Chapter 25: Flight
A week before the attack, Uli went to Lieutenant General Schulz, his commanding officer.
“And what do you want to borrow your plane for, Werner?” he asked.
“I want to surprise my girlfriend, sir. I would like to have her fly with me,” Uli replied.
“So you just want to show off to a girl, is that it? These are not toys, Flieger, these are rather costly machines,” Schulz told him.
“I understand sir. She is not just some girl, sir. I love her, and I love flying. I would like to show her what it’s like, sir.”
“I will tell you something, Flieger Werner, you are a good pilot. You still have a lot to learn, we all do, but from what I have seen thus far, you have the skill to control a plane and master the skies...” Schulz said.
“Thank you, sir,” Uli replied.
“Fair enough, you can fly your Junkers if you can find a crew that will set it up for you. Just this one time, Werner. Prove yourself as a pilot and you can fly your assigned plane wherever and whenever, upon clearance.”
“Thank you, sir. I will not disappoint you, sir.”
“Werner, don’t tell your fellow Privates about this, I’m making an exception for you because of your outstanding ability to fly. If the others found out about this, well, they’d all want to impress their girls too.”
“Are you ready?” Uli asked her. It was already warm although the sun was just rising. The clouds were dispersing and the sky wore beautiful hues of gold.
“Yes, but where are we going?” Ivy asked.
“Don’t worry, you’ll find out soon,” he smiled. “And where are Heidi and Trudi?” she asked.
“They are with Ben and his girlfriend, they will watch them for the day,” he replied.
“Do you trust them to care for the twins?”
“I trust Ben with my life.”
She nodded and climbed on the back of the motorcycle, and hung on to him. Riding with Uli was one of Ivy’s favourite things. She loved wrapping her arms around his torso and feeling the wind whip back her hair.
After half an hour, the large gates of the Luftwaffe’s academy appeared at the end of the road. Ivy had never been there nor seen airplanes from such a close distance. She was speechless. He simply smiled and took her hand. Uli spoke with the guards regarding Ivy’s entrance, and in they walked.
Since it was an early Sunday morning, the vast runways and hangars were quiet. The entire place was nearly empty, only two mechanics were working on a plane. They greeted Uli and he greeted them back. They walked into the open hangar where the crew were and Uli asked her, “What are you thinking?”
“I’m... I’m just amazed. Look that plane, it’s huge! How many people can fit in it?” she asked excitedly.
“Only three actually. It’s a heavy bomber, so all the space you see is used to carry bombs,” he answered.
“Oh, that makes sense. It’s all real, it’s all so real now... your mission, and being here. They’re different up close. In the sky they almost look like birds, so harmless. But here on the ground, they’re dangerous machines, they look menacing. I like them, though. I see why you find flying so wonderful,” Ivy said as they continued to walk.
“Do you want to know what it’s like?” he asked her.
“What? To fly?” she asked, dubious.
“Yes,” his smile was a grin now.
Her eyes widened in response, and he took that as a yes. “They are preparing the Junkers Ju 87, it’s what I’ll be flying in five days.”
It was a stunning aircraft, painted in grey with bright yellow wingtips and tail. A black and white hakenkreuz was painted on both sides of the tail. Ivy touched it lightly, it symbolized happiness and hope to her.
“And two people can fly in it?” Ivy asked him.
“Yes,” he replied.
“Your aircraft is ready, Flieger Werner,” one of the mechanics announced.
“Thank you, I owe you gentlemen a beer. Ivy, wait here,” Uli said.
Uli walked away and came back a few minutes later with a black, thick leather jacket and two brown leather helmets with goggles on top. “Are you ready?” he asked her.
“I think so... I’m just nervous,” Ivy gulped.
“It will pass,” he kissed her on the cheek. “You’ll have to wear this,” he put the helmet on her head and helped her into the leather jacket.
“But it’s really hot today,” she said.
“Not up there, it gets very cold” he replied.
He helped her climb in the back seat. She had to stand on the wing and then push herself into the tight space. It was no easy task, especially since the plane was so tall.
“All good?” he asked as he climbed on the wing to secure the double-crossed seat belts on her.
“Yes, how did you do that so easily?” she asked, amazed.
“Do what?” “Get on the wing!”
“Practice, I guess. Sorry you won’t be facing me, this seat is for a gunner. The machine gun isn’t loaded, obviously, but don’t touch anything. Any questions?” he added.
“Yes, where are we going?” she asked once again.
“It’s a surprise. This radio equipment will allow us to talk while in the air. Keep your headphones on, it will get loud,” he said.
Ivy nodded and he climbed in his seat. They sat with their backs facing each other, and her view was strange at first because when he started the engine and the plane began to slowly move, everything was moving past Ivy in reverse. It was an odd view indeed, but she felt so excited and nervous that she could barely think. Her hands were cold yet she was sweaty, probably from wearing the jacket.
