A loud rumble breaks the early morning silence of a small North African village. As the seemingly endless thunder rolls on, nearly forty specks appear in the distance. As the listless natives slowly appear on the streets, Allied soldiers run through narrow alleyways. For nearly a week, reports of a group of German transport planes had been intercepted by Allied spies. Now these planes had crossed the Mediterranean and were near the Tunisian border. What the Germans do not know was that crossing the neutral village means flying over a covert Allied airfield. As the unknowing Germans fly over the desert, Allied spotters watch intently from a distance. Jumping into the cockpits of their new Curtiss P-40 Tomahawks, the pilots await orders to intercept the aerial convoy. One pilot in particular, Eddie Johnson, is especially nervous…
“I don’t think I can do it, I just can’t go!” cried Eddie Johnson from the cockpit of his shiny new plane. “I can’t miss out on this mission, that would be traitorous” replied his conscience, arguing stubbornly. Just an hour before, Eddie had woken up from a nightmare where he saw his plane, The Pride of Pawling, smoldering in the hot sand, riddled with bullet holes. After this horrific vision Eddie’s courage was wavering.
Nervously shaking in his cramped cockpit, Eddie felt claustrophobic for the first time in his life. Time moved slowly like a glacier, but Eddie felt he lacked the strength to claw his way to safety. Suddenly, with a loud crash, Eddie’s canopy was slammed shut as he started his engine in unison with the rest of his squadron. Before he knew it, Eddie was already taking off, his hands and feet operating the controls like a machine. Soon The Pride of Pawling was streaking toward the enemy, falling behind the squadron leader. Climbing into the safety of the clouds, Eddie knew that they were about to make a surprise dive onto the unsuspecting enemy. For what seemed like eternity, the squadron flew toward their target, watching intently for any sign of the aerial supply line beneath them. Then, all of the pilots saw the enemy planes at once. Sixteen Messerschmitt BF-109 fighters guarded twenty-four vulnerable Junkers Ju-52 transport planes on their way to southern Tunisia.
Each Tomahawk suddenly dived like a falcon onto the enemy. Burning tracer ammunition suddenly rained down on the BF-109 fighters. Inside Eddie’s cockpit, time flew by like a bullet. He quickly found himself tailing an enemy fighter and fired his guns without thinking. After expending a third of his rounds, Eddie remembered to aim. Pointing his plane just above the right wing of his quarry, Eddie launched a storm of bullets from his guns. Almost instantly, the wing flew off, nearly destroying Eddie’s plane as it flew back. Tumbling through the air uncontrollably, the crippled fighter burst into flames as a stray tracer struck its fuel tank.
Seeing that most of the German fighters had been shot down or were in complete disarray, Eddie decided to take aim at one of the transport planes. Easing his aircraft behind the nearly defenseless enemy, Eddie took careful aim. Easing his finger down on the trigger, Eddie was almost startled when the guns erupted with flame. After seeing direct hits in the fuselage of the enemy aircraft, Eddie guessed that he had hit the waist gunner. In just ten more seconds, Eddie’s target has hurdling toward the ground. Before he could even comprehend what had happened, Eddie saw a German fighter flying directly at him. As he banked left to avoid colliding with the seemingly insane German pilot, Eddie heard a sound like ball bearings hitting a tin roof. As he looked down, the entire instrument panel vanished into a whirlwind of metal and broken glass. Suddenly, a twenty millimeter round whizzed through his left knee, nearly severing his leg. Trying desperately to escape the coffin like cockpit, Eddie pushed as hard as he could against the canopy. Unable to open it, he resigned himself to his fate, trying to keep his plane level. Miraculously, another burst of gunfire smashed a sizeable hole in the canopy of the doomed aircraft. Grabbing ahold of the broken glass, Eddie tried in vain to escape. Seeing the blood running from his hand as he gripped the razor sharp glass, Eddie nearly screamed with horror. Using the last of his strength, Eddie managed to free his head, arms, and upper torso from the cockpit. Just when Eddie thought his situation could not worsen, fifty caliber bullets severed the entire tail of The Pride of Pawling. As the plane rolled into a death spiral, its pilot was suddenly thrown from the wreckage. Just fifty feet from the plane, Eddie could see it explode into brilliant orange flames. His last memory was pulling the ripcord on his parachute and passing out.
The next day, Eddie woke up in an Allied hospital. Looking up, he was shocked to be face to face with his squadron leader. After hearing of the success of the mission he had taken part in, Eddie surrendered into a deep sleep.