OMENS - (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 his crew as he took sip from his cup of Java.

 

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


ARE YOU SCARED TOO? - (submitted by Magnus Kimura, 399th Sqn)

 

    Captain Kingsley and Lieutenants Siegel, Duncan and Shannon walked from the briefing hut out to the crew of Princess Lilikoi who are now waiting in the jeep outside.  The Radio Operator, Technical Sergeant Elliot Albright, puts away his harmonica and pulls at Sergeant Beaubien’s sleeve. Start the jeep, Sid, they’re coming from briefing now.”

 

    Sergeant Sidney Beaubien starts the jeep and the four officers join the rest of the men.  Ball Turret Gunner, Mike Peters, wakes up from his slumber by the sound of the engine and yawns and stretches his arms high in the air.  Second Lieutenant Wright grabs his left hand and pulls at his fingers. Good morning, Mike, are you awake now?” Wright asks with a laugh.

 

    Of course, Lieutenant,” Sergeant Peters answers.

 

    Captain Kingsley straps on his parachute harness. Good. I hope that you are all awake today.  As you already know, we’re going back to Greece.  We’ll be leading the squadron today, since Captain Fell and his crew was shot down over Turin, as you know too well.”  A silent moment and everyone is brought back to that brief moment in time that seemed an eternity over Turin when Fell to Earth disintegrated right in front of Princess Lilikoi.  Faces and names flash by, but when Captain Kingsley speaks again the names and faces disappears into the mist and the men are again in the present time, in the jeep on the way to their ship, Princess Lilikoi, on the hard stand on Sterparone Field outside of Foggia.  “We have Oswald and Mershon as wingmen.  Good crews so we have a good lead element.  I have no doubt that we’ll bring the squadron to Piraeus and back again.  Di Agostino and Landers from 318th are flying with us in the third flight with a replacement for Fell as the flight leader.”

 

    Man, rookies covering our ass?” Sergeant Beaubien snorts quietly to himself.

 

    Sergeant Roberts?” the captain continues

 

    Yes, sir?” the nervous new tail gunner replies.

 

    We’ll be leading the squadron.  Keep your eyes open for fighters and let me know how the squadron is flying. Y ou are my eyes in the tail.  Do you think you can do this?  If not, I’ll replace you with a more experienced gunner this mission.  You gotta let me know right now.  It’ll be too late when we’re up there.”

 

    Yes, sir, I can do it.”

 

    Good.  Are you nervous?”

 

    Yes, sir, I am.”

 

    Are you scared too?”


SOME FRIENDLY ADVICE - (submitted by Jeff O'Handley, 318th Sqn)

 

    Frank Andrews spotted Lieutenant Whitaker of Special Delivery as they left the briefing room on the morning of January 8th.  "Go on ahead, Vinny," Andrews said to his copilot. "I'll catch up with you in a second."

 

    He made his way over to Whitaker.  "Lieutenant Whitaker?"

 

    Whitaker looked up. "Yes, Sir?" he asked, snapping off a hurried salute.  Frank grinned inside.  He's been a captain for a few days,
and still got surprised when men he'd been equal to in rank called  him 'sir' and saluted.  He returned the salute awkwardly and said "Call me Frank, please."

 

    "I just wanted to say," he continued, "I know you guys aren't exactly green anymore, so don't take this the wrong way. 'Tail-end
Charlie' can be rough.  Just stick as close to formation as you can.  We'll do our best to help you out.  Good luck up there."

 

    "Thanks, sir--uh, Frank," replied Whitaker.  Andrews gave him a wave and went off to catch up to Fratelli.


JUST BEFORE GOING UP OUTSIDE OF THE LUCKY PENNY - (submitted by Bob Hamel, 316th Sqn)

 

    "So, Lieutenant Johnson, should w'all throw the 'Cap'en a pardy?'", Rob Allison drawled.  "Figur'ed you knoded him the best . . ."

 

    Felix paused, then said, "Knowing the Captain as I do, I think a party for both him and Hamilton would be more in order...Captain
is kind of shy about being singled out, and I think he would like it much more if all crew were involved . . . Especially after that wound that Eddie got, and the 'other thing' . . ."

 

    "Ya'll mean the two dead guys? . . . Heck, didn't even get to knoded that Spangle guy, . . ." sputtered Allison.

 

    "Spangler damn-it!  His name was Alex Spangler . . . let's have a little bit of respect for the dead there, airman!"

