"Battling Grogan" was one
Flying Aces magazine's series of sagas of World War I and post-World War I
flying aces. Robert Burtt was the author. Other included "G−2" secret agent
Captain Philip Strange, by
Donald Keyhoe, and Arch Whitehouse's
Kerry Keen (aka "the Griffon").
Battling Grogan tales took place in the run-up to America entering officially into
World War II, when many nation's fighter pilot hired on to foreign air forces
as what were essentially mercenaries. Some flew for China to defend the country
from Japan's brutal onslaught, while others signed on with Japan. Political and
patriotic emotions often had nothing to do with which side a pilot was on; it was
primarily a factor of pay and flying opportunity. Grogan was of course on the good-guy
side as he elected to assist China. He was not part of the
Flying Tigers (formally
called the First American Volunteer Group), but instead commanded the Dragon Squadron.
If you like stories with lots of action and intrigue, then these Flying Aces dramas
are just what you've been looking for. Some are quite lengthy.
"Battling Grogan" - Hawks of Nippon
New "Battling Grogan" Yarn
By Robert Burtt
Author of "Traitor Truce," "The Bat Brood," etc.
Vengeance took Battling Grogan and his Dragon Squadron into the air. Vengeance
drove them swiftly on their way to Wenping. For the hawks of Japan had bombed that
forbidden city - a city protected by a law that not even the most lawless could
be allowed to defy.
Battling Grogan stirred uneasily in his sleep.
A tiny, persistent hammer was pounding steadily on the screen of his sleep-drugged
senses. Suddenly, with a bounding leap, he was out of his cot.
A lean, sensitive, but powerful pair of hands was upon his shoulders and a pair
of dark eyes gazed at the Dragon chief.
This time the gentle but penetrating intonations brought the Yank ace into the
full command of his faculties. He steadied himself, took a full breath.
Every stick-trigger of the five Dragon planes was depressed, and a withering
blast of steel-jacketed death swept that Jap bombing formation.
1Uu.strated by Eugene M. Frandzen.
"Great heavens, Ah Im, what's up? i had barely gone to sleep!"
"Quick, Honored One! Ship ready. No time lose!" Grogan knew his old henchman
too well to argue. He jumped into his wool-lined flying suit, drew on a pair of
fleece-lined brogans over his slippers, and grabbed his helmet and goggles from
the table. Ah Im raced out of the hut and Battling Mord followed the lithe form
of the Oriental ace.
As the Yank and Ah Im, Captain Cheung Sun Im on the honored rolls of the famous
Dragon crew, approached the line, Grogan saw that five Boeing fighters were standing
wing to wing, their exhaust stacks coughing out a throaty rumble, propeller arcs
describing gold and silver disks in the stream of light from the east.
Battling Mord perceived that his own plane was on the extreme left. Next his
was that of Ah Im. The other three were Boeings belonging to Flight C, which Captain
As they reached the ships, Grogan grasped Ah Im's arm. "What's it all about?"
Cheung shook his head. "Much haste required. Humble servant would not have disturbed
master if not important. After take-off talk on radio."
"Okay," grinned Grogan, turning to his own ship. "You take the lead and I'll
bring up the rear. When we get in the air, tell me what it's all about. You'd better
have some excitement lined up or I'll skin you alive when we get back. Don't forget
I came off night patrol at three o'clock!"
Ah Im's dark orbs flashed a look of devotion at his chief. "Taipan need have
no fear," he said. "Plenty much doing. Maybe not come back. At least have Jap meat
The American laughed and leaped into his pit. In another minute five saffron-winged
Boeing's, their sinuous Dragon emblems curling and twisting in the powerful prop
blasts, thundered over the hard surface of Nanyuan Drome and rose to greet the rising
Thoroughly awake now, Grogan zoomed into rear-guard place as the formation left
the field. Captain Cheung was still swerving. There! He seemed to be straightened
out on the course he desired. The Yank didn't need to look at his compass to tell
they were following an almost direct northeast course. Well, it certainly wouldn't
be long now before Ah Im started talking.
The thought had hardly entered his mind
when his earphones commenced crackling. Cheung's voice, distorted as usual by the
microphone, boomed out.
"Sorry disturb Honored One's rest. Colonel Wan call from Marshal Wang's yamen.
Have spy report. Jap formation on way make early morning attack Wenping, near Pingchuan."
The voice of the Oriental ace faded out, but Grogan sat up rigidly in his pit.
A tremor of fierce rage swept through his rugged frame. Wenping!
Unconsciously the Yank's fingers slid the throttle wide open. They must arrive
in time to intercept the Japanese formation. He would never forgive himself if they
didn't. For Wenping was the home of the kindly old missionary, Rev. Calvin Harris.
It was a small village in the foothills, and the venerable Harris had been carrying
on his work of love there for almost half a century. He had a little hospital and
a school, in addition to the mission. The villagers and mountain people he served
had accepted the aged American as one of themselves. Although the near-by hills
and mountains were infested with bandits and were the hideout of General Chue, an
independent war lord, who loved nothing better than to descend swiftly on a lone
Jap detachment, Harris was never molested.
