At dawn on December 31, 1944, while the Battle of the Bulge raged, two young airmen took off from Thorpe Abbotts, England, and flew their Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress in formation with hundreds of others in what was to be a ‘maximum effort’ over Germany by every available flier. That New Year’s Eve would soon require the maximum effort these two men could muster to stay alive in what has to be considered one of the most unlikely incidents in aerial history.
They had finally turned northwest, headed back to England, when they were jumped by German fighters at 22,000 feet. The Messerschmitt Me-109s pressed their attack so closely that Capt. Rojohn could see the faces of the German pilots. He and other pilots fought to remain in formation so they could use each other’s guns to defend the group. Rojohn saw a B-17 ahead of him burst into flames and slide sickeningly toward the earth. He gunned his ship forward to fill in the gap. He felt a huge impact. The big bomber shuddered, felt suddenly very heavy and began losing altitude. Rojohn grasped almost immediately that he had collided with another plane.