VC: Pilot Aaron, Hit In The Face & Slowly Bleeding To Death Helped His Crew Fly The Plane Home


Enlisting in the army is far from an easy decision, especially if your country is at war. The choice can be truly life-changing, and those who do enlist could find themselves facing deadly and dangerous situations. However, the soldiers who serve their country know that their selfless journey is about the bigger picture; promoting peace, freedom and stability for your nation and for the world at large.

Some who enlist in the armed forces do so without knowing exactly what’s in store for them, but they are willing to shoulder the burdens of whatever battlefield awaits them nonetheless. Many are willing to go the extra mile – to make extraordinary sacrifices, willingly risking their own lives for the greater good.

One soldier who fits that description is Arthur Louis Aaron, an Englishman who made that tremendously difficult choice and elected to dedicate himself to his country’s safety.

Aaron’s Life Before the War

Born in March 1922, Aaron grew up in Leeds, Yorkshire. He spent his earliest years at the Roundhay School before heading to college at the Leeds School of Architecture. It was during his time there that WWII broke out and, without hesitation, Aaron enlisted.

Once he had joined the military, Aaron became a member of the Royal Air Force. He went through training in Texas, before leaving the US and returning home to England. Once he made it back, Aaron joined the No. 218 “Gold Coast” Squadron, where he was trained and certified to fly the Short Stirling bomber planes.

The Beginning of the End

Sadly, Arthur Aaron was only 21 years old when his life was ended. At the time of his death, he had already logged roughly 90 hours of flight time, and carried out 19 sorties.

Now a Flight Sergeant, Aaron was flying a Stirling plane on August 12th, 1943, on his 20th sortie mission with his crew. As Captain and pilot of the Stirling, he had been given orders to attack Turin, in Italy. As he was approaching his target, his bomber was hit by machine-gun fire from an enemy fighter plane. Three of his engines were hit and severely damaged, and the plane’s windshield shattered. The turrets on both ends were shot, and even the elevator control was refusing to work properly. Due to all of these problems, the aircraft was completely unstable and nearly impossible to maneuver.

Short Stirling bomber
Short Stirling bomber

Yet that wasn’t even the worst of the attack. The Canadian navigator flying at Aaron’s side, Cornelius A. Brennan, had been hit by the gunfire and killed. Other members of the crew had also been wounded, including Aaron himself.

Aaron was forced to confront his own injuries, acknowledging that he had taken a bullet directly to the face. The aftermath was a broken jaw and part of his face being partially torn away. One of his lungs had also been damaged, and his right arm was nearly useless.

Reeling from his injuries, Aaron found himself almost unable to control his own body. He fell forward onto the control column, sending the aircraft into a rapid downward spiral. The Stirling dove several thousand feet before a flight engineer managed to move Aaron aside and regain control. He only managed to level the plane at 3,000 feet.

Having lost his ability to speak, Aaron could only use rough hand gestures to communicate with the bomb aimer. Once the latter was able to follow Aaron’s signals, they were able to work together to keep the highly-damaged plane flying one engine until they could reach Sicily or North Africa.

Once they were on the move, Flight Sergeant Aaron was treated with morphine, easing his pain and allowing him to focus on the task at hand. Remembering his place as Captain, he refused to sit back and do nothing. He guided himself with help from the crew back into the cockpit, where he was determined to take charge again.

Of course, he was too weak, and after arguing with the crew over his clearly debilitated state, Aaron backed down, allowing the others to successfully bring them to their destination. Despite his pain and exhaustion, he continued to relay information to them by writing instructions on his left hand.

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