THE HONOR OF SPIES
by W.E.B. Griffin
& William E. Butterworth IV
IN LOVING MEMORY OF
COLONEL JOSÉ MANUEL MENÉNDEZ
CAVALRY, ARGENTINE ARMY, RETIRED
HE SPENT HIS LIFE FIGHTING COMMUNISM AND JUAN DOMINGO PERÓN
[ PROLOGUE ]
By August 1943, the United States of America had been in the Second World War for twenty months.
England had been at war for four years, since 1 September 1939, when—a week after German leader Adolf Hitler signed a non-aggression treaty with the Soviet Union—Germany launched its Blitzkrieg (“Lightning War”) against Poland.
England and France declared war.
By 6 October 1939, Poland had fallen, and was divided between the Soviet Union and Germany. “The Phony War” followed, with the belligerents taking little—virtually no—action against each other.
One significant exception to this occurred two months later, when, on 13 December 1939, Royal Navy cruisers engaged the German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee off the Atlantic coast of South America, and forced the damaged ship to seek refuge in Montevideo, Uruguay.
Diplomatic pressure (largely from the United States, although this was denied at the time) on Uruguay forced that small country to insist on following international law, which required belligerent vessels to leave sanctuary ports within seventy-two hours. Captain Hans Langsdorff, to save further loss of life in a battle he knew he could not win, on 17 December scuttled the Graf Spee just outside the mouth of the Montevideo harbor. He then went to Argentina, buried his dead, made arrangements for the internment of his crew—and then shot himself in the temple, arranging that event so his body would fall on the German Navy battle flag.
The Phony War turned real on the night of 9/10 May 1940, when the Germans occupied Luxembourg and launched another Blitzkrieg, this time into the Netherlands and Belgium. The Dutch surrendered 15 May.
On 5 June 1940, the Germans solved the problem of the “impregnable” French Maginot Line of fortresses by going around them. Paris fell on 14 June. Not all French were desolated; substantial numbers of them embraced the motto, “Better Hitler than Blum.” André Léon Blum, a Socialist, already had twice served as France’s prime minister.
The French capitulated on 25 June 1940.
The only good news for the English during this period was their brilliant evacuation of 300,000 British soldiers and some 38,000 French from Dunkirk.
Germany began a massive aerial bombardment of England as the prelude to a cross-channel invasion. The Royal Air Force’s valiant and effective defense of England caused Winston Churchill, its prime minister, to utter the famous line, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”
The severe losses suffered by the Luftwaffe are cited by some historians as the reason Adolf Hitler called off the invasion. Other historians feel that it was Hitler’s decision to stab the Soviet Union in the back that brought him to that decision. He would deal with the English after he had dealt with the Communists.
The backstabbing—“Operation Barbarossa,” named in honor of Frederick I, Holy Roman Emperor—was the largest attack of the Second World War, and initially the most successful. It began on 22 June 1941.
It was brilliantly planned, brilliantly executed, and took the Russians entirely by surprise.
On 15 September, German forces began the siege of Leningrad. They—and almost everyone else—thought it would be over in about a month. With that in mind, the Germans on 2 October 1941 began their march on Moscow and soon the gilded tops of the Soviet capital’s churches could be seen through German binoculars.
Before things (including the weather and Soviet tenacity) turned against them, the Germans had 750,000 square miles (an area about 1.5 times the size of the United States) and had nearly 100 million people under their boot.
On 5 December, the attack on Moscow was called off. Winter had set in, and the Germans were simply unprepared to fight in the terrible cold. The troops were freezing, and could not be properly supplied. Moscow could wait until spring.
Two days later—7 December 1941, a date President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared “would live in infamy”—the Japanese attacked the U.S. Navy base at Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii. That, too, was a brilliant operation, one meticulously planned, effectively carried out, and which took the Americans by complete surprise. When it was over, most American battleships in the Pacific were on the bottom of Pearl Harbor.
And things promptly got worse.
On 11 December, Germany and Italy declared war on the United States. On Christmas Day 1941, Japan took Hong Kong, and on 2 January 1942, Manila was declared an open city and fell to the Japanese.
With the fall of all the Philippines to the Japanese only a matter of time, and aware that the morale of the American people was as low as it had ever been—and sinking—President Roosevelt authorized a near suicidal bombing attack on Japan.
On 18 April 1942, Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle led a small flight of B-25 Mitchell bombers from the deck of an aircraft carrier to Tokyo. The physical damage they caused was minimal but the damage to Japanese pride enormous. And the United States could finally claim to be fighting back.
Eighteen days later, on 6 May 1942, Lieutenant General Jonathan M. Wainwright surrendered the Philippines to the Japanese. It was the largest surrender in U.S. history.
Japan was now poised to invade Australia from bases in the Solomon Islands. But on 7 August 1942, the just formed U.S. First Marine Division, which was not supposed to be ready to fight for a year, was thrust into the breach and landed on Guadalcanal.
Surprising just about everybody, the landing was a success, and the Marines took the island, fighting without their heavy artillery and living off captured Japanese rations.
Australia was saved, and some dared to hope the tide of war had changed. Some proof of this hope came on 8 November 1942, when United States Army troops, under Lieutenant General George S. Patton, landed in North Africa. The French valiantly defended their North African colonies against the Americans, and in a thirty-six hour battle, with negligible damage to themselves, the battleship USS Massachusetts, the cruisers USS Augusta, USS Brooklyn, USS Tuscaloosa, and USS Wichita, and aircraft from the carrier USS Ranger either sank or knocked out of action most of the French fleet, including the battleship Jean Bart and the cruisers Primaguet, Fougueux, Boulonnais, Brestois, and Frondeur.
Two months later, in captured/liberated Casablanca, Roosevelt and Churchill met and decided to invade Sicily as soon as possible. They also decreed that Germany would not be allowed to seek an armistice, but must surrender unconditionally.
And two weeks after that, on 31 January 1943, there came what most historians agree was the beginning of the end for Germany. Newly-promoted Field Marshal Friedrich Paulus was forced to surrender his troops—90,000 of them, who were surrounded, out of ammunition, and reduced to eating their horses—at Stalingrad.
But the war was by no means over, and historians now agree that it could easily have gone the other way.
If, for example, Germany won the race to build the atomic bomb.
If, for example, Germany had managed to get into production the Me-262, a jet fighter capable of causing unacceptable losses to the flights of British and American bombers that were reducing German cities to rubble.
If, for example, the Germans could perfect a means of accurately aiming their rocket-powered missiles.
If, for example, German submarines could successfully interdict the shipment of troops and the matériel of war from the United States to Europe.
If, for example, the inevitable Allied invasion of France could be thrown back into the English Channel.
Hitler devoutly believed all of the above were possible, even probable. But many members of the Führer’s inner circle were more pragmatic and had begun to consider the ramifications of a German defeat.
“Operation Phoenix” was born.
If there were temporary reverses in the fortunes of the Thousand Year Reich—if, for example, the Russians took Berlin—all would not necessarily be lost. National Socialism and its leaders could rise phoenix-like from the ashes.
All it would take would be some place of refuge for the leaders to bide their time, and some place to conceal vast amounts of money from the victorious allies until the time came to spend it to restore the Reich, probably immediately after the West and Russia had both been fatally weakened in the inevitable war between them.
Argentina seemed to be just the place. Argentina, ostensibly neutral, leaned heavily toward the Axis powers. The Argentine Army was armed with Mauser rifles, wore German steel helmets, uniforms patterned on those of the Wehrmacht, and had its headquarters in the Edificio Libertador in Buenos Aires, a magnificent structure built with the generous assistance of Germany.
While it was also true that the Argentine Navy leaned toward the British (and to some degree, toward the Americans) and that there were large numbers of Jews in the country who hated Nazism and all it stood for, these problems could be dealt with.
Operation Phoenix was put into play even before the Stalingrad surrender.
[ ONE ]
Estancia Casa Chica
Buenos Aires Province, Argentina
0805 11 August 1943
A white two-ton 1940 Ford truck with a refrigerator body followed a white 1938 Ford Fordoor sedan down the unnumbered macadam road which branched off National Route Three to Tandil.
The truck body had a representation of a beef cow’s head painted on it, together with the legend FRIGORÍFICO MORÓN, and there was a smaller version of the corporate insignia on the doors of the car.
They were a common sight in the area, which bordered on the enormous Estancia San Pedro y San Pablo, the patrón of which did not know within five or six thousand exactly how many head of cattle grazed his fields. Nor did he know who operated the estancia’s eight slaughter houses, of which Frigorífico Morón had been one of the smallest, until recently, when Frigorífico Morón had been shut down to make room for the runways and hangars of South American Airways.
