The Prisoner of War (Chapter Ten and Afterword)

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: War and Military  |  House: Booksie Classic
Savage stops his car to help at an accident involving a truck carrying German POWs and their British guards, and comes face to face with Sergeant Müller, the sergeant of the German patrol that captured him after he had been shot down the previous year. Müller is injured and Savage takes him back to the base hospital for treatment. A strange relationship develops between the two as he prepares for an important mission.

Submitted: October 14, 2015

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Submitted: October 14, 2015

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THE PRISONER OF WAR

(Continued)

 

Chapter Ten

WEEK FOUR, Wednesday, Mid-Morning

It had started out like any other day, but it had soon become chaotic as busses carrying forty airmen, the crews for the four new B-17s, and all their baggage, began to arrive.  They were deposited at the Debriefing Hut, as it was the only place big enough to hold them all while they were processed in and assigned temporary billets.  That was the easy part, the hard part was reviewing and changing all the Squadron and crew rosters again.  Savage and Cobb were working on the latter when Stovall came over to say General Crowe had called and wanted to see Savage at Pinetree immediately.

Savage usually didn't like it when Crowe pulled him away in the middle of something, but not this time.Assigning personnel to the right squadron and crew, so there was the right mix of 'experienced airmen' and 'green troops' was an important, but tedious and mind-numbing job, and Savage was happy to let Cobb carry on without him.  So when Ross appeared with his staff car, Savage was happy to climb in and sit back while Ross drove him up the Wycombe Abbey.  He wondered what Wiley wanted this time.

*  *  *  *

"Frank, I've just heard from Major Pigot-Smith.  The British have approved Sergeant Müller's transfer to the 'Weeping Waters' Camp.  He also said that there's a returning troop ship sailing from Liverpool to New York, and among her other passengers, she will be transporting a contingent of Prisoners of War.  The ship is leaving in two days, and Karl Müller will sail with her.....  I thought you might want to be the one to tell him."

"Thanks, Wiley.  I think I would."

*  *  *  *

"Karl, you have a visitor,"  the Sister said as she escorted Savage into the room.

Müller had been teaching young Dieter to play chess with the set Chaplain Twombley had given him, and as he looked up and saw Savage standing there, he smiled and rose to greet him. 

"General Savage.  It is good to see you, sir."Then seeing that Dieter had not moved, "Did they teach you nothing, Private?  Stand to attention in the presence of a General officer!"

Dieter, his face red with embarrassment, jumped to his feet and stood at rigid attention as Müller continued, "My apologies, Herr General.  They take these 'children', give them a uniform and a rifle, and tell them to go be a soldier, but they teach them nothing. This one was wounded on his first day, never fired a shot."

"At ease, Private."

Dieter relaxed, then in almost a whisper asked Müller, "Ist er der Eine?  (Is he the one?)  Der General, der Ihr Gefangener war?  (The General that was your prisoner?)  Der Eine, der die Gestapo entkommen?  (The one who escaped from the Gestapo?)"

"Ja, Junge, er ist der Eine. (Yes, boy. He's the one.)"

Savage didn't understand what was being said, but he did know 'General' and 'Gestapo', and noticed that both the Sister and the boy were staring at him.

"Am I missing something?"  he asked, certain that whatever they had said was about him.

"To ease the boy's fears before his operation, I told him about mine and how it came about.  I also told him a little about you, how we met and everything...... It is possible I may have exaggerated a little."Müller said apologetically.

"Great!"Savage said with a grimace. "Have I won the war yet?"

 

The Sister, knowing the General wanted to speak to Karl alone, took Dieter by the arm and said, "Come, Hans.  Let's go for a walk and let them talk."

After they had gone, Savage said, "Karl.  Your transfer has been arranged.  You'll be leaving the day after tomorrow on a ship for New York.  You'll be given all the details later."

Müller's face broke out into a smile, as he said,  " So I go to America.  This is good.  I am ready to leave this place.....  Am I allowed to know where?"

"Yes.  You'll be going to Nebraska, to 'Weeping Water', a little Camp about twenty miles from Gretna."

"Nebraska!  Gretna!  That is where Anna lives."  Müller couldn't believe what he was hearing.

"Yes, it is."

"How is this possible?  You did this?"

"No, Karl.  You did this.  After your testimony, you couldn't stay here.  The British were looking for a small out-of-the-way Camp, and 'Weeping Water' fit their needs.  It's as simple as that."

"I think there was more to it than that."

 

Müller was about to say more, but at that moment, Doctor Hays appeared in the doorway with Sergeant Douglas in tow. "Karl, I found the Sergeant here, wondering the halls looking for your room......  Oh, General Savage, excuse me, sir, I didn't know you were here."

"Quite alright, Doctor."  Savage replied, then acknowledging Douglas,  "Sergeant, nice to see you again."

"SAH." 

Addressing Hays again, "I came to tell Sergeant Müller he would be leaving in a couple of days for a new Camp in the States.  I assume the hospital has been notified."

"Yes, sir.  I had been expecting it.  There's not much more we can learn from him, and I know he was getting tired of us.  We'll send his records on to the Camp with a request that their medical people monitor the healing of his skull flap."

While Savage and Hays talked, Douglas had gone over to speak with Müller. "I hear you're off to America, you lucky bugger.  The Camp was notified this morning of your transfer."  Then dropping the kit bag he was carrying at Müller's feet, said, "Colonel Smythe had me pack up your kit and bring it along for you.  I think I got everything."

"Thanks, Bill.  They are sending me to Nebraska, to a Camp near my sister's farm.  I still can't believe it."

