DEBRIEFING A FIGHTER PILOT - (submitted by Jeff O'Handley, 318th Sqn)


    “So, my group was waiting for the bombers near their rally point, and I saw one bomber dropping fast and turning away from the rally point.  Like I said, he was dropping down fast, and turning in a westerly direction.  I couldn’t get close enough to read his number, but I could tell from the tail markings that he was part of the 88th, and he came out of the low box.  They looked like they had a bunch of holes up and down the fuselage and on the wings, there was no smoke or fire, all four engines were running, and they were shooting back at the Jerries.  I got real busy with some Krauts about then, so I can’t tell you any more about them . . .”

JUST BEFORE THE RAID - (submitted by Mark Yoshikawa, 317th Sqn)


    “I want all of you to know that I am not very happy with the situation here,” Captain Yoshikawa announced as he walked into his office where all of his crew was waiting.  “I told you guys to watch out for the food and water outside of camp and look what happens.  Almost all of you were struck down with dysentery and we were not able to make the last two missions.  And the last one was the first time we hit Germany!”


    “So what do you want to do about it?” First Lieutenant Uyeda replied for the group. 


    “Well, it’s a little bit late now, but I was thinking that we should volunteer to be tail-end Charlie the next time our group is in the low position.  I know that as a Captain, we don’t have to be in that position since R.H.I.P., but I feel that we need to show everyone that we will not shirk in our duty to the unit.  Does anyone have any gripes about it?”


    Hearing none, Captain Yoshikawa continued, “Great, I will talk to the old man after we go on this mission.”


    “Well, I hope we don’t have a junior prom.”  Staff Sergeant Yano piped in, “I don’t need any more fruit salad on my chest, I have enough already and don’t need any more to impress anyone.”


    “Don’t worry, we are not a bunch of guy’s just from the repple depple so we shouldn’t be going into a funeral glide.” Captain Yoshikawa retorted, “Besides, with the way the weather’s been, we might catch a break and have a milk run when we do get to be tail-end Charlie.”


    “Don’t worry,” First Lieutenant Uyeda said dryly, “I have a feeling that even if we do have a junior prom, there will be a lucky rabbit’s foot on the plane.”


    Everybody chuckled at that last remark as they made for the plane for the mission out to Austria.  Leaving Captain Yoshikawa at his desk to finish up his paperwork.


    Captain Yoshikawa, finished signing the last of the squak sheets and made a beeline to the old man’s office.  After all, just because they wanted to volunteer, didn’t mean that the old man was going to go along with the idea.

MONTAGUE PENS QUIETLY - (submitted by Shaun Edley, 317th Sqn)


    Shamus sat on his bunk, carefully choosing the words he wrote.  So what if the rest of the gang thought he was deep in his cups again.  That phase of his life was done and dusted as far as he was concerned.  He didn’t remember the last three missions he had flown before the CO had sent him to dry out.  Now the only way he could get the faces of his squadron buddies out of his mind was to write.  A poem here, a lengthy piece of prose there.  It helped to record them for who they were and not the broken masses of flesh that were scraped out of their planes at mission’s end.


    Some nights he woke sweating heavily and the thought of alcohol fuelled oblivion hammered on his thoughts.  He’d switch his light on and write.  He hadn't let on that his was drinking green tea most times and gallons of coffee round the guys.  That would start another line of rumors.  Still, he knew Amoore was having a rough time.  So were the old hands that were left from the first bunch who’d landed in ‘sunny’ Italy.


    Maybe he should offer to take a bit more on his shoulders. Then again, maybe he’d just have another mug of tea.

PRIOR TO TAKEOFF . . . - (submitted by Neil Amoore, 317th Sqn)


    There was the usual buzz and sounds of chairs being pushed back as the briefing came to an end.  Men filed out towards their waiting aircraft, a mixture of fear, apprehension and resignation on their faces.  Austria was never an easy ride, and the memories of Regensburg were still fresh in many minds.  Amoore stretched, noticing the look of bewilderment in the faces of the new crews. Amongst them he noticed the calm assuredness of Mark Yoshikawa.  One of the original bunch on the base, Yoshikawa had become the lynch-pin, along with Paul O’Connor, around which the 317th was built.  The new crews looked up to them, and the more seasoned hands afforded them a respect that was only given to those who had shown they could cope with the rigors of air combat.


