VICTORY AND HONOR
by W.E.B. Griffin
& William E. Butterworth IV
IN LOVING MEMORY OF
Colonel José Manuel Menéndez
Cavalry, Argentine Army, Retired.
He spent his life fighting Communism and Juan Domingo Perón.
There was little question by January 1945 that the Axis—Germany, Japan, and Italy—had lost the war. It was now just a matter of time.
In early 1942, just before the Japanese conquest of the Philippines was complete—the greatest defeat in American history—President Franklin Delano Roosevelt ordered the American commander in the Philippines, General Douglas MacArthur, to Australia.
On Corregidor Island, as MacArthur boarded a small patrol torpedo boat at a wharf in Manila Bay, he made the melodramatic promise to the Philippine people, “I shall return!”
On October 20, 1944, after he had waded ashore from one of the landing craft that had carried troops of the United States Sixth Army onto the beaches of Leyte, ignoring Japanese mortar and sniper fire, MacArthur melodramatically proclaimed, “I have returned!”
On January 17, 1945, Soviet troops forced the Germans out of Warsaw, and ten days later liberated the Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camps, where they found the remains of more than a million people who had been murdered by the Germans.
On January 28, 1945, the Battle of the Bulge—Germany’s last-ditch attempt to turn the tide of war in Western Europe—failed. The Americans suffered some 75,000 casualties, the Germans nearly 100,000. The Americans easily recovered from their losses. The Germans had thrown just about all of their reserves into the fight and had no means of recovery.
Most historians agree that after the Battle of the Bulge, the Germans had absolutely no hope of winning the war.
On April 12, 1945, Franklin Roosevelt, the thirty-second President of the United States, died suddenly at Warm Springs, Georgia. With him at the time was his mistress, Lucy Mercer, his wife’s former social secretary.
Roosevelt was not quite four months into his fourth term as President.
Vice President Harry S Truman, who had seen Roosevelt only twice since their inauguration—never for more than fifteen minutes, and he had never been alone with him during that time—was sworn in as the thirty-third president on the afternoon of Roosevelt’s death.
The next morning, Lieutenant General Leslie Groves, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officer in charge of something called the “Manhattan Project,” went to Truman in the Oval Office and said, “Mr. President, there is something you have to know.”
He then went on to tell President Truman what President Roosevelt had felt the former U.S. senator from Missouri should not know: The United States had secretly developed a new superweapon, called the “atomic bomb,” and two of these devices were available for use.
On April 25, 1945, Major General Isaac Davis White’s “Hell on Wheels” Second Armored Division, with its bridges across the Elbe River, was prepared to take Berlin. Ordered to halt in place so as to permit the Red Army to take Berlin, White—a direct descendant of Isaac Davis, the man who fired “the shot heard around the world” at Concord Green, thus starting the American Revolution—was reported to be so angry that he kicked the windows out of his truck-mounted command post.
On April 28, 1945, Benito Mussolini and his mistress were captured by anti-fascist Italian partisans, executed, and then hung upside down from a light pole.
On April 30, 1945, as Soviet troops came close to the “Fuhrer Bunker” in Berlin, Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun—his ex-mistress and bride of mere days—committed suicide. As soon as Dr. Josef Goebbels had seen that their bodies had been burned, the Nazi propaganda minister stood by as his wife fed cyanide capsules to their six children, and then she and he bit into their own capsules.
On May 2, 1945, Red Army troops completed the capture of Berlin and the last German troops in Italy surrendered.
On May 7, 1945, Germany surrendered unconditionally.
[ ONE ]
Rua Rodrigues Sampaio 17
3 May 1945
The younger man quickly stood when he saw the older man enter the restaurant and walk toward his table.
The older man was in his fifties, featured an ill-defined mustache and somewhat unkempt gray hair, and wore a black single-breasted garment with little or no padding in the shoulders—what members of his social class thought of as a “sack suit”—with a white buttondown-collar shirt and bow tie.
He looked like a distinguished schoolteacher. Indeed, he always reminded the younger man of the Reverend Richard Cobbs Lacey, headmaster of Saint Mark’s of Texas, an Episcopal preparatory school in Dallas at which, a decade earlier at age fourteen, the younger man had had a brief—five-month—and ultimately disastrous association.
The younger man wore the somewhat splendiferous uniform of a South American Airways captain—SAA wings on a powder-blue tunic with four gold stripes on its cuffs and darker blue trousers with an inch-wide gold stripe down the hem.
Neither man was what he appeared to be.
The older one, whose name was Allen Welsh Dulles, was deputy director for Europe of the Office of Strategic Services. And the younger one, whose name was Cletus Howell Frade, was a Marine Corps Reserve lieutenant colonel detached for service in South America with the same U.S. spy organization.
They shook hands. Then Dulles motioned for Frade to sit, and found his seat.
A waiter appeared.
“A Johnnie Walker Black Label—a double, neat—for me,” Dulles ordered, and then asked, “Cletus?”
Frade shook his head. “I’m flying. Or at least I think I am.”
Dulles nodded, then looked at the waiter and said, “Just the one drink, please.”
The waiter left.
“So, how goes the war?” Frade said.
“In one sense, rather well,” Dulles began, then paused as he saw the waiter suddenly approaching with his drink.
When the waiter had left again, Dulles raised his glass in salute and solemnly said, “To victory in Europe.”
He took a sip and then went on in explanation: “Just before I left Berne to come here, I learned that German forces in the Netherlands, Denmark, and northwestern Germany will surrender tomorrow to Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery at Lüneburg Heath, just southeast of Hamburg.
“Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz, now head of the German state, has sent Admiral von Friedeburg, his successor as commander in chief of the German navy, to General Eisenhower’s headquarters in Rheims to set up things. And Colonel-Generaloberst Alfred Jodl—the chief of staff of OKW, who will actually sign the surrender documents—is on his way to Reims as we speak.”
“And the other sense? What’s that? The reason you’re not in Reims?”
“I thought it more important—and so did Graham—that we had a talk before you went back to Argentina. The other sense, Clete, is that our war—Graham’s, mine, and yours—is just about to begin.”
Frade’s eyebrows went up when he heard his name rolled in with those of Dulles and Colonel Alejandro F. Graham, USMCR, the deputy director for the Western Hemisphere of the Office of Strategic Services. Both men were equals in the OSS, reporting directly to—and on occasion directly defying—OSS Director William “Wild Bill” Donovan.
“That sounds ominous,” Frade said. “Who are we going to fight?”
“It’s a long list of belligerents, I’m afraid, starting with those Germans you know are already in South America under the Nazis’ Operation Phoenix and planning, at some point, to resurrect the Thousand-Year Reich. And the Soviet Union, of course. Josef Stalin really is not Friendly Uncle Joe, as Roosevelt and Eleanor have tried so hard to make us believe. But our immediate enemies are Admiral Leahy and General Marshall and others of their ilk. And possibly Harry Truman, although he may surprise us. And, of course, not to forget Henry Morgenthau.”
“The secretary of the Treasury?”
“The secretary of the Treasury,” Dulles confirmed.
“You don’t really think anybody’s going to go along with that nutty idea of his . . . what’s it being called? ‘The Pastoralization of Germany’?”
“Yes, Cletus, I’m afraid that I do. They want Germany powerless, and believe completely demolishing its industry will accomplish that. But what I actually was thinking about is Morgenthau finding out about the deal we quietly struck with Colonel Gehlen. Morgenthau’s Jewish. He has every right in the world to loathe and detest the Germans for what they did to the Jews—and see that they’re punished for it. He quite seriously proposed summarily executing the top one hundred Nazis as soon as they came into our hands. I shudder to think what Morgenthau would do if he knew we had arranged the movement of several hundred Nazis to sanctuary in Argentina.”
“That’s been a constant question in my mind from the beginning,” Frade said, and his memory flashed with his initial oh shit! reaction to being told of the operation some sixteen months earlier in this same hotel.
Frade clearly recalled Dulles and Graham announcing that the plan was not only for American spies to smuggle German spies to South America—but for Frade’s OSS spooks and SAA Lockheed Constellation aircraft to carry out the operation. They explained that they had made the secret agreement with Lieutenant Colonel Reinhard Gehlen, who was head of Germany’s Abwehr Ost—Russian—intelligence. Gehlen believed (a) that Germany was losing the war—they said he in fact was involved with Count von Stauffenberg in Operation Valkyrie, the plan to assassinate Adolf Hitler—and (b) that after the war, Gehlen’s agents faced firing squads or worse, particularly if Stalin had a say.
So Gehlen offered to the OSS all his assets, data, and agents-inplace in exchange for Gehlen and his officers and their families not falling into ruthless Russian hands.
Perhaps even more staggering—if protecting enemy agents at war’s end wasn’t outrageous enough—was the fact that Dulles and Graham were doing this specifically without anyone’s knowledge or authority—including Wild Bill Donovan’s. They explained that if they didn’t tell the OSS chief, then he could honestly say he never knew. But more important, if they did tell Donovan, he’d likely feel duty bound to share it with his boss, FDR. And then—if against incredible odds they actually got approval—the secret soon would find its way to others—Morgenthau and Vice President Henry Wallace leapt to mind—who would act on their moral outrage over aid and comfort of the Nazis.
And the OSS—and America—would lose Gehlen’s great wealth of intelligence on Communist spies, especially those who had infiltrated America’s all-important atomic bomb program, the Manhattan Project.
Dulles and Graham further explained to Clete that sharing this devout distrust of Communists were certain elements within the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy, influential ones who offered to readily supply Vatican-issued passports and other papers identifying Gehlen’s men and their wives and children as, respectively, priests and nuns and ophans seeking safe passage to South America to perform God’s work.
Having taken an oath to defend the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic, Cletus Frade came to agree with the position that Morgenthau and all others who simply sought retribution against the Germans would cause the U.S. even greater harm if they failed to secure Gehlen’s intel.
And shortly thereafter Frade’s SAA Connie left Lisbon for Buenos Aires with the first load of Vatican-sponsored priests, nuns, and orphans among its passengers.
Sixteen months later, Frade asked, “Are we going to do any more of that, now that the war’s over?”
He sipped his scotch and then said, “There’s another thirty-five or so of Gehlen’s men still in Germany that we promised to get out. Which we are going to have to be even more careful about now with Germany’s surrender; word is that Morgenthau has ordered the Secret Service—it being, of course, under the Treasury Department—to assign agents to track what happens with senior Nazis, particularly those top one hundred he’d like seen stood before a firing squad and mowed down with machine guns.”
“Tracking every senior Nazi won’t be easy for them to do.”
“Agreed. But there are two things in play. One, Morgenthau is on a mission he devoutly believes in, and will not be deterred.”
Frade nodded. “And the second?”
“That some Secret Service agent need only stumble across one of Gehlen’s men we’re smuggling for our whole operation to be blown.”
