Read Call to Duty Online

Authors: Richard Herman

Call to Duty

BOOK: Call to Duty
6.27Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
Call to Duty
Richard Herman, Jr.

For Sybil,
my mother-in-law,
who lived through it all
and endured with hope and grace




The driving rain propelled the sergeant through the door of…


It was the woman’s first solo shift as the night…


The first tremors of fear brushed past Samkit when the…


A gentle breeze drifted down Navarre Sound, touching the smooth…


Mackay’s first three days on the staff of the National…


“The home folks are getting serious about this one,” E-Squared…


The young and lean American ambled across the lush grass…


Chiang’s majordomo hovered on the other side of Heather’s desk,…


Heather was working in her office when Chiang and James,…


The song’s rock and roll lyrics sang out through the…


Woodward and Kamigami maintained a discreet distance from the three…


The situation went critical when Mazie’s contact with Bill Carroll…


It was a three-way battle—Gillespie versus the goat versus the…


General Simon Mado whistled a tuneless melody as he walked…


The German anthropologist rechecked the three trucks parked alongside the…


“Time to go,” Kamigami said.


Willi was sitting in the hospital ward, waiting for him…


Although this is a work of fiction, much of it is based on fact. The 1st Special Operations Wing, Delta Force, and the United States Special Operations Command exist and function much as described in
Call to Duty
. Similarly, many of the historical personalities appearing in this novel lived and made their mark on history in World War II. The raid on Amiens prison was led by Group Captain Percy Charles Pickard and he was shot down with his friend and navigator, Bill Broadley, on that legendary mission. With the exception of the protagonist of
Call to Duty
, his navigator, and John Maitland, the names associated with the Amiens mission are factual. The film from the mission can be seen today at the Imperial War Museum. General Adolf Galland was not flying nor was Fips Priller shot down that day, but both were part of Jagdgeschwader 26, “the boys from Abbeville.”

And the de Havilland Mosquito, “the Wooden Wonder,” was the most versatile aircraft of World War II. It was probably the safest Allied bomber and it did perform like a fighter. What it did is not fiction and
did exist.

I would like to acknowledge the help given me by the men and women of the First Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field, Fort Walton Beach, Florida; the staff at the Imperial War Museum; Mr. David Lawrence of the Royal Air Force Museum, who took the time to let me crawl over a Mosquito and trusted me in its cockpit; and Peter Waxham and Ian Thirsk of the Mosquito Aircraft Museum, Salisbury Hall.

Many thanks are due to the two pilots who introduced me to the wonderful world of helicopters: Ken Fritz and Charles “Chip” Hall.

To the two very elegant ladies, Ingeborg Wright and Ellen Butcher, who showed me the reality of life in wartime Germany, thank you.

I owe a special debt of gratitude to three individuals who were willing to trust a complete stranger: Jack Eskenazi, for the journey through wartime Germany; John S. Gerrish, who flew the Mossie during the Second World War and made it come alive; and to one of “Jerry’s Kids,” who gave me a glimpse of what special operations are all about. I only hope I can do the power of their memories and experiences justice.

German Military Intelligence in World War II. The Abwehr was commanded by Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, who was often at odds with the Gestapo, the SS, and Hitler.

Air Force Command.

Air Force Special Operations Command. The Air Force command that is part of USSOCOM.

A type of night vision goggles worn by aircrews.

The modern version of plastique explosive.

Combat Talon:
The MC-130E flown by the 1st Special Operations Wing.

Command sergeant major.

Director of central intelligence. The individual in charge of all United States intelligence agencies and functions. Heads the CIA.

The Drug Enforcement Administration.

A German World War II motor-torpedo boat.

Estimated time of arrival.

Forward-looking infrared.

Ground-controlled intercept. The interception of an aircraft that is directed by a radar site.

Global positioning system. A worldwide navigation system utilizing satellites. The receiver is about the size of this book, rugged, and accurate to eighty-two feet.

Have Quick:
A radio that uses rapid frequency hopping to defeat jamming and monitoring.

A British-made lightweight, multipurpose, single-shot weapon that is easily converted from a twelve-gauge shotgun to a forty-millimeter grenade launcher.

Human intelligence. Old-fashioned spying or exploitation of human weaknesses for wine, women/men, money, and drugs to get information.

Initial point. A well-defined, easily distinguishable geo graphical feature that points to the target or objective.

Intelligence Support Activity. A secret group that con ducts special operations and counterterrorism.

Killed in action.

Landing zone.

The name of the NA1000M GPS receiver/monitor.

The term for the meteorological or weather section used during World War II.

An excellent nine-millimeter submachine gun made by Heckler and Koch.

The name of the Soviet secret police during World War II; now known as the KGB.

National Military Command Center. The Pentagon’s “war room.”

