The International Writers
Dreamscapes: Over Vietnam
were approaching the coast just below Vinh only twenty minutes
after leaving the carrier Franklin D. Roosevelt (CV-42) on duty
in Yankee Station. For weeks we had been hitting the docks of
Haiphong and the other ports of North Vietnam and there was scarcely
a target left.
We had been lucky
so far in having lost few aircraft, mostly to AAA and small arms due
to our low approaches. The sky had been filled with Russian made SAMs
but they could not lock on target at such low altitudes. We merely flew
through and around them like some kind of aerial pinball wizards. It
was our fighters, the F-4s who flew our cover at altitude that
were in danger from those flying telephone poles. The fighter boys,
guys like Bill "Ace" Driscoll and the "Duke" Cunningham
flew lazily around the sky at forty thousand feet bagging the occasional
Mig and getting all the glory while we Attack Squadrons hammered the
enemy in anonymity. I had been flying the A4 in Attack Squadron 12 (VA-12)
for a year now. Like all green naval aviators I was disappointed that
I had not been assigned to fighters but then I learned that we are hitting
the enemy where it hurts while the fighter jocks are just glorified
Every outfit has a nickname, a handle. We were the "Flying Ubangis"
also known as the "Kiss of Death" squadron. Our logo was a
human skull blowing a kiss.
Todays mission was something new. We would cross over the isthmus
of North Viet Nam and hit targets on the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos.
Our fighter escort would stay behind to cover the Mig bases around Vinh
while we carried our heavy ordinance to an unwary enemy that wasnt
expecting us. After the strike we would link up again with the escorts
over the coast for the trip back to Yankee Station. I was wingman for
Lt. Cmdr. William A. Nelson, a veteran of Korea who had over 500 carrier
landings and who knows how many hours in the air. As we werent
anticipating any Migs, SAMs or even serious AAA resistance, we were
prepared for a cake walk. The ground war in the South was growing stronger
and the Army was on our ass to do something about the continual NVA
re-supply down the trail.
Migs were clearly visible on the tarmacs of the scattered airfields
around Vinh as we flew over at 35,000 feet. If they decided to come
up for a challenge, Cunningham and the boys would tackle them. Further,
the SAMs were being suppressed by USAF Wild Weasels out of Thailand
and could not concentrate on us. I could see the explosions below that
reminded me of the Fourth of July of my youth on Black Lake in Olympia,
It was there as a child that I first knew I wanted to fly. World War
Two brought a fighter base to Tumwater, Olympia Field, and though I
was very young I can remember the fighters roaring over our house. I
thought the P-38 Lightnings that flew out of there were the most
beautiful plane ever to fly. Maybe I still do. In those days the Air
Corps and later the Air Force kept the polished aluminum fuselages shiny
bright. Nowadays buffed aluminum was common to Soviet Bloc aircraft
while we tended to use blue, white or camouflage green. I didnt
want to see the flash of aluminum anymore. Thatd be the certain
first sign of a Mig. The second would be his air-to-air missile going
up my ass.
It only took about ten minutes to cross NVM and we began our steep decent
down upon our targets like hawks dropping down on quail. The squadron
had split up into groups of two to spread the strike out and of course
lower the possibility of midair collision.
I kept close to Commander Nelson until the break. We were suppose to
make two bomb passes and if possible two more strafing runs if there
were visible targets. Otherwise we were to save our gun ammo in case
of Migs on our trip back. I thought this foolish as even a half-ass
commie Mig pilot could take out an A-4. Hence the need for the Phantoms
to cover us.
Our targets were merely coordinates on a chart. We were depending on
intelligence gathered by CIA operatives and their Lao allies behind
the lines. As far as I could tell there was nothing down there but forest.
Nelson gave the order to break.
"Obangi leader to all ships. Break formation and begin decent.
Obangi 2 stay on my port side."
"Obangi 2, roger" I responded. I really didnt know where
we were, Im glad he did. These targets were not at all like the
cranes, warehouses and boats of the harbors on the coast.
