Daring Escapes from Concentrations Camps, Enemies, and Crashed Planes
Daring Escapes from Concentrations Camps, Enemies, and Crashed Planes

Daring Escapes from Concentrations Camps, Enemies, and Crashed Planes

Khalid Elhassan - November 11, 2021

Daring Escapes from Concentrations Camps, Enemies, and Crashed Planes
Gun camera view of a P-51 as it strafes German bombers on the ground. World War Wings

6. Shot Down Deep Inside the Third Reich

Bruce Carr became a fighter ace on October 29, 1944, when he shot down two more Bf 109s over Germany, to reach five total kills. Four days later, as he led a flight of P-51s on a strafing run over a German airfield in Czechoslovakia, Carr’s Mustang, Angel’s Playmate, was hit by antiaircraft fire. He bailed out from his fatally damaged plane and parachuted safely to earth. Carr had managed to escape death in the air. Now he set out to escape Germans on the ground.

Stranded deep in enemy territory, hundreds of miles from friendly lines, Carr managed evaded capture for several days. Eventually, cold, wet, exhausted, and famished, he reached the end of his tether and decided to surrender. Aware that German airmen treated enemy airmen better than other POWs, Carr headed to a Luftwaffe airfield that he had spotted. He made it to its fence, and decided to hide in adjacent woods that night, and walk up to the front gate and surrender the next day.

Daring Escapes from Concentrations Camps, Enemies, and Crashed Planes
Focke-Wulf Fw 190D-9 cockpit at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. US Air Force

5. A Spur of the Moment Escape Plan

As he hunkered down outside a German airfield’s fence, Bruce Carr saw something that made him rethink his decision to surrender. Just a few yards away, Luftwaffe ground crew were fueling and performing maintenance on an Fw 190 fighter near the runway’s edge, not far from where Carr lay hidden. When they were done, the Germans tightened the panels back on the plane and departed, leaving it ready for combat the following morning. An escape plan began to form in Carr’s mind – but it required extraordinary courage to pull off. That night, he worked up the nerve to sneak up to the enemy fighter and climbed into its cockpit.321

Next, Carr had to fight off sleep until dawn’s early light allowed him to inspect the instruments. Everything in the cockpit was labeled in German, but there were enough similarities between it and American cockpits for Carr to guesstimate what did what. He found the Fw190’s starter lever, spent half an hour to build up his courage, then pulled it. Nothing happened. German starters worked the other way around. He eventually worked out that he needed to push it forward, and the fighter’s BMW motor roared to life.

Daring Escapes from Concentrations Camps, Enemies, and Crashed Planes
The stolen Fw 190 in which Bruce Carr made his escape. Large Scale Planes

4. A Dramatic Escape Worthy of an Action-Adventure Film

With the FW 190’s engine turned on, Bruce Carr decided that he would not risk his escape with an attempt to taxi to and line up on the runway. He poured on full throttle, raced across a corner of the airfield, slalomed between two airplane hangars, then took off over the heads of the sleepy and befuddled Germans below. When he reached Allied territory, ground troops opened up with flak on his FW 190. To avoid friendly fire, he flew just above the treetop at 350 mph.

After 200 miles, he reached his airfield. Unable to deploy the landing gear, or communicate via radio, Carr decided to make a belly landing before his escape was ruined by his own airfield’s defenses blasting him out of the sky. Military police surrounded the crashed Fw 190, and refused to accept Carr’s word that he was an American airman. It was finally sorted out when the group commander arrived and identified his missing pilot. Carr is the only Allied pilot to fly off on a mission in a P-51 and return to base in an FW 190.

Daring Escapes from Concentrations Camps, Enemies, and Crashed Planes
Distinguished Service Cross. War Relics

3. An Intrepid Escape Was Not the End of This Ace’s Heroics

Bruce Carr’s extraordinary escape earned him a well-earned promotion to first lieutenant, as well as a well-deserved leave. However, his wartime exploits were not over. On April 2, 1945, First Lieutenant Carr led three other American fighters on a reconnaissance mission, when they spotted 60 Luftwaffe fighters above them. He was game to have a go at the enemy despite the 15:1 odds against his flight and immediately led an attack. Within minutes, he and his companions had downed 15 Germans. Carr personally downed two FW 190s, three Bf 109s, and damaged a sixth enemy fighter.

