Second Jump 'Hell'
One of the most
graphic soldier letters of the war was written during
the past week by Paratrooper Richard L. Hamilton. 20-year-old son of Mr. and
Mrs. R. R. Hamilton, 108 South Summit ave.
is notable not only for the vivid descriptions of the feelings
of a parachute jumper, but because it records the transition of
a boy who becomes a man, as courage wins
over stark terror.
The youth was graduated from Washington high
school in June, I940. He attended the University of South Dakota
for one year before entering the service. Alter
basic training in Camp Blanding, Fla., he volunteered for
paratroop training, and has been stationed for the last three
weeks at Ft. Benning, Ga.
His letter, which speaks for itself, follows:
Well, your son Is now a genuine
paratrooper. We made two Jumps
Thursday and two Friday afternoon. Today we were unable to jump
because of a fog bank, but I'll tell you about today later.
If you ever expect to
feel genuine fear, join the paratroops. I was so darn scared I
blacked out and still shake like a leaf when we go up. Monday
the ceiling was zero-zero, keeping our planes grounded, and Tuesday
and Wednesday were the same By that time, most of us
were nervous wrecks
"Bats In Stomach"
Thursday dawned bright and clear, with no wind. We marched to the
field and the hanger and donned our chutes, then were given our
plane and seat number. We entered the ready room, with bats on the
stomach and wet hands. . I believe most of us consumed a
package of cigarettes in that hour
Finally the loud-speaker blared, "Hamilton, Plane 43, Seat 24." I
up with 23 other men, ran out to the ramp and entered the plane
And oh, what luck/ I was the last man in the last group to jump.
Twenty-four jumpers are assigned to a plane, and 12 jump In
a group. I was the last man In the second stick, and had to watch
the other men leave.
After we entered the plane we were given jump instructions and took
off. We gained altitude, unfastened our safety belts and lit
went about 35 miles to get our bearings. All this time we sang and
joked to keep up our courage, but all this time we felt rotten. We would
look out of the window or the door which had been removed, and then turn
The order of the jump master then broke the din --- "First stick
get ready, stand up, hock up (we attach our static lines to the
anchor cable), prepare for equipment check."
Knees Were Shaking
At this time we check our
equipment and that of the man in front of us. My knees were
shaking so much I thought I would fall on my face.
"Sound off equipment
check" 12 okay, 11 okay, etc., and then the fatal words "Close up and stand
at the door."
We push up tight against each other and then he yells "Go"
the first man goes, then the second, third, etc.
I can't tell you what It
is like In leap out of the door for the first time, for I don't know. I
blacked out just as I stepped through the door.
The next thing I remember,
dimly, Is the tug of the opening of the chute. After it was open I
regained full consciousness and made a good landing.
When I got up from the ground after my tumble. I was trembling from sheer
joy and could have yelled
with glee. Good old Mother Earth never felt so fine before. That Is all I
remember about my first Jump.
Second Was Nightmare
My second was a nightmare, as it Is for everyone. We knew what to
expect and were terrified. My performance
was the same as on the first I blacked out. I can
truthfully say I was never so scared before; nor will I
ever be again. The first jump was somewhat thrilling, the second was sheer
My third Jump well, that put gray hairs on the Colonel's head and gave
me new courage in myself. I jumped out of the plane, nervous but not
frightened, and counted to three thousand.
Then I thought, "My Gosh, there's
no opening shock."
I looked up and saw my chute trailing down behind me,
the suspension lines tangled. That Is when I should have pulled
the reserve. Like a darn fool, I shook my risers trying, to get it out,
little realizing that I was falling 83 feet per second from a height of only
Finally the chute opened with a huge puff --- the
most beautiful sound I ever hope to hear. The canopy blossomed out at 100
feet and I floated In.
When I hit the ground I tumbled and lay there taking
off my harness, when all of a sudden, swich. [sic] the
ambulance pulled up on one
side of me and the command car on the other. I was still shaky and a little
dazed and thought someone in my plane had been hurt.
I rolled over to get
out of the harness when they came whipping over with a stretcher. Then I
saw the colonel charging along with the school commander at his heels. It
was only then I realized they thought I had been hurt.
I really heard from
the Colonel Colonel then it seems that I missed killing myself by 9/10 of a
second. I fell 800 feet.
They wanted to know why the devil I didn't pull my
reserve, and I told them I thought I could get my chute open. It seems that
I had quite an audience, for they had the distance I dropped and
the time the chute opened all figured out.
The fellows on the ground said
they had just about given up hope. I felt like quite a hero until the
Colonel busted that up.
Must Jump Again
He was swell about it. but insisted
that I go up immediately and jump again, for fear that I might "freeze" if I
went up later ln the day. They had a chute waiting for me in the ready room,
and I went right up. They didn't want me to go as first man so my company commander and my platoon lieutenant
jumped with me. It was a good jump, and
I landed fine. I'm glad now the Colonel made
me do it
--- later the mind might have said go and the body refused to
Today we went out to take our fifth and last jump, We took off and
circled the field. I was a little nervous, but not too much so.
Suddenly the buzzer sounded the ready signal then the loudspeaker blared
out, "All planes land . . . stop all jumping ... 43 come in . . . 27 come in
... 22 come in (that was us) ..." I got my first landing in a plane.
landed and piled out on the amp, where the rest of the battalion was
standing at attention. We fell in, and were surprised when a parade of general headquarters cars pulled up.
Out stepped the
commanding officer of the paratroops with a group of civilians. They
started to review us, going up and down the ranks (we still had on jump
suits, helmets and packed chutes.)
One of those civilians, as it turned out,
was Secretary of State Cordell Hull, and with him were the ambassadors
from Brazil and Argentine [sc]. We almost split our breeches!
Tomorrow we make our fifth jump. It will be a mass jump --- 850 men at one time,
and all out of the planes in ten seconds. Are we excited, wow! The 508th Is
really on the ball.