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Bail Out


									I Bail Out
        The incidents I have chosen to write about today are certainly not meant to be bragging.
The purpose of telling about my experiences is to prove that God was taking care of me during
my five years served in the military during World War II.
        I was drafted into the infantry where I spent the first 2 1/2 years. Then I transferred to the
Army Air Force for pilot training where I served the last 2 1/2 years. My education was
probably not equal to the present-day eighth grade when I was drafted. However, I was chosen
to go to the Infantry Officer Training School in Fort Benning, Georgia, where I was
commissioned as a second lieutenant. That qualified me to go into pilot training, where you
were supposed to have a minimum of two years of college.
        When my class finished pilot training and got our wings at Phoenix, Arizona, we were
sent to an Air Force base in California to train on P39 Bell Aircobras. These were fighter
airplanes. Our operations officer there was Major McCarty. His home town was Childress,
Texas. Seeing as I was from Lubbock, he and I became good friends.
        One day Major McCarty called me to his office to tell me he had put me on duty to ferry
                                              a primary trainer called a Stearman from California to
                                              Texas. A Stearman was a double wing plane that was
                                              very crude and looked like a World War I plane. I
                                              objected to the assignment and said, "Major, I would
                                              rather drive a model T Ford to Texas." He just
                                              laughed and said, "I am trying to do you a flavor. The
                                              planes are going to a field near Fort Worth. You will
                                              ride the train back to California and the train comes
                                              through Lubbock. You can get off the train and spent
                                              a few days at home." That made all the difference in
                                              the world to me and I said, "I'm ready to go".
        There were 25 Stearmans to be ferried so they divided us up into 5 ship flights. Each
group of five had to elect their flight leader. My flight group elected Paul Potter from Atlanta,
Georgia. When we arrived in El Paso, we spent the night, and of course went to Juarez.
        The next morning we went out to take off for our next stop at Pecos, Texas. The
weatherman told us we were going to run into a ground fog, which made a solid overcast over a
large area called Salt Flats. A Stearman plane had no instruments for flying in anything but clear
weather, not even a radio. However, he said we could fly around the south end of the ground fog
and go all the way to Pecos which was clear.
        When we got to the overcast, we turned south and flew all the way to the Río Grande
River. But the overcast continued as for as we could see into old Mexico. We should have
turned back, but our flight leader reasoned that since it was clear at Pecos, we could fly the short
distance over the overcast and land there. He led us on toward Pacos.
        I had buzzed some cowboys herding cattle on the way over there and I noticed my gas
supply was getting low. I flew up into close formation with Potter, and pointed at my map and
pointed back west to Van Horn, where the map showed a landing field.
        Then Potter waved for me to follow him, and we kept going. We flew to where I thought
we were past Pecos. Then he turned and headed northwest toward salt flats. This stunned me
and I couldn't understand why he chose that direction. I decided if I was going to bail out, I
would like to see the ground below. Looking to the southwest I could see the Davis Mountains
protruding through the overcast, so I peeled off and headed toward the mountains.
        Just before I got to the mountains my engine quit. I was out of gas. The gas gauge
showed there was a little gas still left in the tank. I richened the gas mixture and started shaking
the plane thinking I might get the engine to run a little more. I had my head down in the cockpit
checking everything when out of the corner of my eye I saw clouds coming up around the plane.
Then I raised up to look. I saw a pile of rocks about 50 feet off my left wing. I didn't hesitate. I
dove over the side and pulled the ripcord at the same time. As I broke through the overcast the
first thing I saw was a railroad and a freight train was coming down the track.
         This happen in December, and a northern blew in and it turned cold that afternoon. The
wind was blowing about 35 mph and that saved me from hitting the tracks in front of the train. I
had to pull up my legs to keep from hitting the fence that paralleled the tracks. Not knowing
within 50 miles of were I was, I thought I had better flag the train down. My feet and legs were
cold and between that and hitting the ground they were so sore I couldn't stand up. I was on my
knees waving at the train engineer. He just waved back and kept going.
         When I got to where I could stand up I started trying to get my parachute out of a thorny
thicket it had blown into. I figured I would needed to wrap up in for the night to keep from
freezing to death. Suddenly I heard a noise and here came a man and a wagon and team of mules
over the hill. He said, “I saw at your plane go down from just over that hill just south of here.
Get in the wagon and I will take you over there.”
         When we arrived where the plane hit the ground, we found the fuselage was rolled up the
ball shape. The engine was about 50 feet away by itself. To my great surprise, there were two
men and a woman prying around in the wreckage looking for a body. The railroad and the
highway paralleled each other in that area. One of these men was driving a gasoline tanker. The
man and his wife who were driving a car had seen the plane crash, but had not seen me bail out.
         The men offered to take me down the road a few miles to a little community called Kent,
Texas. I couldn't go until I managed to pry my B-4 bag out of the wreckage. Then when we
