DEATH OF THE STINGER - (submitted by Eddie Githens, 399th Sqn)

 

    "Bandits, bandits, six high!!  Four or five of 'em!  Looks like 109s!" SSgt Acton called into the intercom.

 

    Abner swiveled his twin .50s in the tail up to meet the oncoming fighters.  Short bursts, Abbie, short bursts, he kept telling himself.  He squinted to see the small shapes rapidly resolve into single-engine fighters.  Some of the other gunners were able to engage a few half-hearted attempts by the Germans within the last few minutes, but this was the first time today, actually the first time ever, he could fire back at them.

 

    What if they're ours? he thought momentarily.  That question was answered when all four Me-109s opened up with machine gun and cannon fire on the formation.  Abner squeezed the triggers, squirting ten to fifteen round bursts at the lead aircraft.  He was vaguely aware of the other guns in the ship rattling their defensive fire.  He could clearly see the tracers from upwards of a dozen or more .50s from the squadron ascend into the Luftwaffe formation.  The responsive tracers seemed larger as they sought Abner's ship.

 

    A large crash reverberated through Abner's body as a cannon shell exploded in the rudder, mere inches above his head.  Another shattered the Plexiglas window directly in front of him, drastically reducing his vision in the 4 o'clock and 5 o'clock regions.  Abner continued to squeeze short bursts into the lead aircraft, seemingly only a dozen feet away.  Another crash whipped the handles of the gun from his hands and knocked him against the bulkhead and head cushion.

 

    What the? he thought as he righted himself and grasped the guns.  The handles would move but not with the smooth and wide range they did moments before; the guns themselves were frozen in a downward angle.

 

    "Tail to engineer, my guns are jammed.  Damaged, I think," he called to SSgt Acton.

 

    "Hang in there, Abbie," Eugene said, "I'll help ya out . . ."

 

    "Bombs away!" the bombardier interrupted.

 

    " . . . as soon as I can," finished Eugene.

 

    Abner felt the upward lurch of the ship as the bombs dropped away.

 

    He became aware of a whistling sound above him.  He looked up to see a fist-sized hole above and to the left of his head.  The aluminum was ripped inward, he noticed and followed the trajectory of the hole to a corresponding rip in the bulkhead behind him.  Whoa, that was close!

 

    "Another 109 at six o'clock!!" SSgt Acton yelled.

 

    Abner leaned forward to look through the damaged Plexiglas to see a German fighter no more than fifty feet away, seemingly flying in formation with them.  The propeller hub on the 109 flashed a bright orange-white flame.

 

    Abner felt the sensation of being slammed against the bulkhead.  A white hot sensation pulsated through his right arm, followed by coldness.  He reached to his right bicep with his left hand and felt, what did he feel?  He glanced down to his arm and was horrified to see a bloody stump where his elbow used to be.  Being right-handed, he instinctively tried to push himself up with the now missing arm.  This can't be happening, not now!  Not me!!

 

    He grabbed the gun handles with his left hand and pulled himself upright.  His body began to feel cold.  My suit heat must be out,  he thought as shock quickly set in.  He used his left hand to trace the  perfectly operational cord plugged in to his suit.  He suddenly realized he was tired.

 

    "Hey, wake me up when we get home," he called on the intercom.  He giggled slightly because he thought that sounded funny.  Maybe I should rephrase that, because that didn't convey the seriousness of my situation back here.

 

    He began to think of what to say on the intercom to let them know he needed help now.  But right then he realized he just didn't care.  Just let me rest until we get home.  Just a little sleep.  I wish that whistling would stop.  Sara, honey,  the teapot's goin'.  Get us both a mug would you, dear?  Could you throw a blanket over me and wake me when Johnny gets home from school?  Thank you, honey!  I love you!

 

    The whistling stopped.


FORREST GETS IT WRONG - (submitted by Neil Amoore, 317th Sqn)

 

    "He's an idiot."

 

    Jim Blackmore looked up to find the origin of the voice.  It had been bitter, full of resentment.  Harsh enough to be heard over the drone of the truck's engine as it drove the crew of the Silver Spoon to debriefing after the Turin trip.  The Spoon's bombardier knew who the 'idiot' was to which one of his crew was referring. Forrest, their pilot.

