The Fox and the Mad Dawg
Sgt. Ron Stoppable stumbled down the gangplank onto the docks of a small port on the coast of England. He could not care less what the name of the port was. At least it was land. He and his crewmates had just spent over a week on an old converted merchant ship. He spent most of his time lying on his bunk or worshiping the "porcelain god".
"Fall IN!" Ordered Master Sergeant Greene.
Ron and his crewmates fell in line according to their flight crews. The officers of the crews were coming off the other gangplank. Their accommodations had something to be desired. The bunks were barely 18 inches apart and they had to keep their bags with them in their beds. Ron got along better than his friends since he was the smallest member of his B-17 crew. However, being the smallest also had its drawbacks. Being small meant he got one of the most dangerous positions overall.. That was the ball turret. If they got shot down his chances of getting out of the little ball and out of the plane were nil.
Sergeant Greene consulted his clipboard. "Okay grab your gear and get in the trucks by crews. The Red Devils get in the first truck. The Mad Dawg crew get in the second."
Ron grabbed his bag with the rest of his crew and tossed his bag into the back of the deuce and a half. He grabbed the side of the truck and pulled himself and climbed in. He found a seat and plopped down in the shade of the canopy. It was a cool overcast day in England and they had a long ride to their base.
"Hey Capt. Graham exactly where are we going?"
The tall blonde haired pilot of the "Mad Dawg" crew pulled his orders out of his pocket.
"Well Ron, our base is going to be at Molesworth. It should take a few hours to get there."
"Well now Ronald. Surely you were just getting your sealegs me boy." The rich Irish brogue of Henry O'Donnell filled the rear of the truck. The rest of the crew laughed as Ron turned a shade of green as the truck pulled out. He looked around the back of the truck. He had trained with these men and they were like family to him. First there were the officers, Capt. Donald Graham, the pilot; Lt. Jonathan Davis, co pilot; Lt. Frances Wright, the navigator, and Lt. Thomas Sperry, the bombardier. These were the men who flew the plane, guided it and dropped the bombs.
Then there were the other enlisted men. Sgt. Brick Flagg, was the flight engineer and top gunner, Sgt. Steven Brice, radioman and gunner, Sgt. Greg Brown and Sgt. Henry O'Donnell were the waist gunners; Sgt. Philip Clancy, tail gunner, and he, Ron Stoppable, the smallest member of the Maddog crew had the smallest position with the best view. He was the Ball turret gunner. He would climb down into his position after takeoff and squeeze himself into the small glass and steel ball that hung from the bottom of the plane. He had a wonderful view for sure, but the life expectancy of the ball turret gunner was the lowest of any position. If the crew had to bailout when Ron was in the turret, there was little chance he would ever make it out. They were ten men bonded together by friendship and teamwork. The officers referred to them all by their first names. The enlisted men called all the officers by their first names except for the pilot. They all called him Captain.
The truck hit a pothole jarring Ron out of his thoughts. It was raining heavily as the truck continued down the road. All of the men in the crew had nodded off asleep in the darkness of the rear of the truck. They would need their sleep. Soon they would be flying over France. They would not be on a training mission then. When he pulled the trigger of his guns he would be trying to kill another man. When the plane dropped it's bombs, they would not be training bombs but the real thing. The people on the ground would not be waving and the planes rising to meet them would not be friendly. The shells from the flak guns could tear a plane from the sky. The German fighters would be firing at them for real. The truck bounced again and the canvas cover on one side came loose. The crew fussed and cursed until they could tie it back down. Ron settled down in his seat and wondered what the people he would be soon flying over were doing.
Kimberly Ann Possible rode her bike along the cobblestone street of her hometown of Chartres. Her red-hair was fixed into a ponytail that flowed down her back. She had lived all of her 18 years of life in this town is western France. The cathedral loomed on her right as she passed in it's shadow. The medical clinic where her mother worked was several blocks away. The basket on the rear of her bike held lunch for the two of them. Kim's father was professor of science at the school in Chartres. Kim paused for the traffic and then turned down the street where the clinic was. Both her parents had studied abroad and spoke French, German and English. Kim had inherited their ability for languages and spoke the same three languages. She loved speaking English and hoped one day to be able to practice with someone besides her parents. She only spoke German when she had to. Kim didn't hate anyone but she had a strong dislike for the people who conquered and enslaved her country.
