There had been no time to compile my reports on the trip to Jajce until the day I spent flying from Bari to Algiers. All that day I scribbled furiously, and an expert calligraphist at AFHQ was able to decipher what I wrote and type it out.
When the interview with General Rooks was over I decided to return to Bari via Cairo. This would involve no more than a day's delay and give me an opportunity to deliver the report in person instead of confiding it to the military pouch, so the next day I set out by air, travelling luxuriously in one of the Air Transport Command's big C-54's.
A rude shock was in store for me. There were orders waiting at headquarters for me to proceed at once to London, and from there return to the United States.
Good duty lay ahead in other fields, but it would have been sweet to go back to Bari and report Algiers' successes to my friends; it would have been sweet to return to Jajce and tell Tito that we had the trucks for him and the rifles and light tanks and machine guns. . . .
A soldier goes where he's told, not where his fancy leads him, and that's one of the advantages as well as one of the inconveniences of the trade, but it was hard to take leave of "Operation Audrey" in my mind without even going back to say good-bye.
I had been, I knew, immensely privileged in those October days. They had been spent in the best of company, devoted to a cordial task that prospered in our care. Good luck attended us throughout and we had hurt the Germans. Tim and Fred and I had had a chance to hit the enemy hard, and that's what we had joined the army in the hope of doing. . . .
But it would have been nice to go back!
I knew that the tempo of the work would be maintained, that Tim and Fred were perfectly able to carry on and manage our growing fleet. . . .
There would soon be hundreds of officers and men where we had been so few . . . but it would have been great to be one of them!
What I regretted most was not being able to say good-bye. I wrote a dozen letters before going off to London but the best letter says less than a grip of the hand and the level meeting of the eyes.
Someday I'll meet most of them . . . Steve and Olga and Ivo and Ilic and Dusan and Marica and a hundred others, but some of them I shall not see again. Some have already died in action. One of the ships blew up in the minefields, another was sunk by enemy aircraft and there has been no pause in the fighting in the islands and along the coast, so there are some I shall not see again. But most of them will survive. The end of it all cannot be so far off and though it will, in truth, be too late for the old Zombie in the square at Livno, the rest of us will toast each other in rakjia again.
I feel less separation from Tim and Fred, whose work I have been able to follow. My thoughts have been so much with them. Perhaps the three of us will have a common task again before the war is over. In any case, we'll meet again when it is done.
And in a happy moment I'll meet Commander Welman somewhere, and Admiral Power too, I hope, and forty other British officers I can't name here.
Sometime, if my good fortune holds, I'll see Tito, too. It will be a great moment for me when I shake hands with him again.
This story has been written largely from memory "after hours" during the past six weeks. For all its faults—and they are many—I humbly crave indulgence.
Major Louis Huot London, England May 1944