Needs edited and spell checked which takes forever
The Tuskegee Red tails attack ME262 base
Franz ran the half kilometer to the hole in the base perimeter fence. He attempted to light a stale unfiltered German cigarette. His face grimacing as he breathed rapidly with the cigarette between his lips at the side of his mouth. The stainless Steel Luftwaffe lighter he had possessed since Spain was low on fluid, was hard to light . and extinguished with the slightest little breeze. Franz gave up and stashed the lighter in his pocket for the time being. He re-positioned the cigarette between his lips in what looked like a kiss. He would breath awkwardly through his nostrils for the remaining meters to the fence line. Once through the fence hole, Franz pulled the Eckstein cigarette from his mouth, and bent over hacking and short of breath. His heart was racing. He was dizzy. He had been a smoker since he was at the orphanage. Almost every single Luftwaffe pilot he ever served with smoked. During operations close to Stalingrad, the air field Ops building would be filled with smokers. Outside, it would be 30 below zero.
Retrieving his prized Luftwaffe “Condor Legion” lighter once again, he finally lit the crumpled cigarette. He took a long hard draw. The nicotine, like some sort of voodoo medicine, seemed to halt his coughing. Resuming his trot to the airfield, Franz retrieved an old bicycle he had stashed behind a hangar. The ME262 he was to operate sat at a camouflaged area in the tree line, at the west end of the ramp. It was a kilometer away. He was late. He was nervous and embarrassed, but no one in the command structure really cared. Franz attended all the briefings and would always show up, and do his job. In some regards he was a celebrity. The flight line officer would not say a thing. All the once strict and by the book officers had either been killed off or evolved and saw the big picture.
Franz jumped on the light brown sun rotted spring seat of the old bicycle. The tires were old , age cracked and low on air pressure. He began to peddle the heavy steel bike. His body would bob up and down. Slowly, the heavy rusted old steel bike gained speed. He would take another long draw on the Eckstein cigarette which was now half way gone. The wind was in his face. His cigarette was gripped in the center of his stained teeth and pointing skyward. The bike was now at it’s lumbering cruise speed.
He could see the aircraft mechanics standing, searching and waiting for him in the distance. Franz could also see that two ME262s had already left their camouflaged revetment areas and were rolling down the taxi way toward the west end of the runway. Franz recollected that these two were a newbie pilot and Col. Ludwig Vogler, the squadron training officer. It wasn’t long before the inexperienced Luftwaffe pilot was on the runway with throttles advanced. Even though the jet was a half kilometer away Franz could tell take off power was set from the copious black sooty exhaust smoke. A micro second later the booming sound of full military would reach his ears. The Airman was rolling.
A few short moments later, the young pilot at 120 KPH passed by Franz from the opposite direction. Franz, was only 20 meters away from the ME-262 when their eyes met. The newbie cast Franz a thumbs up as he passed. They knew each other and had sat at the same table during chow. They never really exchanged many words, but Franz knew the man or the boy rather.
Franz had heard all the stories. He had shared mess with pilots from Spain to the steppes of the Ukraine. He had seen hundreds of ego driven big mouthed pilots come and go. Some were quiet and reserved. Some preferred to listen. Some were close friends. Many were obnoxious, self absorbed, and extremely competitive. Either way, if a pilot made one little mistake or was incompetent, he would not last long. Franz had seen it time and time again. Sitting down for chow with his fellow airman became a silent event for Franz. To him it seemed like the orphanage all over again. One day he would have a friend that he sat to eat dinner with, and the next day his friend would be chosen by a family and gone. Now, death would choose the pilot. Chow time became a constant reminder of this reality. Instead of making friends, Franz chose to remain quiet, polite and distant. The equation was simple, this new pilot was one of dozens that came, flew and may die. It was best to not make him a friend.
Franz wondered if the boy would make it back to the base without being shot down or killed. Franz postured upright on the bicycle, coasted, pulled the cigarette from his mouth, and threw it to the tarmac. He then turned his body and saluted his fellow airman in a show of respect.
The smell of jet exhaust and the brain rattling noise reminded him of where he was, who he was, and what he was about to do for the Fatherland. He was a Luftwaffe pilot and a Luftwaffe Ace. Above all, he was a German. A German fighting for his country. The familiar smells and sounds of the flight line filled him and strengthened his courage. The juices of aviator competence began to flow. His mind was now saddling up for the journey ahead, and he was ready to fly. He was now fully into his role as an air warrior, and his new jet was chomping at the bit waiting for him. The freshly painted fighter would come straight from the factory. A product of German technology, engineering, quality, craftsmanship and pride.
