INT. - WWII AIR FORCE C-46 COMMANDO TRANSPORT AIRCRAFTCOCKPIT - DAYThe crew is flying a treacherous supply mission through theHimalayan Mountains known as The Hump. On the tail wing, wesee the aircraft number 7342.At the controls are the pilot, CAPTAIN ROSS “Boots” McCABE,and his copilot, LT. ADAM GATES. They are assisted by crewchief, STAFF SERGEANT SAM “Westee” WESTBROOK, and cargoloader, AIRMAN FIRST CLASS EADES WILLIAMS.Visibility is near zero with a heavy chop and theirmountainous course takes them out of radio and radar contact.They are on their own.Captain McCabe (mid-30s) checks the instrument panel andpulls back on the controls to keep the plane level. He isdark haired, dark eyed and squarely built. An experiencedpilot, this self-assured cowboy has no fear.Lt. Gates (mid-20s) is a relative newcomer to flying The Humphaving only flown the route a few times before today. He isfair skinned, blonde hair and blue eyed. This “All-American”guy is out to prove to himself and others he’s more than justa pretty face.CAPTAIN MCCABEAnother wonderful day in theneighborhood. I swear to God, oneof these days...shit....Captain McCabe and Lt. Gates pull back hard on theircontrols. The rosary beads draped over Lt. Gates’ controlsare shaking wildly. Captain McCabe looks over at the rosarybeads and shakes his head.CAPTAIN MCCABE (CONT’D)(to Gates)You think you could get the GoodLord to do something about thisweather??? I’ve flown this moretimes than I care to remember, butthis is right up there.Captain McCabe reaches into his pocket and pulls out apackage of chewing tobacco. He reaches in, grabs a wad andstuffs a mess of chew into his right cheek.LT. GATESNot to worry sir. We may be in aflying coffin, but we’re flying oneagles wings today.
Lt. Gates reaches down and strokes his rosary beads.CAPTAIN MCCABEHow many times you flown The HumpLieutenant?Captain McCabe expels his tobacco juice on the deck. Lt.Gates catches sight of the brown pool of goo and just barelycontrols his gag reflex. After a moment, he regains hiscomposure.LT. GATESA few sir. A few. Been out offlight school two months.Lt. Gates shifts in his seat and clears his throat.CAPTAIN MCCABE(sarcastically, to Gates)That a fact??(to Sgt. Westbrook andAirman Williams stationedin the cargo hold)Fellas, you here that!(chuckling to himself)I feel better already.Suddenly the plane hits an air pocket and drops altitude.BOOM. 5,000 feet in seconds....Every square inch of the plane is shaking. BOOM.It’s like being in the middle of an earthquake 25,000 feet inthe air.Captain McCabe and Lt. Gates pull hard on their controls tostabilize the plane. Captain McCabe’s legs are pressing hardon the rudder control. Both men are exerting everythingthey’ve got to hold the plane’s nose.They finally get the plane leveled off.Lt. Gates notices that Captain McCabe is wearing monogrammedcowboy boots with a Texas flag emblem on them.LT. GATESCaptain, I know that we haven’tflown together before, but I justwant you to know...CAPTAIN MCCABEThat we’re in God’s handsLieutenant??2.(MORE)
Ohhh...I almost forgot...we’reflying on eagle’s wings right??Westee! Williams! Give me a sitrep!Sgt. Westbrook (20s), spectacled, red haired and paunchy,along with Airman Williams (20s), dark haired, lean and wiryare in the cargo hold. It is filled with hay, bags of oatsand several draft animals - mainly horses and donkeys. Bothmen have the unenviable job of keeping the animals as calm aspossible during the flight.SGT. WESTBROOKWell...no one’s taken a crap on thedeck yet sir.The plane hits some more turbulence. Lt. Gates tightens hisseat belt and takes a deep breath. BOOM.Sgt. Westbrook strokes one of the horse’s manes. AirmanWilliams grabs a couple of lead lines to try hold the animalssteady.The plane continues to spasm.AIRMAN WILLIAMSThese guys are getting antsy sir.How far out are we?Captain McCabe checks his watch and spits out some more browngoo.CAPTAIN MCCABERough guess. Half way home.LT. GATESSir. Uhhh...I couldn’t help butnotice your...CAPTAIN MCCABEOh! You like these babies.Captain McCabe flashes Lt. Gates one of his cowboy boots.CAPTAIN MCCABE (CONT’D)Definitely not Air Force issue. Andthey are lucky as hell.LT. GATESWhat part of Texas are you fromCaptain?3.CAPTAIN MCCABE (CONTD)
