Read Day of the Bomb Online

Authors: Steve Stroble

Tags: #coming of age, #young adult, #world war 2, #wmds, #teen 16 plus

Day of the Bomb

Day of the Bomb

Steve Stroble

Day of the Bomb, Copyright c 2013 by Stroble
Family Trust. All rights reserved.

Cover photo: copyright, keattikorn.

This book is a work of fiction. All people,
places, events, and situations are the product of the writer’s
imagination. Any resemblance of them to actual persons, living or
dead, places, events, and situations is purely coincidental.

Silent Generation
1

“FUBAR!”
Fouled up beyond all recognition.
“SNAFU!”
Situation normal
all fouled up. Can’t be saying the real F-word or Mom will wash my
mouth out with soap. Yeah, if Mom could only see me now. I had it
all planned out, Mom. After the war ended I was going to introduce
you to the Professor. You’d really like him. He’s one of those
college boys, real smart and all. He told me where the F-word came
from…

The Professor materialized in his mind’s
eye.

“You see, PFC Dalrumple, back in ancient
England they taxed married couples at a higher rate than couples
that just shacked up. So folks would put signs on their doors that
said: Fornicating Under Command of the King to get a lower tax
rate. That’s where the F-word came from.”

“No kidding? You mind coming over to meet my
mom after the war and tell her that? She’ll never believe me.”

“Be glad to.”

Calling out to Mom when the chips are down.
Jason Dalrumple had heard dying men do it on Tarawa, in the Solomon
Islands, and the Philippines. He had even kept track of how many he
had heard do so, as if being able to recite that bit of trivia
qualified him to survive this war so that he could relate it to the
folks back home. Besides, bouncing about in this warm water was as
close a feeling to being back in his mother’s womb he could fathom.
So wasn’t it natural for him to call on her? Only problem was that
this amniotic fluid happened to be the largest ocean on Earth and
home to those who would rather make a meal of Jason than reminisce
about mothers.

He swallowed another
mouthful of salt water. It burned every tissue it touched.
Be glad to? How about being glad enough to come
rescue me, Professor? I’ve been in the water all last night, you
know. I’m not a squid like you are. I’m feeling pretty waterlogged
right about now. At least the sun’s coming up finally. If anybody
can spot me, it’s you. I’ll even wave and yell as soon as I spot
the ship.

***

“Ensign Rhinehardt!” The runner from the command
deck shook the one he had been sent to retrieve.

“Huh?”

“Get up and get dressed, sir. The captain wants to
see you ASAP.”

“All right, all right.”
What now? The last time he called me in I had to
explain what a Navy officer like me was doing hanging around an
Army enlisted man. Good thing we’re from the same town, sort of.
Better get ready. How do I report in? Fred Rhinehardt, Ensign,
2…Wait a minute. That’s how I report in to the Japs after we invade
Japan. They got so many subs up there that they’ll sink us for sure
and I’ll end up a POW. I better grab a cup of Joe to wake up or
I’ll mess up. Old man Uley doesn’t like screw-ups.

As troop transport ships went, Ensign Fred
Rhinehardt’s was better than average. A veteran of dozens of island
campaigns, she bore little in the way of battle scars thanks to
ever-present destroyers and cruisers that protected her like big
brothers watching over a little sister. Most of her damage had been
inflicted earlier that year when a kamikaze plane dive-bombed into
her deck, sending its Japanese pilot, eleven sailors, eight
marines, and six soldiers to the hereafter. A grunt had pushed Fred
to the deck as flaming metal fly over them, an act that forever
changed the ensign’s attitude toward soldiers. So far, one torpedo
had dented her hull, a dud that found its resting place on the
bottom of the Pacific. It now protected smaller fish that hid
behind it as those higher up the food chain searched for them.

All other torpedoes fired by Japanese
submariners had missed it due to her three captains’ evasive
maneuvers since December 7, 1941. Her current captain had
sufficient motivation to stay afloat. If Captain T. A. Uley
survived WW II, he could retire with thirty years of service and at
last return to the hometown he had left during WW I to answer the
call of “anchors aweigh, my boys, anchors aweigh…” His epiphany
during military service occurred as he watched flyboy Billy
Mitchell sink every target ship the Navy had lined up with bombs
dropped from a propeller-driven airplane.

