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Had sought to be a pilot when he left to volunteer,
Washed out in his training--entered boot camp's different sphere.
So he opted for a rating that insured that he would fly,
His patch had wings and lightning bolts-- his trade to signify.
Learned well the art of sending code--- and likewise he could "read",
Qualified as gunner on machine guns he would need.
Rode the seat that sat most stern-ward on bombers called "SB",
Knew the pain, arrested landings make, as straps exact their "fee".
Felt the helpless calm of terror--his thoughts locked in his brain,
Kept silent on the throat mike mid the flack burst's deadly rain.
Drew some comfort from his buddies in formation as they flew,
Wished again to be in fighters--those up high-- that use one crew.
Knew the thrill of peeling over as they entered in their dive,
His life now in his pilot's hands-- their bombs would soon be live.
Heard the roaring of the engine and the shrieking of the brakes,
The screaming of the slipstream-- the explosions AA makes.
Felt the jar of flying metal as he knew their plane was hit,
Could only wait and ride it out, and sit and sit and sit.
Took the sagging force of many "g's" as his pilot pulled them out,
Tried hard to see the bomb blast, they'd delivered from their "Scout",
Heard the pilot's call of trouble-- too well could see the flame,
Prayed the airplane'd keep on flying---firebottle-- earn its name.
But the flames were roaring hotter and the pilot yelled to "jump"!
His seat pack chute had jammed itself- 'tween the gun ring and his rump!
Watched the pilot stand and leap-- then saw him fall away,
But with all his frantic clawing he was doomed to have to stay.
Saw the spinning, rolling ocean as it rose to meet his path
Breathed oily smoke of burning plane that trailed its acrid swath.
Felt the crushing blow of water--- as if it now were stone,
And the consciousness of living left his crushed corpse all alone.
Had sought to be a pilot when he left to volunteer-
But served his flag--and nation-- in a different career.