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From Here and Back

Posted on 10/27/2019. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

Forward:

The story is told as seen through the eyes of a young man who grew up on a South Dakota farm and becomes a navigator on a B47 bomber. The story revolves around a mission being flown by the crew, a mission they are trained for but are reluctant to do. This story is fictional and created by the author. The description of the B47 operations and functions during a mission are fictional.

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From Here and Back

I’m the only son, only child of Issador and Janice Ilson. I heard my Pa wanted to give me a decent Swedish name like Gotfre, but my Ma insisted on naming me Erick. I’m glad she prevailed.

I cranked up the home-made tractor that my Pa “Issador had cobbled together and would use its power to drive a feed grinder that would grind a mixture of corn and oats to be used for feeding our chickens and pigs.  I started calling the homemade tractor the Ilson. The name stuck. The Ilson used a flat head 60 HP V8 Ford motor and a car chassis with a modified transmission geared down to give more traction and slower forward speed. The two back wheels were spaced seventy-two inches apart in order to straddle two rows of corn. There was a single front wheel.  The body of the Ilson was jacked up so a cultivator my Pa designed that fit between the front wheel and the back wheels could be used to cultivate hip high corn.

However, today I would be using the Ilson to grind grain. In order to have a means to transfer power to the grinder, the left rear wheel of the Ilson had a belt pulley attached to it. I drove the Ilson to a well-marked spot, rolled out a belt from the granary where one end of the belt was attached to the grinder pulley. I then loosened a sort of a kickstand attached to the axle near the left wheel. I started moving the Ilson forward and the left wheel raised off the ground, held up by the kickstand. The belt tightened and the Ilison’s left hind wheel turned freely. All Ilsons power was transferred to the spinning wheel and the grinder started turning. Grain began running out of two spouts from two overhead grain bins feeding corn and oats into the grinder. After the grain mixture reached a certain level in the grinder a prod sensor shut down the spouts down until the grain fell to a level in the grinder where the grain would flow again.

Meanwell the grain that had been ground fell out the bottom of the grinder where a conveyer carried it into a box of another machine my Pa had cobbled together. It was three wheeled also, with the front end being the front half a motorcycle my dad rescued from a junk yard to which he welded it to the back half of a car chassis and used an extended chain and clever gear box to get power to the rear wheels. This was our yard tractor. I called it the Runabout.

You may be getting the idea that my Pa was a tinkerer.  I always considered him something between that and a misplaced genius. He had immigrated from Sweden while in his teens. He was not the oldest son so there wouldn’t be a place for him on the Ilson ancestral farm and saw the United States as an opportunity to better his prospects. Issador worked as a farm hand in eastern South Dakota near Milbank and ended up marrying the farmer’s daughter, my Ma Janice. They inherited the farm at a fairly young age. 

Issadore learned to read and write in the Swedish language and had a propensity for numbers and was a tinkerer, always taking things apart and finding new uses for them. He picked up English quickly. He was eager to learn about all the new mechanical things he was seeing either in person or in pictures and so quickly learned to read as well as speak English. I knew he was not a particularly good farmer. He would get off on some project, taking something apart and making it into something different and loss track of what needed to be done on the farm.

A good example of that was when farmers started converting to using combines after World War Two. He found a farmer moving up to a large self-propelled combine and anxious to have someone take his small combine off his hands. It needed some work and Pa acquired it for fixing some problems the farmer had with a tractor.

The combine needed a tractor with a power take off to drive the combines operations. The Ilson didn’t have a power take off or the power to use it if it had one. That didn’t deter Pa. He had a VW air cooled motor in his junk yard that he had picked up somewhere. He would use it to power the combine. He would mount the motor on the combine and use the Ilison to pull the combine with its own motor through the fields.  

A problem with Pa’s plan was that both his oats and wheat were ready to harvest when he started this project. Pa had me swath the grain crops while he toiled with integrating the motor with the combine. Well, the grain lay swathed for a long time. It rained. By the time he got the combine and motor working most of the grain had spoiled. I didn’t say anything about it, neither did Ma. We both knew Pa had an incurable urge to tinker.

I was usually amazed with some to the things that Pa came up with, not that they worked well or worked better than anything out there, rather that they worked at all. I do have to admit he had more successes than outright failures.   

I went to the Milbank high school. At the time most farm kids didn’t go to high school. Not that the parents were against education. It was expensive. There was no busing for farm kids. The farmers were recovering from the Great Depression and a historic drought. During World War Two they were making money, finally, but they had a lot of catching up to do. However, Pa and Ma were both big fans of education. You wouldn’t think Pa would think like that since he had only spent four years inside a school room, but I think he was even more set on me going to high school than Ma was.   

So, I used to the Runabout to commute. A benefit from this was I would take the milk we accumulated in ten-gallon milk cans and drop them at the small cheese factory in Milbank before classes started. Pa hated those cows, but they provided a steady income our family needed. 

I did ok in high school, especially math. My math teacher, Miss Schwandt, said I should continue my education, go to college. Ma and Pa saw my grades, liked them but didn’t mention college for a good reason. Our family didn’t have the means to send me to college. Farmers had been doing well doing the war and since; but my Pa really wasn’t a farmer, he was a tinkerer. In the best of times we were just getting by.

Miss Schwandt wasn’t ready to concede. She came up with an idea. “At Brookings they have a ROTC, if you qualify you could have most of your expenses paid. I can get the forms you need.”

By Brookings she meant South Dakota State College, a college sixty miles south of Milbank. It was a popular college for students from the Milbank area to attend.  I knew they had an engineering major, which is what I would want so the idea appealed to me.  I thought it was nice of Miss Schwandt to want to help me and I told her so and that I would appreciate having her obtain the forms.

When I got the forms, I found they had both an army and air force ROTC at Brookings. I talked to my folks about the idea. Ma was in favor of the idea right away. Pa seemed to a little hesitant. I suppose he was hoping I would be helping on the farm after high school. It would allow him more time to tinker if I was around to do the work involved with farming. I had thought about that subject myself. What is my long-term goal? Did I have one? I pretty much knew I could partner with my Pa. If I really wanted to be a farmer that might not be a bad idea. I would have pretty much a free hand to do what I wanted with regards to farming if Pa was left with his tinkering. Did I want to be a farmer? That was a question I hadn’t figured out the answer to.

