Thursday, November 29, 2012

"Operation Wolverine" by Anonymous

Operation Wolverine

A shimmer of blue on the starboard wing warned Carlson that the electrically heated de-icer had short-circuited. The temperature outside the pressure-sealed cockpit registered 28 below zero. Carlson's worried eyes read the jet fuel gauge. The needle was on the low side of 75 gallons. That wasn't enough fuel to take Carlson back to his base. But worse than that, Carlson was lost!

The turbojet's standard equipment compass had first begun to swing pendulum-like when Carlson had flown north over the 23rd latitude. Beyond that point stretched the frozen wastes of the Arctic Circle. And somewhere within that desolate expanse of snow and ice an enemy radar jamming station was operating!

Carlson, a lieutenant colonel of the North American Air Defense Command, had been warned of the danger of compass failure when he had volunteered for the lone reconnaisance mission. In the seventy-two hours since the radar jamming station had been in operation, no less than seven North American Force aircraft had been reported missing. Four others had returned to the command base on the U.S. border of Canada in spite of compass failure and radio blackout.

How the enemy had slipped through the North American radar network was a mystery. From Gander, Newfoundland to the Aleutians stretched the electronic warning system. No plane crossing that vast distance or approaching it from within nine hundred miles could escape detection. But the enemy had somehow slipped through!

With ice forming on his starboard wing, his fuel dangerously low and with no means of orientation in the Arctic night, Carlson dipped the nose of his turbojet toward the ice field a mile below. If the ice was smooth he could land safely, and remain in the cockpit until the battery went dead. After that, his electrically heated flying suit might keep him warm for a few hours. Then, if there was no wind, he might get out and walk until he dropped dead from exhaustion and the cold.

With the caution of an experienced fighter pilot making a forced landing in enemy territory, Carlson did not turn on his landing lights until the turbojet's wheels were almost touching the inland sea of ice. When they touched, he cut off his twin turbines, saw a smooth expanse of ice stretching endlessly ahead and let the ship roll without applying the wheel brakes.

Suddenly Carlson tensed. Far ahead off the port side he caught a flash of orange light. It blinked twice then went out. Carlson snapped off his landing lights.

Carlson's first guess was that the party was a crew from one of the planes that had been reported missing. Fortunately he did not take that for granted. The long white beam of a powerful searchlight suddenly swept across the black sky. It came from the spot where Carlson had seen the orange flash!

"The radar jamming station! But unless some miracle happens I'll never live to report its position," he muttered. "It's surprising that they didn't spot me on their screen before I came down. They seem to think I'm still in the air, but when they pull down that searchlight beam and sweep it across the ice, I'd better find an air hole and dive in with the seals."

Carlson's ship had lost its momentum. The cold rubber hummed on the ice until a ghostly white ridge appeared suddenly ahead. Then the tires struck a rougher surface, and Carlson saw that the white barrier was a huge drift of powdered snow. Just as the plane stopped before the towering drift, the searchlight beam swept down over its crest!

"Made it just in time!" Carlson congratulated himself. He watched the beam as it swung away.

"Before they decide I wasn't real after all, I'm going to hike down to the end of the drift," Carlson resolved. "Then I can start crawling toward them."

He discarded his goggles and snapped the mask of his helmet across his face to protect his nose and mouth from the biting cold. Flipping open the canopy, he dropped to the port wing and slipped off.

The ice along the edge of the drift was crusty so he could walk fast without slipping. By the time he reached the end of the drift, the searchlight had gone off.

Carlson went forward in a crocuh until he saw pinpoints of light grouped in a small area he judged to be a half mile ahead. The Air Force reconnaisance expert dropped to his knees and went along on all fours.

A weird object loomed starkly from the surface of the ice pack. It reminded Carlson of one of the enemy's huge submarine troop transports, for its main silhouette was like that of a conning tower. As Carlson drew within a hundred yards of the dark hulk, he was sure it was a submarine!

Still closer, Carlson could make out a spindly but towering radio mast. And on the ice beyond the vessel's conning tower stood a huge radar beam deflector.

The wind lashed a fine mist of powdery snow around the icebound submarine. Another gust came, and the snow swirled in white clouds over the deck and conning tower.

Carlson sprang to his feet and broke into a run. The vessel was scarcely fifty yards ahead of him now, and the wind-borne snow was drifting over its decks. Carlson veered away from the conning tower and saw to his amazement that the undersea craft was not ice-bound! Between its hull and the solid ice pack was a two-foot strip of water!

Why hadn't the water frozen at sub-zero temperature? Carlson knew the answer. After melting a hole through the ice so the vessel could surface, the crew had poured glycerine on the water!

Carlson leaped cautiously over the strip of glycerine-coated water to the U-boat's aft deck. Snow was still spiraling angrily around the conning tower, so those on watch could not see him. He found 50 meter rockets on the loading sleeve of the anti-aircraft launcher. The rockets measured five feet in length, but Carlson managed to dislodge one. Hugging it to his chest, he inched forward toward the conning tower.

A hoarse voice shouted in Slavic. Then a parka-clad figure lurched from the conning tower and scrambled down the ladder. Carlson put the rocket down and lunged forward. Before the figure reached the lower rungs, Carlson caught him from behind.

With a savage twist, Carlson hurled the crewman across the deck. A frantic scream tore from the enemy's throat as he tumbled into the narrow strip of water.

Carlson picked up the rocket and skirted the conning tower. He was sure that the man had been standing watch alone. Forward on the snow-lashed deck was the torpedo room hatch.

Light shot forth as Carlson raised the hatch. Dropping to his knees, he stuck his head through the opening. At the sides of a narrow passage below he saw the atomic warhead torpedoes!

Carlson threw his legs over the edge of the hatch and reached back for the rocket. Within seconds he was standing in the narrow passage, fumbling with the tail cap on the rocket. Exerting all his strength, Carlson unscrewed the tail cap and tilted the thin cylinder so that its propellant powder poured out. He spread the powder along the torpedo racks, then stepped back and placed the rocket at an angle against a bulkhead at the end of the passageway. When the bulkhead was opened, the rocket would fall in such a way that its sensitive head fuse would explode. The flash would ignite the propellant, creating the intense heat necessary for detonating the torpedoes.

Carlson scrambled out the hatch, and leaped from the deck. A Slavic shout roared through the swirling snow, followed by the crack of a pistol. But the snow shielded Carlson's escape.

He ran two miles beyond the great snow drift before he stumbled from sheer exhaustion. As he turned so his face wouldn't freeze against the ice, a colossal shock wave struck him. The polar ice cap dazzled in a blinding flash of white light. "My booby trap worked!" Carlson sighed weakly.

With the radar jamming station gone, search planes arrived within an hour. Carlson was picked up before he showed symptoms of frostbite.

Back at the air base he took breakfast with the general and his aides who were amazed by Carlson's incredible report. "But," Carlson added, "I don't think the enemy will try that stunt again. We're wise to them, and the next time it happens we'd keep our planes grounded and search 'em out with dog sled teams."

"That reminds me," said the general. "I must issue an order to accelerate our sled dog training program now that Operation Wolverine has been successfully completed."

"What, sir, was Operation Wolverine?" Carlson asked.

The general raised his eyebrows. "That was the mission you just accomplished, Colonel Carlson. Location and destruction of the enemy's radar jamming station."

"Oh," Carlson sighed. "I didn't wait around long enough to catch the name, but I surely felt like a wolverine out there on the ice!"

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