. “Look at all this. We’ve got an entire army sitting around and doing nothing more than get into trouble.”

“Maybe we should start a war, chief.”

“Maybe we should start fighting one, and haven’t I told you to stop calling me chief? We have an entire army that’s bored to tears and getting into trouble. Abraham Lincoln once had a general, McClelland, who spent all his time training the Union Army and not fighting, so Abe asked him since he wasn’t using his army might he borrow it. I understand McClelland got real angry. Well, I’m angry. I know it isn’t entirely General Fredendall’s fault, but we could do something other than digging ditches and planning to repel a German attack that isn’t going to happen.”

Dubinski shook his head. “I don’t know, colonel, at least nobody’s getting killed digging ditches.”