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Title: A Yankee Flier in the Far East

Author: Rutherford G. Montgomery

Illustrator: Paul Laune

Release date: April 2, 2018 [eBook #56895]

Language: English




A Yankee Flier in the Far East     Frontispiece (Page 83)



Paul Laune


Copyright, 1942, by

All Rights Reserved

Printed in the United States of America


I Rest Cure in Singapore 1
II China Wings 15
III China 30
IV Flying Tigers 44
V Rescue Mission 62
VI Attack 86
VII Stan Wilson, Detective 100
VIII Prisoner at Kula 120
IX Siamese Shroud 134
X Temple with a Red Roof 156
XI Rescue 177
XII Jungle Trail 198
XIII Glory Trail 209




The air squadron mess of the Royal Air Force, Near East Command, was hot and close. Outside, white sunlight glared down on the steaming pavement and on the rank vegetation growing against a rock wall. Beyond that rock wall rose the marble and stone buildings of the city of Singapore.

Lieutenant O’Malley of the Royal Air Force elevated his feet to the top of a chair and lay back against a damp cushion. He craned his long neck and looked out upon the sweltering scene. Little rivers of sweat trickled down his neck and spread out under his shirt. Sadly, O’Malley contemplated the large slab of berry pie he held in his hand.

“’Tis a terrible thing to consider,” he muttered.

2 Lieutenant March Allison, who was sitting near him, opened his eyes and blinked.

“What,” he asked listlessly, “is so terrible?”

“I niver thought Mrs. O’Malley’s boy would iver be so hot he couldn’t eat a slab o’ pie.” O’Malley set the pie on the window ledge and pulled out a huge handkerchief. “This is as close to Hades as I iver plan to get.”

Leaning back, he elevated his feet a bit higher. Bill O’Malley was a lank Irishman with a skinny neck and a big Adam’s apple. His uniform hung on his bony frame in a most unmilitary manner. O’Malley’s most striking feature was his flaming red hair seldom disturbed by a comb. He was not a person to inspire fear or confidence.

“Oh, now, I say, old chap,” Allison drawled, “this is not such a bad spot. His Majesty’s Army has been downright thoughtful, sending us out here to the glamorous East for a rest cure.”

Allison eased himself upward in his chair. He was a slender young man. His uniform fitted him neatly. His blond hair was close-clipped.3 There was a hint of insolent mockery in his cool, gray eyes. Allison was an ace who had made a name for himself in the wild days of the Battle for Britain. He smiled at O’Malley as he went on talking.

“O’Malley, you have not made good use of your time here in Singapore. You have not seen any of the sights.” There was more than a hint of mockery in Allison’s voice. He himself had not set foot outside quarters.

O’Malley turned and squinted at Allison. “Sure, an’ I know all about Singapore. Singapore, the Lion City, crossroads o’ the East!” O’Malley’s voice dropped to a drawl. “Ivery time you open a tin can or have a blowout you make business for Singapore, for it boasts the biggest tin smelters in the world and half o’ the rubber in the world comes through its gates.” He grinned widely. “And it stinks and it’s hot and it’s dead as a graveyard. Ivery one of us might as well be buried in County Kerry, Ireland.”

“We’ll get some patrol duty after a while. The Japs want Singapore and will make a grab for it,” Allison predicted. His mood matched that of O’Malley but he refused to4 admit it. They were stuck in the Far East, thousands of miles from the battle lines. To his way of thinking, they might well remain there for the rest of the war, making routine flights over a smelly jungle infested with crocodiles, tigers and leeches.

“Mrs. O’Malley’s boy joined up to fight, not to melt,” O’Malley growled. “I’m thinkin’ I’ll hire meself out as a deck hand an’ beat me way back home. I can enlist under another name.”

“You won’t do that,” Allison snapped.

“Why not? I’m doin’ no good here,” O’Malley retorted.

“You won’t desert. I’d turn you in, you redheaded Irisher. As your superior officer I’d break your neck.” Allison’s gray eyes had lost their insolent flicker and were cold and hard.

O’Malley grinned broadly and reached for the slab of pie which was dripping berry juice down the wall. “You mean you’d be after tryin’,” he said as he opened his big mouth and shoved half of the piece of pie into it.

“How can you eat a whole pie before dinner?5 Here it is one hundred twenty in the shade and you eat pie.” Allison shuddered.

“Just a snack,” O’Malley assured him. “I’m really off me feed on account o’ the heat.”

He had just finished the pie when another flier entered. He was tall and well-built, typically Yank. Allison waved a hand lazily. O’Malley just grunted.

Stan Wilson crossed the room and seated himself at the open window, being careful to avoid the berry stains. Back in the United States Stan Wilson had been a test pilot, then he had joined the Royal Air Force and spent savage months battling for Britain.

O’Malley let his feet slide to the floor with a thud. “I’ve been tellin’ Allison what a rotten hole this is. We’ll be seein’ no action out here.”

“I aim to, and right away,” Stan Wilson announced excitedly. “Of course you two bums will want to rest and enjoy the charming atmosphere of Singapore. But I’m on my way to a war.”

“See here, old fellow,” Allison began,6 “just because you’re a Yank and can get a release, you don’t have to sneak off and leave us to dehydrate. You have to stick around until we all get called back to London.”

“You’ll get action when the Japs cut loose, plenty of it. I think they’re about ready to grab Singapore while it’s still asleep. But I don’t want to wait that long,” Stan said.

“Wherever you’re goin’ I’m comin’ along,” O’Malley said. He had lost all of his laziness.

Stan grinned widely. “It might be arranged.”

“Now see here, let me in on this plot,” Allison cut in.

“It seems the United States is lending fliers to China. A hundred or so pilots, ships and ground men. Their job is to protect the Burma Road and help the Chinese build up an air force of their own.” His grin widened. “Of course there will be a few odds in favor of the Japs, probably twenty to one or something like that.”

“They’d never release O’Malley and me,” Allison said sourly.

7 “I did a bit of snooping and wire-pulling. The Wing Commander is a mighty reasonable man. He feels that the Chinese should be encouraged a bit.” Stan got to his feet.

O’Malley and Allison were at his side at once. “When do we pull out?” O’Malley asked eagerly.

“You boys have to get your releases and then you have to sign up with the Chinese. Me, I’m one of Chiang Kai-shek’s majors.”

“You spalpeen! Salute one of Chiang’s generals!” O’Malley pulled himself up as straight as he could. “I’ll most certainly get a generalship.”

“The pay is all the same,” Stan said with a smile.

“Whom do we have to see?” Allison asked.

“You see Wing Commander Beakin for your release. He’ll put you on the right track,” Stan said.

“I said, when do we leave?” O’Malley demanded.

“Right away. We are to ferry a Hudson bomber up to Rangoon.” Stan laughed at8 the impatient O’Malley. “I have already listed you two as probable members of the crew. Majors O’Malley and Wilson; Major Allison commanding,” Stan explained.

“I say, old fellow,” Allison protested, “you rate the commander’s stripes.”

“Nothing doing. This is still Red Flight of the old Channel days. There won’t be any changes in personnel, except that we have to take along another flier, a fellow by the name of Nick Munson.”

“Is he Royal Air Force?” Allison asked.

Stan shook his head. “No combat training, I guess. He’s an American and is supposed to have flown test jobs over in the States. He’s signed up and we’ll take him along.”

“What are we waitin’ for?” O’Malley cut in impatiently.

“One other thing I ought to tell you,” Stan said. “The Japs will consider us outlaws and spies. If they catch us, they’ll shoot us. This won’t be the Royal Air Force, this is wildcat work and mighty tough.”

“The Chinese Air Force needs a helping9 hand,” Allison drawled in his most ironical manner.

Stan grinned. He had known all along that his pals would go with him. “We may as well step across into the gardens and meet Nick Munson,” he said.

The three fliers stepped out of the mess and walked across a broad plaza. Outside the iron fence crowds hurried along a narrow street. There was a babel of races and colors and castes which the wealth of rubber and tin had drawn to Singapore from every part of the teeming East. People hurried past, some of them half-naked, jinrikisha coolies trotted along, their bodies gleaming with moisture, pulling carts in which perspiring passengers sat fanning themselves.

“’Tis no white man’s country,” O’Malley muttered as they crossed the street and shoved their way through the throng.

They entered a palm garden and Stan led the way across a lush lawn to where a heavy-set man stood talking to a laughing group of native girls. The girls seemed to be enjoying the white man’s jokes and well able10 to understand him. Allison scowled but O’Malley grinned.

“Nick, meet your future buddies,” Stan greeted the stranger.

Nick Munson turned around and looked at O’Malley and Allison. He was a dark-faced man with close-set eyes and a tightly cropped mustache. His eyes darted over the slacks and white shirts of the fliers. Stan made the introduction brief.

“This is Bill O’Malley and March Allison; Nick Munson.”

“Out here for the rest cure?” Nick’s lips curled just a trifle. “Jerries got a bit too hot, eh?”

O’Malley’s grin faded and his chin stuck out. “’Tis not so good I am at hearin’,” he said. “Would you be after repeatin’ that remark?”

“No offense meant,” Nick Munson answered quickly. “I hear you are both aces.”

“We have been lucky at times,” Allison said, his voice very soft.

“They are two of the best,” Stan cut in. “You can learn a lot from them.”

“I might and I might be able to teach them11 something. I’m signed up as an instructor to show the boys some of the new wrinkles we have developed over in the States.” Nick Munson smiled a little patronizingly.

Stan looked at him thoughtfully. “I have had a bit of experience in the United States,” he said.

Nick Munson did not meet Stan’s steady gaze. “That must have been a while back,” he said.

“Not so long ago,” Stan answered, then added, “but we must be toddling along. I just wanted you to meet the men you’ll be working with. See you later.”

They turned away, leaving Nick to amuse the native girls. When they had crossed the street, O’Malley growled:

“That spalpeen better not try teachin’ me any new tricks.”

“He’ll bear watching,” Allison remarked.

“If he makes any more wisecracks I’ll sock him,” O’Malley threatened. “He made me mad first, so I get first whack.”

Allison laughed. “Don’t be a nut, Irish. He’ll make a good man once he’s been up the glory trail and has had some hot lead12 smacked through his ship. He may even learn a few new wrinkles the Americans have not worked out.” He gave Stan a knowing leer. “Yanks are all a bit cocky at first.”

“Nick isn’t a fair sample,” Stan said quickly. “Before you get out of China, you’ll meet a lot of fellows who are right good men.”

They walked across the grounds to headquarters and turned in. Wing Commander Beakin was seated at his desk. In spite of the heat, he was dressed in full uniform. He frowned heavily as he looked at them.

“Deserters?” he asked in clipped tones.

“No, sir, just recruits,” Allison answered.

“China, eh?” The commander did not wait for an answer. “Well, boys, you can serve up there better than down here right now. We all know trouble is on the way. Japan is about ready to strike. The stronger China is, the safer we are down here. We have to keep supplies moving in over the Burma Road just as long as it can be kept open.”

“Yes, sor,” O’Malley broke in. “That’s13 just the way we had it figured out. Once we get up there that road will be safe.”

Commander Beakin’s leathery face cracked into a smile. “Aren’t you the pilot who brought in a new model German gun and laid it on the desk of my friend, Wing Commander Farrell?”

O’Malley squirmed uncomfortably. Allison spoke up. “The same man, sir. He herded a Jerry right down on our landing field.”

Stan laughed. “We shall try to uphold the traditions of the service, sir,” he said.

Commander Beakin cleared his throat. He pulled a sheaf of papers toward him and glanced at them. Then he shoved them across the desk.

“Lieutenant Wilson can take you to the Chinese general who will give you your credentials. These papers will release you and they will entitle you to return to this service without prejudice. I understand you are to report at once.” His face had returned to its flinty hardness, but his eyes showed the pride he had in his men.

The three fliers gathered up their papers14 and about-faced. O’Malley seemed to have forgotten the heat. He set a brisk pace. Allison slowed him down.

“What’s your rush? China will be still there when we get to Rangoon,” he drawled.

They walked across town to the waterfront where the harbor was crowded with craft from every nation of the world. A mass of frail vessels marked the Chinese boat colony where several thousand Chinese, some of whom had never set foot on land, used boats for homes and as a means of livelihood. The waterfront was swarming with a motley crowd of races and colors, all jabbering and shouting and talking. Few white men were to be seen.

“Our man lives in a little shack down a few blocks,” Stan explained. “He has his office in one half of a single room and he lives in the other half. But he has plenty of authority and Uncle Sam is backing him.”

They hurried on through the colorful throng, hardly paying any attention to what went on around them. They were eager to be on their way to China and the skies over the Burma Road.



Stan Wilson led his pals to a small shack on the waterfront and halted before a flimsy door of matting. Over the door and along the wall were Chinese characters painted in red. Below the characters was a faded poster showing a slender American girl in a riding habit and wearing a cocky little hat. The girl was holding high a glass of Coca Cola. Stan pointed to the familiar advertisement.

“Looks like home,” he said.

“It sure does,” Allison agreed. “Those confounded soft drink ads are plastered all over the world.”

“Here is where you sign up. I was down yesterday,” Stan said. “Still want to head for China?”

16 O’Malley eyed the dilapidated building, then his eyes moved up and down the street crowded with similar shacks.

“Sure, an’ I’m struck dumb with admiration by the elegance o’ their headquarters, but if they have planes and petrol I’m joinin’ up.”

“They have both,” Stan assured him.

“Suppose we have a look inside,” Allison suggested.

Stan tapped on the wall beside the door. After a brief wait the matting swung aside and a brown face appeared. Two glittering, black eyes regarded them. The doorman was a Malay, smaller than the average. His lips were stained red from chewing betel nut and his skin was a rich red-brown.

“Come,” he beckoned softly.

Stan shoved O’Malley forward and Allison dropped in behind. They entered a small room lighted by yellow rays which filtered in through a screen covering a high window. The room was divided into two parts by a long grass curtain decorated with painted cherry trees and mountains. Against this backdrop sat a gaunt Chinese17 at a small desk. He wore a white jacket and a pair of billowing pants. His deep-set eyes peered out at the three fliers from unmoving lids. Slowly he lifted a bony hand to his chin and fingered its carved outline.

“Welcome,” he said in a soft voice. “Welcome and please sit down.”

The only place to sit was on a bench before the desk or upon one of the many cushions scattered about on the floor. The boys seated themselves on the bench.

“General, I have brought two men who hope to join the China Air Force. They are the men Commander Beakin reported upon, and the same men I told you about,” Stan explained.

“I am grateful. China is grateful. To have three aces from the Royal Air Corps is indeed a great gift.” The general’s voice was smooth and controlled, but his eyes were searching and watchful.

“There was to be another man. He should be here,” Stan said.

The thin, yellow lips parted in a smile. “Mr. Munson asked to come one hour later. He informed me he had an engagement.”

18 “Sure, an’ I’m thinkin’ this Nick Munson is a bad one,” O’Malley broke in.

The general beamed upon O’Malley. “It is good to be of a suspicious nature. However, we have checked the credentials Mr. Munson presented and find them eminently satisfactory. He boasts overmuch, perhaps, but China has great need of instructors and pilots.”

“We’ll handle the spalpeen, General. We’ll break his neck if he gets funny,” O’Malley assured the officer.

“He may well break his own neck if he does the things he tells us are easy for him,” the general said without smiling.

“We are prepared to be watchful, that is what Lieutenant O’Malley means,” Allison explained.

“I believe as much, and so we will get on with the few details which must be settled. First, I must warn you that efforts are being made to prevent recruited pilots from reaching China.” He smiled and went on with hardly a pause. “You will be paid one thousand dollars a month in American money for your services. You will be under the orders19 of our renowned general, Chiang Kai-shek, as regular officers of the China Air Force. I have made out the papers you will need to present at the air base from which you will fly. Once you have reported you will not carry these papers on your person. Should you be forced down behind enemy lines or be in danger of capture, you will divest yourself of your uniform under which you will wear Chinese clothing. This is for your personal safety.”

“So the Japs won’t shoot us on sight?” O’Malley asked.

“They seldom shoot prisoners. They use them for bayonet drill, lashed to a post.” The general’s eyes were hard and clear.

O’Malley straightened aggressively and started to say something uncomplimentary about the Japs. Stan broke in.

“Thanks, General.”

O’Malley got to his feet and thrust out a huge hand. The general took it and gripped it.

“Don’t you worry, sor. ’Tis no Japs will be botherin’ yer supplies once we get up north,” O’Malley said gravely.

20 The general laughed. “You are most wonderful boys. I wish you good luck, and, as they say, happy landings.”

Stan hesitated, then faced the general. “Where did you learn to speak English, sir? Many of your phrases sound very familiar.”

“I come from San Francisco, where I was born. Like yourselves I am a foreigner helping a great people resist an aggressor. When the liberty of China is secure I shall return to San Francisco and my law practice.” There was a twinkle in the eyes of the general.

March Allison laughed his old, cynical laugh. “A Yank,” he said and snapped a smart salute which the general returned.

Out on the street a minute later he turned to Stan. “What is his name?”

“Tom Miller,” Stan replied.

O’Malley stopped and looked at Stan. “What sort of a country have you got over there?” he demanded. “By the shades o’ St. Patrick, if that general is Tom Miller, I’m Chiang himself.”

“We have Irish policemen, Chinese lawyers21 and Hindu doctors,” Stan said without a smile.

“I’m going over there after the war,” O’Malley declared. “Just to have a good look.”

At that moment the Malay boy who had admitted them to the presence of General Miller appeared.

“Come, please,” he said.

They followed him toward the waterfront. At a small fruit stand they met a short Chinese youth dressed in white duck pants and wearing a flat, straw hat. Their Malay guide bobbed his head and spoke in Chinese to the youth. The youth smiled at the three fliers, revealing two rows of even white teeth.

“Welcome to the China Air Arm. I am Tom Koo, flight officer.”

“I am Stan Wilson. This is Bill O’Malley and March Allison,” Stan said. “Allison will command our flight.”

O’Malley was looking closely at the soldier. Tom Koo was dressed the same as a thousand other Chinese they had passed on the waterfront. Suddenly he asked, “You come from San Francisco?”

22 “Yes,” Tom Koo answered, “but how did you know?”

“I’m an expert,” O’Malley answered. “Anyway, no man could fail to recognize a Yank.” O’Malley grinned broadly and Tom Koo looked greatly pleased. He turned to Stan.

“You, too, are an American?”

“I sure am, and we’ll show up the Irish and the British, Tom,” Stan said very seriously.

The Chinese flier laughed softly. “That will be a very difficult thing to do. You see, I am informed of the records of Majors Allison and O’Malley.”

“It’s action we crave, Spitfires and Japs,” O’Malley broke in.

“Japs you shall have in large numbers,” Tom said. “And spies and crooks and saboteurs to add to the excitement.” The smile faded from his face and he looked grim. “But first you have a boat ride which will take you to an island where we have a flying field. It is best that you do not return to your barracks. Your bags will be forwarded to you.”

23 The three walked beside Tom Koo. About them milled shouting and laughing Tamil and Hindu traders, expounding the value of their wares. In the midst of such a group stood a fat Chinese. His shrill voice rose above the tumult and the shouting. Tom shoved his way toward the fat boatman.

The boatman did not seem to see them, but others turned to look. The fliers wore street clothing and were taken for tourists who would have money to spend.

“I will go on. You will speak to the boatman. Say you wish to take a boat ride.” Tom Koo moved away after giving these instructions in a low voice.

Stan was closest to the burly Chinese. “We want to see things. Have you a boat for hire?”

The boatman turned and his black eyes fixed upon the three fliers. His round, fat stomach bulged above the sash he had knotted around it. His head was shaven and smooth and his face was wrinkled into a mass of genial furrows. He was almost an exact copy of the little statues of the god of happiness they had seen displayed in the24 shop windows. He bowed stiffly and placed a huge straw hat on his head.

“You payee—big?” he asked.

“Sure,” Allison said. “American silver dollars.”

The fat man looked around, then headed toward a junk moored at the wharf. The boat was high-pooped, square-sterned, made of carved wood, and staring popeyes were painted on the bows. On its deck was mounted a gun of a model which had been in use a hundred years before. Stepping on board, the three fliers found deck chairs under a canvass awning.

Seating themselves, they watched the Chinese boatman maneuver his craft into the bay by using a long pole. The junk slowly proceeded away from the wharf, clearing the hundreds of odd-looking craft moored there.

A breeze fanned lazily over them and the boatman hoisted a huge sail. The junk lumbered slowly out across the oily waters. Stan noticed that the man kept watching the shore. He wondered what the fat boatman25 was looking for. Junks and other craft were coming in or putting out, and a motorboat darted out from among the moored vessels. The boatman grunted and shrugged his shoulders as he gave his attention to his sail.

After that nothing happened in the bay, so Stan gave his attention to the shore line falling away astern and to wondering if the American instructor would get out to the island.

A number of small islands loomed ahead. The junk skirted the green patches so closely that they could see the natives going about their daily lives. The details of their tiny, palm-leaf shacks, standing on stilts over the water, could be seen clearly.

The day was hot and steamy and the tide was running low. The receding waters left vast, flat banks of slimy, stinking mud, alive with crawling creatures chased by long-legged birds. Along the bank myriad mangrove trees hugged the shore, their naked, crooked roots exposed.

“Reminds me of a basket o’ slimy, wrigglin’26 snakes,” O’Malley observed sourly.

“It all smells very rare,” Allison said with a grin.

Stan was not watching the shore ahead, he was looking at a motorboat which had appeared off one of the small islands. It was the same boat that had put out into the bay at Singapore. It was cutting toward them, sending a white wedge of water foaming back from its prow. The Chinese boatman saw it and burst into a high-pitched chatter.

“Looks like we might have our first taste of the stuff Tom Koo spoke about,” Stan said.

