Desert Sand, Pacific Sky
By Christopher Roach
June 20th 1942, Malta, 1830 Local Time (GMT+1:00)
Obersturmbannführer Otto Skorzeny stood by a mass grave at the edge of the airfield lost in his thoughts. The invasion had been an utter blood bath. Of the five-hundred men who had landed with him almost three-hundred -nearly sixty percent- had been killed. In the force as a whole casualties were running near forty percent.
But despite the heavy losses the island was as good as taken. All the airfields had been captured and the surviving allied troops were holed up in the few urban areas of on the island.
Of cause if given a limitless supply of troops –and more importantly artillery and armored support- Otto Skorzeny would have been more than happy to lead an all out assault on Valetta, but quite simply he didn’t have those resources and so all that could be done was to starve the British out.
* * * * * *
The four man German patrol inched it’s way further and further in to the mess of streets and alleys that made up the city of Valetta. From one of the numerous windows that overlooked the street Squadron Leader Townsend lined up his rifle –a StG-44 scavenged off a dead Nazis after an earlier engagement- and opened fire. The burst of 7.92mm rounds hit the German clean in the chest. The Nazi promptly stumbled forwards a few paces before collapsing dead. At almost the same moment one of the Squadron Leader’s men opened fire with a Bren gun from somewhere behind the Germans, another two of whom promptly fell to the ground. Equally suddenly a sniper with a .303 Lee-Enfield picked off the last German.
June 21st 1942, Wagga-Wagga, New South Wales, Australia, 1505 Local Time (GMT+10:00)
Lieutenant John Hall trod the streets of Wagga-Wagga. It seemed kind of pointless but he had decided to use his first week of leave since the transition to track down his relations. He knew his grandfather was somewhere in Canada in the Empire Air Training scheme but his great-grandfather was still somewhere around here.
He soon ran across a group of soldiers from the Citizens Military Force lounging around on the veranda of a pub. A quick glance showed a number of posters advertising movies on the wall of the pub… the Lieutenant immediately noticed the old Peter Jackson remake of The Dam Busters and one or two other 21C films that must have come back through the transition.
Lieutenant John Hall turned to the CMF troops and started to ask for directions.
"Oy, can you give me directions to the Woodbridge shoeing forge?"
One of the men briefly glanced up and gestured in the direction.
"Three or four streets up that way." The infantryman did a brief double take as he took in the unusual uniform "You’re one of those up-timers?"
"Yeah, so what?"
"Well thanks for holding the Nips back… if the ‘papers are to be believed a lot of us would have died on some god-forsaken track up in New Guinea…"
"Kokada you mean?"
"Yes that was the name… now do ya want a drink? It’s my shout…"
Lieutenant John Hall walked with the CMF private up to the bar.
"Is it true what some say about the next century?"
"What are ‘they’ saying? I would assume it’s the standard outrage about a lack of morals… I ‘spose yes and no is the answer… Certainly morals have changed in the seventy-three years but I know they still exist…"
The Lieutenant grabbed a beer and started drinking.
June 21st 1942, Cabinet War Rooms, London, 0810 Local Time (GMT+0:00)
"Here is the strategic briefing for June the 21st 1942…" started a Colonel "…The 8th Army continues the pursuit of the Panzerarmee Afrika… The Germans have nearly been driven out of Egypt. Current intelligence indicates Axis losses are running near thirty percent since the Battle of El Alamein. On top of previous losses it would appear that the Africa Corp is barely 50% combat effective…" As the Colonel droned on about more details of the North African campaign Winston Churchill took a moment to glance around. The room was packed with politicians and military officers –both ‘uptimers’ and ‘temps.
"…The situation on Malta is critical. The port of Valletta is wrecked and all airfields are in enemy hands. Casualties amongst the German Paratroopers are unknown but assumed to be heavy…"
The briefing continued for another fifteen minutes. As it finished the room promptly emptied –with the exception of the Prime-Minister, a few ‘temp officers and the ‘uptimers’.
Now –as the briefing had quite needlessly pointed out- Malta stood on the verge of falling. Here in front of the Prime-Minister stood the men who could very well save the Island and possibly even strike a killer blow to the Italian fleet.
Winston Churchill examined the men, he recognised several from meetings in the days after the transition but in addition there were several he wasn’t familiar with.
"So again we reach a crisis… The fortress of Malta needs relief and I have been informed that you are the most capable men…" The Prime-Minister’s eyes darted over the crowd and settled on the Wing Commander Katherine Brookes –the commander of the 21C No. 3 Squadron- "… and women for that duty. I understand this operation to commence as soon as possible… it does not seem likely that the Malta garrison can hold out for more than a few days."
