39th Bomb Group (VH)

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29 December 1944 Bailout

The following is a taken from a letter written by 1st Lt Thomas A. Cronin, Navigator, Crew 27 to his brother Francis. Thomas Cronin was filling as Radar Observer on Crew 29 at time of mishap.

Dec 29th

Dear Francis,

This has been a day I'll not forget for a long while. We flew this morning, that is for a while we were flying.

My Airplane Commander is home on leave so I flew with another crew taking the place of their radar operator who is on D.N. I. F. .

We took off at ten twenty-eight and about a quarter till eleven our number two engine began smoking and caught on fire. A few minutes later our number four engine began throwing oil like a real gusher; in a moments it was running away.

The fire on number two began to get serious so we tried both extinguishers without success. At this time I turned the Radar set off and the bombardier 'salvoed' the bombs and bomb bay tank. At eleven zero one the order to bailout came over the interphone as we were heading NW at 190 mph at our indicated altitude of 3,500 feet. The ground beneath was about 2000 feet above sea level so we were 5,500 feet above the ground.

From our position I was suppose to go first but the tail gunner a kid of 18 years old was getting a little excited so I sent him out followed by a A.F.C.E. man who was our passenger. After they had jumped and I could see that that rear of the plane was empty I left the plane to the fire.

I stood in the door and fell out as though falling off a diving board. The slipstream turned me over on my back and I lay there feeling as though I were floating around in space watching the plane fly out of sight.

Then I pulled the ripcord; had an anxious moment while waiting for the chute to open. Finally I heard a sigh of relief, sincere relief as that beautiful white canopy of silk blossomed out above me.

When the chute opened the risers were twisted. I had enough time to straighten then out and take a quick look below me and the next thing I know I was on the ground. When I hit I did a deep knee bend, stood up and found myself in the midst of a Kansas cow field.

Most of the time a fellow hits pretty hard when jumping, but we lucky; there only was a slight breeze three to five mph which didn't bother us at all.

The CFC gunner landed near me so we got together, bundled up our chutes "very tenderly" and walked the mile or so to the nearest farm house.

Here I phoned the Air Base and reported the accident our location and that we were uninjured.

A little later we learned that the entire crew was down ok. About an hour and half later the trucks or rather the "meat wagons" came to pick us up and take us back.

We were taken to the Base Hospital where we got a quick once over for injuries and were confined for observation over night.

I'm laying in bed now writing this document; a very humble, thankful person.

Now we're joking but the affair wasn't a bit funny a few hours ago. The sensation of falling through the air is indeed an unusual one but its not at all unpleasant; of course it much nicer to have both feet on the ground.

Don't tell Mother or Dad of this as they would be worried. None of us were hurt, I'm flying again new years day so don't mention this to them at all.

Will you return this letter to me I want to save it, it's a new one for me.

Your brother,


An attachment - we were in a B-29 on Dec. 29 the crew is #29 and there were 13 men on board

A note from Francis Cronin added to the letter when he returned it to his brother Thomas .. "This was a real thriller" & I'm glad you came through OK"

Click here to view actual letter in PDF format.
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Letter provided by 1st Lt Thomas Cronin's son Patrick

61st Squadron Crew Index
Source: Patrick Cronin, Thomas' son