by W.E.B. Griffin
NOTE: There is a four-hour time differential between Argentina and Berlin. When it is 0830 in Buenos Aires, for example, it is 1230 in Berlin.
During the Spring of 1943, two hundred forty German submarines were operating in the North and South Atlantic Oceans. Their mission was the interdiction of Allied shipping that carried war supplies from the United States to England and North Africa, and of Allied shipping that carried wool, beef, and other foodstuffs from (primarily) Argentina to England. During that month, German submarines sank fifty-six Allied ships, totaling 327,900 tons, at a cost of fifteen submarines sunk, most of them in the North Atlantic.
German submarines in the North Atlantic—often in groups called “Wolf Packs”—operated out of European ports, and returned to them for replenishment.
German submarines assigned to the South Atlantic Ocean, however, were faced with the problems of the great distances between their European homeports and their operational areas. It took approximately a month for a submarine sailing from a French port to reach the mouth of the River Plate in Argentina. Once there, it had little fresh food or fuel—often barely enough to return to its home port. Once its torpedoes were expended, there was no resupply closer than France.
In the months before April 1943, the Germans tried to solve the problem in various ways. At first, they dispatched to the South Atlantic replenishment ships, ones often flying the neutral flags of Spain or Portugal. The Americans countered by furnishing specially modified (less bomb load, more fuel capacity) B-24 aircraft to Brazil, which had declared war on the Axis in January 1942. These aircraft kept the South Atlantic coast off Argentina and Uruguay under surveillance. Any ship caught replenishing German submarines was considered a legitimate target under the Rules of Warfare, no matter what flag the ship was flying.
The next German tactic was to anchor “neutral” merchant ships close to the Argentine shore in the River Plate. The Plate is one-hundred-twenty-five-miles wide at its mouth, and is shared by Argentina and Uruguay. The government of Argentina, then led by Pro-Axis President General Ramón Castillo, looked the other way.
It was politically impossible either to bomb ships flying the flags of non-belligerent powers anchored in neutral waters, or to stop and search suspected vessels of neutral powers on the high seas.
April 1943 was a busy month in a world at war:
On 3 April, General George S. Patton launched an attack against the Germans near El Guettar, Tunisia. Two days later, British General Bernard Montgomery attacked the Italians on the Wadi Akarit line.
On 7 April, the Japanese, sent one hundred eighty aircraft to attack the Americans on Guadalcanal and Tulagi, in the Solomon Islands. A United States destroyer and two cargo vessels were sunk.
The same day, Adolf Hitler met with Benito Mussolini in Salzburg, Austria. They decided that Africa had to be held at all costs.
[ ONE ]
Near Sidi Mansour, Tunisia
1530, 7 April 1943
A solitary Afrika Korps staff car—a small Mercedes convertible sedan—moved as quickly as it could across the desert. It had of course been painted in the Afrika Korps desert scheme: tan paint that mimicked the color of the Tunisian desert, and crooked black lines on the hood and doors that was intended to break up the form of the vehicle and make it harder to spot at a distance.
Nothing could be done, however, to keep the dust of the Tunisian desert road from boiling up beneath the wheels of the Mercedes and raising a cloud scores of feet into the air. If anyone was looking, the dust cloud formed a veritable arrow pointing to the Mercedes.
And someone was looking—an American pilot in a P-51 Mustang.
The North American P51-C and -D aircraft used in the North African campaign were powered by a Packard version of the British Merlin engine which developed 1,520 horsepower. These warbirds had a top speed of 440 knots and were armed with four .50-caliber Browning machine guns. Hardpoints in the wings permitted the use of droppable auxiliary fuel tanks and could also be used to carry 1,000-pound bombs.
Even at five hundred feet and an indicated airspeed of three hundred twenty-five, it hadn’t been hard for Captain Archer C. Dooley, Jr., U.S. Army Air Corps, to spot the boiling dust and then the Afrika Korps staff car that had caused it.
“Oh, shit!” Captain Archer Dooley said sadly.
Finding a Kraut staff car running unprotected across the desert did not please him. When young Archie Dooley first signed up to fly fighter aircraft, he expected to become a “Knight of the Sky”—flying mano a mano against other knights of the sky.
He didn’t expect to be killing people like cockroaches.
Fifteen months earlier, Archie Dooley had been the valedictorian of the 1942 Class at Saint Ignatius High School in Kansas City, Kansas. Now, six weeks earlier, he had been Second Lieutenant Dooley. He had come to Tunisia fresh from Fighter School, looking forward to sweeping Nazi Messerschmidts from the skies with the quad of .50-caliber Brownings in the wings of his Mustang, much as Errol Flynn had swept the Dirty Hun from the skies over France in World War One in DAWN PATROL.
After which, with a little bit of luck, there would be a girl in the Officer’s Club with an exciting French accent, long legs, long hair, and firm breasts, who would express her admiration for a Knight of the Sky in a carnal fashion.
It hadn’t turned out that way.
For one thing, by the time Archie got to the squadron, the Allies had attained Air Superiority over the enemy. In other words, no German or Italian aircraft were left to be swept from the skies.
The day Archie reported in, the squadron commander had informed him that the 23rd Fighter Group had ordered the squadron to be engaged in ground support. That broke down into two missions: The first was to attack the enemy in front of American infantry and armor with either wing-mounted bombs or the Browning .50-caliber machine guns. The second was reconnaissance and interdiction. This meant flying over enemy-held desert to see what you could see, and to interdict—which meant to shoot up—anything you found.
Second Lieutenant Archer Dooley’s first mission had been to fly wingman to the squadron commander on a two-plane reconnaissance and interdiction mission. At first, that had been sort of exciting . . . even fun.
They had raced across the desert close to the ground at better than three hundred knots, a flight maneuver flatly forbidden in flight school. Here it was perfectly acceptable.
Like drinking in the Officer’s Club, even if you were a long way from being old enough to vote.
They had come across a railroad engine, puffing along tracks in the desert and dragging a line of boxcars. The squadron commander had signaled to Archie that they should engage the target.
“Take the locomotive,” he had ordered. “I’ll get the box cars.”
Second Lieutenant Archer Dooley, Jr., had gotten the locomotive, enjoying the sight of his one-tracer-round-in-five stream of .50-caliber projectiles walking across the desert, and—as he raised the Mustang’s nose just a hair—moving into the locomotive’s boiler.
As he flashed over the locomotive, the locomotive had blown up. His first kill. Then there was a ball of fire, from which rose a dense black cloud of smoke.
As Archie pulled up to make a second run at the train, he realized that the ball of fire was several hundred yards from the railroad tracks. He’d wondered, What else did they hit, even by mistake, that exploded like that?
Then, as he lowered the Mustang’s nose for his second run, taking care not to collide with the squadron commander’s Mustang, he realized that the squadron commander’s Mustang was no longer in sight.
And then he realized what the ball of fire really was.
At the time, it seemed probable that the squadron commander had been hit by ground fire. The squadron commander had told him that some of the trains were armed with anti-aircraft machine-guns and light cannon mounted on flat cars. Because his attention had been fixed on the locomotive, he hadn’t noticed anything on the cars behind it.
That night at the Officer’s Club—empty, as always, of females, long legged, firm breasted, or otherwise—he learned about The Group’s promotion policies: Everybody got to be a first lieutenant after eighteen months of commissioned service, which meant he had about ten days before that happened.
There were two ways to get to be a captain. If you lived to serve twelve months as a first lieutenant, then promotion was automatic. But promotion came a lot quicker in another circumstance. The senior first lieutenant was the Squadron Executive Officer (senior, that is, in terms of length of service in the squadron; not date of rank). If the squadron commander either got killed or seriously injured (defined as having to spend thirty or more days in the hospital), then the Exec took the Old Man’s job and got the captain’s railroad tracks that went with it.
Four weeks and six days after Archie reported to the squadron, the squadron first sergeant handed him a sheet of paper to sign:
4032nd Fighter Squadron
23rd Fighter Group
In The Field
2 March 1943
The undersigned herewith assumes command.
Archer Dooley, Jr.
201 Dooley, Archer, Jr. 0378654
Copy to CO, 23rd Fighter Group
He hadn’t got to work his way up to executive officer. The young man who had become the Old Man and the Exec had both gone in on the same day, the Old Man when his Mustang ran into a Kraut anti-aircraft position that had gotten lucky, and the Exec when he banked too steep and too low to the ground—and put a wing into the desert.
That left Archie as the senior first lieutenant in the squadron.
The colonel had driven over from Group in a jeep, told Archie to cut orders assuming command, and handed him two sets of railroad tracks, still in cellophane envelopes from the Quartermaster Officer’s Sales Store.
Archie had pinned one set of captain’s railroad tracks over the embroidered gold second lieutenant’s bars still sewn to the epaulets of his A-2 horsehair flight jacket, and put the other set in the drawer of the squadron commander’s—now his—desk. If he ever had to go someplace, like Group, he would pin the extras on his Class A uniform then.
Being a captain and a squadron commander was not at all like what he’d imagined. A lot of really unpleasant shit went with being the Old Man. Like writing letters to the next of kin.
He hadn’t actually had to compose these, thank God. There were letters in the file that some other Old Man had written, full of bullshit about how your son/husband/brother/nephew died instantly and courageously doing his duty, and how much he would be missed by his fellow officers and the enlisted men because he had been such a fine officer and had been an inspiration to all who had been privileged to know him.
Not the truth, not about how he’d tried to bail out but had been too close to the ground and his ’chute hadn’t opened; not that he’d been seen trying and failing to get out of the cockpit through a sheet of flame blowing back from the engine; not about how he’d tried to land his shot-up airplane and blew it, and rolled over and over down the runway in a ball of flame and crushed aluminum. Or that they really didn’t know what the fuck had happened to him, he just hadn’t come back; and later some tank crew had found the wreckage of his Mustang with him still in the cockpit, the body so badly burned they couldn’t tell if he had been killed in the air or died when his plane hit.
He didn’t have to type the letters, either. The first sergeant just took one from the file and retyped it, changing the name. But Archie had to sign it, because he was now the Old Man and that’s what was expected of him.
And he was always getting bullshit pep talks from some major or light colonel at Group that he was supposed to pass down the line.
Like what he remembered now, staring down at the Kraut staff car:
“Dooley, what interdiction means is that you and your people are supposed to engage whatever you come across, like one fucking Kraut with a rifle, one motorcycle messenger, not pass him by to go looking for a railroad locomotive, or something you think is important, or looks good when you blow it up. The motorcycle messenger is probably carrying an important message. Otherwise he wouldn’t be out there. You take out a Kraut staff car, for example, you’re liable to take out an important Kraut officer. Interdict means everything that’s down there. You read me, Captain?”
“And pass the word to your people, and make sure they read you, and read you good.”
And Archie had passed the word, and gotten dirty looks.
And now there was a Mercedes staff car down there, and it wasn’t like being in a dogfight—it was like running over a dog with your car. But you had to do it because you had told your people they had to do it, and Archie believed that an officer should not order anybody to do what he wouldn’t do himself.
Archie banked his Mustang steep to the right, lined up on the cloud of dust boiling out under the wheels of the Mercedes, and when he thought he had him, closed his finger on the trigger on the joy stick. When he saw his tracer stream converge on the Mercedes, and he didn’t have to correct, he thought he was getting pretty good at this shit.
The Mercedes ran off the road, turned over, and burst into flames. Maybe a couple of bodies had flown out of the Mercedes, but Archie couldn’t be sure, and he didn’t go back for a second look, because if he did and saw somebody running, he wasn’t going to try to get him.
He leveled off at about five hundred feet and started looking for something else to interdict.
And that day, at 2105 hours, at Afrika Korps General Hospital #3, near Carthage, Tunisia, the chief surgeon and hospital commander, Oberst-Arzt (Colonel-Doctor) Horst Freiderich von und zu Mittlingen, pushed his way out the flap of the tent euphemistically called Operating Theatre Three, and reached beneath his bloodstained surgical apron for a package of cigarettes.
The hospital’s name implied something far more substantial than the reality. General Hospital #3 (which served the Tenth Panzer Division) was a sprawling collection of tents and crude sheds, most of them marked with red crosses to protect against bombing or strafing. The tents served as operating theatres, the sheds as wards. Both were covered with the dust raised by the trucks and ambulances—and sometimes horse-drawn wagons—bringing in the wounded and dying.
Von und zu Mittlingen was a fifty-two-year-old Hessian trained at Marburg and Tübingen. Before the war, he had been professor of orthopedic surgery at Saint Louise’s Hospital in Munich.
The cigarettes were Chesterfields. One of the nurses, who didn’t smoke, but knew the Herr Oberst-Artz did, had taken them from the body of an American pilot who had survived the crash of his fighter plane but had died en route to Afrika Korps General Hospital #3. The lighter, too, was American, a Zippo, found on the floor of one of the surgical tents. There had been no telling how long it had been there, or who it had belonged to, so he kept it.
He lit a Chesterfield, inhaled deeply, and felt with his hand behind him for one of the vertical poles holding up the corner of the tent. When he found it, he leaned against it, then exhaled, examining the glow of the cigarette as he did.
His hands were shaking. He willed them to be still.
It had been time to take a break, to leave the operating theatre, and step outside into the welcome cold of the night. And to light up a cigarette. And get a cup of coffee, if he could find one.
Though patients still were awaiting his attention, he had learned that he could push himself only so far. After so many hours at the table, his eyes did not see well, his fingers lost their skill, and his judgment was clouded by fatigue.
What he desperately wanted was a drink. But that would have to wait until later, much later, until there were no more wounded requiring his services. He would probably have to wait until the early morning for that. Then he would take several deep pulls from the neck of his bottle of brandy before falling into bed.
He took two more puffs on the Chesterfield, exhaled, and pushed himself away from the tent pole.
I will go to the mess and see if there is coffee.
I will do nothing for the next ten minutes except smoke my cigarette and drink my coffee and take a piss.
His route took him past three tents on the perimeter of the hospital area. A medical team—a physician, a nurse, and stretcher bearers—stood outside the three tents as the ambulances and trucks brought the wounded to the hospital.
The physician categorized each incoming patient: He ordered that those who would most likely die if they did not immediately go under the knife to be carried into the first tent, where a team of nurses would prepare them for surgery. As soon as a table was free, they underwent the knife. Those who had a reasonable chance of survival, but could wait a bit for surgery, were given morphine and moved into the second tent. As soon as the really critical patients had received attention, their turn in an operating theatre would come. Those who stood little chance of survival were moved into the third tent, and given morphine. When everyone in Tent A and Tent B had received treatment, an attempt would be made to save those in Tent C.
Oberst-Artz von und zu Mittlingen violated his own rule about never going into Tent C. The sight of dead men and men in the last—too often agonized—moments of their lives upset him. He knew it was better to be calm and emotionless when he was at the table.
There were six men on stretchers in Tent C.
The first two were dead. One looked asleep. The second’s face was frozen with his last agony.
Von und zu Mittlingen covered their faces with blankets and went to the last man on that side of the tent.
He was surprised that he was still alive.
His entire head was wrapped in blood-soaked bandages. That implied, at the least, serious trauma to his eyes and probably to his brain. Both of his hands were similarly bandaged, suggesting to Doctor von und zu Mittlingen that he would probably lose the use of both hands, and might actually lose the hands themselves.
Another heavily blood-soaked bandage was on his upper right leg and his torso was also bandaged; but the amount of blood on these last ones suggested to von und zu Mittlingen that the wounds on his torso were not as serious as the others, though internal bleeding of vital organs was of course possible.
It would probably be better if the poor bastard died; the alternative is living as a blind cripple.
He noticed that the patient was wearing U.S. Army trousers—but with an Afrika Korps tunic. That quickly identified him as an officer, someone in a position to ignore the rules forbidding the wearing of any part of the enemy’s uniform.
Von und zu Mittlingen reached for the patient’s ID tag.
“Who’s that?” the patient asked in German, sensing the hand on the tag.
“I’m a doctor.”
The tag identified the patient as Oberstleutnant (Lieutenant Colonel) von Stauffenberg.
Oh, my God! This mutilated body is Claus!
“You’ve got yourself in a mess, haven’t you Claus?” von und zu Mittlingen said.
“Horst Mittlingen, Claus,” Horst Friederich von und zu Mittlingen said. “We’re going to take care of you now.”
“One of their Mustangs got me,” Oberstleutnant Graf (Count) Claus von Stauffenberg said.
“Claus, what did they give you for the pain?”
“I decided I would rather be awake.”
Oberst-Artz Horst Freiderich von und zu Mittlingen stood up and walked to the flap of the tent and bellowed for stretcher bearers, and then returned to the bloody body on the stretcher.