One of the Naval Officers spoke up:
"Prime-Minister, I don’t know what ‘temp naval officers have said but I am certain it will take quite some time to prepare for this operation… I mean, for example it will take the better part of week to deploy HMS Prince of Wales and Victorious from Scapa Flow to the Mediterranean."
Wing Commander Brookes chimed in:
"I don’t think the ‘temps planned on using the Carriers to support the initial landings. I believe Admiral Cunningham has however requested them for the follow up operations... Which I assume means he’s planning a second Taranto."
Somewhat unexpectedly Sir Dudley Pound and second a naval officer entered the room.
From the look on the First Sea Lord’s face it was evident that the news he carried was bad.
Admiral Pound passed a sheet of paper to the Prime-Minister.
"Prime-Minister, may I introduce Commander Fleming. He had been involved in the debriefing of Admiral Canaris and is the best placed to provide a briefing on the issue that has arisen…"
The First Sea Lord glanced around "… Are these ‘uptimers’ cleared to hear this intelligence?"
Commander Fleming stepped forwards:
"Canaris confirmed what we had suspected… the Germans had acquired several ‘advanced’ French naval vessels. However the bad news is the particular vessels the Krauts have acquired…"
Commander Fleming paused for a moment "… Intelligence indicates the Nazis have acquired at least two French Carriers –A Clemenceau class vessel and a Colossus class vessel- in addition to at least one AA Cruiser and a number of Destroyers. Admiral Canaris was unable to provide any concrete information on the readiness of the vessels’ crews but he did inform us that the vessels were captured immediately after the transition and so are likely undamaged."
The First Sea Lord turned to the Prime-Minister.
"In the light of this development I would recommend –or insist- that Prince of Wales and Victorious are not committed to any operations that could interfere with their ability to intercept these vessels should they sortie."
June 22nd 1942, Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia, 1105 Local Time (GMT+09:30)
The General commanding the army units in Darwin glanced over his desk. Immediately in front of him lay a half written letter to the great-grandparents of Major Ennis confirming his death and mentioning the recommendation for a DSO and VC for his actions in Malaya. The General had been unable to finish the letter… how was he suppose to inform the great-grandparents of the death of a man –who wouldn’t have been born until the early 1980s- that they had never known?
Anyway that was largely irrelevant at this moment. What was important at this moment lay just next to the letter… the latest briefing out of the cryptography department. The General scanned the sheet of paper for one last time before reaching for his telephone and ringing his RAAF equivalent.
* * * * * *
The Air-Vice Marshal’s secretary -a blonde female Flight Lieutenant- called Air-Vice Marshal Murray’s attention to the phone.
"G’day General… how are things going?"
"Air-Vice Marshal, I assume you have seen the latest briefing…"
The Air-Vice Marshal glanced around his desk.
"Which briefing exactly? I am up to my neck in briefings…"
"The one from Cryptography… in relation to Rabaul."
"Yes… I believe they have detected radio traffic indicating a build up of troop transports and naval vessels…"
There was a moment’s silence -presumably as the General checked the briefing.
"Air Marshal… I think you’re a little out of date… my briefing indicates the vessels are intended for a landing on the North coast of New Guinea…"
"Shit… what forces do you have available to counter that?"
"Bloody hell, Greg Murray… that was exactly what I was going to ask you… I can put three companies of 21C troops in the field… I could send the ‘temp 21st Brigade but they’re still in the middle of retraining; the good news is they seem to like Kalashnikov clones we’ve put into production."
"I don’t think I have much to offer… the airfield at Lae is way too primitive to operate F-35s from and I don’t think we can operate more than a squadron from Port Moresby for any length of time…" The Air-Vice Marshal glanced around his office… his eyes settled on another briefing, this one concerning the recent test of a glide bomb "… I may be able to get one of the R&D teams to deploy to Lae…"
June 23rd 1942, Wagga-Wagga, New South Wales, Australia, 0605 Local Time (GMT+10:00)
It had been a rude awakening… at three o’clock some buffoon from the local airfield had barged into Lieutenant John Hall’s room. The Lieutenant had grabbed his sidearm and gone close to shooting the idiot before the man had identified himself and handed the telegram formally ordering Lieutenant Hall back to Darwin. Now the Lieutenant sat by the airfield while an American B-24 Liberator was fuelled to be ferried to PNG via Darwin.
