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Title: March Anson and Scoot Bailey of the U.S. Navy
Author: Duncan, Gregory
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "March Anson and Scoot Bailey of the U.S. Navy" ***

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                      MARCH ANSON and SCOOT BAILEY

                                 OF THE

                               U. S. NAVY


                               _Story by_
                             GREGORY DUNCAN

                            _Illustrated by_
                            HENRY E. VALLELY



                                FIGHTERS
                                  FOR
                                FREEDOM
                                _Series_



                       WHITMAN PUBLISHING COMPANY

                           RACINE, WISCONSIN

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                          Copyright, 1944, by
                       WHITMAN PUBLISHING COMPANY

                          _Printed in U.S.A._

               All names, characters, places, and events
                 in this story are entirely fictitious.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                CONTENTS


              CHAPTER                                PAGE

                   I. Farewell to the _Plymouth_       11
                  II. Back to School                   26
                 III. Fifty Pounds of Pressure         38
                  IV. Underwater Escape                51
                   V. First Dive                       66
                  VI. A Real Submariner                83
                 VII. Orders to Report                 95
                VIII. _Kamongo_                       106
                  IX. Destination—                    122
                   X. Through the Canal               131
                  XI. Under Way Again                 143
                 XII. Visit to Wake Island            155
                XIII. Scoot Meets Two Zeros           169
                 XIV. Crash Landing                   186
                  XV. Find the Convoy!                201
                 XVI. Downed at Sea                   219
                XVII. Attack!                         231
               XVIII. Depth Charges                   242

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                             ILLUSTRATIONS


              “She Was a Swell Ship!” Said Scoot        10
              “Going to the Sub Base, Sir?”             31
              They Filed into the Pressure Chamber      45
              Hand Over Hand He Ascended                59
              They Watched From the Dock                73
              They Inspected the Torpedo Room           89
              The Sub Set Off and Submerged            101
              “They’ve Made You a Lieutenant!”         113
              The Skipper Was at the Door              127
              The Big Freighter Came Head On           135
              “I Want You to Take Over Ray’s Job!”     149
              He Adjusted the Eyepiece and Looked      161
              Some Fighters Stayed With the Carrier    177
              A Two-Motored Flying Boat Came at Them   193
              March Pounded Scoot on the Back          207
              The Skipper Was Still Unconscious        225
              He Tied Himself to the Strut             233
              Scoot Appeared in the Doorway            245

------------------------------------------------------------------------

[Illustration: _“She Was a Swell Ship!” Said Scoot_]

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              MARCH ANSON

                                  and

                              SCOOT BAILEY

                           of the U. S. Navy



                              CHAPTER ONE

                       FAREWELL TO THE _PLYMOUTH_


The launch purred smoothly across the calm waters of the harbor, making
for the Navy Yard pier. Their feet braced against the slow roll of the
boat, two young men stood looking at the huge gray ship they had just
left.

“I’m beginning to have my doubts,” Scoot Bailey said almost to himself.

“Same here,” the other replied. March Anson was shorter than his
friend, but more solidly and compactly built. His gray-blue eyes were
steady and cool, matching the set of his jaw, but the crinkling lines
at their corners showed that this apparently serious young man spent a
good deal of time smiling or laughing.

“She was a swell ship,” Scoot said sadly.

“_Was!_” exclaimed March. “She still is! Just because Bailey and Anson
have left her, don’t you think she can carry on any longer?” A slow
smile spread over his face as he turned to look at his friend. But
Scoot was serious.

“Oh, sure, March,” he replied. “But she’s out of our lives now. She’s
past tense for us. And—well, she’s been just about everything to us for
a year now—home, mother, and sweetheart!”

“I know what you mean,” March said. “And it’s natural for us to wonder
if we’ve done the right thing in being transferred. Right now we’re
looking at what we’re leaving. In another ten minutes we’ll be
concentrating on what we’re going to!”

Scoot Bailey turned around and sat down.

“I’m going to start right now,” he grinned. “No use getting sentimental
about the old _Plymouth_ at this point. I’m going to start thinking
about the _Lexington_ or the _Shangri-La_ or whatever aircraft carrier
I’ll be on in a few months.”

“Good idea,” March agreed, sitting beside the tall and gangling young
man who now stared ahead at the Navy Yard. “But that’s one trouble
right now, Scoot. Neither one of us knows exactly where he’ll be. If
you knew exactly what ship you’d be attached to, you could make your
thoughts more specific. When you get there, you know you’ll love her
just as much as you’ve loved the _Plymouth_—more, in fact, because
you’ll be flying at last!”

“Yes, I know, but what about you?” Scoot asked. “I still can’t figure
out why you want to be a pigboat man. And what can you dream about now
as you look into the future? The name of some fish, that’s all.”

“Sure, subs are named after fish,” March replied. “And they have some
swell names, too—the _Barracuda_, the _Dolphin_, the _Spearfish_, the
_Amberjack_!”

“Yes, they sound all right,” Scoot grinned. “But what if you’re
assigned to the _Cod_ or the _Herring_ or the _Shad_? No, I can’t
figure out what you see in those stuffy, cramped, oversized bathtubs!”

This light-hearted argument had been going on ever since March Anson
and Scoot Bailey had been in the Navy together. Neither one minded the
jibes of the other, but the dispute as to the respective merits of air
and underwater craft never ended.

“Cozy and snug,” March said stoutly, “that’s what subs are! Not cramped
and stuffy! Why—they’re all air-conditioned now!”

“Maybe so,” Scoot said, shaking his head, “but no air-conditioning can
match the clear blue sky a couple of miles up there where I’ll be
flying! Boy—what a chance! Just what I’ve always wanted!”

Their departure from the cruiser _Plymouth_ was forgotten now as they
thought of their futures. Only one aspect of that future was rarely
mentioned by either of them, and they tried not to think too much about
it. In their new activities they would not be together—these two who
had been inseparable friends for so many long years.

They had met in the first year of high school, back in that small Ohio
city which now, during war, seemed so many miles and so many years
away. Scoot had lived in Hampton all his life, but March had just moved
there from the farm which his mother had sold when his father died. A
widow with a son only thirteen years old could not run a 160-acre farm,
she had decided, not if her son was to get the education she had
determined he would have.

So the farm had been sold, and Mrs. Anson and her young son had moved
to the near-by city of Hampton. March started high school, and his
mother went back to teaching, her profession before she married Clement
Anson and settled down to farm life. The money from the farm sale was
tucked away in the bank, to be forgotten until the time came for March
to enter college.

March and Scoot had sat next to each other in the big assembly hall of
Hampton High School on the first day. They had taken to each other at
once and from that time had been the closest of friends. Some people
had wondered at the deep friendship of these two who, in some ways,
seemed so different. Scoot had always been a noisy and boisterous kid,
eager for any activity that meant speed, excitement, and a little bit
of danger. The more conservative parents shook their heads and called
him a little “wild” although he never got into serious trouble.

March Anson, on the other hand, was quiet and serious. On the farm he
had worked hard and had learned the value of hard work. In school he
studied thoroughly and carefully. Even in sports he was serious,
playing games as though he looked on them as work, not as pleasure.

But March and Scoot recognized in each other at once the hidden
qualities that lay beneath the surface indications of their character.
Scoot saw that March really enjoyed life tremendously. He just didn’t
whoop and shout about it. He felt a thrill of pleasure in a tough
football game played hard. He loved the talk and chatter of a gang of
boys discussing the game afterward, even though he spent more time
listening than talking himself. He liked the school dances, even though
he was somewhat timid with girls and danced so quietly that he stood
out in contrast to the majority of wildly capering youngsters.

Scoot learned to appreciate the slow smile that spread over March’s
face when he was enjoying himself. When something amusing happened, he
could look at March and see the twinkle in his eye that others seemed
to miss.

In the same way, March saw that beneath Scoot’s noisy impulsiveness
there was a great deal of calm courage, a daring that had in it nothing
of foolhardiness but—on the contrary—a good deal of confidence. Scoot
had a serious side that none of his friends, until March came along,
had penetrated. He never seemed to study much, but his grades were
always good. That was because Scoot never announced, “No, I can’t do
that—I have to go home and study now.” Scoot was ready to do anything
suggested by anyone, but he still managed to get his studying done,
after the play was over.

By the time they graduated from high school together, Scoot and March
had both changed a good deal, each one influenced by the other. At a
first glance they seemed just the same as always, but March was less
retiring, less timid, while Scoot did not always hide under his playful
spirit his more serious interests in life.

When they went off to the state university together, they wondered how
long it would last, for war was already in the air.

“It’s coming,” Scoot said, “just as sure as shootin’, war’s coming. And
I’m going to be in it just about five minutes after it starts.”

“They’ve been staving it off for a long time,” March said, “and maybe
they can keep it up a few years longer. But I don’t think they can ever
satisfy that Hitler guy. Giving in to a pig won’t work—he’ll just keep
demanding more and more! But maybe we’ll get our college education
before the guns start popping!”

But the guns had started firing in Europe before their second year.
When the first peacetime selective service act was passed in the United
States, Scoot was very excited at being below the twenty-year age, and
wanted to enlist at once. But it was March who persuaded him against it.

“We can do more good going right on getting our education until they
need us,” he insisted. “Then we’ll be that much better equipped to do a
good job.”

His argument prevailed over Scoot then, but the war became their
favorite topic of conversation from that time on. Many others in the
college were not interested. They felt that the war was thousands of
miles away, that two big oceans were enough insulation to keep it away
from America.

But Scoot and March felt sure it was coming. They followed the war news
carefully, their hearts sinking as Hitler’s gangs overran one country
after another in Europe. They spent their spare time reading books and
articles about the war, the new weapons and tactics that were being
used. It was then that Scoot knew that he wanted to be a flier, and
then that March first developed his interest in submarines.

“This is an air war!” Scoot insisted. “It’s going to be fought and won
in the air!”

“The whole thing?” March demanded. “I wouldn’t deny the importance of
planes, but I’d never agree that they’ll do the whole job alone. The
country _without_ planes can’t win, I’ll say that much. But look at
Germany’s U-boats! Look at the damage they’re doing! If England can’t
get her supplies by sea—why, she’s sunk!”

The argument that never ended was begun right then. March and Scoot
read everything they could lay their hands on about submarines and
airplanes. And when the Japs attacked Pearl Harbor, Scoot wanted to get
in a plane and fly by instinct out over the Pacific, to give them a
taste of their own medicine. He had just decided to enlist when the
Navy’s program for college students was announced—the V-12 plan which
carried students through an intensive training course which resulted in
commissions as Ensigns.

For March there was no doubt about what course to follow. He signed up
for V-12 at once, already sure that he would be sailing in a submarine
before the year was out.

Scoot could not make up his mind for a few days. When he had thought of
flying, he had always thought of the Army Air Forces. But the Navy had
fliers, too. Eventually it was his burning hatred of the Japs that
decided him.

“There’s a lot of water between us and them,” he said. “The Navy will
have the biggest job in knocking them over—and aircraft carriers will
be the answer! Navy it is for me, too!”

So March Anson and Scoot Bailey had joined the Navy. Gone were all
thoughts of football, baseball, dances, and parties. And suddenly there
seemed to be little difference between the two. Both were now serious,
hard-working, for in the Navy’s program there was room for little but
serious, hard work. Together they crammed into their heads more
mathematics than they had thought of studying in a whole college
course. Navigation, engineering, English, Navy custom and tradition—all
were crammed into them with an intensity of which they had never
thought themselves capable.

Both had put in early their requests for assignment to submarines and
to air service. And, though they knew that the Navy tried to place men
where they wanted to go, they realized that the Navy’s needs would come
first rather than their wishes. So they were disappointed, though not
surprised, when both requests were turned down. The submarine school at
New London, even though greatly expanded, was full to overflowing. And
the applicants for Naval Aviation exceeded by ten times the number that
could be accepted.

New warships were coming off the ways in shipyards all over the
country, and men were needed to man them. So, after some further
specialized training—Scoot in engineering and March in navigation—they
found themselves assigned to the new cruiser _Plymouth_ which had been
rushed to completion four months ahead of schedule.

On their shakedown cruise they had been too interested in their new
life—the huge ship and the men they worked with—to feel disappointment
over missing out on their chosen fields. They knew they were already a
part of the war, and the job they were doing was important. As Ensigns,
they were two very junior officers on the ship almost as large as their
home town, but they had their jobs, and they learned more about them
and about all ships every day.

The Navy lost no time, after ship and crew were deemed fit and ready
for action, in getting them to the Pacific where the losses suffered at
Pearl Harbor had put the United States at a great, though temporary,
disadvantage. By the time they had made the long trip down the eastern
coast, through the Panama Canal, and across almost half the Pacific to
Pearl Harbor, Scoot and March felt like veterans. The Executive Officer
of the _Plymouth_, Commander Seaton, had taken a liking to them because
of their application to their jobs and their desire to learn all they
could. He saw to it that they got varied experiences, shifting to
different jobs carried out by junior officers from time to time.

In company with a battleship, two light cruisers, and twelve
destroyers, they left Pearl Harbor as a task force heading for action
in the southwest Pacific. And action was not long in coming.

In the Coral Sea, the small task force ran into a Jap convoy, heavily
screened by warships, trying to sneak an end run around the corner of
Australia. Two U.S. aircraft carriers had gone out to break up the
convoy, but they were so outnumbered by the enemy that they were in a
bad way when the _Plymouth’s_ force arrived on the scene under full
steam. The Japs were taken by surprise, lost their tight organization,
and fled north, leaving behind three troopships and four destroyers
heading for the bottom.

Scoot had been joyful at his first battle experience, but was angry
that he had not been on the guns.

“Just when the fighting starts I have to be down in the engine room,”
he moaned. “Didn’t even _see_ anything, let alone take a shot at those
dirty Nips!”

“Well, I _saw_ plenty,” March replied, “but navigation officers don’t
get a chance at much shooting, either!”

Scoot, by dint of much pleading and arguing, got Commander Seaton to
transfer him to gunnery, but then eight weeks went by without a sight
of a Jap. The first shots Scoot fired were into shore installations of
the Japs at Munda airfield in the Solomons, after the Marines had
consolidated their hold on Guadalcanal and had decided to move forward
to another island.

The big battle had come almost ten months after they had shipped aboard
the _Plymouth_, up in the Bismarck Sea northeast of New Guinea. Finally
finding the sizable Jap force for which he had been looking, Admiral
Caldwell, in charge of the U.S. force, had steamed right into the
middle of the bevy of Jap ships and opened fire with everything he had.
For seven hours, mostly at night, the battle had raged. Jap planes were
attacking overhead, at least until U.S. planes drove them off at dawn.
The firing on all sides was so deafening that no one could hear even
Scoot’s whoops of glee and happiness. When three of his gun crew went
down under a hail of flying fragments from a shell that landed on the
_Plymouth’s_ deck not fifty feet away, Scoot carried on with the few
that were left, but the rate of fire was cut. So he rounded up a cook
and a messboy and turned them into expert gunners in five minutes and
knocked three Jap planes out of the sky with his improvised gun crew in
ten minutes.

Meanwhile, March had not been idle. The shell whose fragments had laid
low part of Scoot’s crew had landed squarely on one of the 12-inch gun
turrets forward. March was the first man into the smoking and wrecked
turret, pulling out the wounded and dead who were there. At any moment
the ammunition below might have exploded—for no one knew if the shell
had penetrated that far—but March had no thought of such a thing. Three
of the men he lugged from the turret were still alive, though closer to
death than March had ever seen anyone. Later, the medical officer told
March those three had lived only because they got medical attention so
fast.

When it was all over, and half the Jap force lay at the bottom of the
sea while the rest ran for cover, pursued by American planes, the men
on the _Plymouth_ wearily surveyed the damage done to their ship. It
was plenty, but a month in port would fix her up again. As they headed
slowly for Pearl Harbor for repairs, Scoot and March got the big
surprise of their lives. They had no thought of making heroes of
themselves, and they never could figure out how, in the heat of battle,
any officer could have seen just what they did.

Yet when the citations came along, Scoot and March both found
themselves on the list commended for conspicuous gallantry in action.

“My golly, we didn’t do anything,” Scoot had objected, even though he
was beaming all over with pleasure. “Everybody else did the same kind
of thing. All the crew were fighting just as hard as we were!”

“Yes, but they didn’t all keep their heads under fire and show the
spontaneously clear thinking that you two did,” Commander Seaton said
to them in a friendly talk later. “That’s what counts—that’s what makes
leaders of men. And the Navy needs leaders these days. By the way, the
Skipper asked me if there was anything special we could do for you
two—anything you wanted especially. I told him that you, Scoot, had
wanted to be a Navy flier and that March had wanted to be a submariner.
If you still feel that way, the Skipper’ll recommend your transfer to
those branches.”

March and Scoot were dumbfounded! And it had not been an easy thing to
decide, though a few months before they would not have hesitated for an
instant. Scoot still wanted to fly. March still wanted to go into the
pigboats. But they had lived on the _Plymouth_, gone through battle
with her, and they didn’t like the idea of leaving her now.

It was March who made up his mind first. “I’m going to ask for the
transfer,” he said. “I hate to leave this ship and the men on it and
the action I know she’ll be seeing. After a battle or two you don’t
feel like going back to school again. You want to go on to more
battles. But I love the idea of submarines so much that I know I’d be a
better man in a pigboat than I can ever be on a surface ship. So I’ll
take a few months out, learn what I have to learn, and come back to
this part of the world and really send some of those Jap ships to the
bottom.”

“Guess you’re right,” Scoot agreed. “It won’t be long!”

So they had said farewell to the _Plymouth_ sadly as they stepped into
the launch taking them ashore. And they had stood looking at the great
gray ship as the little boat moved toward the Navy Yard pier.

But now their eyes were set forward. They had a long way to travel to
get home, a lot of hard work and studying to do before they could
accomplish what they wanted.

They stepped from the launch and stood on the pier. For a last moment
they looked out at the _Plymouth_ once more.

“So long, old gal,” Scoot said. “You’ll be getting your face lifted
here at Pearl Harbor and you’ll be back in the thick of it soon. Maybe
I’ll see you out there—when I’m up in the blue sky flying my Grumman
Wildcat.”

“Yes, and some time when I’m submerged and hear the throb of a
cruiser’s engines,” March added, “I’ll stick up the periscope for a
peek, wondering whether that ship is friend or foe. And it’ll turn out
to be my old friend, my old sweetheart, the _Plymouth_.”

Together, the two young men turned and walked toward their new lives.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER TWO

                             BACK TO SCHOOL


March felt lonely as he stood on the corner opposite the railroad
station in New London, waiting for the bus. It was cold and there was
rain in the air. The wind whipped about him as he stood close to the
building.

The _Plymouth_ was a world miles away by this time, although it had
been less than a month since he left it. First there had been the wait
of a few days in Hawaii before they found space in a plane heading back
for the United States. But those had been good days—interesting in that
they saw how completely erased were the effects of the first terrible
Jap attack. Then, too, there had been time to rest, to swim and to lie
in the sun on the beach.

Finally the long over-water hop had brought them back to America, which
they had left so long before. It was the first time either March or
Scoot had been in San Francisco, and they enjoyed the two days spent
there before taking the train east. Finally there had been two weeks’
leave back in Hampton. They had seen their parents, visited their old
friends, slept late and eaten huge meals. They had even been persuaded
to make an embarrassed appearance—supposed to be accompanied by
speeches—in the assembly hall of the old high school.

Their leave had come to an end all too soon. Then both young men had
been faced with the prospect of saying goodbye not only to their folks
and their friends, but to each other. It was one fact that both of them
had tried to avoid thinking about, but as the time approached they were
very aware of it. For so many years they had been together almost every
day—but they had taken each other for granted. It never occurred to
them that they were closer than many brothers, that each one supplied
something necessary and important to the other.

They couldn’t say much, of course, when they finally did say goodbye.
It was March’s train which left first, although Scoot would be heading
south only two hours later. They were all at the station in
Hampton—March’s mother, Scoot’s father and mother and kid sister. March
had to say goodbye to all of them and step on to the train alone.

He shook hands with Scoot. “My golly,” he stammered, “I’m going to be
worried about you, Scoot. You’ve had me around to look after you and
keep you out of trouble so long, that I don’t know how you’ll make out
alone.”

They all laughed a little, and Scoot tried to kid back at March, but
his heart wasn’t in it.

“Don’t worry about me,” he replied. “I think the baby is busy worrying
about the nurse this time. Anyway, if it makes you feel good, March,
maybe you’ll have a chance to get me out of trouble later—out in the
Pacific somewhere.”

“Say—maybe I will at that!” March tried to act serious. “I can just see
myself dashing up in my trusty submarine and rescuing you from a bunch
of Japs.”

Later, when they _did_ meet under circumstances not very different from
March’s joking suggestion, it was Scoot who remembered what his friend
had said back in the station in Hampton, Ohio.

But at the time it was nothing but banter, the kind of talk made to
cover up real thoughts that are too deep to be expressed easily. And in
another moment the train came thundering down the track. There was a
last hurried round of goodbyes and March was on the train, waving and
smiling from the car platform as it pulled away from his home.

Because the train was crowded, March had been busy trying to find a
place to sit. His suitcase on the same platform was the seat he finally
chose, until they pulled into Pittsburgh and he found a more
comfortable seat.

The ride had been dirty and uninteresting and March felt himself
getting depressed long before they reached New York. There he had to
rush to get the train for New London, and now he stood on that windy,
rainy corner waiting for a bus, feeling sorry that he had ever won the
chance to get into submarine work.

Then he remembered the one thing that had made him feel good since he
had left Hampton, and he glanced down at the cuff of his sleeve.
Yes—there it was—the extra stripe that had been added when he became a
Lieutenant instead of the lowest of commissioned officers, an Ensign.

The promotion had come to them when they were in Hampton on leave—for
both Scoot and March. They had quickly added the new stripes to cuffs,
to shoulder boards, and had got the gold bars to wear on their work
uniform shirts. March felt very proud and pleased, for the promotion
had come quickly for such young men in the Navy. Going to the submarine
school as a Lieutenant, even if only j.g., or junior grade, was much
better than walking in as an Ensign.

He was staring at the stripes on his cuff and smiling so that he didn’t
notice the salute of the three men who approached him. Only when the
first man spoke did he look up.

“Going to the sub base, sir?”

March saw a sailor with the insigne of a petty officer, third class, on
his sleeve, a sturdy, smiling young man with his seabag over his
shoulder. Behind him appeared three more men of the same rank. The
first, March noticed, was a radioman, two of the others fire
controlmen, and the last a pharmacist.

“Yes, waiting for the bus,” March answered with a smile. “Is this the
place to wait for it?”

“That’s what we were told, sir,” the radioman said. “You see, we’re
just reporting there for the school.”

“Oh, so am I,” March said. “I thought maybe you men were there already
and just in town on liberty. But you wouldn’t have brought your seabags
along in such a case, would you?”

In a moment the bus appeared and they all climbed aboard. On the long
ride out of town and along the river they talked together about the
school they were going to, and March caught again, in these men’s
enthusiasm, his old feeling of excitement about going into submarines.
The men, who had obviously just met as they went to the bus together,
were discussing their reasons for volunteering for submarine duty.

“I had two uncles in the Navy,” the pharmacist said. “I’ll never forget
the way they talked about submariners. They had both tried, but
couldn’t pass the tests. They thought the pigboat men were the cream of
the fleet.”

“Speaking of the hard tests,” one of the fire controlmen said, “that’s
really why I first got the notion of applying for sub duty. I heard it
was the toughest branch of the service to get into and stay in—and I
just kind of like to try any challenge like that. When I hear about
something really tough, I like to take a crack at it. This is harder to
get into than aviation!”

[Illustration: “_Going to the Sub Base, Sir?_”]

March smiled and thought of Scoot who had been worrying about his
ability to meet the strict qualifications for naval fliers.

“I like the life on a sub,” the radioman said. “You know—a good bunch
of guys doin’ something big together, all workin’ together like a team.
And the—well, friendliness between officers and men is swell. Not that
I don’t believe in strict discipline—” he glanced at the officer’s
stripes on March’s cuff—“but I still think it’s a good idea for
officers and men to get friendly, get to know each other well, the way
they do on subs.”

March agreed, and noticed that not one of the men had mentioned the
extra pay for submarine duty as one of the reasons for entering that
branch, and a dangerous branch, of the naval service.

“That’s a good sign,” he told himself. “Of course, they’ll like the
extra pay—no doubt of that—but it’s not the reason they volunteered for
sub duty. They really go into it for its own sake.”

The bus turned and entered the driveway of the sub base grounds and all
the men looked eagerly out the windows. Their first look was for the
river, where they hoped to see submarines.

“Look!” cried Scott, the radioman. “There’s one in dry dock!”

“And over there by the pier,” called another, “there’s a bunch of ’em
lined up.”

March looked at the long slim lines of the pigboats and felt warm
inside. He wondered just how soon he would take his first ride beneath
the waters of Long Island Sound in one of them.

The bus passed a few buildings, but the sailors had no eyes for such
ordinary things. Another structure had caught them—a tall round tower
looming up above the trees on the gently sloping hillside.

“What’s that?” one of the men asked. “A water tower?”

“Water tower’s right!” exclaimed Scott. “But a special kind. That’s the
escape tower!”

“Oh-oh, that’s the baby I’m wondering about,” said the pharmacist. “I
don’t know how I’ll like going up through a hundred feet of water with
just a funny gadget clamped over my nose and mouth.”

“Well—you better not let it get you,” one of the others put in. “It’s
one of the first tests, I hear. If you can’t handle the escape-tower
tests, you’re tossed out of submarines pronto!”

The bus pulled up in front of a large brick building and stopped.
Everyone got out and walked up to the front door. Inside, March left
the men with a smile and reported to the personnel man in charge of
receiving new officers assigned to the school. In another half hour he
found himself in his quarters in a building some way up the hill above
the main buildings of the base. Here the school itself was situated,
with its buildings for classrooms, barracks for enlisted men, and
quarters for officers without wives. Married officers were allowed to
live in New London with their families and commute daily to the school.

March’s room was small but comfortable, and he was neatly settled in it
in a short while. His time in the Navy had taught him already to travel
light, with only the necessary belongings, and to settle himself
quickly. He was at home and comfortable by the time he reported to the
officers’ mess for dinner.

There he met other young officers who also lived at the school, and a
few of the instructors. The latter were older men, full of years and
wisdom in the submarine service, every one of whom would much rather
have been on active duty hunting down Jap or Nazi ships on the oceans
of the world. But they were too valuable in the great task of training
the hundreds of new officers needed for the subs coming off the ways of
the shipyards. Here in New London they could pass on to the younger men
like March Anson a portion of their knowledge of pigboats.

March felt, during dinner, the quiet good-fellowship of these men. On
the _Plymouth_ the officers with whom he ate and talked and played were
pleasant and agreeable fellows, but there had been all types there—the
quiet ones, the back-slappers, the life-of-the-party men with practical
jokes and loud guffaws, the grimly serious officers, and everything in
between. But here the men were more alike.

“Not that they’re all the same,” he told himself, as he looked around
the table. “McIntosh here next to me is quite different in most ways
from that Lieutenant Curtin across the table, for instance, but they
have something in common. Something similar in their personalities, I
suppose. They’re sociable, but in a quiet way. They’re serious, but not
without a sense of humor.”

March did not realize that he was describing himself when he thought of
the other officers in this way. But he might have known that this
question of personality was one of the most important in considering
men who volunteered for submarine service.

No man in the Navy was ever assigned to sub work without his request.
It was an entirely volunteer service, but there were always far more
applications, among both officers and enlisted men, than could be
accepted. So it was possible for the Bureau of Navy Personnel to keep
its standards very high in selecting men for the pigboat branch.

When a man already in the Navy was recommended by his commanding
officer for assignment to the sub school at New London, as March had
been, this did not mean that the recommendation was accepted just like
that. The Bureau looked over the man’s record with the greatest care.
And just bravery such as March had displayed was not enough, even
though it counted strongly in his favor. What they looked for in the
“Diving Navy” was the kind of man who was brave, cool under fire, far
above the average intelligence, with the ability to get along well with
other people under all circumstances, and the kind of nerves that
didn’t crack or even show strain under the greatest danger, the worst
crowding, or seemingly fatal situations.

As March thought of this, he swelled with pride to think he had been
chosen for the submarine school.

“But that’s just the beginning,” he told himself. “I feel pretty darned
good to know that I’ve got this far, but they’re going to watch me like
a hawk every moment I’m here. I think I can pass all the tough physical
tests okay, because I’m in good shape. The studies are hard but if I
work enough maybe I can handle them. But how will I act the first time
I’m in a submerging sub? How will I react to a crash dive? They’ll be
watching me. And even if I get through the school I’m still not a
submariner. Why, on my first real trip or two my commanding officer can
transfer me back to surface ships just by saying the word!”

After dinner, in the officers’ lounge, March spoke with the executive
officer of the sub base, a kindly, gray-haired man with skin that still
looked as if he spent a few hours every day facing the salt breeze on a
ship’s bridge. Captain Sampson chatted easily with March as they looked
out the windows at the gathering twilight.

“Glad to have you with us, Anson,” he said. “Hope you like it here.”

“I’m sure I will, sir,” March replied. “I’ve been looking forward to it
long enough.”

“I had an idea this was no sudden impulse of yours,” Sampson replied.
“First off, you’re not the kind, I take it, that acts on sudden
impulses. And I imagine that subs always appealed to you.”

“Yes, before I was in the Navy that’s what I wanted.”

“Then you ought to do very well,” the Captain said. “You’ll want to
make your call on the Commandant tomorrow, I suppose?”

“If it can be arranged,” March said.

“Yes—tomorrow will be all right, I’m sure,” Sampson said, “for you to
present your compliments to him. There’ll be a few more officers
arriving for the new class tomorrow morning early. I’ve set aside a
couple of hours in the afternoon for the calls. Report at fifteen
o’clock.”

“Yes, sir,” March said.

When the Captain had gone, March went back to his quarters and sat down
to write a few letters. The first was to Scoot Bailey.

“Dear Scoot,” it began. “I’m here at last—at the Submarine School in
New London! Tomorrow things will really start!”

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                             CHAPTER THREE

                        FIFTY POUNDS OF PRESSURE


Things really did start the next day for March! In the morning he had a
physical examination that made all his previous examinations look like
quick once-overs. Eyes, ears, lungs, heart, stomach—they went over
March’s body so thoroughly that he felt not a microbe, not a blood
cell, had escaped their detection. But he knew, without waiting for the
report, that he had no difficulty in meeting all the requirements.

In the afternoon there was the official call on the Commandant, which
was not the stiff and formal ceremony such Naval customs often are, but
an interesting and heart-warming experience. The “Old Man” really took
the time to talk informally and in very friendly fashion with the new
officers who came to the school.

March met the new officers who were just beginning their work at the
school with him, got his schedule of duties for the next few days, and
managed to work in a letter to his mother in the evening.

The next day, when March learned that he had passed his physical
examination with flying colors, he also learned that one of the doctors
examining him had been a psychiatrist.

“That’s the smartest thing yet!” he muttered to Ensign Bigelow, another
new officer-student who had just come from a teaching assignment at one
of the Navy’s technical schools. “Usually the psychological examination
is separate. You know you’re going to be questioned by a psychiatrist
who will ask you all sorts of strange questions about how you get along
with girls and what you thought of your fifth-grade teacher, and—”

“And what your dreams are like,” added Bigelow.

“Sure, and you’re self conscious,” March went on. “A smart doctor
probably sees through that and gets the real dope as to what makes your
personality tick, but it has always struck me as a sort of silly
business.”

“Same here,” Bigelow agreed. “Even though I know those Navy
psychiatrists have been right about ninety-nine percent of the time.”

“But this was wonderful!” March exclaimed. “I just thought those three
docs were all looking at blood pressure and listening to my heart and
such things. Sure, one of them was especially friendly and talked to me
a lot, but that was just natural. And, come to think of it, he talked a
lot about what I did when I was on the _Plymouth_, and how I liked its
Skipper, and where I’d gone to school.”

“I remember now,” Bigelow said, “that he asked me about my leave before
I came here. Mentioned big drinking parties. I didn’t go in for any and
said so. I thought he must be a heavy drinker from the way he talked,
but he was just finding out whether _I_ was or not.”

“He pulled the same line on me,” March said, “and I just thought it was
making talk—you know, the way a dentist does before he does something
that hurts, to take your mind off what’s happening.”

“Well, that won’t be the end of the psychological tests,” Bigelow said.
“I understand that a psychiatrist is always there when we make our
first dives, and he’s just happening to be around in the escape-tower
tests. He’s keeping an eye on us all the time.”

“Some people might not like that idea,” March said. “I suppose they
wouldn’t like the idea of having somebody looking them over to spot
their bad reactions to everything that goes on.”

“Like a guilty conscience,” Bigelow added.

“Always on hand,” March grinned. “But I don’t think it’s a bad idea.
After all, it’s for our own protection. They’ve got to try to weed out
the guys who will crack at the wrong time. And nobody thinks he will,
so you can’t find it out just by asking. If I’m that kind, then you
don’t want to find yourself out in the Pacific undergoing a
depth-charge attack with me alongside you, suddenly going nuts inside a
very small submarine.”

“I should say not,” Bigelow said. “And it’s nothing especially against
a fellow if he can’t stand this particular kind of strain that he gets
in a sub. Maybe he’s got a kind of claustrophobia—fear of being shut up
in small places—without knowing it. Maybe he’d make a swell aviator or
bombardier or the bravest PT-boat Skipper in the world! It’s just that
submarining takes certain qualities, that’s all. You’ve either got ’em
or you haven’t.”

“And those docs find it out before you go out,” March agreed.

March spent the evening with Bigelow and began to like the red-headed
young man more as he got to know him better. Stan Bigelow was a chunky,
broad-shouldered fellow who looked so hard that a tank could not bowl
him over. A broken nose, covered with freckles, added greatly to his
appearance of toughness, even though it had come, as he told March,
from nothing more pugilistic than a fall out of a tree when he was
sixteen years old.

“Landed just wrong on a pile of rocks,” he said. “Didn’t hurt a thing
but my nose. I was at a summer camp and the doc there didn’t fix it up
right. By the time somebody tried to put it back into a decent shape
the bones had set too well.”

Despite Stan’s look of a waterfront bruiser, he was really a
serious-minded student. He had graduated from one of the country’s
top-flight engineering schools just before going into the Navy, and
then had attended one of the Navy’s technical schools. Diesel engines
were his specialty and he felt sure that this knowledge would quickly
get him into submarine work where he wanted to be. But his work at the
technical school had been so brilliant that they kept him on as an
instructor despite his pleas for transfer to New London. Finally, after
a year of teaching, he had been recommended for submarines by an
understanding commanding officer.

“So here I am,” he concluded. “And right now I’m scared to death that
it won’t make any difference how much I want to be a submariner or how
much I know about Diesels. If I get jittery in the pressure tank
tomorrow—out I’ll go!”

“You don’t even need to get jittery,” March laughed. “How do you know
whether you can stand pressure or not? Even in perfect physical shape,
some people just can’t, that’s all. I don’t mean because they’re
nervous. Maybe their noses bleed or their ears won’t make the right
adjustment or something.”

“Well—we won’t know until we try it!” Stan exclaimed. “I’m just going
to keep my fingers crossed.”

After breakfast the next morning March and Stan Bigelow, along with the
other new officer-students, reported to the little building at the base
of the tall escape tower. They were joined by the new class of enlisted
men who were to undergo the same tests. During preliminary training,
there was no difference between officers and men in the examinations
and work they had to undergo. Only later, when actual classes of study
began, did they separate—for the enlisted men to learn their particular
trades in reference to submarines and for the officers to get the
highly technical studies and executive training they must have.

March saw Scott, the radio petty officer, and the others who had ridden
to the sub base on the same bus with him. He called a friendly hello to
them as they all stood waiting for the Chief Petty Officer in charge to
call the roll.

After roll was called all the students were instructed to strip to the
swimming trunks they had been instructed to wear, eyeing the pressure
chamber suspiciously all the time.

“Looks like something to shut somebody up in if you never wanted him to
get out,” Stan Bigelow said, nodding at the huge gray-painted cylinder
with its tiny portholes and small hatch-like door.

“Anyway, we can look out,” March said, “even if the portholes are tiny.”

“I wonder if that psychiatrist will be peeking in one of those
deadlights at us,” Stan mused, “making notes about every flicker of an
eyelash.”

But then the grizzled old Chief Petty Officer opened the small door to
the chamber and ordered the new men inside. Stooping as he stepped in,
March saw that the sides of the chamber had long benches, about twenty
feet long, on which the men were to sit. The compartment was brightly
lighted, and March noticed a fan in one corner.

“I guess it gets a little warm,” he told himself, “with so many people
in a small closed space like this.”

Stan Bigelow sat beside him on the bench, and the other students filed
in after them. March saw that Scott, the radioman, sitting opposite
him, looked a little frightened, and he wondered if he appeared the
same to the others.

“Funny how this gets you,” Stan said in a low voice. “There’s not a
thing to be afraid of, of course.”

“No, the most that can happen is that your nose will bleed or some
small thing like that will show you can’t stand pressure,” March
agreed. “But some of the older guys around here have had a lot of fun,
particularly with the enlisted men, building up some fancy pictures of
what the pressure tank and escape tower are like. They say you get
weird sensations in your head, feel flutters in your heart.”

“Oh—just a little bit of subtle freshman hazing,” Stan laughed. “Well,
I think the reason I’m nervous is that I don’t want anything to happen
to toss me out of submarines.”

They looked toward the door of the compartment as the Chief Petty
Officer stepped inside and tossed a bunch of robes on the seat near the
door.

[Illustration: _They Filed into the Pressure Chamber_]

“Wonder why the robes?” March muttered. “If anything, it’s going to be
too hot in here—that’s why there’s a fan.”

“Maybe this is a combination test,” Stan said with a grin. “They want
to see if we can stand pressure—and heat.”

The CPO closed and fastened securely the door, and they all heard
someone on the outside testing it to be certain it was tightly shut.

“You’re goin’ to be out of here pretty fast,” the officer said to the
students, “so don’t fret. We get fifty pounds of pressure in here,
that’s all.”

His tone was casual and reassuring, but none of the men sat back in
relaxed positions, even though they tried to appear completely at ease
and even unconcerned. They almost jumped when the CPO banged his fist
lustily against the end of the chamber as a signal to the man handling
the valves outside.

They jumped again as a hissing sound filled the small compartment. The
air was pouring in, and the men sat listening to it in silence. March
saw that the Chief had his eyes on a dial at the end of the chamber and
he looked there, too. Stan noted the direction of his glance, and in
another moment every student was staring at the hand that moved up
slowly to indicate one pound of pressure, then two pounds, then three
pounds....

The CPO banged on the side of the chamber again. The hissing stopped.
Everyone looked up in surprise, wondering if there was something wrong.
March glanced around quickly. Was one of the students too jittery? Had
a nosebleed started already? But everyone looked all right, except for
an expression of worry.

“There’s only three pounds pressure now,” the Chief said. “Even fifty’s
not really a lot, but three’s almost nothing. Still, just to give you
an idea that air pressure is real pressure and not just something like
a billowy cloud, I thought I’d tell you that we couldn’t possibly open
that hatch now. You see—when I say three pounds of pressure, that means
per square inch. There’s about a ton and a half of pressure on that
door right now. Figure out how much there is on _you_.”

With another bang the hissing of the inrushing air began once more and
the hand on the dial began to creep around again, passing the figure
five, then the figure ten, then fifteen. March began to feel
uncomfortably warm, and then he saw that most of the other men were
beginning to sweat. Stan leaned over and put his lips close to March’s
ear so that he could be heard over the sound of the air.

“Air under pressure gets hot,” Stan said. “Remember your physics? It’s
the whole basis of a Diesel engine, incidentally, but the pressure is
considerably greater. The temperature in a cylinder gets up to about a
thousand degrees.”

“Around a hundred in here now, I’d say,” March replied in a loud
whisper, and Stan nodded in agreement. Then he swallowed with some
difficulty, and smiled in some surprise afterward.

“My ears popped when I swallowed;” he said. “Feels better.”

“That’s right,” boomed the CPO, who had apparently noticed what Stan
did. “Everybody try swallowing a few times if your ears feel funny.”

March swallowed and then almost laughed as he saw the two rows of
students earnestly swallowing. Then he realized he had not looked at
the pressure dial for some time. He was startled to see it at
thirty-five pounds. It was a good deal hotter now and everyone was
sweating profusely. March looked around at the others carefully,
forgetting his concern about himself in his interest in the others.

There seemed to be less tension now than at the very beginning. A few
of the men talked to each other, comparing their reactions, laughing at
the way their ears popped, expressing surprise at the increasing heat.
Suddenly there was another banging on the wall of the chamber, and the
hissing stopped. Everyone’s eyes went to the pressure dial, and saw the
hand standing at fifty pounds.

So this was it! Well, it wasn’t so bad. March felt that way himself and
saw the same feeling spreading to all the others, who smiled slightly
as they knew they had withstood the pressure test successfully.

“So far, anyway,” March told himself. “Some things happen occasionally,
I guess, when the pressure is reduced.”

Already the hand on the dial was moving downward again, as the air was
released from the chamber by a man handling the valves on the outside.
March began to feel cooler, and in a few minutes he shivered suddenly.

“Better put on the robes,” the Chief said, tossing the robes to the men
on the benches. “The temperature was up to a hundred and thirty for a
while there, and it drops just as fast as the pressure drops.”

“Feels good!” Stan said, as he slipped into the robe.

“Sure, but I’d like a couple of blankets, too,” March replied, feeling
his teeth begin to chatter.

They heard another pound on the wall and saw that the dial hand stood
at ten pounds of pressure inside.

“We’ve got to stop it here for a while,” the CPO explained. “There’s a
regular rate at which a man’s got to come out of pressure to keep from
getting the bends. You probably know something about the bends—every
sailor does—but here’s the idea. Your blood’s under pressure in the
arteries and veins, too, just like the rest of you, and there’s oxygen
and other things carried in that blood. When pressure is reduced too
much too suddenly, some of the gases in your blood form bubbles—just
like a kettle boiling. And those bubbles in your blood can cause plenty
of trouble.”

Stan turned to March. “Sure,” he said. “Remember those experiments
everybody has in first-year chemistry? Making water boil when you put
it on a cake of ice? The water’s under pressure in a closed container,
and cooling it condenses the steam vapor so that pressure is reduced.
So the air forms bubbles which escape when pressure goes down.”

“I remember,” March said. “They’ve got the bends licked now, though,
since they know just how fast to reduce pressure.”

More air was let out until the dial showed five pounds of pressure for
a while, and then it was reduced to zero. The door was swung open by
the Chief and the men stepped out of the chamber with smiles on their
faces.

“One test passed,” March said. “What’s next?”

“The escape tower,” Stan replied. “Tomorrow.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER FOUR

                           UNDERWATER ESCAPE


When March returned to his quarters that afternoon he found a letter
from Scoot Bailey waiting for him. It was full of excitement and
enthusiasm, and it filled March with a good deal of envy.

“I’ve flown already!” Scoot wrote. “I didn’t think we’d get around to
it for quite a while, but I got up the third day I was here. Of course,
I didn’t handle the plane, really, but I just held my hand lightly on
the stick while the instructor took me through a few simple turns and
climbs. Just to give me the feel of it, he said, and so I’d know I
really came here to fly, not just to study in classes.”

March shook his head. “And to think that I’ve hardly seen a submarine!”
he muttered to himself. “And I surely haven’t been inside one. But
Scoot’s already been up in a plane! It just goes to show,” he told
himself, “that submarines are tougher than planes. Just think of the
tests we’ve got to go through before they can even let us take a ride
in a sub. With a flier all he’s got to do is pass a physical test!”

“And speaking of classes,” Scoot’s letter went on, “they are really
tough! Remember back in college we used to think we had to study fairly
hard? Boy, we just had a picnic in those days! We’d look on that kind
of business as a hilarious vacation down here.”

March felt worse than ever. “I’m just wasting time!” he complained to
himself. “Not even a class yet, and Scoot’s studying already!”

He finished Scoot’s letter quickly, learning that he had made a few
good friends already, that he felt fine, that he loved flying. Then
March sat down and wrote Scoot a long letter.

“I’ll tell him about the pressure chamber,” March said. “I’ll show the
lad that we’re doing plenty here that he never even dreamed of. And
I’ll tell him about the escape tower we’re going to have a try at
tomorrow. That ought to show him that he’s picked just an easy branch
of the service.”

So March wrote, and he told Scoot plenty. He made the test in the
pressure chamber sound much more harrowing than it had actually been,
even inventing one man who passed out, bleeding profusely, in the
middle of the test.

Then he felt better, and went down to dinner feeling once more that he
was in the cream of the Navy. As he walked down the hill he heard the
drone of an airplane motor overhead.

“Simple,” he said to himself. “See how easy it is? Just push a stick
this way or that, just push a couple of pedals, and keep your eyes on a
couple of dozen instruments. Why, in a sub we’ve got more instruments
and dials than in twenty-five bombing planes!”

When he sat down next to Stan Bigelow, it was even better, for Stan
agreed with him completely about the super-importance of the submarine
service, thinking up a few additional reasons for its superiority over
Naval Aviation that had not occurred to March. Then they began
discussing the escape tower test the next day.

“Do you know much about this Momsen Lung they use?” Stan asked. “I saw
some today when we took the pressure test, but I don’t know the details
of how they work.”

“Yes, I read all about them a few years ago,” March answered. “They
were invented by an Annapolis man—then Lieutenant Charles Momsen—not
much more than ten years ago. And you know, Stan, that guy conducted
every single experiment himself—wouldn’t let anybody else take the
chance.”

“Boy, he should have got a medal for that!” Stan exclaimed.

“He did! Distinguished Service Medal,” March said. “And the Lung is one
of the biggest things ever invented to make subs safer. Simple—really,
like most good things. The good thing about it is that there’s no
connection at all with the outside. Most such devices had a valve
system for letting the exhaled air out into the water. But the valves
jammed shut—or open—too often. There’s nothing like that to go wrong in
the Momsen Lung.”

“How does it get rid of the carbon dioxide that you breathe out?” Stan
asked.

“There’s a can of CO(2) absorbent inside it, that’s all,” March
explained. “Of course, in time it wouldn’t absorb any more, but how
long are you ever going to use a Momsen Lung at one stretch, anyway?”

“Ten or fifteen minutes, I suppose,” Stan replied.

“Sure,” March agreed. “And the can of absorbent can take care of your
carbon dioxide for a lot longer than that. And the rest of it is really
just as simple. It’s an airtight bag that straps over your chest.
There’s a mouthpiece you clamp between your teeth for breath, and a
nose clip to close your nose so you won’t breathe through it. When the
bag’s filled with oxygen—there you are!”

“Wonderful!” Stan said. “But doesn’t that bag of oxygen, plus your own
tendency to float, send you shooting up to the surface in a hurry?”

“It would if you let it,” March replied. “That’s why there always has
to be a line or cable up to the surface, so you can hold on to it and
keep yourself from ascending too quickly.”

“And get the bends,” Stan concluded. “If anything, I know I’ll go more
slowly than they tell me.”

The next morning they had a chance to look more closely at the Momsen
Lungs before they put them on, with the instructor explaining their
workings and showing the students how to adjust them. March did not see
Scott, the radioman, among the group, although all the others were the
same that had gone through the pressure test the day before. He spoke
to the young pharmacist, asking about Scott.

“Got a cold,” was the reply. “Just a little nose cold, but they
wouldn’t let him do the escape test with it.”

“Too bad,” March said. “But he’ll be able to catch up with the rest of
us soon.”

The Chief Petty Officer in charge was explaining the test to the men,
as they got into their swimming trunks.

“First we’ll have twenty pounds of pressure in the chamber,” he said,
“just to be sure noses and ears are in good shape before going into the
water. And then you’ve got a long climb ahead of you. You see, the
bottom of this tower is a hundred feet from the surface at the top. You
won’t be taking the hundred-foot escape for quite a while yet. Today we
go up to the eighteen-foot level.”

March thought that ought to be simple. He had been almost that far
beneath the water sometimes when he went in swimming. But then he
remembered that this test was to teach the men the proper use of the
Momsen Lung, the rate of climb up the cable to the surface. It wasn’t
the pressure at eighteen feet that would bother anyone, unless it was
somebody who had some deep fear of being under water.

“Such a person wouldn’t very well select the submarine service,
though,” he said to himself. “Of course some people have these fears
without knowing it. Nothing has ever happened to bring it out, that’s
all.”

The time in the pressure chamber seemed like nothing after their
fifty-pound session of the day before, and soon the students found
themselves ascending to the eighteen-foot level of the tower.

“Up at the top,” the Chief was saying, “there are plenty of men ready
to take care of you. Nothing much is likely to go wrong with such a
short escape, but we don’t leave anything to chance. So if you get
tangled in the cable or decide to go down instead of up, or anything
like that, there’s a few mighty good swimmers to do the rescue act.
There’s one thing to remember—we send you men up one after the other,
pretty fast, just the way you’d be doin’ it if you were getting out of
a sub lyin’ on the bottom of the ocean. So get away from the cable buoy
fast, and without kickin’ your legs all over the place. You’re likely
to kick the next one in the head, especially if he has come up a little
too fast.”

“How fast are we supposed to go, Chief?” one of the men asked.

“About a foot per second,” the officer replied. “You hold yourself
parallel with the cable, body away from it a little bit, and let
yourself up hand over hand. You can put your hands about a foot above
each other, and count off the seconds to yourself. We’ll be timing you
at both ends, so you’ll find out afterwards whether you went too fast
or too slow. Then you’ll catch on to the rate all right.”

March was among the first men who stepped into the bell at the
eighteen-foot level. The water of the tower came up to his hips and was
kept from going higher in the little compartment by the pressure of the
air forced into the top of the bell-shaped room. He saw a round metal
pipe shaped like a very large chimney extending down into the water.

“That skirt goes down a little below the water level in here on the
platform,” the Chief said. “When you go up, you fasten on your Lung,
duck under the skirt, and go straight up. First, I’m going to check to
be sure that the cable’s set okay.”

March and the others watched closely as the Chief adjusted his nose
clips and mouthpiece deftly, turned the valve opening the oxygen into
the mouthpiece, and ducked under. In a moment he reappeared and removed
the Lung.

“All set,” he said. “Okay, you—” he pointed to the young pharmacist,
“you go first. Your Lung’s filled with oxygen, plenty of it. There’s
the carbon dioxide absorbent in there to take up everything you breathe
out. Remember to go up hand over hand, about a foot per second. And
don’t be surprised if a couple of guys go floatin’ past you in the
water on your way up. There’re other instructors swimmin’ around up
there and once in a while one of ’em swims down to see how you’re
makin’ out. All set?”

“Yes, Chief,” the pharmacist answered. March thought he looked
completely calm, though he felt himself growing excited at even this
short escape.

“Okay, mouthpiece in place,” the Chief said, making sure that the
student did it correctly. “Now, nose clips on—that’s right. Finally,
open the valve so you can get the oxygen. Okay?”

The pharmacist nodded that he was all right. “On your way, then, my
lad,” the Chief said. “Duck under.”

March watched the young man duck under the water and disappear as he
went under the metal skirt. Then he saw the Chief go under, too, right
behind him. Up above, he knew, the instructors would see a tug on the
yellow buoy fastened to the cable, and would begin their timing of the
first ascent. One of them would dive down and have a look at the
student coming up, would make him pull away if he were hugging the
cable too closely, speed him up or slow him down if necessary, with a
gesture and a pat on the shoulder.

Suddenly the Chief reappeared.

[Illustration: _Hand Over Hand He Ascended_]

“Okay, you,” he said, pointing to March. As he put the mouthpiece in
place, he thought how strange it was that in the tower in a pair of
swimming trunks he was just plain “you” to the Chief Petty Officer,
while in uniform outside he would be “sir.”

“Right now,” March thought as he adjusted the nose clips and turned the
valve, “this man’s my superior and my teacher. A young officer can
learn plenty from these boys who’ve had so much experience, if they
give themselves a chance by forgetting for a few minutes that they’re
commissioned officers.”

As the Chief patted his shoulder, March ducked under the water, found
the bottom of the round metal skirt, and went under it. Looking up, he
saw the long shaft of darkness made by the walls of the tower, and the
filmy, cloudy circle of half-light at the surface which suddenly seemed
a great distance away. His hands had already found the cable, and he
held on to it as he felt the upward tug of the Lung which tried to
carry him swiftly to the top.

Putting one hand about a foot above the other he began to count to
himself, hoping that his counts were about a second apart. For every
count he put his hand up what he judged to be another foot in distance.
Then he realized that his legs were unconsciously starting to twine
themselves around the cable, and he pulled them away, holding his body
straight up and down a short distance away from the escape line.

“That’s funny,” he told himself. “I guess I always twined my legs
around a rope when I was going down it, so I want to do the same thing
going up.”

He looked up again quickly and saw legs kicking above him. That would
be the pharmacist pulling away from the buoy. How much farther did he
have to go? It was hard to judge the distance. He had reached a count
of nine, so he should be halfway if he had been putting his hands a
foot apart.

His eyes blinked at a form moving up close to him. He saw a man in
trunks floating toward him in the water, waving his arms slowly. No, he
wasn’t waving—he was swimming! He wore a pair of nose clips but no
Momsen Lung. One of the instructors from above, March concluded.

The man motioned his arms upward urgently. Unmistakably March knew that
he had been going too slowly, so he increased the tempo of his count
slightly. And before he knew it, his eyes blinked in the sunlight and
he felt water running down his face. He was up!

“Clips off! Valve off!” an instructor in the water beside him said.

March moved away from the buoy toward the side of the tank, where he
saw other men standing on the little platform, and as he did so he
removed his nose clips with one hand, shut the oxygen valve. Then he
remembered that it had not felt a bit strange to breathe through his
mouth instead of through his nose.

“I guess as long as your lungs get the oxygen they need, you don’t much
care how it gets there.”

He felt a hand helping him as he climbed up on the little platform at
the top of the tower. Standing there, he removed the mouthpiece and
then took off the lung itself. As he dried himself and slipped into his
robe, the man behind him broke the surface and started toward the edge.

Suddenly March felt a little dizzy. He had looked out the window and
had seen how high he was from the ground. And then he smiled.

“What would Scoot think of me?” he thought, “getting dizzy even for a
second only a hundred feet off the ground?”

Down below was the river, and March saw a sub making its way down
toward Long Island Sound. It looked very tiny and slim.

“How did it go, sir?” asked a voice behind him. He turned and saw the
pharmacist.

“All right, I guess,” March replied. “Didn’t mind it, anyway. I guess I
was a little slow. They had to send a man down to hurry me up.”

“They sent one down to slow me down,” the pharmacist said, “but I came
out just about right. They told me it was a better sign if you went too
slow than too fast.”

“I suppose it indicates you’re not overanxious about being under
water,” March said.

A familiar head broke the water of the tank and March saw Stan Bigelow
moving over toward the platform. When he had got out and removed his
Lung, he smiled at March.

“Nothing to it, was there?” he called. “I’d like to try the fifty-foot
level right away.”

“Same here,” March said, “but I guess we wait a day or two.”

Later, when they _did_ make the fifty-foot escape, they found that it
went just the same as the eighteen-footer. Sure, it took fifty seconds,
but the sensations were about the same. There was more pressure on the
ears, but not enough to bother anyone. March was very surprised to hear
that one of the enlisted men, near the end of the group, had suddenly
gone panicky just before it was his turn to go.

“Had he gone through the eighteen-foot test all right?” March asked the
Chief Petty Officer in charge.

“Yes—just too fast,” the man replied. “But lots of them do that at
first. He must have been holding himself under control for that one,
though, and the thought of the fifty was too much for him.”

“Too bad,” March said. “Will they transfer him back to his old branch
of the service?”

“No—they’ve decided to give him another chance,” the Chief said. “The
Doc—the psychological one—thinks it’s just a fear the guy never even
knew he had. He’s goin’ to talk to him a bit to see if he can find out
what caused it. Then maybe he can get rid of it. He won’t be able to go
down in a pigboat until he handles the fifty-foot escape okay, but
we’ll keep him on for a while to give him another crack at it. Good man
in every other way, as far as I can see.”

March learned later that the man was one of the fire controlmen who had
ridden out on the bus with him.

“Gee, I hope he makes it,” Scott, the radioman, said to March when they
talked it over. “He’s a swell guy. Cobden’s his name, Marty Cobden. And
he’s got his heart set on bein’ a submariner, dreams about it at night
even. Never had the faintest notion he was scared of anything, least of
all just fifty feet of water.”

“Did he go swimming much?” March asked.

“I asked him that, too,” Scott replied. “He says he liked to swim but
he didn’t like to dive. But he wasn’t _scared_ of it!”

Scott had got over his cold and had caught up with the rest of them,
making the eighteen-foot and fifty-foot escapes without difficulty.

“Well, we’re qualified now to go to school here,” March said. “And we
can even go down in a sub. But when do we take the hundred-foot escape?”

“Don’t have to,” Scott said. “But most of ’em try it, sir—some time
later. They all want to see Minnie and Winnie.”

“Minnie and Winnie?” March asked. “Who are they and _where_ are they?”

“They’re mermaids,” Scott said without a smile. “Beautiful mermaids.
And they’re painted on the walls of the tank down at the hundred-foot
level. Only one way to see ’em—and that’s to make the escape. An’ you
get a diploma when you’ve done it.”

“I’ll see you there, Scott,” March said. “We’ll both have a look at
Winnie and Minnie one of these days.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER FIVE

                               FIRST DIVE


The next day classes started for March and Stan and the other new
officers going through the school. Expecting the most difficult and
intensive of studies, March was a little disappointed in the first
day’s work.

“Just ground work, I suppose,” he said to Stan at mess that evening.
“They couldn’t start throwing the whole book at us on the first day.”

“I think they did pretty well,” Stan said. “I got a big dose of the
history and development of the submarine and the construction of modern
pigboats. Back in college we’d have taken a week to cover what we got
in this one day. But, of course, you’ve read a lot of general stuff
about subs. I was so busy studying engineering in college I didn’t look
at anything else.”

“Yes, I _have_ read a good deal about the underwater ships,” March
said. “I always did think those first experimenters had a lot of guts.
Imagine that Dutchman, Van Drebel, submerging a boat more than three
hundred years ago.”

“Sure, and he stayed down two hours,” Stan agreed. “Made about two
miles—with oars for power!”

“He must have been a clever guy to have those oars sticking out through
leather openings sealed so tight that not a drop of water could come
in,” March said. “But it was the Americans who really made submarines
go.”

“Yes—isn’t there a ship named after Bushnell,” Stan asked, “the man who
made that submarine during the American Revolution?”

“Sure, a submarine tender, naturally,” March replied. “Too bad his idea
didn’t work better. It was a clever one.”

“I had never realized until today,” Stan said, “that Robert Fulton had
anything to do with submarines. I thought inventing the steamboat was
enough for any one man. But now I find out he invented pretty good
submarines long before he did the steamboat. But he just couldn’t get
anybody to listen to him.”

“Well, the sub really couldn’t develop into a reliable ship,” March
said, “until electric motors and storage batteries came along. There
were some pretty good attempts, of course, and John Holland and Simon
Lake, the two Americans who really made subs that worked, turned out
some fair ones driven by gasoline engines, steam engines, and
compressed air.”

“And don’t forget the Diesels!” Stan laughed. “My sweethearts, the
Diesels! They were the last things needed, after storage batteries and
electric motors, to make subs really dependable and good.”

