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Historical Fiction American Science Fiction

On September 2, 1945 in the early morning before sunrise,, Lt. Glieb was piloting an F6F Hellcat over the South China Sea from Okinawa to Kagoshima, Japan. This was considered a routine flight.  The war would come to an end in a few hours as representatives of Emperor Hirohita would sign the official treaty in front of General MacArthur on the deck of the USS Missouri. Lt. Glieb  duty was to make sure the skies over Tokyo Bay would be safe since there were stories about renegade Japanese pilot who would fly kamikaze missions during the signing. 

“This is Lt. Harry Glieb checking in.” He spoke into his radio attached to his mask.  

“Roger that.  Do you see anything?” Major Bassett asked.  Lt. Glieb could see the major’s Hellcat at the head of the wing formation. 

“Not a thing.” Glieb reported, “What the hell was that?” 

“What did you see, lieutenant?” Major Bassett asked, noting the excitement in Lt. Glieb’s voice. The excitement was out of character for the usually calm and placid pilot. 

There was silence. Major Bassett glanced over his shoulder, but in the early morning darkness, he could barely see Glieb’s Hellcat, but nothing looked out of place or problematic. The squadron would be landing within the hour at the airfield in Kagoshima that was currently pockmarked with craters from American bombs during the war. All of the pilots from Kilo Squadron were veterans and could land their planes in just about any terrain.  

Once the squadron was on the ground, Major Bassett went looking for Lt. Glieb.  The young pilot was standing by his plane, carefully examining the skin of his plane. 

“What’s up?” He put his hands on his hips as Lt. Glieb was squatting under the right wing.

“I saw something.” His voice was shaky.

“What?” 

“I wish the hell, I knew.” He shook his head.

“How is the plane?” Major Bassett asked.

“Fine. Whatever it was came within a few feet of my air space.  I was sure I had struck it, but there was no damage.” He stood up and shrugged.  “At least no damage I can see.” 

“Make a report.” Major Bassett turned to leave.

“What do I report?” Lt. Glieb sounded distressed, “Once I file it, I get a visit from our friendly shrink who will ground me for being cuckoo, right?” 

“Easy, Lieutenant, I am not the enemy.” Major Bassett shakes his head.

“Sorry.  It was a close call up there and to tell you the truth it rattled me a bit.” He squats, folding his hands in front of him.

“I have heard other pilots talk about these strange unidentified flying objects. They’ve even given them a name.” Major Bassett examines a spot near the cockpit that looks as if it had been struck, but it could have been anything.  Lt. Glieb had flown in thirty sorties since coming to Bouganville Air Field in the Marshall Islands. “They call them Foo Fighters.” 

“You kiddin?’” He chuckled.

“Funny name ain’t it.” The major smiles. “What else are you gonna call these things?” 

“I still ain’t reporting it.” Lt. Glieb shakes his head as Major Bassett salutes and walks away to check on the other members of his squadron. Harry Glieb was a man with both feet on the ground.  He had whizzed through flight school and was assigned to the Kilo Squadron under the command of Major Walter Bassett. Since June of 1944, he had been ecstatic about his assignment.  Major Bassett was a steady, pragmatic commander who did not panic under fire.  His no-nonsense approach to tactical operations, instilled confidence in Harry and the rest of the squadron who had not suffered a single casualty in combat.

“Harry, are you okay?” Captain Vince Demacchi asked.  Long and lanky with an olive skin complexion, Vince was a smooth operator among the others in the squadron with a long list of women in his little black book.  Despite his reputation as a lady’s man, his first concern however was with the fliers in his squadron.

“Yeah, I’m fine.” Harry was becoming annoyed with the attention he was suddenly getting. 

“What did it look like?” Vince put his finger in the corner of his mouth.

“I don’t know…I mean, it just came out of nowhere at a speed I could not imagine.” Harry stood up after seeing there was no real damage to his plane. 

“I saw one.” Vince confessed, “On a mission over the Philippines a couple months ago.  We were doing navy escort through the straights.”

“I remember.” Harry nodded. 

