Tuesday, May 21, 2013
John Dunellen was a double ace and he was in deep shit. He was slowly gaining distance from the pack of Yak 9s chasing him but he was running out of time and space. His wingman and squadron mates had been separated during takeoff. It was hard to take off when Tu2s Bats were circling overhead and just waiting for you to show yourself. It was almost impossible to count on a safe haven to refuel and rearm. The anti-aircraft guns had gone silent one by one. The Soviets had targeted them specifically before they even attacked the planes on the ground landing or taking off. Their main focus for the first week had been the guns and gunners. They had died by the thousands. Horrible deaths and now many airfields throughout Britain were defenseless. Defenseless from marauding flying tanks and medium bombers loaded down with all manner of mayhem.
Dunellen tried something new this time he came back to the airfield with a third of a tank. He pretended that he was getting ready to land and waited for the Tu2 Bat to lumber on to his tail then he gunned it and turned inside the medium bomber and caught him with a deflection shot from his 20mm cannons. The bomber went down in a satisfying fireball. But he then found himself low and slow with three Yak 9s were on him like white on rice.
Dunellen was good. You don’t get to be a double ace in a 10 days if you aren’t good. He kept the Yaks at bay for another 10 minutes. Twisting and turning, dipping and weaving even a few barrel rolls. No one did barrel rolls anymore so maybe that’s why they worked.
He knew if he flew straight for even a few seconds he was dead. All the twisting and turning made it impossible to for him to gain altitude and to use the superior straight line speed his Spit possessed. While fighting for his life he saw his precious fuel being burned at a prodigious rate. He could even feel it. His plane became more responsive the lighter it got. The lighter it got the closer he was to death. Then the first cough happened.
It happened on a hard turn to the right. It was a real tight turn and almost caused him to black out. He would have got the Yak 9 with the 14 little swastikas on the side if he had been able to stay in the turn but the Yak’s wingman was doing his job and he had to break off the turn. The wingman’s 20mm cannon round took off the tip of his right wing. No harm no foul at this height. If his opponents had been Yak 3s he would have not made it this far. The Yak 3 could outturn even a Spitfire. Against the Yak 9 the best pilot would have won. Against 3 Yak 9s all bets were off.
Then his engine coughed again and this time he was not in a tight turn. But he had to turn to avoid the tracers coming from the Russian aces plane. His luck ran out and his skill could no longer defy physics. The air flow over his laminar flow wings could no longer create the lift needed to keep the 2400 odd kilograms of aluminum in the air. In the last seconds of his life just before the Spitfire hit the ground and exploded something caught his eye for a moment.
It was a very little boy standing among some wreckage calmly waving at him. He had no pants on and looked like he had never been washed. Time froze as they stared at each other for a fleeting moment. Their eyes locked and he though what was a little boy doing here surrounded by all this death. It made him think of his own family. Dunnellon’s last thought was of his new born daughter’s smile. Not a bad thought to die on.