 

    "YES, SIRE!" snapped Allison.

 

    "Anyway, we can arrange for a short celebration in the mess when we get back . . . As you were crewman."

 

    Allison mumbles under his breath, "Ya'll mean IF we get back....Sirrrrrrrre."


JUST BEFORE TAKE-OFF ON LUCKY PENNY - (submitted by Bob Hamel, 316th Sqn)

 

    Skip Jenkins strapped himself into his take-off position.  Being the smallest guy in the crew, he often took a lot of ribbing.  Now, however, as the engines started to turn over, he broke into a cold sweat.  "You know", he muttered to himself, "I'm the only one of this crew that has not been wounded or killed."

 

    "What you mumbling down over there, Skippy?", yelled Mike Dewes over the sound of the #2 engine starting.

 

    "Nothing", Skip yelled back, "just trying to get these straps not to pinch so much."  Now whispering quietly to himself, ". . . at least not too much to jinx me."


LAST MINUTE PEP TALK - (submitted by Jeff O'Handley, 318th Sqn)

 

    The crew of the Russian Lady gathered by the side of their plane just before takeoff.  Andrews surveyed the crew.  Amazing, he thought, we've only been here three weeks, but if feels much longer than that.  He thought for a moment about the nine faces that had looked back at him three weeks ago, before their first combat mission to this same target.  Aside from the obvious changes (three men gone), the faces looked less nervous, and older.

 

    "Okay," he said, "we're in an unusual position today.  We're the only bird from the 318th flying in the mixed formation with the 316th today. Let's be sharp up there, and show them that the 318th is the best squadron in the group!"

 

    There were some nods, and a few murmured "All rights."

 

    "One more thing," Frank continued. "Special Delivery is flying tail-Charlie.  We're right in front of them.  Keep a special eye out for them," he looked directly at Taylor. "Especially you, Owl.  It's only their third mission, but their first at the tail-end.  They've got our backs, let's help them cover theirs.  Let's go!"


FINAL WORD - (submitted by Neil Amoore, 317th Sqn)

 

    The final words of Major Payne had barely rung through the rapidly emptying briefing hall, when Captain Amoore called for his pilots to meet him outside.  This was normally an important time for the men and their crews, but he felt he needed to say something.


    "Okay, boys, we do this by the numbers.  We keep a tight formation, and our eyes peeled.  Keep those wing-tips slotted in neatly, and look after each other.  The eyes of the entire Group are going to be on us, so lets give them something to talk about!" he said.  "Mark, you know what to do if I fall out.  The rest of you guys just get home safely.  Do that and the drinks in the OC tonight are on me!"

 

    So saying, he watched them make their various ways to their waiting crews.  He'd only been with the squadron a few days, but he already felt a certain kinship with them.  Yoshikawa and Moody seemed solid, unlikely to waste words or emotion when the same efficiency could be achieved with a minimum of fuss. They were watchful, guys who didn't just give respect you had to earn it.

 

    Flynn, by contrast, was a dasher. Outgoing, good-looking and debonair he exuded confidence and charm.  Amoore knew he'd been slightly disappointed to not get his captain's bars, but right now he needed dependable men in those positions.  Flynn was relatively new at this, and his time may well come.

 

    Amoore joined his new crew on the jeep.  They were still wary of him, although the two practice flights they'd been on had gone well.  He had a lot of damage to undo having taken over from Forrest.  The men seemed to see the bombardier, Jim 'Black Jack' Blackmore, as their chosen leader.  He'd taken a liking to the quiet-spoken bombardier, but would have to work at getting their trust.  Nothing like a mission to do that, though.  He knew from talk that the Group had taken a pounding the last time they went to Piraeus, with his new crew and Mark Yoshikawa's limping home alone.  Not good memories for anyone then.  He'd flown the same mission that day with the 99th and he had to abort with a holed fuel tank, so he knew it was a tough nut.

 

    "Lets roll," he said to the driver.  Today was make or break for him.  With those thoughts, the jeep jolted him back in his seat and they rolled to Silver Spoon's hard-stand.


ON SECOND THOUGHTS - (submitted by Jeff O'Handley, 318th Sqn)

 

    . . . maybe I should have aborted when Vachon got his ticket punched, thought Frank Andrews.

