Sample N15 from Donald J. Plantz, Sweeney Squadron. New York: Dell Publishing Co., Inc., 1961. Pp. 133-138. A part of the XML version of the Brown Corpus2,016 words 159 (7.9%) quotes 2 symbolsN15

Used by permission of original publisher, Doubleday & Company,

Donald J. Plantz, Sweeney Squadron. New York: Dell Publishing Co., Inc., 1961. Pp. 133-138.

Typographical Error: targets of opportunities [0090]

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Early in November the clouds lifted enough to carry out the assigned missions . And Sweeney Squadron put its first marks on the combat record . Every plane that could fly was sent into the air .

Cricket took eight ships and went south across the Straits and along the north coast of Mindanao to Cagayan . Anything the enemy flew or floated was his target . Fleischman with eight was to patrol the Leyte Gulf area , with his main task to get any kamikaze before they got to the ships . Greg himself took two flights , with Todman leading the second , to patrol and look for targets of opportunities around Ormoc on the east coast of Leyte . Each plane carried two five-hundred pound bombs .

A weapons carrier took Greg , Todman , Belton , Banjo Ferguson , and Walters and the others the two miles from the bivouac area to the strip . It was a rough long ride through the mud and pot holes . No one had much to say . The sky glowered down at them . There was a feeling that this mission would be canceled like all the others and that this muddy wet dark world of combat would go on forever .

The truck dropped them off at the various revetments spread through the jungle . Donovan snatched Greg's chute from him with a belligerent motion and almost ran to the plane with it . His face was dark as the sky above it as he stood on the wing and waited for his pilot . Greg climbed into the cockpit feeling as if he had never been in one before . But his hands and those of Donovan moved automatically adjusting and arranging in the check-out procedure .

`` I've got her as neat as I can '' , Donovan said , as he dropped the straps of the Seton harness over Greg's shoulders . `` But this goddamn climate . It's for carabao not airplanes '' .

`` We'll make out . Don't you worry , chief '' , Greg replied , wondering if he himself believed it .

`` Yeah . See you '' , Donovan said as he jumped off the wing . The expression was his trade-mark , his open sesame to good luck , and his prayer that pilot and plane would always return . At the prearranged time , Greg started the engine and taxied out . From the time the chocks were pulled until the plane was out of sight , he knew Donovan would keep his back to the strip . He wondered where the superstition had originated that it was bad luck for a crew chief to watch his plane take off on a combat mission . Yet long before the scheduled time for return , Donovan would be watching for every speck in the sky .

Greg rumbled down the rough metal taxi strip , and one by one the seven members of his flight fell in behind him . The dark brown bombs hanging under each wing looked large and powerful . The pilots' heads looked ridiculously small . The control tower gave him immediate take-off permission , and the clean roar of the engine that took him off the rough strip spoke well of the skill of Donovan .

Greg's mission was the last to leave , and as he circled the ships off Tacloban he saw the clouds were dropping down again . To the west , the dark green hills of Leyte were lost in the clouds about halfway up their slopes . Underneath him the sea was a dark and muddied gray . Water splashed against his windshield as he led the flight in and out of showers . The metal strip they had taken off from was coal black against the green jungle around it . He possessed the fighter pilot's horror of bad weather and instrument flying , and he wondered , if the ceiling did drop , whether he and the other flights would be able to find their way back in this unfamiliar territory . He shivered in the warm cockpit .

The overcast was solid above him . As far as he could see there was no hole to climb through it . They would have to go west through the narrow river valley that separated Leyte from Samar and hope that it didn't close in before they returned .

Greg pushed the radio button on his throttle . `` Todman , let's try to go under this stuff . Stay in close and we'll go up the valley '' .

`` Roger , Sweeney '' , Todman called back , and pulled his four in and slightly above Greg .

Greg took the formation wide around three A-26 attack bombers that were headed north over the Gulf . He dropped down to five hundred feet , swinging a little north of the city of Tacloban , and punched into the opening that showed against the mountain .

The valley was only a few hundred yards wide with just about room enough for a properly performed hundred-and-eighty-degree turn . It was only a fifteen-minute flight , but before it was through Greg felt himself developing a case of claustrophobia . The ceiling stayed solid above them at about eight hundred feet , and at times the sheer cliffs seemed about to close in . If the other pilots were worried , they did not show it . The formation remained perfect .

When the sea was visible ahead of them , the relief was as great as if the sun had come out . He spread the flight out and led them across a point of land and then down the coast . Although they drew light ground fire they saw no signs of activity .

Once Todman thought he had spotted a tank and went down to investigate while Greg covered him . `` Somebody beat us to it '' ! ! Todman said over the radio as he came back up in formation .

Visibility continued to be limited , and Greg was never able to get above a thousand feet . It was frustrating . His earphones were constantly full of the sounds of enemy contacts made by other flights . He thought once that he identified the somewhat hysterical voice of Fleischman claiming a kill . But Greg's area remained as placid as a Florida dawn .