    Amoore was worried, though.  He knew that some of the Yoshikawa crew had been laid low with a stomach bug after their last furlough, and that their skipper had been very disappointed.  He’d wanted to give them another week or two to rest, but Jerry didn’t give them that luxury.  When they got back from Klagenfurt he’d take both O’Connor and Yoshikawa aside in the OC and chat about their roles in the 317th.  An operational squadron wasn’t a democracy, but it relied on a closeness that rear-echelon units struggled to understand, and Amoore needed the older heads to keep things together.


    Recent weeks had seen Montague fall by the wayside again, with rumors of excessive drinking in his tent fuelling the fires.  Flynn had been on leave, and they’d lost Lawson and the crew of Isle of R’Lyeh over Regensburg.  That had placed extra pressure on Amoore to keep the squadron fully operational, and that meant the burden would naturally fall on the more senior pilots.


    It could wait, though.  For now, Klagenfurt lay in wait . . .

THE FLYING FLYNN . . . - (submitted by Neil Amoore, 317th Sqn)


    It was good weather to fly in, Amoore thought as he pulled the collar of his flight jacket up around his ears.  Pity it was so damned early in the morning to be waging war, though.  He noticed that most of the crews looked lost in private worlds, thoughts no doubt of home, loved ones and getting home in one piece dominating.  Amidst the nervous chatter, though, the booming laugh of Ralph Flynn was an unmistakable beacon of boyish charm and joie de vivre.


Good looking, witty and popular amongst officer and enlisted man alike, Flynn was the poster boy the recruiters wanted for this war.  He slapped another man on the back, hooting with laughter at one of his own jokes and bustled off towards the waiting crew wagons.  Amoore increased his pace, pushing through the crush of bodies.  He wanted a word with Flynn before they took off.


    “Captain Flynn, a word if you please,” he shouted.  Flynn turned around, face wreathed in a smile.  Amoore took him by the arm and led the uncomplaining Flynn away from the others.


    “We haven’t really had a chance to catch up since you and your boys got back from leave, but I’d like to have a word when we get back today,” Amoore said.


    “Nothing serious, I’ll be chatting to all the pilots over the next few days, but I wanted some advice.  You’re pretty close with Montague, and I’m a little worried about him.  He’s been keeping to himself lately, and I’d like to know if there’s a problem.”
Flynn’s smile faded for a second at the sound of Montague’s name.


    “Can’t say we are really close, Major.  I flew a few missions with him while he was squadron CO . . . He had a "little" problem before you replaced him.  Runway aborts and rumors of being drunk on duty.  I suppose the war was just getting to him, some men crack more easily than others under pressure, Sir.  You know how it is . . .”  Flynn felt a little uneasy as Amoore’s piercing eyes bore into him.


    “Captain Montague seems to have gone off the sauce sir, since the old man sent him away.  Keeps to himself, hardly see him at the officers’ club anymore, doesn't really talk to me.  I must say he is one lucky SOB sir, always seems to bring his bird home without much damage or injury.  His aircraft keeps formation pretty well, bombs pretty accurately . . . but I would speak to his co-pilot, Sir, he would know more.”


    “So there is nothing about his behavior in your opinion that might cause concern Flynn?” Amoore’s tone hinted that he thought otherwise.


    “N... no sir, not really, but with respect sir I haven’t really been watching him, I have been more concerned with my own men. I’ve had four men wounded in two missions, two seriously . . .”


    “Thank you, Flynn. That will be all. Oh, and good luck today.”


Half-way to Klagenfurt over the Adriatic Sea:


    “Buckeye Two to Buckeye One . . . Buckeye Two to Buckeye One . . . be advised we are no longer able to maintain altitude and are aborting . . .”



Approaching Klagenfurt:


From nearby B-17s.


Sgt. Harris, tail gunner of Darkwatch, in the lead flight: “OH MY GOD! The new crew's plane just exploded!”


Capt. O'Connor, Pilot, Darkwatch: “Calm down and tell me if you see any 'chutes.”


Sgt. Harris: “No sir, there are none. Nobody could have lived through that.”


Capt. Yoshikawa, Divine Wind, looks out from his window: “Okay, boys it looks we are now tail-end Charlie . . .”



Leaving Klagenfurt (soon after turning away from the target):







At Sterparone Field, an early return:


    “Buckeye Two to tower . . . please clear the deck and have a fire crew on standby . . . we have a fuel leak, extensive damage to our port wing and tail and Lieutenant Gordon advises we're coming in hard . . . Buckeye Two out.”


At Sterparone Field: