Even a Household Name Has a Beginning…


Erwin K. Roberts

In his dreams he flew. Flew his beloved P-38 Lightning once more. Elated as he cut through the sky, he remembered how he and his buddies tried to bring to the South Seas the name given to the aircraft by the European enemy: The Fork Tailed Devil.

Basically a coin flip decided he would not go to the European Theater of Operations. Mostly escorting bombers to the end of range, he’d heard. In the PTO, Pacific Theater of Operations, missions could be varied and downright wild. His P-38 carried the name Deja Thoris and a good copy of a painting by that St. John fellow.

Once again he put the Deja through her paces. He dived and snap-rolled testing the engines and control surfaces. In the back of his sleeping mind he knew what awaited.

Nor did it wait long. Tracers cut across his path from the clouds above him. Instantly he tamped the pedals and hauled the wheel over and back. The line of tracers just missed the plane’s hard turning belly. Now, he pulled up as fast as the screaming Alison 12 cylinder engines could slice through the beautiful South Pacific air.

As he roared above the low hanging cloud five Zeros followed him. Too many. He rolled to a new heading and pushed off for home base, over two hundred miles distant.

More tracers left their smoky trails around him. He’d been out here scouting for secret Japanese activity in these small islands. Well, he’d found some. Five supposedly unoccupied islands lay straight ahead. He called in to his base, but heard heavy static that had not been present five minutes before. Then he noticed his compass needle pointed at the biggest of the five islands. Pointed almost due west! Then before he could look away the needle began a sharp three hundred sixty degree spin.

Tracers shot by him first on the right then on the left. He pulled his startled mind back into the fight. The Zeros wanted him over the island group. He broke right and down, skirting the cone shaped mountain at the north edge of the biggest island. He swept down the slopes to get below anti-aircraft gun angles. But the jungle edge of the peak already lay under his wings. Before he straightened the aircraft he saw numerous flashes below him.

The Deja Lightning rocked as shells exploded around it. He felt the aircraft lurch as shrapnel pierced her in a dozen places. In an all or nothing bid he swept down to treetop level. The ground gunners could not hit him except by blind luck. The Zeros might hold off so as not to hit their own emplacements.

He roared across the center of the island while he headed for the cloud cover. As he flashed by he noted that much of the jungle seemed to be missing. Cammo netting covered a huge portion of the island center. A photo-reconnaissance run at normal high altitude might not attract undue attention. But his low pass revealed an airstrip and a few other things not installed by nature.

He cleared the island and pulled up even harder. But not very fast. Almost no climb. An engine started to cough. If he could just get into that section of low hanging cloud ahead. As the Deja limped for cover he tossed the weighted binder containing his flight log and call signals into the waters between islands.

Finally, seemingly an eternity later, he punched into the medium think cloud bank. With five Zeros and who knew what else after him, the Deja Thoris could not take him to base in her condition. Pangs of regret tore at his heart as he prepared to leave her.

He grabbed the small coil of rope he used to secure loose items with. He tied one end to the the control wheel. He eased open the cockpit dome. Air tore at his face. Hand still on the wheel, he managed to clamber out onto the intermediate wing. He pushed the throttles forward. As the speed increased the problem engine began to smoke. Hanging on for dear life he used the rope to pull the wheel back and to the side. It took all his strength to jam the rope between the canopy and the body of the craft. As the P-38 pulled up and to the side he clung to her until he could see the approaching top edge of the clouds.

Just before the smoking plane broke into clear air he dropped off, yanking his primary chute as he did. The silk, or was it the new nylon, canopy popped open. He grabbed the risers, willing himself to relax for the very brief time he had.

A few seconds later he saw the clouds thin out below his feet. As he had been practicing in his mind, he pulled the riser releases. The chute blew away in the wind while he dropped like a stone.

Glad he was now for that stopover at Fort Benning. He’d learned more about parachutes than he ever wanted to know. He watched countless men leave the lumbering C-47’s at seeming suicidally low altitudes. And they rolled as they hit the ground and jumped up, ready to fight.

He was a brown and khaki speck as he fell out of that cloud. The beautiful Deja roared away from him attracting all attention in that direction. He hoped.

At about nine hundred feet he pulled the release on his reserve chute. And prayed. The tiny island, surrounded by three of the others unfolded before him. Nothing of the hand of man visible. Got to get down and hide the chute he thought. Then, maybe, I have a chance. Maybe.

