I felt compelled to share this fascinating story I learned this from MrBallen on YouTube. All the research and credit are his. While I’ve shortened it a bit for reading purposes, I’ve done my best to maintain its integrity and quality:
Just after the Korean War started, an 18-year old high school dropout, nicknamed Samson was drafted into the Army. Instead of him being sent to Korea though, he got stationed in Fort Ord, CA as a lifeguard.
The earnings weren’t much, so he made extra cash as a bouncer at a local bar. After about a year of service, he took some leave to visit his family and girlfriend in Seattle. He was able to fly free on a military plane as long as he was in uniform. A few days later on September 30, 1951, he went to the Seattle airport to fly back to base.
But, there was only one more military plane going to Fort Ord and it was a WWII dive bomber that had space for only the pilot. Samson had to get back to Fort Ord that night, because he was on duty the following morning.
He didn’t have enough money to buy a civilian plane ticket, so he asked the pilot if he could just cram himself into the radar compartment in the back of the plane. The answer was a hard no, due the danger involved, but Samson pleaded with him that he had to get back to base.
After a while of back and forth, the pilot reluctantly agreed. He closed the hatch on Samson, went to the front, got into the cockpit and took off. Just as the plane lifted into the air, the side hatch of the radar compartment flew open.
Samson realized that at cruising altitude, there wouldn’t be enough oxygen in the air to keep him alive. If he didn’t get that door shut, he would pass out and suffocate. He anchored his feet and legs around a stanchion inside the plane as he extended the upper half of his body out of the plane to try to pull the door shut. All this as the plane is climbing in altitude. No matter how hard he tried, the wind was too strong to pull the door back against it.
Eventually, he retreated back into the plane and pushed himself way back in the radar compartment and tucked himself behind some equipment. There was no way of communicating with the pilot, because since this wasn’t an area for humans, there was no equipment for that. He realized, that he was dying back there, so he just sat and prayed.
As if this wasn’t bad enough, the pilot realized he made a terrible mistake and there wasn’t enough fuel to get to Fort Ord. Over the ocean now, and past the point of no return his radio equipment failed and he couldn’t call for help.
And … it gets worse: Now the pilot’s oxygen supply failed. He knew he had to get the plane low enough to raise oxygen levels as fast as possible, because he too would pass out and crash the plane. In a steep dive, he knew he had to attempt a water landing. At this point, Samson was passed out cold, but as the plane lowered and oxygen levels came back, he came back into consciousness.
He looked out of the open door and saw the pacific ocean quickly coming towards the plane and had a couple of seconds to grab onto that stanchion to brace for impact. He survived the impact, but now freezing cold water came gushing in and he couldn’t swim against it. He had to wait until the space completely flooded so that he could get out the door.
As he swam to the surface, he saw the pilot, trying to exit the cockpit, but he was pretty beaten up from the impact. The water was choppy and it was so foggy, they couldn’t see land.
They got together and were able to get two life rafts out of the plane. Using a compass, they paddled east, not knowing how far shore was, although they estimated maybe three miles.
They ended up crashing about two miles off the coast in an area well known as a great white shark breeding ground. They began paddling as fast as possible in an eastward direction.
But when it got dark, the water got very choppy and the pilot was thrown from his raft. Samson tried to swim after him, but the current took the pilot away and he disappeared into the fog. The pilot had the compass, so now Samson had no idea where he was.
Without a raft or the compass, Samson just picked a direction and began to swim. Miraculously, after an hour of swimming, he saw a light on dry land and swam toward it with a new burst of energy.
In total he swam about two miles in freezing shark infested waters in the dark. As he pulled himself onto the beach. He crawled up to the light which was a radio station. Hypothermic and in shock, they found him, wrapped him in blankets and called the coast guard.
At the coast guard station, he got medical treatment and was reunited with the pilot who also somehow made it. Samson went on to serve two more years in the army as a Lifeguard, was honorably discharged, and later went into show business, using his real name, Clint Eastwood. Wow, right?!
I can’t help but wonder if the universe intervened here. If the plane had enough gas and if the pilot’s oxygen didn’t run out to make him act immediately, Samson, eh … Clint may not have even regained consciousness and this whole story would end quite differently.
The other thing is that he never stopped acting and reacting and acting again, even when the odds got worse and worse. He just kept going and still is at 92 years old.
Steve Sims, in his book “Bluefishing” said, “We don’t drown by falling in the water. We drown by staying there.”
Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash