Alan Magee

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Alan Eugene Magee
Born (1919-01-13)January 13, 1919
Plainfield, New Jersey
Died December 20, 2003(2003-12-20) (aged 84)
San Angelo, Texas
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch USAAF
Years of service 1941–1945
Rank Staff Sergeant
Unit 303d Bomb Group, Eighth Air Force
Battles/wars World War II
Awards Air Medal
Purple Heart

Alan Eugene Magee (13 January 1919 – 20 December 2003) was an American airman during World War II who survived a 22,000-foot (6,700 m) fall from his damaged B-17 Flying Fortress. He was featured in Smithsonian Magazine as one of the 10 most amazing survival stories of World War II.

Alan Magee was born in Plainfield, New Jersey, as the youngest of six children. Immediately after the Pearl Harbor attack Magee joined the United States Army Air Forces and was assigned as a ball turret gunner on a B-17 bomber nicknamed "snap! crackle! pop!".[1]

On 3 January 1943, Magee's Flying Fortress, B-17F-27-BO, 41-24620, "snap! crackle! pop!", of the 360th Bomb Squadron, 303rd Bomb Group,[2] was on a daylight bombing run over Saint-Nazaire, France when German fighters shot off a section of the right wing, causing the aircraft to enter a deadly spin. This was Magee's seventh mission.

Magee was wounded in the attack but managed to escape from the ball turret. His parachute had been damaged and rendered useless by the attack, so having no choice, he leapt from the plane without a parachute, rapidly losing consciousness due to the altitude.

By some accounts,[which?] Magee fell over four miles before crashing through the glass roof of the St. Nazaire railroad station. Somehow the glass roof mitigated Magee's impact and rescuers found him still alive on the floor of the station.

Magee was taken as a prisoner of war and given medical treatment by his captors. He had 28 shrapnel wounds in addition to the damage from the fall. He had several broken bones, severe damage to his nose and eye, and lung and kidney damage, and his right arm was nearly severed.

Magee was liberated in May 1945 and received the Air Medal for meritorious conduct and the Purple Heart. After the war Magee earned his pilot's license and enjoyed flying. He worked in the airline industry in a variety of roles. He retired in 1979 and moved to northern New Mexico.

On 3 January 1993, the people of St. Nazaire honored Magee and the crew of his bomber by erecting a 6-foot-tall (1.8 m) memorial to them.

Alan Magee died in San Angelo, Texas on 20 December 2003 from stroke and kidney failure at the age of 84.

A variation of this story was tested in an episode of MythBusters. In the episode, the crew tested the legend that an airman fell out of a plane and was saved by the shockwave of a bomb exploding through a glass train station. Their test did not work as planned, but the hosts concluded that any beneficial cushioning effect from a shockwave would be negated by damage from the shrapnel.

See also[edit]

Fall survivors
  • Ivan Chisov, Soviet Air Force lieutenant who survived falling from his aircraft in 1942
  • Nicholas Alkemade, British Avro Lancaster crewman who survived falling from his burning aircraft in 1944
  • Vesna Vulović, Serbian flight attendant who survived the mid-air breakup of her aircraft in 1972 and holds the world record for surviving the highest fall without a parachute
  • Juliane Koepcke German teenager who survived a 3 km fall after her flight broke up over the Peruvian Amazon.
Other

References[edit]

  1. ^ B-17 #41-24620 "snap! crackle pop!" aircraft information from 303rdbg.com, Magee's unit.
  2. ^ "Alan Magee Story". 303rdbg.com. 1943-01-03. Retrieved 2010-05-08. 

External links[edit]