The Lone Eagle
, April, 1937
Captain Barry White Takes a Vital Message and Flaunts It in the
Grinning Face of Death!
CAPTAIN BARRY WHITE, acting C.O. of the 38th Pursuits, slowly placed
four aces and the king of hearts on the table, and then scooped up the
hundred odd francs in the center.
You see? he grinned at the four sour- faced pilots seated about the
table. It's simply a question of knowing what to do at the right time.
You tramps were just bluffing, and so that was all there was to it.
Tip Granger, a flight commander himself, and White's closest friend
in France, scowled at the two pair he'd been betting on, and shook his
Of all the damn luck! he muttered. A month's pay practically shot
to hell, and I didn't even get any fun out of it.
The acting C.O. patted the stack of French money in front of him.
Cheer up, Tip, he said. If the war only lasts long enough, maybe
The sudden opening of the mess lounge stopped the rest. Instantly the
five players leaped to their feet as the tall, hawk-faced figure of
Colonel Parsons came striding inside. The senior officer started to
return the salute, but checked the movement and stiffened. Anger leaped
into the man's black eyes as they swept the card- and money-littered
table. Then they snapped to White's face and became brittle.
Perhaps you don't realize there's a war on, Captain White? the Wing
C.O. said tartly. Or have you suddenly decided that it is an acting
commander's privilege to turn his mess lounge into a damn gambling
parlor? What the devil's the matter with your phone?
WHITE looked him in the eye, spoke in measured tones. Nothing, sir,
he said. At least it was
working all right this morning when I called the Issy Replacement
Well, it's haywire now! the other barked. I've been trying to get
you since noon.
The senior officer stopped short and made a slightly exaggerated
gesture toward the card table.
It's a shame to interrupt you, of course! he grated. But in
exactly forty minutes the Seventh Infantry will attempt to take the
Contreau Hill in front of them. I had planned for this squadron to
maintain troop contact with them, butWell, I don't know. I rather
wonder, White, if I haven't made a mistake in appointing you acting
C.O. until a permanent appointment comes through from G.H.Q. Right now
I rather doubt your ability to even keep your mind on the war, to say
nothing of leading men into battle.
White's jaw muscles tightened a bit, but he gave no other outward
sign of his rising anger. Certainly not in his voice.
I'm sorry, Colonel, that you feel that way, he said. I think we're
doing our job here, all right. Until you arrived, our next patrol
wasn't scheduled for another two hours. Between patrols it helps for us
all to relax a bit.
Really? the colonel echoed softly. Well, you can stop relaxing.
Unfortunately, there is no other squadron available, so you'll have to
assist the Seventh Infantry. You will fly a full squadron patrol,
maintain closest contact with the advancing wave at all times, and
drive away all enemy aircraft that attempt to strafe our troops. That's
all. I'll be expecting a detailed report when you have completed your
With a curt nod the senior officer turned on his heel and strode over
to the door.
There he paused, and turned back for a moment.
Incidentally, Captain, he said, his black eyes fixed on White, I
shall expect you to make that report in person, at Wing H.Q. At the
same time we can talk about the other little matter.
The colonel didn't have to explain the last. His sharp gaze switching
to the card table again, was plain enough to all. And then he was gone
through the door. For a moment there was silence, then White grunted.
All right, fellows, he said, we have got a job to do. Go rout out
the others, and get your ships warmed up, and set to go. Four Cooper
bombs for each ship. Okay, get going.
They all left without a word. That is, all save Tip Granger. He
remained right where he was, questioning eyes fixed on his friend.
What do you think, Barry? he suddenly asked.
His nibs, Granger said. That phone stuff was a lot of prop wash,
if you ask me. Just one of his trick ways of sneaking in on us to see
what we're doing. But I'm sort of worried, Barry.
White shrugged, stuffed his poker winnings into his wallet, and put
the wallet in his pocket.
Nothing to worry about, he said slowly. Parsons has been gunning
for me ever since General Branker suggested to him that I be
made acting C.O. He'd love to boot me back to the States. But don't
worry, something always turns up to spoil his hopes.
