He did see combat. He flew scores of missions and had this one harrowing experience.
I got down too low and I got hit with small ground fire and I started a little fire going.
The plane was on fire. I mean you cannot imagine a more dangerous situation.
If you were going to follow the strict protocol, he should have bailed out.
But he didn't want to do that.
He was afraid that if he ejected, he would cap his knees and never be able to play again.
So he determined that he was going to land this thing.
But he was heading the wrong way.
Luckily one of the guys on the mission flew up right alongside him, could tell that he was out of radio and so they were doing hand signals.
Without him, I'm not so sure I'd of got back into K-13 or 14, wherever the hell I landed.
And making it even worse, the landing gear was stuck. The wheels wouldn't come down.
I was scared. Certainly I was scared and I was mad. If I get scared, I'm mad.
He gets mad and he looks to the skies.
I said well if there''s a goddam Christ, this is the time ol'' Teddy Ballgame needs ya.
If you''re up there, now would be a good time to help me.
I don't think I had ten seconds more in the air before things flew apart.
And he skids and fire is coming out.
He skidded to a stop finally at the very end of the runway, jumped out of the plane and the, the thing burst into flames. It was unbelievable.