That made Carr the European theater’s last ace-in-a-day (somebody who shot down five or more enemy planes in a day). It also earned him a Distinguished Service Cross, the country’s second-highest award for valor. By war’s end, Carr had flown 172 combat missions, scored 15 confirmed air-to-air kills, several more unconfirmed victories, and numerous ground kills. He flew another 57 combat missions during the Korean War, and 286 more in Vietnam, and in the process earned a Legion of Merit and three Distinguished Flying Crosses. He retired from the Air Force as a colonel in 1973 and succumbed to prostate cancer in 1998. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Daring Escapes from Concentrations Camps, Enemies, and Crashed Planes
Ivan Chisov and an Ilyushin Il-4. Hello Travel

2. Ivan Chisov’s Dilemma

World War II saw multiple airmen survive falls from thousands of feet without a parachute. As seen above, British airman Nicholas Alkemade survived a fall without a parachute from 18,000 feet. American airman Alan Magee topped that and managed to escape the clutches of the Grim Reaper despite a 22,000-foot fall without a parachute. However, Soviet airman Ivan Mikhailovich Chisov (1916 – 1986) exceeded both records with his miraculous survival of a 23,000-foot fall without a parachute.

It happened in January 1942, when an Ilyushin Il-4 bomber in which Lieutenant Colonel Chisov served as a navigator was jumped by Luftwaffe fighters. The bomber was wrecked and spun out of control, so Chisov exited at a height of 23,000 feet. He had a parachute, but he was worried that if the nearby German fighters spotted him as he drifted slowly to the ground beneath its open canvas, they would pounce upon and shoot him. Neither side paid much attention to chivalry on the Eastern Front.

Daring Escapes from Concentrations Camps, Enemies, and Crashed Planes
Ivan Chisov. Wikimedia

1. A Soviet Airman’s Extremely Lucky Escape From the Grim Reaper’s Clutches

Because he feared that might get shot by German fighters while he dangled defenseless beneath a parachute, Ivan Chisov decided that he would not open his parachute until he got close to the ground. However, lack of oxygen in the thin air so high up caused him to blackout. Unconscious, he continued all the way down without deploying his parachute. As a result, he plummeted 23,000 feet from his stricken Il-4, before he hit the ground at an estimated speed of 118 to 150 miles per hour.

Luckily, for the Soviet airman, he hit the edge of a snowy ravine, and the snow absorbed and dissipated enough impact energy to keep him alive. Chisov bounced from the ravine’s edge and slid, rolled, and plowed his way to the bottom. He was seriously hurt and suffered spinal injuries and a broken pelvis. However, he had managed to escape the Grim Reaper and was alive. He underwent surgery and spent a month hospitalized in critical care. He was a tough Russian, however, and three months after his dramatic fall, Chisov was back in the air, flying more missions against the Nazis.


Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources and Further Reading

303rd Bomb Group History – 20,000 Feet Without a Parachute: The Alan Magee Story

Air Force Magazine, February 1st, 1995 – Valor: Thanks, Luftwaffe

Aviation Geek Club – The Story of Bruce Carr, the P-51D Pilot Who Left on a Mission Flying a Mustang and Returned to Base Flying a Luftwaffe FW190

Baer, Joel H. – Pirates of the British Isles (2005)

BBC – Shoichi Yokoi, the Japanese Soldier Who Held Out in Guam

Check Six – The Free Fall of Sergeant Magee

Encyclopedia Britannica – John Avery

Encyclopedia Britannica – Johnny Torrio

Historic Wings – The Miracle of Saint Nazaire

History Collection – 16 Steps These Criminals Took to Escape From Alcatraz

How Stuff Works – Japanese Holdouts

La Bruja la Verde – The World War II Airmen Who Survived Falls From Thousands of Feet High

McPhaul, Jack – Johnny Torrio: First of the Gang Lords (1970)

National Park Service – The Soldier Who Did Not Surrender

Rogozinski, Jan – Honor Among Thieves: Captain Kidd, Henry Every, and the Pirate Democracy in the Indian Ocean (2000)

Royal Air Force Museum – The Indestructible Alkemade

Russo, Gus – The Outfit: The Role of Chicago’s Underworld in the Shaping of Modern America (2003)

Together We Served – Carr, Bruce W. (DSC), Colonel

War History Online – Amazing Escape: Soviet Prisoners Stole a German Plane and Flew Home

History Collection – A Downed Pilot Who Ran Away in a Stolen Enemy Plane and Other Historic Escapes