Its 1952 in the Deep South and bad news is about to annihilate the McGee familys entire world. Jimmy is beginning college at Ole Miss while Billy is soon on his way into the depths of the Korean War. The brothers decisions to set their own courses apart from the other, for the first time in their lives, turned out to be the easy part. But their plans would set in motion a course of events even more trying than either could have anticipated. Theres an old adage that says: you can never go home again and this couldnt have rung truer for the twins. Sadly, only one learned the lesson.
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About the Author
A Hero Among Thieves is his third published novel and the final installment in this coming of age trilogy. Gibson, who was born in St. Louis, Missouri and has lived all over the United States, now resides with his husband in Akron, Ohio. He hopes these stories touch many peoples lives, particularly those who either lived during the late 1940s and early 50s, as well as, those whose parents, grandparents and great-grandparents grew up during this fascinating and climatic time in the American Deep South.
For more information on this American author visit www.bwgibson.net
Read an Excerpt
Saturday, June 21, 1952
I don't see what's got Philly so riled up over these bus seats. I slept fine. I reckon it's on account of me being so happy to be getting the heck out of Mississippi that it don't make no difference to me where I sleep. Speaking of sleep, I sure do wish I could get a good night's sleep. But I can't stop thinking about my twin brother Jimmy and how he wasn't much approving of me joining the Air Force. Especially with this God forsaken war going on between North and South Korea. Jimmy threw such a hissy when he found my enlistment application that it put us in a huge fight. It got so bad we ended up not speaking to one another for I can't even remember how long. Jimmy and I are so different from one another. We always have been. He's very cautious and deliberate. He thinks before he acts and I, "in all honesty" (as my big sister Rose would say) don't. Which is mostly what had Jimmy so worked up about me joining. But he and I have completely opposite views on what can come from joining the military. After all, I need a bit of shaping up. I realize I'm too much of a rebel and I need to learn how to follow some rules. I need more structure in my life. Especially, if I'm ever to get married, one day, to my girl Amy Lee Chancey. She's just about the best thing that's ever happened to me. I can't even begin to imagine what it will be like to be so far away from her. I promise to write her every week if not every day. I got her picture right here with me. And I always will. I love her so much.
I just need to get the hell out of that tiny little town of Eugene, Mississippi. And Jimmy will be leaving Eugene in September, anyway, to start college at Ole Miss. As for our little brother Jordan, I hope one day, when he grows up, he moves on to bigger and better things too. And as for Rose, she's got her new husband Dean plus Mama and Daddy just down the road and seeing how that's what she always wanted, I reckon she'll be fine.
Eugene's a nice town and all but it's just too small and everybody knows everybody else's business. Plus, with being a twin I couldn't ever get a moment to myself. Geez. This is my first time away from home alone and damn, I can already feel the freedom. I reckon this will be the first time in my life I'll get a chance to really get to know myself.
Speaking of being a twin, Happy Birthday Jimmy! We're eighteen today. Wish me and Philly luck as we head out on this whole new adventure.
I got no clue what to expect of these next eight weeks of boot camp other than what Grandpa and daddy's told me. But I sure as heck am excited to find out.
Oh yeah ... and Happy birthday to me too! - Billy McGee.
Sunday June 22, 1952
The 18-hour trip ended up being 21 and a half on account of our bus breaking down some ten miles into Texas. We left Vicksburg at 10 o'clock a.m. on Saturday and arrived at Lackland around half past the lucky number seven this morning.
There were twelve of us and I was put in charge, which got me more foot room in the front seat and a railing for my feet. Wish I'd have known better than to relax because I'll be damned once that bus stopped here at Lackland and I didn't have a drill sergeant hollering at me from outside to hurry up and move my ass. My first reaction was to smile which also ended up being a mistake. He came on the bus and grabbed me by the arm cursing at me to get moving. Philly was right behind me. That fool made it worse by asking what was all the commotion for. Before I knew it, the guy had Philly thrown down on the ground calling him every single name in the book. He even told Philly he wasn't worth the shit he scraped off the bottom of his shoes last night. Boy did all twelve of us line up in a flash just so the guy could yell at us some more. He said we was "just a number" and that he was our "mama, daddy, preacher, teacher and best of all your worst nightmare." I reckon that's what the job of a training instructor is all about.
Our first order of business was personnel checks. Each of us had to strip off our civi's, which get donated to charity and be issued our uniforms. Next we all got haircuts. Philly's pretty much stayed the same but mines now the shortest it's ever been. Everyone's was done so quick that one kid had a mole. Boy did he ever scream. Then we all had our physicals and got our immunization shots. They x-rayed and examined us right down to our teeth. Then the same TI took us over to supply where we got issued additional clothing, bedding and other gear. We were shown our barracks and taught how to properly make a bed and hang our clothes to pass inspection.
There's 52 of us in the barrack and Philly and I are in the same one but different bunks. I'm sharing with some farmer boy from Nebraska who's over six feet tall so lucky for him he got assigned the top bunk. The group we're assigned to in the barrack they call an outfit and our ID is Squadron 3707 Flight #325.
They call suppertime chow and tonight's was better than any of us ever expected. It was chicken, green beans, corn bread and potatoes. Philly and I can't wait to find out if breakfast is going to be just as good. They're about to call lights out so I best get to bed although I doubt I'll sleep any. I'm too excited.
Tuesday June 24, 1952
Today was indoctrination where RTC officials welcome the new boots. Our first two weeks will be in classroom learning about the history of the Air Force, its customs and airmen courtesy and discipline. There are no written tests just lectures.
Fall out is every morning at 0430, that's military time for 4:30 am. We all march outside in our underwear for roll call and calisthenics. Then we shower, shave, dress into our drill uniforms and make up our cots. Breakfast chow's at 0600 and then its back to our barracks for inspection at 0700 sharp.
We're in different lectures all day until 1800 at night and taps is at 2000. Everything we do here is pre-planned and everywhere we go we march. The TI said we'll be learning songs to march along to. After taps we're allowed one hour before lights. Some of the guys play cards or just sit and talk while others, write letters home or keep a journal, like me. Wish I had my guitar, then I could write some songs. Writing a letter to my girl Amy Lee now.
Wednesday June 25, 1953
Today's lecture was on rankings. All new boots start off as E-1 Airman Basics. But they got other nicknames for us like boot, private, I've even heard the name Slick Sleeve but we're not official airmen until we get our first stripe. From there each grade or rank goes up by the stripe. E-1 through E-4's are called NCO's which means non-commissioned. Two stripes is a 1st class Airmen E-3, which means third enlisted rank. Three stripes is E-4 Senior Airmen, also called Buck Sergeant, four stripes is a Staff Sergeant E-5, five stripes is E-6 Technical Sergeant and then they start introducing diamonds. 6 stripes, sometimes with a diamond, is E-7 Master Sergeant and 7 stripes, also sometimes with diamond, is a First Sergeant called First Stud ranked as the NCO over the entire Squadron. After that there's Command Chief and Master Sergeant positions. For me to get into Officer Candidate School and flight school I'll need to have at least one year in college or ROTC. After school, I'll work my way up to second lieutenant so I can become an official pilot. Some of the guys are talking about how hard all that is and on top of that keeping your sergeants impressed. But I know I can do it. My vision and hearing tests both came back perfect, so that's one foot in the door.
Friday June 27, 1953
Every morning's fall out exercises are the same. We do deep knee bends and side straddle hops. A deep knee bend starts with your arms out as you squat down and then raise back up with your arms to your side. The side straddle hops are where you jump up, clap your hands and land with your legs spread, then jump up clap again and land with your feet and legs together. Sometimes if they think we're still not awake yet the Training Instructor throws in these side to side twists with our hands on our hips.
