Veteran Stories:
Charles Brauner

Navy

  • View of a Curtiss SB2C1 "Helldiver" aircraft being fueled on a runway.

    Credit: National Film Board of Canada. Photothèque / Library and Archives Canada / MIKAN no. 3197977
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"The whole hydraulic system blew out, so all of a sudden the dive breaks which were supposed to slow us so we could position for the dropping of the bomb, collapsed and were doing over 400 miles an hour at a 70 degree angle dive, so coming in from ten thousand feet, just under the cloud cover, he said bail out."

Transcript

Because I had had a heart murmur for five years, my mother thought I would not pass the physical. I said “alright, if I don’t pass the physical then I can't go in,” so she signed and I passed the physical. They called me over and they had, I was in the middle chair and there were doctors on both sides, and the doctor that was looking at my eyes said to the other two doctors, “Oh come take a look at these eyes,” and I said, “what's the matter?” And the doctor was a Lieutenant Commander and I was a civilian, he said shut up, so I did and they looked at my eyes and they ooo’ed and they ahh’ed, and then he finally said, he says, “we see a lot of 20/20 vision, but you’re remarkable because you have 10/20 vision in both eyes,” and I said, “what does that mean?” And he said, “well it means you can see at 20 feet what you're only supposed to be able to see clearly at 10 feet,” he said…I said, “is that good or is that bad?” He says, “well what do you want to be?” “Well I'd come in to the navy I'd like to be a pilot but I'm too young and uneducated so I want to be a gunner.” We were on a dive bombing run, practice dive bombing run, and the whole hydraulic system blew out, so all of a sudden the dive breaks which were supposed to slow us so we could position for the dropping of the bomb, collapsed and were doing over 400 miles an hour at a 70 degree angle dive, so coming in from ten thousand feet, just under the cloud cover, he said bail out, well the slipstream was so strong, I tried once and got thrown back up against my guns. I said “I can't,” he said, “try again or we’re going in,” and I threw them up, threw my leg over and got slammed back in again. I said “no I can't get out,” and he said “oh my God, we've got a pressure lock on the elevators I can't pull them up,” I said “well suppose you screw on the trim taps, that let you set them for diving and timing, even without the hydraulics they're mechanical they ought to work,” and he did that and with both feet on the dashboard we pulled out at 150 feet. I saw Eli, I just knew him by the name of Eli, you see the [Curtiss] Helldiver had, the later models of the Helldiver had a 24 cylinder engine that developed about 2800 horse power, and if you weren’t careful the torque could twist you up so that before you could take off your wing would hit the pavement of the runway and you’d go into a ground loop. Well that happened to Eli, and he went into the Saint Johns River, she tumbled three times before she split up, we never even found his body.
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