"Forecasting is difficult, especially about the future."
by Mark Knapp
The next morning Pete left early, rounding up a captain named
Rogers from the barracks next door for the flight. Tim had
breakfast at the mess, then went to the PX to get some paper for
his letters. First he wrote his parents and sister, telling them
he was fine.
Then he sat down in front of a blank piece of paper, wondering
what he could say to Sarah. He couldn't tell her much in detail
of what he was doing over here, because it would never pass the
censor. So he started out, after a few sentences about how much
he missed her, describing the few sights on Okinawa. He knew she
would love to see it, battle-scarred and all. Until he entered
the service, Tim had never been out of his New York state, and
Sarah still hadn't had the chance. Sure, working in the plant in
Buffalo let her see a little bit of the world, and the papers and
radio helped, but actually going to a foreign place, a tropical
island, would thrill her. He tried to make his words into images
of the sights, the smells, the feel of the wind and the downpour
of the monsoon. The last part wasn't hard, as the rain had
started up again soon after Pete had left. Hopefully the mission
would go okay. 'Sarah, you know how after a storm, the breeze
usually feels cooler, and the air is more dry, as if the rain
washed all the water and heat away? That doesn't happen here.
It's hot and humid before the rain starts, and even worse after.
At least this time of year it's a little cooler than the summer,
but it's still warm, and so wet that it's never comfortable.
Still, when it clears up, the place is very nice.'
He finished up the letter, then lazed around inside, waiting for
the rain to let up. When it didn't , he threw on a poncho and ran
to the mess hall for lunch. SOS, the usual chipped beef on toast,
was the highlight. Things went downhill from there, taste-wise.
He stayed awhile and talked to some of the other pilots,
catching up on the latest gossip. Then he trotted over to the PX
again, and picked up a few books to pass the time. One, a short
history of the Battle of the Bulge which had been fought more
than a year before, had a cover picture that reminded him what
snow looked like. The other was Mark Twain's A Tramp Abroad, one
of the few Tim hadn't read by the humorist. He stuffed them under
his poncho and scurried back to the barracks.
About three o'clock, tired of reading and bored, he noticed that
the rain was letting up. Carrying the poncho just in case, he
walked down to the flightline. Pete should be back from the
flight soon, and Tim wanted to see what it had been like. After
stopping by the maintenance shack to remind Skipper about the
trim problem, Tim walked along the line of his squadron's P-82s,
then on past the P-51Hs of the 457th. The base was huge, with
planes everywhere. 51s were the most common, but there were two
other Twin Mustang squadrons, some transports, a reconnaissance
wing, and even a few of the new helicopters, the flimsy
contraptions called eggbeaters by everyone who saw them. These
were used mostly to fly VIPs around, but Tim heard they had been
used to fly in supplies and even a few troops to hard to reach
areas on Kyushu, and in Burma and other mountainous areas. He
didn't want to go up in one; they took a very skilled hand to
hold steady, and Tim didn't like the idea of a blade coming
loose. In a plane, even a single-engined one, if the engine
failed or threw a blade you could at least glide a fair distance.
The eggbeaters had no wings; if a blade came off, you were doomed
because that was all that held it up. And even a tail-rotor blade
flying loose could make you spiral in. No, Tim wasn't interested
in that kind of thrill. The jets, though...the gray P-80s had
flown in last month, right after two C-54s with MPs on board had
landed and cleared an area of the flight line. These sleek planes
were faster than any fighter on either side, and they didn't even
look, at first glance, as if they had engines at all. The jet was
run by air pulled in the front, mixed with fuel and set on fire,
and pushed out the back. Tim still didn't see exactly how it
worked so well, but he ached to try one out. The Shooting Stars
were so fast, so new, that he dreamed about them, dreamed of
flying over Mount Fuji and shooting down anything that came up to
Well, their pilots would have that chance soon. So far they had
just been training, occasionally flying out to practice
dogfighting with each other and even some of the Mustangs. But
the invasion was coming, and surely the best fighters available
would be put into service along with everything else.
Tim broke his stare when he heard the roar of big engines to his
An F-15, the recon version of the P-61 night fighter, was
rolling down the runway, its massive silver shape with booms and
wings spreading almost to the edges of the strip lurching a
little on the pierced steel planking. It lifted off and climbed
into the lowering scud. It started to rain again, a steady
downpour. Suddenly a P-82 appeared out of the clouds at the
opposite end of the runway and came in to land. It was one of his
squadron's planes, and Tim walked back to the line shack to meet
the crews. Pete and Rogers were the fifth to land, and Tim
noticed that the drop tanks were still under the wings.
