The North Platte semi-weekly tribune. (North Platte, Neb.) 1895-1922, October 01, 1918, Image 2

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    THE 8EMI-WEEKLV TRIBUNE, NORTH PLATTE, NEBRASKA.
"Outwitting t
- " 1 -' - 1 111 " w
he Hun
By LIEUTENANT PAT O'BRIEN
(Copyright, 1918, by Va.t A1t O'Drlen)
FROM A PRISON CAMP O'BRIEN WATCHES LAST FIGHT AND
FATAL FALL OF HIS CHUM, PAUL RANEY.
8ynopsls. Pnt O'Brien, a resident of Momencc, III., nfter seeing
service In the American Hying corps on the Mexican border In 1010,
JoIdh the British Royal Flying corps In Cnnndn, nnd nfter u brief train
ing period Is sent to Frnncc. Ho Is assigned to u squadron In nctlvo
service on the front. Ho engages In several hot lights with Ocrmnn
flyers, from which he emerges victorious. Finally, In a fight with four
German flyers, O'Hrlcn Is shot down. He falls 8,000 feet und, escaping
death by n miracle, nwnkes to find himself a prisoner In a German
hospital, with a bullet hole In his mouth.
1
I.
IJ.LLLL9XI Qj LI-I
3Llout. A.0Brlen, R.F.Q. (8lR.) Reported, mlaatna 17-8-17
CHAPTER IV Continued.
When my "chummy enemy" first
tnrtcd his conversation with me, the
German doctor In chargo reprimanded
htm for talking to me, .but ho paid no
attention to the doctor, showing that
some real Americanism had soaked
into his system while he hud been in
the U. S. A. I asked him ono day what
he thought tho Gcnnan pcopo would
do after the war; If ho thought they
would make Germany a republic, nnd
much to my surprlso ho said very bit
terly, "If I had my way about it, I
would make her a republic today and
hang tho d- d kaiser In the bar
gain." And yet ho was considered an
excellent soldier. I concluded, how
ever, that he must have been a Ger
man socialist, though ho never told mo
so. On ono occasion I nuked him for
his name, but ho said that I would
probably never boo him again and it
didn't matter what his name was. I
did not know whether ho meant that
the Germans would starvo mo out, or
Just what was on his ralnd, for at that
time I am sure ho did not flguro on
dying. The first two or thrco days
I was in the hospital I thought surely
bo would bo up and gono long beforo
I was, but blood poisoning set in
about that time, and just a few hours
before I left for Courtral ho died.
One of those days, while my wound
was still very troublesome, I was
given an apple; whether it was Just to
torment mo, knowing that I could not
eat It, or whether for somo other rea
son, I do not know. But anyway a
German flying officer thcro had several
1b his pockets und gave mo a nlco one.
Of course thero was no chanco of my
eating It, bo when tho officer had gono
and I discovered this San Francisco
fellow looking at It rather longingly,
I picked It up, Intending to toss it
over to him. But ho shook his head
flad said, "If this was San Francisco
I would take it, but I cannot tako it
from you here." I was never able to
understand Just why ho refused the
apple, for he was usually sociable and
a good fellow to talk to, but appar
ently be could not forget that I was
his enemy. However, thnt did not stop
one of tho orderlies from eating the
apple.
Ono practice about tho hospital lm
pressed mo particularly. Tlmt was,
If- a German soldier did not stand
much chance of recovering sufficiently
to take his place again in tho war, the
doctors did not exert themselves to eco
that he got well. But If a man hud
a fairly good chance of recovering and
they thought he might bo of some fur
ther use, everything that medical skill
could possibly do was dono for hlra.
I don't know whether tills was done
finder orders or whother the doctors
Just followed their own Inclinations
la such cases.
My teeth had been badly Jarred up
from the shot, and I hoped that I might
have a chance to have them fixed
when I reached Courtral, tho prison
wrhero I was to be taken. So I asked
ttho doctor If It would bo possible for
Me to have this work done thero, but
Jho very curtly told mo that, although
4hero were several dentists at Cour
Ira I. they were busy enough flxlng the
locth of their own men without both
ering about mine. Ho also added that
X would not hnvo to worry about my
eth; that I wouldn't bo gottlng bo
nuch food that they would oe put out
of commission by working overtime.
anted to tell hlra .that from the way
things looked ho would not bo wear
ing his out very soon either.
