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Red Tide
A Night At Frida's
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Captain Robert Kingoff dropped the right wing of his Mustang so as to get a better view.  He did this as soon as he'd heard the call from Smoker1, the lead plane in the B-17 squadron he was flying top cover for.  Not for the first time Cpt. Kingoff was thankful that he'd picked up enough German since VE Day be able to tell what that dumb Kraut first said, shouted really, when he'd picked up the bogie.  He was getting better at using English but he'd not yet learned to stick to it in combat.  Perhaps once he got more comfortable flying that big Boeing instead of his Ju 188 he'd then not be so damn jumpy as to forget he had to call things out in English.

Thus his first warning went out in his native tongue and the lag between his first shout and his correction would have been precious time and distance lost had Capt. Kingoff not understood enough of it to act.  He thought about correcting the man even as he reached for his binoculars to pick out the bogies himself but he decided against any chewing out right now.  That bomber pilot probably had his hands full and he also needed to ride herd on the rest of his crew who were also all Luftwaffe themselves.

Holding his P-51 steady even as he peered through those lenses was something which came to Capt. Kingoff from long practice.  He'd been at this sort of thing for over four years now and much of that had been flying combat over Germany as well.  He'd earned his wings in '42 and flown his first combat mission over Europe in early '43.  Those early days had been bad.  Very bad.  The P-51 was a big and wonderful machine, especially with the D models like the one he currently was flying.  Still though, it was a high performance airplane and you had to stay ahead of it to stay on top of it.  That was something the young Lieutenant Kingoff was quickly able to do and in short order he became an ace twice over and now it was Captain Kingoff and he had command of his own squadron as well.  All that was well established to Capt. Kingoff, what wasn't established to him were those bogies and that was why he had his binoculars out.

He'd found them now and looked them over.  As he suspected, it was a typical Red Air Force flight of Mig-3's and La-7's.  A whole gaggle of them too.  This time they were all about the right altitude as well.  That meant the Soviet ground controllers must finally be getting the hang of running high altitude interceptions.  The first few months the 8th Air Force was bombing the Reds they never got it right on a consistent basis.  They'd almost always be too low.  Intel said that was because the Reds didn't have the same sort of radar network the Nazis did and that they had less scramble time to react.  Well, Capt. Kingoff guessed that even the Russians can learn new tricks after they'd been pasted hard enough and the 8th certainly had been doing that.

Kingoff looked out at the approaching Soviet interceptors.  In the hands of skilled pilots those things could be a pain but Captain Kingoff didn't think much of the Red Air Force pilots and he knew his pilots had better planes, better training, and had a lot more experience fighting at altitude than did the Russians coming to him.  Still though, those planes did need dealing with before they got to the bombers.  The Germans that had been pressed into service flying those Forts were still pretty green at their jobs and those Reds might just get lucky.  Can't have that, thought Capt. Kingoff.  All this happened in just a few seconds from the first warning to when he'd picked out the bogies as being Migs.  His decision to attack was just as fast.  Keying his mic, Captain Kingoff gave his commands.

"They're Reds.  OK boys, you know the drill.  Spread out and break 'em up."  Looking up, Capt. Kingoff picked out the two Germans flying top cover.  He wanted to save those two for anything that might leak through his squadron.  He was pretty sure Oberleutnant Gratz had figured this out for himself but just to be sure and also to remind him of just who was in charge of this mixed bag flight, Capt. Kingoff keyed his mic again. "Emil, you and Ruddi sit tight but stay sharp, got it?"

As usual, Oberleutnant Emil Gratz replied quickly, in his perfectly pronounced English, and with his patented "I'm so good I'm bored" attitude.  "Roger that Able Dog, we'll sit sharp and stay tight."

Kingoff had to smirk behind his oxygen mask.  So far he'd seen enough of how Gratz and Lang handled those big Dorniers to know they were good pilots but he'd yet to see how good they were as combat pilots.  Perhaps doing more than just pull those lazy s curves above the bombers would show that.  While having those two fire up their mounts to join in bouncing the Reds would certainly give them that chance Kingoff knew they still had a while to go yet on this mission.  This one was deeper than most as it was to take out a new rail line switching point intel had found on the Soviet / Polish boarder.  That was where the standard European gauge meet up with the Soviet's and that was where everything had to be transshipped to make it the rest of the way to the front.  If there was a place left to bomb that would have a better effect on Soviet logistics then Captain Kingoff would like to know it.  Of course this meant that on such a long raid and for such a high value target the Reds could be expected to do something about it.  That their air defense responses thus far had been so weak was always a surprise to Capt. Kingoff.

