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Poor old "Mom"... Shot down at last by
those damned Japs—what's that you say?
She's still up there? But I saw her go down!



"F-SIX to Mom. F-Six to Mom. Couple of pals down at X-Ray. Get me, Mom?”

“Yeah, we got you.”

Due east of Samar, through a pattern of flak spurting from angry Jap destroyers and a cruiser, the PBY laid her nonchalant course. Already Nig Ray, the navigator, had sighted the sinking Hellcat, with the raft alongside, in the midst of an oasis of yellow powder.

The pilot was Tige Warder, officially a lieutenant, junior grade. He paid no attention to the Grummans roaring down at the destroyers, each circling like a water bug gone mad. Tige had a job to do. There were two men in machine-gun range of a destroyer. Those two men were Americans; and Mom, the dependable PBY, was “Dumbo” to all men who rode the sky. Tige started his slow glide, and the cruiser, while belching metal at the Hellcats, opened up on Mom. Tige swore. The Nips were pretty annoying. Still, he reflected, a chap could hardly blame them for wanting to liquidate American airmen.

A gout of flame from the cruiser’s foredeck told the story of a successful Hellcat attack. But as Tige felt better about the flak from the cruiser, a section of plastic shattered over his head. From the starboard blister, Blackie Bartow, machinist rating, let go with the .50’s. Tige saw a Zeke flash by, engine smoking. “Keep ’em off,” he spoke over the intercom. “And good. We’re coming in, and she’s rugged.”

“Oh, we got some peashooters after the Japs,” Blackie answered. “And Corsairs from the Montevallo diving.”

Thus did Mom set her dignified figure on the choppy water, and approach the raft with a display of inverted twin cascades. The destroyer was hightailing it, and a couple of SBD’s were mopping up the cruiser. Blackie undid the forward hatch as Tige revved his twin motors in spurts. In moments the grinning Hellcat airmen were lifted aboard. Tige took the signal, swung Mom around. He was in a hurry, for already Rags Drenner, the radioman was acknowledging another call for rescue four miles distant.

Another Dumbo got there first, and Tige resumed his careful patrol, on the edge of the thinning battle. The surviving destroyers fled, leaving two burning and the cruiser to its fiery destiny. Tige lifted the PBY to six thousand and Nig gave him the course for the tender. It was east of Leyte, and as the crew settled down to normalcy, one of the rescued airmen, the Hellcat pilot, came to the co-pilot’s seat. He was grinning, decked in a heavy sweater. “Steak reserved for you guys, first time you board the Montevallo,” he called.

Tige grinned back. He felt good. Mom had probably fifty holes in wings and hull, but she was carrying on.

Yeah, it was good to be heading for the McDade, their mother ship, with men aboard who would strafe Japs again. It was good to handle the dependable old girl, regarded as the good luck Dumbo of the Pacific. From Truk to Rabaul, from Palau to the channels of the Philippines, she had ranged. On her sides were painted symbols of victory. There were two subs, three cargo ships, a destroyer, of all things, and a flat top.

THAT flat top was their particular pride. Mom had bagged that one in the early days, off the Admiraltys, before the Japs had been chased out of those waters. Small wonder Nig Ray, the navigator, still beamed when mention of that feat was mentioned. Nig had done the bombing. It had happened the day Bounce Haltom had been left at a base hospital for a checkup.

Bounce and Nig loved Mom as much as Tige. So did Blackie Bartow, the machinist rating, and Rags Drenner, the radioman. They all knew Mrs. Warder, Tige’s mother too. The PBY was named for that capacious soul, who somehow managed to get so many edible things, razor blades, writing paper and so forth to them. She’d adopted them all, including the PBY. And that was why they called themselves Mom's Boys.

Tige relaxed as Bounce slid back into his seat. Rags had tuned in Frisco. Bounce took over and Tige went back to talk with the rescued airmen. They were having a bull session about baseball. Blackie was reading a letter over again. He had a girl, back in St. Paul. They were going to operate a tourist camp and garage after the war. Rags was singing, in his cracked tenor. Rags was from Florida and his dad had an orange grove.

Tige was thinking about a town on the east shore of Maryland. It would look mighty good now. But the east shore country looked good to Tige at all times. Only now—

The McDade was calling. Tige went to the radio board, took over himself. Lieutenant Commander Evert wanted him.

