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Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) Plans Service - Airplanes and Rockets

"Battling Grogan" - Hawks of Nippon
May 1934 Flying Aces

May 1934 Flying Aces

Flying Aces May 1934 - Airplanes and Rockets3 Table of Contents

These pages from vintage modeling magazines like Flying Aces, Air Trails, American Modeler, American Aircraft Modeler, Young Men, Flying Models, Model Airplane News, R/C Modeler, captured the era. All copyrights acknowledged.

"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

"Battling Grogan" - Hawks of Nippon, May 1934 Flying Aces - Airplanes and RocketsNew "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.

Taipan! Taipan!"

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.

"Taipan!"

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 Cheung commanded.

As they reached the ships, Grogan grasped Ah Im's arm. "What's it all about?" he demanded.

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 for breakfast!"

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 sun.

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 hatred.

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 off."

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 from Peiping.

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 of doom.

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 below.

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 upon Grogan.

"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 American, too."

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 the difference?"

"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 you?"

"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 Yank's rear.

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 village.

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 water.

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 St. John.

"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 turned away.

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 old man.

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 a prayer.

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 for her."

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 trigger.

"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 enemy.

"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 fight."

Connelly had two automatics. He handed one to Harris.

"On your knees!" ordered Grogan. "And when they're within twenty feet, let 'em have it."

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 snapped.

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 the sky.

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 and crash.

"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, gently.

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


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