88th BOMBARDMENT GROUP, 23 April 1944 - (submitted by Jeff O'Handley, 318th Sqn)

    Ralph Henderson sat by himself in a nearly-deserted mess tent, wondering where things had gone wrong, and why.  It had been nearly two weeks since their last mission, which had ended shortly after it had started, due to severe damage to Uncle Sam’s $$ while heading to Vienna.  His crew had been inexplicably left off the active roster for the next day’s mission -- and the one after that, and the one after that -- for ten, no, wait, eleven days.  Major Mikula had never said anything in particular, only that Ralph and his crew ‘was needed elsewhere,’ which, in this case, meant shuttling parts and personnel back and forth to Africa.  Some job.


    Ralph idly chewed on the edge of a sandwich.  Part of him knew that he was lucky.  He’d seen the grim faces of men returning from missions, missing their comrades.  He’d listened to the hushed voices of men telling how they’d witnessed other planes falling out of formation, with the yellow-noses tailing them, or how they’d seen a bird in their formation disappear in a massive ball of flame.  He’d watched, horrorstruck, as stricken bombers careened out of control on the runway, flames engulfing the fuselage, and seen the charred and mangled bodies of men that he knew being removed from the wreckage.  Yes, Ralph knew that he and his crew were among the lucky.  It did nothing to change the fact, however, that he wanted to fight.


    He made up his mind that he was going to talk to Major Mikula when he returned, when he was interrupted by his Navigator, Monroe Gale. “Hey,” said Gale, sitting down. “Guess what I just heard?”


    “Hmmm,” said Ralph in mock thoughtfulness, waving his sandwich around. “Uh, let’s see -- Hitler and Goering got married and are living as goatherds in Bavaria?”


    “Hey, how’d you guess?” grinned Gale. “Nah, better than that.  I ran into the Major's clerk just now.  He said, and I quote ‘get lots of rest tonight, you're gonna need it tomorrow.’”


    It took a moment for the meaning of the clerk’s words to sink in with Ralph.  Then he said, “Is he sure?”


    Gale nodded. “He thinks it’s going to be a big one, looks like we’re throwing everything at the Krauts tomorrow.”


    Henderson smirked. “Even us, huh? Well, Monroe,” he said, “it looks like we’re back in the game!”