by W.E.B. Griffin
& William E. Butterworth IV
[ ONE ]
Between Rzeszów and Blizna
2145 25 May 1943
“There! It’s coming!” Kapitan Mordechaj Szerynski announced at the faint chugging sound of the small steam-powered locomotive. The twenty-six-year-old resistance fighter in the Armia Krajowa, the Polish Home Army, had a wiry five-foot-eight medium build, light skin, and thick bushy black hair and eyebrows.
He turned to the twenty-one-year-old guerrilla beside him.
Porucznik (Lieutenant) Stanislaw Polko looked like Szerynski, though was a head taller. They were hiding under a loose layer of downed limbs and leaves next to the narrow gauge railroad track that wound through the dense forest of the Carpathian mountain foothills in southern Poland.
“Pass the word for everyone to move on my command,” Szerynski ordered, “not a second sooner!”
“Yes, sir,” Polko said, and touched the tips of his right index and middle fingers to his forehead, the two-finger Polish Army salute signifying Honor and Fatherland.
Polko crawled over to the other five guerrillas—the majority of them, like Polko and Szerynski, Jewish and in their twenties—spread out to their right. All were dressed in clothing that they had acquired from farmers who for months had been supplying the Armia Krajowa with details of Nazi activity in the area. And all were armed with weapons smuggled to them by the Allies—the U.S. Office of Strategic Services working in London with the Government of the Republic of Poland in Exile.
As Polko crawled back beside Szerynski, and the train chugged closer and louder, Szerynski thought he could hear in the cool night air the sound of men singing.
Jesus! he thought. That’s not “Horst-Wessel-Lied,” is it?
Hearing Polko mutter “bastard pigs!” seemed to confirm that there indeed was singing—and probably that of the Nazi anthem. After another moment of listening, Szerynski then thought: And the bastards sound drunk!
“I swear I kill first Nazi pig,” Polko muttered as he smacked the magazine of his Sten 9mm submachine gun, the cold fury in his voice unmistakable.
Is he going to follow orders? Szerynski thought.
Or just start shooting?
Szerynski knew that if not for the dark night he now would see in Polko’s deep-set coal-black eyes the same anger he’d often seen at the mention of German soldiers.
“Keep your damn head, Porucznik.”
Only a month earlier Szerynski and his men had been in the Zydowska Organizacja Bojowa—the Jewish Fighting Organization—bravely, but futilely, battling the Nazis in the ghettos of Warsaw, about a hundred kilometers to the north.
Szerynski had seen the brutality inflicted by the Schutzstaffel—the German SS—including last December the torture of his little brother and two other Boy Scouts caught running ammunition to the ZOB. The teenagers had had their testicles torn out, their eyes gouged, and their teeth pulled before being killed and thrown into the snow-covered street as a message to others.
That Szerynski and his men weren’t among the thousands of other Poles who were mass murdered after being forced into Warsaw’s slums was nothing shy of a miracle. And they had avoided being packed in freight train boxcars for what the Nazi soldiers announced was simply a “relocation” to the SS-run konzentrationslager.
Instead, they had fled the city, finding refuge in the forest.
The resistance fighters, after having joined up with the Armia Krajowa, then discovered the truth about the relocations. At the heavily armed concentration camps, the passengers were made prisoners—the SS called them sonderkommandos—put in striped outfits, and within weeks worked to their death.
When the farmers alerted the Armia Krajowa that a new camp was being built by slave laborers outside the village of Blizna, Szerynski and his men moved south through the forest to investigate.
The conditions they found at the construction site staggered the mind. Under the cold eyes of SS guards, hundreds of malnourished prisoners struggled at hard labor—hewing timber, pouring concrete, cutting stone, even digging their own graves. Nearby, the slave laborers also worked at carving out of the woods a small airstrip for light aircraft to reach the remote area. They saw the SS summarily beat—and execute on the spot—those judged not to be working hard enough.
And twice weekly the boxcars came on the narrow gauge railway to deliver sonderkommandos, many of the prisoners from Warsaw, as replacements for the dead.
Kapitan Szerynski had told his men: “If we cannot stop the Nazi pigs, we damn sure can rescue some of our people.”
“As we planned,” Kapitan Szerynski now ordered, “after the train comes to a stop, follow my lead. Maintain discipline. No shooting unless absolutely necessary.”
Porucznik Polko was quiet a long moment.
Szerynski thought back to the previous two days, when they had practiced the ambush of the train inside a deserted barn. Using bales of hay as a mock-up for one of the thirty-foot-long freight cars, Szerynski had drilled the discipline into their heads. Each boxcar—it sickened Polko to call them what they were, foul-smelling cattle cars—would be packed with at least fifty prisoners, and possibly as many as a hundred or more, with a shared bucket or two being the only method for the disposal of human waste. Szerynski had cautioned his men that a single stray shot at some Nazi bastard could also easily kill or injure others—and, as they had seen during ambushes with the ZOB in Warsaw, an anxious, undisciplined shooter could almost instantly empty his weapon’s entire magazine.
“Understood,” he said, then looked over his shoulder and motioned for the men to await his signal.
To force the train to a stop, the resistance fighters, using explosive Primacord that resembled thick bootlace, felled two mature black alder trees across the tracks just past a curve. They trimmed the limbs, then manhandled the trunks so that they were between the narrow gauge rails; the heavy V-shaped “pilot” metalwork on the front of the locomotive would not be able to push the trees off the tracks. Instead, the locomotive would become wedged on top of the heavy timbers, and they could storm the train’s freight cars that carried the prisoners.
As they had practiced in the barn, each resistance fighter then would run to a particular door on a boxcar, unlatch its lock, swing it open, then repeat until all doors were open. It was expected that the guards would be either dazed or injured or both from the sudden stopping of the train, and that the guards could then be disarmed and secured—or, if necessary, killed.
The prisoners, once helped out of the boxcars, would be led deep into the forest to where another dozen guerrillas waited to split them up and, later, absorb them into their resistance cells. They knew that each train arriving at the camp near Blizna had averaged three boxcars, and that that meant there could be anywhere from 150 to 450 prisoners to rescue. (The long trains leaving Warsaw for the initial “relocating” had fifty boxcars carrying upwards of five thousand people to the death camps.)
The sounds of the steam locomotive and the singing continued getting louder.
The bastards celebrate bringing our people here to die! Szerynski thought bitterly.
But if there is any good news it is that their being drunk should make this ambush easier.
The locomotive’s carbon arc headlight, heavily masked so as not to project its full brilliance, could now be seen bouncing a dim beam through the trees by the curve in the train track.
The beam grew bigger as the train approached the curve at a fast clip. The sound of singing grew louder. Then the nose of the train—and the masked headlight—were visible. The locomotive steamed on into the turn, its beam of light sweeping the forest of trees on the far side of the track as it did so. Then, just as the beam of light squared with the train track, it illuminated a huge obstacle on the tracks—and the conductor slammed on the train’s full brakes.
Something about this train is different, Szerynski suddenly thought, straining to make out its shape in the darkness.
At once a stream of sparks began to spray out from where the locomotive’s heavy steel wheels slid on the iron rails and the air filled with an ear-piercing high-decibel metallic screech. There then came a deep dull thud that was caused by the underside of the locomotive impacting the tree trunks. The pitch of the screech lessened somewhat, and the trees now could be heard thumping together under the pressure of the still moving train.
It looks to be a shorter train. Maybe only one car?
And it is a smaller car, almost half the size of a boxcar . . . a passenger car? . . . why?
What happened next did not go according to plan.
The locomotive, grinding along the tree trunks, did not stop. It did not appear to slow very much, either. Instead, its right wheels stopped screeching and sparking as they rode up onto one, then both, of the tree trunks.
And then the locomotive veered off the tracks.
Holy mother of God!
He felt the ground shudder repeatedly as the locomotive hit the shoulder, then the coal car followed, then the small passenger car.
