MEANWHILE ON THE ISLE OF CAPRI - (submitted by Jeff O'Handley, 318th Sqn)
Tex Richardson stood on a beach on the Isle of Capri, watching the sun set over the sea. Coming as he did from the heartland of Texas, he had never seen the ocean before a training flight had taken them over the Gulf of Mexico. He had had a perfect seat to watch the ocean then, suspended in his ball turret position, and had been fascinated by the water. Now he found the motions and sounds of the water to be hypnotic, and comforting.
Since arriving on Capri nearly two weeks ago, he had sought refuge from the memory of the hideous, final flight of the Russian Lady, alternating between booze and the island's “female entertainment” (on one or two occasions he had tried both at the same time, with definitely disappointing results, so he didn't mix anymore). Seaton had found him once or twice and tried to talk, but Tex had rebuffed him, rather rudely, not wanting to talk discuss the terrible loss of his friends. He knew his time of R&R was fast running out, and he was not looking forward to going back to active duty. He looked at the gentle waves, and considered just walking into them and not stopping until the water was too deep for him. That, he thought, would solve a couple of problems.
He was trying
to decide whether he would be spending his night in the bar or the brothel when
his thoughts were interrupted by the unmistakable roar of a B-17's engines.
Tex looked up in the direction of the sound, and spotted a single bomber, coming
The plane had no obvious signs of distress: no smoke, all four engines were working, and it was coming in on a straight, steady course. Directly at him. Must be lost, thought Tex. Then he noticed that the bomb bay doors were open, and Tex had a sudden, mad image: 'Trapper' Vachon sitting in the nose of the B-17, lining up his bomb sight on . . . Tex pushed the thought away, replaced it with another, Aw, crap, I'm on a practice range! The Army must have screwed up again. Tex had seen no signs indicating that this was a bombing range. Wouldn't be the first time the brass messed things up.
He watched, fascinated, as a single bomb slid out of the bomb bay. Tex could see it slicing through the air towards him, then he could hear it. Hope the guy's good, he thought. He closed his eyes, welcoming the death the bomb would bring, the chance to see his friends again.
The bomb plummeted to earth and landed with a thud a few yards from Tex, showering him with sand and bits of seashell. It didn't explode. Tex looked around for the bomber, but it was already gone from sight. Tex could see the bomb sticking half out of the sand, and noticed that there was something written on it. Strange, he thought, Nobody writes on dummy bombs. He walked over and knelt down by the bomb, and began carefully brushing sand away. The bomb casing was hot to the touch from its fall through the air. He cleared away the sand, revealing a single word: LIVE.
“Live my ass!" he snorted. Some sad sack must have forgotten to arm the thing. Tex sat for a moment longer, considering the bomb, then he got up, brushing the sand off his trousers. I'd better tell the MPs about this, he thought. Someone could get hurt.
Tex looked at the bomb once more, then back at the sky. Then he came to a decision: Booze tonight, broads tomorrow. He started up the beach for the town.
Later that evening, Tex stumbled in through the door of his hotel room. He didn't turn on the light, because he couldn't remember if he'd put up the blackout curtains before setting out for the night. It's ridiculous, he thought, like the Germans would bomb Capri. He dropped his jacket on the floor, sat down on the bed to begin removing his shoes, when a voice spoke suddenly out of the darkness.
“You should lock your doors at night, Tex, no tellin' who's around or what they're up to.”
Tex stood up quickly, nearly lost his balance, steadied himself. “Who're . . .” he'd meant to ask, 'Who are you' but the stranger's voice was familiar; Tex felt he knew the man, but couldn't remember his name, or where he'd met him. Probably in one of the bars. Instead, he asked, “How'd you gedin here?”
The stranger was a dim shape in the dark. He sat in a chair near the room's lone window. Tex had been right not to turn on the light, he could see that he hadn't closed the blackout curtains. The stranger chuckled. “Through the door, Tex. You left it open.” Again, there was something familiar about the voice, but he still couldn't place it.
“You're no doubt wondering why I came,” the stranger said. “Well, Tex, your friends are concerned about you. They've tried to help you, they've been sending you messages all week, but you won't listen to them. They thought you might listen to me.” As Tex's eyes became accustomed to the dark, he could see that his visitor was dressed in a decidedly non-regulation way: a long overcoat, a pair of boots (not army boots, but real boots) on his feet, and he was holding a broad-brimmed hat in his hands. A ranching man, thought Tex, and the sense of familiarity increased.
“Seaton put you up to this,” growled Tex. “Guy barely says two words for eight months, now I can't shut him up.”
The stranger shrugged. “They're only trying to help,” he said. “You've got to move on, Hoss, live your life.”
Hoss. There it was, Tex suddenly remembered where he had met the man before (though Tex still couldn't quite get his name). “Thought I tol' you not to call me Hoss?” he grumbled, but smiled nonetheless.
The visitor smiled. “Sorry, Tex, figured I'd jog your memory a bit.”
“Hey,” asked Tex. “Wha's with the clothes?”
The stranger gave a half smile. “I'm on R&R.”
Tex reached into his hip pocket, pulled out a flask and shook it. It sounded about half full. He still couldn't remember the guy's name, but he remembered talking to him now. “Already?” asked Tex. “Didn't you guys jus get on the base a couple weeks ago?” The man didn't answer. Tex held out the flask. “Want a snort?” he asked.
The man shook his head. “No, thank you, Tex. Listen,” he continued, “if you keep going down THAT road,” and here he pointed with his hat at the flask in Tex's hand, “you won't be going to see your friends again.”
Tex felt a chill go down his spine; the flask stopped halfway to his lips. “What did you say?” he whispered.
“A drink once in a while is all well and good," said the man, standing up. “But you're trying to kill yourself with it, Tex. Keep drinking like that, you may stumble in front of a jeep, fall out your window, or choke on your own vomit. It'll seem like an accident, but it's really suicide. You're a God-fearin' man, aren't you, Tex?”
Tex nodded. “Then you know how God feels about takin' your own life. Think about it.” The stranger put his hat on. He paused, one hand on the doorknob. “LIVE, Tex. LIVE.” Then he opened the door and left.
Tex sat on the bed for a moment looking at the door, then he leaned over and threw up.
BUY THE BOYS SOME FUN - (submitted by Don Lavalette, 316th Sqn
“Take this and buy the boys some 'fun' tonight. You all earned it.”
“A hundred bucks!?! Gee, thanks, Lieutenant Harrigan!”
“Don't mention it, and I mean that.”
“Understood Lieutenant. See you in the morning.”
“Say, Lieutenant, why don't you join us?”
“Thanks, but I have some writing to do.”
FIRST MISSION - (submitted by George Bessler, 318th Sqn)
The new crew of the Green Man's Girl celebrate their first mission.
“Hey, Mickey, how was the glass bubble?” asked Adam Wellner, one of the waist gunners. “Never thought we see that many Germans . . . damn they just kept coming.”
“Yeah, but the one I got was so great,” answered Mickey O'Reily, the ball gunner. “Did you see that bastard roll over?”
“So Mickey, what do you think was going through that guys mind?” wondered Wellner.
“I bet it was 'holy s---'! That guy was good, I'll have to remember that plane.”
“The boys look excited about their first mission,” observed their copilot, Mike Hamilton, from a few tables away.
“Well, they should be,” replied the pilot, Patrick O'Halern. “It was okay but I didn't think the Germans had that many planes here, the just kept coming. I hope we will be better and ready for them next time.” As he finished his beer, O'Halern grabbed his cap and coat. “C'mon, we gotta sneak in a beer to William in the infirmary.”
“Yeah, that will be a mission in itself Pat,” smiled Hamilton.
A SCENE FROM THE NCO CLUB - (submitted by Don Lavalette, 316th Sqn)
The boys of the Claremont Express out blowing off some steam.
“Sure was swell of Harrigan to pony up the dough for this brew,” said Sgt. Steve Roy.
“Yeah, he's not so bad,” replied TSgt. Dennis St. Laurent.
“Hey, any Mick whose gonna buy da beer is number one in my book!” shouted the obviously intoxicated Sgt. Reggie Lapaglia.
“Hey, lay off with the insults there, Reg,”, chimed in Sgt. Richard Gleason.
“All right, you're right. Hey, a toast to Lieutenant Hawkins!”
“To Hawkins!” said Lapaglia.
“Hawkins,” the men all responded. As the beer continues to flow, the new guy shows up.
“Hello, boys. Lieutenant Harrigan said I'd find you here. Name's Schultz . . . George Schultz. Guess I'll be flying with you guys for a while.”
As handshakes begin, "Shultz, isn't that a Kraut name?” asked Reggie Lapaglia.
“So what if it is, Reggie,” responded Gleason.
“I don't like your tone SERGEANT,” said Shultz.
“Oh, ya don't do ya, well, no Krauts are gonna fly wit me,” responded a belligerent Lapaglia.
“Mister, I'm gonna forget you said that,” said Schultz.
“OH YEAH, forget this you dirty bastard!” said Lapaglia as he smashed a chair across the head of Schultz sending him to the floor.
“You $%***)” cried out a very injured Schultz.
In the midst of trying to separate the men, somehow a butter knife from the table found it's way into stomach of Schultz; not deep but enough to put him out of action for a few days.
As the MP's enter, the men of the Claremont Express look around, numerous crews are watching.
Meanwhile back in his quarters, Lts. Harrigan and O'Malley have finished the inventory of their deceased friend and crew member, 2nd Lt. Peter Hawkins.
“Okay, Tom?” asked Harrigan.
“Yeah, just thinking about Gina, the baby on the way, Whew! How's the letter
“Not good, tried to write with, you know, some feelings, but how in the hell can any words I write ease her mind, or anyone's for all that goes.”
“Want me to give it a try?” asked O'Malley.
“Gee, thanks Tom.”
“Listen Ed, why don't you get some rest, I'll get this letter written to Gina,
and later we'll go down to the infirmary and see how
“Sounds great, Tom, bet the rest of the boys are having a good time down at the club.”
“I'll bet,” replied Lt. O'Malley as he began the hard task of informing his best
friends' wife of his death, while Lt. Ed Harrigan
pulled the covers up and began to snore.
IN THE MESS TENT AFTER THE FLORENCE RAID - (submitted by Mark Yoshikawa, 317th Sqn)
Sitting in the far corner of the mess hall so nobody would bother him, Capt. Mark Yoshikawa sat around a mess of paper in front of him. A cup of coffee and a half burnt cigarette were sitting just to the right of him being ignored.
“What's with the late night?” 1st Lt. Gary Uyeda asked as he poured himself a cup of Joe from the urn that sat in the beginning of the cafeteria line.
“Just trying to get caught up with all of the paperwork that needs to get done.” Capt. Yoshikawa replied as he sat back getting the cigarette from the ashtray so he could take a long drag on it before there was nothing left. “With all of the clear weather it's been hard to get all of the paperwork done without burning the midnight oil.”
“What the heck, . . .” Uyeda retorted, “All you have to do is check off the squawk sheet and give it to the hanger lice so that they can get the plane ready for the next mission. With what happened on our last mission, there isn't to much for them to do except to patch up a few holes.”
“True,” taking a long drag from the cigarette, “but RHIP, I also get the fun task of writing these letters. You have to figure that in the past month we've sent two guy's home as walking wounded and six back in a pine box. With the amount of missions that we have done, I haven't had time to even think about how I am going to inform all those family's that there loved ones served there country bravely.”
“Sorry, forgot that you get to have the fun job of writing those letters. How many have you gotten out so far?”
“I got one out, am trying to get the others done before our next mission. Don't want the people at home waiting to long to find out why they got that telegram from Western Union.”
“Will leave you alone then. Am glad that I don't have to do your job.” As Uyeda sipped his coffee and then went out of the mess tent to get some sleep.
As he left Capt. Yoshikawa started writing on the blank piece of paper. . . Dear Mr. And Mrs. Yamashita, . . .
IN THE CO's OFFICE AFTER THE BRAWL, 21:00 hours
The five enlisted men of the Claremont Express who participated in the NCO bawl are standing at attention in Captain Tanner's office. Their right arms are in the salute positions, each man awaiting for the captain to return their salute.
Tanner is sitting behind his desk and he is seething as his quiet evening playing cards has been interrupted. He waits a good 30 seconds pretending to be engrossed in some report before he looks up and finally returns the salute. He stands up and walks around the desk to the front of the men to begin his speech. His loud I am pissed speech.
“Of all the idiotic, bird-brained men in the Air Corps, I have the TOP FIVE knuckle-heads in my own squadron! And they're all standing right here in front of me!” Tanner looks the faces of the men. A few are cut and bleeding, another one is sporting a new shiner, and the others now owning some new bruises. Continuing his tirade, “The man standing next to you is not the enemy! You fight the enemy, not your own side! In case you men haven't figured it out yet, we are all wearing the same uniform! This, men, MEANS we are all on the same side!” Tanner shakes his head in amazement at how dumb these new replacement that have been assigned to the group. Not like the original men who trained with the group since the states.
Calming down a little, Tanner goes up to the senior man, Staff Sergeant George Schultz. “Alright, Sergeant, who started it? Who threw the first punch?”
“Sir! I . . . I . . . I don't remember, Sir!”
“You don't remember, Sergeant? You were there, weren't you?”
“Sir, yes, Sir! But I honestly don't remember, Sir, . . .” Schultz said. Trying to explain further, “Sir, I was hit on the head with a chair, Sir!”
“I see,” Tanner said, his soft tone indicating he was doubtful on the answer he received and he moves to the next man, Sergeant Richard Gleason. “How about you, soldier? Did you see who started the fight?”
“Sir! I don't recall, Sir!” replies Gleason.
Tanner can see where this is going but he still asks the other men who started it and he gets the same basic answer: “Sir! I don't know, Sir!”
“So, I have five men standing in front of me that was involved in a brawl but no one can remember who started it . . . Very well.” Tanner crosses his arms and sternly looks the five guilty men who are hiding the truth from him. “You men are all lucky that the group is short of gunners right now and that Army Regs states that aircrew gunners must be at least a sergeant. You're also lucky that I am handling this at the squadron level because the Colonel would bust all of your stupid asses back to buck privates! But that only hinder the war effort, not help it! But you're not getting off Scott-free. For the next thirty days, you're all restricted to base and the NCO club will be off-limits to all of you. And I would fine you if I could but that punishment is reserved for the Colonel.” Tanner pauses to let the first part of their punishment set in. Tanner now lets them have the rest of their punishment. “And since you all have this extra energy trying to kill each other, during the days the squadron is standing down, beginning tomorrow, you are all to report to the base laundry to help you all to sort out and decide which side you want to be on in this war!”
Finally finished with handing out the punishment Tanner orders, “Now, get out of my office and get out of my sight! DISMISSED!”