Hospital Visitors - (submitted by Bernard Godfrey, 399th Sqn)


    He was dreaming again or at least he thought he was.  He was at the controls again, flying over enemy territory.  He looked over at his co-pilot, Barney Lewis.  He was a good man, he would make an excellent replacement.


    "How you doing, Barney?"


    Lewis gave him a wry smile, "Not so good, skipper, I've just been blown to pieces with the rest of the crew."

    "Amy's down, eh!  And no one made it out?" he replied abstractly.


    "They hit the bombs, skipper, didn't feel a thing," the cockpit seemed to grow in size . . . The crew were crowding around Ray Coates and Larry Smith were there . . . young Sammy Reese.  "Don't worry about us, skipper, we'll be flying forever now."


    "But, I wanted to tell you about . . ."

    Lewis turned to him, "It's alright, I know the whole story, she told me", he said throwing a look over his left shoulder.  Wilson turned and started.  Standing by Lewis was the red-headed woman of his dreams.  She was staring intently at him.  Despite being in the cockpit, he unbuckled his harness and stood up.  The crew smiled but didn't move.  Wilson passed through Reese and Carson to stand directly before her.  She continued staring.  Wilson reached out to touch her, oddly she wasn't inconsistent and her skin was warm.


    "It's the first time I've seen you clearly . . ."


    She reached up and stroked his hand, "I am still waiting, Billy, but it seems that you were not the one."


    "Tell me who you are, perhaps I can . . . help."


    A smile drifted across her lips, "Help, Billy?  I do not need help, I have what I seek but I cannot reach it.  You were promised but
fate has intervened."


    "Who are you?  I think I understand but . . . I . . . I'm sorry . . ."


    "The fault was not yours . . . but . . . mine, I must be patient."


    He knew she knew, "Are they all . . . dead?"


    Again that smile, "Our time is at an end . . . for now."


    Lewis was at his shoulder, "Time's up, skipper, it's been a pleasure."  Wilson turned to his co-pilot, but he was gone, he turned back to . . . to . . . 'Amy', but she was no longer there.  Even the plane had . . . Wilson was awakened by the Chief Medical Officer and he winced at the pain in his hip.


    "Lieutenant Wilson, Colonel Lamb has sent me to tell you . . ."


    Wilson interjected.  "My . . . err . . . the plane's been destroyed and . . . no one made it out."


     The CMO regarded him with surprise, "You already know ???"  Wilson looked up and nodded sadly.  "But according to the eye-witness report it only happened 30 minutes ago."


    Wilson thought about Lewis, the rest of the crew, the little time they had spent together, his wound . . . and . . . her.  "Unlucky guess, I'll see their families are informed."


    "The Colonel would appreciate that, I know you and Lewis were close . . ."


    "Not close enough at the end."


    The CMO coughed, "Anyway it must be quite a shock."  Wilson's regard was already on the skies, the daylight reflecting off the infirmary windows, his skies . . .

THE 317thCHANGES HANDS - (co-submitted by Neil Amoore & Shaun Edley, 317th Sqn)


    The uneven rumble of an over-worked jeep engine rattled the windows of the 317th’s HQ building.  A distinct Irish brogue was distinct over the racket outside, and Amoore knew it was a matter of minutes before the erstwhile CO of the 317th would bustle through the door.  He’d only met Captain Shamus Montague once before, when he’d been asked to be care-taker CO while Montague dealt with personal business.  Most of the time they’d spent in each other’s company had also involved Colonel Lamb, so there could be no pretence at a relationship.


    That would all change now, though, with Montague’s return to active duty.  The biggest change, though, was that he had asked to be relieved of his command duties, and to return to a more combat-oriented role.  Not one for doing the interminable admin that being CO entailed, Amoore could sympathize with the Irishman.  He’d asked Montague to meet in his office prior to re-introducing him to the squadron, more to establish personal contact than anything else, but also to get Montague’s ideas on the 317th’s crews.


    Looking around the cramped closet that passed for an office out here in mud-caked Italy, Amoore wondered if the OC might be more conducive to their chat . . .


    Shamus had bend dreading this moment for some time now.  He’d liked what he’d seen of Amoore.  A decent guy without any grudges or chickensh*t.  Shamus couldn’t help feeling that he’d let the team down.  Things had just plain gone wrong and he hadn’t been able to stop them.  He hadn’t even formed a fighting withdrawal, he’d routed into the safety of a bottle, okay, many, many bottles.  Lamby was a good guy and hadn’t let him get kicked out of the wing, or even the Army.  He’d arranged for him to go to a Royal Navy drying out clinic as they seemed to have similar problems with the decks of their ships awash with booze.


    Tentatively he opened the door.  He marched in and stood to attention.  He saluted the senior captain and waited . . .


