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A Lifetime of War
"Life is neither good or evil, but only a place for good and evil."
My name is Allen Voigt. On the day WW2 ended, I peered over the deck of the USS Nicholas, a Navy destroyer, joined by its sailors. We had a front row seat to Japan's surrender. The actual ceremony took place on the deck of the battleship USS Missouri, anchored only about one hundred yards away. General MacArthur was there, along with most of the United States senior military leadership. The Japanese dignitaries were dressed in top hats and coat tails, a strange sight, for sure. After the surrender papers were signed, naval gunfire erupted all over Tokyo Bay from the surrounding Navy ships. The sailors of the Nicholas and I congratulated each other and gave each other high fives and hugs. The date was September 2, 1945. The war was finally over. At least, that is what I thought on that infamous day.
I retired from the Army in January 1948, having faithfully served and defended my country for over twenty years. For the last few years of WW2, I served under General Donovan as a member of the Office of Strategic Services, or OSS. I participated in solitary missions throughout the European and Pacific war campaigns. After retiring, I spent thirty years as an Army contract employee. I trained young Army recruits who were headed off to the Korean War on counterintelligence and weapons. The Cold War escalated with the Soviet Union, and I was asked to train what are now known as Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) personnel on how to blend into society in foreign countries and maintain a false identify, even when under duress.
My last two years in the United States Army were classified up until 1980. What I have never shared, until now, is what I was asked to do for the Army between April 1946 and January 1947. What prompted me to now share my story was a television news story about the death of Walter Rauff. He was a German Nazi SS officer who played a large part in the creation of mobile gas chambers during WW2. He was directly responsible for the deaths of thousands of Jews. When I saw news of his funeral in Santiago, Chile, I recalled my inability to capture him back in late 1946. Death finally caught up with him at the age of seventy-seven in the form of lung cancer. I only wished that I had put a bullet in his head many years ago. I am now seventy-six and fully retired from any form of military service. I have never shared any of my mission activity during those last two years in the Army with anyone, outside of my wife Alice, who heard the details of my last mission upon my return to the United States in early 1947. It is now time for me to share my story with everyone else.
In the weeks leading up to the Japanese surrender, I was a prisoner of war aboard a Japanese submarine. I was released when the submarine surfaced in Tokyo Bay the morning of the surrender. Upon my release, I got in a life raft and paddled to the Nicholas, where I stayed for two weeks after the surrender ceremony. It was nice to be back with my fellow military members, as most of my service during the war had been solitary.
I finally made it back to Pearl Harbor in late September 1945, and went to Fort Meade, Maryland, in February 1946. A couple of months later, I was reunited with the love of my life, Alice Marie Davison. She was an Army nurse I had met for the first time almost fourteen years earlier, in Zurich, Switzerland. She was injured late in the war while a prisoner of war in the Philippines. We got to spend a few weeks together that April of 1946, as she convalesced at her parents' home in Jacksonville, Florida.
Late in April, I received an urgent telegram that read: "Captain Voigt, your presence is immediately requested back at Fort Meade, Maryland. Your service to your country is needed. You will be out of the country for a period of ten to eighteen months."
My heart sank. It had been four years since I had last seen Alice, during a mission to rescue her fellow nurses off the island of Corregidor in the Philippines, and I had to leave again. I spent the next day with Alice and her parents and shared the news. As hard as it was for her to find out I was leaving again, Alice supported me and hugged me goodbye the afternoon of April 27, 1946, when I boarded a train at the station in downtown Jacksonville, Florida.
For the next twenty hours, as I sat in my seat and listened to the train rumbling north, I reflected on the missions I had gone on for the Army and the OSS. I had saved American lives by killing the enemy. I figured my new assignment, whatever it was, had to be different from my previous assignments because the war was over. There was no one left to kill. I eventually drifted off to sleep sometime in the night and awoke when the train stopped in Wilmington, North Carolina. It was 4:30 a.m. I jumped off the train and found a young man selling newspapers, soft drinks and various snacks. I pulled out some loose change and bought a cold bottle of Coke and a Hershey's chocolate bar from him. By this time my train was getting ready to depart. I promptly made my way back to the train and took my seat.
After the sun came up, I spent my remaining time on the train seeking out and talking with anyone in military uniform. I found a few Marines, Sailors and Airmen. Without exception, all were headed home. Some had been injured and hospitalized for months after the war, while others had just gotten back stateside and were free to return to civilian life. I enjoyed the conversations and found out that many of them had been in the same general areas as I had during my missions. Speaking with them was therapeutic for me, as it helped me know that what we all had done during the war had made a real difference.
