That One Time a Parachuting Soldier Took Down a Zero Fighter Plane With Nothing but a Handgun

That One Time a Parachuting Soldier Took Down a Zero Fighter Plane With Nothing but a Handgun


If you take a peek at a list of pilots who
were considered flying aces during WW2, you’ll notice that the top of the list is dominated
by Luftwaffe pilots, some of whom scored hundreds of aerial victories during the war. While
their skill and prowess in the air is undeniable, it’s arguable that the finest display in
aerial combat during WW2 was achieved, mostly by luck, by an American B-24 co-pilot when
he scored a single enemy kill with nothing but a handgun, at about 4,000-5,000 feet (about
1.3 km) in altitude, and without a plane. This is the story of Owen Baggett. Born in 1920 in Texas, after finishing high
school, Baggett moved to the city of Abilene to enroll in Hardin–Simmons University.
While we were unable to discern what Baggett studied from the sparse amount of information
available about his early life, the fact that he went to work at Johnson and Company Investment
Securities in New York after graduating suggests he studied finance, business, or another similar
subject. Whatever the case, while still working at
the investment firm in New York in December of 1941, Baggett volunteered for the Army
Air Corps and reported for basic pilot training at the New Columbus Army Flying School. After graduating from basic training, Baggett
reported for duty in India, just a stone’s throw away from Japanese occupied Burma with
the Tenth Air Force. Baggett eventually became a co-pilot for a B-24 bomber in the 7th Bomb
Group based in Pandaveswar and reached the rank of 2nd Lieutenant. During his time with
the 7th Bomb Group, Baggett’s duties mainly consisted of flying bombing runs into Burma
and helping defend allied supply routes between India and China. Baggett’s career was mostly uneventful,
or at least as uneventful as it could be given the circumstances, for around a year until
he was called upon to take part in a bombing run on March 31, 1943. The mission itself
was fairly simple- Baggett and the rest of the 7th Bomb Group were to fly into Burma
and destroy a small, but vital railroad bridge near the logging town of Pyinmana. However, shortly after taking off, the (unescorted)
bombers of the 7th Bomb Group were attacked by a few dozen Japanese Zero fighters. During
the ensuing dogfight, the plane’s emergency oxygen tanks were hit, severely damaging the
craft. Ultimately, 1st Lt. Lloyd Jensen gave the order for the crew to bailout. Baggett
relayed the order to the crew using hand signals (since their intercom had also been destroyed)
and leapt from the aircraft with the rest of the surviving crew. Not long after the crew bailed out, the attacking
Japanese Zeros began training their guns on the now-defenceless crewman lazily floating
towards the ground. Baggett would later recall seeing some of
his crewmates being torn to pieces by gunfire (in total 5 of the 9 aboard the downed bomber
were killed). As for himself, a bullet grazed his arm, but he was otherwise fine. In a desperate
bid to stay that way, after being shot in the arm, Baggett played possum, hanging limp
in his parachute’s harness. According to a 1996 article published in Air
Force Magazine, this is when Baggett spotted an enemy pilot lazily flying along almost
vertically in mid-air to come check out whether Baggett was dead or not, including having
his canopy open to get a better look at Baggett. When the near-stalling plane came within range,
Baggett ceased to play dead and pulled out his M1911 from its holster, aimed it at the
pilot, and squeezed the trigger four times. The plane soon stalled out and Baggett didn’t
notice what happened after, thinking little of the incident, being more concerned with
the other fighters taking pot shots at he and his crew. After safely reaching the ground, Baggett
regrouped with Lt Jensen and one of the bomber’s surviving gunners. Shortly thereafter, all
three were captured, at which point Baggett soon found himself being interrogated. After
telling the events leading up to his capture to Major General Arimura, commander of the
Southeast Asia POW camps, very oddly (as no one else in his little group was given the
opportunity), Baggett was given the chance to die with honour by committing harakiri
(an offer he refused). Later, while still a POW, Baggett had a chance
encounter with one Col. Harry Melton. Melton informed him that the plane that Baggett had
shot at had crashed directly after stalling out near him and (supposedly) the pilot’s
body had been thrown from the wreckage. When it was recovered, he appeared to have been
killed, or at least seriously injured, via having been shot, at least according to Colonel
Melton. Despite the fact that the plane had crashed
after his encounter with it, Baggett was still skeptical that one (or more) of his shots
actually landed and figured something else must have happened to cause the crash. Nevertheless,
it was speculated by his compatriots that this must have been the reason Baggett alone
had been given the chance to die with honour by committing harakiri after being interrogated. Baggett never really talked about his impressive
feat after the fact, remaining skeptical that he’d scored such a lucky shot. He uneventfully
served the rest of his time in the war as a POW, dropping from a hearty 180 pounds and
change to just over 90 during the near two years he was kept prisoner. The camp he was
in was finally liberated on September 7, 1945 by the OSS and he continued to serve in the
military for several years after WW2, reaching the rank of colonel. The full details of his lucky shot were only
dug up in 1996 by John L Frisbee of Air Force Magazine. After combing the records looking
to verify or disprove the tale, it turned out that while Col. Harry Melton’s assertion
that the pilot in question had been found with a .45 caliber bullet wound could not
be verified by any documented evidence, it was ultimately determined that Baggett must
have managed to hit the pilot. You see, the plane in question appears to have stalled
at approximately 4,000 to 5,000 feet (so an amazing amount of time for the pilot to have
recovered from the stall had he been physically able) and, based on official mission reports
by survivors, there were no Allied fighters in the vicinity to have downed the fighter
and no references of anyone seeing any friendly fire at the slow moving plane before its ultimately
demise. Further, even with some sort of random engine failure, the pilot should have still
had some control of the plane, instead of reportedly more or less heading straight down
and crashing after the stall.

100 comments

  1. Want to learn more high flying facts? Then watch this video and find out Why don’t Commercial Airplanes have Parachutes?:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ISREt4Q6XKA

  2. This guy would be a match for Archie Bunkers wife on telling a story . 1 min story Stretched out I’m surprised we Didn’t hear what he had for breakfast.

  3. The whole point of the video: "A bailed out pilot took down a plane with his sidearm."
    Comments on the video: "It's so dishonorable to shoot at bailed out pilots! They pose no threat!"

  4. I was going to say that he really should not have been shooting at planes in a parashoot as a pilot should absolutely not be shooting at parashoots but… then the pilots shot at him… so nvm then!

  5. The Colt 1911 is an awesome weapon. In WW1 Sgt Alvin York defeated a bayonet charge alone with a Colt 1911. If you shoot someone with one, they stay shot…for eternity.

  6. 45,000 feet?, the Zero maxes out at 33,000 feet. A parachute jump can hardly be survived that high, the air is too thin

  7. Such a contrast to German pilot who risked his life to save a nearly doomed Flying Fortress. Illustration why many Germans retained humanity in WWII, were finally forgiven by other nations, & this pilot who escorted the bomber befriended the bomber crew. Plus, left us with a valuable heart-warming lesson in humanity.
    Honorable Harakiri? Japanese who believe in Bullshitdo should all take that option.

  8. A colt M1911 does not shoot a 45 caliber bullet it shoots a 9 mil but there is a Colt 45 that shoots 45 has the exact same body as a 911 it's just a bit bigger

  9. If a parachuting airman were to hit a pilot who seemed to be coming in close with his canopy retracted to take a better look, it would be easy to assume that was more luck or a miracle than from the airman's accuracy BUT whether by design or by chance, if a .45 ACP bullet hit the pilot, .45 caliber is a very big hole so it is entirely possible the poor pilot was dead or fully incapacitated in less than three seconds.

    I read another story about a Japanese pilot being shot down during the attack on Pearl Harbor. Does anyone know what kind of air cleaners were installed on the Japanese planes used in that attack. If they didn't have air cleaners, I think the story is feasible. A steel BB sucked into the air intake of an airplane engine could ruin it in very short order. Anyway, I don't remember his name but a pre-teen American boy was in Hawaii when the attack began. As soon as he realized what was happening, he ran into his house and grabbed his BB gun. He hadn't yet been allowed to shoot flying waterfowl but his dad had explained that it is necessary to shoot ahead of the birds so he did his best to "lead" the next Japanese airplane that flew over his house and he wrote that the plane almost immediately started trailing smoke and loosing altitude. He was sure it must have crashed.

  10. @ 0:41 and @6:00 45,000 feet?!? The service ceiling of a Mitsubishi A6M Zero was 32,810 feet. The B-24J Liberator had a service ceiling of approximately 28,000 ft. Perhaps the Zero could approach 40,000 ft, very slowly, but that does not explain how Owen bailed out of a B-24 at 45,000 ft, when the bomber could not even get close to achieving that altitude.

    The service ceilings of the British Spitfire PR Mk XIX, and P51D Mustang were around 42,000 ft., and the Messerschmitt Bf 109G-6 had a service dining of approximately 39,370 ft, for example, but it is doubtful the Mitsubishi A6M Zero could attain 45,000 ft… just to check on a guy "lazily floating" down in a parachute after bailing out from a bomber that could not even get close to that altitude.

  11. How did this happen at 45,000 feet, as the video claims? The A6M Zero had a service ceiling of around 32,000 feet, while the B-24 had a ceiling of around 28,000 feet. I don't think that really any aircraft of that time was capable of such altitudes. Also, there's no way this guy would have even been conscious to shoot at the plane without oxygen at that altitude? Did you mean 4,500 feet?

  12. An All-American good ol' boy bad-ass.. what a great story.. never knew about this.. enjoyed this tremendously.. thanks for posting ! Thumbs UP ! He was offered the opportunity to kill himself, because he had killed the enemy in battle, but had allowed himself to be captured by that same enemy. In so doing he had lost his honor and was offered the opportunity to get his honor back through "sep-a-koo" (the English sound) of the Japanese phrase for an honorable suicide, which was the custom of warriors in Japan.. most esp reserved for "those who serve" also known as Samurai… Great story.