Grogan had met Harris one day in a shop in Peiping. When the missionary found
out who Battling Mord was, he roundly denounced him.
"You are spoiling all the good work I am doing by your fighting," he had thundered.
"You should love your fellowmen, not kill them."
The Yank ace had not argued with him, and they had parted in a more friendly
manner. Later, when Harris had sent in a runner with a frantic message to a Peiping
hospital for a rare serum, Grogan had personally flown it out to Wenping. The quick
arrival had saved several lives, and the old man's gratitude had been almost pitiful.
He insisted that the Yank airman stay for lunch and introduced him to his wife and
their daughter Rita, lately arrived from college in the States.
On roared the Dragon flight. The American's Wasp bellowed madly, and the tachometer
needle crept up and read its maximum revs, but still Grogan wasn't satisfied. He
glanced impatiently at his air speed and edged the stick slightly forward.
The Yank was now in the lead. His first furious spurt, when Ah Im's news had
crackled into his earphones, had sent him out in front. Captain Cheung and his three
tong hellions had been forced to slap the juice to their motors, throttles clear
forward, to keep up with their leader. Now the three Chinese pilots were flying
wing to wing with their chief, while Ah Im had slipped back and up into the place
of guard, vacated by Grogan.
The sun was now well above the eastern horizon. The Dragon chief gazed at the
crimson ball and cursed softly to himself. For in that direction lay the land of
the Rising Sun, stronghold of those whom Grogan had come to hate with a terrible
But the Yank ace allowed himself to waste no time in vengeful meditation. He
had a direct objective ahead of him. At last the thing had happened which, ever
since meeting the old missionary, Grogan had feared most. He had taken the trouble
to make inquiries concerning Harris, and had found out that the missionary's hospital
had been used for years by the mountaineers and villagers in the vicinity of Wenping
for relief, regardless of whether the affliction was caused by disease or bullets.
The American knew that no one coming to the gates of Harris' mission compound in
need of aid would be turned away. And more than once Grogan had visualized the possible
results of such a course.
But now the Dragon chief gave his full attention to the ground over which they
were flying. Immediately ahead was the sharp curve of China's Great Wall. To the
right loomed the tiled roofs and minarets of the ancient city of Kichowpei. Motors
full out, straining and vibrating in the engine beds, propellers reflecting golden
beams of light from the polished steel blades that bit into the heavy morning air,
the Dragon formation lanced onward. They were flying low, and thick mist still enshrouded
the valleys and low spots. But the sun now was beginning to have some warmth, and
the feathery gray blankets were being rapidly burned into oblivion.
Grogan's goggles, fitting too closely to his head, were beginning to fog up.
He raised them, wiped them out. Then, peering over the top of his rounded and curved
windshield, he made out a mist-filled valley which slashed across the rolling uplands
ahead. A grunt of satisfaction spouted from Grogan's lips. At last the Lwan ho River.
Wenping was not many miles farther on.
Suddenly, static crackled and hissed in the Yank's ears. He listened closely.
An unintelligible mutter trickled through his earphones. At once Grogan knew some
one was calling him, but it was not one of the four ships in his formation. Reaching
down, he moved the tuning dial of his receiver, and at once words shot into his
ears with startling abruptness. He turned down the volume control, and the message
came in clear and distinct.
"Dragon Squadron headquarters, Nanyuan calling General Grogan."
This was repeated, and without further delay, the Yank switched on his transmitter
and replied, "General Grogan to Nanyuan. Go ahead."
"Nanyuan to General Grogan. Marshal Wang's headquarters report Japanese squadron
leaving Wenping and flying east. Village of Wenping almost completely destroyed.
Jap infantry detachment reported following up air raid. Ah Lun, Nanyuan, signing
For the space of a few seconds, Grogan sat in his pit absolutely rigid. He felt
weak. A strange emptiness gripped him. Wenping practically wiped out! Then the old
American missionary, Harris, and his family - what of them? What chance was there
that they had survived? A cool, deadly rage raced through his body, and in the same
instant he waggled his wings. Immediately the Dragon buzzards behind him were all
attention. He banked slightly to the right, bearing almost directly east.
The Yank ace had made a sudden decision. There were two main Jap air bases in
Manchuria - one at Mukden, the other at Shankaikwan, where the Great China Wall
begins on the coast of the Gulf of Liaotung. Marshal Wang's spies had reported the
Jap squadron as flying east. Therefore, it was far more likely they were headed
for their tarmac at Shankaikwan, rather than the older base at Mukden. Besides,
Shankaikwan was much nearer.
