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by Fred Hargesheimer
eBookStand  2002
135 pages
Index, photos
ISBN: 1-58909-116-7
Cover Price: $15.95
Language: English

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The School That Fell From The Sky
Autobiography of Fred Hargesheimer

This true story is nothing short of remarkable. It is the story of a U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) pilot, his bail out and involvement with the people who saved his live for over a half century building a school and serving as a teacher in their community.

The author, Frederic G. Hargesheimer was a member of the 5th Air Force (5th AF), 6th Photographic Reconnaissance Group (6th PRG), 8th Photo Reconnaissance Squadron (8th PRS) "Eight Ballers" flying the F-5 Lightning, the unarmed photographic Reconnaissance version of the P-38 Lightning in New Guinea.

On June 5, 1943 took off piloting F-5A "Eager Beaver" 42-13073 on a mission over West New Britain, he was shot down by Japanese Army Air Force (JAAF) Ki-45 Nick and bailed out over enemy territory.

He describes the moment his was shot down on pages 33-34:
"Off to the right, I spotted what looked like the construction of a new airfield. I leveled off and circled the area for a better look. The least I could do was shoot a set of pictures and let the photo interpreters back at the base decide if this was an important field. I carefully lined up for a low-altitude pass over what looked like a runway and set the camera intervelometer for a series of overlapping pictures. The cameras were rolling when I was startled by a series of sharp staccato sounds. Eager Beaver quivered a bit as I made a hurried check of the engine instruments. Everything seemed normal. Suddenly a long jagged tear appeared in the port engine cowling. An instant later a puff of black smoke shot out from the hole, followed by a burst of flame. Instinctively I sent Eager Beaver into a screaming dive with throttles wide open; only then did I dare sneak a glance at the rear view mirror. I was afraid to look - but afraid not to. Turing my head, I stared straight into the flaming snout of a twin-engine enemy fighter."

Hargesheimer wandered the jungle alone for 31 days with little hope of survival, before meeting people from Nantabu village. He was hidden and cared for at great risk to themselves, for six months. After making contact with Australian Commandos, he was rescued by U.S. Navy (USN) submarine USS Gato (SS-212) on February 5, 1944 the sent back to the United States. He never forgot the people who saved his life.

In America, Hargesheimer saved to finance his return to New Britain in 1964. Returning to Nantabu, he established two schools: Ewasse Airmen's Memorial school and the Noau Primary school. He and his wife even lived among the people to serve as teachers. A health center was dedicated in 1969, with an oil palm plantation to fund the projects. Nearly every year, he returns to visit the school. In July 2004, he made his most recent visit to New Guinea and the schools.

This book is a moving story about both his wartime experiences, Hargesheimer's return to New Britain twenty years later, and involvement thereafter with the people who he owes his life. Appendix I includes the USS Gato Report of Special Mission, February 3-6, 1944 (pages 113-116). This book was reprinted as a second edition printed in Papua New Guinea by PNG Printing Company, 2005.

Review by Justin Taylan  

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Last Updated
September 21, 2023

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