What a man! he muttered. Nothing ever bothers you. Sure wish I
could be that way. Your job, maybe, going out the window, and it
doesn't even faze you a bit. Me, I'd
Sure you would! White grinned and moved toward the door. And it's
because you haven't learned to take things in stride. Keep your shirt
on. There's lots of really important things in this war.
Such as? Granger growled.
Fokkers, was the reply. Let's go.
Flying Number 4 on the right of the huge V formation, Granger
automatically held his position and stared moodily at the helmeted head
of Barry White in the cockpit of the lead ship. For two weeks, now, in
fact, since the day White had been made acting C.O., pending definite
approval from G.H.Q., he had worried more than a little about his
Always an easy-go-lucky type, White followed his motto to the letter.
He took everything in stride, and in so doing, made the toughest of
assignments seem simple. For that reason his name seldom appeared in
official communiques. No beaming generals hung medals on his tunic. And
no home-town papers put his name in banner headlines across the front
And that was exactly the trouble, Granger reflected for the umpteenth
time. White did everything all the famous aces did, some of the things
even better. But no one, save the pilots of the squadron, noticed it.
Least of all Wing H.Q., or G.H.Q., As a result the making or the
breaking of a perfect commanding officer was in the balance. That White
wanted the job, loved the responsibility that went with it, Granger
realized beyond a doubt. It was just that his easy-going pal wouldn't
stick his hand up and call the attention of the big wigs to his
If they could only see the way he slaps down Fokkers! Granger
growled. Or if he would just do one little thing, and make it look
hard. Then his job would be set for the rest of the war. And me, I
could stop worrying about the big bum. Dammit, he's aces, and he
belongs on top!
CONSIDERATION of the problem was cut short a few seconds later. A red
attack Very light signal had arced out from White's cockpit. A snap
glance downward, and Granger saw the reason. Following a terrific
barrage, the first wave of the 7th was now going over the top, and was
dashing across No Man's Land to storm the west slope of Contreau Hill.
Perhaps the Germans were expecting the attack, or perhaps they just
happened to spot it coming in time to get word back to their own air
dromes. At any rate a squadron or more of Fokkers was racing in from
the south and the north, and was showering the Yank troops with hissing
Slamming his stick against the instrument board, Granger slanted his
Camel and went thundering down, engine full out. Exactly one thousand
feet from the ground he caught the snap glance of a Fokker cutting in
toward White. A split- second later the Fokker was a ball of fire
tumbling earthward. Another split-second, and he had his own sights on
a German plane.
Then began a furious battle for the permanent possession of Contreau
Hill. Darting and twisting this way and that, jabbing the trigger trips
every time a black cross raced across his sights, Granger fought with
the fury of an eagle gone berserk. A dozen times he tried to tear into
the clear and take time out to see what White was doing, but each time
one or more Fokkers made him change his mind.
Finally, though, he did manage to thunder clear. But at first he
didn't see White. As a matter of fact the struggling Yank troops on the
ground caught and held his attention. A squad of doughboys, led by an
officer, was trying to signal the American planes. Shell smoke,
however, blotted out their signals. Meanwhile a terrific angle fire
from the German forces on the hill was spilling good American blood on
DIVING down, Granger flew over the helmeted heads of the Yanks,
striving to pierce the ground smoke and find out what was wanted. To
try and land was more or less asking for death. A plane settling on the
uneven terrain would not only crack up, but it would draw shells from
every German piece of artillery within range.
Half a dozen times or more Granger tore up and down just over the
heads of the troops. But though they waved their arms and seemed to
point toward the hill, he couldn't grasp what it was all about. And
then suddenly he spotted White a few hundred feet above him. The acting
C.O. had obviously been right down close to the crest of the hill, and
was now tearing back to join the general melee of Yank and German
ships. Had White spotted what was wanted?
The question flashed through his brain as he saw his pal suddenly
slant his ship earthward, straight down toward the group of frantically
waving American soldiers.
Two snub-nosed Fokkers were tearing in on White to box him for a cold
Barry! Behind you!
Granger bellowed the words aloud but there was no need. In the last
split-second allowed, White seemed to realize that death was slicing in
at him. In a dime turn, he spun around, then slapped his ship into a
flash half roll. One Fokker pilot, trying to follow through with the
maneuver, flew smack into a savage burst from White's guns. The other
German, however, was not to be nailed that easily. Cutting out and away
from White's bullets, he yanked his Fokker up in a zoom, and let it
fall off the top.
