OLD FRIEND

 

In the quiet half light of Winter’s departure, a lone Osprey has swept across the sea, returning from his distant hunting grounds, far to the South.

Rhythmically he moves through dawn’s cool damp fog, his feathers long and dark, a solitary silhouette rising against the warmth of the Eastern light.

His flies with swift strength that resonates a purpose and his wings radiate as he dances upon the now awakened waves that seem to reach up and say:
‘welcome back my old friend’.

SHINING STILLNESS

 

 

 

 

A dark gale cascades across the vast barren field. 

Each yard passed, it gathers a greater momentum. 

 

It’s inertia pushes it down upon a frozen stubborn ground and 

forward it leaps upwards in an explosion of ice and snow. 

 

All wintering beneath, are at once awakened.  

 

Upon reaching the waiting coniferous forest, 

it shatters aging pine and the trees moan as one. 

 

For a long breath the woods, once silent, 

are enveloped by an unseen fury of splintering whines and frenzied sparks.

 

It was never clear, when this might start.   

 

High above the canopy of chaos, 

far above the glow of embers, 

silent stars mingle and dance upon footless halls, 

suspended in the brilliant moonless sky. 

 

From their loft of shining stillness,

a gentle calm illuminates and 

descends softly over all the land

and 

we remember.  

OPERATION OSPREY NEST (Chapter Six)

 

 

Karl began slowly, “My every bone in my krieger (warrior) body hopes that your primary objective be as inconclusive as our own progress on Deutsche heimat.  Such a bomb would change the world forever, regardless of whose hands it was held.  I am a tactical fighter much like your father. In the hope and eventuality that no one can develop such an atomic bomb, this war can be won by our Soldaten, Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine.  This I feel very confident of and why the other mission objectives in this file, are of equal importance.”

    

 

Gunther listened and watched the blue smoke from his Belinda waft above the  head of the closest Rottweiler and slowly drift towards the the fire.  He was a keenly observant man with a photographic memory.  Often, in times such as this, he would allow that combination to portray a relaxed persona, in order to let others reveal.  Gunther was the consummate good listener with an astounding rare gift of retention. Tonight, given his privileged audience, he would let Karl Dönitz do all the talking, only injecting subtle questions to elongate the narrative.  For he already knew that this evening and the week ahead to study the file names, numbers and addresses would be more than he needed.  He suddenly felt a flush run through him, not by the wine, tobacco nor the fire but by the vision of the mission ahead.

 

Oberbefehlshaber der Kriegsmarine Karl Dönitz preferred, in his words, the Maine coastline for Gunther’s insertion onto enemy shores.   Specifically, he cited Frenchman’s Bay situated in close proximity to Brooklin Maine. There, on property owned by a man of German descent, named Luders, Gunther would be met by a caretaker on the desolute vacant grounds. Gunther, instinctively felt this was too far East, given his timeline for the first coded transmission and after some discussion, he let it go.    

 

Luders, apparently was a renowned naval architect with a son Alfred E. Luders Jr. (Bill), operating a government funded shipyard in Stamford, Ct.  Visiting this shipyard was to be objective #1 according to Dönitz. Additionally, Gunther was to gather intelligence from Edmund Cromwell of the Boston Naval Yard.  There, it was important to ascertain the fleet strength of American LST (Landing Ship Tank) production rollout that could be used for an eventual suspected allied invasion of France.   Moving westward via public transportation with legal and current English documents, he was to connect with a yard worker at a local Stamford pub and arrange access to The Luders Shipyard. Of the highest priorty was to establish the extent of their subchaser production and vessel specific capabilities. It would be at Gunther’s descretion to manage the time neccessary to accomplish this.  It might perhaps even take several weeks to gather this high level intelligence. Gunther concurred that it likely could even with several social introductions. He had never met this Alfred (Bill) Luders Jr while visiting America before the War and suspected that the man would not only be highly intelligent, but also a very cautious and guarded man given his lineage, coupled with the times, towards strangers.  Dönitz thus assured him that the Luders’ dossier file was quite thorough and facilitating a connection, was of paramount importance.      

