Sky Mule can be found in






"Hot" Anderson was one of those flyers who
thinks he's a flying circus all by himself; in
which case a mule is worth more than a jackass!

Sky Mule

By SAM CARSON

HOT ANDERSON rolled the dice for a can of hot beer, slapped the Aussie flight lieutenant on the back in mock sympathy and walked to the edge of the thatch-roofed shed housing the post exchange. He looked out at the dusty field—dusty because some Mitchells were coming in—and at the terraced tea plantations on distant hills. This was Assam, and it was still new and interesting country to Hot.

He caught the steady drone of a plane. Now he saw it, coming in from the southwest. At first he gaped at the sight of a P-38 fairly standing still. Then he understood. The fighter plane was towing a glider. He could see the CG-4A’s clumsy shape, riding high on its cable. “For the love of St. Valentine!” he exclaimed. “That’s something. Who invented the idea? And why?”

A technical sergeant, glancing up, answered the question. “Sky mule, we call ’em. We got a dozen P-38’s doing it.”

“I live and learn,” Hot mused. “Are you short C-47’s, or something?”

The technical sergeant looked Hot over carefully, fresh uniform and all. Hot flushed.

“You’ll get used to ’em sir,” the noncom commented. “That way, a fighter tows a glider out to its objective, then sticks around to give protection.”

The rayon tow rope dropped. At once the P-38 bounced ahead. His beer forgotten, Hot stared as the clumsy glider did a lazy 8, then banked into the wind as casually as if it had two motors to pull it on. It came in neatly, sliding on its skids, and three men climbed out. The tow plane followed.

“Sky mule,” Hot reflected. “Imagine sitting in a fast job like that, and crawling through the air. It’s murder, to do a pilot that way.”

Hot Anderson wasn’t conceited. Rather, he was a quiet young man. friendly, trying to learn aerial warfare in Assam; and he was as mixed up as the campaign against the Japanese had turned. It was puzzling, to strafe enemy columns west of the Chin Hills in the morning, and see a couple or more flights hop off in the afternoon, to go to the aid of an allied force on the Chinese side of North Burma. But then, Hot was a new arrival. There were several changes under way, including the transfer of Lieutenant Colonel Warner. A new man was coming up. He was due that night. Meanwhile, Hot was unassigned.

That fact didn’t worry the young man, as he consumed his drink, back under the shed. The sun was settling, and he swatted at flies and mosquitoes mechanically. Hot Anderson wanted to get into the air.

He had judgment enough not to thrust himself upon the veteran pilots. There were men like “Dusty” Gregory, and “Chunk” Lane, for instance, who had flown with Chennault. No, Hot wanted nothing but a chance to go up, and see what was going on. He ached to cross the Chin Hills, sheer into the lofty cumulus heads now painted against the copper sun. Life, to him in the past year and half, was too much time spent on the ground, and too little crossing the sky, in a hot plane which, no matter the job, always seemed to fit, to supplement his very soul and body.

It had been his luck to cross more than halfway around the globe, and yet miss hot action. Hot figured that here was where percentage caught up- with him, and he was glad. Others might swear at the evil ranges of climate in Assam, thrust into the corner of India beneath the greatest mountain range Asia had to offer. Hot didn t mind. He was going to handle P-38’s, and he liked the planes very much.

HE WAS with Higgins, another newcomer, outside headquarters when a jeep brought the new C.O. over from the transport plane which had just come in from Delhi way. Like the others, Hot was curious. He wondered if he had met the new skipper, since he had served at a lot of fields. Then he caught sight of a redheaded major, and there was no joy in Assam.

The new commanding officer was Major “Pig-Iron” Kent, whose last contact with Hot’s sphere of existence had almost resulted in the latter’s washout at a Texas field. ...

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