The Mighty Eighth was bombing the holy bejezus out of the Red's supply lines and all they were able to do to stop it was fire up some badly aimed flak and their typical clouds of fighters.  The flak was a pain but the Reds still hadn't learned how to track a bomber stream well enough nor concentrate their fire at these high altitudes.  The interceptors, for all their numbers, were easy enough to break up for the vets like him and his boys.  For the aircrews of the 8th who had previously dealt with the fury of the Luftwaffe such a response by the Soviets was timid in comparison.  Capt. Kingoff was still hesitant to believe the intelligence analysis that stated the Reds were running out of planes and pilots capable of taking the fight all the way up here.  He knew from experience that good things were usually a trap which would get sprung the moment you thought they'd last.  Yet, for mission after mission there'd been nothing which they couldn't handle.  Certainly nothing like what the Luftwaffe used to send up on a regular basis.

After enough of this, the high command back at Bushy Park decided it didn't need quite so many planes flying escort for the bombers and began stripping them away to fly close air support for the ground troops.  First the Jugs got pulled but there hadn't been many of those that hadn't already been pulled from escort flights anyway.  Then the 38's got pulled.  This left just the P-51's which suited Captain Kingoff just fine.  He'd much rather be up here above all that crap in the mud.  Up at altitude was what his big beautiful P-51 was made for and that big beautiful Packard Merlin which drove it along also had a big beautiful radiator - and a big beautiful turbosupercharger and a big beautiful intercooler - all of which would have been like a big beautiful magnet for absolutely anything the Reds shot up into the air.  The 8th had already found out just how unsuitable were their pretty P-51's for flying down in the flak.  Back when the war seemed about over and the Luftwaffe wiped out, General Spaatz had ordered his Mustangs down onto the deck to fly alongside everything else he had there.  The 8th soon found out that a P-51 is not a P-47.  Those P-47's were perfect for flying in the midst of such ground fire but even they weren't invulnerable and the ground fire those Communist bastards threw at them was some kind of fierce.  After six months of fighting there weren't enough Thunderbolts to do the job so the 8th reached out for what they had at hand.  Thus the last of the Lightnings flying escort now got to go down into the mud and they were being bloodied faster than the 47's. 

Captain Kingoff knew his relatively sweet ride couldn't last.  Either they'd run out of the last of the Jugs and start pulling 51's down there or the Reds would finally start doing something more effective up here.  Either way it didn't look good in the long run.  But then, it never looked good in the long run and Captain Kingoff was still alive to worry about it.  At least the brass had sense enough to swallow their pride and scrounge some alternatives.  That must have involved some mighty hard swallowing though for them to scrounge up a whole squadron of German Dornier Do-335 Pfeils.  Those were among the most advanced things the Nazis had, but for their jets, and Kingoff was surprised to find that the Pfeils, German for Arrow, were actually faster than the much vaunted Me-262.  At least at the altitudes that mattered for bomber escort.  Also the 335's had long legs and that was a prime attribute for bomber escort missions as well.  Where the Army came up with enough Do-335's to fill out a whole squadron was no small mystery and how in the world they found enough spares to keep that squadron flying was both a mystery and miracle, but they did.  Somehow.

To help spread the load they divied up the 335's so that several USAAF squadrons could benefit from the speed and range of the German planes.  The brass also hoped that by mixing American and German planes that this would help minimize any friendly fire accidents.  That was the plan anyway.  Even so, the former Luftwaffee pilots had been careful to stay well above the range of most Allied antiaircraft gunners except when coming in to land or takeoff and they also made sure to use the same approaches each time when doing so in order to get the gunners in those areas more familiar with their odd looking birds.  That most of those AA batteries were by now being crewed by Germans as well only helped things.

So it was that Captain Kingoff's 351st  Fighter Squadron (of the 353rd Fighter Group) was assigned their two Do-335's.  To make things smoother they also tried to make sure the same pilots flew with the same squadrons each time.  The Germans had their own base which eased their maintenance problems considerably so they'd meet up on the way to each escort mission.  Gratz and Lang had been the two assigned to the 351st for several missions now.  So far though all they'd had to do was just fly along and look impressive.  Kingoff was usually too busy riding herd on the rest of his squadron and working with the bombers to pay them much heed.  Back on the ground he had written to his wife, Anna, of the irony of the situation that saw a Jewish American Army Air Force Captain from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, commanding and being protected by German Luftwaffe pilots who had but recently been fighting for the Nazis.  At times he thought Gratz to be an arrogant jerk but he put those thoughts aside once the shooting started.  Today was no different.  At least it wasn't until the next call from Smoker1.

