When I first began reading Hal Clement stories in Astounding, I was struck by this new writer’s affection for cloud types and air masses. Had to be a weatherman, I assured myself. Nobody else could, or would bother to, get all that meteorological talk down so well.
When I learned that Clement had been with a B-24 group, I was yearning for more, for so was I; and when it turned out that his bomb group was the 457th, I was fascinated. Mine was the 456th. Near us in the Stornara, Italy, neighborhood were the 458th and 459th; since the Air Force customarily packaged its bomb groups into bomb wings of four groups each, I had always wondered what they had done with our 457th.
Now I know that it was in England, flying right across the Channel to drop its bombs instead of chugging north through most of Europe before they got to a target, as our Mediterranean Theater of Operations bombers did. But why?
Ah, there is no “why” when you talk about the doings of the military.
Even after I met Hal Clement — aka Major Harry Stubbs, not a weatherman but a pilot, he explained; “but of course we had lots of courses in weather” — he didn’t know what had happened to detach his group from its siblings either. All he could tell me was that one day around 1942 or so they’d got orders to draw desert-type clothing and hot-weather instruments, along with the other nearby groups; then the 457th’s orders were reversed, while other groups began flying to Italy, and ultimately they were ordered to England.
And what did I mean, “Why?” Whoever knew “why” anything happened in the Air Force?
Nevertheless we became good friends, and ultimately I became his agent.
More to come.
Hal Clement, Part 2