An enlightening story about Col. Zemke.

Discussion in 'Stories' started by stona, Jul 21, 2014.

  1. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2009
    Messages:
    7,532
    Likes Received:
    947
    Trophy Points:
    113
    #1 stona, Jul 21, 2014
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2014
    The following events occurred on the return from a dogfight of First Lieutenant Ralph A. Johnson of the famous 56th FG. Although badly shot up Johnson managed to get his P-47 back to England. When he attempted to lower his landing gear one became stuck up and the other down. Colonel Zemke, who had already landed, immediately took off again and flew alongside the troubled Johnson, The Radio Control Room recorded the following conversation:

    Z— Have you tried to shake it down?

    J-Yes.

    Z— Get way up and try again. If you can't shake it down, you'll have to jump— be careful. Go over to the lake straight ahead. Put your landing gear handle in the down position, do a bank on the left wing and snap it over to the right. Let me get a little ahead.

    J-Okay.

    Z— That hasn't done it. Do some violent weaving back and forth.

    J— Sir, my landing gear handle is stuck.

    Z— Is it stuck down?

    J— Yes, sir.

    Z— Let's go upstairs. Follow me. (Pause) Do you want to try one wheel?

    J— I certainly do, sir.

    Z— Let me take a good look at you. You do not have any flaps and will need plenty of field.

    J— Whatever you say, sir.

    Z— Better bail out. How much gas have you got?

    J— About thirty gallons. (Pause) That fellow didn't do a very good job of gunning me.

    Z— I'm afraid of a landing.

    J— You aren't half as scared as I am, sir.

    Z— It's not so bad. (To station) His plane is in bad shape. I'm going to have him bail out NE of Margate. (To Johnson) Well go up to 10,000 ft. Did you come back alone?

    J— No, sir. One of the boys came back with me.

    Z— Be sure to hold your legs together when you go over, and count ten. Try shaking it once more.

    J— Yes, sir.

    Z— You don't have to "sir" me up here. Head her out to sea.

    J— Yes, sir. Is it okay now?

    Z— Open up the canopy.

    J— It is open, sir. It's been open for a long time.

    Z— Okay, mighty fine. The crate is heading out to sea.


    Colonel Zemke didn't have to talk to him after that. Johnson turned his plane over, dumped himself out and left the Thunderbolt roaring out toward the open water by itself. The plane hit harmlessly and Lieutenant Johnson parachuted to safety in the water below.

    From "Five Down and Glory: A History of the American Air Ace"

    The reassurance, the guiding the young Johnson away from attempting a suicidal one wheel landing, everything about that conversation says more about the sort of officer Zemke was than all the combat reports and victory tallies ever printed.
     
    • Like Like x 2
  2. Airframes

    Airframes Benevolens Magister

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2008
    Messages:
    47,708
    Likes Received:
    1,421
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Retired
    Location:
    Cheshire, UK
    Good one Steve.
    The 'one wheel' landing would have been very risky, but we take it for granted that 'bailing out' was a normal, everyday activity, but this, too, held quite a large element of risk. Fortunately, the greater majority of 'bail outs' were successful.
     
  3. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2009
    Messages:
    7,532
    Likes Received:
    947
    Trophy Points:
    113
    #3 stona, Jul 21, 2014
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2014
    It certainly did. Unlike your good self these pilots had absolute minimal training in parachute jumping. A safe exit was not something they had much time to think about. Having read literally hundreds of combat reports I'm confident that most fatalities sustained whilst abandoning aircraft in WW2 were caused by one of only two factors. First they just jumped from too low an altitude, very common. Secondly they struck part of the aircraft whilst making their exits either killing or incapacitating them such that they were unable to deploy a parachute. A very few seem to have become entangled with the aircraft by deploying a parachute to soon or even whilst still in the aircraft.

    Obviously the thread title should read Col. Zemke.

    Cheers

    Steve
     
  4. buffnut453

    buffnut453 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2007
    Messages:
    2,176
    Likes Received:
    227
    Trophy Points:
    63
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Virginia, US of A
    Reading Sarkar's book on the Duxford Big Wing ("Bader's Duxford Fighters"), it's interesting how many pilots lost their lives due to the parachute failing to open. Now, we don't know how many were genuine parachute failures and how many were pilots being incapacitated and hence unable to pull the D-ring but it's clear that a surprising number of bailouts were fatal.
     
