In a Diary of an Air Warrior

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A young U.S.Army Air Corps pilot is on his second combat mission during The Second World War. He meets up with a worthy German adversary. He is a brave and skilled pilot, but his total lack of enough experience puts the odds against him with comparatively raw skills at that. He and his comrades in his squadron are a tight unit, but he finds himself alone in a dogfight with a German ace.

Submitted: December 25, 2013

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Submitted: December 25, 2013



 A sunny semi-clouded morning in July of 1943found The Second World War having the allies with the upper hand and making progress against the axis powers, but the allies still had done little to cripple their strength. Germany's war machine was still rich in men, power and resources to continue fighting on all fronts in its fourth relentless year of the war. The United States had entered just two years before without the slightest preparation. By 1943, its military was a force to be reckoned with. In The European Theater, the campaign between The American Air Command and The German Luftwaffe was no exception to this relevence in the conflict. 

On this sunny morning, with an overcast in July, a formation of thirty P-47 Thunderbolt fighter planes of The U.S.Army Air Corps was on a mission in the skies above Europe escorting three B-17 bombers. Their destination, Cologne, Germany. The youngest and greenest pilot of the eighth squadron was a Second Lieutenant by the name of Thomas R. Crane. 

At twenty one years of age, Thomas R. Crane had joined the army air corps right after he graduated college in 1941. He proved to be a natural pilot as he exceled in both ground school and actual flight training. Although he had many hours of flight under his belt on this mission, this was only his second combat detail in which he would engage the enemy. Upon his first, he was credited with one confirmed kill. Thomas Crane felt that the rest of his men in the eighth squadron had much disapproval of his status as a young fighter pilot, but they were, in fact quite fond of him. Especially his squadron commander, ace pilot, Colonel Clarence Kernan.

Thomas Crane's squadron had been air borne at 4,000 feet above Europe for nearly three hours without seening any enemy aircraft. The bombers destination and target was still hours away. After three full hours had lapsed without a sighting of a bandit, Colonel Kernan ordered Captain Paul Lawrence and two other lower ranking pilots to break from the formation and scout ahead. Thomas Crane was one of them.

The three pilots thought for sure that they would meet the German Luftwaffe immediatley, but their suspence would prolong for another half an hour. Then, the heads up from Captain Lawrence would come just a few seconds premature over Thomas Crane's radio, for Crane had already spotted the on coming bandits.

"Bogies in bound, twelve o' clock high," the Captain announced.

At least three squadrons of Messerschmidt 109s emerged from the clouds like a swarm of maddened wasps from an aggrevated nest. The American's position was found out by an undetected German scout.

"Jesus Christ!" The Captain barked.

He then shouted and order to the other two insubordinate pilots.

"Fall back, boys!"

All three pilots banked left to try an escape from the onslaught of Messerschmidts, but the deadly game of predator and prey was inevitable. Thomas Crane grabbed his radio handset to transmit to the other two pilots.

"Jesus, it looks like about three squadrons!" He shouted into the mic.

No sooner did Crane put down the handset, he found himself in sure trouble. An ME-109 was roaring at his tail. Soon the other two pilots had bandits of their own to deal with and attempted to escape into the clouds above. Both pilots went into a steep dive to increase air speed and add thrust to their climb, leaving Crane to give fight on his own. Crane's training and natural nerves of steel must now serve him to the full. Crane's Thunderbolt howled as he thrusted the engine and banked hard to the right. The German plane followed Crane to his exact manuever seemingly mocking him into fear.

Thomas Crane had no way of knowing the status of his enemy and opponent. Had he then, his courage would have been tested all the more. Major Eric Clause was a German ace and a well seasoned fighter pilot. He earned his ace title in the campaign over North Africa, totaling his credit to 48 kills before, he too, was finally shot down. He was on his first combat mission after he had recovered from his wounds.

