It was a beautiful day at Stalag 13. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, and the men were huddled inside their barracks. For once there were no messages coming in from London for Papa Bear, aka Colonel Robert Hogan, and the rest of his men- Sergeants Kinchloe and Carter, and Corporals Newkirk and LeBeau. Even though all five men lived for their jobs as part of an underground espionage unit in Berlin (even though they were supposed to be POWs), they were rather glad that they didn't have any missions today. You see, they had a problem of a more personal nature.
While they never had any love for the Germans that they were fighting, there was one man that they always had a warm spot for—Sergeant Schultz, who was in charge of guarding the prisoners. They enjoyed his jovial nature, and the fact that they were often able to bribe him with chocolate to turn the other way when he caught them performing one of their espionage acts. That is why, upon learning that his forty-fifth birthday was coming up in two days, they knew that they wanted to do something extra-special for him.
"What do you think we should do, Colonel?" asked Carter. "Do you think we should dig up some flowers again?" 
"We could always give him some chocolate, sir," Kinch and Newkirk suggested at the same time.
"I know. I will bake one of my specialty French pastries for him," LeBeau added, who was a chef before the war had broken out.
"That won't do. We gave all of those presents to him last year," Hogan reminded his men. They all nodded in agreement.
Hogan knew that a forty-fifth birthday was nowhere near as important as, say, a fiftieth birthday, but he truly hoped that the war would be over by then. The men spent the rest of the day trying to brainstorm idea for the perfect present to give to Schultz. At one point, they even thought about asking Klink, their Kommandant, what he was going to give Schultz and see if they could chip in somehow. But for once they wanted this gift to be from them entirely, without any outside help.
Unbeknownst to them, Schultz had been sitting near the Kommandant's office with his rifle in hand, trying to digest a piece of news that his wife had just telephoned him with. Snowball, his beloved white cat who he had had for twelve years and who had been sick for the past couple of weeks, had passed away that morning. Schultz had always been a big softie at heart, and while he tried not to let this piece of news interfere with his guard duties, he couldn't help but feel very sad knowing that he would never be able to wake up to the sound of Snowball meowing and walking across his chest. He had thought about visiting the nearest shelter or pet store and picking up another cat, but he knew in his heart that it wouldn't be the same. All of the men knew that Schultz had Snowball, as he would often tell them tales about his "little cat," as he called her, and enjoyed looking at the picture that he would sometimes show them of her.
The next day, Hogan and his men received work from London that they had been assigned to blow up a supply depot that had just received a large shipment of newly-designed weapons. They were glad that they had a mission and could sneak out of the camp again, while each man secretly hoped that they might have time to stop in town and look for a present (after they changed from their black camouflage clothing into civilian clothes, of course) between the nighttime and morning roll calls, which is when Klink checked on the prisoners to make sure that they were all present and accounted for. The plan was to slip out of Stalag 13 one hour after the nighttime call, plan about four hours for the attack, and then have an hour or two to look for a present before they had to be back in the morning.
The men were able to slip out as planned, and the beginning of their mission went as planned. Carter, the explosives expert, was able to rig the supply depot and they were able to carry out their assignment without a hitch. However, there had been one hitch in their plans. Even though Schultz had tried to get over the death of Snowball, he went into the barracks where the five men lived about once every two hours, either to tell them more tales about Snowball in an attempt to keep his memory alive, or to get some more chocolate in an attempt to comfort himself. In between all the distractions that Schultz had given the men, they had completely forgotten to bring their civilian clothes with them when they had left for the night. They knew that they would arouse suspicion immediately if they went into town dressed the way that they were, and they also knew that they didn't have time to get back to their camp, change clothes, and head into town again before the morning roll call. While very happy that another mission had been a success, they were all a bit personally sad that they would not be able to give their favorite guard a present for his birthday. It was on the way back into camp through the entrance to the tunnel that was disguised as a tree stump that an answer fell into their hands. Or, more correctly, into Carter's.
Carter had been the last person of Hogan's team to enter the tree stump. Thus, unbeknownst to them, he had been the only one who had the rustling in the branches above. He ducked down quickly before the tree stump and hid, thinking that a German was spying on them in the tree above. He didn't know whether or not the German had seen that the tree stump opened up to reveal the entrance to the hidden tunnel, and he knew it was better to let himself be caught than to give away their entire operation. However, it was no German. Instead, it was an all-black kitten. The kitten had been nosy and had decided to climb up the tree, as all kittens do, but had been unable to climb back down. He had fallen asleep on a large tree branch, but had been startled and had woken up when he heard Hogan and his men directly underneath him. By the time all of the men except Carter had snuck into the tree branch, he had rustled the leaves, which is the sound that Carter heard. The kitten had been so scared and startled that he fell out of the tree branch and directly onto the tree stump, right in front of Carter's eyes. Fortunately, he had landed on all fours, as all kittens do, and wasn't hurt. Carter, not quite knowing what to do with this kitten, but having a fond spot for cats himself, picked up the kitten and brought him into the tunnel with him. He was hoping that he could somehow convince his commanding officer to let him keep the cat.
"No. Absolutely not," came Hogan's reply when Carter showed him the kitten and asked if he could keep him. "And just how do you suppose we feed this cat? LeBeau is a human chef, not a cat chef. Besides, what if he makes noise when we come in and out every night, and one of the guards should hear him? Our good ol' Kommandant would never allow it either."
Carter's heart sunk. He had always been surrounded by a cat or two growing up, just like how Schultz had also been raised. He had hoped that this kitten would make him less homesick—and of course he just plain liked cats. Suddenly, an idea fell into his head the same way the cat had fallen onto the tree stump.
"What if we gave this cat to Schultz? I mean he's been really lonely lately, ever since Snowball died."
"Carter, I think that's an excellent idea," Hogan replied with a smile on his face.
Hogan knew that this new kitten would cheer Schultz up, and although he would never admit it, it made him a little sad to see that Schultz was sad. Plus, he saw how tame and relax the kitten was after his initial startle, and figured that any possible parasites would be able to be quickly cleared up. He didn't think that this kitten had any though, since he saw a collar around his neck, but unfortunately no tag, which meant that there was no address. Hogan showed the kitten to LeBeau, Newkirk and Kinch and told them about Carter's idea, and they all agreed that could not be a better birthday present to give to Schultz.
The very next morning, after roll call, Schultz told Hogan and his men that Klink was throwing a small birthday party for him that night. He, however, was not in a celebratory mood, still being upset over the loss of Snowball. It was then that Hogan decided to give Schultz the birthday present.
"Schultz, we all have a surprise for you and we think you'll like it."
"You're not planning to escape on my birthday, are you?" Schultz asked, managing to make a small joke but without the usual twinkle in his eye.
"Nah, it's nothing like that. This is about Snowball." At the mention of Snowball, Schultz's eyes perked up in curiosity. Hogan saw that, and knew that his men had indeed found the perfect birthday present. I'm glad we forgot the civilian clothing last night, Hogan thought to himself. This is going to be better than any store present.
Hogan walked over to his barracks and asked his men to come outside with the "surprise." They all walked out, with Carter being the last one with his hands behind his back.
"Here you go, Schultzie. Happy Birthday!" Carter said, with the other three men wishing him a "Happy Birthday as well."
"Where did you find this kitten, may I ask?" asked Schultz. "I haven't seen any wandering the grounds of the camp." Knowing a bit about Hogan's espionage business, he thought to himself before quickly replying, "Never mind. I don't want to know- I know nothing!" However, Hogan could see that the twinkle was back in Schultz's eye as he gently took the kitten from Carter's outstretched hands.
"Danke, Carter. This is the best birthday present ever! I think I will name him… Chocolate."
The men all smiled and chuckled. They knew that Chocolate could never replace Snowball, but they were glad to see that the kitten could not have a better home, and that Schultz was feeling like his old self again. All six men spent the next hour playing with Chocolate, knowing that this truly was the best birthday surprise.
 This is a reference to the episode "Is There a Doctor in the House?" when Hogan gave Klink some flowers that he had dug up from Klink's own flower garden upon learning that Klink was sick.