by Doug Fowler
Seven years removed from the end of one of the greatest covert missions ever undertaken - okay, that's the way the brass remembers it. Hogan shook his head. We've always loved our tall tales in the U.S., haven't we, Robert. Then again, he and his crew had done a good job. It paled, of course, to the terrible atrocities which he would have liked to have prevented, had he known.
Now, here he was, awakening after a flight from Tokyo to Seoul. The jet lag had quickly ended for Hogan - having stayed up many nights on missions in World War Two meant his body was almost jet lag-proof. Still, there was some semblance of tiredness as he got into a jeep. Now, this is what I like, thought Hogan. No pretentiousness, no false glory, just a man who happens to wear a general's star riding in a li'l ol'jeep.
"Remember, Sir," spoke a CIA officer, "I've met with these people. Especially that Captain Pierce - don't expect formalities too much from him."
Hogan smiled. "When have I expected formalities from anyone; aside from the expected 'Sir' or 'General' from underlings? Thanks." He took a folder from the officer, and the jeep departed.
Hogan studied the folder's items despite the bumpy terrain. "That doesn't make you carsick, Sir," came the driver, making small talk.
"No, I've been through so much worse."
"Like what, Sir?"
"Can't reveal most of it, but you wouldn't believe all the dangerous things I've done if I told you." He would tell about one or two small things if he had to. However, that statement usually quieted the enlisted men down. They were free to invent all sorts of amazing things about what Hogan used to do. The general chuckled. Maybe you've brought some of that "legend" stuff onto yourself, Robert. Perhaps it's the enlisted men who start those fanciful stories that make you seem greater than any fictional spy or detective.
Hogan scanned the compound as they entered, then smiled as he walked into the outer office. A sense of deja vu overtook him as he saw a young man in a German uniform sifting through some files. The German turned and saluted courteously. It wasn't an incredibly sharp salute, but Hogan was not his countryman, nor was the young man anxious to be a soldier. "Good afternoon, General," came the man in broken English. "Welcome to the 4077th M*A*S*H. How may I help you?"
"I'd like to speak to Colonel Potter, Lieutenant..."
"Schultz, Sir." Hogan raised an eyebrow. "The commanding officer is indisposed at the moment; he is in surgery."
Hogan shook the man's hand. "Robert Hogan, sen-." He couldn't believe he'd almost said "senior prisoner of war officer." The name and uniform - though not a Nazi one - must have done it. "That is, General, U.S. Air Force, Special Missions." A doctor walked out of a back room somewhere in scrubs as Hogan said this.
Before Hogan could consider whether to explain his near gaffe, the lieutenant introduced the medic, though without hand gestures. "General Hogan, Captain Benjamin Franklin Pierce, Captain Pierce, General Robert Hogan."
Sensing the doctors felt a little uneasy, and recalling the warnings, Hogan chose to befriend Pierce quickly. He used his normal way - humor. "That was a little confusing - are you Captain Pierce or General Hogan."
Hawkeye Pierce smiled. At last, a general with a sense of humor. "You speak my language."
"I've heard quite a bit about this place. I guess Colonel Potter is still in surgery." He was. "Maybe you can help me; I understand you're treating a North Korean, Wang Hoo Li."
"I know noth-ing about that name," came the lieutenant.
I've gotta ask now, considered the general, the tone's too similar. "Say, did you happen to have a father who was a guard at a German POW camp, Stalag 13?"
"Yes, I did."
"Well, he served with me...well, I was there too. He ever mention a Colonel Hogan?"
Schultz's eyes grew big. "You're THAT Hogan?" Instantly, Hogan worried that Schultz, after the war, had begun to know all too much. The younger Schultz shook Hogan's hand vehemently. "It is an honor to meet you. I sometimes wondered whether Father made you up."
Hawkeye held up a hand. "Wait, I'm confused...you're an American, and he was a German, right?" Hogan nodded. "I thought they were on opposing sides. Or did I miss the news one day?
