“NO CONTACT,” I blare into the radio over the hum of the Stork’s engine.
Looking down at the only airfield on Guernsey Island, I cannot see any personnel, let alone anti-aircraft defenses.
“I’M GOING TO LAND,” I declare for my unit on the other end of the receiver.
Nothing comes back to me through the crackle of the radio for a minute. Then, “It’s your funeral, Hauptmann.”
I guess headquarters doesn’t care. Now that we’ve won France, they’re willing to let me set foot anywhere I want.
Circling to ensure there are no defenses, I scan the airfield and the road leading to it.
No one’s here. That’s so strange.
Slowly, I turn the Stork to approach the grass runway, cut the engine, lower my little reconnaissance plane, and meet the ground at less than 60 Km/h.
As I slow down, I take a little extra time to taxi around the airfield.
I can’t believe there’s not a soul around this airfield.
My slow moving and easily identifiable Luftwaffe aircraft circles the British airfield for a couple of minutes as I look around. I am ready to lift off at any moment, just in case someone tries to surprise me.
No one does.
Where are they?
Looking to the left, right, and center, I’ve now done a complete loop of the field. All I can see are empty sheds standing atop an open grass area with a windsock at the top of an empty two-story building.
This is promising.
After finishing my orbit of the field, I am satisfied that there is no one here.
Applying the brakes, I bring my little aircraft to a standstill, lowering the engine throttle to a slight purr, just long enough to keep the propeller going, but not enough power to move the little plane.
Reaching across to my left, my right hand unlocks the thin metal door separating me from England. As I open the door, my left leg slips out.
Reaching back across the seat, I grab my revolver from a small pouch under the control panel.
I wouldn’t want to invade the UK without a weapon.
Spinning back around, I now leap out of the plane, planting both feet on British soil at the same time.
I’m the first German in England!
Looking around, I continuously scan for any sign of movement, soldiers, snipers, or anyone at all.
My feet sink into the soft spring grass, moistened from a short rain this morning.
The give of the earth feels so good under my boots.
Slowly, I take a step away from the idling Stork.
Then, a third.
Over the idling engine of my plane, I make out the faint sound of aircraft engines purring.
I look up to realize that I have not been paying attention to the sky for several minutes as my focus has been on this seemingly abandoned British airfield. Above my head are three British Hurricane fighters.
I’ve gotta get back to the plane.
My body quickly swivels so that I’m facing my Stork again just as my legs begin pumping at full force. I was less than three meters away, but I can’t cross that gap fast enough. The bent metal handle on the outside of the aircraft greets my right hand with the welcoming coldness of steel as I sling my full body back into the plane. Wet boots meet the smooth metal flooring of the Stork, causing me to slip down as I reach with my right hand to rev up the engine.
I scan the sky but can no longer see the Hurricanes.
They could have killed me on the ground, destroyed my plane and stranded me on Guernsey, or waited for me to take off before shooting me down.
I keep searching for them for a minute, not wanting to take off in their presence. Left, then right.
Ah, there they are!
In the far horizon, I can make out the flight, heading away from the island.
They must not have seen me!
After I see them cross the horizon to the west, I put pressure on my little Stork’s throttle.
It’s time to get out of here.
The engine revs faster, spinning the propeller so rapidly it becomes an outline of a circle from my perspective.
Turning the plane so that I have as much of the field in front of me as I can, I start taking off.
As I lift the nose of the plane off the ground, I look down at my body.
Something is missing.
The little plane gains altitude as I change my heading toward my base near Cherbourg, just fifteen minutes away.
I look down again.
It’s my revolver. I’m missing my revolver!
Damn, I must have dropped it when I saw the British fighters.
How will I get a new revolver without telling anyone how I lost it?
Who cares, I was the first German to occupy a British Island.
June 30, 1940, German reconnaissance pilot Hauptmann Liebe-Pieteritz test landed at Guernsey's deserted airfield to see if there was any defense there. After returning safely to his base, he reported his brief landing to his commanding officer. Based on this intelligence, the Germans decided to occupy the undefended British islands off the coast of France. Later that day, when the first occupation forces landed at the airfield, three men got out. One carefully retrieved the revolver Hauptmann had left on the field; another announced to an unruffled policeman that they intended to take over the island. The policeman handed them a piece of paper with German writing on it:
“This Island has been declared an Open Island by His Majesty’s Government of the United Kingdom. There are no armed forces of any description. The bearer has been instructed to hand this communication to you. He does not understand the German language.”
Guernsey was occupied until May 9, 1945, one day after the Allies declared Victory in Europe.