“I won’t forget your Diesels, Stan,” March said. “I’m going to have to
learn plenty about them in the next few weeks, and I know almost
nothing now. And you’ve got to learn plenty about other things, too.”

“Sure, it’ll be tough going,” Stan said. “But it’s a wonderful idea to
have every officer, no matter what his specialty, able to take over
almost any department on a sub if he has to.”

“Yes, if I get knocked cold just when we’re trying to slip away through
some coral atolls to miss a depth-charge attack,” March asked, “won’t
you be glad you really learned how to navigate?”

“Why, all Navy men know how to navigate,” Stan protested. “I know my
navigation pretty well.”

“Maybe so,” March agreed, “but do you know it well enough to take a
ship a few hundred miles under water without ever a chance to look at
the horizon or shoot the sun or get a fix on some landmark? I know I
couldn’t do it, and navigation’s been my main job so far.”

“Navigating a sub’s no bed of roses, of course,” Stan said, “but
nursing my pretty Diesels is no easy task, either. When you’re workin’
on those babies, you pay attention and be good to them.”

“I’ll be good to your Diesels, all right,” March laughed. “But what I’m
most anxious to learn about are all the new sound-detection devices.
Pretty secret stuff, some of it, though we’ve had some of it on our
surface ships.”

“I know,” Stan said. “You don’t feel so blind and lost in a sub any
more, I guess. You can tell from the sound devices just how many ships
are near by and even from the sound of their engines what kind they
are, where they’re goin’ and how fast. But you know what I’m anxious to
do—really get inside a pigboat and look around. Those cross-section
charts are fine, but there’s nothing like seeing the real thing for
yourself.”

“I think they’ll be taking us down for a dive within a couple of days,”
March said. “Just for the ride, you know, and to see how we react. And
it had better be pretty soon. That Scoot Bailey has probably been up in
a plane half a dozen times at least and I haven’t seen the inside of a
sub!”

The next morning they looked for an announcement that they would go
down in one of the subs but there was nothing of the sort. They spent
their time in the classrooms, and they began the really intensive work
that March had been expecting.

“One day of preliminary stuff was enough, I guess,” he said to Stan at
lunch. “They really put us to work this morning.”

The classrooms and laboratories of the officer-students were in the
same building as those of the enlisted men. Officers and men alike had
gone through the same preliminary tests, but now their paths separated.
March saw the men regularly, of course, in the halls and around the
grounds. He stopped and chatted once in a while with Scott, the
radioman, who struck him more and more as a pleasant and serious young
man ideally suited to submarine work. He saw the pharmacist, Sallini,
and also Marty Cobden, the fellow who had gone to pieces at the
fifty-foot level in the escape tower. He was going at his studies like
a demon, as if to make up in some way for his one failure to date.

March and Stan saw them that very afternoon again, when they reported,
according to instructions, to one of the Chief Petty Officers at the
sub base below the school buildings.

“Wonder what’s up?” Stan said. “Something for officers and men alike,
whatever it is.”

“There’s only one thing left of that sort,” exclaimed March happily.
“That’s our first pigboat ride! Come on, Stan!”

Stan noticed that there were only about a dozen enlisted men gathered
together rather than the whole class.

“Why only some of them?” he wondered.

“Sub won’t hold many more, in addition to the regular crew,” March
said. “And now these boys are really beginning to team up. You know how
we’ve had it drilled into us already that teamwork is the most
important part of submarining? Well, they’ve started to put their teams
together. This bunch is a diving section—just enough men for one shift
on a sub to handle everything that needs to be handled. They’ll work
together all through the course, get to know each other, to work well
together.”

“What if one of the men fails the course?” Stan asked. “There’s Marty
Cobden, for instance. If he doesn’t manage to overcome that fear of the
escape tower he’s through.”

“Then they’ll have to replace him,” March said. “But that will be just
one man out of the section—or maybe two at most will not be able to
make it. Well, the majority of the team is still intact. The new man
can fit into a well-functioning team pretty fast.”

“Will they eventually go out on duty together?” Stan asked.

“Probably,” March replied. “When a sub gets three diving sections that
have trained together, then it’s got a real crew. Of course, they
usually try to put in just one new section with two old ones, men
who’ve been through the ropes. The new section, already used to
teamwork, fits in with the experienced men well, and learns so much
from them that they’re veterans after one patrol.”

“What about us officers, though?” Stan wondered. “Maybe there’s a
chance we’ll go on the same sub.”

“Maybe,” March agreed. “They may put two new officers on a sub with
three or four veterans. Probably no more, though. Look, here comes the
Chief!”

In a few minutes they were all walking down toward the docks where the
old O-type submarines used as trainers lay bobbing gently in the waters
of the Thames River. March saw that some of the crew were busy about
the deck of one of the subs, to which a narrow gangplank led from the
dock. As they walked, the Chief Petty Officer was talking to the
students.

“When it’s in the water,” he said, “you can’t see much of a sub. The
flat deck is just a superstructure built up on top of the cigar-shaped
hull. You can see part of the hull itself where the superstructure
sides slope down into it. But most of it’s under water, where it ought
to be on a pigboat.”

March’s eyes were going over the long slim craft swiftly, not missing a
detail. He saw the fins on the side at bow and stern, folded back now,
but able to be extended so as to make the planes which could guide the
ship up or down. He noted the looming conning tower which served as a
bridge for the officers when the pigboat traveled on the surface. From
there, he knew, a hatch led down into the center section of the ship.
He saw, too, that the fore and aft hatches were open, one leading down
into the torpedo room and another into the engine room.

“Look at the deck gun,” Stan said. “Wicked looking little thing.”

[Illustration: _They Watched From the Dock_]

He pointed to the 3-inch gun mounted on the flat deck forward of the
conning tower. It was tightly covered with what appeared to be a canvas
cover. March knew that the crew could have that cover off and the gun
in action in a matter of seconds.

March and Stan walked across the gangplank and looked up at the officer
on the bridge of the conning tower. Saluting, they reported, and
received a welcoming smile and the words, “Come on up!”

They scrambled up the ladder and found themselves on the crowded bridge
with two other men.

“I’m Lieutenant Commander Sutherland,” said the man who had greeted
them, “Executive Officer.” He turned to the other officer on the deck.
“Captain Binkey—Lieutenant Anson and Ensign Bigelow reporting.”

The Captain smiled as he returned their salute and then lapsed into his
customary informal role.

“Glad to have you aboard,” he said. “First ride, eh?”

“Yes, sir,” March and Stan replied, feeling at ease at once in the old
veteran’s presence.

“Sutherland will show you around after we get started,” the Skipper
said. “I imagine you’ll want to stay up here till we’re under way.”

Sutherland turned to them. “You probably know from your studies what
most of this is about,” he said. “Just a matter of seeing and feeling
it to be at home. I know I don’t have to tell you every little detail
the way the Chief down there is pointing out every steel plate to those
ratings.”

March and Stan glanced down to see that the Chief had led his enlisted
men on to the deck of the submarine, where they were mingling with the
regular crew who were preparing to cast off when the Captain ordered.

“Whenever you want to know anything,” Sutherland went on, “just ask me
and I’ll try to give you the answer. I imagine we’ll be casting off in
a minute.”

They saw the Chief Petty Officer leading his students down the
torpedo-room hatch to the interior of the submarine, and for a moment
March wanted to join them.

“That will come later,” he said. “It’s important to see them cast off.”

And that operation came without delay. At a word from the Captain, the
executive officer began barking orders to the crew and to the enlisted
men who stood at the controls on the bridge. The gangplank was taken
away by men on the dock, the electric motors began to turn in the ship
far below them, and lines were cast off. Slowly, trembling slightly
beneath their feet, the pigboat slid back into the river away from the
shore, churning up the water only slightly as it moved.

Then suddenly, with a roar, the Diesels caught hold and white smoke
poured from the exhaust vents on the sides of the boat. Stan grinned as
he heard them, and March said, “Makes you feel at home to hear them,
doesn’t it?”

“Oh—is he a Diesel man?” Sutherland asked.

“He dreams about them,” March replied. “I think he’s going to marry a
Diesel some day!”

The pigboat was now in the middle of the river and swinging about to
head downstream. On the deck below there remained only a few men of the
regular crew needed for duties there. March looked around, feeling the
thrill of pleasure that always came when a ship set out. The cool
breeze fanned his face, and he looked at the shore slipping by, then
the buildings of the city. It seemed only a short while before they
were in the choppy open water of the Sound. Here there were almost no
other ships, and the waters were deep. Soon they would dive!

Below, he knew, the regular crew were at their stations, with the
students looking on—each specialist observing the work he would one day
do himself. Engine men were in the crowded engine room, peering eagerly
at the huge Diesels which powered the ship on the surface. Scott, the
radioman, would be standing beside the regular radioman, and Sallini
would be going over supplies and equipment of the regular pharmacist,
while keeping his eye out for everything else he could learn, too.
Every crew member had his special duties, but every one had to be able
to take over the duties of any other in an emergency. That was one of
the reasons they all liked submarine work, officers and men alike. They
learned so much, in so many different fields, in such a short time!

“Rig ship for diving!” said the Captain quietly, and Sutherland, who
served also as diving officer, spoke the order into the interphone on
the bridge. Throughout the ship below, March and Stan knew, men had
sprung to their stations in every compartment. The cook was “securing”
the sink, stove, pots and pans. Men at the huge levers controlling the
valves of the ballast tanks tested them. The diving planes were rigged
out. Below on the deck, the last of the crew slid down the hatches and
made them fast from the inside.

Then the reports began to come back over the phone that all was ready
inside the boat. An officer in the control room below heard the
different rooms of the submarine check in one by one.

“Torpedo room rigged for diving!”

“Engine room rigged for diving!”

When all rooms had reported, the officer below phoned to the Captain on
the bridge that the ship was rigged for diving.

“All right, Mister Anson and Mister Bigelow—down you go!”

March quickly moved to the opening and slid down it, his feet reaching
for the steps of the straight steel ladder. He was followed at once by
Stan and then by Sutherland. Next came the enlisted man who had stood
at the controls on the bridge, and finally the Captain himself. The
hatch was made fast behind him and everyone was inside the boat.

March glanced around him quickly. And despite the number of drawings
and pictures he had seen of the control room of a submarine, he gasped.
Never had he seen such a myriad of instruments and wheels and levers
and dials! Everything in the entire submarine was really controlled
from this one central room. Beside him, in the middle of the room, were
the two thick steel shafts which he knew were the periscopes. Their
lower ends were down in wells in the deck and would not be raised until
after they were submerged and the skipper wanted to look around.

Facing the bow of the ship, March saw the forward bulkhead of the
control room. Yes, there was the huge steering wheel with the helmsman
holding it lightly. It seemed strange for a helmsman to be looking at a
wall, or instrument panels on a wall, rather than at the open sea over
which he steered. March knew that the controls were electrically
operated by the wheel and thus easy to handle. But every man was made
to steer it by hand on occasion—and that took real strength!—in order
to be ready for that emergency that might come when the electric
current failed.

Forward, also, were the wheels controlling the angles of the diving
planes. There was the gyro-compass dial, and near by the little table
at which the navigation officer sat.

“Some day that’s where I’ll be,” March said to himself.

He didn’t have time to look carefully at the many other dials against
this wall, but he knew they showed the ship’s depth under water, the
pressure, and other essential data. Along the sides were still more
dials showing the amount of fuel in tanks, the number of revolutions
per minute being made by the propellers. He recognized the
inclinometer, which showed just exactly the angle of tip assumed by the
boat in diving or coming up.

On another side were the long levers and wheels controlling the big
Kingston valves which flooded the ballast tanks with sea water when the
ship was to dive, the air vents, the pumps, and other equipment used in
diving and surfacing. The regular crew stood tensely at their posts
without a word, and the students who stood near by were completely
silent.

March glanced at the Skipper and saw that he was looking at a huge
panel on one wall. Yes, this was the “Christmas Tree!” It was a large
electric indicator board covered with red and green lights. It showed
the exact condition of every opening—hatches, air induction vents, and
all—into the ship. Everything having anything to do with diving had its
indicator there on the board. March saw that most of the lights were
green, but many were still red. He knew that every light had to be
green before the ship could dive.

“Stand by for diving,” said the Skipper in a quiet voice.

Sutherland, standing behind him, sang out, “Stand by for diving!” The
telephone orderly repeated the order over the interphone to all parts
of the ship and March jumped as the klaxon horns blared out their
raucous warnings. For a moment their sound reverberated in the small
steel room, and then Sutherland barked new orders.

“Open main ballast Kingstons!” March saw the men move the levers as he
repeated the order, and a few lights turned to green on the “Christmas
Tree.”

“Stop main engines!” The order was repeated over the phone to the
engine room. March felt the trembling of the ship stop as the Diesels
were shut off and the electric motors switched on again, taking their
current from the huge banks of storage batteries under the deck of the
ship. At the same time other lights turned to green on the board.

“Open main ballast vents!” called Sutherland.

One after another the necessary orders were called by the diving
officer, they were carried out with precision and reported back at
once. Finally, the last red lights on the board winked out as the main
air induction valves were closed. Then Sutherland ordered, as the last
test, that air be released from the high-pressure tank into the
interior of the ship. March watched him look at the dial indicating air
pressure within the ship. The hand moved up a little, then held steady.
This showed that there was no leakage of air from the boat.

Sutherland turned to the Skipper. “Pressure in the boat—green light,
sir.”

“Take her down!” said the Captain with a nod.

When the diving officer repeated the order the klaxons blared again
their final warning before the diving officer called out one order
after another. March had been able to keep close track of everything up
to this point, but suddenly, just at the crucial moment, there was too
much going on. He heard an order that sounded like “Down bow planes!”
and felt the ship tip forward slightly. But at the same time he heard
the roar of water as it rushed into the ballast tanks between the inner
and outer steel hulls of the ship, the rush of air forced out of the
vents by the inrushing water, and the whine of the electric motors.

Sutherland gave an order about the trim tanks which March did not
catch, then heard the Skipper say, “Steady at forty feet.”

As the order was repeated, March found the dial which indicated the
ship’s depth and saw the hand approach the forty mark. There the ship
leveled out again. The sound of rushing water and bubbling air had
ceased and the only sound was the steady hum of the motors.

“We’re down!” Stan muttered, almost to himself. March had almost
forgotten his companion’s existence, but now he turned to him.

“That’s right!” he said. “I was so intent on what was happening I
almost forgot about that. There’s nothing special about it, is there? I
mean—being here in this room where you can’t see outside—it doesn’t
make much difference whether you’re on top of the water or underneath
it.”

“Only when I heard the water rushing into the ballasts,” Stan answered.
“Then I had a little sensation of going under water. It was fast,
wasn’t it?”

“So fast I couldn’t keep track of everything,” March replied. “I wonder
how long it took from the time the Captain ordered the dive until we
leveled off at forty feet.”

Sutherland overheard him. “Just sixty-eight seconds!” he said.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER SIX

                           A REAL SUBMARINER


“Scoot Bailey never will have an experience like this as long as he
lives!” March said to himself. He was peering through the periscope of
the submerged pigboat, looking over the tossing waters of the sea.

When the Captain had called “Up, periscope,” the long shaft had moved
up by electric motor until the eyepiece and handles were at convenient
height. The Skipper had a look around, and March noticed that he turned
the handles to adjust the focus.

“Here, have a look, Mister Anson,” he said, standing away.

So March had fitted his eyes against the rubber cup and looked. He saw
water, a long stretch of open water with nothing on it. It was not
completely sharp so he turned one handle slightly, saw the image fuzz
up, turned it the other way until it came sharp. Next he moved the
periscope around, stepping with it as he did so, looking over the
horizon in a sweeping arc.

Then he saw something! It was the shore of Long Island, almost two
miles away. He stepped back and said, “I saw the Long Island shore, I
think. How far can one see through the periscope, sir?”

“About two and a half miles,” the Skipper replied. “Have a look, Mister
Bigelow.”

Stan stepped forward eagerly to look through the ’scope. He swung it
around in a different direction from which March had moved and suddenly
exclaimed, “A ship!”

The Captain took over for a look, then said, “Yes, small freighter.
Just think how easily we could sink her!”

March looked at the ship. “Looks as though I could knock her down with
a BB gun,” he said.

“On later trips we’ll simulate attacks on some of the ships in the
Sound,” the Skipper said. “So you’ll get a chance to practice something
a little more powerful than a BB gun.”

For fifteen minutes the pigboat traveled under the water. Sutherland
took Stan and March around the control room, explaining the various
instruments and levers, answering their questions.

“What beats me, sir,” Stan said, “is the number of different things you
have to remember! I just can’t conceive of doing all that so fast and
not forgetting a thing.”

“It seems like that at first,” Sutherland said. “But after you do it a
few times, you get used to it. Just think—driving a car is pretty
complicated if you’ve never even seen a car before. You’ve got to see
the emergency brakes are on, that transmission’s in neutral, then turn
on ignition, step on electric starter, perhaps choke it a little to
start, then push back choke, step on foot throttle, warm up engine,
release emergency brake, push in clutch, move gearshift lever, let in
clutch, step on throttle, shove in clutch, take foot from throttle,
move gearshift lever in another direction, let in clutch and step on
throttle for a time, then shove in clutch, take foot from throttle,
move gearshift lever, let in clutch, step on throttle again. And all
this time, steer the car where you’re going, watch out for pedestrians,
for traffic lights, for cars behind, for cars on side streets. Why,
there are dozens of things you have to do, but when you’ve driven a car
a little while, most of them are almost automatic.”

“I’d never though of it that way,” Stan said. “But it must take quite a
while of handling a dive to get used to it.”

“Not so long as you think,” Sutherland said, “if you’re any good at
all. If not, you wouldn’t be here. And don’t worry—before you leave
this school you’ll be able to take her down—in three or four different
ways—without worrying about it for a second.”

The executive officer then led them through the rest of the boat,
giving them a quick once-over of the entire ship during their first
trip. Stepping over the high door edges of the bulkhead doors leading
from one compartment to another, March realized that a fat man would
have difficulty getting around on a submarine. He noted how the doors
could be fastened watertight and airtight so that any compartment could
be sealed off from all the others.

They saw the engine room, with its two banks of heavy Diesels, now
quiet and at rest as the ship traveled under water. Stan would have
stayed there for the entire trip, talking to the engineers and looking
over the power plants, but they moved on to the motor room where the
whine of the two electric motors was loud and high-pitched. March knew
that the motors could be switched to act as generators driven by the
Diesels when the ship surfaced, charging the batteries.

The battery room did not hold their attention for long, although the
two banks of huge cells were impressive, but the torpedo room
fascinated them. Here was the real reason for the existence of the
entire ship, which was nothing more than a vehicle to get the deadly
TNT charges into the side of an enemy ship. It was almost the largest
of the rooms they had seen, perhaps seeming so because of the
additional clear space in the middle. There had to be plenty of room to
swing the big torpedoes into position before their tubes.

First March and Stan saw the two racks of torpedoes along the walls.
The long cylinders, twenty-one inches in diameter and about twenty feet
from end to end, looked deadly. March noted the chain hoist by which
they could be swung from their racks into position for loading into the
tubes.

The tubes—there were four of them—stuck back into the room a little
way, and March and Stan knew they were about twenty-five feet long
altogether, their openings at each side just back of the bow of the
boat. The tight-fitting doors closed the tubes, and the sub was ready
to fire its charges at any moment.

“It must take a terrific blast of air to start these babies on their
way,” Stan said, running his hand along one of the big torpedoes.

“Yes, it does,” Sutherland replied. “But the air doesn’t have to move
it far. It just expels it from the tube, where there are trigger
catches which trip switches here on the torpedo to set its own
machinery going.”

“Wonderful piece of mechanism, aren’t they?” March mused.

“Yes, they’re really little submarines with an explosive charge instead
of a crew,” the executive officer agreed. “And the TNT takes up only a
small space, really. Half the length is compressed air to drive the
torp. It’s got to move pretty fast, you know, to get to the target
accurately. There’s about four hundred horsepower packed into that
little fellow there—from compressed air, heated by an alcohol flame,
blowing like fury against two trim little turbines turning the
propellers.”

“The aiming devices must be very accurate,” Stan said.

“Wonderful!” Sutherland exclaimed. “You probably know there’s a little
whirling gyroscope that keeps the torp on the course which can be set
by the operator in advance of firing. Then there’s the compensating
chamber and pendulum to keep it at its proper depth. It can’t very well
get off course.”

“But don’t you have to aim chiefly with the sub itself, sir?” March
asked. “I mean—doesn’t the sub have to be aimed right at the target for
the torpedo to get there?”

“Not at all,” Sutherland replied. “The sub doesn’t have to be any
closer than sixty degrees in facing its target. You set the proper
course on the torpedo itself and the automatic devices put it on that
course right away—and keep it there!”

“Then the important thing,” Stan said, “is for the skipper to get the
course right, not necessarily to line up the sub with his target.”

“That’s right,” the older officer agreed. “The skipper must determine
the course to his target and call it out. If he’s good, he gets his
ship.”

With a last look around the torpedo room they turned to go back to the
control room.

“Later,” Sutherland said to them as they stepped through the bulkhead
door, “you’ll have target practice with special torpedoes that don’t
blow up what you’re aiming at. As a matter of fact, there won’t be
anything you can’t do by the time we get through with you.”

[Illustration: _They Inspected the Torpedo Room_]

In the course of the next few weeks, March remembered that statement
often. He went on countless trips in the training subs, until he felt
as much at home in them as he did in his own quarters. For the first
few times he observed. Then he took over one position after another and
executed its duties.

Stan was with him on all these trips, but often they were at different
ends of the boats during their short journeys. One day, March would
take his position at the steering wheel. The next he would handle the
big levers controlling the Kingston valves on the main ballast tanks.
Then he would work with the men in the engine room, after having
studied Diesels in some of his classes. He did a stretch in the torpedo
room several times when they shot the practice torps at special targets
towed by a surface boat. He worked the interphone system as orderly,
took over the little radio shack, spent several hours in the battery
room, working the diving planes.

“I’ve done everything so far but cook lunch and cut the crew’s hair,”
he said to Stan one day, as they relaxed wearily for fifteen minutes
after dinner before going to their studies.

“Same here,” Stan said. “But I haven’t been assistant pharmacist yet.”

“Oh, that’s right,” March recalled. “I haven’t passed out any pills
yet. And I don’t think I’ll have to.”

“Do you feel that you know the crew’s jobs pretty well now, March?”
Stan asked.

“Most of them,” March replied. “I know I could take over most of them
without any trouble. But I’d like another trip or two in the torpedo
room, and I want to be at the diving controls for a crash dive before
I’ll feel sure of myself.”

“I agree with you on the diving controls,” Stan said, “but I feel okay
on the torps now. What I want is a little time on the sound-detector
devices.”

“You can never have too much time on those,” March said. “Every
additional hour of experience with them makes you all the better, I
think. But it’s wonderful that they teach every officer to do every job
on the boat—not just the work of the other officers but of every
enlisted man on board.”

Not only did they handle every job of the crew on the sub, but they
spent hours every day in classroom and laboratory. They studied engines
and motors and navigation and torpedoes, and—above all, lately—theories
of approach and attack. In addition to their work on the training subs
themselves, they carried out attack problems in the wonderful “mock-up”
control room in one of the buildings. Here was a real control room,
with controls and periscopes complete. Standing in position at the
’scope, as if he were the Skipper of the ship, March sighted about on
the artificial horizon which looked quite real to him. Suddenly he saw
what seemed to be two ships appear on the horizon. First he had to
identify them. Then he had to judge their speed and course accurately
while they still looked like only tiny spots in his periscopes.

Calling out orders, he directed the course of the “submarine” he was
commanding so that he would be in position to fire torpedoes. Then the
’scope went down, as would happen in actual combat. His “sub” was
traveling under water, without even the revealing ’scope-ripples to
show the enemy where he was. Then he surfaced again, looked through the
’scope to see if he and the “enemy” ships were where they ought to be
in relation to each other.

If he was right, he ordered the setting of the torpedo courses and then
called “Fire one! Fire two!”

Then he would go over his record with the instructors. He would find
out just how well he had done in handling the complete tactical problem
that had been presented to him. Had he identified the ships correctly
as to nationality, type, size? Had he judged their speed and course
correctly? And finally—had his torpedoes hit home? If he had handled
the problem correctly, he felt almost the thrill that might have come
with sinking an actual enemy ship.

Several afternoons a week, March went out on the training subs. He
asked for more time at the diving controls and got it. He asked for two
torpedo-room watches and his request was fulfilled. Then he began to
take over the duties of the various officers. He served as
communications officer, engineering officer, electrical officer,
navigation officer—and finally as diving officer. The first time he
gave the orders to take the ship down, his heart was in his throat,
even though Sutherland was standing by his side to take over at the
slightest mistake. He didn’t believe that he could possibly remember
all the things he had to, but he found, as the orders started coming
from his mouth, that his mind ordered them out without his thinking
about them. He knew so well, by this time, the logical order of events,
that his mind went straight along that path without a hitch.

What pleased March most of all after this experience—even more than the
pleasant commendation of the executive officer—was the word spoken to
him by Scott, the radioman. Scott had been on the training subs during
most of March’s trips, too, and they had spoken to each other
frequently. But on the dock after March’s turn as diving officer, Scott
saluted and nodded with a smile.

“If you’ll pardon me, sir,” he said, “I’d like to mention that you
handled that diving like a veteran.”

“Thanks, Scott—it’s swell of you to say that,” March mumbled.

“You know—a bunch of students is likely to get a little funny feeling
when we know a new officer’s goin’ to take us down,” Scott said. “But
we couldn’t have been safer with the Skipper himself than we were with
you.”

March wrote about that in the letter he wrote to Scoot Bailey that
evening. He had been so busy, working hard sixteen hours a day, that
Scoot seemed miles and years away.

“I’m beginning to feel like a real submariner at last, Scoot,” he
wrote. “For a while I thought there was so much to learn that I’d never
get there. But I’m at home now, and I think I can make it all right. I
suppose you’ve been feeling much the same way—despite the fact that
flying is so much simpler than pigboating—and that you’re getting the
feeling of being a pilot, without having an instructor in your lap
every minute.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                             CHAPTER SEVEN

                            ORDERS TO REPORT


Scoot Bailey read March’s letter and grinned.

“So flying’s easy, he says?” he muttered to himself. “He should have
been here going through what I’ve been through! Aerodynamics, engines,
controls, meteorology, gunnery, navigation, bombing, figure-eights,
barrel-rolls, spot landings!”

He shook his head and looked at the row of textbooks on the desk before
him.

“He’s right, though,” he said. “I do begin to feel like a flier. At
first, before I’d ever been up in a plane, I thought I was one—one of
those so-called natural fliers, only there isn’t any such thing. Then
when I first flew I realized I didn’t know much of anything. Next, when
I got so I could handle the trainer pretty well, with the instructor
right there, I decided flying was pretty simple after all.”

He sat back and recalled the day that had changed his mind about that.

“But when he finally told me to take it up alone—boy, oh boy! There I
sat in that flying machine with no teacher there to hold my hand.
That’s when I thought I didn’t even know what direction the stick
moved, I didn’t know which way to push the throttle. What ever gave me
the nerve to give her the gun and take off I can never figure out. But
when that was over and I was still alive and in one piece, I’d got over
the worst of it.”

He realized that a submariner had no equivalent of soloing in a plane
to go through. He’d have to remember to write that to March.

“After that I straightened myself out,” Scoot’s thoughts went on. “I
wasn’t too cocky and I wasn’t too scared. I just knew that I had
learned to fly a little bit, that there was still a tremendous amount
to learn, and that if I worked hard enough I could learn it and turn
out to be a pretty good pilot.”

Scoot was on the advanced Navy trainer now, a fast ship that came
closer in speed and maneuverability to the fighters he would eventually
fly.

“In another week I’ll be heading for the training carrier,” he said
with a glow of satisfaction. “I’ll get my wings and I’ll be a real Navy
pilot, but I’ve still got a lot to learn. Taking off from those heaving
decks—and landing on ’em again—is going to be quite different from the
same moves on these nice flat Texas plains.”

As Scoot thought about it, about the work March had been doing, he
realized that there was a great deal in common in their fields. Flying
a plane wasn’t much like handling a submarine, but both of them got
away from the normal positions of most people. The flier got away from
the earth’s surface in one direction. The submariner got away from it
by going under. They both handled craft that could travel in a
three-dimensional sphere, not just over the surface like a tank or a
battleship.

“March practices coming up with a Momsen Lung,” Scoot told himself,
“while I practice coming down with a parachute. That Lung’s just a sort
of underwater parachute.”

A plane was just a vehicle to get explosives into position for firing
at the enemy and so was a submarine, Scoot concluded. And sometimes
they even handled the same explosives—torpedoes!

“Now if someone would just invent a flying submarine,” Scoot thought,
“March and I could get together again. But I guess that’s not very
likely outside the comic strips. When you think of the terrific water
pressure a sub has to stand, you can’t very well imagine hooking wings
on to something that heavily plated with steel. And think of the
batteries! No—I’m afraid March and I will be separated for some time.
It seems a shame, though, sub and plane ought to make a mighty fine
team.”

The next week, as Scoot started off from Corpus Christi for the
training carrier off the shores of Florida, March was setting off on
one of the most important underwater trips of his training. It was a
trip of two days on which March was to act throughout as navigation
officer, still his specialty despite his training in every other job on
the ship. March knew his navigation thoroughly while he was still on
surface ships, but with the intensive extra study he had gone through
at New London, especially on dead reckoning and “blind” navigation for
underwater travel, he was a master.

During the trip, on which Stan Bigelow also acted as engineering
officer in charge of the Diesels and motors, they got the real feeling
of being on patrol. They simulated traveling through enemy waters and
so ran submerged most of the daylight hours, the Skipper taking a look
around occasionally with the periscope.

