A aviation & planes forum. AviationBanter

If this is your first visit, be sure to check out the FAQ by clicking the link above. You may have to register before you can post: click the register link above to proceed. To start viewing messages, select the forum that you want to visit from the selection below.

Go Back   Home » AviationBanter forum » rec.aviation newsgroups » Home Built
Site Map Home Register Authors List Search Today's Posts Mark Forums Read Web Partners

A Good Story



 
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old August 29th 03, 03:36 PM
Badwater Bill
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default A Good Story


Another one of those things I get from docents out at PASM. Don't
know if true, but certainly sounds like it. If not, a good yarn
anyway.


Piggyback Hero
by Ralph Kinney Bennett

Tomorrow morning they'll lay the remains of Glenn Rojohn to rest in
the Peace Lutheran Cemetery in the little town of Greenock, Pa., just
southeast of Pittsburgh. He was 81, and had been in the air
conditioning andplumbing business in nearby McKeesport. If you had
seen him on the street hewould probably have looked to you like so
many other graying, bespectacled old World War II veterans whose
names appear so often now on obituary pages.

But like so many of them, though he seldom talked about it, he could
have told you one hell of a story. He won the Distinguished Flying
Cross and the Purple Heart all in one fell swoop in the skies over
Germany on December 31, 1944.

Fell swoop indeed.

Capt. Glenn Rojohn, of the 8th Air Force's 100th Bomb Group, was
flying his B-17G Flying Fortress bomber on a raid over Hamburg. His
formation had braved heavy flak to drop their bombs, then turned 180
degrees to head out over the North Sea.

They had finally turned northwest, headed back to England, when they
were jumped by German fighters at 22,000 feet. The Messerschmitt
Me-109s pressed their attack so closely that Capt. Rojohn could see
the faces of the German pilots.

He and other pilots fought to remain in formation so they could use
each other's guns to defend the group. Rojohn saw a B-17 ahead of him
burst into flames and slide sickeningly toward the earth. He gunned
his ship forward to fill in the gap.

He felt a huge impact. The big bomber shuddered, felt suddenly very
heavy and began losing altitude. Rojohn grasped almost immediately
that he had collided with another plane. A B-17 below him, piloted by
Lt. William G. McNab, had slammed the top of its fuselage into the
bottom of Rojohn's.
The top turret gun of McNab's plane was now locked in the belly of
Rojohn's plane and the ball turret in the belly of Rojohn's had
smashed through the top of McNab's. The two bombers were almost
perfectly aligned - the tail of the lower plane was slightly to the
left of Rojohn's tailpiece. They were stuck together, as a crewman
later recalled, "like mating dragon flies."

No one will ever know exactly how it happened. Perhaps both pilots
had moved instinctively to fill the same gap in formation. Perhaps
McNab's plane had hit an air pocket.

Three of the engines on the bottom plane were still running, as were
all four of Rojohn's. The fourth engine on the lower bomber was on
fire and the flames were spreading to the rest of the aircraft. The
two were losing altitude quickly. Rojohn tried several times to gun
his engines and break free of the other plane. The two were
inextricably locked together. Fearing a fire, Rojohn cuts his engines
and rang the bailout bell. If his crew had any chance of parachuting,
he had to keep the plane under control somehow.

The ball turret, hanging below the belly of the B-17, was considered
by many to be a death trap - the worst station on the bomber. In this
case, both ball turrets figured in a swift and terrible drama of life
and death. Staff Sgt. Edward L. Woodall, Jr., in the ball turret of
the lower bomber, had felt the impact of the collision above him and
saw shards of metal drop past him. Worse, he realized both electrical
and hydraulic power was gone.

Remembering escape drills, he grabbed the handcrank, released the
clutch and cranked the turret and its guns until they were straight
down, then turned and climbed out the back of the turret up into the
fuselage.

Once inside the plane's belly Woodall saw a chilling sight, the ball
turret of the other bomber protruding through the top of the
fuselage. In that turret, hopelessly trapped, was Staff Sgt. Joseph
Russo. Several crewmembers on Rojohn's plane tried frantically to
crank Russo's turret around so he could escape. But, jammed into the
fuselage of the lower plane, the turret would not budge.

Aware of his plight, but possibly unaware that his voice was going
out over the intercom of his plane, Sgt. Russo began reciting his
Hail Marys.