"How's it going, Pepe?," Pete called out.
"You ought to see all the ships we flew over. It looked like you
could walk across the ocean on troopships."
"See any Japs?," Tim asked.
"Nah. Nothing. I'm telling ya, I want to get in there and flame
The war's going to be over before I get my own plane again."
"Okay," Tim laughed. "You'll get your chance tomorrow, if the
And they did. Flying CAP for the fleet, as Pete and Rogers had
the day before, Pete and Tim were flying high cover when Tapper
spotted planes low and to the left.
"Bandits, ten o'clock low! Tons of 'em!" He was right. It looked
like a kamikaze attack, with dozens of planes clumped together,
surrounded by fighters providing cover. Colonel Frantz called
out, "Break and engage!"
Tim told Pete, "You got it," over the intercom, and Pete flashed
a thumbs up. He punched off the drop tanks, and heeled the plane
over hard left in a steep dive. Tim was amazed to see Pete fly
this way. Sure, he had been in 51s and was used to throwing
planes around, but since Tim had been flying with him he had only
seen Pete fly as a relief pilot, sometimes handling the landing.
Tim felt guilty, now, for not letting Pete have a chance to
really fly more often.
The Japanese fighters saw the group of Americans closing in on
their charges, and peeled off to intercept. Tonys, from the look
of them: long, pointed nose, mottled green camouflage. Tim tried
to relax and let Pete fly, but it was hard not being in control.
He swiveled his head to check behind them. It was so easy to get
caught up in chasing your target, and not notice another plane
coming up on your six o'clock. At least the 82 had room for two
sets of eyes. He saw the rest of the squadron, spread out in
pairs, heading toward the enemy formation. Turning back, he saw
the Tonys climbing to meet them, and then tried to find the
bombers again. They were the important thing here: if they got
through to the fleet, they could cause tremendous damage and
death. Tim didn't envy the sailors, sitting almost motionless on
huge targets, waiting to get hit by a lucky kamikaze, hoping the
AA guns and fighters kept the Japs far away. At least up here you
could chase after your adversary. Squinting, Tim made out the
formation low and to the left rear, heading steadily on toward
the ships. They looked like Peggys, but with no turrets. And
there seemed to be long, pointed antennae sticking out from their
dark green noses. Some kind of radar? Who could tell? But the
lack of turrets suggested to him that they might have been
removed to make room for explosives. Lately the Japs had taken to
stuffing planes with dynamite, not just hanging bombs beneath
them and crashing into the ships. Piloted bombs was all they were
now. It was sick.
Pete cranked the plane hard left, and Tim hoped their wingman
wasn't in the way. Tapper was off above them, though, angling for
one of the lead Tonys. The "Double Exposure" --actually, the
"Tail Wind," Tim corrected himself, now that Pete was flying-
banked hard right now, and Tim felt the bottom drop out as Pete
pushed over and dove, almost straight toward the enemy formation.
Lining up on one of the Tonys on the right edge, Pete fired. Tim
felt the plane shudder, and watched the tracers arc slightly as
Pete walked the rounds onto the Tony. It seemed to jump, then
pieces of the tail came off, and it whipped around in a spiral to
the right, out of control.
Tim didn't have a chance to watch for it to hit, or see if there
was a chute. Pete rolled left, and lined up on another Tony.
Tracers whizzed by the canopy, over Tim's head. One of the other
Japs was shooting at them, but Tapper blasted it a second later,
apparently hitting its fuel tanks because it disappeared in a
ball of smoke and flame. Pete was driving down on another one,
whose pilot was jinking and diving as he turned away. As the Tony
pulled hard left, Pete let the guns loose, and caught the
Japanese plane in the wing and fuselage. It heeled over and dove
straight down. Tim watched it splash into the ocean, as Pete
rolled inverted and pulled through in an Immelman turn, reversing
course. Looking up when they returned to level, Tim saw a chaotic
dogfight, a mix of 82s and Tonys, all turning and climbing and
diving to get the edge on their adversaries. The Tonys were
getting the worst of it, although he saw one silver Twin Mustang
break off with flames coming from its left engine. Two Tonys
dropped out of the fight after it, hoping for an easy mark.
