The Eagle's Last Flight
by Ron Standerfer
Website: www.eagleslastflight.com Blog: www.pelicanjournal.com Facebook: www.facebook.com/ron.standerfer Linkedin: www.linkedin.com/in/ronstanderfer
About The Book
Book Genre: Fiction, Military History/Aviation
Publisher:The Pelican Communications Group (A proud Indie publisher)
Release Date: September 9, 2013
Book Description:Skip O’Neill lies dying of leukemia in a New York hospital, determined to live until the new millennium. His wasted body shows scant evidence of the man he once was—an Air Force fighter pilot and decorated combat veteran. O’Neill’s first assignment as a young lieutenant places him among hard drinking World War II—and Korean War—era fighter pilots who quickly teach him their ways. He almost washes out of pilot training but is persistent and manages to graduate. In Vietnam, he proves to be a skillful and courageous pilot who faces dangers of all kinds with equanimity. But the greatest—and most deadly danger—materializes years after O’Neill volunteers to be an observer at an atomic test site. In the end, O’Neill decides that when his time comes, he will dash at it fearlessly. He anticipates being greeted by departed friends—but what awaits him is something totally unexpected.
Skip never forgot his experience at Camp Desert Rock. Years later, he ran into
a Marine at the officers club who had participated in one of the tests and the two of them compared notes about what they had experienced.
‘‘It was the damnedest thing,’’ the Marine said, ‘‘There we were, almost at ground zero. I mean we were sitting in trenches, three miles away. Three miles! Not on some piddley-assed platform eight miles away, like those Air Force and Navy pussies.’’
Skip let that comment pass, based on his longstanding belief that arguing with a Marine who has been drinking, was not a smart thing to do.
‘‘And get this…right after the blast we were supposed to leap out of the trenches so we could be moved up to a point three hundred yards away.’’
‘‘Three hundred yards?’’ Skip exclaimed. ‘‘Why so close, for God’s sake?’’ ‘‘Why? To set up a mock defensive perimeter against anyone who theoretically
might have survived the attack.’’
‘‘Yeah right…like anybody would.’’
‘‘Exactly. When we moved into position, there was nothing to see, much less to defend against. I mean nothing, just a few piles of molten metal here and there. And, oh yeah, the charred flesh of sheep that were used in the test.’’
‘‘Yeah, sheep. There I was with my men, tromping around in this fallout shit…you know…that white ash that crunches under your feet?’’
‘‘Fallout at three hundred yards, that stuff had to be big time radioactive.’’ ‘‘Right, but of course I wasn’t afraid, because afterwards we were gonna get
brushed off with brooms and hosed down. I mean, brooms, man. How dumb could we have been?’’
‘‘Anyway,’’ he continued, ‘‘about the same time, this guy shows up over the top of the hill, all dressed out in some kind of shiny, silver, protective suit with a ventilator and face mask. When he sees us, he comes roaring over, like someone lit a rocket in his ass. What are you guys doing here? Where is your protective gear? He yelled. All the time he’s talking, he’s pointing this Geiger counter thing at us, which is going click, click, click.
I yelled back, we’re just doing some reconnoitering, getting ready to kick some ass.
Well, you guys shouldn’t be here, he replied. Are you crazy?
Well, yeah. I told him. We are crazy. I mean…we’re Marines, which is basi- cally the same thing…right?
It turns out this dude was some kind of technician from the Atomic Energy Commission. They were the guys who were supposed to be running the tests. And, get this…he didn’t even know the military was operating that close to ground zero!’’
‘‘No way,’’ Skip said.
‘‘Yep, and when I got him settled down, I found out that he wasn’t pissed at all. He was just scared…for us. That should have been my first clue.’’
‘‘Don’t take this the wrong way,’’ Skip said, ‘‘but it sounds to me like the gov- ernment was using you guys as guinea pigs.’’
‘‘Guinea pigs?’’ The Marine snorted derisively. ‘‘We should have been so lucky. The laboratory animals they used in those tests were washed down with soap and water afterwards, and their health was carefully monitored. It’s been fif- teen years since that test and nobody has asked me shit about my health. It’s like it never happened!’’
‘‘Or like you guys were expendable, so it didn’t matter,’’ Skip offered
‘‘We were all expendable. You, me, and the 250,000 or so troops who partici- pated in all those years of testing. And that, my friend, is the way it is.