Magazine article America in WWII

Twice Ditched

Magazine article America in WWII

Twice Ditched

Article excerpt

IT was October 12, 1944, and the B-26 Marauder I was on that day was named the Hot Rock. It had flown 86 missions and this was to be its last one.

On that day, I was the bombardier. The flak on the way to the target was heavy and accurate. Hot Rock was hit, and succumbing to her injuries. Halfway to the target, it was necessary to abort the mission and try to get back to our base. Then the pilot called and said, "We have the bombs on board," and told me to release them. As I looked down, there was a small village and I hesitated. The pilot asked, "What are you doing?" and I replied that we were over this small German village. His loud command was "Salvo now!" so I released the bombs and closed the bomb bay.

The engines had been damaged, and we were losing altitude. Our pilot ordered everyone to bail out. The co-pilot had to slide his seat back to allow me to crawl out of the bombardier's plexiglass nose compartment, pick up my parachute chest pack, snap it on, and head for the rear of the plane's fuselage. When I bailed out through the rear opening, I had my hand so tight on that parachute handle, I never let go. Today, I still have that parachute D-ring as a souvenir in my home.

When the parachute opened, I looked down to find myself over a small village. I just knew that we were behind enemy lines, so I guided my chute to land in the back yard of a house. As people appeared, I shouted out in my limited French, "Je suis Americain! …

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