"Break left!" Tim screamed into the intercom. "Two bandits, eight
Pete rolled toward them, and another Twin flashed past in that
direction as well. Catching sight of the "Thunderbird" Malloy and
Siegel had painted on their bird, Tim wished them luck. They
continued their own pursuit; while there were two pilots in each
P-82, you could still only shoot down one plane at a time, and
Tapper had disappeared during the first part of the dogfight.
"Thunderbird's" wingman was gone, too, probably chasing one of
the stragglers. They took the lead Tony on the wounded 82's tail,
and followed as it broke off. The other one stayed on, though,
gaining on the now smoking bird.
Tim yelled at Pete. "Come on! Let's get him!" Pete climbed a
little, to avoid hitting the American plane with a burst at the
Tony. As he pitched over to line up, the Tony let loose a volley
of cannon and machine gun fire at the now descending P-82. It
ripped into the left wing, breaking off a chunk of the tip and
mangling the aileron. The silver American plane rolled to the
left, barely under control. Tim saw the pilot drop the flaps to
slow down, getting ready to bail out. The Tony closed, ready to
finish off its opponent. Luckily Pete was in position now, and as
Tim watched the 82's canopies slide back and the Tony line up,
Pete triggered the six .50s in the center section. First the
Tony's cowling exploded into dozens of pieces.
Then the canopy shattered, and the rear fuselage came apart as
the concentrated fire tore into it. The Tony suddenly broke apart
in mid-air. Pete pulled up to miss the debris. The Twin Mustang's
crew had bailed out and were settling toward the rolling water.
Tim was already on the radio to air-sea rescue. "Dumbo control,
Dumbo control, this is Panama four. Two pilots down,
approximately one-five miles southwest of the fleet. Request
"Roger that, Panama. Help is on the way."
Tim was glad they were so close to the fleet. At least if you
got waxed, you didn't have to float around forever waiting for
rescue. Also, it meant that the Navy's flyboys were around to
help out too. He saw a flight of Tigercats, the new twin-engine
Grumman, heading north to intercept another kamikaze attack. That
meant one of the big carriers, like the Midway or FDR, was out
here with the other flattops. The Tigercat needed a long deck to
get into the air.
Pete was angling back toward the bomber formation, which was now
only a dozen miles or so from the fleet. They didn't have much
time to down the Peggys before they started their attack. Tim
braced himself as Pete firewalled the throttle and angled toward
the bombers. He counted at least twenty of the ominous, dark
green twins. Looking over his shoulder he saw a few 82s mixing it
up with the remaining Tonys, but most of the squadron was now
following "Tail Wind." They closed up and reorganized themselves
into flights as much as possible.
Tapper reappeared off their left wing. "Where did you get to?,"
Tim called to him.
"I had a little fling with one of them Tonys," Tapper replied.
"He tried to knock on my back door, but I wouldn't let him in.
Had to rough him up a bit."
"You're a pervert, Tap," Pete laughed. "Now pull it in, and
let's get these bastards."
Pete dropped his nose and swooped toward the Peggys, opening
fire as he came within about three hundred yards. He flew across
the formation at an angle, from the left rear to right front
corner, firing almost continually. The others followed him, and
then each doubled back for another pass. The Peggys slogged
determinedly toward the fleet, not trying to evade the 82s racing
back and forth above them; with nowhere to go, and no turrets to
defend themselves, the medium bombers simply tried to get through
the storm of bullets. But one by one they dropped out of
formation, crashing into the water, or fireballed as the American
fire hit their explosive-laden fuselages. Tim, basically along
for the ride, counted as they were destroyed. Eighteen of the
Peggys went in, leaving only three headed for the fleet. The Twin
Mustangs pulled off then, unhappy about not finishing them off,
but knowing that they had to skedaddle before the sailors started
throwing a wall of lead up around the ships. The Navy boys
weren't too concerned about what was flying towards them, just
that it didn't come near, and they were known to knock down
American planes that got too close in the heat of battle.
Almost out of ammunition, and reaching bingo fuel, the 82s
formed up and headed back to Okinawa. The Navy's planes could
handle the rest of the fight. Tim took over from Pete, who was
worn out from the work of the battle. He almost wished they could
land on one of the carriers they passed as they flew south,
because he hated the long trip home.
