Chapter 24 - North Reich - Robert Conroy

North Reich - Robert Conroy (2012)

Chapter 24

Sherry Piper hugged Sam Lambert with a ferocious intensity. Behind them, the last of the trucks and buses carrying the prisoners from the two camps drove by.

“Tell me it was worth it,” she sobbed.

“We got the prisoners and we got a ton of information from that snake’s office, Sherry. Yeah, it was worth it.”

At least he hoped it was. He’d gotten from Sherry the fact that the bastard had passed out before he could consummate the deed, but he knew that she’d been pawed and undressed by the man who was responsible for both her rape and her brother’s death.

“I could have killed him, but I just couldn’t do it. He killed my brother and so many others, but I couldn’t bring myself to take his life.”

“Just as well,” Sam said gently. “It would have haunted you forever.”

She’d been through enough. He didn’t think she was the type who could savor bloody vengeance. She had been brave beyond words, but there was a point beyond which she couldn’t handle things, and killing a sleeping Neumann was one. Neumann would get to live for a while longer.

She thought she had put enough knock-out drops in his drink to kill a horse, but obviously she was wrong. When he finally passed out, she just stood above him for a few moments, half naked and in shock. She’d finally gathered her wits, straightened her clothes, and gotten Tinker into the room to steal anything that looked important. While he did that, Sherry found Neumann’s stationery and typed out an order sending the prisoners on their way. She had no idea what Neumann’s signature looked like, but figured that the prison guards didn’t either.

A few yards away from them and out of earshot, Grant watched as the last vehicle passed by. The military prisoners had cheered, while the civilians showed a range of emotions. Basically, they were still scared.

“What now?” asked Landry.

Damn good question, Tom thought. He’d always wanted an independent command, and now he had one. But what the hell had he inherited? He had Landry’s small company of Rangers as a core, but the next best unit was Lambert’s detachment of police from Toronto and other local communities. He had several hundred Canadian volunteers from the reserve units in the area and he felt that they might give a good account of themselves when the Germans who had to be chasing the prisoners showed up. Many of them had served in the First World War, which was both a benefit and a curse. They had combat experience, but now, more than twenty years later, many were long in the tooth and out of shape.

What he also didn’t have was weapons and ammunition. The Rangers had what they’d brought, which wasn’t much, maybe six or eight clips per man. The police had revolvers and shotguns and very little extra ammo. The same with the volunteers. They’d broken into several armories and armed themselves with old Enfield rifles and any ammunition they could find. Altogether, they had enough for one quick skirmish and then they’d be out. Nor did they have any artillery and they only had a handful of machine guns. More than one volunteer had nothing more than a shotgun or a hunting rifle.

Landry’s radio operators had been in contact with Truscott’s headquarters, but his men were fighting desperate German units south of Toronto and needed everything they had in the way of air assets for themselves. Yes, they would try to help, but they didn’t know how much they could provide.

Damn it, he thought, he had to delay the Nazis long enough for the caravan of former prisoners to get far enough away to be safe. Oh yeah, Tom thought. It would be nice for him and his men to save their own butts as well.

Field Marshal Guderian was livid. That shithead Neumann had lost his prisoners and now wanted help finding them. He was of a mind to tell Neumann to go fuck himself, but one did not do that to a Gestapo commandant. No, he would provide help for the Gestapo chief even though it was the worst of times - both his military fronts were crumbling.

To the west, Patton’s flanking movement had succeeded in dislodging General Raus’s army which was on the verge of disintegrating. The German retreat towards Toronto was in danger of becoming a rout. North of the Niagara, Steiner’s front was fighting a ferocious battle against Bradley’s army which was steadily pushing him back and causing heavy casualties. Most of the German armor had been committed and almost all of what remained of the Luftwaffe had been destroyed. He had hated to use his remaining tanks as part of a defensive line instead of having them attack and destroy the enemy, but American control of the air prohibited that.

However, he did have an SS regiment that had been mauled in battle and was being re-equipped near Toronto. It was perfect. He gave the order to send them north to help Neumann, but not before stripping them of any artillery and armor they might still possess. He doubted they’d need either against a mob of prisoners and those who’d freed them. He would have it both ways. He’d keep the guts of the regiment in reserve while sending two battalions of infantry to do whatever Neumann wanted.