The aircraft’s pilot walked past before suddenly noticing the Lieutenant.
"So you are the guy who’s meant to be getting a lift with us to Darwin?"
"Yes… the name is John Hall… a Lieutenant in the Royal Australian Navy."
The Pilot glanced at his baggage… and quite clearly noticed the Lieutenant’s laptop computer…
"My name’s Major Denton… So you’re one of those ‘uptimers’? Also why are you heading back up North?"
"Yep… I was meant to have two weeks leave but some idiot in Darwin decided to call me back… hopefully it will be sorted soon and I will get back down here to catch my bloody relations…"
June 23rd 1942, Pacific Ocean, South West of Wake Island, 1608 Local Time (GMT+11:00)
Captain James Ferris watched from the bridge as the arm of the Mk 13 Missile Launcher pivoted up to receive the SM-2MR. The arm then pivoted down to a 45 degree angle… turned briefly as it tracked the target and then in a cloud of smoke and flame the missile launched. It took a matter of seconds for the SM-2 to cover the 70 nautical miles to the target, a Kawanishi H8K ‘Emily’. The missile hit, turning the Flying Boat into a cloud of flame and wreckage.
Admiral Fletcher suddenly appeared on the bridge. Captain Ferris immediately snapped to attention.
"Sir, we just engaged and destroyed a Japanese reconnaissance aircraft."
"Is there the slightest chance they could have located us, Captain?"
"Almost none Sir, the aircraft was destroyed at a range of seventy nautical miles… well beyond visual range and very near the limit of the few types of radar the Japanese are known to use…"
The Captain shrugged "… it’s possible the Japanese had fitted the recon kite with a captured ‘high-tech’ radar but we didn’t detect any emissions so that’s unlikely."
"Can you…" the Admiral paused, seemingly struggling to find a word "… ‘update’ –I believe you uptimers seem to like using that word- me on the locations of the other taskforces?"
"Yes Sir. USS Bataan and her escorts –commanded by Commodore Bailey aboard USS Philippine Sea- are 600 nautical miles East-North-East of Wake, moving at the LHD’s top speed of 23 knots… Saratoga and Lexington –under the command of Rear Admiral Spruance- are patrolling just to the west of the island, in company with the survivors of TF16 and USS Halsey."
"And the enemy?"
"Last observed by a B-24 five hours ago 100 nautical miles North-West proceeding south at fifteen knots… Confirmed as consisting of three Carriers, two Battleships, five Cruisers and numerous escorts and transports."
* * * * * *
Captain McEwen dashed along the corridor to the Submarine’s control room. He entered and glanced around. By the faint red glow of the lights McEwen could see that Lieutenant Willet had the situation under control.
The Captain turned to her and started speaking in a hushed tone, little more than a whisper infact.
"So Willet, what do we have?"
"Not quite sure, Sir. We picked up a contact on the passive sonar a matter of minutes back. It’s at the extreme limit of our sonar range but it sounds like a diesel power 21C Submarine… My guess is something Russian –probably a Kilo or perhaps a Lada or Amur class ‘boat."
"Bring us to Periscope depth… raise the mast, contact Newcastle and then let the hunt begin…"
* * * * * *
Captain Surachman sat in the op-room of Cakra. He was worried… he was down to half his torpedos following the massacre of TF16. Yet he was now meant to intercept the massed forces closing in on Wake Island. He was doing his best to follow those orders but it was all to obvious that he didn’t stand a hope in hell of doing much damage if the nearer force was –as intelligence indicated- rounded out by several 21C escorts.
June 23rd 1942, Pacific Ocean, South West of Wake Island, 1912 Local Time (GMT+11:00)
Three hours had elapsed, and the contact had closed to with in thirty nautical miles of the task force. There was also no doubt in Captain McEwen’s mind that the target was a Kilo class vessel. He glanced at Lieutenant Willet.
"Do we have a firing solution on the contact?"
"29,000 meters, Sir"
"Hold fire for the moment…"
Minutes slipped by.
The liaison officer Captain Stoker entered the op-room.
"Oy Stoker… do you want the honor?"
"Do you want to give the order to blow this enemy submarine away? May not quite be a Battleship –I understand you missed one in the Dardanelles- but still should be fun…"
"Yes… May not be the Barbarossa or Turgood Reis –god... why didn’t I wait those extra seconds rather than fire at that Cruiser?- but should do fine…" A grin filled his face.
"26,000 meters, still have a firing solution…"
"Okay… Stoker, give the order."