Pa, had listened without comment when I told them about the idea. “It’s not a sure thing,” I explained. “Not everyone that applies is accepted, there is a physical.”  Ma was sure I would be accepted and left no doubt and that she thought I should go for it. Finally, Pa opened with a little cough, “Erick,” he said, “If I had da chance you got, I vould yomp all over it. Can’t get too much education,  Dat much I know.

What would be the best to apply for, the army, the air force? In the army they mostly shoot people. In the air force they fly airplanes. The idea of flying airplanes seemed to fit studying engineering better than shooting people. I filled out the application for the Airforce ROTC.  

I received an acceptance before it was time to register for the fall quarter at South Dakota State. The physical was administered by our regular family doctor and was kind of a joke. The doctor said the main thing he checked is to see if you were too fat. “Your real physical will happen when you go on active duty.”

I had decided that I would go for a degree in mechanical engineering. It was the kind of engineering somewhat related to what Pa did when he was tinkering and something I could relate to since Pa would have me helping sometimes, like when he needed help moving heavy things like car motors from one place to another.

I found myself studying harder that I had ever studied before. I did get
“A’s” in my math courses but they were hard “A’s.” Fortunately the extra classes I had to take for ROTC were easy and the physical training and activity involved were good otherwise I would likely have been going downhill in those categories.  In the summer we would have two weeks of training at some air force facility. It got us familiar with some of the things the air force was doing. Upon graduating in June of 1961, I was commissioned as 2ndL in the United States Airforce with orders directing me to report to Offutt Airforce Base near Omaha Nebraska. 

When at Offutt I got a real physical checkup. I guess your physical would determine what kinds of things you would be able to do in the air force. If I got into something involving engineering, I would be happy.

After the physicals and a bunch of tests I was interviewed and was informed what I would be qualified to do. Physically I was qualified to take pilot training and was encouraged to go in that direction. I also learned that if I took pilot training it would be like signing up for a career. Most other skills paths only required two years active and two years in the reserves. Pilot training itself could be more than two years so you were obligated to serve more active time. I told the interviewer I wasn’t interested in being a pilot or a career in the air force and preferred to do engineering work with a contractor or in a lab, something like that.  

The interviewer seemed surprised, said most people he interviewed would give their left arm to be a pilot. He went on to mention they were looking for more than just pilots to be airmen. The active duty requirements for most non-pilot airmen required only two years of active duty. 

 “We are looking for men like yourself to man large numbers of SAC aircraft  coming off the line.” the interviewer said.

He almost made it sound like it would be my patriotic duty to do this. The interviewer identified a position he described and encouraged me to consider. It was a navigator/bombardier on a B47.  “As a navigator/bombardier on a B47 you would only have the two-year active duty obligation and you also would be getting flight pay.” 

The interviewer showed me pictures of the B47.  In one picture the plane was sitting in a flight line and another one of it flying. I had heard about the B47 but really knew little about the plane. The idea that I would be riding in one of them sharpened my interest and I really studied the pictures. When flying it was a beautiful looking flying machine, like a big fighter plane with six jet engines. Although beautiful, in another way it appeared ominous to me, like something evil.  

However, as a farm boy always wanting to please, I relented and agreed to take the training needed to be a navigator on a B47.  

Soon it seemed I was in a world of quick time. I was ordered to report to the Mather AFB, located near Sacramento California and six months later I was deemed able to perform the duties of a B47 navigator/bombardier and ordered back to Offutt Field and assigned to a wing stationed there.

When I reported back to Offutt after completing navigation training, I saw my first real life B47. It was more imposing than they looked in the photos. It looked unlike anything I had ever seen before, swept back wings that drooped when parked on the ground and flexed up seventeen feet at the wing tips when airborne. It was a fearsome looking, delicate flying machine designed to fly higher and faster than any anything that would oppose it in the air and high enough to be safe from ground-based weapons. It was developed to penetrate Russian airspace and deliver nuclear bombs during the early days of the Cold War.  Those goals, faster and higher than Russian fighters and out of the range of ground-based weapons had priority over durability, crew comfort, survivability or anything else you could think of. 

There only three crew members, pilot, copilot and navigator, a departure from World War Two when heavy bombers would often have nine or more crew members. The difference was a lack of armament. The B47 had two fifty caliber machine guns in the tail which was operated remotely by the copilot. The B47 depended on flying high and fast rather than armament in order to reach targets. The pilot and co-pilot sat in tandem and under a bubble type canopy. They had a good view of the surroundings, but the space was little cramped and reminiscent of a fighter plane cockpit.  My accommodations in the nose cone were more ample but there were no windows. I had a viewing screen which could monitor the outside world, but that is not the same an unrestricted view. Not that I needed to look out a window to navigate, but it would have been nice.

One thing that unnerved me at first was that in case of a bailout the navigator would be ejected down, not up. This required that the plane had to be at an altitude of at least five hundred feet before a downward ejection would work. Worse yet, in practice the downward ejection seemed to have problems at any altitude. After a while I got over worrying about it because I figured I would never have a reason to eject from the plane. That might have been illogical thinking, but it worked.

The crews were a team and would remain a team of three until some event like retirement from active duty or reassignment would cause changes. The crews tended to be young 1st and 2nd Lieutenants. The pilot on our plane was First Lieutenant Richard Douglas. He loved flying, and the air force, and planned to make a career out of it. He was young, not much older than I am, and this was his first aircraft. He thought he was the luckiest man alive to get to fly the B47. Second Lieutenant Bill VanVeen,  was the copilot and waiting to complete his air force active duty commitment so he could fly commercial. The B47 was not an ideal aircraft for commercial training because it was so different. I hoped his plans would work for him.  I was also a Second Lieutenant and the navigator.

When I reported for duty in the spring of 1961 the Strategic Air Force was on a high alert and had planes loaded and ready to take off on a mission to attack Russia.

Every third week the crews of the planes in section I was assigned to would spend the week in a building and area near where our plane sat on a hardstand. Three crews shared a building and it had everything needed accommodate the nine crew members for a week. A contractor furnished people to cook meals, wash cloths, make beds, clean. The crew members had training and information sessions and would fly one mission during the week. Otherwise did pretty much what we wanted except leave the building or immediate area for a week. I started reading and read more books than I ever had before. There was an exercise room, a hobby room with wood working, metal working which I messed around with, also ceramics, painting.