Up in the cockpit, Capt. Rojohn and his co-pilot, 2nd Lt. William G.
Leek, Jr., had propped their feet against the instrument panel so
they could pull back on their controls with all their strength,
trying to prevent their plane from going into a spinning dive that
would prevent the crew from jumping out.

Capt. Rojohn motioned left and the two managed to wheel the
grotesque, collision-born hybrid of a plane back toward the German
coast. Leek felt like he was intruding on Sgt. Russo as his prayers
crackled over the radio, so he pulled off his flying helmet with its
earphones.

Rojohn, immediately grasping that crew could not exit from the
bottom of his plane, ordered his top turret gunner and his radio
operator, Tech Sgts. Orville Elkin and Edward G. Neuhaus, to make
their way to the back of the fuselage and out the waist door behind
the left wing.

Then he got his navigator, 2nd Lt. Robert Washington, and his
bombardier, Sgt. James Shirley to follow them. As Rojohn and Leek
somehow held the plane steady, these four men, as well as waist gunner
Sgt. Roy Little and tail gunner Staff Sgt. Francis Chase were able to
bail out.

Now the plane locked below them was aflame. Fire poured over
Rojohn's left wing. He could feel the heat from the plane below and
hear the sound of .50 caliber machinegun ammunition "cooking off" in
the flames.

Capt. Rojohn ordered Lieut. Leek to bail out. Leek knew that without
him helping keep the controls back, the plane would drop in a flaming
spiral and the centrifugal force would prevent Rojohn from bailing. He
refused the order.

Meanwhile, German soldiers and civilians on the ground that
afternoon looked up in wonder. Some of them thought they were seeing a
new Allied secret weapon - a strange eight-engined double bomber. But
anti-aircraft gunners on the North Sea coastal island of Wangerooge
had seen the collision. A German battery captain wrote in his logbook
at 12:47 p.m.:

"Two fortresses collided in a formation in the NE. The planes flew
hooked together and flew 20 miles south. The two planes were unable to
fight anymore. The crash could be awaited so I stopped the firing at
these two planes."

Suspended in his parachute in the cold December sky, Bob Washington
watched with deadly fascination as the mated bombers, trailing black
smoke, fell to earth about three miles away, their downward trip
ending in an ugly boiling blossom of fire.

In the cockpit Rojohn and Leek held grimly to the controls trying to
ride a falling rock. Leek tersely recalled, "The ground came up faster
and faster. Praying was allowed. We gave it one last effort and
slammed into the ground."

The McNab plane on the bottom exploded, vaulting the other B-17
upward and forward. It hit the ground and slid along until its left
wing slammed through a wooden building and the smoldering mass of
aluminum came to a stop.

Rojohn and Leek were still seated in their cockpit. The nose of the
plane was relatively intact, but everything from the B-17's massive
wings back was destroyed. They looked at each other incredulously.
Neither was badly injured.

Movies have nothing on reality. Still perhaps in shock, Leek crawled
out through a huge hole behind the cockpit, felt for the familiar pack
in his uniform pocket and pulled out a cigarette. He placed it in his
mouth and was about to light it. Then he noticed a young German
soldier pointing a rifle at him. The soldier looked scared and
annoyed. He grabbed the cigarette out of Leek's mouth and pointed down
to the gasoline pouring out over the wing from a ruptured fuel tank.

Two of the six men who parachuted from Rojohn's plane did not
survive the jump. But the other four and, amazingly, four men from the
other bomber, including ball turret gunner Woodall, survived. All were
taken prisoner. Several of them were interrogated at length by the
Germans until they were satisfied that what had crashed was not a new
American secret weapon.

Rojohn, typically, didn't talk much about his Distinguished Flying
Cross. Of Leek, he said, "In all fairness to my co-pilot, he's the
reason I'm alive today."

Like so many veterans, Rojohn got back to life unsentimentally after
the war, marrying and raising a son and daughter. For many years,
though, he tried to link back up with Leek, going through government
records to try to track him down. It took him 40 years, but in 1986,
he found the number of Leek's mother, in Washington State.

Yes, her son Bill was visiting from California. Would Rojohn like to
speak with him? Two old men on a phone line, trying to pick up some
familiar timbre of youth in each other's voice. One can imagine that
first conversation between the two men who had shared that wild ride
in the cockpit of a B-17.

