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Man Survived 22,000-Foot Fall Out of Bomber
Albuquerque Journal | 2/3/04 | Paul Logan

Posted on 02/03/2004 8:54:26 PM PST by woofie

Alan Magee of Angel Fire ranked among the luckiest of those who served in the Army-Air Force during World War II.

A B-17 ball turret gunner, Magee had no choice but to jump out of a disabled, spinning-out-of-control bomber from about 22,000 feet.

A drop of more than four miles. Without a parachute. And Magee miraculously lived.

His incredible story was featured in a 1981 Smithsonian Magazine on the 10 most amazing survivals during World War II.

Magee seldom spoke of that death-defying drop. He died nearly 61 years later on Dec. 20 of complications from a stroke and kidney failure in San Angelo, Texas, said a niece, Jill Greene of Albuquerque. Magee was 84.

"He didn't like to talk about it, and he wouldn't dwell on it," Greene said. "One of the guys who saw him come through the roof of the railroad station tracked Alan down (in 1978).

Before that, Alan wasn't interested in discussing this."

However, Greene recalled him saying, "God was certainly looking out (for me.)"

Alan E. Magee, who retired to northern New Mexico in 1979, was born in Plainfield, N.J. The youngest of six children, he enlisted after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Greene described her uncle as "just a regular guy."

He was 5-foot-7, barely small enough to fit in the B-17's ball turret— a cramped, donut-shaped plastic glass and metal turret on the bomber's underside. It was such a tight fit— a gunner's knees were practically against his chest— that Magee had to leave his chute on the deck of the four-engine Flying Fortress.

The ball turret offered a panoramic view and also a precarious target for German fighter planes. B-17 gunners had a high casualty rate, said Don Jenkins of Albuquerque, Magee's friend of 38 years and a World War II Navy veteran.

"He was very easy to get along with— very cheerful, very talkative and a very, very sweet guy," Jenkins said. But, he said, Magee only spoke to him three times about the events on Jan. 3, 1943.

Sgt. Magee, 24, was one of the oldest of the 10-man crew who flew out of Molesworth, England, on a bomber nicknamed "Snap! Crackle! Pop!" The pilot was only 19.

His seventh mission was a daylight bombing run on St. Nazaire, France, called "Flack City" because of the anti-aircraft guns defending the German submarine port. The 360th Bomb Squadron of the 303rd Bomb Group sent 85 B-17s with a fighter escort.

Over the target area, flack damaged Magee's plane, and then German fighters shot off a section of the right wing.

Magee, who was wounded, scrambled back into the cabin, but his parachute was ruined.

"He saw a gap in the spinning plane and jumped out," said Jenkins, who explained that in the confusion Magee forgot he wasn't wearing a chute.

"He remembered tumbling," Jenkins said. But at that altitude, Magee quickly lost consciousness.

Eyewitnesses saw Magee crash through the Nazaire train station's glass skylight, breaking his fall. When he regained consciousness, Magee said to his captors: "Thank God I'm alive."

Magee's injuries included 28 shrapnel wounds. A lung and kidney were hit. His nose and an eye were ripped open. His broken bones included his right leg and ankle. A right arm was nearly severed.

Jenkins said the Germans decided that anyone who could miraculously survive deserved "real special attention."

With the German doctors' help, Magee fully recovered. Jenkins said Magee later hiked and backpacked and "led a pretty good life."

Two of his crewmen also survived. In all, 75 airmen died, seven U.S. planes were destroyed and 47 were damaged that day, he said.

Magee was a prisoner of war until May 1945. He received the Air Medal for meritorious conduct and the Purple Heart.

"Alan was never the type to look in the past," Greene said. "He always was looking forward, living for the moment."

Despite the harrowing experience, Magee loved to fly. He qualified for a private pilot's license. His career included the air freight business and airline reservations.

On Jan. 3, 1993, Magee and the other two crewmen were guests of the St. Nazaire townspeople. They hosted a banquet and erected a six-foot-tall memorial to salute the Snap! Crackle! Pop! crew.

"He was very excited and honored," Jenkins said.

