We were approaching Berlin
at 23,000 feet, our usual
altitude for bombing. P38s,
looking like flying catamarans,
had accompanied us most of the way—
little friend, little friend—from Italy.
Now, nearing the target, we had P51s.
We knew that when their auxiliary fuel tanks
were jettisoned from their underbellies
and came floating down like silver baubles,
a sky full of them,
enemy fighters would shortly show.
A clear blue light flooded my cabin.
Through my window and hatch
I could see what looked like miles
of Flying Fortresses, the big-assed birds
in their tight formations. Blue all around them,
followed by white con trails. Later,
colored tracers would connect bomber
to enemy fighter, and then the black flack
would spread in the sky, a deadly fungus.
Planes would blossom into flame
in that bewildering sky.
How to believe all that happened,
as in a movie, a tv drama, or some other life.

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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 18 Number 4, on page 34
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