Numerous drills were also rehearsed during the voyage—fire drills,
man-overboard drills, crash dives. They simulated a chlorine gas
danger, acting as if the sea water had got into the batteries to give
off the deadly fumes. Gas masks were out in a hurry and the battery
room was sealed off with only two “casualties.”

“The only thing we haven’t tried on this trip,” March said at mess the
first evening, “is some of the first aid we’ve learned.”

“Well, if someone will volunteer to simulate appendicitis,” the Skipper
laughed, “I’m sure Pills will try an operation. But you forgot
something else we haven’t tried—a depth-charge attack.”

“I’d just as soon skip that, sir,” Stan said, “at least until the real
thing hits me.”

“No way of simulating it, anyway,” the Captain commented. “But it’s
about the only thing we leave out in this training.”

“There’s one big difference,” March said. “In training, if you make a
mistake, why you just get a bad mark from the teacher. In real
submarining in war time, you’re likely to get—dead. And carry a lot of
others along with you.”

“What do you mean?” the Skipper asked. “That’s true at the beginning,
of course, but not now. You’re really navigating this boat, Mr. Anson.
Nobody else is doing it, and nobody’s checking up on you. If you do it
wrong, we’ll pile up on Montauk Point!”

March gulped. And Stan looked a little worried.

“What’s the matter, Stan?” March asked. “Are you scared? Think I’m not
a good enough navigator?”

“No, I was just wondering,” Stan said, “if the same thing applied to
me—if I’m really totally responsible for all these engines on this
trip.”

“Of course you are, Mr. Bigelow,” the Skipper smiled. “And I’m sure
you’ll handle them very nicely, just as I’m confident Mr. Anson will
take us just where we’re supposed to go. You are not allowed to take
over these duties until you have proved conclusively, in your previous
work, that you could do so.”

As darkness descended over the waters of Long Island Sound, the
training sub surfaced and found herself just where she was supposed to
be at that time, much to March’s relief. Hiding behind a point of land
near the end of Long Island, they charged their batteries, while a
skeleton crew stayed on watch. Most of the others went to bed for a few
hours’ sleep in the bunks which lined the walls of most of the rooms.
March and Stan shared a tiny cabin, but were not in it at the same
time, as their watches followed one another.

Before dawn the next morning the sub set off from its cove, submerged,
and followed the next course under water. Sending up the periscope at
about ten o’clock, the Skipper saw the target boats at the designated
spot and the sub went through a series of simulated attacks on enemy
shipping, crash diving to get away from “destroyers” attacking them,
lying on the bottom with all motors shut off for a spell, then sneaking
away at a depth of two hundred feet in a circuitous course to outwit
the enemy waiting for them.

During all the trip the Skipper and Lieutenant Commander Sutherland
were closely observing, without seeming to do so, the actions of March
and Stan, and of the student diving section which had shipped with them
for this special trip. They were interested in seeing not just whether
the men could handle their jobs, but _how_ they did it—if calmly or
with too much tension. On occasion one or the other of the two senior
officers would give a conflicting order or misunderstand something
reported by Stan or March, just to see what happened. Not once did Stan
or March become upset, and the two older men smiled at each other
meaningly.

[Illustration: _The Sub Set Off and Submerged_]

“Two good officers,” the Skipper said. “I wish I could get out on
patrol again and take along a couple of new young men like that.”

“I’d go anywhere with them myself,” said Sutherland. “Why do we have to
be so old, Skipper?”

“Didn’t you have enough action in the last war?” the Captain asked.

“No, sir, and neither did you!”

“Well, men like Anson and Bigelow will have to do it for us this time,
I guess,” the Captain said. “And I suppose we’re doing an important job
if we help at all to make them such good pigboat officers.”

“They’re ready to be assigned now, don’t you think?” Sutherland asked.

“Yes, without a doubt. They can’t learn any more except through actual
experience. They might as well start getting it right away.”

March and Stan felt sure that their training was coming to an end. So
far as classes were concerned, they knew that they had covered just
about all the work that the school had to give them. They had studied
so hard that they felt mentally exhausted.

“I don’t think I could cram one more fact into my head,” Stan said.
“It’s going to take some time for the facts I’ve been putting in there
to assemble themselves and settle down in some orderly fashion.”

“We’ll be leaving before long,” March said. “But there’s one thing I
want to do before I leave. I want to see Winnie and Minnie.”

“Oh—in the escape tower?” Stan exclaimed. “Of course—we’ve never made
the hundred-foot escape.”

“We don’t have to, but just about everybody does,” March said. “Want to
do it with me tomorrow?”

“Sure, if there’s a group going through,” Stan agreed. “By the way,
what happened to that fellow Cobden who flubbed the fifty-foot escape?”

“He made it,” March said. “And he’s already done the hundred-footer,
too. The psychiatrist found out what was bothering him. When he was
just a kid he was swimming with a gang and one of ’em ducked him and
held his head under water a bit too long. He got some water in his
lungs, passed out, but they revived him. He’d forgotten all about it,
really—except underneath, of course. He said that later when he made up
his mind to learn how to swim well, it took a lot of grit to make
himself do it. He didn’t know why it bothered him, but he had the guts
to fight it out and really learn how to swim. Never did any diving,
though—didn’t like being completely under water.”

“And after all these years that old experience pops up!” Stan exclaimed.

“It just goes to prove that all these tests are so sensible!” March
said. “What if he hadn’t found that out until he got in a sub on duty
somewhere? His going to pieces then might have wrecked it, or caused
plenty of trouble.”

“He’s all over it now?” Stan asked.

“Sure,” March said. “As soon as the doc got the story out of him and
explained it, Cobden just laughed and said he felt foolish. Went right
over to the fifty-foot level and did the escape. He even joked with the
Chief and said that he shouldn’t hold his head under water—it might
make a neurotic out of him.”

“That’s swell!” Stan commented.

“Yes, and he insisted on taking the hundred-foot escape right away,
too,” March went on. “But they were smart. They wouldn’t let him. They
thought he might be acting under a temporary fit of courage and bravado
and the old fear might come back on him later. So they made him wait a
couple of weeks. It went fine, though.”

Before going to the escape tower the next day, March looked up Scott,
the radioman, and reminded him of their date to look at Winnie and
Minnie together. So Scott and March and Stan went to the hundred-foot
tower together that afternoon, donned their swimming trunks, their
Momsen Lungs, and stepped under the metal skirt in the water at the
bottom. As March started up the long cable leading to the surface, he
realized that the hatch and platform there were made exactly like the
top of a real sub. And there on the walls were the two beautiful
mermaids, Winnie and Minnie, smiling at him. He could not smile back,
because of the Momsen Lung mouthpiece, but he waved at the girls and
went slowly up past them.

At the fifty-foot platform an instructor swam out and around him,
waving his arms to indicate that March was moving up at the correct
speed. As he broke the surface he felt fine, as if one of the last acts
at New London had been accomplished. Stan and Scott followed him
quickly, and then the three of them were presented with the special
diplomas, decorated with pictures of Winnie and Minnie, stating that
they had made the hundred-foot escape.

As March and Stan walked back to their quarters, March said, “Now I
feel ready for anything!”

And waiting for him were his orders—to report in two weeks to
Baltimore, Maryland, for duty aboard the new submarine, _Kamongo_.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                             CHAPTER EIGHT

                               _KAMONGO_


“_Kamongo?_” Stan exclaimed, holding in his hands the orders which
directed him to the same ship. “What kind of fish is that?”

“Never heard of it,” March said. “They’re building so many subs these
days that they’re running out of fish to name them after. Let’s ask the
Exec tonight at mess.”

Captain Sampson knew about the Kamongo.

“A very important creature,” he said. “If there hadn’t been a Kamongo,
we probably wouldn’t be here today.”

“What do you mean, sir?” Stan asked, wondering at the officer’s smile
and twinkling eyes.

“Well, the story has to go very far back in history,” the Captain said,
“back when the earth was mostly covered with water and the only living
creatures were _in_ the water. There had to be something that crawled
out of the water and learned how to live on land. That was Kamongo.”

“How did he do it?” March asked. “Did he have lungs?”

“Maybe a Momsen Lung,” Stan suggested with a laugh.

“Not quite.” Captain Sampson smiled. “We don’t know that it was Kamongo
itself that did the crawling out, but it must have been something like
him. You see, another name for Kamongo is Lungfish. He’s a kind of
fish—more fish than anything else in many ways—but he’s also got lungs
of a sort. He can live under water or above it. And so can a submarine.
I think it’s a fine name for a sub. I’d like to be boarding her with
you.”

“_Kamongo_,” muttered Stan, almost to himself. “_Kamongo._”

“Yes, I’ve been thinking the same thing,” March said. “Getting used to
our ship’s name. It’s like suddenly finding out you’ve got a wife and
somebody tells you her name—and you’ve never heard it before.”

“If you say it over more and more,” Stan said, “you get to like it.
It’s got a good sound.”

“Yes, I think so,” March agreed. “It’s got strength. And for some
reason it sounds sleek and trim. And being able to live above or below
the water—that’s our ship, all right!”

“Two weeks,” Stan mused. “You’re going home, I suppose?”

“Yes, I’m going home,” March replied. “It may be the last time for
quite a spell.”

“I’m going, too,” Stan said. “Good old Utica, New York. I’m glad it
isn’t far.”

So Stan and March said goodbye the next day, as they said goodbye to
all the others they had come to know so well at New London. But to each
other they were able to say, “See you in a couple of weeks—aboard
_Kamongo_!”

Then March went home, and saw his mother and Scoot’s family and many of
his old friends. But Hampton did not seem right without Scoot himself.
It had been a wrench when he went off to New London without him, but
there he had been so busy, so absorbed, that he had hardly had time to
miss his friend of so many years. Now, back in the town they had grown
up in together, the town wasn’t all there without Scoot.

March had written Scoot a note before leaving New London, telling him
that he was going home on leave before reporting for duty. And Scoot
had gnashed his teeth on getting the letter, realizing that March had
finished his training first. Scoot felt that he was finished, too, for
he had done everything but fly down the funnel of the training
carrier—backwards.

“What’s left for me to learn?” he asked. “Unless they set up some real
Jap Zeros here for me to shoot at I don’t see what else I can do.”

Then, just four days before March had to leave Hampton, Scoot got his
own orders—to report in three weeks’ time to the new aircraft carrier
_Bunker Hill_ at San Francisco!

He raced home from Florida as fast as he could go, and he and March had
two days together before March left. They talked submarines and
airplanes all day and all night, and Scoot’s family had to wait until
March left before they had a really good chance to visit with him.

But March felt better when he got on the train for Baltimore. It was
good to have seen Scoot for even that short time. There were a million
other things they could have talked about, but they had got close to
one another again in that time and they had gained greater spirit from
their companionship.

He tried not to think that he might not see Scoot again—ever. But he
couldn’t help facing it.

“After all,” he told himself, “submarine duty is no bed of roses.
People do get killed in it. And flying a Navy fighter against the Japs
is not the safest occupation in the world. There are lots of young
fellows going out on such jobs who won’t be coming back from them. How
do I know but what Scoot and I—or one of us, anyway—are among them?”

But such thoughts did not stay with him long. No matter what the facts
of the matter or the statistics of casualties in wartime, March felt
very confident of returning home safe and sound and going on to live to
be at least ninety-five. As the train rolled along ever nearer to
Baltimore, he thought more and more of _Kamongo_, his new home, his new
ship on which he was to be the navigation officer.

“She’s probably about 1500 tons,” he said, “like most of them they’re
building now. Trim and neat, about three hundred and some odd feet
long. She’ll have one three-inch deck gun and a couple of antiaircraft
machine guns. Eight or ten torpedo tubes—fore and aft.”

He tried to picture _Kamongo_ in his mind, so much more modern and
powerful than the old O-boats on which he had been training.

“Air-conditioned,” he mused. “All the new ones are. I’m lucky to get on
a brand-new ship! Freshwater showers. Plenty of refrigeration for
carrying good food. Why, we’ll probably come up with turkey on
Christmas Day!”

He pictured his life in the submarine, his meals, his quarters.

“I may have a little cabin of my own—not much more than a telephone
booth, but all mine. Maybe not, of course, but these new ones really
make you comfortable. Probably five officers aboard, crew of about
fifty-five or sixty.”

He wondered where they would go, where they would hunt out the enemy
ships.

“Reporting on the Atlantic doesn’t mean anything,” he said. “That’s
just where she’ll take the water after her trials. We may take her
anywhere for action. Now, Scoot knows he’ll be serving in the Pacific.
He wouldn’t be going to San Francisco otherwise. Of course, most subs
are in the Pacific now, too, but there are plenty operating in the
Atlantic. Can’t tell where we’ll go. But we’ll have a cruising range of
about fifteen thousand miles. We can go just about anywhere we want.”

And then he thought of Stan. He liked the young Ensign with whom he had
gone through school at New London. He didn’t, of course, feel as close
to him as he did to Scoot. There wasn’t the same warmth between them.
But the busted-nosed redhead was a real man, intelligent, human, and a
good friend.

“I’ll be darned glad to get on that boat and find one familiar face,”
March told himself. “I wonder what the Skipper’s like.”

He began to think more and more of this after he got off the train and
headed for the Navy Yard. If the Skipper happened to be an old-timer
contemptuous of youngsters, or a gruff sort without any heart in
him—then it might not be so good. As he approached the gate, and
prepared to show the sentry his pass, he saw someone ahead of him that
looked familiar.

“Stan!” he called, still not sure that it really was Bigelow. And then,
as the man turned, he was sure he had been wrong, for the man wore the
stripes of a Lieutenant (j.g.) and Bigelow was only an Ensign.

But the man called back “March!” and March knew his first guess had
been right. It _was_ Stan Bigelow!

“Stan!” he cried, pumping his hand vigorously. “I thought I was wrong.
They’ve finally found out how good you are and made you a Lieutenant!”

“Sure!” Stan cried. “The only thing that bothered me was that I ought
to have been made an Admiral. It all happened during my leave. I was
sure sick of being an Ensign. Do you remember how the CPO’s look down
on an Ensign?”

“I surely do!” March said, showing his papers to the sentry. “But they
don’t think junior Lieutenants are so wonderful, either, as you’ll soon
find out.”

“But I think Chief Petty Officers are wonderful,” Stan said. “They know
more than half the Rear Admirals in the Navy.”

They were walking along the path together, between long low buildings.
For a few minutes they said nothing.

“Gee, I’m glad I ran into you,” Stan said.

“I was just thinking the same thing,” March said with enthusiasm. “I’m
excited as the devil about this, but I began to feel the need of a
friend close at hand. I wonder what the Skipper will be like.”

“Are you reading my thoughts?” Stan exclaimed. “He can make or break
us, you know.”

“I know it!” March replied. “Why, on this first cruise the commanding
officer can get us out of the sub service just by saying he doesn’t
like the color of our eyes.”

[Illustration: “_They’ve Made You a Lieutenant!_”]

“Well, we’re going to find out pretty soon,” Stan said. “That looks
like a mighty pretty pigboat alongside that dock up ahead. It might be
ours.”

It _was_ theirs. It was _Kamongo_, long and sleek and beautiful in the
dark waters that lapped her sides. They showed the necessary papers to
the guard at the gangplank and went aboard. It was now almost
completely dark.

“Everybody’s down below,” March said.

“Skipper may not even be there,” Stan replied.

The sentry overheard them. “The Skipper’s below, sir,” he said.

March and Stan walked across the narrow gangplank, climbed the conning
tower ladder and then slid down the hatch to the control room below. It
was brilliantly lighted, and they looked around, blinking.

First of all March saw the gleaming, shining, newness of everything in
the room. It was beautiful! Then his eyes focused on two or three
crewmen who looked casually at him, then on a young man, about his age,
who looked up with a smile. He saw the Lieutenant’s (not j.g.) stripes
and saluted.

“Lieutenant Anson, sir, reporting,” he said.

“Lieutenant Bigelow,” Stan echoed him.

The young man saluted back casually.

“Hello,” he said. “Glad to know you. My name’s Gray.”

March smiled. He liked this young man right away. Maybe another new
officer.

“We’d like to report to the Skipper,” he said in a friendly tone.

“You’ve done it, men,” the man said lightly. “I’m the Skipper.”

March was thunderstruck. This young fellow the Skipper? Why, he didn’t
look any older than March or Stan, and March knew that _he_ wasn’t
qualified to be the Captain of a submarine. But he quickly abandoned
his friendly tone and grew formal.

“Oh—yes, sir,” he said. “Lieutenant Anson reporting.”

“So you said,” the Skipper replied. “Come on into my quarters.”

He turned and led the way through the small bulkhead door to a narrow
hall from which doors led to very small cabins. In the first of these
he turned and sat down behind a small table.

“Officers’ mess,” he said, motioning them to sit down. “Cramped but
beautiful. Make yourselves at home.”

Stan and March didn’t know what to say. They liked the young man, but
their surprise at his youth bothered them. He seemed to sense their
thoughts, and smiled.

“Don’t be upset,” he said. “I’m not quite as young and inexperienced as
I look. Graduated from Annapolis six years ago, been in submarines ever
since. I was executive officer on the _Shark_ in the Pacific since the
war began—happened to be at Pearl Harbor when it happened. On my last
patrol lost my Skipper—God bless him—when he had a heart attack. Had to
take over. Transferred to this new baby when I got back. Now—where do
you come from?”

March relaxed and smiled. He liked this man at once. He could see their
thoughts, their surprise, and he could put them at their ease at once.

“Served a year aboard the _Plymouth_,” he said. “Volunteered for
submarine duty, sent to New London, just completed training there.”

“My story doesn’t sound so good,” Stan said. “I was a teacher—and I
didn’t like it. Diesels, mainly. They finally gave in because I
pestered them so much and sent me to New London. I went through the
mill there with March—er, Lieutenant Anson.”

“We might as well get this name business out of the way,” Gray said.
“I’m not one for rushing into calling everybody by his first name right
off, but on the other hand I don’t believe in keeping up the
formalities forever—especially on a submarine. My name’s Larry. When
you feel you know me well enough and it comes easy, call me that. Until
then, call me Skipper or Gray.”

“My name’s March Anson,” March said.

“It must have been bad when you were an Ensign,” Gray said. “A lot of
puns about Ensign Anson, I’ll bet.”

March grinned. “Plenty,” he replied. “That was the reason I liked my
promotion so much.”

“I don’t know why I liked it,” Stan said. “But I just got mine and I’m
mighty happy about it. Anyway, my name’s Stan.”

“Now, we’re straight on that,” Gray said. “Anson, you’re the navigation
officer, according to my reports, and Bigelow is the engineering
officer. There are two others. You’ll meet them a little later in the
evening. Corvin is my Exec. He was with me on the _Shark_. He’s the
diving officer, too. McFee was another from the _Shark_—he’s
communications and handles commissary on the side. Bigelow, you may not
know, but you’ll take care of the electrical end of things as well as
engines.”

“Yes, sir,” Stan said, hoping inwardly that he would remember all he
had learned about the many electrical ends of the submarine.
“Electricity’s everything on a sub!”

“Well, not quite everything,” Gray smiled. “But it’s pretty important.
We can’t get along very well without it, anyway. But if you need any
advice or just plain moral support, get next to McFee. He knows
electricity backward and forward.”

There was a moment’s silence. Then Gray showed them to their quarters.
Stan and March shared a tiny cabin that looked like a palatial mansion
to them at once because they loved it so much. Then the Skipper asked
if they had eaten dinner before they came aboard. They had not.

“Good!” Gray said. “I’m just about to eat. We’ll have it together.”

They went back to the little room that served as officers’ mess and the
messboy appeared. Within a few moments they were eagerly eating rare
roast beef, French fried potatoes, succotash, with biscuits and hot
coffee.

“Don’t get spoiled by the biscuits,” Gray said. “We eat pretty well,
but the cook doesn’t have time for such frills very often when we’re
under way.”

By the time the meal was over March and Stan felt completely at home,
and Gray seemed very much at ease.

“We’ll go over the ship tomorrow morning,” he said. “She’s a beauty.
Nothing finer being built today, and I know you’ll love _Kamongo_. Know
about her name, by the way?”

“Yes, Captain Sampson told us about it when we got our orders in New
London,” March said. “I like it.”

“So do I,” Stan said. “I felt proud telling everybody at home about
what it meant.”

A little later, while they were talking, Corvin and McFee, the two
other officers, came in together. Introductions were informal and easy,
and March began to feel very happy. These two men were just as young as
their Skipper. March felt as if he were really at home with people just
like himself. He turned and gave a look at Stan, who was beaming.

“What’s that mean?” Gray asked, who seemed to notice everything. “Think
you’ll like us?”

March didn’t know what to say. “It’s hardly up to us to decide—” he
began.

“Oh, yes, it’s very important,” Gray said. “If I don’t like you—off
you’ll go. If you don’t like me—I’ll know it, even if I like you, and
off you’ll go anyway.”

He laughed. “You see, we’ve got to get along together.”

McFee spoke up. “I think we will, Larry.”

They talked for two hours more before going to bed. Gray told them that
the rest of the crew would report the next morning before eight, and
that they’d get under way by noon.

March slept the sleep of the good and the happy, dreaming only of
navigating _Kamongo_ right into the Japanese emperor’s back yard, in
which he proceeded to sink the entire Japanese Imperial Navy.

The next morning the officers had breakfast together, except for
Corvin, who had stood watch in the early morning hours and so was
sleeping. They all went into the control room then, where March was
startled to see a familiar face.

“Scott!” he cried.

“Yes, sir!” cried the radioman with a wide smile. “I’m certainly happy
to see _you_, sir!” And then he saw Stan behind March. “And you, too,
_Lieutenant_ Bigelow!”

“You notice things pretty quickly, don’t you, Scotty?” Stan laughed.

“You’ve got to, sir, if you’re in submarines!”

“Did you know you’d be assigned here, Scott?” March asked.

“Not when you left, sir,” Scott replied. “And then I didn’t know where
you’d been assigned. We’re all here, you know—the whole diving section
that worked together at New London—Cobden, and Sallini, and all of us.”

“Wonderful!” March cried. “Why, I feel completely at home already!”

“So do I, sir!” Scott said.

Gray, who had listened to the exchange of conversations, spoke up.

“The Navy is wonderful!” he said. “They really do things right. You’d
think nobody higher up would have time to think of these things. But
here we’ve got two-thirds of a crew with officers that’ve been in
action. And the other third, just trained, all know each other.
Officers and men were trained together. Why, we’re really going to get
along.”

As they went through the ship, March and Stan said hello to the other
men of the diving section from New London, and there were mutual
congratulations all around. A spirit of happiness and friendship spread
through the boat. The older crew members, most of whom had served under
Gray before, caught this spirit and felt that all this was a good sign,
a good omen for a new ship just starting out on her shakedown cruise.
March saw Gray close his eyes for a moment, and smile very slightly. He
suddenly realized the Skipper’s great responsibilities. He knew that a
crew that got along was essential to successful submarine work. And it
had happened. This crew was going to click, and Gray knew it. He was
duly thankful!

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER NINE

                              DESTINATION—


All during the morning supplies were being loaded into _Kamongo_—food
and oil and water and torpedoes. Larry Gray spent the time from eleven
to eleven forty-five at Navy headquarters, going over final details and
receiving his sealed orders. When he returned, his officers reported to
him one by one, informing him that their departments were ready.

He looked at his watch. “Fine,” he said. “We might as well shove off.
Come on, Ray.” He stepped from his quarters into the control room with
Corvin, his executive officer, behind him. There he saw March at the
little navigation desk.

“Want to come up to the bridge with us?” he asked. “We’re getting under
way.”

“Sure thing,” March replied. “I might as well wave goodbye to land. We
may not see any for some time.”

“Oh, I think we’ll be seeing land for a while,” Gray replied, starting
up the ladder to the conning tower.

“Oh—you know where we’re going?” March asked.

“No, but I’ve got my ideas,” the Skipper answered.

Ray Corvin grinned at March as he stepped up the ladder. “And his ideas
are usually right,” he muttered.

On the bridge, March looked over the busy waters of the harbor. A gray
mist hung over everything, penetrating sweaters and coats in a chilling
wave. March shivered.

“Well, now that winter’s coming on,” he said, “I hope you’re leading us
to a warmer climate.”

“I think so,” said Gray, as his eyes swiftly went over his boat, the
dock, and the ships in the harbor. “But you never can tell. It might be
Iceland or the run to Murmansk.”

“Brrr!” shivered Ray Corvin. “Don’t mention it.”

“Okay, Ray, let’s get going,” Gray said, and Corvin began to bark his
orders for casting off the lines. March knew that Stan Bigelow was
below looking over his shining new Diesels, ready for the moment when
they would roar into action. After all the training he had gone
through—this at last was the real thing. He had to make those Diesels
run and run right at all times. This was a shakedown cruise, but it was
probably combined with the voyage of getting to some battle zone. March
and Stan were not full-fledged submarine officers quite yet—not for
sure. This first assignment was their last test. If they did a good job
and pleased the Skipper they’d be set. If not—they’d be out!

The electric motors whined as the pigboat slid back away from the dock
into open water. Then came the roar of the Diesels and the clouds of
white smoke from the exhaust vents, and March smiled, knowing Stan’s
pride in the powerful rumble of those engines. In a few minutes the
boat had swung around and headed downstream toward Chesapeake Bay. For
some time, they knew, they would be traveling between two long shores.
Here they could easily go on the surface, but once out in the open sea
they would have to travel submerged during daylight hours.

It had surprised March when he first learned that our own subs traveled
submerged in our own waters. But when he came to think of it, it made
sense. There were German subs traveling in our waters, too, and there
was a constant naval and aerial patrol looking for them. From the air,
the markings on a pigboat did not stand out very well, particularly if
a rolling sea were breaking over it. And the anti-sub patrol had orders
to shoot first and ask questions later. A German sub could crash-dive
very quickly when sighted and the minute or two taken to look more
closely or to ask questions might result in its escape.

After half an hour Larry Gray went below, leaving March and Ray Corvin
on the bridge with two enlisted men, one serving as lookout and the
other handling the controls. March had little to do until they were in
the open sea, for navigating down the Bay was no job at all. After they
were out a few hours the Skipper would open his sealed orders and then
March would have a job to do, charting the sub’s course to their
destination.

He and Corvin talked with each other, leaning on the rail and watching
the choppy waters slide past the sleek sides of _Kamongo_. Ray spoke of
Larry Gray with such warmth of feeling, such admiration, that March
felt sure of his own first impression of the Skipper. Here was a man he
would like, and would grow to like more and more as time went on.

“It’s cold,” Corvin said. “Why don’t you go below and have a cup of
coffee? Nothing going on here.”

“Guess I will,” March said. “See you later.”

March slid down the ladder to the control room and started over to the
officers’ wardroom. Then he saw Scotty at the little radio shack and
stopped to speak with him.

“How do you feel, Scotty?” he asked. “It’s good to get going, isn’t it?”

“I should say so, sir,” Scott replied. “Know where we’re going?”

“Not yet,” March replied. “Skipper opens orders ten hours out.”

“Well, wherever we’re going,” Scott said, “I’m sure glad we’re goin’
with you, sir. And the whole gang feels the same way. You see, we sort
of liked the way you handled the pigboats back there in New London.”

“Thanks, Scotty,” March said. “And you don’t know how good it made me
feel to find you boys here. Bigelow and I felt right at home from then
on.”

March turned and found the Skipper at the door, smiling.

“Come on in for a cup of coffee,” Gray said.

“Thanks,” March replied, sliding down behind the little table in the
wardroom with Gray.

“Jimmy just brought the pot of coffee,” Gray said, filling March’s cup.
“It’s hot. Jimmy’s the messboy, by the way—nice kid.”

March smiled to himself. Jimmy the messboy was only about one year
younger than Gray.

“Those men you knew in New London,” Gray said, “seem to like you.”

“We got to know each other pretty well,” March said. “We went through
the whole business together. There are some swell men among them.”

“What about Sallini, the pharmacist?” Larry asked.

“Fine—one of the best,” March said. “He’s quiet and reserved,
serious-minded, but with a nice sense of humor you don’t always suspect
is there.”

“I like that kind,” Gray said. “I was a little hesitant about having a
new pharmacist on board. It can be a mighty important job if there’s
serious sickness or trouble. Think he can stand the gaff?”

“I think he’d get better the more difficult the situation,” March said.
“One of the prizes of the bunch is that Cobden. He really has guts.”

March told the Skipper about Cobden’s experience with the escape tower
and his overcoming of his emotional fears.

[Illustration: _The Skipper Was at the Door_]

“That’s swell,” Gray commented. “Nothing much can lick anybody after
that. With our Chief in the torpedo room, Kalinsky, the man ought to
turn into a real submariner. Pete Kalinsky is one of the best men in
the whole Navy. Men under him love him, and they learn plenty, too.”

March looked up as the red head and bulldog face of Stan Bigelow
appeared. He sat down and joined them in a cup of coffee. The
engineering officer was smiling broadly.

“Did you ever hear anything prettier than those engines?” he demanded.

“Well—the Philharmonic is pretty good,” March laughed, “and I think I
prefer Bing Crosby.”

“Not me!” Stan exclaimed. “That purr is the sweetest sound there is.
And are those beauties! The very latest thing, you know, the very
latest!”

“I personally ordered them that way,” Gray smiled. “And I’m glad you’re
satisfied. I never liked an engineer that didn’t have a deep and
abiding affection for his engines.”

After talking a while, March went to the chartroom and went through the
detailed maps idly, picking out one here and there that looked
interesting to him.

“Celebes—Pago-Pago—Ceylon—and look at this, Wake Island! Some of those
names sound wonderful. Wonder if we’ll hit any of them.”

Later he went up to the bridge again and found that Larry Gray had
relieved Corvin.

“I feel sort of useless,” he said. “Nothing to do yet.”

“Nothing much for any of us to do right now,” Gray said. “Plain sailing
like this isn’t very hard. Most of the crew are lying down, reading,
playing checkers or just shooting the breeze. Why don’t you have a
little rest?”