  13. A Fairy Swordfish pilot in the Mediterranean was approached by an Italian Falco pilot. He flew alongside waving with a big smile as one biplane to another. The Brit was having none of it, pulled his Webley and shot him dead. This is told in the biography of the pilot who made the torpedo hit on Bismark's rudder.The last confirmed victory over Europe was by a J3 Piper cub that came upon a Feiseler Storch. Again, a 1911 was employed to fire on the Germans until they landed.

  14. Well all the evidence seems to suggest that at least one of the M1911 bullets hit the Japanese pilot. How likely is that? The plane was not being flown fast, the canopy was open and fairly close to the parachute. So I would suggest entirely possible. Even though the aircraft would not have been flying very fast, it didn't stall before the alleged shots, so would have been going faster than it's stalling speed, whatever that might be for a Zero. So a fair degree of lead would have to be given to make the shot. RAF fighter pilots during the war had access to shotguns at their bases to practice lead whilst shooting clay pigeons to help familiarise themselves with the concept of lead (shooting in front of a moving target so that the projectile and the moving target arrive at a certain spot in the sky at the same time). So it might be of some interest to ascertain whether the American pilot had any gunnery experience, be it in service or perhaps even sporting shooting flying birds. Despite pilot's handguns being issued mainly as a defensive weapon, tests have shown that they can be deadly at a fairly long range, although the bullets don't fly as fast as rifle ammunition so would have lost a lot of their "stopping" power should the canopy have been closed. Altogether, I'd say a fair amount of luck was involved, or if you were that Japanese pilot, you could count yourself to be pretty unlucky.

  15. did you know the last allied aero victory in Europe was by an Piper Cub (L-4 grass hoper)… Pilot and Observer used their 1911-A1's to shoot down a Fieseler  Fi156 after Germany's surrender….

  16. Japanese WWII aircraft were notoriously fragile. They were built for speed and performance not aircraft durability or aircrew safety.

  17. Should have done more research. This was a myth. Soldiers are like fishermen in that way. Captured Japanese records examined by the allies prove that show no Japanese pilots were lost in that particular action. Makes a nice drinking tale though. Edward M. Young, 2012, B-24 Liberators vs Ki-43 Oscars, Botley UK, Osprey, p. 57. Also Christopher Shores (2005). Air War For Burma. p. 76.

  18. Theres another guy on the western front that downed a stork with a 1911, he was flying recon for an artillery unit in a similar aircraft.. he also captured the crew when their craft was downed

  19. i LOVE clicking on a video only to hear a story from the 2nd hand with just the video of the teller ……………………………………………

  20. The Japanese were not heartless. They fought under Bushido and expected their enemies would fight the same. They did not tolerate surrender. As far as the Zero goes it had no armor. No self-sealing gas tank and except for maneuverability it had no superiority in any respect. So it is hardy surprising that a hand gun could take the aircraft out. It was obsolete almost from the start of the war.

  21. The zero flew past at a slow speed with it's 'nose tilted up at a steep angle' because the pilot was in 'slow flight ( the plane was not being held up by the lift of the wings, but rather the power of the engine). This is standard training for all pilots and allows, as is stated, for slow airspeed but maintaining altitude.

  22. I like how he took four shots. It doesn’t need all 7, it’s only an airplane.He’s packing 45 whole calibers after all.

  23. 6:08 the "official mission reports" looks a lot like a hooker review from here….. What was the unofficial mission?

  24. There are historical records that talk about the findings of a field report where it appears the Japanese pilot was shot in the head by a single pistol caliber bullet.

  25. This, Ladies and Gentlemen, is a case of The Golden BB getting in a kill. The shot that should not have happened, but did.

  26. Maybe he missed but the stress of almost being shot caused the pilot to die instantly from a brain hemorrhage

  27. I've finally found a way to make these vids watchable; I move the browser window down until only the top half emerges from the bottom of the screen. The overabundant and constant waving around becomes invisible, so that one can listen without distraction.

  28. SIMON! HERE'S AN IDEA! A Hook and Ladder Fire Truck has an extra cab at the rear. There's a man inside turning a steering wheel. Why is he there? Does he turn the wheel in the same direction as the driver? Why is it needed??? Best wishes, Fred.

  29. I need to mention that 2nd Lieutenant is the lowest officer rank. So "reaching " that rank didn't require any skill.

  30. Would this have happened on the western front or would it be a violation of “pilot” code? I would probably re-think NOT shooting a pilot mid-parashoot if he was actually trying to shoot and kill me as I flew by. Was there like a booklet with set rules in it or did the rules just get passed on word of mouth? I feel like I would need to know how other people are going to behave in order to adapt the same policy.

  31. Good video, good story. I would have enjoyed it more if the narrator could slow the pace of his speech a bit; it was so rapid that it sounded like he was babbling at times – no pauses or verbal punctuation.

  32. There is too much speculation and confirmation bias in this video for anyone to state that Baggett actually shot down the Japanese fighter. This isn't history, it's mere theorizing toward a supposed outcome.

  33. reminds me of some crazy kills i got playing BF4 lol

    edit: Just realizing 95% of the comments are referencing battlefield lmao

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