I Do Declare: A WW2 spy thriller is the best way to get past the turkey leftovers

Need a break from political discourse and turkey leftovers?

Well, who doesn’t?

I’ve got you covered right here with an excerpt from my WW2 spy thriller, Turning August.

Before you jump into the chapter, it might help to dig into some background from the back of the book:


August Wichmann had been warned.

As a young professor of linguistics at Munich University, he captivated his students with role-playing in the personas and culture of the different languages he was teaching.

It was the perfect skill set for the SS, who recruited him to gather intel on seditious acts.

But he had been warned.

His sister argued against his enlistment. Friends and colleagues encouraged him to reconsider. Brigitte, a vivacious medical student, made a compelling case against working with the regime.

But August was idealistic and dedicated in service to his country. He took on the role of rising SS officer.

Then he witnessed firsthand the atrocities committed by the Nazis.

His attempts to stop the evil were compromised by threats to those he loved. The Resistance discovered August and wanted to use his skills to ferret out information that could turn the tables on Hitler’s henchmen.

While pretending to be loyal to the SS, he had to feign indifference to the brutality so he could gather intel on Nazi activities and keep his cover safe.

Desperate in this no-win state, the only one who truly understood August’s torment was Brigitte, herself an unwitting pawn in the Nazi schemes. They both faced the haunting question that ever after steered their course:

After you discover the truth, how do you atone for believing the lie?

Set against a tangled web of Abwehr agents and double agents, broken trust and deception, and the earnest hopes and thwarted plans of the Resistance, the story treads a precarious path of conscience in the face of evil.

Many of the characters are based on real people, including seasoned spymaster Admiral Canaris and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer – both presenting a fixed star by which August and Brigitte navigate the shifting moral boundaries required to fight the Nazis from within.


That should tell you a little bit about the overall story. In this chapter, August has just returned from the Wannsee Conference, where the Nazis discussed the “final solution” of the Jews (including their plans for mass murder via gas chambers). August was required to attend because he worked for Heydrich – even though he despised the man and everything he stood for. If he refused, he and his family would be killed. At this point, he realizes how evil the SS is, but he can’t find a way out.

This chapter is the point when he is approached to work with the Resistance by none other than Admiral Canaris, head of the Abwehr. (He too was pretending to be part of a system he despised.)


Chapter 43

The car dropped August off, and he trudged up the steps. His shoulders sagged. Every breath, every movement was an effort. He felt stunned beyond coherent thought. The conference had done that to him. He wasn’t sure how he’d be able to exorcise it from his thoughts.

He went inside and locked the door. First things first. A drink.

He stopped, looked around, listened. He wasn’t alone. He pulled out his weapon and stalked his way into the living room.

Canaris was sitting on the sofa. “We have some things to discuss, so I dropped by. How was Wannsee?”

“The butcher told you? Damn it!”

“Of course he told me. He’s my asset.”

August eyed Canaris, leaning back on the sofa, a glass of scotch in his hand. There was no threat. August put away his weapon, took off his coat, and sat across from Canaris. His movements were slow and thoughtful. By the time he sat he was focused, calm, and collected.

“So you know I went to Wannsee,” he said. “What else do you know? Or want to know?”

“What else do I know? Let’s see…” Canaris took a drink and looked up. “I know your apartment isn’t bugged. We swept it this morning. So we’re free to talk.” He looked back at August. “I know you’re intelligent. And capable. We could use that.”

“We? You mean the Abwehr?”

“I mean the Resistance. A group of us who are committed to restoring honor to Germany.” He studied August. “You’ve already encountered it.”

August leaned forward and studied him. “The men at the SOE house. And the testimony from Dina and Hofer.”


“This is a lot to reveal. How do you know you can trust me?”

“I don’t know that I can yet. I’m gambling on your sense of moral outrage at what you’ve discovered.” Canaris took another drink before continuing. “And I’m paying you the compliment of not trying to deceive you.”

“How do I know I can trust you?”

“Because you have no choice. Anything you tell Heydrich I can easily prove you withheld from him. And if I have to, I’ll lie about our role in it.”

Canaris watched August take that in.

“But that’s not why you’ll end up working with us,” Canaris said in a cool, matter-of-fact tone. “You will because you want to be part of this. You want to see Germany restored.” Canaris gave a slight grin. “Actually, you’re already working with us.”

“What do you mean?”

“You’ve kept it all secret.”

“Including that I have a secret.”


“You seem to know quite a bit already. What do you not know?”

“What was discussed at Wannsee.”

August looked away. “You don’t want to know.”

“Where can I get the documents?”

“Eichmann has the only copy.”

“We’ll have the butcher get a copy.”

August started to tell him that it would be impossible to get  a copy. But then he realized how many others things Canaris was aware of. Plus the fact that he had found his apartment and gotten in. What was it Canaris had said to him on the train? There isn’t much we don’t know. August thought there wasn’t much that was impossible to this man.

Canaris stood. “Let’s go.”


“To find out about your sister.”

They walked to a car parked down the road. Oster was waiting behind the wheel. August and Canaris got in the back.

August turned to Canaris. Time to set terms.

