The world Tony knows has stopped in its tracks. And nobody is saying why.
It began for Tony when the CQ had shaken him awake. The clock reads 0210 hours.
“Your unit has been activated,” he said.
“Your mobility unit has been activated. I don’t know anymore than that. Your name is one of the six I have listed as a mobility team. You are to assemble at your rendezvous point NOW. Shake a leg, airman. Something has happened.”
Tony is an aircraft maintainer. He keeps the airborne communications and navigation equipment functioning in bombers and tankers. In times past they’ve been called out at all hours of the day and night to assemble at their secret place only to find an officer with a watch. He’s shaking his head. “Too long, people. You’ve taken too long getting here. If this were the real thing the lives of your family and friends could be lost because of your delay.”
Determined not to let that happen now he speeds to a remote café parking lot, this month’s assembly point. The place is dark and vacant except for menu lights shining through the front windows and an air force bus waiting out front. A chill went up his spine. This IS the real McCoy. What is President Kennedy up to?
Leaving the keys in the ignition, Tony runs for the bus. He is number five of six to arrive. The driver starts the bus. They are on their way to load a KC-135 tanker with spare B-52G parts – a jet engine, brakes, tires, hydraulic fluid, a UHF radio – everything the powers that be can fit into a tanker. It is their duty to fly to an undisclosed location someplace in the Pacific where they will recover, refuel, rearm, and launch the B-52s that survived the first strike on a second mission.
Before they clear the parking lot the café entryway light flashes on and an Army Sergeant Major, an individual with a host of campaign ribbons and metals on his uniform exits the building and waves the driver to stop.
“Men, the White House is in process of changing plans. Standby for ten minutes while I clarify the situation,” he said, and then turned and reentered the café.
After what seemed like a very long time he tells them to return to our duty stations.
Returning to the shop, Tony learns all training missions have been recalled. As the aircraft return they are recovered, refueled, and armed with bombs and missiles. By the end of the first day the entire flight line has become an alert area. Nothing is moving. Everyone is waiting for the other shoe to drop, as it were.
Everyone stand poised for war, but no one knows when or where, not even why.
As the situation cools to a dull roar the maintainers are advised they are free wait in several places – shop, barracks, chow hall, or library.
Tony, after being roused at such an early hour decides to return to the barracks where he turns on his radio and listens to music that takes him back to his childhood – first and second grades. He had nearly dozed off when Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys came on with and old World War II song San Antonio Rose.
It takes him back to 1940 and 1941 when his mother owned a place called the Streetcar Diner where he often heard the juke box in the dining room – the place where he grew up. One man who also enjoyed Bob Wills and that particular song was a World War I veteran who carried shrapnel in one arm and unable to serve again.
Tony remembered him for two reasons: He poked fistfuls of nickels into the juke box and played San Antonio Rose over and over. The other reason was his 1937 Knucklehead, a motorcycle that shared his birth year.
Tony had been looking for a motorcycle since the day he reenlisted. But he wasn’t happy with the Indian, BSA, Norton, AJS, Matchless, Triumph. None of them caught his fancy. What were the odds he could locate a 1937 Knucklehead?
If he survived this present situation he was certainly going to look around.