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The Childrens Crusade

The Childrens Crusade

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The Childrens Crusade

549 pagine
13 ore
May 8, 2015


This was the type of book you could not put down after reading just a few chapters. We were surprised at the prejudice shown during this period in our history. Matt being part American Indian kept him from being treated fairly. Hopefully, this would not happen today. We were amazed at the hardships endured by our very young troops and the amount of spunk they showed in overcoming them. For boys so young this was amazing.
The bravery shown by these young men was also amazing. The hardships of being on their own away from family and friends hit us. Also, the intelligence and bravery was outstanding. The fortitude shown by our nation during this trying time was heartwarming.
The steady nerves of those brave young men in the face of the horrors of war - seeing your friends blown to pieces in front of you and still being able to carry out your mission left us spellbound.
Cheryl Pula created a very entertaining account of the boys who eventually became the men of the B-17 crews. I took my father-in-law to a presentation that the author gave at a public library. Even though he was a B-24 pilot, he found the presentation accurate and interesting, which led me to get the book for him as a gift. However, I started reading it first and found myself reluctant to put it down. I attached myself to the characters, their personal lives, and their adventures from training to battle. The bomber crews were certainly courageous.
I can't wait to start the 2nd book on the Ragged Irregulars of the Eighth

ByMatthew Lynchon
This book is amazing! I bought two just to keep one in mint condition! A must read for anyone that cares about war or planes.

5Fantastic Book
I was given this book to read and at first I was very skeptical. I usually do not like to read about history or war stories. This book captivated me from the first page. I couldn't put it down. When I got to the end I was sad and now I can't wait for the next one. I would recommend this book to everyone. It reads easy and keeps your interest. Who knows you might even learn a few things like I did.

4A mighty fine read
Yes kids, it's true! It's actually possible for a woman to write a marvelously researched and thoroughly engrossing story set during the early years of the Eighth Air Force's B-17 bombing campaign in Europe at the height of World War II. Pula's first book in this series begins in early 1942 as the future pilot and co-pilot of the B-17 "Full House", Jack Harrington and Matt Moore, meet during their intensive Heavy Bomber Training at Kearny Army Airfield, in Kearny Nebraska, and become best friends.

The book takes the reader, along with Jack and Matt, by B-17, to England, where they meet the rest of the brave and very young men who will be serving as the ten man crew of the "Full House". After their months of intensive training, the novice crew of the "Full House" must prove themselves worthy to be part of a daring daylight bombing campaign which, before their arrival, had been suffering an 80% casualty rate. Who lives? Who dies? Read the book and find out!

I had the pleasure of reading an earlier version of this book, several years ago, and I enjoyed it back then. Pula's research is extensive and it shows throughout the book as we get to experience the shameful racism still evident in the U.S. Armed Forces during WWII and learn about the phenomenal amount of work involved to train and equip a B-17 bomber crew of ten men, all of whom were under the age of twenty-five. The events depicted in this are true and happened to people interviewed by Pula, for her research, who were there back then.

"The Children's Crusade" taught me more about B-17s and the men who flew them, than I ever thought possible. Pula nicely captures the ceaseless tension of an actual combat mission and the book ends with a grand cliffhanger leaving me eagerly waiting for book two.

May 8, 2015

Informazioni sull'autore

Biography: A native of New York Mills, New York, Cheryl Pula is a retired Reference Librarian with a B.A. degree in Russian Language and a minor in German. Though officially retired in August 2011, she now works part-time at the New York Mills Public Library in New York Mills, NY. Cheryl also does extensive speaking engagements throughout New York and is available to speak at your next event. For more information, e-mail or visit her website at She has taught courses on unsolved historical mysteries; the American Civil War; World War II; The Titanic and several other topics. A founding member of the New York Mills Historical Society. She is also the founder, current secretary and newsletter editor of the General Daniel Butterfield Civil War Round Table in New York Mills. She is an honorary member of the Memphis Belle Memorial Association of Memphis, Tennessee. Cheryl is also a charter member of the Writer’s Club of Bridgeport, New York. She is known around central New York for presenting a number of historical lectures (90 to be exact!) on topics from the Titanic to the first moon landing in July 1969. Cheryl was elected “Historian of the Year” by the Oneida County Historian’s Association in 2006. In 2010, she was listed in Who’s Who In America. She is also the author of the series of novels about Eighth Air Force B-17 bomber crews in World War II England. The first book in the series is, The Children’s Crusade, published by Whitehall Publishing. This is the seventh in the series. She has also compiled a series of books that bring together some of the most compelling and interesting mysteries in our history. The series is called, It’s A Mystery with the first and second volumes already published and more to follow. Cheryl is also a national speaker. To learn more about Cheryl Pula or to schedule her to speak at your next event, we invite you to visit her website at: http://8thmilitary.comTo arrange to have Cheryl at your next event as a Keynote Speaker, e-mail or visit her website at:

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The Childrens Crusade - Cheryl Pula

The Children’s Crusade

The Eighth Air Force Series,

Book One

Written By:

Cheryl Pula


This book should be mandatory reading at West Point Military Academy and all service academies. I have fought in two wars, was enlisted and commissioned and retired as a Green Beret, and I believe this book to be a primer on the real world of military indoctrination, the mental path from the Glamour of War to the reality of serving in actual combat, the physical and mental stress involved in actual combat and the effect of post-combat stress. Cheryl Pula has gotten it right and we need to take advantage of this important book and the series it is the first in by making certain that those who will one day face combat have a panoramic mind picture of beginning to end of involvement in the military combat role. Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Marvin

US Army Special Forces (ret'd), Author of Expendable Elite - One Soldier's Journey Into Covert Warfare.

I have never been a traditional history buff" but Cheryl Pula has influenced me to understand more about the lives and stories of the Great Generation who served. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, and can't wait to read more in the series. For those, like me, who learn through understanding the actions and emotions of well-developed characters, I can enthusiastically recommend this book, and the other in the series.

This was the type of book you could not put down after reading just a few chapters. We were surprised at the prejudice shown during this period in our history. Matt being part American Indian kept him from being treated fairly. Hopefully, this would not happen today. We were amazed at the hardships endured by our very young troops and the amount of spunk they showed in overcoming them. For boys so young this was amazing.

The bravery shown by these young men was also amazing. The hardships of being on their own away from family and friends hit us. Also, the intelligence and bravery was outstanding. The fortitude shown by our nation during this trying time was heartwarming.

What struck us as being amazing also was the fact that the companies in our nation came together and built the B-17 bomber to withstand the forces required of it.

The steady nerves of those brave young men in the face of the horrors of war - seeing your friends blown to pieces in front of you and still being able to carry out your mission left us spellbound.

All in all, Cheryl did an outstanding job portraying the stuff young Americans were made of during that time period. We look forward to reading Book 2." Phyllis and Dale Robinson, Plain City, Ohio.

The Children's Crusade

Cheryl Pula

Copyright Cheryl Pula 2015

Published by Whitehall Publishing at Smashwords

For More Information Contact:

Whitehall Publishing

P.O. Box 548

Yellville, Arkansas 72687

Cheryl Pula

Cover Design:

Ascender Graphix

Table of Contents



Saturday, 14 February 1942

Primary Flight Training

Tuesday, 25 August 1942

Advanced Flight Training

Friday, 18 September 1942

Advanced Flight Training

Saturday, 19 September 1942

Saturday, 3 October 1942

Boeing Aircraft Company

Sunday, 4 October 1942

Dow Army Air Force Base

Monday, 14 December 1942

Off The Coast of Greenland

Wednesday, 16 December 1942

United States Army Air Force Station #121

Saturday, 19 December 1942

Sunday, 20 December 1942

Author’s Note

Other Books by Cheryl Pula


To my late parents, Stanley J. Pula, Corporal, USA,

and Winifred Smith Pula,

members of the Greatest Generation,

who instilled in me a lifelong love of history.

"You know — we’ve had to imagine the war here, and we

have imagined that it was being fought by aging men

like ourselves.

We had forgotten that wars were fought by babies.

When I saw those freshly shaved faces,

it was a shock.

My God, my God — I said to myself,

It’s the Children’s Crusade.’"

—Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse–Five


In history classes, we were taught the names of battles, dates,

regimental movements, all the technical aspects of war.

Rarely does anyone speak about the human side of it.

Wars are fought by human beings, with feelings, emotions, hopes and

dreams. Ordinary people who are thrown together under extraordinary

circumstances. What I have attempted to do in my Eighth Air Force series

is to bring out the human side of World War II’s air war by relating events

through the eyes and experiences of my characters,

to lend a human side to the conflict.

While all the events depicted really did happen to people I personally

interviewed while conducting my research, I have changed the names and

combined some of the events for the purposes of my stories. This series is

about the air war, but it is also about the human beings who served.

Those young men who fought it,

some of whom returned home afterwards to share the story

while others did not survive and instead,

became a part of history.

Saturday, 14 February 1942

Primary Flight Training

Kearny Army Airfield,

Heavy Bomber Training Center

Kearny, Nebraska

He sat alone, as usual. Second Lieutenant Matthew Moore was doing the two things he always did when in the Mess Hall, eating and studying. There were many other aviation cadets present, sitting at the long, heavy wooden tables, eating lunch or enjoying a leisurely Coke prior to going to afternoon classes. Several groups of students were chatting here and there, discussing navigation problems, practice flights they had been on, where they were going or what they would be doing that evening once classes were over. There were perhaps fifteen or twenty other officers present, including administrative personnel and an instructor or two. Matt had no Saturday evening plans, nowhere in particular to go. It had been that way ever since he arrived at the base for Flight School where he was training to become the pilot of a heavy bomber.

When standing, Matt was an even six–feet–six inches tall in his bare feet, which meant he was around six–seven with his shoes on. His rangy frame sported two hundred and twenty–five solid, athletic pounds. He also possessed the looks that turned most, if not all, female heads. Women described him as uncommonly handsome, with what they called matinee idol looks, the epitome of the phrase tall, dark and handsome. Matt had inherited his movie star looks from both of his parents. He had clean, even facial features which attested to his father’s German–Welsh heritage, and he somewhat resembled his father. Matt inherited his jet black hair, brown eyes, and copper red skin from his mother, a Cheyenne Indian. Described by one of his relatives as the shade of a newly minted penny, the ruddy color of Matt’s skin was obvious enough to let everyone know he was not completely white, and to set him noticeably apart from all the other cadets.

Though Matt was half white, his reddish complexion made him appear Cheyenne, and he thought of himself as an Indian rather than Caucasian. The United States government officially recognized him as an Indian, at least that was what it stated on his enlistment papers. Whether one considered him an Indian or not, the truth was that the two races, Caucasian and Cheyenne, had combined to create a strikingly handsome young man.

While his red skin set him apart from the other men, it was that very thing that made him incredibly attractive, almost irresistible to the opposite sex. Very few women could resist him, a fact that was duly noted and not necessarily appreciated by the majority of the other cadets. He was the best looking guy on base, which was the consensus opinion of all the female personnel at the facility, as well as the local girls in Kearney, much to the consternation of his fiancé, Evy. But she had nothing to worry about, because Matt was totally and hopelessly in love with her, and the thought of being disloyal would never cross his mind.

Like the other cadets, Matt was several months from graduation. It took thirty–six weeks to train a heavy bomber pilot, and he was five weeks into Primary Flight, which lasted twelve weeks. From there, Matt would do twelve more weeks in Basic Flight, followed by another twelve weeks for Advanced Flight, which meant he would not be a fully qualified bomber pilot until the middle of September. After that, he would get a ten day leave, before entering a ten week transition course during which he would train with his crew prior to going overseas. Oddly enough, though he was only five weeks into primary flight, he had already soloed. Future bomber pilots could solo after only six hours of flight time, and Matt had already accomplished that and much more.

At present, he was one of the top students at the school. He worked incredibly hard to maintain his high ranking, as he knew that only the top few men would receive their own commands. He was in no danger of failing in that goal, and never had been. He was an exceptional student. Prior to enlisting in the Army, Matt attended the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in aeronautical engineering. Other than a few of the instructors, he was the only cadet who had such a degree. All the others did have college degrees, as it was a requirement to become a bomber pilot. They had mathematicians, business administration majors, physical education majors, chemists and many other majors, including a few literature and English majors. But only one aeronautical engineer, and it was him.

Education was something his family took very seriously, and it wasn’t just confined to Matt. Both of his parents were university professors. Dr. Andrew Moore was chairman of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Denver, and Dr. Maria Gray Wolf Moore was a professor of American history at the same school. His eighteen–year–old sister Cynthia, was currently at the University of Minnesota, majoring in sociology. After that, she planned to attend law school. While his parents naturally expected both he and his sister to do well in school, indeed to do well in whatever they did, they were not dictatorial about it. Andrew and Maria Moore knew there were obviously times when one would have a bad day and perhaps not do as well, so a few minor setbacks were accepted as a part of the process. But they need not have worried, as both Matt and Cindy had always been A students.

Many of the cadets found it strange that he was such a good student, for two main reasons. First, as an Indian, he was expected to be savage, illiterate, not much higher mentally or intellectually than an animal. His Cheyenne heritage and appearance were the reasons why he was presently sitting alone in the Mess Hall. Once word of his heritage got around, the other cadets had pretty much shunned him, especially those from the South.

The second reason they were surprised at his intellectual achievements was because he had played on the University of Michigan football team under Coach Herbert Fritz Crisler. As a middle linebacker, he had been the captain and therefore the brains of the defensive squad. Doing double duty, he also played offensive tackle. His senior year he was voted All–Big Ten and All–American. One of his teammates had been Heisman Trophy recipient Tom Harmon. They had been classmates, both graduating in the Class of ’41. Matt began playing regularly as a sophomore in 1938. That same year, Crisler had introduced a new helmet design for the Michigan team, dark navy blue with three maize yellow stripes and distinctive wings, a design unlike any other college helmet in the country. Matt was a member of the first Michigan team to wear the new helmet, and used it for the entire three years he played. Now, only four years after the introduction of the odd design, the distinctive winged helmet was becoming as well known across the country as were Michigan’s storied football teams.

In 1940, the beginning of Matt’s senior year, Michigan lost only one game, to the University of Minnesota, and that had been by just one point. Two weeks later, the Wolverines demolished their arch rivals, the Ohio State Buckeyes, on their home turf in Columbus 40 to 0, in what was already acknowledged as the greatest game ever played by a Michigan team. Many sports writers, coaches and others in the know were beginning to call Fritz Crisler’s 1940 Michigan Wolverines the finest team in the 64– year history of the University’s football program.

Matt had no sooner graduated from college when he was approached by the Chicago Bears to play for them. He did not even take the time to think about it before turning them down. He went to college with one goal in mind, and only one goal, to get his aeronautical engineering degree so he could enlist in the United States Army Air Force and become a pilot, and that was what he did.

Consequently, knowing of his athletic prowess, most cadets believed if one was a football player, a jock, one naturally had the mental capacity just above that of a Neanderthal. They were shocked to find Matt was very literate and could speak using actual words rather than just guttural grunts.

Under normal circumstances, the cadets would have been eager to talk to him about his football days, but because of his red skin, they gave him a wide berth. Therefore, he went to classes alone, ate alone, studied alone, did just about everything alone. On this day, his solitude was particularly unfortunate, as it was his twenty–first birthday. Although he had received telephone calls from his family and fiancé wishing him both a happy birthday and Valentine’s Day, he had celebrated the day alone. He did live in the barracks with other men, but they tolerated his presence only because they had no choice. He was an officer in the Army, just as they were, so they had to put up with him. Even so, they tended not to talk to him, to leave him alone, to basically ignore him as though he did not exist. It was the forced exile from everyone else that gave him the reputation around the base as a loner.

Matt turned a page of the technical manual he was reading, put his fork down, took a drink of milk and glanced at his watch. He had a half hour before his next class. He sighed, wishing it was a practice flight rather than an earthbound class. While he excelled in the classroom, like all cadets, he would much rather be airborne. Though he had never flown prior to going on his initial practice flight, he knew from the first moment of his very first flight that in the air was where he was meant to be.

At the door, Captain Kirk Wynans entered. With him were Captain Russ Petersen, and two First Lieutenants, Bill Burrows and Joe Coleridge. Wynans was one of several hot shots at the school who thought he was nothing short of the best pilot around. He was twenty–four years old, stood an even six feet tall and a shade over one hundred and seventy pounds. He thought he was bigger than life, and though he was really just average, there was one area in which everyone agreed he did excel. He was one of the biggest, if not the biggest, bigot on the base, and was not only unrepentant about that fact, but was actually proud of it. He had a reputation for picking on anyone he thought had a foreign sounding last name or anything else he did not consider to be real American.

Wynans looked around. He took a couple sweeps around the Mess Hall, then spied Matt sitting about halfway across the room. A few days after arriving at the school, he had overheard another cadet tell someone that the student named Moore was half Indian. At the time, Wynans had suspected there was something very sinister in the other cadet’s background to account for his red skin. Wynans did not consider Indians up to his personal standards of acceptance. He did not even consider them to be human.

Added to that was something else he had heard. He did not know if it was true, as he had heard it second hand from someone else, who had heard it from a friend, who got the scuttlebutt from another cadet, and so on. But Wynans had no reason not to believe what he had heard, that Moore’s grandfather or some other damnable ancestor, had been one of the Cheyenne who had massacred Custer and his 7th Cavalry at the Battle of Little Bighorn in June 1876. That alone was enough for Wynans to hate and detest him. He did not need to know if it was actually true. He believed it. Wynans studied him. He was alone, so now was as good a time as any to confront the problem of Moore’s objectionable presence. If Wynans had anything to do with it, he would not be at the base much longer. He started across the room, followed closely by his cronies.

Well, well, what do we have here? Wynans asked innocently as he arrived next to the table where Matt sat. His voice was intentionally loud enough that everyone in the Mess Hall could hear it.

Looks like an Injun to me, Petersen commented analytically.

You sure? Burrows asked dubiously. I didn’t think they were allowed off the reservation.

Must have made a mistake, Coleridge speculated.

Matt did not look at them, but purposely kept his attention on his drink. He did not need to look to see who it was. He knew all about them and their racist opinions. Quite frankly, he found it surprising that it had taken them so long to get around to confronting him. He had been at the base as long as they had, and until that minute they had left him alone, just like everyone else. But he knew that eventually they would come after him, and evidently they decided today was the day.

It’s got milk, Petersen observed, stating the obvious as though it was some earthshaking discovery, using the impersonal rather than the personal pronoun.

Of course it does. Don’t think they’d give it a beer, do you? Indians and alcohol don’t mix. Can’t give the Indian fire water. They’re all drunks, you know, Wynans said knowingly.

So I’ve heard, Petersen agreed.

Actually they are drunks, liars and thieves, Coleridge clarified.

Hey, that’s right. My cigarette lighter is missing. I’ll bet he stole it, Wynans said.

It really doesn’t look much like a savage, does it? Burrows asked seriously as he studied Matt. It looks a lot like us. If it wasn’t for that God awful red skin, it could almost pass for human.

Almost, but not quite, Wynans added.

Don’t let them get to you, Matt thought to himself. You’ve heard it all before. Ignore them, just ignore them.

What I don’t understand is how they let it in here, Wynans commented with mock puzzlement.

You’d think they would be a lot more selective, Burrows said with a noticeable sigh.

The next thing you know, they’ll be letting niggers in, too, Coleridge commented in utter and complete disgust.

They already have, Wynans said. You know what they call Indians, don’t you? Prairie niggers.

Something I don’t understand, Petersen said. It must have gone to college. What self-respecting college would take it?

It’s one of those northern places, Wynans informed him. Not one of our fine southern institutions. We don’t let in vermin like they do up north.

Thank God, Burrows said emphatically.

Matt picked up his glass and deliberately drank the remainder of the milk. He put the glass down, picked up his hat and book and stood. Without a sound, he turned and took a few steps toward the door.

The four men stepped in front of him, barring his exit.

Goin’ somewhere, Chief? Wynans asked.

Don’t like our company? Burrows questioned.

Matt studied them for a moment. He took a step to the side. Excuse me.

Excuse you? Wynans echoed. There is no excuse for you.

Hey, it speaks English, Burrows observed. They teach you our language on that reservation of yours, huh?

How did you get to be an Indian? Coleridge asked. Your mother a squaw? Or was your father a buck?

I hear it was his mother, Wynans said.

Your father get his kicks from fucking savages rather than proper, decent white folks? Burrows asked.

Matt could feel his cheeks getting warm. I don’t want trouble, sir. I just want to leave.

I’ll bet you do, Wynans said.

How’d you ever get a name like Moore if you’re an Indian? Shouldn’t it be something like Sitting Bull? Petersen questioned.

What are you going to do if we don’t let you leave? Take a few scalps? Coleridge asked, thinking himself quite witty for coming up with the question on his own.

Excuse me, Matt said again and attempted to get around them. As he did, his arm brushed Petersen’s sleeve.

Petersen grabbed him. Hey boy…don’t push me!

Sir, I didn’t…

Don’t tell me you didn’t! You don’t touch me or any white man, understand?

Just who the hell do you think you are, boy? Coleridge asked angrily.

Yeah, who the hell do you think you are? Wynans asked as he put out a hand and pushed Matt back a few steps.

Matt retreated, not because he wanted to, but because there were four of them and only one of him. He was bigger than all of them, and he was very strong. He knew how to defend himself. He had been doing it all his life. He played football against some good–sized men, and could take a great deal of punishment as well as mete it out. He knew he could do a lot of damage to at least a couple of them if he had to, but he did not want to fight. He would get thrown out of flight school for fighting. Besides, two of them were Captains and he was just a shave tail, a Second Lieutenant.

What’s the matter, boy? Scared to fight? Burrows asked.

I thought all you redskins loved to fight, Wynans countered.

Sir… Matt began.

Did I say you could speak to me? Or to any of us? You don’t speak unless I tell you to, Cochise. Wynans pushed him again.

Matt backed up a couple more steps. He was not used to retreating, but he had no choice. He looked around. All the other men in the Mess Hall were now watching intently and silently, but no one was making a move to help either side, content to watch in anticipation of something interesting developing.

Hey, watch it, Kirk, Coleridge warned. Don’t touch it too much. Indians aren’t clean like white people, you know. They’re dirty. They have all kinds of bugs and diseases and things. You might catch something.

Oh yeah, I forgot, Wynans said, and made an elaborate show of wiping his hands off on his jacket.

At the door, twenty–two–year old First Lieutenant Jack Harrington entered. At five–feet eleven inches tall, he weighed one hundred–sixty five pounds, and had blonde hair and intense gray eyes. Jack had been born and raised not far from Kearney, only forty miles away, on a farm outside of Grand Island, and attended college at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, majoring in business administration. But early on, he decided that was not what he really wanted to do with his life. Neither was farming. It had been what he wanted until he went to an air show and saw the barnstormers flying their brightly colored biplanes with an almost reckless abandon. He talked one of the pilots into taking him up. It became the turning point of his young life. He decided aviation was going to be his career. Jack enlisted in the Army with the specific intention of joining the Air Force. Like all recruits, he went through basic, then applied to take the exams required of all volunteers for the Air Force. The psychological and intelligence tests were pretty exacting, and he passed with ease. He already made up his mind that when the war was over, he would stay in the service and become a career Air Force man.

Jack stamped his feet slightly, trying to get the February snow off his shoes, and rubbed his hands together to warm them from the cold outside. He just finished a class and was stopping in for a quick Coke and a bite to eat before going on a practice flight. The minute he entered, he knew something was wrong. He could feel the tension in the air. Jack glanced around.

What’s going on? he asked Second Lieutenant David Delvecchio who was standing by the nearest table.

Wynans and his buddies are at it again, the Lieutenant said. They’re going after another guy.

Jack looked toward the group. Wynans and his friends had their backs to him, but he could see the object of their ridicule. Jack did not know the officer personally, but he had seen him around the base and the Mess Hall. It was difficult to miss someone that tall. He was the tallest cadet at the school. When the cadets were all together in formation he stood out, like the Empire State Building amidst the New York City skyline. Though he had been in a couple of Jack’s classes, he never formally met the Lieutenant. Jack did know he seemed to be an intelligent kid, as he always had the correct answers to the instructor’s questions. He also knew the tall Lieutenant seemed to draw the undivided attention of all the female personnel on the base, which was not something that was appreciated by the other cadets. That was about all Jack knew, except that the other officer was very quiet, almost unnaturally so, and always sat alone in the Mess Hall. As a rule, the Lieutenant kept to himself, whether in the Mess Hall, the Library, the Officer’s Club or wherever.

