That would be Bill Overstreet.
Bill relates, “Not long after (the March 6th Mission), I had a freak accident. I think it was a mission to southern France. While over enemy territory, a burst of flak cut my oxygen line. Since I was at about 25,000 feet, I soon passed out. The next thing I knew, I was in a spin, engine dead since the fuel tank it was set on was dry. Somehow, I recovered from the spin, changed fuel setting, got the engine started, and dodged the trees that were in front of me. Then, I looked at my watch. Ninety minutes were not in my memory. I had no idea where I was, but remembered where I had been headed so I reversed it. I was able to find the coast of France and headed for Leiston. By this time, I was low on fuel, so I landed at the Fourth Group base. The officer I talked with was Captain Mead, who had lived a couple of blocks from my home in Clifton Forge, Virginia. To top it off, the mechanic who repaired my plane was “Hot Cha” Tucker, a former schoolmate, also from Clifton Forge. I still have a picture of Tucker and me with a P-47. Many weeks later, this story got a lot of publicity – Lowell Thomas on radio, newspapers and TIME magazine.“
Another mission that didn’t turn out as expected occurred when Bill flew with a sinus infection. He and his group were escorting a sortie of bombers, and in chasing German fighters away from the flight, he engaged in a power dive from 30,000 feet, chasing after a Messerschmitt Bf 109. The extreme change in pressure caused his eyes to swell shut, blinding him. Bill was able to keep his plane in the air by control feel, but had no way to determine his heading or carry out a landing. Calling on his radio for help, one of Bill’s mates, Indicated that he could see Bill’s plane and gave him instructions to get the plane pointed in the right direction, then got on his wing and together the two made their way back to the base in England. Bill was talked through a straight-in approach and landing. It took several days under the care of the Base’s doctors before the swelling had gone down enough for Bill to see again.
Believe it or not, that’s just for starters; read on for some truly incredible tales of fighter-jock derring-do. Overstreet just passed away this past weekend; may he rest in peace. I’d say they don’t make ’em like him anymore, but having spent a fair amount of time over the years with Navy and Marine pilots and a scattering here and there of SpecWar types as well, the fact is…well, they do. And for that, we can all be grateful.
(Via Dave in Texas)