Cold War tale of a unsung and unlikely hero of the United Kingdom.
This is one of the few war stories that I can tell that somebody can find evidence for. The majority of this comes not from my first-hand witnessing but from my de-briefing. The Associated Press, Voice of America, AFN News covered this. The AP recorded a blurb of a KC-138 crashing into the English Channel, VOA covered parts only brushed upon here under the title ‘The Ghost Flight’. AFN covered everything. However, most of these complete stories were edited down to near nothing or not aired.
However, the best source is the BBC New Service, London. They aired several broadcasts of the event and have probably archived them. Even if these archives were destroyed or misplaced, I’m sure somebody has a copy someplace.
My knowledge starts on 21 May 1988. Other people in the know got the ball rolling a few weeks earlier, mostly enlisted and NCO’s who took the initiative by inserting fraudulent orders into the pipe across several services. As a result, a fully armed B-52 was moved on the sly from Minot AFB, North Dakoda to Mildenhall, UK. What got everyone’s attention is the runways weren’t technically long enough for a B-52, technically. That and the fact it arrived with air to surface Hound Dog rockets otherwise known as ‘The Bomb’.
The BBC investigated since these things attract attention and the U.S. A.F. denied it. People really pay attention to these things so on the above specified date when it took off AP, VOA and to a degree AFN took note.
The real hero of this narrative is Geoffrey Bobo. He’s a retired Englishman, a veteran of the RAF of the Second World War and went to celebrate the end of his military service on his fishing boat. Now this boat is designed for the open sea, and can be related to the S.S. Minnow of Gilligan’s Island’s fame. I hate using that comparison but I don’t know anything about boats. It was big enough to have a small cabin and space for his wife and his son and another woman. They put the boat in the water and were toasting fallen heroes and videotaping it when this happened.
So, with that let the Wild Hunt begin.
John Wayne Stone aka Cerberus, Grace and Steinlitz, despised Dana Webb and if he hadn’t spent the last three weeks in Wiesbaden’s hospital getting over multiple head injuries, burns, bruised internal organs and a bullet hole he would’ve smacked the hell out of her. She thought she was a psychologist, Stone knew she was a drunken buffoon. From the minute he walked into her office to the minute he left, he wanted to throttle her.
She volunteered to provide therapy since he was ‘hit low’.
He denied it. Being recovering from his injuries he decided not to drop his BDU trousers and waive it at her or punch her in the mouth when she assumed he was lying when he pointed out she was thinking of another soldier. She said she got it from another Army buffoon of a psychologist Capt. Bonnie Parker’s Stunt Double (who would later become one of his many ex-wives). After much debate John gave in and agreed to therapy if she didn’t do it.
“What you don’t trust me? I’m fully qualified,” she gawked.
“I don’t like you,” Stone replied deadpan. “I have the right to choose my own physician under the UCMJ so I want somebody else…”
“You know this injury doesn’t make you any less of a man,” she replied and made notes and said they’d might be able to get a civilian specialist.
“Lie number two,” Stone hissed.
“Why? What’s lie number one?”
“Lie number one, I got hit low…Bonnie…”
Dana grunted disapprovingly and reminded him to remember his military bearing.
“Capt. Bonnie Parker’s Stunt Double made a mistake and you call me a liar. If you think being neutered doesn’t make me less of a man that makes you…Well unqualified in my opinion to deal with this issue Ma’am,” Stone went on gritting his teeth and choosing his words carefully. He rotated both shoulders and decided he was still too tore up to smack her. He then went on. “If there’s nothing else Ma’am may I return to my normal duties which makes me wonder how I can do them without balls…”
“Well let’s hope therapy clears that attitude up…. Did you mention that to Atomic Blonde? You know most women wouldn’t care about that…You being a neutered male…”
“Lie number three Ma’am,” Stone laughed. “Atomic Blonde has a brother she doesn’t need another.”
“What’s so funny?” she shot back. “I’d don’t like your attitude soldier.”
“Ma’am, you called me a liar, and I don’t like you. If you think any normal heterosexual woman would stay with a ballless wonder you Ma’am are mistaken…” he laughed. “Not bad for a neutered male huh? Wouldn’t think I’d have the balls to talk like this especially after three weeks…Let’s go for an Article 15. Ma’am.”
“I know you two are very close…” she surrendered with a fair amount of disappointment.
“Well you tell her. Ms. Webb if there’s nothing further, Ma’am,” Stone grunted.
