JANUARY 20, ISLE OF CAPRI - (submitted by Jeff O'Handley, 318th Sqn)

 

    Tex Richardson sat in a small cafe, slowly eating his breakfast, thinking about the visitor he had had the previous night, and wondering where the guy was staying. He'd have to find him, talk to him some more. If he could just remember the guy's name, he'd find him easier, though how hard could it be finding a guy wearing rancher's clothes here?

 

    His thoughts were interrupted by a gruff voice. “Hey, buddy, what kind of joke were you trying to pull yesterday?”

 

    Tex looked up in surprise to see an MP standing over his table.  “Huh?” was all he managed to say.

 

    “'Huh?'” mimicked the MP. “Yeah, real funny, guy.  We had to sweep that beach all night looking for your bomb.  Nothing there.”

 

    The MP leaned down so that his face was close to Tex's. “You so much as spit in the street while you're here, I'll throw your ass in the stockade, got it?  Some joke.”  The MP straightened up and walked away.

 

    Tex watched him go, and thought about something his visitor last night had said: Your friends have been trying to get a message to you.  Tex felt another chill down his spine. Impossible, he thought.  He pushed away his plate, not hungry anymore.


WHAT THE HELL - (submitted by George Bessler, 318th Sqn)

 

    “What the hell, Sir, I'm going to tell you I'm a little nervous on this one,” said navigator Giovanni.

 

    “Why's that? Parma just another flight,” answered his pilot, Patrick O'Halern.

 

    “It's not just that, Sir.  It's that we are 'Tail-End Charlie'.  Every goddamn German is going to shoot at us and think by the time Joey lets his bombs go, the 'Flak Happy Krauts' will have the range dialed in.”

 

    “Listen, Carmelo, we will be fine, just go get the guys from breakfast and tell Stoney to be ready.”

 

    “Okay, Lieutenant, I'll go and tell 'em.”

 

    Thinking to himself, Lets hope Carmelo isn't right, this could be a long one, I' going to need some extra coffee today.


CONTROL TOWER REPORTS - MISSION 20

East of Florence, Inbound to Parma:

 

    A trio of FW-190s have worked over the Full House II, the lead aircraft.  Its #3 engine begins the runaway but the co-pilot feathers the propeller it time.  Within moments, the bomb bay doors open and its ten 500 lb. bomb load are jettisoned.  Instead of continuing back to base, the Full House II remains in formation to continue to lead 88th Bomb Group to Parma, the primary target.


Somewhere Near Florence, Inbound to Parma:

 

    The 88mm shell explodes in a greasy puff of black smoke a few yards ahead of the Memphis Gal.  The bomber shakes with the concussion as a few holes appear in its metal skin, a stifled scream is heard in the cockpit as a white hot piece of shrapnel pierces the fuselage just below the co-pilot.  It ricochets off a oxygen bottle, slices through a set of headphones and continues its journey through a human ear across a cheek and out of the windshield.  The co-pilot is momentarily dazed, slowly as his eyes begin to re-focus he sees blood splattered over his instruments and the windshield, his mind still reeling with the shock finally puts two and two together . . .

 

    OH MY GOD, I'M HIT! The co-pilot slowly looks across the cramped cockpit his eyes locking with the pilot’s . . . “Ralph, I’m hit,” he murmurs as darkness overwhelms him.

 

    Somewhere far away a voice is calling his name . . . “Lieutenant Tonkin, sir!  Wake up! Wake up, Sir!”

 

    Another voice . . . “DONALD! DONALD! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD! WAKE UP!”  Can't they see I'm trying to sleep.  His eyes slowly open . . . a face in a mask!  Looks like Sgt. Almeda . . . Whats Sergeant Almeda doing in my tent?

 

    “That’s right, sir, look at me!  You’ve been hit, it’s not bad, cut your ear and cheek . . . nasty cut but you’ll be okay!”

 

    Realization finally takes hold, OH MY GOD IVE BEEN HIT! The co-pilot strains in his harness struggling to get free.  Strong hands restrain him, “It’s okay, sir! It’s okay! You are just in shock, it’s okay!”

 

    Donald Tonkin was not a happy man, not that the co-pilot of the Memphis Gal was ever really happy with the way the Army Air Force operated, but today some hapless lead navigator had led the formation a little too close to the flak zones around Florence.  Clutching the right side of his face, his left hand steady on the control column, muttering dark obscenities into his mask, Donald swore an oath to kick the sonnabitch navigator who did this to him right in the nuts.


In The Cockpit of Darla's Bite II Over Parma

 

    While Lieutenant Thorne had control of the bomber on approach, Wil was trying to remain calm over enemy territory, when he heard the call from Thorne, “BOMBS AWAY!”

 

    As he and Lieutenant Beckett regained control of the ship there was a call for enemy fighters from 1:30 high and 9 o’clock level.  This was followed by a deafening bang.  Strangely Wil felt warm as he stared out of the shattered window.  The sound of the hit had deafened his hearing and the concussion from the blow to the windscreen had made it hard to breath.  Wil was cognizant of people trying to talk to him but the gapping hole was allowing in cold air and he was starting to get cold, extremely cold.  His thought started to drift they drifted to his conversation with Pappy just before this mission.

 

    Pappy was the only one he had told his recurring nightmares to, as he couldn’t let the crew know of them.  Wil didn’t want them to loss confidence in his ability to command the bomber, so he confided in Pappy.  Pappy had helped talk him through many dreams and it was helping.  The two previous nights had been nightmare free.  Yet, last night’s was a bad one.  Wil went early to the hard stand to talk with Pappy about it.  His dream of the MG speeding back to base and it had headed off the mysterious cliff as always, yet this time it was different.  He’d dreamed of a large tree branch coming throw the windscreen and going right through his chest.  He had never before seen this in the dream.  Wil was afraid of the trees at the end of the runway.  Were they far enough back, could he clear them if he had too?  Pappy had reassured him that the trees around the base were too far from the runways for this to affect his landings and not to worry.  This had calmed Wil’s nerves and he went on to the morning briefings.

 

    As Wil got colder he felt sleepy. I think I'll sleep well now, went through his mind.

 

    “WIL, WIL, WAKE UP . . . TRAVERS, I THINK HE’S DEAD!” shouted Beckett.

 

    “DO YOU NEED HELP” replied Breslof to Beckett's pleas.

 

    A frantic response came from Beckett.  “NO, NO! YOU STAY AT YOUR POST
'TILL WE'RE CLEAR OF THESE BLASTED KRAUTS!”

 

    “Wil, I think Cat is dead from that last pass, I can’t tell,” called in Thorn from the nose, but there was no reply from Wil.


Outside of Parma, Italy (Zone 5) Inbound:

 

“THIS IS COWBOY FOUR . . . THIS IS COWBOY FOUR  . . . AM AT ZONE FOUR CHECKPOINT ONE . . . AM AT ZONE FOUR CHECKPOINT ONE . . . AM GOING DOWN TO 10,000 FEET . . . AM GOING DOWN TO 10,000 FEET . . . WILL MEET EVERYBODY ELSE AT BASE. . . . OVER AND OUT.”


Approaching Sterparone Field:

 

“Tower this is Fireball Two . . . Fire and an Ambulance waiting . . . We will be attempting a Belly Landing and we have wounded . . . Fireball Two out.”


Circling Above Sterparone Field:

 

    As the lumbering bomber approaches the runway, three red flares arc high in the clear British sky, announcing wounded. MSgt. Martin 'Pappy' Fenn's stomach twists as he sees it’s Darla.