Submarine Patrol can be found in

This submarine patrol business was a lot
of baloney-and Roos knew it That
is, until the submarine showed
up to prove he was wrong



THEY'VE got a hangar down in Brownsville. One that’s empty. And it stays that way. Of course it isn’t much as hangars go, just a T-shaped building of wooden frame construction but still it could hold one of the small aircraft that drowse, staked out, on the airfield.

Right in the center, above the intersection of the two doors and above some lettering, is a gold star.

And sometimes you see the pilots wave as they leave on patrol and usually the wave is toward the gold star above the doors.

I was pea-green at Brownsville in those early days of the war; pea-green and slightly unhappy. All I knew was that the army didn’t have much time for fliers with silver in their hair. And I had that—where I had hair.

But the Civil Air Patrol seemed to have need, desperate need, for pilots of almost any age and with almost anything that would fly. Somehow it seemed like a kid’s business for a chap with over two thousand hours, but I was desperately anxious to be in this thing somewhere, and until something else showed up perhaps I could ride it out here.

“LIEUTENANT ROOS reporting, sir.” My bearing was military, I hoped. At least it had been 26 years before.

The man behind the desk wore a silver bar and the red shoulder loops of the Civil Air Patrol. He arose, came around with outstretched hand.

“Glad to see you, Lieutenant. I’m Charlie Bates, Operations and general factotum.”

Bates was browned by the Texas sun, His thin hair was combed smoothly back. I noticed an Argonne ribbon below the pilot’s wings on his breast.

“How soon can you be ready for duty?” he asked. Seeing my startled look at the abruptness of his question, he added: “Sorry to rush you this way but we’re in frantic need of men and equipment. We’re flying men four to ten hours a day and probably would fly them twenty-four if we could see.”

"That bad?” I asked.

He nodded. “Worse. Come with me and I’ll show you around.”

Out on the field I looked over one of the strangest conglomerations of equipment I had seen in many a moon. Fairchild 24’s, 22’s, Stinson Reliants, 105’s, some new, some old—there was even a Challenger Robin; anything that would fly seemed to be there. Some were idling, some had the cowlings off, but they seemed to have one thing in common. Around them all were men and all the men were working.

“Doesn’t look like we need equipment,” Bates said. “But- this stuff comes in for hundred hour checks— sometimes every eight days.

“By the way,” he added, “I haven’t seen your service record yet. Suppose you tell me.”

“Navy pilot 1917-1918, Folkstone base. Presently attorney, San Francisco. 2200 hours. Instrument rating,” I answered.

He smiled his satisfaction. "Fine! Navigation current?”

I nodded assent. “My business takes me up and down the coast and I usually fly on dead reckoning rather than use the beam just to keep my hand in.” I guess he caught some of the wryness in my voice as I added, “I’ve tried to catch on in Ferry, in fact in half a dozen other spots, but the Army doesn’t seem to have much time for fliers over forty. Seems like they prefer to make their own pilots, so...” I guess the implication of my shrug and the bitterness of my tone produced a reaction I was instantly sorry for.

His smile vanished. He looked at me levelly and said, “I think there are some things you don’t understand, Lieutenant.” His voice was a trifle cold and impersonal and he did not continue.

I didn’t pay too much attention to the omission. I was down a little too deep mentally to be critical of trifles. Somehow I had thought that rallying around the flag was going to be like it had been 26 years ago; excitement, color, confusion, and that perhaps the art of war as I had learned it then was to have an application once again. And here I was, in a drowsy Texas field under a robins-egg sky, condemned, so it seemed, to spend endless hours behind eighty tired horsepower staring at the endless hills and valleys of an endless ocean for the accomplishment of nothing. Somehow I felt like a youngster at a grown-up party who has been told: “Take a book and go read in the corner.” Anything to keep me occupied.


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