|AN EIGHTH AIR FORCE BOMBER STATION, England--A copilot who kept fainting from loss of blood in spite of an emergency tourniquet made from a phone cord remained at the controls
as the B-24 Liberator and was helped by his engineer-waist gunner and Bombardier to bring the bit Eighth Air Force bomber surely back from Holland to England with two motors knocked
out and the pilot dangerously wounded.
The Liberator, "Pandora's Box", was on its way to the target-a NAZI airbase used by Luftwaffe fighters in anti-invasion operations-when a flak shell burst right outside the plane, disabling two of the four motors and sending sharp steel fragments hurtling into the cockpit. Both the pilot, 2nd Lieutenant Thomas J. Pearson, of 61 Rhode Island Avenue N. E., Washington D. C., and the copilot, 2nd Lieutenant John D. Orlosky, Brockway, Pa., were wounded by flak splinters, the pilot extremely seriously.
Feeling the controls slipping away, Lt. Pearson called to the copilot, "I'm about out, Johnny. Take over," and the immediately fainted. In spite of his own painful and bleeding injuries, Lt. Orlosky clutched the controls and fought to keep the bomber on course.
"I heard Pearson tell Orlosky to take over and realized we were in one hell of a fix," said the Bombardier and 2nd Lieutenant Frank A. Prete, 211 North Wine Street, Shenandoah, Pa., who came forward to see what could be done. "Even so, I was relieved to hear them talking, for that shell seemed to have burst right in the cockpit and I thought they had both been killed."
The radio operator, Staff Sergeant Robert McCadden, of 16 School Street, Buffalo, N. Y., lifted the pilot out of his seat and pulled him onto the flight deck behind the cockpit, where he applied emergency medical treatment. All the regular first aid equipment had been smashed the flak, so Lt. Prete hurriedly devised a tourniquet made from the interphone cord and applied it to Lt. Orlosky.
Remaining in his seat, copilot Orlosky struggled with the controls of the crippled bomber, to keep it from diving earthward, while Lt. Prete worked in the pilot's seat, and the engineer, Technical sergeant Max L. Neiden, of 2619 Randolph street, Lincoln, Nebraska, left his waist gun to stand in the cockpit handling the throttles.
All during the flight back to England, Lt. Orlosky momentarily losing consciousness, but he fought against completely "blacking out" in order to keep helping fly the plane, which was losing altitude at the rate of 1500ft. a minute. When the B-24 dropped out of formation, three P-47 Thunderbolts flew to it and stayed close on the look out for enemy fighters who otherwise might have found the battered bomber easy prey.
"These escort fighters looked better than any pin-up girl I've ever seen," commented Bombardier Prete.
When "Pandora's Box" came over the English channel, Lt. Prete and Sergeant Neiden set the automatic pilot equipment to keep the plane steady, and temporarily left the wounded copilot at the controls while they went back to the Bomb bay to release the bombs, which could not be kept in the racks because of the danger of explosion in a crash landing. The mechanism had been wrecked by flak, and the doors wouldn't swing open.
"we managed to kick and crank the doors part of the way open," said Sergeant Neiden. "In between crawling back to the front of the plane to get a gulp of oxygen, we used a screwdriver to trip the release mechanism. The bombs fell one by one into the channel, occasionally bouncing off the partly open doors as they started downward."
Crossing the English coast, with the Bombardier and engineer back in the cockpit with the copilot, the crew spotted a small, grassy are RAF field use for landing small, light aircraft, and decided to bring the big bomber down in order to get medical care as soon as possible for the wounded men. Lt. Orlosky, who told the others, "don't let me lose too much blood, or I won't be able to direct the landing, " cautioned the engineer to circle the field until he regained consciousness if he were to faint again. Nearly exhausted with pain and loss of blood, he instructed the others during the entire process of bringing the B-24 down, and a smooth belly landing was made, with no further injury and slight damage only to one propeller and the underside of the plane.
Lts. Pearson and Orlosky are recovering in an Army hospital, and the other crewmen are flying again in Eighth Air Force bombing attacks on German targets. They include: Sergeant Arthur B. Kluge, 42 Simon street, Beverly, Mass., nose gunner; sergeant Roy A. Jorgensen, Newfolden, Minn., ball turret gunner; Sergeant Richard C. Hartman, North Tonawanda, N. Y. top turret gunner; and Sergeant Gatch N. Maxey, Jr., 344 West Main Street, Carlisle, Ky., tail gunner.
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