The engines had been ran up and tuned at the test cell, but the virgin aircraft had never left the ground. Several mechanic would inspect every bolt as soon as the fighter was delivered via rail and hoisted to the ground. It was a German made aircraft, and he could depend on it with his life.
Airplanes, the flight line, all the noises, smells, people and purposeful interaction had become Franz;s only home. It had replaced the orphanage. On this day, he was no longer the quiet and withdrawn boy that nobody wanted, he was a well respected German ACE ,and the pride of the squadron.
Franz had just made love to his gal in the forest. Her scent and juices remained. His first love, however, was sitting on the tarmac and waiting for him under camouflaged vale. The ME262 had never been with a pilot before. This was to be it’s first time. Franz trusted the jet and all the solid German mechanics that massaged her being. The ME262 mechanics were the best that Germany had to offer. Many were older and had wrenched on fighters in every theater. Some may have worked on fighters in two feet of snow at 40 below zero at the airfields outside of Stalingrad, Leningrad and Moscow. Some had worked the 120 degree flight lines of North Africa from Tunis to Benghazi. . On this beautiful July day in 1944, these superb Luftwaffe technicians had made certain that this aircraft was airworthy. A salute from these fellas meant that they had done all they could for the pilot. This air machine was safe to fly.
Suddenly from out of a low hanging cloud bank and over the west end threshold of the airfield, a Red-Tail Mustang appeared, the propeller boring and whisking a hole into the remnants of the mist . He could now hear the 12 cylinder engine as the supercharged Merlin powered P-51 Mustang quickly descended into firing position. He was lined up on the new guy. Franz glared as the Mustang passed the same location that his fellow airman had passed only seconds before. Franz could hear every cylinder firing on the Merlin engine in a flowing combustion chorus of sound. He turned his attention to his friends ME262 as the Doppler effect changed the sound and orchestra of the Mustang’s power plant and propeller. Franz flicked his eyes back to the Mustang and gazed at the first black pilot he had ever seen. The pilot was a black Tuskegee airman and he was occupying the same location his friend had occupied a moment before. Instead of a thumbs up, Franz received the finger as the American airman took a gander at Franz and then turned back to focus on his his prey. Franz had thought the warning horn was for the B-17s that were approaching. How did these Mustangs make it to the airfield without encountering the ME109s and FW190s that were already in the air. Apparently, this fella had flown on instruments through uninterrupted low hanging cloud cover to the field. He did not give himself away until he was making the kill.
Franz had heard of blacks flying planes, and this was his first experience with one. According to German NAZI white supremacists Africans were “Untermenchen” and only good for military slave labor. Even in America, German prisoners of war could use a white man’s bathroom and drink at a public fountain when on work details away from the prisoner camps. White NAZI prisoner’s of war could eat in a public establishment while Black soldiers, pilots and officers could not? In America on this July day 1944, Black American patriots that were fighting and dying for the freedom of all America were subject to Jim Crow laws.
On this gorgeous and green German day in Bavaria, this Tuskegee airman was fighting NAZIs. He was not thinking about sitting in the back of the bus or working his father’s share cropper land in Carolina. He was focused on making a kill.
Unaware, the student Luftwaffe pilot approached rotate velocity and scanned his instruments. This was his 10th flight in an ME262 and he did not have the presence of mind to check his 6. The tower would eventually warn him, but it was too late and would not have mattered anyway.
The Red Tail Mustang pilot was an experienced killer and knew his aircraft. This African American pilot was initial cadre of the Tuskegee airman. He was now part of the 99th fighter squadron and had cut his teeth in North Africa. From the beginning, he had to be better than his white counterpart. He had to dress sharper, conduct and communicate better, be smarter, work harder , and operate an aircraft in superior fashion. Moreover, he had been trained by the best Air Force in the world.