Magee is survived by his wife, Helen; a sister, Adele; six nieces and three nephews. A celebration of his life will be held this spring.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Miscellaneous; News/Current Events; US: New Mexico
KEYWORDS: fall; lucky; survivor; veteran; wwii
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1 posted on 02/03/2004 8:54:27 PM PST by woofie
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To: woofie
bump
2 posted on 02/03/2004 9:14:01 PM PST by woofie
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To: woofie

3 posted on 02/03/2004 9:24:02 PM PST by glegakis
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To: woofie
bump
4 posted on 02/03/2004 9:24:35 PM PST by longtermmemmory (Vote!)
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To: woofie
I recall a similar story I read in elementary school in the sixties. The story I recall had the B-17 crew member leaping out after finding the chutes on fire and decided it better to fall to his death rather than burn. His boots were ablaze when he jumped and he blacked out after leaving the plane. After falling about 13000 ft I believe, he fell through pine trees and landed in deep snow on a steep slope and slid to a stop. His only injuries were burned feet. He blew his whistle and was shortly captured by the Germans, who disbelieved his story. After finding the wreckage, and extrapolating the flight path, he became somewhat of a celebrity with the Germans. Does anyone recall this? is it the same guy, or a different story altogether?
5 posted on 02/03/2004 9:25:44 PM PST by Boiling point (Too well informed to be a democrat)
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To: longtermmemmory
This is truly amazing
6 posted on 02/03/2004 9:27:00 PM PST by woofie
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To: woofie
I vaguely remember reading about this before but I still find it hard to believe a man could fall 22,000 feet without a parachute and survive. A glass skylight "breaking" his fall? C'mon.
7 posted on 02/03/2004 9:28:41 PM PST by SamAdams76 (I got my 401(k) statement - Up 28.02% in 2003 - Thanks to tax cuts and the Bush recovery)
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To: woofie
Memo to the 82nd and 101st: Think we just found a cost savings for ya.
8 posted on 02/03/2004 9:29:52 PM PST by RightOnline
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To: SamAdams76
Does anyone want to estimate his air speed?
9 posted on 02/03/2004 9:30:03 PM PST by woofie
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To: SamAdams76
I knew a Navy chief who fell 4 stories onto a stone courtyard, and his fall was broken by a large cactus plant. Broken pelvis among his many breaks, but he lived.
10 posted on 02/03/2004 9:33:16 PM PST by Travis McGee (www.EnemiesForeignAndDomestic.com)
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To: Travis McGee
OK, but four stories is what, maybe 40-50 feet at most? We are talking 22,000 feet here. That's over four miles of falling. I just don't buy it.
11 posted on 02/03/2004 9:37:06 PM PST by SamAdams76 (I got my 401(k) statement - Up 28.02% in 2003 - Thanks to tax cuts and the Bush recovery)
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To: woofie
what a story. Thanks for the post.

Thought you might like to see this. There's a great photo there too.

http://www.303rdbga.com/c-360-adams.html

ADAMS CREW - 360th BS
B-17F Garbage #41-24563 (PU-H)
(original crew assigned 360BS: 26 July 1942 - photo: 14 Oct 1942)
12 posted on 02/03/2004 9:38:01 PM PST by amom
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To: woofie
A remarkable story.
13 posted on 02/03/2004 9:41:06 PM PST by A CA Guy (God Bless America, God bless and keep safe our fighting men and women.)
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To: woofie; snippy_about_it
HOLY SMOKE!!! It just wasn't his time.
14 posted on 02/03/2004 9:41:11 PM PST by SAMWolf (Elevators smell different to midgets.)
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To: SamAdams76; Squantos
Terminal velocity is the same whether you fall from 2,000 feet or 22,000. People have jumped from skyscrapers and landed on car roofs and lived. You just need that little cushion, whether it's a snow bank, hay stack, auto roof, awning, cactus plant or a skylight.
15 posted on 02/03/2004 9:42:06 PM PST by Travis McGee (www.EnemiesForeignAndDomestic.com)
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To: woofie
Does anyone want to estimate his air speed?

About 120 mph, plus or minus a few, depending on how baggy his flight suit was.

16 posted on 02/03/2004 9:42:40 PM PST by meadsjn
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To: Boiling point
I remember a similar story. A tail gunner who fell out of a damaged airplane and fell head first (he could see the stars through his feet) and landed in trees and snow. The Germans believed his story when they realized his parachute harness had not been used.

That's the version I remember.

17 posted on 02/03/2004 9:43:11 PM PST by Taylor42
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To: SamAdams76
Terminal velocity for a falling human body is around 120 MPH, faster if you are falling head first perpendicular to the ground. Since he was passed out, he probably curled into a ball back first for the fall. It pretty much doesn't matter once you get above about 300 feet, you will be at terminal velocity when you hit the ground.

