The following exert is from an article that appeared in the Sunday, May 28, 2000 issue of the "Corpus Christi Caller-Times". It was entitled
WWII aviator Ernest Fogel shares his diary, bittersweet memories for Memorial Day
and was written by Darren Barbee.
May 4, 1943. Ho boy! What a day!
The German ME 109s leapt from nowhere, taking turns stinging the American bomber's nose and tail.
The agile, quick-tempered single-engine fighters with their high-powered engines could fly at 347 mph. The vulnerable B-24 plodded along at 165 mph.
Ernest Fogel's plane was headed back to North Africa after the thick cloud cover over southern Italy had spoiled the bomb run. Somehow, Fogel had been separated from the main formation of 22 bombers, which were drawn close together in another part of the sky.
The Messerschmitts came from the front, bearing down on their lonely prey.
Fogel fired the fixed-turret guns at the front of the plane with no effect. German machine gun fire hit the left inboard engine and scraped away the tire of the left landing gear.
A 20 mm shell slammed against the open waist of the plane, the tail and its underside.
Shrapnel tore into the radio operator's face and chest. Two bullets passed through the fur-covered boot of the other waist gunner, and another bullet ripped the oxygen mask from his face. The tail gunner was blown back into the tail of the plane.
The belly gunner was hit in the face and upper torso and couldn't see from the blood in his eyes.
It didn't matter. All of the plane's guns were out.
The plane dived for extra speed and Fogel skidded across the sky, up and under the flock of American aircraft.
The Germans backed off, but it wasn't over. There were four men wounded, an engine was out and the landing gear had been reduced to a metal stub.
And somehow, Fogel had to land.
May 4, 1943. "Left throttle, right brake! Left throttle, right brake!"
Fogel's wounded plane made a regular approach over the airfield. Col. Compton was in the radio tower watching.
"I radioed I had four men wounded aboard," Fogel said. "They said, 'You land first.' "
With one landing gear gone, the gear might snag on the blacktop and roll the plane into a fiery metallic ball. As the wheels touched down, the left stub dug in and the plane started to veer left.
A voice barked over Fogel's earphones.
"Left throttle, right brake! Left throttle, right brake!"
Fogel gave full throttle to the engine and stood up on the brake with all of his weight.
The swerve stopped and the plane skidded down the runway. At rest, the men went through the top hatch. Fogel had broken his foot and would spend 12 days in the hospital.
But that barking voice saved them, Fogel said.
"I thought it was God telling me, honestly," Fogel said. "But it was Col. Compton telling me. And he saved every person from being hurt."