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The Miracle Weapon

by Manfred Krutein

3. Bath, England -April 2, 1945.

Equipped with a parachute, the tall OSS Major Erik Svensen stepped aboard a British plane near Bath to be flown over the North Sea. He could easily be recognized as a typical American of Norwegian ancestry. A good-looking man, totally involved in the Great Game of Intelligence, used to a constant inflow of action reports, he felt the uneventful night flight endless. At dusk he was told to prepare for the jump. They had reached the dark Norwegian coast. An air force sergeant checked his parachute again and hooked the rip cord to a bolt near the door. He nodded to Erik, giving him the thumb-up sign and smiled. "Be careful, we're very low!" With caution he opened the door. On the buzzer sign from the pilot, Erik jumped and fell toward the treeless Norwegian rock landscape. A heavy air blast threw him back, producing a short ear-piercing whistle in his ears. The engine and propeller noise stopped. Peng! The parachute opened and jerked him up. His body swung back and forth in the silent, dark air of the night. He remembered to pull up his knees, ready to land. Only moments later he struck the ground with a heavy impact, the chute pulling him to the side. He tried to stand but was pushed twice to the ground. Only then could he free himself from the shrouds. He pulled the dark-green chute together and bundled it into a small package. He took a compass from the small side pocket of his jacket to orient himself. According to the flight plan he should be five miles north of the Hardanger Fjord. There he would find Olaf, the young Norwegian agent, who had sent the urgent radio call yesterday.

In order to reach the fjord and Olaf's hiding place he must hike south. Erik had studied the map so thoroughly that he remembered every detail. He took the radio from the side pocket of his pants. Dammit! It was broken. Ripping off the broken top plate, he saw that the electronic parts and the battery were smashed also. His right thigh still throbbed from his impact with the ground which must have ruined the radio. He hid the silk bundle under a shrub and buried the radio under pebbles. Should he now be surprised by German soldiers, he could identify himself as a uniformed American airman who had parachuted from a crippled plane. He couldn't be shot as a spy.

Fortunately nobody came along to test this story. An hour later, after moving as swiftly as he could in the dark, he stood above the fjord. At the beginning of dawn, he recognized the curved shore line and figured he must be about two miles to the west of Olaf's position. He cautiously walked eastward, whistling from time to time a bird call known to Olaf as a code signal. When he heard it repeated and louder, he knew he was close to the young agent. In the man-high shrubs they approached each other. Erik almost didn't recognize Olaf who was wearing a full brown beard that covered most of his ruddy, round face.

"Olaf! How are you?" Erik called in Norwegian.

"Did you get my message?" Olaf asked.

"Yes. But what is happening? You didn't make it clear."

Olaf edged back to where they had a complete view of the fjord and pointed to the factory. "See the barge and the floating crane? They arrived yesterday. With the two tug boats."

"Uu-huh. Looks like they're getting ready to load something."

"Maybe now we'll find out what they're doing over there."

Erik grunted. "If we're lucky. They've managed to keep the damn place so secret we don't have a clue about what's going on in that factory. What are they making?"

Olaf shrugged. "It could be almost anything."

Erik asked about the Germans' activities at the factory.

"Three to four trucks arrive every day. They unload inside the building and leave empty after an hour."

"What else?"

"There are six ambulances. Do you see them to the left of the factory?"

"Strange," Erik said. "Why do they need that many? Did they ever use them?"

"Three weeks ago. An accident. Four of them drove away. Thirty men rushed out of the building. With gas masks over their heads. Stood in the yard for three hours."

"With the gas masks on?"

"Yes. All men in white coats."

"I don't like the sound of that. Got good binoculars?"

"The best, Zeiss." Olaf handed Erik the gray Zeiss, which Erik used immediately to look at the factory.

"These are damned good! Loot from the Germans?"

Olaf nodded. "My brother stole them from the Krauts. Hey! Look at the truck driving from the factory to the pier. See?"

For two hours Erik watched the Germans carefully load long metal containers, ten in number, from the factory to the barge. The containers were about twenty-five feet long with a diameter of three feet.

"Any idea what they could be?" Erik asked.

Olaf slowly shook his head.

"We'd better call the bombers."

"Did you bring new batteries for my radio?" Olaf asked.

"Batteries? Your message didn't say anything about batteries." The young Norwegian looked embarrassed. "I couldn't remember the code letter for batteries. I called for 'juice' in my report."

"Crap! I didn't understand that. My radio was smashed when I landed. The battery too, and I didn't bring extras. Are yours down?"

"Hell! What do we do now?" Olaf lamented.

A soft humming noise came up from the fjord. Olaf and Erik looked below and saw three freighters painted gray with irregular dark spots for camouflage, sailing into the fjord, ack-ack guns prominently displayed.

"All manned. Ready to shoot," Olaf said.

Erik figured the size of the steamers at 5,000 to 8,000 tons. Did the Germans need these ships to carry away the containers on the barge? Why so many ships? His mind raced with possibilities as he watched the vessels anchor near the factory.

Damn it to hell! Now was the time to call in the bombers to destroy everything the Nazis had brewed up down there. And they had no working radio.

"Listen, Olaf! The only way to reach our bombers is to call from Bergen. I want you to walk to the resistence center in Bergen and report what's going on," Erik said. "We must get the bombers up here." Seeing Olaf's long face he asked, "What's wrong?"

"It's eight to ten hours to Bergen. That's a long walk."

"Then you better get started. These ships down there aren't going to wait for us."

Sullenly Olaf agreed. "By the way, Per will be here in two days to bring new food. He has a radio on his boat."

"On the BIRGIT?"

Olaf nodded, pointing to a small tool shack sitting back on the edge of the fjord wall. "There's still food and water for a few days. And two blankets. You can also change clothes and wear my fisherman's outfit if you like."

"Adio!" Erik said as Olaf disappeared behind the shrubs. Erik sat down on the slope, roughly 300 feet above the fjord. More waiting! This damn war. It was all hurry up and wait. He thought of the OSS office in England, where agents like himself worked to analyze intelligence reports and to plan new espionage activities on the continent. They were waiting for his message to send bombers to destroy the mysterious factory in the Hardanger fjord.

from HITLER'S LAST GASP The Miracle Weapon
© 1995, Manfred Krutein

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