Saturday, December 22, 2012

B-50 Crash in Canada September 21, 1950
by Leon T. Poole, USAF retired
(written May 2003) 

I was assigned to Lt. Jack Thomson's crew (along with the co-pilot, navigator and bombardier that had been on the flight of #040) the 43rd Bomb Wing sent B-50 bombers & B-29 tankers to Goose Bay Labrador TDY - we took all our records with us (first time ever for me), and they were lost in the crash.

At Goose Bay we tried 3 times to fly refueling missions, but the air craft had to abort each time.  After a lot of work, Command told us to take the aircraft back to Tucson.  We left with 16 people on board.  The following is what happened but no record of what happened to me.  We left Goose Bay.  The radio failed, Thompson decided to go on.  About an hour later #3 engine failed from carburetor icing; Thompson feathered prop and kept going.  Not far from Lake Superior, #2 engine started acting up so pilot decided to turn back towards Goose Bay to stay on flight path, so if we didn't make it they would know what path to search.  We still had no radio. 

Timed passed, don't know how much; #2 engine got worse and started to burn.  They used the fire bottle, feathered prop, and got the fire out.  Continued on until we got close to 100 miles from GooseBay; #4 engine caught on fire.  At this time the air craft commander ordered bail out.  He used the fire bottle on the #4 engine because that fire was on the bail out side of the aircraft. 

I held the door opened as the people in the back jumped, then I jumped.  My right foot slipped and got trapped somehow, and the door slammed on my leg.  Instantly my leg was broken.  Hanging from the door, I was slammed against the aircraft several times.  My head hit more than once, it almost knocked me out.  At this point I felt no pain; I guess I was in shock. 

We were at 8,000 ft when we started out, so I knew that time was very short.   I was the only one left on the plane, so I had to free myself.  I twisted about the best I could and got my left foot against the air craft and I hit the door with my fist 3 times as hard as I could.  I didn't feel the door move at all, but all of the sudden I was falling free.  (I found out later that my right shoe was missing).  For whatever happened, my prayer was answered.  All praise goes to The Lord Jesus Christ! 

As I fell, I felt down for my leg to see if it was torn off, my hand ran off the end.  For an instant I thought it was gone, but realized I felt no blood and my leg must still be there, but broken and hanging at a 90 degree angle.  Then I pulled the rip cord and the chute opened; I looked down to see I was right above a river.  I swung once, reached for the shroud line, then hit the icy water. 

I landed in the middle of the river about 40 feet from either bank.  Bushes were on one side and small boulders on the other.  Again I was guided - by the Unseen Hand - to the rock side.  I was in neck deep water, pushing myself with my good leg.  My hands were so numb from the cold water I couldn't release the chute, and the river was trying to pull it and me downstream.  I was fighting the current, all this time yelling for help to no avail.  As I got closer to the bank still yelling, a man came up and called out to me, but I could not move I was so cold.  He took off his clothes got in the river unhooked my parachute and pulled me to safety from the river which was freezing over at the edges. 

He pulled me over the rocks, then I started to hurt, so he stopped and got me in the best position where I felt the best.  He gave me his dry clothes and put on my wet ones.  He built a fire and stayed awake the rest of the night.  With dry clothes and a fire, I was so exhausted that I slept until daylight.  He checked my leg and said there were compound fractures and he splinted it the best he could. 

This man was the aircraft commander Lt. Jack Thompson.  He took care of me himself for the next 3 days.  And he was a very good friend for forty some years.  He has been with The Lord about 3 years now. 

The rest of our crew found us the next day.  They got me up the hill to the shelter they made from the parachutes.
View page 601 of article.    View page 602 of article.

The Crash Site
I was unconscious when we arrived at the base. 
I was shipped to Westover AFB, Massachusetts for my broken leg.  The doctors drilled through my heel to insert a pin for traction, and put 4 other pins in my leg.  After 3 months, the doctor told me the bone wasn't healing.  They pulled the pins out with pliers, and put a new cast on my leg. 

They transferred me to Bolling Field Hospital in D.C. in January 1951.  With bone grafts, a metal plate and screws, the doctors reconstructed my leg.  I spent the next 12 month healing.  I wore a metal brace from my shoe to my knee for another year.