Strange things do happen. I wouldn't want to make that trip though.
18 posted on 02/03/2004 9:43:28 PM PST by spodefly (This is my tagline. There are many like it, but this one is mine.)
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To: woofie
From Guinness:

Highest fall survived without parachute

Who: Vesna Vulovic
When: January 26th, 1972
Where: Somewhere over the Czech Republic
What: 33,330 ft.
Vesna Vulovic, a flight attendant from Yugoslavia, survived a fall from 10,160 m. (33,330 ft.) when the DC-9 in which she was traveling blew up over Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic), on January 26, 1972. No other passengers survived. It is believed the plane crashed after the detonation of a bomb planted by Croatian terrorists in the forward cargo hold. Vesna Vulovic fell 10,160 m. (33,330 ft.) - breaking both legs and becoming paralyzed from the waist down.

19 posted on 02/03/2004 9:45:31 PM PST by jordan8
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To: Travis McGee
Or a fat girl on yer tandem rig.....That's good for a dead cat bounce at least once !
20 posted on 02/03/2004 9:45:47 PM PST by Squantos (Salmon...the other pink meat !)
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To: spodefly
Well if 120mph is as fast as the human body can go when falling, then perhaps you would get a survivor under the right conditions every now and then. I wouldn't want to make that trip either!
21 posted on 02/03/2004 9:46:27 PM PST by SamAdams76 (I got my 401(k) statement - Up 28.02% in 2003 - Thanks to tax cuts and the Bush recovery)
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To: SamAdams76
I vaguely remember reading about this before but I still find it hard to believe a man could fall 22,000 feet without a parachute and survive. A glass skylight "breaking" his fall? C'mon.

It's happened on more than one occasion. On January 26, 1972, a bomb detonated on board a JAT Yugoslav Airlines DC-9-32. The aircraft was at 33,000 feet at the time and disintegrated in flight. There was one survivor, a flight attendant who had been seated in the rear of the aircraft. Despite her severe injuries, she lived although she was paralyzed from the waist down.

22 posted on 02/03/2004 9:48:41 PM PST by COEXERJ145
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To: Squantos
Yuck!

Hey, instead of reserve parachutes, maybe they will invent airbags, like the Mars Rover's?

23 posted on 02/03/2004 9:48:50 PM PST by Travis McGee (www.EnemiesForeignAndDomestic.com)
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To: woofie
About 130mph or 200fps.
24 posted on 02/03/2004 9:49:09 PM PST by Doctor Stochastic (Vegetabilisch = chaotisch is der Charakter der Modernen. - Friedrich Schlegel)
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To: spodefly
The 300 feet should be 300 meters ... which is approximately the shortest distance you could acheive terminal velocity.
25 posted on 02/03/2004 9:50:32 PM PST by spodefly (This is my tagline. There are many like it, but this one is mine.)
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To: woofie
What is the Highest Jump WITHOUT a Parachute?

1. "Lieutenant I. M. Chisov of the former Soviet Union was flying his Ilyushin 4 on a bitter cold day in January 1942, when it was attacked by 12 German Messerschmitts. Convinced that he had no chance of surviving if he staged with his badly battered plane, Chisov bailed out at 21,980 feet. With the fighters still buzzing around, Chisov cleverly decided to fall freely out of the arena. It was his plan not to open his chute until he was down to only 1000 ft above the ground. Unfortunately, he lost consciousness en route. As luck would have it, he crashed at the edge of a steep ravine covered with 3 ft of snow. Hitting at about 120 mi/h, he plowed along its slope until he came to rest at the bottom. Chisov awoke 20 min later, bruised and sore, but miraclously he had suffered only a concussion of the spine and a fractured pelvis. Three and one-half months later he was back at work as a flight instructor." Hecht, Eugene. Physics: Calculus. 2nd ed. United States: Brooks/Cole, 2000. p 85

2. Flight Sergeant Nicholas Steven Alkemade was on a bombing mission over Germany on 23 March 1944 when his Lancaster bomber flying at 18,000 feet was blazed apart and in flames when he was forced to jump, without a parachute or be burn to death. He dove out of his destroyed aircraft hoping on a quick death. His speed accelerated to over 120 miles per hour and he impacted on a snow covered sloping forest. He was completely uninjured and later captured by the Germans who refused to believe his story.

26 posted on 02/03/2004 9:50:46 PM PST by jordan8
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To: woofie
Does anyone want to estimate his air speed?

Probably well in excess of an unladen swallow, English or African.

27 posted on 02/03/2004 9:51:49 PM PST by Poohbah ("Would you mind not shooting at the thermonuclear weapons?" -- Maj. Vic Deakins, USAF)
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To: Travis McGee
Hey, instead of reserve parachutes, maybe they will invent airbags, like the Mars Rover's?