The National Security Agency. The United States intelligence agency responsible for monitoring communications and breaking codes.

National Security Council.

National Security Planning Group. The President’s chief advisers on matter relating to national security.

Pave Low:
The MH-53J helicopter flown by the 1st Special Operations Wing.

Radio/telephone. The British term for two-way radios during World War II.

Return to base.

The Special Air Service. The elite British counterterrorism unit.

Situation report. A report transmitted immediately after, or during, the action to update higher headquarters on the existing situation.

Special Operations Executive. The British organization responsible for carrying out sabotage, subversion, underground activities and assassinations during World War II.

Special Activities Center:
The Air Force organization responsible for collecting HUMINT.

The call sign given to AC-130 gunships flown by the 1st Special Operations Wing.

A portable, key-activated, plug-in-anywhere telephone that scrambles conversations.

System 4:
The highly classified computer system the NSC uses to monitor United States intelligence activities and operations.

United States Special Operations Command. The unified command headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base that is responsible for all special operations conducted by the United States military.

Wounded in action.

The phonetic alphabet for the letter Z. When used after a time, in means Greenwich mean time.

RAF Church Fenton, England

The driving rain propelled the sergeant through the door of the officers mess. He saw the man he was looking for and walked quickly across the room. “Mr. Ruffum,” he said, catching the young RAF officer’s attention. “The weather prophet says the rain is lifting and you should be able to take off in thirty minutes. You best find Mr. Pontowski.”

Pilot Officer Andrew Ruffum gave the middle-aged sergeant his most disinterested look. “Right,” he said and tapped the crud out of his pipe. The twenty-year-old ex-university student thought the combination of Royal Air Force uniform and big pipe gave him a mature look and the pipe had become his constant companion, clenched firmly in his teeth. He went in search of his pilot. Another navigator pointed him in the direction of the room where they stowed their flying kits.

“Yank,” he called from the doorway, “you in here?”

“Back here,” a voice said from the far corner where a light was glowing. Ruffum worked his way past the parachutes, heavy flying jackets, boots, helmets, and other paraphernalia required to fly a British night fighter over the North Sea. His pilot, Matthew Zachary Pontowski, was stretched out in a deck chair with a small reading lamp perched beside him.

“Whatever are you reading now?”

Matthew Zachary Pontowski gave him a crooked smile and held up a leather-bound volume. “A history of your Anti-Slavery Society. I found it in a used bookstore in York.”

“Ah, William Wilberforce,” Ruffum replied. “Not very fascinating stuff in this day and age.”

“I had no idea how bad it was,” the lanky American said.
“Did you know they packed them into the slave ships bucknaked. Men and women.”

“Sounds lascivious,” Ruffum replied.

“Not if you were one of them.”

Ruffum put on a serious face. “Sorry to interrupt your education about human bondage, Zack, but Met says the weather is lifting. Time to go.” Zack Pontowski closed the book and followed his navigator as they collected their flying kit and headed into the rainy night.


“Hello, Falcon. This is Red One. Any trade?” Zack Pontowski’s distinctive American accent was easily recognizable over the radio/telephone as he entered his assigned patrol area over the North Sea.

“Sorry, Red One,” the controller at Ground Control Intercept answered, his clipped British words in sharp contrast to Zack’s California-bred accent, “I have nothing for you at this time.”

Zack returned to his battle with the blind-flying instrument panel on his Beaufighter, trying to decide which of the instruments were lying to him. Probably the artificial horizon, he decided; it always gave up first. He cross-checked the air speed indicator, altimeter, rate of climb, turn and slip, and direction indicator. Why can’t they call the DI a directional gyro like everyone else, he thought. As usual, the ways of the Royal Air Force both puzzled and amused him. Pay attention to business, he reprimanded himself. You went to a lot of trouble to volunteer for this war.

“Set course one-three-five degrees,” Ruffum said over the intercom.

“Got it,” Zack replied and turned to the new heading, establishing them on the first leg of their first night patrol over the North Sea. He glanced outside the cockpit, surprised at how bright it was. Then he realized they were skimming along in the top of a cloud deck. He pulled back on the control column and climbed twenty feet before breaking out on top. The bright moonlight gave him a distinct horizon and he felt better. The blind-flying instruments had not been lying to him. Zack Pontowski forced himself to relax as they droned through the night.

“It’s gorgeous above the clouds,” Ruffum allowed, taking
in the night from his perspex dome mounted on top of the fuselage, halfway between the cockpit and tail. Flying Officer Andrew Ruffum, known simply as Ruffy, had been with Zack since Cranfield, site of the operational training unit where they had both been sent to train on the twin-engine Beaufighter. Ruffy had taken massive amounts of goodnatured ribbing about being teamed with a “Yank” but had taken it all in his easygoing way and they had become good friends.

