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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By the end of 1944, more than 5 million forced foreign laborers, male and female, were working in German agriculture and industry, of whom about 1.3 million were French (see Herbert, Hitler’s Foreign Workers, as well as Beyer and Schneider, “Forced Labor,” for summaries).

The Soviet military and security police sometimes put abandoned Nazi prison camps to their own uses. For instance, the Janowska concentration camp in Lwów was taken over by the NKVD and used as a prison camp (Bartov, “White Spaces and Black Holes,” p. 324). Likewise, the Majdanek death camp was briefly used to hold liberated British and American POWs (Wilmeth, “Report,” pp. 2–3).

Chapter 1: One Lucky Bastard

Five members of the combat crew bailed out over the North Sea, while the remaining flight crew went on to make a forced landing at RAF Woodbridge, some five miles short of Debach (Freeman et al., Mighty Eighth, p. 410). Woodbridge, being near the coast, received thousands of emergency landings during the course of the war.

The 493rd did indeed move to the former fighter station at Little Walden in March 1945, while repairs were effected. They returned to Debach in April 1945 and flew their last combat mission on April 20. In August 1945 the 493rd returned to the United States (Bowyer, Action Stations, p. 92; Bowman and Woodall, Helton’s Hellcats, p. 9).

This crew was fairly unusual in that all but three of them stayed together and completed their tour simultaneously (USAAF 863rd Bombardment Squadron, Record of Sorties). Crews were often split up, and their members finished their tours individually (or not at all, in many cases).

Mission #76 to Merseberg on October 30, 1944, was recalled when already over Germany, due to low cirrus cloud over the target and very heavy contrails from the bombers, obscuring one another’s view (USAAF 493rd Bombardment Group mission reports). As they had experienced some light flak en route, the crews were credited with a combat mission (see Weir, “Navigating Through World War II”).

USAAF interrogation report, Mission #100.

Elbert Helton was born in Clifton, Texas, in 1915, and joined the Army Air Corps (as it was then called) in 1936. By the time he took command of the newly created 493rd Bombardment Group in November 1943, at the age of twenty-eight, he was already a veteran squadron commander and combat pilot (Bowman and Woodall, Helton’s Hellcats, p. 26).

Casualties from the mission of December 30, 1944, (mission #100 for the 493rd BG) were relatively light. Altogether the 3rd Air Division, of which the 493rd Bomb Group was a part, dispatched 526 bombers to various targets. Three aircraft were lost, 37 damaged, and 24 men were MIA (Freeman et al., The Mighty Eighth, p. 409).

The notorious Magdeburg mission took place on September 12, 1944. Due to slack formation flying, the bombers were insufficiently protected by the arcs of fire from their guns. The 493rd was attacked front and rear by Fw 190s from JG 53 and JG 300. Seven bombers were shot down and many more were damaged, two so badly that they had to make forced landings in Belgium. According to the official mission report, of the B-17s shot down, four “went down in flames and exploded.” Of the seven planes lost over the target, just “five or six chutes were seen” (Freeman et al., The Mighty Eighth, p. 345; Caldwell and Muller, Luftwaffe over Germany, p. 235; USAAF interrogation report, Mission #55).

At this time, 8th Air Force bomb groups each comprised four squadrons of twelve aircraft each (for a total of forty-eight; in 1945 squadron size increased to eighteen, for a total of seventy-two). Normal mission procedure was for three squadrons to fly while the fourth stood down. Squadrons took turns to stand down.

Including dead, wounded, and missing, the Eighth Air Force lost 34 percent of its aircrew personnel in combat, “the highest casualty rate in the American armed forces in World War II”; Eighth Air Force aircrew accounted for about one-tenth of all America’s war dead (Miller, Eighth Air Force, p. 471).

On the mission of December 31, 1944, the 3rd Air Division again dispatched 526 bombers to various targets, including Misburg. Twenty-seven bombers were lost and 288 were damaged; 5 men were killed, 29 wounded, and 248 missing (Freeman et al., The Mighty Eighth, pp. 410–11). The 493rd Bomb Group lost one aircraft from the 862nd Squadron (Bowman and Woodall, Helton’s Hellcats, p. 14).

Thirteen days later, on January 13, 1945, B-17 43-38271, Big Buster, in which Robert Trimble had flown his last mission, was shot down by flak near Bauschheim during a mission to Mainz, Germany. It was being piloted by Lieutenant Norman S. Lamoreaux, who had flown alongside Captain Trimble on the Kassel mission on December 30. Six of the crew were killed and three taken prisoner (Bowman and Woodall, Helton’s Hellcats, p. 21; Freeman, The B-17 Flying Fortress Story, p. 244).

Chapter 2: An American in London

Grosvenor Square still has a strong American presence, with statues of Roosevelt and Eisenhower in the central garden, along with a memorial to 9/11. The building at the southeast corner of the square, which in 1945 was the US Embassy, now houses the Canadian High Commission. The US Embassy moved to new premises at the other end of the square in 1960. In 2017 the embassy will move again, to a new site on the far side of central London. Once it goes, all that will be left of “Little America” will be the statues.

As described by Dorothy Brannan, former WAAF barrage balloon operator, in BBC WW2 People’s War archive, available online at (retrieved February 23, 2014).

“Whitewash” was the call sign of the 493rd Bomb Group control tower, “Pillar” was the call sign of the 863rd Bomb Squadron, and 366 was the individual ID number of the aircraft Captain Trimble’s crew was flying that day (Bowman and Woodall, Helton’s Hellcats, p. 9; USAAF 493rd Bombardment Group mission reports).

OSS/London, War Diaries, vol. 7, Apr.–Jun. 1944, p. 3; vol. 8, passim.


Bowman, Bedford Triangle, pp. 60–64.

For example: “5. Do not ask Joes personal questions. (For example: Questions concerning name, job or background.) . . . 15. Neither you, nor any member of your crew, will give the Joes any information concerning past, present, or future operations. This includes flight plan, routes, and altitudes, etc., of the operation tonight.” From “Hints for Dispatchers” in OSS/London, War Diaries, vol. 6, Jan. to Mar. 1944, pp. 43–44.

Bowman, Bedford Triangle, p. 45.

Persico, Piercing the Reich, pp. 41–42; 169–70.

Chapter 3: The Long Way Round

Originally a B-17 crew numbered ten men. By this stage in the war, the threat from enemy fighters had reduced, and the crew complement had been reduced to nine by the deletion of one of the waist gunners (a single gunner was thus responsible for both guns).

US Consular Service passport issued to Captain Robert M. Trimble, January 22, 1945.

Most military aircraft of this period did not have the range to make the crossing from the United States to the UK in one leg.

The stop at Fortaleza and the journey to Africa were described in a short memoir written by the crew’s radio operator, Sergeant Gale D. Moore (Moore, “California to Combat”).

Sulfonamide (or “sulfa”) is an antimicrobial drug that was the standard treatment for infection at this time. Antimicrobials preceded antibiotics and work differently.

The North American B-25 Mitchell, despite having only two Wright Cyclone engines (the same type used in the B-17), was notoriously loud due to the design of the engine cowlings and exhaust system (Higham and Siddall, Flying Combat Aircraft, p. 8).