He fell faster than he wanted. The thought “Beggars can’t be choosers.” flashed through his head. He readied himself to roll on the beach. His hands reached up to the risers to be ready to spill air from the chute. As ready as possible, he waited out the interminable last couple of seconds. Closer. Closer. He could see shells on the beach now. Closer…

A gust of wind slammed his canopy sideways. He never saw the trunk of the palm tree racing at him. Then he saw nothing at all.


Slowly, very slowly, he felt his body return. He became aware of the of the lush island smell. He seemed wedged in a coffin sized hole. He took a deeper breath. Before he could think about moving a hand grabbed his and a voice barely hissed in his ear, “Yank, not a sound. Not a ruddy sound if you value your life. Squeeze me hand if you understand.”

He squeezed.

“Got to wait at least ten minutes,” breathed the unknown. “Then all will be made clear.”

He waited.

The hand on his relaxed, but did not let go. He heard breathing other than his own only now and then. The sounds of the jungle returned. No, they had been there. He just hadn’t noticed. Cautiously he opened his eyes. Still daylight. Or daylight again. Leaves and fronds blocked most of the light and view. He could make out nothing of his companion.

He waited. Seemingly forever. He started counting his breaths. His head hurt too much. His whole body ached.

He waited. Then he herd distant voices. Not in English. The spotty conversation faded away.

Still he waited.

Then came a whisper from above, “Clear.”

Fingers snapped nearby. Palm fronds and such were lifted from his body.

“Sit up, Yank.”

Muscles all over his body screamed in protest. Finally he rested his elbows on the rotting logs on either side of him. He groaned, “What happened to me?”

“You got inta’ scrap with a palm tree. You lost. Haddn’a been for your survival pack you’d be lots worse.”

“If you don’t mind my asking, who’re you?”

“We sort a’ do mind, Yank. Let’s just say that we’re a few Brits that just happened t’ see you fall from the sky. Got instructions to tell you damn little. Just in case.”

“Understood,” he said. “I must have landed in one Helluva secret operation. So secret, I’m surprised, not ungrateful, but surprised that you took me in. Thanks!”

“You be right ’bout that Yank. Your chute been stuck in that palm tree you’d been left for the Jap shore patrol. But the guards were on the opposite side of the island. Neat trick you pulled poppin’ the chute so low.

“I’m supposed to give you how it lays. No names. I read your dog tags, but you are ‘Yank’ to us all. You only see us three. I’m Sparks, radio man. Over there’s Pills, the medic. An’ the one what held your hand is Slops, the cook. We can’t cook with guards walking the beach. We’re on radio silence. And nobody, blessed be, is hurt. So we mainly sit here. And we don’t talk less we have to. Lots o’ fun, ayy what?”

“Thrilling. But, I’m not complaining. Got a deck of cards? We could play pantomime bridge.”

“’an they say Yank’s got no sense of humor,” chuckled Sparks. “But first, I got to find out everything you know, or don’ know about these islands.”

For the next hour he answered a barrage of questions. This Sparks fellow consulted notes at times, but asked insightful questions based on replies received, as well. Finally he was asked about the big island.

“I didn’t have a whole lot of time for looking. Not with five Zekes after me. I’d guess that about one third of the island’s center has been cleared. Not all in one piece, mind you. They seemed to have left strips of trees like a farmer’s windbreaks between the open areas. Everything’s covered with netting. I made out some heavy, permanent looking buildings. Tents were under some of the netting. Even the airstrip is covered except at the ends. But those ends can be covered when all planes are in. I made out what looked like two heavy transport planes to one side. And one other thing. I caught a glimpse of something really strange. On its side, under netting, seemed to be something like a tall radio tower.”

A tiny pebble sailed in from somewhere to land at Sparks feet. “Get him a drink, Slops. I expect we’ll be talking awhile longer,” Sparks said rising.

He sipped a fresh squeezed fruit juice he didn’t recognize as Sparks returned.

“Here’s a map, Yank. On the overlay pencil in everything you can remember.”

Sometime later Sparks remarked, “That’s a lot you remember Yank. I expected much less. How sure of the details are you?”

“I pretty much remember everything I see. A shrink once referred to my memory as near Eidetic. Whatever that means. Just be glad that palm tree didn’t erase everything recent. The scale or perspective may be off. May be way off. But if I drew it, its there. Somewhere.”

