FICTION

MAKER OF HEROES

Keever promised to put them on the front page... but front pages don’t seem to matter when you’re over Berlin

OSCAR SCHISGALL December 1 1943
FICTION

MAKER OF HEROES

Keever promised to put them on the front page... but front pages don’t seem to matter when you’re over Berlin

OSCAR SCHISGALL December 1 1943

WHEN the Commanding Officer finished briefing he looked over the 80 men in the underground room, and a grim little quirk came to his lips. “Well, gentlemen,” he said, “this is what you’ve been asking for. Target Berlin. And a full moon... Any questions?”

There was a moment of silence before Flight-Lieutenant Carrick, RCAF, rose from one of the rear benches. His head almost touched an electric bulb that hung on a long wire. Flight-Lieutenant Lee Carrick was six feet of angular boyhood—22 years of age, loose-limbed, with rusty hair that wouldn’t stay combed.

“Yes, sir,” he said. “These newspaper correspondents who’re going to fly with us—can this one double at anything in a pinch?”

“No. He’s going strictly as an observer.” Somebody whispered, “Just ballast,” and a few men chuckled.

Flight-Lieutenant Carrick nodded, said, “Thank you, sir,” and sat down. He rubbed his palms over his knees to dry them of sweat. He wasn’t sure he liked the idea of having an eighth man in his Halifax. Despite the plane’s size, quarters were crowded; you had to do a bit of squeezing on the catwalk. An added passenger meant that much more discomfort, and in a jam he’d probably be a nuisance.

But then, Lee supposed, Headquarters had a purpose in doing this. Maybe stories—eyewitness accounts from the front—helped cheer the folks at home. Anyhow, Flight-Lieutenant Carrick had been saddled with one of the six correspondents, somebody named Leonard Keever, and he resigned himself to make the best of it.

“Any other questions?”

The Commanding Officer waited but no one spoke; and so he lifted his wrist watch. “You’ll be leaving in 43 minutes,” he said. “You’ll join the RAF squadrons over the Channel . . . That is all.”

Few of the men talked as they left the room. There wasn’t much you could say that hadn’t already been said about bombing Berlin. Navigators rolled up charts; they’d have to make a final weather check. Pilots and bombardiers walked out into a bleak English dusk. It was cold and damp, and some of them shivered. They glanced about the camouflaged field as though for a last view. It looked like a harmless Surrey pasture surrounded by orchards.

Flight-Lieutenant Carrick, walking with his bombardier, went toward a clearance under trees. An arbor of high branches hid his Halifax from the skies. The ground crew was scampering around the four-motored giant, giving it a few final love taps.

Flight-Sergeant Track, the bombardier, said, “Every time I look at her I think how I’d hate to meet her head on in the air.”

“Uh-huh,” Lee Carrick answered, dryly. “You know what Sam says. ‘Nice thing about being a Canadian is you don’t have to fight Canadians!’ ”

Sam—Flight-Sergeant Sam Bernstein, the navigator—wasn’t giving them much attention. His eyes had turned to a fat man leaning against a tree. He wore an officer’s uniform but he had no officer’s insignia; that marked him as a correspondent. Hands in his pockets he nodded as he listened to a Press Relation’s Officer.

“Look,” Sergeant Bernstein said. “I’ll bet that’s our newspaperman. We need him like an 11th toe. With his weight he’ll displace 250 pounds of bombs.”

“One thing, though,” Sam pointed out. “He won’t bother the gunners much. He’s too big to get into a turret.”

The Press Relation’s Officer was bringing the fat man out from under the trees.

“Lieutenant,” he called to Lee, “this is Mr. Keever. Leonard Keever. He’ll fly with you.”

The fat man grinned as he shook hands. He nodded over each man’s name, repeating it, memorizing it. He seemed to be a genial fellow. Though he was well on in the forties his full-jowled face was pink and smooth and young. His eyes were merry—almost impish.

“I don’t mind admitting I’ve been kind of jittery about this,” he said. “Never flew into combat before.” The grin shone again. “Had a few bad moments before we got out to the field, but I’m okay now. When do we start?”

“In about 40 minutes,” Lee told him.

“Do I rate flying clothes, a ’chute, and so on?” “Sure,” Lee said. “Soon’s I’ve made a flight checkup, we’ll get you outfitted.”

