NEW PILOTS VISIT THE O-CLUB
While the crews relax and unwind from today’s mission, it is 1700 hours and the radio is tuned to the Armed Forces Network news.
“Today, Finland rejected heavy Russian demands for their surrender and for ending Finland's participation of the war . . . Yesterday, a U.S. Delegate handed the Swiss a check for one million dollars as reparations for the accidental bombing of Schaffhausen, Switzerland last week . . . This week, the German Army continues their retreat along the Eastern Front. Yesterday, a new Red Army offensive aimed at driving the German 17th Army out of the Crimea began . . . Two days ago, the port city of Odessa on the Black Sea was retaken by forces of the 3rd Ukrainian Front commanded by General Rodion Malinovsky as German forces withdrew to the west bank of the Dniester river . . . After reaching the Slovakian border four days ago the Soviet Army continues to advance into Czechoslovakia as well as continuing their advance into Romania . . . In the South-West Pacific theater, three days ago American troops landed on Pak in the Admiralty Islands and encountered no enemy resistance. And today, the majority of New Britain is now held by the Allies . . .”
A group of new replacement pilots from the 316th are sitting together enjoying what limited pleasures the base has to offer. The new men have banded together for company as the veterans would avoid the newer crews until they had proved themselves in combat after about five missions.
“Lots of news on the Eastern Front today,” noted newcomer Lieutenant Gordon Kirsch, the newest replacement co-pilot for Untamed Beauty.
“Well, what do you expect?” commented Lieutenant Jessie Fletcher, the rookie co-pilot of the Straight Flush. “Our forces in Italy are stuck in the spring mud and there’s no second front.”
Putting down his drink, the third member of the table added, “It’s not any secret that the Eighth is bombing a lot of rail targets in France lately.” Pausing to take a puff from his cigarette, another new co-pilot, Lieutenant Pete McClean of the plane Cutting Edge, continued, “To me this means Ike will be invading France soon . . . real soon.”
“Well, it better be soon or the Russians are gonna beat us to Berlin,” Fletcher said. Adding, “I think it's gonna be next month, in May. The weather should be better then.”
The last man of the co-pilot quartet looked up from his drink. A quiet man who preferred to think things over before speaking, Lieutenant John Lofton of the Northern Dream finally joined the conversation. “June . . . early June.”
“June? Why so late, Lofton?” wondered Kirsch. “All the scuttlebutt and betting money says it’s May for sure.”
“Don’t know . . . just a gut feeling,” Lofton answered quietly.
“Well, May or June, all I know that at the rate we’re losing planes, we won’t even see May, let alone June,” Kirsch gloomily predicted.
“We could certainly use more fighter escort,” McClean added.
“Hey, no arguments here, Mac, you’re preaching to the choir,” agreed Fletcher. “I flew with the CO to Treviso and we had excellent cover that day. We all came home except for that one crew from the Three-Eighteen.”
“I heard a Mustang group will be activated real soon,” mentioned Lofton.
“Well, that will certainly be welcome news when it happens,” McClean said. “They’ll cover us all the way to places like Ploesti and back.”
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