“I didn't report it.” Vince looked up at the lightening morning sky. “I don’t blame you if you decide not to report it.  Scared me to death…and I knew they would lock me up and throw away the key if I said anything.” 

“Yup, me too.” Harry put his arm around Vince as they walked to the chow hall for a half cooked breakfast. 

While he was eating his breakfast with the other members of his squadron while the crew were filling their Hellcats with fuel and doing a quick, but thorough once over, Harry was reading the Stars and Stripes when he saw an article about these Foo Fighters that had been spotted by both British and American crews as they flew bombing missions over occupied Europe.

“Do you think some of the Japs are going to pull some crap today?” Allan Coe asked the others.

“I hope not.  Worst fate I can think of is becoming a casualty on the last day of the war.” Benton chuckled. “If we hang tight up there, I’m sure we will be alright.” 

Everyone nodded as they finished their breakfast. 

“Major says we are going to fly in tight.” Vince sighed, “We will look sharp so if Emperor Hirohito looks up, he will understand why we won the war, won’t he?” 

Everyone laughed. Major Bassett sauntered on over dressed in his flight suit as if he was ready to take off as soon as he left the chow hall.  He smiled down at them, “Are we ready?”

“I thought we had another hour.” Dillon said, looking at his watch.

“Briefing.” Major Bassett shook his head. 

“Oh.” Everyone groaned.

“Five minutes.” Major Bassett was now looking at his watch.

“No rest for the wicked then?” Arty shrugged.

“Nope.  And Kilo is as wicked as they come.” Major Bassett laughed.

The briefing was routine as routine could be and a couple of the pilots nodded off a bit.  Everyone knew you had to be careful, because Major Bassett was prone to throw objects at anyone sleeping during one of his briefings. 

“All in all, we just have to keep alert, gentlemen.” He concluded, “I have heard nothing specific being planned, but you remember how desperate these guys got the closer we got to their home, right?” 

Everyone nodded in agreement.  Kamikaze pilots had created havoc during some of the encounters.  Nothing worse than facing an enemy who is not afraid to die.  

“I don’t want nothing to go wrong.  After this, some of you may be on your way home.  Let’s not screw that up, eh?” A wry smile crossed his usual stoic face that earned him the nickname Stoneface.  

It is quite a sight watching eighteen Hellcats start their engines at once.  The noise is deafening as each engine reaches a high pitch as one at a time they roll down the runway.  Once in takeoff position, the plane launches into what resembles a fever pitch as the plane wings wobble a bit before the tires leave the ground.  All eighteen Hellcats are in the air in less than ten minutes.

“All clear, Kilo.” The man in the control tower says over the radio, “See you back here in ten hours.” 

“Roger that.” Major Bassett echoes as the squadron flies due north toward Tokyo Bay where the USS Missouri awaits this historical encounter. 

Flying in the skies over Japan made Major Bassett more than a little apprehensive even though the war was over.  He still expected to see a couple of Zekes emerge from the clouds with guns blazing, but instead the baby blue sky did not yield anything so menacing. Still his guard was up just in case. 

The rest of the squadron was talkative and there was a lot of radio chatter.

“Hey gentlemen, let’s keep this chatter to a minimum.” Major Bassett ordered.

Kilo Squadron flew over Tokyo Bay around twelve forty five just as General MacArthur arrived on deck.  Searching the sky, Major Bassett did a quick sweep of the sky with his eyes.  

“All clear.” He spoke into the radio.

“Major, I’ve got one of those things on my tail.” It was Vincent speaking.

“I need visual confirmation.” Major Bassett could feel his neck start to sweat. “Wingman, do you see what he has?” 

“I see him, major.” Arty confirmed. “He’s moving at a very fast speed.” 

“Do you have any idea what it is?” Major Bassett tried to see Vincent’s plane but he could not.  The deck of the USS Missouri was directly below his own plane and if all was going according to plan, the emperor was bowing to General MacArthur who would have one of his staff hand Hirohito the pen to sign the treaty.  Formality needed to happen to make Japan’s surrender official.

