Free FallThe Free Fall Research Page
The Free Fallers are the most amazing stories of all. They didn't deploy a parachute. They didn't cling to aircraft wreckage. They just fell. All were World War II airmen. Lt. I.M. Chisov, Sgt. Alan Magee, and Sgt. Nicholas Alkemade all fell at least 18,000 feet. |
There are some other examples of airmen who fell significant distances and survived (see Other Amazing Stories), but none of those airmen fell nearly as far as these three. Chisov, Magee, and Alkemade are in a class by themselves.
|I.M. Chisov||Lt. I.M. Chisov was a Russian airman whose Ilyushin IL-4 bomber was attacked by German fighters in January of 1942. Falling nearly 22,000 feet, he hit the edge of a snow-covered ravine and rolled to the bottom. He was badly hurt but survived.|
Alan Magee, a gunner on a B-17 with the 303rd Bomb Group of the U.S. 8th Air Force, was on a mission to St. Nazaire, France in January of 1943, when his bomber was set aflame by enemy fire. He was thrown from the plane before he had a chance to put on his parachute. He fell 20,000 feet and crashed onto* the skylight of the St. Nazaire train station. His arm was badly injured, but he recovered from that and other injuries.
*At first the descriptions of the incident made it appear that he had fallen through the skylight but it appears now that he hit the angled skylight and landed on the roof of the train station. We continue to investigate. See this link for a filmmaker's take on Magee's fall.
|Nicholas Alkemade||In March of 1944, Nicholas Alkemade was the tail gunner in a British Lancaster bomber on a night mission to Berlin when his plane was attacked by German fighters. When the captain ordered the crew to bail out, Alkemade looked back into the plane and discovered that his parachute was in flames. He chose to jump without a parachute rather than to stay in the burning plane. He fell 18,000 feet, landing in trees, underbrush, and drifted snow. He twisted his knee and had some cuts, but was otherwise alright.|
|While the stories of Chisov, Magee, and Alkemade are exceptional, other stories are coming to light and will be added to the web site as time allows. For example:|
|Olen Cooper Bryant||
Olen Cooper Bryant was the group navigator on a 485th Bomb Group mission to Regensburg, Germany in February of 1945. On the return trip from the target his B-24 was hit by enemy anti-aircraft fire in the #3 engine. The aircraft turned to the left and collided with another B-24 in the formation. The aircraft were at an altitude of about 17,000 feet at this point. Bryant fell an estimated 10,000 feet into the mountains near Chiusaforte, Italy. He landed in deep snow. His fall had been observed by two gunners, who dragged him down the side of the mountain in a makeshift stretcher constructed from one of their parachutes. Bryant suffered neck, back, pelvic, and facial injuries but survived.|
|Arthur Frechette||In December of 1944 Arthur Frechette was the navigator of a 301st Bomb Group B-17 that went down on a mission to Castelfranco, Vento, Italy. Hit at 25,000 feet by flak, the aircraft went into a spin and Frechette was unable to get out. He was blown out of the aircraft when it exploded and fell unconscious, hitting on a snowy incline just as he regained consciousness and tried to open his parachute. Badly injured, Frechette crawled toward the smoke billowing up from the wrecked aircraft. It was near there that he was found by a German soldier from the flak battery.|
|Paddy McGarry||In January of 1944 Flight Lieutenant Thomas Patrick "Paddy" McGarry was a navigator on a 35 Squadron Halifax bomber on a mission to Germany. About halfway between Hamburg and Magdeburg the bomber was attacked by night fighters and set on fire. The bailout order was given when the aircraft was at about 13,000 feet. McGarry jumped and pulled his ripcord, but nothing happened. He fell into a wooded area where his fall was broken by the branches of fir trees. He fell on Monday night and did not awaken until Wednesday morning. His survival was aided by unseasonably warm temperatures. After days in the woods McGarry was able to crawl a mile or so to a road where he found help. It was Sunday before he was discovered.|