39th Bomb Group (VH)

Gunner's Badge

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S/Sgt Leo Sutton
Tail Gunner

Cpl. Leo Sutton, the tail gunner on the crew, gave a very colorful account of his own harrowing experience.

When the bailed-out order came, "Sutt" was the first to leave the aircraft.

A series of extraordinary incidents began to unfold almost immediately. As he yanked on the ripcord, it tore loose from his chest pack and nothing happened. Tumbling downward, he frantically tore open the pack, pulled out the chute with his own hands, and thrust it into the air. It trailed above him for a few moments then jerked open with a resounding snap!

But this was only the beginning of his nightmare, Once he hit the water, the parachute collapsed over him, and he became ensnarled in the shroud lines. Panic stricken, Sutton pulled the cord on his "Mae West, " but it failed to fully inflate. After several terrifying moments, with only his nose barely above the water, he managed to free himself from the entanglement.

Then to his horror, "Sutt" realized that in his haste to exit the airplane, he had forgotten to buckle the one-man life raft to his parachute harness. There he was, seemingly alone in the vast Pacific, with only a partially inflated life preserver. Gulping huge amounts of salty sea water, he thrashed about gasping for air as threatening sharks swam about him in ever narrowing circles.

Realizing his hopelessness, Sutton had just about given up when he was pulled from the ocean, seasick and barely conscious.

Afterwards, Sutton summed up his frightful experience quite simply: "Everything happened to me that could happen and still be around to tell about it." He added "I learned a few new prayers too."

Update: 22 August 2004

Richard W. Robinson, CFC reported that Leo B. Sutton passed away in Barberton, OH. A search of the Social Security Death Index the listing was found showing his DOD as 18 August 1988.

Crew 4 Main Page
60th Squadron Crew Index

Source: "History of the 39th Bomb Group"; Ricard W. Robinson, CFC