Naw, they'll do genetic engineering.

The next generation Airborne trooper: his top is made of rubber, his bottom is made of springs...

28 posted on 02/03/2004 9:52:57 PM PST by Poohbah ("Would you mind not shooting at the thermonuclear weapons?" -- Maj. Vic Deakins, USAF)
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To: Poohbah; archy
Just get in your pod, starship trooper, and prepare to drop.
29 posted on 02/03/2004 9:54:32 PM PST by Travis McGee (www.EnemiesForeignAndDomestic.com)
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To: woofie
"Flack City" ???
30 posted on 02/03/2004 9:54:41 PM PST by wolficatZ (___><))))*>____\0/____/|____)
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To: Boiling point
I read the exact same story in one of those "Weakly Reader" type publications in sixth grade (I'm 49)
31 posted on 02/03/2004 10:09:21 PM PST by CrazyIvan (Death before dishonor, open bar after 6:00)
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To: woofie
Does anyone want to estimate his air speed?

----------------------------------

Probably maxed out at about 100 mph due to air resistancw.

32 posted on 02/03/2004 10:17:06 PM PST by RLK
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To: SamAdams76
I vaguely remember reading about this before but I still find it hard to believe a man could fall 22,000 feet without a parachute and survive. A glass skylight "breaking" his fall? C'mon.

There's another, a WWII Russian bomber pilot who similarly had little choice in the matter, but landed in snow after a bailout from 21,000 feet and survived; another Russian pilot went into fir trees and lived to tell about it. Details *here* and following:

Notable Free Fallers

I.M. Chisov:

Lt. I.M. Chisov was a Russian airman whose Ilyushin IL-4 bomber was attacked by German fighters in January of 1942. Falling nearly 22,000 feet, he hit the edge of a snow-covered ravine and rolled to the bottom. He was badly hurt but survived.

Alan Magee:

Alan Magee, a gunner on a B-17 with the 303rd Bomb Group of the U.S. 8th Air Force, was on a mission to St. Nazaire, France in January of 1943, when his bomber was set aflame by enemy fire. He was thrown from the plane before he had a chance to put on his parachute. He fell 20,000 feet and crashed through the skylight of the St. Nazaire train station. His arm was badly injured, but he recovered from that and other injuries.

Nicholas Alkemade

In March of 1944, Nicholas Alkemade was the tail gunner in a British Lancaster bomber on a night mission to Berlin when his plane was attacked by German fighters. When the captain ordered the crew to bail out, Alkemade looked back into the plane and discovered that his parachute was in flames. He chose to jump without a parachute rather than to stay in the burning plane. He fell 18,000 feet, landing in trees, underbrush, and drifted snow. He twisted his knee and had some cuts, but was otherwise alright.

Kids, don't try this at home...

33 posted on 02/03/2004 10:19:49 PM PST by archy (Angiloj! Mia kusenveturilo estas plena da angiloj!)
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To: SamAdams76
There was another WWII story about a crewman who fell out the bomb bay of a B-24 returning from a nighttime bombing raid on Attu in the Aleutians.

He had gone back to the bay in an attempt to remove a bomb that had hung up. But, in trying to disengage it, he fell out of the open bay. They were flying at about 8,000 feet, as I recall.

He dropped about fifty feet -- into a snow bank on a mountainside.

Got up. Dusted himself off. And, once the sun came up, walked down the mountain.

34 posted on 02/03/2004 10:19:51 PM PST by okie01 (www.ArmorforCongress.com...because Congress isn't for the morally halt and the mentally lame.)
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To: woofie; Lady Composer
I'm not sure I have all the details exactly, but the father of one of my high school classmates survived but barely when he was shot down over Italy. Apparently during the hit on his plane, the lower part of his right arm was severed and, the way the parachute pull was designed, he needed that arm to do the pulling. Somehow, miraculously, part of the chute had started working its way loose out of the pack, and finally opened up of its own accord in time for him to fall safely to the ground. He is also now passed along, and his name was Darrell Reno. He served as a Circuit Court Judge in my hometown county seat for many years.

My dad who also served in WW II told me this story some time back, and I'll check back with him tomorrow to just to make sure I have the story totally straight.

