TIGRESS a screenplay by S. A.


Registered WGA and ©2009


1 EXTERIOR. FLORIDA: A SUBURBAN STREET. DAY. A new sedan idles through a quiet, affluent neighborhood. On the car door is a sign: Tallahassee Sun-Times. The car stops in front of a two-story brick house. A young male REPORTER and an older female PHOTOGRAPHER get out. PHOTOGRAPHER Ever meet General Pace? REPORTER Nope. Never even heard of him until this morning. PHOTOGRAPHER I guess you haven't. They go to the door and ring the bell. The door is opened by ARTHUR SERGEANT, a tall, stern man in his late seventies. REPORTER General Pace? We're from the Sun-Times. ARTHUR (Beat.) I'll go and get her. The REPORTER turns to the PHOTOGRAPHER, at a loss. GENERAL ELIZABETH PACE steps out of the door. She is a regal woman in her early seventies. PHOTOGRAPHER General Pace, it's good to see you again. The REPORTER shoots a lethal glance at his colleague. BETH Come in. We've been waiting for you.

INTERIOR. GENERAL PACE'S HOUSE. DAY. The front room is busy with pictures and golf trophies. There are no military trappings or souvenirs. ARTHUR brings in a tray of drinks.


BETH You met my husband, Arthur Sergeant. ARTHUR Since you are too polite to ask: I refused to let Elizabeth change her name when we married. She was a lieutenant colonel. I didn't want to start off our marriage on the wrong foot by demoting her. REPORTER General, I see that your golf game is in good shape. ARTHUR Actually, I take credit for that. She hadn't touched a stick until her sixtysixth birthday. And now.... He motions to the trophies. BETH I always had good eye-hand coordination. PHOTOGRAPHER Do you still fly? ARTHUR Every chance she gets! BETH You didn't come over to check on my retirement. REPORTER No, ma'am, we didn't. The mood in the room turns serious. BETH The Ambassador himself called. REPORTER How long had they known?

3 She leans back in her chair. BETH I'll tell you from the very beginning. It was just before the war. One afternoon there was a strange airplane in the sky. EXTERIOR. IN THE AIR OVER THE CARSON VALLEY, 1941. DAY. LEGEND: 1941 A yellow single-seat biplane is bouncing through a small puffy clouds. The craft is obviously someone's pride and joy, judging from its detailed pinstriping and shining wax job. The pilot is goggled and muffled against the cold, thin air so that not much of the face is seen. The pilot's head swivels about, searching the sky above and below. Without warning, a monoplane - this one more worn and wellused - pivots on a wingtip around from behind a cloud and positions itself behind the biplane. The monoplane has a canopy over the cockpit; the pilot can't be distinguished. The biplane begins to twist, climbing away. The monoplane climbs too, but more slowly. Suddenly the biplane loops tightly and slides aft of the monoplane, which darts into a cloud cluster. The biplane doesn't follow. It flies straight on. After a moment, the pilot spots a moving speck far below against the squares of irrigated fields. The biplane snaps over and screams down. The dot grows larger as the biplane descends. It is not the monoplane from before, but a Curtiss-Wright P40B Warhawk, freshly painted with the Army Air Corps device. The biplane pulls alongside the P40, wingtip-to-wingtip. The P40 pilot waves but elicits no response from the biplane pilot, who is inspecting the Warhawk from nose to tail. The biplane slows until it is right behind the P40. The P40 pilot peers back awkwardly, straining for a better view. He gestures at the biplane: Back off. The biplane does not budge. The P40 noses up into a climbing turn. The biplane stays fixed onto it as if with rope. The Warhawk jerks through a double Immelman. The biplane follows every move, glued to the P40's butt. The monoplane appears again behind the biplane and for a moment they are a procession, winding through the sky like a roaring snake. Then they

4 enter a dense patch of clouds and become disconnected, each flying out in different directions unseen by the others.

EXTERIOR. CARSON VALLEY AIRPORT. DAY. The P40 is taxiing to a stop. The pilot, COLONEL RUSSELL BICKFORD, a tall, lean man in his late forties, hurriedly climbs out. He is dressed in civilian clothes which bear no rank insignia. A young man, LIEUTENANT WILLIAM PACE, comes to meet him. A pair of flying goggles are slung around his neck; he is wearing dirty overalls. BILLY I'm sorry about that up there. BICKFORD Goddamnit! Do you have any idea what this aircraft is worth? BILLY Brand new Curtiss-Wright P40B? Allison liquid-cooled engine, 1040 horses and 350 miles per hour at 15000 feet, 32000 feet operational ceiling. I'd guess about 45000 dollars each. Lieutenant William Pace, Army Air Corps. Please excuse the civvies. I'm on leave. BICKFORD I should have known you were Air Corps. You've got a good hand on the stick. The yellow biplane comes out of nowhere, buzzing them. BILLY That wasn't me on your rear end. That was my kid sister. BICKFORD Your sister? BILLY She didn't mean to scare you. The biplane skids to a stop right in his face. ELIZABETH PACE leaps out. She takes off her goggles and muffler and

5 shakes out long dark hair. She is a tall, strong woman with all the dignity of bearing we have already seen in her later years. BILLY Hell, Beth, I'm apologizing for you again. This is... BICKFORD Colonel Russell Bickford, United States Army Air Corps, Retired. BETH begins walking around the P40, feeling its edges. BETH Hi. Doesn't turn worth a damn, does it? BICKFORD Lieutenant, are you in a fighter squadron? BILLY No such luck. I'm an instructional pilot at Randolf Field. BICKFORD I took my wings there, back in 1917. BILLY I've put in for the 17th Pursuit Group. They fly the P36. (He points to the cockpit.) Would you mind? BILLY climbs into the cockpit. BETH is underneath the fuselage, shaking the landing gear. BILLY Clean control layout. Good sight lines. It even smells fast. BICKFORD What are you flying at Randolf these days? BILLY The BT-9.

6 BICKFORD Well, be forewarned. If you ever try a perfect three-point BT-9 landing in the 40, the rudder stops biting air. BETH So you ground-loop? BICKFORD ignores her. BICKFORD You've got to approach with the nose down to keep your airspeed up enough. (To BETH.) Does the owner of that plane know how you fly his ship? BETH It's mine. I built it from pieces. The fuselage was an Avro Cadet, the tail is from a smashed-up Stearman, and the wings from a surplus F2B. BICKFORD glances at BILLY, whose nonreaction to BETH's statement affirms of her claim. He addresses BETH from now on with a bit more respect. BILLY Beth's got a point. This bird doesn't seem very nimble. BICKFORD It's a heavy aircraft. But solid. You've got cockpit armor front and rear. The gas tanks are self-sealing. If you get into a brawl in this plane, you won't be knocked out first. BILLY So what can we do for you, Colonel? Gas, oil, coolant? BICKFORD Actually, I'm here to see Henry Pace. I'm assuming that you are related.

7 INTERIOR. CARSON VALLEY AIRPORT: A HANGAR. DAY. HENRY PACE is bent over a low work bench in the rear of a tiny hangar. The hangar is crammed full with pieces of planes, a couple of motorcycles, bicycles, and tools. BETH, BILLY, and BICKFORD come in through a side door. HENRY speaks without looking up. HENRY I heard you buzzing the field, child. I'm just waiting for the phone to ring. BILLY How about the thunderbird, Dad? Hear that one come in? HENRY straightens up and sees BICKFORD. To the amazement of his children, he rushes over and embraces the Colonel. HENRY Russell! BICKFORD You have a hell of an aerodrome here, Henry. HENRY Kids, this is Russell Bickford, of the Fourth Pursuit Squadron. France? 1918? (To BICKFORD.) They stopped listening to my war stories long ago. BICKFORD Your father was the best crew chief on the Front. He kept my Spad from falling out of the sky. HENRY Judas Priest, Russell. Aren't you a general yet? BICKFORD I retired as a bird colonel last year. Cracked up a B-10 and spent six months on my back. Now I get stiff as hell when I fly.

8 HENRY Well, Colonel, how about a long hot bath? Beth, take Russell over to the house and fix him up, will you? BILLY I'll drive. BETH I'll drive. BICKFORD Thanks, but I came to talk to you. HENRY Good. We got lots to catch up on. I'll meet you in a couple of hours for dinner. I've got a carburetor here a customer is expecting. BICKFORD In that case, I'll take you up on it.

EXTERIOR. CARSON VALLEY AIRPORT. DAY. BICKFORD and BILLY walk to the P40. BICKFORD opens a panel in the side of the fuselage and takes out a duffel bag. BETH drives up in a station wagon. BICKFORD It’s safe here? BILLY As long as Beth is with us, it's okay. Just don't let her get hold of the keys.

INTERIOR. THE PACE HOUSE. NIGHT. The dining room is large and spare but full of music and motion. There are neat piles of magazines and papers in the corners, order within disorder. HENRY is bringing in dishes from the kitchen. BETH is setting places at the table. BILLY brings in a vase filled with daffodils and presents

9 it to BETH. She takes it and gives him a peck on the cheek. BICKFORD comes in, still damp from his bath. HENRY How's the back? BICKFORD Much better, thanks. They all sit. HENRY attacks the roast with a knife. BETH Father! HENRY Oh. Sorry. He folds his hands and mumbles a quick, unintelligible grace before the others can even bow their heads. HENRY Good enough? BILLY Very impressive. HENRY Beth, pass the Colonel some peas. BETH Colonel, you never did tell us where you got that new Warhawk. HENRY Beth. Mind your manners! BICKFORD It’s okay, that’s why I’m here. Henry, you remember a Captain Claire Chennault? HENRY I certainly do. He was commanding the 19th Pursuit Squadron at Pearl Harbor when I went out there in 1925. They were flying the old MB-3 and having a hell of a time with engine mount failures. I went with some factory reps

10 to have a look. Chennault scared the bejeesus out of the engineers. BICKFORD What'd you think of him? HENRY Once he found out I was Air Corps and had been in France, we were like old friends. But he never let up on those engineers. Whatever became of him? BICKFORD He retired four years ago - as a Captain. HENRY Only at captain? He was in for twenty years, and I know damn well he wasn't incompetent. BICKFORD He couldn't hold his tongue. Anybody who disagreed with him about fighter tactics was his enemy. Including the generals on the promotions board. He's in China, advising the Chinese Air Force. BETH What are they flying over there? BICKFORD Some Curtiss Hawk-3's and Hawk-2's, some Italian Fiats, some Boeing P-26's. The 26 is the only one in the bunch I'd wish to risk my neck in. BILLY Talk on the base is that the Jap planes are like kites, all paper and balsa wood. BICKFORD More like highly maneuverable kites with machine guns. They can turn inside anything the Chinese put in the air. That’s why the Chinese government has

11 purchased one hundred Warhawks. They're being shipped soon to Rangoon, in Burma. I'm hiring civilian groundcrew and mechanics under the auspices of the Central Aircraft Manufacturing Company. CAMCO. HENRY looks at BICKFORD with a new understanding. BICKFORD How would you like to come to China as our chief mechanic? HENRY But I don't know a damn thing about the 40. BICKFORD You didn't know much about the Spad, either. Or the Sopwith Camel. Or the wrecked Fokker triplane we captured. You put that one back in the air in a day. HENRY No. Damn it, Russell, it's not our fight this time. BICKFORD It will be soon. HENRY That's what my father said in 1916 when he let me go into the Army. Kill the Hun! Save democracy! Eleven months later, the Germans overran our field, and I was swimming in a stinking trench full of mud and corpses. I still can taste the rubber of my gas mask. BICKFORD There won't be any trenches in this war. HENRY No, it'll be something worse. Did those boys die for nothing? War to end all war, my ass. We didn't make a dent in

12 history. They'd been killing each other for a thousand years. Leave us out this time. BICKFORD Henry, this isn't 1918. The Japanese are slaughtering the Chinese. They're bombing defenseless cities. HENRY Exactly what they said about the Hun. BILLY Doesn't the Chinese Air Force have its own mechanics? BICKFORD Not nearly enough. We're bringing our own crew, planes, pilots - everything. The organization will be called the American Volunteer Group. BILLY Pilots? BICKFORD Henry, I didn't come here for pilots HENRY He can make up his own mind. BILLY Colonel, I've got almost five hundred hours. BICKFORD In a P40? BILLY I BICKFORD How many hours in fighters? BILLY None! I'm an instructional pilot. I put in for transfer to a fighter squadron,

13 but everybody in my class was assigned as an IP. BICKFORD Sorry. Chennault specifically told me to bring him pilots with experience in the Warhawk. BILLY jumps up and stomps out. There is an awkward silence BICKFORD Henry, I apologize. I should have spoken with you in private. HENRY No need. I've got no secrets from them. Let's take some Scotch out on the porch. BICKFORD One more thing. (He hands HENRY a card.) I'll be at the Empire Hotel in San Francisco. If you have a change of heart. I still want the best.

EXTERIOR. CARSON VALLEY AIRPORT. DAY. BETH is standing on a deck outside of the control tower, a beaten shack tacked on top of a flat-roofed hangar. Dressed in greasy coveralls, she is idly wiping a piston with a red cloth. BILLY, shaved and in his best uniform, barges around the corner and nearly knocks her down. BILLY Keep those hands off me! BETH Maxine? BILLY That's right, greasemonkey. She called this morning. Where were you?

14 BETH I was up working. BILLY Yeah? On that darn P40, I'll bet. BETH That's right. I gassed it, topped the oil, checked the coolant, the manifold pressure BILLY He let you turn it over? BETH You bet. It purred like a happy kitten. BILLY That piece of crap? I wouldn't fly that bathtub if they gave it to me. BETH Right. BILLY So he's gone, then. BETH Gone. BILLY Good. BETH Good. They hear a faint drone, then a four-seat twin-engine white monoplane lines up on the runway and touches down. RED PRUITT, a rotund man in a Stetson and cowboy boots, climbs out of the pilot's seat and helps out MAXINE PRUITT, a small, lithe blonde. She takes a satchel from him. He waves to the tower, gets back in the plane, and taxis for a takeoff. BILLY intercepts MAXINE with a passionate embrace and kiss as the white plane zooms by behind them.

15 MAXINE Dad's late. He's bidding on some breeding stock in Winnemucca. They'll pick me up on the morning. BILLY You're leaving in the morning? But I've got five more days leave. MAXINE Sorry, ace. We civilians have things called jobs. What’s on for today? BETH We could take the bikes up to Old Baldy. MAXINE You all don't have work to do? BETH I’ve been here six hours.

EXTERIOR. A DIRT ROAD. DAY. BILLY is driving an Indian motorcycle with MAXINE in the sidecar. They are going dangerously fast, violently bouncing on ruts and high spots. BETH squeezes by them on a Harley-Davidson. BILLY hunches further down, willing a bit more speed from his machine, and catches up with her.

EXTERIOR. A ROUND HILLTOP. DAY. The motorcycles are parked off to the side of a picnic blanket. A plundered basket and empty containers are all that remain from their lunch. BETH is snoozing on her back in a grassy patch. BILLY and MAXINE sit together on a rock outcropping which overlooks the Carson Valley and Carson Lake. BILLY The Chinese need pilots to help them fight the Japs. I'm going to go.

16 MAXINE I don’tBILLY A recruiter came through yesterday, an old Army buddy of my dad's. He was trying to sign Henry up. MAXINE Your dad is going? BILLY No. Dad's going to stick his head in the sand and hope it all goes away. Maybe Hitler and Tojo will surrender when they hear that Henry Pace won't come out and fight. MAXINE China? BILLY This Colonel, Bickford, wants pilots with fighter experience. But I'm better than the students I've been passing on to pursuit squadrons. MAXINE How can you go if he won't take you? BILLY I'm not sure yet, but I will go. He puts his arm around her and turns her face to him. BILLY I'm a damn good pilot. MAXINE You're not afraid? BILLY Hell, yes. We had three instructors killed in crashes this year. I'm afraid of dying in some screwup cadet's rear seat. When we get serious about this war, we are going to need pilots in a

17 hurry. I could get trapped teaching for a long, long time. MAXINE Then this is your chance. BILLY Max, will you marry me? MAXINE You know I will. Yes. I love you so much. She starts to cry, and the sound wakes BETH. BILLY This Sunday? I'll go see the Reverend. MAXINE Yes, as soon as possible. I want to be with you forever. BILLY I don’t have a diamond for you. MAXINE I don’t want a diamond. I want you to bring me home something in jade. BETH has approached them from behind, unnoticed. BETH You planning on getting jade in Texas? You heard Bickford. He wants fighter pilots. You haven't had any air-to-air gunnery or tactical training or formation flying BILLY Doesn't matter. How many hours have we spent dogfighting in the last ten years? A thousand? And you know here isn't a plane I can't own in an hour. BETH It's not the same.

18 MAXINE We're engaged. BETH Goddamn it! She runs to her cycle, starts it up, and guns it back down the road. MAXINE Is she mad that we're getting married or that you're going to China? BILLY She told me to marry you years ago. Must be China.

EXTERIOR. CARSON VALLEY AIRPORT. DAY. Dawn. BETH, BILLY, MAXINE, and HENRY are in the control tower. MAXINE is holding BILLY's arm. MAXINE I see them. They all go down the stairs to the ground. The white plane comes into view and lands. MRS. PRUITT, who is an older version of her daughter, and RED get out. MAXINE Mom, Dad. We're engaged. MRS. PRUITT Hallelujah! RED It's about time. BILLY I should have asked your permission first.

19 RED Hellfire, this is the forties, son. There's no time to stand on tradition. When is the hitching? MAXINE Sunday? BILLY If that's convenient for you. MRS. PRUITT We'll just make it convenient. RED I'd much rather stay, especially now, but I’m due in Fresno. MAXINE And I have to be at work by ten. MRS. PRUITT William, you could fly back with us if you'd like. BILLY I guess I could. BETH I'll take those pistons into Reno for you. BILLY Thanks. Wait. I can't. I told Mrs. Miller I would fix her porch. BETH I can do that. BILLY And Buddy Cormier needs survey photos of a claim. MAXINE It's all right. I'll drive over Thursday night.

20 BILLY I'll fly over tomorrow. RED Dearly beloved, we are gathered here indecision to make one Red Pruitt late for his holy appointment MAXINE Goodbye. The PRUITTS get back in their plane, waving through the windows as it takes off.

EXTERIOR. MRS. MILLER'S HOUSE. DAY. BILLY is driving nails into the porch floor. BETH speeds up on her motorcycle and screeches to a stop in front of the house. BETH Billy - the Pruitt's office called they never landedBILLY Nothing on the radio? BETH No. They must have been forced down somewhere along the way. Dashing to the bike, he hops on. BETH slides onto the seat behind him.

EXTERIOR. IN THE AIR. DAY. BETH and BILLY are flying the same planes as before, this time straight and level, about two thousand feet up and barely within sight of each other. BETH is searching the ground. They are over an arid stretch of country more desert-like than the Carson Valley. She sees a blackened patch on the khaki background, with points like a star. A wisp of smoke curls up. She dives quickly and makes a pretty bad landing near the charred heap.


EXTERIOR. NEAR THE WRECKAGE. DAY. Familiar white wingtips and tail sections jut out of the pile. She runs to it as BILLY lands behind her. She flings aside debris and the remains of seats, then gasps and staggers back. BILLY is sprinting up behind her. She turns and grabs at him, trying to stop him. BILLY knocks her aside and wades into the rubble. He looks among the seats and screams in anger.

EXTERIOR. NEAR THE WRECKAGE. DAY. BETH and BILLY are sitting in the shade under her biplane's wing. Evening is not far off, but the day is still blisteringly hot. They are red-eyed. BILLY I should have gone with them. If I'd been there, this wouldn't have happened. BETH Red was a good pilot. That was a stable plane, and he kept it in great shape. BILLY Then why? BILLY abruptly stands and walks to his plane. Without looking back, he climbs into his cockpit. He starts the engine and takes off. The monoplane is quickly lost in the setting sun.

INTERIOR. THE PACE HOUSE. DAY The house is silent. BETH and HENRY are sitting at the table eating dinner. A clock strikes the hour, startling BETH.

22 EXTERIOR. SAN FRANCISCO: THE EMPIRE HOTEL. DAY. BILLY stops on the sidewalk under the hotel sign. He is rumpled and unshaven and looks like hell. He reads something in his hand: it is the card Bickford had given Henry. BILLY enters the hotel.

INTERIOR. SAN FRANCISCO: THE EMPIRE HOTEL. DAY. The Empire Hotel has aged gracefully from a former glory. It is old but clean, dark but not decrepit. BILLY goes to the front desk where a pale, redheaded man is sorting messages into room boxes. BILLY I'm looking for Colonel Russell Bickford. The CLERK glances around the empty lobby, then leans over to speak confidentially. He brings forth a clipboard. CLERK You with CAMCO? BILLY Yeah. Sure. CLERK Name? BILLY Pace. Lieutenant William Pace. CLERK You’re not on the list. BILLY I just signed on. CLERK You can wait in the lounge if you want. There are others. BILLY turns and sees for the first time a small orange neon sign: LOUNGE. He hears laughing and talking. The lounge turns out to be a barroom with a row of red leather booths.

23 In one of the booths, five young men are drinking and chatting. One is gesturing, hands swooping around as if they were two airplanes. BILLY You fellows with the American Volunteer Group? The five shut up and look at him. The one nearest Billy, LIEUTENANT MANFRED KNUDSEN, speaks first. KNUDSEN Who wants to know? BILLY Lieutenant William Pace. Army Air Corps. KNUDSEN leaps to his feet and pumps BILLY’s hand. KNUDSEN Brother, am I glad to see you! I've been stuck listening to these swabbies demean the great Army Air Corps. Ensigns Rollins, Honig, McCarthy, and Aldrich. Sit on down, pal. My name’s Manny Knudsen. BILLY squeezes in at the end of the bench as ALDRICH waves to the waitress for another round. KNUDSEN Where you stationed, Bill? BILLY Randolf. I'm an IP. KNUDSEN In the BT-9, that underpowered toy? BILLY The same. I didn't know the Navy was flying the P40. ROLLINS P40? I've never even seen a fucking P40.

24 BILLY What are you flying? ROLLINS The Douglas Dauntless. Dive bomber. The Navy men clash glasses and toss them back. BILLY But I thought they were only taking P40 drivers. Pursuit pilots, anyway. ALDRICH Who told you that? BILLY Bickford! HONIG Who the hell is that? BILLY Manny, you fly the 40, don’t you? KNUDSEN Not yet. BILLY slams down his hands on the table, upsetting many empty beer mugs.

INTERIOR. SAN FRANCISCO: THE EMPIRE HOTEL. DAY. BICKFORD is walking down a hallway, reading a folded newspaper. BILLY steps out from a doorway and bumps into him. BICKFORD Damn it to - Pace! What are you doing here? BILLY I came to join up.

25 BICKFORD I told you we need pilots with fighter time. BILLY You got dive bomber pilots signed up! You got Manny Knudsen, who's been flying a B-25, for Christ's sake. BICKFORD I didn't sign those guys. I’m not the only one recruiting. And Chennault's going to pass a stone when he finds out. But I'm not going to face the old man without the best damn P40 pilots I can find. I'm sorry. That's the way it is. BILLY But Too angry to even get another word out, he spins around to leave. BICKFORD Lieutenant, I wish I could help you, I really do. Let me buy you dinner, at least?

INTERIOR. SAN FRANCISCO: A RESTAURANT. NIGHT. BILLY and BICKFORD are eating. BILLY has calmed and is even smiling. BICKFORD Your father paid the girl two francs instead of two sous for the loaf. Hell, we were just off the boat. Oh, gosh. I have to call Knudsen. BILLY Manny?

26 BICKFORD I have to see a mechanic in San Diego tomorrow. Luckily, the base here has a B-25 to be ferried there.

EXTERIOR. SAN FRANCISCO: AN ARMY AIR CORPS BASE. DAY. BICKFORD is walking across the macadam to where a B-25 is warmed up and ready to go. The pilot, inscrutable behind sunglasses and oxygen mask, waves down to him. BICKFORD swings himself up into the bomber and straps into his seat. BICKFORD All set, Manny! The pilot gives him a thumbs-up, advances the throttles, and removes the brakes. In a minute, they are in the air. BICKFORD pulls some papers put of his briefcase and starts to read. He looks up, feeling the plane list to starboard. The plane is rolling slowly over. BICKFORD Knudsen! What the hell is wrong? No response. The bomber continues to roll until it is on its back and BICKFORD is hanging from his seat, looking very worried. Slowly the plane continues the roll until it is level. BICKFORD Knudsen, you crazy bastard The pilot removes the mask. It is BILLY. BILLY Hi, Colonel. Thought I'd see what it felt like to roll a twenty-ton bomber. BICKFORD Pace! Return to base right now! That's an order! BILLY Gee, Colonel, you're retired. I don't think I'm obliged to follow your

27 orders. Hey, look! The Golden Gate Bridge! They fly under the Bridge, then pull back into a steep climbing turn that plasters BICKFORD to his seat. BILLY Pretty nimble for a big ship, huh? BICKFORD You're not qualified for this BILLY Never even sat in one of these. Makes you wonder why I can't fly a little old P40, doesn't it? BICKFORD clutches for a handhold as the plane snap rolls to port. BICKFORD Fuck you! You win! Let Chennault deal with you! Now put this thing down! BILLY I'll give it a try. Say...you haven't ever landed one of these, have you?

EXTERIOR. CARSON VALLEY AIRPORT. DAY. A large sign beside the entrance reads: 14TH ANNUAL CARSON VALLEY AIRPORT AIRSHOW AND RACES. Full bleachers line one side of the runway. Vendors are hawking popcorn and hotdogs and lemonade. The crowd's faces are turned up to the brilliant blue sky where a purple and white biplane twists and tumbles. It lands to loud applause. ANNOUNCER How about a big hand for Thorton Taylor, two-time national aerobatic champion! Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Taylor has generously donated a ride in his beautiful Waco Special as today's raffle prize. I'm going to reach into the barrel here and draw out the winning ticket. And the winner is:

28 Hazel McGillicuddy. Hazel, where are you? An ancient, doddering woman groans to her feet and limps slowly with the aid of a cane onto the strip. ANNOUNCER Oh, my! Grandmother McGillicuddy! The old woman waves feebly. ANNOUNCER Thorton, do you think this is wise? TAYLOR, who has been standing by his craft, its engine still turning, shrugs his shoulders in resignation. ANNOUNCER Please take it easy on her! TAYLOR helps the old woman into the front seat. The crowd claps with some reservation. He is buckling her in when the engine revs, and he is tossed to the ground. The plane creeps down the runway. Scattered screams come from the crowd. ANNOUNCER Oh my God! She must have hit the throttle! Granny! Granny! Stop! The plane gathers speed as the old woman waves frantically, losing her cane over the side. The plane jumps into the air, almost stalling. Yawing to one side, then the other, it flips over onto its back and rolls about drunkenly, threatening to plow into a field full of parked cars. The screams from the crowd intensify. ANNOUNCER Dear Lord! Can't somebody do something? She's going to crash! The plane staggers straight up, spinning, then noses over and dives straight for the bleachers. The crowd shrieks; some launch themselves off onto the grass. The plane buzzes them, snaps smartly into level flight and lands lightly on the strip. The old woman leaps out, ripping off her gray wig. It is BETH. The relieved crowd roars approval as she takes several bows.


EXTERIOR. THE PACE HOUSE. DAY. BETH and HENRY are picking tomatoes in the vegetable garden. HENRY carefully evaluates each one for firmness and blemishes. BETH just tears them off. She looks up at the sound of an airplane passing over, and her eyes trace down to the horizon. BILLY is standing at the end of the row. He is in uniform, a heavy duffle bag slung over his shoulder.

EXTERIOR. THE PACE HOUSE. DAY BETH, BILLY, and HENRY are sitting on the back porch steps, each eating a tomato. BILLY When I got back to Texas, my release orders had already come through. I get one year’s leave with no loss of seniority. HENRY You should have called. BILLY I'm sorry. I know you're against this. HENRY Me and my friends went into the Army in 1917. There was a parade of the Grand Old Army of the Republic. Civil War veterans, all long dead now. One old private, must have been seventy years old, stopped. I expected that he was going to congratulate for our patriotism. You know what he wanted? He told us to do anything we could to stay home. Shoot ourselves, bribe someone. We were appalled! We were off to punish the evil Hun! 1941, and it doesn't matter to you how many stinking corpses I saw in 1918.

30 BILLY Things are different. HENRY I pray that they are. BETH squeezes her tomato so hard it bursts, and juice cascades down her arm. BETH Damn it, you saw how sluggish that 40 was in a fight! BILLY I'll figure something out.

INTERIOR. CARSON VALLEY AIRPORT: A HANGAR. DAY. TAYLOR is wedged under his biplane, draining some fluid when BETH comes in. TAYLOR Billy gone? BETH Yesterday. TAYLOR Won't be long before the rest of us get the call. BETH Thinking of enlisting? You'd be a great fighter pilot. TAYLOR Not in this Army. They'd want to teach me to fly the Army way. I like the seat of my pants approach, thank you. BETH Then what?

31 TAYLOR Quartermaster corps. I have a degree in business management; I could be useful. BETH Sounds safe. TAYLOR Thanks. BETH I didn't mean it like that. TAYLOR Doesn't matter. I'm not afraid of much, including the hammerhead stall. Maybe if some other fellow was shooting at me, I don't know. BETH I'd fly with you. TAYLOR Wouldn't we be a pair! The Army Air Corps would never be the same. BETH Taylor? You still like my plane? TAYLOR You know I do. She's as sweet as anything I've ever flown. BETH Would you buy it? I want to do some traveling. TAYLOR Sure. Where you going? BETH San Francisco for a while. Then, who knows?

32 TAYLOR Time to do it, I reckon. When the big shooting starts, there won't be a lot of sightseeing being done.

INTERIOR. SAN FRANCISCO: THE EMPIRE HOTEL. NIGHT. BETH rushes in out of a drenching rain. Her umbrella has not prevented her from getting soaked. She taps the bell, and the redheaded desk clerk appears. CLERK May I help you, miss? BETH I'm looking for Lieutenant William Pace. CLERK I'm sorry. We don’t have a guest by that name. BETH Colonel Bickford? CLERK Sorry. BETH Are any of the American Volunteer Group still around? CLERK I don't know what you mean. BETH The CAMCO recruiters? CLERK (Whispering.) In the lounge. BETH walks into the lounge, shaking drops from her hair. There are only two customers in the lounge. One is an old man two sips from oblivion. The other is a young blonde woman, KATHRYN OLSON. She is stout with friendly eyes.


BETH Excuse me. I'm looking for Colonel Bickford. KATE You and me both, kid. But he's halfway to South Carolina by now, and my slow boat to China wasn't slow enough. You signed on this long vacation? BETH No. I'm just looking for a friend. But they've all gone? KATE Sailed this morning. I was supposed to be on board, but my train was late. The hospital was packed with toast, so I stayed to help. Sorry. Make that burn victims. BETH You're a nurse? Army? KATE They wish. The mysterious Colonel Bickford came around one day looking for burn and orthopedic nurses. My name’s Kate Olson, by the way. BETH Beth Pace. You volunteered? KATE Volunteer, hell. I got a year's contract for five times what I made at Saint Margaret's. I'm a mercenary. BETH What are you going to do now? KATE First I'm going to have several rum and Cokes. Would you like one? BETH shakes her head.

34 KATE Then I'm going upstairs to sleep a deep sleep unless George Raft comes in and makes me a better offer. Bickford left me a ticket on the Pan Am Clipper to Manila, leaving tomorrow morning. Who's your friend? I'll say hello for you when I get to Rangoon.

EXTERIOR. SAN FRANCISCO: A SEAPLANE DOCK ON THE WHARFS. DAY. KATE arrives at the Pan Am dock in a taxi. She directs the driver as he unloads her bags and hands them to the dock crew. She shows her ticket and boards the plane.

INTERIOR. SAN FRANCISCO: A PAN AM CLIPPER. DAY. The plane is half-full. KATE sees BETH and sits down next to her. KATE Are you following me? BETH I was here first. KATE Ever been to the Phillipines? BETH No. KATE Uh huh. Trouble at home? BETH No. A friend told me if I wanted to see the world, I'd better do it now. Before the shooting starts.

35 KATE They tell me that several million Chinese folks seem to think that the shooting's already begun. The plane's engines start. BETH I've never been up in anything this big. Have you? KATE Girl, I've never been up in anything. BETH You're kidding. Are you frightened? KATE After working in the burn ward, I'm only afraid of people who smoke in bed.

EXTERIOR. CARSON VALLEY AIRPORT. DAY. HENRY is on a stepladder, peering into the recesses of the engine compartment of a small monoplane. A young man rides up on a bicycle. HENRY glances down, then returns to his work. He shouts over the engine noise. HENRY Hello, Quentin. What is it? YOUNG MAN Telegram for you, sir. HENRY Read it to me. YOUNG MAN To: Henry Pace, Carson Valley Airport. From: Elizabeth Pace, San Francisco. Original story a white lie. Stop. Going to China. Stop. Will write soon. Stop. Don't worry. Stop. Love, Beth. HENRY pulls something which kills the engine. He climbs down the ladder and takes the telegram. After reading it,

36 he gives the young man a coin. The young man rides off as HENRY folds the telegram up neatly into a tiny square. He is all alone on the field.

INTERIOR. OVER THE PACIFIC: PAN AM CLIPPER. DAY. BETH is asleep. KATE puts down her book and covers her with a blanket. KATE looks out the window at a long bank of black clouds on the horizon.

EXTERIOR. ON THE PACIFIC: A DUTCH SHIP. NIGHT. A fierce storm is lashing the ship. Waves break over the railing. A door opens, and BILLY staggers out onto the deck, very seasick. A slickered crewman comes sliding along and yells at him in Dutch, motioning him back inside. BILLY obeys.

INTERIOR. OVER THE PACIFIC: PAN AM CLIPPER. DAY. The day has become dark as night. The plane is being banged up and down in the turbulence. BETH is jolted awake. KATE Big storm. They can't get around or over it. BETH Don't worry. Choppy air always feels much worse than it The plane is pushed into a steep dive, then pulls out. The passengers are shaken about violently. Screams ring through the cabin.

INTERIOR. THE PACE HOUSE. DAY. HENRY is eating at the table. "The Shadow" plays on a radio in the living room. The sound echoes through the empty house.


EXTERIOR. ON THE PACIFIC: A DUTCH SHIP. NIGHT. In a large cabin, several pilots are clinging to their bunks as the ship pitches. A ship's officer pokes his head in and surveys their discomfort. OFFICER (In heavily accented English.) We're crossing the Equator. Would anyone be coming to the party? All he gets in reply are scattered moans.

INTERIOR. OVER THE PACIFIC: PAN AM CLIPPER. DAY. The air is still rough, but the clouds are thinning. The pilot walks through the cabin speaking with passengers. PILOT Hello, ladies. KATE Hello, Captain. BETH The inboard port engine is skipping a cylinder. The PILOT looks at her more closely. PILOT You're right. Nothing to worry about. There’s an uninhabited atoll ahead. We'll put down there in about an hour to check that engine and make sure everything else is all right. He nods and moves on.

38 KATE He left out the worst. The loo broke loose from its pipe. Can you hold on for an hour? BETH Wake me when it's over. I'm going to stretch out on the deck. These seats give me a numb butt. BETH lies down on the floor under several blankets. She curls up and pulls them over her head so that she is entirely covered.

INTERIOR. AN ATOLL SOMEWHERE IN THE PACIFIC: PAN AM CLIPPER. DAY. Under the blankets, BETH opens her eyes. Something is different: the plane is still. Waves lap against the hull. She kicks off the covers and stands. The plane is deserted. Out a window she sees that it is tied up alongside a dock. There is a small gunboat on the other side of the dock. She runs down to the lavatory and looks in. The fixture is turned over onto its side. She snatches up a roll of tissue and hurries to the hatch.

EXTERIOR. AN ATOLL SOMEWHERE IN THE PACIFIC. DAY. BETH is walking quickly along the dock when the flag on the gunboat catches her eye. It is the Rising Sun. She gasps and looks around in panic, then she sprints off the dock, across the narrow beach and into the jungle.

