A Short Story: Making the Numbers Work

Posted on 08/01/2018. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , |

I have written many short stories and now plan to put some of them together to publish a printed and eBook version of a book of short stories. Below is a short story to be included in a book of cold war short stories. This is considered to be a draft and any comments, note of errors would be appreciated.

Jim Fowler settled down in his corner office with his first vendor machine cup of coffee. The coffee was pretty bad but the only alternative would be bringing a thermos. The corner office with a door represented a measure of his success as a longtime employee of the Data Control Corporation, commonly known as DCC. It took a while, over twenty years to reach this position. Fowler started out as a mechanical design engineer and was finally put in charge of all program management for all space systems programs. DCC had a reputation for highly reliable, light weight, miniature sized yet capable computers for use in space for its government customers. Business had been good with President Reagan promoting his Star Wars missile defense system but that could change since the Berlin Wall had come down a month previously.

There had been a lot of pressure with the job and Jim attributed the stress to his overweight condition and loss of hair. Jim had thought about doing some exercise, maybe jogging. Trouble is he should lose some weight before he tried jogging. It was one of those chicken and egg things. There wasn’t much that could be done about the growing bald spot on the crown of his head. Combing what hair he had over the bald spot wasn’t much of an improvement.

Despite the pressure Jim liked his position, head of program management in Space Systems programs with staff of a half a dozen working on proposals, program budgets, scheduling and four program managers in charge of seven multimillion dollar programs between them. He was making more money and wielded more power than he ever would have had as a design engineer and thought he had a talent for the job. He had a reputation as a good negotiator, was liked by customers who were prime contractors for the most part like Lockheed and Boeing. He also became known as a demanding kick ass type by his program and department managers that supplied the engineers, technicians, assemblers and support people that worked on the programs. Like most of the DCC management, his background and training had been technical, not people oriented. As a result the company depended on self-trained or gifts from God type managers for the most part. Jim suspected he had been born with above average management skills.

Jim’s phone rang. He hesitated to answer it. He suspected it might be Gerald Blackstone, director of the Government Systems Division calling about an overrun on the Eagle One program that showed up in the last monthly financial report.

Gerald growled “Good morning Jim.” To Jim, Gerald’s voice didn’t sound like it was going to be a good morning.

Gerald continued, “Say Jim, that Eagle One program is over budget, behind schedule. What are you doing to fix it?”

What Jim heard wasn’t any news to him and shouldn’t be any news to Gerald Blackstone. Alex Jorden, the program manager that prepared the Eagle One proposal had instructed all of the departments doing the estimating to bid it skinny. The procurement would be fixed price and competitive. A potential for follow on programs added value to the current procurement.  The systems use would be for surveillance, something not likely to be cut during defense spending cuts. Last but not least, the division backlog had been shrinking and without new business there would be headcount reductions.

Alex had negotiated and cajoled the department managers to cut the bid to the bone and then division management cut the low ball estimates by twenty percent. They were rolling the dice, betting that other division programs could make up any Eagle One losses so the division would be able to post an acceptable profit and level of business during the coming year. Now division management wanted to know why the program was running over budget. This was likely due in part because other programs weren’t taking up the slake and division profit margins were suffering. As a result, division management was under critical scrutiny by corporate management. Jim hesitated to answer, he didn’t want to say what he was thinking; which was, you dumb asses, what were you expecting?

“Hello, anybody there?” Gerald asked after waiting a while for an answer.

Jim faked a small cough to let Gerald know he was still on the line. He was trying to think of ways to stall or dodge the question. No doubt Gerald Blackstone was under pressure from corporate to show a division year end profit to be rolled into the corporate annual report. Jim began fabricating an answer to Gerald’s question. “We are working the problem,” he said without going into any detail. “I’ll have a work around plan on your desk Monday morning.”

After discussing a number of issues on other programs Gerald signed off reminding Jim he looked forward to seeing the work around plan on Monday.

Jim rocked back in his desk chair and stared at the ceiling after hanging up the phone. He didn’t want to work this weekend on the “Plan.” For one thing it seemed to be an exercise in futility and the other thing is that he had better things planned for the week end.  He dialed Alex Jorden’s office located several doors down the hall. “Alex, you got a minute or an hour or so to talk about the Eagle One program?”

At the time Jim called, Alex Jorden manager of the Eagle One program, was in the middle of preparing the customer Eagle One monthly progress report. It was good timing for him and he grabbed a couple Eagle One binders and headed for Jim’s office.

Alex had a boyish face with a full head of hair that made him look young for a man about to turn fifty. A lot of activities with his two sons, nine and eleven, helped him stay in shape. Alex like most managers in the company had technical backgrounds. Trained as an electrical engineer, he loved design and was good at it. Like many good design engineers, he had been awarded by making him a manager of other engineers. It took Alex some time to realize he didn’t like managing people, particularly egotistical engineers.

The problem with leaving management and going back to computer design was that technology evolved at a fast pace at the design level and a person away for couple of years could become obsolete. Transistors were packaged individually in cans when he was designing, now they put thousands on a microchip. Instead of doing logic at the transistor level they were doing it at the microchip level. Sure, he could do it but it would be like starting over.  He worked around the problem by going into program management where he had to understand the nature of the technology changes but not the nitty gritty of implementing them. In program management he didn’t manage people, he managed things, like proposals, budgets, schedules and was the primary interface with the customer. He could handle that.

Jim waved Alex to sit at a side table where they could spread out program data. “Here’s the problem,” Jim said as an introduction to what they had to do today. “Division management wants to know why Eagle One is overrunning its budget. Apparently, they don’t want us to tell them what they already know. We bought the program, an investment that will pay off someday in the murky future. Apparently corporate wants the division contracts to pay off today, to hell with the murky future. So, all we have to do is come up with a plan to show how we can make a profit from a contract we bought with a bid that we estimated would twenty percent less than cost. How do we do that?

Alex looked at Jim, “Are they serious?”

“We are supposed to come up with a work around plan by Monday morning.”

“We can give them the plan this afternoon,” Alex replied. “It’ll be a note that says it can’t be done. We have technical problems we don’t even know how to solve. A twenty percent overrun could be a low-ball estimate. I’m hardly charging the program. I keep haggling the department managers to keep the cost down. We have put as much pressure on the vendors as the law allows. Some of the vendors are betting on the follow on, just like us.”

Jim, who had been scanning a print out of charges on the Eagle One program looked up, “That’s interesting,” He said.

Alex wanted to know what’s interesting.

“Are you doing any work on Eagle One?” Jim replied. “Don’t look like you are charging hardly any time to it.”

“You know time is charged to what you are working on, a program, a proposal, overhead if you are on vacation, sick-leave.”

“So you don’t spend much time on Eagle One?”

Alex didn’t like where the conversation had gone. Mischarging on government contracts was a no no which could result in heavy penalties for the company and individuals. Alex managed two phases of the Eagle One program; one phase a fixed price contract to develop of a new computer, and a related but separate cost-plus program to manufacture a dozen satellite computers of previous design for use in a NSA program. The production program had been negotiated a year earlier as a none-competitive cost-plus contract. The government had little leverage as no other suppliers had the technology or the interest in competing for the business. As a result, DCC Space Systems loaded up the contract which the prime contractor was only able to negotiate out some the most egregious charges. The result had been a contract with a lot of padding and Jim knew damn well what Alex had been doing.

Alex didn’t answer the question but Jim answered it for him. “Hey,” Jim said, “It’s no big deal; we all fudge project funds given an opportunity and need. Maybe that’s a solution, doing something like this on a bigger scale.

What Jim had just said scared Alex. “What are you saying?” Alex asked, hoping maybe he had misunderstood Jim.

“Well you have two programs, one that is starving and the other one is fat. Same prime customer, same government agency, you just balance things out between the two of them.”

Alex was aware of those kinds of shenanigans went on with cost plus programs where there were two contracts within the same program and two buckets of money and how you filled them didn’t make much difference in the big picture as long as they didn’t overflow. Two programs, one program cost plus and the other fixed price is a different story. People get fired, companies get fined and get a black mark when those kinds of things are mixed together. Alex had over twenty years invested in DCC and didn’t want to risk it in order to make management happy. He pointed out these obvious problems to Jim.

Jim wasn’t impressed. “There’s more than one way to get fired,” he replied. “The quickest way is to mismanage your programs. If you are given an impossible program to manage you have to figure out how to manage it. I’m in the same line of fire as you are. I see a way to fix the problem and everyone will be happy and none the wiser.”

Ales felt the pressure. Jim evaluated Alex’s performance in the annual reviews and made salary recommendations. These evaluations went into his file and stayed there forever. A bad evaluation in his record could affect his future in DCC in a bad way. Besides Alex was not sure how they could accomplish what Jim implied. How could they manage the time card information?  Alex couldn’t think of a shuttle way to ask Jim how the manipulation of time card information would be accomplished so laid it out on the table. “How do you intend to modify the time cards?” He asked.

“Hey Alex, as far as we are concerned, this conversation never took place. I expect you will work out the details and I don’t want to know how it’s done.” He said they had accomplished what they needed to do in the meeting and Alex should get busy working on the plan to be completed by Monday.

Alex felt a migraine headache coming on after leaving Jim’s office. Alex had been looking forward to a weekend of canoeing with his two sons. They would be canoeing on a nearby river, leaving Saturday, camping overnight and returning Sunday evening. Now he had this problem hanging over his head, an impossible problem to be solved in any legitimate way.

Alex hadn’t been asked if he agreed with the scheme Jim had come up with. Jim had decided what to do and told Alex to do it. This was Jim’s style. So, Alex knew he would be in trouble with Jim if he didn’t do as directed, and he would be in trouble with the customer if they found out what was going on. There were no good scenarios.