Next morning Slops silently handed him a palm leaf containing dried fish soaked in the fruit juice he couldn’t identify, dried fruit, and hardtack so tough that Horatio Hornblower would have used it for cannon shot. He put it to soak in more of the fruit juice as Sparks came back into the small clearing.

“Somebody took a long swim last night,” said Sparks. “They verified some of what you drew. The buggers practice very tight light discipline. Only way somebody made it back by being better in the dark than them. The heavy buildings seem to be full of generators. Cables, big, heavy ones, run through the windbreaks. Did you notice any Gremlins in your plane’s electric systems?”

“Huge amount of static on the radio. Not like the jamming I’ve heard.” He paused, “Everything else seemed to work properly. Wait a minute. My compass! Even before I got hit. My compass pointed straight at the big island. Damn near due west! Then it started to spin like a roulette wheel.”

Sparks whistled softly. “That’s beyond my radio school.”

“Beyond my school, too,” he said. “And I’m about done with a Masters Degree in Physics and Electricity.”

Pills spoke for the first time. “Ruddy Hades, Mate. How is it you’re out here, not in a research lab?”

He smiled. “The Brass’ll catch up with me some time. I neglected to tell them I finished college. Not to mention re-upped for more. My civilian pilot’s license got me where I wanted to be. At least for awhile.”

He spent the day with mostly with just his own thoughts for company. Toward sundown Slops passed out more of the same rations. He quietly asked, “What’s with the fish?”

“Word is that some of these blighters can get wind of people fed on red meat. We ate this ‘food’ startin’ three weeks afore we shipped out.”

He felt a hand cover his mouth as he woke from a dream where every hair on his body stood up straight. “Easy, Yank,” came Slops’ voice. “No sound. Just get up an’ take a look.”

As he stood he realized that every hair on his body was trying to point straight out. Then he looked up into the clearing’s small gap to the heavens. Sheets of variegated blue color filled the sky. “The Aurora,” he whispered. As he watched the curtains changed from blue to vivid green, then to cascading yellow.

He heard a pop from over where Sparks usually sat. The Aurora flashed through orange and on into the red. The red faded away as he felt his skin warm where the light hit it. Then the last of the visible light faded out. Still the sheets seemed to roil in the darkness. Twenty minutes later their hair began to settle back into something resembling a normal position.

“Well, that’s torn it,” he whispered.

“Torn what, Yank?” asked Sparks.

“Nothing we have to worry about today, friend,” he replied. “If that contraption disrupted the Heavyside Layer as bad as I think it did, we could be in for what the Chinese call ‘interesting times.’ But not anytime soon.”

“Heavy-what layer?” asked Pills.

“Heavyside layer,” he said, “is what reflects radio signals. They’re starting to call it the Ionosphere, these days. Keeps the signals inside the atmosphere. Most radio waves bounce off and back down. Then repeat the process. That’s why you can tune in BBC London from the other side of the world. Our ‘Honorable’ opponents just blew a huge hole in the layer. Not only that, they screamed bloody murder through that hole. Let’s say at midnight you climbed the tallest tree on this island and lit a signal flare, and just hoped that nobody, us or them, would see it. Not the greatest idea, huh?”

“I should hope to say not!” whispered Pills.

“Fellows, if by chance there actually are any of those ‘little green men’ or ‘bug-eyed monsters’ out among the stars, the human race just sent them an engraved invitation to come look at the children playing with matches.”

Came first light the next morning the radio man departed for some time. Returning, Sparks regarded him intently. “Well, Yank, they listened to what you said last night. Impressed ’em. But you, a radio expert, being here and right now, makes ’em stop and think. Some take what you say with a grain of salt, so to speak.”

“A grain of salt… Probably about the size of the licking blocks I used to put out for my grandfather’s cattle,” he replied with a low laugh. “Can’t say I blame them Sparks. Sort of like what the Trojans said.”

“You mean ‘Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.’?”

“No, ‘Beware of gifts bearing Greeks.’”

He felt the mood lighten a bit at that. Then Sparks continued.

“I’m going to give you some more information, Yank. They want your opinion about all this. But, we’ve been ordered to keep an even closer watch on you. Understood?”

“Understood. I’d probably do the same thing, just to be safe.”

“Thanks, Yank. Anyway, we looked for information on these islands. Way out of the way and not strategic. Least not for traditional warfare. There was almost nothing. Except this, they were claimed by Germany until the first war when the got handed to the Dutch. Makes us wonder if Jerry told Tojo what’s so special about them.”

