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Sergeant First Class Gavin Jackson sat quietly with his thoughts in the C-47 comforted by the familiar vibration of the twin-engine aircraft. In sleeping bags on the floor in front of him were two young paratroopers he had trained several months ago at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. The rookie Counter Intelligence Corp (CIC) Special Agents reminded him of when he was their age and volunteered to join 101st Airborne, the "Screaming Eagles," often referred to by the Germans in World War II as "The Devils in baggy pants." Paratroopers are elite warriors. Many off-duty paratroopers wear T-shirt's emblazoned with the promise of "Death from Above."
Sergeant Jackson and the CIC agents with the pilot, Captain Mortensen, and his copilot Lieutenant Gerber, are on a night flight in a C-47 from Grand Forks, North Dakota, to Ft. Churchill, Manitoba, Canada. The CIC agents were permanently stationed at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. Their flight to Grand Forks Air Base was in a World War II B-25 bomber from Holloman Air Force Base near Albuquerque, New Mexico. They had been awake for the past eighteen hours, and needed to rest for the simulated commando attack they will make at midnight on the largest Defensive Early Warning Radar Site in Canada. Captain Mortensen's flight plan was filed as a night navigation training flight to provide cover for the arrival of a United States Air Force plane landing at the Hudson Bay site.
Jackson was a lean high school graduate in 1942, hardened throughout his youth on an Arkansas farm when he was drafted to defend his country. He remembers every detail of when he jumped into France during the Normandy invasion. He was twenty years old then, just one year older than the CIC agents. That was hundreds of jumps and eleven years ago when he and fifty-nine other paratroopers stepped out of a C-46 Commando Aircraft on his first combat jump in the early-morning darkness of June 6, 1944.
Today, he was still a lean, highly skilled warrior, and recognized as one of the few experienced specialists of the world on the technical methods of secretly parachuting into foreign countries or enemy held territory. His two young charges won't jump into combat tonight, but the folks on the ground protecting the super-secret Early Warning Radar site at Ft. Churchill, Manitoba, Canada, were armed and authorized to shoot intruders.
CIC agents, Private First Class John David Dalton and Fred Coulter do not have weapons. Ft. Churchill was one of 268 similar radar sites stretched across Canada from the east to the west coast in 1955. The secure radar sites were built to warn against a possible Russian invasion of America from the north. The sleeping youngsters were sent by the Pentagon to test the radar site's security as part of a continuous effort to be sure that strategic military sites are providing constant security that is necessary for the defense of the United States.
Jackson is the Jump Master and equipment specialist. His job is to ensure the two invaders are properly equipped for the penetration jump, and to make sure they dropped into Ft. Churchill undetected and safely. Major Melvin Tyler, a WWII veteran himself, and now the commanding officer of a counter intelligence security unit at White Sands Proving Grounds, New Mexico, specifically requested Sergeant Jackson because Tyler knew Jackson was among the best there is at this kind of work. He had known Gavin Jackson during the war. He specifically requested Sergeant Jackson for this security penetration because he couldn't afford any down time due to injury or losing the only two nineteen year old CIC agents in the United States Army.
Testing the security of military bases is a secondary responsibility for Tyler's new command. His White Sands Unit of Army Security Agency personnel, two FBI agents, and two CIA agents will be working closely with, and very much dependent upon, the investigative skills of the two teen age CIC agents. Tyler's primary assignment is ferreting out spies in Juarez, Mexico, where Russian KGB agents overheard, or bought missile secrets, from American soldiers in the Juarez bars. Strategic Air Command personnel from Biggs Strategic Air Force Base or the army's Nike missile specialists from Ft. Bliss in El Paso, and both military and civilian personnel from White Sands were lured to Juarez for the raucous nightlife, inexpensive drinks and prostitutes. Tyler needed two counterintelligence specialists similar in age to blend in with the majority of soldiers their age in the Juarez bars. English speaking undercover KGB agents engaged those military personnel in revealing conversations. The Russian agents worked to lure them into discussing America's missile secrets and capabilities. Posing as soldiers like their targets, KGB agents looked for young inebriated soldiers, or knowledgeable civilian missile specialists, engineers and scientists to provide classified information for money.
Sergeant Jackson wondered if the two agents, who graduated from high school a year ago, had any apprehension about the extreme low level night jump they will make tonight. He smiled to himself. He suspected the two teenagers probably felt indestructible after all they accomplished during the past nine months of training. They were sleeping comfortably.
John David Dalton, everyone called him J.D., and Fred Coulter were army enlistees whose intelligent quotient scores would have qualified them for Mensa membership. Both were from different Pennsylvania towns. Fred was from Allentown, and J.D. from Nanty Glo, a small coal-mining town. Each had played four years of high school football, and Fred also played baseball. In appearance, with crew-cut hair, their young age, and the language of the majority of the military personnel crowding the bars of Juarez, they would easily blend in as typical 1950's high school boys.
