WWII pilot recounts crash-landing of recovered bomber

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A World War II plane that crashed 70 years ago in the Upstate is on display at Hamilton-Owens field. The B-25-C bomber crashed in Lake Greenwood back in 1944 during a training mission. Now a pilot who survived the crash is telling his story as he relives that unforgettable day.

"I flew it the last time it flew before we ditched it," said Col. Daniel Rossman. "I was stationed at Greenville Army Air Force Base in South Carolina."

Rossman said his crew's mission for that day was emergency procedures like flying with one engine and fixing stuck landing gear or flaps. "We did an hours worth of single engine operation landings, flaps and gears," recounted Rossman. "By then everybody's pretty hot and bothered, and they said 'well, we've had enough of that. Let me show you what low level's going to be like when you get to combat.' And away we went."

About an hour later, the B-52 was flying over Lake Greenwood. "Just before it happened, I remember looking out and there was a guy standing up in a row boat to my left," described Rossman. "I thought, 'If we're eye to eye, my God, we're too low.' At that point the world erupted. It got very noisy as the props hit the water."

Rossman said he knew the plane was done flying when he saw one propeller was wrapped around the engine and the other rotating very slowly. "I reached up and pulled the hatch," he said. "At that point, the instructor took the airplane and ditched it."

Rossman blacked out in the chaos. "When I came to I was trying to drink Lake Greenwood," he chuckled. "I knew that wasn't going to work."

About 20 minutes later, Rossman says someone approached the floating wreck in a rowboat with an outboard motor to pick up the stranded crew. "An ambulance showed up from Greenville, took us back and was only too happy to tell us 'boy are you guys in trouble, they're really waiting for you to get back,'" said Rossman.

The plane spent nearly 40 years at the bottom of the lake before crews recovered it.