David J. Farley of Plympton, Plymouth, United Kingdom

David J. Farley of Plympton, Plymouth, United Kingdom

Monday, June 30, 2008

World War II Flying story!

Amazing story!
Piggyback Hero
by Ralph Kenney Bennett

Tomorrow they will 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 greying, 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 Air Medal, 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.'

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 w ere inextricably locked together. Fearing a fire, Rojohn cut his engines and rang the bailout bell. For his crew to have 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 realised 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 turned 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 crew members of Rojohn's plane tried frantically to crank Russo's turret around so he could escape, but, jammed into the fuselage of the lower plane, it would not budge. Perhaps unaware that his voice was going out over the intercom of his plane, Sgt. Russo began reciting his Hail Mary's.

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 motion left and the two managed to wheel the huge, 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 exit 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 d oor on the left behind the 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 calibre 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 recalled, '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 slammed back to the ground, sliding along until its left wing slammed through a wooden building and the smouldering mess 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 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 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 of Leak'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 returned, unsentimentally, back to normal life 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 Leeks' mother, in Washington State . Yes, her son Bill was visiting from California . Would Rojohn like to speak with him ? Some things are better left unsaid. 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.

He died last Saturday after a long siege of sickness. 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.

My thanks to Dean Eddy for sending me this remarkable account of selfless bravery

The coloured picture at the head of this posting is an artist's impression of this dramatic scenario

Thursday, June 26, 2008

When the paint pot fell from Heaven (No.3)

When the paint pot fell from Heaven (No.2)

When the paint pot fell from Heaven (No.1)

This is a real place outside Bakersfield, California

We live in an awesome world. Make it an awesome day.Peace To All and May God Bless You. Live simply. Love generously.Care deeply. Speak kindly.

My special thanks to Jim Doney for these and other stunning pictures.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


One day a man saw an old lady, stranded on the side of the road, but even in the dim light of day, he could see she needed help. So he pulled up in front of her very posh Mercedes Benz and got out. His old banger of a Ford Escort was still sputtering when he approached her. Even with the smile on his face, she was worried. No one had stopped to help for the last hour or so. Was he going to hurt her? He didn't look safe; he looked poor and hungry.

He could see that she was frightened, standing out there in the cold. He knew how she felt. It was that chill which only fear can put in you.

He said, 'I'm here to help you, ma'am. Why don't you wait in the car where it's warm? By the way, my name is Bryan Anderson.'

Well, all she had was a flat tyre, but for an old lady, that was bad enough. Bryan crawled under the car looking for a place to put the jack, skinning his knuckles a time or two. Soon he was able to change the tyre. But he had to get dirty and his hands hurt.

As he was tightening up the wheel nuts, she rolled down the window and began to talk to him. She told him where she was from and that she was only passing through. She couldn't thank him enough for coming to her aid. Bryan just smiled as he closed the boot of her car.

The lady asked how much she owed him. Any amount would have been all right with her. She already imagined all the awful things that could have happened had he not stopped. Bryan never thought twice about being paid. This was not a job to him. This was helping someone in need, and God knows there were plenty, who had given him a hand in the past. He had lived his whole life that way, and it never occurred to him to act any other way.

He told her that if she really wanted to pay him back, the next time she saw someone who needed help, she could give that person the assistance they needed, and Bryan added, 'And think of me.'

He waited until she started her car and drove off. It had been a cold and depressing day, but he felt good as he headed for home, disappearing into the twilight.

A few miles down the road the lady saw a small cafe. She went in to grab a bite to eat, and take the chill off before she made the last leg of her trip home. It was a dingy looking restaurant. Outside were two old petrol pumps. The whole scene was unfamiliar to her. The waitress came over and brought a clean towel to wipe her wet hair. She had a sweet smile, one that even being on her feet for the whole day couldn't erase. The lady noticed the waitress was nearly eight months pregnant, but she never let the strain and aches change her attitude. The old lady wondered how someone who had so little could be so giving to a stranger. Then she remembered Bryan .

After the lady finished her meal, she paid with a fifty pound note. The waitress quickly went to get change for her fifty pound note, but the old lady had slipped right out the door. She was gone by the time the waitress came back. The waitress wondered where the lady could be. Then she noticed something written on the napkin.

There were tears in her eyes when she read what the lady wrote: 'You don't owe me anything. I have been there too. Somebody once helped me out, the way I'm helping you. If you really want to pay me back, here is what you do: Do not let this chain of love end with you.'

Under the napkin were four more £50 notes.

Well, there were tables to clear, sugar bowls to fill, and people to serve, but the waitress made it through another day. That night when she got home from work and climbed into bed, she was thinking about the money and what the lady had written. How could the lady have known how much she and her husband needed it? With the baby due next month, it was going to be hard....

She knew how worried her husband was, and as he lay sleeping next to her, she gave him a soft kiss and whispered soft and low, 'Everything's going to be all right. I love you, Bryan Anderson.'

There is an old saying, 'What goes around comes around.' Let this light shine.

Good friends are like stars....You don't always see them, but you know they are always there.


My thanks to Dean Eddy for this very uplifting story

Monday, June 23, 2008

Dead Man Walking! Oh well he tried!

My thanks to Dan Wray for this image. It brought a very welcome smile to my face this Monday morning. Thanks Dan.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Turn to Jesus

The wave of teenage killings around the United Kingdom is something that must concern us all; 28 teenagers killed so far this year.

In a recent TV interview, Mr.Tony McNulty, UK Home Office Minister, called for judges to implement the tougher sentences available to them under current legislation. Surely we have to look more closely at the overall breakdown of law and order within society.

Since the end of World War II, people of all ages have been bombarded by sex and violence on TV, in the cinema and in the press, and one cannot help feeling that we have all been desensitised to the effects that our irrational behaviour has on others. Children particularly are being subjected to this bombardment with devastating effects on the way they grow up and behave.

To Mr. McNulty I would say there is no quick fix to this problem and tougher sentencing is not the solution. I believe there should be a return to Christian values, to church attendance and Sunday schools, and to a personal faith in Jesus Christ. Surely, a recognition that we are all answerable to a higher power has got to change our attitude to one another?

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

CANADA and ALASKA- May 2008

I am back from my tour of the Canadian Rockies and my cruise up the Inside Passage to south east Alaska. Although quite tiring it was a truly wonderful experience the memories of which I will treasure for evermore. For those of you who may be interested I will give a brief outline of the itinerary we followed.

On Day 1 we departed from London Gatwick on our charter flight to Calgary, Alberta. On arrival we transferred to our hotel in the picturesque town of Banff for a two night stay. On Day 2 we visited the beautiful Bow Falls, the Cave and Basin and took a cable car ride up Sulpher Mountain. On Day 3 we drove to Lake Louise, described by many writers as the most beautiful place in Canada.

Staying overnight at Golden before continuing on Day 4 through the magnificent Rockies to Kelowna for another overnight stay. During this journey I managed to see an elk, a black bear and several bald eagles in the wild. Sadly though not a moose in sight! On Day 5 we continued across British Columbia to Vancouver where we stayed for a very welcome three nights. Day 6 saw us visit Chinatown, Gastown, Stanley Park and the magnificent harbour. We also went over to Vancouver's Northshore and managed to walk across the spectacular Capilano Suspension Bridge followed by a cable car ride up Grouse Mountain to see a couple of Grizzly bears. On Day 7 we travelled by ferry to Victoria, capital of British Columbia, on Vancouver Island. In the afternoon visiting the truly colourful and vast Butchart Gardens.

On Day 8 we joined our cruise ship the MS Statendam at Canada Place, Vancouver Harbour. Day 9 we cruised up the Inside Passage and again marvelled at the scenery and wildlife. We arrived at Juneau, capital of Alaska on Day 10 from where we visited the Mendenhall Glacier. Next day (Day 11) arriving early at Skagway, a lively relic of the Klondike Gold Rush of 1898.

Day 12 was the highlight of the whole holiday for me when we cruised around Glacier Bay and saw the truly amazing sight of the Marjerie Glacier which appears in the photograph at the head of this posting. The blue tint shown in the photograph is very real and has to be seen to be really appreciated. To watch the glacier "calving" and listen to the loud rumblings was truly awesome.

Day 13 saw us arrive at Ketchikan where we visited Totem Poles Park and entered a typical First Nation clan longhouse on a reservation. Later the same day we attended a lumberjack show and witnessed the might and power of several lumberjacks who put on an exciting display of their skills and talent. Day 14 was spent at sea cruising our way back to Vancouver. It was thrilling to watch from our balconies the whales, dolphins, porpoises and seals in their natural environment. On Day 15 we arrived back at Vancouver and went on another tour of the city this time visiting the market on Granville Island and also Queen Elizabeth Park before transferring to the international airport for our return flight to the UK.

Only two negatives to report. The first being that at Butchart Gardens I managed to accidentally drop my expensive Nikon digital camera rendering it useless for the remainder of the holiday although the microchip was OK and my special thanks must go to Jim and Valerie Ward, two fellow guests on the cruise, who very kindly loaned me their second camera in order that I could continue shooting great pictures onto my own microchip. Thanks a million folks.

The second negative happened at Vancouver International Airport when my luggage was weighed and found to be 12 kilos over the limit of 20Kg. I was charged an outrageous 192C dollars (£101.50) for the excess allowance. That equates to 16C dollars or roughly £8 per kilo which I consider to be an absolute rip-off. So my souvenirs turned out to be very expensive souvenirs indeed and you can rest assured my relatives know all about it! So be warned, travel very light when visiting Canada or face a hefty bill like me!

That said, the positives far outweigh the negatives. I will soon forget the minus points but I will never forget the stunning scenery, exciting wildlife and especially the friendly welcome we received from the ordinary citizens of Canada and Alaska whom we came into contact with throughout the whole vacation. I give thanks to Almighty God for a super holiday and a safe return to my home.

Finally, I have uploaded a slideshow of many of my photographs from this holiday and they can be viewed at the head of this page immediately below my welcome message.