35 posted on 02/03/2004 10:27:35 PM PST by NotJustAnotherPrettyFace (Michael <a href = "http://www.michaelmoore.com/" title="Miserable Failure">"Miserable Failure"</a>)
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To: woofie
Amazing!
36 posted on 02/03/2004 10:57:15 PM PST by Dajjal
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To: Boiling point
It's not the fall that kills, it's the sudden stop at the end! :-)
37 posted on 02/03/2004 11:39:41 PM PST by glorgau
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To: Travis McGee
Just get in your pod, starship trooper, and prepare to drop.

Okay, I'm inside. Get some BIG parachutes.

-archy-/-

38 posted on 02/04/2004 12:37:59 AM PST by archy (Angiloj! Mia kusenveturilo estas plena da angiloj!)
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To: SAMWolf
His incredible story was featured in a 1981 Smithsonian Magazine on the 10 most amazing survivals during World War II.

I'd like to see this issue. Amazing story, thanks partner for the ping!

39 posted on 02/04/2004 4:44:13 AM PST by snippy_about_it (Fall in --> The FReeper Foxhole. America's History. America's Soul.)
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To: Boiling point
Documented in Martins Cadin book "Black Thursday" the daylight attack on Germany's Ball Bearing plant at Swinefurt(sp?)
He was a tail gunner, the tail was blown off the airplane, he didn't realize it had became unattached until he unstrapped to go get his parachute. He then fell out, fell 20,000+ into a snow bank


40 posted on 02/04/2004 6:41:54 AM PST by Robe (Rome did not create a great empire with meetings, they did it by killing all those who opposed them)
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To: woofie
Bump.
41 posted on 02/04/2004 6:47:25 AM PST by DoctorMichael (Thats my story, and I'm sticking to it.)
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To: Boiling point
Incredible story!

A somewhat similar deal (well, not really) I'll have to dig it up - a photographer had been making several jumps with buddies but totally forgot his parachute on his last jump. He did remember his helmet video camera though. The footage supposedly showed a typical jump, then frantic motions as he reached for what wasn't there. He died.
42 posted on 02/04/2004 6:52:17 AM PST by Freedom4US
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To: SamAdams76
There was a guy in the 70's or 80's skydiving who survived a fall of around 9000 feet onto a muddy slope and walked. One of my classmates in geology who base jumped (yea, could you find much more psycho things to do?). He watched a guy ahead of him jump off the New River Gorge bridge in West VA, suffer a complete canopy failure and then saw him gather up the chute and crawl out of a pool he landed in. It's not inconcievable and I'll buy it, particularly with witnesses.
43 posted on 02/04/2004 6:55:47 AM PST by Axenolith (<tag>)
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To: woofie
Paul Logan does a pretty good job writing obits for the Journal. Wonder if he does any articles on living people and events.
44 posted on 02/04/2004 7:31:44 AM PST by CedarDave (Waiting too long to bail the boat greatly increases the chance of sinking [Bush campaign silence])
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To: woofie
Does anyone want to estimate his air speed?

Really fast?

45 posted on 02/04/2004 7:35:52 AM PST by Mo1 (Join the dollar a day crowd now!)
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To: woofie
HOLY SH*T what a story!
46 posted on 02/04/2004 7:38:18 AM PST by Hemingway's Ghost
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To: Boiling point
... he fell through pine trees and landed in deep snow on a steep slope and slid to a stop. His only injuries were burned feet.

This is a true story ... the airman, in addition to burned feet, had a number of pine needles extracted from him. The pine needle injuries and the fact no parachute was found convinced the German captors the airman was telling the truth about his fall.

47 posted on 02/04/2004 7:48:23 AM PST by BluH2o
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To: woofie
It's hard not to compare the heros of the past with the America-trashing, president hating RATs like Kerry who are the real traitors. Ann Coulter was right, RATS are traitors!
48 posted on 02/04/2004 8:05:00 AM PST by Paulus Invictus (4)
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To: Axenolith
All the responses here about other examples of people surviving falls from incredible heights has caused me to rethink my position on the subject. I now concede that this story is probably true. But I don't plan to do any independent testing on my own - I'll just take your word on it!

49 posted on 02/04/2004 8:30:36 AM PST by SamAdams76 (I got my 401(k) statement - Up 28.02% in 2003 - Thanks to tax cuts and the Bush recovery)
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To: woofie; Aeronaut; ALOHA RONNIE; AnAmericanMother; aomagrat; Aquamarine; AuntB; AZ Flyboy; ...
Holy cow ping!
50 posted on 02/04/2004 8:38:31 AM PST by Johnny Gage (God Bless our Firefighters, our Police, our EMS responders, and most of all, our Veterans)
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