O’Malley watched the oncoming boat with interest. “Sure, an’ we might have a bit of excitement,” he said eagerly.

“We may have to make a detour to Rangoon,” Allison said softly.

“Our boatman is scared stiff,” Stan observed.

“If we had our service pistols we might have some fun,” Allison said. “But all we have are our fists.”

O’Malley grinned wolfishly. He had gotten up and was leaning over the rail. The27 motorboat circled the junk and came alongside. It was filled with little brown men armed with long poles. A chunky fellow stood in the prow. He shouted up to the boatman.

“Yer delayin’ the parade!” O’Malley shouted down at the man in the prow. “Get that raft out of our way!”

The leader of the crew looked up at O’Malley, then turned and began chattering to his crew. At that moment a white man appeared from a little cabin in the rear of the motorboat. Stan and Allison got up quickly. The man was Nick Munson. He stood looking up at O’Malley.

“I missed the junk and set out to overtake you. I’ll be aboard in a minute,” he called to them. Ducking back into the cabin he came out with a bag.

“Well, jest imagine that,” O’Malley drawled.

Stan looked over at O’Malley and suddenly his eyes narrowed. O’Malley was sliding a service pistol into the ample pocket of his trousers. He moved close to the Irishman.

28 “How come you filched a gun?” he asked. “We were to turn them in before we left London.”

“I’m that absent-minded,” O’Malley said with a grin. “I got so used to the feel o’ Nora snugglin’ in me pocket that I jest couldn’t part with her.”

Allison looked at Stan and there was a glint in his eyes. “Sometimes that Irisher shows a glimmer of brilliance,” he said.

Nick Munson clambered aboard the junk. Dropping his bag, he wiped his forehead and sank into a chair. He spoke two words to the boatman in Chinese.

“I reckon you learned to speak Chinese in a United States plane factory,” Stan said, and his eyes locked with Munson’s.

“I picked up a few words along the waterfront in Frisco,” Nick answered.

The motorboat roared away and the junk moved on its slow course around a small island beyond which they could see a larger expanse of land. Stan sat back and watched Nick Munson who was giving O’Malley a big line about dive bombers. O’Malley was taking29 it all in and grinning amiably at Munson.

Presently they sighted low buildings on the island, then the gray and silver forms of several transport and bomber planes rose into view. As the junk moved closer they saw that the island was humming with activity. Malays and Chinese ran about and many white men mingled with them.

“Hudsons and P–40’s,” Stan said.

“Fine stuff,” O’Malley chimed in. “They got full armament.”

“China, here we come!” Stan shouted.

Allison leaned back and there was a sardonic look on his face. He puffed out his cheeks as he watched.

“Not bad, old man, not bad at all.”

Nick Munson stood up, his eyes moving swiftly over the scene, taking in all the details. His lips curved into a smile.

“Ideal spot for an attack, no cover, nothing.” He spoke slowly as though pleased with the idea.



The air base on the island was temporary and would be abandoned within a few weeks. It had been laid out to shorten the trip of bombers delivered to China by way of Australia and Rangoon from the west coast of the United States. Stan and his pals hurried to a flimsy headquarters building where they were met by a number of officials. Nick Munson went along, though O’Malley made a number of discouraging remarks.

They presented their credentials and signed for uniforms and equipment. Tom Koo put in an appearance as the navigator who was to take them on the first leg of their journey, the hop to Rangoon. He did not say anything about the details of the flight, or the course, beyond running a finger across the map to show where they would fly across the Malay Peninsula.

31 O’Malley was in high spirits and even offered to share half a stale pie with Nick Munson. He had discovered the pie in a small canteen attached to headquarters. Munson refused, so O’Malley devoured all of it.

Stan walked around the grounds while they were waiting for their call to go out. He made a circle of the field and came back past headquarters. As he passed the door he heard Nick Munson’s voice. It sounded irritated. Munson was arguing hotly with someone. Stan halted just beyond the door and listened.

“I want a single-seat bomber, one of those dive bombers out there. That was the agreement when I came over here. I’m an expert and an instructor. I fly alone.”

A smooth but firm voice answered, “I am sorry, Mr. Munson. I have orders to assign you to Tom Koo’s bomber crew under command of Major Allison. If you wish return transportation to Singapore, that will be arranged. If you wish to go on to China, you will follow instructions.”

“You’ll hear about this,” Munson growled.

32 Stan hurried away. He did not want Nick to see him at the door. When he arrived at the Hudson they were to fly, he found Tom Koo explaining flight details. Nick Munson sauntered up a few minutes later and stood listening.

“It is not unusual to be attacked by Jap fliers over the Gulf of Siam,” Tom Koo said. “They do not recognize neutral waters or soil. But you all know the Hudson can fly as fast as most pursuit ships and that she is well armed. Our only danger comes from spies flashing word of our take-off to the enemy. In that case we may be ambushed by a swarm of fighter planes.” He smiled at the fliers. “If you sight ten or twenty enemy planes, you duck and run for it.”

“What if we sight half a dozen?” Stan asked.

“We shoot them down,” Tom Koo said modestly.

“Very encouraging,” Allison drawled.

“Jest you furnish me a fighter to ride herd on the bombers and we’ll show the spalpeens,” O’Malley exclaimed.

“The distance is too great for a fighter33 plane,” Tom Koo explained. “We just fight our way through.”

Stan smiled. The Chinese were used to fighting with the odds against them. They had been meeting the Japanese that way for years.

“We’ll take the Hudson through,” Stan said. “And if you hang a few eggs underneath, we’ll drop them on Saïgon just by way of a little token.”

Tom beamed. “A very good idea. But we have no bombs here to take along. At our China bases we will find bombs—American made bombs and very good ones.”

Tom looked at Nick Munson who was bending over the map spread on a box. Nick looked up. “Do you have two-way radio?” he asked.

“Yes,” Tom answered. “But the radio will be used only by Major Wilson. One-man communication. The ship will be under command of Major Allison.” He turned to Stan. “I will give you the code and the wave length used at Rangoon.”

“What if something happens to Wilson?” Nick asked.

34 “In that case I will take over,” Tom answered.

They checked the charts carefully. Accustomed as they were to complete weather reports and detailed instructions, this flight preparation seemed woefully lacking. Stan shoved the code book into his pocket. Allison gathered up his flying orders and O’Malley strapped on his helmet.

“We’re all ready,” Allison announced.

“I’ll clear you,” Tom said.

They climbed into the Hudson. Her motors were idling smoothly as she stood at the cab rank. A number of American mechanics smiled and waved to them. One of the boys called up to Stan:

“We’ll see you in China in a week.”

Stan lifted a hand and grinned at the boy. He moved back to the radio compartment. O’Malley manned the forward gun. Nick was placed in the rear gun turret forward of the twin tail assembly. Tom was at the navigator’s post.

The field officer flagged them and Stan felt the big ship tremble under full throttle. She slid forward, gathering speed, her engines35 roaring and flaming. The afternoon sun gleamed on the oily, tropic sea and many birds were winging back and forth in the hot, burnished sky. The Hudson lifted and bored away and upward. Stan connected his headset and gave his attention to the code sheets spread before him. He had a feeling this would be a routine flight such as he had made many times in the United States.

Everything about the ship was familiar and gave him a snug feeling. The instrument panel, the arching ribs, the cable lines, all were familiar to him. He could see the top of Tom Koo’s head, and he could hear Nick Munson muttering to himself as he lifted the intercommunication phone to his ears. Nick evidently had the mouthpiece hanging close to his head.

Stan leaned forward and replaced his earphones. He dialed the wave length indicated on his code sheet. For a time he listened to routine orders coming out of the Rangoon base. But he did not cut in with any messages of his own. That would be taking unnecessary chances. An enemy radio36 might be listening. The time passed slowly. He heard his phone sputtering and slipped off his headset. Nick was calling him.

“Get in touch with Rangoon?”

“Cleared through O.K.,” Stan called back.

Nick grunted and lapsed into silence. Stan went back to his radio. The hum of the twin motors beat into his senses and the radio messages clicked off and on. He eased back and closed his eyes. It was very restful, flying up above the layer of hot air close to the ground. He nodded and drowsed off into a nap. There was nothing to keep him awake.

Suddenly Stan opened his eyes again. The first sense to register was his ears. He knew, too, from the sickening lurch of the ship that she was in a tight reversement, knifing over and going down at a terrific rate. But it was his ears that told him the Hudson was being attacked.

There was the familiar scream of lead ripping through the dural surfaces of the bomber. Looking out Stan saw two Karigane37 fighters dropping down out of the sky. Above and behind him he could hear Nick Munson’s guns blasting away, while up ahead he heard O’Malley’s guns pumping lead. Stan pulled off his headset and caught up the intercommunication phone.

The next instant the Hudson was looping back, flap guides screaming, as she faded into a vertical turn gauged to a split second. Allison was tossing her about like a light fighter plane and the Hudson was responding nobly. In the swirling patch of sky and clouds that whirled past, Stan saw at least a dozen of the Karigane fighters circling and diving, eager to get at the bomber.

“Somebody must have tipped them off,” Stan muttered.

Then he saw that fire was licking at the forward tanks. He pawed an extinguisher from its clamp and worked his way toward the leaking tank. The spray from his pump blanketed the blue flame forking up from the hole. The flame wavered, then went out.

Stan went back and cut in his radio. He got Rangoon and heard a cool voice talking to a bomber flight. Stan broke in:

38 “Hudson, Flight Three out of Singapore attacked by flight of Karigane fighters. Hudson, Flight Three calling. Do you hear me?”

The cool voice came right back at him. “Hudson, Flight Three, I hear you loud and clear. Give your location.”

Stan looked out and down. He had no idea where they were. He did not know how long he had slept. Below spread a placid sea, but he did not know whether it was the Gulf of Siam or the Bay of Bengal.

“I will check location and call back,” he said.

“Better fight it out and then come in. We have no planes to send,” the cool voice said.

Now the Hudson was going up, hammering toward a layer of clouds. The Karigane fighters did not want the bomber to reach those clouds. Three of them came screaming in from a head-on position. Stan heard O’Malley open up. One of the fighters sheared off, turned over and went down in flames, its silver belly gleaming.

Stan realized that it was not dark yet,39 though the sun had set. He wondered how long the light would hang on. Then he forgot to worry about the light as a stream of bullets ripped across the port wing, causing the Hudson to swerve and stagger. But she went on up.

Stan shouted into the intercommunication phone to Allison. “How is it up there? This is Stan.”

“Where have you been all this time?” Allison’s drawl was cool and unruffled. “Get up here. Tom’s been hit and is down. I need help.”

Stan made his way forward. Tom Koo was slumped over with his head rolling forward and his neck twisted around. Stan got hold of him and dragged him back, then slid into his seat. Allison glanced across at him.

“I dropped off to sleep,” Stan said grimly.

“Nice time for a nap, sorry we had to wake you up,” Allison answered.

“Got another yellow rat!” The voice of O’Malley roared in over the phone. “’Tis a Spitfire I’d like to be flyin’ this minnit!”

40 “I just sawed off a wing! Nice hunting,” came the voice of Nick Munson.

Stan scowled and looked into the rear mirror. He saw a fighter swirling and tumbling, black smoke pouring out of its cowling. He could not be sure it was not the Jap O’Malley had potted. Still, it was back on the tail where Nick could have hit it.

The Hudson knifed into the clouds just as four Kariganes roared down for the kill. Allison leaned back and relaxed.

“They do a very nice job,” he said. “Slow but fast on the turn.”

“They come right in,” Stan admitted. “I’d better have a look at Tom and see if I can fix him up. We’re safe now.”

Tom was hit in the shoulder and had a bad gash. He had struck his head when he fell and the blow had knocked him out. Stan bound his shoulder wound and stopped the flow of blood. He regained consciousness and sat up blinking weakly.

“Can you take the ship in?” he asked. “Every ship is badly needed.”

“Sure we’ll take her in,” Stan assured41 him, “but she’ll be laid up for repairs for a while.”

“You take over the radio. I’ll go back and pilot the Major in,” Tom said.

Stan helped him up to the seat beside Allison, then he went back to the radio. After a few minutes he picked up Rangoon. Allison and Tom got their bearings and they headed in, still keeping to the cloud layer.

Over Rangoon they broke out of the clouds and began drifting in. They saw below a calm sea and a green jungle. A beacon began to flash and Stan contacted the field. They slid in over blue markers and down on a long runway. As they bumped to a halt, it seemed as if they had landed at one of the airfields in England. Only the ground men who rushed forward were American mechanics, not British.

They climbed down, Nick Munson getting out last. He stood looking at the Hudson, his eyes moving over the damage done by the encounter with the Japs. Without a word he turned away.

“That bird tried to get a ship of his own42 for the trip up here,” Stan said. “I figure the Japs were tipped off and that Munson didn’t care to be riding with us.”

“Don’t go off half-cocked,” Allison warned.

They arrived at the flight office in time to see a United States Army major warmly shaking Nick Munson’s hand.

“Well, well, Nick, old man. We’re glad to have you up here as an instructor,” the major was saying.

“Glad to be here,” Nick answered. “I guess some of your men can learn a few new tricks.”

“And you’re the man who can teach them,” the major said as he slapped Nick across the shoulders.

Stan stood in the doorway watching. Apparently Nick Munson was favorably known to some of the army men from the States. Allison stepped forward. O’Malley was hungry and, when he was hungry, other details could wait.

“Where’s the mess?” he demanded.

The major looked at him and smiled. O’Malley’s uniform and shoulder markings43 placed him as a flier, but the officer seemed in doubt.

“Across the street,” he said gruffly.

“Flight Three out of Singapore reporting in, sir,” Allison said.

“Well, well.” The major suddenly showed some interest. The fame of these three aces had arrived ahead of them. “Glad to have you.” He looked again at O’Malley. “So you’re the famous O’Malley.” He held out his hand.

“I’m not so famous as I am hungry,” O’Malley said as he shook hands.

“I’ll check you right in and show you the mess,” the major said.



The air was hot and humid. Great cumulus clouds were piled against the sky. Out on the landing field, which was actually a converted rice paddy, sat a flight of six Curtiss P–40 planes. The Tomahawks, as they are called in the R.A.F., gleamed in the sun as their propellers turned over idly.

Stan Wilson stood between O’Malley and March Allison, listening. Above the muttering of the six Tomahawks rose the distant roar of bomber planes coming in.

“Sounds like business,” Allison said.

A captain of the Flying Tigers appeared from a shack. He ran across the field with three pilots after him. The three newly arrived pilots saluted.

“Up and at ’em, boys,” the captain snapped. “And remember you’re not in the R.A.F. now. Make every burst count and45 snap it off short. Ammunition supplies are limited.”

O’Malley was away before his pals could move. He had crabbed some about flying a P–40 until he had taken one up. Now he was bragging about the ship. Stan and Allison raced to their planes and climbed in.

A Chinese corporal waved to them, shouting a string of words they could not understand, then grinned broadly and ended up with:

“Give ’em the works!”

“That must be the signal to take off,” Stan muttered as he pinched one wheel brake and blasted his tail up, snapping the P–40 around in a tight circle.

The six Tomahawks bumped across the rice paddy, noses into the wind, and were off. Stan lifted his ship off the ground and sent it surging up into the sky. It was like old times when he was a test pilot back in the United States. The instruments and controls were familiar and he eased back against the shock pad.

Up spiraled the P–40’s above the high-piled clouds. They bored along in close46 formation. Allison had charge of three planes, and an American from Texas had charge of the other three.

“Japs on the left,” Allison’s voice cracked in over the air, “beyond the white cloud. Take two thousand feet more air under you, Flight Five.”

“O.K.,” Stan called back.

“Don’t be after wastin’ me time,” O’Malley grumbled. “I see a Jap down under.”

“Take two thousand, O’Malley,” Allison drawled. “Fighter planes, upstairs.”

They went on up, looped over a huge cloud and burst out above a flight of twenty bombers with red circles on their wings.

“Peel off and go down,” Allison ordered. There was a happy, reckless note in his voice. This was action again, a fling at bullet-filled skies.

O’Malley peeled off and went roaring down the chute. Allison followed, and Stan eased over and opened up. The P–40’s engine hammered a smooth tune as the air rushed past the hatch cover. Stan grinned. He was glad to be back at it again.

47 The bombers below were very slow. They did not break formation until the P–40’s were on their backs. Stan drove down on a big killer and opened his guns. He cut his burst short and knifed past. As he went down and over in a tight, twisting dive, he saw the bomber burst into flames. Up he went at the belly of another bomber. His Brownings rattled a hail of lead and sheared away the bomber’s wing.

As Stan went up, he saw, coming down the chute, a flight of Jap fighter planes. They were roaring in to save the bombers from destruction. Stan made a quick guess and decided there must be at least thirty of them.

“Air superiority,” he muttered. “So this is the way they get it.”

He laid over and sprayed another bomber. It dived and circled, heading back the way it had come. A glance showed that the bomber attack had been riddled and put to flight. But there was still the flock of fighters darting in on the P–40’s.

Stan went up and over and around. He held the P–40 wide open and shot under the diving Japs. He was remembering what the48 captain had said when he gave them instructions. “Go through them and on up. You can outfly them and be back for a kill before they can get at you.”

As he went up and over in a screaming loop, he saw that O’Malley had forgotten his instructions. The Irishman was in the middle of the enemy formation of fighters and he was stunting like a madman, his guns spitting flame and death. One Jap plane went down and then another, but O’Malley was in a tight spot. Smoke was trailing out behind him, not exhaust smoke but black smoke telling of fire inside the P–40.

Stan came over and went down. He ripped through the formation, darting around O’Malley. As he went, he saw, on his right, another P–40 shuttling across the sky. He clipped a wing off a fighter that tried to intercept him by diving at him. He saw his companion take another one out. Then he heard Allison’s clipped words.

“O’Malley! Get moving. Shuttle across. Use your speed.”

“I’m havin’ some fun stayin’ right here,” O’Malley called back.

49 “You’re on fire,” Stan warned.

“I’m just learnin’ to smoke,” O’Malley called back.

As Stan went across and up, he saw the advantage the P–40 had over the Jap fighters. They darted after him, but he slipped away on them. As he went over and down, he saw that his pals were doing the same thing. That is, all but O’Malley, who was battling it out with a dozen Japanese around him.

The five Flying Tigers came back across and their roaring charge was too much for the Japs. They dived and scattered, but, in getting clear, they lost three more planes.

“No use trying to keep a tally!” Stan shouted.

He looked down and saw that O’Malley’s plane had burst into flame. He watched the Irishman heave back his hatch cover and tumble out. For a moment, he held his breath. Had O’Malley forgotten everything he had been told? It seemed he had slept through the instruction period. His parachute was billowing out and he was sailing through the air. But that was not the worst50 of it. Two Japs were diving at him from out of the blue.

Stan went over and down with his motor wide open. As he roared toward the earth, a plane shot over his hatch cover and he had a glimpse of Allison bending forward as though to push his plane faster.

“He grabbed the fastest crate,” Stan growled as he eased over and chased Allison down the chute.

Before they could reach O’Malley, one of the Japanese had zoomed past the dangling pilot and had opened up on him. Stan gritted his teeth and pulled the P–40 up. He intended to get that fellow for the dirty trick he had pulled. Furiously he twisted the gun button as the Jap came into his windscreen.

His Brownings rattled a short burst and the Jap wobbled sickeningly. His ship laid over and seemed to explode. Stan eased off and looped. As he came down again, he saw that Allison was circling a parachute that was settling into a field. Watching, he saw the parachute fold up. He laid over and throttled down waiting for O’Malley to get up.

51 O’Malley did not move. He lay sprawled where he had hit. Stan gritted his teeth and went up again, looking for more Japs. The sky was clear. Not an enemy ship was in sight, except for a number of wrecks on the ground.

“Flight Five, come in. Flight Five, come in,” headquarters began calling.

“Flight Five, coming in. Allison speaking.” Stan waited. “One plane lost. One pilot lost. Flight Five, coming in.”

They made rendezvous with Flight Four which was all intact and the five P–40’s went in. They eased down and landed, sliding down the field with rumbling motors.

Stan faced Allison as they climbed to the ground. Allison scowled bleakly, then he drawled.

“The next time that wild Irisher will listen to instructions.”

“There won’t be any next time for him,” a pilot said. “You can’t make that kind of flying stick out here. It might work against the Jerries, but not in a ten-to-one fight with the Japs.”

“You might be right in your tactics,” Allison52 said with a sardonic smile. “But you don’t know O’Malley.”

“I’m going to beat some sense into his head when he comes in,” Stan growled.

He knew both he and Allison were just talking. He remembered clearly the limp form lying in the rice paddy.

They stamped into the briefing shack and the captain looked them over, frowning.

“You fellows lost a plane. Planes are valuable in this man’s country. From now on, you’ll be one short in formation.” Then he grinned. “Anybody have any idea how many were shot down?”

The boy from Texas spoke up, “I believe about twenty, sir.”

“We’ll make it twelve to be sure. If the ground boys pick up any more wrecks than that, we’ll take credit.” The captain turned away.

Stan didn’t feel very good. He looked at Allison. “I’d like to see if we can pick him up,” he said.

The captain turned on him. “You are under combat orders from daylight until dark,” he snapped. “If you want to go53 poking out into the rice fields after dark, that’s your business. The Brownies may come over again at any moment.”

“Yes, sir,” Stan said.

Allison lowered his voice. “I’m afraid it wouldn’t do any good,” he said. “I saw him land.”

“So did I,” Stan answered.

The captain spoke sharply and all of the pilots turned to face him.

“We have ten new planes and a new group of pilots coming in. The whole flight will be under a new flight instructor. He will give you instructions from now on. I’ll see you men over in the mess as soon as you are relieved this afternoon.” He turned on his heel and walked away.