The train finally arrived at the Washington, D.C., train station around noon. I took a cab to Fort Meade, where I was dropped off at the front gate. The base was quiet, free of the volume of soldiers assigned there during the war. I checked in with the camp commander and confirmed that my small apartment was still there and waiting for me. I had left a few uniforms and personal supplies there, so I knew I was prepared. As I left the commander's office, he handed me a telegram. This one was from someone I had never met before, a General Robert Stiles. The telegram instructed me to meet General Stiles at his office on base the following morning at 8:00 a.m.
Before I retired that evening, I called Alice and told her I'd arrived safely and that I missed her. She begged me to be safe and to contact her again when I could. As I hung up the phone, I wondered when that would be. I resented somewhat that I had been called back to active duty, but I was aware of my commitment to the Army, and I was determined to see whatever lay ahead of me through to completion.
Early the next morning, I decided to go for a run before breakfast. The last few weeks spent with Alice and her parents had put a few pounds on me. I had eaten some fantastic home-cooked meals, but it was time to shed some weight. It was critical that I be in peak physical condition, regardless of the type of assignment that awaited me.
As I ran through the base, I noticed that things had not changed much from my time there during the war. Mostly, I was struck by the fact that I only saw three other people during the entire five-mile excursion. America had ramped up its personnel and equipment to historic levels during 19411945. Now that the war was over, things had rapidly slowed down. As I finished my last mile and headed back to my apartment to clean up, an Army jeep pulled up just ahead of me and stopped. I slowed down, and as I did, the driver jumped out and turned in my direction.
"Captain Voigt, good morning," the driver said. "I'm General Robert Stiles. It's good to finally meet you."
"Thank you, Sir, it is a pleasure to meet you, as well," I replied.
General Stiles asked if he could give me a lift back to my apartment, and since I was breathing heavily, I accepted his offer. After the General dropped me off, I quickly showered, ironed and donned a uniform, and rushed out the door for a quick breakfast.
When I entered the front door of the General's office building there on the Fort Meade base after breakfast, my mind flashed back to the day I had walked into the administrative building at Camp Pine during my basic training back in 1926. It was hard to believe that twenty years had passed. I'd been a lowly private back then and I remembered being intimidated by the sight of three senior officers, Brigadier General Massey, Colonel Pruitt and Lt. Yates. My drill sergeant, Sergeant Nolan, had been with me that day, and that had encouraged me. Today, however, I was by myself.
I climbed the three flights of stairs to the General's office and knocked on the door at 7:55 a.m. General Stiles immediately invited me to enter and take a seat in front of his large oak desk. He was shuffling papers and looking down, which gave me a chance to quickly glance around his office. His walls were filled with black and white photos from his wartime experiences, and on his desk sat a picture of his family. He had two sons serving in uniform - one in the Navy and the other in the Army.
General Stiles finally looked up at me.
"Captain Voigt, I was just reviewing your twenty-year military career, and it's quite commendable," he said. "I'm a thirty-four-year Army veteran, myself, having served in both world wars and during peace time. I'm a close friend of Major Yates, an officer whom I believe you know very well."
"Yes, sir," I said. "I first met Major Yates at Camp Pine, in upstate New York, way back in 1926 as a young private. I've always considered him my mentor."
General Stiles then said, "Allen, let's call each other by our first names going forward."
Although I nodded and smiled back at him, I knew that would be a struggle for me, as I'd followed Army protocol for the last twenty years.
The General stood and walked around his office as he spoke. "Allen, have you been reading the newspapers? Are you aware of the Nazi trials that have been taking place in Nuremburg, Germany since November 1945?"
The General paused, turned, and placed both of his hands on his desk. "General Donovan, whom you already know, is currently in Nuremburg, supporting the German war crime trials. Through various integration meetings with high ranking Nazis, we have learned the possible locations of some of the Nazis that fled Germany at the end of the war. Martin Bormann, Rudolf Hess, Karl Donitz and Hermann Goring have been very forthcoming with information. I do not have to tell you the atrocities that the Nazis conducted during the years 1939-1945, as you were witness to that. The Nazis who are currently on trial in Nuremburg will be justly punished and many will be hanged for their crimes against humanity. It is the Nazis that escaped our grasp that must now answer for their crimes."
He looked me straight in the eye and said, "Let me make this very simple for you, Allen. Your assignment, starting immediately, is to hunt down as many of those escaped Nazis as possible and to kill them."
Upon hearing that, I straightened in my chair and quickly gathered my thoughts.
I then stood and faced the General and said, "Sir, I count it an honor and a privilege to be assigned this mission. The Nazi brutality and killing that I witnessed throughout Europe during the war stay with me. The memories and images never leave my mind, and the smell of Jews burning in crematoriums still lingers in my nose. May I speak plainly, Sir?"
The General nodded, so I said, "Why don't we simply capture these escaped Nazis, bring them to trial, and allow them to be publicly sentenced, executed or imprisoned?"
"Because they are all cowards and deserve to be killed and buried deep," he said. "This directive comes directly from the desk of President Truman."