My condition improved during the
next two days, and on tho fourth day
of my captivity I was well enough to
writo a brief racBsnge to my squad
too, reporting that I was a prisoner of
wfff nnd "feeling fine," although, as
matter of fact, I was never so de
pressed In my life. I realized, how
over, that If tho messago reocacd my
comrades It would bo relayed to my
mother In Moracnce, III., oud I did not
want to worry her more than was ab
solutcly necessary. It was enough for
her to know that I was a prisoner. She
did not have to know that I was
wounded.
I had hopes that my messugo would
be carried over the lines and dropped
by one of the German (lying officers,
That Is a courtesy which Is usually
practiced on both sides, I recalled
how patiently wo had waited In on
airdrome for news of our men who had
Called to return, and I could picture
uy squadron speculating on my fnto
That Is one of the widdcst things
oaucctod with service In the It. V,
J!w " ... rr.ni'b whllt hJf'Mlll tO
you, but tho constant casualtlcn among
your friends nro very depressing.
You go out with your "flight" nnd
get into a muss. You get scattered,
nnd when your formation Is broken up
you finally wing your way homo alone.
Perhaps you are tho first to land.
Soon another machine shows In tho
sky, then another, nnd you patiently
wait for tho rest to appear. Within an
hour, perhaps, all hnvo shown up save
one, and you begin to speculate and
wonder what has happened to him.
Has ho lost his way? lias he landed
at somo other alrdromo? Did tho
Huns get him?
When darkness comes you realize
that, at any rate, ho won't bo back that
night, nnd you hope for a telcphono
call from him telling of his whereabouts.
If tho night passes without sign or
word from him, ho is reported as miss
ing and then you watch for his cas
ualty to nppear in the war office lists.
Ono day, perhaps a month Inter, a
message is dropped over tho lino by
tho German flying corps with a list of
pilots captured or killed by tho Huns,
and then, for tho first time, you know
definitely why it was your comrade
failed to return tho day ho last went
over tho line with his squadron.
I was still musing over this melon
choly phaso of tho scout's llfo when
an orderly told mo there was a beautl
ful battlo going on In tho air, and ho
volunteered to. help me outside the
hospital that 1 might witness It, and
I readily accepted his assistance.
That afternoon I saw one of the
gamcst fights I ever expect to witness.
Thcro were six of our machines
against perhaps sixteen Huns. From
tho typo of the Brltsh machines I know
that they might possibly be from my
own aerodrome. Two of'our machines
had been apparently picked out by
six of tho Huns and wero bearing tho
brunt of tho fight Tho contest seemed
to mo to be so unequal tlmt victory for
pur men was hardly to bo thought of,
nnd yet at ono time they so completely
outmaneuvcrcd tho Huns that I
thought their superior skill might savo
tho day for them, dcsplto tho fuct that
they were so hopelessly outnumbered,
Ono thing I was euro of: they would
never glvo in.
Of course, It would have been a com
paratlvcly simple matter for our men,
when they saw how things were going
against them, to have turned their
noses down, landed behind tho Ger
man lines and given thcmsolvcs up ns
prisoners, but that la not the way of
tho It. F. O.
A battle of this kind seldom lasts
many minutes, although every second
sccmB llko an hour to those who par-
tlclputo In it, mid even onlookers suf
fer more thrills In tho course of the
struggle than they would ordinarily
experienco in a lifetime, it is appar-
nt oven to a novice that the loser's
futo 1b death.
Of course, tho Germans around tho
hospital were all watching and rootlug
for their comrades, but the English,
too, had one sympathizer in that group
who made no effort to stifle his admira
tion for tho bravery his countrymen
Were displaying.
Tho end came suddenly. Four ma-
chines crashed to earth almost simul
taneously. It vvns an oven break two
of theirs and two of burs. Tho others
apparently roturncd to their respective
lines.