“Can you hear me?” Uli’s radio voice rang in her ears. “Yes. I wish you had told me we were doing this, so I could have skipped breakfast,” Ivy said and she heard him laugh. The plane turned a few times and then it began to move at a faster pace. “Get ready for take-off,” he announced when they were moving so fast that everything passed by in a blur.
And then the strong vibration of the wheels rolling on pavement ceased. The plane felt smooth, and the ground beneath them was zooming away. The other planes, the hangars, the trees, everything shrank by the second.
The city of Berlin shrank underneath them as the plane went higher, eventually all she could see were small patches of grey and lots of green. “How are you feeling?” he asked.
“Better, I think. How many times have you done this?” she asked him back.
“In this plane? This is my 13th time,” Uli replied.
Is that a lot? It must be enough if he’s allowed to fly it on his own time. Ivy thought.
Soon enough they were flying through fluffy, white clouds. Ivy had always wondered what it was like to be a bird, to touch the clouds.
She couldn’t touch them because the cockpit was enclosed, but they did drench the plane in tiny water droplets that dried off with the wind. The plane made it over the clouds effortlessly, and the view was spectacular. The sun was already shining bright and the sky was an intense blue. After some time flying over the clouds and conversing about how peaceful and freeing it was to be in the sky, Uli began to descend.
The horizon was a dark blue colour, and as they flew onward, Ivy realized it was the ocean. “Are we flying over the ocean?” she asked him. “No we’re at our destination,” he replied.
He descended the plane slowly, not wanting to frighten or sicken Ivy. Even he still wasn’t used to descending too quickly or diving with the Junkers, it took some getting used to.
“This is the place we’ll always call home,” he said. They landed on a small airfield with a military base much smaller than Berlin’s. Then it struck her, they were in Kiel.
Uli borrowed a car from the base and he drove to the beach. It was noon and being hot, late August, the crowds were large as expected. They then walked to a spot on the beach that was always more quiet, more distant. The cave.
Ivy took off her short-heeled shoes to properly walk on the sand. She ran inside and hugged Uli, delighted.
“Thank you! Uli, you have no idea... I missed this place so much. When I left, I thought I would never see it again. I thought I’d never see you again,” she stated.
He hugged her tightly and moved back, to kiss her. When their lips parted, he looked her in the eyes and said, “I have been waiting for this moment for a long time... Yvonne Köhler, I love you. I want to marry you, will you be my wife?”
Of all the surprises he had given her that day, that one certainly shocked her the most. She felt overwhelmed, but her answer was clear.
“Y-yes,” she muttered.
Uli and the other pilots slept in cots at the base. They woke up at 4:00 in the morning and began preparations for takeoff. Their planes were already fueled and checked.
Berlin’s close proximity to the Polish border was a great advantage, they wouldn’t have to fly for too long unlike other squadrons from the rest of the country.
Uli’s squad had been named Black Eagle. It consisted of 10 pilots, excluding Ben, who was in a different squadron. Their leader was an older pilot named Ludwig. The plan for Black Eagle and two other squads was to fly straight to a large military base and airfield in Gorzów and bomb it. That way they would crush the Polish’s hopes for air defense in that area. They would then return to base, refuel and rearm their aircraft and head out to Poland once more. This time they would go to Warsaw, to bomb the opposition and any forming resistance, paving the way for the Wehrmacht to easily enter the city once the bombings were done.
Uli sat in his plane, nervously waiting for the order to take off. Sixty other planes waited on the runway as well. They would all take off, one by one, and in the sky get into formation.
He thought about the previous day, the last time he had seen Ivy. He had promised her that he would be alright, but so many things could go wrong that he knew that wasn’t a promise he could keep.
“I’m excited, a little anxious maybe, but only because this will be my first time in real combat,” Uli told her.
“Aren’t you scared? I would be a little scared,” Ivy frowned.
“Scared? Ivy, I’m a man, I don’t fear anything, not even death,” he smiled.
“You don’t fear dying? Really?” she incredulously asked, crossing her arms.
“Well, I don’t really know, I’ve never been in a situation where... why are we talking about death? I’m not going to die, Ivy. I’m going to live, and before you know it I’ll be back here with you,” he kissed her.
“Uli, I’m so proud of you, I love you” she kissed him back.
“And I love you. I must go now,” he put on his hat.
“Be careful and... kill anyone who threatens to kill you. Kill them all,” Ivy told him.
Kill them all. Her words echoed in his mind. He didn’t know if he was capable of killing, but he would soon have no choice. Surely people would die from the bombings. He didn’t think it would come to it, not that he wasn’t proud to be fighting for his country, but he thought that becoming a pilot would mean a harmless job. A job like delivering mail or transporting people, not killing them.
He’d heard from Great War veterans, Peter included, that they had all been eager to join the battlefront and fight when the war started, but once they saw all the destruction it caused, they never wanted to repeat the experience. This time was different, however, since they weren’t going to war. They were simply putting an end to Poland’s corrupt government and seizing land that belonged to ethnic Germans. Germans in Poland weren’t being treated fairly and to make matters worse, the Polish had been attacking German guards at the border. Something had to be done.