That is a small passenger car! What the hell?
The pilot metalwork plowed ground as the locomotive continued to the treeline, where it sheared off a half-dozen trees before finally coming to a stop. The locomotive then rolled onto its left side. The coal car immediately crumpled behind it, then rolled onto its side. And then the passenger car, after impacting the coal car with a deafening crunch of steel and wood, rolled over, too.
“Damn it!” Szerynski said, jumping to his feet from under the ground cover.
“Where is the prisoner boxcar?” Polko said.
“How the hell do I know? Let’s go!”
Polko was on his feet instantly. He made a shrill whistle to his men, then hand signaled them to follow their lead. Polko turned in time to see Szerynski leap across the narrow rails, then run in a crouch, his Sten machine gun trained on the passenger car.
Flames began to rise from inside the locomotive, lighting the night, and the steam engine’s boiler made a strange pulsating hissing sound.
When Szerynski looked in that direction, a man he immediately decided had to be the engineer appeared on top of the rolled-over locomotive. The engineer struggled with a long-barreled weapon—Damn it! He’s got a shotgun!—and Szerynski smoothly took him down with a three-round burst of 9mm from the Sten.
Polko and Szerynski then carefully approached the rear of the passenger car. There was no more singing to be heard.
A young Nazi soldier, bleeding heavily from the nose and mouth, then came crawling out the back door, grunting at the effort.
Szerynski saw that the collars of his gray-green SS field tunic bore the insignia of a master sergeant. The hauptscharführer looked to be maybe nineteen, somewhat younger than the SS they had seen guarding the sonderkommandos.
With the Germans suffering staggering casualties on so many fronts—nearly a million killed or taken prisoner in the Battle of Stalingrad alone—a new conscription law in January had ordered men between ages sixteen and twenty-five and women between ages seventeen and forty-five open to mobilization.
The hauptscharführer was going into shock—though not so severely that when he saw Szerynski he couldn’t turn on his side to pull at the flap of the holster on his belt.
Polko saw what was happening and quickly covered the distance between them. He slung the strap of his Sten over his left shoulder while slipping a Colt .45 ACP semiautomatic from his waistband. He aimed the pistol and fired once, hitting the hauptscharführer square in the chest and causing him to roll almost into a fetal position. Then he reached down and put another round in the base of his skull.
Polko glanced over his shoulder. He saw the rest of their men running up as Szerynski signaled for them to provide cover.
Szerynski and Polko then stepped closer to the passenger car. There were no sounds—human or other—coming from it.
Szerynski peered around the corner of the doorway that the young hauptscharführer had crawled out. But even with the flames from the locomotive he saw nothing inside but dark shadows. He could, however, smell the interior of the car. It reeked of peppermint—schnapps!—and cheese.
As he reached for his flashlight, he looked over his shoulder at Polko. He saw him pulling the dead bodyguard’s pistol from its leather holster. Polko put his .45 back in his waistband, then worked the action of the Luger. A 9mm round ejected. It landed at Szerynski’s feet. He saw it was a live one.
Well, that one sure as hell would have had my name on it.
Szerynski flicked on his flashlight and, pistol ready, shone the yellow beam inside the passenger car.
A parlor and a forward sleeping compartment . . .
This is a wealthy man’s transport!
The luxurious interior—rich carpet and draperies, leather-upholstered seating, and highly polished wooden paneling and heavy tables—was a shambles. Two more baby-faced young SS scharführer bodyguards lay crumpled against the door to the sleeping compartment, one sergeant atop the other. The one on top, whose head was turned at an impossible angle, suggesting a broken neck, had a drinking glass impaled in his blood-soaked face.
Szerynski’s flashlight beam next found the high-peaked black uniform cap of an SS officer—light reflected off its silver skull-and-crossbones Totenkopf and, above that, SS eagle insignias—then found the officer himself. He lay sprawled on his back against the crushed ceiling of the car. One of the highly polished wooden tables had sheared free and smashed into his upper body. A cut across his forehead had coated his face in blood.
So who the hell could he be?
Szerynski waved the flashlight beam around the interior one more time.
No one else in here . . . he’s got to be the one.
He turned to Polko and said, “Let’s get him the hell out of there.”
Polko signaled for two of his men to come closer.
He pointed with the Luger toward the SS officer and rapidly ordered: “Get that Nazi pig the hell out of there!”
The two men immediately crawled in through the door opening and then went to the SS officer. Szerynski was somewhat surprised when Polko also crawled in behind them, but then wasn’t when he went over to the two bodyguards, put the muzzle of the Luger to their temples, and fired a single round into each.
Then he spat on them.
When the two men pulled the heavy wooden table off the chest of the SS officer, he made a deep groan.
The bastard is alive!
Szerynski’s men, with some obvious effort, then dragged the overweight SS officer out the door, stopping about fifteen feet away from the passenger car. As the taller of the two removed the officer’s Luger from its holster and stuck it in his waistband—the checkered wooden grip was inlaid with a silver skull-and-crossbones Totenkopf—the shorter one yanked open the officer’s tunic and roughly searched inside.
After a moment, he made a face of self-satisfaction.
He pulled out a black calfskin wallet, then walked over and handed it to Polko, who then passed it to Szerynski.
“The Nazi pig’s papers,” Polko officiously announced, needlessly.
Szerynski opened the wallet, unfolded the SS identity booklet, and shone his flashlight on it. After he studied it, he glanced at the fat officer lying on the ground, then back at the ID.
An SS-sturmbannführer? he thought, then whistled lightly.
“What?” Polko said.
Szerynski ignored him. He walked over to the SS officer. The Nazi had his eyes closed. Szerynski nudged him in the hip with his boot.
“Herr Sturmbannführer, what is the purpose of your trip?” Szerynski said in German evenly, shining the flashlight on his bloody face.
The SS officer, who looked dazed, stared back but did not reply.
Polko quickly walked up and aimed his Luger at the officer.
“I shoot Nazi pig with Nazi pistol,” Polko said.
“No!” Szerynski said, as he pushed away the arm aiming the Luger. “Not yet.”
Szerynski reached to his shoulder holster, thumbed open the snap securing his semiautomatic, then aimed the .45 at the officer.
Szerynski looked back at the officer. “The purpose of your trip?”
The officer, after trying to wipe blood from his face, nodded once.
“I . . . I cannot say,” he said thickly, clearly in great pain.
“Cannot or will not? Tell me the purpose of your trip here!”
After a moment the SS officer answered, “I . . . I do not know. I was sent here on orders.”
“What do you mean, you do not know? And sent here by who?”
The SS officer, apparently considering his options, coughed once but did not answer.
“Who the hell are you?” Szerynski pursued.
He coughed again, then said, “SS-Sturmbannführer Klaus Schwartz.”
“No shit!” Szerynski snapped, waving the identity card in front of his bloody face. “It is on your ausweis! Right above your photograph and across from Himmler’s signature. So, did Herr Reichsführer personally school you in mass murder?”
As head of the SS, Heinrich Himmler had, with Hitler’s encouragement, created a powerful state within the state of the Third Reich that was answerable to practically no one. It had its own secret service—the Sicherheitsdiest, or SD—and its own secret police force—the Geheime Staatspolizei, or Gestapo—and its own army—nearly a million troopers in the Waffen-SS. The SS looted everything from cash to gold dental fillings of the millions sent to their deaths in the hundreds of SS-controlled konzentrationslagers.
Despite Himmler’s dumpy body and shifty appearance—he had a small head, beady eyes, and wore round spectacles—the coldblooded reichsführer was a force to be feared.
“I am not a mass murderer,” Schwartz said defiantly.
“Is that true?” Szerynski said. “How do you explain the boxcars of sonderkommandos sent here from the KL?”
The SS officer’s face showed surprise at the mention of the slave laborers from the konzentrationslager. And again he remained quiet as he considered his answer.
Then Schwartz shrugged. “I am merely—how do you say?—an assistant. I am nothing.”
