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03:00 | 06:15 | 10:45 | 11:17 | 11:30

11:17 - 'The Jolly Roger' - North of Antwerp

Bruno Gallerani is the engineer/gunner on board of 'The Jolly Roger'. He's not a member of the original crew but is a last-minute replacement. He flew already several missions and he's worried about the inexperience of this crew. He is manning the top turret located behind and above the two pilots. Gallerani:

"We hadn't been under attack long. It was mostly forward stuff and I didn't see the burst of fire that hit us. I was trying to shoot at fighters as they were coming past. Something hit the plane's left side. I knew something serious had happened because the power in my guns went out although I could still move the turret and I carried on swinging it to try to scare them but that was useless. Then I looked down and saw this gaping hole in the right-hand side of the plane. It was just behind the co-pilot's position and almost big enough to walk trough. I also saw that one of the engines on the same side was smoking and there were no other planes around. We had broken formation and were losing altitude.
The intercom was out so I leaned down and asked the pilot if he wanted people to bail out and he said he did. I dropped down into the nose to see the navigator and bombardier; we all needed the same escape hatch. The first thing I saw was the navigator, hit with a 20-millimetre; there was a big hole in his chest and I could tell that he was dead. I didn't wait to see any more of his wounds. I told the bombardier to bale out but he couldn't open the hatch. I remember reaching over, grabbing the seat of his pants, pulling him away and I kicked it open. I pushed him out and then two more men; I don't know who they were. I don't think they had had any practice; they didn't seem to want to go."

B-17 Bail Out Plan

It is understandable that one of the two is not quite willing to bail out. Waist gunner Larry Stokes releases the ball turret gunner, James Brown out from his vulnerable position as promised. Then Larry discovers that his parachute is damaged by gunfire. With the help of James Brown, he desperately seeks for a replacement. Their search lead them finally to the bow of the aircraft securing the killed navigator's parachute, but the life preserver can't be removed from the dead body. With the ground rushing closer, time is running out. Soon it will be too late to jump. Gallerani feels their despair, forces them to the open hatch and pushes them out of the aircraft.

"After the third one, I went myself. My parachute opened O.K. I watched two fighters come past me - one on either side - just waggling their wings as they went past and carrying on after the plane".
(Martin Middlebrook - The Schweinfurt-Regensburg Mission)

11:20 - Zoersel

The batch of Scout is fascinated by the air battle, taking place high in the air. The white contrails made by the bomber fleet, the flashlights of the fighters, the black puffs of the anti aircraft artillery, all these things will sustain in their memories for the rest of their lives. Several bombers are breaking the formation. Tiny dots are falling, turning into parachutes. The scouts start pointing them, counting the number: "One, two, three ... four and there ... one more ... five!" Michel Bosman:

impression by Scott Nelson

"All our attention now went to the crew, who were slowly approaching the ground. One of the parachutists was descending very fast, and it seemed he would land not far from the camp."

11:25 - Zoersel

Joe Schreppel regains consciousness as his parachute slows down caught between branches of a tree. The canopy of white silk tears to peaces, with the airman dangling like a puppet on a string, then everything comes at rest. Still hanging on his parachute, feet hardly touching the ground, he finds himself again in a critical situation. Wearisomely he's able to take his knife, but the pain in his abdomen becomes unbearable as he lifts his arm to cut himself free. The knife drops on the ground, definitively beyond reach.

Joe knows he needs immediate assistance, but how? A daring plan occurs in his mind, there's no other solution, it will be all or nothing ...

Joe Schreppel's landing site in Zoersel, Belgium (click to zoom in on map)

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