Ogawa does not hesitate –and already his fighter is peeling up, and over the kates, and Diogawa too is following, the sick hard over into his thigh –the throttle slammed forward, and the earth is sliding down the right wing, and now they are barreling down towards them –them –20 plus at least –P-39’s? –yes –airacobra’s –and the distance is close, coming closer at a frightening rate –impressions of the other zero’s with them, following them into the heart of the barsteds –and they have not noticed them!
Training, he thinks –they must have been training –and now its turning into the left, and down, and the first fighter is floating across his bows –and THUD< THUD< THUD< THUD< THUD, the cannon crashes, vibrating the cockpit, cordite, smoke –and now they know they are there, scattering, wheeling –and he has missed, damn, he has missed, pull her around, vertical, vertical, where are you, you, got you, , I will, get you, ………..
The P39 inverts, dives away, and under, and Dioagawa is pulling up –a falling 39, a flame streaks past –and there are shadows behind……………….the barsteds will fight, want to fight.
And now its he who twists, and corkscrews –and the world spins, Noumea below –and the enemy field, and the bloody thjing is full of the Goddam planes – spewing dust as the scramble to meet them –even as the Kates below shed their eggs………
A 39 slides in behind, savage kick on the rudder, stick hard bak, center, then forward, snarling the 39 blasts past and under the left wing, hard into the $%^&$#, , guns again crashing, tracer flying over, above, and damn, missed again.
A zero passes, inverted –afire…………
And the sky is clear.
He is too low now – and the remains –what a terrible word –the remains of the strike are heading westward –full throttle –barely off the deck now, and he swings towards them, looking, looking for any more threats…………….
And breath –gasp the air in now –and the sweat is thick, and slick, but he is alive, damn, he is alive ………….and a final curse –a single, savage expletive.
For he has missed.
You know that moment
That freezing, heart stopping moment. You have committed to the act –and now, a moment, a microscopic second later –you know you have made a terrible mistake.
You have shut the car door –and as it slams –there are the keys in the ignition………
Okura knows this moment – the dive has begun – committed, determined –inexorable –and his rear gunner is shouting –fighters!, fighters!, fighters!, and the escort is peeling over the top of them, diving down at the formation – and the heart stops –20 plus…….. and the field –the field where there should be no field at all –columns of dust –and fighters, more fighters than you can count – lined alog the edges, or already raising dust………
They dive –a shallow dive –bouncing in the air, exhausts shoveling black smoke –emergency boost now –and the target –wharves –cranes – are so far away –30 seconds at least………
The sharks fall upon them –climbing up –slashing at the bombers - then climbing above them, going for the attack again.
The guns chatter –pitiful bursts from the kates –against the stattacco burst of the 39’s –but thank the Gods –there is too the deep thud, thud of type O cannons –3 weaving above and behind them, getting between the sharks and the sheep……
But sheep fall
Lt Bando’s bomber suddenly lights up – and for a horrific moment –he see’s it all –a cockpit aflame –and they sit in the flames………… and mercifully the bomber folds up on itself and falls from sight……..
Over target –must concentrate on the target –and she leaps free now, and hard as they can, he wheels her around and down for the deck – more fighters flashing overhead, cordite fills the air, and the ocean streams below, flashing, glittering, and the sky –so full of grey, is frustratingly, terribly clear of cover now – but for that rain –there, ten miles away, dark on the ocean.
They race for it – and his mirror is filling –two, no, three sharks –coming in.
Glance left, glance right –four against three here – his gunner fires –and tracer spurts, bright white on the blue –and tracer flashes past, red, slow, terrible -, skid, skid –the enemy misses, snarling past
Another is coming in – and two kates fire –and whoever he is –he is not very good –he dodges –and over corrects –is out of the chase , and hope rises
Standoff – two against four –and the two turn away…………….
The flock regathers and beats for home.
And soon, soon it is raining again –grey, horrible.
A grey to match many hearts…………
‘They are returning sir”
Hasegawa nods- how many, how successful?
“Give me the report when you have it…..”
They see them low now, no tight formation this –low on the horizon, straggling –and three at least are trailing smoke……
“I count 16 kates sir –6 fighters”
Five crews lost, 15 men…………and two more eagles……….
This had better have been worth it………..
Zuiho recovers her birds, besides bando she has lost another crew –and one Kate will takes day to repair.
Her crew many days more -, blood flows upon her decks for the first time, staining her wood, seeping into her veins. Today Mars will extract his bill from the happy Phoenix…………
Hasegawa needs only a single glance from Hidaka as he enters the bridge. Hidaka does not speak, his eyes deep with the shock, and sorrow.
‘Signal Yamamoto . Strike on Noumea conducted. Results ……………” damn to hell, results –a third of the strike shredded for a crane killed?. How do you say –results a bloody shambles?’………..’results as expected”
Conducted port strike on Noumea.
Strike encountered 20 plus combat fighters –obviously on training mission.
6 enemy fighters shot down.
Port hits –nil
Losses heavy –5 kates, 2 fighters lost. This ship lost 2 kates, 1 damaged, 2 wounded men..
……..a bloody bust………… we are retiring – I hope we have achieved something useful…………..
….. a deep gloom today –Zuiho has suffered heavily today, I understand we achieved little for a terrible price………….
Yamamoto reads Hasegawa signal.
Surprisingly he smiles
“Excellent –now that should fix their attention…….. Captain Hara – set course for launch point. Full ahead all…………..”