Alex  went on the canoe trip with his two boys as planned and he decided he wouldn’t let his work problems spoil the canoe trip for the boys. The first day they were going down river with the current helping them. They stopped often observed the rivers wildlife. They caught a couple nice walleyes that they roasted on a fire for a shore dinner that evening. They did some more fishing from shore that night and caught a few small sunfish that they returned to the river. They got into their sleeping bags early because they would be paddling upstream to return to their put in spot the following day. The following day they didn’t take many breaks as they worked against the current. It was a day devoted to rowing. The boys took turns rowing the bow position. It was evening by the time they had made it back and tied the canoe onto the cars luggage rack. While driving home Alex felt exhausted but felt that he had done a good days work. The boys were also exhausted and were soon sleeping in odd positions in the car.

 

In addition to having a fun weekend with his boys, Alex had worked out a plan in his mind to satisfy Jim’s order to fix the Eagle One program.

The scheme Alex concocted involved collecting time cards on Friday that would be turned in by noon. He would then close the door to his office and select cards to be modified and replace them with time cards that had been altered. He would forge the employee’s signature on the altered card by looking at the real signature and duplicating it as best he could. He had tried to think of better ways to do it but using white out or cross outs would obviously be spotted.

In addition, Alex decided during the canoe trip that he would begin looking for a new job. The twenty plus years he had invested in DCC had lost its importance after the time card meeting with Jim.

He found the defense business job market had tightened. The USSR was collapsing, the cold war ending and technology people exiting the defense business were crowding the rest of the technology world. Alex spent a month chasing leads, contacting every local business that might need his skills. He didn’t want to move out of the area. He and his family had put down roots that would be hard to extract.

A month went by and the next Eagle One budget report showed remarkable improvement. Jim congratulated Alex on how he had managed to improve the program performance

Alex began calling former associates who had left DCC recently to find out what they were doing and if they knew of any opportunities.

He called Frank Dawkins, a sharper than average engineer who had been lured away from DCC by a startup. Alex found that Frank had left the start up after three months.

“They didn’t know what to hell they were doing,” Frank said. “So, I decided to start my own company. Have you heard about a thing called the internet? It’s starting to go commercial. I’m looking for C ++ coders. Know any?”

Alex said he didn’t know C ++ but was looking for work.

“What happened with DCC?” Frank asked.

“Short story,” Alex replied, “Still working but looking to leave.”

“Hell Alex, you used to do Fortran, you can learn C++ like nothing. But you know I can’t pay you like a Program Manager at DCC and you will be digging in the nitty gritty.”

Frank went on to describe what they were doing with the internet and seemed to get more excited as he talked. The idea began to appeal to Alex, and he liked the nitty gritty. It wouldn’t be hardware but programming was the same kind of thing. “The idea is appealing,” Alex admitted. “I can handle a pay cut as long as it doesn’t last forever. How about some stock in your little enterprise in lieu of a big salary?”

Frank laughed, “All our professional people have gotten stock, don’t cost the bottom line anything and we can all get rich together.”

They agreed to meet the next day and talk some more. As a result, Alex signed on for a substantial cut in the salary he made at DCC and twenty thousand shares of the new company’s stock.

The next morning Alex gave Jim the required two week notice that he would be leaving the company. Jim looked shocked. “You can’t do that,” he yelled. “You know damn well you can’t do that.”

“I did it,” Alex admitted.

“Stay another year; you’ll get the best raise you ever had.”

“If you’re worried about the time cards I’ll brief you on the process. I’ll help you with it for the next two weeks.”

“Dammit, you know I can’t assign another manager to either program. I’ll have to manage them myself. That’s not going to work. I’ll get you a promotion.”

Alex had been focused on his own problems associated with leaving DCC and hadn’t lost much sleep worrying about the problems he might be causing Jim. But being made aware of some of Jim’s problems wasn’t giving him any heart burn either. He made his best effort to sound sympathetic to Jim’s concerns while suppressing a satisfied smile.

 

Alex soon became immersed in his work in Franks new company and it didn’t take him long to realize the thing called the internet would be transforming the communications world. Franks little company was growing as fast as it could hire engineers, programmers and staff. The stock that had no value when Alex joined the company six months previously now traded on the local market at ten dollars a share.

Through contacts Alex maintained with former DCC associates he learned the government was doing an audit of the Eagle One program, an event that only occurred when something really caught the government’s attention. A couple of months later Alex had lunch with an engineer he had worked with at DCC. The engineer said Jim had suddenly left the company and whole division had been shaken up with a number of directors being replaced. He heard that Jim had been manipulating time cards. “Can you imagine anyone being so dumb?”

Alex shook his head, “Ya, I can imagine it.”

 

 

Copyright © 2015 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 novel 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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A DIVERSION

Posted on 02/16/2016. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

PMB Mariner - WWII American flying boat

Martin Mariner flying boat in flight. U.S. Government photo.

A Diversion is a fictional short story that describes an incident where two marines assigned to the security contingent for the Sangley Point Navy Air Station were involved. It happened during the time the United States Marines in Korea were heavily engaged with the enemy in a number of crucial battles. The story describes what some marines far from the battlefields were doing while the war went on in Korea.

A Diversion

 By

Alfred Wellnitz

 

 

Pete  and Tony, two PFC Marines, had been part of a base security contingent stationed at the US Navy Air Station Sangley Point in the Philippines for the past five months. Pete and Tony had completed boot camp in San Diego two weeks before the North Korans had invaded South Korea and the Cold War suddenly turned hot. Soon after that the United States Marines hastily putting together the First Provisional Brigade to send to Korea. By the fickle finger of fate Pete and Tony ended up at Sangley Point doing guard duty rather than shipping off to Korea as part of the First Provisional Brigade.

Pete and Tony was an odd pair; Pete a six foot two, blond, blue eyed farm boy from South Dakota and Tony, a ruddy first generation Mexican American who called San Diego California his home town. Both had just turned twenty and full of testosterone. They weren’t friends in boot camp but became close friends after arriving together in the Philippines. For Pete, Tony’s Spanish was a plus because it gave them an in with the mestiza women in Manila.

Pete and Tony followed news about the Marines in Korea who fought battles to hold the Pusan parameter, then led the landings at Inchon and were now in the mountains in North Korea fighting the Chinese.

Pete had mixed fillings about their situation as part of the security at the Sangley Point Air Station. He had enlisted in the marines with a neighbor farm boy, Chris, who ended up in the First Provisional Brigade. He had told Tony that sometimes he wished he was with Chris, fighting in Korea like a real Marine.

“Are you crazy?” Tony wanted to know. “Got maybe the best job in the Marines and you want to be in Korea.”

“Ya, doing things like real marines do.”

“Well real marines do guard duty, drink lots cold beer and get hustled by women in Cavity and Manila” Tony argued. “I like what we’re doing, we get back to the states and they aren’t going to know if you been to Korea or doing guard duty at Sangley Point.”

“Ya, but I’ll know”

“Hey, you’ll get over it.”

“Besides it gets kinda boring,” Pete added, “after a month or two.”

“Better to be bored than shot at.”

 

A couple of weeks later Pete and Tony had agreed to meet that afternoon in the  enlisted men’s club when Pete finished his main gate watch. They decided to go to the patio at the back of the club where they would be in the shade that time of the day and drink a cool frosted mug of San Michaels beer.

The patio projected out over the bay and provided a view of the workings of the sea plane base that was part of the Sangley Point Navy Air Station. Sangley Point also had a runway to handle land based planes. Land based and seaplane patrol planes based in the west coast of the United States rotated in and out of Sangley point on six month tours. There were four other land-based patrol planes parked in a restricted area at Sangley that didn’t rotate. They had their own guards and were involved in some secret activity. Base personnel had started calling the secret outfit the 50-footers because of a rumor that if you got closer than within fifty feet of their area, they would shoot you.

While Pete and Tony drank their beer a lumbering seaplane moved to a takeoff position. They watched the seaplane for a while as it sat in the bay like a half-submerged turtle. Pete said that the navy called it a PBM.

“Bet that thing can’t fly,” Tony surmised.

“We see them flying all the time.”

Tony agreed, “I know.”

The plane finally got itself lined up for takeoff.

Pete and Tony could hear the two engines roar and half submerged plane started moving slowly through the water. It gathered speed and the plane rose up and started planing through the water like a high speed motor boat and the ugly duckling was soon flying.

“I’ll be dammed, it does fly,” Tony admitted.

Two days later a rumor circulated that a PBM had run into a mountain on Bataan Peninsula during a rain storm. A few days later at muster they were asking for volunteers to go up the mountain and pick up the remains. Anyone interested, let your platoon sergeant know.

As soon as muster had finished Pete collard Tony and said he was going to volunteer and wanted to know if Tony wanted to go.

“Are you nuts,” Tony asked. “The remains will have lain in the tropic heat over a week by the time we get there. Don’t think so.”

“It’ll be a break from the old routine.”

“And then some. OK,” Tony replied, “I’m easy, let’s get it out or your system.”

Pete and Tony learned that their platoon sergeant, Sergeant Klowoski would be the senior non-commissioned marine on the crash site team going to Bataan and would be in charge of the marine contingent. He gave the marine contingent the details of their task. “Officer in charge of the operation will be LTCD Richards, the PBM squadron executive officer. Two navy crash site investigators will be part of the team and two navy corpsmen. The corpsmen will help identify victims and put the pieces together. This won’t be a picnic. Six Philippine army soldiers that know the terrain and environment will also come with us. The Philippine soldiers will carry their weapons. Everyone else will carry a sidearm. Don’t expect to run into any Huks, but could run into some aggressive scavengers. We’ll sail on a LCU, Landing Craft Utility,  to get close to the site. There’re no roads. It’s estimated we will have to cut through a couple of miles of jungle from the nearest good beaching site. We’ll use the LCU as a command center. There is a lot of room on the LCU but limited accommodations. It can haul tanks and over a hundred men, but it isn’t a hotel. Any questions?”