Well, he thought, almost anything. “Koenig, come here.”

Koenig snapped a salute. Guderian smiled grimly and handed him a piece of paper. “These are your orders. You are to go with Neumann as he recaptures the prisoners. Your job will be so see to it that they are not massacred. Do you understand?”

“I do, sir,” Koenig responded.

Yes, Guderian thought, Koenig understood fully. The German armies in Canada were being destroyed and surrender might just be the next option. There would be enough to answer for and no one wanted to be accused of war crimes resulting from the massacre of American and Canadian prisoners. Whether he liked it or not, Koenig would indeed try to protect the prisoners. Guderian’s only question was how would he do that when surrounded by the Gestapo, the Black Shirts and two battalions of SS?

Canfield was too close to the front lines which made Dubinski and others nervous, but that was where he felt a good commander should be. He was not going to build a fortress and try to control events from behind thick walls like Fredendall had.

He had to admit that the krauts were fighting hard and skillfully and making the Americans pay for every foot, every inch that they wrested from them. Many Germans had crossed the line between fighting hard and into fanaticism. What kind of mad loyalty had Hitler inspired, he wondered? Canfield answered his own question. Hitler had turned an entire civilized nation to madness.

But the Germans were crumbling. Finally. Enemy troops were surrendering more frequently now. This bunch now approaching was typical. Canfield counted seventeen of them led by a German sergeant and guarded by a handful of GIs. The Germans looked beaten. Being bombed and shelled all day and night will do that to a man, Dubinski had said. The Germans were gaunt and dirty. Their uniforms were in tatters and some appeared to be dazed, although a couple looked at their captors with undisguised hatred.

Many of the Germans had the leaflets that had been raining down on them for several days. They were promised food, shelter, and clothing if they quit. They were told they’d be sent to work on farms in places like Kansas, which had led some to approach American lines while gripping the leaflets and yelling out “Kansas,” which amused the GIs.

He and Dubinski and a couple of others were standing on one side of a road while the prisoners walked slowly down the others. Neither prisoners nor guards were in any great hurry to reach their destination. One waved a leaflet and grinned.

He’d seen enough. Dubinski and the others were right. If he could almost brush sleeves with enemy soldiers, even if they were surrendering, he was too damn close to the action. He needed to be where he could command.


Canfield had only a quick glimpse of a German potato masher grenade rolling towards him. A shadow passed in front and it was followed by an explosion that threw him to the ground. For an instant he thought he was dead; but then realized that he’d survived. He lurched to his feet and stared down in horror. Dubinski had taken the brunt of the explosion and his shattered and bloody body had been torn to shreds. His eyes were still open and he still seemed to see. Canfield knelt down beside his friend.

“You saved me,” he said in a hoarse whisper. Dubinski tried to respond but the only sound he made was a gurgle. The light then left his eyes.

“Sons of bitches,” someone yelled and gunfire followed. Canfield was unable to stop the guards and other Americans from pouring fire into the Germans who screamed and fell as they were shot. In just a few seconds it was over and the column of German prisoners had been reduced to a bloody heap.

Part of Canfield’s mind said it hadn’t been necessary to kill all of the Germans since it was likely that only one had carried the grenade. But which one, he wondered, and how many of the others knew the soldier had carried it and was planning to use it?

Another thought intruded as he fought for control of his emotions. He was almost shaking from the shock of such close by death. There was blood all over his uniform and it was all Dubinski’s. Had his old friend from what seemed an eternity ago jumped on the grenade to save his and other’s lives, or had he simply stumbled and fallen on it while trying to get away?

“He was a hero,” a young lieutenant said. Canfield took a second before remembering that the man’s name was Clark. “I saw it, sir. He jumped right on that grenade and saved all of us.”

Canfield decided that’s what he recalled as well. With Dubinski dead, no one could question his intentions. He smiled grimly. He would put Dubinski in for a medal, maybe even the big one, and, yeah, he would fight like hell to see that he got it.