“Sir, I have never seen anything like it.” Arty was breathing heavily as he spoke, “It’s about half the size of the plane, but it moves both laterally and up and down at angles I’ve never seen before.” 

“Is it being aggressive?” Major Bassett closed his eyes.

“Not at the moment.” Arty’s voice was higher in this sudden excitement.

“I may need to shoot it out of the sky.” Major Bassett, “Just in case it is hostile.” 

“Sir, that may not be the thing to do.” Vincent broke into the radio conversation.

“Why not, captain?” Major Bassett sounded gruff.

“This thing has not presented any hostility.” Vincent added.

“But we have the world under our wings.  I can’t afford to have anything go wrong.” Major pulled his stick straight back forcing his Hellcat to start to climb.  When he was above his squadron, he leveled off and began to try to see the Foo Fighter.  

There it was.  It appeared as a black disk with no visible means of propulsion.  The Foo Fighter moved in angles that did not seem possible.  Even the highly maneuverable Mitsubishi Zeroes were not capable of such maneuvering as this thing was.  He put his finger on the trigger of his stick, ready to fire his wing mounted guns. Sweat began to pour down from his forehead into his eyes making things difficult to see as he tried to square up on the object. 

Then another Foo Fighter appeared from out of nowhere.  This one zeroed in on the major.  If this object had the ability to fire, Major Bassett would be in flames.  

“What the-” His words were drowned out by a loud bang, “The bastard just broke the sound barrier.” 

“Not possible, major.”  Dillon remarked. 

“Oh yeah, tell him that.” Major Bassett responded.

“I see him.” Lt. Grieb broke in.

“Do not attack.” Major Bassett ordered. “Vinnie’s right.  These things don’t seem to be hostile.” 

“Roger that, sir.” Lt. Grieb answered, but Major Bassett knew that Lt. Grieb was keeping his finger close to the red trigger on the control stick.  

Nobody in Kilo Squadron had any idea if these Foo Fighters had any notion to attack. 

Through his radio came the broadcast of what was taking place on the deck of the Missouri was coming through his headset.  

“Emperor Hirohito has taken the pen and is approaching the table where General MacArthur and his staff are seated.”

“Did you see that?” Arty was in awe of what he had just seen.

“What?” Vincent asked. 

“It just ascended over three thousand feet in less than five seconds.” Arty sounded like a kid at Christmas, “Wow.” 

“Wow is right.” Lt. Grieb gasped, “I knew those Foo Fighter things were from another planet.” 

“Ladies and gentlemen, with a stroke of his pen, the war with Japan is now over…” The voice broadcasting purred as Kilo began to form up into a V-wing formation.  Both of the Foo Fighters had disappeared.  All was clear. 

Two hours later, all eighteen Hellcats touched down at Kagoshima.  Each of the pilots had been shaken by their encounter with the Foo Fighters, but none more than the major.

“Are you alright, sir?” Vincent asked, rushing over to him as he leaned against the wing of his plane to steady himself.

“Mission accomplished, sir.” Dillon ripped off his helmet. “The war is over.” 

“Yes, yes it is.” Major Bassett smiled. 

“What the hell happened up there, major?” Colonel Keyes asked, rushing onto the tarmac with security and three of his staff. “We heard you ran into some unidentified crafts up there.”

“Yes we did.” He nodded.  Lt. Grieb grimaced since he knew Major Bassett would have a date with the psychiatrist for that admission.  

“What was it?” Colonel Keyes asked, glancing at his three staff members.

“I wish I could tell you, sir.” He shook his head.

“For the record, major, I will be recording this session.” Dr. Hayward pressed the button on his tape recorder. “Please be as honest and accurate as you can, Major Bassett.”

“I will try.” He sat back in the folding chair they had gotten for him.

“What happened to your squadron this afternoon?” 

“We encountered some unidentified craft.” He answered as the tape clicked on each rotation. 

“Could you describe them?” Dr. Hayward asked.

“Small but very maneuverable.” 

“Did they at any time seem hostile?” 

“No, but we didn’t want to take any chances with what was going on below.”  

“Your squadron has been on a number of sorties without any incidents or casualties, correct?” 

