M

oe had lost the toss, so Harry would be going up first. The Piper Cub was already on the field, looking like some cheerful yellow insect eager to buzz into the sky. A man in his mid-20s, bronzed by the Hawaiian sun, carrying himself with the flip and casual confidence of an aviator — a man at home in the heavens — walked over toward them and shook their hands. He handed Harry a pair of goggles, and motioned them toward the aircraft.

“I want to get up quick, before the winds start,” the pilot told them. “We’re number three to go. We’ll be taking off to the northwest, fly parallel toWaikikiBeach, towardDiamond Head. We’ll be reaching an altitude of about 900 feet. You,” he said, pointing to Moe, “can sit over there, under the palms. We’ll be back in about half an hour.”

Moe didn’t mind the wait. Since arriving on the island, he’d become fascinated by aviation, and by the many military aircraft that roared almost constantly overhead. Until he could beginOfficerCandidateSchool, the army had decided to send him for advanced training in radar systems, and he’d begun to learn how to tell the difference between a bomber, a transport, a fighter, and a recon plane. Here inRodgersAirport, a civilian facility, he would have the chance to check out the popular Piper Cub, used to train aspiring pilots; maybe he would even stroll over to the hangar and inspect the engines close up.

The Cub taxied to the takeoff strip and waited its turn. Moe stood nearby, taking in the smell of fuel, the subdued roar of propellers, the hoarse yell of a mechanic calling to a friend. It was a scene of controlled power and activity, and he liked it. A lot.

Maybe, he thought, as he watched Harry’s Piper Cub begin to glide onto the strip, I’ll take flying lessons while I’m stationed here, and transfer to the army air force.

A sound burst into his idle daydreams: a roar that grew increasingly loud. A black speck was approaching, coming in far too fast, far too low. Instinctively, Moe ducked as the aircraft flew just a couple hundred feet over the hangars.

And then — suddenly, unbelievably — there was another sound: a sound like hailstones pounding concrete, like raindrops lashing a ship in a raging storm, like Hashem’s fury pouring down upon a sinning world. Bullets! Those were bullets raining down upon the airstrip.

His daydream vanished into the blackness of nightmare. The aircraft — followed by four more, flying in careful formation — made a tight turn and came in for another strafing run.

Bullets flew, pinging, screeching, screaming down. All around him, airplane windows shattered, a storm of broken glass. Young men who moments ago had been smoking, chatting, dreaming, raced for cover, ran for their lives.

A yellow Piper Cub that had just taken off was hit. Its snub little nose and yellow propellers hit the ground with a thud that shook the already trembling earth. A thin and deadly tendril of flame flashed out of the back of the craft; white smoke enveloped its fuselage.

Gutt in Himmel — that was Harry’s plane!