It was getting late. The sun was going down, and Nye wasn’t back yet. Swain needed to finish the coded messages, send the pigeons on their way at midnight, and get the hell out of there. The Germans were everywhere. But Nye was the one who knew about the birds. He could hear the German tanks idling in the distance. Did Nye get into some kind of trouble?
Swain heard a low bird whistle from the nearby trees. Nye slithered into camp. He was wearing the brown Cossack robe of a priest with a beaded waistband and a wooden cross hanging from the end of it. He whispered, “I borrowed some clothing for our trip out of here. The priest was very generous. I have another robe underneath this one for you. We will travel under the wings of God.”
Swain finished the coded messages, rolled them up, and placed them in scarlet-colored capsules. Before it got dark, Nye held each bird while Swain attached the scarlet-colored capsule to each animal’s leg. Later in the night, each bird was released an hour a part and flew into the dark oblivion under the auspice of a cloud-draped moon. Nye said, “We should say a silent prayer that one of the messages makes it back to England.” They headed out in their priestly garb. Navigating around the hedgerows of the boscage was a feat in itself in the dark. They quietly skirted the tree lines along agricultural fields, and like phantoms in the night, they raced across open areas and farm roads. They mucked through marshes and knee-deep water while holding up their robes.
German movement echoed from the west, east, and south throughout the night. Clanking of tank tracks, vehicle engines, and the roar of motorcycles used for reconnaissance filled the night air. The smell of petrol hung heavy over the stagnant water that surrounded them. The German’s were up to something. Frequent rapid-fire gunshots pierced the din. Swain knew Nye was thinking the same thing—and what about the men in Graignes. Did they find them? And if they did, would any of the men survive? The wounded were unable to travel. Would the Germans kill them and the locals from the Resistance who helped them?
As the sun came up, a young German soldier appeared out of the fog. “Halt!”
Both stopped in their tracks. The German frantically raced towards them with his rifle raised. Although afraid out of their wits, they calmly stood as he approached.
Although Nye spoke fluent French and German, he spoke with him in French and broken German. Nye said, “We are God’s children. An elderly woman of congregation just passed into God’s hands. The grandmother would not leave her...