"Well, my dad was not," remarked the German.
"He did a whole lot of good for our side by not doing anything." Turning to the German, he inquired "what all has he told you?"
"Many amazing stories; I do not know how many are true - Father likes to tell big funny stories sometimes." He smirked. "I imagine some are true?"
Hogan smiled. "Maybe. What are you doing here?"
Pierce smiled. "Schultz is doing medical residency of sorts. He got drafted a few months ago into coming on this U.N. outing, and one of the German M*A*S*H units loaned him to us so he could learn in a slightly more advanced place."
"Just like your father, huh, don't want to be a soldier?" And like Hawkeye, too, Hogan mused.
"That is right. My father will be near here tomorrow, he rebuilt his toy company, and they are touring some of the orphanages."
Hogan looked at Pierce. "Do you think maybe he could come up and see us a little bit?"
"He'd probably like that. Write a note for Radar to see if he can get in touch with your dad."
Hogan requested that his presence be kept secret. "I'd like to surprise him. Once more, for old time's sake. Maybe I could even borrow a flier's jacket?" Hogan was graying around the temples, and about twenty pounds heavier, but he could still look the part. "Now, about that Korean."
"I'm sorry, we're not at liberty to say which side he's on, he just woke up." Pierce knew, of course, that the dog tags had clearly listed him as an enemy, but he didn't want anyone bugging him about treating an "enemy." He was a doctor, and had sworn to treat anyone.
Hogan, of course, knew this. "Look, Hawkeye," he began, taking Pierce aback at the use of his nickname, "I know where you're coming from. I dealt with friendly Germans quite often in my days in World War Two. But there are certain reasons I must speak with him."
Hawkeye sighed. "Soon?"
"The sooner the better. It could be quite vital."
He hated to disturb any of his patients, but this Hogan fellow seemed...how would he put it? Down to Earth? Certainly absent much of the legalism that the military forced upon people. He'd only saluted someone once himself - that was the boyish corporal, Radar O'Reilly, after Radar had been wounded in action. And he'd never saluted a superior. Yes, Hawkeye determined, maybe this man would understand when Hawkeye laid down rules against wearying patients. As he explained the man's medical condition, Hogan smiled, quickly agreeing to Pierce's terms. After all, that friendliness and his willingness to understand the doctor's protocol overriding military protocol were why the CIA had requested him for this mission.
Hawkeye explained that it might be very hard to communicate with the wounded warrior. However, Hogan stunned him by speaking to the man in rather fluent Korean. Pierce and Schultz glanced at each other in the post-op room as Colonel Potter exited the operating room, exhausted from an extended surgery. Before removing his bloody scrubs, he moseyed over to the men. "What in tarnations," he muttered after several moments, gawking at the American general conversing in Korean. To Pierce, he remarked "I feel like I just walked into my barn and had one of my chickens oinking at me."
"I'm just as baffled as you are, Colonel," spoke Hawkeye. To the general, he remarked "excuse me, General, I think the man is getting a little tired. He just recovered from having been turned inside-out."
Hogan bade the man adieu and stood. "That'll do for now. Oh, you must be Colonel Potter." The CO confirmed this. "General Robert Hogan." They exchanged salutes. "Can we talk in your office?"
Potter discarded his scarlet-covered doctor's items as he inquired into Hogan's business. "Not too often we get a general visiting, Sir."
"This is a special mission; I'm normally in Europe, but I heard something pretty big could be up here. And, it turns out my concerns were legitimate." He followed Potter into the office, and the two sat. "I'd done a little behind the scenes work, and had been studying Korean for a couple years just so the few times I've had cause to be over here to debrief spies I could do it. I'm very good with picking up languages."
"So I noticed. I always thought I could tell when a horse or a cow sounded sick enough to call the vet, but I doubt I could ever speak the language."