What did he do? Jack asked.

Nothing. He was just eating when they started giving him a hard time. He tried to leave, but they won’t let him. They’re tearing into him pretty good, Delvecchio commented.

Anybody try to help him?

Are you kidding? That’s Wynans. He practically owns this place. He does whatever he wants, you know that.

Jack knew that was no lie. He heard stories about Wynans deliberately picking fights with other cadets, sometimes resorting to actual fist fights, and he always came out the winner. If he did not actually win the physical fight, he brought the opponent up on charges of striking a superior officer if they dared fight back. There were several men who had been thrown out of Primary Flight for getting into fights with Wynans, and they were usually Lieutenants. His targets also had something else in common besides their rank. They always belonged to a minority group of some kind. Wynans had already been responsible for the expulsion of a couple Jewish cadets and one named Garcia.

Matt also knew about Wynans’ record. That was why he was allowing himself to be pushed around. It was humiliating to stand and take it, but he had no alternative. He could not hit a Captain. He would be bounced out of flight school so fast he would not even have a chance to pack his gear. He would be throwing everything away. Matt was not about to do that, not after all his hard work to get where he was. He would take whatever Wynans threw at him.

What’s the matter? Don’t want to fight? Wynans asked. Looks like we got a yellow Indian on our hands. I always thought they were supposed to be red.

Looks like he isn’t, Petersen said with a grin.

Wynans pushed him again.

Don’t do that, Matt said finally.

Why not? You going to take a swing at me? Huh? With that, Wynans spit.

It got Matt square in the face. He clenched his fists at his sides, but he continued to do nothing, knowing everyone was watching, waiting to see what he would do, expecting him to fight back. It was getting very difficult not to do anything. His self-respect was going straight down the toilet, but he could not afford to let the others goad him into a fight, not even if it meant being humiliated in front of the entire base.

Wynans grinned. What’s the matter? Why don’t you hit me? I can see you want to. Bet you’d like that, wouldn’t you, half–breed?

Please, sir…

I don’t like your tone of voice, boy.

Oh hell, let him go. He’s not worth the aggravation, Burrows observed with evident disgust.

I suppose you’re right, Wynans said. He looked at Matt. Get out of here. That’s an order.

Matt eyed him for a moment, then stepped past them and headed toward the doorway. He felt totally humiliated. He wanted to punch Wynans’ face in, but he fought down the urge. He wanted to stay in school. He wanted to fly bombers more than anything, and he could not do that if he allowed himself to be suckered into a fight with a superior officer. It bothered Matt to feel that way, but he had no choice. He had to walk away, even if it meant swallowing his pride and self-respect yet again.

Jack watched him as he went by and out the door. Even though he did not know the Lieutenant, he could tell that his self-esteem had been badly affected by the incident. Jack turned back to Wynans and his friends. He watched as they stood there a few moments, conversing in lowered voices, obviously planning and plotting something sinister. Then they turned, went to the door and left.

They’re going after him, he said.

Delvecchio nodded. Probably. They can never leave well enough alone.

Jack debated silently for a few seconds, then started toward the door.

You can’t do anything, Delvecchio called.

I can’t if I stay here, Jack said over his shoulder as he pulled on his gloves.

Matt walked around the side of the Mess Hall and wiped the saliva from his face with his jacket sleeve. He walked on, passed several classroom buildings and headed toward his quarters so he could pick up what he needed for his class. He reached the barracks buildings and went between two of them. Matt walked a few more yards until he thought he heard snow muffled footsteps behind him. He stopped and turned around. Matt found himself confronted by Wynans, Petersen and Burrows. Coleridge was not there. Matt knew he was lurking somewhere close by. The four of them were never apart. They roamed like a pack of hungry wolves looking for prey to devour.

I thought of something I forgot to ask you, Wynans said.

Matt watched him closely, warily.

You married, boy?

Matt did not answer.

I asked you a question. When I ask you a question, you answer. You married?

No sir, Matt said cautiously.

Got a girl?

Yes sir.

She waiting for you back on the reservation?

No sir.

No? Wynans repeated. She’s a squaw, isn’t she?

Matt kept quiet, but he began to tense up. He could take all the comments they could dish out about him, but he was not going to tolerate any slurs against his fiancé.

I said, she’s a squaw, isn’t she? Wynans reiterated with evident irritation.

No sir.

No? You mean she’s a white girl? Wynans asked, totally aghast.

Yes sir.

Wynans eyed him. You have a white girl? I have some advice for you, boy. Keep your fucking red hands off the decent white girls and find yourself a nice little squaw.

Maybe she isn’t a decent girl, Burrows commented thoughtfully.

You’re right. What self-respecting white girl would run with a damned dirty savage? Petersen asked. Must be something wrong with her.

Shut up, Matt said evenly.

She been in bed with you? How is she? Does she like to shack up with savages?

I said shut up, Matt repeated purposely, threateningly.

What was that? Petersen asked.

You heard me.

Wynans stared at him. He noticed the now conspicuous absence of the word, sir, at the end of each sentence. You’re talking to a Captain, boy. He’s your superior officer.

Higher ranking officer, Matt corrected evenly.

Wynans’ cheeks colored perceptibly. "Damn you…You trying to tell me he’s not your superior?"

Only in rank.

"You damned half–breed bastard! You’ll address him as sir when you talk to him. Show him some respect!"

Don’t get so mad, Kirk, Petersen said. He’s only upset because we’re insulting his white whore.

You son of a bitch…You apologize, Matt said darkly. For one of the few times in his life, his temper was threatening to break through.

Apologize? For telling the truth? Petersen asked. The bitch must be a whore…

Matt made a move toward him. He had forgotten about the absent Coleridge. As he went toward Petersen, Coleridge came from behind and kidney punched him hard. He kicked Matt’s feet out from under him in a blind side blitz attack. Matt went down, landing heavily on his left side. He was no sooner down than Burrows kicked him hard in the solar plexus. The force of the blow was not diminished by the heavy fleece lined B–3 jacket he wore. He gasped, the breath knocked out of him. Before he could recover, Coleridge, Burrows and Petersen were on top of him, holding him down in the snow. Wynans knelt. With one swift motion, he hit Matt solidly in the face. The blow split his lower lip. Wynans hit him again, and blood oozed from his nose. Matt tried to fight back, but the other three men were holding him down. He couldn’t even get one arm loose. Wynans hit him again and again, a University of Texas class ring he wore cutting Matt’s right cheek and his forehead above his right eye. Matt’s blood stained the snow with dark crimson splotches.

Wynans panted, looking down at him as he struggled against the three other officers. Looks like we’re going to have to teach this bastard a lesson. He looked to Coleridge. Get your knife.

Coleridge relinquished his position to Wynans and took off toward a nearby barracks. Matt tried to hit him as he sat on top of him. Wynans retaliated by punching him in the face again. He then seemed to notice a goodly amount of Matt’s blood all over his hands. Reaching down, he wiped as much of the blood as he could on the front of Matt’s jacket.

What are you going to do? Petersen asked, panting with effort.

I’m going to teach this God damned savage not to touch white girls. I’m going to fix it so he can’t fuck anybody… Wynans said threateningly.

Burrows glanced up as he held one of Matt’s arms. You aren’t going to…?

I’m going to castrate the son of a bitch.

Matt couldn’t help but hear what he had said. He struggled harder, trying to break free. Though he was very strong, he could not do much with three of them sitting on top of him.

Kirk, I don’t know… Burrows began, thinking that was a little extreme, even for Wynans. He was all for insulting people, calling them names, belittling them, or beating them to teach them who was superior. But threatening to castrate someone was going a bit too far. Burrows was about to say something when Coleridge returned, carrying a heavy G.I. knife.

Wynans grabbed the weapon in his bloodied right hand. As he shifted his weight, Matt squirmed, heaving him off. Wynans flailed at him with the knife as he toppled over. Matt tried to roll away, but the blade caught the side of his jacket, tearing it. The knife penetrated the fleece, and Matt felt a sharp stab of pain as the knife dug into his back. Wynans tried to stab him again, and he just barely rolled out of the way as the knife buried itself into the hard ground. Coleridge and Petersen grabbed Matt, trying to hold him down. Burrows kicked him in the side. As he tried to do it again, Matt grabbed his foot and pulled it out from under him. Burrows fell on his ass amid the ice and blood stained snow.

Jack turned the corner of the barracks and saw the pile of men several yards away. He also saw the glint of sun off the knife blade as Wynans pulled it from the ground.

Jesus, he breathed and broke into a run.

By now, Wynans was not content with just thinking to castrate Matt. He had a murderous expression in his eyes. He slashed with the knife again, and Matt just barely managed to squirm out of the way. Had he not done so, the knife would have buried itself into the center of his chest. As it was, it did not miss entirely, the blade tearing through Matt’s heavy jacket, glancing off his left ribcage.

Jack reached the struggling men in just a few seconds. He pulled Burrows off the pile by the collar of his jacket, and threw him roughly and unceremoniously to the side. Burrows had been holding Matt’s left arm. Once he was gone, Matt slugged Coleridge. The other man got a solid, powerful fist in the face and toppled backward, whimpering in pain, bleeding, holding his now broken nose. Jack grabbed Wynans and pulled him off. He landed on his back, the knife still clutched tightly in his hand.

Matt pushed Petersen away. As quickly as he could, he got to his feet and retreated a few steps to take up a defensive posture with his back toward the barracks wall so no one else could sneak up on him from behind.

Burrows went after him, fists swinging. A natural southpaw, Matt connected with a well-placed left to the jaw. Burrows sprawled backwards in the snow, knocked completely senseless, his head reeling.