The Dragon chieftain well knew the Japs would not make an air raid on such a
place as Wenping unless they did it in numbers, and that would probably mean a squadron
of bombers protected by another squadron of pursuit. They knew well enough that
Grogan and his Dragon Squadron were now back at Peiping, but they evidently calculated
they could do their job and be back at their base long before any help could arrive
Fifteen minutes slipped by. Impatiently the Yank's gray eyes photographed the
air ahead. To the right, traversing hill and dale, rose the ancient battlements
of the Great Wall of China, upon which they were coming back once more. But there
was no sign of a Jap ship. Grogan shifted uneasily in his pit. Had he made an error
in judgment? Was the Jap armada on the way to Mukden instead of Shankaikwan?
In that instant, out of the corner of his eyes, the Yank caught the flutter of
a saffron wing. Ah Lue, flying on his left, had edged forward, and was trying to
attract his attention. Grogan looked. Ah Lue pointed down and to the left. Grogan
gazed in the direction indicated, every nerve alert. Suddenly he saw!
Low, hugging the ground, the battle-gray of their wings almost lost in the dull
gray of the rolling steppes, flew a group of Jap planes. They were following a valley
and were down so low that they were barely visible above the protecting banks. Grogan
would not have made them out at all had it not been for the telltale red disk, that
selfsame emblem of the Rising Sun, which caught and reflected the golden beams from
the east. And then, back and above, the Dragon chief made out a second group of
ships. He needed no one to tell him that these were the returning raiders - the
bombers flying low, and above and back of them the pursuits.
There was not a second to lose. The Yank
chief was already in a dive calculated to intercept the flight of bombers. Ah Im
had left his post above and behind and was now directly behind Ah Lue. The others
had closed up, and the Dragon formation was now a compact spearhead of five ships,
motors bellowing forth with staccato thunder, flying wires singing a shrill crescendo
By this time Grogan had made out the type of planes he had to deal with. They
were old and familiar enemies to the Dragon hellions - Mitsubisi bombers and Kawanishi
fighters. He saw they were going to intercept their foes at a point where the valley
ahead broadened out just before going through a defile in the mountain range.
The next instant, a grim exclamation of joy escaped from the Yank's lips. The
Kawanishi pilots behind had not yet seen the diving formation of Boeings on their
right, and already Grogan knew he and his men were going to have at least one shot
at the bombers before the pursuit planes behind could come up into range. He pumped
up the pressure for his guns, released the safety catch, and fired a warning burst
from his twin Brownings. This was no time to have his guns fail. On each side of
him, streams of tracers whistled into the atmosphere ahead. His hardy hellions were
following his example.
One more second and they would be in range. Grogan gave a sweeping glance around
him. The four tong pilots behind were all crouched over their sticks, eager for
the fray to start. The pilots and gunners in the Mitsubisis were completely unaware
of the bolt about to strike.
Suddenly, the gunner of the last bomber on the right of the V glimpsed the approaching
doom and rose frantically in his seat. In that second the first Mitsubisi edged
into the Yank's telescopic sights. Grogan raised his hand. Every stick-trigger of
the five Dragon planes was depressed. A withering blast of steel-jacketed death
swept that Jap formation.
Consternation, bred from their complete surprise, took possession of the Jap
airmen. Even before they could think of protecting themselves, the blow had fallen.
The leading Mitsubisi, raked by Grogan's unerring fire, shot toward the ground below
like a comet, motor wide open, its pilot dead at the controls. Two more of the bombers
followed their leader in his fatal dive. One gunner leaped from his rear cockpit,
jerking his ripcord as he jumped into space, but the altitude was too slight. Even
as the silken folds of his parachute ripped from the pack, the unfortunate birdman
thudded into the rock-strewn bed of the stream below.
The balance of the bomber formation were thrown into a sudden panic. Seeing the
disaster that had overtaken their fellows, the remaining Mitsubisi pilots attempted
to escape in any direction they could. One ship, turning sharply to the left, crashed
into the jutting rock wall of a near-by cliff. Two others locked wings and crashed,
after making one turn of a gigantic spin.
Behind, and screaming to the rescue of their fellows with wide-open throttles,
came the formation of Kawanishi fighters. In the meantime, Grogan and his four companions
had zoomed up and turned in order to be in position to meet the onrushing Jap pursuit
ships. Grogan saw that the formation of bombers had been decisively split apart.
There was no further use in diving upon the remaining Mitsubisis, who were now headed
outward in all directions, for to do so would put him and his men at a disadvantage
with the approaching Kawanishis.
He gave the signal to break formation, and at once, seeing the time was right,
he speared downward to meet the leader of the skibi pursuit formation. He saw there
were twelve Kawanishis as against the five Boeing's of the Dragon crew. He also
knew the Jap pursuit pilots, enraged by their failure to protect the flight of bombers,
would be desperately eager to atone for their carelessness.
But the very eagerness of the Nipponese airmen to avenge their fellows proved
their undoing. They gave Grogan and his hellions, who had already tasted the wine
of victory, openings of which the Chinese pilots, trained by the best air fighter
in the world, took instant advantage. The Dragon chief and Captain Cheung seemed
to be all over the sky. The Yank took on the enemy flight leader in a mortal duel
which lasted less than a minute. Almost immediately the Jap hawk allowed an opening
which Grogan seized with vicious swiftness. Loosing a chattering cluster of .50
and .30 caliber messengers from the vibrating Brownings in front of him, he sent
the Jap leader into a slithering dive which ended in the chill waters of the river
But the Dragon crew did not escape unscathed.