We dropped down in a fast dive. I concentrated on an innocent patch
of forest to lay down my bombs and just hoped there was something under
them. Our speed approached Mach, a dive being the only time an
A-4 could hit that speed. We had to release early enough to climb out
and late enough to be accurate. I dropped my load at about two thousand
feet and barely had time to pull out before my own ordinance began going
off behind me. After all, my bombs were dropping at the same speed I
was. As I pulled hard on the stick and gave more throttle the G forces
pushed me deep into my seat but I could see out of the corner of my
eye the explosions from my comrades bombs as they scored hits
on their targets. The telltale signs of secondary explosions proved
our intelligence was accurate. After pulling up and breaking to starboard
as previously ordered in the briefing, I nearly collided with the transaxle
of a truck that seconds before had been lazily driving along the Ho
Chi Minh Trail.
"Woooeeee! We really hit those bastards!" One of our guys
yelled over the air. The others made similar remarks but with each man
stepping on the others words it was mostly an inaudible screech
on the radio.
"Okay you guys therell be plenty of time for braggin
when we get home. Everyone report." Nelson kept his cool while
the rest of us were like kids at a carnival.
"Ubangi One, Okay."
"Ubangi Two, ditto."
"Ubangi Three, still with you."
And so forth as our drivers reported in.
"Ubangi leader to Flight. Form up as planned and begin low level
strike. They know were here now so they may throw some stuff at
us this time."
Our plan was to come in at tree top level in pairs of two from every
compass point, this way the enemy couldnt concentrate their fire
in any one direction. The only problem was in staying clear of each
other. I found Nelson or should I say he found me and we formed up about
two-hundred feet apart and four miles out from the target area. We would
be there in seconds before the monkeys had a chance to recover
from our first strike. At best they could throw some small arms fire
As we approached the target again I could now see men and vehicles.
The first strike had blown away their trees and artificial camouflage
making them easy pickings now, or so I thought. Just a second before
I was to release my second and final load I saw the tell-tale signs
of tracers from a triple A coming right at me! I pressed the button
and broke hard port resisting the urge to climb out which would have
made me an even easier target. I could hear the big lead from the enemys
gun hitting my plane. It sounded like someone banging on garbage cans.
I could also see men firing at me with their small arms from all directions.
I was only about 150 AGL (above ground level). It all took place in
slow motion. I saw holes appearing in my wings, tracers passing the
ship by mere inches and bullets piercing my canopy and ricocheting around
Suddenly a heavy round burst my control panel. I saw glass, plastic
and metal flying all about. My helmet was blown off as I felt a hard
slap on my forehead. I was blinded by both blood in my eyes and smoke
in the cockpit so I pulled back on the stick to climb away from any
obstructions that might be lurking nearby. I would make a better target
climbing up but at least I wouldnt slam into a mountain.
The A-4 cruises at about 550 mph and can cover great distances in minutes.
I needed to clear the cockpit of smoke and my eyes of blood so I could
get oriented, check out my damage and either eject or join up with my
wingman. I found myself automatically screaming "Mayday, mayday,
Ubangi Two!" even though my mic had been blown off with my helmet
so no one could hear me. It seemed like minutes before I could regain
my senses. I wiped the blood from my face with the back of my hand.
My head hurt. Hurt bad. There was a constant roar of rushing wind and
clanging sounds coming seemingly from all areas of my aircraft. I thought
she was breaking apart. After regaining my composure and seeing that
I was clear of any mountains I brought her back into level flight.
I quickly assessed my situation; The smoke had cleared from the cockpit.
I think it had been an electrical fire. My control panel had a huge
hole in it and several smaller ones with wires and melted plastic hanging
down in grotesque globs of mush. Some of the plastic was still dripping
down on my boots. The canopy had a large opening forward and several
smaller ones around the perimeter but was still holding together though
I now had natural air conditioning that didnt come from the Douglas
factory. I also had a gaping hole on the deck just between my feet big
enough to watch the world go by beneath me. I unconsciously felt my
crotch area and all about me to see if or where I had been hit. I found
a chunk of plexiglas from the canopy in my chest and another in my forehead.
We had been taught to leave things there but I instinctively pulled
the one from my head. It turned out to be a chunk of my own helmet the
rest of which was nowhere to be seen. I left the other pieces of plexiglas
in my chest. It didnt seem to hurt.
I looked out at the wings and was awed by the number and size of bullet
and cannon holes in them. As all pilots, I immediately checked my control
surfaces. I pushed the rudder pedals back and forth and the stick up
and down and saw that I still had pitch and yaw so my tail section must
be undamaged. The ailerons were a different matter. On the starboard
side the aileron and flaps were hanging down clanging in the breeze.
On the port side they looked okay. Turns were going to be tricky and
I didnt think it wise to make a carrier landing with that metal
hanging down to interfere with the hook wire on the Roosevelts
Next, I cranked my head around to see where my wingman or for that matter
any member of my flight was. I saw nothing, no one. The radio and other
avionics were completely shot to hell as was nearly every instrument
including the magnetic compass. I wasnt going to be able to call
anyone. I still had a good airspeed indicator and an artificial horizon
so that was something. I cranked my head around more trying to get oriented.
"What direction was I traveling? How much time had passed? What
was my altitude?"
As I pondered these elemental questions I realized that I did still
have a chance at radio communication. My emergency radio in my flight
vest! It was tuned to a SAR (search and rescue) frequency so that downed
pilots could be found. Somewhere out here was an EC 121 monitoring that
channel. I awkwardly searched my vest. "Ow." That piece of
plastic in my chest now started to hurt as did other pains as my adrenaline
started to wear off. I groped around for the cigarette pack-sized unit
and found it in two pieces, one still in my pocket, the other on the
deck, a bullet or piece of shrapnel having pierced it.
"Okay, remain calm" I advised myself. "Im still
alive and my aircraft is still flying."
"Where am I? Where are the others? What heading am I on?"
"Check the fuel gauge. How many pounds do I have left?"
My initial panic at being hit and lost was wearing away. My training
was paying off.
"Ah shit!" Where the fuel gauges had once been was now just
a hole in the dash with wires hanging down.
"Okay, okay. Stay calm. I had twenty minutes of fuel available
for hitting the target. How long ago was that? Ten minutes, maybe less.
Okay but what heading am I flying?"
I then became aware that the sun was in my eyes. "West! Shit Im
going the wrong way!"
"If Ive been flying West for almost ten minutes then that
means itll take me ten minutes to get back to the target area
and rejoin my squadron."
I made a long slow turn to the left. Without the right aileron it was
slow and mushy and took me a long way farther south before I was headed
"Okay now Im headed east but how far south have I gone? Will
I come in over the DMZ, cross the target area and below Vinh? If so,
how will I find the ship? If I overshoot Ill wind up over Hainan
and be shot or forced down by the Chinese!"
"Dont worry." I thought. "The F-4s will be
waiting and every ship and plane in the Navy will be looking for me."
I tried to comfort myself.
I was only at about 5000 feet and would make a good target for the SAMs
on the coast. Though the weather was starting to move in around me they
didnt need to see to get me, their radar control was every bit
as good as ours. I didnt dare climb though. I was unsure of my
remaining fuel and the damage to my starboard wing didnt inspire
confidence in keeping this bird in the air. It was flapping up and down
making a squeaking noise while the aileron banged against my fuselage.
If I could, I would just reach out there and pull it off completely.
It seemed close enough for me to do that.
I was in serious pain now. My mind raced with all of the possibilities;
death, ejection and capture. I thought about my mom at home. About the
hometown girls, the ones I had known and the ones I wished Id
known. Summer days by the lake and autumn nights at the high school
The clanging of the dangling aileron brought me back to the present.
"Get it together Bob! Concentrate. How long has it been now?"
I looked at my watch. At least that was still working. I had been over
the target at 1400 or was it 1405? It was now 1418. Most if not all
of my reserve fuel was gone. I needed to get back to the Roosevelt but
how? If I didnt find an escort there was little chance I would
find that small dot in the Gulf of Tonkin. If I ejected without a mayday
they wouldnt know where to look for me. I would become a member
of the Gulf of Tonkin Yacht Club. One of my greatest fears suddenly
gripped me. "Sharks!" I know it was unreasonable but it scared
me more than the SAMs, the Migs or any other unnatural end.
"Maybe when I hit the coast I could turn south for the DMZ, maybe
even make Danang?"
"Who was I kidding? Running along the coast would make me SAM bait
for sure and Danang was way out of my fuel range. Perhaps I could eject
over friendly territory? The Marines occupied I Corps but then so did
The pain in my forehead grew worse still and I had difficulty keeping
the blood out of my eyes. Up ahead through the broken clouds I could
see the blue of the Gulf. I suddenly felt more secure but in fact I
was now in the danger zone. I looked down to see if I could identify
any landmarks. I couldnt. There were roads and villages, farm
fields and rice paddies. I could be anywhere. I continued to scan the
skies for any sign of friendly aircraft. I never felt more alone. I
was only a few miles from the coast now and could see below and off
my port side, an airstrip. The sun reflected off the planes on the runway.
"Migs! Thats all it could be." I didnt recognize
this particular field but it certainly wasnt one of the ones hit
by the Weasels around Vinh. There was no damage to be seen. No smoke.
No wreckage. Whatever base this was it was still operational. At least
it gave me a benchmark of some kind. I pulled out my chart and tried
to make an educated guess as to where I was. I concluded that I was
somewhere between Vinh and the DMZ.
"Shit! That doesnt tell me anything!" I thought, exacerbated.
I looked down again and saw two obvious Mig 21s moving along the
runway preparing to rotate.
"God Damn it! Where are those F4s?"
I found myself playing the blame game and thinking I was going to be
killed because some fighter jock couldnt wait to get back to the
carrier for evening chow. It wasnt doing me any good. I continued
cranking my head around looking for help, any kind of help. I also kept
checking my damaged wing as if looking at it that it would some how
magically make it stay attached. My obsession with the starboard wing
caused me to take the port wing for granted. I checked it more closely
now and saw a slight vapor trail coming from below it.
"Oh fuck! Fuel." I was losing some but how much and really
what difference did it make if those two Migs caught me up here? I estimated
that they would reach me in less than two minutes. I couldnt out-climb
or outfight them even in the best of shape. Did I dare drop down to
the deck.? No, that would only give them the opportunity to use the
ocean as a nice back drop for gunning me. I found myself unconsciously
"Hail Mary, full of grace the Lord is with thee
Mother of God pray for us sinners, now and in the hour of our death.
Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominicus tecum
I pulled out my St. Christophers medal which had been blessed
by Fr. Murphy at St. Michaels parish in Olympia when I was home
on leave after basic flight school. He had dipped it in Holy water and
whispered a prayer in Latin. It was only a piece of metal but that the
power of the water and the love that it represented would give its
user the protection of "all the angels and saints in heaven."
he said in his heavy Irish brogue
I remembered that St. Joseph was the actual patron saint of pilots and
I had learned his prayer in flight school. I didnt think St. Christopher
"St. Joseph who bore calumnies
.Jesus said When I will
be lifted up, I will draw all peoples to myself
courage and protection and always keep in mind your great example."
I felt so alone as I repeated these prayers to myself over and over.
Through my mind raced all the memories of my childhood. I thought about
how I had gotten to where I am now. The boyhood love of flight and airplanes.
The air shows at McCord AFB in Tacoma with all of the war birds of WW
II present. The books, the John Wayne movies, college and then the Navy.
I thought again about my mom. They say that a man who is about to die
always thinks of his mom.
I saw a glint of aluminum out of the corner of my eye on the port side
and below me. I increased my throttle. If he was going to kill me he
was going to have to catch me first. I didnt care any longer about
the condition of my plane. It would either save me or fail me. I continued
to repeat the pilots prayer;
"When I will be lifted up, I will draw all peoples to myself
us courage and protection
I continued to crank my head in all directions, up, down and around.
Another glint of aluminum, this time on my starboard side and above.
The worst possible position for me, the best for an interceptor.
"Hail Mary full of grace
pray for us
now and in the hour
of our death."
I was fully over the Gulf now flying at my top speed towards Yankee
Station and safety. My aircraft sounded like an old jalopy on a bad
road, clanging, banging, moaning and groaning. I increased throttle
yet again, nearing 600 mph, the best she would do in this condition.
Give us courage and protection."
I cranked my head back over to my right, the starboard side, to check
out the position of the first Mig. It was closer now, nearing my altitude
on an intercept course. I knew what they were doing. One would get me
from below, one from above. They had me in a vise. In combat flight
school they had taught us that Soviet Bloc pilots preferred a head on
attack but that was against a more worthy opponent than my beat up A4.
No, they were going to take me out quickly and beat it back to base
before our guys could intercept them. I continued to check the skies
above and the sea ahead for the cavalry. I saw nothing.
"St. Joseph who bore calumnies
I will draw
myself."I rechecked my port side expecting at any moment the 20
mm shells of the Mig 21 to come crashing through my fuselage. Im
sure they wouldnt waste a missile on me. I saw the buffed metal
glint again but instead of an attack course it was leveling off to my
altitude and paralleling my course. I looked back over to my right and
that Mig too was leveling off far out to my starboard.
"Thats not a Mig." I thought to myself. "It has
twin booms!" I strained my eyes harder but the suns reflection
from its perfectly waxed exterior obscured my view. I looked again
over my left shoulder and saw that aircraft had taken up formation 300
feet off my wing.
"What were they doing, teasing me? Were they going to photograph
me first, put me in their scrapbook to show their children and grandchildren
someday the Yankee devil they had killed?"
I could not get a very good look at this aircraft either but it too
was not a Mig, Actually it appeared to be a turbo-prop, probably a Yak
fighter from the Forties or Fifties. The North Vietnamese Air Force
had flown them earlier in the war. "Shit." Not only was I
going to be shot down and killed but by an antique at that.
The Yak moved in closer and I could see the pilot making hand signals.
Hand signals were not common anymore but as I had no radio reception
this was the only way he could communicate with me. "Fuck!"
Before he splashed me he was going to give me the finger first. I remembered
that Japanese pilots in WW II had delighted in that when confronting
a crippled enemy plane. I wasnt going to give him the pleasure.
I decided to ram him! Before I did I looked back to see where the other
guy was. "Oh my God! Whats going on here?" The twin
boomed plane was now only 100 feet off my starboard on a parallel course
as well. This time I could see it plainly. It was a P-38! But thats
not possible! This was Viet Nam not a stateside air show. Where did
these planes come from?
I looked over to the Yak again, it was in much tighter now and I realized
that it was not a Yak but a P-51 Mustang in the markings of the Royal
"All right! Im saved. You bastards gave me a real scare for
a second. But that cant be right. The RAF doesnt fly Mustangs
anymore. They must be CIA planes."
The P-38 began to fall back now and I got a sick feeling in my stomach.
He was lining up into the slot position for a perfect shot from my rear.
The Mustang pilot kept hand signaling me but I didnt understand.
Just then a shadow appeared over my canopy and looking up, not twenty
feet above me was another plan passing over on the same course. He was
so close that I couldnt identify the make but it was a prop, painted
blue all over. As he took up lead position forward of me I became aware
of other aircraft crowding in around me. I hadnt seen where they
came from but a blue USMC Corsair took up position far out on my starboard
and a green Curtis P-40 with tiger shark teeth painted on its
cowling and in the markings of the Nationalist Chinese Air Force took
up the inside wing position. I could clearly see that the pilot was
Chinese as he smiled, saluted and pointed forward.
I looked ahead and the plane which had overtaken and was now leading
me lowered and raised his landing gear in the international language
of aviation to "follow me and land." He then dropped about
fifty feet so as to be in front and below me. I could now identify him
as a USN F-4 Wildcat, an aircraft which had been out of service since
"What the Hell is going on here?"
Just then an all white peppy little craft appeared on my port wing position
not more than thirty feet away. It had a red ball painted on its
surface. It was a Japanese Zero! This was clearly not the CIA, the RAF
or the Navy. There were no zeros flying anywhere in the world. I could
see the pilot well. He was Japanese. He too smiled and made a flagging
sign ahead. "Follow the leader" he was trying to say.