Having a new instructor meant nothing to Stan and Allison. They had not been with the Flying Tigers long enough to know the man who was to be relieved. They went out into the sunshine and seated themselves under a tree to wait for action.

The Japs did not come back. Apparently their smashing defeat had slowed their attacks. Stan kept watching the flat fields54 stretching away from their base, hoping to see a lank figure coming in through the ground haze.

An hour before sundown they were relieved and went to their barracks to change to light uniforms. When they had changed, they walked over to the mess.

A group of some fifty men milled around the room. They were laughing and talking in small groups. Stan noticed at once that the men were not acquainted with each other, except for small squads gathered together. He and Allison stood watching. Suddenly Allison nudged Stan and said:

“There’s Nick Munson.”

Stan looked and saw Nick Munson in a uniform resplendent with braid. On his shoulders was the insignia of a colonel.

“He sure got himself a rating in a hurry,” Stan said.

“And a good one. I say, old man, you don’t suppose he has a special drag around here?” Allison’s lips curled into a smile.

At that moment Munson stepped to the front of the room and faced the fliers.

55 “Men!” he shouted. “Give me your attention. Snap into it!”

The men faced him and silence filled the room. “I’m sorry Colonel Fuller can’t be here. I’ll just have to introduce myself. I’m Nick Munson, test pilot from the U.S.A. And I’m your new instructor.” He let his eye rove over the men. His gaze flecked over Stan and Allison, seemed to pause a moment, then it moved on.

“What do you think of that?” Stan muttered.

“I’m not saying,” Allison answered.

“Just keep your lips buttoned up and listen to me.” Nick glared directly at Stan and Allison, though he could not have heard what they said.

The men moved in closer and frowns creased many faces. The Flying Tigers were easy-going, loose on discipline, deadly in the air. Many of them were veterans of the China Army. They didn’t like this new colonel’s attitude.

“I see some of you need a bit of military training,” Nick snapped. “I’m here to kick56 some action out of you birds. And I’ll do it or hand in my papers.”

The men stared at him, but no one said a word.

“I don’t want any more exhibitions like we had this afternoon. One famous R.A.F. pilot who thought he knew all about flying had a plane burned from under him and got himself shot up. You birds play this game my way or you’ll stay on the ground.”

Stan felt his hands clench into fists.

Nick’s tone was sarcastic as he continued, “You may have been aces where you came from, but that doesn’t mean a thing to me. Now get out and when I give an order see that you carry it out to the letter. None of you have any brains to do any thinking for yourselves. You do as you are told.”

Nick Munson turned on his heel and strode out of the mess. Allison faced Stan. The insolent mockery Stan knew so well was in his eyes.

“Imagine, old man,” he drawled, “you’re short on gray matter.”

“I may be short on brains, but I still pack a left hook and a right cross. Nobody can57 insult O’Malley and get away with it. Not when he isn’t here to speak for himself.” Stan’s chin was jutting out and his eyes were blazing.

“I’d suggest waiting a bit. Colonel Munson may have some plans. Perhaps he’s worried about the morale of this outfit,” Allison smiled his cold smile. “Perhaps it’s too high. He might like to see a few fights among the men. Possibly they might get the idea of quitting. This is a voluntary job, you know.”

Stan laughed and his fists opened. “I believe you have something there. Suppose we just circulate around and talk with a few of the men.”

As they talked with the irate fliers, Allison managed to slip in a word regarding Munson’s possible intention to create unrest in their ranks. When they left the mess hall, Allison saw that the men were beginning to get his slant. He felt sure that they would not be goaded into making trouble.

They were crossing the field when an officer came out of the briefing shack. It was58 Nick Munson. He changed his course and approached them. They snapped a salute. Munson looked them over.

“You fellows didn’t seem much impressed by my talk,” he said gruffly.

“We have heard a lot of speeches in this war,” Allison said very softly.

“I’m sorry that numskull Irishman isn’t with us any more. I should have liked to have made a flier out of him,” Nick said.

“For a test pilot without combat stripes you have done well, Munson,” Stan said and his eyes locked with those of the colonel.

“I may do even better,” Nick boasted. “This is the land of opportunity.”

Stan had suddenly lost interest in Munson. He was looking out across the darkening rice fields. Three men were coming toward the shack. Two walked ahead while another came on behind. Suddenly Stan laughed in Nick’s face.

“You may get your chance to train O’Malley, after all,” he said.

O’Malley was striding across the field with two Japanese pilots in front of him. He had lost his helmet and his flaming hair59 bushed out on his head. He waved an arm to Stan and Allison and bellowed:

“Here I come with the reserves!”

He marched his prisoners up to Colonel Munson and halted them. They were very meek. One of the men had a black eye that suggested he had been hit by a fist. Nick stared at the Japs and then at O’Malley.

“You were reported killed,” he growled.

O’Malley looked Nick over, observed his rating and then answered insolently:

“And you don’t like it because I wasn’t, eh, Colonel?”

“O’Malley, I outrank you. Speak in a respectful manner when you talk to me.” Nick’s face was red and his eyes were blazing.

“Sure, an’ the Chinese are hard up for colonels,” O’Malley said. He turned to Stan and then to Allison. “I’m thinkin’ I’ll go over an’ get my general’s stripes as soon as I hand over these fellers.” He grinned at his prisoners. “They are slippery ones, and don’t you ever ferget that. My friend, here,” he nodded toward the man with the black eye, “tried to stick a knife into me.”

60 “Hand over your prisoners and then report to me,” Munson ordered. “I’m going to ground you for not following out instructions this afternoon. You lost a valuable ship.”

“I don’t think I’ll like bein’ grounded,” O’Malley answered. “I’m thinkin’ you and this Jap would look more alike if you had a black eye, me foine friend.”

“Easy, Bill,” Allison warned and stepped to O’Malley’s side. “Don’t play his game.”

Munson wheeled on Allison. “What’s that?” he demanded.

“You may outrank us, but just remember that this is a volunteer group, and if they take it into their heads to knock those stripes off you they can do it,” Allison answered coldly.

Munson stared hard at Allison, then he said, “No use in your getting hot under the collar. I have to make this a military outfit.” He turned to O’Malley. “I may not ground you, but you have to listen to instructions. You have a lot to learn.” His voice was almost friendly.

“The Japs taught me all I’ll be needin’61 to know from now on,” O’Malley answered. “I’m a flyin’ snake from this day on. A hit-and-run driver.”

Munson turned and walked away. Stan and Allison went along with O’Malley to deliver the prisoners.

“You sure hit the bull’s-eye when you cracked down on him,” Stan said to Allison.

Allison frowned. “He gave himself away all right. Now we know how to handle him.” He turned to O’Malley. “What made you lie there on the ground as though you were dead? You had me fooled.”

“I figgered I’d better play possum. With the sky full o’ Japs, one of them might have come down an’ peppered me,” O’Malley answered.

“And where did you meet your friends, the Japs?” Stan asked.

“I saw them crawl out of a bomber and I followed them,” O’Malley sighed. “An’ did I work up an appetite walking all that way! Let’s get rid of these birds and go eat.”



The city of Rangoon lies east of the delta of the Irrawaddy River. A hundred miles further east, the great, sluggish Salween River flows into the ocean. Beyond the Salween lies Thailand. From Rangoon, a railroad runs due north to Mandalay and then northeast to Lashio. Out of Lashio runs the famous Burma Road. It swings north through a narrow strip of Burma, then twists up and over wild mountain country belonging to China. Making a wide circle which bends southward, it ends at Chungking, capital of China.

The Flying Tigers were the guardians of Rangoon where the big ships docked and unloaded supplies for the Chinese armies. They were roving guards of the railroad and of the truck road over the mountains. With63 their P–40’s, they wove a wall the Japanese could not see and one they could not cross.

The three Royal Air Force pilots soon discovered that men of the Flying Tigers had no real names. They were Big Moose or Jake or Sandy; any name that happened to be tagged to them by the fancy of their fellow fliers. They were lone wolves of the air, prowling in threes or in pairs or alone.

To such a group, Nick Munson was poison. Within two days after he had taken over instruction of the squadron, he had accomplished something sinister. The Tigers were spitting at one another and were not doing nearly so good a job of covering the vast area they had to protect.

Stan, Allison, and O’Malley were sitting in their little bunk room. Their bodies were stripped to the waist and gleamed with moisture. The air seemed to press down upon them, hot and suffocating. Outside, stars gleamed and a pale moon shone through a cloudless sky.

“Somebody has to start a movement to get rid of Munson,” Stan said grimly. “I never saw a tougher, more wild crew than64 we have, but they’ll go to pieces if he keeps at them.”

“Sure, an’ we ought to punch him in the nose. We could throw him out o’ this outfit and chase him out o’ Burma,” O’Malley said.

“There ought to be a better way,” Allison said. “A way that would not make an outlaw outfit out of the gang. The Chinese want to give us a free hand, but if we get to staging riots, they’ll have to step in and take control.”

“We each have to watch Munson and try to catch him at some trick or another, then we’ll have him,” Stan said.

“’Tis a waste o’ good time,” O’Malley argued.

“Stan is right. We’ll keep an eye on him.” Allison smiled. “But just remember this, he has the three of us spotted. He knows we became suspicious of him on the trip up here. He’ll be doing a little watching himself, or I miss my guess.”

Stan got to his feet. “It’s too hot in here for me,” he said. “I’m going for a walk.”

65 “I’m takin’ me a nap,” O’Malley declared.

“I think I’ll try for a wink of sleep myself,” Allison said.

Stan walked out into the night. There was a breeze blowing that carried pungent smells from the city and the harbor. The city was blacked out, except for the lights along the dock. Stan headed in that direction and finally reached a point where he could look down upon the scene below.

Floodlights revealed masses of trucks and cars loaded with boxed supplies and piles of loose materials. Hundreds of new passenger cars were lined up in the big yard. They were familiar cars, all American made—Buicks, Chryslers, and Fords—and all destined for China’s army. In a yard beyond the car lot stood hundreds of new trucks being serviced by American and Chinese mechanics. Soon those trucks would be heading for the Burma Road to haul freight over the towering mountains.

The noise and the activity attracted Stan. He sauntered toward the car lot. Two66 guards stood at the gate of the yard. Stan was not in uniform, except for his trousers, so he did not approach the gate. He seated himself on a bank in the deep shadows under a spreading tree.

A car passed the guards and rolled away. It was a new Chrysler. A few minutes later another car rolled out. With idle interest, Stan watched the cars go by. He was wide awake and the busy scene fascinated him. Another new Chrysler came out. It turned left and passed close to where Stan sat.

Two fat men sat in the front seat. As the car rolled by, someone in the back seat lighted a cigarette. The flare of the light revealed two men in the rear. The cupped flame lighted a bony, hawklike set of features which were not Oriental. Stan started and leaned forward when he saw the figure beside the man who had lighted the match. He was wearing a uniform and Stan got a glimpse of his face. He recognized Nick Munson.

Stan got to his feet and walked around the parking lots. Down the street a number of men were working under a big light. He67 moved down to them and saw that they all were Americans and that they were assembling car parts.

The boss of the crew looked up. When he saw that Stan was an American, he smiled in a friendly fashion.

“Hello,” he said. “Where did you come from?”

“I just wandered down from the flying field,” Stan replied. “Too hot to sleep.”

The boss was instantly impressed. “You fellows are doing a swell job. You have the toughest job there is out here. But I have my troubles, too,” he added.

“What sort of troubles?” Stan asked.

“We have such a mixture of people that I can’t tell them apart—Chinese, Burmans, and Malays. The Chinese on the whole are very honest, but there are some who feel free to make off with anything they can get hold of.” He grinned widely. “They steal the stuff and sell it in places where there is no war at all.”

“What use would they have for car parts?” Stan asked.

“Oh, they don’t waste time stealing car68 parts. They steal cars and trucks after we get them serviced and ready to roll.” The boss wiped his forehead with the back of his hand. “This whole lower end of the line is in Burma, not China. The Chinese just have transportation rights. They got those rights through British pressure and some of the Burmese don’t like it.”

“What do they do when they catch thieves stealing trucks and cars?” Stan asked.

“It depends a lot on who they are. If they are wealthy owners of big land grants, they just take the car and forget it. If they are poor natives who make a business of thieving, they shoot them.” The boss laughed. “Any way you look at it, we have a hard time delivering enough supplies to keep the Chinese army going.”

Stan nodded. He was thinking about a number of things. “Well, I’ll run along. I feel as though I could sleep now.”

“Drop down to the Teeka Hotel sometime,” the boss said. “I’m Matt Willard. I’ll be glad to show you around.”

“I’m Stan Wilson,” Stan said. “I may do that soon.”

69 He walked up the road and headed out toward the flying field. A sentry challenged him, and he advanced to be recognized and to give the countersign. After he had done so, he asked:

“Many of the boys go out tonight?”

“No go out. Only two.” The Chinese sentry smiled broadly.

“Two besides me?” Stan asked.

“You and one who cooks. He is my friend.” The sentry’s white teeth flashed.

Stan laughed and walked on toward the barracks. He found O’Malley and Allison sleeping soundly. Slipping out of his trousers, he lay down.

Suddenly the sentry’s words, “You and one who cooks,” flashed through his mind. He was puzzled. It was very strange. He was positive that Nick Munson was in the automobile he had seen leaving the parking lot. Why was Munson so secretive about his movements? Stan decided to do some sleuthing, perhaps.... Within a few minutes he was fast asleep.

The next morning the three fliers were called to Commander Fuller’s office. Stan70 led the way with O’Malley trailing. Fuller looked them over with a critical eye.

“I have a job for you fellows,” he said crisply.

The three members of Flight Five waited.

O’Malley returned the commander’s look with an insolent grin. He edged close to the desk and leaned forward. Fuller ignored him. He spoke to Allison.

“You are to take up a Martin bomber on a special assignment, Major. I have a request from Colonel Munson to pick up a Chinese officer who has been abandoned by his caravan.” Fuller pulled a map from his desk and spread it out before him. “The Chinese general has two staff officers with him. They were attacked by Thai guerilla forces under command of Japanese spies. They escaped and are at a plantation just over the border.” He placed the point of his pencil on the map. “Here is the location of the plantation. You will spot the field to be used in landing by an American flag planted at the edge of the woods.”

Allison picked up the map. “Will we be71 interned if we are caught in Thailand?” He asked the question sharply.

“There will be no armed forces to stop you and no one will know you landed. You will be only a few minutes on the field,” Fuller answered.

“Yes, sir,” Allison said as he turned away from the desk.

“You are in command, Major Allison,” Fuller called after him.

“Yes, sir,” Allison answered.

The three fliers walked out into the sunshine. O’Malley was the first to speak.

“What’s the need for sendin’ three fighter pilots to herd a crate on a passenger trip?”

“We may find that out later,” Stan said.

“We’ll make jolly well sure there is no army of Thai troops waiting for us when we land,” Allison said.

“I can’t think of a better way of getting rid of us than having us dumped into a native stockade where we could rot while the war goes on,” Stan said.

They reported to the briefing room where the captain in charge gave them their flying72 orders. Out on the field, a battered Martin attack bomber sat with her propeller idling.

“The old gal looks like she has seen a hard winter,” O’Malley said. He faced his two pals. “Suppose you boys let me take this hop. You could sneak out on patrol and get some action. It won’t take three of us to fly that crate.”

“We have our orders,” Allison reminded. “Besides, old man, I might need a couple of good gunners.”

O’Malley grunted. “It’s goin’ to spoil the whole day for all three of us.”

“I have a hunch we might meet a few Jap fighters on the way over or back,” Stan remarked. “Just like we met them when we flew into this jungle.”

“The best way to find out is to get going,” Allison said.

The ground men had climbed out of the bomber. O’Malley went up first and began looking the guns over. Stan and Allison were up in front when he came back from a prowl in the rear.

“’Tis nice equipment they furnish, these Chinese. I’m handling the rear gun.73 There’s a couple o’ submachine guns in a rack back there. If I bail out, I’ll grab one o’ them, then Mrs. O’Malley’s boy will pot any Japs that try dirty tricks.”

Allison settled himself at the controls while Stan took over navigation and the forward guns. The big ship rocked to the blast of its two Pratt and Whitney motors. It spun around and headed down the field. Hoicking its tail, the plane eased off the ground. It was designed to fly as fast as most pursuit planes and to maneuver well in the air. They had been up only a few minutes when Stan discovered that the intercommunication phone was out of order and that they had no radio.

“This ship was never cleared for combat by the ground crew,” he called to Allison.

Allison smiled back at him and opened the Martin up another notch. He leaned toward Stan and shouted:

“You’re not in the R.A.F. now, son. You are back in the old brush-hopping days.”

They bored along, spotting two P–40 patrols who eased down to look them over. They saw no enemy planes at all as they74 knifed along above a layer of clouds. Stan checked the map and charted their course. After a time, he made a thumbs-down sign and Allison dropped under the clouds.

They drifted over the broad and muddy Salween River and Stan knew they were over neutral territory. He kept a sharp watch for Jap ships, knowing that they paid no attention to neutrality. They had an understanding with Thailand that amounted to an alliance.

After crossing the river, Allison went down and swept low over the jungle and land which plantation owners had cultivated. He was the first to spot the flag planted at the edge of a rice paddy. The field seemed smooth and the flag gave him the wind, but he did not go in. He circled low over the jungle bordering the plantation.

As they came back over, much lower this time, they saw three men dressed in uniform waving to them from the edge of the dense forest. Allison came around and skimmed low over the field. As he went past, he saw that the three men were dressed in Chinese uniforms.

75 “I’m setting her down,” he called to Stan. “I’ll roll in close to the spot where those men are and then I’ll swing around so that we head into the wind.”

Stan nodded. He had eased into position back of his gun controls. The Martin went down lower and bumped across the rice field. It hit solidly and rolled toward the three men. The Chinese remained at the edge of the woods, waiting.

Allison heaved back his hatch and looked out. “They look like Chinese officers,” he shouted above the rumble of the twin motors that he had left idling.

With a flip, he spun the Martin around and set the brakes. Stan and Allison swung down to the ground. They waited for O’Malley to come out but he did not show up.

“It may be just as well to leave him to guard the ship,” Stan said.

“Good idea,” Allison agreed.

Stan called up to O’Malley. “Stick around and watch the ship. We’ll be back with the general and his baggage in a few minutes.”

The rumbling of the motors drowned out76 any reply O’Malley might have made. Stan turned to join Allison. They walked across the grass toward the three officers advancing to meet them.

When they were a few yards away, Stan halted. “Those aren’t generals,” he groaned. “They are Jap noncommissioned officers.”

Allison stopped and muttered softly, “Right you are.”

Before the two pilots could wheel, six men slid out of the jungle. They were armed with rifles which were pointed at Stan and Allison. One of the officers rasped in perfect English:

“You are our prisoners. Do not try to escape, please.”

“Stuck!” Stan gritted as he suddenly realized that neither he nor Allison was armed.

The Japs closed in. The officer in command spoke to Stan.

“Your other man is in the ship?”

“What other man?” Stan came back.

“We know you have a crew of three,” the officer snarled.

77 “The best way to find out is to look there yourself,” Allison answered.

The officer spoke sharply in Japanese. He lifted his voice to almost a shout. Instantly a company of soldiers came out of the woods and began to spread out around the Martin. Stan waited for the blast of O’Malley’s guns. The rear guns of the Martin could cover most of the approaching men.

No sound came from the Martin. The Japs swarmed up into it. Stan scowled as he waited for them to drag O’Malley out. The Irishman must have gone to sleep. A few minutes later the soldiers came out of the plane and moved toward the officer in charge. A rapid conversation took place in their native tongue.

Suddenly the officer turned to Stan. “It is true that you have only two men in your party. As you said, there is no one in the plane.”

Stan and Allison exchanged quick glances. Both managed to hide their surprise at this news. Stan faced the officer. He had no idea what had happened to O’Malley. What78 he wanted to find out was the fate awaiting Allison and himself.

“You plan to intern us?” he asked.

“We do not intern mercenary fliers who hire out to the enemy.” The Jap smiled sarcastically. “We are not so soft and so foolish. We shoot them. That is the better way.”

Allison’s lips pulled into a sardonic smile. “So nice of you,” he said softly.

“You will march over to the woods,” the officer ordered. “Before we dispose of you, we have some questions to ask you.”

“Glad to oblige with any information you want,” Allison replied, hoping to stall for time.

With bayonets at their backs, they walked to a shady spot under a vine-choked tree.

“You may sit, please,” the officer said.

Stan and Allison sat down and waited for the questions. The former planted himself with his back against a tree. That took the threat of a bayonet thrust in the back out of the picture. Allison did the same.

“How many pilots do you have in your79 mercenary group?” the officer demanded. He had a pad and pencil in hand, ready to jot down their answers.

Stan looked at Allison. “We should have somewhere near a thousand.” He grinned and added, “That is with the last bunch that arrived yesterday.”

The Jap looked at Stan and then jotted down the number. “Now, please, how many planes do you have?”

“We don’t know. They are coming in so fast we can’t keep count of them,” Allison answered.

“But some estimate, please,” the Japanese insisted.

“Oh, several thousand,” Stan answered airily.

This seemed to excite the officer greatly. He wrote the number down and chattered to the noncom beside him. They talked for a few minutes among themselves. When they had finished, Stan spoke up.

“Doesn’t that tally with the number Colonel Munson reported we had?”

The Jap stared at him. “Colonel Munson,”80 he repeated thoughtfully. He shook his head. “I do not hear of him.”

Stan was convinced that the officer was telling the truth. He did not seem to know Nick Munson. Before he could ask another question, a shining, new Chrysler rolled out of the woods and a trim little man stepped out. He was a ranking officer of the Japanese Air Force. Stan recognized his outfit at once.

