Today we were so fortunate to have John Plesha, who was a navigator in a B-24 during WWII, talk with the students. the B-24s “The Liberators” also had the nickname “The Flying Coffin” due to their unreliability and tendency to, well, crash. Often.
At 91 years old,Mr. Plesha is a vibrant storyteller who regaled the students with amazing stories. Did you know that the crews on the B-24s carried pigeons? If the plane was going down, the navigator would yell out the coordinates, a crew member would write it on a message, strap it to the pigeon’s leg and throw the pigeon out the window.The crew, hopefully having deployed a life raft, would have to hope for the best. No GPS then!
He told them about the time his plane lost three out of four engines. One of the crew panicked and jumped out, becoming a German prisoner of war. Mr. Plesha stayed in the plane with the rest of crew. They managed to get two of the engines started again, but they had to fly over the Alps with just 3 working engines. They weren’t able to gain enough altitude so they flew over Brenner Pass and manged to get back to the base, just after they were given up for missing.
Mr. Plesha went on to become a math teacher for 30 years in Edmonds, WA. He figured his odds of staying alive on his 50 missions were 50% each time he flew. The students are so lucky to have the chance to meet him, ask him questions and get to know someone who could tell them what it was really like to fly during WWII.