6. The Strange Survival of Ivan Chisov Who Fell 23,000 Feet Without a Parachute, Suffered Serious Injuries, Then Went Back to Fighting the Nazis Three Months Later
In January, 1942, Red Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Ivan Chisov was serving as a navigator in an Ilyushin Il-4 bomber, when it was jumped by German fighters. The bomber was wrecked and spun out of control, so Chisov bailed out at a height of 23,000 feet. He had a parachute, but fearing that the nearby German fighters would shoot him, he decided to refrain from opening it 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.
Chisov plummeted 23,000 feet from his stricken Il-4, before hitting the ground at an estimated 120 to 150 miles per hour. Luckily, he hit the edge of a snowy ravine, whose 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 suffered spinal injuries and a broken pelvis, but lived. Chisov 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 bombing missions against the Nazis.