Good old Ah Lue, ganged upon by three Kawanishis, sped across the western horizon
in a gyrating pyre of crimson.
It was a bad day for the hawks of the Mikado. The golden beam of the sun, now
well risen above the horizon, lighted up a soul-twisting scene of carnage and destruction.
Upon the banks of the stream and in the nearby fields seven raging balls of gas-fed
flames attested to the fury of the air battle above. In the stream itself, the icy
water splashed and dashed against the shattered wrecks of four other planes.
Many twigs of the sacred sakaki were to be offered in Tokio to the souls of the
Nipponese hawks who had, fought their last air battle for the Mikado this day.
Those Mitsubisis which remained in the air had long since sped for safety. The
shattered remnants of the Kawanishi formation gathered themselves together and limped
off to the east. One Nipponese airman, Grogan saw, had succeeded in making a landing
in a narrow meadow along the bank of the river. The Yank dived down low over this
ship. The motor of the plane was still turning idly over, but the pilot was slumped
forward over his stick in the cockpit. Obeying a sudden impulse, the American signaled
Ah Im and the two other tong pilots, and landed next the Jap ship.
Leaping from his Boeing, Grogan approached the Kawanishi, but warily, fearful
of a trap. Drawing his automatic, the Yank drew nearer, while above hovered Ah Im
and the remaining two Dragon ships. Stepping even closer, the American perceived
a trickling crimson stream flowing down below the Jap pilot's helmet. He reached
forward a sinewy hand and shook the Nipponese buzzard violently. There was no response.
The airman was unconscious.
In the next instant, Grogan understood how this marvel had happened. He saw that
the top of the man's helmet had been ripped open. A bullet had creased the top of
the pilot's skull. It was a nasty wound, but not dangerous. How the man had been
able to retain consciousness long enough to land his plane was more than the Dragon
chief could possibly understand.
Something suddenly attracted Grogan's attention. He looked again. A tuft of hair,
blood-matted, protruded from the rent in the helmet. The hair was light in color.
He reached down and pulled the pilot upward, turning his face with the movement.
A gasp of astonishment broke from Grogan's lips.
The flyer was an American!
Signaling for the three Dragon ships above to come in and land, Grogan raced
over to his Boeing and took out the small first-aid kit he carried in the small
compartment back of his headrest. Within a minute he had stopped the flow of blood,
cleaned the wound, and affixed a rough bandage.
By this time Ah Im and his two pilots had landed. They leaped from their pits
and came racing over to the Japanese plane. Silently, Grogan indicated the wounded
pilot. Ah Im, imperturbable as ever, showed no surprise.
"Him American, huh! Fight for Japs," "Yes," replied the Dragon chief. "I can't
hand him much on that."
The wounded pilot showed signs of recovering consciousness. He gave a sudden
movement of his body, and an unintelligible mutter escaped his lips. A few seconds
passed. Then he gave a sudden start, jerked his head up and looked about in bewilderment.
His arm made an involuntary gesture up to his head. His eyes, pale blue, seized
"Who are you?" he demanded weakly.
"My name is Grogan," replied the Dragon chief, grinning.
"Where the hell did you come from?" continued the wounded pilot.
"From Peiping," answered Grogan. "You're American, aren't you?"
"I'll say I am!" returned the Yank ace. "And I regret to say that I believe you're
The wounded man gazed at Grogan in silence, as if trying to digest this last
statement. Then his attention was attracted to Grogan's Boeing near by. Then he
turned and looked at the three Chinese pilots standing on the other side of the
Kawanishi from Grogan.
"I see," he muttered. "Chinese pilots!" He indicated the insignia on the side
of Battling Mord's plane. "The Dragon Squadron of China!"
"Right again," answered the Yank.
"How did I get down here?" asked the Kawanishi pilot.
"That really is a miracle," replied Grogan. "You certainly must have a tough
skull. You evidently knew you were wounded badly and were able to land your ship
before you lost consciousness. I've cleaned the wound and doused it with iodine.
However, you need about six or seven stitches, I think."
The man's blue eyes contemplated Grogan for an instant. "What did you mean by
saying that you regret I'm an American?"
"That's easy," returned Grogan shortly. "You're flying for the Japs, aren't you
"Sure I am!" exclaimed the other. "And you're flying for the Chinese. What's
"It's all right, I suppose," growled the Yank, "if you like to associate with
dogs. But that's not the main reason. You were just coming back from a bombing raid,
weren't you ?"
"I was. What of it? I don't suppose you've ever been on a bombing raid, have
"Certainly I have," exclaimed Grogan. "Plenty of them. But I don't bomb hospitals
and missions run by my own countrymen."
"What the devil do you mean by that?" asked the man seated in the cockpit. "We
were just on our way back from bombing the headquarters of General Chue, who's been
fighting against us."
"That may be what the J aps told you," returned Grogan, "but what you have actually
done is to wipe out the village of Wenping, and Wenping is the location of one of
the most important American missions in north China. They have a school, hospital,
and big compound. It's run by the Rev. Calvin Harris. Without doubt, Harris, his
wife and daughter, together with all of their workers, are dead."
A dull gray had crept over the man's features as Grogan spoke. "My God!" he cried.
"You can't really mean that?"
"It's the gospel truth," returned the Yank.
"Listen," said the other, shuddering, "my name's Jimmy Connelly. I graduated
from Kelly Field two years ago, but they weren't passing out any commissions. As
a matter of fact, I was on my way to China to try to get a job flying for the Nationalist
Government at Nanking, but on the way the Japs offered me a job, and I didn't think
it made much difference." He stopped, and then a sudden thought struck him. "Great
heavens!" he groaned. "There's a detachment of Jap infantry supposed to follow up
the air raid and capture everyone at Wenping who wasn't killed by the bombs!"
"What are you going to do about it?" asked Grogan coldly.
A steely purpose glittered in Connelly's blue eyes. "I'm going to try to undo
some of the damage I've done," he growled. "Will you fellows help me?"
The Yank ace studied the fellow a minute. "All right, Connelly," he said. "I'm
going to take a chance on you. But I'm warning you - you'd better not try anything
phony. There are four of us to you alone, and my Chinese pilots can shoot straight
and throw their crates around plenty well - as perhaps you've seen."
"I know that, all right," nodded Connelly. "I'm damned lucky to be alive. But
what shall we do?"
"We'll fly straight for Wenping," replied Grogan, "and if we catch that Jap infantry
detachment anywhere around, we'll show them a few things about the scientific art
of ground-strafing - something they will remember Wenping by. If Harris and any
of his family are still alive, we'll get them out of there."
Two minutes later a curious formation winged its way west. 'Battling Mord Grogan's
saffron-hued Boeing flew point, and behind and to his left, in the faithful Ah Lue's
place, roared a gray Kawanishi, with the bright sun's rays reflected from the crimson
disks on wings and fuselage.
The Dragon chief did one thing as soon as he was off the ground. He radioed Nanyuan
and ordered Monty St. John, the Limey who skippered the squadron's A Flight, to
meet him at Wenping with every available plane and man. Thinking of the faint possibility
of finding Harris and his family still living, he directed that two Douglases should
be flown over with their rear pits empty. Grogan knew that the Jap brass hats would
dispatch a powerful air armada to blast him and his men from the skies if they suspected
for a second that he would return to Wenping before high-tailing it to Peiping.
Approaching Wenping, the Yank scanned the ground eagerly. He could see no signs
of any ground troops. The sun was now well above the horizon, and all ground mist
had been burned off. The visibility was excellent.
Soon Wenping came into view. Grogan gave one look and cursed violently. There
was hardly a building left standing. Harris' mission, school, and hospital were
a mass of smoking ruins. For once the Nipponese bombers had done an excellent job.
But that had been easy, the Yank reflected bitterly. The Japs had had nothing except
their own safety to worry about.
Inert, sprawling figures, huddled in grotesque positions, were mute proof that
many of the inhabitants, taken by surprise, had died while trying to escape the
death that rained from the skies. Grogan signaled his hellions to break formation.
Then he dived down and circled low over the ruined village, searching for signs
of life, and, more important than that, some evidence of Harris and his family.
He was so intent on his purpose that he lost track of the other planes in the air.
Suddenly, his earphones crackled.
"Taipan! Quick! Northwest of village." It was Ah Im. As he looked in the direction
indicated, Battling Mord threw his Boeing around. He saw Captain Cheung's plane
circling low over some near-by hills, and from the guns of the Oriental ace spouted
a stream of tracers.
The other two tong buzzards also heard the call and were hurtling toward their
flight leader's ship. Connelly, who had kept near Grogan, screamed along in the
Approaching the spot over which Ah Im circled, the Dragon chief saw a sight he
never forgot. About a mile and a half northwest of the village was a huge, circular
hollow. In appearance it resembled a gigantic shell crater. It was perhaps a hundred
yards in diameter and the center dropped a good fifty feet below the undulating
ridge which formed the fringe.
In the middle of the hollow, cowering in a terror-stricken group, was a dense
mass of frenzied people - obviously the remainder of the living inhabitants of Wenping
On the ridges of the hollow, packed shoulder to shoulder, grins of fiendish delight
upon their moon faces, were hundreds of Nipponese infantrymen.
Each Japanese soldier had his gun pointed down into the hollow, trained on the
cowering, shivering mass of humanity below. And at intervals, served by its squad
of four, was the ugly snout of a Jap machine gun. Along one side of the hollow,
at a point somewhat higher, was a round knob of earth, and on this mound was the
upright figure of a Jap officer.
Ah Im had taken the execution party by surprise,
evidently just as the slaughter was to begin. Enraged by the sudden attack of the
Dragon plane, the officer had raised his automatic and taken several futile shots
at the Oriental ace. Grogan and the other Dragon buzzards were just approaching
as Captain Cheung zoomed to turn and renew the attack. Seeing that he was only,
wasting ammunition, the Jap officer raised his hand for the agreed-upon signal to
commence firing on the fear-crazed populace below.
Grogan, screaming closer in his furious dive, was pointed straight for the Jap
officer. He could have blasted the Nipponese rat from the face of the earth, but,
immediately behind the officer and full in the telescopic sights of the Yank's Browning's,
was the center of the mass of people in the hollow below.
In that instant the Jap's hand fell, and a murderous fire blazed from the hollow's
banks. The outer ranks of the unfortunate victims began to melt like fat in boiling
Grogan threw his Boeing into a vicious turn. The next second he was skimming
the ridge of the hollow, and his twin Brownings were chanting forth their dirge
of doom. How the Yank did it he hardly knew himself, but he kept his nose deflected,
wings perpendicular to the ground, and made a complete circle of the hollow's bank,
guns yammering continuously.
Even as the Japs had ruthlessly mowed down their helpless victims, so did the
Dragon chief cut them down in turn. About and above cavorted his tong pilots, diving
down and cutting in with a burst whenever possible. Connelly, the American, seeing
what was going on, performed valiantly. He it was who, following Grogan in that
first dive, decapitated the Jap officer with the axle of his landing gear.
The Nipponese infantrymen couldn't stand the pressure. By the time Battling Mord
had completed his circle, the whole detachment was fleeing in all directions.
Grogan zoomed up and then returned, flying low, down into the very hollow itself.
A pitiful little knot of people still remained standing in the center of the depression,
their faces blanched by fear and suffering.
As the Yank ace roared over this small knot, he caught a momentary glimpse of
a white head in the center of the group. Grogan zoomed up sharply, then returned.
A few of the people had recognized the curling Dragon of China on the yellow-winged
ships, and renewed hope had flooded their hearts. They had splintered apart slightly,
and now Grogan distinctly saw an old, white-haired man kneeling on the ground, his
arms around two blurred figures.
The Yank zoomed up and his eyes swept the near-by terrain. A few hundred yards
to the south was a possible landing spot, along the ridge of a small hill. Wasting
not a second, he cut his gun and maneuvered a landing. On the ground he taxied as
far as possible in the direction of the hollow.
Connelly, seeing him down safely, followed suit. Ah Im and his two fellows hovered
about and came in one by one. As the last ship came to a landing, Grogan heard a
low moan in the south. Turning his eyes in that direction, he saw a large formation,
flying low, the sun glinting from yellow wings. He gave a sigh of relief. The rest
of his Dragon buzzards were on the way. They would have protection now.
He jumped into the pit of his plane, switched on his transmitter, and called
"Have the two Douglases with empty rear pits land where we are. The rest of you
stay in the air and protect us from any ground attack. There are a bunch of Jap
infantrymen around. They're scattered now, but may reform and cause us trouble."
Just as he was about to jump from the Boeing, Grogan caught a crackle in the
earphones. He lifted one up.
"Have just had radio report from Peiping," reported St. John. "The Japs have
evidently found out you've come back to Wenping. Two squadrons just took off from
Shanhaikwan and two more from Mukden. Don't waste too much time on the ground."
The Yank ace didn't bother to answer. There wasn't time. It wouldn't take the
Japs long to make the hop from Shanhaikwan.
"Now listen!" he directed Connelly and the three tong pilots. "Get your automatics
out and follow me. We're going over into that hollow. We may have to fight our way
in and out. I think Harris is still alive."
Three minutes later they were on the ridge, looking down into the hollow. Accustomed
as Grogan was to scenes of horror, the sight that met his eyes caused a violent
tremor of revulsion to shake his frame. Connelly gave a hissing gasp and momentarily
Hundreds of ill-clad wretches lay in a sodden, crimson mass, drenched in blood.
Most of the unfortunates were dead, but many of them were moaning in agony. Fighting
their way to the center, their legs becoming crimson as they pushed on, the little
group made their way to the spot where a little group knelt about a white-haired
Grogan could see now that it was Harris. He was kneeling over a body that lay
on the dank ground, and as the Yank came closer, he heard the aged missionary muttering
Then the Dragon chief was right be-hind Harris. On the ground, her flickering
eyes seeking the sun-drenched skies, was Mrs. Harris. Close beside her, body racked
with sobs, was Rita Harris, their daughter.
The group of Dragon pilots removed their helmets. Quite plainly they could see
that the old missionary's brave wife was dying. Very shortly it was all over. The
venerable missionary rose quietly to his feet and turned to the Dragon chief. His
face was gaunt, his eyes hollow, and he showed only too plainly the effects of the
terrible suffering he had been through. Nevertheless, the gleam of a fierce resolve
burned in his face.
