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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!

MOM'S IN THE SKY

By SAM CARSON

"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 havin...

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