“Yes doctor, that is correct.” 

“And yet this was the first time you have encountered these unidentified flying crafts.”

“No, coming to Kagoshima, one of my men, Lt. Grieb had one trail him, until we landed.” 

“I’ve been hearing about these things from other pilots in this and the European theater. Best guess, major, what do suppose these are?  Do you think the Soviet Union has developed a new space age flying vessel?”

“Doc, I have no idea.  I am just an American pilot who is ready to go home to his wife and kids.”

“Doesn’t it make you wonder, though?” 

“I have lost my ability to wonder.  All I want is to go home.  The war is over.”

“Indeed it is.” He pushed the off button on his tape player. “Off the record, I am trying to decide if these Foo Fighters, as they are called, are real or if they are imagined by servicemen who are fatigued like yourself.” 

“So you just think all of this is in my head because I’m sick of fighting?  Is that it?” He had been rattled by Dr. Hayward’s statement.

“No need to get angry.  This happens even to the best and brightest of us.” He apologized. 

“No, the record shows that I am a rational man and have honorably led my squadron through the end of this war without losing a single man in the process. I am tired of people trying to say that what we see is not real.  A Japanese Zero shot my commander down into the Pacific before I was assigned to Kilo Squadron.  I know for a fact he was dead before his plane splashed down into the ocean.” Major Bassett’s face was red.

“This is the fatigue I told you about.  After seeing something like that, could we not see these Foo Fighters, too.” Dr. Hayward asked.

“I’m calling it a night, doc. I know I haven’t been much help in answering the question if these things are real or not, but from what I saw this afternoon these things are real.” He walked out of the room leaving Dr. Hayward alone with his tape recorder. 

“Major, how did it go?” Lt. Grieb asked as Major Bassett walked into the waiting area where the rest of his squadron was waiting.  “Did he believe you?” 

“He humored me.” Major Bassett chuckled. “What we saw will never be believed.” 

“Which is why I didn’t want to report it in the first place.” Lt. Glieb shook his head.

“Yeah.  I get it.” He put his arm around Lt. Grieb. “I think it’s time for us to go home, gentlemen and leave them to figure out all the details.” 

“We were there, not them.” Vincent shrugged. “They don’t have any idea what we saw.” 

“Sure.” He put his other arm around Vincent, “And history is never written by those who were really there. No, our history is written by those who think they know what took place.  Nobody is going to believe a bunch of Navy fliers these Foo Fighters are for real, right?” 

August 04, 2023 23:03

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9 comments

Ellen Neuborne
21:17 Aug 12, 2023

Authentic voice and nice tension. I enjoyed this.

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David Sweet
12:28 Aug 12, 2023

As a fan of history and a person who enjoys thinking about the fun possibility of UFOs (not a true believer however), it was a fun story. I agree with your comments, I think the tension is keeping the surrender ceremonies from being interrupted. Of course the reality is that it didn't happen on this date, so it seems more of a cover up. Your dialogue seemed very authentic. Thanks for sharing.

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18:11 Aug 12, 2023

You are welcome, David. I'm just happy you like it.

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Helen A Smith
20:33 Aug 06, 2023

Enjoyable story. Felt very authentic.

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23:54 Aug 07, 2023

Helen, I try my best to keep things believable so when the unbelievable happens, it sounds plausible. Thank you.

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Bruce Friedman
16:11 Aug 06, 2023

Excellent narrative with lots of military detail. Great job George. Sounds like you may have a military background. My only "issue" with the piece is that it curiously lacked some tension or pop. Was wondering if you could have added that the UFOs caused one of the pilots to temporarily loose control in, say, a downdraft.

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23:53 Aug 07, 2023

Bruce, I spent 14 years in the United States Air Force as a logistics specialist. I appreciate your comment about the pop, but the original intention was to keep the focus on what was happening a few thousand feet below. If I rewrite and submit, I may take your suggestion.

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Mary Bendickson
19:30 Aug 05, 2023

Fear of Foo Fighters.🛸🛸

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23:51 Aug 07, 2023

It is fun to explore the unknown...sometimes.

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