IN THE 316th SQUADRON CO's OFFICE
A very weary Dan Tanner entered his office after the recent Klagenfurt debriefing, flopping down into his chair from another exhausting mission. The German threw everything they had at them today. Over Klagenfurt, there were some very aggressive fighters, a veteran group, possibly that 700th JG that he'd heard about in the O-Club. And that damned FLAK! The squadron hadn’t experienced that kind of intensity since Florence. Plus, there was crappy visibility during the approach coming home. Well, the Colonel did mention that at the briefing, so it shouldn’t had been that much of a surprise. But still, flying against the Luftwaffe and the flak was expected, but HQ wanted to them to fly in the bad weather too. What was wrong with the Top Brass in HQ? Where they trying to get them all killed in accidents?
The good news was with the weather shutting down operations again, he would have time to go over the backlogged squadron paperwork that he’d been neglecting: maintenance reports, supply requisitions, promotion recommendations, and the depressing letters to the next-of-kin of the men who were killed. In a way, Tanner envied the junior officers who didn’t have to deal with the letters. They could drown their memories at the O-club with a few shots of whiskey or bourbon. Comes with the territory, he thought. He recalled the Colonel telling him with the higher rank came a price: the 'Burden of Command'. Tanner was understanding more and more after every mission what the Colonel was taking about.
Tanner glanced down at the top of the desk. While the squadron was flying, Corporal Donald Beckett, the squadron clerk, had neatly placed the routine forms requiring his signature on the right of the desk. Tanner didn’t feel like reading too much tonight; he’d planned to get out of the way the easy stuff before hitting the hay. After a good night’s rest, his mind would be more coherent and he'd be in a better mood to comprehend what he would be reading.
The first thing Tanner picked up was the promotion approvals of a few of his men. APPROVALS TO CAPTAIN: Jameson, Jamie . . . hmmm, already with 10 missions under his belt . . . a good pilot who keeps a decent formation . . . has potential to lead one day . . . yeah, he’ll be approved . . . Collins, David . . . a damned good bombardier with 21 missions . . . already with TWO Air Medals for accuracy . . . very efficient, seems to be on target every time . . . He’s earned it and it would be a shame if he’s passed over this time . . . Bonner, Steven . . . one of the group’s originals since it was formed in Rapid City . . . yeah, he’s also due . . .
FLAK EYE - (submitted by Neil Amoore, 317th Sqn)
There’d been far too many hits. He woke up screaming silently, the rawness of his terror refusing to leave his throat in anything more than a silent whimper. Sweating, chest heaving he’d try get back to sleep and forget the sounds of metal on metal. Of what jagged metal did to human flesh. Of blood washing around in the metal coffin that was the Silver Spoon. Of the pain of getting hit himself. First the thud as his body absorbed the impact, no pain yet. That came later. A deep burn that seared the soul, exorcising the demons he now carried with him.
He’d flown 28 missions and got an Air Medal and seven Purple Hearts, and he’d had enough. Jim Blackmore fingered the Captain’s bars on his dress tunic and thought of the odds as they stood now. There were hardly any of the original 88th left. Only a few of the 317th were old hands. He’d lost Al Williams after a few trips and most of the Silver Spoon’s original crew were gone. He shrugged his tunic over shoulders worn thin through fatigue, crap food and the parachute harness. A quick glance in the sliver of mirror they used to shave in suggested he was an 80 year old man. His right eye was jumpy and droopy. Flak eye, they called it. Showed when a man was past it.
The Doc said it was fatigue, that it’d pass. He knew otherwise. He was going to speak to Major Amoore about it now. He didn’t want to quit, but he couldn’t carry on much longer. One last look in the mirror and he strode out . . .
McCARDELL'S DIARY, 20 MARCH 1944 - (submitted by
Jeff O'Handley, 318th Sqn)
Well, we got the word that we're finally going to fly with the big boys as soon as the weather clears. After two weeks of sitting around studying maps and doing endless training exercises, we get to fly for real! We've been assigned to the 318th Bomber squadron, they took a real beating yesterday. Squadron CO’s plane got shot down, too. They didn’t tell me who the new CO would be, I’ll guess I’ll just report to the office first thing in the morning, introduce myself, and go from there.
Funny, when I passed the news on to the guys, they didn’t react at all like I thought they would. Last few weeks we were stateside, all they could talk about was how they couldn’t wait to get over here and bomb the Krauts back to the stone age. Even when we got here, some of the guys, especially Chuck and Del, kept up the big talk until a guy with a bunch of missions under his belt gave them what for. Anyway, no one was jumping up and down, or whooping it up the way we did when we got our orders to ship out to Italy. Maybe seeing all those empty seats in the mess hall this morning brought the reality of our situation home: people are going to be shooting at us, trying to kill us. I just hope they don’t succeed.
LUFT STALAG 7A - SOMEWHERE IN SOUTHERN GERMANY - (submitted by Shaun Edley, 317th Sqn)
The smart Luftwaffe Hauptman snaps his heels crisply as he halts in front of the camp commandant.
“Good evening, Herr Oberst. I am afraid that he is drunk again. We put him in the cooler for 2 weeks and he came out even worse than when we put him in. I don’t know how he does it or where he gets it from but he is always drunk!”
“What does he say for himself?” asked the commandant.
“He just laughs and says that he is not on the flight line! He also rants about some forest or other. Maybe he landed in one when he bailed out.”
“Get some of the camp ferrets to watch his every move and let’s find out who is helping him.”
“Jawohl, Herr Oberst!”