“We’ll take care of you now, Claus,” he said. “You’ll be all right.”
“Really?” von Stauffenberg asked mockingly.
“Yes, really,” Horst Friederich von und zu Mittlingen said. “I am about to violate my own rule about never working on my friends.”
Two stretcher bearers appeared.
“Put this officer on the next available table,” von und zu Mittlingen ordered. “Tell Sister Wagner I will want her beside me.”
“Jawohl, Herr Oberst.”
“If I could see, I would say I’m glad to see you, Horst,” von Stauffenberg said.
On 12 April, the Germans announced the discovery of mass graves in Poland’s Katyn Forest. The graves contained the bodies of 4,100 Polish officers and officer cadets, who had been captured by the Soviet Army. They had been shot in the back of the head with small caliber pistols
A week later, after refusing Polish Government in Exile demands for an investigation by the International Red Cross, the Soviet government said the whole thing was German propaganda.
On 17 April, in its largest operation to date, the 8th U.S. Air Force attacked aircraft factories in Bremen with one hundred seventeen B-17 bombers, sixteen of which were shot down.
[ TWO ]
The Office of the Reichsführer-SS
1545 17 April 1943
The inter-office communications device on the ornately carved desk of Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler buzzed discreetly.
Though he was wearing his customary ornate black uniform, the forty-three-year-old reichsführer’s round spectacles and slight build gave him the look of a low-ranking clerk. It would have been a mistake to act on that assumption.
Without taking his eyes from the teletypewriter printout he was reading, Himmler reached for the box and depressed the lever which allowed his secretary, Frau Gertrud Hassler, to communicate. The Reichsführer-SS had had the device rigged in that manner. He was a busy man and could not afford an interruption every time his secretary had something to say. If he was busy, he simply ignored the buzzing, and she would try again later.
“Herr Reichsführer,” Frau Gertrud Hassler announced. “Herr Korvettenkapitän Boltitz from Minister von Ribbentrop’s office is here.”
Korvettenkapitän was the Navy rank equivalent to major.
The Reichsführer-SS was not busy, but that did not mean he was prepared to be interrupted by the woman every time a messenger arrived in the outer office.
“And?” the Reichsführer-SS said impatiently.
“He insists that you personally sign for the message, Herr Reichsführer.”
“Mein Gott! Well, show him in, please, Frau Hassler.”
Himmler rose from his desk and walked toward the double doors to his office. A moment later, one of them opened, and a tall, blonde young man in civilian clothing stepped inside. In his left hand was a briefcase. He raised his right arm straight out from the shoulder.
“Heil Hitler!” he barked.
Himmler raised his right arm at the elbow. “Korvettenkapitän Boltitz, how nice to see you.”
“Herr Reichsführer,” Boltitz said. “I regret the intrusion on your valuable time, Herr Reichsführer, but I was directed to give this to you personally.”
Himmler knew that Boltitz’s assignment to the office of Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop meant that he was really Admiral Wilhelm Canaris’s man—read spy—in the foreign ministry. Canaris was director of Abwehr Intelligence. Neither he nor von Ribbentrop were really members of Adolf Hitler’s inner circle, and Himmler wasn’t entirely sure either of them could be completely trusted.
“I understand,” Himmler said, and put out his hand for the message.
Boltitz opened the briefcase, and took from it a clipboard, whose clip held an envelope. He removed the envelope, and then handed Himmler the clipboard and a pen. Himmler scrawled his name, acknowledging receipt of the message, and the young man then handed him the envelope.
“Thank you, Herr Reichsführer.”
“Are you to wait for a reply?” Himmler asked.
“No, sir, but I am at your disposal if you wish to reply.”
“Just a moment, please,” Himmler said, then tore open the envelope and read the message:
CLASSIFICATION: MOST URGENT
CONFIDENTIALITY: MOST SECRET
DATE: 15 APRIL 1943 1645 BUENOS AIRES TIME
FROM: AMBASSADOR, BUENOS AIRES
TO: IMMEDIATE AND PERSONAL ATTENTION OF THE FOREIGN MINISTER OF THE GERMAN REICH
STANDARTENFÜHRER-SS JOSEF GOLTZ REQUESTS THAT APPENDIX ONE ATTACHED HERETO BE IMMEDIATELY BROUGHT TO THE ATTENTION OF REICHSFÜHRER-SS HEINRICH HIMMLER.
MANFRED ALOIS GRAF VON LUTZENBERGER
AMBASSADOR OF THE GERMAN REICH TO THE REPUBLIC OF ARGENTINA
BEGIN APPENDIX ONE
TO: REICHSFÜHRER-SS HEINRICH HIMMLER
FROM: SS-STANDARTENFÜHRER JOSEF GOLTZ
SUBJECT: OPERATION PHOENIX, PROGRESS REPORT
THE UNDERSIGNED HAS THE HONOR TO REPORT TO THE HERR REICHSFÜHRER-SS THE FOLLOWING:
- ALL ARRANGEMENTS HAVE BEEN MADE TO OFFLOAD THE SPECIAL CARGO ABOARD THE MOTOR VESSEL COMERCIANTE DEL OCÉANO PACÍFICO EARLY IN THE MORNING OF 19 APRIL 1943.
- ALL ARRANGEMENTS HAVE BEEN MADE TO TRANSPORT AND STORE THE SPECIAL CARGO UNDER THE HIGHEST POSSIBLE SECURITY ONCE IT IS ASHORE.
- ALL ARRANGEMENTS HAVE BEEN MADE TO EFFECT THE TRANSPORT OF NAVAL OFFICERS FROM THE GRAF SPEE FROM THEIR PLACE OF INTERNMENT TO PUERTO MAGDALENA ON SAMBOROMBÓN BAY ONCE THE ACTIONS DESCRIBED IN (1) AND (2) ABOVE HAVE BEEN ACCOMPLISHED.
