Early in WWII, the powers on all sides were scrambling to master whatever domains they could that might give them an edge on the battlefield. These included burgeoning high-powered artillery, submarines, and atomic weaponry, and even the supernatural. But most important was aerial warfare, which was finally becoming safe enough to be a viable option. Technology and the manufacturing line produced thousands of planes, from the MiG 3 to the B-29 Superfortress to the rocket-powered Messerschmitt Me 163. Science was allowing great leaps and advancements in the field, and the collected war efforts could hardly keep up.
From early on in the war, though Hitler had championed another sort of flight, almost a reverse engineering of the advancements that were taking place: the glider. The glider was cheap to produce and only required enough fuel to launch them. They were silent, which was not a luxury that the science of the mid-20th century could afford, and made them ideal reconnaissance planes and light troop transports, and even in some cases light assault planes. Thinking that this could prove a valuable weapon, Hitler scoured the countryside for glider pilots who could fly is silent air force.
His recruiters were met with great resistance and scorn. Why, the pilots would say, would we want to fly into hostile air space in a practically unarmored plane? The heavy steel of the Messerschmitt was far more appealing to anyone with a shred of sanity left in them. But the recruiters did keep hearing one name: Karl Müller.
Müller, you see, was a famous stunt pilot, and had been legendary among the flying show tour for his wide loops and crashing dives performed in his famous glider, the Whispering Banshee. It was named for the quiet whistle the glider –the only one of its kind- would let out as it flew. It was not loud, and hardly recognizable as a glider, but those who knew it could hear it well. Karl Müller, the pilots all said, that man is mad enough to fly into the mouth of hell. So they visited Herr Müller at his house and tried to persuade him to lend his services to the war effort. But he refused. He had a beautiful wife and small children and he did not want to leave them. He also did not support the Reich’s ideas and he would not lend his talents to their bloodshed. The recruiter insulted his sense of honor and his decency, but still Müller would not budge. Herr Müller, they cried, you do not need to drop bombs or fire weapons, only scout the enemy troops and tell us where they are. Think of the Many German lives you could save! He took his young wife’s hand in his and stated calmly that this was not his fight. The recruiters tried everything they could think of. They sent high-ranking officials, even Hermann Göring himself, to try to reason with Müller, but none had any luck.
It wasn’t until his wife’s brothers joined the army that he called the Luftwaffe back to his home. “I cannot bear” he said, “to know that my family could be harmed while I could be their eyes and ears”, so he offered his service to them on two conditions. 1) that he would be equipped with no weapons and 2) that he fly the Whispering Banshee. They thought him mad, that he would intentionally fly a plane that made noise when there were silent ones at his disposal. “Yes, it makes a noise”, he said to them, but a noise that no man that hasn’t already seen her would ever expect from a plane”. And so they reluctantly agreed.
Frau Müller was devastated. She had been so proud of her husband for refusing to fight, and now she felt that her own family was the cause of his undoing. She begged and pleaded with him not to go, but he only repeated himself, that he had to watch over his new kin. She wept as he was picked up and driven to the airfield, and put her crucifix around his for luck before kissing him and sending him off to the front. He looked her in the eyes and spoke quietly, but with purpose: “I promise to you, my love, that I will return”.
That night of his first mission was a dark night with heavy fighting. Karl Müller’s plane saved entire regiments with his reports, and his plane spooked the enemy soldiers more than any weapon could, as they were superstitious and feared that the forest they were camping in was haunted. The night was long and hard and when the sun rose the next morning the German line had held off the invaders, but Herr Müller’s plane had not yet returned. They waited hours and hours for hi, but there was no sign of him or the Whispering Banshee. The scoured the countryside for the wreckage of his plane, but nothing was found.
Days turned into weeks turned into months. Nothing was found of the missing pilot. The tide of the war began to turn against the Germans, and the neighbors and residents in the Müller’s small town began to forget -as a small town during wartime is wont to do- of his heroic actions and began to whisper amongst themselves behind the widow Müller’s back. They called him a traitor. How could anyone refuse to serve in the Luftwaffe so many times and them say yes? How could we be losing this war so suddenly? Why has no wreckage been found? Frau Müller knew of these accusations and ignored them, knowing full well that her husband would never betray her or the family he loved so dearly. This never stopped the catcalls in the market though, nor the vandalism, nor the black eyes her children received in school Herr Müller was a spy, the whole town felt.
Years went by and the as the war ended, so did the memory of its exploits. Life resumed in their sleepy hamlet as everyone tried to forget what they later learned of their effort. The widow Müller, though, had never forgotten. She had gone mad with anguish and could be seen on the streets, weeping for her husband years after his disappearance. Her children grew and moved into the city, hoping to start new lives, but she remained in their little house, unwed and waiting for her husband to come home. She had become an old crone before she had turned Thirty-five, hardly recognizable from her days as a beautiful young lady. She would spend days in the fields, hoping to hear again the noise of the Whispering Banshee.
Then, as it happened, she was in the fields one day with her old dog, picking some downed branches from a terrible storm the night before and quietly singing when she heard it. She thought for a moment she had finally gone mad, that her mind had actually forced her to hear the sound of her long-gone husband’s legendary plane. She shook her head but it was still there. It wasn’t until her old hound perked his head up that she knew it was not her imagination. The Whistling Banshee had returned.
And sure enough, far into the blue she even saw it, soaring in wide arcs as it descended from the skies. She was beside herself with glee and wept with joy as she saw the plane approach and began to skip as a little girl would to the place she was sure it would land.
And land it did. She took a few minutes to catch up with it, but grew more ecstatic as she saw the familiar gold paint of the Banshee, and she pushed herself faster to reach her husband. She finally reached the glider where it rest on the field, and wiped her tears from her eyes, wanting her husband to see how she had waited for him, that she still wore his ring and magically, she began to resemble her former self. Her eyes were light and her smile betrayed the aging she had undergone. She brushed her mane with her fingers for a second before reaching for the lever to open the cockpit.
When she opened the hatch, though, she cried in disbelief. It was Karl Müller, to be sure. His flight suit and helmet were unmistakable, as she often patched it for him and knew it like she knew her own skin. And there also was the crucifix that she had given him on that last night, still around his neck. “I promise to you, my love, that I will return” he had said. And he had. A patchy, grinning skeleton looking up at her from the cockpit, keeping the promise that he had made so many years before.
What Frau Müller had not known, what nobody hadn’t known, that the night that the Whispering Banshee had last taken off, Karl had found himself lost and off course in the dark night, and his radio had broken. In the pitch he had managed to fly himself right into the forest where the enemy front lay and lodged himself between two trees. He feared for his life in that stranded plane, but knew that the enemy had no hope of catching him as long as he made no noise. And he didn’t.
The Banshee betrayed him, however, as soon as a strong wind blew through the forest. The wind in the wings had let out that that eerie whistle and a superstitious Russian solder fifteen feet below him had shot his weapon into the air several times, firing right through the wooden glider and killing Herr Müller. There he lay, lodged between those trees for twenty years until a strong night storm dislodged him and sent his glider on one last ride back to his loving wife.



Life Insurance for Glider Pilots


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