May 8, 1942
Flight Officer Williams enjoyed the feel of the Spitfire V. It had been his favorite fighter plane, with more power and far better firepower than either the Seafire or the Pony. Now he was back in the pilot’s seat again, with a good wingman, gaining altitude. Two Dutch pilots, Pea Soup and Mof, were close behind them. It was a familiarization flight, but the guns were armed and they were ready for battle. They expected battle.
“Splinter, Rookie. Contact, ten o’clock high. Over”
Flight Officer Williams looked up and to his left. Yes, there were black dots, at least three. “Rookie, Splinter. Acknowledged. Pea Soup, Mof, Splinter. Contact ten o’clock high. Follow my lead. Over.”
“Splinter, Pea Soup. Acknowledged.”
“Splinter, Mof. Acknowledged.” The aristocratic accent was clear through the static.
Ted Williams turned straight for the contacts.
The black dots grew rapidly into diving fighter planes. Ted Williams headed straight for them. Rookie was close behind him. The two Dutch pilots followed.
“Rookie, Splinter, Split-S after contact.”
“Splinter, Rookie, acknowledged.”
Four American fighter planes roared into view and past at a combined speed of over five hundred miles per hour. Flight Officer Williams released one burst and pulled up, beginning a roll into a dive. He saw, only after the fact, the fireball that had been a P-40 Warhawk.
“Scratch one. Credit kill to Splinter. Rookie. Over.”
The Americans, remarkably, had not yet maneuvered. Ted Williams fixed his gunsights on the trailing Warhawk. The range was long, but the deflection was easy. He fired a burst. The Warhawk smoked for two seconds before it burst into flames and started to spin.
“Contact, six o’clock high. Splinter, this is Pea Soup. Break, break.”
“Scratch two. Credit kill to Splinter. Breaking right and up. This is Rookie. Over.”
The four Spitfires turned hard and clawed for altitude. Another full formation of Warhawks dove down upon them. The American planes focused their fire on the now-leading pair of Spitfires. Ted Williams had a clear, unopposed shot, at a slight deflection and very high relative velocity. He let loose a medium-length burst as he passed. He saw the Warhawk burst into flames. He realized, somehow, as if noticing the temperature in a chilly wind, that tracers were flying everywhere.
“Scratch three. My kill. This is Splinter. Over.
“This is Rookie, good shooting. Over.”
Ted Williams pulled into an Immelmann and down and behind the Warhawks. He gunned his engine. The American pilots didn’t break. They had never faced equivalent enemy fighter planes. He gunned his engine, risked his wings from stress, and came down hard on the trailing fighter. He fired. As he overtook and passed the Warhawk, it exploded.
Ted Williams rolled left. He saw his kill falling and two other planes burning. The last American fighter tried to escape in a climb. It exploded.
“This is Rookie. Kill. Over.”
“This is Pea Soup. Kill. Over.
“This is Mof. Kill. Over.”
“This is Splinter. Confirm all. Over.”
“Return to base, low on ammo, Mof, over.”
Flight Officer Williams smiled. He had half of his ammunition left, he was sure. “Return to base, aye. Splinter, over,” he said, banking back for Little Rock.
May 8, 1942
As if in a scene from a Leni Riefenstahl movie, the men of the Negro Brigade interspersed with the Valentine tanks of the second Confederate Armored Corps shaped a solid formation down the street where Brigadier General Little prepared to address them. Every audio speaker and every bit of wire in the city had been scavenged to create the moment. The soldiers awaited, per orders.
Brigadier General Malcolm Little took the makeshift stage.
Led by the veterans of the Battle of Galveston, the Negro Brigade erupted into a raucous, prolonged, cheer and chant of support for their leader. The White Confederate crews of the Valentines barely paused before joining in the adulation for the demonstrated leader and victor in battle.
Malcolm Little stood upon the rostrum, in front of his microphone, gazing upon the men of his command. They were brave. At least his veterans were brave, and the other Negroes would have veterans beside them.
He knew the strategic situation, he knew the opposing forces, and he knew the odds. He looked out from his makeshift stage and he saw his Negro Brigade, hastily recruited men of too few years to understand the danger they were facing. He looked at the slow, awkward British tanks. He realized how slight the chances were for victory.
For a fleeting second, he doubted himself. He wondered why he had ever believed that the Negroes could win a home of their own. And he wondered, most of all, why he as a teenager was on a stage with a microphone calling good men to their deaths.
And then he remembered and regained faith in his mission and himself. He had not brought himself here to fail.
He took the microphone. “Negros!” he shouted.
The echoes of his voice shook the street.
“This is the moment of our triumph!”
The thousands of men before him took the cue. A tidal wave of voices rose to shake the buildings and the earth. Malcolm Little stood in the vibrations and the echoes, gifted in character to understand that in this moment these men needed him no longer to be a mortal man.
His dark eyes blazed fire. He spoke.