A year later, the two were re-united at a reunion of the 100th Bomb
Group in Long Beach, Calif. Bill Leek died the following year.

Glenn Rojohn was the last survivor of the remarkable piggyback
flight. He was like thousands upon thousands of men -- soda jerks and
lumberjacks, teachers and dentists, students and lawyers and service
station attendants and store clerks and farm boys -- who in the prime
of their lives went to war in World War II. They sometimes did
incredible things, endured awful things, and for the most part most of
them pretty much kept it to themselves and just faded back into the
fabric of civilian life.

Capt. Glenn Rojohn, AAF, died last Saturday after a long siege of
illness. But he apparently faced that final battle with the same grim
aplomb he displayed that remarkable day over Germany so long ago. Let
us be thankful for such men.
- - - -
I wonder how many more stories like this one are lost
each day as members of that Great Generation pass on.

======================






  #2  
Old August 29th 03, 07:16 PM
Corrie
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default

Wow. Thanks for sharing this, Bill. I hope to make it out to Pima
one of these days. Heard some amazing stories when I was a volunteer
at Planes of Fame East.

The upper ball-gunner didn't make it, I take it? Helluva way to go,
trapped, waiting to die, praying it's quick. Good thing the ACLU
wasn't around back then - his survivors probably would have been sued
over the "Hail Marys" he broadcast over the government-issued
intercom.

Corrie


(Badwater Bill) wrote in message . ..
Another one of those things I get from docents out at PASM. Don't
know if true, but certainly sounds like it. If not, a good yarn
anyway.

.....
  #3  
Old August 29th 03, 07:21 PM
Craig
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default

(Badwater Bill) wrote in message . ..
Another one of those things I get from docents out at PASM. Don't
know if true, but certainly sounds like it. If not, a good yarn
anyway.

Let
us be thankful for such men.
- - - -
I wonder how many more stories like this one are lost
each day as members of that Great Generation pass on.


Amen to that Bill. I wish that I could have been old enough and
persistant enough to get my uncles to talk about their experiences
before they passed on. One flew with the 1st Air Commandos and
supported Merril and Wingate for the entire time they were in Burma.
I've got some of his original orders and decoration orders as well as
monthly flight sheets. From one month's flight sheets, it appears that
he flew over 500 missions in 28 days....bear in mind that at that
time, everything, including maintenace hops were considered combat
missions since they were way behind enemy lines and constantly shot
at. What's really unfortunate is that he was also an accomplished
photographer and took tens of thousands of photos over there. His
ex-wife in a real fit of spite destroyed all the pictures and
negatives before anyone could rescue them.

My other uncle flew with VP-74 all over the east coast of North
America, South America and the Carribean as an aircraft commander in
PBM's. His crew helped to sink at least two German subs and was nearly
shot out of the sky by a sub on the surface during one battle. I've
pictures that were shot of his PBM when it got back with all the holes
in it and water pouring out of some gaping ones in the belly of the
hull.

Doesn't matter what you think of them and the current military
people,, as well as all who have served, they all deserve our utmost
respect and grattitude for that service. I just wish more people would
show that.

Craig C.

  #4  
Old August 30th 03, 01:09 AM
Badwater Bill
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default


Doesn't matter what you think of them and the current military
people,, as well as all who have served, they all deserve our utmost
respect and grattitude for that service. I just wish more people would
show that.

Craig C.


Yeah, you got that right. It could start with the VA. I think the
way many of these poor wounded GI's have spent a lifetime suffering
with poor to no mental or medical help is insane. My father has 394
days of combat on the front lines in North Africa, Italy, France, then
Germany. He's a wreck to this day from it. He never recovered. He
actually shouldn't have even had a family. He's tortured each day
with memories of nearly 60 years now about combat. He's tortured
about things like the liberation of Dachow and some other
concentration camps north of Munich plus all the battles that lead up
to that point which was near the end of the war.

These poor *******s never got the mental help they needed. The Viet
Nam vets are in the same basket. Nobody treated them for the scars in
their minds. I think the VA has been so underfunded it's a disgrace
to this country and to the great men and women who served all of us so
bravely.

