Lt. Justin McCarthy Tells of Waiting on Plane
As It Soars Through Moonlight To Let Them Land
This is the first of a series of exciting first person stories of paratroop experiences,
as told to Richard Tregaskis, International News Service staff correspondent, by some of the out-standing aerial daredevils on the Italian front.
By LT. JUSTIN T. McCARTHY (As Told to Richard Tregaskis)
ON THE ITALIAN FRONT, Oct 30 (INS) --- It was my first combat Jump, and it was a night Jump. We were going to land near
Avellino where Intelligence said there was a potfull of Germans but
my biggest worry was a prosaic thing called a parabundle. Maybe I should have had more high-toned thoughts, about life or death, but in that plane heading for Italy, I spent most of my time worrying about getting those men on the ground in the right place and that parabundle. The bundle was filled with axes, ammunition and other stuff we'd need, and
it was hard to handle. l kept looking at the open door of the plane, which was plenty small (we were In a C-53, the Douglas with the small door) and thinking that if the bundle turned In the
prop blast (propeller blast). It would get stuck, and then we'd never get out of the darned plane. I decided the thing to do was to put my foot against it, give It a heave and follow It right out of the
ship, when we got to the "dropping zone."
Maybe it was a good thing I had that parabundle, and a lot of other
things to worry about. That way, I didn't have as much to think
about as the men sitting there in the plane, in the little moonlight
that filtered through the door --- waiting for the time to come.
They couldn't even talk much because of the noise of the motors.
Some of the boys yelled a little conversation at each other now and
then a few wisecracks to ease the tension. It was a certain sergeant
whose name I won't mention, who made the best crack. It's the only
one I remember.
Could See Insurance Policy
He said: "I can see my wife now, sitting there with my insurance
policy in one hand and a new Ford catalogue in the other." I
thought about Lillian, my wife, then, and it was just nine months
since we got married. I'd taken time off just before I go through
jump school to go up to Newark and propose to her, and she'd
accepted. So we got married December 13, And now her I was on my way
Into Italy, while she was probably working back there in the
Nnudstadtar Home in Yonkers, where she's a dietician. I thought
she'd sure be surprised If she could see. me now, or if she knew
what I was doing.
Just about that time we went by a mountain, on the Italian coast.
and I got worried. I thought I recognized it as a check point where
we should make a turn, and the pilot kept straight on.
We Miss Check
I was worrying about that when I saw two planes go by on
behind the other in the moonlight. I thought they were night fighters
and got worried about that: but they were DC-3's like ours and they
were turning. We had missed our check point.
We went back down the
coast the three planes in our element and I looked at my watch and
saw that it was getting on towards midnight, when we were supposed
to drop. I still hadn't had the 20 minute warning from the pilot, so
I sent the crew chief up to the cockpit to ask what was happening.
The pilot sent back word that he had not passed the 20-mlnute warning yet that he was a little behind schedule. And a few minutes
later we got the word, the warning. I told all the. men to fasten
their chest straps; they'd undone, them because they are tight and
uncomfortable on a long plane ride.
In Clear Moonlight
checked all the buckles myself and went back and sat on the
parabundle looking out the door. The bright moonlight was so clear
that I could see the other ships of our element flying along, and
with a little more light I could have recognized people.
coming near the "dropping zone" and we all knew it. The men got
restless and some of them stood up, getting ready to hook up their
static lines. Looking out the door I could see that we were flying
into a valley where the mountains were, just straight up. It was so
narrow, our planes were flying practically wing tip to wing tip.
the red light came on, indicating we should get ready, and I told
men "stand up and, hook up," the words that make a paratrooper's heart
go faster. They hooked their static lines on the wire that runs down
the top of the cabin, getting ready for that slow shuffle that takes
them out into the prop blast and the free air.
had the crew chief help me get the bundle into the door, and then I
hooked up. The green light came on and I kicked the bundle out and
followed it out the door, into the noise and whamming air of the
prop blast. The parabundle chute ripped out and my chute opened with a
helluva crack. The harness was loose because In a mix-up I had
somebody else's chute, and if your chute is loose it can knock you
The opening shock rattled my bones and seemed ready to cut me in two.
I grabbed the Ilft-webbs and looked up to check the chute ---
two normal reactions after you leave the ship. I tried to count the
other chutes In the air but I couldn't; they were strung out one
behind the other.
Falling Into Valley
I looked down and listened for firing:.
the firing and saw how rugged the ground was; I could see steep
rocks and see we were falling into a valley. It was a long Jump and
you could look around and see the woods and big rocky patches
clearly in the moonlight. I saw a white streak and knew it was a
I realized I was oscillating a little but I didn't mind. I
was too busy listening for firing and looking for flashes on the
ground. Then I got to the point, lower down, where you seem to stop
floating and the ground starts moving up fast at you, and I saw I
was going to land in the river. I didn't mind that; I thought I
might get wet but that would be all right. And then I saw that the
place was just jagged rock. I said to myself: "Oh hell, I m going to
break a leg." And then I hit with a crash and knocked myself as cold
as a mackerel.
(Tomorrow: Lieutenant McCarthy tells how he "came to," rejoined his
unit, and went into action.)