“I can think of one thing,” he said. “That show last night took a lot of power. More juice than a carrier task force could generate. Did anybody report seeing big fuel tanks? No? And I didn’t notice any on my fly-over. That island’s volcanic. I’ll bet they’ve tapped the volcano to make steam to drive their generators.”

Pills looked confused. “So they got lots of current. But what in Hades are they trying to do with it?”

“There, my friend, is the Sixty-Four Dollar Question,” he replied. “Sparks, about the time the Aurora turned yellow, something popped over at your digs. What was it?”

“The tuning crystal of one of my crystal radio sets shattered, Yank. Never saw the like of it.”

An hour later Sparks finished putting the fourth set back together. The crystal in the highest frequency set was dust. The next lower one had melted the soldier holding it. The lowest sets had scorched Bakelite boards and melted wire insulation.

“Sparks, whether ‘they’ want to believe me, or not, you tell them what you found. I think you’ll agree that every energized vacuum tube in this region blew out last night. When they raise that radio mast and hit full power I’d guess at a range of several thousand miles. An Allied radio blackout of any length at all would be devastating. I’ll bet every Rising Sun task force commander has very nasty sealed orders to open if radio traffic ceases. If they have a week or more the Allies will be worse off than spring of ’42.”

“Hope you can swim, Yank” whispered Slops just after sunset as they walked past the dead guards on the beach.

“Probably not like you guys are trained to,” he replied. “I did do the one mile swim at Boy Scout camp once. A long time ago.”

“Not to worry, Yank.” For once Pills spoke in a normal tone. “Strap this on. We brought it to help lightly wounded swim with their mouth just above water.”

Two and a half hours later he scrambled ashore with Pills, just barely. He knew that the other group swam much farther to the other prong of the large two-hundred-seventy degree lagoon. Sparks and Slops eased out of the jungle to wipe out their tracks. “We’ve cleaned out machine gun nests to either side,” breathed Sparks. “Now let’s head for the airfield.”

Twenty minutes later, and even with the back of the lagoon, they looked out onto the camouflaged flight line. Slops took inventory.

“Six Zeros. Two big transports including the one we saw fly in at dawn. One light scout craft. There’s that Betty bomber we were expecting. But what in the King’s name are those things they’re uncrating next to the Betty? Any idea, Yank?”

He took the night glasses. The crescent moon glowing through a light overcast and a few shielded work lights barely allowed him to make out the the strange stubby craft. No more than four feet high and twenty feet long, the wings spanned far less than twenty feet. Frankly, they looked like torpedoes with wings.

“No earthly idea, Slops,” he said. “Something must be about to happen though. The honcho looks at his watch every few seconds.”

“Noticed that, too.”

Three brief blasts of a klaxon horn rent the night air. The detail supervisor urged his men to greater speed.

“Blimey,” breathed Slops. “Thought that was ‘to quarters’, for sure.”

“The way they’re wrapping up the unpacking,” he replied, “its more like the five minute warning. But what’s the netting they’re straining to put over everything? Must weigh a ton! They’re done. Look, he’s taking a head count. Now they’re double timing into that concrete blockhouse affair.”

Sparks whispered, “You know, there were small concrete jobbers behind the machine gun nests. Empty, but just big enough to hold the crew. Fact, that’s where we put ‘um. What if the big thing’s not healthful to those outside?”

“Friend,” he said, “if that mast gets raised and goes to full power, they’ll call every one of us SPARKS!”

“You may be right, Yank. Let’s check out those planes.”

Keeping a sharp eye out for guards they approached the staging area at the end of the runway. Slops kept watch. Pills disappeared into the Betty bomber.

Sparks inspected the craft’s exterior only to be interrupted by, “Rockets! I’ll be Doc Smith’s proofreader. Rockets!”

“What’s that, Yank?”

“Under this chain mail mesh,” he replied, “those winged torpedoes are rocket powered.”

“Really?! The mesh is no surprise. The bomber’s earthed with a cable the size of my wrist.”


“Sorry. Think you Yanks call it grounded. Got a big reel of cable to drag in the water, too.”

“No wonder the troops crawled in a hole,” he said grimly.

Pills hurried over. “Big engines just started. At least two of them. Coming this way!”

Just then a fraction of the moon peaked through a slit in the overcast revealing vehicles coming onto the borders of the runway. One pivoted toward them. Two more headed for the main compound.

Then he noticed the moonlight glinting off metal far above the netting near the permanent buildings at the flank of the old volcano.