As Crane headed right, he remembered hearing of an ME-109 characteristic of being slightly sluggish in it's right turn of attack. Keeping right, he began to spiral upward. The German aborted his right angel of attack and darted off abruptly. This would give Crane a chance to look to his other two comrades, only to see that Captain Lawrence's plane had been put to a blaze and completely subdued. When Crane leveled his flight, Eric Clause swiftly countered and jumped back on to his tail, roaring at him with his machineguns. Clause fired relentlessly, but the Thunderbolts aluminum skin and steel framework absorbed his firepower. Eric Clause finally relented his fire, surely in amazement of the plane's durability and sped off again. At first it seemed that not one round had made it's mark at any vital point until Crane attempted to escape into the clouds above. On making the climb, the Thunderbolt was considerably sluggish and the egine began to cough up smoke. Crane leveled his flight again. The engine was smoldering and it continued to shudder.

It was plain that Thomas Crane's Thunderbolt could not witstand, nor escape another attack. He would have to resort to the final option of bailing out. He released the latch on the canopy, but his total strength, again and again, could only force it open by a few inches. His means of escape was jammed. Crane crabbed his radio handset.

"MAYDAY! MAYDAY!" He shouted.

But his plight was only answered by some faint static.

Crane peered into the empty sky for another Thunderbolt or any friendly aircraft at all. His mind was drained of its resources. It would be forced to react again as the ME-109 returned for the final blow. He activated the water/methonal injection into the engine to cool it's high temperature as a precaution before he opened up the throttle. Then, he pumped his adrenaline. He banked right and tried to escape. Any plan of escape that he had now would be short lived. The German ace was raged and determine. Eric Clause multiplied his fire from the first volley he had delivered. Crane crouched down behing the steel plate that was placed in back of his cockpit as his plane continued to be pummeled with lead. The German's second wave would last an eternity before he finally subsided and withdrew, as if this time, actually giving him time to breathe. 

Thomas Crane was not aware that he had caught any of the rounds until a blinding pain in his left shoulder got his attention. Just then, the plane of the remaing pilot that accompanied him and Captain Lawrence made an explosion about twenty five feet off of his left wing. He snapped his head hard to the left causing the pain to shoot through his abdomen and erupt there within. Crane gergeled in agony. He grabbed his handset to transmit another distress signal. But after he released its button, the radio made no sound at all. The second volley had severed his radio connection as well. 

It was obvious that this lost battle was going to cost Thomas Crane his life. But little did he know that Colonel Kernan, his squadron commander, had received his first transmition. He had just arrived on the scene to view his young friend's situation after he had gotten out of a heated match on his own. He quickly eyed the bandit that was about to finish him off. He went after the ME-109 on a dead run. Colonel Clarence Kernan was also an ace and a veteran pilot. When he had surely sighted in the German plane, he hit the button on his joystick. His machineguns sprayed the ME-109 with a deafening death rattle. Kernan's .50 calibers were already overheated. They could've heated to the point of jamming up before he ceased his open fire. A split second before he let up on the solenoid button, Eric Clause's plane burst into flames. It then proceeded to spiral downward, drawing a corkscrew design with its thick black smoke.

There was obviously no chance of Eric Clause even escaping the burning plane, for it continued to plummet to the earth without the ejection of his body. Major Eric Clause, a fearful German ace, would now give credit to the allies as a confirmed kill.

When Colonel Kernan had realized that he couldn't communicate with Crane through his radio he came upon his left wing. He viewed Crane's Thunderbolt with shock and dismay. He then made a face and gave him the thumbs up sign in asking him if he was okay. Crane returned the sign in assurance. Kernan took his thumb and pointed it behind of him giving Crane the order to get out of the action and head for safety.

Captain Thomas Rodger Crane was relieved of combat duty when he was finally shot down and put out of commission during The Battle of The Buldge. He would never have any recollection of His commander shooting down Major Eric Clause. He would only have the vaguest memory of even seeing him during the fight on that day let alone acknowledging that he came to his rescue. Another memory of the war, and of his friend, that would haunt him for the rest of his life. Colonel Clarence Kernan was shot down during The Normady Invasion somewhere off the coast of France. He was too far away from any of his comrades for them to even confirm the approximate location out to sea. Until this day, he is listed as missing in action. Thomas Rodger Crane retired from The United States Air Force in 1961 with the rank of lieutenant Colonel and the highest decorations.






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