“Way the hell out over northern New Mexico someplace [Trimble] let his hair down a little. . . . We dropped down so we were just buzzing the coyotes and cacti and Johnson, the co-pilot played ‘I’ll Walk Alone’ on his trumpet over the command radio.” (Moore, “California to Combat.”)

Leavell, The 8th Evac, pp. 50ff.

The description of the consulate here is based partly on the recollections of Tuskegee airman Virgil Richardson, who stayed there a couple of months after the Trimble crew (Vinson, Flight, pp. 65–66).

It’s unclear why the crew was sent here, as it was a training base for fighter pilots, and a transshipment stop for troops and cargo going to the Pacific.

Both songs were hits during World War II. The former was a hit twice in 1942—for the Glenn Miller Orchestra and for the Andrews Sisters. “Till Then” was a hit in September 1944 (toward the end of Eleanor’s pregnancy) for the the Mills Brothers. Both songs are about the parting of young couples in wartime. Whereas “Apple Tree” is humorous, “Till Then” is a much more moving song and was the one Eleanor remembered being particularly affected by.

A ghalyan is the Persian equivalent of the Arab hookah pipe.

Huge quantities of British aid and American Lend-Lease supplies were shipped into the USSR during the war. The Persian Corridor was one of the key routes, the others being the northern sea route into Murmansk and the Alaska-Siberia route. See Weeks, Russia’s Life-Saver, pp. 27, 112–16; Matloff, US Army in WW2, pp. 283–84.

Mohammed Reza Shah was particularly deeply involved in American diplomacy in Iran (Afkhami, Life and Times of the Shah, pp. 161–66 ff).

Ibid, p. 311 ff.

The Tehran-Poltava route was served by three Poltava-based Soviet-crewed C-46 Commandos, flying twice a week (Kaluta, vol. I, ch. II, pp. 12–13). The C-46 model was older, much less reliable, and less numerous than the C-47, which may be why the USAAF allowed the Russians to have them.

Robert didn’t recall who these were. Most likely they were officers returning from leave in Cairo, which was the regular leave destination for Poltava personnel.

A reference to this incident is given in Kaluta, vol. I, ch. II, p. 14.

Chapter 4: Behind the Curtain

Lepawsky, History of Eastern Command, chapter IV, p. 90.

Ibid, p. 101ff.

Eastern Command report on investigation into June 21/22 raid, copy included with Lepawsky, History of Eastern Command.

Ibid; also Infield, Poltava Affair, pp. 147–51.

Brigadier General Alfred A. Kessler, CO Eastern Command, interviewed July 5, 1944, transcript included in Lepawsky, History of Eastern Command.

Kaluta, vol. I, ch. I, p. 2.

Infield, Poltava Affair, pp. 162–63. At Mirgorod, most of the planes had been removed, but massive quantities of fuel and munitions were destroyed.

Rees, World War Two Behind Closed Doors, p. 54.

Ibid, p. 182ff. The atrocities became known as the Katyn Massacre because of the original discovery, but the majority of the killings were done elsewhere.

Deane, Strange Alliance, pp. 55–56.

CIA, “Memoranda for the President,” pp. 66–67.

Ibid, pp. 73–74.

Deane, Strange Alliance, pp. 55–63.

Hill, Cable M21977 to Hampton.

Bowman, Bedford Triangle, p. 45.

Ibid, pp. 40–46.

If it is true that Hill was inserted as a deniable conduit for the OSS, it is extremely unlikely that it was done expressly for the purpose of POW exfiltration. More likely he was intended as a general OSS contact who could be used if and when required. The Soviets were deeply suspicious of him and at the end of the war tried to prevent his departure from the USSR (Infield, Poltava Affair, pp. 218–20).

Captain Trimble’s arrival at Poltava was either February 14, based on the date given by Kaluta (vol. I, ch. II, p. 14) for the stopover at Armavir, or February 15, the date recorded for Trimble’s appointment as assistant operations officer (Hill, letter to Spaatz on promotion of officer, May 16, 1945). Since it is possible that the stopovers in Armavir and Rostov lasted more than one night each (due to the continuing bad weather), February 15 is accepted here as the correct arrival date.

One such person was planning officer Major Albert Lepawsky, who became one of Eastern Command’s official historians (see Lepawsky, History of Eastern Command, ch. VIII, p. 90ff, for his summary of Hampton’s character).

Lepawsky, History of Eastern Command, ch. VIII, p. 91.

On February 8, Hampton cabled USSTAF asking for “info on nature of Capt Trimble’s assignment to Eastern Command.” Hampton received clarification from General Spaatz on February 11, and on February 20 he requested that Trimble’s thirty-day temporary duty status be replaced with a permanent assignment (Hampton, cables to USSTAF concerning assignment of Captain Trimble, February 1945). We only have Hampton’s side of this exchange; Spaatz’s reply is missing. The query appears, however, to be concerned with the temporary/permanent nature of Trimble’s appointment rather than any covert duties.

An eyewitness description of Majdanek was published in the New York Times of August 30, 1944 (quoted in Schoenberner, Yellow Star, p. 229).

Sella, Value of Human Life in Soviet Warfare, pp. 100–110. The full text of Order No. 270, including Stalin’s preamble, is given in Roberts, Victory at Stalingrad, pp. 197–202; see also Plokhy, Yalta, p. 294ff.

Brackman, Secret File of Joseph Stalin, p. 297.

Sella, Value of Human Life in Soviet Warfare, p. 103.

Deane, Strange Alliance, p. 184; Wadley, Even One Is Too Many, ch. II.

Buhite, Decisions at Yalta, pp. 60–61.

Chapter 5: A Brutal Awakening

Lepawsky, History of Eastern Command, ch. VII, p. 98.

Kaluta, Eascom History, vol. I, ch. IV, p. 16. Even General Deane, head of the Military Mission, was not immune, remarking (Strange Alliance, p. 5) that “all [Russian] employees of foreigners” were used as informers by the NKVD.

Cable from US State Department to US Embassy in Moscow, February 14, 1945, quoted in Wadley, Even One Is Too Many, p. 111.

Wadley, Even One Is Too Many, p. 113. Colonel Jerry Sage had been captured in North Africa in 1943 while working for the OSS behind enemy lines. Sage was imprisoned in Stalag Luft III and is said to have been the model for the character played by Steve McQueen in The Great Escape. Colonel Charles Kouns was from the 82nd Airborne Division and had been captured during a behind-the-lines operation in Italy.

Kaluta, vol. I, ch. III, p. 36.

Deane, Strange Alliance, p. 195.

Kaluta, vol. I, ch. III, p. 36.

There is some doubt about this. Deane (Strange Alliance, p. 195) gives the date as the 14th, but Kaluta (vol. I, ch. III, p. 36) gives the 15th. On the other hand, Wadley (Even One Is Too Many, p. 118, citing Wilmeth’s diary) gives the 16th. February 15 is taken here as an average.

Deane (Strange Alliance, ch. XI) consistently describes his feelings throughout this time as frustratation and/or disappointed optimism. Ever the diplomat, he gives little indication of the fact that he (and most of the American parties involved) privately expected the Russians to default on their obligations. In fact he had little faith in the official contact-team idea and had argued against it to General Marshall, the chief of staff (Marshall, cable to Deane, March 3, 1945, in US State Department, Foreign Relations, pp. 1072–73).

Wadley, Even One Is Too Many, p. 114.

Lieutenant John G. Winant Jr. was a B-17 pilot, shot down on a raid against Münster in October 1943 (Buhite, Decisions at Yalta, p. 60; New York Times obituary of John G. Winant Jr., November 2, 1993). Lieutenant Winant escaped Nazi captivity in May 1945 and was helped by the Red Cross to reach American lines.

They were still exchanging Christmas cards in the early 1950s, but apparently lost touch after that.

Bowman, US Eighth Air Force in Europe, ch. 4.

Michael Kowal, quoted in Parisi, “New Jersey Journal,” New York Times, November 24, 1985. After the war, Kowal expressed his feelings about his wartime service by naming his eldest daughter after his B-17, Carolee.

Michael Kowal, quoted in Bowman, US Eighth Air Force in Europe, ch. 4. Kowal describes performing a sideslip in a Piper Cub that would bring the tail in front of the nose, and claims that he attempted (unsuccessfully) to do something similar in a B-17 under attack by fighters.

Lepawsky, History of Eastern Command, ch. VIII, pp. 108–9. As with Hampton, Lepawsky is critical of Kowal, describing him as “truculent” toward the Russians. However, a top secret cable from General Hill to the War Department on December 29 suggests that the barring of Kowal resulted from the “desire to preclude observation by foreign observers of activities at or near their front lines” (Hill, Cable MX-22201).

Lepawsky, History of Eastern Command, ch. VIII, p. 96.

Persico, Piercing the Reich, pp. 41–2; 169–70.

Given Soviet security at the base, the most likely way would have been on a diplomatic flight via Moscow. These were fairly frequent, as Poltava was a staging point for US diplomatic staff traveling between Moscow and the United States, as well as the Tehran route. No information is available on how long the two agents had been at Poltava prior to Captain Trimble’s arrival.

Information about the identities and backgrounds of OSS intelligence agents was never shared. Even in the mission reports contained in the OSS/London War Diaries, declassified in 1985, the identities of agents were redacted.

OSS/London, War Diaries, vol. 7, to Dec. 1944, pp. 34–47; vol. 12, pp. 289–93. The Eagle project was still in the training phase in February 1945, scheduled for commencement in the spring. The agent personnel were former Polish soldiers who had been forced into service with the German Army and captured in Normandy. Eagle was expedited when the end of the war seemed imminent, but it is unlikely that fully trained agents would have been available by early February.

OSS/London, War Diaries, vol. 7, Apr.–Jun. 1944, pp. 3–4; Jan.–Jun. 1945, pp. 38–50. The operation had been initiated early in 1944, and by February 1945 Tissue agents were entering Germany via Sweden. The details of training come from the War Diaries’ account of the Eagle project (vol. 7, to Dec. 1944, pp. 42–44), which was similar. Agents did 624 hours of paramilitary training over the course of five months.

Rees, Auschwitz, p. 329.

Langbein, People in Auschwitz, pp. 57–58.

Described by Primo Levi (quoted in Langbein, People in Auschwitz, pp. 473–74). Levi was in the Buna-Monowitz camp (“Auschwitz III”), three miles from Birkenau, at the time of liberation.

Langbein, People in Auschwitz, p. 473.

Rees, Auschwitz, p. 329.

Deane, Strange Alliance, pp. 191–94.

Chapter 6: Running with the Bird Dogs

Stalag III-C was liberated on January 31 and Stalag XX-A on February 1. An officers’ camp, Oflag 64, had been liberated earlier, on January 21. However, in all the various accounts of POWs in Poland, it is vanishingly rare to find cases of officers and enlisted men grouping together. It seems that the emotional criteria for POWs to bond with one another included similarity of combat experiences prior to captivity.

Vergolina, Reflections of a Prisoner of War.

Beadle, “Joint Statement.”

Beadle, “Joint Statement”; Wilmeth, “Report on a Visit to Lublin,” p. 4.

Wilmeth, “Report of Interview,” p. 2.

“Intourist” is an abbreviation of inostrannyy turist (“foreign tourist”). Intourist was originally founded in 1929 as a commercial company, but was co-opted by Stalin in the 1930s for propaganda and security purposes, and filled with NKVD personnel (David-Fox, Showcasing the Great Experiment, p. 58 and passim). Intourist still exists, but is now an independent commercial entity.

In his recollections, Robert did not describe the coding method in detail, remarking merely that it revolved around messages dictated by phone, and that the coding system was simple. OSS agents were intensively trained in covert communication and had several secure encryption methods for use in the field. It is unlikely that these methods were used in this case, because of the likelihood of messages being intercepted by the NKVD; if Captain Trimble were known to be receiving encrypted messages, regardless of their content, he would certainly have been expelled by the Soviets from Poland (as had been Hampton and Kowal due to suspicions that they were spying). Since Robert was in Poland ostensibly as an aircrew rescue and salvage officer, the messages were presumably designed to resemble intelligence pertaining to that. A good deal of information about locations could be conveyed openly in that way, with secret information embedded inconspicuously.

The terms “class A agent” and “class B agent” were hardly ever used outside bureaucratic circles and weren’t known to most military personnel. Because of this, and the hectic, disorientating nature of his briefing, when Captain Trimble was told that he was going to be a class B agent, he assumed it was in reference to his attachment to the OSS, and guessed that the two field agents he had met must be class A agents.

This was Major Donald S. Nicholson, Eastern Command’s meteorologist (Wilmeth, “Report of Interview”; Nicholson report on “Actual and necessary expenses”). Don Nicholson (personal communication to Lee Trimble, February 6, 2014) does not now recall being made a “class B agent”—an indication of how rarely used and little-known the term was.

On February 15, the day of Robert’s appointment, General Deane sent a cable to General Richards at the War Department, requesting retrospective approval for his appointment of an agent officer for the purpose of POW contact and relief (Deane, Cable M-22725 to Gen. Richards). Deane doesn’t name the officer appointed. It is possible that it was Colonel Wilmeth, who was being briefed to enter Poland at this time to inspect POW facilities. In that case it is strange that (a) Deane doesn’t name him, since his mission was official; (b) Wadley (Even One Is Too Many, ch. III–IV) doesn’t mention Wilmeth having such a status; and (c) Wilmeth himself doesn’t appear to have had direct access to funds from a finance officer and had to ask Deane to send money (Wilmeth, “Report on a Visit to Lublin”; Wadley, Even One Is Too Many, p. 129). Another Moscow officer, Major Paul S. Hall, was appointed an agent officer and sent to inspect POW facilities at Odessa, but that was somewhat later in February (Deane, Strange Alliance, p. 197; Kaluta, vol. I, ch. V, p. 12), so Hall is also unlikely to be the officer referred to in Deane’s February 15 letter.

Kaluta, vol. I, ch. V, pp. 13–14.

The information that all POWs must go to Odessa was passed to Eastern Command by Moscow on February 18 (Kaluta, vol. I, ch. III, p. 37).

Kaluta, vol. I, ch. III, pp. 37–38.

Ibid, p. 38.

“I am an American.”