He counted four, plus the Midway-class he figured was out there
somewhere. And the Brits had some boats out here too, because he
saw a patrol of Seafires and Avengers circling, probably waiting
to spot survivors from any ships that got hit, or watching for
the Japanese suicide boats that had appeared during the battle
for Okinawa. Small motorboats with big bombs inside, these were
easy to pick off, but if they came in all at once, one or two
might get through. Tim decided he didn't want to be on a carrier
that much after all.
After landing and debrief, Tim and Pete wandered over to the O
Club to get a drink. They ran into a group of pilots from the
46th squadron. Benny Weisman, a huge dark-haired copilot,
stumbled over. Their sister squadron's crews had been here
awhile, from the smell of beer on his breath. "Hey, youse guys
had a helluva day. We saw you working over that Jap bomber fleet,
galloping back and forth like a bunch of wild horses. How many
did you get?"
"Pete got three of the bombers, and three Tonys earlier. Guess I
ought to let him out of the cage more often, right Pete?" Tim
"Well," said Pete. "I guess I don't mind showing you how it's
done once in a while. Maybe you could learn something."
"Hah, hah. Very amusing."
The banter went on for a few minutes, then Benny raised his
glass. "To the 45th, the Wild Horses who sent eighteen kamikazes
to wherever the Japs go after they die.
May you always have a sturdy plane, sunny skies, and good
"Cheers!" The toast went around the room, and Tim decided things
didn't get much better than this: happy, loud pilots after a good
The next day was damp and cloudy, and Tim woke late, his head
feeling like there was a vacuum inside. Luckily they weren't
scheduled to fly until after noon. He walked outside to clear his
head, then back in to clean up and write a couple of letters. At
1030 he met Pete for lunch at the mess, and they went to the
briefing afterwards. Colonel Frantz started off by congratulating
them for the mission yesterday. "Things went really well. Let's
keep it that way. I have some news from the fleet. The Peggys we
couldn't get were all downed by AA from the destroyers. However,
another attack to the north slipped through the Navy's screen. A
formation of Bettys with Bakas under them hit the fleet, sinking
the Oriskany and severely damaging one of her escorts. The Japs
still have plenty of fight left in them, so be on the ball. We're
off the fleet run for today, though. The mission is escorting B-
29s to Hiroshima, where the intel boys suspect the Japanese are
gathering suicide boats for a massive attack. They will be
bombing the waterfront and rivers, hell, most of the town,
because of the way it's laid out. Hiroshima sticks out into
Hiroshima bay. It looks sort of like a hand out in the water, and
a river cuts across it in several places. We don't expect much
fighter activity, but watch for flak over the target. After the
29s are through, our squadron will be released to search for
targets of opportunity, especially the boats, while the 46th
escorts the bombers back to Oki." Though most of the bomb groups
were still based on islands to the east, some had moved to
Okinawa, on other fields that surrounded the one the 45th was
based at. Tim wondered if this meant the fighters would be moved
up to Kyushu, to give them more range for the final invasion. You
never could tell in the army, with all the rumors and secrecy.
After returning to their barracks to get some equipment, Tim and
Pete walked out to the flightline. "You know, you can have it
this time, Tim. Doesn't sound too exciting."
"Gee, thanks," Tim replied sarcastically. "Don't let yesterday
go to your head. The bombers were sitting ducks...although you
did do a damn good job on the Tonys."
"Thanks," Pete said. "Anyway, I know how you like shooting up
stuff on the ground. Sounds like we might get a chance today."
"Yeah." They did a walkaround and read off each item on the
checklist, then climbed up to their cockpits and strapped in. The
ground crew performed some final checks, then backed off. Pete
read the engine start checklist, and Tim's hands followed each
Flaps up, carb air in "ram," trim, fuel, magnetos, props,
throttles, starters...The two Merlins roared to life, the
propellers spinning as more checks were carried out. Finally Tim
signaled to Skipper to pull the chocks, and returned the
sergeant's salute as he advanced the throttles to pull away.
On the taxiway behind Major Bartlett and his wingman, Tim tested
the controls and ran up the engines as he did before every
flight, checking the oil pressures, mags, and rpms among other
things. Bartlett rolled down the strip, Jones on his wing, Tim
turned onto the runway and let Tapper take his position.