Frade made a face, then said, “Well, if you and Graham are right about the Russians—and I think you are—then making the deal was the right thing to do. Why the hell wouldn’t Morgenthau also see that?”
“If I were Jewish,” Dulles said, “I don’t think I’d be able to see it. Particularly after seeing the movies of the concentration camp ovens. And the bodies. And insofar as destroying German industry is concerned, I’ve always thought it had more to do with punishing the Germans than anything else.”
“Colonel Graham told me he thought it had more to do with giving the Russians a license to steal what’s left of German industry and move it to Russia. He said that the plan had been written by Morgenthau’s deputy, a guy named Harry Dexter White, who he and J. Edgar Hoover were agreed was a Communist.”
“I submit the possibility that we’re both right,” Dulles said.
“You said Admiral Leahy and General Marshall are our enemies, too,” Frade said. “What did we do, change sides?”
“Clete, you know that the OSS has always been a thorn in the side of the Army and the Navy. I don’t think it’s too far off to say they’ve always hated us—them and especially Hoover’s FBI—for any number of reasons, some of them valid but most simply visceral. We’re not like they are. From the beginning, we had Wild Bill Donovan’s friendship with Roosevelt to protect us.
“Roosevelt is gone. The military establishment is already telling Truman it’s time to shut down the OSS. The war in Europe is over, and General MacArthur refuses to permit us to operate in the Pacific. What worries me is that Harry Truman won’t—doesn’t know how to—say no to the generals.”
“I always thought generals and admirals were afraid of presidents, not the other way around.”
“Harry Truman was a captain in the First World War. After it, he joined the reserves and stayed in. He’s currently a reserve colonel. Colonels—with certain exceptions, such as Graham and you—don’t argue with generals. It’s not a question of if the OSS will be shut down, but when. And whenever it happens, it will leave a vacuum that won’t be good for the country.”
“When do you think it will happen?”
“The Army, Navy, and State Department intelligence people will probably start to try to take us over—or try to take over individual operations, such as yours—possibly right about now. I don’t think we’ll be officially shut down for three, maybe four months.”
“And what am I supposed to do when that happens?”
“That’s what I came to tell you, Clete—that I don’t know what to tell you to do. You’ll be on your own. If, for example, some would-be admiral in the Office of Naval Intelligence arrives in Buenos Aires and says, ‘You now belong to me, so give me everything you know about everything here,’ you could not be faulted for doing just that.
“But, on the other hand, if you decide that handing over information or assets to someone would not be good for the country . . .”
“What would I do with stuff—with the people, the assets, all of it—I decided not to turn over?”
“You could, as I intend to, go on the perhaps naïve premise that sooner or later—very likely later, much later—President Truman, or even his successor—they’re already talking about General Eisenhower in that capacity—will see there is a need for an agency like the OSS and resurrect it.”
“My sentiments exactly. I believe that will happen, Clete. But in this agreement with Gehlen I have to believe that will happen, don’t I?”
Frade met Dulles’s eyes a long moment, then said, “If I turned over what I know about all of Gehlen’s people I’ve gotten into South America, how long do you think it would take for Morgenthau to find out?”
Dulles considered the question as he sipped at the scotch. He finally said, “A week. Possibly as much as two. People have a tendency to present the misbehavior of others to their superiors as quickly as they can.”
“The Gehlen operation was your decision. So, if I opened my mouth about that, you’d be in trouble, right?”
“I don’t want you to take that into consideration, Clete.”
“And if I did roll over, a lot of people who don’t need to know about the Gehlen operation get to know about it and the Russians get to know about it, right? Probably before Morgenthau does?”
“That seems a credible scenario.”
“And the Russians learn everything about Gehlen’s agents in place, right?”
Dulles looked Frade in the eyes but did not reply.
Frade went on: “Whereupon the Russians execute them. And I won’t be responsible for that.”
“That would have to be your decision, Clete, taking into account what it would mean for you. You’d be liable to find yourself in very hot water.”
Frade shook his head in frustration.
“Well,” he said, “I’ve been in hot water before, but if I declare that I don’t know anything, then I don’t know anything.”
Dulles said, “To repeat myself, that would have to be your decision.”
“What happens to von Wachtstein and Boltitz now?” Frade then said.
Major Hans-Peter von Wachtstein had been deputy military attaché for air—and Frade’s mole—in the German Embassy in Buenos Aires. Frade had asked Dulles to have him and Kapitän zur See Karl Boltitz, the embassy’s naval attaché, safely moved to the States. Both of their fathers had been in Hitler’s High Command—and both targeted for execution for their participation in Operation Valkyrie.
While the fate of Peter’s father still was unknown, the OSS had evidence of Karl’s father being killed—and it hadn’t been a stretch of anyone’s imagination to believe that Hitler would have ordered the sons hung from a meat hook, too.
“What do you mean?” Dulles said.
“I mean, do they get sent back to Germany? Or what?”
“That’s the most likely scenario.”
“You arranged to get them sent to Fort Hunt. Can’t you arrange to get them sent back to Argentina? They could be a great help in dealing with the bad Germans there, starting with those involved with Operation Phoenix.”
“I’ll try. That would be the decent thing to do, and I will try. But right now I don’t see how I could help.”
Frade shook his head, then sarcastically said, “Whoopee!”
Dulles drained his drink.
“I am sorry, Clete. Unfortunately, that is the nature of our business.”
Frade was silent a long moment, then sighed.
“Yeah, I know,” he said, “but it damn well doesn’t mean I have to like it. Thank you for leveling with me, Mr. Dulles.”