The noncommissioned officer bowed and bobbed and saluted. He talked rapidly with the Japanese officer. The little man took the pad, looked at it, then scowled at Stan and Allison.

“Liars,” he accused. “We waste no more time with you.”

He spoke in a smooth flow of Japanese to the noncoms, then turned about and got into the car.

Stan stared at the new Chrysler. The Japs had not been able to import any of that model of American cars. His mind was working fast. Allison kicked him and mumbled:

81 “If we’re to make a try for it, we’ll have to do so as soon as that car pulls out.”

Stan nodded. “We’ll dive for the brush.”

The car rolled away and was swallowed by the jungle. The Japanese officer turned to them.

“Get up,” he commanded. “You may use your handkerchiefs to put over your eyes. We waste no more time. My men are good shots, however.” He sneered, exposing huge buckteeth.

Stan and Allison sprang to their feet, backing up on each side of the tree.

“Step forward and place the blindfold,” the officer snapped.

“We don’t want any blindfolds. We can face you rats,” Stan retorted. He shot a glance at Allison.

Allison was swaying just a little. Stan tensed himself to leap backward and roll behind the tree. Suddenly, there was a blazing rattle of machine gunfire from the green wall of the jungle close by. The Jap officer spun around and tumbled to the ground. Two of his men went down and the others82 scattered. They opened fire but Stan did not wait to offer a target. He plunged behind the tree and brought up hard against Allison.

Peering out, they saw a figure emerge from the woods. A high, wild yell rose into the hot jungle air. Bill O’Malley was rushing upon the Japs with a submachine gun spitting fire at them!

The charging O’Malley was too much for the Japanese. They broke and plunged for the cover of the jungle. Stan leaped out and caught up a rifle.

“Get to the ship! Don’t wait to fight! Run for it!” Allison shouted behind him.

Gripping the gun, Stan sprinted for the ship. Allison was close behind him. Stan went up and into the pilot’s seat. He rammed the throttle knob up and the twin motors roared to life. The Martin shook and strained at its brakes. Stan reached down and gave Allison a hand as he kicked off one brake and wheeled the bomber around.

“Forward guns!” Stan shouted.

O’Malley was planted halfway between83 the plane and the jungle, potting away and shouting. The Japs, hidden in the dense growth, had recovered from their first panic and were sniping at him with their rifles.

Allison opened up with a blast from the forward guns of the Martin. The shells screamed into the tops of the jungle trees. O’Malley tossed aside his machine gun and ran to the plane. As he sprang into the compartment, Stan headed the plane out into the field for a take-off.

The Martin lifted and Stan swung it around. With the bomber in the air, he could nose down over the jungle and strafe the Japanese hiding there. He was nosing in when he sighted a car moving swiftly along a narrow road. It was the new Chrysler.

Stan laid over and went down after the car. As he roared down upon it, he saw men spill out and tumble into the bushes beside the road. Allison opened up, and, as they left, Stan saw that the car had been smashed to a twisted mass of wreckage.

He went on up and headed for home. As they roared along, Allison poked him and84 pointed up. Stan saw four Jap fighter planes coming down at them. He cracked the throttle wide open. With a whoop, O’Malley scrambled back to the rear gun turret.

The Japs came down the chute but they were not fast enough to make contact. The Martin showed them a clean pair of heels and they gave up the chase.

The Martin dropped in on the temporary field and slid up beside a hangar. Ground men swarmed out to take over. The three pilots climbed out and headed for the briefing room where they reported in.

“Let’s go report to the colonel,” O’Malley said. There was a savage glint in his eye.

“First, you report how you happened to bail out with that tommy gun,” Stan said to O’Malley.

“I spotted a squad o’ Japs near the woods. We had no phone an’ you were comin’ in fast. I jest piled out and sailed down into a patch o’ timber. You were so low, the Japs didn’t see me bail out.” O’Malley ran his fingers tenderly over a mass of scratches85 on his cheek. “I like to niver got out o’ the mess o’ vines and bushes I landed in.”

“Aren’t you hungry?” Allison asked in mock surprise.

“I’m weak with hunger,” O’Malley declared solemnly. “But I’m mad, too. I got to lay one on the beak o’ that Munson before I’ll get me full appetite.”

“I think we’d better eat first,” Stan said. “We might be able to figure out something while we watch you devour a couple of pies.”

O’Malley grinned widely. “Sure, an’ if I wasn’t so weak from hunger, you couldn’t talk me out of it,” he said.

They headed toward the mess hall with O’Malley well in the lead.



The three fliers of Flight Five did not get time to argue. They were only half through with their dinner when the loudspeaker over the mess door began rasping and sputtering:

“Flight Three, all out! Flight Four, all out! Flight Five, all out!”

Before the speaker in the control room could repeat, there was a rush of feet toward the briefing room. O’Malley galloped along with a quarter of berry pie in his hand. He had bribed the Chinese cook into making his favorite dessert daily.

They crowded into the small shack and began scrambling into their fighting outfits.

“Munson found out we got back,” Stan said as he slid into his parachute harness.

“Faith, an’ he’s a wise bird, that fellow,” O’Malley growled.

87 “This must be a real attack the way they are turning half the force out,” Allison said as he shoved over to the desk to get his orders.

Men raced out on the field and dashed toward their idling planes. As they ran, they looked up into the blue sky. They heard no bombers and they could see no fighters, but they knew the Japs were up there.

Never had the enemy been able to bomb Rangoon. They had been smashed with heavy losses on every attempt. The Flying Tigers were proud of their record and eager to keep it clean.

As motors roared and hatch covers slammed shut, Stan heard Nick Munson’s voice rasp in his headset:

“Instructor Munson taking command. Squadron, check your temperatures.”

Reports came crackling back.

Stan scowled as he bent forward. Nick Munson was going to lead the attack. That was not good news.

“Up to eight thousand feet. Hold your formation for orders,” Munson droned.

Stan jerked the throttle knob open,88 jammed down on one brake and wheeled around in a tight circle. Nine other P–40’s were whipping into line. There was less of the formality of an R.A.F. take-off. Each plane blasted its tail up with a rush of exhaust pressure and headed down the field. Stan saw O’Malley hop his ship off long before the others left the field. Allison went straight out, wide open, with Stan at his right wing.

With the ground swirling by in a blur, Stan heard Allison’s voice:

“Up, boys, and at them.”

He pulled the nose of the P–40 up and she zoomed with a lift that fairly hurled her into the sky. Allison rode up close beside him. They raised above O’Malley but he came on, leveling off to force his speed.

“Formation! Squadron, close in!” Munson was bellowing.

Stan grinned. This was the first flight the colonel had taken with the Tigers and they were not acting the way he thought they should. Finally, the nine fighters closed in and took up line formation.

“Up to twelve thousand,” Munson ordered.

89 The Tigers went on up, following their leader. Stan looked across and saw O’Malley’s head bobbing back and forth. Suddenly, he heard O’Malley’s voice:

“What kind o’ show is this?”

“We’re out for a bit of exercise,” Allison came back.

“We ought to be over in those clouds,” Stan cut in. “That’s the place to look for trouble.”

Far to their right rose a high-piled bank of clouds. Stan kept watching that bank and wondering when Munson would head that way. He also wondered if the colonel had ever been in combat before. A man who would lead his flight through the open sky with clouds on either side needed some practical training.

Stan chuckled. The Japs would give him that training if he stayed in this game very long and went upstairs every day. Stan was still looking at the big cloud bank. He blinked his eyes. Around from the far side of the cloud came a flight of Japanese planes.

“Off to the right! Jap planes on the right!” Stan shouted into his flap mike. “Coming under the cloud.”

90 “Peel off and after them!” Allison chimed in.

“Sure, an’ I’m on me way!” O’Malley yelled back.

“Hold formation!” Munson bellowed. “I’m giving the orders here.” His voice blurred out in a blast of static.

The three P–40’s on the right end of the line formation ducked and darted away. The others stayed in formation, following orders.

It soon became evident what the Japs were after. They were diving on the hangars and planes on the ground at the field. The three P–40’s went in with Allison in charge. They cut across the neat enemy formation and there was a scattering of ships. In and out, back and forth roared the three members of Flight Five. The twenty Japanese planes gave up the idea of strafing the field installations. They turned to the task of smacking down the roaring demons that had hurtled down on them. Three Japs went down in flames under the first dive.

Stan came back through with his thumb on the gun button. He twisted and turned;91 but he could not get a Jap in his sights. As he went up, he saw that O’Malley had learned his lesson. The Irishman was topping a high-zoom and coming back over, belly to the sun. As he went in, Stan saw him saw a wing off a Karigane and send it spinning to the ground.

The Japs seemed to be panicked by the savagery of the attack. They whirled and fled back toward their bases. The three victorious P–40’s roared up into the sky and circled. Allison’s voice came in with a slow drawl:

“Does that formation headed for Rangoon look like bombers?”

“It does,” Stan called back.

At that instant, they saw the six P–40’s under Munson’s command. They were high up above the clouds, too far up to intercept the low-flying bombers headed for the city.

“After them!” Allison ordered.

The three ships streaked toward the bombers. Long before they had overtaken the slow-flying 97’s, the enemy had sighted them and were spreading out.

92 The three P–40’s went into the formation with a slashing dive. There were twelve bombers and they scattered in twelve directions. Stan rolled over and got on the tail of a killer. His Brownings spattered lead and the bomber billowed smoke. Up he went and around and down on another bomber.

The air above the rice fields outside the city was filled with the scream of motors as the three fighters battled to keep a single bomber from getting through. They were losing the fight, even though they had shot down four bombers, when Munson and his ships came down in a screaming dive to join them. That ended the fight. The Tigers did not let a single 97 get away.

One by one, they drifted in and landed. Twelve of them came in. Not one ship was missing. Stan crawled out and stood waiting for Allison and O’Malley.

The lank Irishman waddled over to his pals. He was grinning broadly. Allison jerked off his helmet. There was a cold, icy look in his eyes. Stan knew Allison was finally jarred out of his half-amused attitude.

93 “Sure, an’ ’twas one grand party,” O’Malley beamed. “It fair gave me a huge appetite.”

Allison turned toward the briefing shack and they walked in to report. A sour group of pilots greeted them. The six fliers who had stayed with Munson were thoroughly ruffled. One of them turned to Stan as the three R.A.F. men reached the desk. He spoke so that everyone, even Munson, who was making out his report at the end of the desk, could hear.

“Lucky for this outfit you birds put brains before orders.”

“We fly by feel, me bye,” O’Malley answered cheerfully as he barged in to the desk and grabbed a report blank.

“I’m putting in for a transfer,” the pilot said with disgust. “This outfit stinks.”

Stan grinned at the angry young man. The flier was four inches taller than Stan and he had a bushy mop of black hair. His cheeks were soft and pink. His black eyes blazed.

“You’re from Texas?” Stan asked.

94 “I’m from Texas and we don’t take anything from anyone in my country,” the youth answered.

Nick Munson scowled but said nothing.

“I’m from Waco, Texas, myself,” Stan said to the pilot. “But I migrated to Colorado and flew up there.”

The youngster stepped close to Stan. “I’m with you,” his voice had dropped below the murmur of the other men, “when Munson opens up on you like he will.”

“Thanks,” Stan said gratefully.

Nick Munson shoved over his report and his voice cracked out, brittle and hard.

“I’ll see all of you men in the mess, right away.”

The fliers turned away and moved outside in a group. O’Malley growled loudly as he walked with Stan and Allison toward the barracks.

“I need food, not jawbone. I hope he makes it snappy.”

“He will,” Allison said and smiled thinly.

“You better keep your shirt on,” Stan said to Allison. “I’d like to have a couple of nights free to do a bit of snooping before95 you get us all tossed into a guardhouse.”

“It all depends on what he says,” Allison answered coolly.

“You see, Munson is about to blow up the squadron. That’s just what he wants to do. If we start trouble, he’ll wreck the flying strength of this outfit. In that case, he’ll have us grounded and this sector will be wide open.” Stan pressed his point home hard. “He has a reason. I think he’s being paid off. I think his credentials are faked. It’s not hard to get into an outfit like this. The Chinese need trained pilots so bad they are not apt to go deep into their past records.”

Allison swung around. “You’re right, old man. Sorry I acted like a silly goat. Let’s talk to the men.”

They entered the mess. The men stood around waiting restlessly for Munson to appear. None of the fliers seemed to want to sit down. There was a tenseness in the air and many faces showed grim anger.

Stan and Allison split up and began talking to the men. They had to make it snappy and they did. The Flying Tigers were96 bright boys and they were already suspicious of Munson. By the time the colonel came stamping in, the group was silently waiting and there were no mutterings.

Munson strode to the front of the room, clicked his heels and made a turn to face them. Stan’s eyes narrowed as he watched the big fellow. Munson looked the men over with a cold eye.

“You fellows put on a lousy show today,” he snapped. Pausing, he waited for someone to contradict him or argue the point.

Silence filled the room. All eyes were fixed unwaveringly upon the commander. Munson cleared his throat and went on.

“Three of you,” he glared at Stan, Allison, and O’Malley, “broke away from formation and went off on a chase. You intercepted and broke up a fighter attack on the field, but if that bomber squadron had been as big as it was reported to me, the docks and the city of Rangoon would have been blasted.” He paused and his gaze bored into Allison.

Allison stood staring at him without any expression on his face.

97 “You, Major Allison, ordered your flight off on that attack.” He leveled a finger at Allison and shook it threateningly.

“Yes, sir,” Allison said. “Sorry, sir.”

Munson fairly jumped up and down. His face reddened and he bit off his words savagely.

“You are insubordinate and—and—” He seemed unable to think of any more words.

“Yes, sir,” Allison said and smiled insolently.

“Wipe that snicker off your face!” Munson bellowed.

Allison’s smile faded. His gaze moved over the colonel very deliberately. O’Malley began to mutter and scowl at the commander.

“What are you mumbling about?” Munson turned on O’Malley.

“I’m after bein’ near to starved,” O’Malley said humbly.

Munson had his mouth open to shout at O’Malley. He closed it without uttering a sound. Disgust was written on his beefy face.

98 “After this, orders are to be carried out,” he snapped. Then with a shrug of his trimly tailored shoulders, he turned and marched out.

As soon as his footsteps died away, a laugh burst from the men. They crowded around Allison and Stan. O’Malley stood back watching for a minute, then headed for the cook’s galley.

“We got him going,” the tall boy from Texas crowed.

“I have some poking around to do and I’ll get it done as quickly as I can. But, after this, we’ll fly an attack the way it should be flown and let him ground us if he dares. I’m thinking he’ll not do that because, if he did, the commander would investigate.” Stan spoke eagerly.

“We’re with you,” a number of the men answered. The others nodded their heads.

Allison and Stan walked to the cook’s galley after talking with the boys for about fifteen minutes.

“What do you have on your mind?” Allison asked.

“I’m not right sure, so I’ll have to go it alone for awhile,” Stan replied. “I guess99 I’ll just be snooping. But you fellows can cover up for me. I don’t want Munson to know I’m prowling around after dark.”

“We’ll take care of that,” Allison promised.

They entered the squadron mess hall and found O’Malley enthroned behind a huge dinner flanked by an apple pie.

“I showed the China boy how to cook that pie,” O’Malley said with pride. “I got him to make two o’ them so you birds can have some, too.”

Allison inspected the pie with a forced look of scorn. “Heavy as a Flying Fortress. Crust tough.” He shook his head. “I’m sorry, old man, but I have my health to protect.”

O’Malley scowled. “Go ahead, swill iced tea and eat mutton chops. An Englishman niver could be expected to know decent food.”

Allison laughed as he dropped into a chair. “You sure knocked all the words out of the colonel.” He mimicked O’Malley, “I’m after bein’ near to starved.”

Stan joined their laughter. Munson certainly had been left speechless.



Darkness had settled over the rice paddies and the city as Stan wandered out of camp. He was in a hurry to get some of his investigations completed. No one knew when the Flying Tigers would be moved into China or up to Lashio. Rumors were thick that the Japs were starting a drive toward Rangoon. The barracks and other buildings were blacked out completely. There was no light at all in the streets.

Stan had left a wild gathering of shouting, talking men behind in the mess. The men were discussing possible moves now that Japan had started a fight in the Pacific. She had struck at Pearl Harbor. Within a very short time she had spread her yellow horde over vast areas. The Flying Tigers were mostly American army and navy pilots.101 They had come to the aid of China because they were fighting men who wanted to be in the smoke of battle skies and hated the things the little men from Tokio stood for. They wanted to make China strong enough to strike on a fair and even basis.

But with the Japs attacking the United States they were all eager to get back to their old outfits, to their own squadrons. They were Americans and wanted to fly under their own flag. Stan had talked and had listened. Allison and O’Malley had said nothing. They were British and Burma was British territory; Rangoon was a British port.

Stan had stepped out into the cool night to mull over the latest developments. It seemed the whole Tiger group was about to resign and head for home. Stan wanted to think this through before he let his feelings run loose. He was standing in the deep gloom under the projecting eaves. A man came up the walk and opened the door. The man was Nick Munson.

An uneasy feeling that came over Stan forced him to follow Munson inside. He102 stood near the door and watched the instructor stride to the front of the room. The men stopped chattering and waited as Munson faced them.

“Felt I ought to say a word,” Munson began. There was none of his usual toughness. “My country has been attacked. I came here as an adventurer looking for action. I was afraid the United States would never get into this war, and I’d miss the big show.” He paused and his eyes swept over the men.

Heads nodded agreement and a ripple of approval ran through the group. Stan watched Munson’s face and decided the colonel was either sincere or a good actor. Munson went on talking.

“Now that America has been attacked, I plan to head for home. I hate to leave a fine fighting crew of men like you fellows. When I came here, I thought I knew more than any one of you. You’ve taught me a lot. But now I want to carry my own colors. I want to hit the Japs along with a squadron of the U.S.A.”

103 The ripple of approval burst into words. Someone called up to Munson:

“How are you going to get back?”

“I have transportation on a fast seagoing yacht,” Munson replied. “A wealthy friend of mine will see me through.”

“Got room for any more fellows?” a flier asked.

Munson held up his hand. “Now, don’t put me on the spot. I’m your instructor not your commanding officer. I wouldn’t break up this corps. The decision is purely a personal one.” He frowned at the men, then a smile spread over his beefy face. “There’s room but I’m making no offers.”

Stan edged forward. He saw that Allison and O’Malley were backing away from the crowd gathering around Munson. Stan spoke loudly to attract attention. The men turned to him. They respected Stan a great deal. Not so many hours before they had agreed to help him rid the squadron of Colonel Munson.

“We ought to think this over carefully,” he began. “We are here to do a job. China104 is a vital ally of the United States. Without us, the Chinese might not be able to carry on. We have not heard from our commanding officer yet.”

Munson laughed. “What I’m worried about is getting to my old outfit before they wipe the Japs off the map,” he said scornfully.

Many of the boys joined his laugh and several shouted loudly:

“Sure, that’s the stuff!”

Stan smiled at them. He knew how they felt and what made them shout. “This isn’t going to be a short war,” he said slowly. “I think we’ll all have to take some hard knocks out here. You fellows will be taken back into your old outfits without prejudice if you return with clean records. If you run out on the Chinese, you won’t get a clean slate.”

Munson glared at Stan. He was trying to smile but not making a very good job of it. The boys were silent when Stan ceased speaking. Their better judgment began to assert itself.

“You came here from the Royal Air105 Force, didn’t you, Major Wilson?” Munson asked deliberately.

“I did,” Stan answered. “I’d like to be flying with the United States Army, and I can get my release as quickly as you can. But I’m waiting to hear from my commander and from Uncle Sam. If he wants me to stay here, this is where I’ll stay.”

“Isn’t it true that you couldn’t get into the Army Air Corps? Weren’t you grounded as a test pilot in the States?” Munson shot the questions at Stan and went on before Stan could answer. “Wasn’t there a nasty matter of a cracked-up ship and a few military secrets that got away to Germany? Didn’t you get into the Royal Air Force as a Canadian?” Munson was smiling when he finished shooting his questions at Stan. His lips were curved into a leer of triumph.

All eyes were on Stan. He flushed. Munson certainly knew a lot about his past record. Allison stepped up before Stan could answer. His voice was cool and hard.

“I handled all of the papers on Stan Wilson. I had all of the Washington and London Intelligence Office reports. Stan was106 framed by spies from Germany. If his record had not been clear, he would never have been allowed to stay in the Royal Air Force.” Allison looked around the room and waited for someone to challenge his statement.

O’Malley had shoved in. His chin was sticking out and he was ready to take on all comers.

“You’re a pal of his?” Munson asked the question with a sneer. “You helped him cover up.”

“’Tis no livin’ man can make cracks at Stan an’ not feel the fist of an O’Malley on his chin,” O’Malley snarled. “Many’s the time I’ve looked at that big mouth of yours, Colonel, and wish’t for the chance to lay one on it. Get up yer fists, you spalpeen!” He moved toward Munson.

Stan caught him by the arm. “Easy, Bill, you’re about to upset the apple cart.”

Munson broke in harshly, “I’m not here to cause a lot of trouble. I don’t blame the Royal Air Force for shoving off some of their pilots on the Chinese. You men carry on. I wish you luck. I can’t leave for a few107 days, possibly a week. If any of you get releases cleared, come and see me.” He turned on his heel and strode away.

The men gathered in groups to talk and argue. Stan noticed that the men avoided him and that they did not talk to Allison or O’Malley. The three were really outsiders and the boys seemed to feel they had butted into business not strictly their own.

“I think I need a bit of air,” Stan declared.

“I’m heading over to the barracks,” Allison said.

O’Malley went along and they walked across the dark grounds slowly.

Allison finally said, “Munson has big plans.”

“I aim to find out just what they are and I think I know just where to start,” Stan said determinedly. “After the cracks he made back there, I’ll have to settle with him.”

