Book: Beyond The Call: The True Story of One World War II Pilot's Covert Mission to Rescue POWs on theEastern Front

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12.

AMERICAN GENTLEMEN

At first, it was just flecks of snow that flickered past the cockpit windows of the B-17. But within minutes, the flecks had grown to a thick cascade splattering against the windshield. Visibility dropped dramatically. Captain Robert Trimble glanced at the compass and the other instruments, and eased the control column forward, dropping the bomber gently down to a lower altitude. At around five hundred feet, in the failing light and the snow, he could just about make out the railroad tracks he’d been following for the past ten miles.

Getting to Poltava was going to be harder than he’d anticipated.

The journey that had started in the field near Staszów yesterday morning had begun to get interesting a few minutes after takeoff. Robert had made a rapid turn to get on course for Lwów before the plane’s meager supply of fuel was exhausted. It was no use; so much had been used up taxiing the salvaged aircraft to its takeoff field, there wasn’t going to be anywhere near enough to make it. When number three engine sputtered and cut out, Robert decided to head for the Soviet airfield at Rzeszów and make an emergency landing. He, Lieutenant Jessee, and Sergeants Picarelli and Matles stayed the night there. The Russians were hospitable, as they invariably were when they didn’t feel suspicious of you. Evidently the Soviet colonel’s complaint about Captain Trimble’s behavior had not reached Rzeszów. Next morning, unaware of any reason to detain it, the Russians happily refueled the B-17 and allowed it to fly on.

With the tanks full, Robert had hoped to skip Lwów and reach Poltava in one hop. He was anxious to be done with this side mission and return to what he now viewed as his sole purpose in this country—getting American prisoners home.

But the weather had been deteriorating for days, and it was starting to snow as they boarded the plane. This wasn’t looking good. But the journey wasn’t a long one, and the snow was sparse. Robert’s flight plan was indirect; with no proper maps for Lieutenant Jessee to work with, they were reduced to following the railroad tracks, the compass, and Jessee’s own knowledge of the lay of the land between Kraków, Lwów, and Poltava. Robert flew at a perilously low altitude, where the dark strand of the railroad showed clearly against the snowy landscape.

For the first few miles out of Rzeszów it went well, but the snow suddenly worsened: the few flakes multiplied rapidly into a vortex, an onslaught of snow that obscured the view, while down below it settled on the tracks, gradually erasing their dark line.

Robert’s gut reaction was to drop still lower, and he eased down to two hundred feet—dangerously low even in good weather—and then lower still. His eyes were tearing up with the cold and the strain of looking for the fading tracks. Somewhere ahead, dozens of miles away but rushing toward them at about one hundred and fifty miles per hour, was the city of Lwów. As far as Robert could recall, it had few, if any, buildings higher than three or four stories. But there would be factory smokestacks scattered about. At least there wouldn’t be any barrage balloons.

Suddenly a tall smokestack loomed up; not dead ahead, but close enough to give Robert and Picarelli a nasty start. It was no use—they would have to climb. Staying at this altitude was too dangerous, and the tracks could hardly be seen anyway. Robert pulled back on the column and the B-17 rose back up past one thousand feet. From this point on all they had was the Fortress’s instruments and their wits. Jessee would have to navigate by dead reckoning, using their compass bearing and speed to calculate their position minute by minute.

The vibration from the distorted propeller shaft in number three engine was getting worse, and the temperature gauge was rising, beginning to overheat. On Robert’s order, Picarelli shut it down and feathered the prop. They were now flying on three engines and hope.

When their calculations told them they were nearing Lwów, Robert cautiously began to descend through the storm. The city’s streets and buildings emerged vaguely through the snow—just a maze of gray creases, striations, and blobs in the white expanse. Descending farther and straining his eyes, Robert was relieved to see the long northward curve of the railroad track where it ran into the rail station on the western edge of the city. Now he knew where he was. The main airfield of Lwów-Sknilow was close by. He banked the Fortress and began a long turn west-southwest, almost back the way they’d come; there, looming up under the nose, was the expanse of the airfield. Robert had been here before, but only as a passenger with a Russian pilot, never at the controls. He would have to guess where the runway was.