  5. Airframes

    Airframes Benevolens Magister

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2008
    Messages:
    47,708
    Likes Received:
    1,421
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Retired
    Location:
    Cheshire, UK
    Although we can never be certain, most 'failures' appear to be through incapacitation (either by striking the aircraft structure on exit, or inability to deploy the canopy in time due to injuries/burns etc), or by being at an altitude, or attitude, where the canopy was unable to fully deploy in time to prevent fatality.
    Up until late 1944, most parachute canopies were still made from silk, with little or no development in porous panels (depending on date of manufacture), whereas the later, Du Pont developed 'nylon' materials, provided varying levels of porous panels, improved through development and research, which allowed a faster deployment, and a more stable 'flight'.
    The silk canopies could lead to (relatively) slow deployment from the pack, and slower deployment of the canopy itself, due to the 'heavy' nature of the textile employed. Add to this the complications of unstable attitude (of the body), 'masking' from the body itself, and numerous other considerations, then, any bailout below, say, 1,000 feet, could be potentially dangerous, especially if 'throw forward' ( the effect of the forward motion of the parachutist, at the same speed as the aircraft abandoned) is taken into account.
    (This, of course, is in regard to the aircrew -type, ripcord-operated canopies - the 'static line and bag' 'chutes used by airborne troops didn't have quite the same restrictions in operation. )
     
  6. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2009
    Messages:
    7,532
    Likes Received:
    947
    Trophy Points:
    113
    #6 stona, Jul 22, 2014
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2014
    I have also read in accounts by pilots both RAF and Luftwaffe that a damp parachute might not deploy correctly, or at all. I don't know enough about the properties of silk to know whether this is factually correct, but the pilots certainly believed it.
    Altitude was a critical factor. Several survivors bailed out low enough that their canopies barely deployed. One RAF survivor claimed that he bailed out so low and fast that he swung once, from horizontal to vertical, before hitting a hedgerow!
    Making the correct exit from an aeroplane is something any old para will emphasise as one of the most important factors in completing the sort of jumps they make in a successful and relatively stress free manner. A pilot abandoning an aeroplane which might well be out of control has few options in this regard. At least in the case of Johnson, above, he could abandon his P-47 'by the book' which should have considerably increased his chances.

    Other factors might be important. Mike Crosley was convinced that the drill for abandoning a Seafire III was guaranteed to get you killed. As Mitchell's careful balance of the early Spitfire marks was lost more and more fudges were required to compensate for the inherent instability caused. A Seafire III had a three pound 'positive weight' added to the elevator control. This would help to push the control column further and further forward as positive g was applied. When a pilot pulled 'back' on the stick to pull out of a dive the stick actually moved forward as the positive g increased!
    The problem for bailing out was that this was to be done from an inverted aeroplane. With the aircraft inverted and the pilot hanging in the straps the 'positive weight', now assisted by the negative spring which it normally acted against, acted together and in the reverse sense. A Seafire III had to be trimmed fully nose heavy before being inverted or it would complete the second half of a loop and dive into the ground (or sea).
    In a real emergency pilots would either have no engine power or would have throttled back to reduce speed and minimise the risk of being blow back against the tail fin or stabilisers. In this condition the nose trimmer lacked the authority to hold the nose of the aircraft up. Once a pilot had pulled back or jettisoned the hood, trimmed fully forward, inverted the aircraft and released his harness, he could then no longer reach the control column. The aeroplane would nose down in the second half of a loop with the pilot trapped half in and half out of the cockpit by g forces and increasing wind pressure until he crashed.

    Steve
     
  7. Crimea_River

    Crimea_River Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Nov 16, 2008
    Messages:
    25,187
    Likes Received:
    963
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Calgary
    Good info guys.
     
  8. vikingBerserker

    vikingBerserker Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 10, 2009
    Messages:
    24,083
    Likes Received:
    655
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Occupation:
    Korporate Kontrolleur
    Location:
    South Carolina
    I agree, fascinating reading.
     
Loading...

Share This Page