Finally , as time began to run out , he headed into Ormoc and glide-bombed a group of houses that Intelligence had thought might contain Japanese supplies . The low clouds made bombing difficult . There was not enough room to make the usual vertical bomb run . The accuracy was deplorable . One of Greg's bombs hung up , and he was miles from the target before he could get rid of it . Only one of the flight scored a direct hit and the rest blew up jungle .

With their load of bombs gone , the planes moved swiftly and easily . Greg went up tight against the ceiling and led them back to their pass to home . Mercifully , it was still open . Like a man making a deep dive , Greg took full breath and plunged back into the valley . He was about to make a gas check on his flight when Todman's voice broke in : `` Sweeneys ! ! Three bogies . Twelve o'clock level '' .

Greg's eyes flicked up from his instrument panel . He saw them , specks against the gray , but closing fast . They were headed straight for each other on a collision course . Friend or enemy ? ? The same old question . And only a few seconds to answer it .

`` Zeros '' ! ! Todman said excitedly , and hopefully .

And then he thought Todman might be right . His mind flicked through the mental pictures he had from the hours of Aircraft Identification . He narrowed the shape down to two : either a Zero or a U. S. Navy type aircraft .

If it were the enemy , tactically his position was correct . Japanese aircraft were strong on maneuverability , American on speed and firepower . His present maximum altitude , up against the overcast , gave him the opportunity to exploit his advantages . But it also made him conspicuous to the enemy , if it was the enemy , and he hadn't been spotted already . But the closing aircraft showed no sign of deviating from their original course .

In seconds , Greg made his decision .

He pushed the radio button . `` Sweeney Blue , hit the deck . Lots of throttle . Todman , you take the one on the left . I'll take the middle . Belton , the one on the right . If they're Japs . Let's make sure first '' . Greg had the stick forward and the throttle up before he heard the two `` Rogers '' .

The planes , light with most of the gas burned out , responded beautifully . Greg's airspeed indicator was over 350 when he leveled off just above the trees . The opposing aircraft continued to come on . They appeared to be the enemy . Greg wished the Air Corps had continued to camouflage planes . There was , of course , no way for the other planes to get by them . It was a box . But they could turn and escape to the east .

Greg pushed the radio button again . `` Todman , drop your second element back . If any of us miss , they can pick up the pieces . Now let's make sure they're Japs '' .

Even as he said it , Greg knew they had found the enemy . The shapes were unmistakable and the Rising Suns were showing up , slightly brighter pinpoints in the gray gloom .

Greg slapped his hand across the switches that turned on the guns and gun camera and gun sight . The circle with the dot in the center showed up yellow on the reflector glass in front of him . His hands shook . `` Arm your guns , Sweeneys '' .

`` They're Japs . They're Japs '' , came a high-pitched voice .

`` Greg to Sweeney Blue . One pass only . No turns . You'll bust your ass in this canyon . That's an order '' .

He moved the flights over against one wall . It gave them all a chance to make a high-speed climbing turn attack and a break-away that would not take them into the overcast or force a tight-turn recovery . If the turn was too tight , a barrel roll would bring them out . A hell of an altitude for a barrel roll , but it could be done .

Greg slammed his throttle to the fire wall and rammed up the RPM , and the engine responded as if it had been waiting . The clearly identifiable enemy continued on as if no one else were around . `` They haven't seen us '' , Greg yelled to himself over the engine noise . `` They haven't seen us '' . He hit the radio button . `` Now , Sweeneys , now . Let's take 'em home '' .

He hauled back on the stick and felt his cheeks sag . Out of the corner of his eye , he watched his wingman move out a bit and shoot up with him . Perfect , he thought .

With the rapid rate of closure , the approach from below , the side , and ahead , there would be only a moment when damage could be done . Just like shooting at a duck while performing a half-gainer from a diving board .

He tightened his turn . His nose up . It was going to be dangerous . Eight aircraft in this small box . Please , dear God , make my pilots good , he prayed .

He took a lead on the enemy , using a distance of five of the radii in his circular sight and then added another . The enemy did not veer . It did not seem possible that they hadn't been spotted . Blind fools .

Now ! !

Greg's fingers closed on the stick trigger . The plane rumbled and slowed . Six red lines etched their way into the gray and vanished . As if drawn by a wire the enemy flew into them . Greg tightened his turn until the plane shuddered . Luck was with him . His burst held for a second on the engine section of the plane . The Jap's propeller flew off in pieces . A large piece of engine cowling vanished . It was all Greg had time to see . His maneuvering for the shot had placed him near the overcast , almost inverted and heading up into the clouds . His speed was dropping rapidly . If he spun out now , he would join his opponent on the ground .

Wingman , stay clear , he prayed . He pushed stick and rudder and entered the overcast on his back . He fought the panic of vertigo . He had no idea which was up and which was down . He held the controls where they had been . Sweat popped out over him and he felt the slick between his palm and the stick grip . His air speed dropped until he thought he would spin out .