When Captain Kingoff heard the B-17 pilot utter "Mein Gott!" he knew something bad was coming their way.  A second later he saw it as well and had to agree with the bomber pilot.  Up ahead of them he saw a plume of white smoke come screeching upwards toward the bombers and do so at an incredible speed.  That thing was moving like a bat out of hell and it for sure wasn't any pissant little Mig.  The only thing which Kingoff knew that could move that fast was one of those rocket planes the Nazis had flown right at the end of the war - well, the end of that part of the war.  They'd only made a handful of those damn little rockets but they were vicious as hell to deal with and they went so fast they left everything - even the German jets - in dust.  How the Reds managed to get their hands on some of those things he didn't know but if the USAAF could get a squadron of Dorniers up and running then it wasn't too off the wall to expect the Reds to come up with something similar.  This could get real bad, real fast.

Immediately, Capt. Kingoff turned to his two Germans and even before he could say anything he saw they had also seen the new attack and were already throttling up both their big Daimler-Benz DB603's and firing up their turbos.  Smart lads, the two of them, Kingoff gave them that much at least.  He keyed his mic again.  "Gratz, Lang, go get 'em.  Harvey, Davis, back 'em up.  Steve, you and Mike get between them and the bombers.  Looks like the Reds have found out how to use Komets.  Those things are a helluva lot faster then us when their running their rockets but they don't have a lot of fuel for that.  Try and keep them off the bombers for as long as you can.  Don't try and keep up with them, just keep 'em distracted.  Once they run out of their fuel they'll be meat.  Mind their guns though."

Already, the two Do-335's were far ahead and pulling wide of Kingoff's Mustang and he'd went to full WEP (War Emergency Power).  Damn, Kingoff thought, I sure am glad we didn't have to face more of those things ourselves.

Emil Gratz looked over at his wingman, Ruddi, and smiled.  Even behind the oxygen mask they had to wear at this altitude and even though they were some eighty feet apart he could tell that Ruddi was smiling too.  At last they finally had something more to do than loaf along and burn fuel.  Now they had a chance to do some combat flying and go back to doing what they knew best - killing the Fatherland's enemies.

That these particular enemies also happened to be the Bolsheviks just made it all the sweeter.  Flying those long escort missions had given Emil plenty of time to think about the world he now found himself in.  Things would have been a lot simpler had the Amis realized who the real enemy was in the first place.  But such things were decisions made well above his pay grade and also something he could better spend his time thinking about when he was just flying a boring escort mission and not flying in combat.  Emil let those thoughts go and focused on the targets in front of him.  "Damn," he thought, "Willy's little fleas do move fast!"

Oberleutnant Gratz pushed his plane into a dive and from out the corner of his eye he could see Leutnant Lang was matching him move for move.  They'd been flying together for so long he really didn't even need to turn his head to be sure of it.  Such teamwork made Emil feel good.

Emil knew they had to build up some speed and a brief dive was the best way to get there.  Had they simply tried speeding up in level flight then the incoming rockets planes, there appeared to just be two of them, would blow past them while still climbing.  Had Emil and Ruddi tried climbing without that speed then things would be even worse.  So, they firewalled their throttles, brought up their turbos and dived down to get moving.  Emil watched the exhaust trails of the two Komets make their straight lines across the top of his canopy.  His eyes flicked down to his airspeed indicator, then back up to the Komets, back down to the speed, and then over to the engine RPM's, coolant temps, oil pressure, back to the airspeed and then back to the Komets.  "Now, Ruddi" he said as pulled back and left on the control stick.  Gratz and Lang were both pushed back into their seats from the G's they were now pulling and they could hear the change in pitch of their engines as they clawed ahead.  The big Dorniers creaked from the G's as well.  This would be a climbing turn to meet the Komets when they topped out on their climb and nosed over to make their attack.  But the two Komets kept going.

"Looks like they overshot their climb" Emil radioed over "I'll bet those are Russians up there." 

"To bad for them, eh?" Ruddi keyed his mic back.

Emil watched as the two Komets finally finished their zoom climb and nosed over to make their attack on the bomber flight.  Only the bombers weren't where they were supposed to be.  More accurately, the two Red Air Force pilots weren't where they were supposed to be.  A precious few seconds passed and some even more precious velocity was wasted as the two rocket planes found their correct heading and began their descent.  By this time Emil and Ruddi were fast closing on them and doing so from below and behind - right in their blind spot.

Oberleutnant Gratz watched as the lead Me-163 began dropping down toward the bombers - and doing so right in front of his own guns.  He flipped off the trigger guard on his control stick and began lining his plane up as well.  Ruddi had spread over a bit and was lining up for his own kill.  Everything was moving so fast now for Gratz that it seemed to slow down.  He was that focused.  Even as he bore down on his prey his eyes still flicked back and forth over his instruments.  Airspeed, RPM's, oil temp, turbosupercharger temp, coolant temp, and, once again, he made sure he'd turned on the heaters in the gun compartments - can't have them jam due to icing - all of this took place in just the blink of an eye.  Literally.  Then it was back to his target.

Aboard that lead Komet Anatoly Kornukov had his hands full.  Anatoly was a damn good pilot.  He knew that in his bones.  The fact that he'd made it this far through the Great Patriotic War was one proof of that.  The fact that he'd been pulled out of his squadron in the midst of taking the war to the capitalists and Fascists to fly this new plane was more proof of that.  But it was precisely because he knew he was good that he also knew he was in trouble.  There hadn't been enough time for either him or his wingman, Viktor, to learn how to fly this new beast and it was a true beast to fly.  The Me-163 was almost 300 kilometers an hour faster than his LaG-7 and even for a good pilot that takes time to get used to.  But time was something no one had enough of in this new war. 

The damn Americans were bombing everything they could see and they could see quite a bit.  What was worse they were doing it from high altitude.  At least the Fascists had attacked from relatively low altitudes and the Red Air Force could easily get at them there.  Those B-17's and B-24's cruised in at over 6,000 meters altitude and although the Red Air Force had aircraft that could get up to such altitudes - fighting at them was something else and again.  There was a whole new set of skills to learn and a different combat environment to get used to.  The controllers on the ground also had to completely rethink their interception schedules and that took time to figure out as well.  Why none of the Comrade Generals in the High Command thought to address this issue before attacking the Americans was a question Anatoly didn't ever ask aloud.  He hadn't gotten this far just because he was a damn good pilot.  He also knew what questions shouldn't even be asked and asking why the high command screwed this up was one of those questions.  Right now though, he had other things on his mind.

The Me-163 handled like a dream, thankfully, but dealing with its blistering speed was something else.  That was where the beast lay.  There hadn't been time for enough flights to get used to that.  They'd only been able to make enough of the "T-stoff" and "C-stoff," as the Fascists called their hydrogen peroxide fuel, for a couple of brief flights and even those had been hairy things.  A few hours ground familiarization in the cockpit and some reading through of the hastily (and poorly) translated Luftwaffe flight manuals had been about it.  Even the one former Me-163 pilot the NKVD had pulled from the POW camps hadn't been much use either.  The only reason they'd gotten their hands on him in the first place was because he'd crashed his Komet and was laid up in a military hospital when the Red Army overran it.  He had hardly any more time in the type than Anatoly.  So, it was a learn as you go sort of thing and the Me-163 was not a plane anyone should have to do that in.

But it was a plane which could reach up to the Capitalists and blow them out of the skies.  That is, if its engine didn't explode when you lit it or if its fuel tanks didn't rupture as you bounced down the runway on that stupid little wheeled dolly or if its engine didn't cut out when you started your climb or if no fuel leaked into the cockpit to dissolve your very flesh.  Aside from that it was a dream to fly.

Barely a minute or two ago, Anatoly and Viktor had been sitting in their cockpits as their planes stood ready to scramble down there at their airfield.  The Americans had been sighted and it had been time to spring the trap.  The flight of Mig's and LaG's had been sent up ahead with the intent of drawing the escort fighters off from their charges.  This would then leave the bombers naked before the Komet's guns.  It was a sound enough strategy.  The Luftwaffe had used it pretty well.  At least that's what the Air Force intel had surmised.  But the Luftwaffe had years of practice in fighting a high altitude air war and they were well used to dealing with bombers coming in that high and that fast.  The Soviets were just learning all of this and it showed.

Anatoly was cursing himself for having climbed too high.  He'd lost sight of the bombers on his way up and had underestimated how fast they'd climbed.  Still though, he knew he'd outrun the American escort fighters so, even with this mistake on his part, he still had enough margin to make up for it.  Looking down at the bombers he could see the Americans we still trying to claw their way up to him.  All they had to do that with was those North American P-51's of theirs.  A quick count told him that too few of those P-51's had been drawn off by the rest of the interceptors.  Well, no matter.  None of the remaining fighters were in position to do more than just watch as he and Viktor sliced through those bombers.  The trick would be in not overshooting the bombers as well.  They moved so slow compared to the little Komet as it began screaming down to them.  That beat up Luftwaffe pilot had mentioned this too.  "Time to learn some more" Anatoly thought to himself as he began lining up the first B-17 in his reflector sight.

"Closer you pig, closer.  Almost.  Almost.  Yes!"  Emil had finally closed the separation between him and his target.  Whether he was talking silently or out loud it didn't matter to him at that moment.  What did was how that Komet finally was in range for his MG 151's and MK 103's to do some real good.  He could have fired earlier but probably would have just wasted both his ammunition and any real chance of bagging his quarry.  If he missed at that range the Komet would simply have skipped away and out of reach.  Now with the little plane filling his gunsight, Emil had him.  He squeezed the trigger and watched his four cannons spit out their shells at the smaller plane.  Two 30mm cannon and two 20mm cannon put out quite a firestorm in front of him and he felt the kick of his guns rattle through the big Dornier.  There'd be no guessing about scoring any hits here.  He'd heard how volatile the Komet's fuel was and he doubted so small a craft as the Me-163 could sustain more than one or two hits by his heavy cannons before it came apart.  Oberleutnant Gratz was right.  His ammunition counter had barely a chance to begin ticking down before he was rewarded with a brilliant explosion out in front of him as the Me-163 vaporized under his fire.

Emil immediately horsed his plane hard over and away from the fireball and its debris.  He didn't want to join that Bolshevik in his fiery death.  Winging back over he saw that Ruddi had gotten his kill for the day as well.  They both immediately set to scanning the skies looking for other attackers coming up to meet them.  Seeing none they both spun down their turbos and began throttling back their engines.  The whole engagement from first warning to their now cooling back down had taken hardly more than a few minutes.  Five at the most.  Emil suddenly became aware of just how thirsty he was and also of how sweat soaked his flight suit was.  He shook himself, and breathed out a bit as he took stock of the battle below him.

Captain Kingoff had watched all of it.  Had he blinked more than once or twice he was certain he would've missed it.  Jeezus, those 335's were nasty. 

"Damn!  Did you guys see that?"  "Glad they're on our side."  "Yeah, at least for now they are." Came over the radio.  That last bit sounded like Davis, the kid liked to talk a lot.  Captain Kingoff keyed his mic once more.

"OK boys.  Show's over.  Gratz, Lang, good work.  You two stay up there in case the Reds have any more tricks up there sleeve.  The rest of you guys, let's get back to work on the rest of those bogies.  Come on you apes - you wanna live forever!"

And with that, Captain Kingoff winged over and headed for the remaining Soviet interceptors trying to break through the rest of his squadron.  It was going to be a long day.  The other Mustang pilots followed him down and soon were too busy "working" to pay much attention to the two Germans now back flying top cover. 

Colonel Yuri Sterenko was not so busy.  He slowly put his binoculars back in their holder in the cockpit of his LaG-7.  He also thought it was going to be a long day.  A long day that started so well and now was going so badly.  He looked over at the escort pilot flying on his wing and signaled him that they were returning to base.  He'd seen enough.  Not only had the Capitalist pigs managed to destroy both of those new Komets the NKVD had found but they were, once again, driving back the Soviet planes sent to intercept their bombers. 

Colonel Sterenko was not inclined to find much humor in things.  That was hardly surprising for a man who had fought the Fascists back all across the Motherland and had seen the atrocities those bastards had left as they retreated.  He could not help but have seen those atrocities.  The Commissars made sure to send their troops by such things whenever the Army uncovered them.  Seeing one mass grave after another all filled with Soviet women and children was a crude but very effective means of insuring the troops knew who the enemy was.  For Colonel Sterenko it was those two bastards flying high above him in their Dorniers. 

While he didn't find it humorous he did find it ironic that the Capitalists would counter the Fascist weapons the Soviets used with Fascist weapons of their own.  A balance of terror in this new war.  He wondered how much longer this could last.

# # #

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This page was last updated on: 08 April 2004