THE SPARROW

A Screenplay by Hugh Holub

Copyright 1985,2005 by Hugh Holub

 

 

White cloud-filled sky.   JANUARY 1943 Supered. A C-47 emerges from the clouds.

 

CUT TO:

INTERIOR OF PLANE

 

Rows of men in uniform are sitting in their seats, talking and goofing around.  Close in on two of the soldiers:  JJ and CHARLES VRABEC.   JJ is a burly good old boy in a dishelved uniform with a sack filled with mason jars on the floor in front of him.   Vrabec, in his mid 30's, is so average looking he is the only Private in the United States Army Air Force whose uniform fits him perfectly.  Vrabec is staring out the window.  JJ reaches into his sack, pulls out a mason jar filled with clear liquid, opens it, and takes a long swallow.  He nudges Vrabec and offers him the jar.

 

JJ

Sure you don't want somma the best white lightning this side of Kentucky?

 

Vrabec shrugs.

 

VRABEC

No thank you.

 

JJ

What's eating you, boy.  we been on this darned aeroplane for the best part of a day and you ain't hardly said a word.  That's downright unneighborly.

 

VRABEC

Sorry.  What part of the South are you from?

 

JJ

The piney woods of Georgia down by the coast.  Where you from?

 

VRABEC

A little town in Texas.

 

 

 

 

 

JJ finishes off the contents of the mason jar and fishes out another.

 

JJ

You enlist or was you drafted?

 

VRABEC

Drafted.  I was an accountant and they wanted me last March.  But that was tax season so I got a postponement.  They got me in May.

 

JJ

Well I signed up.  Wanted to be a pilot.   Didn't succeed though.  Made me a clerk.  What does Uncle Sam have you doing for the war effort?

 

VRABEC

They trained me to be a P-38 mechanic.

 

JJ

Figures.  Bet you don't know owl poop about fixing them aeroplanes.

 

VRABEC

I know more than I did a year ago.

 

JJ

How come you're so unfriendly.  If you're from Texas you're a fellow Southerner.

 

Vrabec turns from the window, and looks at JJ for a moment.  He points to the sack.

 

VRABEC

That home brew?

 

JJ

Made by me very own pappy.

 

VRABEC

Give me a jar and I'll tell you.

 

JJ grabs a jar, opens it, and hands it to Vrabec.

 

 

 

 

VRABEC (cont'd)

To tell you the truth I'm terrified.  This is the first time I've ever flown on a plane.   Since before being drafted I was never more than about one hundred miles from where I was born.  I had a nice little practice and was beginning to make a little money.  And then all of a sudden here I am flying over South America on my way to Africa to try and fix fighters about which I know really very little, with German bombers probably attacking the base I'll be stationed at.  I was wishing I'd made out a will before this trip.

 

Vrabec takes a lingering swallow of the moonshine. 

 

JJ

Shucks you and me both and probably everyone else that's been sucked into this goddamned war.  Be thankful you ain't in Infantry.

VRABEC

That almost happened.  After I reported for induction they loaded us onto five buses.  Outside of San Antone the road forked and three buses went left and the other two went right.  As soon as we cleared the fork an officer on my bus got up and told us this was our lucky day.  We were headed for Wichita Falls to be in the Army Air Force.   The other three buses were headed to Infantry School.

 

JJ shakes his head, reaches for another mason jar, and hands it to Vrabec.

 

JJ

Sumbitch.  You need this stuff more'n I do.  You got cause to celebrate.  Maybe that was a good sign.   Maybe you're luck'll hold.

 

 

 

 

VRABEC

I hope so.  This might not sound very patriotic but as long as I'm in the Air Force, all I want to do is stay as far away from the fighting as possible, and never be involved with killing anyone.

 

JJ

I doubt if anyone in uniform would disagree with that.  We didn't start this goddamned war.  But we gotta do what we gotta do to stop it.

 

VRABEC

Maybe I can help in some small way in winning the war.  But I don't want to fight it.  I don't want people shooting at me.  I don't want Germans dropping bombs on me.  And I don't want to have to shoot back.  All the way through boot camp and mechanics school I complained that I was an accountant, and I could be useful doing what I know how to do.  And they don't give accountants rifles and send them to the front.

 

JJ shakes his head no.

 

JJ

You're wrong on that score.  If you'd gotten on the wrong bus you'd be in a trench somewhere right now.   And it ain't the Air Force way to put a man in a job he knows how to do.  Take me for example.  I worked at a little airfield near the farm part-time and I bet I could fix damned never anything with an engine in it.   But they got me clerking.  I'm supposed to be in Air Services.   A shipping clerk.   Makin sure this crate  from there gets somewhere else.  Ain't no justice.   But ain't no one gonna be shooting at me, neither.  Where you gonna be based?

 

 

VRABEC

Accra Gold Coast.  Somewhere in west Africa.  Never heard of the place until I got my orders.   Had to look it up in the base library.  How about you?

 

JJ

Cairo.  That is unless Rommel gets there first.

An OFFICER starts working his way down the aisle on the plane handing out Survival Manuals.

 

OFFICER

Get'm while they're hot.  We're over the Amazon and you boys will need this to survive if we crash.

 

He hands Vrabec and JJ copies of the Manual.

 

OFFICER (to JJ)

Skip all the stuff in the front and just read the last page.  That's the only good part.

 

JJ turns to the last page and starts reading.

 

JJ

If you lose this survival manual, just remember that whatever the monkeys eat you can eat.   If the monkeys are not eating anything, you can eat the monkeys.

 

Laughter from throughout the plane.

 

CUT TO:

 

EXT. C-47 LANDING

 

CUT TO:

 

INT. BELEM OPERATIONS CENTER

 

 

There is a large sign hanging on the wall that reads "WELCOME TO BELEM, BRAZIL, ARMPIT OF THE UNIVERSE".  The room is filled with lines of soldiers waiting to present their papers to a row of bored looking men.  There are ceiling fans slowly turning, but everyone is covered with sweat.   On the remaining three walls are large maps showing air routes from the United States down through South America, across the Atlantic to Africa, and on to India and China.   Vrabec and JJ are the next two men in a line to a desk with a sign on it that reads TRANSPORTATION OFFICER.    The TO is wearing shorts and a white cotton tropical shirt.

 

TO

Next.

 

Vrabec hands him his orders.

 

TO

P-38 mechanic.  Accra.   Private Vrabec, this is your lucky day.

 

The TO stamps Vrabec's order twelve times quickly

 

VRABEC

How so, sir?

TO

We'll have you on a plane for Africa in about a week.   Courtesy of the Air Transport Command.  Check in every morning at 0 800 in case we have a change of heart.

 

VRABEC

What's lucky about that?

 

TO

Could've assigned you to a ship.   Next one is in a month.   Takes 16 days to get across.  Next.

 

JJ sidles up to the counter and drops his orders in front of the TO.  He has to gently push Vrabec aside.

 

TO

Clerk.   Cairo.   Ain't got nothing going that way for the foreseeable future.   Maybe you'll learn to love Belem.   You want the boat?

 

 

JJ

Nope.

 

TO

Gotta good reason why I don't put you on the boat?

 

JJ reaches down into his duffel and pulls out a jar of moonshine.

 

JJ

Straight from the mountains.   The best lightning in the south.

 

TO

Got any more where that came from?

 

 

 

JJ

You got a plane?

 

TO

Just say when.

 

JJ hands him the jar and grins.   The TO opens it, takes a swig, and smiles back.   JJ holds up the duffel and jiggles it.

 

TO

I say when once a week to keep your options open.

 

JJ

Deal.

INT. BELEM OPS CENTER - NEXT DAY

 

Vrabec is standing in front of the same TO.

 

TO

Next.   Oh you again.  No plane.  Come back tomorrow.

 

VRABEC

But I've got to get out of here!

 

 

 

 

 

 

TO

What's wrong?   You don't like Belem.  Came to that conclusion quicker than most.   Sorry.

 

VRABEC

Anything I can do to expedite my ride?

 

TO

Now that you've gotten smart like your buddy, what'd you bring from the states?

 

VRABEC

Just what the Air Force let me.

 

TO

Tough luck.  Next.

 

INT.  CANTINA.   THAT NIGHT.

 

The Cantina is a low budget operation, with War Bonds posters, American flags, and other decorations on the walls indicating the owners are tying to attract the maximum number of U.S. servicemen to their bar.   The room is  filled with U.S. servicemen.  Vrabec and JJ are sitting at a table talking.

 

JJ

How's the world treatin' you?

 

VRABEC

Terrible.  There's nothing to do except eat, sleep, drink, and swat mosquitoes.  What've you been doing?

 

JJ

Found me a nice little Brazilian girl and been shacking up with her.   Name's Rosa.

 

VRABEC

The way they run the transportation system, we could be stuck here for the rest of the war.

JJ

Suits me fine.

 

VRABEC

I almost wish I was in the Infantry.  At least there'd be some excitement.   Almost, but not quite.

 

JJ

Remember that Survival Manual?

 

JJ pulls his copy from his back pocket and lays it on the table.

 

JJ (cont'd)

How about us hunt some of them fierce monkeys?  They did issue you a rifle?

 

Vrabec nods yes.

 

JJ

And unless you're some kind of strange person, I'll bet you hunted some when you were back in Texas.

 

VRABEC

Deer mostly.

 

JJ

How about trying to shoot us some monkeys?

 

VRABEC

Why the hell not.

 

EXT. JUNGLE. DAY.

 

Vrabec and JJ shoot at monkeys and miss.

 

JJ

Fast little rascals aren't they.

 

VRABEC

A thousand rounds of ammo and we haven't hit one.

 

 

JJ

No one ever said a tommy gun was a precision tool.   Let's try again tomorrow.   Maybe we can round up some of the other strandees for some help.

 

EXT. JUNGLE.  THE NEXT DAY.

 

Ten SOLDIERS are prowling through the jungle, sporadic shooting into the trees.

SOLDIER

JJ. I thought you said killing these monkeys would be easy.

 

JJ

We just don't have enough troops.  Let's try tomorrow with some more help.

 

EXT. JUNGLE.   THE NEXT DAY.   SUNSET.

 

A hundred tired soldiers are sitting around a campfire swapping stories.

 

JJ

Vrabec, we're doing something wrong.  We ought to be glad the damned Germans don't live in trees.  We'd never win this war.

 

DARKNESS FALLS.

 

The jungle is alive with monkey sounds.   The men are still sitting around the campfire.   The eyes of the monkeys are reflecting the campfire light.

 

VRABEC

Are those monkey eyes?

 

JJ

The sum bitches are laughing at us.

 

VRABEC

You ever go coon hunting in Georgia?  At night?

 

 

 

 

 

JJ

Yep.  Went out with dogs and lanterns and treed'em.   Shot'em out of the trees by the lights of their eyes.  They'd freeze in the light.   Easy pickens.

 

VRABEC

Are those monkey eyes?

 

He points all around.

 

JJ

You're absolutely right my friend.  Men!   Listen up.   We just figured out how to kill us some monkeys and go home victors.   Very carefully pick up your weapons.

 

The men rustle around and pick up their machine guns.

 

JJ

Point them at the eyes in the trees.

 

The men point their guns.

 

JJ

Fire!

 

The scene explodes in gunfire and howls.   Dead monkeys start falling all around them.  Then there is silence and the men stare at the monkey bodies.

 

JJ

Think we ought to tell them to re-write their survival manual.

 

(chorus of no's)

 

JJ

Gather up the kill.   There's monkey meat on the menu tonight.

 

EXT.  BELEM STREET.  NIGHT.

 

The monkey hunters come marching down the street, with poles holding ten or twelve monkeys each.  Crowds of people are lined up along the street, cheering the men as they march by.

 

 

INT.  BELEM OPS CENTER.  NEXT DAY.

 

TO

You again.

 

VRABEC

What's it gonna take to get me a flight?

 

TO

How much cash do you have?

 

VRABEC

Will $200 get me to Africa?   That's all I've got.

 

TO

Nope.  But it'll get you to Ascension and that's half way.  Make yourself obnoxious once you get there and they'll get you a lift to Accra.   Deal?

 

VRABEC

Deal.

 

Vrabec hands over the money.

TO

Your flight leaves in 2 hours.   Next.

 

INT.   CABIN OF A C-47.

 

Vrabec is sitting amidst cages of cats.   Hundreds and hundreds of cats.  He goes to the cockpit and sits down in the empty co-pilot's chair.  The PILOT is playing a harmonica.

 

VRABEC

Aren't you supposed to have a co-pilot?

 

PILOT

You mean you can't fly?   I paid good money to that goddamned TO for a good co-pilot on this run.   What the hell are you?

 

 

 

VRABEC

An accountant.

 

PILOT

Judas Priest!  Fifteen hundred miles of ocean I've got to fly over by myself.

 

VRABEC

What're all the cats for?

 

PILOT

Ascension Base.   Seems they've got a big problem with a bunch of goddamned birds nesting at the end of the runway.   They call'em Wideawake birds.

 

VRABEC

How come?

 

PILOT

Every time a plane takes off its scares the birds and they fly up in front of the plane.   Keeps the pilots wide awake.  We've been crashing planes because of the birds.

 

VRABEC

And the cats are supposed to kill the birds?

 

           PILOT (singing)

I know an old lady that swallowed a bird...

 

The sound of an enormous cat fight is heard in the background.

VRABEC

So they'll have to import dogs to get rid of the cats if the cats get rid of the birds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PILOT

Right.   The Air Force way.   I'm glad I never saw the spiders they brought in the birds to kill.   You know what beats all?  I'm allergic to the goddamned sons of bitches.  (sneezes).

 

VRABEC

The Air Force?

 

PILOT

The friggin cats.   And the little rascals get air sick.   This is my third load.  Two thousand goddamned cats they want.  Cleaned out every pound in the south.

 

VRABEC

Are the cats working?

 

PILOT

Nope.   The goddamned birds are killing them.   Or they're swimming back to South America.   No one knows.   We dump the cats and they disappear.   The birds stay.   They've tried bombing them and shooting them.   There must be a couple of hundred thousands of the damned things.   They breed faster than they can be killed. (sneezes).

 

A cat crawls up into Vrabec's lap.

 

VRABEC

Nice little kitty.