“Sure, an’ you should have let me crack him one,” O’Malley grumbled.

“That would have put the boys solidly on his side. He made a very nice, patriotic108 speech. But if the fellows take time to think it over, they’ll see what he’s up to,” Stan said.

Stan parted with his pals at the barracks door and walked across the grounds. On the outside, he caught a ride with a supply truck headed for Rangoon. His uniform was his passport and he was not questioned by the guards or the driver.

Dropping off near the docks, Stan walked to the place where he had seen the new cars leaving the parking lot. He had a hunch he wanted to follow up. If it was wrong, he would have to try a new angle.

A coupé and two sedans, all new, were parked in the deep gloom outside the gate. Walking toward the cars, he halted and listened, then moved ahead. No one seemed to be guarding them. Easing in close, he saw that no one was inside the cars. He moved over to the coupé and looked into it. It was a de luxe model with a high turtleback and a luggage compartment in the rear. Softly Stan lifted the lid.

A suitcase and satchel sat in the enclosure. Stan bent over them. It would be dangerous109 to light his electric torch unless he was inside the compartment and had the lid lowered. He examined the catch and found it was exposed on the inside and could be operated from within. Easing himself into the section he let the lid down.

Snapping on his pocket flashlight, he tried to open the satchel. It was locked. He tried the suitcase and it snapped open. His light showed him a neatly folded uniform of the Chinese Army with the shoulder strappings of a colonel of the air arm. Stan dipped in, fishing through layers of clothing. He pulled out a cigarette case and a comb and brush set, both with Nick Munson’s name on them.

Digging further he found a silver pencil in a crevice at one end of the bag. Lifting it out, he looked at its engraved barrel. The name Von Ketch was carved on the pencil in German block lettering. Stan whistled softly. Munson was a spy, possibly a Fifth Columnist who had been working in the United States for years. He repeated the name, Von Ketch, several times so as not to forget it.

110 As he was lifting the lid of the compartment he heard footsteps. A guttural voice spoke in heavily accented English.

“We must be going quickly.”

“We’ll get out of here right away.” The speaker was Nick Munson. Stan eased back but held the lid open.

The two men paused beside the coupé. Stan heard them open the door and get in. Stan lowered the lid and bent forward. He could hear what they said very clearly. There was only a thin sheet of steel between his ear and the speakers.

“I put an idea into the heads of those dumb fliers,” Munson said.

The grind of the Bendix gear in the starter blotted out the voice of Nick’s companion. The car engine started and the coupé began to move. Stan reached over and latched the lid. He pressed his ear to the steel sheet and waited.

The two men up ahead went on talking. They seemed to be in very good spirits, judging from the tone of their voices.

“It will take much more than putting an111 idea into their heads to get rid of that crowd.”

“I have plans,” Munson answered. “That was just a starter, something to set them thinking. And it would have knocked them over if it hadn’t been for a fellow from the Royal Air Corps. We’ll have to get him shot down or out of the way by some other means.”

“I could send two of my shadow men,” his companion suggested.

“You mean those dacoit fellows who use silk ropes and choke a man?” Munson asked.

“Indeed. They are as silent as shadows. There is never any struggle or blood. Your man simply vanishes.” The rasp-voiced man chuckled softly.

“We’ll plan it when we get back,” Munson said.

The two men lapsed into silence and Stan lifted the lid to try to see where they were going. He dropped it instantly. Two cars were directly behind the coupé, their headlights playing on the compartment. Stan112 wondered how he was going to get out of the car without being seen.

He thought about the dacoit idea, too. If Munson would go so far as to have him assassinated, he would not hesitate to shoot on sight, especially if he caught Stan away from camp.

The two in front resumed their conversation and Stan listened. It was information he wanted and he was in a good spot to get it. Munson was speaking.

“I wish the Japs had held off a little longer. This racket of selling stolen cars is a good one. The Chinese are bending over backwards to keep on the good side of your people. We could clean up a fortune in time.”

“You will be paid a small fortune for breaking up the air group of which you are a member,” the guttural voice answered. “They have to be gotten out of the way. If they are not destroyed, they will make the Chinese Air Force a dangerous weapon.” Again the soft chuckle followed.

Munson laughed. “Der Fuehrer expects113 to meet your leaders in India. Then the whole world will be ready for us. We will divide it and finish the United States.”

“As is right,” the man with the accent said. “We are the men of iron. The Democracies are soft, they are women.” There was deep scorn in the words.

“I don’t have all my plans made,” Munson went on. “But if my undercover men can forge enough letters and papers to make that bunch of fliers think they have been called home, I’ll get them on your boat and then we’ll have a nice bag of prisoners who won’t shoot down any more planes.”

“This is a fine country for spies and others who can help,” the harsh voice said. “Such a mingling and mixing of races and creeds and ideas is not found any other place on earth. Quite a headache for the British and American and Chinese officials.”

“It takes years in the United States for our fellow workers to establish themselves in places where they can obtain useful information,” Munson said. “I spent ten years there becoming a trusted and respected114 airman. Over here you just go out and hire them by the day, any sort of agent you want.”

“We are very intelligent,” the guttural voice said. “The Americans would say we are smart.”

They ceased talking as the car began to bounce over a very rough road. The driver shifted to second gear and Stan knew they were on a grade. Then the car was put into low gear. The back compartment was filled with the roar of the engine.

Stan sat back and waited. He looked at the radium dial of his wrist watch. They had been on the road over an hour. The road was so rough and the car made so much noise, he could not hear the conversation in the driver’s seat.

Stan pictured in his mind the country they must be in and wondered how deep into the jungle they would go. He had a pocket compass which would help him chart a homeward course if he escaped. He wanted to get away without being seen, not only because it would be the safest way, but also it would give him the upper hand with Munson. The115 luggage made it almost certain he would be discovered, unless the cars following dropped back and allowed him to jump out.

Stan again opened the lid a crack. The cars behind had moved up closer and the nearest one was less than ten feet behind the coupé. Another hour passed and they still jogged along on a rough road. The car bounced and bumped and slid about until Stan’s elbows and knees were barked from battering against the steel braces which were only thinly covered.

The bumping ceased suddenly and the car moved forward smoothly. It came to a halt and Stan heard voices. He bent forward and opened the lid a few inches. There was a car on each side of the coupé. Stan saw lights flickering and men moving about. Munson spoke from beside the coupé.

“I have to hurry in order to be back at the field in the morning. I’ll get the cases with the papers and we’ll go right in to your office.”

Stan got his legs set under him. He was glad the new cars had so much baggage space. Before he could do anything more,116 the door to the compartment was hoisted and caught in place. The beam of a flashlight was shining in his face. He heard Munson’s startled grunt as he lunged out of the back of the car, diving straight at the colonel’s mid-section.

Stan and Munson went down with the colonel bellowing and cursing, as he tried to protect himself from Stan’s pumping rights and lefts. The jolting blows freed Stan from Munson and left the colonel doubled up and twisting on the ground, but it also gave the man with the guttural voice a chance to shout commands.

As Stan whirled to leap away toward the shadows beyond the cars, a crowd of little men, naked except for cotton loin cloths, leaped at him from every side. They came at Stan with a rush, their shaven skulls gleaming in the yellow light of smoking flares stuck on poles above a stockade. They did not seem to be armed but there were at least fifty of them.

Stan lowered his head and charged into the rushing line of little yellow men. He hit the line and crashed through the first mass117 of attackers, bowling them over with fists and elbows and knees. But his progress was stopped as hands gripped at his ankles, his knees and at his clothing. One little fellow leaped upon his back from behind. Three or four laced arms around each of his legs. Stan went down in a flailing pile of evil-smelling bodies. As he fell, he heard the roaring laugh of the man with the guttural voice.

In spite of his powerful lunges and swinging fists, Stan was held down and his hands were laced to his sides by the little men. He was jerked to his feet and pushed over to a flare.

A short, fat man, dressed in a red silk waist and wearing baggy silk pants of a bright yellow hue, advanced to face Stan. Two beady, black eyes looked searchingly at the flier over a bushy beard that was trimmed to a point at the chin. The beard parted and the man chuckled.

“So, a Flying Tiger. Te Nuwa is indeed honored.” He stepped back and waited for Munson to step up.

Munson was grimy and his shirt was torn.118 One eye was swelling shut. There was a savage leer on his lips.

“A friend of yours, Von Ketch?” Te Nuwa asked softly.

“The fellow I told you we had to get out of the way,” Munson snarled.

“Could it be that he has spared my dacoits a pleasant night’s work?” Te Nuwa questioned.

“He has,” Munson said grimly, whipping out a German automatic. “With him out of the way, I can handle things back at the base!”

“We have spent a very profitable evening,” Te Nuwa said pleasantly. He lifted a hand. “I allow no blood to be spilled on my grounds. It is bad for my little men.”

Munson scowled at him. “I’m in a mess, how can I explain this black eye?”

“You might tell the boys you ran into a door. But if I do not return, they will hardly believe you. They may get a few ideas as to what happened to me,” Stan said.

Te Nuwa laughed and slapped his fat leg. “Good enough,” he said. “You can say just that.”

119 “I’ll shut his mouth right now,” Munson snapped.

“Now, now, you are both guests of honor,” the fat man reminded Munson. “I might say again both are honored guests. The entertainment of a guest rests with me. I am the lord of this village. We have business to transact. You are impatient to be on your way back to your duties. We will dine and my dancers will dance as we sip wine. And we shall talk.”

“You better see to it that he’s done away with,” Munson growled. “If he gets away, he’ll upset all of our plans. It will be your fat neck as well as mine.”

Te Nuwa lifted a soft hand and frowned. “That cannot happen. My men are well trained in the ways of the East. We just do not care for the bloody methods you use. I will order the disposal of our guest in a manner befitting his rank.” He spoke sharply to his men and turned away.



Stan was led away from the parked cars by a dozen of the little yellow men. His Siamese guards chattered and laughed and looked admiringly at the big white man they had captured. They had been much impressed by his terrible strength and by the way his fists shot out, inflicting black eyes and swollen jaws.

The guards led Stan into a great building which he guessed once had been a temple. They moved through a maze of columns. The place was fitfully lighted by lamps of colored glass containing rags dipped in grease. Everything was mingled and obscured by the gloom. Stan saw men moving in the shadows. They were naked, wild-eyed, wild-haired men with gaunt bodies. A foul odor of dampness and decay and filth121 filled the place. Leering idols looked out of dark crannies, their glass eyes gleaming in the flickering light.

Mentally Stan tried to check his course so that he might be able to escape if he should get loose. The yellow men followed a twisting course and the light was very dim. After a time they came out into a garden and Stan could see stars overhead. He was led across the garden and pushed into a room. A grease lamp burned on a stone table. Its light revealed one barred window, a wooden bench and a stool.

The yellow men chattered excitedly as they untied Stan’s hands. Stan braced himself for another fight with the little men. He drew back his fists to punch the man in front of him as the first move for a bid for freedom. The man ducked and drove his shiny head into Stan’s stomach. Stan went back and fell over another man who apparently was crouched behind him.

By the time Stan had leaped to his feet, the door had slammed and a bolt had shot into place. Stan could hear the little men laughing uproariously outside. He stood122 looking at the door. It was smooth teakwood and Stan knew it was as strong as steel. He moved to the window and tried the bars. They were a full inch in thickness and embedded in rock.

Stan seated himself on the stool. He stared at the grease lamp. Slowly a grin spread over his face. The little yellow men had pulled an old school trick on him, one he had not seen used since he was a youngster. He wondered what O’Malley and Allison would do when he did not show up. They might get a clue from Munson’s black eye. He rubbed his sore knuckles thoughtfully.

Stan put out the light. The lamp gave little illumination and its smell was very bad. There was no guard at his door and he could see no one in the garden. He stretched out on the hard bench and closed his eyes. He slept fitfully but he did get a little rest.

Daylight found Stan sitting by the window. He had given up trying to sleep on the hard bench. He watched the garden come to life. There were palms, cinnamon trees and mulberry, and flowering shrubs growing in clumps and beds. The air was heavy with123 the scent of gardenia and crimson hibiscus blossoms. From behind a green shrub came the plaintive notes of a native flute.

Men and women began moving about in the garden. They were dressed in white cotton or flaming colors. They did not seem aware that the corner room held a prisoner who was condemned to die. If they knew Stan was there, they showed little curiosity.

The people seemed in no hurry at all. They moved languidly toward the arches of stone which formed openings in the high garden wall, or they came in and wandered about, then went out again. A young woman dressed in a flowered kimono crossed the garden. She was carrying a tray with a white cloth over it. Behind her walked four little men, naked except for yellow silk loin cloths. The girl walked to Stan’s door and tapped.

“Come in,” Stan called.

The door did not open but a panel slid back making an opening some six inches square. Stan was startled. He had not suspected there was a panel in the door. The girl’s face appeared and she gave Stan a124 red-lipped smile as she shoved the tray toward the opening. He took the tray in through the hole.

“Thanks,” he said.

“You are welcome,” the girl answered.

Stan blinked. “You speak English very well,” he said.

“Quite well, thank you,” the girl said.

“Where did you learn it?” Stan asked.

“Hollywood, California.” The girl then laughed and added, “I was in pictures. I played the part of a Siamese dancing girl.”

“Thailand to me,” Stan said.

“I went to America because I had work to do there,” the girl went on explaining, “I learned many things of interest.”

“How did you happen to go to America?”

“I am an educated girl. I am one of the new order. I was given a job by—” she hesitated, “the Japanese government.”

Stan’s smile faded. Another example of Jap thoroughness. The girl was in the intelligence service of the Japanese forces. He smiled at her again. It might be possible to outwit her, if he could make friends.

“If you could come in or I could go out, we125 could talk better—about Hollywood,” he said.

“You can come out if you promise not to run away,” the girl said demurely. “I will put you on your honor.”

“You think Americans have honor?” Stan asked.

“Surely, much honor. More than is good for them,” she answered. Then she gave him a wide smile. “Though I do not think you would run far. There are machine guns outside the garden archways.”

“Then why don’t you let me out?” Stan asked.

The girl slid back the bolt and opened the door. Stan stepped outside. The four yellow men had vanished. A peacock screamed shrilly on the far side of the wall. The girl seated herself on the door stone and looked up at Stan.

Stan sat down and put the tray on his knees. He lifted the white cloth and saw a bowl of rice and chopped chicken, a bowl of fruit, and a pot of tea with a shell-thin cup tipped over a little image on the lid. He dipped into the fruit bowl.

126 “What’s your name?” he asked.

“I am called Niva,” she answered.

“You spoke about machine guns. Are there soldiers, Japanese soldiers?” Stan asked.

“Yes, many of them,” Niva answered. “Here, hidden in the jungle is a big base of shells and planes and war materials.” She looked up at him wide-eyed.

“And Te Nuwa is in command of the Japanese forces?” Stan asked.

“Te Nuwa is in command until the general comes. When the general is here, Te Nuwa is just the fat one.” She spread her hands and smiled.

“Is the general a little man with a scar over his right eye?” Stan asked.

“Oh, you know our general?” Niva asked, surprised.

“I have met him,” Stan replied and grinned as he remembered how the little general had ordered Allison and himself shot the day they had flown the Martin on a false alarm flight. “I owe a great deal to the general,” he said as he dipped into the bowl of chicken.

127 Niva looked at Stan questioningly. It was clear the talk was not going the way it was supposed to go. The big American had asked all the questions so far. Not that giving him information mattered, for he would never be able to take it to the enemy, but she was supposed to learn something from him.

“Tell me about yourself and your friends. You have many friends who fly with you?” Niva spoke eagerly.

“I wouldn’t lie to a nice girl like you, so I won’t tell you anything about our forces,” Stan evaded. “But I’ll tell you the truth about what is going on in America.”

“That would be nice,” she said with interest.

“The President of the United States has ordered the plane factories to produce sixty thousand planes this coming year. All will be over here or over Tokio. There will be bombers and fighter planes as thick as the flock of birds over the jungle. You can tell your boss that. It’s the truth.”

“Oh, that’s wonderful,” Niva said but she did not smile.

“When I get out of here I’ll fly back. I’ll128 pick you up and carry you away, if you want to go back to Hollywood,” Stan smiled at her.

Niva sighed. There was a frightened look in her eyes as she said, “You won’t leave here.” Then she added softly, “People were very good to me in America.”

“They liked you, Niva.” Stan was sure he had roused a spark of sympathy in the girl. If she dared, she might help him. He set the tray on the steps.

Niva got to her feet suddenly. She bent to pick up the tray and as she leaned forward her lips were close to Stan’s ear. She whispered one word:


Lifting the tray, she laughed down at him, turned and hurried away.

There was no guard to send him back to his cell so Stan walked out into the garden. He was thinking about the word Niva had spoken. It was clearly meant as a warning. Te Nuwa had planned his finish in the manner he liked. He would have his stranglers do the job.

Stan did not know much about those underworld129 characters of India and Burma, the dacoits. He had read a few stories about them and how they worked, but he could not remember much of their method of attack, except that they were sinister and sneaking, that they struck without warning.

He sauntered toward one of the arches. The wall was five feet thick and the archway was wide enough to allow the passage of a loaded cart. Outside the archway a Japanese soldier squatted in the sun. He was sitting on a little stool behind a machine gun. The gun effectively covered the entrance to the garden. The Jap looked up and grinned at Stan. He seemed to be inviting Stan to step out.

Stan wandered on around the wall. Each opening was guarded by a machine gun. Te Nuwa might handle his killings after the fashion of the East, but the general in command believed in more modern methods. Stan kept on until he halted before the pillared hallway leading into the temple. This was the way he had entered. Two machine guns stood inside the temple, manned by two leering Japanese.

130 Stan studied the wall. It was about fifteen feet in height, he judged. No vines or creepers grew on its smooth sides. It could not be climbed, Stan was sure of that. The women and children and the men passing through the garden paid no attention to him. Stan guessed that they were used to seeing doomed men wandering about inside this prison.

Stan decided that no attempt would be made on his life until dark, but he stayed away from the wall and from under the big trees. In the stories he had read, the dacoits always worked at night from hidden spots of vantage. Warned, he might be able to fool them.

As he watched the scene in the garden, a small boy entered driving a peacock. The youngster halted and looked at Stan, then waved a leafy branch at the fowl, shooing it across the garden. As Stan stood idly watching the boy, an idea suddenly occurred to him whereby he might be able to outsmart his captors. Lying down on the grass in the shade of a mulberry tree, Stan rested his head on a green hummock and closed his eyes. He opened them and looked up into131 the mulberry tree. He could see every limb and branch. He was sure no one was hiding there. The grass was soft, and after the hard bench it felt like a feather bed. Stan closed his eyes and went to sleep.

He was wakened by the howling of a monkey somewhere inside the temple. With a heave, he sat upright. The sun still was shining, but a glance at his watch told Stan that he had slept a long time.

As he sat there, Stan had a strange feeling. He was sure someone was watching him. He scanned the wall and the temple roof with its many spires and small roofs. He was careful because he did not want the watcher to know he was suspicious. He yawned and lay back. But look as he would, he saw no one who was the least bit interested in him. At last, he got up and strolled about.

Nothing happened to prove he had actually been watched as he lay on the grass. He wandered about for another two hours. Just before sundown Niva brought him a tray of chicken and rice and a pot of coffee. She set them down on the step and stood looking at Stan.

132 “Thanks—for the chicken,” Stan said and grinned.

Niva flushed. “You are welcome.”

“Won’t you sit down?” Stan invited.

“No, I will stand. I cannot talk much this time,” she said.

Stan nodded. He guessed that her leader had been disappointed or angered because she had learned nothing from him. He ate the chicken and the rice and drank the coffee. Niva was as silent as any of the other women passing through the grounds, but she watched him as he ate and when he had finished, she picked up the tray and smiled at him.

“Good luck,” she said under her breath. “Tonight I will be hoping for you.” She turned and moved quickly away.

Stan considered her words a moment. She seemed to have been hinting that tonight was the night. He wandered about wondering why he had not asked her a lot of questions. After he had thought it over, he knew why. He had not wished to place her in any danger.

The west wall began to cast long shadows.133 Dusk fell slowly and still no guards came to put him into his cell. Lights appeared inside the temple and Stan saw lank men moving about lighting grease wicks. He watched the gunner at the nearest gate meet his relief gunner. For night guard two men with machine guns were placed at the entrance and a lantern was hung in the archway.

Stan studied the chances of rushing the guards. He would have a full twenty feet to charge straight into the muzzles of two rapid-fire guns. If he had had a hand grenade, escape would have been easy. He went back to thinking about the plan he had gone to sleep upon.

The stars came out and a full moon rose above the wall. Stan stayed out in the open, walking about very slowly, listening to every sound. A wind sprang up and Stan noticed that the lantern hanging in one of the archways had gone out, probably blown out by the sudden gust of wind.

Eagerly he slid toward the opening, crouching low as he moved into the shadows along the wall.



Stan halted before entering the dark archway. He had seen a movement in the moonlight which filtered through the leaves of a big tree beyond the wall. Slowly Stan moved forward and as he went his hands lifted until his fists were pressed at each side of his head.

He felt something soft strike his shoulder, something that looped around his neck like the coils of a snake. There was a quick and powerful jerk that lifted him off the ground. His fists were pressed into his neck with terrific force. It required all of Stan’s strength to keep the silken cord from cutting off his breath and choking him. His feet touched the ground, then he was lifted again and held dangling in the air.

Stan held the cord away from his throat135 and let his body go limp. He did not struggle. The expert on the top of the wall was muttering in guttural tones, repeating strange words in a low mumble. Stan realized that the strangler had intended that his first terrific jerk and twist should paralyze his victim. For what seemed a long time, Stan dangled there.

