Since that time in California long ago, I have learned a lot more about the P-40 pursuit fighter (a lot more than about that Hellcat fighter I had gotten for Christmas).
I had decided, with some urging from my Dad, that for my sophomore screenplay I would write about a fighter pilot with the Flying Tigers, a young man trying to stay alive in the China skies and struggling to stay faithful to his wife at home. [note logline]
The following scene is lifted from a section prior to the protagonist’s (Ron) going to China. At this point in the story his unit is operating against the Germans over the deserts of North Africa. Their flight is on a mission against some ground targets, when he and his wingman are sent after potential threats, two German aircraft.
(R.T. is the abbreviation for Radio Transmission).
A line of thirty vehicles raises a cloud of swirling dust as it trundles down the trackless waste.
overhead spots the plume of dust and corrects its approach accordingly.
RON (ON R.T.)
Red Leader, this is Blue Four. Bogeys at three o’clock low.
MAJOR CRAIG (ON R.T.)
Roger. You and Blue Three go check it out.
THOR (ON R.T.)
Roger, Red Leader.
Ron and Thor peel off of the formation and vector towards the oncoming intruders.
Thor pulls his plane ahead. The two align themselves to intercept the other aircraft. They swoop down out of the sun onto the unsuspecting Messerschmidts.
Thor opens fire on the trailing German. Strikes flash on the fuselage and white smoke appears. Thor pulls up to avoid hitting the slowing craft.
THOR (ON R.T.)
Take the leader!
crosses underneath both planes in front and comes about and glues himself on the tail of the now fleeing German.
The German noses over into a dive. Ron follows suit. The Messerschmidt fills the gunsight. His finger tenses to squeeze the trigger just as the German leaps skyward.
He looks up and sees his enemy arcing over the top of him.
THOR (ON R.T.)
He’s looping onto your tail! Get the hell out of there!
Ron increases the angle of his dive and watches the speed indicator climb above 400mph.
The Messerschmidt appears to stand stock still in comparison to Ron’s plummeting plane.
Having gained a large amount of distance, the P-40 now pulls out of the dive into a climbing turn.
levels out of the bank, and heads straight for the German. Orange bits of flame erupt from the ME 109’s wings.
Ron sees the German’s tracers fly over his canopy. The pipper of his gunsight covers the German’s cowling. He squeezes the trigger.
Pieces fly off of the ME 109, but it keeps coming. He fires again. Flames spout from the engine, followed by an ear-splitting ROAR as the plane blossoms into an orange ball of fire.
Ron jerks the column over to roll out of the way of the falling debris.
A string of planes land one after the other.
Research is vital when writing historically. Obviously.
The P-40 has a bad rap in many peoples’ estimations, but it has the love and respect of the men who flew them.
Some interesting stats:
It was 5mph faster than the ME109 at 15,000 feet. It could both out turn and out dive it.
Against the Japanese aircraft it performed even better. It was 40mph faster than the Zero and in a dive it was 130mph faster, and additionally it tripled the Zero’s roll rate.
And I know some may be thinking, the chatter sounds a lot like the X-wing pilots in Star Wars. That’s because it was borrowed from this era. More particularly as it was on display in a WWII film called “633 Squadron.”
I am suspicious that it has its roots further back. The British fleets and their Admirals were designated by color back in the 18th century. Then the colors were also Red, Blue and White.
Research is also fun.