"Flood tubes two and four…Fire…"
Within seconds two Mark 48 torpedoes shot from HMAS Collins and accelerated to 60 knots.
Lieutenant Willet spoke up.
"Well looks like our stocks are shrinking… we’re down to fourteen Mark 48s and six Harpoons…"
* * * * * *
"Torpedos in the water!" screamed one of the Sonar operators.
Captain Surachman’s attention immediately leapt to the sonar display.
"Which idiot failed to warn me there was a Collins class vessel on the loose? Release Decoys and turn hard a-port…"
He glanced over the op-room. If only he had been allowed to maintain his initial crew… but no the Japanese had insisted on ‘contributing’ to the operation of the Submarine… the damn language issues had probably meant that the Collins class ‘boat had been noticed but no one had told him. Now it was going to cost them the Cakra… The Captain let slip a curse seconds before the first torpedo hit.
Barely had the explosion subsided when Captain Surachman and the entire op-room crew were hit and crushed by a wall of high-pressure water.
* * * * * *
"Two hits… she’s breaking up… We’ve got her… Good job Captain."
June 24th 1942, Pacific Ocean, West of Wake Island, 0508 Local Time (GMT+11:00)
Captain Willis stumbled his way to the CIC of the Guided Missile Destroyer USS Halsey.
The men and women manning the Combat Information Center briefly snapped to attention before the Captain collapsed into the nearest chair.
"So what’s this ‘latest development’ that couldn’t wait?"
One of the men –a Lieutenant– replied.
"Sir, what would you make of this RF emission?" He gestured at a screen.
"Surface Search Radar… transmitting from somewhere near its maximum range?"
"Correct Sir, I have identified it as an OPS-28…"
The Captain stood in thought for a moment.
"I am not familiar with that designation… a rather obscure Russian or Chinese radar perhaps?"
"Well sir, it’s actually Japanese… fitted to most of their Destroyers back up in 2015…"
"Shit… you mean that…"
"Yes Sir, at least one 21C Japanese vessel has fallen into ‘temp hands."
"Any idea which vessel?"
"Sorry Sir but no… I think we can rule out a Kongo class DDG as we haven’t picked up any long range air search radars, but other than that…" the Lieutenant shrugged "It could be anything from the old Ishikari class Destroyer-Escorts right on up…"
"Well then get the message out… I am quite certain that Admiral Spruance, Admiral Fletcher and our own Commodore Bailey would like to know… and while you’re at it see if you can get HMAS Collins... I don’t think Captain McEwen will quite so keen to get close to the Japanese now…"
June 24th 1942, Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia, 0512 Local Time (GMT+09:30)
It had taken quite some time to convince the guards to allow him through but they had at last relented after he had got one of the ‘temp RAAF Squadron Leaders to talk to them.
Major Denton entered the hanger. He immediately noticed the activity surrounding his B-24.
A closer look revealed that the activity seemed to revolve around pulling the aircraft to pieces.
"What the hell are you doing to my aircraft?"
The man supervising the activity turned towards him. Immediately Major Denton recognized him… the damn naval Lieutenant who had hitched a lift up north with his bomber.
"Major, I have my orders…"
"From who exactly?"
"Air-Vice Marshal Murray…"
"Another damn uptimer…"
"Besides, it looks like you’re crew has won a few weeks respite from combat… go and enjoy Darwin…"
"What the hell do you mean?"
"Another three or four days to fit out your aircraft then a couple of weeks training…"
"What is this about exactly?"
"A little project, you’ll find out soon enough… and don’t worry about your aircraft… if we can drop the weapon from a Beaufort with no problems a Liberator should be able to more than stand it. Now could you get out of the way?"
Major Denton turned and walked away.
June 24th 1942, Pacific Ocean, Near Wake Island, 0845 Local Time (GMT+11:00)
"Bridge to CIC, clear to engage… lets get the buggers…"
Moments after he uttered those words Captain Willis watched from the bridge as the first half-dozen SM-2s climbed away from the forward VLS, filling the deck with a cloud of smoke in the process.
Seconds passed as the missiles flew towards the oncoming wave of aircraft at Mach 3.5.
"CIC to Bridge, Four hits… repeat four hits… Also need to report apparent use of chaff by enemy aircraft."
Captain Willis grabbed the intercom.
"Captain Willis, here… any more info?"
"Yes Sir, the lead aircraft dropped chaff when we ‘painted’ them with the SPG-62… I guess the aircraft must have been carrying primitive radar detectors…"
"Fine… resume firing…"
Another ten SM-2s arced into the sky at a rate of one every two seconds.