"After the Jap planes bombed us from the air," he told Grogan, "the infantry
detachment came along and herded everyone out here. You saw when they started firing.
I insisted that we should stand on the outer edge of the villagers, but they wouldn't
have it so. They made us get in the center. Imagine that - protecting us, foreigners,
with their bodies!"
"They loved you," said the Yank simply.
Harris looked at him as though he was considering something in the distant corners
of his mind. "Yes, I guess they did," he replied.
"What about Rita?" asked Grogan quickly. "Is she -"
"No," answered Harris. "She's all right, but it's been a terrible experience
Suddenly Grogan noticed Connelly. The pilot had edged forward, and was standing
at the Dragon chief's shoulder. He was looking down at Rita Harris, as the girl
quietly sobbed over her mother's body. There were tears in Connelly's blue eyes.
Then the girl looked up. Her gaze passed from her father to Grogan and from Grogan
to Connelly. There it remained for a few fleeting seconds.
Harris' attention was attracted to the figure of an aged woman near by. She was
lying on the ground, head pillowed on the inert body of a young child. Slowly, feebly,
moans of pain escaped her parched lips. The old missionary hastened to her. As he
went, Grogan saw that his left arm swung limp from the shoulder and that drops of
blood dripped from the fingertips.
Harris bent down over the old woman, examined her. Then he turned to the Yank
who had followed.
"Wa Lin," he whispered. "She has served us for thirty years. The dead child is
her grandson. She can't last more than a few hours." He straightened up as though
he had made a sudden decision. Reaching forward his right hand, he took Grogan's
automatic from its holster. He pointed the gun down at Wa Lin's head, pulled the
"It's better that way," he said, returningg the weapon.
The Yank and his companions could only gaze at the missionary in astonishment.
Harris paid no attention to them.
"Taipan!" cried Ah Im, and as the word was spoken, he raised his automatic and
fired three times.
Grogan whipped a glance in the direction Cheung had fired. Then he saw the reason.
Some of the Jap soldiers, rallied by their officers, were returning to the attack.
Overheard, St. John and his pilots were diving and firing whenever they spied an
"Quick!" cried the Dragon chief. "We've got to fight our way back to our ships.
St. John and the rest of our men will do their best to protect us."
Connelly dropped to his knees, gently pulled Rita Harris away from her mother.
"I'll carry you!" he said.
The girl looked at him gratefully, but shook her head. The Dragon pilots closed
in around Harris and his daughter. Then began the retreat.
As the group made for the side of the hollow they had entered, bullets began
to sing around them. Despite St. John's efforts, snipers had concealed themselves
in underbrush along the ridges of the depression, and it wouldn't be long before
they began to find their mark.
One of the tong pilots stumbled and fell, then rose and staggered on. He had
a flesh wound in the leg. Suddenly, from a thicket ahead, rushed a Jap officer and
a squad of infantrymen, firing as they came. At once Grogan saw the purpose of this
strategy. The nearer the Nipponese could get to the Yank and his party, the safer
they would be from the guns of the Dragon ships above.
The aged missionary glared at the oncoming Japs. "Give me a gun!" he cried to
Grogan. "My father fought in the Civil War. I may be a preacher but I, too, can
Connelly had two automatics. He handed one to Harris.
"On your knees!" ordered Grogan. "And when they're within twenty feet, let 'em
The little group huddled in a small, compact mass and waited. The Japs rushed
down, screaming war cries. They kept firing as they came, but the uneven ground
made any degree of accuracy impossible.
Quiet, steady, having perfect faith in the judgment of their chief, the others
waited for Grogan to fire first. Finally his hand came up "Let 'em have it!" he
His automatic cracked and the Jap officer in the lead staggered, lost his footing,
and pitched headlong. There was a concerted burst of fire from the group, and three
more of the attackers dropped, Then the rest of the Japs were upon them.
But as soon as the Dragon pilots had shot once, they dropped their guns and pulled
out knives. A short, furious, hand-to-hand fight commenced. While he was battling
with one chunky Jap, another started to stab Grogan in the back. but his blow never
landed. Harris leaned forward and shot him through the heart.
Then the fight was all over and the members of hte little group were helping
each other up the bank. Ahead, St. John and his hellions were viraging madly over
the ground, tracers blazing. And suddenly Grogan saw why. The rest of the Jap infantry,
sensing that the planes on the ground were the only escape for the Yank ace and
his party, had attempted to capture the ships on the edge of the field. The two
Douglas pilots had landed, pulled their crates up next the Boeings and were now
in the rear pits, slinging lead at the attackers on the ground.
As Grogan's group came on the run, the Jap ground forces renewed their assault.
Again there was a furious round of in-fighting. Old Mr. Harris was everywhere. His
automatic blazed continuously, his useless left hand flopping grotesquely. Finally
the Japs gave way and St. John's pilots strafed them mercilessly.