Clark had men checking the dead Germans and they reported finding a couple of Lugers and three more grenades. Whoever had searched them earlier had fucked up royally, Clark said.

Just like I fucked up, Canfield thought sadly. If he hadn’t been so hell bent on being close to the front, none of this might have happened.

Damn it, damn it, damn it.

The German column approached slowly. The front portion consisted of maybe a hundred trucks and light armored vehicles with a larger force about a mile behind. There were no tanks, Grant noted with relief. The most deadly vehicles were those trailing anti-aircraft guns or had machine guns mounted on them. He noted that many were local vehicles painted and configured to serve the German Army. Grant was still outclassed and outgunned by the Germans.

To the other side of the road and beyond the Germans lay Lake Ontario. It was shrouded in mist. Overhead, a few small planes flew. Clearly they were spotters, but what were they spotting? That they weren’t Germans was evident by the fact that German guns were trying to shoot them down, but without success. The tiny planes were too nimble and kept confounding their attackers with their erratic flying.

Landry slipped alongside Grant. “Damn good job of hiding everyone, sir.”

“Well, we’ve only got one chance to do this right,” Tom said.

His plan was simple. While it was thought that the escaped prisoners had enough of a head start to get away, he wasn’t certain. He also had no idea how long the Germans would chase them before giving up. Maybe they would never give up. Attacking and stalling the Germans, if only for a little while, might provide the necessary cushion. It could also get them all killed, he thought grimly. Thus, they would hit and scoot. Their ammunition would be used up in only a few minutes and then it would be time for them to disappear. But if they could delay the Nazis for even a half an hour it would enable the escapees to get that much farther away. The Canadian prisoners had already begun to disappear within the throngs of civilians, while the military personnel would continue to head in the general direction of Quebec.

At least that was what he hoped. Some of his civilian soldiers suddenly opened fire. They were too soon and ineffective. The German column stopped abruptly. Soldiers tumbled out of their vehicles and machine guns and cannon opened up on the American position. Grant gave the order and Landry’s men began firing with accuracy. Germans fell, but not enough of them and the rest of the column was hurrying to their rescue. Damn it, he thought. It was just too much to expect amateurs to maintain discipline. Sadly, they would pay for that lack.

Grant was just about to order his men to fall back when a volcano erupted just offshore. No, he realized, it wasn’t a volcano, it was the explosion of a massive shell. A second shell landed and this one was almost on top of the German column which was now in great disorder. A third and fourth shell exploded and these tossed some German vehicles into the air while the rest tried to scatter. More shells pounded the thoroughly confused Germans who were trying to flee back towards Toronto. Still more shells ripped through the column and worked their way back to the main force which was desperately trying to change course.

Landry grabbed Tom’s arm and pointed. “Would you look at that?”

Tom looked out towards the lake. The mist was clearing and a line of dark shapes could be seen a few miles offshore. They were warships and they were massive.

One of the Canadian volunteers came up and he was grinning hugely. “That’s the Royal Navy, colonel. It’s about damn time they showed up. The big ones are the battleships King George V and Iron Duke. I served on the King George. The smaller ones are cruisers and I ain’t sure which ones, but it sure as hell don’t matter.”

No, it didn’t matter, Tom thought. He stood and dusted himself off. He would not be involved in any more fighting today if he could help it. He got a casualty report. Thirty of his men were dead and more than a hundred wounded. Most of the casualties had come from the poorly armed and undisciplined volunteers. The result of his first attempt at an independent command had been a very mixed bag. If it hadn’t been for the navy, his men would have been slaughtered.

“I have a thought, sir,” said Landry. “Why don’t we take a flying column and see if we can do some damage in Toronto? My men and a bunch of cops could really raise some hell.”

Neumann had been well in the rear of the SS column when the British ships had destroyed it. Like the others, he turned his vehicle back towards Toronto. First, he stopped off at the Farm where he had housed and interrogated prisoners, including the almost forgotten Mary Bradford.

While there, he picked up Jed Munro and a handful of other Black Shirts. They were all that was left of what Neumann had hoped would be a sizable Canadian Nazi force. The rest had all fled and it was time for him to do so as well. The only way of escaping capture would be long and arduous and entailed heading north and then west until he reached a point where he could head south and then into Mexico. It would take him months if it worked at all.

First, however, he would need the money and phony identification he’d hidden in the German headquarters in Toronto. It was, he thought ironically, the same office where the unknown woman named Sherry had drugged him. Of that he was now certain.

His group could now be carried in only a few cars, which further dismayed him. They drove slowly, keeping an eye out for American planes. Finally, they pulled behind the headquarters building and entered, noting that the doors were open and papers were strewn about. He pulled his Luger and told the others to prepare for anything.

Neumann’s offices were in total disarray. It was even worse than when he’d left earlier.

“You have money, don’t you,” said Jed. “I think you’re gonna share it. We need to escape too.”

“Of course. First, I have to get it out of my wall safe.”

The safe was hidden behind a bad painting of some mountain scene out west. He pulled the painting off the wall and worked the combination of the safe.

“Jed, there’s more than enough for the two of us, but not if we have to share it with the others.”

Munro grinned wolfishly. “I understand,” he said. He left the room and ordered the men in the hallway to go out front and look for enemy soldiers. While he did that, Neumann opened the safe and brought out bundles of money which he piled on the desk. When Munro returned, his eyes immediately went to the cash. He didn’t see the pistol in Neumann’s hand. Neumann fired three times, killing Munro.

“Idiot,” said Neumann. He dumped the cash into a satchel along with several changes of identity. If the Black Shirt louts out front heard anything, they hadn’t reacted. He raced out the back and grabbed a staff car. It was time to drive west.

Guderian looked down on the bloody and shattered remains of Koenig. The young man had shown promise and, best of all, loyalty. His late aide lay with a number of other German soldiers who’d been pulverized by the unexpected barrage from Royal Navy battleships.

Battleships? Who the devil would expect battleships on Lake Ontario? The presence of the Royal Navy further convinced him that the German cause in North America was well and truly doomed. This year of 1944 was working out to be a disaster for the Reich. Stalingrad had been recaptured and von Paulus’ army destroyed. The field marshal had been captured. At least, Guderian thought bitterly, I won’t be the first. Hitler was going to shit and threaten him with death. Guderian didn’t give a damn. Worse, the Red Army continued to advance against a weakened German Army while Hitler gave futile orders to stand and die.

Hitler’s secret weapons hadn’t worked either. Von Arnim had fewer than a hundred V-1 rockets, and these had all been fired on the first day of the war and to little effect. The Americans hadn’t even reported their existence.

Nor was the situation any better on the high seas. The once mighty U-boat fleet was being systematically destroyed by Americans who seemed to know exactly where they were going to pop up. The Reich was afraid that a massive invasion fleet would sail from the American ports and invade anywhere they wished. Hitler’s so-called allies were wavering and would soon decide that they’d made a terrible mistake by backing the Reich.

And as to his orders to help out Japan by attacking the U.S., the Japanese were beyond help. They were being bombarded day and night by American planes and ships and were helpless to protect themselves. Their people were starving and, for the first time in their existence, there appeared to be those harboring thoughts of revolution. He wondered if anyone in Germany was thinking similar thoughts. He doubted it. Hitler had created a nation of slavish cowards.

Damn Hitler, he thought. This was going to be worse than after the First World War.

It was time to end it. He called for an aide and instructed him to make radio contact with the American command. He would surrender.

He had a thought. After surrendering, he would inform the Americans that he would be willing to renounce Hitler and Nazism and help form a democratic German government in exile. He and it would work to overthrow Hitler. It would mean betraying his Fuhrer, but the man had betrayed Germany. He had to be stopped before Germany was destroyed by the Red Hordes who were surely gathering.

The Black Shirts saw the Americans and the Toronto police advancing and shot wildly before running away. A couple of them were cut down by police and army gunfire before they could go far, but a handful disappeared down the streets. Grant, Landry, and Lambert looked at each other.

“That was close,” Landry said. “That was just about all the ammunition we had.”

They went inside. Lambert led the way. He knew where Neumann’s office was located. They went in and saw the open safe and found Jed Munro lying on the floor. He’d been shot twice in the chest and once in the face.

“Damn,” said Lambert. “Someone beat me to it.”

“Well, there’s still the kraut,” said Tom, “although, on second thought maybe I wouldn’t count on it. The bastard’s doubtless gone to ground. My guess is that that empty safe contained all he needed to hide for years - little things like a lot of cash and false IDs. He could hide for a decade and come out a free and rich man.”

“Ain’t no justice,” said Lambert. “Of course, there rarely is.”

The men decided to keep their combined forces in the former German headquarters. They would sit tight until relieved by other American units who were heading towards the area. Landry had already made contact with units approaching the city and had gotten the word that the Germans were surrendering. It made no sense to go out and risk getting shot by either a trigger-happy American or a fanatic Nazi. No, their war was going to end with a whimper and not a bang. At least for a while and maybe for a long while, Tom thought.

The war would be moving across the ocean, but he would try to get stationed at the Pentagon where he could be close to Alicia. She hadn’t quite told him as much, but he was pretty certain she was pregnant and only waiting for him to get back safely before she broke the news. She didn’t want to burden him, but she’d told Missy who’d told her husband who, of course, let it slip.

He was contemplating this when Sergeant Farnum, his arm in a sling, dragged in a very disheveled former State Department rep Wade Dylan.

“Look what I found, colonel, and yes, he was hiding.”

Dylan looked like hell. His clothes were torn and his face was bruised. “You didn’t hit him, did you?”

“No sir, he was that kind of a mess when I found him.”

“Neumann did it,” Dylan said. He straightened up and fussed with his clothing. “For some reason, he thought I had betrayed him.”

“Had you?” Tom asked.

To their surprise, Dylan smiled. “Of course I had. That was my purpose in staying behind in the first place. Did you really think I was such a horse’s ass when you first talked to me? I had a role to play and I think I played it quite well.”

“Bullshit,” said Farnum. Tom noticed that Lambert was very quiet.

“Not so,” said Dylan, "and Detective Lambert can confirm it. When I was first left behind, my contacts were with the State Department. When the OSS came into being, Detective Lambert, aka Maple, was my connection. He will confirm that my code name was Stanley, as in the Stanley Cup.”

“Curiouser and Curiouser,” said Tom. Now more than ever he wanted to get back to Washington.

“What do we do now?” Farnum asked.

Tom stood. “First, we get everyone the hell out of this building in case somebody remembers that it is the German headquarters and decides to bomb or shell it. When we find another place to hole up, we wait for the cavalry to arrive. Landry can radio our situation and Lambert, since the phones are working, why don’t you call Sherry and let her know you’ll be home for dinner.”

Neumann had again changed his mind. Trying to make it west and then south to Mexico was absurd. The only safe course was the most obvious. He would surrender to the Americans along with the rest of Guderian’s army. To do that, he had killed a German soldier and taken his uniform. He then buried the cash he’d taken from the safe. It was all either American or Canadian and would prove useful when he was released. As a prisoner of war he would need no money and having any large amount would be suspicious. He kept a hundred dollars Canadian for incidental expenses.

Months earlier he’d had his SS blood type tattoo removed from his arm, and now he was proud of his foresight. When captured, the Americans would be unable to identify him as an SS officer. He would be able to get lost in the crowd. There was the remote possibility that someone would recognize him, but that was a chance he would have to take. He would let the Yanks intern him and then wait for the opportunity to escape if he wasn’t released first. At the rate things were going so badly for the Reich, it wouldn’t be long before there was an armistice. After all, who would want to punish a poor simple German soldier who’d been deluded by Hitler?

He staggered. There was a sudden sharp pain in his chest and he couldn’t catch his breath. He grabbed his chest and felt something sticky. Blood. What the devil, he thought as he slumped to the ground.

Almost three hundred yards away, Hipple grinned and lowered his rifle. “Got him,” he said.

Canfield, who had been only a short distance away, had mixed emotions. “Great shot, but we’re trying to encourage them to surrender.”

“Sorry, sir, but he had a rifle and didn’t much look like he was surrendering. I won’t do it again.”

Canfield had nothing to say to Hipple who was clearly un-contrite. It was one more dead German in partial payment for all the friends he had lost. He just wanted this to end so he could go home.