“How many times have I asked you to call me by my Christian name?”
“I could no more call you ‘Allen’ than I could call Colonel Graham ‘Alejandro.’ ”
“You could if you tried.”
“And if that’s all you have for me, Mr. Dulles, I’ll get in my airplane and fly another load of Germans wearing clerical garb and carrying Vatican passports to sanctuary in Argentina.”
Frade stood and put out his right hand. Dulles took it.
“We’ll be in touch,” Dulles said.
Clete nodded and walked out of the restaurant.
[ TWO ]
Washington National Airport
1310 10 May 1945
The four-engine, triple-tail Lockheed Constellation was the finest transport aircraft in the world. In 1939, Howard Hughes, the master aviator whose vast holdings included the majority of shares in Trans World Airlines, had ordered the superplane built to his specs. It was capable of flying forty passengers in its pressurized cabin higher (an altitude of thirty-five thousand feet) and faster (cruise speed was better than three hundred knots) and for a longer distance (forty-three hundred miles) than any other transport aircraft. Its wing design was nearly identical to that of the single-seat Lockheed Lightning P-38 fighter—although on a far grander scale.
South American Airways would have never received a single Connie if President Franklin D. Roosevelt had not had what Clete Frade thought of as a “hard-on” for Juan Trippe and his Pan American Airways.
Actually, if Roosevelt had not been beyond pissed at Trippe—who had hired, then at first refused to fire, Colonel Charles “Lucky” Lindbergh after the world-famous aviator had dared to cross FDR—there never would have been a South American Airways at all.
But SAA did indeed exist, and it had not just one but a total of eleven Connies, setting it up to dominate transoceanic air travel postwar—and angering the volatile Juan Trippe no end.
Graham had told Clete: “FDR really knows how to carry one helluva grudge.”
Four days earlier, when Clete had landed South American Airlines Constellation Ciudad de Mendoza at Buenos Aires’s Coronel Jorge G. Frade airport—after a one-stop, Dakar-Senegal, flight from Lisbon—his wife had been waiting for him with a radiogram.
By the time Cletus broke ground at the controls of South American Airways Constellation Ciudad de Córdoba four hours later, he was absolutely convinced he was on a roll.
LOS ANGELES CAL 3 PM 9 MAY 1945
CLETUS H FRADE
SOUTH AMERICAN AIRWAYS
BUENOS AIRES ARGENTINA
LITTLE CLETUS STOP THERE ARE FIVE CONNIES IN THE USED CAR LOT STOP IF YOU CAN HAVE YOUR BANK GUARANTEE PAYMENT AND GET THEM FLOWN OUT OF HERE WITHIN FIVE DAYS THEY ARE YOURS STOP REGARDS HOWARD
When he hadn’t been considering all that Allen Dulles had told him about their new enemies, Frade had spent much of the time between Lisbon and Buenos Aires wondering what the hell he could do about Peter von Wachtstein and Karl Boltitz. He wanted them out of prisoner-of-war confinement at Fort Hunt, Virginia, and back to Argentina—or somewhere safe—yet hadn’t come up with much of anything.
Howard Hughes’s radiogram solved just about everything.
While Frade was genuinely delighted to be able to buy five more Connies for SAA, taking a dozen pilots and six flight engineers to Los Angeles to pick them up was the cherry on that cake. It gave him a reason for the flight that would satisfy the curiosity of the U.S. government.
And there was a cherry on that cherry, too. “Aunt Martha” Howell was the only mother Clete had ever known—his mother having died in childbirth when he was an infant—and Clete was about twelve before he realized that his sisters Beth and Maggie were really his cousins. They had not yet seen Cletus Howell Frade, Jr., who was now five months old. He could pick up the women in Midland or Dallas and bring them to Buenos Aires now and worry about getting them back to the States later.
Most important—the cherry on top of the-cherry-on-the cherry—once Frade was in the States he could have a shot at getting Peter and Karl out of Fort Hunt.
He hadn’t figured out exactly how he was going to do that, but he wasn’t worried.
He was on a roll.
Clete made a very low approach in Ciudad de Córdoba along the Potomac River to the runway of what he thought of as “Gravelly Point”—the mudflats that in 1941 had been filled in to provide an airport near Washington.
Frade keyed his microphone and in Spanish said to his copilot, “I think, Gonzalo, that this would be a good time to dirty the bird up.”
“Gear coming down, flaps to thirty,” Gonzalo Delgano replied.
As chief pilot of South American Airways, Delgano wore a uniform—one even more colorful than Frade’s SAA uniform—that had five gold stripes on the tunic cuffs, an inch-and-a-half-wide stripe down each hem of his trousers, and SAA wings topped with a circled star.
Somewhere over North Carolina, Clete had changed out of his SAA uniform. He now wore his Marine Corps uniform, the silver oak leaves of a lieutenant colonel on the epaulets and collar points, and it brought back the memory of the first time he’d landed here, in October 1942, as a first lieutenant. He’d been twenty-two, and recently returned from flying F4Fs of Marine Fighter Squadron VMF-221 off Fighter One on Guadalcanal—where he’d become an ace.
Sitting beside him in the Eastern Airlines Douglas DC-3 had been Colonel A. F. Graham. The previous day in Los Angeles, Graham had promised Frade immediate relief from a Pacific War Heroes War Bond Tour if he agreed to join something called the Office of Strategic Services. Frade had never heard of the OSS, but he would have volunteered for service in the New Orleans Girl Scouts if that guaranteed his ticket off the tour.
