The weekly challenge word on the Illustration Friday website is “rescue”.
In February 1953, 1st Lieutenant Charles Spath was forced to abandon his jet over North Korea. Using his survival radio, Spath reported to a flight mate that he had broken his leg. A nearby ground squadron followed his radio frequency and they were able to reach Spath before enemy soldiers. They moved him to a secure location. The squadron leader contacted intelligence personnel and a rescue mission was planned.
Captain Gail Poulton, an H-19 pilot was offered the mission, a particularly hazardous one. Spath’s location was determined to be within some mountainous terrain that was not easily accessable. After several weeks of planning, the mission was given the go-ahead. Still in radio contact, Poulton was puzzled by some of the information he was receiving from Spath. Poulton asked Spath how many people were at the landing site. Spath’s reply of “I don’t know” seemed odd. Afraid that the mission had been compromised, Poulton asked more questions. Spath replied with vague and ambiguous answers. Finally, Poulton announced “We are here to pick you up. Is everything down there okay?” Spath’s whispered voice replied through the radio speaker, “This is Peter Willie 4. You can chalk me off for saying this, but get the hell out of here. It’s a trap.” Poulton and his team aborted the rescue, avoiding an ambush, capture and possibly, death thanks to Lieutenant Spath’s courageous and unselfish action.
Charles Spath died as a POW in North Korea.