He took a wide curve around the field, judging his approach, then turned and lined up where he reckoned the runway lay, estimating it from a row of telegraph poles with red balls on the wires, which he knew ran across the line of approach. Everything was white, so he trusted to luck and scrubbed off the power. The Fort sank gently down—so reduced in weight, she seemed reluctant to drop the last couple of dozen feet. Straining his eyes between the whiteout and the instruments, Robert drew down the throttles. Flying by feel and experience, he pulled the column back, and felt the satisfying thump of a perfect three-point touchdown. That was good—but now they were rolling at one hundred miles per hour into the whiteout instead of flying; there could be anything in the way—planes, buildings, vehicles. Pushing hard on the brake pedals (one for each of the two main wheels), he fought against the plane’s urge to slew sideways on the snow. At last the Fort rolled to a stop, and sat rumbling and vibrating unevenly, like a bad-tempered dog.

There was little point in taxiing away, as they had no idea where they should taxi to, or even where the taxiways were. So, once the three remaining engines were shut down, the three Americans climbed out of the plane, just in time to see a jeep racing across the field toward them, carrying a Russian officer. Uh-oh, Robert thought—was this where the consequences of pulling his pistol on the Soviet colonel came back to bite him? If so, how in the world had they known he’d be arriving here now?

The jeep swerved to a halt, and the Russian officer jumped out. He stared, with an expression that looked like a mixture of awe and worry, at the B-17 and the men who had emerged from it. He immediately began talking at them.

“He says there’s a cliff,” Sergeant Matles translated. “Didn’t you know there’s a cliff here? he says.”

“A cliff?” Robert thought Matles must have misheard—why would an airfield have a cliff?

The Russian beckoned them to follow him. He walked out into the snow beyond the nose of the B-17 and pointed. The Americans looked, and their hearts quailed. There, just a few yards ahead of where the Fort had come to a halt, the ground fell sharply away in a steep bluff. The drop was more than a hundred feet, completely invisible from the line of approach. “Holy shit,” someone muttered. One pound less pressure on the brakes, one iota more speed on the dial, and they’d have been pancaked down there without ever knowing what had happened.

“No,” Robert said in reply to the Russian’s repeated query. “I didn’t know. I’ve never flown in here before.”

He’d nearly never flown in anywhere ever again. He really would be glad when this mission was over. Salvaging planes was proving to be even more stressful than evading bird dogs and smuggling POWs.

The Russian jeep took the four Americans to the airfield headquarters, where they were treated to vodka and sandwiches by the admiring officers. This side of the Russian character—the warmth and humor, the loud, backslapping conviviality—was a strange contrast to the darker side, and almost, but not quite, made up for it. Once the ritual hospitality was over, the Americans made their way into the city and checked into Robert’s now familiar haunt, the Hotel George.

This visit would be less fraught than his previous one, he expected. It made a pleasant change for Robert having Sergeant Matles to interpret for him, rather than some Soviet bird dog. And he was looking forward to getting a good night’s sleep. The beds at the George were the best: warm, comfortable, better than the cold fuselage of a plane, or even the bed back at Poltava that he’d barely had a chance to sleep in, or his billet at Debach. The only bed he’d been in recently that equaled those at the George was the one at the US Embassy in London. And the only one that could better that was the one he’d shared with Eleanor. Whichever house in whichever town, there was nothing to beat that. It seemed such a long time ago now, and a world away.

Robert’s thoughts were yanked back to the present by the discovery that he and his comrades were not the only Americans in the hotel. There were nine others, the crew of a B-17 which had crash-landed north of here just over a week ago.

B-17 43-38823, piloted by Second Lieutenant Jack Barnett of the 384th Bomb Group, had taken off from its base in Northamptonshire, England, as part of a force bombing Berlin. The Fortress took multiple flak hits over the target. With two engines dead and leaking fuel, and losing altitude rapidly, Barnett headed for Soviet territory. Coming out of the cloud base at four hundred feet into a snowstorm, the crew located a field suitable for a crash-landing. The damage to both inboard engine nacelles had knocked out the landing gear, so there was no choice but to put the Fort down on her belly.

Barnett and his crew just had time to destroy the bombsight before being picked up by a Red Army unit from the nearby town of Rawa-Ruska, about thirty miles northwest of Lwów. They were accommodated in Soviet officers’ quarters, under guard, and fed well. They were also provided with an interpreter. A local woman, she seemed to have no love for the Russians. She confided to the Americans that her parents, who were Canadian, had settled there in 1935; later they were murdered by the Soviets. She believed that most people thereabouts hated the Russians more than they did the Germans.