The wound In my mouth made it lm
possible for me to ppuuk, but by menus
of a pencil and paper I requested one
of the German officers to dud out for
mo who the English officers were who
had beeu shot down.
A little later ho returned and handed
mo a photograph taken irom the body
of ono of tho victims. It was n picture
of Paul Rancy of Toronto, and myself,
taken together 1 PoorRuneyl He was
tho best friend I had und ono of the
best and gamest meu who over fought
In Franco.
It was he, I learned long after, who,
when I was reported missing, had
checked over all my belongings and
Bcni mem uacu 10 ungiuim wiin n
signed memorandum which Is now In
my possession. Poor fellow, he little
realized then that but a day or two
Inter ho would bo engaged In his lust
heroic battle with mo a helpless on
looker I
The Bnme German officer who
brought mo the photograph also drew
u map for me of the exact spot where
Unney was hurled In Flanders, I
gimnuMi it cnreruny un wirmmi my
Mihst iut'iit utlM'iiluro iiimI dually
tiirniHl it over in ins minor ui mower
when I vmIIiI lrt li Tin-. . In ii.'i
Paokoa in Tronic.
3 ffulto Pyjacatt.
1 Shirt.
4 Veata.
1 Prs. Pants.
3 Pro. Combinations., .
1 Hlght Shirt.
9 Towels.
1 Pr. Shorto.
1 Pr. Putt ooo .
3 Pro. Breeches.
1 Pr. Trouoora.
1 Strap.
1 Suit civilian olothos.
1 Belt. v
1 Tunlo.
1 Arcer loan Tunlo.
1 Pr. Ankle Boots.
1 Brltloh Warm Coat.
2 Pr. Goggles.
1 San Brpwno Belt.
1 Cane.
1 Box Dentrifloe.
3 Blankets.
V,:
Trusts fy. y
3Lleut.
&F.0.
Jor,
Caeiaandinz No. 66 Squadron,
Royal Flying Corpa.
Photograph of Official Memorandum. Giving an Inventory of the Personal
Belongings of Lieutenant O'Brien, Which Were Turned Over to Lieu
tenant Raney When O'Brien Was Reported Missing on August 17, 1917.
form the hardest and saddest duty 1
have over been called upon to execute
to confirm to them In person the
tidings of poor Paul's death.
Tho other British pilot who fell was
Iron nnd a man 1
also from my squadron
knew well Lieutenant Keith of Aus
tralia, I had given him a picture of
myself only a few hours beforo I start
ed on my own disastrous flight Ho
was ono of the star pilots of our squad
ron and had been In many a desperate
battlo before, but thin tlmo the odds
wero too great for him. Ho put up n
wonderful fight and be gave as much
qs ho took.
Tho next two days passed without
Incident nnd I was then taken to the
Intelligence department of the German
flying corps, which was located about
an hour from the hospital. There I was
kept two days, during which time they
put a thousand and one questions to
me. While I was thero I turned over
to them the message I had written In
the hospital and asked them to have
one of their flyers drop It on our side
of the line.
They asked me where I would llko to
havo it dropped, thinking perhaps
would glvo my airdrome awny, but
when I smiled and shook ray head, they
did not Insist upon an answer.
"I'll drop It over ," declnred one
of them, naming my airdrome, which
revealed to mo that their flying corps
Is as efficient as other branches of tho
service In the matter of obtaining vulu
uble Information.
And right here I want to Bay that tho
mora I camo to know of the enemy, tho
mora keenly I realized what a difficult
task we'ro going to have to lick him
In all my subsequent experiences, tho
fact that there Is a heap of fight left
In tho nuns still was thoroughly
brought homo to me. We shnll win
the war eventually, If wo dou't sUw
up too soon, in the mlstnkon idea that
tho IIuiih aro ready to lie down.
Tho flying, officers who questioned
mo wero extremely anxious to find out
all they could ubout tho part America
is going to play In tho war, but they
evidently camo to tho conclusion thnt
America hadn't taken mo very deeply.
Into her confidence, Judging from tho
Information they got, or failed to get,
from me.
