In the March, 2015 post entitled, “Breakthroughs and Connections,” I related the story of how I searched and found contact information for the four men who gave sworn statements concerning my father’s disappearance and death. In my investigations, I discovered that two of the soldiers had passed away, and that two were still alive. After sending letters to the two men who were still living, George Whyel and Charles Duncan, I received a phone call from George Whyel from Ohio, and had two lengthy conversations with him that really gave me no new information.
While not totally satisfied with the information I received from him, I was still elated that I was able to make a connection, especially with the amount of time that had passed since my dad’s death. I had sent the letters to both Gerald Whyel and Charles Duncan on the same day, and even though Gerald responded within a week, the letter I had sent to Charles Duncan never received reply. My mind entertained all sorts of reasons as to why I never heard from him. Maybe he was not the right Charles Duncan…or maybe he was the right one, and for whatever reason, was just too reluctant to reply.
In the early part of March 2015, I decided I would take a daring step and call the number I had for him. After a few rings, a man answered and I asked if I could speak with Charles Duncan. He said, “This is he.”
I said, “My name is Ken Sausedo from Asheville, NC. I’m taking a total stab in the dark here, but are you the Charles Duncan that served in Dachau, Germany in 1965?”
“Yes, that’s me,” he said. It was obvious that he recognized my name, because he quickly replied, “I got your letter, and I’m sorry I haven’t gotten back with you. It’s just that I really didn’t think I had any information that could help you.”
I couldn’t believe that I had actually found the one person that, in all likelihood, was the last soldier on the base to see my dad before he disappeared. It was totally surreal. I told him that I had been investigating the circumstances surrounding my father’s disappearance for quite some time, and I related to him all the facts and information that I knew thus far. That seemed to open the door for him to elaborate on those things, and what he began to share would totally change the landscape of what I believed happened to my dad.
He said that there was something strange about the entire situation. He told me that my dad, having been at the base for only a short amount of time, had become acquainted with four German civilians, all in their 20’s, who lived in an apartment not far from the army base. Charles said that early one morning, my dad told him he was going into Dachau, and asked that Charles accompany him. He said they ended up at the apartment of the four German civilians, and that my dad engaged in conversation with them in an adjoining room. Charles said, although he could hear their voices, he wasn’t that cognizant of what my dad and the four German men talked about. He also added that he really wasn’t sure why my dad wanted Charles to go with him in the first place. When I asked him if he could speculate as to the topic of their conversation, Charles was very vague with his reply and said that “there was just something strange about the whole situation.”
The men lived in an apartment in the local town, which Charles said, was about a 30 minute walk from the Dachau army base. When I mentioned that my dad was found in the shallow stream of water that flowed through the Dachau base, he recalled that they had crossed a stream of water to get to the men’s apartment that morning. It was about a week after that visit to the apartment, Charles said, that my dad turned up missing. He also said that he couldn’t help but think that the two events were somehow connected. He kept saying that there was just something strange about the whole thing and that “there is probably more to it” than what seemed to be.
I was stunned. I had not heard anything, nor read anything in the dossier, like that before. There was no mention of four German civilians, nor anything that would give hint that anyone outside the base might have been involved. Even in his sworn deposition, Charles made no mention of the four men, or the encounter he and my dad had with them that morning they were all together.
In our phone conversation, Charles didn’t attempt to speculate as to what business my dad had with the men, or what might have been the nature of their conversation. But I could feel the emotion in his voice that he had strong feelings of discomfort from whatever transacted between them.
For a moment, I considered that Charles, being one of the last ones to see my dad that Friday evening, was contriving a story to possibly cover himself. However his voice seemed sincere, and his story came across plausible and credible. For some reason, it resonated and had a strong semblance of truth to it. Without being in the same room with Charles and seeing him face to face, I really had no reason to question his honesty.
If there was one thing I picked up from his vocal demeanor, it was that he seemed to be withholding some of the details surrounding that encounter he and my dad had that morning with the four German civilians. Maybe it was for my benefit and my protection…maybe he feared that I would find some of those details too disturbing. He may have been right. For the first time in this process, I had come to a place where I felt I couldn’t ” turn over any more rocks” for fear of what I might find underneath.
In ways I was relieved because I came to the conclusion that, although Charles was the last one to see my dad in the Enlisted Men’s club that evening, he had nothing to do with my father’s disappearance or demise. After 20 years of holding to a theory that my dad had accidentally drowned, I had come to the conclusion that all of the circumstantial evidence pointed that someone did, indeed, rob and murder my father, or at least, had injured him and left him for dead. I told Charles that some on my dad’s side of the family have always believed that theory.
“That’s a good possibility,” Charles said. It was common knowledge to everyone that my dad was scheduled to leave for the states, and because of that, one could assume he had money in his pocket. In addition, the laceration on my father’s head, as well as the disappearance of the billfold with the money and the traveler’s checks made this an even more plausible theory.
I thanked Charles for being gracious enough to answer my phone call and for being courageous enough to entertain a voice from his past. As did George Whyel, Charles expressed his sorrow and his empathy for my plight, and shared with me that he, too, had grown up without a father and could relate to my situation. It was some consolation, but in the end, the new revelations left me somewhat stunned and empty.
I hung up the phone and, as best as I could, soaked it all in. I was overwhelmed…partly because I had come to embrace what I felt was the truth of my father’s demise. However, I was also grateful that I had actually talked to the man who had the last known conversation with my father….and that he seemed genuinely sorry for the way things had turned out.
My search had finally come to an end and I now felt I had as much information as I could possibly find, and enough to satisfy my personal quest.