A New Assignment


Forty years have passed since Marvin and I had seen each other. And there was much to catch up on.”So what happened after I left Charleston?” I asked.
“Not very much actually. We continued fixing airplanes that carried troops all over the world. After a year it came my turn to go somewhere. I transferred to Japan where I maintained fighters,” Marvin explaIned.
“Was it any different than working on the Super Connies and the C-124?”
“Yeah, it was. Access to the equipment was from the outside. There was more work because the pilots were younger and wilder. They broke stuff. Then one day I received hush hush orders. I was to meet a Captain Henderson at 0200 hours at base ops and he would fill me in on what I needed to know.”
“Where were you going?” I asked.
“The orders didn’t say. I didn’t even know what Captain Henderson looked like, but the captain read my name tag and introduced himself. He was a likable, soft spoken man. He was older with eyes as blue as a summer morning. He asked if I’d eaten. I had, so he lead the way out to a C-124.
“I’d worked on a few hundred of these aircraft, repairing radios, search radar, and whatnot, but I’d never flown on one. Believe you me, they earned their nickname, Shakey, honestly, especially after we reached the end of the runway and the flight engineer ran the engines up and dialed some pitch to the props. After several minutes of rattling we rolled. Another ninety seconds and we were airborne. Eventually, the engine noise decreased and the rattling subsided to the point where we could actually converse.”
“Where were you headed?”
“Henderson wouldn’t say. After a few minutes the aircraft commander climbed down the ladder from the flight deck and took a seat next to me.
“You served at Charleston AFB, didn’t you?” he asked.
“Yes sir, Comm/Nav Shop – radios.”
“Hmmm, Hester. Wasn’t that your Squadron Commander’s name.”
“Yes sir. You know him?”
“Slightly. A nervous sort of fellow, isn’t he?”
“Well, sir, I suppose he was. I tried not to attract any of his attention.”
“Wise move, I’d say, especially when he was drinking,” he said, then smiled. “Don’t pester Hester,” the aircraft commander added laughing. Without another word he climbed the ladder to the flight deck and I didn’t see him again.
“Where are we headed?” I asked the captain, again.
“I still can’t tell you. Sorry,” he said.
That evening we were in Singapore, sitting in a club drinking beer when an US Army Major stepped up on the stage and waved the band to silence.
“Saigon fell into the Communist hands a few hours ago,” he announced.
Captain Henderson turned to me and said: “Your orders are now null and void. Throwing down the last swig of beer. “Let’s see if we can find a way home.”