 

    The man was a stuck-up prig, and had few admirers and even fewer friends on the base.  He was pushy, arrogant, self-opinionated and acted superior.  The fact that he looked like Errol Flynn only added to the men's dislike of him.  Thank god he wasn't around to hear the comment.  The Jerries had put some steel into his chest and neck, and the 'mustachioed marvel' had been carted off in an ambulance. The wounds were superficial, and he'd be back on duty in a matter of hours Blackmore guessed. Forrest still thought he'd been accepted by his crew.  Fair enough, the man had made sure they got passes after Montague forgot to do it but that had nothing to do with loyalty or love of his men.  The men had seen it as grand-standing, nothing more.

 

    "Shut up, that man," Blackmore said through gritted teeth.  He wasn't in the mood for more bellyaching.  Al Williams had always borne the brunt of Forrest, and been the diplomat for the crew.  The co-pilot had been sent home without an arm a few missions ago, and Blackmore missed his friend at times like this.  The men looked to him to fill Williams' shoes, probably because of their close friendship.

 

    Truth was, though, that Forrest had shown rare courage - for him anyway - on a few missions now, not least of all today.  They'd been shot up pretty badly, but the bastard had brought them home safely.  Again.  It was doing the rounds on base that flying right-seat to Forrest was a death sentence (they were on their third co-pilot), but that he came home bloodied and all.  Blackmore glanced over at Bob Carpenter, the new right-seater, and noted a sickly pallor in the man's expression. Flak, fighters and blood all on your first mission - not the nicest way to start your tour.

 

    The truck lurched to a halt outside the Ops building, and Blackmore jumped wearily to the ground.  He noticed Bob Martin, the bombardier on Flak Trap in the 316th BS, was back safely.  He smiled wearily, waved and mimed having a drink. He liked Bob, and hoped they'd be able to have a beer after de-briefing. Perhaps even a couple more if their passes came through.

 

    He missed Williams more and more, he realized.  Sighing, he sat down to review the mission and the strike on target.


"SO, THIS IS CORSICA" - (submitted by Lee Van Camp, 399th Sqn)

 

    "So, this is Corsica . . . nice place you got here," Lt. Oswald told the head of ground crew that met Sky Rat after they landed.  "You know, you could do with a larger runway . . ."

 

    "You could do with a smaller plane, if you plan on landing here very often, Lieutenant," the smiling ground chief replied.  "What gives anyway?  We've heard you guys fly past here for months, and never saw you, and suddenly two of you guys drop outta the sky here in a half an hour?" 

 

    "We took a pounding today . . . we barely made it here, let alone all the way back to the south.  I don't suppose you guys have a few new engines just sitting around, do ya?"

 

    "Nothing that will fit that thing, you boys are going to be here a while, between this storm blowing in and the damage to your bird, you boys better plan on staying at least 4 days . . . c'mon I'll show you around."


DOUBTS - (submitted by Daniel King, 316th Sqn)

 

    Andrew Whitaker needed some advice.  He respected Captain Tanner's opinion, and not just because he was the squadron CO. Whitaker knocked on the CO's door. "Enter," came the reply.

 

    "Sir, do you have a moment to talk?" asked Whitaker.

 

    "Certainly, have a seat." Tanner motioned to an empty chair near his desk. "I heard about Chavez.  A tough situation but in my opinion, you made the right choice."

 

    The Special Delivery had taken a flak hit over Turin.  The suit heater for Chavez, the ball turret gunner, was knocked out. Whitaker decided to stay with the formation after the bomb run and all the way home.  When they landed, Chavez was diagnosed with serious frostbite damage to his right foot.  The war was over for him.  Whitaker could have diverted to Corsica, but doing so may have left the Special Delivery unavailable for the next mission.  And there was no guarantee that Chavez would not have been so seriously injured, even if they landed in Corsica.

 

    "Thanks, Captain.  I appreciate it." replied Whitaker. "Captain, I need some advice.  It's about Pappas.  You know how Jorgenson, our navigator, bled to death from an abdomen wound on our first mission.  It was a pretty bad situation.  Well, ever since then, Pappas hasn't been the same.  He hasn't been eating much, and he's been keeping to himself a lot more than usual.  My co-pilot, Boudreaux, says that he has noticed that Pappas has not been sleeping much either.  So I was wondering if maybe you could assign Pappas to some control tower duty for a while and let him wind down a little bit.  In the meantime, I would like for 2nd Lt. Kuporatz to fly the next two missions with us.  I understand that he's already flown two missions, and I would like to have someone with a little experience.  I don't want to force Pappas out, but we've had two runs and two complete misses.  I need to see if a different bombardier might make a difference. I can't justify risking the lives of my crew mission after mission with a bombardier that can't hit the target."

 

    "If that is how you want to handle it, I'll reassign Pappas temporarily." Tanner replied.

 

    "Thanks Captain. Well, I need to be going. I want to sit down and have a talk with Pappas."

 

    As Whitaker closed the door, Captain Tanner just smiled to himself.  Although he had come to Tanner for advice, Whitaker had done all of the talking.  Tanner had spoken only few words.  But then again, sometimes being a good CO meant knowing when to be quiet and let your men work things out for themselves.


A LETTER TO HIS WIFE - (submitted by Bob Hamel, 316th Sqn)

 

Griff starts to write a letter to his wife Sarah just before retiring for the night after the Turin mission . . .

 

Replacements . . . What does it feel like to be a "replacement" on a B-17 crew?  You walk into a group that has served together for at least 8 missions.  You're filling in for a guy that DIED or were sent home with SERIOUS wounds.

 

Some of the fellows will feel resentful that you are filling their buddie's position.  Others will have a hard time trusting you until you "prove" yourself in combat.  That's when it hits you . . . do you have what it takes to actually touch the equipment of a "dead" guy? . . . and are you next?  Heck, Spangler didn't even make it through two missions before dying of wounds in the same position that Haper died a mission before that.

 

Three guys in one mission, must've tied the record in the squad.  Lt. Coleridge's plane got 3 on mission.  Well, should I have a talk to the crew about takin' it easy on the new guys?  Should I talk to the new guys and tell them on the one hand take it easy on the "old" guys as they just lost their buddies and need a little time to get to know you - or should I tell them to not be too scared and just do their job while learning to mesh with the crew?

 

Perhaps I should just take them all out for beers? . . . I'm not think'n straight right now . . . too many ghosts and too many letters home that start: Dear Mrs. . . . I regret to inform you that . . .

 

Too tired . . . maybe I'll be better to tackle this in the morning.  If the weather is socked in, perhaps we will have a day or two to try to jell and get us going as a crew . . .

 

I love you and think about you ever day.  Give Amy a kiss for me.
Griff


A LETTER TO THE REAL RUSSIAN LADY - (submitted by Jeff O'Handley, 318th Sqn)

 

Dearest Marina,

 

<<mushy stuff edited>>

 

Well, we flew another mission today.  Can't say where to, except that it took us <<deleted by censors>>.  It was pretty easy for us, though some of the guys in the group got shot up a bit.  We had one moment that was a little scary, though.  D.C.'s heat got knocked out on our bomb run. On the way home he was getting pretty cold, and I decided to take us out of the formation to lower altitude rather than risk him losing a limb to frostbite (I know I've told you it gets pretty cold up there). I felt that we had enough cover from our fighters to deal with the Germans, plus I could better maneuver the plane to avoid Germans if need be. Well, we made it back to base without a problem.  After the flight, though, Vinny and I argued about whether we should have stayed in formation or not.  Vinny was adamant that we should have stayed in formation, and says that I put the rest of the crew at risk to protect one man (D.C. said I should have stayed in formation, too).

 

I know that he's right, really, but I couldn't explain to him how I feel.  Whenever we go up, I've got 9 other guys relying on me.  It's my responsibility to get them home safely so that maybe they can get home home in one piece.  I've already seen two of my friends buried in Italy, and one sent home with a serious injury (Freddy was shipped to a different hospital today, he'll be stateside in a couple of weeks).  I know Vinny feels bad about them, but he doesn't really know how much the responsibility can weigh on you, and I can't seem to be able to explain it so that he can understand.  Maybe someday he'll have his own plane, and then he'll know.

 

Well, enough of this stuff, on to more pleasant things <<more mushy stuff deleted>>

 

I can't wait to see you again, love always,

 

Frank


PEOPLE ARE TALKIN' - (submitted by Jeff O'Handley, 318th Sqn)

 

A whispered conversation somewhere on base:

 

    "Psst! Hey! Who's that?"

 

    "Who?"

 

    "Don't point!  That guy, over there, the Captain."