 

The dogs, then sat alertly up and Leutnant zur See walked in to add logs to the fire and replenish the wine.   It was now approaching half past ten o’clock in the evening and Karl Dönitz, with a relaxed and cordial authority, instructed his Leutnant that he would see him for the morning.  Perhaps adding for Gunther’s consumption, that the Japanese contingent from Tokyo was due to arrive by noon.  The Leutnant zur See nodded and ackowledged that the visitors from Tokyo were reported to be on schedule.

A CHRISTMAS MOMENT

 

A CHRISTMAS MOMENT        

Each year around the holidays, various brokers who cover us here at work,  send us token gifts or take us out for lunch. These gifts have become far less frequent now that we trade primarily on the computer screen.   This year in fact, only one gift was distributed to each person on our desk.   It was a woolen blanket, rolled up and packaged to be carried like a lunch box.   It looked warm, efficient and convenient, though not terribly necessary for us on the 11th floor of 1251 Ave of Americas, working in short sleeves for one of the largest banks in the world.   A colleague sitting next to me, frowned in disgust and said: ‘what’s this..?’ and chucked it under his desk.   Another behind me laughed and handed it to a junior assistant (most likely feeling magnanimous while actually being condescending).   I said: ‘well… it IS from Mitsui Fudosan, a broker that we DON’T even use, I think I’ll offer it to some homeless person on the way to the train.’
So, shortly thereafter, I set off to catch my train, remembering to grab the blanket. I was quite certain that I would not need to carry it far, for December 22’nd was one of the coldest days yet, of an already bitterly cold month.   Quite to my surprise, after eight city blocks, I had seen NO homeless panhandlers at all. There were plenty of tourists merrily making their way through the cold but conspicuously absent, were the various homeless shapes I had seen walking to work in the pre dawn stillness. Could it actually be that the city officials have them literally swept off the streets at first light, to hide any unpleasantness from our visiting tourists…? Surely the shelters would not be closed at night and just open during the day.   It made no sense and then it made perfect sense and my heart sank.
For a long moment I stood still on that cold sidewalk, oblivious to those trying to get around me with their bags and strollers.   Then, changing directions, I started walking away from Grand Central.   I could always catch the next train, or the one after that.   I went west and south, weaving through the less crowded city blocks. When the shadows began engulfing all but the highest buildings, I started to resign myself to the fact that I might have to place the woolen blanket in a goodwill bin at the station.   Then, around the corner of a non-descript desolate city street, sat an old African American woman with a frayed pink blanket draped over her slouched shoulders.   She sat on an old plastic milk crate and her feet shuffled softly in the cold.   She had no tin rattling for change, no cardboard sign to display her despair, only one arm hugging the other.   So set back from the sidewalk, almost hidden in the darkness, I almost missed seeing her completely.   When I turned and approached with the Fudosan blanket held out to her, she did not immediately notice that I was there.   Then, after what seemed a long moment, she looked up and she saw the blanket.  Her initial bewilderment quickly gave way to a broad smile and she made a sound as soft as a pigeon cooing.   As I began to turn away, she looked up and our eyes met.   I said: ‘Merry Christmas’ and she held my gaze for a long time.   Her large brown eyes were somewhat misty but clear and penetrating.   I read her lips: ‘thank you’.   I smiled, gave her a thumbs up and headed on my way. 
As I strode to the station, now feeling quite good indeed, I could not shake and cannot to this day from my memory, those penetrating eyes.   It was as if I had looked into the eyes of someone I had known all my life.   In those eyes there was a moment of Peace, comfort, understanding, compassion and clarity.
Several days later, on the evening before Christmas, I told my wife and sons this story, and my wife reminded me that Christ often sees us through the eyes of others and we sometimes, can see Christ in theirs.
May God bless all our families throughout each day and may we never forget how fortunate, we truly are.

 

Operation Osprey Nest (chapter five)

 

“Gunther,” Karl Dönitz began “this will be a most dangerous mission, let us not elude that reality.   The crossing of the North Atlantic will be very perilous and should Otto successfully deliver you, your duration on enemy soil may be open ended until the objective is achieved.” 

