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by Fred Hargesheimer
eBookStand  2002
135 pages
Index, photos
ISBN: 1-58909-116-7
Cover Price: $15.95
Language: English

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The School That Fell From The Sky
Autobiography of Fred Hargesheimer

This true story is nothing short of remarkable. It is the story of an American pilot, his crash and his involvement with the people who saved his live for over a half century earlier.

1st Lt. Fred Hargesheimer was a member of the 5th Air Force's 8th Photo Reconnaissance Squadron, flying F5A "Eager Beaver" 42-13073 (photographic version of P-38 Lightning). On June 5, 1943, while flying over West New Britain, he was shot down by Japanese Ki-45 Nick, bailing out over enemy territory. He describes the moment his was shot down (page 33-34)

"Off to the right, I spotted what looked like the construction of a new airfield. I leveled off and circled the area for a better look. The least I could do was shoot a set of pictures and let the photo interpreters back at the base decide if this was an important field. I carefully lined up for a low-altitude pass over what looked like a runway and set the camera intervelometer for a series of overlapping pictures. The cameras were rolling when I was startled by a series of sharp staccato sounds. Eager Beaver quivered a bit as I made a hurried check of the engine instruments. Everything seemed normal. Suddenly a long jagged tear appeared in the port engine cowling. An instant later a puff of black smoke shot out from the hole, followed by a burst of flame. Instinctively I sent Eager Beaver into a screaming dive with throttles wide open; only then did I dare sneak a glance at the rearview mirror. I was afraid to look - but afraid not to. Turing my head, I stared straight into the flaming snout of a twin-engine enemy fighter."

Hargesheimer wandered the jungle alone for 31 days with little hope of survival, before meeting people from Nantabu village. He was hidden and cared for at great risk to themselves, for six months. After making contact with Australian Commandos, he was rescued by US Navy submarine in March 1944, and sent home. He never forgot the people who saved his life.

In America, Hargesheimer saved to finance his return to New Britain in 1964. Returning to Nantabu, he established two schools: Ewasse Airmen's Memorial school and the Noau Primary school. He and his wife even lived among the people to serve as teachers. A health center was dedicated in 1969, with an oil palm plantation to fund the projects. Nearly every year, he returns to visit the school. In July 2004, he made his most recent visit to New Guinea and the schools.

This book is a moving story about both his wartime experiences, Hargesheimer's return to New Britain twenty years later, and involvement thereafter with the people who he owes his life.

Second edition published by PNG Printing Company, 2005

Review by  Justin Taylan

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Last Updated
November 30, 2018

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