Series:Military & War Short Stories Collection
Red Death Over China
FICTION / War & Military
Listen to an excerpt
It is one of the greatest conflicts—and a pivotal turning point in history ... the Chinese civil war. On one side stands Chiang Kai-shek and the Nationalists. On the other, Mao Zedong and the Communists. And their forces are about to meet in a decisive battle ... the outcome of which is in the hands of one American pilot, John Hampton, a man who couldn't care less....
He's a mercenary, flying for the highest bidder, his only loyalty to himself and to cold hard cash. He has nothing to believe in, and nothing to lose. But just as this is a critical moment in history, so, too, is it about to become a defining moment in Hampton's life.
What is the extraordinary experience that has the power to penetrate Hampton's armor of cynicism and touch his heart? What is it that makes him see that there are things, other than money, that are worth fighting—and maybe even dying—for? The surprising answers spur him to undertake the ultimate mission in Red Death Over China.
Also includes the flying adventures The Crate Killer, in which a test pilot uses up his nine lives parachuting nine times from crumbling planes, only to discover that his tenth flight presents the biggest challenge of all; and Wings Over Ethiopia, the story of a pilot captured and accused of being a spy by both sides in a war—and his only means of escape is through the lens of a camera.
"Highly recommended for aviation action/adventure pulp fiction." —Midwest Book Review
L. Ron Hubbard experienced China in the 1930s in a way few Westerners did. Traveling from the ports of the China Sea to Beijing to the Great Wall and onto the hills of Southern Manchuria, he came to know the land and its people—soldiers, spies, outlaws and monks—as well as any American could. It is that background that shines through in stories like Red Death Over China.
Red Death Over China Glossary
Stories from the Golden Age reflect the words and expressions used in the 1930s and 1940s, adding unique flavor and authenticity to the tales. While a character’s speech may often reflect regional origins, it also can convey attitudes common in the day. So that readers can better grasp such cultural and historical terms, uncommon words or expressions of the era, the following glossary has been provided.
Addis Ababa: capital and largest city of Ethiopia. The modern city was founded in 1887 and is located in central Ethiopia. It was given the name Addis Ababa, which means “new flower,” by Emperor Menelik II who built his palace there. Since 1889 it has been the capital and residence of the emperor. From May 1936 until it was liberated in May 1941, the city was occupied by the Italian government.
Adwa: town located near the northern border of Ethiopia. In October 1935, Italian troops advanced from Eritrea, which at that time was an Italian colony north of Ethiopia, and captured Adwa.
altimeter: a gauge that measures altitude.
Amharic: the official language of Ethiopia.
ASI: airspeed indicator.
Asmara: largest city and capital of Eritrea, an independent state in East Africa. Eritrea is bounded on the east by the Red Sea, on the south and west by Ethiopia and on the north by Sudan. First established in 1890, Eritrea was an Italian colony between 1890 and 1941.
bandolier: a broad belt worn over the shoulder by soldiers and having a number of small loops or pockets for holding cartridges.
bolívars: coins and the monetary unit of Venezuela.
Bristol: two-seater fighter biplane of World War I, manufactured by the British and flown by the Royal Air Force until 1932.
camera guns: aircraft-mounted motion picture cameras that record the firing of the guns and their target line as aimed by the pilot.
casqued: wearing a helmet-shaped head covering.
caterpillar: a member of the Caterpillar Club, those who have successfully used a parachute to bail out of a disabled aircraft. The name “Caterpillar Club” makes reference to the silk threads that made the original parachutes, thus recognizing the debt owed to the silkworm and the fact that the caterpillar lets itself down to earth by a silken thread. “Life depends on a silken thread” is the club’s motto.
Chaco: the Chaco War (1932–1935) was a border dispute fought between Bolivia and Paraguay over control of a great part of the Gran Chaco region of South America, which was incorrectly thought to be rich in oil.
Che peccato!: (Italian) What a pity!
Chiang: Chiang Kei-shek (1887–1975); served as leader of the Chinese Nationalist Party after the death of its founder in 1925. In 1927 civil war broke out between the Nationalist government and the Red Army led by Mao Tse-tung. In 1934, Chiang surrounded the Communists, but they broke out and began their Great Heroic Trek. In 1949 the Communists gained control of the Chinese mainland and Chiang retreated to Taiwan where he established a government in exile.
club: airplane propeller.
coup de grâce: (French) a finishing stroke.
cowl: the removable metal housing of an aircraft engine, often designed as part of the airplane’s body, containing the cockpit, passenger seating and cargo but excluding the wings.
CPVAJRA: Chinese People’s Vanguard Anti-Japanese Red Army.
crate: an airplane.
DeVry: manufacturer of 35mm and 16mm movie cameras popular in the 1930s, especially with newsreel cameramen.
dixie: a mess tin or oval pot often used in camp for cooking or boiling (as tea).
Ethiopian War: war waged between Italy and Ethiopia from 1935 until 1941. In the early 1930s Italy controlled Eritrea and Somalia, two African nations that border Ethiopia on the north, east and southeast. After negotiations between the governments of Italy and Ethiopia broke down, Italian troops invaded Ethiopia in the north and captured the town of Adwa, which marked the start of the war.
Fermate!: (Italian) Stop!
G: gravity; a unit of acceleration equal to the acceleration of gravity at the Earth’s surface.
gibbet: an upright post with a crosspiece, forming a T-shaped structure from which criminals were formerly hanged for public viewing.
G-men: government men; agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
greaseballs: workers who lubricate the working parts of a machine or vehicle.
Great God Bud: Buddha; line from the poem “Mandalay” by Rudyard Kipling.
Great Heroic Trek: also known as the Long March. In October 1934, the Communists, under the command of Mao Tse-tung, escaped annihilation by Chiang Kai-shek’s troops by retreating 8,000 miles (12,500 km) from southern China to Shensi over 370 days. The route passed through some of the most difficult terrain of China and the march was completed by only one-tenth of the force that started.
Greek Rebellion: Greco-Turkish War (1919–1922); war between Greece and Turkish revolutionaries. After World War I, the territories and peoples formerly under the Turkish Empire were divided into various new nations and territories. The Greek campaign was launched because western allies had promised Greece territorial gains at the expense of the Turkish Empire. It ended with Greece giving up all territory gained during the war, returning to its prewar borders.
ground loop: to cause an aircraft to ground loop, or make a sharp horizontal turn when taxiing, landing or taking off.
hit the silk: parachute from an aircraft; bail out.
hoodoo: one that brings bad luck.
Ho una lettera: (Italian) I have a letter.
Inner Mongolia: an autonomous region of northeast China. Originally the southern section of Mongolia, it was annexed by China in 1635, later becoming an integral part of China in 1911.
Io sono Dejazwach: (Italian) I am Dejazwach.
khat: a flowering plant native to tropical East Africa. It is a shrub or small tree with evergreen leaves, and contains an amphetamine-like stimulant that causes excitement and euphoria. The ancient Egyptians considered the khat plant a “divine food” and used the plant as a metamorphic process to transcend to a divine level, intending to make the user godlike.
lanyard: a cord attached to a cannon’s trigger mechanism, which when pulled, fires the cannon.
Lebels: French rifles that were adopted as standard infantry weapons in 1887 and remained in official service until after World War II.
Lewis: a gas-operated machine gun designed by US Army Colonel Isaac Newton Lewis in 1911. The gun weighed twenty-eight pounds, only about half as much as a typical medium machine gun. The lightness of the gun made it popular as an aircraft-mounted weapon, especially since the cooling effect of the high-speed air over the gun meant that the gun’s cooling mechanisms could be removed, making the weapon even lighter.
mags: magnetos; small ignition system devices that use permanent magnets to generate a spark in internal combustion engines, especially in marine and aircraft engines.
Mannlicher: a type of rifle equipped with a manually operated sliding bolt for loading cartridges for firing, as opposed to the more common rotating bolt of other rifles. Mannlicher rifles were considered reasonably strong and accurate.
Mao: Mao Tse-tung (1893–1976); Chinese leader of the Communist Party of China, who defeated the Chinese Nationalist Party led by Chiang Kai-shek in the Chinese Civil War (1927–1950).
mushy stall: a situation in which the controls of an aircraft are sluggish or feel mushy and it is difficult to precisely control the plane. This is an indicator that the plane is in a stall or is about to stall. This can occur when the airspeed goes below what is needed for the airplane to maintain altitude.
Newton: Sir Isaac Newton (1643–1727); English mathematician and physicist. Famous for his laws of motion, which are laws concerning the relations between force, motion, acceleration, mass and inertia, and that govern the motion of material objects.
pannikin: a small metal drinking cup.
pyrene: fire extinguisher fluid.
quirt: a riding whip with a short handle and a braided leather lash.
Rolls: an aircraft engine built by Rolls-Royce, a British car and aero-engine manufacturing company founded in 1906.
rowels: the small spiked revolving wheels on the ends of spurs, which are attached to the heels of a rider’s boots and used to nudge a horse into going faster.
rudder: a device used to steer ships or aircraft. A rudder is a flat plane or sheet of material attached with hinges to the craft’s stern or tail. In typical aircraft, pedals operate rudders via mechanical linkages.
Scheherazade: the female narrator of The Arabian Nights, who during one thousand and one adventurous nights saved her life by entertaining her husband, the king, with stories.
Shanghai: city of eastern China at the mouth of the Yangtze River, and the largest city in the country. Shanghai was opened to foreign trade by treaty in 1842 and quickly prospered. France, Great Britain and the United States all held large concessions (rights to use land granted by a government) in the city until the early twentieth century.
Shensi: a province of east central China; one of the earliest cultural and political centers of China and site of the conclusion of the Great Heroic Trek (also known as the Long March).
shrouds: the ropes connecting the harness and canopy of a parachute.
slip: (of an aircraft when excessively banked) to slide sideways, toward the center of the curve described in turning.
slipstream: the airstream pushed back by a revolving aircraft propeller.
Snider: a rifle formerly used in the British service. It was invented by American Jacob Snider in the mid-1800s. The Snider was a breech-loading rifle, derived from its muzzle-loading predecessor called the Enfield.
soldato: (Italian) soldier.
struts: supports for a structure such as an aircraft wing, roof or bridge.
tach: tachometer; a device used to determine speed of rotation, typically of an engine’s crankshaft, usually measured in revolutions per minute.
terminal velocity: the constant speed that a falling object reaches when the downward gravitational force equals the frictional resistance of the medium through which it is falling, usually air.
three-point: three-point landing; an airplane landing in which the two main wheels and the nose wheel all touch the ground simultaneously.
tracer: a bullet or shell whose course is made visible by a trail of flames or smoke, used to assist in aiming.
turtleback: the part of the airplane behind the cockpit that is shaped like the back of a turtle.
volley fire: simultaneous artillery fire in which each piece is fired a specified number of rounds without regard to the other pieces, and as fast as accuracy will permit.
WACO: one of a range of civilian biplanes produced by the Weaver Aircraft Company of Ohio (WACO) from 1919 until the company stopped production in 1946. WACO biplanes were known to be reliable and rugged and were popular amongst traveling businessmen, postal services and explorers.
whipstall: a maneuver in a small aircraft in which it goes into a vertical climb, pauses briefly, and then drops toward the earth, nose first.
windsock: a fabric tube or cone attached at one end to the top of a pole to show which way the wind is blowing.
wingover: also known as the Immelmann turn; an aerial maneuver named after World War I flying ace Max Immelmann. The pilot pulls the aircraft into a vertical climb, applying full rudder as the speed drops, then rolls the aircraft while pulling back slightly on the stick, causing the aircraft to dive back down in the opposite direction. It has become one of the most popular aerial maneuvers in the world.
Yellow River: the second longest river in China, flowing through the north central part of the country.