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Historical

The Dramatic Events Which Led Up To This WWII Aviator Parachuting Onto A POW Camp

World War II veteran Dean Whittaker of the 398th bomb group, recalls the dramatic moments as he found himself jumping out of his bombed plane, parachuting right onto a prisoner of war camp.

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"We were hit real bad and the plane was out of control. The pilot gave the word to bail out and me being the navigator ... I was the first one out."

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Photo Credits : (GettyImages)
Keystone Davis Jr Hulton Archive
TRANSCRIPT This transcript was generated by AudioBurst technologies

On November 2nd 1944, the target would be the heavily defended synthetic oil plant in Meersberg Germany, it was his 20th mission and it would prove to be his last. - When I looked ahead and saw the flak which is the black explosion of 88 millimeter shells going off I thought my god we're going to be lucky to get through this and we got through it fine and we were hit a few times and you can always tell when you're hit because we could smell the burning hot flak metal going through the ship and we got out of that fine and as soon as we were out of that the Luftwaffe attacked us. The first attack, they always attacked from the tail because their 20 millimeter cannon would go further than our 50 caliber machine gun. The tail gunner was pretty busy on that first mission and I think he shot down one of the planes and one of the fellows said you got one, over the intercom so on the second attack we were hit really bad the tail gunner was shot bad and the waist gunner went back to check on him he did he said he's dead. About that time we were hit real bad and the plane was out of control. The pilot gave the word to bail out and me being the navigator right by the nose escape patch I was the first one out. Before I could go out I had to release, I wore what they called a flak suit, a armor, a vest, there's an escape tag on that, that you pull and  its supposed to be released well it didn't release and I was fighting that trying to get that off and I said man I gotta get out of here and you know I had a voice kind of my father had passed away about 8 months before I went into service and I thought I heard his voice say you get out of there now. So I did, when I jumped out I said I can't wait any longer, I jumped out of the escape patch in the nose and as soon as I hit the slip stream it tore the flak suit off but my parachute was only fastened on one side because I couldn't fasten the other side when the flak suit was on. So here I was fighting all the way down trying to fasten the other side and at 28,000 feet you have no strength , you're just about ready to pass out and I started entering some clouds at three thousand feet and I thought well I better pull this now whether its fastened or not and I pulled it and I was floating down and I could hear shots coming up at me and the Germans were shooting at me as I was coming down. - And this was fire from there aircraft or from the ground? - That was from the ground it was civilians on the ground they were shooting, they all had guns and the odd thing about this when I was, before I hit the ground I could hear cheering and I thought who the heck is cheering in the middle of Germany and I just about landed in a German prisoner of war camp that held English prisoners and luckily a guard from this camp come running out of the camp and made the civilians stop shooting me. They had their rifles all ready to aim at me so they stopped shooting and the guard guttered me up and took me into the camp and the English prisoners of war gave us tea and crumpets, it was really something.