CAPTAIN MCCABENone. I flew the DC-3 for Pan-Ambefore the war. That’s how I gotroped into this. This “flyingcoffin” is basically the same planewithout the seats or stewardesses.Goddamn I love stewardesses.Something special about a woman inuniform. Anyways, I had a layoverin Amarillo. Met a boot maker overa few shots of tequila. She made methe pair so I’d never forget her.Nicknamed me “boots” too. Got a lotof good miles on these babies.BOOM! The bottom drops out again. Feels like 5,000 feet arelost in five seconds. They are in a dive.Lt. Gates looks out his window to check his wing and seesthat it has iced up.LT. GATESSir. Check your wing.Captain McCabe looks out his window to get a visual on hiswing.CAPTAIN MCCABESon of a!!...Mother of God. I tellyou what...they didn’t make theseplanes worth a flying shit!!Westee! Williams! Our wings arefrozen like popsicles! Secureeverything you can.BOOM!Another swallowing altitude drop. Clouds are racing acrossthe plane’s windows.Sgt. Westbrook and AIRMAN WILLIAMS scramble to tie the cargodown and control the animals. The horses and donkeys arescared and crying.BOOM!The earth is getting closer and closer.Captain McCabe and Lt. Gates pull with everything they’ve goton their controls to maneuver the plane out of its dive.CAPTAIN MCCABE (CONT’D)Ever jumped out of a planeLieutenant?4.
LT. GATESA few times in boot camp sir.CAPTAIN MCCABEWestee! Williams! We can’t keepthis hunk of shit level forever.Time to get the hell out.Sgt. Westbrook and Airman Williams strap on their parachutesand open the cargo door.WHOOSH! The wind almost knocks them over.Hay and animal feed spray everywhere. The animals are in apanic.The turbulence is shaking the plane around like a pinball.CAPTAIN MCCABE (CONT’D)Jump dammit! This isn’t a dressrehearsal. Get going!SGT. WESTBROOKSee you on the ground Boots!Sgt. Westbrook and Airman Williams jump and are rocketed outinto the sky. We see their parachutes open.The mountains and the ground continue to get closer andcloser. An altitude warning alarm begins to go off.LT. GATESYou can’t keep this thing level byyourself!CAPTAIN MCCABEGet your ass up!Lt. Gates removes his seat belt and heads to the cargo door.He remembers his rosary and turns to go back and get it.CAPTAIN MCCABE (CONT’D)Here!Captain McCabe hands Lt. Gates the rosary. He wraps it aroundhis wrist and gives it a good luck kiss.LT. GATESSee you on the other side!Lt. Gates fights the rushing wind and the tornado of hay andhorse feed to maneuver himself to the cargo door.5.
He pauses and looks at Captain McCabe again, then jumps. Hisparachute is seen opening.Captain McCabe strains to keep his control steady as heunbuckles his seat belt. He closes his eyes, takes threequick breaths, jumps up and bolts for the cargo door.He slips and falls down.CAPTAIN MCCABEDamn boots!!!He struggles against the wind to his feet and staggers to thecargo door.CAPTAIN MCCABE (CONT’D)Flying coffin! My ass.He jumps. We see his parachute open.EXT. - UNIVERSITY OF KANSAS CAMPUS - DAYSUPER ON SCREEN - University of Kansas, 1942A pair of men’s black leather shoes move along campus througha quad. Students are playing football, studying togetherunder trees, picnicking, etc. As the shoes keep movingalong, the sound of marching and the “hut two, threefour...hut, two, three, four” to keep the cadence becomeslouder and louder. The black leather shoes stop in theirtracks.We pan up from the black leather shoes to see the face ofDexter Ebertz (40s). He is spectacled and professorial, butalso well-built from a life hunting and outdoor adventuring.Dexter watches the parade of campus ROTC members approach.He bows his head, turns and heads back the other direction.INT. - COLLEGE CLASSROOM - DAYDexter stands at the head of a large lecture hall behind aformidable wooden desk. His lecture notes are spread out infront of him.The first several rows are scattered with students, many ofwhom are weaving in and out of paying attention to Dexter.The rest of the class is seated randomly throughout theremaining seats of the auditorium. There are a few sidebarconversations taking place in the very back of the room,which are echoing throughout the entire auditorium.6.