Slowly he was lowered to the ground where he let himself collapse with every muscle relaxed. As the cord slackened he spread it and removed his fists, then tightened the cord again until it almost choked him. After that he lay still and waited. From the wall above came a low bird call. The call was answered from across the garden.

Out of the gloom appeared a man swathed in a black cape. Behind him strode two squat, burly fellows. The man in the cape knelt and felt the taut cord around Stan’s neck with icy fingers. Then he uttered a grunt of satisfaction, removed the cord and stood up. He spoke softly to the two fellows beside him, turned, and melted into the night.

The two men caught Stan by the arms and136 dragged him through the archway. They passed near a large building, brightly lighted, and entered a darkened shed with a low roof and open walls. A band of moonlight played across an earthen floor.

The men dragged Stan to a low plank platform and dumped him there. One of them kicked him in the side with a wooden sandal. Stan did not stiffen his body. The man bent and searched Stan’s pockets, taking out his knife, compass and a handful of silver coins.

The two then seated themselves in the band of moonlight to argue over the division of their loot. They wrangled and snarled, coming near to blows before the coins and articles had been divided. Stan smiled as he thought about his wrist watch. It was the only thing of value he carried and they had missed it.

Finally the two men settled their argument. One of them stepped to a corner of the room and came back with a cotton cloth. He flipped this over Stan. A moment later Stan heard their wooden sandals clicking over the hard floor as they left the shed.

Pushing the cloth back from his face, Stan137 listened. He heard a profusion of sounds, a woman’s laugh, men talking and a night bird calling. None of the sounds were near the place where he lay. Stan felt sure most of these natives feared the dead and would stay away from this morgue. What he did not know was how soon grave diggers would come to dispose of him.

He was about to sit up when he saw someone approaching. Stan got ready for a fight. A lone figure wrapped in a white robe crossed the floor and passed through the moonlight. Above the robe rose a turban of white cloth. Bending down, the visitor pulled back the shroud and laid something on Stan’s breast. Stan looked up into the face of Niva.

With a noiseless movement, he caught her wrist.

“Don’t scream,” he said softly.

The girl tried to wrench her hand free. She did not scream or make any sound, but she fought fiercely. Suddenly, she dropped to her knees beside Stan. He could feel her body tremble.

“You are not dead?” she whispered.

138 “No, I am not dead,” Stan answered. “Won’t you help me to get out of here? I need a guide.”

She looked into his face for a long moment. Her voice was very low when she spoke.

“I am glad you are not dead. I watched from outside the garden. The shadow men never fail. They have great pride in their way of killing. I was sure you were dead. I bought a prayer at the temple and brought it here. I thought you would need it. You had no one to buy a prayer for you.” She paused.

Stan released her hand. “That was kind of you. But I’ll really need a prayer unless I get out of here.”

“They will not come until daylight to get you,” she said. “That is the way it is done. There is a ceremony going on in a dark temple room right now. When it is over, they will come.”

“Fine,” Stan said. “Now if I can just get away from here.”

“You could not get far in those clothes. I will bring you white robes and a turban.”

139 “Good for you, Niva,” Stan whispered. “I’ll just lie here and wait.”

Niva got to her feet and vanished into the night. Stan sat on the platform and listened. After a time he heard footsteps and lay down. Niva slipped into the shed along the dark side. She knelt beside him.

“Put this on your hands and face. It will make you brown,” she whispered.

She poured liquid into his cupped hands out of a bowl. Stan smeared his face and hands. The stuff smelled bad and burned like fire.

“What is it?” he asked.

“It is polish for the harness of the sacred elephants,” she said and he heard her giggle. “I could find no other brown stain.”

Stan stood up and let her help him into the white robe. He bent down and she fixed his turban into place.

“You will do very well,” she said. “But it is best that you walk stooped a little. You stand too straight, too much the soldier.”

“Will you get into trouble over this?” Stan asked anxiously.

140 “If I am caught, yes,” she admitted. “But no one would charge me with making the dacoit strangler fail. No one can make a dacoit fail. Unless we are seen and recognized, the dacoit and the priests will say the body of the white man was stolen by thieves. They would not admit failure.” She smiled up at him.

“But what will they do with you if you are caught?” Stan insisted upon knowing.

“I will die,” she replied simply. Her smile did not fade as she said it.

“I’d take you with me, but I have to go through the jungle,” Stan said. “I may be a long time getting back to my base.”

“You wish to go through the jungle?” she asked.

“That is the only way I can get out of here, isn’t it?” he asked.

“Te Nuwa has a flying machine. You are a flying man,” she laughed softly. “Te Nuwa prizes his big bird greatly.”

“Can we get to his hangar?” Stan asked.

“We can go to the field where he keeps his flying machine and his elephants. It is across the village from the Japanese field141 where they keep their war machines. Te Nuwa and the general are always quarreling about it. The general says he will make a field of his own out of it,” Niva explained.

“I’d like to know where the Jap flying field is, too,” Stan said eagerly. Even though he was in danger he was, first of all, a soldier and alert for information.

“It is mostly in the jungle where the big machines can hide, but there is a wide road for them to run on when they leave or come in. I will show you.” Niva seemed willing enough to help, even to giving information.

She led the way out of the shed and down a dark lane which ended in a street lighted by a few lamps stuck on poles. The street was crowded with people. The girl caught Stan’s arm.

“We must not hurry. We go slowly. I will answer if we are spoken to. I am dressed as a low-caste boy and you may well pass as my father.” Niva pulled her white robe around her with one hand. Her dark eyes peered out at the passing people.

Stan pulled his robe around him and held it. They moved down the street slowly. It142 teemed with dark-skinned people dressed in garments of flaming colors. Dark-eyed women looked lazily down from tottering, wooden balconies. Guttering tallow lamps and flaring torches half illuminated the interiors of shops and dwellings, giving Stan a fleeting glimpse of life in a Siamese village. The street was narrow and crooked. They were jostled as they moved along, but no one gave them even a second glance. Stan saw no soldiers and no police.

They followed the street for a quarter of a mile, then turned off into a darkened lane shaded by big trees. Niva looked up at Stan. She had let her robe fall back and he saw she was dressed in a modern gown.

“I took you through the native quarter of the town because it is not open to the Japanese soldier yet,” she explained.

“Aren’t the Japanese your people?” Stan asked.

“No,” she answered. “I am Burmese. I would now get away from the Japanese War Office if I could. I had a job which a woman could not get in my homeland. I traveled and I was well paid. But now there is war143 and Japan will destroy my country and my people. They plan to move into Burma soon.”

“You’re dead right in quitting them,” Stan agreed.

Niva caught his arm and pulled him out of the road. They crouched beside a bush while a squad of soldiers walked past. They were talking and laughing as they went along. Stan was not sure, but he did not think they were Japanese.

They came to a wide opening where there were a few lights. The moon flooded a large field. Near the edge of the field stood a plane. One glance at it was enough to tell Stan what it was. Te Nuwa’s prized flying machine was an ancient Curtiss Robin. Stan doubted that the ship could be in good flying condition, for it would be difficult to obtain spare parts for a Robin out here. But it was a plane and one that Stan knew how to handle. It had wings and wings were what he desired.

Several guards stood about near a shed. No one seemed to be guarding the plane, but the men were close to it and they were armed144 with rifles. Stan sat down and pulled off his turban. It bothered him because he was not used to such a mass of cloth on his head. He looked the field over carefully. The night was hot and the Robin’s motor should start without much trouble, though that depended upon its condition. But the engine would take a few minutes to warm up even if it started at once. The problem was to get the needed time.

Niva seated herself beside him on the grass. He was wondering if Te Nuwa ever made early morning hops. If he did, he would have the engine warmed up and idling for some time. He turned to the girl.

“Does Te Nuwa ever make dawn flights?”

“He used to fly in the early morning, but now the Japanese will not let him. He must fly in the afternoon. If he flies before there is good light, they will shoot at him.” She laughed softly. “Te Nuwa is a very smart man for one so fat. He has the markings of the United States on his wings so he can fly to Rangoon and other places. The Japanese shoot at such markings.”

Stan continued to study the Robin, but his145 thoughts were with the Jap base near the temple. The Flying Tigers had never spotted this base in the jungle. He turned to Niva.

“How many planes have they hidden in the jungle?” he asked.

“They have fifty big ones and many small, fast ones, so I have heard the officers say. They are hidden in the trees beyond the big temple with the red roof,” Niva answered.

“They are to be used to bomb and to kill your people,” Stan said. “If I can get away I will come back and destroy them.”

“You must get away. But I cannot go. I will be safe here. I will go back to my room and will be in bed when my maid comes. I have work yet to do.” She smiled up at him. “When I take off this robe and turban I will be a girl again.”

“I’m afraid you won’t be safe,” Stan said.

“I will be safe,” Niva assured him. “I can walk out and talk to those men. Could you get the flying machine away if I got them to take me across the street to that little shop? I am very thirsty and they could buy me a drink.”

Stan looked at her for a long minute. “I146 think you’re taking a lot of chances just to get me off.”

“I take some chances, but always I have taken chances. For a long time I have been a hired spy. I do not think Te Nuwa will press me with many questions. He will call in his dacoit and the dacoit will lie as will the temple helpers who work with him. I will have many to help me.”

“But the men out there will recognize you. They’ll probably suspect you of helping me and tell the police,” Stan argued.

“When you start the machine it will make much noise. The men will rush out to stop you. I will come here into the shadows and put on the boy’s outfit. I will go down to the street and mingle with the crowd. I am a boy much of the time. I go about listening to what the people say about the Japanese.” Niva laughed softly. “You love the danger of flying. I love danger, too. Get ready to act as soon as I have drawn those silly guards away from the shed.”

“I’ll come back and get you out of here,” Stan promised.

“You may do that. I will be looking for147 you.” She gave him a saucy toss of her head. “Here I go.”

She slipped out of her white robe and laid aside her turban. Then she faced Stan. Stan looked down at her and grinned.

“I am Stan Wilson. We’ll meet again. I won’t feel right until you are out of here.”

“Perhaps you will come,” Niva said. “But a fighter who flies in the sky and a spy who slips around helping her enemies cannot be sure of anything.” She turned toward the shed.

Stan watched her saunter out toward the guards as though she had come from the shop across the street. He moved close to the shed and waited. Niva talked and laughed with the men. They crowded around her eagerly. Stan noticed that Niva kept her face in the shadow, standing with her back to the moon.

When she turned toward the shop across the street the soldiers followed her, laughing loudly at something she had said. A single flare lighted the shop across the road. It was about a hundred yards from the field where the Robin stood. Stan waited until the men turned their backs upon the field as148 they ordered drinks at a long table. Tossing aside his white robe, he dashed across the field.

He reached the Robin without being seen and climbed into the cockpit. The Robin was a high-wing, five-place passenger plane with a radial motor. Stan snapped on a small light over the instrument panel. He checked gas and oil and the controls. The engine would have to be twisted a few times before he could try for a start.

Carefully, Stan worked his way out and around to the propeller. He wound up the engine, then stood looking toward the shop. Laughter floated over to him. Niva was playing her part well. With the motor primed, he climbed back into the plane and seated himself at the controls. He had a plan in mind for getting her warmed up, if she fired as quickly as she should. He kicked the contact on and the Robin backfired with an explosion that shattered the hot silence. Her prop jerked, slapped back, then rolled over.

Stan looked toward the shop. Two of the soldiers had whirled and were running for their rifles which they had propped against149 the shop. Two more leaped after them firing pistols at the plane. The Robin’s motor sputtered some more but kept on turning uncertainly. Stan’s trained ear detected loose rods and bearings. The Robin’s engine was little better than a wreck.

The men were at the edge of the field and charging out toward the plane. Stan saw that all of them had left the shop across the street. Niva was moving toward the shadows under the trees where she had left her robe. He kicked off the brakes and the Robin stirred. Slowly she rolled ahead at a pace that was little better than a crawl.

The Robin gained speed until she was outrunning the charging soldiers. Stan headed her down the field and, as she moved away from the soldiers, she gained speed. By the time she had reached the end of the runway she was moving about as fast as a horse could gallop. Two guards were coming down the field but they had emptied their guns. Stan was glad Te Nuwa’s field was far away from the Jap base.

He cramped the Robin around and headed her back. She did not have speed enough to150 take off and he would have to make another run up the field. He charged upon the onrushing men at a brisk pace. The guards ducked and leaped aside. The Robin galloped past them and up to the shed, where Stan whipped her around again and headed down the field for the second time. Then he spied a squad of machine gunners coming out of the woods. It was up this time or be riddled.

Stan opened the throttle wide and the ancient motor rattled and pounded as it broke into a surge of power. He let the ship roll as far as he dared. Machine guns were rattling away but all the bullets were going wild. Stan hoicked the Robin’s tail and eased back on the stick.

The Robin wobbled off the ground and went slithering between two tall trees. Her nose was up, but she wasn’t gaining much altitude. Stan had his directions well fixed in his mind. He was not sure where the town lay or where the Jap base was located, but he did know which way led home.

He laid over a little and scraped over the spires of a temple. The roof of the building151 was red and Stan remembered what Niva had said about the Japanese base being close to a red-roofed temple. He surged out over the tops of a mass of trees and saw lights dotting the jungle below. By those lights he could see the forms of bombers and fighter planes parked in the woods.

As he roared low over the trees, the lights below began to wink out and a fifty-caliber gun barked at him. The Robin was lifting now and as she moved up from the jungle, a burst of shells rocketed past her, bursting high above.

Stan laughed softly to himself. The Japs had been careful to hide all planes. He had spotted the take-off area and there was not a plane on it. It lay there in the moonlight empty and deserted. That was a break for the slow-moving Robin.

The Robin’s motor started to get hot and some of the knocks died down. She hammered along, but Stan knew she was not doing over one hundred twenty miles per hour. Stan thinned her mixture and went on up into the moonlit sky.

After a bit he began watching for the Salween152 River. He was sure he was in the area where they had landed with the Martin. Of course he was not flying a P–40 at three hundred miles an hour, but he was getting along very nicely.

He was beginning to worry about his directions when he spotted a band of moonlight on water. The Robin roared out over the wide river and Stan eased back. He was not helping the speed of the old ship by leaning forward.

As he flew along, he made plans. The Japs might try to get their planes out of the jungle base, unless the Flying Tigers went after them at daylight. He was thinking about the attack he would lead when he heard the old motor begin to clank and pound.

A dull, hammering sound came to him from the cowling up ahead. Stan knew he had pushed the motor too hard. He eased back on the throttle but the hammering continued. As he left the river and headed out over the jungle, the noise grew louder. Stan wondered when the crash would come.

He listened and waited. There was nothing to do but keep going. He had no parachute153 and he could not see any rice fields below. Every mile he gained was one less to walk, that was all he was worrying about.

The altimeter showed he had only six thousand feet altitude.

That was about the Robin’s ceiling. Stan tinkered with the spark and the gas but the loosened rod kept beating away. All he could do was wait until it smashed out in his face.

One consolation was that no Jap night fighters had showed up. Probably they had gone too high to sight him. He checked the ship’s compass and altered his course a little. He was easing back, looking down for an open spot, when a dark shape came roaring down out of the sky at him. It hurtled past, leaving a trail of exhaust flame and smoke. Stan frowned and eased the Robin over. He did not intend to be washed out after getting this far.

That plane was not a Karigane. It was a P–40! Stan could tell by the whine of its Allison motor. He was glad the pilot had saved his ammunition. The Robin was plodding along so slowly that she was almost a stationary target.

154 The night fighter was a Flying Tiger, but would he spare the old Robin? The fighter came back and circled over the Robin. Its pilot seemed puzzled and undecided, which was to be expected. No one would expect to meet a Curtiss Robin sailing through the Burma sky.

The P–40 kept circling and diving as Stan bored along toward Rangoon. He spotted the blind lights at the landing field, set wide and away from the runways to fool the enemy. Easing over, he went on down. He did not worry about ground fire. He could not fail so close to home.

No guns blazed and the field was clear of planes. The Robin jolted down and rolled toward a hangar. Men came running toward the ship. Stan climbed out and faced them. The first man to get to him was Allison.

“You old sinner! I said you’d come flying back in a borrowed crate!” Allison shouted. “O’Malley called in from patrol that he had you covered.”

“How did O’Malley know?” Stan asked amazed.

155 “Well,” he said, “you have the insignia of the United States on your wings.”

“That Thai rascal is pretty smart, only this time it worked against him,” Stan said.

At that moment a P–40 roared to life beside a hangar. It came across the field wide open, hopped off and knifed up out of sight.

“Who was that?” Stan shouted to the ground crew who had wheeled the P–40 out on the field.

“That was Colonel Munson going up for a bit of night air, sir,” a corporal answered.

“He got away,” Stan snapped. “I have to get to division headquarters right away. Get Commander Fuller there, will you, Allison?” Stan was off at a lope.



Stan’s story told in clipped sentences over the telephone brought an immediate response from the Chinese commander, as well as from the British and American officers attached to the force. Colonel Fuller was in a furious mood when Stan, with Allison and O’Malley at his side, barged into the control room.

The headquarters at Rangoon was temporary and planned to be moved wherever China might need the Flying Tigers most. Colonel Fuller had been handling twice as much work as one officer could handle. He now strode across the room and faced Stan.

“My compliments, Major Wilson. You have saved me from being taken in by a scoundrel.”

“It couldn’t be Colonel Munson, by any chance?” O’Malley asked with a grin.

Colonel Fuller’s scowl vanished and he157 laughed. “It happens to be a certain Von Ketch,” he said.

The Colonel led Stan and his pals into a small room. There they saw a mixture of uniforms, British, Dutch, Australian and American officers’ mingled with the Chinese. Fuller turned Stan over to three colonels. One was a boyish young Chinese with horn-rimmed glasses. One was a colonel of Marines, a leathery faced veteran of many campaigns. The other was a British officer who had seen service in Norway.

Stan and Allison saluted smartly. O’Malley made a ragged gesture. The Chinese colonel spoke to Stan.

“You have brought remarkable news from across the border. But first, my compliments upon your daring escape from the enemy.” His English was smooth and unaccented.

“Thank you, sir,” Stan said.

“What action would you recommend?” The colonel was smiling as he asked the question.

“I had hoped to catch Colonel Munson at the field and thus keep him from warning the158 enemy. He saw and recognized Te Nuwa’s ship and got away,” Stan said. “But if we go over at dawn we can catch them before they can move out many planes. I do not think their field has any large floodlights.”

“That sounds feasible, and of course it will be a job your men will enjoy.” The colonel regarded Stan gravely. “How will you proceed?”

Stan flushed. He wasn’t in command. The colonel had made a slight error there. But there was no time to argue.

“The spot is a jungle hangar. I think they will have to take off one or two at a time and rendezvous in the air for any attack or defense,” Stan explained. “If we hit there at daylight we can go down and smash about a hundred planes on the ground, as well as blow up their ammunition dumps.”

“Reasonable plan,” the British officer agreed.

“But I do not happen to be in command,” Stan said. “I am merely reporting for Colonel Fuller.”

“You have been in command a full hour,”159 the young Chinese colonel said. “Colonel Fuller has so much to do he cannot be up with his squadron.”

Stan started to protest but the colonel lifted a hand. “You are in command of the squadron at your field. You will be joined by another squadron from Base One. You will have twenty bombers and twenty-four fighter planes. You will command the raid.”

“Major Allison has always been in charge of our flights,” Stan said.

“Shut up!” Allison snapped, then grinned at the young colonel. “I beg your pardon, sir, but this Yank is stubborn at times.”

“Let’s get going,” O’Malley broke in.

The three colonels smiled widely. The Chinese officer spoke. “We have ample need for leaders of squadrons. I have a place for at least two more colonels at once. Major Wilson will make plans for the attack. Please confer with the Air Commander and the supply officer.”

The three fliers saluted. As they turned away, the colonel of Marines called after them:

160 “Give them a grubbing, boys. Wish I were going along, I’d like a whack at that rat Munson.”

Stan grinned back at the Marine. Allison also smiled.

“If he’s a sample of your Marine Corps, I’d like to work with them,” Allison said.

“He’s a typical devil dog,” Stan said. “The world’s finest fighting men. Not many of them, but they’re tough and hard—always first at a hot spot.”

They went into conference with General Dern, who was to have control of the entire operation covering both Stan’s fighter escort and the bombers. Dern was a Georgia boy who had fought all over China and who had been in service long before the Flying Tigers came into being. He had fought the Japs from Lashio on the Burmese border to Kweiyang within the last year. He was a lank six-footer with a typical southern drawl.

“You can give us the location,” he said. “That’s about all we’ll need.”

Stan prepared maps for Dern, giving the location of the temple with the red roof and161 the location of the Jap planes and supply dumps.

“Sure, we know the spot,” Dern said. “I know Te Nuwa personally. The old rascal is supposed to be one of our close friends. He was to oppose the penetration of Thailand by the Japs. We furnished him quite a stock of small arms for his men.”

Stan looked up from the map thoughtfully. “If we can prevent it, I think we should avoid blasting the native quarter of the town, which is here.” He put a circle around a spot south of the temple.

“You like the Thai natives?” Dern asked.

“I’d be stiff as a codfish right now if it hadn’t been for one of them. She helped me get away,” Stan said. “Ever have a silk cord draped around your neck and then have some bird yank you off the ground?”

“No,” Dern answered. “But I’ve seen a couple of fellows who were finished off that way. You must have a way with women, Major.”

“She was a Jap spy, a Burmese girl,” Stan said seriously. “I’d hate to think we returned162 her good turn by dropping a bomb on her.”

“Did you tell her you were coming back to blast her village?” Dern asked.

“Yes,” Stan answered.

“Then she’ll clear out,” Dern said. “Now to get the big babies loaded and ready. You get your fighters ready. We’ll assemble in your mess and go over the whole plan with the men.”