After Frade signed a document that made clear that the penalty for revealing anything about the OSS was castration by dull knife—and worse—Graham told him that he was being sent to Argentina: (a) to command a three-man team whose mission would be to destroy allegedly neutral Spanish and Portuguese merchant vessels resupplying German submarines, and (b) to establish contact with Coronel Jorge G. Frade—his politically powerful father, quite probably the next president of the Argentine Republic—and attempt to tilt him toward the Allies. Clete knew next to nothing of his father, except that his grandfather, the legendary Texas oilman Cletus Marcus Howell, called him “an unmitigated three-star sonofabitch.”
Against great odds, Clete had—more or less—accomplished both missions.
On Lieutenant Colonel Cletus H. Frade’s uniform—above ribbons representing two Distinguished Flying Crosses and three Purple Hearts he had won on Guadalcanal—there was the ribbon representing the Navy Cross. His citation for the nation’s second most senior award for valor mentioned nothing about his aiding in the destruction of a “neutral” ship and the German submarine it was resupplying in the River Plate. Doing so would’ve caused substantial diplomatic problems for the United States government.
And, as a son, Cletus had more than made peace with his father—shortly before the Schutzstaffel—the notorious “SS”—had had Coronel Jorge Frade killed.
The SS’s unlimited capacity for cold-blooded murder was now on Clete’s mind as he brought the Constellation in on final at Washington National. He was going to do everything in his power to save Peter and Karl.
Frade hadn’t talked to the Washington National control tower—if he had, they almost certainly would have denied him permission to land. He had filed a flight plan to the airport in Baltimore, and National had no idea he was coming until someone in the tower had seen the huge airplane, gear and flaps down, coming up the Potomac River lined up with the runway.
Furthermore, this clearly wasn’t an American airliner coming in to land. South American Airways was lettered down the sides of the fuselage, and there were Argentine flags prominently displayed on each of the three vertical stabilizers.
Already Clete could see frantic activity on the field. There was a reception party assembling. It was riding in a Follow Me jeep, a Ford pickup truck—and a second jeep festooned with flashing lights, siren, and the legend military police. Heavily armed MPs rode standing up, keeping an eye on the huge aircraft.
But . . . that’s to be expected.
Could this be the end of my being on a roll?
Frade touched down the Connie on the numbers marking the beginning of the runway and immediately put the propellers of the four Curtiss-Wright Cyclone engines into reverse.
And kept his hand on the throttle pitch levers.
He had landed here in a Connie once, though in the right seat. Howard Hughes had been the pilot. Clete knew that Hughes habitually did things with airplanes beyond the capabilities of lesser pilots, even including former Marine Corps fighter pilots.
Frade didn’t have approach charts giving him the length of the runway, but he remembered Howard using up most of it. And now Frade knew it was very likely he would run out of runway and have to go around—take off and make another attempt at landing.
But when he finally got the aircraft stopped, he had about three hundred yards of runway left.
Yes! Still on a roll!
After being led by the Follow Me jeep and other vehicles to a quiet part of the tarmac, Frade ordered the engines shut down. Chief Pilot Delgano glanced out the windscreen.
Everyone was looking up at the Constellation with surprise, awe, or anger—often in combination.
“Cletus,” Delgano said, “I really think we should have gone into Baltimore.”
“I should be back in about two hours,” Frade said, unstrapping his harness. “I want to take off ten minutes after that. If I’m not back in three hours, go to Buenos Aires without me.”
Frade left the cockpit and started walking through the just-about empty passenger compartment. There were forty-one seats, only six of which were occupied. Among the passengers were two male South American Airways captains and three females. The women were Mrs. Martha Howell and her daughters, Elizabeth, twenty-one years old, and Marjorie, nineteen.
Beth Howell stopped Clete as he walked down the aisle.
“When you see Colonel Graham, ask him about Karl, please,” she said.
To Clete’s utter surprise—once again proving, he told himself, he could be blind to the obvious—he’d recently learned that Beth and Karl were romantically involved. They had been making the beast with two backs as recently as when they all had gathered for Jorge Howell Frade’s christening and maybe going all the way back to when Beth and Karl met at Clete and Dorotea’s wedding.
“Sure,” Clete said to Beth—but he thought, With a little bit of luck, Graham won’t learn I’ve been anywhere near Washington until sometime tomorrow.
The sixth passenger was a burly, middle-aged man wearing a suit.
He was now carefully checking a rope ladder he’d tied to the aircraft’s floor at the rear door. Frade had figured it was highly unlikely that Washington National would have a set of steps—or even a ladder—tall enough to reach the fuselage of the new aircraft.
“Ready, Don Cletus,” the man said after he had hung the ladder out the door.
His name was Enrico Rodríguez. He was a retired suboficial mayor—a sergeant major—of the Húsares de Pueyrredón regiment of the Argentine Cavalry. All his adult life, he had served Coronel Jorge Guillermo Frade, first as batman and chauffeur, then as bodyguard.
He had been beside him—and left for dead—when el Coronel Frade had been assassinated, and now quite seriously believed God’s mission in life for him was to protect el Coronel’s only child.
Cletus went to the door and knelt to get on the ladder.
“Leave the shotgun, Enrico. And if you have a pistol, leave that, too.”
Enrico looked very unhappy.
“Or stay on the airplane,” Frade finished.
Rodríguez first took a Remington Model 11 twelve-gauge riot shotgun from where he had it suspended under his suit jacket and wrapped it in a woolen blanket on the aircraft floor.
He looked at Frade, who raised his eyebrows in question.