After two days at Rawa-Ruska, Lieutenant Barnett and his men were taken to Lwów and lodged at the Hotel George. They were advised to keep off the streets at night during the curfew and not to carry sidearms in the hotel. And there they stayed, living in relative comfort, for the next week, waiting for someone to come and pick them up. Suddenly Robert’s responsibilities multiplied threefold.

Barnett’s B-17, despite the belly landing, was reckoned to be salvageable, which would mean an arduous task lined up for someone from Eastern Command. Someone other than Captain Trimble, Robert hoped, as he listened to the story. He still had a way to go to get the Fortress he already had back to Poltava. But he would take Barnett and his crew—three officers and six sergeants—with him. As always, the Soviets were perfectly happy to allow downed American aircrews to be taken out via Poltava; only ex–prisoners of war were forbidden to go that way.

All thirteen Americans were going to be stuck in Lwów for a while. The snow was setting in, and there’d be no takeoffs for at least a day or two. Also, work would need to be done on that number three engine. With the crew-and-passenger complement tripled, it was all the more important that the plane be mechanically sound.

Robert had barely got used to this new situation when another, rather more sinister, development occurred.

On the face of it, it seemed pleasant enough. The face in question was that of a nice Polish lady who spoke excellent English. She met Captain Trimble and Sergeant Matles in the hotel dining room, and introduced herself as Miss Esa Lowry, a teacher in one of Lwów’s schools. She had been requested by the city commandant to go to the hotel and offer whatever help she could to any American servicemen staying there.

“Souvenirs I can obtain,” she said. “Or merchandise, or money. Dollars for zlotys or rubles.” What she was offering, in effect, was to act as a go-between with the local black market. There was nothing essentially wrong with that—it was the way of life in Poland—but something about this smiling lady made Robert’s suspicious hackles rise. Miss Lowry became a fixture at the hotel, a constant presence in the dining room, and took a close interest in the comings and goings of all the Americans. Robert was certain she was in the service of the NKVD.

After a couple of days, Lieutenant Barnett asked for a word with Captain Trimble. His men were becoming increasingly resentful of the way Miss Lowry pried into each man’s life and business. She would never let them alone, always trying to make conversation and fish for information. Taking Sergeant Matles and Lieutenant Jessee with him as witnesses, Robert asked Miss Lowry if he could have a quiet talk with her.

He thanked her for everything she had done—or tried to do—to help the Americans, but it had come to his attention that his and Lieutenant Barnett’s men did not feel at ease in her presence and could not relax. It would therefore be appreciated if she would kindly leave them alone.

Miss Lowry protested, mentioning again all the services she could provide for the Americans.

“Thank you, but no,” Robert said. “Sergeant Matles here is from the United States Military Mission in Moscow; he knows how to handle matters of that kind. He is also competent to deal with the local Soviet authorities.”

She protested again, insisting that she could help, but Robert was firm.

“This is a military mission,” he said forcefully, and forgetting himself entirely, he added: “Our only interest is in taking Americans home.”

If either Sergeant Matles or Lieutenant Jessee noticed this odd remark (as far as they were aware, the mission’s sole purpose was to take a salvaged bomber back to Poltava; taking Americans with them was incidental), they didn’t comment. Robert himself didn’t notice his inadvertent allusion to his off-the-record mission in Poland.

Miss Lowry finally gave up. She left the hotel, and from that day forward, they never saw her again. But if the men imagined that they’d now be free from scrutiny, they were wrong.

Meanwhile, work on the bomber was proceeding at a painfully slow pace. Despite their initial helpfulness, the Russians quickly became obstructive (presumably the NKVD had spoken to the airfield personnel). It was almost impossible to get transportation out to the airfield, which was several miles from the city center. Russian mechanics were doing the repairs to the engine, and Russian guards were protecting it, but neither were entirely trustworthy, and there was no easy way for Captain Trimble or Sergeant Picarelli to supervise them. But while the snow lasted, nobody would be flying anywhere, so it didn’t matter a great deal. Still nothing had been heard of the Staszów colonel; his complaint had gone straight to Moscow, bypassing the authorities in Poland.

Robert devoted what time he could to looking after his comrades. Making good his statement to Miss Lowry, he and Sergeant Matles set out on the afternoon of the 11th of March to buy cigarettes for the men. The best place to find them would be down near the railroad station, so they headed out that way.