"CIC to Bridge, aircraft are descending into the ground clutter… advice that we cease fire to preserve ammunition."
Captain Willis paused, the men down in the CIC had a point… he had forty SM-2s and a similar number of ESSMs left aboard but -given the Australians wouldn’t be keen to part with their remaining stocks- the US hadn’t acquired sufficient missiles to fully rearm both his ship and Commodore Bailey’s vessels. Yes, there was a good reason to cease fire but at the same time it wouldn’t be sensible to leave their defense to the ‘temp alone.
"Bridge to CIC, negative… how many have we got so far?"
"CIC to Bridge, confirm twelve direct hits and four near misses…" the voice paused, presumably as the man examined the radar screens "… Radar returns indicate we may have bagged twenty. "
Again more missiles started to climb into the sky… suddenly the solid rocket motor of the third missile in the salvo cut out prematurely and the SM-2 plunged back onto the ship, smashing into the forward Mark 41 VLS silo.
For a moment the ship shook like mad and Captain Willis was thrown sprawling to the deck. He clambered to his feet and reached for the intercom.
"Bridge to CIC, cease fire. Repeat cease fire."
"CIC to Bridge, already done."
He glanced out of the bridge onto the fire started by the missile. Damage control parties were already dealing with it… rendering his intended order pointless. He turned to his XO.
"Can someone get me a damage control report? Is the forward VLS still usable?"
* * * * * *
The first half-dozen F4F Wildcats of the Taskforce’s combat air patrol dived at the Japanese formation. Immediately four Japanese airplanes –a trio of B5N ‘Kates’ and a single Zero- were ripped to shreds by the Wildcats’ fifty calibre guns. The Japanese escort –a dozen A6M3 ‘Zeros’- counter attacked, three of the F4Fs managed to escape and climb away ready to dive at the Japanese for a second time… however the other three Wildcats had the misfortune of facing the Zeros in a dogfight.
The result was a forgone conclusion and all three soon plunged, burning into the ocean.
* * * * * *
The first round was over. Of the seventy Japanese aircraft –nearly a third of the entire air group of the three Carriers- barely half had survived the missiles and the skirmish with the CAP. Another eight had been scythed out of the air by the flak barrage. But still the twenty-odd that had got through did more than enough damage.
Captain Willis stood on the deck of USS Halsey and looked around. Off in the distance the old Saratoga lay dead in the water and wreathed in flames after the Japanese had caught her in the act of fueling reinforcements for the Combat Air Patrol. Closer by the Lexington sat with a slight list to port. Even the Captain’s own ship hadn’t got out unscathed. A single 500 pound bomb sat embedded somewhere in the Halsey’s vitals while a strafing run by a Zero had knocked out one of the ship’s missile guidance radars.
Captain Willis watched as the single ‘temp Destroyed pulled away from his ship, taking all non-essential personnel to safety while the damn bomb was defuse. He turned his attention back to his ship and to one of the bomb disposal experts.
"So how’s it going?"
The man shrugged.
"It hasn’t gone off yet, Sir"
A slight trace of a smile appeared on the man’s face.
"… So I suppose you could say it’s going well. To be serious…I t seems to be quite a simple impact-only detonator so I don’t think it should offer any problems. Just gotta hope the Nips don’t strike again before we’re rid of that bomb…"
"Don’t worry… I doubt they will. We wiped out close to a third of their aircraft…"
June 24th 1942, Near Palermo, Sicily, 0009 Local Time (GMT+1:00)
Major Premoli was a typical example of the uptimers that ended up collaborating with the fascists. He wasn’t evil but a misguided sense of nationalism and a suitable incentive –in this case the threat of a pistol round to the head- had led him to cooperate.
He sat in the cockpit of his F-104S as it orbited somewhere west of Palermo in the company of two F-104Gs and a single AMX Ghibli flown by contemporary Italians. As much as the ‘temps may have disliked flying at night it had become rather essential in the last few days after a flight of British TSR2s had trashed an airfield on the west coast of Sicily.
Major Premoli was hoping he would get a chance to tangle with the British tonight. He was after all one aircraft short of becoming an ace… and a super-sonic bomber like a TSR2 would make a much better scalp than the Hurricanes and Hunters that made up the rest of his tally.
* * * * * *
Really she should have been back in Gibraltar getting some sleep or dealing with the endless paper work that threatened to engulf her. But Wing Commander Katherine Brookes had decided to take a bit of a break… if you could call taking a Mach 2 plus Fighter for a spin over enemy territory a ‘break’.
