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Maccaulley's Monster

Maccaulley's Monster

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Maccaulley's Monster

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335 pages
4 hours
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Dirilis:
Aug 19, 2013
ISBN:
9781491807095
Format:
Buku

Deskripsi

On a dreary moonlight night in 1943, Malcolm Claussen patrolled the English Channel in his de Havilland W4052 Mosquito. His routine World War II patrol mission was disturbed when he encountered a roaring silver airplane larger than hed seen before. With no insignia to identify the craft getting dangerously close to London, Claussen shot down this gargantuan airship just off the English shore. There were but two men in the U.K. who officially knew about the aircraft and its purpose: Air Chief Marshall Sir Hugh Dowding and Winston Churchill.

There was, however, one person who unofficially knew: Matt Jacobson. While Matt was sworn to secrecy, his son was not, and after Matts passing young Bruce Jacobson embarks on a search for the truth of this mysterious plane. Who built this plane, why was it so large, and why was it kept secret?
Penerbit:
Dirilis:
Aug 19, 2013
ISBN:
9781491807095
Format:
Buku

Tentang penulis

Albert Bartlett grew up on a farm in the small town of Deer Trail, Colorado. After serving in the army during the Korean conflict, he attended the University of Colorado. Al spent the first half of his professional career teaching high school English and coaching football, and the second half returning to the farming he learned from his father. His oldest brother, Jack, was captured on Corregdor, launching Al’s interest and study of World War II. He’s currently retired, recently celebrated his 50th wedding anniversary with his wife Nancy, and spends his spare time building bird houses which he sells at the local farmer’s market.

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Maccaulley's Monster - Albert Bartlett

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PROLOGUE

T hrough generations of armed conflict, countless engagements were conducted in secrecy. Because of their clandestine nature, the best efforts of those involved are left unrecorded in the cellars of the past. Whether their struggles were legitimate or otherwise, these unfortunate experiments remain the bastard children of history.

At the start of WWII, a vehicle to eliminate the scourge of German U-boats was necessary. Untenable scores of supplies and personnel were being lost in the Atlantic. To combat this torpedo threat, a plan was conceived to build a large seaplane capable of transporting troops and cargo over the water. A contract was awarded to Howard Hughes and Henry Kaiser to construct the flying boat. However, greed, corruption, and lack of purpose doomed the undertaking. The dream was certain to fail, until Boeing Aircraft Company stepped in.

The story MacCaulley’s Monster is one such element in the archives of veiled chronicles. Because of circumstances leading up to the concept—the discussion, the consent, the construction, the success, and finally its demise, nothing about it was ever made known.

Did these events actually come about? The burden of proof lies in the mind of the reader. Biographical documentation offers no evidence. Since all the pieces of the puzzle are present, one can only assume that it could have happened.

CHAPTER 1

LONDON

JANUARY 27, 1943

M alcolm Claussen sat in the left seat of his de Havilland W4052 Mosquito, awaiting clearance for takeoff. Outside, the throaty twin 1640-hp Rolls Royce Merlins, resembling two bull mastiffs on a taut leash, clawed at the night air. To Claussen’s right, copilot M.Sgt. Oliver Lucas adjusted instruments on the bulkhead. A bright, full moon illuminated the aerodrome that late winter evening.

"Probably be peachy even without runway lights," Lucas commented.

Claussen grunted in agreement.

The airstrip was empty except for Claussen’s plane. Other Mosquitos were parked next to the hangar, awaiting their tours of duty. The Battle of Britain was over, and Germany had lost. Now Russia was entertaining Hitler’s attempt to conquer the world. Channel activity was minimal, since Germany’s ability to harass England was more of a nuisance than a threat when compared to previous onslaughts. Still, Churchill believed in keeping vigilant.

Clearance for takeoff barked in the headset. Claussen glanced toward Lucas, thrusting the dual throttles forward. Responsively, the powerful machine sprang to life. The world’s fastest airplane hurtled down the runway. At 150 kmh, the cedar and balsa craft lifted into the clear night sky.

First Lieutenant Claussen’s mission was to patrol the English Channel. He monitored night surveillance only. Claussen was a griper, hard to please and difficult to be around. He was a superb pilot, but nobody wanted to fly with him. Oliver Lucas probably got along with Clausen better than most, so he became the companion of the laconic, ill-tempered first officer.