Fred was a six foot tall blond, blue eyed, handsome teenager with a lean body frame who was a star end in football, and a center fielder for the Allentown High School baseball team. He had been a straight "A" student. His parents wanted him to go on to college, but he wasn't sure what he wanted to do with his life.
J.D. had dark brown penetrating eyes and brown hair. He was an inch shorter than Fred. He had been a halfback with Olympic speed, who could also throw a football seventy yards for Nanty Glo High School, where he was the Senior Class Vice-President. No college scouts discovered him in the little town of Nanty Glo. J.D. worked most summers as a lumberjack during his high school years, and never had to study hard for his academic excellence.
Both J.D. and Fred completed Basic Infantry Training at Ft. Jackson, South Carolina, in March 1955. Major Melvin Tyler reviewed the personal files of dozens of high I.Q. nineteen-year-old candidates at Ft. Jackson. Fred and J.D. were not in the same Basic Training Company when they were ordered to report to Major Melvin B. Tyler in an empty barracks building on the basic training base. The only light in the barren building came through the windows when Fred and J.D. saluted and identified themselves to Major Tyler. The major informed them he selected Fred and J.D. to attend nineteen weeks of military intelligence training as Counter Intelligence Corp agents at Ft. Holabird, Maryland, but never explained what they would be doing for the army. At the time, they didn't know they would be the first inexperienced nineteen year old recruits in the history of the army's training of CIC agents.
After completion of the CIC training, they were sent to the 101st Airborne's jump school at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, where Sergeant Jackson had been one of their instructors for parachute training.
Upon completion of jump school, they were assigned to White Sands Proving Grounds, New Mexico. In the past six months both boys had seen more of the United States than either one had experienced since their birth in Pennsylvania. They traveled to their permanent assignment at White Sands Proving Grounds in a sleeping compartment by train from Kentucky, and arrived at Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, late at night. That was the nearest stop in New Mexico to White Sands Proving Grounds. A taxi met the train each night. Fred and J.D. were the only two passengers to get off the train. After spending the night in town, they caught a bus the next morning to Las Cruces, and boarded another bus to White Sands. The military policeman at the gate read their orders assigning them to the 100th ASA Detachment. He told them there was no such unit at White Sands. He suggested that unit might be Colorado.
J.D. insisted that he and Fred be taken to the Post Locator. Due to the secret nature of the research work at White Sands, another MP was called to escort them to that office. They showed their orders to the desk sergeant, and discovered the 100th ASA Unit was on a classified list not generally available to anyone inquiring about its existence. He called Major Tyler, who came to the office to pick them up and get them settled in the barracks with all the Army Security Agency communication specialists.
During the past two weeks, they attended briefings and reviewed secret material about every missile undergoing research and development on the missile range. Two days ago the Pentagon sent a coded teletype message to Major Tyler assigning them to test the security of the Ft. Churchill radar site. Tonight, they were making their first "attack" to simulate the destruction of the largest radar site in Canada. This was to be a test of the base security and the potential for enemy agents or commandos to render the Defense early-warning system inoperable. It was late October and very cold at the far north site on the south shore of Hudson's Bay.
"Sergeant, are you awake?" Pilot Captain Mortensen's voice was loud and clear through Jackson's headset.
"We just received an emergency message from Grand Forks that October is the time of the year that the Polar bears are all over Ft. Churchill."
"What! Polar bears?"
"Yep, Polar bears. Apparently, someone in the Pentagon remembered the bears gather there in October waiting for the ice to freeze over so the bears can hunt seals. We'll have to abort the mission. Tell the jumpers."
Jackson woke the boys. When they were fully awake he said, "We just learned that Ft. Churchill might be full of Polar bears, and the captain wants to abort the mission."
J.D. and Fred stared at each other as the reality of the information sank in.
Fred said, "I thought the flight from Holloman to Grand Forks in that old B-25 with no heat, and loud engines was a survival test! Now we have to fight off Polar bears!"
J.D. commented, "Sarge, does Captain Mortensen make the decision whether we jump into Churchill, or is it you, the Pentagon, Major Tyler our commanding officer, or Fred and me that make that decision?"
"The pilot is responsible for everyone on his plane."
J.D. counters, "This is different sarge. We have a direct order from our commanding officer, Major Tyler. He has a direct order from the Pentagon. In this case Captain Mortensen is just the bus driver, we don't report to him. While we are flying with him, yes he is in command of the aircraft. However, if we didn't perform the mission, we are violating a direct order."
"Are you nuts J.D.? You mean you want to jump into Churchill and tangle with a mess of Polar bears?"