 

PILOT

Get your ass out of my cockpit.    (sneezes).

 

EXT. ASCENSION ISLAND 4 DAYS LATER.

 

There is not one stick of vegetation in sight, just the runway, volcanic ash, and an enormous number of birds nesting at the end of the runway and flying about.  A group of officers and enlisted men are standing at the edge of the bird nesting area talking with an elderly man in a suit and wearing glasses - the BIRDMAN.

 

 

BIRDMAN

So you see, if we crush all their eggs, they'll decide this isn't the best place in the world to nest and they'll move somewhere else.

 

OFFICER

You're the ornithologist, so you want us to do what?

 

BIRDMAN

Get everyone on the island out here, and stomp their eggs.

 

EXT.  ASCENSION ISLAND.  NEXT MORNING.

 

Out of the fog covering the runway comes marching everyone on Ascension Island, dressed in combat gear, carrying sticks and bats.   They invade the Wideawake nesting area and disappear in a cloud of swirling birds and feathers.   The sound is a mixture of bird screams and the staccato of machine-gun fire.   Vrabec is seen stomping his share of eggs.

 

INT. ASCENSION ISLAND.  FOLLOWING MORNING.

 

A small room with a single desk.  The Transportation  Officer is playing with a bird egg.  Vrabec approaches the Transportation Officer's desk.  He is still covered with feathers and bird poop.

 

VRABEC

Did it work?

 

TO

Not a Wideawake in sight.   Thanks for the help.  Where you headed?

 

Vrabec hands him his orders.

 

VRABEC

Accra, Gold Coast.

 

TO

If you don't mind flying shotgun on a B-24 you'll be out of here at dusk.

 

 

 

 

 

VRABEC

Just so's the pilot doesn't expect me to fly the plane.

 

TO

Not to worry.   It's a ferry.   The plane is going to the British up in North Africa.  You'll just be hitching a ride and keeping the crew awake.  Oh.  And make sure they don't get tricked by a distress call just off the coast of Africa.  We've got some U-boats out there pretending they're downed aircraft.   The planes do down for a look see and get shot down.

 

VRABEC

What if we go down?

TO

Tough luck.   Standing orders are no search and rescue between here and the African coast.   Trying to get the worthless Navy to send some destroyers down to chase off the Germans, but they're too busy up north.  Report here at 1600.   And here's a momento of your stay at exotic Ascension.

 

The TO hands Vrabec a medal.

 

VRABEC

What's this?

 

TO

The boys in the machine shop knocked off some combat medals commemorating our battle with the Wideawakes.  Wear it with pride.

 

The medal looks like a regular combat medal, only there is a bird engraved on the face of the bronze medallion.  Vrabec pins the medal on his uniform and leaves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

CUT TO:

 

INT.  AIR TRANSPORT COMMAND HEADQUARTERS OFFICE.

 

GENERAL JONES' office is large, with a desk at one end piled with paper and looking like a pile of raked leaves.  At the other end is a conference table.  The walls are covered with plaques and photos of the General's career.   In one corner is a U.S. flag and in another corner is an ATC flag.  Prominent behind General Jones' desk is the seal of the ATC.  Jones is sitting at the conference table talking to COMMANDING GENERAL OF THE AIR FORCE FRANKLIN.  Jones is a tall and handsome man in a rumpled uniform who looks like he just crawled out from under working on an airplane.  Franklin is a silver-haired, distinguished gentleman who looks like he was born a General.

 

FRANKLIN

This ATC of yours is a holy mess.  We've got men and planes stacked up all over the world.  I hear we have more of our boys down at Belem then there are natives.   I want it unstuck right now.

 

JONES

I've got two problems you can help me with.  First is my command is subordinate to the Regular Army.  The local commanders just take our planes for their own projects and foul up our system.  The second problem is I need 60,000 more men.

Franklin gets up and starts pacing around the office.

FRANKLIN

How about this... effective immediately the ATC reports directly to the War Department.  That means me.   Your operations will be totally independent of the rest of the Air Force and the Army to boot.   You report to me and I report to the Joint Chiefs.  Below you no one outside your chain of command has one goddamned thing to say about what you do.

 

 

 

JONES

Can you get away with that?

 

FRANKLIN

Yep.  The Navy still hasn't figured out what an airplane can do.  You'd think they'd've gotten to that one after Pearl.   And I think the Army will learn to appreciate the value of getting emergency supplies to them by air.  Your outfit has no precedence in the book, so we'll just wing it.

 

JONES

I like the way you think.

 

Franklin stops pacing and point at Jones.

 

FRANKLIN

You were president of your own airline company and you wrote Roosevelt and volunteered your services.  I needed someone to create a world-wide air transportation system out of thin air.   I think only one thing.   I've got too damned much to keep track of, and I need people who I can turn over problems to, and not have to worry about them again.  Forget you're in the military, and run my goddamned airline for me.  And whatever you want to do, if it is reasonable, I'll get it for you.

 

JONES

How about a couple of destroyers?

 

Franklin sits down as if the air had been let out of his body.

 

FRANKLIN

Remember the word reasonable.  Why do you need destroyers?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

JONES

My people report German U boats are sinking all the shipping that supplies our bases in Africa, and they pretend they're downed planes and sucker our planes for a looksee, and shoot them down.  We're losing a plane a day off the coast of Africa.

 

FRANKLIN

Can't your goddamned pilots tell a sub from a plane wreck?

 

JONES

Not at night when they see an emergency flare.

 

FRANKLIN

Tell them to ignore the flares.

 

JONES

We have.  But that still doesn't solve the problem of our supplies getting sunk.

 

FRANKLIN

I'll ask Admiral King for some destroyers.  He'll say no.  Then I'll give orders for you to do what you have to and stop this crap.  The Navy wants to start its own Air Transport command.

 

Franklin pauses, then smiles.

 

FRANKLIN (cont'd)

If you don't get your destroyers I'll tell King we're going to start our own damned Navy.  Think you could pull that off?

 

JONES

Let me understand something.  You give me the authority to solve my problems  and  you  don't  ask questions how I do it, right?

 

 

 

 

 

FRANKLIN

As long as you don't steal the Air Force. Right.

 

JONES

And you back me to the hilt if the shit hits the fan?

 

FRANKLIN

You get me an air transport system that works and I'll stand in front of the fan.

 

JONES

I think I 'm going to enjoy this little vacation from running my own airline.

 

Franklin starts walking out the door of the office, then pauses.

 

FRANKLIN

You can take a lousy officer and no amount of training will make him a good officer.  But you can take a good civilian and make him into a good officer.   You give me my airline and prove the military worth of air transport in this war, and you're going to have a lot more to do running your own company once this war is over.

 

Jones stands and salutes using his left hand.

FRANKLIN

After this war, airplanes are going to be as important for transport as trains and boats are now.  And goddammit you salute with your right hand.

 

Franklin salutes him back and leaves the office.   Jones calls his SECRETARY into his office.  She walks in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

JONES

New orders.   To all ATC base commanders.   If any personnel are encountered who do not have orders capable of immediate execution invite them to join the Air Transport Command if they are not already assigned to an ATC unit.

 

INT. OPS OFFICE ACCRA BASE.  NEXT DAY.

 

Vrabec reports for duty and is shunted to the office of CAPTAIN WATERS, local commander of the ATC.  Waters is wearing a regular Air Force uniform, but with a Pan American hat.   All around men are painting out the words Pan Am on everything in sight, and painting ATC over.   Waters is a small, gnomish looking man about 38.

 

WATERS

Vrabec, Private Charles A.  P-38 mechanic.   Don't have any P-38's to fix here.  Anything else you can do?

 

VRABEC

Well... I was an accountant before being drafted.

 

WATERS

Can you count airplanes?

 

VRABEC

I suppose so.

 

WATERS

Here's the offer.   I send you up north to a P-38 squadron  operating out of Egypt.   Or you can join the ATC.

 

VRABEC

The what?

 

WATERS

Air Transport Command.   The miserable outfit that flew you over.  How long did it take?  Two weeks?   A month to get from the states?

 

 

VRABEC

How close to combat do I get?

 

WATERS

How far away do you want to be?

 

VRABEC

The current range of the best bomber the Nazis have is 1,300 miles.   Fourteen hundred would be nice.

 

WATERS

You'll be stationed right here.   Last report puts us about 1,900 miles from the shooting.  You'll be in charge of plans, forecasts, scheduling, and anything else I tell you.

 

VRABEC

I am a private.

 

WATERS

Not now you're not.   As of this moment you're a Staff Sergeant.  If you want, I'll get you commissioned in a couple of months.   You want to be a Second Lieutenant?

 

VRABEC

Not really.  I've figured out the average life span of a Second Lieutenant and it's not good.

 

WATERS

You like to figure things out?   Good.  There's lots to play with here.   Report to Sergeant Johnson and he'll fix you up for quarters, process you in.  Report to the Situation Room at 0 700.  The first order of business for the day is how many airplanes we have in route from Homestead to India.  Be ready with an answer when you report in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

INT. TENT.

 

Vrabec is unpacking his gear.   JOHNSON, a Black, is briefing him about base operations.

 

 

JOHNSON

... and as far as creature comforts are concerned there are none.   The best we can offer is Abdulh's saloon in town, the best whiskey the black market can provide, and if you  can get on the good side of one of the British, you can to go their horse races.

 

VRABEC

I've got a question.  Isn't the Army supposed to be segregated?

 

JOHNSON

It sure is.  When Captain Waters dragooned me into this outfit, some of the Regular Army complained to Washington.  Waters countered and pointed out this whole damned country is black, so what the hell.   You're from the south, aren't you?

 

VRABEC

South Texas.

 

While Vrabec is talking to Johnson he is putting up a map of Africa on the tent pole.  He draws a red line on the map in North Africa where the fighting continues.  He then puts a tiny little figure on the map over Accra.

 

JOHNSON

Just what I need.   Another rednecked bohunk.

 

VRABEC

I don't care for the term.

 

JOHNSON

Red-neck or bohunk?  OK.  Just don't let me hear the word "nigger" ever pass your lips and we'll get along fine.

 

 

VRABEC

What'd Waters want you for?

 

JOHNSON

I was assigned to Air Services.   Supplies.  It doesn't hurt to have someone around who knows where everything is, and how to get it, legal or otherwise.  What are you supposed to be doing?

 

VRABEC

Counting airplanes.   Schedules.  Plans.  I used to be an accountant.

 

JOHNSON

Good.  You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours.  Say what's the medal you're wearing?

 

VRABEC

Combat.  I helped kill birds over on Ascension.

 

JOHNSON

I think we're going to get along just fine.  Here's a present from the good Captain.

 

Johnson hands Vrabec a bottle of Black & White scotch.

 

VRABEC

Where the hell did you get that?  There's supposed to be nothing getting in or out of Britain these days due to the subs.

 

JOHNSON

Just remember, this little old black face can make nice things happen.

 

VRABEC

All right.   Tomorrow morning I have to tell Captain Waters how many planes we have en route.  How do I find that out?

 

 

 

 

 

JOHNSON

Check in with me a few minutes before you report and I'll have the dope.

 

VRABEC

What's this little favor going to cost?

 

JOHNSON

You said you'll be involved with schedules.   Just let me know when you've got a passenger flying on secret orders, and this little dump of a base will get lots more comfy for you real quick.  Say, what's the map and the little man all about?

 

VRABEC

Just keeping track of how far from the front I am.

 

INT.   ATC SITUATION ROOM.    NEXT MORNING.

 

The Situation Room is cluttered with desks.   Three walls are covered with shingles of weather reports, orders and other papers.  The fourth wall has clocks telling the time in Iowa, Belem, Accra, Cairo, Tehran, Assam, and China.   In the center of the room is a table with the world from Florida to India on it, and tiny little planes scattered along the marked air routes.   One little plane has a white star pinned to it.   Waters is yelling at LT. CHASE.  Chase is Life Magazines' image of a combat pilot.   Vrabec is counting the little airplanes on the table.

 

WATERS

Who gave you authority to order a C-47 on a mission?  Where's the damned plane going?

 

CHASE

It'll just fly around the base for a couple of hours.   At 12, 000 feet.   We loaded it up with beer so we could cool it down for the General and his staff.

 

 

 

EXT.  C-47  CIRCLING

 

INT. C-47

 

Crew is drinking beer.   Cargo area is stacked to the ceiling in cases of beer.

 

INT.  SITUATION ROOM.

 

CHASE

It isn't every day the Commanding General of the ATC comes and visits.

 

A Regular Army Colonel storms into the Situation Room.   COLONEL DROSS is a silver-haired, impeccably dressed, West Pointer.   His face is beet red.

 

DROSS

How is it we have a General due to arrive in a few minutes and no one bothers to tell me, the Base Commander of this event.

 

WATERS

He's our general.   ATC.  Not yours.

 

DROSS

I don't care whose general he is.  When's the Honor Guard going to form up?   How come your men aren't in dress uniforms?   How come there isn't a jeep ready with a star on it?   Where is the detail that is going to meet him on the runway?

 

WATERS

He's just stopping in to pick up some fuel, take a leak, and head over to Belem.  I'm going out to meet him.  I'll probably take my new recruit Vrabec along.

 

CHASE

Me too.

 

WATERS

And Lt. Chase.

 

 

 

DROSS

No you're not.   I'm going to handle the meeting.

 

WATERS

Begging your pardon.  The ATC is not in your jurisdiction.   The general is mine.  Go back to your office.

 

DROSS

I'll have your court marshalled!

Dross storms from the Situation Room.  Vrabec pushes the little plane with the star on it to Accra.

 

WATERS

That's the 124th time he's threatened to throw me in irons.   He just won't get the message that we're no longer subordinate to his command authority.

 

JOHNSON

(to Vrabec) The ATC is processing paper to promote Waters to Bird Colonel so he'll outrank Dross.

 

VRABEC

Is Waters regular military?

 

JOHNSON

Nope.  He was the boss of the Pan Am operation here.  The ATC took over the Pan Am base and offered him two choices.   First he could be sent home and drafted into the Infantry.  Second he could stay right here, take a commission, and do pretty much as he always did.   A lot of the staff are former Pan Am people. 

 

VRABEC

Item 27 on today's orders is secret.  How come you want to know this?