 

    "Oh, that's Captain Amoore.  He's been around a little bit."

 

    "Yeah?  He's the guy that's taking over for Forrest, right?  That stuck-up College Boy with the 317th."

 

    "He's taking over for Forrest? Guess Montague finally had enough of him, huh?"

 

    "Yeah, guess so, Forrest was always giving him a hard time.  But what's up with Montague, huh?  He's aborted on the runway twice now."

 

    "What's up? You tell me, you seem to be the answer man."

 

    "I don't know nothing. I just hear he spends a lot of time in the O-club, if you know what I mean."

 

    "Yeah? Are you saying he's too boozed up to fly?"

 

    "I told ya, I don't know nothin'! I just wonder how long the Colonel's gonna put up with it."


PEOPLE ARE TALKIN', part 2 - (submitted by Paul Scheepers, 317th Sqn)

 

    Donald Tonkin rushed to his sleeping quarters nearly knocking over a hapless admin corporal in his haste ... he burst through the door startling Flynn out of his reverie!

 

    "Guess what's just happened!" Tonkin demanded breathlessly.

 

    "You have found something you LIKE about the army?" responded Flynn a  little morosely.

 

    "NO, it’s Forrest!  Looks like he is being replaced!"

 

    "What?" responded Flynn, "where did you hear that?"

 

    "Just heard from some other guys that a Captain Amoore and Montague were seen leaving the colonel's office."

 

    "Aw heck, Donald, that can mean just about anything!"

 

    "NO, I'm telling you something is up! Captain Amoore was seen talking to Montague's admin sergeant!"

 

    "Well, just don't get steamed up about some rumors!  If anyone is being replaced the colonel or CO will call the entire squadron together and make an official announcement.  Besides shouldn't Forrest be in line for Captain?"

 

    "What, that stuck up SOB!  Nah!  The men don't like him!  You know what he is like!  Don't think the old man would ever put him in charge of anything!"

 

    "Well, lets wait and see," smiled Flynn.


PEOPLE ARE TALKIN', part 3 - (submitted by Paul O'Connor, 317th Sqn)

 

Chris Ulm rushes into the Darkwatch sleeping quarters.

 

    “Hey, Skipper, did you hear -- ?”

 

    “Yeah, I heard,” O’Connor growls. “Forrest is getting sacked.”

 

    “So it’s true?” Ulm says.

 

    “Sure,” O’Connor replies. “And Betty Grable is our new navigator.  Now shut your flap and let a guy sleep.”


NEW MAN IN TOWN- (submitted by Neil Amoore, 317th Sqn)

 

    "Captain Amoore here to see Colonel Lamb."

 

    "Yessir, go on in the Colonel is expecting you."

 

    It wasn't the most imposing office Amoore had ever been in his life, but it was filled with the detritus of running a bomber base. Paper, files, one or two mementoes and the impressive figure of Colonel Lamb.  Snapping a salute, Amoore waited for the Colonel to address him.  Looking up from the paper-work in front of him, Lamb gave Amoore a long, hard look.  "Welcome to the 88th Captain, hope you're settling in and getting to know everyone," Lamb said finally.

 

    "Yes sir, thank you.  Corporal O'Brian filled me in. I've run through the personnel records and want to run some of the promotions by you first.  I don't know the men that well, but there seem to be some good officers in the 317th."

 

    "It's a good outfit, Amoore, but there've been a few problems recently.  I'm looking to you to get them sorted out.  Captain Montague give you the low-down yet?" Lamb enquired.

 

    "Not yet, sir.  He's been busy packing and sorting last minute problems out.  I'm meeting with the senior crew in 30 minutes to discuss who I want as flight leaders.  I've also asked for all ranks to meet me in the briefing room in 2 hours to go through a few things."

 

    "In the interim, I'd like to suggest we promote the guys on this list to 1st Lieutenant.  We need a core of motivated officers in the 317th, and these may be the men to do it," Amoore added, handing Lamb the sheet with the names on it.

 

    "Mmmm, I'll go through it and pass it on," Lamb said.  There were 10 names on the list, written in crisp, tight handwriting. Ulm, Blackmore, Butler, Spratt, Baty, Swanson, Uyeda, Muraki, Yablowski and Pratt were on it.

 

    "If that's all, sir, I'll be getting back to the men."