    “Come in, sit down.  No need for all that, we’re not in front of anyone who’ll chew us out,” Amoore said, uncomfortable at the sight of the man who had occupied his chair just weeks previously, standing rigidly to attention.


    Casting a careful eye over Montague, Amoore noted the slightly haggard look in Montague’s face.  Looks like he’s been through it, he thought.  No flak eye, but he carried the air of one who’d been through enough combat to know that the world would never be the same for him again.  Amoore still wasn’t sure why Montague had been absent, but it was enough for him that Colonel Lamb knew and was okay with it.


    “I though we could chat a bit before we got the crews and ground staff together and make it official,” Amoore said.


    “Grab yourself some coffee, and tell me what you think of the 317th.  Afterwards, I’ve arranged for the aircrew to meet in B hangar for a drink or two, kinda let them see you’re still alive and back with us.”


    Montague was quiet for a moment, deep in thought. When he spoke, it was in measured tones.


    “Well, they’re all good guys; the one’s that are left.  Forrest you’d have made your own mind up by now on.  And me, I’m just here to fly and fight.  I guess the colonel didn’t tell you about my little problem so I’ll level with ya.  Those two runway aborts, I was too pissed to fly and I puked over the controls.  The CO stood up for me and said it some bad spam or other sh*t.  Lamby didn’t buy it and I got sent to a dryout joint.  Best thing for me.  My liver’s down to football size now.  At least I can still smoke my stogies but no booze.  I touch the stuff and the Colonel will have me in Leavenworth before the glass touched the bar.”


    Shamus sat down, relieved that he’d been able to clear the air and be honest not only to Amoore but to himself.  Maybe he’d make it after all.


    “Well, you’re going to be thrown into the deep end,  I’m afraid. We’re putting a lot of ships up tomorrow, and I’m standing down in favor of Forrest for this one.” Amoore said, shuffling papers out of the way.  “You’re going to lead the 317th on this one, so no more runway mishaps, okay?” he added, a slight grin flitting across his mouth.


    “Now, how about we get out of here and go see the rest of the fellas.  We’ve arranged for a root beer or two just for you,” Amoore said, rising.  Slapping Montague on the back, he grabbed his cap and the pair headed out.

RADIOMEN IN SHORT SUPPLY - (submitted by Jeff O'Handley, 318th Sqn)


    Jack Dykstra scanned the duty roster.  He felt his knees go weak, and  his stomach did a flop. Crap, he thought. I guess my vacation's over.

SOMEWHERE OVER ITALY - (submitted by Jeff O'Handley, 318th Sqn)


    . . . and Wang Dang Doodle was in deep trouble.  They were already down to 9,000 feet and alone.  German fighters were swarming, peppering the bird with machine gun and cannon fire.  Slawson, Crabbe, and McNally were dead, the #3 engine was out, and a shell had just punched a large hole in the inboard fuel tank on the port wing.


    Sergeant Harper's voice came over the intercom. "At this rate of loss, we've got about twenty minutes of fuel left," he said calmly.  Milton Friedman checked his charts, and found their position. "We'll never make it," he said. "But we've got enough to get over the Adriatic to ditch."


    "We'll make it back," said Lieutenant Deschamps.  Friedman could hardly believe it, but it sounded as if the pilot were laughing.  Then he shouted "Bring it on, Jerry! Ain't ya got nothin' better'n that?"


He's gone nuts, thought Friedman, he's going to get us all killed.


    Deschamps stopped whooping long enough to order the men to throw out everything to lighten the load.  "We'll get 'er home," he said. "I ain't leavin' my plane in the ocean!"


    Friedman began dismantling the port cheek gun.  Baker was already hauling his nose gun to the bomb bay, where he tossed it through the doors. "Bombs away," he said, also laughing.  Over the next few minutes, they ignored the rattle of shells and bullets, throwing everything out of the plane.  Friedman watched, sickened, as Busby and Rutledge threw the bodies of their dead crewmates out as well.


    "That's it," said Friedman over the intercom. "Everything's out."

    Deschamps' voice came back, "Not quite everything," he said. "Go ahead, Jed."


    Friedman was trying to figure out what the pilot meant when he was seized roughly by the shoulder.


    "Huh?" he stammered, looking up into the face of the bombardier.  "Jed, what are you doing?" He found himself being propelled towards the open bomb bay doors. "Jed!" he shouted, struggling to grab a hold of something, "Stop it! Why are you doing this?"


    Baker said nothing, but he paused for a moment, and pointed, first at his chest, then at Friedman's.  Milton looked.  On Baker's flight suit, sewn above his heart, was the 'Stars and Bars' of the Confederacy.  On his own was a United States flag.  He looked up at Baker.


    "You said it didn't matter," he whispered weakly. "You said it doesn't make a difference."


    The voice that responded belonged to Deschamps. "Oh, it does matter," he said. "It does."  With that, Baker shoved Friedman out the bomb bay and he was falling, falling, falling . . .