Rodríguez then reached under his jacket and came out with a Ballester Molina .45 ACP semiautomatic pistol, which was a variation of the 1911-A1 Colt pistol, manufactured in Argentina under license from Colt. He carefully added it to the blanket with the Remington and looked at Frade.
Frade’s eyebrows rose higher.
Rodríguez met his eyes for a moment, then shrugged. He raised the right leg of his trousers and took a snub-nosed Colt Police Positive .38 Special revolver from an ankle holster and hid it with the other weapons.
“This is America, Enrico. No one is going to shoot at us here.”
“You are the one, Don Cletus, who says that one never needs a gun until one needs it badly.”
Frade nodded, then quickly went down the rope ladder. Rodríguez followed.
[ THREE ]
On the tarmac, Frade and the welcoming committee examined each other.
Lieutenant Colonel Cletus H. Frade—one hundred ninety pounds on a trim six-foot frame—carried himself with the élan, some would say the arrogance, of a Marine fighter pilot.
The MPs—a captain, a sergeant, and a private first class—saluted when they saw his silver oak leaves. Frade returned the salute and handed the senior of the MPs a small leather wallet.
The MP captain examined it.
It contained a gold badge on one side and a sealed-in-plastic photo identification card in the other. The photo ID was clearly patterned after the Adjutant General’s Office identification cards issued to commissioned officers. There was space for a photo, a thumbprint, and the individual’s name, rank, and date of birth.
But this was not an AGO card. In its center was the Great Seal of the United States. In two curved lines at the top was the legend THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, and under that, OFFICE OF STRATEGIC SERVICES. A rectangular block at the bottom, with space for the individual’s name and rank, identified Cletus H. Frade as an area commander.
The credentials were not exactly bona fide—although they had been manufactured by the OSS’s Document Section. A Princeton professor of psychology with three doctoral degrees recruited into the OSS thought it would be nice if OSS operators in the field had their own credentials.
Wild Bill Donovan had lost his famous Irish temper when he’d seen them.
Absolutely unbelievable! Who the hell does this academic think OSS agents would show these? They’re spies, for christsake!
He tossed the sample credentials in his Shred and Burn wastebasket and tried to forget about them. But when Colonel A. F. Graham, his deputy director for the Western Hemisphere, showed up at his door, Donovan decided to share them for a laugh.
After inspecting them, Graham said, “May I have these, Bill?”
“You’re serious, Alec?”
“Yeah. It’s no secret in Argentina that Frade and his men are OSS. He may find a use for them. He’s resourceful.”
“He’s a damn dangerous loose cannon,” Donovan had replied, then pushed the credentials to Graham. “Get them out of here. Every time I see them, I get mad all over again.”
Graham had been right. Frade had successfully used them a few times—once to dazzle the stubborn commander of the Army Air Corps base in Brazil. When he saw Frade identified as an OSS area commander, the chickenshit had become the poster child for cooperation and goodwill. That experience had made Frade think they just might work at Washington National now.
“How may I help you, Colonel?” the MP captain, looking appropriately impressed, said.
Well, Frade thought as he took back the wallet, that worked.
So far, so good. Still on a roll ...
“Presumably, Captain, you’re in charge of security?” Frade asked.
“I will be here no more than three hours,” Frade said. “I’ll be loading five passengers. Three of them may already be here. I’ll get the ones who are not. I don’t want anyone to get near my aircraft.”
“Yes, sir,” the captain said. “I understand.”
Frade gestured toward Enrico. “Sergeant Major Rodríguez here is under strict orders to keep the aircraft secure.”
Clete noticed that Enrico read between the lines—that he was going to stay with the airplane and not accompany Clete—and was both surprised and glad that Enrico did not protest being left behind.
“Yes, sir,” the captain repeated. “There won’t be any problem.”
“We didn’t get any heads-up about this,” one of the civilians, a starchy heavyset man in a cheap suit, charged in an officious tone.
“Of course you didn’t,” Frade said. “You’re from the airport, right?”
“Yes, I am.”
“We’ll require fuel, of course. And enough food for a dozen people for a ten-hour flight. In Marmite cans. You can bill that to the OSS, right?”
“I’d have to have authorization.”
“From the OSS.”
“Then you just got that authorization,” Frade said. “Now, has anybody seen a chauffeur-driven 1940 Cadillac?”
“As a matter of fact,” the MP captain said, “there’s a car like that in the parking lot.”
Frade turned to the civilian from the airport.
“See what you can do about a real ladder or stairs to get up there,” he said, pointing to the Constellation’s rear door. “I’m not sure my passengers will want to climb a rope ladder.”
“I’m sure I can come up with something,” the man said.
As Clete approached the custom-bodied Cadillac, his grandfather’s chauffeur got out and opened the rear door. Tom, a silver-haired black man, had been driving Cletus Marcus Howell around Washington for as long as Clete could remember.
The Cadillac had a gasoline ration sticker affixed to its windshield.
The otherwise glistening door had stripes of dull black tape on it, obviously to cover something on the door. Until that morning, the door had shown a legend required by the Office of Price Administration.
There had been gasoline rationing in the United States since early 1942, not because there was any shortage of gas but because there was a critical shortage of rubber to make tires.
A fairly complicated distribution system had been set up. At the bottom end were ordinary citizens who received two gallons of gas a week. At the top were politicians, from local mayors to members of Congress, who got all the gasoline they said they needed. Ordinary citizens got an “A” sticker, whereas congressmen and other important politicians got an “X” sticker.
