Boise City

Bursting back to life, the engines yank the plane east, fighting the wind as we turn for another pass.

“CIRCLING FOR A THIRD PASS,” Bickler offers.

The wind is going the wrong way. Why is the wind going the wrong way? Can we be in the wrong place?

“WE’RE LINED UP;” Bickler calls out for a third time.

“TAKING OVER,” the bombardier replies.

As we settle into this third bomb run, I run some numbers.

We arrived at the target 10 minutes later than I thought, but there was a headwind and almost complete pitch-blackness since leaving Dalhart. We had banked west upon getting airborne, flew at 300 miles an hour for 25 minutes, and...

“THREE AWAY,” the bombardier perfunctorily calls out, as if bored by the experience.

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My shaking hand is grasped around a shell casing, holding it tightly as I slowly lift the shaped metal cone to my worktable. I can’t help but admire the smooth boring lines of the casing, the soft filed-down edges, and the engineering that went into making this 20-millimeter killing container.   

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Instantly, the cannon’s begin their fiery gurgitations. Firing pins strike upon explosive charges, propelling shells at astonishing speeds through the long barrel of the gun, and out the front of the plane with a muz-zle flash that would blind anyone staring directly at it.

13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, my turn is coming soon!

My belt moves swiftly through the drum, ever closer to the cannon’s chamber!

7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, MEEEE!!!!!!!!!

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