 

    "Dismissed, and good luck Amoore," Lamb said, returning to reading the list.  As Amoore reached the door, Lamb broke in. "One last thing," he quipped, a smile belying the serious expression on his face. "Have you met up with Lieutenant Forrest yet?"

 

    "Not yet, sir, but I'm sure he'll be keen to hear what the changes are going to be around here," Amoore replied.

 

    "I wouldn't bet on that, Amoore, I wouldn't bet on that," Lamb grinned.  "Dismissed."


317th SENIOR CREW MEETING - (submitted by Neil Amoore, 317th Sqn)

 

    He knew he'd have to make a good first impression.  These were no rookies, there wouldn't be any room for parade ground bullsh*t or flag-waving.  Scrambled eggs were worth more than apple pie to these guys, because that way they knew they were still alive and kicking.

 

    Amoore paused outside the 317th's ready-room.  It had been a hectic last 48 hours, what with packing up his belongings in the 99th BG "down the road", saying good bye to his crew there and trying to make sense of what was happening here.

 

    Corporal O'Brian had tried his best, but there were still too many holes and unanswered questions for his liking.  The current CO, Captain Montague, had breezed in and out of a meeting they'd had with Colonel Lamb, the reasons for his departure still a mystery. He'd heard the rumors, but refused to believe anything.  His job a simple, and potentially very short one.  Get the 317th back on track, and hope he was still alive when Montague returned; if he returned.

 

    Opening the door, Amoore was struck instantly by the warmth of human bodies packed close together.  He'd asked for the pilots and old hands to meet him here.  He needed to appoint his flight leaders and gauge morale amongst his key players.
 

    "Ten-hut!" a voice boomed.  There was a scraping of chairs and a delayed response to the order that was at odds with its urgency.  Not a good start.  "At ease men, sit your asses back down and listen up," Amoore said, motioning the men to sit. "Smokers light up, the rest try not choke on the fumes.  Thanks for coming, much appreciated," he quipped, an old soldier's joke.  Like they had any choice.

 

    "Let's cut the crap and get down to brass tacks, okay?" the gruffness in his voice surprising some.  Particularly a tall, lean figure in the back.  That had to be Forrest.  Looks like a pain in the ass, Amoore thought.  "You guys are a good unit from what I hear, but there've been a few problems lately.  Group wanted the best man around to try sort it out.  Instead, they got me."  A few laughs, mostly uncertain.  "Things change from today.  I've put some of your men through for promotion, and some of you here today will get your twin bars too.  I want, and expect total commitment from you.  In return, I will back you up no matter what.  Cross me, and you might as well bail out over Kraut-land!" he said.

 

    "I don't expect you to trust a complete stranger, though, so this is who I am.  I joined the RAF in '40, but didn't make the grade for the Eagle squadron boys, so I did 16 trips with Bomber Command instead. At night."  A mixed reaction to that statement, but better than what was coming. "I've also done 5 ops with the 99th," he said, smiling at the expected cat-calls and guffaws.

 

    "I thought you said you KNEW what war was about, skipper" someone chimed in.  There was no love lost between the two Groups.  Most of the 88th thought the 99th were goldbrickers, poor formation flyers and big mouths.  The 99th boys didn't much care for the apparent arrogance of the 88th crews.  For a while none of that would matter.  The 317th had to come first in everyone's minds.

 

    "I guess I'll leave it up to you guys to show me then!" he added.  "There are going to be a few rules around here, though.  Firstly, there will be a compulsory poker night and get-together in the OC mess once a week.  I'm looking for volunteers for the posts of Entertainment Officer, Procurement Officer and Herald.  The EO will arrange all parties and get-togethers, run the bar accounts and
make sure we have Grade-A women when on pass.  Our PO will scrounge, steal, bribe and liberate anything that will add to our general comfort around here.  The Herald will make sure every goddamn man on this base knows what a fine unit we are.  Applicants speak to me afterwards," he said.
 

    "Alright, lets' get back to your crews and ground crews and get them into the briefing room in 90 minutes.  Thanks, gentlemen."
As the motley mass moved towards the door, Amoore called to Lieutenants Yoshikawa, Moody and O'Connor to stay behind.  Forrest looked pissed that he wasn't included.  He had a special job lined up for him.  Calling them closer and motioning them to sit, Amoore sat on the table and looked at them before speaking.  "Gentlemen, I'm looking to you to get this unit back on track.  Now I know that any shit that rolls downhill from Group will hit me first, but you guys are there to make sure that doesn't affect the 317th."
 