“Admiral, if I’m going to do this, I want to be sure we can trust each other,” August said.

“I value what you can do, August. But trust costs more.”

“You value what I can do?” August gave a short laugh. “Says one professional liar to another.”

Canaris looked out the window to hide his smile. How many were bold enough to counter his statements? It was refreshing. Yes, he liked this August Wichmann very much. He hid his smile and turned back to look August in the eye.

“I will never deceive you. You have my word,” he said, his voice quiet and firm. “I expect the same courtesy from you.”

August regarded him for a moment and nodded. Terms accepted.


Ready for the whole story? It’s available from any bookstore. Or you can pop on to Amazon and grab the ebook and start reading today.

I Do Declare: The U.S. Navy could use a dose of my dad’s humor on its 245th birthday

The following is an excerpt from a book I wrote with my dad. The full title (shown in the image to the left) is, “If You Can’t Pay Attention, Take Notes: A Navy Brat Reflects on Brathood, the First Line of Defense, and Why You Don’t Wash the Chief’s Coffee Cups.”

That title almost constitutes a whole chapter by itself. Dad would have approved.

Dad loved the Navy. He was a natural storyteller, and sea stories were his favorites. He retired as Chief Radioman in 1978, and he died in 2017. A lot of sea stories were told between those years.

Here’s one of them:

~ ~ ~

My dad always had a way with vehicles. A magic touch, you might say. And it wasn’t just a matter of making it run smoothly; his ability to acquire vehicles for little or nothing was an art.

Take that time he found a jeep in perfect running condition. Not bought, not borrowed: found. And then he got to keep it, courtesy of the U.S. Army. It might have been his best auto purchase, considering there was no purchase at all.

But I’ll let him tell the story his way:

I had been transferred from the main communications centers to the harbor entrance control post. That post controlled all the shipping and boats, including fishing boats, in and out of the harbor of Da Nang.

Transportation from our barracks to the post was “iffy” most of the time. The buses were usually broken down or if they worked, then they couldn’t find a driver. We ended up walking the three miles almost every day.

After I’d been there about three months, I found a jeep.

I was walking to work with Bill, a guy who worked in Operations. Same building where I worked, down the hall from my office. We stood watch together a lot, so we usually made the trip to the post together.

This one day, we were walking along, and as we rounded a corner, we saw an Army jeep on the side of the road.

We thought it was odd. Here’s this jeep out in the middle of nowhere, just sitting there. Bill and I walked around it and looked it over good just in case it was booby-trapped. We didn’t find anything, so we got in and hit the starter. What luck – it cranked right up!

We didn’t know why anyone had abandoned the jeep, but we were going to take advantage of the free ride.

Then we went about two feet and realized why it was just sitting there abandoned. The tie rod had come loose, and the front wheels were headed in different directions.

Good thing we had left the barracks early that morning – since it looked like the bus wasn’t going to make it again – because we had time to run back and get some bailing wire to tie up the rods. We did, and we fixed it up.

But then Bill and I got to thinking. The Army might be coming back for it, possibly with their motor pool – or worse, with armed guards – and it wouldn’t do for us to have it in our possession. So instead of driving off with it, we left it there.

When we got off work the next morning, we saw it was still there. Now most of us in the Navy didn’t have a terribly high opinion of the Army, but we knew that even they wouldn’t take twenty-four hours to fix a jeep. So we drove it back to the barracks. We figured they’d come looking for it and we’d let them know we fixed it.

They never did, though. We drove it back and forth for several days until it finally ran low on fuel.

We took it over to the Navy fuel depot. A supply clerk filled it up and noticed that it was an Army jeep, not one of ours.

I started to pay for it, but the fellow said he’d charge it to the Army.

“No, that’s all right,” I told him. “I’ll pay for it.”

“Nope. It’s the Army’s jeep. They’ll pay.”

What the heck, I let ’em pay. Who am I to argue with military protocol?

So we kept driving it. Then about a month later, Bill took it into town. He stopped in at the club, had a few drinks, and ended up staying out past curfew. The MPs arrested him, and he called me for help.

By this time, he was in deeper trouble than just staying out past curfew. He was a sailor driving an Army jeep with no papers, and no one believed his story about finding it on the side of the road and fixing it.

I caught a ride over there after my watch was over, and I explained everything to the provost marshal.

At first the provost marshal didn’t believe me either, especially when he found out I was a radioman. Not that a radioman can’t know how to work on cars, but this man just wasn’t buying the story.

I told him all about my background working on cars and all, and he finally took my word for it. But he was still fit to be tied.

Turns out the jeep had already been marked as transferred stateside and taken out of their inventory. It would create a lot of paperwork and probably start an investigation if they acknowledged that it was still in Vietnam.

He sat there, his face getting redder and redder, and he glared at both of us. Finally, he passed sentence.

“Just keep it!” he said. “But don’t tell anyone around here where you got it.”

We agreed. He closed the case. Then he had his motor pool fix the front end for us.

And we had free gas for the rest of our tour. All we had to do was pull up to the depot and tell them to charge it to the Army.

~ ~ ~

Want to read more? You can find it here.