Sunday, October 24, 2010

The crew prepares to bail out over the small town of Prnjavor, Yugoslavia

(Continuation of Captain Charles Estes's War Memoirs)

"Well, we all agreed on that and Swain indicated that there
was a little town up about 50 or 60 miles in front of us
named Prnjavor, and that if we were able to bail out
there he thought everything would be fine; that it
was indicated to him in his briefing that that was
not enemy territory but friendly territory.

So I got the crew all ready and everybody knew where
they were to go, so when we got close to Prnjavor I
gave the word for them to bail out, and everybody
scuttled to their point to bail out from. And of course
that was 12 men bailing out of an airplane that was
flying two engines,and so that lightened the airplane
to a great degree, ton maybe; and that made a lot
of difference in the ability for the plane to fly, so it
flew pretty well after that.

I had it on auto pilot, and when John and I left the
pilot and copilot seat and went down onto the flight
deck where we were to bail out from, we made it out,
and bailed out and believe it or not our chutes opened
and we floated down to dear ol' terra firma.

And when I landed there was an old Yugoslavian woman
running towards me, and I could hear her yelling,
"Oh, my goodness. Oh, my goodness." I sat up
and looked across the field and here came this old
Yugoslavian woman running over to me as fast as
she could come, her skirt pulled over her knees so
that she wouldn't get tangled up. When she got to
me she said, "Are you okay?" And I said, "Yeah, I
think I'm going to do all right." And she helped me
up, and I'll never forget that wrinkled face looking
down at me with so much concern. I didn't
know who she was or anything about her,
but she helped me out of my parachute.
And I had no use for it so I told her if you
have any use for this parachute then I give
it to you, and was just overjoyed with my
gift. And she led me to a path that went into

Well, while this was happening to me, Swain
came down in a field very close to where I was
and he was greeted by three soldiers each with
a gun, and each with a gun trained on him,
and he pointed to the American flag on his
jacket and lowered their guns. Now when
Swain landed he landed in a plowed field and
turned his ankle and he couldn't walk, so these
three soldiers between them carried Swain into

We all met later. But John Congleton he came
down in a field similar to the one that I landed
in and as he was struggling to get out of his
parachute shroud lines, and he finally made it
and he stood up and he heard something behind
him that sounded like a gun being cocked, so he
turned around and there was this young
Yugoslavian kid sitting on top of a fence and
he had a rifle pointed right at ol' John, and
John pointed to the American flag on his
shoulder, and the young kid jumped down
off of the fence and ran over to John and
hugged him on the legs.

And those were the only three landings that
I have any recollection of. The other men
when we finally got together we didn't really
and truly go over anything like that, and after
I got home from the service I didn't hear from
anybody, so I don't know what happened to them;
but we all were brought back to Prnjavor and to
this central office. It turned out to be a communist
office and it was run by this ol' colonel who I
think was an Italian."

(To be continued.)

The town of Prnjavor, Yugoslavia

Monday, October 4, 2010

Flying on a Wing and a Prayer

(Continuation of Captain Estes's War Memoirs)
"Well, we hadn't been on the bomb run too long
before a big burst of flak hit the left engine number
one outboard, and we had to feather it. John
Congleton was right on the ball; he knew exactly
what was going on and what to do, and so he
did what he had to do and that engine was
feathered and we continued on the bomb run.

And then the bombardier indicated that the
bomb bay doors be open and they were opened,
and shortly after that we dropped our bombs
and rallied to the left. And as we rallied, the
right outboard engine number four was
hit, and John had to feather it, and we were on
two engines and we couldn't continue as the
lead of our formation; so we dropped out of the
formation, and just hoped that we could choose
the right manifold pressure and everything else
to carry our plane as far as we could go. We
were going to continue on the course that we
originally would have flown had all our engines
been running.

And that carried us to the foothills of the Alps,
but we had lost considerable altitude because
we couldn't continue to hold altitude at
altitude with just two engines; we were losing
about 5, 6, 700 feet a minute, and finally we
got to Yugoslavia. As we passed Zagreb we
picked up some flak and they were pretty much
on target. It sounded like hail on a tin roof, and
we were getting shrapnel from the aircraft guns
that were shooting at us.

After we past that point we were at about 8,000
feet and we were approaching the Alps. And I
called to Swain and asked him what was the
highest altitude of any peaks in the Alps on our
course, and he indicated 8,000 feet. Well, the
Alps were covered over with clouds, and I couldn't
see the peaks, but we knew they were there and we
knew they were at the same altitude we were; so
I couldn't afford to try and pick my way through
something that I couldn't even see where I was going.
So I turned left or south towards Sarajevo which was
not even known then hardly because the Olympic
games hadn't been played there, and there was no
airport there or anything else. We turned in that
direction and it became evident that there wasn't
any reason for us to continue going south; we couldn't
go north, that would carry us back into enemy territory,
and we certainly didn't want to turn back to the east
and go back into enemy territory again. We couldn't
go west because that would carry us right into the
Alps, so I told John that I thought that our best
chance was to get everybody ready and bail the
crew out and take our chances on the ground because
our chances in the air were no good."
(To be Continued.)

Mission 34: Schwechat Oil Refinery

This map depicts the target which is located at the
top of the map: Vienna, Austria - Schwechat Oil Refinery.
After their bombs were released the number one and
two engines were hit. They passed over Zagreb and
bailed out over the small town of Prijedor, Yugoslavia.
(click on picture to enlarge)
Aerial view of Schwechat Oil Refinery - Vienna, Austria

Photos of the bombs being