That is bullshit!
Then why are you traveling with three SS bodyguards to visit a construction project?
“Bullshit! No SS-sturmbannführer is ‘nothing,’ you lying bastard.”
Szerynski put the muzzle of his .45 to the man’s forehead, causing him to involuntarily cross his eyes for a moment.
“And where is tonight’s train carrying sonderkommandos?” Szerynski went on.
Schwartz did not answer.
“Where?” Szerynski pursued, applying more pressure to his forehead with the muzzle.
Schwartz, looking past the pistol at Szerynski, still gave no answer.
Szerynski then turned to Polko and in Polish ordered, “Bring the rope. We can get him to talk.”
Polko nodded, then barked an order to his men.
The SS officer apparently understood the exchange. He waved his right hand, palm out. “That won’t be necessary.”
Szerynski pulled back his .45 and met his eyes. “Good.”
Schwartz nodded once—then had a sudden coughing spasm. He brought up his hands to his mouth. Szerynski thought that there was something odd about it. Then Szerynski noticed Schwartz fingering the seam of the cuff on his left sleeve—and then tossing something into his mouth and biting hard.
What the hell?
SS-Sturmbannführer Klaus Schwartz started foaming at the mouth. His body began convulsing.
After quickly dropping the black wallet and holstering his pistol, Szerynski bent over and tried to pry open Schwartz’s mouth.
“What?” Polko said, leaning over and trying to help.
“I think he swallowed a death pill. Maybe cyanide.”
Schwartz’s body then went limp, and there came a deep gurgling from his stomach.
Szerynski let loose of Schwartz’s head, and the chunky body fell to the ground with a dull thump.
“Damn it!” Szerynski said.
Polko then casually stepped forward and with the Luger pumped four rounds of 9mm into Schwartz, two into his chest, one into his groin, and the fourth into his forehead.
Then he spat on him.
That leaves only one round in your Luger, Stan.
Szerynski looked back to the passenger car and pointed at it.
“If you’re finished wasting ammo here,” he said, “get the men to collect everything they find in there. Leave nothing—especially ammo. You’re down to your last shot.”
Polko looked at the pistol, then back at Szerynski. His expression showed he hadn’t been counting.
Szerynski reached down for the black leather wallet.
“This should come in handy, especially if we find another SS uniform in this bastard’s suitcase.”
He gestured with it at the dead SS bodyguards.
“Make sure you get all their papers, too,” he said, then slipped it into his coat pocket.
“And what about bodies?” Polko said.
Szerynski, the flames from the locomotive lighting his face, pointed at the wreckage of the passenger car.
“Drag them back in there and then we burn everything,” he said.
Szerynski then pulled from his coat pocket a wool sock that contained two pounds of malleable Composition C-2 high explosive.
The sock looked as if it were stuffed with a fat link of sausage. An eighteen-inch length of Primacord snaked out of the overhand knot at the top of the sock.
“Remember what to do with this?” Szerynski said.
“Mold it around one of the rails at a track tie,” Polko said. “Then cover it with as big a pile of rock as possible to concentrate the explosion on the rail.”
“Right. And don’t set it off till we’re ready to get the hell out of here.”
He held out the plastic explosive to Polko, who suddenly turned his head at the faint sound of another steam locomotive.
“It’s the train carrying the prisoners!” Polko said.
Szerynski strained to hear the sound, then thought for a moment.
“We cannot ambush it now,” he said. “We have lost the surprise element.”
“But . . .”
“No but, Porucznik,” Szerynski said, and thrust the sock of explosive toward Polko. “Hurry, damn it! We cannot stop them from what they’re doing to the prisoners. But blowing the track will slow them down.”
Polko considered that, then grabbed the sock of C-2, made a casual two-finger salute, and trotted toward the train track.
Not quite ten minutes later, after his men had returned the dead to the passenger car and doused the interior with kerosene from a can used to fuel its heater, Szerynski tossed in a wooden match. The flame caught slowly and began to spread.
He started moving toward the edge of the forest, signaling all to follow.
As he and his men disappeared into the thick of the trees, behind them came a sudden whoosh and they were momentarily brightly illuminated by the flames engulfing the passenger car.
A moment later, the plastic explosive went off, and, a long moment after that, with Szerynski and his men now running toward where the other resistance fighters waited, dirt and small rock rained down.
[ TWO ]
OSS London Station
0910 30 May 1943
“Yes, Mr. Ambassador, I said I understand,” Colonel David Kirkpatrick Este Bruce, chief of the Office of Strategic Services London Station, said into the telephone, struggling to keep his tone civil. “I’ll see what I can do. Good-bye.”
Bruce—who had intense eyes set in a chiseled face, his dark hair starting to gray at the edges—was a distinguished-looking forty-five-year-old lawyer from a prestigious Virginia family. He had made his own fortune before marrying one of the world’s wealthiest women and—like his father-in-law, Andrew Mellon—had been a high-level diplomat.
“Damn him!” Bruce said as he slammed down the receiver.
An attractive brunette in her thirties suddenly appeared in the open doorway.
“Sir?” Captain Helene Dancy, Women’s Army Corps, said, the concern in her voice apparent. “Anything that I can do?”
Without looking up at his administrative assistant, Bruce barked, “Get Ed Stevens in here! And now!”
Dancy’s eyes went wide.
“Yes, sir!” she said, and spun on her heels to leave.
Her reaction wasn’t lost on Bruce, and he called out, “Helene?”
She stopped and turned. “Yes?”
“I’m sorry about snapping. Please accept my apology.”
She forced a smile, and turned again to leave. “Of course. It’s quite all right.”
Bruce added, “And bring some coffee, please. We are going to need a fresh pot.”
“Right away,” Bruce heard her call back as he turned in his high-back leather chair to look out the window at the gray day. He thought over the conversation just now that had triggered his uncharacteristic outburst.
I don’t know what aggravates me more—his arrogance, or me letting his arrogance get under my skin.
There was the sound of knuckles rapping on the wooden door frame. David Bruce spun his chair back around.
A tall, thin, silver-haired forty-four-year-old wearing a perfectly tailored worsted uniform of a U.S. Army officer stood in the doorway.
“Helene said you wanted to see me a week ago yesterday?” Lieutenant Colonel Edmund T. Stevens, deputy chief of OSS London Station, said. “What’s going on, David?”
Unlike Bruce, Stevens was not a diplomat with an assimilated military rank. He was a graduate of West Point, and had been personally recruited by the head of the OSS, William “Wild Bill” Donovan.
Before the war, Stevens had resigned his commission so that he could live with his family in England and help his wife run her wholesale food and wine import-export business. Part of Stevens’s duties had been to serve as the face of the business when dealing with the difficult upper-crust English businessmen. When Donovan had seen that Stevens handled them with remarkable ease, he decided those skills would well serve the OSS. Having military experience was icing on the cake.
Bruce waved for his deputy to come in, motioning for him to take one of the wooden armchairs in front of his desk. He glanced at the phone and said, “I just got off the line with Winant.”
There had been no love lost between David Bruce and the Honorable John Gilbert Winant. Bruce held himself to the highest standards—some suggested impossibly high standards—and had no patience for those who did not meet the same. He considered Winant, the ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary to the Court of Saint James’s, to be a weakling of the first order, which he believed was the absolute last thing they needed during wartime.
But Winant was the personal representative of the President of the United States of America—the embassy at One Grosvenor Square was a few blocks from OSS London Station’s Berkeley Square headquarters—as well as one of FDR’s buddies, and accordingly had long enjoyed FDR’s generosity.
Bruce realized that what really annoyed him about Winant was the fact that having an ineffectual envoy in such a high-profile position—especially after FDR essentially had called home Winant’s immediate predecessor, Joseph P. Kennedy, for being a defeatist—reflected poorly not only on America but also on its other representatives.
David K. E. Bruce, for example.
