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Young America
January 20, 1943, p.8
FRONT-LINE NEWSMAN, By Howard Fast

FRONT-LINE NEWSMAN

By HOWARD FAST

Jack Crane's adventures on the battlefronts of the world now appear in each issue of "Young America." Every war incident in them REALLY HAPPENED to someone. Jack is a symbol of the men who risk their lives daily to send news of our fighting forces to America. He is not a real person: but every war event in these Jack Crane stories is a TRUE INCIDENT of the war!

ON December 14, 1941 Jack Crane was a passenger on a four-motored transport bound for Bombay, India. A thread of memory slipped through his mind and his 24 years were hacked sharply apart. The first 22 were vague, hardly a part of recollection. The last two were so packed with incident that they might have been a lifetime.

And now another lifetime was beginning, because Pearl Harbor had happened, jolting him out of Palestine. An urgent cablegram from his boss had said briefly:

"Get to the Philippines, cover defense of islands."

And this was December 14. A plane was taking him to Bombay where, with luck, he might manage transportation further east. One couldn't look ahead; one simply took chances. So Jack Crane was thinking aboard his plane.

*   *   *

Even with a war going on (and America was in it now) a transport plane 5,000 feet high was an island of peace. There was no sense of movement or urgency. In a cushioned seat, Crane lived over again his part in the death of a world.

It had begun back in 1938, when there was a sort of peace in the world. In '38 you worried about three meals a day and planned two weeks ahead to buy a new suit of clothes. Jack had been an $18-a-week reporter on the Franklin, Ohio News. Not a bad life.

He had spent two years in college but he would have liked more. His mother and father were dead and the small insurance money was running out. So he took Jackson's offer of a job on the paper and quit school.

The year of being a reporter, writing about dances, parties, auto accidents, and small-town politics (and living at Mrs. Flannigan's boarding house) was not bad either. A good memory now. Good to think of the dance at the Y, of the time he walked Ellen Grey home, and of the time his story was reprinted in a New York paper.

It ended when Uncle Frank died in Chicago. He didn't know his uncle, but the man had died childless. It meant a legacy of $1,500 for Jack and a chance to go back to college, if he wanted to.

He decided to write instead. The year with the News had given him a taste for it. A year or two in Paris was worth reaching for, and by budgeting his money carefully, he could do it. That was in 1938.

*   *   *

The months in Paris before the war belonged to a world that was dead. That was the Paris of civilization, of culture, of warmth and light, of young artists and writers from every corner of the earth. Ten francs bought a fine meal, and a mile of walking brought you to wonderland.

And then, in September of 1939, it was over and done with. France was at war with Hitler's Germany.

Sometimes he told himself that he should have gone back to America. At other times he was not sorry he stayed on in France to become an ambulance driver. There was the good and the bad. He had seen things he would not want to remember, and he had seen other things he would recall gratefully all his life.

He was at Dunkirk, with the burned-out shell of his ambulance. He had shared hours on the beach, when the planes roared overhead and the men stood in the water, packed shoulder to shoulder.

He had seen the British strafed back and forth by the Nazi planes,

and he had joined with them in screaming out his rage and shaking his fist. He had seen them steadfast in their ranks by the water's edge, and gained a respect for the British he would never lose.

He rode to Britain in a tiny motor boat, a pipe-smoking British fisherman at the helm.

*   *   *

Once in England, he needed a job. He had nothing but the clothes he wore. Even if he wanted to return home to America, he didn't have the passage price. He walked into the London office of Consolidated Press and asked for a job.

Fortune smiled for a change. Jones was returning to America for an operation. Jack Crane could have the job until the new man came, if he wanted it on those terms.

He did. Did he understand there was the likelihood England would be bombed very soon? He did.

He was in England long enough to see the all-out struggle between the Luftwaffe and the RAF. From a gun-emplacement outside Dover, he watched the German planes roar over by the twenties and by the hundreds. He watched them limp back, bruised and beaten, and he wrote to America what he saw.

Then the new man came, with orders that Crane was to be retained, and sent to the Near East, if he wished to go. He must understand that something was going to break loose in Palestine and Egypt.

Did he wish to go?

He went. To think of it now, on December 14, 1941, was to recall a nightmare. War in the desert. Britain hanging on by her teeth, her troops spread thin, holding off the whole power of the Nazi war machine single-handed.

War in a jolting little Bren gun carrier. The towering, bare mountains of Ethiopia, so like the mountains of New Mexico. Libya, so like the badlands of Arizona.

Sand and heat and cold — and now it was done, that part. Now you didn't think of how long defeat could be staved off. You thought of how long it would take for the victory to come, for the world to be a decent, fit place to live in.

They were together now, the Soviet Union, England, America, China, a mighty alliance showing its teeth.

Japan had attacked the Philippines. And he, Jack Crane, was in a transport plane, flying to Bombay, with orders to go to the Philippines.


JACK CRANE BEGINS HIS THRILLING ADVENTURES IN THE NEXT YOUNG AMERICA.
FIRST INSTALLMENT: SUNK BY JAP BOMBS


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