Applewhite’s Escape and Evasion Report

E&E 324: 2d Lt Thomas B Applewhite  (From Applewhite’s file at the National Archives II, College Park, Maryland.  Click on E&E 324 to see the entire file.)

“Before crossing the Channel I had oxygen trouble.  I thought that I was blacking out, so I gave myself a dose of “emergency rich” and was all right.  When I heard the navigator call the pilot to report that something was wrong with the oxygen system, for he had almost blacked out twice, I piped up with my similar experience.  The diaphragm seemed to be stuck for some reason.  Our ship had been on 11 or 12 raids without aborting, and we did not want to drop out; we were also thinking of the distinction of carrying through 15 raids without aborting.  The pilot said that we should try and carry on but that we should let him know if  things got too bad.   The system soon seemed to work a little better, but I still felt rather woozy.

“We had a good escort of P-47’s, and everything went all right up to the targets.  Following the lead bombardier we dropped our bombs on MUNSTER and seemed to hit the city all right.  Right after the bomb bay doors were closed, while we were looking for fighters, I heard flak hit us three or four times.  When the radio operator called me to confirm that the bombs were clear, he reported that the two waist gunners were lying on the floor unconscious.  I called up the tail gunner, but I could not get an answer.  The pilot said that he was leaving the formation and told the co-pilot to fire green-green rockets.  Four P-47’s came to cover us.  The pilot went low to get air for the men to revive, and our cover stayed above us at their effective altitude.  He followed our colonel’s advice not to hit the deck, and he did a really excellent job of using the rest of the formation for cover as the colonel had always advised.  The navigator reported our location when we reached Holland and gave the pilot a course to avoid any heavy flak concentrations.  We had a good navigator as well as pilot.

“Our escort had to leave us, and about ten minutes after they left, the tail gunner reported that four fighters were coming up.  He soon recognized them as Germans, and I heard guns firing.  The pilot took violent evasive action, heading straight for the ground and hitting almost 300 miles an hour.  I seemed to be floating in the air.  The pilot told us to pull the emergency escape latches; we were going to fight, but we might have to jump.  We pulled out of the dive.  The navigator did not know whether to jump or not.  The German fighters came in and shot everything into us.  I was off interphone and turned around to see the engineer getting out of his turret.  I gathered that the order to bail out had been given.  The navigator started to jump but was stuck in the door.  I gave him a healthy shove and followed him out quickly.  I remembered hearing lectures about making a delayed jump, so I delayed pulling my rip cord.  I saw the navigator’s chute open, and I saw more parachutes come out of the plane.  The fighters were still making passes at the plane, and the pilot was evidently giving everyone a chance to get out.  I think I saw seven parachutes in the air.  Later I was told that 12 chutes fell and two German planes and ours.  I opened my chute when I got near the clouds.  The plane crashed in flames; I heard the explosion.”

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