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Dragon66
04-18-2005, 05:25 PM
My dad sent this story to me today, thought I would share.

Enjoy.



Piggyback Hero by Ralph Kinney Bennett

Tomorrow morning they'll lay the remains of Glenn Rojohn to rest in the
Peace Lutheran Cemetery in the little town of Greenock, Pa., just
southeast of Pittsburgh. He was 81, and had been in the air conditioning
and plumbing business in nearby McKeesport. If you had seen him on the
street he would probably have looked to you like so many other graying,
bespectacled old World War II veterans whose names appear so often now on
obituary pages.

But like so many of them, though he seldom talked about it, he could have
told you one hell of a story. He won the Distinguished Flying Cross and
the Purple Heart all in one fell swoop in the skies over Germany on
December 31, 1944.

Fell swoop indeed.

Capt. Glenn Rojohn, of the 8th Air Force's 100th Bomb Group, was flying
his B-17G Flying Fortress! bomber on a raid over Hamburg. His formation
had braved heavy flak to drop their bombs, then turned 180 degrees to head
out over the North Sea.

They had finally turned northwest, headed back to England, when they were
jumped by German fighters at 22,000 feet. The Messerschmitt Me-109s
pressed their attack so closely that Capt. Rojohn could see the faces of
the German pilots.

He and other pilots fought to remain in formation so they could use each
other's guns to defend the group. Rojohn saw a B-17 ahead of him burst
into flames and slide sickeningly toward the earth. He gunned his ship
forward to fill in the gap.

He felt a huge impact. The big bomber shuddered, felt suddenly very heavy
and began losing altitude. Rojohn grasped almost immediately that he had
collided with another plane. A B-17 below him, piloted by Lt. William G.
McNab, had slammed the top of its fuselage into the bottom of Rojohn's.
The top turret gun of McNab's plane was ! now locked in the belly of
Rojohn's plane and the ball turret in the belly of Rojohn's had smashed
through the top of McNab's. The two bombers were almost perfectly aligned
- the tail of the lower plane was slightly to the left of Rojohn's
tailpiece. They were stuck together, as a crewman later recalled, "like
mating dragon flies."

No one will ever know exactly how it happened. Perhaps both pilots had
moved instinctively to fill the same gap in formation. Perhaps McNab's
plane had hit an air pocket.

Three of the engines on the bottom plane were still running, as were all
four of Rojohn's. The fourth engine on the lower bomber was on fire and
the flames were spreading to the rest of the aircraft The two were losing
altitude quickly. Rojohn tried several times to gun his engines and break
free of the other plane. The two were inextricably locked together.
Fearing a fire, Rojohn cuts his engines and rang the bailout bell. If his
crew had any chance of parachuting, he had to keep the plane under control
somehow.

The ball turret, hanging below the belly of the B-17, was considered by
many to be a death trap - the worst station on the bomber. In this case,
both ball turrets figured in a swift and terrible drama of life and death.
Staff Sgt. Edward L. Woodall, Jr., in the ball turret of the lower bomber,
had felt the impact of the collision above him and saw shards of metal
drop past him. Worse, he realized both electrical and hydraulic power was
gone.

Remembering escape drills, he grabbed the handcrank, released the clutch
and cranked the turret and its guns until they were straight down, then
urned and climbed out the back of the turret up into the fuselage.

Once inside the plane's belly Woodall saw a chilling sight, the ball
turret of the other bomber protruding through the top of the fuselage. In
that turret, hopelessly trapped, was Staff Sgt. Joseph Russo. Several
crewmembers on! Rojohn's plane tried frantically to crank Russo's turret
around so he could escape. But, jammed into the fuselage of the lower
plane, the turret would not budge.

Aware of his plight, but possibly unaware that his voice was going out
over the intercom of his plane, Sgt. Russo began reciting his Hail Marys.

Up in the cockpit, Capt. Rojohn and his co-pilot, 2nd Lt. William G.
Leek, Jr., had propped their feet against the instrument panel so they
could pull back on their controls with all their strength, trying to
prevent their plane from going into a spinning dive that would prevent the
crew from jumping out.

Capt. Rojohn motioned left and the two managed to wheel the grotesque,
collision-born hybrid of a plane back toward the German coast. Leek felt
like he was intruding on Sgt. Russo as his prayers crackled over the
radio, so he pulled off his flying helmet with its earphones.

Rojohn, immediately grasping that crew could not exi! t from the bottom
of his plane, ordered his top turret gunner and his radio operator, Tech
Sgts. Orville Elkin and Edward G. Neuhaus, to make their way to the back
of the fuselage and out the waist door behind the left wing.

