Hauptmann Eric Manne watched as the Junker aircraft lifted into the evening sky. Across from him, co-piloting this desperate flight, was Major Dietrich. A lifetime ago, Major Dietrich was one of Furhrer's pilots. The two watched Berlin burn through the windows as they slowly gained altitude. The plane rattled as flank fire struck a short distance from their aircraft.
"Did not know any eighty-eights still fired in the air," commented the major as he watched from his window.
"I am surprised we made it out; the Russians were so close to the airport," replied Hauptmann Manne uneasily.
"Yes, maybe our last glorious flight for the Luftwaffe," said the major as he saluted toward the burning city below.
The plane moved up and down awkwardly through the wind currents and shook with each close flank explosion. A young man entered the cabin; he looked like he could be sick at any moment. His boyish face was etched with the horrors of war and a desperate need for sleep.
" Gafreiter Overmun, everyone strapped down as best as possible?" asked the major, looking over at the young airman.
"Ah, yes, major. This plane does seem sluggish," he responded as he looked out at the burning city below.
The major tapped the young airman on the arm, "Things are worse than I thought, Herr Captain. The boys even know we are overloaded and underpaid. " he grinned.
The pilot barely heard the other two as his attention was drawn to a large group of aircraft coming directly toward them. He moved his stick without warning, which put the plane into a sudden dive. The young airman almost fell into the front seat.
The young airman grabbed hold of a bulkhead, looking like the devil was chasing him. He closed his eyes momentarily as the pilot changed direction rapidly, ducking the aircraft into a low bank of clouds.
Hauptmann Manne grunted, "Thought this was a low dark cloud bank."
The major leaned forward, "Looks like something below us is burning, but a bank of thick smoke will do."
The airman grunted, "I will go back and check on everyone."
"Make sure they are all holding tight. Hauptmann Manne said, "If those aircraft see us, we might go down in record time," said Hauptmann Manne.
"Captain advises everyone to hold tight and grab something; enemy aircraft are all around us!" the airman bellowed as he entered the cargo plane's rear; he always loved aircraft but never envisioned dying in one. He looked at the battered group of soldiers, civilians and government officials in the cargo area.
He looked over at a young woman clutching her minor child. He remembered helping her onto the plane. Her child was clinging to life then, and he doubted the child would survive this flight. He tried to reassure her with a hopeful smile as he walked by her moving toward the rear of the aircraft.
He stopped by Oberst Klein; two medics loaded the Colonel onto the plane just before it took off. He did not look at all well and wondered if the Oberst would live through the flight. "Oberst Klein, may I get you anything?" he said over the noise of the aircraft.
Oberst tried to focus his vision on the young man for a moment, "If there is clean drinking water, I would like to wet my lips," he muttered before he coughed loudly.
Gafreiter Overmun took a small flask from his belt; he knelt over the Colonel and let him have a small sip of his water. "Drink slowly, sir," he said. "We shall land before you know it. We will be landing near the Danish border."
The battered old Colonel was no fool. Their chances of getting through their flak and avoiding British, American and Russian fighters and ground forces were not good. "After the war, what are you planning on doing, young man." he coughed out.
No one had asked him that question; since he was fifteen, he had been in the Luftwaffe working on Flak Batteries at airfields and pulling dying pilots out of burning aircraft. "I have not thought beyond the war, sir," he said, not knowing what to say.
"Should a Germany be allowed to exist into May and beyond, the country will need thinkers, builders and people willing to survive our Thousand Year Reich." the Colonel did his best to sit up as he spoke, "Listen up, young man and anyone else who can hear my voice." Only a few people sitting near him seemed to hear his voice or care.
The Oberst coughed heavily, and the young airman tried to assist him, but he died a moment later. Little did the Colonel know, but the young airman would remember his words for many years.
The airman covered the Colonel with a torn blanket. He moved back into the aircraft to check on the others as the plane banked hard to the right, then a moment later to the left. A wounded soldier shrieked through the cargo door window, "Spitfire!"
Another soldier moved to the window, "No, it is a Hurricane!"
As the fighter plane passed over the cargo plane, bullets ripped through the plane's body. Several people shrieked as the plane seemed to dive heavily. Everyone expected the plane to go down at any moment.
Hauptmann Manne moved the aircraft left and right several times as the fighter passed overhead; he elected to try putting the plane into a deep dive. He was hoping he would soon be over their territory.
"Hoping for help," the major laughed as the fighter plane seemed to have lost them for at least a moment.
Hauptmann moved the stick to take the plane out of the dive as the ground approached quickly. "Damn old aircraft!" he swore as it slowly began to respond.
The plane slowly moved out of the dive as the aircraft began to take fire from ground units. Bullets and shells bounced around the aircraft as the plane slowly regained altitude.
"I make it forty-one or forty-two kilometres north-west of pour position." said the major as he checked their flight map."
As the plane altered course, Gafreiter Overmun entered the cockpit. "Sir," he said gravely.
The major looked at the young man's face as he turned to look at him. "How many did we lose?"
"Two dead, five wounded. The old Colonel is dead," he responded slowly. "The three medics are doing what they can, but we have no supplies."
