How could a small weapon – a handgun – win over a bigger foe, a fighter plane?
The year was 1943. It was the height of the Second World War. Second Lieutenant Owen J. Baggett of the US Army Air Force was sent to India with the Tenth Air Force, a co-pilot of a B-24 Bomber. During that time, the Japanese Imperial Army was occupying Burma and constantly threatened India.
Eventually, Baggett and his comrades were sent on a mission to attack a Japanese position in Burma. However, Japanese Zero fighters spotted them and started strafing them resulting to their plane being damaged heavily giving Baggett and the rest of the crew no choice but to bail out.
As the aircraft’s crew slowly descended to the ground in their parachutes, the Japanese fighters swung around and closed in on them with the intention of killing them. They attacked killing some of the crew members. Baggett was grazed in the arm.
The pilot who fired against him moved closer, perhaps to see if the soldier was dead. Baggett pretended to be that hoping against hope that the pilot would not fire at him again. But when the pilot opened his canopy and was just a few feet away from the Second Lieutenant’s chute, Baggett – who had been enraged at the merciless killing of his crew mates – pulled out the handgun that was hidden against his leg and fired four shots at the opened cockpit leading to the stalling and finally, spinning in of the Zero.
Baggett made it to the ground alive but was captured by the Japanese and was taken to a grim war camp situated near Singapore. However, they did regard him with a degree of respect for downing a Zero with just the use of a handgun.
It appeared that the Japanese found the pilot Baggett shot. he had sustained a wound to the head resulting to his immediate death.
Shortly after being captured, Baggett was taken to a Japanese Major General who was placed in charge of all the prisoners of war in the said area. The Japanese officer offered him an honorable opportunity way out which was hara-kiri though the US soldier declined the proposal.
The respect showed to him by his own enemies was the result of his handgun downing what was a feared flying machine in those times.
Baggett went on to survive the horrors of being an American POW under the Japanese’s iron hands and lived on until the old age of 85.