LEAVING Keever with Bernstein, he climbed into the Halifax. With a mechanic trailing him he went over every detail from tail to cockpit. The mechanic smiled. He pulled a paper out of his pocket, read a few notations, and said:

“Sir, you okayed the following: props, flight controls, engine and turbo operations, wireless, landing gear, brakes, deicers, automatic flight equipment, heaters and defrosters, hydraulic system, flight instruments, lights, power turret operation, bomb-bays ...”

“I know, I know. Maybe I’m fussy.” Lee Carrick frowned as he worked. When you were responsible for six lives besides your own—seven on this trip, counting Leonard Keever—you couldn’t be too careful. You couldn’t check too often. The man who’d coined the slogan, “Your First Mistake Is Your Last,” hadn’t been kidding.

Lee went into the cockpit and tested Motors One, Two, Three, and Four individually and together. Intermittent roars from other parts of the field indicated that every pilot was doing the same job. When at last he lowered himself from the hatch and rejoined the men near the trees, he was satisfied.

But he saw Bernstein was worried.

“Look,” Sam said. “Maybe you better talk to Mr. Keever, Lee. He’s got some peculiar ideas.”

Keever laughed. “All I told them, Lieutenant, was—‘you boys take care of me and I’ll take care of you.’ ”

He said it cheerfully enough, yet it had the unpleasant flavor of back-room politics. Lee looked at him thoughtfully.

“What do you mean, Mr. Keever? How’ll you take care of us?”

“I’ll put you on the front page of every paper in Canada.”

Sam Bernstein groaned. “You hear that, Lee? He wants to make us heroes or something.”

“Why not?” Keever argued, “If I’m going to write this raid, I’ve got to tell how you fellows flew me to Berlin, don’t I? How can I help playing you up?”

Lee Carrick said gently, “But not as heroes, Mr. Keever.”

“Listen, Lieutenant. Any man who flies to Berlin these days is a hero. Including me.”

“Nuts!” said Bernstein.

Lee’s tones remained mild. “I thought, Mr. Keever, that you were coming along just to report on what happens to Berlin.”

“That’s right. But I’m going to get two stories out of this. One will be a straight account of the bombing. No trimmings. The other will be an hour-to-hour log of the whole flight, stressing the courage and the calmness of you boys over enemy territory. Oh, I’ll make it sound good. Don’t worry . . . What’s wrong about being boosted, anyway? For that matter, what’s wrong about being a hero?”

“We’ll be one of several hundred planes, all doing the same thing,” Lee explained. “To be singled out can make us look pretty ridiculous, Mr. Keever. There’s a kind of Air Force code about such things. We don’t go in for throwing a spotlight on any man or crew unless it’s deserved.”

“And you don’t think you’ll deserve it—after bombing Berlin?”

Sergeant Bernstein sighed. He gave Lee Carrick a hopeless look and said, “Maybe you better tell him, Lee. Maybe you better tell him about the medals.”

Lee turned his head and fixed a speculative gaze on the plane. “You see, Mr. Keever,” he said, “our crew has to be unusually careful. We made a bad mistake once, and we don’t want anything like it to happen again.”

Keever’s eyes became round and curious and attentive, but he was still smiling.

“Though we’ve been out on several raids,” Lee went on, “it was the first one that got us into trouble. We went out, with 20 other bombers, to drop our load on the submarine yards at Brest. The flak was pretty bad, but it didn’t harm us much—we were too high. Then a bunch of Messerschmitts came and our crew managed to shoot one down.

“When we got home one of our gunners started telling how we’d destroyed that Messerschmitt. He’s a good kid but he laid it on kind of thick. Maybe he bragged a little He was excited after getting his first Jerry, and he said too much—especially to men who’d brought down a dozen of ’em. Anyhow, the next morning every one of us found a big paper medal, the size of a plate, hung from our cots. On it was just one word—‘Hero.’ When we went into the hangar to get our flying kits, every kit was decorated with a paper medal, too. There were more of them in our plane ... I guess you know how we felt, Mr. Keever.”

“Well—uh—yes. But ...”

“So we do our best to avoid heroics now. We can take a bit of kidding, but it’s bad for the boys to feel they’re being made ridiculous. If you write us up as a bunch of heroes when we’re doing no more than any of the others—you see what’ll happen, don’t you?”

Leonard Keever contemplated the situation. Then, chuckling, he patted Lee Garrick’s shoulder. It was a reassuring gesture, almost patronizing. He was like a father giving good advice to a son.

