There have been countless books written about World War II, and one of Concordia’s own has actually contributed to that literature. Concordia at Cabot Skilled Nursing resident and veteran S. (“Snap”) Roger Oliver has written two self-published books, originally created for his wife, Carol Oliver, as Christmas presents. The books have been a treasure to Snap and his family over the years, and, in honor of Veterans Day this year, we are sharing a particularly extraordinary episode from one of them: “Snap, Daddy & Pop.”
On March 5, 1943, Snap, originally from New Jersey, was drafted and eventually sworn in as a soldier in the U.S. Army Air Corps at age 18. After basic training and working as a mechanic on a B-24 bomber, Snap volunteered for overseas duty in September 1944 – location unknown. He eventually traveled to Asansol, India, where the Americans were attempting to help the British halt the Japanese advance from Burma into India.
On December 30, 1944 at about 10 p.m., Snap, who was normally grounded due to being colorblind, was included on a night-bombing mission over a Japanese airfield in Burma.
The crew partially destroyed a train carrying enemy ammunition, but they also took on machine gun fire (one of the bullets should have hit Snap, but instead bounced off and indented a silver dollar in his money belt). After escaping the firefight, the crew realized the plane was more damaged than they initially suspected.
The Captain was flying at 3,500 feet and could not gain any altitude, the right engine had been shot out, they were running low on gas and the electrical wiring in the transfer system had been shattered, so they had no way to transfer gas from the right wing tank to the left. It became clear that they were going to have to jump from the plane.
Snap, who had never practiced parachuting, jumped second, and remembered it vividly.
“Oh what a beautiful sensation,” he wrote in his book. “I remember pulling the ripcord, and the chute opened without any problem. It was a peaceful and solitary experience. There I was, hanging before a full moon without a sound, with nothing to see except the moon and the glorious sky.”
After successfully landing in the jungle, Snap had to start thinking about how he was going to get out. He gathered his chute and stowed it, and then used his compass to travel west – with his pistol out, loaded and cocked. He eventually came to a clearing. As he stepped across a path, he saw a figure and immediately put his gun to the person’s head. He didn’t shoot, and it turned out to be his Captain James N. B. McKay.
“The Good Lord was with us,” Snap wrote.
Captain McKay had sprained both of his ankles during his landing, so the two decided to spread their parachutes (to be easier to spot from the air) and wait on the perimeter of the clearing. They sat there from about 3:30-6:45 a.m. – at which point they received some visitors.
Snap wrote, “We were scared to death! We could not run. If we ran, it would be into an open field. McKay couldn’t run anyway, so we just sat and sweat. Within moments, a British elephant patrol broke out of the jungle. Four elephants and maybe 10 men came to rescue us. Happy, happy day!”
Snap and Captain McKay were each helped onto an elephant and rode them back to their infantry camp, which had only been established the day before after the British pushed the Japanese across a nearby river.
The men had breakfast at the camp with the British and were reunited with all of their crewmembers from the mission – except Ralph Dudek. The crew decided to take a plane out to look for him, because they had seen his chute open and knew he must be somewhere in the jungle.
Snap and Captain McKay took a two-seater liaison plane out to look for Ralph, and they circled around where they thought he might be. They eventually ran low on gas and decided to turn back.
Just then, Snap saw a patch of white (Ralph’s parachute) and spotted Ralph himself through a gap in the trees.
“The Captain wrote a note, and I attached it to a wrench that I kept in my pocket,” Snap wrote. “We dropped it to Ralph. We then communicated with the British, and by dinnertime Ralph was back in our company. We returned, all six of us, to Asansol. We were jubilant.
“In conclusion, I remember that we, the six of us, were able to get the Officers Club in Asansol for a special dinner in honor of the parachute-rigging department. That was the end of my one and only B-25 mission experience. I like to summarize my adventure as follows: ‘I went on a mission. I got shot down. I bailed out. I got lost in the jungle. I got recovered by a British elephant patrol – and never missed a meal.’”
Snap was discharged on February 14, 1946 as a Staff Sergeant. He went back to college and earned a degree in business administration and accounting, and worked for Reliance Insurance, eventually becoming an expert in arson cases. He loves sports, and was even a sports official in New Jersey. He married Carol on January 1, 1993, and between the two of them they have eight children, 22 grand children and 18 great-grandchildren.
Concordia thanks Snap and all other veterans for their devoted service to our country and wishes you and your family a happy Veterans Day!
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