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THE CO-PILOT (page 6)

During the 45 minute flight from Utah Beach to checkpoint Gallup, where they would turn north to the coast of England, the Co-pilot noticed that his left foot inside of the paratroop boots was warm and wet. He reached down and discovered that his pants leg was also damp, his thoughts turned to the fact that he was bleeding and yet he did not hurt, sniffed his fingers and wondered what blood smelled like, took another sample and tasted it. That's not blood, it's oil, it's hydraulic fluid, looked at the gauges and found both on zero. Now we have a problem - landing gear, flaps and brakes would not operate. Flaps and brakes we can do without, but it would be nice to have a landing gear.

Charlie Cartwright and crew, plus one wounded paratrooper, slid to a halt about half way across the field. They had rehearsed over and over in the days before the mission, the act of getting out of the plane in the event of ditching or a crash landing. The big problem was that the parachute and flak suits got in the way and they were unable to do anything without first ridding themselves of this equipment. Like all good pilots, Charlie looked at the clock on the instrument panel on landing, noted that it was 02:20 and bringing up the rear, Charlie and all the others were running across the field in full gear and encountering no problems whatsoever. The 508th man had also departed the burning plane and collapsed a short distance away. The crew members found him and carried him to the hedgerow. He was in pain so they gave him a shot of morphine and settled down to wait for morning. After a time they decided that the concealment was not the best and leaving their flak suits and chutes, they moved down the hedgerow, crossed over to another field and found a dry ditch that offered a better hiding place. The invasion from the channel was still hours away and they listened to the sound of the hand held "crickets" the paratroops were using as a means of identification. During the long night they were challenged by paratroopers and responded with their own "cricket", then were joined by two paratroopers, one injured, until daylight.

The Co-pilot had not flown much with Grimes but they had been friends since early flight school days; been promoted on each occasion on the same date and now were about to work together on a small problem. Both knew that Capt. Lennart (NMI) Wuosmaa, Engineering Officer, had on occasions passed on information to pilots - "On combat flights, don't use the cabin heater, might have a hole and you could be asphyxiated". "If you lose your hydraulics, get the gear down and the safety pin in, any way you can. Three point that bird and the gear will bind and hold". As they approached Saltby at the return altitude of 3,000 feet, it was time to test A1 Wuosmaa's second suggestion. Grimes cleared the area and went into a power-on dive and as he pulled her out, the Co-pilot dropped the gear and tried the lock pin; it went in. The rest was routine - fly the pattern, advise the tower, fire a few Vary pistol shots and sit light in the seat while waiting for the gear to collapse. Five people aboard 074 held their breath as the tires squeaked and the cockpit was a flurry of hands as throttles, mixture controls, gas selector valves and switches were turned off. A1 was right, the gear does hold, and Grimes turned off the runway and let it roll to a stop near Base Operations. Mission completed.

Three Lieutenants and two Staff Sergeants walked to the front of 074, fully expecting to see a large hole in the nose of the aircraft.
 

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