In between were those who were issued “B” or “C” or “D” stickers. “B” meant the car was being driven by someone essential to the war effort; somebody driving to work in a tank factory, for example.
A “B” sticker was worth eight gallons a week. “C” stickers were worth as many gallons of gas as clergymen, doctors, and “others essential to the war effort” could convince the ration board to give them. “D” was for motorcycles, which got two gallons per week.
There was a “C” on the windshield of the custom-bodied Cadillac, which was registered in the name of the Howell Petroleum Corporation. Cletus Marcus Howell was chairman of the board of Howell Petroleum, and he had been more than a little annoyed that he had to go to a ration board and beg for gas so that he could conduct the business of Howell Petroleum, whose oil wells and refineries in Texas, Louisiana, and Venezuela were turning out many millions of gallons of gasoline every day.
But he had put up with the regulations of the Office of Price Administration because he thought of himself as a patriotic American, and because his only grandson, Cletus Howell Frade, a Marine hero of Guadalcanal, was still serving his country.
He had, however—almost literally—gone through the roof when the Office of Price Administration decreed that passenger vehicles enjoying the privilege of extra gasoline because they were being used for business had to paint the name of that business and its address on doors on both sides of said vehicle, so that the citizenry would know that no one was getting around the system. The Office of Price Administration had helpfully provided the size of the lettering and the color that had to be used.
The dull black stripes on the door of the Cadillac had been applied to conceal the legend painted in canary yellow that was prescribed by the Office of Price Administration:
Sixteenth and H Streets Northwest was the address of the Hay-Adams Hotel, where Cletus Marcus Howell kept an apartment—and the Cadillac—for use when he was in Washington. It was across from the White House.
Howell Petroleum Corp.
16th & H Streets, NW
The universally loathed gas rationing had ended almost immediately after the Germans had surrendered unconditionally on May 7, 1945. As soon as that news had reached Cletus Marcus Howell, at his home in New Orleans, he had telephoned Tom, the chauffeur, and told him to cover the goddamn door sign immediately, until the door could be repainted.
“Nice you see you again, Mr. Clete,” Tom said.
“Nice to see you, too, Tom.”
“Where we going?” Tom said as he got in behind the wheel.
“Fort Hunt,” Clete replied from the backseat. “You know where it is?”
“Never heard of it.”
“You weren’t supposed to have heard of it, Tom.”
“Where is it?”
“I haven’t a clue. Somewhere around Alexandria.”
1405 10 May 1945
Finding Fort Hunt, it turned out, wasn’t at all difficult. Surprisingly, there had in fact been a highway sign with an arrow pointing the way.
Getting into Fort Hunt was another story.
One hundred yards off the highway, there had been another sign, this one very large:
“What do I do, Mr. Clete?” Tom asked.
STOP AND TURN AROUND NOW!
RESTRICTED NATIONAL DEFENSE ESTABLISHMENT ENTRANCE TO FORT HUNT STRICTLY FORBIDDEN WITHOUT PRIOR CLEARANCE
TRESPASSERS WILL BE PROSECUTED BY ORDER OF THE COMMANDING GENERAL MILITARY DISTRICT OF WASHINGTON
“Let’s see what happens if we ignore that,” Clete said.
What happened a half-mile down the road was the appearance of two MPs, both sergeants and both armed with Thompson submachine guns. They stood in the middle of the road. One of them held out his hand in an unmistakable Stop Right Damn There! gesture and the other looked as if he would be happy to finally be able to shoot the Thompson at somebody.
Tom stopped the Cadillac. Almost immediately, an Army ton-and-a-half truck, commonly called a weapons carrier, appeared behind the Cadillac. An MP jumped from the passenger seat, and two more MPs from the truck bed. They all had Thompsons, and they were clearly determined to do their duty to keep interlopers not only from getting into Fort Hunt, but also from escaping now that they had been captured.
The sergeant who had made the Stop Right Damn There! gesture now marched toward the Cadillac, with the other covering his back. He had almost reached the car when he saw that the passenger was in uniform, and that the insignia of a lieutenant colonel was on his collar points and epaulets.
He went to the rear door and saluted. Clete returned it as the window rolled down.
The MP said, “Sir, may I have your prior clearance?”
“Take me to the commanding officer, Sergeant,” Clete replied, then nodded at the MP standing behind him. “And tell the sergeant there that if he intends to fire that Thompson, he’d better work the action.”
That didn’t have to be repeated. The sergeant immediately looked down at his weapon and clearly recalled that the Thompson submachine gun fired from an open bolt. Looking more than a little chagrined, he pulled back the bolt, thus rendering it operable.
Frade met the eyes of the MP at his window, smiled, then said, “Have you a vehicle we can follow, or would you rather ride with us?”
“Just a moment, Colonel, please, sir,” the sergeant said.
After consultation with the others, the sergeant returned to the Cadillac and got in the front seat. The sergeant with the now functioning weapon walked to the weapons carrier, got in the front seat, and signaled for all but two of the others to get in the back. The two exceptions started walking in the direction of a guard post mostly hidden in the heavily treed roadside.
The weapons carrier moved to the front of the Cadillac.
“If you’ll just follow the truck, please?” the sergeant sitting beside Tom said.
Frade knew the highly secret mission of Fort Hunt—the interrogation of very senior enemy officer prisoners, predominantly German, but including a few Italians and even, Colonel Graham had told him, two Japanese—but he had never been here before. It was not an imposing military installation, just a collection of built-in-a-hurry-to-last-four-years single- and two-story frame, tarpaper-roofed buildings. Clete wondered why it was called a fort. Most for-the-duration military installations—like the senior officer POW Camp Clinton he had visited in Mississippi—were called camps.