At any rate, they gave mo up as a
bad Job, and 1 was ordered to the offi
cers' prison at Courtral, Belgium.
and directly Into a courtyard, on which
faced all of tho prison buildings, tho
windows, of course, being heavily
barred. After I had given my pedigree
my name, age, address, etc I was
shown to a cell with bars on tlio win'
dows overlooking this courtyard. I
was promptly told that at night we
were to occupy these rooms, but I had
nlready surveyed tho surroundings,
taken account of the number of guards
and the locked door outside, and con
cluded that my chances of getting
away from somo other place could be
no worso than in that particular celL
As I had no hat, my helmet being the
only thing I had worn over tho lines.
was compelled either to go bare-
CHAPTER V.
The Prison Camp at Courtral.
From the Intelligence department
was conveyed to tho officers' prison
camp nt Courtral In nn automobile. It
was ubout an hour's ride. My escort
was ono of the most fumous flyers In
tho world, barring none. He was later
killed In action, but I was to!tl by uu
English airman who witnessed his Inst
combat, tlmt he fought n gume buttle
and died n hero's death, t
Tho prison, which had evidently
been a civil prison of some kind beforo
tho war, was loeated right In the heart
of Courtral. The first building we up
proached wus large und In front of
the archway, which formed tic main
entrnneti, was a sentry box. lltru we
were challenged by the Mntiy. who
knocked on the door; the guiinl nirnwl
the Key In. the lock anil I .iinTlt
headed or wear tho red cap of the
Bavarian whom I had shot down on
that memorable day. It can be im
agined how I looked attired In a Brit
Ish uniform and a bright red cap,
Wherever I was taken my outfit
aroused considerable curiosity among
tho Belgians and Germnn soldiers,
When I arrived at prison that day I
still wore this cap, and as I was taken
Into the courtyard, my overcoat cover
ing my uniform, all that the British
officers, who happened to be sunning
themselves in the courtyard, could see
was the red cap. They afterwards told
mo they wondered who tho "bug nun"
was with tho bandago on his mouth
This cap I managed to keep with me,
but was never allowed to wear It on
tho walks wo took. I either went bare
headed or borrowed a cap from somo
other prisoner.
At certain hours each day tho prls
oners wero allowed to mingle in the
courtyard, and on the first occasion of
this kind I found that there wero 11
officers Imprisoned thero besides my
self.
They had hero interpreters who
could sneak all languages. One of
them wus a mvo boy who had been
born la Jersey City, N. J and had
spent all his life In America until
tho beginning of 1014. Then he moved
with his folks to Gcrmnny, and when
ho became of military ago the Huns
forced him Into the army. I think If
tho truth wero known he would much
rather have been fighting for America
than against her.
I found that most of the prisoners
remained at Courtral only two or
three days. From there they were In-
vnrlably taken to prisons In the Inte
rior of Germany.
Whether It was because I was nn
American or because I was a flyer, I
don't know, but this rule was &ot fol
lowed In ray case. I remnlned thero
two weeks.
During this period Conrtrnl was con
stantly bombed by our airmen. Not a
slnglo day or night passed without one
1.1- T ...nnlpo '
section in the -Iny tlmo i cnt out nnd
watched the machines nnJ tho shrap
nel bursting nil around; but tho Ger
mans did not crowd out there, for their
own nntialrcraft guns were hammer
ing nwny to keep our planes ns blsh
In the sky ns possible, and shells wero
likely to full In tho prison yard nny
moment Of course I watched i'jc?o
battles at my own risk. Many nights
from my prison window I watched
with peculiar Interest the nlr raids
carried on( nnd It was a wonderful
sight with tho German searchlights
playing on the sky, tho "flaming on
ions" fired high and tho burst of the
antiaircraft guns, but rather an un
comfortable sensation, when I realized
that perhaps tho very next minute a
bomb might be dropped on the building
In which I was n prisoner. But per
haps nil of this was better than no
excitement at all, for prison llfo soon
becumo very monotonous.