I had not yet met President Truman, although I had met President Roosevelt years ago. The sudden death of President Roosevelt had hit both the nation and me very hard back in April 1945. President Truman had helped fill the large void left by President Roosevelt and had helped lead America through the end of WW2. Truman had a reputation for being feisty and aggressive.
For the rest of the morning, General Stiles and I went through an exhaustive list of Nazis that had escaped capture at the end of the war. Some of the names I recognized, while others I had never heard. One particular name stood out, though: Walter Rauff. He and I had crossed paths briefly when I was at Auschwitz. He was responsible for killing thousands of Jews, as he had developed a mobile gas chamber that could be carried on a truck. My activity at Auschwitz had been undercover in nature and consisted of construction work and gathering intelligence. Rauff had visited the camp one afternoon to gather supplies, primarily Zyklon B tablets. He'd cursed at the Jewish inmates who were working nearby, and even spat on one of the prisoners as he'd waited for his trucks to be loaded. The most challenging aspect of my time spent at Auschwitz had been the grief I'd felt for the Jewish people and how useless I'd felt at my inability to save them. However, I had focused on the fact that the intelligence I gathered would ultimately save some of them.
General Stiles had lunch brought in for us, but I barely touched it because I had no appetite. Out of respect, I ate a few bites and swallowed some iced tea. I then shared with the General my knowledge of Walter Rauff.
Some of the Nazis that had escaped Germany included Adolf Eichmann, Franz Stangl, Josef Mengele, Erich Priebke and others. By early afternoon, we narrowed down the list to four of the best possible targets for me to hunt and eliminate. Walter Rauff was on that list. The other three Nazis were Ekerd Jacobsen, Rickert Pagel and Warner Weltzin. All four men had ties to the Jewish holocaust. The atrocities of the Nazis against the Jews and other groups had become fully apparent. It was estimated that over six million Jews had been exterminated during the war.
Ekerd Jacobsen and his death squad had been directly responsible for executing Jews in their own homes. During the last year of the war, the Germans had stopped transporting Jews via train and had simply entered their homes and executed them.
Rickert Pagel had selected young Jewish women just arriving at the concentration camps, taken them into German officer's or German soldier's barracks, and allowed them to be raped. After their abuse, the women had been brought back to the concentration camp and exterminated.
Warner Weltzin and his employees had been responsible for maintaining the concentration camps, including gas chambers, crematoriums, electric fences and lighting.
General Stiles outlined my next steps, which were straightforward. I was to fly to Berlin and meet with various contacts with direct insight and knowledge about the four designated Nazi targets. I was to learn about every aspect of these four murderers' lives, habits, family members, associates, and appearances. I was to study maps, possible escape routes, and countries to which these four Nazis had possibly fled.
It was expected that after four months of intense research and study, I would be ready to pursue my targets. Upon completing my initial review in Berlin, and prior to returning to the States, I was to spend time with General Donovan in Nuremburg, Germany. I was not briefed on the content of this meeting with General Donovan, whom I had not seen in some time.
My time with General Stiles wrapped up close to 4:00 p.m. I went back to my apartment and digested all the information I had received over the previous eight hours. As with my early days with the OSS when I'd been assigned missions, there was no debate, and I did not question why I was chosen for my assignment. I knew what I was trained to do. Now that the war was over, I simply needed to process everything I had heard and mentally prepare myself for what would be a physically and mentally demanding mission. I looked at it as my last assignment, though. I was thirty-eight years old, and my body was beaten and tired.
I called and spoke to Alice after I got back to my apartment. I was frustrated that I could not share the details about my upcoming assignment. Our conversation centered on the fact that the Army was sending me back overseas on assignment. Alice still struggled with her memory and recalled very little about what I had done during the war, so she did not realize how similar this new assignment was to those in my past. I felt like the war was lasting a lifetime. Alice told me to be safe and contact her when I could, as she would miss me terribly.
The next day I arranged with Fort Meade personnel to fly from the base to New York City. From there, I would take a series of flights to Berlin. I was not afraid to fly, as I had done so many times before, but I was not excited at the thought of spending forty-eight hours flying halfway across the world. I knew it had to be done, though, and it was the first step in what would be constant travel. During the war, I had crisscrossed the globe, moving from one assignment to another in defense of our country. Each trip seemed to get longer and longer.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Death is the Final Reckoning"
Copyright © 2018 Tim Drake.
Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 A Lifetime of War, 1,
Chapter 2 Numbered Days, 21,
Chapter 3 Faceless Man, 38,
Chapter 4 Alone I Stand, 56,
Chapter 5 No End in Sight, 79,
Chapter 6 Run to the Hills, 100,
Chapter 7 Into the Void, 124,
Chapter 8 Demise of Sanity, 143,
Chapter 9 No Penance, 164,
Chapter 10 End of the Beginning, 177,
About the Author, 191,