A fresh, young, pilot of only 22, Richard Carroll was in the midst of his 15th mission when his B24 was hit by flak. The propeller was out, and there was nothing to do, but for the untrained crew to attempt parachuting. Though they never had before, they all bailed out over Hungarian farmland.
It was a terrible place for US soldiers to land. Rural Hungarians were incensed at the losses they had suffered from Allied bombers. The farmers had lost property, and worse – friends and family. They came running, set upon seeking justice with shovels, spades, and at least one gun.
Carroll was shot in the heart. Just after the shot was fired, another Hungarian farmer emerged from the cornfield. He hit him so hard on the head that Carroll later related that the sound was as of a baseball crack against a bat in a major league game.
Then the Hungarian police arrived. They came through the crowd of angry locals to rescue Carroll from the angry horde bent on his demise and then hurried him away to a military hospital that was caring for POWs.
His heart was bleeding, but doctors and nurses did not know if removing the bullet was a good idea. He also had a blood clot in his leg that could cause death if it dislodged.They worked on him repeatedly, never entirely giving up hope, but he was given his last rites as a Catholic.
The clot healed in five days, but a fragment of the bullet is still lodged in his heart, even today. Following the hospital, he was taken to a POW camp on the Baltic Sea where he and 10,000 other men ate rotten potatoes and slept on hard beds. After a year, with Russians advancing into the area, the camp guards left the prisoners behind. Carroll and other American POWs were taken to France and then sent home.
Carroll now tells this and other war stories to school children throughout his native Minnesota.