The two-vehicle convoy stopped at one of the two-story frame buildings. It bore the sign HEADQUARTERS, FORT HUNT. Standing in front were two U.S. Army soldiers, a slight, slim, bespectacled lieutenant colonel in a somewhat mussed uniform, and a stocky, crisply uniformed master sergeant. Both wore MP brassards on their sleeves and carried 1911-A1 pistols in holsters dangling cowboy-like from web belts, instead of the white Sam Browne belts that MPs usually wore.
Both looked with frank curiosity at the little convoy.
“Wait here, please, Colonel,” the MP sergeant sitting beside Tom said as he opened his door.
Screw you, Clete thought. I want to hear what you tell those two.
Frade was out of the Cadillac before the MP had reached the soldiers standing in front of Headquarters, Fort Hunt.
The two looked curiously at him. The master sergeant, apparently having spotted Frade’s silver oak leaves, said something behind his hand to the lieutenant colonel, whereupon both saluted.
“Good afternoon,” Clete said cheerfully as he returned the salute.
“Why do they call this place a fort? It looks as if it was built yesterday.”
The question was obviously unexpected.
Clete saw on the Army lieutenant colonel’s uniform his name: KELLOGG.
After a moment, Kellogg said: “Actually, it was a fort. It was built for the Coast Artillery just before the Spanish-American War.”
“And the land once was part of George Washington’s farm,” Kellogg added.
“I’ll be damned!”
“How can we help you, Colonel?” Kellogg then said cordially but with authority.
“My boss wants to chat with a couple of your guests,” Frade replied.
“Colonel, may I see some identification?” Kellogg said.
Frade handed him the leather wallet holding his spurious credentials.
The lieutenant colonel examined them carefully, then handed them to the master sergeant, who did the same before handing them back to Frade.
“We don’t see many credentials like those,” Kellogg admitted.
“Well, so far we’ve managed to keep them off the cover of Time,” Frade said.
“And your . . . boss . . . your boss is who?”
“Colonel Alejandro F. Graham, USMCR—”
“I know Colonel Graham,” Kellogg interrupted.
“—sometimes known as the Terrible Tiger of Texas A&M,” Frade finished. “Whose bite is far more deadly than his growl.”
Kellogg smiled somewhat uncomfortably. “And you say Colonel Graham sent you out here to chat with two of our prisoners?”
“No. What I said was that he wants to chat with two of them, and sent me out here to fetch them.” Frade went into a pocket on his tunic and came out with a sheet of paper. “One of them is a Kapitän zur See Karl Boltitz and the other is Major Freiherr Hans-Peter Baron von Wachtstein. Now, that’s what I call a mouthful! I wonder how they get all that on his identification card?”
The master sergeant smiled.
“It’s not easy, Colonel,” he said. “And some of these Krauts have names that are even worse than that.”
“Colonel, this is more than a little unusual,” Kellogg said. “We didn’t even know you were coming. Do you have any kind of authority—written authority?”
“You mean, you want me to sign for them? Sure. Be happy to.”
“No, I meant a document authorizing you to take these officers with you.”
Frade sighed. “Colonel, let me explain how I came to be here. I got to Washington two days ago. I can’t tell you . . . Hell, why can’t I? The Germans have surrendered. I was in Portugal . . .
That’s true. I was in Lisbon not long ago, smuggling even more Nazis out of Europe.
“. . . as area commander . . .
Now I’m lying again. I’ve done so much of that it comes as natural to me as it did to Baron Munchausen.
“. . . I haven’t worn a uniform in years. Anyway, I got to Washington two days ago. Good Marine and fellow Aggie that I am, I immediately reported to the Terrible Tiger of A&M. Colonel Graham showed me a chair, handed me copies of Time and Life and said to read them while he looked around for something for me to do. An hour ago, he handed me the names of these two Krauts and told me to go fetch them.”
“Colonel, how do I know that’s true?” Kellogg asked.
“Well, you could trust my honest face. Or you could ask yourself, ‘If Colonel Graham didn’t send this guy, how come he’s riding in the colonel’s chauffeur-driven Cadillac?’ Or you could call the Terrible Tiger and ask him. I would recommend Options One and/or Two.”
Kellogg considered that a moment, then said, “Excuse us a moment, will you, please, Colonel?”
The lieutenant colonel and the master sergeant went inside the headquarters building.
If they’re calling Graham, I’m screwed.
But why do I think they won’t call him?
Because, with a little bit of luck, one or both of them has been on the receiving end of one of Graham’s fits of temper.
The fits are rare but spectacular, and usually triggered by someone insisting on complete compliance with a petty bureaucratic regulation.
Never wake a sleeping tiger!
And I’m on a roll!
Not quite two minutes after the pair had walked into the headquarters building, the master sergeant came out.
“Sir, Colonel Kellogg suggests you go inside and have a cup of coffee with him while I go fetch the Krauts for you.”
“Fine. Thank you very much.”
“What we’re going to do is send an MP escort with you to the Institute of Health, in case the Krauts try to escape or anything.”
Oh, shit! Frade thought.
The Office of Strategic Services had taken over the National Institutes of Health building in the District of Columbia “for the duration.”
Frade nodded. “Good idea.”
From VICTORY AND HONOR — Book
VI in the best-selling HONOR BOUND series.
Published 09 August 2011.
Order copies here.
©2011 W.E.B. GRIFFIN. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.