 

    A dead bombardier and an incapacitated navigator are valid reasons for aborting the mission, but the Russian Lady had been about 65 miles away from the target at this point.  Frank had gritted his teeth and decided to stay with the formation and at least attempt to get the bombs on target, with waist gunner Seaton sitting in Vachon's seat.  Now, as they were leaving the target zone, they were beset by wolves, or Wulfes, as it were.

 

    Suddenly, Frank hears a crash and feels a searing pain in his head.  He struggles to maintain control of the plain while his vision
darkens from the outside in, and he can feel blood streaming down the side of his face.  He looks to Vinny Fratelli, and knows
immediately that there will be no help coming from his friend: the front of the co-pilot's flight suit is turning black, and Fratelli's
eyes have the look of a vacant building.  "Hoogesteger!" Frank croaks weakly into the interphone, "Get down here!" Somehow, Frank manages to maintain consciousness long enough to turn over the controls to his new flight engineer.  He hopes he can fly as good as he cooks . . .


PREPARING TO DITCH

 

    "We have about 20 minutes of fuel left, Captain," SSgt. Calvin Miller, the flight engineer, announced.

 

    "Thanks, Cal."  Captain Daniel Tanner activates his intercom mike button, "Pilot to Radio.  Give me squadron channel, Joe."

 

    "Radio to Pilot.  Go ahead, Captain."

 

    "Joker Leader to all Jokers . . . Joker Leader to all Jokers . . . Almost out of fuel . . . Ditching . . . Joker Four, you're now squadron lead . . . bring the squadron home . . . See you, guys, later . . . Joker Leader, over and out."

 

    The Full House performs a left bank turn and descends to lower altitudes, as the other bombers continues on their way back to Italy.

 

    "Pilot to crew, prepare for crash landing."

 

    One-by-one, each crew member acknowledges the warning.  "Bombardier, okay.", "Navigator, okay.", "Top Turret, okay.", "Radio, okay.", "Ball Gunner, okay.", "Left waist, okay.", "Right waist, okay.", "Tail gunner, okay."

 

    After acknowledging his reply, Technical Sgt. Joseph "Sparks" Moore the radio operator then jettisons the radio compartment's upper hatch cover and awaits for the order to send the distress signal.

 

    "Pilot to Navigator, have you got our position for Sparks?"

 

    "Navigator to Pilot.  Sure do, Skipper.  Navigator to Radio, our position is 39 degrees, 2 minutes, 15 seconds, North Latitude, 18 degrees, 20 minutes, 11 seconds, East Longitude.  Repeat position back to me, over."

 

    "Radio to Navigator, I have our position as 39 degrees, 2 minutes, 15 seconds, North Latitude, 18 degrees, 20 minutes, 11 seconds, East Longitude.  Verify, over."

 

    "Navigator to Radio, that's correct.  Over and out."

 

    "Pilot to Radio, go ahead, Joe, send it."

 

    "Radio to Pilot, roger."

 

    As the distress signal is sent out, 2nd Lt. Mike Cawley orders the jettisoning of the waist guns.  "Co-Pilot to waist gunners, toss out your guns."  This prevents the swinging guns from becoming dangerous 'battering rams' during the landing.

 

    Having drilled extensively during their training evacuating a B-17 for a sea landing, the crew goes about their work.  The two gunners, Sgts. Douglas Williams and John Fuller, begin to remove their 50-cals from their mounts while the ball gunner, Sgt. Albert "Bert" Ward, gathers all the emergency kit bags and takes them to the radio compartment.  The tail gunner, Sgt. Gregory "Monty" Montgomery, after he makes his way forward into waist area, he helps to dump out any loose ammo boxes, oxygen bottles, and fire extinguishers, which might become dangerous projectiles during the landing.  The navigator, 2nd Lt. James Penny, gathers instruments and charts he'll need to make simple calculations for their time on the life rafts while they await rescue.  The bombardier, 1st Lt. John Sears, takes his Colt-45 pistol and places the barrel within the eye piece of the Norden and pulls the trigger twice, destroying the inner mechanisms of the top secret bomb sight.  Although unlikely since they are south of Italy, this is a standard precaution just in case the enemy somehow manages to salvage the sight.  Both pilots now rechecking their seat straps and they slide their side windows back and forth to check for freedom of movement.  Satisfied the windows are working for their escape out of the pilots' compartment, Cawley begins to dump any loose compartment equipment out his side window.

