The stunned Navy pilot was gripped in pain, blood was pouring down his face and a good part of his warplane was destroyed.
But worst of all, Ensign Kenneth Schechter couldn't see. An enemy shell had smashed into his Skyraider and fragments pierced his eyes. Hurtling over the Korean coast at 200 mph, Schechter was suddenly enveloped in blackness.
"I'm blind! For God's sake, help me!" he cried into his radio. "I'm blind!"
FOR THE RECORD:
Kenneth Schechter: A news obituary in the Dec. 22 California section on Kenneth Schechter, a former Navy pilot who flew 100 miles and landed safely despite being temporarily blinded by enemy fire, misstated the final rank of Howard Thayer, the Navy pilot who guided Schechter from another plane. Thayer was a lieutenant commander, not a lieutenant colonel, when he died in 1961.
Even before the anguished call, Lt. j.g. Howard Thayer knew something was wrong. One of the planes in his formation was inexplicably climbing toward a thick cloudbank at 10,000 feet, where it could easily disappear.