20,000 Feet - Without a Chute

Discussion in 'Stories' started by syscom3, Jan 22, 2011.

  1. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    The Alan Magee Story
    [from "Hell's Angels Newsletter" Feb. 96 Copyright ©1996 303rd BGA]
    by Hal Susskind

    Alan Magee Story

    On January 3, 1943, in the midst of a bombing raid on German torpedo stores at St Nazaire, France, a miracle took place that is still remembered 50 years after.

    Snap!Crackle!Pop! Nose Art S/Sgt. Alan Magee, from the 360th Sqdn. a gunner in B-17 #41-24620, aptly named Snap! Crackle! Pop! was tossed out of his burning aircraft at 20,000 feet. Unfortunately, he was not wearing a parachute. As he fell from the plane, he asked God to save his life. "I don't wish to die because I know nothing of life" was his appeal to The Almighty." Then he lost consciousness and crashed through the glass roof of the St. Nazaire railroad station.

    He regained consciousness in the first aid station where he was carried before he was taken to a hospital. "I owe the German military doctor who treated me a debt of gratitude," said Magee. "He told me, 'we are enemies, but I am first a doctor and I will do my best to save your arm.'" The doctor, whose name he never found out, saved his arm and also took care of his multitude of injuries.

    All this action took place on the 303rd Bomb Group's ninth bombing mission and fifth to St. Nazaire. It proved to be a costly mission. The group lost four aircraft to enemy air action, one carried Major C. C. Sheridan, the 427th Squadron Commander.

    Magee at his crew's monument On the 23rd of September 1995 Alan E. Magee, accompanied by his wife Helen, returned to St Nazaire to take part in a ceremony sponsored by French citizens, dedicating a memorial to his seven fellow crewmen killed in the crash of Snap! Crackle! Pop! in the forest at La Baule Escoublac on Jan. 3, 1943.

    The Magee's were welcomed to France by Michel Lugez, American Memorial Association President. who greeted them at the Nantes/Atlantique Airport and acted as their escort throughout the various ceremonies.

    On Saturday, September 23rd, after a mass in memory of the seven killed aviators, the entourage proceeded to the crash site where the memorial was uncovered and dedicated. This was followed by the planting of "a tree of peace" by Magee.

    The following day the Magees, accompanied by Michel Lugez, visited the U.S. Military Cemetery of St. James in Normandie, where Alan paid his respects at the graves of his crewmates: Lt. G. Wintersetter, T/Sgt. Dennis C. Hart, T/Sgt. A.M. Union, Sgt. M.L. Milam and S/Sgt. E.W. Durant.

    During his visit to St. Nazaire, Alan visited the Hermitage Hotel, where he was treated by the German doctor, also the harbor and the submarine pens and also the ancient railroad station with its glass roof that cushioned his fall 50 years before.

    As he looked at the railroad station with its glass roof, he said, "l thought it was much smaller." Actually he had never seen the railroad station before because he was unconscious when he hit it on his fall from 20,000 feet.

    Alan was also named "Citizen of Honor" of the St. Nazaire town by its Mayor. "It should be repeated that St. Nazaire was 90 percent destroyed," said Michel Lugez. "Also numerous Nazarians were deported to the concentration camps or shot while helping U.S. aviators evade the enemy in their efforts to get to Spain to rejoin their units back in England; also the landing in Normandy and our liberation by the U.S. Army and Allied Troops was very much appreciated by the local population."

    Lt. Glen M. Herrington, the navigator of the crew lost his leg to enemy gunfire. He was captured upon landing. He later became one of the first AAF men to be repatriated. He died in 1987. S/Sgt. J.l. Gordon who also bailed out and became a POW is still among the unknown number of people we have never located.

    The 303rd Bomb Group's B-17 41-24620 Snap! Crackle! Pop! was named by Capt. Jacob Fredericks, 360th BS, who flew the ship from the U.S. to England.

    Before entering the USAAF, he had worked for Kellogg Co., the creators of Rice Krispies cereal and its "Snap! Crackle! Pop!" promotional slogan.

    According to Michel Lugez, "This aircraft's fragment comes from the right forepart of an American B-17 bomber (Flying Fortress) shot down the 3rd of January 1943 in the forest of La Baule-Escoublac.

    The section containing the slogan was cut from the fuselage by the Germans. It became a 'war trophy.' It decorated the wall of a villa called 'Georama,' an important property next to St. Marc sur mer/ St. Nazaire which looks down upon the sea, opposite the Loire's estuary and of course occupied by the Germans.

    At the end of the war, before they were captured, the occupying enemy threw the trophy 'Snap! Crackle! Pop!' off the cliff along with an RAF aircraft bomber's company crest. They were recovered in the rocks bordering the sea by Michel Harouet. On the left side of the aircraft there was a signature: Clinton H. Dole restored in August 1989."

    In spite of being shot down 50 years ago, the spirit of Snap! Crackle! Pop! still lives on.
     

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  2. Zeke_Freak

    Zeke_Freak Member

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    #2 Zeke_Freak, Jan 22, 2011
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2011
    Interesting. I'm always amazed by these sorts of events where someone falls an extraordinary distance without a chute and survives. There was a similar account about a WWII Russian pilot falling 20,000 feet without a chute, and landing in a snow bank. Don't recall much more about that one. Think his plane was burning also.

    EDIT: Ah, correction... he had a chute but didn't open it.

    http://www.oddee.com/item_96967.aspx


    Question: How is it known what distance they fell? In the Russians case, the figure given is 21,980 ft. If it were a rough estimate, you'd think it would be 22,000 ft? Is it based on an approximate known flight altitude, such as from the last radio report? Or just the fallers own recollection of altitude?

    Leif
     
  3. Gnomey

    Gnomey World Travelling Doctor
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    Interesting story, thanks for sharing. Remarkable he survived.
     
  4. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    21980 ft makes 6700m, so perhaps that makes more sense :)
     
  5. mikewint

    mikewint Well-Known Member

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    That is amazing, terminal velocity is around 200mph for a human so the distance fallen does not really matter. That is one heck of a speed for a unprotected human to hit anything
     
  6. Aaron Brooks Wolters

    Aaron Brooks Wolters Well-Known Member

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    Very interesting story. Thank you for posting Syscom.:thumbright: :cool: :salute:
     
  7. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    Actually it's 120 mph.
     
  8. ToughOmbre

    ToughOmbre Active Member

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    Amazing story to say the least! :shock:

    TO
     
  9. javlin

    javlin Well-Known Member

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    What I found neat was that he had passed out.Think about it unconscious falling what a better way to die,no pain of any kind and then he WAKES up .The old man upstairs must of been bored that day :)
     
  10. bobbysocks

    bobbysocks Well-Known Member

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    sounds like something out of monty python....what is the airspeed of an unladen airman?

    i thought T.V. was 125mph...
     
  11. Airframes

    Airframes Benevolens Magister

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    There is another one, a Lancaster tail gunner who had to make the choice - burn alive, or jump. As his chest-type parachute pack, stored in the fuselage forward of the rear turret, had been burned, he jumped. He crashed through a fir tree (or pine tree) into relatively deep snow, and knew nothing until he regained conciousness.
    He was almost executed by the Germans as a spy, until the wreckage of the Lanc was found, and the metal buckles, clips and 'D' ring of his 'chute were discovered.
    BTW, terminal velocity for a stable human body is 120 mph. In a track, or head-down dive, or unstable, it can reach approx 160 - 180 mph. However, it's only the final half an inch which kills!
     
  12. mikewint

    mikewint Well-Known Member

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    Thanks guys for the correction, I knew I had that 200 number in my head for some reason or other. I had my units wrong. It is 200 KM/HR or about 124 mph. achieved after a fall of 1200 - 1800 ft depending on conditions. Don't think I'd want to run into a pillow at that speed
     
  13. icepac

    icepac Member

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    There used to be a website on falls without chutes, riding partial airplanes down, and chute accident survival.

    One guy ejected from a jet in a storm and was caught in updrafts to the point of finally landing in his chute 60 miles from where he ejected.

    Not where that site is now
     
  14. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    That was a marine pilot who ejected from a F8U Crusader over Virginia, on Sunday 26th July 1959

    Pilots name was LTCOL William Henry Rankin

    He wrote a book about it too. I read it back in 1973 when I was in Jr. High.

    F-8_Crusader_1956-1964
     

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  15. icepac

    icepac Member

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    #15 icepac, Jan 29, 2011
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2011
  16. Njaco

    Njaco The Pop-Tart Whisperer
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  17. tyrodtom

    tyrodtom Well-Known Member

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    Let's not forget most of the turrets in allied bombers had only enough room for the operator without a chute. So they had to get out of the turret, some turrets could only be exited in one position, clip on their chute, find their way to the exit and jump.
    Can you imagine doing that with a airplane tumbling out of the sky, and in the RAF bomb crews case, doing that in the dark. Landcasters in particular had a very poor reputation for the crews ability to exit safely.
    Though pilots wore their chutes most would stay at the controls trying to give the crew a better chance of getting out.
    I'ts always amazed me how many did managed to get to their chutes and jump. I'm sure hundreds couldn't get to a chute and had to chose between riding a damaged and burning aircraft down or just jumping.
     
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