On October 10, 1943 while returning from Nadzab escorting transports, we were over Redscar Head when I called the flight leader and told him I wanted to leave the flight to test fire my guns on the rocks in the bay. He asked me if I wanted him to wait and I said I would fire a few bursts and catch up with the flight. I left the flight and fired a few bursts at the rock and I think I flew through some of my tracers as they glanced off the rocks. I then pulled up over the rock and fired a few more bursts into the water beyond the rocks. It was about fifty feet over the water when I noticed that my whole underside was on fire with flames sweeping back to the tail. The next think I remember I was nosed straight down into the water and the cockpit was filling up with water. My nose, left eye and upper lip were paining and my nose was bleeding. I reached down to unfasten my safety belt and found that it was already undone. I floated out into the water just as the tail came down and caught my left shoulder and pulled me under a few feet. I kicked away and inflated my Mae West and found that only half of it would inflate. I pulled the rip cord and spread the chute over the water so the rescue plane could see the spot where i hit. I remember holding my air speed at 150 mph in a glide and opening my canopy. I also remember very bad gas fumes in the cockpit during the mission.
After the ship went under, I started swimming for shore.
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