For the hundredth time Okura checks the compass –the time
The Kate bellows –and vibrates, and the noise surrounds him, insulates him.
His eagle is alive under his soft touch, the stick unconsciously adjusting to the light thermals, bumps in the road.
The formation is a loose one – fingers of three, and three, and three.
Alongside him Kamisaka rides at his Starboard wing, Petty Officer Tanaka his port.
All safely away.
A good start.
A tap on his shoulder – the navigator speaks into his intercom –tinny, remote.
“land in 5 minutes”
The noise still surrounds him – -you are really alone here –in this seat. Your crew cannot effect what you do –nobody can.
Only the enemy can
He nods. Good. Takes his wingman’s eyes –waves the signal.
They acknowledge across the abyss separating them, and he takes the canopy above him, and slides it firmly shut, adjusts his goggles, sweeps the instruments again –all is good –and gently eases the stick forward.
They descend gently –the speed picking up –the controls hardening, the bumps and thumps hard and urgent now, and there –there on the horizon –the cliffs of North and south head –tiny, tiny, but growing by the minute
500 feet, the ocean now has form, shape, the waves individual –and the world vibrates, and eyes search, search for the harbor opening –have they arrived at the right place?
And suddenly –instantly –the diorama –studied so hard –becomes recognizable –there is Manly cove –that is south head –and that is middle head –and the houses nestled on the south cliff tops are growing into recognizable shapes –red roofs gleaming in the sun, and the descent stops at 200 feet, and the ocean now that lovely blur underneath, and the left hand takes the throttle, and slams it into the stop –the bellow now a howl
South head looms, and he gently rudders, gently sticks, eases her over the cliff – bellowing over the roofs on south head –startled faces looking up –and Ogawa and Diogawa race overhead –the fighters seeking, seeking –rocking, and the stomach rises as he swoops down onto the harbor –the great bridge –there –there! –ahead, 2 miles away.
A small boat flashes under –and red balls –white balls are rising up –flashing past and under and Tanaka -more sensed than seen is winging over, down , and behind, cart wheeling into the green, green water –and it matters not –for the harbor is packed with shipping –and coldly, calmly, he lines up the cruiser -underway, behind that funny fort, and its 500 yards, 400, 300 –men are running on her deck –too late! –and Kamisaka is beside him –the hand snatches at the bomb release, funnels, masts below, gone –she leaps into the air, free of her great weight –and behind –a flash –a titanic Thunmp!, another thump –and he climbs, climbs over the city head screwed back towards the target –and the cruiser –the Louisville, is burning, burning already!
He banks hard to starboard, the great bridge sliding under his starboard wing –and he notices with some amusement as Kurihara flashes under the bridge –his target a mountain of flame behind him –the tanker burns.
He keeps turning, climbing, heading back towards the sea –and the next wave is coming in, glinting in the sun – angling in towards garden island –and , Oh , how thick the shipping is there – a mass of funnels –alongside, shut down, helpless.
And the noise insulates them – the engine drowns -almost –the shattering explosions as the bombs land –again, and again –the kates zooming low and hard across the great shipyard –tail gunners spraying death as they go
He circles still –climbing, climbing –and notes the chaos in the harbor, in the city –on the bridge, and almost as an after thought –the immensity of this great brown land they have kicked
And no planes rise to fight them.
And then it is over –and missing just Tanaka –the bombers turn for home.
And the noise insulates them…………..
Kamisaka flies behind Okura, his eagle lighter, easier to handle now.
He is empty. Yet not.
He did not miss
Kurihama flies – almost in a daze.
How sweet a thing he has seen and done today.
A fully loaded tanker – and how bright did it burn!
How hot those flames must have been
And how the seamen did run………….
Kurihama flies –he is grinning –but it is not a happy grin –more akin to a wolf over a broken legged deer
Oh, how sweet a thing he has done today……..
Zuiho recovers her strike with out incident.
A mere two planes have been lightly holed.
The pilots will climb out –each in their own way.
Some, slowly, carefully – shattered mentally from the battle. They will be quiet, introspective
Others will leap out –grinning, excited.
Some will simply climb out –and seek the meal awaiting them.
All will expect a follow on strike.
But first –the intelligence officer………
‘Initial results sir”
Hasegawa nods – noting the excitement on the midshipman’s face.
CA Australia – 2 bombs
CA Canberra – 1 bomb
CA Louisville –2 bombs
CL Adelaide – 1 bomb
CL Achilles – 1 bomb
CL Perth –1 bomb
CL Marblehead – 1 bomb
Tanker –unknown –1 bomb
Medium AP –1 bomb
Large AP –1 bomb
Murmers on the bridge.
Hasegawa grins –ancient wrinkles deepening even further.
“and so we dispatch the ANZAC squadron. A good days work. Please have Hidaka report here”