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



The Loss of Our Friend

It was a gloomy day in Shanghai. Dick and I were in our room in the Japanese barracks that were taken over by our Army. The room was bare except for two bunk beds, which were made of two by four lengths of wood. I used the lower bunk and Dick had the upper bunk. I received my sleeping bag from the quartermaster and it was an escape to lay in the bag, zip up and forget about the war for a moment in time. We were at the left side of a window, while our other roommate, Paul, was on the right end. Paul left to be alone for awhile. The three of us had to fly the next day. Dick and I decided to join him because we were a little concerned about him. His face had that look that was so common these days. We met him downstairs outside at a table, starting to write a letter. When he looked up, he asked us to join him. Paul asked our opinion about proposing by mail to his girl friend back in the States, but, felt hesitant. He told us his girl was a double widow, her first marine pilot husband was shot down in the Pacific, and her second husband was a naval officer was also killed, aboard a ship in the Pacific. Paul had this gut feeling that if he sent this letter, it might predict his doom. Dick and I both agreed we would have waited until we were back in the USA then do the deed in person.

The following day we dressed in our flight gear, checked our pistols, went to breakfast, got our “K” rations, and reported to the flight line before dawn. Our mission went well until we were on our return to Shanghai. We entered rain in a dark low cloud and fog mass. Only Dick and I were at the controls, no navigator wanted to fly with us, and the radio operator went to sick call. We were at 15,000 feet when we made radio contact 50 miles from the field. The field tower operator told us the field was clear up to 300 feet, the minimum clearance to land on instruments.

I radioed out compass, heading and altitude, they gave us permission to start our let down to 300 feet altitude. Our radio compass was my guide now and I kept my eyes off the gyro compass in order to fly directly at the radio tower. I had to turn the plane until the radio compass rotated to “O.” We were now in line with the radio tower. I reduced our speed to 130 mph., the speed that kept us from stalling. Any less than 130 mph could mean a stall, and we would crash. I radioed the tower operator for landing instructions. I was to fly on the same course for another five minutes. Dick was keeping our time intervals to the closest second and our lives depended on maintaining attention to all instructions. I was given a new compass setting to turn, but still continued a slow turn so that I would end up at the new compass setting in five minutes. This was to make sure we cleared any obstacles. Dick was key now with keeping the time accurate. The next instruction was to stay on the new compass setting for ten minutes before making a 180 degree turn to the left. I had initially turned left to be on this compass setting. The only way to stay on course was to make the final 180 degree turn in the identical time it took to make the left turn onto the given compass direction. This would set us in line with the runway. Any deviation from the time would not allow me time to turn the plane in line with the runway, which we needed to be in order to land. I was on the final approach, waiting for the moment we would reach 300 feet, see the runway and land. We landed in a pouring rain, following our instructions exactly meant a safe landing. I made the landing while giving thanks for DEVINE help. We maintained radio contact and heard a call from an incoming pilot about to go through the same procedure we had just finished.

We traveled to the end and off the landing runway. The tower cleared the new plane to land. Their plane missed the first time, and then tried a second time and missed again. We heard there were 6 pilots, 6 copilots, navigators, and radio operators on board. The second pilot to take a turn to land tried three times without success. Finally, the third pilot tried and failed. The tower told them to all jump after clearing the field, because there was another plane wanting to land and it was low on fuel. Everyone on that plane jumped and landed in the Yangtze River. We got word that the swollen body of Paul washed ashore three days after the accident. There was no notice or funeral for any of the lost air men. I do not know if any letter was sent from our group to their relatives back home. The loss of our friend is still in my mind.

C-46 transport plane