Then he got his navigator, 2nd Lt. Robert Washington, and his bombardier,
Sgt. James Shirley to follow them. As Rojohn and Leek somehow held the
plane steady, these four men, as well as waist gunner Sgt. Roy Little and
tail gunner Staff Sgt. Francis Chase were able to bail out.

Now the plane locked below them was aflame. Fire poured over Rojohn's
left wing. He could feel the heat from the plane below and hear the sound
of 50 caliber machinegun ammunition "cooking off" in the flames.

Capt. Rojohn ordered Lieut. Leek to bail out. Leek knew that without him
helping keep the controls back, the plane would drop in a flaming spiral
and the centrifugal force would prevent Rojohn from bailing. He refused
the order.

Meanwhile, German soldiers and civilians on the ground that afternoon
looked up in wonder. Some of them thought they were seeing a new Allied
secret weapon - a strange eight-engined double bomber. But anti-aircraft
gunners on the North Sea coastal island of Wangerooge had seen the
collision. A German battery captain wrote in his logbook at 12:47 p.m.:

"Two fortresses collided in a formation in the NE. The planes flew hooked
together and flew 20 miles south. The two planes were unable to fight
anymore. The crash could be awaited so I stopped the firing at these two
planes."

Suspended in his parachute in the cold December sky, Bob Washington
watched with deadly fascination as the mated bombers, trailing black
smoke, fell to earth about three miles away, their downward trip ending in
an ugly boiling blossom of fire.

In the cockpit Rojohn and Leek held grimly to the controls trying to ride
a falling rock. Leek tersely reca! lled, "The ground came up faster and
faster. Praying was allowed. We gave it one last effort and slammed into
the ground."

The McNab plane on the bottom exploded, vaulting the other B-17 upward
and forward. It hit the ground and slid along until its left wing slammed
through a wooden building and the smoldering mass of aluminum came to a
stop.

Rojohn and Leek were still seated in their cockpit. The nose of the plane
was relatively intact, but everything from the B-17's massive wings back
was destroyed. They looked at each other incredulously. Neither was badly
injured.

Movies have nothing on reality. Still perhaps in shock, Leek crawled out
through a huge hole behind the cockpit, felt for the familiar pack in his
uniform pocket and pulled out a cigarette. He placed it in his mouth and
was about to light it. Then he noticed a young German soldier pointing a
rifle at him. The soldier looked scared and annoyed. He grabbed the
cigarette out o! f Leek's mouth and pointed down to the gasoline pouring
out over the wing from a ruptured fuel tank.

Two of the six men who parachuted from Rojohn's plane did not survive the
jump. But the other four and, amazingly, four men from the other bomber,
including ball turret gunner Woodall, survived. All were taken prisoner.
Several of them were interrogated at length by the Germans until they were
satisfied that what had crashed was not a new American secret weapon.

Rojohn, typically, didn't talk much about his Distinguished Flying Cross.
Of Leek, he said, "In all fairness to my co-pilot, he's the reason I'm
alive today."

Like so many veterans, Rojohn got back to life unsentimentally after the
war, marrying and raising a son and daughter. For many years, though, he
tried to link back up with Leek, going through government records to try
to track him down. It took him 40 years, but in 1986, he found the number
of Leek's mother, in Washington State.

Yes, her son Bill was visiting from California. Would Rojohn like to
speak with him? Two old men on a phone line, trying to pick up some
familiar timbre of youth in each other's voice. One can imagine that first
conversation between the two men who had shared that wild ride in the
cockpit of a B-17.

A year later, the two were re-united at a reunion of the 100th Bomb Group
in Long Beach, Calif. Bill Leek died the following year.

Glenn Rojohn was the last survivor of the remarkable piggyback flight. He
was like thousands upon thousands of men -- soda jerks and lumberjacks,
teachers and dentists, students and lawyers and service station attendants
and store clerks and farm boys -- who in the prime of their lives went to
war in World War II. They sometimes did incredible things, endured awful
things, and for the most part most of them pretty much kept it to
themselves and just faded back into the fabric of civilian life.

C! apt. Glenn Rojohn, AAF, died last Saturday after a long siege of
illness. But he apparently faced that final battle with the same grim
aplomb he displayed that remarkable day over Germany so long ago. Let us
be thankful for such men.

A great story. I wonder how many more stories like this one are lost each
day as members of the Greatest Generation pass on.


Dragon66 out.

Dragon66
04-18-2005, 05:25 PM
My dad sent this story to me today, thought I would share.

Enjoy.