In the air, the two were an ideal match and complimented each other perfectly. Zack was a superb pilot and a natural at the controls of the blunt-nosed tanklike Beaufighter, while Ruffy took to the cantankerous Mark IV airborne intercept radar set with an instant affinity. They rapidly surpassed their instructors and then, in one of its rare moments of sanity when it came to personnel assignments, the RAF assigned them as a crew to 25 Squadron, currently on operations at RAF Church Fenton, an airfield ten miles south of the old city of York.

“Time to reverse course,” Ruffy said over the intercom, bringing Zack back to the moment. The pilot banked the night fighter to the left, away from the coast, and traced a northward track in the box they had been assigned to patrol. He cross-checked his instruments when he rolled out and again scanned the night. Above the clouds the visibility in the moonlight was excellent.

It was in June of 1941 on a night flight like this one, Zack remembered, that he had decided that the war in Europe was also his war. Hitler’s blitzkrieg had rolled over Western Europe, the Battle of Britain had been fought, and Russia had been invaded the day before. He had mentioned it to his flying instructor and was given a phone number and the name of one Ernest W. Bellway. “Bellway’s the guy to call,” his instructor had said, “if a pilot wants to join the Royal Air Force.”

It had been deceptively easy. When Ernest W. Bellway discovered that Zack had a pilot’s license, money for a one-way train ticket to Ottawa, Canada, had magically appeared. It started to get complicated in Chicago, where he, and two of his fellow-pilot traveling companions, had to change trains. The FBI was waiting with orders to enforce the Neutrality
Act and had arrested the other two pilots while he was purchasing their tickets. He had seen the commotion, slipped away, and boarded the train to Ottawa. There he was met by a car that took him to an RAF group captain who sent him on to Halifax. Six weeks later, he was on the
Duchess of Richmond
sailing for England.

In England, after still another delay, Zack was assigned to an OTU, operational training unit, that had been set up to rapidly evaluate and process pilots into the RAF. Things turned sour when the engine of the Avro Tutor biplane he was training in quit in mid-flight and nothing he did could get it restarted. He had to deadstick it in for a landing on a freshly plowed field. It didn’t work and he crashed, killing the instructor and badly breaking his right leg. It was months before he could fly again and, by then, the RAF had decided to send him through an extensive flight training program. He had endured the needless repetition until he found himself assigned to the OTU at Cranfield where he had met Ruffy.

“Hello, Red One. This is Falcon.” The GCI controller’s voice was much more rapid. Zack acknowledged the call. “I have a customer for you,” the controller said, “vector one-eight-zero. Buster.” Zack turned to the south, bumped up the propeller speed controls and shoved the throttles forward.

“Anything on the box?” Zack asked Ruffy, hoping for an early pickup on the radar set.

“Nothing yet,” Ruffy answered.

Zack knew the GCI controller had to get them within four miles of the customer, or bandit, for their radar set to acquire the target. The airspeed indicator was hovering around 230 miles per hour. He made a mental adjustment for altitude and temperature and came up with a true airspeed of 280—four and a half miles a minute, probably with an overtake of 60 miles per hour, so it would be a while before Ruffy could paint anything on the radar. He flicked on his sight and moved the gun master switch up, activating the six Browning .303 machine guns in the wings and the four 20-millimeter Hispano cannons fixed in the underside of the forward fuselage. He selected the machine guns for firing. He mashed the button on the yoke, testing the guns. The Beaufighter had an awesome amount of firepower, if it caught anyone.

Control your breathing, Zack cautioned himself. This may
not be the real thing. He swept the horizon hoping he might see a vague shadow, anything to tell him that he had finally met the enemy. This will be something, he thought, action on our first patrol. Not what they had told me to expect.

Their sector had been quiet for the past few weeks and the crews were bored, longing for some action. The squadron’s intelligence officer made it worse by constantly updating them on the action farther to the south, where the night fighters seemed to be constantly engaged with Heinkels and Junkers.

“Red One, this is Falcon,” the GCI controller transmitted. “Your customer is on your nose, moving southward, range twenty miles.”

“It’s turned into a tail chase,” Ruffy said.

Zack checked his engine instruments, not ready to give up yet. All were fine and the big fourteen-cylinder, 1,590-horsepower, Hercules XI engines were humming smoothly. The sleeve-valve radial engines were amazingly quiet. “Red One, Falcon,” the GCI said, “bandit now turning to the east and descending. Vector one-three-five.” Falcon was turning them to a cut-off heading.

“Hope he doesn’t go to low,” Ruffy said. Below five thousand feet, ground clutter blotched up his radar and it was impossible to break out the target. “If the bugger doesn’t change course, intercept in four minutes,” Ruffy had worked out the geometry of the developing intercept.

