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French Airman Fell 18,000 Feet...And Lived

Discussion in 'WWII Today' started by The_Historian, Dec 22, 2016.

  1. The_Historian

    The_Historian Pillboxologist Patron  

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    Shades of the story of Sgt Nicholas Alkemade, although his parachute seems to have been deployed in this case. Wonder how many other recorded instances are known?
    "A French airman who fell 18,000ft from a burning bomber on Christmas Eve over 70 years ago has recalled the mystery surrounding his miraculous survival.
    André Guédez was part of a crew flying Halifax Bombers from RAF Elvington near York when his plane was shot down by German anti-aircraft guns during a raid in Essen Mülheim in 1944.
    As the anniversary of his brush with death approaches, the 97-year-old has told how he fell from the bomber while unconscious and, amazingly, lived to tell the tale.
    Mr Guédez was on one of the two French Squadrons under RAF Bomber Command in 1944, and , before Christmas, he and his crewmates were looking forward to going on well-earned evening leave with their girlfriends.
    But all leave was suddenly cancelled and the then-24-year-old was sent on an urgent mission over Germany to help support the effort which became known as 'The Battle of the Bulge'.

    They took off from Elvington at 11:31am on Christmas Eve in their lumbering, Halifax four-engine bomber, nicknamed 'L for Love', with other members of 347 'Tunisie' French squadron aircraft. Mr Guédez was in the mid-upper gunner position.
    After almost four hours flying, they were above Essen Mülheim, location of the huge Krupps armaments factory, when his plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire in the notoriously well-defended Ruhr Valley.
    He said: 'The Ruhr sky was, at that time, the most explosive place in the world. The Germans had more than 30,000 anti-aircraft batteries around their factories and towns.
    'It was the industrial heart of the 3rd Reich, even though it was tottering at that time. On each incursion, especially at night, we were floodlit like in a parade, with continuous fire from anti-aircraft guns. We knew one in two aircraft might not come back, and until that day, I had been lucky.'
    Mr Guédez remembers that the first shell hit the inner port engine before a second shell cut the aircraft controls and he knew the plane 'was lost'.
    The men were ordered to jump but, in a gesture of bravado, André had thrown his parachute into a corner. By the time he found it in the burning plane, he was beginning to lose consciousness.

    His bomber was then hit a third time and he fell 18,000 through the gunfire, searchlights and debris.
    He remembers nothing until he woke up, sometime later, lying on desk in a office in Germany with an injured face and back."
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4057978/French-airman-96-tells-unconscious-fall-Nazi-Germany-Christmas-Eve.html#ixzz4TaGPJ2SI
     
    lwd likes this.
  2. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    I remember reading a number of accounts of it back when I was in high school and college. One account was a post war jet pilot who got into trouble off the Florida Coast. He bailed out into a thunder storm and dispite his chute either malfunctioning or not opening at all it took him a couple hours to get down from what I recall. He was badly beat up by hail up in the storm. Apparently the winds were strong enough in places that he may have been going up instead of down. I think the list of such instances then was over half a dozen but I'm not sure that it made it to a dozen. Sgt Alkemade wasn't on the list though.
     
  3. The_Historian

    The_Historian Pillboxologist Patron  

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  4. Skipper

    Skipper Kommodore

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    I always thought Mr Alkemade was Dutch.
     
  5. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    I noticed a couple more linked at the bottom of the wiki articles. They were on commercial planes however.
    A couple of more mentioned here:
    http://www.cracked.com/article_19996_5-insane-falls-you-wont-believe-people-survived.html
    This page has some more but they are so mixed in with other things it's a bit of a pain:
    http://www.greenharbor.com/fffolder/ffincident.html#anchor1234587
    Here's one about an F-8 pilot:
    http://www.veteranstoday.com/2011/05/09/survival-f-8-crusader-pilot-falls-15000-with-failed-chute-and-lives/
    This may be the one I'm thinking about but his shoot actually deployed:
    http://www.businessinsider.com/the-survival-story-of-the-only-known-person-to-parachute-through-a-thunderstorm-2013-1
     
  6. KJ Jr

    KJ Jr Well-Known Member Patron  

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    What a story.
     

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