An American soldier named Alan E. Magee survived a free fall of almost four miles from a B-17 bomber during a bombing raid in WWII. When his bomber came under fire from German anti-aircraft guns, the whole aircraft began spinning mid-air and began crashing down to the ground. Magee had no choice but to jump out of the plane, but he was not aware that he had jumped in a 4-mile drop without his parachute.
Magee was only 5-foot-7 but he could barely fit into the small space inside the turret, where fighters fire their guns from. On the day of his epic fall, Magee was on a mission but he left his parachute on deck because there was not much space inside the turret.
Being a B-17 gunner was one of the hardest jobs during WWII: soldiers that manned the turret had a very high casualty rate. This was mainly because German fighters would target the gunners first.
On January 3, 1943, a 24-year-old Magee got into a Flying Fortress bomber on his seventh bombing mission. His 10-man crew were targeting a German submarine port in France.
When Magee’s bomber reached the French town of St Nazaire, it came under heavy fire from German anti-aircraft guns. The bomber was hit from all sides before it started spiraling to the ground. Magee couldn’t control the plane. When he saw a small opening, he jumped out.
Magee plunged almost 22,000 feet. He fell unconscious before crashing into the roof of a French railway station. When he regained consciousness, the Germans were taking him to hospital.
Even though Magee survived, that day the US Army lost 75 airmen, along with 7 planes, while 47 planes were badly damaged.
Magee was held as a prisoner of war by the Germans after he healed. He was released in May 1945 and received the Air Medal for meritorious service and the Purple Heart for his achievements in the war.