A Son Tracks Down The Story Of His Father’s Terrifying Crash Landing In World War Two

Synchronicity is defined as a meaningful coincidence.

The story of one soldier, his family, and connections to Starkville, MS., meet that definition.

Karl Wilson Carlson was born in April 1923 in Edwards, MS.  Enlisting in the U.S. Army when he was 19 in September 1942, he was a side gunner on a B-17, part of the 10-man crew.

After over more than a dozen missions, the crew of the ‘Paper Dollie’ made its last flight to bomb a bridge in Creil, France. The mission was successful, but on the return to the base, fuel ran out sooner than expected since the tanks had not been filled correctly.

With no other alternative, the plane would either have to be abandoned or crash landed at great risk to the crew in the English countryside.  They elected to parachute.  Seven of the nine crew members survived the jump, including Karl Carlson.

He was sent back to the States for rest and relaxation before preparing for duty in the fight against Japan.  Fortunately, Japan surrendered.  Karl lived a memorable life with a novel story, but his son Stephen had an additional story concerning the family patriarch.

Karl’s son Stephen did extensive research pertaining to his father’s events in the war. This was used by Karl, who with his wife while vacationing in England once tried to find the site where he landed, but was unsuccessful.

Stephen’s son, Kim, 25, with his niece and nephew-in-law located the crash site close to the town of The Bishop’s Waltham, population 6,500.  They visited a pub that unexpectedly yielded final proof that they were, indeed, in the right place.

A plaque on the wall commemorated the crew and the events of the crash.  There was a photo of the crew and Karl Carlson among them.

When Tim saw the plaque and identified his grandfather, the owner took it off the wall so it could be held while pictures were taken, Starkville Daily News reported.

Stephen said there are a couple of eyewitnesses living in the locale. They saw the plane go down and recall seeing the first airmen jump from the plane. That was his dad.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE