(A previously unpublished letter from George Potter)
What’s the biggest thing you’ve ever done?
It describes in detail the first time George ever parachuted out of a plane during training during Ft. Benning, Georgia.
The war was just getting started for these young men, and there would be much difficulty ahead. But at this moment, note the joy in George’s voice, the optimism, and excitement.
The immediate lesson is that when times grow hard during the pursuit of a goal, remember the joy you first experienced as you began the journey.
Letter comes courtesy of Dan Potter, George’s son.
15 February 1943,
Co. D 1st P.T.R.
Ft. Benning, Georgia
I have won my wings in the U.S. Army Paratroops…. I have made two jumps, and by the time you get this letter will have made three more, or five all told.
I will tell you what it was like.
Monday morning, the 15th, I got up and went to ‘chow.’ When I got back we fell out and stood roll call. When we got down to the field, the instructors took us in the hangers and we drew our parachutes. I was then walked into the waiting shed with the rest of my buddies. Planes came; men loaded into them, and the planes took off and disappeared into the sky.
The next plane came and my bunch got orders to get in them. I was the last ‘stick,’ third man (An 8 or 12-man group is called a ‘stick.’)
|George Potter's draft card (courtesy Dan Potter)|
Well, we got into our position in the plane and fastened our safety belts. As you know this was my first airplane ride, and that in itself was quite an adventure.
All at once the motors roared and the plane started to roll down the field. At the end of the runway the big plane turned round and stopped. I was talking to my Bunkie and I didn’t realize that we had stopped.
All at once the motors roared and the plane quivered and shook. I said to myself: ‘Here we go.’ About a minute later I took a chance and looked out of the window. Nothing had happened. We were still on the ground. The pilot was just testing everything. Boy, was I surprised!”
About a minute later the plane began to move down the field: faster and faster until the plane gave a little jump and we were off the ground. I looked out of the window and saw the hangers go streaking past. We were now going very fast and doing a climbing turn. We went around the field and we were at 1200 feet. I looked down at the ground. I could see the Fort like the back of my hand.
We were now coming into the jumping field. Orders came for the first ‘stick’ to ‘stand up and hook up.’ The men stood up and hooked the end of the static line on to a cable in the plane. Then came the order to stand in the door and hook up. The man in the No. 1 slot moved up into the door and the rest closed up. Then came the order ‘Go!’ The first man jumped out and went out of sight. The rest followed just as fast as they could.
The plane then turned and we could see our pals floating down to the ground. We went around again and the next ‘stick’ stood up, and out they went. Around the field again and then it was my turn. We got the same orders and did the same as the rest had done.
The first man jumped: we closed up.
The second man jumped and then it was my turn.
I got into the door looking straight ahead. The jumpmaster touched my leg, and I jumped out into space.
The prop blast hit me, and down and under the tail of the plane I went. My back was toward the front of the plane, because I had done a half left body turn. I ducked my head so I would not get hit in the head by the risers. I saw the ground way down below me. Next I felt a big jerk and a pop.
My chute had opened.
I looked up at it and saw everything was O.K. I looked down at the ground and saw it way down below me. I was swinging back and forth, so I stopped my swinging and looked around.
Everybody was looking around. Then we all started talking. But before we started, everything was quiet. The only thing we could hear was the wind in our helmets and around the chutes.
I started talking to the guy about 50-feet below me and to one side. He was my Bunkie. Nobody could tell who the other was until we started talking.
I looked down and saw the ground was getting closer and closer. I guess I was about 250 feet up. I didn’t feel any sense of falling. The ground just kept coming up and up. I checked my feet again so I couldn’t get hurt, and grasped my risers.
I saw where I was going to land. I looked down at about a 45-degree angle. And tried to judge when I would land. The ground was coming up faster now, and then all at once it jumped at me and I landed and rolled.
I lay on the ground for a minute and thought: ‘Boy if the folks could only see me now!’
I got up and rolled up my chute. We were all laughing and swapping stories, and throwing the bull around quite a bit. That’s all there was to it. It was the biggest thing I have ever done!
Later—I made my last jump this afternoon. It was at 800-feet. I made four at 1200-feet. I put the pictures of you all in my helmet today. So you will have a jump of 800 feet to your credit!
Your son – George
Question: What’s the biggest thing you’ve ever done--or the biggest thing you hope to do?