 

 

 

 

 

JOHNSON

You're classified confidential.  The summary of orders is confidential.  When someone's flying through on a secret mission, we're not supposed to know who they are, what they're carrying, or where they are going.

 

VRABEC

How can I make schedules and plan this operation if we've got people flying around and we can't know what's going on?

 

JOHNSON

Sometimes it's a whole plane.   Or several planes.   We just give them MEMT and ESPIO and send them on their merry way?

 

VRABEC

MEMT?

 

JOHNSON

Most Expeditious Means of Travel.  ESPIO means Exigencies of the Service Precludes Issuing Written Orders.   We just pretend like they don't exist.

 

VRABEC

How is this useful to you?

JOHNSON

Someone shows up and says they're Item 27 on today's orders which are secret, and who knows whether they are for real or not.  Only problem is when two show up claiming the same orders.

 

VRABEC

And one of them might be yours?

 

JOHNSON

You want a silk suit from Hong Kong?  Perfume from Occupied France?

 

 

 

VRABEC

Jesus Christ.

 

JOHNSON

Every passenger is allowed 40 pounds of baggage.  For a small fee, some folks will carry anything.   Uniforms you can get anywhere.  But a Norwegian Ham?

 

VRABEC

This sounds seriously illegal.

 

JOHNSON

It is.  But most of the stuff is for officers.   Chase makes the arrangements.  He's trying to curry some favor higher up and get transferred to Washington.  I just help him out.

 

VRABEC

The beer upstairs being cooled?

 

JOHNSON

The general's favorite direct from the states.  Budweiser.

 

VRABEC

Certainly he doesn't need a whole plane load.

 

JOHNSON

Of course not.   But are you going to turn down a chance to drink a few bottles of cold beer in a country that doesn't have one single refrigerator.

 

EXT.  RUNWAY.

 

General Jones' plane lands.  Waters, Vrabec, Chase and Dross meet Jones as he gets off the plane.  The C-47 with the beer taxies up, and the crew rushes over with armloads of cold beer.   Jones nods as beer is loaded onto his plane.  Vrabec is wearing his Ascension Island bird medal.

 

 

 

 

JONES

Captain Waters I presume.

 

WATERS

Staff Sergeant Charles Vrabec, Lieutenant Chase at your service.

 

DROSS

Colonel Dross, base commander.

 

Dross stands at attention, saluting.  Jones ignores him.

JONES

Get me to a head quick.

 

WATERS

At your service.

 

All but Dross climb into a jeep and drive off towards the base.   Dross continues to stand at attention, saluting, as Waters, et al., drive away.  He finally throws his hat to the ground, muttering.

 

DROSS

I'll get those bastards if it's the last thing I do.

 

INT. JONES' PLANE

 

Jones and his STAFF AIDE are opening bottles of beer.

 

JONES

Did you notice something funny about that Sergeant with the foreign name?

 

STAFF AIDE

Vrabec.  He was wearing some kind of medal I've never seen before.

 

JONES

It had a bird on it.   Put Intelligence on it.

 

STAFF AIDE

Yes sir.

 

JONES

Who provided the cold brew?

 

 

STAFF AIDE

The Lieutenant.  Chase.

 

JONES

Old man Wannamaker's son-in-law.  I remember now.  Wanted the prick sent to the most god awful base we had and kept there.  Enterprising chap.   He keeps this sort of thing up we'll have to reconsider.

 

INT. HANGAR AT ACCRA BASE

 

The entire ATC staff is gathered in the hangar, listening to a lecture from MAJOR GREEN of Intelligence.   Green looks like a weasel.

 

GREEN

The Germans don't need spies.   All they need is to read your mail.

 

He waves around a handful of letters.

 

GREEN

You write your moms or your girl friends back home and you tell them where you are, what you're doing, how many planes we have, and what kind of planes we have.   The Germans would kill for information like this.

 

He throws the letters to the hangar floor and stomps on them.

 

GREEN

Do we have to sit in our offices with crayons and scissors removing all war related information from your letters?   Do we have to waste our valuable time reading your letters?  No.  We can just throw all your letters into a fire.   And that's exactly what we're going to do if the content of your letters home doesn't improve.

 

 

 

 

 

 

INT. ATC SITUATION ROOM.   ACCRA.  THE NEXT DAY.

 

The ATC staff are gathered around the bulletin board.  Someone has posted a "SUGGESTED FORM LETTER HOME".

 

VRABEC

(reading) Greetings. After leaving where we were before we left for here, not knowing we were coming here from there, we could not tell if we would arrive here and not there.

 

The weather here is just as it is at this season, but of course, quite unlike the weather where we were before we came here.   After leaving by what we came by, we had a good trip.

 

The people here are just like they look, but do not look to be like they were where we came from.  From there to here is just as far as it is from here to there.

 

The way we came here is just like everybody comes from there to here.   Of course, we had to bring everything we had with us, for we wear what we would wear here which is not like what we would wear there.   The whole thing is quite a new experience here, because it isn't like it is where we were before we left for here.

 

It is time now, in all probability, to stop this somewhat too newsy letter before I give away too much information as the censor here is likely to be a spy.

 

The ATC crew dissolves in laughter.   They are all seen writing letters home, using the form.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

INT.  GERMAN INTELLIGENCE COMMAND OFFICE

 

Several German intelligence officers are pondering on an enormous pile of letters they have intercepted, all of which the same--the form letter.

 

1ST GERMAN OFFICER

Vas is diss?

 

2ND GERMAN OFFICER

Is a new code, no?

 

1ST GERMAN OFFICER

Put our best men on it.   Ve must break this new code immediately.

 

INT. SITUATION ROOM.   SEVERAL WEEKS LATER.

 

Waters is pacing around the room, complaining.   A woman in AAF uniform is standing at attention in the doorway, PRIVATE SHALE.  She is in her late 30's or early 40's.  The combination of her blonde hair, tanned complexion, her khaki uniform, and the feline grace in her movements make her seem like a cougar on two legs.

 

WATERS

How can they do this to me?  Send me a goddamned woman out in the middle of nowhere to serve as my secretary.  I thought women were supposed to only have the state-side posts.

 

Shale and Waters start stalking each other, arguing from opposite sides of the room.  Everyone else has stopped what they were doing.

 

SHALE

I wanted to fly the ferries, but they said I was too old.  I've won a lot of air races, and I hold the speed records  for 100 miles.   I'm also a very good friend of General Jones'.

 

WATERS

So you pulled rank and got assigned here.

 

 

 

 

SHALE

I would've preferred England, but here is where I am and here is where I'll stay.

 

WATERS

What'd you score on your service aptitude test?

 

SHALE

Perfect score.

 

WATERS

What were you before you enlisted?

 

SHALE

Professor at Oregon State University.

 

Waters stops moving.

 

WATERS

(surprised)  And you're a private?

 

SHALE

I'm told you can arrange rather swift promotion in the ATC.

 

WATERS

You're a private.  You'll stay a private.  Anytime you want a transfer out of here just ask and you're gone.

 

CHASE

But she's a friend of General Jones'.

 

WATERS

I don't care if she was Roosevelt's daughter.   She's a woman.  She's the only woman on this goddamned base.

 

JOHNSON

You're forgetting the native women who...

 

Waters shoots Johnson an angry glare and interrupts him.

 

WATERS

They don't count.  All right.   Johnson, fix her up.  Separate quarters.   Jesus Christ.  Get her a separate john.

 

SHALE

(grinning)  You don't have to go out of your way for me.

 

WATERS

Get out!  Christ, I hope she can type.

 

Shale pauses in the doorway as she leaves.

 

SHALE

120 words a minute.  And I can probably drink you all under the table if given a chance.

 

WATERS

(to Vrabec)   Good.   Take her to Abdulh's tonight and give her the chance.  Maybe I can have her court marshalled and sent home.

 

EXT.  ABDULH'S.  NIGHT.

 

A patio overlooking the beach, trellises covered with flowering vines; card tables, filled with American soldiers in uniforms and British gentlemen dressed in white tropical suits, the saloon is run by a 40'ish Arab named ABDULH, who spends most of his time sitting at various tables with his patrons.  Abdulh is a dashing handsome man who looks like he is the Sultan of Arabia.  Vrabec, Johnson, Chase, Waters and Shale arrive.   All are looking happy except Waters.

 

ABDULH

You wish an ocean-side table?  And what is this?  Allah what a fine looking woman.  You have women in your air force?

 

WATERS

Ocean-side.   Beers all around except for me.  I'm witnessing tonight.

 

 

 

ABDULH

Witnessing what?

 

WATERS

The prompt departure of Private Shale.

 

ABDULH

She looks like the lioness of the desert.  

 

SHALE

And I'll bite your goddamned head off if we don't get something to drink immediately.

 

ABDULH

And she has the sting of the scorpion.  Perchance are you married?

 

SHALE

Beer. And no I am not.

 

ABDULH

I think I may be in love.

 

Abdulh leaves, and the group sits down.

 

VRABEC

You ever have a fantasy of marrying a desert prince?

 

SHALE

Yes.

 

VRABEC

Now's your chance.

 

Waters starts laughing.  The rest join in.

 

SHALE

You don't mean?

 

Abdulh returns with the beer.   It is cold Budweiser.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ABDULH

I am not familiar with the customs of your country.   Captain, you would be like her father since you are her commanding officer, is this not true?

 

WATERS

True.

 

ABDULH

In my country when a man wishes to ask for the hand of a woman in marriage, he must beseech the womans' father and offer many goats and camels in exchange for permission  to marry her.  Since you are acting in the capacity of her father, might I interest you in a dozen goats and three camels?

 

Shale chugs her beer, and takes one from in front of Chase and drains that one.

 

SHALE

What is going on here?

 

WATERS

Thirty goats and four camels and she's yours.

 

SHALE

Now wait a minute.

 

CHASE

Make it three dozen goats, four camels and a pound of gold.

 

ABDULH

I do not have that much gold.  A dozen camels maybe?

 

SHALE

Not as long as you live.   More beer.

 

The men at the table break into laughter.   Shale scowls at them.  Abdulh leaves to fetch more beer.

 

 

 

 

EXT.  ON A HIGHWAY LATER THAT NIGHT.

 

The group is weaving down the middle of the road in a jeep. Waters is passed out in the back.  Shale is driving.  She is the only one who looks remotely sober.  Chase and Vrabec are arguing about how much a camel is worth.

 

SHALE

I can't remember whether you're supposed to drive on the right side or the left side of the road.

 

VRABEC

This is a British colony.   The left is the right and the right is the left.

 

CHASE

Drive down the middle of the road, and swerve left if anything is coming at you.

 

JOHNSON

Forty-eight goats and two dozen camels.  For an Arab that is a princely sum for a woman.   He could buy cheaper ones just about anywhere in Africa.

 

SHALE

I'm not for sale.

 

VRABEC

Poor Abdulh, his heart was broken.  He is a prince, you know.

Shale stops the jeep.

 

SHALE

Get out.  All of you.   You can walk back to the base and sober up.  Goats and camels.  Like I was some kind of chattel.

 

She drives off leaving Vrabec, Johnson and Chase standing in the middle of the road.  Waters is lying face down on the pavement.   They pick him up and start carrying him down the road.

 

 

 

INT. VRABEC'S TENT.   A  FEW NIGHTS LATER.

 

Vrabec and Waters are sitting amidst piles of empty coconut shells, busy chopping the tops off fresh ones, pouring rum into them, and drinking the contents.

 

WATERS

An old native trick I learned.  The coconut milk lines your stomach and you can drink to excess and survive.

 

VRABEC

Practicing for your next run at Shale?

 

WATERS

Goddamned woman.   She's so goddamned competent I probably would be making a big mistake getting rid of her.  Between your straightening out all the plans and schedules and her ability to do damn near anything, this operation is humming.

 

VRABEC

Something I've been meaning to ask you about...

 

WATERS

Johnson no doubt.

 

VRABEC

Are you aware of how big a black market operation he's running.  And he's using our planes.

 

WATERS

I know about it.   And so does the brass.   As long as the planes fly, and the cargo they're supposed to be carrying gets where it's supposed to go,  they ignore him.  "Good for morale," they say.  Have you heard about his newest caper?

 

VRABEC

Something to do with cattle.

 

 

 

WATERS

Nigeria is cattle country.   Sort of like Wyoming.  He's made a deal with the natives, and our planes are stopping at Kano and picking up beef.  Steak is now on the menu at every officer's mess in Africa.

 

INT. C-47 FILLED WITH CATTLE

 

The plane is being piloted by the same pilot who flew the cats.   Background sound is cows mooing.

 

PILOT

(singing)  I know an old lady who swallowed a cow...

 

INT. ATC HQ. IN WASHINGTON.

 

General Jones is listening to a report from Major Green, Intelligence, on Vrabec.

 

GREEN

The bird medal was given to him by the men stationed on Ascension.   Vrabec participated in the destruction of the Wideawake bird nesting grounds.    This Vrabec is something of a numbers genius and has had a lot to do with all the African operations of the command improving so much.  He's even memorized every telephone number on the base.  But, the whole command is riddled with civilians who snub their noses at military protocol.  I have 37 reports from a Colonel Dross requesting all the ATC personnel be court marshalled for various offenses including running a black market operation.

 

JONES

That would be Lieutenant Chase and his steaks.  Did you know that ATC in Africa is knows as "The Outfit that Delivers"?

 

 

 

 

 

GREEN

Vrabec is from Ganado Texas, and his family are Czech.  The word "Vrabec" means sparrow.   His father is chairman of the county war bonds committee.  They don't speak much English, but they're very strongly anti-German.  Vrabec had a successful accounting practice before the War.   The IRS has a great deal of respect for his abilities.  He was originally drafted and put on a bus headed for Fort Bliss Infantry School.  He changed buses at a lunch stop, and ended up in the Air Force.  Trained in Santa Monica as a fighter mechanic.   Ordered to Accra, and the ATC grabbed him.

 

JONES

Sounds like he landed in the right place.

 

GREEN

In my opinion, Dross is probably right, and something ought to be done about the whole bunch at that base.

 

JONES

Don't fix what isn't broke.   Strange as those people may be, they're turning the ATC into a first class world-wide operation.  After the war,  airplanes are going to be just as important for transportation as boats and trains are now.  Keep track of them.   And report to me if they do something seriously out of line.  But as long as those planes are flying on schedule, leave them alone.  And keep me up to date about Vrabec.  We might need his unusual abilities in the future.