The car and the truck slowed and turned off the macadam road onto a narrower road of crushed stone, then stopped when they came to a sturdy closed gate, above which a sign read Casa Chica.
A sturdy man in his fifties with a full, immaculately-trimmed cavalryman’s mustache got out of the car and walked toward the gate, holding in his hand a key to the massive padlock that secured the chains in the gate.
He had just twisted the key in the lock when a man on horseback trotted up, holding a rifle vertically, its butt resting on the saddle. Without speaking to him—which the man on horseback correctly interpreted to be a signal of disapproval; he knew he should have been at the gate before the man with the mustache reached it—the man returned to the Ford. He got in and waited for the peon to get off the horse and finish dealing with chain and swing open the gate.
When the car and truck had passed through the gate, the peon went to the right post of the gate, pulled a piece of canvas aside, and then knelt beside an Argentine copy of the U.S. Army’s EE-8 field telephone. He gave its crank several hard turns, then stood up, holding the headset to his ear as he looked up the steep hill to Casa Chica.
An identical field telephone rang in the comfortable living room of Casa Chica, a bungalow sitting near the crest of the hill.
There were five people in the room. A middle-aged balding man wearing a sweater over his shirt sat across a desk from a younger man wearing a loosely knit white turtleneck sweater. A Thompson submachine gun hung from the back of the younger man’s chair.
Another rifle-armed peon—this one leaning back in a chair that rested against a wall—had been on the edge dozing off when the telephone rang. A large, even massive, dark-skinned woman in her thirties sat on a couch across from a middle-aged woman in an armchair, who was looking bitterly at the middle-aged balding man at the desk. When the telephone rang, the large woman rose with surprising agility from the couch and went to it.
The balding man stopped what he was doing, which was working on an organizational chart, and looked at the massive woman.
“You just keep on working, Herr Frogger,” the young man said not very pleasantly in German.
“I don’t have all these details in my memory, Major,” Frogger said.
“Try harder,” the young man said coldly.
He was Sergeant Sigfried Stein, U.S. Army, although Herr Wilhelm Frogger and his wife, Else, had been told—and believed—that he was a major.
Wilhelm Frogger, until just over two weeks before, had been the commercial attaché of the German embassy in Buenos Aires. On the fourteenth of July, he then had appeared at the apartment of Milton Leibermann, a “legal attaché” of the U.S. embassy, and offered to exchange his knowledge of German embassy secrets for sanctuary in Brazil.
Leibermann was de facto the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s man in Argentina. He had no place to hide the German defectors from either the Germans or the Argentine authorities—who, he knew, would be told they had been kidnapped—nor any means to get the defectors out of Argentina. So, he had turned them over to someone he thought could do both.
He knew that Don Cletus Frade, patrón of Estancia San Pedro y San Pablo, was in fact a U.S. Marine Corps major and the de facto head of the U.S. Office of Strategic Services in Argentina. He also knew that having any dealings at all with anyone connected with the spies of the OSS had been absolutely forbidden by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, and for that reason Leibermann had not reported to the FBI that the Froggers had come to him, or what he had done with them.
Frade was interested in the Froggers because he knew more of the secret activities of the German embassy than Frogger thought he could possibly know, most importantly about something the Germans called “Operation Phoenix.”
Frogger steadfastly denied any knowledge of Operation Phoenix, which convinced Frade he was a liar. It had also become almost immediately apparent that Frau Else Frogger was an unrepentant National Socialist who not only had decided that defecting had been a mistake but that if they could only get away from Frade and his gottverdammt Jude—“Major” Stein—all would be forgiven at the German embassy.
Frade, however, knew enough about the SS officers in the German embassy to know that before or after the Froggers were returned to Germany to enter a concentration camp they would be thoroughly interrogated about Leibermann and about Frade’s operation. And the Froggers had seen too much to let that happen.
Letting them go was not an option.
Frade had no immediate means of getting them even to Brazil without taking unjustifiable risks. So while they were, so to speak, in limbo, he was hiding them on a small farm that his father had used for romantic interludes in the country.
There was a chance that Siggie Stein could break down one of them—or both—and get them to reveal what they knew about Operation Phoenix. Not much of a chance, though, for Stein was a demolitions man turned communications/cryptography expert, not a trained interrogator. Still, on the other hand, he was a refugee from Nazi Germany, and had some relatives who’d not been able to escape and had perished in concentration camps.
The massive Argentine woman, who was known as “the other Dorotea”—Don Cletus Frade’s Anglo-Argentine wife was Doña Dorotea Mallín de Frade—listened to the telephone, and then reported, “It is Suboficial Mayor Rodríguez.”
Stein rose from his chair, picking up the Thompson.
“Watch them,” he said to the peon with the rifle, then turned to Herr Frogger and said, “Keep at it,” and then walked out of the room and onto the verandah to wait for Rodríguez.
The incline in front of Casa Chica was very steep, and between the house and the road and gate, but not visible from either, a landing strip had been carved out of the hill side. Frade had told Stein his father had used it to fly his lady love into the house in one of Estancia San Pedro y San Pablo’s fleet of Piper Cubs.
The car and the truck appeared a moment later, moving slowly in low gear, and turned onto the landing strip. When they stopped, Suboficial Mayor Enrico Rodríguez—who had been Cavalry, Ejército Argentino, and had retired with the late Coronel Jorge Frade from the Húsares de Pueyrredón, Argentina’s most prestigious cavalry regiment—got out of the car and started toward the house, going up the stairs carved into the hillside. He carried a Remington Model 11 self-loading twelve-gauge riot shotgun in his hand.
The driver of the refrigerator truck got out from behind the wheel, went to the rear doors, and pulled them open. A dozen peones, all armed with Mauser rifles, began to pile out of the truck and then to unload from it equipment, including ammunition cans, blankets, food containers, and finally a Browning Automatic Rifle.
Rodríguez put his arm around Stein’s shoulders and pounded his back affectionately, but did not speak.
“What’s going on, Sergeant Major?” Stein asked in Spanish.
Their relationship was delicate. Rodríguez had a long service history, and had held the senior enlisted rank for ten years of it. He knew that Stein had been just promoted to staff sergeant yet had been in the Army not even two years.
On the other hand, Don Cletus Frade had made it clear to Rodríguez that Stein was in charge of the Froggers and Casa Chica.
“I have had a telephone call from an old friend,” Enrico Rodríguez said. “There are two trucks of Mountain Troops on their way here. They have with them a half-dozen of the Nazi soldiers—the ones who came off the submarine? The ones with the skulls on their caps?”
Stein nodded his understanding.
“What makes you think they’re coming here?”
“My friend, he is also of the Húsares, heard the Nazi officer tell his men they were going after traitors to the Führer.”
He mispronounced the title, and without thinking about it, Stein corrected him, and then asked, “How would they know we have the Froggers here?”
“We will defend them,” Rodríguez said seriously.
“That’s what those guys are for?” Stein asked, nodding down the stairs toward the peones now milling around on the landing strip.
“There are twelve, all old Húsares,” Rodríguez said.
“Sergeant Major, with the twelve we have here, that’s two dozen. Against how many soldiers on two trucks?”
“Probably forty, forty-two,” Rodríguez said. “What I have been thinking is that they are coming in such strength thinking we have only the dozen men, and they can make us give them the Froggers without a fight. If they see we are so many, they may decide that there will be a fight, and they know that if there is a fight against us, there would be many casualties. How would they explain the deaths of ten or fifteen Mountain Troops so far from their base?”
“Sergeant Major, I think it would be best if there was no confrontation,” Stein said carefully.
“You mean just turn the Froggers over to them?”
“No. I mean get the Froggers out of here, back to some place on Estancia San Pedro y San Pablo.”
“Don Cletus said they were to be kept here in Casa Chica,” Rodríguez said.
“That was before he knew about this,” Stein argued.
After a pause, the old soldier said, “True.”
Stein had to suppress a smile, both at the old soldier and at the Christian scripture that had for some inexplicable reason popped into his Jewish head: Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Ninety seconds ago, he reminded himself, I was asking myself whether I had the balls to shoot both of those goddamn Nazis rather than see them freed, and decided that I did.
“You have some place to take them?” Stein pursued.
“I will tell the driver where to take you,” Rodríguez said. “And then later meet you there.”
“You’re not going to take them?”
“I am going to stay here and see what these bastards are up to,” Rodríguez said.
“And so will I,” Stein said, somewhat astonished to hear himself say it.
Rodríguez was visibly unhappy to hear this.
“Do you have a saying in the U.S. Army that there can only be one commander?”
“Sergeant Major, I recognize that your experience in matters like these is much greater than mine.” Which is practically non-existent. “I am at your orders.”
“We will send six of the men, plus the driver, with the Froggers,” Rodríguez ordered as he assumed command. “You tell The Other Dorotea to prepare the Nazis to be moved. Tell her I said I want them tied and blindfolded.”
Stein managed to keep himself from saying, Yes, sir.
“Got it,” he said.
“And while you’re doing that, I will have the Ford car and your vehicles moved over there,” he said, pointing to a line of hills that began a quarter of a mile the other side of the road. “There’s a dirt road. I want nothing in the house when they get here.”
Stein thought: Why? What’s that all about?
He said: “Good idea.”
“And I will set up my command post there,” Rodríguez said, pointing. “Just below the military crest of the hill.”
What the hell is “the military crest of the hill”?
“And you have the little German camera Don Cletus brought from Brazil?”
“The Leica,” Stein said. “It’s in the house.”
“We will need photos of everything that happens here to show Don Cletus when he returns. You would be useful doing that.”
“I’ll send two men with you down there,” Rodríguez said, pointing to a roofless, windowless old building on the edge of the road about a hundred meters from the gate. “I think you will be able to see both the house and the approaches, as well as the road, from the upper story.” He paused and chuckled. “If there still is a second story. If not, you’ll have to do as best you can from the ground floor.”
While I am trying to take their pictures from the ground floor of a decrepit old building in the middle of Argentina, I am going to be shot to death by the SS.
Thirty minutes later, on the second floor of the old building, Staff Sergeant Stein sat patiently while one of the two old Húsares with him carefully painted his face, his hands, and whatever shiny parts of the Leica I-C camera with a mixture of dust from the building and axle grease. They took extra care with the camera so as not to render it useless.
When they had finished that, they draped Stein in a sort of shroud made from burlap potato bags, which covered his head and his body to his ankles. Then, very carefully, they stuck a great deal of dead leafy vegetable matter into the burlap shroud.
While he had been undergoing the transformation, the other old Húsar took apart an Argentine copy of a U.S. Army EE-8 field telephone, disconnected the bells that would ring when another EE-8 was cranked, and then carefully put the phone back together.
Then he communicated with four other old Húsares, plus Suboficial Mayor Enrico Rodríguez, who had apparently stationed themselves in places Stein could not see, although he tried very hard.
And finally, they painted each other’s faces with the axle grease and dust compound, put on potato sack shrouds, and adorned these with dead leafy vegetation. One of them had a Mauser army rifle with a telescopic sight, and the other a Thompson submachine gun like Stein’s. They wrapped them with burlap, looked around and then wrapped Stein’s Thompson in burlap.
Twenty minutes after that, the man who had camouflaged Stein had a conversation over the telephone, which surprised Stein since he had not heard it ring, although he was no more than four feet from it. Then he remembered watching the man disconnect the bell.
“Ten minutes, give or take,” the old Húsar said conversationally.
The first vehicle to appear, five or six minutes later, was not the Army truck Stein expected from the west but a glistening, if olive drab, Mercedes-Benz convertible sedan. And it came down the road from the east.
It slowed almost to a stop at the intersection of the road to Casa Chica. Stein saw that Colonel Juan D. Perón was in the front passenger seat, but did not think to record this photographically for posterity until after the Mercedes had suddenly sped down the road and it was too late to do so.
Both of the old Húsares looked askance at Stein.
Ten minutes after that the Mercedes came back down the road, now leading an olive drab 1940 Chevrolet sedan and two two-ton 1940 Ford trucks, also painted olive drab, and with canvas-covered stake bodies.
Stein was ready with the Leica when Colonel Perón got of his car and exchanged salutes with two officers in field uniforms who got out of the Chevrolet. While to Stein the sound of the shutter clicking and then the clicking noise of the film advancement mechanism sounded like the dropping of an anvil into a fifty-five-gallon metal drum, followed by a lengthy burst of machine gun fire, none of the people on the road apparently heard it.
Troops began getting off the trucks. One of them—probably a sergeant, Stein decided—started shouting orders. Some of the troops began to trot toward the gate, where one of them cut the chain with an enormous bolt-cutter. The gate was pushed open, and the troops spread out facing the Casa Chica hill on both sides of the road.
The sergeant looked at the old house, shouted an order, and two soldiers armed with submachine guns trotted toward it.
Stein’s heart began thumping. The old Húsares rolled onto their backs and trained their weapons at the head of the staircase. More accurately, where stairs had once led to the second floor. When Stein and the others had come to the building, they had found that the stairs were just about rotted away. They had climbed onto the second floor from the outside, using one another as human ladders.
Stein could hear movement on the lower floor, and watched the stairwell opening for a head to pop up. None came.
“Nobody’s been in here in years,” a voice said in German.
A moment later, Stein rolled back onto his stomach and saw the soldiers were trotting back to the trucks and to the sergeant. He tried and finally got a shot of that.
And then he saw that something else was being off-loaded from the trucks.
I know what that is. That’s a Maxim Maschinengewehr.
Poppa showed me one in the Krieg museum in Kassel. He told me that he’d been an ammunition bearer for a Maxim in France.
My God, there’s two of them! And there’s the ammunition bearers!
Four soldiers trotted through the gate carrying a heavy water-cooled machine gun mounted on sort of a sled. The sled had handles like a stretcher. They were followed by two soldiers, each carrying two oblong olive drab metal cans looking very much like those used by the U.S. Army.
There’s probably two-hundred rounds in each can.
But they’re in a cloth belt, not metal-linked, like ours.
What the hell are they going to do with all that ammo?
And then another Maxim crew ran through the gate with another machine gun on its sled, followed by two more ammo bearers.
Who the hell do they think is in Casa Chica? The 40th Infantry Division?
No. If they knew where to look for us then they know there’s not more than a dozen men. What they are going to do with this show of force is make the point they’re irresistible, get us to surrender without a fight.
And aren’t they going to be surprised when they go in the house and find there’s nobody there at all?
Stein had trouble with the film advance mechanism, and looked at the Leica and saw why. He’d used all of the twenty-four frames in the film cartridge.
I will be damned! I was not paralyzed by fear!
When he had changed film—which had required great care so that he did not get any dust-grease inside—and rolled back into place again, he saw something else had happened. The Maxims were set up and ready to fire, but they were now each manned by a two-man crew. The four men who had carried the weapons into place and the two ammo bearers for each were now trotting back to the trucks. As Stein watched—and took their picture—they took rifles from the trucks and formed loosely into ranks.
Ah-ha. The reserve. To be thrown into the breach when the 40th Infantry valiantly refuses to surrender.
Not to worry, guys. There’s nobody in that house to surrender, much less shoot back at you.
The sergeant now trotted up to Colonel Perón and the two officers, came to attention, and saluted.
They had a brief conversation, duly recorded on film, and then saluted one another. One of them gave a crisp straight-armed Nazi salute.
Got you, you Nazi sonofabitch!
The Nazi sonofabitch now trotted through the gate, past the machine guns, and started up the hill.
Colonel Perón went to his staff car and leaned on the fender. The other officer and the sergeant went to the Chevrolet and leaned against its side.
The Nazi sonofabitch was no longer in sight as he made his way up the hill.
Shouldn’t you be holding up a white flag of truce?
For three minutes, which seemed much longer, Stein tried in vain to see the man moving up the hill.
There came the sound of a shot.
Oh, shit! Rodríguez couldn’t resist the temptation!
I should have thought about that, and tried to talk him out of it. Not that it would have done any good.
But that wasn’t loud enough for a shotgun; it was a different sound, like a pistol.
What the hell? And what happens now?
The answer to that came immediately, as Stein looked at Colonel Perón to see what, if anything, he was going to do.
First one of the Maxims and then the other began to fire.
Colonel Perón screamed something, but was drowned out by the sound of the firing weapons. He ran to the officer leaning on the Chevrolet. Almost immediately, the sergeant ran—not trotted—toward the firing machine guns.
Perón walked very quickly—almost ran—back to his Mercedes.
Perón got in, and the car, wheels screeching, started heading east.
Stein saw—click, click, click—the walls and windows of Casa Chica literally disintegrate as the machine gun fire struck.
The sergeant was now at the closest Maxim. He was excitedly waving his arms, obviously trying to make them stop firing. They didn’t.
And then, as suddenly as it had started, the firing stopped.
The crews of both machine guns stood up and pulled something from their ears. Then the crew of one shook hands.
