633 SQUADRON

BY FREDERICK E. SMITH

They called it Vesuvius

It was the mission on which D-day depended and it was given to 633 Squadron, the R.A.F.’s crack squadron at a time when every ounce of skill counted. They were top pilots who flew with the recklessness of a passionate hatred for the enemy.

But although they were fighting machines, they were also men. There was the Wing Commander, tough, cynical, careless of his life but not of his crews; Gillibrand, the big, brash flier who never knew when to stop; Bergman, the Norwegian resistance fighter whose bravery was remarkable even when acts of courage were an everyday event.

The planes roared down the runway on that cold spring morning. And the men who had lived together, trained together, played together, were off on a mission that could change the course of the war.

"YOU HAVE PERMISSION TO ABORT MISSION" The desperate message crackled over the R/T. A dangerous mission had become suicidal. But as their planes screamed over the black fjords of Norway, the men of 633 Squadron refused to turn back. Caught between attacking German aircraft and the grim mountain walls, they plunged straight on into a howling valley of death.

Adapted as a 1964 movie (IMDb) starring Cliff Robertson and George Chakiris, directed by Walter E. Grauman.