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Old 01-19-2015, 09:24 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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Part IV:


1610 Hours: Camp 32, Holguin, Cuba.


The rumble of jet engines got Lieutenant Kelly Franklin's attention again. This time, she was in the cell she shared with Navy Lieutenant Tyler Brookes, who'd been an A-7 pilot from the carrier Oriskany, until she'd been shot down in November, during a raid on Santiago de Cuba. Both had spent the better part of the day in their cell, despite having had work details-for Franklin, it had been sweeping the courtyard, while Brookes had been on the dishwashing detail. Now, the rumble of engines got their attention, and Franklin went to the cell window and peered through the bars.

“Bombers. And they're coming back.”

“Any underwing cargo?” Brookes asked.

“Nope. But thirty went out. And here's three coming back.” Franklin said. “They must've run into a buzz saw.”

“Want to bet those were Tomcats?” Brookes wondered.

“No takers.” Franklin said. She got down from the window and went to the wall. “Clear me.”

Brookes nodded and went down to the floor and peered through the crack between the cell door and the floor. “Clear.”

And Franklin began to tap to the next cell, and then went to the other wall and repeated the tap. Soon, the word would go from their cell block to the next one, and eventually, even if it took a week, all over the camp. And finding out that the Cubans had gotten a bloody nose in the air was a definite boost to everyone's spirits.


1625 Hours: 38th Bomber Regiment Operations Room, Holguin AB, Cuba.


Captain Manuel Ochoa stormed into the operations room in a rage. He was the senior ranking pilot to survive the mission, and to say that he was highly displeased was an understatement. That anger was also tempered with the fact that he was now the senior ranking pilot in the 38th-or more correctly-what had been the 38th Bomber Regiment, now only five strike aircraft and one reconnaissance aircraft strong. The first man he saw was the regiment's intelligence officer. “WHAT DID YOU SEND US INTO?” he screamed.

“Comrade Captain,” the intelligence officer-a Major-replied, “What are you talking about?”

“It was a massacre! There's no other way to describe it. Aircraft falling right and left, missile trails all over the place, and all we have to show for it is an attack on a possible picket ship. Twenty-six aircraft and crews lost! And for what?” Ochoa yelled, not caring in the slightest if he was insubordinate.

“Mother of...” the major replied. He went to the phone and got on the line to Air Force Headquarters and relayed the mission results. The major nodded, and held the phone for Ochoa. “Havana wants a word with you, Captain.”

Ochoa took the phone and said, “This is Captain Ochoa. Who am I speaking to?”

“Comrade Captain, this is General Estrada at Air Force Operations.” the voice on the other end replied.

“Comrade General...” Ochoa said.

“I'll be blunt, Captain. What happened out there?” Estrada asked.

“Comrade General.....there is no more 38th. Thirty aircraft-all of our serviceable bombers-went out. And only four returned. The reconnaissance flight was also hard hit: only one has returned.” Ochoa said.

“I see.....” the voice on the other end trailed off. “And mission results?”

“Comrade General, we found a ship that may have been a picket ship, and several aircraft did launch missiles against it. Several did hit, and we're claiming a kill. Four more aircraft closed with the carrier group, and they did launch, but none of those aircraft have returned.” Ochoa concluded.

“So, one ship sunk, and unknown results in the actual strike on the carrier?” Estrada asked.

“That's correct, Comrade General.”

“All right, Captain. You're now acting commander of the 38th, despite your rank. I'll see about getting you the rank that goes with the job, and work on getting some replacement aircraft.” Estrada said. “Right now, just be glad you're alive.”

“Yes, Comrade General.”

With that, General Estrada hung up, leaving Ochoa holding the receiver. He then hung up and turned to the intelligence officer. “I don't think we'll ever go up against a carrier again. Not after today.”

“Comrade Captain, I believe you're right.”


1700 Hours: Sick Bay, U.S.S. John F. Kennedy.


Admiral Mattingly came into Sick Bay with Captain Darrel Cramer, the carrier's captain. They found the head of the Medical Department, Commander Neal Walton. “Commander, how are the survivors?” asked the Admiral.

“One is critical. Two others are still in surgery, and the rest are recovering,” Walton said. “The one critical case ....his chances are no better than 50-50.”

“Can we talk to any of them?” Captain Cramer wanted to know.

“One who's doing fine is more than willing to talk: he's the ship's Fourth Officer.” Commander Walton said. “He's been demanding to speak with a senior officer, as a matter of fact.”

Both the Admiral and the Captain nodded. Mattingly said, “Let's see him.”

Commander Walton escorted the two senior officers to the room, which had a Marine guard. The guard nodded and opened the door. Inside, sitting on a bunk, was Sven Kossborg, the Gotland's Fourth Officer. He turned and saw the three officers come in. “Mr. Kossberg,” Walton said, “This is Admiral Mattingly, the battle group commander, and Captain Cramer, the JFK's captain.”

“Admiral, Captain...” Kossberg said. “Thank you for rescuing us.”

“No thanks necessary, Mr. Kossberg. Even in wartime, the rule of the sea still applies.” Mattingly said. “Do you know what happened?”

“No,” Kossberg shook his head. “The aft lookout said he saw aircraft in the distance, and that one or two were falling in flames. Then he shouted that there were smoke trails closing in on us. The Captain ordered a message sent that we were under attack, but I have no idea if it went out. The next thing I know, two explosions, and I am in the water.”

“You're lucky,” Walton said. “First-degree burns, and a broken ankle.”

Kossberg looked at the cast on his ankle. Yes, it could be a lot worse. “How many?”

“Only seven,” Walton said. “And one is in very critical condition.”

“Who attacked us?” Kossberg asked.

“Cuban Tu-16 Badger bombers.” Mattingly said. “They probably thought your ship was a radar or ASW picket, and since they were under attack from our fighters, you were first in line.”

“Of all the....” Kossberg said. “How soon can we go ashore?”

“You'll have to stay aboard ship for the time being. None of your crew are in any shape to travel, I'm afraid.” Commander Walton said. He looked at the Admiral. “However...”

“However,” Admiral Mattingly said, “I'll notify my superiors, and they'll pass on your names to the Swedish Ambassador in Philadelphia. Your families, at least, will be notified.”

“Thank you, Admiral.” Kossberg said. “And all this for a mixed cargo of coffee and bananas.”

The door opened and a Navy Nurse-one of those newly assigned to the carrier, asked for Commander Walton. He listened to her, looked at Mr. Kossberg, then came back. “Mr. Kossberg, I've got some bad news. The one crewman in critical condition?”

Kossberg had an idea of what was coming. “Yes?”

“I'm afraid he's dead. There was only so much we could do for him. Even if we'd gotten him flown to a base in Puerto Rico, even they might not have saved him.” Walton said.


“I see...I am sure you did all that was possible. If it's possible, his body should be sent home to his family.” Kossberg said.

“Again, I'll inform my superiors, and those arrangements will be made,” Admiral Mattingly said.




The next day, the Kennedy/CVW-3 team moved into position and launched strikes into Southeastern Cuba, while the Bon Homme Richard/CVW-21 team did the same. A five-day series of strikes against targets deeper into Cuba went on, with Cienfeugos, Banes, and other targets being hit, before the carriers broke off to replenish. Each carrier air wing lost several aircraft, with Kennedy losing two A-6s and four A-7s, and Bon Homme Richard losing an F-8, an RF-8, and three A-7s.

Fallout from the failed strike reached into the corridors of power in Havana, when General Lorenzo reported the failed strike to Fidel Castro. That failure, plus the bad news coming from the front in North America, led to Lorenzo's dismissal. Furthermore, the Swedes were not pleased that one of their ships had been sunk by Cuban aircraft, with Fidel's refusal to apologize for the sinking led the Swedes to recall their ambassador “for consultations”, and was one of several factors leading to the fall of the Palme government in Stockholm. After Palme lost a no-confidence vote in the Swedish parliament, his successor apologized to the U.S. Ambassador for the downturn in U.S-Swedish relations that had occurred under the Palme government, and that if the U.S.-and by extension, its allies, wished to purchase NATO-standard small-arms, tank, and artillery ammunition from Swedish firms, the new government would have no objections to such purchases, and if additional systems, such as the RBS-70 SAM, were on the Allied shopping list, any objections in parliament to the new policy would be easily overcome.
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