A Slice Of Texas
My heroes have always been…Texans…and they still are it seems!
Of course, my first thought when I read the story of Owen J. Baggett was to wonder if he was one of “our” Baggetts, and after I reading his story, I’m convinced that there’s no doubt about it. Owen simply must have had some of that old frontier Baggett spirit flowing through his veins!
Owen John Baggett was born in Graham, Texas in 1920. To my knowledge, there was nothing particularly out of the ordinary about his birth or his growing up years, except that he must have been terribly intelligent. He graduated from high school and then went on to attend Hardin Simmons University, where he was the drum major for the school’s band. After graduating from Hardin Simmons in 1941, Baggett left Texas for Wall Street, which must have been quite an adventure for the Texas boy.
And then, of course, you know what happened: WWII interrupted Baggett’s life just as it did the lives of so many people in this country in the 1940s. Owen J. Baggett enlisted in the military, and he graduated from pilot training on July 26, 1942, but it would be in 1943 that the young man from Texas would leave his mark upon the world.
On March 31, 1943, Baggett’s B-24 and the rest of the squadron were ordered to take out a bridge at Pyinmana Burma. The bombers were intercepted by the Japanese before they could reach their target, and the men were forced to bail, becoming easy targets for the Japanese pilots who simply picked them off one by one.
Owen was wounded but played dead upon hitting the ground. As the Japanese planes swooped down, coming closer and closer to the men, Owen Baggett continued to play dead until one pilot opened his canopy, and Owen saw his chance. Rising and firing, he killed the pilot with his .45 pistol, becoming the only man to ever take down a plane with a pistol!
I can only imagine the horrors that followed as Owen J. Baggett and his comrades who survived were taken into a Japanese prison camp, but it could not have been pretty. Those who survived were liberated when the war came to an end.
And I’m not surprised at all that it was a Texas boy who was rewarded for his extreme bravery, are you?