National Geographic : 1943 Jan
The National Geographic Magazine Five Injured Heroes of a Fortress Crash Receive Congratulations from Friends Four with bandages and a fifth in bed are survivors of a wounded Fortress's blazing fall. The author, who visited them, tells the story of their extraordinary courage in carrying men from the flames (page 67). gum trees, anthills, and indelible red dust which got into and through everything (page 65). Promotions and personnel transfers, in ad dition to different physical conditions, vastly altered the general setup. Captain H. was Major H. Captain P., now Major P.-leader of B flight on my first mission-had gone to another heavy-bombing unit as commanding officer. Officers I had never seen before had moved in. However, some of my best friends were still second lieutenants. Three of them reserved an extra bed in their tent for me. The unit reached the new base only a week before I rejoined it. All the men I talked to seemed keen on life in the bush. They emphasized its healthful aspect to the point of naming it "Major H.'s Health Farm"; but they did not like too well having to get up ahead of the sun for calisthenics. Because of the work they had to do to make the place livable, they called it "Camp Muscle." First afternoon there, I saw offi cers themselves outside their tents, stripped to the waist, energetically digging slit (or sweat) trenches. Missions continued as usual. One night Don and Al, two of my tentmates, told me they would take off within the next few hours. Before falling asleep, I asked them to wake me when they got up so that I could say good bye. At five in the morning someone came to the tent to rouse them. That voice had the rasp of an ominous summons in the cold, dark silence of the bush. Some Go Out Never to Return Don and Al dressed automatically and col lected personal necessities for the mission in little knapsacks. I did not speak but waited for them to finish their preparations. When they left the tent, I thought it was to wash. They never came back. I lay awake for some time, thinking of these American airmen disappearing into the dark ness and cold of early morning to-to what? I thought of how casually they had got up and dressed. They had made it look as if they were setting out on a harmless practice flight. I never saw them again. COMMUNIQUE: "Against antiaircraft fire and fighter interception, Allied heavy bomb ers successfully struck Vunakanau airdrome [at Rabaul]. Fifteen tons of bombs hit the target area. Twenty Zero fighters engaged our formation. Seven enemy fighters were shot down in combat and others damaged. One of our planes is missing, and we sus tained minor damage and some casualties in others."