One of the hardest things I had to
endure throughout tho two weeks I
spent thero was tho sight of the Hun
machines flying over Courtral, know
ing that perhaps I never would have
another chanco to fly, and I used to sit
by the hour watching the German ma
chines maneuvering over the prison,
ns they hud nn alrdromo not far nway
nnd every afternoon tho students or
I took them for students because their
flying was very poor1 appeared over
the town. One certain Hun seemed to
And particular satisfaction In flying
right down over the prison nightly, for
my special discomfort and benefit, it
seemed, ns if he knew an airman lm
prisoned there was vainly longing to
try his wings again over their Hues.
But I used to console myself by say
ing: "Never mind, old boy, thero was
never a bird whose wings could not
be clipped if they get him Just right,
nnd your turn will come somo day."
One night there was an exception
ally heavy air raid going on. A num
ber of German officers camo into my
room, nnd they nil seemed very much
frightened. I Jokingly remarked that
It would be fine If our nlnncn hit the
old prison the percentage would bo
very satisfactory one English officer
and about ten German ones. They
didn't seem to appreciate tho Joke,
howover, and, indeed, they were up
parently too much alarmed at what
was going on overhead to laugh even
at their own Jokes. Although these
night raids seem to tako all the starch
out of the Germans wmie they are
going on, the officers wero usually as
brave as Hons tho next dny and spoke
contemptuously of the raid of tho
night before.
I saw thousnnds of soldiers In Cour
tral, and although they did not Im
press me as having very good or abun'
dant food, they were fairly well
clothed. I do not mean to Imply that
conditions pointed to an early end of
tho war. On tho contrary, from what
I was able to observe on that point.
unless tho Huns have an absolute crop
failure they can, in my opinion, go on
for years I Tho Idea of our being able
to win the wnr by starving them out
strikes mo as ridiculous. This Is a
war that must be won by fighting, nnd
tho sooner wo realize that fact the
sooner It will be over.
Rising hour in tho prison wns seven
o'clock. Breakfast came at eight This
consisted of a cup of coffee and noth
ing else. If the prisoner had the fore
sight to savo some brea'd from the pre
vious day, ho had bread for breakfast
also, but that never happened in my
case. Sometimes wo had two cups of
coffee, that is, near-coffee.
For lunch they gave us boiled sugar
beets or some other vegetable, nnd
once in a while some kind of pickled
meat, but that happened very seldom
Wo also received a third of a loaf of
bread war brend. This war bread
wus as heavy as a brick, black and
sour. It was supposed to last us from
noon one day to noon the next Ex
cept for somo soup, this was the whole
lunch menu.
Dinner came at 5 :30 p. m., when wo
sometimes had a little Jam made out
of sugar beets, nnd a preparation
called tea, which you had to shake vig
orously or It settled In the bottom of
tho cup, nnd then about all you had
was hot water. This "tea" was a sad
blow to the Englishmen. If It hadn't
been called tea they wouldn't have felt
so badly about It, perhaps, but It was
adding insult to Injury to call that
stuff "tea," which with them Is almost
a national institution.
Sometimes with this meal they gave
us butter Instead of Jam, and once in
a while we had somo kind of canned
meat
This comnrlm' tfr '.iuui run of eat
ables lot Yiie, day I can ent moro than
that for brctAfcat! In tho days that
wbro to come I learned thnt I was to
faro considerably worso.
Wo were allowed to send out and
buy n few things, but as most of the
prisoners were without funds this wns
but an empty privilege. Once I took
ndvantngo of tho privilege to send my
shoes to a Belgian shoemaker to bo
half-soled. They charged me 20
marks $5 1
Ouco in a while a Belgian Ladles'
Belief N?oIcr vWted the prison nnd
brought us nxji'lltercblefs, American
soap which sells at about $1.50 a
bar In Belgium toothbrushes and
other liUie articles, nil of which wero
American made, but whether they
were supplied by tho American re
lief committee or not I don't know.
At any rntc, these gifts were mighty
useful nnd wero very much appre
ciated.
Ono dny I oSfclfcd a button off njy
uniform to one of these Belgian ladles
as a souvenir, but a German guard
saw me and I was nover allowed to
go nenr tho visitors afterwards.
Tho sanitary conditions in this
prison camp were excellent ns a gen
eral proposition. One night howevt-r.
discovered that I had been cap
tured by "cooties."
