The Corydon Snow
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by Richard Whitten Barnes
Description: In 1943, the SS Corydon Snow sails from Pearl Harbor on a voyage that will take it to the most dangerous battle areas of the Pacific.
eBook Publisher: Wings ePress, Inc., 2010 2010
eBookwise Release Date: November 2010
1 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [474 KB]
Reading time: 289-405 min.
At 0950 that day, a lone Japanese D3A1 Dive bomber took off from Guam's Orote Field, delayed from leaving with its flight by a malfunctioning aileron. Quickly it gained altitude, setting off to the northwest. Minutes into its flight the pilot saw the contrail evidence of a major battle to the west, and began a turn. Then, as the right wing of the bomber began to rise, his rear gunner reported a group of ships circling north of them. American! Quickly, the bomber turned back to the east positioning between the sun and the ships.
Like a lioness waiting for the weakest, most exposed prey to present itself, the bomber pilot throttled back the engine, studying the position of the two destroyers protecting the small fleet of twenty odd ships. There! Just turning away toward the north was a freighter of the EC-2 class. The destroyers were headed west or south. He began his dive.
"We gonna support at Saipan, or not!" Doolie Cheetham complained for the nth time. "Got us goin' around in fuckin' circles, asshole Navy."
They'd been on battle stations since midnight with staggered breaks for chow and head. Baldwin looked off to the west at the wild patterns in the sky. "Maybe they're saving us for something else."
"I think the bastards lost us. Probably don't know where..."
"Aircraft on starboard quarter!" Riocci yelled from the starboard gun, interrupting Cheetham's morning litany. Instinctively, Cheetham traversed the gun around the stern to starboard. There it was! With the sun behind it, it was a silhouette, hard to identify as enemy. No wing gun flashes. Baldwin's hand was gripping the firing trigger so tight he was afraid it might go off, and hit a friendly.
"Fire! Riocci yelled. Baldwin squeezed off a half dozen rounds before he heard Riocci's more measured, if not accurate response to his own command. The big five inch gun boomed, as well.
As the Snow swung around on its counterclockwise path, the oncoming plane moved more to dead astern. Baldwin could see the tracers of the two aft AAs and the smaller 20MM guns on the main house converge on the target. Nothing.
Now the bomber was firing its own 7.7mm wing guns. Splashes from bullets surrounded the boat. The 'whang', 'crack' of bullets hitting superstructure could be heard above the ship's own guns. 'Pop-pop' sounded as shells hit the sheathing that protected the main house.
"Give me a degree left, Doolie!" Baldwin aimed low, then elevated upward rapidly as he fired. Riocci's tracers crossed Baldwin's at about two hundred yards out exactly on target. The airplane continued, tracers entering its body. It took a tentative upward turn, and exploded. As it disintegrated, it became a fireball. The main fuselage fell to the sea just off the Snow's starboard. The left wing, however, continued in a straight line sailing like a flat rock thrown by a schoolboy at the river. The burning wing hit the aft crane and mast, breaking in half, and spewing burning fuel over the ship's deck.
Stark had been resting in his cabin, and on hearing Riocci's bellowed warning, ran to the rear of the boat deck in tee shirt and undershorts to watch events unfold. He reached the railing just in time to see the wing section spinning toward him. As if in 'Movietone News' slow motion, the wing hit the aft mast. A sheet of fire came raging at him, and the breath was sucked from his chest. The heat was unbearable. A sensation of cold turned to immense heat and pain, as Stark realized he was on fire. Somehow he tore the shirt from himself while he ran for the interior of the boat deck, frantically checking his body for other signs of fire.
Red Paulsen, came running from his forward room on the deck, grabbed a towel from the open door of the officer's head, and jammed it over Stark's head. To Stark's muffled complaints, Paulsen replied, "Sorry, fella, but your hair was on fire."
Bos'n Avery Twill felt the hit, and knew at once something was seriously wrong. He ran out to the main deck bumping into Honus Washington and Marshall Rosen on the way. Flames were aft of the main house, but spreading forward.
"Washington!" Twill yelled. "Get the foamite tanks, and meet us at the number three hold! Rosen! Come with me!"
Together they wrestled the starboard fire hose from its station, and cranked the valve, watching to see the hose inflate toward the nozzle. Without being ordered, Rosen grabbed the nozzle, and began marching aft along the starboard rail, Twill lugging the heavy hose behind him. Already, the fire was getting out of control and very hot. Two jeeps lashed to the deck next to Number four were ablaze.
Rosen set the nozzle to a wide fan, just as he'd done in drills, and continued his march. The water was less effective at dousing the flames than cooling the surfaces which was important for preventing the vehicles' full gas tanks from exploding. Burning pieces of wing littered the deck, obstructing movement. The heat, despite the water spray, was intense. Twill felt the searing pain in his hands and face. He knew Rosen was getting it just as bad.
Eventually the fire on the first vehicle was doused, more by washing away the fuel than by snuffing the flames. A section of wing lay in Rosen's path as the second jeep blew a tire in the inferno. Changing the nozzle to a direct stream, Rosen was now less protected from the heat, but could reach the jeep from where he stood. It was too late.
The explosion blew the jeep free of its lashing. By a quirk of fate, the same aileron that had caused this chance engagement of airplane and ship flew back, slapping Rosen full on his body, Then spinning away over Twill's head and into the water. Rosen was unconscious and on fire. The end of the hose now writhing like an enormous snake, spraying water over everything but where it was needed: Rosen.
Twill looked in horror as Rosen's clothes started to burn. He reached to take off his shirt and smother the flames only to realize he was shirtless! In a futile attempt to do anything, he threw his own body on Rosen--and then felt himself covered in white; cool, cool white.
Washington released the nozzle, checked to see the two men start to stand, and ran to the jeep, foamite tanks on his back, a stream of white foam preceding him. In minutes the second jeep fire was out. The portside hose was brought to the scene and the rest of the fires extinguished.
June 20, 1944
Tannenbaum, the part-time medic inherited from the Global Victory looked up from the new dressing he'd placed on Rosen's chest and stomach. He addressed Thane and Twill, his superiors, as if Rosen wasn't the one most interested. "He ain't gonna need surgery or nothin', but he'll wanna see a doc first chance." Beside burns on his torso, Rosen had sustained a broken rib. He didn't know which was most painful. "Biggest problem now is infection," the man explained.
Rosen lay back down on his bunk, and closed his eyes, waiting for the morphine Tannenbaum had given him to take effect.
"Don't expect seein' a doc will be any time soon," Thane said, as he and Thane turned to leave.
"Sooner than you think. We've orders to lay into Charan Kanoa for repairs."
"Main port of Saipan. It'll be dicey, with fighting still going on but they want our Marston matting for the air base nearby."
"Can't be any worse than what we've been through," Twill said in his dry Wisconsin twang.