- THE NAVAL OFFICERS WILL FIRST BE TAKEN ABOARD THE OCÉANO PACÍFICO AND THEN REPATRIATED TO THE FATHERLAND AS SPACE BECOMES AVAILABLE ABOARD U-BOATS RETURNING TO EUROPEAN PORTS.
- WHILE THE UNDERSIGNED HAS ASSUMED PERSONAL COMMAND OF OPERATION PHOENIX SINCE ARRIVING IN ARGENTINA, HE WISHES TO ACKNOWLEDGE THE CONTRIBUTIONS MADE BY AMBASSADOR GRAF VON LUTZENBERGER AND MEMBERS OF HIS STAFF, IN PARTICULAR FIRST SECRETARY ANTON VON GRADNY-SAWZ, MILITARY ATTACHÉ OBERST KARL-HEINZ GRÜNER AND ASSISTANT MILITARY ATTACHÉ FOR AIR MAJOR FRIEHERR HANS-PETER VON WACHTSTEIN. THEIR IMMEDIATE GRASP OF THE IMPORTANCE OF OPERATION PHOENIX AND THEIR DEDICATION TO THE PRINCIPLES OF NATIONAL SOCIALISM AND THE FÜHRER HAS EARNED MY ADMIRATION.
JOSEF LUTHER GOLTZ
END APPENDIX ONE
The Comerciante del Océano Pacífico, a Spanish-flagged merchantman, had been sent to Samborombón Bay in the Argentine section of the River Plate estuary ostensibly with the clandestine mission of replenishing the increasingly desperate South Atlantic U-boats.
Replenishment was not, however, its only secret mission. It also was charged with smuggling into Argentina equipment and supplies intended to aid the escape from internment of the crew of the German pocket battleship Graf Spee, which had been scuttled in the harbor of Montevideo, Uruguay, in December 1939, after a running battle with the Royal Navy.
The repatriation of the Graf Spee crew was especially dear to the heart of Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, who had himself escaped internment in Argentina during the First World War.
There was a third, far more secret mission for the Océano Pacífico. It had become clear to a number of Hitler’s highest ranking associates that the war might be lost—and probably would be—and that the life span of the Thousand Year Reich was likely to be only a matter of years, perhaps even fewer. With that in mind, it was deemed prudent to establish in South America a place of refuge.
“Operation Phoenix” was set in motion.
Money was obtained, largely from Jews, either from the dead—jewelry, gold fillings, and the like—or from the living, by way of extortion.
The equivalent of one hundred million dollars in various currencies, including American dollars, was aboard the Océano Pacífico. Once smuggled ashore, along with the material for the interred Graf Spee crew, the money would be covertly placed in Argentine banks, and used to establish a South American refuge for Nazis who not only hoped to escape punishment for their crimes, but who also sought a place where the Nazi philosophy could be kept alive for an eventual return to Germany.
Himmler raised his eyes to Korvettenkapitän Boltitz.
“Please be so good as to thank Herr von Ribbentrop for me,” he said.
“Jawohl, Herr Reichsführer.”
“That will be all,” Himmler said. “Thank you.”
Korvettenkapitän Boltitz rendered another crisp Nazi salute, which Himmler again returned casually, then made a military about-face movement and marched out of Himmler’s office.
Becausee the door to the outer office remained open, Himmler, rather than returning to his desk and using the intercom, raised his voice and called, “Frau Hassler!”
Frau Hassler was tall and thin and in her early fifties; she wore her gray-specked hair in a bun. When she appeared at his door moments later, she was clutching her stenographer’s notebook and three pencils.
Himmer said: “Please ask Oberführer von Deitzberg to see me immediately.”
Oberführer was a rank peculiar to the Schutzstaffel (SS) between standartenführer (oberst/colonel) and brigadeführer (generalmajor/brigadier general).
“Jawohl, Herr Reichsführer,” Frau Hassler said, and pulled the door closed.
Manfred von Deitzberg, Himmler’s adjutant, appeared in under a minute. He was a tall, slim, blonde, forty-two-year-old Westphalian. His black SS uniform was finely tailored, and there was an air of elegance about him.
He entered the room without knocking, closed the door after him, then leaned against it, and looked quizzically at Himmler. He did not render the Nazi salute, formally or informally.
“We’ve heard from Goltz,” Himmler said, and held the message out to him.
Von Deitzberg walked to the desk, took the message, and read it. When he’d finished, he looked at Himmler, returned the message to him, but said nothing.
“Comments?” Himmler asked.
“It looks like good news,” von Deitzberg said.
“The operation has not been completed. Either part of it.”
“He seems confident that it will succeed . . . that both parts of it will succeed. You don’t?”
“There is an English expression, ‘A bird in the hand . . .’ ”
“ ‘. . . is worth two in the bush,’ ” Himmler finished for him. “I agree. Anything else?”
“I hesitate to criticize Goltz. I recommended him for this mission.”
“When next I see him, I will have a private word with him and suggest that it is never a good idea to put so many details in a message.”
“I saw that, but decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. He was obviously pleased with himself.”
“And I think he wanted you and me to be pleased with him as well.”
“Yes. Josef is not overburdened with modesty.”
Von Deitzberg laughed dutifully. “I was a little curious about his fulsome praise for von Lutzenberger. And von Lutzenberger’s people.”
“Perhaps he really meant it.”
“And he knew, of course, that von Lutzenberger would read the message.”
“And that Grüner is one of us,” Himmler said smiling. “Do you think our Luther is becoming a politician, Manfred?”
