Cattails 'n Crabgrass
(This is a mission from the online campaign, run by the game's designer, of the 30th Bomb Wing, 901st squadron.)
Mission 13: It was your standard outbound leg of the mission, normal and quite boring, until you reach the urban area of Nagoya, in the middle of day.
Everything changed once we aligned with the target hidden under a somewhat smoking blanket. Not sure of where it came from, perhaps beneath a patch of dark-gray fog, Infamous Device got nailed by a single load of flak that burst immediately in front of her path, showering her nose and wings which force-fed the bird with Imperial Japanese metallic flavored rice. A few short, hot seconds later, the bird smothered her Double-D bombshells all over an urban sector of Nagoya. The result was the city-version of flaring crotch itch.
Our bomber turned around, along with our little friend, a P-51 mustang escort. A handful of Zeros roared down from us at 1:30. Our gunners were at there post waiting for the bastards to come into range. Right before they pulled their triggers, all but one of the Mitsu's scattered and flew off in various directions once the hidden Mustang slide out from underneath our massive body and corkscrewed into a head-on position with one of the surprised fighter pilots. Our Right Gunner screamed out "He got em! He's burnin!, He's going down, like a meteor!.... Hosing the tail of another one now. GET THAT SONNA-FA-VITCH!"
Those that viewed it had wide eyes and hanging jaws in the moment that it occured; a large metallic structure enveloped by fire and painting the sky with a thick and puffy streaming cloud of black smoke screamed downward fairly close in front of the nose. "HOLY CRAP! DID YOU GUYS JUST SEE THAT!" the co-pilot blarred out. "That one lost her wings and tail it looked like" another crewman responded. "FARK! I think I spotted the black skeleton flying it!" a third airman interrupted.
"INCOMING!! 1:30 HIGH!" the bombardier alarmed.
No one was able to hit the stray incoming Zero after being distracted by the previous fiery show. The fighter performed a short, quick spray and darted off down and below the bomber. The crewman collected uneasy feelings when they heard the infamous sound of small rocks walking across the starboard wing. The tail gunner utterly missed and cursed at himself for failing to hit an easy target that flew by at point-blank range.
"Damage check!" The engineer yelled after the battle deceased.
"I think Iwo's no longer an option." Someone suggested.
"What do you mean?" Engineer asked.
"There's a big leaky oily mess covering a mass of sheered and folded metal around the nose landing gear."
"GOT DAMMIT! That's gonna hurt!, and we got a night landing." The copilot thought out loud.
"Crap. Okay, we'll see if I can fix it." Engineer assured.
"Look out the window, there on both wings." Another crewman warned.
A piece of torn material was violently flapping around and vibrating from the high-speed air flow that passed over the port wing.
The wing flap on the starboard side faired little better, a bullet had passed through and left a empty 6-inch strip right across the middle of the wing flap. It was like the affected material was peeled off. The flap did function slightly, waving up and down as the pilot maneuvered the plane.
Over a thousand miles later:
"Sorry guys. But this is mess down here. I cant get the landing gear to budge at all." The engineer reported as we approached Iwo Jima right after dusk to prepare for the rocky landing. The poor weather and thick fog cover layering the tiny island forced the pilots to immediately reject the possible idea of landing here and head to the Mariana's instead for a safer landing.
"Its nearly suicide attempting to land at Iwo at night without the wheels. Bad weather don't help either" Copilot said depressingly.
Several hours later:
It was night, the sky was clear, the wind was calm, the runway was smooth and clear, the crew was strapped in, the pilots had cool nerves and steady hands, their minds confident. The main landing gear slowy adjusted into position. The bay doors to the nose landing gear were mangled and blocking the actuators. The wide and hulking bomber drifted downward at a comfortable angle, slowly sailing to the strip.
A fine-steering adjustment was needed and required the pilot to maneuver with the flaps. The port wing flap was inoperable, but the starboard side obeyed the command. A slight uneven shift occured as a result. Infamous Device tilted sideways a few degrees.
The pilot closed his eyes for a split second and thought "Damn".
The bomber thumped onto the runway, her nose facing a bit skyward and positioned sideways about 30 degrees at immediate touchdown. Her wings still had a strong airflow and began to lift. The shift in pressure and weight instantly transfered to the rear compartment and tail section. The terrible droning sound of metal folding spread across the island. The gunners in back were in horror as they saw their compartment morph into an abnormal shape. Copilot's mind started to frantically race and had the following vision "we're dead."
The extra energy that lingered at impact was enough to bounce the giant bomber. It took a short hop and shifted sideways even more as it temporarily levitated for a second or two across the runway, then the airflow supporting the wings faded away. The bomber dropped squarely flat on its belly, nearly crushing its main landing gear and smashing its nose very hard onto the ground. The sounds of shattered glass, creaking metal and snapping bolts erupted into all nearby ears.
The end result of Infamous Device looked something vaguely similar to a scorpion ready to strike. Its back was bent backwards in two places; the nose section was licking the ground and laid level, the main fuselage sat at a funny angle, the partially destroyed main landing gear still holding that area up, mainly its rear end, and the tail had a very high angle facing skyward at about 45 degrees. The wings were still straight, though, the bomber leaning a bit on the port side.
Each of the crew members managed to crawl out from the bomber. A few of them were dizzy and had slight concussions from the bone-jarring landing. Still others suffered various bruising. All of them will be returning for their next mission. They are thankful that the bird did not break apart, and it kept them alive in the process.
The entire crew stand and smile at each other. They stare at their crippled Infamous Device. The pilot begins chuckling. The engineer joins in. Everyone breaks into laughter as they turn their backs towards the plane and walk to the mess hall.
As a fellow member of the 901st I wish I could record the same sort of elation at the end of that mission but unfortunately after a 100% success rate over Nagoya the Pile o' Junk suffered an oil tank failure over Iwo Jima on the return. This caused a windmilling propeller which soon led to an engine fire that began to spread. One crew member died in the bail out and six more died at sea.
In two missions I've lost two aircraft and ten crew members!