When the crew of the other saw this, they shook hands.
The officer who had gone up the hill now came down it, apparently unhurt.
The soldiers who had been fanned out on both sides of the road were now summoned to the guns. Some of them picked up the sleds and ran with them to the trucks. Others began picking up the fired cartridge cases and putting them into the now empty ammunition cans. When the cans were full, the soldiers started stuffing their pockets with the empties that didn’t fit in the cans.
Casa Chica did not seem to be on fire, but what looked like smoke was coming out of where the windows had been, and from the holes in the tile roof.
The soldiers who had manned the Maxims came to attention and rendered the Nazi salute when the officer who had come down the hill walked up to them.
He returned the salute and then offered them cigarettes from a silver case and finally shook hands with each of them.
The officer who had been at the Chevrolet came up to them and again salutes were exchanged.
The officer went to one of the soldiers picking up brass and said something to him, whereupon the soldier and another soldier ran to the trucks. They ran back a moment later, this time carrying Schmeisser MP38 machine pistols, which they gave to the soldiers who had manned the Maxims.
The sergeant and others were now urging all the soldiers to move more quickly back to the road and onto the trucks. This was accomplished in a very short time, and then the trucks and the Chevrolet started to drive away.
This left the officer, the four men who had manned the Maxims, and another man who had appeared from somewhere standing alone by the side of the road.
They started walking up the hill and soon disappeared from sight.
Stein changed film, just to be sure.
Five minutes later, there came the sound of more gunfire. Not much. A ragged burst of shots, as if weapons had been fired simultaneously on command, and one or two of the shooters had been a little late in complying. And then another shot, and a moment later, another.
“We go now,” one of the old Húsares said.
They lowered Stein first out the window to the ground, one on each arm, and then used his shoulders as a ladder to climb down themselves.
They walked toward the gate. They were almost there when the gray Ford with the Frigorífico Morón corporate insignia on its doors appeared.
That’s right. I forgot. Rodríguez told them to hide it across the street.
They got in that and rode up the hill.
Four bodies were sprawled close together in just about the center of the landing strip. Two were on their stomachs, one on his back and the fourth on his side. A fifth body was on its stomach halfway up the stairs leading to the verandah of Casa Chica, and the sixth on his stomach on the runway twenty meters from the others, as if he had been shot in the back trying to run away.
There was a great deal of blood. At least three of the bodies had suffered head wounds.
Stein got out of the Ford.
Suboficial Mayor Enrico Rodríguez was kneeling by one of the bodies. Stein waited for him to get out of the picture.
Rodríguez walked over to him and handed him a stapled together document.
“Identity document?” he asked. “I just took it off that one.”
Stein took it. He flipped through it. He was surprised at the wave of emotion that suddenly came over him. His hand was shaking.
“This is the SS ausweis—identity card—of Wilhelm Heitz,” he read softly, “who was an obersturmführer—lieutenant—in the headquarters company of the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler of the Schutzstaffeln of the National Socialist German Workers Party.”
“You think we ought to keep it?” Rodríguez asked.
“I think we ought to do more than that with it,” Stein said. He walked to the corpse. The eyes were open.
He laid the identity card on the blood-soaked chest.
He picked up the ausweis, now dripping blood, shook as much off it as he could, then held it somewhat delicately with his thumb and index fingers.
Rodríguez took it from him and placed it in a canvas bag.
“And then I think we should do the same with the other bodies. And then, I respectfully suggest, Sergeant Major, that we get the hell out of here.”
SIX DAYS PREVIOUSLY
[ TWO ]
4730 Avenida Libertador
Buenos Aires, Argentina
1605 5 August 1943
The black Mercedes-Benz with Corps Diplomatique license plates drove north on Avenida Libertador, passed the Ejército Argentino polo field on the left, then, on the right, started to drive past the Hipódromo until the Mercedes and all the cars behind it were stopped by a traffic policeman.
The passenger, Karl Cranz—a well-dressed, blonde, fair-skinned, thirty-five-year-old, who was accredited to the Republic of Argentina as the commercial attaché of the embassy of the German Reich—looked out the window and saw on his left his destination, a four-story mansion behind a tall, cast-iron fence and gate.
“There it is, Günther,” he said to the driver. “Make a U-turn.”
Making a U-turn across the heavy traffic on the eight-lane Avenida Libertador was illegal. But if one had diplomatic status, and one were being driven in a vehicle with diplomatic license plates, one was immune to traffic regulations.
“Jawohl, Mein Herr,” Günther Loche said. He put his arm out the window, signaling that he was about to turn.
Loche was twenty-four years old, tall, muscular, and handsome. Cranz often joked that he was going to send Loche’s photograph to Germany, where it could be used on recruiting posters enticing young men to apply for the Schutzstaffel. He was a perfect example of the “Nordic Type.”
Loche, however, was not eligible for the SS, as membership in which was understandably limited to German citizens. He was an Argentine citizen, an “Ethnic German” born in Argentina to German immigrant parents who had immigrated to Argentina after the First World War, and prospered in the sausage business. He was a civilian employee of the German embassy, known as a “local hire.” He originally had been taken on as a driver, but now, under Cranz, had been given other more “responsible” duties.
Like his parents, Loche believed that National Socialism was God’s answer to Godless Communism, and that Adolf Hitler was God’s latter-day prophet—if not quite at the level of Jesus Christ then not far below it.
“Let me out in front of the house,” Cranz ordered. “I’ll have someone open the gate for you so that you can park in the basement. Then go upstairs and wait for me in the foyer. I may need you.”
“Jawohl, Mein Herr.”
El Coronel Juan Domingo Perón, a large, tall man with a full head of shiny black hair, who was the secretary of state for Labor and Welfare in the government of General Arturo Rawson, received Cranz in the mansion library.
He was in civilian clothing, but Cranz nevertheless greeted him in almost a military manner.
“Mi Coronel,” Cranz said, and gave Perón a somewhat sloppy version of the Nazi salute; he raised his hand from the elbow, palm out, rather than fully extending his arm.
“It is always good to see you, Herr Obersturmbannführer,” Perón said, and then offered his hand.
“Oh, how I miss being called that,” Cranz said.
Perón waved Cranz into one of two matching armchairs facing a small, low table.
A maid appeared.
“Coffee?” Perón offered. “Or something a little stronger? Whiskey, perhaps?”
“I think a little whiskey would go down well,” Cranz said. “You are most kind.”
Perón told the maid to bring ice and soda, and then rose from his chair and went to a section of the bookcases that lined the walls of the room. He pulled it open, and a row of bottles and glasses was revealed.
“American or English?” Perón asked.
“As another secret between us, I have come to really like the sour mash whiskey,” Cranz said.
Perón took a bottle of Jack Daniel’s from the bar, carried it to the table, and set it down.
“Whatever secrets we have to talk about,” Perón said, “I think we had best wait until after she brings the ice and then leaves. I don’t know who she reports to—El Coronel Martín, Father Welner, or Cletus Frade—but to one of them, I’m sure.”
“Or all three,” Cranz said jocularly.
El Coronel Alejandro Martín was chief of the Ethical Standards Office of the Bureau of Internal Security at the Ministry of Defense. While he officially reported to the minister, both Cranz and Perón knew that he also reported, officially or unofficially, directly to President Rawson.
At great risk to his own life, and for the good of Argentina, not for personal gain, Martín, then a teniente coronel, had chosen to support the coup d’etat being planned and to be led by El Coronel Jorge Frade against President Ramón S. Castillo. When Frade had been assassinated before “Outline Blue” could be put into play in April 1943, Martín had transferred his allegiance to General Rawson, who became president when the coup was successful.
Martín’s services had been so valuable that Ramírez proposed waiving promotion standards and making Martín chief of military intelligence as a General de Brigada, maybe even a General de División.
Martín had declined promotion beyond coronel, knowing that taking a general’s stars would make him hated by officers over whom he had been jumped.
But not taking the stars in no way diminished his power. Both Cranz and Perón regarded Martín as a very dangerous man.
Father Kurt Welner, S.J. had been El Coronel Frade’s best friend, and served—if unofficially—as family priest to the late Coronel Frade, to his sister, and to his brother-in-law, El Señor Humberto Duarte, managing director of the Anglo-Argentine Bank, and to La Señora Claudia Carzino-Cormano, who was one of the wealthiest women in Argentina and who for decades had lived—until his death—in a state of carnal sin with the late Coronel Frade.
Both Cranz and Perón regarded Father Welner as a very dangerous man.
But it was the third man, twenty-four-year-old Cletus Frade, whom Cranz and Perón regarded as the most dangerous of all.
