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On February 14, 1944, the Flying Fortress (bomber B-17) of sub-Lieutenant Frank G. Chaplick, based in Foggia (Italy), was on a mission to bomb the marshalling yard of Verona (Italy). During this mission, the bomber was hit by enemy fire and two of its four engines caught fire, a third was also shot and started "coughing". The crew managed to shoot down a Messerschmitt Me-109 (German fighter) during the combat before the Allied fighter P-47 Thunderbolt came to the rescue. One of these fighters then escorted the B-17 that took a direct route to Calvi (Corsica - France).
On this crew of 10, the radio, the port gunner and the rear gunner were killed during the attack. Despite the very degraded performances of a four engine aircraft with only two remaining engines, the crew managed to reach the airport of Calvi. On final approach to the runway, while flying over the sea, one of two engines still in operation broke down and the B-17 remained with only one engine. This new power loss did not permit to maintain the final approach slope and the pilot took the only possible decision: to try to ditch.
The operation, with three engines failed, was all the more delicate and Frank Chaplick performed a feat of skill by successfully landing on the water his flying fortress in front of the citadel of Calvi.
All 7 crew members still alive survived the ditching, could evacuate the aircraft - which floated a few moments - and were finally rescued by boat. Frank Chaplick, born May 22, 1920, was only 23 years!
It was his 37th and last war mission flying a B-17 with his crew whom the headquarter felt that they had fulfilled their quota of missions and deserved to return to the U.S.. This feat earned Frank Chaplick his second prestigious medal "Purple Heart" to be added to the seven "Air Medal" he received for various war missions.
Although still very young, Frank Chaplick had indeed already received a "Purple Heart" during the attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, where he was then stationed, where he was wounded and from where he was a survivor and a veteran.
Appointed instructor back in the US, Frank Chaplick finally left the army and became an air traffic controller in civil aviation.
Frank Chaplick died May 16, 2003, a week before his 83rd birthday. His B-17, historical and symbolic heritage, is for ever resting by a depth of some thirty meters (100 feet) in the clear waters of the Mediterranean sea...
This photo was taken with a special filter to reveal the colors of both the bottom and the bomber, which strobes could not light up on such a wide scope. The light conditions were exceptional on the day of the shooting, which led to these colors although the depth did exceed the maximum operational depth of the filter.
ISO 100, 10.5mm, f-2.8, 1/50 s.