Nominally she was meant to be flying her Eurofighter Typhoon as an escort for a SEAD strike by a flight of TSR2s. In practice the TSR2s had long since turned for home and she –and her wingman- had decided to hang round, burn some more fuel and if luck would grant it blow a few Nazis out of the sky.
At the moment it appeared luck was on her side… she was rapidly closing on three contacts. She glanced down from the HUD to the Multi-function display…any second now and she would be in range to fire a Meteor BVR missile at the contacts.
"Alpha-Bravo Leader to Alpha-Brave-Two, ready to engage? Over…"
"Roger that… Over"
"Let’s get the Buggers… over and out"
The range closed and Wing Commander Brookes readied for the attack. She glanced at the Multi-function display one last time to check how the plane’s computer had prioritised the targets
"Alpha-Bravo-Two, take targets three and four… I have targets one and two, over and out."
"Select Meteor, select target one…"
A computerised voice repeated her words.
She pressed the weapons release button and the first missile shot away.
* * * * * *
Major Premoli never had a chance… he never even knew what hit him. The volley of four Meteor BVR missiles took mere seconds to accelerate to Mach 5 and ate up the hundred kilometres between the aircraft.
The missile targeting Major Premoli’s aircraft tore directly into the cockpit and killed him instantaneously… two of his wingmen weren’t so lucky. The other two F-104s were blown out of the sky, both pilots managed to eject but one got his ‘chute caught on the T tail of his F-104 and got dragged down with the aircraft. The pilot of the pilot of the AMX had the fortune to merely have his aircraft sprayed with shrapnel after releasing chaff at the very last moment. He managed to limp his crippled aircraft back to base… only to crash while attempting to land.
June 24th 1942, Pacific Ocean, Near Wake Island, 1138 Local Time (GMT+11:00)
Captain James Ferris sat to one side of the bridge as he read some of the latest transmissions from Admiral Spruance. Even at this distance it was clear that the honours of the skirmish between the Japanese and Saratoga and Lexington had been mixed. Sixty-odd Japanese aircraft had been shot down but in exchange Saratoga had been sunk and Lexington so badly knocked about she was unfit for further combat.
Closer to ‘home’ things weren’t much better. In the mad dash to get into range of the Japanese fleet USS Yorktown had strained her engines to breaking point, one of her steam turbines had shed a blade, wrecking the turbine and slowing the vessel to 25 knots. As a result the Carrier had been detached with an escort of the Cruiser USS Louisville, the two OPV and half a dozen Destroyers. It had also been the ideal opportunity to offload Admiral Fletcher, and Captain Ferris had quite happily done so.
He glanced at another of the transmissions. This one came directly from the 21C liaison team on Wake. It appeared that the Japanese transports and a number of Cruisers had arrived off the North coast ofthe Island. And so now Crace’s Task Group 11.7 and HMAS Newcastle sped at 30 knots directly towards the Japanese landing force.
June 24th 1942, Wake Island, Pacific Ocean, 1706 Local Time (GMT+11:00)
Major Erica Cole –the senior officer of the detachment of 21C marines based on wake- sat just outside a bunker near the ruins of what had been the Pan American Airways Hotel. The steady rolling rumble of Japanese barrage echoed over the island for the third hour running, only occasionally interrupted by the defiant bark of the single surviving 5 inch gun of Battery D.
Suddenly a jeep rattled to a halt near the Major and a ‘temp jumped out.
"Madam, Commander Cunningham wants to see you down at the airfield… you’d better hop in."
"Fine…" Major Cole paused for a moment while she examined the ‘temps uniform "…Sergent, let get going."
The Major scooped up her M4 carbine and clambered into the jeep. Immediately the Jeep was off, twisting and turning around the shell holes that littered the road. As the Jeep crossed the bridge between Peale Island and Wake ‘proper’, an entire broadside of 8 inch shells whistled overhead and threw fountains of dirt, rubble and body parts into the air somewhere near the airfield.
The Jeep bumped to a halt and Major Cole jumped out. She paused for a moment to examine the scene, the twisted wrecks of at least two dozen aircraft –‘temp F4F Wildcats and Devastators mixed up with a few A-1 Skyraiders from ’69- lay scattered about the airfield. Another glance caught the ground crew fuelling and arming the five surviving aircraft – two A-1s and three Wildcats.
Another broadside whistled in and the Major took to her feet and dashed for the command bunker.