Tony asked, “How long is this going to take?”

“Getting ready, the job itself, and then cleaning up is expected to take about a week.”

“Will we be spending nights in the jungle or on the boat?” someone asked.

“Both,” the sergeant replied. “We won’t be returning to the LCU to sleep. If we are at the boat at the end of the day, we’ll sleep there. If we are in the jungle, we’ll sleep there.”

“How do we get the remains out?” someone else asked.

“In body bags carried by two men on a stretcher.”

“Won’t that be kinda heavy, down the mountain?”

“The doctors say most of the body fluids will be gone, animals will most likely have consumed some of the remains, shouldn’t be too heavy.”

Pete began to feel queasy just thinking about it.

 

The crash site team boarded the LCU on Friday. While they waited to get underway, Pete and Tony visited with Sergeant Klowoski.

“My normal tour for this place is up in three months,” Klowoski said. “The way things are going up north, could be sooner. The First Division is getting pretty beat up in the Chosin Reservoir. Can you imagine fighting when the temperature is minus forty degrees? Jesus. War is hell in decent weather. You can thank your lucky asses you are in the Philippines living the good life.”

The conversation steered Pete’s mind to Chris, his South Dakota buddy. Very likely Chris was in the middle of those hellish conditions. God, Pete thought, boredom is my biggest problem.

After two hours of cruising, the LCU reached the entrance to Manila Bay and passed between the tip of the Bataan Peninsula and Corregidor Island. They cruised along the west coast of the Bataan Peninsula for another two hours until they reached a place near the crash site. They pushed up to the beach and prepared to spend the night on the landing craft. It had started to rain, so the team rigged up a tarpaulin on the back half of the open deck to shelter their sleeping cots.

In the morning Pete, Tony, and the rest of the team headed into the jungle to make their way to the crash site. They were loaded down with everything they would need to live in the jungle while they worked at the site. Their gear included shelters, rain wear, and water and food for three days in addition to eleven body bags, six rolled-up stretchers, and gear to be used for extracting body parts from the wreckage.

The two-tiered jungle consisted of a high canopy which grew above thick, almost impenetrable undergrowth. Five marines at a time were set to work with machetes in half-hour shifts to hack a path through the undergrowth. When a team started a shift, they slipped off their heavy packs and took the machetes from the marines who had the previous shift. Pete, familiar with hard work, had no doubts that he could handle cutting a path through the jungle with a machete. Since age sixteen, he had been throwing around feed sacks weighing a hundred pounds and pitching heavy bundles of grain during threshing season in the hottest part of the South Dakota summer.

After only a short time of chopping the undergrowth, Pete’s T-shirt became soaked with sweat. Every whack of the machete raised a swarm of biting insects. The thickness of the jungle prevented any breeze that might help relieve the stifling heat. Pete and Tony weren’t doing much talking, saving their energy for the work at hand. About halfway through their shift, they came upon some unnatural mounds and holes in their path. “You know what?” Pete said between deep breaths as he worked. “These must be World War II earthworks. The Americans and Filipinos fought the Japanese in this stinking jungle for about three months at the start of the war.”

“You think so?” Tony answered. “Can you imagine fighting in a place like this? Didn’t take long for the jungle to cover it up.”

Pete did the math. “’Bout nine years,” he said.

After finishing their shift the team walked back down the path they had cleared to retrieve their packs. Tony recounted all of the reasons it had been such a mean job, including that they were working on a steep incline.

Pete agreed. “The hills I know go up and down, not up and up. How high you think this hill is?”

“Mountain,” Tony replied. “This is a mountain, not one of those South Dakota hills you’re used to. I think I heard its two thousand feet high. I’ve been on mountains higher than this in Mexico that were a lot easier to climb. No jungle, just rock and sagebrush. The plane crashed about halfway up the side of this mountain.”

Pete speculated that the plane didn’t know where they were. “They should have known they were flying lower than some of the hills around here.”

“Mountains,” Tony corrected. “I heard they had lost an engine and were flying in a rainstorm. I talked to an airman at the EM Club, said a mountain can make a big shadow on radar, looks like water. They could have thought the mountain was the entry to Manila Bay.”

“Could be” Pete acknowledged. “Could have died before they knew they had a problem.”

By the time the team took a noon break, they were more than half the distance to the crash site. The party opened C-rations for lunch but had little time to relax. After half an hour, Sergeant Klowoski put the next team of trail-breakers to work. “We need to get to the site in time to set up camp before dark,” he said. “Tomorrow we’ll get started on the job we’re here to do.” That afternoon the usual tropical shower developed, and the men donned rain gear and kept going. They arrived at the site of the crash in the early evening. The plane had flown straight into a mountainside that inclined about forty-five degrees so the area of impact was relatively small. The navy investigators established a perimeter around the site and the team set up camp just outside the perimeter.

The investigators spoke to the team members who would be removing the bodies, described the plans for the following day. The investigators would first do a walk-around with the marines and navy medics to find the downed airmen’s bodies and identify things the investigators didn’t want to be disturbed during the bodies’ removal. During the walk-around, the marines would hack down any foliage that might impede the work. The walk-around would take most of the following morning.

It had grown dark by the time the team ate their C-rations, and many of them turned in early. It had been a long day, and the following day would be no exception.

The marines and medics spent the next morning walking the crash site with the investigators to flag all of the visible bodies and body parts. It was not a pleasant experience for Pete. He had seen dead people before: a cousin who died young of leukemia, his grandmother on his mother’s side. They were laid out in fancy coffins, dressed in their best, looked like they were sleeping. These bodies didn’t look anything like that. He had tried to prepare himself for what he expected to be a difficult experience, but reality overpowered his imagination. The crash had occurred almost a week before, and the bodies were infested with maggots and insects and had been mutilated by feeding animals. An appalling odor pervaded the site.

At lunch time, Pete couldn’t eat. He lay in his hot pup tent and tried to prepare himself for the afternoon ahead. After the mid-day break, the medics and marines split into two teams. They donned face masks, rubber gloves, and aprons and went to work. Each five-man team worked with a body until they were satisfied they had identified the crewman and had bagged the body and all of its parts. Pete and Tony were on the same team. The first body they worked on had been torn apart at the torso. There were dog tags identifying the upper torso, and the medics identified a lower torso with a missing leg to go with it. A partially eaten leg was linked to the one-legged torso by shoes on the two feet which matched in size, type, and amount of wear.

Pete found the actual bagging of the bodies didn’t bother him as much as the walk-around had that morning. The initial shock must have prepared him for what had to be done in the afternoon. By evening, eleven body bags were laid out along one side of the crash site. The next morning, the marines and medics teamed up to carry six of the bodies to the LCU. Each pair of men would carry a body on a stretcher two miles down the jungle path the team had cut two days earlier. Pete and Tony found the two-man carry possible though difficult. Ten-minute breaks every half hour made the task bearable. The route that had taken a day to cover when they were cutting the path to the crash site took only two and a half hours to navigate when they were carrying out the crewmen’s bodies. After reaching the LCU and placing the bodies below deck, the marines returned to the crash site and picked up the last five body bags. When these had been placed aboard the LCU, the marines returned a third time to collect any gear they had left at the campsite. The navy crash investigators, who had spent the day at the crash site, returned to the LCU with the marines on the last trip.

It had become dark by the time the LCU backed off the beach and started the four-hour trip back to Sangley Point. Pete and Tony relaxed and rested their aching muscles as the landing craft pushed its way through a calm sea. Pete, although tired after the day of taxing physical effort, felt satisfied. He tried to communicate his feelings to Tony. “I think we did something important the last few days,” he said.

“What’s that?” Tony asked.

“Well, you know. We identified and retrieved the remains. The families will get the remains, have a decent funeral. That’s important.”

“I suppose,” Tony replied. “I wonder if the families will see the mutilated, decaying flesh we picked up. More than one marine lost their cookies picking them up.”

“So you think we should just leave them up there?” Pete asked.

“I’m sure the dead airmen wouldn’t care one way or the other. If the families saw what we picked up, maybe just covering them up for sanitary reasons would be preferable. We confirmed that they died, that’s good, but beyond that, I guess I don’t understand the need to haul the remains back to Tim Buck Too or wherever.”

Pete didn’t buy it. “That seems immoral, against Marine tradition.”

“The wounded, sure,” Tony replied. “The dead, what’s the point?”

“You’re a real hard ass.”

“I just don’t get too excited about human remains, but haveta admit it hasn’t been boring.”

“We agree on that,” Pete replied.

“And better than being shot at” Tony added.

They dropped the subject and talked about getting together with a couple of mestiza sisters living in Manila the following weekend.

Alfred Wellnitz Published Book and Short Story Information at:

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=alfred+Wellnitz&x=19&y=12

 

Copyright © 2016 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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Making the Numbers Work

Posted on 01/02/2016. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , |

I have written short stories and novels related to my ancestors, my time in the Navy, growing up in South Dakota during the depression and even a novel about the future but never anything related to the thirty three years I worked as an engineer. The short story “Making the Numbers Work” breaks the pattern since it is about a fictional incident that takes place in a technology company during the time I worked as an engineer.

 

Making the Numbers Work

 

Jim Fowler settled down in his corner office with his first vendor cup of coffee. The vendor machine coffee tasted pretty bad but the only alternative to bringing a thermos. Something that Jim didn’t care to do.

