Spring, 1944. My head wound had healed but my back was still killing me when I jumped off the train in occupied France. I had recently escaped from neutral Switzerland after being blown out of my B-24 Liberator while making my 20th bomb run into Germany. Although I landed on the German side of the lines, I was able to swim to the Swiss side of the border where I was interned for a short time before making a run for it. Technically speaking, I wasn’t supposed to be in Europe at all. I’d made my way to England in 1943 under false pretenses by ferrying a Douglas C-54 Skymaster from the United States. I had orders to return to Wright Field where I was a flight evaluation test pilot, but I got sidetracked and conned my way into the 44th Bomb Group as a pilot. That’s what I was doing when my luck ran out.
Back Home Things Had Changed
I became a guest of the French underground and slugged it out with the Germans on the ground until D-Day. Then all hell broke loose, and a month later I was on my way back home to Ohio via England aboard a C-47. When I rejoined the Flight Test Division at Wright Field, a lot had changed since I’d left. One of the most notable was the fact that propeller driven aircraft were not the fastest thing in the skies anymore, as the jets began to take over.
Actually, my first encounter with a jet was somewhere high over Germany as I was returning to England from another bombing mission. An Me 262 came sneaking up behind me so damn fast that I thought I had stalled the Liberator out! That was the first time I’d witnessed the new propulsion system and realized that our vast and superior air armada was obsolete. I had the pleasure of flying and evaluating some of the captured Luftwaffe jets over the skies of Ohio that included the Me 262 and the Arado 234, and I quickly joined the ranks of many others who sure were glad the Germans didn’t have these at the beginning of the war! But that wasn’t the only thing that that concerned the U.S. military and the Prime Minister of England when war broke out.
Read the full article from the October 2015 issue of Flight Journal, click here.