 

FADE OUT:

 

 

 

 

INT.  SITUATION ROOM. AUGUST 1943.

 

Waters is standing in front of the base supply officer's desk.  CORPORAL KARP, a bespeckled clerk,  has two baskets with signs on them that read "SUNK" and the second "NOT SUNK YET".   The "SUNK" basket is overflowing with papers.  The "NOT SUNK YET" basket has one page in it.   The rest of the ATC staff are standing around.

 

WATERS

What's the status of our fuel shipment Corporal?

 

KARP

Just got word.  U-boat got it off Dakar.

 

Karp takes the invoice for the fuel from the "NOT SUNK YET" basket and drops it into the "SUNK" basket.

 

KARP

Sunk.  Along with everything else this month.   If it doesn't come by air, it doesn't come.

 

WATERS

Johnson, can't you get us some fuel?  We can't run this damned airline without gas.

 

JOHNSON

I've gotten all there was in the country from the British.  Had to trade them several plane loads of ammunition for the gas.

 

VRABEC

So that's where the ammo went.  Chaing Kai Shek has been complaining to Washington.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

JOHNSON

Look, the ammo saved Montgomery's ass up in Egypt.  Cairo would be a Nazi town if it wasn't for all the cannon shells we diverted.   And the fuel kept our planes in the air.   But the Brits are out.   The subs are getting their boats too.

 

SHALE

Where's the Navy when you need them?   I could call General Jones and maybe he could do something.

 

WATERS

Don't bother.   Destroyers have been requested.  The Navy might consider sending us a destroyer or two if we give them our bases at Dakar and Aden.   Our people say no.

 

The RADIOMAN rushes in.  He is wearing earphones.

 

RADIOMAN (breathlessly)

I've just got a transmission direct from Washington, Commanding General of the Army Air Forces.   Ears only Captain Waters.

 

WATERS

Read the damned thing.   No German spies in this room.

 

RADIOMAN

Captain Waters.  USAAF, ATC, Accra Base. Stop.  Regarding sub problem.  No assistance forthcoming from US Navy.  Suggest exercise local command authority and deal with problem yourself.   Stop.  Orders include starting own Navy.  Stop.   Report on progress of ATC Navy soonest.   By Order of the Commanding General of the Army Air Forces.

 

The Radioman salutes and leaves.

 

 

 

 

WATERS

Start our own Navy?

 

JOHNSON

Well... the fishermen at Lagos owe me a favor, so we can get boats.

 

Chase starts writing busily on a note pad.

 

CHASE

Fill up the empty fuel drums with explosives and drop them from the boats on the subs.

 

WATERS

We can't just start our own Navy.

SHALE

I don't think we ought to do this one in uniform.

 

Vrabec jumps on the table/map in the middle of the Situation Room and starts an imaginary sword fight.

 

VRABEC

Pirates.

 

JOHNSON

Say what?

 

VRABEC

We dress up like local pirates.

 

JOHNSON

I've always wanted to wear a gold ring in my ear.

 

Johnson jumps up on the table and joins in Vrabec's shadow sword fight.

 

WATERS

How about your nose?

 

JOHNSON

That is a racist ...

 

SHALE

Perfect.

 

 

 

 

WATERS

Well ...

 

Johnson stabs Vrabec, who falls to the table, then jumps off and confronts Waters.

 

JOHNSON

You say when and you've got boats.

 

INT.  ATC HQ. WASHINGTON

 

The Commanding General of the Air Force, Franklin, is meeting with the ATC Commanding General Jones.

 

JONES

Accra base reports it will have a fleet in the Gulf of Guiena on or before August 1st.

 

FRANKLIN

What sort of fleet?

 

JONES

Seems they have borrowed the entire fishing fleet from Lagos harbor, outfitted everyone to look like pirates, and have been practicing sailing around the harbor dropping oil drums off their boats.  They don't have anything else to do because all our flight operations out of Accra are shut down due to lack of fuel.

 

FRANKLIN

Who figured this one out?

 

JONES

Lieutenant Chase.

 

FRANKLIN

A very talented fellow, our Chase.  If this works, transfer him to Marrakesh.  Leak the reports to the Navy.   This is going to be very interesting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

EXT.  LAGOS HARBOR.

 

Lagos harbor is a bustling, but dilapidated place filled with fishing boats.  Five of the fishing boats sail out from the harbor.  The ATC crew is seen on deck dressed in outrageous pirate costumes.   Just as they reach open ocean, a Navy destroyer intercepts them.  The destroyer orders the ATC command ship, with Waters in command,  to heave to, and the destroyer crew boards it.   CAPTAIN KLINE, USN, confronts Pirate Admiral Waters on the deck of the ATC fishing boat.

 

KLINE

What in the hell do you fly boys think you're doing on our ocean?

 

WATERS

We're just native pirates sir, out on a fishing expedition.

 

KLINE

Fishing for what?

 

WATERS

A very big and dangerous fish.  It is called a Kraut Shark.   Looks like a German submarine.  Very big and very dangerous.   Likes to sink ships filled with airplane fuel.

 

KLINE

See that ship over there?  There's two more like them just over the horizon.  The U.S. Navy.  You bastards have the air, but we've got the ocean.  Any Germans on or under the ocean are ours.  Understand?

 

WATERS

Three destroyers?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

KLINE

Three.   And we'll be here a while.  Now you have exactly five minutes to point your tubs back to shore, and get back to your airplanes, or we'll start by clearing the waters of pirates.   Do I make myself clear?

 

WATERS

Yes sir.

 

Waters salutes Kline.   Kline ignores him and jumps onto the deck of the Destroyer.

 

CLOSEUP:  DECK OF FISHING BOAT.

 

As the sun sets in the background and the rest of the crew celebrate, Waters and Vrabec are leaning over the bow rail and talking.

 

WATERS

You almost got your chance to be in combat.

 

VRABEC

I was betting we'd never find any subs.

 

WATERS

Be glad the Navy showed up.   I had good intelligence that said we would find our U boat about 10 miles from the harbor mouth.

 

Vrabec suddenly looks like he is about to be seasick.

 

VRABEC

That's a rotten joke.

 

WATERS

So help me it was true.

 

VRABEC

Let's get back to the goddamned land as fast as possible.

 

WATERS

Sure you don't want to drop one little depth charge before we quit?

 

 

Vrabec turns and stalks off towards the other end of the boat.

 

INT.   ATC HQ. WASHINGTON.

 

General Franklin is reading report to ATC commanders.

 

FRANKLIN

From the Office of Naval Operations.  Sighted ATC Navy and sank same.   Five destroyers on station between Ascension and Lagos to clear shipping lanes of subs and any further incursions by the Air Force into Navy waters.   Signed Admiral Browning.

 

JONES

The bastards did it.

 

FRANKLIN

They sure did.  Where did you get these people anyway?

 

JONES

Don't ask.

 

FRANKLIN

By the way, on whose authority did they try to start their own Navy?

 

JONES

An erroneous message was transmitted to Accra that purportedly authorized them to start a navy to go after the subs.

 

FRANKLIN

Under whose name were these erroneous orders issued?

 

JONES

Yours, sir.  But there is no evidence the message was ever sent or received.

 

FRANKLIN

This never happened, did it?

 

 

 

 

JONES

What happened, sir?

 

FRANKLIN

Transfer Chase to Marrakesh.  I've been there.  It's sort of like Paris used to be.  Chase will like the duty.  Any further word on that fellow Vrabec?  The numbers wizard with the funny medal? 

 

JONES

His CO wants him field commissioned as a Captain.   After his own promotion to colonel comes through.

 

FRANKLIN

On what basis?

 

JONES

This fellow Vrabec has really had a lot to do with the improved operations.  Some of Vrabec's systems are in use throughout the ATC.  He's really very good.  But according to Major Green and Colonel Dross, Vrabec is definitely not officer material.   In fact we've received another 42 requests to court marshall both Vrabec and Waters, the latest having to do with unauthorized trips to Lagos.

 

FRANKLIN

I've read Green's report.   He also noted Vrabec has memorized the telephone numbers for every base in Africa.  Promote Vrabec to Captain once Waters' papers come through.  And see if you can't get Dross reassigned to some island out in the middle of the goddamned Pacific.

 

 

INT. ATC SITUATION ROOM A FEW DAYS LATER.

 

Waters is reading a summary of the Extract of Orders from Washington ATC HQ.

 

 

 

 

WATERS

Effective immediately I have been promoted to full colonel.   Sergeant Vrabec is now captain Vrabec.  Lieutenant Chase has been reassigned to Marrakesh.  And the best news yet.  Colonel Dross has been reassigned to Espiritu Sanctu- an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.  As soon as this day's work is done everyone has a pass into town tonight.   See you all at Abdulh's.

 

EXT. ABDULH'S PATIO SALOON.

 

The ATC gang are celebrating the promotions and departure of Dross.

 

CHASE

As soon as I get to Marrakesh, I think I know how to make us all a lot of money.

 

JOHNSON

Say more.

CHASE

The natives in the next colony sell their bananas and get paid in French Francs.  France is occupied, so they can't spend their money and the British in this colony won't accept the French money.   But up in Marrakesh I can exchange Francs at face value for British pounds, then send the money back here and you can convert it to American dollars or money orders.  But the Francs from the natives at half price, and double your money.

 

JOHNSON

We fly the money.

 

CHASE

Secret orders.

 

 

 

 

 

VRABEC

Let's see.  I get paid $212 a month as a Captain, buy $424 worth of French money, you fly it to Marrakesh, Chase converts it to pounds, you fly the pounds back, I convert to dollars and buy $848 worth of francs and fly my money again...

 

CHASE

For a modest ten percent.

 

JOHNSON

Consider this the ATC's answer to flight pay.

 

SHALE

I'm in.

 

WATERS

I have heard nothing of this conversation.   Johnson, any money you find in a brown paper bag with a banana in it is mine.

 

Abdulh joins the ATC group at the table.

 

ABDULH

Sixty two goats and thirty of the finest camels this side of Mecca.

 

SHALE

Bananas.

 

ABDULH

If you wish bananas, I can get you the finest bananas in the world.

   

JOHNSON

Abdulh, if you can buy every banana around for 50 percent off the face value of French money, you just might be able to afford Private Shale.

 

SHALE

I'm not for sale.

 

 

 

 

ABDULH

All right.  Allah what a woman.  One hundred goats and thirty of the finest camels from Mecca.

 

SHALE

No.

 

WATERS

You could start a nice ranch with a hundred goats.

 

SHALE

Oregon is cow country.  And I wouldn't think of staying here for the rest of my life.

 

ABDULH

I'll come live in Oregon.  But it would be very hard on the camels.  Johnson, you can get me cattle, can you not?

 

JOHNSON

As many as you want.

 

ABDULH

One hundred of the finest cows and thirty of the camels from the Sheiks own herd from Mecca.

 

SHALE

One thousand head of cattle and one hundred camels, or no deal.

 

ABDULH

Allah but I am but a poor merchant.   I cannot afford such a price.  My heart is broken.

 

Abdulh slinks away in tears.

 

SHALE

(smuggly)  He'll never come up with that many camels.

 

WATERS

What if he does?

 

 

 

SHALE

I'll be back in the states and safe by then.

 

Johnson starts singing, "Yes we have no bananas", and all join in.

 

EXT.  BEACH IN THE PACIFIC.

 

General Dross is standing on the beach shaking his fist to the east.

 

DROSS

I'll get even with your goddamned Army of Terrified Civilians yet.

 

INT.  VRABEC'S TENT.  OCTOBER 1943.

 

Vrabec and Waters are counting out large piles of money.  Prominent in the tent is a large map of Europe and Africa with the front lines of battle marked in red.  From the front line a tape measure hangs.  A little man figure is stuck to the map on Accra.   Vrabec nods towards the map.

 

WATERS

Still safe?

 

VRABEC

I have an unconfirmed report the Germans have a new bomber with a 2,100 mile range.  That gives me 17 miles leeway.

 

WATERS

That's the closest you've been to combat so far.

 

VRABEC

Not counting the monkeys.

 

Johnson enters and hands Vrabec a report.   Vrabec gets up, and moves the front line of battle in North Africa a little farther north.

 

VRABEC

Now I have 80 miles of safety.

 

JOHNSON

Like those bananas?

 

 

WATERS

What bananas?

 

VRABEC

I wonder if the Germans are putting extra fuel  tanks on bombers?

 

JOHNSON

When you figure their bomber has a range of 2,100 miles, is that one way or round trip?

 

VRABEC

Round trip.

 

JOHNSON

So they could reach a target 1,050 miles from their base?

 

VRABEC

Right.  Unless they were on a suicide mission

 

JOHNSON

Forty pounds is a lot of money.

 

VRABEC

Let's see.

 

He piles up currency.

 

VRABEC

This about a pound of money?

 

WATERS

Depends on the denomination of the bills.

 

VRABEC

The average denomination of currency is 100  Francs.   That would be 10,000 Francs to the pound...

 

JOHNSON

We'll still be in the banana business.

 

 

 

 

 

 

INT. ATC HQ.   WASHINGTON A FEW MONTHS LATER.

 

A large map of Persia is hanging on the wall.   General Jones is sitting at his desk and General Franklin is pacing back and forth in front of the map.

 

FRANKLIN

We've got a big problem in Tehran.  Seems like the Russians won't accept our Lend Lease planes.  They keep protesting to Washington the planes are unfit.

 

JONES

But they've flown half way around the world to get to Tehran for delivery.

 

FRANKLIN

I know it and you know it.  But the Russians don't accept it.  The White House has ordered the Joint Chiefs to find out what the problem is.   The Joint Chiefs have ordered me to find out what the problem is.  The problem is in the Ferry Command, and that makes it your problem.

 

JONES

We've got a new ATC colonel.  Lets make it his problem.

 

INT. ACCRA SITUATION ROOM.   FEBRUARY 1944.

 

Waters comes up to Vrabec who is busy adding up a long column of numbers.  Waters is holding a copy of new orders.

 

WATERS

I have to find out why all our planes are stacking up on Tehran.  Vrabec.  How many planes have we flown to the Russians and are still sitting on the ground?

