On June 26, 1943, Japanese night fighters attacked the B17E “Naughty but Nice” with 1st Lieutenant Jose L. Holguin and nine other crew members aboard.
“Our aircraft received a direct hit on No. 1 engine, causing it to burn. No. 2 engine was not functioning properly… In this attack I was wounded in the jaw by .30 cal shells which momentarily rendered me dizzy.”
The plane began to lose altitude. They received a second attack—killing the pilot and copilot, and injuring Holguin’s left leg.
On the third attack, Holguin fell to the floor as the plane lost control, spun and threw him out the door. As he floated to the ground, a fallen plane exploded beneath him. The flames burnt the back of his body and his parachute which, as Holguin explained, “…collapsed just above the treetops, and I fell to earth, fracturing my back.”
Holguin was the only survivor of B-17E 41-2340. The Japanese held him as a prisoner of war for 27 months, with no medical treatment. Holguin said, “My wounds healed by themselves, by the grace of God.”
You can read Holguin’s full account in this letter he sent to headquarters which is included in the Missing Air Crew Report.
In September 2011, the remains of the other nine crew members were moved to Arlington National Cemetery.