HOLIDAY AT DELTA DUMP
Interceptor Oct 1979
“Tann, this is Pete, how’s it going, boy?”
“Fine, Pete. How goes it with you at Bombers’ Roost?”
“Oh, so-so. Say, the reason I called – did you see the paper this morning? Our PIO types had a little news in … thought you might interested.”
“Not really, Pete. What was it about?”
“Well, heh, heh.” (A real nasty note to that laugh, thought Tann.)
“Well, one of our bombers landed at one of your fighter bases down the road a piece, and you’ll never believe this, but they kidnapped one of your personnel right out of your max security area.”
“What’s this?” said Tann, coming out of his seat. “Who was it?” he shouted into the phone, “and where is he now?”
“It was a Lieutenant Curtiss LeMoose, and he’s in our max security area right now.”
“What do you mean, LeMoose? What kind of a name is that?”
“That’s what the boys call him. Actually he’s just an old moth-eaten moose head, but we’ve got him. Pretty funny. It just confirmed what we always knew about you fighter types – a little light-headed. Short of a gas attack, you couldn’t get it away from us, no matter what you did. We’ve got security, boy, security with a capital ‘C.’ But you’re welcome to try any time – if your pilots have any esprit, that is.”
Tann was reduced to a quivering eagle; he was choked with rage. He had to wait a moment before he could talk; then, with his voice carefully controlled, he said, “You mean that moose is on your base right now, just next door to us?”
“Right, Tann. In fact you can read all of the details in this morning’s paper. As I said, our PIO had a lot of fun with the item. Even mentions your name as commander of the wing that got robbed. Kinda offsets that PIO release your people made, on the Community Chest – you 100%, us 70%, and with the fact left out that we gave 15,000 bucks, and your small group just gave twelve hundred. I had to wait a little while, but I think we’re even now.”
The line was silent.
“Are you still there, Tann?” Again there was a silence.
Then Tann said, “We’ll get that moose, Pete, right out of your mole hole if necessary, and we’ll do it within two weeks.”
“Sure you will, Tann, sure you will. When I capture your troops trying, don’t write me; write the Pentagon for their return. Heh, heh, heh.”
Tann slammed the receiver down. “GET ME A MORNING PAPER,” he roared to his secretary.
The Colonel had called him and told him that he wanted to see him immediately, and Coolstone knew this to be an ominous portend. His fears were further confirmed when the secretary told him to go right on in, that Colonel Tann was waiting for him.
He entered the room, threw a salute, and started to report, but Colonel Tann said briskly, “Shut the door, sit down, and listen real good.”
“Yes, sir; yes, sir,” said Coolstone.
The Colonel dropped his voice, leaned across his desk, and his steel blue eyes pierced Coolstone’s, as he said,
“Have you ever heard of Lieutenant Curtiss LeMoose?”
The Rock shook his head wordlessly, but the small hairs on the back of his neck raised slightly.
“The enemy has it,” whispered the Colonel. “He is gloating about it, and you have exactly two weeks to get it. Use all of the resources of this command you need, but get LeMoose.”
Coolstone wanted to ask questions, but from the Colonel’s attitude he could see that he had just been dismissed.
Back at the squadron the Rock called for all the pilots. When they were settled in the briefing room and the doors were closed, he looked at them and said quietly,
“What goes on in this room during this meeting is highly classified. Now, do any of you know a Lieutenant LeMoose?”
There were a few snickers, but no one looked real enlightened. A voice from the back of the room said,
“I know a General Le ….”
“Never mind,” said the Rock. “It’s a lieutenant I’m talking about. Colonel Tann is somewhat disturbed about this young man, and he wants him, wants him real bad.” But to himself Coolstone wondered for the first time, didn’t the Colonel use the word “it” in conjunction with the “lieutenant?”
“Look” said Coolstone to the pilots. “I’ll lay it on the line. I need help. He gave me just two weeks to get LeMoose back. He said the enemy had it.”
There was a moment of silence, while the pilots looked at him as if he had lost his mind. Then one of them jumped to his feet, knocked over an ashtray, and said,
“I’ve got it; I’ve got it. It was in the paper this morning. The boys from the Wobbler Squadron across the way stole some moose head from one of the fighter squadrons. They made a big issue about it – PIO releases, the whole bit.”
“You mean the bomber squadron got a moose head, and now it’s over at their base? Well, we have two weeks to get it out of there. Boy, we are in trouble. We don’t even know for sure where it is.”
One of the captains got up. “Say,” he said, “One of those Wobbler Squadron commanders lives right across the street from me. I’ll work on him. Maybe I can find out where old LeMoose is.”
“That would help,” said Coolstone weakly. “We should at least know where he is, if we’re going to get him.” Then he added, “We’ve got to come up with some ideas, fellows, and I’ll be the first to admit I don’t have any. The Colonel gave me access to all of the resources of this command to get that moose head back.”
Now, the Flight Surgeon was also attending the meeting, and this was a very fortunate occasion, because the Doc was extremely intelligent. In fact, he had the only real idea that the 17 or 18 of them could come up with. “Look,” he said, “I’ve got kind of a plan. It’s still a little sketchy, but let me run it by you.”
“What, what, what?” said Coolstone, ready to accept anything.
The Doc briefly outlined what he had in mind. Then he said, “It will take four or five of us, but once we find out where old LeMoose is, we can give it a try.”
“Terrific idea,” said Coolstone. “Now, I’m looking for volunteers. Let’s face it, fellows, if we get caught, we are going to be in serious, dire, deep trouble. From what I have heard about their security, we might even get shot, so I can’t tell anyone to take this trip with me. I’ll just have to ask for volunteers, preferably single men.”
Coolstone was pleased to see that to a man the squadron pilots all raised their hands. He picked out three of the single ones, and then said, “O.K. As soon as we find out where that moose is, we’ll work out the details of our plan.”
It was three days later that the captain who was attempting to locate the moose reported back to Coolstone that he had found it.
“It’s hanging on the wall of the aircrew lounge in the max security area,” he said. “It looks like an impossible deal. We’ll never get it out of there. I almost got captured going in, and I was with the squadron commander.”
Coolstone groaned. “Worse than I ever suspected,” he said. “Draw me a map, show me exactly where it is, and how we get there.” He then called the select little group together – three of his pilots, the Doc, and himself. “Look,” said Coolstone. “This is going to be a little harder than we originally thought. The first thing we’ve got to do is quit using names. As of right now, we’re Stoned One, Two, Three, Four, and Five. We’ll always call ourselves by our numbers from now on.”
“How about using Tombed?” said one of the men.
“No; that gives it a nasty connotation.” Then the Rock continued. “All right, fellows. Here’s where LeMoose is – right in the middle of the max security area.”
“I quit,” Three, Four, and Five said as a man.
“Come on now; we’ve at least to try.”
He discussed the details the plan and the physical layout of the bomber base security area. “We’ll do it at night at about 12:30, so it will be dark.”
The group quailed as they heard the details. “We’ll never make it,” one of them mumbled.
Coolstone continued, “Leave all personal effects at home – rings, watches, billfolds, shot records, prayer books, dog tags, and so on. We’ll get flashlights from Supply, and Doc’ll take care of the uniforms.”
At the end of the discussion it was noted by some that Coolstone was tending to talk out of the side of his mouth, slouch his shoulders, cast his eyes about furtively, and assume some of the other less desirable characteristics of the pocketbook secret service heroes. The Doc also noted the phenomena and identified it as a “Bond” syndrome.
Midnight Wednesday the group individually and quietly gathered at the infirmary. Not a light was showing. Coolstone checked each one in as he arrived – Stoned Two, Three, Four, and Five. They were all there. Doc was “Two.”
“Look, Two,” said Coolstone, “Are you sure the uniforms will fit?”
“No sweat,” said Doc. “We’ve got about 25 to choose from here.”
The uniforms they were talking about were obviously medical jackets, shirts, and so on.
“Now, look,” said Coolstone, as he saw Three, Four, and Five putting their rank on their jackets, “we can’t all be Docs. Somebody is going to have to be corpsmen.”
There was a little grumbling, but finally they convinced Three, Four, and Five that they were going to have to be the corpsmen.
They went out the back of the infirmary, got in an ambulance, started it up, and headed for the nearby bomber base. With just the red light flashing, they were waved through by the AP at the main gate.
They turned off the flashing light and cruised slowly, while following the map provided to them by their undercover agent, until they approached the first security gate to the flight line. At this point they took a deep collective breath, turned on the flashing red light and the siren, and headed for the gate. They were waved through, to their great relief, without any hesitation, but they still had almost two miles of driving to go yet before they would arrive at the max security area, and there was something about sneaking around in the middle of the night with the siren on and a red light flashing that was very trying.
While they were driving along parallel to the taxiways and parking areas, Five, who was at the wheel, glanced in the rear-view mirror and gasped.
