Red Skies over Berlin

Red Skies over Berlin: Those 357th Yoxford Boys

A tribute to the real 357th Fighter Group

 

Grass breathes fog, like Jerry ghosts shuffling aimlessly on the runway,

mindless partners to petrol truck’s, jeep’s, bicycle’s mad scramble that sets

them whirling, mechanics fueling P-51D’s ominous hulks, armorers sweating,

cursing, as they thread 50 Cals with lead’s long, lethal belts. Laughter, shouts,

 

as the Boys pull up in a battered lorry—whisky’s faint scent mixed with fuel,

Lucky smoke, black coffee, cheap French perfume—with Anderson, Yeager’s voices

caterwauling duet, off-key, “Red skies over Berlin, Boys, them Messerschmitts,

Focke-Wulfs, their cannons waiting to rip the 357th limb from limb, shred our ailerons

 

with their tracers, hot screaming lead, but we don’t care, us Yoxford Boys,

cause we’re already dead, dammit, we don’t give a damn, ‘though Ol’ Crow’s better’n the best

o’ them lousy Krauts, don’t ya doubt, Boys, some of us won’t be comin’ home…” Above  fog’s restless sea,

heavies thrum like Lucifer’s own dragonflies, suspended on the bellow

 

of their Wright Cyclones, as the first box of B-17’s pass, their bays loaded

with incendiaries for Berlin. First P-51’s engine coughs, revs to life, purr of pistons,

a second, more, as the Boys mount their cockpits, taxi down the dirt strip seat of pants,

lift to climb smartly above Leiston fog’s soup to balance sun’s bloody ball

 

on right wing tip. Fighting formations shake out, Leaders inside, Wingmen out, double pairs,

like hands minus thumbs, mission’s goal the second verse of Ol’ Bud’s song,

Red skies over Berlin, Boys, guard those bombers, all cost, all cost,

like Ol’ Gunner Bill on Heart Throb, dead-eye he is, he is, us Yoxford Boys are on the job, on the job….

 

Statistics are the measure of our lives, Bud’s ditty given life, “over Berlin, there’s strength in numbers,

Boys, heart, skill, the Berlin Express, Hurry Home Honey,

Glamorous Glen, U’ve Had It to mix it up with fat Goering’s JG. Propaganda’s

Machine knows us, name and name, 8th Air Corp’s best, but that plane won’t fly

 

with Yoxfords; Ol’ Bud’ll just grin that possum grin, sing, “red skies, Boys, red skies,

we didn’t start this swing, but tonight we’ll damn sure dance the tune over Berlin, kiss

them Burger Meister’s wives, Jerry Freuleins, while the ‘17’s make their runs….”

Yeager says it best for us all, “put wings on a barn, we’ll fly it, mount 50 cals, damned

 

if Ol’ Bud won’t fight it.”  But, truth is, aerial combat’s a madman’s ballet, who owns

who’s six, bullet’s stitch and zip, flak’s poumph! and crack, smoke, fire, while each pilot

dreams of Stateside, girl, home.  120 miles from target, our radios crackle, “Bandits! 1:00 O’clock high,”

and Ol’ Bud starts caterwauling, “Red skies, Boys, red skies over Berlin, drop tanks, grab a Jerry,

tonight we’re gonna teach these Krauts how to dance.” 

 

By Rufus A. Skeens and Mike Kuhn, June 6, 2011

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3 Comments

  1. Where’s the “like” button? Well anyhow, I like it!

  2. Kid, this poem gets more interestin every time I red it! 🙂

  3. Read…darn typos….LOL


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