"That would be hard." Hogan considered how often he'd been in another colonel's office, back in Germany. Glancing over at the artwork on a canvas, he realized that these colonels shared a passion, except for one thing. This Potter actually had talent, whereas Klink had attempted painting several times after Hogan had conned him into it to get some secret maps to the Underground. Each time, Klink had appeared only a little better than Hogan's five-year-old niece. "I know German, a fair deal of Dutch and Russian, and enough French to get by, and now enough Korean to find out that we have a big problem."
"Anything we can help with here?"
Hogan sighed, wondering if there was anything. He'd like to be able to obtain some help, but he didn't know how Potter's group could. Then again, a doctor or two would be a big help. Hawkeye seemed a logical choice, since Schultz's son had blond hair and more would need changed with makeup. However, would Hawkeye go along?
Finally, the general decided, he had to explain a little. "Wang and his brother, Sung, run a small operation which filtered some secrets to our side. When Wang was shot down, we were hoping one of our units would pick him up and treat him; luckily, yours did." Potter nodded. "He was actually defecting."
Potter raised an eyebrow. I always told that Major Burns he needed to remember you catch more flies with honey than buttermilk, the farmer-doctor pondered. If he'd worked even a little bit at being nice to these people we might have treated some people who would then want to come over. "And his brother?"
"In hiding; we'd like to get him out if we can. However, there's a more serious problem, and it's why I got sent."
"Figured they wouldn't send a general just to debrief."
"You're right, Potter. This is my line of work. See, the Soviets want to transport some American POWs from North Korean hospital units to Soviet gulags. They're running an operation in one such camp; the people are just listed as dead or left as missing." Hogan sighed. "We could use a doctor or two; I was thinking of Hawkeye, and hoping you could help convince him."
Potter chuckled. "Don't know if you can convince him; he's as unmilitary as they come."
"You know that German you've got on loan, Schultz? His dad was the same way. But he looked the other way for us. Hawkeye's work would be proactive; actually stopping this planned shipment. And, part of his work would be doing surgeries."
"And you infiltrate and get them out later." Hogan nodded. Potter was starting to understand. It did sound like Hawkeye would be okay with it, but he saw two problems. "First, how long would this be; he's our best doctor, I don't want to lose him."
"Just a couple days; we'll say he's on loan."
"Okay, and second, he doesn't speak Korean. Unless there's a lot he hasn't told us about himself," Potter concluded. Nobody could be that secretive, could they? Then again, what had this elder Schultz been up to? Seemed like their young doctor hadn't told them everything about his dad, either, except that he liked to spin tall tales. Then again, maybe Dr. Schultz didn't realize they were true.
"No, he doesn't, but how many Koreans know any Russian? They could think English was Russian if they've never heard it."
Potter nearly guffawed. "I'm sorry, General, it's just that this idea is starting to sound outlandish. Almost like when Tom Sawyer went through all those crazy stunts to free Jim when he was already free to begin with in 'Huck Finn.'"
Hogan smiled. "I've been told my ideas are unusual, but they've always worked." As Potter contemplated the man skeptically, he deduced that perhaps later, a story or two should be told about his operation. He would just corroborate whatever Schultz happened to have told. Back to the present problem, he explained. "It makes sense, a Russian doctor on loan for the last part of this mission doesn't know Korean, I'd have to translate, I know Korean."
"The Koreans there don't know Russian or English; at least early on we'll have to figure out which do and don't know any. They hear a man speaking a very foreign language, they're told it's Russian, and what do they know?"
Potter was beginning to warm to the idea. As long as his best doctor wasn't in any danger, he could use Schultz as a replacement for a while, though he was only, basically, a med student. After all, they merely patched people up there for the better hospitals in Tokyo. "General, that's the most unusual idea I have ever heard. However, I have heard a good deal about you. Stories of an Underground operation right inside Germany? I guess I have no choice but to believe you know what you're doing."