Gunther began to speak but Karl raised his hand and continued: “You are our perfect man for this mission. Your gift for languages is unparalleled, you are of the right age with a craft and experience to blend in with the most sophisticated of diplomats. Beyond that, you are as strong and observant as these two Rottweiler Metzgerhunds at my feet. Your father would be most proud of you Gunther.” 

 

A table was then set up behind them, not by local French servants but by Dornitz’s Leutnant zur SeeOver the next few days, I have many appointments, so it is unlikely I will see you during that time.” Karl continued, “You will stay on the third floor with a back staircase so that you may come and go without interruption, to exercise on the grounds. Tonight I would like us to relax, dine and discuss your mission in more detail.” The Leutnant zur See served up a feast and placed a freshly decanted 1929 Château Mouton Rothschild on the table. Leaving the room, he closed the mahogany doors behind him, allowing Gunther and Karl to speak in privacy.

 

“If I am hearing you then correctly sir, this Manhattan Project, do you really think the Americans are capable building such a device?” Karl replied flatly, “Capable yes. We are along in the process ourselves and assume the Soviets are as well, to a lesser extent. Our Japanese friends appear somewhat ignorant to the prospect of such a weapon being developed but they are traditionalist.   We on the other hand Gunther, are thinkers who engineer mechanical wonders of change. Just look at our Schwalbe, the Messerschmitt Me 262 and our new advanced submarines. Göring informs us that the ME 262 will have the ‘go ahead’ from our Führer to attack and decimate the P-51 escorts by this Spring. You shall see yourself, in a few weeks time, aboard our new IXC/40 U-1230, such engineering prowess that by far exceeds our adversaries.”   

 

As Gunther place two large logs on the fire, Karl continued. “Should we develop our own atomic device before the Americans, I will urge our Führer to deploy such a device by submarine, straight into New York Harbor if need be. If, on the other hand, they beat us to it. . . it will alter significantly the balance of advantage. Without our own deterrent, the war will be over. That is why it is so critically important to ascertain from our assets in America where they are in their development and channel that information back to us as soon as possible.”  

 

Allowing a few patient moments for Karl to eat, Gunther asked: “I have several questions sir,  firstly how do you communicate now with these assets now, if at all?  Secondly, and I assume it is all in the file, how shall I convey back my findings?”   

 

Dönitz waved off a third question: “Our next communication will be by an official Easter greeting and well wishes between a social club in New York, the Union Club and Boodles in London. One asset sends a secure cable to another with warm wishes for Holy week. The message will be long, almost poetic but it will be mostly code and easily intercepted. We can only risk a communiques around the Christian holidays, for that is a pattern our assets established long before the war broke out. They are now elderly gentleman, highly respected, trusted and very well connected in their einschlägig circles. Our last cable from New York around Christmas implied that this project was progressing faster than we previously thought. Further, the message corroborated your invasion preparations warning. So obviously, we cannot keep waiting.”  

 

As Gunther nodded to this, Karl took a generous sip of his ‘29 Rothschild and continued: “To help you deliver us more timely information, you will take a smaller version of our four rotor enigma machine. From a location of your choosing near where Kapitanleutnant Von Bulow drops you off, on a predetermined schedule of every three weeks, you shall transmit your findings from there. I will send another of our IXC/40 U-boot to follow your crossing exactly one month after your departure.”    

 

Gunther was fast catching up to speed and finished Karl’s next sentence: ”This is to allow Von Bulow time to get U-1230 away from the LZ before sending a message to the following IXC/40, my exact location. That would give me a week from landing to establish secure lodging and the following three to gather intel for the first transmission.”

 

“Precisely Gunther, and I will send another to follow that one and so on until our capacity to do so . . . is exhausted. Their durations may fluctuate depending on your progress but their sole mission will be communication and thus be armed, solely for defensive purposes.”  