Bruce believed that America had a long history of fine ministers to the Court of Saint James’s—beginning in 1785 with its first, John Adams, who would become President of the United States—and it needed another strong one. And needed it now.
Bruce had old friends in the State Department who out of school told him that the Brits had approached FDR about the subject, whispering that they would be happy with Donovan assuming the position. But Bruce knew that there was no way in hell Wild Bill would give up being spymaster, and certainly not to be tied to an embassy desk and making cautious happy talk.
Donovan can be diplomatic. But as a rule Medal of Honor winners don’t suffer fools gladly. Wild Bill would much rather unleash that Irish temper and, borrowing his language, ream someone a new anal orifice than attempt to kill them with kindness.
“Winant,” Bruce said, “called inquiring what the hell is going on with General Sikorski. Apparently the Polish Government-in-exile is making it known at the embassy that it doesn’t feel it’s getting its due from the Allies.”
The sixty-two-year-old Wladyslaw Sikorski, who had served as commander in chief of the Polish Armed Forces and chief of the Polish General Staff, was prime minister of the Polish Government-in-exile in London.
Stevens raised his eyebrows. “After being trampled by the Germans and the Russians, I cannot say that I blame the Poles. But telling Winant anything about what we are doing to support Sikorski and the resistance is the last thing we need to do. Ironically, despite his position, he simply cannot keep his mouth shut.”
“Agreed,” Bruce said. “And Sikorski is tough. He smells Winant’s weakness and knows he can pressure him. To what end he will be successful, however, remains unclear. Because Winant, after the diplomatic firestorms that Joe Kennedy caused, won’t do anything without FDR signing off on it personally. And likely not even then.”
“Which is why he called you? To find out what we’re doing, and then tell Sikorski that that’s all he’s going to get?”
“That’s my take, except I’m not going to tell him because Sikorski has been valuable to us. We obviously want to keep it that way.” He took from his desktop a decrypted message from OSS Bern Station and passed it to Stevens.
“This is the response to my message to Allen Dulles about those SS identity papers.”
“The ones Sausagemaker got when they tried rescuing that trainload of prisoners?” Stevens said.
He noticed that Bruce made a face when he used the code name for the Polish resistance leader, Mordechaj Szerynski, and decided it was because it reminded Bruce that Major Richard M. Canidy had come up with it. Stevens knew that the diplomatic-minded Bruce was solidly in the camp of those who considered Canidy a reckless agent, and Canidy’s choice of flippant code names—among other unconventional acts—served only to reinforce that opinion.
Stevens, however, because his background was military and not diplomacy, understood Canidy’s actions as an OSS operative and thus held a far higher opinion of him.
Bruce nodded. “The ones that Sikorski passed to us two days ago.”
Stevens read the message:
“You know that this,” Stevens said, holding up the message, “is one of those instances where we provided the weapons and C-2 and—"
TOP SECRET X STATION CHIEF
OPERATIONAL IMMEDIATE _ FILE
COPY NO. 1
OF 1 COPY ONLY
FOR OSS LONDON
EYES ONLY COL BRUCE
FROM OSS BERN
MY ABWEHR SOURCE CONFIRMS THAT THE SS IDENTITY CARDS LISTED IN YOUR MESSAGE OF 28MAY ARE IN FACT GENUINE.
THE SS-SCHARFUHRER BABYSITTERS, WHILE LEGIT, ARE OF COURSE SMALL FRY.
BUT SS-STURMBANNFUHRER KLAUS SCHWARTZ -- SS MEMBERSHIP NO. 3,154, NSDAP NO. 10,654 -- IS A VERY BIG FISH. WITH VERY BIG TEETH.
THIS IS ONE OF THOSE RARE APPROPRIATE TIMES ONE CAN INVOKE THAT NEW FIGURE OF SPEECH THAT IT DOES NOT TAKE A ROCKET SCIENTIST TO UNDERSTAND THE IMPORTANCE OF SCHWARTZ HAVING SERVED AS CHIEF ASSISTANT TO SS-STURMBANNFUHRER WERNHER VON BRAUN -- SS MEMBERSHIP NO. 1,254 -- SINCE JANUARY 1943.
THEIR SS RANKS AND MEMBERSHIP NUMBERS ARE HONORIFIC, PERSONALLY MADE BY HIMMLER. AS A POINT OF REFERENCE, HITLER’S RIGHT HAND MAN, MARTIN BORMANN, HAS SS MEMBERSHIP NO. 555, ALSO HONORIFIC AND ASSIGNED BY HIMMLER.
SCHWARTZ, PRIOR TO JOINING VON BRAUN IN JANUARY, WAS HEAD OF RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT AT CHEMISCHE FABRIK FRANKFURT A.G. -- A MAJOR PRODUCER OF AGRICULTURAL CHEMICALS, PARTICULARLY PHOSPHATES FOR PESTICIDES -- FOR THREE YEARS.
CHEMISCHE FABRIK FRANKFURT IS OWNED BY RUHR VALLEY INDUSTRIALIST WOLFGANG KAPPLER, WHO I BECAME WELL ACQUAINTED WITH IN THE EARLY 1930S AT SULLIVAN AND CROMWELL BERLIN. I AM PRESENTLY TRYING THROUGH MY CHANNELS TO REACH KAPPLER TO GET HIS INSIGHTS ON SCHWARTZ. WHEN I KNOW SOMETHING, YOU WILL KNOW.
YOU DID NOT ASK, BUT AS TO SCHWARTZ’S PRESENT WHEREABOUTS, THEY ARE UNKNOWN. HE HAS GONE MISSING, OR AT LEAST NO ONE IS TALKING IF THEY DO KNOW WHERE HE IS. MY SOURCE WILL PROVIDE UPDATES AS AVAILABLE.
I MUST SAY YOU HAVE MY ATTENTION WITH THIS. CAN YOU TELL ME WHAT OUR INTEREST IS IN SCHWARTZ? YOUR LAST MESSAGE WAS QUITE CRYPTIC, EVEN BY OUR HUMBLE OSS STANDARDS.
“I do know,” Bruce interrupted, nodding.
“And not only to Sausagemaker,” Stevens went on, “but to the Sikorski Tourists who smuggled it in as well.”
“Yes. And it was through their pipeline that the SS identity papers were brought back here. And Sikorski fed them to us—after, I’m sure, making detailed copies for himself.”
When Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, Sikorski and his troops escaped through Hungary and Romania while the Polish Navy sailed the Baltic Sea for Britain. The routes of escape were kept open for his men—who, in a respectful nod, called themselves Sikorski’s Tourists—to go back in and support the resistance.
“That we’re supplying them with as much as a stick of chewing gum is something Winant doesn’t have the need to know,” Bruce said. “I’m certainly not going to give him any information that he’d use to rub in Sikorski’s face.”
“How are you going to handle his request then?”
“By adhering to something that Winant would appreciate, the unofficial maxim of the Corps Diplomatique.”
“I’m confident I can make a reasonable stab at that, but I’ll ask anyway: Which is?”
David Bruce said: “Quote Take no action on absolutely anything today that can be reconsidered tomorrow—or next month unquote.”
“Yeah, particularly with Winant, that would’ve been one of my first guesses,” he said, then looked back at the message.
“The magnitude of this just gets worse by the moment,” Stevens said after a moment.
“Unfortunately so. As Allen rather drily notes, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to connect von Braun’s work with this Schwartz’s.”
Major Wernher von Braun was thirty-one years old, a darkly handsome German of aristocratic heritage. His mother traced her royal heritage to France’s Philip III, England’s Edward III, and Scotland’s Robert III. In his finely tailored suits, von Braun looked more like a well-to-do corporate businessman than the absolutely brilliant scientist that he was.
It was well known that even before the war von Braun had been working on new technology involving rockets—including having discussions with Robert Goddard, the top American physicist—and that he now was making major advances for Adolf Hitler’s Thousand-Year Reich.
The OSS—through Allen Dulles’s source in the Abwehr, the German military intelligence service—had been told that one of von Braun’s projects was running the manufacturing and testing facilities for a range of new, almost secret weapons of his design. The self-propelled flying bombs were being called “aerial torpedoes”—the latest of which were reported to be able to carry a ton of TNT-based high explosive for two hundred miles at more than three thousand miles per hour.
They were “almost secret” weapons because Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels already was threatening that the V-1 and V-2—Vergeltungswaffe, or retaliation weapon—would first target London, wiping it out as payback for the Allied bombings that were devastating German cities.
“Before Ike went back to AFHQ last week,” Bruce said, referring to General Dwight D. Eisenhower, commander in chief at Allied Forces Headquarters, “he told Donovan and me that he was extremely concerned about the impact, if you will forgive the poor choice of words, of these new bombs.”
“Goebbels is broadcasting that the attacks will begin this coming December,” Stevens said.
“Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that that time frame is pure propaganda at this point.”
“But our intel tells us that the first, smaller version of these bombs is being tested.”
The Fieseler Fi-103 had a thirty-foot-long sheet metal fuselage, wooden wings, and a new jet engine that pulsed fifty times a second, creating a buzz sound. The Luftwaffe had flown—and crashed—the first one under its own power in December 1942.
“And that’s what worries Ike. He’s afraid that London under siege—whether six months from now or early next year, which would be far worse—will severely interfere with the cross-channel invasion now set for May.”
In 1942, then-Major General Eisenhower had written the plans for OPERATION ROUNDUP that he tried to get approved as the spring 1943 invasion of northern France. The British, however, wanted nothing to do with it. Prime Minister Winston Churchill favored attacking the Axis through the Mediterranean, what he called “Europe’s soft underbelly.” Now that that was happening—the Allies, having just captured North Africa, expected to have Sicily and Italy taken within a matter of months—additional plans were being hammered out for the invasion of France, this time at the coast of Normandy in spring 1944.
“Ike says keeping secret an operation on the massive scale that they’re planning—they’re building on his Roundup, mobilizing more than a million troops—is a challenge in and of itself. It follows, then, that the actual invasion would be impossible to ramp up and launch from England if London is being leveled at the same time.”
Stevens nodded solemnly.
“Now,” Bruce said, motioning toward the message, “getting back to Allen’s point of connecting why Schwartz has been working for von Braun. Those agriculture fertilizers he mentioned use concentrated amounts of phosphoric acids—"
“As do incendiary bombs,” Stevens interrupted.
“Exactly. And the same plant making chemicals for firebombs can make a high explosive like TNT. So call that Connect One.”
David Bruce then tapped his finger on a manila file folder on his desk.
“And here’s where it gets worse. I had Helene dig out this background on nerve gas that Professor Rossi put together before he left for the States,” he said, referring to the University of Palermo scientist whom Dick Canidy recently had rescued from the SS in Sicily.
“Rossi writes that thanks to a Herr Doktor Gerhard Schrader, who developed the industrial process for mass production of T-83, any facility capable of producing such chemicals can easily be converted to produce components for the nerve gas.” He paused, then added, “Thousands of metric tons of it.”
Tabun, code-named T-83, was colorless, mostly odorless, and, as far as chemists were concerned, relatively easy to make. It also was effective. It quickly attacked the central nervous system, causing intense convulsions, restricted breathing—and painful death.
“And thus the possible Connect Two,” Stevens said, meeting Bruce’s eyes as he handed back the sheet. Then without thinking, he suddenly added, “Canidy called this.”
David Bruce looked at Ed Stevens with a face of resignation.
“Canidy suggested the possibility when Donovan was here,” Bruce clarified.
Stevens said: “What I recall he said was, ‘It’s possible, but is it probable?’”
Bruce looked at him for a long moment.
“Right. None of these bombs can be allowed to strike here, period, no matter what they might carry. Where is he, by the way?”
Captain Helene Dancy came in with a wooden tray that held a pot of coffee and four china mugs.
“Where’s who?” she said as she put the tray on a table beside the couch.
“Canidy,” Stevens and Bruce said almost simultaneously.
“Either on his way to see Stan Fine in Algiers,” she said, reaching for the coffeepot, “or already there. Said he had unfinished business.”
Stevens and Bruce exchanged glances.
“Ed here will pour us the coffee, Helene,” Bruce then ordered, “while you go grab your message pad. We have an urgent for General Donovan.”
[ THREE ]
OSS Algiers Station
0923 30 May 1943
“That lying sonofabitch!” Major Richard M. Canidy, United States Army Air Forces, who was a big-boned six-foot-tall twenty-six-year-old with close-cropped dark hair and deeply intelligent dark eyes, said, angrily waving a decrypted secret message. “Why is he saying that the Nazis never had a yellow fever lab in Sicily? I saw the damn thing, Stan. I blew it up.”
Canidy looked at Captain Stanley S. Fine, USAAF—a tall, ascetic thirty-five-year-old who had a thin, thoughtful face framed with horn-rimmed glasses—sitting across from him on the main balcony of La Villa de Vue de Mer. The “Sea View Villa,” an 1880s French Colonial-style four-story mansion built high on the lush hillside, served as OSS Headquarters, Mediterranean Theatre of Operation.
The villa belonged to Pamela Dutton, the wealthy widow of one of Wild Bill Donovan’s law school buddies. Wentworth Danfield Dutton had served in the United States legation to Algeria. Mrs. Dutton had made her own fortune in New York City importing Italian shoes for women. With Donovan’s promise that the villa would be preserved and protected, she had let it to the Office of Strategic Services for the sum of ten dollars per annum.
Fine was wearing a U.S. Army tropical worsted uniform. Canidy—under his brown horsehide A-2 aviator’s jacket with the gold leaves of a major pinned to its epaulets—had on a tan button-down shirt, brown woolen trousers, and calfskin chukka boots that he had pulled from the wardrobe in the master suite. It wasn’t the first time he’d helped himself to the diplomat’s clothing made at a local haberdashery—he’d done that for the missions to Sicily—and it wouldn’t be the last.
Two piles of the typewritten messages were next to a dented stainless steel thermos on the massive Mediterranean teak table. Fine picked up the battered thermos.
“I know,” he said, pouring rich aromatic Algerian coffee into one of Mrs. Dutton’s fine china cups. “And that’s not the first message to contradict what you did in Palermo.”
Canidy shook his head as he looked out. The view was absolutely stunning. The capital city spread out below on a gentle slope that ended at the port some ten kilometers away. Beyond that, the vast Mediterranean Sea sparkled to the horizon. At anchor and moored at the docks in the circular harbor were military man-o’-wars flying the flags of the U.S. and England, and recently arrived American Liberty ships either off-loading their cargo or awaiting their turn to do so. Silver barrage balloons floated above the harbor, their steel cable tethers discouraging enemy aircraft from strafing the harbor and ships.
Major Canidy and Captain Fine each had an AGO card—a sealed identity card issued by the Adjutant General’s Office—that stated they were members of the U.S. Army Air Forces. If anyone questioned their status, and checked military records, their names would be duly listed.
But of course both were attached to the OSS.
Fine, despite an appearance that some mistook as being possibly frail, was in fact absolutely fearless. And he efficiently accomplished his job—in and out of channels—using a creative ability that Canidy described as “beating back the rear echelon bastards and their endless red tape and bureaucratic meddling.”
Canidy would know. He, too, was expert at bending—and often outright breaking—rules in order to get done what had to be done, damn those who got in the way.
Until being sent on the missions to Sicily, Dick Canidy had served as chief of OSS Whitbey House Station—commonly known to the agents training there as Canidy’s Throat Cutting and Bomb Throwing Academy—which was an ancient, massive eighty-four-room stone structure on a twenty-six-thousand-acre country estate outside London.
That position had made him the OSS’s number three man in England, after the chief and deputy chief of OSS London Station.
For the missions in Sicily, however, Canidy had reported directly to OSS Washington, to Director William “Wild Bill” Donovan himself. He knew that that had not moved him up to number two in all of the OSS—but it damn sure put him pretty high in the pecking order.
Which in itself was a remarkable achievement. Because Canidy had not exactly been a willful recruit into the world of espionage.
Dick Canidy’s dream had been to be a pilot, and he’d attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, paying his way with a Navy scholarship. He graduated in 1938, cum laude, with a bachelor of science degree in aeronautical engineering.
He wasn’t particularly excited about having to pay back the Navy with four years of service. It was no secret he felt constrained by the military and its starchy rules and regulations. Still, he pledged that he would honor his obligation—but not serve a single second longer. Having accumulated, in addition to his MIT degree, a commercial pilot’s license, an instrument ticket, and 350 hours of solo time, he already was entertaining job offers, one in particular from the Boeing Aircraft Company in Washington State.
After three years in the Navy—with barely a year left on his obligation before he could pack his bags for Seattle—Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Richard M. Canidy, USN, was at Naval Air Station Pensacola when he was approached by a grizzled man named General Claire Chennault.
It was June 1941, and Canidy, an instructor pilot in the backseat of single-engine bi-wing Kaydet trainers, was with fledgling naval aviators day after day flying a mind-numbing circuit around the skies of the Florida Panhandle and southern Alabama.
Chennault was a legendary general known not to mince words with his gravelly voice. In short order, he bluntly laid it out to Canidy that the United States could not stay out of the world war much longer, that when it did join in the fight there would be an enormous demand for aviators, that there was no way the military was going to let skilled pilots out of the service—and that he, Canidy, would then be front of the line, assigned to flying missions God only knew where.
But, the general told him, there was an option.
Chennault—with FDR’s approval, if not discreet direct order—was pulling together a group of volunteer pilots, really good pilots. Their mission would be flying Curtiss P40-B fighters to defend the two-thousand-mile-long Burma Road that was the critical route for getting Western aid to China from Japanese attack.
The contract with the Chinese was for one year, Chennault explained, and monthly pay came in at six hundred dollars—twice what Canidy got from the Navy. As further incentive, the general added, Canidy would also pocket a five-hundred-dollar bonus for each Jap he shot down.
Canidy, always quick to take care of Number One first, signed up. He could not decide which was better—making more money or getting an honorable discharge from the Navy that came as part of the package.
Being a Flying Tiger with Chennault’s American Volunteer Group (AVG) in Kunming, China, turned out to be damn dangerous. But Canidy rose to the challenge. And he proved that not only had he been born to fly but—with five kills on a single sortie, making him a certifiable ace—he was a natural fighter pilot.
About the time he was counting out his twenty-five-hundred-buck bonus, a self-important bureaucrat type showed up on the AVG flight line. His name was Eldon Baker, and he wasted no time showing that he was a consummate prick. But when he produced from his suit coat pocket his orders personally signed by the President of the United States, Canidy paid attention.
It was December 1941, and Baker announced that with America now in the war, he was there to recruit Canidy into an outfit so secretive that he couldn’t tell him anything about it, only that it was important enough for the President to send him clear across the world to bring Canidy back.
That did not exactly convince Canidy to go along—for starters, he did not like the fact that he would be leaving his buddies alone to keep shooting Japs out of the sky.
He was, however, realistic enough to know that, no matter how good of a fighter pilot he was, odds were that eventually he’d meet his match—or that he’d screw up or that a Jap just got lucky, or all of that—and he’d be sent to meet his maker courtesy of a hundred-plus 7.7mm rounds from a Mitsubishi A5M machine gun. And, getting back to taking care of Number One, accepting the asshole Baker’s offer would mean he would be another step closer to being done with his military service obligations.
He soon discovered he was dead damn wrong.
Back in Washington, D.C., Baker finally revealed to him that the outfit was something called the Office of the Coordinator of Information, and its director, a Colonel Donovan, was answerable only to Roosevelt himself. Baker said COI needed Canidy—and certain of his connections—to help smuggle out of North Africa a French mining engineer who the Germans also were after—an engineer who both sides knew was critical to the building of a nuclear bomb that would win the war.
When Canidy idly inquired as to what would happen if he now decided that he didn’t want any part of the COI in general, and the mission in particular, Baker practically shoved the answer down his throat.
“You either agree to this ‘mission of considerable risk,’ ” Baker coldly replied, “or, now that you’re privy to information that’s classified as Top Secret–Presidential, you could be institutionalized for ‘psychiatric evaluation’ for a period of time—habeas corpus having no bearing on the mentally disturbed being protected from themselves—which, in the interest of ensuring that our secrets stay secret, will last for at least the duration of the war.”
Canidy was furious at himself for being caught in what he considered was little more than a high-level government con game. Yet intellectually he knew that what Baker said was more than a loosely veiled threat. He really had no option but to choose the mission—and then decided that, assuming he survived the damn thing, he could somehow figure a way to get the hell out of COI afterward.
Soon thereafter, Canidy was assigned the assimilated rank of a major in the United States Army Air Corps and given credentials that stated that. He also was given other credentials—ones to be used as a last resort—declaring that he worked for the Office of the Coordinator of Information, which carried a presidential priority.
Baker’s “considerable risk,” Canidy soon learned, was something of an understatement. The mission had required life-or-death decisions, ones that were cold and ruthless. And ones, somewhat surprising him at first, that he found himself perfectly capable of carrying out.
And Canidy then came to the realization that his experience in COI was not unlike what he’d had in Chennault’s AVG. Which was to say, Canidy not only rose to the challenge of being a spook, but was damn good at it.
Wild Bill Donovan also recognized that Canidy—having proven expert at espionage and sabotage, at the “strategic services” needed to win the war—was an extraordinarily natural operative. And over time, Canidy was given greater responsibility.
More missions included grabbing other engineers and scientists out of German hands, smuggling uraninite for those scientists to use in building the nuclear bomb in the President’s Manhattan Project, modifying B-17 Flying Fortress bombers as explosive-filled drones, even getting involved with the head of the New York City Mafia, Charles “Lucky” Luciano, leading Canidy to discover that the Germans held weapons of chemical and biological warfare in Sicily.
Donovan was said to be of the opinion—one which Stanley Fine agreed with—that Canidy had become almost the perfect spy.
Almost, because Canidy had managed to put himself in a position that no spy was supposed to be in: absolutely indispensable.
Canidy handed the message back to Fine, then gestured toward the taller of the two stacks on the massive teak table.
“And all of those are from Tubes?” Canidy said.
“All from Tubes,” Fine confirmed.
The first week of April, Canidy had set up in Palermo a clandestine OSS wireless telegraphy station, code-named MERCURY STATION. Its operator was twenty-four-year-old Jim “Tubes” Fuller.
“Well, at least all are from Mercury,” Fine went on. “Those, and there are others in the commo room files, a couple of which state that the crates you found with the nerve gas never existed either.”
Fine held up the thermos toward Canidy, making a more? gesture with it. Canidy glanced at his cup, made a face when he saw that it was empty, and pushed it to him.
“This is insane,” Canidy went on. “The station clearly is compromised. Because whoever is running it does not realize that Tubes would know that I was involved with destroying both. I just don’t understand why they’re denying that either was there in the first place.”
Fine took a sip of coffee, then offered: “Damage control? The SS knows that it was blown up—maybe not that you did it but that it did get destroyed—so the lie becomes it never existed to try to make all of it secret again.”
Canidy considered that for a long moment. Then his eyebrows shot up.
“And the reason to make it secret again,” he said, “is because they brought more in? Nerve gas and/or yellow fever? In anticipation of our invading?”
Fine met his eyes, then slowly nodded.
“That is a real and distinct possibility,” he said. “There is no doubt more Tabun—both stockpiled and being manufactured—and there certainly has been time for more shipments to arrive ahead of Operation Husky.”
Canidy looked out across the Mediterranean Sea, in the direction of Sicily, and sighed audibly.