Coleridge was going for Matt again, even with a broken nose. Jack got in between them. As Coleridge came within a few feet, Jack pushed him back and turned to Matt. He had seen the solid left to Burrows’ face, and rightly surmised this big Lieutenant could probably take Coleridge apart with one swing. Jack pushed Matt back against the barracks wall, trying to hold him off.

Lieutenant! Hold it! Jack ordered, looking up at him as Matt stood seven inches taller than himself.

Matt panted slightly, trying to take a swing at Coleridge over Jack’s shoulder. Jack grabbed the front of Matt’s jacket collar in both hands and forcefully slammed him back against the wall, holding him there. Jack could feel the tremendous physical strength in the other man’s body, and knew if he had connected with the punch he had thrown, Coleridge wouldn’t just have been knocked cold. He probably would have been killed.

"Stop it! Now!" Jack ordered.

Matt stood with his back against the wall, intently watching the other four men over Jack’s shoulder.

Stay here. That’s an order. Jack watched for a few seconds. Satisfied the Lieutenant was going to stay put, he went to stand between him and his adversaries.

Wynans picked himself up and took a few steps forward, the knife still clenched in his bloodied hand.

Come any closer and you’ll have to come through me, Jack said threateningly.

Keep out of this, Harrington, Wynans warned.

Not this time, Jack said with a shake of his head.

Matt looked from Wynans to Jack. He had seen this blonde Lieutenant a few times and he had been in some of his classes, but he did not know him. Why was he coming to help when no one else in the Mess Hall made a move to get involved? Matt spit some of the salty blood out of his mouth. He was having difficulty fighting down his anger. Matt did not lose his temper easily, and there had been very few times in his life when he had done so. It took a great deal to provoke him to even mild anger.

I’ve had it with you, Wynans, Jack said. You’ve gotten some good guys kicked out of here, but you aren’t going to do it again. Drop the knife.

Hey, I outrank you, buster.

I don’t give a rat’s ass. I’m not afraid of you, Jack said truthfully. "I’ll take you to the CO. I’ve got a whole room full of witnesses who can say that you started it. Then you’ll be out."

Don’t threaten me, Wynans warned evenly.

You hit him. That’s assault. You tried to stab him. That’s assault with a deadly weapon. You tried to kill him. That’s attempted murder. Do you want me to go on? I can bring you up on so many charges that your ass will be out of here and into Leavenworth so fast, you won’t know what hit you.

I’ll back you up, Lieutenant Harrington. I saw everything, a voice said.

Jack looked around to see Dave Delvecchio, who had been standing near the doorway when he entered the Mess Hall.

I have witnesses, Wynans said, and gestured to his three cronies.

They’ll go down with you. Now drop that knife, or so help me, I’ll take you apart myself, Jack threatened.

Wynans studied him. He could see Jack was deadly serious. No one had ever challenged him before. He thought it over for a few moments.

Give me the knife, Jack ordered.

Wynans stared at him, debating the chances he could get in a quick attack.

Don’t even think it, Jack warned darkly.

Wynans thought about it anyway. He had a weapon and Harrington didn’t. On the other hand, the odds were more even now, and the big Indian alone had almost been more than the four of them could handle. There was no way they would come out on the winning end if they took on him, Harrington and Delvecchio.

Let’s get out of here, he said finally and dropped the knife on the ground.

Good idea. Let these damned Indian lovers stick together, Burrows said. He sounded pretty groggy.

With that, they left.

Thanks, Lieutenant, Jack said.

It’s about time somebody stood up to him. If you need a witness, let me know, Delvecchio said.

As he left, Jack bent, picked up the knife and put it in his pocket, then turned to his right. He studied Matt, seeing the blood flowing from his lip, his nose and multiple, sizeable cuts over his right eye and on the cheek. His clothes were disheveled and covered with snow, dirt and blood. Jack reached into his pocket, then held out a handkerchief.

Matt eyed him guardedly, but made no move to take the handkerchief.

Jack could see the expression in his brown eyes, one of wariness, almost a look of distrust. It was the look of someone who had been kicked around and spit on more than once, someone who had been forced to swallow his pride for years, someone not quite ready to trust a stranger, even one who had helped him.

Look, I’m not one of those jerks. I’m on your side, Jack said.

Slowly, almost tentatively, Matt reached out and took the handkerchief. He wiped some of the blood that had run down his chin. Thank you, sir.

Are you all right? Jack asked in genuine concern, studying his badly beaten face.

Matt nodded. Yes sir.

My name’s Jack Harrington.

Matt Moore.

Jack looked him over. You look like you’re capable of defending yourself pretty well. You could have beaten the shit out of all of them. Why didn’t you?

He’s a Captain, sir.

He was also assaulting you. He could have killed you. You are allowed to defend yourself.

Matt shrugged. "Yes sir.

You’re going to file formal charges, aren’t you?

No sir.

No? You don’t have to be afraid of him, you know. You have witnesses.

I’m not afraid of him, sir.

Jack studied him. He could tell what

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