William R. Davis
by William M. Davis
END PART 1F (6)
Things happened fast. I saw the enlisted men come out of the waist windows, that is all except the radio operator. He got caught on some wires inside and was trapped. The armorer gunner was back in like a flash and in a few seconds he came out dragging the radio operator behind. He (the radio operator) had been cut up a little and thought his end had come when he found himself trapped. But he’s alive and kicking now. The dinghies didn’t release as they should have, (something always happens to add insult to injury) so the navigator and engineer got busy getting them out and inflating them. The top turret gunner followed the engineer out then came the co-pilot. A few seconds passed and everyone seemed to be out. Just then the co-pilot yelled that Bishop hadn’t come out. I don’t know why I yelled, but I did. I kept yelling that the plane was still well afloat, wasn’t sinking, and for them to start digging inside the top escape hatch for him. By this time I had drifted about 200 Feet from the plane; I could easily see how a man alone in a Mae West was lost. I couldn’t do anything to stop the drifting and couldn’t get back to the plane. All I could do was lie in the water and twiddle my thumbs. The navigator and co-pilot were busily digging into the hatch in a desperate effort to find Bishop. They pulled out junk, harnesses, and chutes, but no Bishop. Finally, it seemed like ages, they caught his harness strap and started pulling him out. He was plenty heavy; his water soaked clothes were dead weight; and he was unconscious. It took superhuman strength to pull him out, but at times such as that a person finds himself the possessor of amazing strength. Bishop was the only one who had kept his harness on and it had saved his life. He had swallowed a lot of water and was not breathing, I was afraid he was dead! They went to put him into one of the dinghies, but he slipped back into the water and went under the right wing. The navigator was hot on his trail and hauled him out. This time they got him in the dinghy. We were sure he was gone and it was impossible to give him artificial respiration in the dinghy. Everyone was in one of the two dinghies now except yours truly; I was still flat on my back in the water, and by then I was about 1500 feet from the plane, which was still afloat. A splendid aircraft until the last; it seemed reluctant to go down. I yelled to my hot buddy, Gill, to keep an eye on me so I wouldn’t get lost, and to paddle the darn dinghy over and pick me up. “ Sure thing, Davis, old buddy,” he said, and began paddling off in the other direction! There’s nothing to compare with a navigator’s love for his bombardier – absolutely nothing – ha, ha!
In less than 15 minutes an Italian fishing boat picked us up. We got Bishop on deck and got his bulky clothing off. The co-pilot started artificial respiration and after a while he started breathing. He came to and was okay. We patched up the men who were scratched, and began taking it easy. What a relief we were all well and alive. I could hardly believe it was true. I guess we all owed our lives to the pilot for such a swell landing, and he had almost lost his own life in the attempt. All the crew had given outstanding performances in the face of uncertain danger, and I was proud to be part of their team. They were my buddies for life. As we went ashore in the boat we all began to chatter and laugh; everyone had a story of his own; I guarantee that there are no atheists on our crew; Someone from above had taken very good care of us. Bishop then told us what happened to him. He said he started to get out of the compartment but was met by a barrage of feet (belonging to us on the flight deck) kicking him in the face. So he went back into the pilots compartment (all the time under water) picked up the crash ax and started hacking away at the window in a desperate effort to get out; in the process he cut his hands on the broken glass. The last thing he remembered he was chopping at the window when everything went black. I’m sure he was glad to wake up on the boat and find he was safe and alive again!
We reached shore, were fixed up, returned to our base, given a short rest and now were back on the job again. The B-24 stayed afloat for 26 minutes instead of the usual 45 seconds; we had come back to fight the enemy again, and that was what the Air Force had hoped for. And where do you think our first mission went after that episode? Right back to the heart of Vienna again, and a total of two more times since then! And not to be outdone by anyone else, our co-pilot has ditched again with another crew and come out alive. All’s fair in love and war and THIS is revolution!
END PART 1F