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Pensacola Encounter

Artist impression of US F2As approaching Atlantia's airfleet.

The Pensacola encounters, better known as the Florida Foo Fight as reported by the press and the Arrival of Atlantia by the Colonials; were a series of operations undertaken by US Naval Operations to identify and track unidentifed, suspicious contacts appearing from the Gulf of Mexico and moving west. They were conducted almost exclusively by naval fighter flights and Colonial Vipers, involving a series of shoot downs while an attempt to pinpoint and shadow the Atlantia was made. The result was an alarmed Washington and led to the immediate reposturing of available American Air Power in the South and West.

ActionsEdit

The Colonial Air Carrier Atlantia, with Admiral Nagala commanding arrived in the Gulf of Mexico with a host of civilian ships in tow or appearing nearby that were disoriented by their sudden transportation. By 0427, three quarters of an hour after arriving, Nagala had begun open wireless broadcasts and launching Viper flights to seek out and lead Colonial aircraft together where they could be further organised and supported by the military carrier. Drifting west, a Viper flight saw land and reported ground lights: Pensacola.

At 0651 wireless contact was made with the Justicia, that had appeared over Mexico, and the Pacifica in northern California. Both reported they'd arrived some ten hours earliar and had been avoiding contact with populations on the ground while searching out civilian craft. At this point Chevaliar Field was preparing a flight of F2As to search for a 'queer mail plane' that had landed lost and who's pilot talked gibberish before insisting on leaving and flying out to sea.

At 0710 the colonial passenger plane Olympic Carrier reached Atlantia's assembling air fleet and reported it had landed and made contact with locals "who looked just like us but are alien in so many ways they might as well be from the moons!", what they did bring with them were a case of maps they'd purchased and borrowed from perplexed county officials and locals that allowed Nagala to establish his location and that of his two other 'nearby' Air Carriers and plot a course that would have them meet. He transmitted his plans and began moving his 'rag-tag' fleet north west as quickly as he could.

Naval Aviation F2As encounter the air cargo hauler Mover 341 at 0755 and attempt to radio, the panicky cargo captain uses his wireless to say he's being 'attacked'. A flight of Vipers vector in with Nagala's orders to engage then lead the hauler back to Atlantia.

At 0811 Ensign L Jenkins spots new contacts climbing from sea level, he is the first US Airman to see Vipers, these seven are led by the famed Colonial ace "Boomer". Jenkins interprets their sharp angled climb and cargo haulers turn towards it as an offensive action and dives without orders from his Flight lead. He is shot on the climb by "Boomer" who continues the manouevre through the scattering F2A flight; the American fighters climb with and open fire but do no damage trying to follow. All are shot down. A relief flight has already left Pensacola by this time.

Between 0902 and 1141 as the Atlantia group makes landfall, a twenty mile procession, US Navy flights attempt to move in and assess the number of newly arrived planes and airships. F2As are called on exclusively for the task; armed and with orders to protect themselves after no response from the first flight they sent out. American Naval Aviators report harrying encounters with 'foo fighters', a nonsense word to describe the out-of-this-world configuration of the Vipers. Three Navy fighters are damaged and two downed with a claim of one damaged and two shot down Colonial Vipers. Atlantia's proto-'DRADIS', radar, allows more efficient interception by Viper flights. Pensacola begins to organise as large a scale intercept as it can. Nagala requests Justicia to provide a supporting Viper flight as that ship reports no immediate air opposition while it crosses into Texas.

By 1223 some twenty one US Navy fighters are in the air, the US Army Air Corps has not been contacted to provide assistance by Chevalier Field, and the force heads along the coast in the hope of catching whatever is responsible for the loss of their other fighters. Flying at sea level they manage to avoid detection by Atlantia and approach from the right trailing tail of the formation, climbing into startled civilian plane clusters. Again the Navy fighters try to establish radio contact, Vipers are hurriedly vectored towards them. At 1257 Naval fighters are duelling Vipers among tightly packed civilian flights and the F2As report greater success against the larger "bombers" and "zooming foo fighters". Low fuel forces most US fighters to break off some four minutes after attacking and in their dive to the sea the majority of the raiding party are shot down.

AftermathEdit

Nagala thereafter orders the shooting on sight of "star-fighters", referring to the roundels sported by US planes and the tightenning up of the fleet. He decides to order Justicia, Pacifica and his own Atlantia to meet the Galactica- just arrived near his rendezvous point- and to set down troops and prepare emergency airstrips for immediate Viper operations and the landing of civilian planes. Thus picking the focal point for Colonial activity during the arrival. Justicia, a troop ship, will arrive first and set about the task with Galactica's own wing having scouted much of the nearby area.

US-Colonial relations get off on the wrong foot with Washington cabled reports of an "air invasion" and "running battles up and down the Gulf" to add to further news out of California and Texas. The Army and Navy are ordered to concentrate as much fighting and pursuit squadrons as they can in the area. Some 30 F2As are shot down or damaged, seven Colonial planes are shot down and two Vipers suffer damage. Nagala is cautious, and despite the desire of his CAG, does not release his Viper squadrons to 'offensively sweep' the land they fly over.

Within days of the incident Pensacola has two new fighting squadrons stationed there, though navy flights are mostly moving to strips in Texas to stay within range of the Colonials. Naval fighter strength is dealt a significant blow and Grumman is asked to assemble fighters along with Brewster to increase numbers- while caution is advised by Navy Commanders upon sighting 'the enemy'.

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