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"I was the luckiest 2nd Lieutenant in the Air Force." (Audio interview, 10:32)

   Fred Grant Hargesheimer
Collection image
Fred Hargesheimer in his home, Grass Valley, California [1/22/2008]
War: World War, 1939-1945
Branch: Army Air Forces/Corps
Unit: 8th Photo Reconnaissance Squadron
Service Location: Garbutt Field, Australia; New Guinea; Fort Dix, New Jersey; Sikeston, Missouri; Randolph Field, and Brooks Field, Texas; March Field, California; Pentagon, Arlington, Virginia; Pacific Theater
Rank: Major
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A pilot with the 8th Photo Reconnaissance Squadron, Fred Hargesheimer was on his 49th mission taking pictures in the South Pacific when he encountered enemy fire. Forced to bail out, he landed in a eucalyptus grove with all of his limbs and his survival kit intact. After a month of eating snails to stay alive, a group of villagers found and cared for him for nearly five months before he was rescued. After leaving the military at the end of the war, he raised funds to build a school in the New Britain community where he had landed, in order to say thank you to the people who had saved his life.

Interview (Audio)
»Interview Highlights  (3 clips)
»Complete Interview 
Download: audio (66 min.)
»Photo Album  (1 photo)
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 Audio (Interview Excerpts) (3 items)
Going out on patrol over West New Britain; encountering a bad storm; flying behind enemy lines; shot down; bailing out; using survival kit. (08:28) Needing to find food; building grill out of bamboo and broiling snails; kept track of time by marking notches on tree; on 31st day after crash, heard voices; encountering natives; could only communicate by sign language; feast; heard them sing a song set to the tune of “Onward Christian Soldiers”; knowing he was among friends. (07:57) Staying in village for about five months; coming down with malaria; eventual rescue; picked up by submarine; transfer back to the States. (07:33)

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  October 26, 2011
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