 

Vrabec pulls out another sheet of paper and quickly tallies the numbers.

 

 

 

 

VRABEC

One hundred nine P-39's.

 

WATERS

Vrabec is Russian, isn't it?

 

VRABEC

Czech.

 

WATERS

You speak Czech?

 

VRABEC

Yaksamash.

 

WATERS

Sounds close enough to me.  You're going to Tehran in the morning to find out what the Russians are doing.

 

Vrabec gets up, pulls a tape measure from his pocket, and measures the distance between Tehran and the Russian front.

VRABEC

But that's only 900 miles from the German front.   The HE-111's the Germans are flying these have a range of 1,300 miles.  I'll be killed by German bombs.

 

WATERS

You'll only be there for a few days, and think of the bright side.  The Germans only use their air force for tactical support and haven't figured out strategic bombing yet.

 

VRABEC

But you promised me.

 

WATERS

You're a Captain now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EXT.  THE ACCRA BAZAAR.  THAT NIGHT.

 

The Bazaar is filled with merchants selling gold, spices,  and  camels,  fortune tellers, jugglers, sorcerers,  food,  and  hundreds  of  people  in  all varieties of African native costume.  Vrabec is busy buying up every native good luck charm available.

 

EXT.  THE RUNWAY AT ACCRA BASE.  THE NEXT MORNING.

 

Vrabec is boarding a C-47.  He is covered with native amulets and good luck charms.  He is dressed in full combat regalia, and is carrying a machine gun.   He boards the plane, only to find it filled with bananas.  The pilot is the same one from the cat and cattle runs.

 

INT. COCKPIT C-47.

 

PILOT

Long time no see stranger.

 

VRABEC

Bananas?

 

PILOT

Better than cats or cows.  Smells a lot better.  I understand you own an interest in the cargo.

 

VRABEC

I do?

 

PILOT

Johnson arranged this flight.  Seems like these bananas sell for a heck of a lot of money in Persia.

EXT.   THE PLANE LANDS ON A DESERT RUNWAY

 

The runway is lined with airplanes.

 

INT. BARRACKS.  TEHRAN.

 

A massive party is going on.  Big, burly blond men are singing in Russian, pouring vast quantities of vodka down their throats, scantily clad women are being chased around the room.  Vrabec confronts the Russian commander, PETROV.

 

 

 

VRABEC

I am Captain Vrabec United States Army Air Force.  Are you the commanding officer of the Russian Air Force?

 

A  very  drunk  individual  sitting  next  to Petrov is the TRANSLATOR.

 

TRANSLATOR

(A Russian statement about twice as long as Vrabec's)

 

PETROV

(A Russian statement of short length--three words.)

TRANSLATOR

Yes.  Colonel Petrov is the commander of the heroic Soviet Air Forces in temporary duty in this pest hole.  What does the stinking capitalist swine want?

 

VRABEC

We have one hundred nine P-39's sitting outside that have flown 12,000 miles to be delivered to the Soviet Union.  But your government claims the planes are unfit.  I am here to find out why.

 

TRANSLATOR

(A  Russian  statement  about  half  the  length  of Vrabec's.)

 

PETROV

(A Russian statement of about 20 words)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TRANSLATOR

These are extremely inferior airplanes.  We must flight test them for weeks to discover all the flaws in their manufacture due to the slave wages your capitalistic robber barons pay the workers of America.   The planes do not have red stars painted on their tales.  We are not receiving the planes we were promised.  These are not the best fighter planes you have available.  They are junk.  If you were a pilot, which you are obviously not, you would know.

 

VRABEC

(In Russian, he tells Petrov to put it where the sun doesn't shine.)

 

Petrov Laughs.

 

PETROV

You speak very bad Russian, but better than most Americans.  You must be from Poland.

 

VRABEC

My family is Czech.  Russian sounds a lot like our language.

 

PETROV

Good people the Czechs.  Have some vodka.

 

VRABEC

No thank you.  I didn't come here to fraternize with a bunch of drunk communists.

 

PETROV

We're not communists.  We're farm boys who are now pilots.  Soon we must fly back to the Motherland to kill Germans and probably die.  If you want to talk about your airplanes, you must drink with me. Or get the hell out.

 

 

 

 

Vrabec sits down and takes a swig of vodka.

 

VRABEC

I've had worse.

 

PETROV

Now, just between you and me.  Those are fine airplanes,  But my men, they will soon die. They are in no hurry to go home.  They fly your airplanes around the safe skies of Persia, get familiar with the planes, have a good time, then they go to fight the Germans.  My government will say what it will.  But we will not accept the planes until my men have their party.  You want a woman tonight?  Russian women are the best in the world.

 

INT.  ATC HQ.  A WEEK LATER

 

JONES

We have the report from Vrabec on the Russians.  It seems they are very  comfortably fixed with booze and broads.  Vrabec says to ignore it.  He notes our own people are very unhappy because the duty in Tehran is awful.   The Russians are having a good time, and our boys are suffering.

 

FRANKLIN

Give that report to our resourceful Mr. Chase.

 

INT. VRABEC'S TENT,   A FEW WEEKS LATER.

 

Vrabec and Waters are chopping the tops off coconuts.  Shale is pouring vodka into them.  There is a Persian rug on the floor.

 

SHALE

Where'd you get the Persian rug?

 

 

 

 

 

 

VRABEC

Just arrived today from Chase.  A present.  Seems he's been flying in refugee whores from France to keep our men happy in Tehran.

 

WATERS

Johnson is no doubt up to his ass in the deal.

 

VRABEC

No doubt.  I wonder who's doing the flying?

 

INT. C-47  FILLED WITH WHORES.

 

Same pilot as on the cat, cow and banana flights.  A WHORE is sitting in the co-pilots' chair.

 

WHORE

Thees plane.  It smells of cat piss.

 

PILOT

(singing)  I know an old lady who swallowed a whore...

 

INT. ACCRA SITUATION ROOM

 

Everyone is gathered around a notice posted on the Bulletin Board.  In big letters are the words LION HUNTING SAFARI.   Sign-up forms are attached.

 

WATERS

(to Johnson)  Is this one of your projects?

 

JOHNSON

I made a little deal with the British who were short on fuel, and they've graciously agreed to allow a few of us to fly over to Kenya and hunt lions.

 

VRABEC

Sounds a lot better than hunting monkeys.

 

 

 

 

 

JOHNSON

That reminds me, I have a package from your buddy JJ over in Belem.

 

Johnson digs a package out of his desk.  Vrabec opens it.  It is a medal with a monkey face on it.

 

VRABEC

(reading)  In Honor of a successful monkey killed in combat January 14, 1943.  Belem, Brazil.

 

Vrabec pins it to his chest next to his bird medal.

 

WATERS

Now you can write home about being a much decorated combat veteran.

 

VRABEC

After monkeys and birds, lions ought to be easy.  Count me in.

 

There is a rush for the sign-up sheets.

 

INT.  ACCRA SITUATION ROOM.   A FEW WEEKS LATER.

 

Johnson is busy passing out lion hunting medals to everyone who went on the trip.

 

EXT.  NIGHT  ABDULH'S.   JULY 4, 1944

 

It is the night of the 4th of July, 1944.  A radio is playing in the background with new accounts of the invasion of Normandy that is in full swing.  The ATC gang are watching a fireworks show from Abdulh's patio.

 

SHALE

I sure miss home.

VRABEC

Maybe we'll get back to the states pretty soon.

 

WATERS

I doubt it.  We didn't get involved with the Normandy invasion, so our next stop will probably be the Pacific.

 

 

 

 

JOHNSON

How do you figure that?

 

WATERS

Things will wind down on this route.  But there's still a war to be won against Japan.  Any day now I suspect we'll be getting orders to somewhere along one of the ATC routes across the Pacific.

 

VRABEC

Seems like we're destined to spend the war in hot, tropical places.

 

JOHNSON

Better that at the front.

 

WATERS

How far away are we from the front now?

 

VRABEC

Two thousand four hundred and twenty miles and improving daily.

 

Abdulh arrives and joins the discussion.

 

ABDULH

One thousand cows.  One hundred camels.  Would you not consider a few less camels?

 

SHALE

I've said my price.  Come up with it or find a nice little Arab girl to marry.

 

ABDULH

I hear your base will be closing down soon.

 

WATERS

Where do you hear that?

 

ABDULH

German spies.

 

WATERS

What do they know?

 

 

ABDULH

They say your base will soon be closed and all of you transferred to the Pacific.  It will be the end of my business.  I'll never be able to afford the 100 camels.

 

SHALE

One thousand head of cattle.

 

ABDULH

No problem with the cattle.  Thanks to Mr. Johnson I have made much money on bananas and have purchased the cows.   But only a prince can afford 100 camels.

 

SHALE

I thought you were a prince.

 

ABDULH

I am.   But I have many brothers and we are a poor family with no kingdom.

 

SHALE

Where are you from originally?

 

ABDULH

Lebanon.  Beautiful country.  But run by the British and the Christians.  Not a good place for a humble Arab like me.

 

SHALE

Isn't it against your religion to own a saloon?

 

ABDULH

I do not drink.  But there is nothing in the Koran that says I cannot sell liquor to Infidels.

 

SHALE

Don't think for a moment I'd convert if by some miracle you come up with the camels.

 

 

 

 

 

ABDULH

I doubt if I could be a very good Muslim in Oregon anyway.  It is very far from Mecca.  Is it true that it is very cold and wet in Oregon?  That would be very sad for the camels.

 

SHALE

Eastern Oregon is hot and dry in the summer.  Your camels would like it.

 

ABDULH

Our camels.

 

WATERS

You're pretty quiet tonight, Johnson.  What gives?

 

JOHNSON

If we're going to be moved, my whole business is going down the drain.

 

VRABEC

You're probably rich enough you'll never have to work again for the rest of your life.

 

JOHNSON

There's a lot of overhead.

 

VRABEC

What're you going to do once the war is over?

 

JOHNSON

Stay in Africa if I can.  I've sort of grown accustomed to being a part of the majority.

 

WATERS

Think you can pull it off?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

JOHNSON

Once the war is over, there'll be a lot of changes.  This colonial bullshit is going to end.  I've been talking to a lot of the natives and this Gold Coast is someday going to be the free and independent nation of Ghana.  They could use some help.  It sure beats Harlem.

 

WATERS

What about you Vrabec?  What're your plans?

 

VRABEC

Go back home and pick up where I left off.

 

SHALE

I'm probably going to buy a small ranch and raise some cows and a little hell.

 

ABDULH

Do not forget the poor camels.

WATERS

Me, I'm hoping the Air Force will have a niche for me after the war.  If not, I think my experience ought to land me a nice job with an airline company.  It's going to be a lot different after the war.  Airplanes are the future.  We've proven what airplanes can do with the ATC.  Vrabec, how many airplanes today?

 

VRABEC

Lots.

 

EXT.  BEACH IN FRONT OF ABDULH'S.  LATER THAT NIGHT.

 

Abdulh and Shale are walking down the beach and talking.

 

ABDULH

How come you just left being a college professor and enlisted?

 

 

SHALE

I was bored.

 

ABDULH

Bored?

 

SHALE

My life had gotten pretty predictable.   I'd accomplished everything I ever set out to do, and it still wasn't enough.

 

ABDULH

But you never married?

 

SHALE

No.  There were times, though.  But it would never work out.  The men were attracted to me and I was attracted to them.  But when things got serious, they would start about how I would have to change once we got married.

 

 

ABDULH

Change?

 

SHALE

It isn't very common for a woman to be a pilot.   To have an advanced degree.  To be a full professor.  To run her own life the way she damn well wants to.  I'm too much my own boss.

 

ABDULH

You are a very strong willed woman.

 

SHALE

Indeed I am, and that's the problem.

ABDULH

Problem?

 

SHALE

Take yourself.  You want to marry me.  I won't deny I'm just a little bit interested.

 

ABDULH

Seventy camels.

 

SHALE

The number of camels has nothing to do with it.

 

ABDULH

Forty camels.

 

SHALE

A hundred.   Not one less.

 

ABDULH

Why so many.

 

SHALE

I don't think you'll be able to come up with them.

 

ABDULH

I can be pretty strong willed, too.

 

SHALE

I don't doubt you can.  And that would be the problem.

 

ABDULH

You keep mentioning the problem.

 

SHALE

You're an Arab.

 

ABDULH

You have something against Arabs?

 

SHALE

No.  You're really quite  attractive.  I had this fantasy when I enlisted.  That I'd be sent to some remote and exotic land, meet a prince, and fall in love.

 

ABDULH

I am a prince. Sort of, anyway.

 

 

 

 

 

 

SHALE

But you come from a culture that is a thousand years behind mine.  You still believe you can have more than one wife.  Your wives are property.  You're trying to buy me.

 

ABDULH

That is not so.  Yes, I could have more than one wife.  But I don't want more than one.  One woman in my tent would be bad enough.  Four?  Allah!  I would go crazy.

 

SHALE

How come you never got married?  Or are you already?

 

ABDULH

I am not.  I came to Accra a younger man, and started my business.  There was so much to do, I just never got around to looking for a wife.  That is, until I met you.

 

SHALE

Why me?

 

ABDULH

Let us say I am just not the traditional nomad of the desert.

 

He reaches for her hand, and she grasps his as they walk along.

 

SHALE

I just never felt that a man I was interested in loved me just the way I am, and didn't want to change me.

 

ABDULH

There is much about me you do not know.

 

SHALE

That I don't doubt.

 

 

 

 

 

ABDULH

Besides being beautiful...

 

She guffaws.

 

But you are.   A little long in the tooth...

 

She punches him playfully.

 

We can tell how old a camel is by how long his teeth are.

 

She opens her mouth very wide.

 

But you have spirit.  In a way like a camel.   To master the camel you must meet him half way.

 

SHALE

Is that an Arab proverb?

 

ABDULH

Yes.  And a sand dune is moved by the wind one grain at a time.

 

SHALE

So I'm just another camel to you.

 

ABDULH

You are more like the sand dune.  Constantly shifting.  Constantly changing.

 

SHALE

And gritty as hell.

 

ABDULH

I would only change one thing about you.

 

SHALE

(suspiciously)  And what would that be?