Piggyback Hero by Ralph Kinney Bennett

Tomorrow morning they'll lay the remains of Glenn Rojohn to rest in the
Peace Lutheran Cemetery in the little town of Greenock, Pa., just
southeast of Pittsburgh. He was 81, and had been in the air conditioning
and plumbing business in nearby McKeesport. If you had seen him on the
street he would probably have looked to you like so many other graying,
bespectacled old World War II veterans whose names appear so often now on
obituary pages.

But like so many of them, though he seldom talked about it, he could have
told you one hell of a story. He won the Distinguished Flying Cross and
the Purple Heart all in one fell swoop in the skies over Germany on
December 31, 1944.

Fell swoop indeed.

Capt. Glenn Rojohn, of the 8th Air Force's 100th Bomb Group, was flying
his B-17G Flying Fortress! bomber on a raid over Hamburg. His formation
had braved heavy flak to drop their bombs, then turned 180 degrees to head
out over the North Sea.

They had finally turned northwest, headed back to England, when they were
jumped by German fighters at 22,000 feet. The Messerschmitt Me-109s
pressed their attack so closely that Capt. Rojohn could see the faces of
the German pilots.

He and other pilots fought to remain in formation so they could use each
other's guns to defend the group. Rojohn saw a B-17 ahead of him burst
into flames and slide sickeningly toward the earth. He gunned his ship
forward to fill in the gap.

He felt a huge impact. The big bomber shuddered, felt suddenly very heavy
and began losing altitude. Rojohn grasped almost immediately that he had
collided with another plane. A B-17 below him, piloted by Lt. William G.
McNab, had slammed the top of its fuselage into the bottom of Rojohn's.
The top turret gun of McNab's plane was ! now locked in the belly of
Rojohn's plane and the ball turret in the belly of Rojohn's had smashed
through the top of McNab's. The two bombers were almost perfectly aligned
- the tail of the lower plane was slightly to the left of Rojohn's
tailpiece. They were stuck together, as a crewman later recalled, "like
mating dragon flies."

No one will ever know exactly how it happened. Perhaps both pilots had
moved instinctively to fill the same gap in formation. Perhaps McNab's
plane had hit an air pocket.

Three of the engines on the bottom plane were still running, as were all
four of Rojohn's. The fourth engine on the lower bomber was on fire and
the flames were spreading to the rest of the aircraft The two were losing
altitude quickly. Rojohn tried several times to gun his engines and break
free of the other plane. The two were inextricably locked together.
Fearing a fire, Rojohn cuts his engines and rang the bailout bell. If his
crew had any chance of parachuting, he had to keep the plane under control
somehow.

The ball turret, hanging below the belly of the B-17, was considered by
many to be a death trap - the worst station on the bomber. In this case,
both ball turrets figured in a swift and terrible drama of life and death.
Staff Sgt. Edward L. Woodall, Jr., in the ball turret of the lower bomber,
had felt the impact of the collision above him and saw shards of metal
drop past him. Worse, he realized both electrical and hydraulic power was
gone.

Remembering escape drills, he grabbed the handcrank, released the clutch
and cranked the turret and its guns until they were straight down, then
urned and climbed out the back of the turret up into the fuselage.

Once inside the plane's belly Woodall saw a chilling sight, the ball
turret of the other bomber protruding through the top of the fuselage. In
that turret, hopelessly trapped, was Staff Sgt. Joseph Russo. Several
crewmembers on! Rojohn's plane tried frantically to crank Russo's turret
around so he could escape. But, jammed into the fuselage of the lower
plane, the turret would not budge.

Aware of his plight, but possibly unaware that his voice was going out
over the intercom of his plane, Sgt. Russo began reciting his Hail Marys.

Up in the cockpit, Capt. Rojohn and his co-pilot, 2nd Lt. William G.
Leek, Jr., had propped their feet against the instrument panel so they
could pull back on their controls with all their strength, trying to
prevent their plane from going into a spinning dive that would prevent the
crew from jumping out.

Capt. Rojohn motioned left and the two managed to wheel the grotesque,
collision-born hybrid of a plane back toward the German coast. Leek felt
like he was intruding on Sgt. Russo as his prayers crackled over the
radio, so he pulled off his flying helmet with its earphones.

Rojohn, immediately grasping that crew could not exi! t from the bottom
of his plane, ordered his top turret gunner and his radio operator, Tech
Sgts. Orville Elkin and Edward G. Neuhaus, to make their way to the back
of the fuselage and out the waist door behind the left wing.