Expecting to see White pull his own plane up and drill the German,
Granger let out a shout of surprise when, instead, White carried right
on through his half roll and went hurtling earthward. Thirty feet or
more from the ground, and White's plane suddenly flattened out, side
slipped to the right a shade, and prepared to land on a handkerchief
patch of ground.
For a moment the crazy suicide maneuver didn't make sense to Granger.
And then suddenly the answer came to him. White had undoubtedly seen
something on the hill. Perhaps it was the defense holding up the Yank
advance. And rather than trust a message dropper, or arm signals, in
the thick shell smoke, he was risking his life and limb to land and
deliver his information by word of mouth.
Pride surged up in Granger as he watched White float down, with
German rifle bullets raking his plane from wing tip to wing tip.
At last! he cried. At last he's done something folks will talk
about. Sitting right down in that hell hole. Damn you, Parsons, there's
one for you. Can't lead men into battle, huh?
As though he himself were actually landing the plane, Granger held
his breath and waited for White to hit. He didn't have to wait long.
The plane settled on soft ground. Down it went on that side to snub the
wing tip. Instantly the plane cartwheeled clean over, and slid down the
smoking side of a shell crater. No sooner had it stopped at the bottom,
than the figure of White scrambled out from under the crumpled
wreckage, and tore out of the crater to firm ground.
Granger saw him pause, as though to get his direction. Then the man
went legging straight toward the spear-point of the American advance.
Behind him exploding shells churned up the, ground, and practically
obliterated everything from view. When Granger next saw White through
the heavy smoke, the acting C.O. was surrounded by Yank troops.
Another four minutes and the tide of the battle suddenly changed. The
Yank troops formed separate charging squads, and went tearing up the
slope of the hill at varying angles. A sweeping glance at the hill, and
Granger saw what White had undoubtedly spotted long ago. Cleverly
placed German machine-gun nests had been mowing down the Yanks at will
and stopping them cold. Not knowing the exact positions of the nests,
the American officers were helpless. But White, risking his neck, had
landed in the midst of the battle, and delivered that very much wanted
FROM that point forward it was a walkover for the Yanks. Spurred on
by the heroic deed of their C.O., the Yank Camels tore into the
Fokkers, smashed half of them down, and drove the other half east. And
eventually, bullets and bombs gone, and gasoline getting dangerously
low, Granger took charge of the squadron, signaled them into formation
and led them back toward their home drome. Not, however, before he
caught a glimpse of White, in the company of two infantry officers,
making their way to the rear of the American lines.
Two hours later Granger greeted a very muddy and blood-spattered
White, as the latter climbed stiffly out of a dispatch rider's side-car
in front of 38th's squadron officer. With a whoop of joy he grabbed his
friend by the hand, pumped it up and down.
Everything's perfect now, Barry! he shouted. The whole A.E.F. is
talking about what you didlanding that ship to tell them about those
machine-gun nests. Why, listen, old hawk-face Parsons, no less, called
up about twenty minutes ago. He was drooling honey. Wants you to come
up there to receive his personal congratulations just as soon as you
can. Boy, I knew you'd show 'em!
Don't believe all you hear, Tip, White said in his slow drawl.
It's just the way things work out. Just as I've told you so many
times. Let's get a drink.
Granger's mouth sagged open.
Hey! he suddenly blurted out. Doesn't it mean a thing to
Nope, the other shook his head. You see, Tip, it wasn't my
original idea to land that crate. Oh, of course, I had spotted what was
holding up the advance, and I was headed back to drop a message to our
troops to tell them about it. But those Fokkers jumped me, and I
dropped something else. This.
White pulled a mud-smeared wallet from his pocket, held it up.
My poker winnings, and three hundred francs more, he said quietly,
fell out of my pocket when I made that lousy half- roll. So I just
followed it right down, got itthank Godand gave our troops the news
by word of mouth, instead. FunnyI drop my wallet, and I'm a blasted
hero. Oh, well, you never can tell how things will work out. They just
always do. You'll realize that some day.
Etext from pulpgen.com