Zack glanced at his watch, noting the time and when four minutes would be up. He wished the clock on his instrument panel had an elapsed minute hand. He made a mental note to mention it to the maintenance officer, but he wasn’t worried—Ruffy would back him up. Ahead of him, he could see the end of the cloud deck below them and the night became beautifully clear, right down to the surface of the North Sea.

“Red One, bandit turning south,” Falcon said.

“Turn to one-eight-zero,” Ruffy said. They were in a tail chase again.

“Red One, vector now one-eight-zero,” Falcon said, reacting slower than Ruffy to the bandit’s heading changes.

“Red One,” Falcon said, “the bandit has dropped from my coverage. Maintain your current heading.”

“The bastard’s taking advantage of a break in the clouds,” Zack said over the intercom. “He’s dropped below Falcon’s radar coverage and running for home on the deck.” The flickering of a light on the horizon caught his attention. “Ruffy, get your binocs on that light at ten o’clock.” He waited for his navigator to rotate his seat forward and focus the binoculars he always carried.

“Can’t tell much,” Ruffy said. “Maybe a fire. Hold on…I believe it’s growing. Yes…much bigger now. Definitely a fire on the surface.”

Zack relayed the information to Falcon. “Red One,” the GCI controller answered, “Air-Sea Ops reports a sweep in that area.” Zack acknowledged the transmission. The RAF had its own fleet of small, very fast launches known as the Air-Sea Rescue Service that operated in the waters around Britain, rescuing airmen forced down in the sea. If one of their boats was on patrol, that fire could mean trouble.

“Ruffy, I’m going to check it out.” Zack radioed his intentions to Falcon, retarded the throttles, nosed over, and headed straight for the glowing beacon. He descended to five hundred feet and slowed as they circled the brightly burning fire, sizing up the situation and not closing. Now Zack could clearly see a burning boat and rafts in the water. He gauged the boat to be about sixty feet long—the right size for an Air-Sea launch.

A stream of tracers reached out of the night, slicing across the dark directly in front of them. Zack’s reflexes were razorsharp and he wrenched back on the yoke and ruddered the Beau around, easily avoiding the tracers. “At your four o’clock,” Ruffy shouted, “on the surface, another boat.”

Out of the corner of his eye Zack caught a dark movement in the water—the source of the tracers. The shape took on a harder definition as he circled and maneuvered until the unknown boat was between him and the moon. “I think it’s an E-boat,” he said, climbing to three thousand feet. “Falcon, Red One,” he transmitted over the radio. “We are in contact with what looks like an E-boat and a smaller launch that is burning in the water.”

“Red One,” Falcon answered, “I hold you in the area where bandit last observed.”

A warning signal started bonging inside Zack’s head, jolt
ing his emotions. Without thinking, he hauled back on the control column and firewalled the throttles. At the same time he sawed back and forth on the rudder pedals. “What…” Ruffy said over the intercom, the sudden erratic maneuver throwing him around. A dark shape materialized out of the darkness, skidding across the sky beneath them.

“A Junkers Eighty-eight,” Zack said, breathing hard, working against the heavy control loads. “Night fighter. Where the hell did he go?”

“Tallyho!” Ruffy shouted. “At your three o’clock. Low.” Zack rolled the Beau and pulled down to his three o’clock position. He caught a glimpse of the German plane as he turned, its nose on him and climbing. He skidded the Beau to the right and jabbed at the gun button. A short burst of tracers reached out for the Junkers as he passed under the German, going in the opposite direction. He missed. Now he pitched back after the German, trading his airspeed for altitude.

“Falcon,” Zack radioed, “help please.” He wanted to know where the Junkers had gone.

“The bandit is to the north,” came the immediate reply. Zack turned northward and continued to climb.

“I have him on the box,” Ruffy said, his voice amazingly calm. “Four miles, slightly left and above you.”

“Contact,” Zack radioed to Falcon as they entered the cloud deck. “Christ! We’re in the clouds,” he told Ruffy.

“It’s okay, he’s not maneuvering,” Ruffy said. “Come left five degrees; we’re closing.” Zack followed Ruffy’s directions as he played the throttles. They slowly closed. “Range, half mile,” Ruffy said.

The cockpit filled with light as they broke out on top of the cloud deck, directly behind and underneath the Junkers. Zack drove in closer. The German filled the lighted gun ring on his reflector sight and he selected the cannons. His right thumb brushed the firing button but he hesitated, wanting to close. Suddenly, the Junkers skidded to the right and pitched into a steep dive. The German crew wasn’t going to be surprised.

BOOK: Call to Duty
6.27Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

Beware the Black Battlenaut by Robert T. Jeschonek
Don't Look Back by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai
Cadillac Cathedral by Jack Hodgins
Not Your Match by Lindzee Armstrong
My Girlfriend's MILF by Summers, A.B.
Ada's Rules by Alice Randall
Surrender to Temptation by Walters, Ednah