Documentary: General George Patton Jr, 2d Lieutenant Peter Bonano and A Vanishing Cache of Nazi Gold
List Price: 17.95
Available: November 2010
This narrative is fashioned from a true story rooted in an assignment that 2nd Lt. Peter Robert Bonano (3rd Army Finance Division) received two weeks after the end of the war in Europe. Peter Bonano, cordially known as ‘Pete’, including his friend General Patton, was stationed at a former Nazi Artillery base in Erlangen, Germany. On May 23, 1945, the day that General Patton moved from Regensburg to Bad Toelz, two OSS (Office of Strategic Services) officers hand-delivered a special order from General Patton to Lt. Bonano. The cryptic directives in the order:
WP by govt T on TDY o/a 24 May 45 fr present sta to HEIDELBERG, GERMANY purpose delivering govt funds and upon comp of this dy return to proper sta.
The orders were purposefully obfuscated to disguise the intent of the mission from anyone reading it, including Lt. Bonano. The two OSS officers escorting him to his destination deflected all inquires regarding the orders and the trip. Their instructions, they insisted, were to deliver the orders, following which they were to escort him to a rendezvous area in southern Bavaria where others would deliver him to the site of his assignment.
They passed through the war-torn city of Nurnberg to connect with the autobahn to Munich. On the southern outskirts of Munich, they exited south onto a two-lane rural highway. Thirty minutes later, they exited into an inconspicuous roadside rest area where two OSS officers were waiting for his arrival. Moments after their arrival, Pete, sitting in the back seat of the jeep along side his duffle bag, continued southwest on the rural highway towards the Austrian Alps. Forty minutes later, after driving through a serene evergreen forest, they came to a halt at the entrance of a large, heavily guarded lone log building in a grove of pines.
Pete did not have the slightest idea where he was standing. They didn’t tell, he didn’t ask, but according to his orders, he should be in Heidelberg. He was not, and the government funds arranged on the polished floors of a large gym inside the building turned out to be a huge cache of Nazi gold, silver and bales of foreign currencies- surreptitiously under the charge of General Patton.
He learned that his assignment was to make an inventory, following which he was to escort the cache to a clandestine transfer site somewhere near Heidelberg. The three-day convoy trip on back roads, with two overnight layovers at army outposts, terminated at a lone castle on the Neckar River where he was met by two civilian U.S. Treasury Agents. According to the directives from the Secretary of Treasury, Henry Morgenthau, this Nazi loot should have been delivered to the Reichstag Bank in Frankfurt. After unloading the cache in the basement of the castle, Lt. Bonano returned to his base in Erlangen with orders not to discuss this matter with anyone. He didn’t- at least for many years after returning home.
Joseph Arnold Sprouse was named after two family Civil War veterans. His great-uncle, Joseph Funderburk, served with General Stonewall Jackson in Virginia, and his great-grandfather, Arnold Funderburk, served with General Lee in Virginia. Joseph Sprouse was born in the midst of the Great Depression in Dekalb County, Georgia. As a child, his family at large – all galvanized by the Civil War and FDR’s New Deal- nourished him on real-life family stories about the Civil War and the sainthood of FDR. He graduated from St. Petersburg High School in St. Petersburg, Florida at the ripe age of sixteen, but not, to be sure, because of academic achievements. After a tour of duty with the United States Marine Corps (Paris Island, Camp Lejeune, Camp Pendleton, Atsugi, and Yokosuka, Japan), he attended the University of Florida, where he received a B.S. in Physics and Electrical Engineering in 1961. In 1967, he received an M.S. in Physics from the University of Tennessee and continued his graduate studies at the University of Tennessee Space Institute for a few years. He worked as an aerospace research engineer at the Arnold Engineering Development Center in Tullahoma, Tennessee, for fifteen years, where he published several technical articles and reports. After aerospace, he worked for seven years in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, as a technical advisor at the King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre. He owned and operated an engineering products development company in Atlanta, Georgia and traveled extensively as a tech advisor throughout Europe, Scandinavia, and Russia. In 1995 he self-published a mathematical tutorial, A Lite Journey From Arithmetic to Integral Calculus. In June 1990, by a fortune of chance, Joseph Sprouse met Peter Bonano. During this first encounter, Pete was recalling some of his adventures with General Patton, and the author found a friend for life. “Pete,” as he was known by his friends and acquaintances, including his friend General Patton, enthusiastically shared his fabulous war stories with the author, a WWII buff. One story involving a puzzling special assignment associated with a large cache of Nazi gold became a driving desire for the author to solve the mystery.