 

    "Pilot to Radio.  Do we have all the emergency gear in the radio room, Joe?"

 

    "Radio to pilot.  Yes, Captain.  All gear is in the radio room."

 

    Lieutenants Sears and Penny moves from the nose and makes their way to the radio room through the empty bomb bays.  And  following right behind them is the flight engineer.  The rest of the crew removes their parachutes and begins to don their inflatable life jackets and removes seat cushions to help protect their heads before taking up their crash positions inside the radio room.  As the last man to enter the radio room and before taking up his position, Monty secures the radio room door leading to the waist section.  Just before removing his intercom, Sgt. Moore informs the cockpit.  "Radio to Pilot.  All secure back here and ready for landing, Skipper.  Over."

 

    "Thanks, Joe.  Over and out."

 

    Now down to 100 feet above the water, Tanner orders, "Okay, Mike, time to feather numbers two and three."

 

    Mike Cawley goes about feathering the engines, first pressing the feathering switch to number two.  When the propeller stops turning, he switches the ignition switch to "ENGINE OFF" and closes the throttle.  "Feathering number two . . . prop feathered . . . switch off . . . fuel cut."  He repeats the same procedure for the second inboard engine.  "Feathering number three . . . prop feathered . . . switch off . . . cut fuel."

 

    Tanner and Cawley uses the two outboard engines to control and flatten out their approach.  The pilots will attempt to settle the huge bomber down in a trough, a valley-like area between two waves, which is usually formed from cross winds.  His eyes fixed forward, Tanner casually asks his nervous co-pilot as he guides the bomber to a likely area, "Ever make a water landing before, Mike?"

 

    "No, Skipper.  How 'bout you?" Cawley asked with hope in his voice thinking that Tanner had some previous water landing experience.

 

    "Me?  Naw.  I was kind of hoping you did, so you could show me how's it's done," Tanner said looking at Cawley's surprised look as he smiled to relieve some of the nervous tension in his co-pilot.  Returning his attention to the landing, "Don't worry, just remember your training and we come through this.  Time to lower the flaps to medium," Tanner orders.

 

    "Lowering flaps . . . set at medium."

 

    "Airspeed?"  Tanner inquires.

 

    Checking the indicator Cawley answers, "Ninety-one . . . Ninety."

 

    As Tanner lowers the Full House to about ten feet above the wave tops, he orders, "Get ready to cut the ignition switches to numbers one and four."  Coming in as level as possible as he lowers Full House, Tanner warns Cawley, "Here we go, brace yourself!"

 

    When the Full House is about a foot above the waves, Tanner calls out, "Now! Cut engines!"  The two remaining propellers are still spinning slowly just as the Full House hits the water . . .


TOWER RECEPTIONS - MISSION 9

Over the Ionian Sea approaching Greek Coastline:

 

"This is Cowboy Four . . . This is Cowboy Four . . . We had a fire on the port wing . . . Repeat, a fire on the port wing . . . cannot extinguish . . . repeat, cannot extinguish . . . Am leaving formation in order to bail out . . . Repeat, leaving formation and bailing out . . . This is Cowboy Four, out."

 

A few minutes later:

 

"Mayday . . . Mayday . . . This is Cowboy Four . . . This is Cowboy Four . . . We are twenty miles due north of point five . . . Repeat, we are twenty miles due north of point five . . . Bailing out and need Air-Sea assistance . . . Repeat . . .  Bailing out and need Air-Sea assistance . . . This is Cowboy Four, out."

 

From Darkwatch:

 

"This is Cowboy Five . . . I can see Go for Broke . . . They were right in front of me when they got hit.  They're going down fast . . . I count six, maybe seven chutes.  Damn, they got Go for Broke.  I can't believe it . . . Cowboy Five out."


Over Piraeus coming out of the bomb run:

 

"Joker Leader to all Jokers . . . Joker Leader to all Jokers . . . Let's tighten it up a little more back there . . . Joker Three just took a beating before the run and I can't tell because of the clouds if our Little Friends are waiting at the R.P. . . . We might have to defend for ourselves . . . Joker Leader, over and out."


Somewhere Over the Ionian Sea:

 

"Joker Leader to all Jokers . . . Joker Leader to all Jokers . . . Almost out of fuel . . . Ditching . . . Joker Four, you're now squadron lead . . . bring the squadron home . . . See you, guys, later . . . Joker Leader, over and out."