The corner office with a door represented a measure of his success as a long term employee of the Data Control Corporation, commonly known as DCC. It took a while, over twenty years. Fowler started out as a mechanical design engineer and finally as the Manager of program management for all space computer programs. DCC had a reputation for miniaturizing highly reliable computers for use in space for its government customers. Business had been good with President Reagan promoting his Star Wars missile defense system but that could change since the Berlin Wall had come down a month previously.

There had been a lot of pressure with the job and Jim attributed the stress to his overweight condition and loss of hair. Jim had thought about doing some exercise, maybe jogging. Trouble is he should lose some weight before he tried jogging. It was the chicken and egg thing. There wasn’t much that could be done about the growing bald spot on the crown of his head. Combing what hair he had over the bald spot wasn’t much of an improvement. Despite the pressure Jim liked his position, head of program management in the Space Systems Division with staff of a dozen working on proposals, program budgets, scheduling and four program managers managing seven multimillion dollar programs between them. He wielded more power than he ever had in engineering and he found he was a tough negotiator and known as a kick ass by department managers working on his programs.

Jim’s phone rang. He hesitated to answer it. He suspected it might be Gerald Blackstone, director of the Space Systems division calling about an overrun on the Eagle One program that showed up in the lasted programs financial report.

Gerald growled “Good morning Jim.” To Jim, Gerald’s voice didn’t sound like it was going to be a good morning.

Gerald continued, “Say Jim, that Eagle One program is over budget, behind schedule again this month. What are you doing to fix it?”

What Jim heard wasn’t any news to him and shouldn’t be any news to Gerald Blackstone. Alex Jorden, the manager that prepared the Eagle One proposal had instructed all of the departments doing the estimating to bid it skinny. The procurement would be fixed price and competitive. A potential for follow on programs added value to the current procurement.  The systems use would be for surveillance, something not likely to be cut during defense spending cuts.  Last but not least, the division backlog had been shrinking and without new business there would be headcount reductions.

Alex had negotiated and cajoled the department managers to cut the bid to the bone and then upper management cut the low ball estimates by twenty percent. Now upper management wanted to know why the program was running over budget. Jim hesitated to answer, he didn’t want to say what he was thinking; like you dumb asses, what were you expecting?

“Hello, anybody there?” Gerald asked after waiting a while for an answer.

Jim faked a small cough to let Gerald know he was still on the line and started to fabricate an answer to Gerald’s question. “We are working the problem,” he said without going into any detail. “I’ll have a work around plan on your desk Monday morning.”

After discussing a number of issues on other programs Gerald signed off reminding Jim he looked forward to seeing the work around plan on Monday.

Jim rocked back in his desk chair and stared at the ceiling after hanging up the phone. He didn’t want to work this weekend on the “Plan.” For one thing it seemed to be an exercise in futility and the other thing is that he had better things planned for the week end.  He dialed Alex Jorden’s office located several doors down the hall. “Alex, you got a minute or an hour or so to talk about the Eagle One program?”

At the time Jim called Alex was in the middle of preparing the customer monthly Eagle One progress report so it was good timing for him and he grabbed a couple Eagle One binders and headed for Jims office.

Alex had boyish face with a full head of hair that made him look young for a man about to turn fifty. A lot of activities with his two sons, nine and eleven, helped him stay in shape. Alex like most managers in the company had technical backgrounds. Trained as an electrical engineer, he loved design and was good at it. Like many good design engineers he had been awarded by making him a manager of other engineers. Alex soon discovered he was a square peg that didn’t fit in a round hole. Managing people, particularly egotistical engineers, was not his cup of tea.

The problem with leaving management and going back to computer design was that computer technology evolved at a fast pace at the design level and a person away for couple of years could become obsolete. Transistors were packaged individually in cans when he was designing, now they put thousands on a microchip. Instead of doing logic at the transistor level they were doing it at the microchip level. Sure he could do it but it would be like starting over.  He worked around the problem by going into program management where he had to understand the nature of the technology changes but not the nitty gritty of implementing them. In program management he managed things, like proposals, budgets, and schedules, not people.  Only one management assistant reported directly to him. He could handle that.

Jim waved Alex to sit at a side table where they could spread out program data. “Here’s the problem,” Jim said as an introduction to what they had to do today. “Division management wants to know why Eagle One is overrunning its budget. Apparently they don’t want us to tell them what they already know. We bought the program, an investment that will pay off someday in the murky future. Apparently corporate wants the division contracts to pay off today, to hell with the murky future. So all we have to do is come up with a plan to show how we can make a profit from a contract we bought with a bid that we estimated would twenty percent less than cost. How do we do that?

Alex lookd at Jim, “Are they serious?”

“We are supposed to come up with a work around plan by Monday morning.”

“We can give them the plan this afternoon,” Alex replied. “It’ll be note that says it can’t be done. We have technical problems we don’t even know how to solve. A twenty percent overrun could be a low ball estimate. I’m hardly charging the program I keep haggling the department managers to keep the cost down. We have put as much pressure on the vendors as the law allows. Some of the vendors are betting on the follow on, just like us.

Jim, who had been scanning a print out of vendor charges on the Eagle One program looked up, “That’s interesting,” He said.

Jim wanted to know what’s interesting.

“What are you charging your time to when you work on Eagle One?”

“You know how that’s done, you charge what you are working on, a program, a proposal, overhead if you are on vacation, sick-leave.”

“So you don’t spend much time on Eagle One?”

Alex didn’t like where the conversation had gone. Mischarging on government contracts was a no no which could result in heavy penalties for the company and individuals. Jim managed the Eagle One program which involved the development of a new computer and a separate production contract for satellite computers used in a NSA program for a decade or more. The production program had been negotiated as a none-competitive cost plus contract.  The government had little leverage as no other suppliers had the technology or the interest in competing for the business. As a result DCC Space Systems loaded up the contract which the prime contractor negotiated out some the most egregious charges. The result had been a contract with a lot of padding and Jim knew damn well what Alex had been doing.

Alex didn’t answer the question but Jim answered it for him. “Hey,” Jim said, “It’s no big deal; we all fudge project times given an opportunity and reason. Maybe that’s a solution, doing something like this on a bigger scale.

What Jim had just said scared Alex. “What are you saying? Alex asked, hoping maybe he had misunderstood Jim.

“Well you have two programs, one that is starving and the other one is fat. Same prime customer, same government agency, you just balance things out between the two of them.”

Alex was aware of those kind of shenanigans went on with cost plus programs where there were two contracts within the same program and two buckets of money and how you filled them didn’t make much difference in the big picture as long as they didn’t overflow. Two programs, one program cost plus and the other fixed price is a different story. People get fired, companies get fined and get a black mark when those kinds of things are mixed together. Alex had twenty years invested in DCC and didn’t want to risk it to make management happy in the short term. He pointed out these obvious problems to Jim.

Jim wasn’t impressed. “There’s more than one way to get fired,” he replied. “The quickest way is to mismanage your programs. If you are given an impossible program to manage you have to figure out how to manage it. I’m in the same line of fire as you are. I see a way to fix the problem and everyone will be happy and none the wiser.”

Ales felt the pressure. Jim evaluated Alex’s performance in the annual reviews and made salary recommendations. These evaluations went into his file and stayed there forever. A bad evaluation in his record could affect his future in DCC in a bad way. Besides Alex was not sure how they could accomplish what Jim implied. How could they manage the time card information?  Alex couldn’t think of a shuttle way to ask Jim how the manipulation of time card information would be accomplished so laid it out on the table. “How do you intend to modify the time cards?” He asked.

“Hey Alex, as far as we are concerned, this conversation never took place. I expect you will work out the details and I don’t want to know how it’s done. Before the end of the day I would like a draft of what we are going to tell upper management what we are doing to eliminate the losses on the program and it won’t be to modify time cards.”  Without further explanation Jim said they had accomplished what they needed to do in the meeting and Alex should get busy drafting the plan to be sent to management.

Alex felt a migraine headache coming on after leaving Jim’s office. He did get a draft plan of a fictional way to fix the cost overrun on the Eagle one program to Alex before leaving for the weekend. Alex had been looking forward to a weekend of canoeing with his two sons, ages eleven and nine. They would be canoeing on a nearby river, leaving Saturday, camping overnight and returning Sunday.  Now he had this problem hanging over his head; how he would implement the time card scam.

Alex hadn’t been asked if he agreed with the scheme Jim had come up with. Jim had decided what to do and told Alex to do it. This was Jim’s style. So Alex knew he would be in trouble with Jim if he didn’t do as directed, and he would be in trouble with the customer if they found out what was going on. There were no good scenarios.

 

The weekend after Alex had been tasked with coming up with a fix for the Eagle One program he had gone on the canoe trip with his two boys as planned. During the canoe trip he worried about how to he would satisfy Jim’s directions to him on how to satisfy management’s desire to cut the Eagle One program losses. By the time Alex and the boys returned from the canoe trip, he had a plan in mind.

The scheme Alex concocted involved collecting time cards on Friday that would be turned in by noon. He would then close the door to his office and select cards to be modified and replace them with a time cards that had been altered. He would forge the employee’s signature on the altered card by looking at the real signature and duplicating it as best he could. He had tried to think of better ways to do it but nothing came up. Using white out or cross outs would obviously be spotted.

Alex also decided during the canoe trip that he would begin looking for a new job. The twenty years he had invested in DCC had lost its importance after the time card meeting with Jim.

He found the defense business job market had tightened. The USSR was collapsing, the cold war ending. In addition technology people exiting the defense business were crowding the rest of the technology world. Alex spent a month chasing leads, contacting every local business that might need his skills. He didn’t want to move out of the area. He and his family had put down roots that would hard to extract.

