(From Joe Beck’s latest novel about Nazi espionage in New York during WWII)
The plan was for them to emerge from the room wearing billowing rain parkas. Underneath the parkas they wore nothing but bathing trunks and thin water proof bags of supplies (cyanide pills, compasses, maps, matches, knives, Lugar pistols) wrapped around their waists. Mohlmann slipped inside the room unnoticed to check on their readiness. Hans and Gunther were both nineteen and exuded the eager-to-please energy of new recruits.
Hans stood 6’3” and came in at an unclothed 165 lbs. He belonged to a family of engineers and military men and grew up in Munich-untouched by the seductive lure the artsy city had on young men his age.
Gunther was the wrestler- with an appetite for life. At 5’9”, he sent the scale to 180 lbs. He had mischievous, dark eyes and laughed easily. Both men were exceptional athletes with mental acuity to match. Their training left nothing to chance. Their youth and skill was tempered with a wisdom that belied their ages.
When the men were ready, Mohlmann sent them out to meet the Chief of the Watch. A moment later, he slipped out of the room and took a circuitous route around the ship to meet the men. He needed to appear like he had just met the men he was sending topside.
It was time. Mohlmann looked at his first officer. The first officer peered through the periscope and slowly, deliberately turned it 360 degrees, stopping momentarily every 15 degrees. He pulled his head back and looked and faced Mohlmann.
“Ist Alles In Ordnung?” asked Mohlmann. He needed everything to be ready.
“Jawohl mein Herr,” said the first officer. Indeed, it was and the coast was clear.
Mohlmann, Hans and Gunther were handed pistols. Hans reached up to the ship’s ceiling and gripped the wheel on the ship’s lower hatch. He grunted it counter clockwise and pushed it up. A little water poured down on their necks.
One by one, the men clambered up the ladder inside the conning tower and up to the upper hatch. This time it was Gunther who reached the outer hatch first. He waited a moment to get the signal. The Officer of the Deck looked at Mohlmann. Mohlmann looked up and gave Gunther the signal. Gunther dogged the wheel counter clockwise. It squeaked and twisted open. He pushed it straight up and salty, American air poured in the ship.
The three men climbed up and out of the sub and stood on the deck of the conning tower. They closed the outer hatch. They held on to the rail and looked around. The two men saluted Mohlmann then shook his hand.
One after the other, the two men carefully climbed down the conning tower and slid into the water and each started a smooth, silent breaststroke for land. Mohlmann watched the men until the dark of the night swallowed them. He opened the outer hatch and climbed back in the sub, and shouted for the first officer to sound the alarm for man overboard.
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