"Reflections of a Soldier"
Written by Stf. Sgt. David H. Mac Hauer
Our crew fired at every fighter plane we saw. A cannon shell exploded right outside my turret on the underside of the plane. I felt something go through my boot and then a terrific blow on my chest. I felt sure that I had gotten a piece of 20mm cannon right in the chest for I was stunned and all the breath was knocked out of me. Attempts to use the interphone were useless as it was shot out. I rolled the turret up in the plane and opened the hatch, but when the Radio Operator saw me motion for help, he merely gave me a hopeless gesture. Rolling the turret down again, I flipped open the turret hatch and after a brief struggle was able to bail out. I saw all four engines of the B-17 burning as I dropped out of the plane. After 5 or 10 minutes I hit the ground where several G.I.s who were passing in a truck greeted me with open arms (firearms). However, after they were convinced that I was not a German Parachutist, they took me to a hospital in Leige, Belgium. Since my flying clothes were all full of holes and my face was burned, it seemed necessary that I get a medical examination, to my astonishment, several pieces of plastic rattled to the floor. Upon looking at the 45 cal. Automatic which I had strapped to my chest under my flying jacket I saw that the plastic butt grip had been shattered and the butt itself with a full clip of cartridges had been bent inward about 3/4 of an inch. After the shock passed, I examined my clothing and found what had happened.
Evidently the fragment of the 20mm had passed through my boot (which had a large hole in it), had gone through my flying jacket, hit me flush over the heart, bounced off the butt of my .45 calibur automatic and then gone through the shoulder of my jacket, leaving a scratch on my left shoulder.
What I feel was so significant about this narrow escape from death was not only the fact that the automatic stopped the shell fragment, but also because of the following chain of circumstances.
- On all previous missions, I had never filled the butt of the automatic with a clip of bullets because I generally felt it was an unwise thing even to fly with a loaded gun on my immediate person and had always kept the clip in the pocket of my flying clothes leaving the magazine of the weapon unloaded.
- Most of the time I had carried the .45 on my waist and not on the shoulder holster.
- That was the first time I had ever worn a parachute down in the ball turret with me since generally the turret was too crowded to get a chute down it. Fortunately however, I was experimenting and had drawn out a "backpack" instead of the usual "chest pack". This allowed me to bail out directly from the ball turret instead of having to get back into the ship to get the "chest pack" with a resultant loss of time.