A month past and the next monthly Eagle One budget report showed remarkable improvement. Jim congratulated Alex on how he had managed to improve the program performance

Alex began calling former associates who had left DCC recently to find out what they were doing and if they knew of any opportunities.

He called Frank Dawkins, a sharper than average engineer who had been lured away from DCC by a startup. Alex found that Frank had left the start up after three months.

“They didn’t know what to hell they were doing,” Frank said. “So I decided to start my own company. Have you heard about a thing called the internet? It’s starting to go commercial. I’m looking for C, C ++ coders. Know any?

Alex said he didn’t know C or C ++ but was looking for work.

“What happened with DCC?” Frank asked.

“Short story,” Alex replied, “Still working but looking to leave.”

“Hell Alex, you used to do Fortran, you can learn it like nothing. But you know I can’t pay you like a Program Manager at DCC and you will be digging in the nitty gritty.”

Frank went on to describe what they were doing with the internet and seemed to get more excited as he talked. The idea began to appeal to Alex, he liked the nitty gritty. It wouldn’t be hardware but programming was the same kind of thing.  “The idea is appealing,” Alex admitted. “I can handle a pay cut as long as it don’t last forever. How about some stock in your little enterprise in lieu of a big salary?”

Frank laughed, “All our professional people have gotten stock, don’t cost me anything and we can all get rich together.

They agreed to meet the next day and talk some more. As a result Alex signed on for a substantial cut in the salary he made at DCC and twenty thousand shares of the new company’s stock.

The next morning Alex gave Jim the required two week notice that he would be leaving the company.  Jim looked shocked. “You can’t do that,” he yelled. “You know damn well why you can’t do that.”

“I did it,” Alex admitted.

“Stay another year, you’ll get the best raise you ever had.”

“If you’re worried about the time cards I’ll brief you on the process. I’ll help you with it for the next two weeks.”

Dammit, you know I can’t assign another manager for either program. I’ll have to manage them myself.  That’s not going to work. I’ll get you a promotion.

Alex had been focused on his own problems associated with leaving DCC and hadn’t lost much sleep worrying about the problems he might be causing Jim. But being made aware of some of Jim’s problems wasn’t giving him any heart burn.  He made his best effort to sound sympathetic to Jim’s concerns while suppressing a satisfied smile.

 

Alex soon became immersed in his work in Franks new company and it didn’t take him long to realize the thing called the internet would be transforming the communications world.  Franks little company was growing as fast as it could hire engineers, programmers and staff. The stock that had no value when Alex joined the company six months previously now traded on the local market at five dollars.

Through contacts Alex maintained with DCC former associates he learned the government was doing an audit of the Eagle One program, an event that only occurred when something really caught the government’s attention. A couple of months later Alex had lunch with an engineer he had worked with at DCC. The engineer said Jim had left the company and whole division had been shaken up. He heard that Jim had been manipulating time cards. “Can you imagine anyone being so dumb?”

Alex shook his head, “Ya, I can imagine it.”

 

Alfred Wellnitz Published Book and Short Story Information at:

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=alfred+Wellnitz&x=19&y=12

Copyright © 2015 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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Cold War Short Short Stories

Posted on 09/08/2015. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , |

A collection of stories that will be part of a book of short stories is being slowly organized . Included will be a number of short short stories. Stores that are told in a hundred words or less. Included in this post are a number of short short stories that will be included that deal with early stages of the cold war.

Navy Boot Camp, 1947

He was a Georgia cracker, a redneck. What could you expect? A nigger is a nigger and that is what he called him. Just previous the company commander had lectured about Truman’s executive order that said discrimination would no longer be allowed in the armed services. Maybe the Georgia cracker didn’t believe it but the nigger did and he picked up a bottle of ink and flung it, hit the cracker on the side of his head, knocked him dizzy. Then what happened? We never saw the cracker again and guess they told the nigger to be careful what he threw

Memphis, 1948

The bus rolls to a stop, I get on, sit right behind the driver. I just completed a year’s training to be an aviation electronics technician at the Memphis Navy Air Training Center. Being in the top ten percent I graduated as a petty officer second class. The bus moves through the training center as it picks up more passengers it will take to Memphis. The bus reaches the training center main gate. The driver turns and looks at me, says, “You have to move to the back of the bus now.” I move to the back of the bus.

Chosen Reservoir 1950

Damn, must be twenty below, so many cloths I can’t find my pisser and I’m still freezing. Chinese everywhere, small arms fire from everywhere. It should be getting light soon and the attack should end. I hunker down in my shallow hole. My mind wanders—ponders my escape from that Dakota farm; a world to see, to experience. There is a scream, “Medic, medic!” A mortar round shakes my hole! I hold the M1 in my frozen hands. I rise up; fire my rifle into the darkness. Maybe milking cows wasn’t all that bad.

War Torn City Recovers 1950

Two American Marines recovering from wounds wander a Tokyo market, a short break from the horrors of war on the Korean Peninsula.

Tokyo bustles, factories hum; making cigarette lighters out of GI discarded beer cans, half price Leica knock offs, the world’s finest china.

Two women stand out. One; a young woman, beautiful as many young oriental women are, a face like porcelain with fine features, a tiny but full body. Beside her: an older version of herself. Both are dressed stylishly in shades of blue.

The older woman approaches the marines, “You like daughter, only 3,000 yen, all night.”

Whidbey Island Naval Air Station 1951

Four Navy Patrol planes stopped at Whidbey Island to practice some ground control approaches before flying the northern route via Alaska to Japan. In the evening two crew members visited the enlisted men’s club, noticed quite a number of unattached women. They talked to a couple of them. They said their husband’s patrol squadron had just deployed for a six month tour in the Philippines. Said they enjoyed these deployments but the time seemed too short. They wanted to know if the men wanted to go into town where there were some swinging bars.

Cold War Patrol 1952

A navy patrol plane off Shanghai with fourteen men aboard has engine trouble. Kadina Okinawa, their destination, is possible. They feather one engine, and as they approach Kadina their good engine begins to lose power.

It is night and violent storms envelope Kadina. Ground Control Approach shouts: You’re low, off to the right, Abort, abort!! Impossible, the plane can only descend, not ascend. Somehow the plane bounces and stops on the runway. The emergency vehicles disperse and the plane is towed to its parking pad.

A ground crew member sticks his head into a hatch. “Did Ya bring any mail?”

 

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Unintended Heroes, A Short Story

Posted on 08/18/2015. Filed under: Historical Fiction | Tags: , , , , |

Plans to assemble a collection of short stories is proceeding slowly.  In some cases it is a matter of finding the short stories that have been written over the last fifteen years and assembling them into book form. Some of those short stories need a lot of work, others only light editing. In addition a few stories are being written  from scratch. The short story Unintended Heroes is being written from scratch. Actually it is greatly condensed version of the Korean War part of the book For the Cause: The Cold War Heats Up in Korea and Why Young Men Went to War. It tells the story of two young farm boys, Pete Houser and Chris Engelson, who joined the marines and finished boot camp just when the Korean War started. The two young men are part of the First Provisional Marine Brigade hurriedly put together to help stop the North Koreans from overrunning South Korea. The story follows the lives of the two marines and the squad they are a part of for six months as they take part in the Pusan Perimeter,  the Inchon Landing and the Chosen Reservoir battles.  During that short period of time Pete and Chris had changed from green farm boys to seasoned warriors.

Unintended Heroes Cover

I had started posting the short stories I planned to include in the short story collection but am finding it cumbersome. The Unintended Heroes is over fifteen thousand words. So my new plan is to post a description of the stories as they are selected in this blogs Short Story section. I will send a digital copy to any blog reader who would like a copy of any short story being described.

Alfred Wellnitz Published Book and Short Story Information at:

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=alfred+Wellnitz&x=19&y=12

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Another Book Give Away

Posted on 08/07/2015. Filed under: Historical Fiction, War | Tags: , , , , , |

Starting on 8 August 2015  and through 12 August 2015, free Kindle copies of the book “For the Cause; The Cold War Turns Hot in Korea and Why Young Men Went to War.” will be given away to anyone who cares to download the book.

Go to: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=alfred+Wellnitz&x=19&y=12

Two young South Dakota farm boys, Pete Houser and Chris Engleson, with uncertain futures decide to join the marines  as an alternative to some other mundane job. 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 changes from a green farm boy into 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.

Cover, Front 11-7-2013

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The Secret Cold War Aerial Conflict

Posted on 06/04/2015. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

Routine Patrol Cover

Shown above is the cover of a short story describing a patrol flight being flown during the cold war along the China Coast. The aircraft being flown in the story is a P4M-1Q. The P4M Mercator was a rare bird. There were two prototypes and nineteen production models. All of the production models were eventually converted to the P4M-1Q configuration to be used for the electronic surveillance mission.

During the 50’s and through the  60’s and 70’s when the Korean and Viet Nam wars took place, the cold war was at its peak and the peripheries of the communist nations were continually patrolled by United States Navy and Airforce aircraft. Sometimes these flights were intercepted and resulted in over two hundred navy and airforce airmen dying during that period due to hostile actions.

The public knew very little of this activity. As far as the United States government was concerned it wasn’t happening and couldn’t protest if one of their reconnaissance aircraft that didn’t exist had been attacked or shot down.

A web site,  Intrusions, overflight, shootdowns and Defections during the cold war, (http://myplace.frontier.com/~anneled/ColdWar.html) , attempts to list all of the documented intercepts. The author of the story, US. Navel Air Routine Patrol has found the web sites list of intercepted intrusions and shootdowns voluminous but not complete. However the list has many pages of incidents and likely has the majority of significant incidents listed.  During 1952 and 1953, the period in which the story, “U.S. Naval Air Routine Patrol,” took place, thirty two incidents involving intercepts of aircraft flown by the United States and its allies near or within the borders of communist nations are recorded. Not many of these activities made the news since they were treated as top secret by the United States.

