07 July, 2008

Profile 17 - DOTTY flown by William "Bill" Creech

"Dotty" just about didn't happen. On June 17, 1944, Lt. William "Bill" Creech was flying an A-36 "Apache" on a ground-support mission in Burma.  These missions were performed at very low level - often times, at shoe-top height.  However, on that particular day, Bill's airplane took a hit in the cooling system from bomb shrapnel. In short, he survived a nasty belly landing in the Burmese jungle and managed to hack his way back to base - an amazing story in and of itself but it will have to be saved for another time...

Nevertheless, Bill went on to fly a considerable number of missions* in China until on March 15, 1945, Bill and his P-51B (Dotty as shown above) were hit again and he was forced to bail out 150 or so miles North of Sian.

The following is from an advance, unedited draft of Bill's book, "Third Greatest Fighter Pilot" (google it.)

The coolant temp wasn’t even rising and this confused me a bit but not for long. Suddenly she started running rough and the oil temp rose to the red line. She started vibrating quite a bit and losing power. She started down slowly and as I was intent upon keeping good control throughout, kept the airspeed above 120 mph. I made up my mind that five thousand was my limit. I was planning to stay with her to that point, then over the side. As I approached five thousand, I pulled the canopy release and it was gone in a flash. I had her all perfectly trimmed so I stood up in the seat, with one hand on the windshield and the other on the rear canopy, and dived as hard as I could toward the right wing tip, just as we were trained to do. As I went over the side my flying suit was splattered with molten aluminum from the burning engine. In retrospect that old Merlin was trying to save my ass and was still actually running and producing power! Don’t tell me that airplanes don’t have souls!...I tumbled a time or two, pulled the ripcord, and was delighted to see the chute blossom above me. I landed rather hard on my butt and realized that the desert floor was frozen.

In case you're wondering how Bill's family found out their boy was having a hard day in China, the graphic below is a scan of the Western Union telegram delivered to his mom.

If I ever publish my book, Bill Creech and a few other 528th pilots will undoubtedly take up a chapter or two!