“Ka-Mi amphibious tanks. Oh bloody hell,” said Slops. “But what are those sparks along the ground coming from?”

“Looks like they’ve got a chain skirt welded round them,” he said. “The mast is rising and those are the guards during testing.”

At that point gunfire broke out in the distance. A few seconds later the third tank spun in its own length to to follow the others. Another moment and three abreast on the runway the Ka-Mi’s rumbled for the main compound.

“Sounds like the lads found trouble,” groaned Sparks.

“Are they equipped for tanks?” he asked as he felt his arm hair begin to stand up.

“Not three of ’em. That’s sure.”

“Gimme a hand. I’ve got an idea,” he called out as he headed for the tiny rocket planes. “Pills, find a way to block that pillbox door.”

He and Sparks strained to pull the heavy mesh off the craft. Meanwhile, they saw Pills drive a donkey engine up against the pillbox door. “Sparks, I saw satchel charges. Get one. Then roll that engine starting generator over here.”

Quickly, with less effort than he expected, he jockeyed the craft’s six wheeled dolly to the center of the air strip. As Sparks returned he pulled this head from the tiny cockpit. “Attach it to the nose and set it for contact detonation.”

With that he pulled the folding machete out of his parachute’s survival pack. Sparks flew as he chopped the head off one of the generator’s two cables. As he separated the cable strands he found Slops looking over his shoulder.

“The thing has three rocket motors with standard electrical igniters. Watch me as I hook up this first one. Do that one while I get the third. Great. Now let’s roll the generator back as far as we can.

“Get to cover, fellows,” he called out as he wrapped the starter cord around the spindle. “The whole thing may just explode!” As he yanked cord he yelled, “Dr. Goddard, this one’s for you!”

The generator coughed. Sputtered. Coughed again. He released the choke. The gasoline engine roared. That roar vanished a split second later as the three rocket engines lit with the sound of a volcanic eruption. Like Bunsen burner’s gone berserk three long torches lit the lush foliage at the end of the runway like dry grass. He dived for the scant cover of the strip’s shallow drainage ditch.

The thunder on the runway increased. Inertia suddenly ceased to be a factor. The winged torpedo rolled down the runway like a bat out of Hell!

He glanced up just in time to see the rocket torpedo lift a few feet above the dolly. He had not thought that possible.

Now all his hair stood straight up. Suddenly he felt a strange sensation ripple through his body. He realized now that the infernal machine would impact between the left and center tanks, high up on the squared off rear ends. Wisely he buried his face in the soggy weeds and clamped his hands over his ears.

The rocket plane sliced between the tanks like a javelin. The left wing cleared the tank’s top. The right wing sheared off on the center tank throwing the nose into the side of the vehicle. Sparks’ small satchel charge set off the twelve-hundred kilograms of tri-nitro-aminol in the flying torpedo’s warhead. The earth shook. A split second later the sound washed over him feeling like a bucket of water full in the face. His breath whooshed out. Things began falling around him.

Something landed on his legs. Not hard, but very hot. Instinctively he bent his knees to throw the object off. The thing sailed forward to land not a foot in front of his eyes. Shaken to the core, he recognized the pretzel twisted form of the entire tail assembly of the rocket plane.

He scrambled to his feet. Only to find himself rising to his full body height above the ground. As he fell back to the ditch he looked back down the strip. All the cammo netting was gone. High in the air huge sparks arced from place to place on the complex head of the mast. He could see every component like daylight.

He tore his eyes away from the astounding sight back to the air strip. Where the Hell were the tanks? The right hand tank lay on its turret half way into the jungle growth. To the left he saw a tank sized hole smashed into the jungle. Of the center tank he saw nothing!

The silence after the explosion seemed deafening. In the distance he heard somebody calling, “Yank! Yank!”

He turned to see Sparks leaning out of the bomber’s cockpit window. “Get in, Yank. Before you fry!”

With that Sparks aimed a Verry pistol towards the main area and pulled the trigger. He watched the smoke trail as the flare round rose ever higher. Then a lightning bolt lept from the tower to the overturned tank, just missing the projectile. Very high above the the jungle the red flare dangled from its parachute. It drifted ever so slowly back down.

He hurried to the bomber. Every time both feet left the ground he got a shock on landing. He jumped up through the hatch to almost brain himself on the cabin ceiling. He hurried forward to the cockpit.

“Some show, Yank!” Pills greeted him. “I hope to blazes the self starters on the engines work. I don’t fancy goin’ outside for that hot-shot.”