“Tige, how long before you’ll get in?

“Forty minutes, sir. Why? Anything cooking?”

Tige’s heart jumped. Maybe that leave to the States had been approved. They’d been looking for it a solid two months now.

“Sorry, if you’re thinking about a certain subject, Tige. You don’t shove off till the first of the month.”


“Yep. It’s approved. But there’s a special job, Tige. A very special job I want five of the best Dumbo pilots on.”

“I see. You can depend on us to go anywhere, with that good news.”

“I’ll be in Operations. See me after you check in.”

Rags took off his own headgear. His face was worried. “The jinx could hit us, sir,” he said, almost in a whisper. “It never has, I know. But—”

Nonsense, Rags. The jinx never has hit Mom’s crew. Others had bad breaks with leave at hand. We’ll sweat it out.”

Tige wished he was as sure as he sounded. He couldn’t help thinking of Hap Mullowney and his crew on another Dumbo, making his last flight before general leave. Nobody ever found any trace of the PBY. But the way the other men took his-announcement showed that they didn’t share Rags’ misgivings.

“It’s big,” Evert told the crew assembled in the briefing room late that afternoon. “Looks like the Japs are coming out to slug again. Maybe this is the last big round.”

HE SHOWED them locations on a wall chart. It was a map taking in plenty of territory. Evert used his pointer. “They’re moving in three columns. We know that. But we’re still in the dark as to their real objective. There’s one column we must locate. We believe it’s up this way.”

The ruler made a flourish and indicated the expanse of ocean west of the Bonin Islands. “When we pick this fleet up, and the one sneaking up the South China course, we’ll breathe easier.

“We’ll likely lose some planes doing recon,” the skipper added slowly. “Because they’ve already knocked out two, one a PBY. They’re desperate. You Dumbo pilots won’t be likely to have any help, if carrier planes attack. You’re on your own.”

Tige grinned. His heart was pounding. “But it does mean a lot of difference,” he said. “I mean, if we manage to spot—and shadow them.”

The senior officer nodded. “If we destroy their fleet, it will mean a great deal, Tige.”

Strategic problems weren’t for Tige. He realized that a showdown battle was shaping up, the one the navy had been expecting with fervent hope. Tige knew as well that there must be no element of surprise. The Jap fleet had to be spotted, with information on size, course and strength. Well, Mom had been on such trips before.

“When do we take off, sir?” he asked, realizing that his throat was dry. The other men were silent.

“At 2200. You’ll get a full briefing before takeoff time. We’re sending two other PBY’s in an hour. You should intercept at daylight, if our information is correct. That’s all.”

They talked it over later, Mom’s Boys, as they always did before important missions. Blackie was unperturbed. He worked on a plastic book end set for his sister, absorbed in his task. Bounce paced the floor, which was normal procedure. The others relaxed, except Rags, whose face was screwed up in deep thought. Now he looked up from his seat. “Lieutenant," he said, “if the weather is rugged, it’ll be better for us to play hide and seek."

“I was thinking the same thing. We’d better scatter. Time to stretch out a while. After chow. Nig, call me when you go for the weather dope.” Tige couldn’t rest. He and Blackie would go back to Mom and look the PBY over again. A tender crew was refueling her now. Nothing to worry about...

“When we get back,” he said aloud. “And she’ll bring us back. Mom always does.”

A moon lighted their path at 2200 o’clock. Mom’s 1250 horse power motors took her matronly figure into the sky with far less effort than such procedure would appear to require. As was customary on long runs, the men were taking it easy. Rags had a schedule of short wave broadcasts, and he was one radio rating who managed to bring in desired programs. They left Luzon to their port for quite a time. Bounce napped, because shortly he would relieve Tige. Forward, Nig was taking a shift for Blackie. The night was well nigh cloudless, and after a while the low, dark mass of Luzon faded from view.

IT WAS in such moments that Tige Warder felt at peace. The engines were functioning perfectly as they cruised at 115. The intercom was silent. Nig came sliding by as Blackie spelled him. In the dim light of the compartment, he grinned. He was going back to check their flight. But Tige knew they were on course.