The city of Portsmouth rotated below and behind. Boundary lights were turned off once the crew was airborne. From the plane, London appeared to be asleep. The entire island was in blackout, but on this night, under the full moon, visibility was unlimited. To the east, a large, reflective shaft bore across the water as one giant moonbeam. Above, there were no clouds—only stars sprinkled throughout the round sky.

This is dreary duty, Claussen complained. It’s back and forth, back and forth for four tiresome hours.

Would you rather have it like it was a couple of years ago about this time? Lucas asked.

Bloody well right! Claussen snapped. At least there was something to keep you busy.

Like getting blasted out of the air, Lucas returned sarcastically.

Claussen was a thin, bony, sinuous man. On occasion, his craggy facial features caused him to be mistaken for Field Marshall Montgomery—another source of annoyance. He began as an air sergeant flying the Hawker Hurricane at the beginning of the great battle. During that period, the Hurricane was, in number, the largest complement of British fighters—then along came the glamorous Spitfires.

We got the Germans; Spits got the headlines, Claussen would grouse.

He guided the plane in a southern vector, traversing the coast to Lands End and then turning east across the Channel. He would then fly north within twenty miles of the German-occupied French city of Calais. After that would come the short leg west and the turn again to the east, back to Lands End. The duty was to continue the circle until the four-hour shift was up, when a replacement plane would intercept and relieve him. The Mosquito was ideal for air surveillance. Its wooden design inhibited radar detection, and in addition to being fast, it was nimble and heavily armed.

Navigation and gunnery were Lucas’s primary duties. Disposing of the 405-liter drop tanks was another. On the whole, the second officer was generally considered excess baggage. There was but one set of controls, so he couldn’t fly the plane. The British philosophy of outfitting their aircraft with dual controls only for the purpose of training was an ongoing subject of controversy. The debate was well founded, since many a disabled American aircraft was spared by the hand of an alternate pilot.

On the seventh pass flying northeasterly in the vicinity of Dover, Claussen’s eyes picked up an object coming at an angle toward him. At first, he thought he was hallucinating. He knew that happened to all pilots during times of boredom or unexpected crisis. He shook his head, focusing. Whatever the thing was, it appeared to be a few thousand feet higher than his craft. It was silver, gleaming in the moonlight. Reflexively, he jerked the yoke, causing his airplane to snap to port. Lucas had been daydreaming, and his head slammed against the canopy. He swore at Claussen. Claussen cut him off, pointing at the shining object flying diagonally across the channel. The lieutenant turned, clasping the throttles positioned at his right thigh, fire-walling them. The Mosquito vaulted ahead and upward toward the vessel, quickly closing the distance between the two. It was an airship all right.

Nearing the aircraft, Lucas exclaimed, Holy Jesus! That bugger is as long as a football pitch!

Claussen’s left hand fumbled for the radio microphone clipped to the bulkhead. He could now hear the roar of the giant engines above the sound of his own plane. Shakily, he switched the transmitter on to inform his boss, Air Vice Marshall Keith Park at Group Headquarters in Uxbridge.

Blimey! he shouted into his mike. It’s the biggest damned thing I ever saw. I would look like a sparrow beside an eagle! I tell you, it’s a bloody monster. I’m underneath it now, and it’s so damned big I can’t even see the ends of the wings! I think I’m under a by-god battleship!

The reflection from the light of the moon off the lengthy propellers resembled circular waterfalls. From his position, Claussen took note of the gigantic black landing gear tucked in the wheel wells of the titanic vehicle.

What’s the insignia? Park asked.

I don’t see any markings.

Be certain. How fast is it moving?

Around four hundred kilometers.

That fast? What’s its altitude?

About nine thousand meters.

Claussen waited anxiously for a response. Do you know anything about it? he pleaded.

"I haven’t a clue," Park said. His voice was high-pitched and tense.

Then what do I do? the pilot asked.

Hold on. Let me get the air minister.

You’d better be quick about it! This prop wash is shaking the shit out of us!

Park called the private number at the Air Ministry. He shouted into his phone, Get me Hugh Dowding. This is Keith Park—most urgent!

The answer was immediate.

He’s in the bunker with the prime minister and not to be disturbed, said Paul Goldwin.

"You must reach him!"

He is to be totally out of touch until sometime tomorrow, the voice answered without explanation, switching off his set.

Damn! Park cursed, hanging up the phone.

Claussen was now flying alongside the roaring silver airplane, examining its breadth. With trepidation, he monitored its slight upward-downward shuddering movement. He was feeling the vibrations from the great craft on his own. He tried desperately to find any insignia. There was nothing on the wings, fuselage, or empennage. He knew he had to act fast—he could not risk being detected.

You’re sure there’s no markings on the plane?

No, sir! There is none!

What the hell are we to do? Park asked, flustered.

"I haven’t a sausage!" Claussen exclaimed.

He was dangerously close to the aircraft now. The disturbance from the engines was overwhelming. He saw fire discharging from the immense exhaust ports and the smoky rings surrounding the manifolds.

Where are you now?

About fifty kilometers south of Plymouth.

What’s its bearing?

Two forty degrees!

"Hell, that’s straight for London! Shoot it down!

It might be friendly! Claussen warned.

If it’s friendly, it would be marked. If it’s full of bombs you can kiss London goodbye! Shoot it down!

I don’t like the idea!

"It has to be a bloody flying bomb, Claussen. We can’t take the chance that it’s not!"

I prefer that we—

Goddammit Claussen! Shoot it down! That’s an order!

There were but two men in the UK who officially knew about the aircraft and its purpose: Air Chief Marshall Sir Hugh Dowding and Winston Churchill.

CHAPTER 2

LOS ANGELES

MAY 1942

I n early May, 1942, shipping magnate Henry Kaiser approached the morally bankrupt genius billionaire Howard Hughes with the idea of building a gigantic airplane to be used as a cargo and troop carrier. Hughes readily accepted the venture. Through cash and favors from his stable of actresses, he further influenced willing members of the National Defense program to approve the project.

The vast expenditure drew howls from an already strapped defense budget community, but the popular young heir to the wildly successful Hughes Tool Company had his way in securing the contract.

There was, admittedly, a need for such a vehicle. America had been in the war for less than a year. It was heavily committed to sending war materials to England, and now American troops were a part of the mix. Shipping losses plus troop sacrifices to German U-boats in the Atlantic were untenable. The need to transport cargo fast and safe was apparent. The contract was let for three gigantic wooden seaplanes, each capable of carrying a hundred thousand pounds of cargo, or 650 troops, 3,500 miles at a speed of 175 mph! It would certainly be an improvement over the ponderous twenty-knot seagoing vessels so vulnerable to German torpedoes. Combining Kaiser’s manufacturing expertise and Hughes’ aircraft background, this appeared to be a can’t-miss decision.

Demands placed on Americans so precipitously hurled into war were cavernous. Having to fight an enemy already staffed and trained bordered on the impossible. America was not prepared for war. The isolationist attitude taken by a Senate vote as late as September 1940, was eighty-one to one against military involvement in any aggressive action. Japan, as well as the Axis powers, had been planning war against the West since the early thirties. They had the planes, the warships, the soldiers, and the plan. They were spoiling for a fight.

America had very little—few troops, outdated planes, tanks, and weaponry, and no idea about going to war. But they had spirit. And they responded. Instantly, they responded. Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Packard, Studebaker, Willys, DuPont, Remington, Caterpillar, and International Harvester, plus others, immediately became war material manufacturing juggernauts. Lesser known aircraft companies such as Consolidated Vultee, Chance Vaught, and Northrup soon became household names. Suddenly the machines used to build weaponry were operating at maximum. Women now performed duties that only a few months earlier had been men’s responsibilities. Boys off the farm, the streets, the factories, and colleges became wards of their country. This fat, lazy nation for the first time faced rationing.

Not all Americans, however, experienced such denials. One individual was America’s consummate playboy, Howard Hughes. He was too occupied by producing movies, indenturing women, and racing airplanes. At the same time, he was buying hotel casinos and numerous properties, including an airline, all the while engaging in sexual debauchery that could compete with the most ungodly Lotharios history had to offer.

