JACK CRANE and his companions drifted for some hours in the lifeboat after their ship had been torpedoed. Ships in the convoy went past them. They were under orders not to stop or slow down to pick up survivors from a sunken ship.
To do so would be to risk an almost certain attack. Enemy submarines are known to lie in wait, waiting for damaged or careless ships to fall out of position in the convoy.
Rescue work, therefore, must be done by ships assigned especially to the task. Usually the rescue ships are U. S. Coast Guard cutters or small British corvettes. To them belongs one of the most dangerous jobs in the Battle of the Atlantic.
It was one of these daring rescue ships that picked up Jack Crane and his companions. It took them, in due course, to a port in the north of Britain. Once ashore, they were taken care of by the men and women of the Red Cross.
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Crane had left New York expecting to file his next story to the Consolidated Press from Murmansk or Archangel, Russia's two "Lend-Lease" ports on the Arctic Ocean. Finding himself in Britain, he gave up all hope of writing a story about American men and materials arriving in Russia. Then, by chance, he met Larry Buxton.
"I'm like you, Crane," Buxton told him. "You thought you were going to Russia, and landed in Britain. I thought I was coming here, and landed in Murmansk."
Buxton had been an airplane mechanic in California, he told Crane. One day a call had gone out in the factory for a volunteer to go overseas with a shipment of fighter planes. A man was needed who could explain a new type of wing assembly.
A number of men had sent in their names, and Buxton had been chosen. When he left California, he was told (in confidence) that his destination was Britain.
SENT TO ANOTHER PORT
Russia's winter offensive against Hitler's armies was then in the making. By the time Buxton's convoy arrived on the other side of the Atlantic, Allied leaders had decided that its planes would be of more immediate use on the Eastern front. Buxton's ship was switched to Murmansk.
"I won't go into details about the voyage there," Buxton told Crane. "You've been through it yourself, so you know how our convoys are attacked day and night when they pass the coast of Nazi-held Norway.
"It's the same when you finally reach Murmansk. While I was there we had five air raids every 24 hours."
The Nazi raids have wrecked almost every building in the city, Buxton told Crane. But- somehow the people carry on. They keep the railroads repaired and the power station working. They manage to unload the ships and send the tanks, trucks and planes to the battlefront against Hitler.
"One thing I'll never forget," Buxton said. "It's the way the townspeople crowded down to the wharf to see our ship tie up to the pier.
"It was as if the circus had come to town. They swarmed alongside when we docked, grinning happily and pointing at the planes and tanks we had on deck."
"I wish the men in our airplane factory in California could have seen it. It would have done their hearts good to see how those people appreciated the weapons we had sent them to use against the Nazis."
A HARD-WORKING AMERICAN
Then Buxton told Crane about the American naval reserve officer who looked after our ships and men in Murmansk. Officially, he was there to check on the cargoes and see that they were properly unloaded. Actually, he did much more than that.
"The Captain," as Buxton called him, had appointed himself a "one-man U.S.O." for the American ships and seamen in the port. Every day, he would walk 30 miles to visit our ships and listen to the sailors' needs.
If they wanted clothing or supplies of food, "The Captain" would find them. If a man had been wounded in a raid, "The Captain" would see that he was taken care of and treated by a doctor.
"One day, 'The Captain' was having dinner on our ship," Buxton told Crane. "The air raid alarm sounded.
Then, almost at the same moment, a bomb landed on the pier only 15 feet away from our ship.
"The explosion swept our deck clear of everything, as if someone had slashed across it with a giant razor. There were flames and smoke all around us from a building that was burning.
"Right away, 'The Captain' went ashore. He walked up and down the blazing pier to inspect the other American ships and see if any of them needed help.
"Then, when his own job was done, he attached himself to a rescue squad and began to help the Russians. We heard afterwards that he worked all through that night, fighting fires and rescuing men and women from the shattered, burning buildings."
Buxton paused a moment. There seemed to be something else he was trying to say.
"If you write about 'The Captain,' Crane," he said at last. "Try to put in something about the way we Americans up there felt about him.
"Every one of us felt proud of him. He was a fellow-American. Seeing the things he did made us realize, more than ever, how proud we are of our country."
NEXT WEEK: JACK CRANE TAKES ARMS TO THE UNDERGROUND SOLDIERS OF EUROPE.