by Martin Brooks
I don’t think the young Lieutenant Ben Bernanke began to fully understand the scope of his mission until a be-goggled and grinning Captain Greenspan bailed out of the “Memphis Belle”, shouting as he fell, “How could I have known we’d be shot at? How could anyone?”
Quickly moving into the pilot seat Ben realised that his mentor had left out a few details regarding the flightworthiness of the “Belle”. With two engines out and a third spluttering, with major system malfunctions everywhere and crew stations damaged, several crew members were rendered effectively jobless on the aircraft. Oil was pouring from the aircraft into the English Channel. Ben quickly started downwardly easing the angle of attack, building up a little extra speed and enabling damaged control surfaces to find some more lift for the “Belle”.
Someone suddenly shouted out “No Dubya...Don’t! Oh sheet, Lieutenant Bernanke sir? Bombardier Bush just jumped Sir – He said “This sucker’s goin’ down” and just bailed. Sir? We gonna crash? Should we jump too?
This was Ben’s moment in history. This was the mission for which he would be remembered.
“No men, we’re not going to crash. I’ve studied aviation crashes and I know how to avoid them. I promise I won’t make the same mistakes. Men, I’m afraid however this is going to be something of a race to the bottom. We’ve got to maintain air flow over the control surfaces and that means constant easing of our angle of attack. We only have very limited control over our descent. Let’s hope other aircraft will spot our smoke and take evasive action. Have faith, I’m sure I’ll get this bucket of bolts down on the deck. In fact, you can bank on it!”.
We will leave Lieutenant Bernanke at this point, as he confidently lowers the non-existent landing gear just as engine number 3 fails. It is also at this precise moment that Ben realises the aircraft is now too low for the rest of the crew to bail out.
Meanwhile, in Northern France, Captain Greenspan has been found by the French Resistance and has already offered to manage their finances and help operate their radio equipment.
Bernanke’s Mission Part 2
Before we rejoin the crew of the “Memphis Belle”, just as they lose their third engine, let me take a moment to recount some sombre news relating to Bombardier Bush.
The fate of Bombardier Bush was particularly tragic. But the story needs to be told even though I fear it may upset some of the more gentle souls at FOD. The sad fact is that after bailing out of the “Belle” “Dubya’s” chute was caught up on the periscope of a submerging German U-Boat in the English channel. His now seemingly prescient comment “This sucker’s goin’ down” finally came to pass. Bummer...Dubya.....let us now all take a moment to remember Dubya’s prowess with the Norton bombsight and his many humorous verbal bombshells.
Meanwhile the human drama unfolding aboard the “Memphis Belle” is reaching fever pitch.
“Lieutenant Bernanke Sir? Crewman Obama just went down into the belly-gun blister and says the landing gear has been blown away, Sir!”
“That’s impossible, I just lowered the gear. Crewman Obama, can you hear me? What are you doing down there?
“Obama here – I read you Lieutenant – I was just trying to fix the machine guns and I noticed the landing gear was gone”
“Crewman Obama, this is not the time to be fixing the machine guns! Did you notice how close the ground is?! You say the gear is gone? How can that be? I don’t think we can fix that.”
“Yes we can Sir!! I’m sure that you’ve still got some tools left. If we work together we can Change our situation Sir!”
“There’s no time and no more tools! Men, I see a lake ahead. I’m going to try and ease the “Belle” down into a liquid environment. Okay....Assume Crash Positions! .... That’s it......Steady...... Don’t worry men, I’ve got this situation contained....Just a few more seconds....”
Meanwhile, in Northern France, German intelligence is having no luck in breaking the new French resistance radio codes introduced by Captain Greenspan. They appear to be random nonsense but the Germans know that this can’t be the case and have assigned dozens of code-breakers to this perplexing task
Bernanke’s Mission Part 3
Let us now rejoin the crew of the “Memphis Belle” as they prepare to ditch in the lake of liquidity in Southern England.
“…….don’t worry men, I’ve got this situation contained….just a few more seconds….”
“Lieutenant Bernanke Sir!! Nose Gunner Geithner here – there’s a British Lancaster ditched in the lake – it’s directly in our path Sir!!”
“Damn Brits …. So they won the race to the bottom. “
“Lieutenant! There’s something rising out of the water….it’s some giant creature! …..Sir I think it’s Bondzilla! He must have been hiding in the liquidity….Jesus Sir!! He’s tearing that Lancaster to pieces!! Permission to fire Sir!!”
“Granted Gunner Geithner! Take him Down!! Take him Down!! Splash Bondzilla!! Splash Bondzilla!! [Nose guns firing]
“Lieutenant! It’s no good….he’s too big….our rounds are just bouncing off….he must of just kept spreading and growing in the liquidity!”
“Cease firing! Men, the Brits may have given us a chance….I’m attempting a restart on engine 2 …..come on…come on…..[Engine splutters and roars into life] …Yes!!!....I knew it!!”
“How Lieutenant?? It’s a miracle Sir!!”
“It’s a miracle called a Flight to Safety….we’ll be all right while Bondzilla is busy consuming the Lancaster. Men, there’s a dam at the North end of this lake….I don’t know how long our engines will last and we have no landing gear so I’m going to ease the ‘Belle’ down close to the dam wall. When we ditch I want you all to swim for the dam wall and then head to the nearest land. ………..Okay, here we go….reducing power….max flaps….nose up….easy…brace for impact!…”
Thus the “Memphis Belle” finally settled into the lake of liquidity. The intrepid crew swam for their lives and safely reached the dam wall.
“Men, well done, keep moving along the wall to the lake shore…..wait….anyone hear an aircraft?”
“Lieutenant, to the South….another Lancaster…heading towards us at low altitude….gee they must be flying at about 60 feet….what’s that in the bomb bay….some kind of round bomb?”
“I’m not sure Obama…..doesn’t look like a bomb….Strange……whatever it is, it seems to be spinning ……those Brits……always coming up with new gadgets…..Let’s give them a wave as they pass over us.”
Meanwhile…. in Northern France…..German intelligence has intercepted a message in the ‘clear’ from “Maestro” (Captain Greenspan) stating “I don’t expect any balloon to go up in 1944.” In response an irrationally exuberant German High Command has transferred 3 Panzer Divisions to the Eastern front, General De Gaulle has awarded the Croix De Guerre to Captain Greenspan for his brilliant misdirection and Prime Minister Winston Churchill is already penning an appreciative letter to President Roosevelt praising American ingenuity, …. “Never before… in the history of the world …has so much been owed …by so many ….”