“Actually, there is,” Dana replied. “While you were recovering these tapes were made of your heroic adventures…As part of your debriefing we’d figured you’d like to see the parts you missed out on. I have to say it was slick how Animal Mother and her bunch made it happen…The first part is the bombing run the second is where Air Dave is recovered from the English Channel…Your cousin is just as gutsy as you are.”
“Balls run in the family…Even the girls have balls. You should look up Mortician’s skirt sometime,” Stone grunted at this point, wanting to pick a fight. This was the last place he wanted to be and in his state of mind just plain didn’t care anymore.
Dana disgustedly grimaced and accused him of being juvenile. Stone wanting to get the last word in said he preferred sophomoric as he preferred the Greek to the Latin. She just shook her head in disbelief and ran the videos.
“Well when the armistice was declared I was floating out here in Boat 12…” an old man was saying with a drink in his hand on the deck of a fishing boat. Two women were sitting astern of the open cockpit smiling as he recounted a story from the Second World War. He stopped talking and looked up. “Say son, hand me my binoculars…Looks like the Germans are at it again.”
The camera angle changed to show a U.S. Stratotanker smoking and loosing altitude. The cameraman handed the device to the younger woman and she began taping. Both the older man and the younger shared the binoculars.
“Dad…Think it’s connected to the B-52 everyone’s talking about?”
“Yes, and this girl’s been shot down,” he replied. “Parachutes are coming out of it…”
“I count four!” the older woman his wife shouted.
“Somebody get the second pair of binoculars…” his son asked anyone.
“Big girls like that generally have eight to twelve…There’s six and seven chutes…” the older man noted. “Somebody call the Air Station…” He then looked at his watch, “If the lines are busy ask for Charlie Watson at Stanford on the Thames, he’ll be on duty…”
“Dad your war has been over for years…” his son reminded him.
“Sure, it has,” the old man shrugged while giggling. “They’re losing altitude fast…Probably trying to head for Mildenhall…”
“Here Pickles,” the older woman announced as she returned from the bay cabin and handed him the binoculars.
“We’re up to ten parachutes,” Pickles replied. He then said to his father. “The press says the runways there are too short for big airplanes…”
“They can extend them in twelve to sixteen hours…” the old man replied. “I spent most of the war out of there and that’s why they took more land than necessary…Just to make the runways bigger for the next war…Look in the water…Had a goodtime downtown when I wasn’t working, they had the nicest pub…I think it was called the One-eyed Boar….” He then winked at his son. “Some time I’ll tell you about this bird with red hair I met there…”
The camera focused in on two yellow rubber rafts in the water with a gaggle of airman floating in one. In the background the older woman could be heard talking to the British authorities on the radio.
“That’s the last one there…” the old man stated as Air Dave bailed out.
“How do you know that?” his son asked.
“The plane’s too low now…Any poor bugger left in there is a dead man…Honey you have the coast watchers on the two-way?”
“Yes dear, and they’re dispatching a boat…” his wife replied.
“Well call them back and get Charlie Watson on the horn…Tell him he still owes me a quid from the last time we went out…” he said and walked off screen and then the boat’s engines began to crank over.
“Dad, your war’s been over for years…” Pickles said looking concerned at his father.
“Oh shit!” the girl holding the video camera screamed as she swung off Pickles and focused on the Stratotanker crashing into the Channel.
“Of course, it has,” the old man giggled as he pushed the throttles forward. “That’s why way have Yanks floating in the Channel. Honey call the coast watchers again and give them our position, we’ll be fishing them out of the big drink…Just like I did for a bunch of them last week.”
“Mum…Can you talk to dad?” his son with notable concern spoke to his mother.
“Don’t worry Pickles,” his mother replied as she walked onto the deck from the cabin. She then began to scan the sky with the binoculars, “I wonder if they were flying alone or part of a squadron? Your father knows exactly what he’s doing…It’s why I married him. Oh, just in case this doesn’t end well…I had my hair dyed red when I met him at the One-eyed Boar…”
The scene then changed with some of the airman huddling on the stern deck bench under wool blankets and patchworked quilts. The others were in the cabin. The aircraft Pilot is stretched out on the deck with an oxygen mask on him from the Englishman’s first aid kit. Air Dave was the last one to climb aboard. The younger woman recorded the only statements given by any of them. The U.S. airman just identified themselves with their name, rank, serial number and then kept quiet. In the background the older woman is complaining about not having enough food as she fed everyone.
Dana Webb looked Stone over as she put in the last tape. Stone for his part couldn’t believe what he was seeing. On the last tape was a few minutes of a BBC News Service broadcast.
“Hello I’m Katie Moppet for the BBC,” the proper English woman stated as she looked into the camera. “In closing I bring you bad news…Over the past weeks we have covered the still under investigation crash of a United States Air Force air tanker. The only witness to the crash has sadly passed away…Now a pre-recorded interview with his son…”
The scene then showed a microphone stuffed into ‘Pickles’ face has he carried bags along a pier.
“Well dad just wouldn’t give up,” he said as he brushed his hair back. He was very distressed. “I kept telling him the war was now over but he insisted on staying out there waiting for other planes…I kept saying the military could handle it but he just kept saying everyone had to do their part anyhow and kept reminiscing about his days in the RAF. Even when he got pneumonia, he wouldn’t budge an inch…Mum would radio him every morning with a weather report and read the newspaper to him…Excuse me I have family matters to attend too…”
The scene then changed to a picture of him and is labeled; Geoffrey Bobo Sr. RAF veteran, 1923-1987. Last casualty of the Cold War Era.
“So, what ‘a ya think?” Dana Webb asked Stone who stood there stoically.
“No comment,” John replied.
“No really…I know you’re thinking…” she insisted.
“My thoughts are my own,” he sternly replied and stared through her.
“Well I took the liberty of calling Atomic Blonde to meet you here,” she replied not pushing the issue. “You two probably have much to talk about…”
“Ma’am have a good day,” John Stone replied and walked out.
“Hey I didn’t dismiss you!” she shouted as he walked through the door.
“Blow it out your ass…” he snarled and slammed the door behind him.
Immediately he ran into Atomic Blonde who smiled ear to ear and hugged him. She didn’t know what Dana Webb wanted and he wasn’t going to be there when she told her. He said he’d wait in the hallway for her and watched her walk into the office.
His first impulse was just leave and figure it all out later. He didn’t want to be close to Atomic Blonde, Mortician or Animal Mother anymore. He didn’t want to be around anymore. He knew his injuries changed him, when he looked into the mirror he looked into the eyes of a total stranger and after what happened to Animal…He had a few axes to grind. When he heard Atomic Blonde horridly scream that impulse to walk off struck him stronger.
He regretted not leaving her there in the lurch for decades.
“No, I’m not going to leave you…You saved my life! That’s how you got messed up!” Atomic Blonde stated as they stood in her flat’s kitchenette about ten minutes later. “Besides if I walked out on you after being hit low, I’d look like a slut and I’m too good for that…”
“Thank you for your concern…” Stone grinned as he cracked a beer. “So how are you going to handle this?”
“Well when I get too horny, I’ll just find somebody for a one-night stand…”
“And that’s not being a slut how?” Stone chuckled as he drained the beer.
“Who’d blame me?” she shrugged.
“Would you tell me?”
“No…Depends on the strength of our relationship…” she answered and then thought about it. “Yeah I would and why not? You don’t have balls so why would you care? You’re like my brother now…It doesn’t matter to me if he has balls or not…”
John Wayne Stone put the beer can down and then dropped his trousers.
“That answers my next question…” she laughed as hearts, stars and a few unicorns began to swirl around her head.
“Which was what?” he laughed and buttoned up his BDU trousers.
“How you were going to handle breaking track back in Bamberg or for that matter being our weight lifting coach…” she laughed blushing. “So, what now?”
“We screw with their heads in therapy,” John laughed. “I mean I couldn’t talk my way out of it…”
“You’re thinking of something else…Spill it…” she then ordered.
“The ending of the BBC video…The one with the Englishman on it…”
“I saw it…and?”
“I think I’ve seen me when I’m old…” John muttered withdrawing from the situation.
“There’s more to it,” she insisted.
There was. He was thinking about how to handle his personal grudges and a psych nurse he met at the hospital, her name was Asexy. He didn’t like how he was thinking. It seemed he was completely disassociated with who he was before he was injured. Everything seemed to be through the eyes of a different man. He wanted to talk to her about when he was hit the first time with the mortar round. He knew it killed him and he knew he glimpsed the afterlife…The spirit there identified herself as a Valkyrie and he had this experience he didn’t understand.
He looked at Atomic Blonde and smiled weakly. One thing he did know is he had to break with her and his old self.