 

ABDULH

Your last name.

 

SHALE

And nothing else?

 

 

ABDULH

When I first saw you in my humble establishment, I knew instantly you were the woman of my dreams.  You are like the wild stallion that roams the desert free as the wind.  No one can tame the horse.  But it may, only may, agree to be ridden by the right person.

 

SHALE

I'm not impressed by your bucolic imagery.

 

ABDULH

If you break the spirit of the horse, it is just another animal to ride.   But if you become the horse's partner, it can give you experiences you could never have otherwise.

SHALE

You have to be pretty brave to try and ride the wild stallion.

 

 

ABDULH

You must have great courage to want to marry a woman who has more heart then most men.  If by some miracle I could get the hundred camels, are you serious about accepting my offer?

 

She stops, and stares at the ocean.

 

SHALE

I don't know.

 

 

INT. ATC HQ.  WASHINGTON   MARCH 1945.

 

FRANKLIN

The current forecast has us beating the Germans by July.  We need plans to move all our planes and men out of Europe and re-deploy them to the Pacific.

 

 

JONES

That bunch down in Africa would be a real asset in the planning work.

 

FRANKLIN

Get them up here to headquarters.

 

FADE OUT:

 

INT.   SITUATION ROOM   ACCRA.

 

Waters rushes in waving a copy of the day's orders from Washington.

 

WATERS

We're going home!  Johnson, Vrabec, you're both assigned with me to ATC Plans division.  Washington DC.

 

SHALE

How about me?

 

Waters hunts through the orders.

 

WATERS

Sorry.  You're going to Dakar.  But don't settle in.  As soon as we get stateside I'll do everything I can to get you moved to my command.

 

SHALE

How about a Commission?

 

WATERS

That too.

 

EXT.  ABDULH'S THAT NIGHT.

 

The ATC gang, minus Johnson are celebrating.  Shale looks glum.  Abdulh is absolutely heart broken.

 

ABDULH

Fifty camels?

 

SHALE

One hundred and not one less.

 

WATERS

Where's Johnson?

 

 

 

VRABEC

Don't know.

 

ABDULH

When do you people leave?

 

WATERS

A week.  Got a lot to do to wind up things here.  But the base will stay open.  You won't go broke.

 

ABDULH

Would you like some war souvenirs?

 

VRABEC

Sure.

 

ABDULH

Come by tomorrow.  Sixty camels?

 

SHALE

One hundred.

 

EXT.  OUT IN FRONT OF ABDULH'S THE NEXT MORNING.

 

Abdulh has rows and rows of German helmets lined up and is busy shooting holes in each one.  Waters and Vrabec arrive.

 

WATERS

What in the hell are you doing?

 

ABDULH

You wish war momentos.  I am making them.  Your Mr. Johnson gave  me the idea.

 

VRABEC

When'd you see Johnson?

 

ABDULH

He came by this morning to say goodbye.  And he gave me a lead on where I can get 100 camels cheap.

 

WATERS

Goodbye?  He's going with us next week.

 

 

 

ABDULH

He told me to tell you he was sorry.  And he told me to say this very accurately.  "Opportunity knocks but once."

 

WATERS

I don't understand.

 

ABDULH

He said you would say that.  But he also said you'll know what he means very soon.

 

VRABEC

He's up to something big.

 

WATERS

We better get back to the base and find out what.  I'll bet he's sold our entire air force.

 

INT. ATC SITUATION ROOM  ACCRA.  SAME DAY.

 

The room is in a turmoil.  MP's are everywhere.  Major Green is on the radio screaming.  Waters and Vrabec arrive.

 

VRABEC

What the hell is going on?

 

GREEN

Your goddamned darkie stole a plane load of gold.

 

VRABEC

A plane load of what?

GREEN

Gold goddammit.  G.O.L.D.  The plane stopped in Cairo on its way to Russia.  Some sort of really secret help to the Russians.  Johnson got wind of it and stole it.  There musta been a hundred million dollars worth of gold on the goddamned plane, and now no one can find it.

 

 

 

 

WATERS

Holy mother...

 

INT.  C-47.

 

The Pilot and Johnson are sitting in the cockpit, playing with gold bars.

 

PILOT

(singing)  Gold is the color of my true love's hair...

 

JOHNSON

I just knew those secret orders would pay off some day.

 

PILOT

This sure beats hauling cats and painted ladies.

 

JOHNSON

You are sooo right my man.  Next stop Brazil.

 

INT.  OPS CENTER BELEM A WEEK LATER

 

The OPS Center is jammed with soldiers waiting in line to have their orders processed.  Vrabec and Waters are milling around the OP's office waiting for their plane to be refueled.   Vrabec sees the same TO he encountered on his trip over.

 

VRABEC

How the hell are you.  Remember me?

 

TO

You're JJ's buddy.  The one I sent with the cats.  Sorry about that.  Never heard the last of it.

 

VRABEC

What ever happened to JJ?

 

TO

He's still in town.  Married Rosa.  You remember, the one that he shacked up with.  Has two kids now.

 

 

 

 

VRABEC

How come he didn't ever get a ride out?

 

TO

Never was a seat available.  Gosh darned.  Things like that happen.

 

VRABEC

He didn't have that much moonshine.

 

TO pulls a mason jar from beneath the counter and takes a swig.

 

TO

He started making it here.  Damned fine stuff.

 

WATERS

You know this gentleman?

 

VRABEC

Remember that ride with the cats.  He's responsible.

 

WATERS

Maybe I can arrange to have him sent to the Pacific.

 

TO

Begging your pardon.  I will make amends.  You have a long flight home.  Would some cold beer help?

 

WATERS

What kind of cold beer?

 

TO

Budweiser.  Say.  You're just in from Accra.  What do you know about a shipment of camels to the states?

 

WATERS AND VRABEC

What?

 

TO

Some guy named Johnson made arrangements for a guy named Abdulh to ship 100 camels to Oregon.

 

 

 

 

WATERS

He didn't pay for this privilege in gold?

 

TO

Come to think of it I can't remember.

 

WATERS

You know you could be court marshalled and shot.

 

TO

I'm a Brazilian citizen.  I don't think you can do that.

 

VRABEC

Well.   We know where some of the gold went.

 

TO

Better than to the Russians.

 

WATERS

You're in big trouble.

 

TO

You may find yourself in Ascension if you aren't friendly.

 

VRABEC

Forget this jerk.  We're going home.

 

TO

Want to buy some parrots cheap?

 

INT.  NATIONAL AIRPORT

 

Vrabec and Waters are walking through the lobby carrying their duffels, and run into now Private Green, handing out leaflets.

 

WATERS

Isn't that our Major Green?

 

 

 

 

 

 

GREEN

Private Green thanks to you bastards.  Dross was right.  Should've court martialled the whole lot of you.

 

VRABEC

How come the bust in rank.

 

GREEN

Johnson.  They blamed the whole mess on me.  Some snot-nosed officer named Chase did an investigation and linked me to the leak of the secret order for the gold.

 

WATERS

Where is our Mr. Chase?

 

GREEN

Right here in Washington.  He's got a nice fat job handling public relations for the Air Force.  Here.  Read this.  Spies are everywhere.

Green hands Vrabec the leaflet.  It is captioned HOW TO TELL SOMEONE IS A SPY.

 

INT.  PENTAGON OFFICE OF COMMANDING GENERAL

 

An impressive office twice the size of General Jones' office.   The walls are covered with pictures of airplanes, and General Franklin standing next to famous people including Roosevelt, Churchill, Stalin, and movie stars.  Vrabec, Waters, and Jones are sitting  around  a  conference  table  with General Franklin.

 

FRANKLIN

As soon as Germany surrenders, we want to move 50,000 men a month back across the Atlantic, and everything that can fly.  I see we have our Africans present.  Anything you need?

 

 

 

 

 

 

WATERS

I'd like Private Shale transferred from Dakar into my command.  And maybe Vrabec could be a Major?

 

FRANKLIN

For a bunch accustomed to their own Navy and free use of the entire air force for their personal benefit, that seems modest.

 

JONES

These two weren't responsible for Johnson's operations.

 

VRABEC

There's no way that many people can be moved with the normal procedures.

 

JONES

Do you have a suggestion?

 

VRABEC

Instead of cutting orders for each individual, give everyone entitled to fly a green ticket.

 

WATERS

How come green?

VRABEC

Green light to go home.

 

JONES

Brilliant.  That's why we wanted these boys.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FRANKLIN

Do it.  Waters and Vrabec.  This is the capital of the United States of America.  This is not Africa.  We do things by the book here.  Dross has made General, and he's stationed here at the Pentagon.  He harbors a serious dislike for you two.  You've had your fun.  We've got wars to win.  Shape it up and you'll have a place in the post war Air Force.  Waters, you'll make general.  Vrabec, if you stay you could too.   If you don't you'll leave here a Colonel.  And don't ever wear those damned hunting medals of yours again in this building.

 

EXT. SCENES.

 

Men lined up to board C-47's holding green tickets in Paris, London, Rome.

 

INT. SCENES AIRCRAFT CABINS.

 

Men joking and laughing about their trip home.

 

INT. SCENE  C-47.

 

An OFFICER is passing out a green colored questionnaire.  He hands two to a much decorated combat soldier sitting an aisle seat.   The soldier hands one to his SEATMATE, a combat officer.

 

OFFICER

The ATC wants to know what you boys think of your flight home.  Turn these in when you check in at New York.

 

SOLDIER

(reading)  If you were to fly on an airline as a civilian, what would you like to make your flight more enjoyable?

 

 

 

 

 

 

SEATMATE

I heard the ATC was run by a lot of jokers drafted form the airlines who are itching to go back to their civilian jobs.

 

SOLDIER

Map?  Yep.  I'd like a map of what we're flying over.  Something to read.  Yep.   I'd like a magazine.  Beverages?  Sure as hell yes.  Booze.  Cabin Attendant?  That officer is sure an ugly bastard.  Broads.  That's what the flights need.  Broads handing out drinks, maps and magazines.

 

SEATMATE

Sounds good to me.

 

OTHER PASSENGERS NEARBY

Great.  Broads, booze, maps and a magazine.

 

The men on the plane are seen busily filling out the questionnaires.

 

INT.  ATC HQ.  JONES' OFFICE

 

Vrabec and Waters are being briefed about their next project.

 

JONES

Before we start, we still have one little problem with the Green Project.  The customs people in Miami are complaining about everyone coming off the planes from Belem with parrots.  Got any ideas?

 

VRABEC

There's a TO at Belem Ops.  Brazilian.  He's probably the source of the parrots.   Check and see if exporting parrots is against their law.

 

 

 

 

 

 

JONES

Now to the serious stuff.  One November code named OLYMPIC.  The land invasion of Japan.  One March 1946 code named CORONET.   The second land invasion of Japan on Honshu.  I need plans and forecasts to remove 400,000 estimated wounded by air back to the states.

 

VRABEC

400,000 ....

 

JONES

400,000.  We're looking at 40,000 another killed.  We don't need planes for them.

 

WATERS

Jesus Christ.

 

JONES

If you're religious, you ought to pray the Japanese decide to surrender.  If we're lucky.  We're going to have to fight house to house from one end of that country to the other.

 

WATERS

What are the chances they would surrender?

 

JONES

If I were them I would.  They've got the Navy blockading them trying to starve them to death, MacArthur itching to land on their beaches, and we're trying to bomb them into the stone age.

 

VRABEC

How many bombs?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

JONES

Current plans call for dropping two million tons on the Japanese islands in 11 months.  LeMay wants to fire bomb their cities and burn them to the ground.

 

WATERS

How much did we use on Germany?

 

VRABEC

Two million one hundred twelve thousand ninety-six.

 

JONES

There's a big difference.  Germany was a nation of brick and stone buildings.  And we didn't really have effective daylight bombing until the P-51 came into use.  Japan is a country of wood and paper buildings.  LeMay will burn the country to the ground.

 

VRABEC

B-29's?

JONES

Yes.  And so far we're not getting anything near the resistance from Japan's air force and anti-aircraft fire that we did over German.  LeMay would like his 2 million tons dropped on Japan before the invasion.  If he can do it, there won't be anything left to invade.

 

WATERS

Kill an awful lot of Japanese.

 

JONES

They should have thought about that before Pearl Harbor.

 

INT. VRABEC'S OFFICE.  NEXT DAY.

 

Vrabec's office is tiny, and every flat surface is piled high with papers.  He is busy tallying columns of numbers on a hand cranked adding machine.  Waters comes bursting in all excited.

 

 

WATERS

Shale is arriving today.  Finally.  Now we can get something done.

 

VRABEC

Think we ought to tell her about the 100 camels being shipped to Oregon?

 

WATERS

Abdulh will probably take care of it himself.

 

VRABEC

Does she know?

 

WATERS

Nope.

 

INT. NATIONAL AIRPORT.

 

Vrabec and Waters meet Shale.  They encounter Private Green passing out leaflets captioned "Japanese spies are everywhere".

 

INT.  WATERS'S OFFICE.

 

Water's office is in stark contrast to Vrabec's Every flat surface is clean of any paper. Waters, Vrabec and Shale enter.  Shale still has all her gear.  She settles down in a chair and reaches into her duffel.

 

SHALE

I brought you boys something to remember Africa by.

 

She pulls out a bunch of bananas and drops them on Waters' desk.

 

SHALE

Since you all left the banana market has gone to hell.

 

WATERS

How was Dakar?

 

SHALE

Don't ask.  I'm glad to be home.   And thanks for getting me out of there.

 

 

WATERS

Orders are being processed to promote you to Captain.  This is a high powered command and they don't want a lot of enlisted men on the roster.

 

SHALE

And enlisted women.  What're we doing?

 

VRABEC

Air transport plans for the Japanese invasion.   Re-route all planes in service.    Move 600,000 men to staging areas in the Pacific.  And plan for removal of  400,000 wounded once the invasion starts.

 

SHALE

400,000 wounded?

 

VRABEC

A hell of a problem.  They had it easy coming out of France.   Hop a transport over to just behind the front with just enough fuel to carry a max load of casualties across the Channel.  Unload and turn around.

 

WATERS

But the Pacific is a damned big puddle of water, and the planes either have to make a lot of short jumps from island to island in order to carry a larger number of wounded, or fewer wounded and more fuel to make longer jumps.