She dodged out of the way as a German motorcycle and sidecar sped by. Up the street in the traffic circle she could see a number of troop trucks and a tank. She pulled off the street and dismounted her bike. Alfred, one of the men helping at the clinic saw her and opened the door for her. Kim rolled the bike inside and to the side past the waiting area. Mrs. Franscois waved to her from her seat. Kim waved back to the elderly woman who lived up the street from them. Kim picked up the lunch basket and walked down the hall to her mother's office. Knocking first, she opened the door and entered as her mother called to her. "Come in Kimmie."
Kim walked into her mother's office and set the basket on her mother's desk. Opening the basket she pulled out the long loaf bread that she had made sandwiches with. Although she was born a French girl, Kim had no talent at cooking. Kim's brother's called her France's greatest secret weapon. All France had to do is arrange for Kim to cook for the Germans. That would be enough to drive them out of the country. The sandwichs were heaped with meat and cheese. Fresh milk and some fruit finished the meal.
"Well, Kimmie, how has your day been?" Mrs. Possible asked.
"Class was okay. Bonnie was being her normal self. Mr. Dubois went over what we needed to know for the test the day after tomorrow. Can I ride out to Nana's this afternoon?"
Mrs. Possible glanced over at her daughter as she spread the meal on her desk. Kim was becoming a beautiful girl and she is growing up in the middle of a war. Anne hoped that Kim got get through the times and able find a life for herself. She knew of Kim's "extra curricular activities". Kim was active in the local resistance. Most of the German soldiers did not take Kim as one of the operatives for the area.
"I think so. It you wish to spend the night just have Nana call."
Kim nodded and gave her mother a kiss on the cheek as they settled down to eat. After the meal Kim took her bike out on the street and started out of town. She had just reached the edge of town when she approached the roadblock. A number of German soldiers were checking identity papers of those coming in and out of Chartres. She pedaled up to the soldiers and pulled her papers out of the back pocket of her pants. One of the corporals took her papers as he stared at her. A blush came over her face as he ogled her. She knew the other soldier had walked behind her and was staring at her from behind. As she waited for her papers she noticed contrails appearing in the sky. American bombers were on the way to a target.
"Well, Kimberly, where are you heading today." Kim jerked around at the voice to see the one person she did not under any circumstances want to see. It was Colonel Wilhem Du, the Gestapo officer for the district. His men and his orders had caused the deaths of many in the resistance. Kim faced the coolly arrogant officeras he strolled up to her. The soldiers snapped to attention as the corporal hurriedly handed Kim's papers back to her.
"Good afternoon Colonel Du." Kim stammered lowering her eyes. "I was going to visit my grandmother."
Du approached her slowly. She knew he had a fancy for her, but she had not interest in him at all. Du slapped his gloves against the coal black boots he was wearing. His black uniform was immaculate. The red arm band with the black swastika adorned his arm. He stood in front of her and reaching over to touch her chin raised it to look in her eyes. Kim held her breath as they stood there for what seemed to be an eternity. Then Du released her.
"Feldwebel?" he called.
"Yes, Colonel." The Feldwebel snapped to attention at his side.
"Clear Mademoiselle Possible through the checkpoint and place her bike in my car. I'll supply a ride to her grandmother's farm.
"Yes, Colonel." The Feldwebel answered. He snapped a salute and shouted for two of the soldiers to mount the bike on the rear of the command car and escort Kim to her seat. Kim took her time getting into the car. The Feldwebel held the door open for her as she stepped across to the far side of the car and took her seat. Du slipped his gloves on his hands and entered the car sitting across from Kim. The driver jumped into his seat and cranking up the car drove quickly into the countryside. Du smiled over at her.
"It is such a beautiful day don't you think?"
Kim tried not to look at him.
"Yes, I guess."
"You have nothing to fear from me Kimberly. Would you care to dine with me tomorrow night? I am having some fellow officers over for dinner and it would so much more enjoyable if you would join me …us."
Kim swallowed and shook her head.
"Sorry Colonel Du. I have a test at the university the next day and I will need to study. Besides, I do not have anything fit to wear at such a fine dinner."
Du looked out over the countryside.
"Well, maybe I can do something about that."
The sky was filled with a droning sound and they looked up to see a formation of bombers heading over the town. Du scowled. While Kim wondered about the men in the planes and that one of them might be someone.
"B-17s heading for a target, well the Luftwaffe will give them a fine reception. We captured a few of them the last time a plane was shot down near here. We entertained them till we sent them to the prison camp."
Kim shuddered. She had been out after curfew the night the captured flyers had been taken into Gestapo headquarters. Their screams could be heard in the streets as they were entertained. There was nothing Kim and her friends could do. They didn't have the strength to raid the HQ to rescue the flyers. Later, Kim watched from a hidden corner and the tortured flyers limped out the Gestapo HQ and into a truck that took them to the nearest prison camp. Her thoughts snapped to the present when the staff car made the turn down the path to Nana Possible's farm. Kim noticed her grandmother standing under the front porch drying her hands with a towel. Several chickens ran from the approaching car as it pulled in front of the home. The driver got out and opened the door for Du and Kim. Du reached out and offered to take Kim's hand as she got out of the car. She didn't want to but allowed him to take her hand and guide her out of the car. Once out of the car he only released it after he had given it a gentle kiss.
"Until later my dear, I do hope you will reconsider my offer."
Du turned to Nana Possible and snapping his heels together gave a gentle bow.
"Good afternoon Madam Possible. I do hope you are well this day. Your lovely granddaughter was on her way out here and I decided to make sure she arrived safely."
Nana nodded to the officer.
"Thank you Col. Du. I am sure Kimberly appreciates the ride. Will you come inside for some wine?"
Du shook his head.
"I must decline. I have duties that need attending to, but I do hope that your granddaughter will reconsider the dinner invitation I gave for tomorrow night. Maybe things will work out so she can come."
Du then turned to Kim who had retrieved her bike from the car.
"Until then Mademoiselle Possible, enchante."
Du turned and entered his car. After he was seated the driver started the engine and headed back to Chartres.
Nana could tell that Kim was still nervous.
"Are you alright Kimmie? He didn't try anything did he?"
Kim shook her head.
"No he was a perfect gentlemen the whole way. I sure could use something to drink though."
"I understand. I think you best stay the night. I will phone your parents. I am sure they will understand."
Kim nodded then gave her grandmother a hug. Placing her bike against the outside of the home they entered the home and closed the door.
"Ron, Ron, wake up. It's time to get up and get ready."
Ron tried to pry open his eyes to the darkness.
"What time is it?"
The shadow above him shook him again.
"It's 0300. Time to get your butt out of bed and move. The briefing is in an hour and you'll need to get dressed, eat and over to the shack. Now move!"
The shadow in the form of one of the command sergeants went to the next bed and kicked the bed telling the occupant to get moving. Ron sat up on the edge of his bed.
Ron slid off the tailgate of the truck as it pulled up in front of the MadDawg. The B17-F sat quietly amid the noise of all the ground crews and aircrew milling around their planes. The MadDawg had been called something else before but when the plane was assigned to the crew he was on they changed the name. Ron dropped his gear by the rear door before running a check over all that he had on. Long johns and underwear for a start, then uniform pants and shirt over that. Then the heated suit on top of that. Heavy boots with heated overshoes covered his feet. Flight cap with intercom then heated cap over that. Over all of that was his parachute harness and on top of that would go his flak suit.
Brick slapped him on the back as he walked by and climbed through the hatch.
"Come on Ron, no time like the present. At least Coach Barkin is not barking in our ears."
Ron smiled as his thoughts went back to high school where he was a running back and Brick was the quarterback. They had played on the MadDawg team and a former soldier had been their coach. He was well known for his yelling. Ron picked up his parachute and pulled himself up into the plane. He shuttled down the inside of the plane until he came to the spot where he would sit with the two waist gunners for takeoff. After they were in the air for a little while he would crawl into his little cramped turret and lower it into position.
Ron placed his chute in the spot he always left if so if by the grace of God he could get to it and bail out he would live. Sometimes he would wear it into the turret but it made for close quarters. Considering the target for today, he would wear it in turret. Luckily he was short enough and small enough that he could if needed at bailout just roll his turret to the highest elevation and exposing the turret door to the air under the plane. He would then open the hatch behind him and just fall out. That all depended on many factors but he made sure he had many ways out of the plane.