Formation takeoffs were work, especially for the wingman, but
they cut the time to launch a whole squadron almost in half. Once
airborne, each flight formed up on the lead, and the 45th entered
a holding pattern until the 46th got into the air as well. Then
the formation headed east to join up with the slower B-29s that
were already in the air.
They headed north toward Shikoku, following the same path as on
the mission to Okayama. But instead of turning northeast after
crossing Cape Ashizuri, they headed north-northwest, to come over
Hiroshima from the south, seaward side. It was only one hundred
miles from the cape, less than twenty minutes flying time. As
they passed over the Inland Sea, between Shikoku and the main
island, Tim and Pete armed the guns and dropped the gas tanks
under the wings. Ready for action, the squadron spread out around
the 29s as they crossed some small islands in the bay. No
fighters had been sighted, but better to be ready. Besides, Tim
thought, if the Japanese are aiming their flak at the 29s, the
farther away we are, the better.
It started just before they reached the city. Small brown-black
puffs reached slowly higher, trying to find them. Suddenly the
sky erupted with flak all around the formation, and Tim saw a B-
29 explode in a storm of fire. The other bombers dropped their
payloads almost simultaneously, and he wondered briefly if they
had reached their aiming point, or just dumped the bombs to avoid
their companion's fate. He put the thought out of his mind as he
climbed with the rest of the squadron, trying to avoid the
shells. Frantz called for a turn to the west, as the bombers and
the other Twin Mustang squadron veered off to the southeast.
Starting a steep dive, the Colonel ordered a general search for
the boats, and every flight went off on its own. "Rendezvous at
Cape Ashizuri at 1500 hours," Frantz added. Tim turned north,
trying to put some distance between his plane and the city. He
noticed nobody else had headed back that way either; though the
suicide boats were likely to be along docks near the bay, no one
wanted to fly through that flak again.
He and Tapper headed along the Ota river, following it and
looking for anything promising. After about ten minutes, Tapper
called out that he saw a factory, and veered toward it. They were
supposed to stay together in flights, but both pilots preferred
to hunt alone, and there didn't seem to be any opposition out
here in the country. Tim kept weaving along the river.
About five minutes later, the river entered - or rather, left,
because he was flying upstream - a gorge, its steep rocky walls
rising from the swift stream. Pete yelled, "Boats in the river!
Just below the gorge!"
There they were: dozens of small, wooden motorboats, each big
enough for one crewmember and a ton or so of explosives. Tim
wondered if he should be surprised that they were so far
upstream; surely it made sense for the Japs to hide them away
from the obvious dock areas of Hiroshima. No time to ponder that;
they were already flashing by below, and Tim pulled up and left
to make a strafing pass.
Just then tracers whizzed by his cockpit, and Pete called out
"AA guns, seven o'clock! Let's hit them first."
"Right," answered Tim. He continued to yank the plane around,
losing speed in the tight turn, as Pete radioed Tapper and the
others about their find. As the nose of the big fighter settled
on the clump of trees where the fire had originated, Tim
depressed the gun trigger on his stick. The six fifties tore into
the brush and leaves, and a small explosion, probably ammo,
popped off amidst the dust. The anti-aircraft guns ceased firing,
and Tim pulled right a little to line up on the boats lying along
the banks. They had been covered with netting and branches, but
still stood out as man-made, strung beside each other. Tim fired
again, and there was a series of satisfying fireballs as the
boats erupted, each prematurely-detonated bomb hopefully saving a
Navy ship and her men.
Another set of explosions off to the left announced Tapper's
He broke onto the radio net with a shout and announced that he
had shot up some kind of factory down the river, and seen people
scattering from it like ants.
Both pilots pulled up after their runs and circled for another
Tapper dove in and raked the boats again, and as he pulled off
Tim rolled in. The air ahead turned black-grey, and an instant
later he felt the plane jerk. Flak! This was bigger than the
earlier gunfire, and just as Tim jinked to present a harder
target, another burst blossomed off the right wing. He felt a
pull to the right, and noticed with a heavy feeling in his gut
that the right engine was smoking, the power loss causing the
plane to veer to that side. Then he noticed the holes.
Pete's canopy was shattered in several places, and jagged holes
marked where pieces of the AA shell had carved through the metal
skin of the plane.
"Pete, what's the damage like?," Tim called over the intercom.