 

The Full House performs a left bank turn and descends to lower altitudes.  A distress call is soon heard.

 

"Mayday . . . Mayday . . . this is Army Eight-Zero-Zero . . . requesting air-sea rescue . . . repeat, requesting air-sea rescue . . . at east longitude eighteen degrees, 20 minutes, eleven seconds and at north latitude thirty-nine degrees, 2 minutes . . .


Over Sterapone Field:

 

"This is Joker Three calling Joker Leader . . . This is Joker Three calling Joker Leader.  We have serious fuel problems and am requesting priority landing as soon as possible from the tower."

 

"This is Joker Three to tower . . . This is Joker Three to tower.  We have a serious fuel leak on board and am requesting priority landing on the next available runway.  We are down to fumes and wont make too many circuits"


"Joker Three, this is tower.  You are cleared to land on runway One-Seven . . . You are cleared to land on runway One-Seven.  Emergency crews are standing by."


"Uh, Russian Lady to tower, Russian Lady to tower.  We've, uh, we've got some trouble here.  Uh, pilot is seriously, uh, wounded and our copilot is, uh, he's dead.  We've got some other, uh some three other seriously wounded . . . oh, uh, two other seriously wounded on board and our engineer's flying the plane . . . we're uh, we're gonna need a little help on the runway, if you know what I mean."

 

"Tower to Army Eight-Two-Six.  This here's Captain Jefferson.  We'll have the crash crews standing by.  Now listen closely.  Can you keep the plane in a holding pattern over the base?  You can?  Good, because we're going to send up another plane to assess your damage and then have the pilots help talk you down.  Give us about fifteen minutes for that plane to be in the air.  In the meantime, any non-essential crew members who aren't helping to fly the plane and who are able, bail out over the base. Tower to Army Eight-Two-Six, tower standing by . . ."


"Captain Jefferson, that's my man up there! Get something fuelled up ready to go! I'm going up there to talk him down!" Amoore shouted, racing towards the tower exit.

 

Amoore dashed towards the jeep waiting at the bottom of the tower steps.  He ran straight into his bombardier, Jim Blackmore, who caught his arm. "Whoa there skipper, what's the rush?," Blackmore asked.

 

"A 17's in trouble, I want to help get her down!" Amoore gasped.

 

"She one of the 317th's?", Blackmore inquired.

 

"No, does it matter?"

 

"I think someone else is handling it, Cap'n, best find out from the Tower or Colonel Lamb if you're the man for this!" Blackmore urged.

 

"Where do I find them?" Amoore fretted.

 

"Let's see what Jefferson has to say, before you go haring off trying to save the world!  The Russian Lady's in the 318th, and their CO is mighty protective of his crews!" Blackmore said, following Amoore back up the Tower steps.

 

"Sorry about that, Jefferson, someone going up there or can I?" Amoore asked.


"Neil, the Colonel and Captain Smith are already on their way on the Caballero," Jefferson answered while handing Amoore a pair of binoculars.  "They're taxiing right now at the far end of runway one-six," Jefferson said while pointing in the direction of the runway.  "Now, don't you worry, if anybody can pull this off, the Colonel and Smithy can."


Out on the airfield, word spread quickly that one of the ships was in big trouble.  Men paused in their work and watched as firefighting crews and a medical team rushed to the runway. They looked up at the circling bomber and wondered what had gone wrong, and watched as any remaining equipment that might be a problem on crash-landing was thrown out.  Finally, a few moments later, they watched and counted as men dropped out of the plane -- one, two, three, four chutes were seen descending slowly earthward, while the plane continued circling . . .


"Igloo Base, this is Joker Eight . . . Igloo Base, this is Joker Eight . . . Understand that Russian Lady is in trouble . . . We have one KIA and one serious WIA onboard . . . Repeat . . . We have one KIA and one serious WIA onboard . . . Will shoot flare . . . Please have Medical crews waiting . . . Over"


"Army Eight-Zero-One, this is Igloo tower.  Use Runway One-Seven.  Medical crew is on its way.  Igloo tower, over and out." 

 

Two red flares are fired skyward as the battered Special Delivery makes its landing approach on a wet runway one-seven.  The red glow of flares are easily seen from the ground against the dark grayish background of overcast clouds floating over Sterparone Field as they float slowly earthward.  An ambulance crew is speeding towards the bomber as it touches down on the runway.