I thought I must be delusional. Six aircraft, all antique war birds
had formed up around me and were escorting me out to sea. Further, they
were flying at speeds at least 150 mph faster than their specs stated.
Some of the fastest WW II fighters could only reach about 450 MPH and
the Zero only 350 MPH. My speed indicated nearly 600. I also became
aware that there was perfect silence. Radial and turbo prop engines
make a terrible racket, you could hear them miles away but I heard nothing.
In fact even the sounds of my own craft, the 10,000 lb Pratt & Whitney
turbine, the air rushing through the holes in my canopy, the clanging,
banging, moaning and groaning of my ship in its grip of death
were now all silent.
"I must be dead." I thought. "Thats right, thats
what this is all about. Im dead and they are here to fly me to
I had read about this before. The near death experience. It was all
making sense now. The brightness of the sun shining through the haze
was like the bright light and tunnel described by those who had gone
over to the other side. These were my escorts, my angels. God does work
in mysterious ways. He has sent me fellow flyers to bring me home. A
sense of euphoria settled over me. I was no longer scared. I didnt
feel the pain from my shrapnel wounds anymore. The fatigue, the blood,
the perspiration were all gone. I was at ease.
I was suddenly brought back to reality by the sound of a banging noise
and the jarring of my aircraft. It came from my right. I looked over
and the P-40 had moved into a dangerously close position. He had apparently
rammed me. I began shaking my fist at him trying to signal him to move
off but instead he came closer and from below. Bam! He hit me again!
Bam! Again! I waved him off frantically but he merely pointed at my
dangling aileron and flaps. Bam! Very hard this time. The wreckage hung
down even further, now being held by the flimsiest of twisted metal.
I continued to motion the Chinese pilot away. He shook his head "no"
and pointed to my wing. He waved his wings and jerked his ship up and
down haphazardly. "What was he trying to say?" He again pointed
to my wing and jerked his plane wildly up and down as if trying to shake
"To shake something off. Thats it! He wanted me to shake
off the last bit of wreckage by shaking my ship."
I came back on the throttle slightly and pulled up into a steep angle
of attack. Just before stall speed I dropped the nose hard and wiggled
my wings simultaneously. The twisted metal of what had once been the
rear edge of my right wing dropped away towards the blue Pacific. I
returned to a normal cruise speed of about 550 MPH. The ship handled
a bit better now that the drag had been removed though I still had no
aileron control for turning on that side.
I looked around. All of the other planes were still in formation with
me and all the pilots were grinning, laughing or giving me the thumbs
up sign. I grinned and laughed back. I gave them the thumbs up but what
for? Why was it important to shake that off where I was going? My attention
was brought forward again as the lead plane, the Wildcat, again lowered
his landing gear only this time he didnt retract them. I looked
over to the other planes and pilots. The Chinese pilot saluted me, waved
good-bye and dropped straight down out of formation, out of sight. The
Marine Corsair moved into his position. I could now see his unit number
and insignia VMF 214, the Black Sheep. The Flying Leatherneck also saluted
and dropped behind, the P-38 taking his position. He waved his wings
and made a hard break to the right as if in a hurry to get somewhere.
Off to my port side, the pilot of the Zero, closer than ever, smiled
at me, saluted and he too peeled off into a steep dive. The RAF Mustang
came in closer and for the first time I could see the chiseled features
and red hair of its pilot, the map of England on his face. He gave me
the V for Victory sign and he was so close I could read his lips as
he said "Tally Ho!" pulled up and pressed the throttle for
a fabulous climb-out maneuver. I looked ahead. The Navy Wildcat was
still leading me with his gear down but was now slowing and descending.
I too reduced power and to slow even more I lowered my gear.
It was just me and him now. Perhaps he was my guardian angel or maybe
my squadrons. I never did get a good look at his unit number.
Maybe he was from VA-12 too. A smile came over my face as I accepted
my fate but where was he taking me? Shouldnt we be climbing? Isnt
Heaven in the skies? I momentarily felt silly trying to second guess
We continued our decent and it occurred to me that maybe I wasnt
dead yet. Maybe he was leading me down to crash into the sea before
taking me up into eternal life. Maybe I was unconscious and just dreaming
all of this. Maybe
The sound of rushing wind and the noise of my powerful engine brought
me back from my dream state. I felt terrible pain in my chest, arms
and legs. I was dripping with perspiration and blood. My head ached.