arrived at the one store and filling station at Kent, I found that the train engineer had stopped
there and called El Paso Army Air Base and reported seeing me bail out. They instructed me to
stay at Kent until investigators got there from Pecos Air Base, since that was where we were
supposed to land.
         I will fill in the portion of the story I omitted up to this point. What I broke off our
formation and left Potter, one of the other pilots followed me instead of Potter. He had not been
wasting fuel like I had. He made it to the edge of the overcast west of Kent and safely landed in
a cow pasture, then hitchhiked back to Kent.
         When the officers from Pecos arrived, I guided them out to the wreck. It was well after
midnight when we finally arrived at Pecos Air Base. It had been a long day and we were really
pooped out. So, the commanding officer told a jeep driver to drive us to the bachelor officers
quarters where transient officers stay. He told us we could stay in the first empty room we
found. The other pilot with me was real young man named Mosser. His father was a brigadier
general, and he thought he should have extra privilege for that reason.
         I stopped at a room immediately inside the door and was getting ready for bed. Mosser
kept on going down the hall and returned a short time later. He said, “Hey, don't sleep on that
cot. I found a suite at the other end of the building that is real nice. It has two double beds, a
kitchen with a refrigerator and some nice furniture.” I told him, “That wasn't meant for us. That
it was meant for visiting Generals or Colonels.” He said, “You heard what the major said. We
can sleep in any empty room we find.” I gave up and moved in with him. The next morning we
slept late. The major sent a driver to get us but he couldn't find us. When they finally found us,
we got the worst chewing out I ever received in the military service.
         I'm sure you are wondering what ever happened to Potter and the other two pilots after
we split up. They flew back Northwest until they were about to run out of gas, and in
desperation they started dipping down into the clouds looking for a thin spot to go through.
When they finally found a thin spot where they could see the ground, they were over a valley
between two hills. When they broke through the first thing they saw was a little shack. So they
circled around and found that the rancher had cleared a landing strip for his plane to land there.
When they landed, they found a sheepherder and his wife living there. The sheepherder had two
horses, so he rode his horse 8 miles to the main ranch house, where they had a telephone and
radio. They call Pecos Air Base and told them where the men were. They sent a tank truck out
and gassed up the planes. They told Potter to stay right there until the weather cleared. The
Major would fly out and tell them when it was safe to fly in.
        This all happened on Friday and the weather didn't clear until Sunday afternoon. The
Major decided to fly out in an AT6 plane to signal them to fly. He asked me to go with him. We
flew out and located the cabin and the landing strip. The Major remarked to me, "I believe I can
land there."
        Now, an AT6 advanced trainer is much larger than a Stearman. I told the Major, "I
wouldn't attempt to land there." He didn't listen and went in to land. He made a perfect landing
right on the end of the runway, but he couldn't stop in time, so we rolled out in the mesquite
bushes. He circled around through the bushes and taxied back on the runway. Two of the pilots
and the sheepherder's wife met us as we climbed out of the plane. The first word from the Major
was, "Which one of you is Potter, the flight leader?" One of them answered, "He's not here sir."
"Where is he?" asked the Major. "He has gone deer hunting." was the reply.
        At that moment Potter came over a nearby hill on a horse in a long lope. He had seen our
plane come in. The Major gave him a lengthy lecture about not obeying orders, and so forth.
Potter explained that they were about to run out of food, and he had to do something, so he went
hunting. The major told them all to load up and take off ahead of us.
        I went in a house to help them with their belongings. I couldn't help laughing about what
I saw. The cabin had one room, about 10' x 10' with one regular sized bed and a kitchen stove.
The three men had been sleeping on the floor with no bedding or pillows and not much to eat.
As they were about to board their planes, they got together and pooled their money to give the
lady for their room and board. She refused to take their money. One of them stepped up behind
her and put the money in her jacket pocket.
        She threw it on the ground and said, "I'm not taking that money." Then she said, "I have
had more fun the last three days than I have had in the last three years." I could just imagine the
wild tales the men had been telling her. The pilots kept the money. When we got back to
Gardner Field in California it was getting close to Christmas. Those men filled a huge box with
Christmas gifts. There was fruit, candy, and cigarettes for the man and various other things,
including silk hose for the woman. Silk hose were hard to find at that time during the war. I
would have given anything to have seen the couple's reaction when they opened the box.
        When I arrived back at my home base I was told that I was now a member of the
Caterpillar Club. This was a club the Parachute Company had started for anyone who had to
make an emergency jump using one of their parachutes. I was also told it was customary to go to
the warehouse where a group of women worked packing parachutes, and thank the one who
packed my chute, and give her a gift. A friend of mine who had been to this place told me there
was a bunch of pretty girls working there. Knowing me, he knew I wouldn't turn down an
opportunity to meet a new girl. They were very scarce around that area. When I found the girl I
was shocked. She was the ugliest girl I have ever seen before or since. I gave her a large box of
candy and thanked her. I left pretty quick and I have never seen her again since.

                                                                        Oliver W. Chisum @ 2006

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