January 3rd, 1943, Flying Fortress—B-17F "Snap! Crackle! Pop!"—part of the 360th Bomb Squadron, 303rd Bomb Group, was on a daylight bombing run over Saint-Nazaire, France, when German fighters blew off a section of the right wing, causing the aircraft to enter an uncontrollable spin.
On board, Staff Sergeant Alan Eugene Magee was wounded in the attack but managed to escape from the B-17 belly ball turret. Magee's parachute was damaged during the attack, so having no other option, Magee leapt from the stricken plane without one. During his 4 mile free fall, Magee was rapidly losing consciousness due to oxygen deprivation at altitude. After falling over four miles, Magee crashed through the glass roof of the St. Nazaire railroad station. The glass roof shattered, mitigating some of the force of the impact. Rescuers found Staff Sergeant Magee on the floor of the station.
Magee was taken as a prisoner of war and given medical treatment by his captors. Aside from his injuries from the fall, Magee had over 28 shrapnel wounds from the Nazi aircraft attack, several broken bones, severe damage to his nose and one eye, lung and kidney damage, and a nearly severed right arm.
Magee was liberated in 1945 and received the Air Medal for meritorious conduct and the Purple Heart. On the 50th anniversary of the attack, the townspeople of St. Nazaire honoured Magee and the crew of his B-17 "Snap! Crackle! Pop" by erecting a 6-foot-tall memorial to them.
After WWII, Magee returned to the US, and decided to pursue flight training, successfully earning his pilot's license. Alan Eugene Magee flew west on December 20th, 2003 at the age of 84.
In memory of the brave crew of B-17F "Snap! Crackle! Pop!" lost January 3rd 1943
Lt Arthur I. Adams Pilot
Lt Gene A. Witterstetter Co-Pilot
Lt Michael L. Libonati Bombardier
Sgt Dennis C. Hart Mechanic
Sgt Alfred M. Union Radio
Sgt Marvin L. Milam Gunner
Sgt Edward W. Durant Gunner