AWAY HE GOES - (submitted by Jeff O'Handley, 318th Sqn)


    Eat At Joe's came in, and landed successfully, if not exactly smoothly (What do you expect when the starboard landing gear doesn't work?  At least the plane didn't crash).  The men left the plane, relieved that the landing had gone well, and that the mission had gone even better, and prepared for the debriefing.


    As he stripped off his flight suit, Lieutenant Delany turned to the co-pilot, Verne Pike.


    “Listen, Verne, can you cover for me at the debriefing? I -- I don’t feel too good.”


    “Sure, Joe.  Are you alright? You look a little green around the gills."


    “Yeah, thanks Verne, I’m alright.  My stomach’s just a bit off; must've been something I ate. I gotta run.”  And with that, Delany
took off, not quite at a run, but close.


    Pike watched him go. “'Something I ate,'” he mumbled.  “Can’t be 'something he ate' -- he hasn't eaten hardly anything in a week!”

DUSK AT DARLA'S BITE'S HARDSTAND - (submitted by Jim Pink, 316th Sqn)


    Martin Fenn stood there on Darla's hardstand with a heavy heart.  Looking east, it was now two hours since the last bird was accounted for and still there’s no word on Beckett’s crew.


    Twenty minutes ago there was a report of a crippled B-17 in trouble about 50 miles south of Terni.  This came from a lone fighter of the 14th Fighter Group.  Reporting that he tried to help out, but was driven of by enemy fighters waiting to have at the lone Fortress.  In his report, the flyboy mentioned seeing one engine out and flames coming from one wing.  Fire was the worst thing for an aircraft laden with fuel, ammunition and ordinance.  A real time bomb.  Being low on fuel himself, the fighter jock broke off his engagement and made for home.


    “PAPPY, PAPPY!” Private Saunders was running towards Fenn with a look between distress and relief.


    “WHAT!?!” an irritated Fenn responded, he wanted to be alone!


    “Sir, a report just came in of a downed B-17 around Terni, it says there were chutes and it’s believed that the resistant rescued some of the airmen.”


    Less brusque Fenn inquired, “Do they know the crew? What plane?”


    “No, Sir, but the CO thinks it might be Darla, Sir,” an excited Saunders exclaimed.


    “Let’s hope so son, now get back to the shed.  We have work to do before tomorrow.” Fenn could only hope this was true. 


    He had been at this since before the war came to his corner of the world.  Seen too many aircrews not return, and it never got any better.  Wilcox’s crew replaced the loss of Miller’s crew in the Tennessee Belle.  Those boys got it on their first mission. 
Later tonight Fenn would catch up with MSgt. Rupert, Chief of the Full House II, and see if he heard anything.  But now, he would
offer his crew to help out where needed.

A CHANGE IN THE WEATHER - (submitted by Jeff O'Handley, 318th Sqn)


    Two consecutive days of scrubbed missions were causing most of the men at base to go a little nutty, observed Verne Pike, but it seemed to be having a positive effect on his pilot -- and friend -- Joe Delany.


    Delany had been slipping down into a well of depression and despair that started with the death of Charlie Barstow on the Villaorba mission.  The following day’s horror at Klagenfurt had nearly driven him over the edge, thought Pike, and he had worried a great deal about Delany during the week that they had been grounded by poor weather, as Joe had disappeared into himself, barely speaking to anyone in anything other than one word answers.  Pike had worked hard to keep the crew together; it hadn’t been easy.


    “He’s had a rough time,” he’d told the men. “Give him some space.”


    Secretly, he’d wondered whether there would be enough time.  Even on the morning of the first scrubbed mission, Pike had had serious reservations about Delany’s condition.  Now, two days later, Delany seemed almost back to normal.  He was talking, even laughing, a little more freely, and already seemed more involved than he had been in quite a while.  Maybe it’s the new bird, thought Pike. Maybe he likes having those twin fifties sitting up in front for extra protection.


    All of the men were thrilled to have received one of the new B-17G’s; given their spotty record with the old F-model, no one was particularly sad to see it go to someone else.  Hope whoever gets it has better luck with it than we did, Webster had said.


    About the only one who was anxious initially about the new bomber was Mitchell Ardsley, the bombardier.  Because of the weather, he hadn’t been able to get any flight time to practice with the new guns.  “Reading a manual is no substitute for flight experience,” he’d said.  His fears were slightly eased when Lieutenant Thompson of Golden Spike spent an hour or so giving him tips on the new controls.  Now that it was time for business, Ardsley seemed much calmer as he went about his preflight routine.  Pike was optimistic.  Maybe, he thought, our luck really is changing.


100 Miles From Sterparone Field Inbound: