Stan’s story told in clipped sentences over the telephone brought an
immediate response from the Chinese commander, as well as from the
British and American officers attached to the force. Colonel Fuller was
in a furious mood when Stan, with Allison and O’Malley at his side,
barged into the control room.
The headquarters at Rangoon was temporary and planned to be moved
wherever China might need the Flying Tigers most. Colonel Fuller had
been handling twice as much work as one officer could handle. He now
strode across the room and faced Stan.
“My compliments, Major Wilson. You have saved me from being taken in by
“It couldn’t be Colonel Munson, by any chance?” O’Malley asked with a
Colonel Fuller’s scowl vanished and he laughed. “It happens to be a
certain Von Ketch,” he said.
The Colonel led Stan and his pals into a small room. There they saw a
mixture of uniforms, British, Dutch, Australian and American officers’
mingled with the Chinese. Fuller turned Stan over to three colonels.
One was a boyish young Chinese with horn-rimmed glasses. One was a
colonel of Marines, a leathery faced veteran of many campaigns. The
other was a British officer who had seen service in Norway.
Stan and Allison saluted smartly. O’Malley made a ragged gesture. The
Chinese colonel spoke to Stan.
“You have brought remarkable news from across the border. But first, my
compliments upon your daring escape from the enemy.” His English was
smooth and unaccented.
“Thank you, sir,” Stan said.
“What action would you recommend?” The colonel was smiling as he asked
“I had hoped to catch Colonel Munson at the field and thus keep him
from warning the enemy. He saw and recognized Te Nuwa’s ship and got
away,” Stan said. “But if we go over at dawn we can catch them before
they can move out many planes. I do not think their field has any large
“That sounds feasible, and of course it will be a job your men will
enjoy.” The colonel regarded Stan gravely. “How will you proceed?”
Stan flushed. He wasn’t in command. The colonel had made a slight error
there. But there was no time to argue.
“The spot is a jungle hangar. I think they will have to take off one
or two at a time and rendezvous in the air for any attack or defense,”
Stan explained. “If we hit there at daylight we can go down and
smash about a hundred planes on the ground, as well as blow up their
“Reasonable plan,” the British officer agreed.
“But I do not happen to be in command,” Stan said. “I am merely
reporting for Colonel Fuller.”
“You have been in command a full hour,” the young Chinese colonel
said. “Colonel Fuller has so much to do he cannot be up with his
Stan started to protest but the colonel lifted a hand. “You are in
command of the squadron at your field. You will be joined by another
squadron from Base One. You will have twenty bombers and twenty-four
fighter planes. You will command the raid.”
“Major Allison has always been in charge of our flights,” Stan said.
“Shut up!” Allison snapped, then grinned at the young colonel. “I beg
your pardon, sir, but this Yank is stubborn at times.”
“Let’s get going,” O’Malley broke in.
The three colonels smiled widely. The Chinese officer spoke. “We have
ample need for leaders of squadrons. I have a place for at least two
more colonels at once. Major Wilson will make plans for the attack.
Please confer with the Air Commander and the supply officer.”
The three fliers saluted. As they turned away, the colonel of Marines
called after them:
“Give them a grubbing, boys. Wish I were going along, I’d like a whack
at that rat Munson.”
Stan grinned back at the Marine. Allison also smiled.
“If he’s a sample of your Marine Corps, I’d like to work with them,”
“He’s a typical devil dog,” Stan said. “The world’s finest fighting
men. Not many of them, but they’re tough and hard–always first at a
They went into conference with General Dern, who was to have control
of the entire operation covering both Stan’s fighter escort and the
bombers. Dern was a Georgia boy who had fought all over China and who
had been in service long before the Flying Tigers came into being.
He had fought the Japs from Lashio on the Burmese border to Kweiyang
within the last year. He was a lank six-footer with a typical southern
“You can give us the location,” he said. “That’s about all we’ll need.”
Stan prepared maps for Dern, giving the location of the temple with the
red roof and the location of the Jap planes and supply dumps.
“Sure, we know the spot,” Dern said. “I know Te Nuwa personally. The
old rascal is supposed to be one of our close friends. He was to oppose
the penetration of Thailand by the Japs. We furnished him quite a stock
of small arms for his men.”
Stan looked up from the map thoughtfully. “If we can prevent it, I
think we should avoid blasting the native quarter of the town, which is
here.” He put a circle around a spot south of the temple.
“You like the Thai natives?” Dern asked.
“I’d be stiff as a codfish right now if it hadn’t been for one of them.
She helped me get away,” Stan said. “Ever have a silk cord draped
around your neck and then have some bird yank you off the ground?”
“No,” Dern answered. “But I’ve seen a couple of fellows who were
finished off that way. You must have a way with women, Major.”
“She was a Jap spy, a Burmese girl,” Stan said seriously. “I’d hate to
think we returned her good turn by dropping a bomb on her.”
“Did you tell her you were coming back to blast her village?” Dern
“Yes,” Stan answered.
“Then she’ll clear out,” Dern said. “Now to get the big babies loaded
and ready. You get your fighters ready. We’ll assemble in your mess and
go over the whole plan with the men.”
Stan and his pals headed for their barracks. The boys were routed and
the mess soon was filled with eager fliers. Stan told them briefly what
was expected and showed them his maps. They gave a rousing cheer when
they heard he was to be Flight Commander of their group. Every man
had one ambition and one resolve, each intended to get Nick Munson if
possible. It was to be an individual duel.
Dern and his bomber crew dropped over for a few minutes. The Raid
Commander spoke briefly, then walked over to Stan and let the boys do
their own planning. After the men had talked things over, the bomber
crew left and Base Two Squadron settled down to wait for the signal to
The signal came through soon after Dern had left. Stan and his boys
rushed out to their ships and piled in. The P–40’s stood on the cab
rank, their flaming exhausts making a pattern of shadows on the ground.
Stan palmed his hatch cover forward and adjusted his mike. He had a
near attack of stage fright as he set himself to take over. He was a
flight leader and had a squadron behind him.
“Temple Flight, are you ready?” he called into his flap mike.
Twenty-three signals came back to him, eager, snappy.
“Temple Flight, check your temperatures,” Stan called. The tightness
had gone out of his throat and he was eager to be off. He had a group
of deadly fighters to lead and it would take some savage fighting to
keep ahead of them. One thing he dared not do. He could not make any
mistakes. Mistakes in the air meant death for someone.
“Temple Flight, upstairs!” Stan called. He reached for the throttle
knob and opened the P–40 up.
Kicking one brake, he spun his ship around and headed down to the
shadow bar. The ground officer’s Aldis lamp blinked and lifted. A line
of trim Tigers slid down the runway and roared into the coming dawn.
With tails up, they surged off the field and circled to take formation.
“Temple Flight, close in,” Stan directed. “Right echelon line on
Allison. Left echelon line on Wilson.” Stan felt a sudden surge of
confidence run through him. He could see O’Malley in the right-hand
slot, holding on his aileron groove. Other shadowy forms slid through
the sky on either side and back of him.
The fighters went upstairs, circled and picked up the two engine
bombers. Dern’s voice came in clear and loud:
“Take the fighters up to twenty thousand, Wilson. Blank out radio. Take
over up there.”
“Fighters going up to twenty thousand,” Stan called back. He snapped an
order to his fighters and up they went.
They climbed into the sky with their exhausts roaring. They hit twenty
thousand feet above the sea level and headed south and east. As they
swept over the Salween River, day was breaking. It burst over the
jungle and the rice paddies like a great light flashed on in a dark
The Flying Tigers were silent. There was no cocky banter or wisecracks
such as they would hurl at one another once they opened up on the
enemy. This was grim business and the Tigers were masters of the
surprise attack. Hit fast and hit hard. Get the yellow man’s planes off
the ground. Beat him to the punch. Stan checked his guns and listened
to his motor. He was casting an eagle eye about. The Japs should have
planes up, looking for bombers. It was his job to intercept them.
The silence was broken by the crisp voice of Dern. “Temple Flight,
Temple Flight. Bombers going down over objective. Peel off and go down.
Wilson, stand by. Kariganes coming up.”
The voice snapped off. Stan cupped his flap mike and called to his
“Peel off and go down. Take ’em!”
Stan could see the bombers below. They were laying over and going down,
one after another. Far below he saw the red roof of the temple gleaming
in the sun. Stan could see the observer gunners in their turrets far
out on the nose of the bombers. Their guns flashed in the morning sun.
Stan spotted the fighters coming up. This would be an even battle for
once, unless he had been mistaken about the number of fighters the Japs
had available. Stan’s eyes suddenly narrowed. The Jap fighters were led
by a trim P–40. Munson was heading the pack.
“Spot that P–40,” Stan snapped. “It is 9-P–89.”
Shouts came back to him as he bored along watching his boys go down the
chute in roaring dives, white plumes of smoke lining out behind them.
Stan grinned as he looked across at O’Malley who had to wait his turn.
O’Malley probably was frothing at the mouth. Suddenly the wild Irishman
nosed over and was gone like a flash. Stan circled and went up into
the sun, near a bank of clouds.
The P–40’s broke upon the Jap fighters like streaks of fire. They cut
across the flight of Japs and in a few seconds the Kariganes had no
chance to go after the bombers. Stan watched the fight below. There was
no need to give any orders now. The Flying Tigers were lone wolves and
when unleashed they would go it on their own.
Stan watched the red roof of the temple below. That was the only
visible mark in the jungle, aside from the native village. As he laid
over and circled downward he saw great mushrooms of smoke and flame
rising from the woods. The Hudsons had located oil tanks and ammunition
dumps as well as parked planes. The flames spread and enveloped the
temple. They leaped over the tops of the trees. Stan saw wrecked
bombers and men running madly away from the woods.
Stan passed up two Jap fighters and went twisting down in a tight
circle, leaving a beautiful curl of smoke. He was looking for a
certain P–40 carrying the army insignia of China and the serial number
9-P–89. He sighted plenty of P–40’s. The air was full of them. The
Japs had gotten most of their fighters up and were making a stand.
Stan judged they had forty of them in the air. But he could not locate
A circle of anti-aircraft guns had broken into full blast below. Stan
laughed softly. That was just what Dern needed. He saw the Hudsons
wheel and come back over. They nosed down inside the circle of gunfire,
the spot that was marked out for them. One of them lifted, half-turned
over, then tossed away a wing. It crashed into the flaming roof of the
temple. The others went through the muck and down to the tops of the
trees before they unloaded. Then they zoomed up to where the P–40’s
were having a circus.
Stan dived into a fight near him. Four Japs were trying to corner
a Flying Tiger that had been crippled. He lashed across one of the
Karigane fighters and riddled it; then spun and dived on another. It
burst into flames as his Brownings found its engine and fuel tank. The
other Karigane dived and fled.
Stan saw, as he went up, that the P–40’s were kings of the air. He
wondered who had shot Munson down. Cupping his flap mike, he called to
“Temple Flight! Fighter formation! Disabled planes, head for base.” He
had spotted two of his planes wobbling and fighting their controls. “Go
in, disabled planes. Head in! Wilson speaking!”
The two fighters headed off on the trail of the bombers. Cupping his
mike again, Stan ordered:
“Go down for ground strafing. Take out the guns on the ground!”
The P–40’s went down over the guns belching fire on the ground. They
came clipping in over the trees, nosed some more and opened up. Their
guns raked the artillery men below and many of the cannon ceased
firing. The fighters swept on, smashing grounded planes and zooming up
when there was nothing more to blast. Up they went and over and down
The Hudsons had vanished and Stan nosed along over the jungle. He
sighted a bomber which had been wheeled away from the others, did a
tight turn and flipped over to go down on it. As he went he pressed
his gun button. Nothing happened. He was out of ammunition. He shot
out over the village teeming with terrified natives. He hoped Niva was
among them. If she was back in the temple grounds she could hardly have
escaped injury, possibly death.
Stan began calling his war birds together. They came up and joined
him. As they fell into formation, he checked them over. He had sent
two cripples home. One plane had gone down. He watched O’Malley drop
into place, then saw Allison take his position. He was glad they were
there. It was always good to see them come sliding in after a fight. He
wondered who had been lost.
“Going home, fast!” he called.
The P–40’s headed for their base and roared away. They came down out of
the sky and landed with the boys shouting at each other as they eased
in. Twenty-one Tigers piled out and headed for the briefing room. Stan
gave orders to have the ships spread out and made ready for instant
He stamped into the briefing room and grinned at his boys. They grinned
back and he briefly complimented them on their work. The boy from Texas
stepped up to Stan and saluted.
“You were sure right about Munson. He turned out to be a rat.”
“Who got him?” Stan asked. “I had hoped he would be mine, but I never
got close to him.”
“Sure, an’ I dived for him,” O’Malley said.
“You jumped the gun, Irisher, and got in my way,” the boy from Texas
“’Twas only by the half of a second,” O’Malley countered. “I had the
spalpeen in me sights. He was my meat.”
“What happened?” Allison asked with a smile.
“I went down on him, but he wasn’t there. I’m thinkin’ he found a tree
to get under.” O’Malley shook his head sadly.
“We’ll get him yet,” Stan said. “I aim to settle with him personally.”
He looked at the briefing captain and his tone changed. “We lost
Kirby. I do not know whether he took to his silk or not.”
They tramped into the mess and half of them turned in for breakfast.
The other half remained ready for an alarm. O’Malley was greatly upset
because he was drawn for duty and could not eat.
The Chinese cook was elated. He had only a few English words at his
command, but the boys could tell by the way he waved his carving knife
and jumped up and down that he was a pleased Chinese cook. The kitchen
helpers had told him about the raid.
After breakfast Stan was very busy. His new job called for a lot
of work besides flying. He did not aim to let anyone take over in
his place. There would be no more instructors in the squadron. When
he missed a flight because he was checking supplies and parts, he
Headquarters ended any hopes he had of being let go back into the line.
He was now Colonel Wilson and he had to stay that way.
The whole personnel at the base had to pitch in and work hard after the
big raid. Planes were scarce and so were repair parts. Ammunition had
to be rationed and so did gasoline. Patrols went out under Allison to
check the damage done.
Allison reported that the raid had been costly for the Japs. He felt,
however, that the enemy was still able to maintain a strong force at
the village. Bombs and ammunition were too scarce to allow another
raid. There were no ground troops to send out. Stan listened to the
Chinese colonel as he explained it.
“Today we fight here near Rangoon. Perhaps next week, next month we
will be at Lashio or even deep in China. We can only do the best
possible with what we have to use.”
On the third day after the raid an orderly ushered a ragged man into
Stan’s little office. Stan jumped to his feet, completely forgetting
“Kirby! You lucky dog!” he shouted.
Kirby saluted and a weary smile came to his lips. “Kirby reporting for
active duty, sir,” he said.
“Sit down. Active duty, my eye. You have to be fed and get some rest.”
He leaned forward. “Tell me, how did you get back?”
Kirby seated himself. “I hit silk and floated into a clearing. It
turned out I had landed on a field where a fellow keeps his elephants.
Before I could get untangled a lot of brown men were on me.”
Stan grinned widely. He knew just what had happened to Kirby.
“They dumped me into a stockade along with a lot of Thailanders. I
crawled through a hole I made in the stockade, borrowed a gun from one
of the guards, and came home.” Kirby took a deep breath. “And am I glad
to be here!”
“Good work,” Stan said. “I’ll have a ship for you as soon as you are
“I met a friend of yours,” Kirby said. “She had been tossed into the
stockade for helping you get away. It seems her number is up. She’s to
“Niva?” Stan asked.
“Yes,” Kirby answered and his smile changed to a frown. “That rat,
Munson, came out to the stockade several times. He sentenced me to be
shot and the way he talked to that girl made me want to get my hands
on him. I think he’s just holding her there to torture her. He blames
her for upsetting all of his slick plans.”
Stan’s lips pulled into a tight line. He sat very straight behind his
desk and there was an icy gleam in his eyes.
“Thanks, Major Kirby,” he said. “Now run along and get some rest. I
have some important work to do.”
Kirby got to his feet and saluted. “I’ll be ready for combat duty
tomorrow, sir,” he said.
“You will not. Now get out,” Stan said gruffly.
He watched Kirby walk wearily out of the door. He was not seeing the
slender boy, he was seeing instead a slender girl bending toward him,
whispering a single word, “dacoit.” He stood for a long time studying
the map on his wall. It was an accurate map of the area, and the temple
and the Japanese base were well outlined on it.
Taking the map from the wall he folded it and shoved it into his
pocket. He went across to the barracks to Kirby’s room. Kirby was
already half-asleep, lying fully dressed across his bunk.
“Sorry to disturb you, Kirby,” he said.
“No trouble at all, sir,” Kirby said as he sat up.
Stan spread the map on the bunk. “Can you mark the location of that
stockade on this map? If you remember any other landmarks, I’d like to
have them, too.”
“Sure,” Kirby answered. He took the blue pencil Stan handed him and
marked the location of the stockade, the wooded areas and the buildings
he had seen. He added the guard’s billet and the machine-gun nests he
had had to avoid.
“Thanks, Major,” Stan said as he folded the map. “This is valuable
information to me.”
“Yes, sir,” Kirby answered as he lay back on the bunk.