During that week our section of three planes would fly a mission. Soon after being alerted to take off on a mission the crews would sprint to their planes which were already being run up by ground crew members. Our three-man crew hardly had time to settle into our positions before we joined a line of nine planes fully loaded with fuel and nuclear weapons moving toward the runway. There was no hesitation, no calling the tower for permission to take off. When the first plane in the line reached the take off point on the runway it immediately started its takeoff run and with the assistance of JATO (Jet Assisted Take Off) rockets was soon airborne. The following eight B47’s lined up and took off at sixteen second intervals after the first plane. We would be in the middle of the pack, that meant we would be taking off in the wake of the plane ahead of us and a lot of rough air. 

The mission would normally include a refueling over Alaska or north of Greenland. It would be considered a for-real mission to bomb some Russian target. We would have on board the orders to be opened after reaching a point of no return. If we weren’t recalled and ordered back to base and crossed the point of no return we would be on a for real mission with sealed orders to bomb a target designated in our orders.  We never had to open those orders and never expected to have to open them.

When not on alert we would get extended time off to make up for the one-week confinement in alert quarters and after that participate in training exercises and honing job skills. Things had changed since the since the B47 introduction into the air force in 1951. This included a Russian fighter plane and a ground missile that could reach the B47 when it flew at its service ceiling. So, we were being trained to fly low instead of high in order to limit RADAR detection and use a variable track in place of a strait in approach to the target.  When the target area was reached the plane would regain enough altitude to allow the nuclear weapon to detonate at its intended altitude and for plane to escape from being blown up. This change put a strain on the aircraft and on the pilot and navigator due a zig-zag approach and terrain avoidance maneuvers. These kind of activities kept us more than busy most of the time.

In the October of 1962 we started hearing about Russia establishing missile launch sites in Cuba. Airmen that I associated with didn’t get too excited about this news. We were always hearing about the Russia doing this or that and it sounded like another one of those cold war events that came up and then would fade away.

However, this time it seemed to be different. Soon after hearing about the missile launch sites the whole wing at Offutt went into alert status and everyone was confined to the base until further notice. All the aircraft rated ready to fly were loaded with nuclear weapons. Our three-plane section received orders to be ready to take off at 2:00 AM on October 22nd. This was also unusual. Normally there would be no warning, the klaxon would go off and we would race to get to the airplane and take off as fast as we could, like firemen responding to a fire.

Our three plane section joined six other aircraft and took off as scheduled at 2:00 AM and headed north. Normally we would be heading for Alaska or Greenland where we would rendezvous with tankers to refuel. However, this time we would fly almost straight north, north of Canadian territory and a little west of Ellesmere Island, almost to the north pole where we would refuel.  

Once we reached the Arctic region on these flights, I didn’t spend much time thinking of bailing out, or if the downward ejection system would work; it would be a fruitless type of thinking.

Navigating the leg from Offutt to the refueling destination wasn’t much of a challenging. I had LORAN (Long Range Navigation), radio direction finders, gyro compass and unlimited use of RADAR.

The crew was supplied with two C rations each and a thermos of coffee. On this mission the first C ration was breakfast. I usually didn’t eat the second ration but if I did it would be on the return to Offutt. There was very little variety in the C rations so if you ate one you knew what to expect after that.

Refueling was always an exciting part of a mission. No matter how many times it is done it never became routine. The flying boom method was used where we would fly a little lower and in back of the tanker. A combination lights and the tanker boom operator communicating with our pilot would get us in position where the flying probe would mate with our planes refueling coupling. During the refueling our plane had to maintain a position where the probe would stay connected.  Two planes flying hundreds of miles an hour connected together with a fueling prob and restricted freedom to maneuver can be a cause for anxiety. After the connection is made it didn’t take long for the refueling to be completed.

After the refueling was completed on the October 1962 flight we continued on course to complete the mission. I relaxed and waited for the recall that always occurred before we reached the point of no return

Richard, the plane’s pilot was also getting nervous. His voice came on the intercom, “How far to point of no return?”

“Twenty minutes,” I replied. Our track to the point of no return had taken us over the North Pole and we were heading south toward Russia.

Bill, the copilot chimed in, “This story isn’t following the script.”

The pilot agreed, “I have no desire to visit Russia this time of the year.” 

“Ten minutes to go,” I said.

“We could abort, engine problem,” the copilot suggested.  

“Everything Is purring,” the pilot replied.

“I Know, just suggesting,” the co-pilot replied, “Or just hoping.”

“Five Minutes,” I said.

By this time, I knew what would never happen was happening. School children were being taught what to do when this thing that would never happen, happened. People had become used to knowing that a nuclear war would likely be the end of human existence, but they also knew it would never happen. But this crew in this B47 knew it was about to happen.   

“Ok,” I said, “We’ve passed the point of no return. Time to check out our itinerary.” I had a package and the pilot had an identical package. It identified the target, the route to the target, procedure for flying the route to the target and releasing the device. The target was Moscow. It was our directions of how to end life on earth as we knew it. Strange how my mind started working on the details of how we would accomplish this.  

It would be up to our crew to follow the package directions and complete the mission. Everything was in our hands and our B47, a dot in the sky that could destroy a city. My first task would be to navigate the course to the target, no small task when flying low on a zig-zag course at night with only a gyro compass. We would be running silent, no radar, no radio transmissions, no running lights.

The pilot noted that the forecast was for clear sky when we hit the coastline of Russia.

“I appreciate the help” I replied to the pilot’s comment, “It will be dark but with a nearly full moon we will be able to navigate visually.” This would work well since we would be approaching the coast at five hundred feet above sea level and there was a range of low mountains along the coast.

The forecast was clear when we reach the Russian coastline, partial clouds two hundred miles in, rain, light drizzle over Moscow. We will reach Moscow at midnight.

We were at 35,000 feet but dropped to 500 feet as we entered the Barents Sea and approached the Russian mainland about a hundred miles east of Murmansk where an estuary joined the Barents and White Seas.  As predicted there was a  near full moon and we could visually navigate the narrow body of water connecting the Barents and White Seas.

