The Tiger's Den - Sample
At exactly 0600, the wooden door opens and Major Saito enters, immaculate in full dress uniform. The room stands to attention.
Saito: “Be seated. The first mission today is an escort mission. 11 Sentai will take off at 0935 hours and pick up a squadron of bombers from Tiger 2, enroute to Khalkin Gol. 24 Sentai will take off 20 minutes later and perform a fighter sweep to the West.”
Saito turns to the large standing map board and removes a cloth cover. “The Mongols have moved artillery pieces in here. The valley between hill 105 and 106A. The bombers are going to fly at 3000 meters. The initial point will be here, over hill 87.
We will have five escort flights from 11 Sentai. The first is Red 1. They will run interference for the bombers; 3500 meters altitude to the I.P.
The second is Red 2. They will fly a loose flex formation 500 meters to the left side of the bomber formation.
Red 3 will do the same on the right side. 3500 meters.
Red 4 will be at 4000 meters altitude loose formation behind the bombers.
Today we have a Blue flight of four Navy A5M fighters. Their mission is to climb to 6000 meters and follow the same course as the bombers. If any rats manage to find their way to an intercept position, I want some Navy guns right up their asses!”
The room cheers; then settles.
“If you gentlemen have not met our guests, here they are. Gentlemen, please stand up.”
The four Navy flyers stand. Some quick head bowing and they are reseated.
“I understand that the Navy has some different tactics. Are you here to learn from us, or to teach us something new, Lieutenant?”
Okami stands. “Sir, we humbly appreciate the opportunity to learn whatever we can from your combat veterans.” He seats himself.
Major Saito is examining the Navy men. His sharp eyes focus on Okami. “Is that so? You have nothing you can add to our briefing? I thought the Navy would be sending its best pilots in the spirit of inter service cooperation… Lieutenant?” The major now challenging the newcomers.
Okami stands again. “Sir, our doctrine suggests that a two plane reconnaissance flight operating freely in the area from which the threat may be expected to come, could provide valuable intelligence to the main body. If needed… a modification… of the flight plan may result in a tactical advantage.”
Heads nod in approval. All eyes turn to Major Saito.
Saito: “That is not practical here.”
Okami standing. No expression. Waiting.
Saito continues: “That may work in a perfect world, Lieutenant Okami, but here we have a real world problem. Radios. Our two plane recon flight would not be very helpful if they could not radio in the position and course of the enemy. Also, what about the survival of those two aircraft? What would you say to that?” The major would have his way.
Okami: “Of course, sir. I am learning much from our esteemed colleagues.” He sits.
Kenda frowns. He thinks to himself: But surely we could scavenge the group for two good radios…
Major Saito misses nothing. “Ensign Kenda!” The thundering voice catches Kenda by surprise.
Kenda: “Me? Sir?”
Okami elbows his subordinate in the side. He whispers, “Stand up.”
Saito: “Ensign Kenda, do you have something to add?”
Kenda stands. “N-n-no, sir.”
Saito: “Really? Ensign, today we can expect to be fighting in aerial combat with top notch Russian pilots. There may be up to one hundred first line fighter aircraft coming to intercept our mission. How many of them are you going to shoot down?”
Kenda hesitates for a moment. Then in his loudest, most confident voice: “All of them, sir!”
Dead silence in the briefing room.
Major Saito raises his eyebrows. He takes two steps closer to the edge of his stage. “Is that so?”
Kenda can’t go back now: “Yes, sir!”
Major Saito looks over the whole room. “You hear that, gentlemen? Ensign Kenda is singlehandedly going to dispatch the entire Russian Air Force.”
Kenda still standing. Shaking now. The quiet room expecting the worst.
Saito fixes his glare on the young ensign: “Then tomorrow night, the C.O. will buy you a round of sake at the Tiger’s Den.”
Major Saito stands erect, surveys the room and strides off the stage and out of the side doorway.
The room explodes with cheers and laughter. The Army pilots grabbing Kenda and shaking him, rubbing his head for luck. Okami congratulating his wingman. “Well done, Masa. Well done!”
Outside, Major Saito notes the explosion of voices behind him. He marches away. An almost imperceptible smile crosses his face… for a moment.
Inside, Captain Tanaka is getting the attention of the pilots. “All right! All right! Take your seats. Let’s get the briefing finished. Let’s get the fuel consumption charts up here…”