 

SHALE

So you have a lot more aircraft engaged, and a lot longer time lapse between pickup and delivery to hospitals.

 

VRABEC

You got it.   And that means a higher attrition rate.

 

 

WATERS

I'm glad I'm not the one who is going to decide who gets air evac and who doesn't.

 

SHALE

When's the shooting match going to start?

VRABEC

One November.

 

WATERS

Now for the serious stuff.

 

SHALE

The serious stuff?

 

WATERS

Dump your stuff at the barracks and meet us back here at 1900.  We've got a place downtown to show you.

 

VRABEC

A sleezy belly dancing joint owned by an Arab.

 

SHALE

Not Abdulh?

 

WATERS

You haven't heard from Abdulh?

 

SHALE

When I left for Dakar he sounded very confident he was going to come up with the 100 camels.

 

VRABEC

Did he?

 

SHALE

Not as far as I know.  Do you boys know something I don't?

 

WATERS

Don't worry about it.  Let's have some fun tonight.  Tomorrow we have some serious work to do.

 

 

 

INT.  BELEM OPS CENTER

 

Two uniformed Brazilian police approach the TO.

 

1ST POLICEMAN

You are under arrest for the illegal sale of native birds.

 

TO

You must be kidding.

 

2ND POLICEMAN

Please come quietly.

 

TO

What's this all about?

 

1ST POLICEMAN

We have proof you have been selling parrots to American soldiers.

 

The policemen drag the protesting TO away.

 

INT.  ALI BABA'S

 

Vrabec, Shale and Waters are seated at a ring-side table by the stage.   The room is hazy, and decorated in cheap Arabic style.  An aging and overweight belly dancer is ineptly trying to entertain the crowd.  Their table is covered with empty beer bottles.

 

SHALE

This place does remind me a lot of Abdulh's.

 

WATERS

I think the owner is a relative of his.

 

SHALE

No kidding?

 

WATERS

Ali.  Come here and meet our buddy from Africa.

 

 

 

 

ALI saunters over to the table.  He looks a lot like Abdulh.

 

ALI

Your wish is my command.

 

WATERS

I'd like you to meet Naomi Shale.  She worked with us in Accra.

 

SHALE

Pleased to meet you.

 

ALI

Ah.  The lioness of the desert.  The thief of my cousin's heart.  I have heard much about you from Abdulh.

 

SHALE

What?

 

ALI

He wishes to convey a message to you.  One hundred of the finest camels ever seen in Mecca are now suffering in Oregon.

 

SHALE

(makes choking sound)

 

ALI

Abdulh awaits your word as to when the ceremonies can take place.

 

SHALE

Ceremonies?

 

VRABEC

As in marriage.  Remember.  You agreed if he could come up with the camels, you'd marry him.

 

SHALE

But he's in Africa.

 

ALI

This is not true.  He awaits in the kitchen for your word.

 

 

 

SHALE

The son of a bitch is here?

 

VRABEC

Colonel, did you know?

 

Waters grins.  Ali scurries back to the kitchen.  Abdulh emerges, comes to the table and sits next to Shale.

 

ABDULH

My primrose of the sands.  I have emptied my pockets and bought a ranch in Oregon.  I have purchased the finest camels.  One hundred poor suffering beasts who have frozen all winter.  I have bought 1,000 of the finest cattle.  Your home awaits.

 

SHALE

Where'd you get that kind of money?

 

ABDULH

I sold my place in Accra.  I made some  money  thanks  to  your  Mr.  Johnson.  I have invested everything I have at your request.  My entire family is here waiting for the  news  of  when  we  can  be married. 

SHALE

How did you get into the country?

 

ABDULH

I have neglected to tell you.  I am an American citizen.  I was born in New Jersey.

 

VRABEC

I thought you were Lebanese.

 

ABDULH

Just as you are Czech.   My parents emigrated to Newark to escape the Turks.  They own a restaurant there.   Yes I am Lebanese.   But I am an American as well.

 

 

 

SHALE

I don't believe this is happening to me.

 

WATERS

It is.

 

Shale buries her face in her hands, and starts crying

 

ABDULH

Have I offended you?

 

Shale looks up, and wipes a tear from her eyes.

 

SHALE

This is so goddamned romantic.  You really bought 100 camels?

 

ABDULH

I would prefer, for the camel's sake, that we sold them to the circus and some zoos.   Your Oregon is not a very good place for them.

 

SHALE

Sell them.

 

ABDULH

Does that mean you accept?

 

SHALE

I do.

 

She hugs Abdulh.  The BELLY DANCER, who has been grinding away in the background, and getting more and more frustrated with everyone's attention being focused on Shale and Abdulh, leans over and catches Abdulh's attention.

BELLY DANCER

May your wife be your curse.

 

ABDULH

Drinks on the house!  Let the celebration begin!

The place explodes in music and dancing and wild celebration.  

 

 

 

 

INT.  PENTAGON HALLWAY

 

Vrabec is walking down the hall carrying a load of files.  He encounters Chase.

 

CHASE

Vrabec!  Fancy meeting you here.

 

VRABEC

Investigated Johnson, did you.

 

CHASE

Of course.

 

VRABEC

I wonder how much of that gold ended up in your pockets.

 

CHASE

I understand you have the highest level of security clearance now that you are involved in the war plans. 

 

VRABEC

I do.

 

CHASE

Then come with me to my office and let's have a chat.

 

INT.  CHASE'S OFFICE

 

Chase's office is equal in size to Jones.  His desk is covered with folders marked "TOP SECRET".

 

CHASE

I'm not really involved in public relations.

 

VRABEC

What sort of contraband are you smuggling now to keep the brass happy?

 

CHASE

I'm really a G-2 officer.

 

VRABEC

Intelligence?

 

 

CHASE

Sometimes I think the words military and intelligence are mutually exclusive.

 

VRABEC

So what does that have to do with Johnson?

CHASE

Top secret.   Johnson was one of us.  The gold wasn't really stolen.

 

Chase picks up one of the TOP SECRET files and opens it.

 

VRABEC

Wasn't stolen?

 

CHASE

Roosevelt ordered the gold to be delivered to Stalin.  Some people who shall remain nameless didn't think that was such a good idea giving Uncle Joe that kind of dough.  The theft was a ruse.  The gold is safely where it belonged in the first place.  Fort Knox.

 

VRABEC

I don't believe any of this.

CHASE

Our Mr. Johnson officially has taken the blame for the theft.  But he is happily ensconced back in Africa with a new identity.

 

VRABEC

Prove it.

 

CHASE

OK.  You will receive a package by courier.  Eyes only.  Destroy what you find inside and never breath a word of this to anyone.   Johnson wants you to know he's alive and well.

 

 

 

INT.  VRABEC'S OFFICE  A FEW DAYS LATER

 

Courier enters and has Vrabec sign for delivery of a package marked Top Secret.   Vrabec opens the package and finds a photo of Johnson holding a newspaper from the day before.   The newspaper is from Accra.  Johnson is dressed like a native chief.   There is a banana wrapped in a French Franc, and a note inside.

VRABEC

(reading)   Us pirates should stick together.   Kareem...

 

Vrabec whistles.  Chase pops into the office.

 

CHASE

Satisfied?

 

VRABEC

I don't think I'll ever be satisfied.  Or understand all of what is going on.

 

CHASE

Another tip.  You're working on the invasion plans, right?

 

VRABEC

Right.

 

CHASE

It'll never happen.

 

VRABEC

The invasion?

 

CHASE

July 17th.   Watch for a news story around then about an earthquake in New Mexico.

 

VRABEC

An earthquake?

 

CHASE

I still have to keep the brass happy.  That includes keeping a bunch of eggheads in New Mexico down on the farm.  They're building an atomic bomb. 

 

 

VRABEC

Atomic what?

 

CHASE

A bomb so powerful it might destroy the whole state.  We don't know yet.  But if it works, we're going to use it on the Japs.

 

VRABEC

Why July 17th?

 

CHASE

We're going to test one.  Very very secret.

 

VRABEC

You're pulling my leg.

 

CHASE

Just watch the papers.  There will be a  bright light in the west.  And the war will soon be over if it works.

 

VRABEC

If this was for real, I'd think they'd tell us about it.   We are planning for an invasion.

 

CHASE

If it works, your plans will have to change.  And you'll be told officially.  Don't act like you know anything.  This is very hush hush.  But I thought you should know.  You're going to have to do some quick re-work on your plans.  And a lot of people around here are impressed with you and Waters.  Friends should always have an edge on things.

 

VRABEC

I don't exactly think of you as a friend.

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHASE

You'd be in Levenworth if it wasn't for friends like me.   Play ball.   And some day remember who helped you when the chips were down.

 

VRABEC

Prison?

 

CHASE

If Dross had gotten his way, yes.

 

VRABEC

An atomic bomb?

 

CHASE

You never heard about it.

 

INT.  DAY ROOM.   ATC HQ.  JULY 17, 1945.

 

A drab room with naugahyde couches, olive drab wooden tables, a radio, and piles of newspapers and magazines. Vrabec is reading the morning's Washington Post.  He catches a small item about an earthquake in New Mexico the night previously.

 

CLOSEUP:  NEWS ITEM DATELINED JULY 18, NEW MEXICO.  HEADLINE: "EARTHQUAKE NEAR LOS ALAMOS"

 

INT. POTSDAM.  JULY 24, 1945.

 

President Truman, several of his cabinet, and General Franklin are meeting in an elegant mansion's dining room.

 

TRUMAN

The crews  are in position?

 

FRANKLIN

They're set to fly from Tinian.

 

TRUMAN

Target cities?

 

FRANKLIN

Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Niigata and Kokura.

 

 

 

 

TRUMAN

I thought Kyoto was on the list.

 

FRANKLIN

Last minute change.  Nagasaki was substituted.  Kyoto is a cultural center and has no military value.

 

TRUMAN

How many bombs do we have?

 

FRANKLIN

Two for sure.  A third will be ready by 14 August.   More after.

 

TRUMAN

I'm damned if I do and damned if I don't.   This'll end the war before we have to invade.  If we don't use the bombs, and your estimates are correct, I'd have to explain to the parent's of a lot of our boys why we didn't use this when we had it.

 

FRANKLIN

They're training school children and women to fight with sticks.  If we have to hit those beaches we're going to have to fight for every inch of the country.

 

TRUMAN

I'm going to issue a surrender ultimatum.  Hirohito has until August 2nd.  Cut the orders.  On or after August 2nd.   All four cities as the bombs become available.  Target choice is for the field commander. 

 

INT.  NATIONAL AIRPORT LOBBY  SUNDAY JULY 29, 1945.

 

Vrabec is sleeping on a bench in the lobby.  Two MP's approach him and roust him.

 

1ST MP

Major Charles Vrabec?

 

 

 

 

VRABEC

That's me.

 

2ND MP

Chase was right.  Find the only air conditioned building on this side of the river and we'd find our man.

 

VRABEC

Am I in some kind of trouble?

 

1ST MP

We are advised that you know the combination to the safe containing the current war plans.  Is that correct?

 

VRABEC

I've got a good memory for numbers.

 

1ST MP

They change the combination daily.  You have today's combination?

 

VRABEC

I don't think I am authorized to answer that question.

 

2ND MP

By authority of the Commanding General of the United States Army Air Force you are under arrest.  Please come with us and do not make things difficult.

 

EXT.  PENTAGON

 

The two MP's escort Vrabec form a car and into the building.

 

INT. PENTAGON

 

Vrabec is led a safe in an office.

 

1ST MP

Open the safe.

 

VRABEC

No.

 

 

2ND MP

OPEN THE SAFE!

 

VRABEC

How do I know you're not enemy agents?

 

Both MP's pull their weapons and point them at Vrabec's head.

 

VRABEC

Go ahead and shoot me.  I'm not going to do it.

 

The MP's cock their pistols.  General Franklin walks in.

 

FRANKLIN

Goddammit Vrabec don't be a hero.  We've got a room full of generals waiting for those plans and you're the only son of a bitch we could find on Sunday afternoon who could get the damned plans from the safe.  Open it and come with me.

 

Vrabec opens the safe, removes a bundle of documents, and meekly follows General Franklin down the hall and into a large meeting room.  Around the conference table are seated 12 generals.

 

INT. PENTAGON MEETING ROOM.

 

Vrabec deposits the war plans on the table, snaps a salute, and heads for the door.

 

FRANKLIN

Just where in the hell do you think you're going Major?

 

VRABEC

Respectfully sir, I was ordered to open the safe and deliver the plans.  I'm done.  Aren't I?

 

FRANKLIN

You helped develop these plans, didn't you?

 

 

 

 

Vrabec is standing at rigid attention, and beads of sweat are running down his face.

 

VRABEC

Yes sir.

 

FRANKLIN

Then give us a quick briefing about what's in those plans.  First, though raise your right hand.  The information you are about to hear is classified for release only by the President of the United States.  Do you understand?

 

Vrabec raises his right hand.   His hand is shaking.

 

VRABEC

I... I do.

 

FRANKLIN

Under penalty of death do you swear to preserve the information you may learn at this meeting until and unless released by the President of the United States?

 

VRABEC

I... I do.

 

FRANKLIN

At ease.  (to the other generals)  A good soldier.  They were going to have to shoot the son of a bitch because he wouldn't open the safe.

 

Laughter.

 

FRANKLIN

Proceed.  Will we be ready to invade the home islands on one November?

 

Vrabec fumbles with the plans for a moment.

 

VRABEC

I could do better if I could give a little background.  It might be a little repetitive if you've studied the plans.

 

 

FRANKLIN

Proceed.

 

VRABEC

The plans are based on forecasts for one week, one month and eleven months into the future.  They take into account our goals, our abilities, and try and match them.   We constantly revise them based on actual experience versus the previous forecasts.  The key to them are the assumptions driving the goals.  The current plans call for the first invasion of Japan to commence on the first of November, and the second invasion the first of March.  The war's end is currently forecasted at one June 46.  But I have a lot  of problems with the assumptions.

 

JONES

You do?

 

VRABEC

I do.   First, the November invasion is premised on the re-deployment working and staging the first invasion by concentrating enough men, material, and aircraft by moving them from the European Theater to the western Pacific.  The re-deployment out of Europe is working fine and we've exceeded our forecasts as far as getting everyone and everything back to the states.  But most of the men coming home are high point and are being discharged.

