JACK CRANE took another look at Singapore. Heavy smoke hung over it, lit up with tongues of flame that grew redder as darkness fell. It was like a city destroyed by an earthquake; the people gone, not even hope in its deserted streets.
So Crane was thinking. But there was little time for such thoughts. The tiny boat was leaking. Unless Crane could plug the hole with something, it would sink within the hour.
Then he heard the girl talking to him from the other end of the boat. Helen Evans from Chicago. She was the Red Cross nurse whom Crane had rescued, wounded, from a bomb-torn street. She had been asleep.
"Crane," she was saying now. "There's some kind of boat over there. I can see it moving."
Crane looked where she was pointing. Singapore's harbor was filled with sunken ships that looked ghostly in the falling darkness. Among them a black shape was slowly edging its way, stirring the moving water into phosphorescent waves.
They tied some dry clothing to the end of the oar and lit it to make a flare. The moving boat nosed over towards them.
"It's a submarine, moving on the surface," Crane said. Then, "I can see the flag. It's one of ours."
* * *
The submarine was the first American ship Crane had been on since he crossed the Atlantic, in peacetime, to start his writing in Paris. In other circumstances he might have thought the crowded "pigboat" almost unbearably uncomfortable. As it was, he scarcely noticed the discomfort.
As he lay on his makeshift bunk among the torpedoes, too cramped to sleep, Crane kept thinking of his good fortune. To be among Americans again; to be going at last to the Philippines (for that was where the submarine was headed); to have Helen in a place where proper treatment could be given to her wound. He could be thankful for all these and many other things.
The young lieutenant-commander in charge of the submarine was a man Crane liked at once. He was from Iowa. He and his crew had brought their submarine into Singapore for refitting just a week before the Japs arrived.
When he saw how the Japs were advancing, the commander had decided to do without his overhaul. He began to load up with all the supplies he could lay his hands on.
There was a full load of fuel oil in the tanks. There were uncounted cases of food and anti-aircraft ammunition for the Americans on Bataan and Corregidor. And, for the Japs, there were three torpedoes for every two the submarine had been designed to carry.
Crane had never been on a submarine before and its operation fascinated him. The waters they were travelling through were constantly patrolled by Jap aircraft. That meant they had to remain submerged all day, surfacing at night to recharge their batteries and to make greater speed by using the Diesel motors.
The fourth night out from Singapore, Crane went out on deck after the sub had surfaced. He was talking to one of the officers when the control room signalled "Stand By!"
"Prepare for dive," was the next signal. Crane and the officer lost no time in getting down below.
They found that the sound locator had detected ships in the vicinity. The commander had given the order to dive and proceed towards the sound. The ships might be friendly. More likely they were Japs.
Pressed against the curved wall of the submarine Crane marvelled at the efficiency with which the sailors went about their jobs in an emergency. Orders were quietly given, and just as quietly the men took up their battle-stations.
The commander himself was at the periscope. Soon he beckoned to Jack to take a look.
"You can see them now," he whispered. "It's a Jap convoy."
Crane looked. As his eyes became accustomed to the darkness he could see five big transports, with destroyers (there seemed to be two on each side) acting as protection.
The sub's motors were stopped now, so the Japs' listening devices could not hear them. The commander had taken up a position where the convoy would pass them about three-quarters of a mile ahead.
"We'll have about a 15-minute wait," he told Crane.
Crane nodded. Fifteen minutes. It was like waiting with the rest of the team for a big football game to begin.
* * *
Crane told the story of that torpedo attack in a cable that reached his home office almost two weeks after the event. He told how three of the Jap transports had gone down inside ten minutes, and how the others had made off in panic without picking up survivors.
He told, too, how their submarine had stayed on the bottom for 18 hours, rocked by Jap depth charges. And how, finally, when the air had begun to give out, they had saved themselves by releasing oil from the tanks, so that the Jap destroyers thought a depth charge had burst open the sub's sides.
Crane's story was datelined "Somewhere in the Pacific." This was at the Army censor's request.
For Crane had reached Bataan. The submarine had set him ashore there, in a small inlet (still unknown to the Japs) where the supplies had been unloaded. Then the sub crossed to Corregidor and landed Helen Evans on the island. She would help the nurses in the desperately shorthanded hospital.
Crane hiked to Army headquarters on Bataan and sat down at a borrowed typewriter with words burning in his brain.
He was going to tell America the story of how the Japs had been held off for weeks by tired, sick men by American and Filipino soldiers who had long ago run short of everything but courage.
NEXT WEEK: A GIRL PINCH-HITS FOR JACK CRANE AND BECOMES FAMOUS!