Five Past Midnight

By James Thayer

Towards the end of WWII, Theodore Roosevelt was having a meeting on how he could end the war. Director of the Office of Strategic Services (William Donovan) was summing up the war in 3 sentences. First, each and every day the war continued in Europe, 27,000 men, women & children would die. Second, a group of German officers were ready to assume leadership of the Third Reich if an opportunity would arise, and would instantly surrender. Finally, it had been confirmed that General Eisenhowers’ report that the SS is preparing a national redoubt in the Bavarian Alp, where Hitler may be able to carry on for 2 or more years. Hitler had recently pledged that he will fight ‘until five minutes past midnight’.
This is at a time when Roosevelt was failing in health and he was afraid Hitler would outlive him. Hitler was now a mad man that ranted and raved, thought everyone was out to get him (even his most devoted followers), spit ran from the corner of his mouth, he stayed underground all the time and he now had no use of his lest arm. It was at this time a plan was formed and approved to send someone to assassinate Hitler.

The man that was to accomplish this was Captain Jack Cray. He was an apple orchard owners son from Wennatchee, Washington. He was a short stocky young man that could blend in with any background and could perform anything that was asked of him. He had no reason to fear death as he wanted to die. On his second wedding anniversary, he had drunk too much, gone off the road, killing his wife and losing his will to live. To him, dying would be a blessing and he would be free of the quilt. He now was in a POW camp of Coditz Castle, Saxony, Germany.

The POW’s were in the British wing. There was only one american that was known only as John. Only two of the British officers knew his real name. All the prisoners were told by the hidden radio they had made that Roosevelt told them the end was near and not to try and escape as they were coming to release them soon. No one tried to escape except the American known as John. He had tried 2 other times and was planning a third escape. The POWs’ were now instructed to help the american to escape the prison camp. To do this, they dislocated his shoulders, cut his eyelids to make it look like he had ruptured his eye sockets from a great fall, and tourniquets around put his upper arms so they couldn’t get a pulse. Then he supposedly jumped out of a 7 story building (which was only actually a 1 story jump), and he was pronounced dead. They buried him in a shallow grave and when he came out of the grave there was still a soldier on guard. This is how it became known that he had escaped.

An important player in this was Otto Dietrich. He was homicide detective in the Police force in Germany. A second cousin of his was found guilty of stealing an explosive cap and since he was a distant relative, he was thrown in wing B of Berlins Lehrterstrasse Prison. Every day the guards came down, escorted him to the executioners cell, put a revolver to his temple and pulled the trigger. Each day he believed it was his last. They stripped him of his dignity and his nerve. When Cray had escaped the prison, the Third Reich knew the only man who could find and capture him would be detective Dietrich. They released him from prison and he was to capture Cray in return for getting his wife out of another prison camp. However the day they returned his wife, she was in a coma and died the next day.

Another important player in this plan would be Katrin von Tornitz. Her young husband had been killed in the early part of the war. She now wanted to war to end and not have the crazy Hitler destroy anymore of her countrymen. She would received coded messages on the radio and decode them. She was to wait