Piggyback Flight: On New Year’s Eve 1944, German onlookers saw what appeared to be a secret weapon flying over their heads. Seemingly an aircraft of some kind, it was stricken but highly unusual.
It belonged to the enemy, yet the truth was more amazing than anyone expected.
Piloting was Capt Glenn Rojohn of the 8th Air Force’s 100th Bomb Group. He and co-pilot 2nd Lt William G. Leek Jr had just flown a B-17 over Hamburg.
And it was this plane they were inside when the incredible story began. Heading back to England via the North Sea, they were descended upon by German Messerschmitt Me-109s.
The B-17 was in trouble. As one of the bombers went down after being hit, Rojohn kept formation by taking its place. However below them were Lt William G. McNab and 2nd Lt Nelson B. Vaughn, at the controls of another aircraft.
No-one is quite sure exactly what happened next. But the outcome was dramatic – the 2 planes hit each other and got stuck!
The top turret of McNab’s plane went through the bottom of Rojohn’s. Meanwhile, Rojohn’s ball turret came through the roof of McNab’s.
With the B-17 below on fire, an already perilous situation became an airborne catastrophe in the making. Straining to pull the aircraft up, Rojohn and Leek were forced to fly back over enemy territory.
Rojohn ordered the men to bail out, however Leek wouldn’t abandon his Captain to certain death. As they hit the ground, the bottom B-17 blew up.
McNab and Vaughn perished. Rojohn and Leek survived but the back half of the aircraft was destroyed. Four out of the six brave souls from Rojohn’s plane made it. Two were lost. Four of McNab’s team also escaped.
As for “piggyback heroes” Rojohn and Leek, who flew what were later described as “mating dragonflies”, they were reunited in 1987. Leek passed away in ‘88 whilst Rojohn died in 2003.
Here is a link to the book: The Piggyback Flight Pilot’s Journey Amazon
He’d received the Air Medal, the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Purple Heart but never forgot the friend who saved his life.