"If we are fortunate, we will reach the Admiral's headquarters." said the major.
As the major spoke to the airman, the airman froze as he saw a fighter plane heading directly toward them. "Sir!" he shrieked as if Satan had appeared before them.
The captain had already seen the fighter plane dive down toward them a moment earlier. "Major, you spoke too quickly," said the captain. "He wants to play. The captain put the plane on full throttle, and its engines moaned horribly as small amounts of oil and debris flew out of them.
"Go in the back and tell everyone to get onto the floor!" the major ordered the airman with a calm demeanour.
The airman turned out of the cockpit, "Everyone on the floor!" He shouted out as if he was the Reichmarschall himself. The young airman closed his eyes as he collapsed onto the deck of the aircraft.
The two planes moved swiftly into each other's path, neither giving quarter to the other nor asking for it. The fighter plane began to fire as they neared each other. The old Junker cargo plane cockpit was sprayed with bullets, the front windscreen shattering. A moment later, the fighter changed course.
The airman scrawled forward and slowly stood up, "Wow, that was too close." he said in amazement.
The captain pointed toward the major, "Airman, please remove the major."
The airman looked closely at the major; a moment ago, he was alive and now dead. "Yes, sir," he said. He disappeared into the aircraft's rear and returned with an older man. The two pulled the major out of his seat and dragged him to the cargo hold.
The captain looked down to the cockpit floor and realized it was not the major's blood but his own. "Check the rear. Did we not take on other pilots," he said gravely to the airman upon his return.
"Three, sir, well four counting the Colonel dead. Another one is wounded as well."
"Get whichever one is in the best shape up here fast. I might be bleeding out." the captain replied.
Without a word, the young airman moved to the aircraft's rear. He returned with whatever bandages or supplies he could find and with a young officer following behind.
"Hauptmann Manne, Leutnant Hofmeir at your call" said the very young pilots.
"Ever fly a Junker before," said the captain.
"I have checked out on Stukas and Messerschmitts; I have also already been shot down twice," he said as he climbed into the co-pilot seat.
"How long have you been flying?" the young airman said before thinking.
The captain was about to say something and might well have, except a medic was bandaging his right leg. "Ahhh," cried out the captain.
The young officer looked at the airman, "Fair question; I was commissioned in February 1945. I did have two kills, if that means anything.
The pilot stayed up front with his bleeding for the moment controlled. The next portion of the flight was tranquil as they got away from the big city area of Germany. The captain's new co-pilot figured if all went well, they would soon be able to land.
"I pray you do not have orders to try to return to Berlin," said the young pilot.
The captain looked at him momentarily and thought of what his old friend, the major, would have said. "Of course, ten minutes to refuel, prepare your will and have a brandy."
Instead, the captain looked toward him, saying, "I doubt there will be much left of this aircraft. I am hoping we can be mellow at headquarters till the end."
Leutnant Hofmeir smirked, "So much for getting the Iron Cross in the burning skies of Berlin." The plane slowly lost altitude as they neared a rough airfield, and the landing gear went down mercifully. "Alright, here we go," said the captain.
The young airman was in the rear of the aircraft with the survivors of Berlin. The plane shook as cargo was tossed around the aircraft's tail. The cargo area had small light gaps of morning light shining through the many holes.
The captain pulled the throttle back as the aircraft struck the ground with a loud thud. The plane banked left, then right on the small airfield. Toward the end of the airport, part of the landing gear collapsed, dragging the aircraft to a final resting spot.
The airman moved toward the rear cargo door as it popped open from the outside. "Thank God!" he roared. He was delighted to see a German face.
Hauptmann Eric Manne would fly one more mission just hours before the war ended. He surrendered to the Allies in Norway on May 8th, 1945. Eric Manne helped remove landmines from the Norwegian coast for the next eighteen months. Not exactly the career he envisioned when he first started flying for the Luftwaffe in late 1940.
The captain would later fly for numerous small air carriers and became one of the first pilots for Lufthansa in January 1953. He would have a small family and retire in 1980.
Gafreiter Overmun, on May 5th, 1945, stood with his arms raised and surrendered to the arriving British Forces. He would be placed in a British prisoner camp for several months. He would be questioned several times about his duties in the Flak Batteries and airfield in Germany.He was released in 1946 and made his way home to what was left of Munich.
In 1950 he became involved in politics as he finally earned wings and could fly. He would be a centrepiece in local and regional politics for years. In the early hours of April 30th, 1975, he would fly a small aircraft out of Saigon as the city crumbled to the Northern Communist forces. As he flew several diplomats, refugees and foreign residents to safety, his mind wandered back to that flight in April 1945. He felt sure he felt the presence of the major and the old colonel at his side.
This story is not about political views or meant to glorify anyone. It is the story of people escaping a dying totalitarian regime.
That you for reading this story; please comment and follow if you wish.
Bruce Curle April 2023.
About the Creator
A Fifty something male that enjoys writing short stories, scripts and poetry. I have had many different types of work over my lifetime and consider myself fairly open minded and able to speak on many topics.