Drills are about repetition so our entire flight learns to move as one single solid unit together and perfect.
Sunday June 29, 1953
Today one of the first class airmen offered me a cigarette. I took it even though I don't really like to smoke. The heats different here than back home. It's dry, not humid like Philly and I and some of the other Southern boys here are used to.
Monday June 30, 1953
For inspection, our clothes have to be properly hung up with the buttoned up side of the shirt to the left and hung with enough space so two fingers can fit between each hanger. Our bed sheets have to fit tight with no ripples or wrinkles. If they aren't absolutely perfect, then it's one gig against you and if the floor underneath or bedsprings are dusty, then it's another gig. I actually don't mind the discipline like I thought I would. It's much better than hearing it from mama or daddy.
Friday July 4, 1952
There was a parade up in Leesville today at 1300 so after morning drill, chow and class they took us all on jeeps into town to watch. Only the top Drill Flights from camp get to march in ceremonies and even those parades still have to be on Post. No boot can get even a weekend pass to go home for a holiday unless he's at least six weeks in and in the best of standing with his TI. Happy Independence USA!!!
Monday July 7, 1952
Today our TI talked about how when Teddy Roosevelt called for US Army Airplane #1 at Fort Meyer, VA the planes only flew at a maximum range of 125 miles and an average speed of 40 mph. Now, the USAF has weapons like the new twin engine A26/B26 Invader, which is a bomber that can reach a range of 1400 miles at 335 mph. The F-86, which is a supersonic fighter jet, passes Mach 1. That's the plane I want to pilot. Charles Yager, who was from West Virginia, was the first pilot to ever do this back in October 1947. His plane was the Bell XS-1 and was designed with 4 rocket engines that can last no longer than 2.5 minutes on its 8,000 lbs of fuel at full power.
Tuesday July 8, 1952
Last night I had a dream I was flying the new "6-3 wing" F-86F's. Those birds match the same speed of the MiGs and in my dream I could actually feel myself climbing up to the 47,000 foot service ceiling. I wrote all about it in my letter to Jimmy. I hope he's excited for me. Wrote to Amy Lee tonight too. She's in my dreams. And I wake up wondering if I'm in hers. Her picture is propped up on my pillow right beside me. Tomorrow night I'm going to write to Rose, mama and daddy.
Thursday July 10, 1952
Today was a whole lecture on self-control and teamwork. They told us to scrap what our high school textbooks taught us about rugged individualism. They call that freelancing here and if anyone's caught doing it on the battlefield there'll be Hell to pay, cause when it comes to the real deal overseas, it's the kind of thing that will get you or someone else or both killed.
Saturday July 12, 1952
Today they talked about Billy Mitchell who's always been one of my biggest heroes. I remember Grandpa saying he was one of the greatest minds in the US Army Air Services during the Great War. It was his strategy that made our boys win at Saint Mihiel. It was US automobile factories that had to produce 4500 planes for the Big Push. The first take off to San Mihiel was 1481 aircraft with wooden props that had to be started by hand and they'd put flares on the wings. The Germans only had 30 different kinds of aircraft against our 120. Their strategy was to fly out over no man's land and hand drop bombs over our troops. Grandpa would always say he remembered the sky looking like a swarm of angry bees. Billy Mitchell's strategy was for us to fly in at close range so we could pinpoint each attack. Grandpa said after a kill our men would do a victory roll and by the end of the day, our men held control of the skies.
Sunday July 13, 1952
Today I got to talk with the chaplain and I'll hopefully get to go again next week. I told him how I had a twin brother and told him about the fight and how Jimmy and I didn't speak to one another for over a month. The chaplain said some lessons in life are meant to learn the hard way. But I just can't get over all the time Jimmy and I wasted not speaking. So I reckon that's what I learned, that us fighting like that ain 't nothing more than a waste of time. It's strange to write my brother's name down on paper. I guess I've never actually written it down before. I really miss him.
