Yesterday my Pastor used this story to illustrate the idea of what can happen when you get ‘stuck.’ It is a true story that to me illustrates the fact that the outcome of something is not always what you expect.
The details of this story were posted at We Are The Mighty in May 2023. The story also illustrates the fact that one or two brave men can make a significant difference even in an impossible situation.
This is the story:
It was 9:30 in the morning May 15, 1941 when (Walter) Osipoff, a member of the first group to go through the new Marine parachute school in Lakehurst, New Jersey, was jumpmaster on a training flight. He successfully launched his eleven jumpers, jettisoned a cargo pack, and was attempting to jettison a second when the ripcord of his parachute became entangled with the cargo pack’s ripcord. His parachute opened and dragged him out of the plane along with the cargo pack, leaving him dangling, head-down, 100 feet beneath the transport, which was flying at 800 feet.
He was held only by the leg straps of his parachute. The plane’s pilot, Capt. Harold Johnson, could immediately feel the downward pull from the rear of the plane and was quickly notified of what was going on. He slowed down to 110 mph, the slowest he could safely go, and struggled to keep the plane’s nose down.
Crewmembers’ attempts to pull Osipoff back into the plane were unsuccessful.
…On the ground at Naval Air Station North Island, Marine lieutenant and test pilot William Lowrey had seen what was happening above. He yelled to Aviation Chief Machinist’s Mate John McCants to quickly fuel a Curtiss SOC biplane, called the control tower by telephone for clearance (the biplane, like the R2D-1 from Osipoff dangled, had no radio), and then took off with McCants in the rear cockpit.
When the two men caught up with the transport plane, Lowrey matched its speed as best he could and slowly inched up on Osipoff — but it wasn’t working. Johnson was having trouble holding the transport steady and Osipoff was twice hit by the biplane’s wing.
…Again, Lowrey approached the dangling Osipoff.
As he worked up below the jumpmaster, McCants stood up in the open, rear cockpit of the biplane and was finally able to reach Osipoff. He grabbed him by the waist and eased the man’s head into the open cockpit while Lowrey struggled to hold the biplane steady. The cockpit was too small to carry both McCants and Osipoff. McCants started to cut the parachute shrouds and ease Osipoff onto the fuselage of the biplane, just behind the rear cockpit.
Suddenly, then the biplane jumped and its propeller hit a piece off the larger plane. Miraculously, in doing so, the propeller also sliced through the remaining shrouds of Osipoff’s parachute and he settled onto the biplane’s fuselage.
Osipoff was free.
McCants continued to hold the jumpmaster in place while Lowrey took the biplane down, fighting to control its rudder which had been damaged in the collision with the transport plane, and landed safely at the air station.
Osipoff had been hanging beneath the transport for thirty-three minutes. Among his other injuries, he had suffered a fractured vertebra is his back that would keep him in a body cast for the next three months. He went on to win a Bronze Star in World War II and ended the war as a lieutenant colonel.
Wow! Just Wow!