“I think you boys are too sensitive,” he said. “You just do the flying and leave the writing to me. I know how to handle a story like this.” He grinned again. “And I promise I’ll make you heroes in a nice way . . . Now how about getting me into some flying equipment?”

As they crossed the field in the fading twilight, Lee glanced uncertainly at Sam Bernstein. He shook his head with misgiving. It was obvious he had no great faith in Leonard Keever.

Sam muttered, “What they should’ve done, Mr. Keever, was give you to a crew that deserves a break more than we do.”

“Nonsense!” the fat man answered with a laugh. “You boys are swell. Wouldn't want any better.”

Lee studied the correspondent with gloomy doubts. Of course, he might handle the story with taste and subtlety. The trouble was he didn’t look like a man given to subtlety. He looked heavy-handed, direct, a little coarse. He walked along, massive as a bear, smiling as though he admired the modesty of these boys but found it childish and absurd.

Then Keever remembered something. He drew a notebook from his pocket, thumbed back a few pages, and gave the book to Lee with a pencil.

“Would you mind writing down the names of your crew?” he asked. “I want to get them right. When you misspell a man’s name if riles his whole family.”

Lee Carrick nodded. There was no use denying a request like that. He waited until they had entered a hangar where a hundred men were putting on flying togs. There he paused near a light. When he had written his own name and Sam’s, he added:

Sergeant Charles Olsen, WAG

Sergeant Henry K. Cross, tail gunner

Flight-Sergeant Blaine V. Track, Air Bombardier

Sergeant William Delatour, mid-upper gunner

Sergeant Walter B. Breitenback, Flight engineer.

“There you are.” He gave the book back to the fat man. “I’d be careful, though, Mr. Keever. I’d be very careful. Please.”

“Listen,” Keever said. “Between newspaper jobs I once did publicity for a Hollywood studio. I learned the build-up-a-hero business the hard way. Just leave this to me.”

THEY flew across Holland and into Germany at 30,000 feet, the oxygen system working smoothly. Above the clouds the clear moonlight gleamed on an endless line of planes. There were hundreds of them, in a formation that seemed to stretch from horizon to horizon. Over the Channel the Canadians had swung in behind the RAF squadrons that now led them at 230 m.p.h. The Halifaxes roared eastward in a great V of smaller Vs, Lieutenant Garrick’s plane midway back in the right echelon of Vs.

He was nervous. Inside his flying clothes his body felt damp, and he suspected that every member of his crew felt the same way. This wasn’t like a quick hit-and-run raid on Brest. For more than eight hours they’d be over enemy territory. Anything was apt to happen.

He watched the instrument panel, watched the plane ahead, watched the skies above, at the sides. His eyes never rested anywhere for more than a few seconds.

There wasn’t much talk through the intercom. The gunners were all alert for a possible attack. So far there had been no hostile shadows against the stars, but you never could tell when they’d come.

Several times clouds showed sudden glows, like electric lights switched on and off inside them. That meant flak was being thrown up from towns they passed; but the Nazi fire was falling far short of 30,000 feet, wasting itself.

“Still, it shows they know we’re on the way,” Sam Bernstein said through the phones, to no one in particular. “We’ll probably find a hot party waiting over Berlin.”

Lee didn’t reply. His eyes were darting over the instrument panel, studying every gauge, every dial.

To his relief, Keever hadn’t become airsick. Though it was a bumpy trip, the fat man took it without visible discomfort. He looked enormous in flying togs, with a ’chute added to his bulk. At the beginning he had gone back to talk to the gunners. But he had discovered that every movement along the catwalk meant pulling in his stomach, edging along sidewise.

“Those planes ahead are something to see, aren’t they?” he said with a trace of awe. “You’d swear they were all motionless, suspended in space. It’s only when you look down at the clouds that you realize we’re moving.”

They droned on through a trip which officials would later describe as without incident; no planes appeared to challenge them.

Then Bernstein announced, “We ought to be over Berlin in 15 minutes . . . Luck to you, Blaine!”

The bombardier answered, “Thanks, boy.”

“Got a bomb marked ‘Adolf?’ ”

“Oh, no. Who wants the louse to die so soon?”

“Who you trying to kid?”

