good war story
"My orneriest mission was on a B-25 escort, where I was given what was called low/underneath cover. My wingman and I were on the backside of the formation underneath to weave back and forth to prevent any Zeroes or other enemy aircraft to come in from underneath. The route usually would go westard to Point St. George and St. George’s channel (runs between New Ireland and New Britain). Cape St. George is where they (Japanese) had an AA gun established as well as radar. They put up so much AA material that would go above the formation and then drop phosphor bombs. They rarely did much damage, but with everything going on above the formation with the top defense formation dropping all of the extra AA flak and linkage material from the fighting going on above it was like I was being rained on with aluminum. Somehow I ended up sucking some junk into my oil cooler that caused me to start loosing oil, and I noticed that my oil pressure was dropping quickly. When the engine sputters and you can’t keep up, flight school teaches you to point your nose down and maintain gliding speed, turn into the wind. From 20,000 feet, I was fiddling with switches and things to see if I could get it going again. The Corsair would stall at 90 knots, so you had to maintain 140 knot airspeed to keep the plane under control. This meant about a 45 degree downward glide, and there’s no way to keep up with the formation. Usually during the day, the sun beating down on the ocean causes cotton-candy clouds forming from about 4 to 12 thousand feet, and I glided through looking for a place to bail out. At 10,000 feet, I’m within sight of Duke of York island, which is occupied by the Japanese. I pop the canopy and wait until 5000 feet and I’m away from the island but the water doesn’t look good to land on. At 2500 feet the water looks much better, but there’s not enough air left so I take the plane down to the water… I made one of my better landings.
As I hit the water, I hit the gunsight (I had unhooked the harness while looking for the right place to ditch) and get some lacerations on my arm. In 3 seconds I’m out of the cockpit. 5 seconds later, the plane is 45 degrees in the water with the cockpit underwater and the engine dragging it down. I swam away trying to avoid any potential vortex from sucking me down. After 20 seconds the plane is down to Davy Jones.
I look around and realize that nobody has seen me and nobody has followed me. I’m sitting there with my parachute on and a lifejacket bobbing in the water, and my first thought is “How can I stay invisible?” This was about 3 PM, and I waited until about 6 PM (around twilight) and I decide, “Now I’ll get the raft out.” The raft is right under the seat cushion, and there’s a CO2 bottle to trip it, and I wish somebody had told me beforehand to tie it onto myself. I trip it, and the raft jumps 10-20 feet away. I’m wearing these L’il Abner shoes and it’s tough to swim. That was tough to catch, the wind was moving it, but I was able to get to it.
I got into the raft, there was a little paddle system, and my parachute and harness system were still floating. I took my shoes off because they were an obstruction, so I tied them to a raft. I’m really tuckered out by this point. I look around and can’t see anybody. We’d gone north to get to the target and then the plan was to go south to get back home. I had a canteen of water hooked to my belt, a Smith & Wesson police revolver, a .38 caliber? A .36? I think it was a .38, and the bullets were tied up in another pocket in my suit. The bullets seemed dry and I could blow through the cylinders to dry it out, so I loaded it up with tracer shells. Then I decided ‘Wait a minute,” took out the tracer shells, and put in regular shells.
I had some peanut butter, there was a guy in our squadron, he was a little beaver guy, and one time when we were in the ready tent and I asked what he was doing. He had gone to the quartermaster and was always wheeling and dealing, and he’d fill up the toilet paper tubes with the peanut butter and would seal them up in a bag. He was putting them into his survival cushion, so I traded him a bottle of White Horse scotch for 6 of these peanut butter tubes to put in my survival kit. So I was having peanut butter for supper.
So I get pretty comfy, and I fell asleep. All of the sudden in the middle of the night, I can hear dogs barking. It reminded me of an uncle who always wanted to go coon hunting (he made me hold the lantern), but it sounded just like those dogs when they pick up a scent. I don’t know what to do, I don’t want to expose myself, but I need to figure out what’s going on. So I pull a one-cell flashlight out of my survival kit, and here are a bunch of little sea lions barking at me and giving me some looks. So I quickly shut off the light, they bark some more and then they go away and I go back to sleep.
I wake up around dawn, and I pull my emergency map out to figure out where I am. At night, there’s a 4 knot current flowing south through the channel, but it only flows south [ed note: towards friendly forces and away from enemy forces] during December and January and it’s now January 22nd. I’d drifted about 50 miles south, and I’m now out of the channel. I said, ‘Oh, there’ll be another mission and they’ll come over, I’m in good shape.’ They came later that day, but were way up, probably 15,000 feet. I fired two tracer shells at them, but nobody came down to investigate. So I waited for them to come back, and I shot all of the tracers I had and had thrown my emergency dye in the water, but nobody comes down. Now I’m thinking, “Wow, I’m in big trouble.” I’m in a raft, the wind is picking up and I’m being blown north and I don’t really have any drag.
At about 4 in the afternoon, I’m dozing but then I realize that there’s a plane nearby. It’s another Corsair, it’s only at about 500 or 600 feet, so I get my emergency mirror out and flashed it at him. He comes down to the deck to investigate, I wave at him and he waggles his wings at me and heads off. A while later, here comes Dumbo - a Catalina PB-Y float plane. I’d run a few Dumbo escort missions in my tours. The sea wasn’t whitehorsing, but there were some swells so they couldn’t pull right up to me. They get as close as they can as they circle around and toss me a rope, and boy do I know what a walleye feels like when it gets hooked. Bam, that thing yanks me right out of the raft and I’m holding on. Everything I had on got ripped off me - pistol, holster, flight suit, all I’ve got left is a stretched out t-shirt. They pulled me in one of the gun blisters, and as they pull me in they go, ‘Lieutenant Marsh?’ I’m like, ‘No, I’m Smith.’ They weren’t looking for me, but they found me somehow. We got on the radio so they could figure out who I was, and realized I was another pilot so we got back up in the air to keep looking for Lieutenant Marsh. We found him about an hour later, and the water was smooth enough that we could just taxi right up to him and pull him in without needing the rope.
Marsh and I got together every year after that until our wives both passed away in 2012, then we didn’t get together.”
from here: http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/25vpg3/iama_92_year_old_who_served_in_wwii_as_a_pilot/