Mom was singing her low melody. It had definite music to the pilot. It seemed as if every part of the PBY took part in a reassuring chord. Even the stars, on cloudless nights, seemed to be individually-well, friends. Venus, for instance, and some of the clusters, blinked pleasantly. The moon seemed to ride with them.

Bounce jerked upright, a habit of his which Tige regarded as uncanny. Tige had been handling the PBY for four hours. Bounce tapped his shoulder. “Time for the beauty nap,” he called. “Where are we?”

Tige gave the figures. He slipped back to Nig’s cubicle. Nig was poring over a chart. But there was an unfinished letter on the page, and a fountain pen with the cap off. Tige smiled. “Telling her about the leave?” he asked.

Nig nodded slowly. “I might want you to be best man, Tige, if it’s shaping up like Beth hinted in her last letters."

“Can do.” Tige went on back.

Blackie woke him with coffee. They were pitching slightly. “Rocky weather north of us, sir,” he told the skipper. “We’ve been in it an hour.”

Tige saw it was 0700. He gulped down the coffee as Blackie reported on conditions. They were in the alerted area now, and Nig had laid a course south of Bonin, hoping to contact advance units of the Jap fleet, if it had turned south.

They were heading into a heavy storm area, Tige learned. From Nig, he discovered their speed was down forty miles. Rags announced that the air was full of meaningless Jap stuff. “Means they’re jamming all frequencies, sir.”

Tige felt a thrill chase along his spine. Instead of observing radio silence, the wily Jap was going to the other extreme. With several hours of this, and all Jap stations going full blast, a lot of knots could be run off and no snooper could get through to give a warning by regular channels. “Okay,” he mused, “that’s a game two can play. Rags, don’t forget the Morse pounder.”

“Been thinking of it, sir.” Rags looked woebegone, his cap bill drawn sharply over his eyes. “I’m ready. We can cut through with the key sender.”

Tige was barely in the pilot’s seat when Blackie and Bounce, as one, spotted the destroyer screen far to the north. A rain squall was between, and Tige climbed to ten thousand and rode through it. He told Rags to get busy, Nig to furnish details.

Tige’s purpose was clear. First, he was to break through to the main force, and radio back information. Rags would do it on the Morse circuit. That circuit was his pet hobby, and it had never failed thus far. They hit the screen of slanting rain, plowed through it for endless minutes, and emerged, to see a surface force which made every man aboard the PBY feel chill. This was it!

There were more than thirty ships in sight, stretched out between rain squalls. Tige identified four carriers. In the distance were battle wagons, with cruisers on the protective wings. These things he saw, barking a message to Rags when destruction crashed down upon Mom.

Carrier planes had followed them down out of the rain clouds.

FROM Mom’s blisters, the guns crackled. The .30 calibres joined as Tige saw himself boxed in. The nearest cloud bank was two miles distant. “Feed it to them,” he snapped over the intercom to Rags.

Not heavy machine gun slugs, but two cannon shells exploded simultaneously, and Mom shook herself. The tail lifted, and the starboard wing lifted. And within seconds, a destroyer, racing below in a wide curve, erupted metal with too, fine precision for comfort.

“They got the radio,” Rags reported. “I can’t send.”

“Fix it. I’m heading for cover.”

A third shell smashed into Mom’s hull. Tige heard in a sort of impersonal way the shout of Nig and Blackie as someone sent a Jap seaward. A second plane was flaming, dropping athwart Mom’s course with twice the speed. But Mora herself was losing altitude. The elevator was jammed. Tige reared back on the yoke.

“Need help?” Bounce called. “I can leave my gun—”

“Come a-running,” Tige answered. He was sweating. He felt Bounce Haltom’s shoulder against his. Together they pulled. Mom straightened.

The only trouble was that Mom wasn’t climbing. She was running beneath the level of the squall, and a heavy cruiser boxed her in the matter of seconds. The carrier planes had climbed. Now they dived.

“Rags,” Tige snapped, “fix that radio.”

“I’m—working—sir,” his voice came. It was weak.

“You hurt?”

A little. But—I think I can send— real soon.”

The vicious attack of planes shook the slower aircraft Both blister guns were going when the starboard motor spluttered, went out. That happened as Tige managed to right Mom after her other injuries. The PBY took a slow turn, overrunning the cruiser and passing sheer through the inverted cone of flaming metal spouting from her upper works.