“I’m not kidding. I want him to live long enough to see his goose-steppers, his guns, and his cockeyed ideas thrown on a smoking scrap heap. I want him to live long enough to see his Heil-heil guys turn around and spit in his face and call him a stinker. I want him to live to see a few things like that first. And maybe the beginning of the kind of world a rat like him can’t understand. Time enough to take care of him after he’s seen all that.”

The planes began to slide downward from their 30,000-feet perch. As they descended Lee could feel his nerves grow tighter and tighter.

Then, far ahead through breaks in the clouds, he saw a pale yellow glow on the ground. It became brighter, larger; the yellow changed to red, and the red spread upward into the skies.

“There it is,” he whispered. “That’s Berlin!”

Bernstein snapped, “The boys up front are doing all right. Boy, that town is burning!”

The Germans were hurling up all the flak they had. The skies over the city were a riot of fireworks—high altitude flak through which the Halifaxes would have to thunder. Every flashing bomb revealed 100 puffs of smoke.

Through the intercom Blaine Track spoke in a tense, quiet voice. “Okay, Lee. This is it. You help me drop these eggs where they belong.”

Lee bent over the controls, his face drawn. He heard Keever exclaim, “Oh, boy, what a sight!” But he couldn’t be bothered with the fat man now.

Then they were in the midst of it. The flak was bursting under them, around them. Lee could feel the plane quiver as the concussions rocked it. Sometimes the exploding shells were so bright that he couldn’t see the fires in the city below.

And at last Track yelled, “Bomb doors open! . . . To the right, Lee! Right!”

Lee struggled with the controls. In the slip stream of the plane ahead it wasn’t easy to manoeuvre the Halifax with the delicate precision Track demanded.

“Right, man!” the bombardier shouted. “Blast it, right, right!”

The plane swerved a little.

“Okay! Hold it like that!” There was a pause, and then Track called in high satisfaction, “Bombs awa-a-ay! Button her up!”

The Halifax thundered on through the barrage. Track, looking down, began to announce what he saw.

“Hit . . . Hit . . . Right on the nose! Hit . . .”

The flak struck the Number Four motor, and the plane heaved upward and sidew'ard. Lee choked back his breath while he fought to level her. He could see black smoke pouring back from the shattered engine. His hair fell over his eyes and sweat started down his face. He was trembling when he got her straightened out, and before he could release his breath he heard Keever.

“Can—can I do anything to help?”

“No! Just hang on and keep out of the way!”

As Lee spoke, something else hit the Halifax. It caught her in the belly and under the right wing. The plane leaped and shuddered. It was in the thick of it now. It was being hit again and again by murderous shrapnel, and it was losing speed. One explosion blasted the bottom of the bombardier’s well. A gale of icy wind rushed up into the cockpit.

Lee shouted, “Blaine! Did that get you?”

“Couple of scratches.”

“Get out of there!”

“You bet. I’m coming fast.”

Lee looked forward again, his lips crushed in a hard line. Then he saw that Number Two motor had gone dead. He cursed. He hadn’t felt that hit at all. And he wondered how many more had gone unnoticed in the general battering the Halifax was taking.

“Charlie!” he called.

“On deck, skipper.”

“Go back. See if anybody’s hurt!”

“Right, sir!”

THEY had shot past the blazing city. They were over a vast darkness now, but the flak was still flashing everywhere about them. Lee peered ahead, seeking the plane he’d been following. He’d lost it as his speed had dropped and he’d lost altitude.

There was a violent crash under the tail. The Halifax jerked her nose down and shrieked her way toward the earth. She went down and down, and though Lee fought savagely, he couldn’t bring her out of the dive.

“Hey, Lee!” Sam shouted through the intercom. “Where’re you going? Level off! We’re full of holes.”

Level off. That was good. Lee’s face was desperate as he pulled against the stick. He all but sobbed with the effort.

Bernstein glared glassily into the cockpit. When he saw what was happening he dived over Garrick’s back to find a grasp on the stick. The two of them pulled with all the power they could muster—and the stick slowly moved back.

As the Halifax levelled off, Lee’s brain reeled a moment, then he realized that he was now out of the flak. Or else it had stopped. That was bad. If it had stopped that meant German planes were in the sky . . .

As the thought struck him he heard a new kind of rattle in the earphones. He jerked his head around. Streams of tracer bullets were pouring from the Halifax’s top and belly toward a dim line of planes far to the right—small silhouettes in the moonlight.

“Hey, sir!” Hank Cross called out of the tail. “Enemy aircraft at two o’clock — four o’clock — everywhere! Hundreds of ’em!”

