Monday, May 27, 2013

Four in One by Bill Craton

For Memorial Day, I thought I would share something by a very special guest blogger ... my dad.

Several years before he died, Daddy wrote this account of the day he was shot down and taken prisoner during World War II.

Daddy's B-17 crew in January 1943. Daddy is standing at left.


Four in One
by Bill Craton


July 5, 1943 found me flying my 26th combat mission on B-17 bomber aircraft. Our target was a German airfield on the eastern end of Sicily. We were in a formation of 24 B-17 bombers. I was the flight engineer and top turret gunner.

We were attacked by well over 100 German fighters. We shot down at least 11 Germans. We were one of three B-17's shot down.

Nearing the target, the first of four miracles happened. We had lost three engines and were descending when the last fighter made a pass at us. I shot at him but didn't hit him. I saw his 20mm gun open up. One shell hit the radio room, one in the bomb bay, and the last one hit my turret just under my left gun. My turret was destroyed, but the miracle was that the only wound I received was a fragment of the 20mm shell to the back of my head. One inch to the left would have blown my head off.

Miracle #2 came quickly thereafter. As I was getting up from the cabin floor, the pilot was yelling, "Bail out, bail out!" There was a jam up at the door, so the pilot asked me to open the bomb bay door so we could bail out there. When I opened the door to the bomb bay, the whole bay was on fire with the bombs still there. The flames were trying to enter the cockpit, so I closed the door and told the pilot we had to go to the escape hatch.

I couldn't wear my parachute in my turret, so I grabbed by parachute and started putting it on. I had just gotten my right leg strap buckled when I heard the bombs blow. Two years and three months later while processing out of the service, the people there were saying that it was impossible to be that close to 2,500 pounds of bombs when they exploded and survive. I agree, but I did.

Miracle #3 followed immediately. The bombs sounded a long way off but I felt myself rising and my head hitting something. There was an awful pain and I lost consciousness. My right leg strap had been the only part of my parachute fastened to my body, yet when I came to, I was still in the parachute, holding on with my arms holding the chest straps and the right leg strap holding on. Two years and three months later, they were telling me it was impossible to stay in the parachute. I agreed, but with God all things are possible.

Miracle #4 came while descending in my parachute. I heard a machine gun firing, then suddenly felt a burning sensation in my right leg and realized that a fighter plane was shooting at me. Within a few seconds, I landed on the same airfield the group had bombed. I was unconscious for about two and a half months and woke up in a German naval hospital in Naples, Italy. There I saw the wound on my right leg. The bullet entered on the right side of my kneecap and proceeded about four inches towards the middle of my stomach, then made a sharp turn to the left and missed my stomach. I had nothing in my flight suit pockets but my New Testament that I always carried. The paper and leather in the New Testament would not have deflected the bullet. I believe God reached down His hand and deflected it.