 

NEWSREEL FOOTAGE

 

A ship in New York Harbor filled with happy men returning home from Europe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

VRABEC (cont'd)

We're 600,000 personnel short at the Pacific side.  What we're ending up with is the burden of the invasion is going to fall on people that have been through hell conquering the Pacific islands, with all the new men being recent draftees with virtually no combat experience.

 

FRANKLIN

I am beginning to see the problem.  The boys that fought in Europe are being mustered out, but the men in the Pacific still have months of fighting ahead of them.

 

VRABEC

We're losing a lot of our seasoned people from the Pacific as well.   As many of them as can get orders to the states that are also high point are coming home.  There's going to be a lot of inexperienced people hitting the beaches of Japan in November.  And that's going to effect the casualty assumptions.

 

JONES

Explain.

 

VRABEC

The present casualty forecasts are based on Iwo Jima and Saipan.   One island cost us 40,000 casualties.

 

NEWSREEL FOOTAGE.

 

Battle scenes from Iwo Jima.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

VRABEC (Cont'd)

We're looking at ten times the men going into Japan, and opposition that will probably be more intense than anything we've seen so far.  And we're looking at more than ten times the casualties because of the magnitude of evacuating those casualties.  We're going to have to have ten times more capacity to airlift people back stateside for medical care and we were already stretched to our limits with much smaller battles.   The dead to wounded ratio is going to be much higher simply because we're not going to be able to get them out of there fast enough  to save them.   The present forecast assumes 400,000 dead by June first.   A million would be more realistic.  That's four times what we've suffered since Pearl.

 

FRANKLIN

Christ.

 

VRABEC

There's a third problem.

 

FRANKLIN

More?

 

VRABEC

Maybe much worse.  We've pushed our production limits and draft to the maximum.   And the country is drained.   People want the war to be over tomorrow, not almost a year form now.  Europe is in ruins and we've got to do something about millions of people who are going to starve.

 

NEWSREEL FOOTAGE:

 

Scenes of devastation in Germany.

 

 

 

 

 

VRABEC

We are forecasting dropping two million tons of bombs on Japan over the next 11 months... as much as we dropped in Europe over three years.   I think we could be looking at five million dead in Japan, and maybe an equal amount in Europe by next June due to starvation and disease.

 

FRANKLIN

How accurate do you think your interpretations of the forecasts are?

 

Vrabec gets up, and walks to the end of the room.

 

VRABEC

To the point it scares the hell out of me.   If you take the plans to their logical conclusions, the world is going to be a very grim place in another year.  We'll win the war, but we'll be so exhausted the peace will be the peace of the grave for millions.   Most of the world will be back in the middle ages, and we're not going to be in a whole lot better shape.

 

Vrabec stops, folds his arms across his chest, and looks at the floor.   There is a moment of stunned silence in the room.

 

FRANKLIN

Unless Hirohito surrenders it sounds like we don't have any choices.

 

Several generals who are seen staring at their hands look up and nod slowly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FRANKLIN

Major Vrabec.  We have a new weapon in our arsenal that will be used on the Japanese on or after August 2nd.  The weapon can destroy an entire city in a single explosion.  Four targets have been chosen.  Hiroshima, Kokura, Niigata and Nagasaki.  It is called an atomic bomb and we have three of them available by the 14th, and more if needed.   Unless the Japanese surrender by August 2nd, these bombs will be used.  Gentlemen, how long do you think it will take them to get the message once we use this new bomb? 

 

VRABEC

Two weeks.

 

FRANKLIN

Thank you Major.   Jones, in spite of himself Major Vrabec has been one hell of an asset in this war.  We're buying new fangled machines called computers that can't do half what this soldier has been able to accomplish.  Those war plans he just summarized are mostly his work.  I asked you to build me an airline and you did.   And I've gotten a lot of bonuses from the men you picked to run your outfit.  A bigger bunch of rabble I've never seen, but they did one hell of a job.  (To Vrabec)  I understand when you were drafted you didn't want to have much to do with our little war?

 

VRABEC

(Sheepishly.)  No sir.  I just wanted to stay alive and I didn't want to hurt anyone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

FRANKLIN

That could be said for all nine million of us in uniform.   But war doesn't give men like us happy choices.   Major, you've done your job exceedingly well.  I'm going to be recommending you for a medal for extraordinary service to the United States.   And after this damned war is over, I'd sure be pleased if you'd stay with us because we have an Air Force to build for the future.

 

Vrabec stands there dumbstruck.

 

VRABEC

(stuttering.)  A medal?

 

JONES

It sure as hell looked to me like you were ready to get shot for refusing to open that safe.  And your plans and report give us clearly no option but to go forward with the use of the atom bombs.  I'd say that kind of courage and contribution rates a medal.

 

The other generals nod in approval.

 

FRANKLIN

Thank you Major Vrabec.  Your commanding officer will have new orders on his desk in the morning.  You are to plan for a war's end in mid-August and your unit will be responsible for air lifting in 250,000 occupation troops by one September.  Thank you.  Dismissed.

 

A stunned Vrabec leaves the room, and walks dazedly down the hall.

 

INT.  WATER'S OFFICE.  THE NEXT MORNING.

 

Waters has called Vrabec in.  A manila envelope is lying on his desk, marked Top Secret.

 

 

 

 

WATERS

The general just delivered this little package himself.   He said you know what it's about.

 

VRABEC

Open it.

 

Waters opens the envelope, looking strangely at Vrabec.

 

VRABEC

There was a meeting yesterday.  I was the only one they could lay hands on who had the combination to the safe where the war plans were.

 

Waters reads the orders.

 

WATERS

A war's end in two weeks.  But it doesn't say why.   That's a rather sudden change in assumptions.

 

VRABEC

You don't want to know what the new assumption is all about

 

WATERS

You do?

 

VRABEC

God I wished I didn't.  It might've been better if they'd shot me.

 

WATERS

Shot you?

 

VRABEC

Some day maybe I'll be able to explain.  Trust me.  You'll know soon enough.

 

WATERS

Get the rest of the staff in here pronto.  We're going to burn some midnight oil.

 

 

 

 

INT.  ATC PLANS SITUATION ROOM.

 

A large room with maps of the various theaters of operation on the walls, people are rushing in and out.  The entire staff is feverishly at work on the new plans.

 

EXT.  DECK OF A DESTROYER.  AUGUST 2, 1945.

 

President Truman is standing on the deck looking out over the ocean.  An AIDE is standing next  to  him.

 

TRUMAN

They didn't surrender?

 

AIDE

No sir.  And General Franklin reports the invasion plans are questionable.  Says some guy named Vrabec raised serious questions about accomplishing the One November target date.

 

TRUMAN

Cable General Franklin.  The 24 July order stands.  Proceed.  No hard copy of this message to be preserved.

 

AIDE

Anything else?

 

TRUMAN

Are you a religious man?

 

AIDE

No sir.  Not really.

 

TRUMAN

If there is a God, and I believe there is, we should all pray tonight.  Goddamned Roosevelt had to die on me.

 

INT. ATC PLANS SITUATION ROOM.   AUGUST 5, 1945.

 

The staff is busy and looking like they have not had any sleep for days.  Vrabec is seen staring out the window, doing nothing.

 

 

 

WATERS

Wake up.  Is something wrong?

 

VRABEC

What day is it?

 

WATERS

August 5th.

 

Vrabec shakes his head as though waking up, and gets back to work.

 

INT. NATIONAL AIRPORT LOBBY,  NEXT DAY.

 

Vrabec is sitting on a bench reading the newspaper when a radio broadcast is made through the PA system.

 

RADIO BROADCAST

An immensely powerful new bomb called an atomic bomb was dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima at 8:16 a.m., this morning Tokyo time.  Initial reports are that the entire city was destroyed by a single bomb.  President Truman will hold a press conference in a few moments.  We are switching to the White House for President Truman...

 

Vrabec folds up the newspaper and walks slowly to the door.

 

INT.  ATC PLANS SITUATION ROOM.   A LITTLE LATER.

 

The entire plans staff is clustered around a radio listening to President Truman.  Vrabec walks in.

 

WATERS

Vrabec.  You knew about this didn't you?

Vrabec nods, and goes to his desk and starts working.  Waters comes over.

 

WATERS

Is this it?

 

Vrabec has written the number 3 on the pad in front of him.

 

 

 

WATERS

Three more?

 

Vrabec hastily crumples up the paper. 

 

WATERS

Goddammit man.  Three more cities?

 

VRABEC

And I even know their names.

 

Waters grabs him by the shoulders.

 

WATERS

What is going on?  What did you have to do with this?

 

VRABEC

They wanted to know about the status of the invasion.  I told them.  Hell they could've found out if they'd read the stuff themselves.  They probably knew what the plans said.  But they made me tell them.   And then they decided to proceed.

 

Waters sits down next to Vrabec

 

WATERS

It's the fault of the Japs.  When they bombed Pearl Harbor.  They used airplanes to drop bombs on us.  Ever since, the airplanes have gotten better and the bombs have gotten bigger.

 

VRABEC

Remember when I told you how we would drop the 2 million tons on Japan by November 1st if enough planes and bombs could be gotten?

 

WATERS

Yes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

VRABEC

One B-29 with an atomic bomb does the work of 100 B-29's on a regular mission.  If we had 100 of those bombs, the 2 million ton goal could be reached in a single attack.

 

WATERS

We only have three more?

 

VRABEC

For now.

 

 

INT.  PENTAGON HALLWAY.   AUGUST 10, 1945

 

Vrabec is walking down the hall carrying a load of files.  General Franklin is just leaving his office and sees Vrabec.

 

FRANKLIN

Major Vrabec.   Come here.

 

He shows Vrabec a cablegram.

 

FRANKLIN

Since the Nagasaki strike, you've been probably wondering about the third bomb.  Truman has ordered it held back.  We think the Japs are ready to surrender.

 

FRANKLIN

Kokura and Niigata won't get hit?

 

COM GENERAL

Probably not.

 

The general walks away leaving Vrabec standing there.

 

INT.  ATC PLANS SITUATION ROOM.  THE NIGHT OF AUGUST 14.

 

The ATC plans staff are celebrating the end of the war.  Vrabec is standing by himself holding a drink.  He is looking very somber.

 

WATERS

It's over.  Come on and celebrate.

 

 

 

VRABEC

Remember how I used to keep a map in my tent in Accra showing where I was and what the range of German bombers was?

WATERS

Yep.  And you always wanted to be somewhere beyond the range of the bombers.

 

VRABEC

We're going to keep building better planes.   You said so yourself.  They are going to have longer and longer ranges.  And they'll keep making atomic bombs.  The bombs always seemed to get bigger and better.

 

WATERS

That's probably true.   The Russians aren't our friends.

 

VRABEC

They'll build better planes and better  bombs.  We'll build better planes and bigger bombs.

 

WATERS

The Russians don't have atomic bombs.

 

VRABEC

Maybe someday they will.   Mark my words.  We're going to live to see the day when there's no place on earth a fellow like me is going to be able to get outside the range of enemy bombs.

 

 

MONTAGE:

 

NEWSREEL FOOTAGE OF CROWD SCENE IN TIMES SQUARE CELEBRATING VJ DAY.

 

HEADLINE FROM NEW YORK TIME ANNOUNCING THAT THE SOVIETS HAVE DEVELOPED THEIR ATOM BOMB

 

TELEVISION NEWS FOOTAGE OF ICBM BEING LAUNCHED FROM SILO

 

INT 747 LIVE ACTION:

 

Stewardess is handing out drinks and magazines.

 

CREDITS START ROLLING.

 

PHOTOS OF EACH MAIN CHARACTER IN BOX OVER 747 SCENE WITH A CUTLINE OF WHAT HAPPENED TO EACH OF THEM AFTER THE WAR.

 

 

* * *

 

PHOTO:  JJ WITH A WIFE AND 12 CHILDREN

 

CUTLINE: 

JJ became a Brazilian citizen in 1954 and is now the Chairman of the Board of Brazil Distilleries.

* * *

 

PHOTO:  THE PILOT UNLOADING CHICKENS FROM A C-47.

 

CUTLINE:

The Pilot is the owner of Trans-Brazil Cargo Service.

 

* * *

 

PHOTO:  GENERAL DROSS

 

CUTLINE:

General Dross retired from active duty in 1950 and is a resident of Sun City.

 

 

 

 

* * *

 

PHOTO:  CHASE SITTING BEHIND AN ENORMOUS DESK

 

CUTLINE:

Robert Chase is President of the Bank of New York, after having served as the chief of Defense Intelligence for 8 years.

 

* * *

 

PHOTO:  ABDULH SITTING ON A HORSE DRESSED AS A COWBOY

 

CUTLINE:

Abdulh is chairman of the Oregon Cattle Growers Association.

 

 

* * *

 

PHOTO:  SHALE

 

CUTLINE:

Naomi Shale was elected to Congress from the 2nd Congressional District and served as chairwoman of the House Armed Services Committee from 1952 to 1960.

 

* * *

 

PHOTO:  JONES

 

CUTLINE:

General Jones returned to his post as President of Interworld Airlines in 1946.

* * *

 

 

PHOTO:  WATERS

 

CUTLINE:

General Waters retired in 1956 and became Vice President for European Operations of Pan American Airlines stationed in London.

 

 

* * *

 

PHOTO:  GREEN

 

CUTLINE: Served as chief investigation for Senator  Joe McCarthy.

 

* * *

 

 

PHOTO:  JOHNSON

 

CUTLINE:

Kareem was appointed the first Air Minister of the Republic of Ghana and built Ghana International Airlines into the best airline in Africa due to a loan from the Bank of New york approved by Chase.

* * *

 

 

PHOTO:  VRABEC

 

CUTLINE:

Colonel Charles Vrabec left  the Air Force returned to Texas in 1946 and resumed his accounting practice.  On the day of the Soviet Blockadge of Berlin he was drafted into the Air Force by order of General Dross.

 

 

 

 

THE END.

 

Experience Seamless Trading with Ledger Live, a user-friendly interface that simplifies the process of buying and selling digital assets securely and efficiently.