In the field, he was on his own. In many cases, he could not trust the military intelligence from some of the white pilots because the communication was strained and ridden with the underpinnings of conditioned racism. Racism that had been taught and re-enforced for centuries. The only fellas that truly had his back were his fellow Tuskegee airmen. He saw racism at home and racism in the Air Force. Captain Marvin Mitchel would become an ACE during WWII only to return to the racism and segregation of the South. The WWII Tuskegee airman would fight and die for our freedoms, but could not eat in a white owned restaurant and use a public bathroom. The Tuskegee Airman would go on to help defeat segregation and become the catalyst for change.
When he was in the air “Mitch” was one with his flying machine. Like a cowboy on a quarter horse. In fact, he owned the sky and was a fully competent pilot. In 1936, Hitler looked on as Jessie Owens became the fastest black man on the planet. Now the fastest black pilots in the world were killing off Herman fat boy Goering’s prized Luftwaffe. Air superiority does not care what color the warrior is.
Mitch had flown fighter escort from Sicily this day in support of the 8th Air Force. He and his small flight of fighters were strafing targets of opportunity on there way back from the bomb run. The first causality that day was a radar Jadwagen that had been giving radar information. By the time he had lined up on the fresh Luftwaffe pilot he had been flying since mid 1941 and had several hundred combat mission under his belt.
Calmly, the Red Tail Ace lowered his nose and started a descend to approximately 50 feet from the runway surface. He was oblivious to the antiaircraft guns directing fire on his aircraft. All he cared about was bringing the sites of the Mustang onto the tail of the smoke laden ME-262 in front of him. At 400 knots, the entire 1.5 kilometer long runway would be in his rear view in short order He only had a few seconds to make the kill. The Red Tail pilot efficiently adjusted his angle of attack. He pulled the trigger on his yoke. There was no leading this target. It was an easy shot. With the touch of the trigger, the guns blazed on the fully loaded and fully fueled 15,000 pound jet fighter. Hundreds of rounds would hit the ME-262 just as it eclipsed take off speed.
The right engine was hit in the turbine section causing the turbine wheel to unbalance, disintegrate , and explode through the side of the engine case. The gyro effect would sling the turbine blade assembly several meters into the air.. Jet fuel under high pressure gushed forth into obliterated burner cans. Still functioning spark igniters and the red hot void of the tail pipe would create a massive fire plume 5 to 10 meters long. Both wing tanks were penetrated and began to explode . Raw Jet fuel began spewing aft ward igniting on the burning engine. Satiated with the kill, the Red tail Ace pulled back on his yoke, and climbed back into a cloud bank to avoid anti-aircraft fire.
The mortally wounded aircraft rolled to the right, nosed down, struck the ground cartwheeling, burning and leaving a trail of burning debris. When the aircraft came to rest on it’s belly, the cockpit area was undamaged save the loss of the glass canopy. Franz could see the young pilot jumping from the now open cockpit. He too was on fire. Instinctively, the pilot ran several meters from the burning wreckage, dropped to the ground and rolled to extinguish the flames. The fire would burn every part of his body that was not covered. He would go through the rest of his life with goggle like burn rings around his eyes where his goggles once were. His neck and face were badly burned. Shrapnel had also severed the bone and muscle of his left collar. With the fires burning on his uniform extinguished, the adrenalin quickly subsided. He began to feel the excruciating pain of his burns. He laid on his back on the cool grass next to the runway. It was giving no relief. The young man felt cheated. He writhed in excruciating pain. He gazed skyward as the wasp nest of Red Tail killers swarmed over him. The last thing he heard before he passed out was the sound of supercharged Merlin engines moaning and groaning above him and the intermittent burst of guns and AKAK . Unlike the utter thousands of German pilots that would die in air battle, this young fella would finish out the war in the hospitals of Munich. He would not be among the 12 million German soldiers and airman that gave their lives for Hitler. He would live to be an old man and cherish every single day with family and friends. He would become a leader in a New Germany.
About this time, a second Red Tail appeared lined up on the squadron training officer about to take the active, and unloaded it’s guns. It was a raking broadside hit. Two dozen rounds of ordinance hit the right wing. The salvo would then walk it’s way to the on looking, terrified and screaming Col. Ludwig Vogler. The officer was hit with a half dozen 50 cal rounds to the torso and head which bloodied and blew out the cockpit canopy glass and structure. The aircraft exploded into a massive ball of fire.