“Tore hell out of the hull aft,” came over the intercom. “We’ll never be able to land now, without going on down.”

“I’m hit—legs and hips,” Nig said abruptly.

Bounce came in. “He’s bleeding bad, Tige. Giving first aid.”

Another plane winged over, spouting black smoke. The Jap was done for. But others were roaring about them like mad hornets. How many times Mom had taken it was a matter of pure guesswork. Tige was numbed. His feet had been jolted, as if a sledge hammer had smacked the hull directly beneath. Only when he tried to brace his legs, to pull the PBY up, did he realize what had happened to him. His right leg was a mess. The boot had been shredded.

“Bounce,” he said, with knowledge that his strength was ebbing. “In a few seconds take over. I can handle a gun.”

“Tige—how bad is it?”

“Right leg.” As he spoke Tige saw the carrier which the cruiser had been shielding. It was a big one. And its decks were bare. That was its quota of planes assailing Mom. Tige called Bounce. “Show the relief. Ready our bomb.”

“What for? Carrier?”

“We’re losing altitude, and fast. But we can hit that flat top.”

“Okay,” Bounce shouted.

THE starboard motor fluttered. Tige started to unfeather the prop, but the engine became still again. “Rags,” he said, “what about the radio?”

“Sending sir—but I can’t—receive.”

“Keep sending.”

The carrier was turning. Her skipper made a strategic error. He was turning into the wind. Perhaps he had some planes coming in. Tige wouldn’t know. But he did know that the big carrier’s progress was hampered. She was sending a crossfire of metal from her deck guns. And the cruiser was galloping back, already reaching for the audacious, slow-moving PBY. But Tige, feeling his grip relax, heard Bounce as he reported the bomb ready. Somebody was helping him. Blackie, probably, Tige reflected. This was going to be a ticklish job. Mom was no super bomber. But they were down to five thousand, and Mom was lined on the carrier.

Bounce let his thousand pound bomb go, and Mom didn’t jump. She lifted slightly. Then Bounce came to the seat. He joined Tige at the yoke. He gave the portside motor all it could stand and a welcoming rain squall accepted them.

Tige went limp. “Yours,” he said briefly to Bounce. “We can’t stick up here Junk everything. We’ll play hide and seek and if Blackie can fix that starboard motor—"

“He can’t,” Bounce replied. “Right shoulder and left foot.”

The roar of the bomb overtook them. Through the rain screen they saw smoke and flames. The carrier kept on turning. Nig came on the intercom. “You messed up their deck. It was—just right.”

Tige felt no exultation. They found the rain cloud larger than even they had hoped for. There was a chance of escape. A wraith of a fighter plane crossed before Tige, and it looked for a moment as if the wings would collide. Yes, the carrier’s planes were hunting them. These Japs couldn’t go home.

It was then Tige got the full impact of their brush. Not a man was unwounded. Bounce was in the best shape. But he had two machine gun bullets, one in the thigh, another a shoulder graze. Nig was down. Rags had serious wounds. But he kept coming in on the intercom with news that he was working the Morse.

They dropped through the lower edge of the cloud fabric. But they were concealed from the Japanese fleet. And for them it was luck, for there was no plane visible either. Bounce swore. “We let everything go, Blackie and I. But we’re going down, Tige. We’re going down.”

“We can’t float. We’ve got' no bottom. It’s a sieve.”

He tried to help Bounce. But it was no use. Three thousand feet now! He and Bounce couldn’t hold her up.

“It won’t be long,” Bounce grunted.

“Break out the chutes. I’ll hold her that long.”

Bounce strained. Mom nosed upward a bit. Tige saw Blackie, grimacing as he helped Nig to the hatch Blackie it was who was helping then: out.

The moment that Tige’s brain began to melt into the unreal was too transitional to remember. He knew he had persuaded Bounce to help get the wounded into the air, risky as it was. He heard something about a life raft. But Tige was talking, not to his men but to Mom.

HE WAS seeing her that bright, sunshiny day he boarded the PBY at Honolulu with Nig and Bounce fresh from the mainland. He remembered how she had seemed to correct his own errors in handling her, in rocky weather, and in some of the landings he had made.