 

With that Karl rose and walked to his desk. While he did so, the Rottweiler Metzgerhunds sat alertly up as his Leutnant zur See walked in to clear their plates. Karl clipped two Cuban BELINDA BELINDA’S as Gunther poured more wine.   

 

“U-201 brought these back in ‘42 after sinking merchant ships off both coasts of Florida. It was easy pickings back then.” Karl smiled and gazed at the fire, “201 then put men ashore in Cuba and looted cases of these from a factory. These are quite good, vintage 1936.”

 

Gunther by now had a firm grasp of the primary mission objective and accepted the challenge with ease. His friend and now commanding officer Karl Dönitz was beginning to relax, so he pushed gently further for details of the secondary objectives in their order of importance. His experience had taught that it is better to hear one’s inflections of wishes than to read them from a paper file.   What he heard over the following hours, confirmed this.  

 

Operation Osprey Nest (chapter four)

 

Four months earlier:   Château de Pignerolle, remote Western France                                 

 

At half past four in the afternoon, a type G4 Mercedes-Benz W31 accelerated with ease out of each turn on the slick country road.   Wet snow and sleet lashed the wipers and pelted the soft top. The driver worked the four speed manual gears of the three axle Benz with fluid efficient control and he spoke not a word at the wheel.   This was welcomed and important to the man seated behind on the plush leather bench, near the rear right window. The vehicle could accommodate five but he sat high in his black leather coat and rode this late afternoon, alone.  

 

His name was Gunther De Werth.   Son of a decorated and deceased war hero from the great war and orphaned a year later upon his mother’s death due to illness.   He was forty one years of age and one of the highest ranking active agents of the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKW), the Führer’s personal Military intelligence service.   Two days ago, he had returned from a covert operation and concluded his debrief in Tirpitz Ufer, Berlin.   The mood at headquarters was as tense as Gunther had ever seen. Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, director of the recently abolished Abwehr, had been replaced by SS chief Walter Friedrich Schellenberg.   It was upon his direct orders, from the Führer himself, that Gunther re-pack and be flown immediately to France to meet with Oberbefehlshaber der Kriegsmarine (Commander-in-Chief of the Navy), Karl Dönitz, to learn of an urgent top secret mission. 

 

Karl Dönitz also served as Großadmiral (Grand Admiral of the naval high command) having just replaced Erich Raeder the previous year.   Gunther knew Karl Dönitz well and was not surprised by his ascention up through the ranks. Though Karl was eleven years older than Gunther, their paths had crossed many times over the past ten to fifteen years on both social and professional occasions.   

 

As the Benz now pushed aside the rising ground fog along cold flat roads leading towards the Châeau de Pignerolle, Gunther looked out to the darkened French countryside of Saint-Barthélemy-d’Anjou and reflected upon what urgency awaited him.   Over these past five or so years of troubled times, Gunther had seen Karl with much more frequency. On many occasions, they had shared the levity and laughter associated with the good times along with the stress and weight of the challenging times.   He now suspected, having just left Tirpitz, that he would be greeted with the latter. He was quite eager to get to the Château, for he looked up to Karl Dönitz as a friend and trusted mentor.    

 

Arriving at the four column 18th century Châeau, the driver halted to a stop on the damp gravel and Gunther didn’t wait for his door to be opened.   His stride was swift as the rain poured down and he bounded up the steps as he was eight minutes late. Seconds meant everything, to the Oberbefehlshaber der Kriegsmarine.    

 

Karl Dönitz, in full uniform, wearing the Knights Cross of the Iron Cross was there to greet him.   At his side sat two alert and very large Rottweilers , his loved and ever loyal full time guards:   “Heil Hitler!, mein Freund

To which Gunther returned the salute:Heil Hitler und immer mein Freund    

They then warmly embraced and preceded to the parlor, lit by a roaring fire. The Rottweilers followed with a fluid unrestricted trot that disguised their energy, taking separate positions by the fire.     

You look well Gunther, got some sun on the beaches of North Africa, Tripoli or shall I assume the Italian Alps?”

“You can conclude the latter, operational necessity.”  