Stan and his pals headed for their barracks. The boys were routed and the mess soon was filled with eager fliers. Stan told them briefly what was expected and showed them his maps. They gave a rousing cheer when they heard he was to be Flight Commander of their group. Every man had one ambition and one resolve, each intended to get Nick Munson if possible. It was to be an individual duel.

Dern and his bomber crew dropped over for a few minutes. The Raid Commander spoke briefly, then walked over to Stan and let the boys do their own planning. After the men had talked things over, the bomber163 crew left and Base Two Squadron settled down to wait for the signal to go.

The signal came through soon after Dern had left. Stan and his boys rushed out to their ships and piled in. The P–40’s stood on the cab rank, their flaming exhausts making a pattern of shadows on the ground. Stan palmed his hatch cover forward and adjusted his mike. He had a near attack of stage fright as he set himself to take over. He was a flight leader and had a squadron behind him.

“Temple Flight, are you ready?” he called into his flap mike.

Twenty-three signals came back to him, eager, snappy.

“Temple Flight, check your temperatures,” Stan called. The tightness had gone out of his throat and he was eager to be off. He had a group of deadly fighters to lead and it would take some savage fighting to keep ahead of them. One thing he dared not do. He could not make any mistakes. Mistakes in the air meant death for someone.

“Temple Flight, upstairs!” Stan called.164 He reached for the throttle knob and opened the P–40 up.

Kicking one brake, he spun his ship around and headed down to the shadow bar. The ground officer’s Aldis lamp blinked and lifted. A line of trim Tigers slid down the runway and roared into the coming dawn. With tails up, they surged off the field and circled to take formation.

“Temple Flight, close in,” Stan directed. “Right echelon line on Allison. Left echelon line on Wilson.” Stan felt a sudden surge of confidence run through him. He could see O’Malley in the right-hand slot, holding on his aileron groove. Other shadowy forms slid through the sky on either side and back of him.

The fighters went upstairs, circled and picked up the two engine bombers. Dern’s voice came in clear and loud:

“Take the fighters up to twenty thousand, Wilson. Blank out radio. Take over up there.”

“Fighters going up to twenty thousand,” Stan called back. He snapped an order to his fighters and up they went.

165 They climbed into the sky with their exhausts roaring. They hit twenty thousand feet above the sea level and headed south and east. As they swept over the Salween River, day was breaking. It burst over the jungle and the rice paddies like a great light flashed on in a dark room.

The Flying Tigers were silent. There was no cocky banter or wisecracks such as they would hurl at one another once they opened up on the enemy. This was grim business and the Tigers were masters of the surprise attack. Hit fast and hit hard. Get the yellow man’s planes off the ground. Beat him to the punch. Stan checked his guns and listened to his motor. He was casting an eagle eye about. The Japs should have planes up, looking for bombers. It was his job to intercept them.

The silence was broken by the crisp voice of Dern. “Temple Flight, Temple Flight. Bombers going down over objective. Peel off and go down. Wilson, stand by. Kariganes coming up.”

The voice snapped off. Stan cupped his flap mike and called to his Flying Tigers:

166 “Peel off and go down. Take ’em!”

Stan could see the bombers below. They were laying over and going down, one after another. Far below he saw the red roof of the temple gleaming in the sun. Stan could see the observer gunners in their turrets far out on the nose of the bombers. Their guns flashed in the morning sun.

Stan spotted the fighters coming up. This would be an even battle for once, unless he had been mistaken about the number of fighters the Japs had available. Stan’s eyes suddenly narrowed. The Jap fighters were led by a trim P–40. Munson was heading the pack.

“Spot that P–40,” Stan snapped. “It is 9-P–89.”

Shouts came back to him as he bored along watching his boys go down the chute in roaring dives, white plumes of smoke lining out behind them.

Stan grinned as he looked across at O’Malley who had to wait his turn. O’Malley probably was frothing at the mouth. Suddenly the wild Irishman nosed over and167 was gone like a flash. Stan circled and went up into the sun, near a bank of clouds.

The P–40’s broke upon the Jap fighters like streaks of fire. They cut across the flight of Japs and in a few seconds the Kariganes had no chance to go after the bombers. Stan watched the fight below. There was no need to give any orders now. The Flying Tigers were lone wolves and when unleashed they would go it on their own.

Stan watched the red roof of the temple below. That was the only visible mark in the jungle, aside from the native village. As he laid over and circled downward he saw great mushrooms of smoke and flame rising from the woods. The Hudsons had located oil tanks and ammunition dumps as well as parked planes. The flames spread and enveloped the temple. They leaped over the tops of the trees. Stan saw wrecked bombers and men running madly away from the woods.

Stan passed up two Jap fighters and went twisting down in a tight circle, leaving a168 beautiful curl of smoke. He was looking for a certain P–40 carrying the army insignia of China and the serial number 9-P–89. He sighted plenty of P–40’s. The air was full of them. The Japs had gotten most of their fighters up and were making a stand. Stan judged they had forty of them in the air. But he could not locate Munson.

A circle of anti-aircraft guns had broken into full blast below. Stan laughed softly. That was just what Dern needed. He saw the Hudsons wheel and come back over. They nosed down inside the circle of gunfire, the spot that was marked out for them. One of them lifted, half-turned over, then tossed away a wing. It crashed into the flaming roof of the temple. The others went through the muck and down to the tops of the trees before they unloaded. Then they zoomed up to where the P–40’s were having a circus.

Stan dived into a fight near him. Four Japs were trying to corner a Flying Tiger that had been crippled. He lashed across one of the Karigane fighters and riddled it; then spun and dived on another. It burst into flames as his Brownings found its engine169 and fuel tank. The other Karigane dived and fled.

Stan saw, as he went up, that the P–40’s were kings of the air. He wondered who had shot Munson down. Cupping his flap mike, he called to his men:

“Temple Flight! Fighter formation! Disabled planes, head for base.” He had spotted two of his planes wobbling and fighting their controls. “Go in, disabled planes. Head in! Wilson speaking!”

The two fighters headed off on the trail of the bombers. Cupping his mike again, Stan ordered:

“Go down for ground strafing. Take out the guns on the ground!”

The P–40’s went down over the guns belching fire on the ground. They came clipping in over the trees, nosed some more and opened up. Their guns raked the artillery men below and many of the cannon ceased firing. The fighters swept on, smashing grounded planes and zooming up when there was nothing more to blast. Up they went and over and down again.

The Hudsons had vanished and Stan170 nosed along over the jungle. He sighted a bomber which had been wheeled away from the others, did a tight turn and flipped over to go down on it. As he went he pressed his gun button. Nothing happened. He was out of ammunition. He shot out over the village teeming with terrified natives. He hoped Niva was among them. If she was back in the temple grounds she could hardly have escaped injury, possibly death.

Stan began calling his war birds together. They came up and joined him. As they fell into formation, he checked them over. He had sent two cripples home. One plane had gone down. He watched O’Malley drop into place, then saw Allison take his position. He was glad they were there. It was always good to see them come sliding in after a fight. He wondered who had been lost.

“Going home, fast!” he called.

The P–40’s headed for their base and roared away. They came down out of the sky and landed with the boys shouting at each other as they eased in. Twenty-one Tigers piled out and headed for the briefing room. Stan gave orders to have the ships171 spread out and made ready for instant use.

He stamped into the briefing room and grinned at his boys. They grinned back and he briefly complimented them on their work. The boy from Texas stepped up to Stan and saluted.

“You were sure right about Munson. He turned out to be a rat.”

“Who got him?” Stan asked. “I had hoped he would be mine, but I never got close to him.”

“Sure, an’ I dived for him,” O’Malley said.

“You jumped the gun, Irisher, and got in my way,” the boy from Texas complained.

“’Twas only by the half of a second,” O’Malley countered. “I had the spalpeen in me sights. He was my meat.”

“What happened?” Allison asked with a smile.

“I went down on him, but he wasn’t there. I’m thinkin’ he found a tree to get under.” O’Malley shook his head sadly.

“We’ll get him yet,” Stan said. “I aim to settle with him personally.” He looked at the briefing captain and his tone changed.172 “We lost Kirby. I do not know whether he took to his silk or not.”

They tramped into the mess and half of them turned in for breakfast. The other half remained ready for an alarm. O’Malley was greatly upset because he was drawn for duty and could not eat.

The Chinese cook was elated. He had only a few English words at his command, but the boys could tell by the way he waved his carving knife and jumped up and down that he was a pleased Chinese cook. The kitchen helpers had told him about the raid.

After breakfast Stan was very busy. His new job called for a lot of work besides flying. He did not aim to let anyone take over in his place. There would be no more instructors in the squadron. When he missed a flight because he was checking supplies and parts, he considered resigning.

Headquarters ended any hopes he had of being let go back into the line. He was now Colonel Wilson and he had to stay that way.

The whole personnel at the base had to pitch in and work hard after the big raid. Planes were scarce and so were repair parts.173 Ammunition had to be rationed and so did gasoline. Patrols went out under Allison to check the damage done.

Allison reported that the raid had been costly for the Japs. He felt, however, that the enemy was still able to maintain a strong force at the village. Bombs and ammunition were too scarce to allow another raid. There were no ground troops to send out. Stan listened to the Chinese colonel as he explained it.

“Today we fight here near Rangoon. Perhaps next week, next month we will be at Lashio or even deep in China. We can only do the best possible with what we have to use.”

On the third day after the raid an orderly ushered a ragged man into Stan’s little office. Stan jumped to his feet, completely forgetting his dignity.

“Kirby! You lucky dog!” he shouted.

Kirby saluted and a weary smile came to his lips. “Kirby reporting for active duty, sir,” he said.

“Sit down. Active duty, my eye. You have to be fed and get some rest.” He174 leaned forward. “Tell me, how did you get back?”

Kirby seated himself. “I hit silk and floated into a clearing. It turned out I had landed on a field where a fellow keeps his elephants. Before I could get untangled a lot of brown men were on me.”

Stan grinned widely. He knew just what had happened to Kirby.

“They dumped me into a stockade along with a lot of Thailanders. I crawled through a hole I made in the stockade, borrowed a gun from one of the guards, and came home.” Kirby took a deep breath. “And am I glad to be here!”

“Good work,” Stan said. “I’ll have a ship for you as soon as you are rested.”

“I met a friend of yours,” Kirby said. “She had been tossed into the stockade for helping you get away. It seems her number is up. She’s to be shot.”

“Niva?” Stan asked.

“Yes,” Kirby answered and his smile changed to a frown. “That rat, Munson, came out to the stockade several times. He sentenced me to be shot and the way he175 talked to that girl made me want to get my hands on him. I think he’s just holding her there to torture her. He blames her for upsetting all of his slick plans.”

Stan’s lips pulled into a tight line. He sat very straight behind his desk and there was an icy gleam in his eyes.

“Thanks, Major Kirby,” he said. “Now run along and get some rest. I have some important work to do.”

Kirby got to his feet and saluted. “I’ll be ready for combat duty tomorrow, sir,” he said.

“You will not. Now get out,” Stan said gruffly.

He watched Kirby walk wearily out of the door. He was not seeing the slender boy, he was seeing instead a slender girl bending toward him, whispering a single word, “dacoit.” He stood for a long time studying the map on his wall. It was an accurate map of the area, and the temple and the Japanese base were well outlined on it.

Taking the map from the wall he folded it and shoved it into his pocket. He went across to the barracks to Kirby’s room.176 Kirby was already half-asleep, lying fully dressed across his bunk.

“Sorry to disturb you, Kirby,” he said.

“No trouble at all, sir,” Kirby said as he sat up.

Stan spread the map on the bunk. “Can you mark the location of that stockade on this map? If you remember any other landmarks, I’d like to have them, too.”

“Sure,” Kirby answered. He took the blue pencil Stan handed him and marked the location of the stockade, the wooded areas and the buildings he had seen. He added the guard’s billet and the machine-gun nests he had had to avoid.

“Thanks, Major,” Stan said as he folded the map. “This is valuable information to me.”

Kirby grinned but said nothing.

“And it is confidential,” Stan added.

“Yes, sir,” Kirby answered as he lay back on the bunk.



Allison and O’Malley sat across the desk from Stan. He regarded them with an amused grin. They treated him with the respect due his rank only when they were in the presence of other Flying Tigers. In barracks or when they were reporting to him in his office they liked to ruffle him if they could. Either of them would have tackled a squadron of Japs at his order, but when the heat of battle was over they kidded him.

“It’s our duty to report you to the general,” Allison said with a wicked gleam in his eye.

“Faith, an’ you’ll get busted for sure,” O’Malley added. “I’ll be after havin’ a word with Chiang Kai-shek himself.”

Stan laughed. “I have to get something out of being in command of a lot of lunatics.178 This time I aim to do as I please. I merely mention my plans to you fellows because I am forced to put Allison in command while I am away. I have called Major O’Malley in simply as a witness.”

Allison leaned back. “It’s a three-man job, Colonel. Put Kirby or Texas in command and we’ll go along.”

“You boys are on regular patrol and combat duty. I’m just an extra around here,” Stan said. “The full strength of the squadron is needed right here. We are likely to get shoved back into China as it is. The full force stays here on the job.”

“Meanin’ the force can afford to lose a colonel but not a combat major?” O’Malley asked sourly.

“That’s about it,” Stan agreed.

“As flying leader I will patrol certain areas beyond the Salween River during your absence,” Allison drawled.

“You’ll patrol and protect the Rangoon area, unless you get orders to shift base,” Stan snapped.

“Sure, an’ you wouldn’t be after bringin’179 Nick Munson back? You spoke only of this colleen,” O’Malley teased.

“I may not have to bring him back,” Stan said grimly.

Allison shook his head and his smile vanished. He leaned forward. “I say, old man, isn’t it just a bit foolish and risky?”

“If it is then I’m a foolish nut,” Stan answered. “We owe that girl a great deal.”

“When you put it that way, all I can do is give you my blessing,” Allison said, the old-time flicker of a derisive twinkle gleaming in his eye.

“The Japs may well take Rangoon. They have to get it out of the way in order to slow up the flow of supplies to China. They can put ten planes into the air for every one we can send up. But as long as Rangoon stands, it will not be blasted from the air. That’s our record so far and that record is going to stand. It’s up to you fellows to make it stick.” Stan stared hard at his pals. “Now don’t let me catch you running out on the job to start looking for me.”

“If yer in that mood, I guess we may as180 well start plannin’ a celebration for the colleen,” O’Malley conceded.

“Now get out and keep still. I’m going up on routine patrol flight. Just to check up on what you fellows are doing. Regulations call for a man in command while I’m out.” Stan grinned as he got to his feet. “And I’m itching to be on my way.”

Allison and O’Malley went out and Stan got into his flying outfit. He had done a bit of work on his P–40. He had fixed a seat in the crowded bird cage for an extra passenger. He walked out and examined the ship. The ground men stepped back and stood watching him admiringly. Stan Wilson was very popular with all of the crews.

Stan climbed in and opened up the motor. He roared off the field and spiraled up to ten thousand feet, then headed south and east. His flight was hardly that of a commander checking his patrols. He flew in a line and kept the ship knifing along well above cruising speed. Sweeping over the Salween, he headed out over the jungle. He checked the rice plantations in the clearings below.

The sky was clear of all planes. He saw181 no Flying Tigers and no Japs. Easing down in a steep dive he floated over the edge of the jungle. He had sighted the clearing where he and Allison had set the Martin down. Skimming low over the grass he set down and rolled up to the edge of the timber.

He moved along slowly until he located a spot where there was an opening, a little avenue between big trees. Stan spent the next half-hour backing the P–40 into the avenue and covering her with vines and creepers. If his calculations were right, he should find a road leading into the jungle. That road should take him to the temple with the red roof. The Jap general had driven a car over a road in getting to this spot, so there must be at least a trail.

With the P–40 well hidden he started moving along the edge of the jungle. After a short time he found a dim trail leading into the jungle. Stan patted the automatic pistol snuggled against his hip and started down the road.

He had not gone far when he came to the wreckage of the general’s car. It lay where it had tumbled when he riddled it that day.182 Already vines were beginning to shoot out over it. He trudged on for an hour, being careful to pause every few hundred yards to listen. Once he heard voices. Fading back into the jungle he watched four natives trudge past. They were pulling a cart loaded with fruit. After they had passed on Stan emerged from the jungle and hurried on.

After walking another hour he came to a small clearing with several huts clustered at one end. This called for a detour. Heading into the jungle, Stan fought his way along. He had no brush knife and the going was slow and painful. Thorns raked his arms and face and scratched his hands. Grass blades cut like knives. A dog barked furiously and he heard natives shouting. There was one safe thing to do and that was to stand perfectly still. For ten minutes Stan stood close to a tree trunk and listened.

No one came into the jungle and the dog ceased howling. Stan pushed on and after a while came back to the road well away from the huts. He found the trail wider and showing more signs of use, so he stayed close183 to the leafy wall which formed a hedge on each side of the road.

By five o’clock in the evening he was close to the village. The jungle cover thinned out and he decided to wait for darkness. Hiding in a thicket he lay down.

Dusk fell slowly and darkness followed even more slowly. When night came Stan emerged from the thicket. He headed toward the village from which a few lights gleamed. Before he had gone far he came to the sentry line the Japs had thrown around their post.

Stan bent low so as to get the sentry against the sky. On hands and knees he worked his way up to the sentry line. The guard was out in the open where he had a chance to see anyone approaching, even in the starlight. Lying flat Stan checked the ground.

He did not wish to pick off a sentry. The man could be ambushed easily but his absence from the post would be discovered within a few minutes by his companions who met him on either end of his beat. There was one distinct advantage. The lines were184 blacked out. There were no lights at all, due very likely to the smashing raid the Flying Tigers had made a short time before.

Stan edged forward. He had discovered a shallow depression running across the guard line. This low ground was deep in shadows. The sentry paced back and forth, his rifle over his shoulder. He met his fellow guards and they exchanged gruff words but never halted to talk.

Using Indian tactics Stan wormed his way along the hollow. He moved a few feet, then lay still for a space, then wiggled ahead a little more. When the sentry had his back turned, Stan slithered across his path and on as far as he could get. When the sentry faced about, Stan lay flattened against the ground. He was able to time his movements by the voices of the Japs when they met and challenged each other.

The guard moved toward Stan and halted. He seemed to be peering into the night. Stan held his breath. He suddenly appreciated the danger a scout faced in filtering through enemy lines. The sentry lowered his rifle and leaned on it. With a low grunt he lifted185 the rifle and moved on across the hollow, passing less than ten feet from Stan. A bush loomed ahead and Stan wiggled toward it. He slipped behind the low clump of brush and sat up.

Crouching in the shadows he listened. The sentry was standing still. Suddenly a slim pencil of light poked toward the bush. Stan did not move. To dive flat would have caused a movement the sentry would have seen. The light poked into the dense foliage, revealing red flowers and green leaves. Then the light snapped off and the sentry moved on.

Stan crawled away as fast as he could. His objective was two big trees with low-hanging branches. Reaching the trees he seated himself against the trunk of one of them. Ahead, the ground was fairly open. He could see the temple and the grounds through the trees. The road had led him directly to the spot where he had been made prisoner by the little yellow men on his first visit to the village.

His map was in his pocket but he did not dare flash a light to look at it. He would have to work from memory. What he could186 see of the temple showed that the bombs from the Hudsons had done considerable damage. A pile of rocks and debris lay to the left of the building and he could make out two big craters where the parking space had been.

Rising to his feet he walked to the left. By going around the temple grounds he should reach a grove of trees. He hoped there would be underbrush in the grove, but he did not remember Kirby having shown anything of the sort on his map.

Skirting the shattered wall of the temple Stan located the trees. They were on a gentle slope at least a quarter of a mile away. Stan moved down the slope and into the grove. Beyond the trees he could see a glow of light. Working his way through the trees, he discovered a stream and beyond that a stockade made of bamboo set upright in the ground and laced together. Two powerful searchlights played over the stockade.

Stan studied the layout carefully. The Japs were not worried about marking the stockade with light. A bomb dropped on187 their prisoners would relieve them of the trouble of caring for them. He surmised, also, that Kirby’s escape had caused the Japs to take extra measures to guard the prisoners.

There was little undergrowth in the grove and Stan had to be very careful. The reflected light from the searchlights made a glow that penetrated the shadows under the trees. Reaching the tree nearest the stream Stan halted behind it. The light was coming from two mobile searchlights standing well up on the far bank of the stream. The stream was wide but appeared to be shallow.

The stockade itself was about fifty feet wide by two hundred feet in length. In the center there was a thatched sun shelter, while at the far end was a hut with a thatched roof. A man’s scream rang out into the night, then choked off suddenly. A few minutes later a squad of Jap soldiers came out of the lower gate of the enclosure and marched away with two ragged men tramping ahead of their bayonets. They moved toward the temple.

Stan seated himself behind the tree and188 watched. His eyes followed the guards as they paced back and forth. He decided the guards came from the temple grounds. That meant the only men present now were those walking in front of the stockade and along each side. But there were plenty of them. There was also a machine-gun crew stationed on a platform which gave them command of the inside of the stockade as well as the ground around it.

Crossing the hundred yards of lighted ground, not to say anything about the stream, would be no easy job. Stan had a feeling he would not get far in such an attempt. He sat down to think it over.

The air was filled with many sounds. From the east came sounds of machinery running at high speed and of hammers pounding upon metal. The Japs probably were trying to repair some of the damage the Flying Tigers had done. Above these sounds rose the put-put of a gasoline motor close at hand. The noise was familiar, Stan had heard such a sound many times. Suddenly he realized that the steady chugging came from a portable light plant.

189 Edging around the tree Stan crawled toward the sound. He found a bush close to the edge of the stream and sat there peering across the water. The light plant was located close to the stream on the far side. It was a type mounted on auto wheels and designed to be trailed behind a car or truck. Stan looked for poles leading away from the plant but saw none. As he bent forward one of the searchlights swung around, stabbing its broad beam over the grove and down toward the stream.