“Not fucking again!” he said.
[ FOUR ]
Almost two months earlier, on the moonless night of March 22, Canidy had smuggled Professor Arturo Rossi out of the Port of Palermo aboard a forty-foot wooden fishing boat, the Stefania. To suggest that Rossi—a metallurgist carrying a suitcase that contained no clothing but was instead packed with all his scientific papers from the university—was anxious to leave Sicily would have been akin to suggesting that the Pope might be a little bit devout.
Rossi was under no delusion as to what he could expect from the Nazis should he in some fashion disappoint them. He had seen one colleague executed by SS-Sturmbannführer Hans Müller of the SD and watched another die slowly and painfully in the SS’s yellow fever experiment that Müller oversaw.
Canidy, with the Stefania’s engine idling and her lines already let loose, then learned from Rossi that the rusty ninety-foot-long cargo ship tied up alongside at the dock had arrived that morning with nerve gas munitions in her hold. Canidy made the split-second decision to sink the ship at its mooring, and had quickly rigged it with C-2 plastic explosive and a time-delay fuse.
When Wild Bill Donovan had read Canidy’s after-action report, then met with President Franklin D. Roosevelt to relay the information that the Nazis had sent nerve gas munitions to Sicily, FDR became furious. He wanted absolute proof. And so, nine days after seeing the moonless sky glow with the flames of the burning cargo ship, Dick Canidy, at the direct order of the President of the United States, was headed back to Sicily, this time leading a three-man team.
Aboard the submarine Casabianca, Canidy had briefed his team that their main mission was to find out if nerve gas had indeed been on the boat that he’d blown up at the dock and, if so, what damage had been caused by it.
“We’re supposed to get in, get the intel, and, if the place is nothing but rotting corpses, get the hell out.”
But it turned out that there had not been mass casualties. Canidy’s team found only two dead in the harbor area. Agents of the Sicherheitsdienst had tortured a pair of Sicilian fishermen—bashed out their teeth with the steel-plated butt of a Mauser Karabiner 98 and gouged out their eyes with its bayonet—and left them hanging from a yardarm.
The mission then became threefold: One, to find out what had happened to the nerve gas munitions. Two, to ensure that the villa with the yellow fever experiment had been destroyed. And three, to establish MERCURY STATION—a clandestine wireless telegraphy station—that would send intel to OSS Algiers for developing underground connections in Sicily and building a resistance that could rise up when the Allies arrived with OPERATION HUSKY.
It had been Stan Fine’s idea to use Roman mythology for the mission’s code names—“There’s so much of it here, who would think twice about it?” Thus, they code-named the radio station after the messenger god, Mercury, and the submarine Casabianca after the god of the sea, Neptune. Dick Canidy became Jupiter (the supreme god of Italy and Rome), Jim “Tubes” Fuller was Maximus (“the greatest”), and Franciso Nola was Optimus (“the best”).
Canidy had first met Franciso Nola—a solidly built thirty-five-year-old with an olive complexion, thick black hair cut close to the scalp, a rather large nose, and a black mustache—in New York City, where he’d fled with his family mostly because his wife was Jewish but also because his cousins had been imprisoned by Mussolini’s secret police. A commercial fisherman, he still owned boats in Palermo that worked the Mediterranean waters. He not only offered Canidy the use of these but volunteered to personally help fight the fascists in any way he could.
It had been through Nola that they learned what happened with the howitzer rounds with the Tabun in Palermo. The warehouses that Nola’s fishing boats used for his import-export business were overseen by a pair of dense longshoremen. When Canidy met the Brothers Buda—Giacomo and Antonio were in their early thirties, around five-five and two hundred pounds, with bad bowl haircuts and belly fat rolls that stretched tight their dirty overalls—he quietly nicknamed them Tweedle Fucking Dee and Dumb.
With some effort, the Budas explained that their crews had offloaded wooden crates of what they called “buh-lets,” pallets of fuel, and field rations from the rusty ninety-foot-long cargo ship that Canidy had asked about—but of course had not said that he’d sunk with the plastic explosive.
Shortly thereafter, they said, two SS officers had arrived at the warehouse, had an argument with SS-Sturmbannführer Müller, and then Müller had ordered the Brothers Buda to make certain that the wooden crates of buh-lets with the painted stencil marking of SONDERKART.6LE.F.H.18 T83 10.5-CM would get loaded aboard another cargo ship that was en route.
When Canidy had read through his binoculars the stencil markings, he decided that the “10.5-CM” signified the crates contained 105-mm howitzer rounds. He sent that information via wireless message to Professor Rossi at OSS Algiers. Rossi confirmed that they were howitzer rounds—and, more importantly, that the “T83” was the code for Tabun.
Having finally met the mission’s main objective—finding conclusively that the Germans did have ready munitions for chemical warfare—Canidy made plans to destroy them. Then he blew up the villa where the SS was conducting the yellow fever experiments. And he announced to Frank Nola and Tubes Fuller that they would be staying behind and manning the clandestine MERCURY STATION.
That night, Dick Canidy had been back aboard the Casabianca, awaiting the cargo ship now carrying the Tabun howitzers, when Captain Jean L’Herminier dialed it in and gave the command to fire the torpedo that sent the nerve gas to the bottom of the sea.
And the next day, back at OSS Algiers Station, the first of the message traffic from mercury station began coming in regularly. Including confirmation that the Germans were furious that the villa and cargo ship had been destroyed.
Stan Fine flipped through the taller stack of decrypted typewritten messages, found what he wanted, and handed it to Dick Canidy.
Canidy read it:
“That’s almost a half-million soldiers,” Canidy said, handing back the message. “And a hundred and fifty railcars loaded with tanks and howitzers every day?”
TOP SECRET X STATION CHIEF
OPERATIONAL IMMEDIATE _ FILE
COPY NO. 1
OF 1 COPY ONLY
FOR OSS ALGIERS STATION
EYES ONLY CAPT FINE
FROM MERCURY STATION
1. ITALIAN AND GERMAN FORCES ARRIVING PORT OF MESSINA DAILY VIA FERRY FROM ITALY MAINLAND.
ITALIANS -- ELEMENTS OF ITALIAN 6TH ARMY. EXPECT TOTAL OF 250,000 TROOPS BY END OF MONTH.
GERMANS -- 2 PANZER DIVISIONS WITH 60,000 TROOPS SPLIT BETWEEN PALERMO AND MESSINA. ANOTHER 4 DIVISIONS WITH 120,000 TROOPS SAID TO ARRIVE BY MID-JUNE AND MOVE TOWARD SOUTH COAST. MESSINA BEGINNING TO LOOK LIKE IT COULD BE DOWNTOWN BERLIN.
SOURCE: OPTIMUS BOAT CREW
2. EVERY DAY 4 HEAVILY GUARDED TRAINS, WITH 25-30 CARS EACH, LOADED WITH MILITARY VEHICLES, TANKS, AND ACK-ACK GUNS LEAVE MESSINA AT 1700 GMT FOR CATANIA AND SYRACUSE, AND 1 TRAIN WITH SIMILAR CARS AND CARGO LEAVES EACH DAY AT 1900 GMT FOR PALERMO.
SOURCE: TRAINMASTER AT MESSINA
Canidy thought for a moment, then said: “It’s—what?—two miles across the Strait of Messina to the toe of Italy?”
“A little farther, but not quite three.”
“And Sicily is the same time as here—”
“Same, GMT plus one,” Fine supplied.
“—so that means they’re moving the trains at night. Which would make them harder targets.” Canidy paused, then said, his tone incredulous, “A half-million men? Those have to be exaggerated numbers. How the hell could Tubes possibly know that?” Then his tone turned sarcastic as he added, “Not from Frank Nola’s brilliant boat captains.”
“Well, those fishing boats do spend a lot of time in the various ports, and their crews have a lot of connections there—"
“Connections?” Canidy interrupted. “They’re all practically related. Tweedle Fucking Dee and Dumb come immediately to mind.”