“They’re forming a convoy behind us.”
Sure enough, when they looked out the back window, they saw that a convoy was indeed forming behind them.
“How many cars?” squeaked Coolstone.
“It looks like two trucks full of men, a staff car, a couple of Air Force pickups, and, yep, just now one of those great big cherry pickers joined up.”
“We’ve had it,” said Coolstone.
“Had it,” echoed Three, Four, and Five in unison.
“Do you suppose they’ll let us smoke before they shoot us, or get a last meal at least?” said Four.
But the Doc wasn’t quite so willing to give up. “Look,” he said, “This could be SOP. Let’s stop. Let me do the talking, and you four don’t let a word out of you.”
He stopped the ambulance and got out. The staff car drove up beside them, and a bird colonel got out of it.
“Where’s the crash?” asked the colonel excitedly. “What kind of aircraft is it? I’m the Base Commander.”
“Crash?” said the Doc. “There was no crash, sir. We just had a report that there was a man injured near the readiness building. We haven’t been able to get that confirmed, but we started down immediately.”
“Fine,” said the colonel. “I like the way you medics operate fast and timely. I’ll lead you down there.” He bounced back into the staff car and raced off, with the ambulance behind him, two AP vehicles behind the ambulance, two trucks full of men from the crash squadron behind the AP cars, and one large mobile crane behind the two trucks. Numerous red lights were flashing and all vehicles with sirens were using them very well.
“You’re a genius, Two,” said the Rock, “a real genius. This way we’ll get led right into the area.”
“And then what do we do?” said Three. “How are we going to shake this convoy? I wish I was home.”
They arrived at the max security gate and stopped. The guard told the colonel, who in turn told the Doc, that no one required an ambulance thereabouts. “It might have been over at the shops,” said the colonel. “We’ll head for there.”
They went over to the shops — the whole convoy – but for some strange reason they were also unable to find anyone who was in need of medical attention.
At this point, the colonel apologized to the doctor. “Apparently it was just a false alarm,” he said, “and I’ll tell you one thing, Doctor. I’ll see that it doesn’t happen again. I run a tight base here, and I’ll trace this down.”
“Yes, sir,” said the Doctor. “You are really on your toes; I can tell that.”
Without incident, but with considerable high pitched conversation, Coolstone and his group returned to their base. Back at the infirmary once again. they discussed their failure.
“Our basic plan is solid enough,” said the Doctor, “but apparently the bomber boys make up a convoy at the slightest sound of a siren, so we’ve got to work something else out.”
“You mean do it again?” gasped one of the members of the raiding party. “Not me; I’ve had it. Find yourself another boy.”
“Oh, come on now,” said the Doc. “That wasn’t so bad.”
“No, no,” said Coolstone, trying to muster up some strength to his own voice. “It was close, but it wasn’t so bad.”
They were all quiet for a moment.
“I’ve got an idea,” said the Rock, and he outlined his plan. Even the two or three who had become rather cool to the operation had to agree that this new modification to the original plan was indeed brilliant.
“Tomorrow night then, fellows; 2330, same place. Our diversion will take place at 0130, which will allow us time to get in position.”
The next night there were few words as the group formed up and changed uniforms – not even an argument about who was to be the doctor. They knew what to do; they were well trained, experienced, cool. Their actions were quick and limited to only those absolutely necessary. It was an efficient group, with obvious confidence in their ability and their plans.
They moved the ambulance quietly off the base and proceeded as they had done the previous night. Only this time after they had entered the bomber base, they proceeded to a warehouse area near the first flight line security gate. There they parked behind one of the warehouses, turned off their lights and waited. At precisely 0130 over the emergency radio they heard the crash alarm sound. They saw the crash trucks and ambulances come out of the barns, form up, and start for the flight line.
As the convoy pulled past them and entered the gate, they tacked onto the rear.
Coolstone’s group couldn’t help but admire the efficiency of the bomber crash rescue operation. After moving through the gate, the convoy turned left and headed for the flight line, where obviously an aircraft emergency was in progress. As Coolstone and his group went through the gate, they turned right with their lights off.
“It must have been some emergency he declared,” said Coolstone.
“He said he was going to tell them he had a fire in the cockpit,” said Two.
“It’s working, whatever he said, and I told him to keep airborne as long as he could, so that crash convoy would stay in position and out of our hair,” said the Rock. Then he added, “every time they look at one of those Sixes, they think it’s going to explode anyhow, so they won’t be paying much attention to us.”