“Not I,” March said. “Not on my first day out. I don’t want to miss
anything. Anyway, in another hour we ought to be getting away from land
a bit, and a couple of hours after that you’ll be opening your orders.
I want to know where we’re going just as soon as I can.”

As the time approached for opening the orders, there was an air of
tenseness throughout the boat. The crew members who had been lying down
weren’t sleepy or tired any more. They were up, walking back and forth
in the narrow passageways, climbing up the forward hatch for a breath
of fresh air, climbing down again to get another cup of coffee.
Everyone but Larry Gray seemed a little nervous. He still stood calmly
on the bridge, looking out over the long rollers in which _Kamongo_ now
sailed. The last line of land had finally disappeared behind them.

He glanced at his watch, and then slid down the conning tower hatch
without a word. McFee and Corvin and March Anson, who were all on the
bridge with him, looked at each other.

“This is really my watch,” McFee said. “Go on down, you two, but for
gosh sakes let me know as soon as you find out.”

So March and Ray Corvin went below and sat down in the wardroom. They
knew the Skipper was in his quarters next door.

“He’ll be calling for the chart in a minute,” Corvin said. “The chart
of where we’re going. Then we’ll know.”

But Gray did not call for a chart. Instead, he sauntered into the
wardroom sat down and smiled.

“Sorry to disappoint you,” he said. “I feel a little let down myself,
though it’s a perfectly natural destination.”

“Not Iceland!” Corvin cried. “Don’t tell me that!”

Gray laughed. “No, our present destination is just a way-station.”

“Well, if it’s so all-fired disappointing,” Corvin exploded, “why are
you trying to build it up into something dramatic by holding out on us?
I think it’s just a gag. It’s probably that we’re going to blast Kiel
harbor from inside or find some way of traveling up the sewers to
Paris.”

“Ray, you’ve been going to too many movies,” Larry said. “You know that
life on a submarine is very prosaic, except for just once in a while.
Gentlemen, we are going to San Francisco, California!”

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER TEN

                           THROUGH THE CANAL


It had been a bad anticlimax! Everybody in the crew felt badly let
down. Corvin and March forgot all about telling McFee, up on the
bridge, who was mentally trying to decide between the Marshall Islands
and the Black Sea as probable destinations. Finally he phoned down and
angrily asked why someone didn’t let the bridge know where they were
supposed to be going.

“How do you expect anybody to steer the ship in this big ocean,” he
demanded, “if he doesn’t know where he’s going?”

When he heard the words “San Francisco,” he groaned.

“What’s the matter with San Francisco?” Stan asked. “I’ve always wanted
to see it.”

“Oh—San Francisco’s wonderful,” Ray Corvin said “As a matter of fact I
live not far from there, and maybe I’ll get a chance to see my family
for a day or two, so I’m very happy in some ways. It’s just that we got
so keyed up expecting to head right into a pitched battle.”

“I’m not too surprised,” Gray said. “I felt sure we were going to the
Pacific and I thought we might go direct to our base there. But if we
hit Frisco on the way—that’s only natural. Of course, we’ll get more
orders there and then we’ll surely head for some action.”

March felt just as well about the news. He would have a chance to learn
everything about the submarine from one end to the other. He would
actually navigate the ship a few thousand miles, but without having to
worry too much about enemy ships or mines or planes while doing it. By
the time they left San Francisco he’d feel like a veteran submariner.
He would be able to handle his regular tasks without thinking about
them, and he’d be able to take actual fighting with vigor and
enthusiasm.

During the daytime they ran submerged a good deal of the time, taking a
look through the periscope occasionally. Once the Skipper saw a U.S.
Navy blimp right above them and they headed for two hundred feet depth
in a hurry. But nothing happened.

At night they ran on the surface, and they were lucky enough to have
good weather most of the time, with plenty of stars for March to shoot
on the sextant so that he could check his course. He was pleased to see
that his instrument navigation, carried out when they were submerged,
was checked by his celestial observations.

There came a day that was cloudy and overcast, so the Skipper decided
to travel on the surface.

“There won’t be any planes out today,” he said. “And we can make much
better time on top. But keep a sharp lookout for other surface craft.
Can’t see very far in this fog.”

March took over his regular watch that afternoon on the bridge. He had
on a heavy sweater and waterproof hood and jacket, for the moisture in
the air, even if it were not rain, soaked everything inside of fifteen
minutes. Two crew members were on lookout, in addition to the man at
the controls. March listened to their regular calls of “All clear” and
stared ahead into the blanket of fog.

Then, suddenly, he saw it—just as the lookout shouted.

“Freighter on port bow!”

March shouted the alarming news into the interphone, ordered the man at
the controls to reverse engines full-speed and put her over hard
starboard. The big freighter loomed so large out of the mist that March
knew they might crash. The freighter had just sighted them and hadn’t
even slowed down. So, without another thought he shouted the order,
“Rig for crash dive!”

The klaxon blared through the boat below and March knew that men were
leaping to their posts, that Gray was struggling out from his bunk or
from behind the wardroom table. Would he come up to the bridge? March
knew there might not be any bridge—or any conning tower—by the time he
could get there, no matter how fast he moved.

He glanced at the deck hatches and breathed a sigh of relief when he
saw they were already closed, for the rolling seas were washing over
the decks and none of the crew men had wanted to come up for fresh air
on a day like this. In a few seconds only the word came back to him,
“Boat rigged for crash dive!”

He had already motioned the lookouts down into the hatch, and the
control man was securing his gear on the bridge.

“Take her down!” he ordered, as the control man slid down the hatch. He
heard the bubbling hiss of air from the main ballast vents, the roar of
water as it rushed into the tanks through the huge Kingston valves.
With a last glance, he saw in a flash many details on the freighter.
Most of all, he saw that it looked tremendous, that it seemed almost on
top of him, although he realized that its size in comparison with the
half-submerged sub made it look closer than it really was. He saw
officers on the bridge shouting orders, and men rushing to man a
three-inch gun on the forward deck. Then he slipped below, swung the
hatch shut after him and dogged it down before slipping on down into
the control room.

[Illustration: _The Big Freighter Came Head On_]

The Diesels had stopped their roar, and the electric motors were
whining a high-pitched song as they drove the boat with all their
power. He glanced at the “Christmas Tree” and smiled to see nothing but
green lights. Every opening, every vent, was closed and the boat was
tight. The inclinometer showed them close to a fifteen degree angle of
dive, the maximum that was safe before the acid in the batteries would
spill out.

Only then did he notice Larry Gray and Ray Corvin and McFee standing
motionless, tense, in the middle of the control room. They were
listening, waiting. And March listened and waited too, expecting any
moment the rending, tearing sound of a steel bow crashing through their
superstructure, through their outer hull, through the inner pressure
hull—and then, the deluge as the ocean poured in upon them.

One second—two seconds—three seconds—four seconds passed, and then
March relaxed.

“All right now,” he said. “She’d have hit now if she were going to. She
was that close.”

He saw a few of the men relax a bit and begin to breathe again. But
most of them remained silent and tense. They did not share his
confidence, or have confidence in his judgment. He glanced at the depth
gauge and saw it at fifty-five feet. Well—it all depended on how much
water that freighter was drawing. Maybe it would still knock a few
pieces off the conning tower, at least.

But then he heard the soundman say, “Propellers passing over.”

“How close?” Gray asked sharply.

“Just about kissing us,” came the answer. “But passing over—past now.”

Then everyone _did_ relax. The crewmen began to talk a bit among
themselves. Scotty looked at March and grinned, wiping a hand over his
brow as if to brush away the sweat of fear, and then clasped both hands
in a congratulatory signal. March just nodded.

“Nice work, Anson,” Gray said quietly. “That was a close one. Let’s
have a cup of coffee. You probably need it.”

They turned toward the wardroom together, and March felt the eyes of
all crewmen on him.

“Steady at a hundred feet,” the Skipper ordered before leaving the
control room, “and keep on course.”

“Steady at one hundred,” came back the order. “Yes, sir.”

Then the officers went into the wardroom and sat down just as Stan
appeared at the door.

“What in blazes happened?” he asked.

“We just about got run down, that’s all,” the Skipper smiled. “Not an
uncommon occurrence in submarining, Bigelow. Your friend Anson here
took us down in a big hurry.”

“Were _you_ on the bridge, March?” Stan asked.

“Yes, if you’d known that,” March laughed, “you would have been twice
as scared, wouldn’t you?”

“Wow, we went down in a big hurry, all right,” Stan said. “Did you have
to—to miss it?”

“Guess so,” March said. “Anyway, they were unlimbering a gun the last
thing I saw and would’ve been shooting at us if we’d still been in
sight.”

“Yes, you did the right thing, all right,” Gray said. “And without much
time to think about it.”

“But the crew was marvelous,” March said. “I got the call back that the
ship was rigged almost before I got the order out of my mouth. It’s a
good feeling to know a crew can act like that, isn’t it, Gray?
Especially when a third of it is brand new.”

“Yes, mighty satisfying,” Larry agreed. “And just as satisfying to know
the same thing about your new officers. I’m going to feel pretty
confident when we suddenly have six Jap destroyers pouncing on us all
of a sudden.”

“Say, I just thought of something,” Corvin said. “Those poor guys in
that freighter are probably still looking frantically for signs of a
periscope and sitting there biting their nails waiting for a torpedo to
blast them to kingdom come.”

Gray looked at his watch. “They’re just about getting over that by
now,” he said. “They’re just concluding that we _are_ an American sub
and not a German. And they’re thanking their lucky stars.”

“Just like us,” McFee added.

In a few minutes the Skipper went out and ordered the sub up to
periscope depth, had the ’scope run up and took a look around.

“Not a thing in sight,” he announced. “Down ’scope.”

As the big shaft slid down into its well in the deck, the Skipper
ordered the ship to surface once again, and up she came. Gray was the
first man up on the bridge, and the other officers quickly followed
him. Lookouts and controlmen took their posts, and the _Kamongo_ went
steadily ahead on her course.

Corvin took over the watch on the bridge and in a little while the
others went below. The crew had settled down and once more everything
was serene and quiet.

More days went by, but without the excitement of even a sight of ship
or plane. After they had passed into the Caribbean Sea, the Skipper
ordered them to hold up for two hours before proceeding.

“We’re a bit ahead of schedule,” he explained, “because of the extra
speed we made on the surface. Coming into Panama, we’ve got to surface
and run exactly on schedule and on course. Patrol craft and planes are
expecting us and they’ll bomb us out of sight if we’re five minutes off
schedule or two degrees off course.”

When they resumed speed, on the surface, March checked the boat’s
position regularly to make sure of their course. The first time a big
Martin PBM-1 shot out of a cloud ahead of them, March felt his throat
grow dry. If they were _not_ exactly where they should be at that
moment, he knew what would happen to a beautiful new sub and about
sixty-four good men of Uncle Sam’s Navy.

But the patrol plane just circled low overhead, gunned its motors and
flew away. He knew that its radio reported the sub’s position to other
patrol craft, and that they would be checked up on regularly.

Two other planes came over for a look on their way in toward the Canal,
and for the last twenty-five miles they were sighted by half a dozen
surface ships.

“Are we to go right on through without stopping?” March asked the
Skipper.

“Stop long enough to take on the Canal pilot,” he replied. “Nothing
else.”

The Skipper was on the bridge, along with Corvin, as they ran alongside
the jetty leading to the first locks. As they tied up at the dock below
the locks, Corvin stepped ashore. He came back shortly with a
gray-haired man who would pilot them through the Canal. The weather was
clear and the sun beat down warmly, so half the crew were lined up on
the deck, and all hatches were open. All officers were on the bridge,
except McFee, who stayed below in charge. Even Stan left his Diesels
long enough to come up for a look at the Canal, for all the submarine’s
engines were off as they were pulled through the locks by the little
donkey engines running on tracks alongside.

The Canal pilot came aboard and climbed to the bridge. Lines were cast,
cables attached fore and aft to the donkey engines on both sides, and
they began to move forward on the pilot’s orders. Ahead March saw the
huge steel doors into the first lock. Slowly and steadily the pigboat
moved into the chamber, and the great doors swung silently shut behind
them.

Then water rushed into the lock and the boat gently moved upward as the
surface of the water rose. Soon they were level with the water in the
next lock and the gates ahead of them swung back against the walls.
They saw, in the lock next to them, a battered destroyer heading the
other direction.

“She’s been through something, all right,” Gray commented. “Going home
for repairs.”

The crew on the destroyer waved to the men on _Kamongo_ and for a time
there were shouts back and forth. Then they had moved out of the second
lock into Gatun Lake, as the destroyer sank down in its lock toward the
level of the ocean.

Sailing through the lake was like a pleasant excursion trip on a lake
steamer. The thick jungles were unlike anything most of the men had
seen before and they looked about them with curiosity.

Through the locks at Pedro Miguel and then at little Lake Miraflores,
and they were once more at sea level—this time at the level of the
Pacific.

They dropped the pilot at the edge of the long breakwater and then
headed out to sea, looking back at the lights of the city of Panama
which were beginning to twinkle in the growing darkness.

“Not much time for sightseeing when you’re on submarines,” Stan said,
as he and March climbed down to the control room.

“Not when there’s a war going on, anyway,” March said. “We’re in the
Pacific now, Stan. How does it feel?”

“Just like the Atlantic,” Stan said.

“Not to me,” March mused. “This is the ocean we’re going to do our
fighting in. This is the ocean where I’ve already done a fair amount of
battling Japs. But this time, I think I’m going to do a lot better.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                             CHAPTER ELEVEN

                            UNDER WAY AGAIN


In San Francisco, Stan and March had two days for a little of the
sightseeing they had looked forward to, but they both spent most of
their time at other tasks. March passed several hours at a telephone
stand trying to get through a call home.

When it finally went through he talked for five minutes with his mother
and gave her his San Francisco address. She sounded cheerful and not at
all worried, and asked him if he might see Scoot Bailey.

“Scoot’s address is San Francisco, too,” she said.

“I know,” March laughed, “and the address of quite a few thousands of
other sailors and soldiers. I think he must have got out of Frisco
before this, unless he was held up here for lack of transportation. I
might as well try to find out, though.”

“Maybe you’ll see him out where you’re going,” his mother said.

“I doubt it very much,” March said. “Even though we did have a joke
about how my submarine would probably have to save him from the Japs
out there.”

When he finished talking to his mother, he decided he might as well try
to find out if Scoot were still in town. He had probably arrived two or
three weeks before. It wasn’t likely that he’d still be around, but
sometimes men were held up that long.

“If Scoot _were_ held up that long,” March said to himself, “he’d be
just about crazy. I think he’d start swimming to get out to his carrier
or plane or base or wherever he’ll be.”

March spent most of the afternoon trying to find out about Scoot. Each
office said it didn’t have the information or couldn’t give it to him,
until he finally reached the right place and learned that Scoot had
left San Francisco by plane for his “destination” twelve days before.

He met Stan for dinner, after which they went to a movie. The Skipper
had given them leave until a few hours before they were due to sail.

After the movie Stan and March went back to their ship to find that Ray
Corvin had suddenly been taken sick. Just as they came up, the
ambulance was taking him away to the Naval Hospital.

“Burst appendix, I think,” Gray said. “And if that’s it, I don’t know
what we’ll do. I’m hoping it’s nothing more than an acute indigestion
that’ll pass in a day or two. But Sallini felt sure it was the appendix
and so did the doc that came. That’s why they rushed him right off to
the hospital.”

“Anything we can do?” March asked.

“No, just keep your fingers crossed,” Gray said. “Ray’s a mighty good
man to have aboard a submarine.”

“Why, we couldn’t go without him, could we?” Stan asked.

“The Navy doesn’t wait around for an officer to get over appendicitis,”
Larry said. “We’re scheduled to pull out of here at dawn day after
tomorrow morning, and that’s when we’ll pull out, with or without Ray
Corvin.”

“What about his family?” March asked. “Didn’t he say he lived near
here?”

“Sure—about fifty miles away,” the Skipper replied. “He had just phoned
them before he got this attack. I had to tell them he couldn’t come
down as he’d planned. I got in touch with the Commandant here and he
has sent a car down there for Ray’s wife and daughter. They’ll see him
at the hospital.”

In the morning they learned that Corvin’s appendix _had_ burst and he
had been operated on. Larry Gray had spent a good part of the night at
the hospital.

“He’ll pull through all right,” he said wearily. “But it will be weeks
before he’s up and around. We’re really lucky, I guess, that it didn’t
happen when we were at sea. If it had to happen, it couldn’t have timed
itself better. In port near a hospital—and not far from Ray’s home. He
can go there to convalesce.”

“What about us?” Stan asked. “It’s a shame we can’t have him with us.
He’s a swell guy.”

“And a fine officer,” Gray said. “He ought to have a command of his
own, really. Well, I’m not sure what we’ll do. The Navy can probably
find us another officer in a hurry if we demand it, though it’s not
easy to find a good sub man just like that who isn’t already occupied.”

He shook his head as he turned to his quarters. “I’m not sure just what
we’ll do,” he said, “except that we’ll get under way on schedule.”

At the door, he stopped. “March, will you and Stan help Mac oversee the
loading? I’ve got to have a little rest.”

There wasn’t much to come aboard. Ammunition and torpedoes were still
intact, so they had to take on only oil and water and food, plus some
special medical supplies for use in tropical climates. Stan had ordered
a few more spare parts for his engines and motors. With his little
repair shop, he felt able then to take care of almost anything that
might happen in his department.

It was late that afternoon that the Skipper called March to his
quarters.

“Sit down, March,” he said. “I’ve decided what to do about another
officer, but I think I ought to talk it over with the rest of you first
to see if you agree.”

“Whatever you say is all right with the rest of us, Larry,” March said.
“You know that.”

“Perhaps,” Larry replied with a smile. “But this involves a little more
work for everybody and I want you all to agree that it’s best. You see,
I think we’ve got a good crew here—men and officers alike. We get
along. We know our business. Getting along together is mighty important
in this work, and I don’t know how another officer would fit in even if
we could get one.”

“I know,” March agreed. “You can never tell until you’ve lived in each
other’s laps for a while, as we have.”

“So I want to skip getting—or trying to get—another officer to replace
Ray,” the Skipper went on. “Plenty of subs this size have operated with
four officers and so can we. But we’ll have to split up Ray’s work.”

“Okay with me,” March said at once. “What can I take on?”

“That’s why I wanted to talk to you alone first,” Gray said. “I want
_you_ to take over Ray’s job, really.”

“You mean as diving officer,” March said, with a thrill.

“Yes, and as executive officer, too,” Larry said.

March started to say something, and then he realized exactly what Gray
had said. On his first real patrol, he was asked to serve as second in
command of a new submarine! It was unbelievable!

“But—Larry,” he said. “Do you think I can handle it?”

“If _you_ think so,” the Skipper said with a smile, “then I think you
can, too. I think you can handle just about anything on a submarine
that you want to handle.”

“What about McFee?” March asked. “He’s been out before—been with you
before. He’s had more experience.”

“No—not McFee,” Larry said. “Mac’s a wonder at his job, and he could
take over just about any other submarine job in an emergency. But—well,
Mac knows this as well as I do—he’s just not quite enough of an
executive to handle this. I know that he just wouldn’t want the job. He
doesn’t like to tell people what to do. He wouldn’t like to be a
general manager, and that’s what an executive officer is, really.”

“Well, you know him well,” March said, “but won’t he feel a little
funny about having a raw recruit, so to speak, put over him?”

“Not Mac,” Larry answered. “He’s not like that. Anyway, how about it?”

“Well—I’m mighty pleased that you’ve got enough confidence in me to ask
me,” March said. “And I surely ought to have as much confidence in
myself as someone else has. Okay, Skipper, you’re on.”

“Swell, March,” Gray said with a broad smile. “I don’t feel so bad
about not having Ray now. We’re going to do a job in _Kamongo_.”

“I just hope I can navigate and dive and exec,” March said, “all at the
same time.”

[Illustration: “_I Want You to Take Over Ray’s Job!_”]

“Well, I never did think a navigating officer had enough to do just
navigating,” Gray said, laughing. “And you’re never busy navigating
when you have to dive. As for being an exec, a well-run sub with a good
crew doesn’t need much general managing, you’ll find. Anyway, Mac and
Stan will help you out in that department if you need any help. And
don’t forget that there is, after all, still a Skipper on the boat who
ought to do a little work once in a while.”

Later, in the wardroom with Stan and Mac, Larry told them all the new
setup, and March was happy to see how obviously pleased with the
arrangement McFee and Stan were.

“I was worried,” McFee said. “I was afraid you’d get another officer
and he’d turn out to be a guy who pulled puns or was a bridge fiend or
something terrible like that. And we wouldn’t have time to find it out
before we got under way, so we’d have to drown him at sea.”

“Well, I’d better go report to the Commandant and tell him the
arrangement,” Larry said. “The Navy likes to know about these things,
even if they do leave most decisions up to a ship’s captain.”

After Gray left, March stepped into the control room. Scotty rushed up
to him and shook his hand vigorously.

“Congratulations, Lieutenant!” the radioman cried. “Gee, it’s swell!”

“Thanks, Scotty,” March grinned. “But how on earth did the crew ever
learn this so fast?”

“Didn’t you ever hear that the crew always knows the important things
before the officers on a sub?” Scott said with a laugh.

“It must be, it must be,” March replied, with a shake of his head.

When Larry Gray returned from seeing the Commandant, March thought he
noticed a sparkle in his eyes and a smile on his face that he was
trying not to show.

“What happened?” he asked.

“Oh, nothing,” Larry replied, looking a little embarrassed. “I just
reported and he said okay. Everything set for dawn?”

“Everything set,” March replied.

“Oh, by the way,” Larry said, as if trying to change the subject. “You
move your stuff into Ray’s quarters. Then you and Stan can both have a
little more room to move around in.”

“Okay, Skipper,” March answered. “Could we see Ray before we leave?”

“No, no more visitors,” Larry said. “His family is there, and they let
me see him for a minute to say goodbye and good luck from all of us.
He’s feeling pretty lousy with drainage tubes in him, and worse than
that because he can’t go along with us. If they’d let him, he’d try to
get up and come along right now. He says he could recuperate faster in
a sub, anyway, than on dry land. He highly approved of your
appointment, by the way.”

It was an hour later that March learned the reason for the Skipper’s
hidden smile and slightly embarrassed look. Noticing a new large sheet
of paper on the bulletin board in the crew’s quarters he paused to look
at it.

“Scuttlebutt Special!!!!” it read. “The brass hats have seen the light
at last and promoted our Old Man to Lieutenant Commander! It’s about
time!”

March walked quickly back to the wardroom where he found Larry Gray and
McFee smoking and talking.

“Well, I was told that the crew knew everything important before the
officers,” he said. “But why did you want to keep it secret?”

Larry almost blushed.

“Oh, so you found out?”

“It’s on the bulletin board!” March exclaimed.

“Oh, my golly! These sub crews!” Larry exclaimed. “They can even read
your thoughts!”

“Say, what’s all this about?” Mac cried. “Let me in on it!”

“Go read it for yourself,” March said. “The Skipper made me find it out
the hard way.”

As Mac squeezed out from behind the little table and hurried down the
companionway, March put out his hand and shook Larry’s.

“Congratulations, Skipper,” he said.

“Thanks, March,” Gray said. “Some of the crew on shore liberty must’ve
run into it up at headquarters somehow. They don’t miss a thing.”

They not only missed nothing, but they did not miss a chance to do
something about it. After mess a delegation from the crew appeared and
asked for an audience with the Skipper. He sensed what was coming and
met them in the control room.

Pete Kalinsky, Chief Petty Officer in the torpedo room, was the
spokesman.

“Lieutenant Commander Gray, sir,” he said. “Your crew is very happy to
see you gettin’ up where you belong, though they’ve got to come through
a few more times before it’s okay with us. We knew you wouldn’t bother
about such things, but the _Kamongo’s_ captain ought to do himself
proud, so on behalf of the crew I give you these.”

He coughed, acted as if he were about to add something else, then said
“Sir,” lamely, and backed up.

Larry took the small packages Pete had handed him and undid them with
fingers that shook slightly. First came a set of three gold stripes,
two wide and one narrow, for his blue uniform. Then the same in black
for his work uniform. Then shoulder insignia and finally two gold
oak-leaves for pinning on his shirt collars.

March, who stood behind Larry, felt a lump in his throat. He knew how
Larry must be feeling and wondered how he could keep the tears out of
his eyes. There was a long silence, and March knew that Larry was
waiting for his voice to get under control before he spoke. Everyone
was looking at him as he fingered the marks of his new rank which had
been presented to him by his crew. Not only had they got the news
almost as soon as it had happened, but somebody had taken up a
collection and rushed downtown, during his last hours of shore leave,
to buy these things for him.

“You know, men,” Larry spoke quietly, “it’s naturally very pleasant to
get a promotion. But when you’re about to set out in a pigboat to sink
as many Jap ships as possible, it doesn’t seem very important. And
certainly gold braid and pretty gold leaves aren’t important at all.
But I’ll tell you what really _is_ important, what really _does_ count
for a lot when you’re about to get under way for enemy waters. That is
the knowledge that I have a crew like mine! I’ve got a crew that is
proud of its boat, proud of its Skipper, proud of itself. A crew
that’ll do something—like this—like what you’ve just done—well, it just
can’t be licked, that’s all.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                             CHAPTER TWELVE

                          VISIT TO WAKE ISLAND


They went all the way to Pearl Harbor on the surface. They had
beautiful clear weather each day. Jap ships and subs and planes had
been cleared from the entire area so effectively that American
submarines did not need to fear being mistaken by their own patrols for
Jap subs. They made good time, and the crew and officers alike were
happy, in the highest of spirits.

March laughed, one day, as he looked down from the bridge and saw
clothes drying on the line, put there by the crew who took the first
opportunity to give their things a good sunning.

“This doesn’t look much like war,” he mused. “Very domestic scene,
really. And some of the men have been on deck enough to get a little
sunburn. Not the usual picture of the submariner, pale and dehydrated,
after his long days beneath the waters of the deep.”

But he knew there would be plenty of that life ahead of them. He was
happy that this part of the trip was so pleasant. It meant a lot to the
crew, who were inclined sometimes to be superstitious, despite all
protestations to the contrary. They felt that everything would go well
with them since the start of their real patrol had been so auspicious.

The Skipper had opened his orders twelve hours out from San Francisco.
They were no great surprise to anyone. They were to go by way of Pearl
Harbor to a submarine base in the southwest Pacific, a tiny island
where a sub tender nursed its brood of pigboats, fed them oil and
torpedoes and supplies before sending them out to break up the Jap
shipping lines.

The stop at Pearl Harbor was short, but March enjoyed it, remembering
when he and Scoot had left the _Plymouth_ there, heading back for the
United States and their training in submarines and airplanes. Much to
his surprise there was a letter for him. He had not thought anyone
would have a chance to write since learning his San Francisco address.
The envelope, a plain one with a typed address, gave him no clue:

It was from Scoot! Dated three weeks before, it said, “In case you come
this way you’ll get this. I’m on the carrier _Bunker Hill_ heading for
where all of us head when we get out here. Don’t forget to come and
save me from those Japs when I holler for you!”

That was all, but it was good. It was just like Scoot and it made March
feel fine to read it and to picture again his old friend. He showed the
note to Larry when he went back to _Kamongo_, and told him about Scoot
Bailey.

“Sounds like a swell guy,” Larry said. “Why couldn’t he have gone into
submarines, too?”

“No—he’s swell, but he’s not right for pigboats,” March said. “Too much
of an individualist. He’ll take orders fine, do a swell job, but he’s
best when he’s on his own. Flying a fighter plane off a carrier is just
exactly right for Scoot.”

“Well, you never can tell—maybe we’ll run into him,” Larry said.
“Stranger things have happened in wartime.”

They sailed from Pearl Harbor looking for action, but several days went
by without a sign of ship or plane of any kind.

“We’ve got to run into something,” Larry said one day in the wardroom.
“I’d hate to show up at the base with all my torpedoes intact, without
a single Jap ship accounted for. Why, we’re going through about nine
hundred miles of enemy waters and we’ve got to get something on the
way.”

“The boys out here have been scaring them into their ratholes,” McFee
said. “They don’t come out any more than they have to.”

“But that’s the point,” Larry said. “They’ve got to come out sometime.
They’ve got garrisons on a lot of these islands, and garrisons need to
be supplied.”

“Well, they’re just letting the garrisons on lots of those islands
starve to death,” Stan said.

“Sure, in the Marshalls and a few other places where we’ve got ’em
surrounded,” the Skipper said. “But they’re still supplying and
reinforcing plenty of places around these parts. They lose some ships
every day. I just want them to lose a couple to us, as we’re passing by
on our way to more important things.”

“What about Wake Island?” March asked.

“Yes, they’re still supplying Wake,” Larry said. “We’re not too far
away from it any more, but we haven’t got it really cut off. But our
course isn’t very close to Wake.”

“Couldn’t we just edge over that way and have a look?” March asked.

“Well, now, maybe we could,” Larry said. “Nobody told us just what
course to follow out here. When we get a bit further we’ve got to run
submerged most of the time anyway. We just laid down the straightest
route to our destination. But a little detour wouldn’t do any harm.
Lieutenant Anson, carry us over near Wake.”

With a smile, March left the wardroom and went to the navigating desk.
There he plotted the course for Wake Island, went up on the conning
tower for a shot of the sun to check his course, and gave the new
course to the helmsman. Then he went back to the wardroom.

“About six hundred Army-Navy time, courtesy of Whoozis watches,” he
announced, “we shall sight Wake Island.”

“Hm, works out very nicely,” Larry said. “Tomorrow morning just after
dawn. We can travel on the surface all night and submerge just before
the approach.”

Everyone was up and about early the next morning, even those who had
been on watch during the night. Breakfast was over and officers and men
were at their stations before dawn.

“We may get nothing, of course,” Larry said. “We mustn’t get our hopes
up.”

“Okay, Skipper,” McFee said. “We’re just dropping by for a look and if
anything’s there we’ll try to take care of it.”

“Rig ship for diving,” the Skipper said, and the word was passed
throughout the boat. One by one the departments reported back to March
that everything was ready. The long slim boat slid under the water, the
whine of the electric motors replacing the throbbing of the Diesels. As
March handled the diving operations, he recalled the days when it had
seemed to him such a complicated and difficult task. Now it was a
simple straightforward job, especially when carried out by a crew that
knew its job.

After about twenty minutes, March turned to Larry. “I think we ought to
be able to have a look now,” he said.

“Up periscope,” Larry said, reaching forward to grab the adjusting
handles as they rose into position. He adjusted the eyepiece and
looked, focussing with the handles. March saw his mouth open slightly
in a whispered exclamation.

“Have a look, March,” he said. “I think we’ve raised something.”

March looked and saw the low-lying atolls where the Marines had for so
long battled the Japs against great odds. It would do his heart good to
kill a few Japs at Wake, entirely apart from the excellence of the idea
in general. He located the harbor and then saw two dark blobs in it.

“There’s something there, all right,” he said. “Can’t be sure what they
are yet, though.”

“Down ’scope,” Larry said. “We’ll get a little closer and have another
look.”

There was almost nothing said as the boat moved silently forward under
the water, until Larry ordered the periscope up again. Then he
exclaimed aloud at what he saw.

“Three of ’em!” he cried. “Looks as if they just got here themselves,
probably came in under cover of darkness. Lighters are just tying up to
them to unload.”

“What are they?” March asked. “Can you make out?”

“One’s a troopship,” Larry replied, “loaded to the gunwales! The men’ll
go ashore in the lighters. They haven’t even started yet. Must be
relief for the garrison—old ones will be going back.”

[Illustration: _He Adjusted the Eyepiece and Looked_]

“Oh, no they won’t,” March said. “Not yet, anyway, because their relief
is going to be cut down in number right soon now.”

“Here, March, have a look,” Larry said. “I think one’s a tanker, one an
ammunition ship, or a freighter with the supplies.”

March stepped to the periscope and looked carefully.

“Tanker and troopship are certain,” he said. “Can’t be sure about the
other, though. How many do you think we can get?”

“Not more than two,” Larry said. “They’ll get planes after us that
fast. We’ll have to get away after two, maybe after one. Can’t tell
until we’re in the middle of it. But what about all the reefs around
here? Can we get in position to fire?”

“If we’re good we can,” March said. “Come on, I’ll show you. I’ve been
studying the Wake Island chart, and we know it’s right.”

Larry followed March to the navigation desk, where they both studied
the chart of Wake Island.

“We have to go west first,” March said. “Then cut back sharply in a
hairpin turn—go in about four hundred yards, turn about thirty degrees
to starboard without going forward too much, fire and then back away.
Backing will be slow, but we can’t turn her for a couple of hundred
yards. Think we can make it?”

“Deep water out here?” Larry asked, pointing to a point about a mile
off shore.

“Plenty deep,” March replied.

“Then I think we can do it,” Larry said. “Those ships are worth the
chance, anyway. If we’re slow getting the first one, we’ll cut and run.”

“Which one first?” March asked.

“The tanker,” Larry said. “Most important. Planes can’t fly without the
gas and oil it carries.”

“Not the troopship?”

“No, too many of the men will be able to swim or get ashore some way,”
Larry said. “We could count on about fifty percent casualties there.
But the tanker—that’ll be all gone, and maybe set fire to a few other
things. Tanker first, then troopship.”

The Skipper gave orders to move the boat to the west around the reefs
as March had indicated. March stood close by the soundman, who could
tell at every instant just how far they were from the rocky shoals that
might trap them.

Slowly the boat moved forward and then, when March gave the word, it
turned and moved in toward the island.

“I hope I’m right,” March said to himself. “There’s not very much room
here, though if those ships got through, we surely can.”

The sound man picked up reefs to the right and then to the left—nothing
ahead, and March breathed more deeply. They went forward for a few
moments, still moving slowly.

“About now, March?” Larry asked quietly.

“Yes, this ought to be it,” March replied. He saw Scotty at the
soundman’s side, the other crew members standing by their levers and
valves. They were all calm and quiet, but with just a touch of excited
expectancy in their manner.

The Skipper gave the order for the turn to starboard, for the cutting
of motors. Then he called for the periscope. As it rose from its well
in the deck he crouched and grabbed it. Then March realized why Larry
was a good Skipper. In just about two seconds he had seen everything
there was to see. He called out the course settings for the torpedoes,
first for two to go into the sides of the tanker, then for two to go
into the sides of the transport.

The settings were called back to him, and he called, without a moment’s
hesitation—“Fire one! Fire two!” He waited a moment, glancing at his
watch. “Fire three! Fire four!”

Stepping away from the eyepiece he called, “Down periscope!” and
followed it immediately with “Reverse motors!”

As the whine of the motors started and the boat slid backwards in the
water, he kept his eyes on his watch, finger in the air as if counting.
He lifted his eyes and—thud! The submarine trembled and shook from the
explosion of a torpedo against the side of a ship. There was a wild cry
throughout the pigboat as the crew whooped with glee, so loud that it
almost drowned out the roar of the second torpedo hitting home against
the tanker.

Men danced and jigged, but not for a moment did they take their hands
from their levers or wheels, or their eyes from the dials they watched.

“You can turn now, Skipper,” March said quietly, and Larry gave the
order for the ship to turn and dive deep as it cleared the reefs.

The words were not out of his mouth when another roar sent a tremble
through the submarine and another shout arose. It was a short roar
because the men stopped to listen for the second torpedo that had been
sent against the troopship. But nothing came, and it was Larry who
broke the silence.

“A miss, men,” he said. “Only one got through.”

“Well, what can you expect?” Scotty demanded. “After all, the position
we were in!”

“Are still in!” Larry exclaimed. “Only a hundred feet! Take her to
two-fifty!”

Everybody adjusted his body to the slope of the boat as it slid rapidly
down in the water. In a few minutes, they knew, depth charges would be
dropped in an attempt to locate them. Certainly planes would be in the
air and perhaps fast small boats something like our own PT-boats would
be dashing out of the harbor after them.

Larry grabbed the phone from the interphone orderly and spoke into it.

“You heard the blasts,” he said, knowing that men all over the boat
would hear him. “Two into a Jap tanker. One into a troopship. Second
one there was a dud. You can expect some depth charges, but I think
we’ll be down away from them. Later we’ll go up for a look and I’ll
tell you what we did.”

March knew that all the men appreciated that. They were tense and
excited and they wanted to know exactly what was going on. Their
Skipper didn’t keep them waiting long. They were part of this just as
much as he was.

They leveled off at two hundred and fifty feet just as they felt the
first bumping rattle of a depth charge explosion. But it was far away
and hardly bothered them. In two minutes another came a little closer.
Everyone gripped the nearest solid support and held on. March said to
himself, “You’re going through a depth bombing. This was the one thing
they couldn’t simulate at New London. Well, how do you like it?”

And he answered himself, “It’s not so bad.”

He looked around at the men in the crew. They held on and they
listened, but they did not look frightened. Larry grinned at him.

“Lousy aim they’ve got,” he said. “They’re not coming very close.”

“What about a little zigzagging?” March asked.

“No, we might zig or zag into something,” Larry said. “They obviously
haven’t located us and are just dropping at random. Also, we’re deep
enough to be below the explosions. After all, the biggest force of the
blow is above the exploding charge. We’ll just keep sliding along the
way we’re going. They’ll give up after a while.”

The charges exploded regularly, but not for long. Soon they hardly felt
a jar when one went off.

“They think we’re hanging around back there for a look,” Larry said.
“They don’t know how safe we play. I’m not going back for my look for
two hours. So just keep going.”

They did keep going, and for two hours. By the time they circled around
and came back toward the island there were no more depth charges. About
a mile away they surfaced quickly and the Skipper took a quick look.
Then the ’scope went down and March ordered another dive.

“Sorry you couldn’t have had a look, March,” Larry said, “but I didn’t—”

He was interrupted by a shaking roar that almost spilled him off his
feet. March, who had one hand against the bulkhead, grabbed him.

“As I was saying,” Larry went on with a smile, “I didn’t want to keep
the ’scope up any longer than I had to. They spotted it pretty fast,
didn’t they?”

Another roar was the answer, followed by another and another, and half
a dozen more. They were bad shocks, worse than those they had
experienced at first, but the sub had got down fast enough to get away
from the worst effects.

“What did you see?” March asked between blasts.

“Listen,” Larry said. He took the interphone and gave his news to the
whole ship. “Tanker down—only the bow showing, oil-covered water
blazing over the entire bay. Total loss for the Nips on that one.
Troopship looks half busted in two, but still afloat, though listing
badly. No men on her. Plenty of bodies in the water. Lots got ashore,
I’m sure, but plenty got burned in the oil trying to make it.”

A loud cheer rose through the ship as Larry handed the phone back to
the orderly.

“Well, anyway,” he said. “It was certainly worth four torpedoes!”

As the _Kamongo_ slid down through the dark waters, the depth charges
grew less intense. Finally they got away from them entirely, and
resumed the course for their southwest Pacific base.

“Don’t let that fool you,” Larry said, as they sat in the wardroom
having a cup of coffee. “There weren’t any sound detectors there, so we
got away pretty easily. When the destroyers are after you, they
_follow_ you—and their depth charges are bigger. This was a setup!”

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                            CHAPTER THIRTEEN

                         SCOOT MEETS TWO ZEROS


Scoot Bailey lounged in the ready room of the aircraft carrier _Bunker
Hill_ as the big ship plunged through heavy seas at top speed. They had
been at sea for some weeks now, in company with a cruiser and three
destroyers, heading southwest from Pearl Harbor for scenes of battle.
For the last two days the five ships had put on full steam, and
everyone aboard knew that something was up.

“Something’s cooking up ahead,” Scoot said to Turk Bottomley, who sat
next to him, legs stretched out on a straightback in front of him.

“Obviously, my friend,” Turk said. “Something’s been cooking in this
part of the world almost all the time lately.”

“I thought we’d be heading for the Marshalls and the Carolines,” Scoot
said, “to get in on the fighting there. But I guess they’ve got things
well in hand in those parts. We’re well past them now, and to the
south.”

“No flying for two days now,” Turk said. “That’s what’s been bothering
me. Before we got off once in a while for a look around, anyway. I want
to fly, that’s all. I won’t worry about where. Let the Admirals send me
where they want me, but let me fly and fight when I get there—and, if
possible, on the way, too.”

“Gee, I thought I loved flying,” Scoot said, with a laugh, “but I never
held a candle to you.”

“Yeah, I even resent walkin’,” Turk said. “Seems like I should’ve had
wings instead of legs—just for gettin’ around short distances. I’d
still want that Grumman Hellcat for longer jumps.”

“They’re sweet ships, all right,” Scoot said. “I used to dream of
flying a Wildcat—thought there just couldn’t be anything better than
that. And I still thought so when I finally flew one off the training
carrier. She was an old one, but still a Wildcat. Then when I get here
on the _Bunker Hill_, I find the brand new F6F’s—and Hellcat is the
right name. They’re what a Wildcat pilot dreams up as impossibly
perfect when he thinks about what kind of plane he’ll have in Heaven.”

“Poetic, now, aren’t you, Scoot?” Turk said. “I can’t put words
together that way, but it sounds nice when you talk about planes.
Sometimes, when you get real excited, you almost talk the way I feel.”

Suddenly they sat up, as did the four or five others in the large room.
Other pilots began to pile into the room followed by most of the
big-shot officers on the ship.

“Oh-oh—here it comes!” Scoot said. “Now we’ll find out. It looks like a
briefing.”

There were fighter pilots, the pilots, gunners and observers of torpedo
and scout dive bombers, and the squadron leaders of each group,
accompanied by the particular vice-admiral in command of the force now
racing across the Pacific. This rugged, beetle-browed gentleman lost
little time in getting down to business. Addressing the flying officers
before him while other officers hung a huge map on the wall behind, he
quickly gave them the information they wanted.

“You’ve all known we’ve been heading for something as fast as we could
get there,” he said, in clipped tones. “Now I can tell you, because
we’ve made speed and are not far away. Within a few hours we should
contact other carriers and ships going to the same objective. That
objective is the Jap Naval base at Truk.”

There was a gasp of surprise throughout the room as the Admiral paused
for a second.

“There’s a mighty fine batch of ships in Truk Harbor,” he said, “and,
we have reason to believe, not too much protection. Carriers—and
there’ll be six of them—will go in close enough to launch all planes.
Battleships, cruisers, and destroyers will go in closer.”

Turk Bottomley was sitting on the edge of his chair, as if he would
bound from the room and race to his plane in a second, but the Admiral
continued.

“The time is now about 1600. We shall rendezvous with the others of the
task force at about 2030. You will take off on a schedule your squadron
commanders will give you beginning at 0430, arriving over Truk about
dawn—the first wave, that is. All scout and torpedo planes will go to
Truk, one-half the fighters will remain as protection with or near the
carrier. Your squadron commanders will go over all necessary details
with you now. That is all.”

The Admiral stalked from the room, and the commanders prepared to go
over all details. They launched at once into detailed descriptions of
the objective, the schedule of flights.

“If we’ve figured right,” one of them said, “we’ll stick around two
days, throwing in wave after wave. We must meet our schedule because it
ties in precisely with the schedules of the other carriers in the
group. We’ll not give them a minute to catch their breath. There’ll be
planes coming at them continuously.”

For two hours the briefing session continued. Photographs and maps were
shown, man after man asked questions. Finally every flier felt that he
knew Truk and its environs as he knew his own home town. Then came the
announcement of the fliers who would remain with the carrier instead of
going to the attack on Truk and there were groans about the room as men
heard their names called.

“One minute,” the fighter squadron commander called. “I think the Old
Man gave a wrong impression. The names I’m calling won’t stay with the
carrier both days. They’ll stay behind the first day but go on to the
attack the second day, while the first group remains with the carrier.”

Groans turned to laughter, but Turk Bottomley was furious. He was going
out the first day, but he wanted to go out the second day, too. He made
his feelings known in no uncertain terms.

“Never mind, Turk,” the commander laughed. “You can go up and fly
around and around the _Bunker Hill_ all day!”

So it was that Turk flew off in the dark morning hours, while Scoot
Bailey stayed behind envying those lucky men whose names had been
opposite the odd numbers on the list instead of the even. As plane
after plane rolled across the heaving deck of the flat-top and roared
off into the overcast sky, Scoot muttered under his breath, wishing
that each one might have been his.

Dawn came and there was no word. Scoot went up with half a dozen other
fighters to keep eyes on the sea, to attack any Japanese craft that
came through to get them. But for hours there was no sign of a
plane—either of the enemy or of their own.

Then Scoot, just after he had landed again, heard them far away—the
roar of many powerful engines. And in a moment he saw the tiny specks
that raced so fast they soon became planes circling in mighty sweeps
around the carrier. The first one came in as the signalman waved his
paddles for a landing. Deck men and the fighter pilots who were not up
in the air lined the edge of the deck, and officers crowded the bridge.
As the first pilot scrambled from his plane, the deck crew grabbed it,
folded its wings, and raced it back to the elevator so the next plane
could land.

In a moment the pilot was talking—and in a few minutes he was joined by
another, then another and another.

“We caught ’em with their pants down!” the first yelled. “Flatfooted.
We caught ’em right on the airfields! They couldn’t get off.”

“And when the bombers came in,” cried the next, “they had a clear
field. How those boys dove! Oil tanks blew up! Ships strewn all over
the place, clogging up the harbor!”

One after another the pilots told their stories while mechanics checked
their engines, filled the tanks with gas, the guns with ammunition.
They all told of how the Japs had been taken by surprise, how plane
after plane had been wrecked on the field, how torpedo planes and
scout-dive bombers came in with little more than scattered antiaircraft
fire to get in their way.

“We’ve hardly lost a plane so far!” one said. “And have we got planes
around there! I haven’t seen so many planes since I was at Corpus
Christi—but these are not trainers. Fighters, torpedo planes,
bombers—coming in like flocks of wild geese. Why, I was just as worried
trying not to bump into some of our own craft as by any opposition the
Japs put up. The Old Man must be mighty happy. Has he got full reports?”

“He’s gettin’ ’em first-hand right this minute!” the executive officer
of the carrier replied. “He’s up there himself in a scout, looking over
the whole business. And you can bet your bottom dollar he’s the
happiest man on earth!”

“What was prettiest,” another joined in, “was seeing the planes from
the other carriers coming in. From every direction! We were in the
first wave, and just as we pulled up and away, there they came—wave
number two from the northeast, and a little farther away wave number
three from the southeast. You had to hurry and do your job so you could
get out of the way of the next batch coming along.”

“Where’s Turk Bottomley?” Scoot asked. “Did any of you see him?”

“I saw him circling around for another go at one of the airfields,” a
torpedo-plane pilot said. “At least I think it was Turk’s Hellcat I
saw. He was joining up with the second wave and going in again.”

“He ought to be back by now,” someone said. “All the other fighters are
in—except Tommy Mixler. I saw him go down in the harbor. Ack-ack.”

There was a moment’s silence at this unwanted mention of a casualty, of
a friend they’d see no more, and then—as if they were forcibly clearing
their minds of any such thoughts—the pilots went on chattering again.
Their planes were almost ready for them to take off again when they all
saw a lone fighter circling the ship. Zooming his engine and doing a
beautiful wing-over turn, the pilot brought his plane around into the
wind for a landing on the heaving deck of the carrier.

“That’s Turk, all right,” Scoot said. “Home from the wars.”

And it was Turk, almost out of gas and completely out of ammunition. He
had stayed around as long as he could, and now he wanted to be off
again within five minutes. As soon as his plane was shoved out of the
way where it could be checked and get its new supplies of gas and
ammunition, the fighters who had come in earlier began to take off
again. They were off on schedule, going in for their second attack on
Japan’s Pearl Harbor of the Pacific!

All day long it went on, with Scoot and the others staying aloft, on
the alert for the Jap planes that would surely come through to attack
them. No matter how great the surprise, some planes would get off the
airfields at Truk and others would race in from other Jap strongholds.
They would go for the carriers first, of course, for the flat-tops were
the big prizes. With the base ship gone, the planes would be lost
without a “home” to return to.

[Illustration: _Some Fighters Stayed With the Carrier_]

But Scoot searched in vain through the skies as the afternoon turned to
evening. The _Bunker Hill’s_ own planes came back for the last time but
still no Japs appeared. Scoot was raging—all day long without a crack
at a Jap! And they were right in the heart of what the Nips considered
their private ocean!

“Is there anything left of Truk for us to get?” he asked that night.
“Didn’t everything get blasted off the map?”

“There’ll be plenty left for everybody,” the squadron commander
replied. “We’ve got half the ships in the harbor and we’ll get most of
the rest tomorrow. Some of them scattered and ran but the boys from the
carriers to the north are catching them. There are emergency airfields
around that will be in use tomorrow, and you can be sure that there’ll
be planes from other Jap garrisons in this area. You boys will have a
fight on your hands tomorrow all right.”

“We’d better have!” Scoot exclaimed. “Imagine! Not a lousy Jap showed
up today!”

It was with grim anger that Scoot took off the next morning, reveling
in the almost unlimited power of his Hellcat as it roared up into the
blue skies and circled, heading for Truk. Scoot was in the squadron
leader’s group, and their objective was the big airfield south of the
city. The Japs would have been working on it all night, despite
constant attacks by the bombers, and they’d have at least one landing
strip in shape for their planes to get off. The fighters were to strafe
the field, then go up as protective cover for the dive bombers. These
would be coming into the harbor right after them, to get the rest of
the ships that still lay there.

Roaring low over the choppy waters of the Pacific, the speedy planes
raced toward the tiny group of islands that the Japs had made into a
great naval fortress, a fortress that was being knocked to pieces by
American planes.

As they approached the island, Scoot saw ahead several American
ships—two cruisers and half a dozen destroyers.

“They’re doing it, boys,” his squadron leader’s voice came over the
radio. “The surface ships are moving in close to shell the island!”

Scoot almost laughed in happiness. It was daring enough for American
carriers to penetrate supposedly Japanese waters and give a pasting to
their impregnable fort. Carriers could stay a couple of hundred miles
out while their planes flew in to the attack. And they were fast ships
which could get away in a hurry if they needed to. But here were the
big-gun ships moving to within fifteen or twenty miles to shell the
island. And the Jap Navy was either hiding or running away—in its own
back yard!

The fighter planes gunned their engines in greeting as they passed the
American ships, and Scoot could see the crews waving and laughing
happily on the decks of the ships.

“They’ll start their shelling just about the time the dive bombers
finish the first part of their job,” Scoot guessed. “And when they’ve
pounded away a couple of hours the bombers will come back in again for
another attack.”

Up ahead lay the island. At better than three hundred miles an hour the
huge flight of fighters went over the shore, heading straight for the
airfield. They paid no attention to the twenty or thirty Jap fighters
high above them, did not even notice the bursts, of ack-ack shells that
puffed around and ahead of them. They were too low and traveling too
fast for ack-ack to be very effective or accurate—and as for those
Zeros, the American planes would take care of them in just a few
minutes.

Scoot saw the airfield up ahead, saw Jap planes on the runways ready to
take off. And the next minute he was roaring over the field, not thirty
feet above the runway, watching the Jap ground crews running for cover,
seeing a few firing rifles futilely into the air at the speeding
planes. He pressed the machine-gun button and felt the slight backward
push to the plane as the battery of fifty caliber machine guns poured
out its converging fire of destruction. Jap after Jap, fleeing toward
the hangars, was cut down in his tracks. Scoot concentrated a terrific
burst of fire on the plane directly ahead of him, saw a flash as it
caught fire, then pulled up and away with a shout that could have been
heard half a mile away had not the air been filled with the roar of
powerful engines.

He circled and came back over the field the other way, this time
dipping to pour a hail of lead into the open doors of a hangar.

“How did the other boys happen to leave that one standing?” Scoot
wondered. “The others are all down in ruins.” It was not easy to
demolish a big hangar with a fighting plane, so Scoot left that for the
bombers, knowing that he had taken care of a few Japs huddling inside
the building and had put forty or fifty holes in the plane standing
near the front.

After one more sweep over the field, he pointed his Hellcat’s nose at
the sun and climbed. But there was something up there on the sun, he
thought, looking intently. Sunspots? What a funny thing to think of at
a moment like this. He’d hardly be noticing sunspots—but he _would_
almost instinctively notice Jap Zeros when they were diving at him out
of the sun.

“That’s what they are!” Scoot exclaimed. “But they made one big
mistake. They thought we were going to strafe the field a couple more
times and they’d come down on us out of the sun while we were busy
doing it. I’ll bet they’re confused now, seeing us coming right up at
them head-on.”

The first groups of the fighter squadrons were all aiming for the
clouds after their attack on the field, while the next groups were
carrying on the strafing job. And Scoot knew, too, that two groups were
high in the air, serving as cover for just such a Jap attack.

“Those Nips may not know it,” he muttered to himself, “but I’ll bet
there’s a flock of Hellcats coming out of the sun right behind ’em.”

The Zeros were larger now, growing larger every minute as they dived
down at the formations of American planes trying to climb away from the
field. It looked as if all the planes were determined to crash head-on
into each other at the greatest possible speed.

Scoot heard a short command come over the radio from his squadron
leader. He grinned.

“Just what I thought he’d do,” he told himself, and then shoved the
stick hard to the right, as he pulled back on the throttle. The
American group split, half going to the right, half to the left, in a
maneuver so sudden and sharp that the Japs in their Zeros could hardly
believe their eyes at seeing planes which had been almost in their
gunsights disappear so quickly. They still thought that their lightly
armored Zeros were the most highly maneuverable planes in the world.
They’d not had much experience yet with the new Hellcats.

Scoot’s wing tipped sharply, and the craft seemed to stall. Then,
giving her the gun again, he flipped completely over. He knew that the
Japs, in that part of a second, would have roared past the spot he had
just been in and now the American planes could chase _them_ on down
toward the field, coming in from the side and rear.

“There they are!” Scoot cried. “Just about set up in position!”

The first Jap planes were pulling up desperately from their dive,
attempting to get back in position to meet the attack of the Americans.
Scoot picked the leading Jap plane, got it in his sights and roared up
on it from a little below. He held his fire, held it a fraction of a
second longer, then pushed the fire-control button with a vicious jab
that almost drove it out of its socket.

Black smoke crept back from the Zero, then flame which fast grew into a
huge sheet of fire enveloping the entire craft. It slowed, seemed to
stagger a moment in the air. Losing power at once because of its
climbing position, it twisted and turned.

As Scoot pulled up and away, he kept his eye on the blazing Zero as it
fell—at first lazily, then faster and faster—toward the ground.

“Is it going to—Yes, by golly!” Scoot cried as the flaming plane
crashed into the huge hangar still standing at the edge of the Jap
field below. There was a roar of fire, a great cloud of black smoke and
Scoot threw back his head and laughed loud and long.

“Who said a fighter couldn’t take care of a hangar?” he demanded. “Why
did I think I had to leave it for the bombers? Boy, oh boy, is that
good?”

“That’s puttin’ ’em in the right pocket, Scoot!” It was the voice of
his squadron leader over the radio. “But watch out behind you! A little
sneak attack coming!”

Yes, there were two Japs coming in on him. Now where did they come
from, Scoot wondered. But he didn’t spend much time on that question
for he had other things to do. If these Japs weren’t familiar enough
with what the new Hellcats could do he’d show ’em. So, instead of
diving to get away, as he knew they expected, he put his fighter into a
steep climb that pulled him up toward the clouds as if a giant hand had
reached down and grabbed him.

That took the first Jap by surprise, as Scoot hoped, but the second had
just enough time to meet the maneuver. As Scoot closed in on the first,
he knew that the second was coming in behind him. He concentrated on
one thing at a time. Maybe, he thought, he could take care of the first
one fast and get away quickly enough. With a roar of speed, he brought
the first Jap into range, opened fire, saw smoke, and waited no longer.
He plunged into a diving turn, looked back over his shoulder and saw
the second Jap ship already plunging earthward in a cloud of smoke.

“Who did that?” Scoot demanded, almost to himself.

“I did, my friend!” It was Turk Bottomley’s voice.

“What are you doing here?” Scoot demanded.

“No Jap planes showed up at the carrier,” Scoot said, “so the Old Man
let a few of us come over to have some fun. I just got here.”

“And just in time, lad,” Scoot said. “Thanks.”

“Don’t mention it,” Turk laughed. “The pleasure was all mine.”

So that is how Scoot managed to paint two little Jap flags on the side
of his plane the next day, as the _Bunker Hill_ steamed westward, away
from a smoking and flaming Truk.

“That’s something like it!” Scoot exclaimed to himself. “I’ll bet poor
old March isn’t having any fun like this, cooped up in that stuffy
submarine.”

It was at that moment that March was listening with pleasure to the
explosion of the _Kamongo’s_ torpedoes against the sides of a Jap
tanker at Wake Island.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                            CHAPTER FOURTEEN

                             CRASH LANDING


_Kamongo_ was ranged with fourteen other submarines alongside the
tender _David_ at the little island base in the southwest Pacific. The
crossing after the sinking at Wake Island had been uneventful, since
they had run submerged most of the time during daylight hours. Always
on the lookout for enemy ships, officers and crew alike had been
disappointed to run into nothing but an American task force, consisting
of a carrier, a cruiser, and three destroyers racing north at full
speed.

March had tried to make out the name of the carrier, and he would have
been delighted to know it was the _Bunker Hill_ carrying Scoot and his
companions from their Truk attack to a small action against another
Jap-held island farther north. But even American subs submerged and ran
deep and quiet when American ships were near by. The destroyers would
have started to toss depth charges like snowflakes if they had sighted
a periscope of any kind.

At the sub base, all pigboat Skippers and their seconds were at a
meeting aboard the tender. Captain Milbank, the Intelligence Officer,
was speaking to them.

“You’ve all heard about the blasting of Truk,” he said. “Now, it’s
certain that the Japs will try to reinforce that important post as
quickly and as fully as possible. In fact, word has reached us through
the Chinese that a large convoy has already left Japan for Truk, with
troops, oil and gasoline, ammunition, more antiaircraft guns, food and
supplies, and with almost every deck covered with Zeros. They’ve got to
replace what we knocked out there and, even further, increase their
defending force. They know we’ll hit it again.”

He looked around the room at the quiet, serious faces of the men who
listened intently.

“You may also know,” he went on, “that we have found Chinese
Intelligence to be very reliable. It’s amazing how they get word
through the Jap lines so quickly and efficiently. Well—the Chinese
report that there’s something special about this convoy for Truk. They
weren’t able to learn exactly what it is, but they believe it is in the
route to be followed. The Nips know our submarines are roaming the seas
out here and will be on the lookout especially for this convoy. Having
knocked Truk half out, we want to keep it in that condition. It’s you
men—with some help, I must confess, from the air service—who will do
that job.”

There were smiles in the room as the Captain, joking, grudgingly
recognized the usefulness of the flying sailors. Then he continued:

“Our patrol planes are ranging over the ocean on the lookout for the
convoy, of course, but their distances are limited and it’s a mighty
big ocean to cover. So, for a while, our submarines must also act as
scouts. Later we can get together and sink the ships, but first we have
to act as a team to find them.

“We’re all going to leave here at the same time, and fan out to cover
the main routes from Japan to Truk. And we want to catch them as far
from Truk as possible. The earlier we can find them, the more subs and
planes we’ll have time to get to the attack so we can wipe the whole
thing out.”

The Captain turned to a chart behind him on the wall.

