Rojohn maneuvered to take a position to fill the void created when a B-17 (No. 43-338436) piloted by 2nd Lt. Charles C. Webster went down in flames and exploded on the ground. ‘I was going into that void when we had a tremendous impact,’ Rojohn recalled. Feeling the bomber shudder, the men immediately thought their plane had collided with another aircraft. It had, but in a way that may never have happened before or since.
Another B-17 (No. 43-338457), piloted by 1st Lt. William G. MacNab and 2nd Lt. Nelson B. Vaughn, had risen upward. The top turret guns on MacNab’s plane had pierced through the aluminum skin on the bottom of Rojohn’s plane, binding the two huge planes together, as Leek said, like ‘breeding dragonflies.’ The two planes had become one.
Whether MacNab and Vaughn lost control of their plane because they were seriously injured or the planes collided because both Rojohn and MacNab were moving in to close the open space in the formation is uncertain. Both MacNab and Vaughn were fatally injured that day and were never able to tell their own story.
Staff Sergeant Edward L. Woodall, Jr., MacNab’s ball-turret gunner, remembered that when a crew check was called just prior to the midair collision, everyone had reported in. ‘At the time of the impact,’ Woodall said, ‘we lost all power and intercom on our aircraft. I knew we were in trouble from the violent shaking of the aircraft, no power to operate the turret, loss of intercom, and seeing falling pieces of metal. My turret was stalled with the guns up at about 9 o’clock. This is where countless time drills covering emergency escape procedures from the turret paid off, as I automatically reached for the hand crank, disengaged the clutch and proceeded to crank the turret and guns to the down position so I could open the door and climb into the waist of the airplane. I could see that another aircraft was locked onto our aircraft and his ball turret jammed down inside our aircraft.’
By amazing piloting, half of the aircrews survived. Most bailed out, but one pilot and copilot pair survived the crash landing unhurt. Wow. Go read the whole thing.
The 2008 obituary of CAPT Glenn Rojohn, DFC is here.