BWB


  #5  
Old August 30th 03, 10:50 AM
Barnyard BOb --
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default


What's even worse is the DoD is now trying to cut the extra combat pay
the guys and gals over in Iraq and Afghanastan are getting. The little
extra they get sure isn't worth getting perferated for, but it's damn
sure chicken sh*t for the brass to cut it even a buck while they are
still over there.

Craig C.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Don't blame DoD.
Credit George Bush and Company.
While they praise our military publicly.....
they also continue to gut BILLIONS from VA
hospitals/medical programs across the land.

If and when our guys and gals get back,
they will have even less in the way of medical
assistance or care. Let us not forget our military gets
precious little in the way of life insurance benefits, too.
Get killed and you're lucky to get a body bag ride home.

It's painful to know that the Bush administration prefers
to buy votes through the latest round of tax cuts instead
of properly funding the human needs of our military......
past, present and future. But, what's new.


Barnyard BOb -- one ****ed military vet



  #6  
Old August 30th 03, 04:01 PM
Craig
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default

Barnyard BOb -- wrote in message . ..
++++++++++++++++++

Don't blame DoD.


Sorry Bob, but this one is straight from the Pentagon without input
from the Oval office....Their reasoning is that it it getting too
expensive to staff the war and still pay for everything else. Doesn't
matter that they shoot themselves in the feet with bad buy/build
decisions a lot of the time, they just take it out on the duty people.

The only way we are ever going to have enough bucks to really and
truely take care of the vets' needs is when we (collectively the
citizens of the US ) get our act together and force our government to
halt being the open wallet for the rest of the world. I'm not
advocating turning off all the bucks we divy out, but reducing them
and being a bit more selective in where they go.

BTW...Bob, even if we dissagree on some of this stuff, no matter
what, you and all those that have and are serving have my utmost
respect and gratitude for helping keep this country where we can
dissagree and not be executed for it. Thank you very much for your
service.

Craig C.

  #7  
Old August 30th 03, 11:34 PM
Bruce A. Frank
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default

The money we hand out to the rest of the world (a practice I detest),
even adding in the cost of maintaining bases all over the world is a
very small part of US government expenditures. Welfare and entitlement
programs eat most of the budget.

Craig wrote:

Barnyard BOb -- wrote in message . ..
++++++++++++++++++

Don't blame DoD.


Sorry Bob, but this one is straight from the Pentagon without input
from the Oval office....Their reasoning is that it it getting too
expensive to staff the war and still pay for everything else. Doesn't
matter that they shoot themselves in the feet with bad buy/build
decisions a lot of the time, they just take it out on the duty people.

The only way we are ever going to have enough bucks to really and
truely take care of the vets' needs is when we (collectively the
citizens of the US ) get our act together and force our government to
halt being the open wallet for the rest of the world. I'm not
advocating turning off all the bucks we divy out, but reducing them
and being a bit more selective in where they go.

BTW...Bob, even if we dissagree on some of this stuff, no matter
what, you and all those that have and are serving have my utmost
respect and gratitude for helping keep this country where we can
dissagree and not be executed for it. Thank you very much for your
service.

Craig C.


--
Bruce A. Frank, Editor "Ford 3.8/4.2L Engine and V-6 STOL
Homebuilt Aircraft Newsletter"
| Publishing interesting material|
| on all aspects of alternative |
| engines and homebuilt aircraft.|
*------------------------------**----*
\(-o-)/ AIRCRAFT PROJECTS CO.
\___/ Manufacturing parts & pieces
/ \ for homebuilt aircraft,
0 0 TIG welding

While trying to find the time to finish mine.
  #8  
Old August 31st 03, 12:09 AM
Badwater Bill
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default

On Sat, 30 Aug 2003 22:34:06 GMT, "Bruce A. Frank"
wrote:

The money we hand out to the rest of the world (a practice I detest),
even adding in the cost of maintaining bases all over the world is a
very small part of US government expenditures. Welfare and entitlement
programs eat most of the budget.


And prisons.

Here in Nevada, the prisons eat up as much money as the schools. It's
split about evenly between welfare 1/3, schools 1/3, prisons 1/3. The
government itself is this little sliver of the pie that is
inconsequential.

BWB


  #9  
Old August 31st 03, 05:41 PM
Big John
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default

Butch

1. Did you get any pictures? They might be trading material with the
Air Force or DOD or could go in Museum at Wright Patterson?