“Later I shall go over with you the routes to be followed by each
submarine,” he said. “If and when any one of you sights the convoy he
is _not_ to radio that information. The Japs would certainly pick up
that broadcast. They’d know we had discovered them and they’d be ready
for us. We want the attack to come by surprise. So we have arranged
certain spots for each of you to arrive at on certain days and at
specific hours. A patrol plane will visit each of those spots, clearly
marked so that you will not mistake it for an enemy plane. He will land
on the water and pick up any information you may have. This same
procedure is to be followed twenty-four hours later at another spot
further away.

“If by that time not one of you has found the convoy, you are to go
your own ways, looking for whatever you can find on this patrol. And by
that time, if you find anything like the big convoy, the only thing to
do will be to surface and radio us so we can all close in for the kill.
We’ll lose the element of surprise but we’ll get them, anyway.”

Next, the Intelligence Officer went over the details of routes and
rendezvous spots for each submarine. March saw at once that _Kamongo_
was taking a westerly course from their base, then heading northwest.
It seemed to him that this should be one of the most likely routes for
a convoy to take from Japan to Truk, and he was pleased.

Then Larry Gray asked a question of the Intelligence Officer.

“Those rendezvous spots,” he said. “They appear to be in open sea, but
I know there are little atolls all over the place. Are they near such
islands?”

“No, they are not,” the Captain said. “Purposely. The Japs have little
garrisons on a great many of those tiny islands that look no more than
bumps on the sea. Some of them have radios. If they saw the contact of
an American sub and an American patrol plane so far from our bases,
they’d report it. That wouldn’t tell the Japs much, but the less they
know the better we like it, no matter how unimportant it may seem. No,
the meeting places are in open water. The navigators have a little work
to do on this patrol.”

Larry glanced at March and smiled. March knew it wasn’t the easiest
thing in the world to find one exact spot in the middle of a big ocean
by dead reckoning.

After going over all details of the complicated plan thoroughly, the
skipper and their execs returned to their own submarines to see that
everything was ready for getting under way. Fuel and supplies and
torpedoes had been loaded into all the pigboats and there remained only
a final check before they could depart.

In the night they slipped away from their tender one by one and,
traveling on the surface under the protection of night, they headed out
to sea silently, on the alert, eagerly looking forward to the task
ahead. The crew of each pigboat felt that _they_ would be the ones to
find the convoy, the first to go in for the attack.

But on the second day not a sign of the convoy had been seen by any of
the submarines.

“Must be coming more slowly than we thought,” Larry suggested. “We’ll
catch up with it before the next patrol stop.”

At the time Larry spoke they were on the surface in the late afternoon,
watching the big American flying boat slide down out of the clouds and
circle above them. March had felt a thrill of satisfaction when he saw
it, knowing that it meant he had found his particular spot in the wide
Pacific, but Larry just seemed to take it for granted that his
navigator would have brought them where they were supposed to be, no
matter how difficult the job.

They gave their negative report to the patrol, learned that no other
pigboat contacted had had better luck, then submerged as the flying
boat took off from the choppy waters.

They ran submerged at periscope depth for two hours until darkness
began to fall, with one of the officers having his eye glued to the
little rubber piece on the ’scope every minute. Then they surfaced and
went steadily forward on their prescribed course. Two officers and
three lookouts stayed constantly on the bridge, and the sound detector
man below concentrated on his listening as never before. It might well
be that he could pick up the sound of a convoy’s propellers long before
the lookouts would sight anything, especially on a moonless night.

But dawn came and found them with nothing to report.

“You’d think there wasn’t even a war going on out here!” McFee
complained. “Don’t the Nips have _any_ ships in these waters?”

“Not in the waters we’ve been sailing on, anyway,” Stan Bigelow
replied. “I feel cross-eyed from looking so hard for the last four
hours.”

The bright sun sent them under the water again, but only to periscope
depth so that a constant lookout could be maintained. Still—late
afternoon found them filled with discouragement, waiting for the patrol
plane. The patrol had found nothing.

“Maybe one of the others—” March suggested, but Larry shook his head.

“I can’t believe it,” he said. “I think we’re in the best spot. We’re
furthest west of the whole bunch. That’s certainly the most likely
route for the convoy, keeping as close to the Philippines, to land
protection, as possible. If they were attacked they’d have support from
land-based planes there for quite a while. If anything, I think they
may even be further west than our route.”

March and Larry talked as they stood on the bridge waiting for their
patrol plane to come out of the west. Suddenly the lookout shouted,
“Plane coming out of the sun!”

“Can’t be ours!” Larry shouted. “Rig for dive, March.”

As March barked out the orders to take the ship down, the lookout
reported that the plane was a two-motored flying boat.

“Must be a Jap all right,” Larry said. They all knew that their own
plane was four-motored, one of the longest-ranged flying boats in the
world.

[Illustration: _A Two-Motored Flying Boat Came at Them_]

In two minutes March had slid down the hatch, to be followed by Larry,
who dogged the hatch cover tight.

“Take her down to a hundred and fifty,” he said.

_Kamongo_ turned her nose down and slid forward. As they leveled off at
a hundred and fifty they heard the roar and felt the jar of a depth
charge explosion. But it was not close and it went off far above them.
Then came another, a little closer but still threatening no danger to
the sub.

“Not full-size charges,” Larry said. “We’re all right at a hundred and
fifty. We’ll just wait him out. He can’t be carrying very many depth
charges in that job of his. But hold on—he’ll probably get a little
closer.”

They all held on, but nothing happened. Not another charge went off.
March looked questioningly at Larry.

“Don’t know,” Larry said. “Maybe he’s gone on. More likely he’s playing
possum, hoping we’ll think he’s gone and will come up for a look.
That’s when he’d get us.”

“Better stay down for a while,” March said.

“Yes, he can’t fly around up there in a circle forever,” Larry said.
“We’ll go up in an hour.”

“What about meeting our patrol plane?” March asked.

“I’m afraid we’ll miss him,” Larry said. “Can’t take a chance on going
up now. He might hang around for a while, of course, if the Jap has
gone.”

“He could take care of that Jap in a minute,” McFee said.

“Say, maybe that’s what happened,” March suggested.

“Perhaps,” said Larry. “Maybe our plane came and drove off the Jap. But
we can’t be sure. I’m not going to risk a sub and sixty men just to
find out.”

Then the sound man turned excitedly.

“I hear something, sir,” he said. “Something in Morse—sounds like a
hammer tapping against metal. I’ll have it in a minute.”

They waited impatiently as the sound man took down the message. Then he
handed it to Larry.

“_Kamongo_,” it said. “Jap went home. Come on up.”

Larry grinned. “It’s okay,” he said. “The Jap wouldn’t have known we
were _Kamongo_. It’s our plane. Take her up.”

When the ship surfaced and Larry scrambled through the hatch on to the
bridge he saw the big American flying boat resting on the water not a
quarter of a mile away. It taxied over beside the submarine as March
and Mac joined Larry on the bridge.

“I thought you’d get that hammer-on-the-hull message,” the plane’s
pilot called with a smile. “Nippo just took one look at me coming and
decided he had a date west of here in a big hurry.”

Larry passed on his report of not having sighted the big Jap convoy and
learned that no other submarine had found it either.

“Well, you’re on your own now,” the pilot said. “Go get ’em and good
luck.”

They waved as the plane turned and roared over the water, lifted in the
air and circled to the east with a last dip of its wings.

“Now where do we go from here?” March asked.

“We’ll head west,” Larry said. “After that Jap plane. Let’s get going.
I’m going to find that convoy!”

Meanwhile, the Jap plane heading west had sighted something else. Its
pilot was angry at having been driven away from an American submarine
just when it was about to blow the hated pigboat to its ancestors. And
there ahead of him—to make up for that loss—was a lone American fighter
plane. He grinned happily.

“American plane,” he said to his co-pilot. “We get him.”

The co-pilot looked worried. “American fighter too fast for slow flying
boat. Maybe he get us!”

But the pilot was angry and not to be argued with. “No, we get American
fighter!”

It was obvious that the American had seen them, but the plane did not
put on a sudden burst of speed, did not maneuver quickly to get into
position for the attack.

The co-pilot grinned. “American plane damaged,” he said. “American
plane cannot fly fast!”

“Now will you question what I say?” demanded the pilot. “I said we get
American plane. Our gods damage plane so we _can_ get it.”

Scoot Bailey looked at the approaching Jap bomber and frowned. Here was
a quick decision to be made. He had been out with the other fighters
and bombers from _Bunker Hill_ attacking the Jap garrison on a small
island to the north. A lucky shot from one of the few defending Jap
Zeros—before it went down—clipped Scoot’s oil line. There was a leak,
though not a big one, and the engine was heating up badly. So Scoot had
been separated from the others and now was limping home to his carrier,
trying to get the best speed he could without overheating the engine
too much. It had not been an easy job to nurse it along that way, for
the oil was dripping away drop by drop. Still, he thought he might make
it, for he had only about forty more miles to go.

“And now this clumsy boat of the Japs has to show up!” he shouted to
himself angrily. “I could take him in a minute if I was okay, but with
this leaky oil line—what’ll I do? If I give her the gun and really
swoop down on this bird, I’ll force out most of the oil that I’ve got
left, heat up the engine so much it’ll burn out. But if I don’t, then
I’m just like a clay pigeon, sitting here waiting to be taken.”

Scoot smiled. “Doesn’t take long to make up your mind in a case like
that. I’ll get that baby who thinks I’m crippled and can’t fight back.
And then I’ll just be setting myself down on the sea somewhere and
hoping to be picked up, though there’s not much hope for that here.”

He let the Jap patrol plane come on, continued to act as if he couldn’t
maneuver the plane. He wiggled the wings as if he were trying to make
his craft do something it wouldn’t do. He succeeded in filling the Jap
pilot with such confidence that the man was happily off guard.

Then, at the last minute, he gave his Hellcat the gun and she almost
jumped out from under him. Up he rose, then did a wing-over and swooped
down on the Jap plane from above and behind. Big splashes of oil were
covering his windshield, forced from the leaky line by the sudden rush
of power in the engine. The Jap plane was just a blur when Scoot
pressed the gun button and heard the pounding of bullets from his
machine guns.

Then he pulled up and to the right, looking out the side. Yes, he had
done it. The Jap bomber was afire, but trying to turn to the left. Then
Scoot saw what he was aiming for—a tiny reef with a few palm trees a
few miles to the south. Suddenly the Jap plane blew up in the air with
a roar. Scoot felt the shock of the blast and watched the pieces of
flaming plane plummet to the sea below, where a steaming smoke arose
from the water.

Scoot’s smile was frozen by a hard hammering knock from his engine.

“That did it!” he exclaimed. “She’s conking out, and right about now.
Maybe I can make that little island even if the Jap couldn’t.”

He edged the plane around with the last gasps from the engine and put
her into a glide toward the little spot of land. Then it occurred to
him that there might be Japs on the island, tiny as it was, and with
one hand he checked his service revolver to be sure that he might take
a few with him before he went himself, if the worst should happen.

“And all that depends on whether I make it in this glide or not,” Scoot
said. “But it looks okay.”

The plane was slipping down the sky fast, approaching the island. About
ten feet above the water, Scoot leveled her off and pancaked into the
water, trying to get his tail to act as a brake. The controls flew from
his hands and his head hit the top of his cockpit. But he didn’t lose
consciousness from the blow, even though he was badly stunned.

He saw the rocky shore of the island rushing toward him as the plane
seemed to skim over the water. Then he struck the rocks, was thrown
forward, and heard a ripping, tearing sound as the bottom of his
fuselage was crushed and mangled on the rocks.

He felt a throb in his forehead and realized that he was looking at the
slightly twisted floor of his cockpit.

“Must have been knocked out for a minute,” Scoot told himself.

He lifted his head and looked around. His plane was entirely on dry
land. It had skidded over the rocks, leaving the water. Right in front
of him was the smooth slanting trunk of a palm tree. He saw no movement
anywhere.

“Well, if there were Japs here they’d have been on top of me long
before this.”

Scoot unfastened his safety belt and crawled from his seat, feeling his
bruised arms and legs to make sure they were whole. In another moment
he stood on the rocky shore surveying sadly his crumpled and twisted
ship.

“My beautiful Hellcat!” he said, patting her side. “Look what I’ve done
to you!”

Then he turned and looked the island over. It was, he could easily see,
not more than two hundred yards long and fifty feet wide, and it curved
in a gentle arc. There were rocks, a few palm trees, some low bushes
and nothing else.

“Well, I might as well like it,” Scoot said. “It may be my home for the
duration!”

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                            CHAPTER FIFTEEN

                            FIND THE CONVOY!


March and Larry stood over the navigation table and looked at charts.

“We’re just about here now,” March said, pointing to a spot not far
east of the Philippines.

“What’s that?” Larry asked, putting his finger tip on a tiny dot near
by.

“A tiny atoll,” March said. “Couple of hundred yards long, that’s all.”

“Let’s pull into the lee of it and surface,” Larry said. “There won’t
be any Japs on something that small. We can charge the batteries up
full, get plenty of fresh air, and plan our campaign from here on in.”

“Right,” March agreed. “We’ll reach it in about an hour. We’ve gone
about two hours since the patrol plane left us.”

So it was that Scoot Bailey, lying at the edge of the beach not far
from his wrecked plane, which he had covered with boughs so it would
not be seen by Jap patrols, heard a rushing of water a little way from
shore and saw a huge black hull appear from the deep, not a hundred
feet out!

He scrambled behind a bush quickly and peered out cautiously, though it
was so dark that no one on the sub could possibly have seen him.

“A sub!” he exclaimed. “But the question is—Jap or American?”

He tried to find a marking that would tell him the answer to his
question, but it was too dark to see anything. Then he made out figures
of men on the bridge, two men looking around. One said something to the
other, but so low that he could not make out the language. One of the
men took up a lookout position.

“If it’s a Jap,” Scoot muttered to himself, “I’d hate to let it get
away from me. I’m probably not in any danger. It must just be up to
charge batteries. They wouldn’t come ashore here for anything—nothing
to come for, unless some of the men just want to plant their feet on
solid ground for a change. Even then I can hide.”

He thought hard. “Seems as if there ought to be something I could do,
though one grounded flier against a sub is kind of tough odds.”

He was so busy trying to think what he could do to sink a Jap submarine
single-handed that he convinced himself that it _was_ Japanese.

“The machine guns in my plane!” he exclaimed suddenly. “They probably
still work if I can get at them. The plane’s heading the wrong way or I
could just shoot them as is. But maybe I can get one or two out.”

Then he wondered if fifty-caliber machine-gun bullets could possibly
sink a submarine.

“Probably not,” he told himself. “But they could pick off quite a few
officers and men. And then if the rest decided to come and get me, I’d
get quite a few more on their way in.”

Suddenly the Diesels on the submarine roared into life, and quickly
settled down to a steady purr.

“Charging batteries is right,” Scoot told himself. “That’s just enough
sound to keep them from hearing me try to get a gun out of my plane. Of
course, they’ve probably got their own machine gun unlimbered up there.
Usually do when they’re surfaced like this. But—well, I’ll see what I
can do.”

Scoot crawled over to his plane and started to work. Taking off the
engine cowling seemed to him to make a terrific noise and he stopped to
listen, wondering if he had been heard. The sound from the Diesels
seemed very low. And then he heard something—something that made his
heart leap.

“Car—reee me back to old Virginnneee!” sang a high tenor voice. The
lookout was indulging in his favorite sport. Scoot leaped out on the
shore.

“Yippeeee!” he shouted at the top of his lungs.

On the bridge of the submarine, March whirled around at the sound of
the strange cry from the tiny island. Without a word one of the
enlisted men had leaped to the machine gun and now he poured a round of
shots at the shore. Then there was silence for a moment. From behind a
palm tree came a voice.

“Say—have a heart!” Scoot cried. “I’m an American!”

“How do we know?” demanded March over the sound of the Diesels. He
would like to have shut them off so he could hear better, but he wanted
to keep them running for a quick getaway in case there was any sort of
Jap force on that tiny atoll. The sound of the American voice sounded
genuine, but you could never be sure. Too many Japs who had lived in
America went back home to fight in Jap armies. They spoke English
fairly well, some of them, and they had used it to trick trusting
Americans too many times.

By this time Larry Gray had scrambled up on the bridge beside March who
quickly explained what had happened. Stan and Mac joined them,
wondering at the sound of machine-gun fire.

“I’m an American flier!” Scoot shouted back. “Crashed here this
afternoon.”

“Turn on the searchlight!” Larry ordered, and in a moment the powerful
beam found the lone figure on the rocky beach.

“Only one man,” March said. “And it sure looks like a Navy uniform,
slightly mussed up. He must be okay, Skipper.”

“Can’t ever be sure,” Larry said. “There may be a pack of Japs back
behind those trees. It may be a swiped uniform, anyway.”

“But he looks white and tall,” March said.

“Yes, he does,” Larry agreed. “But if he’s an American—wait, he’s
calling.”

“I know you can’t take any chances on a trap,” the voice came to them
over the water. “You tell me what to do and I’ll do it—to the letter.”

“All right,” Larry called back. “We’re sure you must be American, all
right, but we won’t take a chance. Take your clothes off and swim out
to us. We’ll keep the light on you and you’re covered at every minute
with a machine gun.”

On shore Scoot gulped at the idea of the machine gun pointing at him
every minute. But he agreed, knowing that in a similar situation he
would be just as cautious about any possible Jap trick. He quickly
stripped to his underwear, leaving his clothes on the rocks at his
feet. Then, arms in the air so the men on the sub would see that he
carried nothing, he waded into the water, always in the bright spot of
the searchlight. When the water came up to his chest he bent forward
and started swimming, being careful to raise both arms well out of the
water at each stroke. But he had to keep his head down and his eyes
averted because of the bright glare of the light.

Soon his hand struck the steel side of the hull and helping arms
reached down to pull him up on the deck. Two enlisted men and McFee
were there, looking him over carefully.

“He’s okay, Skipper!” Mac called up to the bridge. “Not a thing on him
and he’s as American as Uncle Sam.” Then to Scoot, “How are you,
fellow? Glad we found you. Come on up.”

He led the dripping Scoot to the ladder leading up to the bridge. As he
climbed over the edge, Scoot saw a familiar face—and almost fell over
backward to the deck again!

“March!” he yelled at the top of his lungs.

“Scoot Bailey!” March cried, rushing forward. He threw his arms around
the shivering and wet flier and pounded him on the back. “Scoot, my
boy! It’s really you! How on earth—”

But Scoot was shouting and talking, too, laughing and dazed by the many
things that had happened to him in the last few hours.

McFee and the enlisted men looked on in amazement at the scene, but
Larry Gray was smiling. He remembered the name of Scoot Bailey from the
many things March had told him about his closest friend. And he had
seen enough strange things happen in the war not to be too startled at
anything that happened out in the middle of the ocean.

In a few minutes they had gone below and Scoot was wrapped in a blanket
while two men put out in a collapsible boat to bring his clothes from
the island. Scoot sat with the others in the tiny ready-room and drank
a cup of hot coffee, while they talked and asked questions and answered
them.

[Illustration: _March Pounded Scoot on the Back_]

Soon everyone was brought up to date on the most important things that
had been happening. McFee and Stan, who had joined them, knew who Scoot
was and how he came to be there. Outside, word went scurrying around
among the men that they’d picked up a Navy flier, that it had turned
out to be the exec’s oldest and best friend. Everybody felt happy.

“With a stroke of luck like that,” Pete Kalinsky said, “maybe we can
find that Jap convoy now.”

March told Scoot about their search for the convoy, their encounter
with the Jap patrol plane that very afternoon, and how the American
plane had chased him away. Scoot was serious right away.

“Two-motored Aichi flying boat?” he asked.

“Yes, why?” March asked.

“I took care of him for you,” Scoot said with a smile. “He _will_ try
to depth-charge my friend, will he? Well, he won’t do _that_ any more.”

Scoot told them about his leaky oil line, his encounter with the Jap
plane, shooting it down, and then making the tiny island in a glide.

“And then I came along and picked you up,” March laughed, “with only a
few hours’ wait.”

“Remember—a long time ago,” Scoot said, “you told me you’d probably
have to come along in your sub and save me from a bunch of Japs?”

“Sure I remember!” March cried. “Didn’t know I was such a good prophet.”

“You didn’t save me from any Japs,” Scoot snorted. “Just from boredom
spending the rest of the war on that island. But let me tell you
another thing—you don’t know how close you came to getting killed.”

“What do you mean?” Larry asked.

“I mean you ought to pin a medal on whoever it is in your crew that
sings ‘Carry me Back to old Virginny,’” Scoot said. “Up to that time I
had decided you were Japs and I was getting a machine gun out of my
plane.”

“You mean you were going to attack us single-handed?” demanded Stan
Bigelow.

“Sure—I didn’t have anybody else to help me, so it had to be
single-handed,” Scoot said. “I didn’t think I could sink the sub, but I
thought I could wait till a lot of officers and men were on deck and
pick off most of them.”

“Now, that’s the spirit I like,” Larry said. “Glad to have you along on
this trip with us.”

“Oh—” Scoot looked startled. “I hadn’t thought of that. I suppose I
have to go along with you.”

March laughed. “Of course, you do. We’re not a bus service. We’re out
looking for a Jap convoy and we can’t very well take time to run you
back to your base or carrier before going on.”

“Well, so I’m a submariner after all,” Scoot said. “Nice looking boat,
I must say. Can I look her over?”

“Sure, from stem to stern,” Larry agreed. “But not until you’ve eaten
something. I imagine that island didn’t provide you with much of a
dinner. The cook is fixing up something for you.”

So Scoot got into his clothes and ate a delicious meal over which he
exclaimed mightily.

“Say, there’s something to pigboat service, anyway,” he said. “I
thought we ate pretty well on the _Bunker Hill_ but this is fit for a
king.”

“Submarine men _are_ kings,” March said, and for once Scoot would not
argue on their favorite subject of the past.

Soon they went to bed, except for those on watch, and at dawn the next
morning proceeded on their way, submerged. Scoot was fascinated at the
diving operation and looked with some awe on March as he carried out
the complicated maneuver. It was only then that he learned that March
had become second in command of _Kamongo_. March then led his friend on
a tour of the submarine, explaining the workings of all the complicated
machinery, introducing him to the crew, who welcomed him warmly.

“Not bad, not bad,” Scoot said. “I begin to see why you like all this
so much. Nice small crowd here, all getting along well together. And I
don’t mind the idea of being under water at all, the way I thought I
would.”

Scoot and March and Larry sat down in the wardroom to go over their
plans.

“You see,” Larry explained, “I have a hunch the Japs are following a
course with this convoy entirely different from any they’ve followed
before. They are aware that we know they’ll reinforce Truk as fast as
possible. So we’re looking for them to take a direct route. But the
Chinese reported that there was something strange about the route. What
is it? It’s that it is so indirect.”

“Sounds reasonable,” Scoot agreed.

“Well, they don’t want to take forever getting there, however,” Larry
went on, “so they’re not being too indirect. I wouldn’t be a bit
surprised if they went down the western side of the Philippines, as if
heading for Indo-China or Burma or the Dutch East Indies. Then they
might cut through east above Mindanao, the lower of the big islands in
the Philippines. After that they’d make a fast dash straight east for
Truk.”

“Why wouldn’t we catch them easily there?” March asked.

“We might,” Larry explained. “But for some time they’d be under
protection of land-based planes from the Philippines. Then, too, we’d
be anxious to scout them out as early as possible, so our subs would be
farther north, looking along the more direct routes. They’d have a
chance of getting through without a scratch, but anyway they’d not have
far to go after we _did_ sight them.”

“What do you want to do now?” Scoot asked.

“I’m heading west toward the Philippines trying to test my theory,”
Larry said. “But I can’t make much speed, having to run submerged in
the daytime. I’m afraid they may be out in the clear before I can get
there, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed.”

All day long they ran submerged, keeping a constant lookout. They saw a
Jap patrol plane and dived out of sight before he got near them. But
there was no sight of the convoy. Darkness began to creep over the
ocean and they were getting ready to surface when Larry, at the
periscope, saw a Jap seaplane.

“Over to the right,” he said. “Doesn’t see us. He’s too low. We won’t
need to dive unless he pulls up higher again. No—he’s coming down on
the water. Must be something there.”

March took a look and thought he saw a small island near the Jap plane.

“Getting too dark to see clearly,” he said. “Shall we go over and have
a look, Skipper?”

“Yes, let’s do,” Larry said. “I’m curious about a seaplane here. That’s
the kind that’s got pontoons and is usually catapulted from a
battleship or cruiser. You wouldn’t expect them out here. They can’t do
long cruising.”

March gave the order to change course, and they stayed under the water
as they neared the island.

“Hope there’s still enough light by the time we get close enough to
have a good look,” Larry said as he peered through the periscope. “Good
thing it isn’t overcast today or we couldn’t see a thing. And I
wouldn’t want to hang around until morning just for a look at what
might turn out to be nothing.”

In another few minutes they were close enough to see, and Larry
reported to the others that a small boat was just putting off from the
seaplane which was anchored to a buoy in the little harbor. Scoot took
a look.

“Boy, those periscopes are wonders,” he exclaimed. “Sharp as can be.
Sure, I know the ship. And there’s two naval fliers in the dinghy with
two Jap soldiers rowing them to shore. A whole flock of soldiers on
shore. Wonder what it’s all about.”

As March and the others had a look, Larry told them all what he thought
this latest event meant.

“Seaplanes come from battleships or cruisers usually,” he said. “I
think this plane might well be from some of the warships protecting the
convoy headed for Truk. The Japs have got lookout posts on a lot of
these little islands here—probably plenty more than usual right now.
They aren’t trusting to radio, even in code, any more than we are. And
they’re having a seaplane or two go out ahead of the convoy to pick up
reports from their garrisons on the various islands. This is the
plane’s last stop for the night. In the morning he’ll go back to his
ship and make his report as to how many American patrol planes or subs
have been seen in the area by these outposts.”

The others thought this over and agreed that it was a likely
hypothesis. Then Scoot asked for another look at the periscope, and the
others sensed that there was some excitement in his attitude. When he
turned away from the ’scope he said to Larry. “Can I talk to you about
an idea I’ve got?”

“Sure, come into the wardroom,” Larry said with an eager smile. “Come
along, March.”

They sat down around the little table.

“Now what is it?” Larry asked.

“Here’s the idea,” Scoot said. “I know that plane—all about it. They
made us study those things, though I couldn’t see the point of it at
the time. It usually has two men in it. Two men went ashore. So the
plane’s unattended. I’m going to swipe it!”

“Swipe it!” Larry and March exclaimed together.

“Sure!” Scoot said. “If you can surface enough to let me out—later when
it’s good and dark—I’ll swim to it, get in, cut the anchor, and be off
before those Nips know what’s going on.”

“Then what will you do?” Larry demanded.

“I’m in a Jap seaplane,” Scoot said. “Outposts won’t pay any attention
to me, because I’m right where a Jap seaplane ought to be flying along,
going back to its battleship in the morning. Nobody will question me by
radio because they’re keeping radio silence.”

“All this is assuming that my hypothesis is correct,” Larry said.

“I think it is,” Scoot said. “At least it’s what a hypothesis is—a good
basis on which to work until it’s disproved. So let’s go ahead. You
want to find this convoy faster than your sub can get you there. In
that plane I can find it in a hurry—if it’s there.”

“You certainly can,” Larry agreed, beginning to get excited about
Scoot’s idea. “But when you’ve found it—what then?”

“Well—I get word to you somehow,” Scoot said. “Now, let’s see—”

“I’ve got an idea,” March said. “Scoot sights the convoy, gets a line
on its size and direction, then turns around and heads right back
again. He knows our exact course. He’ll come down on that course at a
spot we designate. We’ll surface and pick him up there. That eliminates
all radio communication—even if that Jap plane has a radio and Scoot
can get it on our wave-length and use it. And if he did we’d have to be
traveling on the surface to get his message any distance away, and we’d
better not do that too much.”

“Sounds okay,” Larry said. “But what happens on that Jap convoy when
they see their seaplane approach, look around, and then head back
again? Won’t they think that’s mighty funny?”

“Sure they will,” Scoot said. “And I can’t quite guess what they’ll do
about it. Maybe nothing, just put it down as another Jap pilot gone
wacky. Anyway, they won’t feel there’s any danger. But they might send
another plane up to have a look and see what’s wrong. I’d just hope to
be on my way by that time and out of his reach. Anyway, that’s one of
the chances we take. While I’m flying there I can get the Jap radio in
shape, so that I could radio a message to you if I saw I was going to
be shot down. You could surface for a short while about the time that
might be happening, so you’d get any message.”

“Well,” Larry said, “there are a lot of _if’s_ in this whole
proposition, but for some reason I like it.”

“What’s the gamble?” Scoot demanded.

“You,” Larry said. “Your life.”

“And that’s mighty little chance for the U.S. Navy to take if it means
finding this convoy early enough to wipe it out before it reaches Truk.
If the idea doesn’t work, then we’ve just been wrong and missed our
convoy. Maybe you pick me up safe and sound as planned and maybe not.
That’s all.”

“What do you think, March?” Larry asked.

“Well—” March hesitated. “Well—I think it’s worth a shot, if Scoot
thinks he can get that plane away.”

“That’s the easiest part of it,” Scoot said. “Remember what a good
swimmer I am. I swam to get to the sub and now I’ll swim away from it.”

Larry Gray thought for a while before making up his mind. It was his
responsibility, this decision, and he had to weigh it carefully.
Finally he spoke.

“All right, we’ll try it,” he said, and Scoot allowed himself a mild
whoop of pleasure. “Here’s the plan, to get it clear. We surface in
about six hours, when everybody except a sentry or two will be asleep.
Scoot is ready to go and he swims to the plane. We stay up just long
enough to see that he gets away, then we dive and set out on our course
which Scoot knows. He flies toward the passage above Mindinao, where I
think the convoy might be. If he doesn’t sight it within two hours
flying he turns around and flies back, landing on the sea at a spot
agreed on in advance. If the weather’s bad, that’ll be tough, of
course. We surface for a while, riding the vents and ready to
crash-dive. So we can pick up Scoot if he’s even near the designated
spot.”

Larry paused for a moment and the others remained silent.

“If Scoot sights the convoy, he can tell fast how many ships, what
speed, what direction. He heads back for that spot on the ocean as
planned and we pick him up. If the Japs send up a plane or planes to
get him, and if they attack him, he’ll try to parachute out with his
life belt, or get his plane down whole or something so he can be picked
up on our course. Anyway, if attacked, he may radio us about the convoy
first if he’s been able to get the plane’s radio going.”

“What do we do,” March asked, “if Scoot does find the convoy?”

“Then we radio,” Larry said. “The Japs may hear us, but we can’t help
that. But we’ll go on in to the attack alone. We’ll try to get under
and come up in the middle of the convoy so as to scatter it in time for
the other subs and the planes that will be coming after they get our
radio message.”

“All clear,” March said. “Now let’s set our course and select our spot
for picking up Scoot.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                            CHAPTER SIXTEEN

                             DOWNED AT SEA!


“Not a sign of life there,” Larry said as he looked through the
periscope. “Beach fires all out. Down ’scope. Take her up.”

They moved toward the ladder leading up to the conning tower, Larry
first, Scoot immediately behind him, in trunks. He held a bundle in one
hand.

“Hope I can keep these clothes a little dry,” Scoot said. “I’d like to
be dressed when I do this if I can.”

Larry unfastened the hatch cover and hurried up on to the bridge. Scoot
was behind him in a second, followed by March and two enlisted men who
manned the machine guns at once. Everyone moved swiftly and noiselessly.

Scoot was already sliding down the ladder to the deck, with March right
behind him. Larry stayed on the bridge, looking sharply toward shore at
every minute.

“So long March,” Scoot whispered as he slid into the water. “I’ll be
seeing you.”

“Good luck, Scoot,” March whispered back. And that was all. For just a
second he watched Scoot strike out toward the plane, holding aloft his
bundle of clothes and making no splashing sound. Then March turned and
went back up the ladder to the bridge.

There he stood quietly beside Larry, who said nothing. March picked up
Scoot’s dim figure in the water, listening at the same time for the
sound of an alarm on the beach in case a sentry saw the black hull of
the submarine offshore.

“He’s reached it,” March whispered to Larry.

“Good.”

“Must be unfastening the buoy now,” March said. Again they waited in
silence.

“Can’t be sure, but I think he’s climbing up on the pontoon,” March
said. “Yes—I can just barely make him out. Can’t be seen from shore.”

Then there was a long silence, tense, expectant. March tried to picture
Scoot slipping into trousers and shirt, climbing into the plane’s
cockpit, feeling for the switches and controls in the dark. He’d
probably have to wind up the starter. And suddenly at this moment,
March wondered how much gas the Jap plane had in it.

“Must be enough for it to get back to its battleship,” he told himself.

March jumped. A coughing roar split the silence and the darkness.
Flashes of flame came from the exhaust pipes of the plane as the engine
roared, subsided, roared again. Scoot had taken just half a minute to
warm it up. Then he gave it the gun and March saw the plane begin to
move.

“Down, men!” Larry shouted, and the two men left their guns and slid
down the hatch. “Get on down, March,” Larry said, “and take her down.
I’m right behind you.”

But at that moment shots rang out from the shore. Figures were running
along the beach, shouting and gesticulating wildly. The seaplane was
roaring away over the water and some men were firing at it.

March, his feet on the rungs of the ladder, looked up, startled. And
then Larry fell at his feet.

“I’m hit, March,” Larry said. “Don’t waste a minute. I can get down.
Hurry.”

Grabbing his Skipper, March hauled him to the companionway. He heard
the spatter of bullets against the sides of the submarine. He lowered
Larry quickly down the hatch and men below grabbed him and helped him
from the ladder. March slid down after him, shouting commands to take
her down while he was still closing the hatch.

“Call Sallini,” he said to one of the men. “Take the Skipper to his
quarters. Mac, go in with him.”

The roar of water into the ballast tanks flowed over them, and the
whine of the electric motors told them the ship was under way.

“Steady at fifty,” he said. “Hold course. We’ll surface in a little
while. Stan, will you take over here? I want to see how the Skipper is.”

“Sure, March,” Stan said. “Pat him on the back for me. Hope it’s not
bad.”

March stood at the door of Gray’s quarters. There was not room inside.
Larry was on his bunk, looking up to smile with an effort, but with
pain marking his face.

“This was one _if_ we didn’t think of, wasn’t it, March?” he asked.

“How are you, Larry?” March asked.

“It hurts like the devil,” the Skipper replied. “I think there’s two or
three slugs in my chest somewhere. Sallini will be able to tell in a
minute.”

The pharmacist was ripping off Gray’s shirt and undershirt, which
showed spreading stains of blood. McFee helped him, trying to move Gray
as little as possible. Then Sallini examined the wounds carefully for a
few moments.

“Three’s right, Skipper,” he said. “And they’re still in you. I don’t
see how this one missed the heart but it must have or you wouldn’t be
talking now. This one up here busted your collar-bone. That’s what
hurts so much right now. And the other, on the right side must’ve gone
right through the lung. I can’t tell if any might be lodged in the
spine or not. Doubt it or you’d have passed out—couldn’t move much.”

“Can’t move much anyway,” the Skipper replied weakly.

March saw that his face was draining white, and his eyes began to cloud
over.

“Sulfa tablets, anyway,” Sallini said. “And bandages to stop the
bleeding here, though there’s not much likely to come out while he’s
lying down. May be some internal bleeding but I couldn’t do anything
about that. Don’t know what else I could do right now.”

“Okay, Sallini,” March said. “Go get what you need and do it as fast as
you can.”

The pharmacist left and March stepped close to the Skipper, leaning
down close to him as Mac was.

“March,” Gray said. “I don’t know what the devil this is, but I feel
like passing out. Anyway—and this is an order from your Captain—carry
out plans exactly as we have laid them out. You’re in command of this
submarine when I’m—er, incapacitated. McFee will help you carry on. Go
get that convoy!”

“We’ll get it, Larry,” March said. “But you’ll do the job, because
you’ll be up and around by the time we get there. Or at least you can
direct the battle from your bunk.”

Gray smiled and let his head fall back. He seemed to be sleeping. Then
Sallini reappeared and Mac and March stepped to the companionway and
watched through the door while the pharmacist did what he could for
Gray.

The Skipper was unconscious and they had done all they could. March,
with a heavy heart, stepped back into the control room and took the
interphone from the orderly.

“The Skipper’s been wounded,” he said to the entire ship. “I know that
makes you all feel just as badly as I feel right now. Sallini’s done
all he can for him and he’s resting. Can’t tell much about his
condition, but I’ll let you know regularly how he is.”

Then he gave the order to surface the boat and they went ahead on
course in the darkness. March stood his watch on the bridge, looking
ahead in the blackness, wondering how Scoot was making out up there,
and how the Skipper was making out in his own blackness down below.
Sallini had given Larry some blood plasma to overcome some of the loss
of blood that the Skipper had suffered, but Gray was still unconscious.
When March went below as Stan came to relieve him, he found Sallini
worried.

“His fever’s going up,” he said. “I’ve just given him more sulfa. Don’t
know what it can be but there’s infection somewhere. Wish I could get
those slugs out of him, but that’s a ticklish business.”

“We’ll wait and see,” March said. “Maybe the sulfa will lick the
infection and the fever will come down. If not—well, we’ll decide then
what to do. Meanwhile, get some sleep. You’ve been up all night.”

March lay down on his bunk for a while and managed to drift off to
sleep for three hours. Just as dawn was breaking he got up and had a
cup of coffee, had the boat submerged to periscope depth, and traveled
ahead more slowly, checking regularly to make sure he was exactly on
the course he had agreed on with Scoot.

[Illustration: _The Skipper Was Still Unconscious_]

“I wonder how Scoot’s making out,” he said. “He might be pretty near
that convoy now—if there’s a convoy there.”

Scoot was at that moment disgusted. He had been able to do nothing with
the Jap plane’s radio during all these hours, and now, even with more
light to see by, he could not get it working.

“Maybe when the Japs order radio silence,” he told himself, “they
enforce it by gumming up the radio some way so it _can’t_ be used.
Anyway, I can’t do anything with this baby. I’m going to be keeping
radio silence whether I want to or not.”

So he turned his attention to the sea ahead of him, where he hoped to
sight the convoy. Looking at the chart occasionally and checking his
speed, he calculated where he must be.

Then he saw it! First a few clouds of smoke far ahead on the horizon.
Then little dots below the smoke—dots that were Jap ships. More and
more and more of them he saw, line after line in orderly procession. Up
ahead and at the sides were destroyers and near the front a
battleship—no, two battleships. As he flew on further he made out a
carrier in the center and at the end three cruisers and more destroyers
kept a rear guard.

“Don’t want to get any closer than I have to,” Scoot spoke aloud to
himself. “But I want to get all the dope I can and as accurately as
possible. Got to stick around long enough to check their speed and
course.”

He flew on, counting, checking, making another estimate to compare with
his first.

“About fifty-five ships,” he said to himself. “Eight miles long, three
miles wide. Pretty slow—there must be some old freighters in there.
About ten knots.”

He grabbed a chart and quickly plotted the convoy’s course, wrote brief
notations of his conclusions, tucked the paper into a waterproof pouch
and stuck it in his pocket.

“Won’t trust to memory, anyway,” he said.

Then, feeling that he had learned all he could, he banked the plane and
turned away, still about two miles ahead of the leading ships. He
looked back down at them as he headed eastward once more.

“Right now they’re wondering what’s going on,” he said to himself. “Up
to now they haven’t thought a thing. They saw the plane coming in and
just thought it was a little earlier than they had expected. That maybe
made them wonder if I had some special report. But now they really are
in a dither! They just can’t figure out why I should come so close and
then turn back.”

He laughed. “Well, that’s their problem, not mine.”

He gave the little plane all the speed he could. If they were going to
send up a plane to have a look at him, he wanted to get as far away as
possible. They might send up several planes.

“If they’re fast, then I’m sunk,” Scoot said. “But why should they send
up a flock of planes to look at one Jap seaplane that acts a little
funny?”

He checked his course often, so that he could land where the submarine
could pick him up. And he kept looking behind for the Jap plane that
might be coming after him.

He did not have to wait long for that. Half an hour away from the
convoy he saw the fast little pursuit ship behind him, coming like the
wind. He wished his own plane could travel twice as fast, but he could
not urge another mile per hour from it. Gradually the gap closed
between the two planes.

“Now what?” Scoot asked himself. “What should I do? I’ll keep right on
this course, first of all. And I’ll just keep flying straight ahead as
if I were minding my own business. Nothing much else I _can_ do. That
plane’s got three times the speed and ten times the fire power of this
one!”

The pursuit was only a few hundred yards behind. It stayed there for a
while, apparently awaiting some kind of signal from the seaplane. Then
it came around to one side, and Scoot tried to hide his face.

“First and only time I ever wished I looked like a Jap,” Scoot said.

The fast plane flew alongside the other for a time, slowing down to
keep pace with it, but still some distance to one side.

“What is this?” Scoot asked. “Are we just going out for a spin
together? I wish he’d do something.”

The Jap flier obliged by cutting back and coming up on the other side,
then speeding up and circling around in front. It was at this moment
that he looked full into Scoot’s face. Scoot could even see the alarm
that filled him, the wide eyes, the gasp of amazement, as he realized
that an American was flying the Jap seaplane.

At that moment, Scoot pressed the trigger on his own machine gun, but
it was too late. The Jap had darted out of range just in time. He was
so fast that Scoot could not possibly maneuver his slow ship to battle
him.

“There’s only one chance,” Scoot said to himself, “and I’m going to try
it. If this monkey is the bad shot most of them are, he may miss on his
first try, even with a set-up like me. If he does, that’s my chance.”

The fast pursuit was diving on the seaplane’s tail. Scoot heard the
staccato rattling of the ship’s machine guns.

“Good!” he cried. “Firing while he’s still too far away, like all of
them! Too anxious!”

But then Scoot’s plane wobbled, tipped over, and went spiraling down to
the sea in a slow spin. The pursuit plane circled above and watched.
About fifty feet above the water, the seaplane lurched a little, seemed
to come out of its spin. The pursuit plane pilot looked puzzled, but he
smiled again as he saw the plane stall, slip back and hit the sea, tail
first.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                           CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

                                ATTACK!


It was the cold water that brought Scoot to his senses, cold water
creeping up over his chest. When he felt it, he scrambled forward, but
fell back in his seat at once. The arm he had reached out to pull
himself up with would not work. It hung limp at his side. He glanced
down and saw blood streaming from it.

“Got to do something about that!” he muttered dazedly. “Anyway, it
worked. He thought he hit me. I did a nice slow spinning dive. He
thought he’d got the pilot and the plane just went out of control, fell
into a natural slow spin. And did I keep it slow! He must have thought
it was funny when I pulled out of it just over the water, but I didn’t
make it look too good. Couldn’t. But I’d slowed her down plenty, then
put her into a stall and let her flop back tail first.”

The water was creeping higher as Scoot sat there thinking of what had
just happened. Then he shook himself to clear his head, reached up with
his good arm and pulled himself forward. The door of the cockpit was
already wrenched half off, so Scoot crawled out easily enough. But then
he slipped and fell into the water.

The shock revived him a little more so that he grabbed one pontoon.
Slowly and painfully he pulled himself up on it. Then he looked up into
the sky. Far to the west he saw the dot that was the Jap pursuit ship
heading back to its convoy. Scoot smiled weakly.

“He thinks he’s killed an American flier,” he mumbled. “He doesn’t know
how hard that is to do.”

The plane was not sinking any further. Its tail and most of the
fuselage were covered but the nose and wings and pontoons were above
the surface.

“Only one pontoon busted,” Scoot told himself. “The other’s holding us
up—that and the wing tanks that are almost empty.”

Then he saw his broken arm again. He had to stop that flow of blood. He
wriggled forward a little on the sloping pontoon so that he could wrap
his legs around the brace leading from it to the plane’s fuselage. Then
he used his good left arm to rip off most of one side of his shirt.
Holding one end of the strip in his teeth, he wound the cloth around
the bad arm above the break, making it as tight as he could. It slipped
a little as he tied it, but it was fairly tight. The flow of blood did
not stop, but it was greatly reduced.

“Don’t know how much longer I can keep my strength,” he said to
himself. “Better make myself fast somehow.”

[Illustration: _He Tied Himself to the Strut_]

Slowly he struggled out of his trousers, after taking the waterproof
pouch with the convoy information and putting it in his money belt.
Next he tied himself to the strut with the legs of his trousers. Then
he sat, looking eastward in the direction from which _Kamongo_ must
come.

“I’m not quite as far as I ought to be,” he thought, feeling
consciousness leaving him. “They’ll probably go right under me.”

It was there that March found him. He had brought _Kamongo_ to the
surface a short distance before the spot agreed upon for the meeting.
But there had been no sign of Scoot. Keeping steadily ahead on course,
March had ordered all men to stay below at their stations except for
himself and the controlman on the bridge. They were riding the vents,
with main ballast tanks open, and air vents at the top closed. The
water rushed in to fill part of the tanks, but not all of them, because
of the air trapped inside. That still allowed _Kamongo_ enough buoyancy
to keep on the surface, but not at full speed. All that was needed for
a dive was the opening of the air vents at the top of the ballast
tanks. That might save twenty seconds in the diving operations and
twenty seconds might make all the difference in the world.

March had looked frantically over the sea when they reached the
designated spot. Still no sign of Scoot. And no report from the radio.

“Something happened!” he muttered to himself. “Something happened!”

So he continued on the surface—mile after mile beyond the assigned
spot, in danger every minute from enemy planes that might sight him.
Still no word over the radio.

He was just about to give up and order the ship to submerge when he saw
the dot on the sea ahead. He was ready for a dive at any moment—but it
might be Scoot instead of an enemy craft. So he stayed on the surface,
and looked, looked, looked as they came nearer. Then he saw it was a
plane, crashed in a crazy position. He ordered main ballasts pumped and
full speed ahead. Next he ordered men up to man the guns in case this
should prove some trick of the enemy’s.

But long before they reached the plane they knew what it was. When they
were still some distance away, they saw the figure on one of the
pontoons. As they neared the plane, men were ready with a collapsible
boat. Quickly they rowed to the plane, lifted Scoot into the rocking
boat and took him back to the submarine. Lifting him up to the conning
tower, they heard him mumble something. He reached the bridge just in
time to have March lean close to his lips and hear, “Money belt—convoy.”

In another minute Scoot was below in March’s bunk and Sallini was
hovering over him. And March was looking at the chart and the
information about the big Jap convoy. He rushed to the interphone.

“We’ve found it!” he called to all hands. “Scoot Bailey found it. We’re
radioing headquarters, then going in to attack.”

There was a whoop of joy throughout the ship. This was what they came
out in pigboats for—to find a flock of Jap ships and send them to the
bottom!

Quickly March gave details in code to Scotty at the radio and soon the
message was flashing out over the water. In a moment there would be
action on submarines, at airfields, in navy bases to the south and east
where the Americans were waiting for just this news.

Then March took the ship down and they moved forward on a new course,
planned to bring them to the convoy at the earliest possible moment.
March figured it would take about two hours. By that time other ships
and subs would be on their way, and planes would be roaring overhead
soon after he reached the Jap ships.

He went in to Scoot and found Sallini smiling.

“He’ll be fine,” the pharmacist said. “Broken right arm, bad jagged cut
severing the artery. But we’ve got the blood flow stopped now, got the
wound clean and dressed. He’s had some blood plasma and I’ll keep
giving him more as long as he needs it. He lost plenty of blood, but
he’ll be okay fast.”

“Nothing besides the arm?” March asked.

“Just some cuts around the head and one leg,” Sallini said. “Nothing
serious. And exhaustion, too, but we can pull him out of that fast. He
ought to be talking in a few hours and walking in a few days.”

“How’s the Skipper?” March asked.

“Still unconscious. Fever high but receding a little bit. Maybe he’ll
make it.”

“Here I am going into battle with my Skipper and my best friend out
cold!” March exclaimed.

“You’ve got the whole crew with you, sir,” the pharmacist said. “Every
man of ’em. Let’s get in the middle of that bunch of Jap ships and
blast the daylights out of ’em!”

Tension began to rise in the boat as they neared the convoy, traveling
at a hundred and fifty feet where no shadow of a sub would be likely to
be seen from the air. March got on the phone and told all hands the
plan of attack, not minimizing the dangers.

“We’re going into the middle,” March said. “Alone. It was the Skipper’s
plan. We’ll be the first there, and we’re to scatter them so the planes
will find easy pickings and the other subs can pick them off as they
scamper away. We’ll have all tubes ready to go at just about the same
time—six fore and four aft. Then we’ll duck for all we’re worth and
we’ll go mighty deep and lay low.”

There was another shout through the ship and the men stood eagerly at
their posts. And then came waiting, tense waiting, as the ship moved
forward. Men had a cup of coffee, smoked a cigarette, walked back and
forth nervously. But they did little talking. They were waiting,
listening.

Finally the sound man picked up something.

“Propellers,” he said, “plenty of them—ten degrees to port.”

“Take her to two hundred feet,” March ordered, and then gave a slight
change in course to the helmsman.

“We’ll get right in their path and lay low without motors running. The
sound detectors on the advance destroyers won’t catch us, then. When
they’ve passed over we can pick up motors again because their own
propellers will kill all the sound ours make. We’ll come up in about
the middle, pick our spot and let go. I’ll want the periscope up for
just about five seconds.”

The boat leveled off at two hundred and fifty feet. Motors were shut
off. Soon the sound man reported the close approach of the propellers.
March had judged right—they were passing overhead.

“Destroyer a little to starboard, passing over,” the soundman reported.

“Another to port,” he reported in a moment. Then, a little later,
“Battleship.”

“Boy, wouldn’t it be nice to get that?” murmured one of the men.

“Nice, yes,” March replied. “But that wouldn’t do the job for the other
boys that we’re going to do. We’ll let one of the Forts get that
battleship. We’ll just send it running.”

The men nodded in agreement. They knew the Skipper’s plan was best.

Ship after ship passed over as there was silence in the submarine. Then
March spoke.

“Come up to seventy-five feet now. They can’t hear.”

The motors whined again and the sub tilted up slightly. Everyone
watched the depth hand move to seventy-five and stay there. The sound
man continued to report propellers overhead. March figured that they
must be getting near the center of the convoy.

“Say, here’s something!” the sound man exclaimed. There was complete
silence as he listened more intently. “That’s a carrier or I’m a
monkey!”

“This is our spot!” March said quietly. Then he spoke over the phone to
the entire ship. “We’ve found our spot. Right by a carrier.”

There were a few cries of pleasure, but most of the men were too
excited to shout. March gave the order to bring the boat up to
periscope depth, standing by the shaft ready to grab it.

As the ship leveled off he cried, “Up ’scope” and the big shaft slid
upward. March grabbed the handles and had his eyes in place in a
fraction of a second. All the others watched him intently. He swung the
’scope a little to the left, then to the right. His voice came sharply
then, giving the target setting for the forward tubes—all six of them.
The men knew that was for the carrier.

Then March swung the ’scope clear around a hundred and eighty degrees
and focused. “Troopship!” he called, and then gave the target setting
to be relayed to the after torpedo room.

“Down ’scope!” he called. “Stand by to fire!”

The shaft slid down. Everyone in the boat knew that the periscope might
have been seen even in those few seconds it was up, even though most
lookouts on the convoy were keeping their eyes chiefly on the seas
beyond the group of ships. The sound man would know if a destroyer came
racing toward them. But March was not going to wait.

“Fire one!” McFee pressed the button that fired number one torpedo.

“Fire two!” The second one shot from the bow.

“Fire three! Fire four! Fire five! Fire six!”

In rapid order the commands came, then everyone waited tensely. March
looked at his watch, counting off the seconds. Then it came—the roar,
the shock of an explosion, and the mighty cheer that tore through the
throats of every man on _Kamongo_. The first torpedo had struck home,
but at that moment March called out, “Fire seven! Fire eight! Fire
nine! Fire ten!” And during those commands the men heard further
explosions from the first torps that had gone streaking out.

March had not been able to count how many had come, but he knew that
McFee had done so. But now all were waiting for the first sounds from
the aft tubes. In a moment it came—the first torpedo against the
troopship, and March waited no longer.

“Take her down!” he cried. “Three hundred feet!”

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                            CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

                             DEPTH CHARGES


Three hundred feet was just about the limit for them. Pressure was
terrific at that level, they all knew. But they wanted to get as far
away from the depth charges to come as they could.

_Kamongo’s_ motors whined at high pitch as they sent the boat angling
down toward the bottom. As they went down March got the report that
five torpedoes had hit the carrier and all four had ploughed into the
troopship.

“It was hard to concentrate,” said McFee, “but I know I’m right. And,
brother, that’s good shooting.”

“Wish we could know just how much damage we did,” March said.

“But you don’t want to know badly enough to surface and find out, do
you?” asked Mac with a grin. “The planes will find out when they come
along in a few minutes. They’ll tell us—later, just what we did. Anyway
the sound man reports that the ships are scattering in so many
directions he can’t keep track of them.”

Then March heard something else from the sound man. “Sounds as if
there’s solid rock below us—at about two hundred eighty feet.”

“Wonderful!” cried March. “Settle down to it and we’ll just lie there
and rest. Shut off all motors. Then let them try to find us.”

“Destroyers coming in up above, sir,” the sound man said.

“Pretty slow, weren’t they?” Mac commented.

March picked up the phone from the orderly and spoke to the ship.
“They’ll be coming any minute now. Hold fast. And we’ll be snug on the
bottom.”

The first depth charge came far above them, and the shock from it was
very slight. But then the submarine bumped slightly as its keel settled
gently against the bottom. Motors were shut off and _Kamongo_ tilted a
little to one side as it lay down on the sloping shelf of rock at the
bottom of the sea.

There came the metallic click and then the monstrous b-b-r-r-rrooom of
a depth charge to the right and above them. Then one to the left. Then
one beyond the bow. Then one beyond the stern.

“Laying a nice pattern,” McFee called, as he held fast to the little
railing at the periscope well.

“That would get us if we were higher,” March said. “They probably
figured we’re at about two hundred feet.”

“They don’t dare go any lower in their subs, usually,” McFee said, as
he braced himself for the next series of charges which shook him.

March looked around the control room. Everyone was holding fast, but
looking very calm. He phoned forward to the torpedo room to ask how
everything was up there.

“All fine, sir,” reported Pete Kalinsky. “And nice shootin’, sir.”

Room after room reported everything all right. “Just a light filament
busted from that last one in here,” said the machinist’s mate from the
engine room.

March saw that one of the men at the controls was steadying another
while he lighted a cigarette. He smiled, and then looked up sharply as
a figure appeared in the door at the forward bulkhead. It was Scoot,
hanging on groggily and looking angry.

“What’s goin’ on here, anyway?” he demanded loudly. “Can’t a guy sleep
in peace?”

March ran to him, but a depth charge—the closest yet—sent him sprawling
to the floor. McFee picked him up, holding fast to the bulkhead while
doing so. Then, between explosions, they got Scoot back to his bunk,
where they strapped him in place. The young flier went to sleep again
peacefully.

On the way back to the control room March and McFee stopped to look at
the Skipper. Sallini was with him, and he smiled.

“Temperature went down—just about the time you hit that carrier, sir,”
he reported. “He’s coming through all right, though they’ll have to
take those slugs out of him pretty soon.”

[Illustration: _Scoot Appeared in the Doorway_]

“We’ll get him to a hospital,” March said, and then grabbed the door
hard as he heard the click and then the hardest explosion of all.

“They can’t hear anything,” he said to McFee. “Do you suppose they
figure we’re lying quiet down here and are going to send them deeper
and deeper?”

“Might be,” Mac said. March knew that if such were the case it would be
better to try to zigzag away. The next explosion was so close that it
knocked over two men in the control room who thought they were holding
on fast. The next one knocked out the lights, and March shouted for the
emergency system. In a moment there was light again but March was
worried, trying to make up his mind what to do. Suddenly he felt that
he just could not make any more decisions. He wasn’t supposed to be a
submarine Skipper yet, anyway. Why decide?

“Well,” he said to himself, “if the next one’s any closer I’ll try
moving away from here.”

He waited tensely. The next explosion would decide the matter for him.
He still waited. It didn’t come. He looked at the sound man, puzzled.

“Destroyers moving away, sir,” the sound man reported.

Then they heard another explosion. But this was different. It was near
the surface, far away, and it was not like a depth charge. Then came
another and another.

“What can that be?” March said, turning to Mac.

“Darned if I know,” the veteran said.

And then it came to March. He knew. With a smile he picked up the phone
and announced to everybody, “It’s all over, folks. Those things you
hear are bombs from airplanes—our airplanes chasing the destroyers away
from us and blasting the daylights out of the convoy we’ve scattered.”

The cheer that went up was tired but came from the heart. All over, men
relaxed their grips, lit cigarettes, strolled for a cup of coffee.

“We’ll just stay right here where it’s safe for quite a while longer,”
March said. “Then we’ll move on slowly—toward home.”

                  *       *       *       *       *

_Kamongo_ was limping when it came into port and tied up alongside the
tender _David_. It had run submerged so long that its batteries were
almost dead. But as they pulled into the little harbor the Skipper came
to, first saying “Take her down! Take her down!” and then opening his
eyes and looking around in a daze. He found plenty of story-tellers
eager to tell him what he had slept through.

“It’s just as well,” he smiled weakly, when he had heard. “I never did
like depth charge attacks.”

Scoot was up and about now, his arm in a sling. He would not believe
that he had complained about the noise that disturbed his sleep during
the depth-charge attack.

No one was completely happy, though, until they had full reports of the
convoy battle from the Intelligence Officer at the tender. It was with
pride that March Anson carried the complete news to Skipper Larry Gray
as he lay in the small sick bay aboard the tender.

“We got the troopship ourselves,” March said. “The carrier was on fire
and listing badly when the planes came and finished her off. Not a
plane got off her. Of the rest, thirty-eight ships are at the bottom of
the sea. Not one ship reached Truk!”

Larry looked at March silently and then a slow smile spread over his
face. “Skipper,” he said, “you did a swell job.”

That was all the commendation March wanted or needed, though he wasn’t
dismayed later when he got the Navy Cross and his promotion to full
lieutenant.

As for Scoot Bailey, he was flown to Australia to get over his broken
arm before resuming his flying from _Bunker Hill_. The same award and
promotion had come to him for his part in breaking up the Jap convoy,
and he was very happy. But his last words to March were on the old
argument between them.

“I won’t say another word against pigboats,” he said. “But I still want
to get back to a plane. As I said once before, they make a great team,
don’t they?”



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    Transcriber’s Notes:


    Italicized phrases are presented by surrounding the text with
       _underscores_.
    Boldface phrases are presented by surrounding the text with equal
       signs.

    page 39 - changed "Biglow" to "Bigelow"
    original text: "Same here," Biglow...

    page 64 - changed "says" to "said"
    original text: "Don’t have to," Scott says...

    page 79 - changed "complete" to "completely"
    original text: who stood near by were complete silent.

    page 87 - changed "topedoes" to "torpedoes"
    original text: along one of the big topedoes.

    page 114 - changed "focussed" to "focused"
    original text: his eyes focussed on two or three...

    page 142 - changed "begining" to "beginning"
    original text: at the lights of the city of Panama which were
       begining...

    page 172 - remove apostrophe
    original text: There’ll be plane’s coming a...

    page 225 - changed "destoyers" to "destroyers"
    original text: and at the end three cruisers and more destoyers...

    page 235 - removed extra "the" at end of sentence
    original text: and took him back to the the submarine

    page 240 - changed "focussed" to "focused"
    original text: and eighty degrees and focussed





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