FALLING - (submitted by Jeff O'Handley, 318th Sqn)


    . . . he was falling, falling, falling . . .


    Suddenly, Milton Friedman sat bolt upright in bed.  He stared into the pale face of an orderly, who had been trying to wake him up.


    "Are, are you alright, sir?" asked the orderly, clearly shaken.


    Milton wiped sweat from his brow with a trembling hand.  "Yeah," he said, with a voice that was not quite steady. "Yeah, I'm okay. What time is it?"


    "It's 04:30, sir," replied the orderly. "I was coming to wake everyone up for the mission."


    "Right, right, the mission," muttered Friedman. He looked around the tent at his fellow officers, who were still, for the moment, sleeping.  He had thought that these men would lay their lives down for him, as he would for them. But would they?  When push came to shove -- bad choice of words, he thought with wry amusement -- would they really? He wondered . . .

THE IRON LADY & CHARLIE - (submitted by Gerry Donohoe, 318th Sqn)


    As he sprinted across the tarmac from the S-2's office Sgt. Paul McNichol felt on top of the world.  His first confirmed kill, an ME-110.  It bothered him that in getting the kill he'd ended the lives of the fighter's crew, but, hey, that's war.

    As he rushed in to the mess hall he was looking out for rest of his crewmates, he spotted them at the far end and weaved his way through the sea of bodies and parked his butt on the edge of the table.

   "What's with the long face, Jack?" he asked.  "Someone eat your chow?"


    "How come you've got a happy face?" interrupted Paul Roberts, the crew's starboard waist gunner.

    "I got my first kill confirmed by the S-2, this morning," replied McNichol.


    "Well, yippee for you," groaned Sgt. Jack Zimmer.  "Ain't that just peachy.  We've got all sorts of GOOD news this morning.  Hank Foster's still not fit.  The doc's nailed him to his bunk in sickbay.  We just found out our radio op's first name's, wait for it, JONAH, for Christ's sake; and to complete the good news we're 'Tail-End Charlie' this mission.  Cigars all round gentlemen . . ."


    "We're 'Charlie' today?  Oh, Jesus!" McNichol exclaimed on hearing the news.  "Hey, how'd you find that out?  We're not supposed to know that until briefing," McNichol asked.


    "A little bird told me, that's who! Who do you think it was?" Zimmer replied sarcastically.  From the look of McNichol's blank and puzzled expression, Zimmer knew that he'd would have enlighten their newest replacement on how the 'grapevine' worked around the base.   "Look, Cahill, our squadron orderly, and Addison, one of the guys who works in Ops, are good drinking pals.  Cahill got the straight skinny from him after Addison let it slip out last night.  So, lets enjoy the rest of our breakfast because we might not be here for evening chow."

SHORTLY BEFORE TAKE-OFF - FIUME MISSION - (submitted by Bob Hamel, 316th Sqn)

Shortly before takeoff at one of the hardstands . . .


    "Fellas, I've asked the captain if I could speak to you all before going up," Felix Johnson's voice echoed off the side of Lucky Penny in the morning chill.  "I know we are going as lead today and all that means is that we will have to be extra sharp on calling out fighters, both ours and theirs.  I don't want to put it too harshly but the entire flight will be on us."


    All eyes swing to Eddie Hamilton, their navigator . . . Eddie, looks up and stammers an, "I won't let us down . . ."


    Dave Collins gives him a friendly shove and chimes in that, "I'll make sure he's not readin' comic books on this trip."


    "Attention . . . Captain, they're all yours . . ." Johnson said pointing to the group.


    "Men, oil is important for the enemy's movement . . . No oil, no fuel.  No fuel, no tanks, subs and more importantly, no fighters . . . Collins, let's try to get a bully's eye like our last mission, and all of you . . . keep sharp.  We will be attracting more fighters this time as we are the lead of this formation.  Just call out locations and make your aim true.  We have no shortage of ammo so let 'em have it.  I'm proud of all of you guys . . . I know you'll do you best and Lieutenant Johnson and I will do ours."


    After letting his words sink in for a moment, Captain Paul Griffin spoke once again.  "All right, mount up!"


Shortly after the bomb run as the group once again crosses out over the Adriatic . . .

    "Buckeye 3 to Joker 1 . . . Buckeye 3 to Joker 1 . . . This is Sky Rat . . . we're losing our #3 really fast and our oxygen system is down, we're heading down for some thicker air . . . also be advised that we have a KIA, TSgt. Gordon McMichael . . . Buckeye 3 out."

    With that, Sky Rat sank off the from the tail end of the 316th's formation . . .

Where land meets the sea


    "Fireball Six to Fireball leader, Fireball Six to Fireball leader . . . We're gonna be a little late getting home from the party, leave the porch light on for us.  Fireball Six out."