feathered, and I was sinking rapidly. I jettisoned the canopy and pulled down my goggles. As dust flew in the cockpit, I rode the plane in at about 130 miles per hour, cutting off small trees and kunai grass like a giant lawn mower. Finally, the plane came to a screeching and sizzling halt. It just smelled and sounded like it was going to burn.
In the crash, I left behind both props, both oil coolers, and half of one wing and about a third of the other. I had torn up most of the tail. I also had hit something in the cockpit and had split my helmet. Blood poured from my head. It was running down all over my face, and I thought I was mortally wounded. That shock spared me severe pain. Fortunately, it was only a scalp wound, which I bound up quickly. My right elbow was also hurt, but not seriously. I grabbed my parachute, and with the one-man raft in the seat and wearing my Mae West inflatable life preserver, I took off with hardly a backward glance. First, I feared the Japanese might have seen me coming down, and second, the engines were so hot I feared they might explode or start a fire. I went down at high noon. The air was stifling and the silence oppressive in the ten-foot tall kunai grass. I was only about five degrees south of the Equator. I had been flying along at 180-200 miles per hour. Suddenly, I was on the ground with a feeling of loneliness and of being thrust backward five hundred years in time. The harsh reality of the situation was that I had to find my way home. To my right, or west, were the mountains, which I had hoped to cross to an outpost mission and airstrip called Bena Bena. It took three or four hours to slice my way through the tall swaying grass to the shelter of some trees, a distance of probably not more than about seven hundred yards. I tried cutting the kunai with my machete, but it was futile. So I high-stepped, fell forward, and went on, time and again. When I reached the trees and shade, I was exhausted. Remembering some of my little survival training, I cut up the parachute to make a tent and hammock of silk - such luxury! The first night in the jungle was terrifying with all the strange noises and shrieks of birds and small animals. It rained nearly every night, starting at about 0400 hours. I was spared the rain on the first night, possibly the only rainless night. The next day I stayed among the trees, peering out frequently toward my plane. But I could not see it. I was hoping that someone would come to look for me. But no one came. In those days, our air/sea rescue system was meager indeed, especially in the interior. Rescue efforts can be described something like this: ‘Instructions to all pilots - look for Sully somewhere in the jungle’. So, they looked the next day from about 25,000 feet, came back, and reported, ‘No sign of Sully’. The following day the instructions were: ‘Don't forget about Sully, he's out there someplace’. From about 25,000 feet they did not see me again. On the third day their reaction was: ‘Too bad about Sully’. And that was the way it was. I watched for rescue planes all day from below my canopy of trees. The water that I needed so badly I found hardly yards from where I had slept. It was so welcome. I filled my little, one-pint emergency drinking can and ate some of my chocolate bar, conserving as much as possible. I slept rather well, but fitfully, checking noises often. I wasn't really frightened, but the jungle was a new experience so I couldn't take chances. It was past full moon, the moon was on the wane and came out late at night. I was lonely but full of hope, and I wanted to get somewhere before my head injury gave me trouble. I treated my wound with Sulfanilamide powder and bandaged my head with a field dressing. On the third day I decided that nothing was to be gained by staying put. I thought of venturing out and concluded I could be home in four or five days. Little did I know of the difficulties that lay ahead of me in the jungle.
I hid the remains of my parachute at the edge of the kunai grass and covered or obliterated most of my camp markings. I did not spread my chute above the grass tops, reasoning that the Japanese as well as my friends could spot it, and that the wrong people might find me first. I felt that I was on my own. I gathered my possessions - the tent, hammock, and raft, and set off for Port Moresby.
At about 0900 hours I heard a radial-engined plane and thought it might be a Japanese Zero fighter. It turned out to be a single-engined Douglas A-24 Dauntless bomber,flying at about 1,000 feet. The plane was so close that I could see the pilot and observer (the canopy was rolled forward). I tried to start a fire and nervously searched for matches in my waterproof kit. I found a match and struck it, but the grass was too wet. Frantically, I reached for tracer ammunition for my Colt .45 pistol. But, by then, the plane was gone. It was disappointing, but not overwhelming. After all, this was only my third day down. So I struggled on.
The path led to an abandoned grass hut and some discarded fish bones; it was an exciting discovery. Suddenly, my thoughts raced. Was this just a way station for a native hunting party? When had people been here last? I continued, crossing another stream and following the path on the other side. I saw large crocodile tracks, but lost the trail where wild pigs had rooted it up. I returned to the stream at another point. I set up my hammock, cleared an area, and retired for the night. I always retired at darkness because the dangers of wandering about in the jungle at night seemed apparent to me. At about midnight it began to rain, and it continued all night. I was drenched and arose frequently to exercise, simulating skipping rope and shadowboxing until I got warm and could go back to
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