After that, Captain Uley wrangled his way
onto an aircraft carrier as a junior officer. But his floating city
went down to the bottom during 1943, with survivors of the sinking
transferred to other vessels. His final ship during WW II would
prove to be this transport ship, which was currently minus one
passenger as of…That was the worst part of any “man overboard
incident,” when did the poor sap fall, jump, or get dumped over the
side? If it were daytime, most likely he could be spotted and a
rescue attempt made unless…unless the craft was part of a convoy
steaming to some beachhead. If so, then the best that the one
trying to keep his head above water could expect was a life
preserver thrown over the side.

Good luck, good buddy, trying to retrieve any
floatation device by swimming through wake after wake produced by a
line of transports, cruisers, tenders, battleships, and maybe a
carrier or two. Then again, it was not yet certain that Private
First Class Jason Dalrumple had gone overboard. Maybe he had a
hiding place where he slept off the homemade hootch that those dumb
Army grunts could concoct out of sugar and anything that would
ferment.

“Ensign Rhinehardt reporting as requested,
sir.”

“What took you so long, ensign? I sent Seaman
Brueagard for you twenty minutes ago. Two minutes for him to get to
you, five minutes to dress and go to the head, and two minutes for
you to get here.” He tapped his watch. “You should’ve been here
eleven minutes ago.”

“Uh, I swung by the mess for a cup of coffee,
sir.” His hand shook until the little that remained sloshed onto
his shoes. “Oops. Sorry, sir.”

“The captain in charge of the Army troops
says one of his men is missing, PFC Dalrumple. You know, the clown
you pal around with, the one who calls you the Professor.”

“Jason?”

“When’s the last time you saw him?”

“Last night at about 2200 hours. He said he
was going up on deck for some air.”

“Did he come back down below after that?”

“I don’t know. I went to my quarters about
five minutes later.”

Captain Uley turned a chart so Rhinehardt
could better see it. “Okay, we were about here at 2200 last night.
He was reported missing at 0600 hours. So he went over the side
somewhere between here and here.” He drew a straight line between
the two points.

“Sir, when I went out on deck I noticed we’re
still steaming the same direction as yesterday. Why haven’t we
reversed course yet to search for Jason?”

“Because of our orders. Something big is
cooking. I don’t know what it is but I think it has something to do
with the invasion of Japan. In any case, when I radioed fleet they
denied me authority to launch a search for your friend. The best
they can do is a search and rescue by air using the flyboys.” He
handed the chart to his orderly. “Get this down to the radio room.
Have them transmit these coordinates I marked off so they can pass
them on to the flyboys. It’s time for them to rise and shine and
get in the air so they can search all day.”


But sir, we’ve covered
almost 200 miles since last night. We need to turn around
and…”

Captain Uley placed a hand on Rhinehardt’s
shoulder. “Son, once you factor in currents, tides, sharks, and
whether or not your pal was wearing a life preserver, you’re
talking thousands of square miles. Worse than looking for a needle
in a haystack, any day of the week, boy.”

Rhinehardt slumped into a chair. His chin
quivered as he fought tears meant to mourn the best friend he had
had during three years of war. He wanted to protest his captain’s
assessment but could not. It was not a matter of rank as much as
his thirty years at sea versus his three.

“Don’t just sit there, boy. We’ve got work to
do.”

“Huh?” His daze removed expected military
formality.

“Let’s narrow down the search area for the
Army Air Force boys.”

2
One Month Earlier, White Sands Missile Range

The voice counting down the minutes echoed
from the test site’s loudspeakers. “Countdown commencing. Twenty
minutes and counting.”

That’s my cue. Exit stage right.

“Hey there, Mr. Freight. You gonna watch it
from here, too?”

“Uh, sure, George. Just have to use the
bathroom first.”

“Okay. I got us two pair of dark glasses.
Snatched them out of the box before everyone else took on off. How
do mine look? Are they tight enough to protect my eyes?”

“They look perfect. Be right back.”

“Okay. If we look out this window right here
we’ll get to see the bomb go off. I’ll go ahead and pull us up a
couple of chairs to watch from.”

“The Gadget, George! There is no bomb,
remember?”

“Oh, that’s right. Sorry, Mr. Freight. I
ain’t too up on all that top secret talk.”

“George, we’re friends so don’t call me Mr.
Freight.”

“Sorry, Mr. Freight, I mean Dave. It’s just
the way I was brought up. My daddy whooped our butts real good if
we didn’t say, ‘yes sir, no sir, yes ma’am, and no ma’am’ all the
time.”

“I need to go.”

“I’ll have your chair set up.”

Now I’m way behind schedule. I thought that
George would go off with the rest of those fools to watch the bomb
go off. Oh well, when all else fails, improvise. Fifteen minutes
left, if my watch is right. That’s not enough time to line the
walls of the supply closet now. That means the rays will get me. I
better get moving. I’m down to fourteen minutes. I’ll just sneak by
him to the closet.

“How come you’re crawling on the floor, Dave?
You got another attack of the hemorrhoids again?”

“No, George. If you have to know, the rays
that are coming out when that bomb explodes are harmful.” He rose
from his hands and knees and dusted off his pants as he sidestepped
toward the closet.

“But then why everybody else be going down
real close to where they gonna explode it at?”

“Because they’re fools, that’s why! And
you’re a fool if you stand over by the window. The rays will go
right through the glass, then through your goggles, then your eyes
straight into your brain! What are you going to do then?”

“My brain? You sure about that?”

“Yes. The worst-case scenario is that it will
set off a chain reaction and destroy the earth. My best-case
scenario is that the rays will fry anyone’s brain that is too close
to the blast. I told all those hotshot scientists who walk right by
me day after day all about it. I told them how Tesla burned his
hand fooling around with X-rays. And all about Hermann Muller’s
experiments way back in the 1920s that proved how harmful invisible
rays really are. And…oh, forget it.” He clutched the janitor’s
uniform.

“Nine minutes and counting.”

“You hear that? There’s barely enough
time.”

“For what?”

“To put on the tin foil, you idiot! Because
you delayed me I don’t have time enough to line the walls of the
supply closet now. But I have a backup plan. Come on and follow me
before it’s too late.”

“Okay.”

“Here they are.”

“Mmm, mmm. How many rolls of tin foil you got
stacked up in there?”

“Ten. That’s just enough for both of us. You
in or out?”

“I don’t know.”

“Quit thinking and start wrapping the foil
all around your body. That, plus the walls of the supply closet
will stop at least some of the rays. It worked in Huxley’s
book.”

“Tell you what. You go on ahead and wrap
yourself up twice. I heard the scientists talking that this is
gonna be one historic day so’s I think I’ll just mosey back on over
to the window and watch it go off.”

“Eight minutes and counting.” The announcer’s
voice crackled through the speaker that hung next to the
ceiling.

“But if it makes you feel better, I’ll help
you wrap you on up first. Sure can’t be blaming you for being
careful.”

“Thanks, George. Hurry!”

Ten rolls of unwrapped and rewrapped tin foil
later, George shut the door to the supply closet. “I’ll be back to
check on you once it’s all over.”

“One minute and counting. Fifty-nine,
fifty-eight…”

3

“Jason Dalrumple. Private First Class…” The words
passed by swollen tongue, parched mouth, and raw lips beaten bloody
by ten hours of nonstop slaps of seawater. “Forget it, Mr. Jap! I
ain’t gonna give you my serial number. It’s so top secret that I
can’t even remember it!” He scanned the blue sky. “Sure could use
some more of those clouds to block out the sun, Lord.” He decided
it was almost noon. “Like I was telling you, it’s high noon! Time
we had it out, Yamamoto. Just you and your sword and me and my M-1.
It’s right here somewhere.” His hands clutched at salt water but
brought nothing to the surface. His estimated time was off by four
hours.

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