“Today and tomorrow we shall face the Americans, invading our sacred land to take from us our birthright, our heritage, and our souls. I say that we shall stop them! If you carry the strength in your heart to stop these invaders, say, ‘Yay!’”
“Yay!” erupted the voices of thousands.
“You shall be tested to your limits. Shall you fail?”
“I cannot hear you! Shall you fail?”
“No!” The voices’ power echoed between the buildings.
“No! You shall prevail! You shall take your place among the greatest warriors in history!”
Random cheers from across the crowd erupted as sea foam of noise upon the breakers. Malcolm Little waited for his next words until that noise had abated.
“Second Armored Corps! Men of our Valentine tanks! Stand and listen with honor!”
The white Confederate men, clearly surprised at being addressed, turned their attention to the general.
“We, together, form the body of resistance to the American invaders. Our Negro Brigade are the strong, hard muscles. You are the resolute bone. Without a hardy skeleton, the toughest muscles cannot hold. You are the backbone of our resistance! Second Armored Corps, shall you fail?”
“No!” The sound of the voices was weak and ragged.
“Second Armored Corps, our nation needs you! Second Armored Corps, your Negro brothers need you! Second Armored Corps, this battle and our future as a nation depend upon you. Second Armored Corps, shall you fail?”
“No!” came the chorus of voices, somewhat stronger.
“Second Armored Corps, at this moment you, and you alone, are the Heart of Dixie. Shall you fail?”
“Negro Brigade, our brothers in the streets shall need you. You have a city in which to hide. They have only an inch of steel. They shall need your strength. Will you fail them?”
“Their lives depend upon you. Will you fail them?”
“Second Armored, will you leave your brothers?”
“No!” That time, the voices of the white Confederates finally exceeded in volume the voices of the Negroes in formation.
“All of you, all of you, shall we yield in battle?”
“No!” rang the soldiers, together. The buildings shook with the power of the voices.
“Then we shall prevail. You are, and shall always be, heroes. Men, you have earned my respect. We shall win.”
The crowd of soldiers, white and black, armor and infantry, erupted into deafening, unbridled cheers. Then, from a single voice never known, a greater cheer rose, of all the men regardless of race or heritage.
“Gen-er-al Lit-tle! Gen-er-al Lit-tle! Gen-er-al Lit-tle! Gen-er-al Lit-tle!”
The sound grew from an idea to a necessity to an overwhelming force. Upon the improvised stage before his troops stood a boy who matured in seconds past a man and into a legend. For more than a minute he remained before his command, saying nothing, just letting the power of the voices grow to climax.
At the moment that seemed right, Brigadier General Little saluted his men, performed an about-face, and left the stage to the thunder of men willing to die.
May 9, 1942
“These are the men who’ll be going with me. Hiawatha is a sergeant. He was in charge of the one Iroquois detachment that survived the American carpet bombing of their nation and the following genocide. Dekanahwideh was one of his best men. I’m in good company,” said Captain O’Brien.
“Can they handle a boat? What if you need a boat?” asked Warrant Officer Bernier, standing beside the open window of the truck that Captain O’Brien was about to drive away.
“I don’t think that we’ll need to take a boat on this journey,” said Captain O’Brien.
“You know to load up in Watertown, and then go to Portland and Lewiston before making the border crossing at Jackman?” asked Lieutenant Commander Crandlemire.
“Yes, Sir. You’ve told me five times.”
“He likes to be clear,” said Ensign Jewell, her breath making clouds in the cool pre-dawn morning.
“I’ve noticed,” said Captain O’Brien, smiling.
“Can you really drive this thing? There’s room in the front seat for four of us. You can’t shift up hills,” said Warrant Officer Bernier.
“We didn’t forge papers for you, Paul,” said Vice Admiral Alden. “You can’t go.”
“I can talk my way through customs, Admiral. They need me.”
“We need you,” replied Vice Admiral Alden.
“You say that, but it never seems that way. George, you’re going to need a friend.”
“I have a Boys Rifle hidden.”
“He seems to have his priorities in order,” commented Lieutenant Wilkinson.
“How can you compare a rifle to a Bos’n Mate Warrant Officer?” exclaimed Warrant Officer Bernier.
“The rifle talks less,” commented Commander Adams. Chief McGuire laughed.
“George, talk to them! I need to come along. Tell them,” demanded Warrant Officer Bernier.
“Paul, you’ve been a great friend. Thank you,” said Captain O’Brien.
“So, that’s how it is? Well, then, until I see you again, George?”
Captain O’Brien’s eyes suddenly had that focus far beyond the setting of the conversation. “It’s a long war, and there’s no easy way back to Newport for me, Paul. I’m not sure that I’ll see you again. But I’ll be back here if I can. Thank you for everything.”
Warrant Officer Bernier, last of everybody there, finally understood. “Thank you,” he replied, offering his hand to Captain O’Brien at the window of the truck.
Captain O’Brien returned the handshake but said nothing more. The key turned in the ignition, the engine roared to life, and Captain O’Brien and the last of the Iroquois drove off to their destiny.