Monday July 14, 1952
The next two weeks is physical training and boy the TI was not lying about all the running involved. It's hotter than Hell out here so I'm glad that Thursday's the ropes course because it's in the woods which means we finally get some shade.
Tuesday July 22, 1952
It rained all last night and today Philly fell twice in all the mud. It was hilarious even though I felt bad he was getting screamed at by the TI to keep up.
Monday July 28, 1952
In gunnery and ordinance we're learning about the M-1 Garand (30- 06). All US military branches use this as their standard arms weapon. It's an 8 round clip semi-automatic carbine rifle that I hear gets pretty heavy after a while of carrying. The TI also said when they finally teach us how to load one to watch out for the chamber door 'cause it'll snatch your fingers real quick if you don't get them out of the way when its closing. We also saw the Colt .45 (45 caliber automatic machine gun with 20 round clip) and something else they called a grease gun. The Commies are using a submachine gun called a burp gun. I reckon I'll learn more about that later.
Tuesday July 29, 1952
Today I learned about the Grease gun. It's is a 45-caliber M-3 submachine gun. It holds a two 30 round magazines in a double wide spring-loaded chamber and that's about all I remember. There's also a new weapon called the super bazooka, but we won't get to train on those here. We still have yet to actually see any of these.
Thursday July 31, 1952
Today we were taught how to load and by the end of the day blindfolded and in 90 seconds or less had to have an M-1 loaded and aimed for fire. We also learned and practiced different firing positions everything from standing, sitting Indian Style, on our knees and bellies.
Tuesday August 5, 1952
The infiltration course is the closest us boots ever get to the real deal. They fire real live ammo over our heads as we crawl as fast as we can across a long field and barbed wire. Firecrackers were used to simulate grenades and mortars and we were warned that if we stood up, we might actually get shot. It was crazy but taught us how to hustle while watching your back at the same time.
Friday August 8, 1952
The infiltration course didn't compare to today's gas chamber. Me and tight spaces just don't get along. The gas chamber was tight as Hell and after we were all packed in there with the door shut we had to take off our masks. I thought I was going to pass out but I do now have an appreciation for what the enemy goes through. After the drill we were taught how to properly clean our masks and then marched to chow. Tonight was beef stew, corn and greens, which tasted pretty darn good.
The garage was charged with sexual energy until little Jordan walked in. The seven-year-old took Jimmy and Sarah by complete surprise. Jimmy contritely stepped back from Sarah and turned away from his kid brother. At once, Sarah kneeled down and greeted little Jordan with wide-open arms as he came running towards her. Sarah loved that Jordan adored her so. She scooped him up in her arms but could only hold on long enough to give him a kiss before he slipped from her grip. Jordan was growing fast, and the days when Sarah could carry him around were gone. Still, Jordan looked up at Sarah with a great big smile. Sarah pushed back her brown bangs and returned his smile.
"I do believe you've grown more since just yesterday," she said as she reached down and ruffled his short, soft, brown hair. "How's my little man doing?"
"Good," Jordan answered in a small voice.
Sarah tilted her head to one side. "Good? I'm surprised. With it bein' such a beautiful evening like this, you oughta be feelin' great!"
Sarah's emphasis on the word "great" made Jordan laugh. The last thing in the world he wanted to do was disappoint Sarah. "I am. I'm doin' great!" he answered with a series of nods.
"Phew. Well, that's a relief. I was beginnin' to get worried for a moment." Sarah chuckled and looked over at Jimmy with a smile.
Jimmy was annoyed. He wanted Jordan to get lost.
"You need something?" he asked Jordan.
Jordan had no particular reason for being in the garage other than kid-brother nosiness.
Excerpted from "Extra Innings Trilogy: A Hero Among Thieves"
Copyright © 2018 B.W. Gibson.
Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
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