My hand gripped the joystick like a gorilla. I looked around frantically.
"Where am I?" The Wildcat was nowhere in site. There one second,
gone the next. I was at about 1500 feet above the water. In the distance
I saw the outline of something gray. "The ship! The Roosevelt!
It had to be! There were no other carriers out here." I was continuing
a standard landing descent about two miles out and was nearly on a perfect
straight-in final approach. I only had to correct slightly, my damaged
aileron being no problem. I saw two gray Navy Sea King helicopters hovering
around the ship, waiting for me to either eject or crash. The Roosevelt,
realizing that I had no radio communication, gave me a red lamp signal
meaning DO NOT LAND!
"Fuck that!" I said to myself. "I hadnt gone through
all of this just to take a swim now." Besides I didnt think
my ejection seat was functioning. At least thats what Id
tell the captain when I caught Hell later. I retracted and lowered my
landing gear to indicate to them that I was coming in anyway. I just
hoped they had the wires out for my hook. Seeing what I was planning,
a green light flashed from above the bridge.
PERMISSION TO LAND. I dropped it a little hard just over the threshold
and missed the first guide wire but caught the second. I jerked to a
stop. My engine shut down without me shutting it down. I had run out
of fuel. I still wasnt sure if I were alive or dead. I became
aware of men and voices around me but I was so tired that I just wanted
to sleep. I wanted to return to that dream state I had been in where
there was no pain or war or unhappiness.
I dont know how long it was before I awoke but I found myself
staring up at the gray steel bulkhead of a Navy ship. My head hurt bad
and my chest, head and arms were wrapped in clean gauze. I heard voices
in the background.
"BP 60 over 120 and climbing. Heart rate 52, temperature 98.3."
"How ya doing Lieutenant? Youll be feeling a little pain
for awhile. Had to take part of your helmet out of your skull. Dont
you know it is against Navy Regs to fly without a helmet?" the
guy chuckled, obviously a Navy surgeon. I looked up and saw his balding
head and the oak leafs on his collar. Beside him was a Corpsman, a CPO
with a big grin on his face. I was slightly aware of others in the background,
talking, moving about, operating equipment. The doctor kept talking
to me trying to get a response.
"Whats your name lieutenant? Where are you from? What city
do the Dodgers play for?"
I continued to fight the urge to answer. I wanted to go back to where
I had just been. The place where I could sleep and fly old war birds
and live without clocks or uniforms. A place where the ocean was always
blue and the sky even bluer.
"Come on Carr, tell me your name!"
"Carr. My name is Bob Carr. Im from Olympia, Washington."
I thought to myself.
"Lt. Carr, I order you to answer me! Who is the President?"
My eyes opened again slightly and I saw the white-clothed faces of Medical
Corpsman around me. They were talking to me but I didnt want to
respond. Just then I heard a voice as if in my head.
"Youd better talk to them chap. I think they mean business."
some unseen person said in an English accent.
"Yes, it would be wise for you to wake up now." came an obvious
Asian voice. "Well come back for you some other day."
"Thats right swabby. Thats an order!"
I looked past the faces of the concerned medical team and saw standing
behind then a Marine major in a WW II flight suit.
"Get the lead out!" He barked followed by a chorus of encouragement
in a variety of languages and accents. I looked harder, deeper into
the wardroom. There in the rear, behind the medical gear and the busy
corpsmen were five or six airmen in a variety of uniforms. There was
a short Japanese with glasses, a thin Chinese in a leather jacket, the
toe-headed Brit with the big grin and a couple of other pilots I could
scarcely see. They were wisps of people, transparent nearly. They saluted
one by one and faded into the hull as the noise of the Roosevelt and
the voice of the doctor grew ever louder.
"Who is the President of the United States?!" He demanded
"Lyndon Baines fucking Johnson." I yelled back. "Can
I get some sleep now?"
© John Whalen
Fiction in Dreamscapes
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