These numbers need to be put into perspective. During a two year period, starting in 1951 and ending in 1953, the author of the story “U.S Naval Air Routine Patrol, ” flew on 95 patrols lasting approximately ten hours each. That is approximately fifty patrols a year. The four plane contingent the author was associated with operated at about the same level and flew around two hundred patrols a year. That four plane contingent was only a small portion of the overall reconnaissance activities occurring around the periphery of the communist nations at the time. In other words, the electronic surveillance reconnaissance experience was more boring than exciting. The most excitement occurred because of the weather or mechanical problems.
There were three intercept incidents involving the four plane contingent that the author  is aware of while associated with it. One of the incidents has been listed in the Intrusions, overflight, shootdowns and Defections while two weren’t.
The one mentioned occurred on 23 April 1953.  U. S Navy plane (BuNo 124369)  was attacked by two MiG-15 Fagots while flying off the Chinese coast near Shanghai. The MiGs made several firing runs and the crew of the Mercator returned fire. The Mercator was not hit, and as far as the Mercator crew could tell, their return fire did not damage the MiGs.
In another incident the author, as radioman on BuNo 121453, sent an under attack message while on a patrol along the west coast of Korea. The officer overseeing the electronic surveillance in the back of the plane had reported excitedly that fire control radar had locked in on their plane. Nothing came of the incident except a debriefing after returning to Atsugi Navel Air Station.
The third incident is based on excited talk by enlisted crew members who said that they had been attacked by MiGs off Shanghai. This incident can’t be found in any literature the author has seen. Neither had the author seen or heard anything confirming the attack on BuNo 124369 at the time it occurred. The only source of information the author had at the time has been enlisted crew members talk.
There are documented attacks of other Mercators in other theater’s and at later dates. These included: On 22 August 1956 a U.S. Navy P4M-1Q (BuNo 124362) disappeared after a night time attack 32 miles off the coast of Wenchow China. There were no survivors of the 16 crew members.

Damaged P4M

P4M made crash landing after attack over the Sea of Japan.

On 6 June 1959 while flying a patrol mission over the Sea of Japan a U.S. Navy P4M-1Q (BuNo 122209) was attacked 50 miles east of the Korean DMZ by two MiG-17 Frescos. During the attack the Mercator sustained serious damage to the starboard engine and the tail gunner was seriously wounded. The badly damaged plane was able to land at Miho AFB Japan.

In the European theater on 14 January 1960 a P4M-1Q flight originating out of Incirilik AFB Turkey was lost with all sixteen crew members.

A Kindle version of the short story, U.S. Naval Air Routine Patrol, can be found at Amazon.com Alfred Wellnitz Books.

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=alfred+Wellnitz&x=19&y=12

 

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For the Cause; Risks and Rewards

Posted on 05/16/2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , |

For the Cause, Risks and Rewards, a short story just released on Kindle, is an excerpt from the novel For the Cause; The Cold  War Turns Hot in Korea and Why Young Men Went to War. The excerpt consist of Chapter 21 of the novel with minor changes. The complete short story is posted here.

For the Cause Cover JPEG

 

For the Cause
Risks and Rewards
This short story has been excerpted from the novel;

“For the Cause: The Cold War Turns Hot in Korea and Why Young Men Went to War”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By
Alfred Wellnitz

 

For the Cause; Risks and Rewards

Copyright © 2014 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 publisher 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 novel 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.

Because of the dynamic nature of the Internet, any Web addresses or links contained in this book may have changed since publication and may no longer be valid

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also by Alfred Wellnitz
Novels:
Finding the Way;
From Prussia to a Prairie Homestead

PushBack;
Deficit Triggers Hyperinflation, Terrorism

For the Cause;
The Cold War Turns Hot in Korea
And Why Young Men Went To War

 

 

 

 

Alfred Wellnitz grew up in rural South Dakota, served in the United States Navy and worked in technology as an electrical engineer. After retiring from engineering he worked as a real estate agent before deciding to become an author at age seventy-three. He has since published three novels and numerous short stories. Alfred now lives with his wife Joan in Bloomington Minnesota.

For the Cause
Risks and Rewards

In a small fishing village on the shores of Manila Bay in the Philippines, halfway between Manila and Cavite, a young man named Modesto tossed and turned in his blanket on the floor of a Nipa hut. Beside him the frequent stirring of his wife betrayed her restlessness. Only their child in the near corner slept soundly. Finally Modesto threw his blanket aside, picked his way to the doorway and let his bare feet drop to the sand still warm from the day’s sun. From where he stood he could see a large portion of Manila Bay. To his right and behind him the bright lights of Manila made the sky luminous, before him the bay lay dark except for the dim lights of fishing boats that flickered and bobbed. Over to the left a cluster of lights marked Cavite and the United States Naval Air Station at Sangley Point. The lights of Cavite also backlit an array of ship superstructures protruding out of the water, the hulks of Japanese ships laying where they were sunk during the big war that ended five years ago.Modesto, small in stature, lean and muscular, had been a fisherman since he was old enough to pull nets and row a bonga boat. His jet black hair and bright brown eyes were complemented by chocolate-colored skin which still had the smoothness of youth.

Tonight being Christmas Eve, he and Carlos and Chico were not fishing. Other than Christmas and Easter or during bad storms, they would normally be out in the bay fishing at this time of night. Their families depended on them to catch fish nearly every night. No fish meant there would be nothing to barter for rice, no pesos, no centavos, and no fresh fish for the fishermen’s families to eat. Modesto was a good fisherman. There were very few days when there was no fish or rice to cook in his hut. There usually were enough pesos for at least the necessities and even for some extras, like during the fiesta and at Christmas and Easter.

However, the three fishermen would be taking the bonga boat out onto Manila Bay this Christmas Eve, not to fish but on a special and unusual mission. Modesto left the hut and moved aimlessly along the beach. He recalled the events of the last three days that led to what he would be doing tonight.

Modesto and his two companions had been returning from an unsuccessful night of fishing in their bonga, a boat barely large enough for the three-man crew, their nets, and sometimes a good catch of fish. They were tired, wet, and aching from their night’s labor. Intermittent rain, sometimes heavy, had combined with abnormally low temperatures to make it a bitter night. For their efforts and misery a reward of only a half-dozen lapa-lapas lay on the bottom of the boat. They paddled towards shore in weary silence. As they rowed, they could make out the outlines of the hotels and casinos along Manila’s Dewey Boulevard.

The crew sat in a row from front to back in the narrow boat. Chico, the youngest, held down the middle position. He looked small even huddled under a bulky poncho. Chico, the son of Carlos the oldest member of the three men, had only recently joined the crew. Chico had been a hut boy for marines at Sangley Point; a good paying job. For reasons unknown to Modesto, Chico no longer worked at Sangley Point and Carlos had added Chico to the crew.

Chico stopped paddling and broke the silence.

“The casinos are still lit up. As they sow, so shall they reap. That’s what the church tells us. Well, we have worked all night and are so tired we can hardly get back to the beach. What have we reaped? Six little fish, not enough to eat, none to sell or trade. Did we sow the wrong thing? What do those rich ones in the casinos sow? They sow money. They don’t have to sweat or sit in the cold rain. Money does their work.”

Carlos sat in the back, the commanding position in the bonga. Wrinkled skin that had seen many fishing seasons covered his gaunt face. He laughed softly. “That’s quite a speech from someone who’s cold and tired. Remember, fishermen live from God’s hand, and sometimes the hand is empty. That’s the way it is.”

Chico replied, “You been doing this too long, don’t know any better.”

“Maybe,” Carlos answered, “but I know complaining doesn’t help anything.”

Modesto listened in silence. There were times that he had felt the way Chico did, and still did, but he had a wife and child and he had to provide for them in the only way he knew how. Someday in the hereafter he would be on the same level as the good rich and above that of the not-so-good rich. Easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for rich men to get into heaven. That’s what the good fathers say. Such thoughts made life a little more bearable at times.

 

Later that day, Modesto and Carlos were repairing one of the bonga boat’s outriggers. Carlos owned the boat and therefore, when the catch was successful, received an extra share of fish. Carlos had inherited the bonga, his most valuable possession, from his father. Frequent repairs kept it usable.

I wonder where Chico is,” Carlos mused. “He should be helping us.”

Modesto pointed down the beach. “Speak of the devil. People with him. Who are they?”

Carlos looked where Modesto pointed. “Don’t know.”

Two strangers accompanied Chico. One, a gaunt, small-framed young man, was unremarkable except for deep-set eyes which glowered under heavy, dark brows. His dress, typical for men his age in the village consisted of loose-fitting grey pants, an un-tucked white shirt, and sandals. He could have been a Jeepney driver or a street vendor. The other man dressed in a similar way but was taller, heavier, and had a round face with Asian eyes.

Chico introduced them. He motioned first towards the smaller man. “Pepe from Bulacan, and Wan from up north in Baguio.”

The two men surveyed the boat. The one named Wan walked around it and kicked the outrigger Modesto and Carlos had been working on.

“Looks small,” he remarked.

Chico gave him a worried look. “It can haul a lot of weight.”

Modesto wondered what they were talking about. What did it matter if the boat was small or could haul a lot of weight? It worked for what they used it for.

Carlos also looked puzzled.

The two strangers and Chico moved some distance away and talked among themselves. After a short time they came back to where Carlos and Modesto had started working on the outrigger again.

“Pepe and Wan would like to talk about a business deal,” Chico announced.

Carlos looked skeptical. “A business deal. We are fishermen with no fish to barter or sell. What kind of business are you be talking about?”