“Are they Krauts?”

Chapter 7: Fighting Bastard of the Ukraine

Narrative based on recollections by Sergeant Don MacLeod (ball-turret gunner) and Lieutenant Cornelius Daly (navigator), as told to William MacLeod (personal communication to Lee Trimble, February 12, 2014). Further details come from recollections by Sergeant Arnold Echola (Doherty and Ward, Snetterton Falcons; Geoff Ward, personal communication to Lee Trimble, February 14, 2014). Circumstances of landing supplemented by salvage report by Captain Robert M. Trimble (Trimble, “Report on Flight to Rzeszow,” pp. 1–2).

Photo of Captain I. I. Kamynin, Lieutenant Tillman Collection, Texas Military Forces Museum.

Recollection by Sergeant Don MacLeod, as told to William MacLeod (personal communication to Lee Trimble, February 12, 2014).

Kaluta, vol. I, ch. III, p. 13.

Tadeusz Kratke served briefly with the French Air Force and, after the fall of France, joined the RAF, in which he flew Spitfires in No. 317 (Polish) Squadron (Cynk, Polish Air Force, pp. 136, 202, 216). A photo of Pilot Officer Kratke with his Spitfire can be seen at (retrieved February 14, 2014).

Letter to Tadeusz Kratke written at Staszów, February 17, 1945 (with translation) and photo of Lieutenant Kratke, Lieutenant Tillman Collection, Texas Military Forces Museum.

Shortened form of Tadeusz.

317 Squadron, Chronicle, p. 46.

The officer was Major Donald S. Nicholson, Eastern Command’s meteorologist. The Tillman crew flew out of Lwów after three days and reached Poltava on February 21 (Kaluta, vol. I, ch. III, p. 13).

According to Lepawsky (History of Eastern Command, ch. V, pp. 64–65), the sobriquet was originally bestowed on Eastern Command by people from Persian Gulf Command.

Chapter 8: Kasia

The D-ration candy bars produced in the early war years were notoriously unpleasant compared to commercial ones. They had been deliberately designed to taste “just a little better than a boiled potato” in order to prevent troops gorging on them. But by 1945 the original “Logan bars” had been replaced by the much more pleasant chocolate made by Hershey (Fisher and Fisher, Food in the American Military, p. 148). The Russian soldiers were immensely fond of these chocolate bars, and thousands of them were stolen from Poltava during the final weeks of Eastern Command.

Now Łambinowice, Poland.

In his recollections, Robert was unable to remember (if he ever knew) the name of this camp. There were more than forty sub-camps attached to the Auschwitz complex, of which about a dozen were in the specific local area in which this encounter took place; it could have been almost any one of them.

Kaluta (vol. I, ch. IV, p. 16) remarks that this was a general pattern for American personnel on salvage missions; Red Army officers were happy to cooperate with Americans, and did so generously, until the NKVD put pressure on them to stop.

Wadley, Even One Is Too Many, pp. 121–23.

Captain Trimble’s forebodings about Russian bad faith were shared by Colonel Wilmeth himself (quoted in Kaluta, vol. I, ch. III, pp. 39–40).

There are various theories about the origin of the term “short snorter.” It is probably some long-forgotten association with alcohol, a “snorter” being a measure of spirits.

In 1941 the United States Army Air Corps had been changed to the United States Army Air Forces, but the name of the branch on personnel records and in colloquial use continued to be “Air Corps.”

It is inferred that Robert added this slogan, as it appears to have been written with the same pen as his signature, and although the style differs from his regular handwriting, it matches a style known to have been used by him when trying to write clearly (as in the next-of-kin fields in his passport).

Lieutenant Tillman was remembered by crewmember Sergeant Don MacLeod as an aloof character, who didn’t mix much with his crew. This wasn’t unusual between officers and enlisted men. The signatures that subsequently accumulated on the snorter were (as far as can be discerned) from either officers or civilians.

It is still not known who kept the snorter. But it surfaced in El Paso, Texas, in 1969, when it was sold to a dealer in WWII memorabilia. He hung on to it for decades, and eventually sold it on eBay. It was bought by collector Mike Allard, who believed he recognized the name R. M. Trimble, and contacted his acquaintance Lee Trimble, who confirmed the identification.

Chapter 9: Night of the Cossacks

Fitchen, Mission interrogation of Lt Beam crew.

Matles’s rank is given in different sources as both master sergeant and first sergeant. The latter is believed to be correct at this time.

Kaluta, vol I, ch. II, pp. 17–18.

Colonel Hampton used this incident, and another near-fatal flying error that occurred a few days later on the return journey, in another attempt to have Lieutenant Roklikov removed from flying duties. General Kovalev, the Soviet commander at Poltava, again rebuffed the request, insisting that Lieutenant Roklikov had shown “unique skill and initiative” in both incidents (Kaluta, vol. I, ch. II, pp. 16–17).

The woman’s identity isn’t given in Captain Trimble’s report, so it isn’t known whether she was from the Kratke family who accommodated Lieutenant Tillman and his crew.

Chapter 10: Russian Roulette

Many downed US aircraft were repaired by Soviet teams before Americans could get to them. The Soviets claimed that they were intending to fly these planes out to USAAF units in Italy. On March 8, Colonel Hampton cabled Lieutenant General Ira C. Eaker, commander of the Twelfth and Fifteenth Air Forces in Italy, to inquire about the truth of this claim. By the middle of April, Eaker was able to report that, of several B-17s, B-24s, and P-51 Mustangs reported by the Soviets as repaired and returned, only two B-24s had actually arrived. The rest disappeared (Hill, Cable M23371 to USSTAF, March 22, 1945; Kaluta, vol. I, ch. II, p. 29). Many of the American bombers ended up with the 890 Heavy Bomber Regiment, one of the Soviet test units. Its test pilots evaluated stolen B-17s and B-24s, using them as part of a research program to develop the USSR’s own heavy bomber, the Tupolev Tu 4, which was mainly reverse-engineered from the Boeing B-29 (Ratkin, “Russia’s US Bomber Force”).

Lepawsky, History of Eastern Command, ch. IV, pp. 35–40.

The same month, a P-51 was reported crash-landed at Kirovograd in the Ukraine, but when an investigator was sent from Poltava, there was nothing there (Kaluta, vol. I, ch. II, pp. 27–29).

Lepawsky, History of Eastern Command, ch. III, pp.46–47. In February 1945, Colonel Hampton gave instructions to USSTAF HQ advising aircrews on how to identify themselves to Soviet troops, as well as how to avoid antagonizing them. The advice included carrying a passport and a card with the word “American” in Polish, Ukrainian, and Russian, and presenting a smart appearance with all US Army insignia displayed clearly on the uniform (Kaluta, vol. I, ch. II, p. 28). Some of these measures were easier said than done.

It didn’t go well (Kaluta, vol. I, ch. II, pp. 16–17). Roklikov’s takeoff was even worse than his landing. Despite the delicate condition of the repaired C-47, he buzzed the town of Staszów several times and nearly collided with a church spire. Taking violent evasive action, he almost stalled the plane, and dived it to prevent the stall. The passengers and loose cargo were thrown around, and one of the American mechanics was injured. Roklikov himself had failed to secure his own safety belt and was thrown out of his seat, almost losing control of the aircraft completely. The Soviet authorities still insisted that he was a skilled pilot and refused to remove him from duty.

Ellis B. Woodward, pilot, 493rd Bomb Group, quoted in Bowman, B-17 Combat Missions, p. 29.

Chapter 11: Suffer the Lost Prisoners

Beadle, “Joint Statement.” Beadle’s rank was actually technician fourth grade, or T/4; however, T/4s were informally accorded the title Sergeant, and wore a three-stripe rank insignia.

Vergolina, Reflections of a Prisoner of War, pp. 18–19.

Beadle, “Joint Statement”; Wilmeth, “Report on a Visit to Lublin,” pp. 9, 12.

Formerly part of Germany, now Gorzów Wielkopolski, Poland.

Formerly part of Germany, now Chwarszczany, Poland.

World War 2 POW Archive, “POW Record for Richard J Beadle.”

Whitlock, Rock of Anzio, pp. 242–45.

Quoted in Whitlock, Rock of Anzio, p. 244. Richard Beadle earned the Silver Star for his conduct at Anzio; citation 45th Infantry Division, General Order No. 168 (1944).

Wadley, Even One Is Too Many, pp. 119–20.

Kisil was a technician fifth grade, or T/5. Just as T/4s were given the courtesy title Sergeant, T/5s were commonly addressed as Corporal.

Deane, Strange Alliance, p. 195.

Wadley, Even One Is Too Many, p. 123.

Wilmeth, “Report on a Visit to Lublin,” pp. 1–2.

USMA, Howitzer Yearbook, p. 230.

Wadley, Even One Is Too Many, pp. 128–29; Wilmeth, “Report on a Visit to Lublin,” pp. 2–3.

Wilmeth, “Report on a Visit to Lublin,” p. 15.

Wilmeth, “Memorandum to General Deane,” pp. 6–7.

Foregger (“Soviet Rails to Odessa,” p. 844) puts the total figure for Americans evacuated by ship from Odessa from March to June 1945 at 2,858. In addition, there were 4,310 British and nearly 30,000 other nationalities.

Conversation summarized in Wilmeth, “Report on a Visit to Lublin,” pp. 4–5.

Deane wrote to him: “We have had a few messages from you but they have been badly garbled.” (Deane, Letter to Wilmeth, March 10).

The official exchange rate through Russian banks was 5 rubles or zlotys to 1 US dollar (Wadley, Even One Is Too Many, pp. 131–32). On the black market, rates of up to 200 rubles or zlotys to the dollar could be obtained, but at Soviet insistence, the Military Mission had barred US personnel from taking advantage of this exchange rate (Lepawsky, History of Eastern Command, ch. V, pp. 91–93).

Wadley, Even One Is Too Many, pp. 144–45.

Wadley, Even One Is Too Many, p. 146; Wilmeth, “Memorandum to General Deane,” pp. 3–4.

Beadle in his statement estimates forty, but the figure given by Wilmeth (“Report on a Visit to Lublin,” p. 6) is fifty-four.

Gould was from Croydon, Surrey, and served in the 5th Battalion of the Buffs (Rudy Vergolina address book; Beadle, “Joint Statement,” Gould copy). He is not listed in contemporary British POW records compiled by the Red Cross; however, these records are not always complete or accurate.

Beadle (“Joint Statement”) calls it the Russian border, but that is impossible; it must have been Ukraine (which was generally referred to by Americans as “Russia” at this time).

Beadle, “Joint Statement”; the names are given in Wadley, Even One Is Too Many, p. 144.

Chapter 12: American Gentlemen

The cliff or bluff at Lwów-Sknilow was an eccentric and dangerous feature. It was used as a takeoff point by glider pilots who used the airfield before the war. The cliff is now gone, erased by the construction of a modern airport.

Nicholson, Mission interrogation of Lt Barnett.

Hampton, Cable T-3103 to USSTAF, March 17.

Esa Lowry is the name as given in Captain Trimble’s report (“Report on Flight to Rzeszow,” p. 3); whether it is exact or a phonetic spelling of a more Slavonic name (e.g., Larysz) is not known.

When writing his report on the events in Lwów, Robert quoted his statement to Miss Lowry, still not noticing the accidental allusion. The fact that it was allowed to stand in the archived official report suggests that nobody else noticed the slip either. The probable reason is that he did in fact take some Americans home on this mission, despite the fact that it was not the mission’s primary, let alone “only,” interest.

Trimble (“Report on Flight to Rzeszow,” p. 3) seems to imply that two POWs were found at the hotel upon arrival, along with the Barnett crew, but this appears to be a false impression caused by chronological compression in that part of the report; the POWs arrived later.

Beadle’s description (in his “Joint Statement”) and Matles’s (given in Trimble’s “Report on Flight to Rzeszow”) differ. Beadle describes the rehabilitation center and the commandant’s office being in the same place; Matles’s version, used here, seems more accurate.

This is the term used by Beadle (“Joint Statement”) and in many other contemporary sources referring to similar facilities. It was only after the war that the term “concentration camp” began to be exclusively associated with the extermination camps of the Holocaust. In this case it may have been apt; although it is impossible to be certain, the “rehabilitation center” was probably the former Nazi camp of Janowska in Lwów, which was reused by the NKVD for detention of political prisoners (Bartov, “White Spaces and Black Holes,” p. 324).

Despite his rank, First Sergeant John Matles was a man of considerable authority in the military/diplomatic service. He went on to hold a number of highly responsible postings in US missions in various countries. According to a former Air Force colleague, Matles was offered a commission many times during his career but turned it down, believing that it would undermine his effectiveness (“Time sure flies!” in Voice of the Valley).

Chapter 13: Rising Tide

Rudy Vergolina (Reflections, p. 26) recalled that Captain Trimble “commanded some respect among the Russians.” Vergolina misunderstood the circumstances of the Americans’ presence in Lwów and mistakenly believed that “the Captain” (as he called him, having apparently forgotten his name in the intervening forty years), the Barnett crew, and the other POWs were all a single fourteen-man bomber crew. It was an understandable mistake for an infantryman to make in the circumstances.

Like Richard Beadle, Vergolina was actually a T/4 and accorded the courtesy title Sergeant.

Vergolina, Reflections, p. 27.

Rudy Vergolina’s regiment landed on D + 1, but Rudy landed on D-Day itself, on temporary detachment with a unit in either the 1st or 29th Division (Joseph Vergolina, personal communication to Lee Trimble, March 3, 2014).

Vergolina, Reflections, p. 19.

This is the name given by Rudy Vergolina (Reflections, p. 21, although he misspells it “McNiesch”). He gives no further details, and no definite identification has been made. It is possible that the man was Gunner J. McNeish 2979918 of the Royal Artillery, who was a POW in Stalag XX-A at Torun, Poland (“Prisoners of War of British Army, WWII,” unpublished data held by the Naval and Military Press, Ltd., available online through Stalag XX-A was in the area where Vergolina says he met McNeish and had been liberated on February 1.

Wadley, Even One Is Too Many, p. 166.

B-17G 43-37687 eventually returned to England and rejoined the 96th Bomb Group. She was at last given a name—Crash Crew—and flew more missions before the war ended (William MacLeod, personal communication to Lee Trimble, February 12, 2014). She survived the war, and returned to the USA, where her story ended in the great postwar aircraft graveyard at Kingman, Arizona (Freeman, B-17 Flying Fortress Story, p. 233).

According to Rudy Vergolina (Reflections, pp. 27–28), Jim McNeish was “sent on to a British embassy” before the rest of the group left Lwów. This must be a mistake, as Lepawsky (History of Eastern Command, ch. VI, p. 21) records that Captain Trimble brought two British POWs disguised as aircrew to Poltava on March 17.

Lepawsky, History of Eastern Command, ch. VI, p. 21.

See McDonald and Dronfield, A Very Dangerous Woman: The Lives, Loves and Lies of Russia’s Most Seductive Spy (London: Oneworld, 2015).

Lepawsky, History of Eastern Command, ch. IV, p. 66.

Lepawsky, History of Eastern Command, ch. VI, p. 21.

Booth, Cable PX 27223 to Deane and Eastern Command.

Chapter 14: Far from Home

Wilmeth (“Report on a Visit to Lublin,” p. 9) gives the number as seven, but official communications at the time (e.g., the cable from Stalin to Roosevelt cited below) give a figure of seventeen. Seventeen seems to include these seven plus other sick Americans who were later evacuated with them.

Wilmeth, “Report on a Visit to Lublin,” p. 9.

Beadle, “Joint Statement”; Wilmeth, “Report on a Visit to Lublin,” p. 12.

Wilmeth, unpublished memoir, cited in Wadley, Even One Is Too Many, pp. 163–64.

The meeting occurred on March 12 (Wilmeth, unpublished memoir, cited in Wadley, Even One Is Too Many, pp. 148–9, and Wilmeth, “Report on a Visit to Lublin,” pp. 6–8).

Wilmeth, “Memorandum to General Deane,” p. 8.

Wilmeth, unpublished memoir, cited in Wadley, Even One Is Too Many, p. 149.


Wilmeth, “Report on a Visit to Lublin,” p. 10.

For example, the version of a telephone message from Wilmeth to Moscow on March 16, stating that there were no more ex-prisoners in Lublin or expected there (Golubev, Letter to Maj. Gen J. R. Deane).

Wadley (Even One Is Too Many, p. 114) infers from Deane’s actions and sequence of decisions that his intelligence concerning ex-POWs was more extensive and detailed than he acknowledged in his memoir, and that he must have had covert sources.

Deane, Strange Alliance, pp. 198–99 (dates of telegrams given by Deane differ from those in official archives; his dates are one day later; official dates are given here).

Deane, Strange Alliance, p. 198; Roosevelt, telegram to Stalin, March 17, 1945, in US Department of State, Foreign Relations, p. 1082.

Deane, Strange Alliance, p. 198–99; Stalin, telegram to Roosevelt, March 22, in US Department of State, Foreign Relations, pp. 1082–83.

Harriman, cable to President Roosevelt, March 24, 1945, in US Department of State, Foreign Relations, pp. 1084–86.

Wadley, Even One Is Too Many, p. 158.

Ibid., p. 165.


Foregger, “Soviet Rails to Odessa,” pp. 852–53.

Hall, “Supplement No. 4 to Interim Report on Odessa Transit Camp.”

Foregger, “Soviet Rails to Odessa,” p. 855; Harriman, cable to US secretary of state, June 11, in US Department of State, Foreign Relations, pp. 1097–98.

Rees, World War Two Behind Closed Doors, p. 393; Plokhy, Yalta, pp. 304–5. The Russian POWs knew what to expect, and there were many suicides in Western holding camps and aboard the troopships among prisoners faced with repatriation.

Wadley, Even One Is Too Many, p. 161.

Decades later, Robert was unable to recall exactly where this episode took place, other than that it was near Lublin. The description of the setting and the circumstances indicate that it was probably in the vicinity of the small town of Pulawy, twenty-five miles northwest of Lublin.

By 1944 the total number of subsidiary camps involved in the Holocaust had grown to 660, and most served as accommodations for slave laborers taken from the main extermination camps (Herbert, “Forced Laborers”).

Sella, Value of Human Life, pp. 105–10.

Russian ex-POWs who fought with Polish partisans against the Germans “were tormented by the thought: will they, former POWs, be accepted in their own country. Unfortunately, very often their apprehensions were found to be justified” (R. Nazarevich, quoted in Sella, Value of Human Life, p. 109).

The murder of German prisoners was quite commonplace on the Eastern Front, just as the murder of Soviet POWs by Germans had been. What was unusual here was the mode of killing.

Chapter 15: Isabelle

Bartov, “White Spaces and Black Holes,” p. 324.

Gross, Revolution from Abroad, pp. 179–82; Parrish, Lesser Terror, p. 48; Yones, Smoke in the Sand, p. 79. The number of prisoners said to have been killed by the NKVD varies from source to source. Twelve thousand is the figure given by Parrish, and probably includes Ukrainians murdered throughout the city during the panic. Three thousand is a more widely cited figure. Because of the city’s history, there had long been ethnic tensions between its German, Polish, Ukrainian, and Jewish populations, which were ripe for exploitation by powers such as the SS and the NKVD.

Yones, Smoke in the Sand, pp. 79–81.

“. . . all labor which the government shall judge useful in the best interests of the nation.” Wording of the law of September 4, 1942.

Bories-Sawala, Dans la gueule du loup, p. 56.

Figure from Ministère de la Production industrielle, February 18, 1943, quoted in Association pour la Mémoire de la Déportation du Travail Forcé, online archive.

Herbert, “Forced Laborers.” Beyer and Schneider (Forced Labor, part 1, p. 3) put the proportion of forced labor at one-fifth of the labor force.

Herbert, Hitler’s Foreign Workers, p. 219.

Ibid, p. 130.

Ibid, pp. 369–73.

Formerly part of Germany, now Opole, Poland.

Lefévre, “La Fin Tragique de Trois STO.”

Colonel Wilmeth (“Memorandum to General Deane,” p. 4) believed that the warnings about the curfew and German spies were given mainly to intimidate American visitors, but Captain Trimble’s experiences suggest otherwise; there really was a paranoia.

The crew of AAF pilot Second Lieutenant L. E. Moore, who passed through Lwów en route to Poltava, found a body on the street outside their hotel; they were told by Russians that the man had been a spy (Fitchen, Mission interrogation of 2nd Lt Moore crew, p. 2).

The ships that took liberated prisoners from Odessa were British troopships. Nineteen such vessels departed from the port between March 7 and June 22, 1945 (Foregger, “Soviet Rails to Odessa,” pp. 855–57).

Chapter 16: Bait and Switch

The official exchange rate through Russian banks was 5 rubles to 1 US dollar (Wadley, Even One Is Too Many, pp. 131–32). This rate was designed to be favorable to the Soviets, and a fairer rate would have been between 12 and 17 rubles to the dollar. On the black market, rates of up to 175 or even 200 rubles to the dollar could be obtained, and at Soviet insistence the Military Mission had barred US personnel from taking advantage of this exchange rate (Lepawsky, History of Eastern Command, ch. V, pp. 89–93).

Chapter 17: Blood Sacrifice

Kaluta, vol. I, ch. II, pp. 26–27; vol. II, ch. I, p. 1.

Trimble, cable T 3706 to Gen. Deane.

Antonov, letter to General Deane, March 30, 1945, reproduced in Borch, “Two Americans.”

Harriman, memo on meeting with Stalin, April 15, 1945, quoted in Dobbs, Six Months in 1945, p. 195.

Detailed narratives are given in Borch, “Two Americans,” and McDonough, Wars of Myron King.

The name is usually given as “Kuflevo” (e.g., Borch, “Two Americans”; McDonough, Wars of Myron King, p. 103). There is no place in Poland with that name. It might have been Kuflew or Huta Kuflewska, which are in about the right location. There was a Nazi concentration camp at Kuflew, but no record of an airfield has been found. The actual location might have been Minsk Mazowiecki, where there is a modern air base. Alternatively, the crew interrogation report (Fitchen, Mission interrogation of Lt King crew, pp. 1–2) implies that the “airfield” might have been just a farm field.

In the version of events told by the Russians to General Deane, it was claimed that Jack Smith was a known “terrorist and saboteur” and that Lieutenant King had knowingly helped him disguise himself as an American airman (Deane, Cable M-23583 to Gen. Marshall).

Detailed narrative given in Borch, “Two Americans.” Borch gives Bridge’s rank as first lieutenant; Deane (Cable M-23583 to Gen. Marshall) gives it as captain, apparently mistakenly.

Detailed narrative given in Borch, “Two Americans.”

Slavin, letter to Deane, quoted in Deane, cable MX-23677 to Gen. Marshall. (Slavin gave the pilot’s name as Roli; according to Borch it was Raleigh.)

Antonov, letter to General Deane, March 30, 1945, reproduced in Borch, “Two Americans.”

SMERSH report to Stalin, April 2, 1945, quoted in Dobbs, Six Months in 1945, p. 195.

Kaluta, vol. I, ch. I, pp. 8–9.

Harriman, cable to secretary of state, April 2, in US Department of State, Foreign Relations, pp. 1086–88.

Halifax, letter to US secretary of state, in US Department of State, Foreign Relations, pp. 1088–90.

Hill, cable M-23792 to Hampton, April 10, 1945, quoted in Kaluta, vol. II, ch. I, p. 7.

Hill, cable M-23828 to Hampton, April 12, 1945, quoted in Kaluta, vol. II, ch. I, p. 7.

Hill, Cable M-23827 to Gen. Spaatz, April 12, 1945.

Hampton, cable T-3550 to Gen. Hill, Apr. 11, 1945. Adding to the confusion, Hampton had been informed that the “B-17” would be arriving that day, Apr. 11.

Foregger, “Soviet Rails to Odessa,” pp. 852–55.

Kaluta, vol. II, ch. I, p. 4.

The aircraft photographed at Poltava on April 12 matches the serial number and description given to General Deane by General Cannon (Cannon, Cable M-51026 to Gen. Deane, April 11, 1945).

Kaluta, vol. III, photo 19–21.

In response to the SMERSH report on actions at Poltava in early April, Stalin ordered, “Calm Comrade Kovalev down. . . . Prevent him from taking independent actions” (Dobbs, Six Months in 1945, p. 196).

License discovered by Tom Lingerfelter. Described online at (retrieved February 26, 2014).

General Deane had been informed in detail about the flight. He passed the full details on to the Soviets, but not to Eastern Command. It was a high-ranking crew that took Morris Shenderoff to Moscow, hand-picked on behalf of Lieutenant General John K. Cannon, commander of Allied Air Forces in the Mediterranean: pilot Major Walter C. Cannon (possibly a relative); copilot Captain James R. Mayer; navigator Captain Arthur F. Butler; engineer Second Lieutenant Melton E. Bloom; and radioman Staff Sergeant James W. Wells. Shenderoff was escorted by Captains Harold W. Crowell and Beverley H. Tripp of the Corps of Military Police, and by Major Orfutt and Lieutenant Colonel Stepanovich, American officers who spoke Russian. Lieutenant Colonel Stepanovich was responsible for delivering Shenderoff into Soviet hands (Cannon, Cables MX-50976 and M-51026 to Gen. Deane, April 11, 1945; Deane, Letter to Lt Gen Slavin, April 11, 1945).

The photo of the Shenderoff plane in the USAF archive is erroneously captioned, “American and Russian personnel wave their greetings as the Consolidated B-24 ‘JUDITH ANN,’ carrying Major General Deane and Major General Edmund W. Hill, comes to a halt on the steel mat runway at Poltava Airbase, a shuttle mission base in Russia. 12 April 1945.” In the official history of Eastern Command, the same photo is captioned, “Secret arrival at Poltava of B-24 from Italy” (Kaluta, vol. III, photo 71–11).

Borch, “Two Americans.”

Kaluta, vol. I, ch. I, p. 4. Apparently the rumor originated with Lieutenant Myron King, who heard the story when he was in Moscow for his court-martial (Borch, “Two Americans”).

Chapter 18: Spare the Conquered, Confront the Proud

Kaluta, vol. II, ch. II, p. 1. Eastern Command had opted not to fly their flag permanently in case it irritated the Russians.

Roosevelt died at 3:35 P.M. on April 12, which was the middle of the night in Russia. The Americans there woke to the news on April 13.

Kaluta, vol. II, ch. II, p. 1.

Kaluta, vol. II, ch. II, p. 1; Lepawsky, History of Eastern Command, ch. VIII, pp. 38–39.

The artist was Senior Sergeant Sapokar. The theater was shared between American and Russian personnel and, until the rise of tensions in March 1945, had been a focus of good relations between the two sides (Kaluta, vol. I, ch. V, pp. 21–22).

Quoted in Kaluta, vol. II, ch. I, p. 10.

The similarity was noted at the time by Eastern Command (Kaluta, vol. II, ch. I, p. 10).

Captain Trimble made this plain at the commencement of the conference (report by adjutant Captain Fischer, quoted in Kaluta, vol. II, ch. I, p. 10).

Kaluta, vol. II, ch. I, p. 13.

Trimble, cable to Hill, April 21, 1945, quoted in Kaluta, vol. II, ch. I, pp. 13–14.

Hill, cable to Trimble, quoted in Lepawsky, History of Eastern Command, ch. 6, p. 83.

Trimble, cable to Hill, April 21, 1945, quoted in Kaluta, vol. II, ch. I, pp. 13–14.

Narratives in Borch, “Two Americans.”

Dolin had met Wilmeth and Kingsbury in Lublin. Strangely, Dolin believed that the POW contact mission was a front and that the two colonels were actually spying on the Soviets (Dolin, quoted by McDonough, Wars of Myron King, p. 174). The allegation is fairly preposterous. It rests on the claim that Dolin saw documents containing intelligence about Soviet forces on Wilmeth’s desk. The claim assumes that Wilmeth, as a spy, had recorded his data in plain text and left it lying about where anybody entering his office could see and read it. Given that he was constantly being spied on by the NKVD, this would make him the most incompetent (and the luckiest) spy who ever lived. The “intelligence” documents were probably details of Red Army POW collection points, Odessa transports, and prison camps, as well as information about the dispersal of POWs obtained from Wilmeth’s POW agents.

Trimble, letter to Kovalev, April 18, 1945, quoted in Kaluta, vol. II, ch. I, p. 11.

Kaluta, vol. II, ch. I, pp. 11–12.

Wilmeth, cable to Deane, April 9, 1945, quoted in Kaluta, vol. II, ch. II, p. 6.

In 1952, after a review of his case by the US Air Force, King’s guilty verdict was overturned. His fine was refunded and his military record cleared (Borch, “Two Americans”).

Trimble, cable to Hill, quoted in Kaluta, vol. II, ch. I, p. 4.

Hampton, Cable T-3457 to Gen. Deane, April 4, 1945.

McDonough, Wars of Myron King, pp. 192–93.

Except for tail gunner Sergeant George Atkinson, who had been involved in a road accident in Poltava on April 19, in which a local woman was killed. Atkinson bumped his truck into a Russian truck, which, not properly braked, rolled onto the sidewalk and crushed the woman. Despite attempts by Captain Trimble, General Deane, and Deane’s chief of staff to settle the case quietly with the Soviets and get Atkinson flown out to Tehran, the Soviets insisted that he be subject to their jurisdiction. He was fined heavily, and the Military Mission paid compensation to the woman’s family (Kaluta, vol. II, ch. II, pp. 7–8).

According to Kaluta (vol. II, ch. II, p. 7), Kovalev had preapproved King’s departure. However, Robert Trimble recalled that Kovalev complained about it after the event. Knowing the Soviet habit of giving and then rescinding permissions, this isn’t surprising (permission to fly injured combat men to Tehran had been given and rescinded several times during the flying ban). Recalling the fate of Morris Shenderoff, Robert said later, “I’d be damned if we were going to let that happen to King.”

Kaluta, vol. II, ch. II, p. 2.

The old building is still part of the US Embassy, now serving as the US Citizen Center.

These complaints are reviewed throughout all three volumes of the official history; some were true (such as the black market dealing, detailed in Lepawsky, History of Eastern Command, ch. V, pp. 86–92), whereas others were exaggerated or dubious.

Plokhy, Yalta, pp. 155–56, 168–69.

Winston Churchill, address to the House of Commons, December 14, 1950, Hansard vol. 482, col. 1368.

In his memoir, The Strange Alliance, written shortly after the war, John R. Deane’s diplomatic tone often gives way to anger over the POW issue. Likewise, Averell Harriman was sufficiently angry about the issue to suggest retaliation against Soviet POW contact teams in American-occupied territory (Harriman, cable to secretary of state, March 14, 1945, in US Department of State, Foreign Relations, pp. 1079–81).

Deane, Strange Alliance, p. 197.

Winston Churchill, address to the House of Commons, December 14, 1950, Hansard vol. 482, col. 1367.

Chapter 19: The Long Way Home

Kaluta, vol. II, ch. III, pp. 2–5.

Lieutenant William R. Kaluta, Corps of Engineers, became one of Eastern Command’s official historians.

Infield, Poltava Affair, pp. 223–24. Unfortunately, Infield cites no source for the story, and there are problems with it. First, Infield is under the impression that Ritchie was CO at Poltava (he was just visiting to finalize the evacuation), and he is said to have dumped the material in the lake “through a hole in the ice” (in June). However, it is plausible that OSS equipment could have been stored at Poltava, given the planned cooperation program (Deane, Strange Alliance, pp. 50–59). It is unlikely (although not impossible) that the cache had any direct connection to Robert Trimble’s mission.

Hill, Letter to Gen. Spaatz, May 16, 1945. What is significant is that the only exceptional thing Robert had officially done was take command at Poltava, and at the time the letter was written he had only been in that post one month. His officially recorded work as assistant operations officer was (for Eastern Command) fairly standard. It is clear that Hill was alluding to Captain Trimble’s truly exceptional off-the-record mission.

Deane, Cable M-24441 to Gen. Spaatz, May 24, 1945.

Many biographical accounts of Spaatz at this period have him moving to USAAF HQ in Washington, DC, in early June, prior to taking up command in the Pacific in late July (e.g., Watson, Secretaries and Chiefs of Staff, p. 109). However, in late June he was still in Europe, having resumed command of USSTAF from June 13 to June 30. On the 27th he visited Melun Airfield in France, where American test pilots were evaluating captured German Me-262 jet fighters (Samuel, American Raiders, pp. 271–77).

Metz, Master of Airpower, ch. I.

American Legion Baseball was (and still is) a baseball league for teenage boys, founded by the American Legion veterans’ organization in 1926.

In practice, it is almost certain that Robert Trimble would not have been one of those pilots, even had he accepted Spaatz’s offer. The 509th Composite Group was a specialized unit that had trained intensively for the atomic bomb missions. Robert probably could not have completed conversion training on the B-29 in time to join the 509th, let alone take part in any missions. But that wasn’t known at the time—it was anticipated that there would be more than just the Hiroshima and Nagasaki missions, and that the war might go on much longer.

There seem to have been two contradictory views of Robert Trimble’s (officially recorded) service with Eastern Command. Major Albert Lepawsky, the command’s first historian, is dismissive of him as commander. Lepawsky was sympathetic to the Russians and writes disparagingly about both Colonel Hampton and Major Kowal. While acknowledging that Trimble was a congenial character and inexperienced in command, he claims that he was antagonistic toward the Russians (Lepawsky, History of Eastern Command, ch. VIII, pp. 101–11). However, Lepawsky was not at Poltava during Trimble’s time, and his version is flatly contradicted by the volumes of the official history written by Lieutenant William Kaluta (who was there) and by the testimonials of General Hill and General Deane cited above. It is probable that the unnamed general who called Robert to Washington had heard a version of events propagated by Lepawsky, since the latter had been producing negative reports on Eastern Command personnel for the War Department since at least December 1944 (Lepawsky, History of Eastern Command, ch. VIII, pp. 49–51).

Captain Trimble initially declined to take part, because his personnel were busy with urgent administrative duties, having been told a few days earlier by General Deane that Eastern Command was about to be shut down and evacuated—an order that was later rescinded (Kaluta, vol. II, ch. III, p. 2). Captain Trimble immediately apologized to General Kovalev for the confusion and authorized American participation in the celebration (Lepawsky, History of Eastern Command, ch. VIII, p. 111).

Epilogue: Not Without Honor

The Croix de Guerre citation for Robert Trimble is listed in French government records under “decision no 1029, division level [with silver star]” dated August 20, 1945. The actual citation document has unfortunately been lost in the French archives.

De Gaulle visited Washington for talks with President Truman from August 22 to 24. The meetings were generally civil, but there were ongoing disagreements between de Gaulle and the United States that year over the postwar plan for Germany and French plans to reestablish a hold on Indochina (Wall, “Harry S. Truman and Charles de Gaulle,” pp. 123–29; McAllister, No Exit, pp. 99–103; Marr, Vietnam, pp. 183–84).

At some time between infancy and later childhood, the second part of Carol Ann’s name fell out of use. She has no memory of when or why, only the knowledge that “Carol Ann” was what her father called her when she was a baby.

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