H.C. Kiser, Jr., died this week. A short obituary is here, and it says in part: "He touched many lives with his testimony of his World War II POW experiences and his desire for everyone to know the Lord as revealed in his favorite Scripture, "Jesus says, I will never leave you or forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5)."
I've mentioned before the book about him.
Here is a short excerpt from the book, retelling the story I heard parts of at different times over thirty years ago. The date was October 12, 1944, American airman H.C. Kiser was 19, his bomber was on fire in the sky over Italy, and he was confronting the first crisis of his life:
"H.C. could look out on either wing and see smoke and flames coming out of the engines. He knew, perhaps, it would just be a matter of time until the plane exploded. H.C. and Doug Johnson, both waist gunners, were to bail out of the same escape hatch. Their oxygen was gone, and they were gasping for breath. . . .
H.C. had on fleece-lined gloves, and he crawled over to a metal door handle marked 'Pull in case of emergency.' He pulled his right glove off and grabbed the handle. His hand stuck to the door latch. Gasping for breath, he couldn't release his hand. The other waist gunner, Doug Johnson, came over and put his hand over H.C.'s. They both pulled, and the big door blew off into space. A 50-below-zero wind came rushing up and hit them in the face. They regained their senses from the blast of cold air and began to argue who would jump first - neither of them had ever jumped.
During the course of the argument, Doug pointed at H.C.'s chest parachute. His parachute had popped open when the plane was hit. The ripcord that he was to pull for a successful shoot opening was gone. The contents of the parachute had popped out into the plane and were scattered all up and down the waist of the plane. . . .
Doug said he wouldn't jump without helping H.C., and there were no extra parachutes on the plane. H.C. told him not to risk his life. After much hesitation, Doug jumped. H.C. watched him as he cleared the plane and reached for the rip cord; he pulled it and the parachute successfully opened.
[H.C.] crawled on his hands and knees down through the fuselage of the plane, gathered up all of the tangled shroud lines and the canopy of the parachute, and crawled back to the escape hatch. H.C. had gathered the parachute into a large bundle. In fact, the bundle was larger than the opening out of which he was to bail. H.C. kept trying to compress it small enough to get out of the door.
Finally he did this and began to pray: 'Lord, I don't know what to do, but I just pray that you will help me make the right decision: should I bail out or should I right this burning bomber down?' H.C. said, 'I had seen many planes go down and they usually burst into flames. It seemed like the Lord just said, 'H.C., I am a God of miracles; and if you will just leap out into space with a torn parachute, I will show you that I am a God of miracles.' Some time back in his Sunday School class, as a teenager, H.C. had a teacher who said when the book of Acts was finished that God no longer had to do these mighty miracles as He did when he was here among men. H.C. said, 'I knew that if I was going to live, it would take a miracle from a might God.'
He leaped out of the plane. As he saw the plane's rudder and tail section go by, he unfolded his arms and the parachute went up in a tangled mess. H.C. began to pray that God would open the parachute. He was falling faster and faster, and the parachute hadn't opened. H.C. began to make a lot of promises to the Lord. H.C. said, '. . . I looked at my little Bulova wristwatch and I said, 'Lord, perhaps in the next few minutes I will face death because this parachute isn't opening, and I just want to praise you this morning for the fact that you have taken all fear out of death; I am not afraid to die. Lord, I am nineteen years old. If you would see to open this parachute, I will witness for you every opportunity. Lord, I am so young to die, and I am thousands of miles away from my Godly parents, grandparents, and my pastor. Lord, it is just you and I here now, and I pray to you. I haven't been a Christian long, Lord, but I pray that you will let me live.' Still nothing happened. I told the Lord that maybe this problem was just too big for him, that even He couldn't open a tangled mess. When I told Him He couldn't, He showed me He could. The parachute opened with a terrific bang. I bit my tongue, my boots almost flew off, and I began to praise the Lord Jesus because this was truly a miracle.'"
Called to Be His Servant, H.C. Kiser, Jr.: A Biography, by Beverly Harding-Mullins, pp. 27-29, ISBN No. 0966451104.