Pepe asked, “Can you keep a secret?”

“Secret?” Carlos questioned.

“The business we are talking about depends on it.”

Carlos answered, “You’ve been talking to Chico. He can tell you.”

Pepe hesitated, studied Carlos, and then began to speak. “Chico has told us that every night you and your crew fish in Manila Bay, and that almost every night you go by Sangley Point. You may have noticed a Quonset hut that sits by itself right near the shore at the tip of the peninsula. Looks like an ordinary Quonset hut, but it’s different. It’s being used as an armory and it’s full of 30-caliber ammunition.”

Pepe again hesitated, allowing time for this information to be fully absorbed.

Modesto felt a tightening of his stomach.

Pepe continued, “We will pay you and your crew a good amount of money to go in and get some of that ammunition.”

Beads of sweat were forming on Modesto’s forehead. He thought, this man is loco, but he held his tongue and waited for Carlos to speak.

Carlos smiled slightly. “This some kind of joke you and Chico thought up?”

Pepe didn’t respond to the question. “You will be able to make more money than you have ever seen before.” As if to emphasize the point, he pulled up his shirt to reveal a money belt and a pistol stuck under his waistband. He pulled a packet of pesos in large denominations out of the money belt and fanned them slowly. “We will pay you one peso for every round that you bring out. Easy money, a lot of money.”

The smile on Carlos’s face had disappeared and the look of skepticism returned. “Easy, why pay so much if it is easy?”

Skeptical or wary, Pepe knew he had the fisherman’s attention. “You will be surprised at how lightly guarded the armory is.” Pepe picked up a stick from the beach and drew a sketch in the sand of the peninsula that projected into Manila Bay, much of which was occupied by the Sangley Naval Air Station. Pepe added detail at the very tip of the peninsula to show the location of the Quonset hut being used as an armory.

“There is only one marine guarding this area, and his patrol runs from the brig on the east side of the peninsula past the Quonset hut to a point on the west side of the peninsula approximately half a kilometer away. This Quonset is right on the shore and below an embankment three or four meters high that shields it from easy observation. The closest thing to the armory is some Quonset huts where navy and marine enlisted men are housed. They are about hundred meters away.”

Pepe drew the guard route in the sand. “Besides the marine, there is a large searchlight mounted here on a water tower.” He pointed to a spot near the center of the base. “This light sweeps the beach all around the base. You must have seen it when you were fishing. It makes a sweep about every fifteen minutes, then goes out until they are ready to make another sweep. Those are the things you worry about, the searchlight and the marine guard. Overpower the guard, avoid the light, and you can help yourself to as much ammunition as your boat can haul.”

The fishermen were familiar with the navy base as seen from the bay and were able to easily follow Pepe’s description. They were also familiar with the searchlight and saw it sweep around the base’s periphery many times when they fished at night.
Modesto did not want to hear any more, but Carlos asked, “You sure there is only one marine?”

“One marine, changes at midnight, next time at four.”

“The armory is locked?”

“I would think so.”

“We are supposed to figure out how to overpower the guard and get the ammunition out?”

“That’s it.”

“Why do you want that much ammunition?”

“Does it matter?”

“Are you a Huk?”

It didn’t matter to Modesto if Pepe and Wan were Huks or not. He didn’t want any part of this crazy idea but he could see that Carlos was seriously considering Pepe’s proposition. Of course they had to be Hukbalahaps, the Huks, the Philippine communists. That was the only answer that made any sense to Modesto. They were the only ones that would have the need for that much ammunition and the means to pay that kind of money for it.

Modesto didn’t know exactly what the Huks were trying to do, but he knew there was serious trouble between the Huks and the government in Manila. The Huks had been around for a long time. During the war they had fought the Japanese and were big heroes. Now they were fighting the government and weren’t heroes anymore. It seemed like they wanted to fight whoever happened to be in power. Modesto didn’t know if they were good or bad. Pepe looked like an ordinary Filipino, not like a revolutionary or communist, whatever they looked like. Not that it mattered much to Modesto. Modesto considered himself a pretty good Catholic, while Carlos and Chico weren’t and they would admit it and that’s their business. If a person wanted to be a Huk, that’s their business.

Apparently Carlos had come to the same conclusion and answered his own question. “I don’t suppose it matters as long as we get paid.”

“If you decide to do it, a thousand pesos up front, the balance when you deliver.”

A thousand pesos! That was more money than Modesto had ever seen at one time.

Carlos didn’t reveal any emotion or surprise. “Sounds crazy. We will think about it.”

“Someone will do it,” Pepe said. “We know Chico, that’s why you are getting first chance.”

Carlos replied, “We need a day to think about it.”

“We’ll be back tomorrow.”

Carlos had fished Manila Bay for a living since he was able to do it. He had no hopes or plans to do anything else and he had no hope of ever having more than a bare living as a fisherman. When Carlos became too old to fish he hoped he would sit in the Nipa hut of his son Chico until the day that they carried him out to the cemetery to lie beside the father that he had cared for so many years before. It was not a great deal to anticipate but realistic and predictable. The wild scheme they were considering now was something else.

After Pepe and Wan left, the three fishermen discussed the proposition that had been presented to them. Carlos had done the talking when Pepe made his proposal, now he wanted to know what Modesto thought of the idea.

Modesto had known Carlos since he was able to remember. Carlos’s life provided a model for Modesto’s life. Modesto respected Carlos’s judgment in most matters but had been surprised when Carlos seemed to be considering going forward with a raid on the armory on Sangley Point. Manila Bay fishermen considered Sangley Point off limits. Even fishing near it was questionable. To land on its beach and raid an armory seemed totally loco.

“It sounds crazy and dangerous,” Modesto said in response to Carlos’s question.
“Maybe,” Carlos replied. He walked over to the outrigger he and Modesto had been repairing, studied it, then turned and spoke to Modesto and Chico. “We need more information before making a decision. Tonight we will fish off Sangley Point near the armory and really study the layout. After that we will decide.”

 

It was a little before midnight when they arrived at a position where they could observe the armory and the marine guard while they fished. Lights in the nearby enlisted men’s hut area made the armory and guard path dimly visible.

At midnight they noted the changing of the guard and observed the marine on duty as he made his rounds. The marine moved back and forth along the beach between the guard house and some point along the west side of the peninsula. As Pepe had said, it took the guard about fifteen minutes to walk from one end of the route to the other.

They had moderate success fishing and after a couple of hours had a sack half-filled with lapa-lapas.

At two a.m. Carlos suggested that they go onto the beach near the armory and check out the door lock.

“What! Why?” asked a surprised Modesto.

“We should know what kind of lock we have to break or open.”

Chico agreed. “Let’s see what it feels like to walk on the Sangley sand.”

They decided that both Modesto and Chico would go to the armory to check the lock while Carlos stayed with the boat.

While they contemplated making the landing, they realized they would need to time their movements carefully. They wanted to go onto the beach once the guard passed the armory and was heading away from it at the same time the light on the tower had gone dark. This combination did not come up regularly. The first time they considered going in, the tower light had gone out but they weren’t sure when the guard, who was out of sight on the west side of the peninsula, would reappear. The next time the light swept the beach, they could see that the guard was moving towards the armory from the east. They were concerned the light might come on again before he would be clear of the armory area on his way to the other side of the peninsula. Finally, the light finished a sweep just as the guard was seen going towards the west end of his route. They pushed towards shore and were soon scraping the bottom of the boat on the sand.

Modesto and Chico jumped out of the boat and ran towards the armory. It took only a few minutes for the two fishermen to run to the armory and determine that a padlock secured the armory door and pry bar could be used to break the lock. They ran back to the boat and rowed away from the shore towards relative safety.

The three stayed in their fishing location until the rising sun allowed them to observe the beach in more detail. It appeared that the path the guard walked was obscured from easy observation on the land side by the embankment that ran along the full length of the route. Their attention was drawn to two large tree trunks with roots attached washed up on the beach about a hundred meters to the west of the Quonset armory. Carlos suggested it would be a good place to hide while they waited for the right time to overpower the guard. They moved the bonga boat closer to shore and could see that the attached roots held the lower parts of the trunks off the ground far enough for a person to crawl beneath them. They all agreed that it looked like an ideal place to hide while waiting to overpower the guard.

 

Later that morning they returned to their home beach, tired from a full night of fishing and information gathering. They would get together that afternoon after they had rested to discuss the matter and make a decision.

Modesto tried to get some rest, but his mind continued to wrestle with the proposed raid. His first reaction had been to oppose the idea, even to the point of defecting from the crew if Carlos and Chico wanted to do it. But as he became more familiar with what the raid would involve, his mind grew more at ease. A big factor in his thinking had been their ability to get on and off the beach undetected the previous night. He contemplated the prize that would be theirs if they were successful. They could buy a large power bonga and have pesos to spare. They would be able to fish outside the bay and better their chances of success. When Modesto finally drifted off to sleep, the contemplated prize loomed larger and the risk seemed to be diminishing.

When the three fishermen met the next afternoon, Carlos again asked Modesto and Chico for their opinions.

Chico of course wanted to go.

Modesto had resolved his concerns. The prize seemed too large to pass up. He now supported going forward.

Carlos said he also favored proceeding.

They started to discuss the details. Anyone observing the three fishermen huddled on the sandy beach would have thought they were mending a net or visiting, certainly not planning a daring raid on a United States military installation.

They decided to stage the raid that night. The moon would be dark, everything could be ready, and the sooner they put the plan into operation the less likely the wrong people would become aware of it. Also, early Christmas morning might find the security forces less alert than normal. They intended to go in at about one o’clock in the morning, not too long after the midnight guard change. That would give them plenty of time before another guard change took place. Their only weapons would be machetes and iron pipes. The machetes were to be used only if absolutely necessary although Chico had wanted the machetes to be the first option. He argued, “A live marine can be dangerous, a dead one isn’t. Besides it takes more time to tie a man up than to cut his throat.”

