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Multiple Missions

By Gary Grenier

Many of my stories are unexplainable, they do not follow common sense or reality. I thought I should write at least one story that flirts with the dimension of time. I was a graduate of Willow Run High School, a quiet Michigan farming community until the second world war, when the old Kaiser-Frazier automobile plant was converted into a B-24 Bomber manufacturing facility. This story was meant to highlight the Michigan connection with the personnel on board a Michigan built bomber.

The bombing mission is completed, but the shell and flack riddled plane is in seriously unstable condition, with it's pilot, tired and weary, knowing many of the crew did not survive, and wondering if the airplane will make the trip back to base. Another strange story ending with a very fatigued pilot in "Multiple Missions".

"Multiple Missions"

Sleeping with your eyes open. Vibrating yourself into oblivion. We are enduring smoke, cold feet, dense gray clouds, engine noise, wind whistle, radio static, constant bouncing, and sudden falling. I am sleeping through it all with my eyes open, thought the nearly comatose pilot. Captain David Spencer felt brain dead. How long have we been up here? Will we ever find Longholm Field? Hell, will we ever find England?

Whoa, there's an eye opener, look at those thunderheads straight away!

I guess the "we" part of the above statement may be a joke, I have tried everybody on the intercom, with no response. Of course, one of the several hundred shells that entered and exited the heap may have taken out some of the intercom wires. The trim tabs, flap cables, and tail hydraulics are gone, why not the intercom? The odd radio transmission is my only companion. "Please God, help me stay awake and get this B-24 on the ground."

"Cub 6 to den mother..... Cub 6 to den mother...."

That guy must be lost; he's been calling for a long time, good luck buddy! We are supposed to be on "radio silence", but I am picking up just enough radio traffic to know that our flight dropped their 300 pounders' over Germany and most are limping their way back to the base.

Those clouds look cyclonic, I sure don't remember any storm reports at the flight briefing this morning, but that seems like it was a week ago, back when my brain was functioning.

Del Southwell, my copilot, and Jeremy Wilkinson, the navigator, are definitely not functioning. Part of Delby is pasted to the windscreen and part of him is puddled on the flightdeck. Jeremy looks unharmed and peaceful, but with an ambient temperature at 27,000 feet altitude of minus 18 degrees C, I imagine he is quite cold.

Black clouds ahead as far as I can see. I am sure I can't climb fast enough to get above this storm with number 2 engine smoking and sputtering. Flying through the middle of this hail maker might just be the last hurrah for the "Golden Goose". She would qualify for the "Ruptured Duck" right now. How these babies stay airborne shot to pieces is amazing; 6' of the left wing is gone, bomb bay doors are blown off, and more holes in her than I can count. Gauges still read 24,000 pounds of fuel and the "wheels down" light is on, obviously not working. My radio will only receive, no transmit, and smoke is seeping out of the instrument panel.

Did I mention that six of the twelve up here are from Michigan? Delbert was, and I am from Kalkaska and Jeremy was from Lodi, ten miles south of Kalkaska. Bud Dupie, tail gunner, is from Escanaba, in the Upper Peninsula, Jerry Weber, radio man, is from Grand Rapids, and this B-24 that we are barley keeping in the air was made in Willow Run, an automobile manufacturing town near Detroit.

"Spencer to crew. Spencer to crew. Everybody on this crate needs to grab a chute and bail out pronto, we have a cloud bank ahead that is a monster, bail out now" . no response. Earlier, I beat a prop wrench on the bulkhead trying to get somebody's attention, but the way this thing is vibrating, I doubt if they heard the signal, assuming anyone is alive back there.

"Dusty 2, you've got boogies 9 o'clock, closing fast.

Lead him more tailgunner, they're pulling up on your port side.

One is laying back, stay tight to. Smoker; All Right! Great shooting

Dusty, 1 smoking, and 2 running!"

I've got my chute at my feet on the deck, just in case. I'd like to land this heap, get it back for salvage at least, and get the crew on the ground, whatever shape they're in. This probably looks like a typical summer storm from the ground, but I don't think I have ever seen such a black and boiling cloud-bank, with lightning everywhere. This is not good, not good at all.

You get a good bouncing from any storm, this is going to be a real test, and this old girl is doing all it can do just to stay airborne. It looks like I have about thirty seconds to secure any loose gear in the cabin.

"Look! Lauderdale Lady is going down. . . . .

"I've seen six chutes so far, a lot of smoke, . . . come on you guys, get out of there!"

"She's starting to corkscrew. . there's another chute!"

"Get off the radio, that's an order."

It's starting to look like a coal mine ahead, black as midnight except for the spider-webbed lightning. We are really starting to bounce, hang on Baby!

Am I glad I'm strapped in, entering that cloud bank was like hitting a brick wall, it's all I can do to hold the wheel. The vibration is worse. Something is snapping back there, I'm rolling left, nosing down. I have no control, every warning light in the cabin is on, and this might be the time to. What the hell is going on? Sunshine, I'm heading right into the sun! No wind! Dead air, this is unbelievable, where's the storm? Am I dreaming? Wait a minute, Delbert and Jeremy are gone! Where did all these gauges come from? Am I going nuts?

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"Lift off, we have lift off of the Endeavor spacecraft at 10:03 Eastern Standard Time from Kennedy Space Center, launch pad 3. We are forty-seven seconds from booster rocket jettison over the Atlantic. We have another twenty-two seconds of communications blackout and then we will be back in contact with Commander Spencer. Ground control reports all systems are go. We will keep you."

Copyright 2006 Gary Grenier

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