6. RUSH ORDER (1943)

 An article surfaced in a Stars and Stripes magazine. “Rush Order”, penned by Colonel Alfred Frederich Kalberer:

There’s no such thing as just another B-29. Each sleek silver meteor is a shattering symbol of the mighty determination of a peace-loving people to burn out the very roots of the Japanese cancer.

But 393 were something special. She was a challenge, a pep rally to the folks on the home front. They’ve been accused of smugness and complacency. We think that’s unfair, but now and then it helps to be reminded that in so vast a job one particular rivet, one specific Bombay, one individual section of wire, will, on a certain moment on a certain day play a part in a mammoth struggle.  Then a man can tighten his belt another notch and say to himself, “I had a part in today’s mission. In a way I was there”

So at the Boeing beehive in Wichita, Kansas, 393 took shape as a rush order. She became a heartbeat and a hope; she came to life more swiftly than any B-29 which had preceded her, charged with silent cries of defiance from every man who had welded a piece of his heart inside of her.

And one day she stood poised on the runway, holding within her the power of nine thousand horses, a speed approaching that of speed itself and the pride and righteous anger of every man and every woman who had touched her. And with a roar that drowned their shouts of triumph she rolled down the runway, slowly at first, then faster and faster until in a final breath-taking moment her wings grasped at the sky and pulled her up and up…

She took the Atlantic in stride. She could almost hear the guns from the European conflict- but she had another destiny, across old battlefields now abandoned to desert wind and sand. Twelve thousand miles she flew, over the very cradle of civilization, until she looked down upon the jungles and searched out a long concrete runway built by Alabama Negro boys. In India. And so she paused for checkup. Fuel. Oil. Water. She had to be right. For across the “Hump” in China her older sisters were now being readied for a mission. Maintenance men caught the spark to hurry, hurry, hurry… Swarming over her, petting her, feeding her. The period normally taken to combat-ready a Superfort was cut from days to hours.

It was there she was named the “Rush Order”. It was there young Staff Sergeant Zuckerberg, who only a couple years before had been a magazine illustrator, saw her first and was inspired to the magnificent drawings you see on these pages.

Christened, refreshed, assigned to the group known as the  “Hellbirds,” whose motto “With Malice Toward Some“ she bears, she was off at full cry, across the roof of the world, over more jungles, cliffs and torrents, jagged snow-covered peaks.

And she found her sisters lined up beside a long gravel runway built by a hundred thousand sweating coolies of ancient China. Her sister Hellbirds were already being loaded for a mission over Formosa. Pausing only long enough for a hasty checkup, she was ready to join them. And in the cold rawness of a low-ceilinged rainy pre-dawn, her bomb bays charged with unnumbered eggs of vengeance once more she soared up and up, joining other sleek giants in tight formation.

Fifteen days after she had taken off from the factory, “Rush Order” dropped her first bombs on a target two-thirds round the world.

What has “Rush Order” done for the war effort? As an individual airplane she could only add her mighty mite to the delivery of destruction. But as a symbol she did much more. She recharged the spirit of war determination all along the line. She proved that the spirit of a people is reflected in their efforts.

It is highly significant that the record of “Rush Order” has already been beaten. There will have to be many more like 393 before this war can be won. But even more important, there will have to be much more of the kind of spirit that made her a Rush Order if we are to shorten the weary months of war in the Orient.

The uncle I would never know. A war hero whose name I would see years later, etched into granite at the Punchbowl Memorial above Honolulu. Fortunately, he left a daughter behind. Diane was almost ten years older than me and would live with us for a couple years while she was in high school. Now she would provide funds for a one-way ticket that might save my life.