Modesto knew Chico had his own agenda with regards to Americans. That a former girlfriend now shared her place with a marine may have helped form his opinion. His abrupt departure from his Sangley Point job may have aggravated it.

“Taking some American ammunition is one thing, killing an American is a whole different thing,” Carlos declared. “We’ll use machetes only if we have to.”

They continued planning. Modesto and Chico would be landed on the beach and take cover under the tree trunks. Carlos would move the bonga back out into the bay. When an opportunity presented itself, Modesto and Chico would overpower the guard and break into the Quonset hut armory. They would remove as much ammunition as the bonga could haul and stack it in the shadow of the armory to keep it out of sight of the tower. They would use a flashlight to signal Carlos to bring the boat back to the beach when they were ready to load the ammunition. To Modesto, the plan seemed simple and doable.

 

Later in the day, Pepe and his partner returned and learned that the decision had been made to proceed and the raid would take place that night. Pepe seemed surprised that they were moving so soon, but he had brought a thousand pesos in up-front money and they finalized the arrangements.

 

That night Modesto wandered along the beach, waiting for the time to pass so that he could join his companions and start on an adventure that would (pray to God, hail Mary) make them all rich. A few days ago he wouldn’t have dared hope for anything more than enough food to eat and bare necessities for himself and his family. Now heady dreams filled his mind. He would be part owner of a big power bonga, a big fisherman who went after the big catches outside the bay. He would have a Nipa hut with more than one room and furnished with a bed and a cooking stove. He curled his toes in the sand. He might even buy a pair of shoes.

Although early, Modesto turned and walked slowly towards the place where the bonga rested on the beach. When he arrived, he found Carlos sitting on an outrigger silently contemplating the small waves splashing against the beach. Carlos looked up when Modesto approached. “Couldn’t sleep? Me either. It happens often at my age.”
Modesto squatted beside Carlos. Carlos continued, “Sometimes being old isn’t so bad. I have less to lose.” He hesitated, then apparently feeling a need to reassure Modesto, added, “Don’t worry, it’s going to work.”

Modesto wanted to agree with him. “I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t believe it would work. Where is Chico?”

Carlos noted it was still early. “Chico will be here. He wouldn’t miss this.”
Chico finally showed up, yawning, at the agreed-upon time.

Modesto asked, “You have trouble sleeping?”

“No, why?”

Modesto laughed. “The resurrection wouldn’t disturb you.”

Carlos stood up and started pulling on the boat. “Let’s go,” he said, and all hands joined in launching the bonga on its special mission.

Each person assumed his position, and soon their rhythmic paddle strokes were moving the boat smoothly through the water, the bow making a luminous splash as it broke the flat surface of the bay.

Modesto mechanically dipped his paddle. The closer they came to the base, the more uneasy he felt. Was he a coward? Modesto had never done anything like this before. He had known danger when they had been caught in storms while fishing, but that is a normal part of a fisherman’s life. This would be something different.

Carlos started talking about how this raid reminded him of ventures more dangerous and not as carefully planned during the big war. There were other differences. Those raids had been mainly for food because he and his family were starving. Sometimes he had picked up other things, too, but food had been the main thing. This raid was for money, enough money to change their lives. Another difference had been that he disliked the Japanese. He didn’t particularly dislike the Americans. Americans were overbearing, over-paid, oversexed, and drank too much, but Carlos believed that overall, their intentions were good.

Modesto wanted to know if Carlos would feel guilty about stealing from the Americans.

“No,” Carlos replied. “Americans have more wealth than the ocean has fish and taking some ammunition out of that hut won’t hurt America any more than I hurt Manila Bay when I pull lapa-lapas out of it.”

Modesto had thought about the same thing. Was this really stealing, would he be breaking any of God’s laws? He concluded that some of the laws of men might be challenged, but not God’s laws. The commandments as interpreted by Modesto pertained to individuals, to neighbors. Who did that ammunition really belong to? Maybe Filipinos had as much right to it as Americans.

Chico’s voice broke into his thoughts. “Are you afraid, Modesto?”

Modesto thought, Chico must have sensed my uneasiness. “Maybe, I guess I am, but I will be glad when we get on shore.”

Maybe he would be. His mind would be fully occupied and he would not have time for imagined dangers. The thoughts of wealth and a new life he had had earlier in the evening were now crowded out by more urgent thoughts about the danger and what might go wrong. Sangley looked bigger and brighter than usual.

He turned to Chico and asked, “How about you?”

“Sure,” Chico answered. “You can’t be brave if you’re not afraid and I keep thinking the guard could be the one that’s been screwing my girlfriend.”

Modesto laughed. “Used to be your girlfriend.”

“That’s what I mean.”

“Don’t do anything dumb with the guard.”

“I know.”

They reached the position off the point where they would wait for a chance to go in. Again they watched the changing of the guard. They waited for an hour and then began looking for the right opportunity to go onto the beach. They looked for the guard when the searchlight swept around the base perimeter. Twice they watched and did not see the guard when the searchlight swept the beach in front of them. Carlos leaned back against the stern of the boat. “No hurry, we will wait until we know where he is.”

A while later the light flashed on again. This time it started at the far end of the base and moved towards the armory. As it swung around the peninsula, it caught the marine moving west away from the armory near the bend in the shoreline. As soon as the light went out, Carlos whispered, “Now!”

They rowed the bonga onto the beach. Modesto crossed himself, and he and Chico jumped out of the boat and found shelter under the large tree trunks. They carried iron pipes, machetes, and what they would need to bind and gag the guard.

Modesto knew that the marine would be armed with something better than an iron pipe. Successfully overpowering the guard had always been a concern, and the concern became magnified by the reality of their situation. Between the water and the tree trunks were over five meters of open beach, and the marine could be anywhere in that area when he passed them. What if the searchlight came on while they were overpowering him?

While Modesto contemplated these difficulties he heard the guard approaching. He was walking slowly, quietly whistling some tune over and over. In the dim ambient light Modesto could see that his carbine was slung over his shoulder and he had a soft-billed cap on his head. Good, he’s not wearing a helmet, thought Modesto.

At that moment, the tower light snapped on and started sweeping the beach. The guard safely passed the tree trunks as he moved towards the armory.

“Damn,” Chico whispered.

Soon after the light went out after its next sweep of the base, the marine guard could be seen coming back from the direction of the armory, still whistling the same tune. He moved steadily towards the tree trunks where Modesto and Chico were crouching.

When the marine reached the vicinity of the tree trunks, he paused, stopped whistling, and turned to look at the bright lights of Manila. Modesto and Chico made their move. The marine appeared startled by the noise Modesto and Chico made but before he could react Chico swung his pipe and hit the marine in the back of the head. As the marine fell, Chico swung his pipe at the back of his skull again. “That’s for good measure, Joe!” he hissed.

They dragged the limp marine into the shadow of the tree trunks, rolled him on his stomach, and worked feverishly to bind and gag him. Chico put the gag in the guard’s mouth while Modesto pulled his arms behind him and began wrapping the rope around his wrists.

Chico stood up. “You can finish this. I’ll open the armory.”

Chico disappeared into the darkness while Modesto began to knot the wrist binding. Suddenly, the marine gave a grunt, pulled his wrists loose and rolled over, throwing Modesto off his back. Modesto landed near his machete when he fell to the ground. He grasped the handle with both his hands, raised it over his head, and brought the blade down with all his might on the neck of the struggling marine. The blade cut through flesh and cartilage, stopping only when it hit the vertebrae.

Modesto, still grasping the machete, stood up. He started towards the armory and then paused to pick up the carbine the marine had dropped on the beach. Modesto found an upset Chico attempting to break the lock.

“The bar doesn’t go through the eye of the padlock. How in hell are we going to break the lock if we can’t get the pry bar in there?”

Modesto took the bar from Chico’s hand, took aim and brought it crashing down on the padlock. The padlock flew off, hitting Modesto in the leg on its way to the ground.

“Jesus Christ!” Chico exclaimed. “That should wake up the dead.”

They groped their way into the dark armory. Inside, they could feel boxes that must be ammunition cases. They grabbed hold and started stacking the cases in the shadow of the Quonset. They had stacked four boxes when the light came on again.

While waiting for the light to go out, Chico asked if the guard was securely tied.

“He is secure,” Modesto replied without going into any further detail.

The light went out and they finished moving two more boxes, as many as they felt they could haul in the boat, and then waited for the light to go on and off again.
When the light went out the next time, they signaled Carlos. He brought the bonga onto the beach near the Quonset, and they started loading the ammunition boxes. Then for some reason, the searchlight that had just gone out a short time before came on again and swept along the beach towards them. Carlos signaled urgently for them to push off, but Modesto ran back to get the last box lying in the sand. He gripped it firmly and had started running back towards the bonga when he was surrounded by the searchlight’s blinding white light. He heard someone shout “Halt! Halt!” But he kept running until he was thrown down by something hitting him in the back. He tried to get up, but he didn’t seem to have any strength in his arms and legs. Something under him felt warm. Blood; his blood.

He had the sensation that he was swimming underwater, swimming hard, but was not moving.

He could hear far-off voices. “Did we get all of them?”

“The old man looks like he has had it. The young one is alive but scared as hell.”

Modesto felt something on his neck; a hand? He heard a voice again. “A very weak pulse. Amazing what these Huks will do for their cause.”

A dim light shone under the water. Modesto tried to swim towards it. It kept getting dimmer and finally went out.

 

 

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