Born in Argentina to an American mother, El Coronel’s only son had been estranged from his father since infancy. After his mother had died in childbirth, Frade’s American grandfather, a wealthy and powerful oil man, had successfully exerted his power to keep the baby from leaving the country, and to keep Jorge Frade out of the United States.
Frade had been raised in Texas by his mother’s brother and his wife. He had grown to manhood accepting his grandfather’s often pronounced opinion that Jorge Guillermo Frade was an unmitigated wife-murdering three-star sonofabitch.
Cletus Frade entered the United States Marine Corps and became a fighter pilot. Flying F4F Wildcats off “Fighter One” on Guadalcanal in the South Pacific he became, by shooting down four Japanese Zero fighters and three Betty Bombers, an “Ace Plus Two.”
That was enough for the Marine Corps to send him home, ultimately to pass on his fighter pilot’s skill to fledgling fighter pilots, but first to participate in a War Bond Tour during which real-live heroes from the war would be put on a stage to encourage the public to do their part by buying War Bonds Until It Hurt.
The first leg of the tour had found the war hero in California:
Frade was in his room in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel taking on a little liquid courage for his first appearance on stage when a well-dressed, neatly-mustached man appeared at his door and inquired in Spanish if Frade happened to know an aviator and motion picture producer by the name of Howard Hughes.
“Who wants to know?” Frade said.
“Colonel Alejandro Frederico Graham, USMCR, wants to know, Mr. Frade. And stand to attention when you’re talking to him.”
There had been something about the civilian’s tone of voice that caused Frade to stand to attention.
Colonel Graham pushed past Frade, entered his room, and closed the door.
“The question was, ‘Are you acquainted with Howard Hughes?’ You may answer ‘Yes, sir’ or ‘No, sir.’ ”
“Mr. Hughes told me you are the son of Jorge Guillermo Frade. You have the same answer options, Mr. Frade.”
“Sir, permission to speak, sir?”
“Granted. You may stand at Parade Rest.”
“Yes, sir. Sir, did Howard tell you I wouldn’t know the sonofabitch if I fell over him?”
“He did mention something along those lines. Tell me, Mr. Frade, are you looking forward to the War Bond Tour? And teaching people how to fly?”
“If I could get you out of both would you accept a top secret overseas assignment involving great risk to your life?”
“What kind of an assignment?”
“What part of ‘top secret’ didn’t you understand, Mr. Frade?” Graham said.
Then he handed Frade a photograph of a man wearing what looked like a German uniform, including the steel helmet, standing and saluting in the back seat of an open Mercedes-Benz.
“That’s what your father looks like. I don’t want you falling over the sonofabitch without knowing who he is.”
“Colonel, what’s this all about?”
“I’ll answer that, Mr. Frade, but it’s the last question you get. What I want you to do is go down to Argentina and persuade your loving daddy to tilt the other way. Right now he’s tilted toward Berlin.”
He handed Frade a sheet of paper. The letterhead read: Office of Strategic Services, Washington, D.C. Clete had never heard of it.
“Sign that at the bottom. It’s a formality. What it is is your acknowledgement that you fully understand all the awful things your government will do to you if you run off at the mouth.”
There was too much small print to read. Frade looked at Graham.
“Or don’t sign it, Mr. Frade. Your call. But I’m on a Trans-Continental and Western flight to Washington in ninety minutes. With you or without you.”
He extended a pen to Frade, who took it, and scrawled his signature.
Graham then folded the sheet of paper and put it in his suit coat’s inside pocket.
“Welcome to the OSS, Mr. Frade,” Graham said. “And I bring greetings from your grandfather. If you’re a good boy, I’ll try to get you a couple of days with him before we put you on the Panagra flight to Buenos Aires.”
“You know my grandfather?”
“He doesn’t like your father very much, does he?” He did not wait for a reply, and nodded toward the bedroom. “Now, you’d better pack.”
“That will be all, Amelia,” El Colonel Perón said. “No calls, no visitors.”
Cranz waited until the maid had closed the double doors to the library.
“Juan Domingo,” Cranz began, “you were right about Tandil. I’m almost positive Frade has the Froggers there.”
Perón nodded just perceptibly.
“Cletus Frade has arrived in Los Angeles,” he said. “At the Lockheed airplane factory. There was a Mackay radiogram. De Filippi called me yesterday.”
Guillermo De Filippi was chief of maintenance of South American Airways.
Cranz did not regard that as especially good news; a great many of his problems would have been solved if the Lockheed Lodestar that Frade was flying had lost an engine—preferably both—and gone down somewhere—anywhere—during the hazardous six thousand mile flight from Buenos Aires, never to be heard from again.
But, unfortunately, the airplane was brand new, his co-pilot the very experienced chief SAA pilot, Gonzalo Delgano, and Frade himself was both a superb pilot and someone who apparently had more lives than the nine of the legendary cat.
Cranz’s predecessor as the senior SS-SD officer in Argentina had not only botched a very expensive attempt to remove Cletus Frade from the equation, but had shortly thereafter died when a rifle bullet fired by one of Frade’s men—or perhaps by Frade himself—had caused his skull to explode on the beach of Samborombón Bay.
Cranz had taken great care to make sure that his arrangements to eliminate Frade would not fail this time.
“Juan Domingo, something has to be done about the Froggers,” Cranz said.
Perón didn’t reply.
“And we both know that Cletus Frade has them.”
Cranz felt sure he knew (a) why Frogger, the German embassy’s commercial attaché, and his wife had disappeared, and (b) why Frade had them.
Frogger was privy to many details of Operation Phoenix, the plan conceived by Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler; Reichsleiter Martin Bormann, head of the Nazi Party; Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, chief of German Military Intelligence, and other very senior members of the Nazi hierarchy, who understood that the war was lost, and had no intention of facing Allied vengeance.
Cranz knew all about Operation Phoenix: Hundreds of millions of dollars were to be spent to purchase South American sanctuary for high ranking members of the Nazi establishment—probably including Der Führer, Adolf Hitler, himself, although Cranz wasn’t sure about this—from which, after some time passed, National Socialism could rise, Phoenix-like, from the ashes of the Thousand Year Reich.
Cranz had been sent to Argentina to make sure nothing went wrong with the plan—after something had gone terribly wrong.
An attempt had been made at Samborombón Bay, on the River Plate, to smuggle ashore a half-dozen crates stuffed with English pounds, American dollars, Swiss francs, gold coins and bars, and thirty-odd leather bags heavy with diamonds. The transfer was made on boats from the Comerciante del Océano Pacífico, a Spanish-registered freighter. But someone had been waiting. Cranz suspected Cletus Frade and members of his OSS team, though he wasn’t absolutely sure of this; it could have been Argentines.
There had been a brief burst of gunfire from a concealed position near the beach. Two of the three German officers—SS-Standartenführer Karl-Heinz Grüner, the military attaché of the German embassy, and his deputy, SS-Standartenführer Josef Goltz, had been dropped in their tracks, their skulls exploded by the rifle fire.
The snipers had missed the third officer, Major Hans-Peter von Wachtstein, the embassy’s deputy military attaché for Air. Von Wachtstein had managed to get the crates—“The Special Shipment”—and the bodies of Grüner and Goltz onto the Comerciante del Océano Pacífico’s boats and back out to the ship.
The captain of the Océano Pacífico, who had been in one of her boats, had been more than effusive in describing von Wachtstein’s cool courage under fire. Courage was something to be expected of an officer who had received The Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross from Hitler personally, of course, but Cranz wasn’t really sure if von Wachtstein had been extraordinarily lucky or whether the snipers had intentionally spared him.
What Cranz was sure of was that the attack made clear that the embassy housed a traitor. And he was just about certain that that was the reason Frogger had deserted his post, taking his wife with him.
Not that Frogger was the traitor. So far as Cranz knew, the Froggers were—or until their desertion, had been—patriotic Germans. They had lost two of their officer sons in Russia, and the third, the eldest, Frogger’s namesake, Oberstleutnant Wilhelm Frogger, had been captured when General von Arnim had surrendered the Afrikakorps.
Furthermore, Cranz knew that Frau Else Frogger secretly had been on the payroll of the Sicherheitsdienst, the Secret Police of the SS, and had been charged with reporting on the other Germans in the embassy to Standartenführer Grüner.
There was a downside to these faultless patriotic credentials. The Froggers had seen enough of the functioning of the SS-SD to know that with as much at stake as there was, if the actual traitor in the embassy could not be found, one would be created. Himmler and Bormann would want to be told the problem had been dealt with.