Hans, his partner and gunner got in and sat in the back seat. Then a crew member closed the cockpit’s glass roof and wished them luck. The signal to start their engines came.
“Ready?” Hans asked.
“Never been more ready.”
A loud gun was fired and takeoff began. They flew at very high altitudes, far above the clouds. When the time came, their squad leader ordered a slow descent into cloud cover. All the Junkers, flying side-by-side followed suit. Once they were in the clouds, they flew for 20 minutes and then the order came to dive.
“This is it. Brace yourself, Hans,” Uli said.
“Let’s do it!” he replied.
Uli activated the dive brakes and shifted the Ju 87 until its nose was directly facing the ground. He was aiming for a hangar. The plane began to pick up incredible speed and even with the headphones, he could hear the loud, siren-like scream the plane made as it dived. Not yet, not yet... he felt extremely faint. He could barely see, his field of vision was blurry. He focused on the altitude meter and saw that it was time. He dropped the single, 500 kg bomb and felt the blood completely drain from his head.
The plane’s loud wail awoke him from the blackness and he saw that it was pulling out of the dive on its own, as expected. The earth flared and shook with massive explosions. What had been a military base was now flaming rubble. Smoke rose into the air like dark clouds before a storm.
“Hans, are you well?” Uli asked. No response. “Hans? Hans?”
“Yeah, sorry, I was out for a second there. Did we do it?” he responded.
“This part of the mission was a success, boys! Time to head back to base. The trip to Warsaw will be a long one, we will be traveling back and forth until Warsaw falls. It may take days, but for now, well done!” Ludwig happily said over the radio.
On their way back to Berlin, at dawn, Uli saw thousands of troops marching, and trucks and tanks crushing their way into Poland. The invasion had now begun.
The news of the invasion had quickly spread via radio announcements and special edition newspapers. Ivy and her family had known ahead of time, through Uli and through Peter. The Führer had been driven around the streets of Berlin, but instead of the cheering crowds he had expected, the streets were eerily empty and silent. Not a single German was happy about the invasion, not even Ivy. Despite her confidence in Uli, she felt anxious. She wondered if he was alright. Considering the atmosphere, she had decided not to tell her parents about her engagement yet.
The tension was palpable. Simone and her parents were constantly exchanging worried phone calls. Peter was at work, in the Reichstag. He had called to assert that everything was going to be fine, but he didn’t sound too convincing.
It was a while past noon, on the third day of the invasion. Ivy sat in the living room with the twins. She was reading Rumpelstiltskin to them:
“So sah ich da ein kleines Haus,
und vor dem Haus brannte ein Feuer,
und um das Feuer sprang ein gar zu lächerliches Männchen,
hüpfte auf einem Bein und schrie...”
The radio, which had been talking about the success of the invasion so far, suddenly blared an alarm-like sound.
“What is going on?” Simone ran into the room.
“Attention! Attention, citizens of the Third Reich. Upon many threats issued to our country, and as of eleven in the morning, today, September the third, we are in a state of war with Great Britain,” the radio announcer said.
The same announcement could be heard outside, from loudspeakers on a vehicle driving around: “We are in a state of war with Great Britain. We are at war.”
“No,” Mother gasped. “No... no...”
Ivy’s heart was beating fast, questions were rushing through her head. Why? What did we do to the British? Are we in danger? Is Uli alive? Is he going to fight in the war? Is my Vati going to fight? What happens now? How long will it last? What will our Führer do? What now? She could hear her heartbeat in her ears.
The phone rang, but they couldn’t move. Trudi ran to it and answered it the way she always heard others answer it, “Köhler Residence.”
Heidi turned to Ivy and asked her, “Ivy, what is war?”
Flieger translates to Private or Aircraftman 2nd Class. It’s the lowest rank in the Luftwaffe.
The Junkers Ju 87 had brand-new technology that allowed it to pull out of a dive even without the control of the pilot. This was implemented because it was common for the pilot to lose consciousness while diving. This was the main airplane used to attack Poland on the invasion. You can click on the photobucket link in my profile to see photos of this deadly aircraft.
The way I wrote this chapter was biased, so you could get a sense of how Germans were told things and how information was fed to them. The truth is that the Polish never provoked Germany, they never attacked anyone at the border. The attacks did occur, but they were faked by Nazis who dressed in Polish uniforms. It was all staged, just like with Austria and Czechoslovakia. It was all mostly lies, but the German people didn’t know better. Their only sources of information, for years, had been strictly controlled by the Nazi Party.
This is it, the end of this book. The story continues in Book Two: Through Blood.
I cannot express my gratitude in words to all those of you who have been reading this story from the beginning. I didn’t think it would come this far. I didn’t think I would come this far. I am simply happy about the fact that you are not learning about Germany under the rule of the Nazi Party and Adolf Hitler from the American and British perspective alone (history is written by the victors). Even my perspective is missing a lot of facts, but it would take a million books to attempt to tell it all.
Thank you. Danke schön. Dank u. Merci. Gracias. Grazie. Obrigado.
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