“Man,” I exclaimed, “I don’t know how you could navigate that with instruments!

The co-pilot agreed, “Some of those hills on either side that narrow bit of water were more than five hundred feet by a quiet a bit.”

 The White Sea was a relatively small body of water but provided a path through a low mountains range near the coast to a flat terrain that bordered its southern shore.  We were told snoops continually search for and identify cracks in Russian border RADAR coverage and it seemed to work for us since we had easily penetrated Russian territory. When considering the immensity of the USSR (United Soviet Socialist Republic) it would seem likely there could be some holes in the borders.

We were able to maintain our five-hundred-foot altitude over the flat dark terrain south of the White Sea. We took south westerly track after leaving the White Sea. This pointed us toward Leningrad. We would see a flickering light occasionally, but they were not massed lights like one would see in a village or city. Although it was dark, It was obvious that we weree flying over a lightly inhabited forest.  

There were no swarms of Mig fighters rising to intercept us. We seemed to be alone and unnoticed as we moved through Russian air space. There had to be other SAC bombers attacking but everything seemed peaceful and quiet.

We were flying under scattered clouds when we reached the coordinates where we changed our heading to a southeasterly direction. Those coordinates were based on my best estimates of wind direction and velocity, accuracy of our gyro compass and not much else. It would be nice to have a firm fix on our position before making the turn, but it was not necessary. Finding a bright shiny target as large as Moscow wouldn’t be difficult.

Our track now ran parallel to and about sixty miles to east of a busy highway that connected Leningrad and Moscow. The terrain continued to be flat and ideal for low altitude terrain avoiding flight. gave the mission planners a good grade for selecting ideal conditions for a terrain hugging flight.

There were now more scattered lights and the glow of numerous lights from villages and small towns. We were flying low without running lights so people might think we were a ghost ship in the ski when we flashed by.  Still know obvious defensive activity. This seemed to be easier than it should be.

We started encountering light rain and mist which would make our approach to Moscow more difficult to detect. I alerted the crew to the next course change to happen in half an hour, at 2245 Greenwich Meantime. At that time, we would   turn ninety degrees, a heading that would and put us over the Moscow in fifteen minutes. After the turn we climbed to twenty thousand feet, our drop altitude. As we climbed the copilot and I turned on interlocking switches that needed to be set to arm the nuclear device. After going through the sequence successfully, a red “ready” light lite up on both the copilots and my panel. After this was done only two things remained in order to complete the final arming of the nuclear device. When the device is dropped out of the bomb bay a small propeller device would begin rotating and satisfy one of the remaining arming requirements, the last one would be satisfied when the devise had reached the altitude it was supposed to detonate. The nuclear devise in the bomb bay was set to detonate at one thousand feet above the Moscow surface.

I pulled on my eye protection googles. The cloud cover provided no protection against the intense light and gamma rays that would be emitted when the weapon exploded. All this seemed so surreal.  

 We were above the cloud cover when we reached twenty thousand feet, but Moscow could be seen as a pale glow of light through the clouds, a big bullseye,  adequate since close is good enough when dealing with nuclear devices.  I gave the pilot a heading that would put us over the glow, opened the bomb bay doors, released the bomb to fall approximately in the middle of Moscow. I didn’t feel the lift experienced when an item that weighs ten thousand pounds is dropped from the plane.  

Neither did the pilot, whose voice came on the intercom, “What happened? I didn’t feel a release.”

I looked at my panel and could see the bomb-bay-door-open light was on. The bomb-bay-door should have closed after the devise was released. “Something is wrong” I answered. “Looks like the weapon didn’t release.”

I felt what seemed to be a tremendous load being lifted from my shoulders. We had followed our orders, carried them out successfully until the moment the bomb didn’t release and hundreds of thousands of humans were still alive. If there is a God, thank you.

“What to hell,” the pilot exclaimed, “We have a hot nuke on board,”

The co-pilot asked, “What’s the plan?”

During this conversation the plane continued the heading it had been on when the weapon was to be released. That was ok since that is what was planned, however not with the weapon still in the bomb bay. Further evidence that something was amiss, we had not experienced the bright light emitted when the weapon detonated and being buffeted by the shock waves being emitted. .

There had been a long pause after co-pilots question.  I was thinking, what would my Pa do. This was Pa’s kind of problem and he would have a solution, and one he could fix with the tools he had.

I attempted to set the altitude the nuclear weapon would activate from my weapon control panel, but it didn’t respond. The only thing now needed fully activate the nuclear weapon once it reached a thousand feet above the surface was a small rotating propeller that would complete the activation when the weapon fell away from the aircraft. I told the pilot to drop us down ten thousand feet and gave him a new heading.

 The pilot asked , “Heading to where, what about the lock and loaded nuke in the bomb bay?”

“We will have to take care of the bomb problem on the way to our destination, Incirlic Air Base in Turkey. W will drop down to ten thousand feet so we don’t have to work on our problem when pressurized, but not so far that the weapon could be activated. 

Anybody have a Swiss Army knife?” I asked.

The co-pilot replied, “Wouldn’t ever leave the house without one. Why?”

“Throw it down here,” I replied, “I want to cut a hole in the bulkhead between me and the bomb bay.”

I noted on my nav panel altimeter that Richard had started dropping down from twenty thousand feet. I could start working on breaking into the bomb bay without worrying about cabin pressure when or if I could do it.

I soon determined that the Swiss Army Knife saw couldn’t do the job. The gauge of the Aluminium was too heavy.  

I looked around my space. There was a bombsight mounted next to the navigators table. I noticed it was mounted on a base consisting of two aluminum bars about a foot long, four inches wide and half an inch thick. Philips head screws held the bombsight to Aluminum bars and the bars were held to the plane deck with more Philips head screws. The Swiss Army Knife had a Philips head screwdriver in its repertoire but that looked like a lot of screws for the fragile Swiss Army Knife to handle.  The bombsight was raised on a pedestal about a foot and a half high. Without giving it too much thought I sat down on the plane deck, braced my feet against the navigation table, put my arms around the bombsight and leaned back. One of the Aluminum bars pulled lose, still attached to the bombsight and while the other one stayed attached to the plane deck but detached from the bombsight. I found the screws attaching to the deck and to the bombsight had been loosened up and could be removed using the Swiss Army Knife. I had two heavy pieces of metal to work with.