Then he got his navigator, 2nd Lt. Robert Washington, and his bombardier,
Sgt. James Shirley to follow them. As Rojohn and Leek somehow held the
plane steady, these four men, as well as waist gunner Sgt. Roy Little and
tail gunner Staff Sgt. Francis Chase were able to bail out.

Now the plane locked below them was aflame. Fire poured over Rojohn's
left wing. He could feel the heat from the plane below and hear the sound
of 50 caliber machinegun ammunition "cooking off" in the flames.

Capt. Rojohn ordered Lieut. Leek to bail out. Leek knew that without him
helping keep the controls back, the plane would drop in a flaming spiral
and the centrifugal force would prevent Rojohn from bailing. He refused
the order.

Meanwhile, German soldiers and civilians on the ground that afternoon
looked up in wonder. Some of them thought they were seeing a new Allied
secret weapon - a strange eight-engined double bomber. But anti-aircraft
gunners on the North Sea coastal island of Wangerooge had seen the
collision. A German battery captain wrote in his logbook at 12:47 p.m.:

"Two fortresses collided in a formation in the NE. The planes flew hooked
together and flew 20 miles south. The two planes were unable to fight
anymore. The crash could be awaited so I stopped the firing at these two
planes."

Suspended in his parachute in the cold December sky, Bob Washington
watched with deadly fascination as the mated bombers, trailing black
smoke, fell to earth about three miles away, their downward trip ending in
an ugly boiling blossom of fire.

In the cockpit Rojohn and Leek held grimly to the controls trying to ride
a falling rock. Leek tersely reca! lled, "The ground came up faster and
faster. Praying was allowed. We gave it one last effort and slammed into
the ground."

The McNab plane on the bottom exploded, vaulting the other B-17 upward
and forward. It hit the ground and slid along until its left wing slammed
through a wooden building and the smoldering mass of aluminum came to a
stop.

Rojohn and Leek were still seated in their cockpit. The nose of the plane
was relatively intact, but everything from the B-17's massive wings back
was destroyed. They looked at each other incredulously. Neither was badly
injured.

Movies have nothing on reality. Still perhaps in shock, Leek crawled out
through a huge hole behind the cockpit, felt for the familiar pack in his
uniform pocket and pulled out a cigarette. He placed it in his mouth and
was about to light it. Then he noticed a young German soldier pointing a
rifle at him. The soldier looked scared and annoyed. He grabbed the
cigarette out o! f Leek's mouth and pointed down to the gasoline pouring
out over the wing from a ruptured fuel tank.

Two of the six men who parachuted from Rojohn's plane did not survive the
jump. But the other four and, amazingly, four men from the other bomber,
including ball turret gunner Woodall, survived. All were taken prisoner.
Several of them were interrogated at length by the Germans until they were
satisfied that what had crashed was not a new American secret weapon.

Rojohn, typically, didn't talk much about his Distinguished Flying Cross.
Of Leek, he said, "In all fairness to my co-pilot, he's the reason I'm
alive today."

Like so many veterans, Rojohn got back to life unsentimentally after the
war, marrying and raising a son and daughter. For many years, though, he
tried to link back up with Leek, going through government records to try
to track him down. It took him 40 years, but in 1986, he found the number
of Leek's mother, in Washington State.

Yes, her son Bill was visiting from California. Would Rojohn like to
speak with him? Two old men on a phone line, trying to pick up some
familiar timbre of youth in each other's voice. One can imagine that first
conversation between the two men who had shared that wild ride in the
cockpit of a B-17.

A year later, the two were re-united at a reunion of the 100th Bomb Group
in Long Beach, Calif. Bill Leek died the following year.

Glenn Rojohn was the last survivor of the remarkable piggyback flight. He
was like thousands upon thousands of men -- soda jerks and lumberjacks,
teachers and dentists, students and lawyers and service station attendants
and store clerks and farm boys -- who in the prime of their lives went to
war in World War II. They sometimes did incredible things, endured awful
things, and for the most part most of them pretty much kept it to
themselves and just faded back into the fabric of civilian life.

C! apt. Glenn Rojohn, AAF, died last Saturday after a long siege of
illness. But he apparently faced that final battle with the same grim
aplomb he displayed that remarkable day over Germany so long ago. Let us
be thankful for such men.

A great story. I wonder how many more stories like this one are lost each
day as members of the Greatest Generation pass on.


Dragon66 out.

tenacioustanaka
04-19-2005, 01:28 AM
very big BUMP!

trumper
04-19-2005, 02:50 AM
http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/cry.gif What on earth must've Sgt. Russo the poor ball turret gunner gone through,good grief http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/16x16_smiley-sad.gif

ytareh
04-19-2005, 01:03 PM
Inspirational!