Title Thumbnail

Salt Mines and Castles: The Discovery and Restitution of Looted European Art

213 pages
Library of Alexandria
“Your name’s not on the passenger list,” said Craig when I walked into the waiting room of the Patuxent airport. “You’d better see what you can do about it.” It was a hot spring night and I had just flown down from Washington, expecting to board a transatlantic plane which was scheduled to take off at midnight. “There must be some mistake,” I said. “I checked on that just before I left Washington.” Craig went with me to the counter where I asked the pretty WAVE on duty to look up my name. It wasn’t on her list. “Let’s see what they know about this at the main office,” she said with an encouraging smile as she dialed Naval Air Transport in Washington. The next ten minutes were grim. The officer at the other end of the line wanted to know with whom I had checked. Had it been someone in his office? I didn’t know. All I knew was that I had to get on that plane. I had important papers which had to be delivered to our Paris office without delay. Was I a courier? Yes, I was—well, that is, almost, I faltered to the WAVE ensign who had been transmitting my replies. “Here, you talk to him,” she said, adding, as she handed me the receiver, “I think he can fix it up.” After going through the same questions and getting the same answers a second time, the officer in Washington asked to speak to the yeoman who was supervising the loading of the plane. He was called in and I waited on tenterhooks until I heard him say, “Yes, sir, I can make room for the lieutenant and his gear.” Turning the phone over to the WAVE, he asked with a reassuring grin, “Feel better, Lieutenant?” I was so limp with relief that I scarcely noticed the tall spare man in civilian clothes who had just come up to the counter. “That’s Lindbergh,” said Craig in a low voice. “Do you suppose he’s going over too?” Half an hour later we trooped out across the faintly lighted field to the C-54 which stood waiting. Lindbergh, dressed now in the olive-drab uniform of a Naval Technician, preceded us up the steps. There were ten of us in all. With the exception of three leather-cushioned chairs, there were only bucket seats. Craig and I settled ourselves in two of these uninviting hollows and began fumbling clumsily with the seat belts. Seeing that we were having trouble, Lindbergh came over and with a friendly smile asked if he could give us a hand. After deftly adjusting our belts, he returned to one of the cushioned seats across the way. Doors slammed, the engines began to roar and, a few seconds later, we were off. We mounted swiftly into the star-filled sky and, peering out, watched the dark Maryland hills drop away. We dozed despite the discomfort of our bent-over positions and didn’t come to again until the steward roused us several hours later with coffee and sandwiches. Afterward he brought out army cots and motioned to us to set them up if we wanted to stretch out. As soon as we got the cots unfolded and the pegs set in place, he turned out the lights.