"I'm happy for you, Karl.  I'm glad you're going someplace out of this bloody war." 

Then Douglas held out his hand, and they shook. "I have to get back to Camp, Karl.  Goodbye, mate, and good luck to you."

"Goodbye, my friend....  Lebt Wohl. Farewell."

 

Walking back over to where Savage and Hays were still talking, "General... Doctor....Colonel Smythe was notified of Sergeant Müller's transfer this morning, Doctor, and had me bring over his kit.  His records are to be sent on later." 

Turning to Savage. "General.  With your permission, sir, I should be getting back to Camp now...... "

"Certainly, Sergeant.  Give my regards to Captain Harrod."

As he was in hospital, Sergeant Douglas restrained himself, and simply replied "Yes, Sir."

 

Doctor Hays also excused himself and followed Douglas out of the room, leaving just Savage and Müller to say their goodbyes. 

"This will be the third time we have said 'goodbye', Herr General.  I think there will not be another time.  They are only words, but know your kindness will never be forgotten."

"You give me more credit than I deserve, Karl."Savage said as he sat down on the end of the bed and rubbed a hand wearily over his face.  "I'm tired, Karl.  I've been tired.....  I'm tired of the death.  I'm tired of sending boys up that don't come back, and I can't even remember their names or faces.  I'm tired of this war."

"I needed to see something good, something descent come out of all this.... and that was you.  In helping you, I've been helping myself...  and it has helped....  you've helped, again."

Then Savage stood, and with a smile, said, "Go find your family, Karl, and have a good life."

Savage extended his hand, and Müller took it, and they shook, holding it for a few seconds. Then Savage nodded and  left. 

*  *  *  *

WEEK Six, Thursday, Afternoon 

It had been over two weeks since 'Spoil Sport', and the 918th had flown five missions since then.  They had been lucky and had drawn the 211th for fighter escort on three of the missions, and had had only minimal losses.  They had not fared so well on the other two.

Today they had bombed Saarbrücken again.  The last time, before 'Spoil Sport', they had lost eight planes; today they had lost none.  They had been escorted by the 211th again. 

 

Savage returned to his office tired, but happy that he wouldn't be writing any 'next of kin' letters, not today.  Stovall met him as he came in with a cup of coffee, and the news that General Crowe was waiting for him in his office.

"Wiley."  Savage said as he entered and saw Crowe sitting in one of his chairs. "What brings you down again?"

"I come bearing tidings."  Crowe replied, rising.  "Several weeks ago, I told you that giving Müller his sister's letter wouldn't be the end of it.  Do you remember."

"Yes, sir."  Now what? Savage thought.

"Well, I think we have just come to the 'end of it'....  "

"I had another call from Major Pigot-Smith today.  He wanted to let me know Müller had arrived in New York about three days ago.  He should be at 'Weeping Water' any day now.

"Good."Savage said.  "I'm glad he's out of it."He turned to stare out his window, a habit he had when he was thinking.  He was happy for Müller, but it was more than that....  he envied him....  he would not be alone anymore; he had found a home and, more importantly, peace. 

Crowe said nothing, giving him a moment.

Then Savage turned back around, the moment gone.

"Wiley....  We had no losses today. That was because we had the 211th's P-47s to escort us again; but we can't count on their Group always being available.  So, when is the Old Man going to start outfitting the rest of the Fighter Groups with belly tanks?  Or better yet, when is the 8th going to get some of those new P-51s?"

"I swear, Frank, is there no making you happy?"  Crowe said shaking his head.  "No matter what you get, you want more."

"I'll stop asking for more, Wiley, when I have enough."

*  *  *  *

After General Crowe had left, Savage sat alone in his office, again staring out his window.  As he began to turn back around, in the corner of his eye, he saw Müller's flask setting on his window sill.  On impulse, he reached into his bottom desk drawer and withdrew a glass.  Then he picked up the flask, unscrewed the top, and poured a small measure into the glass. 

"Karl Müller!"  Savage said as he lifted his glass into the air. "May we all someday find the peace you have."  He emptied the glass and set it on his desk.Then he screwed the top on and set the flask back on the window sill.

*  *  *  *

AFTERWORD

Karl Müller was tired.  He felt like he had been travelling forever.  First, ten days on a ship crossing the Atlantic, then three days on a train, and now he'd been on a bus for most of the day, with just a few relief stops.  When he had started this odyssey, he had been with two hundred other POWs.  Most had been dropped off at various POW Camps along the way, until now it was just himself; six other prisoners, all remnants of Rommel's Afrika Corps; and two bored Army guards.  Their destination was the 'Weeping Water' Prisoner of War Camp, a small camp of POWs working in agricultural jobs on the surrounding farms.

Karl was anxious to arrive.  He hoped he would be able to contact his sister, Anna, once he was there.  He knew her farm was in the area somewhere.  He had written her before he left England to let her know what Camp he would be in, but didn't know if she had received his letter.

Finally the bus turned off the highway onto a dirt road, and after a few minutes, he saw the Camp Gates ahead.  The bus drove through the open gates and stopped in front of a building marked 'Headquarters'. 

The doors opened and the bus began to empty.  The Guards first, followed by the other prisoners who were quickly escorted into the building to begin processing.  Karl got off last, looking around as he stepped down, and as he began to follow the others into the building, he saw a woman come out.

Though it had been almost fifteen years, Karl recognized her at once.  She was a woman in her mid-thirties, but in Karl's eyes, she was a young girl of nineteen. 

"Anna... mein kleine Anna! (My little Anna!)"

Anna Stossel smiled and wrapped her arms around him, "Welcome home, Karl."

 

THANK YOU FOR READING MY STORY


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