“We better have ’em ‘ot an’ spinning,” said Slops. “He’ll have the ‘Ragin’ Furries’ if we’re not ready for takeoff.”

“I’d be grateful of any help you can give, Yank. I know how to get this thing off the ground under normal conditions. Which these ain’t.”

“Sure, Pills. This is their rough equivalent of our B-25 Mitchell bomber. I’ve flown that a few times.”

“Praise be, Yank. Let’s get started.”

A few minutes later they had the engines warming. By then he realized the only thing protecting them from massive lightning strikes was the turned turtle tank which absorbed bolt after ever larger bolt.

“Pills, is this plane armed?”

“Bay’s full of ‘undred pound or so anti-ship bombs. Just need the safety lanyards pulled to arm. Cannons, they’re 99 millimeter, and the machine guns loaded an’ ready, Yank.”

“Good. I think we need to…”

“They’re coming in,” yelled Slops. “Get ready to take off.”

He watched figures come out of the jungle at a high lope. Each one trailed or dragged something metal behind them. He yelled, “Slops! Sparks! Keep them out of the bomb bay, if you possibly can!”

Wedged between two dials he spotted a medallion of some kind. Pulling it free, he dropped it about three feet to the cockpit floor. The fall seemed to take forever. He made some quick and dirty calculations in his head. Dear Lord, he thought.

“All’s on board that’s coming,” yelled Slops from the rear. “And none in the bomb bay!”

“Pull the arming lanyards from the bombs as soon as we’re off the ground. Then get clear. We’re going to lighten the load.”

“My pleasure, Yank!”

“Pills, get to the bombardier’s station. I’ll call the drops.”

With that he pushed the engines to full throttle and released the brakes.

Six hours and over one thousand miles later he almost fell asleep at the controls. His mind roiled with the things he had done and seen. Flinging the bomber into the air seconds before a lightning bolt detonated the other rocket planes. The weird handling of the craft. The scarfing run on the main compound. Dropping the bomb load into the smoking cauldron of the volcano’s crater. The slow fall of the tower. The almost fatal return of normal flying conditions. The wild updrafts as lava flowed over the island. Following a compass bearing that they all hoped was correct.

“I’ll take it, Yank,” said Pills over the intercom. “Nap until we’re ready to ditch. You’ve done your part.”

At dawn they put the Betty down in the smooth waters between a tiny island and a waiting British submarine. As he fell into a deep sleep aboard the sub, it occurred to his that this must be something like being on all those spaceships he dreamed about, but with no view.

A British Intelligence officer debriefed him on the week long journey. At an unknown base he was turned over to an American Intelligence team who debriefed him even longer. In no mood to upset Intelligence’s applecart theory of the tower causing them all to see impossible things, he made no references to what he thought the weird conditions on the islands really meant. In the back of his mind he began a detailed analysis of every scrap of data he had or could see in the hands of his questioners.

Finally returned to his unit, he found even that part of his world in turmoil. He would not fly a P-38 Lightning again, but one of the first P-51 Mustangs in the Pacific. He would help train other pilots on the new ships. No missions as he plunged into study for the assignment.

A week later, as he wrote to his cousin Jeff King, his commanding officer summoned him. He reported, as ordered.

“Your ‘can’t talk about it’ adventure still echoes in high places,” said The Old Man with a wry smile. “The Brit High Command sent you these.”

He opened the proffered envelope and shook out the contents. “Commando sleeve badges?”

“That’s right, and an official warrant allowing you to wear them.”

“Come on, sir. I sure appreciate the gesture, but in no way am I qualified to wear them,” he replied as his head spun a bit.

The Old Man chuckled. “This just proves the old adage that no good deed goes unpunished. Seems when your ‘thank you’ came in it got sent up and back down our chain of command. I hold here the results of that journey. Got more stars attached to it than a major Hollywood motion picture. I’m quoting here, ‘as our allies have seen fit to confer this honor on you, you will wear the Commando tabs at any time they are uniform appropriate’ end quote. Later on they also specify that your mission identifier will also be Commando. I’m afraid you are stuck, Commando.”

He said nothing for several minutes.

As he left the CO’s office he heard a phone ringing loudly. From behind him came, “Better get that phone, Commando!”

The outer office faded into darkness. “Get that phone Commando. Get the phone Commando. Get the phone Commando… Commando… Commando…”

He wrenched himself awake to snatch up the bedside phone.

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