This wns a novel experience to m
and ono' that I would havo been very
willing to hnvo missed, because In
tho flying corps our airdromes are a
number of miles back of tho lines and
we have good billets and our acquaint
ance with such things ns "cooties" and
other unwelcome visitors is very lim
ited.
When I discovered my condition, I
made a holler and roused the guard,
and right then I got another examplo
of German efficiency.
This guard seemed to be even moro
perturbed about my complaint than I
myself, evidently fearing that ho would
bo blamed for my condition.
Tho commandant was summoned
nnd I could see that he was very an
gry. Someone undoubtedly got a se
vere reprimand for It
I wns taken out of my cell by a
guard with a rifle and conducted about
quarter of a mile from the. prison
to nn old factory building which had
been converted Into an elaborate fumi
gating plant There I wns given a
pickle bath in some kind of solution,
and while I wns absorbing it my
clothes, bed clothes nnd whatever else
had been In my cell was being put
through another fumigating process.
While I was waiting for my things
to dry it took perhaps half an hour
had a chanco to observe about one
hundred other victims of "cooties"
German soldiers who had become In
fested in the trenches. We were all
nude, of course, but apparently It was
not difficult for them to recognize mo
as a foreigner even without my uni
form on, for none of them made any
attempt to talk to me, although they
wero very busy talking about me. I
could not understand what they were
saying, but I knew I was the butt of
most of their Jokes nnd they made no
effort to conceal the fact that I was
the subject of conversation.
When I got back to my cell I found
that it had been thoroughly fumigated,
and from that time on I hud no further
trouble with "cooties" or other visi
tors of tho same kind.
As wo were not allowed to write
anything but prison cards, writing was
out of the question ; and as we had no
reading matter to speak of, reading
was nil. Wo had nothing to do to
pass nway thoxtlme, so consequently
enrds became our only diversion, for
we did, fortunately, havo some of
these.
Thero wasn't very much money as a
rule in circulation, and I think for once
In my life I held most of that not duo
to nny particular ability on my part
Jn tho game, but I happened to have
several hundred francs In my pockets
when shot down. But we held a lot
tery that was watched without quite
such Intense Interest as that Tho
drawing wns always held tho day beforo
to learn who was the lucky man. Thero
wns as much speculation as to who
would win the prize as If It had been,
the finest treasure In the world. The
great prize was one-third of a loaf off
bread. Through some arrangement,
which I never quite figured out. It
happened that among the eight or ten
officers who were there with me, there
was alwnys one-third of n loaf of
bread over. There was Just one way
of getting that bread, and that -was to
draw lots. Consequently that wus what
started the lottery. I believe If a man
had ever been inclined to cheat he
would have been sorely tempted In thla
lnstnncc, but the game wns played ab
solutely square, and If a man had been
caught cheating the chnnces nre thnt
ho would have been shunned by tho
rest of the officers as long as he was
In prison. I was fortunate enough to
win tho prize twice.
As he was traveling with oth
er prisoners toward a prison
camp In the heart of Germany,
O'Brien conceived the idea of
ieaplng through the car window
In a desperate attempt to gain
his liberty. There was one
chance In a thousand that he
would escape death or re
capture. O'Brien took tho
chance. Read about thla thrill
ing exploit In the next Installment
t.ti tliriiil;'1
or more nlr raids. In tho two weeks
I was there I counted 21 of them. The
town suffered a great deal of damage.
Evidently our people were nware thnt
the Germans hud a lot of troops con
centrntcd In this town nnd besides the
headquarters staff was stationed there.
The kaiser himself visited Courtral
while I was In the jirlson, I was told by
one of yie Interpreters, but he didn't
call on me,' nnd for otjvlous reasons I
couldn't call .. him.
The courtyard was not n very popu
lar place during nlr raids.' Several
Unit's ' " n,'r Inncn raided
A
mm
Facsimile of the Check Given to Lieutenant O'Brien as a Joke by Lieutenant
Dickson When They Wen Fellow Prisoners at Courtral.
nii roNT' MtjETj.i