As they were walking down Chernivetska Street, the broad, straight avenue that led to the station, Robert noticed a couple of Russian soldiers coming the other way, accompanying a ragged little band of five men. One of the men was staring at him; he had the gaunt, haunted look that Robert had learned to recognize.

He couldn’t take his eyes off that face; beside him, Sergeant Matles’s attention had also been caught. The gaunt man took a step toward them. “Help,” he said. “Help us, please.”

The officer and the sergeant both stopped.

“Who are you?” the officer asked.

The two guards moved to intervene, but the officer gestured to the sergeant, who spoke sharply to them in Russian, and they backed off.

“Beadle,” he said, “T/4 Richard J., 45th Infantry, sir.” It wasn’t easy to speak. His throat was dry and sore from the relentless cold and thirst.

“I’m Captain Robert Trimble, Army Air Forces, Eastern Command. This is First Sergeant John Matles from the Military Mission in Moscow.” With a glance at the Russian soldiers, he asked, “What can we do for you?”

Quickly, Beadle told the story of the last few days. He and his companions were en route from Lublin to Odessa, but had been diverted and lost their papers. They’d spent days in a cold boxcar and had hardly anything to eat. Since boarding the train at the last town, they’d had no food at all; the guards had told them that they could have nothing until they had seen the Lwów commandant and been cleared. He also described some of the experiences he’d had before arriving at Lublin, and the conditions in the camp there.

As Beadle hastily told his story, Captain Trimble’s face went from the cheerful, warm expression that was its natural state to a scowl. Sergeant Matles’s heavy brows drew down at every word, and his broad, fleshy features turned stony. He spoke again in Russian to the guards, and a dispute broke out. Clearly Captain Trimble and the sergeant carried some official weight, because the guards backed down without putting up much of a fight.

There was a brief consultation between Trimble and Matles, then the sergeant said firmly to Beadle, “You’re coming with us. All of you.”

The motley little band—American, Scottish, English, and Canadian—set off along the avenue toward the center of town, bracketed by the two Russian soldiers. The guards insisted on maintaining their position of authority, one marching ahead, the other bringing up the rear, as if all seven men were their prisoners.

After a walk that took them through more than a mile of grand, icy streets and snowbound parks, they arrived at Mickiewicz Square, dominated by the elegant block of the Hotel George. It was a grand-looking place, despite the boarded-up shops that occupied most of the ground floor of the building.

To the ex-prisoners’ eyes, accustomed to nothing but battlefields, bivouacs, prison-camp barracks, and boxcars, the hotel lobby was almost unbearably opulent. The marble floor, the pillared archways that opened onto the two curving sweeps of the main staircase, the Art Nouveau decor, and the general air of refined Victorian splendor were otherworldly. Between the two arms of the staircase was a short passage leading from the lobby to a glazed double door; above it was the single word, “Jadalnia.” Judging from the sounds and smells drifting through, they guessed that Jadalnia was Polish for “Dining Room.” Now, there was a thought that was worth standing in line for.

Almost better than that was the bathing. While Sergeant Matles went away to make some phone calls, Captain Trimble arranged rooms for the prisoners, and they all took baths. It was the first real head-to-toe, soap-and-water wash any of them had had in months; they were filthy, some of them lousy too. They lingered, soaping and scrubbing away the dirt and stink of the prison camps, the boxcars, and the endless miles of walking and sleeping rough.

Nothing could be done about their clothing, so once they were clean, the men had no choice but to pull on the same dirty, ragged garments. But they felt a world better than they had before.

Once the five men were cleaned up, Robert and Sergeant Matles took them to the dining room and let them eat their fill.

They talked over what was to be done. The situation wasn’t good. They wouldn’t be able to take the ex-POWs with them when they went back to Poltava. The Russian guards were still hanging around, and insisting that the men be taken to the city commandant and placed under his authority. The Soviet authorities Matles had spoken to said the same, as did the Military Mission in Moscow. It was decided that Matles should take the men to the commandant, get them their papers, and then put them immediately on the next train to Odessa.

The men weren’t too happy about being put back in the hands of the Russians, but there was nothing anybody could do. The Englishman and the Scotsman seemed especially perturbed. As the men were getting up from the dining table, they approached Robert. “Can we have a quiet word, Captain?”

Robert took them aside.

“We must get to Moscow,” Flying Officer Panniers said. “We have sealed papers to deliver to your General Deane at the American Mission.”

“Papers?”

“They come from an American officer in Lublin, a Colonel Wilmeth.”

The name took Robert by surprise. So Wilmeth really had managed to make it to Lublin, had he? And was sending POWs out with secret messages for Moscow, by golly! Presumably things weren’t going well up there. The two men explained that they’d been on their way through the Ukraine when they were sidetracked back to Lwów. It was imperative that they get to Moscow. They’d undertaken to put the sealed packets directly in General Deane’s hands. They contained detailed reports on the situation of ex-prisoners in Lublin, which was terrible.

Robert felt more keenly than ever the frustration of being sidetracked into salvage work. Moscow had been wrong to assume good faith on the part of the Soviets. But however much he sympathized, and however urgent the men’s errand, they would still have to report to the Soviet commandant in Lwów, along with the others. If they didn’t get the right authorization papers, they’d probably get picked up and diverted back again. Odessa was one thing—Russians down the line were accustomed to seeing ex-prisoners and refugees heading that way—but routes into Russia were different. There was a train to Moscow the following day: Captain Trimble would ensure that they were on it.

More phone calls were made, then Sergeant Matles set off with the POWs and the two Russian guards—who still insisted on marching before and behind them as if they were prisoners.

It was a walk of twenty-five blocks to the city commandant’s office (Beadle counted them wearily). The commandant issued the men with the required papers, including permits for the two who wanted to go to Moscow. But the other three—the two Americans and the Canadian civilian—must go to the rehabilitation center to await proper processing and evacuation to Odessa. They could not be put immediately on any train.

The little party set out once more, making their way to the rehabilitation center. This turned out to be a large barbwire enclosure, like a concentration camp, on one side of a street, with an office building on the other side. They went into the building, where they found an office presided over by a surly-looking Russian major. When Matles introduced himself and stated his business, the major glanced up from his paperwork, cast an eye disdainfully at the sergeant’s stripes on the sleeve of Matles’s coat, and pointedly ignored him.

Sergeant Matles squared his shoulders, reined in his temper, and addressed the major again. “I am a representative of the United States Military Mission in Moscow,” he said firmly. “I am an aide to General Deane, and acquainted with the ambassador. I would appreciate a little help.”

The major looked up. “Go down and see the evacuation officer,” he said, and went back to his paperwork.

Matles went downstairs, where he found the captain in charge of evacuating prisoners of war. In contrast to his superior, the captain was all helpfulness, gushing with reassurances that the men would be well looked after. “Warm quarters they shall have, and clean beds in a hotel. We will get them new clothes, a bath, haircut and shave, and of course they will be fed. In one day, perhaps two, they will be on a train to Odessa.”

Sergeant Matles relayed all these promises to the men, and asked them if they wanted to stay; or would they prefer to come back to the hotel? Unwilling to put the sergeant and Captain Trimble to any further trouble, and not relishing the walk back to the hotel, the men agreed to take their chances with the Russians.

“Take the phone number,” said Matles, writing it down and handing it to Sergeant Beadle. “Call me at the hotel if you have any problems. Or just come straight there.”

Taking the two British men with him, Matles set off back to the Hotel George. If he’d had more experience of the Soviet attitude to ex-POWs, he might have taken them all back with him, without bothering to ask their views.

Reporting back to Captain Trimble, Matles learned that there’d been a new and irritating development.

A very friendly woman had appeared that day in the dining room, introducing herself to the Americans as “the one who is to take Miss Esa Lowry’s place.” Captain Trimble had ordered everybody to just ignore her. She was not to be engaged in conversation; her questions should not be answered, and her offers of help should not be acknowledged. But he cautioned them not to be obnoxious. “Remember, you’re American gentlemen,” he said. “Don’t forget to act as such.”

The next morning, Robert and Sergeant Matles took the two British men to the railroad station, where they gave them a supply of rations and personally saw them onto the train for Moscow. Whether they ever got there, Robert never heard. (Indeed, by the time Robert returned to Poltava, Wilmeth’s situation in Lublin had reached a crisis, and it mattered little whether his secret messages got through.)

Now that the business of the POWs had been dealt with, Captain Trimble and his team could get on with the matter of having the bomber’s engines fixed up. Or rather, they could if the weather would ease up and the Russians would let them have transportation out to the airfield. Robert’s frustration was starting to gnaw at him. The sooner he returned to Poltava, the sooner he could get back in the field and resume helping all those POWs who were still out there.

Robert had noticed how angry Sergeant Matles was at the plight of the POWs, but so far Matles had only seen the better side of it. Sergeant Beadle and his companions were relatively fit and healthy—they had to be, to have come so far on their own initiative. Matles hadn’t seen the long-term prisoners: the ones weakened by starvation; the sick; the men hiding out on remote farms, unable to hike through the snows, traumatized by their experiences, too scared of the Russians to seek help from them. Those were the men Robert was in this country to help. He was here to help all of them, but those were the ones that really tugged at his heart.

This didn’t look much like a hotel with warm beds and clean rooms, Beadle thought. He shifted uncomfortably on the bare plank bed and looked around at the other people crammed into the noxious little room. He counted thirty, including himself and Gould.

Things were bad, and getting worse.

After Sergeant Matles left, Beadle, Gould, and the Canadian had been taken across the road to the camp, where they’d been made to wait for three hours. Things looked up a little when they were allowed to wash and shave. Then they were marched to a building a block down from the camp. Whatever it was, it wasn’t the hotel they’d been promised by the Russian captain. They were put in a bare room with a dozen other people, all French, a mix of ex-POWs and civilians from the Nazi labor camps. There was no heating in the room, and the beds consisted of bare boards. With no blankets, the two Americans spent a cold night. Meals consisted of a meager allowance of soup and black bread and some tea.

On the evening of the second day, some Russian soldiers came in with armfuls of clothing, which they distributed to everybody. It was all Russian-style—rough, uncomfortable, and poorly made. Beadle and Gould were allowed to keep the clothes they had arrived in, but the Frenchmen were stripped and left with nothing but the crude Russian garments. The only good things provided were fur-lined caps. Beadle was thankful for the two good woollen shirts he had on, which were comfortable and provided a little warmth. But not for long. Later, the Russians changed their minds; in the middle of the night they rousted the two men out of bed and made them strip. Beadle’s woollen shirts were whisked away, leaving him with nothing but the Russian stuff.

After that, things got worse.

The next morning, sixteen civilians were herded into the room, a mixture of men and women, and even some children, all liberated from labor camps. There was no longer any room to move, let alone lie down and sleep. One of the civilians, a woman, was sick, but no help came. And still there was no word of transportation to Odessa. It began to feel as if they would be stuck in this airless room forever, getting hungrier, and sooner or later falling sick.

Sergeant Beadle and Private Gould decided they’d had enough. Even the stalag hadn’t been as bad as this. The building wasn’t tightly secured (it was a “rehabilitation center,” after all, not a prison), so the two men were able to sneak out past the Russian guards. Finding their bearings, they made their way back to Mickiewicz Square and the Hotel George. They just hoped the Americans, who had been eager to get their plane fixed up and leave, hadn’t gone yet. If they had, there would be no option but to try and make it to Odessa on their own.

When they reached the hotel, it looked like it might be too late. There was no sign of the Americans in the lobby or the dining room. Not daring to inquire at the desk, Beadle and Gould sneaked up the stairs, went to the room Captain Trimble had been occupying, and knocked on the door.

The door opened, and to their immense relief, the familiar face of the captain appeared. His eyebrows went up at the sight of the two men in their motley collection of ill-fitting Russian garments. He quickly ushered them inside, and summoned Lieutenant Jessee and Sergeant Matles. The three of them listened in growing anger as Beadle related their experiences during the past few days.

Robert instantly came to a decision. Beadle and Gould weren’t going to Odessa—they were coming back to Poltava with him, no matter what anybody said.

From now on they were both to forget that they’d ever been in the infantry or in a prison camp: as far as the Soviets were concerned, they were aircrew, like Lieutenant Barnett and his men. If there was trouble when they got to Poltava, then Captain Trimble was prepared to answer for it. He was boiling with anger and willing to defy anybody who got in the way of these two men’s liberation.

Sergeant Matles backed him up. He was furious, recalling the way the captain at the so-called rehabilitation center had lied through his smiling teeth about hotels and clean beds. Lieutenant Jessee was of the same mind. He and Matles vowed to make the strongest possible statement to Eastern Command and the Military Mission about the need for a fully equipped, permanent American team stationed in Lwów to deal with ex-POWs.

Robert agreed, but privately knew it would do no good. From what he’d heard of Wilmeth’s situation in Lublin, and from his own mission briefings, as well as what he’d seen with his own eyes, he knew that no American team would be allowed to come here: not while Hell still had any heat left in it.

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