    "In order for me to do the job they've given me, I'm going to need the right men.  You're it.  You've got the records, taken the hits. Now you need the clout.  As a result, I've put you all in for immediate promotion to Captain.  The Colonel will decide if he agrees with me, so don't go out spending cash you don't have yet!"
 

    "I don't know enough about your flying skills yet, so flight leaders will be rotated until further notice.  I'm leading the Group tomorrow, and Mark, you'll lead B Flight."

 

    "That will be all gentlemen."


MEETING THE 317th - (submitted by Neil Amoore, 317th Sqn)

 

    "At ease, gentlemen," Amoore shouted, striding to the front of the room.  Assembled in front of him was the combined strength of the 317th.  Air-crew, ground crew, orderlies, clerks and everyone else it took to keep this unit in the air.  The packed mass of army issue flotsam and jetsam settled noisily into a half-hearted at-ease position.

 

    "Maybe I haven't made myself clear," Amoore said. "At ease means scratch your balls, spit and sit down if you want.  We don't stand on unnecessary ceremony here.  This is a fighting unit, not a parade ground drill formation."  A mixture of laughs, groans and silence.

 

    "As of today, we are going to turn the 317th into the best damned unit in Italy.  Ground-crew, air-crew and admin staff are going to have to pull together to do that."


    "We're going to do a couple things to make sure that happens.  Firstly, I want to see that being in the 317th means something to all of you.  Tomorrow I want a list of names of personnel who have played any form of competitive sport before joining this lovely army air force."

 

    "We're going to beat the pants off of the 316th, 318th and 399th at everything from bomb strikes, efficiency reports, hangovers, getting laid, football, baseball, eating, peeing and any damned thing else you can think of!"

 

    "Get an early night, aircrew, we're up tomorrow.  The rest of you, let's get to work!  Dismissed."


WHAT'S IN A NAME? - (submitted by Jeff O'Handley, 318th Sqn)

 

    The good thing about the bad weather after the Turin mission, as far as The Russian Lady was concerned, was that it gave the men time to get to know Sergeant Hoogesteger.  They knew from his performance on the mission that he was a very capable flight engineer.  Now, they were getting to know him better, and they liked him right away.  When he told them that he had been a short order cook and hoped to open a restaurant someday, Vinny had decided to call him Chef.  Now, Fratelli was explaining the purpose of the nicknames, since there hadn't been time before the Turin mission.

 

    "Right," said Fratelli. "Up in the air, every second is critical.  The nicknames help us save time.  For example," he continued, "say you need to tell 'Tex' over here that there's a Kraut coming in from 3 o'clock low.  What are you going to say?  'Sergeant Richardson, bandit at 3 o'clock low'?  Of course not!  By the time you get a mouthful like that out, the Kraut is gone and Frank is hitting the 'bail out' alarm!  Instead, you use the nickname.  Especially with a name like yours."

 

    "I get it," said Hoogesteger. "Makes sense.  So who is everybody again?"

 

    "Well," said Fratelli, "first up in the nose is Lieutenant Vachon over here.  He grew up in the woods of Maine in all the logging camps and stuff.  In fact," he added, "he could probably give you a few recipes for skunk or something like that when you open up your restaurant after the war!"

 

    "Nah," said Vachon. "Nobody eat skunk unless you starvin'!"

 

    "Anyway," said Vinny, "we call him 'Trapper.' Next up is --"

 

    "Wait, wait, wait!" interrupted Hoogesteger. "I thought you said the nicknames were supposed to be shorter! How is 'Trapper' shorter than Vachon? They're the same length!"

 

    "No," insisted Vinny. "Trapper IS shorter!" Listen: Vaaaa-shonnn. Trapper. See?"

 

    "If you say so," said Hoogesteger doubtfully.

 

    Fratelli continued explaining the names: 'George' Hawkins ("I started out calling him 'Washington' D.C. Hawkins, but that was too long."), and 'Tex' Richardson.  When he got to 'Spanky' Lynch, Hoogesteger interrupted again: "Hold it, Hold it! No way you can tell me that 'Spanky' is shorter than Lynch!"

