Friday, August 17, 2007

Genova at Night

General Situation: The front has continued to advance in the allies favour to the west of Palermo, on the south coast of Bay of Naples. The allies have captured Monte Cassino.

My squadron of P38s has moved to the southern airstrip on the island of sicily (?). Its first mission is to locate and destroy reported vehicle concentration to the immediate west of the port city of Genoa. The airfields near Naples are a reserve target, in case for some reason we can't find the first.

Genova: I take off on a solo run a couple hours before midnight (server time, that is, (it's late afternoon in realtime)). The silver light of the moon adds a porcelain sheen to the mediteranean ocean, and there is still a faint mustard coloured glow on the western horizon. The diffusion of gold and silver lights in the cloud layers betwen green mountains is beauftiful.

Laden with a dozen rockets, I climb to altitude of 11000 feet for the crossing of the ocean. I am thus able to see the coast from a long way away, orienting myself by the distant docks of Genova. Descending at first to about 6000 feet, I quarter the area in which was reported the enemy trucks. Not seeing them, I descendto 1000 feet and repeat the exercise. The broken clouds above seem to loom threatingly over the hills and mountains, creating dangerous hazards in the diffuse light caused by the hazy conditions. Wind and rain buffet the plane a bit, together with the everpresent black puffs of AA fire, making my fruitless search moderately hazardous.

I lose my orientation once, and have to sudenly pull out of an unintended dive through blinding clouds, only several hundred feet above a rocky mountain ridge rushing towards me out of the haze. I decide to abandon this target. I gather my bearings and head off towards my secondary target, further round the bay, at an altitude of about 4000 feet.

Naples: Seeing Naples from maybe ten miles away, I swoop over it at about 400 mph, looking for any likely ground targets. Not seeing any in the gloom, I bank up and dive towards where my map tells me an enemy airstrip is. Sure enough, I am greeted by small caliber AA fire as I pull my plane's nose around the last few degrees in its diving flight, pushing well over 400 mph as I peer through my gunsight for the telltale flashes of the AA guns. I see it as a useful duty I can do my allied comrades if I take out AA obstacles to their daylight bombing runs. I get to learn to fly my plane at low altitudes, they get a safer run in on their targets.

In this instance I could see the flashes of maybe four separate AA emplacements, clustered around one end of the airfield complex. As I choose one to be my target I notice that there are quite a few undamaged aircraft sheds nearby, and quite a few camoflaged dispersal bays scattered around. In my brief glimpse away from the AA gun in my sights I don't, however, notice any enemy planes on the ground.

I unleash three pairs of 4.5" rockets, about half a second apart, as I swoop over the target gun. One of the last pair of rockets has a direct hit on the emplacement, destroying it in a bright fireball just as I fly over. I am minorly buffetted by the explosion, but suffer no damage. The other nearby guns are meanwhile pouring fire in my direction. I take several hits in my fuel tanks, causing a leak, but the plane is otherwise untouched.

I fly north for about half a minute, steadying both my plane and my nerves, before looping upwards into a diving attack run on another of the gun emplacements. Selecting my target from a distance, I am again buffetted by nearby AA bursts as I approach at 400mph. Again, I unleash six rockets. This time the middle pair of rockets hit.

I immediately start a climbing course for home, kicking my rudder as I go to make me a harder target. I am uncomfortably near Naples. A lot of shells from heavy AA guns explode around me. I am maybe a couple miles out over the Bay, just starting to think I might be able to get my way home, when one of the larger shells gets lucky.

All of a sudden the plane starts a steep dive towards the left, almost immediately commencing to rapidly spin. I have about a second to check if any of my controls work. They don't. Making a snap decision, I hit the eject button.

Falling out my cockpit I have a glimpse of the damage suffered by my plane, most noticably by my left wing. Half of it is missing. Less than a minute later I watch my plane crash into the ocean beneath.

I float down beneath the silence of my parachute canopy. The guns are quiet. I survive the dip in the ocean and am captured. Total time, about 35 min.

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