I used one bar as a wedge and the other one as a hammer. I placed the end of the wedge bar next to a row of rivets and began pounding on the bar used as a wedge with the other bar being used as a hammer.

When I started pounding the pilot wanted to know what in hell I was doing. if I was destroying the aircraft.

I replied that I was trying to break a hole in the bulkhead to get a look at the weapon and then resumed my pounding. After pounding on the wedge bar for a long time I began to wonder if my arm or the aluminum bulkhead would give out first. Finally, a small crack opened in the bulkhead. Then by working on the small crack with the wedge bar I opened a hole large enough to push the wedge bar into it. I then used the wedge bar as a lever to peel back the aluminum far enough to put a hand through or see into the bomb-bay.

I reported to the crew that I had broken a hole large enough to see into the bomb-bay with a flashlight.

Using the flashlight I could see that the weapon tail end hung loose while the front end was being firmly held by the front hanger. Also the hanging tail kept the bomb-bay doors from closing.

The pilot asked what I was seeing, and I described the situation to him.

“How stable does the situation look?” The pilot asked.

“Hard to tell,” I replied. “If the nuke doesn’t fall free before I can reach it with one of my bar and mash the propeller it will be safe. I’m reaching with my bar now. OK, its well mashed up we should be safe. Drop us down to five hundred feet.”  

We were over the Ukraine’s nice flat terrain with few obstacles cruising at five hundred feet.  It continued to puzzle me why there was no  response from Soviet defense forces after flying thousands of miles through Russian airspace.  I mentioned this to the crew.

“Suits me” the co-pilot answered. “I had considered bombing Russia a suicide mission. “

“It is” I answered. “Assuming other planes are successful.”

The pilot agreed,  “Everything seems so quiet and peaceful, this isn’t the way it’s supposed to be.”

“Peace on earth, good will to all,” the co-pilot replied.

They reached the Black Sea and continued flying at five hundred feet over the water until they reached a position over international waters where they climbed to ten thousand feet and attempted to make contact on the air force communications network.  

The co-pilot handled the communications. He wasn’t getting any response to his calls to the Airforce base at Incirlic. He went to different frequencies. He tried Turkish airways.  Same result.

Finally he called me on the intercom. “Nav, could you look at our radios. We should be able to communicate with somebody. I’m not getting anyone. Something must be wrong.”  

I had gotten the reputation as the fix it guy in our crew. I could usually fix problems or figure out a way to work around them. Must have inherited some of my Pa’s tinkering ways.

The communications equipment rack was in a un-pressurized portion of the plane but accessible through a access cover which when removed put the planes transmitters and receivers within reach.

After removing the cover I asked the co-pilot to transmit something. There is a power output indicator on front of the transmitter, and it indicated a strong signal when the co-pilot was transmitting. There were two receivers that provided dual redundancy. One receiver had an obvious problem. It was cold, no power, the other one had power. There was a phone jack to connect directly into the receiver. I plugged my earphones into the receiver that had power. A functional receiver would have background noise, this one did not. Back to the other receiver, an obvious problem, a circuit breaker had been tripped. I reset the circuit breaker and I heard background noise. So much for dual redundancy. Both receivers were down for different reasons.

I called up the co-pilot on the intercom, “OK you should be able to communicate” I said.

The co-pilot was soon able to communicate with the Incirlic Airforce base and identified our plane. All of us in the plane were monitoring the conversation. There seemed to be some confusion at the other end, then a voice requested our planes identification again. Then asked for the origin of the of the plane’s  flight. Then it asked for the names of the crewmen.

The co-pilot supplied the information needed and then added that we had a hung nuclear device in the plane.  

There was a long pause in the communications and the pilot came on the intercom, “Do you think?”

I replied, “I do, we might have been recalled and never got the message”

“Damn,” the pilot replied.

Meanwhile the co-pilot who wore many hats, including fuel monitoring, had more good news and informed the pilot that we don’t have enough fuel to make Incerlic.”

About this time two F86 fighter plans appeared on our wing and were looking us over.

Incirlic finally came back and ask for more information.

The co-pilot described the nuclear device hang up and that we couldn’t close the bomb bay because one end of the device was hanging down and preventing closing and that we were running low on fuel and would not be able to reach Incerlic.

There was another long pause and then the voice said the plane could not land at Incirlic with a nuclear device hanging out of the bomb bay.

“Don’t worry,” the co-pilot replied, “We don’t have enough fuel to reach Incerlic, where in Turkey do you want to crash this thing. ” Erich appreciated the sarcasm, They had been flying for twenty hours and being reasonable was becoming difficult.

Incerlic must have gotten the message that the B47 with the hung nuclear device would be coming down in one form or another soon and it would be best if it didn’t happen in a random way. A message was received from Incerlic that a refueling plane was in the air and would soon be in contact with them.

We were approaching the northern coast of Turkey and Turkish airways asking for information. Incirlic interceded and got us cleared for an overfly. We soon made contact with the refueling aircraft and took on fuel.

As we were refueling, I was thinking I hadn’t eaten the second C ration, we had been flying for twenty hours and I wasn’t hungry or tired. We had been surviving on adrenaline for a long time.  It also occurred to me that I was a long way from that farm in South Dakota, in a different world about which I couldn’t talk about and probably wouldn’t want to talk about. Strange, I thought, things happen in one’s life for which you don’t expect, don’t plan for, are not prepared for but you go along with whatever it is , like pulling a lever to releases a nuclear weapon that would have killed hundreds of thousands of people, but for the grace of God who causes it to hang up. Humans are capable of pulling that lever as if it were normal part of a job.  I’m capable of doing that, why, how?  

After refueling Incirlic came up with directions on what to do about the bomb. They instructed us to drop the nuclear weapon off the coast in the Mediterranean near Incirlin in shallow water. .

The co-pilot’s voice sounded exasperated, “We can’t drop it, it is hung up.”

Incerlic said the other option was to ditch the plane in the the Mediterranean near the shore.

The pilot announced on the intercom that we would try the throw the bomb maneuver, something the Airforce had determined should not be done with the B47 because of the strain on its fragile wings. In this maneuver the plane would make a low approach to the target, then pull up steeply and release the bomb when there was a strong gravitation force that would throw the bomb clear of the aircraft. It might work if the plane didn’t fall apart.

