This past Thursday, Stephen Floyd celebrated his 99th birthday, and spoke to Springfield News-Leader about his experiences as a POW of the Germans after his B-17 was shot down.
It was only his crew’s third flight when their B-17 was ravaged by German fighters, knocking out two of the planes four engines. They were trying to make it back to England after the enemy fighters broke away, low on fuel, when a large anti-aircraft gun scored a direct hit in the center of the plane.
“It was right in the middle,” Floyd says. “Thank goodness we had gotten rid of the bombs.”
The crew bailed out, but Floyd’s parachute failed to open!
“But then I looked at my vest and saw a little white spot — about a half-inch square. I started pulling it out.” It was his first parachute — a smaller one that, if deployed, would pull out the larger, life-saving parachute. He pulled at the white cloth as he plummeted to Earth.
It released. The second parachute deployed. He watched in surprise as the other crew members — who had left the plane at about the same time — passed him in their more-rapid descent.
“I waved at them as they went by,” he says.
He believes that prior to takeoff in England, he mistakenly grabbed a larger parachute than he should have. This caused him to descend more slowly.
He was was taken POW as soon as he landed. He and other Allied prisoners were shipped back and forth in railroad cattle cars, as the Germans tried to keep them away from advancing Allied armies. After he was liberated and returned home, it was discovered that he had contracted tuberculosis.
Read how he beat that enemy, as well as the rest of his remarkable life, (so far, he’s still going strong!) at the Springfield News-Leader.