Franz skidded the old black bike to a stop at his new ME262 that was fresh from the factory. The engines were running as he threw on his chute, goggles and helmet. A moment was spent talking with the mechanic and the flight line officer. Franz only needed a the heading and location of the B-17 cell. He had flown over Germany since the early 1930s and knew every airfield and every landmark. He could navigate Germany like the back of his hand. It did not matter if it was dark, overcast or clear in a million. All he needed to find the B-17s was their latitude, longitude and heading, and he would stalk them for the kill.
For the moment, it seemed the P-51 air assault was over. The tower gave the thumbs up for take off. Franz and his aircraft were exposed and he had no choice but to take off.
Franz advanced the throttles and went across the grassy area between the taxi way and runway. The front tire skidded, skipped and struggled to turned onto to the active runway. Once aligned, Franz fire walled the throttles. He checked the RPM and EGT and vowed to recheck them when he was airborne. He understood the limits of the engine, but for now, he was pouring the coals to it. At best, the the Jumo 004 engine was good for 25 hours of operation. This virgin aircraft was now his bitch and he would ride it hard.
Unlike the ME109 he had flown in Russia, the ME262 took copious runway and was slow to accelerate. Franz inpatient, looked over his shoulder and scanned for another fighter. He then checked his gauges and airspeed . Franz would hold the aircraft on the runway until he could lift off with authority. At 10 knots above rotate, Franz yanked the yoke and left the runway at a 30 degree angle. He again checked his six with a much better view. Franz could see that 3 more P-51 Mustangs were descending on the field and hitting everything in their path. One Mustang pilot had his guns trained on Franz and released a burst of his guns . A dozen rounds dug up the runway behind his aircraft missing the German fighter. Another P-51 moved to the left to support the attacking P-51 . The third P-51 tucked in behind.
Franz was a sitting duck with limited airspeed. Accelerating straight ahead would allow the 3rd P-51 an unimpeded kill shot. He knew he could not go vertical and let the fighters rush past underneath him. He did not have the airspeed. Franz opted to hard bank to the right and head for a tree line that paralleled the runway.
At 400 knots, the first Red tail went vertical when Franz banked. The second Red tail was not in position for firing and continued the runway heading. The third P-51 moved to the rights and lined up on the floundering ME262. This third Tuskegee was able to get a small burst off, before Franz turned behind the column of trees. The P-51 machine guns caught the tail of the ME262 causing damage to the rudder and right elevator skin.
Franz then continued the bank into a a narrow 6 kilometer long access road within the dense forest adjacent to the runway. The belly of the aircraft and the left engine hit the branches of trees at the apex of the turn. The left engine ingested some pine needles and a few soft tiny branches, but avoided any catastrophic failures for the time being. When Franz rolled the aircraft level, the right wing tip struck a tree knocking off a half meter of the wing tip. The heavily loaded Me262 had bled off several knots of airspeed in the turn and was now right above stall speed with full flaps and gear. Franz lowered the nose, threw up the gear handle, retracted the flaps and rechecked his EGT and RPM. Everything was within specification and the ME262 unburdened by the gear and flaps started to acclerate.
Franz leveled the ME262 off at 10 meters from the ground and waited frantically for the airspeed to come up. 130, 170, 200 ….. Franz checked his 6 again. The first P-51 that had gone vertical, went inverted and inside looped. The Tuskegee Ace was now rolling his aircraft to upright and descending to line up on Franz. It was only a matter of seconds before the black man would unload. Franz knew he was caught dead to rights. The access road that had saved him was now his coffin. Franz scanned his 6 and the P-51 was right on his tail 200 meters away. Franz was now accepting his fate. He was done. The sober reality is that he could not climb out of this trench because the entire silhouette of the aircraft would be an easy target. Resolved and sober, Franz waited to be killed. It was over.
At approximately 100 meters, the Tuskegee airman cut lose. Franz , with head turned to the rear, looked on. Franz had anticipated the distance the Mustang pilot would fire at, and yanked the yoke back and forward which porpoised his aircraft. The ME262 was now at 30 meters above the groun The P-51 gun ordinance pattern flew underneath him. He missed. Franz braced for the next shot. About this time, an ME109G from above made a visit. The ME109G could see the entire silhouette of the P-51 on Franz’s ME262. The Tuskegee airman was so focused on the kill that he did not check above for the enemy and thought there were no other German fighters in the area. He was wrong. From an altitude of 5,000 feet, The ME109G was vectored back to the field by German combat controllers when the first P-51 had downed the student pilot. The ME109G pilot saw the second set of Mustangs and began a dive. He also saw the ME262 avoid the hit and turn into the forested area. With a only few adjustments, The ME109G dove at 400 knots, led the nose of the P-51. and salvoed. The fire from the ME109Gs guns strafed from the front to the the back of the unsuspecting P-51. The Tuskegee airman was inundated with fire and 108 cannon ordinance. It wasn’t his day to fly. One of the 108 cannon projectiles hit the cockpit of the P-51 obliterating the pilot and cutting the fighter in half.