We made fast decent to near sea level, picked a lot of airspeed, the pilot pulled back sharply and we shot up pulling a lot G’s which if that didn’t break the nuke lose nothing would. Suddenly the plane began to role, the pilot screamed into the intercom, bail out, we’ve lost a wing!

 I had no choice but to use the unreliable downward ejecting system. I didn’t hesitate, pulled the lever and found myself thrown from the spinning aircraft We were over a thousand feet when the plane broke apart, plenty of time for my chute to open before I hit the water. I saw two other chutes floating down and we all hit the water at about the same time. I got my life jacket inflated and untangled from my chute by the time I was picked up by one of several boats that had been dispatched to the area to respond to whatever occurred.

It took about half an hour for the boat to get us back to a landing where an ambulance met us. By this time, I was feeling the effects of not sleeping for twenty-four hours, having only eaten one C ration during that time and spending over twenty of those hours flying under stressful conditions. A meal and a bed were at the top of my list of things to do. It was not to be. We had our clothing removed, showered, found to be tired, but healthy by the medics. We were given clean uniforms, then we were interviewed by three serious looking Airforce officers. Yes, we had flown through the full width of Russia, prevented from nuking Moscow by a malfunctioning bomb release. We were following Airforce procedures. We had not been recalled from completing the mission, opened our on-board sealed orders and proceeded to carry out those orders. And yes, we had determined that neither of the redundant receivers were functioning when we tried to contact Incirlic Airforce Base.

After completing the interview one of the officers doing the interview, a colonel, reminded us that we all had top secret clearances and that we were aware that we did not divulge information about our missions to anyone unauthorized to know about them and particularly this mission you have just completed.

It seems that two counter balancing failures May have prevented an all-out nuclear war from occurring.  

As far as I know, the Russians may never have known about the almost nuking of Moscow.  If they had they may have suppressed the information, not wanting to admit to the Russian people that a US military aircraft had penetrated Russian airspace and flew undetected across the breath of the country.  

As for myself I returned to Pa’s farm after completing my active duty obligation. We built a state-of-the-art machine shop, and started a company called Original Design. We did custom design work mostly for the agricultural machine manufacturers but also the auto industry. We didn’t do manufacturing but did do protypes and proofing and testing of concepts. We trained some South Dakota farm kids to be become skilled mechanical craftsmen who built and tested prototypes. We also hired an electrical engineer and a couple of technicians as we incorporated electrical and electronic features into our designs. I introduced my Pa to the concept of patents, and we had  a lawyer that spent most of his time in researching, filing and protecting patents we generated.

I never talked to anyone about the missions I flew in the Airforce, and particularly not about where a receiver failure caused the crew to overfly Russia and would have dropped a nuclear bomb on Moscow except that another failure caused the bomb to hang up. I look around our neighborhood which has not changed much during my entire life and think, thank God for failures.

Copyright © 2019 by Alfred Wellnitz

All rights reserved. No part of this story may be used or reproduced by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping or by any information storage retrieval system without the written permission of the author except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, names, incidents, organizations, and dialogue in this short story are either the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

The views expressed in this work are solely those of the author.

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Use Caution When Making Social Changes

Posted on 08/13/2019. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: |

I have suffered through two disastrous presidential elections when the democratic candidates had catastrophic loses. One was George McGovern’s lose to Richard Nixon in 1972 and the other was Walter Mondale’s lose to Ronald Regan in 1984.     

George McGovern won one state, Massachusetts and DC in the 1972 election
Walter Mondale won one state, Minnesota and DC in the 1948 election

A number of the democratic candidates are proposing significant changes relative to citizen verses government responsibilities, changes that are controversial and have the support of the more left democratic voters but questionable support from more moderate democrats, independents and likely few if any republicans.

If the first priority of the democratic party is to defeat Trump, this call for drastic changes in the way our country is organized and operates at this time may be counter productive.

Better to be addressing how to help the farmers who are going through some difficult times, proposing changes to health care that are understandable and possible rather than starting over and adapting a sound byte that can never pass the legislative hurdles, address the disparity between the wealthy and the workers in the country with programs that can be implemented, and fix the damn roads and bridges.

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Free E-Book August 15-19

Posted on 08/02/2019. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , |

Every ninety days an e-book exclusively listed on Amazon can be promoted by offering it as free during a five day period. I normally take advantage of this opportunity to promote one of my e-books during these periods and will be offering the book PushBack during the current period on August 15-19. I had a hard time writing PushBack. I struggled with it for six years. That should have given me a clue that authoring the book might be a bad idea. I did not have an affiliation with the places the story took place, the people, black Americans, lesbians, but I persisted.

The geneses for the book was 9/11 and the War on Terrorism. In my opinion declaring War on Terrorism is like declaring war on the ocean. What are you declaring war on, a descriptive noun? The word terrorism goes back to the first century AD. There are good terrorist and bad terrorist, depending on your point of view. The War on Terrorism persisted as a false notion in my mind until around 2005 when I decided to write a novel where the terrorist were the good guys. That is when my difficulties started in writing this novel. I have had some good reviews and some very bad reviews. I lean toward agreeing with what the bad reviews had to say. Surprisingly the book was finalist in the Foreword Book of the Year Awards.

After this introduction would anyone want to read this book. I doubt it but if they do I would dare them to write an honest review of the book.

YOUNG AFRICAN AMERICAN LAWYER JIM REED seemingly has it all. Recently named a junior partner in an Atlanta law firm, Jim is shocked when he stops at his usual gas station and realizes the price of fuel has skyrocketed overnight to fifty dollars a gallon. It is 2033, and the world as Jim knows it is suddenly spinning wildly out of control. Sudden hyperinflation shocks everyone. As panic sets in, the value of the dollar plummets and the resulting devastation causes the United States to splinter into several countries, all of which adopt democratic rules except the Federated States, the one in which Jim Reed and girlfriend Linda Alonzo live. They find themselves citizens of a country governed by a white-supremacist dictatorship. Jim Reed joins a group of African American insurgents and finds himself involved in dangerous, bold attacks on Federated States targets. The insurrection causes the Federated States government to intern or exile the entire Federated States African American population. Reed goes into exile and as he recruits like-minded people to join together with the intent to destroy the Federated States Supremacist government, he conceives a plan that may just become the world’s greatest act of terrorism.

