Stanley M. Feltman | Corporal; U.S. Army Air Corps. | Served in the Pacific Theater during WWII
Assigned to medical transport just prior to the end of WWII, Feltman and crew are flying above Tinian, Japan. Feltman describes the harrowing events of being stranded in shark-infested waters after their plane is forced ditch into the Pacific Ocean due to mechanical failure. Incredibly, he lives to tell the tale.
“I wanted to be a pilot, but they said they were knocking off the tail gunners. Not only in the South Pacific but Europe as well. And I didn’t know where i was gonna go. And they flunked the whole class out and said “You’re all going to be tail gunners.” Some of them went on B-17s in Europe and I ended up on a B-29. At that time, that was the largest bomber that we had. It had central fire control, because the tail gunner never touched the guns. They had a disc, they called central fire control. You sight the plane, and with your thumbs, you press down, and the guns go off. Later on, they were gonna disband because the war was just about over, they’re dropping the bombs. I volunteered to take patients back on a stripped down B-29.”
June 1945, Above Tinian, Japan: Assigned to medical transport, a B-29 crew of 11 Army Air Corps servicemen escorts doctor and injured patients over the Pacific Ocean.
“And that’s when we went down. Since there is a 6 man dingy and more than 6 men on the crew, some of us had to stay on the water and hold on to the rope that’s around the dingy. It’s a rubber inflatable. And we would hold on to that.”
The bomber’s occupants are set adrift in shark-infested waters. A short-wave radio serves as their only change for possible rescue.
“There were sharks all around and we had a yellow dye that we used to spread, but it dissipates after a while. The pilot said that if we were going to be in there a long time with the sun and everything, and the salt water, we’d go two hours on, two hours off, and we would switch around. I think somebody had a cut or something. A drop of blood, that’s all the sharks need, they could be miles away. They could get the scent of a drop and then they’re there. They kept circling around. And they were circling – they came in close, at certain points, they came in close, because the guys on the boat, they’d hit it. They had these metal ores in the dingy. They would hit the shark on the – you know, on the snout. They’d get into close and sometimes you’d feel them hit the bottom of the dingy. We were worried that they’d come in because our legs were dangling underneath, but they didn’t – we got lucky.”
Feltman and company spend six harrowing hours fending off shark attacks — until a Navy PBY Catalina ushers them to the safety of a distant aircraft carrier. Just four weeks later, Japan surrenders and WWII draws to a close.
“I know of other people that weren’t so lucky with sharks. Different other crews. All we did was give our position and then we saw a plane coming in and it was a PBY, it was a navy PBY.”