“I can’t leave you, Mom,” he whispered. It was more of a sob. “Not now. You always brought us back. And all the guys you picked up. Like in the water of Truk—Rabaul harbor—Palau—Saipan—”

He realized he had relaxed his grip, that someone had him, was swearing, jamming something about his body. Bounce was fitting him into a ’chute. “Go ’way,” Tige muttered. “I’m sticking.”

“You idiot! Seconds are left. Turn her loose. Blackie got the controls jammed before he jumped—”

Tige let the controls go. Mom was sinking, but not diving. “Jump,” he said. “Where Mom goes, I go.”

“Okay.” Bounce slipped beside him. “Okay, we go together. With Mom.”

“Mom’s Boys,” Tige said, a trifle drowsily. He didn’t see Bounce Haltom deliver the punch to his jaw. Tige went out, and quickly....

Wet and gasping, Tige came back to present day realities. Men were dragging him over the side of a rubber raft. The pain made him groan as a wave slapped him with such fury that Bounce lost his grasp. It was Nig, face distorted with effort, who held on. Then Tige was hauled aboard. He was sick and he retched. He was weak from the effort and events didn’t fit in the recent past. “Where are we?” he mumbled, as Bounce raised his body.

"We're floating. Mom let us all hit silk and live. But we’re a badly messed up crew.”

“Mom—she go down?”

Nobody answered at once. Tige looked up curiously. “What’s wrong?”

Nig was on his side in the bottom of the raft. Alom didn’t go down,” he said slowly. “She was kissing ’wave tips when that starboard motor caught. Blackie’d set the prop back and in the excitement didn’t feather her back. Tige, Mom went over the horizonclimbing.”

“My saints and stars!”

Blackie was lookout. He let out a bellow. “Here comes the Japs,” he said, pointing into the northwest.

Outlined against a black squall were destroyers and a cruiser. Their course was to the north, and they saw smoke on the horizon. Tige groaned. “Where’s Rags? Did you ever get an acknowledgment?”

“He’s out,” Bounce said, pointing aft. “If we’re not picked up soon, Rags is done for. He sent when I think no other man could, as bad hit as he was.”

“We’ve got to hope,” Tige said, watching the destroyers. And now, over the horizon and plunging through the squall, came cruisers, two carriers. Two groups of destroyers were fanned out to either side. Silently, the man watched. Then they heard a droning, from the south. The noise was high, and the plane, enemy or ally, was hid by broken clouds. It was Blackie again whn let out a whoop. “Mom—it’s Mom!”

“Nuts,” Nig protested. “You know damned well she wouldn’t be heading back this way.”

But Tige had caught sight of the PBY almost overhead now. He could see the flak-torn wings and tail assembly, and the great hunks torn out of her body. “It’s Mom,” he whispered. “She’s managed to turn about. She s hunting us.”

Nig’s lips moved in prayer. Rags stirred, heard the news. He whimpered, then laughed. “Ain’t that like her!” he asked. “But nobody’ll believe us.”

“I think maybe they will,” Blackie put in. “Take a peek, up around fifteen thousand. Through that break south of us. Bombers.”

THERE they were, B-24’s leaving countless vapor trails. And below them were carrier-based bombers, already diving. The sky was filled with avenging planes, and already smoke belched from destroyers trying to screen the carriers from attack. Wave after wave roared over, and the wounded men on the raft found themselves with a ringside seat at this naval-air battle.

Over their heads, skimming wave tips, came the torpedo planes. And the bombers—the big ones—roared on into the distance, seeking main elements of the Jap fleet.

Tige noted this, but he was watching Mom, taking her majestic way directly above the advance enemy squadron. He saw a quartet of Jap planes dive at her. But Mom went on. Flak mushroomed about her. And Tige prayed. He prayed and wept, for while others might call it a freak of luck, he knew Mom had led the forward units of the attacking air force straight to the Jap fleet. The gallant old lady, through luck, or maybe—

Tige couldn’t know. He knew the PBY had returned. All had seen her. Now—well, Mom had brought the planes.

"She did,” he said aloud. “Mom brought ’em—she did.”