“I think that’s a terrible thing to say about an SS officer,” von Deitzberg said.
It was Himmler’s turn to laugh dutifully.
“What are you going to do about it?” von Deitzberg asked, nodding at the message. “Are you going to tell the Führer?”
“I thought I would solicit your wise counsel, Herr Oberführer.”
“I have a tendency to err on the side of caution,” von Deitzberg said. “I think I would wait until we have the bird in hand.”
“If he hasn’t already, von Ribbentrop is about to tell Bormann, knowing full well he will rush to the Führer, that there has been word from Himmler’s man that Operation Phoenix will shortly be successful.”
Parteileiter (Party Leader) Martin Bormann was second only to Adolf Hitler in the hierarchy of the National Socialist German Workers (Nazi) Party and one of his closest advisors.
“You don’t think he would wait until after we get the ‘operation completed successfully’ message, so he could say, ‘Our man’?”
“I think von Ribbentrop would prefer to go to the Führer now, using ‘Himmler’s man.’ Then, if something does go wrong, he could pretend to be shocked and saddened by that man’s failure. On the other hand, if it does go well, it will naturally be ‘our man.’ ”
Himmler looked at von Deitzberg for a moment, and then continued: “I could, of course, get to the Führer first, either directly, or through Bormann—”
“The Führer’s at Wolfsschanze,” von Deitzberg interrupted.
Wolfsschanze was Hitler’s secret command post, near Rastenburg, in East Prussia.
“—then through Bormann,” Himmler went on. “And take a chance our friend—actually he’s your friend, isn’t he, Manfred?—is everything he—and you—says he is. Claim him as our man now, taking the chance that he won’t fail.”
“Were you really soliciting my wise counsel?” von Deitzberg asked.
“Of course. And your wise counsel is that we should wait until we see what actually happens, right?”
“On second thought, what I think I really should do now is call Bormann and tell him that we have just heard from Oberführer von Deitzberg’s man in Buenos Aires. That way, if Goltz is successful, I can claim the credit because he is one of my SS, right? And if he fails, it’s obviously your fault, von Deitzberg. You recommended him for that job.”
Himmler smiled warmly at von Deitzberg.
“May I suggest, with all possible respect, Herr Reichsführer,” von Deitzberg said, “that is not a very funny joke.”
“Joke? What joke?”
He pressed the lever on his intercom, and when Frau Hassler’s voice came, told her to get Reichsleiter Bormann on the telephone immediately.
One of the telephones on Himmler’s desk buzzed not ninety seconds later. Himmler picked it up and said “Heil Hitler” into it, and then waited impatiently for whoever was on the line to respond.
“Martin,” he said, finally, and with oozing cordiality, “there has been good news from Buenos Aires. Our project there, under Standartenführer Goltz, of whom I am very proud, is proceeding splendidly. We expect momentarily to hear that the special cargo has been delivered, and that the first of the officers from the Graf Spee are on their way home.”
There was a reply from Bormann that von Deitzberg could not hear, and then Himmler went on: “The SS exists solely to serve the Führer, Martin. You know that.” This was followed by another pause, and then Himmler barked “Heil Hitler!” into the mouthpiece and hung up. He looked at von Deitzberg and smiled. “That put our friend Bormann on the spot, you understand, Manfred?”
“Yes, indeed,” von Deitzberg said.
“He doesn’t want to go to the Führer with good words about the SS,” Himmler added unnecessarily, though with visible pride in his tactics. “But he wants even less for the Führer to get his information from other people, such as our friend von Ribbentrop. So he will relay the good news about Argentina to the Führer, saying he got it from me, and the Führer will not only like the information, but be impressed with my quiet modesty for not telling him myself.”
“Very clever,” von Deitzberg said.
“You have to be clever with these bastards, Manfred. They’re all waiting for a chance to stab us in the back.”
“I agree. Is there anything else?”
Himmler shook his head, and von Deitzberg walked to the door.
“Manfred!” Himmler called as von Deitzberg put his hand on the knob.
Von Deitzberg turned to look at him.
“Are you, in your heart of hearts, a religious man, Manfred?”
“You know better than that,” von Deitzberg replied.
“Pity,” Himmler said. “I was about to say that now that the die has been cast, Manfred, it might be a good time to start to pray that Goltz is successful.”
“Are you worried?”
“I’m not worried. But if I were you, I would be. You’re the one who selected Goltz for this.”
“I recommended him,” von Deitzberg said. “You selected him.”
“That’s not the way I remember it, Oberführer von Deitzberg,” Himmler said. “Thank you for coming to see me.”
On 18 April, more than half of the one hundred heavy German transport aircraft attempting to resupply the Afrika Korps in North Africa were shot down by American fighters.
And across the world, in the South Pacific, over Bougainville, P-38 Lightning fighters shot down a transport carrying Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, chief of the Japanese Navy and Japan’s principal strategist. American cryptographers, in one of the most tightly guarded secrets of the war, had broken many high level Japanese codes, and had intercepted messages giving Yamamoto’s travel plans and routes. The decision to attack his plane, which carried with it the grave risk of the Japanese learning the Americans had broken their codes, was made personally by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
On 19 April, the Argentine government of General Ramón Castillo was toppled by a junta of officers led by General Arturo Rawson, who then became president.
On 22 April, the U.S. II Corps, led by Lieutenant General Omar Bradley, began a major attack against the Germans in Tunisia. Another attempt by the Germans to supply the Afrika Korps by air resulted in the shooting down of thirty of the fifty transport aircraft by American fighters.