EXTERIOR. AN ATOLL SOMEWHERE IN THE PACIFIC. DAY. BETH is squatting in the jungle. Two single-seat aircraft, red balls on their wings, fly overhead. They pull up into a corkscrewing turn, one following the other, then they loop and turn in a couple of tight circles. They pass out of sight. BETH has stood up, so fascinated by the sight that she has forgotten to pull up her trousers. She hears a rustling in the bushes and quickly buttons. A Japanese

39 patrol emerges from the dense growth. They train their rifles on her as their leader screams at her in Japanese. He comes up and motions as if to strike her. BETH holds up the roll of tissue. He looks at it, dumbfounded. Then he begins to laugh. The whole patrol breaks up, lowering their rifles.

EXTERIOR. AN ATOLL SOMEWHERE IN THE PACIFIC. DAY. BETH returns to the dock at the head of the patrol. The passengers are reboarding. The patrol leader goes to the officer and speaks briefly, pointing to BETH. The officer opens one hand, indicating the plane. BETH bows and boards the plane.

EXTERIOR. AN ATOLL SOMEWHERE IN THE PACIFIC. DAY. BETH and KATE are back in their seats. The plane has just lifted off and is slowly climbing. BETH Why didn't you wake me up? KATE I was asleep. They busted in and dragged us off. I bit one of them good. He'd better have his shots up to date. Where the hell were you? BETH I had to pee. KATE Yeah? We all peed when they threatened to shoot us. BETH They wouldn’t dare. KATE Right. One of us might be famous. Anyway, I'll bet you dollars to dog turds that Jab base isn't supposed to be there. If it'd been just you and me

40 without an invitation, well the Pacific is pretty damn big. People get swallowed up whole all the time.

EXTERIOR. THE PHILLIPINES: CLARK FIELD. DAY. BETH and KATE are standing beneath a sign: Clark Field, United States Army Air Corps, WELCOME TO THE PHILLIPINES.

INTERIOR. THE PHILLIPINES: CLARK FIELD. DAY. On a door is stenciled: Major Dubarry, Wing Intelligence. A corporal knocks on the door and pushes it open. He enters a small room with large open windows. MAJOR DUBARRY, an overweight man with an unhappy face, is sweating behind a desk. CORPORAL Sir, there's a young lady here who says that she needs to see you. DUBARRY Native? CORPORAL Nope. White woman. She just came in on the Clipper. DUBARRY Send her in. The corporal withdraws. BETH comes in and shuts the door behind her. DUBARRY's annoyed demeanor changes sharply at the entrance of such a pretty young woman. He rushes around his desk to greet her. DUBARRY Ma'am, Major Ronald Dubarry at your service. How may I help you?

41 BETH Major, my name is Elizabeth Pace. I've seen something I think you should know about. BETH goes over to a map of the Pacific tacked on the wall and points to a speck. BETH I was on the San Franciso Clipper. We were forced off course by a storm and landed around here. If you ask the navigator, I'm sure he can give you exact coordinates. DUBARRY is almost caught looking at her butt as she turns around. DUBARRY Yes, of course. BETH There’s a Japanese airfield on the larger of two islands. I didn't see the strip, but I did observe two single seat, single engine pursuit aircraft dogfighting. DUBARRY Were they, now? BETH I estimated their rate of climb at about three hundred feet per second with a turning radius of sixty feet. DUBARRY Fascinating. She takes some papers from a pocket and hands them to him. BETH I wrote it all out - as much detail as I could recall. I thought your pilots should know what they'll be up against.

42 DUBARRY Miss Pace, I'm sure these will be fine. Perhaps we could sit down later and go through them together? BETH I can't. Our ship leaves for Rangoon in an hour. But if you have any questions, you can contact me through the American Volunteer Group in Rangoon. DUBARRY Religious group? BETH Not exactly. Major, thank you so much for your time. DUBARRY My pleasure, Miss Pace. BETH leaves. The corporal ogles her as she walks away and then comes into DUBARRY's office. DUBARRY drops the papers into the trash. CORPORAL What was that? DUBARRY Some dumb trim. Thinks there are Nips out there flying around at three hundred miles an hour. Nearsighted bastards would run into each other.

EXTERIOR. ON THE SOUTH CHINA SEA: A SMALL STEAMER. NIGHT. BETH and KATE are at the railing. There is a full moon; a gentle, hot breeze blows their hair around. KATE You said you were going to Manila but you paid passage to Rangoon. BETH Kate, I'm -

43 KATE Following me? I already figured that one out. I've been waiting for you to tell me why. BETH I'm not following you. I'm going to be with my brother. He joined the AVG too. KATE No shit? So what are you going to do? BETH I can help. I can fix engines, hydraulics - anything. KATE Yeah, that's right. Chennault's going to stamp and mail your ass right back home. BETH He can't. KATE Raise your right hand. BETH obeys, puzzled. KATE Do you swear to empty bedpans with a smile, to use only warm water for sponge baths? Do you swear to giggle and say "Oh, Doctor!" when a sweaty fat pig of an M.D. pinches your ass? BETH What? KATE Just say "I do". BETH I do.

44 KATE Congratulations. You are now a nurses aide, the newest member of the American Volunteer Group. BETH Can you do that? KATE Nurses run the show, honey.

EXTERIOR. RANGOON. DAY. LEGEND: RANGOON Temperature and humidity are both in the high nineties. BETH and KATE are walking along the docks, their bags on a cart pulled by a native. The docks are deserted except for an occasional native asleep in the shade. They stop in front of a large warehouse. Painted over the door is a small, inconspicuous sign: CAMCO.

INTERIOR. RANGOON: THE CAMCO WAREHOUSE. DAY. The warehouse is dark and cool. KATE peeks into an office area while BETH wanders over to a mountain of wooden crates. She tiptoes from box to box, reading the labels. KATE This is damn strange. Where is everybody? BETH Look at this. These are Allison V1710's. Engines for the Warhawks. KATE The airplane? BETH The Curtiss-Wright P40. Somebody should be guarding these.

45 KATE I'm going to go to the Strand Hotel and find out what's what. You coming? BETH opens a crate and removes several bulky technical manuals: “Mechanical and Airframe Specifications”, “Hydraulic Assemblies”, “Electrical Schematics”. BETH I want to have a look at these. KATE leaves with a tired shrug. BETH sits down on the dusty concrete floor and opens the first manual.

INTERIOR. RANGOON: THE CAMCO WAREHOUSE. DAY. Hours later. BETH is rummaging through packing material in a large crate. She hears a footstep behind her and spins around. SARGEANT MARIO VOLPE, a short, stocky man, swarthy, early thirties, is covering her with a .45. VOLPE What the hell do you think you are doing? BETH I was putting a port landing gear strut assembly together. I don't have an Allen wrench or a torque wrench, but I thought if I laid the U bars out and put the clips in them, I could borrow some VOLPE Who are you? BETH Elizabeth Pace. Nurses aide. American Volunteer Group. He holsters his gun and takes a closer look at what she has laid out on the floor.

46 VOLPE Hey, I think you put this together the right way. BETH It's not very sophisticated. A lot like the old P-12. VOLPE Yeah? That's what I thought, too. My name’s Volpe. Where's you learn to read a schematic like that, kid? BETH My father. I started handing him wrenches when I was five. VOLPE Fuckin' A! Sorry, ma'am, I mean...no kidding? Look, I need to get you over to the Strand and let you get to work. BETH Work? VOLPE I've got twelve mechanics shitting their brains out. Excuse me. They have bad diarrhea. I need them back on their feet pronto. I've got pilots coming in two weeks. BETH How many healthy men do you have? VOLPE You're looking at him. Take my advice. Don’t eat anything here that ain’t been recently boiled. BETH How'd you manage to escape? VOLPE Oh, my mother was a terrible cook. Lousy. My gut is scar tissue from top to bottom. Nothing gets through that.

47 BETH I could do you more good here. Get me some tools and I'll finish that strut. VOLPE A broad? BETH How many pilots are coming? VOLPE Twenty or so, they tell me. Okay, I get the point. I'll give you a chance. But just until my guys get off the damn pot. And I double check your work. BETH Thanks. You won't regret it. VOLPE Why the hell not? This outfit is turning out to be more of a traveling circus than the U.S. Army ever was.

EXTERIOR. BURMA: KYEDAW AERODROME. DAY. LEGEND: KYEDAW AERODROME, BURMA An ancient bus wheezes to a stop outside of a long thatched-roof building made of bamboo. There is a sign outside: KYEDAW AERODROME, HIS MAJESTY'S ROYAL AIR FORCE. Someone has crudely crossed out the last and substituted: AMERICAN VOLUNTEER GROUP. BILLY, KNUDSEN, ROLLINS, HONIG, McCARTHY, and ALDRICH climb unhappily out of the bus, wiping the sweat from their eyes. A native starts to toss their bags off the top of the bus. HONIG Hey, there! You! Don't throw that - son of a bitch! BICKFORD comes out of the building. BICKFORD Pleasant journey, gentlemen?

48 KNUDSEN Tell me this is the hottest day of the year. Please. BICKFORD Actually, the locals would call this chilly. This is our operations building. Your barracks are over there past that hangar. I suggest that you go there and rest up. I'll have your bags brought over. About four o'clock, when the heat subsides, we will have a briefing. The pilots trudge off toward the barracks. BILLY, hearing a hammering, drifts away from them, toward the hangar.

INTERIOR. BURMA: KYEDAW AERODROME. DAY. BILLY enters the dark interior and follows the banging. He sees BETH lying on the top of a P40's wing, whacking something with a mallet. BILLY Elizabeth! BETH slides off the wing onto the floor. BETH Billy! I'm so glad you're here. BILLY What's going on? You can't be here! BETH Of course I can. BILLY No! You have to go home! BETH Forget it! I'm a nurses aide. I signed my papers, and I'm AVG now, whether you approve or not. You go home.

49 BILLY Nurses aide? You're no nurses aide. BETH Well, I am now! BILLY But you're working on a plane. BETH I'm nursing this plane! BILLY hugs her. BILLY What did you tell Father? BETH He knows where we are. BILLY Have you heard from him? He must be livid. BETH We've had no mail in weeks. BILLY Do they know that you're beating the aircraft? BETH They do. I've been promoted in the field to mechanic, second class. They stand for a moment in silence, looking through the hangar doors at the lush jungle. BILLY This is a million miles away from the Carson Valley. BETH You get used to it.

50 EXTERIOR. BURMA: KYEDAW AERODROME. DAY. A white C47 with CNAC painted on the side has landed. A small crowd gathers around. The door opens - standing in the doorway is COLONEL CLAIRE LEE CHENNAULT. He is a fireplug of a man with a stern Indian-warrior face which looks hewn from some dark hardwood. Though dressed in full uniform in this sauna of a day, not a hint of sweat shows on his head. He surveys the gathering, then descends to the ground. He speaks with a surprisingly soft Cajun accent. CHENNAULT Colonel Bickford. BICKFORD Hello, sir. Fifteen pilots have arrived so far. CHENNAULT Excellent. (He turns to address the assembled pilots.) Gentlemen, you will do me the great pleasure of joining me for dinner at 0700 hours? BICKFORD follows him into the operations building. BILLY Jesus, Manny. That's the first man I've ever seen that I think I could actually strike sparks off of. KNUDSEN I'm glad he's on our side.

INTERIOR. BURMA: KYEDAW AERODROME: THE HOSPITAL. NIGHT. BILLY enters. BETH is sitting in front of a fan, unboxing medical supplies. She is wearing the shortest of shorts, a sweat-soaked sleeveless undershirt, and black boots. BILLY You should put something on.

51 BETH I didn't have time to change. BILLY You had on that in the hangar? BETH It's what all the guys wear. BILLY But you're a girl! BETH Thank you, Lamont Cranston. BILLY It's not...proper. BETH Sorry, brother. There's a war on. Didn't they brief you? BILLY I just don't like the idea of them looking at you in that. BETH Let 'em look. I'm not your baby sister over here, got it? Your 40 gets a dent, I'm your mechanic. You get a scratch, I'm your nurse. BILLY Fine. BETH Fine. How was your fancy dinner? BILLY It stank. Chennault has everyone terrified. No one dared to get drunk. BETH Glad I wasn't invited. BILLY Don't be mad at me.

52 BETH I'm not mad at you. I'm mad at Mario. Now that all of his crew is over the Rangoon Runs, he wants me to stay over here and be a nurses aide. BILLY That is what you signed up for. BETH Yeah? Which do you trust me with: a syringe or a wrench? BILLY What can you do? You're a woman. BETH grabs her breasts; BILLY averts his eyes. BETH God damn it, these don't make me a nurse!

EXTERIOR. BURMA: KYEDAW AERODROME. DAY. BETH is walking along the flight line, carrying a basket. She stops in front of a P40 where two mechanics are changing a tire. BETH Salt pills and atabrine, boys. FIRST MECHANIC Nurse Beth! Aren't you a vision of mercy. SECOND MECHANIC Love your dress. She tosses each a small packet. BETH Screw you, too. BETH goes on to the next plane in line. The cowling is off, and CHENNAULT is up on a ladder, poking about in the engine area. He has on a plain shirt bearing no insignia.


BETH Hey, pal! Get your hands out of there! CHENNAULT backs out of the compartment so quickly that he bangs the back of his head on the edge. CHENNAULT Son of a bitch! BETH Do you have Sergeant Volpe's permission to be here? CHENNAULT jumps to the ground. CHENNAULT Ma'am. Allow me to introduce myself. Claire Lee Chennault, at your service. BETH Oh, shit! I'm sorry, Colonel. Elizabeth Pace. She extends a hand. After raising an eyebrow, CHENNAULT takes it. CHENNAULT You are not an Army nurse. BETH Oh, hell no. I mean, no sir. I'm a nurses aide. Sorry I yelled at you. CHENNAULT You were right to challenge me. Unauthorized persons should not be on this base. BETH You're bleeding. CHENNAULT touches the back of his head and sees blood on his fingers.

54 CHENNAULT Tokyo Rose will have me decapitated by tonight's broadcast. BETH Come with me. I’ll disinfect that for you. She leads him toward the hospital.

EXTERIOR. BURMA: KYEDAW AERODROME. DAY. BETH is sitting quietly in the shadow of the operations building, beneath a large screenless window. She can hear the pilots talking inside.

INTERIOR. BURMA: KYEDAW AERODROME: OPERATIONS BUILDING. DAY. The pilots are talking among themselves. CHENNAULT enters, and they shut up. BICKFORD pins up a map of China and a silhouette chart of Japanese aircraft. CHENNAULT Good day, gentlemen. We will hold daily classes in fighter tactics, followed by application of those lessons in the air. I do not stand on protocol, as you may have heard. So speak up. Don't leave this room with unasked questions or unresolved doubts. Those will kill you. He holds up a model of a P40.

55 CHENNAULT The Curtiss-Wright P40B Warhawk is a deathtrap. The Japanese have pilots with years of combat experience flying aircraft which can out turn and out climb a P40. Fighting the Japanese Imperial Air Force with standard United States Army Air Corps tactics will be suicide. Any questions? ROLLINS Excuse me, Colonel...but...I don't get it. Why are we here if we don't have a chance? CHENNAULT I didn't say you don't have a chance. Fortunately, we will not be following the Army's Pursuit Tactical Manual. In fact, if I ever catch you even looking at it, I will personally kick your ass out of here. We fly by my book. My book says you turn your aircraft's liabilities into strengths. The P40 does climb like your grandmother. But it can dive like a bullet. HONIG (Aside to ROLLINS.) Great for running away. CHENNAULT Mr. Honig, would you share that with us all? HONIG I said...sounds like we can outrun them, at least. CHENNAULT Mr. Honig, you may have just saved your life. The Japanese build their airplanes to be disposable. They are light and highly maneuverable. But they are also fragile. He picks up another model which has red balls on its wings and illustrates his points with the two.


CHENNAULT Use your weight to your advantage. You must catch the enemy from above in one diving pass, firing as you go by. He can't catch you in a dive. Once out of range, you gain altitude and return for another pass. BILLY What if they jump you from above? CHENNAULT Then you put your nose down and run. We've got ninety-nine planes. I don't know when we'll get any more, so don't take chances with them. Don't do the Japs any favors.

INTERIOR. BURMA: KYEDAW AERODROME: PILOT'S BARRACKS. NIGHT. A gentle rain is falling outside. Some pilots are sleeping under mosquito netting. Others are reading. At a table in the middle of the room, two men play cards while another writes in a journal. A shortwave radio plays a Glenn Miller tune. The music ends, and a woman's voice comes on. RADIO The next song is dedicated to the boys of the so-called American Volunteer Group. They are training at Kyedaw Airbase in Burma and dreaming about the homes that they will never see again. They are unfortunate enough to have fallen under the spell of Captain Claire Chennault, a broken failure of a man who calls himself Colonel. They have some old planes even the desperate British didn't want. Too bad they won't be alive to witness the execution of "Colonel" Chennault by the Emperor's victorious forces when this brief war is One of the men at the table reaches over and turns the radio off.


INTERIOR. BURMA: KYEDAW AERODROME: OPERATIONS BUILDING. DAY. CHENNAULT is again addressing the pilots. He points to a map of China and southeast Asia on which the Japanese forces are marked in red. CHENNAULT The Japanese have six regiments of fighters and eleven regiments of bombers deployed within range of us. In a fair fight we would be at a severe disadvantage. The equalizer is advance warning. Here in Burma, the RAF has radar units. They are often kind enough to notify us of an attack. In China, I developed a system more reliable than radar. A web of ground observers call or radio with information about traffic overhead. Types, number, and heading of incoming aircraft. The Japs will think that we have nine hundred and ninety nine planes, because everywhere he sticks his nose, we will be there to bloody it.

EXTERIOR. BURMA: KYEDAW AERODROME. DAY. CHENNAULT is on a bamboo platform erected next to the operations building. He speaks into a radio microphone as he watches four P40s dogfighting high above the field. CHENNAULT Knudsen! Cover his wing! Pace! Don't try to turn into him You're too slow now! Break off! One of the P40s is landing. CHENNAULT Who is that? Stone?

58 BICKFORD Yes, sir. Stone. CHENNAULT (Into the radio.) Stone! You're too high! You're in a fighter, damn it, not a bomber! The P40 levels out about ten feet above the strip, stalls, and drops to the runway like a rock. The wheels come off, the tail goes up in the air, and it collapses. Ground crew race out to help. CHENNAULT My Christ, Russell. That's the fifth crackup today. BICKFORD It doesn't look to be a total loss. CHENNAULT If we had spare parts. I've got a box full of Pentagon promises, but we haven't seen one sparkplug yet. Another P40 touches down, then swings sharply to one side. A wingtip touches the asphalt. The plane spins around and skids to a stop. BICKFORD That's fixable.

EXTERIOR. BURMA: KYEDAW AERODROME. DAY. BILLY is climbing down out of his Warhawk. A crewman is waiting for him. BILLY What's up? Why are we quitting? CREWMAN The old man said to get everybody on the ground. He's pissed off about all the accidents today.

59 The CREWMAN hops on a bicycle and pedals away furiously, talking back over his shoulder. CREWMAN Seven planes kaput. BILLY Seven? Jeez - hey! Look out! The crewman has lost control of his bicycle. He rams squarely into the tail of a P40 parked nearby. He flies into the dirt, then rolls over and stares in horror at the huge hole he has just gouged out of the plane.

EXTERIOR. RANGOON. DAY. VOLPE, driving a flatbed truck, comes to a stop on a crowded street. He gets out and enters a building which bears only a tiny sign: RAF Oxygen Dispensary.

INTERIOR. RANGOON: RAF OXYGEN DISPENSARY. DAY. VOLPE Hey! Anybody home? A lean, tanned British officer steps through a door. OFFICER Good day, Sergeant Volpe. More trouble with your tanks? VOLPE Yeah. I need them redrilled and filled, sir. And I'm in a hurry. OFFICER Quite. But it is tea time. We'll get to them by the bye. VOLPE Yes, sir.

60 OFFICER Sergeant, your American eagerness is refreshing. However, we've been at this bloody tete-a-tete for two years. Now be a good fellow and come back in an hour. My God, what do you Yanks do to relax?

EXTERIOR. BURMA: KYEDAW AERODROME. DAY. A baseball game is in progress on an improvised diamond. CHENNAULT is at bat. KNUDSEN is catching. BILLY is playing third. A mechanic pitches a fastball that CHENNAULT whacks straight down. The ball bounces up into the air as CHENNAULT races to first. MECHANIC Foul ball! CHENNAULT What do you mean, foul? MECHANIC It hit the plate! Foul ball! CHENNAULT It hit the dirt! MECHANIC Foul! It hit the plate! CHENNAULT and the mechanic have walked slowly toward each other until they are chest to chest, screaming. Though much scrawnier than his stocky opponent, the MECHANIC is not intimidated. CHENNAULT It did not make the sound of a ball hitting a plate! MECHANIC Sound or no sound, it hit the plate! CHENNAULT Mr. Knudsen! What is the call?

61 KNUDSEN Jesus, I thought you'd never ask. Foul ball. It hit the plate. Walking back to home, CHENNAULT picks up the bat and stands in the batter's box. CHENNAULT One strike! Here we go!

INTERIOR. BURMA: KYEDAW AERODROME: PILOT'S BARRACKS. NIGHT. Pilots are coming into the barracks after dinner. ALDRICH Ohhh. What was that meat? HONIG Meat? That was meat? BICKFORD comes in, escorting a well-dressed man wearing a straw hat. BICKFORD Men, this is Herbert Madison, from Life magazine. He's come to do a story on us. MADISON looks them over carefully. They are generally unshaven, disheveled, and are outfitted in a wild variety of garb. They seem more like refugees than a combat unit. MADISON I'd appreciate the chance to speak with you for an article I'm writing about the war in China. ROLLINS This ain't China. BICKFORD Mr. Madison brought you these. BICKFORD holds forth a stack of Life magazines, obviously new. The result is catalytic. The pilots gather around

62 excitedly, grabbing for a copy. Several pilots speak to MADISON at once. He writes frantically in a small notebook.

EXTERIOR. BURMA: KYEDAW AERODROME: A C47. DAY. MADISON is settling into a seat aboard the CNAC plane. The pilot, LEO CUNNINGHAM, comes back. CUNNINGHAM Well, Mr. Madison, what did you think of the American Volunteer Group? MADISON I really don't know what to make of them. They seem to be the most ill kept, unregulated fighting force I've seen yet. CUNNINGHAM I admit they're not cover boys, but I'd never bet against Chennault. MADISON God help them.

EXTERIOR. BURMA: KYEDAW AERODROME. DAY. Several sweating pilots are lounging in the operations shack. A crackle, then a British voice is heard over the radio set. RADIO How about it, then, chums? Will you come up and have a go? BILLY Those fucking limey bastards. MCCARTHY Somebody should go up there and kick his ass.

63 KNUDSEN With what? They got those new Brewster Buffaloes in Lend-Lease, and we got leftovers. RADIO I thought you were all bloody volunteers. BILLY That's it. I'm going up. KNUDSEN Take number fourteen. My chief just tuned it. BILLY Are the guns loaded? He runs out the door. KNUDSEN He didn't mean that, did he?

EXTERIOR. BURMA: KYEDAW AERODROME. DAY. As BILLY taxiis, most of the base is outside watching. He lifts off and climbs up to where a lone Buffalo marked with the RAF rings circles. They start to dogfight as the crowd below yells encouragement. The Warhawk is soon on the Buffalo's tail and cannot be shaken off. The crowd cheers wildly, then starts to boo as another Buffalo pounces the P40. The Warhawk loops and rolls and then is behind the second Buffalo, where it stays easily.

EXTERIOR. BURMA: KYEDAW AERODROME. DAY. Early morning. BILLY and ALDRICH are walking to their planes. They pass KNUDSEN, who is on a ladder against the side of his P40. KNUDSEN has outlined with chalk a small, busty cowgirl roping a bovine under the script: Buffalo Gal, and he is filling in with white paint.

64 KNUDSEN What'ya think? I decided that "Number Fourteen" was no kind of name for this girl. He tosses them a folded Life magazine. KNUDSEN Those Aussies painted shark mouths on their 40s. BILLY Looks like they could take a bite right out of you. KNUDSEN Wait until you see mine. I'm going to put eyes here and a big red tongue. Sharks are a Jap’s worst nightmare.

INTERIOR. BURMA: KYEDAW AERODROME: HOSPITAL. DAY. BETH is cleaning up an examining room when VOLPE stumbles in, holding one hand in the other, blood is all over both arms. VOLPE Cut it on a broken cowling. BETH opens his hand and begins to wash it over a basin. BETH It's not deep, but you should have it stitched. I'll go get the doc. VOLPE Can't you do it for me? She puts a gauze pad on his hand. BETH I can't even sew clothes. Keep pressure on it, and I'll be right back. You'll be one-handed for a few days. Say, can I borrow your tool crib?

65 VOLPE What for? BETH A little project. VOLPE Okay, but only if no one else needs it. BETH Thanks. Don't move. Be back in a flash.

EXTERIOR. BURMA: OVER KYEDAW AERODROME. DAY. KNUDSEN is flying his Warhawk. The Buffalo Gal and the shark mouth - it is vividly like an attacking shark - are complete. The rest of his flight forms up on his wing. BILLY’s P40 has a freshly-painted shark mouth, and a naughty Betty Boop rendered in front of the cockpit. Other 40s come into view. Each one has a slightly different shark mouth and a name.

EXTERIOR. BURMA: KYEDAW AERODROME. DAY. CHENNAULT comes out of the operations building with a cup of coffee and looks up. BICKFORD follows him out. CHENNAULT I'll be a son of a bitch.

EXTERIOR. BURMA: KYEDAW AERODROME. DAY. It is the hottest hour of the hottest day of the year. The field is empty and still. The only movement is BETH walking over to carcasses of wrecked Warhawks, bulldozed off the strip. She carries a huge tool chest which she plops down by one of the twisted fuselages. Panting and sweating, she looks the pile over for a moment, then she pulls a socket wrench from the box and begins loosening a bolt at the base of a wing.


INTERIOR. BURMA: KYEDAW AERODROME: MESS HALL. NIGHT. CUNNINGHAM is sitting alone, drinking coffee. BETH enters, wearing a real summer dress, pastel and translucent. Her hair is brushed, and she has makeup on. BETH May I? CUNNINGHAM Please do! BETH (Offering her hand.) Elizabeth Pace. CUNNINGHAM Leo Cunningham. Would you like some coffee? BETH Thank you. You're a CNAC pilot? CUNNINGHAM That's right. BETH That must be very exciting. Flying, I mean. I'm just a nurses aide. CUNNINGHAM Everyone’s job is important. BETH Where are you flying to next? CUNNINGHAM Tomorrow we hop over to Calcutta to pick up some generators. BETH Calcutta! That's so romantic! Maybe someday I'll get to see it for myself. CUNNINGHAM I'm sure you will.

67 BETH And tomorrow's my birthday, too.

INTERIOR. IN THE AIR: A C47. DAY. CUNNINGHAM is in the copilot's seat. Back copilot is stretched utilitarian trousers pilot's seat and BETH is in the in one of the passenger rows, the out, asleep. BETH is wearing and shirt with a flying jacket.

BETH Now coming around to one thirty-five. She turns the wheel and the plane banks to port. CUNNINGHAM You goddamn ringer. BETH Thank you! CUNNINGHAM Why did you come on with the sweet little nurse routine? BETH Would you have let me fly this if I just walked up and asked? CUNNINGHAM No. BETH So? CUNNINGHAM Watch your horizon. Keep the nose up. BETH Where's the best place to eat in Calcutta?

68 EXTERIOR. BURMA: KYEDAW AERODROME. DAY. A beautiful clear morning. CHENNAULT is strolling across the field, binoculars around his neck. He stops and bends down to pluck a tiny crimson flower. As he stands, he hears his name being shouted out. Someone sprints toward him waving a yellow piece of paper

EXTERIOR. BURMA: KYEDAW AERODROME. DAY. BILLY and KNUDSEN, in sweat-drenched flight suits, are jogging to the operations building. The field is in alarm; men are running in every direction. BICKFORD bursts out of the doorway, bumping into them. BICKFORD The Japs attacked Pearl. KNUDSEN Holy Shit! We're in a real war!

INTERIOR. BURMA: KYEDAW AERODROME: THE OPERATIONS BUILDING. DAY. They push on inside, where CHENNAULT is giving an impromptu briefing to a packed house of pilots and crew. BILLY waves to BETH, who is sitting on the floor almost at CHENNAULT's feet. CHENNAULT The Japanese Army has bases here and here in Thailand. I expect them to push toward Rangoon very soon. Once Rangoon falls ROLLINS You don't think the Brits can hold on? CHENNAULT No. Rangoon is the major port of entry of materiel supporting the Chinese war effort. Once Rangoon falls, the Japanese will advance up the Irriwaddy Valley here and try to take the entire

69 Burma Road. If that happens, China is lost. BILLY No good news? CHENNAULT Of course. The Japanese are now engaged along a huge front. Manchuria to the Aleutians to Pearl to the Phillipines to us. They may be stretched a too thin. ALDRICH Are we going to be operating from here? CHENNAULT As long as we can. Our base in Kunming is nearly finished, and the airstrip at Loiwing is being made operational. Some of you will move up there as soon as possible. The rest will operate from here in order to keep the port of Rangoon open. Every day it is Allied hands means that many more tons of equipment dearly needed by the Chinese Army. Beginning immediately, we will double our patrols. Any questions? MCCARTHY Does this mean I have to go back into the Navy?

EXTERIOR. BURMA: KYEDAW AERODROME. DAY. VOLPE and a crewman are working on the tail of a P40. BETH rides up on a bicycle. VOLPE Hey, kid, where'ya been? BETH Calcutta and Bombay. That rudder looks out of line.

70 VOLPE Yeah, it is. I tighten it down, she goes up on the air, it gets out of line. BETH Too bad you don't have a mechanic who could test fly it. VOLPE No way. BETH If I was a man, you'd let me. VOLPE But you ain't. BETH What are you afraid of? The old man? Why don't we go see him right now and tell him that Sergeant Volpe would like one of the very tired pilots to risk their neck test flying a patch job when one of his own mechanics has over a thousand hours in single engines and a C47 rating? VOLPE How'd you get rated on the 47? BETH Leo. I've got ten hours in the lefthand seat. VOLPE No shit. BETH Give me a chance! VOLPE Aw, hell...okay. But you bend one cotter pin bouncing on the strip, and you're busted.

71 EXTERIOR. BURMA: KYEDAW AERODROME. DAY Late afternoon. BILLY, KNUDSEN, and two other pilots are trudging along from their planes toward the operations building. A Warhawk rolls by on its way to take off, BETH at the controls. She waves at the astonished pilots. BILLY does not look up. KNUDSEN That was your sister in that 40! BILLY Took her long enough.

INTERIOR. BURMA: KYEDAW AERODROME: PILOT'S READY ROOM ALDRICH and KNUDSEN are napping fitfully in armchairs. BILLY comes in and stomps around, waking them both. BILLY What kind of a fucked up war are they running here? Let's fight, already. It's been a week since Pearl. What's the holdup? KNUDSEN We scare them? The phone rings. KNUDSEN picks up the phone, listens briefly, and sets it down. He starts for the door as the air raid siren starts to scream. KNUDSEN Wish granted. Twenty-seven of the Emperor's finest twin-engine bombers are on their way. They run out, leaving overturned chairs, tables, and scattered newspapers..

EXTERIOR. BURMA: KYEDAW AERODROME: IN THE AIR. DAY. Four Warhawks are high above the airfield. They peel off to attack a flight of bombers which is headed directly for

72 them. The Warhawks are suddenly all over the sky, firing long bursts from their guns into the bombers. ALDRICH nearly collides with BILLY as they attack the same bomber. KNUDSEN pulls away and looks around for his wingman. KNUDSEN (Over radio.) Rollins? Where the hell are you? BILLY (Over radio.) Six o'clock! KNUDSEN sees ROLLINS far below, chasing a smoking bomber as it streaks toward the ground. KNUDSEN (Over radio.) Rollins! Get back up here!

INTERIOR. BURMA: KYEDAW AERODROME: CONTROL TOWER CHENNAULT and BICKFORD are standing nervously by the radio, listening to the pilots. The transmission is garbled at times, at other times a confusing jumble of excited and shouting voices.

INTERIOR. BURMA: KYEDAW AERODROME: MEETING ROOM. DAY. CHENNAULT and BICKFORD are waiting as the pilots file in, still wearing their flight headgear. They are flushed and jittery. CHENNAULT How many? KNUDSEN Eight altogether. Billy got threeALDRICH Two for me! One thousand dollars!

73 CHENNAULT You should have gotten them all. The pilots sag. CHENNAULT You lost contact with your wingmen. You wasted ammunition. Your approaches exposed you to the bombers' guns. The pilots start to look very uncomfortable. CHENNAULT Those are rookie mistakes. Next time you will get it right. Dismissed. The pilots get up slowly and shuffle away, heads low. CHENNAULT cannot repress a smile. CHENNAULT Damnation! Eight kills on your first mission? That is outstanding! The pilots smile again.

INTERIOR. BURMA: KYEDAW AERODROME: MESS HALL. NIGHT. Christmas tunes are playing on the radio, though it is steaming hot outside. The mess is decorated with red dragons and large green leaves. A flowering shrub on a pedestal has a handmade star tied to its top. The pilots and crewmen are drinking something potent ladled from a steel crock. BETH is sitting at a table with BILLY, KATE, and several other pilots. KNUDSEN Well, I got a letter last week written in September, so I guess I'll be getting my Christmas presents sometime this spring.

74 ALDRICH You must be joking. The Japs took Hong Kong yesterday, along with all of our mail. The Emperor is opening your packages right now. BILLY gets up and walks outside. BETH follows him.

EXTERIOR. BURMA: KYEDAW AERODROME. NIGHT. BETH finds BILLY looking up at the sky. BETH Penny for your thoughts? BILLY Save your penny. BETH Merry Christmas. She hands him a gift wrapped in bright red and gold. He unwraps it. It is a lion carved from jade. BETH Leo took me to the marketplace in Loiwing. The man said it would make you fierce and full of heart. BILLY pulls a package out of his pocket and gives it to her. BETH opens it. Inside is a flight chronometer on a thin leather band. She reads the inscription on the back. BETH To Beth. My little sister and my best friend. Love always. Billy. She gives him a long, hard hug and puts on the watch. He helps her fasten it. BILLY Merry Christmas. BETH What do you think Dad is doing tonight?

75 BILLY Reboring a cylinder. BETH He hasn't written. BILLY He's not a letter writer. BETH I worry about him. This is the first Christmas he's been alone. BILLY Worry about him? We're the ones in a war. BETH I wish I could talk to him and tell him that we're all right. BILLY puts his arm around her and draws her close. BILLY We are all right.

INTERIOR. BURMA: KYEDAW AERODROME: A HANGAR. NIGHT. BILLY comes into the main repair hangar. Exhausted, grimy mechanics are working on fuselages, engines, and guns poorly illuminated by a few naked light bulbs. They are constantly waving away swarms of biting insects. BETH is lying on her back under an engine suspended from a chain. BILLY How is it?

76 BETH Your tires are bald. You need a new propeller, the hydraulic pump sounds like an old washing machine, and we're down to our last box of solenoids. At home, you can get them in any auto parts store. A nickle each. If we run out, you'll be grounded. Other than that, you're in good shape. BILLY Great. I've got dawn patrol. BETH Then you should be in bed. BILLY I couldn't sleep. BETH That's not like you. Are you sick? BILLY I heard some talk about you and Leo Cunningham. BETH Oh. Don't let that bother you. BILLY I'm sorry. It does bother me. BETH rolls out from under the engine and scrambles to her feet. BETH Well, that's just too bad! Leo is my friend. BILLY I know how you led him on BETH Led him on? I didn't 'lead him on'. I flirted with him and lied to him.

77 BILLY You just wanted to fly his plane. BETH Yes! I did! So what? You get to fly anything you want, because you're a man! I'm just using the talents God gave me to get things that are handed to you! BILLY That's ridiculous! The air-raid siren starts to cry. The mechanics snap off lights, stumbling around. Tired, frustrated voices bark mixed obscenities. BETH and BILLY race out of the hangar.

EXTERIOR. BURMA: KYEDAW AERODROME. NIGHT. BILLY and BETH are running side by side in the light of a half moon. Multiengine aircraft drone overhead. Bombs explode in the jungle. BILLY How do you think that makes me feel? BETH I don't give a damn about how you feel. It's not your concern. They dive into a slit trench as the explosions draw nearer. BILLY This is exactly the same cutie pie crap act you used with Joe Galvin to get his car in high school. BETH You're still sore about that? He just lent me his car. BILLY For two years? He told everybody he traded it for a feel.

78 BETH Maybe he did. And maybe he didn't. The fact was, I had a car. One bomb detonates very close to the trench and showers them with mud. BETH You have been trying to run my life as long as I can remember! BILLY I have not! BETH You have! A mechanic lifts his head from the bottom of the trench. MECHANIC Shut up! They can hear you!

EXTERIOR. BURMA: KYEDAW AERODROME. DAY. The sun is just below the horizon. BILLY and ALDRICH are walking to their planes. ALDRICH's crew is ready for him, but one of BILLY's crew shakes his head. CREWMAN She won’t turn over, Lieutenant. But your sister said to wait here a minute. They turn around as a P40 drives up. It is one they have not seen before. The wings, fuselage, and tail have different numbers painted on them. BETH climbs out of the cockpit. BETH You can use this one if you want. BILLY What the hell is it? BETH I put it together. Pieces of number five, number sixty-seven, number

79 thirteen, and number nine. I think I'll call him "Frankenstein".

INTERIOR. BURMA: KYEDAW AERODROME: NURSE'S QUARTERS. NIGHT. KATE gently wakes BETH. KATE Get up, dear. Rangoon is gone. We're going to China.

INTERIOR. CHINA: OVER LOIWING AIRFIELD: DAY. LEGEND: LOIWING AIRFIELD, CHINA BETH is test flying a repaired P40, gently rolling it back and forth. She is low over the base, a modern facility with wide, paved runways and many large buildings. BETH Aileron response is normal. RADIO (VOLPE's voice.) Now try it with the flaps down fifteen percent. BETH adjusts a small wheel on the floor and rocks the plane slowly. BETH Still feels good. Oh, shit! The plane bucks violently and rolls to starboard. RADIO (VOLPE's voice.) Beth! Something fell off! BETH wrestles with the controls. She manages to get stable enough to look out and sees that a large chunk has broken off of the right wing.

80 BETH I think the strut broke! RADIO (VOLPE's voice.) You still got hydraulics? BETH Not much. Clear the field. RADIO (VOLPE's voice.) Fuck no! Bail out! BETH I have enough control RADIO (VOLPE's voice.) Damn it, there's no reason to BETH Clear the field! BETH strong-arms the Warhawk into a slow, clumsy turn. Below, two fire trucks speed along the runway. Tiny figures run out of buildings.

INTERIOR. CHINA: LOIWING AIRFIELD. DAY. CHENNAULT and BICKFORD rush outside and squint up at the P40 slipping out of the sky. One wing is much lower than the other.

EXTERIOR. CHINA: LOIWING AIRFIELD. DAY. The crippled plane approaches the ground. At the last minute, BETH increases the throttle and touches down, much too fast but level enough. She pulls up to the main hangar area, where a crowd watches her leap out of the plane. She goes to check the wing, stopping short when she sees the amount of damage. Behind her, the crowd is slowly and wordlessly gathering.


EXTERIOR. CHINA: LOIWING AIRFIELD. DAY. BICKFORD is watching the scene through binoculars. CHENNAULT Who is that? He is one hell of a pilot! BICKFORD smiles and hands him the binoculars

INTERIOR. CHINA: LOIWING AIRFIELD: THE HOSPITAL. NIGHT. KATE is sitting at a desk, talking on the phone. BETH enters, dressed in her soiled mechanics gear. KATE Time to change hats. We have casualties. A Chinese truck convoy got strafed. They'll be here shortly. BETH I'll clean up.

EXTERIOR. CHINA: LOIWING AIRFIELD. NIGHT. CHENNAULT is walking along the flight line. He happens upon BILLY, KNUDSEN, and HONIG sitting on the grass, talking. They stand as he approaches. CHENNAULT Evening, gentlemen. HONIG Nice night for a stroll, Colonel. CHENNAULT I'm not out for my health, Mr. Honig. I was hoping to ask you all a question. KNUDSEN Sure.

82 CHENNAULT What will you do when your year here is up? HONIG That's easy. Go home. Eat vanilla ice cream four times a day. KNUDSEN Baked ham and sweet potatoes. BILLY Cherry pie with whipped cream. CHENNAULT Would you consider staying on as part of a regular Army Air Corps unit? KNUDSEN Would we get leave first? CHENNAULT Probably not. BILLY We'd be here for the duration of the war? KNUDSEN This is a theoretical question, right?

INTERIOR. CHINA: LOIWING AIRFIELD. THE HOSPITAL. NIGHT. The beds are full of wounded Chinese soldiers. BETH moves quietly among them, tidying up the debris of emergency medicine. She bends to pick up a uniform shirt. As she is hanging it up, she sees a pair of wings pinned to it. She looks down at its owner, CAPTAIN TSUNG-FENG LEE, who is looking back at her with one eye. The other is covered by a bandage which wraps most of his head from chin up. BETH Try to sleep. She makes a motion of sleeping with her hands and head. LEE extends a bandaged hand.


LEE Captain Tsung-Feng Lee. A pleasure to make your acquaintance, even considering the circumstances. BETH Oh! She takes his hand carefully. BETH You're a pilot? LEE Yes, and had I been flying above the truck this afternoon rather than shoehorned into the back of it, all this would have avoided.... His eye closes, and he falls asleep in an instant.

INTERIOR. CHINA: LOIWING AIRFIELD: OPERATIONS BUILDING. DAY. Most of the pilots are assembled. CHENNAULT comes in and goes to the front of the room. CHENNAULT Gentlemen, I have accepted a commission as Brigadier General in the United States Army. I will report to General Stillwell. He now has overall command of the 5th and 6th Armies of the Chinese Republic by order of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek. The pilots whisper to each other. The murmuring has an unhappy tone. CHENNAULT I have been informed that some of you are griping about the missions we have been flying. If you have any complaints, let me hear them now.

84 ALDRICH I’ve got one. I'm tired of being sent out on low-level moral flights. Real strafing runs are bad enough, but flying over the Chinese just to show the flag stinks. Last week I came back with a tail full of holes. I came here to shoot down Jap planes, not parade up and down the front like a target drone. KNUDSEN And he was flying my plane. Now the patches have patches. MCCARTHY My engine croaks every ten hours. HONIG When are we getting some parts? Does Stillwell know what the hell is going on here? KNUDSEN Vinegar Joe? I heard he tried to make a spotter-plane jockey fly him over the Jap lines, real slow and low, so he could get a look at the whites of their eyes. BILLY makes a skeetshooting motion. CHENNAULT is turning red. BILLY Pull! CHENNAULT Units everywhere are making do with what they have! Without bellyaching! As for the missions, you will continue to fly as ordered or be given a dishonorable discharge!

85 ALDRICH How in God's good name can you give us a dishonorable discharge? I signed a contract with CAMCO. I don't work for General Stillwell or Franklin Delano Roosevelt. CHENNAULT Those who wish to show the white feather can resign now! I don't want them around! BILLY There's a big difference between being scared and being stupid! Scanning their angry faces, CHENNAULT seems to back off. CHENNAULT You misunderstand me Shouting and complaints build as decorum degenerates.

INTERIOR. CHINA: LOIWING AIRFIELD: PILOT BARRACKS. NIGHT. Late at night, the lights are still burning. The pilots are gathered around the table where KNUDSEN has just finished writing something. KNUDSEN Okay, listen to this: "We, the undersigned, pilots of the American Volunteer Group, hereby desire to terminate our contracts with the Central Aircraft Manufacturing Company and our services with the AVG." He puts down his name, then the paper is passed around and signed by the rest. BICKFORD enters. BICKFORD The Loiwing Rebellion, I assume? MCCARTHY This is no joke, Colonel.

86 BICKFORD Look, fellows. Chennault's a fighter pilot. He'd rather be dogfighting than feeling Betty Grable's ass. And he'd rather have new planes than old. HONIG Good. Then let him sign this, too. Right at the bottom here. He hands the petition to BICKFORD. BICKFORD I'll tell you what. I'll give this to the old man in the morning. He'll show it to Stilwell and the Generalissimo. It probably won't get us new planes, but they might lay off the morale cruises. Give me a couple of days. BICKFORD carefully folds the paper and pockets it on his way out.

INTERIOR. CHINA: LOIWING AIRFIELD: THE HOSPITAL. DAY. BETH enters the ward carrying a tray of bandages. She sees CHENNAULT sitting beside LEE's bed, talking and laughing. When CHENNAULT feels BETH behind him, he rises. CHENNAULT Get some rest, Hawk. Miss Pace, could I have a word with you? BETH nods and follows him out of the ward. BETH Why did you call him 'Hawk'? CHENNAULT That was the name we gave him after his first combat. In ten minutes he shot down three Japanese bombers and one fighter. Are his wounds serious?

87 BETH He had a concussion and a detached retina. The doctor said he should recover fully. CHENNAULT Good. We need him. I wish the Chinese had more like him. BETH Why don't they? CHENNAULT When I first came to China, Italians were running the flight training school. The Chinese students were all sons of the most monied, politically connected families. It was just another sport for the idle rich. The Italians gave them a few hours of instruction and pinned wings on them. One hundred per cent graduation rate. You can imagine how they fared against warhardened Japanese pilots. Those who didn’t crash and die on takeoff were slaughtered in the air. BETH But not Captain Lee? CHENNAULT He came to me and asked questions. He wasn't too proud to admit ignorance, so I gave him some pointers. I'm glad he will be flying again. He lives only for that vengeance. BETH What do you mean?

88 CHENNAULT His mother, father, sisters, wife, two babies.... They lived in Nanking. 1937. The Japanese Army went through the streets, decapitating the men, raping the women, smashing babies against the pavement. That's why he hunts them like a hawk hunts sparrows. (He turns away, then stops.) I almost forgot. The Generalissimo is having some whole blood and plasma flown in from Calcutta. I would like a medical escort for it. Would you go? BETH Yes. I would. Thank you.

INTERIOR. OVER CHINA: A CNAC C47. DAY. CUNNINGHAM is in the pilot's seat of a C47 configured to carry cargo. The copilot is reading a map. In the back are several large wooden crates marked with red crosses. BETH is peering intently at a gauge set into the side of one of the boxes, an insulated container. She taps it with a fingernail, then sits down. A large shape whistles past the cockpit windows. CUNNINGHAM What was The side cockpit window implodes; the copilot is ripped out of his seat. CUNNINGHAM yelps in pain. BETH Hold on! CUNNINGHAM struggles to keep control of the plane as BETH stumbles to him. She glances down at the bloody copilot. He is obviously dead. She examines CUNNINGHAM quickly, sees that he is bleeding from legs and torso. She feels around the wounds, then digs out a medical kit. She straps tourniquets around his thighs. A line of bullets burst the fuselage. CUNNINGHAM looks up helplessly, eyes glazed. His hands slip off the wheel.

89 CUNNINGHAM I can't.... BETH grabs the wheel and eases CUNNINGHAM down onto the deck next to the copilot's body. The C47 starts to roll left before she can clamber into the seat. The wind screams through the shattered window. Two Japanese fighters are making a head-on approach, their gun muzzles twinkling. BETH Goddamn you! She aims the crippled C47 right at them and jams the throttle to 'Emergency'. The two fighters peel away quickly. BETH snatches up the radio microphone. BETH Mayday! Mayday! This is CNAC TwentySeven about two hundred miles southeast of Loiwing! I've got two wounded and enemy fighters on me! Tracers dart past her wing. She snap-rolls the C47 and dives. The ground approaches in a rush; she hauls back on the wheel. The airframe groans in protest, but the plane levels out. Tracers flash by the window again, and rounds smack into the cockpit, smashing instruments. She tosses the plane into a very hard split-S. One of the Japanese planes streaks by her, unable to slow down. BETH shoves the throttle forward again and gets on its tail for a second before it can climb away. She reaches for the radio again, then sees that it has been blown to fragments. BETH Oh, hell! A hail of tracers shoot by just in front of her window. An enemy plane approaches her from above. Behind it she sees a tiny moving dot. The dot grows to a P40, its guns firing. The enemy veers away, smoking heavily. The P40 turns to fly alongside the C47. It is BILLY, in 'Frankenstein'. Beside him appears KNUDSEN, in 'Buffalo Gal'. They wave at her and signal her to follow them.

90 EXTERIOR. CHINA: LOIWING AIRFIELD. DAY. The C47 is sitting in the middle of the strip. Medics carry off the unconscious CUNNINGHAM and the body of the copilot. Groundcrew unload the medical crates into a truck; others circle the plane counting bullet holes. BETH stands nearby, wrapped in BILLY's arms.

EXTERIOR. CHINA: LOIWING AIRFIELD. DAY. On a lawn beside the barracks, six pilots on one side and six mechanics on the other are engaged in a vicious game of volleyball. BICKFORD referees from a stepladder. The ball bounces out of bounds to BETH, who is sitting in a patch of shade with KATE and some other medical personnel. BICKFORD Out! MECHANIC You're blind! PILOT Shaddap! BICKFORD Play on! Hey! He is yelling at an wizened Chinese gentleman, who has pulled a rickshaw over the back court boundary. BICKFORD climbs down and goes over to have a word with him. The old man speaks quietly to BICKFORD, who then goes over to BETH. She tosses him the ball. KATE Don't tell me. My date's here? BICKFORD Miss Pace, it seems that relatives of our guests in the infirmary have organized a dinner party in your honor. BETH Me?

91 BICKFORD They have the crazy notion that you saved their lives by bringing in that plasma. Scrambling to her feet, BETH looks at the waiting rickshaw. BETH What, now? KATE Party! BICKFORD He did specify that you were free to bring guests. The volleyball match is immediately abandoned. Two pilots march BETH into the rickshaw and sprint her down the field. The old man looks on the pandemonium, puzzled yet pleased.

INTERIOR. LOIWING, CHINA: A RESTAURANT IN TOWN. NIGHT. Pilots, groundcrew, nurses, doctors, townspeople - all are jammed ear to elbow at long tables in a modest dining room. BETH, BILLY, and some of the pilots are seated at what might be a head table. Waiters wade about carrying trays heavy with food. It is loud: laughing, talking, a Chinese band twangs in a corner. The townspeople and waiters are especially attentive to BETH, who watches as a waiter ladles more noodles onto her plate. BETH Oh, I couldn't possibly.... BILLY More noodles! KNUDSEN These are a different kind of noodle! An official-looking man rises and begins to shout out in Chinese.

92 BETH What's he saying? A young waiter kneels down by her. WAITER He say the sky was thick with ravens who throw down fire. KNUDSEN Must be metaphorical. WAITER Then sharks come and eat the ravens. Now we are not afraid to look into the sky. The speaker barks out a line, and the townspeople shout it all together. WAITER Long live the American Volunteer Group! Another shout. WAITER Long live Generalissimo Chiang Kaishek! Another shout. WAITER Long live Claire Lee Chennault! The speaker motions for BETH to stand. When she complies, he presents a bundle. She tears off the paper and holds up a leather jacket. On the front are painted Chinese characters and the Chinese flag and the Stars and Stripes. She turns the jacket around. On the back is a tiger baring its fangs, claws poised to slash. The old man speaks briefly, and the townspeople erupt with wild cheering. WAITER He say that you are truly Mu Lao Hu. The tigress. BETH slips the jacket on, and the crowd leaps up to roar approval.


EXTERIOR. LOIWING, CHINA. NIGHT. BETH and BILLY are walking back to the base in the light of the full moon. They are both a little drunk. BILLY Wait'll they see that in Reno. You'll be the toast of the Mapes Hotel and Casino. BETH They should have given you one, too. BILLY I got something better: five hundred bucks for shooting down that Oscar. Enough to get dozens of new watches. BETH Why? What happened to your watch? BILLY Killed in action. You know how the trim wheel on the 40 is real tight against the seat? I put my watch on my right wrist that morning because I was getting a rash on the left. Damn if I didn't jam the top in during my heroic rescue. Tore up the crystal, bent the face. BETH Here. Use mine. BILLY Nah, I'll get one. BETH When? You need accurate time on patrol. BILLY You're right. Thanks, sis. (He puts his arm around her.) Nice jacket!


INTERIOR. CHINA: LOIWING AIRFIELD: THE HOSPITAL. NIGHT. BETH is tiptoeing through the dark ward. She stops by a bed of which only the foot can be made out and whispers. BETH Leo, wake up. Look what I got. No reply. She moves into the darkness and touches an empty bed. She looks up to see a grim-faced nurse hurrying towards her.

EXTERIOR. CHINA: LOIWING AIRFIELD: THE HOSPITAL. NIGHT. BETH is sitting on steps off the back of the hospital, hugging her knees. LEE, in his full uniform, his head bandage smaller now, comes out the door and touches her on the shoulder. She looks up, tears on her cheeks. He sits down next to her. LEE What is wrong? BETH He's gone. LEE Your friend? BETH Leo. He wanted to fly for United Airlines. He had a girlfriend in Athens, Georgia. He was going to ask her to marry him. He told her not to worry, that he was just flying cargo. LEE You Christians fascinate me. BETH What?

95 LEE You believe in a heaven where ancestors and angels fly on wings of gold. A promised land where you will be happy forever. Yet when one of you goes there, the rest are horribly sad. I've never figured it out. Now the Japanese know that if they die fighting for the Emperor, they will go directly to a paradise much better than your heaven. BETH Really? LEE Really. So one side fears death while the other longs for it. Who would win such a war? BETH Us, I hope. You're not a Christian? LEE Are you? BETH I suppose so. LEE Then I am a heathen, an infidel, a pagan idol-worshipper. BETH Do you mind my asking where you learned to speak so well? LEE My dear Miss Pace. I have been speaking well since the age of one and a half. If you are referring to the King's English, that I learned a little later. The nuances I acquired at the University of Chicago. Sigma Chi. Boola boola, twenty-three skidoo, the bee's knees, the cat's pajamas, et cetera.

96 BETH You must be rich. LEE My family was well off. Until the Emperor came calling. BETH I heard about your family. I'm sorry. LEE There are times when I would like to be a Christian. I would look forward to meeting all who went before on a glorious cloud.... BETH You should be in bed. LEE I couldn't sleep. I think my detached retina has affected my dreams. Is that possible? BETH I don't know. I'm just a nurses aide. LEE That is a beautiful jacket. It says Mu Lao Hu. The tigress. BETH I got it from the town. LEE That jacket would cost a farmer two years of income. Does that bother you? BETH A little. LEE Then you appreciate how much you have done for them. And for me. BETH You were in no danger.

97 LEE No, but I have friends inside who needed you. And you did not fail them. Most of them cannot even say thank you in English; I will have to do it for them all. So, thank you. BETH You're welcome.

EXTERIOR. CHINA: LOIWING AIRFIELD. DAY. Early morning near the airstrip. BETH and VOLPE are working on a P40 while four pilots kibitz. In the background, Warhawks are taking off. BICKFORD comes up, in a hurry. BICKFORD Where's Mr. Rollins? FIRST PILOT He's up. I swapped patrols with him. Why? BICKFORD The Generalissimo's friends in Washington managed to shake loose some new P40Es, Kittyhawks. The first one is waiting in Bombay for us. SECOND PILOT New planes? Hot damn! BETH I'll go get it. Then you won't be short here. BICKFORD Thank you, Miss Pace. Unfortunately, the Army might not give you the keys. BETH is crushed. The pilots note this and exchange quick glances. BICKFORD Fontana, how about it?

98 FONTANA Sorry, Colonel. I'm feeling queasy. I think I'll go on sick call. BICKFORD Mister Richards? RICHARDS Love to, but I'm coming down with something. It's going around. The other two pilots force coughs, not very believably. BICKFORD Miss Pace, I believe you may have to help me prevent an epidemic. BETH You bet! The pilots slink away, hands in pockets, feigning innocence.

INTERIOR. CHINA: LOIWING AIRFIELD: CHENNAULT'S OFFICE. NIGHT. BILLY and KNUDSEN enter. CHENNAULT is working at his desk under a single naked light bulb. CHENNAULT Gentlemen, please sit down. I just received intelligence that a Japanese freighter carrying a cargo of Hitachi HA-13 engines will dock tomorrow at Canton. They will be unloaded the following morning. I would like to prevent that, but the docks are heavily defended. KNUDSEN Doesn't bother me. I'd rather sink them all at once than wait until they get put into Zeros.

99 BILLY It'll take a bunch of cannon hits to kill a whole freighter. KNUDSEN General, we used to do some skipbombing with the B-10. I think it might work with a bomb rigged under a '40. CHENNAULT Four planes is all we can spare. Good hunting.

EXTERIOR. BOMBAY: A U.S. ARMY AIRFIELD. DAY. A jeep is racing along a paved runway, past bombers, fighters, groundcrew. The driver is a colonel. He squeals to a stop when he sees BETH with a lanky sergeant. BETH is wearing her flight gear and has her hair pulled back into a severe bun. The sergeant looks like he has been asked to eat a bug. COLONEL Sergeant? SARGEANT Yes, sir. Like I said, she says she's got orders to take my Kittyhawk. BETH hands a paper to the colonel. BETH These are my orders from General Chennault. COLONEL I'll be goddamned. Give her the airplane, sergeant. And anything else she needs. SARGEANT Sir, excuse me, but I never -

100 COLONEL You never met Chennault. Pace? What are you? BETH Nurses aide, sir. COLONEL That figures. He drives off. SARGEANT I'll be a ring-tailed son of a baboon. He walks towards a new P40E. BETH follows close behind. SARGEANT A woman. I love the Army. If you know the P40B like you say, then the E will feel like old home week. Same cockpit layout. Same controls, same instrumentation. They come up to the new Kittyhawk. BETH runs her hands along it, walking around inspecting. SARGEANT She's gassed and armed. I never send my birds into the air without ammo. Never. Even with a dame driving.

INTERIOR. IN THE AIR OVER CHINA. DAY. BETH is flying the P40E. Below her is a layer of clouds, unbroken as far as she can see. She glances at a map and at her controls. The fuel gauge is nearing empty. BETH Oh, hell. She eases into the clouds, keeping one eye on the altimeter. After a moment, a hilltop appears in front of her. She climbs sharply over it. On the other side is a river valley. BETH finds the valley on her chart and smiles. She feels the plane shudder and looks around. On

101 the road below is a short Japanese military convoy. She sees sparkling from muzzles. BETH Hey! This is new! She falls in anger on the convoy, her machine guns chattering. She turns to make another pass and leaves the trucks burning, then orbits the scene at a safe distance for a moment before heading on.

INTERIOR. CHINA: LOIWING AIRFIELD: THE HOSPITAL. NIGHT. BETH is sitting at a desk, writing in a ledger book. BILLY comes in. BILLY Hey, kid. How was your trip? She sees him rub his temples. BETH What's the matter? BILLY Headache. Got a powder for me? She gets him a glass of water and a pill. BETH Are you sick? You never get headaches. BILLY Neither does Volpe, but he's got one now. His new Kittyhawk came in with bullet holes in the tail. BETH Well, I had to go down to the deck to get my bearings. BILLY Then the deck must be full of holes. Only fifty rounds were left in the magazine.

102 BETH A girl's gotta defend herself. BILLY You bet. I've got an errand in Canton in the morning. I'd better get some sleep. He hugs and kisses her and dashes out, leaving BETH holding his empty glass.

EXTERIOR. OVER THE SOUTH CHINA SEA. DAY. Early morning. Four P40s are each carrying a fat bomb slung underneath. BILLY, KNUDSEN, and ALDRICH are recognizable in the nearest planes. As they approach the shore, ALDRICH peels off and heads for a large Japanese ship moored at the docks. Flying just above the wave tops, he releases his bomb and veers away. The bomb skips and sinks short of the ship. Tracers light the dawn sky. Muzzle flashes sparkle all over the docks and the ship. Another P40 makes the run Its bomb skips along the water into the docks and blasts out a chunk, but misses the ship. KNUDSEN and BILLY are left alone, circling above. KNUDSEN (Over the radio.) I'm going to cut the approach to three hundred yards. KNUDSEN plunges in the same way as the others and releases his bomb much closer to the docks. Tracer rounds bracket and zip into his plane. The bomb slams into the ship in the stern and explodes in a fireball. KNUDSEN (Over the radio.) Damn! I'm hit! BILLY (Over the radio.) How bad?

103 KNUDSEN (Over the radio.) I get it? BILLY (Over the radio.) Winged her.

INTERIOR. CHINA: CANTON: IN THE AIR. DAY. BILLY makes his approach, boring in even closer than had Knudsen. Orange tracers spit by. The plane flutters as it is hit. Smoke seeps into the cockpit. BILLY releases the bomb. It skips into the freighter amidships. The bomb detonates and touches off even larger explosions. BILLY is too close to avoid the sheet of flame. His plane is bounced hard by the shock wave, then he is through it and climbing to rejoin the other three. KNUDSEN (Over the radio.) Pace - you're smoking.

INTERIOR. CHINA: CANTON: IN THE AIR. DAY. BILLY's cockpit is thick with smoke. He can barely see out. He cracks open his canopy to suck out the worst of it. KNUDSEN (Over the radio.) Are you all right? BILLY looks down at himself and sees blood everywhere. The engine begins to miss. Oil sprays onto the windshield. BILLY Manny, I don't think I can make it back. KNUDSEN (Over the radio.) Jesus. Well, let's get out of here, anyway.


EXTERIOR. CHINA: CANTON: IN THE AIR. DAY. They fly away from the populated lowland until they are over rougher terrain. BILLY's plane limps along, smoking profusely. The other P40's surround him protectively. BILLY (Over the radio.) My oil's gone. KNUDSEN (Over the radio.) Okay. Go ahead. We'll cover you. BILLY (Over the radio.) Tell Beth I'll be home as soon as I can. He rolls his crippled Warhawk onto its back and lets himself fall out of the cockpit. His parachute opens immediately. KNUDSEN flies around him in a descending corkscrew until BILLY hits the ground on the top of a low hill. ALDRICH (Over the radio.) Manny, is he okay? KNUDSEN (Over the radio.) He's shot. ALDRICH (Over the radio.) We’re low on fuel. KNUDSEN (Over the radio.) I'm leaving my kit. KNUDSEN cranks back his canopy a bit and swoops low to toss out a medical bag. BILLY picks it up and blows a kiss. The remaining P40s regroup and fly off.


INTERIOR. CHINA: LOIWING AIRFIELD: THE HOSPITAL. DAY. BETH is changing the bandage on LEE's head. They are laughing about something. She hears aircraft approaching and rushes to the window. When she sees only three planes landing, she runs for the door. LEE calls out to her, his bandage half-finished, the gauze unrolling down onto the floor.

EXTERIOR. CHINA: LOIWING AIRFIELD. DAY. Ground crewmen are helping pull KNUDSEN out of his plane. His jacket is dark with blood. BETH guides him onto a stretcher. BETH Where is he? KNUDSEN Had to bail. Outside Canton. He's all right, just a little nicked. He said to tell you...he'll be back.

INTERIOR. CHINA: LOIWING AIRFIELD: PILOTS BARRACKS. DAY. BETH is sitting on her brother's bunk. She holds the jade lion and absentmindedly pets it with her fingertips.

INTERIOR. CHINA: LOIWING AIRFIELD: THE HOSPITAL. NIGHT. BETH comes into the ward pushing a cart. A Chinese Army officer is sitting by LEE's bed. LEE motions to her. LEE Beth, this is Major Peng. An old friend of the family, also in charge of intelligence in this region. I asked him some questions regarding your brother. I hoped you wouldn't mind.

106 BETH I don't mind. Hello, Major. She gives her hand to PENG. He kisses it. PENG I am most sorry to hear about your heroic brother. I want to personally assure you that we are searching for him with all our capabilities. LEE But there is no word yet? PENG Unfortunately, no. That may just mean that he is managing to avoid all contact as he makes his way back here. That is always the wisest course when you do not know who is your friend. BETH But he might have been captured. PENG Oh, no... LEE Peng - this is the Tigress. PENG Then I will not tell you a pretty lie. Yes, I would say that there is a strong possibility that he has been captured. BETH They said he was wounded. PENG looks at LEE for guidance. LEE nods to him: Go ahead. PENG The Emperor's Imperial Army rarely abides by the Geneva agreements. BETH sinks down onto LEE's bed. LEE holds out his hands to her, and she takes them.

107 LEE There is worse news. BETH Worse? What could be worse? PENG The Japanese have a medical camp at Wei-Shin, near Canton. We have only secondhand reports. Testing on humans. Very bad. LEE The Japanese would be most interested in seeing how the Caucasian body tolerates certain toxins.

EXTERIOR. CHINA: LOIWING AIRFIELD: HANGAR. NIGHT. BETH is sitting crosslegged under the wing of a P40, halfheartedly trying to free a stubborn nut. ALDRICH comes up behind her and flops to the floor. ALDRICH Hey, Beth. Any word? BETH No. ALDRICH Aw, that don't mean shit. Baker was gone for two weeks outside of Rangoon, remember? Not a peep. Then he strolls out of the jungle like he was coming back from vacation. She turns for the first time to look at him and sees that he is flushed and sweating profusely. She puts a palm on his forehead and reacts in alarm. BETH Come with me!

108 INTERIOR. CHINA: LOIWING AIRFIELD: THE HOSPITAL. DAY. The beds in the ward are full with recovering Chinese soldiers and feverish American pilots and crew. BETH moves from bed to bed applying cold compresses. CHENNAULT tiptoes in, followed by BICKFORD. CHENNAULT Goddamn influenza. It nearly killed me in 1919. BETH Eight pilots are not sick. Yet. Mr. Aldrich's fever broke this morning, but the doctors don't think he'll be able to fly for at least two days. BICKFORD Intelligence reports no unusual Japanese activity at either Penwa or Shingyi airfields. CHENNAULT Good. We've got five Chinese bombers coming for the raid on Penwa tomorrow. We'll need all eight of those pilots for the escort. Take them into town and isolate them. God knows when I'll get bombers again. Cancel the dawn patrol. BICKFORD That's a risk. CHENNAULT I know. BETH has returned to work. She is lifting long brass shell casings out of a box. The casings contain a solid mass of ice. BICKFORD What are those?

109 BETH The ice machine broke down again. I filled these with water and took them up to twenty-five thousand feet for a few minutes. CHENNAULT takes one of the casings from her and inspects it. BICKFORD takes one and presses it to his forehead.

INTERIOR. CHINA: LOIWING AIRFIELD: THE HOSPITAL. NIGHT. The pre-dawn sky is a deep purple. LEE is standing in a small cafeteria area, drinking from a mug. His bandage is much smaller, one strip across his face. BETH stumbles in, red-eyed. BETH You should be in bed. LEE On the contrary. You should be in bed. Coffee? BETH Thanks. I thought all Chinese drank tea. LEE In Chicago, I learned many new and wonderful things: coffee, bootleg gin, bagels, baklava. My family was in silk export. My father, his father, and so on. We had offices in Sydney, Johannesburg, London, Buenos Aires, New York. After college, I went everywhere with my father, learning the trade. BETH You've seen the whole world. LEE I thought I had. But in the whole world I have never seen a mechanic as beautiful as you. BETH blushes but does not withdraw. LEE moves closer.


LEE You are like the angels in your heaven. I think about you all day, and I dream of you at night. I have not felt this way for a long time. I was afraid I no longer could. BETH lifts a hand to his cheek. LEE takes her fully into his arms and bends down to kiss her. Slowly, their faces approach. Before they can consummate the act, a telephone rings. BETH jumps back as though caught in mischief and picks up the phone. BETH No, no - there's nobody in the ready room...flu. Flu! Wait! She hands the phone to LEE. He listens to an excited Chinese voice, speaks a few words, then hangs up. LEE Listening posts. Single engine airplanes over their head, coming this way. BETH How far? LEE Ten minutes. BETH The guys can't get here from town by then! She sprints for the door. LEE is right behind her. He rips off his bandage and tosses it to the floor. BETH runs into the ward and shakes a sleeping KNUDSEN. BETH Manny! Call town! Jap fighters on the way! KNUDSEN Shit on a shingle! The bombers are gassed and loaded with bombs!

111 BETH So are all of our 40s. She and LEE rush out the door. KNUDSEN jumps out of bed and limps to the phone.

EXTERIOR. CHINA: LOIWING AIRFIELD. NIGHT. There is just enough light to see BETH and LEE running side by side for the nearest Warhawks. LEE Just get in their way! Don't let them get a clear run BETH nods and cranks her engine. As the two P40s swerve toward the runway. BETH sees KNUDSEN hopping as fast as he can on one healthy leg toward a Warhawk, his bare ass flashing through the flapping hospital gown. The first wave of Japanese fighters roars by. BETH and LEE turn onto them. BETH fires, flies through an explosion, sees tracers past her, and rolls away. Below her KNUDSEN plunges into a thicket of Oscars and Tonys, firing continuously. BETH wings over and snaps off a burst at a passing enemy fighter. LEE is on its tail. The plane plummets smoking to the ground. BETH climbs, looking around. She spots three Japs lining up to strafe the row of bombers and bounces them, kicking her rudder to spray rounds across their noses. One breaks off. Another flies into her fire and bursts into flame, spinning to the field. Climbing again, she sees KNUDSEN chasing several fighters away. Above, LEE makes a diving pass on a lingering Tony. It shakes and trails smoke, then begins to fall. BETH realizes in horror that the plane is headed for the red cross painted on the hospital roof. She fires, but is too far away. Her tracers fade and fall short. At the last possible instant, LEE flashes in at a right angle to the Tony and rams it. They explode together in a giant fireball which seems to float gently down into an empty field next to the hospital. BETH Hawk!

112 She circles the flaming crash, but there is no movement. The sky is clear except for KNUDSEN high overhead. Jeeps filled with pilots speed onto the field.

EXTERIOR. CHINA: LOIWING AIRFIELD. DAY. CHENNAULT climbs out of a small plane which has just landed. He looks around, not happy. Several bombers are burning. Fire crews spray streams of water onto the flames. BICKFORD runs up. CHENNAULT How bad is it? BICKFORD Three bombers totally destroyed. Two damaged but repairable. One Warhawk lost in the air, none on the ground. CHENNAULT In the air? Who got into the air? I though all the pilots were in town. BICKFORD Knudsen and Lee were here. And Pace. Miss Pace. CHENNAULT Stillwell would appreciate that like a second asshole. BICKFORD General, Captain Lee was killed. CHENNAULT Jesus, no. I thought he was charmed. BICKFORD A Tony was about to crash into the hospital. Lee rammed it. He points to the field near the hospital where the wreckage is still smoldering.

113 CHENNAULT Mother of God. How many were in there? BICKFORD Fourteen pilots, twelve groundcrew. Twenty Chinese. Two nurses, one doctor.

EXTERIOR. CHINA: LOIWING AIRFIELD. DAY. ROLLINS is standing by his P40 talking with his crew chief. ALDRICH strolls up escorting a new man: CAPTAIN GENE PARKER. PARKER is blindingly fresh. His clean, unpatched uniform clashes with the threadbare, mismatched garb standard on the field around him. PARKER is shouldering a duffle bag. ALDRICH Hey, Rollins. Meet Gene Parker. ROLLINS Welcome aboard. ROLLINS extends his hand as PARKER salutes. PARKER quickly drops the salute and shakes hands instead. ROLLINS I wasn't aware we were getting replacements. PARKER Actually, I signed on last July, but I broke my shoulder. I'm just catching up with you. ALDRICH Crash? PARKER No. I fell off a ladder. ROLLINS Damn ladders are killers. We should use them on Tojo.

114 PARKER Uh...yeah. Anyway, once I started reading all the hoopla about the Flying Tigers, I told the docs to cut the cast off pronto so I could come get my share of Zeros before they were all gone. ALDRICH Flying Tigers? PARKER Don’t rib me. I'm not some cadet. He digs into his bag and comes out with a Life magazine. ALDRICH snatches it from him as ROLLINS looks over his shoulder. ALDRICH (Reading.) American volunteers give the Japs a fierce beating in the air over China. They are known to the ever grateful Chinese people as the Flying Tigers ROLLINS What the hell? ALDRICH Look at that picture. I think that's you, right there. ROLLINS Tigers? Any blind idiot can see that those are shark mouths. How do you get tigers from that? PARKER glances up at a movement in the cockpit and sees BETH looking down at him. PARKER Hey! There's a dame in your plane! ROLLINS Don't worry. She thinks she's a mechanic, but she's really just a nurse.

115 He waves at BETH, an effeminate twiddling of his fingers. She has the canopy closed and can't hear him. She waves back and returns to her work. PARKER But she's messing with your instruments.... ALDRICH It's an old Chinese custom. A woman in the cockpit of a fighter plane is good luck. Has been since the Wang dynasty. ROLLINS And that was a long one. He and ALDRICH walk away, looking through the magazine.

EXTERIOR. CHINA: LOIWING AIRFIELD. DAY. The sun is setting. Most of the pilots and crewmen are lined up facing the operations building. PARKER comes tumbling out of the pilots barracks rubbing his nap from his eyes. He glances around, then falls in beside ROLLINS. PARKER What's this? ROLLINS Daily farewell to the sun god Wan Hung Lo. PARKER gives him a dirty look. CHENNAULT emerges from the operations building and reads from a paper. CHENNAULT From Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek. To the valiant American Volunteer Group. Your brave defense of the airfield at Loiwing from an attack by an overwhelming force of the Japanese Imperial Army is celebrated throughout China. In honor of your valor, I award the Golden Eye of Heaven to those who risked their lives that morning. In my heart and in my eyes, each of you

116 deserves much more than my nation can ever offer. (He looks up.) Lieutenant Manfred Knudsen. KNUDSEN advances, still very stiff and in pain. CHENNAULT places a gold medallion on a ribbon around his neck and shakes his hand, then salutes. CHENNAULT Elizabeth Pace. BETH comes forward. PARKER is agog as an identical medal is placed around her neck. PARKER What'd she do? Sit in his cockpit? ROLLINS She splashed two Nips in a dogfight. Chastened, PARKER purses his lips as he watches the steely CHENNAULT embrace BETH and kiss her cheeks. He mutters to himself. PARKER This wasn't in the fucking article.

INTERIOR. LOIWING, CHINA: A HOUSE IN TOWN. NIGHT. PENG is writing by the light of a paper lantern. There is a knock on the door, and he calls out a Chinese word which from its inflection is: Enter. BETH steps in. BETH I'm sorry if I disturbed you. PENG Don't be. I am at your disposal at any hour. BETH I want to find my brother.

117 PENG I also. BETH No, I want to go and look for him. I can't stand this waiting here. If I were missing, he would come for me. PENG I understand. But how can I allow you to wander about in that area? BETH Allow me? You can't stop me. I can go wherever I damn well please. All I have to do is hang my gold eyeball around my neck and people snap to! They can't get out of their own way fast enough! PENG And when the Emperor's troops meet you, do you think they will be similarly impressed? BETH I'm going. Will you help me or not? PENG considers it for a moment, sizing her up. He motions to her to sit down on the other chair in the room and takes out a map. PENG Here is where your brother landed. The Japanese lines are not too far beyond. I have concentrated our search around Yulin. Leave your medal. I will take you there.

EXTERIOR. YULIN, CHINA. NIGHT. Yulin is a sleeping village built upon one stone-paved main road. It is just after sundown, and people are moving about behind glassless windows. Lamps are being lighted. An ancient diesel flatbed rattles down the street, PENG at its wheel. BETH is squeezed in between him and a rotund Chinese man, KUEN HOP. The back of the truck is full of field

118 workers who carry boxes and baskets, chickens and pigs. When the truck stops, they help each other down and bow to PENG. KUEN HOP and BETH get out. PENG stays in the truck. PENG Kuen Hop will show you where you can stay tonight. In the morning we ask questions. KUEN HOP Okay! BETH Aren't you coming? PENG I have errands. Many miles to go before I sleep. He speaks in Chinese to KUEN HOP. KUEN HOP Okay! PENG By the way, I don't think anyone in Yulin - including Kuen Hop - speaks three words of English. KUEN HOP Okay! PENG Sleep well, Tigress.

INTERIOR. YULIN, CHINA. NIGHT. BETH is dreaming. She is back home in the Carson Valley, riding her motorcycle on the highway. She glances to the side and sees that her motorcycle has a sidecar with a shark mouth painted on its front. The sidecar's interior is a P40 cockpit. Now the sidecar is ablaze; black smoke billows out. BILLY is trapped in the sidecar. He looks at BETH, wordlessly, pleading for help. Explosions, crackling, rattling....

119 She wakes up on a straw pallet in a bare room. There is a rattling, and heavy footsteps outside. The door opens to the dark outline of PENG. PENG Sorry to wake you. American bombers raided Tokyo. One of them has crash landed north of here. BETH Tokyo? How? PENG They flew off of an aircraft carrier. I don't know any more. I have to find them before the Japanese. BETH I'll wait here. PENG No. Please understand. The Japanese will be like hornets whose nest has been stirred with a stick. The Emperor lives in Tokyo! You must go back. For now. BETH All right. PENG Kuen Hop will take care of you. I am sorry. He disappears. BETH flops back down on the bed in a deep funk.

EXTERIOR. YULIN, CHINA. DAY. Early morning on the main street. KUEN HOP is adding some fluids to the engine of the old diesel truck. BETH is helping a very pregnant woman up onto the back. She hears a familiar sound and looks for it in the sky. Her face shows curiosity, then alarm.

120 BETH Everybody down! She yanks the woman off the truck, throws her to the ground, and lies on top of her. An Oscar zooms low down the street, machine guns firing. The truck is hit and ignites. BETH rolls with the woman under a building overhang. The Oscar makes another pass, then flies away. When the sky is quiet, BETH jumps up and dashes to the truck. She finds KUEN HOP lifeless in the road, a rifle in one hand. Wounded villagers up and down the street moan and cry. BETH kneels beside one and starts to feel for the wound.

INTERIOR. CHINA: LOIWING AIRFIELD: READY ROOM. DAY. Several pilots are pacing around. ALDRICH Man, can you imagine the balls it takes to fly a B-25 off a carrier deck? ROLLINS Fucking Doolittle. Right over the Emperor's house! The phone rings. KNUDSEN answers and his smile evaporates. KNUDSEN Holy shit. We got bombers and fighters coming in from three different headings. ROLLINS Fucking Doolittle! They sprint out the door.

EXTERIOR. YULIN, CHINA. DAY. A Japanese patrol is advancing carefully down the main street. The officer at the head of the column shouts a command, and the patrol splits up into several teams. Each team goes into a building, then there are sounds of splintering wood and cries of protest.


INTERIOR. YULIN, CHINA. DAY. BETH is crouched in an attic. A Japanese soldier pokes his head in from below. She smacks him in the ear with a large wok. He plummets with a scream. BETH leaps from the opening and tries to run, but three soldiers tackle her.

INTERIOR. YULIN, CHINA. DAY. A Japanese soldier drags BETH into a shop which has been commandeered for a command post. Maps have been hastily pinned to the walls; there is a field telephone ringing. The soldier brings her to a colonel and roughly turns her loose. Several junior officers are paused in their duties to see this. COLONEL You speak English? BETH Yes. COLONEL Who are you? Why are you here? BETH I'm a nurse. A missionary. COLONEL (Quickly.) Which church? BETH (Just as quickly.) Episcopalian. COLONEL Really? When I was up at Oxford, I went to several Episcopalian services. Very pacifist, full of love for one's fellow man. Why did you smite Private Yakizawa with a pan, lovely Episcopalian?

122 BETH I was afraid. COLONEL Missionaries have nothing to fear from the Emperor. BETH I've heard otherwise. COLONEL Believe what you will. Where is your mission? BETH Here in Yulin. COLONEL Oh, come now, Miss - ? BETH Smith. Jane Smith. COLONEL Miss Smith, there is no mission in Yulin. There has never been one. Why are you lying? Is it because you are really here to assist the war criminals who murdered innocent civilians in Tokyo? BETH I don't know what you mean. COLONEL I think you do. We do not harm missionaries, but we do behead war criminals. And those who give them aid. BETH I have no idea what you are talking about. COLONEL Perhaps. In any case, it does not matter. My superiors will ask the same questions of you.

123 BETH At Wei-Shin? He loses his composure for an instant, then leans forward and speaks softly. COLONEL If I took you to Wei-Shin, even your Episcopalian God would do you no good. (He straightens and speaks loudly in Japanese.) You will be taken to Tokyo and executed as a war criminal. He takes BETH by the arm and pulls her out into the street. There he considers several passing soldiers, finally hailing one who looks very weary. COLONEL Private! When did you last sleep? PRIVATE Only two days ago, sir. COLONEL Then here is some light duty for you. Take this spy out of the town so she cannot observe our movements. Guard her until I call for her. PRIVATE Yes, sir! He prods BETH with his bayonet, and she moves along in front of him. The COLONEL watches them go. Nothing can be read on his face.

INTERIOR. YULIN, CHINA. DAY. It is stiflingly hot. BETH is sitting on the floor of a farmhouse on the outskirts of Yulin. The PRIVATE is slumped against a wall, nodding off. A jug and the remnants of a meal lie on the floor beside him. His rifle points down. BETH quietly rises and sneaks across the room. She kneels beside him and removes his canteen. She shakes it, satisfied, then goes to the door where she peeks out.

124 Seeing no threat, she slides out the door into a field and walks briskly away from the village.

EXTERIOR. LOIWING, CHINA. NIGHT. BETH fights against a tide of refugees fleeing with as much as they can haul. In the distance is the low thunder of heavy artillery. On the dark horizon, flashes.

EXTERIOR. CHINA: LOIWING AIRFIELD. NIGHT. BETH is near the operations building. Base personnel sprint by her. KNUDSEN runs by, then skids to a stop and comes back. He grabs her and gives her a hug. KNUDSEN Any luck? BETH No. KNUDSEN Christ, I'm sorry. BETH What's going on? KNUDSEN We're moving everything to the new base at Kunming. Japanese Army is just down the road and coming fast. They are not in a good mood. Grab your stuff and hop in a truck. BETH What about you?

125 KNUDSEN Flying out. Every plane that can get off the ground, doesn't matter how high. The rest we've got to torch. (He realizes something unpleasant.) Shit! KNUDSEN points off the side of the strip to a P40 lying on its belly: it is her plane, Frankenstein. BETH Oh, no! KNUDSEN Aldrich took some flak in the wing. Gear wouldn't come down; he had to bellyflop. BETH Can't we take him? KNUDSEN Prop's bent. One wing's loose. Aldrich blessed you for putting it together so well. It saved his life, staying in one piece like it did. BETH Poor Frankie. She sees a ground crewman lugging a gas can toward her plane. She races to intercept him and snatches the can away. BETH I'll take care of it. The crewman nods solemnly and dashes off. KNUDSEN Get on a truck! He hurries down the strip. BETH stands, swinging the can, surveying the bedlam on the field. She senses someone behind her and spins around. It is HENRY. She drops the can and tosses her arms around him.

126 BETH Daddy! You came! HENRY I had to. BETH Then you got my letter? HENRY Yes. Anything? BETH No. I went to look for him, Daddy, I did.... HENRY I know. BETH What changed your mind? HENRY I haven't changed my mind. I just wish I'd come sooner. Maybe his plane had something wrong with it. Maybe if I'd been here, I would have caught it. BETH I'm sorry, Daddy. I tried to take care of him. They hold each other tightly for a moment, then she turns away and picks up the gas can. BETH See that plane? I put it together. HENRY Nice work. BETH Now I've got to burn him up. BETH caresses the plane’s battered nose. She opens the gas can and liberally douses the fuselage.

127 BETH Goodbye, Frankenstein. Sleep well. She tosses a match, and the plane ignites with a fury that sucks air away, a momentary breeze. BETH and HENRY watch it burn. HENRY I should have bought you that horse. BETH What horse? HENRY You were eight years old. You came to me in the hangar and asked if you could have an airplane of your own. You started saving pennies in an old Mason jar in the kitchen. BETH You used to sneak your pennies into it. HENRY I should have bought you a horse right then. BETH I could never shoot a horse. A cluster of pops in the fire shoot out fiery chunks. BETH Look out! They forgot to take out the ammo belts! Laughing, they back away from the inferno as the ammunition crackles like strings of firecrackers.

EXTERIOR. CHINA: THE ROAD TO KUNMING. NIGHT. HENRY is driving a truck on a narrow, washboarded road. BETH is asleep, her head on his shoulder. The truck's headlights are blocked so that only slits emit their light. HENRY slows for trucks stopped ahead. One of the convoy has careened into a shallow ditch. The last of its cargo is

128 being transferred. HENRY spots BICKFORD and waves him over. BICKFORD comes and gets quietly into the cab. HENRY What happened? BICKFORD Broken axle. The trucks ahead begin to move. HENRY grinds the gears and lets out his clutch. BICKFORD How are you enjoying China so far? HENRY Just like France, without the wine. BICKFORD Enjoy it while you can. HENRY Are we in trouble? I though Kunming was completed. BICKFORD Oh, it is. It's a beautiful airfield. But so was Loiwing. HENRY We in that much trouble? BICKFORD The Chinese Army is on the run. Unless something changes soon, the Japanese will be in Kunming before we can hang pictures on the wall. The last natural obstacle in their way is the Salween River. He takes a well-worn map out of his breast pocket and shines a penlight on it. HENRY I hope it’s a tough crossing.

129 BICKFORD The Burma Road crosses the here. Both banks are nearly a solid, vertical rock. The road down to a small suspension

Brutal. Salween mile of zigzags bridge.

HENRY I'd hate to get caught there. BICKFORD You'd be naked. We haven't been able to get at the Japanese convoys from the air yet. The Burma Road is like a tunnel through jungle. HENRY No jungle in the Salween Gorge. BICKFORD None. And we have some more brand new Kittyhawks waiting at Kunming. They come with proper bomb racks. HENRY How many we got? BICKFORD Four. HENRY Four fighter-bombers against a whole Japanese battalion? BICKFORD It's what we have. HENRY What if it's not enough? BICKFORD Have you listened to the BBC lately? Hitler's on his way to Moscow. Rommel is kicking Montgomery's ass in Egypt. The Philippines are lost; India may follow. If we allow them to take the Burma Road as far as Kunming, the Chinese are out of business. We hold

130 the Japanese here, or they'll be in California before we know it.

EXTERIOR. CHINA: IN THE AIR. DAY. Eight P40s are cruising high above the earth. Four are new P40Es, heavily loaded with bombs: some under each wing and one fat one under the fuselage. The other four are battered P40Bs. A bank of storm clouds ahead extends left and right as far as the horizon. The P40s disappear into the cloudbank.

INTERIOR. ALDRICH'S COCKPIT. DAY. ALDRICH is being buffeted around inside the cloud. He can barely see to his wing tips. Suddenly another P40 appears to his right. They each swerve to avoid a collision. ALDRICH Hey! I'm flying here! The clouds thin away. ALDRICH finds the scattered P40s, and they close back into formation. Below, ALDRICH sees the Salween Gorge. A brilliant blue river winds between impossibly steep banks. On the west side, the crooked road is a continuous line of Japanese trucks, troop carriers, armored vehicles. The east bank is jammed with refugees interspersed with Chinese soldiers and light trucks, all inching uphill. At the river, a Japanese engineering company is assembling a pontoon bridge next to a partiallydestroyed suspension bridge.

EXTERIOR. CHINA: OVER THE SALWEEN GORGE. DAY. One by one, the P40Es fly through a hail of small arms fire and release their bombs against the rock face. The blasts trigger landslides which block the road. The P40Bs strafe the engineering company, leaving the trucks burning and the engineers dead. The eight planes reform high above, out of range of the enemy guns.

131 KNUDSEN (Over the radio.) Check out our side. On the east side, the Chinese soldiers are pouring fire into the trapped Japanese column.

EXTERIOR. CHINA: KUNMING AIRFIELD. DAY. LEGEND: KUNMING AIRFIELD, CHINA. It is the fourth day of the attack on the Salween Gorge. ROLLINS is sprawled out on a patch of grass, asleep. Nearby, his P40E is being reloaded with belts of machine gun and cannon ammunition and bombs. A crewman shakes ROLLINS. CREWMAN Lieutenant, your plane is armed. ROLLINS has a couple days of beard and looks unwashed. He glances at his watch. ROLLINS Forty minutes? You guys are getting too good. CREWMAN Should we let you sleep some more? It'll be about ten minutes. Lieutenant Aldrich's 'hawk needed a couple of new plugs. ROLLINS looks around at other P40s being fitted with bombs. There is a great pile of bombs stacked nearby in a sheltered area. ROLLINS Where the hell did we get all these bombs? I though we'd run out by now. CREWMAN Chinese carried them in. By hand. We've got enough for four more days.

132 ROLLINS (Unenthusiastically.) Great. He climbs into his plane.

EXTERIOR. CHINA: OVER THE SALWEEN GORGE. DAY. KNUDSEN is flying low over the western side. Every truck is burning or is burnt out. There is no movement among them. He climbs out of the chasm without firing a shot. KNUDSEN Kunming, tell the Man that there are no more targets in the Gorge.

INTERIOR. CHINA: KUNMING AIRFIELD: A HANGAR. DAY. Mechanics are laboring on a P40. They look like hell rumpled, red-eyed, greasy, yawning. BICKFORD comes in. BICKFORD It's over. HENRY For how long? BICKFORD Don't know, but it'll be a while before they brave the Salween again. Everybody's off duty, as of now. The mechanics groan in relief, tossing down their tools and sinking to the floor.

INTERIOR. CHINA: KUNMING AIRFIELD: MESS HALL. NIGHT. BETH enters in dirty coveralls, her hair in disarray, a grease streak on her cheek. She pours a cup of coffee. At a table, KNUDSEN and McCARTHY are talking loudly.

133 MCCARTHY I got my copy out the other day just to make sure I wasn't dreaming. It still says July 4, 1942, the one year deal is over, done, kaput. Then I am a civilian, and there is nothing that Chennault or Vinegar Joe Stilwell or Franklin Roosevelt himself can do about it. BETH Army enlistment board here again? MCCARTHY Those sorry bastards flew in today. They can't take a hint. BETH But Lieutenant, I heard they offered you all commissions as majors. KNUDSEN Yeah - no leaves, no furloughs, nothing but more of the same for the duration. MCCARTHY Listen to this. (He reads from a piece of paper which was lying on the table.) From FDR's desk: Blah blah blah outstanding gallantry and daring blah blah blah new airplanes for the TwentyThird Fighter Group KNUDSEN That's our new name. BETH How can they give you a group number? You're all civilians, technically. KNUDSEN They can do anything they want.

134 MCCARTHY They can rename us the Goddamn Joy Boys of Radio if they want. I'm going home! KNUDSEN Read her the good part. MCCARTHY Leaves of absence should be given to A. V. G. veterans just as soon as replacements have absorbed your experience, training, and tradition for rest and recuperation. It is planned that when replacements are adequately trained selected A. V. G. veterans will be be recalled to the States or other theaters of operations to impart their combat experience and training to personnel in newly formed units. KNUDSEN Or other theaters of operations? Can you believe that bullshit! Once we accept commissions, we go where they tell us to go. MCCARTHY Screw them. Come the Fourth of July, I'm out of here like a skyrocket. BETH I heard a nasty rumor from a CNAC pilot. KNUDSEN Which is? BETH Once you are civilians, Chennault doesn't have to let you on his planes anymore. KNUDSEN Shit. He wouldn't.

135 MCCARTHY It'd take us months to get home without military transport. KNUDSEN I don't care. I want to see my Mom and Dad. MCCARTHY: I want a big hamburger with shoestring fries and a malted. KNUDSEN Fucking Army. Why do they fuck up everything they fucking touch?

EXTERIOR. CHINA: KUNMING AIRFIELD. DAY. Late in the afternoon of July 4th. Two P40s land out of the setting sun and taxi to a stop near where BETH stands alone. KNUDSEN and ALDRICH climb out of their planes. KNUDSEN Everyone else back? BETH You're it. The last patrol of the American Volunteer Group. The party's already started.

INTERIOR. CHINA: KUNMING AIRFIELD: MESS HALL. NIGHT. Everyone is there, drinking punch being dipped from a steel pot. BETH, KNUDSEN, and ALDRICH enter. Someone hands BETH a cup. She tastes it, makes a face, and drinks the whole thing in one gulp. BETH Mario! Gin? VOLPE Pre-war!

136 KNUDSEN grabs a cup and hops onto a table. He raises his drink. KNUDSEN Gentlemen? To the American Volunteer Group. The assembled hurrah and drink the toast. As they are lowering their cups, CHENNAULT comes into the room. There is silence; all eyes are on him. He climbs up beside KNUDSEN. CHENNAULT In one short year, you have done the impossible. Outnumbered by an experienced and well-equipped enemy, you met him in the air and defeated him soundly. You have single-handedly ensured the continued survival of a free and fighting China. The feats you have performed this past year and the proud name you have made for yourselves will never be forgotten as long as men take to the sky to defend their freedoms. I have no other compliment for you other than to say now and forever that you are the finest group of fighting airmen ever assembled. After an instant of quiet, they cheer wildly. CHENNAULT climbs down and shakes hands all around. When he gets to BETH, he takes her hand and pulls her aside them the party resumes. A phonograph is cranked up; dancing breaks out. CHENNAULT You'll be leaving? BETH Should I? CHENNAULT This will be a regular Army unit. BETH No girl mechanics, you mean.

137 CHENNAULT No. BETH It's just not fair! I can fight as well as anyone. CHENNAULT Yes, I believe you can. I heard from a friend in the States that the Army Air Corps will form a Women's Air Corps. BETH Pilots? CHENNAULT Ferry pilots. BETH Well.... CHENNAULT You would get to fly every type of plane the Army owns. BETH Who's your friend? CHENNAULT I'll give you a letter of introduction. BETH Thank you. CHENNAULT No, I must thank you. The men saw you in the hangar day and night. They also knew you were there for them in the hospital. None of them dared to give less than his best next to that. He shakes her hand and marches out the door.

138 EXTERIOR. CHINA: KUNMING AIRFIELD. DAY. A CNAC C47 is warming up on the runway, loading passengers: pilots and crew who are departing for home. BETH and HENRY hold hands. BETH You just got here, and I have to leave. HENRY I'll be here until we win this thing. Then I promise I'll go straight to the POW camps and bring him home. We'll probably have to fatten him up after a diet of rice and fish heads. He must hate that. BETH gives HENRY a kiss and runs up the steps, turning at the top to wave. A CNAC crewman closes the door. The C47 begins to move.

INTERIOR. CHINA: IN THE AIR. DAY. In the C47, BETH is looking out a window at mountains. ROLLINS is sitting beside her. Close by are ALDRICH, HONIG, and VOLPE. BETH turns and takes an inventory of the passengers. BETH: Where's Manny? ROLLINS He volunteered to stay on with the old man for a couple of weeks to get the new pilots squared. BETH McCarthy? ROLLINS Him too. BETH smiles. The CNAC pilot comes down the aisle.

139 PILOT Miss Pace? Would you like to come up front and sit in the left hand seat for a while? Leo Cunningham was a good friend of mine. BETH I'd love to. She gets up and squeezes past ROLLINS. BETH Better fasten your seat belts, boys.

INTERIOR. CARSON VALLEY: THE PACE HOUSE. DAY. The front door stands wide open. Baggage lies strewn just inside. BETH moves slowly around the front room, picking up for a closer look each of the many pictures of her and her brother.

EXTERIOR. CARSON VALLEY. DAY. BETH is flying her brother's plane over the Valley. After a while, she spots the blackened patch of desert which marks Maxine's crash. BETH takes the jade lion out of a pocket. She holds it tightly in a fist for a moment, then drops it out of the canopy's side opening. Pulling back into a hard 180 degree turn, she heads for home.

EXTERIOR. AN ARMY AIRFIELD. DAY. BETH is in a new uniform, basic khaki identical to the dozen or so other young women standing in a loose group near a two-seat biplane. A male lieutenant who must be even younger than they, is walking around the trainer pointing out its attributes.

140 LIEUTENANT This is the port side flap! This is the port wing root! This is the port landing strut! BETH starts to giggle, struggling to keep silent, but it spreads through the ranks.

EXTERIOR. IN THE AIR. DAY. BETH is flying one of four P51 Mustangs in perfect formation on a clear, bright summer day. BETH now wears the bars of a lieutenant on her uniform blouse. She becomes excited by the sight of two planes far below. BETH Tally ho! She pivots the Mustang up onto one wing and dives. FIRST WOMAN (Over the radio.) Beth! SECOND WOMAN (Over the radio.) Not again. BETH latches onto the tail of an unsuspecting P36. The pilot becomes aware of the Mustang only a few feet behind his tail. He rolls away; BETH stays right on him.

INTERIOR. ARMY AIRFIELD: BASE COMMANDER'S OFFICE. DAY. The commanding general is standing by a window, seething mad, looking out over the field. There is a knock at the door. GENERAL Enter! BETH marches in, her flight suit disheveled from a long time in the cockpit, her cap under her arm.

141 BETH Lieutenant Elizabeth Pace, sir! GENERAL God damn it, girl! What the hell were you doing up there? BETH I thought the men would appreciate a demonstration of the turning radius of the P51, sir. GENERAL Bullshit you did! If you new girls want to keep flying under my command, you'd better keep them straight and level. Those planes are damn expensive. Do I make myself clear? BETH Yes, sir. A clerk brings in a folder and hands it to the general. He leafs through it. GENERAL You've got a clean jacket so far, Lieutenant. There...there's been one hell of a screw up somewhere. (He chortles.) This gives you two kills. BETH Yes, sir. China. With the AVG. GENERAL What? BETH I went over in ‘41 as a nurses aide. I helped out with maintenance. Flew a bit. Astounded, the GENERAL plops down in his chair. GENERAL But...two?

142 BETH Tonys, sir. The base was attacked one morning rather unexpectedly. GENERAL Sit down, Pace. Tell me about the Tony. You were in a P40E? BETH sits down, backbone rigid, butt barely on the chair. BETH It was a B, sir. GENERAL My God. An old B. How on earth...

INTERIOR. OVER THE ATLANTIC. NIGHT. BETH is in the pilot's seat of a B17, now with captain's insignia on her jacket. She is reading a letter while the copilot, a young WAAC lieutenant, flies the bomber in a light chop. The full moon is visible in glimpses through the patchy cloud cover, and it reflects off the ocean far below. The navigator, another young woman, pops her head into the cockpit. NAVIGATOR We just passed the halfway point. We'll be in Scotland on time. COPILOT How are things in China? BETH Hot. The Japanese captured the big field at Kwielin. The Fourteenth is operating from several smaller airstrips. The larger villages there will go out and build a three thousand foot gravel strip, perfect drainage, flat as a table, all by hand. Just on the off chance that Chennault might do them the honor of stationing some planes there.

143 COPILOT Any word The navigator abruptly ducks back out of the cockpit. BETH No. She turns and looks out at the moon for a while, then unbuckles. BETH I'm going aft for coffee. After BETH is gone, the COPILOT strikes her forehead with an open hand. COPILOT Stupid!

INTERIOR. IN THE AIR. DAY. BETH is fighting the controls of a P42 as it is slammed around in of a black, turbulent storm cloud. BETH Patterson, this is Army four seven one charlie. Do you read? There is noise in reply, something garbled. BETH Say again, Patterson? This is Army four seven one charlie. The noise comes again, now like whoops and screams. BETH Patterson tower, I can't make you out! Suddenly the transmission is clear. RADIO So sorry, Army! Listen to this - here it comes again.

144 RADIO (A new voice, distant and tinny, with an English accent.) ...BBC flash...total and unconditional surrender of all Japanese forces to the Allies effective twelve hundred hours Greenwich time. The Emperor himself broadcast an appeal over Japanese radio, declaring that the war was lost... BETH breaks out of the clouds over the base. She can see people running around aimlessly, leaping into each others arms, forming spontaneous conga lines. She lets out a yodel and buzzes the strip, pulling up feet shy of the control tower. As she zips by, she sees inside the tower: no one is paying any attention to her. They are dancing. She climbs high above the base and barrelrolls the P42 until she is dizzy.

EXTERIOR. CARSON VALLEY AIRPORT. DAY. BETH gets off. They is waiting in a car by the strip as a DC3 lands. She out and walks to the plane, where HENRY is climbing It is clear that no one else is getting off the plane. embrace as the door closes.

INTERIOR. FLORIDA: GENERAL PACE'S HOUSE. DAY. Return to the present as it was left: BETH is talking. The REPORTER writes in his notebook. The PHOTOGRAPHER has put down her camera and is listening. BETH I returned to China several times following leads, wild stories and rumors, interviewing refugees, until the Communists won the civil war, and we were no longer welcome. General Chennault passed away in 1958. Father died in 1975. And now everyone is accounted for.


INTERIOR. CHINA: CANTON INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT. DAY. BETH and ARTHUR have disembarked from an Air Nippon airliner into a modern, bustling terminal. Travelers jostle them; announcements in Chinese crackle over hidden speakers. Two men are waiting for them: CAPTAIN BENJAMIN COATES, a military attache who is wearing a civilian suit, and MAJOR SHIN LEONG, who has on a uniform with pilot's wings on the breast. COATES General Pace? I'm Captain Benjamin Coates, air attache from the Embassy. This is Major Shin Leong, of the People's Republic Air Force. BETH shakes hands with them and speaks a few words in Chinese to the major, who bows deeply. LEONG Your Mandarin is excellent, General. BETH Thank you, Major. It's a bit rusty these days. Gentlemen, this is my husband, Arthur Sergeant. COATES We have a car waiting.

INTERIOR. CHINA: OUTSIDE CANTON. DAY. LEONG is driving a large four wheel drive truck. BETH is in front, COATES and ARTHUR in the back. ARTHUR has his camera to his eye, waiting for a good shot of the verdant terraced fields layered on the high, smooth hills they are climbing. LEONG General, they tell me that you were in a combat unit here during the great conflict. The so-called Flying Tigers.

146 BETH I was never officially in combat. I was a nurses aide. COATES That isn't the story I got at the Academy, General. I heard you had two kills. LEONG I admit that I had a hard time believing it. BETH It's true. LEONG Now that I have met you, I find the tale more plausible. ARTHUR She has that effect. BETH Major, are the Tigers in your military history? LEONG Yes. In basic training we learned about the American Volunteer Group. A band of mercenaries who deserted their country to fight for money. They were the hired thugs of the decadent Generalissimo Kai-shek, who used them for political objectives. BETH And you believe that? LEONG I also know that the Flying Tigers destroyed over three hundred Japanese aircraft while losing only four pilots. I am a fighter pilot. I appreciate the enormity of those numbers.

147 BETH They were neither traitors nor mercenaries. They were scared, cocky, talented young men. Barely more than kids. Each one of them was convinced that he was the best dogfighting pilot there ever was. LEONG Teachings change. BETH Well, when it's your turn to lecture military history, Major, perhaps you will consider that the Flying Tigers kept China in the war with a handful of antiquated, patched-up P40s. You should put a statue of Claire Lee Chennault next to Mao's, because it was Chennault who saved your butts in 1942. LEONG They also told me that you were once called Mu Lao Hu. I believe that now too. Ah - there it is. He comes to a stop in front of a battered shack standing next to a couple of ancient outbuildings. An old man is waiting for them.

INTERIOR. CHINA: OUTSIDE CANTON. DAY. Inside the old man's simple house, he is talking. LEONG translates. LEONG He found the American in his barn, badly wounded, very bloody. He and his wife did what they could, but he soon died. He glances at BETH, who is holding herself with great dignity and reserve.

148 LEONG The Japanese had patrols everywhere. He was afraid that they would find the man's body in his house. He had four small children. They cremated the body and prayed for the spirit. The old man goes blue ceramic urn Both are stained BETH the urn and to a niche in the wall and brings back a and a compact bundle wrapped in red silk. from a long burial in the earth. He hands whispers something.

LEONG He says he is very sorry. BETH Tell him that I know he did everything which could have been done. I thank him with all my heart for that and for this gift. LEONG He says that there were some things which he did not put in the fire. The old man gives BETH the red silk bundle. Inside she finds a cracked leather wallet and her watch. She winds the watch and holds it to her ear. It still runs; the ticking is loud in the still house. She opens the wallet. It contains flimsy Chinese paper money, a small map, a few papers. Jutting out is a photograph. She pulls this out it is a picture of her, taken in front of her yellow biplane. In the picture she is beaming with pride. BETH turns it over and sees writing on the back, in a shaky hand: Dear Beth, I love you. Take care of Father. Your brother, Billy. She stifles a sob. ARTHUR takes her hand. BETH Please tell him that he has made my life whole. LEONG translates this. The old man bursts into tears.

149 EXTERIOR. CARSON VALLEY: A CEMETERY. DAY. BETH and ARTHUR have parked their car under a small sign: CARSON VALLEY MUNICIPAL CEMETERY. BETH stands on a square of green lawn. The stone reads: Margaret Bloome Pace, Loving Wife and Mother, 1895-1931 and Henry Francis Pace, Devoted Husband and Father, 1892-1975. She holds a gardening spade. After pulling on a pair of gloves, she kneels down and turns back a flap of sod over her father's grave. ARTHUR hands her the blue urn. She removes a scoop of ashes and spreads them under the flap. She repeats the process on her mother's grave. Satisfied, she stands and peels off her gloves. BETH I've got an old friend to visit.

INTERIOR. CARSON VALLEY AIRPORT: A HANGAR. DAY. BETH enters a brightly-lit hangar. It is clean and wellorganized. Several small planes are under repair. In a back corner is her yellow biplane, apparently still in pristine condition. It looks no different than the last time she saw it. A mechanic comes up to her. MECHANIC You must be General Pace? BETH Yes, I am. MECHANIC Mr. Taylor called and gave his okay. She's gassed and ready to go Can I give you a ground checkout? BETH No, thank you. I know that plane.

EXTERIOR. OVER THE CARSON VALLEY. DAY. BETH is flying the yellow biplane. She has put on goggles and a scarf. The only modern trapping visible is a tiny microphone suspended near her mouth. She scans the ground,

150 then she spots it. Barely visible now in the sandy arid soil, just outside of an encroaching housing development and what looks like a mall under construction is the dark flower-shaped patch, the Pruitt crash site. She pours the rest of the urn over the side. On her wrist is her old watch. She circles in silence, head cocked as though listening for a faint sound, then snap rolls out of the circle and climbs for the sun.

EXTERIOR. CHINA: IN THE COUNTRYSIDE. DAY. LEGEND: CHINA, 1967. Two young Chinese men in Red Guard uniforms are walking briskly along a country lane. The first is bold, impatient, half a stride ahead. He has just arrived; his clothes are clean and pressed, and he carries a traveling bundle. The second looks harassed. He struggles to keep up as he pauses to check a pocketwatch every few seconds and eye the sky nervously. FIRST MAN The regional People's Revolutionary Council is most displeased with these wild tales. It reeks of decadent superstition. SECOND MAN I said exactly the same, until I saw FIRST MAN Saw what? A hallucination! Perhaps you need more self criticism. The SECOND opens his mouth, thinks better of it and remains silent. They approach a farm: two shabby barns, sties crammed with grunting pigs, three dirty huts. Two dozen or so men are working. Mostly older than the two Red Guards, they are doctors, professors, professionals, and graduate students being reeducated through manual labor. The FIRST MAN carefully enters a sty where an OLDER MAN is up to his calves in the muck which he is shoveling into a wooden cart.

151 FIRST MAN You! You were a teacher of history. You explain to me what is going on here! The OLDER MAN stops working and leans wearily on his shovel. The other laborers manage to slowly drift closer while they halfheartedly sweep, hoe, or shovel. OLDER MAN The local people call it a barracuda. They say it hunts for its lost love in the great sea. He makes a broad motion above his head, indicating the sky. FIRST MAN Barracuda? I doubt that anyone in this area has ever even seen the ocean, much less a barracuda! What kind of idiot do you think I am? OLDER MAN I'm sorry. I don't know. FIRST MAN What? Are you mocking me? OLDER MAN What do you want from me? When we first saw it, we were as terrified as children. We are city people and not used to visions. We cried and ran. FIRST MAN And what do you think you saw? OLDER MAN What they have always seen. The barracuda. FIRST MAN I am telling you that you must not understand their dialect! You cannot see such a thing! I demand A noise in the sky makes them all look up. Out of nowhere, it seems, a P40 is upon them, only yards away, the red-andblack shark's mouth looking like it is about to devour

152 them. All but one are transfixed. The FIRST MAN staggers back, and the slimy footing gives way. As the plane thunders deafeningly overhead, he splashes into the black soupy mud. The specter climbs effortlessly, straight up into the sun, until it disappears from their sight in its brilliant glare. The deep pulsing throb fades to a whisper, then silence.