Purpose of this blog

Dmitry Yudo aka Overlord, jack of all trades
David Lister aka Listy, Freelancer and Volunteer

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Horror at 25,000 feet (part 2)

A few weeks ago I posted part one of a story about a B17 bomber. When we left the bomber was damaged, with two very seriously wounded crew on board.

In the navigator's position 2nd Lt Koske was faced with the problem of SSgt Weaver. He quickly realised that SSgt Weaver's only chance of survival was the Germans. 2nd Lt Koske explained what he had in mind, and after initial resistance SSgt Weaver relented. Realising that it was good luck he couldn't give the morphine injection, as that would have rendered SSgt Weaver unconscious, 2nd Lt Koske helped c into his parachute.  He then opened the escape hatch, and set SSgt Weaver's hand on the ripcord, then pulled his hand away. However the sheer amount of blood flowing from SSgt Weaver's wounds meant that 2nd Lt Koske's glove had become glued to SSgt Weaver's who's in turn had become sealed around the ripcord. The act of pulling the hand away meant the parachute began to deploy, billowing in the storm of wind from the open escape hatch.
Imagine three men, one of whom is wounded, and a half deployed parachute in this space, while getting shot at by Germans.
A deployed parachute would seal SSgt Weaver's fate, as there'd be no way to reuse it. However luck was on SSgt Weaver's side yet again. The parachute caught on a fuse box and stopped deploying. This partial deployment even worked in their favour, 2nd Lt Koske wasn't sure SSgt Weaver had enough strength left to pull the ripcord, but now with a partial deployment the entire parachute would follow even if SSgt Weaver wasn't able to pull the cord.

As he plummeted away SSgt Weaver knew his chances were slim, if he wasn't captured immediately he would bleed to death. The same fate would await him if he landed too far away from a hospital. As he fell he saw 2nd Lt Koske's reassuring smile looking down from the hatch.  The ball turret gunner reported that he'd seen SSgt Weaver's chute open.
In December 1943 word reached the family of SSgt Weaver that their son was alive and in Stalag 7-A POW camp.

With SSgt Weaver on his way, 2nd Lt Koske scrambled back into the nose of the aircraft to find the bombardier busy manning the guns so 2nd Lt Koske rushed to help him. Throughout all this time the bombers had been under constant attack from the German fighters. They thought that the sudden manoeuvres of the plane were evasive moves from the pilot, not losses of control as the dying Lt Campbell launched another frenzied attack on 2nd Lt Morgan.
Then they were over the target, which was thickly shrouded in smoke, the bombardier dropped the load and the formation turned. After the plane was safely out over the sea 2nd Lt Koske checked on the cockpit and found out the true situation of what was going on. This was at least two hours after the initial attack. 2nd Lt Morgan explained they needed to move Lt Campbell as 2nd Lt Morgans view was obscured by the smashed windscreen, and so he couldn't see to land.
The bombardier and 2nd Lt Koske wrestled the struggling Lt Campbell into the nose of the plane where they secured him. As they descended the increased oxygen meant the crew at the rear of the plane regained consciousness, but were suffering from varying degrees of frostbite. Then 2nd Lt Morgan spotted something else, all the fuel gauges read empty. Somewhere in the unrelenting attacks the cannon and machine guns of the Luftwaffe had shredded the fuel system and they'd lost all their fuel. 2nd Lt Morgan eventually landed at RAF Foulsham, rather than fly all the way back to RAF Alconbury.

Lt Campbell died an hour after landing at RAF Foulsham. Like all service personnel who died in the UK he is buried at the American Cemetery at Madingley, Cambridge. As today is Remembrance Sunday in the UK, last Friday I made a visit down to the Cemetery and found Lt Campbell's neatly tended grave.
Lt Campbell's death was reported in the US newspapers, understandably he was reported as killed immediately by the cannon shell that wounded him.

For his actions 2nd Lt Morgan was awarded the Medal of Honor. Nearly a year later on March the 6th 1944, 2nd Lt Morgan was flying his own B-17, as part of the first major USAAF attack on Berlin, when his plane was hit by flak and it was reported plunging through the formation on fire. However 2nd Lt Morgan was able to escape in his parachute, and was promptly was captured by the Germans.  He became the first ever Medal of Honour winner captured by the enemy.

Thirty six years later in 1979, Koske and Weaver held a reunion, this was the first time they'd met in all those years. Morgan died on January 17th 1991, and Weaver on Feb 20th 1993.

Image credits:
David Lister, Tom Philo Photography and Albumwar2