[ THREE ]
2215 23 April 1943
After a very long flight at one hundred sixty miles per hour from Caracas, Venezuela, the four-engined Sikorsky Flying Boat of Pan-American Grace Airways splashed down into the calm waters of Biscayne Bay in Miami, Florida. Among its thirty-four passengers was a tanned, balding man of forty-eight who wore a trim, pencil line mustache. The name on his passport read Alejandro Frederico Graham, and his occupation was given as “Business Executive.” In the breast pocket of his splendidly tailored suit was another document:
THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF
1 January 1943
Subject: Letter Orders
To: Colonel A.F. Graham, USMCR
Office of Strategic Services
1. You will proceed to such destinations as your duties require by U.S. Government or civilian motor, rail, sea, or air transportation as is most expedient. JCS Travel Priority AAAAAA-1 is assigned. The wearing of civilian attire is authorized.
2. United States Military or Naval commands are authorized and directed to provide you with whatever assistance of any kind you may require to accomplish your mission(s).
By Order of The Chairman, The Joint Chiefs of Staff:
Matthew J. Markham
Lieutenant General, USAAC
[ FOUR ]
The Office of the Director
The Office of Strategic Services
National Institutes of Health Building
1045 24 April 1943
Colonel William J. Donovan, the stocky, gray-haired, sixty-year-old director of the Office of Strategic Services, rose from his desk and walked to the door when his secretary announced Colonel Graham’s arrival. When Colonel Alejandro Frederico Graham, USMCR, passed through the door, Colonel Donovan cordially offered his hand.
“Welcome home, Alex,” he said. “How was the flight?”
“From Buenos Aires to Miami, it was slow, but very comfortable. Cold champagne, hot towels; Panagra does it right. From Miami to here it was very fast and very uncomfortable. That was my first ride in a B-26. What was that all about?”
“I’m going to have dinner tonight with the President. I really had to talk to you before I did.”
Donovan had been a Columbia University School of Law classmate of Franklin Delano Roosevelt; he and the President remained close personal friends. In the First World War, Donovan had won the Medal of Honor as a colonel, commanding the famous “Fighting Sixty-Ninth” Infantry in France. After the war, he had become a very successful Wall Street lawyer. At the request of President Roosevelt, he had become the director of the OSS at an annual salary of one dollar.
“Can I get you anything? Coffee?” Donovan asked.
“Coffee would be nice, thank you.”
Graham, who was now the deputy director of the OSS for Western Hemisphere Operations, had served as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps in France in World War One. After the war, he had been active in the Marine Corps Reserve, eventually rising to Colonel, USMCR.
An engineer by training, he had become president of the nation’s second or third largest railroad (depending on whether the criterion was income or tonnage moved annually). He had made, additionally, a considerable fortune building railroads all over Central and South America.
A political conservative, he had made substantial financial contributions to the presidential campaign of his close friend, Wendell L. Willkie, who had been defeated in a landslide by Roosevelt in the 1940 election.
When called to active Marine Corps service, he had expected to be given command of a regiment. But Donovan—along with the deputy commandant of the Marine Corps, an old friend—had convinced him that his intimate knowledge of South America and its leaders made him more valuable to the OSS than he would be to the Marine Corps, and reluctantly he had given up his dream of commanding a Marine regiment.
“Sit down, Alex,” Donovan said, and went to his office door and ordered coffee from his secretary.
Graham lowered himself onto a green leather couch, took a long, thin, black cigar case from the pocket of his well-tailored suit and, after biting the end off, lit it with a gold Dunhill lighter.
“Nice looking cigar,” Donovan said. “Argentine?”
Graham started to take the cigar case from his jacket again. Donovan signaled he didn’t want one. Graham shrugged. “Brazilian,” he said.
“That’s right,” Donovan said. “There’s a layover in Rio de Janeiro, isn’t there?”
“And in Caracas,” Graham said. “It took me four days to get here from Buenos Aires.”
“Shall I get right to the point?” Donovan asked.
“That’s often a good idea.”
“I need to know the name of your intelligence source in Argentina,” Donovan said, “the one who helped us with Operation Phoenix. I want to know who Galahad is.”
Graham made a face. “We’ve been over this, Bill.”
“That was an order, Colonel.”
“Well, we are getting right to the point, aren’t we? Sorry, I’m not in a position to tell you.”
Donovan glared coldly at him.
“Bill,” Graham said, “when I took this job, I had your word that you wouldn’t try to second-guess my decisions.”
“I can take you off this job, Alex.”
“Yes, you can. Is that what you’re doing?”
“What am I supposed to tell the President? ‘Sorry, Mr. President, Graham won’t tell me who Galahad is’?”
“When all else fails, tell the truth.”
“What if the President asked you—ordered you—to tell him?”
“What I should have done was order Frade up here.”
“In the Marine Corps, Bill, they teach us to never give an order that you doubt will be obeyed.”
“You don’t mean he’d refuse to come?”
“That’s a very real possibility.”
“He’s a major in the Marine Corps.”
“And he’s an ace. Who was just awarded the Navy Cross. And is smart enough to understand that court-martialing a hero might pose some public relations problems for you. And for the President. That’s presuming, of course, that he would put himself in a position, coming here, where you could court-martial him.”
“It wouldn’t have to be a court-martial . . .”
“Saint Elizabeth’s? You’re not thinking clearly, Bill.”
In an opinion furnished privately to the President by the Attorney General, the provisions of the law of habeas corpus were not applicable to a patient confined for psychiatric evaluation in a hospital, such as Saint Elizabeth’s, the Federal Mental Hospital in the District of Colombia.
“Cletus Marcus Howell, who dearly loves his grandson, is a great admirer—and I think a personal friend—of Colonel McCormick.”
Colonel Robert Rutherford McCormick, publisher of The Chicago Tribune, made no secret of his loathing for President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
“And I suppose I could count on you to be with Howell when he went to see McCormick.”
“That’s a possibility I think you should keep in the back of your mind, Bill.”
“You realize, Alex, that you’re willfully disobeying a direct order? This is tantamount to mutiny.”
“I’ll split that hair with you, Bill. I thought about that on the way up here. You’re not on active duty, Colonel; legally, you’re a dollar-a-year civilian. I don’t think that you have the authority to issue me a military order. But let’s not get into that—unless you’ve already made up your mind to go down that road?”
“What road should we go down?”
“Be grateful for what we have.”
“Cletus Frade has done more for us than either of us dreamed he could. He earned that Navy Cross by putting his life on the line when he led the submarine Devil Fish into Samborombón Bay to sink the Reine de la Mer. Only a bona fide hero or a fool would have flown that little airplane into the aircraft weaponry on that ship, and whatever Cletus is, he’s no fool.”
“I wasn’t accusing him of being either a fool or a coward,” Donovan said.
“And, because of what he did during the coup d’etat, he’s President Rawson’s fair-haired boy,” Graham went on. “Do I have to tell you the potential of that?”
“Point granted,” Donovan said.
“Not to mention that his father—who was the likely next president of Argentina—was killed by the Germans during the process.”
Donovan gave a snappish wave of his arm to acknowledge the truth of that.
“Not to mention that he was the one who located the Comerciante del Océano Pacífico,” Graham went on. “Which really deserves mentioning—”
“She’s in the middle of the South Atlantic,” Donovan interrupted. “On a course for Portugal or Spain. There was a report from the Alfred Thomas, which is shadowing her, early this morning.”
The USS Alfred Thomas, DD-107, was a destroyer.
“Why don’t we sink her?” Graham asked. “We know what she’s carrying.”
“The President made that decision. There are . . . considerations.”
“Getting back to the Océano Pacífico,” Graham went on. “If he hadn’t flown Ashton and his team and their radar into Argentina, we never would have found her. And flew them, let me point out, in an airplane he’d never flown before. We sent him that airplane, Bill. We screwed up big time by sending him the wrong airplane. And he pulled our chestnuts out of the fire by flying it anyway.”
“You sound like the president of the Cletus Frade fan club,” Donovan said, tempering the sarcasm in his voice with a smile.
“Guilty,” Graham said. “And while I run down the list, it was Frade’s man, Frade’s Sergeant Ettinger, who found out about the ransoming of the Jews. And got himself murdered.”
“Can I stipulate to Major Frade’s many virtues?”
“No, I want to remind you of them. Of all of them. And it was Frade who found out about Operation Phoenix.”
“From Galahad. Which brings us back to him,” Donovan said. “The President is very interested in Operation Phoenix. He wants to know—and I want to know, Alex—who Galahad is.”
“In my opinion, and Frade’s, Galahad is a Class One intelligence source whose identity must be kept secret, so that he won’t be lost to us because somebody here does something stupid and the Germans find out about him. Or even have suspicions about him.”
“That’s not good enough, Alex. I want to know who he is. Who all of Frade’s sources are.”
“He’s not going to tell you, and neither am I.” Graham raised an eyebrow. “I guess we are back where we started.”
“And if Frade is taken out—which, after what they did to his father, seems a real possibility—that would leave only you knowing who Galahad is. That’s not acceptable, Alex.”
“There are others who know who Galahad is. But I won’t tell you who they are, either.”
Donovan looked at Graham, expressionless, for almost a minute before he spoke.
“I’m going to have to think about this, Alex.”
“Think quick, Bill. I want an answer right now, before I leave your office.”
“That sounds like another threat.”
“Either you fire me, which I think would be a mistake, or you tell me I can stay on under the original ground rules that you will not second-guess me. Your choice.”
“That’s not a choice. I can’t do without you, and you know it.”
“I have your word, Bill?”
“I can be overruled by the President,” Donovan said. “He’s not used to having anybody tell him something’s none of his business.”
“Roosevelt can’t do without you, and both of you know it. What’s it to be, Bill?”
Donovan exhaled audibly. “Okay. You have my word.”
Graham pushed himself off the couch. “I need a long, hot shower and several stiff drinks,” he said.
He got as far as the door before Donovan called his name.
“Yes?” Graham asked, turning.
“This is a question, Alex, rather than second-guessing. Did you approve of Frade’s killing those two Nazis—the military attaché and the SS guy—on the beach?”
“Frade didn’t kill them. They were shot by two retired Argentine Army sergeants.’
“How did that happen?”
“I sent the lieutenant from Ashton’s team to the beach to take pictures of the Germans landing the Operation Phoenix money from the Océano Pacífico. I sent the sergeants down to the beach to guard him. That’s all they were supposed to do. But one of the sergeants had not only been El Coronel Frade’s batman for thirty years but also the brother of the woman who was killed when they tried to assassinate young Frade. And they’re Argentines, Latins, like me. Revenge is a part of our culture. The minute they saw who it was . . . bang! Ashton’s lieutenant was very impressed. It was at least two hundred yards. Two shots only. Both in their heads.”
“You sound as if you approve.”
“I wouldn’t have ordered it,” Graham said. “And Frade didn’t. But was I overwhelmed with remorse? No. You ever hear, ‘An eye for an eye’?”
“Yeah, I’ve heard that. I’ve also heard, ‘The devil you know is better than the one you don’t.’ They’ll send somebody else.”
“Yes, I’m afraid they will. Anything else, Bill?”
Donovan shook his head, and Graham walked out of the office.
From SECRET HONOR — Book
III in the best-selling HONOR BOUND series.
Published May 2000.
©2009 W.E.B. GRIFFIN. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.