 

    "Yeah, but look at him!" grinned Fratelli. "Besides, everyone else calls their radioman 'Sparky'; this is just a little different."

 

    Hoogesteger looked around at his new crewmates.  They were all grinning at the exchange (with the exception of Burrows, who was inspecting his fingernails). "I can see I can't win this one," he said finally.

 

    "Nope, you can't." said Vinny, "I outrank you.  Now in the waist you've got Bert 'Preacher' Seaton -- I know, I know," he said, holding up a hand to stop the interruption that he knew was coming, "too long.  I'm going to change it, but I don't know what to change it to yet.  Then we've got 'Owl' Taylor in the tail."

 

    "What about Jimmy?" asked Hoogesteger, indicating Sergeant Burrows, who had looked up slightly from his fingernails. "What are you calling him?"

 

    Fratelli had been hoping that Burrows was going to be off the crew; he didn't like him.  Instead, he glanced at Andrews.  Andrews gave a slight nod of his head.  Fratelli looked back at Burrows. "Tarzan," he said.

 

    There were snorts of laughter around the table. "Why Tarzan?" asked Lynch.

 

    "Because he doesn't talk, he just grunts!" replied Vinny.

 

    Burrows stared back, then cracked just a hint of a smile. "Mmmf!" he said, drawing more laughter.

 

    When the laughter had died down, Hoogesteger asked, "Okay, what do they call you two?"

 

    Frank chuckled. "You'll have to ask them when I'm not here," he said.

 

    "I call him 'Dice'" said Fratelli. "Don't get into a craps game with him, you'll go home broke."

 

    "What about you?"

 

    "I don't have a nickname," said Fratelli, "no one talks to the co-pilot!"


MILTON IS SENT ON AN ERRAND - (submitted by Neil Amoore, 317th Sqn)

 

    "Corporal O'Brian, send for Lieutenant Forrest.  Tell him to be here in five minutes.  Sharp!"

 

    "Yes, sir, Captain," O'Brian replied hurrying out of the 317th's admin office.  The new CO had kept him busy these past few days with thousands of questions, poring over paper-work and wanting to know who did what, where, when and how.  Now, finally, it was Forrest's turn.  The stocky O'Brian didn't relish the idea of speaking to Forrest.  No-one liked him, and he was more obnoxious than ever when told to do something by someone he considered his inferior.  O'Brian found the lanky Forrest, still scowling after being passed up for promotion to Captain, hurriedly issued Captain Amoore's 'invitation' and scurried back to his office.

 

    Forrest sauntered in 20 minutes later.  Typical, thought O'Brian, he won't give anyone the satisfaction.  O'Brian had witnessed first hand the feud between Forrest and Captain Montague, and felt that it had gone some way to contributing to the Irishman's drinking problem.  Forrest knocked and strolled into Amoore's office.

 

    "Don't you salute senior officers Lieutenant?" Amoore demanded, noticing the insolent attitude Forrest had adopted.  As if to cock a snoot at the new acting CO, Forrest snapped smartly to attention and saluted.

 

    "Good, you learn quickly . . . For a college boy.  Get your flight gear and head over to HQ, the Colonel wants you to run a little errand for him.  There's a shiny new G at Foggia that needs collecting, and your sorry ass is the one chosen to fill the pilot's seat on the way back up here.  Get going, and don't let me see you trying to wheedle your way out of anything.  Dismissed."  Amoore returned to the paper-work on his desk.  "Oh, and the Mess Officer wants a word with you about unpaid bar bills.  An officer meets ALL of his obligations, Lieutenant, so go sort it out will you?"


A BAD FEELING ABOUT THIS - (submitted by Mark Yoshikawa, 317th Sqn)

 

In the mess hall before the raid on Piraeus.

 

    "I have a bad feeling about this mission."  SSgt. Mukai grumbled as he ate at breakfast.  "With the CO on a pickup, a maximum effort run, and Captain Amoore as temporary leader, I don't like the way things are shaping up."

 

    "You're always complaining about something there," 2nd Lt. Uyeda replied, "After all you have been on nine missions so far and haven't even got a scratch yet.  Besides, at least we aren't 'Tail-end Charlie'! Wouldn't want to be in that position on this raid."

 

    "Don't jinx the mission there, Mukai!"  Sgt. Shintani mumbled back, "if you keep on saying things like that, it will come true."