2. Contact:

Air Force Historical Research Agency (Located on Maxwell AFB, AL)
Phone (334) 953-2395
or


If they can't help you they should be able to point you to further
sources.

Were there any traces of airframe left to identify the aircraft type?
The A-20 (twin engine) was also used in Pacific. Don't think the A-26
made it????


Not just sure how you can get the Jap info of when the ship was sunk
but that would give a mission date and narraow the search in our
records.

Jap records also migaht account for the aircraft type that impacted
the destroyer?

When you talk to Maxwell, ask them about Jap records. They may have
gotten them after the War or may still be in Japan and they would know
where they are and how to get access?

Rabaul ended up as a 'milk run' after we bypassed it. It was used to
give new aircrews training after they arrived in theater as I recall.

Good luck. If you strike gold let us all know.

Big John
P-40, P51, etc, etc.


On 30 Aug 2003 18:44:09 -0700,
(butch burton)
wrote:

-----clip----

While diving in the Rabaul Harbor, discovered a Jap destroyer sunk
with 2 large US made radial aircraft engines. Looks like some US
pilot flew a Mitchell bomber into this destroyer. Always been on my to
do list to try and find out something about the pilot/crew of this
aircraft. Anybody got any suggestions. A few years ago the volcano
at the edge of the harbor erupted completely filling the whole area
with ash so the wreckage is probably beneath yards of volcanic ash.



----dlip----
  #10  
Old September 1st 03, 11:51 PM
butch burton
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default

Did get pics but the only thing left of the US aircraft was the
engines-large P&W radials. Salt is very corrosive and most all of the
aircraft was gone. The engines were impacted into the port side of
the destroyer. It was a very small destroyer-more like a large armed
escort vessel and the skipper of the vessel ran it into very shallow
water in an attempt to save it. Will dig out the pics and contact the
AF HRA at Maxwell. Really like to know the name of the pilot-a battle
probably long forgotten-kind of gives you an idea of the stuff these
people were made of. Will let you know what I find.

Big John wrote in message . ..
Butch

1. Did you get any pictures? They might be trading material with the
Air Force or DOD or could go in Museum at Wright Patterson?

2. Contact:

Air Force Historical Research Agency (Located on Maxwell AFB, AL)
Phone (334) 953-2395
or


If they can't help you they should be able to point you to further
sources.

Were there any traces of airframe left to identify the aircraft type?
The A-20 (twin engine) was also used in Pacific. Don't think the A-26
made it????


Not just sure how you can get the Jap info of when the ship was sunk
but that would give a mission date and narraow the search in our
records.

Jap records also migaht account for the aircraft type that impacted
the destroyer?

When you talk to Maxwell, ask them about Jap records. They may have
gotten them after the War or may still be in Japan and they would know
where they are and how to get access?

Rabaul ended up as a 'milk run' after we bypassed it. It was used to
give new aircrews training after they arrived in theater as I recall.

Good luck. If you strike gold let us all know.

Big John
P-40, P51, etc, etc.


On 30 Aug 2003 18:44:09 -0700,
(butch burton)
wrote:

-----clip----

While diving in the Rabaul Harbor, discovered a Jap destroyer sunk
with 2 large US made radial aircraft engines. Looks like some US
pilot flew a Mitchell bomber into this destroyer. Always been on my to
do list to try and find out something about the pilot/crew of this
aircraft. Anybody got any suggestions. A few years ago the volcano
at the edge of the harbor erupted completely filling the whole area
with ash so the wreckage is probably beneath yards of volcanic ash.



----dlip----

 




Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

vB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Forum Jump

Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Windsocks, good deal ! GASSITT Home Built 0 August 26th 03 06:11 PM
Mitchell Wing A-10 restoration story Kevin O'Brien Home Built 1 August 17th 03 06:36 PM
CNN will do a story on Oshkosh. Richard Lamb Home Built 2 August 3rd 03 02:50 AM
Good degreaser? Michael Horowitz Home Built 15 July 17th 03 05:49 PM
War Stories: Good degreaser? B2431 Home Built 1 July 16th 03 03:18 PM


All times are GMT +1. The time now is 04:40 PM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.6.4
Copyright ©2000 - 2023, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
Copyright 2004-2023 AviationBanter.
The comments are property of their posters.