“Still fighting this war from the slopes, fancy galas and backroom card games. . . I am envious.”

“I go where the fight takes me.” Gunther was quick to reply.   On impulse, he followed with a slight verbal jab of his own so as not to lose any edge: “You’re looking sir, now that you mention it, a bit fatigued yourself. So with all do respect, why don’t we just get down to the urgency of my visit.”

Dönitz smiled pouring them both a Cointreau: “Always impatient as myself, yet with a calmer demeanor, I have always admired that.”  Handing Gunther his glass, he continued: “I have asked my deputy, now in charge of our daily U-boot operations, Helgason Godt, to join us.   Before he gets here, however, let us sit and I will fill you in on the overall picture.”

Sitting to the left of the fire, with the Rottweilers at his feet:  “The war is not going well as you likely surmised in Tirpitz Ufer.  We have mounting losses in the Baltics and the Eastern front is a quagmire, total mess.  For now, I have convinced our Führer to suspend payments to the shipyards, for our finances are being strangled by the blocades.  Additionally, by way of your valuable intelligence, corroborated by other sources, we are confident that an allied invasion will be upon us by this Summer.   A year from now, we may not be sitting here in this very room.” Gunther listened and pulled a long swallow.  “Further worsening the situation, is our recent U-Boot losses in the North Atlantic.”   As Karl paused and lit himself a French cigarette, Gunther refilled both their tumblers.  “Each month Gunther, I send on average, seventy encrypted messages to my thirty or so active subs at sea.  This month, I have only received eighteen replies. This morning I have instructed Helgason to conduct a full investigation into our enigma code vulnerabilities.   We shall be switching immediately, to our new four rotor enigma machines. We will be the only branch in the Deutsches Militär to have use of it.  This I can control, for operational security is paramount on your lebenswichtige (vital) mission ahead.”

With that Helgason Godt walked through the mahogany double doors to the parlor.  He looked smaller than Gunther remembered and his face was weary and worn in the fire’s light.    All saluted and Helgason refused a Cointreau. He had brought a thick file stamped ‘Streng geheim’ and slid it across the table to Gunther while Karl Dönitz leaned back, puffed his cigarette and let Helgason deliver the mission orders.

“You are going on holiday in America, Gunther.”   Godt feigned a smile without looking up.   “You are to leave in three weeks time from Kristiansand, Norway aboard U-boot 1230, a new IXC/40 type submarine.”    

Karl Dönitz looked sharply to the ceiling, immediately impatient with insignificant details and interrupted his deputy:  “You are to be inserted behind enemy lines Gunther, somewhere on the Northeast coast of America by mid Springtime.  I have had Kapitanleutnant Otto Von Bulow recalled back from U-404 in the Baltics to command your passage across the North Atlantic.  He is one of our very best.” Pausing for effect while tossing his cigarette into the fire, he leaned forward and continued, “it is all in the folder before you and you have one week here to memorize the details before joining the crew and meeting Von Bulow . . . the file stays here.  Once safely on enemy shores, in short, your primary mission will be to ascertain the American progress and intent, of their Atomic bomb initiative, the Manhattan Project.  As your briefing file spells out in full detail, we shall provide sufficient wherewithal for your duration, points of reference and most importantly, the highest access to our deep cover operatives in New York, Boston and Washington, DC.  This will not be a mission of sabotage, but instead a mission of intelligence gathering. Of overriding importance is to assess, for our Führer, the likelihood of such a bomb being dropped upon unsere Deutsche heimat (our German homeland).  There are secondary requirements to the mission that shall run concurrent with this primary one, as we shall discuss.”     

A long silence enveloped the room as the Oberbefehlshaber der Kriegsmarine lit another cigarette.  Deputy Helgason Godt sitting erect and silent, stared at the coffee table, while Gunther stood and poured Karl another Cointreau.  Then, to break the silence, Gunther asked with an English accent: “any objections if I switch to a highlands scotch?”  Karl laughed and accepted his glass with a smile while Gunther took a seat in an adjacent chair.  