The Froggers knew that if Cranz, who had replaced Grüner, and Naval Attaché Kapitän zur See Karl Boltitz, who had come to Argentina with Cranz, and almost certainly was working for Admiral Canaris, could not find the traitor, they would be replaced. In which case, they would be sent—if they were lucky—to the Eastern Front. Or to a concentration camp.
Furthermore, Frogger was aware that while he was privy to the secrets of Operation Phoenix, he was by no means a member of the inner circle. He knew too much.
Worse, he was privy to many of the details of an even more secret operation—which didn’t have a code name—run by SS-Brigadeführer Ritter Manfred von Deitzberg, first deputy adjutant to Reichsführer-SS Himmler. Von Deitzberg had charged Cranz with making sure that this operation—in which senior SS officers were enriching themselves by arranging the release of Jews from concentration camps, and their subsequent movement to Argentina, on payment of a substantial ransom—was kept running and kept secret.
Cranz therefore thought it very likely that when the Froggers had been ordered to return on the next Condor flight to Berlin, Frogger had decided—or his wife had decided, or the both of them—that they had been set up as the scapegoats. And knowing what that meant, they had deserted their post.
Now they were going to have to be killed before they could barter their knowledge of Operation Phoenix and the ransoming operation for their own sanctuary.
Perón said: “While I am fully aware of the problem the Froggers pose, Karl, I don’t want anything to happen to Cletus Frade. He is my godson. His father—my dearest friend—died unnecessarily and I don’t want the death of Cletus weighing on my soul as well.”
“I understand your position, Juan Domingo. But—the reason I asked you to receive me on such short notice—I have come up with a rough plan that, since Cletus Frade is in the United States, poses no threat to him whatever.”
“We don’t know when he will return,” Perón said.
“But not within the next three or four days, wouldn’t you agree?”
“No, of course not,” Perón said impatiently. “He just got there. He has to do what has to be done to get the SAA pilots the licenses Lloyd’s of London insists they have to have, however long—three or four days—that will take, and then fly back here.”
“De Filippi will know,” Cranz said. “More importantly, will he tell you when Frade will actually be here?”
“And you will tell me?”
“Why would you want to know?”
“As I said, Juan Domingo, I know—and respect—your feeling vis-a-vis your godson. If I know when he will return, I can either adjust my plan, or call it off completely, if it would in any way put Frade at risk.”
“I’m glad we understand one another,” Perón said.
“May I speak bluntly, Juan Domingo?”
“I think you are as aware as I am of the problems the Froggers will cause both of us if we can’t return them to German control and get them out of Argentina.”
“Let’s hear what you have in mind,” Perón said tartly.
“The reason I’m sure the Froggers are in Tandil is that one of my men has seen them there.”
“You sent someone from the SS to Tandil?” Perón asked on the edge of anger.
“I sent an Argentine, an ethnic German who works for me, down there to see what he could learn. Would you like to hear from him what that is?”
“How could I do that?”
“He’s here, in the foyer. May I get him?”
Perón considered that for a long moment.
“You did consider, of course, that Martín’s men would see you bringing him here? What that would mean?”
“I’m sure they did,” Cranz said, smiling. “He was driving my car; he’s my chauffeur.”
Perón considered that a moment, and then smiled.
“You are good at what you do, aren’t you, Karl? Yes. Bring him in.”
Senior German Officer Prisoner of War Detention Facility
Camp Clinton, Mississippi
1850 5 August 1943
Building T-209 had been erected in four days just over a year before. Sitting on concrete blocks, it was a one-story frame structure containing a living room, a kitchen, and two bedrooms.
In each of the bedrooms, a curtained-off cubicle held a sink, a toilet, and a cement-floored shower. The furniture was that which was prescribed for in an Army Regulation entitled, “Colonels through Major Generals, Temporary Bachelor Accommodations, Furnishings For.”
That was to say, the single beds in the bedrooms were marginally larger and had more comfortable mattresses than the COTS, STEEL W/MATTRESS provided for officers of lower rank. And the livingroom held a simple, if comfortable, cloth-upholstered couch, two matching armchairs, and a coffee table. There was a refrigerator and stove and a kitchen table with two chairs in the kitchen. Officers of lesser rank had none of these creature comforts.
A very large fan on a pole had been placed in the open kitchen door so that it blew toward the open livingroom door. It didn’t cool the cottage much against the stifling heat of Mississippi in August, but it was much better than nothing.
Colonel J. Stanton Ludlow, Sr., Corps of Military Police—a tall, gray-haired fifty-six-year-old; a “Retread,” having served in World War One—entered Building T-209. He was trailed by a serious-looking lieutenant, a wiry twenty-two-year-old with closely-cropped black hair.
They found six men in the living room, three of them in uniform.
The officers in uniform rose and came to attention in respect to the presence of the Camp Clinton commander. Two of them, a lieutenant and a major, wore MP brassards and the other accoutrements of military policemen, including holstered Model 1911A1 .45 ACP pistols, on their khaki shirts-and-trousers uniforms. The third wore short khaki pants and a khaki tunic onto which had been pinned and sewn the insignia of an oberstleutnant—lieutenant colonel—of the Afrikakorps.
The third was of course Oberstleutnant Wilhelm Frogger, who had been captured when General Hans-Jürgen von Arnim had surrendered the Afrikakorps, and who was the sole surviving son of Wilhelm and Else Frogger.
“At ease,” Colonel Ludlow ordered, and turned to the eldest of the three civilians, who was sitting in one of the armchairs. He was wearing a sweat-soaked shirt. He had his sleeves rolled up and his tie pulled down. Gaily striped suspenders held up his pants.
“Thank you for coming so quickly, Colonel,” Colonel A. F. Graham, USMCR, said.
“What can I do for you, Colonel?” Colonel Ludlow said, and looked at the two other men in the room, both of whom were wearing sort of a uniform of knit polo shirts, khaki slacks, and aviator’s sunglasses as they leaned against the wall and held bottles of Coca-Cola.
“I don’t mean to offend,” Colonel Ludlow said to the taller of the two, “but has anyone ever told you that you look like Howard Hughes?”
“I’ve heard that before,” Hughes said.
“Hughes is much better looking, Colonel,” the man beside him—Major Cletus Frade, USMCR—said. “And isn’t going bald.”
Colonel Graham flashed Frade an impatient look, and then pushed himself out of the armchair.
“With the caveat that the classification is Top Secret, Colonel,” Graham said, “would you please take a look at this?”
He handed Ludlow a four-by-five-inch envelope.
“Didn’t you show me this when you first came?” Colonel Ludlow asked as he opened the envelope.
“What I showed you when I came was my authorization to see Colonel Frogger,” Graham said. “This is somewhat different.”
Ludlow read the document:
—— TOP SECRET ——
Not For File
3 August 1943
Subject: Colonel A.F. Graham, USMCR
1. Subject officer is operating at my direction on a classified mission of great importance.
2. Subject officer is to be provided with whatever assistance of whatever kind that he deems necessary to request of any command within the U.S. Armed Forces. The Chief of Naval Operations concurs.
George C. Marshall
Chief of Staff
—— TOP SECRET ——
Ludlow’s face showed his surprise as he looked at Colonel Graham.
“This is a blank check for anything, Colonel,” Ludlow said.
“Yes, it is,” Graham said. “I have to ask about your lieutenant. Do you want him to participate in what I’m going to need, or would you rather I have Major Frade take him into the kitchen, tell him what certainly will happen to him if he breathes a word of this to anyone for the rest of his life, and send him away?”
Ludlow considered that for a moment.
“Colonel Graham, this is Lieutenant Mark Dalton. I trust him. The question is whether he wants to become further involved with what’s going on here.” Ludlow looked to the wiry lieutenant. “Dalton?”
“You may show him that note,” Graham said.
Ludlow handed the note to Dalton, who read it.
“In or out, Lieutenant?” Graham asked.
“In, sir,” Lieutenant Dalton said.
“We don’t shoot people who run off at the mouth about things like this, Lieutenant,” Graham said. “But what we do, instead, is confine them in Saint Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington, where they stay incommunicado at least for the duration of the war, plus six months. If Colonel Ludlow trusts you, I’d like to have you, but I want you to be sure you know what you’re letting yourself in for.”
“In, sir,” Lieutenant Dalton repeated.
“Incommunicado means your family will be informed you are missing in action.”
“In, sir,” Dalton said after a just-perceptible hesitation.
