This story is about: Jorgen Jorgensen
1st lieutenant, 33rd squadron 513 group
It takes place: 1945
in China



Divine Intervention, Part Two

Part 2:

I remember my arrival in Kunming from Calcutta, India, and the Army issue of following: fleece-lined boots, fleece-lined flying overall type leg and body cover, fleece-lined bomber jacket, and the dual gloves to keep my fingers from freezing at the high altitudes I would be flying. The 45 caliber semiautomatic pistol with a 9 bullet magazine was given with the warning: always carry the pistol and holster when flying because if the time comes and you crash or must bail out, your only protection is the 45. Always save the last bullet for yourself. The soldier issuing my gear demonstrated how to do the final act. Stick the muzzle of the gun in your mouth and tilt the barrel up at a 45 degree angle, pull the trigger. You wonder why he said all this. It is because there will be no search party if you go down. There are bands of enemy soldiers that are experts in pain: pulling out all your finger and toe nails; tying your body to the ground over a newly planted crop of bamboo that will grow through your body while you die a horrible death. Another death is by being strapped spread eagle and deprived of water. To die without water will probably drive you out of your mind before the end comes.

I checked all the controls, gauges etc. The engines were running smoothly and the gyro-compass was keeping us at elevation and direction without any manual interference. I went back to day dreaming. My thoughts sent me back home with my wife. We were married a few months before I was sent to China. Our families live on neighboring farms. I did not want to think of things that might happen. I checked with our navigator who said we were on course with a correction for wind direction. Based on our present flying air speed of 180 mph, he said we should reach the Kunming radio signal soon which would get all information as well as our radio compass indicating the direction, in degrees, to the radio field tower. The navigator will give me a five minute warning to expect the radio contact.

It had been about six hours since we started from the time we began our compass setting for Kunming. I was getting anxious. After about 10 minutes our navigator came forward and said we must be lost because we should have made radio contact 15 minutes ago. All I saw was 3 faces of a pasty gray and not a word was said: we all knew what was ahead.

The first thing that came to mind was to bail out, but then there would be no hope of survival. I said to to make a best guess what direction that would at least bring us a little closer to the field. I had this overpowering feeling to make a 60 degree turn to the left, and do it immediately. All 6 gas gauges read “E“ so I decided to start at the rear tanks. I would then sequence tank selection from rear, center and front tanks. I had to keep the engines running as long as possible. We had to get as close as we could to the field to have at least a chance of being found before entering the fires of hell.

I reduced the rpm on both engines until we had an air speed of 130 mph, the air speed below which would cause a stall. A stall would send our plane into a nose dive that I could not pull us out of. I then set the left and right engines to the rear gas tanks selection. I started a slow descent to aid in maintaining and gaining air speed. We were in this dense fog and I realized we might run into an unseen mountain, but what choice did I have?

No radio contact, but we continued. My mind was keeping on the same compass setting. I do not remember the length of time before we made contact. As soon as we made radio contact, our radio operator called the tower. The tower answered by telling us we had been given up for dead, crashed, and gone up in flames. He thought it was a ghost calling in.

I was concentrating on the sound of the engines, the first engine, the left one started to cough, ready to quit. I switched to the left center gas tank and the engine started to run smooth again. This game continued where the engines alternately started the cough and I kept switching tanks. The time now came where both engines were on the final front fuel tanks. The left engine coughed and died. Only the right engine was running.

All of us were straining to see any sign of the field. We were still under the blanket of dense clouds and fog. I could see the rock strewn ground below, the huge rock formations that looked like rock ice cream cones turned upside down. We were below these formations and, flying between them. I maintained my original 60 degree setting. I estimated we started about 1500 feet above ground when I first heard the tower radio. I maintained our gradual descent.

Soon the final engine died. I had my copilot lower the flaps to full down to help keep us in the air as long as possible. I thought I could see a strip of concrete. It was the beginning of the runway. I saw this concrete and I could not believe my eyes. We had a chance of living if we could at least have the two front wheels reach and contact it, The tail wheel could hit the ground which would just give us enough drag to slow us down. I put all my strength into pulling on the control column to keep the nose up, and not cause a stall. Another miracle was that my flight direction was in line with the center line of the runway.

I was told it is impossible for a C-46 to glide, that the loss of engines would be an absolute crash. We did glide well enough to have our two wheels reach and make contact with the runway. I managed to keep the plane on the runway until we came to a stop.

The runway was alive with fire engines, meat wagons, and tractors coming at us for any aid needed. The tractor hitched the nose of the C-46, and pulled us to the end of the runway, and off the runway. As soon as we were parked, the doors opened. Both the navigator and radio operator departed never to be seen or heard from of again by me. I tried to get out of my parachute and safety harness. I then tried to get up but my legs refused to move. I was lifted out of my seat and taken out of the plane. I do not remember anything until later when I found myself laying on a bunk.

After getting back to home, I did a simple calculation. Based on a speed of 130 mph at 50 miles, starting at the moment I received the radio signal, I found it was a 23 minutes and 5 seconds to make our landing. I also found that if I had taken any other than a 60 degree left turn and at the very time that I did, I would have missed the runway and crashed. The drop in speed of 130 mph. to an almost sudden stop would probably have caused a leak in some of the 55 gallon drums filled with highly flammable gasoline. And if that didn't do us in, we would have been crushed by the safety harness that kept us in our seats. If I had taken a plus or minus .017 degree deviation from 60 degrees at time that I did, we would have missed the runway by 28.9 miles. If I had not made the 60 degree turn when I did, it would have been impossible to line up with the runway. There is only “one” combination of time and direction from any approach direction that would have allowed us to land safely. I am certain there was DIVINE intervention, we were meant to live.

C-46 transport plane