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Designated Gardener Notes, July 2019

Posted on 07/31/2019. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , |

Not too much “All About Books” has been happening this summer. The Braeswood Condominium gardens have using up a lot of time. I have been doing the gardens for fifteen years, but as I slow down it takes longer to do what has to be done.

I am keeping up with reading, having a book or two in progress most of the time. I’m reading Frida by Barbara Mujica. This is a book that starts out with a lot of shock-and-awe and doesn’t let up. I’m learning bad words I hadn’t been aware before, There is a lot of body physical descriptions and functions mixed in with a story that explores human nature as it reacts to reality and personal limitations. That said, the book deals with real people and real events. This includes the Mexican revolution early in the twentieth century and two famous Mexican artist, Frida and Diego Rivera told through the eyes of Frida’s sister Cristina. I find it an interesting read. Not one of those books your can’t put down but when you pick it up again you are glade you did. I plan to do a full review when I finish the book. A interesting sidebar My wife Joan and I visited the Frida family home, the Blue House, eight years ago in Mexico City when visiting our daughter who lived there for a period of time. It has been preserved as a museum

At the same time I’m listening to another book, Forgotten Soidier, by Cuy Sajer. Cuy had a French Father and German mother who lived Alsace-Lorraine which was occupied by the Germans in the 1930’s. Cuy was drafted into the German army when sixteen years old and sent to the Eastern Front in 1942. The book is listed in Amazon as a memoir and but it soon became obvious that it was story of events as recalled by Cuy while on the Eastern Front but many of the details were fictional. This disappointed me. I thought I had been sold a bill of goods. However, after getting used to the idea that the book was not factual in every detail I continue listening to the book and appreciating it for what it is. It does provide a vivid description of the hell that the Eastern Front provided for the ordinary German soldier.

This year has been good to gardens in the Minnesota Twin Cities area. Ample moisture, but not too much. Some areas in Minnesota have received too much rain. Lawns have remained green without the aid of irrigation. We do have friendly deer visiting the Braewood gardens often since we located across the street from a wildlife area. They can do selective and devastating damage to a garden in a short period of time. Although deer are normally selective in what they will eat, they will eat the buds of almost any plant. I try to be proactive and use a product called Invisible Fence to deter them. However, sometimes I’m caught off guard and they will eat something I’m not expecting them be eating or in a place where I don’t expect them to be.

We are getting a healthy number of bees and butterfly’s on Monarda, Catmint, Black Eyed Susan, Salvia and Coneflowers. Still to come is the late sedum, one of the bee favorite plants. We also have a growing crop of milk weeds in a bed of Sumac plants so we are doing our part to help Monarch butterfly’s survive.

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Designated Gardner Notes June 2019

Posted on 06/24/2019. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , |

June has been good to gardeners in the Minnesota Twin Cities area. Relatively mild weather, ample moisture. As the designated gardener for Braewood Condominiums, the gardens have kept me busy this spring and I have had little time to work on putting together a collection of short stories, my next author project. This is due in part to age, which increases every year whether you need it or not. What I once did in a day may now that me a week to accomplish. Not complaining, better to take week verses not being able to do it at all. Below is a recent selfy:

That is a new hat I wear gardening when the sun is shining. I have always been sensitive to sun and ignored the prob;em until recently when it has become more of a problem. I could have bought a hat for a fraction of what I paid for this one. I bought the hat in the South Dakota State University gift shop. Note the decal of the the SDSU mascot, a jackrabbit, on the front of the hat. That made it worth what ever I paid for it.

Pictured below are pictures of some of the gardens stars during June:

Salvia puts on its best display in June. Salvia can be cut back after completing its early bloom and it will bloom again but not with the vigor it displays in its first bloom.

Catmint and more salvia dominate the parking lot circle during June,.

Salvia again reigns at the 98th street sign during June

Hardy roses begin their annual bloom in June which will last until late fall if maintained regularly during the summer. This includes deadheading, fertilizing and controlling Japanese Beatles and other pests..

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For The Cause; Free ebook

Posted on 06/23/2019. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

I have not been very successful in marketing the books I have written. I know I am not good at marketing and maybe the books aren’t that good either. However I have been quite successful in giving books away free so to that end:

The ebook For the Cause will be available at Amazon for free download starting on July 4 and continuing through July 8.

Synopsis:

Two South Dakota farm boys decide to join the marines for a number of reasons, none of which include patriotism or love of country. It is 1950 and they complete boot camp just as the Korean War suddenly erupts. Chris finds himself assigned to the First Provisional Marine Brigade being hurriedly put together to be deployed to Korea. Pete is assigned to a marine unit providing base security for the Sangley Point Naval Air Station in the Philippines. The story follows the lives of the two young men during the last six months of 1950 while Chris in Korea is involved in the Pusan Perimeter, Inchon and the Chosin Reservoir battles and Pete spends his time as a security guard in the Philippines. Over a short period of time Chris goes from a green farm boy to a seasoned warrior and Pete’s world expands quickly as he encounters unfamiliar moral standards and first love. The story alternates between Chris in Korea and Pete in the Philippines until the story comes to a surprising conclusion

Authors Note; In writing For the Cause

My first plan had been to write a short novel which would concentrate on the part of the For the Cause story that took place in the  Philippines. The two main characters, Pete and Chris, would appear in the story with Pete in the Philippines and Chris in Korea but the Korean War would be in the background. However, as I researched the Korean War I began to better understand the epic role played by the marines in the early months of that war. I had been in the Navy during the Korean War and spent two years during that time in the Far East as a crewman on navy reconnaissance planes that patrolled the Korean coastline and adjacent areas in the region. As involved as I had been in the Korean conflict I found I didn’t have an appreciation of the role played by the marines during that war. For example, I believed the Chosin Reservoir battle had been an embarrassing defeat for the marines. I learned during researching the subject that the Chosin Reservoir battle is considered to be one of the Marine Corps finest hours. I hadn’t understood the tremendous odds the marines had to overcome in the successful withdrawal from the Chosin Reservoir nor the background and politics that had put the marines in the exposed position they were in at the time. It occurred to me that if I, as involved as I was in the conflict, did not appreciate the pluck and skill shown by the marines during the conflict, most other people would have little or no knowledge of the role the US Marines played in the Korean War. The Korean War has been called the Forgotten War and I realized For the Cause could be a means of revealing some of its history so others could become more aware of what had occurred during the Korean war. As a result the book  For the Cause became a full length novel with an expanded purpose.

