Well, it's about time I learned how to work this Blog thing. Let's try to show what I've been up to.
PROLOGUE TO "RED STAR DOWN"
The Douglas C-47 Skytrain traced tight circles in the northern sky, or as tight as could be maintained without losing precious altitude. The pilot, one Lieutenant Dmitry Pavlovich, stared into the grey murk beyond. He sincerely hoped that his circles were high above any stony mountain peak that might threaten to rip the guts out of his airplane. If fate decreed otherwise, there was still the slim chance that he might see the threat in time to avoid it.
The Navigator, Viktor Popov, knelt beside his pilot, navigation charts across his knee, straining his eyes for any landmark which might help locate the aircraft on its journey over the poorly mapped terrain of Alaska. He knew there was little hope-- the C-47 had departed Great Falls, Montana on route to Ladd Field, near Fairbanks, Alaska. There, it would refuel and continue on over Siberia to Mother Russia. But it had plunged into thick overcast just hours from its destination at Ladd Field. The pilot had first climbed, then descended in an attempt to find clearer skies. The changes in altitude and direction, and a compass that seemed ambivalent concerning nthe direction of north, combined to befuddle Popov. With no landmark visible through the grey milk that the plane seemed to be swimming through, and with only fragmented radio contact with Ladd Field, he was completely lost.
Boris Evanovich, the flight engineer, ignored the goings on in the flight cabin. His only concern was the continued smooth operation of the twin Pratt and Whitney radials hammering away in the wing nacelles-- and with the fuel consumption of these same thirsty engines.
A tall officer standing in the door of the cargo bay showed obvious concern as he observed the stress on the faces of the pilot and navigator. He had a leather briefcase manacled to his left wrist, and he frequently touched it with his free hand as though to reassure himself that it was still there.
The crew had no idea that a strong wind from the north was moving the entire front, their aircraft included, southward. The circles, intended to keep them over a single, supposedly peak-free area were whirling them toward the southeast, toward a largely uncharted mountain mass east of the Gerstle River.
The officer with the briefcase stepped forward and touched the pilot on the shoulder.
"Lieutenant Pavlovich, what is our situation?"
The pilot opened his mouth to respond, but if he said anything, it went unheard.
There was a crash of sound and the shriek of tearing metal as the right wing was ripped off just outboard of the engine. The fuselage with its remaining wing spun downward into a narrow gorge that was now visible through the overcast, had there been anyone to see it. The plane, still more or less upright, lost its left wing against the left wall of the canyon and dropped belly-first into the narrow cleft which formed the banks and bed of the rocky stream at the bottom of the gorge. There it remained, wedged in the cleft 30 feet above the stream, hanging by its wing stubs.