Maybe the intercom was out. Maybe...but Pete's head was slumped
against the side of the canopy, and he didn't seem to be
conscious. Tim looked away as he jammed the left Merlin's
throttle forward, pressed in more left rudder to counteract the
torque, and pulled back on the stick. Tapper was on the radio,
talking about strafing the new gun site, but Tim ignored him.
"Pete? Answer me!" Nothing.
He keyed the radio. "Tapper, I have engine damage, and Pete's
not answering. I'm going to head for the sea."
"Roger," his wingman replied. "How bad is the engine?" "Can't
tell, but I'm losing oil pressure," Tim said. "I'm going to
feather it. Where's the nearest base?"
"Hang on." Tapper's rightseater, Jim Murphy, was probably
"Probably Nobeoka, on the east coast of Kyushu," Tapper
answered. "It's about a hundred miles.
Can you make it?"
"Yeah, sure," Tim said. "The left engine's okay, and I have good
control. I hope Pete can wait, though."
"That's the best we can do...get it going as fast as you can,
and we'll guide you there," Tapper stated. Tim was thankful for
that. With Pete unable to navigate, Tim would have to rely on his
own map, and he hadn't looked at it in a few weeks. There hadn't
seemed any need. Now, he was very interested in what lay between
him and Nobeoka.
Slowly he increased the throttle, until the airspeed indicator
read two hundred and eighty knots. "I don't want to take it much
faster," Tim told Tapper. "The torque is pretty strong, and I
need to hold it hard over as it is."
"Roger. Should take about twenty, twenty five minutes, according
to Murph." Tapper was on his right, now, checking out the damage.
"You have some nasty holes, and there's oil all over the
cowling," he reported. "I can't tell how Pete's doing, because
the canopy is crazed."
"Roger that," said Tim. "Just get us down as fast as you can."
They flew on for five minutes, then veered slightly southeast to
avoid overflying the still Japanese-held northern end of Kyushu.
Flying down the Bungo Strait, Tim noticed that it was empty of
ships; the Navy and Army Air Force had mined it to restrict
Japanese resupply efforts. Coming to the open ocean they turned
back to the southwest, and Tapper called Nobeoka control to
report their emergency. Receiving clearance to land, the pair of
Twin Mustangs cut north briefly, then turned almost due south on
a straight-in approach to the single runway at the advance strip.
Closing in on it, Tim wondered if the dirt strip would be long
enough for the heavy, fast-landing P-82. He lowered the flaps and
gear, going over the checklist in his head briskly. Pulling the
throttle back as much as he dared, he saw Tapper shoot past on
his left, then pull into a steep climb.
"Hold on, buddy," he muttered into the intercom. "This is going
to be bumpy, but we'll be down soon."
As the silver plane crossed the end of the strip Tim pulled the
throttle back even more, and raised the twin noses to flare.
"Double Exposure" settled onto the hard earth with a jolt, and
Tim held the stick hard back while applying the foot brakes. The
plane started to pull to the right, into he dead engine, and he
had to let off on the right brake. As he straightened things out,
the 82 rolled to a stop in a cloud of dust, which was added to by
several crash rescue trucks and jeeps rolling to a quick halt
Pushing his canopy back, Tim pointed to the other cockpit and
yelled for the medics to help Pete. They clambered up on the far
side as Tim jumped onto the center section and rushed to the
canopy, trying to open it. "Back off, captain. We'll get him out.
You're just in the way." The corpsman was concentrating on Pete,
and Tim glumly lowered himself off the back of the wing, went
under the tail, and stood back by the crash trucks as Pete was
hoisted from the cockpit and carried on a stretcher to another
truck, an ambulance. It sped away, and Tim was left wondering
what to do next. A corporal walked up to him, and offered Tim a
ride to the line shack. "We don't get many 82s here," he said.
"Mostly we get the little stuff. How does she fly?" "Like an
eagle...on two engines, anyway." Tim didn't feel like talking,
but he asked the soldier about conditions up here, on the edge of
the front. "Well, it's quieted down some," the tall New Englander
replied, "but the Japs're still doing their crazy stuff, sending
kids to jump under tanks and trucks, pretending to surrender then
setting off a grenade when they get close. To tell you the truth,
sir, we don't take prisoners anymore. The few Japs we see, we
shoo 'em away, or shoot 'em if they come too close. Can't take
any chances." He dropped Tim off at the line shack, then scooted
back to the plane, which was being prepared for towing.
