Time and History 3:20 A.M. WWII Jump Without a Parachute

About major and minor historical events around the clock such as the World War II pilot who survived a 18,000 foot jump without a parachute at 3:20 in the morning.


3:20 in the Morning

Mar. 25, 1944. RAF Sgt. Nicholas Alkemade said, "Jesus Christ, I'm alive!" Lighting a cigarette, he checked his watch for the time. Just three hours earlier he had been in the blazing tail of an RAF Lancaster bomber that had been hit after dropping its load on Berlin. The captain ordered the crew to bail out, but a fire in the fuselage made it impossible for Alkemade to reach his parachute. He had to make an instant decision--a roasting hell or an unconscious fall? He pushed open the plane's door and somersaulted backward into the night.

Alkemade jumped at 18,000 ft. without a parachute. He said he had no sensation of falling, that it was "like being at rest on an airy cloud." The last thing he remembered was looking down at his feet, seeing stars, and thinking, "Must be falling headfirst." Plummeting at about 120 mph, he landed in a fir forest, where the thickly interlaced branches broke his fall and an 18-in. layer of snow cushioned his final landing. Found by a German patrol, he was taken prisoner and given a thorough investigation by understandably disbelieving German interrogators. But his story was proved true. Alkemade suffered burned legs, a twisted right knee, splinters in his thigh, a stained back, a scalp wound, and burns on his face and hands--all sustained before his 3 1/2-mi. jump.

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