histoire d'une forteresse volante abbattue à Saint-Colomban, près de Nantes, le 4 juillet 1943
1943 - 2004
July 3,4,5, 2004
# 42-5053
crash on July 4, 1943
in St-Colomban
Focke Wulf
into grand-lieu lake
10 young
american boys
B17 technical
Ralph D. McKee
(his escape)
Pilot escape
thanks to
american families
Ralph D. McKee escape

Lieutenant Ralph McKee, Londres, juin 1943 2. Parachute

As I fell free of the airplane, my back hit something. Then I was falling face up staring at the flames from the wings and bomb bay that licked back past the tail. I was losing consciousness. Pull the rip cord! No, wait until you're clear of the flames! Pull.
I was first conscious of a gentle swishing sound as the air rushed around the nylon canopy of the parachute. The D-ring, attached to the rip cord, was still clutched in my right hand. In the distance, I could hear the faint drone of the Fortress returning home. It was difficult to face reality. A few minutes ago I had been part of a smoothly functioning bomber crew, able to make decisions and command power. Now, I had been projected into a cold, hostile environment and I was at the mercy of nature and the enemy. For some unknown reason, I thought of the meal I was going to miss back at the base. Today the mess was serving steak and ice cream.(1) It had been months since we had food like that.
There was a total absence of odors and sounds except for air rustling around the parachute. Underneath, there was a neat patchwork of fields, pastures, roads, and fence rows. I felt alone and powerless as I swung gently, back and forth under a few yards of nylon.
Trees and houses could be distinguished now, and I could smell the ripening grain fields and grassy pastures. I thought of our farm back in Oklahoma where the wheat would be standing in shocks, waiting to be threshed. It seemed impossible that this peaceful, orderly countryside belonged to an enemy conqueror and that I was a hunted animal.
The earth was rushing up faster now. I was going to land in a small field (2) which was surrounded by tall poplar trees. My feet slammed against the ground and I rolled backwards on one shoulder. The parachute settled to the ground and collapsed gently. My back hurt and I was tired, so I lay back to rest.
My mind cleared and I remembered the briefings on the techniques for evading capture. I had to hide my flying gear and travel as far as possible, as quickly as I could. German patrols had undoubtedly spotted the area where I landed.

(1) independance day on this July 4, 1943
(2) Between the hamlet of Forcin (St-Colomban) and the hamlet of Ouvrardière (St-Philbert-de-Grd-Lieu)

[Top] [Next]

Page 1 to 11

1. Damaged engine
2. Parachute
3. Two young french
4. The farm
5. Around the lake
6. In the city
7. By train
8. By Bus
9. Spanish border
10.In prison
11.Back to England
PW and K Detachment
Military Intelligence Service

RAPPORTS N° 88 & 89

Ralph D. McKee, 1st Lt, O-729637
366 Bomb Squadron, 305 Bomb Group
AGE : 21 years
LENGTH OF SERVICE : 7/12 years
DOMICILE : Box 52, SOUTHARD, Oklahoma

MIA : 4 Jult 1943
Arrived in Spain : 10 August 1943
Arrived in Gibraltar : 4 september 1943
Arrived in UK : 8 september 1943

Lt McKee's story before joining Lt WETZEL :

I saw the engineer and co-pilot bale out. After letting the bombardier know that we were baling out I folowed the co-pilot, feet-first. In leaving the plane my back hit something and I passed out but revived when the chute opened, I saw three chutes. Before reaching the ground I saw our plane crash into road and burn. A part of it had fallen away and was burning in a field.