My Uncle Phil flew on a B-24 Liberator during World War II. His ten-man crew survived thirty-five bombing missions over Germany, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia and Austria.
Survived? Each time the crew took off from their base in Venosa, Italy, they knew one third of the planes would not return. One in three – not good survival odds when you factor in thirty-five missions, right?
On one particular mission, Uncle Phil’s B-24 came under heavy anti-aircraft fire. A piece of flak ripped a hole in the hydraulic reservoir, causing oil to spray all over the cabin area. If left unfixed, the bomb bay doors would remain open and the wheels could not be lowered into landing position.
Valuable seconds ticked off. Something had to be done, or the plane had to be ditched, forcing the crew to use parachutes. A dangerous last resort over enemy territory.
Captain Tom shouted at Phil, “See if you can fix it!”
Looking around, Phil found a small broom. He broke off the handle and made his way toward the hydraulic tank.
Now, under normal conditions, the trek to the rear of the plane was precarious because there was no aisle, just an eight-inch wide catwalk which spanned the twelve-foot aluminum doors. But on this day, the bomb bay doors were wide open and everything was covered with slippery hydraulic oil. Plus, the B-24 was at twenty-eight thousand feet and the temperature was a chilly forty degrees below zero.
Phil unhooked his parachute pack and edged sideways out over the catwalk, much like a high-wire walker in a circus. He reached the leaking tank and shoved the broom handle and a part of his leather glove into the gaping hole. It worked; the leak was fixed.
Did Uncle Phil receive a medal for this act of bravery? No, and to be honest, he did not care. His attitude was, “Somebody had to do it and it turned out to be me.”
To his fellow B-24 crew members, Uncle Phil was the right man in the right place at the right time, a nineteen-year old hero from Waterloo, Iowa.
Thanks Uncle Phil; and thank you to every armed forces soldier that has served and is now serving our nation. We Americans owe you a debt of gratitude for the freedoms which we enjoy today.
Swimming Upstream appears at this blog site on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. It’s a little of this and a little of that, all written to encourage and exhort believers in their Christian journeys.