The Flying Suit

It is 1944.  There is a frightful war in Europe and Asia that has drawn most of the world into its clutches. Today I will join that conflict and do my part to stem the glut of killing and hate that have enshrouded Europe for more than five years.
I am a heated flying suit.  I will be worn by the ball turret gunner on an American B-17 Flying Fortress.  Workers back home have fashioned me out of pieces of sheep’s wool interwoven with electrical heating wires that have been carefully stitched to a covering of very fine cow leather.
My job will be simple but important. I must keep a man from freezing to death more than five miles above the surface of the Earth.  I am confident that I will do my job well.
Richard, is the name of the man I will protect.  He is eighteen years old and is a small man. We will both be on our first mission.  I am not sure what to expect once we’re in combat, but be assured I will do my job well.
The ball turret is a tiny place; a small sphere of metal and glass that hangs below the belly of the airplane.  The confines are so tight that Richard cannot even wear his parachute.  It is close at hand though, just outside of the exit hatch, should he need it.
Flying will be a new experience for me and I expect the day to be very exciting.
Richard has donned me now and he and I have slipped ourselves inside the turret, he has set his large machine guns to be ready when we go into combat.  We will not have to stay in the ball until we reach hostile skies.  Richard and I seem to be a good match and I fit him well.
The takeoff was much as I had expected and as the pilot is climbing to bombing run altitude I feel the air getting colder with each passing minute.
True combat must be approaching.  Richard has reentered the ball turret and has plugged me into the plane’s electrical system.  It feels wonderful to be warm inside and I know that Richard appreciates the warmth.  I can sense his satisfaction.  My leather shell however is bitterly cold.  Until now I had no idea what fifty below zero would feel like.
I can hear the clatter of guns.  Their recoil is shaking the entire airplane. That can only mean Nazi fighters are nearby.  My body shakes in rhythm with the pulses of Richard’s arms as he fires at an approaching German fighter.
The enemy planes must be gone now.  Just a moment ago the shooting stopped and I hear faintly over Richard’s headphones that the squadron is on the bomb run.
As we proceed in attacking the target a new terror is filling the sky around us.  It is something called flak.  I’m not sure what it is, but from the heightened pitch of Richard’s voice on the intercom, I believe it must be dangerous.
From what I am hearing over the headphones it sounds like flak is some kind of exploding shell that can send sharp pieces of metal screaming through any aircraft unlucky enough to fly near a burst of it.
My! Oh my!  There has been a terrible explosion nearby.  I am no longer in the airplane and I am not in one piece.  I have been torn into hundreds of burning shred of debris and I am falling to earth.  Richard is gone too!
I have failed, I have failed.

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