NEW CASTLE —
Shortly after that encounter 71 years ago, the six U.S. planes descended to a lower altitude. “I had a feeling of euphoria,” Adamczyk said. “We’d been in mortal combat and survived.”
However, moments later he noticed flames near the oil tank, realizing the plane had been damaged during the battle.
“We were over a small island with a long over-water flight ahead and the probability of the fire spreading,” Adamczyk said. “Our pilot decided we’d better get out.”
So Adamczyk helped release the emergency door at the rear of the aircraft and jumped — after a brief hesitation — when (Lt. Longacre) ordered him to bail out. “I grabbed the ripcord of my backpack parachute,” he said. “I wanted to be sure I could find it.”
He also loosened the fleece-lined flying boots he was wearing, anticipating the possibility of landing in the ocean.
Adamczyk said jumpers are supposed to count to a predetermined number upon bailing out, but he must have pulled the cord too quickly. When the chute opened, Adamczyk felt a jolt and a terrible pain in his left knee. His boots also went flying on their own uncharted course.
“My knee was dislocated,” he said. “But I was able to push it into place while descending.
“I might have enjoyed the ride down had my leg not been hurting so badly,” he recalled. “The sudden quiet after that noisy plane was quite a contrast and the landscape below was beautiful — blue water, sandy beach and green jungle.”
Adamczyk floated down like a feather... until he landed in about six inches of water right off the sandy beach on the east side of the island. Even though the water and sand were soft, Adamczyk landed with a thud. “I knew I was out of commission,” he said. Adamczyk was still holding the ripcord as he lay there. Using his elbows, he dragged himself onto land, coming to rest against a coconut tree.
Other members of the crew landed in different spots on the tiny island, so the injured Adamczyk had to wait until they located him. A Navy PBY flying boat came to their rescue the next day.
Adamczyk was transported and treated in an Australian hospital that was bombed during his stay.