 

    "Just do your mission there, guys . . . If you keep on talking that way, all you will do is work yourself up for nothing."  Captain Yoshikawa  tried to reassure the crew as he sipped a cup of his Java.

 

    Little did anyone know that SSgt. Mukai's premonitions were more then just a feeling.


From the diary of Lt. Yoshikawa after the Padua Mission - (submitted by Mark Yoshikawa, 317th Sqn)
 

December 31, 1943

 

Here it is almost New Year's and I lost all track of what the date is.  The last entry that is dated for the 30th is actually the 31st! 
Just that I have been so busy that I haven't had time to do anything else but eat, sleep, and try to get out plane out to the target and back.  We have done four missions in six days.  If we keep this pace up, we should be able to get our 50 missions in by the end of winter.  I just hope that we are still around since it seems that every mission someone finds a bullet that sends them home.  At least I am not like some of the other pilots in our group.  They have already had to send out several letters to parents of crewmen that have been KIA.  Guess I should count my blessing that after I get done writing this I will be writing my first letter for someone in my command that is KIA.  Haven't figured out yet what to say, hope the letter doesn't come out corny or too maudlin.  I think his parents deserve more than that.

 

I think the crew is taking the loss of Richard pretty good.  After all we have already been through 7 missions and I think the crew has accepted the fact that not all of us will come back.  At least our luck is holding better then some of the crews.  I think one of them already has replaced almost everyone from the original crew that came from stateside.  And at least we haven't been on a funeral glide; there were two planes that did that on the last mission.  Seems that there has been at least one hole in our formation when we get back to base.

 

The last three missions after the one that we had to abort we haven't been able to hit the broadside of a barn.  I hope that we are able to start doing better.  After all the last thing our crew needs is the old man to come around and ask questions as to what we are doing up there.  But between trying to keep the fighters from hitting our plane, and the flack, that comes up from the target.  It's amazing that we would be able to hit anything!  And with trying to break in a new bombardier, I think it's going to take awhile before we are able to get back into sync again.

 

After the last mission yesterday, the old man heard from the weather people that we will be getting inclement weather for the next week.  So everyone will be granted a three day pass for the next week.  After what has happened the last few missions I think it's something that came just in time.  I think a few of the people around here are getting a little bit flight happy and are just short of being committed to the loony bin.

 

I don't think the group commander feels convertible with us yet.  I sent him a letter requesting leave for everyone (as in ground crew) since there was only minor damage from the last raid.  His reply back seemed a little bit like someone with a napoleon complex.  Why bother me with something so trivial when there are more important things to worry about.  As in if he knows what's important!!!

 

The scuttlebutt is that the next mission after this rest period is going to be a junior prom.  That everyone will be committed to this
raid and no one will be able to miss it.  Since it's going to be big to do, I don't think it's going to be another Casey Jones mission.  I think the crew was starting to get a little bit worried that all of our missions are going to that.


LT. YOSHIKAWA WRITES A LETTER TO A NEXT-OF-KIN - (submitted by Mark Yoshikawa, 317th Sqn)

 

January 1, 1944

 

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Osa,

 

I now that by now you have received a telegram from the Army about your son's death.  He was the bombardier on the plane that I command.  I hope you can take comfort in that your son was able to make sure that we were able to get the job done right. 

 

Being in camp is a hardship that you shouldn't have to be subjected to.  But I know that you are like everyone else and keeping in mind the phrase, "Shi gata nai" (it can't be helped).  Dick made friends with everybody that was on the plane and wasn't afraid to help out anyone that needed it.  He had a sharp wit about him and was able to see humor in any situation that he got himself into.

 

Rest assured that your son did his duty and everyone from the men in the plane to the ground crew respected his ability to stay cool under fire and be able to drop our bomb load on target.  He took his job seriously and sought to improve his skill after every mission.

 

Because of his trait of being "cool" under fire, he was a sharp poker play and was able to clean house every time there was a game.  In fact, it wasn't unusual for Dick to take most of my monthly pay on a regular basis.  I was never able to reach my goal; that is to be able to break even with him at the table.

 

I hope this letter will help ease the pain of losing your son.  Hopefully this conflict will end soon so we will be able to get back
to a normal life.

 

Regards,

 

1st Lt. Mark Yoshikawa
Pilot, Go For Broke
January 1, 1944