Graham nodded, then introduced Frade, Hughes, and Fisher, then said: “All right. What we are going to do is give Colonel Frogger a polo shirt and long-legged khakis. Lieutenant Dalton, you are then going to back Colonel Ludlow’s staff car up to the back door and open the trunk. As the rest of us form as good a shield as we can, Colonel Frogger will then get in the trunk.
“Colonel Ludlow and Major Fischer will then get in that car. Major Frade and Mr. Hughes and I will get in the other car. We will follow you to the Jackson Army Air Base, where we will drive directly to our airplane, a Constellation. We then will again make as good a quick shield as we can while the trunk is opened, Colonel Frogger gets out, and goes up the ladder and into the aircraft.
“We will take off as soon as possible. You two will return here, and at 2300 hours, you will—in addition to whatever else you do when there is an escape—notify your superior headquarters and the FBI that Colonel Frogger has escaped.”
He let that sink in, then added: “Don’t let anyone—especially the FBI—know we were here at all.”
“You’re asking me to lie to the FBI?” Colonel Ludlow asked.
“I’m ordering you to lie to the FBI. I have the authority from the Chief of Staff to do so. It is important that the FBI believes that Colonel Frogger has actually escaped. If I didn’t send them—and everybody else—on a wild goose chase looking for Frogger, then someone will smell a rat.”
“God, Alex, you are really a master of the mixed metaphor,” Howard Hughes said.
“What kind of an airplane did you say?” Lieutenant Dalton asked.
“A Constellation,” Frade answered. “A Lockheed 1049, a great big four-engine, triple-tailed beautiful son of a bitch.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen one,” Dalton said.
“Not many people have,” Colonel Graham snapped. “Now, if it’s not too much trouble, can we get this show on the road?”
[ FOUR ]
Office of the Deputy Director for Western Hemisphere Operations
Office of Strategic Services
National Institutes of Health Building
1630 8 August 1943
There came a quick knock at the door.
“I said ‘nobody,’ Alice,” Colonel A. F. Graham called. He was sitting behind his desk, his feet resting on an open drawer, holding a short squat glass dark with bourbon whiskey.
“Does that include me?” a stocky, gray-haired, well-tailored man in his sixties asked as he entered the room.
“I told you, Allen,” Graham said to the man sitting on his couch in the process of replenishing his martini glass, “that the other shoe was going to drop.”
Allen Welles Dulles chuckled. He was in his fifties, had a not well-defined mustache on his lip, somewhat unkempt gray hair, and was wearing what members of his class thought of as a “sack suit,” a black single-breasted garment with little or no padding on the shoulders. He also wore a white button-down-collar shirt and a bow tie.
“And Deputy Director Dulles,” the stocky, well-tailored man said, “my day is now complete. You were going to stop by my office and say hello, weren’t you, Allen?”
“Not today, if I possibly could have avoided it,” Dulles said. “Bill, you have this remarkable ability to cause it to rain on any parade of mine.”
“What are you celebrating? What is that, a martini?”
“May I offer you a small libation, Mr. Director?” Graham asked.
“No, thank you,” Colonel William J. Donovan said. “I try to set an example for my subordinates.”
“Is that why you wear those gaudy neckties?” Graham asked.
“How many of those have you had, Alex?”
“Probably one-third to one-half of what I will ultimately have,” Graham said seriously.
“And neither of you is going to tell me what it is that you’re celebrating?”
“Actually, Bill,” Graham said, “what Allen and I were discussing when you burst uninvited in here was how little we could get away with telling you.”
“I don’t think you’re kidding,” Donovan said not very pleasantly.
“He wasn’t,” Dulles said. “You’ve heard, I’m sure, that the only way a secret known to three people can remain a secret is if two of the three are dead?”
“But you agreed—in what we lawyers call ‘a condition of employment’—that there would be no secrets between us. Remember that?”
“And if it were not for your buddy Franklin,” Graham said, “both Allen and I would happily live up to that condition of employment. But you keep telling him things you shouldn’t.”
“To rain on your parade, Alex,” Donovan said, “my buddy Franklin happens to be the President of the United States.”
Dulles put in pointedly: “And who has in his immediate circle a number of people—especially the Vice President—who I would be reluctant to trust with any secret, much less this one, as far as I could throw the White House.”
“This secret is one we really don’t want to get to Uncle Joe Stalin via Mr. Henry A. Wallace’s close friends in the Russian embassy,” Graham said.
They had had this argument, or ones very like it, many times before.
In any conventional organization, in ordinary times, subordinates don’t challenge the boss; if they do, the boss gets rid of them. The Office of Strategic Services was not a conventional organization, and these were not ordinary times.
William J. Donovan was the director of the Office of Strategic Services, which in theory answered to General George C. Marshall, the Army’s Chief of Staff, but in practice only to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Allen W. Dulles and Alejandro F. Graham were the OSS deputy directors for Europe and the Western Hemisphere, respectively. They were both uniquely qualified for their roles. Both were prepared—in other words were privy to all of the OSS’s secrets—to take over at a moment’s notice if anything should happen to Donovan.
The truth was that while all three had great admiration for each other, they often didn’t like each other very much, although Dulles and Graham liked one another much better than either did Donovan. On his part, Donovan, realizing how important Dulles and Graham were to the OSS, very often passed over clear insubordination from them that he absolutely would not have tolerated from anyone else.
He was doing so now.
Graham’s remark—“What Allen and I were discussing when you burst uninvited in here was how little we could get away with telling you”—had quietly enraged him. He hadn’t actually taken a deep breath and counted to ten to avoid blowing up, but he had told himself that he had to be careful. Blowing up—no matter how justified—would have been counterproductive.
“You are going to tell me, aren’t you, Allen, exactly what it is you don’t want Vice President Wallace to pass onto our Russian allies?”
Dulles met his eyes.
“Reluctantly, Bill, I will,” Dulles said. “Alex and I had just agreed that the President will inevitably ask you what was going on in the Hotel Washington, and that it would be best if we prepared you for the question.”
“And what was going on at the Hotel Washington? You don’t mean with Putzi Hanfstaengl?”
Both Dulles and Graham nodded.
Ernst “Putzi” Hanfstaengl was another Columbia University classmate of President Roosevelt and Director Donovan.
The scion of a wealthy Munich publishing family, he had been attracted to Hitler and National Socialism in its early days. Among other things, Hanfstaengl had loaned Josef Goebbels, the Nazi party propagandist, the money to start up the Völkischer Beobachter, the official newspaper of the National Socialist German Workers Party.
He became part of Hitler’s inner circle, but as he became progressively more disenchanted with Hitler and the Thousand Year Reich, Hitler became progressively more disenchanted with Hanfstaengl. A friend warned Hanfstaengl that he was about to have an SS engineered accident, and Hanfstaengl fled Germany.
In the United States, Hanfstaengl looked up Roosevelt and Donovan. Both helped him get settled, and he began working in the family’s New York office. When war came, he was automatically an enemy alien. Under the law, and especially because of his known ties to the Nazi regime, he was required to be incarcerated as a threat to national security.
On the other hand, Hanfstaengl’s judgment of how senior Nazi officials and top-ranking military officers would react in a given circumstance was obviously of great value to Roosevelt. But equally obviously Hanfstaengl could not be seen wandering around the White House, and picking his brain would be difficult if he were locked up somewhere in the Arizona desert with the other German threats to American National Security.
The solution proposed by Donovan and ordered executed by the commander-in-chief saw Hanfstaengl incarcerated under military guard in a suite in the Hotel Washington, a stone’s throw from the White House. The guard was U.S. Army Sergeant Egon Hanfstaengl, who called his prisoner “Poppa.”
Roosevelt would visit his old pal by having his wheel-chair rolled into a laundry truck at the White House. The truck would then drive to the basement service entrance of the Hotel Washington, and Roosevelt would then be wheeled through the kitchen to an elevator operated by a Secret Service agent and taken to Hanfstaengl’s suite.
“What were you doing with Hanfstaengl?” Donovan demanded. “And who was there?”
“Originally, myself,” Graham said. “And Howard Hughes. And Cletus Frade. And a German lieutenant colonel named Frogger. And then the President came in.”
“What the hell is this all about?” Donovan snapped. “And start at the beginning.”
His control then suddenly disappeared.
“You took Cletus Frade to see Hanfstaengl?” he demanded, as spittle flew. “And some German officer? You better have a goddamned good reason.”
Dulles said softly: “How about a chance—admittedly not a very good one, but a chance—to eliminate Hitler? To remove Der Führer permanently from this vale of tears?”
It was a long moment before Donovan replied.
“I can’t believe that either of you, even half in the bag as you are, would joke about something like that.”
“We’re not,” Graham said simply. “And if you can keep your Irish temper under control, Bill, I’ll tell you what has happened.”
“Have at it,” Donovan snapped.
“Hoover’s head man in Buenos Aires—a fellow named Milton Leibermann, who learned to speak Spanish when he was an FBI agent in Spanish Harlem—defied J. Edgar’s strict orders to have no contact with the OSS down there by bringing to Cletus Frade the commercial counselor of the German embassy and his wife, who had deserted their posts and come to him asking for asylum.”
“Why did he do that?” Donovan asked.
“You mean this guy Frogger?” Graham said. “According to Frade, he thought he was being thrown to the wolves by the SS people in the embassy. When the Froggers were ordered home to Germany, they took off.”
“Interesting, but I was asking about the FBI agent.”
“He told Frade he had no place to hide them,” Graham explained, “and he thought Frade could use them—or we could—to help keep track of all that Operation Phoenix money. So Frade took them. And told Allen about having them when they met at the Canoas Air Base in Brazil.”
“You met with Cletus Frade in Brazil?” Donovan asked. He was visibly angry, and now his voice was icy. “Funny, I never heard about that, Allen. Another of those things you decided I didn’t have to know?”
Dulles’s eyes tightened.
“I seem to recall, Bill, that the ‘condition of employment’ you mentioned before gave me the authority to run Europe as I see fit. Is that your recollection as well?”
Donovan didn’t reply.
“My understanding was that it did,” Dulles said. “And operating on that premise, I didn’t think I had to have your permission to meet with Cletus Frade, or to tell you that I had until I decided it was appropriate.”
Dulles let that sink in for a moment, and then went on: “One of the players in Operation Valkyrie is Galahad’s father.”
Donovan knew that Operation Valkyrie was the code name used by disaffected members of the German High Command to identify their plan to assassinate Adolf Hitler.
Donovan said: “I suppose that since you and Alex have decided that neither I nor the commander-in-chief can be trusted with Galahad’s identity, you’re not going to identify his father either.”
“Only that he is a generalleutnant on Hitler’s inner staff who sees him on a daily basis,” Dulles said.
“Bill,” Graham said, “we’d be willing to trust you with both names if we knew you wouldn’t run to the President with them. It boils down to the same thing. Things leak from the Oval Office, and we simply can’t take that risk with this.”
“I know you don’t think much of the FBI,” Donovan said. “But J. Edgar Hoover’s more competent than you give him credit for being. The President has ordered him to find out who Galahad is. And sooner or later he will.”
“Possibly,” Dulles said. “And if that happens, I’ll know that Valkyrie has been compromised and will take the appropriate action.”
After a moment, Donovan asked, “Are you going to tell me what you and Frade discussed in Brazil?”
“When Frade told me about the Froggers, I thought we might suddenly have been struck with good fortune. It was the same surname as one of the players in Valkyrie. I couldn’t be sure—and I couldn’t find out while I was in Brazil—so what I asked Frade to do was have a photograph of himself taken with his Froggers, and to stand by, so to speak, for further orders.
“I did not tell him what I hoped, and he did not learn until yesterday, that Lieutenant Colonel Wilhelm Frogger, the Frogger’s sole surviving son, a Valkyrie conspirator, had been captured when General von Arnim surrendered the Afrikakorps and was now in the senior officer’s POW camp in Mississippi.
“When I had that information, I brought Frade to the United States.”
“You didn’t think,” Donovan asked, more than a little sarcastically, “that Frade suddenly coming up here from Argentina might look a little suspicious?”
“What Allen did, Bill, was have Lloyd’s of London cancel the insurance of South American Airways,” Graham said. “Otherwise known as Franklin Roosevelt’s Stick It To Juan Trippe Airline.”
“I don’t think that’s funny, nor do I understand,” Donovan said.
“South American Airways—Frade—was informed that inasmuch as SAA’s pilots did not hold an internationally recognized Airline Transport Rating, they were forced to cancel SAA’s insurance,” Dulles explained. “This caused, as I suspected it would, a furious—and always resourceful—Cletus Frade to deal with the situation in his own way. What he did was load a dozen SAA pilots on one of his Lodestars and fly them to the Lockheed plant in Burbank to take the necessary examinations and get their ratings. And incidentally to take back to Argentina a half-dozen of those ‘surplus’ Lodestars.”
Graham picked up the story: “Howard Hughes and I were waiting for him in his hotel room at the Chateau Marmont in Hollywood. The next morning, the SAA pilots—including Frade—were dropped off one at a time at SAA Lodestars to meet the examination pilots. Frade was dropped off last, at a Constellation, where Howard and I were again waiting for him.
“We flew to the Jackson Army Air Base in Mississippi. En route, we told Frade what was going on. We drove out to Camp Clinton and met with Oberstleutnant Frogger. He’s one starchy sonofabitch, incidentally, who would only recite his name, rank, and serial number even after we showed him the pictures of Frade with his parents.
“We told him that we would protect his family from the Germans, even eventually allow them to come to the States, if he could talk them into helping Frade keep track of where the Operation Phoenix money was going. He professed to know nothing of Operation Phoenix, but he agreed to come with us to Washington ‘to meet someone who would confirm that Operation Phoenix existed.’
“We took him to see Putzi. Frogger knew who Putzi was, of course, and was impressed, as I thought he would be. And then we threw Galahad’s name at Frogger, and told him we knew he was involved with Valkyrie. He was still adjusting to the shock that we knew about Valkyrie when the door opened and a Secret Service agent wheeled in the President.”
“My God!” Donovan said. “And?”
“We got lucky again,” Graham said. “Roosevelt didn’t say much beyond ‘You must be Major Frade’ to Cletus, and then he left. I had the feeling that while he didn’t have any idea what was going on, that he’d better give me the benefit of the doubt.”
“You didn’t tell him?” Donovan asked.
Graham shook his head. “And, amazingly, he didn’t ask. That’s what you’re going to have to do, Bill: Come up with a story to explain to Roosevelt what we were doing there that does not, repeat not, even hint about Operation Valkyrie.”
Donovan, who did not at all like being bluntly told what he was going to have to do, nevertheless did not lose his temper.
“And then?” Donovan asked.
“Frogger came on board, said he’d do whatever we asked.”
“And now there is a secret within a secret,” Dulles said. “Frogger will go to Argentina to help Frade with Operation Phoenix. That’s a secret. But his primarily role will be to help me help the Valkyrie conspirators.”
“How are you going to get him to Argentina?” Donovan asked. “And don’t you think he’ll be missed at Camp Clinton, both by the Army and the Germans?”
“He’s now in Las Vegas, Nevada,” Graham said. “As soon as the Documents people can come up with what he needs to prove that he’s a South African named Fischer—the whole nine yards, passport, driver’s license, clothing, even suitcases—and we can get it out there, he’ll be flown—probably by Howard, in a Constellation—to Canoas and wait there for Frade to appear and get him into Argentina.”
“How’s Frade going to do that?”
“Frade is very resourceful,” Dulles said. “He’ll think of something.”
“Frade gives new meaning to the term ‘loose cannon,’ ” Donovan said. “And what about the POW camp? What happens there?”
“At 2300 last night, the camp commander reported to the local authorities, the Provost Marshal General, and the FBI that Oberstleutnant Frogger cannot be found and must be presumed to have escaped.”
“Clever,” Donovan said. “But J. Edgar will blow a fuse when he finds out he’s been spending what he calls his ‘finite resources’ trying to find a German POW we have.”
Dulles shrugged. “I don’t want Hoover to know that. Now. Or ever. I want the FBI looking in every nook and cranny for Colonel Frogger.”
“If I didn’t know better, that might sound like an order,” Donovan said, his voice tense.
“If you’re not willing to go along with that, I’ll go see the President, right now, and make my case,” Dulles said. “This has to be kept secret, Bill.”
“Second the motion,” Graham said.
After a very perceptible pause, Donovan said, “Okay. I’ll go along. I’m not sure if I’m doing so because I think you’re right, or because there is a certain appeal to the thought of J. Edgar being increasingly humbled by not being able to find an escaped POW, or because I really don’t want the President to have proof that the both of you are half in the bag before five o’clock in the afternoon.”
Neither Graham nor Dulles replied.
“This is where I usually say ‘keep me posted,’ ” Donovan said. “But that would be a waste of breath with you two, wouldn’t it?”
He pushed himself out of his chair and walked out of the office.
From THE HONOR OF SPIES — Book
V in the best-selling HONOR BOUND series.
by G.P. Putnam & Sons December 29, 2009.
Pre-order copies here.
©2009 W.E.B. GRIFFIN. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.