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Aces Up by Covington Clarke

He added as Cowan evidenced surprise


It

was a fair question, and one seldom heard from the lips of a commanding officer. Coming from Cowan, it was doubly surprising, and effectively blocked all pleas founded on sentiment and sympathy.

Now Larkin was stumped, but McGee was ready to take up the gage.

"Major Cowan, I have been in the service long enough to know that the wise army man always gets out from under. Pass the buck. It's the grand old game. But I see a way out. If I were in your position I would direct the issue of an order sending us back. But," he added as Cowan evidenced surprise, "I'd manage to have that order mislaid in the excitement."

Cowan nervously paced back and forth. Suddenly he wheeled in decision. "No," he said, "I won't pass the buck; I won't shift the responsibility. Passing the buck in training may be all very well, but a commander who does so in action is not fitted for command. We are on the eve of action. Report to Lieutenant Mullins, gentlemen, and tell him I said you were to go along. See that your ships are ready at four a.m." He turned and walked rapidly toward a group of ground men who were loading a truck.

Larkin's eyes became wide with astonishment. "Well what do you know about that! Say, that bird is going to make a real C.O."

"I think he is one now," McGee answered. "Action does that to men--sometimes."

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CHAPTER VI

The Squadron Takes Wing

1

Only a war pilot can visualize the confusion and excitement incident to moving a squadron base up to the front. There is work enough for all even when such a move is foreseen and planned for days in advance, but when a moving order comes down in the dead of night--as is so frequently the case--then rank is forgotten. Pilots, Commanders, Supply and Operations officers, air mechanics, flight leaders, in fact everyone, from the C.O. down to the lowliest greaseball, pitches in with a gusto sufficient to produce a miracle. For it is little short of the miraculous to carry out an order, received at midnight, calling for a movement at dawn. In fact, one inexperienced in army ways would declare that it couldn't be done. But Great Headquarters considers only what must be done, issues orders accordingly, and such is the magic of discipline and proper spirit that lo! the thing _is_ done. The impossible becomes possible--and the ordinary!

And so it was with Major Cowan's squadron. The hour they had so long awaited had come at last. So great was their zeal that with the first hint of dawn in the east the planes were all on the field, properly outfitted, finally checked, and ready to go. Even the planes seemed to be huddled together, poised like vibrant butterflies, eager to take wing.


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