FANIE BOTHA   ---    DANGLING BY HIS FEET

Fanie Botha --- Dangling By His Feet
15 Apr 2017

 

DANGLING BY HIS FEET

 

My Story

l/Kpl SW Botha

74489261

1 Parachute Battalion

Course 7806 Phase III

24 May 1978

On Wednesday 24 May 1978 we were preparing for Wing Parade, “Glamor Day”, at 1 Parachute Battalion.

Most of our parents and guests arrived early that morning at the Battalion. All parents and guests were entertained at the battalion. Al visitors had the opportunity to walk through the Battalion. There was demonstration in the hanger, the “aapkas” (Jump Tower - Training) and various other places. My parents were very impressed with the good housekeeping and discipline in the Battalion.

We were all dispatched to the Tempe Airport early that morning to prepare for the jump. Various other demonstrations also took place at the airport. After we were dressed up with our chutes, we were instructed to sit in our positions as we were divided in. Our parents and visitors also received the lists stating in what order the jumpers will be dispatched from the plane. The Dakota was also ready and parked on the runway.

 

As our parents and visitors arrived at the DZ, we prepared to board the Dakota. I was the first to board the Dak as I was the last one to jump from the first stick. As the Dakota started up, there was an atmosphere of excitement and proud. The one two, one two three“Let’s go”… kreet…start with passion and proud until the “Airborne” were shouted louder than ever before.The plane was in the air and climbing. 

The Dakota made the usual turns and bumps as it was climbing through the air to get to the required altitude. As the Dakota reached the altitude and start approaching the DZ, we received the command to, “standup and hookup”. I was standing close to the pilots in the cockpit. After we went through all our drills, we received the long awaited command, “Stand in the door” followed by the “one two” shuffle steps. As we start moving towards the door, I still heard the one pilot said to me to enjoy the jump.

Each jumper went through the door as if there was no dispatcher. As I had my last “One Two” step, I felt something abnormal around my ankles. Besides the tangling feeling on my legs, I had a perfect exit. With a blink of the eye I felt a “bang” on my “Staaldak” (Helmet) and at the same time an enormous hard jerk on my upper right leg. For a moment I did not know what happened, and then I realize that I was hanging underneath the Dakota, with both my feet facing the door of the Dakota where I just passed through. I was still in the exit position with both my arms crossed on my chest. I then realized that my chute was lying on my chest. I then saw the dispatcher looking out the door for a very short period and shortly after that there were more faces looking at me. One dispatcher raised his thumb to me and disappeared back in the plane. After a while, which felt like a few very long minutes, the same pilot that wished me luck, also appeared in the door.

Within a very short time I realized that the engine on the left side of the Dakota, where I was hanging started idling. I then realized that the door was now right above me. Meanwhile I saw that the dispatchers have been pulling the other outer bags into the plane. They then start hoisting me back towards the door. As I was closer to the door, one of the dispatchers was hanging out the door and grabbed my hand. They lifted my upper body into the plane and told me just to lie down. Still lying on the floor, the Dakota was approaching the runway ready to land. At this stage part of my legs were still outside the plane. As I was looking at the dispatchers I realized that they were exhausted and relieved.

The Dakota stopped at the end of the runway. I was released by the dispatchers who at that stage were still clamping me down on the floor. I stood on the runway with my arms still holding to the door. I was approached by a senior person in rank asking me several times if I was heart, and if I’m ok. I assure them that I was fine. While still standing next to the Dakota’s, my chute was removed. The senior person asked me if I would like to jump again and I immediately agreed. While still standing in the same position I was dressed with a new chute and requested to read the number. I was hoisted back in the plane and told to sit next to the door to be no1 to jump with the next load. We went back to collect the next stick and take off.

In the air again, I was told by the dispatcher to move to the front again as the DZ personal told my parents that I’m fine and will jump last again. I made a perfect exit and landing. As I came off the DZ, I was checked by the medical personal. Minor injuries to my right leg and face were attended to.

I hanged under the belly of the DC3 for approximately 17 minutes that felt like hours.

When arriving at the battalion we proceeded with the procedures and awarded with the Maroon Beret.

Today after 39 years, I still would like to thank all who were in the Dakota and on the DZ that day. I am here today to share my stories also saying thank you all for saving my live.

 

I’m still and will always be a proud Paratrooper


 


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