250, 300, 325 knots as Franz waited nervously. The once distinguishable individual trees of the 50 meter high tree line became one continuous blur of darkness, blue sky, and blurry motion. . The effect was enchanting and lulled Franz into observing a magic tunnel of color, light and speed. Franz thought of Maria and how he was in love with her. During Spain, France, England and Operation Barbarossa he never had the love of a woman. He wanted to spend his last seconds on earth thinking about the woman he had fallen in love with. He struggled to put her out of his mind and focus on his air speed indicator. He could not believe that he was still alive. The P-51 behind him had to have closed to within 50 meters. He rechecked his 6 for the P-51 only to find it gone. “What the fuck” he muttered to himself. His questions would be answered when the forest behind him erupted into flames, and an ME109G flew overhead rolling and dipping its wings.
At 350 knots, Franz pulled the yoke back and nosed the aircraft upward at a 60 degree angle. The jet exploded from the tree line. Franz scanned the area for the other Red Tails, only to find one at 25 meters below and 150 meters to his left and rear. This was Mitch again. Mitch was the flight leader and had instructed his men to spread out for the kill. The a second P-51 was at a flt level 200 meters and 600 meters away. Still a fourth Tuskegee P-51 was climbing above him at approximately 1000 meters. Mitch instinctively followed the tree line and assumed wing man position. Mitch watched as the ME109G instantaneously appeared from out of no where and killed his associate. Mitch winced with emotional pain at the site of his friend exploding into bits, and waited for the ME262 to climb and show itself. Mitch compartmentalized the death of his friend. He would grieve later. Mitch radioed the fourth P-51 to engage the ME109G. These fellas were not ill prepared aviators, they were more like a team of wolves attempting to run down an elk or deer. They were working as a well oiled killing machine. Mitch had carefully studied the Intelligence and Arial reconnaissance photos relating to this airfield prior to the mission. He vaguely recalled the access road and how it ended a few kilometers beyond the west end of the runway threshold. He knew that the German pilot would have to show himself there and he turned the P-51 to intercept at the top of the tree line. Mitch was on a parallel course to the west end of the runway threshold climbing slightly to intercept and align his guns when the almost vertical ME262 shot out of the tops of the trees. This was a different animal now. According to Mitch’s thought processes, this was supposed to be a point blank range kill. He would catch the ME262 as it rose from the tree line and obliterate it. Instead, Mitch was dealing with a German ACE that had been flying gliders and airplanes since he was a boy. Franz yanked the yoke to his left and banked into and over the Red Tail just as it gave a burst of the of it’s M2 Browning machine guns. The volley completely missed the ME262. Mitch looked above as the now inverted ME262 blasted by him. . Franz then rolled the aircraft upright, banked right, lowered the nose and continued to accelerate. He passed under the third P-51. and lined up on the fourth P-51 that was now crossing his path to engage the ME109G. Franz gave a burst of his 108 cannons striking the propeller of the Mustang and blowing the entire propeller assembly off the aircraft. Too low to parachute out, the Alabaman simply lowered the gear and landed his Mustang on an open Bavarian meadow. He would live out the war in a POW camp.
Mitch banked hard left attempting to bring his guns to bare, but opportunity had passed. Franz was now off to his right, 2 kilometers away and accelerating to 430 knots. Mitch, radioed his airman to give up the chase and his remaining fighters limped back to Sicily. The battle was a two for two fighter exchange while several Air Base buildings burned to the ground
Had Franz simply exited the treeline and continued parallel to the runway, all three Tuskegee fighter pilots had a clear shot at him. Franz had learned how to roll an aircraft and do an inside loop on the JU87, and the ME262 was a piece of cake.
Behind him the airfield buildings were on fire. Several junk and non operational ME262 decoys were burning on the tarmac. A total of 5 ME-262s would leave their tree line camouflaged revetment areas and become air born once the Mustangs left. Crash , fire rescue would retrieve the the burned airman and take him to a Munich hospital close to the Wehrmacht head quarters.
