A True World War II Spy Adventure on this Veterans Day

Q: What do you remember about General Donovan?

A: Donovan immediately approached every refugee coming from Europe and offered to buy the refugees’ old clothing, pens, pencils, match books, pocket litter in general. Why? Because he foresaw the future need for secret agent operations, and they would have to have European-made clothing, watches, etc.

Q: Once they knew that you could speak fluent German without an accent, some Russian, and some Japanese, how did the OSS train you?

A: I was sent to Bari, Italy, to learn Morse code, radio key practice, secure codes and code pads, explosives, RAF jump training, document forgery, photography, and target area study. I practiced these skills with three other paratroopers, one of whom was immediately arrested by the Gestapo because of a failure to recognize a danger signal in radio traffic.

Q: What was your first mission?

A: I was to report on the Herman Goering steel works outside of Linz, Austria. We jumped from British bombers. We used British chutes, which were better than the U.S. chutes at the time. We jumped in uniform, hoping to claim POW status if captured. Another detail was to check the tightness of the harness just before jumping— loose harness straps could leave a bruise on one’s chest or shoulder, something the Gestapo always looked for.

Q: What kind of gun did you carry?

A: We had complete freedom of choice as to weaponry. I chose a small Walther PPK automatic 6.25 mm caliber, and a knife designed for the U.S. Army by British Major Fairbairn (of Hong Kong fame). It was basically a 7-inch bladed stiletto. I carried it on a chain or thong around my neck, hanging down my spine, where I could reach it from a "hands-up" position.

Q: Once you jumped, what did you do with your chute?

A: I buried it together with a small entrenching shovel I carried. I looked for another spot and buried my radio and battery pack. A third spot took whatever I could not carry openly. I wrote myself directions to find these spots again but I wrote it in code, as part of a poem.

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