It would probably be better if the poor bastard died; the alternative is living as a blind cripple.
He noticed that the patient was wearing U.S. Army trousers but an Afrika Korps tunic. That quickly identified him as an officer, someone in a position to ignore the rules forbidding the wearing of any part of the enemy's uniform.
Von und zu Mittlingen reached for the patient's ID tag.
"Who's that?" the patient asked, sensing the hand on the tag.
"I'm a doctor."
The tag identified the patient as Oberstleutnant (Lieutenant Colonel) von Stauffenberg.
Oh, my God! This mutilated body is Claus!
"You've got yourself in a mess, haven't you, Claus?" von und zu Mittlingen said.
"Horst Mittlingen, Claus," Horst Friederich von und zu Mittlingen said. "We're going to take care of you now."
"One of their Mustangs got me," Oberstleutnant Graf (Count) Claus von Stauffenberg said.
"Claus, what did they give you for the pain?"
"I decided I would rather be awake."
Oberst-Artz Horst Friederich von und zu Mittlingen stood up and walked to the flap of the tent and bellowed for stretcher bearers, then returned to the bloody body on the stretcher. "We'll take care of you now, Claus," he said. "You'll be all right."
"Really?" von Stauffenberg asked mockingly.
"Yes, really," von und zu Mittlingen said. "I am about to violate my own rule about never working on my friends."
Two stretcher bearers appeared.
"Put this officer on the next available table," von und zu Mittlingen ordered.
"Tell Sister Wagner I will want her beside me."
"Jawohl, Herr Oberst."
"If I could see, I would say I'm glad to see you, Horst," von Stauffen-berg said.
On 12 April, the Germans announced the discovery of mass graves in Poland's Katyn Forest. The graves contained the bodies of 4,100 Polish officers and officer cadets who had been captured by the Soviet army. They had been shot in the back of the head with small-caliber pistols. A week later, after refusing Polish Government in Exile demands for an investigation by the International Red Cross, the Soviet government said the whole thing was German propaganda.
On 17 April, in its largest operation to date, the 8th U.S. Air Force attacked aircraft factories in Bremen with 117 B-17 bombers, sixteen of which were shot down.
The Office of the Reichsführer-SS
Berlin 1545 17 April 1943
The interoffice communications device on the ornately carved desk of Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler buzzed discreetly.
Though he was wearing his customary ornate black uniform, the forty-three-year-old Reichsführer's round spectacles and slight build gave him the look of a low-ranking clerk. It would have been a mistake to act on that assumption.
Without taking his eyes from the teletypewriter printout he was reading, Himmler reached for the box and depressed the lever that allowed his secretary, Frau Gertrud Hassler, to communicate. The Reichsführer-SS had had the device rigged in that manner. He was a busy man, and could not afford an interruption every time his secretary had something to say. If he was busy, he simply ignored the buzzing and she would try again later.
"Herr Reichsführer," Frau Gertrud Hassler announced. "Herr Korvettenkapitän Boltitz, from Minister von Ribbentrop's office, is here." Korvettenkapitän was the German Navy rank equivalent to major.
The Reichsführer-SS was not busy, but that did not mean he was prepared to be interrupted by the woman every time a messenger arrived in the outer office.
"And?" the Reichsführer-SS said impatiently.
"He insists that you personally sign for the message, Herr Reichs-führer-SS."
Excerpted from Secret Honor, by W. E. B. Griffin. © January 10, 2000 , W. E. B. Griffin used by permission of the publisher. No part of this book can be reproduced without written permission from the publisher
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