Ron settled down onto the floor of the MadDawg in the radioroom which was his takeoff position. No ball turret gunner ever attempted to be in the ball during takeoff. He sat there with the two waist gunners and the radioman as the engines started and the plane started to move forward soon they were in the air and flying over the channel. All the men were making their way to their respective stations. Ron made sure the ball was locked down and the guns pointing straight down. This was the only way that he could get into the ball. The radioman helped hold the armored door while he scrunched himself down into the ball. Signalling that he was ready the radioman shut the hatch and locked it. Ron was now inside the small ball with his knees almost to his chin. Quickly he ran through the routine of connecting the heat to his suit, his intercom and oxygen connections. Then he charged both of the .50 caliber guns on each side of his head. Taking the controls in his hands he started to swing and elevate the turret to test its movement. Toggling the intercom he called the pilot.
"Ball to pilot, Captain would it be okay to test my guns?"
The pilot looking around and noticed the same activity going on with the crews of the other planes.
"Pilot to crew, permission to test fire guns. Just a test. I have a feeling that we will need the ammo later."
Ron pushed to the two buttons under his thumbs and the two guns roared to life. After a short burst he released the firing buttons bringing silence to the interior of the confined space. He could feel the plane shudder as other gunners tested their guns also. Turning the ball so he was facing straight down he could see the French countryside. They appeared to be passing over a larger town. Seeing a particular cathedral he knew they were flying over Chartres. He would even see what a appeared to be a car driving up a dirt road out of the town. They flew on for a little while before the copilot called out.
"Alright everyone, keep a lookout for fighters. We should start seeing them at any time. No little friends today."
Ron rolled his eyes at what he already knew. They had no fighter escort today. No fighters meant that the Luftwaffe would come at them with everything they had. A small black cloud appeared to his left. A loud bang accompanied the flash and appearance of the cloud. He called out over the intercom.
The little clouds started to appear more often and closer to their flight. Close but not to close. Then the flak stopped. Brick yelled over the intercom from the top turret.
"ME-109s! A couple of dozen coming in from 3 o'clock high."
Ron turned his controls to face the threat when he noticed a flash of light from below. He called out.
"More fighters coming in at 7 o'clock low."
He turned his guns to face the new threat and focused on the nearest fighter. He placed the sight reticle on the oncoming plane made the range adjustment and hit the firing buttons under his thumbs. Both guns roared to life as he kept the plane in his sights. He saw flashed from the wings on the oncoming plane and knew the other pilot was firing at his place. Flashes of light appeared around the cowling and the cockpit of the enemy fighter and the lights of the wings stopped flashing. Smoke poured from the engine and the fighter dove under the Mad Dawg. Ron noticed the glass of the cockpit was shattered as the plane passed under him. He quickly turned his attention to another plane and fired.
Kim helped her Nana clean up the dishes from supper and placed them in the china cabinet. Putting the drying towel on the towel rack she walked out the back door toward the barn. She needed to make sure all the animals were fed and watered before she closed and locked the door for the evening. The sound of airplane engines came to her ears and she looked up. American B-17s were heading back to England. There seemed to be fewer than before and a few planes had trails of smoke coming from them. She said a silent prayer for everyone on the planes. She muttered under her breath.
"Ronnie I hope you aren't up there."
Ron settled back against the wall of the rattling, groaning Mad Dawg. One engine was stopped and smoking. The nose of the plane was shredded as well as the left wing. The body of the navigator lay on the floor of the radio room next to him. He winced as the pain in his arm radiated into his head. A cannon shell from a German fighter had blown a hole in the ball turret. He was lucky to escape with only a minor wound. On the good side, he had been credited with his first kill. Two other bomber crews had confirmed his kill. He looked out the window and saw Chartres below them. He whispered under his breath.
"KP, I hope you are okay."
Welcome to a new story by the Captain. This is a story that has been a very long time coming, over 5 years. You can tell that this will be a WWII story. I have had to do a bit of research to get the basics down. I hope that you enjoy it. I will be changing some terms and ranks to make it easier for everyone to understand.
This story is dedicated to one of my uncles. The same man who carried my middle name. He was a navigator with the Eighth Air Force during the war. He flew all his combat missions and returned home. He was one of the lucky ones. Recently, I had the chance to tour the museum outside of Savannah, Ga. dedicated to the Eighth Air Force. If you ever are traveling in the area take an hour or so and see the museum. It is worth your time.
This story is also dedicated all of those men who flew in harm's way and the brave fighters of the French Resistance.
This is the Captain
Right hand salute