Invisible Enemy

A Short Story by Ernest N.Whitenack


Early in 1943, at the age of twenty, Ian Clancy donned his Lieutenants bars upon graduation and shortly after that his Airborne Wings. This was not unusual for “Eeen”, as he was known in those days. He entered college at fifteen and attained both his under graduate and masters in political science in four years. Special considerations were given. Programs were set up to satisfy his uncanny retention power and extraordinary intelligence.

After a short stint at Fort Benning, Clancy found himself at the Pentagon in a meeting consisting of men from all service branches. They were selected to be the nucleus of a special branch of the OSS to be known as Section “P”, nicknamed the “Platoon” by its members. Immediately following an accelerated and arduous training period, Clancy went on assignment. In uniform, he was assigned to various government bureaus and departments on the pretext of being liaison to the military. In fact, he was performing counter espionage by ferreting out Axis and Communist sympathizers and agents. His greatest hindrance was crossing paths with bumbling F.B.I. agents who seemed to be everywhere.

These assignments were interspersed with European spy missions. Dropped in, he worked as a local resident with various allied Intelligence groups, underground, and resistance groups. His mastery of language and knowledge of cultures became extremely valuable. A local dialect and phrases could be learned in a matter of hours. He would blend into the population quickly.

Only once did serious trouble present itself. It was 4:30 AM and the sky was just starting to brighten to the East. The screech of a French train whistle could just be heard as the small group of French patriots, along with Clancy and Henry Otto, a German/American in the US Army, approached the rear of the Depot.

Sgt. Otto immigrated to the United States with his parents and sister in 1936. Otto’s father, a history professor at the University of Heidelberg, could not in good conscience teach the Nazi version of history and the lie of Arian race. After a great deal of effort and many favors from like-minded friends he finally maneuvered into a position to get permission to leave Germany. Young Heinrich adapted easily to the U.S. and by the time he finished high school spoke American English like a native. Shortly after Pearl Harbor, he changed his name to Henry, put his education on hold and joined the US Army and the paratroops. After jump school and a three month stint at intelligent school, he was assigned to “P” section where he met Clancy. They were occasionally on missions together and Clancy requested him for this one. Otto spoke French fluently and hadn’t lost his natural German. And, Clancy liked and trusted him.

The group was to rendezvous with a man from French Military Intelligence and receive instructions for a sabotage mission. The train slowed as it passed the unmanned depot and in the dim light of morning a package was thrown from a window of the train. It was collected and the group headed for better concealment in a thicket, there to read of and plans the assignment; then, to a narrow road nestled between thick hedge rows. The group was to travel to the next town, a two hour march, and destroy a food warehouse where German munitions were hidden behind crates of vegetables heading for market. A French resistance fighter turned out to be a Nazi agent. The group of patriots he was with was ambushed by an entire platoon of SS troops. Clancy was hit in the leg.

His escape was a matter of training. When trouble came, “P” agents were to think only of themselves. Get away at all cost. Clancy worked his way through the hedge to the edge of a corn field and managed to roll into a small stream that had undercut its bank at a time when the water was much deeper and the current stronger. Sgt. Otto was one step behind him. They hid there for an eternity as gun fire and grenades wiped out the twelve or so stalwart men with him. When it was safe Clancy ordered Otto to return to the French resistance headquarters and re-plan the mission. Three days later Clancy managed to hobble through the back door of a doctor he knew to be empathically involved with the resistance. With the help of the doctor he recuperated from his wound and they became friends in the process. Doctor Jon Arsenault insisted he should smoke to further blend in with the populace and gave him a Ropp cherry wood pipe, a rustic bark-on hunk of special cherry wood popular with farmers and laborers. He escaped from his hiding place in the doctor’s attic via an ambulance ride to a hospital in the next town. There, a farmer, on his way home from a delivery to the hospital, hid him in a false-bottomed milk wagon. At the farm he was supplied and sent on his way to the next station on the escape route to England.

In reality, most of the difficulty he encountered was in “getting out” when an assignment was completed. Only once, in eight missions, was he air-lifted out. Other times it was cross country to a boat and across the channel teeming with German patrol planes and boats. A lone transient traveling through the countryside was always suspect by the SS and Gestapo. The trips took weeks of night travel through the forests, hiding out during the light hours. To this day Clancy fondly remembers the people who faced death daily manning the escape route for agents like him and downed airmen.

The war in Europe ended and Clancy entered another training cycle in preparation for the Pacific Theater. The “bomb” was dropped and Japan surrendered before he finished. He spent a year in Japan in administration before returning to Fort Benning and then back to Washington for debriefing meetings with the OSS. Finally discharged with the rank of Captain, Clancy returned to school for his PHD but, not enthusiastically and gave up the idea in a couple of months.

Alma entered his life in September of his second year teaching at the small college in Harris Falls. She came there from the Health, Education and Welfare Department in D.C. Alma had picked the school partly because of its rural location and partly because of the fine reputation of the Political Science Department, within which she would teach.
They were readily drawn together, being nearer to Clancy’s age than most of the women at the small college. Bonding came with the discovery of their mutual connection to D.C. and shared acquaintances. A close friendship developed quickly.

The old “Cape” Ian had purchased almost a year earlier became a home for the first time. Alma quickly settled in. She cooked and cleaned, rearranged and puttered. They explored the antique shops with enthusiasm purchasing everything they agreed would spruce up the old place. Skiing, long walks in the gently falling snow and loving by the warmth of the big fireplace consumed the remainder of their time.

Alma never went back to her small apartment. In the following February Ian and Alma were married. Four years of bliss followed when Clancy was recalled to the “Platoon” in 1950 with Communist North Korea raising havoc south of its boarder and the Cold War getting more serious with the drums of war being heard in the Eastern Block Nations.

Copyright © Ernest N. Whitenack 2015

Chapters: Ch 1 | Ch 2 | Ch 3 | Ch 4 | Ch 5 | Ch 6 | Ch 7 | Ch 8 | Ch 9 | Ch 10 | Ch 11 | Ch 12 | Ch 13 | Ch 14 | Ch 15 | Ch 16 | Ch 17 |                    Ch 18

Ernie Whitenack was born in 1928 in Springfield, Illinois and moved to Massachusetts in the mid 1930's. He is a Korean War veteran, worked as a photographic illustrator for 43 years and is now retired.

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