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William G. Jeakle
475th Fighter Group, 433rd Fighter Squadron P-38 Pilot

Click For Enlargement"My worst day was December the 18th 1943. About this time i peeled right off behind a Zero. Got him... he was going to be deader than hell. I looked back to see if my guys are with me. Yeah, the boys were still behind me. Yeah, Pete is back there, the boys are back there. I look to the side, and 'oh my god' there is a P-38 staring me right in the face - right there. Staring me right in the face. And I shoved everything forward and just dumped everything. And I was hit. It felt like a Mac Truck. As soon as I was hit, I lost all control. Broke.. what he did, the wing of his plane cut through the right boom, and cut everything off, all my controls. I had no pedals, nothing at all. So the next thing I said was 'get outta that thing. I pulled the canopy, tripped the canopy. Which pulls pins back here to release the canopy, and it went back alright.

Someone had put a copper wire here, in the canopy back to hold the canopy from falling all the way back. But when I pulled the pins, i released the canopy all right, but now it was flailing back and forth because it was hooked on the front, flailing back and forth across the top of the cockpit. So, I had to unstrap the seat belt, and work to try and break that copper wire... to get the canopy out of the way.

Click For EnlargementMeantime, the plane is all over the sky with no control to it at all. And, I try to get out, and the oxygen mask is still hooked up to me, I have to get that off. Then i realize the ear gadgets are still hooked up to me. So, the law was if you gotta get out of that thing [the P-38] don't just bail out. Because if you do that boom is going to hit you and break your back. So I scotched down on the side of the canopy, down on the wing. I looked back, and the whole thing is gone. The other part [boom] had broken off too, there were just two two stubs back there. So, I did not have to worry about the booms at all, so i let go.

I no sooner got floating down, and here come two Nips after me. And they went sailing ass by me - with their tracers and stuff whipping by me. How they missed me, I dont know. And they whipped out there and were coming around to get me again. I thought: 'This is no good. This is crazy!' To realized that at one moment your alive and the next moment you know your going to be dead... you just know your going to be dead.

Click For EnlargementSo, i pulled the shroud lines down, just dumping the shrouds down, just to get the hell down out of that area. Now I am free falling. Down I go. After I got down so far, I looked down and hell, I am almost on top of the trees! So, I let go of the chute. About that time it poped open, just as I hit the trees. I'm looking down and falling face forward, and i realize I still have about three floors to go. Three stories to go [aprox 30']. So I try to get my feet underneath me, kick my feet underneath me. Just about then I hit the ground. This kneed went the wrong way, so that took care of that knee.

I was told if you get [shot] down on New Britain, head towards Rabaul, because possibly Aussie scouts or natives would help you. But I knew previously that the Marines are going to land at Cape Gloucester on Christmas Day. So I thought, the hell with that, I'm not going to go way up towards Rabaul, I will go towards Gloucester. And I tried to walk, but i could not walk very well. I was in bad, bad shape. So I thought the first thing I better do is hide my path, and walk down a stream... to get away from where I landed. So I started down this stream, the next thing I discovered this orange-yellow color dye that you had... that you broke so that if you went into the ocean... that's trailing behind me. So I had to get rid of that damn stuff!

I was in sago swamps is what I was in. That first night I remember trying to make a nest in the water with sago frands, a big nest so I could sleep up on it, on top of the water.


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