Stan flattened himself against the wet ground behind the bush. The light swept on, revealing a wide hedge beyond the grove, then the trunks of the trees and the slope under them. It showed a yard back of the grove. The yard was crowded with army trucks and canvass-covered guns mounted on wheels. The band of light swung around, over the slope he had just crossed. It was a white, revealing beam and Stan gripped his automatic. The screen of bushes could hardly hide him from such an intense light. Then the light swept upward, stabbed into the sky and dropped again upon the stockade.190 Stan sucked in his breath and sat up.

He edged out into the stream and found it had a muddy bottom. The water was only knee-deep and smelled very bad. From his position, crouching above the water, Stan could see the portable light plant outlined against the light from the stockade. A man sat on a box near the plant. His head was resting on his arms which, in turn, rested on the top of an oil barrel. Stan was sure the operator of the plant was taking a nap.

Crossing the stream he stepped out on the bank and into the shadow back of the plant. Creeping forward he stood erect behind the sleeping man. One hard rap with the barrel of his automatic made the Jap engineer straighten, then slide soundlessly to the ground. Stan made a quick examination of the fellow to be sure he was out cold. The Jap was relaxed but breathing softly.

Turning to the light plant Stan bent over the small motor. His probing fingers located a spark plug. With a swift blow from the barrel of his pistol he smashed the porcelain plug. The engine coughed, backfired, then went dead.

191 Instantly the blazing lights at the stockade went out. The stream and the bank were plunged into darkness. Stan knew this was the moment for action. The guards would be blinded until their eyes became accustomed to the sudden darkness. He charged up the bank as fast as he could. Shouts arose from the Japanese soldiers and a rifle shot rang out.

Stan headed for the rear of the stockade where the hut stood. The fence was not very high and he could leap up and catch hold of the top. He found one strand of barbed wire and caught hold of it. He was glad the Japanese were short of metal and could not do a good job of wiring the fence. With a jerk he yanked the wire down and was on top of the fence.

Down at the gate a smoky flare was waving back and forth and a Jap officer was bellowing orders. Stan hit the ground inside the stockade. He bumped into a man and felt clawlike fingers gripping at him. He pushed the man aside and stumbled over another lying on the ground. Then he reached the wall of the hut and felt for a door.

192 “Niva! Niva!” he cried.

Above the excited shouting of the prisoners he heard Niva’s voice, coming from the hut.

“I am here, inside the hut!”

Stan plunged around the hut looking for a door or window. “Niva! Where’s the door?” he shouted.

“Here is a window!” Niva called.

Stan located the window and saw her face, an oval of white against a black background. His hand felt green bamboo bars. Gripping them he planted a knee against the flimsy wall and yanked. The bars and a large part of the wall pulled away. Stan tossed aside the section he had pulled loose and caught the girl’s wrist.

“Come on! We have to get out of here before they get another light.” Half dragging, half carrying the girl he charged toward the wall. His head was down and he smashed aside the natives who got in his way.

At the wall Niva held back. “We ought to help them escape,” she cried.

“We’ll be lucky to get out ourselves,”193 Stan said as he lifted her to the top of the wall. “But I’ll have a try.”

Niva disappeared beyond the wall and Stan leaped up. He was poised for a leap when a rifle flamed close to where Niva stood on the ground below. A bullet screamed past Stan’s head. He dived toward the flash of light from the gun.

His one hundred eighty pounds of hard body hit the guard like a bolt of lightning. The Jap went down with a groan. Stan caught up his rifle and set it against the wall. Picking up the little sentry Stan tossed him over the wall into the enclosure.

Grabbing the rifle he began slashing at the lacing on the Stockade. “Can you call to them? Make them understand?” he shouted to Niva.

“I’ll try,” she answered.

Stan cut through the lacings and jerked several poles loose. The Jap sentry’s bayonet was as sharp as a razor and Stan was able to slash the fiber bindings rapidly. In a short space he had an opening wide enough for a man to slip through.

Niva was shouting to the milling prisoners194 near the opening. Her cry was taken up and the prisoners surged toward the hole. Stan waited no longer. He caught her arm.

“Come on!” he urged.

They could hear guards running toward the opening in the stockade and behind them the prisoners were pouring out. Stan caught Niva up and charged away, just as the guards smashed head-on into the prisoners swarming out of the stockade. A furious battle began with the Japs going down under the fists and claws of the escaping men.

Stan made for the wide hedge. Reaching it he set Niva down. They ran along its sheltering wall for a hundred feet before they located a hole to duck through to the jungle side of the hedge. They were halted by an opening which had been cut across the thorny growth. Jap sentries marched back and forth. They were unusually alert because of the commotion at the stockade.

The pandemonium below was growing. From the platform the machine guns had opened up and were blasting away. Lights, coming from the direction of the temple, were stabbing into the night.

195 “This place will be swarming with soldiers in a few minutes,” Stan whispered. “We have to break through the guard line. I’ll charge that Jap. You keep close behind me. Can you use an automatic pistol?”

“You haven’t forgotten I am a spy, have you?” Niva asked with a low laugh. “Give it to me.”

Stan thrust the gun into her hands. He caught her thumb and showed her the safety catch.

“Ready,” she hissed.

Gripping the captured rifle Stan charged the sentry. His rush was silent and carried him well out and upon the guard before the Jap saw him coming. The sentry whirled and lowered his bayonet to meet the attack. Stan was on him before he could lunge. He wasn’t sure he had room for bayonet work so he brought the butt of the gun up in a sweeping arc. The Jap seemed to lift. He went rolling end over end like a rabbit, landing in a heap on the ground where he lay motionless.

Beside him Niva fired the automatic. Another guard was charging in. He dived196 aside, however, when the girl opened up on him.

“I missed him.” Her voice was cool but tinged with disgust.

Stan laughed as he caught her hand and dragged her away. They raced along the hedge, keeping close to the barrier of thorns. Soon their flight was slowed to a walk as they came to heavy underbrush and vines. But Stan refused to halt until they were deep in the jungle.

When they were well away from the village he stopped in a little clearing. Niva stood panting beside him.

“Thanks, Stan Wilson, for coming back,” she said.

“Kirby told me you were in the stockade. He made a map of the grounds.” Stan grinned at her. “I owed you a rescue. Now if we can get out of here we’ll be even.”

“You Americans are remarkable people,” Niva said. “You do not hesitate to stage a one-man invasion.” She laughed softly. “But you came just in time. Von Ketch was just waiting for permission to have me shot.”

197 “You’re through with Axis spying, young lady. From now on you can help your own people by giving the Chinese all the information you have on the Jap spy system,” Stan said grimly.

“You do not like spies?” Niva asked.

“Frankly, no,” Stan answered. “I thought once that they all were rats.” He grinned down at her.

“Now what do you think?” she asked.

“I think we’d better keep going or we may both be shot when the sun comes up,” Stan answered.

They moved on into the jungle, Stan setting his course by his pocket compass. He hoped his calculations would bring them out on the road beyond the huts in the clearing.



Stan and Niva moved slowly through the mass of bamboo, vines and tall grass which rose high above their heads. Stan kept to the course he had set and hoped grimly for the best. Niva did not complain, though the sharp-bladed grass slashed her clothing and thorns scratched her face and arms. They stumbled into bogs and had to make detours around thickets so tangled and dense Stan had all he could do to push through them.

Toward midnight Stan began to worry about his course. His faith in his own reckoning began to falter. But he said nothing to Niva about it. She had perfect confidence in him and showed no signs of panic.

At one o’clock they came out of the jungle into an avenue from which they could see the stars above. Stan bent and examined the ground. They had come to the road.

199 “We’ll need plenty of fever medicine when we get in,” he said grimly. “But from now on we’ll make better time.”

Niva nodded, attempting to wipe the muck and blood stains from her face. Her success was not very great and Stan laughed at her.

“I’d loan you my powder puff only I left it in the plane,” he said.

“You have a plane hidden in the jungle?” Niva asked eagerly.

“I do,” Stan replied. “Unless the Japs have found it.”

They moved along the road at a fast pace. With no vines or thorns to slow their progress they made good time. After an hour of tramping Stan halted to listen. They had missed the clearing with its native huts. Now they were not likely to meet anyone, except Jap patrols sent out along the road.

They went on as fast as Niva could walk. Stan halted several times to ask her if she wanted to rest, but she stoutly refused to stop.

“The quicker I get away from here, the better I’ll like it,” she insisted.

They tramped on steadily for hours. Now200 and then Stan stopped to let the girl rest. In spite of her courage, she was tiring. He was sure she was nearing the end of her strength.

Gray dawn was beginning to lift an arc of light into the sky as they broke out of the jungle at the place where Stan had entered the day before.

“We’ve made it. I’ll bet Von Ketch will be furious,” Stan said with a laugh.

“I feel sorry for the guards,” Niva said. “The common soldiers are not treated very well even when things go smoothly. Tonight has been a bad night for them.”

“Jap soldiers are the least of my worries,” Stan answered. “The plane is right around this grove of trees. If she’s there, I’ll clear the vines away and wheel her out.”

They located the little avenue where Stan had hidden the P–40. He almost bumped into its shining propeller before he saw it. Clearing away the vines required some work, but Niva helped and they soon had the ship free. They shoved it out into the open and Stan got busy.

“Stand guard out in the open and watch201 for any Jap patrols that may come out of the woods,” Stan ordered. “If you see anything come a-running.”

Niva went out into the open and Stan checked the ship. He waited a few minutes before winding her up. Ten minutes would be needed to get the engine hot. He wanted light for his take-off. When he thought he had the time right, he kicked the motor over and the P–40 started to rumble.

Niva looked toward the ship anxiously. Stan got down and motioned for her to come to him. When she came in from the field, he put her into the plane. She let him strap a parachute on her without saying a word.

“You grab this and pull if you have to jump out,” he instructed. “If you are high up you wait until you have fallen a long way. If your chute opens too soon a Jap will shoot you before you float down.” He was sure she would not be afraid to jump and that she would pull the rip cord.

“I pull this?” She placed her hand over the ring.

Stan nodded. “You do,” he said.

Light was beginning to reveal the meadow202 as Stan settled himself on his chute and leaned back against the shock pad. He slid the hatch cover forward and opened the throttle. The P–40 surged with power and strained at her brakes. He looked back at Niva, cupped his hands and shouted.

“We’re about to take off!” He pointed to the sky. “I have a hunch there’ll be a committee from the Mikado to see us off.”

Niva bobbed her head and smiled.

Stan kicked off the brakes and blasted the tail up with a surge of exhaust. The ship slid out into the meadow and roared away, bouncing and bumping along until Stan sent her knifing upward.

They lifted above the jungle in a surging roar of power to meet the rising sun. At ten thousand feet Stan gave his attention to a cloud bank lazily floating above him. He eased over and headed away from the cloud. If there were Japs lurking up above, they would be in that cloud.

They were zooming along with their backs to the rising sun when Stan spotted four ships high above him. They had slipped out of the clouds and were nosing down. Three203 of the planes were Kariganes, the other was a P–40. Stan banked and looked up. His eyes were hard and cold. Munson was heading a pack to intercept him. He knew he could easily run for it and get away.

Glancing back at Niva, he pointed up toward the planes. She leaned forward and shouted:

“Don’t run away because of me!”

Stan grinned broadly. He pulled the P–40’s nose up and spiraled into the sky. He knew the Japs had sighted him. They were all coming down the chute with Munson in the lead. Stan banked sharply and kept climbing. He did not intend to give them a target. His thumb caressed the gun button and his eyes held on the P–40 leading the Kariganes.

The attackers spread out to keep Stan from climbing above them. Munson was far in the lead because of his greater speed. Stan suddenly looped over. Munson knifed past at a terrific pace, missing Stan by a hundred feet.

Stan caught a glimpse of the scowling face of his enemy as Munson flashed past. He204 knifed over and went down after Munson. The Nazi spy started to circle with Stan after him. They went into a furious Lufberry circle, each tightening and narrowing that circle in an effort to bring his guns into play. The pace was dizzy and everything was blotted out in a whirl of speed. The Jap planes darted about but could not close in.

Stan soon realized that the extra weight he was carrying was giving Munson the advantage. He was edging Stan into position for a blast from his Brownings. Suddenly he flipped the controls and the P–40 shuddered under the slap of air that hit her. She bounced straight up a thousand feet but held together.

Munson swung wide out of his circle and came up, but Stan had the ace spot. He dropped off his perch and came down, straight at Munson. This was a test of courage, gun to gun. Stan’s burst beat Munson to the barrage. Lead ripped into the P–40 coming up, ragged holes opened in her fuselage. Munson slid off on one wing without getting in a burst.

Stan dived after Munson but now he had205 three Kariganes on his own tail. They were peppering away with their light armament. Stan scowled as he laid over and zoomed out of their fire. The Japs went on down and flattened out. Stan saw that Munson was hiking it for home. Evidently he was not hurt badly.

The Japs made one attempt to come up at him but Stan was king of the air, now that the fast P–40 was out of the way. He knifed across and opened up on one hapless Karigane. The Jap fighter seemed to explode in the air. It went hurtling down out of control and in flames. The other two dived and headed off after Nick Munson.

Stan leveled off and headed for the Rangoon base. He looked back at Niva. For a few minutes he had forgotten all about the girl. She was white-faced but her eyes were sparkling. She forced a smile and made a thumbs-up sign to him.

They crossed the Salween River and were boring toward home when Stan sighted two fighter planes coming down out of the sky at a roaring pace. They were on him before he could lay over and duck out of their path.206 They plummeted past and then came back up. Stan laughed softly as O’Malley’s rich brogue came in over his radio.

“Sure, an’ yer gettin’ back late, Commander. Breakfast is over.”

“What are you birds doing off your patrol beat?” Stan growled.

“We are inspecting the sunrise,” Allison’s voice droned back.

“Orders from Commander Allison, sor,” O’Malley chimed in.

“I appreciate the escort,” Stan called. “But if you have work to do get on about it.”

“We have to be on hand as part of the welcoming committee,” Allison drawled. “You know, old man, that your post would not fail to be set to celebrate your return.”

“Faith, an’ we have it all planned,” O’Malley crowed.

Stan scowled. He smelled a plot. Allison and O’Malley had something waiting for him. He was glad there were no brass bands available at the Chinese post.

“Did you shoot down any Japs?” O’Malley asked.

“I had a whack at Munson and put a bit207 of lead through his ship, but he got away,” Stan answered.

“In that case he’s my meat,” O’Malley answered.

They swept in over the field and landed side by side. All the ground men were out as well as most of Stan’s fliers. A shout went up as Stan helped Niva out of the plane.

Stan presented Niva to Allison and O’Malley who were the only officers to close in on them. O’Malley bobbed his head and shuffled his big feet. He flushed and mumbled something under his breath. Allison smiled. He was perfectly at ease, very much the British gentleman.

“Welcome,” he said with a bow, “to our manor.”

The others closed in and Stan introduced Niva to his fliers. She smiled embarrassingly and blushed, probably because she looked disheveled with her torn clothes and scratched face.

Stan turned on Allison as they entered the briefing room. “I thought I told you this was a secret mission,” he growled.

“You can trust the Flying Tigers. Not a208 word got to a single general,” Allison answered.

Stan grinned widely. “I’ll tend to you birds just as soon as I get this girl over to headquarters and into the hands of a woman.”



Stan sat in his office looking out upon the field. He had just returned from a conference at headquarters. Things were moving fast in the South Pacific war zone. Stan had orders to be ready to take action on a new sector at an hour’s notice. The move might not come, but if it did, he and his Flying Tigers would be on their way to new fields of action. No one knew just what the orders would be, that was a secret the Chinese High Command was guarding.

Stan hated the idea of leaving Rangoon without squaring matters with Nick Munson. None of his fliers had tangled with the Nazi spy, though he had been sighted many times. He was never cornered, though he did lead Jap attacks over the area.

210 The loud-speaker rattled and began rasping: “Enemy bombers coming in from the southeast. Flight Four, all out. Flight Five, all out.”

Stan grabbed his outfit and hurried out to the field. He was too restless to stay on the ground. He saw Allison and O’Malley climbing into their planes. They zoomed up along with four other P–40’s. Stan had to spend a few minutes getting ready. By the time he was in the air Flight Four and Five had vanished into the clouds above.

Heading along under the cloud layer Stan watched for the bombers. They would not show up for another fifty miles, but he wanted to spot them before they sighted him. He did not go above the cloud layer. His boys were up there and he would let them handle the attack. He would mix in with any low-flying enemy that came along. He was moody and not on his flying mettle. For days he had been on the ground working on battle plans and maps. The work irritated him.

He was jolted out of his daydream by a211 ripping sound. Bullets were smashing into his P–40. A glance in his mirror told him the reason. A fighter was on his tail slamming lead into him. As Stan dived he caught a glimpse of a P–40 raging over his hatch cover, and saw, for a split second, the grinning face of Nick Munson.

Nick was flying low intent on picking off any cripples. The way Stan had been flying, half-asleep, had made him the same as a cripple. He gunned his motor and was glad it was still hitting. Up he went and over in a tight roll. Munson came down in a wicked dive. Stan blazed away and missed. As he came on around he saw the reason Munson was staying to fight it out. Black smoke was rolling out of the cowling of his motor.

“I’m spotting you the first round,” Stan said grimly. He eased over and slid off on one wing. Munson came on in for the kill. Stan zoomed upward and Munson went racing past.

The P–40 went up like a comet trailing a tail of fire. She hung at the top of her climb, leveled and slid away. Stan let her spin,212 hoping to shake the fire out of her. Munson knifed in, eager to knock the P–40 out. He came down with a rush.

Stan jerked his ship out of her spin and stood her on her tail. Heat was surging back at him and he was coughing from the smoke. He saw Munson go past and nosed down after him. Munson had not expected that Stan would be able to maneuver his flaming ship. He was caught squarely in the sights of Stan’s P–40. Stan saw the tail and the fuselage and the cowling of the hood as he pressed his gun button. His bullets hammered home, ripping great holes in the fuselage and the engine cowling of his enemy’s ship. Then Munson pulled up and Stan shot past.

Flames were sucking back now and the smoke was choking, but Stan went up and over, seeking his antagonist. Munson was rising slowly and his ship was on fire. Stan heard his rasping voice come in over the radio:

“Lay off, you fool, we’ll both be cooked.”

Stan cupped his mike as he went on up. “This is Stan Wilson, Von Ketch. I’m coming213 up after you. This time you won’t run out on me.”

Stan went up on the tail of the burning P–40. Munson made a desperate effort to bank and swing his guns into line. He fired two bursts that came close, one slashing through a wing. Then Stan was tipping over and going down on him, his Brownings singing their last song. As he raked across Munson’s hatch cover he saw the spy’s ship nose into a wild spin and go down in an uncontrolled dive.

Then he heard a familiar voice. It was Allison. “Bail out, you nut, bail out!”

“What’s going on down there? Be ye needin’ a hand?” O’Malley called in.

“I went to sleep and a friend dropped in to wake me up,” Stan called back.

He palmed the hatch cover back and tried to rise. Suddenly he realized that his legs did not seem to have any feeling in them at all. They refused to move. Gripping the edge of the hatch he heaved himself upward. The smoke was a blinding, choking pall now and the heat was searing his face and hands. Slowly he pulled himself upward. He hung214 on the edge of the cockpit for what seemed an eternity. His useless legs would not give him the shove he needed.

Then the ship pitched over. It was as though his P–40 knew he needed a boost and was giving it to him. Stan tumbled free and went somersaulting over and over in the air. Feebly he pawed for his rip cord. His fingers closed over it and he pulled.

For a long space nothing happened. He seemed to be tumbling miles without slowing his speed. Then he felt a gentle tug, followed by a solid jerk. A moment later he was floating in the air. His lungs seemed to be on fire and when he lifted a hand to his face he saw that it was seared and bleeding.

“I reckon Munson got in a hit all right,” he muttered.

His eyes were smarting and his vision had not cleared, but he saw a ship coming down at him and a twisted grin formed on his lips. Getting shot up while hanging in the sky like a sausage on a butcher’s hook was a fine way to wind up a fighting career with the greatest air force in the world. He refused to215 close his eyes. He scowled and struggled to focus his gaze upon the diving plane.

The plane went past him and banked steeply. It circled slowly around in a tight maneuver. Suddenly Stan began to laugh. He recognized the ship and its number. O’Malley was standing guard while he sailed to earth.

Stan waited for the ground to come up and meet him. He was filled with a great weariness but he fought it off. He had to make a decent landing and not pile up like a dead man. He was commander of Base Two and his men were watching. The ground lifted and a tall tree reached for his boot soles. He sailed over the tree and settled down on an open field.

In spite of his determination to make a good landing he piled up and fell in a heap. His parachute settled gently to the grass. Stan rolled over and tried to sit up. He saw O’Malley swoop down and tried to wave at him.

After that he gave up to the great weariness inside him and collapsed.

216 Stan opened his eyes to find white walls and a bare room around him. He moved his head and looked at two officers sitting beside the white bed he was in. Allison and O’Malley grinned broadly.

“Hello,” Stan said.

“’Tis a foine mornin’,” O’Malley said.

“Feel up to another fight with Nick Munson?” Allison asked.

“Didn’t I get him?” Stan asked.

“You got him,” Allison said. “But you almost hung on too long. There’s always a time to stay and a time to jump.”

Stan grinned. “How long am I in for?” he asked.

“Not for long,” Allison said. “You’ll be back in harness soon. The doc says you are the toughest human he’s ever seen.”

Stan closed his eyes. “I’ll be seein’ you, fellows,” he said. “Right now I feel like I needed weeks of sleep.”


Transcriber’s Note:

The only known changes made to the original publication are as follows: