The crew is stationed in Kahuku, Hawaii, and Louie and Phil spend their days drinking, wrestling, and decorating their barracks with nudepinups, calling it the "pornographic palace" (2.7.3).
Moznette, the copilot, is transferred and replaced by Charleton Hugh Cuppernell, a "jovial ex-football player" (2.7.4).
Everyone is pretty much a badass at training. Their accuracy rate is three times the squadron average.
When they're not kicking butt, they're playing pranks on each other, like clogging up the "piss pipe" (2.7.10) with chewing gum or attacking one another with fire extinguishers.
Three days before Christmas, they get their first dive bombing mission. They're headed for Midway, and from there ordered to bomb a Japanese base on Wake Atoll that night. It would take sixteen hours, "the longest combat flight the war had yet seen" (2.7.18).
In honor of his friend Payton Jordan, who just wed, Louie writes "Maggie and Payton Jordan" on a bomb, because what is a better wedding gift than the explosive death of hundreds of people?
They bomb Wake, not knowing that there are ninety-eight American POWs on the base.
The mission is a success and, surprisingly, all the American captives survive.
Louie and his crew feel pretty cocky, thinking that the war will be over soon.