They drove along in silence until they reached the maximum security area. As they neared it, they turned on the siren and red light. To their relief, it was a different guard from the night before. He took a quick look at them, then waived them through without comment.
The Doc got out of the ambulance, two of the pilots followed him with the stretcher, and Coolstone followed the stretcher carrying an impressive looking medical kit with red crosses all over it. Five remained in the ambulance driver’s seat. Although the guard watched them curiously, he made no effort to stop them or even question them.
Following their map, they entered the building, went upstairs, and found the lounge, which was totally black. With judicial use of their flashlights, they examined the walls. Sure enough, there was LeMoose, motheaten, scarred, and obviously the victim of many wars, but to them it looked beautiful. They went to work. In less than two minutes they had removed the moose from the wall. They put it on the stretcher, covered it with sheets, and started out of the room. But to their extreme horror the horns wouldn’t go through the door. There was a moment of supreme panic. They turned it sideways, they turned it backwards, they turned it slaunchwise and diagonally, but the horns would not go through the door.
“Get a saw,” said Coolstone, “Or break them off.” And he wasn’t talking out of the side of his mouth now.
“Wait a minute; wait a minute,” said the Doc. “Let’s not panic now. We’re in too deep.”
“Too late,” said one of the pilots. “I’m panicked.”
“Now, look,” said Doc. “Let’s take the door off the hinges, and maybe it will go through then.”
Coolstone fished out a screwdriver, and the job was accomplished in just 30 seconds. With a slight turn, the moose head came through the door. Carefully they put the door back on its hinges.
“Cover him up now, fellows,” said the Doc, “and kind of walk to the side of him when we go by the guard, so he can’t see that rack.”
Downstairs they went out of the building, quickly loaded the moose, and as they passed through the gates with the light flashing and the siren on, Coolstone shouted to the guard,
“He hurt himself going through a door.”
They headed for the first security gate, and the guard waved them through, obviously thinking that they were part of the earlier emergency. They turned off the light and siren, and successfully passed through the base entrance and out on the highway. Not a word had been spoken since they left the max security gate.
Finally the Doc lit a cigarette, exhaled a great cloud of smoke, and said, “You know, I didn’t sleep too well last night.”
Colonel Tann had been invited to attend the morning briefing. He had just entered the room and all the pilots were still standing at attention.
“At ease; at ease,” he said, and walked purposefully to the front. As he approached the briefing platform, the group of five standing on it moved apart so that LeMoose was visible. The Colonel stopped in mid-step. A smile slowly manifested itself across his features – some said later that they never seen him smile before.
“You got it!” he shouted. Then doubts possessed him for a moment. “Are you sure it’s the right one?”
“Yes, sir,” said Coolstone. “Are we ever sure. You can’t imagine what we went through – but we didn’t get caught.”
The Colonel threw back his head and roared with delicious laughter. No one had ever heard him do that before. Tears ran down his face.
“You got it – I can hardly believe it.”
He turned and addressed the group in general,
“Fighter pilots are fighter pilots. I was pretty sure you’d think of something.”
Then he said to Coolstone,
“Tell your hot room to get the Bomber Base Commander on the phone and put the call on the debriefing squawk box, so we can all hear it.”
There was a second or two of delay, then Coolstone told the Colonel, “He’s on, sir.”
“Pete, this is Tann. How’s it going, boy?”
“Fine, Tann, fine. And how goes it with you at Delta Dump?”
“Oh, so-so. Say, we have a friend of yours over here – thought you might be interested. Heh, heh.”
“Is that right? Who is it?” said Pete, mildly curious.
“LeMoose is ours,” said the Colonel dramatically.
“Sure he is,” said Pete. “This is a figment of your imagination. What are you trying to do, use psychological warfare on me, or something. Tann, you couldn’t get that moose, no matter what you tried. It’s in our max security area.”
“We got it, Pete. We got it. I’ll hold the line, and you just check with your boys.”
“Only to humor you, Tann, I’ll call, just to humor you, but you couldn’t possibly have that moose. Hold on a second.”
The line was silent, and then in the background they could hear Pete yell, “What do you mean it’s gone? It can’t be.”
There was a delay of two or three minutes. Then he came back on the debriefing line.
“Look, Tann, I’ll call you back. I have an emergency developing here.”
He hung up the phone.
The Colonel turned around and spoke to Coolstone, “Get the PIO types going. And keep that darned moose in the vault unless you check with me.” Then he said, still laughing,
“Take the rest of the day off, boys; it’s a holiday at Delta Dump.”