"I'll fly Miss Harris back in one of the Douglases," offered Connelly. "Let one
of the Douglas pilots fly by Kawanishi."
Grogan didn't oppose him. In fact, he ordered one of the Douglas pilots to fly
the Kawanishi, while the other was to fly the Yank's own Boeing.
Rita Harris was placed in one Douglas rear pit, and her father climbed into the
other. Grogan and Connelly were the pilots. As they took off, the shadow of many
wings appeared in the east. The Nipponese armada had arrived!
And as the sky fleet of the Mikado dived upon the Dragon ships below, General
Chue and his men, just back from a raid on a Jap outpost on the other side of the
hills, galloped down on the Nipponese infantry. Battle raged on the ground and in
Before St. John and his buzzards could form a protecting screen back of Grogan
and Connelly, the Jap ships were upon them.
The Yank edged back of Connelly and the girl. At least, Rita might be saved.
Harris leaned over to Grogan. "How do you work these machine guns?" he shouted
in the Yank's ear.
Momentarily Grogan throttled and yelled rapid directions. Harris evidently understood
them all right, because in another five seconds a flight of seven Kawanishis were
in a power dive on their tail, and the rear-pit guns were chattering merrily.
One of the Jap pursuits veered out of his line of flight to settle on the tail
of Connelly's ship ahead. With surprising agility Harris swung his guns and released
a burst which led the Kawanishi just enough to result in a perfect hit. The doomed
Jap ship leaped unward in a shivering zoom - to fall off in a careening sideslip
"How do you like that?" exulted the aged missionary, shaking his fist after his
falling enemy. He stood full upright in the rear pit and the whistling slip-stream
almost tore his white locks from his head.
Grogan whipped a glance backward and marveled. Standing thus in the rear pit,
gaunt, hollow-eyed, yet virile for all his seventy years and useless left hand,
Harris seemed a strange demon from another world.
Had the Jap armada been two minutes later, the Dragon Squadron could have been
well started for Peiping, But a dogfight had started before they could get going,
and there was nothing for it but to stay and fight to a finish.
Below, on the ground, General Chue and his wild Mongolians had cornered the Jap
infantry and were finishing them off in swift order. But above, the sky was filled
with darting, swooping birds bent on each other's destruction. Helped by Ah Im,
who took terrific chances, Grogan tried desperately to protect Connelly's rear,
but the Jap hawks seemed to come in never ceasing streams.
Connelly's Kawanishi had long since gone down in flames, ganged by ten crimson-disked
ships of the same type. The Japs evidently knew of Connelly's dereliction and didn't
waste any time in sending it down. The American's change of planes had been an unwitting
sentence of death to the tang pilot of the Douglas.
As the air battle waxed more furious in intensity, Grogan began to have serious
doubts as to whether any of them would live to return to Peiping, Grogan had never
seen his hellions fight with more zip. Outnumbered almost two to one, their backs
to the wall, they performed impossible feats in those azure Manchurian skies.
Finally the Yank was able to form the remnants of his squadron into a loose formation.
Slowly, fighting all the while the tong pilots retreated toward Peiping.
Seeing their quarry was about to escape, a compact formation of Kawanishis made
a last, desperate dive upon the Dragon formation. Suddenly Harris' guns ceased to
yammer. Looking behind, Grogan saw the reason. The old missionary was out of ammunition.
One Kawanishi broke through and approached within twenty yards, black-snouted
machine guns vomiting twin streams of lead death. A veritable hailstorm of bullets
tore through the rear of the Douglas. The ship quivered violently and Grogan knew
the plane was badly crippled. He darted a glance behind. Harris had fallen to his
knees on the seat, but his right arm still waved in defiance to his foes
But the Yank knew the old man was done.
That was the last gesture on the part of the Jap hawks. Grogan herded his crate
as far as Nanyuan drome.
Five tong hellions had made their last flight in their saffron-tinted Boeings.
One more, he who changed planes with Connelly, had sped over the Western Range.
Ah Im's shoulder was badly wounded, and Grogan himself had suffered a bad flesh
wound in the thigh.
When they pulled Harris out of the rear pit, he wasn't quite gone. "I always
wanted to be a soldier ," he whispered.
He was laid out on a stretcher in the brilliant Manchurian sun.
"Don't take me inside," he begged. "I want to go out in the open with the sun
in my eyes and the breeze fanning my cheeks. As you boys who live in the skies go
He looked up at Grogan and Connelly. Rita was kneeling beside him.
"Will you take care of her?" he asked weakly.
Both men promised. Then the light suddenly faded in his eyes. He had started
his last journey.
Finally Connelly raised the girl. "I'll take you back to the States," he said,
Fire flashed from Rita's eyes. "No, you won't!" she cried. "You'll stay here
with General Grogan and fight the Japs until there isn't one left in the skies.
And I'll stay here and help you. He can stay in your squadron, can't he?" she asked,
turning confidently to the Dragon chief.
Grogan grinned. "I'll say he can!" he answered.
Posted January 29, 2022