“—But I agree the numbers are likely inflated. It makes perfect sense that the Germans would want us to believe they’re putting more forces there, particularly after Mincemeat.”
Canidy knew a number of minor ruses de guerre had been put in play in anticipation of the Sicily invasion, including British Field Marshal Sir Henry Wilson’s army, based in Egypt, making movements that looked like preparations for its invasion of Greece and then the threat of advancing further to the Balkans.
But the biggest deception had been OPERATION MINCEMEAT.
In late April, “Major Martin”—a cadaver in a Royal Marines battledress uniform with a briefcase chained to him—had been set adrift from a British submarine just off “neutral” Spain. Secret and personal papers in the briefcase had been created at OSS Whitbey House Station to suggest the major was a courier en route from the United Kingdom to Allied Forces Headquarters when his aircraft crashed and he washed ashore. After the “most secret” papers—disinformation on the true plans for OPERATION HUSKY—fell into the hands of Spaniards sympathetic to Hitler, they were photographed by German agents and the copies sent up to the German High Command.
ULTRA—the code name given to intelligence that was taken from intercepts of secret messages encrypted by German Enigma cipher machines—quietly revealed every step along the way. Including that German intel personnel in Berlin then judged the content of the materials to be entirely credible.
“According to Ultra,” Fine went on, “Hitler has just now—on May thirteenth—announced that he believes the Sicily invasion is a diversion, and that, as Major Martin’s Top Secret papers said, Greece is next. Which of course was exactly what he feared, making the whole deception even more believable to him.”
“Tell them what they want to hear,” Canidy said.
Fine nodded. “So Hitler has demanded that ‘measures regarding Sardinia and the Peloponnese take precedent over everything else.’ ”
He gestured at the shorter of the two piles of messages.
“There’s traffic in there from the two Sandbox teams that we sent in to support the Greek resistance. As the Germans begin moving armored divisions by train to Greece, the teams will help the resistance in taking out bridges and rails to keep those divisions there—and far away from being able to reinforce Italy and Sicily.”
Canidy pointed to the message from MERCURY STATION.
“It would not hurt to have another team go in to see if we can corroborate any of what’s in that. And another team to save Tubes’s ass. I left the poor bastard there. . . .”
Fine exchanged a long look with Canidy, then said, “Jim wanted to go operational. You know that, Dick.”
“Yeah, I do. And he actually did a damn good job while I was there with him.”
“And you do know that twice we sent in teams to try locating him and Nola, right?”
“Twice? What happened?”
“Each time Mercury Station went off the air. And when it finally returned, it was always with the excuse that Nola had had to go deep underground to evade the Italian secret police, and Tubes went along to keep the station from being detected. Then suddenly the station’s back up and he’s sending these detailed messages.”
Canidy shook his head. “Assuming they are in fact under SS control, we’re damn lucky the SS didn’t set up a trap for those teams—lure them in to execute them.”
ULTRA had revealed one of Adolf Hitler’s secret orders, issued on October 18, 1942: “All enemies on commando missions—in or out of uniform, with or without weapons, in battle or in flight—are to be slaughtered to the last man. Should it be found necessary to spare one or two for interrogation purposes, these men are to be shot immediately after interrogation.”
“Trust me,” Fine said, “knowing that Hitler has ordered that all captured spies be executed, we were very cautious about that. That the teams were not ambushed suggests that the Germans value keeping Mercury Station on-air more.”
“And if they’d either killed them or made them controlled, too, that would have sent the signal that Mercury Station was compromised.”
After a moment, Canidy said: “Then Tubes really is being controlled.”
Fine said: “John Craig van der Ploeg has been sending Tubes chickenfeed since that first suspicious message he showed you on April tenth.”
While the SS was prone to execute captured enemy agents—something they readily did well before Hitler sent out the order to do so—they would spare those radio operators who agreed to transmit under control. Knowing this, Allied agents were trained to use a secret danger signal that let their case officer know they had been compromised—signing off, for instance, as “Will” instead of the usual “Bill.” That allowed the transmission of factual but harmless intel—the so-called chickenfeed—to the agents to keep them alive until a rescue mission could be staged or Allied troops overran their position.
But even without the use of the secret danger signal, chickenfeed could prove effective.
Fine went on: “That was more than a month ago, and John Craig says in that time he’s only become more convinced that Tubes hasn’t independently worked the radio.”
Canidy saw Fine’s eyes look beyond him, past the pair of French doors that opened onto the balcony, which was off the main living area. He heard the sound of footsteps, and then felt the presence of someone standing behind him.
Canidy turned his head in time to hear John Craig van der Ploeg declare, “And I still am convinced of that.”
[ ONE ]
2046 25 May 1943
“That skittish bastard gave us only a two-hour heads-up,” the driver of the black taxicab—a somewhat battered 1938 Mercedes-Benz 260D—said to the passenger as he made the turn onto the cobblestones of Kramgasse. “This is our only chance to grab The Sparrow. Don’t screw it up, Eric.”
“I won’t if you won’t,” Eric Fulmar replied from the backseat. “Too bad Canidy isn’t here. This is right up his alley.”
Fulmar was twenty-four years old, blond and blue-eyed, and had a lithe build packing enormous energy and power.
With a slight squeal of brakes, the four-door sedan rolled to a stop one block shy of the medieval Zeitglocke clock tower.
The Zeitglocke—or “time bell,” featuring a three-thousand-pound bronze bell struck by a gilded human-sized Chronos, the Greek personification of time—rose almost a dozen stories above the busy Kramgasse. Since the thirteenth century, the baroque-style landmark built of stone had served as a prison, a guard tower, and, now, with its fifteenth-century astronomical clock and nearby shops and coffeehouses, a city attraction popular with those trying to forget a world war threatened their neutral country. That blackout rules were in effect, and the street mostly dark, did not exactly help in that regard.
As the Mercedes’s idling diesel engine rattled, Eric Fulmar pulled a Colt Model 1911A .45 ACP pistol from the right pocket of his dark gray woolen overcoat.
The driver—Geoff Sanderson, who was thirty years old, of average build and soft facial features—did not jump or otherwise immediately react when he heard the metallic sound of the semiautomatic’s slide pulled back on its spring and then released to slam forward. He was more than accustomed to the sound of a round being chambered. He had done the same with his own .45—which he had on the seat beside him, concealed under a hat—a half hour earlier at the OSS safe house just across the River Aare.
“You’re just now remembering to do that?” Sanderson said sharply.
“Better late than never,” Fulmar replied matter-of-factly as his thumb clicked down the lever that locked the hammer in its cocked position.
“If you’d thought of it sooner, you’d have had time to feed the magazine another round,” Sanderson said, and smugly added, “Like I did.”
Fulmar grunted as he slipped the pistol back in his overcoat pocket.
“Unlike you,” he said, “I tend to hit what I shoot at with my first shot—if I have to shoot.”
He then reached inside his left sleeve and pulled from the scabbard strapped under his forearm a Fairbairn-Sykes, a black doubled-edged dagger. He touched the tip of the slender five-and-a-half-inch-long blade to the back of the driver’s neck, added light pressure, and said, “Usually this is all I need.”
Their eyes met in the rearview mirror.
This time it was Sanderson who grunted.
He then grinned and said, “I thought I taught you never to bring a knife to a gunfight.”
Fulmar grinned back. He knew they both subscribed to what was taught in Canidy’s Throat Cutting and Bomb Throwing Academy at OSS Whitbey House Station: If you’re close enough to stab them, you’re damn sure close enough to shoot them.
“Besides,” Sanderson went on, “you know that orders are not to use either unless absolutely necessary—we want this bastard alive.”
From THE SPYMASTERS — Book
VII in the best-selling MEN AT WAR series.
Published 7 August 2012.
Order copies here.
©2012 W.E.B. GRIFFIN. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.