LONG BEACH CA

OCTOBER 1942

Six months after the contract approval, a mammoth object resembling an airplane sat in a hangar on Long Beach harbor. Alongside were huge stacks of birch wood. The skeletal beams for the fuselage and wing spars were glued into position. Development was woefully slow. Those who knew what it was all about called it the Spruce Goose. Those who approved its financing and development were beginning to panic. This dalliance did not go unnoticed by the eyes and ears of Boeing Aircraft Corporation.

CHAPTER 3

DOVER, ENGLAND

APRIL 7, 1950

T he weather that April morning served England’s reputation well. The fog was heavy and opaque. It wasn’t raining. It didn’t have to be. Things couldn’t have been wetter.

Matt Jacobson shielded his engraved Harrington and Richards double-barreled shotgun under his canvas coat, slogging through the thick forest of birches and maples. Limbs heavy with the new water, obligingly spilled their abundance upon him. The air was silent except for the muffled creaks of a tree branch protesting the unwelcome weight or an occasional pipe of a tern. He stopped and waited for his hunting partner, Nigel Pierce, to catch up to him. Pierce locked the rear doors of the 1942 Dodge ambulance Jacobson bought after the war and rigged up as a hunting camper.

Nearly stepped on you in this bloody fog, old boy, Pierce groused. I’m all for sport, but this fog is too much.

That goes for me, Jacobson agreed, but you know how much Alice loves a good goose roast, and nobody does it better than she.

I couldn’t hit the blasted thing if it landed on my pecker at the moment, Pierce said, chuckling.

Not that you would want to, Jacobson added.

Jacobson and his friend often hunted the sprawling de Havilland estate in the county of Kent. The 170-acre preserve provided excellent fishing and hunting. Everything was in place, with lush meadows and meandering streams interspersed in high grass and heavy timber. Geese would hunker down in the protection of the reeds, cattails, and shallow water. Jacobson harvested many ringneck from the site. In the infrequent days when the skies were clear, the view was overwhelming. On a short walk, one could catch an endless vision across the English Channel bordered by the spectacular white cliffs.

All England was recovering from the Great War that ravaged the country. Evidence of destruction remained commonplace throughout the nation. Not even rural areas were exempt. On the de Havilland property, it was not unusual to find a burned or twisted remnant from a warplane such as an ME109 or a Spitfire. Jacobson would steal away from his intensive workload at the de Havilland plant for solitude and relaxation. This day, it was goose hunting.

*     *     *

Matthew Jacobson was educated at St. Edwards School in London. Later, he studied at Oxford, finishing his training at Crystal Palace Engineering before being hired personally by Geoffrey de Havilland in 1938.

Geoffrey de Havilland’s knowledge as an aircraft pilot and designer was unequaled. He was so successful that at the end of the war, the queen knighted him. His acrobatic and dependable Moth competed favorably with the German Fokker in WWI.

De Havilland began his aircraft manufacture in a simple hangar in Salisbury. Eventually, his success was enhanced by Hitler’s aggression in Eastern Europe, which emphasized the need to prepare for war. Because of his genius, England’s war council financed de Havilland’s fighter aircraft development.

At the aircraft factory, Matt Jacobson met and married Alice de Havilland, Geoffrey de Havilland’s favorite niece. Jacobson was a pilot before the war and spent many hours tooling around in one of de Havilland’s famous Moth biplanes. Later, he assisted the aircraft builder in the design and manufacture of the swift, wooden W4052 fighter-bomber commonly known as the Mosquito. Unable to serve in the RAF because of his color blindness, he spent the duration of the war working for de Havilland. By war’s end, he was the company’s chief engineer. When Geoffrey de Havilland retired, Jacobson became president and CEO of the company.

*     *     *

Jacobson and Pierce were sloshing through ankle-deep water, hoping to flush a goose, when Jacobson tripped over a heavy metal object partially submerged in the water. His initial thought was that he had struck some part of a wrecked fighter. Handing his shotgun to his companion, Jacobson bent over to inspect whatever it was. Although it was long and unwieldy, Jacobson had little trouble raising the end.

Nigel! he exclaimed. This thing is a propeller!