Tim waited around the edge of the strip for almost an hour,
until the corporal came back. "We got your plane over by the
maintenance shack, there. Looks like it'll need some work. New
engine, lots of patches, and a new canopy, at least," he opined.
"Yeah," Tim responded.
The corporal continued. "They'll send somebody else to fly it
out when it's fixed. Talked to the lieutenant, and he says you
got orders to catch a flight out of Kagoshima back to Oki. Next
supply truck should be here in three or four hours, and you can
ride it down there."
"Okay. Thanks," Tim said.
"Your buddy didn't make it. Doc said he was dead when he got
here, but they tried anyway."
"I'm sure they did. Tell them thanks for me, will ya?"
"Sure. Want a cup of coffee? That's all we got in the way of hot
food; mostly we eat C rations, unless we got an excuse to go to
Miyazaki or Kagoshima for somethin'."
"No, thanks," Tim replied. "Let me know when that truck gets
The NCO walked away. Tim sat for a minute, then got up and
walked down the edge of the strip to the maintenance shack. It
was a long, low corrugated steel hut, open at both ends. "Double
Exposure" sat beside it, along with a P-47 and two artillery
spotters, probably Taylorcrafts. He ran his hand along the smooth
skin of his plane's tail, then stepped back to survey the damage
on the right fuselage. Fierce-looking shards of metal stuck out
from holes gouged by the flak. They peppered the area around the
engine and cockpit, and there were some on the right wing, too.
The engine had apparently taken a chunk of metal right through
the case. Oil was everywhere, and two of the exhaust stacks were
Looking back up at the cockpit, Tim saw that Pete hadn't had a
chance. The holes were right where his torso had been inside,
nearly as many as along the cowling. The canopy was shattered and
cracked, and Tim was amazed it had held together for the flight
here. He paused. Heavy gunfire carried on the wind, telling of
fighting at the front that was now about a dozen miles to the
north. He sat down under the wing and closed his eyes.
He woke to the sound of a truck crunching across the dirt near
the shack. Several soldiers from the truck, and two mechanics,
started unloading parts and supplies from tarp-covered back. The
sun was setting, and Tim walked over to watch.
"Where ya been?," one of the mechanics asked the driver.
"You know damn well where I've been," he replied. "Runnin' junk
around for your boys. Now it's so late I can't get back home."
"What do you mean, sergeant?," Tim asked.
"Well, sir, we can't drive after dark. General's orders. Too
many snipers and saboteurs still around." Tim was disappointed.
Now he'd have to spend the night here.
The corporal fixed him up with a cot in the barracks. He didn't
have anything except the clothes on his back, so a locker wasn't
a problem. Cool air flowed into the building, though a wood stove
had been set up to provide heat. He needed a shower, but didn't
want to subject himself to the only available water: it was in a
raised tank alongside the barracks, with gravity feed for
something resembling running water, and, sitting outside, it was
surely frigid. He laid down on the cot without taking off his
boots, and was quickly asleep again.
In the morning the driver roused him, and they got coffee at the
line shack. Taking on some letters from the soldiers, a few
aircraft parts sent south for reconditioning, and Pete's body,
the truck lurched onto the dirt road to Kagoshima. The driver,
another corporal, named Steve McCallister, had come to Kyushu
right after the beachheads had been secured last fall. "They
pulled the LST right up on the beach near Kushima and we just
Could hear the firing just inland. Wasn't much of a beach; lots
of crags and caves, and I guess the Marines had a helluva time
clearing the Japs out of those. My unit was carrying 155 shells,
and we had to work our way up to the batteries, unload, and get
the hell out while they were firing and all. It was rough for a
while." He pulled out a little pistol; it looked vaguely like the
famous German Luger. "Got this off a dead Jap officer when we
stopped at a burned-out village for lunch. It's a Nambu. Pretty
thing, but don't fire worth a damn. The Nip was leading a charge
of old women, all of 'em holding pointed sticks. Sticks! Back
then I'd never seen a body before, and I puked when I saw all
those old ladies. Couldn't eat anything." A flight of Corsairs
roared overhead, on some unknown mission. "After that, though, it
got so common that I just ignore 'em," the driver continued.
