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Our Pilots in the Air   By: (1847-1923)

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Prepared by Sean Pobuda

OUR PILOTS IN THE AIR

BY CAPTAIN WILLIAM B. PERRY

CHAPTER I

A BOMBING AIR RAID

The scene in the valley was striking in one respect. Low ranges of gently sloping hills had widened out, enclosing broad levels with what in America would be termed a creek but was here poetically named a river. By here I mean eastern France, not so many miles from No Man's Land. The "striking" feature was the "Flying Camp" spread out over a dead level of much trampled greensward, enclosed by high board walls, irregularly oval in shape, with a large clump of trees in the center and a multiplicity of large, small, mostly queer shaped buildings scattered about.

There were a few wide roadways, with smaller avenues intersecting them, and larger open spaces, bordered by hangars, at either end of the oval.

On a bulletin board in one of these open spaces a placard was tacked, at which several young men in khaki and wearing the aviator cap were gazing, commenting humorously or otherwise. All that this plainly open placard published, apparently for all eyes to see, was as follows:

"Members of Bombing Squadron No. will be on the qui vive at 7 p.m. tonight. Specific orders will be issued to each at that time."

Not much in that, an outsider might think. But wait! Listen!

"Say, Orry," remarked an athletic youth, throwing an arm casually over the shoulder of a smaller companion beside him and tweaking the other's ear, "does this mean that you and me go up together in that crazy old biplane they foisted on us before?"

"How should I know?" replied the smaller lad, a nervous, sprightly youngster, dark eyed, curly headed, thin faced. "Did she get your nerve last time?"

"Not by a long shot! But when we made that last dive to get away from Fritzy in his Fokker, I noticed your hands on the crank were shaking. Say, if that Tommy in the monoplane hadn't helped us, where'd we been?"

"Right here, you goose! We'd have got out somehow, but it was squally for about five minutes."

The two strolled off together as others, also in khaki but with different fittings or insignia, gathered about to read, comment and then turn their several ways.

"We are in that bombing squad all right, I guess remarked Lafe Blaine, the athletic youngster. "But I am tired of this everlasting bombing that goes on, mostly by night. We're chums, Orry; we work together all right. There is no one in this camp can handle a fighting machine better than I; nor do I want a better, truer backer at the Lewis than you."

The Lewis gun was the one then most in use at this aerodrome station, which was somewhere on that section near where the British and French sectors meet.

"You always were a bully boy, Lafe, in spite of your two big handles. Say, how'd they come to call you Lafayette when you already had such a whopper of a surname?"

"Oh, dry up, Orry! Those names often make me tired. I'm only an ordinary chap, but with those names every noodle thinks I ought to be something real big. Catch on?"

Orris Erwin nodded and pinched the other's massive fore arm, as he replied:

"So you are big! Bet you weigh one eighty if you weigh a pound."

But Lafe was thinking. Finally he announced decidedly:

"I'm going to get after our Sergeant this afternoon. If he knows what's what, he'll let you and me take out that neat little Bleriot. We'll do our share of bombing of course; but if the Boches come up after us, we can do something else besides run for home eh?"

Erwin shook his head dubiously as he replied:

"I doubt if he gives us the Bleriot. It's French, you know. We're practicing with the Tommies. He likes the way you handle things, but I fear he don't build much on me."

Lafe, of course, disclaimed any superiority, but Orris felt that way. Later, when mid day chow was over, Lafe found his way to where the squadron commander was checking off the different machines and assigning to each the various occupants. All this on a pad, in one of the hangars, with no one else near, as the Sergeant thought... Continue reading book >>




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