Lee snapped, “Okay, Hank. You shooting?”

“Can’t! Out of ammunition.”

Lee’s face was grey. If he could fly into clouds, disappear into their thickness, he still had a chance.

He did it. He levelled off in mist that pressed in from everywhere. It was like a black shade drawn tight against the outside of the cockpit. The wind that swirled through the plane became wet.

Flying blind like this, Lee realized, he risked crashing into Allied as well as German planes. Yet he felt it was no greater risk than pushing on with two dead motors and a few dead machine guns among a swarm of Nazi fighters determined to down the Halifax. They must have seen she was wounded. They were coming in for the kill.

Charlie Olsen’s choppy voice came through the intercom: “Say, skipper. Bill Delatour’s got a nasty gash in the leg. And Hank’s had a couple of fingers shot away and a slash in the face. That’s the score so far.”

“They conscious?”

“Sure. The dopes are grinning.”

“Do what you can for them, Charlie.”

“How about you, sir? Hurt?”

“No.”

“That’s swell, sir.”

Lee strained his eyes to discover the extent of the damage to the wings, but he couldn’t see at all through the black density of the cloud. As he twisted his head he caught a glimpse of Keever standing behind him. He didn’t talk to the man, but he thought grimly that Keever had got a lot more than he came for.

Without any thinning of mist to prepare him for the change, the Halifax shot out of the clouds into brilliant moonlight.

He caught his breath and looked around wildly for pursuit, planes. But there were no planes of any kind in the sky. Only stars and a full, peaceful moon. When he stared back and down he couldn’t see any trace of the conflagration in Berlin, either. He must have come a long way.

“Larry,” he asked, “how long do you figure we were in those clouds? About 10 or 20 minutes?”

“Gosh, I don’t know. Maybe an hour. I lost track of time.”

Lee pushed himself to his feet. He felt stiff and cramped. And frozen.

“Hold her, Sam,” he said. “I’m going to have a look.”

WHAT he saw left him dazed. Apart from the fact that the two wrecked engines were beyond all hope of repair, the right wing was shot through with holes. Where flak had hit, a jagged section of metal dangled like a flap. Its drag fought against air speed. As for the left wing, though it hadn’t been struck by a cannon shell, it was as badly riddled as the right.

Lee turned toward the tail. What he could see of the rudder was wreckage. How long that rudder could last, he didn’t know. Like the right wing, it seemed ready to break away.

When he sat down again, Lee was pale. He called through the intercom, “Say, Charlie, how did the tail assembly look when you were back there?”

“Dashed well ventilated,” Charlie said. “I don’t know what’s keeping it together.”

“What about Bill and Hank? Are they well enough to bail out?”

“Huh? . . . Oh sure. If we got to, they can still pull a ripcord.”

Lee leaned toward Sam Bernstein. “Get up and have a look,” he said, his voice low. “I have an idea this baby is going to fall apart as soon as we hit a bump or try to bank.”

Bernstein rose stiffly to look around. When he sat down again his face was as tight as Lee Garrick’s. “Check,” he said.

“Well? What do you think?”

“Same as you,” Sam muttered. “If we wait till she falls apart, we’re dead. We can’t hope to make England. That’s 500 miles. Only way I can see to stay alive is to ditch her and jump.”

“We’re over Germany, Sam. It’ll be a prison camp.”

“Sure. I don’t like it, either. But we’re not going to be of any use to anybody if we’re dead.”

“That’s right,” said Blaine Track. Lee glanced around; he hadn’t seen Blaine come to the seats. The bombardier added, “If even a single Messerschmitt spots us, we’re licked. We couldn’t brush off a fly.”

“That’s a bad cut in your face, Blaine.”

“It doesn’t hurt. I’ll live . . . What do you say? Do we ditch? Or do we let her kill us?”

Lee wet his lips. About 500 miles from England, with a wing and the rudder apt to crumple at any moment. What was more, the big plane had a high stalling speed, and she wasn’t doing much better than that with two motors dead and part of the wing dragging. He had the lives of seven men besides his own to consider . . .

Lee’s hand shook a little as he brought the intercom back to his lips. “All right, boys,” he said, and his voice was husky. “We’ve got to ditch. She’s falling apart. Line up to jump!”

The grunts of grim acceptance of the inevitable told him how the men felt. It was hard, but it was the only thing left to do. Either that or crash. They all saw it.