"Damn Japs used up every single person on this island, trying to
fight us. I guess there's a few still up north, and there's the
snipers, but we pound the hell out of the place every so often
just to keep them in their holes."
The truck came to an intersection, and an MP in jungle
camouflage waved them to a stop.
"Howdy Fergie," Steve called. "Got stuck overnight."
"Yeah, I figured. Sir," he nodded to Tim. "Go on through. Can
you pick me up some Coke on your next trip?"
"Sure," Steve answered. He put the truck in gear and pulled
"Always stay on the right side of the cops, I always say," he
said to Tim, grinning. Tim smiled.
"Anyway," Steve went on, "the Japs put up a helluva fight. They
didn't give up till they were dead.
And now we gotta do it again, on the big island. I hear they
were gonna surrender, but then some hardhead officers killed the
government and made sure the civilians were ready to keep
fighting." The truck eased over onto the shoulder, as a convoy
approached from the other direction.
Several Shermans led the way. Following the M-4s came a few
Alligators, tracked amphibious carriers that were used to haul
troops and supplies. Then there were some M-3 half-tracks, and
half a dozen 4-ton trucks like the one Tim was in. All were
filled with troops, who waved as they passed. Tim and Steve waved
back, then pulled onto the road. It was only fifty miles or so
from the airstrip to Kagoshima, but the trip took more than three
hours. They passed several more convoys, and many burned-out
vehicles, both U.S. and Japanese: tanks, jeeps, 3/4 ton trucks
with rocket launchers mounted in back, artillery tractors...the
only Japanese ones were a few trucks and light tanks, frail
things that hadn't stood a chance in the path of the numerous
American Shermans and Pershings. Planes continued to fly
overhead, sweeping the area for holdouts or going north to strike
whatever was left to strike at.
About noon they reached Kagoshima, the main U.S. base on Kyushu.
The town had been obliterated in the fighting, but everywhere
buildings and hangars sprouted like new grass in the spring.
Airfields were scattered around Kagoshima Bay, and a fair number
of ships lay at anchor. Most of the bigger ones were laying off
the coast, or moving north, Tim knew. But many smaller ones were
here: destroyers, transports, oilers, LSTs and LSDs.
The sheer number of ships and planes, and amount of supplies
stacked everywhere, told him the invasion must be near. He
thought about what he had seen, and what it would be like in the
months ahead, when the invasion force struck at the heart of
Japan. A lot of people would die: more pilots, hundreds of
thousands of soldiers on both sides, and untold numbers of
Japanese civilians. Tim saddened at the thought that Pete's death
counted for very little, in the big scheme of things. He had been
a friend, and Tim felt partly responsible for his death. If they
hadn't been chasing up the river like that...
Steve swung off the main road and onto one of the airfields, a
bustling transport facility. C-47s and C-54s were lined up to one
side of the runway, and a steady stream arrived and departed. Tim
got out at the operations center, and thanked Steve. "No problem,
sir. Had to come here anyway to drop off the mail. And, don't
worry, your copilot will be taken care of." The truck rumbled
away. Tim regretted that he couldn't help bury Pete, but his
orders were to report to Okinawa as soon as possible. There were
plenty of experienced burial details around here, Tim knew. He
looked on the board and found the next flight to Okinawa, a cargo
trip on an old C-47 that had been an Eastern DC-3 before the war.
He introduced himself to the crew and took a seat on a box in
As the ex-civilian plane took off and headed south, Tim found
himself wondering what tomorrow would bring, and thinking about
that superbomb the rumors talked about. What would have happened
if it had worked? What if they got it to work now? All he wanted
was for the war to be over, so he could go home to Sarah, maybe
get a job with an airline so he could keep flying. When would
Conceived 1993 or so; main body written April 11th to May 8th
Copyright 1995 Mark Knapp, PO Box 360821, Columbus, OH 43236,
United States of American (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The text of the articles is identical to the originals like they appeared in old ST NEWS issues. Please take into consideration that the author(s) was (were) a lot younger and less responsible back then. So bad jokes, bad English, youthful arrogance, insults, bravura, over-crediting and tastelessness should be taken with at least a grain of salt. Any contact and/or payment information, as well as deadlines/release dates of any kind should be regarded as outdated. Due to the fact that these pages are not actually contained in an Atari executable here, references to scroll texts, featured demo screens and hidden articles may also be irrelevant.