Right after Pearl Harbor, Jack Crane, ace war correspondent of the Consolidated Press, left Egypt by air for India. His orders were to fly to the Philippines and cover the stand of Gen. MacArthur's men.
Each Jack Crane adventure is complete. A new adventure appears in each issue of "Young America." Although Jack is not a real person, every fighting incident in these stories REALLY HAPPENED to someone during the present war. Now read on:
JACK Crane had wired his office in New York that he was "going to the Philippines, if possible." A wire came back, "What about Singapore?" Crane didn't know; the Japs were coming down the Malayan Peninsula. Yet the fortress of Singapore itself, situated as it was on an island, had been considered impregnable. Crane asked about it, and found there were many of the Dutch colonials at Koetaradja who did not think Singapore impregnable at all.
"It might have been, once," they agreed. "But now who knows?"
Crane decided the Philippines could wait. He was too close to a great story to miss it now. Here in this hot, brooding land, the world was coming to pieces.
Jack had the clothes on his back, and a money order in his pocket. He took one day's rest and spent part of it playing checkers with a Dutchman who could not speak English.
Then his arrangements were completed. He was going on a rusty, four-stacker destroyer (one of the 50 that America had traded to Britain). It had touched at the little Dutch village, and was now set to run through to Singapore.
"A bad trip," the British captain told him. The captain was as young as Crane, and as old, too, in experience of the war.
Aboard, Crane found it good to be on an American ship again, even if the crew and captain were not Americans.
A quick trip, it was; and Crane learned the difference between being bombed when you could not strike back and being bombed when you could. Off Roepat Island the Jap dive bombers put in an appearance. But it was no picnic for them now. Twisting back and forth, the destroyer let loose with all its guns. Two Jap bombers fell.
The humming, vibrating thin steel skin of the destroyer wrenched on to Singapore. It was a frightened city; smoke hung over it. Jap dive bombers overhead were almost like an umbrella, and there was little or no opposition.
Anyway, Singapore Island had not been taken yet. There'd be a fight for it, there'd have to be. Walking through the streets, the crowded, bomb-wrecked lanes, Crane was acutely conscious of the nearness of the guns. Their rumble was not constant, but jagged, unsure of itself.
A sense of doom came out of that rumble, a sense of doom conveyed even more acutely by the frightened native population. This was not London, with a defiant, courageous population, ready to fight back, street to street, ready to die for what they believed in. This was a place totally and pathetically unprepared.
He went to his press office, but it was closed down, boarded over. "Where," he wondered, "is Grayson, the Singapore man dead, run away?" He didn't blame anyone for running away. This was not a good place, not even a hopeful place. Was this how the war would go always, defeat after defeat?
He looked for a place to sleep and that seemed as hopeless a job as he had ever tackled. The Raffles Hotel was full and frightened. Other places were jammed, wrecked or boarded over like the press office.
* * *
Crane met the girl at the Allison Inn, where they were still serving meals of a sort. She was an American, a Red Cross nurse. Helen Evans from Chicago.
Jack learned all about her in the few minutes they faced each other over the table; she was an American and he was an American and this was no place for formalities.
She was living at Potter's, and there might be a place for him there, too. She was off duty now for twelve hours, and tired; but not so tired that she wasn't still pretty, reminding him of the girls at home.
"Good to meet you," he told her. "It's awfully good to meet you. I was quietly going mad."
"The whole city is going mad," she grinned, "but not quietly. Why did you come here, Crane?"
"To get my story"
"You'll get it but I doubt if you'll ever cable it to America."
There was a room for Crane at Potter's, a small boarding house kept by a cheerful English widow, cheerful even through all this. Crane lay down on his bed and slept like a rock sleep had been impossible on the destroyer. As he had heard so often recently, one didn't think of tomorrow; one slept when one could.
* * *
Afterwards, it made just another chapter in the story of retreat. One day they would turn, stand and strike back, but not yet not here at Singapore. Singapore fell to the Japs like a ripe apple a matter of hours later, but Crane filed his story.
He might have stayed there and taken his chances, but there was the girl. He was tired of running away, but he couldn't think of the girl being taken prisoner.
That was why, with the city going down, with machine-gun fire in the streets, Jack Crane forgot everything else to look for an American girl from Chicago.
The strangest part of it was that he found her lying in a street that was under Jap fire. It was a chance in a thousand and Jack stretched it still further by carrying her calmly and slowly out of the place. It was no new feeling to be shot at. He had had all that before.
And then came more of the nightmare of Singapore. The first-aid station where they dressed the wound on her head; the street full of rubble that led toward the waterfront. But Helen was able to walk now, crying while he held her up with one arm and led her to the waterfront.
So they made their escape, a crazy escape from a city gone mad. They pulled out of Singapore in the only boat they could find to carry them. It was a leaky scow with one oar, that. Crane somehow got out into the current with Helen beside him.
NEXT WEEK: JACK CRANE BOARDS A SUBMARINE WHICH ATTACKS A JAP CONVOY!