He got up slowly, like an old man, and turned and found himself facing Keever. The correspondent was in deep shadows where moonlight couldn’t touch him. He was on his feet, but his chin dangled on his chest, and his head swayed from side to side . . . Lee stiffened. Bending forward, he saw a rip in the man’s flying togs, over the chest. He yanked off a glove, touched the spot—and his hand came away sticky.

“Keever!”

The fat man mumbled something, but he didn’t lift his head.

And then Lee saw why he was still on his feet. His great bulk was jammed in there, behind the seat. He couldn’t fall. He must have been stabbed by a piece of shrapnel flying up through the hole in the bombardier’s well.

Bernstein went to work on Keever. Together he and Lee pulled him out from behind the seat. The massive body slumped to the floor as if it had no bones. When they knelt over him, Keever opened glazed eyes.

“Go on,” he whispered. “Jump. You boys jump.”

Lee asked, “Can you move? Can you lift an arm?”

“I can’t—do anything. Go on. Please. Just—forget about me. I’m through.”

After a moment Lee looked up into the face of Bernstein. The navigator ran a hand over the wound in his cheek, drew in his lips, and frowned at the floor.

“He can’t jump,” said Lee.

“Uh-huh,” Sam repeated. “He can’t jump.”

Blaine Track shook his head with a kind of fatalism. “We either got to leave him or stick with him,” he said. “If we leave him, he crashes. If we stick with him—” He shrugged. “Maybe we all crash.”

Lee Garrick slowly straightened. His face was gaunt, but there was no hesitation in his low voice. Through the intercom he said:

“It’s all off, men. We’re not ditching. One of us is too badly hurt to make the jump.”

There was no answer from any of the crew.

“If any of you want to bail out,” Lee went on, “it’s okay with me. But I’m going to try to take her in to England . . Anybody want to jump?”

Nobody spoke.

Sam Bernstein rose, and his eyes were suddenly angry. “Why should anybody want to jump?” he demanded. “We’re still flying, aren’t we?”

THERE were patrols on the English shore, near Margate, that saw the huge, battered Halifax glide down out of the dawn skies. Her landing gear wasn’t showing, and she rocked perilously in the morning wind. She made for the nearest bit of flatland and struck it in a belly landing that sent her skidding and twisting and sliding over the sod until she was finally stopped by a wall of trees. And when she lay there, with the wreckage of her right wing jammed among the trunks, seven men came out of her. Three of them were wounded and all of them reeled a little, but they were on their feet. There was still an eighth man who had to be carried out later, on a stretcher. But the seven who lowered themselves from her door looked around at the barren, muddy stretch of flatland and grinned as if it were the loveliest flower garden in all England . . .

Just 17 days after that landing Flight-Lieutenant Lee Carrick, accompanied by Flight-Sergeant Sam Bernstein, walked into a London hospital. They were directed to a room where Leonard Keever sat in bed, propped up by pillows while he read a book. Much of the pink, youthful glow had gone from his face. Yet, as he shook hands, his eyes regained some of their brightness.

“Mighty nice of you boys to come.” He looked at the two airmen, one after another. “Very nice.”

“Couldn’t get to London sooner,” said Lee Carrick. “Besides, they wouldn’t allow visitors.”

“Silly of them,” Keever scoffed. “I’ve been well enough to see folks for a week.” Then he began to grin. “By the way, congratulations. I heard about the citation. Nurse read it to me. I understand it applies to your whole crew—for bringing in a Halifax in the face of all sorts of danger. Right?”

Lee nodded, smiling a little.

“Tell me,” said Keever. “If I hadn’t been in that plane, and wounded, you boys would have jumped, wouldn’t you?”

“I guess we would,” Lee admitted.

Under the blankets the correspondent’s fat body shook with a soft chuckle. “Funny thing,” he said. “When I heard the news I lay here remembering how I’d promised to make heroes of you all. in a way I did, didn’t I?”

Lee glanced at Bernstein and smiled again.

“Well,” said Leonard Keever, “I’ve learned something, anyway, I’ve learned why the Royal Canadian Air Force doesn’t like to single out any particular man or men for hero worship.”

“Look, Mr. Keever,” Sam Bernstein urged gently, “lay off this hero stuff, will you? We’re no heroes. There isn’t a man in the RCAF who’d have jumped off that plane.”

“I know,” said Mr. Keever. “That’s what I mean.”