“Sure,” Bounce Haltom said. ‘But we can’t—” His words were drowned out now, as a dive bomber caught a twisting destroyer no more than a mile away. The Jap exploded, and objects strewed the sea near at hand. Then one of the carriers was caught in a turn, as a torpedo plane delivered its burden and banked, scuttling away to safety. From then on planes dropped, and surface ships were in confusion. The main part of the enemy fleet came up, turned, as more bombers arrived. And then they sighted a Dumbo. It came their way as a Hellcat lost a wing and began an erratic spin. Silk blossomed in its wake, and the pilot, swaying just ahead of an approaching squall, began drifting toward the raft.

The Dumbo was marking the pilot down. As it banked, Blackie rose and began waving. The pilot hit nearby. Bounce and Blackie took the light metal oars and pulled toward him. Then the Dumbo hit the water, cleaving the sea as it approached.

“Where’d you guys come from?” a machinist’s mate yelled as he emerged from the hatch.

“Mom’s Boys,” Blackie replied. “She’s a sieve. We jumped.”

“You’re nuts. We saw her cross our course not five minutes ago. Hey— Lieutenant Warder—Blackie! Hey,” he shouted, as he bent over the hatch. “Gimme a hand. Mom’s lost her crew—what d’you know!”

The PBY was from their own base. And as its crew took care of Mom’s Boys, asking questions, giving first aid, rising into the sky as other Dumbos arrived, the radio rating put out a call. The Japs were running, tails between their legs. Ships were burning below, and several were going down.

But the PBY radio man was asking about Mom.

“We saw her, crossing the battle wagons before our army bombers made their run,” a Hellcat force commander reported. “Was that Mom? We thought she was hunting for pickups. Fine job—Mom’s reporting the fleet.”

“We got Mom’s crew aboard,” the radio man said. “She on her own?”

There came a distinct whistle over the receiver. “That’s one for the book! She turned around, two miles ahead of us, coming in on our strike. We thought —” The speaker stopped. “We don’t know what to think now.”

Nor did anybody, weeks later, after Tige and the rest of Mom’s Boys, including Rags, were convalescents and once more looking forward to leave. By that time Mom had joined the immortals.

“She’ll be looking for her boys—or at least every man flying this part of the Pacific will swear to it,” Nig said one pleasant afternoon as they sat outside and watched a PBY drifting lazily by the tropical island.

Tige nodded. He was writing a letter home, to his mother, the real Mom.

“That’s about all to explain,” he had written. “I’ve got messages from the Army bomber boys, and carrier-based pilots. They swear they’ve seen Mom, circling wherever there’s trouble. I think they really believe it. And who knows? Nobody saw her go down. She just went over the horizon, at five thousand, still making a slow circle. All of Mom’s Boys feel she’s still in the sky. They can all laugh at us who want to. We know.”


Strange Facts about Flying

By Jay Smith

LIEUT. COL. A. P. GAGGE, of the Aero Medical Laboratory, of Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio, told the secret of the Army Air Forces pressure mask, which blows up lungs like inflating a balloon and in which breathing muscles are used only to exhale, to the Aero Medical Association of the United States.

This mask is in action. Before its employment, the practical limit of fliers, even breathing pure oxygen, was about 42,000 feet and then only for brief periods. At 50,000 feet, men speedily lost consciousness.

The new mask raises the ceiling at which humans can fight to 50,000 feet, but only for a few minutes at that altitude. Around 45,000 feet air crews can work for about half an hour.

The reason for the 42,000-foot limit with pure' oxygen is the extremely low pressure of the atmosphere. This results in lungs failing to absorb enough oxygen.

Compressed pure oxygen, used in the new mask, forces itself into the lungs and through lung tissues into the blood. The effort to exhale is so small that at the lower pressures in use, even an unconscious person exhales.

Until this mask was developed, exhaling had been believed impossible without the aid of rest periods. The new mask is continuous.

If however the oxygen compression is raised high enough, exhaling becomes an effort.

These oxygen mask pressure conditions are different from those of a pressurized cabin. The latter is a sealed chamber in which the crew lives and works.

The new mask was designed by Capt. F. E. Randall, of the Aero Medical Laboratory. He was a Harvard anthropologist called to the air forces to apply scientific measurements to the fitting problems. Despite problems of leakage, he designed three sizes, which fit all American types of face. Two of the sizes fit more than 90 per cent.

All belligerents have oxygen pressure masks. But the American mechanism is superior to the captured enemy masks. The final perfection of the American mask was accomplished with aid of the United States Bureau of Standards and the Linde Air Products Company.