"Look sarge, this is our first serious assignment as CIC agents. We can't ignore a direct order and quit because it is dangerous. Ft. Churchill has a large number of people down there who have been dealing with the Polar bears for years. Somehow, they are surviving year after year. We should be able to make it for several hours."
"J.D. the folks stationed at Churchill are armed. They have high-powered rifles, and they know those bears. How many Polar bears have you boys dealt with?"
"None sarge, but both Fred and I qualified as expert marksmen with both rifles and the 1911, .45 Semi-auto handgun. I noticed that both the pilot and the copilot have those side arms, which they won't need when they land at Churchill."
Jackson gets on the plane's intercom. "Captain, we still have an hour or so before we get to Churchill. Can you come back here and talk to us?"
"Roger. I'll be right there." He hands the controls over to the copilot, and makes his way back to his passengers.
Captain Mortensen settled himself into one of the seats along the bulkhead. "What's up?"
Fred asked, "Captain, did Grand Forks order you to abort this jump?"
"No. They just passed on the knowledge that Ft. Churchill could be covered with Polar bears. I made the decision that it was too dangerous."
J.D. explained, "Captain, we have a direct order, and this is our first mission assignment. If you and the copilot will lend us your side arms, Fred and I want to continue with the mission as planned."
Fred hadn't said anything up to this point, but he was shaking his head in agreement.
"I have no authority to prevent you and Fred from jumping. I think it's risky. I don't know much about Polar bears, but I know they are extremely dangerous. However, I understand, and commend your decision. We'll lend you our weapons, and do our best to get you over a safe spot for the drop. It is important that you know our .45s are loaded with full metal jacket, 230 grain ammunition, and we only have one clip of seven rounds for each gun. I don't know if the .45 is a bear stopper. We're a little less than an hour out from Churchill, which will put us there close to midnight. Maybe bears sleep at night. You'll have one advantage, there is a full moon. You should be able to see any bears that show up to eat you."
He addressed Jackson. "Sarge, I'll activate the red jump warning light as we approach the airfield and trigger the green light just before we enter 500 feet of altitude." Mortensen paused for several seconds, and saluted the two courageous jumpers as he got up to return to the cock pit.
Sergeant Jackson understood why the captain saluted the two privates. It would have been easy for them to agree to abort the mission, and no one would have criticized their decision. The two agents were not members of the 101st Airborne; they were trained by Jackson and other men of the famous unit that fought at Bastogne in World War II. He wondered if the courage all paratroopers seem to have is a result of the training, or is it because of the type of young men that volunteer for the training. Tonight the two teenagers displayed the "can do" attitude he witnessed in many paratroopers of the 101st. Jackson would campaign to see these two 101st jump school graduate's pictures were displayed with the other exceptional members of the 101st on the wall of heroes at Ft. Campbell.
Mortensen returned with the two gun belts, holsters and the .45s. He pulled both clips to show that there were seven rounds in each clip. "There is no round in the chamber."
Jackson started unpacking the equipment he brought for the mission and began to organize their jump packs. He explained, "Major Tyler requested this stuff. Your chutes are olive drab, which won't glow in the moonlight. You can start getting dressed. I brought wool underwear and fatigues, and the winter gloves that were used in Korea. Also, the new cold-weather jump suits. Each of you will carry an M3 knife. Your leg bags will have heavy wire cutters, flashlights, a camera, a combat medical kit, yellow marking ribbons, an ANPRC-6 Walkie-talkie with the dedicated CIC low band VHF crystal, and a sleeping bag. If you both land safely, or I should say, when you both land safely, just trigger the transmitter with two clicks, no voice transmission. If there is a serious injury, use voice transmission. I'll have one of the radios. Break out the sleeping bag and the .45s, and we'll get to you as quickly as we can after landing at Churchill. You won't be camping out tonight with the Polar bears. Get through the job as fast as possible and check in the first place you can find anyone awake. As soon as you land, chamber a round and put the 1911 in Condition One. Got it?"
Fred said, "We understand sarge. Glad you're here."
Both infiltrators were thinking about Polar bears as they suited up in winter wool fatigues and black jump suits, a black Balaclava face mask, jump boots and wool liners under their leather gloves. Sergeant Jackson helped them into their parachutes, checked the strap connections and attached the quick-release equipment bag.
Static lines were hooked up just as the red light came on the panel near the door. Jackson opened the door, made a scan of the terrain for obstacles and double checked their static line.
Excerpted from The Christmas Drink by Clay Cunningham Copyright © 2012 by Clay Cunningham. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted July 10, 2012
Terrific book. It has humor, suspense, romance and some surprise characters in Mexico. I didn't want it to end. Looking for furure episodes of the two agents who used common sense and worked hard to do their best.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.