Franz scanned his gauges, cleaned up his checklist items, and headed for the B-17 air armada. The aircraft did not need the right wing tip. and was fully operational. At a safe distance and away from the attack, the emotional sting of losing the squadron training officer enveloped his mind and Franz began to sob. Franz had known this fella for several months and shared more than a few beers with him. Franz remembers the time when he was invited to Vogler’s home to celebrate his son’s one year birthday. He remembered Renate and how she welcomed him to the home. She was a splendid host. He remembered how good the schnitzel was. He had cherished the welcome, and the nourishing conversation. He enjoyed strong coffee and German chocolate cake next to the warmth of the fireplace. Vogler was the first friend he had after Stalingrad and his stay at a hospital in Berlin . Vogler had trained him on the ME262.
Franz had been shot down over a snow covered Russia, and was not rescued from the cold and snow for a few days. In fact, Franz spent two full days walking west until he was picked up by a Panzer division on a tactical assault mission. The only thing that saved him from the 20 below zero night was the confines of a blown up half track, and burning emptied ration boxes in the cab of the vehicle.
The warmth of Maria, the German summer and Vogler family was a stark contrast to two days on the Russian steppes and frost bit feet and hands. The emotional and sensual divide between love and war was hard for Franz to resolve. Franz was fighting for the country he loved under a dictator he despised. Instead of laying in the loving arms of a beautiful woman, he was killing others for Adolf Hitler. Franz had seen the ruins of the 6th Army from 5000 feet. He saw the destruction and the bodies strewn across miles of snow covered barren land. He understood that Germany had lost 10 million German boys to war.
Franz was oblivious to the slight vibration and rise in EGT. He looked at his compass and turned his fighter to a 240 heading and began a climb to 35,000 feet. The German controllers would update him on the B-17 bomber force and its location. Franz’s sorrow quickly turned to the need for revenge. He was now in the hunt for the biggest trophy of all: the lead B-17 of a a massive cell of bombers. Franz had flown over countless cities that had been gutted by American and British air power. He had been to see the massive swaths of destruction in Munich. Franz figured every B-17 he shot down meant hundreds of German men women and children would live. He wasn’t fighting for Hitler, he was fighting for the German people.
An hour had passed and the Tuskegee airmen were flying over the Austrian Alps at 30,000 feet. The sky was clear and the sun was shining . The Austrian alps were bathed in light and the brightness of snow reflecting the sun’s rays. The effect was refreshing to the senses. Not this day. Mitch was now grieving the loss of his fellow airman. I guy he had known since 1940. A fella he had learned with, bunked with, ate with, served in combat with, and shared the joys of life with. His friend was now gone, disintegrated into a million pieces. Mitch attempts to remember his face, his smile, and the laughter. He remembers the good times in Tuskegee, Alabama and how Leon was a good and honest fella. He was hard working an proud to be an American aviator. Together they had served as brothers in arms against NAZI tyranny. Now he was gone. Tears streamed down Mitch’s face. The silence was violated when one of the other airman spoke up on the radio and in a crying voice stated, ” son of a bitch we lost Leon and Howard”! It seems that everyone was on the same page and were crying and grieving for the fellas that they grew to love. Mitch keyed the mike and replies, ” yall no your radio discipline. We will brief the mission on the ground stay alert now!” It seems even when the Tuskegee airman would lose brothers, they maintained the highest levels of conduct, discipline and airman ship….
Maria rises from the homes spun knitted blanket. It was made by her mother during long cold Bavarian nights. She folded the blanket with care and placed it in her cotton shoulder bag. She could hear the familiar sounds coming from the base only a kilometer away. She paid little attention to the airfield noises. Maria began the walk back to the store, but not before she picked some edible mushrooms and wild asparagus at the edge of the meadow. She had been picking these delectable treats since she was a child. She would make a cheese sauce and feed the fresh delights to her boys that evening.
Maria sensed a new sound coming from the airfield and the eruption of gun fire. She turned to listen to munitions fire when an unfamiliar fighter with a Red tail flies right over the top of her. She is startled when she hears a massive explosion and then observes as a black plume of smoke climbing from the top of the treeline before her. On no! Is this Franz she wonders. Maria turns and runs back to the store to check on her boys.