Dexter thumps his desk several times to get the attention ofthe students.DEXTER EBERTZAttention people. Final exam thisFriday, so please, be prepared thistime.He pauses to stress his point before he packs his leathersatchel with items from his desk.A bell rings.DEXTER EBERTZ (CONT’D)Alright, class dismissed. Ifanyone needs additional help, feelfree to stop by during regularoffice hours.The students begin filing out of the room. Dexter continuesspeaking without looking up from his packing.DEXTER EBERTZ (CONT’D)And just to be clear, regularoffice hours are those hours Ispend in my office and not thehours I spend at my home...Mr.Connors.A student sitting in the front row, CONNORS (19), looks upfrom packing with surprise. Casually dressed in an oxfordand jeans with a mess of dark bangs hovering over dark eyes,he has an endearing sincerity accentuated with a youthfulawkwardness and self-consciousness.CONNORSUhhh, yes sir.DEXTER EBERTZMmmmm, hmmmm.Dexter begins walking down a busy hallway towards his office.Connors is following behind keeping a safe distance, yetclose enough to engage Dexter.CONNORSSir...sir...I know you are a verybusy man...especially with finalscoming up and all, but I waswondering....7.
DEXTER EBERTZWondering about what? Maybe thebest way to ask my permission totake my oldest daughter out on adate Mr. Connors?CONNORS(surprised, nervous)Sir...how did you... I mean I...DEXTER EBERTZMr. Connors, if you spent half asmuch time focusing on my class asyou did daydreaming about mydaughter, you might actually beable to pass it.CONNORSIts just that..well..you see..Ivebeen a little....Connors looks down and struggles for just the right word.DEXTER EBERTZPreoccupied, Mr. Connors. I thinkthe word you are searching for ispreoccupied. I do believe somewheredeep inside of you, somewhere inthe far recesses of your young mindlies the potential to be a goodveterinarian Mr. Connors. You dowant to be a veterinarian dont youMr. Connors?CONNORSSir?? Why, yes...of course I....DEXTER EBERTZThen show me.Dexter has arrived at his office. He unlocks and opens thedoor, enters and goes to his desk. We see a photo of hischildren framed on his desk, some papers, files, his ROTCgraduation photo hanging on the wall and a globe on his desk.CONNORSYes..yes sir.DEXTER EBERTZAnd remember, the next time youwant to talk Mr. Connors find meduring office hours and not on myfront porch.8.
Connors turns to leave and almost bumps into COLONEL MALLANwho is standing in the doorway.CONNORSOh..excuse me sir....I wasjust...leaving.Dexter looks up and stares down Connors from his desk.In the doorway is Colonel Mallan (40s). He is tall anddistinguished, a polished leader of men. He moves to allowConnors to pass, removes his hat and extends his hand ingreeting.COLONEL MALLANDr. Ebertz may I have a moment?I’m Colonel Daniel H. Mallan, U.S.Army.Dexter moves from behind his desk to greet Colonel Mallan.DEXTER EBERTZ(sarcastically)Your timing couldnt be better.Please, please come in.Colonel Mallan enters and shuts the door behind him. Dextersplits his attention between listening to the Colonel andtidying his desk, jotting notes and wrapping things up forthe day.COLONEL MALLANPlease forgive me, but you are theDr. Charles Dexter Ebertz, graduateof the Cornell College ofVeterinary Medicine, class of 1935?DEXTER EBERTZLast time I checked.Colonel Mallan opens a manila folder to refer to his notes.COLONEL MALLANDoctor, what Im about to tell youis classified.Dexter’s desk clearing slows.DEXTER EBERTZClassified????COLONEL MALLANYour country needs you Dr. Ebertz.9.
DEXTER EBERTZFor what?Dexter drops what he is doing. His full attention is onColonel Mallan.COLONEL MALLANWe have a situation. Somethingthat requires a man with yourbackground and skills. Ill befrank. It has been quite a job tofind many veterinarians worth ourtime.DEXTER EBERTZNo offense, but Im not sure Ishould take that as a compliment.COLONEL MALLANOn the contrary, you are a rarefind Doctor.Colonel Mallan is now flipping through the papers of the openfile on Dexter he is holding.COLONEL MALLAN (CONT’D)Cornell graduate, ROTC, yourexperience as a professor...assomeone who can determine the bestcourse of action in the field andteach his men how to meet theirobjective.Colonel Mallan pauses to consider his choice of words.COLONEL MALLAN (CONT’D)We have a unique opportunity foryou Doctor. This assignment is thefirst of its kind. A cultural anddiplomatic exchange mission if youwill, so your experience as aneducator will prove useful.DEXTER EBERTZForgive me Colonel, but I have noearthly idea what you are gettingat.Colonel Mallan smiles and gently spins the globe that sits onDexters desk.COLONEL MALLANIm talking about this.10.
Colonel Mallan jabs his index finger down on the spinningglobe. In bold black letters just below his fingernail isthe word CHINA.DEXTER EBERTZChina?Colonel Mallan continues on as if Dexter has said nothing.COLONEL MALLANMore than 500 million strong, butunorganized. The Japs have cut offthe Chinese supply route throughthe sea of Japan. They now occupyBurma on Chinas western front. Ifthe Japs continue on this way,China will be next. Thats a bigally for us to lose Dr. Ebertz. Wecant let that happen.DEXTER EBERTZSo, you want a veterinarian to stopthe Japanese from taking overChina.Colonel Mallan smiles in acknowledgement.COLONEL MALLANYou have a sense of humor Dr.Ebertz. Thats good because youllneed it where youre going.Colonel Mallan’s tone turns serious.COLONEL MALLAN (CONT’D)But all joking aside, the answer isyes. An overland supply route mustbe constructed on Chinas westernfront.DEXTER EBERTZAhh..an engineering project. Well,now it all makes sense why you needa veterinarian. Look, Colonel, Imvery...COLONEL MALLANThis is not the kind of supplyroute youre thinking of Doctor.This line will be built and thesupplies moved entirely by beastsof burden. Animals, Doctor. Ibelieve you know a thing or twoabout animals?11.
DEXTER EBERTZSo Ive been told.COLONEL MALLANWhich is why we need your help.Keeping China in the war and out ofJapanese hands is critical toallowing the war effort in Europeto progress without having to moveto the Far East until we absolutelyhave to.DEXTER EBERTZColonel, I’m no spring chicken. MyROTC days have been in the rearviewfor quite some time. I have a wifeand three little ones at home.Honestly, I’m not sure how long Iwould last out on the Chinesefrontier.Colonel Mallan leans in close on Dexter’s desk.COLONEL MALLANDoctor. Im really not here to ask.The Army needs you to go overthere, get those draft animals andkeep the Chinese Army supplied.Christ, we’ve even tried flying thedamn animals in Dr. Ebertz.Colonel Mallan pauses to flip to a document titled “HimalayanSupply Flights Status Report.” We see a column titled FlightNumber and another titled Status. We see Colonel Mallan’sfinger work down the page passing several different flightsand statuses such as Completed and Missing In Flight. Hisfinger stops at Flight Number 7342 with the status of MissingIn Flight.He looks back up at Dexter.COLONEL MALLAN (CONT’D)We need a man like you to completethis mission.DEXTER EBERTZChina is one helluva long way fromKansas Colonel.Colonel Mallan stands, reaches into his pocket, pulls out abusiness card, turns it over, and writes a phone number onthe back. Dexter checks his watch.12.
DEXTER EBERTZ (CONT’D)Colonel, I hate to cut this short,but I’ve got a very important lunchdate.COLONEL MALLANDoctor, time is of the essence.Please contact me at this number in24 hours and let me know yourdecision.He hands Dexter the business card and exits.13.