I Got Shot Down
Seven airmen talk about the event none wants to experience.
- By Phil Scott
- Air & Space magazine, May 2004
(Page 2 of 8)
From pulling the handles to the time the helicopters pulled me out was just shy of eight hours. They took me to a base in Bosnia, loaded me on a C-130 to Aviano air base [in Italy]; then I was able to talk to my wife on a [secure] STU-III phone to ensure no compromise of anything related to the event, [including] my and my family's identities. It was a wonderful and emotional phone call, as you can imagine. My wife had been made aware of the situation. And after that I talked to my daughter and wished her happy birthday. She had just turned 10.
NAME: Staff Sergeant William E. Price (U.S. Army)
AIRCRAFT: B-29 Superfortress
CONFLICT: World War II
SHOT DOWN OVER: Nagoya, Japan
We took off from North Field, Guam. It was a daylight mission over Nagoya, Japan, to bomb the Mitsubishi aircraft engine factory. We started our bomb run at 20,000 feet, which was the highest we ever flew before. We had just dropped our bombs when I heard over the intercom, “Fighters coming in at 12 o'clock level.” A second or two later there was a brilliant flash—a Kawasaki Ki-45 suicide plane tore off our left wing with the number-one engine. We rolled over on our back and went into an inverted flat spin. I was 20 years old and I remember saying out loud, “Mom's going to give me hell for this.” I was between the passageway and the right gun blister and I figured I was going to die, so I just relaxed and let myself go.
Somehow I went, bareheaded, through the Plexiglas blister—took the entire blister off with my head and took the gunsight off with my shoulder. The left gunner and the engineer got out, but I didn't see them get out. Nobody else made it out. I heard later from the engineer that the plane blew up before it hit the ground. The parachute was open when I came to. I must have pulled the ripcord unconsciously.
I got down. There could have been about 150 to 200 people—soldiers, police—coming after me. Then the fun started. The first one who got to me hit me with a bamboo pole and sent me rolling. A soldier hit me with a bayonet through my flying suit but missed my body. An officer made him stop and then some soldiers beat me up, broke my collar bone and three ribs. They handcuffed me in front and tied a rope around my arms in back and blindfolded me and took me to a bunker and I got beat up again. Then they took me to a railroad station, sat me on a bunker, and threw stones at me for about an hour.
We got into a 1937 Ford V-8. Two soldiers sat in front and I got into the back seat with a guard on either side of me. The car wouldn't start. I said, “I think you're out of gas,” and I got a beating out of that. I learned to keep my mouth shut.
We went into this building—I had to have a soldier on each side of me to hold me up, I was so bruised up and I had all these broken bones and I'd lost a lot of blood—and a guy in front of me asked my name and I told them “William Price,” and he asked my rank and I told him “sergeant,” and he must have not liked that and he hit me twice. I came to and they took me to Nagoya Castle, and I was in solitary for six days. On the seventh day, a nice Japanese guy came in and sat on the floor. He was a nice guy 'cause he didn't beat me. He said I was going to Tokyo. I said, “What for?” He said, “To be executed.”
We took a train to Tokyo, to Camp Omori. It was on a sandbar two blocks wide and a block long, but the camp was half that size. B-29 prisoners weren't very well liked. In Germany, one percent of prisoners died. In the Pacific, 40 percent died as POWs. But of captured B-29 crews, only five percent got back alive.