"Don't worry, I wouldn't risk lives if I didn't know this wasn't absolutely necessary. And, workable. I have a few other men coming to help. Another doctor would also be helpful" Yes, Potter would make a fair Russian, but Hawkeye was so non-military, he might make them believe their own Communist propaganda about there being no more distinctions between people. How people could believe that kind of lie and see the depravity that existed there he had no idea. But, he'd seen so much wickedness in Germany during the previous war, maybe nothing should surprise him.
"I'll see if Hawkeye's pal, Captain B.J. Hunnicutt, would be willing." A very youthful-looking corporal walked into the room.
"You were going to send for me, Sir?"
Hogan turned as Radar saluted him. He returned the greeting. "How did you know that?"
"Well, begging the general's pardon, but usually if a general does happen in here it means I'm needed for something," Radar explained.
"Yeah, call Hawkeye and B.J. in here, ask Major Houlihan to assist Schultz on post-op," requested Potter, explaining to Hogan "Houlihan's our chief nurse, she's really good with medical stuff, she'll be able to help Schultz enough while..."
Potter was interrupted by the corporal, who had suddenly perked his ears and remained very still. "Looks like they'll all be pretty busy for a while." Before they knew what happened, Radar was on the loudspeaker shouting "attention, all personnel, incoming wounded!" Only then did they hear the helicopters. I could have used a man like that on my team, Hogan mused, suddenly slightly jealous.
General Hogan had been shown to the guest quarters by Radar while the doctors worked. He finalized his plans during the surgeries, catching a slight nap before wandering into the post-op room a few hours later. To his surprise, he recognized a familiar face. "Carter?"
A man with a bandaged leg and left hand looked up groggy. "Yes...Colonel Hogan?" Am I seeing things? Is it really still World War Two? It can't be, can it?
Hogan understood what odd thoughts must be going through the man's mind. "No, you're not having flashbacks. This is Korea. And I'm a general, here for a special assignment." He turned and saw someone very familiar - maybe I'm having flashbacks, he mused. "Foster?"
"No, sir," spoke the man next to Dr. Hunnicutt, "my name is Mulcahy. I'm the camp chaplain."
Hogan laughed . "Sorry. You look just like a man I was stationed with in World War Two." Turning to Hunnicutt, who sported clean white scrubs, he asked: "What's his prognosis?"
B.J. pulled up a chair and offered it to the general, who accepted. He pulled up another and sat beside Carter as Mulcahy knelt. "That's what we wanted to talk to him about when he awakened. He was in a dogfight and got shot down. Carter, do you remember that?" He nodded. "You were crushed beneath some metal when you crashed. I'm afraid we had to amputate part of your left foot."
Mulcahy quickly added "no matter what you've lost on the outside, it's your spirit that matters. That's the real you."
Carter nodded, looking somewhat melancholy. "Boy, of all the luck; I work with explosives all the time in World War Two, and lose part of a foot in a plane crash." He wept a little, but also chuckled. "It's almost funny how that works."
Hogan held one hand while Mulcahy took the other. Hunnicutt was first to speak after a moment of silence, though. "We checked your wallet, you've got a cute little boy."
"Yeah," he said through tears, "his name's Hogan." The general blushed slightly.
Hunnicutt explained. "I've got a little girl at home. She's never met her daddy yet, she was born after I got sent overseas. How old is yours?"
"Two; he'll be three in about five months."
"You'll be home well before his birthday," uttered the chaplain. "I'm sure he'll be eager to see you." Carter nodded, smiling. What a way to get sent home. Oh, well, at least it's not in a body bag. "If you need to talk more I'm always available."
"Thanks. The colonel...the general, that is, and I have been on lots of dangerous missions, so it's not like I never thought about it." He looked at Hogan wondering if he could say more.
Hogan chose to speak. He explained. "We did covert work in Germany together. He might be ready to talk to me some, if it's okay with you." Since his condition was stable, the doctor agreed. Hogan considered that he could probably make Carter feel useful even as he lay recuperating.