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Designated Gardener Notes

Posted on 05/27/2019. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , |

Early Blooming Bleeding Hearts Putting on Their Show

I became the designated gardener of our condominium when we moved here and suggested the landscaping could be improved. There was resistance to the idea by some owners who believed the lawn, trees and few scrubs that existed were adequate. However, after making some landscape improvements most people wanted more and we now have a numerous perennial gardens and flowering scrubs on the association property. I was 76 years old when we moved into our condominium fifteen years ago. If you do the math it will be apparent that my days as the designated gardener can’t last much longer. During the last few years I’ve asked myself if I could still do it. So far, every spring of those years I have found I could do it. One of these springs I will find I can’t do it and hopefully another designated gardener will appear.

The spring garden chores are about over. This included inspecting for winter damage. There were no loses despite a severe cold period, but some damage to boxwood bushes and to last year’s newly planted hydrangeas. Any emerging plants covered with leaves or pines needles were uncovered. Plants to be moved or divided were then dwelt with and new plants, shrubs and trees were planted. All the plants except rhododendrons were treated with a slow release fertilizer. The rhododendrons were fertilized after blooming. Any weeds that survived the winter were removed. After fertilizing, the gardens were mulched where needed using wood chips, pine needles or leaves. After mulching a weed suppressor was applied where needed. Toward the end of May seven containers were were filled with potting soil and annuals planted. These tasks took most of my time in May, in part because it takes me a week to do what I used to do in a day. I had help from the people that do our lawn and snow removal. I had them divide the Forster Reed Grass along the parking lot and at the front sign, plant some junipers and spireas and spread eight cu. yds. of mulch.

We replaced the contractors that had been doing the lawn care this year.  First impression has been good. The person that owns the business is also involved in work being done. Makes a difference. The previous contractor worked in a office and had a layer of managers between him and the people that actually did the work. The people that did the work changed often and likely were not concerned about customer satisfaction. No matter how automated the world becomes there will always be a need for people who provide services that can’t be automated and those services can best be provided by individuals who have a personal interest in providing the most satisfactory service they can deliver.

With the spring chores wrapping up, I hope to spend time on putting together two books of short stories that I am working on.

Below, a picture of a happy Gnome sitting in a bed of sedum.

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Having Lived History

Posted on 05/04/2019. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Having been born in 1927, before the Wall Street crash in 1929 and growing up during the Great Depression and having experienced the dust storms during the historic 1930’s drought qualified me to give a talk to the Milbank South Dakota middle school 7th and 8th graders about the experience of growing up on a farm in the area during those times.

This opportunity to talk to the Milbank Middle School students evolved from my contacting Greg Cantine an 8th grade teacher at the Milbank Middle School. I had been searching for a picture of Milbank’s main street to use in a story I was writing and found one in a blog that Greg maintained. I contacted Greg to find out if I could use the picture. This led to discussing other aspects of our lives and Greg, one of those dedicated teachers always thinking of his students, suggested that I give a talk to his class about my experiences growing up in the Milbank area.
Greg’s students had spent time studying local history and to have
a person who had lived some of that history would provide another perspective to what they had learned in studying the subject.

I embraced the idea and Greg proceeded to make the arrangements for me to talk to his students. Eventually both the 7th and 8th grade glasses were scheduled to listen to my presentation and on April 24 I had the pleasure of speaking to these handsome, well-mannered students. They were for the most part attentive, maybe in part because I had a Power Point presentation with numerous pictures. There is something about South Dakota children. Most of them seem to mature into adults who do their best to contribute to society to the best of their ability. This is an admirable trait. I’m not sure if this has something to do with the climate, teachers like Greg, or one of those unexplained phenomenons that we don’t need to know the answer to.

Addressing the Milbank 7th and 8th grade students

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The Season For Minnesota Gardens is Short

Posted on 04/14/2019. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

It is April 13 in Bloomington Minnesota and I look out the window and see snow as I make plans for the garden work to be done starting next week. The frost is out so planting shrubs and perennials could be done now if one is inclined to dig through some snow.

One of my bad habits is writing novels and short stories and another is gardening. I live in a condominium that my wife and I moved into in 2004. I was an instigator in having the condominium landscaping improved. In 2004 the landscaping consisted of grass, shrubs and trees. I succeeded having the association develop perennial gardens, plant new and replace worn out shrubs and plant additional trees. We also added flower pots planted with annuals at the entry side of the association building. During this process I became the Braewood Association default volunteer gardener/landscape person.


Dry Creek
Parking Lot Border
Lamp Post Planters

Circle Garden
98th Street Sign

These landscape improvements added significantly to the Braewood grounds eye appeal. It has also added significantly to the landscape maintenance requirements. Up until the time when I became a care giver for my wife, who left us almost two years ago, I had been able to handle the added maintenance. Also, as the years come and go, I have become less physically able and need help with the more strenuous activities. Now I glance out my widow occasionally, at the snow, while I plan the next years garden projects.

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Free: Copy of Finding the Way

Posted on 04/07/2019. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

Get a free ebook copy Of Finding the Way Thursday April 18 through Monday April 22.

Karl Mueller, son of a Prussian peasant family undertakes a long journey in order to reach his goal to homestead land in America. Karl meets companion Heinrich Schlicter on the ship taking him on the first step of what becomes a seven year odyssey. The two remain friends and partners as they travel across the young country and encounter hardship, love, adventure and danger while Karl pursues his goal. Karl’s first priority is to accumulate enough money to finance his homestead plans. The quest to accumulate the needed stake takes the two young men to Chicago’s notorious meat-packing plants, to a Wisconsin lumber camp, and to the Black Hills 1876 gold rush. While in the Black Hills, Karl falls in love with a mixed blood Lakota Indian woman who helps him redefine his goal and to understand who he really is.
A blending of history and social issues with a compelling story makes Finding the Way entertaining and informative reading.

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