Helgason taking his cue, suggested his need to attend to other fleet matters and excused himself, leaving the file with Gunther.
“Gunther,” Karl Dönitz began “this will be a most dangerous mission, let us not elude that reality.   The crossing of the North Atlantic will be very perilous and should Otto successfully deliver you, your duration on enemy soil may be open ended until the objective is achieved.” 

Gunther began to speak but Karl raised his hand and continued: “You are our perfect man for this mission.  Your gift for languages is unparalleled, you are of the right age with a craft and experience to blend in with the most sophisticated of diplomats.  Beyond that, you are as strong and observant as these two Rottweiler Metzgerhunds at my feet.  Your father would be most proud of you Gunther.” 

A table was then set up behind them, not by local French servants but by Dornitz’s Leutnant zur See.   Over the next few days, I have many appointments, so it is unlikely I will see you during that time.”  Karl continued, “You will stay on the third floor with a back staircase so that you may come and go without interruption, to exercise on the grounds.   Tonight I would like us to relax, dine and discuss your mission in more detail.” The Leutnant zur See served up a feast and placed a freshly decanted 1929 Château Mouton Rothschild on the table.   Leaving the room,  he closed the mahogany doors behind him, allowing Gunther and Karl to speak in privacy.

. . . To Be Continued

Operation Osprey Nest (chapter three)

 

 Five days earlier, three hundred meters off Frenchman’s Bay, Maine.   

 
Upon reaching their initial destination point, Kapitanleutnant Von Bulow had taken him aside and over a dimly lit chart, opened the wax sealed final mission orders.   He read it twice, nodded and then shared it. Speaking softly in English to which the crew neither understood nor could overhear, together they digested the orders. ‘From the highest levels of command, Kapitanleutnant Von Bulow was to deliver the agent to the Western banks of Frenchman’s Bay where he would then rendezvous with an elderly local caretaker named Reinardt, who would then ferry him further west across a shallow inlet to a farmhouse in Brooklin Maine.   There, on property acquired during the latter years of the Vorläufige Reichsmarine before the Wehrmacht(1935), he would remain for a few days before continuing on to Portland; Boston and New York City’.   

However, the seas turned out to be too rough off Frenchman’s Bay and the Kapitanleutnant, given full discretion, discussed selecting another landing spot.   They quietly examined four alternates: 1) south of Eastport Maine; 2) areas near Plymouth, Massachusetts; 3) the north side of Newport, Rhode Island or 4) further west: Quonochontaug or Weekapaug Rhode Island.   The quiet man in civilian clothes remembered being delighted when Kapitanleutnant Von Bulow placed his affirmative finger on the chart just off the coast of where he now sat by a warm fire.  Less overland travel time meant less chances of suspicion late in the evening from the local town folks.   Besides, the north side of Newport was likely mined by now and convoy traffic near Plymouth would complicate a landing in even the best weather conditions. A barren beach further West, while tactically more dangerous given its proximity to the choke point of Long Island sound and Block Island sound, could be achieved and in Von Bulow’s words, ‘would likely lift the crews moral’.   As the man lit his second and last cigarette while poking the fire, he could hear Von Bulow’s energetic words speaking with pride of a fellow ‘Kapitanleutnant Hardegen (U-123)’, with an animated envy: ‘he sunk the Cyclops in ‘42 off Cape Cod, then the Norness off Newport, before sailing far west down L.I. sound and sinking a British tanker in New York harbor!   He met no response from the Americans. . . no planes, no coast guard cutter, nothing. He then sailed away without even submerging with the New York skyline all lit up!’  

Von Bulow, the man now thought as he gazed at the waning fire, would get his tonnage on his return trip, of this he was certain.   The only question was, would he wait until reaching the shelf before attacking the convoys and exposing himself.  He did trust that Von Bulow would follow orders and keep his word.   Sinking a vessel in proximity to these shores would surely complicate his mission in America, for it was 1944. With the rain now lashing at the windows and the surf clearly up, he would sleep well now.  Tomorrow he would assess his surroundings and plan out his next important steps.