Pierce, himself a pilot, leaned over to look.

Can’t be. There’s no propeller of that length.

Then you tell me what it is.

Pierce scowled.

"I tend to agree. I can’t imagine what it is if it’s not a propeller. Let’s get it back to the Dodge and have a better look at it."

Jacobson gave the object a tug, only to discover that it was considerably longer than he had first thought.

I can’t manage it by myself. Go put the guns away. Together we can lift it out.

The two carried the shaft back to their vehicle and gave it a further inspection. The proximal end of the metal shaft was bent and shattered. From the evidence, Jacobson decided that it had been shot or ripped away from its root. Other than the damage to one end, it appeared to be in its original condition.

The thing to do, Jacobson began, is to bring it to the aircraft works and get someone from the Air Ministry to come and give their opinion.

We certainly can’t get it into the ambulance. It must be ten meters.

We’ll tie it on top.

The two secured the blade and made off to London.

Alice will have to wait another day for her goose, Jacobson mused.

Probably a good thing, Pierce countered. I wasn’t keen about shooting off a gun in that soup.

Jacobson steered the vehicle alongside the dock and brought it to a stop. A year earlier this type of maneuver would not have been possible because of the frenzy of traffic. There was little activity at the plant except for a section involved in jet aircraft development and the few Mosquitoes still being manufactured. The blade was carried into a large, empty staging area. Jacobson phoned Geoffrey de Havilland, who showed up shortly. Upon seeing the propeller blade, de Havilland allowed that he had no inkling of an idea concerning the blade other than being certain it was indeed an aircraft propeller blade. He immediately called Sir Wilfred Freeman, senior member of the Air Council for Research, Development, and Production. De Havilland decreed that no one other than those who were already involved would be allowed information about the find.

A half hour later, Freeman came to the same conclusion as de Havilland. Freeman suggested calling the air minister himself, Sir Hugh Dowding. Dowding was unable to come that day but would appear the next, also directing the object be safely locked away and that no one other than the CEO and Dowding himself be allowed to inspect it.

The morning was drab and dank when the venerable head of the RAF, Sir Hugh Dowding, arrived at de Havilland’s headquarters. De Havilland escorted the air minister into a sealed basement room. The aircraft manufacturer unlocked the heavy door to the concrete-walled bunker and switched on the light. Upon seeing the propeller blade, Dowding instantly paled and stumbled against the concrete wall. His black fedora fell to the floor. De Havilland supported the shaken air minister, picking up his hat. Over the years, Dowding and Sir Geoffrey had, of necessity, become quite familiar with one another and had nurtured a close, warm relationship.

Where did you find this, Geoff? the minister asked.

You look as if you’ve seen a ghost, Hugh.

Perhaps I have. Where did this come from?

Matt was goose hunting on my estate, and he came across it in a marsh.

Dowding paused for a moment. He eyed de Havilland with an expression of stony resolve.

I’m afraid I’m going to have to quarantine your property, Geoffrey.

For what reason?

For a search. I need to discover whether or not there are any other remains of that aircraft on your land.

What about that aircraft?

I’m not at liberty to tell you. Also, I must take the shaft to the Ministry.

Look, Hugh, I have no objection to your searching my land. But you have to understand that I’m in the airplane business, too. I’m not certain that propeller belongs to you any more than it belongs to me. And I think you owe me the courtesy of explaining the importance of that blade.

The light was inadequate in the dim, small garage. Shadows from Dowding’s bushy eyebrows lent a serious aura to the discourse.

There’s something that you must understand, Geoffrey, he said with great authority. In times of crisis, the needs of the government take precedence over the wants of the individual.

De Havilland stiffened. Sorry to break this to you, Hugh, but the crisis has been met. That thing was found on my land, and I think I want to keep it and try to find out about it.

I already know its history. There are only three people in all of England who know about it.

Who else?

Sir Winston, myself, and a person I’d rather not identify. If Sir Winston knew we were discussing this, he would have a noose around my neck.

So you’re not going to share the secret with me?

Not so long as Sir Winston is still alive, and he might outlast us both.

I still want that propeller blade.

The elegant minister paused. His dark, deep eyes, his straight, bony nose, and

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